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Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer

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Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 26 Nov 2011, 19:57
Relevant Info:

GMAT: V45 (99%), Q40 (55%), 5.5 AWA, 690 Overall (88%)
GPA: 2.94 (BS Mechanical Engineering), Top 20 Institution (Big 10 school)
Graduated early (3.5 years), Co-op experience
Weak grades in high level math courses, higher GPA in final 4 semesters (>3.0) while working two jobs
Taking UCLA "math for managers" pre-MBA extension course online to bolster quant résumé

Work experience:
almost 5 years at time of application (next fall) and 5.5 years at matriculation
Government (federal worker) for the military
held leadership position (not technically a manager), progressed from GS-7 to GS-12 in 3 years

Extracurricular:
not much here, but now volunteering as a mentor for local youths (will require ~1-2 hrs per week)


I've only taken the GMAT once and really only studied for a total of 20-30 hours. I scored 720 and 740 on the two Prep tests I took, then really dropped the ball on quant. I'm going to take it again, and I'm confident I can replicate my verbal score and improve on the quant. I'm aiming for as high over 700 as I can get, but it would be worth it to me to retake just to get that leading 7.

Right now I have an entrepreneurial interest, but that could change. I am an excellent writer and my essays will be strong. I should have recommendations from high level government managers.

My "interest" list is as follows:

Georgetown McDonough
Maryland Smith
GWU Global
Wake Forest Babcock
Temple Fox

If I retake the GMAT and do much better I'd add:

UNC Kenan-Flagler
UVA Darden
Duke Fuqua
UT McCombs

I'd like to attend a DC school full-time, but a part-time program is not out of the question if I can find a job there (which is likely). I'd prefer a full-time program for many reasons. I'm potentially interested in study abroad and having a degree with global connections, so the DC schools would give me those opportunities. I am stuck on Georgetown for some reason - I think it's the name recognition - and would probably struggle with the decision to quit my lucrative full-time career to attend a school like Temple or maybe even Wake. I have McCombs on there because of my interest in entrepreneurship and a potential interest (as an engineer) in energy. I also wouldn't mind being in Austin.


Thoughts from the experts (and non-experts for that matter)?
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Concentration: Marketing, General Management
GMAT 1: 770 Q49 V47
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 28 Nov 2011, 08:24
I don't think retaking the GMAT is going to get you up into that next tier of schools because schools generally care a lot more about GPA than GMAT and your GPA is still out of the range for that next tier of schools. Instead of spending time on retaking the GMAT, I would bump up your extracurricular activity (schools ask for time commitment and 1-2 hours isn't going to be very impressive), concentrate on doing well in your math class, and focus on making your applications the best they can be. Maybe pick one of those higher tier schools to throw in as a stretch school. Your key will be explaining fit with your alternative/interesting background. Good luck!
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 28 Nov 2011, 08:45
blg529 wrote:
I don't think retaking the GMAT is going to get you up into that next tier of schools because schools generally care a lot more about GPA than GMAT and your GPA is still out of the range for that next tier of schools. Instead of spending time on retaking the GMAT, I would bump up your extracurricular activity (schools ask for time commitment and 1-2 hours isn't going to be very impressive), concentrate on doing well in your math class, and focus on making your applications the best they can be. Maybe pick one of those higher tier schools to throw in as a stretch school. Your key will be explaining fit with your alternative/interesting background. Good luck!


No offense intended, but this response seems a bit silly. I've got a calendar year before I have to submit my applications. Why would I NOT do everything I could to strengthen my profile? I don't know for certain that a 740 will get me into a school that a 690 won't, but why not try for it?

"...schools generally care a lot more about GPA than GMAT." Can you prove that statement? I've heard that schools take a holistic approach to applications, and that a really strong GMAT can help to compensate for a mediocre GPA.

I work a job that requires a lot of time... there is little chance that I'll be able to put more than 2 hours per week into meaningful extracurricular activity, and to be honest, I'd rather go into the app process with a stronger GMAT than a bunch of community service. I will look at other opportunities, but it is simply not feasible for me to spend 8 hours per week volunteering.

Again, thanks for the response, but I'm not sure I see the logic in not retaking the GMAT.


Edit: By the way, I'm not claiming that a higher GMAT score will give me a decent shot at that next tier. Even if it only gives me a better shot at a Georgetown or Wake Forest, I think it's worth a retake. If I were on an adcom and I had two candidates who were otherwise equal, but one had a GMAT >700 and another a 690, I know who I would take.
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GMAT 1: 770 Q49 V47
GPA: 3.9
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 28 Nov 2011, 09:22
Wow. Why ask for peer advice if you are going to take it so badly?

My comments are based on the advice I've received from talking to a number of top admission consultants and from reading their blogs and a lot of books. I have heard directly from four different consultants that adcoms generally care more about your academic record than GMAT. So take their advice for whatever it's worth.

