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Student in college aiming for the top schools

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Student in college aiming for the top schools [#permalink]

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New post 24 May 2009, 17:31
In the fall of 2009 I will be a Junior at a small liberal arts college majoring in Finance and minoring in Accounting.

I will predict some accomplishment while most are real:

GPA: 3.7 (no lower grade than a B), Finance 3.9

Dean's list for sophomore, junior and senior year.
Dean's award for the best student in the business school

Student Government:
-Treasurer
-Senator of the Business School
-Chairperson of the Budget&Finance Committee

Athletics:
-Rowing varsity team scholarship
-captain
-major successes (complicated to explain in details)
-international experience; world junior(under 19yrs) championship bronze medal and European championship for students silver medal (both before college, will it count at all in my application?)

Summer Internship: Societe Generale (third largest corporate & investment bank in Europe)

GMAT will obviously be really important and I will entirely focus on it this summer. Let's assume it is 710-720 with homogeneous q/v score.

Finally, I am from eastern Europe, an ex-Yugoslavian country. As much as I have heard there are not many students (perhaps none) applying to the most competitive schools in US. It is pretty much a "black hole" from what I've heard. Is it a good or a bad thing for me?

So my question is, how are my chances? Most people will say that I need work experience. I know, it's fine. How does it look? Everything I have done is real and of my interest but again, how does it look? Where are my weaknesses and how should I work on them?
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New post 25 May 2009, 06:36
jjovan If you are junior in 2009 then you are probably predicting all of these achievements. My advice - finish University, enjoy life and don't make everything you do a will-it-help-me-get-in-a-top-MBA activity. Get some work experience and some clear direction and concrete aims and then revisit your MBA plans. I'm sorry if I'm being too harsh but I can't really advice on a hypothetical profile.

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New post 25 May 2009, 06:52
bsd_lover wrote:
jjovan If you are junior in 2009 then you are probably predicting all of these achievements. My advice - finish University, enjoy life and don't make everything you do a will-it-help-me-get-in-a-top-MBA activity. Get some work experience and some clear direction and concrete aims and then revisit your MBA plans. I'm sorry if I'm being too harsh but I can't really advice on a hypothetical profile.


No I'm not taking things personal, as the matter of fact I like to be more criticized than praised. Being criticized will help me to become better.

And I disagree with you about "enjoy life" thing because the worst thing right now is to relax. I really think that now is the best time to start working on myself as it will increase my chances. I would rather be a little tense from now on than cramped up once I get a degree and a job.

And no, most of the things aren't predicted. There are only couple things which are predicted but are actually realistic.

For others, I would rather like an evaluation than a critic about a hypothesis. I have spent some times researching about MBA but I think I could use some advice.
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New post 25 May 2009, 16:57
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jjovan15,

First, let me congratulate you for an impressive list of achievements (and a preemptive congrats on your expected achievements as well.)

Second, let me break some bad news for you. You are going to have a hard time with your MBA application in the near future. And I say this assuming that you will get a good GMAT score (700+) because your achievements indicate strongly that you are definitely smart enough for the top schools.

Why the difficulty? You present yourself not as an individual, but as a list of achievements. I'm probably stealing this term from Alex, but you're what many call the "checkbox applicant."

Good grades? Check.
Good GMAT score? Check. (I'm fairly certain you will do well on your GMAT)
Good ECs? Check.
Good leadership experience? Check.
Good teamwork experience? Check.

So what's the problem? You don't come off as an individual, you don't sound like the guy the AdCom would like to invite over for dinner or share a drink with. Or in simpler terms, where's your "WOW" factor?

The competition for top schools is insane. Everyone who gets seriously consideration has good to great grades, GMAT, ECs, leadership, and teamwork experience. You may have better ECs, but someone else might have even better grades (e.g. similar GPA but at a better pedigree school.) You may have better grades but someone else might have even better ECs (e.g. an Olympic athlete.) You are not going to differentiate yourself by getting even better grades, or having even more ECs. You are going to distinguish yourself from the crowd by being unique, which can only be done by being yourself.

