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How high (or low) should I be aiming? Thanks in advance!

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How high (or low) should I be aiming? Thanks in advance! [#permalink] New post 25 Sep 2013, 10:03
Hello! I have little guidance 'round this neck of the woods, so I thought I'd stick said neck out and take all you've got (good, bad, and especially ugly) regarding my strengths, weaknesses, and overall profile in regards to getting into a decent MBA program. So, I guess I'll just dive right in, and thank you in advance!

Nationality: Caucasian American
Gender: Male
Age: 31

GMAT:
690 overall, 41 Q/44 V/5.5 AWA/8 IR

Education:
BA Anthropology, 2003, large state school, 3.06 GPA
MA History (+1 year of PhD study), 2005, large state school, 3.62 GPA
BA Accounting, 2012, crummy uni that gave me a free degree because I worked for them, 4.0 GPA

Work Experience (highlights):
*4 years teaching abroad, English and 4th grade.

* South Korea for about 3 years (where I was promoted to Lead Instructor after a year), followed by the United Arab Emirates for a short 4-month stint, where I taught 4th grade at a private international school and was the royal tutor to the prince and princess of Umm al Quwein. Very surreal experience.

*Got home from overseas January 2011, and then spent 21 months as a financial aid and academic advisor to about 330 students at any given time for aforementioned crummy university. Left this job upon completion of my accounting degree (because they weren’t expanding, they were shrinking, so there was no “up” to go to) for…

*…my current position, as an accounting and invoicing analyst for a software company in Centennial, CO, where I do client invoicing, integrate the front and back office, and actually spend most of my day tracking down the root cause of various issues with SQL developers and functional analysts. Also spend a lot of time working with the London office to ensure client SLAs are met and that contracts are being properly followed. Been here since 01/02/2013, and eligible for promotion and internal uplifting in January. I also work nights as a night auditor at a local hotel 40 hours a week, for an 80-hour work week.

International Experience:
See above, obviously – teaching abroad, including in leadership roles. I also worked simultaneously as a recruiter for teaching positions in South Korea. Plus the experience in the UAE, which again was pretty darn surreal.

Extracurricular activities:
When I’m not working 80 hours and/or taking supplemental college coursework (currently trig and calc), I volunteer for Junior Achievement Rocky Mountains in their finance education program for elementary and middle-school-aged kids, teaching them all the things they aren’t taught in middle school and high school about financial responsibility. Been doing it about a year now, and plan on continuing to do it until I’m unable to do so, as I love being a leader on both sides of the desk in the classroom.

Targets:
Here’s the interesting part: I have maybe 5 target schools, and am willing to postpone my entry by a year to work on whatever it takes to get into one of those if I’m deemed “not quite worthy” this time around (for example, I can certainly do better on the GMAT). Those schools are:

1. Cornell (IB or Capital Markets and Asset Management specialization)
2. UVA (Corp Fin/IB specialization, most likely)
3. Indiana University (Finance or Business Analytics)
4. UNC-CH (Capital Markets and Investments or Corp Fin specialization)
5. Georgetown (Finance or Strategy focus)**

Prior to considering an MBA, I was planning on an MS in Finance, until it dawned on me (quite rudely, I might add) that most firms won’t be interested in a 33-year-old MSF grad when they can hire someone 10 years younger for the same entry-level position. It was recommended to me to look around for very decent schools that might be interested in my somewhat diverse background and, if I can’t swing it this year, beef up my cred and swing it next year.

So, any words of wisdom, advice, and harsh dressings-down are absolutely welcome, as are alternative school recommendations.

Thanks in advance, everyone, and I’ll try to stay active hereabouts should any questions come my way!


**edited this one in after the post, just an FYI
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Re: How high (or low) should I be aiming? Thanks in advance! [#permalink] New post 25 Sep 2013, 22:59
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Well, you certainly are a straight-talker, my friend, and I feel like I'd only do you justice if I returned the favor ;)

So let's start with the tougher stuff: Your work experience is a bit of a tough case. First of all, unfortunately teaching is not really seen as the best place to go to business school from for AdComs, especially if it's English abroad, and especially if your post MBA goal (which I would urge you to change) is to go into finance. The work experience is also a bit scrappy, and it may be hard to build a cohesive story from it all (I've got ideas though). Your BA grades are okay, but not great, and then you are a bit on the older side, all of which are tough obstacles.

On the other hand, I can see some possibilities from what you have written, both in the way you have written (basically you write well.... go Humanities!), and in a potential story - meaning I think it'd be hard for you to sell the story of absolute success until now, but if you approach it in the right way, I think you can sell the story of "looking for a real change". I'm still pretty hesitant about your logic for your goals - basically it amounts to the same thing as with the MF. What might make more sense is to find some sort of goal within the education industry that fits you. It'd just flow a whole lot smoother.

