Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Ms. Nielsen’s, Mr. Coca-Cola, Ms. Payday Loans, Mr. CPA, Ms. Naval Academy, Dr. Baseball


Mr. Coca-Cola 

  • 740 GMAT (46Q / 46V)
  • 3.78 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a Top 25 business program (located in Southeast)
  • Work experience includes two years with Coca-Cola in the corporate treasury department (promoted once out of an analyst pool; lots of exposure to senior management; very global role)
  • Extracurricular involvement includes serving as president of the largest honor society on campus for 2 years; pledge class president of fraternity for a year; mentor at Boys & Girls Club for 2 years. Currently on the board of a well-being group at Coke and also mentor finance students from alma-mater
  • “Overcame significant speech impediment as a child and am 100% fluent now. Selected as 1 of 10 ˜Outstanding Senior Leaders” in college. Accepted to multiple top-15 law schools but decided not to pursue. Student-body president of high school with 700+ students
  • Goal: “An MBB hopeful (although I’d like to one day start my own company). I have debated moving to a strategy/innovation role at Coke before business school.
  • 27-year-old Native American male (at matriculation)

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40%

Stanford: 20% to 30%

Wharton: 40% to 50%

Chicago: 50%

Northwestern: 50%+

Dartmouth: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: For a Native American, a 3.78 GPA from what seems like an OK school (“Finance from a Top 25 business program”) and a 740 GMAT can be a ticket to most business schools, especially since you back those impressive stats with employment at a blue-chip global company, Coca-Cola. You already have noted, “Accepted to multiple top-15 law schools but decided not to pursue” (which may be a good move given the ditch the legal profession is in today) but just as a proxy for your graduate school admission success, those law school  admissions are very comforting.*

        *Although as  a rule, law school admission is even more stats based (LSAT and GPA) than business school, which also weighs post-college work experience and extras more than law school.  Further, on an intra-campus match fight, e.g., HBS v. HLS  or  SBS v. SLS the  business school admission process is more competitive, although not in every case, viz., Yale. I will be happy to entertain comments seeking to modify that opinion — because unlike the Supreme Court, which avoids reaching important issues, I sorta jump into them. 🙂

        Your story could  have more power if your ties to the Native American community were stronger than you seem to let on — none of your considerable extras are Native American related.  If you somehow left those out, friend, get them back in. I would go so far as to suggest that you might actually start creating them by joining Native American groups and, if possible, getting one real resume event under your belt. For example, join one Native American organization and take a leadership role in some event. Also, I am no expert on this, but if you are enrolled in a Native American Tribe http://www.narf.org/nill/resources/enrollment.html (an OK place to start, but you may have to dig and Google more) you should list that on your resume.  If you are eligible and not enrolled, well, enroll, pronto.

        As to extracurrics in general, we’ve been through this before but it bears restating, the kind of self-serving and localized extracurrics this applicant lists are mostly not Tier 1, at least to most selective business schools like HSW:

President of largest honor society on campus  . . . Pledge Class President of my fraternity . . . Mentor at Boys & Girls Club  . . . on the board of a well-being group at Coke . . . I  mentor finance students from my alma-mater.

        Honor socieity, pledge class prexy, a well-being club at Coke, yadda, yadda. Those are suggestive of leadership — and are more impressive than loner gigs like staying in your room and reading bomb-making manuals — but they sound easy and a bit dorky.  At some schools, no names here, being president of your fraternity pledge class is tilting into negative territory. I once pledged a frat and the pledge class president was in cahoots with the head pledge brother to sanitize all the fun and dangerous parts of pledging, including the pledge “stunt,” the one I had suggested about bricking up the exits to the upstairs bedrooms and then ringing fire alarms (after starting a small fire). Those two also vetoed my idea of releasing mice in the frat house.

        Well, the lady brigade of business school  adcoms may not know all that much about pledging a frat, but, hey, not even adcoms like a kill-joy.

