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)

11/23/14

I'm currently in a master's program. I rephrased what I wrote earlier in an attempt to make it easier to understand:

- started working due to shitty grades
- started studying in undergrad program at a non-target in the evenings and on weekends next to my regular job
- once I received the degree (3.8 GPA), I quit the job to do internships (MM M&A and elite player in equities market)
- started master's program at top target (3.6 GPA)
- will start at BB IBD next year, when I'll be 26

Accepted.com
11/25/14

zor:

I'm currently in a master's program. I rephrased what I wrote earlier in an attempt to make it easier to understand:

- started working due to shitty grades

- started studying in undergrad program at a non-target in the evenings and on weekends next to my regular job

- once I received the degree (3.8 GPA), I quit the job to do internships (MM M&A and elite player in equities market)

- started master's program at top target (3.6 GPA)

- will start at BB IBD next year, when I'll be 26

If that's the case, then you shouldn't be even thinking about an MBA right now.

Just focus on the now (getting through your masters' program), and doing the best you can in your IB role (it's a couple of years of LIFE, and you may change a lot over that time). And if you're wondering, don't worry about your age - it's not something you can control.

It's akin to a draft prospect worrying about free agency before he has even signed a rookie contract (or played in the league as a starter). If you're not focused on the now, you won't even have a free agency years down the road worth caring about.

11/26/14

Thanks, I'm asking now since I will still have some spare time in the coming months to take the GMAT. I really don't want to worry about getting the GMAT when I'm an analyst (I have signed the rookie contract). Maybe I'll change, but for now I've set my sights on getting having the possibility to do an MBA. Hence, I'm wondering how my profile would appeal to business schools.

11/26/14

zor:

Thanks, I'm asking now since I will still have some spare time in the coming months to take the GMAT. I really don't want to worry about getting the GMAT when I'm an analyst (I have signed the rookie contract). Maybe I'll change, but for now I've set my sights on getting having the possibility to do an MBA. Hence, I'm wondering how my profile would appeal to business schools.

Practically speaking, all you can or should do at this point is the GMAT -- aim for a 720+ and chances are your GMAT won't be a problem when you apply.

As for your profile, you don't want to limit yourself to how it would appeal to adcoms (or anything/anyone else) - the reason why is you may actually surpass what you or anyone else should expect, if you simply focus on working your ass off to your full potential - and then if you're working to your full potential, what other gatekeepers want is not really in your control anyhow.

Good luck!

11/18/14

Let me rephrase - This is not in a move in attempt to get into an MBA program, but my situation has changed. I have recently interview for a position and I am taking into consideration MBA admissions. It's not a case of if I do this, then I will have a better chance, so I should go do that. I'm ready to get out of audit and have an opportunity. I am, however, curious how an MBA adcom might view such frequent moving around (3 firms in around 5 years experience when I'm likely to apply)

Lastly, would regional TAS (Financial due diligence) look better than big 4 audit? It sounds like it goes back to your original comment about do what you want, but I can't help being curious. I'm probably going to take the offer (if given) anyways, just wondering if I have somewhat tarnished a potential MBA application.

11/19/14

Soros:

Let me rephrase - This is not in a move in attempt to get into an MBA program, but my situation has changed. I have recently interview for a position and I am taking into consideration MBA admissions. It's not a case of if I do this, then I will have a better chance, so I should go do that. I'm ready to get out of audit and have an opportunity. I am, however, curious how an MBA adcom might view such frequent moving around (3 firms in around 5 years experience when I'm likely to apply)

Lastly, would regional TAS (Financial due diligence) look better than big 4 audit? It sounds like it goes back to your original comment about do what you want, but I can't help being curious. I'm probably going to take the offer (if given) anyways, just wondering if I have somewhat tarnished a potential MBA application.

Take the job.

11/18/14

Alex: Any quick thoughts on H/S/W

-3.7 GPA from a LAC ranked 10-20
-760 GMAT
-4-5 years as a research analyst at a top hedge fund
-CFA
-Varsity Athlete in college, small amount of volunteer work after school

11/19/14

Gray Fox:

Alex: Any quick thoughts on H/S/W

-3.7 GPA from a LAC ranked 10-20

-760 GMAT

-4-5 years as a research analyst at a top hedge fund

-CFA

-Varsity Athlete in college, small amount of volunteer work after school

Your stats don't preclude you from H/S/W, but it's hard to say. What's your cultural background, nationality, sexual orientation, etc? Are you more than your resume, in other words can you transcend the "hard core finance guy" archetype (i.e. finance is your job, not your identity) - that can certainly help.

11/20/14

MBAApply:

Gray Fox:

Alex: Any quick thoughts on H/S/W

-3.7 GPA from a LAC ranked 10-20

-760 GMAT

-4-5 years as a research analyst at a top hedge fund

-CFA

-Varsity Athlete in college, small amount of volunteer work after school

Your stats don't preclude you from H/S/W, but it's hard to say. What's your cultural background, nationality, sexual orientation, etc? Are you more than your resume, in other words can you transcend the "hard core finance guy" archetype (i.e. finance is your job, not your identity) - that can certainly help.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm a straight, white male from the US. Middle class, midwest background, probably the least sexy you can get. I have a lot of outside interests (adventure/outdoor sports, travel, etc) but I'll admit it is going to be pretty hard to cast myself in a light to get diversity points. I would do school to get a broader perspective and better understanding of different businesses before going back to the HF world. Off the record, it would be for two years away from work and a chance to reset the batteries.

I'd like to think of myself as a nice guy that interviews well but understand these schools are shifting away from "hardcore finance guys".

11/20/14

Gray Fox:

MBAApply:
Gray Fox:

Alex: Any quick thoughts on H/S/W

-3.7 GPA from a LAC ranked 10-20

-760 GMAT

-4-5 years as a research analyst at a top hedge fund

-CFA

-Varsity Athlete in college, small amount of volunteer work after school

Your stats don't preclude you from H/S/W, but it's hard to say. What's your cultural background, nationality, sexual orientation, etc? Are you more than your resume, in other words can you transcend the "hard core finance guy" archetype (i.e. finance is your job, not your identity) - that can certainly help.

...background, probably the least sexy you can get.

Well, there are other demographics in b-school admissions that are far less desirable (they're not on the WSO forums here...).

Anyhow, it's about showing that "finance" is your job and not your identity in your essays and interviews. In plain English, it's finding a way to give the adcom the impression that you can get along with all kinds of people (not just bankers), that you would thrive in an environment with people from all kinds of backgrounds (professional, cultural, etc.). If you can do that, then you're giving yourself the best chance to get admitted. Good luck

3/23/15

Applying for HBS and GSB only (2+2 and deferred admission respectively)

-Currently senior at top 15 school: 3.95+ GPA, background in fin. and stats
-730 GMAT, higher Q than V on split
-Internships (most recent first): Large Cap Well-known PE, Large Well-Known AM, other HF
-Full time: IB at Elite Boutique
-Straight/white/male/boring profile
-Mid level of extracurriculars/leadership
-Solid recommendations from professor (TA for him) and previous internship (HF)
-Little time spent on essays, need to craft story, apps due in two weeks or so
-Want to do IB -> Pre-MBA PE associate -> MBA -> Post-MBA PE associate: is this too boring?

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I think my background narrows this down pretty specifically so I was hoping to delete this post soon after. Really appreciate it!

3/24/15

SkiesTheLimit66:

Applying for HBS and GSB only (2+2 and deferred admission respectively)

-Currently senior at top 15 school: 3.95+ GPA, background in fin. and stats

-730 GMAT, higher Q than V on split

-Internships (most recent first): Large Cap Well-known PE, Large Well-Known AM, other HF

-Full time: IB at Elite Boutique

-Straight/white/male/boring profile

-Mid level of extracurriculars/leadership

-Solid recommendations from professor (TA for him) and previous internship (HF)

-Little time spent on essays, need to craft story, apps due in two weeks or so

-Want to do IB -> Pre-MBA PE associate -> MBA -> Post-MBA PE associate: is this too boring?

