Can You Get Into A Great B-School?

by John A. Byrne on

After graduating from Harvard College with a degree in psychology, she did a one-year stint in brain research on hardened criminals and then joined a firm that specializes in community service travel for students. She now wants an MBA to pursue her dream of doing something entrepreneurial.

This 26-year-old graduated magna cum laude from an Ivy League university and is a marketing manager at a Bay Area startup. With a 740 GMAT score, he wants to gain an MBA to help him move into higher-level strategy roles and eventually into venture capital.

He’s a professional musician and songwriter who works as an acoustics consultant. With a 3.87 grade point average from a top university in New Zealand, he is hoping to use the MBA degree to transition into clean tech.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these would-be MBA candidates 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 assessment:

Mr. Music

  • 800 Quant GRE
  • 670 Verbal
  • 3.87 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in physics and music from a top New Zealand university
  • Work experience includes two years at a world-class acoustic consultancy, dealing with acoustics in major industrial, environmental, architectural projects.
  • Extracurricular involvement as a professional musician and songwriter; also coordinator in climate change organization and volunteer for a non-profit that supports young disabled performers
  • Goals: “Would like to leverage 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”
  • “I am considering deferring application to work in a developing country for a year (probably on a volunteer basis). Ideally I
would like to volunteer with sustainable small business development. Would this benefit my application?”
  • 24-year-old white male, with dual citizenship in New Zealand and the U.S.

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40+%
Stanford: 20% to 35+%
Wharton: 50%+
Chicago: 50+%
Northwestern: 50+%
MIT: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: This is a real attractive profile with a high GPA, high test scores, plus the combination of turning a passion, music, into a career in industrial acoustics. Adcoms love stuff like that. They love arty guys with real jobs, and that is certainly you. It confirms one of their big wet dreams — that Art and Commerce are somehow braided together. And while that is rarely true in the big bad world, it is certainly true in your case.

Coming from New Zealand is also a plus. It has all the exoticism and good feelings of coming from Australia, with the added virtue of possibly being sober. Your extra curriculars are solid and involve helping people with disabilities, music and green causes, and your goals in clean tech seem connected enough to what you’re currently doing professionally (which is minimizing noise pollution) so that your desire for an MBA is a perfect “pivot” of the type Adcoms like to think their schools provide in the best case situations. You’d be a strong applicant whether or not you took the one-year internship in a developing country. If you do that, it would help to get connected to some organization/NGO versus going freelance. “Sustainable small business development” is a wonderful-sounding idea, whatever it really means. So sure, that would also be a plus. If that does not come through, well, just apply next year. You can also skip the NGO experience and apply now, your story is complete enough for adcoms as is.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=611098 Vanessa Anderson

    Sandy,

  • Vaanders

    Sandy &
    John,

     

    Could you
    please evaluate my candidacy for entry to HBS, Stanford, Haas, MIT, Columbia,
    and LBS?

     

    Demographics: 26 year-old white female

    GMAT: 710 (92% Verbal, 71% Quant, 92% total)

    Undergrad: Wharton School, GPA 3.4, cum
    laude

    Work Experience: 
    –  Spent three years working at a real estate private equity fund.  While I was originally hired for acquisitions, due to the economic downturn and distress in the real estate market, I ended up spending the bulk of two years working in distressed asset management, completing over $220MM of loan workouts. 
    –  After three years, I moved to the real estate group at a private equity secondaries fund where I have worked on approximately $190MM of secondary market acquisitions and created an asset management database to track the performance of each investment over the hold period. 
    Extracurriculars:
    – Work with a philanthropic organization to host
    bi-annual fundraisers to benefit underprivileged children.-  Career and college prep mentor for underprivileged
    high school students.-  Tutor grade school kids, both at the office and
    on the weekend, through a literacy organization.-  Women’s rugby president and captain during
    undergrad.
    Goals:  To move into a deal sourcing role at a private
    equity (real estate or traditional) or venture capital fund. 

     

    Thanks!

