Need help selecting B-schools to apply to

worship's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 23


I'm in the process of selecting B-schools to apply to in the first round (Sep-Oct 2018), but somewhat stuck:

1) European, pretty old (31), live in an ex-USSR country;
2) Have 11y WO, right now working in the top retail/universal bank in my country (universal bank -> we are #1 in retail and online sales, and also #1 in the e-commerce area). Plus, we are very strong in tech: i'd say tech became the bank's priority now;
3) Mid managing position, around 6-7 years of managing experience;

4) My current area is the development of online-products, client journey, "ecosystem", e-commerce, etc. - so non-banking activities, but i was a risk officer in another bank few years ago;

5) GMAT - 740;
6) IELTS/TOEFL - planned for August;
7) GPA - finished my undergrad long ago - does the GPA matter? My college didn't even use 4.0 scale at that time;
8) I have strong recommenders: current CEO/shareholder, who is the HBS alum + my ex-boss, who's now working in the SGCF i believe;
9) Lots of activities: powerlifter (got few medals several years ago), drummer in several bands, etc. Will easily get into the college's rowing team :)

Post MBA short-term goals are: tech and/or tech consulting.
As i am pretty pessismistic, i'm ok to return to my current bank, but this time as a senior manager (up to deputy CEO or CDO or CRO) - in terms of $ that option sounds very sexy, plus my wife has nice local job here, and i doubt we'll be able to find something similar abroad.
Of course i will try to get into the ABROAD tech company first (US > Canada > Nordics > ANZ), but as mentioned above - i'm ok to return back.

So, my expectations of the business schools are, in order of priority:
1) Improve leadership, negotiations, and general management skills;
2) Improve tech skills;
3) Fin/risk management;
Importance of the location and strong OCR are less vital.
Nice weather, hot girls, and nightlife - don't care.

So my current list looks like this:
Dream b-schools: H, S (will try an MBA/MSx application);
Targets: Tuck (personal favorite), MIT+MIT Sloan Fellows;
European backup: LBS, INSEAD, CamJudge;
US backup: Ross, Stern.

The questions are:
1) Can you please adjust the list of the schools taking into account my background and goals?
2) Are H and S application attempts futile? Should i focus on the more realistic options?
3) Can't figure out where's the exact border when you should apply to the 3 Sloan Fellows programs (MIT, LBS, Stanford) over regular MBA? I know all three require 8+ years of WE (14 years for LBS), already mid+ level management position - if i fit both of these criteria, is it better to aim at the Sloan Fellows first?

Thanks in advance!

Comments (13)

Jul 9, 2018

Based on your background, I think you're a better fit for the Sloan Fellows programs, as the typical "cutoff" is around 10 years WE or over 30 years old. It's not a strict rule, and some applicants above that cutoff get into regular full time programs, but it's less typical. Give Stanford a shot, especially since you can do a joint application with the MSx program. Harvard will be a real reach, around 5 or 6 years work experience is ideal for them, so I think it's a long shot. But if you'd always regret not trying, then give it a shot too. European schools will be more accepting of your work experience level, and Tuck too. So I think your list of schools is pretty good and well calibrated. GPA will still matter, but less so for the Sloan Fellows programs. It's OK if your school was not on a 4.0 scale, report it as is and the school will be able to "translate" it. Excellent GMAT!

Kate Richardson
Senior Consultant, mbaMission
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Jul 10, 2018

Nice weather, hot girls, and nightlife - don't care.

Good call. As an M7 FT MBA student, that's always difficult to enjoy.

Jul 12, 2018

You may not have meant to say this in your post, but I wouldn't consider Stern or Ross true back-ups.

Jul 12, 2018

You may not have meant to say this in your post, but I wouldn't consider Stern or Ross true back-ups.

You mean they are from the wrong area considering my goals, or they are pretty tough to get into?
Also, when it is the right time to apply to the back-up schools? In the 1st Round, together with the target-schools, or wait to be rejected by the target-schools, and apply to the back-ups in R2/R3? I understand that it is much safier to apply in R1, but additional essays, application fees, much more interviews simultaneously...

Jul 12, 2018

I meant more that you can never tell what is a "true safety" based on any profile. Some profiles look good at face value, but we have zero insight into the other applicants' profiles or the class the admission committee is attempting to create. The admissions process is a bit unpredictable. I would apply to your reach schools in earlier rounds and apply to your other programs in the second and third rounds.

Jul 12, 2018

You've done a good job choosing your target schools.

To answer your questions:
1. As I said initially I think you've done a good job. If your grades were good( yes they still count, but less than for someone who is younger. don't worry about a different grading scale. CRO) consider adding Haas and Booth as a target program. I don't believe your backups are really back ups, but you chances at those programs certainly is higher. MIT Sloan Fellows is an excellent option for you.
2. H/S (especially if you include MSx) are not futile, just difficult.
3. I think the MSx/Sloan Fellows programs are great options for you, given your level of experience.

You may find the following resources helpful:

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

    • 3
Aug 26, 2018

Hello Linda,

Thanks for your help. I have slightly updated the list by removing H/S and european schools, and adding Booth as the target school. Also, i'm planning to visit Tuck and MIT (booked interviews), and Booth/Kellogg (campus visits) in November. These 4 are the only schools i am considering now.

