Predicting Your Odds Of Getting In

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.

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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.

  • Nate

    Figured I’d throw my profile into the fire to see what you think.

    Mr. Management
    3.24 GPA & B.S. in Finance from a Cal State University. Also an A.A. and A.S. from community college.
    No supplemental classes and not considering taking any.
    In college, had a local radio/myspace hit song. Supported myself through music production.
    690 GMAT on first, and only, try. (not retaking)
    African American Male, applying through the Consortium Rd1 and HBS Rd2.
    25 years old, 26 at matriculation.

    Currently a Director of Finance in the proprietary education industry. Likely the youngest Director of Finance the company had ever employeed when I was promoted at 24 years old.

    Ex Cirr: One of the founding members of the company-wide Management Trainee Mentor program where we mentor entry-level employees to prepare them to take on management roles.

    Why MBA? Never thought I’d go back to school this early, but over the past year the for-profit education industry has come under increased government scrutiny and I no longer feel safe progressing my career within the industry.

    Post MBA plans: IB in equity capital markets – equity origination. But honestly open to exploring my options once I get into a business school (not telling the adcoms that though).

    Particularly interested in what you think my chances are at: HBS, Cornell, USC, Texas, Berkeley, CMU, & Indiana.

    Thank you

  • 1987

    I’d be interested to have feedback on my application:

    24 year old Caucasian male
    -720 GMAT
    -3.8 GPA from top university (non-ivy, Georgetown/Tufts/Johns Hopkins), triple major (IR, poli. sci., spanish)
    -Will be 26 at matriculation
    Work experience
    -1.5 years in consulting (management and regulatory) at a small company. Spent about half of my time working on a contract with a much larger blue chip consulting firm in DC. I’m not sure how best to position my work to demonstrate the caliber of the organization/work carried out, particularly because I’ll be getting at least 1 recommendation from this employer.
    -1 year (current job, will have 2.5 years at matriculation) as a project coordinator for a prominent NGO (based at an ivy) implementing economics research projects in developing countries. Have lived (approx. 3 months each) in 4 developing countries (Asia/Africa/Latin America) to implement these projects (experimental microeconomics research into business best practices in developing countries), managing a staff of 6 and 1500+ research participants across 3 continents.
    Extracurriculars: Started a technology commercialization company at my university to evaluate university-developed technologies, taught SATs to underprivileged high school students, taught ESL to classes to recent Latin American immigrants. Won award for best thesis in my principal major.

    Goals: Commercialize technologies for and improve business performance in developing countries. I’m not sure whether to come at this from a PE/VC angle or from a social enterprise angle.

    Targets: Stanford, HBS (MBA/MPP), Berkeley, Chicago (MBA/MPP), Columbia.

  • JH

    26 year old Asian male
    – 750 GMAT
    – 3.3 GPA from a top 5 school (Harvard/Yale/Princeton/Stanford/MIT)
    – major in economics
    – first in family to attend college

    – 1 year as paralegal at U.S. Department of Justice
    – 2.5 years as contracting officer and pricing analyst for Department of Defense. Have awarded, priced, or negotiated over $180 million worth of contracts. This is my current position.
    – Unit coordinator for the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) charity effort.
    – Fluent in Mandarin Chinese and Arabic

    Post-MBA Goal: Return to the government as a branch chief or special adviser to cultivate and implement the best business practices from the private sector. Improve the government’s work processes and extract maximum value from limited agency budgets. In 20 years, aim to become an agency director or Cabinet secretary.

    Considering applying to Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Berkeley, Yale, UVA Darden, and perhaps others (I welcome your suggestions).

  • MH

    Still trying to show up on your radar… appreciate if you can share you insights.

    27 year old male investment banker (ny based)
    – 700 GMAT
    – 3 years in banking (restructuring during downturn, PE/M&A current)
    – 1 year in operational role at Bulge bracket investment bank
    – Minority US citizen (south Asian)
    – serve on the junior board of 2 non-profits, both advocating for children; very active in non-profit work despite banking schedule
    – Undergrad at Rutgers-type school with a 3.6 gpa while running a multi-million dollar business throughout college (family turmoil)
    – 3-time junior Olympian, captain of junior Olympic team and national champion athlete

  • SKabanov

    Will there be evaluations for non-US business schools? I’d like to get my profile evaluated, but I’m looking exclusively at business schools in Europe.

    Male/25 yrs/American (would be 27 at matriculation)
    Major in Software Engineering / Minor in Russian at Public Ivy
    3.91 GPA
    710 GMAT (47q/41v/6awa)

    2.5 years of work experience (4 at matriculation) as software engineer at major defense contractor / operating system vendor.

    Extracurriculars at school:
    * Music (men’s choir)
    * Teaching foreign students English.
    * Raising money for college’s pediatric cancer treatment fund.

