What Are Your Odds of Getting In?

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

A 28-year-old Brazilian who was raised by a single mom, he’s hoping an MBA degree will help her transition from a consulting gig to the media and entertainment industry. She certainly has the credentials: an Ivy League education, a 720 GMAT, and a 3.5 grade point average. And she even founded a $1,000 scholarship for high school students from single-parent homes.

As a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy, he managed the supply chain and budget of a 250-person squadron. This 32-year-old engineer hopes the MBA will be his ticket out of the military to a career in marketing and brand management.

He’s a 27-year-old guy who works for a boutique investor relations consulting firm after a stint with a hedge fund. With a high GRE score and a 3.89 GPA from a small liberal arts college, he believes an MBA will allow him to land a financial media and communications job inside a major corporation.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these MBA applicants share in common 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.

In this, the 17th episode in our highly-popular handicapping stories, Kreisberg explains why “boutique” can be “a semi-dirty word in a resume,” how some schools ding applicants when they sense “an insincere application,” and why working for a custody bank for four years pretty much equals a “bye bye” from both Harvard Business School and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

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’s assessment:

Ms. Brazil

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from Harvard, Princeton or Yale
  • Work experience includes three-plus years of consulting experience in a top 15 global firm
  • Extracurricular involvement with Pride organization and Human Rights Campaign and top recruiter for firm’s LGTB organization
  • Immigrant raised by a single mom, worked to support family during junior year of college
  • Founded $1,000 scholarship for students from single parent homes in former New Jersey high school, now in its third year
  • Goal: To transition into media/entertainment industry and eventually build a major media company in Brazil
  • 28-year-old female from Brazil

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30-50%
Stanford: 20-30%
Wharton: 30% to 50%
Berkeley: 50+%
Columbia: 40% to 50+%
Booth: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Applicants like you get in and dinged at Harvard, Stanford and Wharton depending on luck, execution, recommendations, what they think of your consulting company, and oh yeah, luck. The immigrant back-story, and gay leadership is a plus, as is the scholarship.

Make sure your recommendations are real solid, especially if the consulting company you work for is not a “brand name” or a frequent H/S/W feeder. “Top 15” consulting firm, as you state, could mean a lot of things.  Your college extras are plenty. I’m not so sure about your goals: is that a dream or do you have any background or experience for it to make sense?

Luckily, Stanford and HBS don’t really care about your goals, or are certainly willing to blink at them if other parts of your application are compelling enough.  Wharton is more pedestrian about this, as you can tell from their boring application, which asks about your “professional objectives” first, with their 300-word limit. It’s some attempt on Wharton’s part to say, THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT—WE CARE.  They actually might.

Stanford will turn on hitting the sweet spot in leveraging your back story, and fitting in with their DO GOOD mantras (broadly defined). Applicants like you get into HBS all the time, it all clicks, especially if the recommendations line up.

As to other schools, it is an issue of convincing them you want to come. Columbia, in particular, often dings highly qualified people, to the point of not giving them interviews, if they smell an insincere application ( and on occasion when no odor is present).

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  • Ann

    Hi Sandy:
    Would really appreciate if you can help evaluate my profile-
    Background – 31 yrs Indian, female
    Education – Undergrad in Architecture (GPA ~3.1) and Postgrad in Urban Planning (GPA ~3.8). Won a National Award (given to Students of Urban Planning & Design) for my Masters Thesis. Exchange program with an architecture school on Greece (apparently one of the oldest architecture schools) during undergrad.
    Professional experience – About 6 years of experience in Urban Development, Real Estate and Infrastructure Advisory. 3 yrs with the Economic Development and Strategic Planning team of the world’s largest Engineering firm based out of their Asia HQ in Singapore. 3 yrs (and ongoing) with Infrastructure and Real Estate Transaction Advisory Services for one of the Big 4 in India. Done projects across India, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Cambodia, UAE, US. Projects include Public-Private Partnerships for Urban Infrastructure Development, Special Economic Zones, New Town Development, etc. Currently, lead the regional (North India) practice and a team at the Big 4.
    GMAT – 720
    Extra curricular – College Captain during undergrad, responsible for Annual College Festival. 2 papers rgdg. Urban Poverty and Development published in International Journals. Did voluntary research work for a Dutch Development Institute in India regarding conditions of some slum settlements, led to funding for select infrastructure upgradation in these slums. Member of United Nations Association of Singapore (not very active though).
    Schools – H/S/W, Berkley, MIT, Tuck, Booth, LBS

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