Handicapping Your Shot At Getting In

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

She’s a 25-year-old woman who currently works in Asia for a U.S. aerospace company. With a 3.75 grade point average from a public Ivy and a 760 GMAT, she wants to know if she’s Harvard or Stanford material.

He’s a 28-year-old Frenchman who works for a digital media company in France. A self-described world traveler who is fluent in four languages, he  wonders if he can overcome a dreadfully low 2.5 GPA to get accepted by Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management, UPenn’s Wharton School, or Yale’s School of Management.

She’s an energy consultant with a small but relatively unknown firm. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.75 GPA from a New England liberal arts college, she has her hopes set on a list of top MBA programs at such schools as Duke, Berkeley, and MIT.

And he’s a 28-year-old Arab American who first attended a community college and then worked his way into Texas A&M University where he earned a degree in system engineering. After becoming a Six Sigma Black Belt at General Electric,  he wants to know if his 720 GMAT and 3.25 GPA is good enough to get into a prestige MBA program at MIT, Berkeley, Michigan, Duke, and Virginia.

Once again, for the 12th time, 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 future follow-up stories. With the round one deadlines just around the corner, Kreisberg is currently jammed with admissions consulting work. So he’s taking a few weeks off and will be back in mid-October.

Sandy’s assessment:

Ms. Riveter

  • 760 GMAT
  • 3.75 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in international studies and political science from a public ivy with highest honors
  • Working in Asia for a U.S. aerospace company, first in sales support and for the last year and one-half in a marketing leadership role managing resellers
  • Extracurricular involvement includes alumni club leader, co-author of U.S. history scholarship “in un-famous periodicals with my uncle (yes, it’s a weird hobby)” and freelance researcher for the local national social science research center
  • 25-year-old white American female
  • Out of curiosity, when these schools ask applicants to provide salary data, (how) does the adcom use that information?”

Odds of Success:

Harvard Business School: 20% to 40%
Stanford: 10% to 20%
Wharton: 20% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Kids like you get into H/S/W and get dinged depending on execution, extras and luck. HBS likes females in Aero and the Asian angle might help a little too, although Harvard might actually prefer someone working in a U.S. Aero plant, even in sales.

Still, you should stick with what you got. Aero is one part of manufacturing the U.S. has not totally given up on, and, well, someone has to sell it. Go lite on the managing resellers part, whatever that means, and make it seem like you are pals with Rosie the Riveter. For our readers who are under 40, that would be Rosie.

Despite having the basics of super solid grades, schooling and gmat, and job, you need to somehow make this more exciting: This could turn on family background and extras, and you are either light on extras or under-reporting in the above note.

As for “Coauthoring U.S. history scholarship in un-famous periodicals with my uncle,” make sure that is history about victims, under-served groups, Native Americans, and somehow work in how doing that research has shown you blah, blah, blah. “Freelance researcher for the local national social science research center . . . .”

I got no idea what that means, but same story: connect your experience there to the real world and if that real world includes victims, all the better. Working for a social science center could actually be promising, if you are doing research about poverty, disease or poor people.

You asked: “Out of curiosity, when these schools ask applicants to provide salary data, (how) does the adcom use that information?” Mostly nosiness, but they expect your salary to be at par with peers in your profession, especially in banking and consulting. They also expect to see salary increases in-line with star performance, although the actual number is less important. They obviously know that investment bankers make more than kids who work at Teach For America. In your case, they would expect to see normal salary increases over the three years.

Despite all you got going for you, I am not getting a good H or S vibe out of this, it could just be your report, and we don’t know what those solid extracurricular leadership experiences you refer to are. But something about this does not hang together in any interesting way. I could be wrong. Your job in putting together the application is to make it more interesting than your report. You will also need to manage your recommenders, especially if they are new to this game.

It could be that my real problem is that you do not present like an aero type, but that is your strong suit. Although that does not have to be your goal, you need to present your job as more exciting and impactful. It would help if you were a star at your company. HBS admits female sales types, but they are usually sales super-stars.

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  • WanderingBrains

    I have searched through many of your articles. I see very few evaluations of software engineers seeking an MBA. Why is that?
    I’d love to see your thoughts on some from that extremely competitive group.

  • anony

    This article is way old. If you want a reply, I’d suggest asking on something more recent

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