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

Ms. African-American Tax Consultant


  • 680 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a top-tier public university
  • Work experience includes several years as a tax consultant for a mid-sized corporate advisory firm in Texas, serving the real estate and healthcare industries
  • Short-term goal: To use the degree to get a job in corporate finance or investment banking in the energy/utility industry
  • Long-term goal: To transfer knowledge to working in-house for a startup clean energy company in California
  • 24-year-old African-American female, first generation college student

Odds of Success:

UCLA: 40% to 50%+
Texas: 50%+
Duke: 45% to 50%+
UC-Berkeley: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: She is a very compelling applicant for the obvious reasons: She is a first generation college student and an African American female which puts her in the underserved part of the MBA applicant pool. She has a good entry level job and she has thrived there. In her note, she said she was going to be promoted to senior vice president. A 680 GMAT is a pretty solid GMAT score. The one blemish in this story is the 3.4 grade point average. But the holistic picture makes her a very attractive candidate and a lot of schools would love to have her.

The work she does is similar to the work people do in the Big Four firms like Deloitte, Ernst & Young, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and KPMG. That is a good starting position for minorities or international students. Those are very good jobs and considered so. If you are a white male from Yale and you are working for Pwc, that is somewhat questionable. It’s not viewed as a selective job for a white male from an Ivy League school, even though what you might do there is important. Generally, schools like Stanford and Harvard will look to firms like Pwc and Ernst & Young and take minorities from there. I’ve lost track of this but there was a that was almost a reserved seat for three or four years running.

As to goals, I don’t know where you are getting the energy thing from. What schools like is for you to continue doing what you have been doing. Why do schools like that? They think it would be easier to place you My suggestion would be to suggest goals that you are already doing. Say you want to transition to consulting in real estate and healthcare. Investment banking is a reach. I wouldn’t state that as a short-term goal.

I also wouldn’t say you want to work for a clean energy startup in California. It sounds like you are either telling them what you think they want to hear or you are sharing your secret fantasy. That does not evolve out of what you have done. The danger is that a school reads that and says this person doesn’t really know the environment.

Your target schools would welcome you with solid execution. You also should go to outreach events for minorities and underserved groups and try to snooze a bit and see what kind of response you get. I could see you getting into Wharton or Dartmouth Tuck. There is someone like you at Wharton. It could be you.