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Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed

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What should ryguy do?

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Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 15:58
Hi Friends,

It would be nice if I had the fortune to choose between Michigan and Chicago or Duke and UCLA like some of the stars on the board did a month or two back, but unfortunately my situation is a bit different. I'll try to give you the run down on my background, my story, and my options. I would kindly appreciate your thoughts, especially from these aforementioned superstars. My apologies in advance for the length of this, but for those willing to suffer through reading this, I thought I’d provide as much background as possible.

Applications Results
I applied to seven schools, all in Round 2.

Chicago – rejected (no interview)
Wharton – rejected (no interview)
Kellogg – rejected (with interview, but hey, they interview everyone)
NYU – waitlisted w/o interview and subsequently rejected
Columbia – waitlisted w/ interview and subsequently rejected
UCLA – waitlisted w/o interview, subsequently interviewed, currently on WL, although it’s now been 1.5+ months since my interview
USC – accepted

My "Stats"
White male from Southern California
3.8 GPA – State school in California
GMAT:680, >80% quant
Current Age:26
CFA Charterholder

Activities During College
I worked ~20+ hours all 4 years to pay for school. I did a myriad of volunteer activities each year during school, although none were in a leadership capacity.

Activities Post College
For 2.5 years, I have been a mentor for Level I CFA Candidates (as part of a program run by my local society. About six months after being involved with this program, I was appointed as co-director of this program. We’ve grown to >140 people participating this year, up from 100 people last year. I am still a mentor, along with my holding my co-director role. I also participate in several other activities with this society, most significantly, speaking at local universities and giving presentations on various topics. Most recently (since February), I've become involved as a mentor/teacher for a "Stock Market Challenge" run by the state of California designed to promote economic learning in the classroom for inner-city high school students.

Work Experience Industry: Financial Services
Roles/Functions: Corporate Finance/Credit Risk/Financial Analysis. Pretty good career progression, salary growth, and promotions along the way.

Current Work Situation
I can’t say specifically which company I work for (although some of the folks I have gotten to know on the board may know), but let’s just say that I am very close to the epicenter of the mortgage/housing/financial mess that is still continuing to unwind. I have managed to keep my job, despite significant layoffs (~25%+) over the last 6+ months. I expect a very large wave of additional layoffs to hit sometime within the third quarter of this year. Three months ago, I would have thought that I was immune to these future layoffs, but there have since been significant restructurings taking place (and still unfolding) that flat-out look bad, regardless of one’s division or function. I would be naïve if I were to believe that my job was safe at this point.

My job situation is a wildcard and a major headwind for a reapp for several reasons:
1) If I'm unemployed when I click "submit application" that looks bad. Even if I explain the situation in the optional essay, it may still cast a shadow over my application. They may think, “Why didn’t he see this coming and leave earlier?”
2) If I’m employed at a different job, adcom may wonder, “Why is this guy changing jobs if he wants to go to b-school? Maybe he’s not sure what he wants to do.”

If I’m still employed, that would provide the best case scenario, but if I were a betting man (which I am) I wouldn’t put money on it. I’d say my chances of submitting apps in Round 1 while employed in my current job are around 20%.

Why MBA and ST/LT Goals
ST goal – investment banking (IB)
LT goal – investment management (IM)

The reason for wanting to earn an MBA is to make a career switch from corporate finance to LT goal of IM. The reason that I want to do IB in particular (M&A ideally) is to three-fold. 1) Get extensive excel modeling skills (cash flow, building financial statements, etc), 2) have the opportunity to work with senior management and decision makers at companies and 3) understand why company X decides to or merge with or buy company Y.

I originally much more in-depth on this, but shortened this to save you guys time. Just to note, I may decide to just go directly to IM (IB market is terrible right now, among other things).

Where I Stand
The most quoted and obvious benefit for going to USC is probably “the network.” Perhaps secondary and tertiary reasons are its entrepreneurship, media/entertainment, and real estate programs. That being said, I agree with a comment that River often makes regarding specialty rankings – a degree from H/W/S (or any of the other M7 schools for that matter) will open any of the doors needed, even if one of those schools isn’t ranked in the Top 10 in a particular category.

