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B-School Q&A w/ Betsy Massar of Master Admissions

Betsy Massar
Rank: King Kong | banana points 1,402

I'm Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions. I'm glad to be here on Wall Street Oasis back with kindred spirits. Right out of Harvard Business School I worked for Goldman Sachs and have spent most of my professional career in and around the financial industry. I worked on both the sell and buy sides (Barclays Global Investors, now BlackRock), and have worked on Wall Street, Asia, and San Francisco.

You might think I am partial to HBS, but I'm actually quite fond of Stanford Graduate School of Business, as a communications and resume coach and an editor of GSB professors' academic papers. I am also a writer for the Journal of PortfolioManagement. Back to MBA admissions, I'm a member of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants, the industry group, and a bit of an ethical watchdog on all things MBA admissions.

Lately I've been doing pro-bono work for the Forte Foundation, which has really amazing resources for women, and for a group called Service2School.org, which offers free application counseling to military vets.

And yes, that's me communing with a monkey in the pic.

For this Q&A thread, I'd like to focus on these two things:

  1. How you can improve your profile to get into one of the best business schools in the world
  2. How to talk about leadership in your application.

In both cases, the answers may surprise you.

I look forward to reading your questions and learning about you.
If you keep it to just a paragraph or two, it's easier for everyone to read and for me to include your question in my response. No worries about follow up questions, please ask!

I will do my best to check in often and respond promptly.

Comments (620)

Dec 30, 2013

quick answer as I just realized I didn't follow up on this and I have to get on a plane: read my answer to to Sacklodge about living your life for the next four years.

Also think about an alternative transcript.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

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Jan 22, 2014

Hi Betsy, thank you in advance.

Do you think that 2/3 years experience is enough to give you the best chance of getting the most out of an MBA?

With particular reference to Harvard 2+2, is there actually any benefit to applying as an undergraduate rather than whilst working? I believe when applying to 2+2 it is harder to find decent references simply due to circumstances.

Jan 27, 2014

Hi Laud,
You've asked a couple of good questions -- both of which have different answers depending on your own experience. I will start generally, and if you want to tweak the question a bit, feel free to go ahead.

So, 2-3 years experience is definitely enough experience to get in, if that's the question, which it may not be. As you can see by the chart that's embedded in this blog post, plenty of students get into Harvard Business School with
3 years or less.
http://masteradmissions.com/wp/2014/01/06/apply-now-or-later/

You actually asked a better question, is it "enough to give you the best chance of getting the most out of an MBA"?
And that's really personal. It depends on what the 2 - 3 years of full time experience really offered. Many applicants switch jobs after 2 years or so, and then have the advantage of more than one employer experience. That is definitely true if you go from one industry or another, or one kind of function, or you simply take on a lot more or different responsibility.
That doesn't mean you have to switch, or even work longer. If you feel that you are at your own inflection point, that is, that you are as open and ready as you will be now vs. 2 years from now, or even a year from now, you should at least visit schools and network with current students and alums. That kind of research will help you in either case.
Then if you do apply, and don't get in, it's not the end of the world. Because you can reapply and change up your game -- and that, indeed, is a positive.

As for 2+2 and other deferred admit programs, first, you have to apply while in school. That's the deal. They do not offer deferred admits to those who just started, although it's an interesting idea. And not even sure why they don't.
But those are the rules. Given that, what other question do you have?

And if you are simply worried about references, sounds like there might be something else going on that concerns you... is it about not having solid enough work experience? Even if it is just internships or part-time jobs?

let me know. Promise I will be on top of this thread more frequently!

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jan 28, 2014

Thank you for the answers Betsy!

I'm not worried about having solid enough work experience, and have an Investment Banking summer position lined up. I'm just concerned that my referees will most likely both have to be from the bank?

My leadership experiences are all society based (or volunteering abroad! I can't imagine they'd be writing a reference that is competitive). People at university in the UK don't seem to know the students as well, so there's no way they could write about constructive criticism and leadership qualities.

Dec 24, 2013

Hi Betsy,

My brother is applying to b-school within the next 2 years.
His profile:
Bachelor of Engineering (mechanical) from a top 20 college in India.
Investment banking analyst - India - for 1 year - 2 deals under his belt
Private Equity analyst, promoted to senior analyst - Indonesia/Malaysia - 2 years and counting - 1 deal under his belt
Started an online company in college that went bust - no revenues or anything
Average extra curriculars, average academics
Goal: to continue working in PE at a higher level (for which an MBA is required)

Could you please tell me:
1. What colleges should he apply to as an Indian wanting to work in PE within the US/EU?
2. How should he deal with his above average academic background?
3. Is PE hiring students that need a Visa sponsorship? If so, can you give me an idea of which ones?
4. What should my brother do from now till he applies (within next 2 years) to strengthen his candidature?

Thank you.

Dec 30, 2013

Hi uncmba,
Your brother sounds like a candidate who meets the broad qualifications for a good school, but that's just the beginning. Average academics doesn't help, so he's going to have to make up for it with a lot of leadership experience.

He should do his own research, meet people, network, and figure out what school is the right fit. Almost anything I tell you here would be painfully generic.

As to the Visa situation, sponsorship is incredibly hard for any field. Ask around on another forum here in WSO if anyone has done it. PE is the hardest field in the world to get into, so I think your brother might have a tough road ahead of him Visa-wise.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 6, 2015

(wrong post)

Dec 30, 2013

Hi Green_Mike,
thanks for the kind words. UCLA is fine -- to be honest, I think the UC San Diego online course is cheaper, that works for you. Although there is nothing like sitting in a class to remind yourself what it is like to go to school.
Right now, and this may change as education upends itself, an accredited institution that gives a grade is all you need. It definitely can be online. Sometimes community colleges offer cheaper courses, but when in doubt, I'd go with the 4-year school. Obviously avoid schools like University of Phoenix.
I think calculus and stats are your first best choices. Accounting if you haven't taken it before because you will never regret it. After that, it's up to you.

But having said that, if you have a European master in finance (reading this more carefully now), that might mitigate your middling GPA. Why not just take calc and stats if you didn't take them before (although I find that hard to believe you need them now) and then study like mad for the GMAT and be really interesting on the application.
How's that for a plan?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jan 28, 2014

Hi Laud,
As for your references, you surely can ask two people from your summer internship at the investment bank if you would like. There's no rule against that for HBS or any other school. I do know that Dee Leopold has said publicly that it is perfectly OK to have more than one recommender from a firm.

As for your assumption that the volunteer recommenders might not be competitive, why not? If they knew you and they felt that you were a strong contributor, what would prohibit them from writing something about you that's genuine? I don't think you should write that option off, if you've done some interesting and meaningful work, and they have something genuine to say about you.

I advise against university professors no matter what. Admissions committee folks state very clearly that a university professor cannot provide the information they are looking for about your behavior in a business setting.

Anything else?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jan 29, 2014

Hey Betsy,

Thanks for putting this thread together. I've enjoyed reading the advice you give, and now I'm hoping to get some.

For what it's worth, I've debated with myself the value of the MBA over the last 2-3 years, and I've finally decided to take the plunge. I've debated with myself the value of the MBA over the last 2-3 years, and I've finally decided to take the plunge. I want to taste that sweet, sweet pedigree and strap myself into the catapult named "Career Trajectory".

My target schools are Harvard + Stanford for all the standard reasons and as an opportunity to move outside of the Midwest for at least 2-years. I would also consider Booth, Northwestern, and Wharton, but staying in Chicago or moving to Philly is less appealing.

After grad school, my goal is to find a role as a senior analyst at a top value shop with a "suggestivist" bent, such as ValueAct.

I'm still pretty early in the process so I have no idea I how attractive is my profile (been told good enough to try) or what score to aim for on the GMAT.

1) Any feedback on my chances for Harvard or Stanford? I recognize these are two of the most competitive schools.

2) I'm expecting my extracurriculars to be the weakest part of my resume. What is the most impressive thing I can do between now and application time?

One thing I've consistently done since graduation is help current student with breaking into Wall Street via mentoring, networking, giving advice, etc... How do you think that sounds? I worry that my "extracurricular" is too related to my career, and doesn't show me off as a well rounded person. I'm actually incredible funny, charming, and handsome. Oh shit...almost forgot to say that I'm modest too!

*waits for the laughs*

3) I was also hoping to get some advice on "how to frame my background" for school like Harvard vs. Stanford?

The future goals things is something that I struggle with too - from an application perspective. I genuinely want to learn how to be a manager/run a business so that I can be a better investor. I want to be in a position where I can have a relationship with the management teams of my portfolio companies and give them capital allocation and strategy advice, as one day I may want to pursue an activist strategy. But, I wonder if that sounds too "small" for the MBA application. Maybe I should say something along the lines of "leveraging the financial analysis skills I learned from my career with the managerial skills I hope to learn during my time at [insert B school] to open up my own [insert entrepreneurial idea]."

If my dreams are dinged by the adcoms, I'll be forced to grind my way into success.

Here's a brief summary of my profile:

White male
Immigrant from Europe
First generation college student
Will be 27 years old when matriculating
Big 10 undergrad
Graduated with degrees in finance and accounting
With honors/distinction and 3.7 GPA
Started career in sell-side research at well-regarded Midwestern investment bank
While at the bank, I learned all the prerequisite financial statement and modeling skills
On my 2-year anniversary, got promoted from junior associate to associate
After 32 months on the sell-side, moved to a the buy side as an equity analyst
10+ billion asset manager
I'm the only analyst that works on our long-only products as well as out newly seeded L/S fund
I source and research all my ideas. I speak directly to CFOs and CEOs. Planning/hoping to get one of my LORs from a CFO I have a good relationship with.
Completed each level of CFA on my first try. Will get the charter in 4-months.
Will have about 2.5 years of buy side experience assuming a Fall 2015 start date
About 5-years of work experience in total

Thank you,

KB

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KarateBoy

Feb 9, 2014

Hi KarateBoy,
I am so sorry not to get back to you in a timely fashion. For some reason my WSO notifications are off, and I don't know when someone is posting on the thread. I know, blame someone else!

So, let's put first things first. The first thing you have to do if you are ready to really take the plunge is take the GMAT, and without a gmat score, all bets are off. Otherwise, all I'm doing is giving you random words to say, like, "hey, you have a great shot."

