Breaking Through The Elite B-School Screen

Ms. Education

  • 690 GMAT (Looking to retake to score around target school avg or above 720+)
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in public policy from a top 10 national private university
  • Work experience as a portfolio manager/senior consultant at an educational technology consulting firm in a very niche sector, international client base.
  • Promoted twice in 3 years, youngest in role by 5 to 10 years, manage one of largest portfolios both in terms of revenue and client size.
  • Presented at national and international conferences/workshops and launched online professional learning community.
  • Extracurricular activities in college with leadership positions, selective women’s leadership program, community tutoring, sorority executive board, led campus faith organization, education policy internship and organized passing of landmark educational bill.
  • Goal: To start my own educational consulting firm/start up or lead an educational organization/school/district, short term: non-profit or management consulting to gain organizational leadership experience
  • “My weaknesses are my GPA and GMAT, non “blue-chip” company. My strengths: essays, work & leadership experiences”
  • Born overseas but US raised, unique background with overcoming adversity
  • 24-year-old Asian-American immigrant female

Odds of Success:

Stanford (joint degree in School of Education): 15% to 20%
Harvard Business School: 20% to 30%
Berkeley: 40+%
Yale: 50+%
Wharton: 25% to 40%
Northwestern: 40% to 60%
Columbia: 40% to 50%
Duke: 50% to 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, you seem to know your own strengths and weaknesses very well, which is the beginning of wisdom, but not, I fear the beginning of being accepted by Stanford or Harvard.

For the reasons you mention–low GPA and lowish GMAT, plus non-blue chip firm—you’re asking them to blink twice or maybe 1.5 times, and they will take someone similar to you with better stats and schooling. The rest is real solid, and you have a terrific halo effect from consistent work, in an important field (ed tech is a hot item, even though its benefits have been oversold, but who cares, not your fault) and lots of extras plus a good “Coming to America” story.

I like you, and my guess is, with real solid execution, which should be easy, given how smoothly your goals flow from your experience, you could be real strong candidate at Kellogg, Haas, Yale, and Duke. Wharton may balk because of stats and because you are not their ‘type’ superficially, although that can sometimes be a wild card advantage. Ditto Columbia, but their gag reflex is a little lower in your case (you might get in) because 1. It is just easier in general, 2. They have a big Ed school, where you’d be a natural fit.

Man, I just read this over, and I like you even more. I’m trying to do some regression analysis (well, what I think that means). And if you had a 3.9 and the company you work for is substantial or serious, you’d be real strong at H or S. The rest of this is just so solid. A neighbor of mine started an educational consulting company right out of Harvard Ed School, doing what seems like what your company does, and he had an HBS grad working for him. Explain the grades in some way and stress international do-gooder stories, and write back and tell me you made it to Harvard or Stanford. Somehow I think your chances are better at Harvard because you have more room to explain yourself, e.g. basically seven story ops plus a goal statement. You could really fill that out.

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


  • 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).

  • 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.

    – 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)

    – 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)

    – 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

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

    – INSEAD
    – Kellogg
    – Lauder
    – Harvard
    – Georgetown

  • 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.