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I would like some suggestions on what I can do in the next year or so to improve my chances of getting into a top tier school. My background is as follows:
GMAT: 720 (Q49, V40)
GPA: 3.81, University of California, San Diego
Major: Computer Science
Honors: Magna Cum Laude (top 4%)
Experience: 4 years (1.5 years working abroad in Paris, France)
Positions held: Associate Software Engineer, Software Engineer (hoping to get another promotion within the next two years to Senior Software Engineer)
Leadership: Co-lead Six Sigma project to Share Best Practices between the two international divisions of my company (French and American sites); presented findings and new process for sharing practices to Software Engineering Directors and second level managers of each site
Volunteer work: Children's ministry (sunday school) volunteer for 10 weeks (stopped because of my international assignment)
Interests: Reading and learning about business and technology
Career goals: Transition from technology to finance with an entrepreneurship bent. My short term goal is the career transition and my long term goal is to gain knowledge and contacts from the business world to start my own business. I have no idea what kind of business though.
I know my leadership experience is severely lacking. It's hard in the defense software industry to get into a position of leadership with only 4 years of experience. My plan is to expand my volunteer experiences and look outside my work for leadership opportunities. My short list of schools are:
Although I know some of these are a stretch. I am planning to apply in 2009. Do you have any suggestions for the next 2 years to maximize my chances?
I think you're right to focus on gaining more leadership experiences, mainly outside of work since it sounds like your career makes it harder. Your ministry experience sounds interesting, but hopefully you can get a lot more experience there than ten weeks. Also, ideally you can gain leadership experience in those roles -- i.e., running events, making things happen that wouldn't happen without you, etc.
It's good that you're starting to think about these things now. Use the next two years to get some real leadership experiences under your belt, and you should be a in great shape!