Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

Mr. American OEM

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.65 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in engineering from a top 25 engineering school
  • Work experience includes three years at a large American automotive manufacturer (big 3 OEM) in southeastern Michigan as a design and release engineer for a key component in an alternative energy-based propulsion system; two summer internships with a mid-sized management consulting firm
  • “Responsible for entire component development and production – think product manager for 1 component within a system. Experience has all been as a design and release engineer for a key component . . . think product manager for one component within a system”
  • Goal: To transition back into a management consulting role,or bring product experience to a venture capital firm
  • 25-year-old

Odds of Success:

MIT: 20%
Wharton: 20%
Harvard: 20% to 30%
Kellogg: 30% to 40%
Vanderbilt: 50%+
Michigan: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Your profile raises an interesting question: How many bonus points does Big 3 auto engineering experience provide for a 25-year-old, male (not stated, so guessing based on gender stereotypes, kill me!), 3.65 GPA from a top 25 engineering school, 700 GMAT.

Is Big 3 enough to, ahem, drive you into HBS? Or other targets?

My two cents and a warning: Big 3 auto experience, even in engineering, is still a real plus in business school applications. I mean B-schools were invented and had the first golden age when U.S. auto manufacturing was dominant and there is an aura about the space. Also, more recently, the auto industry has been an area of, as they, trendy “disruptions” of many kinds, including Japanese competition (remember that), solar and driverless cars, mergers, turn-arounds, bend overs, and fall flat on your face. Auto companies are also now becoming tech companies in many ways including how long it takes a new buyer to learn his own car.  And note, GM is fighting with Google over the future of the driverless car.

Finally, so  far, car manufacturing is not likely to be hollowed out by the internet, like magazine publishing and retail of many kinds. It will even survive  Uber (I don’t think there are many people who have given up their cars for Uber, but I could be wrong.) So yes, auto is very warm word to Adcoms with a glorious and buzzword rich past. I think you might be even more desired if you were on the business side of auto and not engineering. That would put you in touch with all the above macro issues and in theory make you a wonderful contributor to the class mix (Adcoms actually think this way!).

With that in mind, it is important that you present your engineering work as auto-produciton specific in the sense that it is being done inside a Big 3 automaker and hence touches on issues involving big teams, business and strategy overlays based on international regulations, severe competition, and solar, low energy demands, communicating with other teams all over the world, etc.

To that extent, this honest description of what this guy actually does, could be way more optimized:

“Work experience has all been as a design and release engineer for a key component in an alternative energy based propulsion system. Responsible for entire component development and production – think product manager for 1 component within a system.”

The fact that you are working on solar cars is great, although it gets lost in the paragraph. On the other hand, the fact that you have been trying to solve the same relatively small Rubic’s cube for your entire time there (experience has all been as a design and release engineer for a key component . . . think product manager for one component within a system”) is really limiting and it conjurs up, fairly or not, a good deal of the insane specialization and repetition that people hold about the auto manufacturing process (Charlie Chaplin on an assembly line).

You need to find more exciting, expansive and buzzword worthy ways of describing the same job — it’s probably just a matter of emphasis and slanting, all totally legitimate in this process. [Duh, you can describe your job with as much strategic optics as the schools themselves do in describing the program you are about to enter, not to mention the campus pictures on the school website].

Ok, let’s say you are able to do that? Would that make HBS doable?

Grrrrrr. That might depend a lot on who else is in the auto pool and how big that pool is. I don’t have a solid handle on this, but I got a queasy feeling that there are folks in that pool with 730+ GMATs and everything else about them will read sorta  the same to the Adcom (oh no, that never happens, everyone is so different!) so why not go with higher GMAT?

It’s like the military (outside of pilots and special forces, adcom has only an iffy idea of what you did in service and how to compare that to other vets, so why not revert to stats? Yeah, plenty of exceptions, don’t write in.)

I think if you took my initial advice about making his engineering work really buzzword driven, and exciting, it could give an adcom some comfort in winking at your low-ish (for white male!!!) GMAT. Of course, my real tough love is, GET A HIGHER GMAT SCORE.

A higher GMAT score could also help you at Wharton and MIT, schools that love Big Auto (even more than most). As to Kellogg, Vanderbilt, and Michigan, those should happen, although a higher GMAT could get you some scholarship dollars.