Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

woman proMs. No Work

  • 770 GMAT
  • 3.0 GPA (I just didn’t care then. Now I regret that attitude.)
  • Undergraduate degree in computer science from an Ivy League university
  • No work experience (Unfortunately, I never had to work.)
  • Fluent in five languages, including French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese
  • “By the time I was 23, I had traveled to over 37 countries.”
  • Extracurricular involvement playing basketball ball in college
  • “I am only interested in Wharton, CBS and Harvard.”
  • 25-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: -5%

Wharton: 5%

Columbia: 5%

Sandy’s Analysis:

Hmmmm, brainy (770), F,  Ivy, lazy, b-baller (is that basketball?), multi-lingual, passport stamper, non-worker–not sure about what adcoms will think about this profile,  but you will probably get a lot of social interest from our readers.

My own tough love advice is to get a job for two years at a computer company. I think they are hiring. Get a job at the most selective company possible, especially one with its own hiring test. You seem to do well on those, and then apply to B- school during your second year there,  where I think you might be able to enter via the rear door (with the 770 GMAT being the key) at MIT or Wharton, or other places that will blink at a LOT for a 770 GMAT.

The job first plan might also give you a clear idea if you want to go to business school at all, which one, and what job you want next. With your language skills, Ivy background, self-entitlement, confidence, and jumbo GMAT, I see a bright future for you at McKinsey et al. providing you wake up and decide to work for a living, which sometimes happens late in early life.

I also could see you as an NGO-type with an organization that does not get its hands too dirty. Do Gooders With Strict Borders and Secure Headquarters (lots of those, actually, see the society pages of The New York Times and do not overlook the Foreign Service of the good ol’ USA. They also got a strict test, which you may ace, a la the GMAT).   f those seem too onerous, HR gigs at banks and glam tech companies  are a  good place to meet a rich future spouse, en route to staying at a couple of homes, watching the nanny change diapers and learning even more languages via Rosetta Stone tapes.

But enough of the valuable mockery and on to the more challenging question:  What do I think your chances are now, with NO job, just applying next year with  what we got above?

First thing I would do is reformat your globe-trotting and lingo learning  as freelance volunteer work or sumpthin like that (not hard to do, actually) and try to put it into some context which leads to a job doing X (international development, etc.). Adcoms are not stupid (well, actually, that is a different and complicated subject) but in this case, it is in their interest to give you the huge benefit of the doubt since you do have potential and a 770, and my guess, are not in dire need of financial aid.

Sooooo, with a facile story, and some recs from someplace, you might be an acceptable risk at places like Duke, Darden, UCLA, Michigan, Cornell, Texas, etc. Trouble is, it is hard to predict, so you should probably put six or seven chips on the table. You are not getting into H/S/W/MIT/Columbia unless you can really, really, squeeze some cover story out of your wanderlust and then use that as a career platform.

My best advice remains Foreign Service for a couple of years and then look around at MBA. (Not sure if you need to commit there for more than two years, anyone??)


Business womanMs. Retail Consultant 

  • 700 GMAT (thinking of taking again)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business and foreign affairs from a top three public university
  • Work experience includes three years at a retail/consumer goods consulting firm (well-known retail consulting firm that competes with Deloitte, McKinsey, LEK); won promotion after two years
  • “Grew up working for family business (entrepreneurship background/spin to story)”
  • Extracurricular involvement as a local project manager for a faith-based “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” program; started program in New York for pilot year, connecting high-risk youth with mentors and am continuing growth of organization into close-by states
  • Long-term goal: To start or be a part of a business focused on social change through sales of specialty goods or services (think TOMS)
  • First generation American and first in family to graduate from college
  • 24-year-old Asian American (US citizen) female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%

Wharton: 20% to 30%

Columbia: 20% to 30%

MIT: 20% to 30%

Northwestern: 30%+

Dartmouth: 30%+

Sandy’s Analysis: 

Ouch, this is all silver and not gold,  and that may not be enough. To wit,

1. 700 GMAT

2. 3.5 GPA

3. Sorta off-brand but solid consulting gig.

All that is packaged in a nice story (first gen college, solid commitment to “faith-based” Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, do-gooder/retail “TOMS” goals) but you are in a lot of traffic for the top five schools. Other drivers in your lane have elements of your story and often better stats, so my advice off the bat is to retake the GMAT, as many times as you can.

As often noted, schools like Wharton, Columbia, MIT, and even good-guy Kellogg (a natural for this profile) have become very GMAT focused, and a 700 is starting to look a bit shabby. Particularly in your case, where the 3.5 is marginal, a 720 would really help, as much as it pains me to say it.

720 is the new 700 (coming to Netflix next season! but already playing on the  Adcom station).

With a 720, nice people like you sometimes get into Kellogg or Tuck, and stand a good chance at Duke, Darden, Berkeley, etc. where your dreams can actually come true with a MBB gig afterwards and then a re-look at the horizon to see if you still want to start/work-for some hip company like TOMS.

The fact that your work experience (3 years in retail/consumer goods consulting) and extras (“Local Project Manager for faith-based “Big Brothers, Big Sisters” program. Started program in New York  . . . partnering high-risk youth with mentors and am continuing growth into close-by states) and goals are so tightly knit could give you a little boost at Wharton and Columbia and a Hail Mary chance at HBS.


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