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5/19/09

Hey Everybody - if any of you are looking for a quality GMAT preparation I'd encourage you to check out our partnership with Veritas Prep here because WSO members get 10% off: http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/veritas-gmat-prep-d...

For those of you thinking of an MBA with admissions questions I've spoken with Alex Chu and he has agreed to answer any questions for the WSO community. Any questions you have about the admissions process I'd recommend that you post them here in this thread.

Alex Chu is the founder of MBA Apply, whose clients have gotten admissions to virtually all of the top MBA programs. He is also the author of The MBA Field Guide: How to Get In & What to Expect at the World's Renowned Programs.

A native of Canada, Alex has lived in North Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, and on both coasts of the United States and Canada. Prior to MBA Apply, Alex served as the CFO of a venture-backed animation studio in San Francisco, a role in which he was instrumental in raising two rounds of funding and helping lead the company towards profitability. In addition, he previously worked as an investment banker in the Equity Capital Markets and Mergers & Acquisitions groups at a global investment bank.

Alex holds a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts from Queen?s University at Kingston. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

Comments (1269)

5/19/09

Hey Alex,

I am thinking of getting an alternative transcript and am deciding between UC Berkeley Extension and a local community college. If I take it through the extension program, I can retake the courses I've done poorly in (I go to UC Berkeley). What would you suggest?

Thanks.

Accepted.com
5/19/09

Alex,

What's the best thing I can do between now and this fall to enhance my chances of being accepted at a top 5 school? (other than essays or GMAT. if it matters, 2 yrs hedge fund exp, mediocre work exp and academics vs peer group.)

Thanks.

5/19/09

Hi Alex,
I am just wondering what your opinion and experience has been in regards to business students who obtain their undergrad degree from a Canadian university and how it impacts admissions for top MBA programs in the US and Europe. I'm currently considering Queens, Schulich, and Ivey for my undergrad degree.

Thanks.

5/19/09

that link doesn't work

5/19/09

First, I want to thank Patrick for setting up this thread. Much appreciated, and I hope I can be a valuable contributor to the WSO community.

Also, here's the proper link to WSO's GMAT prep that Patrick had posted in the first post:
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/page/one-on-one-gma...

Thanks

In reply to Ganthor
5/19/09
Ganthor:

Hi Alex,
I am just wondering what your opinion and experience has been in regards to business students who obtain their undergrad degree from a Canadian university and how it impacts admissions for top MBA programs in the US and Europe. I'm currently considering Queens, Schulich, and Ivey for my undergrad degree.

Thanks.

B-school adcoms are quite aware of the top Canadian schools.

Traditionally, at schools like HBS, Stanford and Wharton, a disproportionate number of the Canadian students went to McGill or Queen's (anywhere from 40% to 2/3rds, with the balance coming from a hodgepodge -- US Ivies, UT, UBC, etc.). This was also due more to self-selection, as those who tended to apply were not commerce undergrads, but arts/sci or engineers who worked at top tier banking or consulting firms - and that the only non-commerce/BBA folks they'd hire are from McGill or Queen's). Also, even though Ivey undergrad is well regarded, there are relatively few (or none) at the top schools - but more likely due to self-selection as well -- unlike the US, a lot of commerce/BBAs in Canada don't bother doing an MBA. Even when I was at Queen's, I don't think anyone in Queen's commerce bothered to apply to an MBA program. Mostly econ, arts/sci, and engineers.

My advice is to choose the school that will give you the best shot of getting the job that you want coming out of undergrad. Focus on undergrad recruiting/placement for now.

I know it's easy to become preoccupied with the consequences of your choices 15 steps ahead, but try and focus on what is actually in front of you now - if you're still in high school, that means focusing on that

In reply to days150
5/19/09
days150:

Hey Alex,

I am thinking of getting an alternative transcript and am deciding between UC Berkeley Extension and a local community college. If I take it through the extension program, I can retake the courses I've done poorly in (I go to UC Berkeley). What would you suggest?

Thanks.

It doesn't really matter between the two. Just pick the one that best suits your schedule.

In reply to MarginCalling
5/19/09
MarginCalling:

Alex,

What's the best thing I can do between now and this fall to enhance my chances of being accepted at a top 5 school? (other than essays or GMAT. if it matters, 2 yrs hedge fund exp, mediocre work exp and academics vs peer group.)

Thanks.

To be honest, not a whole lot other than essays and GMAT. There's no such thing as "instant leadership" or "instant achievements" that won't look like window dressing, especially compared to other applicants who have bona fide accomplishments that were a culmination of years' of hard work, setbacks, and focus.

You doesn't compete for the Olympic trials today because you decided a few months ago to "pick up the sport". It's years (if not decades) of intermediate milestones and hours spent.

You don't produce a documentary that gets screened in multiple film festivals (even if it's a shitty film) just because you decided on a whim to do it. It takes years of planning and execution and dedication.

You don't become a decorated military officer without going through years of training and service (i.e. you don't win the Bronze Star in your first month of service).

You don't win community service awards for starting something a few months prior. It takes years for people to entrust themselves to your leadership.

The greater the magnitude of the achievement, the more it's going to cost you in terms of commitment, sacrifice, and enduring setbacks along the way.

Dedication and conviction is what puts you in a position to achieve something you're proud of. That's what makes people (whether it's adcoms, recruiters, etc.) notice.

5/20/09

Hello Alex,

I'll be joining Teach for America this upcoming Fall and I'd be quite interested in getting an MBA sometime in the future. As an incentive of being a part of TFA, many graduate schools offer 2 year programs to receive a Masters in Education during our corps commitment.

I was wondering how having a M.Ed would affect someone's candidacy when applying to business school (i.e. would it be looked upon as... "what in the world, why would this person want an MBA?")

5/20/09

Hey Alex,

I am currently a rising senior that attends a very average large state school. Full time job prospects look bleak, so I was considering getting a Masters in Finance from Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, or Vanderbilt. Would a Msc in Finance help in terms of Bschool admissions, or would it be better to take a position at a Middle Market firm?

Thanks!

In reply to BigBear85
5/20/09
BigBear85:

Hello Alex,

I'll be joining Teach for America this upcoming Fall and I'd be quite interested in getting an MBA sometime in the future. As an incentive of being a part of TFA, many graduate schools offer 2 year programs to receive a Masters in Education during our corps commitment.

I was wondering how having a M.Ed would affect someone's candidacy when applying to business school (i.e. would it be looked upon as... "what in the world, why would this person want an MBA?")

My question to you is why would you get an M.Ed if you're already planning to get an MBA?

In reply to TheFullMonte
5/20/09
TheFullMonte:

Hey Alex,

I am currently a rising senior that attends a very average large state school. Full time job prospects look bleak, so I was considering getting a Masters in Finance from Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, or Vanderbilt. Would a Msc in Finance help in terms of Bschool admissions, or would it be better to take a position at a Middle Market firm?

Thanks!

There seems to be a fundamental misconception of what b-schools look for.

They don't give a rat's ass about credentials, acronyms, certificates, ribbons, etc. beyond your bachelor's degree.

Getting a CFA, MA, MSc, MCSE, CPA, CFP, PMP, EMT, PADI, LLB, blah blah blah means jack. Some of these credentials may be relevant for your job or career (i.e. CFA for IM, PADI if you want to scuba dive), but it's not about collecting a bunch of certificates.

Nothing beats experience. Real world experience.

Unless you are planning for a career in academia, for the most part the best thing you can do when you graduate from college is to GET A JOB. Any job. Work in the real world. Doesn't have to be some super prestigious job, so long as it's something that gives you responsibility. There's something about earning a paycheck that can quickly ground you in the reality of living as an adult in the modern world.

In fact, I would suggest this even if you aren't going to b-school -- even if you're thinking of law, med or any other graduate program down the road. Get a few years' work experience under your belt first. Just about anyone who has worked a few years will tell you how much "working for a living" changed them and their perspective - in a good way.

Another way to put it -- education is invaluable for children, but experience is invaluable for adults.

In reply to MBAApply
5/20/09

One last thing in addition to the previous post.

Even if the job market sucks, the *experience* of struggling to get a job is far more valuable in the longer-term than hiding in some degree program.

You gotta jump in and find a way to tread water, even if the waters are rough. This won't be the last time there's going to be a crappy job market, so you're going to have to learn how to survive and hustle in a bad market, no matter how frustrating it can be (and oh yes, finding a job in a crappy market can be hell). But you'll be a stronger man (or woman) for it.

That might go against conventional wisdom, but even in a bad market, you *will* find something. It may not be the ideal start or a great job, and it may even take some time (read: a year or more of just trying to find that elusive job), but you will find something. And more importantly, you will learn a LOT about who you are, what you're made of, and also having a healthy perspective on your working life. More often than not, it's about making the most of what you have.

In reply to MBAApply
5/20/09

Point well taken.

I was thinking that if I ever want to get back into education some point in the future on the administrative side, having an M. Ed would be quite useful. Plus, the school's partnership with TFA makes it very affordable.

However, in the near future, I still would like to get into finance and develop my "business" career. Would having the M.Ed hinder my chances into getting into a top MBA program?

In reply to BigBear85
5/20/09
BigBear85:

Point well taken.

I was thinking that if I ever want to get back into education some point in the future on the administrative side, having an M. Ed would be quite useful. Plus, the school's partnership with TFA makes it very affordable.

However, in the near future, I still would like to get into finance and develop my "business" career. Would having the M.Ed hinder my chances into getting into a top MBA program?

In a way, yes, it makes it more difficult to convince the adcom that you're focused on a business career. B-schools know they get enough risk averse people applying; they don't want to take on too many "just in case" people. I understand that you're trying to keep your options open, but sooner or later you have to make tradeoffs not for the sake of other people, but for yourself.

Beyond the bachelor's degree, be wary about taking on additional degrees -- if you do, make it count. Even if it's inexpensive out-of-pocket, nothing is truly "free" because it will cost you your time -- time that could be better spent doing something else. It's not unlike someone wanting a "law degree" just in case they want to practice law, and then getting a "med degree" just in case they want to practice medicine, and then getting an MBA on top of that "just in case" they want a business career.

If you want to get into education admin later in the future, worry about it then, not now.

5/20/09

Hello, Alex.
First of all, thanks for providing this assume opportunity of sharing your knowledge and experiences.

I have a semester left before graduation, and currently I am pursuing an intern at a MM. Actually, I have asked this question via e-mail to the admission guys at the b-schools that I want to go to (top3). But, as I have expected, they gave me a very typical kind of answer saying, "There is no fixed paths for those who make here."
To provide you some background, until now my accumulative GPA is not that good, actually sort of poor. The overall GPA is 3.1 out 4.0. But the thing is, if I retake the courses I could raise it to 3.3 to by attending one more semester and 3.5 by attending an additional one more.
I know this kind of process looks ugly at this moment, taking into account for all of the opportunity costs, i.e. time and money, but I think if you look at this after a several years from now, the only remaining thing is the number in my own opinion.
So the question is would taking one more semester adversely affect my admission credentials?

In reply to sanjose04
5/20/09
sanjose04:

Hello, Alex.
First of all, thanks for providing this assume opportunity of sharing your knowledge and experiences.

I have a semester left before graduation, and currently I am pursuing an intern at a MM. Actually, I have asked this question via e-mail to the admission guys at the b-schools that I want to go to (top3). But, as I have expected, they gave me a very typical kind of answer saying, "There is no fixed paths for those who make here."
To provide you some background, until now my accumulative GPA is not that good, actually sort of poor. The overall GPA is 3.1 out 4.0. But the thing is, if I retake the courses I could raise it to 3.3 to by attending one more semester and 3.5 by attending an additional one more.
I know this kind of process looks ugly at this moment, taking into account for all of the opportunity costs, i.e. time and money, but I think if you look at this after a several years from now, the only remaining thing is the number in my own opinion.
So the question is would taking one more semester adversely affect my admission credentials?

You have a choice. What is more valuable to you? An extra semester of school, or an extra 6 months of work experience?

Keep in mind that a crappy GPA won't really help you (but it won't automatically keep you out if your GMAT is strong, and you take some remedial classes while you're working), but the lack of work experience can. Especially when you will have an "extra" semester -- and your explanation will be "so I can bump up my GPA by a few points." That may sound like it makes sense to you as a college student today whose life is preoccupied with academics, but not as someone with 2-4 years work experience looking back and saying "what was I thinking staying an extra semester... just for a few extra points on my GPA?".

I'll probably say this a million times here to all the college students who ask, but your GPA isn't as important as you think it is.

Again, I hate to be fatalistic but you've got to live with a mediocre GPA, and move on.

5/21/09

Alex,

I just want to thank you for taking time out to contribute to this forum and answer a number of questions from those seeking advice.

Have you ever thought about writing a book, not on b-school applications but something more general.

You seem to have a really good handle on a number of issues and make some good characterizations for different kinds of individuals.

5/21/09

Definitely agree with poster above - Alex espouses a sort of wisdom that would be very valuable (as well as potentially profitable).

BTW Alex I was wondering if you had any recommendations for good reading materials - book or blog.

5/21/09

What books or people/thinkers inspire you Alex?

Everyone needs help along the way, what sort of people/books help to shape some of your perspectives/views?

5/21/09

Thanks MatrixDark and endlessrain. Much appreciated.

If I could hook up with a publisher who thinks it would sell, sure, I'd write a book. :-)

As for reading materials or books -- I'll have to confess (and I'm not really proud of this at all) that I don't read as much as you'd think or as much as I would like to -- at least in the last while.

I guess I'm just really interested in human stories first and foremost. I've got a literary background and in my view there's a reason why certain works of fiction endure over centuries - whether it's Shakespeare, Chekhov, Dostoevsky, Homer, etc. Because their stories provide a wisdom and insight into human behavior and relationships -- and that never changes. Whether we are in the Stone Age, Roman times, Middle Ages, WWII, post-Internet, etc. we don't really change. So no matter the circumstance (be it banking, business, social occasions, life, etc.) when you strip away all the artifice, most of us experience similar things and are driven/insecure about things that others have already been through throughout history.

Honestly I can't really pinpoint any books in particular that shape my views. Part of it is through life experience and hindsight and trying to make sense of it all. Or I could be making it up all along :-)

One thing I do though is watch a lot of films, documentaries, and interviews. Charlie Rose is one of my favorites because he almost always has an ability to elicit interesting conversation from some fascinating guests. And better yet, all his interviews are archived on his website where you can watch for free (charlierose.com).

At least for me, when you watch enough interviews of people (whether on Charlie Rose or not), or when you meet enough different kinds of people in your real life, you will develop your own viewpoint and perspectives over time I guess. And those views will also change as you change (as it has with me).

Watch a lot of Charlie Rose interviews. Watch documentaries (some recent ones: [email protected], Man On Wire, Bigger Faster Stronger). Watch a lot of films - not from a pure "entertainment" perspective, but from a literary perspective as well. Putting yourself in other people's shoes - especially those who are very different from your own.

And if you're really looking for reading materials -- the first thing to do is to AVOID business books especially if you're already in a business career. Current affairs might be a first order detour. But better yet, read something about architecture. Or about the great chefs of the 20th century. Read something completely different and seemingly irrelevant or something that has absolutely no applicability to your career or job. Because the broader your knowledge, the more likely you are able to draw parallels from different fields to develop your own "wisdom" so to speak.

I guess when it comes to "reading", I do a LOT simply by surfing the web. I probably spend way more time on Wikipedia than I should - it's like my form of crack-cocaine.

Not only that, if you cast your net wide, you will always have something interesting to talk about -- whether you're in a boardroom, or over dinner :-)

5/24/09

Hi Alex,

I am a rising junior at NYU-Stern. I have been on WallStreetOasis for quite some time and have found your posts to be very insightful. I really want to attend Harvard Business School and want to know if I have a legitimate chance of being accepted as a junior for their 2+2 program or as a senior or what I could do to improve my chances.

Here are my stats

I am a finance major with a minor in middle eastern studies. My cumulative gpa is a 3.87

Work Experience:

Freshman Summer: I was a trading assistant at a small proprietary trading firm
Sophomore year: I was an equity research intern at Standard and Poor's
Upcoming summer: I will be attending an externship at a pretty good BB, and after, I will be a summer analyst at a top PE megafund(IE Blackstone, KKR) in their capital markets group

I also run my own online retail jewelry store that has brought in over 200k in the past few years

Extracurriculars:

I am very active in my fraternity and have had multiple chair positions

I have participated in many community service events mostly directed towards cancer or Israel

I was part of the final 4 teams in the NYU JP Morgan Risk Case Competition

I won 2 years in a row the Yeshiva University Stock Market Competition

So Do I have a legitimate chance for Junior or Senior year or what could I do to improve those chances?

5/24/09

Hey Alex,

Thanks for all your previous help.

Given that you have to demonstrate to schools that you more than just your profession, how in God's name do I go about seriously pursuing and investing time and energy into outside interests that will distinguish me from other applicants when I'm working ungodly hours in the investment banking profession?

I guess my point is how am I supposed to find time to show adcoms I'm an "individual," as you like to put it?

In reply to equitiestrader22
5/25/09
equitiestrader22:

Hi Alex,

I am a rising junior at NYU-Stern. I have been on WallStreetOasis for quite some time and have found your posts to be very insightful. I really want to attend Harvard Business School and want to know if I have a legitimate chance of being accepted as a junior for their 2+2 program or as a senior or what I could do to improve my chances.

Here are my stats

I am a finance major with a minor in middle eastern studies. My cumulative gpa is a 3.87

Work Experience:

Freshman Summer: I was a trading assistant at a small proprietary trading firm
Sophomore year: I was an equity research intern at Standard and Poor's
Upcoming summer: I will be attending an externship at a pretty good BB, and after, I will be a summer analyst at a top PE megafund(IE Blackstone, KKR) in their capital markets group

I also run my own online retail jewelry store that has brought in over 200k in the past few years

Extracurriculars:

I am very active in my fraternity and have had multiple chair positions

I have participated in many community service events mostly directed towards cancer or Israel

I was part of the final 4 teams in the NYU JP Morgan Risk Case Competition

I won 2 years in a row the Yeshiva University Stock Market Competition

So Do I have a legitimate chance for Junior or Senior year or what could I do to improve those chances?

To be honest, you're not the target applicant they're seeking with the 2+2 program. The 2+2 program is really designed to scoop up those who would normally be considering other grad programs (most notably law and medicine). It's sort of an "early decision" program for lib arts and science majors who may be considering business as a career down the road. So if you want to better position yourself for the 2+2, you'll need a time machine to go back and become a humanities or science major, get the same kinds of grades, and be accomplished outside of business (right now you come across as a hardcore business guy already which is great, but that's not what they're really after - HBS wants to be the school that molds you into a business guy).

Also, there are quite a few ex-analysts in b-schools who have had similar resumes as you... when they were in college. The difference is, they had a similar college output as you, but on top of that they have a few years' experience.

I think most members at WSO here who are analysts can say that their background looks somewhat similar to yours when they were in school. The good news with that is you're well positioned for recruiting when you graduate from NYU, assuming you do well in your job interviews.

