Getting Through The Elite B-School Screen

If you’ve been unemployed for two years do you have any chance at all of getting into a top business school?

If you were a young woman who is an assistant editor at a national magazine but boasts a GMAT score below 700, would Harvard Business School even look at you?

And if you’re a young Asian who earned three undergraduate degrees and now works for a bulge bracket investment bank, do you have a chance to get into your dream MBA program?

For the eighth consecutive week, we’re turning to Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm, to answer these questions and give his assessment on 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 tough love analysis:

Mr. Unemployed

  • 710 GMAT
  • 2.94 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in engineering from a big state school
  • Work experience includes three years of entry-level work, but unemployed for two years “due to economy and poor credit”
  • “I will have mediocre recommendations since I haven’t really had major responsibilities in my entry level jobs”

Odds of Success:

Wharton: Zero
Columbia: Zero
Cornell: Zero
UCLA: Zero
Boston University: -20%
Arizona State: -30%
Baruch: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: I feel your pain, pal, but schools won’t. You are not getting into any top-15 business school with this profile. There is just no compelling reason to take you. Business schools are not in the business of getting jobs for unemployed people. They are in the business of taking wonderfully employed people and making sure they stay that way. Your explaining to them how the MBA will help you excel in the future is the last thing they want to hear. They don’t go for the Lourdes routine.

You don’t enter Harvard, Stanford or Wharton and then throw away your crutches. You enter H/S/W on a motorcycle and leave in a Ferrari.

You really need to look into some regional schools, or night programs. The 710 will go a long way there–although even there, try to present a concrete future plan, based on prior work, and not some miracle story.
Sorry to be even a bit flip. I hope things turn around for you.

  • Seth

    I have a 3.94 GPA, Finance, non-prestigious NY school. Any pointers on finding employment?

  • BigDreams

    Hi Sandy and John,

    Hoping to get evaluated. One of my biggest concerns is my GMAT score and if it is good enough to allow me to focus on other aspects of my application.

    -710 GMAT – 45Q (71%), 41V (92%)
    -3.37 Undergrad GPA in finance from a Southern California private school (worked 30-40 hours a week to put myself through school)

    Work Experience:
    -3.5 years in management consulting at Accenture. (2 yrs Analyst, 1.5 years Consultant). In consideration for early promotion to Manager. 

    Extra-Curricular Activities:
    -Lead roles in planning women and community events at Accenture
    -Pre-MBA Fellow at a top 15 program
    -Recipient of the Accenture Corporate Citizenship Award

    Personal:-25 year old female-Asian American-First generation college graduate

    Target Schools:
    -Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Columbia, Sloan, Booth, Tuck, Yale, Ross, Stern

    Post-MBA Goal:
    -Short Term: Transition to a strategy consulting firm, such as M/B/B
    -Long Term: Become a c-level executive for a fortune 500 company
    -Become a professional and community advocate for women and diversity initiatives

    Thank you for your consideration!

  • TrailBlazer

    25 year old Female
    First Generation College Graduate from the United States Naval Academy
    3.2 GPA double major Economics and Political Science (BS)
    2 years on Varsity Crew team (As a Novice moved up to 2V varsity boat, won Patriot League Chapionships)
    President of the Astronomy Club
    Expected GMAT 680 minimum (720 hopefully)

    One out of 18 women chosen to be the first in the history of the United States Navy to break into one of the last male only fields in the country: submarining.

    Graduate of the Navy’s Officer Nuclear Power program.

    4 years work experience as an officer in the United States Navy.

    I plan either starting or becoming largely involved in a charity organization focusing on improving children’s education in the U.S. prior to applying. I also will likely have my real estate license prior to applying.

    I still have a few years to prepare, so any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. H/S/W/INSEAD hopeful.

  • BD_Biotech


    Curious in getting an evaluation:

    Chinese-American (Born in Shanghai, came to U.S. at age of 4)
    GMAT: 710 (47Q/42V 6.0 AWA)
    GPA: 2.7 in Bio at UC San Diego

    Played poker to support self through undergrad to pay for schooling, thus low grades

    Work Experience:
    – 4 years at a mid-cap publically biotech company doing Business Development
    – 2 deals on deal sheet, for ~$144M in upfronts and milestones
    – Transitioned from research scientist on R&D side to Commercial/BD

    Goal: Utilize MBA to get into BD role at Big Pharma, then move back into leading own BD group within Biotech

