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Ask Alex at MBA Apply

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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.

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Comments (1280)

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May 11, 2010

Alex,

Thanks for the advice thus far. I am considering b-school in the future, but from the way it seems my career will pan out (top undergrad, top IB, hopefully MM or top PE firm) I probably have many of the same credentials as other applicants. In your experience, what have you seen people do that have differentiated themselves that have followed a similar career path? Is it how these individuals convey their experiences in essays, or is it things they have done outside of work? It seems almost impossible to get involved in other activities when you're working 90+ hour weeks.

Also, I read your part in another response about how you feel 680 is the absolute minimum for a top b-school. I have a strong undergrad GPA (3.7) and given other parts of my candidacy (top undergrad, top IB), will b-schools be forgiving for a comparatively bad GMAT score of 650-670. I'm not that great at standardized tests so I'm concerned whether I should keep studying to beat this range or just focus my efforts elsewhere. How much of a downside to your application does a GMAT score of say a 660 do? I'd appreciate your thoughts/suggestions.

Thanks again!

May 11, 2010
newjam:

Alex,

Thanks for the advice thus far. I am considering b-school in the future, but from the way it seems my career will pan out (top undergrad, top IB, hopefully MM or top PE firm) I probably have many of the same credentials as other applicants. In your experience, what have you seen people do that have differentiated themselves that have followed a similar career path? Is it how these individuals convey their experiences in essays, or is it things they have done outside of work? It seems almost impossible to get involved in other activities when you're working 90+ hour weeks.

Also, I read your part in another response about how you feel 680 is the absolute minimum for a top b-school. I have a strong undergrad GPA (3.7) and given other parts of my candidacy (top undergrad, top IB), will b-schools be forgiving for a comparatively bad GMAT score of 650-670. I'm not that great at standardized tests so I'm concerned whether I should keep studying to beat this range or just focus my efforts elsewhere. How much of a downside to your application does a GMAT score of say a 660 do? I'd appreciate your thoughts/suggestions.

Thanks again!

Your chances are slim unless your score is 680 or greater, maybe even 700 or greater as the GMAT averages continue to creep up.

If you want to differentiate yourself, don't do finance. Dare to be different, be bold and avoid following the herd. If it's too late to do that because you're applying this year, then it really comes down to your essays - find a way to come across as an individual. As I may have mentioned earlier, put 10 IB/PE guys in a room and ask them to describe themselves - five will blend into one another, and the other five will come across as five individuals even if they talk about similar things.

May 11, 2010

Hi,

I am about to start with one of MBB in Europe. I would like to do an MBA in a top US Business School (Harvard/Wharton/Stanford) at some point in the future. My concern is that my academic results are not as stellar as many of my new MBB classmates. I think my academic achievements are at the lower end of acceptable for MBB. On balance, my CV must be strong enough as I got interviews with all three top consulting firms, but I know it's perhaps below average for those who actually got offers (Please note, I have no major hang-ups about this, its just a fact; I have no inferioity complex :) Will this hurt me when applying for an MBA. What sort of things do they look at for in a MBB applicant: is is necessary to have many outside of work achievements or will college activities plus work/work related stuff be good enough?

I know that MBB have a great placement record but is this only because the quality of candidate is so high to begin with or do MBA admissions look very favourably on the MBB experience?

Thanks for your help!

May 11, 2010
fs166:

Hi,

I am about to start with one of MBB in Europe. I would like to do an MBA in a top US Business School (Harvard/Wharton/Stanford) at some point in the future. My concern is that my academic results are not as stellar as many of my new MBB classmates. I think my academic achievements are at the lower end of acceptable for MBB. On balance, my CV must be strong enough as I got interviews with all three top consulting firms, but I know it's perhaps below average for those who actually got offers (Please note, I have no major hang-ups about this, its just a fact; I have no inferioity complex :) Will this hurt me when applying for an MBA. What sort of things do they look at for in a MBB applicant: is is necessary to have many outside of work achievements or will college activities plus work/work related stuff be good enough?

I know that MBB have a great placement record but is this only because the quality of candidate is so high to begin with or do MBA admissions look very favourably on the MBB experience?

Thanks for your help!

The GMAT is an important first hurdle - a low score (below 680) can keep you out, but a high one (740+) won't give you an advantage either. In other words, it's important to get a respectable GMAT, but beyond a certain threshhold (700+) it's not what will make or break you. In your case, if your GPA is low, then it's essential that you get a strong GMAT (740+ ideally) - if you can't, then your GMAT/GPA combo will be a handicap.

As for whether adcoms prefer M/B/B folks or not - yes, they do, and whether it's because the candidate is strong in the first place or whether the M/B/B name on its own helps is besides the point.

On the whole, M/B/B folks tend to have the most success at getting into H/S/W compared to any other segment (other consultants, finance, engineering, etc.). Yes, they're a bit cookie cutter (many M/B/B folks by the time they apply will have similar resumes), but they are the kinds of cookies that adcoms tend to like.

In your case, it really comes down to GMAT and how well you execute your applications when you apply.

May 17, 2010

Edit: this is for an undergraduate degree

Hi Alex,

I'm a senior, going to Queen's University for their Commerce program next year. Prior to making this choice, I had spoken to a large number of people in Canada, a couple of students as well as people in IB, PE, HF. They all said Queen's would be my ideal b-school (in Canada) if I wanted to get into these fields.

However, I just recently went through a few of the Commerce career reports, and they don't look very encouraging - from the class of 2011-2012 Summer Analyst Placements, only one person got into GS, that too chair of the commerce society.

I hadn't even looked at applying to the US (top 10 finance) due to the cost differential going to one of these universities would invoke (~20k a year at Queen's; ~60k a year at NYU). While my marks were good enough to be accepted to one of these top schools, I was sure I would not get financial aid.

Thus, I'd like to ask you - should I be looking at transferring to an American b-school 2nd or 3rd year? And if so, what schools should I target? What schools tend to accept a greater amount of transferees?

I didn't take the SATs seriously (no preparation whatsoever) and got a 1900 - I'm sure I can increase that a fair amount given a month or so of prep.

Thanks!

May 11, 2010
LihkinG:

Edit: this is for an undergraduate degree

Hi Alex,

I'm a senior, going to Queen's University for their Commerce program next year. Prior to making this choice, I had spoken to a large number of people in Canada, a couple of students as well as people in IB, PE, HF. They all said Queen's would be my ideal b-school (in Canada) if I wanted to get into these fields.

However, I just recently went through a few of the Commerce career reports, and they don't look very encouraging - from the class of 2011-2012 Summer Analyst Placements, only one person got into GS, that too chair of the commerce society.

I hadn't even looked at applying to the US (top 10 finance) due to the cost differential going to one of these universities would invoke (~20k a year at Queen's; ~60k a year at NYU). While my marks were good enough to be accepted to one of these top schools, I was sure I would not get financial aid.

Thus, I'd like to ask you - should I be looking at transferring to an American b-school 2nd or 3rd year? And if so, what schools should I target? What schools tend to accept a greater amount of transferees?

I didn't take the SATs seriously (no preparation whatsoever) and got a 1900 - I'm sure I can increase that a fair amount given a month or so of prep.

Thanks!

Relax. You're a high school senior. Don't be one of those kids that develops an ulcer due to stress and neurotic over-planning and freaking out about not getting that coveted banking job. Yes, there are (and will) be people like that in your commerce program, or any of the other US schools you may target - and these stressed out kids with the neuroses of a 46-year-old aren't going to be any more successful than those who don't freak out.

Go to Queen's. Take it a step at a time. Enjoy your first year there - it's a ton of fun if you let it be fun, and you'll meet some great people.

If you still have a hard on for investment banking in the US, then consider transferring there later. As tempting as it may be, don't think and overthink about that now.

In the meantime, enjoy your prom (or whatever equivalent in your school).

May 17, 2010

Hi Alex,

I'll be starting at a top 3 BB investment bank in the fall. I'd like to go to business school after 4 years, and want to do some "extras" on the side to bolster my application (such as volunteering, working with a non-profit, etc). I've been told that trying to join a board would be a good idea. Any other ideas?

Thanks!

May 11, 2010
ivy4me:

Hi Alex,

I'll be starting at a top 3 BB investment bank in the fall. I'd like to go to business school after 4 years, and want to do some "extras" on the side to bolster my application (such as volunteering, working with a non-profit, etc). I've been told that trying to join a board would be a good idea. Any other ideas?

Thanks!

Join the Tea Party Movement, complain about immigrants, rant and rage blah blah blah. Or if that doesn't float your boat, join the protests:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/17/bank-of-a...
Figure it out. You know you better than I know you. What are your interests? What social causes do you feel all hot and bothered about?

If you're trying to figure it out with the main thing being "how will this look on a resume" -- you're not going to come up with anything really dynamic because it's manufactured and will come across that way.

Build a life, not a resume - you will be a far more dynamic and interesting person that way.

May 17, 2010

hey alex, thanks for taking the time to help out on the site.

I have a slightly different question from what you've been getting, but am hoping you can still help me out:

I graduated from college in 2009 from a top ivy, with good grades (3.7+) and difficult major. Senior year, I was admitted to HBS as a deferred admit to the 2013 class. I had a job lined up at a BB but my offer was rescinded because of the market.

Since graduation, my life has been a struggle. I can't seem to find any good job in finance, and in the mean time, have been working odd jobs (helping in community development at hospitals - I have a strong background in healthcare and am especially interested in healthcare finance - and teaching physics at a high school).

I've been networking and hustling but nothing comes up. My question is about the recruiting prospects I'll face at HBS. Coming from WHarton, could you give me any advice? My worry is that given my admittedly sub-par experience, I'll be destroyed in OCR at HBS by the people with experience at GS, KKR and the like.

Is there any advice you could offer me? I'd realy like to work eventually in IB/PE at a good firm, but i'm not sure what I would be qualified for.

Thanks.

May 11, 2010
interestedguy:

hey alex, thanks for taking the time to help out on the site.

I have a slightly different question from what you've been getting, but am hoping you can still help me out:

I graduated from college in 2009 from a top ivy, with good grades (3.7+) and difficult major. Senior year, I was admitted to HBS as a deferred admit to the 2013 class. I had a job lined up at a BB but my offer was rescinded because of the market.

Since graduation, my life has been a struggle. I can't seem to find any good job in finance, and in the mean time, have been working odd jobs (helping in community development at hospitals - I have a strong background in healthcare and am especially interested in healthcare finance - and teaching physics at a high school).

I've been networking and hustling but nothing comes up. My question is about the recruiting prospects I'll face at HBS. Coming from WHarton, could you give me any advice? My worry is that given my admittedly sub-par experience, I'll be destroyed in OCR at HBS by the people with experience at GS, KKR and the like.

Is there any advice you could offer me? I'd realy like to work eventually in IB/PE at a good firm, but i'm not sure what I would be qualified for.

Thanks.

Honestly, try looking outside of finance. Pursue something else entirely - it seems like you're fixated on getting that finance job when the window for those jobs has rapidly closed or is closing.

In plain English, look at other jobs out there.

May 17, 2010

Hey thanks for the reply, i am doing as you said and pursuing other jobs, but i guess my question is really this: what kind of shot will i have at getting a finance job at HBS given my situation now?

May 11, 2010
interestedguy:

Hey thanks for the reply, i am doing as you said and pursuing other jobs, but i guess my question is really this: what kind of shot will i have at getting a finance job at HBS given my situation now?

That's years away right now. Focus on jobs now -- a step at a time. If you're preoccupied with things two steps ahead when you haven't even dealt with what's in front of you now, you are ripe for a nervous breakdown.

You don't have a job now. That should be 100% on your mind. Then, when you are at HBS, focus on getting through the first few months of school - the case method isn't rocket science, but there is an adjustment period in getting used to that style of learning. Then, worry about jobs then - whether they be finance or anything else. Moreover, you WILL change a lot over the next few years like most people do in their first few years out of college. There's a good chance that your career aspirations and priorities will change by the time you're in b-school -- don't be so sure that you're going to be as hung up about finance careers as you may be right now. That's why it's pointless to be worrying about stuff that is two steps ahead. It's like worrying about the world cup when you've still yet to play the round robin.

Put it this way. If I told you "it's gonna kill your chances in MBA recruiting" are you going to freak out and give up everything? Or if I told you "you're fine, don't worry about it, jobs will come aplenty!" will you not bother with jobs and just watch TV and eat cheetos all day? Or if I told you "hard to say, depends on a gazillion things like your interview, luck, the economy at that time, blah blah blah in other words, who knows?" will you stew and have trouble sleeping, thinking through every single possible contingency? In other words, no matter what I tell you about what may or may not happen years from now won't change the reality that right now -- you need to find a job. That doesn't change. And your attitude, disposition, and drive to get a job shouldn't change either -- because no matter what happens, you need a job at this very moment.

I know this may not be what you want to hear, but again - your recruiting at HBS years from now is about as relevant as England worrying about the World Cup final.

May 18, 2010

Alex do you think if i spent a year in subsaharan Africa working, got dual citizenship in another country and cut off my left arm that i would have a better chance of getting into a top B-school? Ideally i would like to go into a top PE fund after business school.

May 11, 2010
hansolo:

Alex do you think if i spent a year in subsaharan Africa working, got dual citizenship in another country and cut off my left arm that i would have a better chance of getting into a top B-school? Ideally i would like to go into a top PE fund after business school.

If you are left handed, then no.

May 18, 2010

ok thanks for your advice

May 23, 2010

Hi Alex,

In terms of European Business School (LBS, IMD, INSEAD, etc...) do they look for similar things as what you have mentioned in this thread?

Secondly, I understand the importance of work experience after your Undergraduate, but what about between High School and University? I mean, if one takes several years out between school and University, as is quite common in Europe, how is this perceived by top Business schools?

Thanks in advance for your help!

May 11, 2010
walkio:

Hi Alex,

In terms of European Business School (LBS, IMD, INSEAD, etc...) do they look for similar things as what you have mentioned in this thread?

Secondly, I understand the importance of work experience after your Undergraduate, but what about between High School and University? I mean, if one takes several years out between school and University, as is quite common in Europe, how is this perceived by top Business schools?

Thanks in advance for your help!

Yes, the Euro schools look for more or less the same thing -- someone who is well rounded, has strong interpersonal/group skills, a solid resume and so forth. However, the Euro schools tend to focus almost exclusively on the GMAT since their applicant pool is a bit more diverse and therefore harder to benchmark GPAs from different countries (i.e. in the US schools, around 60-65% of the applicants did their undergraduate degrees in the US, whereas with the Euro b-schools there isn't one dominant group).

As for work experience - it's still about post-college experience.

Jun 9, 2010

Alex,

I am currently in the middle of planning for a future MBA and wanted to know what my current odds at my target schools and what could I do to improve my standing.

Educational Background:

I went to a middle tier Undergrad my first year was horrible I ended up with a 2.5 average for that year (which included introductory stat courses), I regained momentum and be raised my GPA to a 3.2 overall and Finance Major GPA 3.8, I also passed the first level of the CFA during my first semester senior year. I also recently sat down for the Level 2 CFA exam, and think I did fairly well (we'll see in august), I am only 22.

Experience:

My work experience is not what you call ordinary, when I graduated from undergrad I decided to go back home to Puerto Rico, and began working as an unpaid intern in August at the islands pension system which manages around 8B in gross assets, I quickly excelled among my peers and was offered what they call a "political position" as executive assistant to the Pension fund Administrator (comparable to the CEO) and to the Chief Investment Officer.

The pension system I am working in is currently the worst funded pension system in the united states, 9.8% funding, and it has an estimated life of five more years and a total obligation between all the funds of about 30 Billion, It is been called the Islands Achilles heel. The administration I am currently working with was brought in to try to salvage and restructure the system; we are dealing with a very demanding, dynamic, and challenging situation.

I know that I will be able to get excellent recommendations from both the Administrator and the plans CIO.

GMAT:

I am currently planning to take the GMAT in October, now that I have time to study since a just took the CFA level 2 exam which was pretty grueling and gave me no time for anything else.

Targets:

I would like to enter a MBA program at a top tier school I am currently looking at
Harvard, Columbia, Wharton

The Question:

Assuming I am able to achieve a GMAT score around 700 and I pass the Level II I recently sat for and the Level II CFA Exam.

What are my prospects for getting into one of these schools and more importantly what other recommendations do you have for improving my candidacy?

Thank you for your help,

D.R.

May 11, 2010

D.R.,

Not sure what I can really tell you -- it seems like you're trying to figure out a way to build a career or profile that you think the adcoms want to see -- when ironically what the adcoms want to see isn't some specific formulaic profile - but a dynamic and accomplished young person with lots of potential. You have to figure out for yourself what that means to you -- and whether the adcoms agree with you or not really for you to judge or care -- since your CAREER should transcend b-school aspirations.

Focus on what kind of career you want (at least in the short-term -- next 3-6 years or so), with b-school as a possible pit stop along the way, as opposed to seeing b-school as the ONLY or primary gate that you need to pass.

