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Profile review, would appreciate if someone could kindly take a look!

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Profile review, would appreciate if someone could kindly take a look!  [#permalink]

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New post 10 Apr 2019, 07:58
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Would really appreciate a look at my profile, thx!

Background and nationality: Chinese male, age 26, spent 25 years in China but scored 29/30 on speaking of TOEFL.

Undergrad Information:
-Undergrad: Top2 university in China, double degree: BS in applied mathematics (GPA 2.8/4.0,) and BA in economics (GPA 3.3/4.0)
-Graduate: Top20 east coast graduate school in US, MA in applied economics (GPA 3.9/4.0)

GMAT: 740 (q50 v40 awa5 ir4), will take again soon.

Work experience and leadership: 2.5 yrs at the top investment bank in China, 3.5 yrs at matriculation. I started as a CDO manager and managed securitization projects. Since 2018 my role has been shifting to alternative credit investment. I currently focus on private non-standardized debt investment and CLO equity. It was a good combination for me, because private debt investment trains my soft skills in project management and communication, while CLO equity investment trains my hard skills in quantitative analysis. I also help the macro rates group on investment research projects.
Career highlights are listed as follows:
-Led one of the most complicated securitization deals in the ninth month of my career. Both VP and SVP were taking maternity leaves and the management responsibilities fell on my shoulder. I was in a position to make 80% of all the decisions and to manage lawyers, credit analysts, and interns. I wasn't able to close the deal due to regulation change, but it was still good experience and I learned a lot from it.
-With an intern and a colleague, I developed the investment analytical models and system for consumer credit asset class, opening out group to a trillion dollar market, which is very premature because so few people in China understand the quantitative technology behind it. I made a good impact by replacing traditional investment analytical methodology with 21st century data science. It was a changing point of my career because the project enlightened my ambition in FinTech.
-Did a bunch of digitalization and automation work since I decided to go into FinTech in the future. For example, I built a database wrote a small program to automate the non-standardized debt trading execution and paperwork drafting. It does not involve much leadership experience, but I'd like to think that I made some impact.

Community and others:
-Volunteered at a micro-loan non-profit in senior year of undergrad as a credit analyst.
-Volunteered at a social enterprise that provides consulting service to non-profits. Brokered a large amount of impact investment funding from a tech giant for a small institution based in the poorest town in Yunnan Province.
-Used to be an amateur athlete of 200m sprint.

Post MBA goals:
Long-term: FinTech - robo adviser, hopefully to start my own firm at some point down the road.
Short-term: Either traditional finance or tech firm would make sense in the short term, becasue a solid background in either finance or tech could help a career in FinTech.

Other info:
Low GPA: I'm aware that my undergrad GPA might be a deal breaker. I went to a school that happened to gather all the top mathematical geniuses in China. I enjouyed the challenge, but my GPA inevitably suffered because the courses and exams were specially designed for those guys. I hope my graduate GPA and my work could somehow prove that I'm fully capable of advanced learning.
5 months' gap: I came back to China in Sep 2016 but started working in Feb 2017. The gap was because Chinese firms don't usually do Skype interviews for students abroad and it is very common for Chinese students to attend campus recruitment after they come back from US to China. We actually have a law specifically saying that students who study abroad will maintain legal status of fresh graduates for one more year after they come back.

I'm fully aware that I'm probably in the worst applicant pool of S16, so don't hold back and please strike me with all the hard truth. Thank you!
MBA Admissions Consultant
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Profile review, would appreciate if someone could kindly take a look!  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Apr 2019, 13:20
Hi Hoagie:

Thanks for reaching out to me. And thanks for the relevant information and detailed profile as it helps me tremendously.

For starters, you are not the worst applicant in the pool. While you do have some deficiencies, they are reasonable and because of that , they are explainable.

Your GPA:

I'm assuming you have approximately two years of full-time work experience as of right now. The general rule is the longer you are away from undergrad, the less your undergraduate GPA matters. Assuming you spent an additional year in graduate school, that means you have about three years since earning your GPAs - 2.8 and 3.3 - as a double majors in Applied Mathematics and Economics. While three years of work experience does help temper the lower GPAs, it won't help as much as to other factors - first, the strength of your undergraduate institution and second, the fact that you picked 2 rather difficult majors. We have to keep things in perspective for the admissions committee. This means they will want to know where you fall with respect to the rest of the class. So does your transcript indicate your standing or ranking in your departments? That will provide perspective. If your university is indeed a top 2 in China, then the admissions committee will be familiar with how difficult getting a 2.8 or 3.3 may be. You get a few extra brownie points. In other words, the admissions committee will grade your GPA on a curve. The arc of that curve will all depend on the rest of your fellow classmates and your rank within your department. So if you performed fairly well – let's say top 20 or 25% within the class, you should be okay. Don't worry about the admissions committee looking at your GPA at face value. However, you do have to explain the circumstances to make sure the admissions committee does not take them for granted. In very much the same way you explained your circumstances to me, you should explain something similar to the admissions committee. Of course, use the optional essay to write a very on point summary of the circumstances. Don't bloviate. Don't make "the dog ate my homework" excuses. Just get to the point. If you have to fall on your sword a little bit, then do so. For example, if you lack maturity and therefore an ability to prioritize everything you encountered on campus during your freshman year, then say so. With any reason/excuse – just don't bullshit as it wastes the reader's time.

By the way, your graduate GPA – 3.9 – does help to make up for your undergraduate performance. It tells them that you're not a liability or a potential grenade in the MBA classroom when it comes to quant concepts. Of course, your work experience tells them that you are not going to be a grenade as well.

All in all, the admissions committee tends to look at your undergraduate GPA from a couple of different perspectives: – 1 – how well does the applicant's undergraduate GPA stack up against others from the same school and from similar programs at other universities? - 2 - with respect to quant heavy subjects, is the applicant a potential liability in the MBA classroom?

Your GMAT:

What's the difference between a 740 and anything higher than that? At very top MBA programs, it could make the difference between getting accepted when the first round of announcements roll out and being waitlisted. Also, from my experience it makes a huge difference with respect to the amount of scholarship (free) money you will receive. With a 740, you may get a little money. With a 760, you are almost guaranteed to get money at top MBA programs like Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg. Again, this is based on my own personal client experience. On that note, over the last two years I've seen a drastic increase in the amount of scholarship money being handed to international applicants with high GMAT scores. I just had an international client receive more than $100,000 from HBS. Not too shabby.

By the way, when you retake the GMAT I would not worry too much about your AWA and integrated reasoning scores. Sure they could be a little higher, but you are really leaving money on the table – literally – with your lower verbal score. So I would not worry about improving your quad score – just maintain. my opinion, admissions committees will say they care about all scores on the GMAT, but what it really comes down to is they care about your quant and verbal scores, unless your AWA and integrated reasoning scores are alarmingly low.

Your Work Experience:

It seems like you're getting pretty darn good experience at your top investment banking China.if I was your consultant, I want to know more about the your shift to alternative credit investment and what the future of that segment is in China – risks and opportunities.

Based on what you told me about the securitization deals you worked on, it seems that you have the beginnings of a good story covered for any school that asks you for a leadership essay. The "I was thrust into a position of leadership" story because of maternity leave or because I was the last man standing always seem to resonate with admissions committees if written correctly.

Harvard will often ask – in the interview – what legacy do you think you will leave behind at your current place of employment (or undergraduate). This is why I like the anecdote about the quantitative models you developed and how you innovated to do so. Based on what you told me, I think it's especially notable given the nascent nature of quantitative tech in China. this is definitely something that should be highlighted in your application – on your resume, in the interview, on your essays.

I like your goals - short and long-term. Keep in mind that as an international applicant, I think it's especially relevant that you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. Of course this short-term backup plan should represent a parallel path toward your longer-term aspirations. A caveat – this is less important at schools like Stanford and Harvard. But for every other MBA program - with the exception of MIT Sloan - I personally feel it's imperative you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. It could be as simple as returning to your current employer but in a much more strategic role. As long as this gets you toward your ultimate, longer-term goals, you are cool.

