Handicapping Your Shot At Getting In

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.

  • anony

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

  • 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.

  • I discovered your website website on google and check lots of of your early posts. Continue to keep within the really fine operate. I simply additional increase Feed to my MSN News Reader. Hunting toward reading a ton more of your stuff at a later time!…

  • I am not  really   excellent  with English but I  line up  this  really   easygoing  to  understand .

  • Congrats! That’s great news.

  • Rosie

    Hi Sandy – Thanks again for this series and for the detailed analysis of my profile, and you can bump this riveter up to 50% … Hbs just sent me an interview invitation!!!

  • Pete

    John & Sandy – please evaluate one of the insurance guys. Curious how that work exp will play. Thx.

  • Mr. Comeback,

    This week. Sandy is working on the latest batch right now.


  • Mr. Comeback!

    @jbyrne Hey John, I was just curious when the latest and greatest admissions odds are coming out. As always, thank you!

  • Sports Biz Kid

    Hey John and Sandy,

    I’m hoping to be included in your next handicapping feature. I feel as though the majority of the commenters are kids who have crushed the GMAT and looking for validation whereas I have a rather unique work history which would make me more of an outlier candidate that sits at the lower end of the GPA/GMAT ranges but is still capable of getting into almost anywhere. Hopefully, it could serve as a case study of borderline applicants with good work experience/stories for other readers. Here are my stats:

    GMAT: 690 (should I retake?)
    GPA: 3.5
    Major: International Affairs/International Economics; graduated with honors and Special Honors
    Undergrad: Private university perennially ranked between 40 and 60 by USN&WR
    Experience: Four years working for owner of a large-market professional sports franchise in one of the big three sports, five years total in the league; currently split time as assistant to owner and accountant in finance department
    Extracurriculars: Intramural soccer (5x soccer champ), dorm president senior year, fraternity member, Habitat for Humanity volunteer, spent one Spring Break in Everglades on a program helping with wildlife/environment conservation
    Interests: Sports franchise/enterprise transactions, valuations, M&A
    Schools of Interest: HBS, Stanford, Booth, Kellogg, UCLA, Columbia, NYU
    26-year old white male



  • John

    John and Sandy,

    Would greatly appreciate a look at my chances. I went the entrepreneurial route and am looking to augment my analytical background with a strong business education and get into VC.

    30 y/o white male… NYC
    GMAT- 740 (Q48, V44)- first try
    GPA- 3.45 (one of the “new Ivies”)
    Double Major- Economics/Political Science- Major GPA 3.7
    CFA 1 completed June 2010

    Professional- 5 years as an equity trader at a subsidiary of Sungard Data Systems. Responsible for own research/analysis, managed own portfolio. Co-managed auxiliary branch for 2 years.

    – Left to join a boutique intellectual property investment management firm. My interest in VC stems from here. We invested in patent portfolios, focused on deriving revenue through licensure or developing operations. Came on as lead analyst and was integral in sourcing new opportunities, developing analytics, etc. I soon headed our asset acquisition efforts. While at the firm, sourced several multi-million dollar assets that we were able to close with our funding partners. We launched our own fund but the recession killed our funding.

    Would have been great time to look at school then, but needed to bring in some revenue. Worked in financial advisory for a year, but recognize if I want to eventually move back to principal investing in new technologies, I need to bolster my educational background and networks.

    First in family to attend college.

    I am social, play sports, have volunteered for several charities.

    I full recognize there is nothing I can do about my age, but I think I have a strong base of experience and have shown the intellectual chops to thrive at a top-tier school.

    Aside from my chances of getting in, I would greatly appreciate any opinions on improving my chances. Could a higher GMAT significantly bolster my chances (think 760-770)?

    As for schools- Stanford, Haas, Wharton, Columbia, NYU, Kellogg

    Thank you for your consideration.

  • Joseph,

    I love your story. Sandy, who is jammed with round one consulting, returns with this series during the week of Oct. 17. Your profile will be at the top of the list. Thanks!


  • Joseph

    By the way, my post is intended for either John or Sandy. I see John usually does the intros; it must have thrown me off. Thanks!

