There are a couple of things you want to consider when shortlisting a school - both involve fit. The first is the school's ability to get you where you want to be. That is, how likely is the program's areas of expertise and career center (in conjunction with your own elbow grease) going to get you the job you state in your goals. The second thing to consider is what you bring to the school's community.
Based on the details you provided in your profile, it's really hard for me to glean enough information to tell you a short list of schools. I have barely any insight into what you do at work, and what you do outside of work. It's too broad to really give you a better answer than you seem to be a smart guy that most schools would take a look at. However, when it comes to remembering you versus the next 8.5" x 11" application, its going to be tough. There is really nothing that I see (again your bio was brief) that shows me any type of passion for anything. If this is the case, the adcom is going to think - "this applicant is smart and has accomplished some things at work, but HBS/Stanford is about minting MBAs who will change the world, and not just roll back into the office upon graduation." So you have to dream a little bigger, especially with respect to your longer term goals. What is it that you would really want to do with your life? Will your career help you achieve some type of profound change ... somewhere?
So with respect to schools you should be targeting (again, this advice is pretty general), I would avoid the top 5 because you are going to be competing against smart, motivated applicants who bring passion and demonstrated dedication to the table. I think with your high marks and solid work experiences, you should be able to get into a top 15, possibly a top 10. Again, I would need to know more information about your person, rather than your profession to gauge if something is really going on beyond what I see in your post.
Perhaps you don't want to spill the beans on a forum so if you would like to speak on the phone for approximately and hour or so, please email me at MBA@amerasiaconsulting.com
Thanks in advance for your review; my stats are as follows:
Work Experience: Have spent about 2.5 years in head office strategy for a top Canadian financial institution (brand name, at least here in Canada). My performance reviews have been very strong and I've been promoted once since joining.
GRE Score: 165Q (92%); 163V (91%); 4.5AWA (72%) (conversions suggest my composite score would be about a 720+ GMAT)
Undergrad: 3.9 GPA, Honours Bachelor of Commerce (B.Comm) graduate (2010) from a small, but mostly well regarded Canadian university
Extra-Curriculars: Was very involved during undergrad (student government, student newspaper, etc.), but have no volunteer extra-curricular experience since graduating (my application will discuss unassigned projects I've taken on at work, and recreational athletics I play outside of the office). In short, I haven't done much outside the office since graduating, so I suspect this is my weakest point?
Target Programs: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Tuck, Yale, Kellogg, Columbia, Duke, Cornell
Application Cycle: R2 for September 2014 intake (ideally)
Post-MBA Goal: Return to my current organization, in a more senior role.
It would be great to hear which schools I should be targeting, and with what likelihood of success (reach, within range, safety). Any feedback regarding weak points that I should consider shoring up, or if I should consider applying a year later to shore up weak points would be appreciated.
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