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I think my background narrows this down pretty specifically so I was hoping to delete this post soon after. Really appreciate it!

Looks like you're going to apply regardless of what I say, so it's really just about managing expectations.

Bear in mind that the 2+2 was established as a way to diversify their applicant pool by capturing applicants who normally wouldn't have thought of b-school: hardcore STEM and pre-law/pre-med folks. It's similar with the deferred programs at Stanford. It's not geared towards guys like yourself, because they already get plenty of standard issue IB/PE white guys like yourself applying through the regular channels with a few years of experience. This is a diversity issue (not by race/ethnicity, but in terms of academic/occupational background, and to some degree it's gender, as they will likely get marginally more women through the system this way as well for many reasons). As such, just know that you're the color blue, when they're looking for the color red. You have a strong profile for an undergrad and you seem well positioned to have a great start to your career after college, but just know that they are more focused on a different kind of profile.

Again, while you've got a solid foundation and stats, you're not as unique as you think you are - no one is going to know who you are based on what you listed here, because again there's enough guys like yourself in the same position looking to apply to 2+2 and deferred programs - and very few making it in this way.

And if you're thinking "well, I'll just change course completely and write about something totally non-finance related" - that's not really going to change much. The fact is, your internships to date plus your academic background suggests you'll be the prototypical MBA applicant in a few years' time anyhow, and these 2+2 and deferred programs are targeting a different kind of profile altogether.

In any case, if you're going to apply, just do the best you can, and keep your expectations realistic that it's going to be a bigger stretch than for a STEM person.

3/24/15

Got a school specific program. My profile is a bit low as far as the digits with a 710 GMAT and a GPA on the low end of competitive....however I've got a military background and I've revised my essays and interview approach to where I've been able to pull two R3 admission offers from top 20 schools.

Another option on the table is a school with a unique admissions question: "Write a table of contents for your life". Would you have any generic tips for that essay?

3/24/15

Easy C:

Got a school specific program. My profile is a bit low as far as the digits with a 710 GMAT and a GPA on the low end of competitive....however I've got a military background and I've revised my essays and interview approach to where I've been able to pull two R3 admission offers from top 20 schools.

Another option on the table is a school with a unique admissions question: "Write a table of contents for your life". Would you have any generic tips for that essay?

Congrats on your offers.

With gimmicky essay questions like Cornell is asking (or the 25 random things, or any other silly questions some b-schools ask - even Booth years ago asked something along the lines of "if you were to choose a school mascot for the University of Chicago MBA program, what would it be and why?"), you basically have two choices:

1. Go boring, or

2. Be a character.

These out-of-left-field, gimmicky questions don't really add much to an application, so it comes back to your raw profile more than anything else.

The boring one is typically a chronological one that summarizes different phases in your life.

The "character" one is to respond in like kind with an out-of-left-field response to their out-of-left-field question. For example, to use one of my favorite characters from Parks & Rec:

RON SWANSON'S TABLE OF CONTENTS (OR MUSINGS ON THE MEANING OF AMERICA)

1. You had me at bacon

2. Whiskeys are like ex-wives

3. Europe: a last resort

4. Why fish meat is practically a vegetable (and why potatoes are not)

5. Dogs > cats but doge rules all

6. Flesh on the grill: a case study of different proteins

7. Government: the incompetent leading the unwilling to do the unnecessary

8. A vegetarian's guide to hunting

9. Wood working is for lovers

10. The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness (TM)

As long as you're not vulgar, you'll be surprised how far you can go by being a bit creative and bold.

3/24/15

700 GMAT (47Q, 40V). Lowest Verbal I've gotten since my cold test (was averaging 43-44). Quant is in line with practice tests. White Male, lots of volunteering including leading a work Philanthropic Committee as well as mentoring, 3.4 Econ graduate from top private but non ivy school (think Duke/Northwestern), Division 1 student athlete, FLDP at F500 then FP&A at top BB for 4 years of total WE at matriculation. Been promoted once. Was told to expect to again at the end of this year. Want to do investment banking post grad school and have been unable to network my way in currently.

Considering schools mostly with top IB placement, meaning Stern, CSB, Wharton, Yale, and Booth mostly. Possibly Tuck too. Assuming H/S are out regardless.

How does my profile look? Also I am likely retaking the GMAT, but was looking for thoughts on this pre retake.

Thanks in advance

3/24/15

AllDay_028:

700 GMAT (47Q, 40V). Lowest Verbal I've gotten since my cold test (was averaging 43-44). Quant is in line with practice tests. White Male, lots of volunteering including leading a work Philanthropic Committee as well as mentoring, 3.4 Econ graduate from top private but non ivy school (think Duke/Northwestern), Division 1 student athlete, FLDP at F500 then FP&A at top BB for 4 years of total WE at matriculation. Been promoted once. Was told to expect to again at the end of this year. Want to do investment banking post grad school and have been unable to network my way in currently.

Considering schools mostly with top IB placement, meaning Stern, CSB, Wharton, Yale, and Booth mostly. Possibly Tuck too. Assuming H/S are out regardless.

How does my profile look? Also I am likely retaking the GMAT, but was looking for thoughts on this pre retake.

Thanks in advance

If you can score a 720+ and ideally a 740+, you should be in range for the schools you listed. At a 700, it's not fatal, but it will be a handicap. Otherwise your profile is solid for these schools. Good luck

3/24/15

This question got asked a few days ago, but I'd love to get some pro insight into it. What do you think of the HBX CORe program as a pre-mba/alternative transcript type option? Looking to take a few classes to offset a lowish GPA(~3.3) and was wondering if this would be worth it.

3/24/15

mrharveyspecter:

This question got asked a few days ago, but I'd love to get some pro insight into it. What do you think of the HBX CORe program as a pre-mba/alternative transcript type option? Looking to take a few classes to offset a lowish GPA(~3.3) and was wondering if this would be worth it.

It's too early to say as it's so new. It may take a few years' worth of students in this program (more datapoints) before adcoms can contextualize it. Of course on paper it may make sense, but again, it's the reality that matters more.

If all you're looking for is to build an alternate transcript, just take 2 classes in calculus and stats - that's what adcoms are used to seeing. If they want beef, give them beef rather than convincing them that your venison is better.

The other thing is your GMAT. You realistically need a monster GMAT (740+) or your application will be severely handicapped with a below average GPA especially at the top 8 schools.

3/24/15

Hi @"MBAApply"!

I am re-evaluating my undergrad academic profile and I saw that I didn't do well in first two core quantitative classes (calculus I and II) my freshman year (earned C and D respectively) but I did well I managed to have an upward trend in not only my GPA but in my last two core quantitative classes (Statistics and Statistics II - Earned A's in both).

From what I understand MBA admissions takes an emphasis on your mathematics performance in regards to your undergraduate academic profile and I am afraid that my calculus scores freshman year in college will hurt me. Is this something to worry about? If not what should I do to overcome that shortfall? Would taking the same classes at a community college while working full time be good?

3/24/15

killaqueeen:

Hi @MBAApply!

I am re-evaluating my undergrad academic profile and I saw that I didn't do well in first two core quantitative classes (calculus I and II) my freshman year (earned C and D respectively) but I did well I managed to have an upward trend in not only my GPA but in my last two core quantitative classes (Statistics and Statistics II - Earned A's in both).

From what I understand MBA admissions takes an emphasis on your mathematics performance in regards to your undergraduate academic profile and I am afraid that my calculus scores freshman year in college will hurt me. Is this something to worry about? If not what should I do to overcome that shortfall? Would taking the same classes at a community college while working full time be good?

