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My MBA Application Journey (Low GPA)

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Profile
UG GPA: 2.475 Mechanical Engineering (Ivy non-HYP)
Grad GPA: 3.33
WE: 78 months at matriculation (3 different companies 5 different positions most recently in a Project Manager role)
GMAT: 730 49Q 40V 6IR 6AWA (first and only take)
EC's: 4 years of coaching children on the weekends and 2 years of mentoring high school students
Minority: Asian American Male

Why MBA?
I didn't really know what management consulting was until I had to do research on the profession for my Masters of Engineering Management thesis. The more I read about it the more enamored I became with the field and eventually when I realized that my current career path couldn't get me there I decided I needed to take the steps necessary to do so. I appreciated the problem solving abilities of the strategy consultants and I found the business problems very intriguing as I had began to read some excellent economics books and management articles. Unfortunately, the more I looked into the profession, the more I realized that I needed to take the GMAT and get an MBA to break in. A detailed description of my GMAT experience can be found here:http://gmatclub.com/forum/journey-to-a-surprising-189718.html#p1452828

Which Schools?
When I took the GMAT (May 2014) I had listed Tuck, CBS, Sloan, Stern, and Johnson as the schools to send my scores to. With very little research, I had assumed that those would be the 5 school's I'd target in R1. I wanted to stay in the NYC area because my wife would be tied to this area for the next 4 years for her career and so CBS ED was at the top of the list. However as I continued with my school research I realized that there were other schools that I had not initially considered that would be a great fit for me. Eventually I swapped out Tuck and Stern for Kellogg and Ross.

  • CBS- This was the first school that I started working on my application for given it was at the top of my list and it had the earliest application. I had hoped that if I was successful with this application I wouldn't need to put anymore effort towards the other ones and my MBA application journey would end. Unfortunately that would not be the case, however I learned a great deal from this application and it helped me shape the ones I would finish later. I actually initially thought I would say that I was targeting a career in real estate given my background in construction and familiarity with a few real estate professionals in NYC, however as I talked to those professionals I realized the work was not quite what I thought and I found it much harder to connect my past work history with that profession. And so I decided that honesty would clearly by the best policy as a strategy and laid it all out there. I just focused on showing how much I knew about the school and management consulting and how I saw myself utilizing the skills I had developed pre-MBA. Alas, my efforts would lead me to an unfortunate rejection without interview in early September
  • Edit: (I forgot Sloan!): Sloan- Great school! I did a campus visit in July while on my way up to NHMS for a NASCAR event and loved it. During the information session, all of the admissions staff who were present were extremely friendly and helpful. They had invited a current student who was doing an internship in the area to discuss his MBA experience and why he chose Sloan. They really have a collaborative and innovative culture. The campus was great as well, it was centrally located and although I currently live in the NYC area, I love the Boston/Cambridge area. Unfortunately, Sloan is another highly competitive school and I was unfortunately rejected without interview :(

  • Tuck- After the rejection from CBS ED, I was feeling pretty dejected and decided that I was only going to put forward the work for my "super stretch" schools only if I had a real connection with the school and its community. Although I love Hanover (I lived in NH for 2.5 years), I didn't feel like the school fit me as well as Kellogg had. And so I decided to redirect my efforts towards Kellogg.
  • Kellogg- Great school, great location, and great placement for management consulting. While researching schools I came across Kellogg and the more I looked into it, the more it seemed like it matched the best parts of my undergraduate experience. Although it's large, the campus, students, and community make you feel welcomed. Every interaction that I had with someone from Kellogg I left with a smile. It would be a "super stretch" school for me, but I thought the essays gave me an excellent opportunity to highlight my strengths. Fortunately, I would end up with a waitlist and we'll see how it goes! My interview recap can be found here: http://gmatclub.com/forum/calling-all-kellogg-applicants-2015-intake-class-of-173722-280.html#p1428459
  • Stern- Stern was originally on my list because as I had stated, I wanted to stay in the city with my wife. However after many conversations with her and further research into Stern, I realized that Stern wasn't really a great fit for me and let Stern go for Ross.
  • Ross- I was pleasantly surprised to find Ross in my search for business schools. The campus was in another great location (although many don't find the midwest desirable I find it to be a very pleasant change of pace compared to life in NYC). Similar to Kellogg, the school had a lot of pleasant attributes and the student/alumni community seemed great. I went to an admissions sponsered event in NYC and had a great time talking with current students and alums about their experience in Ann Arbor. Because of this, I was extremely disappointed when I received my rejection from them :-(
  • Johnson- I always had Johnson on my list. I know several Johnson graduates and with Cornell's growing presence in NYC I knew that I would be able to find an internship or post-MBA job near my wife. Besides it's location and proximity to NYC, I met Kim Szpiro and Ann Richards at an event in the city and they were absolutely wonderful! They represented the school extremely well and helped build my enthusiasm for the school as I continued through their application. Their application was also pleasantly unique and gave me the perfect opportunities to highlight my abilities and my own uniqueness. I was fortunately accepted in Johnson and I'm excited to see what the next few months brings. My interview recap can be found here:http://gmatclub.com/forum/johnson-cornell-class-of-2017-calling-all-applicants-172804-340.html#p1445589
  • Tepper- Finally Tepper, I connected with the school after accepting an invite to meet James Frick for a "one-on-one" at the MBA Tour in NYC. I had a friend that had gone there and knew that Carnegie Mellon already had an excellent reputation for its engineering program and so I figured its business school must be of similar caliber. James was a great resource to talk to and he helped connect me with a local alumnus that spoke to me more about his experience and his career thus far. These interactions (as well as a fee waiver ;-)) convinced me to apply to the school. I had a wonderful interview with another admissions officer and fortunately I have been admitted with $$ scholarship! My interview recap can be found here:http://gmatclub.com/forum/calling-all-tepper-cmu-applicants-2015-intake-class-of-173847-220.html#p1449752