Your GPA overall isn't great, but there's not really a whole lot you can do about that - it's in the past. You can take the CFA Level II, III, then do a CPA, take a crapload of extra coursework through online extension programs -- and it's not really going to make the GPA issue go away especially for places like HBS and Wharton where you're up against folks who will have stronger GPAs than you do.

You have to figure out for yourself what being super accomplished means to you -- every person is different. Some people are really great at doing the traditional Ivy-McKinsey route. Others simply aren't wired that way, and may excel by doing something else that is non-traditional (but that better suits their personality or talent).

The thing is, most of the people at these top schools like H/S/W didn't get in by "manufacturing" a profile -- the things they chose and excelled at were done for its own sake - they were accomplished because they wanted to be, not because they thought it would get them into b-school.

Not sure what I can really tell you other than to BE FRIGGIN SUPER ACCOMPLISHED (your definition of what that means, unless you're living your life entirely to please others and to gain external validation from others). Sooner or later, you have to be man enough to have an attitude "I'm going to do whatever I want to do, and if that's not the adcoms, my parents, my neighbors, my peers, etc value, screw them."

The moment you no longer feel you need the MBA (it's just a bonus), is the moment you can free yourself up to pursue what you LOVE to do without worrying about how it might affect your "b-school profile" or your "marriage prospects" or whatever external pressures you may perceive to be weighing down on you.

Jun 9, 2010

Haha thank Alex,

Well maybe my motivation did not come out in my profile so you could not judge what type of person I really am, I have defenetly not tried to manufacture my resume. I could care less what the adcoms think of the CFA, in the end it is for me! Like you mentioned I see business school as a stepping stone towards my real goals in life. Do I think I need a top MBA to accomplish my goals? Hell no, but I am 100% sure it will help.

The reason I have those schools as my targets is that if I am going to sacrifice two yeas of my life and about 200k, which I will have to pay for my self, I want to make it count. I love investing and companies, I don't need a seal of approval from an MBA to ratify that, but the reality is that I could learn a lot from the MBA. I know I'm making it come hell or high water, the MBA is defenetly not my endgame, but it helps.

In the end what do I want to really do? I want to re-shape industries and companies I want to invest acquire and grow assets in the Caribbean and Latin America, and you know what? I will, I have no doubt .

But I think going to a top MBA program is a great opportunity to learn and develop business relationships that will aid me in my real goals.

Once again thank you for the reply. I just had to say I have not tried to manufacture anything, this is me it is who I am and it is what I love!

If you have any recommendations now that that has been said I would greatly appreciate them Alex.

Many thanks for your help,

D.R.

May 11, 2010
suchislife:

Haha thank Alex,

Well maybe my motivation did not come out in my profile so you could not judge what type of person I really am, I have defenetly not tried to manufacture my resume. I could care less what the adcoms think of the CFA, in the end it is for me! Like you mentioned I see business school as a stepping stone towards my real goals in life. Do I think I need a top MBA to accomplish my goals? Hell no, but I am 100% sure it will help.

The reason I have those schools as my targets is that if I am going to sacrifice two yeas of my life and about 200k, which I will have to pay for my self, I want to make it count. I love investing and companies, I don't need a seal of approval from an MBA to ratify that, but the reality is that I could learn a lot from the MBA. I know I'm making it come hell or high water, the MBA is defenetly not my endgame, but it helps.

In the end what do I want to really do? I want to re-shape industries and companies I want to invest acquire and grow assets in the Caribbean and Latin America, and you know what? I will, I have no doubt .

But I think going to a top MBA program is a great opportunity to learn and develop business relationships that will aid me in my real goals.

Once again thank you for the reply. I just had to say I have not tried to manufacture anything, this is me it is who I am and it is what I love!

If you have any recommendations now that that has been said I would greatly appreciate them Alex.

Many thanks for your help,

D.R.

Well, it sounds like you have interests that you'd like to pursue, so you should go and pursue it then - it's not my place as a complete stranger to suggest or tell you what interests you should have. My recommendation is not to look to others for suggestions (especially strangers) on big things like this (what kinds of careers/experiences you should pursue) because there's no such thing as an "objective" or "outsider's" view that will be helpful - since it's highly wrapped up in who you are as an individual. If you really want guidance on these things, look to your family and friends who know you best.

Jun 10, 2010

Hi Alex,

Like most on this site, I've decided on grad school in the future but I'm trying to decide whether to get an MBA vs. a JD. I graduated with an undergraduate finance degree and will be working at a BB in investment banking so in my mind (please correct me if I'm wrong), an MBA probably won't teach me much with regards to finance that I wouldn't have learned already via undergrad and work experience. That being said, I'm sure I will be able to pick up the "softer" aspects of business (e.g. how to run a company rather than trying to sell it etc) through an MBA as well as the networking/re-branding.

I feel that grad school is a must and given my current inclination towards a career in finance, would you recommend a JD or an MBA? My interest in a JD stems from the fact that I feel I'd be able to learn about the legal aspects of business and it will allow me to potentially practice corporate law (an interest of mine since childhood) and maybe even move back into PE (assuming everything goes well in IB and I"m able to get a pre-MBA associate role). While I know this is a very personal decision, I was curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

May 11, 2010
Bernanke23:

Hi Alex,

Like most on this site, I've decided on grad school in the future but I'm trying to decide whether to get an MBA vs. a JD. I graduated with an undergraduate finance degree and will be working at a BB in investment banking so in my mind (please correct me if I'm wrong), an MBA probably won't teach me much with regards to finance that I wouldn't have learned already via undergrad and work experience. That being said, I'm sure I will be able to pick up the "softer" aspects of business (e.g. how to run a company rather than trying to sell it etc) through an MBA as well as the networking/re-branding.

I feel that grad school is a must and given my current inclination towards a career in finance, would you recommend a JD or an MBA? My interest in a JD stems from the fact that I feel I'd be able to learn about the legal aspects of business and it will allow me to potentially practice corporate law (an interest of mine since childhood) and maybe even move back into PE (assuming everything goes well in IB and I"m able to get a pre-MBA associate role). While I know this is a very personal decision, I was curious to hear your thoughts. Thanks in advance.

If you're interested in finance, do an MBA.

A JD is for people who want to practice law. The REAL knowledge of law comes in the actual real world case experience in a specific practice -- and not the theoretical stuff you learn in a JD. Again, you're not going to learn about the legal aspects of business that has any practical value from a JD alone - you need to have real experience working at a law firm that does that - whether it's securities law, intellectual property, litigation, etc (and each of these practices within "corporate law" are also distinct and specialized).

If you want to be in business, get business experience (and education related to business - an MBA). If you want to be a lawyer, get a JD, pass the state bar, and work for a big law firm.

Jun 14, 2010

Hi Alex,

I've got couple quick questions regarding B-school application.

Background of myself
-Just graduated from a Canadian University with a Bachelor of Commerce (GPA of 3.3/4.0)
-Heading back to Asia to start as an auditor with a Big 4
-The target is to get into schools like Chicago, Columbia or NYU in couple years.

I was wondering the following, it appears that most of B-school candidates on average have 48 month (4 years) of work experience, I understand some positions like IB and consulting are little more unique than positions such as an auditor. Is it crazy to think that an auditor who does really well ( high performance, great recommendation, high GMAT, and great extra-curricular) can get into the schools I've mentioned with 2 years of exp?

Secondly, due to my dual citizenship status, it is very likely that I might have to step away from work and serve my country for 12~14 month. I understand some military exp are considered valuable in US, how do B-school view short term conscription obligation ? The Asia country I'm about to work in , Taiwan, has a substitute military service, where you are sent to various government agencies to work at a desk job. There are departments such as Department of Commerce, and Department of Trade, which is related to my background, will that be considered as "work exp"?

Lastly, do B-school consider what school/subject you are from when they look at your grades? My undergrad university has a pretty infamous reputation for mark deflation.

Thank you so much for the time!

-J

May 11, 2010
J15:

Hi Alex,

I've got couple quick questions regarding B-school application.

Background of myself
-Just graduated from a Canadian University with a Bachelor of Commerce (GPA of 3.3/4.0)
-Heading back to Asia to start as an auditor with a Big 4
-The target is to get into schools like Chicago, Columbia or NYU in couple years.

I was wondering the following, it appears that most of B-school candidates on average have 48 month (4 years) of work experience, I understand some positions like IB and consulting are little more unique than positions such as an auditor. Is it crazy to think that an auditor who does really well ( high performance, great recommendation, high GMAT, and great extra-curricular) can get into the schools I've mentioned with 2 years of exp?

Secondly, due to my dual citizenship status, it is very likely that I might have to step away from work and serve my country for 12~14 month. I understand some military exp are considered valuable in US, how do B-school view short term conscription obligation ? The Asia country I'm about to work in , Taiwan, has a substitute military service, where you are sent to various government agencies to work at a desk job. There are departments such as Department of Commerce, and Department of Trade, which is related to my background, will that be considered as "work exp"?

Lastly, do B-school consider what school/subject you are from when they look at your grades? My undergrad university has a pretty infamous reputation for mark deflation.

Thank you so much for the time!

-J

It's certainly harder to get in with only 2 years of auditing experience, but hardly impossible. Just give it a shot - worst case is that you don't get in, and reapply the next year or the year after that (and no, being a reapplicant doesn't hurt your chances - a healthy minority of the class are reapplicants at most top schools - in the neighborhood of 10-15% of the class).

As for military service, the adcoms tend to value US military experience (also because it's volunteer, and not mandatory service) - fair or not, that's how it is. Nonetheless, they will consider your military service as a form of work experience, and it can still be valuable for your application if you feel you gained experience that helped you grow and mature. In any case, choose the experience that you'd find most interesting - since it's not like adcoms would know whether one Taiwanese department is better than the other.

Jun 21, 2010

Hi Alex,

I'll be brief:

-CPA
-2 years of MO experience at a BB
-Some extracurricular activities, plan on improving in that area
-Non-target undergrad in NYC, poor GPA first degree(Finance), much better second degree (3.6, Accounting)

Will a 700+ GMAT and strong essays/recommendations get me into Columbia/NYU?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this. I would appreciate any feedback.

-CDS

May 11, 2010
CreditDefaultSwap:

Hi Alex,

I'll be brief:

-CPA
-2 years of MO experience at a BB
-Some extracurricular activities, plan on improving in that area
-Non-target undergrad in NYC, poor GPA first degree(Finance), much better second degree (3.6, Accounting)

Will a 700+ GMAT and strong essays/recommendations get me into Columbia/NYU?

Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this. I would appreciate any feedback.

-CDS

You certainly have enough of a shot that it's worth applying to those two schools. The biggest hurdle for you is being able to get the adcom to see you as an individual. There's going to be a lot of folks with similar resumes as you applying to these two schools, so it will come down to how well you execute your applications, and of course a bit of luck as well -- as you may or may not know, there's people like you at these schools, and people like you who didn't get in either, and the difference between them is usually quite minimal.

Jun 26, 2010

Hi Alex,

I'm an econ graduate from a top 50 non-target. I read in an earlier post that you don't recommend enrolling in an MSF program just because you can't find a job, but ultimately that is my situation and it's something I feel I can pursue in the meantime even if I find a job and take the courses online. I'm also trying to prove I can get good grades (~3.0 undergrad) and am hoping it will help with my job search. Will getting this MSF help or hurt my chances at all when applying to B-School? Currently I'm enrolling in a non AACSB accredited local school, but since it's just an MSF and not an MBA, how important do you think this matters? I might be able to transfer into a more well respected program.

Lastly, when you say getting a job is important, any job as long as there's responsibility involved, can you be more specific? Will pursuing an MSF and CFA etc. make no difference when applying to schools?

Thanks so much.

May 11, 2010
Monkey321:

Hi Alex,

I'm an econ graduate from a top 50 non-target. I read in an earlier post that you don't recommend enrolling in an MSF program just because you can't find a job, but ultimately that is my situation and it's something I feel I can pursue in the meantime even if I find a job and take the courses online. I'm also trying to prove I can get good grades (~3.0 undergrad) and am hoping it will help with my job search. Will getting this MSF help or hurt my chances at all when applying to B-School? Currently I'm enrolling in a non AACSB accredited local school, but since it's just an MSF and not an MBA, how important do you think this matters? I might be able to transfer into a more well respected program.

Lastly, when you say getting a job is important, any job as long as there's responsibility involved, can you be more specific? Will pursuing an MSF and CFA etc. make no difference when applying to schools?

Thanks so much.

When you're young with very little experience, it's easy to assume that credentials matter more than they really do.

B-schools aren't looking for credentials collectors - it gives the impression of someone who is a bit too cerebral, too bookish, too academic to be able to deal with the "real world" of working. In just about any job, it's ultimately about your ability to work well with other people -- and not about how "academically smart" you are really. That's why over the next 5-10 years or so you'll see that the degree of success your college classmates achieve has little to do with how good they were as students.

B-schools are looking for people who are employable -- people who are able to get good jobs, and do well in those good jobs. And that has little to do with collecting credentials. It's about work experience - which is what recruiters are looking for as well.

For example, does the CFA help with recruiting in investment management? Sure. But nowhere near as valuable as prior finance experience, because any reasonably smart and hard working person can take the CFA and pass it (seems like every Indian engineer is taking the CFA, and it's not like it's helping them get finance jobs) -- it's easier to take the exams than it is to gain good finance experience.

As for jobs, that's something you need to figure out on your own. There isn't some cookie cutter rank order -- you have to find your own path that makes sense for you, that is meaningful to you and that you'll enjoy. Get creative, get imaginative -- there's opportunities out there if you are willing to be open minded about it. And yes, the job market may be tough now, but you're going to face this throughout your adult life -- that's the nature of economic cycles, so you might as well learn how to deal with it now (and you can't go back to school each and every time there's a downturn and you have trouble finding a job).

Jun 27, 2010

Alex,

Been combing through this thread and want to start out by saying that you're responses are great (and widely applicable). I'm sure that they're much appreciated by all the users of this forum, myself included. That said, I have two questions for you, both of which are sort of par for the course thus far (and I apologize for that in advance). First, the major issue for me as I consider getting an MBA is the following: I fully intend on starting a business post-MBA and don't know how practical it is for me to do so with a substantial amount of debt over my head. Do you see folks launching businesses post-MBA without having had much experience prior to B-School (I guess to answer my own question, lots of folks probably do, but maybe not so many are successful)? Oppositely, I am considering, taking a year to flesh out some ideas and then apply to B-School. This is less appealing to me because I don't see a year as enough to time to fully flesh out said ideas.

Second, was curious on your thoughts regarding my candidacy at the likes of some of the top schools (probably HBS/W/Haas/Sloan/CGSB):

  • Econ major at big city Ivy, 3.4 GPA, graduated in 3 yrs (24 YO)
  • Some volunteering, nothing huge, but also stuff I'm genuinely interested in; started a modest non-profit recently, but won't have had much to show for it when I apply for 1st round in fall
  • 1 year at publicly held investment vehicle (M&A consumer companies), 2 years at "regional" boutique merchant bank; both positions had lots of exposure to working with senior folks, and lots of exposure to different types of businesses
  • Lots of interests outside of the office that do some justice toward my not being the "typical finance guy" (maintain a hip hop blog, done some athletic stuff, etc.)
  • Hispanic; decidedly more blue collar background than my peers (despite the Ivy undergrad/prep school HS)
  • 740 GMAT/6 AWA (do these even matter?)

Thanks again.

May 11, 2010
Felix Rohatyn:

Alex,

Been combing through this thread and want to start out by saying that you're responses are great (and widely applicable). I'm sure that they're much appreciated by all the users of this forum, myself included. That said, I have two questions for you, both of which are sort of par for the course thus far (and I apologize for that in advance). First, the major issue for me as I consider getting an MBA is the following: I fully intend on starting a business post-MBA and don't know how practical it is for me to do so with a substantial amount of debt over my head. Do you see folks launching businesses post-MBA without having had much experience prior to B-School (I guess to answer my own question, lots of folks probably do, but maybe not so many are successful)? Oppositely, I am considering, taking a year to flesh out some ideas and then apply to B-School. This is less appealing to me because I don't see a year as enough to time to fully flesh out said ideas.

Second, was curious on your thoughts regarding my candidacy at the likes of some of the top schools (probably HBS/W/Haas/Sloan/CGSB):

  • Econ major at big city Ivy, 3.4 GPA, graduated in 3 yrs (24 YO)
  • Some volunteering, nothing huge, but also stuff I'm genuinely interested in; started a modest non-profit recently, but won't have had much to show for it when I apply for 1st round in fall
  • 1 year at publicly held investment vehicle (M&A consumer companies), 2 years at "regional" boutique merchant bank; both positions had lots of exposure to working with senior folks, and lots of exposure to different types of businesses
  • Lots of interests outside of the office that do some justice toward my not being the "typical finance guy" (maintain a hip hop blog, done some athletic stuff, etc.)
  • Hispanic; decidedly more blue collar background than my peers (despite the Ivy undergrad/prep school HS)
  • 740 GMAT/6 AWA (do these even matter?)