If your course load throughout college were mostly non-quant classes, then it would be a slight concern. It comes down to your GMAT -- if your quant score on the GMAT is strong (90% or more), then it's probably not going to be an issue (just depends on the individual adcom who is reviewing your case). If your GMAT quant is so-so (80-ish) then it may be worth taking 1 calculus class. If it's below 80%, then you should take 1 calculus class.

8/7/15

In short, part of it comes down to your ethnic background and gender.

The school admins won't say it explicitly, but what is driving this initiative with the 2+2 and deferred programs is to diversify their applicant pool and by extension, their incoming classes.

Basically, they're using these initiatives to look for more:
- non-Indian STEM folks (basically white male/female STEM folks)
- women, and particularly those who aren't American or from China
- African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans: men and women
- internationally: EU, LatAm, and Africa: men and women
- LGBT

Essentially those demographics who normally wouldn't be applying to HBS/Stanford in a few years anyways (the blue chip folks in IB/PE, consulting, etc) - and those who are normally underrepresented in the regular applicant pool (which are full of white/Asian bankers, white consultants, and Indian engineers).

So the potential drawback with your case is that it looks like you'll be applying to b-school in a few years anyhow based on your internships. But if you are in any of the above categories (i.e. underrepresented minority, white female, LGBT or from Europe, LatAm or Africa), that may certainly help.

If you're inclined to apply but not totally sure, you should at least study for the GMAT. If you decide not to apply, at least the GMAT is valid for 5 years from the test date (so if you're applying with 3 years of full-time experience at time of application, you should still be good).

Finally, with Disney's strategy group (or any of the major studios), they historically hire folks from consulting firms, so the typical pre-MBA job in that group is for someone who worked at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, etc. for 2-3 years prior to joining the group.

My blunt opinion though is that the entertainment industry is really only worthwhile if you intend to be on the creative side as a performer, writer, creator, producer, etc. because it's becoming an industry of passion/conviction, and not money. For example, the economics of the music business is really bad already, and film/tv will follow, that if you're in it for the money (on the business side) - it's going to suck. If you're looking for more fulfilling work in a business type of career, you're better off working in tech, pharma, or even finance to be honest -- and then work on the business side (exec producing, marketing, financing, etc) on piecemeal passion projects for causes, filmmakers, or subjects that you truly believe in (documentaries, iconoclast filmmakers with an unique voice that deserve to be heard but who would never work as a Marvel director, really great bands/musicians who have a dedicated following but who will never be the next Taylor Swift) - on the business side, you'll likely feel much more fulfilled that way than knowing that a large part of your work comes from income derived from reality tv, tabloid fodder and lowest common denominator material that you have contempt for.

8/11/15

Since you've been in school your whole life so far, I can understand why you'd use the 2+2 program (or any grad school for that matter) as an anchor or reference point with which to base your decisions.

But that's the completely wrong way to look at it.

B-school should be considered one of many options, and not what should dictate what you should do. Again, being in school you may (mistakenly) believe that your school credentials matter all that much, but that's simply not the case once you're an adult (i.e. someone who is working full-time). B-school isn't going to magically transform you.

It just sounds like you're lost and all over the place. But the blunt truth is, no one can figure this stuff out for you. You will make mistakes (and you should) - and learn from it. And iteratively come to know what it is you want. But you can't do so in a vacuum or ask random strangers what sorts of interests you should be having. If you are this unsure about everything, the problem isn't your indecision - it's the fact that you don't know yourself well enough. And that sort of self-exploratory work only you can do - and there's no real shortcuts or hacks. You simply have to try different things, make a committed effort towards something, and let life play out. And going to grad school isn't the solution to short circuiting that, even though it may seem to be the case from the vantagepoint of a college student like yourself.

Finally, with your question about Disney and why folks would go there with lesser pay - because money isn't the sole driver (or even a main driver) for many decisions, even the greediest, most shallow people you'd meet. Again, it's one of those things you'll know for yourself and appreciate once you're out there in the real world, regardless of what career path you choose.

8/9/15

Hi,

Just wanted to see where I stand.

Graduated from large state school in the northeast (think UMASS, Rutgers) with a 3.6 in Accounting

Work exp: 2 internships, one Mid tier audit, one big 4 audit, and will be starting in a competitive Big 4 due diligence group.

Extracirriculars:
-Leadership in fraternity - founded an annual social event to raise money for an alumni's start up. Also implemented new financial system which made dues collection and budgeting much easier
-Founded a consulting group that does strategy consulting work led by alumni
--Led ~10 people through a 6 month strategy engagement. Will lead 1 more before I graduate and will be an adviser to the group once I graduate.
-pro-bono consulting (helped a start up app)

Passion: I really enjoy helping people at my school land consulting / high finance jobs since none of them recruit at my school.
GMAT: Been practicing and seems to be around 650 unfortunately. Have not taken it officially.

If I stay at big 4 DD group, in 4/5 years, where do you think I'll have a good shot of getting in? I think with 650 the top 8 are a stretch and schools like georgetown, texas, etc are more likely. I will most likely be a CPA

Goal: MBB

I know I shouldn't be thinking about this so far out but I'm just curious.

Thanks in advance!

8/9/15
StrategyJunkie:

Hi,
Just wanted to see where I stand.
Graduated from large state school in the northeast (think UMASS, Rutgers) with a 3.6 in Accounting (also certificate in MIS)
Work exp: 2 internships, one Mid tier audit, one big 4 audit, and will be starting in a competitive Big 4 due diligence group.
Extracirriculars:
-Leadership in fraternity - founded an annual social event to raise money for an alumni's start up. Also implemented new financial system which made dues collection and budgeting much easier
-Founded a consulting group that does strategy consulting work led by alumni who went to HBS / Sloan and work at BCG / McK.
--Led ~10 people through a 6 month strategy engagement. Will lead 1 more before I graduate and will be an adviser to the group once I graduate.
-pro-bono consulting (helped a start up app)
Passion: I really enjoy helping people at my school land consulting / high finance jobs since none of them recruit at my school.GMAT: Been practicing and seems to be around 650 unfortunately. Have not taken it officially.
If I stay at big 4 DD group, in 4/5 years, where do you think I'll have a good shot of getting in? I think with 650 the top 8 are a stretch and schools like georgetown, texas, etc are more likely. I will most likely be a CPA
Goal: MBB
I know I shouldn't be thinking about this so far out but I'm just curious.
Thanks in advance!

Focus on what's in front of your right now: your job.

4-5 years is an eternity given where you are (coming out of college). A lot can happen and you will change in ways you have no way of knowing at this point.

Finally, don't even think about the GMAT or b-school at this point. It's simply not relevant nor is it productive given that you have 4-5 years' worth of life and career to focus on in the meantime - if you're even thinking about grad school this far out, you are essentially undervaluing how important and transformative your first few years out of college will be in your development as a working professional, and as a person. There is no such thing as "assume I work 4-5 years..." because you don't know what you're assuming. That's no knock on you - because again, you've spent your entire life in school up to this point just like every other recent college graduate, so it's understandable why you may feel this way.

But focus on your full-time job. And with eyes wide open, on the beginning of your adult life. Yes, you may have had some exposure in your internships, getting some leadership experience in your extracurriculars, but again, it's not the same as working full-time.

8/9/15

Alex,

I've been following this thread since I first started reading WSO in 2010. I'm very interested in your feedback as to how my mediocre UG transcript will affect my chances at M7/t15 MBA programs.

7yrs WE at matriculation in federal agency consulting:
-2 yrs DoD program management at IBM/Lockheed kind of place (first job out of college).
-3yrs management consulting at non-Deloitte Big 4 (second job) - focus on big picture strategic planning and connecting mission/strategy staff to operational/management staff (e.g. answering the question of 'how does a policy idea turn into a real, sustainable gov't project or program?').
-2yrs strategic advisory at a Deloitte/Booz Allen tier firm (current job) - current client is strategic planning office at a Justice/State/Treasury tier agency - directly advise agency senior leadership, lead internal strategy projects and liaise with staff from White House/Capitol Hill/other agencies regarding Department management/policy issues.

