to get right to the point there is nothing really that is currently excluding you from going to the schools you listed. The bottom line is that you are going to have to get a GMAT score that is within 25 points of the average for that school. So you are looking at at least breaking a 700 and at least scoring in the low 700s.
In evaluating the rest of your profile, I am going to refer a framework; the MBA Acceptance equation. I used this high-level framework to make sure that you are covering all your bases. While frameworks are not a magic eight ball or a silver bullet they helped place things in the proper context in order to objectively evaluate your chances at a certain school.
the first part of the equation is your GMAT and GPA. since your GMAT is currently unknown, let's focus on GPA. Your undergraduate performance is excellent and so is your graduate performance. You have cleared this hurdle with flying colors. Keep in mind that some of the mid-ranked schools, in the 10 to 20 range, you may be able to get a fellowship given this academic performance. This is an important consideration given the availability of financing incremental bump in pay you can expect to receive as an MBA graduate. just make sure you get the requisite GMAT score. This makes life a lot easier.
Moving on to your work experience, you have a very traditional, tried and true path as a software engineer. This is good but it also presents a double-edged sword. What I mean is that certain stereotypes will be associated with your applicant sub pool. The admissions committee will know you are smart, but they will really concentrate on your ability to work with others who may not represent similar skill sets. The way it works in business school is that you will be placed on a small team with others from softer backgrounds; the humanities, social sciences, etc. When articulating your story, you need to focus on how you've worked in teams that represent disparate skill sets. You need to talk about how you are able to speak the other persons language and understand the other person's point of view. the other important thing that you hit on accurately is that you are going to need to demonstrate leadership within these team environments. I remember that leadership is not necessarily a formal role. What leadership is, for the purposes of business school, is your ability to lead through moral suasion and get all interests aligned to March in the same direction towards a common goal. The results should include both tangible and intangible benefits to all involved. Tangible benefits are things like a realized NPV. Intangible benefits are things like a closer bond between clients and consulting teams, or clear communication between different levels of the organization, based on your efforts as an informal or formal team leader. Another example is that if you are young and don't have a title, you were able to rally the rest of the analyst group or at the rest of the Junior engineering ranks to provide support and a solution. You articulate this not only in your essays but also in your recommendations. So it is critically important that you get a manager who knows your story and has witnessed your informal leadership abilities to write a recommendation. If it's not backed up in a recommendation and you wrote about it in your essays, claiming that it was the most significant leadership role you have ever undertaken, it is going to raise red flag if not mentioned in the recommendation.
So I also see that you've been trying to demonstrate leadership outside of work. I applaud you. It is okay to try new things and fail as long as you learn from them and you can dictate to the admissions committee, if asked, that you have successfully implemented these lessons to not repeat the same mistakes. a lot of schools ask the mistake essay, this is your opportunity to not necessarily concentrate on the failure but to concentrate on what you learned and how it is made you a better team oriented leader in your current role.
What is also important about your outside of work leadership experience and your Extracurriculars is that it logically builds towards your longer-term goals. By the way, I saw no mention of these goals. Thus this analysis is going to be incomplete.
with respect to Extracurriculars, what have you been doing outside of work today or most recently? Do not let your philanthropic tendencies die on the vine. This is important. Why? Because when you dictate your short and longer term goals if you say you want to shift directions or move towards a certain goal that may not be directly related to the computer science field ( let's say entrepreneurship) you are going to want to have a few supports for this short and longer-term goal. This is where not only are startup experience comes in handy but also your extracurricular activities.
I hope the above helps. In closing I would like to say that Toastmasters is not going to help you with developing leadership. Of course this is unless you are managing the local Toastmasters chapter or volunteering in some type of leadership role for Toastmasters. Taking a public speaking class, while certainly beneficial, really is not going to move the needle. I would examine your own personal passions and backgrounds and see what really stokes your interest. Then I would look to see if you can demonstrate a leadership role in this organization and if it relies on some of your professional skill sets -- then I would pick this volunteer activity and go for it.
Thanks in advance for taking the time to review my profile. I'm planning on applying to business schools in probably 2-3 years and I was hoping you could give me a profile evaluation and maybe some recommendations for what I could do over the next couple years to improve my chances? Specifically I think my weakest area is leadership and I'm wondering if there was anything I could do outside of work to improve that? For instance one thing I was thinking of was joining Toastmasters.
23 year old male
1/2 White, 1/2 Asian Indian
School: University of California, San Diego (ranked 14 for CS)
Degree: B.S. Computer Science
GPA: 3.71 (graduated cum laude)
Honors: Tau Beta Pi & Phi Beta Kappa
School: University of California, San Diego (ranked 14 for CS)
Degree: M.S. Computer Science with dual concentration in Software Engineering and Computer Networking
Haven't taken it yet, but I'm a native English speaker with a strong math background
Did community service with Tau Beta Pi in college and did 500 hours of community service over 4 years while in high school.
Outside of work:
Tried (unsuccessfully) with a friend to bootstrap a website over the course of 3 months. Came up with a business plan, invested in advertising, and had ~20,000 visitors. Ultimately failed partly due to inability to get critical mass and partly due misjudging the demand for the features that differentiated my website from the competitors.
Interned as a Software Engineer at 2 different companies during my 5 year (including grad school) college career.
Currently working as a Software Engineer at a government contractor and pursuing options to try and get more leadership roles.
I'm hoping for Stanford, Berkeley, or Harvard, but I want to know if I'm setting my sites too high and if so why?
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