I will say that what you've told me about yourself doesn't make me think that admissions officers will be jumping all over themselves to recruit you. I am not seeing anything that special about an investment management guy who wants to be an investment management guy. Stanford Business School is dead serious when it says it wants its students to "Change Lives. Change Organizations. Change the World." Students are constantly encouraged to live that dream. For example, tomorrow I am coaching first-year GSB student in TED type presentations on just that subject -- (check out this link on "L.O.W. keynotes" http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/lowkeynotes).
Yes, I know I am holding up a high standard, but the students who get into these programs have a really global standard for themselves. So-- convince us here on this forum!

Your GPA is fine and strong. But I actually don't see why you need an MBA. You have a CFA. (almost). You are a smart guy, but I'm much more interested in hearing more about your mentoring -- what it means to you, what your bigger goals are, and like what HBS says about its students, they "educate leaders who make a difference in the world."http://www.hbs.edu/about/Pages/default.aspx

Even at Wharton, which I know is less attractive to you but getting out of the Midwest would probably be a good idea, they are promoting the philosophy of giving rather than taking. Professor Adam Grant is Wharton's superstar right now, and his whole philosophy is on giving out -- that is, what's your contribution? https://mgmt.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/1323/

Here's what I recommend: think about your own leadership style. Is karate part of it? what does that say about your energy, power, and philosophy?
Start reading books on leadership and thinking more broadly. That will help you position yourself to take part in an elite managerial program. Oh, and get your GMAT under your belt.

Make sense?

Betsy

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 3, 2014

Hey Betsy,

Thanks for getting back to me - and now I apologize for my slow reply.

A couple of things jump out to me from your reply:

1) I got my gmat prep books and I'll follow-up when I get my score.

2) All my sources tell me that a guy who has investment experience prior to the MBA is rare and I would have nearly 2-years upon matriculation. My hope is that this sets me up for a good career trajectory and appeals to the adcoms.

3) Just to clarify, you believe that writing how I want to "change the world" would be a more compelling reason for the MBA than wanting to become a better business analyst?

I can see myself writing/talking about pairing my financial analysis skills with the management skills I hope to learn in other to improve the educational system. What do all the other people who are using the MBA to break into finance write about?

4) I don't think I do need an MBA, especially now that I'm (almost) a CFA and my performance has been pretty good so far. The value of the MBA is something I've debated with myself for over 3-years and the conclusion I reached was only Harvard/Stanford/etc... will provide enough of a benefit to my career that it's worth leaving. I hope that pairing my talents with the pedigree/network of these institutions will accelerate my path to a PM, particularly if I want to raise my own capital.

5) My handle is KarateBoy because I used to compete in regional and national tournaments. It combined a lot of things I'm passionate about: competition, self-improvement, physical fitness, mental toughness, and mentoring. I quickly grew into one the best fighters at our gym, as evidenced my numerous titles. The component that set me apart was that I WASN'T a brawler given my relatively smaller frame, but that I was a very good technical fighter. To me, fighting is more of a chess match than anything else. As this became obvious to other, I dedicated my time to training and mentoring others.

This desire can again be vividly seen after I graduated college and became an alumni mentor of a club for student interested in a job in finance. I also like giving back to this board: //www.wallstreetoasis.com/blog/ama-im-an-investment-...

I'm now looking to join a charitable organization to help improve/reform education as I think the system is broken and its a subject I care about (1st generation college student from blue collar parents).

6) Let me know if you'd like me to elaborate on anything else: I'm enjoying the conversation.

Betsy Massar:

Hi KarateBoy,

I am so sorry not to get back to you in a timely fashion. For some reason my WSO notifications are off, and I don't know when someone is posting on the thread. I know, blame someone else!

So, let's put first things first. The first thing you have to do if you are ready to really take the plunge is take the GMAT, and without a gmat score, all bets are off. Otherwise, all I'm doing is giving you random words to say, like, "hey, you have a great shot."

I will say that what you've told me about yourself doesn't make me think that admissions officers will be jumping all over themselves to recruit you. I am not seeing anything that special about an investment management guy who wants to be an investment management guy. Stanford Business School is dead serious when it says it wants its students to "Change Lives. Change Organizations. Change the World." Students are constantly encouraged to live that dream. For example, tomorrow I am coaching first-year GSB student in TED type presentations on just that subject -- (check out this link on "L.O.W. keynotes" http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/lowkeynotes).

Yes, I know I am holding up a high standard, but the students who get into these programs have a really global standard for themselves. So-- convince us here on this forum!

Your GPA is fine and strong. But I actually don't see why you need an MBA. You have a CFA. (almost). You are a smart guy, but I'm much more interested in hearing more about your mentoring -- what it means to you, what your bigger goals are, and like what HBS says about its students, they "educate leaders who make a difference in the world."http://www.hbs.edu/about/Pages/default.aspx

Even at Wharton, which I know is less attractive to you but getting out of the Midwest would probably be a good idea, they are promoting the philosophy of giving rather than taking. Professor Adam Grant is Wharton's superstar right now, and his whole philosophy is on giving out -- that is, what's your contribution? https://mgmt.wharton.upenn.edu/profile/1323/

Here's what I recommend: think about your own leadership style. Is karate part of it? what does that say about your energy, power, and philosophy?

Start reading books on leadership and thinking more broadly. That will help you position yourself to take part in an elite managerial program. Oh, and get your GMAT under your belt.

Make sense?

Betsy

Follow me on Twitter: https://twitter.com/KarateBoy

Mar 3, 2014

Hi Betsy,

I am looking at schools to apply to in R3.

My profile:
- International with lots of work/study experiences in several countries
- V. distinct successful entrepreneurial experience
- Overcoming some adversity
- GMAT: 770 (Q49,V47)
- Achilles heel: V. poor GPA equivalent (sub-3.0)

I am considering Kellogg and Booth. Do I have a chance? How competitive really is round 3? By how much do the odds decrease compared to R2 and R1? Any other top top 10 schools you would recommend for R3?

Thanks.

Mar 4, 2014

Ah, the Round 3 problem. The short answer is that yes, the odds are pretty slim, but not impossible. I've been writing about this for several years running (here's a sample blog post http://masteradmissions.com/wp/2013/03/13/mba-thir...) -- and it doesn't change -- people do get admitted in Round 3 all the time. But not that many. Will you be one of the lucky ones?

Well, tell us here on the forum -- why are you taking your chances now ?

The best reason is because you've been really busy at work and had some fantastic career experiences that have kept you from applying in Round 1 or 2. Most schools plan to take about 90% of their applicants in Round 1 or 2. But they leave space open for someone who might fit in the pool -- someone they haven't seen before who has unique experience. I am about to go off to dinner with someone who is applying this round and he's very different. His industry is unique and I personally think he will add to the experiences of his future classmates. He's no cookie cutter guy.

Having said all that, I would be a little anxious about your low GPA. Many students go for an alternative transcript to show that they are able to put their nose to the grindstone once they get serious. Even Coursera classes are starting to become viable, if you take it for official credit. I know that's not something you can do between now and the 3rd round deadline, but if things don't work out, you might want to look into that option.
I'm also having a hard time saying anything about your chances without knowing anything about you. I spent many hours with current students in my communications coaching role at the GSB and in the admissions consulting biz, and I can tell you that the top and most successful students are really three-dimensional. They are leaders in both their heads AND their hearts. So that's why I have to say that anyone's ability to predict your chances is kind of iffy.

The reality is that if you think you can put a great application together and do the self reflection required to show yourself as a 3D genuine leader of character, then you have a shot.

Make sense?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 6, 2014

Thank you for the response Betsy.
As for an alternate transcript, I have levels 1 and 2 of the CFA, as well as an explanation for poor GPA. Any my GMAT is stratospherically high (770)

Do you have rough estimates of percentage acceptances? For instance, Kellogg might have an acceptance rate of 25%. What might their R3 acceptance rate be? Under 10%? Under 5%?

Mar 7, 2014

The rates are probably 10% or less, but like you and everyone else on this forum, I am making an educated guess.
It also changes year by year, as the populations change year by year. A few years ago more students applied in R1 because of a GMAT change, and so that skewed acceptances. You really don't know.
Most admissions officers do
encourage you apply when you are ready. And they also do encourage you to explain why you are applying on the later side of the cycle. See click on the Tuck link in this blog post and you will see what they suggest

http://masteradmissions.com/wp/2014/03/04/talking-...

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 4, 2014

Realized that even if the article on Round 3 MBA chances from last year is valid, it is still old. So, I've updated the article, with some new quotes by HBS admissions director Dee Leopold.
Here are some tidbits:

I've personally seen a number of students go through successful third-round quests, but it isn't for the faint-hearted.

First the odds are more competitive, as admissions committee members from Tuck recently posted on their blog. But not impossible....

Do apply third round if

--You realize that there are other schools after HBS and Stanford GBS
--You improved your GMAT score by enough to put you within the target school's range
--Your work or life situation changed
--You are considering part-time programs when you only applied to full-time programs

You should NOT apply third round if

--You only want to go to a top 5 school and you didn't get into the top 4
--You are outside of the school's class profile
--You aren't sure what you want to do
--The thought of filling out another application gives you a rash
--You hate your life and it just occurred to you to get an MBA last week

http://masteradmissions.com/wp/2014/03/04/talking-...

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 5, 2014

Hi Betsy -

I was wondering if you could assess my profile and provide a few schools at which you think I would be competitive.

My profile:
GMAT: 710
Undergrad GPA: 2.93 from Penn State - Engineering
Master's GPA: 3.98 from Lehigh University - Manufacturing Engineering / Supply Chain

Will have almost 6 years of work experience before application period in Fall '14.

Current Work experience:
2.5 years for non-profit / government - leadership role over saw all aspects of housing operations for portfolio of 1400 affordable housing units.
2.5 years in manufacturing / supply chain for F500 cosmetics company (Estee Lauder, L'Oreal, etc...). Started in manufacturing, lean process improvement projects, etc...now a supply planning manager.

Extra-Curriculars real estate investing (rent 3 properties) and club sports during undergrad

Goal would be to use business school to become more well rounded (better overall business skills) and either return to industry or enter consulting. Would I'd be competitive at a Ross, Fuqua, Darden? Dream / reach school would be Wharton.

