Hi Linda, Paul, everyone else.
GMAT: 770 (Q49,V46)
I have lots of time to shape my application and a burning desire to go to Stanford, and I need advice on how to make that happen for me.
Undergraduate Education: I expect to graduate with a 3.2 GPA with a BA Economics in May 2010 w/ minors in Computer Science and Entrepreneurship from UNC Chapel Hill, a large state university ranked around #50 overall. The GPA is less interesting than the breakdown. I floated for a couple years getting poor grades in my early Econ classes and dabbling in other subjects. Now I've turned up the heat and am currently getting straight A's in my computer science, mathematics, and advanced Econ classes, which will give me that 3.2 if I keep up the good work.
WE: I am aiming for something involving technical financial analysis for work after graduation that will utilize my combination of skills in economics and mathematics and computer science to build and use econometric models. Despite the upward direction of my grades over four years and my quantitative profile, I fear that I will be unable to obtain work experience that will help my application shortly after graduation.
Grad School?: For this reason I am considering applying to get a Masters in Economics, possibly at a European institution. While it would cost about $70,000 in tuition and lost wages, I am under the impression that economists are often not taken seriously or are seen as "soft" without study at the graduate level. So hopefully this would help me get a better foot in the door for rigorous financial analysis or consulting work, while potentially giving me an interesting and useful international experience and improving my chances of admittance to a top MBA program.
Due to my clear interest in economics, I am also very interested in the Booth school at Chicago. FWIW, I like all the other top schools like Wharton and Sloan too, except Harvard, which I think has definitely hit the point of diminishing marginal returns with the case study method and appears to have a poor student culture.
For the purposes of evaluation, please assume excellently written essays, good recommendations, decent extracurriculars, and at best an average interview (I tend to get nervous, and it would be foolish to think I won't be at the interview.)
So here are my questions:
Generally, because I haven't been able to get a sense of this elsewhere, what does graduation from a ~50 large state school mean in terms of reputation? Is it a joke, are GPA's from UNC or similar quality schools considered meaningful, or is there a middle ground with some sort of "equivalency formula" for comparison to top schools, where I've noticed GPA seems to matter much less than simply the schools' reputation?
How does economics as a major and field play at the best institutions, and is it different at Booth, with its economics-focused MBA program?
Economics has become much more popular recently, becoming filled with money-grubbers without real interest. So is it a common major for applicants and is admittance therefore difficult for those with an economics background? I have also heard that financial analysts and consultants are both common applicants, and must pass even higher standards of admission. To what degree is this true?
Would I be seen as having a non-business background or viewed more as similar to a business major but with better demonstrated quantitative skills?
Addressing my most important question of whether to do a masters program: How much do you think the masters degree would be worth? How much would it improve my application, considering all it entails? Where could I/would I be likely to get in with v. without it, perhaps with extra effort devoted to extracurriculars without it? Am I going to need to devote superlative effort to extracurriculars to have a good chance of admission to an elite school anyways? Would lowering my sites slightly allow me to avoid the Masters and/or have leisure time while still getting a high-quality education, perhaps by picking a more focused school like Babson?
The final determining factor at elite institutions seems to me to often come down to personality, so would the above profile be seen as bookwormish or lacking in personality and drive/ambition without proof of leadership outside of Work opportunities?
You are presenting a tough case. A masters degree with a high (3.6+) GPA would really help your academics. And work experience would also strengthen your profile and put distance between your wobbly start in college and your application. Furthermore, especially for Stanford, you want to present an "I care" ethos backed up with action and initiative.
UNC is generally a well-regarded public school, but a 3.2 is a low GPA
for Stanford or Booth or any top program. So It's not the school; it's your GPA. While schools will certainly notice the trend, a 3.2 is still low. There is no formula but schools have a keen idea of grading trends at different schools.
Economics is not an uncommon undergrad major at b-schools. It is seen as good preparation, particularly at a school like Booth. It is neither a plus or minus. Please see "7 Signposts to Differences Among MBA Programs
." They admit applicants from a broad spectrum of majors.
Lowering your sites would definitely allow you to avoid the masters, which still would not guarantee you admissions to Stanford
or any other program. I am not sure what "leisure" you are talking about. I don't recommend that you stop getting good grades. That could bite you later on. But a 770 combined with a 3.2 and some work experience would make you more competitive to a Babson, or a UT, or many other good MBA programs.
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