Your Odds Of Getting Into A Top School

She’s a 25-year-old published poet who works as an equity analyst for an old line Boston investment management firm. Her goal is to use the MBA degree to one day run her own firm in China.

After earning a dual degree in management and engineering from the University of Pennsylvania, he works for a Big Three consulting firm. With a 790 GMAT and a 3.76 grade point average, he’s nervous that B-schools will think he should just go to an engineering firm directly from consulting because he has already taken a lot of business classes at Wharton.

This 28-year-old doctor is currently in his fourth year of training as a specialty surgeon. Rather than use his scalpel on people, however, he wants to gain an MBA to apply business discipline and thinking the public health care in order to increase its efficiency.

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 in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm, 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. Finance Feminist

  • 750 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics and psychology from a top five liberal arts college
  • Work experience includes two years at an old, established Boston investment management firm doing equity research; plus a year and one-half in a Fortune 500 finance training program
  • Extracurricular involvement as chair of the local chapter of an international women’s leadership organization, active in alumnae network, published poet in award-winning literary journals
  • Goal: To eventually run my own investment management firm in China
  • 25-year-old Chinese woman and U.S. citizen, fluent in Mandarin and English

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 40%
Stanford: 10-25%
Chicago: 30% to 50%
MIT: 30% to 40%
Columbia: 30% to 50%
Northwestern: 30% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmmm, you got gold +  silver + poetry. Hard to know how that will play out. The good is the 750 GMAT, the less good is the 3.4, which is admissible but on the low side for Harvard and Stanford.  The equity research gig at an “old and established” Boston management firm could be gold or gold plate, depending on the firm and what you do and what kind of support you get.

Let’s just say we are talking Fidelity or Wellington or Putnam — applicants from those firms get into HBS and sometimes Stanford, but usually with Boffo other things. This is where your 3.4 can be an issue. As a rule, equity research at Fidelity or another old line firm is considered one cut below pure investment banking in terms of selectivity, although still a great gig.

To the extent you can string together all your women’s empowerment  extracurrics into a powerful presentation and garner some powerful support within your firm, well, that,  and the published poetry might tip you into HBS.  Her majesty, HBS adcom head Dee Leopold, may not read much poetry–or she may, dunno for sure, I have not hacked her Lincoln, MA, library card. WONDERFUL library by the way, if you are ever in the area, so is neighboring Concord, especially if you need a restroom, it actually has an oil painting on the wall!!! But a published poet, and your other extras,  might move someone off the WL in July, if HRH were in a hurry to go on vakay.  So HBS is close but you are in a real competitive cohort so it could tip either way.  Not seeing this as Stanford, for all the HBS reasons, and stats and selectivity of employment really count over there, especially since you have a winning but not compelling do-gooder profile.

At all other schools but H and S, I’d say you are totally in-line –just a matter of solid application execution.  The key to HBS is just getting some “specialness” in your application, which can be a cumulative build up of little things (of which you have a lot) or getting some powerful fuddy-duddy at your “old and established” management firm to put his wrinkled thumb on the scale.

“Your Majesty, Ned Johnson on line 2.“ Dee takes calls like that.

You can probably predict your chances at HBS better than me. How often have applicants from your firm who do what you do gotten in?  If not much data, you still have a chance because this is just solid and winning.

I’d be careful about how you explain your goas, and what the timeline and steps to reaching it are.

  • asdf


  • Robert

    Seems to be on point from my experience, minus Fidelity as it isn’t quite in the same tier as the other firms you mentioned. The top tier investment banking positions (eg. Blackstone Restructuring and M&A, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley) though, are arguably as selective as the top tier IMs (eg. D&C, Capital Group, Third Avenue). All of the above have phenomenal placement into top MBA programs.

  • Hbsguru

    I get your point, and in an ideal world, a blog like this would have an art director who would find or create approriate graphics for each profile, but this is not the New Yorker or Vogue, it is a content driven specialist blog, altho that is not an excuse to offend anyone, I dont think our cartoons, do .  My view.  Actually John Byrne does the formatting and graphics,  but it is pretty obvious he is using some iStock cartoon data bank, so all the profiles are cartoons.  I guess that sometimes leads to a disconnect, in some cases, but it just seems mild and graphic is  not meant to capture the full person under reveiw, just get people to read the analysis.  It seems a good compromise to me, but if others are disturbed, well, I’d be interested to hear.

