What Are Your Chances Of Getting In

JournalistMr. Quantitative Journalist


  • 85V, 80Q GRE
  • 3.4 GPA (3.6 in history; 3.2 in management)
  • Undergraduate degree in history from Oxbridge, with minor in management and Spanish
  • “I also flunked out of a programming course – which was in fact pretty easy, looking back – with a grade equivalent to a C.”
  • Work experience is “very random” with a long-term internship in equity derivatives at a European investment bank in London followed by two years at a ‘big data’ research, news and analytics company serving the energy industry (“Quantitative journalism, if you will, in a niche company with presence on every continent, pretty international work, lots of travel, conferences”)
  • “While the company I am at has very high revenues, growth rate and profits, it and similar organizations have rather poor strategy and execution in many regards and I would need fluency in business disciplines to really turn that around”
  • Goal: To get into analytical/data-driven marketing, especially in the energy industry, leveraging my prior experience in the field
  • 27-year-old white British male

Odds of Success:

UCLA: 40% to 50%
Emory: 40% to 50%
North Carolina: 40% to 50%
New York: 30% to 40%
Northwestern: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: You seem to have a pretty shrewd sense of your own situation. ‘Quantitative journalism’ was a nice touch in describing your work doing marketing for a “big data research, news and analytics service serving the energy industry.”

Well, I enjoyed it, but I am not sure many other readers were still with you. Here is one dirty little secret about business school admissions and it also applied to doctors.  No one likes complex cases. That is to say, no practicing stiff who is earning his income or doing his job by sorting through lots of cases likes complex cases.   Sure, in the rare moments these types are interviewed by the media, they often claim to  love complex cases but if there were a brain cam reporting on their thinking as they were actually reviewing a stack of folders, well, trust me, the sound effects when they came to complex case would be ugly. All they want to do is keep moving and count down the folders until lunch. You and your stinking complexity  are keeping them from eating. Get it?

Hence, my overall advice would be to present as less a journo and more a boring marketing guy. Marketing people, unlike advertising people (a very different breed), often are quite straight and boring. If you have a 3.6 GPA, that is your GPA, we don’t need the piquant details that you got a 3.2 in management courses, and schools won’t care all that much, all they want is the 3.6 to report to the magazines. Ditto for either flunking out or getting a C in a programming course.  Don’t make a big deal of it, and don’t hint that it makes you special since you are obviously so smart anyway.

Also, make your career as marketing focused, as the truth will allow. You are an Oxford 3.6, with solid GRE scores, who has worked in technical marketing. THE END. Yeah, the other stuff gets reported but ignore it as much as possible and don’t overly explain it away or joke about it.

Once we give your profile  a power wash like that, and beat all the literary pretense and wit out of you, you actually do begin to look like a marketing guy, and one not afraid of numbers. You say that you “aim to get into analytical/data-driven marketing, especially in the utilities/energy industry, leveraging my prior experience in the field.”

Laddie, that is the way to talk. Try Kellogg, they will detect your real soul under all that, and may like it –and the rest is solid enough.

As for the other schools you list, sound employable, and straight and boring. What do I mean? Here is exhibit A, don’t diss or over-explain your old industry, which you broad-brushed in your original post as having “rather poor strategy and execution in many regards and I would need fluency in business disciplines to really turn that around.”

Allow me to pounce on how stupid that is, just for the education of our readers. First, who asked you for a glib and arguably incorrect uber analysis of your old industry as some tortured explanation as to why you need an MBA (to save it from itself).   That is nuts. Something a know-it-all journo would say, but not a smiley marketing guy. When it comes time to apply, say the data-analytics marketing industry is robust, growing, employing thousands more each day, and you want an MBA to help it do MORE of all that, and exercise leadership and general management and more than that even — to radiate a benign sense of boring business blessing and order (think of the torch in the Statue of Liberty) — over this feverish hive of huddled employed people.

Well, I can rave because I, unlike you, am not applying for an MBA. You are, so cut off your clever, smarter-than-thou pundit nuts and get with the program.