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Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone's questions on this forum. I have two questions, one that relates to my story as a whole and one that relates to my future application timeline. About my story. I graduated from a top three state school with a relatively low GPA, 3.1, double major econ and history (econ gpa probably sub 3.0, ironic because quant is my strong suit and to be blunt I just hated the econ dept/professors so didn't try all that hard). After taking a "year off" to work in the finance department of a ski resort, I secured a position at a regional investment bank, although it technically operated as a merchant bank as we participated in many of our own transactions. Due to the structure, I was gained traditional ibanking experience as well as a private equity experience. I worked there for 4 years, 2 as an analyst and 2 as an associate. My experience here was tremendous. We didn't have VP level staff so deals were staffed with myself and another jr staff member and an MD or two. Needless to say I had an extremely high level of responsibility with very minimal over site. Last year, due to terrible market conditions, I decided to move on and get some life experience. I left on my own will and on good terms with my bosses. I joined the Peace Corps as a small business development volunteer. Currently, I'm trying to determine if I want to go back to Bschool. Due to the astronomical costs I only want to go if I can get into a top program. Programs that I'm interested in are UCLA, Cal, Columbia, NYU, Duke, Texas, Stanford, UPenn, Dartmouth, and LBS. My application essays would probably be something along the lines of how I want to pair finance and strategy into international development work, where most professionals are trained in academics not management. For the sake of argument lets say I can score in the 700 GMAT range (680-720), because if I don't I'm sure it would basically eliminate my chances. My PC service is scheduled to end at the end of August 2011. This is a firm date. I could technically leave the program early, but that is selfish, unprofessional and doesn't honor the two year commitment that I signed up for. I'm currently torn as to when to apply. I think it would be a very hard transition going from PC life to Bschool life with only a 1-2 week adjustment period. Also, after PC service I want to travel for a decent period of time to experience the different cultures of the surrounding countries. With all that being said my two questions are as follows:
1. Based on this small sampling of info do you believe I can gain admittance into one/some of the aforementioned schools? What are your thoughts?
2. How would schools view the huge time gap if I were to wait and apply in 2011, basically leaving myself unemployed from Sept 2011 to August 2012 when classes begin. Would it be a factor or are the more understanding due to the unique circumstances of the PC?
I do think that a few years of banking/finance-related experience and a couple of years of Peace Corps experience will help you craft a very compelling application. Of the schools, you mentioned I think Haas, Stern, and Tuck could be very compelling. Also, since Yale is so strong in the public sector / NGO space, you should maybe consider that one, too.
I do think that applying this year (to enter in Fall 2011) is more attractive. For one, it avoids that employment gap, which I do think would take a lot of explaining. Secondly, if you wait the extra year, you will be that much older when you enter business school, and the pendulum at some top schools is swinging toward a preference for younger applicants.
Also, I really hope you can get a great reco from one of your PC supervisors or peers. Doing so will be harder if you try to break your commitment early.
So, I'd advise you to apply this year. I know it doesn't seem ideal, but from an admissions perspective, it's a far superior approach!
Thanks for the feedback. I have a follow up question if you don't mind. In regards to taking a year off, my application will be submitted while I'm still in PC. So for my current position it would be PC, June 2009 - Present, it would not read PC June 2009 - Sept 2011, indicating that I'm unemployed. However, that "Present" would end shortly after the application is submitted. Thus, technically, the adcom wouldn't know I was taking a year off. They would just know that when I applied I was currently in PC. Does this change the your perspective on how this would looked upon by the adcom?
If you do your admissions interview a couple of months later, and at that point you're unemployed, when the admissions interviewer asks you "What are you doing now," I strongly recommend that you answer the question honestly. That's the one place where it may cause a complication. But, be honest if this comes up.