Handicapping Your Shot At An Elite MBA: Mr. Indian-Engineer-Turned-Strategy Analyst

 

Ms. Project Engineer

 

  • 690 GMAT
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in civil engineering from a top 20 public university
  • Work experience as a project engineer for a management construction company with 200 employees during the past three years; received three promotions; co-led a team which identified inefficiencies within a software program used by operations on a daily basis
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer for a group that harvests fruits and vegetables and brings the to local food banks and soup kitchens; president and marshall of a civil engineering society when in college; tutor to fellow undergraduates in civil engineering courses
  • 24-year-old Native American female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 50%

Stanford: 20%

Michigan: 50%+

Northwestern: 50%+

Duke: 50%+

USC: 60%+

Notre Dame: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Let me focus on the elements that are really important.

You are a female engineer and that is a real plus.

You’re a Native American and that is a real plus.

And you have a job working for an engineering firm as an engineer. That is a super plus.

If you can be convincing on all of those issues, you’ll be a strong candidate.

Let’s start with the Native American part. It’s helpful if you claim Native American heritage to have a narrative that has deep support in Native American heritage and issues. Sen. Elizabeth Warren declared herself to be a Native American and she took a lot of flak for it because she is only 1/16th Native American. But it is among the most difficult, hard-to-fill minorities for business schools so that could give you an edge.

The second issue I see is, ideally if you are an engineer you want to work for a huge engineering company, one that everyone has heard of. It’s not necessary, but it is very helpful. You work for a 200-person engineering company and the one project you describe is fixing software.

That’s not adding luster to someone who is an engineer. What we want is someone who is out there with an orange vest with a whistle, stopping traffic and bossing around guys who are driving big rigs and then going back and doing planning to quarterback that. You want to upgrade that issue.

Aside from that, the 690 GMAT is silver, not gold. Schools like H/S/W want to see a 700 or up. They are certainly willing to wink at it and they probably would because you are a female Native American engineer. Still, a 710 or 720 would look a lot better. The median and the mean GMATs are real high at Harvard and Stanford.

Your extracurricular activities are great in God’s eyes and great in my eyes. I don’t think it is going to cut a lot of mustard among the cynical admission committees you’ll face. The fruits and vegetables thing is just not scaled enough and it doesn’t intricately relate to what you do. Being class marshall of a big school is something that an admissions committee appreciates because it shows leadership. Being the president of a civil engineering club isn’t going to move the needle.

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.