        “On the board of a well-being group at Coke . . .”

        Does anyone on the board of  the Coke “well-being group” ever suggest, ahem, taking out all the Coke machines?

        Just kidding, I know all those machines are filled with Dasani. Well, not fully kidding. You might prepare yourself for a set of interview questions about what it is like working for a company that is near fat target #1 as the leading cause of childhood (and adult!) obesity. This is important interview advice.  You are not supposed to be a spokesperson for Coke during B-school admit interviews. You are supposed to say “Yes, that is an important issue and one becoming more important . . .it is impacting Coke in several ways and they have taken several steps, including diversifying the product offerings blah, blah, blah. But there may be no real answer except to plan to rely less on Coke as the mainstay product, for lots of reasons, blah, blah.” B-schools ask these questions, not because they care about childhood obesity so much, but because they expect you to be able to separate your head from the company and start thinking like a manager, not a stove-piped employee. For a quick start, see this ABC news story about Coke’s first, fumbling efforts.


        OK, end of Sermonette 1, and onto Sermonette 2 about extracurrics.  What really impresses schools are those which have an impact beyond yourself.  That means helping victims, poor children, people in distant lands,  especially politically correct ones, like those who are victimized by race, class and gender.  Given your Native American background, well, that counts. “Mentoring finance students from your alma mater” something else you do,  is certainly something with an impact beyond yourself, and again, it is not likely to cause any harm.

But when we visualize you rushing between that and heading back  to Coke for the board meeting of the well-being club, dunno, admissions is a toug  and wearing game, and even the happy birdies of the adcom can begin to have negative thoughts based on the unfounded prejudices of what they imagine nerds do in their spare time. And that picture is in sharp contrast to the favored extracurricular involvement of  the  League of Social Justice Warriors who are the beloved of adcoms: those folks have been spending their spare time sleeping on Interstates to protest global warming, big trucks, and week-end traffic.  Well, more likely, convincing other people to do that and organizing fund-rising events around that action.

        Soooo, my advice to you is to get some of your Native-American tribal bros to complain about issues 1, 2 or 3 and organize a media and fund-raising event around it. Adcoms, oddly, go for glam stuff like that, especially if they believe you will never do anything really outre once you arrive on their leafy campus.

         “Other facts: Overcame significant speech impediment as a child and am 100% fluent now.”  Overcoming impediments can be a fruitful part of an application. Adcoms care for the tear-jerker stuff, sure, but they also appreciate lessons about how the experience taught you empathy, patience and made you a better teacher (ha, ha, thought I was going to say “listener.” Well, OK that too)  since the training was slow and arduous.

         “Post-MBA plans: Likely an MBB hopeful (although I’d like to one day start my own company). I have debated moving to a strategy/innovation role at Coke before business school. Thoughts on this (or other helpful moves over the next 2 years) would be greatly appreciated.”

        MBB is perfect for a “work-in-progress” like you. Saying you want to start your own company down the long road is also good. Transitioning to strat/innovation role at Coke depends.  You are 27 now and work in the treasury department at Coke, which is a good starter job for a guy from a top-25 undergrad business college (e.g. non-Ivy, non-public Ivy). I am not sure if you had any job before this? Given the choice between applying next year vs. in 2nd year of strat gig at Coke, hmmmmmm? You would be 29, which is the high side of normal these days, and if you could get that job and attract better rec writers, it might make sense. Right now you are diamond in the rough based on Native American background, very solid stats, and Tier 2-3 jobs and schooling. Harvard, Stanford and Wharton admit diamonds in the rough, especially if you can quickly buff up the Native American aspect. There is no real danger in waiting two years, if that is what your prefer, and that position might make you a hair more attractive to MBB and even to schools.

         “Applying to: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Northwestern, Dartmouth. Any other ideas?”

        That is a good list. Dude, work up the Native American angle. At this point, with jobs, GPA and GMAT already on the table, there is NOTHING else that really matters by comparison.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.