Let me illustrate this point by using ethnicity/country of origin as an example. You mention you are from Eastern Europe, ex-Yugoslavia. People generally misinterpret the reason why people from obscure countries are looked upon favorably. It is not because AdComs want to point out that they admitted a student from Kyrgyzstan or some country along those lines. It is because applicants from those countries tend to come from very different backgrounds, so they have very unique stories to tell. To use a very trite Hollywood example, only someone from Rwanda/Somalia/some other country torn by civil war can really tell the story of wanting to start his/own entrepreneurial project in his/her own home country to help the country rebuild itself. That's an "interesting" story that can be only be told by someone who comes from that kind of background. So to answer your question of whether your eastern European roots help your application, it depends on how your ethnic roots play a part in the story of your life thus far. If you're completely Americanized and are indistinguishably from the typical WASP, then it won't help at all. If, however, you have been intimately involved with your cultural grassroots community, and have something very interesting to tell from that experience, then it could definitely be beneficial.

My advice to you is actually quite simple, you already have an impressive list of achievements, so stop asking yourself, "What else do I have to do to improve my chances of getting into a top MBA school?" Start asking yourself, "What do I really want to do in life?" Once you figure out that question (which is definitely non-trivial), you can start asking yourself, "So how does getting an MBA help me get where I want to be in life?"

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New post 27 May 2009, 07:31
A few thoughts. I'm assuming you're going to apply a few years from now. I think your next step is to concentrate on getting a job that is:
- in an industry you're passionate about
- in a role where you have a chance to learn something
- in a role where you can have an impact on your colleagues/company early on

If you're lucky, (and to me, these criteria are secondary for a first job after college) this job will also pay you enough to save some money for school/life and will be at a well-known company to boost your resume.

I think if you can swing that, then your passion for what you did and want to do down the road will come through more easily when it's time to write your essays. And you'll get that differentiating "human" element xenok was referring to in his post.

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New post 27 May 2009, 16:29
Xenok and Isa, many thanks for your evaluation/advice. What you have written is something new and useful for me.

I have mentioned in my thread that I will apply to top schools. Looking from perspectives of different people I realize "top schools" could be a broad range (Ultra elite, elite and so on). I know there are things I will still have to do and accomplish but exactly how far you guys think I can go with this kind of background?

I also have a question as far as my first job is concerned. The college I go to is not prestigious and is only regionally well-known. Do you think I will have a chance to get a job in the US at a good company/chance to learn/and so on like Isa mentioned? I am hoping to get a job in a big city but perhaps I am overly enthusiastic and unrealistic.

P.S.
If anyone else could throw an opinion from this discussion is more than welcome.
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New post 27 May 2009, 17:04
How far you can go depends on your work experience, GMAT and the way you present everything in your essays. The fact that you come from "only localy known college" means almost nothing. Of course, H/Y/P undergrtaduate always look very well in resume, on the other hand, you have so many people from no-name universities from Eastern Europe or Africa who enter HBS and Stanford each year.

It is good that you know what you want and that you've already started research. Nevertheless, focus on your undergraduate studies and your GPA. That is the best you can do for yourself in this moment. You probably don't even umderstand the importance (true importance) of your GPA and its reflection on your future job and b-school applications.

It is not a bad idea to start with GMAT preparations in the last year of the college, while you are still "fresh" enough. GMAT score is valid for five years and taking GMAT in your first year of employment would give you enough time to focus on the job and other aspects of application.

However, you have plenty time. Now pay attention on GPA, later pay attention to the job search. Without proper work experience, all other MBA efforts are fruitless.
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New post 27 May 2009, 17:10
I will be a senior in Fall 2009, and I am in the same boat as you.

I have a full-time job now, projected to make 50-55k in 2009, and I want to go to B-school right out of college (which you were hinting at, but wasn't sure)

The biggest thing, from what I have read and heard, is the GMAT score for ppl who are applying right out of college. They want to know you're intelligent. So getting a solid score would probably be the first thing I would do if I were you. Another thing is that stats for Median GMAT don't really apply to young (<2 yrs work experience) applicants, so you have to hit like 40-50 pts higher than their median to really be considered.