Now I have a few weeks before the first deposit is due at Tepper and Johnson and I need to decide which of the two I'd rather attend. In the meantime I plan on remaining on the Kellogg waitlist with the hope that I can eventually get an admit.

Update: Well I was just released from the waitlist at Kellogg and although it's sad to be rejected, I'm extremely excited to be heading to Ithaca for the next 2 years! After attending Destination Johnson and meeting other extremely interesting and intelligent people, I'm happy about how everything's worked out. I'm really looking forward to the next chapter in my life and if anyone has any questions about Johnson as they're looking at schools, feel free to PM me! :-D

I know that the application process can be draining both emotionally and mentally however I hope that my story gives you hope that although you may have a black mark on your application (like my GPA :horror: ) it is still very possible to get into a top business school. I wish everyone the best of luck on their journeys and if you have any questions for me feel free to fire away! :snipersmile:

Edit: So I thought I'd add another section to this post to reflect on key takeaways from this entire experience to help those that are looking to apply.

Regarding GPA- I am likely in the 10th percentile or lower for the schools that I applied to as far as undergrad GPA stats go. Going into this I knew this would be my biggest hurdle. On paper, I knew that my GPA would stick out like a sore thumb to all application reviewers and leave them questioning my ability to succeed in their rigorous academic program. To mitigate this concern, my application had a few things:
  • I had a relatively high GMAT. Although I feel very fortunate for receiving the score that I got, I did put a lot of work into studying. Although I had abysmal grades, at least my GMAT score showed I had the intelligence and potential to do well. My advice to those with low GPAs and low GMAT scores, take the test again. The GMAT is the one thing you can change now, undergrad GPA is now set for life.
  • I was an engineering major. Although the math in business school is not really as difficult as the math in engineering, it showed that I had the minimum proficiency to be able to handle the quantitative rigors of finance and management consulting. My advice to those who don't come from quant backgrounds, take college courses in math subjects such as calculus, statistics, or even econometrics to show that you can handle the math. Also, think about doing well on the GMAT math. I've heard many admissions consultants reference the "80/80" rule for business schools, which means you need to hit 80 percentile on both the quant and verbal sections of the GMAT to be considered competitive. Now I cannot verify whether or not that's true, but if your math abilities are being questioned, having an 80 percentile or better on the quant section of the GMAT couldn't hurt ;)
  • I had an "alternate transcript." This was both a positive and a negative for my application. My graduate degree and GPA, although not stellar, showed the adcom that I could handle time management (I completed the degree while working full time) and I was diligent enough to earn a few A's. The negative aspect of my degree was that some of the coursework and purpose of my degree overlapped with an MBA in many ways. I had to then address the concern that I'd be obtaining a redundant degree. I think that the fact I labeled myself as a career switcher helped rationalize my decision to pursue an MBA at this point both with the adcom and myself
  • By matriculation, I'll be 6.5 years removed from undergrad. I think the fact that my undergrad experience was a long time ago and that I had accomplished a lot since then, helped the adcom separate me from my GPA and give more weight to my GMAT and recent accomplishments.

Regarding "why XYZ school?"- In coming up with my list of schools and developing my application stories, I knew I had to address why I would like to attend XYZ school specifically and how it will help me with my career transition. I did a lot of research and talked with a lot of people. I mentioned all the people that I spoke with in each application and made sure to mention how one of their school's unique characteristics would help me along my professional journey. My advice to future applicants would be:
  • Reach out to admissions teams, alumni, or current students. It's best to start from within your existing network, but if no one in your network has ties to the school, a lot of schools have links on their websites on how to connect with someone there. This should be really easy and it also shows the application reviewers that you have the social and networking skills to succeed at the school and beyond.
  • Go to information sessions. Either locally (if they have one), on campus, or online. Some admissions teams (though not all) keep track of who attends these events in order to assess a candidates interest. I wouldn't say it's an absolute dealbreaker, but it's still a great way to see how the school views itself and tries to differentiate itself among it's peers. A few examples: Kellogg prides itself on its focus on teamwork and collaborative culture, Johnson likes to boast about its tight knit community and its ties with NYC, CBS likes to highlight its diversity and location in NYC. For each school there are dozens of unique or niche-like characteristics and programs set up to help a variety of students. Make sure you know what those are and how they help you in your specific professional journey
  • Follow the school's current events or anything related to the MBA program specifically. You want to make sure that what you're writing about reflects the direction that the school is going. For example, an article in P&Q recently came out describing Cornell Johnson's curriculum change. As an applicant you want to be aware of what changed and why to make sure it aligns with what you're personally looking for in an MBA. Another example is Kellogg's adjustment to their school "branding." They shifted from "Think Bravely" to "Inspiring Growth." A small and subtle change, but one that you as an applicant should be aware of nonetheless.

