Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Yes Minister?

Mr. Insurance

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.47 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business administration, having done first two years at community college and then final two years at UC-Riverside
  • Work experience includes four years at matriculation in insurance, with one and one-half years as a wealth advisor at Guardian Life, working the client side to strategize insurance programs, business tax planning and estate planning; then what will be two and one-half years at AAA Insurance as a product management analyst

    “This role marries two interests of mine, data analytics and the ability to work on big projects within our company.This position required a high level of team collaboration with many other business units and is considered one of the more prestigious within the company”

  • Extracurricular involvement as vice president of a Young Entrepreneurs non-profit organization for two years
  • Short-Term Goal: To work in strategy consulting
  • Long-Term Goal: To join a young, exciting Insurtech start up that is poised to be a mover and shaker in the world
  • “I really want to mix in my entrepreneurial desires although I work in a corporate environment”
  • 26-year-old Asian American male

Odds of Success:

Dartmouth: 20% to 30%

Columbia: 20% to 30%

Virginia: 35% to 50%

Michigan: 35% to 50%

Cornell: 35% to 50%

Emory: 40% to 50%

Carnegie Mellon: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Grrrrr. This is a likable “up” from Community College story. My fear is that you did not go up enough, especially for Columbia (they don’t like adversity stories unless you got adversity plus a gold GPA and GMAT score. On the other hand, Tuck may go for this, in theory, but facts and fit may be an issue. You may not be their kind of nice guy.

Tuck likes preppy, smart, near-IVY, regular guys and gals without sharp elbows who are team minded, often athletic, and community oriented. Sure, there are many variants of that, but you do get interviewed on campus by other Tuckies and that is a good deal of a smell test because the class at Tuck is small and you are in the woods and there is no where to hide.

The difference between that guy, and let me exaggerate this for clarity, and a guy like YOU could be very subtle but real. It’s the difference between a very nice first date and the desire for a second one. A guy with your background [up from community college, works for insurance company] could just come off as a hick, in many subtle ways that no one would ever articulate.

I’m not saying that is the case, dude. I don’t know you, and in this area, touch and feel can count a lot, just the way you present during a 30-minute walk around campus or interview at the school coffee shop. Those ways could be insecurity, manners, even the way you talk. My guess is, to pick an EASY metric, Tuck has more kids who are NOT first gen college than other schools, although I am happy to take a beating on this, if anyone has stats. So with your profile, those are all things which could go wrong, in some real subtle way that no one ever talks about. If those elements were present, working for an insurance company would be seen as confirming data.

The other places you targer are a good spread of likely admits. I would say you want to stick with Fortune 500 companies. It’s okay to say that you want to do strategy consulting. That is a great default short-term goal. I would go light on entrepreneurship. Schools often view that goal with ‘this person does not know what he wants to do.’

One of your attractions to schools is that you are a solid insurance type guy who can eat that shit and advance in it. That is a rare experience. Today, company starters are dime a dozen. That is the strong backbone of your story, and the reason you are likable. No one is crazy about insurance, but everyone has it. So present yourself as someone who can really add to a class.

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.