I disagree with the check-box applicant concept, as I am attempting to be one as well (3.889 GPA, 700 GMAT (maybe more, find out in August), leadership position in a fraternity for 2 years, held full time job during all 4 years of college, graduated a semester early from college, Beta Gamma Sigma member, Summa (or at least magna) cum laude, etc.) I am of the opinion that adcoms look for the highest possible stats, and as long as you have some personality in the interview, they won't turn you down just because your life isn't interesting if you beat their median's by a lot. Their job is to get the best people to go to their school, and do big things later on with their name attached to it.

Of course I am still in college, and I may be mistaken about the applications process, but I just wanted to give you my opinions.

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New post 27 May 2009, 17:26
I'm also sure schools prefer check-box applicants. I'm not saying they won't admit many of those who aren't, I'm just trying to say that adcoms don't look unfavourably to candidates presented as a "lists of achievements". Why? Simply, check-box applicants are easily marketable. Sad but true.

If we have a candidate who has 3.8 GPA, 780 GMAT, lots of awards and ECs, and if he/she presents it like that, like a list of achievemnts, I'm sure he will enter minimum 3 out of 5 top ten schools he applied to. Of course, unless he/she screw up something big time in his/her application. But he won't. Check-box applicants don't screw up big time too often :wink:

So go for it, I think schools like cool guys and super heroes, but that check-boxers are in majority at top schools. And in the end of the day, who says that there is no cool guys among check-box applicants? :)
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Last edited by Pathfinder on 28 May 2009, 12:14, edited 1 time in total.

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New post 27 May 2009, 18:12
jjovan, you should consider applying to HBS' 2+2 program. I think you would be competitive for it (except for the fact that you are already a business major and the program is meant to attract scientists/future law/off-the-beaten-path students to b-schools). Your stats and accomplishments are in the range for 2+2 candidates.

Either way, I won't discourage you from applying without any full-time experience. It's just really tough to get in as a college senior, and I'm not sure you have enough "stardust" to get you through, at least from what you've shared of your profile. Just make sure that you have job offers lined up in case b-schools reject you.

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New post 27 May 2009, 18:30
I'm hoping you have some insight Msday.

Exactly what does Harvard and all those Ultra-Elite schools look for in a college senior applicant? Just ridiculous GMAT scores and GPA, or does your father have to know somebody, work for the Peace Corps? I think Jjovan and I both want to know the answer to that question from someone who may know...

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New post 27 May 2009, 19:19
dk94588 wrote:
I'm hoping you have some insight Msday.

Exactly what does Harvard and all those Ultra-Elite schools look for in a college senior applicant? Just ridiculous GMAT scores and GPA, or does your father have to know somebody, work for the Peace Corps? I think Jjovan and I both want to know the answer to that question from someone who may know...


I think GPA is much more important than GMAT for college seniors. You can get in with a subpar GMAT (< 700) if you have a nosebleed (> 3.7) GPA. It seems like most college seniors who get in have had multiple summer internships during college. I also think it helps to have stretched yourself during your college years. Whether it's a double-major, playing varsity sports, leading a large organization (Student Govt, Social Committee, fraternity, etc.), or starting a business venture, try to do something that differentiates you from the other students at your college. Just having random leadership positions in clubs isn't enough...too many fresh-out-of-school applicants have these "leadership" positions on their resumes these days...HBS and other top schools are all too aware of the emptiness of the "Vice-President of Club XYZ" title.

In conclusion, no it doesn't take a rich dad or an Olympic medal to get in as a college senior, but you do need to check a bunch of different boxes (haha) before HBS/Stan/MIT will consider you a strong applicant. Oh, and did I mention flawless execution on your essays? :)

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New post 28 May 2009, 00:10
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I hate to be the cantankerous old a**hole here (and to even think of myself as "old" actually is quite funny if you've ever met me haha), but the undertone of some posts here seems to be seeing your interests/experiences/values/who you are as a means to an end - that end being "business school" and the "I will be whatever I need to be to get into b-school". As if business school is more important than you - or being willing to see yourself as a "check the boxes" person or being far too willing to shape who you are in order to gain admittance to some holy grail that you see as "business school" that will make you more grown up.