Anyways, that's it for now. I might add more in a later edit, but I hope this helps the rest of you MBA hopefuls for now.

An update on my business school status: With much hesitation, I've declined Tepper's invitation and put down the first deposit for Johnson. I was truly and wonderfully surprised about how inviting Tepper's community was and I think it would have been an excellent school, but for a mix of personal reasons and preferences I decided Johnson would be a better school for me between the two. As for Kellogg, I accepted their WL invitation back in January and I've sent in one update since then. I'm still waiting to see if I'll get lucky around the R2 decision dates, but I'm not holding my breath.

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My GMAT Journey: A surprising 730!

My Application experience: Low GPA Success!


Last edited by dtse86 on 03 Mar 2015, 09:20, edited 2 times in total.

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New post 25 Dec 2014, 18:57
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Hi

Congratulations, Tepper and Cornell are both brilliant schools.

I have given GRE for the first time and my score is not good. I got 310 and I will have slightly more than 4 years of experience by the time I will matriculate. Though this a huge black spot but rest of my profile is pretty good.

I am an indian female working with a top consumer brand,there are lot of awards and recognition under my belt. My GPA is also close to 3.9.

Though I plan on retakjng the GRE after submitting my app for R2 this year. I am hopeful that i can manage a 325+

Do you think i have a chance , I am targeting top 25 colleges.

Sorry for the long post.

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amyjohn wrote:
Hi

Congratulations, Tepper and Cornell are both brilliant schools.

I have given GRE for the first time and my score is not good. I got 310 and I will have slightly more than 4 years of experience by the time I will matriculate. Though this a huge black spot but rest of my profile is pretty good.

I am an indian female working with a top consumer brand,there are lot of awards and recognition under my belt. My GPA is also close to 3.9.

Though I plan on retakjng the GRE after submitting my app for R2 this year. I am hopeful that i can manage a 325+

Do you think i have a chance , I am targeting top 25 colleges.

Sorry for the long post.

Posted from my mobile device


No worries, that's not a long post.

So here's my opinion but take it with a grain of salt because I am not an expert, do not know the GRE very well and had a low GPA vs. a low test score.

I think everyone technically has a chance at all schools. It all depends on how you portray yourself to the adcom. If you look really hard you can find people with 550 GMATs at HBS and people with 780's that get rejected from all top 10 schools.

Do your test scores and GPA stats give you greater or lesser probabilities of acceptance? Yes of course! The better your scores the better shot you have at top schools, but nothing is guaranteed.

It seems like your GPA is excellent and honestly I'm not sure how your GRE score looks (it's out of 350 now?) I think you'll be ok. All you can do is score your best and then apply to a variety of schools. I'd hedge my risk of rejection by applying to schools that seem like a stretch with schools that my stats appear more on the higher end. And although there are no stats posted for a class's GRE scores (most incoming students take the GMAT) I'm sure if your percentile is high you should be fine.

If you look around online and around GMATClub you'll find that you need to demonstrate a few things to the adcom (this is just a quick summary):
-You have the intelligence and the diligence to succeed in the program and beyond
-You are enthusiastic about the school
-You are a good fit for the school
-You will add diversity to the school (in several ways)
-You are a competitive applicant for your pool (other people with similar backgrounds)

If you can successfully portray all of these (easier said than done :!:) then you can expect you'll have a good chance of getting an admit. The MBA application is a long and hard process and a lot of things have to go right in order to succeed. But that's why at the end of it all when you are lucky enough to enroll into a top program, you'll be able to look around at your classmates and know that you are among some extremely exceptional people. I have to say that's probably one of the things I'm most excited for.

:gl on your journey and sorry for the long post ;-)
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New post 27 Dec 2014, 07:28
Thanks a ton for replying.
God bless you and all the best for your future.. :)

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New post 02 Jan 2015, 08:48
Hi,

Congrats for those two excellent admits and hope you will get through Kellogg as well..

Can you throw some light on how did you overcome your low GPA??

Did you take any additional courses or did you use the optional essay to explain about your situation about GPA??

Do you think your grad GPA helped to some extent and based on you're research & experience, how much weight-age is given to a Grad GPA when compared to an Undergrad GPA?

Thanks,
jegadhish

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New post 02 Jan 2015, 10:01
jegadhish90 wrote:
Hi,

Congrats for those two excellent admits and hope you will get through Kellogg as well..

Can you throw some light on how did you overcome your low GPA??

Did you take any additional courses or did you use the optional essay to explain about your situation about GPA??

Do you think your grad GPA helped to some extent and based on you're research & experience, how much weight-age is given to a Grad GPA when compared to an Undergrad GPA?

Thanks,
jegadhish


Thanks jegadhish.

Can you throw some light on how did you overcome your low GPA??
I cannot definitively say which attribute of my application helped me overcome the low GPA. I can say that I knew the adcom would question both my intelligence and work ethic based on that metric. To address the intelligence concern, I had a relatively high GMAT score and so they would know I obviously had it within me to perform well with the rigorous coursework. The work ethic concern was a bit trickier. I think the combination of work successes and the fact that although I didn't have a stellar grad GPA, I was able to perform fairly well while working full time and accomplishing all that I had professionally at the same time.

