Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Mid-Market Consultant

poets and quants handicapping odds

Mr. Big Four

  • 770 GMAT (Q50/V47)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from a top 15 engineeirng school (state school in Texas)
  • Work experience includes nearly three years at a very large consulting firm (think Deloitte/Accenture) in public sector technology consulting, with a focus on clients involving large scale healthcare exchange and Integrated eligibility (like a healthcare exchange but also does medicaid/TANF/food stamps etc)
  • Extracurricular invovement as a co-founder of our company’s new public sector innovation fellowship, which meets directly with national public sector leads and comes up with ideas on how to improve public sector innovation; have also worked with our local March of Dimes chapter for three years, with an increase in responsibility each year.
  • Goal: To return to employer and push the innovation fellowship into a full time job “by working with the sector leadership to have developers assigned to it full time so we can create full scale solutions for the ideas we come up with”
  • 25-year-old U.S. white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40%+
Stanford: 25% to 30%
Wharton: 50%+
MIT: 50%+
Yale: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Your profile poses a broader question: How to get into HBS from a Big Four if you are white, male and a U.S. citizen?

The answer:

1. Have a 770 GMAT
2. Present as a consultant not an auditor
3. Have a 3.5 GPA in EE (electrical engineering) or some other wonky major

You clearly fit the bill. But let’s back up a bit. If you lost me at Big 4, Google that and read the solid Wikipedia entry.

Moving along, for those of you new to this Handicapping feature,  there are several evergreen truths about elite business school admission, especially when it concerns H/S/W or any M7 school.

One of them is that Big Four firms are great places for selective jobs right out of college in places such as Europe and Asia.  In the USA, Big Four jobs are usually considered “silver” not “gold” by adcoms at H/S/W versus gigs at M/B/B (McKinsey, Bain, BCG). And because “consulting” is an ultra-crowded cohort, it is rare-ish for white, US, males (and females as well) to gain admission when applying from a Big Four job.

As noted, elite schools will admit Big Four types from Europe and Asia and also from the URM (under-represented minority) U.S. cohort first. As often noted, there was a streak a while back of Stanford admitting X number of its U.S. African-American women from the Big Four. It became something of a reserved seat.

In all cases, it helps if you present yourself from the consulting and not the auditing side of Big Four, since all those firms have consulting functions, which are considered by adcoms (rightly or wrongly) to be more selective.

So one piece of advice if you work for a Big Four firm and are applying to business school, no matter what you do, present yourself as doing consulting and tilt the entire resume and essay that way.

As to the case at hand, what we got here is a mega 770 GMAT which will always get attention at places like Stanford, HBS (a bit less so), Wharton, MIT and Yale.
That is one way to escape the Big Four cloud, get a 750+ GMAT.

You also have a “pretty, pretty” (to quote Larry David) solid GPA at 3.5 in EE, which seems like a serious major, at a “top 15 engineering school (tsate school in Texas).”

As to what you actually do at the firm, well, it sounds like consulting, although this could be more clear: “Public sector technology consulting. I’ve worked mostly on large scale healthcare exchange and Integrated eligibility (like a healthcare exchange but also does medicaid/TANF/food stamps etc.) clients.”

Ahem, thanks, we don’t get the idea, but we get the sense that you are in consulting. Some of that, for example, your mention of ”exchanges,” sounds like it is trendy and right in the heart of Obamacare and its progeny, which is good.  When the time comes on your resume and essay to explain what you really do, be clear enough that “even” an adcom can understand you (viz., assume app reader has  a college education, an  IQ ~100, with 10 points up or down, and health insurance of some kind which is a mystery to her in the fine print).*

*It is possible an adcom reader is an adjunct and, in fact, does not have health insurance or is on her husband’s plan, another reason to be super clear in explaining what you do and casting your goals in the direction of providing greater health care access to even adcoms, altho do not say that directly.

You also add, “Co-founded our companies new public sector innovation fellowship, which meets directly with national public sector leads and comes up with ideas on how to improve public sector innovation.”

Again, I am not sure what that means, but it smells OK and it should be made way more clear on the app, especially since you say that your goal is to “Return to my firm and push the innovation fellowship into a full time job by working with the sector leadership to have developers assigned to it full time so we can create full scale solutions for the ideas we come up with.”

It sounds like that means you want to expand and further fund this program as a new practice area at your Big Four firm. That is a noble idea, and if B-schools really like you, they may wink at how inchoate (look it up, perfect word) it is. But why take chances? I would not micro focus my goals on this one project, but generalize and say that goals are to be a public sector leader in consulting at a firm and do things like 1, 2, and 3, which could include building out programs similar to the Innovation Fellowship. That just sounds smarter, more aware, and more engaged with the full spectrum of consulting work.

The fact that you helped start the Innovation Fellowship is worth isolating it as an accomplishment, in both recs and essay, and it is a good accomplishment to explore. It does not have to be your exact post-MBA goal.

Anyway, given that you’re fighting the Big Four tide, application execution will count a bit more than it does with cookie cutter applicants from M/B/B, who just need to be serviceable, or URMs with similar stats (ditto).

If you can really dig in to the healthcare consulting work, you’ll sound  serious and engaged in it. You’ve got a reach chance at Stanford (25-30 pct) and a good chance at HBS (40+ pct). He is real solid at MIT   and Wharton (GMAT suckers and the guy is solid beyond that) and at Yale he probably needs to do some explaining about why, and why it is a top choice, since this smells like a safety call.