Handicapping Your Odds Of Getting Into A Great School

by John A. Byrne on

The most common question MBA-wannabes are asking right now: “What are my chances of getting into a top-ranked business school?”

As would-be applicants pore over the raw stats and acceptance numbers of their dream schools, they’re sizing up their own odds of getting into a Harvard or Stanford, Columbia or Chicago, Kellogg or Tuck. And they’re making the inevitable calculations to answer the question: Should I invest the time and energy to apply this year?

Do you have what might be called “nosebleed stats” likely to open the doors to a top school? Or did you goof off during your undergrad years and worry about whether your work experience offsets your low GPA? And do you work for a “sexy” or “dull” company that is not a feeder into the best business schools?

To handicap the odds for various candidates, we turned to Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru, and asked him to analyze profiles of typical MBA applicants. He does so with a sense of irreverence, wit and intelligence that makes his assessments compelling and insightful reading. The story became so popular that we turned it into a weekly series.

Learn if you have what it takes to get into a great MBA program.

Handicapping Your MBA Odds–The Entire Series

Part I: Handicapping Your Shot At a Top Business School

Part II: Your Chances of Getting In

Part III: Your Chances of Getting In

Part IV: Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

Part V: Can You Get Into HBS, Stanford or Wharton?

Part VI: Handicapping Your Dream School Odds

Part VII: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part VIII: Getting Through The Elite B-School Screen

Part IX: Handicapping Your B-School Chances

Part X: What Are Your Odds of Getting In?

Part XI: Breaking Through the Elite B-School Screen

Part XII: Handicapping Your B-School Odds

Part XIII: Predicting Your Odds of Getting In

Part XIV: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part XV: Assessing Your Odds of Getting In

Part XVI: Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

Part XVII: What Are Your Odds of Getting In

Part XVIII: Assessing Your Odds of Getting In

Part XIX: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part XX: What Are Your Odds Of Getting In

Part XXI: Handicapping Your Odds of Acceptance

Part XXII: Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

Part XXIII: Predicting Your Odds of Getting In

Part XXIV: Do You Have The Right Stuff To Get In

Part XXV: Your Odds of Getting Into A Top MBA Program

Part XXVI: Calculating Your Odds of Getting In

Part XXVII: Breaking Through The Elite MBA Screen

Part XXVIII: Handicapping Your Shot At A Top School

Part XXIX: Can You Get Into A Great B-School

Part XXX: Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

Part XXXI: Calculating Your Odds of Admission

Part XXXII: Handicapping Your Elite MBA Chances

Part XXXIII: Getting Into Your Dream School

Part XXXIV: Handicapping Your Shot At A Top School

Part XXXV: Calculating Your Odds of Getting In

Part XXXVI: What Are Your Chances Of Getting In

Part XXXVII: Handicapping Your Business School Odds

Part XXXVIII: Assessing Your B-School Odds Of Making It

Part XXXIX: Handicapping MBA Applicant Odds

Part XL: What Are Your Odds of Getting In

Part XLI: Handicapping Your Odds of MBA Success

Part XLII: What Are Your Chances Of Getting In

Part XLIII: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part XLIV: Can You Get Into A Top MBA Program

Part XLV: Assessing Your Odds of Getting In

Part XLVI: Handicapping Your Dream School Odds

Part XLVII: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part XLVIII: Assessing Your Odds of B-School Success

Part XLIV: Handicapping Your B-School Odds

Part XLV: Your Odds of Getting Into A Great School

Part XLVI: Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

Part XLVII: Your Chances Of Getting Into An Elite School

Part XLVIII: Handicapping Your Personal MBA Odds

Part XLIV: Handicapping Your Elite School Chances

Part XLV: Handicapping Those Tough MBA Odds

Part XLVI: Your Chances Of Getting In

PartXVII: Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

PartXVIII: Handicapping Your Shot At An Elite School

Part LXIX: What Are Your Odds Of Getting In?

Part L: Handicapping Your Odds Of Getting In

Part LI: Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

Part LII: Handicapping Your Business School Chances

Part LIII: Your Chances Of Getting A Top MBA

Part LIV: Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

Part LV: Calculating Your Odds of MBA Admission

Part LVI: Handicapping Your Shot At A Top School

Part LVII: Can You Get Into An Elite MBA Program?