     

  • Mr. IT

    Thank you so much Sandy!  Huge confidence boost, and a disturbingly accurate picture (black rimmed glasses, messenger bag, button up under a sweater, boat shoes… even a copy of wired, sadly my socks arent that cool, and I didnt pick up a new ipad today)

  • Mr. Music

    Sandy, many thanks for your comments! You provided some insights that will be valuable in crafting my application. 

  • Nimrod

    Hey Sandy, 

    Great to see that Music is an advantage, I was wondering about it. At the moment I will not ask your professional appraisal (I’m retaking the GRE), but I’d be happy to know if music and other “poetic” endeavors are a plus also as a solely extra-curricular activity – I pursue music as a hobby, though I am quite serious about it (I have formal musical education, i’m in a Jazz band and privately tutored with one of Israel’s top Bass players. I am also a trained singer and will soon start learning how to play the piano). Most of my other extra currics are also artistic (Creative writing – both writing and arranging writing workshops, writing book reviews for several websites, blogging – although it is a professional blog, offering analysis of current events. From time to time I also lecture on varied topics and act in a community theater).  I have a weak record of “pro bono” extras, though. I volunteered a couple of times for specific events and volunteered for one election-year in my party of choice, but that’s all. I am pursuing a career in the government, which is completely unrelated to my extra currics. That’s why I enjoy them, they balance the intellectually-demanding environment of my day jobs.      

  • http://hbsguru.com/ Hbsguru

    well, my point was when you could braid something arty, like music, art, design etc. to a commercial venture, as Mr Music did as an accoustic engineer, schools like that because it manifests their big wet dream that art and commerce can serve each other, which in most cases is not true.  Steve Jobs story about studying calligraphy and then using that appreciation to help design Mac fonts etc. is a story liberal arts types cherish altho most calligraphers dont do as well professionally as Jobs (and you may recall fr. new  Jobs bio he fired the calligrarpher his wife hired to send out their wedding invites.)  Skill with a musical instrument per se is not something adcoms swoon over, but respect, leading a band is better, leading and organizing symphonic charity events is getting to near “BINGO” (Dee Leopold ecstatic vocal ejaculation when presented with HBS porn). Lecturing/running workshops etc. is someplace in the middle.  Note, music guy, in profile, in addition to being talented musician also WORKED in career that was (or could be described as ) Art/Commerce hybrid –like architecture. As noted here before, the only thing that tops that is marine biology, science and baby seals. :-)

  • y_champ

    Hi SandyKindly evaluate my profile!! I have made a request earlier as well ( apologies for posting again)Age 31, male, IndianGMAT -700( may retake )Profile – Corporate Banker , IndiaEducation – Chartered accountant , India ( tough course if you haven’t heard about it) , Bachelor of Commerce ( average scores)Work experience – 6 years in  Corporate BankingCitibank (Jan 2006-March 08) – Assistant managerStarted off with retail banking @ Citi, setting up a small Mortgages credit shop ( included setting up a team , vendors etc)for in a tier 2 Indian City and then moved to a sales role within Citi for business banking after an year. HSBC ( March 2008- Feb2010) – Risk analyst (lending), Corporate bankingMoved to a newly founded risk analysis unit for Corporate banking, which helped me pick up the nuances of corporate banking. Worked on funding an expansion plan for a cement manufacturer ( deal size of Usd 30 mio)
    Standard Chartered bank ( Feb 2010 onwards)- Associate director, Mid markets, Corporate BankingCredit analysis for mid market clients, handled important cross border relationships between India and Srilanka. Worked on land mark deals. 
    Set a new record in my region for the number of clients on-boarded in a calendar year. Played an instrumental role in having a record breaking year in terms of revenues for my region.
    Extra curriculars- nothing major to write home about, but I’ve won prizes at acting for skits at various school level competitions. Even won the best actor for a contest held in my bank.
    Schools I’m gunning for- Insead, Columbia, Kellog , Stern, Tuck, Darden.
    Post MBA goal- intend to work in consulting / venture capital/ private equity after MBA.
    I would be above the average age in most of the top schools. How much of a handicap would that be?