  • Joseph

    John, thank you in advance for your valuable knowledge and your help.

    First in my family to go to college; extremely poor background. Worked off-and-on throughout school and received much government money.

    B.S. in econ from a no-name state school. 3.9+ GPA. A very long list of honors. Broke many academic records at my school.

    Unemployed for a year after graduation. Finally landed a finance/accounting type of job at a major blue chip company (after a great deal of persistence). Stagnated after 2.5 years and accepted a higher-responsibility role at another blue chip very high on the Fortune list.

    An assortment of extracurriculars: competitions, clubs, numerous other small activities. Various volunteering activities. I do have some good leadership experience, but some of it is politically charged and highly controversial and I’m not sure whether I should risk mentioning it.

    Career Goals: Assume upper management in a blue chip firm. My real goal is entrepreneurship and I have some action there, but if B-Schools despise entrepreneurs who “think big” and may, as a result, become “rich,” then I guess people will be incentivized to hide that aspect of their personalities.

    I plan to matriculate at age 27 or 28. I would feel more ready if I could matriculate at 28, but I’m worried about age (is 6 years at matriculation considerably worse than 5 or isn’t it?? And are we talking years since graduation or years in the workforce since graduation? The two are not always the same, and no one seems to be making this distinction).

    I’m a white male. I want H/S/W, MIT or Chicago and would consider any others you recommend.

    Unfortunately, in spite of good academics I may need to assume a low GMAT – I took a practice exam once and scored embarrassingly low (mid-500’s). I’m pretty sure I have a “learning difference” though probably not a learning disorder.

    I believe I can tell a compelling life story and am willing to get consulting help, work really hard on my applications, and take the GMAT 12 times if necessary. Oh, and on the essays… I can be bold and push the envelope. What do I have to lose? Thanks again John.

  • southeastasianguy

    Hi John and Sandy this a really good series of articles! Keep up the good work.

    Hope you have the time to review my profile.


    – A second year senior manager (3 years of managerial experience) at a Big 4 firm in a southeast asian country (seven years total with the firm). Mainly engage in audit on banks and securities companies (mixed of publicly held banks and foreign banks).
    – Rated the highest rating and earned double promotion twice, I should be on my way to to Director next year
    – Other than audit, involved in due diligence on merger and acquisitions of the financial advisory arm and risk advisory services on banking clients, and IFRS conversion.
    – Deliver technical trainings internally and externally
    – Sits on technical committee at the firm
    – Led a team of multinational backgrounds
    – Worked outside my home country on three short-term occasions
    – Other than my native language, fluent in English, Chinese, Spanish

    – GMAT: 750
    – GPA: 3.2
    – BBA in Finance and Accounting from a state school in Texas

    – 29 years old will be 30 at matriculation
    – First to go to college in my family
    – Worked full time while at school


    – Played sports and music, hiking, diving
    – Initiated and led the first firm-wide CSR, sports events, office social events
    – Involved in an organization to develop a poor urban area
    – Raise funds to help send inner city high school kids to college

    Why MBA? I realize that I my passion is in developing people and eventually making education affordable to the people of my country. I’m hoping that an MBA will give me the network and skills to achieve that. After school, I’m hoping to work in a private equity firm in my country or in southeast asia to develop business skills and leverage network.

    I have no idea where I stand right now in terms of my candidacy to top schools. So really appreciate if you could give your two cents on which schools I should aim.

    My dream schools would be: Harvard, Wharton, Tuck, Sloan,Booth, Haas, Yale, Stern.

  • Mr Trackstar

    Hi Sandy, Your words of advice would be much appreciated.

