H/S/W chances after 4 years PE, 2 years IB?

Hi All -

I am about to begin my third year at a MM PE (senior associate), and have been verbally offered a VP position (after 4 years, our cycle is 2 years associate -> 2 years senior associate -->VP). 

Business school has been a bit of an afterthought for me, but after seeing some of my friends enter MBA programs, I'm starting to think it could be a really valuable experience, and that I should at least take a shot at HBS / GSB / Wharton. The issue is that I am in no way ready to apply - still need to study and take the GMAT, get recommendations in order, essays, etc. I am also engaged, and my fiance likely won't be able to move her job to a new city in one year.

My question is really threefold:

1) Will my chances of admission to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton be significantly altered if I have four years of PE experience? I'm worried that it might make me an odd duck given that most "traditional" PE candidates have 2-3 years, and business schools are generally skewing a bit younger with 2+2 programs, etc.

2) If I'm ready, should I apply round 2 of this year, or are my chances best maximized in round 1, even if it means waiting a year? What if I apply round 2 and want to give it another shot next year?

3) How does the above two questions apply to other M7 schools, and are those schools worth pursuing? 

Stats, for reference:

-Two years IB at a top bulge bracket bank

-3-4 years in MM PE (would get good recommendations from the partners)

-Top 20 undergrad, biz/econ major, GPA is a bit low but within range

Comments (8)

  • Associate 2 in PE - LBOs
Jun 27, 2022 - 2:35am

Point #1 - I would probably reach out to MBA consultants and gauge their opinions. Many of them do free 30 min consultations which can help guide your framework. I personally think it can only be a positive than a negative.

Point #2 - Similar to point #1, opinions may vary but you get to hear individuals that deal with have dealt with MBA admissions rather than people on this forum

Point #3 - No one can really answer this question but it is up to you and your values. (i.e., do you think 2 years of missed earnings + ~$200k tuition is worth it from a non HSW MBA?)

With that being said, if you're serious about the MBA program and want to apply round 2 you should be studying for the GMAT asap. It will probably take ~3 months or so to get a score to be competitive (740+ unless you're a diversity candidate) 

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 27, 2022 - 12:21pm

Really good advice. I set up a couple of MBA consultant calls for this week.

With regards to non HSW - I think it depends what I want to do after. If I decide PE isn't for me, I think one of those schools could make sense. I'm partially thinking about an MBA because I'm not sure this is the right career path for me long term (and its a lot easier to get out before locked up with unvested carry as VP). Frankly my best shot to stay in PE is probably just to make sure I get the VP offer at my current firm rather than going through the cycle again, even at HSW (as a white male too). I still like the idea of expanding my network, getting to take a career break, etc. 

Most Helpful
Jun 27, 2022 - 3:34pm
APAE, what's your opinion? Comment below:
  1. I am too far from the admissions game at this point to speak with certainty on four versus three. General advice would be that the more 'seasoned' the applicant, the more 'extra' stuff you have to point to. It makes sense intuitively, you've been around longer and enjoyed more time to be well-rounded. HBS is pretty explicit about their screening criteria: 'habit of leadership' and 'engaged community citizenship' are two of the three. 

    When I see people demean applicants from industries outside finance (or more frequently, diverse applicants) as being 'weaker' on-paper, one of the things I gently point out is that someone who can put a lot on paper to highlight their strengths on those two dimensions is literally answering the admissions prompt more fully than someone crushing it on the third ('analytical aptitude and appetite', which is usually an out of the park homer for a finance applicant). To keep the sports analogy going, two RBIs puts more points on the board than a solo homer.

    For the record, the finance applicants who are successful at HBS and GSB are invariably those who flex to score on at least one of the other two. For GSB, it really tends to be the latter. It's a 'change the world' vibe. It doesn't have to be ooey-gooey save the world, it can be very literal: I had this formative experience when I was young, have touched it in the following ways (high school leadership, college leadership, philanthropy or service as a young professional), and want to use the unique combination the school affords of X class, Y initiative, and Z student group to help me achieve ABC outcome in 123 timeframe. 
  2. R1 and R2 have historically had acceptance rates within about five percentage points of each other. Your odds are pretty much the same in either round, it's just that the largest volume of applicants is seen in R1. 

    In terms of reapplicant success, people often get lost in the data when I think the real thing to focus on is what changed in your application. Going from a 740 to a 760 is not going to move the needle, so if you use the eight months to focus on your scores that won't be fruitful. If you're able to either reshape your non-professional elements (community leadership, references) or rewrite your application to highlight those that already existed, the eight months might yield a positive result.

    Some successful reapplicants do get there by leveling up. Going from a 680 to a 740, or taking two courses at a college to get As in quantitative subjects that were glaring errors on the undergrad transcript, for example. This is anecdotal, but I think more get there by realizing it's about showing more of the full picture of who they are. 
  3. I am not here to knock on great schools that thousands of people would be happy to attend. At the same time, I do believe that for a high-performing individual in finance the value proposition outside of Harvard and Stanford is a toss-up and outside of HSW is net-negative.

    You won't be enjoying need-based scholarship, and unless you do something cataclysmic to make yourself a diamond applicant, you won't enjoy merit scholarships either. Paying out of pocket plus foregoing three-quarters of a million in income is a tough pill to swallow for anything other than the very best option. 

With regards to non HSW - I think it depends what I want to do after. If I decide PE isn't for me, I think one of those schools could make sense. I'm partially thinking about an MBA because I'm not sure this is the right career path for me long term (and its a lot easier to get out before locked up with unvested carry as VP).

This logic is poor in my view. If you're exploring other career paths, you want to maximize future optionality. You do that by being surrounded by the highest average caliber of professor, classmate, campus resources (entrepreneurship, social impact, government, and so on) and securing the best perception possible. 

Your option set is best maximized at the best school, put plainly. Plus you maintain the best optionality of continuing in finance but on a potentially more locally-optimized route: a fund that pays you more or works you less or is in a different industry or geography or all of the above.

So to recap:

  • if you do choose to delay to apply in R1 next year, make sure you don't look unidimensional
  • if you apply in R2 unsuccessfully, consider how to change your profile on the non-analytical dimensions
  • don't think of going to a lower-ranked school to pursue things outside of finance; it's going to cost just as much and you'll get 'less'

Good luck man. 

I am permanently behind on PMs, it's not personal.

  • 10
Jun 28, 2022 - 8:58pm
BoutiqueAsc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Go on LinkedIn and find people who did private equity and then an MBA - googling "private equity MBA Harvard" for ex will pull up countless people and if you find a fair number of people with your years of experience who went, then there's your answer. Try it with 1-2 other schools too to get a sense.

I can tell you a few extra years in PE is no way the kiss of death to getting an MBA - may even be a positive (?). But think about applying now that you have your chance, honestly getting married, having kids etc may change the equation down the line.

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 28, 2022 - 9:23pm

This isn't a value-added comment but just want to vent that H/S admissions have become such BS. I've lost so much respect for these institutions. I'm personally still applying and am at a platform + background that means I'll probably get into one. But their general orientation against PE towards objectively less qualified candidates, coupled with a clear shift towards SJW pandering in courses and outwards posturing has really left a bad taste in my mouth. It's like they're asking for themselves to become irrelevant in another 10-15 years (more than they already have)…

  • Associate 1 in PE - LBOs
Jun 28, 2022 - 10:40pm

I'm at one of those "definite acceptance" shops and I can tell you for multiple classes now several folks at these shops have been getting rejected from Harvard too.

Jun 29, 2022 - 1:04am
whartoncoomer, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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