Jun 11, 2014

Hey PSU, I was going over this thread to see what recent posts I missed and saw that I never replied to you here. I am sorry! Since writing, do you have any more thoughts on your question? Now that we are closer to the Round 1 cycle, and the stats are coming out for last year's class, we can get a better fix on opportunities for you.
But before I do that, I would like to know how you got into grad school with a middling GPA (less than 3.0 is always tough) . Clearly you made up for it in grad school, though.
You will be on the old side -- not that it matters everywhere -- and it's still within the normal distribution -- but I do think you have some solid experience. Guarantee that if a school like Darden doesn't want you for the 2-year program, they will try to foist the executive program on you. Seen it done several times. They will be pretty up front.
As for Duke and Ross, they are less aggressive about their executive programs, and in both cases you need to demonstrate fit and propensity for fun.
But tell me if you are still interested in a more detailed response -- as it has been so long

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 6, 2014

Betsy,

Please see my profile here:
http://gmatclub.com/forum/updated-profile-can-i-ma...

I'm currently working with a consultant who says I should be targeting the top 7-ish schools (Booth, Columbia, Stern, Kellogg, etc.). With my recent hire at a PE firm I was wondering if it's possible in any way for me to make the jump to HSW-eligibility. What do you think and, if so, what kinds of things could I do between now and applications to help?

Mar 15, 2014

so sorry for the delay in reply. WSO is not pinging me (blame the system!) when I am getting new queries on this forum.
First, I have to defer to the other consultant, who knows much more about you and has been able to talk with you more than I can -- I've seen a tiny sliver of you -- and that's just in a public forum, when the other consultant knows how you show up one-on-one.

I'd delighted you got the job at the PE firm and you have a chance to make a difference because there are not so many layers, so make sure that by the time you apply you have some genuine accomplishments, rather than just being in training. I appreciate that I am asking for a lot in a short time, but just getting hired doesn't mean as much as having a material impact on the organization. You say you might get promoted, and that would be good if the promotion had something to do with your added value to the firm.

I also don't want you to say that you weren't in a leadership position when you worked as a mechanical engineer. There are plenty of opportunities for you to show your leadership -- it doesn't matter whether you had the team title or not. Everyone in and collaborative endeavor can be a leader -- and should be.

Your habit of non-profit and NGO leadership is a good thing, and will help your candidacy. On the other hand, your 3.0 GPA, even in honors, isn't that close to the average GPA of most of the top 10 schools, but your CFA level 1 and your nice GMAT may easily compensate for that.

Also, do you have any international experience? That's always a help. Many schools are so globally focused that they want people to work in international teams, if they haven't had the chance to work outside their own country.
I won't say it's a check-the-box, but it's important.

sorry again for the delay in responding!

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 17, 2014

I studied abroad for a semester in Britain, but that's the extent of my international experience. Got A's in both classes I took, though

Mar 17, 2014

Some might snark at me for saying this, but the UK doesn't really count as foreign enough. From me, a focus group of 1, having lived and worked in London for a year, and having worked for Brit employers (Barclays, Jardines, Euromoney) for more than 10 years, they feel foreign. But it isn't the same as working in a really different environment than the US, and also from a focus group of 1, (me), working in Taiwan and Vietnam count as different.
All of this is to say that if you had the chance to make a big change in the way your application is viewed, you might want to do an internship in a country where you have to deal with a different language and culture. Ask @shorttheworld -- he moved to Brazil for a year and worked on a startup and it certainly turned his worldview around.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 17, 2014

I understand what you're saying completely. I did think of another thing I did, which is that when I was in college I was part of a group that was crucial in the development of a sister city program with a South American city. We organized trips to the city, too, though I never went.

Unfortunately with this job and applying to school in the fall I don't know how I could possibly get international experience. I was considering Engineers Without Borders, as I've worked with them before, and could keep my job and just take off work to travel to do site visits and whatnot, but that's all I can possibly think of.

Mar 17, 2014

Hi again, I don't think it would hurt to do the Engineers without Borders, just for the connections -- given your service orientation. And you might actually have a good time doing it. (Makes me wish they had service trips for people like me).

Re the sister city: Definitely the idea of enhancing relations with other cities and other peoples demonstrates a global mindset, which is almost required at business school these days.

Also, If your current job gives you any opportunity to work with international teams, even from your US location, that's also a good way to demonstrate your global mindset. Have you ever tried to convince someone from another country and another culture that your idea is worth consideration? It requires a range of communications and leadership abilities, and is different from having that discussion in the break room with a peer.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 24, 2014

To anyone who is waiting the outcome of the remaining Round 2 decisions for the next entering MBA class, I wish you the best of luck! I know this week will be crazy, waiting for phone calls or for Weds to come around... so best to all of you!
Here are the relevant dates:

Wharton: Tues, Mar 25 (alumni made calls in the past --check me on this)
Kellogg: Tues, Mar 25
Darden: Tues Mar 25
Stanford GSB: Weds Mar 26 (calls go out previous day, sometimes late into the night)
HBS: Weds Mar 26 (online only, no calls)
Haas: Weds Mar 26
Chicago Booth: Thurs Mar 27 (calls can go out earlier)
LBS: Thurs Mar 27 (London time!)

MIT Sloan and NYU Stern are April 1 -- forever!
UCLA Anderson is April 2 -- more forever!
Columbia is still rolling

What am I missing?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Mar 27, 2014

Hi Betsy,

Recently, I've seen a few threads pop up asking for people's opinion on corporate/commerical banking to get into Top MBA. I wanted to ask - are corporate bankers placed into the same "bucket" as traditional IBD/PE candidates? On that note, would a BB corporate banker with 2/3 years of experience with good GPA, GMAT and EC be competitive for M7? Thanks!

Mar 31, 2014

Hi Blue Shirt, so sorry to have taken so long to get back to you. I try not to come on WSO on the weekends -- can you imagine a diet of WSO 7 days a week?
But back to your question -- I actually think that corporate banking is considered finance, and if a school's admissions officers look at "finance" in one group, then sure. But you can see by my flip response, I wouldn't say that it always works that way.
First, my initial reaction is that corporate banking is probably pretty rare these days. You see many more people from the big investment firms, and a lot of them do look alike, You are actually differentiated by working directly with a company on the lending side, and if your business is relationship management, you probably know more about the operations of your clients' companies than someone in investment banking, to be honest.
I did work with a commercial banker recently, and it was fun because the stories were more about expansion capital for smaller firms that were just breaking out. It was fun to hear the excitement about entrepreneurship that was working -- although she was pretty much in the smtall-to-middle market.
Still, lending isn't as glamorous these days, which actually makes it more interesting.

But I am guessing the question is more about you -- do you stand a chance? And the answer is, how do you show up in your work? Are you the guy everyone wants to have on their team? Do you generate ideas for new services or new approaches to old processes? Do clients ask for you? Or like you because they trust you?
These questions speak to the quality of your experience, which is what top business schools are looking for.

Would you be competitive? To be honest, your information is a little too thin for me to make a prediction that would be of value to you. Here's how it works -- naturally to even be considered in a competitive pool, your numbers should be good. I've seen outliers, but it's easier not to have to argue your way out of a low GPA or GMAT.
Then, the real question is about your patterns of leadership. Are you someone who takes initiative? Are you involved in your community? (however you define community -- your peer group, your church, your neighborhood, your world?
And finally, do you bring something to the table that students at a top business school want? Can they learn from you?

I am posing all these questions for you and others who might read this because that's what admissions readers want to know about you. You have to be different and interesting and smart. Are you all three? If so, you are competitive.

One final point -- you may find that 2/3 years post-college doesn't give you enough opportunity to showcase the different ways you are a leader. Some students have a lot of leadership by then, and others need to build on their history. Sometimes it makes sense to even switch jobs and challenge yourself.
Oh wait, that wasn't a final point, one more: if you have some international experience working outside of your home country and language, that's always helpful. Global citizens can add to the class in a fairly meaningful way.

Hope all these questions are helpful, not crazy-making!
Betsy

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 1, 2014

I want to thank you in advance for your time and effort to evaluate every one of us. Your work is greatly appreciated.

I have been working for a mid-sized (~20,000 employees) IT consulting company for a bit over a year. I actually applied for various Financial Engineering programs last year and got admitted to Columbia University. I debated whether I should pursue this opportunity for weeks, but I decided that MBA will allow me to pursue my dream in the long-run. I plan to apply for MBA schools in two to three years, but wanted to gauge where I stand currently. I want to improve my candidacy as much as possible to get into top 10, or even M7. My profile is shown below.

UGPA: 3.93/4.00, Top 5 engineering school, mechanical engineering, management minor
Graduate GPA: 3.55/4.00, same engineering school, mechanical engineering

GRE: Took the old GRE, 720/800/4.0 V/Q/AW
GMAT: Have not taken it yet, but I am aiming for 750+

Work experience: Have been working as an IT consultant for enterprise voice/business intelligence for a year. Mid-size IT consulting firm with 20k employees. Promoted once.

Certification: CFA Level 1 Exam, FRM Level 1 Exam, Microsoft Certified Solutions Associate (MCSA): Server 2012

Language spoken: English/Korean, both fluently

Future goals (prior to MBA): I am debating if I should go work for a smaller software consulting firm to take more responsibilities and hopefully move up the ladder more quickly. I don't plan to move to a bigger consulting firm as of now, but I am open to suggestions.

Career goals: There are three possibilities. First option is to join a startup company. I like to learn business from bottom-up and grow a business at an exponential rate (hopefully). More details on why I would like to join a startup company is explained in Speical Note section below. Second option is to join management consulting. I am interested in giving strategic advice in regards to business operation. Lastly, I am willing to join technology firms such as Google and Facebook.

EC: I like to tutor people. I used to serve as a teaching assistant while in school. As of now, I am not doing anything in that sense, but I want to get involved in voluntary tutoring. Also, I have been involved in some leadership roles at church.

Hobbies: Nothing spectacular. Running, working out, reading, writing. One thing I plan to do is finish a half marathon before I submit application.

Special note: One of biggest personal accomplishments I had was losing 110 pounds of weight in less than a year. This required serious determination and I managed to maintain healthy weight for more than six years. I am looking for a way or an idea to share my stories and impact other people's lives in some way.

Do I have any chance? What do I need to do to improve my candidacy? My main concern is that I do not have as solid work experience as other candidates do (a random IT consulting firm). Would I be better off by moving to a smaller consulting firm where I can have more impact or should I try to join a big consulting firm? I think Deloitte or Accenture is within the reach, but I am not sure how long it will take me to join either. I would sincerely appreciate your evaluation. Thank you so much.