Looking at your longer-term goals from the perspective of a Stanford or HBS application - what is the "personal" connection you have to your longer-term goals? Now, I'm not saying that your personal connection is because your mom and dad own a community bank in China. I'm not saying that at all! What I am saying is something like this – for example – as a citizen of China, what do you hope to contribute to your country or region with the world that will make its financial systems more robust and transparent? if you know about the building liability within China's financial systems – i.e. something similar to what happened in the USA in 2007/2008 - what can you do to help lead work that addresses these systemic issues? Again, this is only an example. I'm not as familiar as you are with what's going on in China. You're the expert when it comes to that and this is an important point. Because when you write your essays, you need to approach it as if you are knowledgeable. This does not mean telling the admissions committee everything and anything about the nature of systemic risk in Chinese financial markets. not at all. What this does mean is simply the following – if you come to the table with an essay that talks about how you want to address systemic risk in China's financial system, then the admissions committee will lend you that credibility (as long as you don't write batshit insane commentary that cannot possibly be true even to the layman - i.e. China can solve all its systemic issues by packaging up its CDO's and putting them on a rocket to Mars. You get the point!)

Anyway, the admissions committee won't know as much about the specifics, but they will know a little. So if you ever find yourself over explaining something, then don't do that. If this doesn't make sense to you, it's okay. Just make sure you don't end up educating the admissions committee on the technicalities of finance and risk in Chinese financial markets. It's a waste your time and their time. Anyway, I digress, slightly.

Your Work Gap:

Five months does need to be explained. But don't worry, it's not a dealbreaker in any way. This is more of a technical matter and not one born out of your bad habits or something unfortunate. All you have to do is explain it the way you explained it to me. Keep it short and simple.

Your Extracurricular Experience:

in general, I believe that current volunteer experience is useful if 1) you maintain a leadership position – formal or informal and/or 2) it's consistent with your personal interests and past community involvement.

There are a lot of caveats here. If you lack leadership experience at work, then it has to be made up somewhere and that's where extracurricular community service can help. It's no replacement for leadership at work, but the more leadership oriented it is, the better off you'll be. let's say you have plenty of formal or informal leadership experience at work - then it's perfectly appropriate if your significant volunteer experience outside of the office simply furthers the narrative of who you are (for the purposes of applying to business school). In other words, if you are an investor and you really take a hands-on approach to mentoring your portfolio companies, then mentoring little Johnny at a local high school would solidify the narrative. In addition, if your longer-term goal after your MBA is to fund initiatives at underperforming schools, then mentoring little Johnny helps to solidify that narrative. Again, mentoring little Johnny is not a replacement for your work experience as an investor, but it can help flavor the narrative. So if you want to move into impact investing and you have extensive experience mentoring little Johnny and working on the board of a charter school, then that will help solidify the picture you are painting (for the Adcom) in the goals you are proclaiming.

This is why I do like your current volunteer experience. It bolsters what you do at work. It tells the admissions committee what you value and how you live your values.

Your Target Schools:

At the top of your list should be HBS. I believe you would be competitive for Harvard even with your 740 and your undergraduate GPA. Just we are clear, HBS is a stretch, but I believe you should at least try. In no way would you be dead on arrival. Not even close. Shoot for Harvard. They take a very mature approach to evaluating candidates (i.e. holistically). Frankly, HBS doesn't really give a **** about the rankings (as a program's average GPA affects their ranking). If they like you and you have a few scratches and dents, they will take you. Rankings be damned. In my experience, it's the same situation with Stanford.

I would also target the usual suspects for a guy with your background. This includes Chicago Booth, Wharton, Columbia and perhaps MIT Sloan and Kellogg. It goes without saying, but I will mention it - if actually you plan to go back to China, reputation of your MBA program will matter. Of course you won't have a problem with HSW, but you may have a problem with otherwise great finance schools such as NYU Stern. Again, this is for you to assess. I'm just giving you the heads up.

Overall, I am extremely positive about your candidacy. As I referenced earlier in this rather long analysis, it's a great year to apply as an international. Because of current circumstances, US business schools are hurting for top international students. Don't get distracted by the fray. Strike while the iron is hot. I've been doing this for 13 years and this has to be among the best years for international students to apply.

Finally, a general disclaimer. Please keep in mind that my comments and feedback are based upon my experiences over the last 13 years of working with MBA applicants. Because I do not have full insight into your background, my comments are informational and do not constitute specific advice.

Respectfully,
Paul Lanzillotti

Hoagie wrote:
Would really appreciate a look at my profile, thx!

Background and nationality: Chinese male, age 26, spent 25 years in China but scored 29/30 on speaking of TOEFL.

Undergrad Information:
-Undergrad: Top2 university in China, double degree: BS in applied mathematics (GPA 2.8/4.0,) and BA in economics (GPA 3.3/4.0)
-Graduate: Top20 east coast graduate school in US, MA in applied economics (GPA 3.9/4.0)

GMAT: 740 (q50 v40 awa5 ir4), will take again soon.

Work experience and leadership: 2.5 yrs at the top investment bank in China, 3.5 yrs at matriculation. I started as a CDO manager and managed securitization projects. Since 2018 my role has been shifting to alternative credit investment. I currently focus on private non-standardized debt investment and CLO equity. It was a good combination for me, because private debt investment trains my soft skills in project management and communication, while CLO equity investment trains my hard skills in quantitative analysis. I also help the macro rates group on investment research projects.
Career highlights are listed as follows:
-Led one of the most complicated securitization deals in the ninth month of my career. Both VP and SVP were taking maternity leaves and the management responsibilities fell on my shoulder. I was in a position to make 80% of all the decisions and to manage lawyers, credit analysts, and interns. I wasn't able to close the deal due to regulation change, but it was still good experience and I learned a lot from it.
-With an intern and a colleague, I developed the investment analytical models and system for consumer credit asset class, opening out group to a trillion dollar market, which is very premature because so few people in China understand the quantitative technology behind it. I made a good impact by replacing traditional investment analytical methodology with 21st century data science. It was a changing point of my career because the project enlightened my ambition in FinTech.
-Did a bunch of digitalization and automation work since I decided to go into FinTech in the future. For example, I built a database wrote a small program to automate the non-standardized debt trading execution and paperwork drafting. It does not involve much leadership experience, but I'd like to think that I made some impact.

Community and others:
-Volunteered at a micro-loan non-profit in senior year of undergrad as a credit analyst.
-Volunteered at a social enterprise that provides consulting service to non-profits. Brokered a large amount of impact investment funding from a tech giant for a small institution based in the poorest town in Yunnan Province.
-Used to be an amateur athlete of 200m sprint.

Post MBA goals:
Long-term: FinTech - robo adviser, hopefully to start my own firm at some point down the road.
Short-term: Either traditional finance or tech firm would make sense in the short term, becasue a solid background in either finance or tech could help a career in FinTech.

Other info:
Low GPA: I'm aware that my undergrad GPA might be a deal breaker. I went to a school that happened to gather all the top mathematical geniuses in China. I enjouyed the challenge, but my GPA inevitably suffered because the courses and exams were specially designed for those guys. I hope my graduate GPA and my work could somehow prove that I'm fully capable of advanced learning.
5 months' gap: I came back to China in Sep 2016 but started working in Feb 2017. The gap was because Chinese firms don't usually do Skype interviews for students abroad and it is very common for Chinese students to attend campus recruitment after they come back from US to China. We actually have a law specifically saying that students who study abroad will maintain legal status of fresh graduates for one more year after they come back.

I'm fully aware that I'm probably in the worst applicant pool of S16, so don't hold back and please strike me with all the hard truth. Thank you!

_________________

Paul Lanzillotti | Founder| About | mba@amerasiaconsulting.com | 877.866.9251

Schedule a Consultation | Twitter | Blog

Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton
MBA Admissions Consultant
User avatar
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Joined: 25 Jan 2010
Posts: 946
Re: Profile review, would appreciate if someone could kindly take a look!  [#permalink]

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New post 13 Apr 2019, 13:26
By the way, if you would like to speak about your candidacy over the phone, please email me at mba@amerasiaconsulting.com. Please ask to speak with me and reference this conversation.

Hoagie wrote:
Would really appreciate a look at my profile, thx!

