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Profile Evaluation -- another opinion

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Status: Never give up!
Affiliations: Beta Gamma Sigma, Omicron Delta Epsilon, Toastmasters Intl, HHonors
Joined: 04 Nov 2009
Posts: 223
Location: Raleigh-Durham NC
Profile Evaluation -- another opinion [#permalink]

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New post 29 Apr 2011, 15:03
Hello Paul.

Something I asked AlexMBAApply, but I figured it wouldn't hurt to ask you too. At this stage, it seems I don't have a prayer of getting into the schools I really want to. The boards have been very helpful in evaluating the top flight programs, and I think I have very good experiences. But it seems like my age is a huge disadvantage, even though I think I can contribute at a level on par with mid- to top-tier applicants. Admittedly due to the nature of my jobs (heavy travel) and my changing life circumstances, my leadership and community service are not on level. This has really complicated the school selection process a bit.

Perhaps I should also add a bit of color to why my experience is as varied as it is. I originally started off at a Big 4 thinking I'd end up a public accountant, but after 3 years I found banking and investments more interesting. But switching to I-banking or investment management from public accounting isn't that easy, so I took a chance with a national banking regulatory agency to better understand the industry. I've since leveraged my experience with that position and finally work for a large I-bank, but in credit analysis rather than as a buy- or sell-side analyst or in investment management. Now I feel I am ready to make the intended switch to I-banking or into a PE firm / hedge fund / mutual fund.

Some more details >>

US Citizen, South Asian descent (which I'm guessing qualifies me as "a dime a dozen")

Male (same)

32 in September

Public Mid Tier (regional state university in Northeast Ohio); GPA 4.0, Finance and Economics double major. Graduated a salutatorian. Lots of leadership experiences here (see below).

Private Top Tier (Midwestern Catholic university); GPA 3.64, Master's of Science in Accountancy. Part of a competitive work-study program with a Big 4 firm (fully paid for, hard to get). Some leadership.

GMAT (6 years ago; will take again later this year):
660 (V: 42, Q: 38)

Work Exp:
1. 3 years, staff accountant for a Big 4 firm (during the whole SoX period)
2. 3.5 years, associate bank examiner for a major regulatory agency (during the recent housing crisis)
3. 6 months to present, credit analyst at large multinational investment bank

1. CPA / attest (California)
2. Planning on CFA

EC: Lots during undergrad -- president of four clubs (including the umbrella business organization of all clubs), active with community service (actually did a food drive during graduation day), very good rapport with professors / deans / students. More intense grad school -- member of a committee, but otherwise working. Not much since -- first two jobs were travel jobs, so little time for community service; current job is a desk job, so more time. Now -- VP of two positions for local Toastmasters chapter, volunteer 2x/month at the local food bank.

Goals / Potential paths: Investment Banking (Bank M&A), Consulting (Banks), Investment Analysis (Financials), Investment Management / Portfolio Analysis

My school choices were based on:
1. GMAT, BusinessWeek Rankings
2. Personal preference (location, brand, class size)

Here's where I think I am (updated to reflect new info from other posts):
- Dream Schools / Little Chance: Penn/Wharton (#1 choice by far), Stanford, Chicago/Booth, NW/Kellogg, Berkeley/Haas, Columbia, MIT/Sloan
- Reach: Duke/Fuqua, UMich/Ross, UVA/Darden, UCLA/Anderson
- Better Chance: UNC/K-F, NYU/Stern, Notre Dame/Mendoza, USC/Marshall

My guess is that with a very high GMAT score (ie, >700), I at least have a shot at the Dream Schools (however remote) and a better chance at the Reach schools. But even then I may be kidding myself -- so I'm asking if these reconsidered levels for school choices / planned applications is realistic. If you have any thoughts or comments or recommendations, they will be most appreciated.

Thank you so much for your time and help in advance!

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Re: Profile Evaluation -- another opinion [#permalink]

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New post 02 May 2011, 23:54
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Hi abhattac5:

To be honest, I read through your monster post and I am still not sure what your specific question is. Do you want me to evaluate Alex's advice or do you want me to evaluate your fit at your target schools or do you want me to tell you what weaknesses you have in your overall profile?
I can do 2 and 3. I won't be able to evaluate Alex's advice because a) I don't know what his advice is b) it wouldn't be appropriate.

