I’m Asian, Male, Average GPA and GMAT…Am I Doomed?

I’m a 26-year-old Asian-American male in the Software Consulting industry.  After careful consideration, I believe I would like to work in International Finance.  Is there hope for someone like me?  I’ve read some of your responses, and I seem to be a “too traditional” type of applicant.  Asian, male, average GPA, average GMAT (almost exactly in the middle of all tier-1 school statistics), don’t know any Harvard alumni, consultant.  Am I doomed to be completely uninteresting to tier-1 admissions officers?

The Harvard MBA says:

You’re not doomed, but it may take some time to position yourself to maximize your chances.

First of all, you do have a number of things going for you.  Even “average” for a tier-1 school is still a lot better than being “below average.”  Less than 50 people per year get a perfect GMAT score…even I didn’t (though I probably would have, if the GMAT hadn’t switched to their computerized format my year…)  But your chances aren’t going to be good unless you find a way to break out from the crowd.

Right now, you’re focused on the typical measures (GPA, GMAT, pre-b-school job) which could prove disastrous.  There are far too many qualified applicants; if you look like a “typical” applicant, you’ll get a “typical” result–a rejection letter.

Here’s where the hard work comes in.  You have to find a way to do something remarkable that will set you apart.  As I’ve noted before, business schools are in the business of building the best possible portfolio of students (or as I like to refer to them, “future alumni donors”).  Like any investor, they prefer a diversified portfolio, and will allocate some portion of their investment (acceptance letters) to “alternate asset classes.”

When I was in school for example, I had plenty of classmates who had little to no business experience, but had demonstrated leadership in other ways.  These were high-risk/high-reward investments that could individually flame out, but probably delivered a better expected value than simply admitting a few more McKinsey associates.

Demonstrate that you’re not just another typical candidate by doing something a typical candidate couldn’t do.  This may be starting a successful social enterprise in your spare time, writing a best-selling book, or becoming the next YouTube star.  But you need to start looking off the beaten track.  Staying on that track will doom your chances.

One Trackback

  1. […] As I’ve noted before,  business schools aren’t actually looking for “typical” candidates and the quest for “diversity” has ruthless economic logic underlying it: Business schools are in the business of building the best possible portfolio of students (or as I like to refer to them, “future alumni donors).  Like any investor, they prefer a diversified portfolio, and will allocate some portion of their investment (acceptance letters) to “alternate asset classes.” […]

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