Background and nationality: Chinese male, age 26, spent 25 years in China but scored 29/30 on speaking of TOEFL.

Undergrad Information:
-Undergrad: Top2 university in China, double degree: BS in applied mathematics (GPA 2.8/4.0,) and BA in economics (GPA 3.3/4.0)
-Graduate: Top20 east coast graduate school in US, MA in applied economics (GPA 3.9/4.0)

GMAT: 740 (q50 v40 awa5 ir4), will take again soon.

Work experience and leadership: 2.5 yrs at the top investment bank in China, 3.5 yrs at matriculation. I started as a CDO manager and managed securitization projects. Since 2018 my role has been shifting to alternative credit investment. I currently focus on private non-standardized debt investment and CLO equity. It was a good combination for me, because private debt investment trains my soft skills in project management and communication, while CLO equity investment trains my hard skills in quantitative analysis. I also help the macro rates group on investment research projects.
Career highlights are listed as follows:
-Led one of the most complicated securitization deals in the ninth month of my career. Both VP and SVP were taking maternity leaves and the management responsibilities fell on my shoulder. I was in a position to make 80% of all the decisions and to manage lawyers, credit analysts, and interns. I wasn't able to close the deal due to regulation change, but it was still good experience and I learned a lot from it.
-With an intern and a colleague, I developed the investment analytical models and system for consumer credit asset class, opening out group to a trillion dollar market, which is very premature because so few people in China understand the quantitative technology behind it. I made a good impact by replacing traditional investment analytical methodology with 21st century data science. It was a changing point of my career because the project enlightened my ambition in FinTech.
-Did a bunch of digitalization and automation work since I decided to go into FinTech in the future. For example, I built a database wrote a small program to automate the non-standardized debt trading execution and paperwork drafting. It does not involve much leadership experience, but I'd like to think that I made some impact.

Community and others:
-Volunteered at a micro-loan non-profit in senior year of undergrad as a credit analyst.
-Volunteered at a social enterprise that provides consulting service to non-profits. Brokered a large amount of impact investment funding from a tech giant for a small institution based in the poorest town in Yunnan Province.
-Used to be an amateur athlete of 200m sprint.

Post MBA goals:
Long-term: FinTech - robo adviser, hopefully to start my own firm at some point down the road.
Short-term: Either traditional finance or tech firm would make sense in the short term, becasue a solid background in either finance or tech could help a career in FinTech.

Other info:
Low GPA: I'm aware that my undergrad GPA might be a deal breaker. I went to a school that happened to gather all the top mathematical geniuses in China. I enjouyed the challenge, but my GPA inevitably suffered because the courses and exams were specially designed for those guys. I hope my graduate GPA and my work could somehow prove that I'm fully capable of advanced learning.
5 months' gap: I came back to China in Sep 2016 but started working in Feb 2017. The gap was because Chinese firms don't usually do Skype interviews for students abroad and it is very common for Chinese students to attend campus recruitment after they come back from US to China. We actually have a law specifically saying that students who study abroad will maintain legal status of fresh graduates for one more year after they come back.

I'm fully aware that I'm probably in the worst applicant pool of S16, so don't hold back and please strike me with all the hard truth. Thank you!

_________________

Paul Lanzillotti | Founder| About | mba@amerasiaconsulting.com | 877.866.9251

Schedule a Consultation | Twitter | Blog

Download "How To Apply" Guides | INSEAD | Columbia | Harvard | Wharton
Intern
Intern
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Joined: 08 Jan 2019
Posts: 11
Profile review, would appreciate if someone could kindly take a look!  [#permalink]

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New post 14 Apr 2019, 08:27
1
Thank you Paul! I'm extremely grateful for your detailed analysis!

Could I ramp up for one last thing about my profile?

The GPA problem: I'm choosing my words very carefully here because I don't want to come out as arrogant. I did my undergrad at Peking University, and my undergrad school is kind of special in terms of mathematics major. We have probably the strongest math department in Asia with students who got all sorts of gold medals in math Olympics (I gotta blame the education system of China for this, proven mathematical geniuses are automatically sent to PKU and it makes us who only have "regular intelligence" living in hell). Apparently the courses must be designed for the genius, not for us regular people. The curriculum of my junior year in college is pretty much the same as that of the Princeton mathematics PhD, for crying out loud... Not knowing the exact number, I estimated that I rank about 70% in my department. And the average GPA is about 3.0 to 3.1. BUT, and I speak with great certainty, even the worst students in our department are killing it in prestigious graduate schools all around the world. I have no doubt that I will be one of the best learners in all business schools, and I'm sure my graduate school professors will be happy to vouch for that. Obviously I can't say that in the essay cuz it makes me look arrogant. But between you and me, everything I said is true. The silver lining is that my school doesn't have an official GPA or ranking on the transcripts, the GPA is merely a reference number calculated with a bizarre formula. So here's what I plan to do with it. I won't put it in the application form in case some AO use some sort of screening programs to screen me out at first sight. My defense for my GPA is that I had always known the math department would be hell for me, but I took it anyway because I simply want the challenge. I didn't really care for theoretical mathematics and I inevitably struggled with it. But I did great on the applied side of my major. I received high scores on most applied quantitative courses. It's consistent with why I got into this hell major in the first place. I did this to train myself to be an applied economist, not a theoretical mathematician. Subsequently, I did extremely well in a Master program that is heavily weighted on applied statistics and econometrics. If the AO cares to check out my linkedin page, he or she will find several papers and sample work which are all highly quantitative, including a paper in which I even invented a mathematical model in evolutionary game theory. I'm really not bragging, but there's no way I will be a liability in terms of academics in business schools, not even close. I'm extremely confident that I will be one of the best learners. I just can't figure out how to phrase that in my materials.


PaulLanzillotti wrote:
Hi Hoagie:

Thanks for reaching out to me. And thanks for the relevant information and detailed profile as it helps me tremendously.

For starters, you are not the worst applicant in the pool. While you do have some deficiencies, they are reasonable and because of that , they are explainable.

Your GPA:

I'm assuming you have approximately two years of full-time work experience as of right now. The general rule is the longer you are away from undergrad, the less your undergraduate GPA matters. Assuming you spent an additional year in graduate school, that means you have about three years since earning your GPAs - 2.8 and 3.3 - as a double majors in Applied Mathematics and Economics. While three years of work experience does help temper the lower GPAs, it won't help as much as to other factors - first, the strength of your undergraduate institution and second, the fact that you picked 2 rather difficult majors. We have to keep things in perspective for the admissions committee. This means they will want to know where you fall with respect to the rest of the class. So does your transcript indicate your standing or ranking in your departments? That will provide perspective. If your university is indeed a top 2 in China, then the admissions committee will be familiar with how difficult getting a 2.8 or 3.3 may be. You get a few extra brownie points. In other words, the admissions committee will grade your GPA on a curve. The arc of that curve will all depend on the rest of your fellow classmates and your rank within your department. So if you performed fairly well – let's say top 20 or 25% within the class, you should be okay. Don't worry about the admissions committee looking at your GPA at face value. However, you do have to explain the circumstances to make sure the admissions committee does not take them for granted. In very much the same way you explained your circumstances to me, you should explain something similar to the admissions committee. Of course, use the optional essay to write a very on point summary of the circumstances. Don't bloviate. Don't make "the dog ate my homework" excuses. Just get to the point. If you have to fall on your sword a little bit, then do so. For example, if you lack maturity and therefore an ability to prioritize everything you encountered on campus during your freshman year, then say so. With any reason/excuse – just don't bullshit as it wastes the reader's time.

By the way, your graduate GPA – 3.9 – does help to make up for your undergraduate performance. It tells them that you're not a liability or a potential grenade in the MBA classroom when it comes to quant concepts. Of course, your work experience tells them that you are not going to be a grenade as well.

All in all, the admissions committee tends to look at your undergraduate GPA from a couple of different perspectives: – 1 – how well does the applicant's undergraduate GPA stack up against others from the same school and from similar programs at other universities? - 2 - with respect to quant heavy subjects, is the applicant a potential liability in the MBA classroom?