I will try to do your original post justice by being as thorough as possible my response. However, I may not be able to address everything that you wanted, because I am not necessarily sure what it is that you are seeking.

I think your unstated question revolves around your age. At 32, you are deathly at the upper limit of what would be a desirable candidate -- strictly based on age. So your strategy should center on why, at age 32, is now the right time for you to go get your MBA. If you can come up with a compelling reason for the admissions committee, then you do stand a chance at a top 15 school. If you cannot come up for reasons to explain why you are approximately 5 or six years older than the "traditional applicant", then you do not stand a chance. Remember, all of the advice I give dependent on your ability to get a GMAT score that is approximately 720 or higher. Just breaking 700, in your case is not going to be enough. You need to get greater than the average at that particular school, because of your age and because of your demographic. of course, every 10 points above 720 is just icing on the cake and I really hope that you will be able to pull off a 750 or so.

So what is his reason for why you are applying each 32? Of course, your graduate degree puts you behind by one or two years, but you have to get beyond just using that as a legitimate reason. I would center your strategy on explaining your journey from a big four to an investment bank. I would talk about how you realize your passion for an investment banking career at a certain stage. Basically, you have to explain that what you were working on as a big four accounting was perhaps only part of the picture. When you realized that there was a whole macro view or approach to finance or accounting, you realize that in order for you to truly understand the mechanics of what you are examining as an accountant, you have to move in the investment banking direction. What this does is that it sets up your reason for getting an MBA. Meaning, you can talk about how this introspection or stream of consciousness eventually will result, or has resulted, in your need for an MBA within your current position. Within an essay, you would then go on to speak to your short and long-term goals within private equity -- for example. I do not think that you are "dead on arrival" solely based on your age. As you already know, is more based on your GMAT score.

the problem with wanting to move into private equity, is that there are really only a handful of schools that are respected in the private equity world. The schools would include Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Chicago and Columbia. I do think that you stated chance at Chicago and Columbia -- if you can get a monster GMAT score. I hate to beat a dead horse, repeatedly and to death again -- please get at least a 720+.

I suppose that you could get into a Ross, Duke or even UCLA. But I know, since I attended UCLA, that the school will really not do too much for your private equity prospects -- especially if you want to relocate to be East Coast. As far as attending UNC or Mendoza or even Marshall, these names are not going to be respected in the private equity world at all. This is especially true, if you do not bring anything unique to the table, such as prior investment banking experience beyond your credit analysis role.

I did have questions about your general timeline and some of the certifications that you plan on obtaining. The minimum that you can obtain the CFA in (all three levels) is 18 months. So are you saying that you are gunning for the CFA level I only? Just wondering.

at this point, I would really, really focus on the GMAT. It will be your saving grace. Take the test, and let me know how well you do. If you were able to get a reasonably competitive score, I would like to set up a one-hour initial consultation with you. I do believe that I can help you get into a school that be respected in the private equity world -- but of course it all depends on your GMAT score.

I hope this helps.

Paul Lanzillotti

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Status: Never give up!
Affiliations: Beta Gamma Sigma, Omicron Delta Epsilon, Toastmasters Intl, HHonors
Joined: 04 Nov 2009
Posts: 223
Location: Raleigh-Durham NC
Re: Profile Evaluation -- another opinion [#permalink]

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New post 03 May 2011, 07:33
Hi Paul,

Thank you so much for such a comprehensive and relevant answer. And I'm truly sorry if I wasn't clear -- you were actually right. These would have been the questions I would have asked had I constructed the post better:

- Am I too old to be even realistically thinking for some of my "Dream Schools"?
- Could I realistically move into my desired investments / banking-related career paths if I didn't get into a "Dream School"?
- Are there other weaknesses that I might be overlooking in my profile?

I'll PM the rest of my response.

Very much appreciated. Thanks again.

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Profile Evaluation -- another opinion

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