My advice is rather than worry about more school, finish out your bachelors, focus on recruiting, and work for a while before thinking about an MBA program. Resist the temptation to rush through your time now, and resist the temptation to *live* three steps ahead or to map out your entire future to minimize the unexpected. Good luck

In reply to Devils Advocate
5/25/09
Devils Advocate:

Hey Alex,

Thanks for all your previous help.

Given that you have to demonstrate to schools that you more than just your profession, how in God's name do I go about seriously pursuing and investing time and energy into outside interests that will distinguish me from other applicants when I'm working ungodly hours in the investment banking profession?

I guess my point is how am I supposed to find time to show adcoms I'm an "individual," as you like to put it?

It's not about listing stuff you do outside of work. It's also about how you describe and characterize your experiences in banking. There are plenty of bankers who will sound like drones, as if they were reciting a deal sheet. And there are others who are able to describe their experience in a more individual, human way. It's not about the mechanics of the transaction, or the technicalities you had to deal with. It's about what you learned about yourself interacting and working with the personalities in your deal team. And oftentimes, it's not immediately obvious what those experiences may be that you highlight. Because bankers spend soooooo much time in the office, you have a lot more experiences/instances that you can draw from than you think - it just may not be the obvious high level overview of a transaction that seems to be the first thing bankers tend to recite when they are asked about their experience.

6/2/09

Hey Alex,

When applying to business school, is it worth talking about (say in an essay) about being laid off. I know it is a common occurence these days and am wondering how you think business schools will view a candidate who was laid off from a firm. Obviously it will depend largely on how you spin in and what you subsequently did, but just curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

In reply to kacryawbnraatbs
6/2/09
kacryawbnraatbs:

Hey Alex,

When applying to business school, is it worth talking about (say in an essay) about being laid off. I know it is a common occurence these days and am wondering how you think business schools will view a candidate who was laid off from a firm. Obviously it will depend largely on how you spin in and what you subsequently did, but just curious to hear your thoughts on the matter.

The fact that you got laid off is worth one sentence. The more you try to explain it, the more defensive you'll come across. It happened. You'll have to state it in the "reasons for leaving" section in the application form where they ask for your employment history. That's it.

If you got a job pretty soon after the layoff, then there's nothing more you need to say. If you had a gap in between jobs because of the layoff, then it's making sure you were productive during that time (and not just sitting at home eating Cheetos and watching TV) and weaving that into your essays without making a huge deal of it.

6/20/09

Hi Alex,

With regards to your fees, I'm wondering if you've ever considered an option where an applicant pays a base price, and then pays you a bonus if he/she gets accepted to the school. For example, instead of 2500 for an application, they'll pay you 2000 base and 1000 bonus. This would give incentive to both potential applicants to enlist your service as there is a lower entry fee, and it would also give them the satisfaction that you are providing them the best service given the incentive.

6/22/09

Hi Alex,

One of my biggest goals, if not the biggest, is to go to a Top 5 MBA school. You might find that strange. I realize a MBA should not be the primary focus and our careers/life should dictate if we actually need an MBA. However, for me, the MBA has become the primary focus. You don't have to fully understand me, but just be willing to help.

My main problem is I go to a non-target school, the University of Washington, that is ranked Top 50. My GPA is around 3.7. I am double majoring in Computer Science (UW is #6 in Nation in CS) and Math. I'm a Sophmore planning to graduate in 2011.

So my question is, what kind of work experiences should I aim for after undergraduate to optimize my chances at a Top 5 MBA school? I know it ultimately depends on how well I do at the work, however I was just wondering based solely educational background, which jobs would suit me and optimize my chances at a Top 5 program?

In reply to ssk13809
6/25/09
ssk13809:

Hi Alex,

One of my biggest goals, if not the biggest, is to go to a Top 5 MBA school. You might find that strange. I realize a MBA should not be the primary focus and our careers/life should dictate if we actually need an MBA. However, for me, the MBA has become the primary focus. You don't have to fully understand me, but just be willing to help.

My main problem is I go to a non-target school, the University of Washington, that is ranked Top 50. My GPA is around 3.7. I am double majoring in Computer Science (UW is #6 in Nation in CS) and Math. I'm a Sophmore planning to graduate in 2011.

So my question is, what kind of work experiences should I aim for after undergraduate to optimize my chances at a Top 5 MBA school? I know it ultimately depends on how well I do at the work, however I was just wondering based solely educational background, which jobs would suit me and optimize my chances at a Top 5 program?

The answer to your question is "there isn't any fixed path or tried-and-true, paint-by-numbers formula". It's entirely up to YOU. If you have the ambition, talent and mental focus, you will find opportunities that really fulfill you and put you in a situation to succeed and achieve. If you are constantly looking for external validation, you will be chasing your own tail.

I'm sure you knew that, but you want me to tell you what to do. I won't. I'm not your parent. I don't know you. I have no idea what you're interested in, where your talents are, what you're passionate about, and so forth.

Pursue a career that you are genuinely interested in. Not one that will simply be a means to an end to get into b-school.

Moreover, putting b-school on such a pedestal will almost guarantee that you will NOT get in. Because it will seep into the tone of your writing and your interviews. You will come across as "please, please admit me" (while figuratively batting your eyelashes and flashing as big a smile as possible). It happens to so many applicants who otherwise have a decent resume. Being a "try hard" is as much a turn off to b-schools in the admission process as it is to women that you're trying to date. The ideal tone is "you're a great opportunity if we match, but I don't *need* you either."

So knock b-school down from the heaven you've put it in - and see it for what it is - a pit stop, but not some glass slipper. And build a life, not a resume. Yes, it's harder to make choices from the inside out. But it's far more worthwhile.

7/21/09

Hello Alex,
First of all, thank you for taking the time to address all these questions.
I'm concerned that my lack of financial experience will keep me out of the top business schools: by the fall 2010, I will have been a teacher of business English for three years, however, teaching English in a Russian bank isn't quite the same as working in one. Without knowing any other way to phrase this question, will having worked as a teacher, in lieu of any other profession, 'count against me' when the committees are weighing applications? I suppose seeing all these posts about individuals having been analysts, associates, etc. has made things seem all the more daunting (as if it already weren't daunting enough!).
I studied Economics at Florida, though I'd surmise my quantitative skills have gotten a little rusty since then. In trying to prove my worth to a prospective business school, would it help to enroll in any additional courses? I looked around at a few online courses (MIT and Yale both offer free ones, for no credit; Harvard charges in excess of $800 to $2000, for credit), though I wasn't sure where to turn. Any recommendations?

Your advice is greatly appreciated.

In reply to moskovygator
7/23/09
moskovygator:

Hello Alex,
First of all, thank you for taking the time to address all these questions.
I'm concerned that my lack of financial experience will keep me out of the top business schools: by the fall 2010, I will have been a teacher of business English for three years, however, teaching English in a Russian bank isn't quite the same as working in one. Without knowing any other way to phrase this question, will having worked as a teacher, in lieu of any other profession, 'count against me' when the committees are weighing applications? I suppose seeing all these posts about individuals having been analysts, associates, etc. has made things seem all the more daunting (as if it already weren't daunting enough!).
I studied Economics at Florida, though I'd surmise my quantitative skills have gotten a little rusty since then. In trying to prove my worth to a prospective business school, would it help to enroll in any additional courses? I looked around at a few online courses (MIT and Yale both offer free ones, for no credit; Harvard charges in excess of $800 to $2000, for credit), though I wasn't sure where to turn. Any recommendations?

Your advice is greatly appreciated.

Part of the reason why you're seeing all these finance types is because you're on a site that is geared towards investment bankers.

The majority of MBA students don't have finance backgrounds. In fact, around half the class don't have business backgrounds - they are engineers, military officers, non-profit professionals, Peace Corps, and yes, teachers (you won't be the only one in the history of b-school to have applied and gotten in -- there are a handful in b-school in any given year).

The key is being able to convince the adcom in your essays and interviews that you've really thought through why you want to transition into a business career and why it makes sense for you now, and why b-school is the ideal route for that at this point in your life - these are questions that are crucial for all applicants to address, especially for those who don't have business backgrounds already (and no, you don't have to take online courses, but if you want to for your own interest and curiosity to get a taste for what business education is like, then you should for your own sake).

8/11/09
monkey8406:

Hello Alex,

I have the above two MBA programs only available to me for several reasons and am wondering which one should I attend. In your opinion which program, out of the above two, will give me better chance of being placed in London IB?

Thanks

Hard to say. Probably ESADE. Check the recruiting stats/reports for the respective schools, which should be available on their respective websites.

8/11/09

Alex,

I realize that working for a blue chip name probably helps somewhat when it comes to the admissions process for obvious reasons. I worked in the US for a couple of years after graduation (H,Y,P) and am currently working in an emerging market in the Asia Pac region for a domestic company leading a variety of new initiatives. I am considering applying to business school at some point in the next few years and was wondering how admissions people generally evaluate someone's work experience if they've been working in a country, sector or company that is little known to them. It seems that it is more up to the applicant to set the stage, so to speak.

Cheers

8/11/09

Alex,

Thank you for doing this. I just began my second year as an associate
with a middle market lbo fund when it shut down due to problems with
funding. I was going to apply to bschool (H/S/W) for the class of 2012
and have already written drafts of most of my essays. My dilemma is
that I have recently gotten (and accepted) an offer from a mega buyout
fund (think kkr, bx, bain, tpg, etc.). This offer is an on-cycle with
a start date next year. I hear that HBS is no longer keen on accepting
candidates with >5 years of work experience. If I wait another 2 years
to apply I will have ~6 years of experience.

What do you think about the idea of still applying and seeking a
deferral? I realize the odds of getting it are slim - but I figure if
I don't get a deferral I can still simply re-apply in a couple of
years. What are your thoughts on some of the following issues:

1: Odds of getting a deferral (are they merely low or almost non existent)?
2: How does having been previously accepted (but not going) affect
your odds of admittance when you re-apply?
3: My odds of getting in to HBS now (while under their experience
threshold) vs in 2 years (with a top fund on my resume)

In reply to Berkshire
8/11/09
hansolo:

Alex,

I realize that working for a blue chip name probably helps somewhat when it comes to the admissions process for obvious reasons. I worked in the US for a couple of years after graduation (H,Y,P) and am currently working in an emerging market in the Asia Pac region for a domestic company leading a variety of new initiatives. I am considering applying to business school at some point in the next few years and was wondering how admissions people generally evaluate someone's work experience if they've been working in a country, sector or company that is little known to them. It seems that it is more up to the applicant to set the stage, so to speak.

Cheers

The more unfamiliar an adcom is with your overall history (i.e. schools, companies, organizations, etc.) the more of an unknown quantity you will be - which makes the admissions process even more random (plain English: it's harder to say what your chances are because it becomes even more dependent on the whims of the adcom reader and whether they feel you or not in your written applications and interview).

In your case, the fact that you went to a top undergrad certainly helps -- it puts your work experience in some sort of context - that you probably could've taken a more traditional blue chip route, but chose to do something different (hint: your essays have to position yourself that way for the adcom to make that assumption).

In reply to spinner
8/11/09
spinner:

Alex,

Thank you for doing this. I just began my second year as an associate
with a middle market lbo fund when it shut down due to problems with
funding. I was going to apply to bschool (H/S/W) for the class of 2012
and have already written drafts of most of my essays. My dilemma is
that I have recently gotten (and accepted) an offer from a mega buyout
fund (think kkr, bx, bain, tpg, etc.). This offer is an on-cycle with
a start date next year. I hear that HBS is no longer keen on accepting
candidates with >5 years of work experience. If I wait another 2 years
to apply I will have ~6 years of experience.

What do you think about the idea of still applying and seeking a
deferral? I realize the odds of getting it are slim - but I figure if
I don't get a deferral I can still simply re-apply in a couple of
years. What are your thoughts on some of the following issues:

1: Odds of getting a deferral (are they merely low or almost non existent)?
2: How does having been previously accepted (but not going) affect
your odds of admittance when you re-apply?
3: My odds of getting in to HBS now (while under their experience
threshold) vs in 2 years (with a top fund on my resume)

The odds of getting a deferral are basically non existent unless you are a recent college grad (i.e. less than 1 year experience) and/or you have some family emergency (and even then, it's hard to say whether the adcom would even do that, especially at schools like H/S/W).

As for reapplications, given that all three schools basically ask you to re-write the entire application as a reapp, adcoms treat your reapplication as if it were a first time application, benchmarking you against the current crop of applicants. So whether you got accepted or denied in prior years won't really impact what happens in the *current* year.

And finally, your odds of getting into HBS now vs. later: you're likely better off now. They do like them young, even if you do have a top fund on your resume. Just keep in mind that folks with PE/LBO backgrounds aren't as sought after nor are they as "unique" as they used to be -- given the growth in that sector in the last 5-10 years.

In any case, take the job, apply to school this year as well, and worry about what to do later *if* you get into any of these schools. At this point, the only thing that is real is the job offer.

Alex Chu
[email protected]
www.mbaapply.com
http://mbaapply.blogspot.com

8/17/09

Here's the thing.

I don't know if an MBA is right for you at this point because I don't think you really know what it is you want to do.

You mention you want to "grow a large organization" which suggests to me you have some conceptual or academic idea of what it is you want, but you don't have a tangible or specific thing you want to (otherwise you would've been as specific about it as you are about your background and stats).

In the long term, you want to be in politics as a business/policy wonk. If that's the case, you should be doing a PhD and following that path.

As for your undergrad grades, yes it will be an issue, and yes loading up on summer courses to fulfill your degree requirements won't be looked upon particularly favorably since the summer classes have a rep for being less rigorous. In any case, even if you can explain the circumstances surrounding your poor academic performance, the reality is - there's no excuse. There are other applicants who have faced difficulties as great as yours (if not greater) who still managed to maintain respectable grades (if not exceptional grades - how their circumstances fueled them to excel). That's why there's "no excuse". It's not going to be a deal killer for any of the schools, but it will be a handicap that you can't really get around (other than scoring the best you can on the GMAT). You're just going to have to hope that the adcom likes you enough to overlook it.

In any case, based on your raw profile (irrespective of your goals, why you want an MBA, etc) assuming you put in a strong application, you're probably competitive for schools in the lower half of the top 16 (Haas, Duke, Michigan, Darden, UCLA, NYU, Yale and Cornell). Schools such as Georgetown, USC, UNC, Texas, etc. are safeties. As for specific schools within these lists, it comes down to personal preferences - region, size, mix of students, etc.

8/18/09

Hi Alex,

On many threads I've come across people talking about the exit ops of different careers and getting an MBA is very popular among them.

An MBA is quite an experience from what I know ( Don't have one myself yet ) but is it really an exit op ? I'm talking about a worldwide top 20 and not just a H/W/S.

And when folks say that an MBA gives them a wider perspective, what does that really mean ? Is it that an MBA is a stamp of approval and an insurance policy to experiment or that the experience has changed the person in some way ? It sounds silly to ask but i'm curious.

Would appreciate any thoughts .

Thanks

8/20/09

I discovered this site via a google search. I'm not looking to work in Wall Street but I was wondering if you could recommend a good MBA program that would fit my circumstances.

The primary reason I need an MBA is that I don't have the knowledge to run (and grow) a large organization. I went the entrepreneurial route and started my own business and it was a complete and utter failure as I lost every dime I had. The next year I picked myself right up and started another venture. This one has gone well. We have about 25 employees and are projected to turn our first profit this year.

My secondary reason for an MBA is I have political aspirations in the distant future.

A little background about me:

Work Experience:
'04-'06 Financial Sales/Manager for AIG. Was promoted twice from supervisor to District Manager.
'06-'07 Started a Financial Sales Firm that went under. A really good learning experience. Although it costs me every dime I had.
'07-present: One of 3 Partner at a real estate investment and brokerage firm. We have grown from just 3 employees in '07 to over 25 now and should turn our first profit this year. My role in the partnership is investment analysis, investor relations, and general corporate strategy.

GMAT:
Haven't taken it officially but have been scoring between 720 and 750 on the practice tests from the GMAT software and Kaplan. I have done well in previous admissions exams so I believe I should get a 700 on the GMAT.

Transcripts: My GPA is a 2.75 in Political Science. I have no excuse for this. I didn't show up to half my classes and didn't apply myself as an undergrad. Another stain on my academic record is there's a 3 semester gap when I dropped out of school. I also took a lot of summer courses at Berkeley too because they were cheaper than the normal school year. I was told by admissions at Stanford the summer courses don't reflect well. Is this true with other schools?

8/24/09

Hey Alex,

Questions about the resume for MBA application in the US and Europe:

1) Does the resume have to be one page as a rule? (I'm relatively young...a year out of college and working..planning to apply in another year or two).
2) How important is the brand name of the IB firm you're working for?
3) A lot of people have recommended putting education at the top of the resume vs others who recommend putting work experience at the top---what do you have to say about it?
4) What, in your opinion, is the minimum GMAT score to even consider the top 20 schools worldwide?

Thanks in advance!

In reply to big_dreams_banker
8/25/09
big_dreams_banker:

Hey Alex,

Questions about the resume for MBA application in the US and Europe:

1) Does the resume have to be one page as a rule? (I'm relatively young...a year out of college and working..planning to apply in another year or two).
2) How important is the brand name of the IB firm you're working for?
3) A lot of people have recommended putting education at the top of the resume vs others who recommend putting work experience at the top---what do you have to say about it?
4) What, in your opinion, is the minimum GMAT score to even consider the top 20 schools worldwide?

Thanks in advance!

1. Yes.

2. Somewhat - not a make-or-break, but working at Goldman or Morgan Stanley certainly helps to stand out (in finance as well as in b-school admissions). However, it's easy to overstate its importance (i.e. it matters, but it's far from being the be-all end-all).

3. For b-school applications, either way is fine. It doesn't matter.

4. 680 as an absolute minimum, 700+ to be safe, and 740+ ideally.

8/25/09

Great writings Alex. You have a gift

8/27/09

Hello Alex,
Im new on WSO and I find this thread very interesting.

I know this post is loooong but please indulge me,

Here is my story...

I am a Nigerian who lives and works in Nigeria..Im considering making an application to Stanford GSB for the MBA programme beginning in 2010, I really need your candid opinion on my chances of gaining admission given my brief profile below.

Undergrad: University of Ibadan (2.1)Second Class Upper Division Geography

GMAT: 740(97%) Q:49(88%) V:42(95%) AWA:6.0 (87%)

Work experience I will have WHEN I BEGIN THE PROGRAMME:

DURING A YEAR OF COMMUNITY SERVICE IN A REALLY EDUCATIONALLY DISADVANTAGED RURAL COMMUNITY IN MY COUNTRY, I SERVED AS THE FIRST EVER GEOGRAPHY TUTOR TO SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS: NOVEMBER 2007- OCTOBER 2008

ZENITH BANK PLC (RELATIONSHIP MANAGER): DEC 08- SEPT 09

KPMG (Business Performance Services): OCT 2009- SEPT 2010

Total experience will be roughly 32months when I begin assuming my application is successful.