Did you take any additional courses or did you use the optional essay to explain about your situation about GPA??
I did not take courses outside of my graduate degree program, but I did use an optional essay. It has been recommended for those with below a 3.0 UG GPA to do so. My goal for the optional essay was to help the adcom understand the situation surrounding the low GPA and what that meant for me moving forward. Everyone has a different story, but you should be open and honest about it and hope that the adcom understands your story.

Do you think your grad GPA helped to some extent and based on you're research & experience, how much weight-age is given to a Grad GPA when compared to an Undergrad GPA?
I think in my case, the age/time with full time WE helped distance me from my rocky past. It gave me plenty of stories to reference to highlight my character, uniqueness, and most importantly potential. I'm not sure what my grad GPA did for me (I still didn't do that stellar), but it did give them a more recent data point on my abilities to perform academically. Although, with the ultra-competitive schools, UG GPA will always be a factor because you are likely competing with a very impressive pool of applicants and it gives them one more reason to remove you from the pool while simultaneously helping them maintain their class GPA statistics which factors into rankings. I believe I was rejected from many of these top schools for this very reason although I'm sure they believed I was fully qualified to attend and succeed (I have heard that many of the top schools get an applicant pool where ~75%-80% of the applicants are qualified to attend but they need to maintain admissions statistics of less than 30% or 20% acceptance in many cases), I was just not deemed competitive enough among my peers.

I'd also like to say that each school weighs each factor of the application differently. Some schools value hard factors such as GMAT and GPA more. Others value experience more. And it may also vary depending on which pool of applicants you fall under (traditional vs non-traditional vs ORM). Bottom line: Admissions committees are given the difficult task of narrowing down a field of thousands of applications while trying to maintain a high yield and create a class that is diverse, fits well into the existing school community, and has excellent employment potential. I'd sculpt my application and application strategy around that and hope for the best. Unfortunately a lot of times much of your hard work also comes down to luck as well.

So with that, :gl ! I hope this helped, if not let me know if there's anything else.

P.S. Sorry for the run-on sentences. I know the structure is terrible (GMAT Verbal-wise) but I just put this together quickly during my lunch break :-)
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New post 02 Jan 2015, 10:05
Oh, sorry one more thing.

I recently stumbled across an excellent blog post by cheetarah1980 that explains the harsh reality of top MBA programs. http://cheetarah1980.blogspot.com/2012/06/real-world.html

I think in this case, I was also fortunate to have graduated from a top UG institution and a program that was somewhat notoriously hard (yes I know a lot of people say this about their UG programs!). That also may have helped some, although I'm not sure how much because my GPA was hella low! :shock:
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New post 04 Jan 2015, 18:04
Ha. happy to know that you are also interested in management consulting. I hope that you can choose Johnson so that we can start practicing case interview lol. That being said, you should definitely wait for Kellogg, the very dream place for people with passion in MC. Congrats to you for all the achievement so far and hope everything will go well in the next couple of months. lol

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New post 05 Jan 2015, 04:08
Great article dtse86. I got a question for you. I see you got over with GMAT in May 2014 and applied about 7 school by R1(october 1st week I am guessing) WOW!!. when did you start working on those applications(essays, recommendation letters, ) is 4 months good enough time for applications to get together while doing a full time job?

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EthanLi

Thanks! Yea, I hope that we can have the opportunity to do some case practice together. I don't know if it's weird or nerdy, but I'm actually really excited to get started on practicing case interviews...

naveen321

Thanks, that's a great question! Here's a great article from P&Q that I used to some extent in determining my application schedule, however everyone is different and it's best for you to determine for yourself based on your abilities and any aspects of the application you'd like to work on. http://poetsandquants.com/2014/05/08/the-ideal-timetable-to-do-a-b-school-app/

Anyways, after taking the GMAT, I spent about a month to 2 months researching schools and forming my R1 list (went to a few info sessions, campus visits, and MBA tour events). I knew I was going to apply CBS ED and their application opens early (I think it was around mid-end of June). So I started early with CBS and actually started drafting essays for that app at the same time. I already had kept a personal journal throughout the years and so I already knew I had a plethora of good stories to expand on. The hardest part was figuring out which ones to use for which questions and how to integrate them into my overall application. For CBS I probably went through 10-12 revisions or versions (on the high end) for each question before finally submitting. It was my first application so I was perhaps overly worried about it and spent way more time than necessary on it. For the remaining schools I started writing essays in August, but I already had a good number of stories already written. I just had to modify them in a way so that it made sense for the other schools. For Kellogg and Sloan I had probably 3-4 revisions or 3-4 versions for each question. For those schools, I didn't decide which version I was going to submit until the day I hit the submit button. I did an overall review/assessment of my application to make sure the entire thing made sense and that I was consistent in my message. Johnson had a very interesting and unique application question (the table of contents) which took about a week of revisions and tweaking before I got it somewhere to my liking. In the end, I ended up submitting all of my apps right around the deadlines (mid-September to early-October), which I do not recommend because of the stress. I selected and informed my recommenders in July about my applications and reminded them about each school roughly 1 month before the school's deadline and then finally on the week of.

