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 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. 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.

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  • 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!