Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Fulbright Food Security

Ms. Gold-Plated?

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.65 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics and business from UC-Berkeley
  • Work experience includes nearly three years at a Fortune 200 healthcare provider, working in strategy and operations as part of a leadership development program; gained one promotion; then moved to Southeast Asia to work for a tech startup in a strategy role that spans six different countries
  • Extracurricular involvement as a -board member for a disabled sports foundation in the U.S.; a volunteer teacher of community yoga at hospitals; a volunteer at prisons in Singapore; a teacher of financial planning to domestic workers in Singapore; now starting an education foundation in China
  • Fluent in five languages
  • Goal: To lead a healthcare group and make it the largest and best in Southeast Asia
  • 25-year-old Asian female, born in Singapore, moved to Shanghai, and then U.S. for college and work.

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%
Stanford: 20%
Northwestern: 40%
Columbia: 40%
Chicago: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: There is super lots to like here including your first job in healthcare at a Fortune provider where you entered via a leadership development program with exposure to both strategy and operations and were once promoted.

As we often say here in the Handicapping Corner, adcoms like leadership development programs (rotational leadership programs) because they are selective, you get to do lots of stuff, and most companies offering them are large, corporate entities that adcoms have a natural affinity for.

Given your goals, “ to lead a healthcare group and make it the largest and best in Southeast Asia,” so far so good.

An important issue in this profile is going to be what you did after your Fortune 200 job. You say that you “moved to SEAsia to work for tech start-up, also in strategy role, working with six different countries on strategy  . . . .”

That could mean anything from “great” to “humm”? Especially if the “start-up”
is sketchy in terms of size, VC backing, revenue, AND it is not in healthcare.

A real important part of crafting your story is explaining what that start-up does, what you do there, and if it is not in healthcare, why you joined.  One reason could be that it would get you back to SE Asia, but that by itself is not super convincing to adcoms. They could imagine you getting a job IN healthcare in SE Asia, and so could I, with your background.

I cannot stress this enough. The nature of that company and what you do there, and how it fits in with your story could be critical for this application, especially at HBS and Stanford.

The rest, a 3.65 GPA from UC Berkeley and a 720 GMAT score is in-line at most places, even if GMAT is now mildly below average at all top six schools — and a real chunk of Stanford’s new (and not-improved to me) 740 average GMAT.

Your X factors (thinking mostly now about odds of you getting into Stanford) are “OK” to “it depends.”

– board member of disabled sports foundation in the US

Well, that is OK but you would need to show real engagement and be able to show why you joined in the first place, your connections to the disabled community, and you would also need to have some takeaways, learnings, from the experience. Being a board member does not usually lead to such Stanford value-adds.

– teach community yoga at hospitals

To whom and how intense is this?

– in the process of starting an education foundation in China

Who isn’t? Process does not cut it on Planet Adcom. They want money on the table. If this develops, OK, but for admission purposes, I would focus on more intense engagement with some of the organizations you are already working with. Being an, ahem, impactful, innovative, engaged, leader at an NGO is what scores in this game, not so much spreading yourself thin.

– volunteer at prisons in Singapore

Getting warmer, Stanford loves prisons, especially at a safe distance like Singapore. See if any of those prisoners have high GMAT potential and –depending on what they are in for — those cons could be Stanford GSB material. Workplace violence could be acceptable, especially if a victim was a running dog capitalist; classroom violence, especially against professors, would be  a harder sell. (Ahem, not to me!)

– teach financial planning to domestic workers in Singapore

See Prisons. I’d refocus this away from “financial planning” and more into
“lead advocacy group and training for Singapore’s oppressed domestic workers.”
Aren’t most domestic workers in Singapore sending half their salary back
home to real poor folks they left behind? Get into the guts of this. Also mention if you try to get them healhcare, etc. That would be a two-fer.

– speak 5 languages

I’m really impressed. That is 4.5 more than moi do.

“Future goal: To lead a healthcare group and make it the largest and best in SE Asia.” Sure, why not, but you need to present a realistic flight path to that lofty goal, including jobs you want after graduation, some real sense of the HC environment in SE Asia, and an awareness of how current leaders of HC outfits in SE Asia got there.

As to your choice of target schools, Stanford is clearly in the running, as noted, with lots to like.  A real issue there is whether your interesting but non-intense extra-currics can be presented in some powerful way, along with solid recs that reinforce your story and clearing up the missing pieces of current job.

HBS: They admit profiles like this all the time. Just execute cleanly.

Kellogg and CBS: You need to be careful that your application does not smell SAFETY SCHOOL, especially at Columbia, which has quite the schnoz for sniffing that out. It helps to visit those schools and get your ticket punched to demonstrate interest. If you get past that hurdle, you should get in if you convince them you want to attend.