Thanks for the great conversation in St. Charles. How have you been?
I’ve been doing well. MLT is kicking-off. I just had a call with my MLT coach. I told her of my interest in Stanford and she reminded me how much work I have to do to stand any chance at all.
I’m confident I can get the GMAT score I need after hiring a tutor and intense studying. I’m concerned about the other areas of my profile. I haven’t started a non-profit or my own business. My extra-curriculars are work-related and community service at schools. I went to Ohio State and I only got a 3.44. Even with fantastic essays and recommendations…is that good enough for Stanford?
I know there are exceptions like the guy with the 610, but I can’t really count on that. Besides the GMAT, what would you suggest I pay the most attention to to be as competitive as possible? Would it all depend on the essays and a compelling story?
Thanks for checking in. It’s really good to hear from you and find that you’re doing well. Congrats again on being accepted into MLT. That organization is doing so much to help folks and, with a background like yours, I’m sure that they’ll help you get into a top MBA program.
I’m excited to see that you are still so excited about the GSB and are doing all that you can to get information to help with your approach. Your MLT coach was 100% right when she said that you have a lot of work to do to get into the GSB, but please don’t interpret that as an indictment on your or your profile. It takes a lot of work for ANYONE to get into Stanford because it is such a unique place and so many people apply. The details of how people get into the school vary, but the common denominator is that it takes a lot of effort to make that happen…along with the belief that it really can happen for you. Without that genuine belief, you might as well not waste your time in applying.
You are right when you say that you can’t count on exceptions, but I know so many people who might be considered exceptions that I have a different view on what makes a strong profile. In addition to the folks I described to you earlier, I know many folks who people wouldn’t have thought would get in and, once they arrived, they knocked the socks off of folks in the classroom. You’d be surprised how much someone can excel when dropped into the “right” academic and social environment.
That’s the beauty of the GSB and the Admissions team. They’re great at finding the people who have potential that goes way beyond what their stats and other high-level profile points might say about them. One doesn’t have to have launched a successful business or built a non-profit from the ground up. In fact, the vast majority of GSBers haven’t done that when they arrive on campus. Your job as an applicant is to show the Adcoms that you are one of those folks whose potential is so great that they just can’t say no to you.
With all of that as a backdrop, let’s look at some of the main components of the MBA application and I’ll give you my thoughts on how you should think about them:
- Your story: Here, I’m referring to your WHOLE story, which would include commentary on your background, where you’ve come from, what things in your life have impacted your life path, why you’ve made your academic and career choices, what you’ve done in your career, why you NEED an MBA, how you’ve demonstrated your leadership potential, and why Stanford is the perfect place to prepare you to meet your goals. I’ve listed many things here and you don’t have to write about them all, but you should at least be thinking through these items and more in order to help the Admissions folks truly know who you are. Every school wants to know who you are inside and out, but, because of the unique culture at Stanford, this is especially important to gauge whether you’d be a fit for the class that is being built in a given year.
Your job with the essays is the communicate your story and motivation for pursuing a Stanford MBA as effectively as possible. You could be off-the-charts on every other part of the app, but, if your essays don’t tell your story well, then you’d be sunk. Be sure to put sufficient thought into what your story will be and to put sufficient time into telling that story in the right way.
- Academic background: At this point, your academic background is in the past and there’s nothing you can do to change it, so I wouldn’t dwell on it if I were you. I’m not sure what your major was, but your 3.4 GPA is good and Ohio State is a good university. Assuming that the rest of your application is strong, I wouldn’t think that you should be concerned about your academics pulling you down as an applicant.
- GMAT: The GSB rejects people with 750+ GMAT scores every year, so it isn’t the end-all and be-all of the MBA application. That said, it is an important part of the mix and you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of this test. My rule of thumb is for people to study as hard as they can and aim for 700+. If you can’t get to 700, just make sure that you have put your all into doing as well as you can. Also, remember that a school’s average GMAT score is just that…an average. Some admitted students get scores lower than the average and that’s totally fine. Don’t let yourself doubt your chances if you don’t score as high as you’d like.
- Work experience: You’ve got a great professional background with your experience at Teach for America and your current work as an Analyst at Accenture. Now, you’ve got to find a way to explain your career path and help the Adcoms understand how those experiences, along with a Stanford MBA, will lay the groundwork for you to achieve your career goals. You have to remember that most of the other applicants will have great work experience, as well, so you’ll have to weave a great story with yours in order to be distinctive.
- Recommendations: It should go without saying that you should ask for people that you trust to write positive statements to write your recommendations, but I’ve heard stories about recommenders submitting negative stuff, which is just plain awful. I suggest that you start identifying your recommenders right now and reach out to them as early as you can to ask whether they’d be willing to help you by taking on this responsibility (I state it in this way because they’re playing a major role in your future career). Once you’ve decided how you’re going to position yourself as an applicant, you should share that strategy with your recommendation writers so that they’ll understand the story that you’re trying to tell in your application. If you can, it could be useful for you to provide your recommenders with background information on the GSB and its culture. Finally, you must be diligent in checking in with those recommenders to make sure that they don’t just throw something together at the last minute.
OK, I know that I’ve written a lot here and please know that it wasn’t my intention. I guess I just started typing and my fingers took over. Anyways, I hope that what I’ve written above is helpful in giving you an idea of how you should think about your application. It is a tough road, but it isn’t an impossible one…remember that.
That’s about all I’ve got. If you have any questions about what I’ve said here, let me know.