Overall, the process from the start of research to my last submit was roughly 19 weeks. My timeline may have been on the longer side for applicants because I was determined to apply for CBS ED extremely early so that I could perhaps save myself the time/hassle of other school applications. I also got married in the middle of that and so you'd have to factor in the additional time I spent away from applications and working on wedding stuff/going on my honeymoon ;)

In the end I think if the proper amount of time is spent on the front end to determine your application strategy and your personal story/brand, you can get the actual application writing and finishing completed in about a week per school. And so depending on how many schools you plan on applying to I would give yourself around 2-3 months for the front end portion and a little over a month for the rest. Also, keep in mind that you should always be networking/reaching out to the schools that you're looking to apply to throughout the entire process. It's a great way to make sure it's the right school for you while also showing the adcom that you're genuinely interested in going there.

Hope that helps!
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New post 10 Jan 2015, 09:30
Sorry for late reply but that was great post.

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New post 06 Mar 2015, 10:15
Thanks for this great post!

I'm in a similar situation (2.4 UGPA, 3.83 GGPA) 730 (47/44) 6, 8 and haven't met with much success. Your story has helped me with the determination to put through my R3 apps.

Dinged - Ross, Kenan Flagler
No word - Darden, Anderson
Awaiting verdict - Kellogg

R3 Prospects - McCombs, Johnson, McDonough, Foster

Last edited by Luggenes on 06 Mar 2015, 11:57, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: My MBA Application Journey (Low GPA) [#permalink]

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New post 06 Mar 2015, 11:54
dtse86 wrote:
Profile
UG GPA: 2.475 Mechanical Engineering (Ivy non-HYP)
Grad GPA: 3.33
WE: 78 months at matriculation (3 different companies 5 different positions most recently in a Project Manager role)
GMAT: 730 49Q 40V 6IR 6AWA (first and only take)
EC's: 4 years of coaching children on the weekends and 2 years of mentoring high school students
Minority: Asian American Male

Why MBA?
I didn't really know what management consulting was until I had to do research on the profession for my Masters of Engineering Management thesis. The more I read about it the more enamored I became with the field and eventually when I realized that my current career path couldn't get me there I decided I needed to take the steps necessary to do so. I appreciated the problem solving abilities of the strategy consultants and I found the business problems very intriguing as I had began to read some excellent economics books and management articles. Unfortunately, the more I looked into the profession, the more I realized that I needed to take the GMAT and get an MBA to break in. A detailed description of my GMAT experience can be found here:http://gmatclub.com/forum/journey-to-a-surprising-189718.html#p1452828

Which Schools?
When I took the GMAT (May 2014) I had listed Tuck, CBS, Sloan, Stern, and Johnson as the schools to send my scores to. With very little research, I had assumed that those would be the 5 school's I'd target in R1. I wanted to stay in the NYC area because my wife would be tied to this area for the next 4 years for her career and so CBS ED was at the top of the list. However as I continued with my school research I realized that there were other schools that I had not initially considered that would be a great fit for me. Eventually I swapped out Tuck and Stern for Kellogg and Ross.

  • CBS- This was the first school that I started working on my application for given it was at the top of my list and it had the earliest application. I had hoped that if I was successful with this application I wouldn't need to put anymore effort towards the other ones and my MBA application journey would end. Unfortunately that would not be the case, however I learned a great deal from this application and it helped me shape the ones I would finish later. I actually initially thought I would say that I was targeting a career in real estate given my background in construction and familiarity with a few real estate professionals in NYC, however as I talked to those professionals I realized the work was not quite what I thought and I found it much harder to connect my past work history with that profession. And so I decided that honesty would clearly by the best policy as a strategy and laid it all out there. I just focused on showing how much I knew about the school and management consulting and how I saw myself utilizing the skills I had developed pre-MBA. Alas, my efforts would lead me to an unfortunate rejection without interview in early September
  • Edit: (I forgot Sloan!): Sloan- Great school! I did a campus visit in July while on my way up to NHMS for a NASCAR event and loved it. During the information session, all of the admissions staff that was present were extremely friendly and helpful. They had invited a current student who was doing an internship in the area to discuss his MBA experience and why he chose Sloan. They really have a collaborative and innovative culture. The campus was great as well, it was centrally located and although I currently live in the NYC area, I love the Boston/Cambridge area. Unfortunately, Sloan is another highly competitive school and I was unfortunately rejected without interview :(

