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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)

Jul 22, 2011
Brennivin:

Hi Alex,

I'm interested in going to B-school in about 3 years, and I'd much appreciate if you could give me an idea of what my odds are of getting into one of the top 5, and what more I could do to further my chances.

About me:
I'm a 23 year old woman of Indian origin

Undergrad degree in Math from my country (GPA 3.3), a graduate degree in Econ from a state school here (GPA 3.7). Part of student council during undergrad years, president of clubs.

I work at a boutique (albeit not too well known) hedge fund as a quant researcher. I've been here 2.5 years and manage a team of people.

I've passed level 1 of the CFA and hope to be done with the remaining 2 in the next 2 years

I'm looking for a position working with quant research in asset management or sector research for the next few years, I hope to land one soon. If I don't land one here, I'm looking to move out to SIngapore for a few years and work at a bulge bracket there

I actively volunteer with different organizations and serve on the associates board of a large non-profit. Used to be part of a band.

I'm a runner and have run a few races, training for a half marathon this year, planning to do a full next year

Any tips/thoughts would be great, thanks!

You're basically asking the same question as another poster, so I'll just copy/paste it again:

If you're a few years away, it's too early to say where you'd be competitive for, and frankly it's the wrong way to look at it. B-school shouldn't be a goal - but a pit stop that you either take or not once you're closer to the time to make that decision. Further, by thinking of b-schools now, you're limiting yourself. What if I told you that you couldn't get into a top 16 when you've got a lot of years ahead of you before you have to make that decision? Tyranny of low expectations. And what if I told you that you could get into H/S/W? Then it can potentially become a point of unhealthy obsession and delusion at the expense of your real career/life (or you end up developing a warped sense of priorities and values).

Trying to build your career/life around getting into b-school is an unhealthy and warped way of going about it. Focus on being the most accomplished person you can be, based on your own values - and not on what you think will impress others. Otherwise, what you end up achieving will not be anywhere as meaningful.

Jul 22, 2011
MBAApply:
Brennivin:

Hi Alex,

I'm interested in going to B-school in about 3 years, and I'd much appreciate if you could give me an idea of what my odds are of getting into one of the top 5, and what more I could do to further my chances.

About me:
I'm a 23 year old woman of Indian origin

Undergrad degree in Math from my country (GPA 3.3), a graduate degree in Econ from a state school here (GPA 3.7). Part of student council during undergrad years, president of clubs.

I work at a boutique (albeit not too well known) hedge fund as a quant researcher. I've been here 2.5 years and manage a team of people.

I've passed level 1 of the CFA and hope to be done with the remaining 2 in the next 2 years

I'm looking for a position working with quant research in asset management or sector research for the next few years, I hope to land one soon. If I don't land one here, I'm looking to move out to SIngapore for a few years and work at a bulge bracket there

I actively volunteer with different organizations and serve on the associates board of a large non-profit. Used to be part of a band.

I'm a runner and have run a few races, training for a half marathon this year, planning to do a full next year

Any tips/thoughts would be great, thanks!

You're basically asking the same question as another poster, so I'll just copy/paste it again:

If you're a few years away, it's too early to say where you'd be competitive for, and frankly it's the wrong way to look at it. B-school shouldn't be a goal - but a pit stop that you either take or not once you're closer to the time to make that decision. Further, by thinking of b-schools now, you're limiting yourself. What if I told you that you couldn't get into a top 16 when you've got a lot of years ahead of you before you have to make that decision? Tyranny of low expectations. And what if I told you that you could get into H/S/W? Then it can potentially become a point of unhealthy obsession and delusion at the expense of your real career/life (or you end up developing a warped sense of priorities and values).

Trying to build your career/life around getting into b-school is an unhealthy and warped way of going about it. Focus on being the most accomplished person you can be, based on your own values - and not on what you think will impress others. Otherwise, what you end up achieving will not be anywhere as meaningful.

Thank you, that is a wonderful answer and just what I needed to hear. You sir, are a gentleman and a scholar. And I will say this - should I choose to eventually go to business school, I will make sure I get in touch with you.

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Jul 20, 2011

Hi Alex,

I am considering going to Business School in few years, after I sell my business. Can you advise on my chances of getting into a top school?

24, South Asian Male, Canadian
Founder and CEO of Two start-ups, both started in school - one in recruitment, current one in technology (Software as a Service) in social media.

Wrote a book that was published by Carswell, a division of Thomson-Reuters - 2300 HR professionals surveying the landscape of social media and HR.

Spoke at several North American events - audiences ranging from C-Suite to admin - audience size: 15-700+. 20+ speaking tour sessions in 2011 alone, with UK speaking sessions in 2012 on social media. Currently on another speaking tour with Microsoft speaking to university students on innovation and student entrepreneurship.

Current Business stats: Won the Microsoft Blue Sky Innovation Award in 2011 for most innovative start up in Canada (600 companies applied), IDC Top 10 Cloud Computing Companies to Watch, and Branham Top 25 Start ups in Canada. Currently finished a reseller agreements with 2nd largest SaaS company (publicly traded: 300M in last quarter) and currently training a team of 700 sales people on reselling product into a 6000 customer user base, including 48 of the top Fortune 100 companies. Government of Canada recently has awarded us free office space in San Francisco and a current finalist for Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Started business in 2009.

University of Waterloo, Honours Electrical Engineering. GPA 3.0. In school, a part of 4 non-profit student leadership organizations; including an early executive of Impact, the world's largest non-profit entrepreneurial organization.

Thank you for your time.

Jul 22, 2011
JamesThomas:

Hi Alex,

I am considering going to Business School in few years, after I sell my business. Can you advise on my chances of getting into a top school?

24, South Asian Male, Canadian
Founder and CEO of Two start-ups, both started in school - one in recruitment, current one in technology (Software as a Service) in social media.

Wrote a book that was published by Carswell, a division of Thomson-Reuters - 2300 HR professionals surveying the landscape of social media and HR.

Spoke at several North American events - audiences ranging from C-Suite to admin - audience size: 15-700+. 20+ speaking tour sessions in 2011 alone, with UK speaking sessions in 2012 on social media. Currently on another speaking tour with Microsoft speaking to university students on innovation and student entrepreneurship.

Current Business stats: Won the Microsoft Blue Sky Innovation Award in 2011 for most innovative start up in Canada (600 companies applied), IDC Top 10 Cloud Computing Companies to Watch, and Branham Top 25 Start ups in Canada. Currently finished a reseller agreements with 2nd largest SaaS company (publicly traded: 300M in last quarter) and currently training a team of 700 sales people on reselling product into a 6000 customer user base, including 48 of the top Fortune 100 companies. Government of Canada recently has awarded us free office space in San Francisco and a current finalist for Young Entrepreneur of the Year. Started business in 2009.

University of Waterloo, Honours Electrical Engineering. GPA 3.0. In school, a part of 4 non-profit student leadership organizations; including an early executive of Impact, the world's largest non-profit entrepreneurial organization.

Thank you for your time.

You are the third person in a row to ask about your chances years in advance, so I'll just copy/paste my response yet again:

If you're a few years away, it's too early to say where you'd be competitive for, and frankly it's the wrong way to look at it. B-school shouldn't be a goal - but a pit stop that you either take or not once you're closer to the time to make that decision. Further, by thinking of b-schools now, you're limiting yourself. What if I told you that you couldn't get into a top 16 when you've got a lot of years ahead of you before you have to make that decision? Tyranny of low expectations. And what if I told you that you could get into H/S/W? Then it can potentially become a point of unhealthy obsession and delusion at the expense of your real career/life (or you end up developing a warped sense of priorities and values).

Trying to build your career/life around getting into b-school is an unhealthy and warped way of going about it. Focus on being the most accomplished person you can be, based on your own values - and not on what you think will impress others. Otherwise, what you end up achieving will not be anywhere as meaningful.

Jul 21, 2011

Hey Alex,
I've recently developed an interest in business and as a result, I decided to drop my Life Sciences studies at Queen's University and decided to look elsewhere to further my interests. I accepted a co-op management offer of admission from the University of Toronto Scarborough (missed the date to apply to QComm and Rotman) and am now continuing my studies at UTSC for the time being. However, I've now been made aware that my chances of recruitment into a top banking/consulting firm from the aforementioned university are quite low and am now thinking about transferring universities once again. My stats are as follows:

Ethnicity: Asian-Canadian
GPA: 4.0, Top 3% in program
SAT: 2350
EC's: Execs at a few of the largest student run organizations on campus/volunteer work

What sort of schools can I apply to? I've always regretted not going to Stanford when I had the chance...would it be realistic to expect a transfer into Princeton (Financial Engineering), Stanford MSE, Sloan or Wharton? Or should I just keep my expectations to a minimum and hope I get into Queen's Commerce/Ivey after this year. Any insights/suggestions regarding my current situation would be extremely appreciated.

Thank you for your time, your blog has been a great resource thus far.

Jul 22, 2011
Zarathustra:

Hey Alex,
I've recently developed an interest in business and as a result, I decided to drop my Life Sciences studies at Queen's University and decided to look elsewhere to further my interests. I accepted a co-op management offer of admission from the University of Toronto Scarborough (missed the date to apply to QComm and Rotman) and am now continuing my studies at UTSC for the time being. However, I've now been made aware that my chances of recruitment into a top banking/consulting firm from the aforementioned university are quite low and am now thinking about transferring universities once again. My stats are as follows:

Ethnicity: Asian-Canadian
GPA: 4.0, Top 3% in program
SAT: 2350
EC's: Execs at a few of the largest student run organizations on campus/volunteer work

What sort of schools can I apply to? I've always regretted not going to Stanford when I had the chance...would it be realistic to expect a transfer into Princeton (Financial Engineering), Stanford MSE, Sloan or Wharton? Or should I just keep my expectations to a minimum and hope I get into Queen's Commerce/Ivey after this year. Any insights/suggestions regarding my current situation would be extremely appreciated.

Thank you for your time, your blog has been a great resource thus far.

I really don't know jack about undergrad admissions to be honest. Why don't you just apply and see whether you get in or not? Chances are you're not going to get in everywhere you apply, so you might as well just apply to the full list and see where you get in.

Jul 22, 2011

alex,

i feel like ive heard conflicting information on recs. some say they are merely used to confirm some of the things you say in essays, on resume, etc. as true, while others say that it is provides a valuable third-party perspective on an applicant that can make or break an app. how much weight do they carry in your opinion?

also, i realize that adcoms throw out recs from ceo types as worthless if there is no genuine relationship, but if i have a rec from a c-level position, who happens to be an alum, and it is someone i work with everyday, how is that valued by adcoms?

thanks

Jul 22, 2011
ignatius reilly:

alex,

i feel like ive heard conflicting information on recs. some say they are merely used to confirm some of the things you say in essays, on resume, etc. as true, while others say that it is provides a valuable third-party perspective on an applicant that can make or break an app. how much weight do they carry in your opinion?

also, i realize that adcoms throw out recs from ceo types as worthless if there is no genuine relationship, but if i have a rec from a c-level position, who happens to be an alum, and it is someone i work with everyday, how is that valued by adcoms?

thanks

From the way you framed the question, I'm guessing you're hoping this to be true:

"It isn't make-or-break, but it's important. And while it won't matter if it's a high ranking dude who doesn't know you well, if the high ranking dude knows you well, it will really help."

Jul 27, 2011

Alex,
I was interested in what you felt would be some good EC to help my chances.

1 yr Big 4 Advisory
UG and Master in Accounting from State school with 4.0 GPA
Have my CPA and CFA level 1.
GMAT 720

When applying in October will business schools realize that I am still a year out from attending in Fall 2012 and consider that 2 years of experience?

Also, will community service really be a big deal? I have been a Big Brother
I have held leadership positions in college, and my reason for business school is my desire to move from accounting to asset mgmt (which is why I have begun the CFA)

Jul 22, 2011
Stevie123:

Alex,
I was interested in what you felt would be some good EC to help my chances.

1 yr Big 4 Advisory
UG and Master in Accounting from State school with 4.0 GPA
Have my CPA and CFA level 1.
GMAT 720

When applying in October will business schools realize that I am still a year out from attending in Fall 2012 and consider that 2 years of experience?

Also, will community service really be a big deal? I have been a Big Brother
I have held leadership positions in college, and my reason for business school is my desire to move from accounting to asset mgmt (which is why I have begun the CFA)

What makes you think there's some list of extracurriculars that adcoms prefer? And what makes you think it will make an iota of difference if you're asking now (i.e. you want to start getting involved).

B-schools don't like resume builders that are so transparent in how they have built their profile.

If you want to get involved with stuff outside of work, pursue the things that you believe in, that you want to do irrespective of b-school.

Real achievements that have meaning take time and sacrifice - not some "off the shelf" thing that you can just say "I want, therefore it will happen instantly and voila! It's a resume bullet point!".

Jul 27, 2011

Sorry, need to clarify. I'm targeting Booth/Columbia.

I know people in my office with similar backgrounds that have attended Booth's part-time MBA program, but I am envisioning full-time.

Jul 27, 2011

Ok, so you have no advice, but instead, are a dick.

And why do people ask you questions?

Jul 22, 2011

Stevie123, I gave you pretty blunt advice - it just may not be what you wanted to hear. Again, you're looking at it the wrong way. If that caused you to get emotional and lash out, well then I'm sorry. I hope you're feeling better.

Jul 27, 2011

This is your forum. You're the man. I'm not emotional, just pointing out that you are a dick to people sometimes. That's cool, I wont lose any sleep and neither will you. I've seen you say "it just may not be what you wanted to hear" before, and for the future, you should learn it's not always what you say but how you say it. I didn't write back because your advice wasn't helpful, I did it because you obviously think you are entitled to do it in a disrespectful way. Maybe you are, guess people still write you, I did.

Jul 27, 2011

Yea Alex, you are a dick.

You should have framed it this way: aww Stevie, you are such a precious and unique snowlake - ANYTHING you do the adcom would cream over. Just show them your amazing and awesome self, and they will be simply humbled that someone like you even wanted to spend any time on an extra-curricular activity.

Better?

More is good, all is better

Jul 27, 2011
Argonaut:

Yea Alex, you are a dick.

You should have framed it this way: aww Stevie, you are such a precious and unique snowlake - ANYTHING you do the adcom would cream over. Just show them your amazing and awesome self, and they will be simply humbled that someone like you even wanted to spend any time on an extra-curricular activity.

Better?

Owned

Jul 28, 2011

Hi Alex,

First off, I really appreciate you taking the time to provide insightful answers to questions posed within this thread. This is my first post on WSO, but I have been a long-time "lurker" and have found your insight particularly beneficial. Nonetheless, I find myself at somewhat of a crossroad and unsure how exactly to proceed. I graduated from a Top 40 Ugrad B-school nearly 3 years ago; originally a mech engineer major (substantial number of "quant" / math courses completed) but changed to finance and finished with 3.8 GPA. I recently completed a Rotational Finance Program (28 month) within the DoD and am now a Fin. Analyst in a similar capacityfor the Navy. However, I have also been running my own custom saltwater fishing tackle business for nearly 10 years with 6-figure sales eclipsed in the last couple. With the standard 40-hour Government work-week, I have been able to spend my "extra" time on the business. I would really like to give this business my undivided attention and see where it can go, but would also like to keep my doors open for a Top MBA if things do not go well. How do B-schools view such an endeavor? Any additional thoughts? Thanks again!

Jul 22, 2011
bosox37:

Hi Alex,

First off, I really appreciate you taking the time to provide insightful answers to questions posed within this thread. This is my first post on WSO, but I have been a long-time "lurker" and have found your insight particularly beneficial. Nonetheless, I find myself at somewhat of a crossroad and unsure how exactly to proceed. I graduated from a Top 40 Ugrad B-school nearly 3 years ago; originally a mech engineer major (substantial number of "quant" / math courses completed) but changed to finance and finished with 3.8 GPA. I recently completed a Rotational Finance Program (28 month) within the DoD and am now a Fin. Analyst in a similar capacityfor the Navy. However, I have also been running my own custom saltwater fishing tackle business for nearly 10 years with 6-figure sales eclipsed in the last couple. With the standard 40-hour Government work-week, I have been able to spend my "extra" time on the business. I would really like to give this business my undivided attention and see where it can go, but would also like to keep my doors open for a Top MBA if things do not go well. How do B-schools view such an endeavor? Any additional thoughts? Thanks again!

Not really sure what you're asking here. If you believe in this business, go for it. Why worry about whether b-schools care or not? Again, I think b-school can be a great little pit stop (an expensive one, but a fun and valuable luxury) but it's not some be-all, end-all that acts as some glass slipper to your Cinderella story. Few people regret going, but those who didn't go at all aren't missing that much either.

In short, b-school isn't important enough for you or anyone to influence their career decisions just to "keep the doors open".

Jul 28, 2011
MBAApply:
bosox37:

Hi Alex,

First off, I really appreciate you taking the time to provide insightful answers to questions posed within this thread. This is my first post on WSO, but I have been a long-time "lurker" and have found your insight particularly beneficial. Nonetheless, I find myself at somewhat of a crossroad and unsure how exactly to proceed. I graduated from a Top 40 Ugrad B-school nearly 3 years ago; originally a mech engineer major (substantial number of "quant" / math courses completed) but changed to finance and finished with 3.8 GPA. I recently completed a Rotational Finance Program (28 month) within the DoD and am now a Fin. Analyst in a similar capacityfor the Navy. However, I have also been running my own custom saltwater fishing tackle business for nearly 10 years with 6-figure sales eclipsed in the last couple. With the standard 40-hour Government work-week, I have been able to spend my "extra" time on the business. I would really like to give this business my undivided attention and see where it can go, but would also like to keep my doors open for a Top MBA if things do not go well. How do B-schools view such an endeavor? Any additional thoughts? Thanks again!

