Overall i really like your profile and see you as a very competitive applicant in the female pool, which is less populated than the Male pool especially when considering Asia.
As for your questions:
Are my target schools realistic?
Yes I don't see any reason why you should not have a shot at these schools. Yes, they are among the best in the world, but your qualifications justify the lofty aspirations. You might consider a school or two to throw in for safety, but maybe go for your chosen schools in round one and save safety considerations for round two or three.
- What part of my background should I highlight?
The trick with any good b-school application is to provide all the evidence you can to set yourself apart as a qualified and desirable candidate. You should try to integrate things that demonstrate leadership, maturity (since you are young), teamwork and creativity/innovation. I can see where many things in your background will speak to these traits, so just remember to tell stories and don't just describe what you did. Also speak to the WHY in your application. I see so many applications each year doing a good job with the "what" but a poor job with the "Why." B-schools want to know you inside and out. Make the application personal and not just a list of your professional achievements. I recognize this may go outside of your cultural upbringing in some ways, but know that the US schools really like to see the whole person in the application.
What are some weaknesses that I will need to be sure to address?
nothing is jumping out as a glaring weakness. You seem like a fully engaged person in your work and your community and someone who gets involved with passion and not just out of obligation. The b-schools will like this. Make sure you convey your passion in your application. In the end, it's pretty rare to have a female engineering grad in the pool period, so I think your core attributes will be attractive to your targets if your story is compellingly written.
- As I am on the younger side of applying, should I apply in R2 instead of R1 so I can get more experience in the extra 4 months? No I think R1 is the best option--your target schools are not biased against younger applicants. In fact, Yale and HBS actually have more of a bias towards
younger applicants. The extra couple of months of experience would be marginal anyway unless there were some kind of milestone you'd hit in that window or something.
- I am lacking extra cirricular experience in the last year (all my extracirricular experience was prior during first year of work or before), will this be a problem?
Ah--didn't realize that. It's always best to be consistently involved, so you might consider simply going back and doing sonme of those things you have done before so you can show continuity there. You are correct that schools are not going to want you to have dropped out of your community engagement.
Let us know if we can help.
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