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Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Advertising Agent

man stars

Mr. Okie In Mongolia


  • 700 GMAT (“I am aiming to take the GMAT in August and expecting to score in the 700-720 area )
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance and international business, with a minor in accounting and Italian, from the University of Oklahoma
  • Work experience includes three years at a small real estate company listed on the TSX with operations in Mongolia as senior manager of internal controls and analytics; Before moving to Mongolia was a Peace Corps volunteer for small business development in Cameroon from 2009 to 2011
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer in Ulaanbaatar, mainly working at orphanages; also worked with Peace Corps volunteers in country on various projects; currently helping to develop current employer’s corporate social responsibility program
  • “My education took a long and different path. I dropped out of high school and work for several years before decided to pursue an education. I am the first in my family to go to college. Currently I am a Level 2 CFA candidate”
  • 31-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%

Duke: 30%

Wharton: 20%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Chicago: 20% to 30%

Berkeley: 20% to 30%

Columbia: 20%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, you have lots to like and lots to wonder about. You will need a goal statement which sews up your various do-gooder, African, Asian, accounting and “Internal Controls and Analytics” experiences.

Right now there are obvious themes in this: Volunteering, Peace Corps, work in underdeveloped areas, etc. that need to be molded into a plausible story. That can be done, and it’s real important that it be done in your case because your story, your path, your jobs, do not automatically fall into place for a business school’s admissions office.

Similarly, getting the 700-720 GMAT you project getting would also be a welcome anchor to a profile with a lot of soft spots in it: Your lowish GPA, public university background, and lots of jobs at non-traditional companies. You’ve got a lot of likable events in your history plus clear accomplishments that will impress many schools. Just try to meet them halfway.

I think HBS is going to be hard on these facts: their white, male “lovable oddball + do gooder” cohort tends to be both more accomplished in terms of schooling and pedigree and more focused, with “classier” NGOs and more sexy China stories.

At Wharton and Columbia, the white, male “lovable oddball + do gooder” cohort may not exist, or just be random–my guess is, it is composed of guys like you but with very solid GPAs and GMATs thrown into the froth for insurance.

Other schools you mention have occassional cases of admits like you and the question for you becomes getting a bit lucky after you optimize your story.

So, get that ~720 GMAT, get your story plausible, and fit in or get lucky.

The attraction of someone who has worked in China for a publicly traded company is real, your GPA can blinked at, and you seem like a nice guy. All that, and an OK GMAT, should be enough outside of H/S/W.

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.