Top B-School: What schools should I be focusing on, and do I have a chance at top-tier?

smp5000's picture
Rank: Monkey | 32

Hello everyone,

I know this topic has been beaten to death, but sound advice from experienced people is invaluable!

I Just began the process of b-school planning,searching, preparation, and decisions. Currently preparing for the GMATs (plan to take in a few months). Planning on scoring well over 700. Here are some background statistics:

  • Age/Race: 26, male, white
  • Degree: Civil Engineering from Top 15 Public University for Engineering, Graduated in 2008
  • Licenses: Fundamentals of Engineering License (precursor to becoming a Professional Engineer); Certified Fraud Examiner.
  • GPA: 3.1 Cumulative/3.6 In-Major (I didn't prioritize my life until 1.5 years into college. Big regret, yet learning experience. My final 5 semesters i averaged a 3.8 GPA and received honors.)
  • Was Vice President of College Fraternity, Fraternity Chairman for Large University Charity.
  • Work Experience (at time of application):
    A) 3.5 yrs in small start-up construction companies (3 companies total @ <50 people each), working in the Project Management area. Promoted to Lead Project Manager in 2 years.
    B) 2 years in Real Estate & Construction Consulting at a Big 4 Accounting firm. Promotion to Senior after 1 year. Have done work in Australia and all over the US.
    • Extracurricular Activity: I am currently a volunteer coach for a foundation that provides golf lessons and ultimately life mentoring to troubled inner city children (I grew up in a rough inner-city neighborhood, and golf is a passion of mine). I do not have a leadership role and am unsure if I will be able to attain prior to application time.

I'm interested in applying to top B-schools due to my interest in finances, management, and consulting. Looking back, i believe i chose the wrong focus to study (I enjoy economics, finance, mgmt); but i do believe my engineering has made me stronger in many areas. I do not want to work for a Big 4 for the rest of my life. Hoping to graduate b-school and work for either a bank or top mgmt consulting firm (MBB); leading eventually to the start of my own company or working for a start-up/venture capitalist.

I'm concerned about my GPA, work experience, and EAs. My GPA does not reflect who i am today and how I've grown. My work experience seems erratic and non-defined, but I had some bad luck with the recessions (companies closing, etc...). I'm currently involved in some outside associations, but do not have any leadership roles.

I'm aiming high and focusing on schools like Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, Booth, Kellogg. I would appreicate any help in answering the following questions:

  • What do you think the odds are? What is your overall assessment of my statistics to date? Do you think they are a good foundation for a top b-school?
  • Where do i need to be focusing my efforts over the next year prior to applying? f you were in my shoes, what things would you be doing over the next year prior to application? And at application time, what approach would you take to the application? What would be the strengths, weaknesses, etc...?
  • Do you think I need to take part in additional EAs or start something of my own? I am suffering from the dreaded average-itis (male, white, so-so GPA from so-so school). How am i to STAND OUT on my applications? Do i need to get more involved or is my volunteer involvement sufficient to support in my essays?
    • The b-schools I listed are, no doubt, top-notch. Am I shooting too high? Or, with some work, would i be able to attain a Top 10 or preferably M7 school? In my opinion, I personally know that I am mentally capable of this rigorous programs, and I feel that i would be a great asset to these programs. My challenge is to prove that to the adcoms. I have high standards for myself!!!

Many thanks for the help, and look forward to the response. Any blunt criticisms of my past, and candid tips for the future are greatly appreciated.

Comments (12)

Nov 2, 2012

I go to Wharton undergrad and I passed along your stats to some current MBAs I know (most of them are White (came from public universities (UMD, UNC-Chapel Hill, & USC), and a couple engineering backgrounds (John Hopkins undergrad). They emphasized the importance of your essays if you want to clear up any mishaps as an undergrad, albeit considering the fact that you got much better grades after the first 1.5 years, admissions officers may not hold that against you (especially if you have a strong GMAT score). And to convey the plans that you may have post-Grad and how a MBA will help you achieve that. It's good that you were promoted in the positions that you held and that your most recent experience was with a Big 4 in a consulting role (since that is what you want to do post-MBA).

