Handicapping Your Dream School Odds

by John A. Byrne on

He’s an Top Three Ivy League grad who has worked for a venture capital fund in Vietnam, a private equity shop in New York, and managed a softball team.

He started and finished his undergraduate degree two years early after being home schooled, became a CPA at a Big Four firm and has done English tutoring for immigrants.

What these and other MBA candidates want to know is whether they have a chance to get into a top business school. For the sixth consecutive week, we’re turning to Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

As he has in the past, Kreisberg handicaps each potential applicant’s odds of getting in. If you include your own stats and characteristics in the comments (please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience), we’ll pick a half dozen or more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature next week.

Sandy’s assessment:

Mr. Ivy League

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.8 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Harvard/Yale/Princeton Ivy in 2007
  • Worked in private equity in New York for two years and two-plus years for a venture capital fund in Vietnam run by HBS grads
  • Extracurriculars include playing a division one sport for four years, managing a softball team in a local international softball league, various alumni association work and random charity work

Odds of Success

Harvard Business School: 40% to 70%
Stanford: 30% to 55%
Wharton: 50% to 80%
Chicago: 60% to 90% (just convince Booth you want to come)

Sandy’s Analysis: Dunno, man (and I am assuming you are a man), this sounds pretty solid and interesting. Guys like you get into Harvard and Stanford depending on execution, recommendations, luck, and at HBS, not blowing the interview.

You are anchored by a 3.8 GPA and a D1 sport which they respect, especially if it was a team sport, viz. football, baseball, basketball, and their absolute favorite, crew. I don’t know why crew is such a fav, maybe it is because Adcoms are gals, and have gauzy mental pictures of hunks on the water, or maybe because the historical record of crew guys at HBS is pretty thick, although women’s crew also a plus and surprisingly the crew admits are often coxswains (low weight Asian gals with big mouths, or regular mouths which feel very comfy around a megaphone, which I believe the team provides).

The one soft spot is the GMAT, but they will blink at that, in light of high GPA, solid splits (81/89) and just an interesting story. Some issues would be, as always, what is the record of your employer sending kids to H/S/W and do those HBS grads running the Vietnam fund have any beyond-ordinary pull.

You will need to be very strategic about presenting your extra-currics because they seem wide rather than deep. That is okay, and it is often preferred. Kids with deep involvement in one thing often get overwhelmed trying to present it, while other kids, who ran one fundraiser, really dig deep and capture in granular detail the various ways they were effective, which oddly (and unfairly) often comes off better than the major player’s confusing essay. Just use some of those extras, especially recent ones, as accomplishments or setbacks, capture a team story, a couple of work stories, and some blah blah goal statement about how PE can transform Asia. Add some jive about how X business school can help you, and you could be a winner, especially at Harvard and Wharton.

Stanford gets a bunch of guys like you, and takes some, so a lot there will turn on being winning and Stanfordy in app and essays. What is Stanfordy? It is someone Derrick Bolton (director of admissions) takes a shine to, after you have passed the velvet rope of GPA/GMAT/employment test that gets you inside the club. Then Derrick has to like your personal story, attitude, and values.

Wharton might balk at the GMAT. They seem very touchy about that recently, but jeepers, their average is 718 and someone has to be below that. Why not you?

1 2 3 4 5
  • Mr. YoungBuck

    @jbyrne

    Hey guys,
    I really appreciate you guys doing this for us. The reviews are very insightful. Although I feel my type of profile has not been done yet so it will be a worthy contribution. I feel it is a bit unique.This is my second time submitting to be reviewed. I do not mind re-submitting but hopefully this is my chance! thanks!

    Mr. YoungBuck or Mr. JumpStart or Mr. LittleTexas or (your choice)

    -700 GMAT
    -B.S. Chemical Engineering
    -3.8 GPA from Texas Tech University (top 25 Engineering School)
    -22 year old Nigerian American (fresh out of school)
    -Work Experience (beginning with the most recent): [Shell Oil Internship, Eastman Chemical Co-Op, TETRA Technologies Internship]

    That is all my Engineering Industry Experience. I also have experience working as an RA of a non-traditional dorm (older students, handicapped students, and upperclassman students) for a year. Back home, I also work seasonally as a Sales Associate at Calvin Klein (for the past 4 years).