  • y_champ

    Hi SandyKindly evaluate my profile!! I have made a request earlier as well ( apologies for posting again)Age 31, male, IndianGMAT -700( may retake )Profile – Corporate Banker , IndiaEducation – Chartered accountant , India ( tough course if you haven’t heard about it) , Bachelor of Commerce ( average scores)Work experience – 6 years in  Corporate BankingCitibank (Jan 2006-March 08) – Assistant managerStarted off with retail banking @ Citi, setting up a small Mortgages credit shop ( included setting up a team , vendors etc)for in a tier 2 Indian City and then moved to a sales role within Citi for business banking after an year. HSBC ( March 2008- Feb2010) – Risk analyst (lending), Corporate bankingMoved to a newly founded risk analysis unit for Corporate banking, which helped me pick up the nuances of corporate banking. Worked on funding an expansion plan for a cement manufacturer ( deal size of Usd 30 mio)
    Standard Chartered bank ( Feb 2010 onwards)- Associate director, Mid markets, Corporate Banking Credit analysis for mid market clients, handled important cross border relationships between India and Srilanka. Worked on land mark deals. Set a new record in my region for the number of clients on-boarded in a calendar year. Played an instrumental role in having a record breaking year in terms of revenues for my region.Extra curriculars- nothing major to write home about, but I’ve won prizes at acting for skits at various school level competitions. Even won the best actor for a contest held in my bank.Schools I’m gunning for- Insead, Columbia, Kellog , Stern, Tuck, Darden.Post MBA goal- intend to work in consulting / venture capital/ private equity after MBA.I would be above the average age in most of the top schools. How much of a handicap would that be?

  • http://hbsguru.com/ Hbsguru

    :-)  GOOD LUCK YOU GOT A REAL STRONG PROFILE

  • hbsguru

    trying out this new picture. dont tell me I look like a cartoon, it went thru a cartoon filter.

  • Consultant to HC

    Hi Sandy,

    I would greatly appreciate if you could evaluate my profile and provide any suggestions on how best to present my story.

    About Me:
    – 24 year old Asian female (permanent resident)
    – 4.1/5.0 GPA from MIT in engineering, with minor in Management
    – (not sure if it matters but attended top prep school in US…think Eight Schools Association)
    – 2 yrs experience working at M/B/B consulting firm (on track for promotion, sponsorship tbd), will be starting 3rd year during application season
    – Tri-lingual
    – Potentially interested in joint MBA / MPH programs, or MBA programs with a focus in health care

    Detailed Work Profile:
    – In current position, I have worked on health care and financial services projects, including a mix of strategy, due diligence, and operations/transformations
    – Previous internships in business development for small health care provider, engineering position in top biopharma company
    – Worked on health care delivery start-up in college that ultimately failed

    Extracurricular Activities (current):
    – Active in current company’s Women’s Initiative (helped start it in my office)
    – Board member of nonprofit dance organization
    – Mentor for under privileged high schoolers
    – Dance (classes), yoga, piano, scuba diving, travel (26+ countries)

    Extracurricular Activities (previous):
    – Leadership position in campus dance organization, Asian interest society, sorority
    – Participated in year-long Cambridge-MIT exchange program junior year (rowed on college team)
    – Selected for college scholarship program in music; Multiple awards (local, state, and regional) in piano performance and concerto performance (before college)

    Long term aspirations:
    – Founding and/or running a health care delivery-related start-up
    – Executive position in health care organizations such as Gates, CHAI, or a pharma/biotech company
    – VC firm with focus in biotech / health care

    My primary concern is the low GPA (includes several Cs and one D).

    Several questions:
    – Is my work experience, story, and GMAT score enough to overcome this hurdle?
    – If not, any recommendations on how to improve my attractiveness?
    – If I decided to wait another year (4 yrs work experience) before applying to MBA programs, would it be better to stay at my current M/B/B consulting firm or try to work at Gates or CHAI or some other health care delivery-type organization? What if it were a small, no-name type firm?
    – Should I emphasize this particular interest in health care or will this hurt me by narrowing my appeal?

    AND FINALLY…what do you think my chances are of getting into the following schools:
    – HBS
    – Wharton
    – Stanford
    – Booth
    – Kellogg
    – Columbia
    – Sloan
    – Berkeley

    Thanks so much for your time.