750 GMAT (47Q, 47V)

UVa undergrad, 2.7 GPA, economics BA, class of 2009. No extenuating circumstances for my GPA, but I think I can speak well to how I've matured, what I've learned, etc.

College ECs: Several that were recognized as being selective/influential - Honor Committee (dealing with cases of lying/cheating/stealing), Judiciary committee (conduct violations) and giving admissions presentations. Post-college ECs: Nothing formal or branded, but I have been involved with mentoring several mentally ill individuals and I am fairly committed to several athletic endeavors (weight training and indoor rowing).

I feel like I need a top tier MBA at this point in my life to accelerate into the private sector corporate strategy. I want to work on big capital projects - infrastructure, energy, public-private partnerships - ideally in a F500 strategy/corp dev group or at a MBB. I want to work on serious projects and business operations that may involve significant public sector coordination/collaboration. I have some background in capital investment planning/analysis for big federal programs and I see myself taking it to the next level in the private sector. Long-term I'd like to to keep the door open to jumping back into a high-level public sector leadership role.

I'm applying to Kellogg, Booth, Wharton, Tuck, Fuqua, Haas, Anderson, McCombs.

Thanks for your insight!

8/10/15
springbok20008:

Alex,
I've been following this thread since I first started reading WSO in 2010. I'm very interested in your feedback as to how my mediocre UG transcript will affect my chances at M7/t15 MBA programs.
7yrs WE at matriculation in federal agency consulting:
-2 yrs DoD program management at IBM/Lockheed kind of place (first job out of college).
-3yrs management consulting at non-Deloitte Big 4 (second job) - focus on big picture strategic planning and connecting mission/strategy staff to operational/management staff (e.g. answering the question of 'how does a policy idea turn into a real, sustainable gov't project or program?').
-2yrs strategic advisory at a Deloitte/Booz Allen tier firm (current job) - current client is strategic planning office at a Justice/State/Treasury tier agency - directly advise agency senior leadership, lead internal strategy projects and liaise with staff from White House/Capitol Hill/other agencies regarding Department management/policy issues.
750 GMAT (47Q, 47V)
UVa undergrad, 2.7 GPA, economics BA, class of 2009. No extenuating circumstances for my GPA, but I think I can speak well to how I've matured, what I've learned, etc.
College ECs: Several that were recognized as being selective/influential - Honor Committee (dealing with cases of lying/cheating/stealing), Judiciary committee (conduct violations) and giving admissions presentations. Post-college ECs: Nothing formal or branded, but I have been involved with mentoring several mentally ill individuals and I am fairly committed to several athletic endeavors (weight training and indoor rowing).
I feel like I need a top tier MBA at this point in my life to accelerate into the private sector corporate strategy. I want to work on big capital projects - infrastructure, energy, public-private partnerships - ideally in a F500 strategy/corp dev group or at a MBB. I want to work on serious projects and business operations that may involve significant public sector coordination/collaboration. I have some background in capital investment planning/analysis for big federal programs and I see myself taking it to the next level in the private sector. Long-term I'd like to to keep the door open to jumping back into a high-level public sector leadership role.
I'm applying to Kellogg, Booth, Wharton, Tuck, Fuqua, Haas, Anderson, McCombs.
Thanks for your insight!

With poor GPAs, the older/more experienced you are, the less of a red flag it becomes (i.e. it impacts those who are say just 2-3 years out of school because it's still relatively recent).

Your strong GMAT certainly helps. What you should do though in addition is to enroll in 2-3 classes (UCLA online extension, or some other program where you can do the courses online at an accredited university that will give you a grade) - they don't have to be hardcore classes, but freshman level equivalent classes in calculus, stats, algebra, finance, accounting, microeconomics or some quant classes in that vein, and you should be fine. The reason for this also is to show that you're no dummy - that your low GPA in the past was due to lack of effort and not lack of brains, while also providing more recent evidence of your academic ability, since college was quite a while ago for you.

Good luck

8/13/15

Thanks for the insight, Alex. I'm actually enrolled in a calculus class through Berkeley extension right now, but I won't complete it before I submit my R1 apps.

Just wondering - from your experience, which schools are more/less receptive to lower GPAs? At best, a low GPA seems to be a wild card, and at worst an automatic disqualifier.

8/19/15
springbok20008:

Thanks for the insight, Alex. I'm actually enrolled in a calculus class through Berkeley extension right now, but I won't complete it before I submit my R1 apps.
Just wondering - from your experience, which schools are more/less receptive to lower GPAs? At best, a low GPA seems to be a wild card, and at worst an automatic disqualifier.

All schools care about GPAs - the ones that care the most are HBS and Stanford where the GPAs tend to be closer to top med/law school territory than any other b-school.

8/10/15

Hi Alex!

Thank you for offering us your advise and expertise. Could you please provide me with a profile assessment for the HBS?

I am 26 years old from Europe. Working Experience in Europe: ~1 year financial research with a top executive from the European Central Bank for a green investment in Asia, 1 year running family's financial services business due to a health problem (at the same time that I was studying).
Working Experience in US: 3 years of finance experience with tech companies: 3 months internship with a Financial Tech firm in NYC, 6 months finance with the biggest online retailer (Amazon/eBay etc) in NYC, 2 years finance with a top tech company (Cisco/IBM/Microsoft) for the Cloud business - managed the business development/operations/financials of an acquired company, 1 year finance with a top tech company (FB/Google/Apple)

My gmat score is 730 and my undergrad is in Economics from a top school in my country ( gpa 3.5 - top 7% - Not so great because I had to run my family's business at the same time for 1 year). Also I got my masters from NYU (gpa 3.6, Quantitative Finance).

Regarding EC: I was Treasurer of the Student council (NYU), volunteering with my companies, engaged in volunteering/mentoring in my school, I was member in my country's Parliament.

My goal is to do strategy Consulting for Tech Companies

I consider also CBS, Yale, NYU and Haas.

Thanks in advance,
Bill

8/11/15
BFinUS:

Hi Alex!
Thank you for offering us your advise and expertise. Could you please provide me with a profile assessment for the HBS?
I am 26 years old from Europe. Working Experience in Europe: ~1 year financial research with a top executive from the European Central Bank for a green investment in Asia, 1 year running family's financial services business due to a health problem (at the same time that I was studying).
Working Experience in US: 3 years of finance experience with tech companies: 3 months internship with a Financial Tech firm in NYC, 6 months finance with the biggest online retailer (Amazon/eBay etc) in NYC, 2 years finance with a top tech company (Cisco/IBM/Microsoft) for the Cloud business - managed the business development/operations/financials of an acquired company, 1 year finance with a top tech company (FB/Google/Apple)
My gmat score is 730 and my undergrad is in Economics from a top school in my country ( gpa 3.5 - top 7% - Not so great because I had to run my family's business at the same time for 1 year). Also I got my masters from NYU (gpa 3.6, Quantitative Finance).
Regarding EC: I was Treasurer of the Student council (NYU), volunteering with my companies, engaged in volunteering/mentoring in my school, I was member in my country's Parliament.
My goal is to do strategy Consulting for Tech Companies
I consider also CBS, Yale, NYU and Haas.
Thanks in advance,
Bill

You're in range for the schools you're targeting. You may want to throw in an application for H/S/W (maybe 1 or 2) as you never know. You have a solid profile, but what gives you some advantages over others is having the good fortune of being European. The US b-schools preach diversity, but they can only be as diverse as the applicant pool -- and right now, amongst the international applicants, it's overwhelmingly from India or China (and China has actually plateaued if not declining slightly). Simply put, they've had a hard time attracting Europeans to apply to the US b-schools for many reasons: the main reason being that the US b-schools tend to act as an entryway into a US-based career for international students, and unlike say the Indians, there are far fewer Europeans (even those who are traditional IB/consulting types) who want to live in the US, especially those in France, Germany, the UK, and many parts of Northern and Western Europe where the quality of life is still great compared to the US (even if the job market isn't quite as strong these days). Furthermore, the schools have gotten so expensive that for a European who is happy where they are, the price tag is simply too steep to pay if they are inclined to return to Europe post-MBA (or have little desire to live in the US post-MBA). I don't have data for this, but I'm willing to bet that starting last year and going forward, they're going to see even less applicants from Europe because of the strength of the US dollar, making it even more expensive for Europeans (in fact, these dynamics put together are probably why they have more trouble attracting internationals from highly developed countries like Japan, Korea and Taiwan as well in addition to Western Europe). So with all this, it's good news for people like you.