Not really sure what you're asking here. If you believe in this business, go for it. Why worry about whether b-schools care or not? Again, I think b-school can be a great little pit stop (an expensive one, but a fun and valuable luxury) but it's not some be-all, end-all that acts as some glass slipper to your Cinderella story. Few people regret going, but those who didn't go at all aren't missing that much either.

In short, b-school isn't important enough for you or anyone to influence their career decisions just to "keep the doors open".

Alex,

I probably should have been more explicit and clarified my question. The way I see things, my youth grants me the ability to take on more risk (career-wise, financially, etc) than if I were a decade older with a family to support. My alternate goals/interests outside pure entrpreneurship lie corporate finance realm. If my venture were to fail, I would likely opt for an MBA (or perhaps an MSF) in order to jumpstart these goals and make the appropriate career-change. I would think being an entrepreneur for a couple of years would make it diffcult to re-join the "rat race" after being on the sidelines running my own gig. ....Not looking to "open doors" to b-school but certainly do not want to slam the door shut either; have to weigh the risks here. If b-schools view failed ventures in an extreme negative light, the percieved risk in undergoing such an endeavor is seemingly heightened. Anymore thoughts/opinions? Thanks again

Jul 28, 2011

Hello Alex,
I've been recently dinged at Wharton after applying in round 2 and moving from the waitlist to the summer waitlist. I was also dinged at Booth after applying in round 3 and spending approx. 2 months on the waitlist.
As my mind is set in attending either of this elite finance schools, I'm already planning a round 1 reapplication strategy for the class of 2014.
My one problem is this; even before the dings came, i began to get particularly interested in structuring (a part of sales and trading in an Investment Bank) not only because of the better work life balance it would offer but also because it is a lot more interesting to me than the previous 'continue in consulting' and 'make a switch to P.E' path I previously had in mind and which I passionately outlined in my previous essays. I am convinced I want to be a structurer and am really serious about following this career path.
In your opinion, would the Adcoms at Booth and Wharton look unfavourably at me in my reapplication if they realise a rather dramatic change in my career goals especially as Consulting and Structuring are two very different animals?
Should I stick with my previous story in my reapplication or express my true career goals which I am now fully convinced of.
Thanks in anticipation your ever so valuable feedback

Jul 22, 2011
PETERPANPANPAN:

Hello Alex,
I've been recently dinged at Wharton after applying in round 2 and moving from the waitlist to the summer waitlist. I was also dinged at Booth after applying in round 3 and spending approx. 2 months on the waitlist.
As my mind is set in attending either of this elite finance schools, I'm already planning a round 1 reapplication strategy for the class of 2014.
My one problem is this; even before the dings came, i began to get particularly interested in structuring (a part of sales and trading in an Investment Bank) not only because of the better work life balance it would offer but also because it is a lot more interesting to me than the previous 'continue in consulting' and 'make a switch to P.E' path I previously had in mind and which I passionately outlined in my previous essays. I am convinced I want to be a structurer and am really serious about following this career path.
In your opinion, would the Adcoms at Booth and Wharton look unfavourably at me in my reapplication if they realise a rather dramatic change in my career goals especially as Consulting and Structuring are two very different animals?
Should I stick with my previous story in my reapplication or express my true career goals which I am now fully convinced of.
Thanks in anticipation your ever so valuable feedback

If you're able to explain your goals in a convincing way, then it'll be fine.

Jul 29, 2011

Hi Alex- thanks for doing this.

UG - Top 50 school - solid reputation but I think under the radar - have few alumni through HBS
3.5 in Major Economics/ Minor in Photography
GMAT - 700
23 yrs old - 2009 graduate (young for my class)

1 yr MM M&A in NYC - reputable MM bank - recent alumni at HBS now - broke in as a non-target
2 yr Corp Dev - successful, prominent startup - Groupon/Zynga/Gilt/Facebook - work includes acquisitions, JVs, conceiving and launching new businesses, raising $100mm+ round of funding, and other operating roles

Recos from CEO/Founders/CFO - hired by a founder initially, work closely with all of them in a +1,000 person global company

EC: ongoing volunteer mentor in a job program, international surfing volunteerism program

End goal (why b-school) - VC or learning to be a leader in a growing internet space

Schools - Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia - want to do VC, so H/S are really my true choices

Concerns: non-target UG school, unsure about test scores/GPA

Thanks!

Jul 22, 2011
weeds499:

Hi Alex- thanks for doing this.

UG - Top 50 school - solid reputation but I think under the radar - have few alumni through HBS
3.5 in Major Economics/ Minor in Photography
GMAT - 700
23 yrs old - 2009 graduate (young for my class)

1 yr MM M&A in NYC - reputable MM bank - recent alumni at HBS now - broke in as a non-target
2 yr Corp Dev - successful, prominent startup - Groupon/Zynga/Gilt/Facebook - work includes acquisitions, JVs, conceiving and launching new businesses, raising $100mm+ round of funding, and other operating roles

Recos from CEO/Founders/CFO - hired by a founder initially, work closely with all of them in a +1,000 person global company

EC: ongoing volunteer mentor in a job program, international surfing volunteerism program

End goal (why b-school) - VC or learning to be a leader in a growing internet space

Schools - Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Columbia - want to do VC, so H/S are really my true choices

Concerns: non-target UG school, unsure about test scores/GPA

Thanks!

You have enough of a shot that they're worth applying to; there's no real safeties on your list (I'd say they're all stretches to some degree -- you're up against a lot of people of a similar caliber as you), but as long as you know that, go for it. Beyond that, it's just a matter of doing the best you can on the applications. Nothing you can do about your alma mater (unless you have a time machine, or you end up trying to explain it, which then makes you seem insecure). GPA isn't really an issue; GMAT is okay, but of course if you can score 760 on a retake without much effort, retake it -- it won't make a huge difference, but it will make a difference especially at Stanford which puts more of a premium on the GMAT than other schools.

Jul 27, 2011

Hey Alex,

I know that you suggest extension courses if you don't have a high GPA. Would they help if you had a GPA of 3.55 or so? Also how do you report them on the application and make sure the school you are apply to sees them? Just not sure how this helps/works.

Thanks!

Jul 22, 2011
GoIllini:

Hey Alex,

I know that you suggest extension courses if you don't have a high GPA. Would they help if you had a GPA of 3.55 or so? Also how do you report them on the application and make sure the school you are apply to sees them? Just not sure how this helps/works.

Thanks!

No, it won't help. Your GPA is fine -- it's about being "good enough" not whether you have sky high GPAs.

Aug 10, 2011

.

Aug 6, 2011

Alex ,

What's the best thing I can do this semester to enhance my chances of being accepted at a top 5 b-school (hbs 2+2 specially)? (other than essays or GMAT. ) I am college sophomore at Indian Institute of Technology , India .

Thanks.

Aug 8, 2011

Hi Alex, my stats are below. It would be greatly appreciated if you can let me know what you think my chances (reach, target, etc) are for the following schools: Harvard, MIT, NYU, Columbia, UPenn, Stanford, U of Chicago, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCLA.

Background: 24 years-old, Asian
Undergrad: Top 25 school (west coast public school)
Major: Business Administration
GPA: 3.5/4.0
GMAT: 720, 6(essay)
Work experience (1): Three years at big4 public accounting, audit
Work experience (2): Launched a business during college and ran it for over a year
ECs: Church; and have been mentoring for a kid

Thanks!!!

Jul 22, 2011
ai24az:

Hi Alex, my stats are below. It would be greatly appreciated if you can let me know what you think my chances (reach, target, etc) are for the following schools: Harvard, MIT, NYU, Columbia, UPenn, Stanford, U of Chicago, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCLA.

Background: 24 years-old, Asian
Undergrad: Top 25 school (west coast public school)
Major: Business Administration
GPA: 3.5/4.0
GMAT: 720, 6(essay)
Work experience (1): Three years at big4 public accounting, audit
Work experience (2): Launched a business during college and ran it for over a year
ECs: Church; and have been mentoring for a kid

Thanks!!!

NYU, Duke, UCLA and Berkeley range are sweet spots
MIT, Columbia, Booth are slight stretches
Harvard, Stanford, Wharton are big stretches

Aug 8, 2011
MBAApply:
ai24az:

Hi Alex, my stats are below. It would be greatly appreciated if you can let me know what you think my chances (reach, target, etc) are for the following schools: Harvard, MIT, NYU, Columbia, UPenn, Stanford, U of Chicago, Duke, UC Berkeley, UCLA.

Background: 24 years-old, Asian
Undergrad: Top 25 school (west coast public school)
Major: Business Administration
GPA: 3.5/4.0
GMAT: 720, 6(essay)
Work experience (1): Three years at big4 public accounting, audit
Work experience (2): Launched a business during college and ran it for over a year
ECs: Church; and have been mentoring for a kid

Thanks!!!

NYU, Duke, UCLA and Berkeley range are sweet spots
MIT, Columbia, Booth are slight stretches
Harvard, Stanford, Wharton are big stretches

Thanks Alex!! Do you think retaking GMAT would make a difference for the schools that are slight stretches? Or I am better off focusing on my essays.

Aug 8, 2011

Hi Alex,

Amazed by the volume of posts on this forum. Regret to make you read another post that shares the issue of MBA schools, but I could really value your advice.

Profile:
-4th year accounting student at Waterloo University. Graduate in December 2011 with bachelors in math.
-Average is in the low 80%.
-Currently have 16 months of exp in public accounting doing audits and Canadian Tax.
-Just passed CFA level 1
-Will try to get accounting designation next September (2012) to get better job post grad. In september 2012 I'll be 23.
-Plan to work 2-3 years before applying for MBA (apply when I'm 25/26). Will use CFA (after passing all 3 exams) to leverage for better pre-mba jobs.
-Have not written the GMAT.

Question:
1. Should I skip accounting designation. Get a finance type job with F500 companies/banks etc. After I get my bachelors in math? (since saves time and more work exp)

  1. Coming from a Canada, what will make me compete with US/other international students?
  2. Which MBAs do you recommend (if any at all)?

Thanks for your input.

Jul 22, 2011
CDNdude:

Hi Alex,

Amazed by the volume of posts on this forum. Regret to make you read another post that shares the issue of MBA schools, but I could really value your advice.

Profile:
-4th year accounting student at Waterloo University. Graduate in December 2011 with bachelors in math.
-Average is in the low 80%.
-Currently have 16 months of exp in public accounting doing audits and Canadian Tax.
-Just passed CFA level 1
-Will try to get accounting designation next September (2012) to get better job post grad. In september 2012 I'll be 23.
-Plan to work 2-3 years before applying for MBA (apply when I'm 25/26). Will use CFA (after passing all 3 exams) to leverage for better pre-mba jobs.
-Have not written the GMAT.

Question:
1. Should I skip accounting designation. Get a finance type job with F500 companies/banks etc. After I get my bachelors in math? (since saves time and more work exp)

  1. Coming from a Canada, what will make me compete with US/other international students?
  2. Which MBAs do you recommend (if any at all)?

Thanks for your input.

Here's the thing.

Canada is an amazing place to live. Really. I am Canadian. Proud of it (even though I don't live there...). In terms of attitudes towards work-life balance, the social system (quality of public education and healthcare compared to the US), and so forth -- it's in my view heads and shoulders above the US when it comes to quality of life, ESPECIALLY if you want to raise a family. Even if you do have millions to provide your family a good upbringing - you can only do that by cocooning yourself and your family (living in a walled garden or a small bubble of sorts, in a segregated and separate world). But that's another discussion entirely...

HOWEVER, if that's not where your head is at right now and your main priority is your professional career, you are best served to get out of Canada. Find whatever which way to get work outside of Canada - work in the US, in major business centers in Asia (Shanghai, HK, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore, etc.) or Europe (London, Paris, Frankfurt).

Do that first, and then worry about whether you need or want an MBA.

Aug 8, 2011

Would double majoring in an engineering field and business ruin your chances in getting into HBS's 2+2 more than if you were to just major in engineering?

If your dreams don't scare you, then they are not big enough.

"There are two types of people in this world: People who say they pee in the shower, and dirty fucking liars."-Louis C.K.

Jul 22, 2011
scottj19x89:

Would double majoring in an engineering field and business ruin your chances in getting into HBS's 2+2 more than if you were to just major in engineering?

Why are you letting the 2+2 program determine your academic interests? Is it really that important for you to get into the 2+2? Just because you only major in engineering won't necessarily mean your chances are amazing either. It's a crapshoot - which is why I wouldn't decide your academic career on the hopes of a process (2+2) that is a crapshoot anyhow.

Aug 8, 2011
MBAApply:
scottj19x89:

Would double majoring in an engineering field and business ruin your chances in getting into HBS's 2+2 more than if you were to just major in engineering?

Why are you letting the 2+2 program determine your academic interests? Is it really that important for you to get into the 2+2? Just because you only major in engineering won't necessarily mean your chances are amazing either. It's a crapshoot - which is why I wouldn't decide your academic career on the hopes of a process (2+2) that is a crapshoot anyhow.

I wasn't planning on deciding my major off of it. I'm just deciding on whether I should double major cs + economics or cs + try to get into the b-school for finance and I became curious when I thought of it. I'll probably end up trying to do finance if it doesn't take me longer to graduate anyways.

If your dreams don't scare you, then they are not big enough.

"There are two types of people in this world: People who say they pee in the shower, and dirty fucking liars."-Louis C.K.

Aug 9, 2011

I would also recommend this website: http://www.globalbankingtraining.co.uk/ They have a 30 hour course in Investment Banking Boot Camp, which prepares delegates for investment banking jobs.

Good Luck!

Aug 10, 2011

Dear Alex,

I have followed your blogs/commentaries for a while. Your indepth analysis is impeccable and always to the point. As I understand you often answer queries related to US Bschools but what about European Bschool?

I intent to apply for INSEAD this fall, which I understand is equally competitive when compared to H/S/W. I present to you my brief profile, do letme know your honest and candid opinion regarding the chances I have to make it through.

25/M/Indian
GPA: 3.4, top 10% of class B.Tech CSE (NIT)
GRE : 1450/1600 (800Quant) - No plans for GMAT.
Current Position : Business Consultant (for a Belgian Research firm) - 39 months till sept 2012 (Time to Matriculation).
Work Desc : Business Consulting, Lobbying and Management of the EU funded R&D Projects. Current portfolio of over EUR 8 mill EU/year.
Previously Worked in : Turkey (Ankara), France (Paris), Now in Belgium (Brussels).
Post MBA Plans: To continue Consulting/ Emerging Markets (India/SE Asia).

Publications and Dissemination activities: 20+ publications in business journals/magazines, white papers; frequent appearances and speaking at innovation forums, business conferences and workshops.

Extra Curricular: Volunteer Consultant for an international NGO in Brussels - looking after the business development, fundraising, project management etc etc.

I look for your advice and suggestions.
Best
Anand

Vanishing Nerd

Jul 22, 2011
vanishingnerd:

Dear Alex,

I have followed your blogs/commentaries for a while. Your indepth analysis is impeccable and always to the point. As I understand you often answer queries related to US Bschools but what about European Bschool?

I intent to apply for INSEAD this fall, which I understand is equally competitive when compared to H/S/W. I present to you my brief profile, do letme know your honest and candid opinion regarding the chances I have to make it through.

25/M/Indian
GPA: 3.4, top 10% of class B.Tech CSE (NIT)
GRE : 1450/1600 (800Quant) - No plans for GMAT.
Current Position : Business Consultant (for a Belgian Research firm) - 39 months till sept 2012 (Time to Matriculation).
Work Desc : Business Consulting, Lobbying and Management of the EU funded R&D Projects. Current portfolio of over EUR 8 mill EU/year.
Previously Worked in : Turkey (Ankara), France (Paris), Now in Belgium (Brussels).
Post MBA Plans: To continue Consulting/ Emerging Markets (India/SE Asia).

Publications and Dissemination activities: 20+ publications in business journals/magazines, white papers; frequent appearances and speaking at innovation forums, business conferences and workshops.

Extra Curricular: Volunteer Consultant for an international NGO in Brussels - looking after the business development, fundraising, project management etc etc.

I look for your advice and suggestions.
Best
Anand

Honestly you're a solid candidate for INSEAD. They really value international experience, and you have it. You are a tad younger than most INSEAD folks, but not to the point where it's going to be much of an issue. All you can do now is just focus on the application -- and you should have a reasonable shot of getting in (not a shoe in, but it's a sweet spot for you).

Aug 8, 2011

Thanks Alex, will do so if opportunity arises!

Apr 23, 2018

.

Jul 22, 2011
cecilburrito:

Hi Alex,

Thanks for your awesome advice. Could you please evaluate my profile?

-Top 25 Undergrad (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan)
-GPA of 3.0 (whoops!)
-GMAT of 720
-2 years as a commercial credit analyst at a large regional bank (think Fifth Third)
-3 years at a Big 4 Corporate Finance (investment banking) including an 18 month assignment in Brazil; promoted to Associate
-Extracurriculars: 3 year mentor to a HS student through the Daniel Murphy Scholarship Foundation; serve on the executive board of the alumni chapter in my city

-I'd like to go back to school as a 28 year old because I'm not too fond of banking and would like to re-brand

Target Schools: Ross, Darden,Fuqua, McCombs
Reach Schools: Kellogg, Booth

Thanks!!!