Extra Curriculars and Teamwork: Im sorta weak in the Extracurricular area and that is my major concern,I really didn't have the opportunity to engage in all the cool extracurricular projects most of my fellow applicants will undoubteldy have been engaged in. Apart from my community service in which I was able to mentor a number of really disadvantaged and very poor children in Northern Nigeria and encourage them to have dreams that extended beyond their local farming community and tofollow these dreams, I was also head of the Village Christian Fellowship (a very culturally diverse group) and spearheaded a number of initiatives such as a successful fund raising to aquire a plot of land in order to build a new church building. At University, I was a member of a number of Faculty associations but not as a leader. I am also a trader (albeit an absolute NOVICE) in the forex spot markets..Legitimately and not just as a last minute window dressing act,I am in the process of setting up an online forum that will have the sole purpose of encouraging individuals to demonstrate Ambition, Determination and Drive and to follow their dreams despite the odds. Apart from these, I don't really have much else.

For teamwork, I worked in a couple of teams during my undergrad days. At work, I have had a lot of significant responsibilities even though, Ive worked for less than a year. I also won the 'Team Player' award at my Zenith Bank Orientation/Induction course....

Career Aspirations: Im passionate about the Finance Sector particularly Principal Investing and specifically in Goldman Sachs (Just finished reading a 750 page book on the history of the firm; Almost Everyone around me thinks Ive lost it!)

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS: I will be taking the CFA Level 1 in June next year.

Finally, for what its worth, I was admitted into the Brand New London Business School Masters in Management Programme beginning Sept 2009. Unfortunately, I had to forefeit this programme because I could not afford to pay the tuition and living expenses despite two scholarships. I won two scholarships, one of which is the prestigious London Business School Annual Fund Scholarship which also automatically which automatically conferred on me the status of member of the elite LBS Masters in Management 'Scholars' Circle' I am able to write my heart out when I really want to. The LBS applcation had 6 BRUTAL essays (plus an Interview conducted by an even more brutal Alumnus)

Please give me your candid opinion on my chances at Stanford, I really love what Ive read on the website and think I would love to be a part of that great community. Furthermore, they also offer loans to Int. Students without a co-signer (a funding option I sooo require)...

8/28/09

Hi Alex,

I've only found one review of your MBA Field Guide that compares it to Montauk's guide. I'd rather not spend $ on both as I've already spent enough on GMAT study materials. Please explain to me why your guide is superior to Montauk's.

Thank you

8/28/09

Hey Alex,

Does the resume used for applying for an MBA need to have complete educational history (pre-bachelors) or just your bachelors information?

Thanks!

8/28/09

Hi Alex, I have a dilemma.

I graduated in May 2009 and I didn't really know what I wanted to do after my undergrad, so I decided to go into finance because that's what everyone seemed to be applying to. I was lucky to get an IBD job at a BB, but it turns out that the bank overhired and I was one of a handful of people who was transferred to back office roles. I know I should be lucky to have a job in this economy but every day I can feel my brain rotting from the boring work. My question is, do you think I should apply for an MBA now, since this job is getting me no where in terms of my professional goals? Or should I stick it out for the 2 year program, save up some cash, and then apply then?

Also, I am interested in entrepreneurship, and I was wondering how much value an MBA degree would add; would it be just better to invest the 100k tuition as seed capital?

Lastly, I don't want to give a typical "what are my chances" question, but how do MBAs look upon nontraditional degrees? I have an engineering degree from a top 10 school with ~3.9 GPA, but I have taken very few business courses.

Thanks for your help!

In reply to JimBeam69
9/3/09
COKERDI:

Hello Alex,
Im new on WSO and I find this thread very interesting.

I know this post is loooong but please indulge me,

Here is my story...

I am a Nigerian who lives and works in Nigeria..Im considering making an application to Stanford GSB for the MBA programme beginning in 2010, I really need your candid opinion on my chances of gaining admission given my brief profile below.

Undergrad: University of Ibadan (2.1)Second Class Upper Division Geography

GMAT: 740(97%) Q:49(88%) V:42(95%) AWA:6.0 (87%)

Work experience I will have WHEN I BEGIN THE PROGRAMME:

DURING A YEAR OF COMMUNITY SERVICE IN A REALLY EDUCATIONALLY DISADVANTAGED RURAL COMMUNITY IN MY COUNTRY, I SERVED AS THE FIRST EVER GEOGRAPHY TUTOR TO SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS: NOVEMBER 2007- OCTOBER 2008

ZENITH BANK PLC (RELATIONSHIP MANAGER): DEC 08- SEPT 09

KPMG (Business Performance Services): OCT 2009- SEPT 2010

Total experience will be roughly 32months when I begin assuming my application is successful.

Extra Curriculars and Teamwork: Im sorta weak in the Extracurricular area and that is my major concern,I really didn't have the opportunity to engage in all the cool extracurricular projects most of my fellow applicants will undoubteldy have been engaged in. Apart from my community service in which I was able to mentor a number of really disadvantaged and very poor children in Northern Nigeria and encourage them to have dreams that extended beyond their local farming community and tofollow these dreams, I was also head of the Village Christian Fellowship (a very culturally diverse group) and spearheaded a number of initiatives such as a successful fund raising to aquire a plot of land in order to build a new church building. At University, I was a member of a number of Faculty associations but not as a leader. I am also a trader (albeit an absolute NOVICE) in the forex spot markets..Legitimately and not just as a last minute window dressing act,I am in the process of setting up an online forum that will have the sole purpose of encouraging individuals to demonstrate Ambition, Determination and Drive and to follow their dreams despite the odds. Apart from these, I don't really have much else.

For teamwork, I worked in a couple of teams during my undergrad days. At work, I have had a lot of significant responsibilities even though, Ive worked for less than a year. I also won the 'Team Player' award at my Zenith Bank Orientation/Induction course....

Career Aspirations: Im passionate about the Finance Sector particularly Principal Investing and specifically in Goldman Sachs (Just finished reading a 750 page book on the history of the firm; Almost Everyone around me thinks Ive lost it!)

PROFESSIONAL QUALIFICATIONS: I will be taking the CFA Level 1 in June next year.

Finally, for what its worth, I was admitted into the Brand New London Business School Masters in Management Programme beginning Sept 2009. Unfortunately, I had to forefeit this programme because I could not afford to pay the tuition and living expenses despite two scholarships. I won two scholarships, one of which is the prestigious London Business School Annual Fund Scholarship which also automatically which automatically conferred on me the status of member of the elite LBS Masters in Management 'Scholars' Circle' I am able to write my heart out when I really want to. The LBS applcation had 6 BRUTAL essays (plus an Interview conducted by an even more brutal Alumnus)

Please give me your candid opinion on my chances at Stanford, I really love what Ive read on the website and think I would love to be a part of that great community. Furthermore, they also offer loans to Int. Students without a co-signer (a funding option I sooo require)...

In short, I think you have enough of a chance that it's worth at least giving Stanford a shot.

One thing you do have going for you (based on what I could sense from your post) is that you're a strong and articulate writer, and if that also means that you're a pretty strong speaker as well, that will certainly help you. Places like Stanford and Harvard put a premium on people with a "liberal arts/humanities" orientation regardless of their actual academic backgrounds. What you'll notice with a lot of the incoming students is that while they all come from a wide variety of backgrounds, the one thing that they do have in common moreso than other schools is that their communication and critical thinking skills are the foundation for a lot of their past successes.

In reply to jjk
9/3/09
In reply to big_dreams_banker
9/3/09
big_dreams_banker:

Hey Alex,

Does the resume used for applying for an MBA need to have complete educational history (pre-bachelors) or just your bachelors information?

Thanks!

If you mean high school -- no, don't include it.

In reply to is-t
9/3/09
is-t:

Hi Alex, I have a dilemma.

I graduated in May 2009 and I didn't really know what I wanted to do after my undergrad, so I decided to go into finance because that's what everyone seemed to be applying to. I was lucky to get an IBD job at a BB, but it turns out that the bank overhired and I was one of a handful of people who was transferred to back office roles. I know I should be lucky to have a job in this economy but every day I can feel my brain rotting from the boring work. My question is, do you think I should apply for an MBA now, since this job is getting me no where in terms of my professional goals? Or should I stick it out for the 2 year program, save up some cash, and then apply then?

Also, I am interested in entrepreneurship, and I was wondering how much value an MBA degree would add; would it be just better to invest the 100k tuition as seed capital?

Lastly, I don't want to give a typical "what are my chances" question, but how do MBAs look upon nontraditional degrees? I have an engineering degree from a top 10 school with ~3.9 GPA, but I have taken very few business courses.

Thanks for your help!

First of all, you hardly have a non-traditional degree. There are boatloads - I mean boatloads - of engineers or those with engineering degrees applying. With quite a number who have the mistaken view that "business" is just an "engineering job that pays more" (and hence why so many engineers get dinged moreso than other folks).

Secondly, you just graduated a few months ago. You're not getting into a top school right now. Suck it up and work a few years. It'll be invaluable life experience. If you hate your back office job, start looking for other jobs (but don't quit your current job until you've found another one). Sure, things didn't work out how you had hoped or planned, but THAT'S LIFE. It never works out according to plan. If it did, your life would be predictable and boring.

Finally, there's a HUGE difference between being passionate about the *idea* of entrepreneurship, and being obsessed over a specific business idea. Sort of like being in love with the idea of love, versus actually being in love with a specific someone. Know that difference. A lot of folks are more in love with the romantic notions of entrepreneurship as an idea (and less so with the specific business itself), which is why it rarely goes beyond the "idea" stage.

9/7/09

Hi Alex,

I read one of your posts on your blog regarding the three different
types of candidates who gain admission at H/W/S.

I am particularly interested in Wharton because of their strengths in
finance. I work as an analyst in reinsurance (Aon Benfield) both in an
actuarial and financial analysis capacity - the work I do is not
predominantly number crunching: basically what I do is very similar to
what an IB analyst would do, except that we are trying to set up
reinsurance deals not M&A deals (though I think sometimes we are
brought in to do that as well, though very rarely).

I believe my story for going to business school makes sense. I do not
serve in a purely technical role, I add value to the deals that we
broker, and if I want to move up into the senior positions within this
industry then I definitely need the MBA (I've been told this by
colleagues as well). My goal post-MBA would be to obtain a MC position
at MBB within their insurance-industry practice. The other possibility
would be to work at an investment bank / investment management firm
that focuses on the industry.

My weaknesses are that I work in Canada, the reinsurance industry may
not be that well known to the person considering my application, etc.;
in other words, I fall under the "Average Joe" category and want to
work hard in the next one/two years to improve my position. I went to
Waterloo, studied Actuarial Science, came out with a decent GPA and
have a 750 GMAT (I doubt these statistics matter much, but I could be
wrong).

Your advice would be appreciated

In reply to niles
9/8/09
niles:

Hi Alex,

I read one of your posts on your blog regarding the three different
types of candidates who gain admission at H/W/S.

I am particularly interested in Wharton because of their strengths in
finance. I work as an analyst in reinsurance (Aon Benfield) both in an
actuarial and financial analysis capacity - the work I do is not
predominantly number crunching: basically what I do is very similar to
what an IB analyst would do, except that we are trying to set up
reinsurance deals not M&A deals (though I think sometimes we are
brought in to do that as well, though very rarely).

I believe my story for going to business school makes sense. I do not
serve in a purely technical role, I add value to the deals that we
broker, and if I want to move up into the senior positions within this
industry then I definitely need the MBA (I've been told this by
colleagues as well). My goal post-MBA would be to obtain a MC position
at MBB within their insurance-industry practice. The other possibility
would be to work at an investment bank / investment management firm
that focuses on the industry.

My weaknesses are that I work in Canada, the reinsurance industry may
not be that well known to the person considering my application, etc.;
in other words, I fall under the "Average Joe" category and want to
work hard in the next one/two years to improve my position. I went to
Waterloo, studied Actuarial Science, came out with a decent GPA and
have a 750 GMAT (I doubt these statistics matter much, but I could be
wrong).

Your advice would be appreciated

It's clear (to a fault) that you're good at math. But are you as good at math as you are with people?

That's what will make or break your candidacy for top b-schools (including Sloan, Columbia, Chicago, Kellogg, Tuck, etc.) - and what won't be immediately obvious from your resume or profile. It'll have to come through in your essays, rec letters and interviews.

And for you to have material to write about in your application that relates to your exceptional ability to work with people -- you need to have experiences and achievements that are rooted in those skills. That may or may not come from your job; another thing that may help is getting some international experience (Canadian workplaces are notorious for being risk averse and highly structured -- less willing to give junior folks the kind of responsibilities that one would get in the US, Europe or Asia).

I don't like telling people to make career/life decisions based on b-school applications, but my hunch is that even from a life perspective, you can probably take more risks with your choices - get out of Canada, do something different, etc.

9/8/09

Hi Alex,

Wanted to ask about exchange programs.

General : Does going to a to a top 5 US school on an MBA exchange help in terms of getting a job at a BB ? If recruiters came to the school, would they look at someone who is there on an exchange or would they look at only those students who will graduate from there ?

Case : If someone from a good european school attends an Exchange Program at a top 5 US school, is there any benefit from a recruiting standpoint ? If given full access to the career service at the top 5 school, will the chances at getting a good job ( US or any location ) be significantly increased ? Or is it that recruiters will discount the exchange and look at the parent institution ( which might be lesser known ) ?

Thanks

9/24/09

Hi Alex,

Can I request you to make an objective comparison between the Oxford and HEC Paris MBA Programs. Is there a reasonable gap either way or is it negligible ?
Broadly I would like to remain in the Finance sector post MBA ( Asset Mangement would be tops ).

I deeply appreciate your views.

Thanks

In reply to greatgolfer
9/29/09
greatgolfer:

Hi Alex,

Can I request you to make an objective comparison between the Oxford and HEC Paris MBA Programs. Is there a reasonable gap either way or is it negligible ?
Broadly I would like to remain in the Finance sector post MBA ( Asset Mangement would be tops ).

I deeply appreciate your views.

Thanks

Oxford probably gives you a better shot if you're looking to work in London where most of the finance jobs will be in Europe.

10/1/09

Thank you Sir, very much.

10/15/09

Hi Alex,

May I please have an objective evaluation based on my profile below?

Age: 26

College: University of Southern California
Graduated 2005
Major: Biomedical Engineering
GPA: 2.93

Grad School: University of Southern California
Graduated 2007
Major: Engineering Management
GPA: 3.27
* I took this right after college mainly to address low undergrad GPA and also to be on the fast track within the medical device industry, not for a career-changer like MBA.

Grad School: Johns Hopkins University
Expected Graduation Date: Unknown
Major: Biotechnology
GPA: 3.7
* Took this to prepare for a potential career in biotechnology equity research

GMAT: 670

Work:

2007-Present (will have 3.5 years of work experience by start of MBA program in Fall 2010)
Process Engineer for a Top 5 Pharmaceutical Company
Handled increasing responsibilities including project manager for couple projects that gave me a good view of how the business works in healthcare

Strengths:

Quantitative skills, project management, technical writing, passion for biotechnology

Career Goals:

Interested in pursuing a post-MBA job in finance, particularly in biotech equity research, then leverage that experience to join a venture capital firm specializing in stem cell gene therapy

What I hope to get out of MBA:

Finance training, soft skills, and the cross-functional mentality for both science and business

Leadership:

2007-Present: served in the Fundraiser position for Stanford's School of Medicine under the Associate Director of Development, on behalf of stem cell research scientist at the same school; gave presentations (oral and written) to potential donors and coordinated speaking engagements with the scientist
-Have gone around the world to assist as a Medical Missionary
-Involved with youth basketball league as a coach

Questions:

- Based on my short profile, I know the chances are slim but are Stanford, MIT, Wharton, and NYU worth a shot? If so, in what order?
- I'm currently enrolled in Johns Hopkins' part-time online program which can be completed anytime, anywhere. I most likely won't finish before I start my full-time studies at an MBA school in fall of 2010. How should I explain my situation?
1. Not mention it at all. (But I think this is a good thing to mention, because it shows I can balance work and school)
2. Explain that I'll somehow finish by the start of MBA. (even though I won't)
3. Explain that I'll delay until finish the MBA.
4. Explain that I'll take it concurrently with MBA (1 class maximum per semester), even though this might be overkill.
* I can also explain that I can treat my unique situation as a dual-degree program.

Your help is highly appreciated.

Thanks!

10/15/09

Hi Alex,

I don't want to bombard you with information, but for someone with my basic profile:

3.7 at Wharton
2-3 years M&A/Restructuring at a boutique
750 GMAT

What range of business schools should I be considering? I am afraid that I am too "cookie-cutter" and not unique enough...

-Confused Monkey

In reply to redsox890
10/16/09
redsox890:

Hi Alex,

May I please have an objective evaluation based on my profile below?

Age: 26

College: University of Southern California
Graduated 2005
Major: Biomedical Engineering
GPA: 2.93

Grad School: University of Southern California
Graduated 2007
Major: Engineering Management
GPA: 3.27
* I took this right after college mainly to address low undergrad GPA and also to be on the fast track within the medical device industry, not for a career-changer like MBA.

Grad School: Johns Hopkins University
Expected Graduation Date: Unknown
Major: Biotechnology
GPA: 3.7
* Took this to prepare for a potential career in biotechnology equity research

GMAT: 670

Work:

2007-Present (will have 3.5 years of work experience by start of MBA program in Fall 2010)
Process Engineer for a Top 5 Pharmaceutical Company
Handled increasing responsibilities including project manager for couple projects that gave me a good view of how the business works in healthcare

Strengths:

Quantitative skills, project management, technical writing, passion for biotechnology

Career Goals:

Interested in pursuing a post-MBA job in finance, particularly in biotech equity research, then leverage that experience to join a venture capital firm specializing in stem cell gene therapy

What I hope to get out of MBA:

Finance training, soft skills, and the cross-functional mentality for both science and business

Leadership:

2007-Present: served in the Fundraiser position for Stanford's School of Medicine under the Associate Director of Development, on behalf of stem cell research scientist at the same school; gave presentations (oral and written) to potential donors and coordinated speaking engagements with the scientist
-Have gone around the world to assist as a Medical Missionary
-Involved with youth basketball league as a coach

Questions:

- Based on my short profile, I know the chances are slim but are Stanford, MIT, Wharton, and NYU worth a shot? If so, in what order?
- I'm currently enrolled in Johns Hopkins' part-time online program which can be completed anytime, anywhere. I most likely won't finish before I start my full-time studies at an MBA school in fall of 2010. How should I explain my situation?
1. Not mention it at all. (But I think this is a good thing to mention, because it shows I can balance work and school)
2. Explain that I'll somehow finish by the start of MBA. (even though I won't)
3. Explain that I'll delay until finish the MBA.
4. Explain that I'll take it concurrently with MBA (1 class maximum per semester), even though this might be overkill.
* I can also explain that I can treat my unique situation as a dual-degree program.

Your help is highly appreciated.

Thanks!

With that GMAT score, your chances are slim at schools like Wharton, Stanford and Sloan -- and you'll likely be a stretch as well at NYU.

Whether you are doing an online program at John Hopkins or not is besides the point.