8/11/15

Alex, Thank you very much for the analysis! It is very helpful.

8/19/15

Hi Alex,

I have a quick question for you regarding background. I'm originally from Europe having moved 2 years ago to finish school here (I have a US passport). I'm also white... technically although I'm from Latin Europe so I'm closer to being hispanic/latino than actually white. Regardless, I'm European and I see that can be an advantage when applying for B-school. I just started a job at the company I interned for last year (F10) so I still have a long way to go until I decide to apply. Graduated with a 3.9 from a non target state school and will start working on my GMAT next year.

My question(s) for you here are... do I still have an advantage being European given that I finished school here, have passport, etc etc? Although I've given you very few details, where do you think I could potentially fall on the b-school ranks? How high can I aim? :)

Thanks in advance!

8/19/15
umtugadocaralho:

Hi Alex,
I have a quick question for you regarding background. I'm originally from Europe having moved 2 years ago to finish school here (I have a US passport). I'm also white... technically although I'm from Latin Europe so I'm closer to being hispanic/latino than actually white. Regardless, I'm European and I see that can be an advantage when applying for B-school. I just started a job at the company I interned for last year (F10) so I still have a long way to go until I decide to apply. Graduated with a 3.9 from a non target state school and will start working on my GMAT next year.
My question(s) for you here are... do I still have an advantage being European given that I finished school here, have passport, etc etc? Although I've given you very few details, where do you think I could potentially fall on the b-school ranks? How high can I aim? :)
Thanks in advance!

For the b-school application process, you will be considered an American, unless you renounce your citizenship. You can't spin this shit in the application, or lie about your citizenship. Well, I mean you could lie - but it's something that will show up in a background check anyhow that b-schools conduct once you've gotten the admit.

So you'll be considered a white American. I know, it's confusing. In the US, a black Dominican and a white Argentine are considered "Hispanic" if they are both American citizens, but a Spaniard/Portuguese like yourself is considered white. But then in everyday life it becomes much more nebulous - I mean, Giselle Bundchen if she were American would probably identify herself as white, even though Neymar would be pegged as Hispanic if he became American - even though both are Brazilian by background and therefore technically "Hispanic".

8/19/15

So even though I lived all my life in Europe if I apply to b-school I'm considered a white american just because of my passport? They'll only consider a "European" someone who is applying straight from Europe and needs a Visa?

8/19/15

But then in everyday life it becomes much more nebulous - I mean, Giselle Bundchen if she were American would probably identify herself as white, even though Neymar would be pegged as Hispanic if he became American - even though both are Brazilian by background and therefore technically "Hispanic".

Lets use Neymar as an example. Lets assume he is indeed white. Lets assume he's applying to b-school and/or jobs in the US. Can't he just play the voluntary self identification form to his advantage? Which normally is minorities for academics and white for jobs?

8/19/15
umtugadocaralho:

But then in everyday life it becomes much more nebulous - I mean, Giselle Bundchen if she were American would probably identify herself as white, even though Neymar would be pegged as Hispanic if he became American - even though both are Brazilian by background and therefore technically "Hispanic".
Lets use Neymar as an example. Lets assume he is indeed white. Lets assume he's applying to b-school and/or jobs in the US. Can't he just play the voluntary self identification form to his advantage? Which normally is minorities for academics and white for jobs?

Welcome to the racial politics of America.

It's also a negotiation between what race you identify with personally and how others perceive you. If Neymar became an American, even if he claimed to be white, most Americans will pigeonhole him as Hispanic, because, well, he looks like what Americans envision a Hispanic to look like (brown skinned).

And then you get more and more mixed-race people, which makes it even more complicated, because even if you don't fully identify with "one race" or another, the people around you throughout your life will try and reduce you to identifying with one race. President Obama is just one example of that.

So yes, on paper, you would be considered a white American. But if you were darker skinned who *looks* more like Neymar than Messi, in real life situations such as a job interview, folks may perceive you to be Hispanic.

8/19/15

I guess perception = reality in this case then!

8/19/15
umtugadocaralho:

I guess perception = reality in this case then!

Someone else's perception of you shouldn't have to change your own perception of yourself, but it's about being aware that regardless of how you perceive yourself, you may not be able to change how others perceive you.

8/19/15

I agree, hence why my question regarding what I should "report" as, both what I believe what I am closer to as well as what is more advantageous.

After reading a bit more into it I figured they'd want Europeans... that applied directly from there. Background probably is thrown to 2nd plan

2/16/16

NA

11/5/15
AppleByte:

Hey AlexI'll be heading into full-time MBA recruiting next fall, so I've got some questions, and some subsets of questions:1. Is it possible to do consulting AND banking interviews at the same time? a.) How often do they overlap? b.) If not possible to concentrate on 1st tier consulting AND banking companies at the same time, is it possible to focus on tier 1 consulting first and if unsuccessful focus on tier 2 finance/consulting jobs later? I'm still unsure about the pace of on campus recruiting...in the order they come on campus2. Will recruiters focus on reference checking a job from years ago (like, more than 3 or 4 years)? I have a varied background, but the most relevant experience I have is finance from years ago. I did well in 1 group, but also had conflicts with another group...so while I could get some decent references from friends there...I'm afraid of someone just reference checking people by random who'll bad-mouth me (not sure how likely). If reference checking is only HR, then I'm fine because I know that HR only confirms dates.3. I have excellent GMAT and grades. In that case, how important is pre-MBA experience for: a). Tier 1 and 2 Consulting and Banking jobs, and other finance roles b). F500 jobs in strategy, internal consulting, corporate, etc4. Do all three MBB firms give a test like the PST before interviews? At the North American MBA level?

To answer your questions:

1. Recruiting schedule typically happens at the same time. Given that firms are recruiting armies of MBAs, it makes no sense for firms to stagger their schedule to accommodate their competitors. Also, while you could recruit both at the same time, it's self-selecting in terms of career path and personality. Folks interested in consulting are a different breed than folks interested in banking - different priorities, values, interests, etc. All I will say is avoid treating the MBA recruiting process as a status-seeking exercise.

2. Don't worry about folks bad mouthing you. It's called not airing dirty laundry in public - and those who do, end up reflecting more poorly on the person bad mouthing than the subject being shat on. If you had a bad experience with a subordinate - let's say he's a college kid doing an internship - and he was awful, an asshole, etc. Would you go out of your way to fuck with his career? No - you would actually look like the asshole for doing it (and they will more likely discredit what you say anyhow because of that). You may not go out of your way to give a ringing endorsement, but you're not going to throw him under the bus either when some stranger calls you to ask about him. Basically, you're being a bit paranoid. With background checks, they're basically wanting to make sure you didn't outright lie about working there.

3. Consulting/banking: pre-MBA experience is not important. They need a ton of fresh bodies to replace the 80-90% of post-MBA associates who leave within 18-24 months. Cheap labor at "just graduated" billable rates rather than the "I'm a 3rd year associate with private school tuition fees for my kids I need to pay for" rates. With consulting, they want to make sure they can put you in front of a client and look pretty (and willing to rack up Marriott points across the flyover states and like, Saskatchewan and subsisting on a diet of chain restaurant take out - mmm... chimichanga chicken!). With banking, they want to know that you can crank out work for 80-100 hours a week with a smile on your face while aging 10 years physically in just 2 years.

