Ask Meredith from Vantage Point MBA

As a former investment banker (pre-MBA), Kellogg graduate, and strategy consultant (post-MBA), Meredith can help answer your most burning questions about the MBA application process. Fire away!

Comments (46)

Apr 11, 2017

Hi guys! It's that time of year again - round 1 application deadlines are approximately five months away. At this point several years ago, I was sitting on a trading floor trying to figure out how all of this worked. So, after having been through the process myself and guided countless others afterwards, I'm happy to answer your questions as candidly as possible.

Apr 12, 2017

@VantagePointMBA

Hi VantagePoint,

Thanks for doing this, much appreciated. Will you please assess my candidacy for the following schools?
1. HBS / Stanford
2. Wharton
3. Booth / Kellogg
4. Columbia / Dartmouth / Yale / Haas

  1. Undergrad at a non-target public university on the West Coast (top 50 in the U.S. for undergrad, MBA program in the top 25). Majored in Finance. Undergrad GPA is 3.49, Major in Finance GPA is 3.60. Graduated in 2014.
  2. gmat score: I have not taken the test yet, but plan to do so in May or June. Target score is 700-750. Then plan is to focus on essays, application and recommendations from June - August. Is that the right timeline to be planning towards??
  3. Experience. 1 year at a mid-market TMT investment bank. 1 year (lateral hire) at a large bulge bracket (tier 1) investment bank (M&A). Currently at a growth equity firm on the West Coast doing tech investing.
  4. Extracurriculars / Other: Volunteer experience throughout undergrad and few post graduation. Involved with several Private equity organizations on the West Coast. Fraternity leadership and academic school honors leadership programs. I invest in my personal trading account as well.
  5. Plan is to apply this fall (either Round 1 or Round 2) and start in the fall of 2018. Will have essentially 4 years of experience post graduation.
  6. Post MBA graduation goals and plans is: 1) Hedge fund L/S or activist investing 2) Growth equity/private equity

Other questions:
1. What are 3-5 things (actionable) we can do to differentiate ourselves throughout the application process?
2. What are each of the three schools focused in on at HBS, Stanford, Wharton?
3. What is the likelihood of being admitted to these schools with a lower GMAT score?
4. How important are having recommenders who are alumni of HBS, Wharton etc..?
5. What differentiates Vantage Point from the other MBA consultancy firms?

Thank you!!

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there,

Wow great work experience! The combo of mid-market (where you probably got more unique leadership opportunities) and bulge bracket (with a great name) as well as private equity should read nicely. So, I think you're in the running for the schools you're targeting. Here are a few specific thoughts:
- Guy in finance = majorly competitive category. I would target over 720 on the GMAT to be competitive at the top 5 schools (adcom has told us that "720 is the new 700" for these schools, meaning that it's the number where you feel like you're getting more competitive). If you pull off over a 700 in general, I'll feel good you for the top 10 programs in general. Also, you want over 80th percentile in quant.
- Your GPA is in range - if you had any grades trading / work is important. The top schools really care who you are; not just what you've achieved on your resume. It sounds like you probably have this from volunteering etc, but be sure it's clear. The folks I've seen be successful from the uber-competitive finance guy category tend to be those who can point to dynamism in their lives (eg. varied interests, intellectual curiosity, etc). For example, last year I worked with a pure play finance guy - hedge fund, loved trading etc. There wasn't much about his career that differentiated him, so he spent some time talking about a hobby of his that led him to be a leader in his community (it was kind of random, but it showed something about his interested and how he wasn't a one-trick pony). And he's at Booth now, which was his top choice. You want to put some thought into this and how you're going to portray yourself given that you noted one of your hobbies is actually trading.

And finally, below are your questions repasted below with my answers in brackets.

  1. What are 3-5 things (actionable) we can do to differentiate ourselves throughout the application process? [Well, the first action is to actually lay-out what's different about you. You know that quantitative / financial analysis, due diligence, modeling, market research and interacting with c-suite executives etc are not unique. So, what about leadership? Simply managing an analyst or mentoring someone isn't super unique. Ok, so then what IS unique about the experience you've had? Were you selected for a strategic project? Have you led a portco through a strategic process of some sort? Have you come-up with a new way of doing things at any of your firms? Have you developed tools to better train incoming analysts? Is there something about your personal story that's unique? Whatever differentiates you is already present, but it's a matter of making it clear throughout your app (essays, resume, recs, interview etc). For example, when I was applying, my differentiation lied in the fact that I was part of the team that built a brand new CDO product and then subsequently spun our team out to a private equity firm. So yes, I was a person coming from an investment bank (during the recession when every other applicant was a banker), but I focused my application on the more strategic things I was involved with because I knew those stories weren't typical of other finance experiences (building out our processes, fundraising / talking to potential investors, hiring / managing an ops team, marketing, etc). Leadership is the best way to differentiate yourself. So if you don't already have a good story of you being proactive and fixing / enhancing / creating something, then try to get that story before you write your essays. It can be work (best) or extracurricular.]
  2. What are each of the three schools focused in on at HBS, Stanford, Wharton? [That's way too much to write :) We can discuss sometime. In general, the top schools are looking for leadership, teamwork, problem solving skills, career progression, interesting goals, unique value (differentiation), and overall intellectual curiosity / a potential to succeed. I wouldn't be doing them justice if I tried to boil each down, but I can say that Stanford clearly and consistently looks for "visionaries". This is subtle but very important. All three are focused on leaders and those who will not just succeed but will actually grow, expand, disrupt and actually make an impact on an industry or sector. And please don't make the mistake of keeping it to work chat. The top schools want to know who you are and what makes you tick / what makes you who you are. You can tell from HBS's questions over the last few years how much of a priority this is. Again, I'm happy to chat with you re: more specifics about the schools, and you should also plan to attend their info sessions.]
  3. What is the likelihood of being admitted to these schools with a lower gmat score? [As a guy in finance? It's tough. My range of HBS admits this year was 710-740 GMAT as one data point. So, it's possible to come-in under the average but you need a rockstar story to go with that (your story = the value you bring today, your awesome goal for the future, and why you need an MBA to get there). The GMAT is just one part of the app and can definitely be mitigated if it's not as high as you want - a lot of people with awesome gmat scores get dinged every year because they don't have compelling stories....so there's a balance. Don't focus all of your energy on the GMAT to the detriment of your broader application strategy].
  4. How important is it to have recommenders who are alumni of HBS, Wharton etc..? [What's more important is having a recommender who can give concrete stories that back-up your leadership potential / teamwork skills etc. Of course an alum is nice because they can point out how well you "fit" with the school, but it's not necessary].
  5. What differentiates Vantage Point from the other MBA consultancy firms? [I like to think the answer is "a lot". We spun out of a larger firm and decided to rethink what's really useful to applicants. So we did a bunch of research and put together a company that provides the things that we heard people like and eliminates the things that people didn't like. So, our team is comprised 100% of those who graduated from top 10 MBA programs or were admissions directors at top 10 programs. We are also 100% experienced consultants - no newbies. And our differentiation is that we provide you with all of the perspectives that you need - your consultant who is a top 10 MBA his or herself, former top 10 MBA adcom, post-MBA professionals from top companies (McKinsey, Google, P&G, BCG, etc etc), and oftentimes alumni interviewers and current students as well. We've found that having multiple, educated perspectives can help someone refine his/her story and present a much more compelling case to the adcom. So, paired with our rigorous (perfectionistic) process, we think the perspectives that we provide make the difference for our clients.]

