MBAnalysis Blog: Your Mother was Wrong, You Really are Just Average

“Welcome to the MBA admissions process where all applicants can do math, all students speak fluent English, and all candidates are above average.” Garrison Keillor (sort of).

In my last blog post, I wrote about weighing your chance of acceptance at a top program if you were an average candidate.

I really put the emphasis on average because published admissions rates reflect a candidate whose GPA, GMAT, years of work experience, age and any other objective or factual part of the candidacy is well…average. Or to state it differently, if your stats are less than average than your chance of admission is less than the published acceptance rate. Similarly, if your stats are above average, your chances are better.

This seems like a fairly simple concept to understand but it is human nature to not fully embrace it. The thinking goes something like this, “sure my GMAT is below average but I am just not a good test taker; or my GPA is below average but it doesn’t really reflect how good a student I really am.”

That all may be true but you still have to recognize a couple of things. First, if there really is a story here then you must be prepared to tell it effectively. And, I hate to say it, but your chances of acceptance are still lower than average.

So, what to do? Be sure to explain that a particular metric does not adequately reflect your skills, talents or ability to succeed in an MBA program. If you blew the quantitative section of the GMAT, be prepared to prove that you really are a good math person. For example, a PhD in statistics would be good to note.

Alternatively, a recommendation that says you are the greatest analytical mind since Einstein would go a long way. Also, you have to mitigate this weak portion of your candidacy. Bad GPA? Go get A’s in some online courses. A bumpy work history? Maybe you should spend one more year at your job to show some stability.

One game I wouldn’t play is falling back on the range of scores when gauging your candidacy. For example, the average GMAT score at Stanford’s MBA program is 737 with a range of 590-790. To be a credible candidate to the Stanford GSB, your GMAT better be at or above 737. Otherwise you must be truly exceptional in some way. One can only imagine who that Stanford student is with the 590 GMAT score.

To give you a sense, here is my wild-guess based on nothing but my imagination: a female Rhodes Scholar who founded a billion dollar company in a foreign country could likely get into Stanford with a GMAT of 590. But, even then, she was likely very surprised when she received that letter of acceptance.

To offer some relief, recognize that very few candidates are truly above average in every way. Rather, most candidates have some flaw or metric that needs to be explained. Yet, it is this very flaw that can frequently make you unique. Don’t be afraid to embrace this part of your candidacy to tell the story that you are anything but “average.”