Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. Zimbabwe Big Four, Mr. Commercial Banker, Couple Applying Together, Ms. Russian Consultant

Mr. 780

  • 780 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA at a Top 20 undergraduate institution
  • Transfers out as sophomore to a Mid-Ivy (think Columbia or Penn)
  • 3.0 GPA at Mid-Ivy “due to a personal family issue”
  • Work experience at a large commercial bank in credit underwriting and risk management (Think Chase, Citi or Bank of America)
  • Received three promotions in two years, becoming the fastest rising member of the analyst class to gain a promotion to vice president
  • Top employee rating firmwide (top 5% of the workforce)
  • Extracurricular involvement for one year as a mentor to underprivilged high school students to get them ready for college
  • Expects excellent recommendations
  • Goal: To pivot industry, function and location to work in corporate strategy for a tech or Fortune 500 company; potentially considering consulting as well
  • “May apply to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton”
  • 25-year-old American white male, LGBT in New York

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 30% to 40%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Michigan: 50%+

Virginia: 50%+

Duke: 50%+

Harvard: 20%

Stanford: 20%

Wharton: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: You are a guy who is capable of running super hot. That is the say, you can score a 780. You can get a 4.0. And you can then join a large commercial bank and win really unbelievable exceptional medals. Getting promoted three times and the highest analyst score nationwide. Those are real accomplishments. So you are clearly capable of doing incredible things amidst of a number of stumbles. To wit, working for a boring bank that is not selective and screwing up your GPA.

You get a 4.0 at a top 20 school and then as a sophomore you transfer out to Columbia or Penn and your grades go down dramatically to 3.0. That is a little more than a hiccup. That is a big but. In our world getting a job at a large commerical bank is another but because it’s not a selective job and it’s not a job that people like. And then you give us another but with your performance at the bank.

As to your goal, I think you need to tell schools that you want to become a management consultant. You need to follow one of the 15 commandments of applying to business school: Thou cannot go wrong, claiming you want to be a consultant.

You ask if you should apply to Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. My advice: Apply to Harvard and Wharton. This is not a Stanford app, despite your one year of mentoring people. You are not a classic do-gooder. Their mouth would water over your 780 GMAT. Stanford is as big a GMAT sucker as exists on the face of planet earth. Stanford would shake this guy up and down and say, ‘Can we make this happen? Can we make this happen?’ But there is too much here that they won’t like: You’re white, you’re male, you work for a commercial bank. I don’t think your LGBT status is going to get you a halo effect at Stanford. The mentoring is too little, too late. You don’t seem to have do-gooder DNA. Stanford has a lot of people with a 760 GMAT and the rest is totally fine. That’s how they get their storehouse of high GMAT scores.

For you, Wharton is more interesting. The 780 would be irresistable. it would get you back in the Ivy League. But I don’t think there are many American white males at Wharton from commercial banks. I think it could be zero. Still, I have a feeling that you are an unbelievable performer given the right circumstances and the right mindset. You got that 780. You had a 4.0. You proved you could excel in this boring, frozen number-crunching bank where you have racked up great accomplishments. If you got to Wharton and things aligned for you there, I could see you as the valedictorian at graduation.

Harvard, Stanford and Wharton all like 780s. But Harvard likes it the least. They are not entranced by it. When Stanford and Wharton see a 780, they go into a trance. They are ga-ga over a 780.

Just reading the tea leaves here. I don’t think you are a Kellogg or a Tuck type. You strike me as an individualist, not a collaborative team player. I respect you. You are a real smart, tough, slightly screwed-up guy. You are the kind of boss who is really smart but considered a pain in the ass. I view you as someone with slightly sharp elbows, a real performer who likes to perform alone. There is nothing here, nothing, that reads teamwork, clubs, and collaboration. Your 780 gives you a chance, but I think you are a likely admit at almost all the other places you’re targeting: Michigan, Duke, Virgina.

Bottom line: If you get your act together, you are a high potential leader. It’s possible that a guy like you can get real value out of an MBA program. Business school could round you out in an important way as a leader.

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