Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mrs. Marlboro

woman at work

Ms. Social Sector

  • 730 GMAT
  • 2.8 GPA
  • “Low undergrad GPA is due to personal issues during freshman/early sophomore years. GPA for junior-senior years is 3.6”
  • Undergraduate degree in the humanities from a small liberal arts school
  • 3.8 GPA — Master’s degree in international relations from an overseas American school
  • Work experience includes three years at a well-known public health institution serving in a project management role; work focuses on building capabilities to respond to outbreaks in Africa and Asia; job included a short stint in West Africa assisting in the response to Ebola. Promoted twice and received several honor awards; Also have two years of experience in AmeriCorps (pre-grad school) serving in a project management role at a small non-profit organization
  • Goal: To move into social sector consulting or obtain a leadership role at an innovative globally-focused foundation, such as the Gates Foundation
  • 31-year-old white female

Odds Of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Chicago: 30% to 40%
MIT: 20% to 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Yikes, you and the Marlboro Woman should get together, given your sub-3.0 GPAs and high GMATs. You do have the advantage of getting a 3.8 GPA in grad school, but I don’t think that will be enough to get you into HBS.

You are competing against other do-gooders who are both younger than you and have less explaining to do.

I would change my mind if you told me more about your “three years  . . .  at a well-known public health institution serving in a project management role.” Such as, what is that outfit’s record in placing folks at HBS and Stanford? Well, that is most important, and beyond that, what did you do there?

As often noted here, HBS may blink once, but they rarely blink twice, and that is what you are asking them to do about 1. Your low GPA, and 2. Your zig-zaggy career that included Americorps, then grad school, then your current three-year gig.

None of those issues are of any real concern to adcoms but you are in a beauty contest with other do-gooders, many of whom have ~Ivy schooling, better GPA’s, and more simple resumes, e.g. two years with Goldman Sachs and then one year at the Gates Foundation and then applying during their second year at Gates.

That is sorta you, but not quite. And beauty contests often  turn on near intangibles.

How could I be wrong?

Let’s start with this, your strongest selling feature:

“Three years at well-known public health institution serving in a project management role. Work focuses on building capabilities to respond to outbreaks in Africa and Asia. Included a short stint in West Africa assisting in the response to Ebola. Promoted twice and received several honor awards.”

Your chances at HBS would improve

–If that well-known public health institution is a super feeder to HBS.
–If you can capture any powerful essay jive from that “short” stint in West Africa fighting Ebola?
–If your rec writers can “break out” of the usual do-gooder rec jive and really capture any extraordinary aspect of your story.

At other schools, Booth goes for this profile and they will blink twice faster than HBS. MIT is a wild card. They are always looking for someone LIKE you, and the issue becomes how many people LIKE you are applying there. If too many, they will admit those.

Your app and recs need to demonstrate real conviction in any case: You took a while to “figure out” college. You took a while to “figure out” things after that, and now the adcom needs to know that B-school is not another “figuring things out” phase of your resume, especially for a 31-year old.