Thanks again.

Very, very few people start a business as their "full-time" gig straight out of b-school. However, 3-10 years out, it's a healthy minority. Based on what I've seen anecdotally it's roughly 15-25% of the graduating year (Harvard actually published a study tracking their own HBS grads as a proxy for how MBA alums evolve in their careers by gender, generation, etc -- and one of the stats from that study was that after 10 years or so something like 40% of the alums worked in companies with 8 or fewer employees - so even if they're not starting their own businesses, they're working for entrepreneurial or small businesses). It's probably a combination of factors why folks don't start businesses right out of school but do so years later - usually practical things like loans, or gaining experience, or whatever. Again, everyone has a different life/money situation that dictates these choices - not all MBA students come from the same backgrounds or have the same temperament.

From the people I knew, the timing and initial impetus for going into business on their own full-time wasn't limited to one thing. Some out of necessity (they got laid off, didn't know what to do next, started a biz). Others got sick of their jobs and set up their own shop. Others started a biz right out of school because they wanted to all along. Others simply chanced on an opportunity with a friend/colleague, and just made the conscious choice to do it.

Whether it's practical for YOU or not to start a biz is really dictated by your own individual situation and judgment. Again, everyone has a different life story and circumstance.

To start and run your own business, you need four things: brains, heart, guts and luck.

Brains - you need some threshhold of book smarts and know how.

Heart - you need to really believe in your business. Love it. Most business owners don't take vacations (even if they are on a beach "on vacation" physically, they rarely take mental vacations) not because they can't, because they don't want to. They really enjoy running their business.

Guts - they have the fortitude and almost blind faith in order to get through the inevitably tough times. Every biz goes through ups and downs, and you being able to ride the wave is key. You have to have the guts and balls to NOT bail the moment things go sour (and they will - multiple times).

Luck - you need to be at the right place at the right time. This isn't something you can control, but if you have the previous three (brains, heart and guts), you have a better chance of getting lucky.

All an MBA can help with is the brains, but nothing else. If it was mostly about know how and brains, your professors and the geekiest bookworms in your college would've been amazing entrepreneurs. An MBA can help with giving you "book smarts", but not the street smarts. So while an MBA has value, it still won't give you all the brains and know how.

And the heart and guts is not a question of smarts, but a question of character and temperament, which varies by individual and time period (i.e. some people always have the character/temperament for starting a biz, others will develop it earlier or later in life, depending on their life circumstances).

For many MBA entrepreneur types, the biggest risk isn't lack of brains, but lack of heart and guts. Most of your future MBA classmates (whether they want to start a biz or not) tend to over-think things and tend to mistakenly believe that more brains can compensate for lack of heart and guts.

There is no "right" time - you just have to go and do it. Either you do, or you don't. Analyzing and assessing pros and cons can only get you so far. You either have the balls to take the leap, or you don't. You can do it now, do it later, or do it never.

In any case, as for b-school you have enough of a chance at the schools you listed that it's at least worth a try - go for it. You're young, so the worst thing that can happen is you reapply the following year (or year after that) -- schools won't look unfavorably on reapplicants (they do make up a healthy minority of any incoming class).

Jun 28, 2010

Alex,

My ultimate goal is to earn a top European MBA (LBS, INSEAD, etc.) and work in hedge funds/investments in Europe.

I'm currently poised to depart for a stint volunteering in the Peace Corps, but the country of my posting may have changed, and I'm unsure if I want to accept a posting in this new area of the world. Yes, I really do want to volunteer and I'm not just doing it to get into B-school. I just have some pretty steep reservations about this other part of the world my posting might have been changed to.

If I decide not to join the Peace Corps, I need a new plan. What should I do over the next year or two to make myself a strong candidate for admission?

My stats at the moment:

I'm an associate with 3 years of investment banking experience at a boutique middle market firm (Los Angeles). My transaction experience here hasn't been very strong, as I haven't yet worked on a transaction that's closed. I'm sure that most people on this board can sympathize - these last few years have been very rough. However, in addition to the banking work on unsuccessful deals, I've done a large amount of financial advisory work.

3.3 GPA from USC
730 GMAT
CFA (I took the most recent level III exam, and I'm pretty sure I passed - we'll see.)
Languages - fluent English and basic Italian, which I'll be working on improving if I don't depart for the Peace Corps.

Thanks.

May 11, 2010
steamed buns:

Alex,

My ultimate goal is to earn a top European MBA (LBS, INSEAD, etc.) and work in hedge funds/investments in Europe.

I'm currently poised to depart for a stint volunteering in the Peace Corps, but the country of my posting may have changed, and I'm unsure if I want to accept a posting in this new area of the world. Yes, I really do want to volunteer and I'm not just doing it to get into B-school. I just have some pretty steep reservations about this other part of the world my posting might have been changed to.

If I decide not to join the Peace Corps, I need a new plan. What should I do over the next year or two to make myself a strong candidate for admission?

My stats at the moment:

I'm an associate with 3 years of investment banking experience at a boutique middle market firm (Los Angeles). My transaction experience here hasn't been very strong, as I haven't yet worked on a transaction that's closed. I'm sure that most people on this board can sympathize - these last few years have been very rough. However, in addition to the banking work on unsuccessful deals, I've done a large amount of financial advisory work.

3.3 GPA from USC
730 GMAT
CFA (I took the most recent level III exam, and I'm pretty sure I passed - we'll see.)
Languages - fluent English and basic Italian, which I'll be working on improving if I don't depart for the Peace Corps.

Thanks.

If you want to go to a top Euro school, get some international work experience. Peace Corps is certainly a possibility. Or work/live in Europe, Asia, wherever. Of course leaving your current situation and moving across the ocean isn't a trivial thing nor is it an easy one, but nothing worthwhile was ever easy.

Jun 28, 2010

Hey Alex,

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions.

I'm recently left M&A at a well known shop in NYC to join a well known startup, whose senior management have deep roots in a H/S/W B school.

I've had the opportunity to work exclusively in a small group of pretty accomplished and senior people all from H/S b school - with myself coming from a non-target undergrad. The best part is learning how to grow a business from all angles, given they all came from the biggest startups of the 2000s.

A lot of my Associate level friends in banking told me that top tier schools want to see a story, with an outline for the future, ie. knowing what I want to do out of B school and how it well help me prepare for that.

Is that true? Are they looking for people who know what they want in 2 years from their first day? Or is it okay to be somewhat unsure, even if you have an idea of the path?

To give an example - I've have a hunch on starting a business at some point (having started a very small one when I was 16, nothing serious but enough to learn something from)...decided to do M&A for the analytical skillset/work ethic, and am now working at full fledged startup (well funded, strong mgmt team and preparing for IPO).

Is saying in 2 years post b school that starting my own business presumptuous, and if so, how so I present a story?

May 11, 2010
weeds499:

Hey Alex,

Thanks for taking the time to answer questions.

I'm recently left M&A at a well known shop in NYC to join a well known startup, whose senior management have deep roots in a H/S/W B school.

I've had the opportunity to work exclusively in a small group of pretty accomplished and senior people all from H/S b school - with myself coming from a non-target undergrad. The best part is learning how to grow a business from all angles, given they all came from the biggest startups of the 2000s.

A lot of my Associate level friends in banking told me that top tier schools want to see a story, with an outline for the future, ie. knowing what I want to do out of B school and how it well help me prepare for that.

Is that true? Are they looking for people who know what they want in 2 years from their first day? Or is it okay to be somewhat unsure, even if you have an idea of the path?

To give an example - I've have a hunch on starting a business at some point (having started a very small one when I was 16, nothing serious but enough to learn something from)...decided to do M&A for the analytical skillset/work ethic, and am now working at full fledged startup (well funded, strong mgmt team and preparing for IPO).

Is saying in 2 years post b school that starting my own business presumptuous, and if so, how so I present a story?

B-schools are moving away from the "why MBA/goals" bullshit. HBS has made their goals essay optional, and wording it as "career vision" (which is purposely vague) - in other words, they don't care and they don't need to know what your goals are to get admitted. Even Wharton, whose "why MBA/goals" essay was traditionally the most important theme - has finally relented this year and made it a short 300 word essay worded in a similarly vague way like HBS (calling it your "professional objectives"). Neither of these schools ask "why MBA" anymore.

Stanford still asks the goals/MBA question, but it was never really an important theme.

Sloan doesn't even ask for your goals or why you want an MBA - hasn't done so in a few years.

And Columbia has over the years whittled down their "career goals" essay as well.

So while your associate level friends may have been right when they applied a few years ago, the landscape is changing with b-school admissions. Schools don't care as much about that stuff anymore.

More and more, b-schools are interested in your raw potential, your raw talent, your character -- based on your past experiences. In other words, it's more about "the past being a predictor of future potential". So you'll get a lot more "describe a time when you demonstrated... [insert character trait or talent that is essential for being an exec/CEO/MD/partner/big fish/entrepreneur]"

So no, your "story" for your career goals isn't as important.

What is more important is how to stand out as an individual -- based on your past achievements/experiences, as well as HOW you communicate who you are. It's a branding exercise -- using your past experiences to distinguish your Coke/Pepsi from a sea of cola drinks that on the surface look the same, taste the same, and have similar ingredients.

Jul 6, 2010
MBAApply:

B-schools are moving away from the "why MBA/goals" bullshit. HBS has made their goals essay optional, and wording it as "career vision" (which is purposely vague) - in other words, they don't care and they don't need to know what your goals are to get admitted. Even Wharton, whose "why MBA/goals" essay was traditionally the most important theme - has finally relented this year and made it a short 300 word essay worded in a similarly vague way like HBS (calling it your "professional objectives"). Neither of these schools ask "why MBA" anymore.

Stanford still asks the goals/MBA question, but it was never really an important theme.

Sloan doesn't even ask for your goals or why you want an MBA - hasn't done so in a few years.

And Columbia has over the years whittled down their "career goals" essay as well.

So while your associate level friends may have been right when they applied a few years ago, the landscape is changing with b-school admissions. Schools don't care as much about that stuff anymore.

More and more, b-schools are interested in your raw potential, your raw talent, your character -- based on your past experiences. In other words, it's more about "the past being a predictor of future potential". So you'll get a lot more "describe a time when you demonstrated... [insert character trait or talent that is essential for being an exec/CEO/MD/partner/big fish/entrepreneur]"

Hey Alex, I'm impressed by your stuff. Quick one here (and I don't have the historical record in front of me to check against), but is it safe to generalize that such a trend exists?

Reason behind the question: whilst HBS, Sloan and Wharton have noticeably reduced the importance of career goals, at CBS it seems to have only become more important. They now only have two questions, and the larger (in word count terms, 750 vs 500) of the two is the first one, the career goals question. The second one ("tell us about yourself") seems a little lazy, to boot. Is this because CBS is (in someone else's words) "a bit of a banker factory" (comparatively)... and essentially just wants to ensure that they're admitting someone who's not a total jerk, is employable, etc, so their stats stay fine (employment percentages being pretty important, in light of major global economic uncertainty)?

I ask because in this circumstance, it seems like CBS is going against the grain, and I'd wager it's motivated by necessity more than character inclinations. Is this a fair assessment (CBS becoming more career-focused whilst the others focus more on underlying applicant quality)?

Jun 28, 2010

Great, thanks Alex. That is very helpful.

Jul 4, 2010

Hi Alex,

I came across your response to a post on the possible repercussions on not accepting an admit offer from Columbia's Early Decision Round ( http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/columbia-ear... )

While I was relieved by your response, I am unable to find any other reference for what you said. All other forums/admissions consultants suggest that the ethical contract is binding and it isn't a good idea to apply if I am unsure about joining Columbia.

I am quite keen on getting an admit from Columbia but it does not happen to be my first choice. However, I would like to use any opportunity available to improve any chances of getting an admit at Columbia since I am not sure of my chances at my first-choice B-school.
I therefore wish to apply during the Early Decision Round but want to make sure that I don't regret the decision later.

Would appreciate your views/inputs and any references you could provide for the fact that the 6000$ deposit serves as a good enough "compensation" to release students from the ethical contract.

Many Thanks!

May 11, 2010
shubhankar85:

Hi Alex,

I came across your response to a post on the possible repercussions on not accepting an admit offer from Columbia's Early Decision Round ( http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/columbia-ear... )

While I was relieved by your response, I am unable to find any other reference for what you said. All other forums/admissions consultants suggest that the ethical contract is binding and it isn't a good idea to apply if I am unsure about joining Columbia.

I am quite keen on getting an admit from Columbia but it does not happen to be my first choice. However, I would like to use any opportunity available to improve any chances of getting an admit at Columbia since I am not sure of my chances at my first-choice B-school.
I therefore wish to apply during the Early Decision Round but want to make sure that I don't regret the decision later.

Would appreciate your views/inputs and any references you could provide for the fact that the 6000$ deposit serves as a good enough "compensation" to release students from the ethical contract.

Many Thanks!

As I may have said before, they won't go after you. The yield from the Early Decision round isn't 100% - about 10-20% of the people who get in from the Early Decision go elsewhere each and every year.

More than 10 years ago, the amount was $1,000. they've had to raise it over the years because it wasn't enough money to dissuade people to apply to cough cough HBS and Wharton - the two schools they lose the most admits to traditionally (and still do).

The whole ethical thing is a scare tactic. No adcom at any other school likes Columbia's ED -- it's like a fisherman who decides to go out earlier than the rest to catch fish. In fact, it only boosts a school's ego when they can say that people are willing to pay $6,000 more to go to their school. Columbia can yell and scream all they want, but they can't do anything.

From the dawn of the time, the Columbia adcom has always exhibited a huge inferiority complex with cough cough HBS and Wharton (and now increasingly Booth as well). The very existence of Early Decisions is proof of that inferiority complex.

If they truly were confident about their ability to attract students without forcing them to commit $6,000 before these applicants would hear from other schools, the Early Decision wouldn't exist. Anything else they say to justify its existence is BULLSHIT SPIN. I repeat, BULLSHIT SPIN.

Also, from a legal standpoint - there's nothing they can go after you for. They keep your money as consideration for you reneging on their offer. That's it. There is no ethical component because if you don't accept their offer, there's plenty of people on the waitlist that will happily take your spot.

Sure, they can sue you, but for what amount? What kind of loss did they incur? No matter the amount, it's basically enough to pay for a lawyer to take a piss. Nothing more. Litigation has become such an expensive and painful endeavor that it's only worthwhile if the amount is at least in the six figures, and mostly in the seven figures and beyond (i.e. class action lawsuits).

And even if they decide to sully your name by calling all the schools - the schools will LAUGH IN THEIR FACE. You really think HBS or Wharton gives a rat's ass about Columbia's Early Decision policy? Do you think they like the fact that this ED policy discourages people from applying to HBS and Wharton with this holier-than-thou ethical bullshit speak (when the very notion of Early Decision to manipulate their yield/selectivity statistics and inferiority complex with HBS/Wharton is equally as dubious).

Don't get me wrong. Columbia is a great school. But it's Early Decision policy makes it look like that ugly sister who complains about her prettier sisters who get all the boys.

Now, there may be other admissions consultants out there who will tow the line and say something in line with Columbia that it's a no-no.

But consider this. I write plainly, without bullshit or the generic corporate niceties. Do they? If it's my word against theirs - who will you more likely believe?

Now, if you're still of the "are you sure...?" mindset, then there's not a whole lot more I can say - revealing real people for your benefit won't do me any good (other than to "win" a point on the Internet, which ain't really worth it).

Jul 4, 2010

Thanks a ton Alex !

What you say makes all the sense that I was looking for ! :D

Cheers !

Jul 6, 2010

Here's my story:

I'm a former North American kickboxing champion, I built self-sustaining communities in a third world country with a superior court judge, and I went from being a $10 an hour contract employee to COO of a successful internet startup in a shade over 2 years.

Finally I scored a 740 on the GMAT, but I failed out of undergrad after my 3rd year. I finished my degree, and my last 2 years were decent, but overall my GPA is terrible.

I'm 28 years old and I live in Canada. I'm sure I could get into top Canadian MBA programs, but I would prefer to go a highly ranked U.S. school if possible. Is this possible given my track record?

May 11, 2010
Babyj18777:

Here's my story:

I'm a former North American kickboxing champion, I built self-sustaining communities in a third world country with a superior court judge, and I went from being a $10 an hour contract employee to COO of a successful internet startup in a shade over 2 years.

Finally I scored a 740 on the GMAT, but I failed out of undergrad after my 3rd year. I finished my degree, and my last 2 years were decent, but overall my GPA is terrible.

I'm 28 years old and I live in Canada. I'm sure I could get into top Canadian MBA programs, but I would prefer to go a highly ranked U.S. school if possible. Is this possible given my track record?

You have an unique enough story that you have an outside shot at the top US schools -- but given that you do have an unique background, you will be a bit of a "wild card" candidate - meaning that your results may be unpredictable (there's a good chance that you can get into a highly ranked school, but dinged at a lower ranked school, and so forth).

