Handicapping Your MBA Odds

He’s an American software engineer bent on attaining his MBA from a top European business school. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.91 GPA, his ultimate goal is to work in either a managerial or consulting role in high-tech.

His obsessive poker playing in college led to a sub-par 2.7 GPA. But this biotech manager managed a 710 GMAT and hopes to get into a top-ranked MBA program to get into a biz dev role in Big Pharma.

He was a three-time junior Olympian who now works as an investment banker in New York. He earned a 3.6 GPA while running a multi-million-dollar business in college.

What these three MBA applicants share in common with others is the goal to get into one of the world’s best business schools. 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 candid take:

Mr. Poker Player

  • 710 GMAT
  • 2.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in biology from UC-San Diego
  • “Played poker to support self through undergrad to pay for schooling, thus low grades”
  • Work experience includes four years at a biotech company, having transitioned from R&D to business development
  • Extracurricular involvement coaching Pop Warner football for four years, three years on non-profit research foundation for an incurable children’s heart disease
  • Goal: To use the MBA to get into a business development role in Big Pharma, then move back into leading my own BD group in biotech
  • Chinese-American born in Shanghai, came to U.S. at age of 4

Odds of Success:

Harvard: -10%
Stanford: -10%
Wharton: -15%

Sandy’s Analysis: The 2.7 is going to be hard to live down, I just don’t see this happening at Harvard or Stanford with low GPA, so-so jobs, and no gold dust. Wharton is not likely either, to be frank. Guys like you go to Chicago or Kellogg on a long shot, and maybe schools that U.S. News would rank 8th to 15th where with this background, your dreams can come true anyway.

Your extras are good, but not going to tilt this in any meaningful way at H/S/W.  Poker as reason for low grades will not cut much slack. An amazing number of applicants play Poker, some kids with stints as pros, and they often have good grades. How did you get hired as a “researcher” at a bio-tech firm with a 2.7? No offense, but scary. Aren’t there a surplus of dudes with MA’s and Ph.D’s  in bio?

I might change my mind if your biotech company is a “blue-chip” type shop and has a history of sending its business development people to top business schools.

  • Hopeful Accountant

    Dear Sandy,

    Would love if you would assess my chances of getting into the following schools:


    GMAT: 740

    GPA 3.3 undergrad in business from a solid Canadian university (lots of extracurriculars)

    Work experience: New manager at a big-four accounting firm (4 years experience) in the full-service private company group (audit/tax/advisory). Top performance rating every year — strong recommendations available. Heavily involved on the recruiting and education committees. Created and led a new senior associate committee to address concerns from our peer group.

    Extracurriculars: Board member of the start-up Canadian chapter of an international NGO operating in Afghanistan. Continuing as an alumni coach/advisor for my university’s case competition team stemming from undergrad role as team captain.

    Other: Scored in top 50 nationally out of approx 4000 in the Canadian equivalent of the CPA exam. White / Filipino male.

    My assessment: Hoping strong work performance can compensate for lack of experience at a top IB/PE/Consulting gig and that strong GMAT can compensate for a poorish GPA. Appreciate your honesty!

  • Miss Real Estate focused MBA

    Dear Sandy,

    Kindly evaluate my chances of getting into the schools below:

    University of Wisconsin
    University of California – Berkeley
    New York University

    My profile:

    GMAT 700
    Graduated from a leading university in the UK with a 2:1 (honors)
    Age: 26
    Gender: Female
    from a South East Asia country
    Working experience:
    1 year in the big four (consulting)
    1 year as a management trainee in a local boutique investment bank
    2 year of working in an investment company of a high network individual. involved in the real estate portfolio.
    Coordinated few volunteering projects in uni (involved in fundraising, recruiting, organizing etc). Played key roles in turning around a failed project.
    Fluent in 5 language and knows the basic for french (am currently pursuing french)
    am involve in a some fundraising projects for a leading NGO as a volunteer.
    target: to expand myself geographically and to move into the real estate PE industry

  • Mr Indian VC

    Hi Sandy,
    Please have a look at my profile

    GMAT 760
    GPA 3.5 (IIT)
    2 years in a near Ivy Consulting in India
    2 years in a energy focused Venture Capital firm in India

    Major Extracurricular Initiative
    Advisor to a solar energy focused NGO providing cheap power to poor people in the country. Played a key role in operationalizing the company and in streamlining logistics
    External advisor with a social venture capital fund

    Goals To move into cleantech through a vc route and shift from investing in late stage operations/services focused companies (general trend here in India ) to early/growth stage companies in cleantech

    Target schools
    Stanford (perfect fit there)

  • Additional note

    Regarding Stephanie’s request above. Just retook the GMAT and now have a 700.