    GMAT: 730
    Undergrad GPA 3.12
    Major GPA: 3.35

    Degree: Business Admin: Dual majors Finance and Economics from Seattle University

    Professional experience:
    – 1year at US Department of Housing working in Asset Management Support. All the more interesting is that I held this position during the financial crisis.
    – 1year (will be 1 year upon applying to school) at Freddie Mac as a Control Analyst. I more so work to mitigate risk and implement controls to keep their financial reporting methods efficient and accurate. They deal with billions of dollars a day so this was a bit difficult

    -Track and Field 4 years at Division-I school (senior year i served as captain)
    -New Student Mentor for students of color
    -Subject matter tutor for students of color in Finance and Economics
    -Black Student Union Secretary and Events Coordinator
    -Resident Assistant
    -Rotary Boys and Girls Club head Track coach for at-risk urban pre-teens.

    MBA Goals-
    I want to use the knowledge i gain to work on bringing financial literacy to the individuals I feel need it most. To do this I want to start my own financial services consulting firm and work together with financial advising or planning firms on how best to target and inform the underrepresented LGBTQ male/female, primarily centered on your average financially insensitive man/woman in a large or expensive city.

    LGBTQ Male
    22 years old.

    Target schools:
    Columbia (main goal)

    **Question** How can I articulate my interest in Columbia without coming off as needy, winy, or desperate. I really love the school and I want them to know that genuinely.



    Hi Sandy,

    What do you think?

    African-American Male
    Age- 29
    GMAT -660 (Q42 V39)
    *4th attempt

    Undergrad GPA – 3.4 (Health Sciences). Fair grades in quant coursework
    Grad GPA – 3.3 (Physical Therapy)

    Work Experience- 3 years U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (2 promotions)
    Board certified geriatric physical therapy

    Extracurricular – leadership roles in several community/professional organizations

    Planning to take 2 UC Berkeley Extension courses (accounting, finance, or microeconomics) to build quantitative profile.

    Why MBA
    Short term – Transition into management role at integrated healthcare system (e.g. Keiser Permanente, Geisinger, etc)

    Long term – Entrepreneurship (would like to develop chain of health clinics to provide prevention/wellness services for the elderly)

    1. How much will admissions officers value the alternative transcript when evaluating my quantitative aptitude/ability to handle academic rigor?
    2. Should I retake the GMAT and aim for higher quant score
    3. What are my round 2 chances at Duke, HBS, Vanderbilt, Kellogg, Wharton, Michigan?


  • Anither Indian Brother?

    Hi . I would request you to give me my chances of entering a top B-School of you have the time.

    750 GMAT
    3.5 GPA (WES Conversion)
    Undergraduate Degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
    Work Experience –
    2 years in Management Consulting at a Big 4 firm
    Have been acknowledged as the best performer in my bracket and also for taking up and implementing corporate intitatives for improvement which are typically undertaken by very senior firm members. Primarirly working in sustainability consulting

    Extra curricular Activities
    Remote Volunteer with the Grameen Banks (a microfinance NGO) volunteer arm
    Member at a foreign policy think. I am designing their young member program and also writing papers in the cleantech space for them.

    Volunteer with an NGO in India where I help them by using my engineering/business skills in low cost product design, distribution, marketing etc.Have been doing this for a year

    Goal :- To learn the basic business fundamentals along with sund technical skills and create solutions in the industrial ecology space (waste/resource management for industries)

    Dream Programs :-
    Joint degree in sustainability and an MBA at Stanford,Wharton,Columbia,MIT Sloan and Yale

  • Ms. Ivy Cheerleader

    Ms. Ivy Cheerleader
    ■ 770 GMAT
    ■ 3.9 GPA undergrad at Ivy (non-HPY) with Econ/Math double major, German minor and printed publications
    ■ Extracurrics included cheerleading (president and treasurer), gymnastics, sorority, and lots of community work – red cross, multiple charities with strong connection to cancer (meaningful personal drama as a kid)
    ■ 3 years work exp as trader at top bulge bracket (not JPM or anything below), with stints in both US and Europe
    ■ International (Eastern Europe)

    H/S/W chances?

  • Ross

    Age: 25

    From: Texas

    – Bachelor of Arts (GPA 3.1/4.0) – Economics – University of Texas

    GMAT: 730

    Work experience:
    3-4 years Big-6 Management Consulting

    Have worked on projects generally focused on Energy and Natural Resources Strategy. Will have received one promotion before applying.