Part LVIII: Handicapping Your Elite B-School Odds

Part LIX: Predicting Your Chances Of Admission

Part LX: Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Part LXI: What Are Your Chances Of Getting In 

Part LXII: Calculating Your Odds Of Getting A Top MBA 

Part LXIII: Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Part LXIV: Handicapping Your Shot At An Elite MBA

Part LXV: Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Part LXVI: Handicapping Your Odds of Getting Into A Top MBA Program

Part LXVII: Assessing Your Odds of Getting In

Part LXVIII: Handicapping Your Odds Of Getting Into A Great Business School

Part LXIX: Handicapping Your Shot At An Elite MBA

  • Guest


  • curious banker

    Wondering what you think of the following for Harvard / Stanford

    Undergrad GPA: 3.6 from prestigious midwest but really a 3.7-3.8 excluding freshman year (Notre Dame, Northwestern, Michigan, Chicago etc.)
    GMAT: 720 (49 verbal / 42 quant)
    Gender: Male
    3 years bulge bracket i-bank (not GS) / 2 years mega fund (Blackstone, KKR, TPG, etc.)
    Born in India but grew up in the US
    Have participated in community service in both volunteer and leadership roles since high school

  • BschoolBound

    Hi Sandy,

    I am interested in knowing my chances at HBS/Stanford/Wharton/Columbia/MIT/NYU. Here are my Stats:

    Undergrad GPA: 3.95 at UC Irvine, Honors Program in Economics (Econometrics)
    1-year Masters of Accounting (MAcc) from University of Southern California
    GMAT: 690
    Male, 29 years old. HBS legacy and Penn (not Wharton) 3rd generation legacy

    Work Experience:
    – 16 months as M&A Analyst at Boutique IB (same place I interned)
    – 2 years in Private Equity at Oppenheimer & Co. Off-cycle Promotion to Associate Director after developing the team’s most profitable product.
    – Strong recommendations
    – SEC Whistleblower – SEC recovered $3MM from OPCO. Individual responsible barred from securities industry (I have been told business schools would find this interesting/valuable)
    – Left OPCO and raised $5MM to start-up small oil company. Divested interests ~16 months later at $12MM valuation in 2013.
    – Advisory Board Member for 2 small oil companies
    – Advisory Board Member for tech/entertainment start-up founded by GS Banker
    – Advisory Board Member of charity that provides critical surgical and reconstructive care to effect children of conflict regions.

  • Utkarsh Sankrityayan

    Hello everyone.

    I am fresh out-of-college from India with a work ex of 8 months.
    What do you think are my chances of landing a top b-school with the following profile.


    Qualification- Graduate in Mineral Engineering (Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India);
    Post Graduate in Mineral Resource Management (Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India)

    GPA- 7.53/10 non-relative (translates to 3.05/4; not great, I know) Indian School of Mines, Dhanbad, India

    Work experience- 8 months as a process control engineer. I design and install models for large industries like pulp and paper, power and mining corporations and have been involved in projects in S.America, India and Japan.

    Extra curricular- Dramatics, have acted in and directed many plays and was head of the dramatics club of my college; Cultural Secretary of my college; Coordinated many events.

    GMAT score- Yet to give, will shoot for 710+.

    Please, help me out here and I would also appreciate it if you could give me some pointers on how to improve my profile.

  • John

    Why do you want to do a MBA?

  • Utkarsh Sankrityayan

    Hello John, and thanks for the reply.
    To answer your question, I am a very growth oriented person, with a high inclination towards innovation and change. It have always driven towards making things better, wherever and in whichever organisation I have been.
    I want to get into start-ups and small businesses which have a more positive outlook towards innovation and improvisation and strive to make the world better rather than maintaining a status-quo. However, my graduation is in a highly specialized field in mining engineering which doesn’t give me much latitude to be gainfully employed in other fields,

    I want to learn about business development and entrepreneurship. I have looked into the profiles of entrepreneurship schools like Babson, Harvard, Univ of Michigan and others which have a very high percentage of faculties who are entrepreneurs themselves and I feel that they would be great places to learn.

