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Non-Profit to MBA

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Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 29 Dec 2008, 13:33
I'm a 30 yr. old researcher at a major non-profit/advocacy org. based in NYC. I got a 3.5 GPA (English) undergrad at a top 10 school, a couple of Master's (education, history) from little-known schools in NYC (3.7 and 3.9 GPA), and have also worked as a Peace Corps volunteer and an inner-city school teacher (2 yrs each). I'm guessing this all puts me in the "non-traditional applicant" pile. I'm thinking MBA b/c I want to try to use it to get to exec level in major non-profits or general business. I also want a clear international focus.

I'm planning to make my apps in Fall 2009. Right now, I'm shooting for Lauder at Penn (I've got good Spanish) and Chicago as top choices (I like the opp to combine MBA w/ international affairs MA.)

Mostly, I'm looking for any advice on how to spin my qualifications.

Also wondering:
Any ideas about other schools to consider?
How well does the INSEAD degree play in the US? European schools in general?

Thanks much.

Btw, this is my first post, but I've already learned a ton from this forum, so thanks for that as well.
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 29 Dec 2008, 14:21
I'm in your same boat as far as being a nonprofit applicant, though my goal is to transition into the for-profit sector. I actually don't think of Chicago or Penn being particularly strong in social enterprise (the umbrella under which b-schools tend to classify nonprofit management). But I could be wrong.

Harvard, Kellogg, Haas, Yale are all well-known for social enterprise. Stanford is also strong in this area, but moreso for social entrepreneurship. And I've heard that Johnson/Cornell is up-and-coming in this area.

The Net Impact website is a great resource. It has a publication that describes the social enterprise environment at every school that has a Net Impact chapter. And there's a prominent ranking of MBA programs based on strength in social enterprise called Beyond Grey Pinstripes.

From what I hear, MBA programs are pretty open to nonprofit applicants (though I have yet to learn that myself -- still awaiting decisions from the programs I applied to). I think your bigger handicap will be your age. More and more full-time MBA programs are trending younger (25-28), and they view your age in terms of how old you'll be at the time of matriculation, not at the time that your application is submitted. So you should started thinking about how to best spin that now.

Another typical challenge nonprofit applicants have to deal with is convincing adcom that they have strong quant skills. A good quant score on your GMAT is the ideal way to convince them if you haven't taken any quant-related courses or don't have quant-related responsibilities at work.

Good luck!
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 30 Dec 2008, 07:04
I'm in a similar boat - I'm also an RPCV and working for a non-profit now, though in the global health sector. Yale is very strong for non-profit stuff, as is Stanford, though obviously those two are a reach for just about anyone. Kellogg has some great resources too. I'd strongly suggest you check out Duke, which has a lot of social entrepreneurship resources.

I haven't felt like proving myself quant-wise has been a huge challenge... at least not as much as explaining why I'm now going for the MBA. As a non-tradi applicant, they'll want a pretty good rationale from you.
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 30 Dec 2008, 07:19
Coming from the public sector myself, I was repeatedly told that the quant question was going to my biggest liability. I was worried enough about it that I actually went back and took a couple of quant classes (calc and acct) at night. Not a ton of fun, especially with a hectic job, but if you've got the time, and it's something you're worried about, you might want to consider it.

I applied to kellogg, haas, columbia and darden (the first three at least which have strong focuses on s/e). Standford is obviously in the mix of schools for s/e, as are duke, cornell and michigan.
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 30 Dec 2008, 07:49
I'm inevitably biased, but I would strongly consider Stanford. (Check out Beyond Grey Pinstripes, Stanford's finished first in each of the last three biennial rankings).

There are certainly a lot of students looking towards social entrepreneurial ventures, but there are also a lot of people looking to get involved in social enterprise at a more established level. Take a look at the PMP (Public Management Program), it may be useful in helping you decide whether to apply.

http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/pmp/
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 30 Dec 2008, 11:33
Nice.

Thanks for all the info. I know I'm going to have to prove my quant thru the GMAT, but I'm feeling pretty good about that.

I'm curious to hear more thoughts on the transition to non-profit angle. Since I'm open to either outcome (non-profit or for-profit, depending on what's available) I'm curious what you all think is a more profitable line to take: "social enterprise" or "transition."

Also curious to hear any thoughts that people have on how adcoms look at "do-goody" stuff on the resume like Peace Corps or teaching. Do they see that as a liability, or a plus?
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 30 Dec 2008, 12:37
From the interactions and adcom interviews I've had thus far, people are very receptive to it, but don't fully get the importance of the experience. They think it speaks very highly of your character, but besides the generic "what did you do there?" question, don't pursue it thoroughly. A lot of people think it's sorta quaint - do-goodery stuff - and don't appreciate the impact it has on your worldview.

