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Frustrated - Advice Needed

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Frustrated - Advice Needed [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 15:39
In the last 5 months I've found this forum to be an incredible asset when it came to both taking the GMAT and applying to business schools. Many of you have such an incredible amount of knowledge about the entire process that I believe we all owe you a fair amount of gratitude.

That being said, I need some advice and I hope you will be able to help me...

My background is as follows:
25, 3 years work experience on buyside (wall street), CFA, top rated analyst, 730 GMAT and a 3.1 GPA from a top tier US university in engineering. I am involved in recruiting for both my firm as well as my university. I also have a clear goal for my future and a good reason to go to b-school.


I've applied to 4 schools:
HBS
GSB
Wharton
Columbia

So far I've been denied by both GSB and Wharton - One of my recs was from the CIO of my major bank who happened to also be the head of my department and a Wharton Alum - so I really do not understand how I did not at least get an interview. He was someone I knew personally - not someone in a high position who I never came in contact with.

I'm really beginning to question this whole process. I still have not received any interviews, and there is only one month left till the decisions are released for my remaining two schools. Meanwhile, I know a girl who was accepted to GSB, and works on wall street, yet doesn't know the basics of the difference between the buy-side and the sell-side (which you would know if you worked on Wall Street)- and this has really bugged me, since my profile is much stronger than hers.

Though this post does border on just being me rant - I would like some constructive advice on how I could change my profile in order to make me any more attractive for a business school - seeing as though I am headed for a 0/4 batting average. (and some TLC form my fellow applicants wouldn't hurt) :wink:

Appreciate all your help - and I thank all of you for taking the time to post on this forum - because it really is useful for all the members of this website.
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 16:09
Schools always want to increase % of females, so you should not compare their profile with yours

Nothign against females here, but I think that what happens
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 16:47
I doubt that understanding of Wall Street jargon is a useful indicator of overall competence and profile strength.
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 16:59
I think your background looks pretty strong. The only concern would be that your GPA would be near the bottom of the middle 80% for the schools you are applying to, but from a top school and a tough department it should be fine. I think for you it just comes down to execution. If you do to 0/4 and re-apply next year, you'd probably be a good candidate for some advice from an admissions counselor - to help figure out what went wrong.

The reality is that, possibly, nothing went wrong and it was just bad luck. The schools on your list are (with the exception of Stanford), the most competitive programs around. I can offer my personal perspective that they are a tough bunch. The good news is that given your age and experience, you'll probably be an attractive re-applicant at Wharton and Columbia, and possibly GSB as well. I've heard that Harvard doesn't like re-apps. If you're looking to stay on the buy side, re-applications at these schools are probably the way to go.

There are still opportunities left for your apps this year though, so good luck. When did your Columbia application go complete?
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 17:00
dukes wrote:
I doubt that understanding of Wall Street jargon is a useful indicator of overall competence and profile strength.


agreed..what if she wanted to go into marketing?..not knowing this jargon means nothing in regards to her profile...

but...sounds like your venting..so all good..

I'm no expert here..but I think you're biggest strike is that you applied to the top 4 schools in the world..competition is ridiculous
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 17:29
gmat4us, let me give it a shot, but let me state a disclaimer first: I haven't been admitted anywhere yet, so my knowledge on the admissions process is weak at best. You can try posting at Ask Hjort or Ask Accepted.com for other views.

However, going through the process of trying to interpret your situation may help me understand my situation if I have to face it sometime soon.

1) Probabilistic approach: You've applied to arguably 4 of the toughest 7 schools to apply to. Even if your chances are above average (let me use 20% + your 10%) your probabilities are:

0 admits: 24%
1 admit: 41%
2 admits: 26%
3 admits: 7%
4 admits: less than 1%.

So even when the odds are in your favor, there's still a chance of about 2.5 in ten that you would not get admitted.

2) Apps. components:

Two points I noticed were not present in your summary and are supposed to be quite important in the B-school app. are:

a) Leadership.
b) Extra-curricular activities.

I'll leave this point as it is before assuming anything because it would be a futile exercise. Maybe you can assess how you stand on this aspects and re-post?

Additionally, I could argue that some of the schools you mentioned would rather take applicants with a little bit more work experience? Maybe 4 - 6 years? I read somewhere that when applying for top schools from a tough background, anything other than a bullet proof package can doom you.

3) Poor Execution?

I haven't a clue how your essays were. For all I know they could be brilliant. But is there a chance they were just average?

4) Variability - not enough schools to counter:

Now let's assume HBS is a reach school within your portfolio, just because it is a reach school for everyone I've ever met.

Let's say you had reasonable chances at Wharton, GSB and Columbia. By assuming your Columbia app. was not Early Decision, I'd say you could be dinged by them due to yield concerns.