First and foremost, do whatever you can to boost that GMAT score. That should be your priority before even thinking about how to position the rest of your candidacy, because right now although your overall profile is solid, it's not exceptional or unique enough for an adcom to overlook your GMAT (i.e. there's going to be others with healthcare/life sciences backgrounds whose quality of work experience, extracurriculars and education will be comparable to yours, and who will have stronger scores than you will).

Not saying it's impossible with your current score, but you're going to need a bit of luck on your side.

In reply to kkmkk4
10/16/09
kkmkk4:

Hi Alex,

I don't want to bombard you with information, but for someone with my basic profile:

3.7 at Wharton
2-3 years M&A/Restructuring at a boutique
750 GMAT

What range of business schools should I be considering? I am afraid that I am too "cookie-cutter" and not unique enough...

-Confused Monkey

At schools like HBS, Stanford and Wharton, there's definitely a lot of people like you at these schools - but there's also quite a few that didn't get in either. And the banker/PE types that got in weren't necessarily more "unique" or accomplished than those who didn't get in - it really comes down to a combination of how well you execute your applications, and luck. In other words, yes it helps being unique in some way (i.e. you had some unique and extraordinary achievement in college - sports, arts, politics, etc), but there are plenty of "cookie cutter" folks at these schools as well.

From a practical standpoint, it really comes down to why and where you really want to go. I'd probably apply to H/S/W for sure - and then beyond that, it comes down to whether you feel it's worthwhile given your career/educational background (most folks in your position probably feel it's not worth going to schools outside of H/S/W given that you already have enough pedigree in your background - but then again, "most" isn't "all" and there's certainly a handful of folks like you at schools like Chicago, Columbia, Kellogg, Sloan, etc.). You have enough of a shot that you can probably just apply to H/S/W so long as you are prepared for the possibility that you may not get into any of them (although as a Wharton alum with a strong GPA you probably have a decent shot at getting back into Wharton for their MBA program - the question is whether you want to go back for more at the same school!)

Accepted.com
11/7/09

(By the way Thank You Wall Street Oasis for having cookies to remember my post... I clicked BACK by accident. whew!)

Hey Alex,

I wanted to know if you could give me a quick run-by these stats and a forward looking view on B-school. I am currently 23 now, looking for the real work that'll let me become independent. I definitely know my reasons for business school and can articulate them well. I was looking at Veritas, Accepted.com, and your service.

Business school is my lifelong dream, not just a career advancement opportunity. So please keep this in mind while perusing--and if my work experience is a bit strange.

1. Undergrad & GPA:

-University of Massachusetts at Amherst (took 5.5 years trying to pay for it)
-3.65/4 MCL, Communication Major/Film
-President of Investment Society, 3-Year Teaching Assistant
-Started numerous NPO's (documented, live)

2. Continuing Education (FORWARD)

I am almost sure I want to do Teach for America (personal reasons: being an inner-city student myself) and have these joint programs picked out. It's because as a Comm. major, when I did my work, I was always behind others without real coursework (ibanking interviews, modeling, etc). Don't want this to happen again when teaching real kids.

-M.Ed, University of Pennsylvania
-M.Ed, Johns Hopkins University
-M.Ed, University of Hawaii

I know what you said about the M.Ed, but I've also seen 3 Wharton resumes with the same thing in their databank.

3. Internship Experience:

-7 internships: Top 3 Brand Agency, Top Asset Manager, Top Asset Manager, Top Asset Manager, Global Bank, Major Computer Company, Regional Advertising/PR company

4. Scores: GMAT 740 (Want to take again for 770 due to weak state school performance) -- Did not take GRE yet, but need to for M.Ed.

5. Real Experience: Current and Forward

-Started own Web-Design Firm with numerous contracts/clients (paid for college and living this way), and operated it for 5 years.

FORWARD-3 Years Teach for America

6. Volunteer Work:

-Boys and Girls Club
-Tutor for State Magnet High School

7. Essays
-Writing about education, public policy, etc.

The schools I would like to apply to are:

Top dream picks:
-HBS: Because I want the case-method, and I realize how now during 09 recruiting, how important a network is.
-The Wharton School: Did volunteering for them as a translator and saw the amazing Wharton Global Alumni Forum network in Beijing--amazing

Top picks:
-MIT (MIT 100K, MISTI: Ex: working for NTTDocomo in Japan, SEBC, TONS of career opportunities
-Stanford GSB: Read "Snapshots of Hell" was very intrigued
-Columbia CBS: Great internships right in the city

Other:
-Stern if Part-time
-Yale SOM (highest employment placement this year)

I'll probably apply to 15 schools in a one-shot deal, since I know a lot of it is luck.

Money is a problem, so I think I want to work for 2-3 more years after Teach for America either for an analyst program or a consulting agency that may forgive b-school tuition.

I know what you said about a Masters in Education, but it's part of my life plan. Plus it definitely helps your classroom instruction in TFA. It's required. I'm sure the business schools would understand 60-80 hours of teaching in inner city schools, obtaining a masters in a joint program, and handling what little money left, and doing school applications.

So, what's my shot? I met a graduate from my school who did HBS as a senior and deferred for 2 years. Just a high GMAT score: 720, some accounting club, and 1 internship. But maybe he got lucky or had really outstanding recommendations and essays.

Thanks!

11/9/09

Dear Alex,

I've read a number of your posts and find them super useful so was hoping you might be able to offer me some guidance as I'm currently weighing my MBA options.

There's a catch. I'm only 23, graduated in '08 and went to work for one of the BB which went under (unlucky choice). When the firm went bust 2 months after I started, I spent some time going through many rounds of interviews (at firms that weren't actually hiring), started working on a start-up, which is slowly coming along, and applied to grad school. I am American, born and raised. I attended top prep schools from 9-12 and a top Canadian university for my undergrad. So I'm an American with a top Canadian bachelors, rather than a Canadian with one (does that present a problem?).

I'm now working towards a Masters in Int'l Finance and Economic Policy at Columbia SIPA, and am considering applying for a joint program with Columbia b-school, but, even if I could get in I'm not sure doing the MBA so early on would benefit my career prospects (I'm concerned companies would pick more experienced graduates with similar abilities over me any day). Because I am at SIPA already, I'm told I have a strong edge in the admissions process with the business school, but I'm not clear on where Columbia GSB stands in terms of its strengths and weaknesses relative to H/S/W. If I can get myself into Columbia or Wharton (and I'm not sure I can), I can do the SIPA degree and MBA together in 3 years. If not, I'd have to put in the two years to finish SIPA and then work for awhile before applying to go back and doing another two years. If I do end up waiting, I'd really like to go to HBS or Wharton. But if Columbia is just as good and there's no sense in putting in the extra year of school for a minor jump in "prestige" and quality of experience, perhaps it just makes sense to do the MBA now?

So, my overarching question is a) Is Columbia top-notch and if so, in which areas (besides finance)?, b) Does it make sense to do an MBA early at Columbia or wait and try to get into H/S/W, c) What would the difference be between doing an MBA now vs later? Between doing an MBA at Columbia and H/S/W?

Thanks for your time and your thoughts.

p.s. My parter in the start-up I'm working on is an HBS grad. He went straight from undergrad to HBS, was hired as an associate in banking, but once laid off in the crisis, has been unable to find another job; he is repeatedly told he has too little experience for a post-MBA applicant.

11/9/09

Alex, in my post I failed to mention my "stats":

I did an honors degree in Political Science at a top Canadian school (being from Canada, I figure you know what doing honors vs non-honors means) and double minored in Management (finance focus) and Philosophy; I graduated with just above a 3.6/4.0. Most of my senior year was spent in the Management Faculty. I had job offers from a top BB and top management consulting firm upon graduating, in banking and strategy respectively, and took the BB offer. I now have the potential to go work after my Masters at a top bank or consulting firm rather than do the MBA early... Does it make sense to work more before doing the MBA?

Also, my interests have really moved away from corporate finance and towards the markets, which leads me to another question....

Is several years sales and trading experience considered a strong background for top b-schools? I don't often hear of traders or salesmen or private bankers going to H/S/W.... am I wrong?

In reply to wolfy
11/10/09
wolfyserver:

(By the way Thank You Wall Street Oasis for having cookies to remember my post... I clicked BACK by accident. whew!)

Hey Alex,

I wanted to know if you could give me a quick run-by these stats and a forward looking view on B-school. I am currently 23 now, looking for the real work that'll let me become independent. I definitely know my reasons for business school and can articulate them well. I was looking at Veritas, Accepted.com, and your service.

Business school is my lifelong dream, not just a career advancement opportunity. So please keep this in mind while perusing--and if my work experience is a bit strange.

1. Undergrad & GPA:

-University of Massachusetts at Amherst (took 5.5 years trying to pay for it)
-3.65/4 MCL, Communication Major/Film
-President of Investment Society, 3-Year Teaching Assistant
-Started numerous NPO's (documented, live)

2. Continuing Education (FORWARD)

I am almost sure I want to do Teach for America (personal reasons: being an inner-city student myself) and have these joint programs picked out. It's because as a Comm. major, when I did my work, I was always behind others without real coursework (ibanking interviews, modeling, etc). Don't want this to happen again when teaching real kids.

-M.Ed, University of Pennsylvania
-M.Ed, Johns Hopkins University
-M.Ed, University of Hawaii

I know what you said about the M.Ed, but I've also seen 3 Wharton resumes with the same thing in their databank.

3. Internship Experience:

-7 internships: Top 3 Brand Agency, Top Asset Manager, Top Asset Manager, Top Asset Manager, Global Bank, Major Computer Company, Regional Advertising/PR company

4. Scores: GMAT 740 (Want to take again for 770 due to weak state school performance) -- Did not take GRE yet, but need to for M.Ed.

5. Real Experience: Current and Forward

-Started own Web-Design Firm with numerous contracts/clients (paid for college and living this way), and operated it for 5 years.

FORWARD-3 Years Teach for America

6. Volunteer Work:

-Boys and Girls Club
-Tutor for State Magnet High School

7. Essays
-Writing about education, public policy, etc.

The schools I would like to apply to are:

Top dream picks:
-HBS: Because I want the case-method, and I realize how now during 09 recruiting, how important a network is.
-The Wharton School: Did volunteering for them as a translator and saw the amazing Wharton Global Alumni Forum network in Beijing--amazing

Top picks:
-MIT (MIT 100K, MISTI: Ex: working for NTTDocomo in Japan, SEBC, TONS of career opportunities
-Stanford GSB: Read "Snapshots of Hell" was very intrigued
-Columbia CBS: Great internships right in the city

Other:
-Stern if Part-time
-Yale SOM (highest employment placement this year)

I'll probably apply to 15 schools in a one-shot deal, since I know a lot of it is luck.

Money is a problem, so I think I want to work for 2-3 more years after Teach for America either for an analyst program or a consulting agency that may forgive b-school tuition.

I know what you said about a Masters in Education, but it's part of my life plan. Plus it definitely helps your classroom instruction in TFA. It's required. I'm sure the business schools would understand 60-80 hours of teaching in inner city schools, obtaining a masters in a joint program, and handling what little money left, and doing school applications.

So, what's my shot? I met a graduate from my school who did HBS as a senior and deferred for 2 years. Just a high GMAT score: 720, some accounting club, and 1 internship. But maybe he got lucky or had really outstanding recommendations and essays.

Thanks!

I hate to be so blunt after you seemed to have spent a lot of time and thought into writing your rather elaborate life plan, but my advice (which you probably won't listen to anyway since I get a sense that you are hoping to get more reassurance than real advice) is to NOT worry about b-school for now. Live in the moment. Focus on now. It's okay to plan, but it seems like you're trying way too hard to over-plan to the point where you seem to be living in the future rather than the present.

You're basically asking "if I do all these things that I have elaborately planned out for myself, will I have a chance at the top b-schools?" -- and the frank answer is until you've actually done what you've planned, it's not the most constructive question to be asking. Things rarely go to plan.

Again, one step at a time. Focus on what you can do right now and take it a year at a time rather than trying so hard to construct a life for yourself to the point where you've sucked out any sort of surprise and spontaneity which is where so much of where your most valuable experiences will come from.

Moreover, it just sounds like you're trying way too hard - which actually can prevent you from even getting in, because you will come across as needy (even if you try not to - it already sort of seeps through in the tone of your writing).

A top b-school is like that hot girl in school. The more you put her on a pedestal, the more out of reach she will be for you.

I know that is not what you wanted to hear, and you were probably hoping to hear some "do X, Y, Z and voila you should be in range" but I just don't want to play that game.

In reply to aviosly
11/10/09
aviosly:

Dear Alex,

I've read a number of your posts and find them super useful so was hoping you might be able to offer me some guidance as I'm currently weighing my MBA options.

There's a catch. I'm only 23, graduated in '08 and went to work for one of the BB which went under (unlucky choice). When the firm went bust 2 months after I started, I spent some time going through many rounds of interviews (at firms that weren't actually hiring), started working on a start-up, which is slowly coming along, and applied to grad school. I am American, born and raised. I attended top prep schools from 9-12 and a top Canadian university for my undergrad. So I'm an American with a top Canadian bachelors, rather than a Canadian with one (does that present a problem?).

I'm now working towards a Masters in Int'l Finance and Economic Policy at Columbia SIPA, and am considering applying for a joint program with Columbia b-school, but, even if I could get in I'm not sure doing the MBA so early on would benefit my career prospects (I'm concerned companies would pick more experienced graduates with similar abilities over me any day). Because I am at SIPA already, I'm told I have a strong edge in the admissions process with the business school, but I'm not clear on where Columbia GSB stands in terms of its strengths and weaknesses relative to H/S/W. If I can get myself into Columbia or Wharton (and I'm not sure I can), I can do the SIPA degree and MBA together in 3 years. If not, I'd have to put in the two years to finish SIPA and then work for awhile before applying to go back and doing another two years. If I do end up waiting, I'd really like to go to HBS or Wharton. But if Columbia is just as good and there's no sense in putting in the extra year of school for a minor jump in "prestige" and quality of experience, perhaps it just makes sense to do the MBA now?

So, my overarching question is a) Is Columbia top-notch and if so, in which areas (besides finance)?, b) Does it make sense to do an MBA early at Columbia or wait and try to get into H/S/W, c) What would the difference be between doing an MBA now vs later? Between doing an MBA at Columbia and H/S/W?

Thanks for your time and your thoughts.

p.s. My parter in the start-up I'm working on is an HBS grad. He went straight from undergrad to HBS, was hired as an associate in banking, but once laid off in the crisis, has been unable to find another job; he is repeatedly told he has too little experience for a post-MBA applicant.

Are H/S/W generally regarded as more exclusive schools than Columbia? By most people yes. But does that *really* make a difference when it comes to the reality of getting a job? Not really.

As an MBA student, your ability to get a job comes down to YOU the individual. Beyond a certain threshhold (i.e. top 16, maybe top 8), it has less to do with which school you went to, and more your ability to network and reach out to others. The moment you make contact with someone (either on the phone for an info interview or walking into an office for an actual job interview), it all comes down to YOU. This is especially the case in industries that have a lot of MBA types - they know well enough that whether you're an idiot or not has nothing to do with which top b-school you went to. There are plenty of Columbia MBA types that get chosen over HBS or Wharton grads for jobs, and vice versa.

Even at H/S/W, you can't just sit back and expect recruiters to come to you with offers in hand. You have to HUSTLE. Especially if you are a career switcher. With all these "career placement reports" that b-schools publish and tout the success of their graduates, b-schools often take FAR more credit for it than they deserve -- in fact, it has far more to do with the efforts of the students themselves than the career placement office (which is really there as an enabler/chaperone for the feeder industries like consulting, banking and a few companies in industry). To be honest, the career services offices are sort of like your Human Resources department, except they're nicer. It's still mostly your efforts. Even in consulting or banking, they help to set up the dog and pony shows, but it's still your individual responsibility to schmooze and cozy up to individual recruiters, and then nailing the actual job interviews.

As for whether to wait to do an MBA or to go now, it's really a personal decision - a judgment call on your own part based on your own life circumstances. Going now can be convenient so you can get your grad school done and out of the way. The flipside is that you may have a harder time getting a job simply because your work experience is a bit thin. For HBS and Wharton (especially HBS), there's also a "best before" date -- meaning that once you're beyond a certain point in your life (i.e. if you're getting to a post-MBA level and/or you're 26 or older), your chances actually go down as they really want them young (not to mention that my hunch is your chances at HBS aren't really that good because your profile will be a bit patchy - your thin experience pre-masters, then getting a masters, and then working for two years). As such, I would probably lean towards just getting the MBA out of the way while you're still in grad school right now, rather than re-entering the workforce yet again only to go back after 2 years or so. In other words, getting a degree from Columbia *now* and getting on with your life will probably be better for you than waiting in some holding pattern for the hopes of getting into H/S/W (which I think are going to be a stretch anyhow) later on.

11/15/09

Alex,

I am applying to CBS and Booth, planning on investment banking after graduation.

What has been your experience with those on a similar career path and their selection between the two schools?

Thanks

In reply to vulture
11/15/09
Gekko81:

Alex,

I am applying to CBS and Booth, planning on investment banking after graduation.

What has been your experience with those on a similar career path and their selection between the two schools?

Thanks

For investment banking and just about any finance-oriented job, the difference between Chicago and Columbia is sort of like Coke vs. Pepsi, Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning, Toyota vs. Honda, etc. It's really a matter of personal preference and where you feel you'll make the most friends.

The differences for finance recruiting for all practical purposes isn't enough to make a clear cut decision either way. Some folks will say that Columbia has a "NY advantage" when it comes to buyside jobs, whereas others will say that Chicago does because the curriculum can be more quant (if you wish for it to be more quant since Chicago has a very flexible curriculum) - both are likely true to some extent but in the end it evens itself out because your ability to get a buyside job really comes down to your individual hustle AND your pre-MBA background far more than whether you went to Columbia or Chicago.

11/18/09

Hi Alex,

I'm interested in entering either the real estate financing, more "traditional financing", real estate advisory, or real estate development industry possibly overseas in Asia one day. I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to pursue those goals.

I recently graduated from a non-target top 30 liberal arts college with a 3.67 GPA in economics and math. During that time, I've interned at a buy-side fund and at a regional management consulting firm. After graduation, I co-founded a real estate development company with a seasoned developer, accountant, financier, and construction manager through networking. Currently, I'm with the firm and we have a few potential deals in the pipeline (apartment housing, urban redevelopment, senior housing, etc.). My areas of responsibility primarily relate to finance/accounting: making projections, running numbers, preparing investment proposals, raising capital with local investors, creating tax entities for acquisitions, internal accounting, meeting with architects and outside bankers

I was wondering if my experience starting a real estate development company will be enough to differentiate me from the so called "blue chips." Are there specific MBA programs you recommend? I know Wharton is probably the most well known for finance, which includes real estate financing. I'm really interested in their Lauder program since it sets people up for international careers. However, if I went to a less prestigious school ranked 10-15, would I still have a good shot at getting into real estate advisory or development? Finally, how many years should I wait before applying? My reasoning for getting an MBA is that there's no guarantee that my current business will work out, learn some new skills, develop a stronger network, potentially switch careers, and potentially work abroad.

I appreciate your help.