  • AJ

    Hi, I would welcome some opinion with regards to my chances

    – Indian, 23 (by the time of applications), Male
    – Undergrad – BBA, (One of the better colleges in India)
    – GMAT – 740 (q50, v39, IR 8, expect 5-6 in essay), 1st attempt
    – GPA – 3.06/4 (Better than class average, top GPAs were around 3.55)
    – 2 years in a Financial Advisory Firm. Mainly assisted a big PE firm. Involved in a few of the investments that took place. Killed at work. Received early promotion after the first year (1st time in the firm history), managed small teams after the promotion on projects, got offered another promotion but decided to quit
    – Next 8 months – helped out with family business, was about to launch a venture but ditched plans after a few months of work, travelled some
    – Presently, will be working with Acumen (Social Impact Investment) in a short term role for the next 3-4 months

    Schools I am targeting, in order of preference, are Harvard, Wharton, Booth, and Columbia.

  • Mr. Ivy Engineer

    Hi Sandy and John,

    I hope you chose to review my profile. I would love to know what are my chances of getting into HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, Sloan, Booth, Haas, Tuck, Fuqua, or Stern?

    730 GMAT

    3.1 GPA at an Ivy League (not Harvard, Princeton, or Yale), B.S. in Bioengineering

    Work experience: 3 1/2 years at BlackRock in New York in a product strategy role and promoted to associate. Plan to transition to consulting (possibly healthcare) and want to continue working at a top management consulting company post MBA.

    Extracurriculars: Led a community service mentoring group for kids with specific diseases (cancer, etc…) while an undergraduate. Currently, volunteer at a school in the area tutoring and mentoring. Active participant in recruiting events primarily minority recruiting events for the company. Also have some social advocacy projects in the works for underprivileged youth.

    Goals: In the short term I hope to pursue a management consulting role (possibly healthcare or life sciences post MBA) and then transition to a startup or established healthcare company. I come from a technical background and want to use my MBA to transition into a consulting role.

    26 year old African-American Male

  • Mr Optimizer

    Hello there !

    A brief snapshot of my profile.

    GMAT 750
    GPA 6.5/10 (Non IIT Top 10 Engineering College – India)
    Age: 25 (Male)

    Work Experience: ~ 3 years with Schneider Electric in Business Process Excellence. Majorly working to optimize and improve business operational processes at the country level. I have undertaken multiple internal optimization/improvement projects and executed them to successful completion. Good exposure to Supply Chain Management, Project Management & Quality Management. Certifications in Project Management & Six Sigma. Part of an elite employee fast-track and retention program.

    Extra Curricular:
    Multiple student leadership positions and intensive involvement in organizing events during college which led me to be a recipient of the highest award for Extra Curricular activities. Currently part of a company CSR initiative to teach and train underprivileged technicians. Also, holding the position of Governor – Marketing for a local Division of Toastmasters International (Communication & Leadership development Organization)

    – Avid vocalist & budding photographer.

    Objective for MBA: Get exposed to and trained in a global business environment helping me to broaden my perspective and have a gamut of learning experiences.

    Goal: MBB Consultant or a leader in a fortune 100 company (preferably tech) in the role of general management/business strategy.

    Target schools: (need more recommendations from you)

    Please guide me.
    Thank you !

  • amy

    25 yrs old Female
    GMAT: 770
    GPA: 3.0 ( i just didn’t care then, now i regret)
    Major: Computer science and Math (minor)
    Ivy league graduate.
    Speaks fluently 5 languages (French, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Japanese). No kidding, i do.
    Unfortunately, i never had to work. no work experience
    Played B.Ball in college
    By the time i was 23 , i had traveled to over 37 countries.

    I am only interested in Wharton, CBS and Harvard.

  • Scorpio 1987

    Hello John/ Sandy!

    I’d be grateful to know your views on my odds of making it to one of the top 10/20 schools. I’d specifically like to know if my GMAT score would hurt my odds of making it to a top 10 school.

