Valuable MBA Application Insight from Current MBA's at HBS / GSB/ Wharton

ibhopeful532's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,033

All -

Some of you might be knee-deep in the MBA application process (currently Round 2), and others might be considering applying next year. I was in your shoes about a year ago and know how convoluted the process can be - it's about as "black box" as it gets.

Before I get any further - a bit about myself. I'm currently a first-year student (RC) at HBS. I've been a WSO reader and poster for over 10+ years now, and the community single-handedly got me through investment banking recruiting as an undergrad, and private equity recruiting pre-MBA.

A couple of HBS / GSB / Wharton friends and I wanted to help give back to the WSO community, and help those thinking about applying or currently applying the chance to talk to current students at these top-tier MBA programs that have recently navigated the admissions process.

All of us are currently enrolled at one of these programs - and depending on your preference and which school you are applying to, we will match you to a current student that has a very similar profile to yours. Topics we can touch on includes, but certainly are not limited to:

** What kind of "story" or narrative worked at each of the schools?
** GMAT high enough?
** How do I differentiate myself against 100,XXX candidates that look exactly like me?
** How does post-MBA recruiting work at top-schools?
** What type of students are each school looking for - really? (hint - what's posted on the website often does not match up to the candidates -actually- admitted)
** What are the weak-spots on your application?
** What kind of questions are -currently- being asked during interviews at each of these schools?
** Rejected? (don't worry - a number of us were the first time around) - how to prepare for re-applying
** Waitlisted? (a few of us were as well) How do you get off? (the answer is NOT - do nothing, despite whatever the schools say)
** Ask us ANY question you can think of - no need to be coy or polite

Post questions below - happy to answer. If interested in a conversation with a current student, send me a PM. Good luck!

Comments (57)

Feb 21, 2018

Hey all - thanks for doing this. I'd like to get thoughts on two things: 1. Leadership/ECs 2. Investment/Asset management recruiting at top mutual funds/long-only firms.

Leadership/ECs

  • What leadership/EC roles did you guys hold? How did you find it?
  • I know it's hard to quantify but how important do you think it was in the overall application process for you and your peers?

In 1-2yrs I will be targeting M7 schools, specifically Columbia. I'm above their GPA/GMAT averages (3.75/760), however I am an Asian (non-international) male in finance. I currently do volunteer teaching but have been advised to look for either junior board/leadership volunteer roles. Do you think it's worth it given my profile? Any advice on where to find such opportunities?

IM Recruitment

  • I understand this is one of the toughest industries to break into, even with a top MBA. I'd appreciate anything you have to share about recruitment/application process. What candidates usually end up securing these positions?
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Feb 25, 2018

Thanks for doing this! Are there any students in your class that were traders pre-MBA? I'm working as a derivatives trader at a quant firm in Chicago and am wondering if that'll be an obstacle when I apply.

Also, I took the GRE and scored a 334 - 170/170 quant (97%) and 164/170 verbal (94%). Do you think I should take the GMAT if I think I can score similarly (would have to redo the preparation) or is the GRE enough?

Feb 25, 2018

Nice read

Feb 25, 2018

Thanks for the tips. I will use them.

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Feb 25, 2018

Stacy helped me get into Columbia and Booth with a 2.9 GPA.

Feb 25, 2018

Stacy helped me get accepted to both HBS and GSB -- and I did my undergrad at DeVry!

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Feb 25, 2018

^^^That's funny.

Feb 25, 2018

If your question is for Stacy, I'd post your question directly into her thread. I'm pretty sure she doesn't check other threads.

Feb 25, 2018

thanks, will do that.

Feb 25, 2018

stacys mom

has got it goin onnnnn

Feb 25, 2018

Obviously my experience is...my experience, but I have seen more associates come in than I have analysts.

Analysts that I have known often head straight to PE or other buyside pursuits and it is only after a couple of years there, whether by force or election, that they head to an MBA program. This makes sense to me as they are still entering the program around 26-27, right on average with their classmates.

I have also seen associates come in who went A-A and are now looking for a break and/or opportunities to enter into other industries or better buyside opportunities that they might not have had access to previously.

Feb 25, 2018

Thanks for the inputs. Any others?