Thanks

In reply to nling
11/18/09
nling:

Hi Alex,

I'm interested in entering either the real estate financing, more "traditional financing", real estate advisory, or real estate development industry possibly overseas in Asia one day. I was hoping you could give me some advice on how to pursue those goals.

I recently graduated from a non-target top 30 liberal arts college with a 3.67 GPA in economics and math. During that time, I've interned at a buy-side fund and at a regional management consulting firm. After graduation, I co-founded a real estate development company with a seasoned developer, accountant, financier, and construction manager through networking. Currently, I'm with the firm and we have a few potential deals in the pipeline (apartment housing, urban redevelopment, senior housing, etc.). My areas of responsibility primarily relate to finance/accounting: making projections, running numbers, preparing investment proposals, raising capital with local investors, creating tax entities for acquisitions, internal accounting, meeting with architects and outside bankers

I was wondering if my experience starting a real estate development company will be enough to differentiate me from the so called "blue chips." Are there specific MBA programs you recommend? I know Wharton is probably the most well known for finance, which includes real estate financing. I'm really interested in their Lauder program since it sets people up for international careers. However, if I went to a less prestigious school ranked 10-15, would I still have a good shot at getting into real estate advisory or development? Finally, how many years should I wait before applying? My reasoning for getting an MBA is that there's no guarantee that my current business will work out, learn some new skills, develop a stronger network, potentially switch careers, and potentially work abroad.

I appreciate your help.

Thanks

Other MBA programs to consider: Columbia (it's probably close to if not on par to Wharton when it comes to real estate - a former real estate prof I had @ Wharton is now the vice dean and real estate king there now - Chris Mayer). I understand that Berkeley and MIT also seem to be good in this area as well.

Beyond that, you may want to look at some of the MS programs if you're focused on development.

As you probably know, real estate is VERY local so the prestige of your education matters less than your local network/connections in getting deals done. No one is going to open the doors to a land development deal to you just because you have a fancy degree.

In any case, for your own sake you may want to stick it out for at least 1-2 years. Take it a year at a time. You may end up not going back at all. Keep in mind that you just graduated college, and you as a person WILL change dramatically over the next 2-3 years - whether it's perspective, your physicality (some of us get old fast with stress...), your love life, etc. You may or may not go back to Asia, no matter how much you try and plan it in your head right now what your future will be like. So as much as you may feel the rush to go back to school, take full advantage of the fact that you'll be working full-time for a while - you'll learn a lot more about yourself that way than rushing back to school.

11/18/09

Alex,

Looking for some insight on my timeline:

I am a '08 HYP grad
poli-sci 3.5 GPA
700 GMAT
College D-1 (Ivy at least) athlete
some casual volunteerism

Current work experience:

Working for a large global insurance company doing financial risk management. Completed the corporate "leadership rotational program" and received 1 promotion.

Looking to do IB after MBA, so the usual suspects would be my target schools.

Is it too soon to apply to b-school? is 2-3 years of work experience enough?

*********************************
"The American father is never seen in London. He passes his life entirely in Wall Street and communicates with his family once a month by means of a telegram in cipher." - Oscar Wilde

11/19/09

Hi Alex,

I'm a college senior and so at a point where I'm beginning to think about my the direction of my career for the next 4-6 years. I'm pretty unfamiliar with MBA schools (esp. compared to some of the people in this forum), and so I'm wondering two things:

- Can I / Should I apply to MBA schools this year?
- What sort of candidate will I be in two years?

A little bit about me:
I'm pursuing a technical major at HYPSM, where my GPA will be in the 3.0 - 3.3 range. I also got a 770 on my GMATs. Where I've really excelled, though, is in extracurriculars and work experience. With the former, I've got a uniquely strong record of leadership at my school and my resume shows it. From my internships, I also have strong business and technical experience (some of it international) at a set of well regarded high-tech firms. Essentially, while my GPA is subpar, my ECs and work experience could go toe to toe with just about anyone.

I was also fortunate enough to (thanks to my WE/ECs, despite my GPA) receive an offer at a VC/PE firm with a top notch name, the sort of place that only takes 3-4 analysts a year, all from places like HYPSM/Wharton. This would be a two year gig, and I'm pretty excited about the job.

What I want to get a sense of is, given my lopsided record (and as "another asian male"), whether it makes sense to apply to business school now (and defer admission). Alternatively, will I be in a significantly better position, say, two years from now after the work experience?

In terms of "why are you applying", I'm fairly confident that whether now or X years from now, that I have the creative leadership, drive, and talent to make my mark as, say, a VC or entrepreneur in the high-tech world, and I'm looking for a more rigorous education as the base to such a career.

What do you think, Alex? Sure, it's not easy (or necessarily smart) to say "definitely" or "definitely not", but since you've probably seen lopsided applicants like me, what sort of considerations should I be taking into account?

Thanks,
HamiltonianPath

In reply to veritas14
11/22/09
veritas14:

Alex,

Looking for some insight on my timeline:

I am a '08 HYP grad
poli-sci 3.5 GPA
700 GMAT
College D-1 (Ivy at least) athlete
some casual volunteerism

Current work experience:

Working for a large global insurance company doing financial risk management. Completed the corporate "leadership rotational program" and received 1 promotion.

Looking to do IB after MBA, so the usual suspects would be my target schools.

Is it too soon to apply to b-school? is 2-3 years of work experience enough?

2-3 years work experience is good enough. In fact, if you're planning on going into IB post-MBA, you're better off doing that while you're younger (plus, the top b-schools are looking for younger candidates now anyhow).

1 year of experience at the time of application (2 years at matriculation) is probably a bit skinny - although if you feel you're ready to go back to school, then apply this year. Worst case is you have to reapply next year.

In reply to Hamiltonian Path
11/22/09
Hamiltonian Path:

Hi Alex,

I'm a college senior and so at a point where I'm beginning to think about my the direction of my career for the next 4-6 years. I'm pretty unfamiliar with MBA schools (esp. compared to some of the people in this forum), and so I'm wondering two things:

- Can I / Should I apply to MBA schools this year?
- What sort of candidate will I be in two years?

A little bit about me:
I'm pursuing a technical major at HYPSM, where my GPA will be in the 3.0 - 3.3 range. I also got a 770 on my GMATs. Where I've really excelled, though, is in extracurriculars and work experience. With the former, I've got a uniquely strong record of leadership at my school and my resume shows it. From my internships, I also have strong business and technical experience (some of it international) at a set of well regarded high-tech firms. Essentially, while my GPA is subpar, my ECs and work experience could go toe to toe with just about anyone.

I was also fortunate enough to (thanks to my WE/ECs, despite my GPA) receive an offer at a VC/PE firm with a top notch name, the sort of place that only takes 3-4 analysts a year, all from places like HYPSM/Wharton. This would be a two year gig, and I'm pretty excited about the job.

What I want to get a sense of is, given my lopsided record (and as "another asian male"), whether it makes sense to apply to business school now (and defer admission). Alternatively, will I be in a significantly better position, say, two years from now after the work experience?

In terms of "why are you applying", I'm fairly confident that whether now or X years from now, that I have the creative leadership, drive, and talent to make my mark as, say, a VC or entrepreneur in the high-tech world, and I'm looking for a more rigorous education as the base to such a career.

What do you think, Alex? Sure, it's not easy (or necessarily smart) to say "definitely" or "definitely not", but since you've probably seen lopsided applicants like me, what sort of considerations should I be taking into account?

Thanks,
HamiltonianPath

The biggest risk for someone like you is BURNOUT. There is ambition that is driven by a child-like enthusiasm, and there's another ambition driven by insecurity (chip on their shoulder to prove their childhood nemesis wrong, ego, etc. A lot of folks think they have the former, when in reality the majority of the super ambitious Ivy types are more the latter. Why? Because a good chunk of them go through a mini-midlife crisis some time in the future, and end up abandoning what they thought were their "dreams" when they realized that such dreams weren't founded on true conviction or passion.

If you want to apply this year, go for it. Or not. It's not really that big a deal either way (but it might seem so to you).

If you haven't heard the following story, then here goes:

Once there was an old bull and a young bull at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill was a herd of cows. The excited young bull exclaims "hey! I'm going to run down and screw one of the cows!" to which the old bull replied, "why don't we WALK down and screw them all, one by one."

Keep your drive, but rushing will more than likely lead to burnout years later.

11/23/09

Hi there,

Quick rundown on me:

1) GMAT- 740
2)GPA- 3.45 cumulative, 3.75 major (majors being Finance and Real Estate Investments), went to a tier 1 university, ranked in the 30's per US News
3) Will have 3-4 years work experience in some finance/accounting related field
4)Have interesting internship experience during undergrad as well
5)Have an international background in terms of my parents and being able to speak Italian and French
6) I've been known to write a killer essays

I'd like to focus on programs like:
Northwestern, Michigan, Virginia, Duke, Yale, Cal, Wharton, Oxford, LBS, and Insead

What do you think my chances are and are there any other schools you think I may want to consider?

Thanks in advance

In reply to Verne_Lundquist
11/26/09
Verne_Lundquist:

Hi there,

Quick rundown on me:

1) GMAT- 740
2)GPA- 3.45 cumulative, 3.75 major (majors being Finance and Real Estate Investments), went to a tier 1 university, ranked in the 30's per US News
3) Will have 3-4 years work experience in some finance/accounting related field
4)Have interesting internship experience during undergrad as well
5)Have an international background in terms of my parents and being able to speak Italian and French
6) I've been known to write a killer essays

I'd like to focus on programs like:
Northwestern, Michigan, Virginia, Duke, Yale, Cal, Wharton, Oxford, LBS, and Insead

What do you think my chances are and are there any other schools you think I may want to consider?

Thanks in advance

Are you applying this year, or are you a college senior?

In reply to MBAApply
11/28/09
12/4/09

Hi Alex,

I'm currently working as a reinsurance broker (not too sure if you are familiar with it, but we act as an advisor for clients, the insurance companies, and get them the best insurance deals to protect their own portfolio), before that I did couple of internships in PWM mostly in their products team.

i've been offered recently for a middle office position in the same PWM bank.. but not too sure if i should stay in the reinsurance industry and move someday.. or work in the bank now and hopefully jump into the profit centre of banks...

in terms of transferable of skills, i feel that the reinsurance position has an edge and would probably give me a higher chance of getting into top MBA schs as compared to the middle office positions. however I'm also afraid that a jump into the front line of banks is not possible.

ideally, i will want to work as a trader but I understand that you dont need a MBA for trading but at the same time deep down i think i will excel more in sales trading position.. I'm not sure if taking the risk of working in the middle office position will create a better chance of getting this position..

any advice or thoughts? I appreciate it

In reply to isic
12/5/09
isic06:

Hi Alex,

I'm currently working as a reinsurance broker (not too sure if you are familiar with it, but we act as an advisor for clients, the insurance companies, and get them the best insurance deals to protect their own portfolio), before that I did couple of internships in PWM mostly in their products team.

i've been offered recently for a middle office position in the same PWM bank.. but not too sure if i should stay in the reinsurance industry and move someday.. or work in the bank now and hopefully jump into the profit centre of banks...

in terms of transferable of skills, i feel that the reinsurance position has an edge and would probably give me a higher chance of getting into top MBA schs as compared to the middle office positions. however I'm also afraid that a jump into the front line of banks is not possible.

ideally, i will want to work as a trader but I understand that you dont need a MBA for trading but at the same time deep down i think i will excel more in sales trading position.. I'm not sure if taking the risk of working in the middle office position will create a better chance of getting this position..

any advice or thoughts? I appreciate it

Apples and oranges. Take the job that you are most interested in. I know that sounds a bit glib, but it's really a personal decision like many career decisions - everyone has their own individual preferences that doesn't make one categorically better than the other.

And don't make these decisions based on what you feel a b-school adcom will like - because what adcoms like first and foremost is your ability to make decisions that are best for YOU - that you're mature in your decision-making, rather than trying to manufacture a resume to impress someone else.

In your case, the choice isn't precious - either one will probably be fine, so do what makes you happy (as glib as that may sound). There are some things like this where overthinking won't really yield a whole lot. Just make a decision.

12/5/09

Alex,

Do previous applications hurt/help an application for an MBA? Would it hurt my chances down the road if I apply to some top schools now and get rejected?

In reply to craigmcdermott
12/7/09
craigmcdermott:

Alex,

Do previous applications hurt/help an application for an MBA? Would it hurt my chances down the road if I apply to some top schools now and get rejected?

No, they won't hurt. Where it can seem like it is a disadvantage is that even though you may have felt you've improved from last year, you're competing against an even more competitive pool this year. But from an adcom perspective, they don't look down on you simply because you're a reapplicant.

12/10/09

Dear Alex,

I came back to these boards on a whim after being gone for about 2 years. Since then, I've found what I love to do. And I'm absolutely sure the advice you gave way back then was a huge factor in it. I remember I was debating whether or not to go to business school, and in the end, you said something along the lines of: Focus on building an interesting life, not a resume.

So I just wanted to say thanks. I chose not to go to b-school, and now I'm a filmmaker living in Europe. My work has taken me all over the world and given me so much intellectual fodder for my films. Were it not for your advice, I don't think I could have attained the level of happiness and passion for life I have today.

Your advice is always exactly what people need to hear. I pray that you continue doing what you do.

In reply to MBAApply
12/17/09
MBAApply:
isic06:

Hi Alex,

I'm currently working as a reinsurance broker (not too sure if you are familiar with it, but we act as an advisor for clients, the insurance companies, and get them the best insurance deals to protect their own portfolio), before that I did couple of internships in PWM mostly in their products team.

i've been offered recently for a middle office position in the same PWM bank.. but not too sure if i should stay in the reinsurance industry and move someday.. or work in the bank now and hopefully jump into the profit centre of banks...

in terms of transferable of skills, i feel that the reinsurance position has an edge and would probably give me a higher chance of getting into top MBA schs as compared to the middle office positions. however I'm also afraid that a jump into the front line of banks is not possible.

ideally, i will want to work as a trader but I understand that you dont need a MBA for trading but at the same time deep down i think i will excel more in sales trading position.. I'm not sure if taking the risk of working in the middle office position will create a better chance of getting this position..

any advice or thoughts? I appreciate it

Apples and oranges. Take the job that you are most interested in. I know that sounds a bit glib, but it's really a personal decision like many career decisions - everyone has their own individual preferences that doesn't make one categorically better than the other.

And don't make these decisions based on what you feel a b-school adcom will like - because what adcoms like first and foremost is your ability to make decisions that are best for YOU - that you're mature in your decision-making, rather than trying to manufacture a resume to impress someone else.

In your case, the choice isn't precious - either one will probably be fine, so do what makes you happy (as glib as that may sound). There are some things like this where overthinking won't really yield a whole lot. Just make a decision.

Hi Alex, I appreciate your feedback. Yeah sometimes I just think I suck when it comes to times like this.

To be honest, I always want to work in the finance industry as it is more dynamic as compared to the reinsurance industry. But for this middle office role in the bank, its more of assisting the portfolio managers with inputting of trades and ensuring executions goes smoothly, so there is no decision making skills needed. However, I'm thinking of doing this to get my foot in the door and hopefully move to being a portfolio mgr. Do you think that is wrong of me?

The current reinsurance broker role that I'm in, involves negotiating and selling ideas which i think is of good set of skills. However, I'm not sure if these skills can be transfered into the finance industry. So I guess in terms of skills which one will you recommend?

I'm thinking of moving to the bank as at the end of day, I will want to work back in the finance industry. Thanks Alex.

1/8/10

Hi Alex,

I'm currently working as an accountant for a local company and I wish to make a switch into IBD/AM/PE/HF or consulting. I have been trying to break in but it is just really tough with my background in a narrow market.

So I started to think about MBA and since I'm certain that I want to make a switch, I figured it is not a bad idea to apply for FALL 2011 admission, when by then I will have had 2-3 yrs of FT work experience.

some info on me are:

B.S. in finance @ non target, Major GPA 3.9
class of 08. started FT since Jan 09.
target GMAT 98th percentile.

So I'm going to be applying this FALL, and meanwhile keep networking. My logic is to make up for a weak experience by high GPA and high GMAT and a strong application pkg and hopefully make it to top 25 if not 50.

I'd like to know about your opinion.

thanks in advance!

1/12/10

I consider myself a late comer as I will be finishing my
undergrad in finance by the time I'm 28 and I have an interest in going straight to obtain my MBA. I have about three to four years of
work experience within the credit/banking industry. I do plan on staying within this industry as well.
I read a lot about how B schools want that work experience before applying, but
I feel that since I'm a bit older maybe that won't apply to me so much. I should graduate in Spring 2011 and would like to stay with JPM hopefully in an analyst postion; yet I want to attend the MBA
program in the fall. Do you think that is too soon or should I wait?

In reply to analyst218
1/12/10
analyst218:

Hi Alex,

I'm currently working as an accountant for a local company and I wish to make a switch into IBD/AM/PE/HF or consulting. I have been trying to break in but it is just really tough with my background in a narrow market.

So I started to think about MBA and since I'm certain that I want to make a switch, I figured it is not a bad idea to apply for FALL 2011 admission, when by then I will have had 2-3 yrs of FT work experience.

some info on me are:

B.S. in finance @ non target, Major GPA 3.9
class of 08. started FT since Jan 09.
target GMAT 98th percentile.

So I'm going to be applying this FALL, and meanwhile keep networking. My logic is to make up for a weak experience by high GPA and high GMAT and a strong application pkg and hopefully make it to top 25 if not 50.

I'd like to know about your opinion.

thanks in advance!

To be honest, a high GPA/GMAT doesn't really compensate for middle-of-the-road work experience -- especially if you're looking for schools that will get you to your goals (i.e. top 16 schools) - because you're competing against enough candidates who have decent GPA/GMATs *and* solid work experience -- and these people have enough trouble getting in. If you're gunning for those kinds of jobs (which seem all over the place, with the only commonality being "it's prestigious"), going to schools outside the top 16 with the resume you have now isn't going to really get you there.

If you want to be competitive for the top 16, you need up your game. Big time. Be an outlier - accomplish something that not many peers your age can do (i.e. pursue something either in your career or extracurriculars that matches your natural talents) - and be that overachiever. Average just won't cut it. To be blunt, you can't put together an exceptional application if you don't have an exceptional profile to begin with -- it's sort of like this -- just because you can look and dress like Peyton Manning doesn't mean you can play like Peyton Manning.

So find a way to step up your game. There isn't some paint-by-numbers approach - so you have to figure it out on your own where you think you can excel.

In reply to investin925
1/12/10
investin925:

I consider myself a late comer as I will be finishing my
undergrad in finance by the time I'm 28 and I have an interest in going straight to obtain my MBA. I have about three to four years of
work experience within the credit/banking industry. I do plan on staying within this industry as well.
I read a lot about how B schools want that work experience before applying, but
I feel that since I'm a bit older maybe that won't apply to me so much. I should graduate in Spring 2011 and would like to stay with JPM hopefully in an analyst postion; yet I want to attend the MBA
program in the fall. Do you think that is too soon or should I wait?