  • Tuck- After the rejection from CBS ED, I was feeling pretty dejected and decided that I was only going to put forward the work for my "super stretch" schools only if I had a real connection with the school and its community. Although I love Hanover (I lived in NH for 2.5 years), I didn't feel like the school fit me as well as Kellogg had. And so I decided to redirect my efforts towards Kellogg.
  • Kellogg- Great school, great location, and great placement for management consulting. While researching schools I came across Kellogg and the more I looked into it, the more it seemed like it matched the best parts of my undergraduate experience. Although it's large, the campus, students, and community make you feel welcomed. Every interaction that I had with someone from Kellogg I left with a smile. It would be a "super stretch" school for me, but I thought the essays gave me an excellent opportunity to highlight my strengths. Fortunately, I would end up with a waitlist and we'll see how it goes! My interview recap can be found here: http://gmatclub.com/forum/calling-all-kellogg-applicants-2015-intake-class-of-173722-280.html#p1428459
  • Stern- Stern was originally on my list because as I had stated, I wanted to stay in the city with my wife. However after many conversations with her and further research into Stern, I realized that Stern wasn't really a great fit for me and let Stern go for Ross.
  • Ross- I was pleasantly surprised to find Ross in my search for business schools. The campus was in another great location (although many don't find the midwest desirable I find it to be a very pleasant change of pace compared to life in NYC). Similar to Kellogg, the school had a lot of pleasant attributes and the student/alumni community seemed great. I went to an admissions sponsered event in NYC and had a great time talking with current students and alums about their experience in Ann Arbor. Because of this, I was extremely disappointed when I received my rejection from them :-(
  • Johnson- I always had Johnson on my list. I know several Johnson graduates and with Cornell's growing presence in NYC I knew that I would be able to find an internship or post-MBA job near my wife. Besides it's location and proximity to NYC, I met Kim Szpiro and Ann Richards at an event in the city and they were absolutely wonderful! They represented the school extremely well and helped build my enthusiasm for the school as I continued through their application. Their application was also pleasantly unique and gave me the perfect opportunities to highlight my abilities and my own uniqueness. I was fortunately accepted in Johnson and I'm excited to see what the next few months brings. My interview recap can be found here:http://gmatclub.com/forum/johnson-cornell-class-of-2017-calling-all-applicants-172804-340.html#p1445589
  • Tepper- Finally Tepper, I connected with the school after accepting an invite to meet James Frick for a "one-on-one" at the MBA Tour in NYC. I had a friend that had gone there and knew that Carnegie Mellon already had an excellent reputation for its engineering program and so I figured its business school must be of similar caliber. James was a great resource to talk to and he helped connect me with a local alumnus that spoke to me more about his experience and his career thus far. These interactions (as well as a fee waiver ;-)) convinced me to apply to the school. I had a wonderful interview with another admissions officer and fortunately I have been admitted with $$ scholarship! My interview recap can be found here:http://gmatclub.com/forum/calling-all-tepper-cmu-applicants-2015-intake-class-of-173847-220.html#p1449752

Now I have a few weeks before the first deposit is due at Tepper and Johnson and I need to decide which of the two I'd rather attend. In the meantime I plan on remaining on the Kellogg waitlist with the hope that I can eventually get an admit.

I know that the application process can be draining both emotionally and mentally however I hope that my story gives you hope that although you may have a black mark on your application (like my GPA :horror: ) it is still very possible to get into a top business school. I wish everyone the best of luck on their journeys and if you have any questions for me feel free to fire away! :snipersmile:

Edit: So I thought I'd add another section to this post to reflect on key takeaways from this entire experience to help those that are looking to applying.

Regarding GPA- I am likely in the 10th percentile or lower for the schools that I applied to as far as undergrad GPA stats go. Going into this I knew this would be my biggest hurdle. On paper, I knew that my GPA would stick out like a sore thumb to all application reviewers and leave them questioning my ability to succeed in their rigorous academic program. To mitigate this concern, my application had a few things:
  • I had a relatively high GMAT. Although I feel very fortunate for receiving the score that I got, I did put a lot of work into studying. Although I had abysmal grades, at least my GMAT score showed I had the intelligence and potential to do well. My advice to those with low GPAs and low GMAT scores, take the test again. The GMAT is the one thing you can change now, undergrad GPA is now set for life.
  • I was an engineering major. Although the math in business school is not really as difficult as the math in engineering, it showed that I had the minimum proficiency to be able to handle the quantitative rigors of finance and management consulting. My advice to those who don't come for quant backgrounds, take college courses in math subjects such as calculus, statistics, or even econometrics to show that you can handle the math. Also, think about doing well on the GMAT math. I've heard many admissions consultants reference the "80/80" rule for business schools, which means you need to hit 80 percentile on both the quant and verbal sections of the GMAT to be considered competitive. Now I cannot verify whether or not that's true, but if your math abilities are being questioned, having an 80 percentile or better on the quant section of the GMAT couldn't hurt ;)
  • I had an "alternate transcript." This was both a positive and a negative on my application. My graduate degree and GPA, although not stellar, showed the adcom that I could handle time management (I completed the degree while working full time) and I was diligent enough to earn a few A's. The negative aspect of my degree was that some of the coursework and purpose of my degree overlapped with an MBA in many ways. I had to then address the concern that I'd be obtaining a redundant degree. I think that the fact I labeled myself as a career switcher helped rationalize my decision to pursue an MBA at this point both with the adcom and myself
  • By matriculation, I'll be 6.5 years removed from undergrad. I think the fact that my undergrad experience was a long time ago and that I had accomplished a lot since then, helped the adcom separate me from my GPA and give more weight to my GMAT and recent accomplishments.

