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Comments (11)

Feb 8, 2019

I'll start, thanks for doing this!

European male citizen, state school non-target full scholarship student athlete. Graduated with a 3.65/4 with a BBA in Finance. I was team captain for 3 years and broke multiple school records, and helped fundraise for a new facility on campus. I was also part of the investment club at my school.

I was an intern then promoted to full time analyst at a F500 working on corporate finance, investor relations and some corporate strategy. I have been there for about a year and a half. In the meantime I have been studying for the CFA and successively passed level 1 and level 2, now working on level 3.

I have not taken the GMAT yet, aiming for 700-750. Planning on doing so next year since I am considering a 2021 MBA when I'll have 4 years of working experience. Happy to provide additional details if needed.

Couple questions:

-What do you think I should aim for with my current profile?

-I am in the final stages of taking a job at a MM PE fund working in their business development group, would taking the job raise my chances to get a shot at a M7?


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Feb 12, 2019

Hi! You guys are on it - loving the questions! Ok, so here are my thoughts:
- I'm assuming "European male citizen" = a dual citizen? So US as well as a European country? Doesn't matter a ton, but people tend to be increasingly looking at visa / financial aid decisions in this lens.
- As for where to aim, if you can hit 720+, then in general, top 10 schools are probably in your range assuming you can write really cool essays talking about your incredible leadership in college and how that's translated to now (as one idea). We always recommend a mix of "reach schools" (where your scores are below the median and/or there's some other significant challenge with your app for those schools) and "target" schools (where you feel like your profile is generally in range or at the upper end of their range - scores, work experience, leadership experience etc).
- Sounds like you had great undergrad leadership / teamwork experience (which is nice); but hopefully you're still out there doing extracurricular things? Community leadership, sports, etc are all fair game here. It's really compelling if you have a great post-college extracurricular leadership story because that's shows a "habit of leadership".
- Re: your job question, that's hard for me to say. BD in a PE fund isn't going to be transaction / deal work, right? Just make sure that it's a step up in terms of responsibility / ability to take on increasingly more responsibility and leadership (even if informal). You want to show that you went from more tactical jobs to more strategy-oriented / problem-solving roles with leadership opportunity.

Hope that helps! You can request an initial consultation on our site if you want to talk in more detail:

    • 3
Feb 8, 2019

Thank you for doing this!


low GPA (over 3.0 though) non target big state school - Engineering & Economics (double majored, two degrees) - I have quite a few Fs though due to a poor year - many plausible mitigating factors I won't bother sharing on this forum.


Haven't taken it. However, did well on my SATs (97% percentile) without really studying back in the day so not too worried. I'm good at standardized tests.

Work Experience

Rotational internship at a major hotel chain (Hilton/Marriott)

Failed start-up (did win some awards)

Internship at a boutique consulting firm

About a year working as strategy analyst at a lower F500 in a T4 city.

The original plan was to work here at my F500 for 1/2 years, get a promotion or lateral if I don't get one, to a role one strata above my current role. Then I moved here and started actively looking for other roles because I hated the town & drank the prestige kool-aid.

However, since then I've had the chance to really get involved in multiple high-profile initiatives with the company, rub shoulders with senior management, and after a vacancy opened, I recently got nominated to join the company's family founders' charitable trust board as the youngest (by far) director.
It's an investment fund with a non-profit, social aim and is a major PR machine for our company. Mayor sits on it, a senator sits on it & multiple other business leaders. This has solidified my decision to stay at the company for a bit longer as it feels like they are grooming me for future leadership.


College varsity athlete (1 year) -- a couple scholarships and prizes -- president of multiple societies on campus -- leader of my F500 young professional association -- started a mentorship program for at-risk kids in my college town -- f500 charitable trust board director -- also a visible minority, if that makes a difference

What type of business schools would you say I have a chance at? I don't know what to aim for since my GPA is so low & my work experience isn't as prestigious as something like IB or consulting.