Hope that helps and best of luck!

Kindly,
Meredith

    • 1
Apr 11, 2017

One more thought - definitely shoot for round 1

    • 1
Apr 12, 2017

Hi!!
I am currently applying for top Canadian MBAs - I live in Montreal, the best city in the country! I'm an oddball candidate and I find myself unable to estimate my odds of getting into top schools. I have a great GMAT but lackluster work experience, and a left-field Bachelor of Fine Arts!

Basics: 760 GMAT ( 49Q, 45V, IR7, AWA to come) with a 3.5 GPA at a not-great university, but well known for its arts programs (Concordia U).

Not able to find work in the arts upon graduation (go figure!) I took an admin job at the largest health philanthropy organization in the country, where I was promoted to executive assistant to the CEO. When opportunity struck, I joined the public sector, working in Arts programming in the country's biggest college, where I've had great success in audience development, marketing, and attracting talent, etc. I have the numbers to prove it.

Meanwhile, I started a communications company based on an egg-farmer's co-op model (it was fun!), and have held leadership roles in philanthropy for about 5 years. I manage several aspects of Canada's largest fundraising Ball - my team has raised about a half-mil over 4 years, which is record-breaking. I'm also writing a mystery novel. I'm French, and I'm LGBT!

I want to get into strategy or consulting. I have a decent career plan.

What do you think of my profile? What would an adcon make of it?

Free Consultation

Vantage Point MBA's clients are accepted to the top MBA programs at a 3x higher rate than the average acceptance rates. Request a consultation with their team to learn how they can help you gain admission to your dream schools. Learn more.

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there (et Bonjour!) - well you certainly have some great stories to tell! The adcom will LOVE your leadership experiences as of recent. Entrepreneurship is always impressive. However, I unfortunately have to admit that I am not an expert on the Canadian MBA programs, so I don't feel very comfortable guiding you there. If you decide to look at the US or European schools, then I'm your girl and please reach back out. I think you'd be a very competitive applicant by the way....

Best of luck!

Kindly,
Meredith

Apr 14, 2017

Hi thanks for your time. I have a score of 750, a perfect AWA but an IR of only 4! This was on my first attempt.

I scored 6 on IR on all 4 of my practice tests.

I only managed to get admitted to a T20-25 school.

Should I retake to get a 6 on IR?

It has been a year since my GMAT so I may only get a 720 with a higher IR.

Would love to hear of your analysis.

PS. I'm 33, so if I reapply and don't take up this year's offer, I'd be 34 if offered a spot into a program commencing next year.

Thanks.

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there -

Totally understand the question but wanted to make sure you don't think that your IR score was what held you back last time around. There must be something else, so don't just focus on the IR score. Firstly, you are older than the typical range for the full time programs. That said, were you super specific about why you need this degree and what you want to do? Only a limited number of older applicants are admitted, and a large chunk of those come from military, other professional degrees etc. Also did you directly point out your IR score in the optional section of apps and explain why it's not reflective of you / your abilities?

Before you go through all the pain of retaking the GMAT, I'd make sure you're super clear on what the issues were last time around so that you can prioritize your time effectively.

I'm always happy to chat more about this if you like.

Kindly,
Meredith

    • 1
Apr 14, 2017

Thanks so much for your reply and advice. I'd like to obtain a quick profile check if possible - willing to pay a hopefully small fee too - if needed. Could you please PM me your email?

The deadline for acceptance is coming soon, and since I am based outside of the US, it'd be great to get a professional opinion on what the best strategy for me would be.

Best Response
Apr 19, 2017

Thank you for your time - I was hoping you could assess my profile and maybe help me decide for or against using a application consultant and to what extent.

White Male, 25 y.o., total 4 years experience upon entering Fall 2018 class. 1.5 years tier 2 strategy consulting, 2.5 years MM Tech-focused PE. Great project experience on the consulting side which helped lead the transition to PE. PE deal experience has been OK with one sell-side transaction, one secondary equity round with debt refinancing, but no new deals, but solid portfolio company work and fund that has a great reputation and performance.
740 GMAT but a 3.2 GPA in Economics from top 15-20 school, but near minors in all three math, comp sci, and physics - was late major switch from engineering to econ.
Extracurricular involvement has waned since transitioning into PE but were formerly weekly tutoring at a local high school, leading a junior board of non-profit.

