Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Special Ops

Ms. Hollywood Marketing Guru

  • 740 GMAT (Q49/V42)
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Top 25 U.S. university
    (Low GPA due to “severe depression, plan to write separate essay on this; have taken post bacc quant-heavy courses with a 4.0 GPA”)
  • Work experience includes two-and-one-half years of internships during undergraduate years at top entertainment companies such as Disney, Warner Brothers, and William Morris Endeavor, followed by a year after graduation at at Edelman where she was promoted to senior analyst, running major entertainment accounts, and finally one-and-one-half years at a major Hollywood studio, providing marketing strategy and analytics for multi-million dollar movie campaigns and also overseeing teams from IBM/internal IT group for the creation and implementation of sn in-house Box Office prediction model tool
  • Extracurricular involvement as a mentor at a nonprofit devoted to children who have relatives diagnosed with cancer (her father has Stage 4 cancer and it’s shaped much of who she is); also serves as co-chair of marketing of studio business group aimed at promoting women in the workplace
  • Goal: To head up worldwide marketing at a major Hollywood Studio
  • “I’ve reached a point in my career where in order to move up, they’d prefer I have an MBA and my boss highly encourages it. After consulting with multiple executives and learning their career paths, I’ve concluded that obtaining an MBA would allow me to become more well-rounded marketer, and allow me to unlock the next step in my career”
  • 25-year-old Asian female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 40%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Northwestern: 50%+
Stanford: 20%
Columbia: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: This is a classic case of how to overcome a low GPA and a less than gold-plated job to get into an elite business school. Your 3.2 GPA is on the low said and your earlier job in public relations is considered silver because it is not thought of as selective.

You overcome that by getting a 740 GMAT and then landing a prestige job. You did both. You say that one reason you have a lowish GPA is because you suffered from depression during your college years and you intend to write about it. I would go lightly on the depression story because the 740 goes a long way in offsetting it. Plus, you have done a lot to ameliorate that 3.2 undergraduate transcript.

Let’s start with all your internships while in college. Disney or Warner Brothers are great places to work. Everybody at business school loves them. And William Morris Endeavor is also very impressive. Those are great internships and to get them you either have to be very charming, physically attractive, or you have to know somebody. And I am not being sexist. You get this jobs the same way you get a newscastor job at Fox. It’s just a fact.

Then, after you graduated, you got an internship at an agency which turned into a promotion to a full-time job dealing with digital analytics. It’s one of those boring sounding things that has ended up as a hot field. And then you worked for a year at Edelman. If you have to work at a public relations agency, Edelman is a good one because it is a huge, well-known firm.

Finally, you gained your job at a major Hollywood studio, working with analytics and marketing of films. Prediction models are the Holy Grail in Hollywood, to predict Box Office revenue to inform marketing budgets for a movie.

There’s one thing I would suggest. I would change out your goal. There aren’t many Hollywood studios so you don’t want to tell a business school your goal is to be one of six people in the world. Instead, you want to say your goal is to be a marketing leader at a media and entertainment company. That way you sound smarter and, by the way, I doubt you would care that much if you were able to become the head of worldwide marketing at Google.

Basically, you stop the music at working for a major Hollywood studio. Schools love that. Kellogg is historically known for markerting so you would be a welcome admission there. Wharton is the one that could have the hardest swallowing that 3.2 pill. HBS will go, come on in. I think you are a very strong Harvard candidate.

The trick to getting into Stanford is to find out where the back door is. We’re talking about someone at Disney who is in charge of taking the three to four people a year who go to Stanford. That is the way it works or close to it. Columbia is always suspicious of being someone’s second choice so you would have to convince them you really want to go. I would apply to Columbia becuase as good as your odds are, no one can completely count on getting into Harvard, Wharton or Stanford.

You have a really powerful story. I think you are going to have a Hollywood beginning.