Handicapping Your Shot At A Top School

Geeky GuyMr. Marketing Engineer


  • 710 GMAT (2nd attempt after a 670)
  • 3.69 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in industrial and systems engineering from a public university
  • Work experience includes a two-year leadership program in technical marketing at a large international engineering firm; was promoted “off program” into a marketing consultant role, where he develops and executes strategies for an emerging vertical market
  • “Have a high chance at an international assignment for three years in Europe starting in the summer of 2014…I lucked out and got the ear of the U.S. CEO, and I’m being prepared for a ‘leadership experience’ where I’ll be given team resources to manage a project”
  • Extracurricular involvement as the founder of an Asian Employee Resource Group, “grew it from six members to 430 across five locations in Georgia, California, Tennessee, and Texas; also played trombone in a church orchestra for a few years; and have done two mission trips to help Kenyan orphans; avid runner, weightlifter, and won a regional table topics contest at Toastmasters
  • “Although I’ve been blessed with a fast moving career, I want to continue to accelerate faster.
  • Short-term goal: To move into strategy consulting
  • Long-term goal: To gain a management position in a technology firm
  • Mixed race Korean/Scotch Irish
  • 25-year-old male, first generation college graduate

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 50%
Wharton: 50%
Northwestern: 50%+
MIT: 50%+
Duke: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Lots to like, 3.69 B.S., 710 GMAT, what sounds like a real solid and special career at a “very very large international engineering firm’s two year leadership program in technical marketing.” Super-duper extras, to wit, “founded an Asian Employee Resource Group . . . and grew it from 6 members to 430 across 5 locations in Georgia, California, Tennessee, and Texas.”

That is a profile that most schools will feel warmly about. You note that your rotation program is in technical marketing, and your goals are based on you ‘lov[ing] the strategy side” and a desire to work in “strategy consulting for a few years, with the long term goal of moving into management at a technology firm, so I can do my engineering degree some justice.” That is all good, but don’t under-stress how much you use your engineering degree now since that is one of your real assets.

It sounds like you are working in a techie, STEM-type environment and you should keep it that way. I think all your target schools–Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, and Duke–would be open to this profile. It is just solid all-around. You note that you “have lucked out and got the ear of the U.S. CEO,” resulting in you “being prepared for a ‘leadership experience’ where I’ll be given team resources to manage . . .hopefully by September/October.”

That is also real solid. The issue is, what is that CEO going to think about you going to B-school? It sounds as if you have been groomed for internal promotion, often ahead of the formal deadlines of your rotation program. If your going to B-school is going to disappoint or shock your company, you really need to start working on the diplomacy of having them understand, now! You have only worked for one company and recs from there will be important.

You said, “although I’ve been blessed with a fast-moving career, I want to continue to accelerate faster. . . .” I am not sure what that means. You seem to be operating at a very fast clip already? Is it common for people from your “very very large international engineering firm” to attend U.S. business schools? It does not sound like it. That could be an issue. If your firm is well known and a feeder to US schools, well, I’d say your chances are real solid. This all checks out and you seem like a nice guy to boot. I don’t have any data, but I think church trombone players do well in the application game 🙂  So do certain Toastmaster types — earnest, communitarian guys who are not natural BS-artists but are  trying to learn the basics of public speaking and “group hugging” so as to become more effective leaders at work and  not because they foresee a career in stand-up comedy or local politics.   Just make sure your recs are solid and try to sound informed about what a career in leading a tech company would entail, who your heroes are, and how that follows from consulting, which is, as we never tire of saying, a good place to start.