Handicapping: Mr. Muckraker, Ms. COO, Ms. IntelOfficer, Mr. Natl Guard, Mr. Entrepreneur, Ms. Chem Engineer, Ms. Teacher, Mr. Pilot

brunette business woman

Ms. Future COO


  • 760 GMAT
  • 3.89 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a top 40 private U.S. university in New England
  • Work experience includes a year with a major bank in New York as an operations analyst, and three and one-half years with a major social media company in Silicon Valley in supply chain operations (purchasing servers for data centers)
  • Two internships at Big Three consulting firms in the accounting function
  • Two promotions in three years to a senior level normally held by someone with 10 to 15 years experience
  • Extracurricular involvement as a marketing head for a small financial literacy nonprofit for one year; several months in a mentoring program at the State Department that involves travel to Africa
  • Goal: To move into a strategic planning operations role at an early stage tech company, with a long-term objective of becoming a chief operating officer
  • 26-year-old whie female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 40%

Wharton: 40%

MIT: 40% to 50%

Northwestern: 50%

Dartmouth: 50%

NYU: 50%+

Georgetown: 59%+

Sandy’s Analysis: You’re a rare case, a woman in operations, which is a real plus. Or it could be, that is the issue. You have a 3.89 from what I would call a second tier-school. If you look up top 40 privates in New England, you’re in the category of Boston University or Northeastern University. Those are fine schools but they are not feeder schools to HBS, Wharton, or MIT. You have a very consistent career in operations, from a bulge bracket bank to your current job at a social media company in Silicon Valley.

You give an example of your job as purchasing servers for data centers. Let me just say that the word purchasing in the business school admissions process is not a powerful word. Purchasing agent is what your uncle who comes to Thansgiving and never went to college does. When I grew up in Long Island in this lower middle-class community, a lot of these guys were purchasing agents at Grumman Aircraft. That was the leading high tech firm in Long Island at that point.

You know what you want to do and you know where you are going. You paint a tight picture. You’re a very strong candidate if you can just describe what you do. My advice: Make what you do sound strategic, not purchasing. You need to make it clear that you are deciding whether to buy more servers or to communicate by smoke signals. That is a strategic decision.

You say you applied in Round 1 at Harvard. So here’s another piece of advice: If you get an interview, you should hire someone to do a mock interview. There are a lot of people with your stats who don’t get into Harvard. There’s two ways to present yourself: As the BU purchasing agent or as the woman in stategic technology candidate. If you can present yourself as the woman in strategic operations, your chances are very good at all your target schools. If you present as someone from BU who is a purchasing agent, your chances are less good. The way you present yourself is important. This is a case where they may not be able to see what is behind what you present.

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