MBA Applications: Round One or Round Two?

An applicant from Mexico wants to do an MBA at a top-tier US school. His GMAT score is 650; three admissions consultants analyze his chances

This is the third in a series of profiles on the winners of FIND MBA’s recent MBA application advice contest, where three top MBA application consultants analyze the chances of MBA applicants. Read the first and the second entries.

Isidro Martinez, from Mexico, wants to do his MBA at a top US business school, such as the Stanford Graduate School of BusinessUC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, and the Wharton School, among others.

He has around four years of work experience, mainly in controlling roles for Heineken Mexico. However, earlier this year, he launched a solar energy startup. His goals are to continue working in the renewable energy field, in Mexico.

His GMAT score is 650; he has a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education (ITESM).

Martinez wants to know, given his GMAT score, if it’s better to apply in round one or round two, as well as what else he can do to get into the best business school possible. Three top MBA admissions consultants analyzed his profile and his admissions chances.

Work experience

According to the admissions consultants, Martinez’s hybrid work experience in controlling and as a managing director of his own startup might be an asset in his application chances.

“He only has four years of work experience, but being a partner and managing director of a startup that's successful and is growing, that shows an extremely steep career trajectory,” says Dollaya Chaibongsai, managing director of The MBA Exchange.

Duncan Chapple says that the strength of Martinez’s work experience will look positive to application committees, who will have an eye towards his post-MBA placement. “It's relatively impressive, and I think a school would be able to place him easily, with his experience.”

However, even if the work experience is strong, he will have to explain, in his application essays and interviews, how he made the jump from working in controlling roles at Heineken to starting his own solar company. “I would want to understand, what piqued your interest in solar energy? Fill in that gap for me,” says Stacy Blackman.

Dollaya Chaibongsai would agree. “He needs to connect the dots between what he's done in the past, what he's doing now, and what he wants to do moving forward, and show how an MBA can help him get there faster,” she says.

Another point that might come up during the application process is what would happen to Martinez’s business if he goes away to business school for two years.

"These schools will be wondering, 'is this person's business going to be successful?’" says Duncan Chapple.

“He's just founded this business, why is he leaving so early?”

GMAT score

Although 650 is a solid GMAT score, it is far below the average of accepted students at the schools that Martinez is looking at. The average GMAT score for the class of 2017 at Stanford, for instance, is 733. At Wharton, the mean GMAT score of this year’s entering class is 732.

At other schools that Martinez is aiming for, such as the University of Texas at Austin’s McCombs School of Business and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, the averages are closer to 700, which is still above Martinez’s 650.

Can a Low GMAT Score Kill Your B-School Dreams?

“His work experience is a bit light for some of these schools, and his GMAT score is definitely light,” says Duncan Chapple.

Since the business schools that Martinez is looking at are highly competitive, all admissions consultants advised that Martinez hold off until a later round to apply, and work on his GMAT score. “I say do round two with a 700,” says Stacy Blackman. “A score in the 700s is going to be much better than a 650.”

Likewise, Dollaya Chaibongsai says that “If he can raise his GMAT score even by 30 points, I think he should go for it, and I think he should apply in round two.”

“And then he has more time and can use that time to build and strengthen all other aspects of his candidacy.”

School selection

While the schools that Martinez is looking at all offer top-ranked MBA programs, Duncan Chapple suggests that he might instead look at lower-profile schools that are perhaps more appropriate for his career goals.

“He definitely needs to consider, is he a strong candidate for the types of firms that recruit from the programs he's looking at?” Chapple says.

For instance, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte’s Belk College of Business has a dual-degree MBA program with Mexico’s EGADE Business School, which might be worth considering.

“If he wants to study in English but understand the Mexican market, then he should go to EGADE,” says Chapple.

Likewise, since his long-term career goals include staying in Mexico, US schools with strong connections to the Latin American region, such as the University of Miami’s School of Business, might also be good choices.

Participating Admissions Consultants:

Image: "Calendar" by Dafne Cholet / Flickr (cropped, rotated)

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