Feb 12, 2019

Hi! So, I responded to this a few days ago and now I see that it never actually posted (at least on my view). So if this is a repeat, please ignore (or use both!) Either way, here are my thoughts:
- GPA is typically easy to mitigate and make a non-issue - explain the situation (directly, no fluff), take a class and do well to provide evidence of your academic ability (HBXCore is the best, but you can also sign-up for quant-oriented courses through any online university etc). If you haven't taken accounting, take that. Just make sure you get a grade.
- Very cool experience re: the board director role. Do you get an opportunity to take on leadership roles with this? That's key. Can you tell stories about proactively doing something awesome as part of this group?
- Same with our job - the type of company can matter, but what matters far more is what YOU have done there. "Habit of leadership" is important to demonstrate, whether that's for an extracurricular or in your job. You need really strong examples to show that you take initiative, step-up and lead. That's what makes work experience meaningful to an admissions director (and there are so many IB and Consulting folks applying that it's actually an opportunity for you to stand out since you aren't coming from those industries).
- I think if you can pull off a fantastic GMAT score (720+ is your target), then the top 10 can be in your range depending on the details behind your story. We always recommend applying to a few "reach schools", where your scores / experience / profile are at or below the average / typical for that school's students; and a few "target schools", where your profile is at or above. That's a really simple framework for something that isn't simple, but it's a starting point for you to start your school research and figure out which schools in those ranges may best fit what you're looking for. Schools that appear to be a good fit for you will also be schools where your chances are higher because adcoms are screening heavily for "fit" and people who can truly benefit from their program's offerings.

Hope that helps!

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Feb 8, 2019

Thank you for helping out.
I'm an Australian undergrad from a top Australian University in my final year looking to do an MBA hopefully in 4-5 years time.

Post-MBA goals and my Target Schools

I aim to become an Investment Banker in the US post MBA

My target schools are: Stern, Johnson, Darden, Fuqua and Anderson


My Weighted Average Mark is 68/100 (Credit). It's not impressive. That might translate to a 3-3.2 GPA. Australia does not practice grade inflation so people usually are scaled down hence a lower GPA. The main reason for my slightly low grades is that I'm from a low socioeconomic background and had to take care of my ill family members during undergrad. It was a really tough experience, hence I never really had the chance to enjoy uni life.


I'm actually studying for the GMAT now in my final year. Lets assume I get 730-750.

Work Experience

Lets assume I worked 3-4 years in Big 4 Audit


I'm currently developing an app for the uni which helps students learn to budget and invest. I will be pitching this at the Uni's Service Improvement Conference soon.

Other Facts about me:

Will probably be a Chartered Accountant (CA) or Have completed CFA level 2 or 3 by then.

As previously mentioned, I'm from a low socioeconomic background. I practically grew up in Australia's Compton, California equivalent and raised in a low income, single parent household. In fact, the area I grew up in was so badly filled with gangs and drugs, the government made a documentary about it. Hence, I did not have many good opportunities growing up. I wonder if business schools take this into consideration when considering candidates especially internationals.


Also, I heard not that many Australians apply for US business schools hence it is less competitive. Also, the visa process for Australians is much easier since we have the E-3 visa and do not go through the H1-B lottery. What are your thoughts?

What are my chances for the schools I have listed?

What else could I do to help improve my profile?

Thank you

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Feb 12, 2019

Hi there,

So you are starting WAY early, and I love it! Since so much of your application to MBA programs depends on your work experience / leadership post-university, it's hard for me to give you personalized advice right now. At the moment, the world is your oyster and based on what you do over the next few years (don't wait more than 4 years max if you can help it), the schools you noted (and more) could be well within your range. Here are some thoughts for you:
- On a very limited basis we start coaching applicants in their senior year of university, and the most common thing I see is a need to start thinking strategically about your career and the opportunities you'll have to stand out later on. Being good at your job and getting good reviews is NOT enough (especially if you go into accounting). You need to be able to show that you led, even if it was from an informal leadership position. Often people are able to talk about a problem they solved for their companies or clients, an area of expertise that they developed and brought to their companies, or something that they did to help their colleagues work better (mentoring etc). When you see an opportunity to step-up and lead / take ownership, do it. And let your managers know (starting about 6 months in) that you want opportunities like this to grow and develop.
- the other big thing is extracurriculars. It's nice if they align with your passion and/or future goals.
- aspiring to be an i-banker isn't as popular as it used to be. Make sure over the next few years that you develop a really concrete story for "why" this makes sense and why you'd be good at it (and enjoy it). I feel like adcoms are skeptical of this goal sometimes, so I have people get pretty specific about what they want to do, what that looks like, and why.
- it is probably more competitive for Australians (same with Canadians). There are lots of reasons why this could be the case, but you should assume that your hurdles for entry will be at least the average for the school and maybe even tougher.

Regarding your personal story, this can be a way to show the school who you really are as a person and what drives you. By self-reflecting and being able to thoughtfully explain what impact your experience growing up had on your life and decisions, you could certainly make a strong case to the adcom that you're someone who has been through challenges that have made you a stronger person and leader. My challenge to you is to consider how your experience growing up has influenced you - the way you approach problems, the way you interact with others, your goals etc. Make that something that you check-in on over the next few years and by the time you are ready to write your essays, you'll likely have a strong sense for how to describe yourself in a much more meaningful and deep way (which will serve you well!)