Ultimately I want to be in SoCal long term (or at least Cali – SF is an option), so in the sense of Trojan network, USC makes a lot of sense. However, USC is not known as a finance school, so how good will my network be if the bulk of the students are in real estate, entertainment/media, or their own businesses? In other words, the Trojan Network may be strong, but if they aren’t working for the companies that I am interested in working for, I have no way in the door from school reputation or network connections. For instance, under top employers, USC lists that the Class of 2007 had 4 people go to Bank of America, 3 go to Credit Suisse. I’m not sure if this list was comprehensive and that rest of the employers hired 2 or fewer students, but this concerns me, BIG TIME! TCW, Capital Group, and PIMCO are three major IM employers in LA, and none of them even hire three USC students? Bear in mind "finance" is microscopic in Southern California, compared to NY, Chicago, or even SF, so you would think that major employers such as these would take on a handful of students (much the same way as Amgen and Disney). Same thing for IB, not even three from Goldman, Lehman, JPMorgan, Merrill Lynch, or Bear Stearns (I realize this one is bad in hindsight, but still!). 45% of the 2007 grads went into finance/accounting function (whatever that means), so it's not like people are going into finance related areas. Unfortunately, the report doesn't drill down further, so I don't know what specific areas are meant by "finance/accounting."

As I mentioned, I am still waitlisted at UCLA. If I get in there, I will definitely attend. They have a solid finance rep, and the recruiting seems pretty close to par (at least for IB/IM) with the rest of the Top 10 schools. Furthermore, wanting to be in Cali long term will mean that I will have a solid Anderson network. That being said, my chances of getting in aren’t very likely at this point. Based on my waitlist experiences with NYU and Columbia, I’m certainly not going to count on anything. Hence, I’ll plan for the most likely scenario and try and make my decision based off of that.

Preliminary potential schools if I apply again (in no particular order)
Columbia (reapp) – Early Decision
Darden
Duke
Michigan
NYU (reapp - maybe)
UNC
Tepper
Emory (maybe)
Georgetown (maybe)
Yale (maybe - would need to talk to Lanter about this)
Chicago (reapp – maybe - would need to talk to Helg + Rhyme and others about this)

Note: If I do reapply, I will apply in Round 1.

Bottom Line: Should I go to USC Marshall or reapply?

Many thanks,
ryguy
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 16:10
Can you defer your admission at USC? If yes, I would re-apply next year in R1 and then go back to USC if nothing pans out. This will probably give you enough time to wait out the Anderson decision.

Good luck to you and that pimp avi on the Anderson decision.
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 16:47
ncprasad wrote:
Can you defer your admission at USC? If yes, I would re-apply next year in R1 and then go back to USC if nothing pans out. This will probably give you enough time to wait out the Anderson decision.

Good luck to you and that pimp avi on the Anderson decision.



According to their website, they will not defer for any reason.
http://www.marshall.usc.edu/mbaadmissio ... _admission
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 16:55
If you decide to reapply I suggest retaking the GMAT...break 720 and I think you would be surprised how much benefit that will have for you.
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 16:58
Ryguy,

I have been following your story and I feel for you. I'm also a SoCal guy interested in Finance.

Here's my thoughts:

If you want to go work for a brand name firm after graduation (PIMCO, Fidelity, Bulge Bracket Bank, etc.), then you need to forget about USC and re-apply. That 40% figure that USC quotes for accounting/finance is probably primarily financial planning and analysis/Big 4 accounting/back office type roles. I would venture to guess that less than 10% of USC's class gets a front office finance job upon graduation.

If you are open to working for smaller IM firms, then I think that you would be able to find a job at one of those right now with your CFA. I see no reason to go to USC for this either.

I understand your insecurity about your job - but I strongly feel that you should try not to think about it and re-apply. USC will not expand your horizons very much or offer you very many opportunities for recruitment that you do not currently have with your CFA charter.
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 16:59
riverripper wrote:
If you decide to reapply I suggest retaking the GMAT...break 720 and I think you would be surprised how much benefit that will have for you.


Agreed - if you do this and re-app at Columbia ED, I think you'll have a great shot at it.