Your GMAT:

What's the difference between a 740 and anything higher than that? At very top MBA programs, it could make the difference between getting accepted when the first round of announcements roll out and being waitlisted. Also, from my experience it makes a huge difference with respect to the amount of scholarship (free) money you will receive. With a 740, you may get a little money. With a 760, you are almost guaranteed to get money at top MBA programs like Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg. Again, this is based on my own personal client experience. On that note, over the last two years I've seen a drastic increase in the amount of scholarship money being handed to international applicants with high GMAT scores. I just had an international client receive more than $100,000 from HBS. Not too shabby.

By the way, when you retake the GMAT I would not worry too much about your AWA and integrated reasoning scores. Sure they could be a little higher, but you are really leaving money on the table – literally – with your lower verbal score. So I would not worry about improving your quad score – just maintain. my opinion, admissions committees will say they care about all scores on the GMAT, but what it really comes down to is they care about your quant and verbal scores, unless your AWA and integrated reasoning scores are alarmingly low.

Your Work Experience:

It seems like you're getting pretty darn good experience at your top investment banking China.if I was your consultant, I want to know more about the your shift to alternative credit investment and what the future of that segment is in China – risks and opportunities.

Based on what you told me about the securitization deals you worked on, it seems that you have the beginnings of a good story covered for any school that asks you for a leadership essay. The "I was thrust into a position of leadership" story because of maternity leave or because I was the last man standing always seem to resonate with admissions committees if written correctly.

Harvard will often ask – in the interview – what legacy do you think you will leave behind at your current place of employment (or undergraduate). This is why I like the anecdote about the quantitative models you developed and how you innovated to do so. Based on what you told me, I think it's especially notable given the nascent nature of quantitative tech in China. this is definitely something that should be highlighted in your application – on your resume, in the interview, on your essays.

I like your goals - short and long-term. Keep in mind that as an international applicant, I think it's especially relevant that you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. Of course this short-term backup plan should represent a parallel path toward your longer-term aspirations. A caveat – this is less important at schools like Stanford and Harvard. But for every other MBA program - with the exception of MIT Sloan - I personally feel it's imperative you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. It could be as simple as returning to your current employer but in a much more strategic role. As long as this gets you toward your ultimate, longer-term goals, you are cool.

Looking at your longer-term goals from the perspective of a Stanford or HBS application - what is the "personal" connection you have to your longer-term goals? Now, I'm not saying that your personal connection is because your mom and dad own a community bank in China. I'm not saying that at all! What I am saying is something like this – for example – as a citizen of China, what do you hope to contribute to your country or region with the world that will make its financial systems more robust and transparent? if you know about the building liability within China's financial systems – i.e. something similar to what happened in the USA in 2007/2008 - what can you do to help lead work that addresses these systemic issues? Again, this is only an example. I'm not as familiar as you are with what's going on in China. You're the expert when it comes to that and this is an important point. Because when you write your essays, you need to approach it as if you are knowledgeable. This does not mean telling the admissions committee everything and anything about the nature of systemic risk in Chinese financial markets. not at all. What this does mean is simply the following – if you come to the table with an essay that talks about how you want to address systemic risk in China's financial system, then the admissions committee will lend you that credibility (as long as you don't write batshit insane commentary that cannot possibly be true even to the layman - i.e. China can solve all its systemic issues by packaging up its CDO's and putting them on a rocket to Mars. You get the point!)

Anyway, the admissions committee won't know as much about the specifics, but they will know a little. So if you ever find yourself over explaining something, then don't do that. If this doesn't make sense to you, it's okay. Just make sure you don't end up educating the admissions committee on the technicalities of finance and risk in Chinese financial markets. It's a waste your time and their time. Anyway, I digress, slightly.

Your Work Gap:

Five months does need to be explained. But don't worry, it's not a dealbreaker in any way. This is more of a technical matter and not one born out of your bad habits or something unfortunate. All you have to do is explain it the way you explained it to me. Keep it short and simple.

Your Extracurricular Experience:

in general, I believe that current volunteer experience is useful if 1) you maintain a leadership position – formal or informal and/or 2) it's consistent with your personal interests and past community involvement.

There are a lot of caveats here. If you lack leadership experience at work, then it has to be made up somewhere and that's where extracurricular community service can help. It's no replacement for leadership at work, but the more leadership oriented it is, the better off you'll be. let's say you have plenty of formal or informal leadership experience at work - then it's perfectly appropriate if your significant volunteer experience outside of the office simply furthers the narrative of who you are (for the purposes of applying to business school). In other words, if you are an investor and you really take a hands-on approach to mentoring your portfolio companies, then mentoring little Johnny at a local high school would solidify the narrative. In addition, if your longer-term goal after your MBA is to fund initiatives at underperforming schools, then mentoring little Johnny helps to solidify that narrative. Again, mentoring little Johnny is not a replacement for your work experience as an investor, but it can help flavor the narrative. So if you want to move into impact investing and you have extensive experience mentoring little Johnny and working on the board of a charter school, then that will help solidify the picture you are painting (for the Adcom) in the goals you are proclaiming.

This is why I do like your current volunteer experience. It bolsters what you do at work. It tells the admissions committee what you value and how you live your values.

Your Target Schools:

At the top of your list should be HBS. I believe you would be competitive for Harvard even with your 740 and your undergraduate GPA. Just we are clear, HBS is a stretch, but I believe you should at least try. In no way would you be dead on arrival. Not even close. Shoot for Harvard. They take a very mature approach to evaluating candidates (i.e. holistically). Frankly, HBS doesn't really give a **** about the rankings (as a program's average GPA affects their ranking). If they like you and you have a few scratches and dents, they will take you. Rankings be damned. In my experience, it's the same situation with Stanford.

I would also target the usual suspects for a guy with your background. This includes Chicago Booth, Wharton, Columbia and perhaps MIT Sloan and Kellogg. It goes without saying, but I will mention it - if actually you plan to go back to China, reputation of your MBA program will matter. Of course you won't have a problem with HSW, but you may have a problem with otherwise great finance schools such as NYU Stern. Again, this is for you to assess. I'm just giving you the heads up.

Overall, I am extremely positive about your candidacy. As I referenced earlier in this rather long analysis, it's a great year to apply as an international. Because of current circumstances, US business schools are hurting for top international students. Don't get distracted by the fray. Strike while the iron is hot. I've been doing this for 13 years and this has to be among the best years for international students to apply.

Finally, a general disclaimer. Please keep in mind that my comments and feedback are based upon my experiences over the last 13 years of working with MBA applicants. Because I do not have full insight into your background, my comments are informational and do not constitute specific advice.

Respectfully,
Paul Lanzillotti

Hoagie wrote:
Would really appreciate a look at my profile, thx!

Background and nationality: Chinese male, age 26, spent 25 years in China but scored 29/30 on speaking of TOEFL.

Undergrad Information:
-Undergrad: Top2 university in China, double degree: BS in applied mathematics (GPA 2.8/4.0,) and BA in economics (GPA 3.3/4.0)
-Graduate: Top20 east coast graduate school in US, MA in applied economics (GPA 3.9/4.0)

GMAT: 740 (q50 v40 awa5 ir4), will take again soon.

Work experience and leadership: 2.5 yrs at the top investment bank in China, 3.5 yrs at matriculation. I started as a CDO manager and managed securitization projects. Since 2018 my role has been shifting to alternative credit investment. I currently focus on private non-standardized debt investment and CLO equity. It was a good combination for me, because private debt investment trains my soft skills in project management and communication, while CLO equity investment trains my hard skills in quantitative analysis. I also help the macro rates group on investment research projects.
Career highlights are listed as follows:
-Led one of the most complicated securitization deals in the ninth month of my career. Both VP and SVP were taking maternity leaves and the management responsibilities fell on my shoulder. I was in a position to make 80% of all the decisions and to manage lawyers, credit analysts, and interns. I wasn't able to close the deal due to regulation change, but it was still good experience and I learned a lot from it.
-With an intern and a colleague, I developed the investment analytical models and system for consumer credit asset class, opening out group to a trillion dollar market, which is very premature because so few people in China understand the quantitative technology behind it. I made a good impact by replacing traditional investment analytical methodology with 21st century data science. It was a changing point of my career because the project enlightened my ambition in FinTech.
-Did a bunch of digitalization and automation work since I decided to go into FinTech in the future. For example, I built a database wrote a small program to automate the non-standardized debt trading execution and paperwork drafting. It does not involve much leadership experience, but I'd like to think that I made some impact.

