Handicapping Your Odds Of Acceptance

She’s a 30-year-old marine biologist who for six years worked as a purser on a super yacht. With a GMAT of 680 and a 3.48 grade point average, this Canadian now wants an MBA to shift into a financial career.

A Marine Corps captain, he managed 200 personnel and $5 million of equipment and has spent two years as an analytical chemist for a biotech company in San Diego. This 32-year-old has raised his GMAT score from 500 to 630 on the second try, but he’s hoping to be accepted by a top-ranked business school.

He’s a 29-year-old American who is fluent in Mandarin and working for a venture capital firm in China. With a 740 GMAT and a master’s degree in biotech, he expects to get an MBA and then return to China to take on greater responsibility in venture capital.

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.

As usual, 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, we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature. (Please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience. Make sure you let us know your current job.)

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

Ms. Marine Biologist

  • 680 GMAT
  • 3.48 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in marine biology from a Canadian university with a minor in business
  • Work experience includes six years as a purser aboard a large super yacht, assisting with a $7 to $10 million budget, human resources, concierge and itinerary planning for Forbes Top 100 clientele; also seven months working for a new research vessel non-profit company specializing in oceanographic research.
  • Goal: Shifting career into finance
  • 30-year-old Canadian female

Odds of Success:

London Business School: 40+%
University of Western Ontario: 50+%
Sauder School of Business: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, you should read last week’s entry on architects as the go-to love interest for Rom-Coms and Adcoms.  If there is any profession that can top even architecture in terms of being “cool,” it is marine biology.  Think I’m kidding? Read this college application essay from Rachel, on my website, in the famous “Worst College Essays Ever Written Section.” She wants to be a pediatric (baby) marine biologist because the profession is so cool, and as she says,

I like the ocean, small things, and animals. 🙂 . . . .

By the way, I was looking in your course catalog for the marine biologist courses and those courses seem to involve working with fish or things like fish. 🙁

I’m not really all that interested in fish, I mean I’ll take the required fish courses, but what I am really interested in is animals that live in or near the water, except fish. 🙁

I like seals, especially baby seals, 🙂

Of course, you did Rachel two better since 1) You actually got a marine biology degree and then 2), You avoided real fish and baby seals altogether by, in your own words, being a purser “onboard a large Super Yacht. Assisting with a $7-10 million budget, human resources, concierge and itinerary planning services for Forbes Top 100 clientele . . .”  Oh boy,  fat cats at sea   . . .if only those life preservers could talk .

I assume you have heard all the Gilligan’s Island jokes, or maybe that show is before your time or banned in Canada.

OK, let’s get back on terra firma: you’re 30, have an OK GPA from some boutique marine biology college which probably the Canadian business schools you mention have heard of — and for any other B-school, well, it’s marine biology!  After the mist clears, basically you have been performing some hands-on accounting and project planning services for what I take is a small company, e.g. the owner of the Super Yacht.

That, plus the marine biology halo effect should be solid enough for the schools you are interested in if you can make a case as to why you want an MBA. Your stated reasons, that you want to “switch into finance,” really needs to be honed into some story which captures your past  and makes sense in terms of being able to get that job when you graduate.

As noted before, goal statements are half image projection, half fantasy, and half due diligence  about the chosen  profession and how a school can help you as well.  Yup, that is three halves and good goal statements are that dense.  You need to capture some or all of those elements into yours.

It is unclear from your profile which job you currently have, the non-profit gig or the Super Yacht job? NOTE TO PROFILE WRITERS—ALWAYS MAKE THAT CLEAR WITH A NOTE THAT SAYS—CURRENT JOB and then just list others in reverse chronological order.

