AMA: I got into two T10 MBA programs with a <3.0 GPA

So - I just got all my R1 decisions back and found out I got into MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas!

I was a low GPA candidate - ended up with 2.96 from a T30 "semi target" school. Major in Econ, Minor in Math. A caveat about my grades - my lower grades were in upper level math courses such as abstract algebra, differential equations, etc. I had A's and A-'s in Microeconomics, calc I, Calc II, etc. I also worked 20-30 hours a week during school and had some family issues - so had a "mitigating" story. I addressed it in my optional essay.

My GMAT was high - 750 (50Q / 42V) with a 6 on the AWA and a 5 on the IR (my only weak point). I took it once.

My WE was 2 years at a NYC Leveraged Finance group (middle market, covered financial sponsors), 8 months at a MM IB (Think: William Blair/Houlihan Lokey/Harris Williams) in LA, and then 2.5 years to date a top tier corporate VC. Had an early promotion from "associate" to "senior associate" after a year. I ran a diversity initative at work, and my ECs include involvement with a microfinance nonprofit (I sit on the board), and belong to a couple professional groups - nothing major. I also do some rec sports and ran a couple half marathons.

I'm a 27 year old white woman and first generation college student. I also applied to H/S/W. I got dinged without interview at H/S, and dinged with interview at W

AMA!

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Comments (40)

Dec 20, 2017

Very well done. Congratulations. Can you elaborate on how you got into IB analyst program despite weak college gpa? What's your post mba career goal?? In your opinion, what qualities / intangibles helped you get in? I am an MBA applicant this year that got into t15 mba, but couldn't crack an m7 (yet).

Dec 24, 2017

Sure - like I said, I went to a Semi target so every bank came to recruit on campus. I went to all the events and tried to make connections. I made a few good ones, particularly with an MD I ended up working with who pushed me through the GPA cut off. I didn't get a lot of interviews, but every first round interview I had I converted to an offer (2 offers in IB and 1 in valuation advisory). I nailed my technicals and I typically interview well.

I think what helped me get in is that I work extremely hard and I'm very genuine. I think my passion for the work I do in VC came through, and both the schools I got into really value that. Like I said downthread, I put a ton of effort into the process, and I think it was clear to the schools that I really wanted it and was going to work hard in the program

Dec 21, 2017

Serious question do you consider yourself attractive or well above? That can make a pretty big difference when talking in a highly male industry.

More so for the first job than the latter positions. Easier to get a guy to make exceptions for a pretty face.

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Dec 24, 2017

Difficult question to answer on yourself - but I'd say I'm cute but not a perfect 10

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Dec 22, 2017

Lol

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Dec 22, 2017

Only hunks and dime pieces make it to FO. Christian Bale or Sharon Stone c. 1990 or GTFO.

Dec 20, 2017

How much effort did you put in to it all? What's your plans post MBA?

Dec 24, 2017

I worked very hard - started nearly a year in advance. I started studying for the GMAT in November 2016, took it in March, spent March-May traveling around the country visiting schools. Summer 2017 I took 2 classes at a local university to offset my GPA. Spent the whole summer crafting essays. Post MBA I either want to go straight back to VC, or spend a few years at a startup and then go back to VC

Dec 20, 2017

Congrats, but TBH, I'm a little surprised you got into two top 10s, especially MIT, given your GPA, as this in no way was happening for your male equivalent (unless ex military spec ops or having some super special hook). Being introspective, what was the #1 thing you think pushed the scales for you? Amazing interviews or connecting on the basis of your ECs?

Edit: also, how did you make the jump into corporate VC? In what industry if you don't want to name the firm? What were typical day to day activities and exit opps besides bschool (assuming someone would want to leave)?

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Best Response
Dec 24, 2017

Look - I respect your opinion, but you have no idea what a male candidate in similar shoes would have done. I've heard from multiple consultants that white woman do not have much of an advantage over white men anymore, especially in certain fields (consulting is a big one, but finance is catching up). That said, you also don't know what it's like or how you would have performed as the only woman on your team in 3 different positions. (BTW - I'm not one of the ones who gave you monkey shit). The reason I'm doing this AMA is because I did a lot of work to offset my low GPA and I was hoping to help others in the same situation.

