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


Ms. Teacher To Government


  • 158Q, 159V GRE (Plan to retake)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from an Ivy-like university (think Duke)
  • Work experience includes two years in Teach for America, in school leadership roles and having won teaching awards; one year in aselective public policy fellowship, working in a city’s public housing agency on its financial sustainability plan; and two-plus years in the chief operating office of a large school district, winning a promotion after first year to a management position where the focus is on strategic advisement
  • Extracurricular involvement on the junior board of a neighborhood youth development organization; volunteer in neighborhood group voting on local policies
  • “Why an MBA?: I have worked in environments where it’s tough to break the status quo and make measurable impact. In order to lead in these settings one must be able to come up with creative solutions, make decisions utilizing difficult to gather data, build relationships with various stakeholders, and for lack of better phrasing, bring private sector skills. I want to develop my skills in quantitative analysis, build my confidence as a manager, and expose myself to new ways of management”
  • Goal: To move into public sector consulting with a long-term objective of going into state/federal government to run a program either in education or housing
  • Long-term pipe dream: To run for some sort of local office
  • “I originally thought about an MPA but since I have ~3 years working in government I want a degree that will expose me to new ways of thinking and courses that can add other skills to my tool belt”
  • 26-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%

HBS/Kennedy: 20%

Kennedy School: 40% to 50%

Yale: 40% to 50%

Northwestern: 40% to 50%

Michigan: 50%+

Columbia: 40%

NYU: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Grrr. As you sense, this is a real strong Kennedy School MPA application, and given the choice between getting an MPA from the Kennedy School or an MBA from Michigan or NYU, I would go to Harvard unless your real dream is to flip into investment banking and make millions, or any variant of that.

Lots of K school kids also wind up at McKinsey, Bain or BCG so that is something else to think about. Your ‘problem’ is not your GPA. It’s that your resume does not clearly lead to business school, and no amount of your yelling in the application is going to change an adcom’s mind.

They may admit you anyway because they like you and with a better GRE score, you might have OK stats for them. I’m not seeing this as an HBS admit, although I could be wrong. They take one to four applicants a year with similar TFA + one and two more experiences. Those candidates, however, are often golden children with rock solid GPA/GMAT scores, TFA and maybe one more job as the right hand person to the Secretary of HEW or some other prestige player in the government. On the other hand, you are certainly in the trenches, and they may respect that.

I believe (someone confirm) that you can apply to dual HBS-HKS program and get admitted to HKS and dinged at HBS. So, you should do that. If dinged at HBS, think real hard about HKS. I’m a huge believer in branding (shocking, I know). Going to Harvard in any legitimate capacity is life changing, even the flipping Education School and HKS is a wonderful license to hustle, as I have noted in the past.

And there is the X factor of going to the Kennedy School. The chances of meeting new, important, life-changing people is way higher in the HKS eco-system, although this is hard to put a number on, and a good amount of that happening depends on what kind of person you are and what your interests are.

You may get into the other MBA programs you note, lots to like here. An elevated GRE score would make life easier for everyone. Do a less screamy and more substantive and quiet job about why you want the MBA, allude to education and other government figures with MBAs and say they are role models.

Real life outcomes are rarely what people imagine they will be entering B-school.

Just saying.

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