Ideally targeting Booth, Kellogg, Ross, and McCombs with potentially a reach to Stanford or Sloan and a safety of Tepper. Trying to center on midwest and look for a tech focus. Would pursue opportunities in strategy consulting and PE upon graduation trying to stay in the tech sector.

I was planning to hire a consultant, but when should I reach out to them? If I plan on applying to 4-5 schools how many essays should I have reviewed? Should I purchase counsel 1 application at a time to guarantee attention?

Also, I am worried that asking my current employer for a letter of recommendation will cost me my annual bonus because it is a small firm, and I have heard from former employees that went to MBA that it has happened to them. Is this common? How can I work around this or do I have to bite the bullet? (50% of comp is bonus)

Thank you in advance!

    • 2
Apr 11, 2017

Hi there - so firstly, you have a great profile for the top schools (bravo!) and you also have great questions! Here are my thoughts:
- Your GMAT is great; GPA is a little lower but if you take an online class (check out MBAMath.com, HBX Core, or Berekeley Extension) and write a statement in the optional section of the app explaining your GPA (eg. changed major, multiple minors, if applicable admit you over-committed etc and point to how that's not an issue now - showing self-reflection is a really good thing). I wrote a whole blog on this the other week on our website, so check that out when you have a moment (sorry I'm not allowed to post a link to it per WSO's terms). GPA is one of the easiest things to directly mitigate, especially when you have a strong GMAT!
- Nice that you have some extracurriculars from pre-PE; but would be good to show something that you do outside of work today (doesn't have to be volunteering - but they want to see that you're a person of varied interests and talents). This is particularly important for Kellogg. If you have good extracurriculars from undergrad, that helps (just make sure they're on your resume).
- Consulting and PE is a great combo; and if your MM PE firm is like many, then you've probably had pretty excellent leadership experience since many of these firms run lean. If you've done cool projects for portfolio companies, etc, that's all great ammunition for your essays - focus on what your counterparts at bigger firms probably don't get to do (be the actual lead on projects / sometimes the sole person at the portfolio company helping out etc). You probably know that consulting / finance is also a very competitive category, so please please be sure to focus on what's unique about you and your projects (eg. models, presentations to c-suite execs, etc is not unique). Strategic projects for your firm, fundraising, mentoring / training new folks, etc are all good. And your deal experience (when unique). And of course look to yourself as a person- what aspects of your background make you unique? This doesn't have to be professional. The schools really want to see "who" you are and "why" you've made the decisions you've made versus just the facts. Taking this approach will help you stand out from your consulting / finance peers.
- Don't jeopardize your bonus! It's VERY common to avoid telling your company when this is the case. You just need to address it. If you have someone else at your firm who you can ask, that's best, and then write in the optional section of the essay why you couldn't ask your direct manager. This happens in finance all the time - no big deal.
- Overall I think you have a good shot at the schools you're looking at. I'd probably advise you to reach a little more, but that depends a bit on your goals / how tied you are to the midwest etc.
- Re: working with a consultant, there are tons of us out there and everyone is a little different. Most firms offer "comprehensive" packages, which is soup to nuts, everything you need to develop a strong strategy and execute on a great app (school selection, story development, career research, resume, essays, interview prep, etc). If that's what you go with, then sign on asap because the earlier you sign on, the more value you can get. We already have a good number of clients working on round 1. The majority of folks get started in May-June but the price is the same no matter when you start. In a comprehensive package, you'll do as many drafts as you need (eg. my clients are anywhere from 8-25 drafts of each essay). You can also work hourly with most folks and that's where you'll just need a consultant to guide you on how much time you need for where you need the most help. You want to be super specific on your hours so you maximize value here. Most people sign on with me for their top 3-4 schools then they will do hourly or just work on their own for their safety schools. Even if you sign-up for multiple schools, I always start on one school to help you see the writing style, how to position your story, level of detail to provide etc; then we start multi-tasking after a few essay drafts with other schools. But that's my style - everyone is a little different - yet I give you that example so you can kind of envision what it looks like. I wrote-up a Quora post on how to select a consultant if it's helpful (I worked with a consultant myself when I was applying so I wrote this to provide some transparency into what's often a vague industry: https://www.quora.com/Who-are-the-best-MBA-admissi....
Hope that helps! Best of luck to you! And I'm always happy to chat further if you like.

Kindly,
Meredith

Apr 20, 2017

Hi I'm looking to apply within the next 2-3 years but am trying to get ahead since my profile isn't great!

White Male, age 26-27 at matriculation

Academics: Attend a non-target state school, 2.63 GPA BA Economics, I was back and forth between school and home several times a month helping taking care of sick family member but I am currently building an alternative transcript

Undergrad Extracurriculars: Founded a fraternity and held leadership positions, member of student run investment club and lead a team, a couple other organizations as well

WE: Currently 2 years of higher ed accounting but will have 4-5 upon matriculation, looking to move to either non-profit operations/accounting in the mean time or continue upwards in my current position

GMAT: 760 50Q 44V

Post-mba: Ideally target ibanking/alternative investing(repe or distressed investing), with a possibility of MBB/Consulting if Im in at Darden (Gtown, emory, unc dont seem to place as well)

Target Schools: Georgetown, Emory, UNC, Dream/Stretch: Darden

What do you think my chances are at those schools? What else can I do to offset the low gpa? Are there any other schools I should be aiming for?

Thanks!