Community and others:
-Volunteered at a micro-loan non-profit in senior year of undergrad as a credit analyst.
-Volunteered at a social enterprise that provides consulting service to non-profits. Brokered a large amount of impact investment funding from a tech giant for a small institution based in the poorest town in Yunnan Province.
-Used to be an amateur athlete of 200m sprint.

Post MBA goals:
Long-term: FinTech - robo adviser, hopefully to start my own firm at some point down the road.
Short-term: Either traditional finance or tech firm would make sense in the short term, becasue a solid background in either finance or tech could help a career in FinTech.

Other info:
Low GPA: I'm aware that my undergrad GPA might be a deal breaker. I went to a school that happened to gather all the top mathematical geniuses in China. I enjouyed the challenge, but my GPA inevitably suffered because the courses and exams were specially designed for those guys. I hope my graduate GPA and my work could somehow prove that I'm fully capable of advanced learning.
5 months' gap: I came back to China in Sep 2016 but started working in Feb 2017. The gap was because Chinese firms don't usually do Skype interviews for students abroad and it is very common for Chinese students to attend campus recruitment after they come back from US to China. We actually have a law specifically saying that students who study abroad will maintain legal status of fresh graduates for one more year after they come back.

I'm fully aware that I'm probably in the worst applicant pool of S16, so don't hold back and please strike me with all the hard truth. Thank you!
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Re: Profile review, would appreciate if someone could kindly take a look!  [#permalink]

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New post 14 Apr 2019, 12:31
Hey Hoagie:

You're welcome! Not to sound pompous, but I don't always answer posts unless they the poster puts some thought into it. So, thanks for doing that! Ha.

Okay, so with respect to you coming across as arrogant, I think you're going to be just fine. The fact that you're even worried about it tells me that you have a good bit of self-awareness. So I don't feel like you have a natural tendency to wander into any danger zone. That being said …

1. the admissions committee knows the reputation of Peking University. They know it's top-notch. I wouldn't downplay its reputation, but you don't need to drum it up anymore. instead be as straightforward as possible when describing the circumstances at Peking University.
2. Something like this – "I would like to explain the circumstances under which my undergraduate GPA was earned. Although the University does not assign ranks to each student, my GPA would be at about the average for my major. While I have always considered myself to be strong in mathematics and quantitative subjects, my classmates at Peking University were on a different level. Since the program is considered among the most rigorous mathematics programs across Asia, it is a magnet for students whose math skills are considered the best in China.
Although I worked hard for my 2.8 GPA, I realize it may give the admissions committee pause. I want to assure the admissions committee I will have no issues mastering the quantitative subject matter presented during the MBA program. My professional roles within finance have been analytically rigorous. Furthermore, I've authored several white papers on applied statistics and econometrics, and I have even invented a mathematical model in evolutionary game theory. I humbly present this information to help provide a complete picture for you."
3. This is all you really need to say about it. Don't pull any punches here because the worst thing that's going to happen is NOT that they think you are a braggart. The worst thing would be that they think you are unmotivated or a bit slow. If you're presenting things in a very straightforward way, then you really don't have to worry about coming off as pompous. And if you're still worried about being pompous, so freaking what?? Remember that it's better to be pompous than to look like you're a dummy. I always tell my clients, you have to be the president of your own fan club when it comes to applying to business school. No one else is going to be your biggest cheerleader!

Respectfully,
Paul Lanzillotti


Hoagie wrote:
Thank you Paul! I'm extremely grateful for your detailed analysis!

Could I ramp up for one last thing about my profile?

The GPA problem: I'm choosing my words very carefully here because I don't want to come out as arrogant. I did my undergrad at Peking University, and my undergrad school is kind of special in terms of mathematics major. We have probably the strongest math department in Asia with students who got all sorts of gold medals in math Olympics (I gotta blame the education system of China for this, proven mathematical geniuses are automatically sent to PKU and it makes us who only have "regular intelligence" living in hell). Apparently the courses must be designed for the genius, not for us regular people. The curriculum of my junior year in college is pretty much the same as that of the Princeton mathematics PhD, for crying out loud... Not knowing the exact number, I estimated that I rank about 70% in my department. And the average GPA is about 3.0 to 3.1. BUT, and I speak with great certainty, even the worst students in our department are killing it in prestigious graduate schools all around the world. I have no doubt that I will be one of the best learners in all business schools, and I'm sure my graduate school professors will be happy to vouch for that. Obviously I can't say that in the essay cuz it makes me look arrogant. But between you and me, everything I said is true. The silver lining is that my school doesn't have an official GPA or ranking on the transcripts, the GPA is merely a reference number calculated with a bizarre formula. So here's what I plan to do with it. I won't put it in the application form in case some AO use some sort of screening programs to screen me out at first sight. My defense for my GPA is that I had always known the math department would be hell for me, but I took it anyway because I simply want the challenge. I didn't really care for theoretical mathematics and I inevitably struggled with it. But I did great on the applied side of my major. I received high scores on most applied quantitative courses. It's consistent with why I got into this hell major in the first place. I did this to train myself to be an applied economist, not a theoretical mathematician. Subsequently, I did extremely well in a Master program that is heavily weighted on applied statistics and econometrics. If the AO cares to check out my linkedin page, he or she will find several papers and sample work which are all highly quantitative, including a paper in which I even invented a mathematical model in evolutionary game theory. I'm really not bragging, but there's no way I will be a liability in terms of academics in business schools, not even close. I'm extremely confident that I will be one of the best learners. I just can't figure out how to phrase that in my materials.


PaulLanzillotti wrote:
Hi Hoagie:

Thanks for reaching out to me. And thanks for the relevant information and detailed profile as it helps me tremendously.

For starters, you are not the worst applicant in the pool. While you do have some deficiencies, they are reasonable and because of that , they are explainable.

Your GPA:

I'm assuming you have approximately two years of full-time work experience as of right now. The general rule is the longer you are away from undergrad, the less your undergraduate GPA matters. Assuming you spent an additional year in graduate school, that means you have about three years since earning your GPAs - 2.8 and 3.3 - as a double majors in Applied Mathematics and Economics. While three years of work experience does help temper the lower GPAs, it won't help as much as to other factors - first, the strength of your undergraduate institution and second, the fact that you picked 2 rather difficult majors. We have to keep things in perspective for the admissions committee. This means they will want to know where you fall with respect to the rest of the class. So does your transcript indicate your standing or ranking in your departments? That will provide perspective. If your university is indeed a top 2 in China, then the admissions committee will be familiar with how difficult getting a 2.8 or 3.3 may be. You get a few extra brownie points. In other words, the admissions committee will grade your GPA on a curve. The arc of that curve will all depend on the rest of your fellow classmates and your rank within your department. So if you performed fairly well – let's say top 20 or 25% within the class, you should be okay. Don't worry about the admissions committee looking at your GPA at face value. However, you do have to explain the circumstances to make sure the admissions committee does not take them for granted. In very much the same way you explained your circumstances to me, you should explain something similar to the admissions committee. Of course, use the optional essay to write a very on point summary of the circumstances. Don't bloviate. Don't make "the dog ate my homework" excuses. Just get to the point. If you have to fall on your sword a little bit, then do so. For example, if you lack maturity and therefore an ability to prioritize everything you encountered on campus during your freshman year, then say so. With any reason/excuse – just don't bullshit as it wastes the reader's time.

By the way, your graduate GPA – 3.9 – does help to make up for your undergraduate performance. It tells them that you're not a liability or a potential grenade in the MBA classroom when it comes to quant concepts. Of course, your work experience tells them that you are not going to be a grenade as well.

All in all, the admissions committee tends to look at your undergraduate GPA from a couple of different perspectives: – 1 – how well does the applicant's undergraduate GPA stack up against others from the same school and from similar programs at other universities? - 2 - with respect to quant heavy subjects, is the applicant a potential liability in the MBA classroom?