Feb 25, 2018

This is an advertisement, I know, but the guide is worthwhile. I've read through the whole thing and have advised everyone who is interviewing to buy a copy and go through it. There's a bit of an overload with too many questions, and it makes your head spin, but it's nice to see what has been asked, and nice also to see the "right" way to look at the question.

I think it's interesting reading for students who are not interviewing at Harvard too, but that's just me. I guarantee there is no interview as detailed at the HBS one, but that's because they study your application before you show up at the door. It's not just, "walk me through your resume," that's for sure.

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

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.

Feb 25, 2018

Just apply! If you get in, you get in. Else, apply again.

"I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature."

Feb 25, 2018

Fail. Can you stay in your role for another year naturally? Because if you are 2 and out you pretty much must apply now.

Feb 25, 2018

Are you suggesting I apply for Round 3? Unfortunately, I am not going to make Round 2's deadline... I am applying to Kellogg and UChicago MBA... I have read online that most suggest waiting to apply for Round 1 over Round 3.

Feb 25, 2018

Round 3 tends to be a black hole. I think you should wait until round 1, but I don't know if you have a time sensitive situation. I recall some of your previous posts, it's not clear whether you've already taken the GMAT. The GRE won't cut it.

Feb 25, 2018

I've spoken to several application consultants and they've said round 1 or 2; schools already know what they're looking for during round 3 and usually don't budge unless you're exceptional. But as stated above, GMAT is necessary.

Feb 25, 2018

Why is the GMAT necessary? The schools both said they accept either GRE or GMAT and don't have a preference over either one.

Feb 25, 2018
UnfalteringFellow:

Why is the GMAT necessary? The schools both said they accept either GRE or GMAT and don't have a preference over either one.

They say that, but, because this is a fairly recent change, they're really more comfortable with the GMAT as it is what everyone has taken in the past. Also, the GMAT shows that you're pretty much only considering b-school, whereas a GRE may suggest other interests. AND the GRE quant section is much easier than the GMATs, and the quant is what they tend to look at most.

Just a couple reasons off the top of my head.

Feb 25, 2018

If you can work another year, I would save your energy and apply round 1. Admissions will still keep a copy of your previous application on file, and if you are dinged this year, they will maybe compare your next application with your last to see how much has changed, so that could work against you.

Feb 25, 2018

if you're based in the US, then you might wanna try, but knowing that chances are slim; I wouldn't try to apply to my first choice school as applying 2nd time can be tricky!

Feb 25, 2018

I think it's important for everyone to take the test they feel the most comfortable with. I have spoken to many people at both schools, NU's Kellogg and Uchicago's Booth and they said that the GRE or the GMAT did not matter and neither held preference.

Feb 25, 2018

You haven't given us nearly enough information for us to give you any real valuable advice. Provide the following:

1) number of total years of work experience (if you only have 2-3, you could certainly benefit from another year)
2) number of years in current role/industry (demonstrating continuity and career progression in your role is important)
3) current stats (GMAT, GPA, quality of undergrad) (i.e. how competitive are you at these schools)
4) leadership roles

There are obvious benefits to waiting:
- higher probability of acceptance applying in R1/R2
- ability to develop additional leadership roles at work and extra-curricular
- obtain additional work/life experience
- receive higher quality recs
- save another year's worth of salary/bonus
- more time to craft a compelling b-school app

Feb 25, 2018

I would just like to point out that you obviously go/went to UIUC. No one would ever put UIUC on par with UVA and UMich.

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Feb 25, 2018

He's also prob at Cognizant as well.

Feb 25, 2018

Lol first two comments are exactly what I was going to say. It's not helpful for chance threads to use that wide a variety of schools or companies. What do you do at your company?

If you're trying to do gold-plated tech then MBB you better apply to the best possible school you can. Why not Columbia? Your stats should be good enough, they do well placing at MBB and probably have better tech opportunitues than Tuck

Feb 25, 2018

You realize that most of the top 16 schools have adopted a common set of recommendation letter questions (i.e. there's no difference in time/effort between completing 1 school and say 8 schools because of all the overlap)?

Apply to all 3. You are trying to make choices before you've even gotten a decision, and the fact is, you need to apply to a sufficient number of schools to minimize the randomness between one school and the next. With your profile, just 4 schools may be on the skinny side. It's a numbers game and it's not going to take you that much more time to complete an additional 1-2 schools.