Sounds like you have a good range of schools -- not too "safe', but not overreaching either. With that list, you should have a reasonable shot of getting into a few of them (most people don't get into all their schools). At this point, it's just a matter of doing the best you can on the applications - and then hope that that's good enough.

Apr 23, 2018

.

Aug 13, 2011

Hi Alex,

I don't know if you read any of the other topics on wso message boards, but there is one titled "The Full time MBA life". Basically, people claim that at the top MBA programs, it's a bunch of partying and networking, and not much studying/work. The most important aspect of the MBA is making connections, and people who are worried about grades are missing out on the opportunities in front of them. In your experience, how much of a party atmosphere is MBA life, and how realistic are some of these stories? It sounds like fun, but not fun enough to quit my job and drop 100-150K to socialize and blow off my classes.

Jul 22, 2011
bucky6225:

Hi Alex,

I don't know if you read any of the other topics on wso message boards, but there is one titled "The Full time MBA life". Basically, people claim that at the top MBA programs, it's a bunch of partying and networking, and not much studying/work. The most important aspect of the MBA is making connections, and people who are worried about grades are missing out on the opportunities in front of them. In your experience, how much of a party atmosphere is MBA life, and how realistic are some of these stories? It sounds like fun, but not fun enough to quit my job and drop 100-150K to socialize and blow off my classes.

It's not really just about fun, partying, etc. although there's a lot of that. But I liken it also to the "big fish" stories (you know, where you catch a 1 pound fish but through your storytelling people hear it as a 10 pound fish, which then gets retold to be a 20 pound fish).

In the first year especially, there's certainly a contingent that tries hard to re-live the undergrad years they never had. In fact a lot of people do, but over the course of the 2 years people tend to mellow out. I guess it's because for many people (myself included back then) -- you spent the last few years being around a bunch of people who are much older than you, and you have to pretend to be more of an adult than you really are. And when you get to a place like b-school where most of the people are roughly your own age, it starts to regress back to college, or sometimes even high school in terms of the level of juvenile behavior.

Having said all that, there is a real value in the networking.

In fact, most people who go to b-school go for a number of reasons (recruiting, education, taking a break from work, escaping their jobs, socializing, having fun, etc.) -- but for most people the priority is recruiting more than anything else.

I can only speak for my own experience, but at least when I was in school, one of the things I discovered was that a LOT of the job leads come from your fellow classmates, and likewise I shared quite a few job leads as well with my classmates and friends.

Some of those leads come from prior employers you've worked with. Or a client (if you're a banker/consultant). Or you develop your own leads/contacts that end up being better for others (example: let's say through a friend of a friend you end up at dinner with a guy who happens to work at a hedge fund; but you're not really a hedge fund guy; you get along great with him, have a few drinks, blah blah blah. Then weeks later, a close friend/classmate of yours is looking at hedge funds and this fund comes up - bingo - you mention you met him at a dinner a few weeks ago, you can make the introduction).

One of the biggest misnomers people have of MBA students is that they're competitive. Far from it. What is the biggest surprise is that they are much more collaborative and willing to share than most outsiders realize. Again, MBA students are willing to help one another - even with job leads. Because it's not about the first job anyhow - even if you're competing for it; the relationship is more important, and in the end no one wants to develop the reputation amongst their classmates as the competitive asshole.

In fact, this horse trading not only happens within schools, but across schools. In my own experience, my first startup job out of b-school came from an introduction by a Stanford GSB student who was in school the same time I was, and who knew the folks at the startup (and this GSB guy I knew through a mutual friend). Likewise, through sheer coincidence, this same GSB guy ended up taking his first job out of b-school through a contact that I had, and made the introduction for him. I got a summer internship through b-school folks I knew, and I helped another classmate get his summer internship through my former employer. It's not like b-school student live in silos - people know one another across different schools, and through that folks share job leads more often than you realize. So that's the game - if you want help from the network, you need to be prepared to help as well.

So yes, while you learn in your classes, most people's biggest priority is recruiting, and that's where networking with your fellow classmates (and those at other b-schools) becomes invaluable.

Aug 15, 2011

Hey Alex,
I will make it short.
I want to break into ibanking to become an analyst.
Do i have a shot at top 8 mba schools?
3yrs at big4 accounting in tax
Graduated from Texas (UT) with,
BA and MAsters in accounting with 3.87 and 3.6 gpa, respectively.
Hold cpa
Gmat 720

Jul 22, 2011
jo2343:

Hey Alex,
I will make it short.
I want to break into ibanking to become an analyst.
Do i have a shot at top 8 mba schools?
3yrs at big4 accounting in tax
Graduated from Texas (UT) with,
BA and MAsters in accounting with 3.87 and 3.6 gpa, respectively.
Hold cpa
Gmat 720

Um, analyst positions are pre-MBA jobs, so I assume you mean associate.

Anyhow, maybe at schools like Columbia ED, although schools like Stern, Cornell and Yale are probably where you'll likely find more love.

Aug 15, 2011
MBAApply][quote=jo2343:

Hey Alex,
I will make it short.
I want to break into ibanking to become an analyst.
Do i have a shot at top 8 mba schools?
3yrs at big4 accounting in tax
Graduated from Texas (UT) with,
BA and MAsters in accounting with 3.87 and 3.6 gpa, respectively.
Hold cpa
Gmat 720

]

Thanks Alex,
I know it ultimately depends on how I do but are schools like Stern and Columbia good feeders to banking in NYC?

I am also interested in Booth but is this a stretch based on my profile?

Aug 13, 2011

Hi Alex,

I'm applying to the full time programs at Berkeley, Texas, NYU and Columbia. I appreciate your assessment of my chances.

I graduated from a Big 10 university (think Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin) with a BA in Econ/Philosophy. My GPA was a 3.175. I also competed on the wrestling team. I was accepted as a "walk-on" in my junior year after having been cut in tryouts my freshman and sophomore years.

GMAT: 710 (Quant 47, Verbal 40, Essay 5.5)

Professional experience: I started out in Chicago in an entry level role working for a small software company that has research software that traders and analysts at I banks/hedge funds use. After less than a year, I was promoted to an Acct Manager and moved to NY where I was the first point of contact for a number of our customers. I was responsible for growing acct revenue and ensuring customer satisfaction. My accts included trading groups at Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan.

After a year and a half, I moved to Phoenix. I've been in a Portfolio manager role at an asset management firm out here for the last 3.5 years. I'm the lead manager for one of our investment strategies. I'm also a Level III CFA candidate.

Post MBA goal: A couple of options

  1. continue the path I'm on and move to a major buyside firm.
  2. move to private banking (JP Morgan private bank would be my top pick).
  3. career switch (specifically interested in the clean tech energy concentration at Berkeley).

What do you think my chances are of getting into these programs, and are they good schools given my possible goals.

I appreciate your help.

Jul 22, 2011
bucky6225:

Hi Alex,

I'm applying to the full time programs at Berkeley, Texas, NYU and Columbia. I appreciate your assessment of my chances.

I graduated from a Big 10 university (think Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin) with a BA in Econ/Philosophy. My GPA was a 3.175. I also competed on the wrestling team. I was accepted as a "walk-on" in my junior year after having been cut in tryouts my freshman and sophomore years.

GMAT: 710 (Quant 47, Verbal 40, Essay 5.5)

Professional experience: I started out in Chicago in an entry level role working for a small software company that has research software that traders and analysts at I banks/hedge funds use. After less than a year, I was promoted to an Acct Manager and moved to NY where I was the first point of contact for a number of our customers. I was responsible for growing acct revenue and ensuring customer satisfaction. My accts included trading groups at Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch and JP Morgan.

After a year and a half, I moved to Phoenix. I've been in a Portfolio manager role at an asset management firm out here for the last 3.5 years. I'm the lead manager for one of our investment strategies. I'm also a Level III CFA candidate.

Post MBA goal: A couple of options

  1. continue the path I'm on and move to a major buyside firm.
  2. move to private banking (JP Morgan private bank would be my top pick).
  3. career switch (specifically interested in the clean tech energy concentration at Berkeley).

What do you think my chances are of getting into these programs, and are they good schools given my possible goals.

I appreciate your help.

In short, yes I think you're in range, and any of those schools seem to be a fit for what you want to do and your background - so long as you don't run into really bad luck, you should have a reasonable shot.

Aug 17, 2011

Alex,

I graduated from UConn with a finance degree, but only a 2.8 GPA (included a 1.5 semester when I was activated to go to war w/ the Army, but at the last minute, my deployment was cancelled). GMAT: 660 (41Q, 39V). I have spent my 4 years out of college as a HS/MS math teacher.

I am a Teach For America alumnus, and have consistently held leadership positions, including:
Army National Guard - Sergeant and Team Leader
High School teacher (TFA placement) - Algebra 1 Team Leader, Basketball coach
Middle School teacher - Founding MS teacher for NYC's #1 elementary school
UConn - President, Vice President of on-campus Christian organizations, Resident Assistant (RA)

What do you think my chances are of acceptance to NYU Stern's Part-Time program for this Spring.
I do not have time to retake the GMAT before the app deadline, but would it be a good idea to let them know that I am planning to retake it? I'm confident that I can score at least a 700. I was accepted to Pace last Spring, deferred enrollment to this Fall, but do not want to settle for Pace. My less desirable option would be to wait until next Fall to reapply to NYU, as well as Columbia's Exec MBA (Saturdays only), which Admissions tells me is more lenient on expected years of work experience (less than 5 is alright).

Thanks, very much for your time!

Jul 22, 2011
from education to finance:

Alex,

I graduated from UConn with a finance degree, but only a 2.8 GPA (included a 1.5 semester when I was activated to go to war w/ the Army, but at the last minute, my deployment was cancelled). GMAT: 660 (41Q, 39V). I have spent my 4 years out of college as a HS/MS math teacher.

I am a Teach For America alumnus, and have consistently held leadership positions, including:
Army National Guard - Sergeant and Team Leader
High School teacher (TFA placement) - Algebra 1 Team Leader, Basketball coach
Middle School teacher - Founding MS teacher for NYC's #1 elementary school
UConn - President, Vice President of on-campus Christian organizations, Resident Assistant (RA)

What do you think my chances are of acceptance to NYU Stern's Part-Time program for this Spring.
I do not have time to retake the GMAT before the app deadline, but would it be a good idea to let them know that I am planning to retake it? I'm confident that I can score at least a 700. I was accepted to Pace last Spring, deferred enrollment to this Fall, but do not want to settle for Pace. My less desirable option would be to wait until next Fall to reapply to NYU, as well as Columbia's Exec MBA (Saturdays only), which Admissions tells me is more lenient on expected years of work experience (less than 5 is alright).

Thanks, very much for your time!

While your profile is unique and can be a plus, I don't know if it's enough for an adcom to overlook your GPA/GMAT combo - that may be too much for them to stomach. But you never know - if you're ready to apply this year, go for it, tell them you're retaking the GMAT, and hope the specific adcoms who happens to be reading your case will overlook the GMAT/GPA combo.

Aug 17, 2011
MBAApply:
from education to finance:

Alex,

I graduated from UConn with a finance degree, but only a 2.8 GPA (included a 1.5 semester when I was activated to go to war w/ the Army, but at the last minute, my deployment was cancelled). GMAT: 660 (41Q, 39V). I have spent my 4 years out of college as a HS/MS math teacher.

I am a Teach For America alumnus, and have consistently held leadership positions, including:
Army National Guard - Sergeant and Team Leader
High School teacher (TFA placement) - Algebra 1 Team Leader, Basketball coach
Middle School teacher - Founding MS teacher for NYC's #1 elementary school
UConn - President, Vice President of on-campus Christian organizations, Resident Assistant (RA)

What do you think my chances are of acceptance to NYU Stern's Part-Time program for this Spring.
I do not have time to retake the GMAT before the app deadline, but would it be a good idea to let them know that I am planning to retake it? I'm confident that I can score at least a 700. I was accepted to Pace last Spring, deferred enrollment to this Fall, but do not want to settle for Pace. My less desirable option would be to wait until next Fall to reapply to NYU, as well as Columbia's Exec MBA (Saturdays only), which Admissions tells me is more lenient on expected years of work experience (less than 5 is alright).

Thanks, very much for your time!

While your profile is unique and can be a plus, I don't know if it's enough for an adcom to overlook your GPA/GMAT combo - that may be too much for them to stomach. But you never know - if you're ready to apply this year, go for it, tell them you're retaking the GMAT, and hope the specific adcoms who happens to be reading your case will overlook the GMAT/GPA combo.

Thanks, Alex.
I've decided to pursue a Fall 2012 full-time program. With my 2.82 GPA (2.9 since taking another course after graduating), I am wondering if it would be wise to take a non-matriculated course this Fall semester.

Taking a course would prevent me from applying by the first deadlines.

Does it matter whether I take a Continuing Studies course from NYU or a community college?
Would it be smarter to retake a course, which I scored low on at my alma mater?
Does it make any difference whether the course is undergrad or grad-level?
I am also going to retake the GMAT before I apply.

Additionally, I scored a Recognition of Excellence (ROE) Award for "achieving exceptional individual performance on the Mathematics Praxis II" exam, a math (algebra through calculus) test for teaching certification.
Do you think this may help my case?

Aug 20, 2011

Alex,

Will taking community college courses to boost my GPA be valuable for MBA admissions?

I'm a 2009 UC Irvine undergrad and am a few years from applying to business school. My overall GPA as an undergrad was low. I had an overall of 3.2 due to poor performance in electrical engineering coursework my first 2 years of school. I switched majors late in the game and have about a 3.7 in the Business Economics major that i graduated with.

I'm currently a financial analyst at a F500/F1000 company. My company gives me $10k annually in tuition reimbursement, and was wondering if it would be wise for me to sign up for business courses to boost my GPA further. I am quite confident that I can pull off A's in CC or extension courses.

I'm aiming for the T-15... dream (reach) schools would be Tuck, Stern, Columbia, Fuqua, or Yale SOM.

Money Never Sleeps? More like Money Never SUCKS amirite?!?!?!?

Jul 22, 2011
sayandarula:

Alex,

Will taking community college courses to boost my GPA be valuable for MBA admissions?

I'm a 2009 UC Irvine undergrad and am a few years from applying to business school. My overall GPA as an undergrad was low. I had an overall of 3.2 due to poor performance in electrical engineering coursework my first 2 years of school. I switched majors late in the game and have about a 3.7 in the Business Economics major that i graduated with.

I'm currently a financial analyst at a F500/F1000 company. My company gives me $10k annually in tuition reimbursement, and was wondering if it would be wise for me to sign up for business courses to boost my GPA further. I am quite confident that I can pull off A's in CC or extension courses.

I'm aiming for the T-15... dream (reach) schools would be Tuck, Stern, Columbia, Fuqua, or Yale SOM.

Your GPA isn't strong, but not poor enough that taking extra courses will make a difference. Save the time and money and do something more productive with it - like pursuing activities/things you enjoy.

Aug 24, 2011

Alex,

Thanks for doing this - requesting a sanity check that I am in the ballpark for the schools I'm applying to Rd 1 this fall.

27/Male/White

UPenn undergrad (humanities major w/ econ and finance coursework), 3.2 gpa / 3.6 in major (low overall entirely due to 3 required spanish courses - not good w/ foreign language)

Work Experience:
3 yrs investment banking M&A @ regional bank in DC area (not BB, but well known). Unique experience w/ small team, high exposure to clients and more individual responsibility than typical BB analyst. Primarily focused on defense contracting / homeland security deals.
1.5 yrs doing two things concurrently: a) working w/ non-profit small biz incubator that helps defense technology start-ups in the DC area, and b) working with a separate start-up consulting practice that is profitable and has doubled in size over the past year (founder and myself are only two ppl working on it)

GMAT: 760 (82%Q, 99%V)

ECs: strong in undergrad (student board, fraternity, research assistant for Wharton professor), not as strong since, but I co-own and write for a music blog and volunteer sporadically. Applying for int'l development internships in the spring and currently taking spanish courses.

Recs: should be strong... one from banking job and second from current director of non-profit where I work part-time

Concerns: is my undergrad GPA low enough to address, or will it be obvious to them that I just screwed up a few spanish classes and I shouldnt call attention to it? My recent work experience is non-traditional, but if I weave it in a strong story about gaining different work experience away from finance and preparing for career in consulting, do you think it will make sense as my 'story'? If it makes a difference, I quit the banking job, wasnt fired.

Reach: Harvard, Wharton
Target: Columbia, Darden, Yale, NYU

Thanks!

Jul 22, 2011
theCofe:

Alex,

Thanks for doing this - requesting a sanity check that I am in the ballpark for the schools I'm applying to Rd 1 this fall.