Basically, I checked every box they look for to mitigate the low GPA and show its a fluke and it won't happen again. 1.) I was working almost full time when I got it (I did my 20 hours a week work study on campus, demonstrating financial need, and I worked as a waitress on weekends. i wrote my optional essay explaining this, 2.) I had a high GMAT, 3.) I took 2 extension school classes and got A+'s in them, and 4.) I had an upward trajectory both in my career and within positions (early promotion).

I think my special hook was a lot of the extras I did in VC, more like work extras than formal ECs (though I did do a lot on the EC front). I really went above and beyond my role and I think it showed through in my leadership related stuff, my examples of working with entrepreneurs (my favorite part of my job!). I was constantly volunteering at accelerators and speaking at conferences, which my bosses loved and raved about in my recs. I had a lot of meat to pull from in my essays when I was talking about accomplishments.

People ask me all the time how I made the VC jump and I wish i had a better story but I don't. So, I was pretty fed up with banking and ready to move, and I thought a good move would be to a financial analyst type role (thinking maybe FP&A but also corp strategy or whatever) at a tech company. I had basically given up on buyside dreams at this point (even though that, specifically VC, was originally my dream job). I just didn't work at strong enough banks to recruit on the buyside. Anyway, I'm poking around tech companies job postings and see one for the Corp VC arm of a F100 tech company. I applied, and like a week later someone emailed me to set up a phone interview. Obviously, I got the job. I had two phone interviews (first with the current associate who was leaving, second was with the hiring manager), and then they brought me in for a superday style interview where I met with most of the partner-level investors individually, as well as HR, and I had lunch with all the current associates.

Typical exit ops (besides b-school) include switching into another finance group in tech (the guys who did this made manager almost instantly and are now rising the ranks), or working for a portfolio company. Other guys have also stayed a really long and toiled away for a promotion, which some have gotten and some haven't. Typically people stay like 3 years. Day-to-day I'm sourcing companies, working on diligence and approval stuff for investments in process, and then managing portfolio company status. Unlike a traditional VC, I don't do LP and fund materials, but I do a lot of work with corporate accounting, tax, and treasury to get everything executed.

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Dec 20, 2017

I wasn't hating, but rather stating a pretty well informed opinion, as I actually do have an idea of what male and female candidates go through in this obscene MBA rat race. I was admitted to three M7 schools, interviewed at four, and I'm currently a 2nd year at one of them who helps on the admissions reading teams.

I said what I said because I've seen firsthand how crazy the admissions game is. For every one little-monkey getting in, there are another two women with a 3.3 engineering major GPA from a top 10 or 15 university, a 740 GMAT, and with "women in STEM outreach" ECs who didn't get in (although they were likely interviewed). They also did two half marathons and one full (this is legit on like every other female application).

As for men, the only guys I've seen even seen considered with a sub 3.0 GPA are ex-military who went to West Point or the naval academy, and did some pretty interesting things leading younger men in war or flying aircraft or helicopter missions. I think it disingenuous to say that women still don't have a leg up, especially on the borderline cases, which you are. Obvious admits are always obvious regardless of gender, but borderline women are always given second looks because of the push to get more women in bschool. I've read some rough data that shows women are still only around 35% of elite bschool apps, but they are getting admitted at 40%+ clips. Unless they far far outshine their male counterparts then that alone tells you that they get a slight bump (but to your point likely not as much as say a decade ago).

I do think the VC work was unique and interesting for pre-MBA experience, and as you stated above you think you interview well, which can be a big help at that stage. Anyways, again congrats, I wasn't trying to be a jerk or anything.