If you decide to scrap USC, I would take a lot of schools off your list. Namely:

Columbia (reapp) – Early Decision
Darden
Duke
Michigan
NYU (reapp)
UNC - Take off
Tepper - Take off
Emory - Take off
Georgetown - Take off
Yale (maybe - would need to talk to Lanter about this)
Chicago (reapp – maybe - would need to talk to Helg + Rhyme and others about this)

Finance recruiting drops off significantly at every tier, and I feel that it is not very meaningful below the Elite tier.
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 18:03
Reading your results list made me wonder what your background looked like, but a 3.8 GPA, 680 GMAT and CFA Level whatever is, at a minimum, "par" for the course at any of these top schools you mention. Certainly the sub 700 GMAT may have played a role, and I frankly wouldn't be surprised if it did you in at one or two on your list (I helped one guy last year with a 640 or something - he was waitlisted at Cornell and they told him to retake the GMAT, or if he wanted to go to the 1 year program, they'd admit him immediately. He was on this site. Some of you may remember him. Great guy).... but I wonder if maybe there wasn't something else missing? On the face of it, you are certainly within range at any of these top programs. I scratch my head and wonder what went wrong.

As far as a decision, for me personally, it simply comes down to one thing: Will you end up wondering "what if"?

If not, then go to USC knowing you'll have to network like nuts and just go in there and do it.
If yes, then consider postponing a year. I know you mentioned the risk of being laid off, and thats something you have to consider certainly, but I would not be so worried about it (at least not from an app point of view). If it happens you can always talk to it or spin it many different ways. You can for instance, take the time to study for another CFA level (assuming you aren't done). Thats a positive experience you could write about. You could take a couple grand, go to china or something for a month, enroll in an intensive language course and just spin it as a learning experience for your post-MBA plans (which, lets say for the sake of argument, might include financial services in asia or something). For what its worth, I was only at my last job 6 months before I applied, and I just had to explain that and deal with it. You could simply just go volunteer to do something interesting - I met a guy last year who ran off to panama for like 3 months building low income homes (would play well with your background too). I could set you up with the Cofradia school in Honduras, you just teach English and hang out for 6 months, giving back to the community and all that. You could take the time to even maybe just get in shape, train for a triathlon or something - one guy I know wrote an essay for Kellogg about how he lost weight and how that was the hardest thing he'd ever done (he was admitted).

Another possibility could be to consider a last minute (for instance, ASAP, right now) application to a part time program at either Kellogg or Chicago where the odds of admission are better and adcoms are little less picky (particularly with respect to GMAT). At Chicago at least, its entirely possible to graduate in 2 years, and although you can't recruit for internships on campus, that doesn't stop people from getting them in IB. I have a friend (also a gmattclubber actually and some of you guys may remember him too. He had applied FT to Chicago but his father fell seriously ill and changed his app to PT and was then admitted. As it turns out, we met for the first time a few months ago. One of the nicest guys I've ever met) who is in IB this summer as well - landed the gig on his own.

Anyway I digress. Again, for me, its just that one question. Do what your heart tells you.
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 18:37
ryguy904,

I'm going to go with reapply for various reasons:

1) USC, albeit a great institution, is not nearly as good a program as the others you have listed. Only a top bschool program will make it easier for you to get into top IB.

2) You're 26. I know, adcoms are looking at younger applicants, but 26 is still young.

3) Having gone through the process, your apps this time around will be stronger.

4) You will retake the gmat and get a 700+. Normally, a 680 wouldn't be that big of a deal, but as economy goes down, the gmat must go up. Bust your butt for 6-8 weeks and crush the gmat.

5) If you go to USC, you need to do more legwork. And if you're heart's really not in it, esp w/the disappointment of being AT USC, you're already doomed.
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 23 Jun 2008, 21:19
If that's the case, then you have a tough decision to make. Just looking at your profile, it seems you will have a good chance at at least the elite schools. However, in admissions, it is just not about how good you are. Its all relative to the applicant pool. In a normal year, I would have suggested re-applying. But going by whats happening on the market and the resulting lay-offs(guess where some of the qualified folks from your company who were laid off will try to hide), I am scared to make that suggestion.

I say re-take GMAT and see if you get a significant jump on that score. That may make the decision for you.

ryguy904 wrote:
ncprasad wrote:
Can you defer your admission at USC? If yes, I would re-apply next year in R1 and then go back to USC if nothing pans out. This will probably give you enough time to wait out the Anderson decision.

Good luck to you and that pimp avi on the Anderson decision.



According to their website, they will not defer for any reason.
http://www.marshall.usc.edu/mbaadmissio ... _admission
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 00:39
many good suggestions, and I agree with others that your profile is very competitive at all the schools you've applied to.