    -Activities and Societies: *starting with highest level of involvement*: American Institute of Chemical Engineers (SORC Representative), Texas Tech University Men’s Rugby(Fundraising/Recruitment Chair and All-State Player), Christ in Action(Servant Leader), National Society of Collegiate Scholars(member), Alpha Lambda Delta(member), Phi Eta Sigma(member)

    I want to get my MBA to serve executively in the energy industry while having the technical background to make good decisions and develop some ways to create alternative energy. Once again, I havent seen any fresh out of college reviews and not too many AA males either. I feel this would be a valid review.

    Potential Schools:
    2+2 Program
    MIT joint MS in Engineering and MBA
    H/S/W
    Kellogg
    Columbia
    Darden
    UT
    Duke
    Michigan
    Carnegie
    (your suggestion)

    haha and sorry for all the parentheses but this text box is not the most advanced one I have ever used.

    Thanks Again!!

  • Mr. New & Improved

    Review Submission: Mr. New & Improved

    -720 GMAT
    -B.S. Economics & Finance
    -2.7 GPA from Bentley University
    -28 years old
    -Work Experience (beginning with the most recent): Joined JPMorgan Investment Bank Technology group as support for securities analytics software (4.5 year. Quickly moved up the ranks from analyst to VP.); sales analyst and planner at Toy Company out of college (1.5 years. Worked under HBS grad and McKinsey alum.); Joined a startup internet company that was founded out of a study room at HBS while a senior undergrad.

    Activities & Interests:
    – Editor of a very popular men’s fashion blog (GQ-approved; collaborated with several large brands on product releases for fun).
    – Husband and Father of one child.
    – Invested in and consulting for two internet startups with little success but good prospects.
    – Charted Financial Analyst (CFA)

    I would probably stay in Finance but would consider tech VC/PrivateEquity.
    Schools: Interested in your assessment.

    I have very broad interests (style, design, technology, finance) and a very nontraditional background. I think it would be interesting to others who found their path/passion later in life.

  • Regina

    All the evaluated profiles seem typical and process is arbitrary. Is there a chance for the rest of us. I have met countless mbas who have told me that they exaggerate their community involvement.

    Many admissions directors say that they want “people who do extraordinary things in ordinary jobs”. But working for the big four and/or an ivy league education should already give you an advantage in your career trajectory. Technically, if you were a “true star”, you should be well on your way and not need an MBA.

    How about those of us who make it in 2nd tier organizations but are valued at our organization and are actually doing “extraordinary things”?

    I’m whiny because I think I don’t have a fair chance [I know I know life is unfair]….. BTW, I love this column. You must be anthony bourdain’s brother.
    And poetsandquants is soon becoming addictive.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Thanks Regina for your comments. We’ll put up some profiles next week of people in second–tier organizations that are doing extraordinary things. Glad to hear we’re becoming addictive–hopefully in a good way.

  • Ranjit

    Hi John,
    I just had a question that popped into my mind while reading all the profiles being analyzed here over the past few weeks. I’m an immigrant from India (I’m guessing you already got that from my name), who came to the US to study and has since joined the work force here. Is it fair to say that Indians (and probably Chinese) applying to top business schools are sort of at a disadvantage while applying because of the large number of applicants from these countries? I know that getting an admit to a top school is hard in itself, but I feel that being from one of the ‘over represented’ countries stacks the odds up higher against you. Is that a fair comment to make?

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/jbyrne/ John A. Byrne

    Ranjit,

    I believe you’re right

  • http://hbsguru.com hbsguru :-(

    Many admissions directors say that they want “people who do extraordinary things in ordinary jobs”.
    THAT IS JUST TYPICAL ADCOM HOOEY, part of the Uber-Myth that anyone can get into any school– and job pedigree, gmat, gpa, schooling and extras are all some other thing you can trump by doing EXTRAORDINARY thing at any job. Not true on its face and quite frankly, I’ve read 1000’s of admitted apps to H and S, and the number of people who actually did somethnig extraordinary at work is like under five, and only ONE really comes to mind, an amazing guy who had an HBS case written about him shortly after graduating. What a great quote –belongs on the list of FAMOUS ADCOM LIES AND DELUSIONS AND SMOKESCREENS.

  • Alis

    About me:
    -Female
    -760 GMAT
    -2.5-2.7 GPA non-HYP Ivy (with valid medical reason)
    -Extra, post-college coursework at respected state university, 4.0
    -Work experience, 4 years at a small-by-design market leader niche industry consultancy (run by an alum of one of the top-5 MBA programs). Fully leading a best-in-class product for the company and rapidly growing within the organization.
    -1/2 minority
    -Dual citizen of a country that will likely have no other applicants to top MBA programs
    -Extra-currics focused on alumni involvement groups and formally advising a women’s group at their college

    What are my chances of:
    -Columbia
    -Haas
    -Wharton
    -Stanford
    -Harvard
    -Duke

    Is the GPA a non-starter for every school?