With that said, Tuck is one of those schools where it's practically a must to visit before applying - they keep track of it, and for the reason you stated. You need to know for sure whether that kind of isolated, rural environment is right for you. If you're unsure, then take it off your list.

Feb 25, 2018

why these three within top 15?
UVa for example is a case-method consultant school.
Michigan Ross does it well too. "1/3 chance that you went there...."

if MBB is your focus and they don't have much outputs, going to those probably don't help as much. Could you network into those things now with your "public ivy" badge? or do you need Visa sponsorships?

lastly, it's not a bad thing to aim higher, but it's important to know where you're at now and how to get to the goals. GPA and GMAT arent dealbreakers for MBA admissions, but they do reject a bunch of those without otherwise solid profiles.

Feb 25, 2018

Hi guys

I went to Michigan undergrad...even though I went to the engineering school and not the undergrad business school....I didn't want to go back there because I feel outside the classes my experience would be more or less same...hence, didn't consider applying to Ross....

Also, no disrespect to UI-UC....in engineering we consider it as a top school along with others (Caltech, Stanford, MIT, Michigan, Berkeley, Georgia Tech etc).....not sure why you guys are hating on UIUC...quite pathetic I must say..

Similarly I don't work for Cognizant but I work in one of the other two companies...my work is in data analytics...

UVA - I have heard is overly focused on case-method, plus I have believe their tech placement isn't that great..consulting I agree they are very good.

I am also applying to Stanford (not going to get in but worth a try), Anderson, Haas, Sloan and Duke....So just wanted to add one more school (total of six) to the mix....I have dropped Stern as an option......so now need to decide between Tuck and Yale...

Any insight for Tuck and Yale would be appreciated!

Feb 25, 2018

Think about what your needs are...If you don't want to apply to Ross because you've been there, I can respect the need for a different pie on the network...

it really doesn't matter honestly. You got about 7 more apps to better places and you'll probably find little differences if you got into the others. If I was you, I might do Yale for a scholarship play.

Feb 25, 2018

bschoolguy234,

You've chosen your schools well.

If you want to choose between Yale and Tuck and don't want to apply to both, I'd go with Tuck. You already have a lot of tech and engineering and Tuck has an excellent general management program that will complement your undergrad education and post-college work experience. Plus it's close (enough) to the tech scene in Boston and has treks to the West Coast, and it has that fanatical alumni Tuckie network.

Best,
Linda Abraham

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

Feb 25, 2018

Since you guys seem to have an opinion on Cognizant, can anyone tell me what they really think of Cognizant's CBC branch and what exit opportunities or lateral opportunities into management consulting there might be? I realize it's not top tier like MBB or anything, but from what I understand it's beginning to get on par with Accenture.

I'd really appreciate any info as it's been hard to find many opinions on the topic.

Feb 25, 2018

Assuming you went to UI-UC and work at Cognizant...I think you need to apply to more schools in the 10-15 range. I'm not saying you can't get into Tuck and Berkeley, but the odds will be against you. I'd consider adding Duke/Ross/Cornell.

Feb 25, 2018

Also interested

Feb 25, 2018

You should be honest with your goals. They certainly may change while you're in business school, but you should be upfront and concise about what they are now. Admissions Committees can see through any goals that don't make sense with your background or what the program does.

Feb 25, 2018

do any of the admissions consultants on this forum have any insight? Would love any additional perspective if at all possible

Feb 25, 2018

Here are a few points to keep in mind when discussing your goals:
1. They gotta make sense! Given what you've done and the education you will receive as well as the placement record of the school, are your goals realistic? If yes, that's good. If no, you could be hearing cow bells dinging.
2. Career change is OK, but you should be able to make a case for the value of your experience to date when combined with the MBA from School X. You will later need to make that case to employers too.
3. Does your goal pass the plausibility test? If you've never done anything related to this goal, it's going to raise some eyebrows. If your goal means a 2/3 cut in salary (working now in IB and planning to start a social venture where you will earn 1/3 of your current salary) , you may have some explaining to do. If you can connect this social enterprise to something else in your life or make it real, then that's still OK, but it has to be real.
4. Achieving your goal should require an MBA and preferably benefit from the curriculum, placement strengths, and extra-curricular activities of your target programs.

