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Did I ruin my potential shot at a top MBA?

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Joined: 15 Aug 2009
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Did I ruin my potential shot at a top MBA? [#permalink]

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New post 18 Feb 2012, 20:34
I may or may not have a bit of a unique situation. After taking my GMAT, I was accepted to one of the very top accounting PhD programs, and like most PhD programs, extremely competitive to gain acceptance to. Now, a year into the program, I am starting to realize that it is not for me. PRIOR to starting the program, I had actually spent a year or so prepping for PhD admissions (taking GMATs, working on my applications, interviewing, taking pre-requisite coursework, etc), and I quit my job during this time to fully devote myself to this to enhance my chances of getting into a top PHD program. Thus, I have not been working for about 2 years now, since the time was spent pursuing this goal.

In any case, now I am thinking of returning to work, as well as pursing the MBA instead. I think I *might* have had a shot at the top 10 MBA programs if I had just gone straight in originally, but now I feel like my chances have kind of been destroyed, due to being out of work for a year and a half now because of the PhD program, as well as the failure of the PhD program itself. Although, I think I can spin the PhD as a life experience (which it certainly was), I don't know how forgiving business schools would be to these type of situations. I was hoping for your very honest opinion on this as well (feel free to be brutally honest), just to get a realistic idea of what my chances might be. Specifically, I am wondering whether I have a strong shot, medium shot, or weak shot at these programs.

Here is my profile:

Age: 30
GMAT: 750 (45V, 49Q)
Education: undergrad (3.75 GPA) and masters (3.9 GPA) in accounting from the University of Illinois
Designations: CPA, CMA, and CIA (all are related to accounting)
Work history:
- 2 years of big four external audit in Silicon Valley with clients primarily in high tech
- 3 years in internal audit at a leading software company. I joined the company immediately upon it's IPO, and had a unique opportunity to play an important role, allowing me to be an agent of change within the organization as it grew from a small and relatively unknown company into a multi-billion dollar company. As one of the fastest growing technology companies in history, this company was rapidly outgrowing it's existing business processes and controls, and I was able to play a consultative role in designing and implementing new processes for the company.
- 1 year gap preparing for PhD admissions
- 1 year in PhD program.

These activities I did while I was working, but have not done upon starting the PhD:
Volunteering: Various small volunteering activities, including tutoring regularly at the local library, helping out at the food bank, and many other ad hoc volunteering events.
Other: board member of local alumni association

I was also on the board of various organizations while I was in college, but that was quite a few years ago.

My motivation for obtaining an MBA is for a career switch into management consulting or strategy, to gain valuable networking opportunities, and to better market myself in the job market.
Current Student
Joined: 08 Sep 2009
Posts: 113
Location: United States
Concentration: Operations, Technology
WE: Education (Education)
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Re: Did I ruin my potential shot at a top MBA? [#permalink]

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New post 18 Feb 2012, 21:25
Tough position.
Joined: 22 Sep 2011
Posts: 214
GMAT 1: 720 Q49 V40
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New post 18 Feb 2012, 22:52
I've never heard of a situation like this before, but I think that as long as you are able to convey your reasons for switching out of the PhD program into an MBA, you stand a chance. Based on your stats, and your previous work experience, I feel like there's a number of programs that would see you as a fit. Good luck!
Joined: 15 Aug 2009
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New post 18 Feb 2012, 23:22
batman28 wrote:
Sorry you already said University of Illinois. Is it Urbana Champagne? What about your phd? Where was it?

Posted from my mobile device

Yes, it was Urbana-Champaign, and the PhD is at University of Toronto. I don't believe this is a well known school as far as MBA programs are concerned, but this is a top 10 PhD program in accounting, and I also believe a decently rated school globally. To give you an idea of the competitiveness to get into a PhD program, a typical top 10 business PhD program only accepts 2 or 3 students a year, out of anywhere from maybe 100-200 applicants. I don't really know if this is something I should mention in an application, as I feel like it sounds arrogant and somewhat irrelevant. I'm also pretty sure no adcomm will be aware of this and hence won't place any value in it. This is a link to the most commonly used ranking: ... r=ranking6

As for extra-curricular activities, I was involved in several while I was still working, but stopped after I started pursuing the PhD. Being an academic is basically not just a job but a life endeavor.. I basically dropped everything for it. While in the PhD program, I was spending every waking hour on the PhD... and that was just to get by. This is somewhat the general expectation of a PhD student, which is part of the reason why I don't see a PhD as a good fit for me. I miss working in a corporate environment, on real projects that make an impact to the organization, and in teams. Academic life is a little too ivory tower, solitary, etc.

