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Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

She manages a $100 million-plus category for a big retailer in the Chicago area. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.6 grade point average at an Ivy League university, she has ambitions to get into a top-four business school but has already gotten ding letters from Harvard and Wharton.

He graduated from West Point and is a U.S. Army captain with seven years of service and two combat tours. His long-term goal is to start a company that helps enlisted soldiers get into university. But a 620 GMAT and 3.1 GPA could hold him back.

She’s a brand manager at a big brand credit card company, fluent in French and well traveled. With a 660 GMAT and a 3.75 GPA, her goal is to use an MBA to move into the consumer packaged goods industry in an international assignment.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What this trio of 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. Sandy is taking a break for the long Thanksgiving weekend but will be back right after that.

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

Ms. Credit Card

  • 660 GMAT (planning to retake)
  • 3.75 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business from a small top private school in mid-Atlantic region; studied abroad at the London School of Economics
  • Work experience includes three-plus years as a brand manager at a big brand credit card company.
  • Extracurricular involvement providing pro bono marketing strategy for non-profits; also took a month off last winter to 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 consumer packaged goods brand manager role (preferably with the opportunity to work internationally).”
  • Fluent in French
  • 25-year-old female originally from Montreal, Canada

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 10% to 20%
Wharton: 25% to 35%
Dartmouth: 25% to 35%
Columbia: 30% to 40%
Duke: 35% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: HBS and Stanford don’t like credit card companies (like most normal consumers!). For among other reasons, those jobs are not seen as hard to get as jobs at such companies as Procter & Gamble or Nabisco, and also less interesting. Schools think most credit card companies spend all their time trying to find suckers who will run up late charges, and a marketing/brand manager job at a credit card company is sort of like a pig hunting for those late-paying truffles. My apologies if that is not what you do. Just letting you know what you are facing.

HBS and Stanford use credit card companies, as well as Big 4 firms (not consulting), as a way to recruit minorities. There was a streak of African-American women from the Big 4 at Stanford, one or two a year, for about five years in a row, and then I lost count. If anyone reading this is non-minority and worked for a credit card company or Big 4 (only, not as a step to private equity) and is now at HBS or Stanford, and is not an Olympic medal winner, please write in and tell me.

Let’s assume you get a 700+ GMAT. I’d still say H and S are going to be hard. Wharton takes folks like you, as do other schools like Tuck, Columbia, Duke, and Darden based on all the wonderful stuff you highlight above. But you will really need an improved GMAT. I don’t mean to stress you out, but at places like Wharton and Columbia, the difference between a 660 GMAT and a 680 GMAT is HUGE. That would be the minimum for someone like you.

Reading this over, there is a lot to like, and if you worked at J&J instead of Mastercard or Visa, you’d be a solid case for Harvard and in the lottery at Stanford. You still might squeak by at HBS, with a ~700.

  • ksingh

    I would much appreciate your feedback on my profile. Thanks.

    GMAT: 720
    Undergraduate score: 3.5 GPA
    Undergraduate degree: Bachelors in Commerce from one of the best schools in India; Candidate to become a CFA Charterholder
    Work experience: Including 3 months at a paper manufacturing company in Bangkok, a year long break (public policy internship, helped father in his real estate start up business), two and a half years with a Big 4 company as an Analyst in Business Advisory Services, one and a half years with a ‘no – name’ boutique investment bank in India as a Senior Analyst
    Extra-curricular: College: President of college debating society, started a new national debate and a discussion club in College, campus ambassador for a large IT company at the college, worked with a micro – finance non-profit
    Post College: Long distance runner (2 marathons, 5 half – marathons), avid trekker (20,000ft in Himalayas, Africa), scuba diver (10 dives in 5 years), amateur bridge player
    Goal: To get into private equity
    Age: 27 year old Indian male
    Schools: Harvard, Wharton, Stanford and Columbia