My background is very different so I'll try to explain it as briefly as possible.
I started out as the typical minority with no money for college and decided to enlist in the military. I served for 5 years and was awarded medals for training others as well as various other actions.
After leaving the military I attended a local community college and worked part-time. I graduated with a 3.57 gpa in construction management and began working as a field engineer for a medium sized construction company with offices located in 3 states. After advancing to project engineer I became more focus on the finance and development aspects of the business and decided to attend a local private university while continuing to work full time(40+). I knew that I wanted to go to b-school while attending so I majored in business and took investment, corporate finance and intermediate accounting classes as my electives.
I graduated with a 3.91 gpa this year.
At matriculation I will be 28 and have 3+ years experience as a project engineer as well as the 5 years in the military (which I'm not sure how they view the experience of enlisted member who doesn’t have a bachelors degree). Being an engineer at a medium sized company has allowed me the opportunity to work in all aspects of the business such as the bidding process, contract buyout, contractor coordination, change orders, etc.
My extra circulars include volunteering and helping for refugee and immigrant services while in the military. I'm currently a house crew lead for the local chapter of Habitat for Humanity. I help to organize volunteers in the construction of homes for people who live below the poverty level. This allows me to use my construction knowledge within the community as well as continuing to develop my leadership and teamwork skill. I'm also a member of the local chapter of the national urban league. There I'm involved with a mentorship program for African-American males 18-24. I'm also looking to become a committee member within the next month or two.
So why MBA? I current work in construction on the general contracting side. I would like to focus on the finance and development and move towards working for the owners instead of the builders (preferable acquisitions). My target companies are places like Tishman Speyer, HFF, and Vornado. For this reason I want a program that is heavily based in finance, has a strong network within these fields and has a close proximity to NY. This has led me to NYU, Columbia, and Wharton. I have already visited NYU and Columbia. After attending a Consortium event and meeting with Isser Gallogy I feel that NYU is more of a fit with my personality.
I'm currently study for the GMAT and scheduled to take it at the end of September leaving me a couple months to retake it if need be.
My concerns are that while I have a high gpa it's from an unknown schools and my work experience is so different. General contracting is tough business that most people aren’t familiar with (half the time people think I'm a construction worker when I actually usually manage 20-30 construction workers). While my title is project engineer I'm sort of a jack of all trades. I work directly for a senior vice president (1 of 9 with 3 at each regional office) and report directly to the owners of medium projects ($1M to $20M). It’s hard comparing my experience to someone coming from a structured field like IBanking. Some days I'm negotiating contract buyouts and others I'm covered in mud trying to figure out how to correct a field condition.
Thanks in advance for any feedback.
I don't see the unusualness of your background as an impediment. If anything, it helps you stand out, and your minority status helps you a great deal as well. As long as you have the college degree and a decent GMAT score (a 650 should do it), then you have a good shot at NYU. Of course, because your academic background does raise question marks, the higher your GMAT the better. High GMAT scores have a way of silencing adcoms' concerns about academics.
Clearly, you have the leadership stories top B-schools like; you have military experience, which they favor; your socioeconomic background (i.e., if it prevented you from affording college) will also be viewed favorably. You could probably get into CBS and Wharton with a 650, but I'd feel a lot more comfortable saying that if you got a 680. By all means, apply to NYU, Wharton, and CBS. Other strong finance schools where you might have a shot include Chicago, MIT, and Michigan.