    Extracurriculars: Membership in organizations in college. Post grad work extracurricular include leading up company’s liberal arts recruiting efforts and alumni events planning. In addition, I organize volunteers for a non-profit that is developing a sustainable living mixed-use development, and am a member of an alumni spirit organization.

    Goal: To work for a firm that analyzes/invests in renewable energy and U.S. natural gas companies.

    Concerns: I have a low college GPA (one F in a pass/fail internship credit bumped me from a ~3.4 down to 3.1) and a lack of leadership in college.

    Target schools: W/Booth/Columbia/H/Tuck/S

    White Male, Fluent English, Decent Spanish (Studied Abroad)

  • Anand


    That was a pretty awesome article with a lot of insight. Keep up the good work!

    It was mentioned towards the beginning of the article that you might be picking up half a dozen more profiles to evaluate. I’m including my info here hoping that mine would be among the profiles you pick 🙂

    26 year old male from India.

    Completed engineering from a top 10 engineering college in India called the National Insitute of Technology (Non-IIT). GPA – 7/10, which someone told me translates to 3.6/4 – not sure how to actually convert it.

    GMAT – 750 98% (50 Q – 93%, 41 V – 92%, 5.5 AWA – 76%)

    4.5 years work experience – all with Cisco Systems (American computer networking company) as a software developer in India

    Extracurricular – developed the database from scratch for a Texas based dog rescue organization so they could easily manage all their data which also enabled them to automatically send faxes to vets and other dog lovers, taught children in flood affected areas, led a lot of treks, love traveling around the world, currently learning Spanish, fluent at English and a couple of Indian languages.

    Goals – Short term – get into project management of a technology company and assume a decision making role w.r.t project requirements, time to execute and the number of staff required. Also get to a leadership role in the company’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiative.
    Long term – found a technology startup focused on providing benefits of networking technologies to the economically backward sections of society. Could even be not-for-profit.

    Interested in – Kellogg, Tuck, Tepper, Stern, UCLA, Yale, MIT LGO

    Thanks a lot for your good work!


  • Wow I can’t believe I just discovered this blog – it’s amazing! Would be grateful for any feedback from Sandy or anyone else 🙂


    Age: 28

    From: Australia

    – Bachelor of Engineering (GPA 3.7/4.0) – Top 3 Australian university
    – S.M. (GPA 3.7/4.0) – Top 3 US university. Multiple academic publications (does this count for anything?)

    GMAT: 720

    Work experience:
    3-4 years management consulting at elite boutique in Asia/Pac region.

    Have worked on projects in several industries including retail, energy, mining, government policy. Hoping my choice of a boutique over a more globally recognized name (turned down offer from M/B/B) won’t hurt me too much in my bschool apps. Picked the boutique for fit reasons and have loved every minute of it.

    Letters of rec: Senior partners at current consulting firm who are Harvard MBAs

    Extracurriculars: represented college in varsity sport team for 1 year (not a crappy sport either :p). Involvement in a state orchestra during undergrad. Involvement in various community service / volunteering things during college. Nothing significant since college :/

    Target schools: H/S/INSEAD/W (most likely in that order)

    Target firms: At this point I either want to return to my current firm or jump over to in-house strat (and if the stars align these would lead to partner or senior management in each case). However I’m also curious about a few other things and thinking in dabbling in a totally different area during my bschool internship…

    Concerns: I don’t have any significant leadership experience. My extracurriculars since college are pretty much non existent 🙁

  • kb

    Please offer your insights into EMBA programs for older, more experienced students. Undergrad in Finance / 3.5 from mid-tier Midwest private university, new GMAT score of 680 / 15 yrs of technology sales w mgmt experience IBM (london & US) as well as entrepreneurial venture for a few years. I want to run an assistive technology organization as my current work as advocate for special needs/medically fragile children introduced me to the merger of my two distinct life experiences. UWash, Cornell, UNC are my targets…what are my chances? any reccdm appreciated. thanks

  • The Gambler

    Age: 25, white American male

    GPA: 3.2 from Colby College in History and Economics

    GMAT: 720 (44Q/45V)

    Work experience: 4 years at Fortune 500 Insurance Company in Risk Management and Sales Support; promoted twice, ahead of corporate standards, and work closely with departmental management as the reporting resource for a 300 employee organization. Recommenders can highlight quantitative work experience to help offset poor quant on GMAT and undergrad.