    – 4 years coaching pop warner footbal
    – 3 years on non-profit research foundation for an uncurable children’s heart disease, host annual fundraiser – raised $150K thus far

    Target Schools:
    H/S/W, Haas (strong west coast preference), Sloan, Duke

  • Consultantforlife

    Hi Sandy, your analysis has been the source of quite a few revelations and has helped me position my essays better. But I’d love if you can evaluate my profile:
    Nationality: Indian
    GMAT: 720 / 6
    GPA: 3.0 (7.5/10)
    IIT B.Tech
    Basketball team – Silver Medalist in inter college tournament
    Student Body Core Team member in organizing the school’s cultural festival
    Worked in a marketing service startup started by a IVY MBA grad in India for 2 years. The firm now runs a groupon equivalent of India and is pretty well known and invested
    Worked in a multinational tier 2 consulting firm for a year and half. Traveled and worked mostly for US based firms.
    Significant amount of team leadership experience and product management experience
    Recos from current managers and CEO of previous firm who I reported to.
    Lived in the middle east while growing up
    Plan to continue consulting after MBA
    Target Schools : HBS, Stan, Wharton, Booth and Insead


  • Ms Aspiring

    Could you please evaluate my profile

    Background : Indian (country of citizenship) female, born and brought up in India, Permanent Resident (Green Card)

    Languages : English, Hindi

    Undergrad : BTech Computer Engineering ; GPA – 9.7/10.00, from top 5 Indian university

    GMAT Score : 710

    TOEFL : 100/120

    Extracurricular activities : Learned Indian classical dance and classical music for 10 years and performed many stage shows.

    Work Experience : 8 years, worked as an Software programmer, Tech lead for one of the top 10 ranked multinational company ranked in Asia. I quit my job in 2010 August to take care of my pregnancy and children.

    Target : I need MBA to progress in my career and manage an IT firm myself down the line 5 years.

    Please let me know if I will be selected in any of top 15 B-schools.

  • Mr Engineer

    Could you please evaluate my profile:

    GMAT : 750

    BS GPA : 4.0/4.0 From Top 10 school in India ( Electrical Engineering )
    MS GPA : 3.9/4.0 From Top 10 US university ( Electrical Engineering )

    Work Experience : 5 years work experience as Engineer in a Fortune 500 company. Good reputation in work place which led to multiple promotions

    Background : Coming from a low income background. Both parents have just high school education. Studied with full scholarship for BS & MS

    Extra : Served as church secretary. Apart from that minor contributions to some charities.

    Thanks in advance

  • pbro

    GMAT: 740
    GPA: 3.7 (3.4 if you take out Japanese classes)
    Undergrad: BBA in Finance from University of Michigan Ross
    Undergrad intern: Corporate Finance at Intel
    Work Experience: 3 years at #2 Japanese investment bank (tech coverage team) in Tokyo, recently promoted to Associate. Job almost entirely in Japanese.
    Extracurriculars: 2 years in AIESEC during undergrad, play soccer in Tokyo amateur adult league
    25 yr old white male
    Target schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Berkeley

  • Jimmy

    From Philippines.

    GPA of 2.3/4.0 BS Chemistry (Worked two jobs, while studying full-time)

    GMAT 780

    Masters in Economics 4.0/4.0

    Master of Mathematics 4.0/4.0

    Diploma in Financial Engineering 4.0/4.0

    First in our family’s history to graduate from college.

    Chinese immigrants to the Philippines.

    Established a top 5 goods-importation business in the Philippines.

    Established a top 5 mining business in the Philippines.

    Established a top 10 real-estate business in the Philippines.

    33 years old.

    Extracurricular activities includes enhancing business ties between China and Philippines. Organizing trade missions between government of China and private companies in the Philippines.



  • Shuairanger

    I have a rather unique profile so curious as to my chances. Goal is H/S/W MIT, Kellogg, or Booth

    GMAT: 720
    GPA: 3.6 from United States Military Academy at West Point.
    Major: Chinese, Environmental Engineering minor.
    Work Experience: 5 years as an airborne ranger infantry officer with combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan. Directly led 42 Soldiers in combat operations over 9 months and later as second-in-command of 160-man infantry company conducting combat operations. Later served as a staff officer for 9 months in Afghanistan planning operations.

    Served a two-year LDS mission in Taiwan. Speak Chinese fluently scoring 3/3 on Defense Language Proficiency Test.

    Would serve in National Guard during two-years in school. Not sure if this is even worth mentioning.

    Thanks for taking the time to review and evaluate.