That leaves you with only 2 schools: Wharton (the 3rd school from the H/S/W trio) and the GSB (this year's #1 as per BW, with a huge surge in applications). Maybe your profile is not good enough? Or maybe it is but there's some inherent variability to this process which did not work in your favour this time around? You can't assume anything from your female acquantaince because:

a) The evaluation is holistic (meaning the total is more than the sum of its parts).
b) The fact that she hasn´t a clue on the meaning of buy or sell side does not mean that her leadership record or other strengths won't make her a stronger applicant than you.
c) She may be an objectively weaker applicant and yet be admitted while you (the stronger applicant in this example) are dinged just because the process is not completely precise.

Hope it helps and keep your hope. If not, we may be joining forces to re-apply next year. :wink:

L.
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 17:35
Since you come from finance, your pool is pretty competitive. Your schools are also very selective so your GMAT/GPA will only get you a 2nd look but not a gurantee. How were your essays? Did you put a lot of time to write a interesting story? The schools you listed get so many 700+ GMATs with great backgrounds that they have the luxury of looking at the essays a bit closer. And sometimes it is a crap shoot at that point.

How were your extracurriculars? You don't need that many but you need at least one that is consistent.

The recommendations from what I've heard is not that important. They'll hurt you more than they'll help. so getting a great reco means you get no deducations. getting a mediocre/poor reco will get you a ding much faster.

My advice is to request feedback and reapply. Also add a few top 15 backup schools. I wouldn't stress about the girl you mentioned. We can all make assumptions but either way, it won't help your chances next time and probably frustrate you even more. Plus you're still pretty young and have time to get into a great school
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 17:40
Good analysis lepium. This luck thing spooks me out. Especially with this surge in applicants this year, I wonder how much attention the adcom (which I asumme would be of the same strength as last year because the surge was not quite predicted due to the somewhat flat GMAT takers) has dedicated to review each of the application.

To add to that the processing window for all the applications have also not changed. The schools are taking the same amount of time to process all the applicants! Saying that it makes me wonder how important lucks plays in this nebulous process!
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 18:34
Quote:
25, 3 years work experience on buyside (wall street), CFA, top rated analyst, 730 GMAT and a 3.1 GPA from a top tier US university in engineering


Forgive the hyperbole in advance ... but your profile matches 1,000 other applicants. you are young, but are doing great in your career so far. you have a ton of potential. But you applied to four of the most competitive schools in the world. DO NOT GET DOWN.

Having said that, assuming you get 4 dings, I think you will waste your time if you just try to tweak the numbers. Your numbers are good enough. My guess, and it is ONLY a guess, is that you will do your application a world of good by doing something outside the box. When I read your profile, I thought of you as Mr. MBA, ie someone TOTALLY inside the box right now.

I see your profile like this: You are a low risk admit for an adcom, but the kind of applicant they can find on a shelf at Walmart. Your challenge is standing out on that shelf. That one recommendation alone is obviously not enough to differentiate you from the finance masses.

My advice, and I am no professional, is don't waste time trying to become even less of a low risk. (ie dont waste time tweaking your numbers, they are good.) Your challenge is going to be standing out in a huge pool of applicants with similar credentials. What do you bring to the table that a thousand other wall street analysts with even more experience than you don't already bring to the table?

Get involved in something "weird" or unusual for people like you. Develop and pursue a passion. In a word: Get INTERESTING. Don't become another applicant who sends out an ultra conservative, take no risk, tell them what you think they want to hear kind of application. Stand out.

That's my 2 cents and here's my caveat: I have no idea what I'm talking about! 8-)
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 [#permalink] New post 23 Feb 2007, 22:31
First off, let me thank all of your for your very thoughtful responses. I actually took out a piece of paper so I could write down some of your points!

So if I were to break down the applicant pool it would be as such: (at least the major groups)

Wall Street/Consultants (Goldman, Merrill etc) -

Probably a large majority of the candidates - many of whom have finished 2-3 years in an analyst program post u-grad. In order to move ahead in their career they pursue an MBA and graduate at the "associate" level at an investment bank or consulting shop. Things have changed now-a-days and an MBA isn't completely necessary - often it is debated whether the opportunity cost of attending is completely worth it.

Most candidates don't necessarily use what they learn in an MBA program - and many already had the necessarily skill set assuming they worked in finance before attending b-school -- the real value in the MBA comes from 1) quickly reaching a new level in their career 2) networking with a wide variety of other finance/wall street types.

Corporate Finance (Colgate, Disney, etc) -

Having an MBA is almost a requirement for this group in order to land a corporate finance job. These candidates probably use what they learn in b-school and it is actually worth it.

Actual Business Owners and entrepreneurs

Once again - these candidates actually use a lot of what they learn in an MBA program, because they use their newly acquired skill set to start up/run their own business.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
I obviously fit squarely in that first group, as many of you have pointed out. To answer your questions about my leadership – the fact is, I probably have just as much “leadershipâ€
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 [#permalink] New post 24 Feb 2007, 11:49
I am wondering since you are already on buy side, already have CFA, already a top rated analyst, why would you need an MBA? With these qualifications , you should be able to parlay that into any finance career. Perhaps your reasons for an MBA are not compelling enough.
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 [#permalink] New post 24 Feb 2007, 13:20
I agree that you should not go off and do something "weird" just so you can add it to your application. What I'm saying is that your lifestory/passion/goals can be stated in a more engaging way than the typical "I did XYZ for 1 year, got promoted much faster than my peers to ABC, managed 10 ppl, saved my company 5 million dollars, now want to do XXX and a MBA will help me because I want to learn all parts of a business and in the long run start my own business" I think everyone has an interesting story about themselves regardless how typical or overrepresented your job / ethnicity / goals. Being able to put your own voice on paper is perhaps the toughest part of this process but if done right, it'll go a long way.

