Having serious thoughts about B-school for the first time - can anyone offer any advice?

Hey Monkeys,

Long-time reader/poster here. Am a bit unsure what to do at this stage in my career and b-school thoughts have started entering my mind. I'll lay out my background below but these are the main questions swirling around in my head: 1) will b-school help me get to be where I want to be in the long run, given the cost 2) I know nothing about the application process and amount of preparation required - do I have enough time to study for / take the GMAT and apply in this cycle? and 3) do I even have a shot at any of the schools that I'd be considering?

Age: 28
Undergrad: 3.0 GPA in finance from a decent private school (long story but academics were clearly not my priority as a clueless 20 year old).
Work experience: ~1.75yrs institutional private markets asset management and now ~3yrs at a small boutique investment bank (was promoted from analyst to associate)
GMAT: have not yet taken but if I decide to go down this path I'd definitely do some kind of prep course. I'm a decent standardized test taker, 2050 on the SAT with no prep (again, as a clueless kid). I'm sure I could get somewhere in the low to mid 700s and check that box.
Goal: I wanted to break into PE for a while but didn't have much luck and understand I'm probably beyond that point now. I'd really like to get into Corp Dev/Strategy or, at least for the time being, wouldn't terribly mind returning to banking or going into consulting post-MBA. Real estate has always interested me too but having very limited experience in the space I figure this could also be a good transition if I wanted to go that route.

I'm under no delusion that I'd be able to get into a top program but hoping I could at least be competitive for some schools in the top25 if I can perform on the GMAT. For personal reasons, I'm also trying to stay in a fairly tight geographic range (northeast/mid atlantic / east coast in general). I've been thinking of schools like Darden, Johnson, Tepper. I'm guessing Ross/Tuck/CBS/Fuqua/Yale/Stern are probably unattainable given my profile.

Financially, the good news is I'm debt free, but I still don't grasp the mechanics of paying for an MBA. Will I be able to finance the total cost of attendance? Does that cover living expenses as well or am I supposed to live off of savings for that time? I get that this probably sounds like a very dumb question but I legitimately have no idea.

Anyway, that's my wall of text on the situation. Any comments/feedback would be greatly appreciated.

Comments (10)

Mar 28, 2018 - 10:45am
  1. Breaking into PE post-MBA is very unlikely given the schools you are looking at and the fact that you don't already have experience in that area. However, it would certainly help get you into corp dev/strategy or banking or consulting. Real estate is trickier since it is not a particularly popular post-MBA career (less than 5% of the class at all top schools). I would look at employment reports and talk to current students at each school to get a better idea. There was also a recent thread on here discussing it.

  2. You definitely don't have enough time for this cycle. Most round 2 applications are closed and round 3 is much tougher. Your best bet is to spend 4-6 months studying and getting ready to apply for round 1 next year. I wouldn't delay it much more than this since it can be tougher once you are older than 30.

  3. Sounds like you have solid work experience for the schools you listed. Obviously your GPA is low, but it shouldn't be a total killer if you can get a GMAT that is solidly above the average at the schools you listed (think 720-730+). You can also get more involved with the community - adcoms like to see volunteering, etc. So in summary, if you do well on the GMAT, get involved with the community, and execute your applications well, you should definitely be competitive at Johnson and Tepper and possibly even Darden/Ross/Fuqua/Stern. Tuck/CBS/Yale seem unlikely, though not impossible (side note: I realize Yale is ranked lower than Tuck/CBS, but they are the biggest GMAT/GPA whores of the top 25).

Best Response
Mar 28, 2018 - 1:29pm

I would apply in the first round of next year as you would have to scramble pretty quickly to get applications in and its a more difficult put in these final rounds and having the extra time to prepare will allow you to deliver a really crisp application package. The GMAT requires more studying than you might think and 1 or 2 retakings will likely boost your score, getting good recommendation letters take some time, etc.

You have a decent profile to get into the schools you mentioned, although CBS, Tuck, Yale will be harder. I think Darden/Johnson/Stern/Fuqua/Ross are all >50% if you execute correctly and you should apply to as many of the "unattainable" schools you listed as you have capacity to complete essays/gather recommendations.

You should try to get some clarity on what you want to get out of the program and what role you envision yourself in after school. If you are going to return to banking afterwards, there is probably no massive need to get the degree. The other roles, especially consulting, are more logical.

Waiting until next year to apply will put you in the best position financially as well. Many of these schools offer scholarships and with a compelling story behind our profile you should be able to garner some of these. You can finance the total cost of attendance, I believe up to the published "cost of attendance" that schools list on their site. Again on the next year theme, waiting until next year gives you time to trim some spending habits and save a good chunk of change to cover your living costs during the two years of b-school.

Good luck!

  • 4
Mar 28, 2018 - 1:51pm

Appreciate it, thank you.

Just to clarify on the timing aspect of it (using Darden as an example), I'd intend on applying this October for admission in 2019 - I think that's enough time to study for the GMAT and put an application together?

Mar 28, 2018 - 6:32pm


Appreciate it, thank you.

Just to clarify on the timing aspect of it (using Darden as an example), I'd intend on applying this October for admission in 2019 - I think that's enough time to study for the GMAT and put an application together?

Yes. I began writing my applications in June (with the GMAT completed) for R1 submissions and felt comfortably ahead of the pack for 5 applications. I'd recommend that timeline for anyone writing 4-6 apps. Keep in mind, some are MUCH longer than others so take a glance sooner rather than later once you have your shortlist.

Mar 28, 2018 - 6:28pm

"Will I be able to finance the total cost of attendance? Does that cover living expenses as well or am I supposed to live off of savings for that time? I get that this probably sounds like a very dumb question but I legitimately have no idea."

Private lenders will loan you up to the total cost estimate published by the school. This includes housing, food, books, random fees etc. If you do a school-organized trip (like a class with an international aspect or a school-sponsored leadership trip) I believe this cost is added to the total cost of attendance. The one thing that isn't covered is student organized trips. I believe government loans work the same way.

Best of luck

Mar 29, 2018 - 10:22am

Hey @MBAthrowaway
I'm not going to sugarcoat it...that 3.0 is going to be tough. In many cases, you will be outside the 80th percentile range on GPA. That puts you in optional essay territory and really puts a lot of pressure on the rest of your app. That GMAT needs to be stellar for the top schools. 750+ would be ideal. (Get a private tutor to work with you on things.)

I like your list of schools though! A lot will hinge on GMAT though so circle back when you've got that. One thing I suggest to people like you who are thinking about this all in March...take the GMAT now! See how it goes! (i.e., don't tell yourself you'll study for three months and take it in July. Because if that score is not great, we don't have much time to adjust strategy. If you take it now and get 690, you'll know you need to knuckle down for the next few months and take it a 2nd time in July.) I also encourage people to take it now just to see what it's like to concentrate for that long in such an environment. It's been a long time since you've probably done something like that and in many ways, the GMAT is a mindset issue.

Ross, Fuqua and Stern are definitely not out of range if you can get a great GMAT. I've seen it happen before. The others might be tough but are always worth a shot.

B-school money...there are loans! And yes, they cover living expenses too.

Also one other idea for the GPA...TAKE HBx CORe!!! Now. It's pricey but it shows the schools that you are serious and mature and responsible.

Hope that helps!

mbaMission Admissions Consultant For personal advice, please see up a free consultation: http://www.mbamission.com/consult.php Website: http://www.mbamission.com Blog: http://www.mbamission.com/blog
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