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Profile Evaluation! Too Plain Vanilla?

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Joined: 03 May 2010
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Profile Evaluation! Too Plain Vanilla? [#permalink]

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New post 03 May 2010, 19:56
Hi, I just wanted to gauge my chances for top 7 b-schools (H/S/W, Columbia, NYU, etc.). I'm very interested in Wharton, and want to apply early decision. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated!! Thanks in advance. Here's some info about me:

Basic Stats:
Age: 26
Undergrad: 3.85, top 30 state school on the East Coast
Undergrad Activities: Analyst in endowment program/club (competitive), consulting fellows program,
entrepreneurship program, modest community service, decent leadership experience on campus,
strong junior year internship
GMAT: 720

Work Experience:
Investment Banking Analyst: 2 Years at a Bulge Bracket in tech on the West Coast
VC Fund (<$1B): Currently an associate in my 2nd year

Modest community service activities (tutoring for underprivileged, position in local organization, etc.), responsible for arranging several charity events for my current firm

Strong rec's from manager at current firm, IB firm

Career Goals:
Start-up, entrepreneurship, private equity, or continuing in VC.

Clearly, I fit in the mold of a plain vanilla banker with 2 years of IB BB experience and 2 years of VC experience. I have decent ECs, but honestly, nothing that's TOO out of the box. I'm extremely interested in Wharton, and I'd like to apply early decision.

1. What are my chances at Wharton early decision with my current credentials? What about H/S?
2. What are other top 10 schools would I be a strong candidate for?
3. Any other feedback?

Thanks in advance!! I'm just trying to figure out where I stand.

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Re: Profile Evaluation! Too Plain Vanilla? [#permalink]

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New post 07 May 2010, 00:38
Hi KJackson:
I have worked with a few hundred applicants over the past 8 years, and your profile is strong but fairly common. When I say "common", I mean that you are hailing from an oversubscribed applicant group. However, examining your candidacy methodically will help you think critically about your differentiation.

This is the basic paradigm in which you want to view your candidacy. I call it the MBA Acceptance Equation (TM):

GMAT (at or above the school's mean) + GPA (undergrad performance) + Work Experience + Personal Passions and Philanthropic Pursuits + MBA (in general) + MBA (from the specific program) = Short Term + Longer Term Goals

You have to hit on the above to be a competitive candidate at School X. If School X is H/S/W, then you can easily check the rankings for the average GMAT and GPA. The good news is that you are at the mean.

Since you have cleared this first hurdle, you want to move onto your work experience. Your W/E is "vanilla" but it still keeps you in the running. An associate it a good pre-MBA title as a sr. associate it typically reserved for post-mba careers.
Your first question regarded W/E should be around the size of your firm. How many other associates are there? How many analysts report up to you? You always want to stress leadership in this part of the MBA Acceptance Equation. So, if you work for a smaller firm, you need to stress your ability to wear many hats and work with C-level individuals and decision makers to get things done. Stress how your jack of all trades nature goes beyond title and formal authority. Make sure that you articulate a story where multi-faceted nature caused you to come up the curve quickly while (perhaps) helping to build an entrepreneurial organization. (Your recs HAVE to back up this story).
The same could be about a larger organization to a certain extent. However, you have to also talk about how you were a leader among peers. That is, you did not get lost in the shuffle and while there was an established hierarchy, you went above and beyond the established paradigm to ask for more authority and then fully live up to that expectation. An example of this would be a sales assistant who may have been the only one entrusted with formal trading authority (I know you work in VC btw.)

Moving onto the next part of the equation: personal passions and philanthropic pursuits (P/P/P/P)
Your extracurriculars are decent but they lack a logical connection to your longer term goals. At least this is what I can tell from the basic P/P/P/P info you provided. This is very often the achilles heel with bankers. They work a lot of hours so they have little time for out of the office pursuits. However, they are too readily labeled as self-serving. You need to break this.
My suggestion is to get out and find a new out of the office leadership activity. What is the nature of your VC activity? Is it clean tech? Using clean tech as an example, is there some type of local organization that sponsors events or conferences on the subject? Is there some type of outreach associated with this? I would start there (it's not too late) and find a subject area that builds off of your professional acumen but also towards a longer term goal. Remember, the best candidates are those that have out of the office activities that marry up their professional background with a philanthropic interest that get them towards their longer term goal. Almost every candidate misses this point. Don't make that mistake.

This brings us to the Why MBA? Why this school? part of the equation. Why MBA is fairly easy. It's related to the Peter Principle and it is customized to your specific case. I know that in IB, the MBA is a rite of passage. However, you have to put forth the case that you are maxing out your current skill set and to be as damn effective as you have in the past, you need the strategic skills that an MBA can provide.
So then, why this school? If you are picking HBS and Stanford, you have to be aware that these are 2 very, very different schools. Trust me, it looks less than desirable for HBS to see that you are applying to GSB and vice versa. I explain more in a guide I wrote on Applying to HBS (, you can download it via the link. In short, it looks like you are just applying to top schools with no real connection to the program or clear idea of what you want to do with your MBA. If you have more questions, I can help you with this.

The above represents the left side of the MBA Acceptance equation. This have to sum logically in order to reach the right side of the equation and for you to not look like a half-baked applicant in the eyes of the admissions committee. To put it another way, all parts have to build on each other, so you look like you were preparing to enter the pearly gates of HBS (or School X) from the day you came into this world.

The right side of the equation is made up of your logically connecting short and longer term goals that build on the left side of the equation.
It is critically important that your short term goals is actionable. That is, it is consistent and it is logical that you would be able to get this job, graduating from the school in question. I cringe when I talk to applicants and they have not idea whether or not the firm (by way of a position they defined in their essays) actually comes to campus to recruit. Again, sloppy homework. Remember, short term goals are tactical so that the admissions committee can report to US News that 97% of their graduates are employed 3 months after graduation. No joke.
The longer term goal is a career path that is 5+ years after graduation. Again, this has to build on your short term goal which builds on your current W/E. Again, no zigs or zags. MBA program are not a place to find yourself. The important part of a logical long-term goal is that it should be more philanthropic in nature. That is, it starts to incorporate elements of your P/P/P/P. So, in the longer term, you are going to be a person who actually gives back to society, a profession and a cause.
See how this works? It's not a secret sauce but rather an applicant who has thought about what he wants to do and has his shit together. As base as this sounds, your differentiation is having your shit together. This makes you not a vanilla candidate.
At this point, the only missing piece I see is this differentiating factor (of having your story down) and the missing extracurricular piece. In fact, I lecture at UCLA once in a while for one of their pre-MBA programs. I spoke to this point a few months back. You can watch the video here: ... _workshop/. The sound quality is lacking, but you get the point.

In closing, I would like to offer up my resources as I think you are a competitive applicant at a top 10. I would like to speak to you over the phone for a consultation (pro grata). This conversation would probably last an hour to 90 minutes. Please PM me and let me know if this is something you would be interested in. I don't hard sell but I know that my comments above will open up more questions. Speaking over the phone would allow me to be as honest and forthright as possible.

Paul Lanzillotti

Paul Lanzillotti | Founder| About | | 877.866.9251

Schedule a Consultation | Twitter | Blog

Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton

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Re: Profile Evaluation! Too Plain Vanilla?   [#permalink] 07 May 2010, 00:38
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