Regarding "why XYZ school?"- In coming up with my list of schools and developing my application stories, I knew I had to address why I would like to attend XYZ school specifically and how it will help me with my career transition. I did a lot of research and talked with a lot of people. I mentioned all the people that I spoke with in each application and made sure to mention how one of their school's unique characteristics would help me along my professional journey. My advice to future applicants would be:
  • Reach out to admissions teams, alumni, or current students. It's best to start from within your existing network, but if no one in your network has ties to the school, a lot of schools have links on their websites on how to connect with someone there. This should be really easy and it also shows the application reviewers that you have the social and networking skills to succeed at the school and beyond.
  • Go to information sessions. Either locally (if they have one), on campus, or online. Some admissions teams keep track of who attend and subsequently apply while many others don't. Either way, it's a great way to see how the school views itself and tries to differentiate itself among it's peers. A few examples: Kellogg prides itself on its focus on teamwork and collaborative culture, Johnson likes to boast about its tight knit community and its ties with NYC, CBS likes to highlight its diversity and location in NYC. For each school there are dozens of unique or niche-like characteristics and programs set up to help a variety of students. Make sure you know what those are and how they help you in your specific professional journey
  • Follow the school's current events or anything related to the MBA program specifically. You want to make sure that what you're writing about reflects the direction that the school is going. For example, an article in P&Q recently came out describing Cornell Johnson's curriculum change. As an applicant you want to be aware of what changed and why to make sure it aligns with what you're personally looking for in an MBA. Another example is Kellogg's adjustment to their school "branding." They shifted from "Think Bravely" to "Inspiring Growth." A small and subtle change, but one that you as an applicant should be aware of nonetheless.

Anyways, that's it for now. I might add more in a later edit, but I hope this helps the rest of you MBA hopefuls for now.

An update on my business school status: With much hesitation, I've declined Tepper's invitation and put down the first deposit for Johnson. I was truly and wonderfully surprised about how inviting Tepper's community was and I think it would have been an excellent school, but for a mix of personal reasons and preferences I decided Johnson would be a better school for me between the two. As for Kellogg, I accepted their WL invitation back in January and I've sent in one update since then. I'm still waiting to see if I'll get lucky around the R2 decision dates, but I'm not holding my breath.


Thanks! Your article is very informative! The guide on application strategy and determining your fit is one of the best I've seen on this forum! I'm also glad that you found a good fit with all the options you have!

I also had low undergrad GPAs (prob low 10~20% percentile) compare to most applicant pool for the schools I'm aiming. I was looking for ding analysis to some of the top schools (e.g. CBS, HBS, Wharton), the 80/80 rule on GPA/GMAT(verbal and math), and also age related issues would probably explain why I was rejected there.

Two questions I have:
1) would low quant on GMAT be something a finance/management consulting employer would look at? Is there a point retaking them before school start?
2) you seemed to have done a lot of work getting to know current students. do you have any tips on reaching out to them? (for example, I found it easier to cold-email students with 1~2 targeted questions. What works for you? I'm especially interested in knowing how to follow-up with more questions and perhaps build deeper relationship with current students)

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New post 07 Mar 2015, 07:52
Luggenes wrote:
Thanks for this great post!

I'm in a similar situation (2.4 UGPA, 3.83 GGPA) 730 (47/44) 6, 8 and haven't met with much success. Your story has helped me with the determination to put through my R3 apps.

Dinged - Ross, Kenan Flagler
No word - Darden, Anderson
Awaiting verdict - Kellogg

R3 Prospects - McCombs, Johnson, McDonough, Foster


Glad to hear I could help you carry on! Good luck with Kellogg, McCombs, Johnson, McDonough, and Foster!
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My Application experience: Low GPA Success!

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Re: My MBA Application Journey (Low GPA) [#permalink]

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New post 07 Mar 2015, 08:30
SereneWS wrote:

Thanks! Your article is very informative! The guide on application strategy and determining your fit is one of the best I've seen on this forum! I'm also glad that you found a good fit with all the options you have!

I also had low undergrad GPAs (prob low 10~20% percentile) compare to most applicant pool for the schools I'm aiming. I was looking for ding analysis to some of the top schools (e.g. CBS, HBS, Wharton), the 80/80 rule on GPA/GMAT(verbal and math), and also age related issues would probably explain why I was rejected there.

Two questions I have:
1) would low quant on GMAT be something a finance/management consulting employer would look at? Is there a point retaking them before school start?
2) you seemed to have done a lot of work getting to know current students. do you have any tips on reaching out to them? (for example, I found it easier to cold-email students with 1~2 targeted questions. What works for you? I'm especially interested in knowing how to follow-up with more questions and perhaps build deeper relationship with current students)


Glad you found my post helpful!

To answer your questions:
1) I don't know for certain, but from everything I've read and researched, they do look at your quant abilities to a certain extent. However, I think if you do well in your finance and accounting classes, you may be able to counter a lower GMAT quant score to a certain extent. I can't say definitively if that will help, but once you get the first interview, your scores don't really matter anymore. It'll be about your performance in the case interviews. If you think you can do better now, it probably wouldn't hurt to retake, but if you don't think you'll do much better, your time would be better spent preparing for finance and accounting classes.
2) As far as reaching out to current students and alums I used a combination of my existing network and the admissions offices. Through the admissions office I asked if there were any alumni available to talk to me about the school and the career that they chose afterward. They then forwarded me the contact of a few names to contact and. I believe a lot of the schools have a list of active alumni that volunteer to talk to prospective students and so they were all very responsive. I was also able to talk to a few current students while I was visiting campus. During a class visit to Johnson, I spoke to a lot of students after class and they all gave me some excellent advice. As for the individuals that I spoke with in arranged 1-on-1 meetings I simply followed up with a thank you a day after our meeting or chat and I left it at that. They all have fairly busy lives and I didn't really see a need to try and "develop a relationship further" or annoy them any more.