  • Alis

    Forgot to mention in my original posting: US-born despite dual citizenship

  • Mr. Small School

    I look forward to the reviews of those in 2nd tier organizations (whether undergrad institution or work experience). Here are my profile details:

    29 at matriculation,white male
    GPA: 3.83 at BYU-Idaho (current president is former HBS dean)
    GMAT: 710
    Work Experience: 1 1/2 years at small derivatives trading firm; 2 1/2 years starting a derivatives trading and investment management firm; market volatility necessitated a move to working for a reputable brokerage firm for a steady, predictable income (2 yrs at matriculation).
    Extracurriculars: 2 years service as a missionary (volunteer) in Asia (learning and speaking local language) including positions of leadership of up to 15 individuals, co-captain of intracollegiate basketball team, various church leadership positions(president of congregation’s Sunday School, president of men’s quorum), participation in other clubs. Continued church participation and leadership post-undergrad, church basketball participation.
    Desired industry: I want to get back into trading or investment management (but with a large established firm) utilizing my past experience with derivatives.
    My experience in derivatives is making me strongly consider the two Chicago schools, but am also considering other top schools:
    HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg
    Please let me know my chances. Thanks!

  • Mr. International Public Service

    Mr. International Public Service
    730 GMAT
    Undergrad from top-5 liberal arts college
    Double Major in Physics/Applied Mathematics, GPA 3.3
    MA in Education from Stanford, GPA 3.9

    – Taught math/entrepreneurship to inner city kids in Los Angeles and East Palo Alto for three years
    – Winner of two prestigious national teaching fellowships(less than 30 people/year for each)
    – started an award winning social entrepreneurship program for kids in LA
    – helped found a science education software company on the side
    – born and raised in the Middle East, grew up in challenging economic circumstances
    – goal to return to the Middle East and start a social entrepreneurship school for women, create web apps for low income kids to have access to education

    Chances for H/S/W/Kellogg/Chicago/MIT/Berkeley?
    Definitely in need of finaid to get through B-School. Where can I apply for need based aid?

  • Mr. Gentrification

    John/Sandy:

    *GMAT: 720
    *Education: University of Virginia, Foreign Affairs/Architecture
    *GPA: 3.0
    *1 year as a Finance Director for a top tier Congressional campaign.
    *2 years as Sr. Project Manager for a top tier national real estate developer specializing in urban revitalization (personally managed $100MM+ project budgets).
    *LEED AP
    *Spearheaded creation of an urban arts not-for-profit and a firm-sponsored inner city business initiative (influenced by HBS’s Michael Porter’s work).
    *Prestigious leadership fellows program; top 40 young black professionals in metropolitan area (Major Southern City); admitted into Management Leaders of Tomorrow program.
    *Mixed race male; Fluent in Spanish, French and Portuguese

    -Would like to transition to New York for real estate development/finance. Ultimate goal of developing a private sector driven affordable housing model for implementation in cities in Latin America and the Caribbean.

    -HBS / Columbia / Wharton / Yale / Dartmouth / Chicago / Darden / MIT / Georgetown

  • Ben

    Age: 25
    Ethnicity: Asian American
    GPA: 3.0 GPA from UC Santa Barbara
    Major: Business Economics/Accounting
    Work Experience: Senior Auditor (4 Years) at Global Public Accounting Firm (right outside the Big 4, think BDO/Grant Thornton), CPA — Lead teams to audit public/private companies in various industries
    Extracurriculars: Executive Board of local church (elected, past two years), Mentor at non-profit advising high school students (Volunteer, past two summers), College involvement in recruiting minorities to be bone marrow donors

  • Mr. Visionary Entrepreneur

    Hi John, Mr. Kreisberg,

    Great series, thank you for considering my profile!

    720 GMAT (considering retaking to get over 750)
    3.5 GPA in Finance and Economics from top Canadian university
    Sat for L3 CFA exam, results available in August
    1.5 years at a premiere global investment bank
    2 years at a Canadian investment banking boutique
    Recently co-founded and at the moment co-managing a tech start-up
    For the past 6 years actively involved at the executive level in an ethnic identity organization
    For the past 2 years actively involved in a b-school alumni association, currently in an executive role
    Speak 4 languages, white male, Canadian and EU citizenship
    Avid skier, rock climber and traveller

    Schools of interest:
    Harvard
    Stanford
    Wharton
    Columbia
    Sloan

    Your time and help would be much appreciated.

