I would like some suggestions on what I can do in the next year or so to improve my chances of getting into a top tier school. My background is as follows:
GMAT: 720 (Q49, V40)
GPA: 3.81, University of California, San Diego
Major: Computer Science
Honors: Magna Cum Laude (top 4%)
Experience: 4 years (1.5 years working abroad in Paris, France)
Positions held: Associate Software Engineer, Software Engineer (hoping to get another promotion within the next two years to Senior Software Engineer)
Leadership: Co-lead Six Sigma project to Share Best Practices between the two international divisions of my company (French and American sites); presented findings and new process for sharing practices to Software Engineering Directors and second level managers of each site
Volunteer work: Children's ministry (sunday school) volunteer for 10 weeks (stopped because of my international assignment)
Interests: Reading and learning about business and technology
Career goals: Transition from technology to finance with an entrepreneurship bent. My short term goal is the career transition and my long term goal is to gain knowledge and contacts from the business world to start my own business. I have no idea what kind of business though.
I know my leadership experience is severely lacking. It's hard in the defense software industry to get into a position of leadership with only 4 years of experience. My plan is to expand my volunteer experiences and look outside my work for leadership opportunities. My short list of schools are:
Although I know some of these are a stretch. I am planning to apply in 2009. Do you have any suggestions for the next 2 years to maximize my chances?
Since you're aiming high, my recommendations may seem severe, but if you can't get formal leadership in your professional life than find some community activity where you clearly have a high responsibility level, i.e., because you started the organization, serve on its board, or lead groups of its members. You need to be ambitious here and think out of the box. Don't just pick some community organization because you've read that other B-school applicants do that. Be creative; follow your interests.
I recommend leveraging your Paris location either in your community activity or in some other way by gaining some intensive cross-cultural experience (aside from work). Again, be creative, find something to try in France that forces you to totally immerse yourself in the culture--something that is the opposite of 'tourist-y.'
Spend the next two years networking in finance with people already in the field. Do informational interviews, for example. Perhaps start a business that is somehow connected to your finance goals. This would kill two birds with one proverbial stone: give you leadership experience and generate some bona fides for your finance goal.
Begin building networks among students and alumni at your target schools. Visit these schools and get to know them.
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