May 2, 2014

Hi,

A few more quick questions that recently popped up:

1) How do top (M7) MBA programs view a traditional 3 year bachelor's degree vs. one that includes a 4th honours year? (degree outside the US). Is the honours year a big bonus in the eyes of adcoms?
2) How would adcoms view a fourth honours year vs. an additional year of work experience instead, or a year of volunteer work overseas (possibly IN the US)?
3) Does being from outside the US confer the additional application benefit I've heard it does because of diversity etc? Is this still true when the country is English speaking/developed (Australia)?

Thanks!

May 5, 2014

Hi there NotHospER,
I'm going to deal with your questions a few at a time, mostly because many folks, (including me!) have a very short attention span, and don't have the patience to go through very long posts. Also, aren't a lot of people reading this stuff on their mobiles? So I'm going to just see what I can offer in the first 3 questions for now

1. The question, How do top programs view a traditional 3 year degree vs. a 4th honors year outside the US?
They look at how much you have challenged yourself in your time at school. If the honors year challenges you, yes, it is positive. Why wouldn't it be?
2. I knew you were going to ask this next question -- how would they view a 4th honors year vs work experience. The answer is that it depends on your entire profile. If you are trying to decide between the two, they both have their advantages and disadvantages. Whatever is more purposeful and true to what you want to do with your life is probably the best answer. The question is really too theoretical -- you could be successful under both accounts, to be honest.
3. I think being international is more interesting, personally, but that doesn't give you any free rides in the admissions game. I think if you have spent time out of Australia, that adds to your global focus, but just because you are not from the USA doesn't really mean that much, especially since you are from a developed, English speaking country with a long history of candidates to business schools in the US. Some on this forum may disagree, but there aren't too many free rides. But hey, you have the Menzies fellowship if you get into Harvard
http://www.menziesfoundation.org.au/scholarships/s...

I hope some of this is helpful. I worry that I am not giving you yes/no answers, and that's because there's not a lot of data on whether these issues are causal success factors.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 7, 2014

Thanks for the info, this is definitely helpful.

May 5, 2014

Hi,

To add to my last questions, I have a few more that I hope you won't mind answering:

1) If you have any experience with law school admissions: do you know if I need to have a demonstrated interest in law (eg internships, volunteer work etc) to be admitted to top MBA/JD programs from an IB background? Or is clearly outlining my intentions enough?
2) I know 700 used to be the "safe" gmat score and that's not usually good enough/positive anymore - is there a new consensus? Is a 730+ considered positive, or a 750+ etc? Is there a breakdown for a "positive" score (eg 90th percentile in both quantitative and verbal)?
3) Do schools view applications a little more leniently if you're applying for a MBA/JD and you've been admitted to one school but not yet the other? For example, if I apply for a MBA/JD at an M7 school and am admitted to the MBA program, but am not one of the most competitive applicants for the JD (because of a lack of law experience, which would be my biggest issue), would they be more inclined to admit me than if I hadn't applied for the joint program and been accepted by the business school?

Thanks so much!

May 7, 2014

1 Regarding law school admissions, it makes sense to show an interest in things legal, but you don't have to have worked for a law firm or in a legal department of a company to be admitted to a top school. Like any graduate program, your desire to go to law school has to be roughly consistent with some of the steps you have already taken in your professional life.
It is almost impossible to get a bachelor of laws in the US, but I know it is common in Australia. I just worked with a candidate who was a joint law/finance student in undergraduate in Australia. He is going to HBS in the fall (cool!)
So don't worry about not having taken law courses in undergrad-- that's not a driver.
2. I have been very clear on this all over these forums. The total score is not the point. High quant, over 48 or 49 is required combined with a strong verbal -- particularly if you are a native speaker.
3. No, they do not look more leniently if you are applying to a joint program. If anything, they are more rigorous, in that they want to know you can compress 5 years' work into 4.
Some schools make their decisions independently -- but no one is going to cut you slack because you applied to a joint program

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 7, 2014

Hi Betsy,

I just wanted to thank you for answering all my questions in another thread I had, and ask you another question.

MBA schools say that you must include all transcripts from undergraduate institutions you have attended. Does this have to include classes in high school that I could have gotten credit for, but chose not to ever transfer to my undergraduate school?

They were taken in the actual high school rather than on the campus, but we could have gotten credits for them. As of now I don't even know what they are and neither does my school. I don't think I did that well in them either, especially compared to college, so if I can help it I'd rather exclude them.

Thanks!

May 8, 2014

SORRY! I didn't see this question -- so I am like a day late on this.
Per your question: No, unless the course was taken at a university, you do not have to send them. Even if you had gotten credit for them (and they would show up as AP classes on your transcript), they don't have grades attached, and that's normal.
Besides, admissions committee members are more interested in your more recent grades--high school is a way too different environment to be predictive of how you will do in business school.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 9, 2014

Thanks! I'm not talking about AP classes, but ones that were offered in high school that went through real universities in my area such as a community college and then state college.

May 9, 2014

I don't think it is a black mark to leave them off -- but now you have me curious. Why not just add them? Also, do they show up as transferred credits on your current transcript?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 9, 2014

I believe I got a B or B+ and an A- in two of them which would bring down my GPA. Then the other one was a Calculus class I took my senior year that I didn't do any work for and performed poorly. I don't think I ever got credit since you had to have a certain grade for it to count. They also don't show up on my transcript either.

May 10, 2014

Hi Betsy,

I received a summer internship offer in equity research from a top bulge bracket bank (i.e. JPM, Morgan Stanley, GS). I have heard it mentioned that "gold" for H/S/W was GS/MS/KKR, and I was wondering if that applied to equity research as well as banking? I know top BB ER recruits a lot from HBS and also there have been placements into HBS.

Banks like Bank of America, Deutsche, Barclays etc. do full-time recruiting for IB at my school. I was also wondering from a purely H/S/W adcom perspective, would a ER stint at Morgan Stanley be looked upon worse/better than investment banking at more mid-tier BB like Deutsche or BAML?

I apologize for the focus on prestige but since it is a factor I was just hoping for your advice in terms of choosing a job coming out of undergrad, thanks for your help!

May 14, 2014

Sorry I didn't see this post until just now. It's really weird and something that keeps happening! (I know, I always blame WSO.) So, I don't want to say that if you work for a certain firm it is a sure bet you get in anywhere. It just isn't clear.
So if you are saying "hey Joe worked at Goldman and that's why he got in" the answer is -- not so. I have seen many great candidates get in who didn't have any brand name on their resume, but they made clear what impact they had on their organization and they made their organization understandable and interesting to the admissions reader.
And of course I know many students from those firms who didn't get in-- some of whom actually post on WSO.

So even if there is some correlation, I don't know if you can make the argument for causation,

As for the specific question, I think admissions folk don't place so much weight on the difference between BAML or Morgan Stanley, It's much much much more about you and how you do what you do. Take the job that will give you room to stretch and challenge yourself. And the one that has the most international opportunity.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 6, 2014

Hello!

I am a current undergrad at a top target uni outside the states, aiming to apply for HBS 2+2 and Stanford deferred next year or in 2016. Reason for applying (slightly unclear at the moment): want to transition into the business side of a tech company. But to be honest I am not fixated with one particular reason behind applying.

Current profile:
Academics: Studying a pure science/ maths course at a "prestigious" uni. Grades have been in the top 5% in a class of 200 so far- but given the competition this may change. GMAT: yet to be taken.

WE: First summer: analytics and corp dev at a tech company in Asia. This summer: Interning in M&A at a well-known investment bank.

ECs: President of a uni wide business soc (helped bring high profile speakers like fortune CEOs, nobel laureates etc. to speak, large conferences, etc.); captaining a sports team at inter-university level, involved with entrepreneurs soc, etc.

Background: Nationality: a politically unstable Asian country with very few applications to HBS/ GSB. Moved to current country during teens, currently funding my uni costs through a large scholarship.

My main question is outside academics, what should I be doing to stand out? In terms of work experience working in banking may work against me as it is so common- anything recommended here? More importantly, for ECs what kind of things would be recommended? I have a few ideas which I am genuinely interested in, but I fear that are somewhat unlinked to each other and will not help towards create a progression story.

Thanks.

Jun 9, 2014

Hello almostsurely,
Like the others here, I am so sorry for the delay in response. I have been away and looking at schools and then just taking care of things, so it's unconscionably long since your question. My apologies.

I think it is probably interesting that you come from a politically unstable country and are probably now studying in a developed country. That is unusual, but that's not all that these programs care about. They do weight your grades and scores more than they do your internship experience, mostly because that's the most important metric they have for someone at your level. So stay in the top 5% (or more!) and get terrific gmat scores, particularly in quant.

As for how to stand out -- in the case of these deferred admit programs, the die is in some cases already cast. If you have shown a habit of leadership already, either through sports or extracurriculars, or community service or entrepreneurship, then you probably will be looked at ahead of students who are just good students and model citizens. Remember, these programs are tiny -- 100 students in the HBS cohort.
Now if you've already had a tradition of doing some great things, then keep on doing them! You obviously won a big scholarship for more than raw smarts, right? The same thing applies for business school -- make a name for yourself in your current community in some way.

Having said all that, you know there's no downside to applying. If you don't get in it just shows you tried, and that's a good thing.

Hope that helps,
Betsy

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 24, 2014

Betsy,

How much of a difference is a 3.92 vs. a 3.95 (magna vs. summa cum laude) matter for business school applications coming from a top undergrad business school?

Jun 9, 2014

Hi Semitar,
Sorry I haven't been on this forum for a while. I was visiting schools back east and got really busy!
My apologies.
Having said that, something tells me that I already responded to this question, perhaps in a private message? In any case, I think the difference of 3 basis points in a GPA is, as they say in law, de minimis.
I'm a little surprised that such a margin differentiates magna and summa -- but I do think that an almost 4.0 is probably going to look decent no matter what.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 26, 2014

Betsy,

I am seeking your expert opinion. I have been working for one year and am planning on applying to B-School in two more. I have two general questions in regards to my profile:

-Undergraduate: BA in Quantitative Economics, minor in Math. 3.74 overall (Magna Cum Laude). 3.9 in-major & minor and the Economics Medal for the highest in-major average in econ. OK private college but definitely not a feeder (think Fairfield/Elon). It's known for having an OK business school and has been ranked just inside the top 50 Bschools by Businessweek some years.