  • bennika

    Can you all do a handicapping for reapplicants??? Thanks!!

    Age: 29 (male)
    Undergrad: Top 25 Liberal Arts College (Theatre Degree)
    GPA: 3.4
    Grad: MA at So-so school in Media Studies
    GPA: 3.7
    GMAT: 760

    E/Cs: Lots. Most notable include top-10 national ranking in College debate. Managed all volunteers for NYC Gay Pride March (Including receiving “Outstanding Volunteer” award).

    W/E: This is where I knowingly need improvement. I work in a large hospitality group in NYC and want to use the general management skills I have acquired to move into general management in a different sector (particularly in new media). I have also done a fair amount of freelance media work but nothing major.

    The feedback I received was primarily that basically my essays were great at illustrating my personality, but lacked clear substance.

    Reapplicant to: Harvard / Dartmouth / Yale / NYU
    Considering Applying to: Northwestern / Columbia / Chicago / Georgetown / UCLA

  • Steven Fowler

    Mr. US Air Force Officer
    Age: 32
    Interested in Management Consulting

    Education
    -Undergrad: Texas A&M, B.S. Economics
    -GPA: 3.75
    -Worked full-time to pay for 100% of school
    -First in family to graduate from college
    -Couple different honor societies, but no extracurriculars, worked too much.

    GMAT: 720

    Work Experience
    -US Air Force Captain
    -B-1B Bomber Navigator
    -11 years when school starts
    -Motivated by September 11th attacks to join military
    -3 deployments to Afghanistan, 3 x Air Medals, Afghanistan Campaign Medal
    -Mission Commander of $300 million Supersonic USAF bomber
    -In charge of 14 subordinates
    -Top Secret security clearance
    -Numerous awards as #1 of many

    Extracurricular/Outside Work
    -Have taken 4 business classes since undergrad to keep skills sharp, all A’s
    -One year of Big Brothers, Big Sisters
    -Married with one daughter

    Schools of Interest
    Harvard
    Stanford
    Wharton
    Kellogg
    Booth
    Dartmouth

  • Fernando

    Mr. Inner City

    Really appreciate this, will love to get feedback as I have been promoted to post-MBA position at my current company and want to know if it makes sense to get my MBA

    -650 GMAT
    -B.A. Economics, 3.2 GPA from Ivy league School
    -Latino, immigrated to Oakland when I was 8, first-generation college student
    -Work Experience (in order, most recent to oldest):
    -2 years Corporate M&A at a very popular corporation in Pacific Northwest
    – 1 Year at Mega- Private Equity fund in Private Equity team (New York) (left to help start M&A team at corporation, as company had no experience with M&A and thought it was an amazing opportunity)
    – 2 years at Bulge Bracket Investment Bank (Emerging markets M&A, rank in top tiers)

    -Activities and Societies: MLT and SEO, MLT fundraising Captain

    Potential Schools (in order of preference):
    Stanford
    Harvard
    Wharton
    Yale
    Tuck
    Columbia
    Berkeley
    MIT
    UCLA
    Duke
    Chicago
    Kellogg

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/mbaorbust/ M

    I’d like to focus on Sandy’s comment on the “usual exaggerated recommendations”.

    I will also have midwesterners writing my recommendations. Actual accomplishments are interpreted as exaggerations in these parts. And in turn, exaggerations are considered sinful.*

    So the idea of asking my recommenders to exaggerate in the way Sandy is suggesting will basically earn me a one way ticket to hell, instead of a strong recommendation.

    I am planning on providing each of my recommenders with a clear outline of my many accomplishments while working with them, but language wise- their letters will be written in a very understated manner.

    Short of writing my own recommendation letters, how can I convince my recommenders to write a recommendation that is on par with other applicants?

    To be clear, I’m only applying to top 10 schools on both coasts, and a couple international programs (LSE, HEC, and INSEAD)

    *See Jante law-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jante_Law to learn more about this cultural phenomenon

  • MrVarsity

    Hi Sandy,

    Great posts and thanks for your input.
    Regards, MrVarsity

    Caucasian male from Europe
    710 GMAT
    3.4 Grade point average
    Undergraduate degree in European Studies from unknown European university
    8 years work: Full time athlete, captain, Olympic medallist, co-owns gym.
    Promotion and motivation work for various corporate sponsors
    Professional qualification: Junior coaching licence
    Extracurricular activities include outreach and coaching children with Sports Foundation. Assisted UNICEF relief mission in Asia. Volunteer to local charity for disadvantaged adults. Varsity athletics with national championship title.
    30 years old
    Goals: Business Development or General Management
    Disclaimer: My organisation has no track record in sending people to BSchools

    Wharton
    Booth
    Kellogg
    Ross
    Fuqua
    Yale
    Insead

  • Dr.J.Sarkar

    Sir,I would like to know the Odds Of Sucess for my son.His GMAT score 780.He holds a first class honours degree in engineering from NUS, Singapore which included one year programme in technology and entrepreunership from Stanford and GPA 4.55 on 5.Job experience of 4 years and six months at Barclays Capital also completed CFA in first attempt within two years.He is applying for MBA at HBS,Stanford,Wharton,MIT sloan,Booth and Columbia.