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there - why do you think your profile isn't great? Higher ed is a pretty interesting space, so if you have some good leadership / making an impact on your org stories, I think it'll be of interest to the adcom. And your GMAT is fantastic. Undergrad GPA needs some mitigating (enroll in a for-credit, graded online class asap and get an A). You can explain your personal situation in the optional section of the app (we are all human - people understand - just be direct and honest about what happened and how as a result, your GPA is not reflective of your true academic abilities. Then point them to your A in a recent class online or at a local college etc).

I wouldn't wait too long to apply - next year might be your year. If you can take a class or two to offset your GPA, I think your extracurricular leadership (founding a fraternity) paired with what you're hopefully doing now outside of work; and your leadership / interesting work experience will put you in a nice position. Be sure that it's clear why you want to switch into banking etc (need to be very specific here because it's one of those "I don't know what else to do" goals so you need to show that it's actually the right path for you), but assuming you can do all of that, I think you're undershooting. I'd advise you to reach a little more with a higher ranked school or two and then keep your hedge. If you're starting now, you have plenty of time to get 6 apps in round 1 of next year.

Hope this helps and best of luck!

Apr 20, 2017

What are some higher ranked schools that you'd recommend that would be fitting for my profile?

Free Consultation

Vantage Point MBA's clients are accepted to the top MBA programs at a 3x higher rate than the average acceptance rates. Request a consultation with their team to learn how they can help you gain admission to your dream schools. Learn more.

May 30, 2017

H! Thank you for this.
I want to apply JD/MBA programs. I feel that I have a better shot to get into a top MBA from those.
Do I have a shot at M14? Thank you!

    • 1
Apr 11, 2017

Hi there - Thanks for your inquiry. As you know, your background is a little atypical so it's hard for me to give a cut and dry answer; but here's my knee-jerk. Unfortunately, without work experience, I'm sorry to say that it will be a tough uphill battle for the top schools. Work experience is one of the main pre-req's because it demonstrates the value you will add to the classroom (both in terms of topic but more importantly in terms of knowing how to work with others / lead effectively and eventually become employed etc). Lab experience is fine - I've worked with several folks from the research field over the years. However, most of them have also worked in more of a typical job where they can point to team experience, cross-functional leaders experience etc. From my experience, lab roles tend to be a bit more autonomous than most schools would like to see - even the process of publishing papers / collaborating on research etc. Maybe this isn't the case for you? So, my advice would be to really consider whether you can pitch your lab experience as a) team / leadership oriented; and b) having progressed (career progression is important to the adcom). If not, then you may want to consider augmenting your work experience before you apply. One of my former lab / research clients shifted to investing for a few years and is now at Kellogg where he positioned himself as wanting to pair his research background and what he learned about medical innovation with his finance experience in order to help large healthcare / biotech companies better invest in the best and most interesting innovations and technologies. That's an ideal story because you can draw a bright line from your past to where you want to be.

On another topic, I'm very sorry to hear that you battled cancer. The gentleman I referenced above also battled a severe illness, which was part of what drew him to research and healthcare and he wrote about that in one of his essays (he got into 4 top schools btw). You can always discuss this personal attribute and I think demonstrating how you overcame something so challenging is always viewed positively.

Hope this helps!

Apr 25, 2017

Hi VantagePoint,

I am trying to decide what MBA's to target for in the fall and was wondering if you could give some pointers for someone with my profile.

1) I started working my senior year of college for a large private company as a tax accountant and worked there for 4 years until moving on to a top 15 public accounting firm which I worked at for a year as an auditor being promoted to senior in 8 months and have now been working in FP&A at an investment manager being promoted to senior FP&A analyst in 1 year. I worked all through college paying for school and supporting myself which contributed to the lower GPA. I know I could write good essay's as I have had some interesting experiences but I don't have the best work experience/academic stats. Not sure if at this point I should give up the MBA dream and moving into the industry I want or maybe get a part time MBA and try to lateral to another finance job at a F500 company?
2) GMAT = 630(Want to retake in June to get closer to 700)
3) College info: Large no name state school, 3.2 GPA, Accounting, 2011.
4) Volunteer through church doing domestic/foreign mission trips
5) CPA
6) Would love to break into strategy consulting or work in corporate strategy at a F500

My dream school would be Duke but would also try Vandy and Emory 1 year MBA.

Thank you for the help.

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there -

I think Duke is in your range if you can get the GMAT up and maybe take a class to offset your undergrad GPA. You can write an optional essay (all schools provide this opportunity) addressing your GPA and the fact that you were working etc. Typically that, paired with an extra class is sufficient to mitigate. Your quant skills will not be in question, so it's just about proving you can handle the academic side in general.

Accounting is not the most common path leading to an MBA, so you want to be sure to explain what you do, how it works, how you work on teams etc. Make sure they don't have any questions about your leadership or collaboration skills. Accounting can vary widely between firms and companies, so just be sure to spell it out.

Work hard on the GMAT and I think you'll be in the running! Best of luck!

    • 1
Apr 25, 2017

delete

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there -

I so wish I could give you a real "handicap" of your chances, but as you know, it's more subjective than that. So, here's what I can say: I think you have the basics except that your GMAT is a little low for a guy coming from finance. For the top 10 programs, we've heard adcom say more than once that "720" is the new hurdle. You have some time, so I'd say try to get a higher gmat score then you'll be in the running for sure for the top 10 programs. Note that I wouldn't dissuade you from applying to the top 10 now - I would bet that you'd get in at one of them. But, you'll have more options if you have a higher GMAT score. Your international IB experience will be interesting and help set you apart - but like I tell most of you WSO'ers, please please please make sure you get someone else to read your essays / resume and ensure you are actually telling a unique story from other finance folks (what I thought was unique when I was applying turned out to be laughably not unique - and I'm so glad I got multiple perspectives to catch that error). You really need to stand out for who you are as a person and as a leader. One other thought - re: HBS, as you probably know then tend to favor younger candidates these days. That said, you can still apply if you can develop a rockstar story and vision. Your goals (for any school) need to be way more specific with an emphasis on "why" those are your goals and what you're inspired by. A good story can outweigh other aspects of your app like GMAT and age. For example, I had a girl with a fairly typical career history get into HBS with a 710 this past year and the majority of her essay was about her life growing up and pointing to what drives her.

