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Profile eval for UNC: 740 GMAT, 3.56 GPA (Princeton), lawyer, work gap

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Profile eval for UNC: 740 GMAT, 3.56 GPA (Princeton), lawyer, work gap [#permalink]

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New post 07 Mar 2018, 00:02
Hi everyone,

I would appreciate any feedback on my profile, particularly geared towards admission at Kenan-Flagler. I have a few particular questions at the end of this post.

I just turned 34 and am an American attorney (of Bangladeshi heritage) specializing in international disputes. After undergrad (majored in public policy/international affairs with a minor in finance), I worked for two years at a think tank in DC before going to NYU for my JD (3.23 GPA, and was one of a few winners of a scholarship competition for incoming students in international law). I entered law school as the financial crisis hit and firms scaled back their hiring, so after a couple of short term positions (NY Attorney General's office and 3rd Circuit Court in Philly) I went back to school to get an LLM in International Arbitration (won another scholarship competition for incoming students, this time at the University of Miami). I ended up in a non-partner track position at the Washington, DC office of a leading international law firm. I left the firm in late 2015 (just short of two years) and have not worked full-time since then, mostly for health-related reasons I'd be happy to discuss further privately (and am of course addressing in my applications). Leadership opportunities were very limited in my time at the firm. I held leadership positions at all of my academic stops. I have done some volunteer work during my work gap, but it has been largely of a political nature and I am not sure the extent to which I should mention this in my applications.

After gathering perspectives from multiple peers who know me well, I have been preparing to submit business school applications for Fall 2018 intake. Obviously, part of my motivation is to join a structured recruiting process for getting back into the job market. But business school in particular has been my focus for a few reasons. For one, working as a litigator, I've often felt on the periphery of the actual "action" - working to clean up messes rather than being involved in the activity that led us to dispute resolution. For another, learning about the businesses involved in our cases made me want to seek more perspective and experience in how those businesses operate. I also found myself disappointed by the lack of creativity with which large firms in our practice area approach this kind of work, and I found that my status at the firm and how entrenched those practices were made it impossible to shift the status quo. For these reasons, and others relating to my work strengths and weaknesses, strategic consulting seems like a good fit for me in the short term (will address long term goals below).

School Targets
I recently took the GMAT and scored 740 (Q 47, V 44, IR 5, AWA 5 - I know those last two scores, and even the quant, are below my capabilities and I think the rest of my application will demonstrate that - I have a strong background in both math and writing). Also, recent developments with some personal/family issues will necessitate my relocation to North Carolina, so I am now focusing on NC schools - with UNC's Kenan-Flagler my target. Fortunately, relocating to North Carolina was something I was passionately pursuing anyway, and I think I can fit this into my essays. I recently received a fee waiver from Kenan-Flagler on the basis of my GMAT score.

There are a few things I'd love some feedback on:
1) As I mentioned above, the only substantive work I've done lately is volunteer work with a political dimension (mostly legal research, writing, and advocacy). I don't know if broaching political leanings on my application will be to my advantage or not. I want to be authentic, but I also don't want my application to be sunk by a reader who doesn't share my views. I can write about these things in a diplomatic way, but I don't know whether it should be avoided altogether.

2) Relatedly, I need to refine my goals. My short term goal, as I mentioned, is to get into consulting for 2-3 years so I can gain more experience with different industries, particularly with a view towards enhancing my perspective as to my long term goal. My primary long term goal is to start or work for a consultancy where our mission is to help people-oriented organizations enhance productivity or otherwise achieve their goals by focusing on the needs of women and non-binary folks, minorities, and other employees or clients whom institutional structures traditionally serve less well. I know that consultancies like this exist, but my read has been that their approach is generally more in the vein of education and motivational speaking, whereas my focus would be on instituting research-backed, business-oriented structural changes and providing meaningful individual support to employees from those populations. (Getting a better handle on the details of this by interacting with my peers, professors, and other professionals, and perhaps performing some relevant research myself, are part of my answer to "why MBA?")

I have several concerns about this goal: a) it may implicate similar issues regarding political leanings as in my first question; b) the level of detail I can go into is limited by my lack of direct experience with the consulting space; c) it is borne of personal interest more than work experience, and my background would seem to lend itself to other more obvious focuses (such as e.g. helping businesses avoid lengthy and expensive international disputes, or even helping law firms themselves enhance their efficiency and efficacy with large complex disputes - both things I'm certainly interested in, but less passionate about), and d) I don't have a particular industry orientation. This idea has largely come out of my knowledge of common practices in the for-profit mental health industry, but I'm not sure I should limit myself to one industry, particularly when it's not one I have work experience in.

Is this an inadvisable long term goal to express in a business school application? Does it sound detailed enough? Is it OK to mention alternatives, or to mention that I'm open to revising my plan based on my experiences in school (which realistically is likely to happen to some extent anyway)?

3) How competitive am I, realistically? I'm on the older side, have done a fair bit of graduate school already, and my work experience is not without what may seem to be red flags. If I can adequately address my work gap, will strong essays and recommendations give me a shot at Kenan-Flagler in R4 or Fuqua in R3, or do those schools not look kindly upon applications like mine? Aside from doing my best to orient my application towards particular features of Kenan-Flagler (or Fuqua) as per my research, are there other factors I should be aware of in presenting myself that might enhance my chances?

Thanks very much for reading this far and for any guidance you may be able to offer. Feel free to be direct! I know I am bumping up against deadlines for Fall 2018, but am trying to do all I can to improve my chances in this home stretch. I'm happy to follow up on anything in more detail.
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Re: Profile eval for UNC: 740 GMAT, 3.56 GPA (Princeton), lawyer, work gap [#permalink]

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New post 08 Mar 2018, 05:46
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Hello Joamiq

Thanks for posting -- there's a lot to think about here! My first suggestion is that you seem like the type that will get a lot out of a free consultation so please set one up at your convenience. (Link in signature. You do not have to wait for me. Just select the day/time that works best for you!) The 740 is a big draw here for UNC and the 3.56 from Princeton is also quite attractive. It makes me feel better about a R3/R4 app. However, I am worried about your age and that you've been out of work for two years, so the picture is a little hazy. It sounds like you are geographically constrained but if you have flexibility, take a look at MIT Sloan Fellows, which is geared towards those with 10+ years of work experience. (Still a full time MBA prorgram. And you still get to say you have an MIT Sloan MBA.) I like Fuqua for you too and it's a fun app to put together. (25 Things! Have fun with it.) R3 probably tougher at Fuqua than UNC. But what I like about Fuqua is that they will at times re-direct you to another program. (Wouldn't be surprised if they suggested Cross- Continent or EMBA.)

The goals are worth an entire conversation together...the long-term goal is interesting but the "Why" is unclear so make sure you explain that and explain how general MC will set you up for this longer-term. It almost feels HR-y/organizational management so perhaps rather than saying general MC first, you focus more on Human Capital consulting? (Although realize that's more niche.)

I think a lot of this is hard to answer online without more detail so do set up a free consult when you have a chance!


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Re: Profile eval for UNC: 740 GMAT, 3.56 GPA (Princeton), lawyer, work gap   [#permalink] 08 Mar 2018, 05:46
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