  • Bryan

    Hey Sandy, here’s my profile (I hope you find it interesting):

    680 GMAT
    3.27 GPA, mechanical engineering from West Point
    3.9 GPA, MA from public school
    4 years experience in air and missile defense operations
    Captain, US Army
    26 year old Asian American, born in the Philippines
    Stationed ~3 years in Okinawa
    Proficient in Tagalog and working knowledge of Japanese
    Extra curricular activities: former VP of Asian Pacific Awareness Club at WP,
    held a leadership position at a local ethnic association, various sports

    Interested in: S/H/W/LBS/Berkeley

    Thanks!,
    Bryan

  • Arihant

    Hi,

    I have a question regarding the ethnic minorities. I am an interesting case. I was born in the USA but I grew up in India. I am a US Citizen and did my high school in India but my undergrad at an American school and all my working experience has been in the USA. Do I fall in the Indian pool or the American pool? Given the fact that I am indistinguishable from the average Indian who comes from India?

  • AspiringBusinessLeader

    Hello Sandy,

    Thank you for writing this series, it has been very helpful for me and i’m sure all the other readers.

    Can you look at my profile:

    Age at application: 27
    Undegrad GPA/Major: 3.45 at Good School (think on the scale of Georgia Tech,UWash) Accounting/Finance
    GMAT: 720
    Work Experience: 3 years at U.S Department of Commerce. First in Leadership Rotational Program. Then permanently assigned to work on early stage technology projects & investments (in the millions of $$) for govt.
    [Previously interned twice and got FT offer from Bulge Bracket IB firm...turned down because got disillusioned with banking culture]

    Recently launched tech startup(too early to tell if going to be successful). Blend of Groupon.com/social media kind of company.
    Extracurriculars: volunteer on local n national political campaigns, tutor inner city kids, fundraising events for nonprofits.

    Fluent in 5 widely useful languages(think French, Chinese, etc)
    Future Goal: Become successful in business and use leadership experience to help formulate good business policies through special public service appointments.

    Schools applying:
    Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, Stanford, Columbia, Wharton, NYU

    Thanks alot!

  • havstar

    - GMAT 750
    – GPA 3.7 in engineering at a public state school – one of two in the major to graduate with honors. Executive board of fraternity.
    – Bilingual in English and Chinese
    – 2 years of work experience in the high-tech industry – Fortune 500 but not a feeder – as a buyer (basically the opposite of sales, although I don’t know how admissions would view the job since it is not common. What category would I go in?)
    – Leader of new employee group at work
    – Board member of local American Cancer Society group. Also various other participation in groups but not as a leader.
    – I want to go into management consulting, aiming for basically the gambit of top 10 schools.

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/fahadma/ Fahad Ajlan

    A great series. I would love to hear Sandy’s assessment of my chances:
    •32 Y.O Male
    International student from Saudi Arabia
    •700 GMAT on my 1st trial, not sure I will take it again
    •3.6 GPA in engineering from a North Carolina Public University
    •9 years of experience in operation in the biggest oil & gas company in the world including running 85-employee division and responsible for $120 million budget annually
    •Undergone career change where I advise management and develop outlook and company strategies, so I badly need an MBA degree to take on more responsibility and future role. My degree will be sponsored by my company.
    •Co-founded a non-heriarchial team in my department that lead to creation of 6 other teams in other departments
    •Selected amongst top 1% of 58,000 employees in my company
    •Little extracurricular activities
    Target Schools:
    Harvard, Stanford, MIT, Wharton, Chicago, NYU Stern

  • Alis

    Reposting my stats with additional relevant info:

    About me:
    -Female
    -760 GMAT
    -2.6-2.7 GPA non-HYP Ivy (with valid medical reason)
    -Extra, post-college coursework at respected state university, 4.0
    -Work experience, 4 years at a small-by-design market leader niche industry consultancy (run by an alum of one of the top-5 MBA programs). Fully running a best-in-class product for the company and rapidly growing as a leader within the organization.
    -My company sent someone to H/S/W last year
    -Went to a very prestigious public magnet high school
    -1/2 minority
    -Dual citizen of a country that will likely have no other applicants to top MBA programs; US-born
    -Extra-currics focused on alumni involvement groups and formally advising a women’s group at their college

    What are my chances of:
    -Columbia
    -Haas
    -Wharton
    -Stanford
    -Harvard
    -Duke
    -Darden
    -Tuck

    Is the GPA a non-starter for every school? Does the dual citizenship help? If none of the above schools are realistic, which schools are?