-GMAT: 740 (48Q, 44V)

-Work: Back-office finance role at one of GS/MS. Work in credit risk management. I have done an excellent job so far and am on the fast track to promotion, etc. I particularly focus on taking leadership on projects and process improvements. Letters of rec expected to be very strong

-Extracurricular: On a charity committee at work. I find local charities, get in contact with the directors, and set up times for employees from my office to volunteer. Additionally, I am involved in charity work outside of this. Also an avid guitarist and working out/fitness/health nut.

-Fun Facts: I grew up in a low-income household and went to private schools and college on grants & scholarships. My father did not go to college and my mother has a degree in sculpture. I also am nearly fluent in French and can understand Spanish as my mother's family is from Madrid (I am 1st generation US on that side). I was fully fluent going into college but have forgotten a bit of my French. I have been studying to regain fluency and I'd like to learn Spanish as well. Not the typical finance applicant and I hope to make this clear in my apps.

-Targeting: Wharton, Chicago, MIT, Columbia, Stern, and Yale for Investment Banking.

1. Is my list of schools unrealistic? Particularly Wharton.

-My profile has two glaring weaknesses that I am piquantly aware of: a non-target undergrad and a back-office (or middle-office for those who like to delude themselves) work role. Although I wish it weren't so, I expect this to significantly reduce my odds of admission at top-tier schools.

-I could work front-office at one of the smaller-name firms in my area but I feel as though working for a big-name firm is particularly helpful in my case since my undergrad was no-name. If I worked in a small IB shop, I'd be competing head-to-head against Ivy grads working in Bulge-Bracket IB. That's not a battle that I'd like to fight.

2. Should I retake the GMAT?

-I hadn't even considered this until recently, but the increase in the gmat scores of finance applicants has me quite worried. I expect that medians for finance applicants fall around 740 at Wharton down to 720/730 at the lower end of my spectrum of target schools and are likely to increase by the time that I apply. I originally took the test on a whim because I did not know what I wanted to do at the time. 760+ is very feasible with some study.

I'm excited to hear your opinion.

-N

Jun 9, 2014

Dear N
Sorry for the delayed response -- I was out of town -- looking at schools, and then got all tied up, so there you go. Huge apologies!

I'm going to address the GMAT question first: I think a 740 is a perfectly respectable score. I would be surprised if an admissions officer would find a 20 point difference material in an overall application package. If you have nothing but time and feel like studying, sure, go crazy. BUT -- they see all your scores whether you report them or not. So if you do go down, they might consider it a reversion to mean.
I also don't think the argument about having to have a higher score because you are in finance holds much water. I think Your GPA (look good) and the quality of the courses you took are more important. Also, the kind of curiosity you showed when you were an undergraduate. Did you challenge yourself? that kind of thing, I know you took a lot of economics, but I think that admissions officers want to know if you took any other courses too that might show an interest in other things -- like Iberian literature, for example (figuring it's something you can relate to?) or neuroscience? Something that shows you took advantage of your academic time there.

Now to question 1:
Are those schools too much of a stretch? Well, it depends on what kind of an impact you have at work. I know that a back-office ops role at GS is not investment banking, but there are lots of ways you could have made a difference in your firm.
Remember, almost all letters of recommendation are very strong. How do you distinguish yourself compared to your peer group? That will be the difference, and much of that is related to your character. Are you the kind of person someone looks up to? That is, are you a leader?
If you think the answer is yes, then you are on the right track. That's the difference between the ok candidate and the winning candidate: *Character.*
After hearing years of it's about "authentic leadership", I'm tired of that and think it's getting overused. But it means that schools are looking for the material that makes people great. Not just good grades, not just on some work committee, but great.
And are you *interesting*?
And are you *original*, or have an original way of looking at the world or solving problems?

That's what you have to work on when you present yourself to them.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

May 26, 2014

Hi Betsy,

Thank you for all of the advice you've provided in this forum. I've read all of your responses and found them tremendously helpful.

I was wondering if you could advise me a bit about a quandary I've found myself in. I just graduated from a moderately well-known state school in the Northeast, and will be working full time in one the Big 4's Advisory services. Long term, I'm really interested in strategy.

My GPA while I've been at school is around a 3.7. The problem is that I started really strong, but I had 2 really tough semesters. I've always had trouble saying no, and both semesters I got really involved in extracurriculars, and found it hard to balance with my studies. Both times, my grades were in the B,B+ range. This is really upsetting, because I know that I'm otherwise a really strong students.

Outside of the classroom, I was a leader in my Beta Alpha Psi chapter, part of two of my school's honours societies, and really involved in my school's mentoring program. I'm also getting involved in club motorsports through my regional chapter of the Sports Car Club of America.

Currently, I'm working on studying for my GMAT and am striving to aim for a 720+. I'm also going to try to kill it at work, when I get there. I'm really interested in applying to BSchool in 3-4 years, especially GSB, HBS, Booth, Yale, and Berkeley.

Do you have any advice about how I can overcome my GPA struggles and best align myself to get into one of my targets?

Thanks again!

-racecars

Jun 11, 2014

Hi Racecars, I find myself apologizing in every post because I missed a bunch a few weeks ago. So, really, sorry to take so long to reply!
Can I turn it back to you with a question? Well, I will anyway: Why is a 3.7 a problem GPA? Is grade inflation so rampant? I believe -- and tell me if you see otherwise -- that 3.5 is the average at most top business schools.
What is your class rank?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 20, 2014

Hi Betsy,

No problem at all! Thanks for your help so far. In fact, I should apologise for getting back to you so late.

The reason for my question is that I graduated from a state school. I realise that I probably have a bit of an inferiority complex haha but I'm concerned about competing against people from more elite and prestigious schools with better GPAs. My 3.7 only puts me at the "cum laude" designation from my school and I'm worried that it will work against me.

My school unfortunately does not do class ranks, but I'm thinking that it might help that I majored in one of the more challenging and quantitative fields that the business school offered.

Thanks again,
racecars

Jun 25, 2014

Hi Racecars,
It could have been a typo in there, so that was why I was worried about the seemingly small differential in the GPA.
In any case, there's not a lot you can do about it now. I think it is important to show that you can do well in quant courses, of course, but it is also important that you show an intellectual curiosity. Admissions folks like to see you challenging yourself in your major, but also taking advantage of being at a big university with lots of courses. If you read the recent Poets & Quants interview with Dee Leopold, head of admissions at HBS, you will see that she is talking about the liberal arts and about the critical thinking required to read history. They do want you to be interested in lots of different things.

But you cannot change much now; I do suggest you read widely about a whole range of subjects. You'd be surprised how much that activity will help you in creative problem solving.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 26, 2014

Thanks again, Betsy. I appreciate the advice. Also, would you recommend any specific other ECs to get involved with to strengthen my resume? I would be especially interested in anything that could help me show that intellectual curiosity.

Jun 27, 2014

Hi Racecars,
I actually cannot recommend specific extra-curricular activities. I think it is something that you really need to figure out for yourself, that is, what else would you like to do with the time you are not at work or racing cars?
As for the intellectual curiosity point, you either are curious or not. If you are, it almost doesn't matter what you choose to explore, because there's always a lesson somewhere.
It's not about checking the box. It's about opening up your mind and your horizons. They want to put together a class of people who are eager to learn, eager to explore ideas, and are just very interesting. I am guessing you are more interesting than you allow yourself to believe, so follow some of your passions and see where they take you.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 1, 2014

Thank you for this. This is for a friend, his profile is below:
Stats:
Undergrad: BS in Finance from Kansas State
UG GPA: 3.0
Graduate: Master in Finance from a top-10 program
Grad GPA: 3.3
GMAT: 700 (will retake if needed)
Work Experience: 2 1/2 years as an investment banking analyst for a middle market investment bank (Lincoln, Needham, Harris Williams, Baird) in the midwest
Other stats: 2 year volunteer at local church, in charge of youth programs. Member of an under-represented minority.
Target schools: Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Texas-Austin, Emory, NYU, Cornell
Thanks!

Jun 12, 2014

Betsy,

Below are my stats and experiences:

1. 3.7 gpa (got an honors degree if that makes a difference) at a non target business school & Magna Cumme Laude
2. Mid tier MM IB analyst outside of NYC
3. Division 1 Tennis athlete. Competed and played for 18 years and counting.
4. International experience: lived in 3 different countries and educated in the British, Indian and American education system.
5. 700 GMAT - 63 percentile in quant, 90 percentile in verbal, 6.0 in AWA. I had to take it to get into a MSF program. Had 2 weeks of prep and focused on getting my score up as fast as possible. I got into a tier 1 school but then got my MM offer so went with that instead.

I know I need to start some ECs as I begin working to strengthen my resume and possibly retake the GMAT. I want to go to a top 7 school in 4 years or so. Would you have any advice for me and give me a preliminary indication of my chances.

Thank you,
VB

Jun 13, 2014

Hi Value Banker
I think it's good that you are thinking now about business school, as the planning is part of the fun. Yes, fun. It's a journey to a new, or enhanced career, and you are starting now. Giving a lot of thought to how you are approaching this process can certainly pay off, and it's good to see that you are doing so.

So right now, if you have only a few months' experience working for an investment bank, then you have a lot of ways to show your leadership and have an impact on your work and on your community. By impacting your work, you are not only looking for ways to really make a difference in your team and on the bottom line of your department (and of course for the firm's clients) but ways that you can stand out from the average associate. That is not a selfish process, but a process of looking for ways you, as one person, can influence others.

Tactically, go ahead and take the GMAT again. That is a given. 63 percentile can be improved, especially if you have an undergraduate business degree and are working in investment banking, and were admitted to an MSF program

Keep playing tennis. Sounds wonderful,especially this time of year. Why not get involved in teaching tennis to the community, use your own talent and interest to help others learn about themselves? I know you said you wanted to beef up your EC's and guess what! Athletes kind of have it easy in this regard, as they already know what it is like to be a member of a team and mentor the up and coming students.

You have your work cut out for you, but sounds like fun. Take on any international projects you can. Businesses, and by extension, schools, are looking for a global mindset. If you have already done the US and India, see if you can learn about another continent (Australia kind of doesn't count in this case).

How's this for starters?

Betsy

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

    • 1
Jun 14, 2014

Betsy,

Thank you for your response and pointed direction. I will definitely work on the areas you mentioned. Given that I'll be an IB analyst and if I were to follow the common path (not saying I will) of 2 years IB + 2 years PE --> M7 MBA. What are some ways I can distinguish myself? I know a fair number of people with strong ECs, good leadership and top performers and teammates at work with strong brand names on their resume along with strong GPAs and gmat scores and they tell me that business schools are looking unfavorably or a little more unfavorably over these 2+2 candidates since they all seem all too similar.

