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Ask Alex at MBA Apply

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Hey Everybody - if any of you are looking for a quality GMAT preparation I'd encourage you to check out our partnership with Veritas Prep here because WSO members get 10% off: //www.wallstreetoasis.com/veritas-gmat-prep-discount

For those of you thinking of an MBA with admissions questions I've spoken with Alex Chu and he has agreed to answer any questions for the WSO community. Any questions you have about the admissions process I'd recommend that you post them here in this thread.

Alex Chu is the founder of MBA Apply, whose clients have gotten admissions to virtually all of the top MBA programs. He is also the author of The MBA Field Guide: How to Get In & What to Expect at the World's Renowned Programs.

A native of Canada, Alex has lived in North Africa, Hong Kong, Singapore, and on both coasts of the United States and Canada. Prior to MBA Apply, Alex served as the CFO of a venture-backed animation studio in San Francisco, a role in which he was instrumental in raising two rounds of funding and helping lead the company towards profitability. In addition, he previously worked as an investment banker in the Equity Capital Markets and Mergers & Acquisitions groups at a global investment bank.

Alex holds a Master of Business Administration from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and a Bachelor of Arts from Queen?s University at Kingston. He currently lives in Los Angeles, California.

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Comments (1280)

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Nov 13, 2014

Hi Alex,

Thanks for the answers!

I am currently an analyst at a BB IBD. Just want to know: I have little time outside of work for extracurricular activity / outside leadership roles. How do I compete with other people in other industries with plenty of time outside of work for these activities?

To add more info: I fence at a club fencing team outside of work depending on when I don't have staffing. Does this even count as post college "extracurricular activity?"

Thanks!

Nov 14, 2014
vana:

Hi Alex,

Thanks for the answers!

I am currently an analyst at a BB IBD. Just want to know: I have little time outside of work for extracurricular activity / outside leadership roles. How do I compete with other people in other industries with plenty of time outside of work for these activities?

To add more info: I fence at a club fencing team outside of work depending on when I don't have staffing. Does this even count as post college "extracurricular activity?"

Thanks!

Don't worry about folks in other industries. You're being benchmarked against other bankers, many of whom like yourself will have limited time outside of work to do anything (some folks have barely enough hours to sleep).

Focus on excelling at work. If you're going to be working extremely long hours, that should be your priority (to make the most of your work experience).

Nov 14, 2014

First of all, thanks for answering all these questions.

I would like to know what you think about my chances of getting into a top MBA program after 2-3 years as an analyst and which are deciding factors.

I have worked in another industry in a non-finance related position after school since my grades were terrible (think C average). However, I got my s*** together and studied in the evenings and on weekends at a non-target. Once I had my degree in business administration (3.75 GPA), I quit my job to do internships at a rather unknown middle-market M&A boutique and an elite boutique-ish player in the equities market. Afterwards, I joined a top target school in my country (3.6 GPA), i.e. non-US, and interned at a BB in M&A where I, against all odds, sold myself well enough to receive a full-time offer.

My USP's might be 'come-back kid' who has shown persistence, seen (a lot) more than the guys who just went to university before going to work. Obviously, I would add more color to the whole story in the application.

I can see myself sticking to banking long-term. How will that affect my application compared to all the usual PE-targeting people on WSO? How would my chances change if I had a 600 GMAT compared to 700? Does it make a difference whether I work in a regional office compared to London or NYC?

Many thanks in advance!

Nov 14, 2014
zor:

First of all, thanks for answering all these questions.

I would like to know what you think about my chances of getting into a top MBA program after 2-3 years as an analyst and which are deciding factors.

I have worked in another industry in a non-finance related position after school since my grades were terrible (think C average). However, I got my s*** together and studied in the evenings and on weekends at a non-target. Once I had my degree in business administration (3.75 GPA), I quit my job to do internships at a rather unknown middle-market M&A boutique and an elite boutique-ish player in the equities market. Afterwards, I joined a top target school in my country (3.6 GPA), i.e. non-US, and interned at a BB in M&A where I, against all odds, sold myself well enough to receive a full-time offer.

My USP's might be 'come-back kid' who has shown persistence, seen (a lot) more than the guys who just went to university before going to work. Obviously, I would add more color to the whole story in the application.

I can see myself sticking to banking long-term. How will that affect my application compared to all the usual PE-targeting people on WSO? How would my chances change if I had a 600 GMAT compared to 700? Does it make a difference whether I work in a regional office compared to London or NYC?

Many thanks in advance!

With these next series of posts, I believe I'm starting to lose my reading comprehensive skills (I'm aging faster than expected...). I'm confused. Are you still in undergrad?