I re-pasted your other questions below with some answers:

1) Any other schools I should consider? How many schools would be too many to handle? What are the best ways to "narrow down" the list? [Most people apply to 5-6 per round. Shoot for round 1 and I'd say try to pick 2 reach (like H, S, W), 3 in the rest of the top 10 and 1 just outside like Darden (they like finance people and have great recruiting despite small class size - their location on the East Coast and strong reputation with recruiters helps a lot). This is the strategy that most people use to hedge their bets. As you may know, some of this is a numbers game (ie. CBS recently told us that they estimate that ~75% of applicants are qualified....so we can do the math)].

2) How to boost my profile? Rather not retake GMAT - I studied for 3-4 months and max practice score is ~730/740. [If that was your max practice score, then totally retake it and try to get that. Even 10 points higher will help. I know it's painful but consider just how high the ROI on that time will be (it's high). This is a really important inflection point in your career, don't you want to do everything you can to make the most of it? :) I like the Manhattan products - you can buy the topic books that reflect the areas where you need help and just focus there. In addition, you can look into online classes. I wrote a blog on this a few weeks ago with some ideas. HBX Core is really popular - some estimate that ~25% of the class took it....might be high as an estimate but hey, it's out there].

3) Best way to know about the school is obviously to visit the campus in person. I can only be in the US during late summer though - would this be too late? Any tips on "networking strategies"? I don't personally know anyone from HBS for example. Should I just cold email someone from a student org and speak on the phone? [Visit is best - call the schools to find out when the earliest visits an be scheduled. Early fall typically works but make sure you book early b/c spots fill quickly. As for networking, you can't network your way in for the most part, so view networking as a way to help you write better essays. Most schools will set you up with a current student to chat with; and you an also check your undergrad alumni network for HBS alums for example and see if someone will chat with you (or your company is a great source too). Try to avoid cold-emailing / calling.]

Hope that helps and best of luck!

    • 1
Mar 31, 2018

.

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there -

Wow - impressive extracurriculars and goals. And thank you for noting what drives you. The schools really care about that and it's good that you're already recognizing how important it is to explain. So, your GPA is a little low if it is a direct translate to what a US 3.2 would be. However, I think you can mitigate your GPA by pointing to your CFA. I doubt academics will be a question for you. Clearly your career progression is fantastic, and I love your volunteering and that you can tie everything you do to a central theme of empowering people. I can already envision your opening paragraph for HBS (assuming their essay topic is similar this year to last year)!

So, all that said, if you apply to 5-6 schools in the range that you specified, then I think you should have some luck if you are able to write really strong essays and present yourself clearly / inspire the adcom. For you, it will come down to your essays because you'll likely be competing in the super-competitive finance category. So, focus on what makes you different, explaining your vision / what drives you, being somewhat specific in your goals, and I think you'll have some success. I know you're far away so visiting may be a challenge but you should definitely attend the schools' presentations if they come to a location near you. This is a great way to learn more about the schools (which helps you write better essays / interview better).

Best of luck!!

Apr 28, 2017

Can you please let me know what schools I should be targeting?

Goals after MBA: IB or Strategy Consulting

Top 20 US News Undergrad, 3.7 Economics GPA
MAcc from same school, 3.3 GPA

Big 4 Accounting NYC, almost two years of experience

A) What schools should I be targeting? I have not taken the GMAT so I am curious what scores would put me in a good spot for which schools

B) How can I improve my application?

Thanks!

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there - So, without a lot of info, please take this with a grain of salt, but in general if you want to get into top IB or top Consulting, then you really want to go to a top 10 school. From there, I can tell you that 720 is the new 700 as a hurdle rate if you are in a finance / accounting role. This is the score where you feel good, but know that the GMAT is just one data point. Your overall story or pitch REALLY matters. You need to have a good reason for IB or Consulting and a really interesting long term goal. The top schools want visionaries and future industry disrupters and leaders. The bias is that IB / Consulting is often what people say when they don't know, so you'll need to make your case here and be specific.

I'm not sure what MAcc means but if that's your overall GPA then I would advise you to take an online class and get an A or 100% so that you can demonstrate your academic skills (3.3 is slightly under the average for the top 10 programs). And make sure you have something outside of work to talk about - the top schools want dynamic / intellectually curious / interesting people who have varied interests.

As you know, focus your application on leadership / teamwork. Make sure they understand your role and why you want the MBA; and you should be in the running!

Best of luck!

Apr 28, 2017

Hi Meredith,

Thanks for doing this! I'm planning to apply in 2-3 years and would appreciate your help assessing my likelihood of admission to the following schools:

1) HBS
2) Kellogg / Booth
3) Columbia / Sloan

A bit about me:
Demographics: White male, currently 24 years old

Education: Math major at a top 20 undergrad business school, 3.7 GPA (4.0 major). A fair bit of diversity in quantitative coursework (finance, applied math, econ) + a semester of philosophy classes at a well-regarded European school. Pretty light on extra-curriculars

Test Scores: Haven't taken yet, but targeting >720 as I'm generally very comfortable with standardized tests

Work Experience: Summer intern +2.5 years full time with MBB in a major market and will have 2 years of experience at a midsized (latest fund ~$2B) MM PE fund before matriculation. Casework at MBB has consisted of very attractive projects (growth strategy, diligence, etc), but I've worked with many different teams / partners so recommenders will have ~6 months max experience working with me.