It's sort of like losing your virginity.

When you're still a virgin, you have all these fantastical ideas of what sex is supposed to be like. That all of a sudden, the moment "it happens for the first time" everything about you will change in the most fundamental way possible.

Until it happens. And then in hindsight you realize it's not that big a deal. Sex is fun, it's great, but the moment you had your "first time" isn't going to make you any more of a man where it *really* counts; getting an MBA is kind of like losing your virginity. It's barely a blip, just the very beginnings of hopefully a *very* long life filled with multiple careers of varying success, and multiple roles.

I've seen it time and again with college kids (and to some extent applicants with some experience, but mostly college kids) who are far too willing to see their current lives as purely a means to an end - they're not just planning for the future, but *living* in the future.

By any measure of success, fulfillment, etc. -- how ambitious you are in college has little to do with where you end up long-term.

Life and careers (multiple careers) is a marathon, not a 100-yard dash in college. It's about the body of experience you accumulate over a lifetime. And that takes *sustained* effort and stamina, which has little to do with how hardcore you are in college. It's not some race where you're keeping score vs others (even though it can feel that way especially if you go to an Ivy or other prestigious college alongside other similarly stressed out neurotic students with the weight of the world on their shoulders that are either self-imposed, or imposed by their overbearing parents).

And of course I can sympathize. I (and some other posters here) were once in your position. We were also college students once. We may have even shared the same views as you do when we were in college. We wanted *so* badly to succeed for a variety of reasons - and even for *no* reason, but blind ambition to right the wrongs of the past. You *think* you know yourself, but you really don't know yourself as well as you think, which is why you're far too willing to give up your right to be an *individual* and far too willing to be a "check the boxes" person. It's like being in a huge rush to grow up faster than you should. When someone says "enjoy your time in college" and you get defensive about justifying your ambition, there's probably something going on inside that you may need to deal with sooner or later.

There's nothing wrong with ambition. But if you're far too willing to become whatever it is to fulfill that ambition (i.e. you're willing to sell your soul even if you don't know what that "soul" may be just yet), it's not a healthy kind of ambition.

I'm sure some of you college guys are going to think I'm a condescending pr*ck for saying all this, but if you wanted honesty, you got it. I've seen the narrative and responses to this time and again - how "I'm not like this at all." "I really know what I want, what I'm doing, etc." Which may or may not be true.

But I encourage you college students to write what you think you know at this point in your lives in a little journal, and then lock it up. Or if you posted on this thread - to save it. Come back in 10 years (or even just 2-5 years out of college) and see if you still agree with what you wrote here. The chances of you having a very different perspective than you have now is practically a guarantee. But I guess you'll have to experience and live through it yourself to discover that.

The *real* question isn't whether you *can* get into a top b-school, it's whether you even *should* at this point.

And to the original poster: yes, you should *always* be enjoying your life. ALWAYS. Plan for what you can't see over the horizon, but focus on what is in front of you. Because you never know when your time is up. It's easy for young folks to avoid the issue of mortality altogether because it seems almost inconceivable - until it actually happens (like it did to three of my ex-colleagues in banking, who passed on waaayyy too young).
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New post 28 May 2009, 04:17
Alex, I don't understand how have you drawn some conclusions about me like that.

I was hoping to get a feedback from you because I have seen that you are one of the top evaluators on this forum. But there is one thing I don't like with your post here. Before I go on, I will have to say something else. Just because I disagree with you now does not mean I don't like you as a person or that I think you don't know what you're doing. But I can't believe what you are actually telling me here; I mean, not only some things are not true IMO, but they seem very irrelevant. And why did you focus on that so much?

OK so the character, soul or individuality is something which will "force" adcom to give you admission to its school. If a person doesn't realize it, then they really don't deserve to go to best schools.