  • Elena

    Hi Sandy,

    While I enjoy your column, I really don’t like the poses of the female cartoons. It’s disrespectful to women. Please refrain from using cartoons of women in such obvious, non-business/academic/extra-curric related poses. Ms. Consultant works with abused women, for goodness’ sakes!


  • Siddharth Gautam

    Hi Sandy, i read your reviews and observations on selected profiles. I was wondering if you can comment on my profile (its a typical case of high’s and low’)

    – 10th 65% 2000-01
    – 12th 67% 2002-2003
    – Graduation B.Tech in Mechanocal Engineering ( 2004-2008)
    (Only case is that my degree was extended by 3 years and received it in 2011)

    – Work exp. of 39 months
    -11 month in pre sales ( Air conditioning industry)
    -28 months as Bussiness Analyst, Project Manager and a Co-ordinator.

    GMAT Score 720.

    What are my ODDs of geeting into a good MBA School. My preferences are

    – INSEAD
    – Wharton
    – YALE
    – UCLA
    – Others

  • Hi Sandy,

    Can you please review my profile and evaluate my odds of getting into my top choices. I’ve looked through all your previous articles and could not find a match similar to mine so I’m giving it a shot in the comments.

    -Why MBA: I want to work in the tech sector in strategy. Long term want to help more hispanics go to college and study STEM fields.
    -Schools: Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, Kellog, MIT
    – 4 years with Nielsen graduated from their leadership development program and now manage a large program.
    -Electrical Engineering degree from the University of Florida
    -GMAT 720
    -GPA 3.1
    -25 Yr old Hispanic male
    -first person from my family to go to college
    -worked most of college in order to finance education. Graduated with no debt.
    -Now: Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, National Society of Hispanic MBA’s (chapter officer), toastmasters
    -During college: several officer positions within my fraternity, president of several clubs during college, long list of college extracurriculars (part of the reason for the low GPA)

    Thank you!

  • mr market research

    my target schools are columbia, harvard, wharton, kellog, uc berkely

  • mr market research

    Hi Sandy,
    I’d love for a review of my profile.

    1. I have 4 years experience at the number one market research firm in the world in the business consulting division. I have had multiple fortune 500 clients of whom I have had direct impact on the bottom line. with reports and volume forecasts

    2. gpa 3.53, gmat, 720.

    3. my goal is to get into corporate strategy at a fortune 100 firm.

    4. extracurriculars – vice president of frisbee in college, volunteer coach for 4 years after graduation

    5. undergraduate degree in psychology at a top 30 liberal arts school, minor in chinese, fluent in mandarin, study abroad experience in china,

  • mr market research

    Hi Sandy,
    I’d love for a review of my profile.

    1. I have 4 years experience at the number one market research firm in the world in the business consulting division. I have had multiple fortune 500 clients of whom I have had direct impact on the bottom line. with reports and volume forecasts

    2. gpa 3.53, gmat, 720.

    3. my goal is to get into corporate strategy at a fortune 100 firm.

    4. extracurriculars – vice president of frisbee in college, volunteer coach for 4 years after graduation

  • AJ


    Trying again… Thank you much either way!


    – 28 year-old, african-american male
    – public school student from small southern town


    – 670 GMAT (converted from GRE: 740 V, 650 Q; could easily raise Q to 700+, which would put me at converted 700+ GMAT)
    – 2.8 Undergrad GPA in liberal arts from an Ivy (didn’t adjust well to college; picked it up in second half of schooling)
    – 3.8 Grad GPA in education policy from an Ivy (once had career focus, really turned it on)

    Work Experience:

    – 1 year in the film industry
    – 2 years in admin/teaching role @ high-end tutoring company (found focus here: worked w/ low-income/rich kids. saw achievement gap up close and personal, got pissed, and decided to devote my professional life to closing it)
    – 1 year in AmeriCorps role @ high-performing, inner-city charter school
    – (grad school)
    – 3 years at State Department of Education w/ nationally recognized Commissioner. Led overhaul of office engaged in politically controversial work: crafted strategic plan, wrote regulations, and developed systems that affected thousands of kids. Typically someone in my role has 5+ years leadership experience on top of teaching for a 5+ years. Routinely have difficult conversations–internally and externally–with people twice my age. Have received national accolades for the work that we’ve done over the last year. Potential for conference presentations, etc. before I submit my application.

