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School Selection Reality Check

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School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2012, 13:05
Thank you for taking the time to look at my situation. I know that you get countless evaluation requests and so your willingness to sit down and respond to mine is much appreciated. What I am hoping for is a good old fashioned reality check. I have spent the last year dreaming, researching, studying for the GMAT and reading every book I can get my hands on about the application process and top U.S. business schools. But I have yet to ask an expert. So here I go. What I need most right now is some guidance as to which top 20 business schools (if any) are realistic targets given my atypical background.

About Me.
I am a 32 year old (34 at matriculation 2013) white male born in Montana and raised in Idaho. Since the age of 19 I have lived almost 7 years overseas in two Latin American countries. At present, I live in the Republic of Panama where I own and run a low-income housing development company. I am a serial entrepreneur starting my first business when I was 14. At 21, in late 2000, I returned to Idaho from a two year service mission in Venezuela and got my real estate license. I focused my efforts on helping my clients find investment property and residential development property. Soon after getting my license I formed my own real estate marketing team and hired a handful of office help and sales people. I also, in 2004, co-founded a mortgage origination firm that, at its peak, was closing over $15 million in residential loans each month.

By the beginning of 2007 my real estate marketing team was chugging along, I was the top producer in my state under the age of 30, I had partnered with several of my clients to develop in the state and our mortgage company had expanded to two offices employing over 35 employees. Times were good and I thought myself to be pretty dang smart – of course you know the rest of the story. I wasn’t as smart as I thought. Our mortgage company had the unfortunate coincidence of being one of the top sub-prime originators in the state and the real estate market dried up. My bubble literally burst. I found myself broke, without a college degree, and unable to find a job.

I wallowed in my grief for a few months and then decided it was time to pick myself up and get back at it – this time with a smarter and more conservative plan that included getting an education. I called one of my former clients, and a partner on several of our developments in Idaho and pitched him the idea of forming a housing development company in the republic of Panama. After some serious coaxing he bought into the concept and I moved my wife and kids to Panama where I currently reside. At the same time, I enrolled in a 1st tier U.S. public university that still maintains a full campus in the now defunct U.S. Panama Canal zone. In choosing to get my education, I promised myself that I would never find myself in a similar economic pickle again.

I am now in my last semester of school and have a very strong desire to pursue a full-time MBA matriculating in 2013 (I have 3 solid reasons for why an MBA now but, for reasons of time, I won’t mention them here). However, it doesn’t make sense to put my life on hold for 2 years unless I can get admitted to a top 20 school. Right now I work 40 hours a week running our housing development company. I go to school full-time where I am majoring in International Affairs with a concentration in Economics. I volunteer as a scout master at the local troop of the Boy Scouts of America in Panama. I am married with three kids that keep me on my toes constantly. I feel I have the discipline, work ethic, intelligence, and drive to succeed at the best business schools in the U.S. (Stanford, Wharton, Harvard, Booth) but I am also a realist. I’m not a traditional Ivy League educated, BCG groomed 26 year-old with 48 months of work experience. I’m quite a bit older than the mean and very atypical – especially considering the entrepreneurial nature of my work experience and that some of it overlaps my undergraduate education. So what schools do I have a shot at, if any? Is Tuck, Darden, or Fuqua a possibility? I lean towards a smaller more intimate or close-knit type school but would consider a larger one if it fit my personality.

Thanks again and I look forward to your insights.

Additional Info.
GPA: 3.45 overall (failed two science classes) with a 3.9 in economics, statistics and business classes. So far I have a 4.0 in upper division classes with one semester to go.
GMAT: I plan on sitting for the test this summer. I am currently taking Manhattan GMAT prep and scored a 710 on my latest practice. I am confident that my score will come in north of 700.

Last edited by sbhome on 28 Nov 2012, 07:30, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 20 Jan 2012, 16:14
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I'm not an admissions consultant, but I think you can go to any of those schools.

Why? Precisely because you're NOT A 26 year old BCG groomed applicant with 48 months worth of work experience. The difference between you and them is that you have great life experience that few of them can boast, they've lived in their own bubble, groomed themselves for an MBA with no adversity (speaking in generalities). And there are thousands of them! They'll get into good programs, no question, but good programs don't want to be generic consultant factories.

You have been through adversity, opened a business, seen a business fail, opened another one, shown that you value and can find time for education while working full time and supporting a family, and have lived in diverse places. Your GPA is good and your expected GMAT is strong. I think you'll write great essays based on your experience and writing style. You'll be fine man!
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Re: School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 21 Jan 2012, 16:30
CheatingatSolitaire wrote:
I'm not an admissions consultant, but I think you can go to any of those schools.

Why? Precisely because you're NOT A 26 year old BCG groomed applicant with 48 months worth of work experience. The difference between you and them is that you have great life experience that few of them can boast, they've lived in their own bubble, groomed themselves for an MBA with no adversity (speaking in generalities). And there are thousands of them! They'll get into good programs, no question, but good programs don't want to be generic consultant factories.

