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Some initial queries

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Some initial queries [#permalink] New post 23 Nov 2004, 20:41
Hi. I graduated college about three years ago, and started and have been building a business in the last three years that has started doing pretty well lately. I just got a whim about a week ago that I should maybe consider business school. It's only a whim, but since I'm at it, I figured that I should ask some experts what my chances of being admitted to a top school might be and a few other questions.

Before I ask my questions, here's a little more background on me and my business:

I started a private tutoring business about three years ago. Originally, it was just a couple of students, but over the past year and a half, it's grown into a pretty respectable business. We offer private tutoring services for a huge variety of subjects and exams, including all high school subjects and exams (SAT I, SAT IIs, PSAT, ACT, Regents, APs, etc.), college academic subjects (not ALL of them, mind you, but the most popular ones such as virtually all the sciences, math, English, psychology, history, sociology, ESL, etc.) and many graduate and professional school exams (GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, etc.). I have taken every exam except the GMAT (how ironic, huh?) with a score in the 99th percentile (well, I scored in the 97th percentile on the MCAT, and I scored 790 on the Quantitative and 730 on the Verbal on the GRE -- I'll have to retake those). I just have not gotten around to taking the GMAT, but I am almost certain that I would score an 800 on it (it's what I tutor, after all). Currently, the operation is still limited to a major city, but I have plans to expand nationally to various other major cities within a year and a half. I'm still trying to fine-tune my business model, perfect my training (training other tutors, that is) and marketing/advertising skills, achieve dominance in the market, and get more capital before I venture into the national market. My staff numbers fluctuate a little bit, but I have about 6 tutors for the SAT alone, about 4 MCAT tutors, and 8-15 academic subject tutors (they don't all work at the same time). In addition, I will be hiring about 3 marketing assistants in the next few weeks to help me really boost my marketing efforts. At the moment, I am offering a classroom SAT course (which is a rarity for me, as my focus is one-on-one private tutoring) for the top private high school in the city for 69 students, and I am sure that other high schools will want similiar arrangements once they learn of my success with the school and students. My major competitors in the area are Kaplan and Princeton Review, but I understand their weaknesses, and I am certainly not intimidated by them. The local Kaplan center has been particularly unscrupulous in competing against me, engaging in tactics such as taking down my flyers on college campuses and spreading lies about my personal and work history. (I have been in touch with their general counsel, and I hope that they will learn to play fair from now on.)

My revenues this year are expected to be about $130,000, and next year, my goal will be to hit at least $700,000 in revenues (it might sound lofty, but we are in the midst of exponential growth), with a lot more expected when I enter the national expansion phase.

We are certainly not talking about a Fortune 500 company here, but I do have very big ambitions and a passion for my business.

I would be aiming for a top 5 business school -- perhaps Harvard or Stanford would be my top choices. Otherwise, it would not be worth it for me to attend at all.

Do I even have a profile that would be (barely) competitive for such a school, or do I have very little chance of acceptance? What is the typical profile of the average accepted applicant to a top 5 school?

My second question concerns recommendation letters:

How heavily are recommendation letters looked at? I have no superiors that I report to and that I can ask for letters from; I don't suppose a letter from an employee would do any good. I'm just wondering where one would seek such letters of recommendation, and are these less important in my case?

I would appreciate any advice and feedback. Thanks very much!
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what do you want to do? [#permalink] New post 23 Nov 2004, 23:33
In the interests of full disclosure, I'm no pro at the admissions game. However, I'm in the midst of applying right now and have faced many of the questions you ask.

Your profile is good. From the sounds of it, you've got the smarts. As an aside, whether you get an 800 or a 750 really doesn't matter - they just need to know that you can handle the work - they don't want a bunch of students with 800 scores and no communication skills. That's one area in which business school differs from most grad schools - it is much more multidimensional.

That's where your entrepreneurial skill comes in. The typical smart applicant comes from one of the "feeder" industries (e.g., investment banking or consulting). Thus, schools are looking for something unique, which you bring to the table. The challenge for you (as with most entrepreneurs) will be to show why you need an MBA, why you need it from school X, and why you need it now. For example, playing the devil's advocate: Can you afford to be away from your business for 2 years while you study organizational behavior or cost accounting?

As far as recommendations go, you can't ask an employee. Some schools expressly forbid it, and those that don't will probably look very, very unfavorably upon it. I'd try any key business relationships you have (maybe a contact at those top private schools). The key is somebody who knows you, your work and your accomplishments well, and is willing to be very positive.

Also, what other activities are you involved in? Schools tend not to like one-track business minds. Demonstrate that you are a well-rounded individual.

A final question - at only $130K of revenue after three years, plus expenses, what else have you done for money? It sounds like a side job that turned into something serious (not that that's a problem). They'll want to know what else you were doing.

In terms of the average profile, there isn't ONE typical profile, but you see alot of 28 year old graduates of top-25 undergrad schoosl, many of whom worked in marketing, banking or consulting. Generally, they have excellent communication skills, analytical abilities, high energy, and proven accomplishments. Those are very, very broad strokes, but that is the typical profile. However, as I mentioned before, there are many more such applicants than slots, so variety and uniqueness are important too.