I'm still in the PhD program as we speak, but as for obtaining another great job, this is something I'm not sure I'll be able to do, at least not right away. I haven't tried yet, given that I'm still doing the PhD, but my impression is that the economy is still a bit down.

I'm a little confused as to why it would be better to stay in the PhD program while applying for MBA programs. I could be wrong, but I feel that it would be more beneficial for me to get back into the work place, and get the best job I can in the mean time..

Like I said in my initial post, my primary reason for wishing to obtain an MBA is to transition from accounting to management consulting. As I mentioned briefly in my prior post, my role in internal audit gave me an opportunity to be an agent of change within the organization. It's not exactly like consulting, but I believe there is some overlap. For example, my role basically consisted of identifying risks (operational, financial, or strategic), determining whether or not the organization has processes in place to address these risks, determining whether or not these processes are operating as intended, "selling" my findings or recommendations to senior management, etc.
Expert Post
mbaMission Admissions Consultant
Joined: 10 Jun 2011
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Re: Did I ruin my potential shot at a top MBA? [#permalink]

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New post 23 Feb 2012, 10:35
Hello risys82, thanks for your question.

Tough situation, indeed. I agree with the previous commenter that you’re better off applying while employed or in a program, rather than unemployed.

I believe it’s been alluded to in prior posts, but the most important aspect of your application and candidacy will be to paint a picture that cohesively ties together your past, present, and future. Demonstrate to the admissions committees that your desired career path necessitates an MBA. Identify the specific gaps that stand between you and your short- and long-term goals (knowledge, skills, experiences, network, etc.) and show how business school would directly address those gaps.

For you, that first part will be crucial. You need to connect the dots between what you’ve done in the past, your current situation, and your post-MBA goals. It’s certainly not a dealbreaker to have tried a PhD program and then decide that it’s not for you – there are plenty of candidates with analogous situations. Most important is to figure out where you want to go, how you’ll use an MBA (not just a nice-to-have degree), and how to lay out the narrative. Whether it’s better for you to stay in your program or go find a job really depends on the job you end up taking. Ultimately, it comes down to what makes the most sense in the context of the larger narrative of your career. Make sense?

I hope this helps!

Best of luck,

Brian Eng
Senior Consultant


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Joined: 29 Apr 2012
Posts: 8
Location: United States
Concentration: Accounting, Operations
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Re: Did I ruin my potential shot at a top MBA? [#permalink]

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New post 29 Apr 2012, 21:04
Hi risys82,

I know that your original post is a little dated. But for what it's worth...I felt obliged to respond to your situation since I can somewhat relate. I have over 10 years of experience in corporate management (incl. management consulting), as well as, an Exec MBA. I'm currently working on my 2nd masters in Accounting.

First of all, your GMAT & credentials are extremely impressive all around (including the professional designations). In addition, your education is coupled with great work experience and community service. I don't think I'm understating when I say that you're easily in the Top 15% when compared with other MBA candidates. IMO you stand a great chance at a Top 10 MBA program.

If you're currently in the Accounting Ph.D program, by all means, discontinue the program if you feel 100% that it's not something you wish to continue. It's not worth incurring the additional $30K+ per year just to prove that you earned a Ph.D when in fact the Ph.D may not be instrumental in landing you the ideal job. After I received my EMBA, I was hired by one of the Big4 as a management consultant. So I know for a fact that they place more value on the MBA degree than any Masters fact, an MBA is a requirement.

Having firsthand experience with Adcomm interviews with a Top 7 EMBA program and a Top 8 MS Accounting program, I can assure you that your predicament is not a showstopper in your application whatsoever. Adcomms know that every candidate has experienced some type of challenges, predicaments, etc at least once (i.e. change majors, change jobs, etc). Like the other posters said...Be able to articulate the reason behind your transition, and how you came to realize that an MBA is a better decision for you...but do NOT belabor this point to the Adcomms. Just move on to their next interview question. Your strengths will easily outshine this minor "divergence" (for a lack of a better word).

Anyways, my 2 cents...Good Luck!
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Did I ruin my potential shot at a top MBA?

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