  • Ms. JD/MBA

    Considering a JD/MBA. Curious as to what your thoughts are on my chances at some of the top programs:

    Asian Female
    Age: 25 (26 upon matriculation)
    GMAT: 770
    LSAT: 172
    Undergrad GPA: 3.77

    Undergrad school: Top 10, non-Ivy private, majors in Political Science and Arabic, worked 30+ hours a week while in school, TA for Arabic for 2 years

    Work experience:
    1.5 years at Fortune 100 manufacturing firm in marketing and government relations (lobbying for sustainability/energy issues)
    1.5 years at second-tier consulting firm (think Accenture, Booz Allen, Deloitte)
    Promoted ahead of schedule by one year

    LEED AP
    Extracurriculars in sustainability
    Board member of young professionals organization for consultants – registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit
    Fundraising for American Cancer Society, city’s ballet company

    Targets for JD/MBA programs: Harvard, Stanford, UPenn, UVA, Duke, MIT, Columbia, NYU, Northwestern, UChicago

  • Miz

    Hi Sandy,

    I love these postings, thanks so much. Would love to hear your chances on me:
    -3.8 GPA from public Ivy
    -varsity coxswain; biked from Texas to Alaska to raise money for cancer research
    -started department at my university for social innovation
    -Rhodes finalist
    -spent a year in intelligence, a year in carpentry, and am now working for a large interantional development organization, doing stabilization work in southern Afghanistan. Probably spend three-four years here unless I leave for the Navy.
    -extracurriculars now include working on an education-related startup.
    -expected GMAT score: 740

    Schools:
    H/S/W
    Tuck
    Booth
    Kellogg

  • http://hbsguru.com hbsguru :-(

    YOU SAID:
    d like to focus on Sandy’s comment on the “usual exaggerated recommendations”.

    I will also have midwesterners writing my recommendations. Actual accomplishments are interpreted as exaggerations in these parts. And in turn, exaggerations are considered sinful.*

    So the idea of asking my recommenders to exaggerate in the way Sandy is suggesting will basically earn me a one way ticket to hell, instead of a strong recommendation.

    I am planning on providing each of my recommenders with a clear outline of my many accomplishments while working with them, but language wise- their letters will be written in a very understated manner.

    —————————————————————–
    I SAY: WE MAY BOTH BE trying to be FUNNY IN OUR OWN WAYS, WHICH MAY LEAD TO SOME MIS- COMMUNICATION. I was, at bottom, reminding Mid-West kids and everyone, esp. those who are getting recs from writers who are not famil. w. B school norms, that
    1. Most top b schools have admit rates of 10-18 pct so for rec writer to say you are in the top 20 pct of your clownish group at no-name company, I mean that aint helping you.
    2. Some folks, and geography is not really impt, are just understated by nature, or affect, and that can lead to tweezer like recs w. all kinds of footnotes and qualifications. Adcoms dont know that Mr/Ms Fussy is writing your rec, and instead think that guy is Mr/Ms Regular who is being nice guy but signaling that he does not really think you are in top rank.

    3. Aside fr. the above, and for whatever reasons, rec inflation is real, and having read many, many recs, lemme tell you what is really going on inside the impatient mind of the reader: they want to skim to the part where the guy says he has been in the biz for x years, has seen xxx shmucks like you, and you are in top 2, 5 or at most!!! 10 pct of that cohort based on impact, tech skills, potential, accomps. 1 2 3 and personal charisma, and then they want to skim –at super sonic speed– details which confirm that.
    4. Recs, like so much else about the non gmat/job/gpa part of the app can HURT you more than help you–that includes essays–so you really need to ride herd in whatever diplomatic way works under the cirs, on your writers, esp.if they dont have exp. writing b school recs.

