Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. Dance Marathon

computergalMs. Consultant

  • 780 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a top two university in China
  • Work experience includes 2 years of management consulting (non MBB); summer investment banking analyst at a bulge bracket Chinese joint venture
  • Extracurricular activities include serving on the board of a school club, leading and organizing a mid-size competition across 10 universities; volunteered as a mentor for impoverished students; co-organized a company annual dinner (“Does it count?) I think EA is my weak point”
  • Short-term goal: Consulting at McKinsey, Bain or BCG or buy side
  • Long-term goal: Leadership in a corporate/buy side in consumer/retail sector
  • 24-year-old Chinese female

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 50%+
Columbia: 50%+
Harvard: 30%
Stanford: 10% to 20%

Sandy’s Analysis: A 780 GMAT and no arrest record for anything shameful (normal crimes OK) with serviceable grades, which you got, and serviceable work experience, which you also got, is pretty much a free pass at schools you are targeting, except H and S. (Although it is a good start there, too.)

I’d like to see a list of the kids Wharton or Columbia turned down last year with a 780, excluding the ones they put on the wait list because they thought they would go to HBS. That very short list would be a pretty ugly sight of essay screwballs, interviews barfers, deeply annoying people, and most substantially, my guess, non-English speakers who had someone else take their GMAT. Also in your favor is that  working for a non-MBB consulting firm OUTSIDE of the U.S. (if that is what you did), is considered near elite since those jobs are just harder to get abroad, and considered prestige positions.

Your lack of extra activities will not keep you out of target schools. The emphasis on leadership and volunteering is something of an outdated myth these days. Schools do not ask about it so much, and even HBS has seemed to drop its leadership mantra for a new focus on stats and how you fit in with the new world which is being born.

You read it here first. 

Leadership and extracurriculars may still count, but they do not count as much as they used to.

Cue the adcom mumblecore choir!

The world has become too complex, too cynical and too rushed for that. How do I know? 1. From recent results, 2. From the fact that such concerns have almost dropped off the application. The days when HBS asked an essay set like this, which demanded you have a broad mix of work and extra and club experiences, ARE OVER.

1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400-word limit)

2. What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)

3. Discuss a defining experience in your leadership development. How did this experience highlight your strengths and weaknesses as a leader? (400-word limit)

4. In your career, you will have to deal with many ethical issues. What are likely to be the most challenging and what is your plan for developing the competencies you will need to handle these issues effectively? (400-word limit)

5. What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (400-word limit)

6. What other information do you believe would be helpful to the Board in understanding you better and in considering your application? (400-word limit)

Folks, the above is a real HBS essay set, six questions, from not so long ago (class entering in 2007) and older apps had eight questions. To answer that essay set, you needed more than some interesting work experiences. That is no longer the case.

Leadership, both in business school and in reality, has become “women’s work.” The swaggering dicks and dickheads like Steve Jobs et al found the companies and then hire the girlie-girls (of any gender) to “run” them, which means they make sure no one’s feelings get hurt.

Cue the adcom mumblecore choir to rebut this. And then have them explain why they no longer ask about it.

End of news flash, back to this poster, who said “volunteered as a mentor of some impoverished students; co-organized company annual dinner (does it count?).” That could certainly be enough. What will count at HBS is what they think of your non-MBB consulting company, what they think of recs, not screwing up your interview, and a little bit, how you put it all together.  You have, on the facts presented,  a natural essay about being an impactful consultant. Just give examples of that­-say what you liked abouut a couple of engagements, dope out some story about helping companies in China based on your set of skills and experiences, and you could be in the HBS running.

Stanford is different: You do not have a natural, powerful essay story, like the Muslim woman with the autistic brother, but you also did not tell us as much, so maybe you do. Anyway, read my analysis about how to write a great Stanford essay and see what you can come up with. Save the impactful consulting story for Essay 2. Bolton likes to brag about rejecting kids with 780 and 800 GMATs. I never fully believed him. Those rejects  must have been a Terrorist Watch List of some kind. What may count more at Stanford is what they think of your consulting company and if it is on the Stanford BFF list. (Bolton Friend Forever).

You got a lot to like, I would apply to both HBS and Stanford.