Your GMAT:

What's the difference between a 740 and anything higher than that? At very top MBA programs, it could make the difference between getting accepted when the first round of announcements roll out and being waitlisted. Also, from my experience it makes a huge difference with respect to the amount of scholarship (free) money you will receive. With a 740, you may get a little money. With a 760, you are almost guaranteed to get money at top MBA programs like Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg. Again, this is based on my own personal client experience. On that note, over the last two years I've seen a drastic increase in the amount of scholarship money being handed to international applicants with high GMAT scores. I just had an international client receive more than $100,000 from HBS. Not too shabby.

By the way, when you retake the GMAT I would not worry too much about your AWA and integrated reasoning scores. Sure they could be a little higher, but you are really leaving money on the table – literally – with your lower verbal score. So I would not worry about improving your quad score – just maintain. my opinion, admissions committees will say they care about all scores on the GMAT, but what it really comes down to is they care about your quant and verbal scores, unless your AWA and integrated reasoning scores are alarmingly low.

Your Work Experience:

It seems like you're getting pretty darn good experience at your top investment banking China.if I was your consultant, I want to know more about the your shift to alternative credit investment and what the future of that segment is in China – risks and opportunities.

Based on what you told me about the securitization deals you worked on, it seems that you have the beginnings of a good story covered for any school that asks you for a leadership essay. The "I was thrust into a position of leadership" story because of maternity leave or because I was the last man standing always seem to resonate with admissions committees if written correctly.

Harvard will often ask – in the interview – what legacy do you think you will leave behind at your current place of employment (or undergraduate). This is why I like the anecdote about the quantitative models you developed and how you innovated to do so. Based on what you told me, I think it's especially notable given the nascent nature of quantitative tech in China. this is definitely something that should be highlighted in your application – on your resume, in the interview, on your essays.

I like your goals - short and long-term. Keep in mind that as an international applicant, I think it's especially relevant that you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. Of course this short-term backup plan should represent a parallel path toward your longer-term aspirations. A caveat – this is less important at schools like Stanford and Harvard. But for every other MBA program - with the exception of MIT Sloan - I personally feel it's imperative you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. It could be as simple as returning to your current employer but in a much more strategic role. As long as this gets you toward your ultimate, longer-term goals, you are cool.

Looking at your longer-term goals from the perspective of a Stanford or HBS application - what is the "personal" connection you have to your longer-term goals? Now, I'm not saying that your personal connection is because your mom and dad own a community bank in China. I'm not saying that at all! What I am saying is something like this – for example – as a citizen of China, what do you hope to contribute to your country or region with the world that will make its financial systems more robust and transparent? if you know about the building liability within China's financial systems – i.e. something similar to what happened in the USA in 2007/2008 - what can you do to help lead work that addresses these systemic issues? Again, this is only an example. I'm not as familiar as you are with what's going on in China. You're the expert when it comes to that and this is an important point. Because when you write your essays, you need to approach it as if you are knowledgeable. This does not mean telling the admissions committee everything and anything about the nature of systemic risk in Chinese financial markets. not at all. What this does mean is simply the following – if you come to the table with an essay that talks about how you want to address systemic risk in China's financial system, then the admissions committee will lend you that credibility (as long as you don't write batshit insane commentary that cannot possibly be true even to the layman - i.e. China can solve all its systemic issues by packaging up its CDO's and putting them on a rocket to Mars. You get the point!)

Anyway, the admissions committee won't know as much about the specifics, but they will know a little. So if you ever find yourself over explaining something, then don't do that. If this doesn't make sense to you, it's okay. Just make sure you don't end up educating the admissions committee on the technicalities of finance and risk in Chinese financial markets. It's a waste your time and their time. Anyway, I digress, slightly.

Your Work Gap:

Five months does need to be explained. But don't worry, it's not a dealbreaker in any way. This is more of a technical matter and not one born out of your bad habits or something unfortunate. All you have to do is explain it the way you explained it to me. Keep it short and simple.

Your Extracurricular Experience:

in general, I believe that current volunteer experience is useful if 1) you maintain a leadership position – formal or informal and/or 2) it's consistent with your personal interests and past community involvement.

There are a lot of caveats here. If you lack leadership experience at work, then it has to be made up somewhere and that's where extracurricular community service can help. It's no replacement for leadership at work, but the more leadership oriented it is, the better off you'll be. let's say you have plenty of formal or informal leadership experience at work - then it's perfectly appropriate if your significant volunteer experience outside of the office simply furthers the narrative of who you are (for the purposes of applying to business school). In other words, if you are an investor and you really take a hands-on approach to mentoring your portfolio companies, then mentoring little Johnny at a local high school would solidify the narrative. In addition, if your longer-term goal after your MBA is to fund initiatives at underperforming schools, then mentoring little Johnny helps to solidify that narrative. Again, mentoring little Johnny is not a replacement for your work experience as an investor, but it can help flavor the narrative. So if you want to move into impact investing and you have extensive experience mentoring little Johnny and working on the board of a charter school, then that will help solidify the picture you are painting (for the Adcom) in the goals you are proclaiming.

This is why I do like your current volunteer experience. It bolsters what you do at work. It tells the admissions committee what you value and how you live your values.

Your Target Schools:

At the top of your list should be HBS. I believe you would be competitive for Harvard even with your 740 and your undergraduate GPA. Just we are clear, HBS is a stretch, but I believe you should at least try. In no way would you be dead on arrival. Not even close. Shoot for Harvard. They take a very mature approach to evaluating candidates (i.e. holistically). Frankly, HBS doesn't really give a **** about the rankings (as a program's average GPA affects their ranking). If they like you and you have a few scratches and dents, they will take you. Rankings be damned. In my experience, it's the same situation with Stanford.

I would also target the usual suspects for a guy with your background. This includes Chicago Booth, Wharton, Columbia and perhaps MIT Sloan and Kellogg. It goes without saying, but I will mention it - if actually you plan to go back to China, reputation of your MBA program will matter. Of course you won't have a problem with HSW, but you may have a problem with otherwise great finance schools such as NYU Stern. Again, this is for you to assess. I'm just giving you the heads up.

Overall, I am extremely positive about your candidacy. As I referenced earlier in this rather long analysis, it's a great year to apply as an international. Because of current circumstances, US business schools are hurting for top international students. Don't get distracted by the fray. Strike while the iron is hot. I've been doing this for 13 years and this has to be among the best years for international students to apply.

Finally, a general disclaimer. Please keep in mind that my comments and feedback are based upon my experiences over the last 13 years of working with MBA applicants. Because I do not have full insight into your background, my comments are informational and do not constitute specific advice.

Respectfully,
Paul Lanzillotti

Hoagie wrote:
Would really appreciate a look at my profile, thx!

Background and nationality: Chinese male, age 26, spent 25 years in China but scored 29/30 on speaking of TOEFL.

Undergrad Information:
-Undergrad: Top2 university in China, double degree: BS in applied mathematics (GPA 2.8/4.0,) and BA in economics (GPA 3.3/4.0)
-Graduate: Top20 east coast graduate school in US, MA in applied economics (GPA 3.9/4.0)

GMAT: 740 (q50 v40 awa5 ir4), will take again soon.

Work experience and leadership: 2.5 yrs at the top investment bank in China, 3.5 yrs at matriculation. I started as a CDO manager and managed securitization projects. Since 2018 my role has been shifting to alternative credit investment. I currently focus on private non-standardized debt investment and CLO equity. It was a good combination for me, because private debt investment trains my soft skills in project management and communication, while CLO equity investment trains my hard skills in quantitative analysis. I also help the macro rates group on investment research projects.
Career highlights are listed as follows:
-Led one of the most complicated securitization deals in the ninth month of my career. Both VP and SVP were taking maternity leaves and the management responsibilities fell on my shoulder. I was in a position to make 80% of all the decisions and to manage lawyers, credit analysts, and interns. I wasn't able to close the deal due to regulation change, but it was still good experience and I learned a lot from it.
-With an intern and a colleague, I developed the investment analytical models and system for consumer credit asset class, opening out group to a trillion dollar market, which is very premature because so few people in China understand the quantitative technology behind it. I made a good impact by replacing traditional investment analytical methodology with 21st century data science. It was a changing point of my career because the project enlightened my ambition in FinTech.
-Did a bunch of digitalization and automation work since I decided to go into FinTech in the future. For example, I built a database wrote a small program to automate the non-standardized debt trading execution and paperwork drafting. It does not involve much leadership experience, but I'd like to think that I made some impact.