And bottom line it has to be realistic. Schools want to know they can help you succeed. You each have a slightly different definition of "success." Tell them what it really is, and as long as it is feasible and realistic, it will be work.

Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

    • 1
Feb 25, 2018

As someone who got into 2 out of 3 top MBA programs H/S/W, I'd say that goals need to be reasonable within an extent but sufficiently ambicious that you would need an MBA (and THAT MBA from the school your targetting) to make it work.

I wouldn't think PE-> MBA -> HF is too crazy but you need to 1) make sure the HF you're targetting is at par with the PE you worked at before, 2) Be sure to explain how the school will help you in that purpose - and what makes it different from other schools, 3) You're already changing industries -sort of- so try not to change too much about other things like location or industry expertise since you need to make them comfortable that you are employable and your goals are realistic

Feb 25, 2018

ambitious

Feb 25, 2018

Amazing points, and so true.

I do admissions consulting on the side and I did that Summer Venture in Management Program at Harvard Business School last summer. The program coordinators are admission directors to HBS, so I got pretty good exposure to them. They said point blank that people overrate the GMAT because it's the only objective way for people to measure themselves, when admission officers themselves only use it to reject people, not accept them.

Admissions are also relative to the types of applicants as well. Finance people compete against each other; non-profit people compete against each other.

Admittingly, HBS is known to care less about the GMAT than say...Wharton or NYU. However, the thoughts on this thread are true for every college.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

If you come in with the similar IB>PE>MBA>PE story or IB>MBA>PE>Microfinance story, you're a commodity. But if you really define your story, then you can show your uniqueness.

And in order to define your story, you have to do what you're intrinsically passionate about and pursue it. It makes your essays easier because...well, hey...you're not bullshitting anymore. You're doing real talk.

And if IB>MBA>PE is your actual intrinsic passion, you won't have a hard time conveying it in your essays. Just let it rip.

You're not a commodity. You're the gem that admission officers want. Treat your application and yourself that way. Demonstrate it.

When the OP said "fit" another way to think of it is "differentiation."

Feb 25, 2018
Xepa:

Amazing points, and so true.

I do admissions consulting on the side and I did that Summer Venture in Management Program at Harvard Business School last summer. The program coordinators are admission directors to HBS, so I got pretty good exposure to them. They said point blank that people overrate the GMAT because it's the only objective way for people to measure themselves, when admission officers themselves only use it to reject people, not accept them.

Admissions are also relative to the types of applicants as well. Finance people compete against each other; non-profit people compete against each other.

Admittingly, HBS is known to care less about the GMAT than say...Wharton or NYU. However, the thoughts on this thread are true for every college.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

You need to craft your story.

If you come in with the similar IB>PE>MBA>PE story or IB>MBA>PE>Microfinance story, you're a commodity. But if you really define your story, then you can show your uniqueness.

And in order to define your story, you have to do what you're intrinsically passionate about and pursue it. It makes your essays easier because...well, hey...you're not bullshitting anymore. You're doing real talk.

And if IB>MBA>PE is your actual intrinsic passion, you won't have a hard time conveying it in your essays. Just let it rip.

You're not a commodity. You're the gem that admission officers want. Treat your application and yourself that way. Demonstrate it.

When the OP said "fit" another way to think of it is "differentiation."

This is very much true. HBS cares less about the gmat than programs like wharton/sloan/booth/columbia.

I've made this point before; you're indeed competing against people within your demographic and industry background. So for finance, how do you distinguish yourself? I think at the M7, you MUST have either a brand name company on your resume and/or did something outside of finance that makes you stand out and something you're genuinely passionate about. Adcom officers are MASTERS at detecting bullshit on your essays. They read thousands of essays every year, and they are good at figuring out whose story is genuine. My general rule of thumb is this: do NOT enage in an activity that you otherwise would not have done if you weren't applying to b-schools. It will be a waste of your time, and if you write about it in the essays, the lack of passion will clearly show.

Feb 25, 2018

@Xepa, I did SVMP summer 2010. You going to the reunion this weekend?

Feb 25, 2018

Thanks phantombanker, looking forward to your follow up.

Nov 4, 2018
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Feb 25, 2018
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Linda Abraham
President, Accepted | Contact Me | Admissions Consulting

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Nov 6, 2018
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