Your GPA may be spotty, but there's nothing you can do about it - it's in the past. Getting apologetic or defensive about it on the applications won't help - it is what it is and the adcom will either overlook it or he/she won't (and you can't control that).

All you can do is focus on the applications and hope for the best. Choose the schools that you'd love to go to, rather than the ones you think you can get into - because you are a "wild card" candidate (i.e. given your unique background, it'll be hard to benchmark you versus other candidates because few if any will have a similar background as you - and as such it becomes very very subjective).

Jul 8, 2010

Hi Alex,

How much does socioeconomic background impact an applicant's candidacy? That is, if adcoms want a diverse class in terms of race/ethnicity, do they also consider diversity in terms of family backgrounds? i.e. applicants from wealthy/well-connected families versus applicants from poor families with no business ties

May 11, 2010
SoulmeetsBody:

Hi Alex,

How much does socioeconomic background impact an applicant's candidacy? That is, if adcoms want a diverse class in terms of race/ethnicity, do they also consider diversity in terms of family backgrounds? i.e. applicants from wealthy/well-connected families versus applicants from poor families with no business ties

It won't matter for 99% of applicants who come from "normal" (working class to upper middle class) backgrounds.

For the outliers (growing up in a crack house, or child of royalty), it certainly gives some context -- but if your resume as it stands isn't competitive (i.e. GMAT/GPA is out of range, quality of work experience, strong written applications, interviews, etc) then it doesn't matter.

Jul 9, 2010

Hey Alex,

I'm trying to get an idea of where I stand and what I can do, and would really appreciate your thoughts.

Quick background:
- Graduated from target with degree in quantitative engineering fields.
- Did a lot of research in engineering as a student, and presented at small no-name conferences and also published a paper.
- Lower than average GPA, but actively involved in clubs and held leadership positions.
- Interned every summer at blue chip technology firms developing algorithms for profitable groups.
- Joining an AM/HF/prop-shop as a quant now, and plan to take the CFA exams.

Reason for MBA:
- Shoot for algorithmic trader, PM and research positions at HFs.
- Alternate plan is to move back to engineering within the VC domain.
(not sure which I want, but I'm hoping things will become clear by then).

My questions are as follows:
1.) I think Booth most suits my ambitions and is my 1st choice, but I also would like to attend any of WS or Columbia. Given that I perform well at my job, do I have shot at any of these 5 places? Are Booth and Wharton too much of a reach that I should consider Columbia's ED?
2.) What can I do over the next 2-3years to maximize my chances? A few ideas that will also be beneficial to my job include taking courses at NYU and completing CFA? How much does participating in a sports league in the city matter? Anything else you would advise?

May 11, 2010
unqwertyfied:

Hey Alex,

I'm trying to get an idea of where I stand and what I can do, and would really appreciate your thoughts.

Quick background:
- Graduated from target with degree in quantitative engineering fields.
- Did a lot of research in engineering as a student, and presented at small no-name conferences and also published a paper.
- Lower than average GPA, but actively involved in clubs and held leadership positions.
- Interned every summer at blue chip technology firms developing algorithms for profitable groups.
- Joining an AM/HF/prop-shop as a quant now, and plan to take the CFA exams.

Reason for MBA:
- Shoot for algorithmic trader, PM and research positions at HFs.
- Alternate plan is to move back to engineering within the VC domain.
(not sure which I want, but I'm hoping things will become clear by then).

My questions are as follows:
1.) I think Booth most suits my ambitions and is my 1st choice, but I also would like to attend any of WS or Columbia. Given that I perform well at my job, do I have shot at any of these 5 places? Are Booth and Wharton too much of a reach that I should consider Columbia's ED?
2.) What can I do over the next 2-3years to maximize my chances? A few ideas that will also be beneficial to my job include taking courses at NYU and completing CFA? How much does participating in a sports league in the city matter? Anything else you would advise?

Being too math heavy may be great if you want a career in engineering, but it can be a liability in b-school admissions. Because if you're heavy on the quant, it bring into question your ability to manage people - and business ultimately is about managing people and companies - not running numbers (that's what you hire people to do).

If you want to progress in your career (whether it's for b-school admissions or not), focus less on quant (there's 2 billion Indians and Chinese out there who will make math/quant as much a commodity as laundry detergent), and more on getting experience that builds your social skills, interpersonal skills, teamwork/leadership, and all the stuff that is less common. What that may be in terms of career choices is entirely up to you.

Think in terms of supply and demand. Again, there are way too many Asian math whizzes out there who will drive down the value of their main skillset (quant/math) simply by virtue of the fact that there's so many of them who offer essentially the same skills. You may not see it happening right now, but it WILL happen sooner than later.

Jul 9, 2010

Thanks Alex. That was very helpful and gave some food for thought. Cheers!

Jul 9, 2010

Alex,

In your experience, have you ever met or worked with someone who got into HBS with a sub 3.0 GPA?

Thanks,
JC

May 11, 2010
jc100021:

Alex,

In your experience, have you ever met or worked with someone who got into HBS with a sub 3.0 GPA?

Thanks,
JC

Rather than bullshit you and say "we at consulting firm XYZ have worked with all kinds of candidates including those with subpar GPAs" blah blah blah --- I honestly can't remember off the top of my head what my clients' GPAs are. I'm sure some of them didn't have great GPAs. Military guys tend to have weaker GPAs than others, but then again they tend to have much stronger everything else (leadership experience, etc.) compared to other applicants.

The reason for that is there's nothing to say about a low GPA. It is what it is. And you have only so much space in the essays that going on defense and talking about your low GPA will only draw more unneeded attention to it. Each adcom will look at a low GPA in a different way, depending on their own biases and also what they think of the candidate overall. They'll either overlook it or they won't, they'll care a bit, or they won't care -- and there's nothing really you can say to change that opinion. You can't turn their frowns upside down with the poetry you write about why getting stoned at a sorority house instead of finishing up your calculus problem set has taught you valuable life skills that no high GPA could give you.

From a practical perspective, you just have to make the decision to apply or not. That's it. And then if you apply, focus on playing offense, and highlighting what makes you great (as opposed to trying hard to explain why something in your background sucked).

All you can really say about a low GPA is this: I wasn't as focused as I could've been. I screwed up. End of story. you can even add "I have changed" or "my GMAT score shows that it wasn't lack of brains, but lack of effort." But beyond that, the adcom will either care, or they won't.

Jul 9, 2010

Thanks. That really helps.

Jul 16, 2010

Alex,

I would like to get your view on my future MBA admission chances. I am planning to apply 3 years from now. Am I headed in the right direction? How should I gear my career direction to get into a top program?

I graduated in 2008 from University of Maryland with a 3.1 GPA in Information Systems.
I got my Master's in Industrial Engineering with 3.6 GPA. My undergraduate transcript is not pretty so I felt the need to go get a graduate degree to improve my admission chance in any way that I can. My graduate transcript is pretty good, lowest grade is B+. My GMAT is 680. I am planning to retake and raise it.
My work experience consists of 2 years in IT Consulting at a good brand name technology firm (IBM, Deloitte Consulting, etc). I left this firm to join a smaller unknown consultancy where I have taken more leadership type roles on projects. I am in the process of building out good work experience and "story" at this new company related to my career goal and past background.
As a side note, would it look bad if I jumped to another firm before I apply?
So my career path after graduating would be: 2 years at the first company -> 1-2 years at new firm -> 2-3 years at another firm -> apply for MBA

Any advice on how to better position myself to bschools? How is my work experience? Which schools do you think I would have a competitive shot at a couple of years from now?

Thanks

May 11, 2010
runthetown:

Alex,

I would like to get your view on my future MBA admission chances. I am planning to apply 3 years from now. Am I headed in the right direction? How should I gear my career direction to get into a top program?

I graduated in 2008 from University of Maryland with a 3.1 GPA in Information Systems.
I got my Master's in Industrial Engineering with 3.6 GPA. My undergraduate transcript is not pretty so I felt the need to go get a graduate degree to improve my admission chance in any way that I can. My graduate transcript is pretty good, lowest grade is B+. My GMAT is 680. I am planning to retake and raise it.
My work experience consists of 2 years in IT Consulting at a good brand name technology firm (IBM, Deloitte Consulting, etc). I left this firm to join a smaller unknown consultancy where I have taken more leadership type roles on projects. I am in the process of building out good work experience and "story" at this new company related to my career goal and past background.
As a side note, would it look bad if I jumped to another firm before I apply?
So my career path after graduating would be: 2 years at the first company -> 1-2 years at new firm -> 2-3 years at another firm -> apply for MBA

Any advice on how to better position myself to bschools? How is my work experience? Which schools do you think I would have a competitive shot at a couple of years from now?

Thanks

Please see a thread with someone else basically asking the same question and my reply there (as well as a contrary view):

http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/how-to-build...
In short, the tail does not wag the dog.

Jul 19, 2010

Hi Alex,

I appreciate the time and effort you've put into answering everyone's questions.

I'm a fresh graduate about to start my first year as an analyst at a BB M&A group. I graduated from a top undergraduate business school with a degree in finance and statistics. I realize I'm going to be lumped in with the other finance applications, but I believe I have a lot of nice qualifying factors in my undergraduate to stand out at least somewhat.

My concern is that my GPA and GMAT both are only slightly above the average/median of the top business schools (3.5+, 700+). I'm considering retaking the GMAT to try to take the academic portion of my application up a notch. My GMAT score had an even split (broke the 80/80). Is it advisable to take it again for H/S/W or the rest of the top 8 programs? In addition, do you think my profile so far is in line with my hopes of a top 8 school?

My goal/dream would be the joint mba/ms in education at Stanford.

Thanks

May 11, 2010
Hybrid:

Hi Alex,

I appreciate the time and effort you've put into answering everyone's questions.

I'm a fresh graduate about to start my first year as an analyst at a BB M&A group. I graduated from a top undergraduate business school with a degree in finance and statistics. I realize I'm going to be lumped in with the other finance applications, but I believe I have a lot of nice qualifying factors in my undergraduate to stand out at least somewhat.

My concern is that my GPA and GMAT both are only slightly above the average/median of the top business schools (3.5+, 700+). I'm considering retaking the GMAT to try to take the academic portion of my application up a notch. My GMAT score had an even split (broke the 80/80). Is it advisable to take it again for H/S/W or the rest of the top 8 programs? In addition, do you think my profile so far is in line with my hopes of a top 8 school?

My goal/dream would be the joint mba/ms in education at Stanford.

Thanks

Keep in mind that b-school admissions isn't a math contest. So long as your numbers are in range, it doesn't matter what those numbers are - in your case, it's not going to come down to numbers at all. I can understand how you may see things that way since you've been in school all your life, but as you gain more experience you'll know that academics and numbers are not as important and immediate as you may see them now.

Also, if you don't want to be a cookie cutter investment banker, then don't be an investment banker at all. Also, at this point no one will really know what your individual chances are going to be at a top school years from now. You haven't even started your job yet. Before thinking two steps ahead, focus on what's ahead of you -- it seems to be a common theme amongst college seniors here on this board - in some huge rush to take their next few years for granted (i.e. "assuming I do the standard analyst thing blah blah blah.").

Thinking about your chances years from now will only distract you from being able to do the best you can in your new banking job.

Jul 20, 2010

Hi Alex,

I'm hoping to get your perspective on how I should spin a portion of my MBA application.

Mini background: 3.98 UG GPA, mid-tier top 50 school, 760 GMAT, solid recs/essays
Double-majored in finance and physics, in a 2-year IBD analyst program at a BB bank, invited back for 3rd year and about to start it

Now, my problem: During undergrad, I withdrew from three courses (none in the same semester), leaving me with three W's on my transcript. Also, I repeated two courses that I received B's in, to increase my GPA since I had some extra room in my schedule and it didn't put me back in terms of when I was graudating.

How bad will these W's/repeats negatively affect my chances at a top MBA program? I am hoping for Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, NYU, etc.

May 11, 2010
ApplyingToBSchool:

Hi Alex,

I'm hoping to get your perspective on how I should spin a portion of my MBA application.

Mini background: 3.98 UG GPA, mid-tier top 50 school, 760 GMAT, solid recs/essays
Double-majored in finance and physics, in a 2-year IBD analyst program at a BB bank, invited back for 3rd year and about to start it

Now, my problem: During undergrad, I withdrew from three courses (none in the same semester), leaving me with three W's on my transcript. Also, I repeated two courses that I received B's in, to increase my GPA since I had some extra room in my schedule and it didn't put me back in terms of when I was graudating.

How bad will these W's/repeats negatively affect my chances at a top MBA program? I am hoping for Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, NYU, etc.

Why would it affect your chances? Your GPA was still strong as is your GMAT, and you're working your ass off as a banker.

Keep in mind that like most things in life (whether it's for jobs, b-school admissions, getting admitted to a country club, blah blah blah), it's not about being perfect - it's about being compelling. Most dynamic and compelling people are far from perfect - it's their flaws as well as their virtues (and the byproducts of these - failures and achievements) collectively that make them interesting and make them people you want to be around. People who are "perfect" either don't exist, or they are incredibly dull and boring.

Think about it for a sec. What could you possibly say or "spin" that won't sound whiny or neurotic (you have had a pretty solid background, but you're obsessed about trying to "spin" something that happened in your past in an effort to appear perfect).

If you screwed up, you screwed up. It's okay.

Jul 22, 2010

Hi Alex,

Wanted to hear your thoughts. background at an ivy with decent GPA /extracurriculars, now at BB IBD (third year soon). Thinking about busydie, but wanted to see how bschools thought about experience at middle market PE firms vs. say smaller HFs. I know it seem similar, but I think there are different implications for each path. Perhaps, recommendation of bosses are important and more readily available at a larger place?

Thanks,
Akira

May 11, 2010
akira:

Hi Alex,

Wanted to hear your thoughts. background at an ivy with decent GPA /extracurriculars, now at BB IBD (third year soon). Thinking about busydie, but wanted to see how bschools thought about experience at middle market PE firms vs. say smaller HFs. I know it seem similar, but I think there are different implications for each path. Perhaps, recommendation of bosses are important and more readily available at a larger place?

Thanks,
Akira

Keep in mind that b-school adcoms aren't MDs, PE guys, etc. They see finance people (IB, HF, PE, etc.) more or less in the same light -- you are either a douche, or you're not. That's the honest truth. Beyond a certain level of "brand", they could care less whether you worked at a HF or PE fund (i.e. most finance folks went to top undergrads, worked at well-known banks, and then maybe spend a year at a HF, PE, VC, IM fund, etc. -- most adcoms may not be as familiar with the big name funds that finance folks get a hard on over).

With finance folks, the most important thing is being able to convey to an adcom that "finance" is your job, not your personality. Again, keep in mind that most adcoms (whether they are full-time staff or current 2nd years) don't have finance backgrounds -- they don't like being around hardcore finance people who speak finance 24/7, talk about their deals, and other stuff that frankly bores the shit out of most people outside the industry. Many an IB analyst may gush over talking about KKR, Madison Dearborn, Citadel, etc -- but most people outside of finance don't give a shit.

And the rec letters can also influence that - you want to get them not from big swinging dicks, but from people who actually know you and work with you -- and can convey that you're a great guy who has a lot of potential. If your recommender comes across as someone with a stick up his ass, then chances are that will reflect on you as well. If he/she comes across as an engaging person while waxing poetic about your potential, then that will reflect on you as well.

Jul 25, 2010

Hey Alex,

Hopefully you can have sometime to respond to me. I wrote in a previous post this here below, would you please let me know your opinion.

Thanks!

Here is the deal:
1)I have been working as an Audit associate at a big4 since 2009.

2) I have founded and ran an incorporated non-profit- since last year- where I have "employed" volunteers to teach English (ESL) and Math to minorities.

3) GPA: 3.4

4) GMAT 740

Do I have decent chance to get in a top MBA, and subsequently get into an MBB?

May 11, 2010
freroht:

Hey Alex,

Hopefully you can have sometime to respond to me. I wrote in a previous post this here below, would you please let me know your opinion.

Thanks!

Here is the deal:
1)I have been working as an Audit associate at a big4 since 2009.

2) I have founded and ran an incorporated non-profit- since last year- where I have "employed" volunteers to teach English (ESL) and Math to minorities.

3) GPA: 3.4

4) GMAT 740

Do I have decent chance to get in a top MBA, and subsequently get into an MBB?

Work for 2-3 more years before you apply, and continue staying committed to your nonprofit, and then you may have a shot at the top schools (assuming you do a great job on the applications and interviews).

May 11, 2010

All of us have had bad interviews in the past. We've stumbled, said stuff we shouldn't have said, behaved in ways we shouldn't have done -- most of the time, it's inadvertent (I've certainly been guilty of some of these no-no's in the past!). However, by being more aware of some of these inadvertent behaviors, hopefully some of you (and me!) can prevent these "character types" from rearing its ugly head - whether in an admissions interview, job interview, or business meeting.