Would you advise waiting a year after PE and getting some unique work experience? Further international experience? Or a deviation from the 2+2 path?

Also, should I reappear for the GMAT now or later as I get a better idea of my timeline towards business school? Thank you,

VB

Jun 18, 2014

Hi Value Banker
Thanks for keeping the conversation going. Let me be honest here. It's really hard for me to list ways a person can distinguish themselves, because such a list, by definition would be formulaic. You want to distinguish yourself by being creative in your solutions to problems at work and in your life, and exactly how you do that, I honestly don't know -- nobody does except you. Remember, business schools are looking for people with character. That's hard to define in words, but integrity, courage, tenacity, imagination, and someone who people follow without having to be told. But it is different for everyone, and that's why there's no magic potion.

as for your tactical questions -- I like international experience, but you don't want to push out your pre-MBA experience so that you are not longer a "work in progress" according to the school and potential recruiters

Don't wait on the GMAT. So many people tell me that they wished they had taken more time with it -- either started studying earlier or taken longer to absorb the information. So no reason to put it off if you have the time to deal with it

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 20, 2014

Thanks for your response Betsy. I'll take into account your feedback and follow it.

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Jun 19, 2014

Question about B-School admission:

So one of the core tenants of applying for an MBA is generally some form of "why an MBA? why now? how will this degree get you where you need to be"
This is a 100% understandable question, because obviously schools want candidates who are seeking MBAs for the right reason.

However, I've also seen a lot of people that say something to the effect of "you need to show MBA programs that while you are enthusiastic towards the program, you do not need the MBA to degree to succeed or get to where you want to be"

Strictly speaking, I know that these aren't logical contradictions, but they do from a thematic perspective seem to clash. Any thoughts? Hopefully I am getting my thoughts across

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Jun 20, 2014

Hi Matayo,
I am not quite sure what is behind the second concept, that is, to demonstrate you don't need the MBA. I'm not sure that's what you mean, but it's just a rhetorical exercise, I hope.

The 3 traditional questions, not just of an essay, but of an entire application, which includes the interview are
1. Why MBA
2. Why you
3. Why now

I've probably got them in the wrong order, but those are the basic issues the admissions committee wants to know. Those questions are the starting point for their evaluation. If the answers to those questions make sense, admissions folk will be looking for more details about your character. I think people of strong character might be successful whether or not they go and get an MBA, so that could be what you are hearing around the blogosphere.

I think you mean they are looking for people who are so talented and purposeful that they don't need graduate school to make them excellent. They are already excellent, and business school helps them accelerate their career.
Also, they are excellent, but human. That means they are not perfect, and have areas that they hope to develop in the classroom.

It's never black and white. You have to be able to articulate the answers to those 3 questions above before you start going around differentiating yourself. But I don't mean in terms of a timeline. I mean in terms of the way the reader perceives your application. They are asking, "does this person know why they are making this chance in their life right now?" If you do, then that's taken care of. The rest is them trying to figure out if you are cool enough to add to a highly competitive class.

Am I on the right track?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 26, 2014

Somewhat

I've heard a lot of the times- not only at MBA interviews or whatever- but for jobs, other graduate schools... that they don't want the candidate that NEEDS to get in, but would rather let in the candidate that WANTS to get in.

For example, investment banks often ask the question "what will you do if you don't get this job", or, "what will you do if not investment banking?" The 'correct' answer to this is to say that you are still going to seek to do something comparable, and that you don't think not landing a job at firm x/y/z is going to hinder your chances in getting to where you want to be.

In the case of business schools, I've heard, anecdotally, that people are sometimes asked to talk about how they would proceed if they don't/fail to get an MBA, and the correct way to 'answer' this is to say that you are still going to continue down the same path. I hear they ask this because they want people who are truly committed to what they are doing, rather than just chasing the name.

Am I making myself more clear?
(also, could you hit the reply button when responding? thanks so much!!!)

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Jun 27, 2014

sorry if I didn't hit the reply button before. I usually do! My mistake.

I agree that no one wants to admit (or hire) someone who is desperate for a seat in class (job at a particular firm). That's human nature, and that's why I encourage people not to beg. You'd be surprised how many people spend time on their applications and job interviews talking about how much they want to get in or get that job. Most people know you want it, so why waste your words by giving away your power?

The important thing ALWAYS is to demonstrate what you bring to the party. With humility. Why would I hire you? Not because you want the job, but because you make MY job easier. Why would I admit you? Not because you need it, but because your classmates and the school will benefit from your contribution.

So I'm going beyond the need vs. want question. It's more about answering the question: why would someone want to pay $160,000 to sit next to you in a business school class?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 20, 2014

Hi Betsy,

As you know, schools ask about short-term and long-term goals and how their program will get you there. I am asking for my application to the MIT MFin program but I'm sure there is some overlap. How can I address this topic without knowing what I want to do, or do I have to pick something, convince myself I want to do that, and then genuinely sell it to admissions?

Jun 24, 2014

so sorry, I just saw this posting!
Here's how I look at the goals question: in the case of the MBA, it is an exercise in critical thinking. That is, can you make a case for an imagined future based on your past, using the MBA as a pivot point? It could mean a career change, but if so, it has to tie into your past interests.
For example, if you want to work in international finance at an organization like the world bank, you have to show that you have either studied international economics or worked in some capacity with overseas organizations.
But for you, it looks like you need to imagine first why you want your degree. Otherwise, why pay the money?
If you want to work in investment management and run your own firm, well, say that. But be sure to connect the dots from your future back to your past.
Chances are, at least with the MBA, you will change your mind. That's ok because that's the nature of the program and it is normal to switch around during your 2 years. As for the MFin, not sure that you really have that many different paths to choose from. You have more than one, however, so you should at least project yourself into the future and pick a place you want to be and then talk about it in your application, and justify why it is the right path for you without just saying, "I want it"
Make sense?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 24, 2014

@"jakevm" thanks for the question on how I got into admissions consulting.
I'd been doing it as a favor to friends forever -- people might have been so amazed that I got into business school that they thought I had some secret :-) . But it's a way of just connecting with interesting and ambitious young leaders too. When I lived in Hong Kong I really enjoyed helping my younger colleagues understand the process and helped them tell their stories. It was fun.
Later in life I found out I could make some money doing it. It was during the 2008 financial crisis, and I'd been in the industry for long enough. I was feeling like I didn't want a boss anymore, and so when I got made redundant, I took the severance and went on a "listening tour" to see if I could make a business of MBA consulting. It's been tremendously fun, and I've met so many wonderful students. Some have really rocked my world.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 20, 2014

Thanks for the response. Life's full of twists and turns, and yours seems like an exciting ride!

Jun 21, 2014

Hi Betsy, thanks for having this thread here and for being part of WSO.

I'm looking to do a top European MBA, either at LBS, INSEAD or HEC Paris ... My profile below:

Age: 26
BSc Economics in the UK, GPA ~3.0, not great
MSc Finance in the UK, GPA 4.0, top 5% of class
Currently PE analyst in South Africa, will have been here 2.5 years when matriculating. Only analyst, so a LOT of responsibility... I am almost seen as a partner, and lead the entire investment process on my own (manage interns, many HBS and Stanford MBAs)
Previously worked in shorter stints in NYC and Belgium and backpacked Australia and Asia
Fluent in Swedish, Greek, French and English, Conversational in Spanish and Dutch
Plenty of ECs in undergrad, a couple in post-grad, and currently I help out at a shelter for abused dogs
GMAT: taking it in 2 months, aiming for 700+
I also have triple citizenship - Swedish, Greek and Spanish

Thanks for your help!

Don't waste your life only thinking about money and prestige

Jun 24, 2014

OK, here you go.
Let me ask, is this your signature? "It's not work if you love it?" That's a great philosophy, and goes a long way. In life for sure.
So you said you want to do a top European MBA, including LBS or INSEAD -- I have to say that the 2 are very different because of the one-year vs. two year program. Unless you go January entry, INSEAD is going to weigh your candidacy against your goals and potential for hiring without an internship. That analysis is hugely different.
You've also given numbers that are a bit dodgy, in that not all schools in the UK are considered equal.
Again, nothing but honest.
So if you want me to say that you have a great chance, I can, but in reality, what am I adding to the conversation?
I think it's notable that you have an MSc in Finance, and so the admissions people will ask, especially if you are going to stay in your industry, "What's the added value?" They are looking hard at people who just want to add the check-box on their resume. You can always say, "oh, I want the leadership skills" but it looks like from the way you describe yourself, you are already leading the firm, being seen as a partner and all.

Having said all that, your fluency and citizenship literally all over the map is pretty much a lock for INSEAD -- that's exactly what they are looking for in terms of international profile.

That's it for starters. Feel free to push back -- it's that kind of day.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 21, 2014

Hi Betsy,

I read in another forum you had a DC/political background before HBS. How did you use that to break into banking with Goldman? Did you have any finance/banking experience pre-MBA?

Jun 24, 2014

Hi Investorina,
I didn't have any finance or banking prior to getting my MBA. During the summer I worked at Chase (before it merged with JPMorgan to get a financial institution on my resume. For those who know their history, this was before Glass-Steagall was repealed, and Chase was only a commercial bank.

I couldn't get a summer job in investment banking, although I tried. Not everyone who wanted a job in investment banking got summer jobs -- my BF at the time had been an engineer, and so ended up in consulting, but he really wanted investment banking. (Eventually he became a partner at a major PE firm)

I also took a lot of finance courses my second year and got involved with some clubs, including an event where I invited public finance representatives to the school to present to us. I made myself known to them, and, well, there you have it.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 23, 2014

Hey Betsy

Was wondering if you could give me career advice and MBA advice since my path is a bit similar to the one you took.

Quick Background: I recently accepted a full-time offer with Goldman Sachs PSI group out of undergrad (starting in roughly 2 weeks). I've lived my entire life in NY, and moving to California for this opportunity. Went to an undergraduate "non-target" state school in Upstate New York (U. Albany).

