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How to improve quant profile

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How to improve quant profile [#permalink] New post 02 May 2012, 13:15
Hi,

I am an applicant looking to apply for admission to Kellogg, Stern, Ross, Booth, Kelley and Fuqua for a full-time MBA this fall. I am planning to apply round 1 to all schools, and want to pursue brand management at a large CPG company with a focus on brand innovation and growth. I have spent the last 5 years working in advertising, as a media planner for brands such as Trojan brand condoms, Kraft Foods, and Burger King. I completed my undergrad at Syracuse University with a degree in Advertising, a program that is widely recognized as one of the top communications schools in the country. I did well in undergrad with a 3.5 GPA, which trends upward toward senior year -- and also worked full time to put myself through school. My concern is that I took only three quant classes during my time there, Finance (A-), Accounting (B), and Statistics for Liberal Arts (C+). I worry that the overall lack of quant classes combined with the C+ in stats will hurt my profile.

Now, I know that one way to counteract this would be to ace my GMAT -- but I'm not a great standardized test taker. I took the test for the first time and got a 480 with minimal prep (really just reviewing basics, not too much work drilling OG problems). Aside from the low score, I'm significantly stronger in verbal (breakdown was 25Q/31V). I plan to take a Manhattan GMAT course and am hoping that with a lot of hard work I can pull out a score somewhere around 620-650. That'll get me in the ballpark, but I'm not confident it will ease the Adcoms fears about my ability to handle quant.

If I can wrap up my GMAT by the end of July, I will still have time to take a 4-week intensive summer class at a local community college. I found a 2000-level Business Statistics course, but am wondering if that's the best option. Would a calculus or econ class be better? Or should I try to redeem my C+ in stats? Since a 2000 level course is an under-grad course, will that even mean anything in the adcom's eyes? It doesn't look like graduate level classes are available to non-degree students. Will taking this course help my profile, and is it worth it?

Thank you in advance for your help, I really appreciate it!
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Re: How to improve quant profile [#permalink] New post 03 May 2012, 11:45
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Hi JJ,

Thanks for reaching out. I'm going to be honest here, based on the target GMAT score you indicated, the quant aspect is the not the biggest issue. You need an overall score of at least 670 to feel good about the way your application will be read in the process. I have posted this before, so you can probably find more detail on it, but you risk being "screened out" (usually informally) if your score is below a certain threshold - usually 660 or 670 is that cutoff. What I mean is that readers have so many files to go through and its so incredibly rare for a GMAT score below their 25th percentile to be an admit, that often an admissions officer will just sort of skim (at best) a file with a score in that range.

If you can score above 660 or 670, that puts you in a range where maybe they wish it was higher, but at least they can't ignore you. They have to see what you bring to the table. And THEN you can start to worry about the way your profile will be received. Are you "ready" for an MBA - both professionally and academically (thus, the quant profile)? Do you have the traits they are looking for? Do you understand the DNA of the program in question? Are you goals powerful and persuasive? Are you showcasing transferable skills that will make you a badass in consumer goods? All of this becomes relevant the minute your file is going to get a fair and thorough read.

No adcom is ever going to say "if your score is below X, don't bother because we're not reading it carefully," but the logistics of the process pretty much dictate that this sentiment is true. When you are on file #60 for that day and it's a 630, you are pretty much thinking "okay, this person has no shot, I can read it in 15 seconds and move on." That's why you always here that while a GMAT score can't really "get you in," it can definitely keep you out.

I'd focus on upping that GMAT score in a more holistic manner, not worrying so much about showing quant skills, but just getting the raw number that keeps you safe. If you are thinking 650, then 670 is surely within range.

Finally, taking a course or two in the quant arena is a nice way to balance out your profile and show that you have those chops as well. However, someone going from advertising to consumer goods isn't going to be valuating companies or putting together actuary tables, so the only threshold you have to hit is "can he do the work in the classroom and not fall behind." In other words, continue to focus on your overall profile and don't drill down so much on the quant issue, which may or may not even be mission critical given your path. (Disclaimer: at schools like MIT and Haas, you will have to hit a higher bar on showing academic aptitude in the quant arena - those are schools that have proven at times to be more paternalistic on this point than most.)

Hope this helps. Study hard, get that score, and you'll be ready to tackle the rest of this daunting process.

Best,
-Adam/Amerasia
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