So here we are onto Part 2, an applicant’s profile. Broadly speaking this consists of the following components:
- GMAT (as discussed previously)
- Work experience; and
These factors combine to form an applicant’s “profile”. This profile is a crude but easy way to see how you stack up against the competition and determine whether you are a competitive candidate for your target schools. Most schools publish as part of their class profile the latest GMAT range, GPA range, average years of work experience, and average age. If you fall within these criteria, then you might be a good fit.
For the GMAT and GPA, you will ideally be in the upper half of their range. For example if the 80% GPA range is 3.33 – 3.63 then anything around 3.50 or above will be very solid. As for age and average years of work experience, these factors are far more subjective. In terms of age, typically a class will range from 24 – 35+ with the majority falling between 26-32. I think your age is tied directly to your work experience. For example, if you are older but this is due to military commitments then this is easy to explain. However if you graduated at 21 and have 10+ years of experience, it is more difficult to explain why you need an MBA now (and not an EMBA). It is also not only about the length of work experience but what you have accomplished. 2 years of phenomenal leadership experience would definitely be more useful than 6 years of job hopping with no clear direction.
Extracurriculars. This is the “interesting” element of your profile. I think there is a misconception that you need to start an NGO and save half of Africa from starvation (although if you managed that, awesome!). It is a way of demonstrating to the admissions committees that you are a well rounded person. This can be anything from playing on sports teams, volunteering, hobbies or accomplishments (finishing a triathlon for example). Think of it like this: would you want a classmate who was 100% concentrated on studying with no outside interest? Personally I would find that completely dull and steer clear of that person. HOWEVER, amazing extracurriculars will most likely not make up for other weaknesses. You may be the most interesting person in the world but if you can’t demonstrate the necessary intellectual horsepower, then you will still not be competitive.
Finally, I will bundle gender and nationality together. In the crudest terms think of an MBA class like pokemon. The admissions committee are gonna catch ’em all or try to create as much diversity as possible. Cue the complaints of but I have a higher GMAT and went to a more prestigious college. Unfortunately, if that was all they looked at then the class would not be diverse at all. Undoubtedly if you come from a far flung location which do not send many people to study for their MBAs, you have a distinct advantage. You can offer something culturally that no one else can. I won’t delve too deeply into the affirmative action argument but promoting diversity in the class is only beneficial I feel because it broadens the horizons of everyone.
Tip: I did not use an admissions consultant. However a lot of them offer free 30 minute chats / reviews of your profile. Others even offer paid for service that really digs into your profile. Take their comments with a pinch of salt but they can help you figure out any weaknesses that you may need to address.
FAQ and debunking some myths
- I have a non-traditional background (non-profit / History major / etc), I have no hope
Nope, actually the poet background or non-traditional path can really work for you. However you need to make it clear HOW your background has got you to this point and why an MBA makes sense. If you lack a quant background, scoring highly on the GMAT as well as taking additional calculus courses will prove your quant abilities and convince the adcoms that you can handle the courses.
- 0 years work experience, should I apply?
In almost all cases, no unless you are apply to deferral programs like HBS 2+2 or Yale Silver Scholars. A big part of an MBA program is learning from your classmates. If you just graduated from college, what will your classmates learn from you? Some schools in fact are quite public in stating that 100% of their class have work experience.
- Over 30, what are my chances?
Depends how far over 30. Early 30s I think doesn’t create that much of a problem providing your path so far and your reason for an MBA make sense. Once you get towards the mid-to-late 30s, it starts getting more difficult because schools starting eyeing you up for their EMBA programs instead. There are always a few 35+ students in every class but you really have to do a good job selling your case.
- I am work in PE, Ivy UG 3.8GPA, 700 GMAT therefore I will certainty get into the top 5 schools
Sure you have a good shot but you are competing against applicants who are also accomplished Type-As. Even if you have all the right attributes, it still takes solid execution to get admits. Complacency has scuppered many an MBA applicant I’m sure!
- I am an Indian IT male, what are my chances? (sorry had to go there)
You guys are in a tough spot unfortunately because competition is fierce among your demographic. However all is not lost. Rather than being stuck in the Indian IT male mould, you need to think outside the box and look for differentiators.
- I have a horrible GPA but it’s so long ago the admissions committees will overlook that right?
Yes, it was a long time ago and you were too busy partying. I don’t blame you but it’s a weakness. Luckily it’s a common one and can be mitigated to an extent. The recipe is crush the GMAT, be truthful about the reasons in your optional essay, and take supplementary courses to demonstrate your ability.
- 0 extracurriculars, the adcoms will overlook that right? I was busy with work!
This is actually pretty understandable. Some of us go home from work and just want to relax on the couch and watch a movie or two. However, as I mentioned before, you are competing against accomplished Type-As who somehow make time to volunteer or have a hobby on top of their 100-hour IB work week. So if you have time before you apply, try and add something whether it be a hobby or some volunteering. Having no extracurriculars post-college stands out like a sore thumb.