GPA: 3.6/4.0
Senior Thesis: Liquidity and Cost of Capital: Evidence from the Healthcare PIPE Market
EC's: President of the student-run investment group on campus, multiple finance internships (pharm. marketing and equity research), various international competitions (Duff & phelps YOUniversity, NYSSA CFA Research Challenge, PwC xTAX, and the All America Student Analyst Competition which I ranked #64/2100 in portfolio management). Intramurals, and other sports-related events
GMATs: N/A

Post MBA goals: Go buyside (primarily in infrastrucure PE) or non-profit healthcare start up (healthcare and infrastructure projects really appeal to me.. Pretty much all things related and influenced by government policies fascinate me).

Main questions: 1) What were you exit opportunities like after your stint at Goldman PSI? I know you brought it up briefly in the other thread that you sold taiwanese derivatives to HFs, but were there any other opportunities presented to you? Would love to know where I could potentially go. 2) Assuming I do well on my GMATs (aiming for 700+), which schools would be my "target" goals?

Thank you so much for doing this. I am sure all of us really appreciate you taking time out of your day to answer aspiring MBA-candidates questions. Thanks again.

Jun 25, 2014

OK, a few things that I want to mention: I didn't work at Goldman before business school. I worked there after graduating. Before business school I worked in Washington DC.
After Goldman municipal finance, I went to work in institutional muni sales at a big New York bank that was acquired later by Deutsche Bank. I was introduced to this job via a business school classmate A decade later I was selling Taiwanese equities, but the path was about as non-linear, including working for Institutional Investor publications, and writing articles for the Vietnam Investment Review.
I have very little knowledge of infrastructure finance, so I don't think I can opine on any of that.

As for your target schools, I think they are all targets. I'm not being snarky, I just think that the discovery process is so fun and helps you figure out what you want and what will fit for you. There's so much information out there about schools, and so many alums and current students willing to tell you about their experiences. Go to events, call your friends, use your GS contacts, and ask questions. I don't know what is the great fascination with the buyside, but if that's your passion, talk to portfolio managers and ask them about their path. You will find that some folks will argue against the MBA, and at the price, it's worth thinking twice. Then there's the CFA, which many here at WSO might argue is enough to get you set up.

If you are really interested in policy and government related stuff, you will probably change your mind after a few years working in investment banking.... but then, who knows? Just keep asking questions and figuring out what program will help you get the most options for you in the future. That's what I wanted, a life with lots of choices. And that's how I got to Asia. YOLO

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 24, 2014

Betsy, you forgot to reply to me, I feel left out :'(

Don't waste your life only thinking about money and prestige

Jun 24, 2014

No, no a thousand times no! I didn't mean to leave you out. It was late last night and I only could reply to the easy stuff, you know, where I talk about myself. (hey, I am nothing if not honest!)

BUT, if you insist, you're up as soon as I get my 2nd cup of coffee. Also, I will reply to your original posting so we can all keep it straight.

And also, like your photo. Reminds me that I need to replace the sad little flowers sitting in front of me right now.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 25, 2014

Hey Betsy--hoping you could still answer my questions (about 4/5 posts above this one). Would really appreciate it. Thanks so much for your time!

Jun 25, 2014

Believe it or not, I answered it before seeing your request! Hope it makes sense to you

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 25, 2014

Hi Betsy,

I'm hoping to get your advice on how to improve my profile. Here's my quick stats:
-3.4 cumulative GPA from a public state school in FL. Accounting Major GPA 3.97 (I failed out of school at 19 and recovered)
-Passed the CPA exam on my first attempt
-Technically have a MAcc degree with a 3.5 GPA (150 hour requirement for CPA in FL)
-Currently working in Big4 transaction services financial due diligence for two years
-Extensive EC's in college (president of habitat for humanity and student government leadership positions among others)
-Current EC's are junior achievement and contributing to teachersask.com and general volunteering with Habitat
-760 GMAT

My wife is entering occupational therapy school, so I'm looking to apply for entrance in fall 2017 (her program is 2.5 years). I'll have 5 years of work experience with a promotion at that time. My goal is H/S, MIT, or Haas for the technology focus. I want to spin my MBA into a corp/business development role in a large tech.

How can I improve my app? Am I actually competitive with my target schools?

THANK YOU!

Jun 26, 2014

Hi Auditor.John Wow, your are a forward thinker. 2017 feels like it is eons away. Are you thinking of the class of 2019? Such far away dates scare me -- make me feel like it's all moving so fast!
But, you are actually smart to think ahead. I do think your recovery story is interesting, shows real grit, determination, and it looks like you have made the most with what you had, especially since you got back into your groove.
Personally, I like the transactions services department of these accounting firms. It's quite fast-paced and there's lots of opportunity for you to step up and show leadership. I say this because you will probably find some of your next 2 years will be dealing with crisis management. Or deals that are highly visible and you need to show quite a bit of judgment in your decision-making. So, to use a horrible cliche, grab the bull by both horns and do everything you can to participate in this experience.
As for your desire to go into corp tech roles, I guess the best training for that , given that you are working for a service firm, is project management.
Also, try to get as much international exposure as you can. Either on Cross Border deals or working with cross-border teams. Any chance that your Florida location means you will be able to deal with Latin American companies? Schools, and many companies these days, are looking for a global mindset. If you can position yourself to be on international projects and teams, all the better for you.

Make sense?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 26, 2014

Thanks for the response! Work performance has generally come pretty easily for me, so I'm confident in my ability to continue to perform in the TS side of the business. Even in audit, I've had some great exposure to transactions due to being staffed on a large public filer, including some international exposure with an acquisition of a Brazilian entity. I'll actually be moving to NYC for the TS job, so hopefully I'll get some more exposure there as well.

I'm honestly more concerned about my activities outside the office. Are my EC's in line with adcom expectations/desires? I know that my GPA will be a downside to my app, so I'm hoping to make everything else solid gold.

Thanks for doing what you do here. You're awesome.

Jul 2, 2014

Short answer about your extra-curriculars, YES, sure. The real thing about extra-curriculars is now how many you have, or even how impressive they are, but whether you are doing something outside of work that is beyond dreaming about business school. There was an article in BusinessInsider the other day by the dean of Harvard undergrad, saying that they get a lot of valedictorians, but the differentiating factor is "how interesting are they?" So if you are someone who is interesting enough to add to a class, then I don't think that you need to overdo it, or overthink it on the extra curriculars.
I've said this before -- it isn't only about volunteer activities, although your Habitat stuff is great, and if it is something you value, that's perfect. But it's also about sports, about even taking extra classes in something that fascinates you. Curiousity about yourself and the wide world out there goes a long way. Sometimes that's shown through extra-curriculars, and sometimes through just the way you move through the world. That' why I don't want anyone to feel like they MUST absolutely have perfect EC's

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jul 6, 2014

Thanks for the response Betsy. That was exactly the kind of knowledge I was looking for.

Jun 25, 2014

Betsy,

My question today is really on the WE part of my application. After two years of big 4 audit and two years of big 4 valuation going straight to b-school is obviously an option; however, the wrestle I am currently having is would moving to another position (say BB IB or MM PE) for two more years (6 years of work experience total) of great work experience help or detract from my b-school application (let's say M7)? I realize it may depend somewhat but would be appreciative/interested in anyone's thoughts and/or anecdotal experience. I also realize the avg. MBA work experience is 3-5 so the question is would going on the long end of the work experience spectrum be potentially offset by the incremental two years of great work experience?

Also, would moving into IB/PE pre-MBA put in in a different "bucket" of applicants (a more competitive bucket) compared to if i stay in TS/TAS at a big 4 firm?

Thanks in advance.

Jul 2, 2014

Hi Frenemy,
I am not sure if you are put in a different bucket, or if it really matters. I think the most important question is: are you ready to go to business school now? Help me through it -- are you trying to jockey to get into a better business school than what you think you could get into now? Any reason you couldn't apply now and then apply in 2 years if it doesn't work out?
I am not really following the true logic. I can follow the WSO logic, but that's not what interests me. I want to know what you are really trying to achieve.

Some of it depends on how well you have done thus far -- are you the guy whom your teammates look to for direction? Are you the one coming up with a new angle on solving a problem? Do clients want you to work on their projects? Your character and leadership style is much more important than an industry choice between investment banking or valuation.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 26, 2014

Hey Betsy,

Thanks for taking time to answer all of our questions.

I have a question regarding leadership experience. I understand what leadership experience generally entails. However I have a question regarding something a little more unconventional. I have head coached a middle school football team for the past 3 years and was wondering if leadership in that sense is something to promote when applying for B-School. Or is it inconsequential and should be omitted from an application?

Thanks in advance.

Jun 27, 2014

Hi Jeff It sounds like it could be a great story. I am sure you have had to negotiate, arbitrate,rally the troops, strategize, deal with outside influences (parents -- argh!), act creatively, bring people together, and more. Why wouldn't you include it? Particularly if you've used what you learned from being a coach in your work life and in the rest of your world?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jun 27, 2014
Betsy Massar:

Hi Jeff It sounds like it could be a great story. I am sure you have had to negotiate, arbitrate,rally the troops, strategize, deal with outside influences (parents -- argh!), act creatively, bring people together, and more. Why wouldn't you include it? Particularly if you've used what you learned from being a coach in your work life and in the rest of your world?

Awesome, thanks for the insight Betsy

Jul 2, 2014

Hi Betsy, I wanted to get your initial thoughts on my chances and any advice regarding areas on focus in my application essays and recommendations. I'm really only interested in 3 schools, HBS, Wharton & Columbia. Post MBA, I plan to either move into Equity Research covering the Pharma market or Corp Dev in Pharma industry. Or should i make up something that sounds more sexy;)?

Stats:

Undergrad @ a top 50 public school (think Penn State, Rutgers, U of I ect). 3.95 GPA, triple major in Finance, Accounting, Marketing.

GMAT 750 (can't recall breakdown but i think it was ~ 95% percentile in Math & ~ 91% in English)

Credentials:
CPA-
CFA- Cleared levels 1 & 2, yet to attempt level 3.

Work Experience :
Big 4 Audit (1.5 years) Associate/Senior Associate. Top Rated (1 on a 1-4 scale), 1 of 175 associates in my offices starting class to receive an early promotion to Senior Associate in 2 years instead of 3. I've only know 2 other people in my office who did this and some years they don't have a single early promote. Significant supervisory experience early on (leading 4+ Associates with less than 2 years exp. myself). Most experience was in the Pharma Industry

Big 4 Transaction Services- M&A Financial Due Diligence (same firm, 1.5 years) Senior Associate. Top rated (1 again), Difficult group to transfer to, good experience, financial modeling, some sell side demand forecasting/modeling experience which is somewhat rare in TS, good mix of PE and Corporate deals. Mostly Pharma deals, lots of exposure to acquisition target CEO's/CFO's and client Strategy/CD/PE deal teams.