    Here’s my profile:

    1. I am an Indian female, 26 years with 5 years experience in an oil and gas multi-national with work experience spanning areas of project management (including lead roles in CAPEX intensive projects in uncommon (high risk in terms of security) countries), design and engineering and operations support. I have worked in three different countries (Netherlands, India and Philippines) and most of my work has been focused on leading projects (small to large) with significant global interfaces.
    2. GMAT-700 Q48/V38
    3. Undergrad degree: Bachelor of Technology in Chemical Engineering; GPA of 3.7 from a top 10 institute in India. I have scores of 96% and 94% in High school and Higher Secondary School boards
    4. As part of the National Service Scheme in India, I led the demonstration of the usefulness of solar energy in cooking and lighting to rural communities close to my university; I volunteered for offering services to the cyclone Yolanda hit victims in the Philippines during my stint there, in a non-English speaking community; I was part of the diversity and Inclusion team during my stint in the NL and organized a workshop on sexual orientation highlighting issues faced by employees from the LGBT community; I have organized many workshops while I was a student at the undergrad university including one on Intellectual Property rights and their relevance to university students, as a classical vocalist I have given a few concerts;
    5. My post MBA goal would be to enter the strategy department of any of the energy industry majors for I have been quite good so far (based on my work experience) at steering work processes towards a certain goal, cutting out the excesses. My experience in the relevant sector i believe will be quite useful here.
    6. My other credentials include a summer research internship in India (chosen among thousands of other candidates) and a leadership based selection program for the oil and gas major I now work for, for which I was among 47 candidates selected from all countries in Asia Pacific

    Thank you very much!

  • VVS


    Will be helpful to know my chances at HSW+INSEAD.

    Work-Ex: 2 years at a leading global M&A boutique (think Moelis, Lazard, Blackstone), 2.5 years at a leading PE fund (Pan-Asia role)

    GMAT: Studying right now, Taking it in July

    Nationality/Gender: Indian/Male

    Community/Leadership: Lead college debate team, college students union, Probono Leadership role in a global social venture fund, Helped Indian Social Development ministry on a probono project

    Undergrad: First Division Business undergrad from a leading undergrad college in India, But around the 50 percentile mark; Although the college itself has a 1% acceptance ratio (based on high-school scores) if that is any consolation

    I am worried about two things:
    A) Is my age (I will be 26 with 4.5 years of workex when I apply) be an issue, specially for Stanford

    B) Are college marks going to get me a ding even if I score sat a 730-740 in GMAT?

    Will be very helpful to know your thoughts.

  • Mk


    I was wondering if you could tell me my odds at Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Haas, Booth, and Stanford.

    I’m a 27 year-old Japanese Male.

    Work Experience: 6 years as an Engineer at three different Gas Utility Companies (lots of moves due to family circumstances). Progressed steadily upwards from Entry Level Engineer -> Associate Engineer -> Engineer -> Senior Engineer. Currently manage Gas Pipeline projects from the Design phase all the way to Construction phase, and work directly with construction crews in the field.

    GMAT: 720 on 1st try with 46 Quant, 44 Verbal

    Education: B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Johns Hopkins
    GPA: 3.88

    Extracurriculars: Sang A cappella in college, and was assistant business manager of my group for 2 years then business manager for 1 year. Post-college, I have been actively volunteering with my Church youth group for 5 years, and currently serve as assistant youth group coordinator for the group of ~30 members.

    Post MBA Plans: Work at a utility and apply what I learn about management and operations management towards improving utility processes and efficiency so that each capital dollar that is re-invested into our infrastructure makes as large an impact as possible. Basically looking to work towards infrastructure modernization in this country via a senior management role at a utility.

    A little concerned about the low-ish quant, but hoping that my strong performance in quant classes in college will be enough to compensate. That said, i do think that I could do better and get the quant score up at least two points.

    Thanks so much for your help!

  • Curiousity123

    Hi, What would my chances be:

    Rutgers University

    major: Finance

    minor: mathematics

    GPA: 3.59


    Works at Deutsche Bank

    Extra Cirriculars: community service for international organization in india

    member of nationally recoginzed professional development organization and am liaison to university chapters

    In undergrad, started investing organization and was also President of another organization

  • lets go consulting

    Hey could we get analysis for me as well?

    First generation Indian immigrant.

    University of Michigan – Ross Undergrad

    Major: Business

    GPA: 3.86

    GMAT: 720 (Too low for Harvard Stanford and Wharton?)

    Work experience: McKinsey 3 years. Good performance, doing junior manager work.

    Good extracurriculars in leadership roles in nonprofits.

