Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

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by John A. Byrne on

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

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.

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  • Ashishptl1@gmail.com

    Hello Sandy,

    Indian American Male raised in a small town in Georgia. First to go to college my family. First military service from anyone in the known history of my family.

    GMAT: 740
    Will take again to increase my chances. Goal is to get a 760+

    Georgia State University
    B.S. Physics; Concentration: Astronomy
    Overall 3.23 GPA
    3.6 GPA last 4 semesters.

    6 months research in neurophysics on single neuronal dynamics.

    2 year experience in rubber and plastics manufacturing for a mid-size private company as a process quality engineer and Internal Auditor.

    4+ years in the US Navy as a submarine officer. One of the first Indian American Submarines officers, if not the first.

    Navy training included: 3 months of officer candidate school, 12 months training on nuclear propulsion at Nuke Power Schools and Prototype. It is known as one of the toughest and most prestigious programs in the military. Also, 3 months with submarine navigation, oceanography, etc.

    Extracurricular: Hands on Atlanta, fighting hunger organization, human trafficking awareness organization, golf, surfing, Muay Thai.

    Fluent in Gujarati, Hindi, and of course English.
    Conversational Urdu.

    What are my chances for a top 15 MBA school? I will be 30 years of age at the time of Matriculation.

    Ultimate goal is to work as a strategy consultant for one of the big 3 firms and eventually enter into an executive level position at a fortune 100 company.

    Thank you!

  • Jonathan Yoshida

    Thank you for your help!

    Mr. Software Sales

    680 GMAT
    3.6 GPA from a regional liberal arts college in 2010
    Undergrad degree in History, but good grades in Micro/Macro economics, stats, and accounting

    Work with a top hot silicon valley software start up that is well funded and pre-IPO
    Have been promoted quickly to manage an inside sales team and have grown the team from 2 to 17 direct reports over the last 3 years.

    Extra-curriculars include – captain of college rugby team, experience on the national board of directors of an academic honors society, high school wrestling coach, many volunteer experiences. Also a violin player.

    26 year old 1/2 Japanese male

  • Michel El Hachem

    Mr. Civil Engineer

    720 GMAT
    3.75 GPA (First in promotion)
    Undergraduate degree in Civil Engineering from a non target University
    Masters degree in Engineering Management from a top regional school (Got accepted as a graduate assistant)
    After Achieving masters degree, I have been working with CCC, the leading construction company in the middle east, as a site engineer then got recently promoted into contacts engineer (a very selective job) with very high chances of promotion and upper management roles
    Grew up on in a relatively average family, only one to go to college
    Fluent in Arabic, French and English with basics in Spanish
    Goal: To use the MBA to get into the consulting industry
    26-year-old white male
    A professional swimmer (part of the university diversity team) and a reputable artist as well

  • Shailendra

    Thanks in advance for you help.
    Age- 26
    Indian Male
    Mining Engineering graduate from Indian School of Mines (IIT exam entrance). 5 years of work experience by the time of matriculation in 2013. 2.5 yrs in India (Business Dvelopment- Coal) and later 2.5 yrs in Indonesia (Mining) at a remote location for development of a coal mine. In India worked for expansion of my company’s coal business overseas. In Indonesia managed large pool of people for completing exploration & land acquisition within tough deadlines.
    GMAT – 750 (Q50, V41), GPA- 7.21/10 (absolute scale (topper student had only 8.1/10)) ~ 3.3 on U.S. scale (i think so).
    Excellent extracurriculars- mainly in the College Gym with 8 medals over 3 years at 3 gymnastic competitions, held an office, and awarded a University Blue- Gym for meritocratic performance and contribution to community. Held leadership positions at various cultural and sports events. Associated with an NGO in college and now in company’s CSR program for teaching underprivilidged kids basic math and english skills.
    Proficient in English, Hindi and Indonesian languages

    Schools- Duke, Wharton, Harvard, Kellogg, Tuck, Darden, Ross, UCLA, Columbia.

  • Mr Ilse

    Thanks for your help!