  • Mr FirstGen Fil-Am

    Dear Sandy,

    Thanks so much for this wonderful series. Wanted to see what my chances are:

    Filipino-American Male (First-generation)
    GPA: 3.55
    GMAT:730
    Age: 26
    Berkeley Undergrad; Political Science & History (w/honors)

    Work Experience: 4 years as finance manager for mid-size Real Estate Development/Acquisition firm while simultaneously co-founding/running a health care services start-up for the last 3 years

    Extracurriculars: Heavily involved in Urban Land Institute Young Leaders Group, California Alumni Association (scholarship reader and interviewer) and Chairman (while in school) of UC’s largest student organization.

    Wanted to see my chances at:
    Harvard
    Stanford
    Wharton
    Kellogg
    Haas
    Ross

  • http://poetsandquants.com/members/mbaorbust/ M

    @hbsguru Thanks for responding Sandy. This gives me a much better understanding of how i need to approach the people writing my recommendations.

  • Showbz

    700 GMAT
    3.8 gpa undergrad electrical engineering
    4.0 masters computer science NYU
    Lehman brothers plus a few hedge funds as programming consultant. Then moved to sales application for monster. Started an NGO during 2008 recession inMadagascar for one year. Currently working as sales executive for JCDecaux.
    Professional credited writer for Sitcoms in CBS and HBO

    By the way. I am interested in harward, Stanford, kellogg, London business school, and Indian school of business

  • Showbz

    Also,
    I am interested in changing careers from Programming to Marketing – hence the sales executive position. The sales executive position is in Delhi, India. and my other experiences are in US.

  • Mr. [fill in the blank]

    Mr…. Int’l Economic Policy….. I’m not too good at these things

    3.6 GPA from an Ivy (not Harvard, Princeton, Yale)
    Econ and Political Science major
    740 GMAT

    – 1st generation multilingual, middle-class Latino immigrant
    – Two summers worth of interesting (or I’d like to think so) work experience in Latin America (urban development work in the public sector and at think tanks)
    – Wrote several chapters of a book on hemispheric foreign policy issues for a highly reputable DC think tank
    – Three years of associate-level client-facing work at a non-bulge bracket European bank’s NYC office (mostly at an OTC derivatives desk)
    – “Extracurricular” engagement, if you can call it that, includes continued involvement with economic policy debates in and on Latin America, including published columns and op-eds in major regional newspapers.
    – My ultimate career goal is to work at the intersection of markets and policy, whether at an international investment bank or multilateral institution (e.g., World Bank)
    – Age: 25

    Undecided about whether to apply for MBA programs immediately, but I am focusing mainly on U.S. programs in major cities, ideally places with direct connections to my intended line of work, so:

    NYU
    Columbia
    Georgetown
    Berkeley
    Ross
    Booth
    Kellogg

    I’m somewhere in between the conventional pre-B-school track and something totally outside of it, and would like to know my chances and, equally important, some ideas about how to best “spin” my experience.

    Thanks!

  • Dreamcatcher

    Dear Sandy & John,

    Greetings!

    I would really appreciate your help in analyzing my profile:

    GMAT: 740 (Q: 50 V: 39 AWA: 4)
    Bachelors degree in Chemical Engineering from IIT-Delhi
    GPA : 2.7/4 (6.7/10)
    5.5 years work experience (2.5 as software developer and 3 years as web-consultant)
    Currently Leading the client delivery as an engagement manager for web-consulting profile in a start-up

    Extra curricular: Guitar (lead guitarist for the band) and trekking

    Target B-Schools:
    INSEAD,
    HEC,
    ROSS,
    CORNELL,
    DARDEN,
    STANFORD

    Really thankful for your help in advance! :)

  • Jay

    Hello,
    I would really appreciate your input regarding my changes on getting into HBS, Stanford, Wharton or Dartmouth. Here are my stats:
    -760 GMAT
    -3.6 GPA (3.8 during junior and senior year)
    -BA in Finance from Michigan State University
    -Extracurricular: MMA, currently starting a nonprofit org, options trading, math tutoring, caregiver for individuals with mental disabilites
    -First job out of school was at a retail bank (Chase) where I was promoted to a management position after 6 months. I stayed with this company for one year. After I did a finance internship for a start-up company and worked for General Dynamics in the international contracting department. I also work as a GMAT tutor.
    -All recommendations will come from current or former supervisors

    Your opinion and advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

  • Vivek

    Dear John and Sandy,

    I am aiming schools which stand on the top 15 or 20 list(Globally);Precise list at bottom:

    I Would really appreciate your views on my profile, which goes as below :

    -720 GMAT;

    -26 yrs old Guy from India;

    -Working in Manufacturing sector as Research & Development Engineer in one of the top companies in the sector in India; 3+ yrs of Experience

    -60.4% in undergraduate (2.5 GPA I guess); Bachelor Of Engineer (Mechanical

    -3.2 GPA in High School

    -Extra-curricular: Mountain climbing; Pencil Sketch making

    Your input would be highly regarded.