Being a successful athlete and a person who is rejected in Ivies for undergraduate degree because of my low SATs (every single coach in those schools told me that; I had only 1500/2400...BURN), I can tell you from experience that focusing on your goals early will definitely make a difference. I had time to take the SAT only once. I don't want to make the same mistake for graduate schools. I know I have good work ethics and am smart enough to nail GMAT if I spend enough time. That is why I decided to start early. The same principle goes as well with my resume.

I know I am kinda aggressive towards you and bsd_lover in this thread. But, the way you guys made your posts here could be misguiding. I mean this is a forum for GMAT and grad schools and you guys preach me of enjoying life (not to mention an assumption that if a person starts early and work really hard, than they don't enjoy their life).

Come on

However, I am not going to throw away your critics. That would be just stupid from me.
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New post 28 May 2009, 09:17
I think people approach bschool in a couple of different ways. For some of us, it's an after thought - we did our undergrad, got a few years of WE, started thinking about an MBA and applied. For others, it's something that's planned out, and carefully strategized for in terms of WE/ECs/etc, all the way from undergrad.

Both ways have advantages and disadvantages, and carry their own risk. If you don't plan too far ahead, you run the risk of getting to the point of being "ready to apply" and realizing that your application might not be as robust as it could've been if you'd planned ahead of time. If you plan too far ahead, you run the risk of being stuck to a particular goal/vision, and ignoring opportunities/experiences that might come your way, because they *might* distract you from your goal.

The purpose of this forum, and in particular the sections offering Peer Review and feedback from folks like Alex, is to provide insight into and additional opinions on the application process, admissions and bschool in general. The hope is to demystify the process a bit for everyone by sharing lessons we've learned as we applied to schools. Similarly, folks like Alex share some of the wisdom they've accumulated in their time working as consultants. But at the end of the day, all we're offering is opinions, based on our own experiences and what we've seen. So take them as just that. If you think something being said, makes sense, great! If not, you at least considered and rejected another perspective that you might not have thought of!

Just my two cents :)

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New post 28 May 2009, 10:13
I've noticed that in a lot of threads for profile evaluation, one of two things occur:

1) The candidate is READY to apply for b-school in several months and asks for an evaluation. The response/evaluation typically is mixed and ends with, "Don't try to change who you are now... change takes years not months"

or

2) The candidate is starting VERY early (like OP) and wants to make sure he is ready for b-school when the time comes. The response given is then, "Don't focus on b-school... you'll know when you're ready...etc"

See the problem here? No matter when the applicant is applying, he doesn't really receive the advice he is seeking.

I don't really see the big deal with the OP- he simply wants to know if he is on the right track to applying towards bschool several years down the road. Some people like the OP place a big deal on getting into a bschool, and I don't think anyone can assume that just because he has bschool as a goal means that he isn't enjoying life as it passes.

What ever happened to constructive advice? You are free to tell him that he is focusing too early/misguided/whatever, but I mean a couple of suggestions as to long term pursuits wouldn't kill him.

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New post 28 May 2009, 10:18
msday wrote:
dk94588 wrote:
I'm hoping you have some insight Msday.

Exactly what does Harvard and all those Ultra-Elite schools look for in a college senior applicant? Just ridiculous GMAT scores and GPA, or does your father have to know somebody, work for the Peace Corps? I think Jjovan and I both want to know the answer to that question from someone who may know...


In conclusion, no it doesn't take a rich dad or an Olympic medal to get in as a college senior, but you do need to check a bunch of different boxes (haha) before HBS/Stan/MIT will consider you a strong applicant. Oh, and did I mention flawless execution on your essays? :)


I think that last part is also key - from what I've seen, the folks that got in straight from college have typically done a fabulous job in articulating their short/long term goals. I think that helps convince the adcom you really want the mba.