Medium/long term goal: P&L responsibility for a growing consumer brand

May 1, 2017

Hi Meredith,

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. Can you please give some feedback for chances of the following targets:

1). HBS / Stanford
2). Wharton
3). Columbia
4). Kellogg
5). Chicago

White Male, 29 years old, 6 yrs of work experience at application (2-year athletic related gap period btw high school & college)

Stats: 750 GMAT, 3.3 GPA

Undergrad: (Tufts, Middlebury, Bowdoin, Bates), Captain of Hockey Team, President of Fraternity, Head of Investing Club

Career: 1 yr M&A Paralegal at top global White Shoe law firm, 2 years top BB Investment Banking (GS, MS, JPM), 3 years at large alternative investment manager - 1st year in NY, then moved to London to open & run a brand new office for the firm. Responsibilities = research, new fund launch & product devleopment, operations, sales & IR.

Recommendations: very strong - Partner & Managing Director level of the firm

Thank you so much, any feedback would be greatly appreciated!

May 5, 2017

Hi, I'm posting just to see what schools, I should look at for MBA programs? I would want to work somewhere with a significant finance recruiting presence. I'm also interested whether doing a PT MBA at a school like Booth/Kellogg/Ross, could help me make a move. Also I will be attempting to matriculate if I do decide to go to business school at 25-27.

1) I will have 2-4 years of work experience as a corporate associate at a large law firm.

2) 760 GMAT.

3) Big 10 Undergrad: 2.4 GPA
Top 20 law school: 3.7 GPA (3 grades in MBA classes, A, A-, B+)

4)
Ran a Volunteer Tax Assistance Site in law school
Ran Pro Bono for the law school
President of a 100+ member organization in undergrad
Founded and chaired a continually running Model UN conference in undergrad

5)
2 Levels of the CFA completed

6) Your post-MBA goal.
I'm interested in a career change into transactional finance. Interested in corporate development/PE long term, however investment banking makes the most sense in the short term.

Apr 11, 2017

Hi guys! You may be wondering why I had to go completely radio silent halfway through last year. The honest answer is that we actually reached max capacity and sold out of client spots really early last year; so our team spent all of our time focusing on helping our clients get into the best schools (which has worked out great for them)! Now that round 2 applications are in and we are into the start of the new application season, I'm back here to answer your questions about the MBA application process. As always, if you want more of a conversation you're welcome to reach out to us for a free consult. Fire away! Looking forward to hearing all of your great questions!

Apr 11, 2017

Hi guys! You may be wondering why I had to go completely radio silent halfway through last year. The honest answer is that we actually reached max capacity and sold out of client spots really early last year; so our team spent all of our time focusing on helping our clients get into the best schools (which has worked out great for them)! Now that round 2 applications are in and we are into the start of the new application season, I'm back here to answer your questions about the MBA application process. As always, if you want more of a conversation you're welcome to reach out to us for a free consult. Fire away! Looking forward to hearing all of your great questions!

Feb 15, 2018

Hello, thanks for taking the time!

Target school is Columbia and their Value Investing program. Also aiming for Chicago/UPenn/Haas/NYU/UCLA.

Career goal is to work at a value-driven asset manager.

Additionally, I would appreciate thoughts on 1.) Matriculating w/ 3 years experience 2.) Ideas for community service and leadership 3.) Any additional advice to strengthen my candidacy.

  • 1/2 year experience as a sell-side equity research associate (Boutique). 1 year valuation analyst (Big 4)
  • GMAT - 760 - 49Q/44V - 99th percentile
  • Top 50 undergrad - 3.75 GPA - Finance Major
  • Asian male
  • No significant leadership experience, but I do volunteer teaching. Hobbies include music, surfing, and jiu-jitsu.
  • Passed CFA Level I, hoping to complete all 3 levels before matriculating

Thanks again!

    • 1
Apr 11, 2017

Hey there - I am repasting your questions below with my thoughts in brackets. Overall I think you have a nice profile. You know that you're applying as part of a competitive demo, so the lack of leadership experience is not ideal. I'd spend the next few months trying to remedy that. Consider that "leadership" doesn't have to be management. It can be proactively coming up with solutions / a creative way of doing things etc. This seems to be the biggest issue for you and remember that b-school, even if you're focused on investing, is truly a management degree, not a technical degree. So they want to see evidence that you can lead.

1.) Matriculating w/ 3 years experience [NBD as long as you can show that you've gotten enough experience to actually add to / benefit from the program - see my notes on leadership above. Normally younger candidates who are successful can show pretty strong leadership. I'm hopeful you can find a way to mitigate this]
2.) Ideas for community service and leadership [There are so many :) What matters to you?
What do you care about? Consulting to a non-profit is always an option that also shows leadership. Check out Catchafire.com or LinkedIn's new interface for pairing business professionals with non-profits]
3.) Any additional advice to strengthen my candidacy. [See above re: leadership. Your scores are fine - it's going to come down to leadership / story for you based on the limited amount I know right now. Make sure they can see that you do things other than eat, sleep and work :) They want dynamic people with varied interests. I'm sure you have a passion that you can describe - don't be shy about that!]

Best of luck Peter!!

Feb 15, 2018

Thanks for your detailed response!

I will definitely check out Catchafire and the Linkedin resource for volunteer pairing

Feb 16, 2018

Hi, thank you for doing this!

Background:
UGrad: Top 30; Finance and econ major; 3.24 GPA (no special circumstances)
Tests: 760 GMAT 50Q, 44V
EC: President of local Young Leaders group for housing first nonprofit; volunteering committee of local real estate industry group
WE: 2 Years FP&A at F100 company; 2 Years (3 at matriculation) Portfolio Analyst at Real Estate Investment Manager (>$50B AUM)

Short term goals: pivot into real estate acquisitions
Long term goals: move up to a senior level position within a large real estate investment manager or pursue entrepreneurial endavors

Why I need the MBA: Opportunity to utilize the internship and network to pivot into acquisitions. Internal mobility at my company isn't easy, so I think the bran boost and network will help me make the transition. Long term, I think the network, leadership, and entrepreneurial skills an MBA provides will give me the skills I need to move up.

