Good Questions #3

Here is the last entry (for now) in a recent series of e-mail exchanges I've been having with an applicant.

If you have questions, please let me know.

3. Looking at my profile what do you think my chances are getting into top 5 colleges assuming i get 700+ in GMAT? I understand every college looks for some special characteristic in their prospective students. Do you think i can satisfy the criterias of the top notch colleges? I think you are the most appropriate person to answer this questions as you have so much experience in admission process.

This is a very common question, but unfortunately no one can answer it accurately based on so little information. At a minimum, I would need to discuss your career goals with you, review your resume in-depth, or scan essays you've already written.  Even then, the best I could give you is an impression. I had clients who I thought fit a certain school's "profile" perfectly who weren't accepted and others who I thought did not fit at all who were accepted. I've also had clients who were accepted by a top-5 school but rejected by a lower-ranked school. Some years many of my clients were accepted at a particular top-5 school and the next year no one was even invited to an interview. How do you explain these things? There are simply too many variables to predict an outcome with any accuracy. In some ways, the admissions process is a black box and you should run far and fast from anyone claiming they can predict an outcome or that they know how to get you accepted at a certain school. 

As long as my clients are "diversifying their portfolio" of potential schools to maximize their chances, I encourage everyone to apply to their top-choice programs because I consistently help people even with low GMAT scores get interview invitations and acceptances to these programs. The only reason I would not encourage someone to apply is 1) if I honestly felt they had little chance based on several factors and 2) applying to that school would hurt their chances of applying in time to a program they had a better chance at, i.e., the opportunity cost of applying to the dream school was too high.

You are right that every school looks for "special characteristics" in their applicants. However, those special characteristics are different for every individual applicant. Your job is to make sure adcoms know your special characteristics. My job is to make sure you know your special characteristics.