Hard to say. It's really a personal decision (and a financial one - whether you think it's worth the money to go now, and that kind of thing varies from one individual to the next since it's a matter of personal preference). You have to be very honest with yourself (and that can be hard with these kinds of decisions) as to why you want an MBA now - does it have more to do with your ego fulfillment or some real bona fide career opportunities? For most people, there's a bit of both, but you need to know which one is driving which. And then decide whether it's worth it for you. There is no right or wrong answer, no "better" or "worse" because there are plenty of people who have forgone the MBA altogether and a perfectly fulfilled and happy with their business careers, and those who did it who are also equally happy.

In reply to MBAApply
1/12/10
MBAApply:
analyst218:

Hi Alex,

I'm currently working as an accountant for a local company and I wish to make a switch into IBD/AM/PE/HF or consulting. I have been trying to break in but it is just really tough with my background in a narrow market.

So I started to think about MBA and since I'm certain that I want to make a switch, I figured it is not a bad idea to apply for FALL 2011 admission, when by then I will have had 2-3 yrs of FT work experience.

some info on me are:

B.S. in finance @ non target, Major GPA 3.9
class of 08. started FT since Jan 09.
target GMAT 98th percentile.

So I'm going to be applying this FALL, and meanwhile keep networking. My logic is to make up for a weak experience by high GPA and high GMAT and a strong application pkg and hopefully make it to top 25 if not 50.

I'd like to know about your opinion.

thanks in advance!

To be honest, a high GPA/GMAT doesn't really compensate for middle-of-the-road work experience -- especially if you're looking for schools that will get you to your goals (i.e. top 16 schools) - because you're competing against enough candidates who have decent GPA/GMATs *and* solid work experience -- and these people have enough trouble getting in. If you're gunning for those kinds of jobs (which seem all over the place, with the only commonality being "it's prestigious"), going to schools outside the top 16 with the resume you have now isn't going to really get you there.

If you want to be competitive for the top 16, you need up your game. Big time. Be an outlier - accomplish something that not many peers your age can do (i.e. pursue something either in your career or extracurriculars that matches your natural talents) - and be that overachiever. Average just won't cut it. To be blunt, you can't put together an exceptional application if you don't have an exceptional profile to begin with -- it's sort of like this -- just because you can look and dress like Peyton Manning doesn't mean you can play like Peyton Manning.

So find a way to step up your game. There isn't some paint-by-numbers approach - so you have to figure it out on your own where you think you can excel.

Thanks Alex for the striaghtforward advice.
I think I know what you mean.
So I have one more question.
Would being fluent (native level) in three languages(written + conversational) be a decent competitive edge in your opinion?

In reply to MBAApply
1/12/10
1/12/10

Hey Alex -

Not sure if you'll be able to answer this, but you seem pretty knowledgeable on MBA admissions, so figure would be worth hearing your opinion. I'm likely applying to bschool next fall - aiming for top 3 school, as are many people on this site. I think I'm as qualified as anyone (top undergrad, 2 years at top BB, 1+ year at top PE fund, great GPA/GMAT, confident will have strong recs and essays, etc.). My questios concerns an incident that at this point is well in my past - as a college undergraduate I got in trouble drinking one night. While this in itself is not super uncommon, I did end up having to take a year off from school as a result of the incident, and thus it is discernable if someone is looking at my transcript very closely (was an on-campus incident, so no legal charges etc., so would not show up in a bg check). It's not been an issue in getting jobs etc., but I think bschools probably scrutinize specifics of your transcript a bit closer than employees, and as such, it's possible that someone may ask why I have a year-long gap in my undergraduate transcript.

I'm not sure as to whether or not to address this directly in my application essays. On the one hand, the incident itself I think is relatively minor and it will have been greater than 5 years in my past at the time I apply next year, and while it sounds cliched, I did learn a lot from it and matured tremendously from the whole situation. I could I guess address it in a mistake essay. However, I don't really have a great desire to call undue attention to the fact that I had to take time off from school due to a foolish drinking-related incident. If the Adcoms aren't likely to even notice it, I'd rather just let it be and focus my essays on other topics. My concern with that though is that Adcoms will see the year-long gap in my education, and will automatically assume the worst, i.e. that I had been kicked out for plagiarism (which I view as much worse than something partying-related, and I think most people in academia do as well). Anyway, Alex, would love to hear your opinion on whether or not to address in the application, specifically in the essays section. Really not trying to avoid or be dishonest in any way with the application, but just don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak. Thanks in advance for your advice on this matter.

In reply to analyst218
1/14/10
analyst218:

Thanks Alex for the striaghtforward advice.
I think I know what you mean.
So I have one more question.
Would being fluent (native level) in three languages(written + conversational) be a decent competitive edge in your opinion?

No.

In reply to Blahblahblah
1/14/10
Blahblahblah:

Hey Alex -

Not sure if you'll be able to answer this, but you seem pretty knowledgeable on MBA admissions, so figure would be worth hearing your opinion. I'm likely applying to bschool next fall - aiming for top 3 school, as are many people on this site. I think I'm as qualified as anyone (top undergrad, 2 years at top BB, 1+ year at top PE fund, great GPA/GMAT, confident will have strong recs and essays, etc.). My questios concerns an incident that at this point is well in my past - as a college undergraduate I got in trouble drinking one night. While this in itself is not super uncommon, I did end up having to take a year off from school as a result of the incident, and thus it is discernable if someone is looking at my transcript very closely (was an on-campus incident, so no legal charges etc., so would not show up in a bg check). It's not been an issue in getting jobs etc., but I think bschools probably scrutinize specifics of your transcript a bit closer than employees, and as such, it's possible that someone may ask why I have a year-long gap in my undergraduate transcript.

I'm not sure as to whether or not to address this directly in my application essays. On the one hand, the incident itself I think is relatively minor and it will have been greater than 5 years in my past at the time I apply next year, and while it sounds cliched, I did learn a lot from it and matured tremendously from the whole situation. I could I guess address it in a mistake essay. However, I don't really have a great desire to call undue attention to the fact that I had to take time off from school due to a foolish drinking-related incident. If the Adcoms aren't likely to even notice it, I'd rather just let it be and focus my essays on other topics. My concern with that though is that Adcoms will see the year-long gap in my education, and will automatically assume the worst, i.e. that I had been kicked out for plagiarism (which I view as much worse than something partying-related, and I think most people in academia do as well). Anyway, Alex, would love to hear your opinion on whether or not to address in the application, specifically in the essays section. Really not trying to avoid or be dishonest in any way with the application, but just don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill, so to speak. Thanks in advance for your advice on this matter.

Chances are, it will likely show up on a background check should you get admitted (b-schools like employers conduct background checks now). You'll need to address it in an optional essay.

The good news is, what you did isn't fatal. It's just a disclosure - disclose what happened as factually as you can, fully own up (take full responsibility for it), and say you've learned from it. That's all you need to say. Avoid getting to long-winded about it. Just a paragraph or so is all that's necessary to disclose the suspension and what you did during that year out of school.

The only thing that is fatal is academic dishonesty (plagarism, cheating, etc.) because the nature of the offense relates directly to what you'll be doing in b-school (being a student in a position where you have the potential for recidivism). That, and felonies obviously.

In reply to MBAApply
1/15/10

Thanks for the response. I'm not really worried about it showing up on a background check - I've passed multiple background checks for jobs since the incident, and as long as I don't lie on app, I'm not sure that there'd be any grounds for a bschool to rescind admission should they discover this via background check. I'm more concerned about how it would be viewed by someone reading the initial app. - i.e. in your opinion, does a year-long gap in college raise immediate red flags to people, wherein they'd automatically assume the worst (cheating/plagiarism)? That would be the main reason I'd disclose. If the Adcom's not even going to notice it until the background check, if at all, then I don't see why I would disclose (again, in no way am I going to lie or misrepresent anything on the app). Would be curious to hear if that changes your recommendation to write an optional essay on it.

In reply to Blahblahblah
1/19/10
Blahblahblah:

Thanks for the response. I'm not really worried about it showing up on a background check - I've passed multiple background checks for jobs since the incident, and as long as I don't lie on app, I'm not sure that there'd be any grounds for a bschool to rescind admission should they discover this via background check. I'm more concerned about how it would be viewed by someone reading the initial app. - i.e. in your opinion, does a year-long gap in college raise immediate red flags to people, wherein they'd automatically assume the worst (cheating/plagiarism)? That would be the main reason I'd disclose. If the Adcom's not even going to notice it until the background check, if at all, then I don't see why I would disclose (again, in no way am I going to lie or misrepresent anything on the app). Would be curious to hear if that changes your recommendation to write an optional essay on it.

Just man up and disclose it in the application. The adcoms aren't Jesuit priests or firebrand preachers or anything. In fact, they will assume the worst if you don't disclose - that's human nature.

1/20/10

Alex- Your comments have been great.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on work experience. I graduated from a non-target, double major, 3.75 gpa, 730 GMAT. I believe these stats are good enough in the sense that they will not "keep me out" of any school, feel free to correct me if I am off on that. I know however, that this will not be enough.

My work experience is interesting. I was an intern who was part of the financial crisis, I got to work both at the firm that went under, along with the piece of the firm that was being shopped that summer (2 rotations). I was one of a very small percentage of the interns to receive a full-time offer at the company that acquired the fallen bank. I now experience the merging process day in and day out. I personally believe that I have gotten to see very unique situations and a wide variety of leadership styles through 3 different companies. That is what I think, am I off here?

Needless to say, the reason I am interested in b-school is for networking and continued education of leadership (aside from the natural improvement of a resume). I am not entirely thrilled with the full time position I landed with, and although I think I can learn a great deal in my 2 or 3 years with the firm, I believe the upside is restricted after that time.

Will I need to build a ridiculous outside story to acheive the top of the top? Will this work experience suffice for what a top MBA program would be looking for? Are my stats enough? (I graduated in May-09)

Your input is greatly appreciated.

1/21/10

alex,

i'm curious

what is your take on people working in big 4 accounting, either in audit or transaction advisory services, and their bid for getting in to a top 20 business school, assuming their GMAT scores and GPA's fall in line with the schools' class profiles (say, 3.5 GPA and 700+ GMAT)

In reply to Hyped31
1/21/10
Hyped31:

Alex- Your comments have been great.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on work experience. I graduated from a non-target, double major, 3.75 gpa, 730 GMAT. I believe these stats are good enough in the sense that they will not "keep me out" of any school, feel free to correct me if I am off on that. I know however, that this will not be enough.

My work experience is interesting. I was an intern who was part of the financial crisis, I got to work both at the firm that went under, along with the piece of the firm that was being shopped that summer (2 rotations). I was one of a very small percentage of the interns to receive a full-time offer at the company that acquired the fallen bank. I now experience the merging process day in and day out. I personally believe that I have gotten to see very unique situations and a wide variety of leadership styles through 3 different companies. That is what I think, am I off here?

Needless to say, the reason I am interested in b-school is for networking and continued education of leadership (aside from the natural improvement of a resume). I am not entirely thrilled with the full time position I landed with, and although I think I can learn a great deal in my 2 or 3 years with the firm, I believe the upside is restricted after that time.

Will I need to build a ridiculous outside story to acheive the top of the top? Will this work experience suffice for what a top MBA program would be looking for? Are my stats enough? (I graduated in May-09)

Your input is greatly appreciated.

You seem on target here -- schools like Columbia, Chicago, Kellogg, Sloan, Tuck, etc will be in range. Wharton probably a stretch but with a bit of luck you may still have a shot. HBS and Stanford are likely going to be slim without a solid blue chip background *or* some exceptional achievement outside of your work experience (and don't ask me what qualifies as "exceptional" because that's not how it works - you don't decide in advance; it has to come from an organic place because you won't be in a position to be an outlier simply because your ego wants it in order to get into b-school; getting some outlier type of achievement involves years of sacrifice and luck - a sustained commitment in something you believe in - and don't ask others whether "is XYZ good enough" because if you have to ask, you won't achieve it).

In reply to Affirmative_Action_Walrus
1/21/10
Affirmative_Action_Walrus:

alex,

i'm curious

what is your take on people working in big 4 accounting, either in audit or transaction advisory services, and their bid for getting in to a top 20 business school, assuming their GMAT scores and GPA's fall in line with the schools' class profiles (say, 3.5 GPA and 700+ GMAT)

Schools like Kellogg, Chicago, Columbia, Sloan and Tuck are likely stretches, but still a shot of getting in with some luck on your side. Schools like Duke, Darden, Michigan, Haas, Yale, Cornell, NYU, UCLA are sweet spots - schools where you should be right in the mix, competitive (i.e. you do an excellent job on the applications and you should have a reasonable shot of getting in). Schools outside the top 16 but within the top 30 like USC, UNC, Texas, Georgetown, etc. should be safeties - schools where you should be able to get in.

1/23/10

Hi Alex,

I have been working for one of M/B/B as a BA for 1,5 years, and got sponsored by the firm for my MBA.

A week ago a close friend I know from collage contacted me to discuss a position with a bank's Principal Investments (private equity) team -- not a bulge bracket bank.

I originally wanted to do private equity after M/B/B-->MBA route, so this brings up the opportunity to do it earlier.

What I am not sure is if this would a good move in the eyes of top MBA Adcoms: I think one could make the argument that every year a lot of people apply to Harvard (and the like) from my office, a huge number of people apply from M/B/B around the world, with very similar backgrounds, and they will accept a small number of applicants from that group. So by moving to bank's PE and differentiating my background I "stand out from the crowd" and increase my chances of getting in significantly.

On the other hand, one could make the argument that M/B/B name (and background) is more valuable to top MBA programs and new position will be a decrease in the perceived prestige of my employer, so this move could affect my application negatively overall. (Adcoms may even think that I have been counseled out from M/B/B and got this job afterwards. Though maybe, Adcoms think that number of PE positions available pre-mba are much smaller compared to consulting and therefore much more competitive to get into. If this is their line of thinking, then this move could increase my chances of getting in... I really have no idea what they would think.)

Another thing I am confused about is recommendations: In my company I can get a recommendation letter from the office manager but in the new firm, the person I will report to will be a "senior investment manager". Doesn't a recommendation letter from a M/B/B director carries more weight compared to a "senior investment manager"? Or maybe the titles make absolutely no difference whatsoever?

Lastly, considering I want to do PE after MBA, does this move make it harder or easier to land a decent PE job? Do you have any idea about whether large PE firms (TPG, blackstone etc) would prefer someone made it to associate in M/B/B, or someone left the analyst program in half to do PE with a bank?

Sorry for the huge post, any ideas are much appreciated.

In reply to darkchild
1/25/10
darkchild:

Hi Alex,

I have been working for one of M/B/B as a BA for 1,5 years, and got sponsored by the firm for my MBA.

A week ago a close friend I know from collage contacted me to discuss a position with a bank's Principal Investments (private equity) team -- not a bulge bracket bank.

I originally wanted to do private equity after M/B/B-->MBA route, so this brings up the opportunity to do it earlier.

What I am not sure is if this would a good move in the eyes of top MBA Adcoms: I think one could make the argument that every year a lot of people apply to Harvard (and the like) from my office, a huge number of people apply from M/B/B around the world, with very similar backgrounds, and they will accept a small number of applicants from that group. So by moving to bank's PE and differentiating my background I "stand out from the crowd" and increase my chances of getting in significantly.

On the other hand, one could make the argument that M/B/B name (and background) is more valuable to top MBA programs and new position will be a decrease in the perceived prestige of my employer, so this move could affect my application negatively overall. (Adcoms may even think that I have been counseled out from M/B/B and got this job afterwards. Though maybe, Adcoms think that number of PE positions available pre-mba are much smaller compared to consulting and therefore much more competitive to get into. If this is their line of thinking, then this move could increase my chances of getting in... I really have no idea what they would think.)

Another thing I am confused about is recommendations: In my company I can get a recommendation letter from the office manager but in the new firm, the person I will report to will be a "senior investment manager". Doesn't a recommendation letter from a M/B/B director carries more weight compared to a "senior investment manager"? Or maybe the titles make absolutely no difference whatsoever?

Lastly, considering I want to do PE after MBA, does this move make it harder or easier to land a decent PE job? Do you have any idea about whether large PE firms (TPG, blackstone etc) would prefer someone made it to associate in M/B/B, or someone left the analyst program in half to do PE with a bank?

Sorry for the huge post, any ideas are much appreciated.

Here's the thing.

What do YOU want? That is and should be the only thing that matters when making job/career decisions (assuming you're not married w/ kids of course).

What is best for YOUR career is what YOU think, not what OTHERS think. Sooner or later (and hopefully sooner), you have to stop framing your career choices (or life choices) around how supposed gatekeepers and authority figures judge or perceive you. Otherwise, you'll end up being one of those wusses who spent his entire life having his choices dictated by others - as a child, you spend your life trying to do anything and everything to seek your parents' approval; then, its your friends and classmates in high school and college; then, its some recruiter for your first job; then it's the adcom, then another recruiter (of whatever industry you're trying to impress), then, when you get married it's your in-laws, your spouse, then your neighbors (they have a designer kitchen, I must have a designer kitchen!), then your kids have to out-gun the other kids to save your face. Then, one day when you're old and your wussy kids who cannot form opinions of their own or make decisions by themselves ask you, "dad/mom, why am I such a wuss?" You know they learned it from watching you. And the cycle continues, passing on those traits to your offspring.

My hyperbole (sort of) aside, in all sincerity - do what's best for yourself. What adcoms (and frankly what most adults in this world) want more than anything from a young person like yourself is maturity and the ability to make independently minded decisions - regardless of what those choices may be (as it will differ from one individual to the next). So whether adcoms feel PE is better than just consulting or not is irrelevant. Someone who makes choices and accomplishes things because he/she wants to, and not to gain acceptance from others. You can't fake confidence or self-assuredness.

To repeat, do what's best for you, irrespective of how others may judge you. Children look for approval from others. Adults do what's best for themselves, and could care less what others think (and are willing to live with the consequences knowing full well that any choice they make will not meet with the approval of everyone or even anyone).

What does your gut tell you? Then do that. Because everyone will have differing opinions - just like they will on every single thing on your resume. Some will have a personal vendetta against say Columbia because their ex-girlfriends went there, some hate PE types across the board, others may not care what you do (and simply love you because you look and smell great, and others may simply not like you for whatever reason because they don't like anyone), and so on and so forth.

1/25/10

Hi Alex,

I graduated in 2007 in Information Systems Management from Singapore Management University. Henceforth, I joined this startup proprietary trading where I did exceedingly well. The firm had two employees when I joined in with very little capital but now has grown to around 11 employees and with considerable capital. It has been three years now and I wish to make an exit after this year and join a Bschool in 2011.

My grades in uni were not great. I believe I had a GPA of around 2.75.

I am extremely confused about the post graduate degree I want to do i.e. whether I should do a Masters in Finance or an MBA as I intend to pursue trading as a career even after I finish my post - graduation. I will need your help on that.

I want to get into a good Bschool either in the US or UK and am fairly confident about doing well in my GMAT.

With my background what are my chances of getting into something like an LSE, LBS or an NYU?

Thanks a ton!

1/26/10

Hey Alex, when building an alternative transcript through a local community college, does it matter if I take the courses online or on campus?

