MBA profile strong enough for H/S/W?

General Profile:

  • Undergrad: 3.9 GPA, non-target state school, business management major
  • Grad: 4.0 GPA, real estate development degree, non-target state school, went immediately after undergrad as a way to get into real estate
  • Work Experience: 1.5 years as an acquisitions analyst at major homebuilder, 1 year as an analyst at REPE firm (~10B AUM), 2 years as a senior analyst at same firm (promoted), on track to be promoted to associate in the next few months
  • GMAT: targeting 700+, likely won't apply otherwise
  • Salutatorian of my high school class (very small private school, admittedly)
  • Background: African American and will likely apply through the MLT MBA Prep program if admitted, gay, neither parents have a 4 year college degree

I've been considering business school for quite some time but have not pulled the trigger for a few different reasons:

  1. It's not required to progress at my firm. Pretty much the whole c-suite has an MBA, but there are many employees who have worked their way up to the senior director level without one (I should note that this is just one step above a senior associate at my firm and not equivalent to a VP or managing director). I should be promoted soon to the associate level, which is essentially a post-MBA role.
  2. My comp would be $150k+ all in at a minimum once promoted. This starts to make the opportunity cost pretty high.
  3. I have no desire to leave real estate.
  4. I'm starting to be on the older side for business school. If I decide to attend, I would apply in 2022, matriculate in 2023, and just be turning 30 once classes begin.

All that said, I'm considering it for personal branding reasons (I'd like a strong school on my resume) and because I sometimes worry about the long-term implications of not having one.

Given the opportunity cost, I'm only considering top schools as I don't think it would be worth it otherwise. What are my odds at H/S/W? Is it even a good idea for me to attend?

Comments (41)

Dec 1, 2021 - 8:46am

Given you score a 720-30+ on your GMAT you have a chance - but never guaranteed. The higher your GMAT the better off you are. My friend this year was rejected from Wharton without interview with same GPA and 730 GMAT - he also had admissions consultant helping with Essays and LoR. 

While everyone has their own reason to pursue an MBA - I just don't see it in your case. You are not moving locations/function/industry. MBA is not required to be promoted at your firm. You are more than likely going to be promoted soon - making the same amount with an MBA

You want to re-brand yourself by taking on 200-250k in debt (tuition+living expenses)? Remember that even after your MBA 5+years out no one really cares about it. It will raise eyebrows that you went to HSW, but aside from that your work will do the talking. MBA is kind of a re-branding tool in the sense that you want to get promoted or a new job in different location/industry/function - not in the sense of just having it on your resume. 250k+ to have a school name on your resume is prettttyyyy expensive. 

Dec 1, 2021 - 1:58pm

Appreciate the feedback. That's correct, I don't plan to change locations or industries, so the opportunity cost/ROI is my biggest concern at the moment. I'm happy at my current firm, but also open to joining a new company, especially if it would accelerate my career progression. Can you elaborate on your comment regarding MBA's not being relevant 5+ years post-graduation? In my case, I was actually suspecting that it would become more valuable down the road, specifically for promotions or possibly moving to a new company. Do you not see this as probable?

Dec 1, 2021 - 3:00pm

This is an article from couple of days ago. Most of it is trolling so only ready the last 3 comments (DeltaDecay and below). I have also read multiple posts on reddit/WSO/GmatClub that discuss this topic as well and what I gathered from it is pretty simple. University Name only plays a big part during your early stages of your career. It gets your foot in the door to network/companies you wouldn't otherwise have. But after sometime the prestige of your school fades away. Your work experience takes over and is deemed more important. Slowly after 5-10+ Years - School has no affect on your promotion or even finding other jobs. 

Imagine you are the hiring manager and have 2 candidates in front of you. Candidate A - non prestigious college, 5 years of experience, multiple promotions, amazing achievements. Candidate B - Went to Ivy league, 5 years exp, average promotions, great/good achievements. At first - the Ivy league candidate will catch your eye and you will think oh man such an accomplished person! But you will stop yourself there the second you look at the work accomplishments. This is the same story that will happen - 5/10 years out you come to a party and say you went to Harvard, you will grab a couple eyebrows, sure. But if you aren't accomplished in your job - it won't matter. Your promotions are based on your work and achievements at that job, if you are average and all you have is a top school brand going for you, no-one is going to care. Not now, not 5 years later, not 10 years later. 

Look at Tim Cook - He went to Duke for his MBA. But it wasn't his MBA that made him join Apple, it was his work at IBM that was noticed by Jobs. 

In short - You can use an MBA to re-brand yourself and get into a better company or in different industry or in a different function. But after a while that Uni name will fade away and it will be on you to carve your own success. 

Dec 1, 2021 - 1:17pm

Honestly in my mind I was thinking "non target, shitty real estate job, zero chance at HSW, probably zero chance at any M7 for that matter", then I saw "African American", and now I'm thinking "Good shot at HSW"

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Dec 1, 2021 - 1:29pm

Still doubt that this profile would get into H/S, maybe W if you get a high GMAT but M7 forsure. 

Dec 1, 2021 - 2:27pm

Thank you for the feedback.