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Dec 24, 2017
Pmc2ghy:

Obvious admits are always obvious

Thanks for the insight... I guess it is what it is

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Dec 21, 2017

Hey, thank you for doing the AMA. I am in a similar position and hoping to apply to B School sometime in the next 2-3 years. You mentioned that you did 2 extension school classes to help offset your GPA. Would you mind sharing which ones you did, if from your experience B Schools have a strong preference, and what the process for making them aware of the extension classes was? I'm assuming you just included it when submitting your transcripts?

Dec 24, 2017

I took Financial Accounting, which I did because that was my lowest grade in an easy course in undergrad and then I took a financial markets course because I thought it sounded interesting and I wanted to really show I was committed (hence two courses). The recommendation is to retake anything you got a low grade one, and if you haven't taken it yet, micro and macro econ, statistics, or calc I. I had gotten A's or A-'s in all of those courses in undergad which is why I took something different.

I submitted that transcript along with my OG transcript, and briefly mentioned it in my optional essay. My optional essay basically said "I understand my undergraduate GPA is below average for your school. These were the reasons and this is what I've done since"

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Dec 22, 2017

I got into MIT, CBS, and UVA w/$$$ with a <3.0 and WL at Wharton. I'm a white guy from NYC in B4 advisory. I'm not any of the "special cases" you mentioned. I did the exact same things she did and it worked out.

Got any more ways to trivialize this woman's hard work?

Dec 23, 2017

Thank you for saying that :)

Dec 23, 2017

@jhd311

Hey man, congrats on those offers!

I was wondering whether many of your colleagues in B4 advisory also pursued the MBA route and if so how they fared? I'm about to start the graduate programme of a Big 4 M&A team in a European city doing lead advisory and was wondering how common this trajectory was. Thanks!

Dec 22, 2017

I know a few from US B4 who ended up matriculating well, but it all had to do with "the story". I'll caveat this with the fact that Euro B4 (according to P&Q) is much more prestigious than US where I'm coming from. Basically, all had a rock solid reason for their MBA that was backed up by work experience and a killer GMAT/GPA to make up for the less-than-stellar brand name

Dec 24, 2017

Well no, as a URM with sub 660 GMAT that got in to multiple top b schools including HBS and Wharton, I can guarantee you that my race had something to do with it. It's pretty much commonly accepted among the URM community that its an advantage in b schools admissions, just like being female. (probably disadvantage many other areas, but just not in b school admissions)

But hey, feel free to play the white knight and defend someone on the internet you don't know if that makes you feel better, but it doesn't change the fact the whole female in finance thing when applying to b schools gives you a leg up.

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Dec 22, 2017

Yikes, an account created 10 minutes before the reply...on Christmas Eve...with a 4chan inspired user name...calling me shit off a redpill subreddit...yep seems legit

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Dec 21, 2017

Congratulations!

As a first-gen woman - still in undergrad - hoping to pursue a top MBA I felt very inspired by your story. Were you able to receive any feedback on the dings from H/S or do you know if that might have been purely from the GPA? And do you know if corporate VCs such as yours ever hire directly from undergrad, what would be the best way to go about this if I am interested or would it be more favorable to do IB first (do you think it helped you)?

Dec 24, 2017

Awesome - good for you!

I would not recommend a corporate VC position as a first job out of undergrad. There's a lot of office level politics you're expected to know, and also a lot of interacting with prospects and repping your company that requires you to have a little more professional maturity (IMO). IB taught me a lot of skills that are now considered boiler-plate in VC, as well as cultural and professional norms.

Honestly, anything could have kept me out of H/S. They just have their choice of any candidates. Could be GPA, could be the caliber of the banks I worked for (probably similar candidates out there who had BB and EBs on their resume rather than LMMs). I also have alumni of Wharton, Sloan, and Haas who are partners at my fund, and no partners from HBS and GSB.

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Dec 21, 2017

Congrats! Guessing you'll be headed to Sloan?