    Career goal:

    To play a leadership role in an organization that supports educators in executing their visions for achievement-gap-closing schools. Huge, but it’s really two paths: 1) Ops – helping educators build effective, accountable organizations and 2) Ecosystem – creating the policy conditions for educators to be able to do great things. On either path–which I’ll bounce back and forth from…and this is common in my corner of the ed reform world– the key to success is overcoming business challenges. 100 million great ideas in education; not a lot of implementation savvy to actually pull them off.

    Stanford Joint MBA/MA Ed, NYU MBA, Cornell AMBA, MIT/HKS joint, Vanderbilt MBA, Columbia MBA

  • FutureMBA

    -710 GMAT
    -3.65 GPA
    -Undergraduate Economics Degree from Cornell
    -2 Years experience at Booz & Co in London
    -Dual Citizen, 3 Languages
    -Extracurricular: Crew
    -167 LSAT (95th percentile)
    -Strong professional and academic recommendations
    -24, Male, very unique ethnic makeup, though technically “Caucasian” by US metrics

    Targets: HBS, Stanford, Columbia, NYU

  • FutureMBA

    -710 GMAT
    -3.65 GPA
    -Undergraduate Economics Degree from Cornell
    -2 Years experience at Booz & Co in London
    -Dual Citizen, 3 Languages
    -Extracurricular: Crew
    -167 LSAT (95th percentile)
    -Strong professional and academic recommendations

    Targets: HBS, Stanford, Columbia, NYU

  • Ms Future Biotech CEO

    I would love it if you would take a crack at my profile

    730 GMAT
    3.5 GPA

    Undergraduate double major at UC Berkeley – Haas Business & Psychology

    Work Experience: 5 years as a financial analyst split between 2 Fortune 500 companies, I have done roles in Budgeting, Cost Analysis, and am currently doing FP&A.

    Some extra curricular experience during and post college, including Executive Committee in my Sorority & a year volunteering with a non-profit post college, though no longer helping with them. I am currently working toward a certificate in Biotech with an evening and weekend program because I would like to switch industries.

    Goal: transition from Finance at a tech company to Product Management or Business Development at a Biotech company. The MBA will facilitate a double transition (industry & function). I am looking to initially start in Biotech probably in the Product Management or Business Development and work my way up to be a General Manager of a division, etc. I am worried that trying to do a double switch with the MBA may be too aggressive for the admission committees, so maybe I should focus on a story of staying in Finance but switching industries, with the MBA taking me to the next level in Finance?

    27, White, Female

    Kellogg MMM

    Thanks so much

  • Kk

    Hey Sandy.. I’m from the oil and gas industry too with similar stats as Mr Kunal.. I’d like to know our perspective and experience working with oil and gas students. What trends have you observed. Avg GMAT scores, feeder companies and backgrounds?


  • Hi Sandy and John,

    I am from Mumbai, India. I had a few questions regarding my chances at the schools I fancy. I’d be really glad if you could help me out.
    I am a 25 year old male, currently employed with Halliburton Offshore Services( Oil & Gas Sector). My current designation is M/LWD Engineer. Most people wouldn’t know what that means or what the work involves. Basically we provide services for Directional drilling of oil and gas wells. My job is to prepare tools that are sent downhole for the evaluation of the well conditions while drilling. So in a nutshell we evaluate the well while drilling and try to take the well to it’s target. My job involves technical work as well as handling the entire operation on field. There are times we are required to pitch to the clients to increase the revenue by means of using advanced tools. I have been with Halliburton for around 16months. Before moving to Halliburton I was with a company called ITS Energy Services ( Another Oil field company). I worked in different roles at ITS as part of my training and was later promoted as Sales Engineer. I worked with ITS for 10months. I was dealing with a lot of people from the oil field, so I decided I needed to work hands on to get the right feel of this sector. At Halliburton I am the Project Lead and I manage a group of 6-10 people from Halliburton and also oversee the operations which include crew from the client side. I graduated from the University of Mumbai in 2009, where I majored in Mechanical Engineering. I don’t know my exact GPA, but it should be between 3.2-3.3. I was involved in a lot of extracurricular activities in college. I was the President of MESA (Mechanical Engineers Students’ Association) and also the Event Head for several college festivals. I used to participate in Intercollegiate quizzes ( Won 1 and 2nd in another 1). I was part of the college cricket team and also participated in Intercollegiate Fashion shows. My first attempt of GMAT yielded a 690 ( Way below my average practice test score of 730). I intend to retake it and get 720+ ( Fingers crossed).
    Now on the B-school front, I would like to apply to schools like Yale, Tuck, Darden, Ross, Mc Combs, Duke and Kellogg. HBS would be a blind 1st choice, but I am unsure of my chances. I would like to do an MBA in General Management. My goal is to work for an oil major like Exxon, Chevron or BP in Corporate strategy or Business strategy. I feel that I have the base in the Oil field and would like to grow in a role in business strategy. I would like to apply for the 2013-15 batch. So total work experience by then would be around 46 months.
    I would like to know my chances at these schools and any other schools that might fit my profile according to you.