Rather than describe these behaviors, I felt it's easier (and more fun) to just show you some of these character types or behaviors (while hopefully amusing and entertaining you along the way). So I've recently produced a web series INTERVIEW DON'Ts, loosely based on actual interviewees I have coached in the past. This is the first of 17 installments that I will release each week.

In this week's inaugural episode, we feature the Corporate Socrates - that person who no longer has the ability to speak English.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of "Interview Don'ts", we feature THE STALKER. Most of us google one another, but letting someone know you've googled them is just creepy.

Aug 3, 2010

Hi Alex, hoping you can provide feedback on my profile. Thanks in advance!

  • Asian-American female
  • Now entering third year as a credit risk analyst at a BB bank
  • Graduated from top 20 private school with 3.7 GPA in a social science major
  • 720 GMAT
  • Extracurricular: am involved in a start-up/non-profit between me and a few other grads from my school from the same club. Basically provide career, resume, and interview advice to community centers.
  • I plan to enter PE post bschool

What are my chances for top 10 programs?

May 11, 2010
electriclighto:

Hi Alex, hoping you can provide feedback on my profile. Thanks in advance!

  • Asian-American female
  • Now entering third year as a credit risk analyst at a BB bank
  • Graduated from top 20 private school with 3.7 GPA in a social science major
  • 720 GMAT
  • Extracurricular: am involved in a start-up/non-profit between me and a few other grads from my school from the same club. Basically provide career, resume, and interview advice to community centers.
  • I plan to enter PE post bschool

What are my chances for top 10 programs?

H/S/W -- stretch; not that there's anything wrong with you, but just that there's more finance folks applying to school, and adcoms are wanting to take in less finance people in the next few years (no matter what you as an individual say about your career goals, finance folks in the aggregate tend to stay in finance, and they know that it's going to be a tougher job market for that than other non-finance sectors, where consultants/engineers/corporate/etc will have an advantage (i.e. ex-consultant going into industry/marketing, or ex-engineer going into tech on the business side). This doesn't mean that you shouldn't apply - but don't count on getting in, and if you do, consider yourself lucky.

The rest of the top 8 such as Columbia, Chicago, Kellogg, Sloan and Tuck - you should be competitive for. Not safeties, but you should have a reasonable shot of getting in.

Aug 3, 2010

Thanks, Alex. You're correct that H/S/W are my top choices, and I'm putting UT as a safety for me (ties to Texas).

Aug 5, 2010

Alex, your acting in the stalker video is unnervingly good.

May 11, 2010
whateverittakes:

Alex, your acting in the stalker video is unnervingly good.

Haha thanks.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of "Interview Don'ts", we feature RODNEY DANGERFIELD - the guy with the chip on his shoulder who feels he gets no respect. Guys who are always on the verge of frothing at the mouth, taking everything as a potential affront or attack.

Aug 9, 2010

Alex, you've helped me before and I was wondering if you could do a couple of quick questions for me. Brevity works just fine. Thanks.

  1. To build an alternative transcript would 1 class suffice or is 2 classes significantly better?
  2. If I do not have the ability to take an additional class or two (GPA 3.1) would you recommend to wait a full cycle take some classes to put my best foot forward or apply and then take classes if I don't get in and reapply? As you know its some serious work to apply and I don't want to do it if not having the alternative transcript will be a total game killer.
  3. Do adcoms cross reference employers and compare applicants not only holistically but on a company by company basis? I come from a boutique banking background and I'm currently in the Peace Corps. Would schools admit 2 people from the same boutique or two people from the same Peace Corps country assignment? Or would I be putting myself at a disadvantage applying round 2 if my coworkers apply round 1 and where accepted? By this I don't mean disadvantage from a comparative purpose but rather, we already accepted person x from round 1 from this boutique/PC so we aren't going to accept another, even though we like him as an applicant.
May 11, 2010
ke18sb:

Alex, you've helped me before and I was wondering if you could do a couple of quick questions for me. Brevity works just fine. Thanks.

  1. To build an alternative transcript would 1 class suffice or is 2 classes significantly better?
  2. If I do not have the ability to take an additional class or two (GPA 3.1) would you recommend to wait a full cycle take some classes to put my best foot forward or apply and then take classes if I don't get in and reapply? As you know its some serious work to apply and I don't want to do it if not having the alternative transcript will be a total game killer.
  3. Do adcoms cross reference employers and compare applicants not only holistically but on a company by company basis? I come from a boutique banking background and I'm currently in the Peace Corps. Would schools admit 2 people from the same boutique or two people from the same Peace Corps country assignment? Or would I be putting myself at a disadvantage applying round 2 if my coworkers apply round 1 and where accepted? By this I don't mean disadvantage from a comparative purpose but rather, we already accepted person x from round 1 from this boutique/PC so we aren't going to accept another, even though we like him as an applicant.

In short, just apply this year. Your GPA isn't great, but don't wait an entire year just for that. Take 2 courses, ace them - should you get waitlisted, you can at least show "hey, I aced these courses". And if not, then reapply next year, with alternate transcript in place.

As for adcoms cross referencing -- don't overthink it. Oftentimes, applicants overthink the process i.e. "well since so-and-so is applying R1, then I will apply R2 for this school but R1 for another school since so-and-so isn't applying there, and I will then write my goals in a way to separate myself from that so-and-so."

Do the best you can on the application. Trying to find ways to scheme and time stuff isn't going to help you. Just focus on the written application, interview well, and hope for the best.

Aug 10, 2010

Alex, thanks a lot and two questions:

A) I work at a small shop and wear a lot of different hats across asset classes. Is diversity of experience within a single job a strength, weakness, or a matter of spin?

B) My employer will pay for me to take part-time classes if I'm interested. Can I tranfer from a part-time program to a full-time program at the same school? (Think Stern night to Stern full-time) If so, is there any slippage in terms of credit? What about to a different school (if it's comparably selective?)

Thanks again.

May 11, 2010
Edomerp:

Alex, thanks a lot and two questions:

A) I work at a small shop and wear a lot of different hats across asset classes. Is diversity of experience within a single job a strength, weakness, or a matter of spin?

B) My employer will pay for me to take part-time classes if I'm interested. Can I tranfer from a part-time program to a full-time program at the same school? (Think Stern night to Stern full-time) If so, is there any slippage in terms of credit? What about to a different school (if it's comparably selective?)

Thanks again.

A) Not sure what you mean. It's about overall quality and caliber (which obviously is subjective). What is better - the guy who can work the grill, fry station, ice cream machine and cash register at the McDonalds -- or the sushi chef at Nobu? For the most part, being exceptional at one thing is usually more marketable (in anything really) than being ok at many things.

B) No. Schools don't do that. And if they did, they will have you swear on your future children not to tell a soul. It's not in their interest to allow this as a precedent, otherwise it will be hard to manage the size of the classes as well as encouraging an already neurotically indecisive analysis-paralysis group of MBA-types to horse trade from one program to the next.

Aug 11, 2010

Hi Alex

Thanks in advance for your feedback. Here are my details

Background: 28/Male/Indian
Education: Computer Engineering, Stevens Tech in NJ. GPA 3.4
GMAT: 700
Target Schools: Top 5/Columbia/NYU
Work: Have worked mostly for investment banks, implementing e-mail surveillance solutions for Compliance teams. Currently tech lead for one of the largest banks in this area. Began working in 2004, starting at Lehman.
Extra Curriculars: I volunteer for 3 separate organizations (tutoring kids, mentoring high school students etc)
Career goals: As a career switcher, looking to get my foot in the door with IB. Long term PE, even though that may be difficult as I dont have PE experiece pre-MBA.

H/S/W may be out of reach due to lack of extra curriculars. I will be 29 soon so I feel like this is my only window to get in (2011). Thoughts about 5-10? Columbia?

At the end of the day, the goal is to work in IBD for a BB....thank you so much for you assistance.

May 11, 2010
gujrasac:

Hi Alex

Thanks in advance for your feedback. Here are my details

Background: 28/Male/Indian
Education: Computer Engineering, Stevens Tech in NJ. GPA 3.4
GMAT: 700
Target Schools: Top 5/Columbia/NYU
Work: Have worked mostly for investment banks, implementing e-mail surveillance solutions for Compliance teams. Currently tech lead for one of the largest banks in this area. Began working in 2004, starting at Lehman.
Extra Curriculars: I volunteer for 3 separate organizations (tutoring kids, mentoring high school students etc)
Career goals: As a career switcher, looking to get my foot in the door with IB. Long term PE, even though that may be difficult as I dont have PE experiece pre-MBA.

H/S/W may be out of reach due to lack of extra curriculars. I will be 29 soon so I feel like this is my only window to get in (2011). Thoughts about 5-10? Columbia?

At the end of the day, the goal is to work in IBD for a BB....thank you so much for you assistance.

Shoot for Columbia, Booth, NYU, Yale and Cornell - these range of schools are more in reach, and should allow you to get into IB post-MBA.

Aug 12, 2010

Hey Alex, cool thread.

Obviously, work experience is really important at most business schools, but what is your take on programs like Yale's Silver Scholars program, where students enroll in the MBA program right out of undergrad? I took a strategy class at my college's graduate business school and I absolutely loved it. I'm class of 2011 at a top-5 school, Econ major with a 3.6 GPA. Should I apply to Yale's Silver Scholars program, and what do you think my chances are if I do apply?

May 11, 2010
DavidS:

Hey Alex, cool thread.

Obviously, work experience is really important at most business schools, but what is your take on programs like Yale's Silver Scholars program, where students enroll in the MBA program right out of undergrad? I took a strategy class at my college's graduate business school and I absolutely loved it. I'm class of 2011 at a top-5 school, Econ major with a 3.6 GPA. Should I apply to Yale's Silver Scholars program, and what do you think my chances are if I do apply?

If you feel you're good enough to get into the Yale Silver Scholars program, you should then probably wait and apply to a stronger school with a few years experience i.e. if you're really strong enough to get into Yale right out of college, chances are you are capable enough of getting a good job out of school, and yes even though the job market sucks - I really think getting some experience before going back to b-school is well worth it - you'll appreciate grad school more, you'll be more mature, AND most importantly you won't be at a disadvantage compared to other MBAs for jobs.

Keep in mind that employers really value experience. If you're a guy who went straight through from college, a lot of recruiters will be skeptical of your ability to work on the same level as someone with a few years' experience. In other words, they'd rather hire you on as an entry level guy who wouldn't be much different than a college grad (because aside from the degree in terms of "real world experience and perspective" to many people you won't be, even if you feel you're more mature than people give you credit for.

Aug 13, 2010

Hi,

Although I have already obtained my undergraduate degrees, I am interested in taking a few courses either online or through a local college for credit. I will not be obtaining a new degree, but will be taking these courses under a graded (not pass/fail) basis.

I thinking of pursuing an MBA down the road; will I need to disclose this transcript (wont be from the same school as undergrad) in my application? I did well as an undergrad (>3.8 gpa, never any C's) and am concerned that if I don't get A's in these courses it would look unfavorably to the adcoms.

Thanks in advance,

CaptainMorgan

May 11, 2010
captainmorgan:

Hi,

Although I have already obtained my undergraduate degrees, I am interested in taking a few courses either online or through a local college for credit. I will not be obtaining a new degree, but will be taking these courses under a graded (not pass/fail) basis.

I thinking of pursuing an MBA down the road; will I need to disclose this transcript (wont be from the same school as undergrad) in my application? I did well as an undergrad (>3.8 gpa, never any C's) and am concerned that if I don't get A's in these courses it would look unfavorably to the adcoms.

Thanks in advance,

CaptainMorgan

If you've already got a strong GPA, why are you taking additional courses for credit?

Aug 13, 2010
MBAApply:
captainmorgan:

Hi,

Although I have already obtained my undergraduate degrees, I am interested in taking a few courses either online or through a local college for credit. I will not be obtaining a new degree, but will be taking these courses under a graded (not pass/fail) basis.

I thinking of pursuing an MBA down the road; will I need to disclose this transcript (wont be from the same school as undergrad) in my application? I did well as an undergrad (>3.8 gpa, never any C's) and am concerned that if I don't get A's in these courses it would look unfavorably to the adcoms.

Thanks in advance,

CaptainMorgan

If you've already got a strong GPA, why are you taking additional courses for credit?

Thinking of applying to TFA for next year, and would be interested in teaching a subject that I did not earn many credits in as an undergrad. In addition to getting into the program (regardless of whether taking these additional classes helped), I know that an individual school district will have to "accept" me as a teacher. Despite TFA helping with placement, I know I will be better off if I have earned some credits in this subject (Math).

This is just a possibility, though. I ultimately may not even decide to apply to TFA after having taken the courses. However, I am fairly certain that I will pursue an MBA down the road.

So, ultimately, will I have to disclose these classes (2-3 max) and the grades I received in them in my application? Again, they will not be associated with any degree.

Thanks!

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of "Interview Don'ts", we feature IRON MAN. A very short and sweet one here. If you've ever been on the receiving end of bone crunching handshakes, you'll certainly feel this one.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode, we have the FRESH OFF THE BOAT -- the guy who has to remind everyone that China is big. Really big.

Plus, I enjoy making fun of my own peeps haha

Aug 22, 2010

Hey Alex,

Hello, I've been considering applying to the HBS 2+2 program, and I was wondering whether you could provide me some insight.

Background
I am a rising jr at a top 10 liberal arts UG . I am a Econ and Math double majoir, have a 3.8+ GPA, Varsity golf (D3), recieved Asset Management Fellowship from a top AM company, do finance research for two professors, TA math class, Manage our school's student investment fund, on executive board of student government, sing in professional acapella group and co-founder of a web business. This summer I worked in Mongolia for a HK holdings company and also did due diligence for our schools endowment.

Questions
1) First, I have heard the 2+2 program is for non-finance applicants. While I wouldnt say im strictly a 'finance student' most of my CV centers around finance, especially academically. Is it true the 2+2 program is directed at non finance students? If so, would I still have a shot at acceptance?

2) Is there downside to applying knowing I have a small chance of acceptance (does rejection affect getting in to HBS later on)?

3) Would it be a better idea to do a IB, AM, P/E internship after my sr summer, or do something different (i.e. Mongolia)?

4) How important is a sr-summer internship to acceptance?

Thanks for any help you can give me!

May 11, 2010
Aoetting12:

Hey Alex,

Hello, I've been considering applying to the HBS 2+2 program, and I was wondering whether you could provide me some insight.

Background
I am a rising jr at a top 10 liberal arts UG . I am a Econ and Math double majoir, have a 3.8+ GPA, Varsity golf (D3), recieved Asset Management Fellowship from a top AM company, do finance research for two professors, TA math class, Manage our school's student investment fund, on executive board of student government, sing in professional acapella group and co-founder of a web business. This summer I worked in Mongolia for a HK holdings company and also did due diligence for our schools endowment.

Questions
1) First, I have heard the 2+2 program is for non-finance applicants. While I wouldnt say im strictly a 'finance student' most of my CV centers around finance, especially academically. Is it true the 2+2 program is directed at non finance students? If so, would I still have a shot at acceptance?

2) Is there downside to applying knowing I have a small chance of acceptance (does rejection affect getting in to HBS later on)?

3) Would it be a better idea to do a IB, AM, P/E internship after my sr summer, or do something different (i.e. Mongolia)?

4) How important is a sr-summer internship to acceptance?

Thanks for any help you can give me!

The 2+2 program is really designed to target college students in sciences, lib arts and engineering. For someone like you -- it's pretty clear that you're already headed for a business career anyhow, and that there's a strong chance you'll apply to b-school anyways with a few years' experience. So it's not about how strong a profile you have - it's simply that they're not really looking for people like you. Doesn't matter what kind of internships you get -- they're looking for people who aren't business/econ guys like yourself (again because they know that you'll apply anyways in a few years time).

My suggestion is to focus on finishing up school - make sure to maintain decent grades, but also enjoy your college years. You sound pretty focused on internships, so you'll probably land a decent job coming out of school. Work a few years, and then decide whether you want to go back to b-school -- you may very well change your mind once you're working full-time (as do many people).

If you really need to scratch that itch with 2+2, go for it. It probably won't affect your chances years later. Just know that your chances are slim getting in via 2+2.

Jun 28, 2010

Alex - Not sure if this question has been asked so apologies if it has.

But all things equal - does geography have a large factor on the admission process? I'm in NYC - at a well known startup. I may have the opportunity to go open the SF office (which personally, is more desireable) - if HBS is say at the top of my list - and say credentials aside I have a shot - does applying from NYC vs. SF make a difference?

Thanks in advance.

May 11, 2010
weeds499:

Alex - Not sure if this question has been asked so apologies if it has.

But all things equal - does geography have a large factor on the admission process? I'm in NYC - at a well known startup. I may have the opportunity to go open the SF office (which personally, is more desireable) - if HBS is say at the top of my list - and say credentials aside I have a shot - does applying from NYC vs. SF make a difference?

Thanks in advance.

Geography doesn't make a difference at all. It's about the overall caliber of your resume, not where you've worked.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of "Interview Don'ts", the GUANTANAMO DETAINEE pleads his case, because everything in life to him is a form of interrogation.

