Joined: 01 Nov 2006
Schools: The Duke MBA, Class of 2009
 , given: 2
Nonprofit Background: Portfolio Selection and GMAT Score [#permalink]
02 Nov 2008, 20:12
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Hi, guys. I've been emailing with an acquaintance and thought my answers might be helpful to some of you - especially if you're interested in nonprofit/sustainability issues.
How many schools did you apply to, and how did you choose?
I applied to 4. I had intended to apply to 5, but had some stuff come up at work and just ran out of time. Narrowing down is hard. Start with all of the schools that have some ranking in social impact stuff - US News, Gray Pinstripes, and Net Impact all have social impact rankings. I also cross-referenced those schools with other rankings - WSJ, US News, etc - and pulled out any programs that didn't at least get mentioned by the more traditional ranking systems. Given my less-than-famous undergrad institution, I wanted some pedigree on my next degree. I also just felt that I could stack up at higher-ranked schools, so went for it. Next, I went to all of their web sites and just got a feel for what was out there. Some of these schools are ranked high up in triple-bottom-line stuff because of their focus on the ethics and the
environment, so I was able to get rid of all of those schools as those just aren't my interests. This left me with about 30. I cut schools for all kinds of reasons, some just for the feel I got from their web sites. (Michigan recommended scalping football tickets in their FAQ - this was a total turn-off for me.) I did cut some schools because the program didn't seem balanced enough - for example, Wharton was just so heavy on the finance. From there, I started
crafting a portfolio of schools to apply to. I think it's really important to get a range of schools in the portfolio: I had 1 from the highest ranked schools, 3 from the next group, and 1 from the following group. I know people who didn't get in anywhere, people who got in everywhere, and people in between. It's competitive and has a lot of variation, so you want to spread your risk while applying to schools that meet your needs.
What was your GMAT Like? Is my score good enough?
Ugh, the GMAT question. I had a very unbalanced 710 - my verbal was great and my quant was barely in the top half. It's so hard to say, but the common wisdom is that the GMAT won't get you in, but it can keep you out. Being within the school's 80% range is a good first start, and being at or above the average is even better. There are exceptions to every rule, though: I have a friend who got a 630 or 640 and has a full tuition scholarship, but he's got a
pretty special story. Your undergrad GPA helps - but it helps more if it's more recent, is from a well-regarded school, and contains some rigorous (especially quant) coursework. If you can bear it and have time, I'd take another shot at the GMAT. Most second round applications aren't due until January sometime. I bombed it my first time, and an acquaintance who was at Cornell encouraged me to take another go, and I'm so glad I did. (Even if every moment of it completely sucked.)
I'd also say that you have something going for you, and against: as a nonprofit guy, you bring something special to the class - points for that. Being from the midwest can also help. But as a nonprofit guy, they might worry if you can keep up - so you need to prove you're up for it - minus points. You get the idea.
Have you ever heard of Richard Montauk's book? It's "How to get into top MBA programs" or something. It's really very very helpful. I completely recommend it. Also, I was very active (and sometimes still post) on an MBA discussion board. It's a great helpful community, and you might get some value there: gmatclub.com. They have a forum on the gmat and one on applications. There are some others as well. My secret identity on there is aaudetat if you want to find me.