Assuming it is the Fat Cat job, you need to somehow project those skills into a plausible job at X, Y or Z and say that is what you want to do post-MBA, and that is why you need the degree.  X, Y, and Z need to be jobs which 1. Often require an MBA, and 2. Somehow engage with what you have done prior, even if it is a stretch, adcoms like continuity blended with change rather than naked change. Just off the top of my head here, you might say you are interested in the intersection of finance and hospitality and leisure (since that broadly speaking was your Fat Cat Ocean gig). Then find some people with MBA’s who work in that field via Google or Linked-In, and use them as role models.  If you really want to max this out, find the 5 biggest hospitality and leisure operators in Canada and sniff around for potential jobs there.   Sure, it’s artificial hokum but it reads well in an application.  How hard is it to find info like that, well, I found this in less than 3 minutes on Google.


A great place to start.

General note: it just amazes me how often kids writing  B-school apps somehow forget about Google –a tool they would turn to 100 times a day for trivia.  That same search came up with a .pdf from Deloitte Consulting about trends in the Canadian hospitality industry–written in French!  Pas moi, but maybe our marine biologist can read it.

One next to last thing. You may also have to explain why, given your age and experience, you are not applying for an Executive MBA.

Finally, I am not sure I see the case for someone like you going to school in London. You really should do some homework about where grads at London Business School get jobs, especially if you want to stay in Canada.

  • Mexi

    Hi Sandy,

    I would like to assess my odds of getting accepted at London Business School or Tier 1 B-school, hope you can help me!

    Mexican male, 27 years old, 3.3 GPA in business engineering at probably the best economics school in Latam (ITAM)
    Gmat: 680
    Work Experience: 6 months internship at Credit Suisse in back-office ib operations and 6 months internship at Citi in equity research

    1.2 years experience in an M&A boutique in Mexico City and 2 years experience at a local private equity firm (started as junior financial analyst, will end as junior associate)

    Extra-curricular: Founded first micro-brewery in Mexico City and volunteer at a non for profit which assists low resource entrepreneurs in starting their business

    Goal: Get foreign work experience, networking and knowledge to start own vc fund in Mexico


  • IIM

    Analyze me! (Second MBA)

    Indian Male, 26
    GMAT 740 – 50(Q) 41(V)
    Undergrad GPA – 9.08/10 from a top 15 Indian college – Computer Science Engg. (Rank 1, Best Student of Institute award)
    Grad GPA – 7.22/9 from a top 3 IIM – PGDM (MBA) (Top 10%)

    Work Exp:
    a) 3 years of software development at a top MNC IT company (Microsoft/Google/Yahoo) with one promotion.
    b) 1 year of consulting with a Big 4 advisory post PGDM

    – College level bodybuilding, dramatics, singing and athletics awards
    – Volunteered to teach underprivileged kids at current organization’s charity foundation
    – Established a gym to promote fitness at last organization

    Reasons for second MBA:
    – Getting into international strategy consulting

  • Yatha srikanth reddy

    hello.Dear sir, i am srikanth. I”m deaf & dumb. I have studyies MBA2Year, i want need jobs, u address give me, plz me, 

  • filmcompbiz

    Hello there:

    720 GMAT3.75 (cumulative) from a large state school (University of Central Forgetta), earned OK grades until I realized I was gay, then straight A’s for the rest of college careerBS in Computer Science and  BFA Film ProductionFounded/Presidented a few film-related clubsClassical and jazz pianist (since I was a kid)- all-stateLaunched social networking site for independent filmmakers- adopted by Film SchoolGood recommendations from professorsWork:  Front Desk manager at Hampton during college
    Current:  Software engineer at Apple for 2 yrs, good recommendations
    Goal:  become a film producer or high-level executiveFluent in Mandarin, French, and Spanish, which I learned just for fun25 year old Hispanic male
    Love New YorkNYU (#1 choice)
    Columbia (will do early admit here)Haas

  • Alternate Indian Guy (I Banker)


    Thank you for taking the time out to review my profile. Let me give you a brief on my resume so that you can have a better understanding of the same along with my resume attached with this mail:

    a) Work Experience: I am planning to apply next year for 2013 batch and hoping to work till early 2013. I would have gained ~3 years of work experience which I think should prepare me to apply to a business school. I am currently working with a leading Indian investment bank (Big in India but limited presence in the west) as a PE/M&A analyst. I am also closely working with a couple of NGOs at this point of time. Will that be an important factor during the review process of my application?

