In the MBA Admissions Clinic, the Fortuna Admissions team of former admissions directors and associates from Wharton, INSEAD, HBS, Chicago Booth, UC Berkeley Haas, IE, NYU Stern and London Business School evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of MBA applicants and provide advice for improving the chances of getting in. The profiles are based on real people, although details have been changed to protect their identities.
Becky has solid academic credentials and is doing well in her career, but does she stand out from the crowd enough to win over Kellogg?
Becky, 25, is a Consultant at Deloitte, one of the leading professional services firms. She has an undergraduate degree in Economics and French from George Washington University, with a 3.7 GPA. Becky has a busy life outside of work: she is a member of the National Asian Business Group and is also actively involved in the Washington Humane Society. Her 690 GMAT score places her in the 94th percentile on the verbal section and 74th on the quantitative section. She plans to apply to Kellogg, and is also considering Tuck and Yale.
Why an MBA?
Becky wants to become a top-tier strategy consultant and recognizes that an MBA from a top business school is essential in helping her achieve this goal.
Becky has been with Deloitte for four years, joining them as a trainee accountant directly after graduating. She qualified into an audit role a couple of years later and more recently moved across to Deloitte’s consulting arm in their Strategy and Operations area, and has been working on a number of business and operating model transformation projects. She has had opportunities to lead projects and small teams, and has been assigned to two international engagements; one in Europe and one in China. After four years with Deloitte, she is now keen to move away from the operational side to more of a strategic consulting role, potentially within her company, but preferably at one of the top strategy consulting firms such as McKinsey, Bain or BCG.
Becky’s first choice business school is Kellogg, renowned for one of the strongest recruitment rates into top consulting firms after the MBA. Having spoken to a couple of Kellogg graduates, she is convinced this is her best fit due to the emphasis the school places on team skills and collaborative working, and how the student community seem to be highly engaged in campus life, which is exactly the kind of experience she is seeking.
Becky has a solid working relationship with her manager, an INSEAD MBA alum, and has discussed her career aspirations with her openly. She considered applying to INSEAD but really wants the two year full-on student experience where she can take complete advantage of all the extra-curricular opportunities and potentially an international exchange program. As a valued employee, Becky’s manager has persuaded her to consider returning to Deloitte post-MBA and they are in discussions with HR about potentially securing sponsorship. She is unsure about this, however, as she knows how many doors will open following her MBA and doesn’t want to feel obliged to return to Deloitte, given the standard lock-in period.
Becky has a strong academic record from a good school and is progressing well in her career at a highly reputable company. She has worked with some high profile clients and has some international experience which will work in her favor. She has a lot of support behind her decision to attend business school and will be able to secure convincing recommendation letters that emphasize her highly engaged nature, excellent client relations, strong team ethic, and budding leadership skills. Her GMAT score is below Kellogg’s current average of 708, so she will need to demonstrate her ability to handle the academics, particularly on the slightly weaker quant-side. One of the main areas Becky will need to focus on throughout her application, is ensuring she shines amongst the masses of other aspiring consultants, demonstrating she has what it takes to secure a role in a top-tier strategy consulting firm, that she has something unique to bring to the table, and that she has a strong connection and fit with Kellogg.
Kellogg is renowned for recruiting well-rounded individuals with outstanding interpersonal skills and a very strong team ethic, but they are also looking for future leaders. It will be essential for Becky to use examples throughout her application that highlight these skills and that really get across her character and values well enough to allow the admissions team to understand who she is and that she will fit well at Kellogg.
The Kellogg essays look to understand Becky’s level of self-awareness and resilience, with a question about dealing with a challenging situation and her learnings from that experience, and also an essay about what she has learned about working with and motivating others from a professional experience that required her to influence others. Becky has had a few challenging experiences, particularly during her international engagements, as well as opportunities to lead and influence others, but she should think carefully about which examples to focus on in the essays – perhaps discussing her ideas with her Kellogg alumni connections. She should also sit down with her chosen recommenders to discuss how best to illustrate her strengths in their letters, ensuring what they say compliments and reinforces what has already been said in her application and essays. Kellogg’s video essays may be the perfect opportunity for Becky to demonstrate her passion for giving back, for example with her involvement in the Washington Humane Society, as Kellogg will like to see that Becky is an engaged citizen with a meaningful life outside of work.
Becky will quickly need to immerse herself in some in-depth Kellogg research and start making some personal connections with the School. She has had a head start with her Kellogg alumni connections, but she should attend information sessions, and ideally visit the campus to witness for herself the close-knit Evanston community, forty-five minutes from downtown Chicago. She could also sit in on a class and speak to the admissions team if possible, so she really gets to know the spirit of the school, and so they get to know her.
While it may seem like a logical step to move from operational consulting at Deloitte to strategy consulting at somewhere like McKinsey, it’s actually an incredibly competitive path and Becky will need to demonstrate her awareness of the need to take a stepping stone approach to reach her ultimate goal. It will be good for Becky to mention that her firm wants to retain her and that they are willing to sponsor her studies (even if she is not intending on returning) as it not only demonstrates that she is a talented professional who they hold in high regard, it also acts as a back-up plan in the event she does not secure a role with her target firms, which will make the admissions team feel more comfortable about her aspirations.
Becky scored a 690 on her first attempt at the GMAT, which is not a bad score, but it’s highly likely she’ll be able to bump this score up a notch on her second attempt. Our advice to all applicants is to always make sure to apply with a score that reflects your abilities – and with one that is above, or at least in line with the School’s average, if possible. Even if you don’t manage to increase it by a big margin, a lot of schools will appreciate seeing that you at least tried to raise your score as it shows your level of commitment to pursuing an MBA.
While Becky will be focusing her efforts on Kellogg, she must also ensure she does thorough research on her back-up schools and that she submits well-researched, thoughtful applications to all of them.
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