Breaking Through The Elite B-School Screen

by John A. Byrne on

She’s an Asian-American educational consultant who was born overseas but raised in the U.S., overcoming adversity. Can she overcome a 690 GMAT and a 3.4 grade point average to get into a joint MBA and MA in education program at her dream school—Stanford?

Just before the crash, he bought credit default swaps and mortgage-backed securities for a small hedge fund in Luxembourg. Now, he wants to know if he can get into top business school with a 2.6 GPA from a state school?

For the past four years, he has worked for the U.S. State Department as a foreign service-political officer focusing on the Middle East. With a 710 GMAT and a stellar 3.8 GPA from a highly selective private university, he wonders if he could get into Wharton’s prestigious Lauder program or Harvard?

Do they have a shot? We’re again 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 future follow-up stories.

Sandy’s assessment:

Ms. Tiffany

  • 760 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance and accounting from the University of Virginia McIntire School of Commerce
  • Study abroad program in Shanghai during third year
  • Three years as a consultant at Accenture
  • Extracurricular activities include being on the Board of Directors for a student-run UVA recruiting organization, an Alumni Trustee for McIntire, Junior League of Washington (non-profit women’s volunteer organization), various lead positions for groups within Accenture (Women’s Networking Group, Consultant Action Team)
  • Goal is to pursue a career change from management consulting to strategy and marketing for a luxury retail company

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 35% to 45%
Columbia: 35% to 50%
New York University: 50+%
Virginia: 50% to 70%
Duke: 50% to 70%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, you already got a Tiffany GMAT score so your luxury marketing career can start with yourself. Lots to like, and this just reads like a hi-performing networking, clubby, clear story about a gal who went to UVA, stopped partying enough to major in Finance and Accounting, and got a gig at Accenture, which is solid.

Schools like Alum Trustees as well, for obvious reasons, including the high ‘satisfaction’ scores they give the school on BusinessWeek surveys. The 3.4 GPA is the small stain on this otherwise beautiful table set for two (you and the school) and the issue is, how glaring that will be amid all the candlelight and mood music.

Duke and UVA will go for this 3.4 and all, you are deeply their type, and 3.4 is kinda their average GPA.

Ditto NYU. Columbia may have trouble not staring at your 760, and since its average GPA is only 3.5, I’d say you got a real good shot there, too. Wharton has been known to ogle a 760 as well, and as noted, the rest of your story is attractive to any school. Trouble is, Wharton sees big numbers all the time, although so do I, and I still look. I was actually surprised—when I just looked it up—to note that the average GPA at Wharton is 3.5. That leaves us with the Accenture issue, a consulting firm, which places kids into all B-schools but just not as many kids as McKinsey, Bain, and BCG.

Makes this something of a coin toss there. A good deal may ride on how high-performing you are at Accenture in terms of getting great recommendations which say what an ace you are, how fast you got promoted or what stories you can come up about high-profile projects.

As to your stated goal of marketing for a luxury retail company, let me suggest that sounds like wanting to marry a great husband and move to Connecticut like Mad Men’s Betty Draper. Especially if none of your consulting work has been similar. Why not just say you want to transition into boutique consulting for retail companies or lead a retail department of a major consulting company? What do you think adding the word luxury is getting you? Stay with consulting and retail, and present yourself as excited by all kinds of retail, including electronics, yadda, yadda, yadda.

There are lots of challenges for retail consultants finding a new audience and new “platforms,” something you cannot say about luxury retail marketing, unless you count platform shoes. Retail consulting has lots of data crunching (you hear that Wharton?). And hey, you have already been a consultant, and will not have a hard time getting a job. If you are sick of consulting, a vibe I am getting somehow, well, just hold your nose and say what I told you. You won’t be the first.

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  • Nando

    Hi John and Sandy,

    I’m from Brazil and I’d like to know my chances for a full time MBA at Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, Tuck, MIT, Kellogg or Yale.

    I’m currently working as a senior consultant at Ernst & Young in São Paulo – Brazil.

    I started to work for EY three years ago as a full time consultant and recently I had my second promotion to Senior Consultant.

    I have a 3.2 GPA and a GMAT score of 680. I know that’s not a good GPA but I had to work 6 hours a day during my business administration course and there wasn’t much time to study.

    During my first year of undergraduation I have worked for the Junior company at the university. Also, throughout my business administration course I was invited by the university to teach finance in extra classes to other students. I gave these extra classes for a year and a half.

    During my last year of undergraduation I got a scholarship from Ernst & Young. Thus, EY sponsored a quarter of my entire undergrad at a good particular brazilian college.

    Last year I went to Stanford to attend a class visit and an Information Session on Campus. I did the same thing at Berkeley one month later.

    I’d like to know if I have a chance to get in into at least one of these schools. I’m 24 and I think I should apply for the first round in october 2012.

    Please let me know my chances.

    Thanks,

    Nando

  • Habiba

    I am a little late on the bandwagon but couldn’t resist to see where I stack up. I’m well aware my GPA is sub-par and I haven’t taken the GMAT yet, so I’m trying to gage where I’d stand at the schools listed below. Or anywhere, for that matter.

    Demographics
    – 27 / Female / Latino & Middle Eastern
    – First generation immigrant
    – Legacy one of the top B schools in US (rhymes with ‘starvard’ and I don’t even know if this matters anymore)

    Stats
    – 3.0 top private school (Economics/International Studies)
    – Haven’t taken the GMAT yet, wondering what I’d need to be most competitive
    – Involved in several multi-cultural student groups, local immigrant support networks and swimming
    – Internships: US State Dept Leadership Program (Pakistan/Bangladesh); the Mexican PRI and the Texas House of Representatives

    Work Experience
    – Summer intern for Spanish trust fund to expand business development in Texas
    – 3.5 years, World Bank (Held different positions with external communications, knowledge management and risk management teams)
    – Speak 5 languages (use 3 in my professional life)
    – Approx. 1 year as marketing director for private Infrastructure development consulting firm (after my previous jobs, I needed more analytical and quantitative leadership skills)

    EC’s
    – Co-founded professional development network for latin american women, specifically organization’s structure and fundraising model
    – Involved in creative, media arts campaigns for breast cancer and fitness awareness in Washington DC
    – Wrote and filmed video advertisements to promote donating to local HIV/AIDS charities in the District,
    – I used to volunteer at a small non-profit to help immigrants pass US Citizenship test

    Goals
    – Merge my passion for international economic development, and background in marketing/communications in private sector consulting or PR

    Schools
    – INSEAD
    – Kellogg
    – Lauder
    – Harvard
    – Georgetown

  • Dream_4_HBS

    rennselaer polytechnic is not by any stretch of the imagination ‘an almost ivy’. The ivy plus schools are MIT, Stanford, Duke and Chicago (maybe NU and JHU).

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