    In a nutshell

    -GMAT 690( will be retaking)
    -Working for Halliburton
    -Total experience at matriculation 46 months.
    -Mechanical Engineer from Mumbai University.
    -GPA 3.2-3.3.

    Career Goals:
    – To get into corporate strategy or business strategy for oil majors like Exxon, Chevron. ( I already have worked in the oil field and wish to take it to the next level)
    – Long term goal is my own start up of consultancy for mid level oil field companies to break the plateau and grow further.

    Target Schools:
    Mc Combs

    Thanks a lot

  • SR

    Hi Sandy, thanks for taking time out to handicap. Don’t go easy.

    21, College Senior
    Non URM male. (Ancestors didn’t get on the Dawes Rolls in time)
    2nd Best School in Texas

    Graduating 1 year early
    Languages: Chinese, Arabic
    Political Science 3.91 GPA
    GRE 161(87%) Verbal
    153 (65%) Quant
    5.0 (87%) Writing

    2 Summers Interning as a Mechanical Engineer with the Department of Defense where I oversaw design and implementation of projects.

    Use the knowledge gained and networks established as an MBA to transition into strategic consulting. Later, return to government to lead defense projects. Use my knowledge to reduce government waste and provide a solid philosophical direction in the defense department.

    Yale Silver Scholars

  • Gone Surfing

    Sandy, huge fan of these articles. Interested in hearing your thoughts:

    GMAT: Taking it this summer
    UNDERGRAD: BS in Political Science w/ Honors from Carnegie Mellon, 3.75 GPA
    -Finished in 3 yrs, awarded top graduating student award from department
    2nd UNDERGRAD: BS in Math, Temple Univ., 3.62 GPA
    -Magna Cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa, again named as an outstanding graduate
    -Earned this in 2 years, at the time considering an Economics PhD
    WORK: Surface Warfare Officer, US Navy
    -Deployed 3 times in the past 3 years, managing up to 70 personnel and hundreds of thousands of dollars of equipment. Deployments sent me travelling through much of Asia and the Middle East
    -First (and only one) in my family to join military, something very different for second generation Indian-American
    EXTRACURRICULARS: Various small volunteer projects with Surfrider Oahu, United Way, etc. Conversant in German and Tamil.
    GOALS: Loved the dynamic and tech-driven nature of Carnegie Mellon, but I don’t see it in the Navy. I want to study how companies, particularly in Silicon Valley (hint, hint), foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship- specifically strategic and organizational management. I would like to put this into practice at a top consulting firm, and eventually, go back in to government to change the Navy, and perhaps more broadly change how foreign and defense policy is made.
    -28 year old Indian-American male

    TARGETS: Applying for a dual degree program, MBA and MA in Intl Relations. Not sure how this affects my chances.
    FYI, for the Masters, also applying to
    -Princeton Woodrow Wilson School
    -Johns Hopkins SAIS
    -Harvard Kennedy School

  • Onion boy

    GPA 3.16 top 20% of batch
    A Management Engineering degree (honors course top 10% of applicants get in) from the top Philippine university

    Work experience:

    COO of top onion distribution company in the country.
    Replaced previous COO due to retirement.
    Dealt with $3 million loan and turned the company around while coming from an in the red year reducing wastage by 40%.
    Managed expansion project worth $2 million

    Passed CFA level 1

    Plans to pursue jd/mba to be a leader in the turnaround of the agriculture industry in the Philippines.

    Age: 23

    Male Chinese

    Fluent in Mandarin, Filipino, English and 2 other chinese dialects.

  • Mr. Bank

    Hi Sandy,

    Thank you so much for featuring my profile and for adding to my understanding of how adcoms may view my application. To give you an update – I’m currently preparing to interview for Wharton, got dinged at HBS, and waiting for an interview invite from Stanford.