Aug 30, 2010

Hi Alex,

Long story short, I need to build an alternate transcript. If I only have enough time to take one class before 2nd round applications are due for a 2011 start, which class would you recommend? My initial thought was statistics because I didn't do so well in undergrad stats and it's a quantitative course.

Lastly, will taking a course online versus in person affect my chances of getting in to school? Do you recommend a particular online school to go with?

Thank you very much for your help!

May 11, 2010
PigglyWiggly:

Hi Alex,

Long story short, I need to build an alternate transcript. If I only have enough time to take one class before 2nd round applications are due for a 2011 start, which class would you recommend? My initial thought was statistics because I didn't do so well in undergrad stats and it's a quantitative course.

Lastly, will taking a course online versus in person affect my chances of getting in to school? Do you recommend a particular online school to go with?

Thank you very much for your help!

Doesn't really matter, so long as it's a quant course - most common being stats, calculus, or linear algebra.

As for online vs in person - it doesn't matter so long as the online is from an accredited university -- tons of schools offering online extension courses. I'm based in LA, so the first one that comes to mind is UCLA.

Jul 8, 2010

Hi Alex,

How important would you say MBA interviews are, especially ones with alumni (Columbia)?

Are you fine as long as you don't come off as arrogant/jerk and don't say anything inappropriate?

May 11, 2010
SoulmeetsBody:

Hi Alex,

How important would you say MBA interviews are, especially ones with alumni (Columbia)?

Are you fine as long as you don't come off as arrogant/jerk and don't say anything inappropriate?

It really depends on WHY the adcom sent out the invite. There's basically three kinds:

(1) Mostly sure - written app was strong enough that the interview is just a gut check; so long as you don't screw it up, the interview won't change the decision to accept you.

(2) Don't know - this is where the interview can make or break; a good one can put you over the top, and a bad one can keep you out.

(3) Diamond in the rough - this is where they are willing to punt or gamble, and will use the interview as the gauge. In this case, you'll need an exceptional interview to have a chance; they're not entirely sure about dinging you (otherwise they wouldn't have given you the invite), because there might be something there, hence the interview; and if you did a great interview, it could still mean a waitlist.

With Columbia as with most schools (Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Sloan, etc) - the majority of folks are either (1) or (3). Meaning that the interview isn't really that important - the adcom is already pretty sure about you either way based on your written application, and the interview is merely to reaffirm that.

The only exception is HBS, where the interview matters for more folks who get invited - yes, for some invitees it's a formality, but for most the interview is make-or-break.

Sep 3, 2010

Hi Alex,

First off thanks for the great information you have passed along.

My Question in particular relates to retaking the GMAT. By way of introduction:

-University degree in Economics (3.82/3.85) from a school specializing in heterodox economic thought (quant heavy: Econometrics, Stats, Calculus, Upper level Micro/Macro etc.)
-Raised $100k + seed money to start and operate a small retail venture while in school; locations in multiple states, 7-9 employees (mostly part time students) and annulized gross revenues of approx. $190k...sold business 1.5 years later
-1.5 years at local small financial shop: Mortgage Broker, Personal Income Tax Prep. and Small Business start up consulting
-2 years at BB in Finance Division w/ focus in Regulatory space
-Junior College athlete and local high school senior baseball coach for several summers.

I scored 710 on my GMAT (46 Q/41 V) although I was hoping to come in around 730-740. I have at least a year until I apply, so I am curious if retaking the GMAT for a 20-30 pt. bump will make a marginal difference? I have a small non profit centered on education that is in the works and the only thing holding me back from getting it off the ground is time. Is it worth an extra 4-6 weeks to bump the score up or is it time to stop being pretentious and move on? Targeting a top 5 (realistic?), although I am still exploring the specifics of each program as I know they vary widely. My top choice is Booth, but would like to take a shot at H/W/S and although outside the top 10 Yale is growing in its appeal to me.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

May 11, 2010
HypeCycle:

Hi Alex,

First off thanks for the great information you have passed along.

My Question in particular relates to retaking the GMAT. By way of introduction:

-University degree in Economics (3.82/3.85) from a school specializing in heterodox economic thought (quant heavy: Econometrics, Stats, Calculus, Upper level Micro/Macro etc.)
-Raised $100k + seed money to start and operate a small retail venture while in school; locations in multiple states, 7-9 employees (mostly part time students) and annulized gross revenues of approx. $190k...sold business 1.5 years later
-1.5 years at local small financial shop: Mortgage Broker, Personal Income Tax Prep. and Small Business start up consulting
-2 years at BB in Finance Division w/ focus in Regulatory space
-Junior College athlete and local high school senior baseball coach for several summers.

I scored 710 on my GMAT (46 Q/41 V) although I was hoping to come in around 730-740. I have at least a year until I apply, so I am curious if retaking the GMAT for a 20-30 pt. bump will make a marginal difference? I have a small non profit centered on education that is in the works and the only thing holding me back from getting it off the ground is time. Is it worth an extra 4-6 weeks to bump the score up or is it time to stop being pretentious and move on? Targeting a top 5 (realistic?), although I am still exploring the specifics of each program as I know they vary widely. My top choice is Booth, but would like to take a shot at H/W/S and although outside the top 10 Yale is growing in its appeal to me.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Don't retake the GMAT. If you do -- even if you end up with a higher score, it can actually raise concerns about you (i.e. adcoms will feel that you don't understand the admissions process and will question your priorities).

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet that obnoxiously cheerful TONY ROBBINS guy.

Sep 3, 2010

Thanks Alex!

I am aware that the profile given was very brief, however, at a high level are the top 5 within reach? Particularly Booth?

May 11, 2010
HypeCycle:

Thanks Alex!

I am aware that the profile given was very brief, however, at a high level are the top 5 within reach? Particularly Booth?

Booth, Sloan, Kellogg, Columbia and Tuck may be within reach.

Sep 9, 2010

Hi Alex,

Been reading through your replies. Thank you very much for taking the time to help us out!

Without bombarding you with too much information, I am wondering what are my chances to get into the Top 5 MBA program in States. I am also considering Yale and Columbia as my options as well.

Here is my profile:

  • Graduated from a Canadian School, SFU with a BBA (1st Class Honors) GPA of 3.5
  • Appointed as the Class Valedictorian; numerous academic scholarships.
  • Competed and placed in several business competitons.
  • Extra-curricular includes: founded the largest business student association on campus with over 200 members, appointed and worked as teaching assistant since 2nd year in school. I've been profile in the City of Vancouver as one of the top 30 under 30. I've been involved and founded the first University platform for Social Change and Sustainability.
  • On my way to get my CA (Chartered Accoutant) with one of the Big 4 and should qualify within the next year or so.
  • I will be taking my GMAT this year and hoping to score 720+.

Thank you for your help in advance!

May 11, 2010
flying_tomato:

Hi Alex,

Been reading through your replies. Thank you very much for taking the time to help us out!

Without bombarding you with too much information, I am wondering what are my chances to get into the Top 5 MBA program in States. I am also considering Yale and Columbia as my options as well.

Here is my profile:

  • Graduated from a Canadian School, SFU with a BBA (1st Class Honors) GPA of 3.5
  • Appointed as the Class Valedictorian; numerous academic scholarships.
  • Competed and placed in several business competitons.
  • Extra-curricular includes: founded the largest business student association on campus with over 200 members, appointed and worked as teaching assistant since 2nd year in school. I've been profile in the City of Vancouver as one of the top 30 under 30. I've been involved and founded the first University platform for Social Change and Sustainability.
  • On my way to get my CA (Chartered Accoutant) with one of the Big 4 and should qualify within the next year or so.
  • I will be taking my GMAT this year and hoping to score 720+.

Thank you for your help in advance!

Similar to the above poster, schools like Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Columbia and Tuck are likely within reach - those are the schools you should target, and then maybe add Yale, NYU and Cornell

Sep 10, 2010

Alex,

Bit of a typical predicament for a PE analyst, but wanted to know what you think:

GPA: 3.8, Physics/Economics, Ivy, High Honors
Work experience: 2 years at IB (GS/MS), 2 years at MegaCap PE (worked both abroad and in the U.S., lots of HBS alumni), interned at top 3 consulting firm, board observer for a couple of our portfolio companies
Nationality: Asian
Age: 25 at matriculation
Gender: M
Languages: English, Chinese
ECs: Kind of weak here. Couple of club presidencies in college, editorships at some newspapers, some involvement with tutoring etc, worked on a 5-6 different on-campus jobs, a ton of econ/finance research, thesis in Physics, study abroad in central Europe (do these count?), worked with a charity for a 7-8 months (nothing too great though). To be honest, work schedule is so brutal that I can't find time outside of work at all.... but I have some good work-related stuff though. Like, I am fairly active on our Company boards, interact with the CEO a lot etc. But I think that's common for PE applicants.

I think I can write some interesting essays (lots of travel, interesting experiences while working on campus in different jobs, some rigorous scientific research etc.)

Round 1:

Harvard
Stanford

Round 2:

Wharton

How do you think I spin my lack of post-college ECs? Really unsure of what to do here. I think it's a big hole...

May 11, 2010
pembahopeful:

Alex,

Bit of a typical predicament for a PE analyst, but wanted to know what you think:

GPA: 3.8, Physics/Economics, Ivy, High Honors
Work experience: 2 years at IB (GS/MS), 2 years at MegaCap PE (worked both abroad and in the U.S., lots of HBS alumni), interned at top 3 consulting firm, board observer for a couple of our portfolio companies
Nationality: Asian
Age: 25 at matriculation
Gender: M
Languages: English, Chinese
ECs: Kind of weak here. Couple of club presidencies in college, editorships at some newspapers, some involvement with tutoring etc, worked on a 5-6 different on-campus jobs, a ton of econ/finance research, thesis in Physics, study abroad in central Europe (do these count?), worked with a charity for a 7-8 months (nothing too great though). To be honest, work schedule is so brutal that I can't find time outside of work at all.... but I have some good work-related stuff though. Like, I am fairly active on our Company boards, interact with the CEO a lot etc. But I think that's common for PE applicants.

I think I can write some interesting essays (lots of travel, interesting experiences while working on campus in different jobs, some rigorous scientific research etc.)

Round 1:

Harvard
Stanford

Round 2:

Wharton

How do you think I spin my lack of post-college ECs? Really unsure of what to do here. I think it's a big hole...

Its not about "spinning" - the more you try to spin, the more you will come across as a douche. The adcoms aren't stupid. They read essays for a living - and they can smell bullshit a mile away, no matter how good of a bullshitter you are - because they can sense it better than you can write it.

Put it this way - take 10 finance guys with similar resumes like yourself and put them in a room. Ask them to describe themselves. Five will blend in, while the other five will come across as individuals - even if they are talking about similar themes (since by definition, they have similar resumes and backgrounds).

It's not about "spin" or bullshit. It's about being able to communicate who you are in a compelling way - and you don't need to have unusual stuff in your background to do that. Also, there isn't some magic recipe to do that either - it's a process of trial-and-error, rather than some "formula". You basically need to work on the essays, get feedback, cut out bullshit, and find a way to really get them to the point where you're putting your best foot forward.

Sep 11, 2010

Hi Alex,

I know that one of the most important (if not the most important) criterion for B-school admission is your work experience, but within this what exactly do the Adcoms expect. My understanding is that most people on the top US programs have only 3-4 years of experience, so how much are you realistically expected to have achieved by that point (by this I mean, should you already have worked in a management capacity?managed your own money etc?)

I've just started a grad program (in asset management) which will keep me busy for the next three years, but I don't know if at the end of those three years I'll have enough "experience" to compete with other applicants (even though I know a lot depends on what I achieve in my job). I'm conscious also that I don't want to be too old when applying for the top programs so at most could probably only do one or two more years working before I apply. Also, would it be a good idea to work in more than one company, would only having experience from one company (post graduation) be a disadvantage?

This is mostly curiosity drive (I've a long way to go before I think about applying), but I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Thanks!

May 11, 2010
Connemara Pony:

Hi Alex,

I know that one of the most important (if not the most important) criterion for B-school admission is your work experience, but within this what exactly do the Adcoms expect. My understanding is that most people on the top US programs have only 3-4 years of experience, so how much are you realistically expected to have achieved by that point (by this I mean, should you already have worked in a management capacity?managed your own money etc?)

I've just started a grad program (in asset management) which will keep me busy for the next three years, but I don't know if at the end of those three years I'll have enough "experience" to compete with other applicants (even though I know a lot depends on what I achieve in my job). I'm conscious also that I don't want to be too old when applying for the top programs so at most could probably only do one or two more years working before I apply. Also, would it be a good idea to work in more than one company, would only having experience from one company (post graduation) be a disadvantage?

This is mostly curiosity drive (I've a long way to go before I think about applying), but I'd really appreciate hearing your thoughts.

Thanks!

That's a very subjective thing.

What you really should be asking is what you WANT to do that you feel makes the most of your potential and interests -- regardless of your b-school plans. In other words, you shouldn't be letting b-school admissions dictate your career choices any more than letting your parents, friends, peers, etc. dictate what you should be doing with your life. I know that sounds cliche, but it's really not about figuring out what kind of resume b-schools want. It's figuring out what YOU want.

As for achievements - again it's not what adcoms expect. It's what YOU expect of yourself. You should have much higher expectations of yourself than others have of you -- which again may sound cliche, but looking at "what adcoms expect" isn't really the right way to look at it.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the SPACE CADET... um... you know, like... the guy who doesn't know... what to say.

Sep 14, 2010

been reading through this thread for a while and your responses have been great so far alex. now i have some questions regarding the HBS 2+2 program. i know it was mainly aimed towards more non-biz majors who would probably not get a MBA later on, engineering, sciences, etc. recently, i hear more and more biz major applicants getting in as its not primarily aimed towards the science majors anymore.

what exactly is the adcom looking for?

i plan on applying summer 2011 and i am currently a mechanical eng. junior. i really want a career change to IB/PE and i think an MBA will definitely be in my future, but i think my best shot at getting into HBS is now with 2+2. is the 2+2 program looking for people who want a career change away from the sciences and into finance or science-y majors who want the skills needed to start their own company, etc.? i am just trying to find the most tactical approach for an engineer to apply this coming summer. thanks!

May 11, 2010
xfactor:

been reading through this thread for a while and your responses have been great so far alex. now i have some questions regarding the HBS 2+2 program. i know it was mainly aimed towards more non-biz majors who would probably not get a MBA later on, engineering, sciences, etc. recently, i hear more and more biz major applicants getting in as its not primarily aimed towards the science majors anymore.

what exactly is the adcom looking for?

i plan on applying summer 2011 and i am currently a mechanical eng. junior. i really want a career change to IB/PE and i think an MBA will definitely be in my future, but i think my best shot at getting into HBS is now with 2+2. is the 2+2 program looking for people who want a career change away from the sciences and into finance or science-y majors who want the skills needed to start their own company, etc.? i am just trying to find the most tactical approach for an engineer to apply this coming summer. thanks!

The adcom in truth may not know exactly what they're looking for, as it's a fluid process. The 2+2 is a relatively new thing (just a few years old; anything less than 5 years is considered "brand new" in university land) so they're figuring it out over time.

Rather than spending time trying to read the HBS tea leaves, you're better off focusing on being the most super effin' accomplished guy/gal you can be, and letting the chips fall where they may -- who knows, a few years down the road you may not feel the need to go to HBS at all.

Sep 19, 2010

Hello, it appears that most top MBA students have led a consistent life of high achievement. In life high achievers usually stay high achievers and low achievers usually stay low achievers. However, there are exceptions like J.K. Rowling who was a welfare mom who started writing Harry Potter in her thirties and Ray Kroc who was a working class salesman until het got the idea to start Mcdonalds in his fifties.

How would the following people based on real life case histories be viewed by an MBA admission committee:

  1. My cousin( non ivy league undergrad) who spent his twenties involved in taking drugs, sponging off his folks, and getting involved in left wing socialist movements. However, he somehow managed to get involved in a peripheral role at a few token shares of a very famous tech company( Pre-IPO), through a friend of a friend. With his fortune, he then successfully invested in local privately held companies demonstrating a talent for "small scale" private equity.
  2. A former welfare recipient who got inspired by a "special program", to change their life around. After completing college, he then started fixing up houses, moving up to buy apartment houses, eventually building a million dollar real estate empire.
  3. A Blue collar worker with a part time state school degree, who at age 32 decides to take life seriously after his best friend dies from a heart attack. He then starts his own contracting company eventually achieving 20 million in revenue.

Would in these unusual cases, extremely spectacular business achievement within the last five years make up for having a average to below average career trajectory in their twenties and a non ivy league undergrad?

For that matter, how would a person who had an average job history but had huge success via their after hours investing, ebay selling, or real estate flipping be viewed? In both cases, assume they had a solid GMAT. For example, my father who was a union blue collar worker had a coworker who made millions in real estate by buying houses in his spare time. He also was sage-like in buying a few tech stocks early on. Although at his age, I doubt he would apply to an MBA program, but which would count more, his day union blue collar job or his real estate millions? Lucky for him he sold out before the crash.