    Extracurriculars: American Cancer Society Team Organizer and Leader; founding partner of a failed “brick and mortar” start-up company, extended collegiate involvement: Newspaper, Radio, Fraternal, Student Government Representative

    Short Term Goal: Move from a position with limited exposure in marketing and brand management to a full time brand management position with a consumer goods organization. Essays to highlight marketing aspects of current position and foundation in overall business environment, why that has driven interest towards brand management.

    Question: Knowing that the Top 15 and potentially the Top 20 are off the table does it make sense to approach an MBA (assuming full tuition) for something (US News) ranked in the 20-40 range? Approaching recommenders will require revealing position during an extended period of poor job prospects and potential lay-offs. Are applicants in my, or a similar position, better off waiting it out in our current positions building on our work experience and potentially approaching an EMBA or Distance (KF Model) MBA in the future? Are the odds against a 20-40 school paying dividends worth the salary and experience sacrifice?

    Target Schools: Georgetown, Boston University, Boston College, Notre Dame. Duke and Michigan as reaches.

  • bjam2

    – 720 GMAT

    – 91.7 Grade Point Average (3.77 Columbia Conversion)

    – Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at Kettering University (Minor in International Studies w/ study abroad)

    – Work Experience includes 3 years of Co-op at Automotive/Manufacturing Companies and 3 years full-time at Schlumberger working with safety systems on Deepwater Oil Rigs in order to prevent blow-outs and oil spills

    – Other activities include extensive travel, vice-president of Fraternity, multiple officer positions in collegiate organizations, mentoring multiple employees in my company, and instructed a class to engineers around the world at one of Schlumberger’s training centers

    – Post-MBA Goal: Work in Strategic Development/International Project Management for the Energy Industry

  • mariemm

    Just to add on to my previous post:
    (Ms. New Wave Digital Creative)

    I intend to focus on marketing and entrepreneurship, and particularly hope for NYU or Columbia so I can pursue their arts/entertainment/media management concentrations.

    Career goals: marketing position for a larger company within the creative industries (notably, publishing, fine art or fashion), eventually starting my own marketing and communications agency targeting arts nonprofits and, you guessed it, creative companies.

  • mariemm

    Ah! Do me! Do me! Pretty please?
    I’m curious. I’m an admittedly run-of-the-mill creative-leaning Caucasian female with a liberal arts background (but from a huge state school), and non-traditional career status leaning toward creative industries and NOT finance/sales/etc. (digital media, web design, arts nonprofits and marketing for digital media AND art programs).

    Ms. New Wave Digital Creative

    GMAT : 660

    Undergrad GPA : 3.5 from well-reputed large state school (University of Florida)
    ** I actually have both a BS in journalism and a BA in English Literature – the school allowed me to pursue both degrees concurrently

    Work Experience : 4 years total post-graduation. Split between a Los Angeles-based public relations agency for digital media companies (pr/marketing), a DC area arts nonprofit (marketing and development), and now a DC-area web design and web marketing company (project manager on higher end website builds – daily client interaction with over 40 clients whose projects I manage at one time).

    Background : white, middle-class, both parents graduated from college, and my father did graduate school as well. Both have worked in defense contracting and consulting with big firms.

