Handicapping Your MBA Odds

by John A. Byrne on

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.

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  • Hopeful Accountant

    Dear Sandy,

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

    HBS
    Stanford
    Kellogg
    Wharton
    Columbia
    Booth

    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!

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