  • Nimrod

    Thank you for your reply. Will charity Jazz events do as well? :-) I defintely want to get closer to the “baby seals” part of the chart…

  • Duy Nguyen

    Hi Sandy,
    I would deeply appreciate if you can help evaluate my profile though I am applying next year. My background is as below: Gender: male, 26 (as of matriculation), South East AsianGMAT: 720 (Q:50, V:38, AWA: 4.5); intend to retake this April with goal of 750+GPA: 6.78/10 or 3.0/4.0 (converted using http://www.foreigncredits.com)Last 2 year GPA: 7.3/10 or 3.2/4.0 (Converted)Undergraduate degree in Business Administration from top tier university in Vietnam.Working experience (as of matriculation): 1 years as junior assistant for a famous French bank, 1 year as a junior financial manager for a Korean real estate firm, 2.5 years as Investment Associate and Investment Manager for a famous Japanese venture fund at Vietnam (promoted to manager after 9 months). Successfully incubated 1 startup and significantly contributed to some of this portfolio’s products’ succeed. Top researcher of the fund.Extracurricular: + At university: Leader at student support devision of University Student Association; founder and president of Business Administration Falcuty English Club+ After university: volunteer English tutor for poor children (via an charity organization), persuade others and some startups to participate.
    Goal: Want to bring global mindset and break throught thinkings to startups in my country so that some can grow up to global level: grow by innovation not by copycat.
    Special Question:  After getting into this ventures fund, I led a deal and negotiated key points for this deal in 5 months. Everything was ok, both value and termsheet. However, a member in board of directors of our fund was so prudent about some indicators of that startup that he asked me to postpone the deal and wait for one or two months more (though I tried to pursuade him alot). After two months, that startup became shockingly successful. We were back at the negotiation table with higher deal value and more favor termsheet. However, the startup decided to postpone series A and looked for series B after some time. Though, the deal couldnot be closed, my direct supervisor still acknowledged my contributed and promoted me from Associate to Manager.So should I mention this story in my essay as this looks more like a failure than a successful story?
    And here is my wish list: (the higher the  more priority)1. Stanford2. Harvard3. Haas4. Wharton5. Booth6. UCLAThank you so much for your time.

  • arun

    nice look!! very golfer like!! you may think a bit more about the quality of picture. as i see it it looks yellow and orange. try photoshop to reduce the effect. if you can tone down the orange and yellow the pic should look great. very sportive indeed!!

  • arun

    I would undoubtedly select the music guy.
    one of the key tenets of leadership remains decision making on self appreciation rather than based on what one hears.
    the music guy knows what he wants and whats practical and creates his dream combining the two.
    the vc guy although has a great profile he is too affected by what worl thinks is the good profession rather than what he actually loves doing in life.
    the route to success goes through what you love doing not what world thinks you should be doing.
    as a admission officer i would select the music guy as going ahead in future he would perhaps make a better leader and valuable addition to the alums.

  • Mr. TFA

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you please evaluate my profile? Much thanks!

    – Took the GRE: 790 Quantitative, 790 Verbal, 6.0 Analytical Writing
    – 3.99 Cumulative GPA from non-HYP Ivy, double major in psychology and government, minor in law and society. Graduated Magna Cum Laude (for senior thesis in psychology) and Phi Beta Kappa.
    – Work experience: half year as a psychology teaching assistant in a pre-medical program in Qatar, half  year as a psychology research assistant at undergraduate institution, two years as a Teach for America corps member, internship in college with a senators, extensive research experience as an undergrad
    – Extracurriculars: In college, was part of leadership committee for new student orientation, teaching assistant-ships, officer positions in social fraternity and honor societies. Post college, not much….active in alumni association.
    – Goal: Leverage my education and data analysis experience I’ve gained through research and teaching and enter education consulting. I had originally anticipated pursuing a PhD in psychology/organizational behavior, but recent experience in TFA has pushed me to stay in education and hopefully provide sound strategy to charter schools and other education non-profits.
    – 24 year old Asian male.

    I’m particularly interested in Stanford’s dual MBA/MA in Education program. But I’d like to read your thoughts on how competitive I’d be at other top business schools.