27/Male/White

UPenn undergrad (humanities major w/ econ and finance coursework), 3.2 gpa / 3.6 in major (low overall entirely due to 3 required spanish courses - not good w/ foreign language)

Work Experience:
3 yrs investment banking M&A @ regional bank in DC area (not BB, but well known). Unique experience w/ small team, high exposure to clients and more individual responsibility than typical BB analyst. Primarily focused on defense contracting / homeland security deals.
1.5 yrs doing two things concurrently: a) working w/ non-profit small biz incubator that helps defense technology start-ups in the DC area, and b) working with a separate start-up consulting practice that is profitable and has doubled in size over the past year (founder and myself are only two ppl working on it)

GMAT: 760 (82%Q, 99%V)

ECs: strong in undergrad (student board, fraternity, research assistant for Wharton professor), not as strong since, but I co-own and write for a music blog and volunteer sporadically. Applying for int'l development internships in the spring and currently taking spanish courses.

Recs: should be strong... one from banking job and second from current director of non-profit where I work part-time

Concerns: is my undergrad GPA low enough to address, or will it be obvious to them that I just screwed up a few spanish classes and I shouldnt call attention to it? My recent work experience is non-traditional, but if I weave it in a strong story about gaining different work experience away from finance and preparing for career in consulting, do you think it will make sense as my 'story'? If it makes a difference, I quit the banking job, wasnt fired.

Reach: Harvard, Wharton
Target: Columbia, Darden, Yale, NYU

Thanks!

You've got the right set of expectations given your list of schools. Your GPA isn't great, but not poor enough that it's worth wasting words on explaining it in an optional essay. What you have to your advantage (especially for HBS, Wharton who have soured on finance guys in the last year -- not to the point where they are running away from them completely, but they are certainly trying to cut the intake) is that you're a "former" finance guy and not a current one. The fact that you've left already to do something outside of finance is enough of a sign that there's a good chance should you go back to school, you're not going to end up in finance again (they're sick of guys going after PE, as that ship has sailed, or is sailing fast - but then again MBAs have always been known to be a step or three behind the trends; as an aside, the "VC craze" amongst MBAs only died down around 2004-05 or so, about 3 years after the dot-com crash, and then the attention shifted to PE). In any case, it doens't really matter whether you quit or got fired: fact is, you're no longer in finance (but you were of a high enough caliber to get into finance in the first place), so you have the best of both worlds.

Aug 31, 2011

Would technology consulting right after college kill any chances I'd have at a top business school?

Jul 22, 2011
Thurnis Haley:

Would technology consulting right after college kill any chances I'd have at a top business school?

No, it won't on its own.

Sep 1, 2011

Hi Alex,
>

I have been looking through your website ( I enjoyed the interview videos) because I am thinking about whether i would be suitable to apply for an MBA program in a few years.
. I live in the UK with my husband and kids. I am currently starting a BA in Linguistics at University College London. I used to live in Chicago, and before that in Riyadh and California. I was actually doing pre-med at a university in Illinois before leaving it after sophomore year to move to the UK where my husband is from. Since then I have worked for two years as an office manager in my husband's business, taken A Levels exams (Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics), and spent a year in art school.

I guess my main question is would my lack of work experience, at my age (29), work against me? And if so, what can I do in the next three years, along with my degree, to catch up.

Thank you.

Jul 22, 2011
Izarus:

Hi Alex,
>

I have been looking through your website ( I enjoyed the interview videos) because I am thinking about whether i would be suitable to apply for an MBA program in a few years.
. I live in the UK with my husband and kids. I am currently starting a BA in Linguistics at University College London. I used to live in Chicago, and before that in Riyadh and California. I was actually doing pre-med at a university in Illinois before leaving it after sophomore year to move to the UK where my husband is from. Since then I have worked for two years as an office manager in my husband's business, taken A Levels exams (Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics), and spent a year in art school.

I guess my main question is would my lack of work experience, at my age (29), work against me? And if so, what can I do in the next three years, along with my degree, to catch up.

Thank you.

If you're looking to get your career back on track, don't worry about the MBA for now -- what is more important is getting your foot back into the corporate world (i.e. full-time work experience). Focus on that first, and then down the road, consider an exec or part-time program in your local area. But again, whether an MBA is right for you or not isn't really relevant right now.

To be blunt, as we all get older, experience trumps credentials.

Sep 3, 2011

Dear Alex,

I graduated from Babson College with a concentration in
Entrepreneurship in 2002 and GPA of 3.3. My work experience has been
entrepreneurial in nature and mostly in Pakistan (my home country). I
have some unique experiences/stories that I could use for my essays
and disclose to you at a later stage. I have not taken the GMAT yet,
but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get a score above 700.

Before starting this journey I wanted your honest opinion on the
likelihood of getting into HBS given my age and entrepreneurial work
experience. I realize my entrepreneurial work experience in an
emerging market could work to my advantage given Dean Nohria's efforts
to give a more global perspective to the curriculum
(http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/education/edlife...). However, I also realize that the HBS Class of 2013 had 9 out of 918
students that graduated in 2002
(http://poetsandquants.com/2011/06/22/hbs-liking-sl...).
Do you think I have a shot at getting into HBS, Wharton or Stanford?

Best regards,

Ali

Jul 22, 2011
m.ali:

Dear Alex,

I graduated from Babson College with a concentration in
Entrepreneurship in 2002 and GPA of 3.3. My work experience has been
entrepreneurial in nature and mostly in Pakistan (my home country). I
have some unique experiences/stories that I could use for my essays
and disclose to you at a later stage. I have not taken the GMAT yet,
but I'm willing to do whatever it takes to get a score above 700.

Before starting this journey I wanted your honest opinion on the
likelihood of getting into HBS given my age and entrepreneurial work
experience. I realize my entrepreneurial work experience in an
emerging market could work to my advantage given Dean Nohria's efforts
to give a more global perspective to the curriculum
(http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/education/edlife...). However, I also realize that the HBS Class of 2013 had 9 out of 918
students that graduated in 2002
(http://poetsandquants.com/2011/06/22/hbs-liking-sl...).
Do you think I have a shot at getting into HBS, Wharton or Stanford?

Best regards,

Ali

You'll be a big stretch for those three schools, given your age and experience (yes, they value some entrepreneurial experience, but to be blunt if it's mostly in Pakistan they're going to be hesitant). In any case, if you want to apply go for it, but just know that you'll be a big stretch.

Sep 3, 2011

Alex,

After reading the other posts on this forum I'd like to add some more information:

  • While my undergraduate GPA was 3.3, my concentration GPA was 3.9
  • My entrepreneurial experience includes:
  1. Successfully developing a large piece of agricultural land into a desirable housing society in Pakistan's 3rd largest city
  2. Identifying, evaluating and acquiring a logistics company in the UAE that is currently yielding an ROI of 100%
  3. In the process of setting up an agribusiness fund (in partnership with a large European family office and a well known west coast VC firm) that will invest in a diverse portfolio of greenfield companies who do business with blue chip food companies (Mars, Nestle)

Having been an entrepreneur yourself, I'm sure you can understand why my entrepreneurial experience is all over the place! Call it fate or lack of focus on my part, but that's my story!

You're probably wondering why I want an MBA. Given that most of my work experience, contacts and goodwill is in a country as unpredictable as Pakistan I feel I need an insurance policy. If I were forced to leave Pakistan at some point in the future I would like to have a degree from an institution that is globally recognized (H/S/W) and would help reduce the loss of the aforementioned intangibles of my home country.

As a side note, I have considered Canadian programs as well simply because my wife is Canadian and I could kill two birds with one stone (MBA and citizenship).

Look forward to your feedback!

Sep 12, 2011

Hi Alex,

Posted this in the forum and got a reply that this would be a more appropiate channel:

I'm slogging through the HBS and Columbia apps, and I'm wondering if you think I have decent chances...

Background:

770 GMAT (49Q 47V) 5.5 AWA
Undergraduate: Industrial Engineering (University of Chile)
GPA about 3.0 due to shit grades at the beginning, leveling off to about 3.5 in last 2 years
Graduated with maximum honors (due the weighting of the thesis and last years in final grade)

Work experience:

1 year part time while I finished my thesis paper at financial consulting/M&A boutique where I also did some work on public policy for a Chilean presidential candidate

1 year management consulting at the Santiago office of MBB (you guess which of the 3)

Currently 5 months in at a local non-profit working on incubating early stage start ups (Can't believe I left MBB for this shit, worst decision of my life, but I can put a positive spin on it as i'd like to network into VC/PE through business school)

Life story:
Originally from the US, left to do a high school exchange in 2002 and somehow kept finding reasons to stay in Chile... so obviously native speaker of english with fluent spanish

Extracurriculars: I tutored some rich little brats for money while at university. So basically nothing.

Recommenders: MD/owner from M&A boutique (worked closely with him, knows me quite well) and project manager + partner from management consulting firm. nothing from current because the guy is pissed I am applying to leave this shit-show.

Business school picks:
HBS - It's the best, although I grew up around Boston and I'm not sure I want to do that again for 2 years (it's part of the reason I left and didn't come back). I will meet 1st round deadline this year.

Columbia - I'm thinking of doing early decision to raise my chances of getting in, but I don't want to miss out on getting grants/scholarships/fellowships vs regular decision in 1st round.

I am about 90% decided on Columbia, the only real cons for me are the brand/prestige and the crappy facilities.

Questions:
Chances of getting in to these two? Worth risking regular decision at Columbia?
Suitability of these choices for networking into VC/PE post MBA?
If I do regular decision at Columbia, get into both... does HBS win hands down, or is Columbia comparable for what I want to do (plus I value being in NYC quite a bit)?

Jul 22, 2011
greengohome:

Questions:
Chances of getting in to these two? Worth risking regular decision at Columbia?
Suitability of these choices for networking into VC/PE post MBA?
If I do regular decision at Columbia, get into both... does HBS win hands down, or is Columbia comparable for what I want to do (plus I value being in NYC quite a bit)?

Keep in mind that b-school applications beyond a certain point is a numbers game.

In short, you have enough of a shot at either school that they're both worth applying to; however, no one is strong enough that they can limit their schools to just two.

Apply to more. It's a numbers game. If you stick with two (whichever two), you'll be a stretch of getting into any.

In other words, to yield 1-3 admits, you need to apply to around 5-6 schools. Any less than 4 schools and you're rolling the dice, no matter who you are.

Sep 13, 2011

Hi Alex,

I am looking to apply to b-schools (striving for H/S/W) in a couple of years, and I am hoping that you could provide me with some advice.

My background:

Asian male
3.9+ GPA in a quantitative major at HYPSM
770 GMAT (51Q)
Working at MBB

I understand that I have several things that b-schools look for, but I am also aware that I am one of many management consultants with a high GPA and GMAT (and being an Asian male certain does not help). I have read several examples of applicants with 750+, Ivy background, and MBB work experience get rejected from H/S/W. For the next two years, I want to develop my credentials to differentiate myself from similar applicants.

  1. Do you think it is better for me to focus primarily on work and try to perform as best as I could, or should I also try to engage extensively in extracurricular activities on the weekends? I have a few weekend volunteering opportunities that I am interested in.
  2. What are some good types of extracurricular / leadership activities top b-schools like to see?
  3. Just to gauge where I currently stand... given my academic credentials, if I mainly focused on working hard at MBB for the next couple years rather than pursuing other interests, what would my chances of getting into H/S/W be?

Thanks!

Jul 22, 2011
wjdgusqls:

1. Do you think it is better for me to focus primarily on work and try to perform as best as I could, or should I also try to engage extensively in extracurricular activities on the weekends? I have a few weekend volunteering opportunities that I am interested in.
2. What are some good types of extracurricular / leadership activities top b-schools like to see?
3. Just to gauge where I currently stand... given my academic credentials, if I mainly focused on working hard at MBB for the next couple years rather than pursuing other interests, what would my chances of getting into H/S/W be?

Thanks!

Don't try and build a profile for b-school. It's not the right way to look at it.

Build a life that you are proud of first - the byproduct of that will be a compelling profile. You're looking at it ass-backwards.

The most interesting and accomplished people (whether they go to b-school or not) tend to have accomplished these very things they are proud of because it was meaningful to them on some personal level. It wasn't "to build a profile for school."

I know that's not what you are asking, but keep in mind no one is looking for some specific activity or profile.

They're looking for interesting, accomplished and dynamic people. So go out there and be that person.

Sep 13, 2011

Hi Alex,

How do bschools view risk management candidates? I have corp credit experience at a bank and will be transitioning to a risk management role at a public airline leasing company. Do bschools consider this a traditional finance candidate?

Thank you in advance.

Jul 22, 2011
ggnowad:

Hi Alex,

How do bschools view risk management candidates? I have corp credit experience at a bank and will be transitioning to a risk management role at a public airline leasing company. Do bschools consider this a traditional finance candidate?

Thank you in advance.

You'll be considered a middle-of-the-road applicant, similar to someone working in industry.

Sep 13, 2011
MBAApply:
ggnowad:

Hi Alex,

How do bschools view risk management candidates? I have corp credit experience at a bank and will be transitioning to a risk management role at a public airline leasing company. Do bschools consider this a traditional finance candidate?

Thank you in advance.

You'll be considered a middle-of-the-road applicant, similar to someone working in industry.

Thanks Alex. In your experience, how far does a company's name/cache carry an applicant? I realize that the overwhelming majority of the admission decision resides in the app, but I assume there is some weight given to larger companies (F500), but what about a smaller brand <$1Bn market cap. Again thanks in advance.

Sep 14, 2011

Hello Alex,

I just wanted to ask you about felony/misdemeanor charge and how badly it affects (automatic ding?) MBA application.
To be more specific about my particular situation, it's a misdemeanor theft (amended down from felony, i.e. more than $X to less than $X in amount, pretty much) that happened on campus, and thus a suspension followed in university. The official transcript doesn't say anything in detail other than the suspension record, but the background check will dig up arrest even if the charge is sealed (which I am told it will be after my probation ends).

Anyways, I guess I am just looking for an opinion from a more knowledgeable person even though I know that I am pretty much fucked. Please do feel free to be brutal.
Thanks!

Jul 22, 2011
Vectors225:

Hello Alex,

I just wanted to ask you about felony/misdemeanor charge and how badly it affects (automatic ding?) MBA application.
To be more specific about my particular situation, it's a misdemeanor theft (amended down from felony, i.e. more than $X to less than $X in amount, pretty much) that happened on campus, and thus a suspension followed in university. The official transcript doesn't say anything in detail other than the suspension record, but the background check will dig up arrest even if the charge is sealed (which I am told it will be after my probation ends).

Anyways, I guess I am just looking for an opinion from a more knowledgeable person even though I know that I am pretty much fucked. Please do feel free to be brutal.
Thanks!

You should be okay, given the nature of the charge - of course it's not a good thing, but it's likely not going to be fatal either. Just come clean with it - say what happened, you're embarrassed by it, there was no excuse, and you learned your lesson. Keep it short, factual, and don't get too defensive about it (i.e. trying to over explain how you've made amends since blah blah blah).

Again, it could be worse - in b-school admissions, the worst offense (other than perhaps violent charges like assault) is academic dishonesty or plagiarism - that's really hard to get around since it deals directly with what b-schools are about (academics).

Jul 22, 2011

alex,

this probably isnt the best forum for this question, but this relates to the actual application. should the essays be viewed holistically, or should they stand on their own? Specifically, if i mention a venture in multiple essays, do i need to waste space explaining the venture each time? Along those lines, is every application read in the order than questions are asked? Thanks in advance for any help.

Jul 22, 2011
ignatius reilly:

alex,

this probably isnt the best forum for this question, but this relates to the actual application. should the essays be viewed holistically, or should they stand on their own? Specifically, if i mention a venture in multiple essays, do i need to waste space explaining the venture each time? Along those lines, is every application read in the order than questions are asked? Thanks in advance for any help.

Good question. They are read as a whole.

Essays (whether individually or even as a whole) don't stand on their own. They are also read within the context of the application (application form, resume, etc). In other words, they're not self-contained. Think of the essays like the director's commentary on a DVD. To understand the commentary, you need to have watched the actual film first (the resume, application form -- basically your raw profile) - it's read in context, not completely on its own.

Sep 16, 2011

-senior Econ major at a top 20 non-Ivy university (think Emory, Vandy, Georgetown) with a 3.5 gpa (white male btw)
-just accepted a job at a low-tier bulge bracket investment bank (BoAML, UBS, Citi) in a capital markets group.
-will be able to do pretty well on my GMAT (I got a little over 2100 (1400 old score) on my SAT and will prepare much more for this), but not totally ace it.
-don't have any really good extra-curriculars or anything particularly interesting about me, haha.

My career goal is probably to stay in banking (hopefully in consumer products), with private equity and F500 corporate finance as the other possibilities - more interested in deals and companies than portfolio management and investing. I want to live in the northeast in the long run, probably New York because that's where all the jobs are. The reason that I would go to bschool is to take a break from the grind of banking, help advance myself in banking, and to give me flexibility if I want to do something else/ readdress if I want to do something else...it just seems like a good overall experience, even if it doesn't make financial sense.

I would love to go to HBS, Wharton, or Columbia, but given that I'm a fairly generic candidate, I'm realistically interested in Stern, Tuck, Darden, Fuqua, Johnson, and Ross.

  1. My gpa could end up anywhere between a 3.4 and a 3.6 - kind of a question without a definite answer, but how much does it really matter?
  2. Given my story and where I am trying to go, what should I shoot for on the GMAT? Furthermore, what is the best tutoring service I can hire to get me that score?
  3. Kind of tough to answer w/o my gmat score, but are those schools realistic/ good choices? Considering that I think I want to be in the northeast, I think it's smart to go to schools where the network is there (for both recruiting and for afterwards). My thinking is why go to a Chicago or West Coast school when I could go to a school of equal prestige that lends itself better to a career in the northeast...am I right on that?