    College extras: Equestrian club and private hunter/jumper horseback riding lessons, sorority [but no leadership position], extra German classes, short stint with guitar lessons

    Post-college extras: more private horseback riding lessons for awhile, voice (opera) lessons for awhile

    **Extracurriculars NOW: I’m orchestrating a sizeable charity concert (100+ attendees) to save a local literary landmark from closure – a months-long project with only myself and one other organizer working on ALL aspects of the event, from booking bands and a venue, raising donations from corporate sponsors, producing art for fliers and posters, printing of marketing materials, public relations and press release work, and day-of operations. [we intend to do this again in a few months, but probably not before my applications are due]

    Target Schools:

  • MH

    26, male, American minority (South Asian)
    3.6 GPA finance degree from a not very impressive north eastern school
    Worked full-time through college running a multi-million dollar family business to support my family
    4 years work experience at global but not top investment bank doing Mergers & Acquisitions and private equity LBOs
    GMAT: 700
    – 3x Junior Olympian wrestler, Captain of Junior Olympic team and placed third my final bid (high school)
    – Sit on the junior board of a non-profit advocating for inner city kids
    – Sit on the junior board of another non-profit which raises and funnels funds to non-profits targeting at risk children
    – Mentor and member of recruiting committee at my investment bank
    – Active member of alumni association (college)

    Post-MBA goals of spearheading investments in development projects across the Africa and the Middle East region (currently learning arabic, fluent in hindi/urdu)

    Targets: HBS, Stanford & Wharton… also applying to remaining M7

  • Commodore

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for doing those useful reviews.
    Quick question, how do adcoms at top-10 schools view the CFA ?
    Does being a charterholder add any weight to your application if you are already a finance guy ?

  • Mr. Israeli Risk Management Dude
    Age: 29
    From Israel
    GPA: 3.32
    GMAT: 730
    LL.B from an Israeli University
    Work experience includes one year in a high-tech law firm and two years in risk management for a private firm (not international brand)
    Extracurricular activity includes helping underprivileged teens in east Jerusalem and serving in the Israeli national military reserves
    Goal: I actually DO want to change the world, though I’m mostly interested in strategy and technology innovation. My first goal after school is joining one of the top consulting firms (McKinsey, BCG…)

    Interested in the following schools: Northwestern, MIT, Berkeley, Duke and Michigan.


  • logisticsguy

    Forgot to mention target schools:



  • logisticsguy

    Hey Sandy,

    Your input would be great!

    B.S. Mechanical Engineering
    Texas A&M University
    3.41 GPA


    Logistics Officer, United States Marine Corps
    1 Combat Deployment to Afghanistan
    Lived overseas for 3 of 6 years (Asia)

    -Vice President and founding member of alumni club in a foreign country
    -Founded SAT preparation course for young military members seeking college admission
    -Supported my self financially throughout college working approximately 20-25 hours per week as a private mathematics tutor and as a University employed tutor.

    Seeking career in Operations/Management. Specifically, a career in the shipping/logistics/supply chain management industry.

  • Mr. Taiwan

    Hi Sandy, could you please let me know my chances?

    Age: 26
    Work history: 4 years (1 year Sales&Trading at a boutique shop on Wall Street, 3 years Private Banking at JPM in Asia)
    Test scores: 690 (47 quant/38 verbal), AWA 5
    Gender: Male
    Application history: First time
    Target schools: HBS, Wharton, Columbia
    Nationality: Chinese
    Additional Comments
    I was an mechanical engineering major at a top engineering school and my undergraduate GPA is only a 2.8 due to bad freshman/sophomore years, but has been improving ever since and got lucky with my first job on wallstreet, worked extra hard post college and eventually earned a referral to JPM in Asia. Was ranked top 10% throughout my years at JP.

  • Mr Engineer

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you please review my chances at my target schools?

    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 Semiconductor 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.

    Target Schools:
    MIT Sloan
    Duke Fuqua


  • Ms. Brazil

    I am applying R1 to H/W and not sure about Stanford yet… also doing Chicago and UCLA.

    I am 24/female/Brazilian. I work at a top 3 advertising global firm and manage the accounts of top multinational clients. I work with account management – dealing with the marketing department of companies and not on the creative side. I majored in Journalism, got a 116 on TOEFL and 710 (46q/42v/6.0awa) on the GMAT.
    I have 3 years of full-time work experience at my company. I was also a competitive gymnast and work with gymnastics and coach poor Brazilian kids in the weekend. I haven’t gone to Africa to save the world, but I’m very passionate about sport inclusion in my country.