Where were you?
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 30 Dec 2008, 14:16
Ntang wrote:
From the interactions and adcom interviews I've had thus far, people are very receptive to it, but don't fully get the importance of the experience. They think it speaks very highly of your character, but besides the generic "what did you do there?" question, don't pursue it thoroughly. A lot of people think it's sorta quaint - do-goodery stuff - and don't appreciate the impact it has on your worldview.


Hey Ntang,

I'm also coming from non-profit sector. I'm currently doing a year-long volunteer teaching program. I am applying/applied in R2, so I still have to wait my turn for the interviews. Can you share some of your interview/interactions so far and what you've learned from it, especially concerning your background? I'm sure it will be very insightful for me. Good luck on your schools, it's must be stressful waiting for the replies.
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 31 Dec 2008, 06:59
liubhs02 wrote:
I'm also coming from non-profit sector. I'm currently doing a year-long volunteer teaching program. I am applying/applied in R2, so I still have to wait my turn for the interviews. Can you share some of your interview/interactions so far and what you've learned from it, especially concerning your background? I'm sure it will be very insightful for me. Good luck on your schools, it's must be stressful waiting for the replies.


Well, I first mention the year or so I worked in politics, which is pretty easy to summarize. But everyone - adcom folks particularly - are curious about hearing about my Peace Corps experience, though it's clear they don't really know what to ask. I'd say it definitely makes me stand out as an applicant. I'm sure it will for you as well, though in your case you'll have the advantage that people will be a little more familiar with what it is you DID as a volunteer teacher.

To be frank, I've milked this PC thing for all it's worth. (I feel like I deserve it!) It really is a life-changing experience, and my time there (and the last year and a half back in the States) have helped me clarify my professional goals in international development. That's the line I've tried to get across - lessons I learned from my experience, how it informs my future professional path, and how my background will help me contribute to the MBA class. At the same time, you can't come completely out of left field. You have to demonstrate that you're compatible with the school you're talking to and suited for B-school in general. That wasn't a huge challenge for me - I clean up well - but you can't go all anti-establishment on 'em. I'm waiting for admit weekend to do that.
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2009, 12:06
Lightcap wrote:
Mostly, I'm looking for any advice on how to spin my qualifications.


Hey Lightcap, I have 4 years experience working for Stanford University, which is a nonprofit. Before that, I was a full-time musician. I had trouble with my essays when I came at it thinking that this made me less qualified for b-school and that I would have to somehow pretend like I knew something about finance. What helped me was to sit down and say, "hey, I have lots of really cool experience that the typical i-banker or consultant doesn't get." One angle I took a lot is that musicians are almost always working in groups, and those groups often disagree/one person isn't practicing enough/all kinds of problems. I, having led my own groups, know how to solve those problems. Anyway, is there something in your background that makes you uniqely qualified? I'm sure there is, it's just a matter of figuring out what it is.
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 01 Jan 2009, 17:06
rjacobs wrote:
Lightcap wrote:
Mostly, I'm looking for any advice on how to spin my qualifications.


Hey Lightcap, I have 4 years experience working for Stanford University, which is a nonprofit. Before that, I was a full-time musician. I had trouble with my essays when I came at it thinking that this made me less qualified for b-school and that I would have to somehow pretend like I knew something about finance. What helped me was to sit down and say, "hey, I have lots of really cool experience that the typical i-banker or consultant doesn't get." One angle I took a lot is that musicians are almost always working in groups, and those groups often disagree/one person isn't practicing enough/all kinds of problems. I, having led my own groups, know how to solve those problems. Anyway, is there something in your background that makes you uniqely qualified? I'm sure there is, it's just a matter of figuring out what it is.


Hey rjacobs!

It's good to have another full-time musician on the boards. I thought I was the only one. :) No non-profit experience here though. Although, according to my bank statement, one might beg to differ. Hehe.

As for University of chicago, I applied there for marketing with a social enterprise bent--they admitted me with an almost full-tuition scholarship. They're looking for folks like us to change their image! And honestly, the kind of fundamental knowledge you can master at Chicago would be a HUGE asset leading any non-profit. I wouldn't count them out.

best to all,
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Re: Non-Profit to MBA [#permalink] New post 02 Jan 2009, 09:08
Thanks for all the good advice...

I guess it's just a matter of finding the right, honest angle that suits my experiences.

I guess the other question would be how well-disposed do people think adcom is to "Corporate Social Responsibility" (CSR) arguments for yourself from this type of background? Like, "I want to make corporations more ethical in their work."

Silly, or a good way to go? Thoughts?

Thanks much.
Re: Non-Profit to MBA   [#permalink] 02 Jan 2009, 09:08
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