Harley is 33 years old. He works as a regional survey manager for the U.S. Census Bureau. He has a 3.3 GPA and an overall 321 GRE score.
His target MBA schools? Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, UC-Berkeley Haas, Duke Fuqua, UT-Austin McCombs, and Washington Foster.
The big question is whether a Hail Mary pass at a stretch school is worth the time and effort for a slightly older candidate, in a job that is not a feeder into elite MBA programs, with below-average class stats.
The answer? It very well might be if you have a compelling narrative that makes you jump out of the pile of MBA applications at a school. Harley has a strong story to tell. He grew up in poverty in California, went through three high schools before getting into community college, but was able to transfer into UC-Berkeley where he majored in media studies. There was a time where he was effectively homeless, sleeping on borrowed sofas in friends’ apartments and sometimes in his car. And he’s a first-generation college grad.
His passions, moreover, are clearly motivated by personal experience and hardship. At Berkeley, he led a program that helped community college students get into UC schools. He also led a program to help inmates earn their GEDs. And this spring, he launched a nonprofit called PandemicProfessors.org that offers free tutoring to students in low-income communities. The organization matches volunteer tutors, largely well-meaning college students with children K-through-12 who need help with their studies.
In this episode of Fridays With Sandy, HBSGuru.com Founder Sandy Kreisberg assesses Harley’s odds and story, providing valuable advice along the way and a bit of tough love, too.
If you would like to participate in a future Fridays With Sandy webinar, you can contact Sandy and P&Q Founder John A Byrne here.
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