Best of luck in your new career!

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Most Helpful
Feb 8, 2019

Thanks in advance! I'm an Asian American male, 23 yo, married, planning to start MBA in 2022

Undergrad Education: non-target large state school with 3.65 total GPA, 3.9 major GPA; Passed the CFA Level I

College extracurriculars: student investment fund; president of a fraternity; led a nonprofit operation for the university that was successful

Internships: (chronological order) Finance intern at a software company doing data mining; interned at a BB doing reporting to support a merger integration process; intern at a VC firm working on investment prospect due diligence

Work experience: started out working 1 year in a FLDP program at an MM rotating through a product strategy group and then helped report the firm's earnings releases; leveraged experience from a small startup i founded to join a similar vertical startup - currently 1 year in at this series-D tech startup in a finance & strategy role. My work involves many interesting experiences: business partnering, FP&A, fundraising, M&A, investor relations, leading internal strategic projects

Community Involvement: co-founding junior board member of a local nonprofit; lead of the diversity group at work

Hobbies: breakdancing; ran a couple marathons; running the previously-mentioned startup i founded and donate proceeds (~$300/yr) to poor kids in Asia

GMAT: 750

Target programs: Stanford, Columbia, Harvard -- am I aiming too high? What are my chances? Anything I can improve on my profile?

    • 3
Feb 12, 2019

Hi! So you have 2+ years of work experience now? You may want to consider applying this year or next depending upon how much leadership experience you've had. My clients with 2-3 years of work experience did awesome this year - all of them got into at least one of HBS, Stanford or Wharton (round 1). Most of them were with larger companies (consulting, big tech, banking), but the common thread is that they a) had really concrete goals / visions for the work they want to do in the future and b) had really concrete leadership experiences to point to. If you have that, then you may want to consider round 1 of this year or potentially the following.

Honestly I think your profile looks pretty rockstar - the only thing I don't have great clarity on is your personal story / who you are as a person (which matters a lot for the schools you noted) and how much progression you've seen in your career (eg. have you moved up in terms of responsibility etc). Doing short terms at these companies could be viewed negatively, but I doubt it this day in age, especially if you have a good story that aligns with this entrepreneurship / start-up theme. Seems to me like there are the workings for a really cool story.

Again, my biggest advice to you is to consider applying way earlier! My hunch is that you are or are very close to the wheelhouse for these schools (esp HBS and GSB).


    • 2
Feb 12, 2019

I'm a White American male - would probably look to start with about 4-5 years experience

Undergrad Education: top 10 public business school with a 3.7/4 GPA

Work experience: only post grad position has been working at an unknown, regional boutique for a few years and have been promoted - expect to be promoted multiple times in the future

Community Involvement: coach sports for local youth

GMAT: 750

Target programs: Lower half of M7 - then, Duke, UVA, etc.

Curious if you could assess my chances at these schools. Also, curious how this work experience is viewed (great deal flow, comp, and work - just not known nationally). Especially, if I do not change positions until business school.

Feb 12, 2019

Hi! I would not wait 4-5 years if you're aiming for the top programs. 4 = max unless there's some major reason why you are waiting.

It's not a big deal if your firm isn't nationally known as long as you have had killer experience there (one must be present to offset the other). Often people working for boutiques get more leadership experience than their peers at larger firms. Normally you have more opportunities to work closer to clients / partners / MDs and even drive initiatives with general firm things (training, recruiting strategy etc). Is that the case? If so, then given your GPA, GMAT (and I'm assuming an awesome story about what you want to do in the future and what type of leader you are), I think you should consider the top 10+ (I don't think you necessarily need to focus on the lower end of the M7). In the past I've had folks from regional / boutique firms tell really cool stories about lean teams they worked on where they ended-up serving in a VP type role, developing new ways of analyzing situations, creating new training programs, etc etc. The key is showing leadership because that could set you apart from other bankers if you have it.

Remember, these schools are looking for future, transformative leaders. People who have good grades, good comp, good deal sheets are interesting, but that doesn't mean they are "leaders" (and frankly those things alone typically aren't successful on a top MBA app). It doesn't matter how many brands are on your resume if you can't make the case that you are the type of person who could seriously be the next [insert amazing CEO here]. Think about your experience in that vein and you'll probably be able to answer your own question.

My hunch is that you're a very compelling candidate at the schools you mentioned!

    • 2
Feb 12, 2019