  • Geeky

    I’m trying to see which schools to apply to if any. 🙂 What are my chances of getting into NYU Stern, Columbia, Berkeley Haas, UCLA, Kellogg, Wharton or Harvard?

    GMAT: 720 (47Q, 42V)
    GPA: 3.0
    Age: 26
    Gender: Female
    Nationality: Filipina
    School: Top University in the Philippines
    -Majored in Communication
    -Editor in Chief of School Newspaper
    -Awarded Best Thesis (Department)
    (TOEFL: 118)
    Work Experience:
    Two internships during University: Advertising Department of Oil Company and Advertising Agency:
    Six months each: Copy writer and then Consulting Manager in two different Advertising Agencies
    Three years: Brand Assistant and then Assistant Marketing Manager for a retail fashion brand (market leader). Supervised two direct reports.
    Just started new job (three months): Device Manager for Marketing in a Telecommunications Company. Has already been nominated for “An employee of the month” type award.

    Would love to hear if I should pursue b school (If I have any chance). 🙂 Thanks!

  • Mr. UAE

    The following is an overview of my MBA application. I would be grateful if you could assess my chances of getting to to top programs like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago booth, Columbia, Insead and LBS and NYU
    28.5 year Indian Male
    GMAT: 720 (49, 39), AWA 5
    Born and brought in India. Studied in Dubai for 2 years. Worked in India and Abu Dhabi for 9 months and 3.5 years respectively.
    Undergraduate GPA 3.8 (BBA from an unknown college in India)
    PGDM (Post graduate diploma in management) 3.5/5 (Well known program ranked among top 10-15 in India)
    CFA – Charted Financial Analyst (US)
    FRM – Financial Risk Manager (US)
    CAIA – Certified Alternative Investment Analyst – Level 1 cleared. One more level to go (US)
    Work Experience
    9 months as a Senior Research Analyst in a subsidiary of S&P group in India
    2 years 3 months as a Financial Analyst in a boutique private equity firm in Abu Dhabi
    1 year 6 months as a Portfolio analyst in a well know family office in Abu Dhabi (convinced the investment committee and Invested about $40 Million in asian private equity)
    Extra curricular
    Treasurer at the CFA Emirates
    Member of Red Crescent
    Played cricket at school and college level (Captain of the team)
    Reason for MBA: Reach the next level, faster career progress, Networking, Change of location.
    I would really appreciate your thought on my chances.

  • CC

    -740 GMAT
    -3.7 GPA
    -25 year-old male (2nd generation Mexican-American)
    -Undergraduate degree from University of St. Thomas; triple major: International Economics, International Studies, Spanish
    -Study abroad program in Mexico during third year
    -Three years in merchandising for a Fortune 50 company; merchandising experience with a new .com site
    -Extracurricular activities: Soccer Coach (4 years), member of Hispanic Business Council at work, advisor for local non-profit startup
    -Goal is to pursue a career change from merchandising to Latin America business development
    -Schools: Stanford, HBS, Kellogg, MIT, and Booth

  • couldn’t agree more to what skeptical and paul said: on average US schools are not international at all.

    i studied outside the US and did an exchange at CBS. CBS claims to be very international with an internationality rate of 30% plus (at that time). I can attest that the true international students were less than 5% and were mostly Chinese/Korean.

    the problem most US schools have is that the US culture tends to be very integrative and normative. this does excellent for the country, but eliminates a lot of the differences that students from different countries could bring to the classroom.

  • Ryan

    Profile (2013 fall admission, apply at 2012 fall):

    740 GMAT (can retake it)

    undergrad GPA 3.8, graduate (Master) GPA 3.75

    Undergraduate degree in CS from an university in China. Master degree in Information system from Carnegie Mellon University (top 1 program in US)

    Work experience includes one years trading support analyst in bulge bracket IB;

    Now working in a top 5 (AUM) hedge fund as an analyst in portfolio risk group (work with chief risk officer directly, oversee 30B AUM).

    Will have 3 years working experience in total at time of application).

    Extracurricular activities includes:
    Founded largest IT club in college (from 5 people to 100+. still operating well).
    Only one from program won Dean’s leadership fellow in CMU.
    Founded a bubble tea chain business (3 branches) in college to earn all living expense.
    Members of the Chinese Financial Association.