F100 Pharma, Demand/Revenue Forecasting & Financial Decision Support. (1.5 years) Manager. Landed a great gig at the Manager level with only 3 years total exp. High exposure to Execs,financial forecasting & analytics for all business decision making and strategy within brand group. Business Development support (core forecast modeling for all BD opportunities within Theraputic area). Most prestiguous finance group at company. Led a few junior consultants on forecast projects. Job is zero accounting, so successfully broke away from accounting roots.

F100 Pharma (same), Strategic Analytics, US Strategic Planning & Analysis group. (will have 6 months exp at time of MBA application, 1 year at matriculation) Senior Manager. Got really lucky with this one, promotion to Senior Manager with only 4.5 years of total exp (typically takes 8-9 years to reach this level). Extraordinary exposure to every exec in the US organization, have a hand in the strategic direction/decisions made for the entire $13bil US Business, as well as significant cross functional work with the Global Corp Strategy group. Perfect supplement to previous experience. Close work with BD to identify high yield target markets for deals.

Military- Unites States Marine Corps (11.5 years reserve & Active duty) Gunnery Sergeant (E-7). Rapid promotion record, (top 5%, made E-6 in less than 6 years, 10 years is standard). ~ 4 years of active duty time, 8 reserve (half while working full time). 3 Tours to Iraq and Afghanistan, 2 Humanitarian aid tours to Honduras and Peru. Most recently, supervised over 220 marines for 3 years as a Company Gunnery Sergeant (extremely challenging role and I held it as a Staff Sergeant, greatest challenge of my life). Another example of experience was as a Mission Commander in charge of 20 man team over a 3 month forward arming mission, complete isolation from all command elements. Tons of leadership, essentially 12 years of non-stop leadership experience managing anywhere from 4 to 40 to 220 people at different points in career. While in reserve side, did the 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks per summer schedule which was very difficult when working 70-80 hours a week in civilian world. IMO this experience trumps all others combined. Taught me everything I know about leadership and I'm 100% confident that for the rest of my career I will excel in supervision of others as well as upward leadership and seamless communication. I think i'm going to struggle presenting this experience concise and tightly bundled. I could answer all essay question well speaking only of this experience, but I'm concerned that I have too much content to speak of and may come off disorganized.

Age 32- Understood this may be an issue, but to be fair, I joined the military a week after 9/11 and had 4 years of active duty time for overseas deployments which pushed back my college graduation. I also had to do a 5 year undergrad program to get the CPA which also pushed back my age. Didn't start professional career till age 27.

Any thought on chances? I think my job experience alone is strong enough to place me as a possible for my target schools, and military exp (specifically the leadership aspect) provides a nice supplement. Just not sure how this package looks when put together, as things have just worked out this way and I struggle to view myself without being overly critical about my non M/B/B or IB/PE experience. Of equal concern is my specific application strategy, I'm having a really difficult time narrowing down to 2 or 3 recommendations since I could feasibly have a great one for each of my 4 professional positions, as well as 2 or 3 from military supervisors. That said, since i'm a senior manager now, I feel foolish getting a recommendation from my old boss in audit who was a senior manager when i was a 1st year associate and is still a senior manager today (how do the top schools view this type of recommendation, former supervisor now at my same level?) Unfortunately, my best recommendations would come from those who I've almost caught up to career progression. Thanks in advance for any insight!

Jul 2, 2014

Hi Marine,
First, thanks for your service. As we come up on the 4th of July, I just want to let you know that you are one of those who really make me feel patriotic.

You have a number of questions -- all good ones. I'm going to answer just one or two at a time, not just to keep you coming back for more, but to absorb all the different elements. And because I am about to grab dinner, I'm going to start easy

You wrote

Age 32- Understood this may be an issue, but to be fair, I joined the military a week after 9/11 and had 4 years of active duty time for overseas deployments which pushed back my college graduation. I also had to do a 5 year undergrad program to get the CPA which also pushed back my age. Didn't start professional career till age 27.

Age for you is a non issue. In fact, it's really not much of an issue for most people who start their careers late. Don't even worry about it.

You wrote

Tons of leadership, essentially 12 years of non-stop leadership experience managing anywhere from 4 to 40 to 220 people at different points in career.

This is always good, and it is expected for military guys

then you wrote

While in reserve side, did the 1 weekend a month and 2 weeks per summer schedule which was very difficult when working 70-80 hours a week in civilian world. IMO this experience trumps all others combined.

now this is interesting, not because you were stressed time wise, but because your brain must have exploded with the difference in style between your civilian job and your reserve job. I think it's not just a matter of commitment but a matter of being really flexible and open to creative solutions to what, in many cases, look like unsolveable problems.
Indeed, you can write about that, and it's part of your story, so why wouldn't you?

Betsy's philosophy on essays: You probably don't want to write about just one thing in an essay anyway.
Reason? Schools are looking for how your past influences your present which will influence your future. If you talk about the reserve experience as a microcosm, you probably acted in ways based on your prior challenges -- both successes and failures. And ideally, if you came out of the reserve experience a better leader for it, you probably brought that into your work life. Learning is kind of porous. I wouldn't worry about looking disorganized at this stage. If you can connect the dots, then you have a solid narrative.

How is that so far?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jul 3, 2014

Hi Marine, I am back. I hope you are not on the computer, but are out celebrating the long weekend.
I'm going to comment on a few more of your points:

Another plus for you is the fact that you actually work at a company. I cannot tell you how important it is to have people in the classroom who have actually worked inside organizations than just as consultants, bankers, or vultures (PE guys :-). You are familiar with more than strategy, planning and the financial functions when working for a F100 company. Organization, processes, fiefdoms, vendors, R&D, sales, marketing. This familiarity can add a lot to the discussion.

Having said that, you also have worked on transaction services, which really gets into the nitty gritty of dealmaking, so that's not only fun, it's another organizational bonanza. Those experiences, coupled with your military experience and active deployment make you formidable.

But do you really want to be a buy side analyst? I am not asking for business school reasons -- I am sure if you really want that, you can convince the admissions committee, but to me it sounds like a yawn. And I worked on the buy side (ok, not as a PM, but still) for quite a few years. Where does it take you?

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jul 6, 2015

Hi Betsy, thanks for all the responses, haven't been on WSO in ages. I ended up waiting on the MBA a bit, things transpired at work and opportunities I just couldn't pass on. My company's strategy group was reorganized shortly after I joined, and all the US roles were relocated to the global headquarters in Europe. But I pulled off a miracle move and got into Corp Development, and am just about to get promoted to Director, now with 5.5 years experience. I must be the luckiest person in the world, to have made director this fast, I thought it was more or less impossible to get promoted this quickly.

Maybe most importantly, I've really done some soul searching and concluded much of what you eluded to. Equity Research, well it's just not dynamic enough and feels very bla...I'm leaning towards either M/B/B consulting or a strategic role with perhaps a startup after MBA. If I go the consulting route, I really want to help start a company, and I've connected with others in various areas who are IMO the best of the best, and we all want to start a company together. The M&A experience I've accumulated has been interesting, but I find myself drawn to pure functional strategy, not really the type consulting firms perform, more so taking a vision and turning it into something tangible. I've always been thought of as a numbers guy, but I think my real strength is influencing others, hopefully in a positive direction...

Anyway, I'm starting to work on applications for next fall, when the time comes I'll likely contact you for more official assistance, as I really want to get this one right.

Thanks!!!

Jul 11, 2014

Hey WSO friends in San Francisco, I am hosting an MBA Admissions workshop next Tuesday, July 15 in downtown SF. It is sponsored by the Harvard Club of SF, but I promise, you do not have to be a Hprivarvard grad to attend. It is open to all pre-MBAs, all you have to do is register at the Harvard Club website.
Here is the link: http://www.harvardclubsf.org/article.html?aid=735

Seriously, if you are in the area, it is at 101 Post Street from 6:30 onwards. Come and say hello! It's a fun group and the entire goal is to give you information so the application process is LESS stressful, not more.

Very excited to be doing this event for the 6th year in a row. Either it's correlation or causation, but students who attend this workshop tend to be successful in their application quest.

Email me or PM me if you have questions.
It's Tuesday, July 15, in downtown San Francisco -- check out the link above for more info.

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jul 12, 2014

Thank you for this. This is for a friend, his profile is below:

Stats:
Undergrad: BS in Finance from Kansas State
UG GPA: 3.0
Graduate: Master in Finance from a top-10 program
Grad GPA: 3.3
GMAT: 700 (will retake if needed)
Work Experience: 2 1/2 years as an investment banking analyst for a middle market investment bank (Lincoln, Needham, Harris Williams, Baird) in the midwest
Other stats: 2 year volunteer at local church, in charge of youth programs. Member of an under-represented minority.
Target schools: Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Texas-Austin, Emory, NYU, Cornell
Thanks!

Aug 15, 2014

Hi @"therealweinstein"
sorry if it's been a very long time since I responded to this -- I was off WSO for a while (working!) but trying to catch up now.
I would have to say that most of the schools on that list, except maybe Emory, are somewhat of a stretch.
I'm not seeing anything really that amazes or interests me about the candidate. The master in finance is a start, but the rest of it is pretty generic. I could be convinced otherwise if you tell me something that would pique the interest of an admissions officer, but unfortunately, this looks like a pretty ho-hum candidate.
Convince me!

Betsy Massar
Come see me at my Q&A thread
http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/b-school-qa-... away!

Jul 17, 2014

Hi Betsy,

Thanks for this tread, its invaluable.

I am right now completing my 2 year MA finance (will graduate in May 2015) at Brandeis university, a small B-School, 10 miles from Boston. I chose this school basically for generous scholarship and location. I am an international student from India and have engineering undergrad degree with 2 years manufacturing exp. I came to Brandeis with aim of breaking into IB, even if it took one more graduate degree. During this summer fortunately I landed a summer internship (Trading and Operations position) in Boston with an Investment Adviser with ~50 million AUM. (These guys want me to continue for whole next year). But I may ditch them for other suitable job. I am seriously planning my moves for this year and next 2-3 years. During this one year I have developed interest in PE and place my career target in PE as equally as that of IB in short term. An