For industry and tech, pre-MBA experience matters a lot more. Doesn't mean you can't do a 180-degree switch, but requires a harder sell on your part.

4. Consulting firms typically do case interviews as their 1st round of interviews.

2/16/16

NA

11/6/15
AppleByte:

Thanks man.A couple clarifications on 1, and 4:1. They all come together...like all 500 firms that post on campus recruit at basically the same time? So...Deloitte recruits the same time as BCG, and also at the same time as Goldman and...Prudential?4. Yes I understand that consulting firms do case interviews as 1st rounds...but I meant if you needed to take a test to secure 1st rounds interviews in the first place. It seems to at many foreign offices, McK and BCG give tests like the PST, but not to North American MBAs...or am I wrong?

There aren't 500 banks/consulting firms out there. More like about a dozen each that do 80-90% of the recruiting.

Also, I have no idea what a PST is (not up on the acronyms out there) but from the way you are describing it, it seems pretty terrifying.

11/6/15

Hi Alex,

I had a quick question regarding pursuing an MBA in the US. I'm currently attending the top university in my home country (Australia) which does not list grades as a GPA, they instead use WAM (weighted average mark).

I was just wondering if you have any idea what sort of WAM would make me competitive for H/S/W, or alternatively if my university marks will be of lower importance due to not being in the form of a GPA?

Thanks

11/6/15
undefined:

Hi Alex,I had a quick question regarding pursuing an MBA in the US. I'm currently attending the top university in my home country (Australia) which does not list grades as a GPA, they instead use WAM (weighted average mark).I was just wondering if you have any idea what sort of WAM would make me competitive for H/S/W, or alternatively if my university marks will be of lower importance due to not being in the form of a GPA?Thanks

For those who graduated from non-US undergrad colleges, it's about your GMAT and renown of the university itself. So while there's certainly internationals who went to "no name" or mid-tier non-US universities, you'll find that the international applicants tend to be overwhelmingly from the top non-US schools in their home country (and yes, adcoms are aware of the top universities in Australia, China, Russia, India, EU, UK, Canada, etc.).

This doesn't give you license to slack off academically (they will still look at your transcripts and get a sense for whether you had respectable grades or not) - just don't preoccupy yourself with it. Right now, b-school is a LIFETIME away for you - you have yet to finish undergrad, and another life (first few years of working full-time) after that before you're even in a position to think about b-school.

11/7/15

Hi Alex,

A question for you - how is a job at the SEC (or an international equivalent) seen by MBA adcoms? I'm looking to apply in next year's cycle and I'm not really sure if my work experience will be seen as a positive (given growing importance of financial reg. post GFC) or a mark against me? I worked in IB for a good quality bank before joining the SEC, which is a different to more traditional buyside career path.

Thanks.

11/7/15
undefined:

Hi Alex,A question for you - how is a job at the SEC (or an international equivalent) seen by MBA adcoms? I'm looking to apply in next year's cycle and I'm not really sure if my work experience will be seen as a positive (given growing importance of financial reg. post GFC) or a mark against me? I worked in IB for a good quality bank before joining the SEC, which is a different to more traditional buyside career path.Thanks.

It's a perfectly solid and respectable position.

11/15/15

Hey Alex,

with an offer in hand at a tier2/3 firm doing implementation with limited operational consulting (cough), would you advise I take the offer or go back to school to do a masters and recruit again OCR. Risks are that I don't land anything better, but in that case I would try to move out anyways. Thinking of using the offer as a cut off for schools, so it'll be like a safety.

goal - corporate role + operational experiences

Cheers,

reference to the consulting I discuss - firmsconsulting.com/quarterly/differences-between-strategy-operations-implementation/

11/16/15
undefined:

Hey Alex,with an offer in hand at a tier2/3 firm doing implementation with limited operational consulting (cough), would you advise I take the offer or go back to school to do a masters and recruit again OCR. Risks are that I don't land anything better, but in that case I would try to move out anyways. Thinking of using the offer as a cut off for schools, so it'll be like a safety.goal - corporate role + operational experiencesCheers,reference to the consulting I discuss - firmsconsulting.com/quarterly/differences-between-strategy-operations-implementation/

Take the job. Once you have an undergraduate degree, work experience in the business world matters more than any degrees beyond that.

11/16/15

Thank you Alex :)

12/22/15

Hi Alex,
Wondering if you could give me your take on my odds for a Top MBA programme in the US. I've currently shortlisted Tuck, CBS, and Yale and I'm considering applying to HBS, GSB, or MIT as well if time allows.

Bio: White male from Scandinavia in mid-20s
GMAT: 1st Attempt: 700 (Q42, V44, IR3). 2nd attempt one month later: 750 (Q45, V48, IR6)
Undergrad: Business degree from top UK university
GPA: First Class (Top 10%).
WE: 3yrs (at matriculatin) in equity research at Scandinavian investment bank, summer internship (consulting) in China during undergrad

Thanks in advance!

1/3/16
callity:

Hi Alex,Wondering if you could give me your take on my odds for a Top MBA programme in the US. I've currently shortlisted Tuck, CBS, and Yale and I'm considering applying to HBS, GSB, or MIT as well if time allows.Bio: White male from Scandinavia in mid-20sGMAT: 1st Attempt: 700 (Q42, V44, IR3). 2nd attempt one month later: 750 (Q45, V48, IR6)Undergrad: Business degree from top UK universityGPA: First Class (Top 10%).WE: 3yrs (at matriculatin) in equity research at Scandinavian investment bank, summer internship (consulting) in China during undergradThanks in advance!

With your profile (European, finance, high GMAT, strong GPA), you are competitive for the top 8 schools. HBS and Stanford are big stretches, but within range that they're at least worth applying to (I assume by now you've already decided to apply or not apply, given that the deadlines are essentially imminent for R2). Key thing is to apply to enough schools, which you are doing (4-6 schools is what most people end up doing). Good luck

3/14/16

Hi Alex, could you offer any thoughtss on whether an MBA is for me and my odds for schools such as Booth, Columbia, Wharton and maybe Stanford?
-graduated 2 years ago from 1 of the top 3 universities in Hong Kong, major in Economics with a quantitative focus, first class
-leadership experience not impressive I have to admit
-my interst is farming, not sure if it is interesting enough when you notice what a city Hong Kong really is
-first worked in a bulge bracket bank in the sales division for 1 year and more
-moved to a small local hedge fund as a research analyst and I am already managing part of the equity long/short portfolio. The fund has great performance and some reputation within the HF community in Hong Kong but is not known outside
-I think my current position is good. I definitely learn the skill sets and get the network to progress in finance in Hong Kong. However, I hope to get the chance to work overseas (e.g. London or Singapore). Also, without a top school brand, I am not sure whether I can eventually get to some really good positions as finance still places emphasis on pedigree.
-GMAT 740, 50Q/39V, 6 in AWA, 8 in IR).

I am a chinese male. What makes me concerned is that I think in short to mid term I am fine with my development in HK, but not sure how far I can go without some truly international experience and a strong pedigree.

3/14/16
SBAsia:

Hi Alex, could you offer any thoughtss on whether an MBA is for me and my odds for schools such as Booth, Columbia, Wharton and maybe Stanford?-graduated 2 years ago from 1 of the top 3 universities in Hong Kong, major in Economics with a quantitative focus, first class-leadership experience not impressive I have to admit-my interst is farming, not sure if it is interesting enough when you notice what a city Hong Kong really is-first worked in a bulge bracket bank in the sales division for 1 year and more-moved to a small local hedge fund as a research analyst and I am already managing part of the equity long/short portfolio. The fund has great performance and some reputation within the HF community in Hong Kong but is not known outside-I think my current position is good. I definitely learn the skill sets and get the network to progress in finance in Hong Kong. However, I hope to get the chance to work overseas (e.g. London or Singapore). Also, without a top school brand, I am not sure whether I can eventually get to some really good positions as finance still places emphasis on pedigree.-GMAT 740, 50Q/39V, 6 in AWA, 8 in IR).I am a chinese male. What makes me concerned is that I think in short to mid term I am fine with my development in HK, but not sure how far I can go without some truly international experience and a strong pedigree.