You should check out wharton spike, they have an admissions blog where current students answer prospective students questions regarding the process (I remember one post by a student, I think they were a non-minority, that got 4F's undergrad)

Regardless, apply & update on how it goes for you. And best of luck!!

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it's the courage to continue that counts" -Winston Churchill

Nov 2, 2012
DangerMouse091:

I go to Wharton undergrad and I passed along your stats to some current MBAs I know (most of them are White (came from public universities (UMD, UNC-Chapel Hill, & USC), and a couple engineering backgrounds (John Hopkins undergrad). They emphasized the importance of your essays if you want to clear up any mishaps as an undergrad, albeit considering the fact that you got much better grades after the first 1.5 years, admissions officers may not hold that against you (especially if you have a strong GMAT score). And to convey the plans that you may have post-Grad and how a MBA will help you achieve that. It's good that you were promoted in the positions that you held and that your most recent experience was with a Big 4 in a consulting role (since that is what you want to do post-MBA).

You should check out wharton spike, they have an admissions blog where current students answer prospective students questions regarding the process (I remember one post by a student, I think they were a non-minority, that got 4F's undergrad)

Regardless, apply & update on how it goes for you. And best of luck!!

Thanks DangerMouse. Wharton is actually my current #1 choice, given my interest in finance/economics and the fact that I was born and raised in Philadelphia!

I have never heard of Wharton Spike but will definitely look into it. Thanks so much for the help. Feel free to toss any more tips those MBA friends have! (Either though PM or Forum).

Nov 2, 2012

You're prob going to have to absolutely CRUSH the gmat, which is very possible. And as previously stated, polish the essays to communicate the things you're worried about.

I would say look outside of M7, as your chances for these schools are not great. Good luck man!!!

Nov 2, 2012
droking7:

You're prob going to have to absolutely CRUSH the gmat, which is very possible. And as previously stated, polish the essays to communicate the things you're worried about.
I would say look outside of M7, as your chances for these schools are not great. Good luck man!!!

Droking,

Appreciate the response. That's the goal! Hoping to knock the GMAT and Essays out of the park.

Just for my information, what did you consider to be my weaknesses (you're not allowed to say everything)? Obviously, i don't know your credentials or background, but any outside advice is better than none!

Anyone else out there have any answers to the original post?

Nov 2, 2012

i think the schools you listed are extreme reaches. the poster above (wharton guy) is probably a nice dude but don't get a false sense of hope from what he wrote. i would advise you to be conservative and treat the essays as potential dealbreakers instead of potential dealmakers. that doesn't mean put less effort into them, just that you should assess your school options primarily on the basis of your resume (undergrad brand, gpa, gmat, work exp.).

i think your realistic target range should be the #8-12 bracket.

Free Consultation

Vantage Point MBA's clients are accepted to the top MBA programs at a 3x higher rate than the average acceptance rates. Request a consultation with their team to learn how they can help you gain admission to your dream schools. Learn more.

Nov 2, 2012
DoubleBottomLine:

i think the schools you listed are extreme reaches. the poster above (wharton guy) is probably a nice dude but don't get a false sense of hope from what he wrote. i would advise you to be conservative and treat the essays as potential dealbreakers instead of potential dealmakers. that doesn't mean put less effort into them, just that you should assess your school options primarily on the basis of your resume (undergrad brand, gpa, gmat, work exp.).

i think your realistic target range should be the #8-12 bracket.

What is my biggest weakness? I'm getting the feeling that it's just wasted money to apply to, say, Wharton. I cannot change the past, but what are some of the things that I can work on to greatly increase the odds of getting an interview, or even accepted.

I'm hoping to do extremely well on the GMAT, as well as continue working on my EAs and leadership.

From what I'm reading, it's all negative for me. I know these schools take top-tier applicant, but it's not unheard of for what some people consider "average" people, with "average" backgrounds to get into these schools as well. Am I wrong?