Thanks

May 11, 2010
Futuretrader:

Hello, it appears that most top MBA students have led a consistent life of high achievement. In life high achievers usually stay high achievers and low achievers usually stay low achievers. However, there are exceptions like J.K. Rowling who was a welfare mom who started writing Harry Potter in her thirties and Ray Kroc who was a working class salesman until het got the idea to start Mcdonalds in his fifties.

How would the following people based on real life case histories be viewed by an MBA admission committee:

  1. My cousin( non ivy league undergrad) who spent his twenties involved in taking drugs, sponging off his folks, and getting involved in left wing socialist movements. However, he somehow managed to get involved in a peripheral role at a few token shares of a very famous tech company( Pre-IPO), through a friend of a friend. With his fortune, he then successfully invested in local privately held companies demonstrating a talent for "small scale" private equity.
  2. A former welfare recipient who got inspired by a "special program", to change their life around. After completing college, he then started fixing up houses, moving up to buy apartment houses, eventually building a million dollar real estate empire.
  3. A Blue collar worker with a part time state school degree, who at age 32 decides to take life seriously after his best friend dies from a heart attack. He then starts his own contracting company eventually achieving 20 million in revenue.

Would in these unusual cases, extremely spectacular business achievement within the last five years make up for having a average to below average career trajectory in their twenties and a non ivy league undergrad?

For that matter, how would a person who had an average job history but had huge success via their after hours investing, ebay selling, or real estate flipping be viewed? In both cases, assume they had a solid GMAT. For example, my father who was a union blue collar worker had a coworker who made millions in real estate by buying houses in his spare time. He also was sage-like in buying a few tech stocks early on. Although at his age, I doubt he would apply to an MBA program, but which would count more, his day union blue collar job or his real estate millions? Lucky for him he sold out before the crash.

Thanks

In truth, all of these folks will be wild card candidates for b-school. Not because they don't have compelling back stories, but because of the fact that they've got such unique back stories that the big concern is whether they can FIT IN with other b-schoolers with very different backgrounds/resumes.

Also, keep in mind that adcoms (and most people outside of finance) define achievement and success in broader terms than you might (i.e. that it comes down to money transactions and trades). That is certainly one version of "achievement" and success, but it's not really what b-school adcoms look at.

Being able to make a shitload of money off of eBay and flipping real estate and day trading (or trading exotic Swahili options) shows that you have the brains to make money by trading and transacting...

But it doesn't tell the adcom that you can manage a company - which means supervising and managing a group of people - whether it's a collegial partnership firm, or a gigantic company with thousands of employees.

Being able to run a business isn't just about making good trades. It's about running a business -- and a lot of that has to do with how good one is with people - whether it's with customers/clients, vendors, investors, employees, and the media.

Beyond the standard issue cookie cutter resumes from McKinsey, Bain, BCG, and IB/PE types, they're looking for people with this kind of talent -- it's a talent for dealing with people, moreso than their ability to trade.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the VICTIM -- when you can't sell them on your candidacy, guilt them like a Third World beggar.

Sep 20, 2010

Hi Alex,

I recently applied for Columbia early decision and had an alumni interview. Last week, I found out that I had been waitlisted.

I've heard that Columbia can defer people to the regular decision round, but I didn't expect to be waitlisted so early in the process. They told me that the latest that I can receive a final decision is Dec. 15.

Has this ever happened before to ED applicants?

Do you have any idea why they would waitlist someone as opposed to deferring someone in the ED round? I'm not sure which is the better position to be in.

How do you suggest I approach this?

Hope you can shed some light.

Thanks.

May 11, 2010
taiocruz:

Hi Alex,

I recently applied for Columbia early decision and had an alumni interview. Last week, I found out that I had been waitlisted.

I've heard that Columbia can defer people to the regular decision round, but I didn't expect to be waitlisted so early in the process. They told me that the latest that I can receive a final decision is Dec. 15.

Has this ever happened before to ED applicants?

Do you have any idea why they would waitlist someone as opposed to deferring someone in the ED round? I'm not sure which is the better position to be in.

How do you suggest I approach this?

Hope you can shed some light.

Thanks.

Hard to say what happened. I can't remember off the top of my head whether Columbia accepts "updates" (i.e. waitlist letter reiterating your interest and addressing any potential concerns the adcom has) from waitlisted applicants, but that is something you should check with the adcom this year. I remember that Columbia used to do that in prior years, but not sure whether they still do this year. If they do, then it's just a matter of writing a letter to them reiterating that CBS is your #1 choice, and addressing any concerns you think they may have had (or the waitlist manager assigned to you may even tell you) -- it could be your GMAT, GPA, inexperience, or whatever.

Rather than trying to read the tea leaves, focus on what's in your control (waitlist letter), and try not to get too wrapped up in what you can't control (their decision on you, which is also dependent on other admitted candidates).

Sep 24, 2010

Hi Alex,

I have to say this is a fantastic thread and I've been hooked for hours checking out all your responses to an exceptionally varied set of queries. So here goes:

I've pursued Undergraduate ( 58%) and Post-Grad (46%) degree in economics both from Top 5 programmes in India and I was looking out for opportunities in Finance ( Equity Research / Credit Research / Analyst at an IB) but typically only MBAs / CAs are preferred for such roles in India ( blame it on a rigid recruiter mindset). So I started working as a Management Consultant in Accenture for 3 yrs as a CRM Analyst, advising Telecom companies on Customer attrition / Churn / basically Customer Analytics. I have also managed to work on-site in NYC with a US Telecom major during this stint (look to leverage the cross-cultural experience in my MBA apps). However, since Finance was always my calling, I kept networking for the elusive chance to get my foot in the door and now I'm working for a Credit Research startup as an entry-level Analyst for a year. Once in, I've realized I quite certainly need a Top B-school MBA degree to move up the value chain in Finance.

I'm 28 and would like to apply for a Top US MBA program in 2012. My biggest concern is below-average scores in the Post-Grad ( although median scores were in the 45-47% range) and my age. It seems Top schools like to "catch 'em young" ( correct me here if I'm way off). Assuming a solid GMAT (700+), good recos and a well-executed application, what are the chances of my getting into Columbia / NYU / Yale? I'm focusing on B-schools in the East because I'd like to land a job in the Big Apple using the "NY advantage"( again, correct me if I'm wrong assuming the notion) in an Asset Management / Trader role.

May 11, 2010
EcoEchoes:

Hi Alex,

I have to say this is a fantastic thread and I've been hooked for hours checking out all your responses to an exceptionally varied set of queries. So here goes:

I've pursued Undergraduate ( 58%) and Post-Grad (46%) degree in economics both from Top 5 programmes in India and I was looking out for opportunities in Finance ( Equity Research / Credit Research / Analyst at an IB) but typically only MBAs / CAs are preferred for such roles in India ( blame it on a rigid recruiter mindset). So I started working as a Management Consultant in Accenture for 3 yrs as a CRM Analyst, advising Telecom companies on Customer attrition / Churn / basically Customer Analytics. I have also managed to work on-site in NYC with a US Telecom major during this stint (look to leverage the cross-cultural experience in my MBA apps). However, since Finance was always my calling, I kept networking for the elusive chance to get my foot in the door and now I'm working for a Credit Research startup as an entry-level Analyst for a year. Once in, I've realized I quite certainly need a Top B-school MBA degree to move up the value chain in Finance.

I'm 28 and would like to apply for a Top US MBA program in 2012. My biggest concern is below-average scores in the Post-Grad ( although median scores were in the 45-47% range) and my age. It seems Top schools like to "catch 'em young" ( correct me here if I'm way off). Assuming a solid GMAT (700+), good recos and a well-executed application, what are the chances of my getting into Columbia / NYU / Yale? I'm focusing on B-schools in the East because I'd like to land a job in the Big Apple using the "NY advantage"( again, correct me if I'm wrong assuming the notion) in an Asset Management / Trader role.

Given the deluge of applicants with finance backgrounds, it's going to be tough. But go for it - do the best on your applications, and hope that that's enough. It's all you can do at this point.

Sep 24, 2010
MBAApply:
EcoEchoes:

Hi Alex,

I have to say this is a fantastic thread and I've been hooked for hours checking out all your responses to an exceptionally varied set of queries. So here goes:

I've pursued Undergraduate ( 58%) and Post-Grad (46%) degree in economics both from Top 5 programmes in India and I was looking out for opportunities in Finance ( Equity Research / Credit Research / Analyst at an IB) but typically only MBAs / CAs are preferred for such roles in India ( blame it on a rigid recruiter mindset). So I started working as a Management Consultant in Accenture for 3 yrs as a CRM Analyst, advising Telecom companies on Customer attrition / Churn / basically Customer Analytics. I have also managed to work on-site in NYC with a US Telecom major during this stint (look to leverage the cross-cultural experience in my MBA apps). However, since Finance was always my calling, I kept networking for the elusive chance to get my foot in the door and now I'm working for a Credit Research startup as an entry-level Analyst for a year. Once in, I've realized I quite certainly need a Top B-school MBA degree to move up the value chain in Finance.

I'm 28 and would like to apply for a Top US MBA program in 2012. My biggest concern is below-average scores in the Post-Grad ( although median scores were in the 45-47% range) and my age. It seems Top schools like to "catch 'em young" ( correct me here if I'm way off). Assuming a solid GMAT (700+), good recos and a well-executed application, what are the chances of my getting into Columbia / NYU / Yale? I'm focusing on B-schools in the East because I'd like to land a job in the Big Apple using the "NY advantage"( again, correct me if I'm wrong assuming the notion) in an Asset Management / Trader role.

Given the deluge of applicants with finance backgrounds, it's going to be tough. But go for it - do the best on your applications, and hope that that's enough. It's all you can do at this point.

Thanks Alex.
If it's possible can you share our thoughts specifically on the potential weaknesses I have pointed out in context of the target schools I have outlined? Your guidance / comments in this regard will be greatly appreciated.

Thanks.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the GORDON GEKKO -- who probably inspired more Wall Street douchebag behavior than any accounting/finance textbook could (and who happens to have his new film Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps opening this weekend).

Sep 28, 2010

Hi Alex,

Based on the earlier posts of yours that I've read, I am very interested in hearing any advice you might have for me. I didn't read every post of yours and so I apologize in advance in case you have responded to a similar querry in the past.

I recently graduated from a Masters degree in Mathematical Finance (The MMF program at the University of Toronto). I did quite well in the program, and had a final GPA of about 3.6. I also completed my undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in Applied Mathematics. The concentration was in Statistics and Mathematical Finance. I did quite poorly in my first two years of my undergrad, and even though I did very well in my last two years, my overall GPA was only 3.4, Howver my major GPA is 3.85. During my Undergrad, I did two summer internships. One Sales internship at Wells Fargo, and another one at TD Waterhouse as a Performance Analyst. I started my masters immediately after my undergrad was finished, and during my graduate studies, I did a four month internship at Algorithmics (a leading Risk Management Consulting firm) as a Financial Engineer. Upon completion of my internship, they made me a full time offer. I accepted the full time offer and started work right after finishing my masters (2 months ago). I work in a consulting group within the company, and I am a Financial Engineering consultant on large scale projects for major investment banks. Let's also assume that when I write the GMAT, I'll score in the 710-730 range. (I got 800 on quant and 680 on verbal on the GRE).

I would really like to pursue an MBA, and I have my heart set on Harvard, Wharton, Stanford or Columbia (In the order I've stated them). I plan on applying in about two years, and I'm not sure yet on what I want to focus my MBA studies on just yet. I have an extremely strong interest in Sales and Trading, but unfortuantely I didn't get accepted into any of the S&T rotational programs I applied to. I am also open to a career in consulting (at MBB) because I think my current experience would prepare me well for that.

So my question is this: How do my chances look assuming I work at my current job for 2 years and apply for the class starting in 2012 or 2013. Also, what can I do from now until the time I apply to make myself a very competitive applicant.

I am also curious about the actual application process. Would I be applying to a specific stream? (i,e, a consulting stream, or finance stream etc.) Or would I apply for general entry and choose my courses once I'm there. (Sorry for the noob questions).

Thanks in advance for your response. I look forward to reading it.

Take care!

May 11, 2010
princeali:

Hi Alex,

Based on the earlier posts of yours that I've read, I am very interested in hearing any advice you might have for me. I didn't read every post of yours and so I apologize in advance in case you have responded to a similar querry in the past.

I recently graduated from a Masters degree in Mathematical Finance (The MMF program at the University of Toronto). I did quite well in the program, and had a final GPA of about 3.6. I also completed my undergraduate degree from the University of Toronto in Applied Mathematics. The concentration was in Statistics and Mathematical Finance. I did quite poorly in my first two years of my undergrad, and even though I did very well in my last two years, my overall GPA was only 3.4, Howver my major GPA is 3.85. During my Undergrad, I did two summer internships. One Sales internship at Wells Fargo, and another one at TD Waterhouse as a Performance Analyst. I started my masters immediately after my undergrad was finished, and during my graduate studies, I did a four month internship at Algorithmics (a leading Risk Management Consulting firm) as a Financial Engineer. Upon completion of my internship, they made me a full time offer. I accepted the full time offer and started work right after finishing my masters (2 months ago). I work in a consulting group within the company, and I am a Financial Engineering consultant on large scale projects for major investment banks. Let's also assume that when I write the GMAT, I'll score in the 710-730 range. (I got 800 on quant and 680 on verbal on the GRE).

I would really like to pursue an MBA, and I have my heart set on Harvard, Wharton, Stanford or Columbia (In the order I've stated them). I plan on applying in about two years, and I'm not sure yet on what I want to focus my MBA studies on just yet. I have an extremely strong interest in Sales and Trading, but unfortuantely I didn't get accepted into any of the S&T rotational programs I applied to. I am also open to a career in consulting (at MBB) because I think my current experience would prepare me well for that.

So my question is this: How do my chances look assuming I work at my current job for 2 years and apply for the class starting in 2012 or 2013. Also, what can I do from now until the time I apply to make myself a very competitive applicant.

I am also curious about the actual application process. Would I be applying to a specific stream? (i,e, a consulting stream, or finance stream etc.) Or would I apply for general entry and choose my courses once I'm there. (Sorry for the noob questions).

Thanks in advance for your response. I look forward to reading it.

Take care!

Keep in mind that adcoms have seen many folks like yourself (those with a very strong academic/quant/analytical/technical background) who completely misunderstand what an MBA and what business is all about - that an MBA is simply an extension of their technical education to date, and that business is just like their technical jobs, except it pays more.

And that couldn't be further from the truth.

Business is ultimately about your ability to manage and lead people, to supervise people, to be able to build relationships with customers and clients and investors and partners, to be a great team member, to understand group dynamics. It's about one's interpersonal skills, leadership ability and communication skills - basically the kinds of skills and experience that many people with technical/academic backgrounds are weak in.

It's not about your ability to do math.

So your challenge is to convince the adcoms that your interpersonal/leadership skills are as strong if not stronger than your already exceptional analytical/technical abilities. If you can't, you'll have a tough time getting into a top program because there's enough applicants who will be able to show that they have these skills (even if they aren't as analytically/technically brilliant as you are).

Now, you may say that you want to do sales & trading, but that's not what the MBA was designed for. It's really geared towards more client/investor-oriented jobs in finance (banking, private equity, venture capital), mgmt consulting (client-focused) and general management/marketing/product management in industry (which is about managing people).

It's clear you can do math. If you're looking at sales & trading, forget about an MBA. And if you feel you are cut out to do management consulting, it won't be because of your math skills. It'll be because you're great with people -- you know how to work the room with clients.

Sep 28, 2010
MBAApply:

Keep in mind that adcoms have seen many folks like yourself (those with a very strong academic/quant/analytical/technical background) who completely misunderstand what an MBA and what business is all about - that an MBA is simply an extension of their technical education to date, and that business is just like their technical jobs, except it pays more.

And that couldn't be further from the truth.

Business is ultimately about your ability to manage and lead people, to supervise people, to be able to build relationships with customers and clients and investors and partners, to be a great team member, to understand group dynamics. It's about one's interpersonal skills, leadership ability and communication skills - basically the kinds of skills and experience that many people with technical/academic backgrounds are weak in.

It's not about your ability to do math.

So your challenge is to convince the adcoms that your interpersonal/leadership skills are as strong if not stronger than your already exceptional analytical/technical abilities. If you can't, you'll have a tough time getting into a top program because there's enough applicants who will be able to show that they have these skills (even if they aren't as analytically/technically brilliant as you are).

Now, you may say that you want to do sales & trading, but that's not what the MBA was designed for. It's really geared towards more client/investor-oriented jobs in finance (banking, private equity, venture capital), mgmt consulting (client-focused) and general management/marketing/product management in industry (which is about managing people).

It's clear you can do math. If you're looking at sales & trading, forget about an MBA. And if you feel you are cut out to do management consulting, it won't be because of your math skills. It'll be because you're great with people -- you know how to work the room with clients.

