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Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Brand Manager


Ms. Private Trader


  • 760 GMAT (Q50,V42)
  • 3.76 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics & finance from a top 10 public university
  • 3.96 GPA (master’s)
  • Master’s degree in accounting and finance from top 10 public
  • 3.98 GPA (master’s)
  • Master’s degree in international management from the best Italian university for economics and finance
  • Work experience includes three and one-half years for a Big Four consulting firm, then six weeks abroad in Egypt as part of a European Voluntary Service project to protect women’s rights and three and one-half years as a private trader
  • Extracurricular involvement as the tennis team captain, co-founder of an association which raised money to allow children and young women to have an education; member of the Italian association for people with down syndrome
  • Completed all three CFA levels, boasts excellent knowledge of C, C++, Java,fluent in English and Spanish
  • Short-term goal: To switch to the hedge fund industry
  • 28-year-old Italian white female

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 30% to 40%

Columbia: 40% to 50% (early decision)

NYU: 40%+

Booth: 30% to 40%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Yale: 40%

Northwestern: 40%

Cornell: 40%+

Sandy’s Analysis: What we have here is a very attractive candidate with an odd twist. You are Italian. That is a plus. You are a woman. That is a plus. You have a 760 GMAT. That is a huge plus. And you worked for three and one-half solid years at a Big Four consulting firm in Europe. As I have pointed out many times, the European version of a Big Four is considered more selective than it is in the U.S. That is a very powerful application.

The joker in the deck is the three and one-half years you have spent as a private trader, trading in your own account. Schools don’t like traders. Trading is individual and quanty but it’s not a leadership position. And there is a suggestion here that someone who worked in consulting just got tired of it. My advice would be to write about what private trading means and how hard you work at it and what your theory is because it’s easy to picture you as a trader for an hour a day and spending the rest of time shopping.

As to your goal of working for a hedge fund, these jobs are often the escape dream for people who are self-employed. In your case, you have a finance background and hedge funds do trade so you have a better chance of that than many. If you can make a case for the type of hedge fund who would hire someone like you, that would be the best outcome.

The big question here is which of your target schools will blink at a slightly fractured story just to buy the 760 GMAT and the high GPAs and what appears to be a very attractive personality. The answer could be many of them. Wharton, Columbia and Booth come to mind. Those schools are very GMAT focused and finance and quant focused. They would be willing to blink at the two fissures in your application, the three and one-half years you have spent at home trading and the slightly dreamy idea of joining a hedge fund.

The difference between staying at home and trading and going to business school is like night and day. For one thing, you have to get dressed up to go to business school. Unless you get into Stanford, you can’t wear PJs to class. I think your odds at all your target schools are pretty good, from 30% to more than 40%. Frankly, you should apply to Harvard. It’s nothing but the grief. I think your odds are 20% to 25% there. This is a case where the Harvard essay is perfect. It allows you to explain your story. The promp is ‘what else do you want us to know,’ and you would have the chance to explain what you have been doing in the past three and one-half years.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.