Help me chart out my plan to get a top MBA! All advice appreciated!!

phillyboy's picture
Rank: Orangutan | 357

WSO has always been a very helping community and has definitely helped me over the years. Now personally I try to help and give advice (PM or threads) whenever I think I can add good value and see this as paying it forward. This is a thread for personal reasons but I think it is a very general thread too and can be of great help to everyone in the future. So I encourage everyone to participate and give their $.02 and more

Thanks to everyone in advance.

A bit of my background

College:
Semi target elite liberal arts 2014 Grad
Major: Double major in Economics and Political Science
GPA: 3.28 (On the low side but have valid excuses and never was an issue in interviews and they were always satisfied with my explanation. Not sure whether it will remain same for B-School in terms of circumstances being able to offset the low GPA)

Work:
European boutique advisory (started october 2015)
BB Investment Banking Energy group (USA) 1 year (Aug 14 - Aug 15)
Big 4 Advisory internship (Summer '13)

I am aiming for a top MBA Program (T10) and would aim for M&A roles (and possibly, PE) after b-school. I am a May 2014 grad and have one year experience and am possibly looking to apply for either the 2017 cycle (3 years experience) or 2018 cycle (4 years work experience.)

NOW FOR MY REQUEST. People who have already been through the process and/or going through it right now, some discussion question.

I) What should be my game plan right now? When should I look to give the GMAT? I gave a test cold last week and scored 640 on it. Good thing (if there is such a thing here) was tht the mistakes were of similar nature rather than being all over so I am confident that if I study enough and prepareI should be able to get it higher as I do well on standardized tests historically. (2330 in SATs). Of course its not an indication but I am confident to going above 720 at the minimum. But aim is 750+. Any advice in what helped people achieve top scores also appreciated. I know theres some good threads around.

II) To make my application better what else should I do? Should I volunteer for some social work. I did it in high school and also did a bit in college too but ofcourse continuing with either is not possible. Is this something B-Schools really care about?

III) I have been thinking of the CFA and looked at some materials and the Level 1 seems easy enough. Does having passed a CFA exam or 2 have any bearing on the chances of admission into a top MBA program? I mean I would just be giving it for the heck of it and ofcourse the advantage would be that it would increase my technical skills and knowledge but I have no plan of going into AM or ER. If there is any discernible impact on MBA admission I am certainly open to giving Level 1. Dont think I will go beyond though due to time. Def not be able to complete it before potential B-school.

IV) Any other general points anyone would like to make? I have a good 2-3 years to set any deficiencies I have in my applications right and want to make a great impression in fixing them. What else would B-schools look at kindly? Anything you wish you had know earlier that you know now?

Any and all advice is appreciated. Thank you everyone

(btw never knew we cant edit fonts etc otherwise I would have made some things bold or underlined or increased the font size to format it better)

Region: 
All Europe

Comments (13)

Oct 23, 2015

Just to add I was varsity crew in college. And heavy involvement in some clubs and a leadership position in one

not sure whether it helps at all but putting it out there if it is indeed relevant

Oct 23, 2015

I would just focus on the GMAT initially. I'm in the process of applying to MBA programs and having been through a lot of the process I would knock out the GMAT as soon as possible especially considering you can keep a GMAT score for 5 years.

Not sure how much time you have to study but I would use the manhattan guide books and official gmat guide books and chip away at it. The verbal is critical on the gmat. If you are a great verbal test taker it makes the gmat so much easier as a high verbal score raises your score dramatically compared to a high math score.

Most people in asset management/ pe have to get the cfa. Obviously one thing at a time but I would work on the cfa after the gmat if you're serious about pe. I'm going to start studying for cfa lvl 1 after my applications are done.

Also here's a fun site that calculates your odds of getting into some of the top schools based on the gmat and gpa of gmat club applicants. Take it with a grain of salt but it definitely shows how much of an advantage a strong gmat score is for some of these schools.

http://www.mbadataguru.com/blog/
Also if you're serious about PE I would try to transition to PE after working in IB for a year or two as it seems way easier to go into PE post MBA after initially being in PE.

One thing I wish I knew beforehand was how long the applications would take. I should have started earlier.

Not really sure about the volunteer stuff to be honest. You can always have one of those free 30 minute sessions with an MBA consultant and see what they think on the matter. Maybe continue crew if you can but seems unlikely with your current job.