I currently live in Boston and have a strong preference to live in the Boston area after graduation for personal reasons. I have been thinking of applying to 7-8 schools, split between Rounds 1 and 2. Round 1 will be my reach/stretch schools where if I get into any of those, I wouldn't apply to any other schools for round 2. Breakout below.

Round 1:

Columbia
Kellogg
MIT - #1 since I could stay in Boston
Tuck

Round 2:
Cornell - possibly the 3 year dual masters in real estate and mba
NYU
UNC -
MIT MSRED - masters in real estate development

Let me know what you think of my profile and strategy, and please let me know if there is anything else that you think I should consider.

Thanks!

Apr 11, 2017

Hi Gerry! Nice profile! Here are a few thoughts based on what you noted here:
- Your school selection is very interesting...these schools have Real Estate programs, but so do several others. Have you looked at Wharton? From your list, it seems to me that you want to make sure you REALLY know the cultures of these programs because several of them are like night and day culture-wise. This matters: the schools want to admit people who will be a good fit for their programs, so make sure you know the key differences between (for example) Kellogg/Tuck and Sloan/Columbia.
- Your GMAT score rocks, but I'd directly point out that your GPA is not a reflection of your ability to perform in the classroom. It's very popular to take an online class and then point the adcom to that (even when you have an awesome GMAT). As a guy in finance, you want to do everything you possibly can, so I'd argue that this is not overkill.
- You must do the official visit at Columbia - just making sure you know that (they don't state it as a requirement, but they care A LOT).
- Remember to focus on your "why" and what you really care about. Your goals are nice and specific but make sure they can see that you are a visionary leader, not just someone who wants to progress up the ladder. Sometimes this is tough when it's clear from a career path standpoint why your goals would be as such, so just noting this so you don't forget. Think big here.

Best of luck Gerry!!

Feb 16, 2018

Thank you Meredith!

Feb 17, 2018

Hi Meredith,

I was hoping to get your input on what type of business schools to target. A little about me:

Professional experience
1) 2 years of consulting with a Tier 2 management consulting company (equivalent to Deloitte
and Accenture)
2) 3 years of corporate strategy experience with 2 of the biggest financial services firms in the
world
3) Graduated from a top 20 school - University of Toronto
4) 2 years of entrepreneurship and international volunteering experiences
5) Will be joining the strategy consulting group of a Big 4 consulting company as an
Engagement Manager

What I am really worried about is that my GPA in university was really low. I graduated with a 2.1 due to immaturity and a lot of family problems. This has been one of the biggest reasons why I have not had the confidence to consider graduate school until now. I am hoping to take the GMAT this year and get a high score (as close to 750 as possible). By the time I apply for MBA schools I should have 6 years of experience.

Any advice on what type of schools to target and what other actions I can do to position myself better for when I apply?

Thanks!

Apr 11, 2017

Hi Waffles (nice name!)

My big question is whether you are focused on Full Time or Part Time / Exec given that you'll have 6 years of work experience, and maybe you are older with the 2 years of entrepreneurship/volunteering experience (or are you including that in your 6 years)? If you are close to or over 30, then it's not just the schools you should consider, but also the program options (for a variety of reasons).

Overall though, it sounds like you check a lot of boxes (consulting = great for teamwork / problem solving strength, corp strategy can be a differentiator as often you get opportunities for unique leadership experiences, the two years of entrepreneurship / volunteering could also be a great differentiator and perhaps speak to you as a person, which is super important, etc). As for your GPA, you can mitigate that by a) being honest with them about what happened and b) taking an online class or bootcamp to point to as evidence that you CAN perform in the classroom (HBX Core, local university etc). Take a serious one that gives you a grade and I'm confident that you can get them over a low GPA (especially if you have a high GMAT).

If you end-up hitting your goal of 750, I think you can shoot for the top programs, hedging across a range. Keep in mind that HBS tends to skew young, as does GSB. But outside of those two, I feel like you could be in the running for sure depending of course on the huge caveats I noted above.

Best of luck Waffles!!

Kindly, Meredith

Feb 17, 2018

Hi @VantagePointMBA thanks for the response!

I am still evaluating what type of MBA would be the best fit for me. I am leaning more towards the EMBA more because it values experience more than GPA/GMAT. Out of the 3 which one would you advise? I will be turning 30 when I apply.

By the time I apply I will have 6 years of experience + 2 years of entrepreneurship and volunteer experience that I did outside of my job.

Really appreciate all the insight!

Feb 20, 2018

Hi,

Could you review my candidacy for business school?
I am a junior at UMD majoring in Finance and Marketing at a Big 10 school. My GPA is a 3.7 and I still have one more year to bring it up. I have gotten B+ in all of my Finance classes. I plan on taking masters courses in Finance to compensate for the low grades I received in my Bachelors finance courses but not completing the masters program.

I am studying abroad in Milan and will be interning with BAML IB in the summer of 2018. I plan on getting a FT offer and then doing M&A investment banking for 3 years and 2 years of PE before applying to business and law school. I haven't taken any graduate tests yet but I am NOT a good test taker.

I've done undergrad mock trial for 3 years and started my own club amongst other extracurriculars. I will only go to business and law school at a top school like Columbia, Harvard, Yale, Stanford, or UPenn. What should I be doing to strengthen my application and how good of a chance do I have at getting into one of these schools? With my current stats, what schools would I be able to get into?

Also I plan on using the MBA to go into an industry other than finance if that counts for anything.