I know I bounced around a bit in my reply, but I hope it helps. Also check out the MBA Game Plan section - the book cited therein is helpful.
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Re: Some initial queries [#permalink] New post 25 Nov 2004, 09:41
Godot wrote:
Hi. I graduated college about three years ago, and started and have been building a business in the last three years that has started doing pretty well lately. I just got a whim about a week ago that I should maybe consider business school. It's only a whim, but since I'm at it, I figured that I should ask some experts what my chances of being admitted to a top school might be and a few other questions.

Before I ask my questions, here's a little more background on me and my business:

I started a private tutoring business about three years ago. Originally, it was just a couple of students, but over the past year and a half, it's grown into a pretty respectable business. We offer private tutoring services for a huge variety of subjects and exams, including all high school subjects and exams (SAT I, SAT IIs, PSAT, ACT, Regents, APs, etc.), college academic subjects (not ALL of them, mind you, but the most popular ones such as virtually all the sciences, math, English, psychology, history, sociology, ESL, etc.) and many graduate and professional school exams (GRE, LSAT, GMAT, MCAT, etc.). I have taken every exam except the GMAT (how ironic, huh?) with a score in the 99th percentile (well, I scored in the 97th percentile on the MCAT, and I scored 790 on the Quantitative and 730 on the Verbal on the GRE -- I'll have to retake those). I just have not gotten around to taking the GMAT, but I am almost certain that I would score an 800 on it (it's what I tutor, after all). Currently, the operation is still limited to a major city, but I have plans to expand nationally to various other major cities within a year and a half. I'm still trying to fine-tune my business model, perfect my training (training other tutors, that is) and marketing/advertising skills, achieve dominance in the market, and get more capital before I venture into the national market. My staff numbers fluctuate a little bit, but I have about 6 tutors for the SAT alone, about 4 MCAT tutors, and 8-15 academic subject tutors (they don't all work at the same time). In addition, I will be hiring about 3 marketing assistants in the next few weeks to help me really boost my marketing efforts. At the moment, I am offering a classroom SAT course (which is a rarity for me, as my focus is one-on-one private tutoring) for the top private high school in the city for 69 students, and I am sure that other high schools will want similiar arrangements once they learn of my success with the school and students. My major competitors in the area are Kaplan and Princeton Review, but I understand their weaknesses, and I am certainly not intimidated by them. The local Kaplan center has been particularly unscrupulous in competing against me, engaging in tactics such as taking down my flyers on college campuses and spreading lies about my personal and work history. (I have been in touch with their general counsel, and I hope that they will learn to play fair from now on.)

My revenues this year are expected to be about $130,000, and next year, my goal will be to hit at least $700,000 in revenues (it might sound lofty, but we are in the midst of exponential growth), with a lot more expected when I enter the national expansion phase.

We are certainly not talking about a Fortune 500 company here, but I do have very big ambitions and a passion for my business.

I would be aiming for a top 5 business school -- perhaps Harvard or Stanford would be my top choices. Otherwise, it would not be worth it for me to attend at all.

Do I even have a profile that would be (barely) competitive for such a school, or do I have very little chance of acceptance? What is the typical profile of the average accepted applicant to a top 5 school?

My second question concerns recommendation letters:

How heavily are recommendation letters looked at? I have no superiors that I report to and that I can ask for letters from; I don't suppose a letter from an employee would do any good. I'm just wondering where one would seek such letters of recommendation, and are these less important in my case?

I would appreciate any advice and feedback. Thanks very much!


OK. A growing business, big ambitions, strong entrepreneurial spirit and probably an excellent GMAT score as well--all good! The one sentence that really jumps out at me from your whole letter, though, is this: "I just got a whim about a week ago that I should maybe consider business school."

This is the most important thing--you need to know WHY you want to go to business school. The previous poster already discussed this a little bit, and he's absolutely right--right down to his "devil's advocate" question about how you're going to manage to get the time off! You will have to lay out a clear set of goals, both for the immediate future and the long range, and to show the admissions committee very clearly why you NEED an MBA to achieve them--why THIS is the best time for you to do it--and, of course, why you need an MBA from THEIR school, beyond the fact that it's a "prestige" school. And to do this, you'll have to work your way well past the "whim" stage!

I can think of a number of reasons why an MBA might benefit you as you build your business--I'm sure you've started to give this some thought already too, or you wouldn't be here--so if you get really serious about that part of the process, and figure out how to articulate those goals and reasons very clearly, you will be on the right track.

As far as recs go--I've worked with entrepreneurs who got recs from other professionals with whom they worked closely while building their businesses, i.e. lawyers, CPAs, even a banker in one case, because this person had worked very closely with the banker to set up his company's financial infrastructure. Think about the credible professionals who get to see you "in action" regularly, other than your employees, and approach them.

And, as the other poster said, it's not all about your business success and test scores--you'll have a way better chance of admission if you have other things to talk about in your application, i.e. extracurricular and community involvement. The admissions committee will be trying to get an idea of who you are as a person--what matters to you, what your priorities are--as well as gauging your academic potential.

Don't worry too much about whether you're the "typical" applicant. You're not--but that's not a bad thing! Just pleeeeeeeease try not to over-use the words "diverse" and "unique" in your essays! :) Just SHOW them that you are unique/diverse. In your case, you'll need to strike a balance between showing them how you stand out, and making it clear that you can also fit in.

Best of luck with your business and with your MBA plans!

Sonia
_________________

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Sonia Michaels
smichaels@accepted.com
Accepted.com ~ helping you write your best!
http://www.accepted.com

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