I am not suggesting that you absolutely not bother retaking the GMAT. Certainly if you think you realistically think you can get a 740+ on your second attempt then go for it. I am simply suggesting that, if your time is limited so that you can't do everything possible, your time is better spent on the other factors because your GMAT is already in the range for the schools you are applying to. Your community involvement is almost certainly going to be a mark against you and working long hours is a poor excuse. Plenty of investment bankers and management consultants find the time to do more than two hours over of community work a week; I personally work 60+ hours a week and manage to spend 10-15 hours a week on my outside involvement. I don't understand why you would say you are going to do "everything you can to strengthen your profile" if that doesn't include strengthening your extracurriculars.
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 28 Nov 2011, 10:11
Wow. Why ask for peer advice if you are going to take it so badly?

I don't think I took it badly. I still think it's silly to accept a 690 when I can do better. I don't see what's bad about that.

My comments are based on the advice I've received from talking to a number of top admission consultants and from reading their blogs and a lot of books. I have heard directly from four different consultants that adcoms generally care more about your academic record than GMAT. So take their advice for whatever it's worth.

I've been reading quite a bit about the process as well, and the way you very clearly stated that adcoms care more about GPA than GMAT is something that flies in the face of most of what I've read. I've been told that it's (in relative terms) harder to get into School X with a low GMAT than it is with a low GPA. Most will go as far as to say "all factors carry weight, and each element of the application is taken into consideration" but I've not heard one consultant say that GPA is of more relative importance than GMAT. In my own personal opinion, the GMAT is a level playing field, thus difficulty of major, university, grade inflation, etc. do not sway the number as they do for GPA. Regardless of my opinion, I still have yet to see the majority of professional opinions stating that GPA is of higher importance than GMAT, so I was a bit surprised to see someone state in such a matter of fact manner.

I am not suggesting that you absolutely not bother retaking the GMAT. Certainly if you think you realistically think you can get a 740+ on your second attempt then go for it. I am simply suggesting that, if your time is limited so that you can't do everything possible, your time is better spent on the other factors because your GMAT is already in the range for the schools you are applying to.

In your first reply, you suggested that I not retake the GMAT. Given your outlook on time (see below) it seems that there is no limit and I should be able to find plenty of time to study for the GMAT as well as work 60+ hours per week and do 15 hours of community service, right? Why suggest that I have limited time to study for the GMAT, but plenty of time to devote to other pursuits? I can study for the GMAT at my own convenience; the same can't be said for most types of community involvement.

Your community involvement is almost certainly going to be a mark against you and working long hours is a poor excuse. Plenty of investment bankers and management consultants find the time to do more than two hours over of community work a week; I personally work 60+ hours a week and manage to spend 10-15 hours a week on my outside involvement. I don't understand why you would say you are going to do "everything you can to strengthen your profile" if that doesn't include strengthening your extracurriculars.

A poor excuse? I'm not making excuses. I'm stating a reality. I am not a management consultant, nor am I an investment banker. I am an engineer who can be called upon to do work in an office, in the field, or on another continent at a moment's notice. 12 hours shifts 7 days per week... that's more than 60 right? If literally not having 15 hours per week outside of work and sleep is a poor excuse, so be it. Congratulations on your résumé... finding time outside of those 75 hours to maintain a healthy personal and family life must be tough. That is admirable.


Thank you for the opinions.
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Affiliations: Phi Beta Kappa, Kappa Delta
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 28 Nov 2011, 10:59
We don't need to keep going back and forth on this, but I just want to quote you the two consultants who told me academic background matters more than GMAT in writing:

From EssaySnark: "Your GPA makes us drool (the GMAT score too but we know that so many adcoms really favor the strong academic bkgrd)."

From Veritas Prep: "Generally, academic background counts for about 40% whereas GMAT counts for about 10%. These figures are based on feedback we've gotten from former adcom members at various schools"

But admissions is something of a black box so different consultants will have different opinions and different schools probably weight things differently.
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 28 Nov 2011, 11:32
blg529 wrote:
We don't need to keep going back and forth on this, but I just want to quote you the two consultants who told me academic background matters more than GMAT in writing:

From EssaySnark: "Your GPA makes us drool (the GMAT score too but we know that so many adcoms really favor the strong academic bkgrd)."

From Veritas Prep: "Generally, academic background counts for about 40% whereas GMAT counts for about 10%. These figures are based on feedback we've gotten from former adcom members at various schools"

But admissions is something of a black box so different consultants will have different opinions and different schools probably weight things differently.


Thanks for sharing the quotes.

Since I can't go back and change my GPA, I have few options in that arena...