    Just a point of clarification regarding my work experience, though. I work at the investment bank subsidiary of one of the largest (and oldest) banks in the Philippines. Unfortunately, it has no global presence so I doubt that b-schools would be familiar with it at all. I guess that takes off some percentage points on my odds?

  • kiwi

    Hi Sandy, your thoughts and tips on my profile would be appreciated!

    -24 year old white male. New Zealand/US dual citizen, although lived all my life in NZ
    -3.87 GPA from top NZ university
    – Double degree Physics and Music (including many awards in both disciplines and top student in music)
    – Yet to sit GMAT, but sat GRE a few years ago and achieved 800 quant and 670 Verbal

    2.5 years (at matriculation) at a world class Acoustic Consultancy company.
    During my time here I have dealt with acoustics in major industrial, environmental, architectural, performing arts and infrastructure projects.
    Regularly work in a team environment with colleagues as well as with engineers, architects, planners etc on projects.
    Have been key worker in my company of a large industrial research project with lots of responsibility.

    Professional musician and songwriter (guitar) including nomination for NZ Music Award
    Co-ordinator in climate change organization
    Volunteer at not-for-profit offering performance opportunities to young people with disabilities
    Travelled extensively in Asia, Europe, America and parts of Africa
    Avid skier, cricket and rugby player/fan

    Would like to leverage from my physics background and diverse exposure to many industries in my job, as well as experience in climate change movement to be a business leader in clean tech.

    Target (Looking to apply for programs starting 2013):


    Thanks in advance!

  • Victor Garrido

    Hey Sandy,

    I hope you can evaluate my profile. I’m targeting Wharton, Chicago, NYU and Columbia.

    – 26 yo Chilean male, international applicant
    – 3.2 GPA from an elite Chilean University (I don’t have a compelling reason for this GPA other than immaturity and partying)
    – Economics major, Finance minor
    – 760 GMAT V47 Q48
    – Passed CFA Level III Exam

    – 3 years (on matriculation) at Chile’s Central Bank as financial analyst of the banking sector. (lots of Ph.D. not many MBAs, but wouldn’t be the first to get addmited to a top 10 program, not many data points)
    – Heavy involvement in Basel III reforms (drafting, negotiations etc.).
    – Should get very good recommendation letters.

    – Trip to Honduras to volunteer for an organization that constructed community centers.
    – Volunteered for an organization similar to Habitat for Humanity in my country.
    -A semester in Spain while in collage.

    – Work in development finance or microfinance.


  • Furious Styles

    From my experience, getting a job in banking is harder than asset management. As a caveat, as someone pointed before, asset management firms hire less people so your entrance is more based on how truly interested in investing you are. Is hard to explain but overall selectivity is harder at banks but someone who can get a job at MS/GS is not necessarily a strong candidate for Fidelity/Wellington. PE and HF jobs are hard to come by straight out of undergrad (very few firms hire you with out banking or MBB experience, Blackstone, Silver Lake, Audax, Bridgewaters and Bain Capital at my school). Def harder to get than banking. So order will be:
    1. PE
    2. Investment Banking
    3. Asset Management

  • clevernickname

    i wouldn’t pile Citi in the same group as MS or GS, but yes for IBD in NYC its probably harder to get an offer from the BBs then from Fidelity.

    geographical area and IBD group matter, but I think I think that in a vacuum getting an offer from GS is ultimately more difficult, especially now. the competition for IBD jobs is absurd, there isn’t a lot of deal flow and GS/MS basically cherry pick among target kids with near perfect GPAs/internships.

    + adcom may view GS as a stronger brandname then invest mgmt firms. in other words getting an offer out of undergrad at silverlake, deshaw, or getco is much more difficult then getting one from GS, but i wonder if by virtue of GS’s brand, the latter will still trump most PE/HF firms unless its KKR/PIMCO etc.


    hmmmm, could depend on function, and I’m open to hearing about this issue from others, but IMHO it is harder to get a job as IB analyst at Morgan, Goldman, Citi etc than equity analyst, etc. at IM firms you mention.

  • David

    Sorry should have said *may

  • David

    I am be wrong, but I think the established IM firms, Wellington, Dodge & Cox, Fidelity, Cap Group, are more selective then banks. Largely a result of the fact that compared to banks they hire very few people out of undergrad.