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

Patriotic soldier salute


Mr. National Guard


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.89 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a big state school (think Ohio or Penn State)
  • Work experience includes two years as a consultant at Deloitte; to more years at a bulge bracket investment bank as an analyst; currently an aviation officer in the Army National Guard
  • Extracurricular involvement in leadership positions in ROTC clubs, a business fraternity, and investment club; volunteer work on trips to poor areas in a European country as well as Miami
  • “I should have great recs from both National Guard and from work. I don’t exactly know how to explain going national guard instead of full time Army (it just made sense to keep the ball rolling with my career). “Is it a big red flag that I didn’t go to a better school? No excuse other than I didn’t give it much thought and just got motivated after being there.”
  • Goal: To work for a private equity firm to continue to help grow struggling areas
  • 27-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%

Wharton: 30%

Columbia: 30% to 40%

MIT: 20%

Chicago: 30%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Yale: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Going to Penn State is not an issue. The top 5 business schools are OK with that if it fits some kind of first-generation college narrative of a young lad on the way up. What may be more of an issue is how they compute your Deloitte and Bulge Bracket experience. You are competing in a cohort of finance types where often the profile is bulge bracket, private equity, venture capital, or hedge funds.

So given the choice between that guy from a near Ivy-ish college (public or private) and then an i-bank/PE type, they will take THAT guy, especially if your GMAT does not go much over 700.
Ironically, that is where the Penn State DNA comes back to bite you. What you should have done was get that bulge bracket job right out of college. “Ha ha, you say, that is real hard at Penn State.”

Yup, I say back, that is how top B-schools punish kids like you without saying they do that. Let’s not get too cute, though. Get a 730 GMAT and solid recs, execute your applicadtions serviceably and you got a solid shot at Wharton, Columbia, Tuck, Yale and the rest.

Not sure the National Guard vs. the regular U.S. Army is an issue because military service is a plus–and schools don’t split hairs over it. I’d be real interested if anyone has anecdotes, hearsay, etc. contra.

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