    Extracurriculars after school:
    * Walking / Adopting off orphan dogs
    * Coaching sports team.

    * Cooking
    * Linguistics (Learning German and French)
    * Laser Tag

    Languages spoken:
    * Russian
    * Brazilian Portuguese (intermediate)

    Reasons for MBA:
    * First, I want to unify the technology background that I already have (i.e. my education and my work experience) with a thorough business education. It was an underlying theme at my college that my field (i.e. high-tech) is about more than technology – it’s about how the technology gets integrated into people’s lives. Likewise, receiving this business education would enable me to help deliver technology to the world more effectively.
    * Second (and the reason for European schools), I would like to work in an international context. I feel that receiving my MBA at a school in Europe would help me towards that goal, as I would not be getting a US-centric education as I would in the US.

    Post MBA:
    * I would like to work in a managerial role or a consulting role in the high-tech industry.

    Schools Interested In:
    * ESADE, IE, IESE, HEC, INSEAD, St. Gallen, Mannheim

  • Mr. Low GPA

    Hello Sandy,

    I am in the midst of applying for Round 2 Deadlines. I am headed off for a week long visit to schools and would love to hear your opinion on my acceptance chances. Absolutely love this series!

    24 year old male, US born and raised, Indian

    GMAT: 720

    GPA: 3.04

    Degree: BBA Finance from University of Georgia; 2012 Level II CFA Candidate

    Work experience: 3 years at a private, mid-size healthcare (pharmaceuticals) firm. Began as a call center associate during recession, promoted to Business Analyst within 3 months, and just promoted as a Financial Analyst – FPA working directly with CFO and SVP Finance in preparation for IPO/sale.

    Extracurricular involvement: Teaching senior citizens basic PC skills at local senior center, volunteer at local temple tutoring grade school children, Team In Training Mentor – raising money for blood cancer while training (and mentoring) for marathons in a team environment, assistant coach – youth basketball

    Goals Post MBA: working as an investment banking associate within the pharmaceutical sector to complement operational and corporate experience within the sector. 10-15 years — teaching finance as a professor at local university using financial and deal-making expertise.

    Considering: Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth, NYU

  • Anupama

    The following is my profile, kindly evaluate for HBS, Wharton, Darden, Sloan, Johnson, HEC.
    GPA-65% (India) (higher first class)
    Bachelor in Law from one of the top 20 colleges
    WE: 2yrs ,Public Sector Bank, 1st year with Legal Services Department (youngest member in their Central Office) and 1yr in taxation department, only lawyer working with the tax division. Work title:Assistant Manager (Law)
    Extracurriculars: School Badminton Team
    College: Won national leval debate competitions,
    college level declamations, national level moot court competitions, national level legal essay writing competitions and short fiction story writing competition.
    Hosts two blogs, one for poems and other for short stories. Likes to write about current/controversial political issues.
    Was part of the moot court committee and school magazine.
    Has interned under the best lawyers in the country who practice in the Supreme Court of India.

    Loves to paint, sells her art to friends and family. enthusiastic about oil paintings and charcoal sketches. Never learnt to paint.
    Recieved national level distinction certificate for obtaining maximum marks in Social Studies (History, Geography, Civics) at Higher Senior Secondary Level.
    Extraordinary: as a child saved her friend from kidnapping and rape.

    is highly social and friendly, maintains a huge circle of friends.

    Reason for getting an MBA: wants to learn business because aspires to be a strategy consultant and corporate lobbyist.

    Long term goal: introduce the concept of legalised lobbying in India.

    Family background:
    fther has his own chambers and is a lawyer
    and mother holds an MBA in finance and is working as a General Manager (Accounts)

    I really hope you give me feedback about my profile!
    Thank you!

  • Mr Mechanical

    Hi Sandy/John, I gave my profile last time. Submitting again hoping to get your views :-).

    Male/25 yrs/Indian

    Undergraduate in Mechanical Engineering from an IIT
    CPI 9/10 [ranked among top 5 of my class]

    GMAT 760, AWA 6

    Work Experience:

    I joined manufacturing plant of a top pharmaceutical company after college. Currently I have 2.5 yrs of work experience.

    -> I started off as a technical trainee, installing and validating machines, training technicians

    -> I became a line manager, led a group of technicians through a successful FDA audit.

    -> Currently am manufacturing planner of the plant, and shop floor coordinator for New product Launches.

    apart from above, I have worked and led some key optimization and up-gradation projects in the plant.

    Extra Curricular:
    -> Active involvement in college cultural fests
    -> Teaching Assistant in my final year at college
    -> Volunteer at company’s CSR activities (teaching underprivileged students during weekends)
    -> Co founded an NGO with three other friends, we provide technical services such as webpages, logos, brochures etc. to other Indian NGOs.)