    – 750 GMAT
    – 2.80 GPA from (no ranking US University)
    – 2 years working at a billion dollar health care industry (similar to Ecolab and J&J) in purchasing and accounting role. (current)
    – At the same time 2 years volunteering at a small size non-profit organization to help disabled people overcome their hardship as a Treasurer and serve as member of the board of director. (current)
    – At the same time 2 years volunteering as a member of the board of director at a local dog shelter. (current)
    – My end goal of obtaining an MBA is to utilize the case study method, various business methods/modules and later to apply those practical and quantitative solutions to better serve and help achieve mission statements and goals of a non-profit organization.
    – Full Certified Management Accountant
    – Was a member of Student Government and volunteer at various local non-profit while at college.
    – A non US citizen & PR, currently working as a non-immigrant worker under H1-b1 visa.
    – Speaks 2 different languages and various dialect.

    I am planning to apply to:

  • Sneeze

    Handicap Me!

    I have a 730 GMAT score (49 Quant, 40 Verbal) and a 3.2 GPA from Univ. of Michigan. I did Teach For America for two years, held leadership positions within TFA, created my own social change program to help my students, and concurrently got my Masters in Education from the Univ. of Miami and had a 3.8 GPA. I am now the Asst Operations Manager for a national limo company and am doing very well. My end goal is to combine my passions of sports and education to become an Athletic Director of a major university and want my MBA in order to grow my leadership skills as well as enhance my knowledge of the financial and managerial aspects of being an A.D. I have done a lot of volunteer work in the past and was the captain on the Michigan volleyball team.

    I am applying to:
    UC Berkeley

    Please let me know what you think! Thanks!

  • scielle

    Here’s another one for ya –

    Ms Hippie (or Artsy, with a touch of finance!)
    – 710 GMAT (Q47, V41, AWA6)
    – 3.4 GPA (Finance, top Canadian uni, fast-tracked in 3 years; went to an auditioned arts high school before that – think Fame)
    – Work experiences: <1y at hedge fund (global, but unknown/ under-the-carpet, and now possibly imploded), 1.5yr in corp. finance at Icelandic bank (again, imploded, but great experience & story!), 2 yrs at boutique media & entertainment financial advisory shop (almost a family biz – though not my family; was hired entirely “at arm’s length”); worked in Canada and UK (all small shops since I didn’t want to be a number so very entrepreneurial experience)
    – Full CFA
    – Extracurricular:
    — Post- college: leadership role in national arts education organization (stage-managing, for last 8 years, but seasonal); started little digital film production company on the side (first feature film in production soon, but no complete project to show for it yet); independent consulting to digital media start-ups
    — College: lots of student theatre and broadcasting (20-30 hours per week, leadership roles); not much summer work as was doing 120% course load and summer courses; 4-month internship (20hr/ week) and 18 months part-time work (12hr/ week) both in publishing
    — Pre-college: gap year between high-school and uni (deferred admission & scholarships) to pursue full-time internships (relevant to my current work and post-MBA goals), volunteer, work, and travel; spent several months backpacking and supporting self through odd jobs on the road
    – Career goals: Corporate development/ strategic planning at blue-chip media company, followed by starting own media/ entertainment advisory shop
    – Started uni at 20 (due to 5-year high-school program and gap year), now 29
    – Immigrated to Canada from Eastern Bloc country at 11
    – Schools: UCLA, Haas (applied), NYU, Columbia (applying), HBS (is it even worth a try?), maybe USC (safety?); anywhere else I should apply?

  • clevernickname

    @ shorttherworld/trader friendly places,

    i am a prospective applicant so take it with a grain of salt, but i think that while those schools may be more trader-friendly in a vacuum, it isn’t the “school” that is reviewing your app. its someone in adcom. draw your own conclusions about the typical socio-economic background of someone that works in adcom, but the point that i am trying to make is that we still probably want to tone things down and tailor them to our target audience.

    specific example – uofc or mit MFE/PHD programs certainly know/value places outside the bulge bracket banks and recognize firms like rentech, drw, getco and deshaw, but i am not sure whether adcom for MBA programs are aware of these guys.

  • shorttheworld

    oh and a quick follow up sandy, id figure places like chicago, columbia, MIT maybe (or maybe not) are trading (prop trader at a family office) friendly places, but any others that are trader friendly? or which ones are NOT — i know HBS doesnt look at traders so friendly but what about cornell/Tuck/duke? neutral?

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