The top 8 schools are going to be a big stretch since you're up against plenty of Asian finance guys who have the pedigree (and they would still have a hard time getting in, particularly at H/S/W).

The top 16 schools are where you'll likely land: Stern, Cornell, Yale, Ross, Duke, Darden, Haas and UCLA.

What I suggest is to apply to 1-2 top 8 schools (and LBS) as your stretches.

And focus on 4-5 top 16 schools.

As for safeties, choose 1-2 -- if you're looking for international experience, take a look at Oxford and/or Cambridge.

3/14/16

Thx Alex
Do you think it is worth going to the safeties in my case, Oxbridge as you suggest, or "top 16 or bust"?

I do prefer going to the UK though as I have some network there.

3/15/16

Yes, in your case if you're looking to work abroad, put Oxbridge on your list (essentially getting a degree in Europe or North America even if it's not a top 16 will still help you transition post-MBA).

3/14/16

Hi Alex - thanks for taking the time to offer advice. Once I get comfortable with the financial hit, my plan is to begin applying round 1 2016 and matriculate in 2017.

1. I have worked in a few different groups within a mid-size Consumer / Commercial FI (US Bank, Capital One, PNC). My experience includes 2.5 years in Risk Management, 1 year in Treasury and 1 year in Accounting. I am in a leadership role within my team and oversee 1 direct report and the work of 3 indirect reports. Consistent 4 & 5 performance ratings.
2. Currently getting GMAT practice scores in the 720 range, shooting for a 740
3. Georgia Tech, Management, 3.5, graduated in 2011
4. I tutor at a charter school on a weekly basis. Since becoming involved there, my 8th grader has gone from an F to a C in his algebra class. I have also recruited 1 other tutor. I am also a musician in my free time that performs solo and with a band.
5.CFA Charterholder, passed each level on first attempt
6. Expanding my network, gaining international experience and developing my business acumen are career goals that an MBA would help me achieve. My post-MBA objective is to either enter FIG at the associate level or fixed income portfolio management.

I am currently targeting the Park Fellowship at Johnson. A couple of other schools in my target list include Wharton and Darden. Would a MS in finance better suit me for fixed income portfolio management / S&T?

3/14/16
bunjamin:

Hi Alex - thanks for taking the time to offer advice. Once I get comfortable with the financial hit, my plan is to begin applying round 1 2016 and matriculate in 2017.1. I have worked in a few different groups within a mid-size Consumer / Commercial FI (US Bank, Capital One, PNC). My experience includes 2.5 years in Risk Management, 1 year in Treasury and 1 year in Accounting. I am in a leadership role within my team and oversee 1 direct report and the work of 3 indirect reports. Consistent 4 & 5 performance ratings.2. Currently getting GMAT practice scores in the 720 range, shooting for a 7403. Georgia Tech, Management, 3.5, graduated in 20114. I tutor at a charter school on a weekly basis. Since becoming involved there, my 8th grader has gone from an F to a C in his algebra class. I have also recruited 1 other tutor. I am also a musician in my free time that performs solo and with a band.5.CFA Charterholder, passed each level on first attempt6. Expanding my network, gaining international experience and developing my business acumen are career goals that an MBA would help me achieve. My post-MBA objective is to either enter FIG at the associate level or fixed income portfolio management.I am currently targeting the Park Fellowship at Johnson. A couple of other schools in my target list include Wharton and Darden. Would a MS in finance better suit me for fixed income portfolio management / S&T?

Focus on the MBA as you have the background for it.

At this point, it comes down to the GMAT. For the top 16 schools, you need a 700 at a bare minimum, and a 720+ in order for your GMAT to be in safe territory (and ideally above 740+).

Beyond that, it's choosing a mix of schools: stretches, sweet spots and safeties. In your case, the top 8 are stretches, but worth applying to 1-2. Sweet spots are the top 16 schools, and where you should put most of your focus on (maybe look at 3-4). As for safeties, choose 1-2 from the top 30, but as you said the money is an issue, and it comes down to whether you feel it's worth it to go to a top 30 or not given your overall work profile to date. My suggestion would be "top 16 or bust" in your case, and if you don't get in, continue with the CFA and get the designation, and maybe look at a part-time or exec MBA down the road.

3/16/16

Hi Alex, thanks a ton for doing this.

I'm wondering whether I'd be competitive applying for a top MFin program (mainly MIT, possibly LSE), or if I should wait and try for an M7 MBA or other top MBA.

1. 1.5 years on a short term rates trading desk outside the US (think Canada, France, Australia). It's a big player locally, and is well regarded here. I recently have gotten my own book to trade under arm's length supervision.
2. 740 GMAT (~97th percentile)
3. I went to the University of Toronto and graduated with two separate degrees:
First in economics, 3.5 gpa. Failed a math/econ course in second year on, and had to repeat a few courses, last year GPA was 3.9 though, top marks in a few key courses.
Second degree after was in a general management/commerce type degree, 3.9 GPA, award for top 5% of the class.
4. Passed all 3 levels of the CFA.
5. Founded a school trading club that now has 100+ annual paying members.
6. I'm pretty happy with my sell-side trading job right now but wouldn't mind moving into something more quantitative, or possibly move to the buyside. I'm certain my desk would be supportive of me and might help open some doors. I have EU citizenship so I could go to London, but I'd be happy returning to my current shop or moving to NY.
Other: Regularly use VBA, Python, and R in my job. I can program basic stuff in C++ as well.

I have recommendation letters from my school's Masters Program director (MFin equivalent, aced one of his courses, did some research with him), and can probably get a few from the senior traders I work with.
If I applied next year, is there anything I could do to strengthen my profile? I'm worried about the F on my transcript blacklisting me. Would it be better to wait and do an MBA instead?

3/16/16

Honestly I don't know a whole lot about these MFin, MS in Finance, etc. type of programs, although it seems like I'm getting more questions about them. Perhaps I should learn more about them!

I tend to get questions about these masters programs from two types of folks:

1. Undergrads (or those who are less than 1 year out of school) who went to non-target schools, and not satisfied with their job prospects, deciding to get the degree, knowing they want to stay in finance and aren't really sure about wanting an MBA down the road (but are sure they *definitely* want a better entry level type of position right now compared to what is available to them).

2. Internationals - those who are looking for a way to work in the US/Europe, and also less experienced than what a top MBA program would want.

I'm sure there's also folks who are interested who already have finance experience (sales/trading, back office, etc) but I tend to get the above 2 groups asking about these MS programs.

Bu there's other folks on this board who know the MS programs in more detail.

In your case, it seems like you're trying to set yourself up for a career as a trader (at least in the short to medium term), so I don't think an MBA would make as much sense. So it comes down to either staying put in your current job and working your way up (or to a point where you get recruited away to another firm), or to do the MS. But from what I know, if you're already a trader, I'm not sure what an MS will give you that you don't already have.

What I will say though - and this goes with most questions about "should I go back to school or continue working?" -- if don't know or aren't sure either way, chances are you're better off working for a bit until you are sure you want to break it off and go back to becoming a student.

Being in the workplace - regardless of career path - is certainly more ambiguous. There's no clear path. No final exams. Nothing is really concrete or deterministic. So I can see why those who are barely out of school find going back to school enticing. But it's not a panacea. It's not going to make any future working environment that much less ambiguous. You're not "setting yourself up" for anything.

Again, if you have doubts, continue working.

Accepted.com
3/18/16

Hi Alex, could you chance me?