  • Hbsguru

    well, I might agree with you, but for different reasons –they are both deeply qualified and both might get in at top schools, but given the choice,it becomes a matter of supply and demand, the accoustics guy is just more rare.   As to leadership etc., that is hard to tease out from the profiles, both guys seems to have leadership experiences,and high accomplishments, but neither is a quantum lead over the other to tilt a decision.

  • arun

    Well quest for diversity does play a big role in admission process. No denying that.but as a adcom what i would more like about the music guy is that he is going for his dream instead of going after what world thinks he should do..
    living the dream, isn’t what we all want to do.

  • arun

    small typo. cant edit it
    “living the dream isn’t that what we all want to do.”

  • Mr. E

    Hi Sandy,

    I would also greatly appreciate if you could help evaluate my profile though I am applying next year (likely R1).

    – 3.53 GPA, graduating with honors, majoring in Psychology and Political Science
    – Graduated from an HYP school
    – Work experience includes 2.5 years at Google working in a technical consulting role in NYC. Received global awards for high impact projects.
    – Extracurricular involvement includes assisting diversity reach out and recruiting at Google as well as co-founding a non-profit over the last year that teaches underrepresented high schoolers in NYC coding to both spur their interest in the field and provide them with fundamental knowledge of code. Did a variety of community service programs dedicated toward tutoring and child education in college. Also worked throughout college as a research assistant in my school’s Organizational Behavior department at the business school.
    – Did horribly on the gmat (620) but will retake.
    -Goal: “Interested in moving into higher level roles at the intersection of business and technology. In long-term being a CTO or starting my own technology consulting company”
    – 25 year old Black Male
    -Applying to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Tuck, Columbia, Haas, Yale SOM, NYU, MIT (I’m also considering applying through the Consortium application).

    Thanks much for your time :)

  • HealthCare PM

    I’d love it if you could give me a sense of my shot at top schools (specifically thinking Kellog, HBS, Stanford, Haas, Booth, Sloan, in roughly that order). I’ve forward-dated my work experience months and age for an application this fall.

    Nationality:AmericanAge:23 (24 at matriculation)Gender:Male
    GMAT: 760(Q48,V47); AWA- 6.0College:Top ten liberal arts (known for being a finance and government school), 2010, International Relations (Cum Laude, Honors), 3.76 GPA

    Work:* I’ll have 28 months of experience at application (39 at matriculation) as a project manager at the dominant healthcare IT company (35-40% of Americans receive care using our software) working with the billing module.*I worked the first 16 months as a Coordinator, splitting my time between two clients and was primarily responsible for leading a team of 10 client-employed analysts for each project and guiding them through the process of designing and implementing our software. *I was then promoted to Manager and took on two new projects, each with one Coordinator as a direct report and my focus moved away from technical design and direct project management. I now mainly work with our clients’ CFO and Director level staff to help them manage the financial risks and leverage the opportunities for efficiency that come with the roll-out of an electronic billing system. I’m also responsible for managing our team’s budget (about $1 million annually on each project) and growing my Coordinators.*Internally I lead a team of seven PMs (some more senior than myself) responsible for managing client escalations and promoting best practices within several modules of our software. I’m the most junior employee to hold this position and was selected to present to our division (~1,300 people at the presentation) on how to be effective in the role.

    Extracurriculars:*Editor of student paper*Writer on two other papers*Lots of volunteer hours and eventually paid employment tutoring first-generation college applicants and underprivileged students*President of small political club (not Dems or Reps)Since*Little time- no volunteering*Competitive autocross and road racer (legally!) and work with the regional clubs to organize track days and other events

    Goals:
    My job right now is at the intersection of revenue consulting, project management, and software- I want to move into strategy consulting for healthcare orgs. The industry’s at a major turning point right now when it comes to technology, regulations, and business models and I want to make a difference in how hospitals do business. Above all else I want to be able to leave a mark on the organizations I work with and really measurably improve how they do business and provide care.

    Thanks so much!

  • PatrickA
  • Mr. TFA

    To clarify, I’m currently in TFA.

  • Bakhtiar Khan

    dear sir, im a freshman in UIC. i want to know the requirments to get admitted in Booth school for mba? what subject shall i do my bachelors in?

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