In my opinion, UG brand, GPA, GMAT, and work experience do not tell the whole story behind someone, their drive, and how much they bring to the table.

Nov 2, 2012
smp5000:
DoubleBottomLine:

i think the schools you listed are extreme reaches. the poster above (wharton guy) is probably a nice dude but don't get a false sense of hope from what he wrote. i would advise you to be conservative and treat the essays as potential dealbreakers instead of potential dealmakers. that doesn't mean put less effort into them, just that you should assess your school options primarily on the basis of your resume (undergrad brand, gpa, gmat, work exp.).

i think your realistic target range should be the #8-12 bracket.

What is my biggest weakness? I'm getting the feeling that it's just wasted money to apply to, say, Wharton. I cannot change the past, but what are some of the things that I can work on to greatly increase the odds of getting an interview, or even accepted.

I'm hoping to do extremely well on the GMAT, as well as continue working on my EAs and leadership.

From what I'm reading, it's all negative for me. I know these schools take top-tier applicant, but it's not unheard of for what some people consider "average" people, with "average" backgrounds to get into these schools as well. Am I wrong?

In my opinion, UG brand, GPA, GMAT, and work experience do not tell the whole story behind someone, their drive, and how much they bring to the table.

weaknesses are:

-lack of undergraduate prestige
-lack of work experience prestige
-low GPA (especially when combined with the above)
-nothing interesting/sexy in the professional context (no emerging markets/social enterprise/cleantech)
-not a female/veteran/underrepresented minority
-boring career goal

keep in mind that a successful applicant with your profile can still have some of these weaknesses but not more than 3. having all 6 is too much. the best you can do is crush the GMAT and sell yourself as an "interesting" guy. hopefully you have done some crazy shit in a crazy country or won some impressive award in some obscure field/sport. that might put you into top 10 territory.

i would say your profile (with a 700+ GMAT) is roughly interchangeable with many students at ross, fuqua, darden, etc.

as far as viewing applying to wharton or any other top school as a "waste of money"...that is just stupid. it's only a few hundred bucks and there is plenty of randomness in the admissions game. you should apply to all schools you would like to attend. every top school has people who "shouldn't" be there on paper - either too good or not good enough for the school.

Nov 3, 2012

Worst case, you can defer your application.

Nov 4, 2012
cdery:

Worst case, you can defer your application.

Cdery,

Thanks for the pointer. I was under the impression that M7, or top 10 for that matter, do not allow deferrals.

Also, I'm not a pro in deferrals. Do you have an increased chance to get into a school if you defer your enrollment for a year or two? I would think that you would need to be accepted, as normal, and then exercise the option to defer.

Thanks for the enlightenment!

By the way, I'm still confident in my ability to get into a good school, regardless of the odds stacked against me.

Nov 4, 2012
smp5000:
cdery:

Worst case, you can defer your application.

Cdery,

Thanks for the pointer. I was under the impression that M7, or top 10 for that matter, do not allow deferrals.

Also, I'm not a pro in deferrals. Do you have an increased chance to get into a school if you defer your enrollment for a year or two? I would think that you would need to be accepted, as normal, and then exercise the option to defer.

Thanks for the enlightenment!

By the way, I'm still confident in my ability to get into a good school, regardless of the odds stacked against me.

Notice he said defer your application, not defer acceptance. Like you said, you can't elect to defer in the application itself. You need to get in on your own merits and then may defer if there are qualified, extenuating circumstances.

Nov 4, 2012

In my opinion some people here are being overly pessimistic about your chances. I go to Booth and there just aren't that many HYPS undergrad former bankers/PEers to fill the halls of the top schools. There are plenty of people here with backgrounds like yours. I have met a lot of state school engineers who worked at utilities, consultant shops, etc.

I think you have a decent chance at Booth, Wharton, and Kellogg if you crush the GMAT (740+) and write good essays.

Also look into CBS.

Nov 5, 2012
Comment