I also like how you are honest with yourself and to the adcom with your extracurriculars/goals. I get kinda sick myself of hearing ppl talk about going into non-profit or starting their own NGO when they clearly had no background for it. I'm sure the adcoms can see through it as well. espically when you all of sudden joined 5 different community service clubs the year before your application.
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 [#permalink] New post 24 Feb 2007, 15:18
gmat4us wrote:

So if I were to break down the applicant pool it would be as such: (at least the major groups)

Wall Street/Consultants (Goldman, Merrill etc) -

Corporate Finance (Colgate, Disney, etc) -

Actual Business Owners and entrepreneurs



Not to be overly picky, but while your categories may apply to many typical applicants, I think you will find that many other folks are getting MBAs. I know students who were in gov't, marketing, nonprofit, education, manufacturing, research science, engineering, etc before applying to b-school.

I think it's important to keep in mind the diversity of people you're up against. And that diversity is part of what makes it a bit harder for you, but easier for me. I come from an economic development/nonprofit background, and am quite happy to know that while my 710 GMAT can't hold up to scores of the IT geeks on the forum (and you know i love you guys), I am not really competing with them. You are probably competing with some of the top scorers, money makers, etc in the applicant pool.

And while others have said this, DON'T get down. I tell friends who don't know anything about MBAs that to get into places like Harvard, you can't just be good, ya gotta be lucky. From what I can tell, the application process is extremely subjective, which is why some of us apply to so many places. It's like the opposite of Russian Roullette, where the bullet is the admit, and you're actually hoping for it.
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 [#permalink] New post 25 Feb 2007, 02:08
cbreeze wrote:
I am wondering since you are already on buy side, already have CFA, already a top rated analyst, why would you need an MBA? With these qualifications , you should be able to parlay that into any finance career. Perhaps your reasons for an MBA are not compelling enough.


Quite. I would think an admissions person may look at this as:

Graduated
Graduate Recruit Problem
Just Finished CFA

Now, wants to go do an MBA.

Add the fact that you are young, it is an somewhat predictable course to follow. Almost a career tick-box exercise of qualifications to work in a bank.

Really, if you are in the area you want to be in, and have done all these qualifications, I would have thought that working in free-for-all for a while (the area where you aren't a grad, you aren't studying, you are in the job fully) would be best. In two years or so, you can leverage with your MBA. To do it now seems a bit like a collection of qualifications almost.

I say this having got an exam course I would finish while doing an MBA if admitted, which gives me a similar concern as "collecting", but... I have a bit more varied and bizarre career path
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 [#permalink] New post 25 Feb 2007, 07:49
Your background and stats leave no gaps. Your GMAT is strong for any of these schools. Your GPA, although slightly low, is still within the 80% range, and balanced by both the GMAT and your CFA.

In short, on paper, there is nothing about your profile that suggests you should not have been admitted, or at least interviewed. That is, there is no immediate deficiency other than your apparent lack of extracurriculars. That, while likely a weakness, I cannot imagine was sufficient to outright remove you from candidacy at Wharton and GSB, especially with a Wharton alumnus recommendation.

Thus, if it's not any of these things, the only thing left is your essays. The way you described what you wanted to study sounds like the basis of a strong essay, but the thing that caught my attention was your suggestion that you made it clear you only wanted to focus on academics.

Adcom members seek, as I'm sure you know, not meerly strong individuals from an academic perspective, but balanced and well rounded applicants who are introspective and understand their plans. These are people who seek to immerse themselves into an MBA - beyond meerly going to class - people who want to join X club and lead Z, and maybe even take part in Y - even if Y has nothing to do with their goals - just because Y is something important to them.

An approach you might want to consider is to go back to your essays, re-read them (or have a trusted friend do so) and ask yourself:

Do I sound like the kind of person whose going to be involved?
Do I sound like a fun and well balanced individual?
Have I mentioned, by name, clubs and activities I want to get into?
Was everything I talked about only about finance or my goals?
Do you sound passionate about your goals?

As someone else said, you are in a competitive pool - but I really don't think anything in your background is a deal breaker - it has to come down to the essays. There's got to be something missing there.
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 [#permalink] New post 28 Feb 2007, 20:16
[quote] I love to travel, and will continue to do so (already been to India, china, Russia, and other more “exoticâ€
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 [#permalink] New post 28 Feb 2007, 20:25
This point has already been made quite convincingly but I would still focus on your portfolio. A portfolio of four Ultra Elites is does not give you much flexibility.
  [#permalink] 28 Feb 2007, 20:25
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