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there -

Well, I can't say anything with certainty because you have at least 3-4 years before you apply :) I'd suggest you do some research on the major things that the b-schools look for (leadership, teamwork, problem solving, etc) and then ensure that through your career you're taking advantage of opportunities to gain that experience. Leadership is the big one. If you go into IB, make sure you're not just an Excel / Pitchbook junkie. Seize opportunities to get involved on special projects, etc. And try to stay involved outside of work - it gets hard with the tough hours, but it will help to differentiate you. Hope that helps!

Kindly,
Meredith

Feb 20, 2018

Thanks for taking the time to evaluate my profile.

I'm going to apply ED to CBS this year, because I would ideally like to remain in NYC. If that doesn't work out I'm also looking at Haas, Ross, and Kellogg. My post-MBA goal is strategy consulting.

Here are the particulars

  1. White male, 29 y/o
  2. GMAT - 720 - Q45, V45 - would not like to take this again
  3. State school with a 3.2 GPA (top 150, maybe). Was trying to double major in econ and mathematics, while also working full time (financial crisis occurred while I was in school, so I needed to work to assist in supporting my parents). Re-took 2 of my math classes and did better, but not enough time to do more.
  4. WE - 6 years as a bank regulator for the federal govt. Worked at smaller institutions before supervising a mega for the past 3 years. I specialize in credit risk and am in charge of monitoring the bank's CRE and Asian commercial portfolio. Additionally evaluated processes such as risk rating methodology and capital stress testing.
  5. CFA charterholder
  6. Leadership - junior board member of a local non-profit and advising member of a well-known ethics and international affairs group

Thank you again.

Apr 11, 2017

Hi there,

So before we even discuss your profile, I want to make sure you know what type of research to do on Columbia. CBS cares VERY MUCH that they are your top school and that you know the school (and love it). So, make sure you visit, sit in on a class, attend info sessions, etc. The app even asks you exactly what you've done, and we've been told by admissions there that they truly favor those who seem like they are more interested in CBS specifically versus where it ranks, etc. That said, you know that there are a ton of people exactly like you who want to stay in NYC, so hedging your bets is great!

A few notes on your profile:

  • 6 years of work experience is getting up there, so be sure that you can really articulate your goals and why the MBA makes sense for you (be as specific as possible)
  • You can mitigate your GPA with the explanation for why as well as by pointing to your CFA (utilize the optional section of the app to do this directly)
  • Your work experience will be a differentiator - sounds very cool. But remember that what you do isn't going to be super clear to every reader, so make sure you get some other perspectives on your essays and resume to ensure that you're presenting your role in a way that is understandable to a broader audience.
  • Finally, I heard from more than one admissions officer last year that they effectively roll their eyes when they see strategy consulting as a goal because sooooo many people say this. Yes, it's a fantastic career to get you pointed in some really cool directions. But you need to really know what that role is, why exactly it's the right next step for you, what you will be doing there, etc. Basically you need to prove to them that you aren't just writing that down because you don't know and you know consulting gives you a bunch of options. Especially as a guy coming from NYC, you know you are part of very large, competitive group; so differentiation is key. I'd really consider your goals and make sure you're writing that down for the right reasons. Or perhaps consider how your long term goals can be your differentiator instead.

Hope that helps and best of luck! Our firm offers a free consultation and the other co-founder is a Columbia grad who has a really great relationship with admissions there, so you may want to check that out (you can request to speak with her).

Kindly,
Meredith

Apr 11, 2017

HI guys - I thought this latest post on our blog may be relevant to you. If you're thinking about applying this year, here are five things you can be doing now. You can check out our blog overall for more but I cut and pasted the main items here:

  1. Schedule Your Class Visits for this Spring
    If you plan to apply round 1 (which you should if you're this early in the process), there's a very small window of opportunity in the spring to squeeze in class visits before the end of the school year. So, we recommend that you visit over the next few months. School visits help you to assess which schools may be the best fit for you and also give you insight into valuable essay and interview ammunition such as the specifics of clubs, classes and the school's culture that are challenging to conceptualize from merely reading the website. Those who visit almost always write better essays than those who don't, from our experience.
  2. Take the GMAT ASAP (Seriously - Just Schedule the Exam and Don't Look Back)
    Knowing your GMAT score in advance can help you a) better focus your school research; b) help determine if you need to take extra classes in advance of applying (eg. to offset a weaker score); c) ensure ample time to retake the test if you desire; and d) take that burden off your plate, enabling you to focus on the higher-level, strategic aspects of the application such as defining your story and goals.
  3. Get Those Coffee Chats on the Calendar
    An MBA is more than an academic degree. It's a full program with many aspects and attributes that are often hard to understand without having been there yourself. Seek-out those in your network who can talk to you about their MBA experiences. Having these conversations early will help you not only collect information to accelerate your process (eg. information on school cultures, different career paths, etc); but it could also lead to stronger advocacy for you by these individuals as they write your recommendations later on. Everyone likes to see someone being proactive!
  4. Be Honest About Your Weaknesses...So You Have Time to Do Something About Them
    It's not too hard to find information on what the schools are looking for. Think through where your areas of weakness are and create an action plan to address those issues over the coming months. Typical areas of weakness include low undergrad grades / GPA, low GMAT score, limited extracurricular involvement, limited leadership experience, etc. Though you can't change the past, you can always mitigate the potential negative impact of anything that's less than perfect on your profile.
  5. Start Thinking About Your Goals ASAP
    Being able to articulate why the MBA is the right degree for you and what you plan to do with it is extremely important. There are limited spaces available in each top MBA program, so they want people who they know will leverage the MBA to do great things. For 75% of the people we work with, defining their goals is one of the hardest parts. It takes time, conversations, research and a little soul searching. We encourage you to start this process early. As a tip, we have most of our clients start by looking at the job placement reports for their target schools and looking at the LinkedIn profiles of people whose careers may interest them (co-workers, family friends, etc). Then we get much more methodical, but this preliminary research helps you to get a sense for the lay of the land.