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


Ms. Former Intelligence Officer


  • 690 GMAT (42V/42Q)
  • 3.62 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in political science and history from Duke University
  • Work experience includes two years as a counter-intelligence analyst for the Department of Defense; three years working for a leading outdoor experiential education nonprofit that works primarily with underserved youth and veterans (think Outward Bound or NOLS); After a year of leading multi-day leadership expeditions (backpacking, canoeing, rockclimbing), she joined the office staff and serve as the Executive Director’s Assistant and Special Projects Coordinator, gaining a crash course in all areas of nonprofit management; after two years promoted to current position as the Development and Corporate Relations Manager in a larger regional office of the same organization
  • Goals: To transition into a corporate social responsibility or cause marketing rolein a for-profit or hybrid company, with the long-term objective of becoming an executive director or CEO of an established nonprofit focused on youth and/or community development
  • “I currently live in Philadelphia and would like to stay in Philadelphia during and after school–for that and many other reasons, Wharton is my number 1 choice”
  • 27-year-old black femaleOdds of Success:Wharton: 50%Harvard: 40% to 50%Yale: 50%

    Duke: 50%

    UNC: 50%+

    Sandy’s Analysis:What we have is a black female from Duke with a pretty damn high GPA of 3.62 and we have a 690 GMAT which is marginally accepted by many places and for an underrepresented minority is a pretty good score. A 690 GMAT in the URM cohort could get you in the top 5%. More important than that, it just signals to a business school that if you can do a 690, you can do the work at anyplace so they would have real confidence in you.

    Then, you have essentially two jobs on your resume. One seems odd. You describe it as counter terrorism intelligence for the Department of Defense. Let’s put that aside for the moment. After two years, you leave that job to become a field instructor for an Outward Bound-type organization working with underserved youth and veterans. This sounds like you worked in this odd, super spy job and then left for something completely different. As a matter of due diligence, what you have to do is to explain the Department of Defense job. You don’t have to excuse it. You just have to say, ‘When I graduated Duke, I took job because my experience was this and that and then I transitioned into an Outward Bound organization for the following reasons.’ That is quite a pivot, as they say. Schools will be very interested in that and will want you to explain it.

    The only other small question is your current employer. You say you are in some sort of corporate development job for a large regional office of the organization so your employer has got to be big time. If it’s not Outward Bound or a well-known organization, you have to describe it in some detail.

    This is a very powerful profile but your story is going to be powerful everywhere and possibly least so at Wharton. Wharton is not really an NGO, nonprofit type school. They are open to it, but it’s not something they go crazy over. If they only take a few people like that, they could very well take you.

    It’s your choice but you only go to business school once. I would apply to Harvard Business School. Throw one in there. i have a feeling that you would not only get into HBS, they would give you a lot of money. They have a lot of money to give, and you are the kind of person they would like giving it to. That money could buy a lot of a get-out-of-Philadelphia decision. For you, Harvard would be free. Not only would they waive tuition, they would give you money to come. Whatever is keeping you in Philadelphia, if it is for a significant other, give him the money Harvard will give you.

    Your presentation was terrific, by the way. Your short version nailed it.

    ‘Department of Defense analyst turned nonprofit professional with a strong background in leadership experience wants to go to Wharton.’

    That is a terrific piece of summary. You ought to apply to Stanford as well. You are a classic Stanford applicant. Stanford would be happy to bring down their GMAT score for you. I bet the odds for you at 30% to 40%.

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