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Stanford GSB | Mr. Startup Guy
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Harvard | Mr. Billion Dollar Startup
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GMAT 730, GPA 95.8/100 (1st in class)
Harvard | Mr. Comeback Kid
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Harvard | Mr. Tech Risk
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Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Financial Analyst

arty woman

Ms. Social Sector

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.92 GPA
  • Undergraduate double major from a top New England small college
  • Work experience as a consultant since graduation in 2012. Worked for a global (though not well-known in the U.S.) consumer packaged goods consulting firm for two years; named as South America client lead to one of the largest CPG manufacturers in the world; was promoted twice in two years (ahead of schedule) and received award reserved for top analyst each year; was leading one of the four divisions (responsible for managing five junior analysts); currently managing the data and analytics division and working directly with the executive team for a smaller social sector consulting firm (and am doing so through a highly selective fellowship that aims to plug in talent from the private sector to the social sector).
  • Extracurricular involvement as a second-generation English teacher, also on the executive board of my city’s 600+ member Lean In division, and am the managing editor for a daily, digital newsletter with 2000+ subscribers and a 60% open rate
  • Successfully completed several online Coursera classes focused on statistics and programming since graduating college
  • Goal: To gain a dual MBA/MPP to better help the social sector collect, understand, and leverage data
  • “After working in the private sector, where the most granular CPG goods data is readily available in almost any retail database, I’ve seen what data can do. I feel that the social sector is about one to two decades behind the private sector in terms of comfort with and expectation of using data, and I want to contribute to pushing the sector forward to more analytically rigorous and ultimately impactful decisions and resource allocations”
  • 25-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 20% to 25%

Harvard: 30% to 40%

MIT: 40%

UC-Berkeley: 40%+

Duke: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: You got a great story (data smarts for non-profits), some solid and acceptable stats (3.9/720), a silver but not golden resume (NESCAC and two outlier consulting firms, but the jobs make sense) and what sounds like a

strong Latin American background.

If you are a U.S. Citizen and Hispanic, in any way, shape or form, don’t be shy about it. That will be another plus in your story. “Outside of work, I teach English (I’m second generation) . . . .” Second generation what????

As to your desire to obtain an MBA/MPP dual degree, I am almost always opposed to dual degrees, especially the MBA/MPP, because you can often capture the value of those three years with a two-year MBA degree, especially if you spend the second MBA year doing intensive and targeted networking and cross-registering at the MPP school. Of course, that assumes you already know who to target, which many people do not. It also depends on which schools you attend. At HBS, you can do a lot of networking at Harvard’s Kennedy School. I am not sure how easy the same process is at other universities.

Also, spending a whole year networking opens you to serendipity and allows you to relax, all at the bargain price of about $250,000 in tuition and missed wages. Is it worth it? Hard to say, maybe some of our dual-degree readers can post and let us know.

As to your odds: You got a chance at Stanford if you are Hispanic. If not, you still got a chance if you maximize the do-gooder parts of this story, create some dreamy future where non-profits can be as annoying and data-savvy as Amazon, and showcase the adversity parts of your life in the first essay.

You say you can count on “stellar” recommendations. Good, but you also need to make sure your rec writers have done this before and know the right Stanford buttons to press.

Funny digression on rec writing. The most common flaw of well-meaning but inexperienced rec writers is premature ejactulation. They spend the whole rec describing how they first met you and never deliver a level, powerful, summary of your skills and strengths.

They just re-enact the first meeting. Well, that often works in some impressionistic way, but I am a fan of “I have seen, over the past 24 months, Candy Date, work with teams, manage up, take initiative, create powerful analytical models and support her team in tough times . . .” with diverse and powerful examples.”

End of digression and back to you.

“Outside of work, I teach English (I’m second generation), am on the executive board of my city’s 600+ member “Lean In” division, and am the managing editor for a daily, digital newsletter with 2000+ subscribers and a 60% open rate.”

That all sounds very Stanford-y, and I would note the influences of those activities on you, beyond just stating them when it comes time to present those accomplishments to Stanford in an essay. Viz., “being on the board of ‘Lean In’ was surprising and enlightening in several ways . . . .I got to see how women from different backgrounds ‘Lean In’ in different ways (examples) and discovered my own issues with 1 2 3, etc as a result.”

“Currently managing the data and analytics division and working directly with the executive team for a smaller social sector consulting firm (and am doing so through a highly selective fellowship that aims to plug in talent from the private sector to the social sector).”

Also primo and a lot will turn on what schools think of your firm, either before or after you explain who they are and what they do.

So this is real solid. But to get into Stanford, assuming you don’t have any connections, and are not Hispanic or otherwise URM (well, we are now down to about 150 remaining places), as suggested above, you will need to optimize those experiences and be very convincing about how you helped folks in the social sector and what impact they had on you.

HBS takes and dings kids like you depending on execution, recs, luck, and not blowing the interview. I think you can present a real solid case there.

MIT Sloan (with HKS), Berkeley, Duke, MIT will go for this, even if it will bring down their precious and mightily defended GMAT average by about .0000000000004 percent. Don’t take the GMAT again, unless you think you can get a 760+ which will, by the way, would really help at Stanford!

Berk and Duke will be super happy to have you.