Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Ms. MBB Roller Derby Jammer

  • 740 GMAT (estimated)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business and economics from UC-Berkeley’s Haas School
  • Work experience currently includes two years as strategy & finance manager at a small, growing management consulting company (comprised of previous MBB consultants) after spending two and one-half years Previous: 2.5 years in audit at a Big Four firm where she led an IPO and was promoted after one year to a senior associate
  • “I’m (currently) in an internal role. I joined to gain experience in heading up internal finance and strategic operations at a fast growing (60% y-o-y growth) company vs. just going into an accountant/financial analyst role in a big company.”
  • Extracurricular involvement playing competitive recreational roller derby, active member on the fundraising committee, and volunteer for the juniors league. “I dedicate around four to five hours a week to this. I started doing this two years ago, worked up from not knowing how to stand up on skates to being on a home team. I genuinely enjoy doing this and think it’s also a great way to empower women and girls, at the risk of sounding super cheesy.”
  • Short-Term Goal: To get into management consulting at an MBB firm
  • Long-Term Goal: To become a business leader of a strategy & operations function
  • “I’ve worked on lots of great growth initiatives from process improvement to new product offerings at current company. Now I want to get an MBA to go into ‘actual’ management consulting to gain a broader set of experiences vs. just working at one company”
  • 28-year-old Asian female who moved to the U.S. for undergrad from Singapore

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 20% to 30%

Columbia: 20% to 30%

NYU: 30%+

INSEAD: 30% to 40%


Sandy’s Analysis: You say that you expect to get a 740 GMAT.

Get it. That would really help.

Much of your resume is in that gray zone between Big 4 Accounting, which is not considered selective by top U.S. schools, and Big 4 Consulting, which is viewed as more selective. It is real important in presenting yourself and preparing recommendation letters that you stress the consulting aspects of your job. Even in your resume. I don’t care if that is “misleading” given the actual number of hours of your life you have spent doing Audit vs. Consulting.

A resume is not an X-Ray, and certainly an application to business school is not an X-Ray.

It is a picture created by you from X-Ray elements and your own narrative.

This advice holds as well for your current job which you say is in an internal role.

You have written:

Current: 2+ years Strategy & Finance Manager at a small, growing management consulting company (very small, comprised of previous MBB consultants). I’m in an internal role. I joined to gain experience in heading up internal finance and strategic operations at a fast growing (60% y-o-y growth) . . . .

“Internal role” is the kiss of death at most elite business schools, or if not that, at least the kiss of very sick. The schools view those jobs as easier to get and often include a lot of ministerial (ahem, bookkeeping and secretarial) work, which appears to be the case.

You said:

Goal: Get into management consulting/MBB. Long-term goal: Business leader of strategy & operations function.

Working for MBB is an O.K. goal. I’m not sure what “leader of strategy & operations function” means.

The default way to say this is that you are seeking a “leadership position at an exciting and innovative company whether it be an established company dealing with change or a high-potential start-up. Roles I could see myself playing include




and name some roles and say what you would want to be doing.

In your case, given your Big 4 background, you need to be real specific about goals. Otherwise, you run the real danger of not really being part of the In Crowd vs. the Big 4 crowd.

You may say, “Thanks Sandy, but I knew all that and put it in my write-up.” You did but your emphasis was that you have been doing a lot of audit with some consulting, and want an MBA to become a consultant. You’d be better off saying that you’ve been doing a lot of consulting in the last three years, and want to transition into that full time. The top business schools really have a prejudice about people applying from audit.

Your targets:

“Schools: Northwestern, Columbia, NYU, INSEAD, HEC”

Good picks, with Kellogg a slight reach, but they go for your type. You should get admitted

to one or more of the others, if you can convince them why you want to go based on goals and the school’s location. The Euro schools will take an entirely different approach, given the fact that you are now living in the U.S. and it seems like you want to return.

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