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

Ms. Russian Consultant

  • 720-730 GMAT expected
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in international business from a top Russian university
  • Master’s degree in management from HEC Paris
  • Work experience includes two years for a top-tier consulting firm in Dubai, working on projects in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE, Moscow and Kazakhstan; internships as a data analyst at a Russian investment bank and an internship in the strategy department of a financial services provider in Paris
  • Extracurricular activities include working as a volunteer for Aiesec Moscow as project manager, one of the founders of an Aviation club at university; presenter in ERASMUS conference; second place winner at the nationwide case competition in Russia
  • 24-year-old woman from Russia

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 30% to 40%

Columbia: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: What you bring to the table is the consulting experience in the Middle East as a Russian-born young woman. That could be very valuable to a business school. The question is how valuable? Let’s say you get a 710 or 720 GMAT. The median GMAT at Wharton is 730. Does working in the Middle East as a female Russian overcome 10 to 20 GMAT points? It could for you, but it’s really hard to say.

But the fact you founded an aviation club at your Russian university and then went to Paris to earn a master’s degree from HEC makes you stand out. I don’t think a lot of Russians do that. So you present as someone who is sophisticated, exotic and possibly wealthy.

I think Wharton gets a lot of consulting and finance people and the bottom half of those cohorts are probably not as interesting as you are as a candidate. In fact, I would say you are much more interesting than the bottom half of their admitted finance cohort. What is heart breaking is that the GMAT becomes real important because Wharton might fall in love with you but they then have to ask themselves if you have the horsepower to make it there.

That question comes up because you didn’t include your GPA for your undergraduate degree and your GPA in your masters isn’t all that high when grades tend to be higher in master’s programs. That is where the GMAT is important. They may look down on the 3.4 GPA at HEC Paris and wonder if you were on vacation. They could think you either don’t have the horsepower or don’t like to turn the engine on. That is why the GMAT in your case is critical. At Columbia, it’s the same analysis but somewhat easier.

You only mention two schools but my advice to you would be to cast a wider net. Your career dreams can come true at a lot of schools, not only Wharton and Columbia. I would look at schools ranked five through 15. There s no telling what could happen once you set foot in America and you have your pilot’s license.

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