1) Ivy grad, 3.8 GPA, magna cum laude, neuroscience + philosophy major, English minor
2) 335/340 GRE (99%, 1600/1600 on old scale)
2) worked at top 5 business school for 2 years, research assistant/wrote case studies
3) Business analyst for policy at Google for 1.5 years

Considering MBA or MBA/MA in IR

Considering Harvard, Stanford, UChicago, MIT, and others

3/19/16
tapuzina12:

Hi Alex, could you chance me?1) Ivy grad, 3.8 GPA, magna cum laude, neuroscience + philosophy major, English minor2) 335/340 GRE (99%, 1600/1600 on old scale)2) worked at top 5 business school for 2 years, research assistant/wrote case studies3) Business analyst for policy at Google for 1.5 yearsConsidering MBA or MBA/MA in IRConsidering Harvard, Stanford, UChicago, MIT, and others

You're in range for the top schools, so key thing is to apply to 4-6 schools to minimize randomness of results from one school to the next, and to maximize the chance that you'll get into at least one school. Just don't screw up your applications (i.e. come across as an arrogant prick in the essays, or trying to be too cute with your writing, or overplay the "I wanna be a superhero and change the world" narrative, etc).

3/20/16

Thanks, Alex!

3/22/16

My background:
Completed undergrad in 2012 with a degree in economics from the University of Illinois. After that I began working for Accenture as a management consultant for 3 years. During that time, I became quite interested in finance and completed some online financial modeling courses as well as level 1 of the CFA program. I pounded the pavement and sent many cold emails to private equity firms, and landed my current gig as an associate at a small private equity firm in Chicago. In the meantime, I have become extremely interested in public equity investing, and have raised a small friends-and-family fund to invest with. I'm convinced the destination for my career is in the hedge fund/mutual fund space.

Questions:
1) I had a low gpa in undergrad (2.9). Will this make it unlikely that I'll get into the top 10 MBA programs? My targets are Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Stanford, and Columbia. My #1 is probably Booth to stay in Chicago
2) How frequently do you see MBA grads going into hedge funds? What kind of background did they come in with?
3) How frequently do you see private equity grads switching out and going the public equity route? I think it's common for private equity folks to stay within the industry, so I'm curious as to what you've seen
4) I have some cool extracurriculars to discuss in applications (help run a nationally competitive dance team, work with the indian national government (through my father) to help create programs that will technologically improve the country. I assume this will boost me, but will the gpa be a cutoff to the point where they won't even look at my essays?

3/22/16
chicago_sports_fan:

My background:Completed undergrad in 2012 with a degree in economics from the University of Illinois. After that I began working for Accenture as a management consultant for 3 years. During that time, I became quite interested in finance and completed some online financial modeling courses as well as level 1 of the CFA program. I pounded the pavement and sent many cold emails to private equity firms, and landed my current gig as an associate at a small private equity firm in Chicago. In the meantime, I have become extremely interested in public equity investing, and have raised a small friends-and-family fund to invest with. I'm convinced the destination for my career is in the hedge fund/mutual fund space.Questions:1) I had a low gpa in undergrad (2.9). Will this make it unlikely that I'll get into the top 10 MBA programs? My targets are Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Stanford, and Columbia. My #1 is probably Booth to stay in Chicago2) How frequently do you see MBA grads going into hedge funds? What kind of background did they come in with?3) How frequently do you see private equity grads switching out and going the public equity route? I think it's common for private equity folks to stay within the industry, so I'm curious as to what you've seen4) I have some cool extracurriculars to discuss in applications (help run a nationally competitive dance team, work with the indian national government (through my father) to help create programs that will technologically improve the country. I assume this will boost me, but will the gpa be a cutoff to the point where they won't even look at my essays?

1. Destroy the GMAT. 740+ and ideally a 760+ or with a sub-3.0 GPA from a non-Ivy/equivalent school in econ, your chances are slim to none at H/S/W, and very long at any of the top 8. That's just the reality. With a monster GMAT and schools like Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, CBS, Tuck and Wharton may give you a look. H/S even with a 3.6+ GPA in your case is going to be a big stretch (more folks who have stronger branding ahead in line, and they aren't exactly shoe-ins either).

2. It ebbs and flows with the markets. Pre-2008 more than lately. Most have finance backgrounds (IB, PE, etc), or are big quants (physics, math, etc). You'd be in play, with or without an MBA, depending on how hedge funds are doing as a whole.

3. Not common. But so what? If you want to do it, go for it. Whether you swim upstream or downstream, you still have to swim.

4. See #1. If your GMAT isn't strong, it's not really going to move the needle as much as you'd hope. Plenty of folks with amazing personal/extracurriculars who don't get in - yes, some do, and they get singled out, but that's survivorship bias. In b-school admissions, those whose odds are in their favor (sometimes heavily so) are traditional blue chip types with strong numbers (GMAT/GPA) - again not everyone gets in, but more often than not they have an advantage in this process. I'm sure you have amazing extracurriculars, but so do others who are applying - maybe not as amazing as you think yours may be, but still pretty damn good.

3/24/16

Hi Alex,

I am graduating this June (undergrad) and I was thinking that as I would have 3 months off before working whether it would be a good idea to take the GMAT during that period as I will have a lot of time to prepare or whether I should wait a couple years when I actually start planning on doing an MBA?

I know it is valid in most cases for 5 years, however I have also read that some b-schools ask for it to be more recent.

Secondly, I will be graduating with a 2:1 (3.3 - 3.4 GPA equivalent I believe) from a semi-target British university (University of Manchester, Manchester Business School - I consider it a semi-target, not a target), would Oxbridge even consider me from a purely academic background?

I could message you more details about my background and where I will be going to work once I graduate if you have time?

Thanks!

3/25/16
Whyphy:

Hi Alex,I am graduating this June (undergrad) and I was thinking that as I would have 3 months off before working whether it would be a good idea to take the GMAT during that period as I will have a lot of time to prepare or whether I should wait a couple years when I actually start planning on doing an MBA?I know it is valid in most cases for 5 years, however I have also read that some b-schools ask for it to be more recent.Secondly, I will be graduating with a 2:1 (3.3 - 3.4 GPA equivalent I believe) from a semi-target British university (University of Manchester, Manchester Business School - I consider it a semi-target, not a target), would Oxbridge even consider me from a purely academic background?I could message you more details about my background and where I will be going to work once I graduate if you have time?Thanks!

So you just spent your entire life to date in school/academics. You have a 3 month break before you start working full-time.

How valuable is that 3 months? What would you do in those 3 months that you can't do while working, or while in school?

Do what you want, but think about it. Why spend those precious 3 months studying for a standardized test? Is that really a good use of your time from a quality of life perspective in terms of spending your time in a meaningful way? Especially when you don't have to do it right now?

In the 3 months between school and work, you:

- traveled to XYZ country, met some great people (maybe had your own coming-of-age story...), experienced a new culture, improved on a language in an immersive way, had some meaningful experiences and yes, had a good time

- volunteered at XYZ org, where you met some great people, learned a ton about something you didn't know about before, got involved in something that you felt good about, helped others

- spent time with family/friends on a short-term project (building a summer cabin, playing in a band, planning for your friend/sibling's wedding, helping your parents sail the world, etc).

- sat alone studying utterly impractical and esoteric material that is relevant only for the GMAT

3/26/16

Do you have any opinion on Georgetown's MSF program? It's an online program but their use of live skype-in classes and the two on sites make it seem very different from any online program I've seen.

For someone with > 3.5 from a no name and decent ECs would doing this program and getting a brand name (assuming good grades) help with admissions to a top mba?

3/27/16
AnonMonkey123:

Do you have any opinion on Georgetown's MSF program? It's an online program but their use of live skype-in classes and the two on sites make it seem very different from any online program I've seen.For someone with > 3.5 from a no name and decent ECs would doing this program and getting a brand name (assuming good grades) help with admissions to a top mba?

Quality work experience, not collecting additional masters' degrees, will help with admissions to a top MBA program.

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