Ask Alex at MBA Apply

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: //www.wallstreetoasis.com/veritas-gmat-prep-discount

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.

 

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.

 
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

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

Hi Alex MBAApply ,

I was hoping you might be able to give me a rough overview of schools I might consider applying for/my odds? I just took the GMAT this past Saturday (mostly cold - googled "GMAT math tricks" etc. the week before if that's any indication) and got a 730: 48 quant, 42 verbal, 8 IR (if that counts for anything). I'm very confident I could get my quant to 50+ if I studied for a few weeks. No idea how much studying helps with verbal. Other background: -24M, Caucasian -18 months of professional experience in audit/relationship management at a global financial institution -CFA Level 2 -Math/Political Science double major at a strong liberal arts undergrad (think Boston College, Bucknell, Colgate, Hamilton, Holy Cross, Trinity, Wesleyan) -Graduated phi beta kappa with a 3.73 as a four year varsity athlete in a D1 top 20 program -Internships for a federal agency and an insurance company I'd be interested in hearing any thoughts you had on my profile.

Thanks and I hope you're having a nice holiday season!

 

Work for a year or two before considering MBA programs. At this point, just focus on building up solid work experience, rather than mentally thinking about going back to school (you're less than two years removed from having spent practically your entire conscious life in school). Good luck

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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.

 
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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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.

 
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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

I have seen your posts and I would truly appreciate your evaluation on my chances at a top 5 GPA: 3.59 at top 30 University GMAT: 700 About to start Investment Banking Analyst program at major investment bank VP of my frat started Wall Street Club which became one of biggest clubs at my school managed elite student run portfolio of over 300,000

 
Am210:
I have seen your posts and I would truly appreciate your evaluation on my chances at a top 5 GPA: 3.59 at top 30 University GMAT: 700 About to start Investment Banking Analyst program at major investment bank VP of my frat started Wall Street Club which became one of biggest clubs at my school managed elite student run portfolio of over 300,000

To be honest, it's hard to say because you haven't even started your career yet. You know that there's a history of ex-analysts getting into the top b-schools, however, you have absolutely no idea where your head will be even after 6 months into the job. Trust me on this. Some folks leave within 6-12 months to do something completely different (even get out of a business career altogether); others soldier on in zombie-like fashion until their 2-year stint is up, then go onto something else without thinking about b-school at all.

All I would focus on at this point is what's in front of you - your job as an analyst. Learn as much as you can, keep your head down but don't lose your spine, and take it a month at a time. If you're too focused on b-school now (which is two steps ahead), you will take for granted what's in front of you (the life of an analyst) and you will hate life even more because you're not focused on the present, developing even more anxiety than necessary.

The best thing you can do for your career now is to focus on doing the best job you can as analyst, rather than worrying about b-school. Being extremely well-regarded by your peers (analysts, associates, VPs, MDs, etc) may not necessarily open up the floodgates when it comes to future job opportunities, but you still give yourself a better chance for those exit opportunities by being that great analyst rather than shooting yourself in the foot and having your head somewhere else.

The life of an analyst as some of the folks here on this board will tell you as well is that it's ALL CONSUMING especially in your first year. It's not an intellectually demanding job per se, but it's grueling in the hours you put in, and the fact that it's your first real full-time job (it's still not the same as an internship because more is expected of you and you don't really have an "out" a few weeks down the road by going back to school). If you want to be in the good books with your transaction team members, it requires your full undivided attention without any distraction. You are not really being judged for your smarts, but for your diligence - your attention to detail.

Again, as tempting as it is to think about b-school, don't - at least for the first 6 months to a year into your job.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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?")

 
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?

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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?

 

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!

 
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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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?

 
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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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.

 

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: Young@Heart, 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 :-)

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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?

 
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

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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?

 
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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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.

 
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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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.

 

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?

 
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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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.

 
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).

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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

 
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).

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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)

 
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

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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?

 

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.

Alex Chu www.mbaapply.com
 

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

 

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!