    Hobbies: Weight training, cooking, reading fiction, playing computer games

    Post MBA: I would like to work in a Business Development role in a global pharmaceutical or a strategic consultancy for pharma sector

    Long Term: I want to start a health supplement firm in India

    My concerns:
    -> I have less business experience, but some good managerial and leadership roles to talk about.
    -> I have less than average W.E. at top US business schools, though my WE is rich in quality with various increasing roles and responsibilities during my career.

    I am considering:

    Dartmouth Tuck
    MIT Sloan
    Duke Fuqua

    Can you also tell my chances at Stanford, Wharton, Yale?

    Thanks for your time!
    Mr Mechanical

  • Mike

    Steve Young didn’t get an MBA, but he’s currently an MD at Huntsman Gay (PE firm in Palo Alto).

  • MBA-ppl

    – 27 year old Asian male
    – Math major from a lower ivy (GPA :3.9)
    – Masters in Financial Engineering from Columbia (GPA: 3.8)
    – GMAT: ~750 expected.
    – Working in risk management at a BB bank.
    – Extracurriculars during school: drama (heavily involved in the school’s theartre program), music (school orchestra), held some office positions in the school’s business frat.
    – Extracurriculars after school: teach music to underprivileged children.
    – Goal: management consulting
    – Reason for MBA: I want to get out of finance, but it’s hard to escape the label “the finance quant guy” especially after my Master’s. Looking to obtain an MBA for leadership skills that would complement my quant background.
    – Target schools: HBS, GSB, Yale, Dartmouth (obviously these are extreme reaches for anybody. Not thinking of applying to Columbia/Wharton given their heavy focus in finance… although I think Wharton would be one of my best bets (I know several people with my type of background who went there))
    – The weakest part of my application would be my recs I think; although I am doing well in my job, I do not have passion for it and it definitely shows (I do not go beyond my assigned tasks etc.)

  • Late-Bloomer

    Hi John,
    I had a question after reading this series of articles that I am hoping you can answer. How much does extra curricular activities while IN undergrad and grad school matter? I call myself a ‘late-bloomer’ because I wasn’t involved in pretty much anything during my time in college. I ended up graduating in the top 1% of my class both in undergrad and grad though. However,ever since I’ve joined work, I’ve been volunteering at non-profit organizations with some leadership roles there in terms of organizing fundraisers and other kinds of charity events. Is that enough for b-school adcoms? Or do they toss out applicants who were pretty much ‘dormant’ in terms of their extracurricular activities until they were say 23-24?

    Please, please respond if you get the chance.


  • Regional Goals

    – 25 year old white male
    – GPA: 3.5 from top liberal arts school (Amherst/Williams)
    – GMAT: 750
    – Work Experience: J.P. Morgan Equity Research for 3 years, Business Development at oil and gas start-up for 1 year
    – Extras During School: Started Investment Club in college, Non-profit work in New Orleans related to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita for three years in college
    – Extras After School: Serve as Advisor to Members of Investment Club that helped start during College, Mentor to Underprivileged College-bound Youth in New Orleans through local KIPP School, Help restore houses through RTNO
    – Selected Work Accomplishments: Team Member of Institutional Investor’s #1 Research Team, Promoted to Associate at JP Morgan with one less year of experience in group than rest of Analyst class
    – Other: Raised by single father who passed away while I was at college
    – Goals: ST increased responsibility at a start-up with a management focus; LT start and grow my own business (interested in energy – not necessarily oil and gas) in the Gulf Coast (preferably New Orleans) United States
    – Concerns: Goals seem mundane. Have not been at the start-up for very long. Stats seem decent but not sure I have anything pushing me into top schools.
    – Schools of Interest: Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, MIT Sloan, Dartmouth Tuck, Uva Darden, Texas McCombs

    Thank you

  • Aryan

    24 male
    Undergrad in pharmacy from top institute in India (GPA: 7/10)
    GRE: 1380 (800 in quant); GMAT: Aiming for 720
    Work experience ~3.5 year in a global healthcare consulting firm- worked in variety of projects for pharma/ biotech firms in US, EU & India with cross-office teams: led offshore team, business development & process improvement initiatives; expect decent recos
    Lots of extra-curricular activities (in & after undergrad) including community service related to public health
    Goal: Continue in consulting (more strategic role) or general management roles in biotech/ pharma firm

  • Pakistani

    I submitted my profile for evaluation 3-4 days ago. I forgot to mention that I am the first person in my family to come to the US for education, and I worked part-time 25 hours while earning my degree and still graduated at the top of my class.

    If this information can be included in my profile evaluation, great otherwise it is ok.


  • Gryphon

    Darden has a second year student that played in the NFL for a few years. They also had a former NFL QB a couple years ago. He’d bounced around a bit and landed with the Raiders before deciding to move on.