    b) International Exposure: Apart from my one year stint in the UK during my masters, I don’t really have any international exposure. Having said that, I do work with a lot of mid-market and boutique investments banks in US and UK which might count as “international exposure”.

    c) GMAT: I have a GMAT score of 710

    d) Social Involvement: I have worked with C.O.R.P for one year teaching English in a municipal school in Mumbai and a six month internship with a microfinance firm covering rural areas and villages in the state of Rajasthan, India

    e) Investment banking background: Mid-market investment banks in India give a better profile and exposure to its analysts as compared to their peers in the US and Europe. I have worked on live deals and also been a part of the business development exercise of the bank which is rare in global banks or US banks where analysts have a limited role.

    f) Schools short listed: – NYU

    – Yale SOM

    – Tuck

    – Chicago Booth

    – Kellogg

    – Tepper School

    – Cornell

    – Duke

    – Darden Virginia

    I am still confused about schools in the UK (LBS, Judge and Oxford) and how much work experience they require since the average age in those schools is way higher than their American peers.

    Hoping to hear soon from you.

  • VCinChina

    Thanks for the profile eval. Very helpful.

    Why NYU? NYC works for me personally (I have a wife tagging along on this, who I’d like to be able to work in finacne and support me). Plus the finance curriculum seems helpful to a person working in VC with no financial background.

    Why not Berkeley, Chicago, or Kellogg? I applied earlier in my career to all of those schools and got denied. I don’t want to bother with a reapp to anywhere. It just doesn’t make sense for such a fringe candidate like me. I’m a mixed bag, right? If they didn’t bite the first time, they’re not likely to bite on the second time.

    I’m also wondering how long I could potentially put this off and still have a shot. Am I just crazily too old, if I apply at age 30 or 31 after more VC experience? I feel like the standard view is that I would be just too old.

  • ATS

    Love the column!
    25 year old male
    GPA – 3.76 Top 30 school. Econ Major
    GMAT 730 (95% V 80%Q)
    Work Experience:
    1—6 months at small consulting firm for financial services,
    2—1.5 years sales and trading at small but somewhat known within the industry firm.
    3 (current)—-Portfolio management associate at large (500bn+) well known AM firm. will be here 1.5 years by time of application and 2.5 years at time of matriculation

    Traveled a year in the Middle East learning about history, culture and doing charity before going to college
    Current board member of Pediatric Cancer Foundation
    good ecs (econ club,sports,charities) in college

    Goal- to move up in the ranks of portfolio management, build my network and finance skills

    Looking at M7 and NYU (strongly considering Columbia value investors program)

  • kram

    Below are my credentials for a profile evaluation. Thank you for your help.

    GPA: 3.63 overall, 3.91 major (finance)
    GMAT: 710; V 83%ile, Q 88%ile
    College: NYU Stern
    Other education: Passed all levels of the CFA and FRM exams
    Work experience: [Current Job] Since the past 1.5 years, I have been working at a well-known investment management company that runs hedge funds and mutual funds. I focus on determining the right levels of leverage and financing across all funds and strategies. I was recently promoted to Associate. [Previous Jobs] I have also spent one year each doing sales (2008-09) and consulting (2009-10) at other, well-known financial service firms.
    Extracurricular: Help raise financing since the past three years for an education foundation focused on educating underprivileged children in rural India. Also helping the foundation restructure its teaching model.
    Age: 25 year-old Indian male, US citizen. Lived in India till age 13 before moving to the US.
    Goal: To gain a deeper understanding of marketing, management, and business development in order to become either 1. A successful COO/CFO of a global investment management firm (or) 2. Launch a consulting practice that provides CFO/COO services to investment management firms.
    Schools (all Round 1 applications): H/S/W, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, MIT, Tuck