Do you think that the math class from UCLA would be a better class than an accounting class or similar? I noticed that Kenan-Flagler actually said that accounting was a prereq. I haven't had an accounting course since high school. I'm confident that I'll do well in the UCLA math course, but it's $550 and I don't want to waste that money and time if it won't help me.


Do you have any ideas for other extracurriculars that don't have to be done on a defined schedule? Depending on the week, I could be working at any time around the clock. The mentoring can be worked around my schedule (and I will actually get some satisfaction from that) but I'm short on other ideas.


I'm sort of setting my sights on Georgetown, but that could all change based on visits. I will probably be applying in the first round next year, so my research may sway me between now and then.
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 29 Nov 2011, 19:51
FranciscoD wrote:
blg529 wrote:
We don't need to keep going back and forth on this, but I just want to quote you the two consultants who told me academic background matters more than GMAT in writing:

From EssaySnark: "Your GPA makes us drool (the GMAT score too but we know that so many adcoms really favor the strong academic bkgrd)."

From Veritas Prep: "Generally, academic background counts for about 40% whereas GMAT counts for about 10%. These figures are based on feedback we've gotten from former adcom members at various schools"

But admissions is something of a black box so different consultants will have different opinions and different schools probably weight things differently.


Thanks for sharing the quotes.

Since I can't go back and change my GPA, I have few options in that arena...

Do you think that the math class from UCLA would be a better class than an accounting class or similar? I noticed that Kenan-Flagler actually said that accounting was a prereq. I haven't had an accounting course since high school. I'm confident that I'll do well in the UCLA math course, but it's $550 and I don't want to waste that money and time if it won't help me.


Do you have any ideas for other extracurriculars that don't have to be done on a defined schedule? Depending on the week, I could be working at any time around the clock. The mentoring can be worked around my schedule (and I will actually get some satisfaction from that) but I'm short on other ideas.


I'm sort of setting my sights on Georgetown, but that could all change based on visits. I will probably be applying in the first round next year, so my research may sway me between now and then.


I would think your best bet would be to take the hardest math class you can do well in. "Advanced Regression Analysis" is going to look better than "Math for Sociology Majors." Other than at Duke where it's a prereq, I don't think schools care much if you've take Accounting vs. another math class because accounting is generally one of the core courses you'll take your first year. It's not so much the functional knowledge they are looking for, but rather evidence that you can do well in rigorous quantitative courses.

Are there community opportunities available at work? Maybe mentoring younger colleagues, volunteering to plan a company conference, etc? The opportunities available will really vary from job to job but these are opportunities that can beef up your resume when you work really long hours. Are there activities related to your interests that you could pursue? Really schools want to see (1) evidence of interests outside of work, and (2) evidence of leadership potential outside of work. Adcoms are really good at being able to tell when you are just doing activities to beef up your resume and picking up one activity the year before you apply that only requires a 1-2 hours a week commitment will probably smell fishy. That said, I don't know how much this matters at the tier II schools you are applying to vs. the uber-competitive top schools that can basically demand that successful applicants work 100 hours a week for Goldman Sachs and are curing cancer in their spare time.

For whatever it's worth, here are a couple of articles on retaking the GMAT when you are just under at 700:

http://www.mbaapplicant.com/1_gmat_score.htm

http://mbaadmit.com/with-a-680-should-i-retake-the-gmat
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Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer [#permalink] New post 07 Dec 2011, 18:58
I've actually read those articles about retaking the GMAT before. I think the main reason that I need to retake it is my poor performance on the quant section. I didn't study much, and my test results reflected my natural strengths. Language comes easily to me, but tricky (non-engineering style) math questions require practice. If I can balance out my scores, I think that will look better. Even a lower score with a higher quant might be worth the retake. If I had a balanced 690, or my quant was higher than the verbal, I'd be more likely to accept it as is. I also have a bit of an ego to work with here, and it's hard to quit at 690 when I know I'm capable of well over 700. Whether that's a "good" reason to take the test again or not, it's true.

Work doesn't offer a ton of opportunities for service (other than the fact that the mission of my organization is essentially as service-based as you can get), but I do think I can find other ways to get involved. There are professional organizations in the area, and I'm not sure how much of a leadership role I can immediately get into with them, but I'm sure the opportunities are out there. I know that's vague, but I've got some ideas and I think I'll be able to find some work-related activities that don't just look like scams to get into b-school (and they're not - they will benefit me regardless).

I also wonder about the emphasis that the schools outside of the "top 10" place on extracurriculars/service/involvement. I'm sure that it varies from school to school and person to person, but I think you're right that only the top schools can realistically choose from a pool of robotic hero applicants. I'm not one of those people, so I think it will be important for my application to come across as genuine. I do plan to visit the schools before I even write my essays, so I think that the level of effort I put into my applications will show.
Re: Profile Evaluation and Target Schools for Engineer   [#permalink] 07 Dec 2011, 18:58
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