    As I progress in my job, I feel like due to my humanities major I really lack business knowledge to be a business leader in the future.

    My main weakness is my quant. I did not take quant classes in college and my 46q on the GMAT wasn’t quite on the 80%. It was on the mid 70’s.

    Sometimes I feel like I am a very interesting candidate because I’m 24, women, Brazilian, work with advertising. But, at the same time I feel like maybe I’m not good enough for HBS, for example. I mean, can my 710 GMAT compete with all the star 750+ ibankers and consultants with an engineering or economics major?

    Please let me know if I have a genuine shot. Thanks.

    Appreciate if you could give a personal input.

  • Mr. Comeback!

    Addition to my post. I’m a 28 year old male Indian-American

  • Mr. Comeback!

    Hey John and Sandy,

    First and foremost I would like to thank you guys for your help in our MBA application process. I tune into your site on a daily basis (especially Fridays for the odds!). Please review my case as it is rather unique, anyone with my scenario is probably too embarrassed to even post it, but believe me, there are plenty of us out there!

    I started college on a real rocky road. Attended my top state school majoring in computer science and failed out. At the same time, was arrested and convicted of misdemeanor possession (Marijuana). Did probation, took time off and really did some soul searching. I decided to return back to school, starting with community college.

    Community College, majoring in general business: 3.67 GPA

    Attended my second best state school in order to reset my GPA, I had hopes of going to grad school one day. Majored in Financial Economics, 3.65 GPA.

    After graduation, I began working for a quantitative mutual fund firm that manages over 20 billion dollars as a Financial Reporting Analyst. After two years there (and some math courses part-time after work back at my undergrad school), I moved on to the largest government statistical agency to work as a Statistician. I also got into grad school for economics (a top masters in Economics program) – finishing this December with straight As and lots of Econometrics.

    So here is my case in a nutshell:

    GMAT: 720
    Community College, Business: 3.67 GPA
    Small State School, Financial Economics: 3.65 GPA
    MA Applied Economics, 3.93 GPA

    2 years at a mutual fund firm as a Financial Reporting Analyst.
    2.5 years (at submission of application for round 2) as a Statistician.
    I have also been involved in my family business in construction management the whole time.

    Extracurricular involvement:(1) Volunteer work at a local temple. Not much more, I’ve been killing myself with school and work.

    Goals: Work as a buy-side equities analyst with long term interests in investment management. I would love to start my own hedge fund one day – cliche right? But, its the truth (Should I omit the hedge fund thing from my apps?)

    Also, is it OK to get one recommendation from my Supervisor at my current job and a recommendation from one of my teachers in my masters program? If not, I have another recommendation from work.

    School choices:
    1. Wharton
    2. Dartmouth
    3. NYU
    4. Virginia
    5. UCLA
    6. Michigan
    7. Cornell
    8. Carnegie Mellon
    9. Georgetown

    That was a lot, I know. I’d appreciate your review. Thanks.

  • neege

    Hi Sandy,

    No creative name here (not my strongest suit), but please rate my chances.

    Background: 26 years old; African American male who grew up in single parent household in New York City
    GMAT: 700
    GPA: 3.2

    Undergrad Degree in Finance from Seton Hall University, minor in Legal Studies

    Work Experience: Last 5 years at Federal Reserve Bank of NY – 4 years in Research & Statistics, 1 year in Banking Supervision working for an Investment Bank monitoring group which developed as a result of financial crisis. One month at Standard & Poor’s in Data and Operations Strategy.

    Extracurricular: Freshman Peer Mentor during college; undergraduate Career Mentor after graduating, mentor for inner city high school students in New York; member of non-profit org that assists underrepresented minorities get into top business schools; volunteer consulting (data analysis, marketing, etc) for non-profit that supports female entrepreneurs in Rwanda & Afghanistan for last three years.

    Goals: S/T – Strategy consulting with focus on streamlining global operations. L/T – Strategic Planning for multinational tech company.

    Why MBA? Want to make career switch from financial services to corporate consulting/strategy. MBA will open up doors to expand network/work internationally.