I don't think it's quite fair to label my job/firm as you have though. While not a megafund, my firm is very reputable in the REPE industry, has many institutional investors, and is rapidly growing. We have multiple M7 graduates who joined our firm as an associate and I will likely be in the same position in a few months. I'm not saying that this will happen to me, but we have also had multiple employees move on to large shops (KKR, Starwood, Brookfield, etc.).Are you saying that only URMs get into H/S/W coming from a non-target? I'm just starting to research these programs, but I question how accurate that is given that another associate at my firm got into H/S/W and another M7 last year. He is not an URM and went to the same undergraduate institution that I did. However, I do understand that admission to these schools is a crapshoot.

  • Intern in IB - Gen
Dec 1, 2021 - 2:52pm

You have to understand that for H/S you are competing with the very top of the top within the finance bucket. There was a thread of someone who came from a T20 Undergrad with a 3.8 GPA, did two years of IB at MS/JPM went to a MF PE fund for 2 years, had a 760 GMAT and didn't even get an interview at H/S. In this aspect, not only is your job experience mediocre at best, but so is your UG and Grad school and your GMAT which needs to be ~730ish (750+ if you are a ORM). You didn't mention any extracurriculars but that is big part of many applicants application and people who get into H/S often times have stellar EC's.

Overall, no one is saying that only URMs get into H/S/W, but being a URM can significantly help your chances, while being a ORM you need to be stellar in almost all categories, especially coming from finance. 

Dec 1, 2021 - 7:31pm

I sort of looked at it similarly. GPAs are great but non target schools are a bit of a ding, work experience looks kinda just okay, GMAT of low 700s is table stakes, salutatorian is nice but that's high school... probably not HSW material, maybe other M7 but is a crapshoot, T20 sure. Gay African American first generation college graduate? Absolutely shoot for HSW.

Dec 1, 2021 - 6:35pm

Have you checked out Poets & Quants? You should post your story on the forum and see if Sandy Kreisberg will feature you.

You check a lot of the boxes:

High GPA? Check

Visible Minority? Check

Non-Standard Sexual Identity? Check

First Generation College Grad? Check

Adcoms are cool with less prestigious jobs for first generation college students.

Get that 720+!

  • 2
Dec 1, 2021 - 7:47pm

I tick none of the boxes. I don't even have a non-prestigious job (my job is too prestigious, I'm a partner at Apollo). I didn't even take the GMAT, Apollo pulled some PE MF strings with HSW and then I got a letter to go to Wharton to run a train on the sororities for 2 years.

Dec 4, 2021 - 12:14pm


Have you checked out Poets & Quants? You should post your story on the forum and see if Sandy Kreisberg will feature you.

You check a lot of the boxes:

High GPA? Check

Visible Minority? Check

Non-Standard Sexual Identity? Check

First Generation College Grad? Check

Adcoms are cool with less prestigious jobs for first generation college students.

Get that 720+!

I haven't spent much time on it, but I am familiar with the site. Are there any benefits to having your story shared there?

Dec 1, 2021 - 8:55pm

I have considered it, but the consensus on this site is that it wouldn't be worth it, so I'm a little hesitant. My employer doesn't have a good tuition reimbursement program so it makes it a little less enticing. However, I'm not completely opposed.

Dec 1, 2021 - 7:42pm
  • Background: African American and will likely apply through the MLT MBA Prep program if admitted, gay, neither parents have a 4 year college degree

You're in. I don't mean to sound condescending, but just statistically speaking, you've got a good shot. Stopped reading after that part tbh.

Dec 1, 2021 - 9:36pm

The comments are making it pretty clear that I wouldn't be M7 material without my URM label, even if I achieved a 750+ on the GMAT (which I would be striving for). I understand not being competitive at H/S, but not being competitive at the rest of the M7 is hard for me to believe given my academic performance. I guess I did not fully appreciate how important coming from a target school is for business school applications. That is why I posted this here though, to get the perspective of others on my chances, so I appreciate all of the replies. 

Truthfully, it's a hard pill for me to swallow. I only included my race/sexuality because I know that it is considered with applications, but I've never been one to lean on my race or view it as an obstacle to reaching my aspirations. I guess it's bittersweet.

  • Associate 3 in IB-M&A
Dec 2, 2021 - 9:44pm

I don't think there's much reason for you to go to business school at all, and adcoms will catch that. Your comp is solid, not required to move up at your firm, you don't want to change career paths... the long term implications really go away as soon as you get above associate. The older guys having them is more of a generational thing, almost every boomer has an MBA while millenials mostly use it for career changes or if required at their firm - it won't be a deciding factor in your promotion to MD in 15 years.

Diversity will help, but I don't think you have great chances at HSW until you have a real story about why you want to go besides just "it'd be nice to not just be a non target". Even being from a solid REPE firm, they get applications by the truckload from people with premier work experience, some of whom are already diverse, and you need to convince them you need this degree to take the next step in your career.

Dec 2, 2021 - 10:59pm

All fair points.

