GMAT 610 - Can I get into Tuck or Harvard?

Maxx AssociatesQ) I got a 610 in the GMAT and I was wondering which top schools would be willing to accept a student like me. A little back ground on me. Female from India, currently residing in Boston Massachusetts I have an engineering degree with a 3.6 GPA and I have 5 years experience.  Presently I am a Business Analyst  and I am also involved in many community services through work.
I have taken the GMAT twice and both the times I have scored 610 despite intense preparations. I would like to go to either Tuck or Harvard mainly because I like the Case Method approach.
Please advise if I should even bother to apply to these schools if not which other schools should I be looking into?

Maxx Duffy: Let's start with the good news:  You have a solid GPA in a difficult discipline and that is a plus.  You also have 5 years of professional experience which means you must have a wealth of projects, achievements, and perspectives to offer in a classroom environment.  I am also glad to hear that you have been active in community activities. Giving support to one's community is a sign of a leader; it also is a sign of positive personal values. 

Now for the more difficult news:  as you already know, a 610 GMAT is a low score for Tuck or HBS.  The "rule of thumb" is usually a 30-point swing for a particular school.  For example, if a program's average GMAT is 700, then a 670 or higher is in their range.  With your having taken the exam twice already, you have the following choices: 

• Retake the exam a 3rd time, which I suspect that you do not wish to do.  However, I know from my own clients that sometimes the third exam is "the lucky charm."  If you could raise your score to even a 640 or 650, you would be in the range of many business schools in the second tier (Top 30s).  Examples: Emory (Goizueta); Tulane (Freeman); Vanderbilt (Owen); Boston University; University of Maryland (Smith); University of Wisconsin (Madison) -- and many others. Of course, if you did raise your score to the higher 600s, you would then have a shot at Top 20 programs.

Apply to your dream programs, recognizing that you are on an uphill battle in terms of acceptance.  These are your dream schools and, in fairness, programs do sometimes make exceptions.  However, the question is: Can that exception be you?  There is no way of knowing that, and, honestly, I think that your odds are slim.  So, here is what you have to decide: (1) do you want to take the time, effort, and cost of applying realizing that your chances are not good? and (2) if you don't apply, can you live with that decision without regret for the rest of your life?  Only you can answer these questions.   

• Apply to schools further down in rankings but within range of your current GMAT.  If you do this, then you need to make sure that the programs do still provide the knowledge that you seek to achieve the future professional goals that you have set for yourself (you have not indicated your future goals).  Examples:  Pepperdine University; Syracuse University; University of Arizona. 

• Wait another year; retake the GMAT; and enroll in business courses to build an alternative profile: finance, statistics, microeconomics, accounting. Of course, you should get "As" in the courses.  This option is probably least attractive, as your engineering studies and your Business Analyst position do already indicate quantitative / business skills.  I just wanted to cite this as technically it is another alternative.

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About Maxx Duffy

Maxx AssociatesIrene Maxx Duffy, Maxx Associates' founder and director, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her MBA from The Wharton School. Before starting Maxx Associates, Ms. Duffy was Associate Director of Admissions at Harvard University's Graduate School of Business Administration. She has corollary experience in career planning, marketing, advertising, and franchise consulting. Ms. Duffy has conducted corporate seminars and taught at a variety of continuing education programs. She is a co-founder, board member, and chair of the governance committee of the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants.

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