Thanks for the reply Alex!

You are absolutely right, and I have definitely made a conscious effort not to overlook the leadership aspect of business school. I should have mentioned in my earlier post that I have been involved with leadership activities since high school. Most recently, I was president of my graduate student union. I definitely understand that an MBA is not designed to extend my technical knowledge, and that is most certainly not why I'm intent on pursuing the degree. My main focus is to learn how to market myself, and take advantage of the vast alumni networks and campus recruiting opportunities at the top schools.

I'm still a bit unsure about the focus of study in these top MBAs. Do people looking to go into Consulting take a different track/stream than someone looking to go into M&A? If so, how easy is it to change tracks once you are in?

Thanks again!

Sep 30, 2010

Hi ALex,

We all know that business school adcoms want you to demonstrate that you are a high achiever in your area of work. How important is getting a promotion before applying to business school?

I am an analyst at a large well known tech consulting firm. 90% of analysts get promoted after 3 years of work experience. 10% get promoted after 2 years. I am aiming for 2 years, however there is a good chance it will take 3 years. Do you think delaying applying to b-schools a year if I don't get promoted in 2 will enhance my application? Or will it not matter if my recommendations reflect excellent performance and leadership?

I am aiming for top 10. I would rather apply sooner than later because I am already older than most people at my level due to getting a Master's after undergrad. I want to leave tech consulting.

Thanks in advance!

May 11, 2010
eightyeight:

Hi ALex,

We all know that business school adcoms want you to demonstrate that you are a high achiever in your area of work. How important is getting a promotion before applying to business school?

I am an analyst at a large well known tech consulting firm. 90% of analysts get promoted after 3 years of work experience. 10% get promoted after 2 years. I am aiming for 2 years, however there is a good chance it will take 3 years. Do you think delaying applying to b-schools a year if I don't get promoted in 2 will enhance my application? Or will it not matter if my recommendations reflect excellent performance and leadership?

I am aiming for top 10. I would rather apply sooner than later because I am already older than most people at my level due to getting a Master's after undergrad. I want to leave tech consulting.

Thanks in advance!

You're making the assumption that an adcom will know whether the promotion is a big deal or not. In some firms, a certain promotion is a big deal, in others it's a matter of course (in reality). And your job isn't to spend so much space on the essays trying so hard to explain that. Promotions are certainly a nice data point, but it's really about the overall quality of your experience, which is subjective -- but it's what adcoms will look at more than whether you won "gold medals" for you technical prowess or getting a change in job title.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the RAMBLER -- that guy who starts in the middle but has no concept of an ending or beginning, going on and on and on ...

Oct 4, 2010

Hey,

I wanted to know what you guys thought about my chances of getting in a nice B-School.

I am currently a Senior Finance Major at Morehead State University in Kentucky. I have a 4.0 GPA.

I worked as an intern on Wall Street this summer for an options market making group.

I used to be a professional poker player(great risk/reward experience), and now have run a successful business for nearly 2 years.

I mainly want to get straight to Wall Street and into trading, but if I can't, I am wondering what chances I have if I score super high on the GMAT and such. I'd like to be going to school somewhere in NYC, where I plan to move, so I can also still be working in the industry.

May 11, 2010
Schwallie:

Hey,

I wanted to know what you guys thought about my chances of getting in a nice B-School.

I am currently a Senior Finance Major at Morehead State University in Kentucky. I have a 4.0 GPA.

I worked as an intern on Wall Street this summer for an options market making group.

I used to be a professional poker player(great risk/reward experience), and now have run a successful business for nearly 2 years.

I mainly want to get straight to Wall Street and into trading, but if I can't, I am wondering what chances I have if I score super high on the GMAT and such. I'd like to be going to school somewhere in NYC, where I plan to move, so I can also still be working in the industry.

You're not the first college student to see the MBA as "that degree program I will enroll in because I can't find a job" -- the thing is, adcoms know that too, no matter how you spin it (especially given your background - hardcore business/finance).

You'll need full-time post-college work experience before applying for an MBA program. Around 2-6 years of experience total.

I can sympathize with how hard and crappy the job market is right now, but doing an MBA isn't an alternative to that. You'll have to find some way or another to get a job - even if it's not the ideal one.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the CHARLIE BROWN -- that jaded person who confuses modesty for lack of self-confidence.

Oct 11, 2010

Hi Alex,

I am currently applying for B-Schools and I had a few questions regarding admissions. I graduated from a non-target undergrad school with a low gpa (est. 2.8). However, I do have 3 years of wholesale mortgage banking experience 1 year experience running my own real estate business, and 1yr of commercial banking (business banking) experience. I feel that my undergrad GPA is really limiting my chances on getting into a local top b-shool program (think Anderson or Marshall).

My question to you is, are my chances to get into a local top b-school by applying to their fully employed program versus the full time MBA program? In addition, the ultimate goal of the MBA is to break into I-Banking. Would I still have a shot considering that I got into a second tier or non-ranked B-School program (i.e. UCI Paul Merage SChool)? Thanks for the help.

May 11, 2010
UCSBanker:

Hi Alex,

I am currently applying for B-Schools and I had a few questions regarding admissions. I graduated from a non-target undergrad school with a low gpa (est. 2.8). However, I do have 3 years of wholesale mortgage banking experience 1 year experience running my own real estate business, and 1yr of commercial banking (business banking) experience. I feel that my undergrad GPA is really limiting my chances on getting into a local top b-shool program (think Anderson or Marshall).

My question to you is, are my chances to get into a local top b-school by applying to their fully employed program versus the full time MBA program? In addition, the ultimate goal of the MBA is to break into I-Banking. Would I still have a shot considering that I got into a second tier or non-ranked B-School program (i.e. UCI Paul Merage SChool)? Thanks for the help.

GMAT has a big part to play, moreso than the GPA. In any case, your GPA is what it is - you can't do anything about it.

As for getting into investment banking, you really need to go to a top 16 school as that's where they do almost all the recruiting -- you're not really going to get that banking job from schools outside of the top 16 unless it's through personal contacts.

Oct 11, 2010
MBAApply:
UCSBanker:

Hi Alex,

I am currently applying for B-Schools and I had a few questions regarding admissions. I graduated from a non-target undergrad school with a low gpa (est. 2.8). However, I do have 3 years of wholesale mortgage banking experience 1 year experience running my own real estate business, and 1yr of commercial banking (business banking) experience. I feel that my undergrad GPA is really limiting my chances on getting into a local top b-shool program (think Anderson or Marshall).

My question to you is, are my chances to get into a local top b-school by applying to their fully employed program versus the full time MBA program? In addition, the ultimate goal of the MBA is to break into I-Banking. Would I still have a shot considering that I got into a second tier or non-ranked B-School program (i.e. UCI Paul Merage SChool)? Thanks for the help.

GMAT has a big part to play, moreso than the GPA. In any case, your GPA is what it is - you can't do anything about it.

As for getting into investment banking, you really need to go to a top 16 school as that's where they do almost all the recruiting -- you're not really going to get that banking job from schools outside of the top 16 unless it's through personal contacts.

THanks ALex....one last question. Would you say it's easier to get into a PT MBA program vs. a FT?

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the YES MAN -- where silence isn't always golden.

Oct 18, 2010

Hello Alex,
I'm wondering what my chances are at getting into Wharton or Booth next fall. Here is a little about me:

By the time, I start the program, I'll have had 2 years of work experience in the Performance & Technology Division of KPMG Nigeria's Advisory Practice. I've been opportuned to work on a number of great projects already and I've definitely had a lot more responsibility than my fellow analysts. By the time I'm ready for B-School, I'll be two months shy of making associate.

Prior to KPMG, I worked for roughly a year as a relationship Manager in the consumer banking department of Zenith Bank, one of Nigeria's foremost commercial banks.

Before Zenith, I worked as a Geography Teacher for a year in a high school in rural northern Nigeria.

Extracurricular activities include conducting a successful fund raiser that provided internet services in a rural Nigerian secondary school. I also introduced leadership training to the curriculum, prepared materials on leadership and motivation and trained volunteers who would do the actual teaching. All this was during my full time role as a consultant in KPMG.

I've also pioneered a workplace publication that provides new hires with practical tips and insights on how to overcome the most common challenges of their first year as consultants in KPMG Advisory.

I also have a year of community service in a village in Northern Nigeria. During this one year, I served as the Head of the Corps Members Christian Fellowship and was also on the examination board of the school where I was a teacher (My one year teaching stint was during the community service program)

I have a GPA of 5.5 out of 7.0 (Second Class Upper)...from Nigeria's Premier University and a 740 (97th Percentile) in the GMAT....I had a perfect 6.0 in AWA and English is by all means my first language.

I have a total of about 4years work experience..What worries me is that I wasn't really part of any significant extracurricular activities while in University. Also most of my extracurricular activities are personal initiatives and not necessarily under the umbrella of any org. In the Wharton APP especially, Ive seen that you're expected to state the names of various organizations you were a member of.

(In addition just before KPMG, I got into London Business School for the Masters in Management Program and was one of the few that was awarded a prestigious annual fund scholarship and also the associated scholars charter. I was however unable to secure additional funding (the scholarship was less than a third of tuition) and had to forfeit the program due to a lack of the necessary financial means. I wonder if this will hold any sway..say if i mention it in the additional essay for Wharton)

What do you think my chances are at Wharton or Booth given my shortage of college activities and the fact that most of my recent extracurriculars are personal initiatives.

Look forward to your response Alex.

Thanks!

May 11, 2010
COKERDI:

Hello Alex,
I'm wondering what my chances are at getting into Wharton or Booth next fall. Here is a little about me:

By the time, I start the program, I'll have had 2 years of work experience in the Performance & Technology Division of KPMG Nigeria's Advisory Practice. I've been opportuned to work on a number of great projects already and I've definitely had a lot more responsibility than my fellow analysts. By the time I'm ready for B-School, I'll be two months shy of making associate.

Prior to KPMG, I worked for roughly a year as a relationship Manager in the consumer banking department of Zenith Bank, one of Nigeria's foremost commercial banks.

Before Zenith, I worked as a Geography Teacher for a year in a high school in rural northern Nigeria.

Extracurricular activities include conducting a successful fund raiser that provided internet services in a rural Nigerian secondary school. I also introduced leadership training to the curriculum, prepared materials on leadership and motivation and trained volunteers who would do the actual teaching. All this was during my full time role as a consultant in KPMG.

I've also pioneered a workplace publication that provides new hires with practical tips and insights on how to overcome the most common challenges of their first year as consultants in KPMG Advisory.

I also have a year of community service in a village in Northern Nigeria. During this one year, I served as the Head of the Corps Members Christian Fellowship and was also on the examination board of the school where I was a teacher (My one year teaching stint was during the community service program)

I have a GPA of 5.5 out of 7.0 (Second Class Upper)...from Nigeria's Premier University and a 740 (97th Percentile) in the GMAT....I had a perfect 6.0 in AWA and English is by all means my first language.

I have a total of about 4years work experience..What worries me is that I wasn't really part of any significant extracurricular activities while in University. Also most of my extracurricular activities are personal initiatives and not necessarily under the umbrella of any org. In the Wharton APP especially, Ive seen that you're expected to state the names of various organizations you were a member of.

(In addition just before KPMG, I got into London Business School for the Masters in Management Program and was one of the few that was awarded a prestigious annual fund scholarship and also the associated scholars charter. I was however unable to secure additional funding (the scholarship was less than a third of tuition) and had to forfeit the program due to a lack of the necessary financial means. I wonder if this will hold any sway..say if i mention it in the additional essay for Wharton)

What do you think my chances are at Wharton or Booth given my shortage of college activities and the fact that most of my recent extracurriculars are personal initiatives.

Look forward to your response Alex.

Thanks!

You should be fine - do the best you can on the applications next year, and it sounds like Wharton and Booth should be within reach.

The whole extracurriculars thing is a bit overblown -- it's really more of an "American" thing, and adcoms are well aware of that, so it's not a big deal that you weren't heavily involved in extracurriculars during college.

In any case, you have an interesting enough backstory that coupled with your work experience, you should have plenty of compelling essay material to show. You'll be fine.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the RED BULL -- who takes the current moment for granted (and becomes completely disengaged and in his head).

Oct 28, 2010

Alex,

Thanks for all your help in this thread. I would like to know what you think my chances are at a top school.

  • Graduated from top 10 liberal arts college with 3.6 GPA
  • 2 years investment banking experience (BofA/Citi/JPM)
  • 1 year of non-profit education management at a top foundation (Gates/Broad/Walton)
  • 760 GMAT
  • College basketball athlete (all four years)
  • Decent activities (pre-MBA minority program, started a few basketball camps, led team to Indonesia for tsunami relief)
May 11, 2010
westcoastkid:

Alex,

Thanks for all your help in this thread. I would like to know what you think my chances are at a top school.

  • Graduated from top 10 liberal arts college with 3.6 GPA
  • 2 years investment banking experience (BofA/Citi/JPM)
  • 1 year of non-profit education management at a top foundation (Gates/Broad/Walton)
  • 760 GMAT
  • College basketball athlete (all four years)
  • Decent activities (pre-MBA minority program, started a few basketball camps, led team to Indonesia for tsunami relief)

With your profile, any of the top schools including H/S/W should be within range (or at least your chances are good enough that it's worth giving them a serious shot). A lot of it comes down to how well you execute the application. Good luck

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, we meet the CORPSE -- that office zombie who sleepwalks from one day to the next, and one job to the next.

http://www.mbaapply.com/interviewdonts.htm
Enjoy! And stay tuned for another episode in another week!

Nov 2, 2010

Hi Alex,

Been a guest on the site for a while and finally signed up to ask a couple questions.
Firstly, it seems like alot of these "kids" are coming in with backgrounds that align them to alot of these choices and they've had the ball in motion for quite a few years.

However, Im coming from a vastly different background. In short, I got my undergrad from the top Kinesiology program in the country with mediocre GPA. Afterwards, I decided to side step and get my Masters (of science) in Sports Commerce from one of the top Non-MBA programs in the country. The sport bus field is in a very transitional period where alot of school are starting to roll over their program into their B-school. Upon doing some internships (within the sports industry) I graduated with a 3.79 and took a job right away at the same university within their athletic dept. I have some good ec's on my resume and am finding myself looking in the direction of Business school for a couple of reasons.

1) Open more doors within my own field
2) I completed a bunch of B-School electives and became enamored with business/banking in the process.
3) Would really like to further my knowledge base and step into Banking as I can always go back to Sports Business.

My questions are these...

1) Is my experience in a non-traditional setting even remotely relevant to B-school adcoms?
2) If not, how can I go about getting more traditonal (banking/consulting, etc) experience before B-school applications?
3) In your opinion, what can make me more attractive to adcoms? (my practice exams put me in mid 600's w/ very little studying so far)

Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish"

May 11, 2010
dmcd:

Hi Alex,

Been a guest on the site for a while and finally signed up to ask a couple questions.
Firstly, it seems like alot of these "kids" are coming in with backgrounds that align them to alot of these choices and they've had the ball in motion for quite a few years.

However, Im coming from a vastly different background. In short, I got my undergrad from the top Kinesiology program in the country with mediocre GPA. Afterwards, I decided to side step and get my Masters (of science) in Sports Commerce from one of the top Non-MBA programs in the country. The sport bus field is in a very transitional period where alot of school are starting to roll over their program into their B-school. Upon doing some internships (within the sports industry) I graduated with a 3.79 and took a job right away at the same university within their athletic dept. I have some good ec's on my resume and am finding myself looking in the direction of Business school for a couple of reasons.

1) Open more doors within my own field
2) I completed a bunch of B-School electives and became enamored with business/banking in the process.
3) Would really like to further my knowledge base and step into Banking as I can always go back to Sports Business.

My questions are these...

1) Is my experience in a non-traditional setting even remotely relevant to B-school adcoms?
2) If not, how can I go about getting more traditonal (banking/consulting, etc) experience before B-school applications?
3) In your opinion, what can make me more attractive to adcoms? (my practice exams put me in mid 600's w/ very little studying so far)

Any other advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

To answer your questions:

(1) If you can show that you are a non-traditional guy who can fit in, then yes it is valued. Adcoms do value diversity and want people from different walks of life, but they also want to know that if you are indeed cut from a different cloth, that you won't feel out of place either in a b-school environment because you're different. It's basically "can you be different while still showing you can fit in?"

(2) No need to get traditional experience if you can show that you "get it" through the tone of your essays and interviews - that you understand what b-school is all about, and being able to suggest to an adcom through your applications that even though you come from a "different" background, you will have no troubles working on problem sets with ex-BCG guys, ex-Citi analysts, ex-Qualcomm engineers and other more conventional folks.

(3) Part of the "fit" issue is a strong GMAT. If you're targeting top 16 programs, you need a 700+ or it'll be tough.

May 11, 2010

In this week's episode of Interview Don'ts, the BACKSTABBER commiserates with a kindred spirit about bad ex-bosses.