Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

A graduate of the prestigious Naval Academy in Annapolis, he’s now a submarine officer who is fluent in Arabic. He had grown up on a farm, one of nine children and the only one to go to college. With a 700 GMAT and a 3.45 grade point average, he’s hoping to get into Stanford or Harvard for his MBA.

He’s a consultant who feels deeply passionate about health care and its many challenges. He wants to go to his dream school, Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, but has a 660 GMAT on the second try and a 3.4 GPA from Brigham Young University.

He already has a PhD in genetics and has already launched two companies including a biotech firm for which he raised $2.6 million in capital. He has taken the GRE and now wants to attend a top-notch business school to become a more effective leader.

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 for the past 15 times in this series, 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’s honest assessment:

Mr. Submarine Officer

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.45 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from the Naval Academy
  • “After Annapolis, I went through the Navy’s demanding nuclear propulsion pipeline and became a submarine officer.”
  • Work experience includes stints as a reactor controls officer, a radiological controls officer and a tactical systems officer for 14 months on a submarine
  • “I took the ship’s radiological controls program from below average to above average in 8 months…I have the opportunity to get out in May or do a seven-month stint overseas as an operations officer in Bahrain”
  • Grew up on a farm, one of nine children and only one to go to college
  • Fluent in modern standard Arabic and conversational ability in German
  • Goal: To use the MBA to get into the energy industry (would love to get into projects management)
  • 28-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 20%
Harvard: 30% to 35%
MIT: 30%
Chicago: 40+%
Northwestern: 40+%

Sandy’s Analysis: The dirty little secret about service academy grads and HBS (and a bit MIT) is that your GPA really counts (along with any GMAT 700+ which you have).

Amazingly, what counts after that is extra curriculars, which are hard to come by on a submarine. Let me explain for our military readers. War stories all tend to blend in the adcom’s mind (but not mine!!! I love war stories, but then again, I’m not an adcom), but they expect some generic leadership blah, blah where you get to lead enlisted men. It doesn’t much matter if that is in battle or in the engine room of a submarine. Going to Bahrain will not add much to your application, in my humble opinion. My really strong advice is to use any college or service related extra curriculars, as well as sure, a couple of sub stories.

Your 3.45 and 700 are both lowish for HBS, so I think you are going to have a hard time there. MIT might go for the nuclear stuff and solid record (they don’t care about extra currics) and they like military but they like big GMATs more. You are in-line at Chicago and Kellogg and it is just a matter of solid execution. I ain’t seeing this as Stanford. There’s nothing driving you in. Growing up on a farm and being one of nine children is exotic, and will score well as back story, so it’s worth one HBS essay (Wish you had asked me about growing up on a farm with eight siblings, etc.) and can be used in other applications as well, obviously.

You might have gotten into Stanford if you grew up on a farm–as a slave.