You have been through adversity, opened a business, seen a business fail, opened another one, shown that you value and can find time for education while working full time and supporting a family, and have lived in diverse places. Your GPA is good and your expected GMAT is strong. I think you'll write great essays based on your experience and writing style. You'll be fine man!


Solitaire, I really appreciate your feedback. I hope that the admission boards see it that way as well. In your experience (and this question is open to any and all who feel like responding), which top schools are more open to atypical applicants?
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Re: School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2012, 10:57
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Hello sburtonhome, thanks for your question.

I typically advise clients: your GMAT score opens the door (the high the score dictates how wide open the door), but it is certainly your experience that gets you through that door. So, a big part of the equation depends on your GMAT, which is currently unknown (practice tests have been known to be wrong in both directions, in my experience).

That said, I think you have a unique background – I would use the essays to differentiate yourself. After all, the schools get plenty of applications from impeccably educated consultants from the top firms, right? Programs do want a diverse class. Don’t think of your non-traditional history as a detriment; consider it a potential leg up. Of course, the onus is on you to speak to “moments” when you truly led: influenced individuals and organizations, drove results, took initiative.

School choice is such a personal decision, and I would be doing you a disservice if I told you where to apply. Research those top 20 programs, speak to/email students and alumni. Get a sense of the ethos and culture of a place. If you lean toward smaller and more intimate settings, maybe HBS, Wharton, CBS are not for you! There are plenty of fantastic programs – definitely make sure you apply to the ones you genuinely feel a fit with.

Depending on your score, I would think Tuck, Darden, and Fuqua are within reach. You might add Ross to that list.

I hope this helps.

Best of luck,
Brian
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Re: School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 30 Jan 2012, 11:41
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I usually find myself coming across as a bit of a pessimist when I reply to these kinds of posts. But seems to me, provided you get a 700 or higher on the GMAT with a decent split, you are a strong candidate at any b-school even though you are a bit older. I’d say you’re competitive at H/S/W, very-competitive at any T-10, and anything outside of the top-10 is a straight up safety for you. Your experience is incredible. If anything, I might suggest hiring a consultant to perfect your essays and help you lay out all of your experience and accomplishments in an adcom-friendly way because that’s where you are head and shoulders above your competition. You’re surely the type of student I’d want going to whichever b-school I end up at so I could pick your brain and learn from your experiences. Good luck to you. Oh, and obviously I’m not an Admission Consultant; I’m simply giving my two cents.
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Re: School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2012, 19:05
I am a current student at one of your target schools and have worked as a volunteer in our admissions process. I think one aspect tends to get overlooked on these boards and in some of the MBA admissions books and that is to what extent do your career aspirations connect to your past experience. Business schools are very focused on successfully placing their graduates and want to make sure that they stand a good chance of getting the outcome they're looking for from their MBA. If you were to say you wanted to go into PE or IB (not that you are) your application would likely be discounted since, candidly, that's not a likelihood given your background no matter where you go to business school. I'm happy to talk specifics with you about Fuqua if you want to message me. Either way, you have accomplished a great deal and ought to be proud of all that you've done thus far.
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Re: School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 05 Mar 2012, 19:41
mbaMissionBrianE wrote:
Hello sburtonhome, thanks for your question.

I typically advise clients: your GMAT score opens the door (the high the score dictates how wide open the door), but it is certainly your experience that gets you through that door. So, a big part of the equation depends on your GMAT, which is currently unknown (practice tests have been known to be wrong in both directions, in my experience).

That said, I think you have a unique background – I would use the essays to differentiate yourself. After all, the schools get plenty of applications from impeccably educated consultants from the top firms, right? Programs do want a diverse class. Don’t think of your non-traditional history as a detriment; consider it a potential leg up. Of course, the onus is on you to speak to “moments” when you truly led: influenced individuals and organizations, drove results, took initiative.

School choice is such a personal decision, and I would be doing you a disservice if I told you where to apply. Research those top 20 programs, speak to/email students and alumni. Get a sense of the ethos and culture of a place. If you lean toward smaller and more intimate settings, maybe HBS, Wharton, CBS are not for you! There are plenty of fantastic programs – definitely make sure you apply to the ones you genuinely feel a fit with.

Depending on your score, I would think Tuck, Darden, and Fuqua are within reach. You might add Ross to that list.

I hope this helps.

Best of luck,
Brian


Brian, thank you for your reply. It is very helpful. I have added Ross to my list.
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Re: School Selection Reality Check [#permalink] New post 21 Apr 2012, 05:54
Expert's post
Great, Ross is an excellent program!

Best,
Brian
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mbaMission

646-485-8844

Website: http://www.mbamission.com
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