Now i need to choose 1-2 backup schools, preferrably in the same region (Boston or Chicago), to also visit them during my trip. What could be the options to look at? I was considering Ross and/or Cornell, but yes, they are hardly "backup" schools for my average profile.
Notre Dame Mendoza then? Or are there really good options in other regions to pick them semi-blindly (without campus visit)?


Aug 28, 2018

HI worship,

For backups, I think Cornell actually would be an "almost safety.". Given your goals, also consider Cornell Tech. Other programs outside of the areas you're looking at: Duke, UNC, UT Austin, USC, Georgetown.

I realize most are not near Boston or Chicago, but I think it's more important to choose the best schools for you than to select based on your travel schedule on this trip.


Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

Jan 3, 2019

Hello Linda,

Could you please give one more advice on my applications?

Update on my profile:

  1. I have retaken GMAT one more time, and scored 760 (q51/v42) with 6.0 AWA, but low IR (5/8) - almost skipped it. Overall i'm satisfied with the score;
  2. My TOEFL was not that good - failed writing section, dunno why. Total score is 105 (R27/L27/S28/W23);
  3. Visited the following schools: Tuck (had an on-campus interview), Booth (campus visit), Kellogg (campus visit + brief interview), MIT Sloan Fellows (SF event + interview).
    Applied to these 4 schools/programs + applied to INSEAD.

The questions are:
1. My b-school applications were submitted prior to receiving the GMAT score, so i updated the schools with the new GMAT score few days ago by sending them the score report from the GMAC. After that i noticed that there was the list of all the schools i selected during the exam to receive my score in that report! It means that all the 5 schools mentioned above will know all other schools i'm applying to... Or do they understand that reporting GMAT score to the schools =/= applying to these schools? Otherwise i'm sure Tuck, being my top priority, won't be happy to see Booth on the list, given i'm praising Tuck's close-knit community (which is true), and Booth has big classes...
2. I'm still dreaming of Stanford - do you think it is worth applying to Stanford with my profile? My Stanford stories are ready, i can get my recommendations fast, and i can apply for the MBA/MSx program (single application) to mitigate my age (31) and working experience (12). My doubts here are low TOEFL - 105 vs average Stanford's 113 and, probably, common uninspiring banking background. Should i try?

Thanks for your help!

Jan 3, 2019

HI @worship ,

  1. I wouldn't worry about #1. They know people send score reports to more schools than they actually apply. It's really not a big deal.
  2. I'm also concerned about your TOEFL score at Stanford and at the other programs. Your European background is somewhat distinctive so I wouldn't worry about blending in to the woodwork. I'm more concerned about the TOEFL. Still if your essays are basically ready, your GMAT is excellent, and the AWA may ease some concern about your writing, I'd send it in. It's worth the Stanford MSx fee to have a chance to go to the program. You've done everything else already, I'd encourage you to send it in. No need for you to reject yourself; let them do it. And if you're lucky, they won't. :-)

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

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Most Helpful
Jan 3, 2019

@worship - just sending your score reports from GMAC doesn't necessarily mean that the admissions committees from these schools will even SEE it. I spent nearly a decade in admissions at Duke Fuqua and as part of checking applications for completeness we cross referenced what each candidate reported on their application with the reports (huge Excel file) from GMAC. Once the score on the application was confirmed, there was nobody actively looking at additional scores coming from GMAC to see if a 'better' score came in. You need to scan a copy of your score report and send it to the admissions processing team at each school. If you have a personal contact in admissions at any school (e.g. interviewer or adcom staff member you met while on campus) copy them on the email with an attachment letting them know that you wanted them to be aware of your 760. (btw - congrats!)

And...go ahead and apply to Stanford MBA/MSx. If you don't, you'll never know whether or not you might have gotten in.

    • 3
Feb 15, 2019


I got dinged at Booth w/o interview (not disappointed at all - Booth wasn't my priority, but curious about the reasons of rejection though), but made it into MIT SFMBA, which was #1 on my list - really happy about it.

MIT SFMBA decision comes earlier than those of the regular MBAs, so i'm still waiting for Tuck and Kellogg (had interviews at both, and i think that my chances there are pretty high), and also for Stanford MBA/MSx - i don't think i can make it even to the interview at Stanford, but who knows?

I'm happy to be the part of the MIT's SF program, but should i wait for other decisions or withdraw applications? Could Tuck/Kellogg's admits somehow help me with getting scholarship at MIT (i'm self-funded, so this topic is vital for me)? Or vice versa - is it possible to get full scholarship at Tuck or Kellogg, in part because i was admitted at MIT? Yes, MIT SF is great and definitely superior to any other option taking into account my background, but POSSIBLE full scholarship at other schools sounds to good to turn them down immediately...

Forgot to add: this is important now, because MIT expects my deposit by the March, 15. Tuck's decision - March, 14, and Kellogg's even later - March, 27. I think i shouldn't risk and should go to MIT, right?


Aug 1, 2019
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