Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Freddie Fannie

Ms. GED/Community College

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.53 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Top Five Ivy League university, after attending community college and earning a GED ten years after dropping out of high school
  • Work experience includes two years at a Big Four consulting firm
  • Extracurricular involvement in leadership roles in diversity and inclusion organizations, mentor to young women of color
  • Goal: To transfer to more elite consulting firm, such as Bain, BCG, or Deloitte and eventually use business experience as an HR executive
  • “Dropped out of high school due to extenuating circumstances, got GED 10 years later, went to community college for 3 semesters and transferred to Ivy League university”
  • 31-year-old black woman and first generation college student

Odds of Success:

Virginia: 50%+
Duke: 50%+
Columbia: 40% to 50%
Wharton: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis:

BULLETIN: APPLY TO STANFORD AND HBS

Perhaps you have missed, in these many “Sandy-cappings,” one of my reliable stories about the reserved spot at Stanford GSB for a black woman from a Big 4 accounting firm. While I do not know if this is a bylaw of the Stanford Graduate Business School Board of Trustees, it is a fairly reliable rule of thumb. And by this, I mean no dis to any other black women at Stanford who may have been admitted by clawing their way to the top of the elite private equity bucket or any other bucket out after graduating summa from Princeton, doing two tough years at Goldman and then joining Ye Olde Elite PE Shop.

You say,  “2 years experience at Big 4 consulting firm,” by which I take to mean, Ye Olde Big 4, accounting or consulting part of it, whatever. You qualify.
The rest of this story, except for being 31, is GOLD for a Stanford up-from-adversity story, including the high school drop out part, the GED (man they love stuff like that), the community college and the move to an IVY.

Heck, only two months ago at a Poets&Quants event in San Francisco, Kirsten Moss, Stanford’s admissions director, publicly said this: “Some of my favorite admits is have 500 GMATs—because every year there will be some— who come from a community college and then worked really hard to get to a four-year program.” That is you, with an extra 220 points on your GMAT!

Your goal, by the way, to ”transfer to a more elite consulting firm like Bain, BCG, or Deloitte and eventually use business experience as HR Executive,” is great.

That is serviceable, even though a rule of thumb is that older candidates have a hard time getting gigs at MBB consulting firms and should not say that as part of a goal statement, for that reason. It is a reveal to adcoms that you have not thought through the whole MBA timeline and realistically figured out your place in it.

For instance in your case, you would be 34 or 35 by the time you started as a newbie at MBB and that is a genuine outlier. Consulting firms like to hire fresh and young meat, grind it up, and see who is left standing after x number of years of four-day road trips, long nights, and stultifying assignments.

In your case it is not going to make a big difference because your story is so compelling. They will admit you knowing that you will figure it out later, as you go through recruiting and get some feedback from consulting firms.  And in your case, there could be another twist because consulting firms are so open to URM candidates from top MBA programs that they will do a lot to make it happen. That could mean having you play a marketing role, making accommodations, or just seeing if you actually want the whole consulting boot camp experience. After all, you are not coming into consulting with wild ideas about what the drill is. You already work for a Big 4.

As to saying that your long-term goal is HR, sure that works as a proxy for being one public face of the company and that is often an alternative road to a C-suite job.

Dunno, the more I sift this over, the more it gets compelling.
In your apps, I’d just present your story in some matter-of-fact way.

Believe me, we get it.