In reply to kafkafka
1/26/10
kafkafka:

Hi Alex,

I graduated in 2007 in Information Systems Management from Singapore Management University. Henceforth, I joined this startup proprietary trading where I did exceedingly well. The firm had two employees when I joined in with very little capital but now has grown to around 11 employees and with considerable capital. It has been three years now and I wish to make an exit after this year and join a Bschool in 2011.

My grades in uni were not great. I believe I had a GPA of around 2.75.

I am extremely confused about the post graduate degree I want to do i.e. whether I should do a Masters in Finance or an MBA as I intend to pursue trading as a career even after I finish my post - graduation. I will need your help on that.

I want to get into a good Bschool either in the US or UK and am fairly confident about doing well in my GMAT.

With my background what are my chances of getting into something like an LSE, LBS or an NYU?

Thanks a ton!

If you're staying in trading, why are you going back for another degree? Have you considered not doing a graduate degree at all?

In reply to hapfuehpfhe
1/26/10
egg mcmuffin:

Hey Alex, when building an alternative transcript through a local community college, does it matter if I take the courses online or on campus?

It doesn't matter.

1/28/10

Alex,

Yesterday for fun I was looking at some of the profiles of students enrolled at Booth. A lot of them had some impressive pedigrees under their belts, but obviously there is selection bias at work.

I consider myself to be a well-rounded applicant but I'm wondering how the admissions committee of such a school might view my candidacy, all else being equal. I work in advisory/valuations for one of the Big Four. About three years work experience. 3.50 GPA from a strong liberal arts school. No major unique life experiences. Basically what I'm trying to say is I think my background is fairly average. Where does that leave me in terms of which schools I'd be able to get into? How do I evaluate this?

In reply to prnz
1/29/10
prnz:

Alex,

Yesterday for fun I was looking at some of the profiles of students enrolled at Booth. A lot of them had some impressive pedigrees under their belts, but obviously there is selection bias at work.

I consider myself to be a well-rounded applicant but I'm wondering how the admissions committee of such a school might view my candidacy, all else being equal. I work in advisory/valuations for one of the Big Four. About three years work experience. 3.50 GPA from a strong liberal arts school. No major unique life experiences. Basically what I'm trying to say is I think my background is fairly average. Where does that leave me in terms of which schools I'd be able to get into? How do I evaluate this?

You're not alone by any stretch. Good news is that there's plenty of folks like yourself at the top 16 b-schools like Booth. The bad news is that there's plenty of folks like yourself that didn't get in either.

If you have a pretty solid profile but nothing particularly stands out, it really comes down to three things:

(a) how well you execute the applications -- putting together applications that allow the adcom to see you as a "person" and not just a "profile" (i.e. you can do that even with an "average" profile; of course if you have unique stuff in your resume/background it certainly makes it easier, but you can still do it with an "average" profile - it comes down to how you communicate who you are, what you've done and what you want).

(b) school selection -- it's not just choosing the most prestigious schools, but choosing a mix and range of schools that you feel you'll best fit in. Of course, if you're an easy going guy you'll fit into any of the top 16 schools, but certain schools will be a better fit for your individual preferences than others. A great example is Booth vs. Kellogg - both comparable or equal in terms of overall reputation, and both where most well-adjusted folks could thrive and fit in -- but the environment and culture at both schools are different enough that most people will be a better fit in one or the other. There isn't a short cut or recipe for figuring this out since every person has different career goals, different personal situations (i.e. is your spouse/partner moving with you, etc), and different social preferences (i.e. while all schools are collaborative and sociable, some schools are simply more sociable than others). A lot of it comes down to visiting the schools, talking to current students "off the record" and making a gut call.

(c) luck -- nothing you can do here; it's a subjective process. Adcoms can ding or accept you for any reason or no reason at all. That's why school selection and fit are so important -- because if you are applying to schools where you feel you are a great personal fit for, there's a better chance that the subjectivity of the process will work in your favor.

1/30/10

Alex,

What percentage of Chicago Booth applicants get an interview?

Thanks

In reply to MBAApply
2/1/10

Actually I have considered not doing a graduate degree at all but still business school (to me) seems like the best bet in case I want to leave my current firm and move abroad. With my current experience I see myself pretty much restricted to the firm I work for or a few other firms who do the same thing. If I leave my current firm, I have a non -competition clause for 18 months which basically means I cannot apply for a similar job in the same city.

Business school just seems like the best exit option for me, it is a reasonable break and if its in a city like London, NY or Chicago I have ample time to look at opportunities over there.

2/3/10

Alex,

I read somewhere that if your GMAT score is within a school's median 80 percent range, you have a pretty good shot of getting in even though your score is a bit lower than the median (say 10 - 20 points).

Scored a 700 (79% Q, 89% V) this past Monday, and haven't received my AWA scores yet. However, I've been doing some research on bschool admissions as I'll be applying this October. My goal is to get into a top 10 program, most of which report a 80% score range from 660 to 760, but a median score about 712.

Just wanted to get your thoughts on whether I should retake the GMAT again.

In reply to Password_Is_Taco
2/3/10
Gordon.Gekko:

Alex,

What percentage of Chicago Booth applicants get an interview?

Thanks

Chicago as far as I know doesn't publish these stats. My guess from past history is they are relatively more selective when it comes to interviews compared to Columbia (or even Wharton) - i.e. if you get one, there's a pretty good chance you'll get in, as they traditionally seem to put more weight on the written application (a few years ago, not every single admitted student had to even interview). Good luck!

In reply to thatsku
2/3/10
thatsku:

Alex,

I read somewhere that if your GMAT score is within a school's median 80 percent range, you have a pretty good shot of getting in even though your score is a bit lower than the median (say 10 - 20 points).

Scored a 700 (79% Q, 89% V) this past Monday, and haven't received my AWA scores yet. However, I've been doing some research on bschool admissions as I'll be applying this October. My goal is to get into a top 10 program, most of which report a 80% score range from 660 to 760, but a median score about 712.

Just wanted to get your thoughts on whether I should retake the GMAT again.

GMAT is fine. Don't retake it. Focus on the applications.

2/8/10

Alex,

For those applicants who probably can't get into a top 10 program, but probably could get into a top 20-30 program, do suggest doing a part-time program like, Chicago's weekend program, Duke's Cross Continent program (similar to EMBA except for people with 3+ years of experience), or NYU stern part-time. Many of these programs allow people to get a top ten degree, with much easier admission criteria.

...So many people have been stressing the time-value of money, opportunity cost, and re-entering the workplace issues, especially as the economy recovers. Is it better to opt for these part-time programs from top ten schools, rather than go to a less respectable program full-time??
Do employers distinguish between the two? ...I'm not interested in IB or Consulting, but I do want to make a career shift (not change).

2/9/10

Alex-

From your experience in ECM, what are your thoughts surrounding the pursuit of an MBA and its benefits on a career in the field. Specifically, do you feel that the networking acheived at a top tier school has a direct impact on the success in the field?

In reply to hellonyc
2/9/10
hellonyc:

Alex,

For those applicants who probably can't get into a top 10 program, but probably could get into a top 20-30 program, do suggest doing a part-time program like, Chicago's weekend program, Duke's Cross Continent program (similar to EMBA except for people with 3+ years of experience), or NYU stern part-time. Many of these programs allow people to get a top ten degree, with much easier admission criteria.

...So many people have been stressing the time-value of money, opportunity cost, and re-entering the workplace issues, especially as the economy recovers. Is it better to opt for these part-time programs from top ten schools, rather than go to a less respectable program full-time??
Do employers distinguish between the two? ...I'm not interested in IB or Consulting, but I do want to make a career shift (not change).

If you want to make a career change, go full-time. Part-time programs are designed for folks who are staying with their current employer and/or within the same industry - and as such part-time programs will have very little in the way of career placement support (i.e. you're completely on your own).

In reply to Hyped31
2/9/10
Hyped31:

Alex-

From your experience in ECM, what are your thoughts surrounding the pursuit of an MBA and its benefits on a career in the field. Specifically, do you feel that the networking acheived at a top tier school has a direct impact on the success in the field?

Not sure exactly what you're asking. ECM and DCM groups do recruit at b-schools - it's no different than any other group within banking - industry coverage, M&A, lev fin, etc. Keep in mind that the majority of folks at ALL b-schools don't go into banking (and the ex-analysts who go to b-school, go because they want to get the hell out of banking).

In reply to MBAApply
2/9/10
MBAApply:
Hyped31:

Alex-

From your experience in ECM, what are your thoughts surrounding the pursuit of an MBA and its benefits on a career in the field. Specifically, do you feel that the networking acheived at a top tier school has a direct impact on the success in the field?

Not sure exactly what you're asking. ECM and DCM groups do recruit at b-schools - it's no different than any other group within banking - industry coverage, M&A, lev fin, etc. Keep in mind that the majority of folks at ALL b-schools don't go into banking (and the ex-analysts who go to b-school, go because they want to get the hell out of banking).

Let me rephrase this.

You don't hear that B-School is important for traders, besides career changers. The top traders are not ones with MBA's; I would attribute this to a majority of sales guys as well. You can easily succeed without the advanced degree (i.e. no glass ceiling) and it really comes down to production.

I do not work nearly as close to DCM and ECM, and therefore have less of an understanding. My assumption was that these bankers really sat in between true brutal banking and a sales and trading floor. Not really working the overnighters consistently, but rather a 7:30-8:30 type schedule. I have no problem with working long hours, but I am not signing up for banking, so correct me if I am off on that. Through researching, it seemed like most senior level ECM or DCM'ers spent their time using their network. I have heard it is often the beginning and end process that they are involved in 1. Sourcing the deal, roadshows, build interest and eventually 2. Some help pricing, help allocating, informing sales teams. It seems to me like in order to be a succesful ECM'er, you would want to have a strong network, and if you did not build this in undergrad, B-School may be a major benefit.

I also know this is not as glamorous as some buy side job. The question comes down to two parts and I ask you because of your experience in the field :

1. Is my understanding of ECM , DCM broadly correct
2. If so, in order to be successful in those fields, would an MBA not be rather beneficial?

In reply to Hyped31
2/9/10
Hyped31:

Let me rephrase this.

You don't hear that B-School is important for traders, besides career changers. The top traders are not ones with MBA's; I would attribute this to a majority of sales guys as well. You can easily succeed without the advanced degree (i.e. no glass ceiling) and it really comes down to production.

I do not work nearly as close to DCM and ECM, and therefore have less of an understanding. My assumption was that these bankers really sat in between true brutal banking and a sales and trading floor. Not really working the overnighters consistently, but rather a 7:30-8:30 type schedule. I have no problem with working long hours, but I am not signing up for banking, so correct me if I am off on that. Through researching, it seemed like most senior level ECM or DCM'ers spent their time using their network. I have heard it is often the beginning and end process that they are involved in 1. Sourcing the deal, roadshows, build interest and eventually 2. Some help pricing, help allocating, informing sales teams. It seems to me like in order to be a succesful ECM'er, you would want to have a strong network, and if you did not build this in undergrad, B-School may be a major benefit.

I also know this is not as glamorous as some buy side job. The question comes down to two parts and I ask you because of your experience in the field :

1. Is my understanding of ECM , DCM broadly correct
2. If so, in order to be successful in those fields, would an MBA not be rather beneficial?

I think you're misunderstanding the point of an MBA in finance/banking.

There are basically two ways to break into banking: right out of undergrad (joining as an analyst), or right out of b-school.

The MBA is therefore a crucial gateway into investment banking (including ECM, DCM) for those who weren't analysts before. Most of the folks with MBAs you'll find in ECM, DCM, M&A, Lev Fin, or any other coverage/industry group (tech, industrials, oil&gas, retail/consumer products, etc) within banking started their careers as post-MBA associates; those without MBAs started as analysts right out of college.

In banking, that's the value of the MBA - it's usually the only way to break into banking if you weren't an investment banking analyst before. Think of it as an entry pass -- and not something with long-term benefits. And long-term, your "MBA network" is about as valuable as your high school alumni network -- it's ancient history, and most of your valuable relationships and contacts are those you've been dealing with within the past 5 years.

Also, I think you are misunderstanding what ECM or DCM do. They are the go-between sales/trading and the investment banking coverage groups. For example, if Google were looking to do an equity issuance, the primary relationship contact would be the MDs in the tech group -- ECM is brought on to support the deal, but they aren't the ones usually driving the client relationship. Most of your interaction will be with your fellow bankers within the bank, the sales team on the desks, and the other ECM folks at other banks that you're working with on a deal.

2/12/10

Alex:

I am a graduating senior and my goal is to get into managing assets at a top firm. However, I don't think I will be able to do that right out of undergrad.

Right now I have an offer from one of the top financial institutions to work on the operations side of their AM division. Total back office gig. I also have an offer from a highly quantitatively focused small-mid sized consulting firm. Not a big name, but seems like they are doing very well.

Which work experience would give me the best chance of getting into a top MBA program? My GPA is excellent and I'm highly confident about the GMATS.

Also, do you think I could transition into the front office of AM post-mba with a background in operations or quantitative consulting?

Thanks very much, and I appreciate any insight you have to offer!

2/12/10

Alex:

top 30 undergrad b school => 2-3 year analyst stint in IBD => Top 10 MBA

How feasible is this, given that majority of MBA students are liberal arts majors ? I know that currently elite MBA Schools keep playing the 'diversity card'. So not only do i have the bsba major theoretically working against me, I also have the " Im in IBD, looking to go to PE/return to IBD as a big time associate" stereotype.

In reply to Lookingforinfo
2/16/10
Lookingforinfo:

Alex:

I am a graduating senior and my goal is to get into managing assets at a top firm. However, I don't think I will be able to do that right out of undergrad.

Right now I have an offer from one of the top financial institutions to work on the operations side of their AM division. Total back office gig. I also have an offer from a highly quantitatively focused small-mid sized consulting firm. Not a big name, but seems like they are doing very well.

Which work experience would give me the best chance of getting into a top MBA program? My GPA is excellent and I'm highly confident about the GMATS.

Also, do you think I could transition into the front office of AM post-mba with a background in operations or quantitative consulting?

Thanks very much, and I appreciate any insight you have to offer!

As I've mentioned many times before, don't plan your job choices based on whether it'll help you get into b-school or not. Focus on what is best for your career first and foremost (irrespective of b-school) and on opportunities that you feel you'll learn the most and/or you'll enjoy the most.

As a general rule of thumb, you want to take "front office" roles if given the choice - that means the consulting job may be a better bet for your career. Jobs where the work you do has a direct impact on the revenue of the firm, and/or is a central activity within the firm.

In reply to Peter_27
2/16/10
Peter_27:

Alex:

top 30 undergrad b school => 2-3 year analyst stint in IBD => Top 10 MBA

How feasible is this, given that majority of MBA students are liberal arts majors ? I know that currently elite MBA Schools keep playing the 'diversity card'. So not only do i have the bsba major theoretically working against me, I also have the " Im in IBD, looking to go to PE/return to IBD as a big time associate" stereotype.

Not sure exactly what you're getting at. About 25-35% of incoming MBA students at top schools went to undergrad b-school and/or majored in economics.

2/17/10

Alex, thanks for all your posts and advice on the forum. I would be curious to hear your thoughts regarding my situation.

Profile:
GMAT: 740 (49Q, 42V)
GPA: 3.8 (Magna cum laude)
Majors: Finance, Accounting
School: ~50-75 Ranked midsized state school

At time of business school application, I will have had 3 years of experience at Deloitte Consulting in the Strategy and Operations group. While I recognize that Deloitte doesn't have the same brand cachet that MBB and the elite boutique consulting firms carry, I still think that it is a valuable experience. I have had solid performance reviews and believe I can show significant (if not absolutely amazing) responsibility, success and promotion.

Additionally, I have had several extracurricular activities that I have been involved with since shortly after graduating (non-profit foundation work, volunteer in youth sports activities).

While I am proud of my accomplishments, I can't help but feel that I am merely one of many qualified but not outstanding applicants at schools like H/S/W. I would be curious if you agree that these are longshots.

I feel like I should be able to get into several of the following schools: Booth, MIT, Columbia, Kellogg, Yale SOM, Tuck. Do you agree that these (while far from certain) represent schools that I have a good chance of gaining admittance?

Thanks a lot!!

"I'm not sure what the four 9's do, but the ace, I think, is pretty high."

In reply to BlueHorseShoe
2/20/10
BlueHorseShoe:

Alex, thanks for all your posts and advice on the forum. I would be curious to hear your thoughts regarding my situation.

Profile:
GMAT: 740 (49Q, 42V)
GPA: 3.8 (Magna cum laude)
Majors: Finance, Accounting
School: ~50-75 Ranked midsized state school

At time of business school application, I will have had 3 years of experience at Deloitte Consulting in the Strategy and Operations group. While I recognize that Deloitte doesn't have the same brand cachet that MBB and the elite boutique consulting firms carry, I still think that it is a valuable experience. I have had solid performance reviews and believe I can show significant (if not absolutely amazing) responsibility, success and promotion.

Additionally, I have had several extracurricular activities that I have been involved with since shortly after graduating (non-profit foundation work, volunteer in youth sports activities).

While I am proud of my accomplishments, I can't help but feel that I am merely one of many qualified but not outstanding applicants at schools like H/S/W. I would be curious if you agree that these are longshots.

I feel like I should be able to get into several of the following schools: Booth, MIT, Columbia, Kellogg, Yale SOM, Tuck. Do you agree that these (while far from certain) represent schools that I have a good chance of gaining admittance?

Thanks a lot!!

I think your assessment is about right -- you are a solid all around candidate. H/S/W however will be stretches to long shots for you (because they will also have a lot of solid all around candidates with bluer chip resumes and the bluer chip folks will have a leg up in these three schools) -- in your case, you may just want to pick one of the three as your lottery ticket, and then focus your efforts on schools like Kellogg, CBS, Booth, Sloan, Tuck and Yale - schools that will more likely show you more love (you are in range for these schools and with a strong application you should have a reasonable shot of getting into at least one of them if not a few of them).

2/23/10

Hi Alex,

I was wondering how schools such as H/S/W would look at repeated courses. For example, say you got a B- in first year in some course and retook it to get an A as it was pulling your average down. Do they really pay attention to that stuff or do they just care about your final CGPA.? I guess what I am trying to say is how heavily do they scrutinize your transcript?

Thanks!

In reply to LBJ
2/25/10
LBJ:

Hi Alex,

I was wondering how schools such as H/S/W would look at repeated courses. For example, say you got a B- in first year in some course and retook it to get an A as it was pulling your average down. Do they really pay attention to that stuff or do they just care about your final CGPA.? I guess what I am trying to say is how heavily do they scrutinize your transcript?

Thanks!

They won't care any more than an employer would care about your high school grades. As a college student, it's understandable that one would feel the weight of his/her shoulders rests on academics, as that is all one knows - but once you've worked for a few years, you will be able to put the importance of your college experience in perspective and view it with the same lens that an adcom would.