Thanks in advance for the help, I really appreciate it.

Jul 22, 2011
prospectivemonkey7189:

-senior Econ major at a top 20 non-Ivy university (think Emory, Vandy, Georgetown) with a 3.5 gpa (white male btw)
-just accepted a job at a low-tier bulge bracket investment bank (BoAML, UBS, Citi) in a capital markets group.
-will be able to do pretty well on my GMAT (I got a little over 2100 (1400 old score) on my SAT and will prepare much more for this), but not totally ace it.
-don't have any really good extra-curriculars or anything particularly interesting about me, haha.

My career goal is probably to stay in banking (hopefully in consumer products), with private equity and F500 corporate finance as the other possibilities - more interested in deals and companies than portfolio management and investing. I want to live in the northeast in the long run, probably New York because that's where all the jobs are. The reason that I would go to bschool is to take a break from the grind of banking, help advance myself in banking, and to give me flexibility if I want to do something else/ readdress if I want to do something else...it just seems like a good overall experience, even if it doesn't make financial sense.

I would love to go to HBS, Wharton, or Columbia, but given that I'm a fairly generic candidate, I'm realistically interested in Stern, Tuck, Darden, Fuqua, Johnson, and Ross.

  1. My gpa could end up anywhere between a 3.4 and a 3.6 - kind of a question without a definite answer, but how much does it really matter?
  2. Given my story and where I am trying to go, what should I shoot for on the GMAT? Furthermore, what is the best tutoring service I can hire to get me that score?
  3. Kind of tough to answer w/o my gmat score, but are those schools realistic/ good choices? Considering that I think I want to be in the northeast, I think it's smart to go to schools where the network is there (for both recruiting and for afterwards). My thinking is why go to a Chicago or West Coast school when I could go to a school of equal prestige that lends itself better to a career in the northeast...am I right on that?

Thanks in advance for the help, I really appreciate it.

With your mindset, it's sort of like a D-1 football player who just got drafted by an NFL team, and is preoccupied with free agency after his rookie contract expires.

Or, it's like a team on Week 2 thinking about a game on Week 10.

Focus on now. Working full-time is a big step in your life and career, don't just overlook it and think about b-school (which is a few steps ahead). Working a job full-time is nothing trivial, and it's going to be FAR more important to focus all your energy and focus on that -- that the last thing you should be preoccupied with is b-school. It's like thinking about an exit strategy before you've even started something without knowing how you will even make it through.

You just got your rookie contract. Make the most of what you have now, and take it a step at a time. Trying to map your life out like this so far ahead isn't really "planning" -- it's living in the future at the expense of the present.

Sep 17, 2011

The Market Daily

http://themarketdaily.blogspot.com/
Its fucking awesome

Sep 16, 2011
MBAApply:

prospectivemonkey7189 wrote:
-senior Econ major at a top 20 non-Ivy university (think Emory, Vandy, Georgetown) with a 3.5 gpa (white male btw)
-just accepted a job at a low-tier bulge bracket investment bank (BoAML, UBS, Citi) in a capital markets group.
-will be able to do pretty well on my GMAT (I got a little over 2100 (1400 old score) on my SAT and will prepare much more for this), but not totally ace it.
-don't have any really good extra-curriculars or anything particularly interesting about me, haha.

My career goal is probably to stay in banking (hopefully in consumer products), with private equity and F500 corporate finance as the other possibilities - more interested in deals and companies than portfolio management and investing. I want to live in the northeast in the long run, probably New York because that's where all the jobs are. The reason that I would go to bschool is to take a break from the grind of banking, help advance myself in banking, and to give me flexibility if I want to do something else/ readdress if I want to do something else...it just seems like a good overall experience, even if it doesn't make financial sense.

I would love to go to HBS, Wharton, or Columbia, but given that I'm a fairly generic candidate, I'm realistically interested in Stern, Tuck, Darden, Fuqua, Johnson, and Ross.

  1. My gpa could end up anywhere between a 3.4 and a 3.6 - kind of a question without a definite answer, but how much does it really matter?
  2. Given my story and where I am trying to go, what should I shoot for on the GMAT? Furthermore, what is the best tutoring service I can hire to get me that score?
  3. Kind of tough to answer w/o my gmat score, but are those schools realistic/ good choices? Considering that I think I want to be in the northeast, I think it's smart to go to schools where the network is there (for both recruiting and for afterwards). My thinking is why go to a Chicago or West Coast school when I could go to a school of equal prestige that lends itself better to a career in the northeast...am I right on that?

Thanks in advance for the help, I really appreciate it.

With your mindset, it's sort of like a D-1 football player who just got drafted by an NFL team, and is preoccupied with free agency after his rookie contract expires.

Or, it's like a team on Week 2 thinking about a game on Week 10.

Focus on now. Working full-time is a big step in your life and career, don't just overlook it and think about b-school (which is a few steps ahead). Working a job full-time is nothing trivial, and it's going to be FAR more important to focus all your energy and focus on that -- that the last thing you should be preoccupied with is b-school. It's like thinking about an exit strategy before you've even started something without knowing how you will even make it through.

You just got your rookie contract. Make the most of what you have now, and take it a step at a time. Trying to map your life out like this so far ahead isn't really "planning" -- it's living in the future at the expense of the present.

Alex,

I agree with your general points, and in relation to my third question, your response is accurate. I do think, however, that my first two questions are actually relevant to what I am doing now.
-Given that I have already accepted a job, business school is the only reason I have to keep my grades up. I know I have to keep them at a decent level regardless, but you see my point. The real reason I am asking this question is because I am wondering whether or not to retake a course in the spring. I got a flat D in an upper level course last spring because I was fully consumed in recruiting and didn't give the class any attention, and it is hurting my gpa significantly. I could retake the class this spring, get a B with a little bit of effort and improve my GPA by .1. Is that worth it? Basically, I don't want to look back and wish I put in more effort my senior year, but I also don't want to be wasting time on something that isn't helping me out.
-As far as preparing for the GMAT, I am going to try to take the exam this year in my lameduck period before work starts next July, while I have the time and am in the study mode. I feel that once work begins, I will want to focus on that - like you said - and I won't have time to take a GMAT class and give my full attention to the test. Knowing what general score someone of my profile would need to get into the schools that I am interested in would be incredibly helpful for my preparation. I don't want to look back in a few years and wish I had put more effort into getting the right score.

Jul 22, 2011
prospectivemonkey7189:

Alex,

I agree with your general points, and in relation to my third question, your response is accurate. I do think, however, that my first two questions are actually relevant to what I am doing now.
-Given that I have already accepted a job, business school is the only reason I have to keep my grades up. I know I have to keep them at a decent level regardless, but you see my point. The real reason I am asking this question is because I am wondering whether or not to retake a course in the spring. I got a flat D in an upper level course last spring because I was fully consumed in recruiting and didn't give the class any attention, and it is hurting my gpa significantly. I could retake the class this spring, get a B with a little bit of effort and improve my GPA by .1. Is that worth it? Basically, I don't want to look back and wish I put in more effort my senior year, but I also don't want to be wasting time on something that isn't helping me out.
-As far as preparing for the GMAT, I am going to try to take the exam this year in my lameduck period before work starts next July, while I have the time and am in the study mode. I feel that once work begins, I will want to focus on that - like you said - and I won't have time to take a GMAT class and give my full attention to the test. Knowing what general score someone of my profile would need to get into the schools that I am interested in would be incredibly helpful for my preparation. I don't want to look back in a few years and wish I had put more effort into getting the right score.

If you don't want regrets (regardless of b-school), retake it. A strong GPA gives you more options, period - you never know what you want to do in a few year's time - whether it's b-school, law school, med school, whatever. As for GMAT, shoot for at least a 700, and ideally 720+

Sep 16, 2011

Thanks again for your help. A minute of your time can save me countless hours....

Sep 24, 2011

I'm considering applying for HBS 2+2. I'll list my bio below. I have a strong desire to work for or start an NGO to generate social change. During my 2 years of work, I plan to work for a non-profit.

University: non-target, but tier 1
Major, Year: Econ, Senior
Leadership exp: Varsity athlete for 2 yrs. (team captain); local school volunteer (5 months); non-profit summer internship (5 months); boutique investment bank (current job).
GMAT: 740 (balanced verbal and quant)
GPA: 3.9 (relatively poor freshman year but nearly flawless since then)

Jul 22, 2011
MrPaulAllen:

I'm considering applying for HBS 2+2. I'll list my bio below. I have a strong desire to work for or start an NGO to generate social change. During my 2 years of work, I plan to work for a non-profit.

University: non-target, but tier 1
Major, Year: Econ, Senior
Leadership exp: Varsity athlete for 2 yrs. (team captain); local school volunteer (5 months); non-profit summer internship (5 months); boutique investment bank (current job).
GMAT: 740 (balanced verbal and quant)
GPA: 3.9 (relatively poor freshman year but nearly flawless since then)

Go for it. Only drawback is that they have little incentive to admit you through 2+2 given your background (econ, intern in investment banking) since people with your profile are already predisposed to apply to b-school anyhow 2-4 years down the road. The 2+2 is primarily designed to attract college kids who given their profile normally would be considering other paths (law, medicine, and hard sciences mostly). Also, they are targeting juniors, not seniors. So it's not whether you're good enough or not - but more that they prefer blue, and you're red.

Sep 24, 2011
MBAApply:
MrPaulAllen:

I'm considering applying for HBS 2+2. I'll list my bio below. I have a strong desire to work for or start an NGO to generate social change. During my 2 years of work, I plan to work for a non-profit.

University: non-target, but tier 1
Major, Year: Econ, Senior
Leadership exp: Varsity athlete for 2 yrs. (team captain); local school volunteer (5 months); non-profit summer internship (5 months); boutique investment bank (current job).
GMAT: 740 (balanced verbal and quant)
GPA: 3.9 (relatively poor freshman year but nearly flawless since then)

Go for it. Only drawback is that they have little incentive to admit you through 2+2 given your background (econ, intern in investment banking) since people with your profile are already predisposed to apply to b-school anyhow 2-4 years down the road. The 2+2 is primarily designed to attract college kids who given their profile normally would be considering other paths (law, medicine, and hard sciences mostly). Also, they are targeting juniors, not seniors. So it's not whether you're good enough or not - but more that they prefer blue, and you're red.

Thank you for the prompt evaluation. I want the MBA so I can gain the skills necessary to start social entrepreneurial ventures, not finance. I think this separates me from the typical finance-brackground people, who have been unable to gain admission to 2+2 in the past. Does this help my case?

Sep 29, 2011

Hi Alex,

Most business schools require two letters of recommendation, although some require more. Among the schools that require two, very few say that they accept ONLY two. Do you think it's wise to submit more than two, if the application system allows it?

My plan is to have two letters of recommendations from current supervisors at my job, and a third one coming from a college professor. In addition to providing variety in the recommendation letters, the professor can discuss how I continue to come back to my alma mater as a recruiter, and help out students with job hunting and career advice.

I am just not sure if including three recommendation letters for schools that only require two will come off as overachieving. There's also the risk that they will only read two.. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

Jul 22, 2011
guitarike:

Hi Alex,

Most business schools require two letters of recommendation, although some require more. Among the schools that require two, very few say that they accept ONLY two. Do you think it's wise to submit more than two, if the application system allows it?

My plan is to have two letters of recommendations from current supervisors at my job, and a third one coming from a college professor. In addition to providing variety in the recommendation letters, the professor can discuss how I continue to come back to my alma mater as a recruiter, and help out students with job hunting and career advice.

I am just not sure if including three recommendation letters for schools that only require two will come off as overachieving. There's also the risk that they will only read two.. Thanks for your thoughts on this!

If the school requires two, only submit two.

Submit a third one, and you will more likely annoy them - because it shows that you:

(1) Don't read instructions properly because you're an imbecile, or

(2) You brazenly ignore instructions feeling your above them because you're an asshole.

Stick to two if that's what they ask for.

Oct 4, 2011

Hi Alex,

I'm planning on applying to business schools next year and wanted to get an idea of where I stand.

I'm a 27 year old woman of minority ethnicity
I have an undergrad degree in math from a college in my country (3.3 GPA) and an MA in economics from a non-target school (3.7)
I have 5 years of work experience at a boutique hedge fund, 4 of which have involved managing a trading desk, while helping build extremely profitable algorithmic trading strategies. I've had a tremendous amount of responsibility at my firm, and have helped set up a trading desk at our offices in another country
I am a CFA charterholder
I have served on the board of a big non-profit for 3 years and have been treasurer for 1
I'm a runner and have run a couple of marathons and many smaller races
I have been an active volunteer with 2 other organizations for about 3 years
I hope to get a 750+ score on the GMAT (I made a 1500 on the GRE and think I can do similarly well on the GMAT) and am certain of getting excellent recommendations.

I'm doing an MBA because I would like to transition to a more qualitative role from what I do right now, which is almost entirely quantitative. I think it would be an ideal platform for me to work with and learn from highly knowledgeable people and I would eventually like to get into private equity or venture capital.

What are your thoughts?

Jul 22, 2011
mandala:

Hi Alex,

I'm planning on applying to business schools next year and wanted to get an idea of where I stand.

I'm a 27 year old woman of minority ethnicity
I have an undergrad degree in math from a college in my country (3.3 GPA) and an MA in economics from a non-target school (3.7)
I have 5 years of work experience at a boutique hedge fund, 4 of which have involved managing a trading desk, while helping build extremely profitable algorithmic trading strategies. I've had a tremendous amount of responsibility at my firm, and have helped set up a trading desk at our offices in another country
I am a CFA charterholder
I have served on the board of a big non-profit for 3 years and have been treasurer for 1
I'm a runner and have run a couple of marathons and many smaller races
I have been an active volunteer with 2 other organizations for about 3 years
I hope to get a 750+ score on the GMAT (I made a 1500 on the GRE and think I can do similarly well on the GMAT) and am certain of getting excellent recommendations.

I'm doing an MBA because I would like to transition to a more qualitative role from what I do right now, which is almost entirely quantitative. I think it would be an ideal platform for me to work with and learn from highly knowledgeable people and I would eventually like to get into private equity or venture capital.

What are your thoughts?

You're not a fit for VC -- biggest misnomer about VC is that it's "finance" like private equity, hedge funds, investment management, IB, etc. but it's far from it. It's about matchmaking experienced executives with promising technology ideas - mostly about company formation and all that, not about finance.

In any case, I'd say the schools to shoot for are Booth and Columbia as stretches. Then look at NYU, Yale and Cornell as sweet spot schools.

Oct 4, 2011
MBAApply:
mandala:

Hi Alex,

I'm planning on applying to business schools next year and wanted to get an idea of where I stand.

I'm a 27 year old woman of minority ethnicity
I have an undergrad degree in math from a college in my country (3.3 GPA) and an MA in economics from a non-target school (3.7)
I have 5 years of work experience at a boutique hedge fund, 4 of which have involved managing a trading desk, while helping build extremely profitable algorithmic trading strategies. I've had a tremendous amount of responsibility at my firm, and have helped set up a trading desk at our offices in another country
I am a CFA charterholder
I have served on the board of a big non-profit for 3 years and have been treasurer for 1
I'm a runner and have run a couple of marathons and many smaller races
I have been an active volunteer with 2 other organizations for about 3 years
I hope to get a 750+ score on the GMAT (I made a 1500 on the GRE and think I can do similarly well on the GMAT) and am certain of getting excellent recommendations.

I'm doing an MBA because I would like to transition to a more qualitative role from what I do right now, which is almost entirely quantitative. I think it would be an ideal platform for me to work with and learn from highly knowledgeable people and I would eventually like to get into private equity or venture capital.

What are your thoughts?

You're not a fit for VC -- biggest misnomer about VC is that it's "finance" like private equity, hedge funds, investment management, IB, etc. but it's far from it. It's about matchmaking experienced executives with promising technology ideas - mostly about company formation and all that, not about finance.

In any case, I'd say the schools to shoot for are Booth and Columbia as stretches. Then look at NYU, Yale and Cornell as sweet spot schools.

I see and thank you very much. What about Harvard/Stanford/Wharton/Sloan? Where do you think my application will be lacking in context to those schools?

Oct 18, 2011

Alex,

Looking to apply in the fall of 2012 and to start my mba in the fall of 2013.

Background:
3.5 from an sec school (not vandy or florida), very involved as an undergrad, president of multiple orgs
Currently in Teach for America
Started an SAT prep program at my school
Involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters
Based on my practice tests, I hope to score 700 on the GMAT.
At the time I matriculate to school I would have taught for two full school years as well as an internship this summer.

I would like to apply to UNC,UVA, Duke and Wharton.

What are your thoughts? Thanks.

Jul 22, 2011
atliens:

Alex,

Looking to apply in the fall of 2012 and to start my mba in the fall of 2013.

Background:
3.5 from an sec school (not vandy or florida), very involved as an undergrad, president of multiple orgs
Currently in Teach for America
Started an SAT prep program at my school
Involved in Big Brothers/Big Sisters
Based on my practice tests, I hope to score 700 on the GMAT.
At the time I matriculate to school I would have taught for two full school years as well as an internship this summer.

I would like to apply to UNC,UVA, Duke and Wharton.

What are your thoughts? Thanks.

Focus on the GMAT first before anything else. Cart before the horse.

Oct 18, 2011

Hi Alex,
I hope all is well, and thank you for providing all of this great advice on WSO. I wanted to get your take on what you think my chances are for admission into B-School.