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New post 28 May 2009, 14:01
I fully agree with Alex on this one. As Einstein said "confusion of goals and perfection of means seems, in my opinion, to characterize our age." Business school (and all forms of education) is supposed to be a means to learn skills and gain experience for a future career. It is not the end, and it should not be the end goal that people work a large portion of their lives to achieve. Realize that people succeeded and ascended to the highest levels of society long before formal education in the United States existed. Of course I believe there is a lot of value in getting a top MBA, otherwise I would not have applied. But since I submitted my applications, I haven't stopped working on other projects and bettering myself the same way I did prior to applying. I think Alex's point is that you need not make yourself suffer or force yourself to participate in activities that you aren't truly passionate about to get in. In fact, if you simply work hard on things that you do care about, chances are you will be successful, and be able to tell far more compelling stories to an admissions committee than somebody with a fairly disconnected set of accomplishments. In other words, it is easier to negotiate your admission to schools, jobs, whatever, from a position of strength and confidence than tying together a discombobulated list of accomplishments that you had mixed interest in. Put yourself in an adcom's shoes: which would be more compelling- a graduate of a top school that belonged to a number of organizations, and excelled academically, but hadn't really left any appreciable mark on anything, or a person who went to a second-tier college but started a very successful business and can talk for hours about his plans to improve a specific industry that he knows better than the vast majority of the population?

Everybody imagines the future and formulates plans based on misconceptions of where they will be. The problem is that nobody can predict these things. You may take a job, be wildly successful, and realize you don't need an MBA anymore. You may decide after a couple of years that an MBA is definitely for you. I think as long as you have worked hard all the way through, you can still be admitted to any top school, even if you didn't take the conventional path.

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Re: Student in college aiming for the top schools [#permalink]

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New post 28 May 2009, 14:21
You older guys are probably right in the end, but your insights are only gained after you have achieved what you had set out for when you were young. Of course, a miserable 70 yr old multi-billionaire is going to say money isn't everything, but a person fresh out of college is ready and willing to work his entire life away for it.
I see an MBA as the next step for success. I feel that every dollar I don't make is a dollar lost, like an opportunity cost. If you make the assumption that you could make another 20k a year with an MBA than you do if you don't, waiting 4 years after college until you pursue an MBA could cost you more than the degree itself. Waiting is not going to give you any benefit.
What I am trying to say is, if you are ambitious, stay ambitious. If you want to take over the world, see how much of it you can, while you can. If you decide you wasted your life away at school when you're unmarried and 25, you can regret it, but until then you can't.

Jjovan, you obviously have an MBA on your mind, and I would say go for it. Piece out what is useful in this thread, what you will need, and try and ignore the people who tell you to take life easy. I would focus on getting a solid score on the GMAT while its still summer (I know I am), and then take it from there.

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Re: Student in college aiming for the top schools [#permalink]

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New post 28 May 2009, 15:21
dk94588 wrote:
You older guys are probably right in the end, but your insights are only gained after you have achieved what you had set out for when you were young. Of course, a miserable 70 yr old multi-billionaire is going to say money isn't everything, but a person fresh out of college is ready and willing to work his entire life away for it.


I think the reason the miserable 70 year old multi-billionaire tells the young college grad that money isn't everything is so that the college grad can avoid becoming another miserable 70 year old multi-billionaire. Of course, everyone's goals are different and you should always take advice given on the internet - even on a great site like this - with a grain of salt. However, if a number of people with more experience than you are giving you the same advice, well there just may be some wisdom in that advice.

In general, people say to wait until a you have a few years' experience because adcoms seem to prefer people who have some experience to those fresh out of college. One of the main reasons for this is that, when you visit an MBA class, you'll see that many of the insights provided in the class come from students who have actually faced, in the real world, the situation being discussed and can share their experience. So sure, the opportunity costs you describe may be greater if you wait, but you'll probably also have a much better chance of getting into your dream school if you wait.

As for the OP, all the stats you wrote about are well within the ranges of the admitted students at top schools. Unfortunately, the stats of a lot of denied applicants are also within those ranges. What can set you apart is the story you have to tell: where have you been, and how has that prepared you for where you are going? Where *are* you going, and why do you want to go there? Why is an MBA the key to your getting there? You've got the stats, but that's just the foundation. Now you've got to build from there.
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Re: Student in college aiming for the top schools   [#permalink] 28 May 2009, 15:21

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