I think that despite all your challenges you should have a shot at most of the schools on your list (Cornell is a long-shot, but it's fair enough to have one long-shot in your list). I don't see any "Safe schools" for you, and I'm not sure given your current work situation if you really want to take that risk of trying again next year, so it may be wiser for you to add a few more schools to your list (although with two jobs, I wonder how you are gonna apply at all!!! :).

A better GMAT would have helped, esp considering that you don't come from business background necessarily (although your last job is good for covering some of those bases), but your 690 is good enough to apply at these schools. Anyhow, if you do make it in, my feeling is that the merits of your essays is what will bring you in more than anything else.

Hope this helps!
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Re: How high (or low) should I be aiming? Thanks in advance! [#permalink] New post 26 Sep 2013, 00:51
Jon,

Thanks for the fantastic feedback. One of the biggest issues I've faced is the late start in my career - while travelling overseas was a great experience, it hit the pause button on my life for a good long time, which is something I'm surely regretting.

For what it's worth, in some of the teaching jobs I had, I also worked in designing the overall administrative policies for a few of those places (particularly in the UAE and my 2-year stint at Chungdahm Learning in South Korea, after my promotion to lead instructor). I also had a reduction in teaching hours and more administrative duties thereafter (mostly keeping the peace between a bunch of twenty-something expats and upper management). Not sure if that helps at all, but there you have it.

Thanks for the kind words on my writing ability. Didn't study one second for GMAT verbal, and still hit the 98th percentile, although I misread the clock at one point during the test and rushed through maybe 5 questions near the end, so even that score is improvable. I'm fairly confident that, given a month or so of pretty intense study time, I can wring out a 720-730 or so. Thankfully I left the exam three weeks ago knowing exactly what I needed to improve.

Insofar as all of my experience is concerned, you're right in that it isn't terribly cohesive. I have some pretty good reasons for my switch from education to finance and accounting, but as I mentioned previously, postponing life for a few years is a black mark against me. While I'd love to work in education (and am fairly passionate about it), I'm not sure getting an MBA and pushing back into that realm is cost-effective enough.

On to the nitty-gritty a bit, my fear in getting an MBA from a University that isn't ultra-well-regarded is the thought of carrying $100k in debt and nobody caring that I have an MBA. Hence my high aims. There are certainly other fantastic schools out there that aren't MIT or Stanford, but I'm at a bit of a crossroads in figuring out which would be the best fit. I chose finance because, well, I really, really like it (and realized too late into my accounting degree that it should have been a finance degree), and frankly because most MBA programs have the most interesting and robust offerings in that field.

To be 100% honest, "running the show" doesn't interest me nearly as much as determining the best way that show should be run. Corporate organization and efficiency is my wheelhouse (and most of my previous employers would tell you that), and likely the best fit for me would be something in strategy consulting.

So, safety schools. Most of my research has come via consulting various ranking lists, visiting school web pages, and so on, but that rarely gives the whole story (for example, Bocconi's finance MS is ranked maybe mid-30s, but they have some of the best placement in London IB out of any school you'll find in the world. IE, on the other hand, is usually ranked in the top 3, and no one in London has heard of them). As such, simply going further down the list and seeing how I stack up in regards to average GMAT, GPA, and experience is certainly deficient, but also really the only approach I know to take. Another good example is the fact that Notre Dame's MBA is ranked higher than Yale's, but I meet or exceed mean values for those granted admissions in most aspects for ND, but likely don't have a snowball's chance in Hell to get into frickin' Yale.

Notre Dame, for what it's worth, looks like a pretty fantastic fit for me, if that means anything - they have a consulting track, fantastic placement, and a big philosophical focus on social, community, and corporate responsibility, which I think fits into my resume rather well.

Doing a little research on it, I think a few other schools that would fit me well are:

1. Notre Dame - Consulting track
2. Vanderbilt - Strategy or Human and Organizational Performance track
3. Ohio State University - Strategy or Leadership and Organizational Behavior track

Would you consider those "safety" schools, or am I still aiming too high? I've listed them in order of preference.

And, thankfully, one of my jobs gives me three hours or so each day of sitting and getting paid, so plenty of time to study and write admissions essays :).

Thanks again for all of your great advice, and I can guarantee my essays can and will blow everyone out of the water.
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Re: How high (or low) should I be aiming? Thanks in advance! [#permalink] New post 26 Sep 2013, 20:53
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Well dude, you definitely sound hyped up. Keep the energy and tension till you're done with your essays and they will be of great help.

So first, your suggested safety schools - one, they make sense, and two they are real safety schools. I think the most important aspects when choosing safety schools are: Return on Investment, Employability, and their potential for you to reach your goals. And schools out of the top 10-20 don't suck! Lots of people have this impression, but it is often wrong. But many of them tend to be more potent regionally that nationally or internationally, and the industry you are shooting for becomes more important.

Secondly, about your GMAT, if that's the case, I hope you are planning on retaking. Normally, at this stage I'd advise against it, cause it's really time for you to get started on your essays, but if you can hit 720, it will make a HUGE difference. So go for it! (and then maybe you can even tick up your school list)

Best of luck, sir.
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