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Our client Natasha wanted to apply to Stanford, her dream school, but was intimidated by the acceptance rate below 10%. When she initially met with us to talk about her candidacy, she wanted to find schools that she felt more comfortable attempting. Though Stanford is a reach school for most candidates, we advised Natasha that it was worth aiming high for Stanford, as part of a strategy that included other schools that might be more realistic.
In Natasha’s case she overestimated her competition and underestimated herself. Natasha had an interesting career as an international banking associate working in the oil and gas industry across Russia and the Middle East. Her experience was diverse, and fed directly into her future career goal to expand alternative energy solutions while partnering with governments around the world. Natasha’s academic credentials were stellar, with a 3.7 GPA and 730 GMAT and she had a long list of volunteer service projects both during undergrad and beyond. In short, Natasha was exactly the kind of well-rounded and interesting candidate a school like Stanford likes to admit.
In discussing Natasha’s misgivings about aiming for a school like Stanford, she expressed that the competition must be very stiff and she imagined Princeton grads with Goldman Sachs pedigrees as the ideal candidate for the top tier programs. While certainly those candidates are part of the pool and can offer compelling cases for admission, there is no such thing as a “perfect” MBA applicant. Women applicants, in particular, often downplay their strengths and ability to perform in an MBA environment. Self-awareness is a key attribute of successful business leaders, but the ability to take a chance and aim for a long shot can also bring results.
In the end Natasha was admitted to Stanford, as well as INSEAD and Chicago. She told us that even without such amazing results, she was glad that she had not rejected herself from her “dream school” before the school had a chance to make a decision on her admission.