    Goal: “Want to transit to portfolio manager in Asia”

    24-year-old male born and raised in China

    Proud of: step up from non-top college in China to top graduate school in US, then to support role in top investment bank, to business role in top hedge fund. At every stage, I join as non-top background but end up beating most peers.

    target school:

    1. H/S/W
    2. Columbia, MIT
    3. Chicago, Yale

    please evaluate my profile and estimate the chance to get in my dream schools. Thanks.

  • Ben

    Hi Sandy and John,
    I know you get a million of these but hopefully this one will be interesting to handicap (and helpful for me since I have no idea where I stand).
    24 year old African American male.
    Education: BS Aerospace Engineering from MIT.
    GPA: 2.9/4.0 (“Balanced” by extensive involvement in extracurriculars, community service, research, and full/part time work).
    GMAT: 750.
    Employment: 4 years as a Trader at quantitative hedge fund.
    Extracurriculars since college: Performing arts, Mentoring of underprivileged youths.
    Post MBA goals: Management in renewable energy related manufacturing or R&D firm.
    Triple citizenship: Cameroon, France, US (Born in Cameroon, Lived in France, moved to US at age 11 became a US citizen in may 2011)
    I applied Round 1 to HBS, GSB, MIT, Kellogg but have already been declined without interview from HBS, I’m interested on your thoughts on my chances at GSB, MIT, and Kellogg.

  • 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).

  • Miller

    Sandy/John, Thanks for the feedback, would you assess my chances?
    – 26 year old white male from Southeast U.S.
    – Attended a top non-Ivy school (think Duke, Stanford, Michigan) and majored in Public Policy and Markets and Management – 3.45 GPA
    – GMAT 730 (47Q/44V)
    – Completed GE’s Financial Management Program in top tier (top 10%) and have been promoted 3 times since then (and several corporate awards); currently an Associate on GE Capital’s leveraged finance team in NYC
    – CFA Charterholder
    – Extracirricular Experience: Co-founded a social entrepreneurship in college that raised $200k+ funding; Summer internship working at a marketing firm in Mexico City; Various community service since college but nothing major.
    – I want to get an MBA in order to further develop my leadership and analytical skills and transition into VC / growth equity investment management
    – Applying to HBS / Stanford / Duke / Columbia / Ross /

  • Clark

    Regarding the first guy, the poker player, I actually think he has a shot at Wharton. I saw here – http://aringo.com/Wharton_MBA.htm – that Wharton pay special attention to communty service and volunteer work, and this guy has 7 years! that’s impressive.
    He should play that angle, maybe he’ll get in, after all he’s a gambler 🙂

  • Simon

    710 GMAT
    3.8 GPA
    Undergraduate degree in neuroscience at top small liberal arts school (Amherst)
    Work experience: 2 years as a middle market investment banking analyst, 2 years middle market private equity with essay worthy contributions advising management
    Extracurricular: volunteering with a charity
    Goal: Beef up academic finance background and transition to investment management/buyside equity research
    25-year-old asian male

    Applying to: HBS, Wharton, Columbia, Northwestern, Booth, Tuck R2

  • Paul


    very interesting selection of applicants. For Mr. American Loving Europe I disagree in some points. a) Most american schools cannot be compared to the likes of INSEAD, where no nationalitiy is supposed to have more than 10% of the class and the school has three campuses in the world. b) Europe is more than railroads and ports. Have you ever been in Europe?
    But I do agree that going to a business school in Europe makes it difficult to land a job in the US afterwards.

    Thank you,

  • Mr. Pilot


    Please review my profile.

    620 GMAT (42Q/34V)
    3.1 GPA (Managment and Systems Engineering – The United States Military Academy)
    30 y/o African American Male

    *CPT in the US Army with seven years of service (2 combat tours)
    *Rated as a UH-60 Blackhawk Pilot and Maintenance Test Pilot
    *Commanded a company of 152 Soldiers (147 were enlisted) for 18 months; responsible for maintaining a fleet of 32 helicopters.
    *Served as deputy senior logistician in a unit of 2700 soldiers for 18 months; helped manage a budget of $20M and equipment valued at $1.5B
    *Currently serving as a “basic training” instructor for newly commissioned officers

    Short term goal is to work for a consulting firm with a federal practice (defense sector)

    Long term goal is to start a company that specializes in preparing enlisted soldiers who are about to transition from the military enter the world of academia and earn their degree. Picture a version of MLT for soldiers.

    With the exception of Duke, I will be applying through the Consortium.

    Target Schools:
    Indiana U

    Thank you!

