Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Finance Real Estate


Mr. Dominican Republic Banker


  • 700+ GMAT (still need to take)
  • 3.33 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business from a “top caliber school”
  • “Lost mother at the age of 11 and have an absent father”
  • Work experience includes more than five years at the Central Bank of the Dominican Republic as a senior analyst and management consultant; have worked across corporate strategy, business development and project portfolio management
  • Have had three promotions, including one in which he joined a team as the youngest analyst in a group of four consultants
  • Extracurricular involvement as a business analyst volunteer at a disaster and humanitarian relief non-profit
  • Short-term goal: To get an MBA with a strong focus on finance, non-profit and entrepreneurship and then return to the Central Bank as chief of the current division
  • Long-term goal: To become deputy director of the branch and an “aspiring innovative, impactful leader in the organization”
  • “I’m committed to transforming our branch into a Center of Excellence for
  • Business Analysis and Project Management ­ strongly considering a joint degree MBA-MPP/MPA-ID to fully integrate a policy-making and economic impact perspective”
  • 29-year-old Hispanic/Latino male, with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Dominican Republic

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%

Stanford: 20% to 30%

Wharton: 30%

Chicago: 30% to 40%

Columbia: 30% to 40%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Stated simply, is there a gold version of you out there, or several, since your story is impressive and your GPA and GMAT are silver/bronze and not gold?

Let me explain.

1. You got a great narrative of being a home-grown and educated Latino, yet you are a dual DR-USA citizen (hence official URM for headcount purposes*

* explanation– you need to be a U.S. Citizen + Hispanic to count as “Hispanic,” and be an official minority for US Department of Education (or some department) purposes, otherwise you are just some guy from Latin America, which is good, but not AS good.

2. Even among Latinos, Dominican Republic (I think) is a mild rarity compared to Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, even Peru. To wit, at HBS, counting both classes (all ~1,800 kids), here are some Latin American headcounts from a recent survey:

1. Mexico–17

2. Chile–10

3. Argentina–15

4. Brazil–18

5. Peru–4 (!)

6. Dominican Republic –0

7. Haiti –0

I am not sure how they count dual-passport holders in the above. My guess is that the numbers above are kids who need to register as international students, so that might not include you even if you were there since you have US passport. Even so, it gives you an idea that a person from the DR at Harvard Business School is a rarity. You’re DR enough for HBS because you work and live there, even if a dual citizen, with the added advantage of being a bona fide minority. That is a two-fer.

3. Here is where it gets dicey: “Business major from a top caliber school in the country; 3.33 undergrad GPA (received & maintained an entry academic merit-based grant despite having to work & study at the same time).”

I’m not sure how that 3.3 will go down, even in the context you note. In light of that, the GMAT becomes real important. I would put a super focus on that, even take it one, two, or three times . A 700 with OK splits would be fine for HBS, which is the most lenient of the elite schools about GMAT scores. When Her Royal Highness says anything at 700+ is fine, she means it. (Queen Dee does not always mean what she says, but she does about this.)

As often noted, Stanford talks a good game about minimizing GMATs but they will not cut you as much slack as HBS, maybe because they are smaller, maybe because they are just, ahem, fibbers. Wharton and Columbia have become very GMAT focused, overtly so, although sure, even they can still wink for a guy with as much other value as you.

Do you need to take the TOEFL? On the facts, it appears so. That can also be important, especially on the downside.

I’m no expert, is the TOEFL coachable, or “study-able”? Any comments? (Well, within 30 days.) Anyone? Does not appear to be so, but everything is, to some degree.

4. “Currently working @ the Central Bank of DR as a Senior Analyst/Management Consultant for 5+ years . . . Earned promotion to join team as the youngest analyst in a group of four Consultants (3 promotions, most recent one back in October 2013).” Bingo, that is great, since schools like central bankers and bankers, period, even if you are technically a consultant at a bank, you have been inside, and can allege to know how a central bank operates. Plus, good diversity of experience and career advancement.

5. Goals: An MBA (with a strong focus on Finance, Non-Profit and Entrepreneurship). Return to the Central Bank as Chief of current Division in the short term, long-term: Deputy Director of the branch, as an aspiring innovative-impactful leader in the organization. Blah, blah, blah, good. Spell this out with examples and make them believe it. Think bigger than Deputy Director of your brach as a long term goal. The deputy directors of admissions at elite schools like to think BIG. Anyway, you are onto the right “impactful leader” stated goals, etc. even if you are dreaming of joining Goldman Sachs in New York and living La Vida Loca.

6. Extras: Business Analyst Volunteer, founding member of the country’s Project Management Institute Chapter. Business Analyst Volunteer at a Disaster and Humanitarian Relief non-profit, created operating plan frameworks. Real Solid.

Sooooo, what is the “gold” version of this? The person with your core story and better shine. Same girl with better grades, I guess, and maybe an elite banking job before joining the central bank. I was also about to add, maybe an elite U.S. education, but actually the fact you went to school in DR is a plus, since it supports your goals. Your female doppleganger from Amherst may not be as convincing on why she wants to GO BACK. If there is some Latin cohort out there with better grades, two years on Wall St, and then two years in a Latin central bank, well, sure, that person may cut in front of you on line. But I’m not sure how many peers there are like that.

Boy, just going through this line by line, it becomes real solid. Dude, get that 700 GMAT and execute clearly and you should get into HBS.

Stanford you can never tell, but this is real strong. Other places are actually where you stand to get beaten out by ANY Latin with rock solid stats and lesser work history, but you would be strong there, too.

There is just a lot to like here, good luck.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.