One thing I haven't mentioned is that I've always aspired to be an entrepreneur. Ideally, I'd like to start my own real estate shop someday. I know that an MBA is certainly not required for entrepreneurship, but I could argue that obtaining an MBA would equip me with invaluable leadership and management skills that would both service my future aspirations to run a successful business and, in the meantime, help me advance within my current field. It would also provide credibility for future fundraising.

This is actually one of the primary reasons that I am leaning towards a full-time program if I do decide to attend. I want to have the opportunity to be around other gifted and entrepreneurial individuals who may completely alter my perspective and put me on a career path that might not have been possible otherwise. I haven't put much thought into how I would word my essays or even what would go into them, which is a large reason why I would be seeking guidance from the MLT Prep team.

Most Helpful
Dec 9, 2021 - 9:54pm

I know this is late, I apologize, I am on this site much less now.

The short of it is that due to demographics, you're as much of a lock for these schools as could be, provided that you write the app correctly. I say 'as could be' because there are so damn many people applying that nothing's guaranteed.

However, you're a first-generation gay Black dude with great grades. You're exactly what every single adcom is looking for.

You will 'round out' their class profile without 'bringing down' any of their reported stats. Your non-target academic pedigree is actually a draw here: schools love to report a high number of unique undergrad institutions represented in their class. So to them you're an ethnic minority (win), sexual minority (win), economic minority (win), smart (win), from a different pool than everyone else (win) ... you get the picture.

The thing people do incorrectly is focusing their essay and recommendation letters on why they are a great candidate. 

The correct thing to do is write specifically about why that school is a great fit for you.

You need to explain what your post-school goal is, how the MBA specifically at that institution fits you, and your action plan for transforming yourself from today you to tomorrow you.

HBS is very open about what they look for in candidates. It's three things. A habit of leadership, analytical aptitude, and engaged citizenship.

Use your written materials to demonstrate what you've done that exemplifies that, some tangible things (especially anything unique to that school) that will help cultivate (not create) those traits that are already in you, and your vision of how it all coalesces to give you the platform to achieve exactly what you say your endgame is.

In your comments here you say you're interested in real estate entrepreneurship. That's awesome, and it happens to work perfectly for your background plus the framework I just shared.

Black people generally don't have money in this country. Real estate requires capital access. You have seen firsthand how a business school education affords someone the network that's conducive to success in this sector (deal referrals, LP equity, debt, project management skills, negotiation skills, we could go on...). So now you want to attend school to:

  • continue your pattern of academic excellence
    • (see how we're talking about great grades, which everyone does, but doing it in the language HBS follows?)
  • develop a network of people who are relevant to your vision (see my next thing below these bullets)
  • hone the tangible skills that will equip you to perform well in a general leadership role like running your own business
    • (HBS is huge about 'general management', as in 'our graduates are well-rounded and can go make an impact on anything')
  • bring your unique perspective as a FGLI, LGBT, URM student to the campus discourse
    • (ideally this is through a leadership position in a specific student club that already exists, or even better, an idea for one you can create yourself)

The only thing I'd suggest is that you develop a really specific angle to real estate, and make it some combination of personal plus grandiose. The unfortunate reality is that the adcoms want to believe every single graduate is out to change the whole damn world. 

So instead of 'real estate', it should be 'urban multifamily housing to solve the affordability crisis that locks people out of the economic mobility ladder by prohibiting home ownership', with a personal anecdote about how you're the first homeowner out of your entire extended family who are all still renting even as retirees. Or something to do with Opportunity Zones, with an anecdote about seeing your childhood skating rink fall into disrepair because the area got bad. Or mixed-use as a means of economic revitalization, with an anecdote ...

So to recap, it's a complete crapshoot at this point since it's the application pool has expanded to the point that acceptance rates have fallen to where they are, but if you paint the right picture, you're going to get a real look (the interview).

At that point you simply have to show up without drooling on yourself and you're in.

I can do a similar breakdown for GSB if it's really helpful, but you're smart enough to see what I outlined here for HBS and duplicate it for them.

For what it's worth, I think it's worth you going.

Yes, there's the opportunity cost of your foregone income, but speaking frankly, you're not in a $350k private equity role where it really hurts. 

However, for people from backgrounds like ours, you'd be surprised how inestimable an accelerator a program or place like these end up being to success.

Basically anyone who wants to sign up for the pain of a search fund can get one coming out of these schools. You could put together a small real estate deal of your own and get it done before you even graduate, paying for school. I know a guy that did this, so that's a data point of one for you. Half the professors like putting $50-250k checks into opportunities their students show them. It doesn't have to be a business acquisition. It could be a multifamily or OZ thing with teens yield, you'd get it done.

Even if you decide you want a job rather than your own thing right out of school, the opportunity set available to you is completely different than anything you've known. You will have gotten to go on 'treks' around the country and world, your classmates will be the children of successful and wealthy people, your nights and weekends will have been full of events where you met movers, shakers, and luminaries in all different fields.

Good luck. You seem like a solid dude. 

I am permanently behind on PMs, it's not personal.

  • 10
Dec 13, 2021 - 10:28pm

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  • VP in IB - Cov
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