Predicting Your Odds Of Getting In

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

After six years as a player in the National Football League (NFL), he’s thinking about stepping away from the game and taking the next step in his life. But he wonders if his ambition to get an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is entirely realistic.

He’s a 29-year-old high school math teacher at an urban public school. With a 650 GMAT and a 3.4 grade point average, he hopes to get into a top business school to eventually pursue his highly ambitious long-term goal: to become Secretary of Education.

She’s a self-described 23-year-old sassy black woman, a U.S. immigrant from West Africa, who has overcome all kinds of adversity, from plane crashes and civil unrest to bombings and jobless parents. A volunteer for a corporate social responsibility initiative in Niger, she expects the MBA will help her achieve her objective of creating jobs in Africa.

What all of them share in common is the goal to get into one of the world’s best business schools and graduate with an MBA degree. Do they have the raw stats and experience to get an invite? Or are they likely to end up in a reject pile?

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru, is back again 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 into a top-ranked business school. 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 few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature next week.

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

Mr. Football

  • 700+ GMAT (studying now and hopes to land a 700+)
  • 3.9 Grade Point Average
  • Undergraduate degree in business management with a minor in accounting
  • Work experience includes six years of playing in the NFL. He and his wife have also started a small business—women’s fitness studio–that has been up and running for 18 months. “I feel my work experience has taught me a lot about leadership and teamwork.”
  • Extracurricular activity focused on football
  • Goals: “Ultimately I am not sure what exactly I want to do post MBA. Does this hurt me? I have an idea based on what interests me now but will be open-minded as I go through grad school. But I feel an MBA is a great way to bridge the gap between football and the real world.
  • Concerns: “Because of the timing with deadlines and our current season, I will be forced to apply to round three for all my schools. Does this eliminate my chances of getting into a Top 10 program?  I have my eyes set on Stanford but would love to know if this is realistic.”

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 50%+
Harvard: 50%+
Wharton: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, a 3.9 and an NFL career, and any kind of ~700 GMAT would put you in solid contention for Stanford and HBS and Wharton, even in the third round.

Schools love stories like yours since it supports the myth of their own diversity and openness to any background. Plus the solid stats make it risk free for them. Also, many adcoms are jock sniffers, although I am not drawing any straight or dotted lines to the peeps at H/S/W.

As to goals, just say you are interested in leadership, and that could be in sports or business. You want to have an impact: create opportunities for others. Stanford, or Wharton or HBS will help you become a general manager (that is key term) and also help you learn different leadership styles. The fact that you have started a small business is not as critical as you think, although sure you can mention it.

It might help to locate role models with athletic backgrounds who have become business leaders, although not many come to mind. Maybe our readers can help. Wikipedia says that Greg Comella, an NFL veteran, studied for an MBA at HBS, not clear if he graduated or what he is doing.

See this story, “For Pro Athletes, Business School Is No Game,” for a 2009 take about why B-schools like athletes in general, and why a lot of pro athletes go broke, and a part-time program for NFL players at several business schools (mostly involved in money management), but less helpful on identifying full-time pro athletes who have gone on for an MBA.

But you don’t need to find athletes with MBA’s per se, you just need to find athletes who have used their leadership and team skills to become successful in business and say that is what you want to do.  You’d be a natural to start as a consultant and then join a growing or established company as one path, or use that base to start your own firm.

Oddly, The Harvard Crimson yesterday (Nov. 3) has a story about Clifton Dawson, an NFL veteran (Colts, Bengals and Houston Texans) who is now at HBS. The full story is worth a look. He is majoring in general management, and he also coached his section in flag football. You might drop him a line.

As to the third round, don’t sweat it, dude. If you got a 3.9 and an NFL career and a ~700 GMAT, you chances of getting in are real, real solid.

They will find a place for you in Round Three.

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  • Wesley

    Just finished the GMAT and would appreciate your thoughts on my profile:

    GMAT: 740
    GPA: 2.9 from University of Virginia

    I became very sick during my Freshman year of college and after lots of testing and procedures discovered that I had a cancerous brain tumor. I had an emergency surgery and was able to complete a successful 6 week course of radiation. Despite this setback, I went on to graduate alongside of my class in 4 years and ended up leading the largest student organization on campus for 2 years and assisted in raising more than $600,000 on the organization’s behalf.