I hope this helped and good luck!
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New post 12 Jun 2017, 23:59
Great post! Thanks for sharing this detailed post here. I am also planning to take GRE again. lets see how it works for me :)

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New post 13 Jun 2017, 05:07
congratulations on your achievement.

Just wanted to ask since you must have gone through the entire MBA experience by now.

How is the demographicjohnson? I see you had quite a long stint of work-ex before you enrolled. Was it a deterrent at some of the schools you applied to?

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AndyDufresne wrote:
congratulations on your achievement.

Just wanted to ask since you must have gone through the entire MBA experience by now.

How is the demographicjohnson? I see you had quite a long stint of work-ex before you enrolled. Was it a deterrent at some of the schools you applied to?


Hi AndyDufresne !

I don't know if I fully comprehend the question about "how" the demographic of Johnson is, but I'll try and answer it:
In regards to diversity, I found the class to be extremely diverse in backgrounds (prior professional experience), ethnicity, culture, gender, and perspective. I'm not 100% certain on the statistics, but some of them are published here.
In regards to character, intelligence, and collaborative spirit, I was overall thoroughly impressed with my classmates. Will there be duds and disagreements? No doubt. But every school and every program deals with these individuals and instances. Part of how you as an individual or community deals with them will help define your personal MBA experience. Over my 2 years, I witnessed a controversial school merger, a University President passing, the confirmation of a new Dean, an academic integrity violation, a CMC mishap, a student passing, a fire alarm during a core final, a student dropping out, a notable faculty member passing and the introduction of 2 new buildings (one of which is in NYC). Despite these many issues, arguments, or scandals, I felt the school (faculty, administration, and students) handled it all extremely well. Therefore, I was unexpectedly blown away by the Johnson community during my time there.

To answer your question regarding experience:
There were some programs that seemed on the younger side, however I wasn't really deterred by any of them. My work experience (although on the longer side than average) fell right in line with a large number of classmates in terms of length (I think the average is 5 years in a lot of schools and I had 6.5). Also keep in mind there is a large range, some students will be "straight thrus" (no experience) some will have 10+ years. I think the longest was 16 years in our class. That being said, I was told that beyond 10 years (especially if you've reached a fairly high position in the business world) that it's strongly recommended that you begin to look at the EMBA programs instead unless you there's a reasonable explanation for the residential (such as a feasible career switch). Most of the people on the older side were former military.

Well I hope that this answered your questions! Good luck with the applications!
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New post 27 Jun 2017, 14:51
dtse86 wrote:
AndyDufresne wrote:
congratulations on your achievement.

Just wanted to ask since you must have gone through the entire MBA experience by now.

How is the demographicjohnson? I see you had quite a long stint of work-ex before you enrolled. Was it a deterrent at some of the schools you applied to?


Hi AndyDufresne !

I don't know if I fully comprehend the question about "how" the demographic of Johnson is, but I'll try and answer it:
In regards to diversity, I found the class to be extremely diverse in backgrounds (prior professional experience), ethnicity, culture, gender, and perspective. I'm not 100% certain on the statistics, but some of them are published here.
In regards to character, intelligence, and collaborative spirit, I was overall thoroughly impressed with my classmates. Will there be duds and disagreements? No doubt. But every school and every program deals with these individuals and instances. Part of how you as an individual or community deals with them will help define your personal MBA experience. Over my 2 years, I witnessed a controversial school merger, a University President passing, the confirmation of a new Dean, an academic integrity violation, a CMC mishap, a student passing, a fire alarm during a core final, a student dropping out, a notable faculty member passing and the introduction of 2 new buildings (one of which is in NYC). Despite these many issues, arguments, or scandals, I felt the school (faculty, administration, and students) handled it all extremely well. Therefore, I was unexpectedly blown away by the Johnson community during my time there.

To answer your question regarding experience:
There were some programs that seemed on the younger side, however I wasn't really deterred by any of them. My work experience (although on the longer side than average) fell right in line with a large number of classmates in terms of length (I think the average is 5 years in a lot of schools and I had 6.5). Also keep in mind there is a large range, some students will be "straight thrus" (no experience) some will have 10+ years. I think the longest was 16 years in our class. That being said, I was told that beyond 10 years (especially if you've reached a fairly high position in the business world) that it's strongly recommended that you begin to look at the EMBA programs instead unless you there's a reasonable explanation for the residential (such as a feasible career switch). Most of the people on the older side were former military.

Well I hope that this answered your questions! Good luck with the applications!


Thanks for the detailed reply. Had few apprehensions related to my application as my experience tenure would be nearly same as yours if I get to start by next year but your reply provides great comfort and seems really practical in terms of class composition the school will have. :)

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Re: My MBA Application Journey (Low GPA) [#permalink]

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New post 05 Oct 2017, 07:52
Great post thanks for making it.

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Re: My MBA Application Journey (Low GPA)   [#permalink] 05 Oct 2017, 07:52

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