My Background: Graduated from a state school in the southeast with a 3.2 GPA. I then received my Masters in Accountancy with a 3.7 GPA. Since then, I have been working for just over a year in New York at a Big 4 firm, and I have received my CPA license. I would like to apply to schools beginning next fall, after having 2 years of experience. I have taken the GMAT and scored a 700.

My top 3 choices are Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. However, I feel that these might be a stretch. Some other schools that I am interested in are NYU, Columbia, UVA, and UNC. I have heard that B-Schools do not really hold Big 4 experience in high regard. What do you think my chances look like given my background, and do you have any suggestions for how to market myself?
Thanks in advance!

Jul 22, 2011
scgrad:

Hi Alex,
I hope all is well, and thank you for providing all of this great advice on WSO. I wanted to get your take on what you think my chances are for admission into B-School.

My Background: Graduated from a state school in the southeast with a 3.2 GPA. I then received my Masters in Accountancy with a 3.7 GPA. Since then, I have been working for just over a year in New York at a Big 4 firm, and I have received my CPA license. I would like to apply to schools beginning next fall, after having 2 years of experience. I have taken the GMAT and scored a 700.

My top 3 choices are Harvard, Stanford, and Wharton. However, I feel that these might be a stretch. Some other schools that I am interested in are NYU, Columbia, UVA, and UNC. I have heard that B-Schools do not really hold Big 4 experience in high regard. What do you think my chances look like given my background, and do you have any suggestions for how to market myself?
Thanks in advance!

Stretch: Columbia, Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Tuck, Haas (pick 1-2)
Sweet spot: NYU, Cornell, Yale, Duke, Darden, Michigan, UCLA (pick 3-4)
Safety: outside the top 16 like UNC (pick 0-1)

Oct 19, 2011

Hi Alex,

I've been checking in on the posts/replies on this thread for a while-- great insight! I figured I'd finally check in for some target school calibration. I'm working on my application for Stern round 1 right now and am trying to narrow down a list of round 2 schools to apply to.

Background:

GPA: 3.5 (BA in Finance) from a top 10 public

GMAT (taking on 11/7): Scores on Kaplan CATs 1- 700, 2-720, 3-740, 4-740 (expecting mid 700's)

Work Experience: Just finished my 2 year commitment with Teach For America and am currently teaching a third year at my placement school. I'm currently the math dept chair leading about 20 other math teachers (pretty rare for a 3rd year teacher) and have spent the last two summers as a mentor teacher at TFA's summer training (also rare for a 1st/2nd year teacher) in addition to a couple other work related ECs, and some pretty stellar student data backing up my effectiveness as a teacher.

My main reason for applying to b-school is to transition to a new career pathway but I'll be honest that I haven't exactly figured out what I want that pathway to be (admittedly a pretty big issue). I can tell a compelling story about what I've done and where I've been, just not where I'm going. I have a few ideas for possible career pathways (social enterprise, non-profit consulting) and feel that I can leverage my unique teaching experience in a way that sheds a positive light on these potential pathways.

Any feedback you can give me about reach/match/safety level schools would be incredibly helpful as I narrow down the list of R2 schools to apply to. The list I'm considering right now (trending from most to least desired)...

Stanford, Harvard, Booth, Columbia, Haas, Stern, INSEAD, UCLA, Fuqua, Georgetown, University of WA

Any insight into schools to take off my list (either because they're unnecessarily low or unrealistically high) would be extremely helpful.

Thanks Alex!

Jul 22, 2011
Geo23:

Hi Alex,

I've been checking in on the posts/replies on this thread for a while-- great insight! I figured I'd finally check in for some target school calibration. I'm working on my application for Stern round 1 right now and am trying to narrow down a list of round 2 schools to apply to.

Background:

GPA: 3.5 (BA in Finance) from a top 10 public

GMAT (taking on 11/7): Scores on Kaplan CATs 1- 700, 2-720, 3-740, 4-740 (expecting mid 700's)

Work Experience: Just finished my 2 year commitment with Teach For America and am currently teaching a third year at my placement school. I'm currently the math dept chair leading about 20 other math teachers (pretty rare for a 3rd year teacher) and have spent the last two summers as a mentor teacher at TFA's summer training (also rare for a 1st/2nd year teacher) in addition to a couple other work related ECs, and some pretty stellar student data backing up my effectiveness as a teacher.

My main reason for applying to b-school is to transition to a new career pathway but I'll be honest that I haven't exactly figured out what I want that pathway to be (admittedly a pretty big issue). I can tell a compelling story about what I've done and where I've been, just not where I'm going. I have a few ideas for possible career pathways (social enterprise, non-profit consulting) and feel that I can leverage my unique teaching experience in a way that sheds a positive light on these potential pathways.

Any feedback you can give me about reach/match/safety level schools would be incredibly helpful as I narrow down the list of R2 schools to apply to. The list I'm considering right now (trending from most to least desired)...

Stanford, Harvard, Booth, Columbia, Haas, Stern, INSEAD, UCLA, Fuqua, Georgetown, University of WA

Any insight into schools to take off my list (either because they're unnecessarily low or unrealistically high) would be extremely helpful.

Thanks Alex!

B-schools historically like TFA, so that should help -- so long as you don't come across as someone who is selling his/her soul (i.e. TFA --> banking/private equity).

Stretch: Stanford, Harvard (pick 1)
Sweet spot: Booth, Columbia, Haas, Stern, UCLA, Fuqua (choose 3-4 that you want to go to the most)
Safety: Georgetown, University of WA (choose 0-1 -- not sure if you really want to apply to safeties; it may not be worth it).

INSEAD: unless you have spent time as an expat (working outside your home country full-time), you'll have a tough time getting in, and even if you did you'll be an odd duck in a sea of folks who have been expats.

Oct 21, 2011

Hey Alex,

Thanks for answering everyone's posts you are providing a lot of great information.

I recently graduated early in December of 2010 from Ohio State with a BS in Finance, and a 3.4 GPA. I know it is a bit early to start applying to b-schools, I was thinking about applying for fall of 2013. I was wondering if you have any advice for things I can do between now and application time to help put my best foot forward and stand out to admissions offices.

I currently work for Abercrombie and Fitch in their planning and allocation department, and my dream job would be to get into I-Banking, PE, or a Hedge Fund. I am hoping to use b-school as a way to change careers and achieve my dream. I also am studying for level 1 of the CFA and hope to have 2 levels completed by the time I apply. I had a 3.7 GPA until junior year at which point I decided to party more than study and enjoy college (not a smart decision looking back on it). I feel that I am smart enough to get above 700 on the GMAT, because I am very good with numbers, and I plan on taking a prep course.

So far from the little research I have done this is my early list of schools that look like they could help me get into wall street:

-HBS
-Wharton
-Booth
-Northwestern
-Columbia
-NYU

Again I was wondering what you think my chances are at these schools given my background, and what I can do in the next 18-24 months to better position myself for acceptance. I know it is tough to say without a GMAT score what my chances are but maybe you could give me a score I should try and attain and I will work as hard as I need to in order to attain it.

Thanks in advance!

Matt

Jul 22, 2011
mattvb3313:

Hey Alex,

Thanks for answering everyone's posts you are providing a lot of great information.

I recently graduated early in December of 2010 from Ohio State with a BS in Finance, and a 3.4 GPA. I know it is a bit early to start applying to b-schools, I was thinking about applying for fall of 2013. I was wondering if you have any advice for things I can do between now and application time to help put my best foot forward and stand out to admissions offices.

I currently work for Abercrombie and Fitch in their planning and allocation department, and my dream job would be to get into I-Banking, PE, or a Hedge Fund. I am hoping to use b-school as a way to change careers and achieve my dream. I also am studying for level 1 of the CFA and hope to have 2 levels completed by the time I apply. I had a 3.7 GPA until junior year at which point I decided to party more than study and enjoy college (not a smart decision looking back on it). I feel that I am smart enough to get above 700 on the GMAT, because I am very good with numbers, and I plan on taking a prep course.

So far from the little research I have done this is my early list of schools that look like they could help me get into wall street:

-HBS
-Wharton
-Booth
-Northwestern
-Columbia
-NYU

Again I was wondering what you think my chances are at these schools given my background, and what I can do in the next 18-24 months to better position myself for acceptance. I know it is tough to say without a GMAT score what my chances are but maybe you could give me a score I should try and attain and I will work as hard as I need to in order to attain it.

Thanks in advance!

Matt

Oct 21, 2011

Alex, I posted this a few months back, and it looks like your response was cut off. Since October, I have taken a GMAT prep course and am scoring in the mid to upper 600s, trying to get over the 700 bump before the test change, I am trying it for real next week.

Thanks for your help!

MBAApply:
mattvb3313:

Hey Alex,

Thanks for answering everyone's posts you are providing a lot of great information.

I recently graduated early in December of 2010 from Ohio State with a BS in Finance, and a 3.4 GPA. I know it is a bit early to start applying to b-schools, I was thinking about applying for fall of 2013. I was wondering if you have any advice for things I can do between now and application time to help put my best foot forward and stand out to admissions offices.

I currently work for Abercrombie and Fitch in their planning and allocation department, and my dream job would be to get into I-Banking, PE, or a Hedge Fund. I am hoping to use b-school as a way to change careers and achieve my dream. I also am studying for level 1 of the CFA and hope to have 2 levels completed by the time I apply. I had a 3.7 GPA until junior year at which point I decided to party more than study and enjoy college (not a smart decision looking back on it). I feel that I am smart enough to get above 700 on the GMAT, because I am very good with numbers, and I plan on taking a prep course.

So far from the little research I have done this is my early list of schools that look like they could help me get into wall street:

-HBS
-Wharton
-Booth
-Northwestern
-Columbia
-NYU

Again I was wondering what you think my chances are at these schools given my background, and what I can do in the next 18-24 months to better position myself for acceptance. I know it is tough to say without a GMAT score what my chances are but maybe you could give me a score I should try and attain and I will work as hard as I need to in order to attain it.

Thanks in advance!

Matt

Nov 2, 2011

Hi, Alex. This is an amazing forum. Thanks for taking the time.

I am applying to MBA school in the next few months, and I wanted to gauge my chances.

Here's a rundown about me:

UC-Berkeley '09
Double-major in Sociology and Mass Communications
3.5 Overall GPA
GMAT 730

My main concern is my age (24) and below-average work experience (in terms of number of years). Here's a rundown:

-Worked two years at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, where as a manager of a major airport, I took the branch from mediocre to number-one in the country
- Co-founded and ran a corporation for one year with over $200,000 in revenue (we had to shut down for various non-business reasons)
- Produced, line-produced, and starred in a film with a six-month production, cast/crew of 25, $10,000 budget, and film festival consideration.

I know my work experience isn't exactly the most prestigious and that I'm only two-and-a-half years out of undergrad (the three things mentioned all overlapped during my post-undergrad years). Will that hinder my chances? Also, do business schools also consider extra-curriculars and summer internships from undergraduate years as part of work experience?

I'm looking to go to business school so that I can start a career in the media/entertainment industry. That's why the schools I'm looking at are UCLA, USC, Columbia, and NYU. I'm also considering Harvard, mostly because it's Harvard. Finally, is there a safety school out there that would still help me pursue a career in media/entertainment?

Thank you so much for your help!
Eric

Jul 22, 2011
eyhsiao:

Hi, Alex. This is an amazing forum. Thanks for taking the time.

I am applying to MBA school in the next few months, and I wanted to gauge my chances.

Here's a rundown about me:

UC-Berkeley '09
Double-major in Sociology and Mass Communications
3.5 Overall GPA
GMAT 730

My main concern is my age (24) and below-average work experience (in terms of number of years). Here's a rundown:

-Worked two years at Enterprise Rent-a-Car, where as a manager of a major airport, I took the branch from mediocre to number-one in the country
- Co-founded and ran a corporation for one year with over $200,000 in revenue (we had to shut down for various non-business reasons)
- Produced, line-produced, and starred in a film with a six-month production, cast/crew of 25, $10,000 budget, and film festival consideration.

I know my work experience isn't exactly the most prestigious and that I'm only two-and-a-half years out of undergrad (the three things mentioned all overlapped during my post-undergrad years). Will that hinder my chances? Also, do business schools also consider extra-curriculars and summer internships from undergraduate years as part of work experience?

I'm looking to go to business school so that I can start a career in the media/entertainment industry. That's why the schools I'm looking at are UCLA, USC, Columbia, and NYU. I'm also considering Harvard, mostly because it's Harvard. Finally, is there a safety school out there that would still help me pursue a career in media/entertainment?

Thank you so much for your help!
Eric

If you're looking to work in media/entertainment, then you are probably better off looking at the Peter Stark Producers' Program at USC Film School (I believe it's a 2- or 3-year MA or MFA). Biggest issue with all the b-schools you mentioned is your work experience - nothing wrong with what you've done, but you're up against people with more traditional resumes (read: corporate "office" jobs, whether the companies are large or small) and the biggest issue will be your employability post-MBA (no matter what you say your goals are). I'd say schools like UCLA, Columbia, and NYU are going to be stretches; HBS is a long shot. USC is a possibility given your strong GMAT compared to many of the applicants who apply to USC.

But again, if you're dead set on working in media/entertainment, your best bet is to move your ass down to Los Angeles if you aren't here already, and either do the Stark program through USC's film school, and/or start interning at production companies or agencies and move your way up.

With an MBA, the overwhelming majority of jobs are on the corporate side - and that side of the biz is really no different than any Fortune 500 job (because well, they are part of F500 companies). It's cubicle life, filled with HR meetings, bagel Fridays, and all the stuff you'd find say working at any random company. And no, being a cubicle dweller (accounting, marketing, HR, finance, etc.) even at a studio in no way shape or form will make it easier for you to transition to the producer/production side. In fact, it can make it more difficult. To use the WSO context here (since most folks here are bankers/Wall Street types), it's like joining the back office (operations, HR) in the hopes that that will give you a better shot at shifting to investment banking or sales/trading. If you get tagged as "corporate" that's what you'll be pigeonholed as -- you'll have a harder time getting them to see you as a producer or development guy compared to some kid who worked his/her way up after graduating from Emerson College with an art history degree and earn his/her street cred by sticking to the production/creative side of the biz while eating $5 footlong subway sandwiches for years and holed up in some godawful apartment in Hollywood with 5 other roommates.

The fun part, the fulfilling part, the part where there's the most excitement, movement is on the production/agency side - being a producer, agent, development exec, etc if you're looking only on the business side of projects/production. And on that side of the business as you may know, the MBA is worth as much as a cocktail napkin. And if you want to work on this side, you have to work for next to nothing when you first start there -- and you're better off doing that with little to no debt rather than taking on a super expensive MBA degree that will yield nothing (at least the USC film school degree will give you access to a network that the USC MBA won't give you).

Nov 6, 2011

Hi Alex/all,

Quick question re:undergrad transcripts. I've been told that pass/failing a class in ugrad is basically looked at as a D by bschool adcoms; any truth to this? Does it matter? Thanks for the help.

Jul 22, 2011
questions11111:

Hi Alex/all,

Quick question re:undergrad transcripts. I've been told that pass/failing a class in ugrad is basically looked at as a D by bschool adcoms; any truth to this? Does it matter? Thanks for the help.

If you're talking about Brown, then the pass/fail courses will be taken out of the GPA calculation. In any case, adcoms are savvy enough to not look at the GPA as the only barometer, and will look at your actual transcript to get a general sense for how you did.

Nov 13, 2011

Alex,

Love your no-nonsense approach so definitely laying it all out here:

The bad: I have a 2.6 overall GPA - No need to sugarcoat this as I matured slowly in college. I did, however, graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering and also paid for the entire tuition myself (20-30 hour work week throughout).

Post College:
- 2 years at a F500 semiconductor company as a Sales Representative -- Managed $30-40M in revenue, worked with internal/external teams from SVP/CxO level down to engineer level...consultative sales and cool experience learning about sales->revenue cycle and organization dynamics (i.e. politics).

  • 2 years at a MAJOR Asia sweatshop as an Account Manager, including 6 months working on the shop floor in Shenzhen, China as a program manager.... very crazy and fulfilling experience (Bid-negotiated-won $100M+ project, negotiated directly with CPO of F50 company, 18+ hours a day inside the sweatshop in China managing workers and meeting production deadlines, etc).
  • 2 years currently at Deloitte S&O...they were impressed with my work experience to overlook my disastrous GPA and gave me a chance in MC. I have also been offered promotion to post-MBA position next year without an MBA due to my performance at company.

I'm looking to get a part-time MBA b/c 1) opportunity cost is not there anymore, and 2) not looking to switch careers. My goal is probably to eventually get into Corporate Strategy for a F500 company (manager/sr. mgr position) in the next few years....definitely noticed that MBA is still needed to climb the ladder.

GMAT is 710 and will have solid recommendations from alumni of Ross, Kellogg, etc..

My question is whether I'll have a shot at PT programs at Kellogg/Booth/Ross given my low gpa from 6 years ago? Also, should I take my GMAT again to boost my score up to 740+ range? Finally, should I do an optional essay and be straightforward about my GPA and focus on what/how I learned from it? As you can tell, my storyboard is going to be that I learned to cherish opportunities and take risks in life, which resulted in my experience of going into Sales and going to China to work in a sweatshop....a general redemptive story.

Thank you so much for your help!