The MBA program should like your leadership position in a club.

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Oct 24, 2015

thanks. very good advice.

appreciated

Oct 24, 2015

I) What should be my game plan right now? When should I look to give the GMAT? I gave a test cold last week and scored 640 on it. Good thing (if there is such a thing here) was tht the mistakes were of similar nature rather than being all over so I am confident that if I study enough and prepareI should be able to get it higher as I do well on standardized tests historically. (2330 in SATs). Of course its not an indication but I am confident to going above 720 at the minimum. But aim is 750+. Any advice in what helped people achieve top scores also appreciated. I know theres some good threads around.

work as hard as possible & move on. Most schools post a 80% range to not disclose the 10% both tails. 640 isnt death itself. obviously the higher the more helpful, but it's only as indicative as GPA. Just get it done and move on to other parts.

II) To make my application better what else should I do? Should I volunteer for some social work. I did it in high school and also did a bit in college too but ofcourse continuing with either is not possible. Is this something B-Schools really care about?

What the hell are you thinking when your desire in social work is to just enhance MBA chances. Are you inelastic to the multidimensional pain with those social work recipients?
You only should do it when it's your heart's desire, it makes you energized, work hard, and proud. If you grind it through just for a resume item, people aren't fools and they'll pick up easily.

III) I have been thinking of the CFA and looked at some materials and the Level 1 seems easy enough. Does having passed a CFA exam or 2 have any bearing on the chances of admission into a top MBA program? I mean I would just be giving it for the heck of it and ofcourse the advantage would be that it would increase my technical skills and knowledge but I have no plan of going into AM or ER. If there is any discernible impact on MBA admission I am certainly open to giving Level 1. Dont think I will go beyond though due to time. Def not be able to complete it before potential B-school.

useless unless it's relevant....

IV) Any other general points anyone would like to make? I have a good 2-3 years to set any deficiencies I have in my applications right and want to make a great impression in fixing them. What else would B-schools look at kindly? Anything you wish you had know earlier that you know now?

google is a good friend for 95% of questions.

Oct 24, 2015

thanks.

just to clarify. im not some narcissist to just do charity work for resume building. was involved in teaching in low income neighborhoods since high school (in balkansand US) but now location and job pressure makes it harder. Was asking as a point of information more than anything. might end up doing sth regardless if it excites me

Oct 25, 2015
phillyboy:

thanks.

just to clarify. im not some narcissist to just do charity work for resume building. was involved in teaching in low income neighborhoods since high school (in balkansand US) but now location and job pressure makes it harder. Was asking as a point of information more than anything. might end up doing sth regardless if it excites me

I get it. but still do it with passion. that helps with the impact you make.

if you deliver campus kitchen weekly that's a commitment. if you make something big happen, that's more impact.

Oct 25, 2015

bump!

Oct 26, 2015

Hi @phillyboy
Happy to chime in with some advice. Here are some comments

You wrote:

College:
Semi target elite liberal arts 2014 Grad
Major: Double major in Economics and Political Science
GPA: 3.28 (On the low side but have valid excuses and never was an issue in interviews and they were always satisfied with my explanation. Not sure whether it will remain same for B-School in terms of circumstances being able to offset the low GPA)

I'm personally a sucker for elite liberal arts colleges, since I do believe that they really force you to write and learn to think in a more logical fashion. OK, I am a product of one (Vassar), but have found that students from similar schools usually do well because they are not cookie-cutter.
Admissions folks are definitely interested in the quality of your transcript and how you challenged yourself. It's possible that you did challenge yourself with a 3.28 GPA, which is definitely lower than the average for top business schools. Nothing you don't know here. Being a student athlete is excellent (rowing is a wonderful sport for talking about teamwork and leadership). But not excuse for low-ish grades.
They do look at the trend, so not all 3.28's are equal. Still, you will need to compensate by --as they say here -- crushing the GMAT, It's just really hard to be at the lower end of the standard deviation on both metrics and succeed. But yes, it has happened.

