Hello. I'd like to begin by apologising for the length of this post, I pretty much have to do it this way to get the right assistance. Thanks
So anyways, a few questions I was hoping I could get some assistance with for those looking at getting into HBS or a top 10 business school down the line. Yes I realise HBS is an institution which isn't always the easiest to predict or pin down an applicant's chances but still would appreciate a few minutes of anyone's time in guiding me and assisting me, whilst also assessing my chances.
I don't have the most interesting profile, I actually think it's very weak and very uninspiring so far, but I plan to change it over the next 5-6 years in a very big way. Now priorities may change, plans won't work out the way I want them, opportunities may come up, I realise that, but ultimately i'm not sure my desire to go to a top b-school will actually subside, I do think that will remain a constant along with my desire to do a startup, probably in the tech field. The reason I want to do an MBA? I can't answer that now obviously, i'm sure it'll become far clearer as I gain work experience and decide what field I want to be in exactly, whether it's M&A, Trading, Private equity, Consulting or whatever. I'm just trying to make my profile as strong as possible before that.
I'm a recently turned 24 year old male from East Africa of middle eastern ethnicity, family of 5, divorced and live with father, grand parents since age 3. I was never the hardest worker in high school towards the end due to a number of reasons such as uncertainty about funding for university/ prohibition from studying abroad from parent due to perceived immaturity/ only child with no guidance. As a result I had very average GCSEs and A-levels in my finals despite always being in the top 3 of my class throughout pretty much all my schooling education till year 9 or so. So I was always very capable.
Both my parents and grandparents have never been to college, whereas uncle and cousins have, not sure it makes any difference, but seen a few people mention it, is it seen as a positive if you're the first in your family to graduate?
During my schooling years I was involved in a family startup, local 3* tourist hotel which acted as a transit point before tourists set off too see the Serengeti and Ngorongoro national parks. It's been operating now for around 10 years, first 5 years or so revenues were circa $100-150k. The performance hasn't been so good in the last 5 years, I know the reasons behind this but ultimately I have no authority when it comes to strategy setting nor can I influence the decisions of the owner. In the startup, I never contributed any capital but helped setup the inventory and IT systems at quite a young age. This has been balanced with, over the years looking after my grandparents, assisting my father with the operations and maintenance, studying.
After high school I joined a local institute which offered a sort of advanced diploma in accountancy for 3 years (very low gpa which earned me a 2.2, again because of frustrations etc), and then I worked at the family startup part time as an accountant and admin offer for around 2.5-3 years. During this time I've also sat for and cleared the CFA level 1 exam.
It's pretty bad so far right? Anyways gets a little more positive from hereon in. By a stroke of luck and though a series of fortunate events I have the chance to now study abroad in the Uk at the university of Southampton and will double major in Accounting and Finance for 3 years starting October.
The institution is not Oxford or Cambridge but by all accounts seems to be a top 15/ top 20 UK institution and has a strong Engineering and Computer Science department. It is in the top 1% of unis globally and ranked somewhere between 75-150 globally based on most rankings and research i've done. The programme itself is top 15 nationally i'd say, and seems to be 100-150 globally. I'm not sure how well known it is though around the world.
So with all this background info, I have a real hunger, desire and determination to finally put things right. It might be too late, but I do hope not. This is now the grand, incredibly ambitious, if also maybe slightly unrealistic plan :D:
1) Refocus and put all my energy into getting a first class undergraduate degree which is gpa 3.7-4.0 and being as high in class ranking as possible.
2) I plan to take all or as many quantitative modules as possible in the course.
3) I plan to join Finance and Investment society, Computer Science society as I brush up on my coding/programming skills to assist me in getting the technical knowledge to do the startup and assist me in the work experience aspect. Knowledge of something like MATlab can only be of assistance for the work experience factor. I already have a number of ideas for the tech startup, i'm going to to do it with a friend, the tech scene in East Africa is interesting now with things like mobile money transfer and very high smartphone penetration. self-taught coding might look "different"?
4) Reading as much as I can of magazines like The Economist
to keep up to date with current affairs and the business world.
5) Learn 2 languages possibly French and Spanish at university to add to the 3 I already know.
6) Sit the GMAT next summer and kill it, 720+ hopefully, quite confident it won't be a problem. If it is, I'll sit it in summer 2016 again.
7) Gain internships each summer in year 1 and year 2, targeting big 4 and a central bank.
8) Finish CFA levels 2 and 3 within the next 2-3 years.
9) Apply to Oxford/ Imperial/ LSE for MSc Fin econ/ MSc Finance/ MSc Econ and finance in the beginning of my 3rd year. Hopefully join at 27, finish at 28 and allow me to gain 2-3 years work exp before applying to B-school aged 30-31. If I don't get into any of them I will seek employment right after graduating and probably apply to B-school at 30.
10) Make a startup within next 5 years, which hopefully has an influence on people's lives and the nation/region.
But anyways enough of the excuses, background, and plans now come the questions.
1) How important is the undergrad institution you attend? I checked the HBS website and the institutions they admit students from and whilst the are a number of less well known U.S. institutions which aren't Ivy league schools, i'm not sure if this is still the case with UK institutions? How are UK undergrad institutions which are not Oxbridge/ Imperial/ LSE/ Warwick viewed? Specifically the likes of Nottingham, Southamton, Manchester for anyone who knows.
2) Will attending a "feeder school" MSc offset my undergrad school name? Or is the weight of undergrad school extremely high? What about a startup can that offset the undergrad institution?
3) How is the Accounting and Finance double major undergrad viewed by B-school admission officers? Is it viewed favourably, unfavourably compared to the likes of Econ, Engineering, or are they neutral on the whole?
4) Will getting an MSc negatively affect my chances of getting an admit for an MBA? If so I might have to reconsider.
5) Mature undergrad students, how are they viewed in general? And what about if it's someone with a background story like mine?
5) What are my chances based on my "plan" (lol)? I'm thinking if I get into Imperial/ LSE/ Oxford, I can apply to the Harvard 2+2, seems a solid plan?
6) Any other tips about how I should actually approach this within the next 5-6 years, perhaps I am going about this in the wrong way? Any help appreciated.
This is all that I can think of for now, might add a few more questions if I remember. Feel free to ask if anything is missing by the way.