Jul 22, 2011
MC Monkey10:

Alex,

Love your no-nonsense approach so definitely laying it all out here:

The bad: I have a 2.6 overall GPA - No need to sugarcoat this as I matured slowly in college. I did, however, graduate with a degree in Electrical Engineering and also paid for the entire tuition myself (20-30 hour work week throughout).

Post College:
- 2 years at a F500 semiconductor company as a Sales Representative -- Managed $30-40M in revenue, worked with internal/external teams from SVP/CxO level down to engineer level...consultative sales and cool experience learning about sales->revenue cycle and organization dynamics (i.e. politics).

  • 2 years at a MAJOR Asia sweatshop as an Account Manager, including 6 months working on the shop floor in Shenzhen, China as a program manager.... very crazy and fulfilling experience (Bid-negotiated-won $100M+ project, negotiated directly with CPO of F50 company, 18+ hours a day inside the sweatshop in China managing workers and meeting production deadlines, etc).
  • 2 years currently at Deloitte S&O...they were impressed with my work experience to overlook my disastrous GPA and gave me a chance in MC. I have also been offered promotion to post-MBA position next year without an MBA due to my performance at company.

I'm looking to get a part-time MBA b/c 1) opportunity cost is not there anymore, and 2) not looking to switch careers. My goal is probably to eventually get into Corporate Strategy for a F500 company (manager/sr. mgr position) in the next few years....definitely noticed that MBA is still needed to climb the ladder.

GMAT is 710 and will have solid recommendations from alumni of Ross, Kellogg, etc..

My question is whether I'll have a shot at PT programs at Kellogg/Booth/Ross given my low gpa from 6 years ago? Also, should I take my GMAT again to boost my score up to 740+ range? Finally, should I do an optional essay and be straightforward about my GPA and focus on what/how I learned from it? As you can tell, my storyboard is going to be that I learned to cherish opportunities and take risks in life, which resulted in my experience of going into Sales and going to China to work in a sweatshop....a general redemptive story.

Thank you so much for your help!

You're focusing too much on the GPA - it's not that big an issue for part-time, and frankly there's nothing you can do about it beyond just a short statement saying that you screwed up, there was no excuse and you learned from it (and do NOT write a novel about what you learned from it unless you want to come across as insecure and defensive).

In any case, the part-time programs are in range for you so just do the best you can on the applications; don't worry about retaking the GMAT.

Nov 13, 2011

Alex,

thank you for the response but a follow-up question -- Conventional wisdom is that when you don't have a high GPA , you usually use the optional essay to address the issue. Should I not use the optional essay this way? If not, what situation(s) does one use the option essay for?

Jul 22, 2011
MC Monkey10:

Alex,

thank you for the response but a follow-up question -- Conventional wisdom is that when you don't have a high GPA , you usually use the optional essay to address the issue. Should I not use the optional essay this way? If not, what situation(s) does one use the option essay for?

Yes, use the optional essay, but keep it short and to the point, otherwise it will look like you're trying to make a lot of excuses. Basically, use the optional to man up, and state that there is no excuse, you learned your lesson, blah blah blah.

Nov 21, 2011

Hi Alex thank you so much for taking your time to address everyone here, I actually created a thread to ask about my situation but I feel like you offer more informed answers.

I graduated econ and math from small liberal arts college in 2009 and have worked for the federal reserve in their research group for the last 2 years. initially i was hellbent on going to a phd program but now after working in research I think I actually prefer a more structured and bottom line impacting role as opposed to academia.

my grades are decent 3.8+ gpa from a top 15 liberal arts college. I haven't taken the GMAt but my GRE scores are 800Q/760V

my interest in getting a MBA is to change career and get myself reoriented towards financial industry work. I have taken mfe courses at nyu but been unsuccessful with finding a job. And right now MBA seems like a very appealing option.

I will be able to secure some good references from phds from top business schools.

How can I augment my chances/profile in the meantime?

thanks in advance.

Jul 22, 2011
monkeyattack:

Hi Alex thank you so much for taking your time to address everyone here, I actually created a thread to ask about my situation but I feel like you offer more informed answers.

I graduated econ and math from small liberal arts college in 2009 and have worked for the federal reserve in their research group for the last 2 years. initially i was hellbent on going to a phd program but now after working in research I think I actually prefer a more structured and bottom line impacting role as opposed to academia.

my grades are decent 3.8+ gpa from a top 15 liberal arts college. I haven't taken the GMAt but my GRE scores are 800Q/760V

my interest in getting a MBA is to change career and get myself reoriented towards financial industry work. I have taken mfe courses at nyu but been unsuccessful with finding a job. And right now MBA seems like a very appealing option.

I will be able to secure some good references from phds from top business schools.

How can I augment my chances/profile in the meantime?

thanks in advance.

Nov 22, 2011

Hi Alex,

originally posted this on its own thread but your advice seems great and very sincere so figured ide see what you think

1.NYU, Econ major, 3.75 GPA
2.690 GMAT (80% math, 81% Verbal) (considering a retake with a goal of 720)
3. 1.5 years at small but somewhat reputable brokerage doing s&t
...2.5 years (at time of entrance) large (500bn) asset management firm in portfolio mgmt
4. good ECs in college and now on the board of children's pediatric cancer foundation
5. Will have at least one recommendation from tenured prof of Columbia BS who i worked for 3 months and have kept a relationship with

---Top choices are Columbia, NYU, Wharton, Booth, and Ross and will consider other schools of same caliber if better fit perhaps

Thanks a lot

Jul 22, 2011
Tradin:

Hi Alex,

originally posted this on its own thread but your advice seems great and very sincere so figured ide see what you think

1.NYU, Econ major, 3.75 GPA
2.690 GMAT (80% math, 81% Verbal) (considering a retake with a goal of 720)
3. 1.5 years at small but somewhat reputable brokerage doing s&t
...2.5 years (at time of entrance) large (500bn) asset management firm in portfolio mgmt
4. good ECs in college and now on the board of children's pediatric cancer foundation
5. Will have at least one recommendation from tenured prof of Columbia BS who i worked for 3 months and have kept a relationship with

---Top choices are Columbia, NYU, Wharton, Booth, and Ross and will consider other schools of same caliber if better fit perhaps

Thanks a lot

Sounds like you're targeting the right range of schools, assuming you can boost that GMAT to 720 ideally. From your list of schools, my guess is you want to stay in finance, so Ross is the odd one out - I'd swap that out for Cornell or Yale, which has stronger finance recruiting than Ross (or at least has a greater % of students interested in finance, which is valuable since there's a network effect going on. The more people you know that are interested in the same industry as you, the more potential job leads and knowledge sharing as well, since MBA students tend to be pretty good about sharing job leads and helping one another out; it's not cutthroat like undergrad).

Jul 22, 2011

THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM: RACE AND PRESTIGE

Consider this:

You walk into a college classroom where most of the faces are Indian and Chinese (or "South Asian" and "East Asian" for the more broad term - and in this context, it's not really a question of citizenship i.e. Indian-American vs Indian but of race).

If you were a recruiter for Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Apple or any global company, would you perceive this school to be MORE or LESS prestigious? If you were a recruiter where post-MBA jobs are managerial and become more relationship-based (not analytical/technical), and where the key contacts your company corresponds with (investors, Board members, clients, customers, government officials) are mostly white (American or European), or at least a sprinkling of various nationalities and cultures (but still mostly white), would you be more willing to hire students from this classroom, or would you be more inclined to recruit from a similar caliber of school where there were more white faces in the class?

Now, if you were an applicant and walked into this very same classroom, would you perceive this school to be more prestigious or have an "exclusive" brand compared to a class that is more diverse (or where at least half were white)? As an applicant, would your opinions be different depending on your own race or nationality (which gets into the ugly truth that even in non-white countries, the perception of prestige and exclusivity is still defined by whether white people will buy it). And if b-school classrooms looked more like MS-Engineering programs (where the overwhelming majority are Indian/Chinese), would that increase or decrease the likelihood of you applying to a highly selective business school? (Note that "highly selective" and "prestigious" can be related but are not synonymous.)

And herein lies the ugly truth of race, prestige and admissions.

For business schools, and especially those in the very top tier like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and so forth - a big part of ensuring that their MBA programs stay relevant is to maintain their perceived prestige (exclusivity), because as we all know - while having an MBA can be of value, it's not necessary for success in business, as amply shown by countless examples of incredibly successful entrepreneurs and executives out there without any formal business education. The perception of exclusivity for b-schools is rooted in the assumption that blue chip white males/females are the people others (regardless of background) want to be associated with. And that feeds on itself - the more of these people who apply, the more it will attract others to apply (including Asians), which creates a "network" which b-schools will then trumpet as something invaluable to its students (who are then networking with each other).

That's why b-school admissions is more like the selection process for a private club: a country club, the freemasons, a hot nightclub (bring in all the hot girls, groups of guys are left standing in line), motorcycle club, or any sort of private organization. They can admit and reject whomever they want, and constantly change the parameters for admission to suit their needs (which isn't to graduate the "best and brightest" but to maintain that perception of prestige). Business school admissions is NOT a meritocracy, and it never really was, since the admissions process by nature is subjective and a "black box" if there ever was one.

When it comes to race and admissions, it's not about trying to marginalize white or Asian applicants in the name of diversity - that seems to be a common refrain from many detractors who feel that adcoms are on some socialist, pinko, leftist agenda to admit as many "blacks, Hispanics and lesbian paraplegics" (of course, all mentioned in a derogatory tone by these very detractors) into b-school over more qualified white and Asian candidates -which is simply not the case because that is not what recruiters want, and it's not what will ensure that applicants see these b-schools as "prestigious" (which will ensure that these schools continue to receive a crapload of applications each year).

In short, top MBA programs want their schools to be diverse (read: mostly or at least half white) rather than ethnic (read: mostly non-white) - that helps to ensure perceived prestige and exclusivity in our current culture of how we view the relationship between race and status symbols, which then helps to attract the maximum number of applicants as well as the most "exclusive" (read: highest paying) corporate recruiters. That is partly why they also are looking at younger candidates: it's a way of reaching into the blue chip American pool (white kids with Ivy/equivalent backgrounds) to ensure that their numbers don't drop off to the point where b-school has to start looking like an MS-Engineering program - the less white people in the applicant pool, the more "ethnic" they have to go. This is ugly to say, but it's what is bubbling underneath all of this.

The one big silver lining to all this is that how we perceive race changes over time - it's not static, but fluid. Even now, for many b-schools, the incoming classes are no longer overwhelmingly white, but again, the schools are "diverse" and not "ethnic".

One example of how perceptions changed is that of the Jewish community - from "ethnic" to "mainstream." Ivy League schools in the post-WWII era had a reputation for an unspoken two tiered admissions standard as a way to stem the influx of Jewish students for the very same reason: the perception of prestige. Many of these Jewish kids had as strong if not stronger credentials than their white counterparts to the Ivy League's law and medical schools (b-schools back then were a bit of a backwater), but would still be underrepresented in these classrooms relative to the applicant pool. And yet, within a generation, that bias (at least when it comes to university admissions) has all but disappeared by the early 1980s.

With race and prestige today, I am confident it will change as the economic and cultural input of non-Western communities is considered mainstream, but this is where we're at right now. So who knows, maybe in 10-15 years time, these biases may disappear altogether at least in this context of university admissions.

Dec 5, 2011

coudn't have said it better myself Alex.
I never heard about the 'discrimination' against Jewish applicants post WW - certainly an interesting read. I think a big reason why they were able to overcome it in just a generation is that they didn't look 'too different' from the blue chip white crowd (frankly I can't tell if someone is Jewish or not unless I get their last name)

Thanks for your contributions, your website was also an insightful read.

Jul 22, 2011
is-t:

coudn't have said it better myself Alex.
I never heard about the 'discrimination' against Jewish applicants post WW - certainly an interesting read. I think a big reason why they were able to overcome it in just a generation is that they didn't look 'too different' from the blue chip white crowd (frankly I can't tell if someone is Jewish or not unless I get their last name)

Thanks for your contributions, your website was also an insightful read.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numerus_clausus#Numer...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_antisemiti...
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_quota
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/anti-s...
http://books.google.com/books?id=zwf-Ofc--toC&pg=P...
It went back earlier than WWII -- and the "Jewish quota" until the 1970s/80s went beyond university admissions but other facets of life. Malcolm Gladwell wrote an interesting snippet in "Outliers" where he discusses why the world's top M&A lawyers and law firms are overwhelmingly Jewish (answer: in the WW II era, Jews coming out of law school were not allowed or hired into the prestigious law firms at the time; the only practice of corporate law that they could do was M&A law because back then M&A activity was non-existent and it was what no one else wanted to do. So the Jewish lawyers set up their own practice in this area, and decades later when M&A became hot, they had cornered the market).

Sep 24, 2011

How do top MBA adcoms view finance leadership rotational programs @ large companies (f500 - f1000)?

Jul 22, 2011
MrPaulAllen:

How do top MBA adcoms view finance leadership rotational programs @ large companies (f500 - f1000)?

You can't really look at it in isolation like this, since the kinds of jobs one tends to take is also influenced by where they went to school.

For example, do adcoms really prefer McKinsey folks? To some extent, sure, but it's also influenced by the fact that those who end up at McKinsey tend to have come from 'target schools' where the firm recruits at (read: Ivy/equivalant), and if you didn't go to a target, you were an outlier who really stood out from your college peers at your non-target (read: impressive stats, great interviewee, etc.).

So taken in isolation, finance leadership rotational programs doesn't really hurt or help. It's about the resume taken as a whole. With that in mind, those who tend to end up in these programs are a mixture of folks from Ivy/equivalent and non-target colleges -- and those with bluer chip college backgrounds will have the advantage compared to the non-target person who ends up in the same job (since these kinds of rotational programs tend to recruit from a wider range of schools unlike say Goldman or McKinsey where they will focus almost exclusively on the top undergrad programs).

Jan 5, 2012
MBAApply:

For example, do adcoms really prefer McKinsey folks? To some extent, sure, but it's also influenced by the fact that those who end up at McKinsey tend to have come from 'target schools' where the firm recruits at (read: Ivy/equivalant), and if you didn't go to a target, you were an outlier who really stood out from your college peers at your non-target (read: impressive stats, great interviewee, etc.).

Does being the non-target outlier at McKinsey improve or hurt your chances relative to other McKinsey applicants? Assuming performance, etc. is constant.

Dec 10, 2011

Hi Alex,

I will have 3 years of solid work experience (at a top consumer goods company) by fall 2012. I've heard that Kellogg applicants have avg 5 years work ex. Should I include my internships in the Employment section? Or is that strictly limited to full time work experience after graduation?

Thanks,

Jul 22, 2011
brilliant77:

Hi Alex,

I will have 3 years of solid work experience (at a top consumer goods company) by fall 2012. I've heard that Kellogg applicants have avg 5 years work ex. Should I include my internships in the Employment section? Or is that strictly limited to full time work experience after graduation?

Thanks,

It's 5 years of post-college full-time experience, so in your case you will be on the younger side. Biggest hurdle is the GMAT - if your GMAT isn't above 700, it's going to be a stretch. In any case, if you're dead set on applying this year, all you can do is just focus on the applications and hope for the best. If you don't get in, just have comfort that given you're a bit younger, your candidacy should be stronger next year or the year after assuming you continue to progress in your career (learning more on your job, getting more responsibilities, etc. not to mention an extra year or two of income to help pay for that super expensive MBA!).

Dec 10, 2011

Hi Alex,

Thank you for this incredibly helpful thread on this forum. I would like to see what you think regarding my candidacy.

My Background:

Graduated from a big state school with an engineering degree in 2007. (GPA=3.7) After graduating, I worked as an engineer for roughly two years in two different companies, both in manufacturing. Back in 2009, I went back to school to get my master's in industrial engineering from Stanford. (GPA=3.7) I graduated early this year, and I have been working at a Big 4 advisory practice in financial services.

Two Scenarios:

I have a GRE score (1520/4.0) that expires in August of 2013, so if I choose to apply before this expiration, I'll have to apply next year in fall. In this scenario, I would have roughly a year of advisory experience by the time of my application, and a little less than two years of experience by the time I (hopefully) start at a B-school. The second scenario would be wait until my experience at the firm hits three years, and try to go through the firm's reimbursement program, which requires 3 years of tenure. I would have to take the GMAT all over again in this scenario though.

Schools:

So what do you think are my reach/range/safety schools? Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help!

Jul 22, 2011
redpringles:

Hi Alex,

Thank you for this incredibly helpful thread on this forum. I would like to see what you think regarding my candidacy.

My Background:

Graduated from a big state school with an engineering degree in 2007. (GPA=3.7) After graduating, I worked as an engineer for roughly two years in two different companies, both in manufacturing. Back in 2009, I went back to school to get my master's in industrial engineering from Stanford. (GPA=3.7) I graduated early this year, and I have been working at a Big 4 advisory practice in financial services.

Two Scenarios:

I have a GRE score (1520/4.0) that expires in August of 2013, so if I choose to apply before this expiration, I'll have to apply next year in fall. In this scenario, I would have roughly a year of advisory experience by the time of my application, and a little less than two years of experience by the time I (hopefully) start at a B-school. The second scenario would be wait until my experience at the firm hits three years, and try to go through the firm's reimbursement program, which requires 3 years of tenure. I would have to take the GMAT all over again in this scenario though.

Schools:

So what do you think are my reach/range/safety schools? Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much for your help!