Nov 14, 2014

I'm currently in a master's program. I rephrased what I wrote earlier in an attempt to make it easier to understand:

- started working due to shitty grades
- started studying in undergrad program at a non-target in the evenings and on weekends next to my regular job
- once I received the degree (3.8 GPA), I quit the job to do internships (MM M&A and elite player in equities market)
- started master's program at top target (3.6 GPA)
- will start at BB IBD next year, when I'll be 26

Nov 18, 2014

Let me rephrase - This is not in a move in attempt to get into an MBA program, but my situation has changed. I have recently interview for a position and I am taking into consideration MBA admissions. It's not a case of if I do this, then I will have a better chance, so I should go do that. I'm ready to get out of audit and have an opportunity. I am, however, curious how an MBA adcom might view such frequent moving around (3 firms in around 5 years experience when I'm likely to apply)

Lastly, would regional TAS (Financial due diligence) look better than big 4 audit? It sounds like it goes back to your original comment about do what you want, but I can't help being curious. I'm probably going to take the offer (if given) anyways, just wondering if I have somewhat tarnished a potential MBA application.

Nov 14, 2014
Soros:

Let me rephrase - This is not in a move in attempt to get into an MBA program, but my situation has changed. I have recently interview for a position and I am taking into consideration MBA admissions. It's not a case of if I do this, then I will have a better chance, so I should go do that. I'm ready to get out of audit and have an opportunity. I am, however, curious how an MBA adcom might view such frequent moving around (3 firms in around 5 years experience when I'm likely to apply)

Lastly, would regional TAS (Financial due diligence) look better than big 4 audit? It sounds like it goes back to your original comment about do what you want, but I can't help being curious. I'm probably going to take the offer (if given) anyways, just wondering if I have somewhat tarnished a potential MBA application.

Take the job.

Nov 18, 2014

Alex: Any quick thoughts on H/S/W

-3.7 GPA from a LAC ranked 10-20
-760 GMAT
-4-5 years as a research analyst at a top hedge fund
-CFA
-Varsity Athlete in college, small amount of volunteer work after school

Nov 14, 2014
Gray Fox:

Alex: Any quick thoughts on H/S/W

-3.7 GPA from a LAC ranked 10-20

-760 GMAT

-4-5 years as a research analyst at a top hedge fund

-CFA

-Varsity Athlete in college, small amount of volunteer work after school

Your stats don't preclude you from H/S/W, but it's hard to say. What's your cultural background, nationality, sexual orientation, etc? Are you more than your resume, in other words can you transcend the "hard core finance guy" archetype (i.e. finance is your job, not your identity) - that can certainly help.

Nov 18, 2014
MBAApply:
Gray Fox:

Alex: Any quick thoughts on H/S/W

-3.7 GPA from a LAC ranked 10-20

-760 GMAT

-4-5 years as a research analyst at a top hedge fund

-CFA

-Varsity Athlete in college, small amount of volunteer work after school

Your stats don't preclude you from H/S/W, but it's hard to say. What's your cultural background, nationality, sexual orientation, etc? Are you more than your resume, in other words can you transcend the "hard core finance guy" archetype (i.e. finance is your job, not your identity) - that can certainly help.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm a straight, white male from the US. Middle class, midwest background, probably the least sexy you can get. I have a lot of outside interests (adventure/outdoor sports, travel, etc) but I'll admit it is going to be pretty hard to cast myself in a light to get diversity points. I would do school to get a broader perspective and better understanding of different businesses before going back to the HF world. Off the record, it would be for two years away from work and a chance to reset the batteries.

I'd like to think of myself as a nice guy that interviews well but understand these schools are shifting away from "hardcore finance guys".

Mar 23, 2015

Applying for HBS and GSB only (2+2 and deferred admission respectively)

-Currently senior at top 15 school: 3.95+ GPA, background in fin. and stats
-730 GMAT, higher Q than V on split
-Internships (most recent first): Large Cap Well-known PE, Large Well-Known AM, other HF
-Full time: IB at Elite Boutique
-Straight/white/male/boring profile
-Mid level of extracurriculars/leadership
-Solid recommendations from professor (TA for him) and previous internship (HF)
-Little time spent on essays, need to craft story, apps due in two weeks or so
-Want to do IB -> Pre-MBA PE associate -> MBA -> Post-MBA PE associate: is this too boring?

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I think my background narrows this down pretty specifically so I was hoping to delete this post soon after. Really appreciate it!

Nov 14, 2014
SkiesTheLimit66:

Applying for HBS and GSB only (2+2 and deferred admission respectively)

-Currently senior at top 15 school: 3.95+ GPA, background in fin. and stats

-730 GMAT, higher Q than V on split

-Internships (most recent first): Large Cap Well-known PE, Large Well-Known AM, other HF

-Full time: IB at Elite Boutique

-Straight/white/male/boring profile

-Mid level of extracurriculars/leadership

-Solid recommendations from professor (TA for him) and previous internship (HF)

-Little time spent on essays, need to craft story, apps due in two weeks or so

-Want to do IB -> Pre-MBA PE associate -> MBA -> Post-MBA PE associate: is this too boring?

Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. I think my background narrows this down pretty specifically so I was hoping to delete this post soon after. Really appreciate it!

Looks like you're going to apply regardless of what I say, so it's really just about managing expectations.