    After graduation, I took my personal passion for healthcare to one of the Dakotas to work on a winning political campaign of a United States Senator who had recently recovered from a major health setback. Went on to work for 2 years on a statewide political campaign in Texas before transitioning to work in government relations for one of the country’s largest providers of long-term and in-home care.

    Despite all the talk in Washington, my experiences at my present company have led me to believe that the real innovations in the healthcare world will come from private companies. I want an MBA to position myself to work for and eventually lead a company in the rapidly growing industry of either biotech or mobile health.

    Applying to: HBS, Wharton, Darden, McCombs and Owen

    Thanks for your time and this great column.

  • Driven

    I’m just starting to look at b-schools and really want to get a better picture of what is realistic for me to be looking at. I sincerely appreciate any guidance!

    – 690 GMAT
    – 3.2 overall GPA, 3.6 major GPA
    – Undergraduate degree in Russian Studies (did 2 years as a Physics major before switching) from Colgate University
    – Summer’ed as an internal consultant for a top gaming corporation with direct contact with C-level officers
    – Former Investment Banking Analyst at bulge bracket firm where I was top of my class, access to great recommendations
    – Just switched to working in Finance at a top financial services / credit card company
    – Extracurriculars: member of largest multinational sorority (still involved as an alumna), Model United Nations delegate, American Heart Association volunteer, volunteer doing set design in NYC theater, chosen to help lead recruitment efforts at IB firm, currently involved in several professional development / networking groups at new company
    – First person to ever go to college on my mother’s side (not the case on my father’s, can I still play this up?)
    – Have never been involved with anything without rising to leadership level (was president/vice president of every organization I’ve been in, rose to top of class of IB group)
    – I know the numbers aren’t great but I dominate in-person interviews (hey, I convinced a bulge bracket IB firm to hire a Russian major)
    – 23 year old white female

  • Charles

    3.8 GPA
    Majored in Econ and Poli Sci at top-5 public school
    2 years as Business Analyst and 2 years as Consultant at Deloitte Consulting Strategy & Operations
    Sponsored by Deloitte for B School
    Leadership position in large HIV/AIDS group in college
    Continued involvement with alumni group of college HIV/AIDS group
    Charity work with HIV/AIDS groups
    Undergraduate original research (won $$ grant from university)
    White Male

  • Nerdy FratStar

    I would sincerely appreciate if you would take a few moments and consider my admission chances

    Nerdy FratStar

    School: Big Ten (one of: Illinois, Indiana, Wisco, Iowa)

    Major: Finance, Honors Program (took additional accounting classes)

    GPA: 3.7

    Major GPA: 3.6 (one C in a high level finance class during a semester with challenging circumstances, otherwise strong transcript)

    GMAT: 640 (have hit 700+ on multiple practice tests and will take again. **Please assume both scenarios**)

    Work Experience:
    1. Branch Manager for Consumer Product Sales company (entrepreneurial program for successful student-sales people to open and operate their own business for the summer, opening in may and closing in September) Finished in top 10% of offices. In addition to being a Branch Manager during one summer, I also worked for them during the school year throughout College as an Assistant Manager in their local office, as many as 5-35hrs/wk. Decided to pursue finance because of desire to develop analytical skills

    2. Intern at Middle Market Investment Bank as a Summer Investment Banking Analyst – enjoyed work and did very well, but market hit downturn and I felt I wanted something that worked to help correct the system

    3. E&Y Business Analyst Consultant in Financial Services Office – wanted to be a part of top tier financial services consulting firm, ranked #1 by Vault for FS consulting. Have Developed Strong qualitative and quantitative skills

    Certifications: CFA and CTP, working on CAIA

    Past – (1) Fraternity Exec Member who helped bring a fraternity that was kicked off campus for drugs back on, grew chapter from 40 to 120 members (2) Leader of Community Focused Service Organization, rasing attendance to events by 18% (3) Volunteered with Habitat for Humanity for summer following graduation (4) Various other clubs

    Present: (1) Avid competitive Sailor, competing in races in Midwest and East Coast (2) Active in some leadership roles for Habitat for Humanity (3) Triathlon Participant

    Other Information: Parents are both College Grads, White, Age 26

    Desire for MBA: Move into Investment Management, as a responsible investment manager investing is socially responsible growth companies

    Side Note: I was an underachiever in High School and am looking to use my improved college grades to launch into the top tier of MBA graduates

    HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Kellogg, Duke, Cal, Columbia, NYU (any others you would reccomend I fit with?)

    Nerdy FratStar

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