Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Mr. Cello Playing Healthcare Consultant

  • 160Q/163V GRE
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in cello performance from Temple University
  • Work experience includes an early job with a small subcontractor working for the tax arm of a Big Four, then he landed a job in the mail room of the firm’s Atlanta office, working his way up to a consulting role in the healthcare practice
  • Has worked on projects involving the Ebola virus, the opioid crisis, and healthcare provider preparedness
  • Extracurricular involvement includes pro bono work in the healthcare field. One of the top performers at the firm
  • Considering a dual degree with an MBA and a degree in health care administration or health policy
  • Goal: To continue working as a consultant in healthcare
  • 24-year-old male

Odds of Success at Target Schools

Yale: 30% to 40%

Cornell: 40%

Washington: 50%

Emory: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: You are a do-gooder cellist guy with a lowish GMAT score. I like you and so will many business schools. You have a great story, having played as a professional cellist in orchestras in college and having freelanced after college. You say you then decided to look at other careers and thought about law school.

You made a good decision in not going to get a law degree. Instead, you ended up with a tiny subcontractor working for the tax arm of a Big Four firm. Then, you got a job running the mail room of a Big Four firm in its Atlanta office. You had a life-changing breakthrough when you start working in healthcare consulting for your Big Four firm.

It’s almost as if from a hard-headed admissions officers’ point of view, you are a real healthcare consultant. The way you got there is interesting but it’s no matter. And your career goal to continue as a consultant in healthcare grows perfectly out of what you’ve done.

But what you are saying to Yale and Cornell is, “Take me, I have a 660 GMAT.” You are reporting a 160Q and a 163V on the GRE. That translates into a 660 GMAT. But the average GMAT at Yale is 725, for Cornell, it’s 700. So those two schools are definitely a reach. The average at Washington is 691, while at Emory it’s 683. So you would be on target at Washington and Emory if not for 20 or 30 GMAT points.

They take people below it, of course. Business schools like musicians. It gives them the delusion that what they are doing is artistic. And the cello is an instrument a lot of people like.

The advice I have to give you is advice that many of you have heard before: Keep taking the GMAT or the GRE. Admissions people would like to meet you half way but the standardized tests count more and more today. It sounds like torture to even take it one or two more times but your score kinda drifts up. So tough love, again, retake the GMAT or GRE.

You also need the people at the Big Four firm to back you.

For the record, I’m opposed to dual degrees. It’s $200,000 more. You lose a year of income and you paid the tuition. You don’t need a health degree to rejoin the Big Four in a job you’ve already had. Somebody might say, ‘Gee, did you learn anything getting a degree in public health?’ You won’t learn anything. What you will do is expand your network. Are three potential friends worth an extra year in school and the cost of that?

An MBA would sign, seal and deliver you.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.