Handicapping Your MBA Odds

by John A. Byrne on

With a 750 GMAT and 4.0 grade point average, he was valedictorian of his college class. His goal is to work in healthcare venture capital for the developing markets.

She’s a consultant who scored an impressive 760 on the GMAT and boasts an Ivy League degree. But she has a puny 2.5 GPA to overcome.

He’s an Olympic medalist who spent eight years as a full-time athlete and now co-owns and runs a gym. But he’d like to work in business development or general management.

What these and other MBA candidates want to know is whether they have a chance to get into a top business school. For the seventh 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 take-no-prisoners analysis:

Mr. Coxswain

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.8 Grade Point Average
  • Undergraduate degree from public Ivy
  • Work experience includes a year in intelligence, a year in carpentry, and now employed by a large international development organization doing stabilization work in Southern Afghanistan.
  • Will probably spend three to four years here unless I leave for the Navy.
  • Extracurriculars include varsity coxswain; biked from Texas to Alaska to raise money for cancer research & started department at university for social innovation
  • Rhodes finalist

Odds of Success:

Harvard Business School: 50% to 60%
Stanford: 50% to 60%
Wharton: 60% to 70%
Tuck: 60% to 70%
Booth: 70+%
Kellogg: 70+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, there’s a lot to like including a 3.8 and many ‘manly’ accomplishments such as rower, carpenter, bike rider, Afghan stabilization ninja. Hmmm, only working in ‘intelligence’ doesn’t seem to fit the macho framework :-)

I’m not sure of your age and timeline. If you have been at an international development organization for two-plus years, with this set of accomplishments, you can apply now.

As to joining the Navy, do you have Seal Team 6 fantasies? Well, who can blame you? And schools will wait, even if you flunk Seal Team ocean swim drills and wind up a regular swabby. Military applicants are welcome until about 30 and even older if a pilot with ten-plus years required gig.

That could be important, because while I am no expert, I think Seal Team Six, or DEVGRU as it known to non-experts like me who read the Internet, is not a three-year gig, since you have to fly up from another Seal Team, and that takes time. Of course nothing too shabby about a gig on Seal Teams 1-12 minus 6 either). Anyway, especially with a 720+ GMAT, you got the goods. So it is a matter of just telling your story as per each application’s various nooks and ponds. Guys like you get in all over. In terms of how they don’t get in to Harvard/Stanford/Wharton, well, in rare cases it is a massive execution snafu, where, if military, you just tell war stories and say goals are to make bigger bombs, and if USAID, you just annoy people somehow. Of course, at HBS, and maybe Wharton, there is always “sudden death” by interview so prepare for that when you get there.

Man, you are about as “Tucky” as a guy can get without joining the Village People, and it would just be an issue of convincing them you want to camp out with them for two years while chopping down trees, white water rafting and catching up on course material on your iPod while going up ski lifts (or even going down ski slopes, if you are used to more challenging terrain).

Same deal with Booth and Kellogg. You will need some do-gooder/military goal statement about how the MBA will make you more impactful as a leader in context A, B, and C. But those are easy to generate. Just make sure A, B, and C relate to stuff you have done.

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