What is it that you want to do? Do you want to stay at your firm post-MBA (i.e. it doesn't have to be the #1 choice obviously, but is it something you would seriously consider - because if so, stick around for another year to be eligible for that reimbursement program).

Dec 10, 2011
MBAApply:

What is it that you want to do? Do you want to stay at your firm post-MBA (i.e. it doesn't have to be the #1 choice obviously, but is it something you would seriously consider - because if so, stick around for another year to be eligible for that reimbursement program).

My post-MBA desire currently is either to get into one of the management consulting firms or back to the manufacturing industry as a (project or product) manager. More specifically, my interest lies with electronic goods producers, (such as cell phones makers) automobile companies, and other technological product firms.

Jan 1, 2012

Hi Alex,

I am planning to apply to the top MBA programs in the US this fall (2012) to attend BS next year (2013). What are my chances for H/S/W and Columbia? Here are my stats:

3.1 GPA Industrial & Systems Engineering at the top school of my country with an exchange program abroad
770 GMAT
Latin (white though), 23 years old
Analyst at MBB, over 1.5 years by the time I apply
Did a lot of philanthropic activities while in college, but none in a position where I was the leader of a large group
Represented my state in a national sports tournament
Fluid english, native spanish, some conversational french ability

I know my GPA is well below average, but I did scored the highest grade of my class (~160 students) on an obligatory test that measures your major knowledge (Industrial Engineering in my case)

What can I do to improve my chances in the next 9-14 months? Do schools that place a lot of value in leadership (e.g., HBS) will look for it in my time at MBB or outside it (perhaps both)?

Jul 22, 2011
francisco_bt:

Hi Alex,

I am planning to apply to the top MBA programs in the US this fall (2012). What are my chances for H/S/W and Columbia? Here are my stats:

3.1 GPA Industrial & Systems Engineering at the top school of my country with an exchange program abroad
770 GMAT
Latin (white though)
Analyst at MBB, 1.5 years at the time of application, over 2 years at the time of matriculation
Did a lot of philanthropic activities while in college, but none in a position where I was the leader of a large group
Represented my state in a national sports tournament
Fluid english, native spanish, some conversational french ability

I know my GPA is well below average, but I did scored the highest grade of my class (~160 students) on an obligatory test that measures your major knowledge (Industrial Engineering in my case)

What can I do to improve my chances in the next 9-14 months? Do schools that place a lot of value in leadership (e.g., HBS) will look for it in my time at MBB or outside it (perhaps both)?

Given that you studied engineering, adcoms will cut you more slack re: the GPA, since they know that engineering programs (in any country) grade on a much harsher curve than other schools. The fact that you did the best in your class is what's most important (AND that you did very well on the GMAT, since that's what adcoms focus on for folks who did their undergrad outside the US).

Beyond that, it's just a matter of focusing on the applications. Not much you can do now other than to focus on your work, and waiting until the applications come out in the summer. Given that you're at MBB straight from undergrad, you should be competitive enough at H/S/W that they're worth giving a shot. As for leadership, it'll come from either work or extracurriculars - the majority of folks in their 20s don't have much formal leadership experience, so it's more about leadership potential and your effectiveness in teams more than anything else.

The only disadvantage you have is that you're up against other MBB folks who will be applying with one more year of experience than you -- that's the sweet spot (3 years at matriculation) so just bear that in mind.

Jan 3, 2012

Hi Alex,

Quick question: do adcoms look at GPA trend from undergrad? I graduated with ~3.4 cumulative, but had a ~3.0 my first two years, and a 3.8 my final two years - largely due to maturity, focus and really, prioritization of time. Does this sell well? Obviously my first two years weren't great, but I got my act together and really did well my last two years.

Thanks.

Jul 22, 2011
jimbrowngoU:

Hi Alex,

Quick question: do adcoms look at GPA trend from undergrad? I graduated with ~3.4 cumulative, but had a ~3.0 my first two years, and a 3.8 my final two years - largely due to maturity, focus and really, prioritization of time. Does this sell well? Obviously my first two years weren't great, but I got my act together and really did well my last two years.

Thanks.

Yes, they will look at trends - it's not really a selling point (a real asset would be a straight 3.8 across the board), but it will at least make them less concerned about your first two years.

Jan 5, 2012

Hi alex,

I am currently studying computer science in Canada at ryerson. The first year i did bad due to family moving to a different country and surviving on my own. I m thinking of retaking few of those courses and get my gpa around 3.2 i want to get in a MBA program in canada(schulich). People told me dont worry about your first year marks they only care about your last 2year marks how true is it? and lets see i wanna do my MBA in states university do you think its worth repeating the courses?

Jan 5, 2012

Hi alex,

I am currently studying computer science in Canada at ryerson. The first year i did bad due to family moving to a different country and surviving on my own. I m thinking of retaking few of those courses and get my gpa around 3.2 i want to get in a MBA program in canada(schulich). People told me dont worry about your first year marks they only care about your last 2year marks how true is it? and lets see i wanna do my MBA in states university do you think its worth repeating the courses?

Dec 5, 2011

alex, thanks always for your candor; looking for your assessment of my chances

GPA: 3.9 for undergrad (physics/econ double major), 3.8 for masters (in financial engineering). both degrees are from top 10 schools.
Experience: 2 years in risk management at a BB, 2 years in risk management at another BB. while the work was rigorous, there was no opportunity for me to gain any managerial experience
GMAT: expecting 720~750
ECs: was concertmaster of my (undergrad) school's orchestra. also president of a business frat. these days i volunteer to teach music at a school once a week.
Recommendations: should be average - nothing spectacular
Asian male (i know...)

I want to get an MBA to transition from quant finance to management consulting - I feel like I will be pidgeonholded in my current role if I stay here any longer. I am looking at the following schools:

Reach: HBS/Stanford
Match: Dartmouth/Yale/Kellogg
Safety: ??

Kinda ambivalent on wharton/columbia/MIT as they are very focused on finance, and im looking to move out...

Jul 22, 2011
is-t:

alex, thanks always for your candor; looking for your assessment of my chances

GPA: 3.9 for undergrad (physics/econ double major), 3.8 for masters (in financial engineering). both degrees are from top 10 schools.
Experience: 2 years in risk management at a BB, 2 years in risk management at another BB. while the work was rigorous, there was no opportunity for me to gain any managerial experience
GMAT: expecting 720~750
ECs: was concertmaster of my (undergrad) school's orchestra. also president of a business frat. these days i volunteer to teach music at a school once a week.
Recommendations: should be average - nothing spectacular
Asian male (i know...)

I want to get an MBA to transition from quant finance to management consulting - I feel like I will be pidgeonholded in my current role if I stay here any longer. I am looking at the following schools:

Reach: HBS/Stanford
Match: Dartmouth/Yale/Kellogg
Safety: ??

Kinda ambivalent on wharton/columbia/MIT as they are very focused on finance, and im looking to move out...

HBS and Stanford are likely long shots. Super quant Asian male who does classical music (I'm guessing you learned violin or piano as a kid) hits on too many model minority conventions for them to get excited. Asian guy who worked at M/B/B, VC, etc. was an NCAA athlete, or something that is outside "model minority" profile may perk some interest. Like being a liberal arts major. Or working in brand marketing.

Focus on other schools like Kellogg, Tuck, Haas, UCLA, Ross, Darden, Duke, Yale, NYU. Also, not sure what you mean by schools being finance focused, as all top schools teach basically the same curriculum, and offer the same range of electives (not to mention that schools like Booth, CBS, Wharton, etc. send as many if not more folks into consulting than finance; in fact, even at a school like Booth where the largest % of folks are interested in finance careers, only around half of the class end up in finance jobs post-MBA). Likewise, it's not like folks at Kellogg or Yale are afraid of finance either - every year, a good chunk of the class ends up going to Wall Street.

Jan 6, 2012

Alex -

What would you do--o-o, for a Klondike Bar?!

Jan 15, 2012

Hi Alex,

i am planning to apply for next season round 1 (fall 2013) ( first time application) .. Would like to get a feedback on the schools i am considering to apply ..

My Profile

Age : 26 /Male/ Indian ( 27 at the time of matriculation)

GMAT : yet to be taken ( will be taking in few months )

Academics : 2007 : Bachelors in Technology (major :Information Technology) from a Top State University in India : Grade : 73% , first class with distinction (top 10% of the class)

( a no Name university outside India )

Work Experience : 3.5 +years so far

First job out of undergrad : 6 month Internship in Portugal with a small IT services company focusing on logistics and distribution ( decided to go international , going against the norm of taking a Indian IT Company job)

2 years with Fortune 10 Conglomerate in Central Europe as a Financial Analyst( Business Analysis role) with Finance dept on a Global Enterprise Resource Planning Implementation .

1 +year with another Fortune 10 Retail Behemoth at their Asian Headquarters in Hong Kong as a Management Assistant to Regional CIO ( Strategy, finance and Business Analysis role ) , handled portfolio worth 30M$ . ( Current role)

Now Promoted as Asst Manager , Business Analysis to join their India Operations ( new role will involve handling all merchandising , logistics /supply chain and distribution systems projects ) ( moving to new role soon)

Extras : 1) Lived and travelled to Antarctica and Arctic ( one of the youngest Indians to do so)
Selected from over 500 candidates as a youth leader to go to Antarctica for 15 days following an eminent polar explorer and a group of 60 diverse individuals from 20 countries at the age of 23. received scholarship to participate and completed a leadership development program focusing on personal and environment leadership. Slept on the Continent for a night and performed a polar plunge in the Antarctic waters during the expedition.
6 months later , travelled Solo to Arctic Norway, Svalbard Island ( 500 miles off North Pole) to understand differences between Polar regions

2) World Traveller : Lived/worked in 4 countries and travelled to 40 countries in 4 continents . Goal is to set foot on 7 continents before i turn 30 and travel to 100 countries and join the travelerscenturyclub.

3) 4 year association with world's largest non profit youth leadership org present in over 100 countries , helped mentor young students by sharing my global experiences. acted as a cultural ambassador between India and Portugal associations.

4) Leader of College Quizzing and Oratory Club , helped mentor students on Oratory , Organized Quizzing events , 4 year association during college with Oratory Club , left as Senior Leader and Board Advisor of the Club .

Goals :

Extremely Passionate about Retail especially in Emerging Markets , Now Moving back to Operations in my Retail company operations in India to learn about Retail in India and understand the business.
Want to develop and gain skill sets on general management, finance and strategy to do a transition from the current Corporate IT Dept/Operations IT systems experience to a Business Development/Corporate Strategy role in Retail/Consumer Goods sector or Strategy Consulting focusing on Retail/Consumer Sector..
Long Term I see myself making a global career in Retail/Consumer Industry in a business leadership role

Schools i am considering

  1. Harvard
  2. Wharton
  3. INSEAD
  4. Chicago
  5. MIT
  6. London Business School
  7. ISB (Indian School of Business)

I did not put Stanford , as i dont see myself living in California ( i believe most of alums end up living in California ) and with its tougher admission due to smaller class size coupled heavy focus of Tech/PE/VC careers post MBA , i might be a odd duck with my retail ambitions.., I harbor the ambition of having a global retail career and hence giving focus to Harvard (on its general management and case study method) and Wharton ( Strong Overall Program). Also Wharton has a Wharton Leadership ventures Program which has Antarctica Venture Series as part of its experience.. This is a program/group i would like to contribute back with my polar experiences.

INSEAD i know is great fit with my expat life of last 4 years , but having lived an intl lifestyle and having never travelled to US, Harvard and Wharton appeal me more than INSEAD.

I know it is premature for me to think about schools without GMAT , but i know that i am aiming for only top schools and planning for it requires more research and knowing more about schools ...

On GMAT : i am hoping that i will cross 700..

So what do you think of my case at these schools..

Regards,
polarnomad.

Jul 22, 2011
polarnomad:

Hi Alex,

My Profile

Age : 26 /Male/ Indian ( 27 at the time of matriculation)

GMAT : yet to be taken ( will be taking in few months )

Academics : 2007 : Bachelors in Technology (major :Information Technology) from a Top State University in India : Grade : 73% , first class with distinction (top 10% of the class)

( a no Name university outside India )

Work Experience : 3.5 +years so far

Schools i am considering

  1. Harvard
  2. Wharton
  3. INSEAD
  4. Chicago
  5. MIT
  6. London Business School
  7. ISB (Indian School of Business)

Regards,
polarnomad.

First all of this is pretty moot since it's all dependent on the GMAT. Focus on the GMAT and nothing else. Without a 700+ (and ideally a 720+), your chances at any top schools are going to be slim.

In any case, even with a strong GMAT, honestly you need to look at schools in the top 16, not the top 8. Nothing wrong with you, but for the top 8 schools, you're simply up against too many other candidates (Indian or otherwise) who have similar or stronger credentials than you have. Yes, you didn't work at Infosys, Wipro or other Indian firms, but the thing is, Indian or not, your work experience is still pretty middle-of-the-road. Also, while I'm sure traveling around the world and visiting both poles may be an interesting life story, it doesn't really have much relevance to understanding who you are as a career professional. Ultimately, when it comes to non-work stuff, what matters for b-school admissions is whether the non-work stuff has anything to do with your ability to thrive in a corporate/business environment. I mean, I'm sure there's hippy white dudes/Wesleyan alums who rode yaks across the Tibetan plateau, but that doesn't really tell the adcom whether they'd be a good CEO or not either.

Again, you've traveled around the world - that's great. But remember that you're up against other folks who have done the same, and/or have done so in a professional context as well (which for b-school applications is much more relevant).

Focus on schools like Ross, Darden, Duke, Yale, Cornell, UCLA and NYU as your sweet spots (choose 3-4 from this list). For stretch schools, choose 1-2 amongst INSEAD, LBS, Columbia, Kellogg, Sloan, Booth, Tuck, or Haas. If you're going to apply to H/S/W, just know they're long shots no matter how you slice and dice it.

Also as an aside, avoid randomly capitalizing Words or resist that temptation to find any Opportunity to capitalize words to give it more Importance.

Jan 17, 2012

Dear Alex,

Thank you for taking the time to help us reach our dream lives!

I am a 20-year-old French girl who would like to pursue a career in finance. Here is a little bit more about my profile:

Now in a Masters Degree in Actuarial Science from a French University in a program certified by the French Institute of Actuaries (if things keep on going as they are, I will be a French junior actuary next year).

I wish to complete my education with a degree in finance, in order to work in quantitative finance or risk management.

GMAT: expecting 720+

Trilingual : French - English - Spanish I studied for a couple of years abroad in middle and high school

I have a total (3) of a year of internships in the field of insurance and actuarial advisory.

Once I get my diploma, I wish to work as an actuarial advisory for a couple of years (in companies such as Winters or Mazars) in France or abroad in a VIE program. I am afraid the fact that my school is not an > and will not be known by admission comities, my chances for getting in a strong MBA program are diminished. The school is small and most students tend to never go back to studying once they begin working.

What do you think? What MBA programs would I get a shot at ?
Would it be wiser to try for another Masters Degree from a more known university before reaching the working life (since I am quite young)? I am in no rush of joining the >.

Thank you for your help!

Jul 22, 2011
amdbg:

Dear Alex,

Thank you for taking the time to help us reach our dream lives!

I am a 20-year-old French girl who would like to pursue a career in finance. Here is a little bit more about my profile:

Now in a Masters Degree in Actuarial Science from a French University in a program certified by the French Institute of Actuaries (if things keep on going as they are, I will be a French junior actuary next year).

I wish to complete my education with a degree in finance, in order to work in quantitative finance or risk management.

GMAT: expecting 720+

Trilingual : French - English - Spanish I studied for a couple of years abroad in middle and high school

I have a total (3) of a year of internships in the field of insurance and actuarial advisory.

Once I get my diploma, I wish to work as an actuarial advisory for a couple of years (in companies such as Winters or Mazars) in France or abroad in a VIE program. I am afraid the fact that my school is not an > and will not be known by admission comities, my chances for getting in a strong MBA program are diminished. The school is small and most students tend to never go back to studying once they begin working.

What do you think? What MBA programs would I get a shot at ?
Would it be wiser to try for another Masters Degree from a more known university before reaching the working life (since I am quite young)? I am in no rush of joining the >.

Thank you for your help!

Salut

First, don't get another Masters degree. One is more than enough before going back to getting an MBA (once you have 2 masters degrees, it gives the impression that you're collecting degrees - the MBA would be your 3rd masters degree).

At this point, it's really too early to say what your chances are. The biggest asset you have is that you're young. Focus first and foremost on doing the best you can in your masters program right now - get good grades, but also spend the time to get to know your professors and fellow students, because job opportunities can also come from them. Your profs likely have industry connections and can help you by making introductions to people they know at various companies.

Aside from that, a lot of it comes down to your GMAT, and the quality of your work experience. You don't need to work at a brand name company to get into a good school. Keep in mind that one thing you have to your advantage is that you're western European - it's one group that top b-schools have had trouble attracting. They're not going to totally change their admissions criteria just to admit Europeans (i.e. you still need a strong GMAT and solid work experience), but the competition isn't quite as stiff or as random/subjective as it would be for other groups.

Again, at this point focus on doing the best you can in school, and then from there getting solid work experience. And beyond that, who knows - years down the road you may not want an MBA after all. That's why I wouldn't think too much about it at this point. Focus on what is in front of you (school, first job).

Bonne chance

Jan 19, 2012