Handicapping Your Dream School Odds

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?

  • 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.

  • 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…


  • 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.