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British Applicant to US B-Schools Seeking Advice

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British Applicant to US B-Schools Seeking Advice [#permalink] New post 14 Aug 2010, 23:20
Hi,

I'm 30 years old, British (US permanent resident) prospective applicant for a full-time MBA starting Fall 2011. I was hoping to get your inputs on my questions below. I come from international relations/government/NGO fields and I plan to develop a career in Strategy Consulting after my MBA.

Profile
- Over 8 years experience in private and public sectors as a highly motivated strategic planner, problem solver, communicator, and stakeholder manager.
- A proven track record of lobbying, advocacy, government relations and facilitating non-governmental organization as well as overseas communications, political marketing, managing staff and successfully forming collaborative partnerships.
- Significant experience in dealing with high profile decision makers, executives and leaders.

Specialities
Political Development, International Relations, International Development, Corporate Partnerships & Coalition Building, Organizational Transitions, Lobbying, Non-Government to Government Advocacy and Communications, Public Polling, Grant Management, Project Management, Media Production, Media Campaigns, Media Relations, and Communication Strategies.

International Exposure
Worked, lived and studied in the US, Europe and the Middle East.

Languages
English (native), Arabic (fluent) and French (intermediate).

Experience
- After graduation I worked as an economic researcher in the UNDP based in the Middle East. I developed deep and strong understanding of the social, economical and political structure of the region.

- Project Administrator in the European Commission based in Brussels. I was part of a team responsible for planning, implementing and managing infrastructure projects in the Eastern Mediterranean region.

- Lobbyist for a political organisation based in Europe. Few years later I was promoted from Head of European Relations to Director of International Relations. During these years I met presidents, prime ministers, foreign ministers, MPs, MEPs, Senators, Congressmen, and other key decision makers in Europe and the US.

- Executive Director for a London based Communication company. I was responsible for multi-million media projects ranging from market research, strategy consultancy in the media field to planning and launching TV channels.

- Recently, Director of Strategic Research and Communication at a reputable, Washington DC based, international development organisation.

Education
MSc with Merit in Managing Information Technology (with focus on politics) (UK university)
BSc (Hons) in Business Management & Economics (From a no. 1 university in a Middle Eastern country; GPA equivalent to 3.5)

Extra Curricular Activities
- After I did my undergrad degree in the Middle East I developed a great passion for freedoms and human rights issues. I became a member of Amnesty International and managed to raise $200k of donations for a human rights charity in the ME. I drafted proposals, applied to various funders, negotiated different implementation plans and put an evaluation criteria and process. I was elected to the Executive Board of that charity responsible for international liaison and fundraising.
- Professional Judo player; member of British Judo Association, achieved a European gold medal in a Judo competition for at the age of 21.

Questions about my MBA
1- I am planning to set my GMAT before the end of this year. My target is 700+ score. I know this is a daft question, but taken into consideration my background, what is the realistic margin I consider safe to get through to my priority schools?
2- My priority schools are HBS, Wharton, Stanford, Booth, Kellogg and Tuck. Is this realistic or should I add few safety options like Anderson and Johnson?
3- I plan to work in the US after my MBA hence my choice of a US business school. Do you think it would be wise to apply also to a European school considering my background, or will a US school find me attractive as I will certainly add a different value and bring a different perspective to their class?
4- I was initially going to do my undergrad degree at the University of London, but changed my mind later and went to study in the Middle East to master the language, learn the culture and become an expert on the market there (which was certainly very rewarding throughout my career path!) Do you think that being a graduate from a Middle Eastern university will affect my application badly or vice-versa?
5- What business school would mostly appreciate my background and previous work experience?

Thank you for your time and effort.

Regards,
Sam
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Re: British Applicant to US B-Schools Seeking Advice [#permalink] New post 15 Aug 2010, 09:00
You have a very impressive and unique background compared to many other b-school applicants. There's certainly not a lot of people like yourself applying, so you'll stand out for sure in a good way.

There's a subtle thing going on as well - you're a politically active Middle Eastern man. And your association with Amnesty also infers that you're a progressively minded Middle Eastern man. Politics doesn't officially enter into b-school admissions, but since the whole admissions process is so subjective, it will have a subtle impact on how adcoms see you without you having to explicitly state your political views. An applicant's political views normally doesn't matter at all, but in your case given your cultural background *and* the nature of your experience, it will serve as important context which will certainly favor you.

You have a shot at all the schools you listed, including the top US schools (H/S/W, etc.) assuming your GMAT is okay (you may be able to get away with a lower GMAT, but don't count on that).

As for your educational background, I wouldn't worry about it - it's just one aspect of many (you have a very strong overall resume) so that where you went to school isn't as important. Just don't mess up the GMAT.

As for US vs. Europe, I'd stick to the US schools if you're looking to work/live in the US right after b-school. Even if you don't have US work visa issues, it's just a much bigger headache to be recruiting in the US when you're a continent away. It's not impossible, but the student body tends to be self-selecting (i.e. those who choose to go to Euro schools do so because they want to work in Europe or surrounding regions). You have a decent enough shot at any of the US top schools.

In fact, you're one of the few people on this board that I can say you actually have a decent shot at HBS (or Stanford), assuming your essays/interviews don't suck (and your career background suggests that sucking at language will be highly unlikely).
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Re: British Applicant to US B-Schools Seeking Advice [#permalink] New post 16 Aug 2010, 18:21
Thank you Alex. Your reply was encouraging and helpful indeed.

Once clarification on Amnesty International issue. I became a member because of my deep belief that "all men are created equal". It is hard to feel or think about this deep enough when one lives in the West. But when I studied in the Middle East; I felt and lived people's suffering and hardships due to the lack of freedoms and inequality before the law. Something made me think a little more deeper about what we cherish here in the West and take for granted. That being said, I am not a 'political activist' in the technical meaning of the term nor a fanatic leftist (with all due respect to left wing thinkers and advocates) yet understanding politics made me believe even stronger in free market economy, rule of law and good governance; which all corporates advocate!

As for my essays, I'd like to think this is not an issue. I hope I'm still able to utilise my communication consultancy experience and media skills in conveying the right and precise message.

I am concerned however about my GMAT as I have forgot most, if not all, the math I studied in high school. I am serious about getting a good score, but too sceptical about the improvement I will be able to make. So fingers crossed work schedule will permit!

Regards,
Sam
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Re: British Applicant to US B-Schools Seeking Advice [#permalink] New post 17 Aug 2010, 18:24
Agree with you, although I'm not sure all corporations believe in free markets and good governance -- quite a number of them will believe in these principles so long as it benefits them, and then will go running to the government to bail them out the moment the "free markets" and supposed "good governance" fails them.

What most corporations believe to be "free markets" are actually oligopolies (market power concentrated in a minority of players) -- which are actually not truly free and transparent. That's the irony and hypocrisy of it all.

But that's another discussion entirely.

Good luck on the GMAT.
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Re: British Applicant to US B-Schools Seeking Advice   [#permalink] 17 Aug 2010, 18:24
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