    Target B-Schools:
    INSEAD,
    HEC,
    ROSS,
    CORNELL,
    DARDEN,
    STANFORD,
    IMD, Luissane,
    ISB, India

  • Yen

    Dear John and Sandy,

    Really appreciate your review on my profile for the target: Havard, Wharton, Standford, Stern and Columbia.

    – 720 GMAT (taking in Aug)

    – 3.0 GPA from top school in the UK, London School of Economics in Management Sciences.

    – Work experience includes: 1 year Investment Banking in Vietnam and current job – been 3 years with Citigroup Vietnam on their Treasury – FX Desk. Some oversea training in between.
    – Extra curricular: Took leadership positions for various student clubs/ Vietnam society in the UK back in school, currently active in running the UK alumni association and leading an initiative by the World Econ Forum on social projects in Ho Chi Minh City.

  • Randall

    Dear John and Sandy:

    I could really use some help analyzing my profile:

    -International student. (Mexico)
    -GMAT 720.
    -GPA 3.6.
    -Undergraduate degree in Marketing from a top school in Mexico.
    -30 y/o.
    -Extracurriculars include martial arts (3 time national champion), crossfit, and varsity basketball. Along with working as a volunteer teacher for children in underprivileged schools, and running P.R. for the Marketing student society during college.
    -Work experience: Managed family business (cattle ranches) for 2 years until insecurity in the country forced my family (myself included) to fled. Worked for an import and distribution company for 2 years spending time in both Mexico City and the U.S. Currently a Marketing consultant for the LatAm branch of a telecommunication security firm, and Local Procurement Planner for an international automotive manufacturer.
    -Looking for a career change into consulting.

    Schools: Faqua, Haas, Stern, McCombs, Anderson, and Tuck.

    Thank you both! Your input will be greatly appreciated.

  • GrandWizard

    Go to Michigan Ross if you want a KKK lynching

  • Connie

    Hello John and Sandy,

    I could really use some help analyzing my profile:

    – 3.5 GPA from University of Southern California double majoring in International Business and Accounting for undergrad

    – 3.5 GPA from University of Southern California in Master of Accounting for grad school
    – GMAT 670
    – 3 years job experience in public accounting firm
    – extracurricular – leadership positions in clubs while in school, studied abroad in Hong Kong during undergrad, taking part in company community service program

    – Looking for a career change to consulting

    Target schools – Oxford and Cambridge

    Thank you! I really appreciate your input.

  • Elise

    Hi John and Sandy,

    Trying to figure out my chances of pursuing a joint MBA with MEM (env management) or MEsc (env science).
    -3.1 GPA from Colgate University, majoring in physics and geology
    -3 years working in makeup marketing
    -334 combined GRE with 5.0 in writing (all of the schools I’m applying to accept the GRE, I think it’s because of the dual degree?)
    -part-time NYS licensed hiking guide and environmental educator 3x per month and average volunteer work

    I know which schools are reach, but not entirely sure which ones I might actually stand a chance at…

    Thanks!!

  • Laura

    Hello John and Sandy,

    I am curious which schools I should aim for in the near future. I am in the process of getting my Professional Engineer’s license in California. I want to be at my company for a full 3 years by the time that I apply, so I’ll have 5 years of experience in Civil Engineering. Facts:

    -3.2 GPA Santa Clara University Bachelor’s of Science in Civil Engineering
    -580 GMAT (I plan on retaking it for sure-will aim for high 600’s/low 700’s-I took the exam during school without much studying, plus it’ll expire by the time I apply)
    -4 years of Design experience in Civil Engineering (streets, sidewalks, ADA, piping-as in, I design everything outside of a building)
    -1 year of Civil Engineering structural/material testing-I worked on the new San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and was there during the final year when it opened to the public. This could help me stand out since it was such an amazing experience.
    -Extracurricular: After my PE is over, I plan on finding local places to volunteer such as tutoring clubs and/or animal shelters. I enjoy all the jobs they assign you at Harvest Food Bank.

    Key thing: I want to go to a school where I can get some sort of MBA degree in Project Management/Construction Management AND Non-Profit Management. My family has a non-profit and I aim to learn everything I can about non-profits so that I may take charge of it. I would continue my career in Civil Engineering and run the non-profit on the side.

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