Community and others:
-Volunteered at a micro-loan non-profit in senior year of undergrad as a credit analyst.
-Volunteered at a social enterprise that provides consulting service to non-profits. Brokered a large amount of impact investment funding from a tech giant for a small institution based in the poorest town in Yunnan Province.
-Used to be an amateur athlete of 200m sprint.

Post MBA goals:
Long-term: FinTech - robo adviser, hopefully to start my own firm at some point down the road.
Short-term: Either traditional finance or tech firm would make sense in the short term, becasue a solid background in either finance or tech could help a career in FinTech.

Other info:
Low GPA: I'm aware that my undergrad GPA might be a deal breaker. I went to a school that happened to gather all the top mathematical geniuses in China. I enjouyed the challenge, but my GPA inevitably suffered because the courses and exams were specially designed for those guys. I hope my graduate GPA and my work could somehow prove that I'm fully capable of advanced learning.
5 months' gap: I came back to China in Sep 2016 but started working in Feb 2017. The gap was because Chinese firms don't usually do Skype interviews for students abroad and it is very common for Chinese students to attend campus recruitment after they come back from US to China. We actually have a law specifically saying that students who study abroad will maintain legal status of fresh graduates for one more year after they come back.

I'm fully aware that I'm probably in the worst applicant pool of S16, so don't hold back and please strike me with all the hard truth. Thank you!

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Re: Profile review, would appreciate if someone could kindly take a look!  [#permalink]

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New post 19 Apr 2019, 00:34
Thank you Paul! Of all the consultants I've spoken to, you are no doubt the most professional one with much acuter insights.

To be honest, I didn't even think about applying to HSW before. Being a Chinese male (ethnically and genderly nightmare in MBA application), I've seen numerous failures of peers. I evaluated myself to be somewhere around Stern or Cornell, and maybe have a shot at CBS if I got lucky. Honestly I have no intention to come back to China post MBA (although I might need to say in the essay that I will not rule out the possibility). This is the worst time, and once-in-a-life-time mess, to work in finance in China. I have a lot of ideas in FinTech, not the ones that can change the world or something, but I want to build something special in this business. China is just not the right place for that, not right now. De-marketlization of China's capital market, as well as China's worsening judicial context, is really not helping anyone who wants to "break" the traditional finance a little bit. Actually one of the reasons that I have to apply now rather than in 2020 when I have more experience is that the current unfortunate change of regulation of China's financial industry (and of the overall economy) is killing too much business. I don't think my resume would be any different from now to next Fall.

So I'd do my best to secure a job post MBA in either NYC or London, the world's two best FinTech hubs. Since I don't have OPT any more, it is important that I get into a business school that is well recognized in both US and Europe, and Stern probably doesn't fall into that category. I should give anything I got to get into the one of the M7.



PaulLanzillotti wrote:
Hey Hoagie:

You're welcome! Not to sound pompous, but I don't always answer posts unless they the poster puts some thought into it. So, thanks for doing that! Ha.

Okay, so with respect to you coming across as arrogant, I think you're going to be just fine. The fact that you're even worried about it tells me that you have a good bit of self-awareness. So I don't feel like you have a natural tendency to wander into any danger zone. That being said …

1. the admissions committee knows the reputation of Peking University. They know it's top-notch. I wouldn't downplay its reputation, but you don't need to drum it up anymore. instead be as straightforward as possible when describing the circumstances at Peking University.
2. Something like this – "I would like to explain the circumstances under which my undergraduate GPA was earned. Although the University does not assign ranks to each student, my GPA would be at about the average for my major. While I have always considered myself to be strong in mathematics and quantitative subjects, my classmates at Peking University were on a different level. Since the program is considered among the most rigorous mathematics programs across Asia, it is a magnet for students whose math skills are considered the best in China.
Although I worked hard for my 2.8 GPA, I realize it may give the admissions committee pause. I want to assure the admissions committee I will have no issues mastering the quantitative subject matter presented during the MBA program. My professional roles within finance have been analytically rigorous. Furthermore, I've authored several white papers on applied statistics and econometrics, and I have even invented a mathematical model in evolutionary game theory. I humbly present this information to help provide a complete picture for you."
3. This is all you really need to say about it. Don't pull any punches here because the worst thing that's going to happen is NOT that they think you are a braggart. The worst thing would be that they think you are unmotivated or a bit slow. If you're presenting things in a very straightforward way, then you really don't have to worry about coming off as pompous. And if you're still worried about being pompous, so freaking what?? Remember that it's better to be pompous than to look like you're a dummy. I always tell my clients, you have to be the president of your own fan club when it comes to applying to business school. No one else is going to be your biggest cheerleader!

Respectfully,
Paul Lanzillotti


Hoagie wrote:
Thank you Paul! I'm extremely grateful for your detailed analysis!

Could I ramp up for one last thing about my profile?

The GPA problem: I'm choosing my words very carefully here because I don't want to come out as arrogant. I did my undergrad at Peking University, and my undergrad school is kind of special in terms of mathematics major. We have probably the strongest math department in Asia with students who got all sorts of gold medals in math Olympics (I gotta blame the education system of China for this, proven mathematical geniuses are automatically sent to PKU and it makes us who only have "regular intelligence" living in hell). Apparently the courses must be designed for the genius, not for us regular people. The curriculum of my junior year in college is pretty much the same as that of the Princeton mathematics PhD, for crying out loud... Not knowing the exact number, I estimated that I rank about 70% in my department. And the average GPA is about 3.0 to 3.1. BUT, and I speak with great certainty, even the worst students in our department are killing it in prestigious graduate schools all around the world. I have no doubt that I will be one of the best learners in all business schools, and I'm sure my graduate school professors will be happy to vouch for that. Obviously I can't say that in the essay cuz it makes me look arrogant. But between you and me, everything I said is true. The silver lining is that my school doesn't have an official GPA or ranking on the transcripts, the GPA is merely a reference number calculated with a bizarre formula. So here's what I plan to do with it. I won't put it in the application form in case some AO use some sort of screening programs to screen me out at first sight. My defense for my GPA is that I had always known the math department would be hell for me, but I took it anyway because I simply want the challenge. I didn't really care for theoretical mathematics and I inevitably struggled with it. But I did great on the applied side of my major. I received high scores on most applied quantitative courses. It's consistent with why I got into this hell major in the first place. I did this to train myself to be an applied economist, not a theoretical mathematician. Subsequently, I did extremely well in a Master program that is heavily weighted on applied statistics and econometrics. If the AO cares to check out my linkedin page, he or she will find several papers and sample work which are all highly quantitative, including a paper in which I even invented a mathematical model in evolutionary game theory. I'm really not bragging, but there's no way I will be a liability in terms of academics in business schools, not even close. I'm extremely confident that I will be one of the best learners. I just can't figure out how to phrase that in my materials.


PaulLanzillotti wrote:
Hi Hoagie:

Thanks for reaching out to me. And thanks for the relevant information and detailed profile as it helps me tremendously.

For starters, you are not the worst applicant in the pool. While you do have some deficiencies, they are reasonable and because of that , they are explainable.

