Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Special Ops

Mr. Brazilian Advertising

  • 670 GMAT (planning to retake to get 690 to 700)
  • 8.8/10.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in communications, with a major in advertising
  • Master’s degree in communications management
  • TOEFL: 110
  • Work experience includes three years as a senior marketing strategist for IBM at Ogilvy Mather in Sao Paulo and small local agencies earlier
  • Extracurricular involvement includes being a “super awarded student and profession who got many medals during undergrad school and won the first ever Cannes Lion for IBM Brazil
  • “I’m also a professional actor and co-founder of a theatre group – we’re now rehearsing a new play and I’m having the opportunity to work on every aspect of it”
  • Goal: To work in a business position for the entertainment industry
  • “My mother is Taiwanese and my father is Brazilian, so I have a multi-cultural experience even at home; a lot of relatives live in the U.S., some of them are alumni from top business schools such as Harvard and Columbia. I’m a proud gay man and my partner is also applying for an L.L.M. at most of the schools I’m thinking of”
  • 30-year-old male from Brazil

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 20%
UCLA: 20%
Berkeley: 20%
New York: 30%
USC: 30%
London: 20% to 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: So you work at a famous advertising agency in Brazil and you have an international background. Your mom is Taiwanese and your father is Brazilian. All that’s exciting to business schools.

The numbers are, as we say here, silver and not gold. You have have a 670 GMAT and want to get that to 690 or 700. I would advise doing that. The difference between 670 and 700 is more than 30 points. It’s just one of those conceptual differences.

You also have a TOEFL socre of 110. It’s hard to get a bead on the average TOEFL score is at business schools. The only marker out there is HBS. Harvard is on the record saying that they are concerned about any TOEFL score below 109. So your score could be above their concern or simply above 109. One of the things I would like to know is the breakout of your 110. A lot of people can do well on the writing, reading and listening parts of the test, but speaking score is really important for business school. My guess is that your score is in the bottom half of the average at most top business schools.

You are working on a major account—IBM—at a prestigious advertising agency so you know a lot about advertising. Like a lot of advertising guys who used to be secret novelists, you are an actor who wants to go into the business side of entertainment. A lot of the schools you are targeting are near entertainment centers in Los Angeles and New York.

But you are 30 years old. You work at an advertising agency. Yuu have a marginal TOEFL and a low side GMAT. You are a smart, culturally interesting guy but someone is going to have to blink at a few things in your application. They need to say they are taking you because you are exciting and you are an international guy who knows about IBM.

You sound like a go-getter for things you like and want. I like you. You are a guy I would like to have dinner with. You are lively, you are smart, you are enthusiastic and you are the kind of guy who would make the class fun.

But you are not a shoe-in, anywhere. You are going to have to get lucky and execute well.
At Kellong, you are 50 points below their GMAT average and they are going to see you as an East Coast or West Coast guy. So I would guess your chances there are about one in five. It’s similar at several of your other target schools.

One suggestioin for you: Apply to Cornell. I know students who have gone to cornell and they have gone to New York every weekend to cold call investment banks. By their second year, they get on the road Thursday night and spend Friday in New York just trying to make stuff happen. That is what you should do, if you can get into Cornell.