Handicapping Your Shot At A Top School

guyMr. Corporate Finance


  • 750 GMAT (projected)
  • 3.47 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a good Midwestern private liberal arts school
  • “Went to this school because I received its best scholarship, but it has held me back constantly in finance by not being known in NYC, and I need to get a brand name to advance”
  • Work experience includes two years in corporate finance at a Fortune 100 company, analyzing and recommending debt issuances and stock buybacks
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer through the company, did more in undergrad; play a few instruments; am a novice in combat (jiu jitsu and boxing)
  • Goal: To move to a hedge fund
  • “Overall, my longer-term and legacy goal is to focus on US competitiveness I’ve always wanted to start a business to bring some manufacturing back to my hometown, which has been decimated by offshoring.”
  • 25-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 35%
Stanford: 20%-25%
Wharton: 40%
Chicago: 40%-50%
Columbia: 40% to 50%
NYU: 50% to 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: Interesting case, you got a 3.47 at a “good Midwestern Private liberal arts school” which “held you back constantly in finance by not being known in NYC,” and you feel you need “a brand name to advance.” For the sake of argument, let’s give you that 750 GMAT.
You’ve had, over the past two to three years, amazingly intense “IB-type” experiences in your Fortune 100 company, to wit, “analyze and recommend debt issuances, stock buybacks and basically every other thing dealing with financials or markets for my firm…It’s basically an in-house DCM/ECM IB team with strategic input as well.”

Let me tell you something. I believe you about the experience, that is to say, in terms of what you have actually done, and exposure to finance, your experience does rival that of most bulge IB dudes creating pitch books and doing diligence.

You ask about H/W/S, Booth, NYU, CBS. Well, a 25-year-old white guy with your job and stats who plays musical instruments and is learning combat tricks and boxing, is not getting into HBS or Stanford. Not enough stardust in terms of background or anything special. A URM in your situation would have a real shot since that would present a strong, strong personal accomplishment set of stories. Similar to the URMs from Big Three (or Four) accounting firms who often make into Stanford.

At the other schools you mention, especially if you nail that 750, you are certainly in the running but here is the bad news. Keep your Hedge Fund dreams out of this story. That wet dream just crystallizes what you have already admitted, that you went to a Tier 2/3 college because you needed the big scholarship, that you have spent your post-college years pissed off at Ivy kids who are getting way more optical mileage out of doing a bit less than you, and that you want to even the score. Schools don’t like to even the score for guys like you. They like to even the score for URM’s.

For guys like you they like to keep the score exactly where it is. That does not mean they will not admit you. They may, but they want to see you say that you grew up in corporate finance, that you are going to B-school to become a leader in corporate finance, and that your superiors of birth and breeding can go into private equity and hedge funds, you just love corporate finance and want to become a leader in that, whatever that might mean. Once you get in, you can hustle for any HF or PE or IB job that comes up.

You may be the rare guy, given your super-solid finance background, who can actually jump the shark and get a PE or HF job after business school without prior IB experience. I’m rooting for you. Getting that 750 GMAT, especially at Wharton and Columbia, could make a real difference.