Dec 24, 2017

Most likely - unless Haas comes through with a big scholarship (they don't release those decisions til mid-January)

Dec 21, 2017

Been a lurker on WSO for a while now. Breaking my post virginity here. Congrats on the offers. I really appreciate the people that take time to post AMA's.

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Dec 24, 2017

Thanks!

Dec 21, 2017

Curious if your low GPA came up during any interviews? Any thoughts on how US schools view the low GPA?

I have a similar profile: 2.7 GPA equivalent, 730 GMAT, CFA charterholder, 3 years in commercial banking (with promotion), and 3 years in PE (with promotion). I applied to LBS and Oxford for Round 1, got dinged with interview from both, and am now considering applying to Stern and Columbia, but am seriously questioning whether it's worth the effort.

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Dec 24, 2017

It didn't come up in interviews. For b-schools there's two kinds of interviews, blind and non-blind. Most b-school interviews are blind, which means your interviewer has only seen your resume. HBS and MIT do non-blind interviews where you're interviewed by an adcom who's read your whole application - they're the only ones who could potentially ask questions about your GPA, but by the time you get to that point, they're more interested in what you have to offer the class and your WE. Especially if you've explained why in your optional essay, what more are they trying to get out of it? YK?

TBH, my understanding is that 2.7 is a little different than basically a 3.0 (2.96 rounds up really easily), but I don't think you're totally out of scope at least at Stern.

Good luck

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Dec 21, 2017

Congrats! Do Sloan for sure with those two choices.

Dec 21, 2017

Congrats - both great schools!!

Dec 22, 2017

Hello, thanks for doing this and congrats on the offers. I have a GPA of 3.3 from a top Canadian school and I plan to apply to the US with 3 years of work experience. Would that be considered low? Have you heard of HBX core and any idea if its useful to offset my GPA?

I am still working on my GMAT and passed all three levels of the CFA.

Dec 24, 2017

I think whether or not it's low depends on your GMAT. Like 3.3 with a 740+, fine. Below that, you may want to look and decide which is the path of least resistance - raising your GMAT a few points or taking an extension school class or two.

I thought HBX Core was a waste of money, and personally thought it was more valuable to show I did the classroom experience - going every week, wading through bullshit, and getting the A. I felt like HBX was just a fake branded experience and also, not really what I needed (i.e. I didn't need to prove to adcoms I knew the basics of business, I needed to prove to them I could be a good student). Make sense?

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Dec 23, 2017

You have the CFA. Your GPA isn't what I would call very low. You really may not need to offset it with useless classes, and instead focus on getting a good GMAT score.

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Dec 22, 2017

Why do you need an MBA? Based on the info provided, it looks like it'll cost you approximately $400 - $500k. Is that worth it?

Dec 23, 2017

Are you including opportunity cost in this as well

Dec 22, 2017

Yes.

Dec 24, 2017

Yeah, you're probably right - it will cost me at least $400k in opportunity and actual cost, but I believe it'll catapult me to that next level of my career. In the short term, I feel like it'll get me to that next level in VC that would be near impossible to unlock without some kind of redirect (this or working at a startup for a few years and getting a big exit). the MBA is lower risk, and I believe in the long term it will have benefits throughout my career. I'll have a great network of top notch folks (especially entrepreneurs and founders from MIT), and I'll have nothing in my way if I ever get the opportunity for C-level jobs. I think my income will nearly double in the short term, and I'll see the value in both tangible and intangible ways throughout my career. In short, I doubt I will ever regret investing in myself.

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Dec 23, 2017

Hey, thanks for doing this ama. I am graduating soon with a ~3.3-3.4 gpa and my gpa in concentration is only anout .1 higher, so not fantastic. I'm going into levfin and think ill crush the gmat (generally a very good test taker), but am still worried about bscho down the road

I was wondering how much you think EC's matter in the admission process and getting to the interview ? I plan to do a good deal of community involvement and some other stuff that ties into my finance background. Do you think this would help a lot, or am i wasting my time after a certain point? Thanks again

Dayman?

Dec 24, 2017
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Dec 23, 2017

Dayman?