I can only see a few main reasons for you not getting into those schools (my guesses):

- GMAT: You kind of *need* a 700+ score these days to not disqualify yourself, especially since most of the top 10 schools are very careful with how their avg GMAT scores affect their rankings. Like NC said, retake the GMAT and let that make the decision for you.

- Essays: Since i haven't read your essays, maybe your story wasn't convincing enough? I'm going out on a limb with this one.

- Competition in the Finance Industry: The credit crisis was already happening late last year, so you could be competing with a lot of people from the financial sector who wants to go into IB or finance later on and use the MBA to wait out the storm. Because of this reason, next year will only get harder, not easier, for someone with a background like yours.

If you do decide to re-apply, then I would strongly recommend you strengthen the above 3 things. Re-take the GMAT and get over 700, Have some current students read over your essays to give you feedback, and maybe do something different in the next 6 months just to diversify your background (I like rhyme's story about building houses in Central America or doing intensive language training in China).

Finally, have you spoken with some USC students/alums regarding this? Pick a couple whom you trust and just be honest with them. They would have a slightly better insight to how well the USC network has helped them (especially the ones who want to get into IB). Otherwise, we're ALL speculating here regarding USC's ability to place people in the IB companies you want. :)
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 00:48
riverripper wrote:
If you decide to reapply I suggest retaking the GMAT...break 720 and I think you would be surprised how much benefit that will have for you.


I was just thinking the exact same thing. Yeah, you can overcome a 680 if everything else is strong, but just remember that it is below average for the schools you are targeting. Why not try to improve an area that is clearly not a strength if you are really interested in schools at this level?
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 04:48
You know what? When I was admitted in Ross this year, I felt sorry for not applying in Ross last year, when I was waitlisted/dinged in all my other schools (3 UE + Tuck). I would already be in the mid of my first year, thought I. But then, when my re-application in Chicago worked out, I immediately felt, what I have been waiting for this one extra year. All regrets for time "lost" gone immediately!
Bottom line: if you feel like you can do better - re-apply. Hey, man, you are just 26! I am 30 :) Look at your application package, see if you may improve any part of it dramatically. For me, the essays were the key to successful reapplication.
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 05:16
pelihu wrote:
I was just thinking the exact same thing. Yeah, you can overcome a 680 if everything else is strong, but just remember that it is below average for the schools you are targeting. Why not try to improve an area that is clearly not a strength if you are really interested in schools at this level?


At this point, the GMAT is the easiest (and possibly the only) component of your application that you can improve. I wouldn't let it dictate whether you reapply (I believe djhouse got into CBS w/690), but I'm certain with diligent work, you will break 700.


helg wrote:
You know what? When I was admitted in Ross this year, I felt sorry for not applying in Ross last year, when I was waitlisted/dinged in all my other schools (3 UE + Tuck). I would already be in the mid of my first year, thought I. But then, when my re-application in Chicago worked out, I immediately felt, what I have been waiting for this one extra year. All regrets for time "lost" gone immediately!
Bottom line: if you feel like you can do better - re-apply. Hey, man, you are just 26! I am 30 :) Look at your application package, see if you may improve any part of it dramatically. For me, the essays were the key to successful reapplication.


Amen helg!!!
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Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed [#permalink] New post 24 Jun 2008, 05:37
ryguy,

I would reapply next year. It's obvious to me that you don't really want to go to USC, and that if you did not have the threat of losing your job over your head, you wouldn't even think twice about waiting another year.

I echo what everyone else says -- retake the GMAT and you should have a much better shot when you reapply.

We have similar stats and finance background but you are a year older and have finished the charter, which I would think should make you a stronger candidate. I didn't get in anywhere this year either (H / S / W / Chi / Col), but I did get interviews everywhere but H and was waitlisted at S and Chi. I think a major reason that I got interviews is that my essays were *solid* (I have a liberal arts background with heavy writing experience). I have read a fair number of other people's essays and I would say that they are generally okay but not great. I can't comment on yours specifically ryguy since I haven't read them, but if you are serious about reapplying, send me a PM and we will connect up to hammer out some very high quality essays if you are interested. (I'm not trying to imply that your essays weren't high quality, but rather that there is almost always room to improve essays.)
Re: Battle Royale- definitely not, but still your help is needed   [#permalink] 24 Jun 2008, 05:37
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