Bear in mind that the 2+2 was established as a way to diversify their applicant pool by capturing applicants who normally wouldn't have thought of b-school: hardcore STEM and pre-law/pre-med folks. It's similar with the deferred programs at Stanford. It's not geared towards guys like yourself, because they already get plenty of standard issue IB/PE white guys like yourself applying through the regular channels with a few years of experience. This is a diversity issue (not by race/ethnicity, but in terms of academic/occupational background, and to some degree it's gender, as they will likely get marginally more women through the system this way as well for many reasons). As such, just know that you're the color blue, when they're looking for the color red. You have a strong profile for an undergrad and you seem well positioned to have a great start to your career after college, but just know that they are more focused on a different kind of profile.

Again, while you've got a solid foundation and stats, you're not as unique as you think you are - no one is going to know who you are based on what you listed here, because again there's enough guys like yourself in the same position looking to apply to 2+2 and deferred programs - and very few making it in this way.

And if you're thinking "well, I'll just change course completely and write about something totally non-finance related" - that's not really going to change much. The fact is, your internships to date plus your academic background suggests you'll be the prototypical MBA applicant in a few years' time anyhow, and these 2+2 and deferred programs are targeting a different kind of profile altogether.

In any case, if you're going to apply, just do the best you can, and keep your expectations realistic that it's going to be a bigger stretch than for a STEM person.

Mar 24, 2015

Got a school specific program. My profile is a bit low as far as the digits with a 710 GMAT and a GPA on the low end of competitive....however I've got a military background and I've revised my essays and interview approach to where I've been able to pull two R3 admission offers from top 20 schools.

Another option on the table is a school with a unique admissions question: "Write a table of contents for your life". Would you have any generic tips for that essay?

Nov 14, 2014
Easy C:

Got a school specific program. My profile is a bit low as far as the digits with a 710 GMAT and a GPA on the low end of competitive....however I've got a military background and I've revised my essays and interview approach to where I've been able to pull two R3 admission offers from top 20 schools.

Another option on the table is a school with a unique admissions question: "Write a table of contents for your life". Would you have any generic tips for that essay?

Congrats on your offers.

With gimmicky essay questions like Cornell is asking (or the 25 random things, or any other silly questions some b-schools ask - even Booth years ago asked something along the lines of "if you were to choose a school mascot for the University of Chicago MBA program, what would it be and why?"), you basically have two choices:

1. Go boring, or

2. Be a character.

These out-of-left-field, gimmicky questions don't really add much to an application, so it comes back to your raw profile more than anything else.

The boring one is typically a chronological one that summarizes different phases in your life.

The "character" one is to respond in like kind with an out-of-left-field response to their out-of-left-field question. For example, to use one of my favorite characters from Parks & Rec:

RON SWANSON'S TABLE OF CONTENTS (OR MUSINGS ON THE MEANING OF AMERICA)

1. You had me at bacon

2. Whiskeys are like ex-wives

3. Europe: a last resort

4. Why fish meat is practically a vegetable (and why potatoes are not)

5. Dogs > cats but doge rules all

6. Flesh on the grill: a case study of different proteins

7. Government: the incompetent leading the unwilling to do the unnecessary

8. A vegetarian's guide to hunting

9. Wood working is for lovers

10. The Swanson Pyramid of Greatness (TM)

As long as you're not vulgar, you'll be surprised how far you can go by being a bit creative and bold.

Mar 24, 2015

700 GMAT (47Q, 40V). Lowest Verbal I've gotten since my cold test (was averaging 43-44). Quant is in line with practice tests. White Male, lots of volunteering including leading a work Philanthropic Committee as well as mentoring, 3.4 Econ graduate from top private but non ivy school (think Duke/Northwestern), Division 1 student athlete, FLDP at F500 then FP&A at top BB for 4 years of total WE at matriculation. Been promoted once. Was told to expect to again at the end of this year. Want to do investment banking post grad school and have been unable to network my way in currently.

Considering schools mostly with top IB placement, meaning Stern, CSB, Wharton, Yale, and Booth mostly. Possibly Tuck too. Assuming H/S are out regardless.

How does my profile look? Also I am likely retaking the GMAT, but was looking for thoughts on this pre retake.

Thanks in advance

Nov 14, 2014
AllDay_028:

700 GMAT (47Q, 40V). Lowest Verbal I've gotten since my cold test (was averaging 43-44). Quant is in line with practice tests. White Male, lots of volunteering including leading a work Philanthropic Committee as well as mentoring, 3.4 Econ graduate from top private but non ivy school (think Duke/Northwestern), Division 1 student athlete, FLDP at F500 then FP&A at top BB for 4 years of total WE at matriculation. Been promoted once. Was told to expect to again at the end of this year. Want to do investment banking post grad school and have been unable to network my way in currently.

Considering schools mostly with top IB placement, meaning Stern, CSB, Wharton, Yale, and Booth mostly. Possibly Tuck too. Assuming H/S are out regardless.

How does my profile look? Also I am likely retaking the GMAT, but was looking for thoughts on this pre retake.

Thanks in advance

If you can score a 720+ and ideally a 740+, you should be in range for the schools you listed. At a 700, it's not fatal, but it will be a handicap. Otherwise your profile is solid for these schools. Good luck

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