2/27/10

Hey Alex,

Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone's questions on this forum. I have two questions, one that relates to my story as a whole and one that relates to my future application timeline. About my story. I graduated from a top three state school with a relatively low GPA, 3.1. After taking a "year off" to work in the finance department of a ski resort, I secured a position at a regional investment bank, although it technically operated as a merchant bank as we participated in many of our own transactions. Due to the structure, I was gained traditional ibanking experience as well as a private equity experience. I worked there for 4 years, 2 as an analyst and 2 as an associate. Last year, due to terrible market conditions, I decided to move on and get some life experience. I joined the Peace Corps as a small business development volunteer. Currently, I'm trying to determine if I want to go back to Bschool. Due to the astronomical costs I only want to go if I can get into a top program. Programs that I'm interested in are UCLA, Cal, Columbia, NYU, Duke, Texas, Stanford, UPenn, Dartmouth, and LBS. My application essays would probably be something along the lines of how I want to pair finance and strategy into international development work, where most professionals are trained in academics not management. For the sake of argument lets say I can score in the 700 GMAT range (680-720), because if I don't I'm sure it would basically eliminate my chances. My PC service is scheduled to end at the end of August 2011. I'm currently torn as to when to apply. After PC service I want to travel for a significant amount of time to experience the different cultures of the surrounding countries. Also, I think it would be a very hard transition going from PC life to Bschool life with only a 1-2 week adjustment period. With all that being said my two questions are as follows:

1. Based on this small sampling of info do you believe I can gain admittance into one/some of the aforementioned schools?

2. How would schools view the huge time gap if I were to wait and apply in 2011, basically leaving myself unemployed from Sept 2011 to August 2012 when classes begin. Would it be a factor or are the more understanding due to the unique circumstances of the PC?

Thanks in advance for your help.

2/27/10

Hey Alex,

How much will a single withdrawal on my transcript from a core accounting class hurt me? I basically got sick right before the first exam and then failed it, so I withdrew. I'm retaking the class now an expect an A/A- and have gotten between a B+ and A in my other accounting classes. Otherwise I should graduate with a 3.8 from Penn (Wharton).

I've heard that a single withdrawal wouldn't hurt much, but I've also heard that B-schools recalculate GPA counting a withdrawal as a failure. Do you know if Harvard/Stanford does the latter?

Thanks!

2/28/10

Hi Alex,

I believe I have a unique background and I need some help determining whether it will help me or hinder me in my apps. I'll start by giving you a rough summary of my life so far....

Since the days of being a highschool kid I've been an entrepreneur. During junior year of HS my friend and I coded an online community/game that attracted over 2,000 people simultaneous online users at its peak. I capitalized off this via the early days of Google ads and their high clickthroughs. During college (at a state school in California) as an accounting major I took a job as the CFO of a small startup internet marketing company and by my senior year I I spun off my own firm. It grew steadily but after graduation I still had great interest and passion in accounting/finance. So while running the company I took a job at a SoCal CPA firm in an accounting/consulting role and was promoted within six months to a managing role (the fastest any associate has ever gotten promoted at the firm as per the director of operations whom I can snag an awesome LOR from). The job had me traveling across the US on consulting engagements to Washington DC where a lot of our clients were, and I believe I had some impressive experiences from this. While working I obtained my CPA license (passed all sections on first try) and during all of this I was simultaneously growing the marketing firm.

Once the firm started really expanding (we ventured into traditional advertising roles catering to unique communities and establishing quite a niche) I quit the job at the CPA firm to pursue my company. I left the firm on great terms.

With help from my extremely talented programmer friend, we developed a proprietary small-scale ERP system to increase efficiency for my company and to allow our customers to be directly connected to us. We soon realized that the system itself is unique and have since sought venture capital to make the system more robust and marketable as a user-friendly nice licensed package.

But with this my passion for finance hasn't escaped me. I've spend tremendous time learning about the ins-and-outs of PE/VC, M&A etc. and I've learned that I will never truly satisfied until I'm fundraising for my own projects being behind my own deals. Obviously this may sound far-fetched on an essay but from a personal perspective I can find a way to make it happen, or die trying. So naturally I've become immensely drawn to the MBA as I know it is the only way at this stage of my life to accomplish these goals I've set out for myself.

But I'm not exactly sure how adcoms feel about applicants like me; being that I didn't come from a large consulting firm/bank/etc. I feel I may be viewed as too risky.

I'm also worried about my low GPA (3.04), downward trend. I was at a stage in my life where it was difficult to focus on school and my company at the same time. This does not represent who I am today. That was 4 years ago. I'm 27 now.

Some other stats:
GMAT: 740
Alternative T-script: 4 classes, all quantitave, straight As while working full time.
Involved in my local community and also build houses in Mexico for impoverished communities as part of a program with my church.

I'd like to know if any top 10 schools are possible. If not, what my range is. Please be as brutally honest as possible :).

Thanks!

In reply to ke18sb
2/28/10
ke18sb:

Hey Alex,

Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone's questions on this forum. I have two questions, one that relates to my story as a whole and one that relates to my future application timeline. About my story. I graduated from a top three state school with a relatively low GPA, 3.1. After taking a "year off" to work in the finance department of a ski resort, I secured a position at a regional investment bank, although it technically operated as a merchant bank as we participated in many of our own transactions. Due to the structure, I was gained traditional ibanking experience as well as a private equity experience. I worked there for 4 years, 2 as an analyst and 2 as an associate. Last year, due to terrible market conditions, I decided to move on and get some life experience. I joined the Peace Corps as a small business development volunteer. Currently, I'm trying to determine if I want to go back to Bschool. Due to the astronomical costs I only want to go if I can get into a top program. Programs that I'm interested in are UCLA, Cal, Columbia, NYU, Duke, Texas, Stanford, UPenn, Dartmouth, and LBS. My application essays would probably be something along the lines of how I want to pair finance and strategy into international development work, where most professionals are trained in academics not management. For the sake of argument lets say I can score in the 700 GMAT range (680-720), because if I don't I'm sure it would basically eliminate my chances. My PC service is scheduled to end at the end of August 2011. I'm currently torn as to when to apply. After PC service I want to travel for a significant amount of time to experience the different cultures of the surrounding countries. Also, I think it would be a very hard transition going from PC life to Bschool life with only a 1-2 week adjustment period. With all that being said my two questions are as follows:

1. Based on this small sampling of info do you believe I can gain admittance into one/some of the aforementioned schools?

2. How would schools view the huge time gap if I were to wait and apply in 2011, basically leaving myself unemployed from Sept 2011 to August 2012 when classes begin. Would it be a factor or are the more understanding due to the unique circumstances of the PC?

Thanks in advance for your help.

You still have plenty of time to travel before school - if you apply for round 1 (Oct deadline) you will know by early January the following year whether you'll get in or not. And once you know, you basically have from January until September to travel.

In reply to nonskaterhater
2/28/10
nonskaterhater:

Hey Alex,

How much will a single withdrawal on my transcript from a core accounting class hurt me? I basically got sick right before the first exam and then failed it, so I withdrew. I'm retaking the class now an expect an A/A- and have gotten between a B+ and A in my other accounting classes. Otherwise I should graduate with a 3.8 from Penn (Wharton).

I've heard that a single withdrawal wouldn't hurt much, but I've also heard that B-schools recalculate GPA counting a withdrawal as a failure. Do you know if Harvard/Stanford does the latter?

Thanks!

Don't worry about it. Unless you like worrying about it.

2/28/10

Alex,

Thanks for the response, however you neglected to answer both of my questions. I'd appreciate it if you could take a minute to do so next time you have some spare time. Just for clarification, I have a definitive end date to the program; I'm not going to dishonor my commitment just because I get in to bschool. Thanks.

In reply to entrepreneur1
2/28/10
entrepreneur1:

Hi Alex,

I believe I have a unique background and I need some help determining whether it will help me or hinder me in my apps. I'll start by giving you a rough summary of my life so far....

Since the days of being a highschool kid I've been an entrepreneur. During junior year of HS my friend and I coded an online community/game that attracted over 2,000 people simultaneous online users at its peak. I capitalized off this via the early days of Google ads and their high clickthroughs. During college (at a state school in California) as an accounting major I took a job as the CFO of a small startup internet marketing company and by my senior year I I spun off my own firm. It grew steadily but after graduation I still had great interest and passion in accounting/finance. So while running the company I took a job at a SoCal CPA firm in an accounting/consulting role and was promoted within six months to a managing role (the fastest any associate has ever gotten promoted at the firm as per the director of operations whom I can snag an awesome LOR from). The job had me traveling across the US on consulting engagements to Washington DC where a lot of our clients were, and I believe I had some impressive experiences from this. While working I obtained my CPA license (passed all sections on first try) and during all of this I was simultaneously growing the marketing firm.

Once the firm started really expanding (we ventured into traditional advertising roles catering to unique communities and establishing quite a niche) I quit the job at the CPA firm to pursue my company. I left the firm on great terms.

With help from my extremely talented programmer friend, we developed a proprietary small-scale ERP system to increase efficiency for my company and to allow our customers to be directly connected to us. We soon realized that the system itself is unique and have since sought venture capital to make the system more robust and marketable as a user-friendly nice licensed package.

But with this my passion for finance hasn't escaped me. I've spend tremendous time learning about the ins-and-outs of PE/VC, M&A etc. and I've learned that I will never truly satisfied until I'm fundraising for my own projects being behind my own deals. Obviously this may sound far-fetched on an essay but from a personal perspective I can find a way to make it happen, or die trying. So naturally I've become immensely drawn to the MBA as I know it is the only way at this stage of my life to accomplish these goals I've set out for myself.

But I'm not exactly sure how adcoms feel about applicants like me; being that I didn't come from a large consulting firm/bank/etc. I feel I may be viewed as too risky.

I'm also worried about my low GPA (3.04), downward trend. I was at a stage in my life where it was difficult to focus on school and my company at the same time. This does not represent who I am today. That was 4 years ago. I'm 27 now.

Some other stats:
GMAT: 740
Alternative T-script: 4 classes, all quantitave, straight As while working full time.
Involved in my local community and also build houses in Mexico for impoverished communities as part of a program with my church.

I'd like to know if any top 10 schools are possible. If not, what my range is. Please be as brutally honest as possible :).

Thanks!

You should be competitive for schools like Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, Sloan and Tuck so long as your applications are well executed.

2/28/10

Hi Alex,

I'm just curious as to what types of things I need to do to give myself a good shot at H/S/W when the time eventually comes for me to apply to grad school. I know it's a bit early to think about this, but here's my background regardless:

I'm a junior year student coming from a fairly top target with an internship at a European BB (think CS/BarCap) for the summer. I'll likely be finishing with a cGPA of around 3.6-3.7 and can see it being reasonable to assume that I'll sign full-time at my BB.

I have very strong extracurricular experience from my first 2 years, with slightly less involvement this year. I intend to improve my involvement next year to a level similar to my first 2 years. Right now, I have a lot of involement in finance/teaching/charitable activities and I can see that being a "story" that I try to continue as I progress.

As mentioned, I eventually want to end up at H/W/S and was wondering what types of things may allow me to differentiate myself from other candidates. I'll be writing my CFA level 1 and GMAT in my senior year and will perhaps consider doing something related to entrepreneurship/charity with friends in summer after senior year in a developing country.

Thanks.

In reply to ucla
3/1/10
ucla:

Hi Alex,

I'm just curious as to what types of things I need to do to give myself a good shot at H/S/W when the time eventually comes for me to apply to grad school. I know it's a bit early to think about this, but here's my background regardless:

I'm a junior year student coming from a fairly top target with an internship at a European BB (think CS/BarCap) for the summer. I'll likely be finishing with a cGPA of around 3.6-3.7 and can see it being reasonable to assume that I'll sign full-time at my BB.

I have very strong extracurricular experience from my first 2 years, with slightly less involvement this year. I intend to improve my involvement next year to a level similar to my first 2 years. Right now, I have a lot of involement in finance/teaching/charitable activities and I can see that being a "story" that I try to continue as I progress.

As mentioned, I eventually want to end up at H/W/S and was wondering what types of things may allow me to differentiate myself from other candidates. I'll be writing my CFA level 1 and GMAT in my senior year and will perhaps consider doing something related to entrepreneurship/charity with friends in summer after senior year in a developing country.

Thanks.

To be blunt, all you can do is to focus on your summer internship. And if you like the job and get a full-time offer (a big IF -- you don't know if you'll like it, and you don't know if you'll get the offers), then focus on your analyst job and make the most of it. Then apply. Trying to do some "charity" won't really help because it's window dressing (the fact that you are being driven to do extracurrculars to boost your application profile will look very obvious compared to someone who actually does something meaningful because the latter would've started doing so without having to ask - it's not about participation, but about accomplishment - and achieving something meaningful involves years of sacrifice and sustained commitment - not just "doing stuff on the side" while being an analyst). It's obvious to most adcoms because they see so many applicants - you can't fake sustained commitment and sacrifice.

Stop focusing on trying to manufacture a resume for b-school. Build a life, not a resume. Focus on doing stuff that you believe in, that you feel is best for your life, and b-school may or may not be in the picture when it comes time to apply. You never know. You may not want to go after all in a few years. There's way too many folks who spend so much time trying so hard to manufacture a profile for b-school in the false hopes that they need b-school to validate themselves.

Here's the the thing. The majority of folks who attend these top schools (especially HBS, Stanford and Wharton) don't need it.

Just focus on your summer job to the best of your ability. Then decide from there whether you want to continue in finance full-time. Who knows, you may not even want a career in business after that (even if you do the analyst thing for 2 years, it's not unheard of for analysts to leave and do something completely unrelated - i.e. going back to law school, med school, opening their own business, going into public service, etc).

TAKE IT ONE STEP AT A TIME. Don't overthink your future, or else you will end up being a neurotic control freak who is paranoid about every single thing - and frankly that's not the kind of person that anyone (adcoms, MBAs or even recruiters) want to be around. Focus on your internship rather than trying to "scheme" 3 steps ahead.

To be blunt, whether you have a shot at H/S/W is NOT in your control. What is in your control are the choices you make that are meaningful to you, to commit to things that you believe in, to pursue jobs/activities/etc that you genuinely get excited about -- and then letting the chips fall where they may.

3/2/10

Hi Alex,

I'm a recent college grad with a 2.8 GPA and English degree. No summer internships through out college, but I do have extensive volunteer and leadership roles. I will not have some blue chip job that gives me the exposure other applicants might have in 2-3 years. I have taken the GMAT and scored >700. Would a few years of work experience coupled with my volunteering/leadership be enough to crack a Top 10 MBA Program?

Thanks

3/3/10

Hi Alex,

Im from a Canadian Uni, UT/UBC-ish (not a finance powerhouse uni)

Always wanted to do IB, however I don't seem to be able to land a good gig in the front office, but i've always wanted to do more school.

So my plan now is to start as an auditor in a big 4 in once of the asia office.
How does big four experience in asia help for schools like Chicago, NYU, Columbia?
I will be starting in audit, i hope to make the transition to Financial Advisory, and I intend to get my CPA along the way.

I've heard mix stuff about accountants going into top B school... many told me its common as long as you work hard, some say they don't like accountants blah blah blah and I've even heard that theres a cap on how many accountants they take in.

Whats your opinion on this? Given if I work hard and get great recommendations, how many years of work exp do big 4 folks usually collect before they apply to B school?

Thank you!

In reply to Vel
3/4/10
Vel:

Hi Alex,

I'm a recent college grad with a 2.8 GPA and English degree. No summer internships through out college, but I do have extensive volunteer and leadership roles. I will not have some blue chip job that gives me the exposure other applicants might have in 2-3 years. I have taken the GMAT and scored >700. Would a few years of work experience coupled with my volunteering/leadership be enough to crack a Top 10 MBA Program?

Thanks

Hard to say. Take it a step at a time. Focus on the job you have right now. If you feel you're learning and you enjoy it, stay. Once you feel you aren't enjoying it or learning as much as you can - then start looking for another job.

I know it's tempting to think 3 steps ahead, but you just graduated college. Resist the temptation to dwell on your future too much as it's not productive and will in a way hamper your career development (because you're constantly thinking about the future 2-3 steps ahead at the expense of what you're supposed to be doing right now).

Do the best you can to enjoy your working years. You've just spent a lifetime thus far in school, and this is a completely new phase in your life. Embrace it. Learn from it. Grow from it.

Dwelling on b-school is sort of like thinking about your future kids when you've just met your new girlfriend.

In reply to J15
3/4/10
J15:

Hi Alex,

Im from a Canadian Uni, UT/UBC-ish (not a finance powerhouse uni)

Always wanted to do IB, however I don't seem to be able to land a good gig in the front office, but i've always wanted to do more school.

So my plan now is to start as an auditor in a big 4 in once of the asia office.
How does big four experience in asia help for schools like Chicago, NYU, Columbia?
I will be starting in audit, i hope to make the transition to Financial Advisory, and I intend to get my CPA along the way.

I've heard mix stuff about accountants going into top B school... many told me its common as long as you work hard, some say they don't like accountants blah blah blah and I've even heard that theres a cap on how many accountants they take in.

Whats your opinion on this? Given if I work hard and get great recommendations, how many years of work exp do big 4 folks usually collect before they apply to B school?

Thank you!

An accountant won't be out of place in Chicago, NYU or Columbia. Aside from a competitive GMAT score (700+), the key thing is how you execute your written applications. You know the accountant stereotypes - you have to show that you're not dull and one-note. As an accountant, the adcom will know that you can do numbers. What won't be as obvious (which you need to really emphasize) is that you know how to deal with people and that you have a personality. Also, showing that color in you comes with extracurriculars - whether you are applying to b-school or not, you should have an active life outside of work - get involved in your community, pursue something meaningful outside of work - grow as a person.

3/5/10

Hi Alex,

Do MBA programs look at what classes you take? I am making my senior year schedule and want to take the easiest courses in my school that are automatic As. Would this prevent me from getting into a top program or do they just really look at school and gpa?

In reply to harvardgrad11
3/5/10
harvardgrad11:

Hi Alex,

Do MBA programs look at what classes you take? I am making my senior year schedule and want to take the easiest courses in my school that are automatic As. Would this prevent me from getting into a top program or do they just really look at school and gpa?

Why not take classes you really want to take (to learn) AND do well in them? Would that be too much to ask?

3/5/10

Well, they are "fun" classes to begin with and an area that interests me (music), but everyone knows and probably adcoms looking at transcript will know that they were easy As. There isnt really much else that I could take without having to work really hard during my senior year, something I really want to avoid. SO would this hurt me in any way?

3/5/10

^^^Wasn't this a scene in the Breakfast Club?

In reply to harvardgrad11
3/7/10
harvardgrad11:

Well, they are "fun" classes to begin with and an area that interests me (music), but everyone knows and probably adcoms looking at transcript will know that they were easy As. There isnt really much else that I could take without having to work really hard during my senior year, something I really want to avoid. SO would this hurt me in any way?

The moment you stop letting other people (whom you don't even know - "adcoms" are just an abstract idea) dictate your choices is the moment you are able to become a fully independent person.

Choose courses that genuinely interest you and that you'd enjoy. Whether they are deemed "hard" or not by you or by anyone else. You are getting an education for yourself - not for the benefit of impressing others.