  • Mr. Redemption

    I have now submitted 5 of my B-school applications, and while trying to fill the weeks of waiting I stumbled upon your site. I am glad I found it, but I wish I had found it about 6 months earlier. Thank you for the information.

    I’m going to submit my information because a response from you guys would help me to have some peace and logical thought as I pass the long, long days between now and acceptance/rejection letters in mid-December.

    – 740 GMAT

    – graduating in April with Bachelor’s from no-name state University in Utah

    – 3.6 GPA (4.0 last 60 credit hours – made some stupid mistakes at 17 and 18 that are an anchor to my GPA)

    – 26 years old

    – Basically, I’m going for the redemption story. I graduated with my Associate Degree right out of high school at 17 years old with more scholarships than you can shake a stick at. I attended Brigham Young University, but decided that I wanted a social life. I stopped attending class and dropped out of school after only two semesters. I worked full-time sales for 5 years, finally deciding to return to school in 2008. I have maintained a 4.0 GPA while working full time since returning to school. My last 4 years of full-time work experience include positions as Regional Sales Manager for a local insurance software company and my current position as Director of Marketing at the startup citrus-based (environmentally friendly) water softening company where I was a founding member 2 years ago. At both companies I have been instrumental in exponential increases in sales and market share.

    – Career direction – I want to be a CPG brand manager for a Fortune 500 company, and I believe that I need the education and networking opportunities offered by a top-tier business school to realize this goal.

    – White

    – Only politically-oriented (county delegate) extracurricular activities

    – no “ins” for any of these universities

    Schools I’ve applied to:

    Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)
    UW (Foster)


    Mr. Redemption

  • Skeptical this time

    Normally I love Sandy’s comments but I have to disagree with him regarding the international aspect of the US b-school experience.

    Not a single US school can compare to INSEAD or LBS in terms of the internationality of the student body. It’s just that simple. Easily half the student body at most top ten US schools are monolinguals. US schools talk a good game about how global they’ve become, but they don’t walk the talk.

  • Youci

    Hi, I would love to have your thoughts on my profile.
    – Age 29-30, Australian. (Too old for an MBA?)
    – Undergraduate program in a top Canadian institution, 3.9 GPA
    – Top 5 Law School in the US. Honors student.
    – Took the GMAT a few years ago: 700 (Should I re-take?)
    – Past three years I have been working in an international law firm mainly (M&A and capital markets).

    Previous work exp: United Nations Environmental Program.

    – Extracurricular: Volunteer on and off, when I can, for a renewable energy non profit. Same non-profit that I spent my summers working for when I was still a Law Student.

    Goal: Stanford/ Berkeley/ Columbia/ etc.
    I would like to transition out of Law and into Climate-Change related consulting/ investments

    Languages Eng/Jap/ Chinese.


  • Mr. Gov’t Consultant

    Hi Sandy, can you please consider my profile?
    Mr. Government Consultant
    – Education: University of Maryland
    – Major: Information Systems (Business focus)
    – GPA: 3.9
    – Work Experience: Deloitte Consulting, 3 years, consistent top performer, work experience in a variety of gov’t agencies focused on strategy and tech
    – GMAT: 700
    – Extracurricular: Strategy/Fundraising director for a personal non profit, running a Kenyan school with 50 students; Working to establish a wounded veteran hiring program; Mentor alumni, in the pioneering class for the UMD business school.
    – Goal: Continue consulting on the industry side (non-gov’t)
    – Target Schools: HBS (just to see); Tuck/Booth/Kellogg/Sloan (I really want these)

  • Stephanie Cadieux

    I submitted my profile a few months ago. I’m still in the process of applying for round 2 deadlines, so any insights and thoughts regarding my candidacy would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    – 25 Year old female
    – Attended small top private school in mid atlantic (Major in Business (Marketing/Finance), Minor in Spanish – 3.75 GPA (top 10% of class).
    – GMAT 660 (planning to retake next week)
    – For the past 3+ years I’ve been a Brand Manager at big brand credit card company. Lots of experience in marketing strategy, influencing and managing cross functional teams.
    International Experience: Originally from Montreal, Canada (Fluent french speaker, Green Card holder), but grew up in Cyprus, Greece, Germany, USA and Switzerland. In college studied abroad at the London School of Economics and did a summer in Spain.
    Extracirricular Experience: Provide pro bono marketing strategy help to non profits in DC/VA area (ranging from social, direct marketing, positioning strategy etc..), took month off last winter to go volunteer at an orphanage in Ghana.
    – I want to get an MBA in order to further develop my leadership and analytical skills and grow my global network to transition into a CPG brand manager role (preferably with the opportunity to work internationally)