    Hopeful schools: Stanford, Kellogg, Booth, Haas, Ross, NYU, Duke

  • Mr Middle East

    Hey Sandy/HBSGURU,

    Thank you for taking the time to evaluate my candidacy. I’m even more excited after reading your addendum regarding my odds at HBS…So you’re telling me there’s a chance!

    Have fun this weekend.

    -Mr. Middle East

  • Mr. Debater


    Thank you for the series. I’ve enjoyed reading your feedback and would like to step up to the plate!

    26, white male

    760 GMAT

    3.7 GPA from a state university in the south

    4.0 GPA in major (risk management & insurance – my school has the 2nd ranked undergraduate program in the country behind UPenn)

    Moved to NYC after college and now working at the largest commercial risk adviser & insurance broker in the world (50,000+ employees). I’ve worked at the same company since graduating, occupying various roles:
    – Began as an insurance broker and risk consultant for select Fortune 500 companies, specializing in liability risk.
    – Transitioned into a highly selective sales leadership training program; named top of the class after a year. Now an active mentor for the 2011 class.
    – Currently in full-fledged sales/business development, tasked with bringing new business to the firm

    Extras during college:

    – President of the intercollegiate debate team, regularly traveling nationally to compete against the best teams in the country (something I’ve done since high school, earning a 4-year college scholarship for debate). My partner and I were ranked #1 in the country at the end of my senior season, an honor that usually goes to a team from one of the ivy’s.

    Extras after college:

    -Founder and President of Toastmasters chapter in NYC office of my company, 100+ participants
    -Engagement officer for non-profit devoted to building career development skills for low-income individuals.

    Career goals: Use risk management to make an impact on the world by addressing complicated global problems that are mired in risk. I would like to accomplish this by developing further industry expertise with a consulting firm and eventually leading a meaningful entrepreneurial initiative with a global scope.

    What are my chances at S / H / W?

    Thank you!

  • Midwesterner

    Age: 26, middle class caucasian, first in extended family to attend graduate school

    GPA: 3.03 BS Aerospace Engineering with minors in Management and Mathematics (top state midwestern university)

    GMAT: 730

    Extracurriculars: President of engineering society student chapter at the university (2 years). Fundraised and hosted large student conference and guest speakers from industry. Subsystem leader of a student run engineering design team. Two separate research opportunities in undergrad, both fairly technical with minimal leadership but extensive faculty and professional interaction/mentorship.

    Work Experience: 4 years at small engineering and manufacturing composites company ($10million annual revenue, 50 employees, 3 locations). 1st year spent as a Sales Engineer, traveling with the Vice President of Sales on business trips to act as a technical resource. Promoted to Business Development Engineer for remaining 3 years, which is a project management leadership position plus the previous sales responsibilities. In charge of developing and maintaining customer relationships as well as managing multi-million dollar projects from quotation through engineering, manufacturing, validation and completion. 3rd level of management beneath the CEO and vice President.

    Social Background: Private pilot, avid golfer, sailing, contract graphic design and web development (with commissioned/published work).

    Reason for getting an MBA: Management/leadership experience history can be used to demonstrate plans for returning to graduate school for an MBA. Have progessed as far as I can at current company which provides a good break for returning to school before starting a new job. Wish to persue joint degree programs in MBA/MEM and either return to a manufacturing management position at a larger company or join a consulting firm with an emphasis on technology/engineering.

    Target Schools: Kellogg (1), MIT (2), Wharton, HAAS, HBS, Stanford

    Weakness: Low GPA. Would include an addendum that illustrates grade deflation at my engineering university (average GPA of the school is 2.9) and reflect on a poor sophomore year due to personal reasons and immaturity.

    Specific Questions: Is it novel to have the hard engineering background and project management experience and would it be worth emphasizing? Is the low GPA going to be a deal breaker at the top schools?


    hmmmm, on re-reading Mr Middle East, I might up your chances at HBS to the 25-45 percent range. You got a lot to like, solid extras, and medical devices/ life science is a hot area there. Good luck.