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I'm thinking about preparing for b-school applications for 2011. Can you please go through my profile and give me some advice on how to leverage my chances of getting into the schools i'm targeting at?
Nationality: Asian but have U.S. permanent residency Gender: Female Age:24 GMAT:770 Work experience: 2 years Education: Bachelors of Science in Finance from a state school in the midwest region GPA: 2.71 (had a very rough senior year)
Worked at a commercial bank in Shanghai for around 8 months and got interested in actuarial science. Achieved ASA designation (Associate of the Society of Actuaries) and passed CFA I and II within 1.5 years after undergrad graduation.
After quitting work at the commercial bank, I partnered up with a tech firm in mainland China and moved back the U.S. to sell its products. Achieved $3 million in sales the first year, and appointed the Vice President of Marketing for North America region.
I know my GPA is low compared to most applicants, but I passed many exams for actuarial science and CFA afterwards. Will that help a lot in improving my chances?
Target schools: 1. Harvard 2. Stanford 3. Wharton 4. Columbia 5. NYU 6. MIT 7. Michigan 8. Yale 9. UC Berkeley 10. Northwestern
Yes, unfortunately your rough senior year will hurt you. Doesn't mean you can't get into a top MBA program, but they will really want to know what happened there, and why they shouldn't expect that it would happen again in business school. In addition to the tests you've passed since then, have you considered enrolling in any other college courses, strictly for the purpose of showing you can do well in these subjects? The school matters much less than the subject and how you do in it.
The one thought that jumped out at me while looking at your profile, besides the GPA, is that you seem to be a bit of a wanderer, hopping from banking to actuarial science to sales & marketing. You'll need a strong story about where you want to go from here, and of course why an MBA is needed to get you there.
Thanks for the advice. I have 2 more questions after reading your reply.
1. I was in an actuarial science related role when I was working at the commercial bank, so that explains why I took so many actuarial exams. Then, I quit the job and went into sales/marketing for that tech firm because energy-saving products have a lot of potential in the U.S. market. So, I only made one job switch, and will that still label me as a wanderer?
2. Can you explain further on "have you considered enrolling in any other college courses, strictly for the purpose of showing you can do well in these subjects? The school matters much less than the subject and how you do in it"? The CFA and actuarial science exams already covered all the materials I took in my senior year (and much more in depth too). So, should I still enroll in some college classes?
1) If that's the case, I actually wouldn't focus on your ASA too much in your application. I think it will just confuse things and leave admissions officers wondering why you took what seemed like a brief tour through a different discipline. By all means, include it in your application where they ask, but don't "talk it up" in your essays. Additional designations can hurt your application as much as they can help you.
2) In general, you can never go wrong by taking a college course or two (in calculus, statistics, finance, econ, or accounting) to demonstrate that you're serious about academic. Your CFA and ASA work were undoubtedly challenging (I'm married to an actuary!), but those still aren't the same as attending a course, taking midterms and final exams, etc. I don't mean to scare you, but your GPA may be a BIG hindrance to your chances, so you need to devote as much effort as possible to overcoming this, even if it feels like you've already done a lot.
Thanks for the advice! I really appreciate it. Now I have 3 last questions to get started on my application essays:
1. Is 24 years old with 2 years of work experience not enough, even though I helped to lead this tech company to break into the overseas market?
2. You mentioned "wouldn't focus on your ASA too much in your application", so I shouldn't mention much about my 8-month experience at the commercial bank in Shanghai?
3. I'm very worried about my GPA as well. However, I have to fly back and forth between mainland China and the U.S. for sales/marketing work, the only option is to enroll into online courses. Do you have any online school/program recommendations, especially in Math, Finance and Accounting?
Once again, thank you very much for all your time and advice. I truly appreciate it.
I don't think two years of work experience are "not enough." There's no hard cutoff, and teh quality of your work experience matters more than the quantity. Definitely don't wait another year just to have another year under your belt.
Re: the ASA, buy all means, you SHOULD talk about your work in banking. My point there was that you shouldn't focus much on the fact that you earned the ASA, since you may send the signal of someone who's hopping around and earning different designations/degrees, etc. Focus on the work you did and what you achieved on the job, not the ASA.
Not sure I can give you any specific online school recos, but I'd probably recommend the online arm of a traditional, non-profit university (public or private), rather than a for-profit online school like U. of Phoenix, which doesn't always have the best reputation.
I was wondering if I could follow up here. I have a similar background as the following:
Degree: Bachelor of Business Science in Actuarial Science and Finance (both Honours, double major) from University of Cape Town, South Africa
GPA: 65% (UK System)
Other Qualifications: 1 exam away from Associate of Society of Actuaries (ASA), CFA Level 2 Candidate
Work Experience: Actuarial Analyst at Deloitte Actuarial Consulting (1 year), Actuarial Analyst at local Life insurance company (1year)
Yet to write GMAT.
The low GPA relates to the academic system here in South Africa. Yes it is possible to obtain a 70% mark, but only around 2-3 graduates of around 45 actuarial honours level graduates (with 240 undergraduates having started the degree) obtain 75%+.
I am planning to do a postgraduate diploma in engineering and apply for the Mckinsey office here in Johannesburg.
My questions are the following: - Can a good score (e.g. cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude) from postgraduate diploma in engineering make up for the low undergraduate GPA and provide an assurance that I can perform well academically?
- Combined with 2 years of work experience from McKinsey and a good score for GMAT (750+), is there a good chance for an admission into an ivy-league MBA?
- Taking into account some international admission 'requirements' from citizens of Africa?
Your valuable input and criticism will be much appreciated.
1. Yes, strong coursework since your undergraduate university grades can help to overcome low grades. The GMAT can help you do that, too. These won't completely "wipe the slate clean" in this regard, but they're the best things you can do to overcome low undergrad grades.
2. Depends on why Ivy League MBA you're talking about! For instance, it's much easier to get into Cornell (Johnson) than HBS. But, I do think you have a good shot at getting into a top-ten MBA program in the U.S. if you have great work experience from McKinsey.
3. The fact that you're from Africa will help some at the margins, but don't assume it will turn a lackluster application into a "must-have" one.