    Few things I’m worried are hurting me:
    – That I’m Indian
    – Does doing undergrad degree in business hurt me
    – 720 is below average, by about 10 points, for Harvard Stanford Wharton. Is it all the same to them, or worth retaking? Practice tests were in 750-770 range.
    Thanks for the help, just looking to get some advice on how much I should worry/plan for those three concerns I have.

  • monsterdrag

    Hi Sandy,
    I have been following your series for a long time and now its time for some advice on my profile ! Please help me out:

    27 yrs Indian Male : 5.5 years experience

    BE IT from a top private engineering college ; GPA : 7.27/10

    GMAT : 750 (Q50 ; V 41; AWA 6)

    Work ex:
    Currently founder and head of water purification company ( 7 employees + $50 K revenue + started in 2010)

    Previously worked with Infosys (joined in 2009 + software engineer + got top rating) and Oracle (Joined in 2011 + Business Development + Sales + got award as top sales rep)

    Extra curricular :
    – Worked with NGO’s to install water purification units in villages and slums thereby getting water to over a 1000 households
    – Organized various events in college and created organization to organize rock shows to help raise money for a local orphanage.

    Future goals:
    To get into tech consulting or into the sustainable resources sector

    I need help deciding on which college I should apply to. Right now the plan is to apply to Haas, MIT- Sloan, Stanford & UCLA (all located near the tech sector). Also I need to know where I have a decent chance.

  • Mr. Inspired Immigrant

    Hi Sandy,

    What are my chances for HBS, Stanford GSB, Wharton, and Tuck.

    25 year old Chinese immigrant
    Undergrad institution: top 20 liberal arts college
    Undergrad GPA: 3.23 in Economics and Math
    GMAT: 710 (Math 79%ile; Verbal 85%ile)

    Work Experience:
    1 year in a professional services firm doing portfolio analytics (using statistical tools such as SAS and R)
    1.5 years at BlackRock (present)

    VP of a large Asian professional organization – leading educational initiatives including a scholarship fund
    Board of HBS SVMP alumni association
    In college:
    Head of investment association; Head of entrepreneurship club

    Post MBA Plan:
    Move into corporate strategy for a technology firm.

  • Fran

    Omg Sandy and John, these clowns are back. The MBA ran itself into oblivion and these people are hangers on, this is their bread and butter. Honestly having done an MBA and read how Sandy and BW would play schools off each other , oh and the coveted stupid GMAT average was life or death. Reality check guys, the MBA degree is old news and way too expensive given the risk. Taking time off school to learn yesterday’s degree taught by out of touch wonks is crazy. Salary increases are completely fabricated and programs manipulate stats like crazy to get your money. Honestly it is almost fraud and Sandy and John are back as enablers of the scheme, they really could not do anything else now. John Byrne got so arrogant in the go to days of the MBA that he forgot that he never spent 5 minutes earning the degree. Rather he became some kind of rabid manipulator, he helped build the factory of lies and deception while at BW, now he is fawning over the Harvard’s etc to get that recognition back. The degree is not worth taking time off to earn now, that is the bottom line.

  • Mr. Hopeful

    Hi Sandy,

    Is there a major difference among tier 2 consulting firms with MBA
    admissions? Is a top candidate at Deloitte S&O going to be looked at
    as a better candidate than someone from Accenture Strategy all else
    being equal?


  • RD

    Hi Sandy,
    I am curious how you would look at my profile and where you would recommend that I look:
    Undergrad: 3.6 from school Honors College
    GMAT: 710
    Graduate Degree (Masters in Accounting – 1 year): 3.0 as I had Mono for 2/3 terms
    Employment: 4 years at PwC (2.5 years as an auditor and 1.5 years as a Finance Consultant)
    Certifications: CPA, Six Sigma
    Extracurricular: English teacher in Middle East (3 months), volunteer Aids Orphanage worker in Cambodia (3 months), leader of neighborhood Emergency Preparedness team (FEMA), Board Member for Financial Literacy Committee ran by the Oregon Society of CPAs, President of fraternity, volunteer leader for my church, led Community Engagement team for the Christian college group I was apart of
    Goal after MBA: transition into corporate strategy group for a F500 company; preferably with an international rotation option
    Age/Gender: 29 Asian/Caucasian male

  • RD

    RD: Undergrad and grad from a public university, top 150 rank

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