Your GPA:

I'm assuming you have approximately two years of full-time work experience as of right now. The general rule is the longer you are away from undergrad, the less your undergraduate GPA matters. Assuming you spent an additional year in graduate school, that means you have about three years since earning your GPAs - 2.8 and 3.3 - as a double majors in Applied Mathematics and Economics. While three years of work experience does help temper the lower GPAs, it won't help as much as to other factors - first, the strength of your undergraduate institution and second, the fact that you picked 2 rather difficult majors. We have to keep things in perspective for the admissions committee. This means they will want to know where you fall with respect to the rest of the class. So does your transcript indicate your standing or ranking in your departments? That will provide perspective. If your university is indeed a top 2 in China, then the admissions committee will be familiar with how difficult getting a 2.8 or 3.3 may be. You get a few extra brownie points. In other words, the admissions committee will grade your GPA on a curve. The arc of that curve will all depend on the rest of your fellow classmates and your rank within your department. So if you performed fairly well – let's say top 20 or 25% within the class, you should be okay. Don't worry about the admissions committee looking at your GPA at face value. However, you do have to explain the circumstances to make sure the admissions committee does not take them for granted. In very much the same way you explained your circumstances to me, you should explain something similar to the admissions committee. Of course, use the optional essay to write a very on point summary of the circumstances. Don't bloviate. Don't make "the dog ate my homework" excuses. Just get to the point. If you have to fall on your sword a little bit, then do so. For example, if you lack maturity and therefore an ability to prioritize everything you encountered on campus during your freshman year, then say so. With any reason/excuse – just don't bullshit as it wastes the reader's time.

By the way, your graduate GPA – 3.9 – does help to make up for your undergraduate performance. It tells them that you're not a liability or a potential grenade in the MBA classroom when it comes to quant concepts. Of course, your work experience tells them that you are not going to be a grenade as well.

All in all, the admissions committee tends to look at your undergraduate GPA from a couple of different perspectives: – 1 – how well does the applicant's undergraduate GPA stack up against others from the same school and from similar programs at other universities? - 2 - with respect to quant heavy subjects, is the applicant a potential liability in the MBA classroom?

Your GMAT:

What's the difference between a 740 and anything higher than that? At very top MBA programs, it could make the difference between getting accepted when the first round of announcements roll out and being waitlisted. Also, from my experience it makes a huge difference with respect to the amount of scholarship (free) money you will receive. With a 740, you may get a little money. With a 760, you are almost guaranteed to get money at top MBA programs like Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg. Again, this is based on my own personal client experience. On that note, over the last two years I've seen a drastic increase in the amount of scholarship money being handed to international applicants with high GMAT scores. I just had an international client receive more than $100,000 from HBS. Not too shabby.

By the way, when you retake the GMAT I would not worry too much about your AWA and integrated reasoning scores. Sure they could be a little higher, but you are really leaving money on the table – literally – with your lower verbal score. So I would not worry about improving your quad score – just maintain. my opinion, admissions committees will say they care about all scores on the GMAT, but what it really comes down to is they care about your quant and verbal scores, unless your AWA and integrated reasoning scores are alarmingly low.

Your Work Experience:

It seems like you're getting pretty darn good experience at your top investment banking China.if I was your consultant, I want to know more about the your shift to alternative credit investment and what the future of that segment is in China – risks and opportunities.

Based on what you told me about the securitization deals you worked on, it seems that you have the beginnings of a good story covered for any school that asks you for a leadership essay. The "I was thrust into a position of leadership" story because of maternity leave or because I was the last man standing always seem to resonate with admissions committees if written correctly.

Harvard will often ask – in the interview – what legacy do you think you will leave behind at your current place of employment (or undergraduate). This is why I like the anecdote about the quantitative models you developed and how you innovated to do so. Based on what you told me, I think it's especially notable given the nascent nature of quantitative tech in China. this is definitely something that should be highlighted in your application – on your resume, in the interview, on your essays.

I like your goals - short and long-term. Keep in mind that as an international applicant, I think it's especially relevant that you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. Of course this short-term backup plan should represent a parallel path toward your longer-term aspirations. A caveat – this is less important at schools like Stanford and Harvard. But for every other MBA program - with the exception of MIT Sloan - I personally feel it's imperative you state a backup plan for your short-term goals. It could be as simple as returning to your current employer but in a much more strategic role. As long as this gets you toward your ultimate, longer-term goals, you are cool.

Looking at your longer-term goals from the perspective of a Stanford or HBS application - what is the "personal" connection you have to your longer-term goals? Now, I'm not saying that your personal connection is because your mom and dad own a community bank in China. I'm not saying that at all! What I am saying is something like this – for example – as a citizen of China, what do you hope to contribute to your country or region with the world that will make its financial systems more robust and transparent? if you know about the building liability within China's financial systems – i.e. something similar to what happened in the USA in 2007/2008 - what can you do to help lead work that addresses these systemic issues? Again, this is only an example. I'm not as familiar as you are with what's going on in China. You're the expert when it comes to that and this is an important point. Because when you write your essays, you need to approach it as if you are knowledgeable. This does not mean telling the admissions committee everything and anything about the nature of systemic risk in Chinese financial markets. not at all. What this does mean is simply the following – if you come to the table with an essay that talks about how you want to address systemic risk in China's financial system, then the admissions committee will lend you that credibility (as long as you don't write batshit insane commentary that cannot possibly be true even to the layman - i.e. China can solve all its systemic issues by packaging up its CDO's and putting them on a rocket to Mars. You get the point!)

Anyway, the admissions committee won't know as much about the specifics, but they will know a little. So if you ever find yourself over explaining something, then don't do that. If this doesn't make sense to you, it's okay. Just make sure you don't end up educating the admissions committee on the technicalities of finance and risk in Chinese financial markets. It's a waste your time and their time. Anyway, I digress, slightly.

Your Work Gap:

Five months does need to be explained. But don't worry, it's not a dealbreaker in any way. This is more of a technical matter and not one born out of your bad habits or something unfortunate. All you have to do is explain it the way you explained it to me. Keep it short and simple.

Your Extracurricular Experience:

in general, I believe that current volunteer experience is useful if 1) you maintain a leadership position – formal or informal and/or 2) it's consistent with your personal interests and past community involvement.

There are a lot of caveats here. If you lack leadership experience at work, then it has to be made up somewhere and that's where extracurricular community service can help. It's no replacement for leadership at work, but the more leadership oriented it is, the better off you'll be. let's say you have plenty of formal or informal leadership experience at work - then it's perfectly appropriate if your significant volunteer experience outside of the office simply furthers the narrative of who you are (for the purposes of applying to business school). In other words, if you are an investor and you really take a hands-on approach to mentoring your portfolio companies, then mentoring little Johnny at a local high school would solidify the narrative. In addition, if your longer-term goal after your MBA is to fund initiatives at underperforming schools, then mentoring little Johnny helps to solidify that narrative. Again, mentoring little Johnny is not a replacement for your work experience as an investor, but it can help flavor the narrative. So if you want to move into impact investing and you have extensive experience mentoring little Johnny and working on the board of a charter school, then that will help solidify the picture you are painting (for the Adcom) in the goals you are proclaiming.

This is why I do like your current volunteer experience. It bolsters what you do at work. It tells the admissions committee what you value and how you live your values.

Your Target Schools:

At the top of your list should be HBS. I believe you would be competitive for Harvard even with your 740 and your undergraduate GPA. Just we are clear, HBS is a stretch, but I believe you should at least try. In no way would you be dead on arrival. Not even close. Shoot for Harvard. They take a very mature approach to evaluating candidates (i.e. holistically). Frankly, HBS doesn't really give a **** about the rankings (as a program's average GPA affects their ranking). If they like you and you have a few scratches and dents, they will take you. Rankings be damned. In my experience, it's the same situation with Stanford.

I would also target the usual suspects for a guy with your background. This includes Chicago Booth, Wharton, Columbia and perhaps MIT Sloan and Kellogg. It goes without saying, but I will mention it - if actually you plan to go back to China, reputation of your MBA program will matter. Of course you won't have a problem with HSW, but you may have a problem with otherwise great finance schools such as NYU Stern. Again, this is for you to assess. I'm just giving you the heads up.

Overall, I am extremely positive about your candidacy. As I referenced earlier in this rather long analysis, it's a great year to apply as an international. Because of current circumstances, US business schools are hurting for top international students. Don't get distracted by the fray. Strike while the iron is hot. I've been doing this for 13 years and this has to be among the best years for international students to apply.

Finally, a general disclaimer. Please keep in mind that my comments and feedback are based upon my experiences over the last 13 years of working with MBA applicants. Because I do not have full insight into your background, my comments are informational and do not constitute specific advice.

Respectfully,
Paul Lanzillotti

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