Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. Google, Mr. Telecom, Mr. Defense Contractor, Mr. Private Equity, Mr. Humanities


Mr. Telecom

  • 740 GMAT (42V, 49Q)
  • “Concerned about quant, thinking about redoing as this was usually my strong suit; nerves/time management was an issue”
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business from a Canadian university
  • “Last two years had a 4.0 GPA. First two years I had two deaths in my immediate family which explains the low GPA in my first years in university)
  • Work experience as a data analyst at a Canadian telecom company for the past two years; also developed two apps
  • Extracurricular involvement as a hospital volunteer, doing outreach work with at-risk youth; teach science to underpresented youth; started three clubs at university; research assistant for two professors in the psych department; entrepreneurial award in university for past experiences in high school
  • Goal: To transition into IT management consulting

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%

Stanford: 10%

Wharton: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Long story short, there’s nothing super special driving you into Stanford. You have silver+ but not gold story and stats, with stats, in fact  being  on the low-ish side. But the real issue is so-so (and maybe less, maybe just so) job which you characterize as “data analyst 2 years at telecom within Canada.”

Telcom can be OK, if you were in some rotational leader position, but “data analyst” seems like a real unselective gig which is real important at the schools you’re targeting. I’d change my mind if you told me one kid a year from that job gets into Stanford (or even one kid every other year).

Some brief notes on your story:

1.  “approx 3.4 gpa (canadian university in business) (last 2 years had 4.0 gpa, first 2 years i had 2 deaths in immediate family which explained the low gpa in the first years in uni)”

Your explanation sure makes sense to me, but super selective schools don’t care so much when many applicants present a 3.7-4.0 and there is nothing to blink at.  A 3.4 GPA at Stanford (where the latest average for the incoming class is 3.75) is mostly for special cases, URMs, faculty kids, rich kids, and not what seems to be a white boy in IT.

2.  “extensive volunteering at hospital, outreach/at risk youth, teach science to under represented youth, started 3 clubs at uni (1 now has become part of the university health service umbrella), and various other involvements on campus.”

Hmmmm, better extra-curric than the average IT white guy (I assume you are white) but probably not a field goal UNLESS you have a leadership position and strong, new results versus just doing lots of stuff in a competent and helpful way.  The dirty little secret about extras is that to make a difference (e.g. kick you up a notch) you really need some leadership, impact, initiative gig, often overseas and helping victims. Your stuff is all solid and local. I’m impressed, but it seems driven by existing gigs and not fueled by any passion. To the extent you can rebut this in the application, that will help.

“Started 3 clubs at uni (1 now has become part of the university health service umbrella)  . . . .” Getting warmer and it might depend.

3. “Developed 2 apps . . . .”

That’s all? My 6-year-old cousin has nine. Including one that just spits at you and cracks up all his friends.  Unless there’s more, e.g., they are making money, you sold to Google for millions, voted Best Whatever by App Magazine, this is not really impactful.

4. “Looking to transition into IT/management consulting  . . . .” Sure, makes sense, but Stanford already has many minorities and super stars who were doing that before they enrolled . . . why should they admit you?

As to HBS, it’s pretty much the same analysis, but if you optimize your story and get real good recs, you may sneak in. Outcome could depend a bit on size and quality of the Canadian IT/telcom/consulting cohort.  You may be a rare case where a winning essay illustrating extras and separating you from the usual IT drones could actually make a difference. You really need to optimize recs as well.

Wharton is on the bubble. You are superficially not their type and no school really needs another IT guy. But amid all my carping, this is a solid profile (just not glam enough for S and H). You gotta convince them that you are serious about Wharton and not just using them as an H/S backstop.

Attend forums, visit, get on their lists and sound very knowing about the school and what it can do for you. Really optimize your extras in their Second Essay (What else you wanna tell us?) and develop their importance to you. Say one goal of yours is using IT and tech to provide good jobs for transitioning populations in Canada, and explain how working with those groups in your extras was an education in the challenges and potential of doing that. Some aspect of that might also be a good theme in Stanford’s core essay, What Matters Most To You?

Retake the 740 GMAT? Hmmmm, usually not but . . . . Your quant score is fine and no one has any doubts about your Q abilities. If you did retake and got a 760, as much as I hate to say it, that could move the needle a bit at Wharton, but probably not at HBS or Stanford. A 780 and you could  be real close to IN at Wharton (assuming  serviceable execution on the app and no interview gaffes). I do not think that even a 780 would  blow open the doors at H or S on these facts, and I would be surprised if it did  . . . but not totally flabbergasted.

The real missing piece of this analysis is what schools think of your company and your job.

The same facts for some guy in an elite rotational leadership program at Comcast and the outcomes could be very different.

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