My Application Stats: Things Are Not Always As They Appear

If I were in your shoes, I’d want to know what kind of stats got a reality TV producer into business school. What does it take for a non-traditional applicant to compete? Do you need crazy scores? To start a non-profit saving orphaned penguins in Antarctica?

So in the interest of transparency and context, this is a post about my stats. But here’s the thing. When I was applying, I didn’t always find stats lists like this helpful. Of course the guy from Stanford with a 760 GMAT got into his dream school, you know?

I was so anxious about my applications and so concerned about my candidacy that I wanted to know what people saw as their big liabilities and how they dealt with them. I wanted the story behind the stats. So keep scrolling after my stats for the story behind mine! And remember, things are not always as they appear.

My Application Stats

Where I Applied:

Academic Stats:

  • Undergrad: Northwestern University
  • Grad Year: 2008
  • GPA: 3.72
  • Degree: B.A. in Communications (Radio / TV / Film)
  • Awards: Departmental Honors in Scholarly Writing
  • Since Undergrad: UCLA Extension (Film Financing, Production Accounting, Negotiating Talent Agreements)

GMAT Scores:

  • First Attempt: 690 (V 41 / 91%  |  Q 45 / 63%  |  AWA 6.0 / 92%  |  IR 8 / 92%)
  • Second Attempt: 750 (V 44 / 98%  |  Q 48 / 74%  |  AWA 6.0 / 92%  |  IR 8 / 92%)

Employment Stats:

  • 2009 – 2011: Executive Assistant at 51 Minds Entertainment
  • 2011: Promoted to Associate Segment / Challenge Producer (freelance)
  • 2013: Moved to Associate Story Producer (still freelance)
  • 2014: Promoted to Story Producer (still freelance)

Undergrad Extracurricular Stats:

  • Producer of Boomshaka, a performance group at NU (2 years)
  • Co-President of Studio 22, a student film production company (2 years)
  • Writer / Director of senior thesis film

Post-Undergrad Extracurricular Stats:

Who I Worked With:

Admissions Results:

  • NYU Stern: Interview offer, withdrew application
  • Northwestern Kellogg: Accepted, attending!
  • Stanford GSB: Dinged (rejected) without interview
  • UCLA Anderson: Accepted
  • UT McCombs: Accepted

Scholarship Haul: $226K total (offers from Kellogg, Anderson, and McCombs)

my application story / come meet my baggage!

I look back over those stats, and I wonder who the hell that girl is. She sounds great! But believe me, I did not feel great when I was putting together my application.

Throughout the application process, I had this (completely irrational) fear that I was competing with hordes of Perfect MBA Students™ in the application pool. These Perfect MBA Students™ had 4.0 GPAs from Ivy Leagues, 780s on their GMATs, came from MBA-happy backgrounds like consulting or finance, ran non-profits in developing countries in their free time, and always had perfect hair. I could never compete with that.

With the benefit of hindsight, I realize it was goofy to think that the other applicants were perfect androids designed to keep me from getting into school. But at the time, I was busy feeling the weight of baggage that kept me from being a Perfect MBA Student™:

  • My grades dropped sharply senior year (we’re talking incompletes and Cs here). You’ll hear about grade trends as you do your application research — an upward trend is great even if the grades aren’t spectacular, a downward trend like mine is a red flag. And emotionally, that year was the first time I’d ever fallen flat on my face, and it was a hard, humbling year that still affects my confidence.
  • My academics and career have been laser-focused on the creative side of entertainment. My last math class was in 2004, and my jobs don’t require strong quant skills. Plus, entertainment is big on paying dues, and I was in support roles for years — was my work experience soft on leadership too?
  • I never had test anxiety…until the GMAT. It scared me so much that I would sweat bullets during practice tests. I had a moderate anxiety attack during the quant section of my first GMAT, and all my application work was colored by GMAT anxiety for the three months between my first and second attempts.
  • EDIT: I’ve been going over my application timeline for future posts and was smacked with the realization that I actually didn’t really get started with my essays until about October, because of assorted work-related things that I’ll cover later. It must seem like I was super prepared because of all my prep programs and consultant hours, but holy crap I really didn’t leave myself much time to get things together!

I now know, of course, that none of these problems were insurmountable. And I’m sure that the people around me also knew this from the jump. But every MBA applicant I’ve talked to is carting around baggage of some kind, and their baggage feels like a deal-breaker to them. But it’s not, and chances are, yours won’t be either. Surround yourself with a support system to give you perspective about your weaknesses as well as your unique strengths — mine was family, friends, and a bunch of experts.

Remember: just because you think someone else’s stats are perfect doesn’t mean there aren’t weaknesses in their application, and just because you’re hyper-aware of your application’s weaknesses doesn’t mean that you will be the slowest gazelle on the savannah. Stats are deceptive — there’s always more to the story. No one is perfect, and you are closer to perfect (or Perfect MBA Student™) than you think!


Image courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.


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