Agree with previous posters that you should get the GMAT out of the way and start preparing soon. The ROI on taking a Manhattan gmat course is well worth it. There are enough different packages so that you don't have to do the whole 12 weeks in person. In fact, I know someone who is just doing the quant section and she's paying just $300 -- but budgeting for some private tutor time. The reality is that other test takers are taking classes, so why disadvantage yourself by going it alone?

was involved in teaching in low income neighborhoods since high school (in Balkans and US)

If you are able to do more international work, do it. Seriously, the biggest differentiator I see in candidates who make it and candidates who don't is on-the-ground international experience. I don't mean a 2-week holiday to see the sights, but being able to work with locals elbow-to-elbow. If you can figure out a way to get an overseas assignment with your European firm, do it! If you are fluent, or semi-fluent in another language and can use it in business, use it! These are real ways you can before a global citizen -- someone who has had a lot more experience than the candidate who hasn't done more than sailed in the Caribbean. With 2 or 3 years, you can make something happen overseas, and live to tell the tale.

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

Oct 27, 2015
Betsy Massar:

Hi @phillyboyHappy to chime in with some advice. Here are some comments

You wrote:

College:Semi target elite liberal arts 2014 GradMajor: Double major in Economics and Political ScienceGPA: 3.28 (On the low side but have valid excuses and never was an issue in interviews and they were always satisfied with my explanation. Not sure whether it will remain same for B-School in terms of circumstances being able to offset the low GPA)

I'm personally a sucker for elite liberal arts colleges, since I do believe that they really force you to write and learn to think in a more logical fashion. OK, I am a product of one (Vassar), but have found that students from similar schools usually do well because they are not cookie-cutter.Admissions folks are definitely interested in the quality of your transcript and how you challenged yourself. It's possible that you did challenge yourself with a 3.28 GPA, which is definitely lower than the average for top business schools. Nothing you don't know here. Being a student athlete is excellent (rowing is a wonderful sport for talking about teamwork and leadership). But not excuse for low-ish grades.They do look at the trend, so not all 3.28's are equal. Still, you will need to compensate by --as they say here -- crushing the GMAT, It's just really hard to be at the lower end of the standard deviation on both metrics and succeed. But yes, it has happened.

Agree with previous posters that you should get the GMAT out of the way and start preparing soon. The ROI on taking a Manhattan gmat course is well worth it. There are enough different packages so that you don't have to do the whole 12 weeks in person. In fact, I know someone who is just doing the quant section and she's paying just $300 -- but budgeting for some private tutor time. The reality is that other test takers are taking classes, so why disadvantage yourself by going it alone?

was involved in teaching in low income neighborhoods since high school (in Balkans and US)

If you are able to do more international work, do it. Seriously, the biggest differentiator I see in candidates who make it and candidates who don't is on-the-ground international experience. I don't mean a 2-week holiday to see the sights, but being able to work with locals elbow-to-elbow. If you can figure out a way to get an overseas assignment with your European firm, do it! If you are fluent, or semi-fluent in another language and can use it in business, use it! These are real ways you can before a global citizen -- someone who has had a lot more experience than the candidate who hasn't done more than sailed in the Caribbean. With 2 or 3 years, you can make something happen overseas, and live to tell the tale.

Hello Betsy,

Thanks for the detailed reply. Really appreciate it!

Will definitely keep this in mind.

Another question to you and others aswell: Does it matter to B-Schools if an applicant has changed too many jobs? Lets see my case. I was in an Energy group at a bank in NY for the first year out of college but then had to leave the US due to extenuating circumstances. Now I am at regional bank in Europe. Though I just started I know that come this time next year I will be better placed to try for some of the top gigs here (much better play as I had to take a huuge paycut) and the Middle East so I might possibly have my THREE JOBS in 3 Years!! Is this going to be seen as negatively by programs that I do not stick to one job? (eventhough its valid reasons or out of my control)

Oct 27, 2015

As far as 3 jobs in 3 years, it's not the end of the world, but it really needs some justification. The reality is that there is a ramp-up time for some jobs, and you really have a hard time having material impact on an organization if you are only there for a year. So leaving the first job is fine. Now that you are at a regional bank -- located in Europe? (just curious)
You said, "I just started and I know that come this time next year I will be better placed...." That makes me wonder why you took that job in the first place. Sure, you had to leave New York, as you said, but you are not even at the European job and you are trying to get out of there? That raises flags.
It's important to be thoughtful about each move, and from what you say so far, it sounds like your opportunism might end up backfiring.
You don't want to stay too long at any job, but you don't want to just keep grabbing for the next thing either. Not sure how mature that looks.

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

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Oct 28, 2015
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