Assessing Your Odds of Getting In

She’s a self-styled hippie, an artsy type who has worked for a hedge fund, an imploded Icelandic Bank and a media and entertainment boutique. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.4 grade point average, this 29-year-old woman hopes to use her MBA to gain a corporate development or strategic planning job for a blue-chip media company.

After a two-year stint with Teach for America, he settled into a job as the assistant operations manager for a national limo company. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA in a master’s of education program, he plans to use the MBA as a stepping stone to get his dream job as athletic director of a major university.

He’s a 28-year-old Spaniard who has been working in financial planning and analysis for a major European food company after a year in General Electric’s prestigious finance management program. He’s hoping to use an MBA to transition to an elite strategy consulting firm such as McKinsey, Bain or Boston Consulting Group.

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.com, 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 18th episode in our highly-popular handicapping stories, Kreisberg is at his tell-it-like-it-is finest. He advises one applicant to “bleach out all the hippie-dippie-do stuff.” He flatly tells another: “Your problem is not enough Blue Chip anything.”

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. Hippie (with a touch of finance)

  • 710 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a top Canadian university
  • Work experience includes one year at a global “now possibly imploded” hedge fund, a year and one-half in corporate finance for a “imploded” Icelandic Bank, and two years at a boutique media and entertainment financial advisory shop that is family-owned
  • Have a full CFA
  • Extracurricular involvement in student theater and broadcasting in college and now have a leadership role in a national arts education organization; also started a small digital film production company with my first feature film in production soon
  • “Spent several months backpacking and supporting self through odd jobs on the road”
  • Goal: To move into corporate development/strategic planning for a blue-chip media company
  • 29-year-old woman who emigrated to Canada from an Eastern Bloc country at the age of 11

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10%
Columbia: 20+%
NYU: 30%
UCLA: 30% to 50%
Berkeley: 30% to 40%
USC: 30% to 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Are you employed now? A good deal of this will turn on that. If not, you come off as someone who cannot keep a job, despite the number of jobs you have had, and your resume tilts towards what you yourself call, “Hippie with a touch of finance.” That is not a good handle for B-school.

On the other hand, if you are still working at the boutique media and advisory company, well, you are employed, if even at a ‘boutique’ in the field you want to wind up. It’s a big difference. Note to those unhappy with your jobs: Don’t quit until you get into B-school.  I know, sometimes you get fired or the firm goes blotto.


Beyond that, what we got here is imploding hedge funds, imploding Icelandic banks, and almost-family media boutiques. This might make a good movie of some sort, “The Girl With the CFA Tattoo” but to turn it into a powerful business school application, I would actually cut back on the all the artsy stuff.  The dirty little secret about business schools is that they hate artsy types, although they certainly welcome establishment ART types. How come?  For the same reason everyone else does—too much attitude and hot air about creativity and too little accomplishment.

So, my advice to you, if not employed, is to not sound too liberated about it, but instead earnest about returning to employment. Similarly, I would not sound dismissive or fey about those other oddball ‘imploding’ jobs (well, I can be dismissive about them) and figure out instead  how they could be a platform for current goals, how you learned x, y and z from them, even if that includes not wanting to do x and y.

The good news about you is that if you bleach out all the hippie-dippie-do stuff here we got a 3.4 in finance, a 710 GMAT, and some jobs that could be described as serious although, sure, not Tier 1.  I think you got a good chance at Haas and UCLA if that is the way you presented yourself. It’s so-so at NYU–they really hate ‘artistes’–  familiarity breeds contempt down there in the Village.  I don’t think you are getting in at Columbia because your stats are lowish and you seem relatively poor in terms of both family and job savings—this is a real issue for them, if you read John Byrne’s brilliant recent article here about The Financial Aid Arms Race among leading B- schools.

USC, sure, just don’t go artsy in the resume and app.  Although the goals you state are fine.

  • Starry Eyed Indian

    Please let me know about my chances of getting into the top 15. My brief profile is as follows…

    Starry Eyed Indian
    720 GMAT (88% verbal, 81% quant)
    Indian, male
    3.5 GPA
    Undergraduate study in Engineering and Post Graduate Diploma in Management from MDI Gurgaon, India (2010)
    More than 3 years of work experience…
    3 years in a leadership program at a foreign multinational bank
    – led a team of 110 and increased its productivity by 50%
    – managed revenues of pan-India branches of the bank
    – formulated and operationalized strategies for expansion of the bank
    Currently working as a management consultant (Financial Services) for a BIG 4 audit firm
    Co-founder and director of an not-for-profit organization for child welfare

    Goal: To pursue a global career with special focus on Investment Banking

  • Marketing Guru

    Please let me know about my chances of getting into the top 15 (preferably, schools with a strong focus on Marketing). My brief profile is as follows…

    Marketing Guru
    660 GMAT
    Indian, female, 36 yrs
    3.5 GPA
    Undergraduate study in Pharmacy (B. Pharm degree) and Post Graduate Diploma in Business Admisitration from Mumbai (graduated in 2001)
    A total of 13 years of work experience…
    7 years in a leadership role – Currently working as Senior Marketing Manager for a foregin multinational Bank, leading a team of 10 and managing the marketing budget for the entire bank.
    3.5 years in Market research
    3.5 years in Sales
    Also, teaching Marketing Research as a visiting faculty.
    Wanting to pursue a second MBA to upgrade my skill set and give a faster growth trajectory to my marketing career.
    Yoga enthusiast, Budding pianist
    Extracurricular involvement in social service activities like teaching, volunteering and fundraising for the old home and blind

    Goal: To manage a mutlbillion dollar global brand and eventually become a brand consultant

  • hbsguru

    it would help if you posted this on the most recent MY CHANCES edition —

    Handicapping Your Odds Of Getting In (11,595 views)

  • indianwoman

    Hi! I went through all profiles to see if there is a match with mine, but since I could not find any – request you to do an analysis please.

    Indian Woman, 27 years old
    GMAT score- 740
    Total 5 Years of work exp. 2 years as a management consultant in UAE, 3 years in New Delhi in Corporate HR in a French energy MNC handling talent management in a leadership role (building leadership pipeline, Competency assessments, development of potential).

    Undergraduate from Delhi University in Economics Honours with 70% (not sure how to convert in GPA), Post graduate diploma in HR management from a reputed Indian management institute with 7/10 CGPA.

    Extracurricular activities include Public Speaking, I hold leadership position in Toastmasters Club, also have formal training in Hindustani Classical vocal music

    Social Contribution – Counselling for Rape Victims in India – work for a Women’n NGO

    Goal: A career in consulting in Mckinsey post an MBA from Harvard/ Stanford

  • JohnAByrne

    Wow. That’s fantastic. Congratulations! Those are three great business schools and you will love Berkeley! Way to go.

  • Ms. Hippie

    An update from Ms. Hippie, above – am in at my top 3 choices: Berkeley, NYU and UCLA (with $$).  Did not end up applying to USC.  Probably matriculating at Berkeley.