Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

With a Wharton undergrad in her pocket, this 26-year-old woman has been working for the past five years in real estate private equity and mentors underprivileged high school students. She now wants an MBA to move into a deal sourcing role at a private equity or venture capital fund.

He’s a 30-year-old Jordanian who has spent ten years working for a Big 4 accounting firm, half the time in audit and half in mergers and acquisitions. He wants an MBA to help him launch an advisory company to help family businesses.

Adopted by a lesbian couple at the age of 10, she’s the chief of staff for a state legislative committee. This 27-year-old woman wants an MBA to become a consultant, though her long-term goal is to run for major public office.

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?

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

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:

Ms. Dancing Engineer

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from a top school of engineering
  • Work experience includes two years as a consultant at a McKinsey/Bain/BCG firm on strategy and operations for the health care industry, although also experienced in financial services. Expect a promotion and sponsorship to be determined. Also worked on health care delivery start-up that ultimately failed
  • Extracurricular involvement as board member of a contemporary dance group; also into dancing, yoga, scuba diving
  • Looking at joint MBA/MPH-type programs
  • Asian-American female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 40%
Stanford: 20% to 30%
Wharton: 40+%
MIT: 50+%
Columbia: 50+%
Berkeley: 50+%
Northwestern: 50+%
Chicago: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmmmmm, this is a M/B/B (McKinsey, Bain, BCG) profile plus dancing and a 740 GMAT and a 3.2 GPA from some top school in chemical engineering, with a bit of traction in health care, both in project work and with a start-up (was that on your own? not likely but a plus if so).

First, the mantra: M/B/B kids get “in” and get “dinged”  from HBS and Stanford depending on execution, support from firm, luck, and some intangibles. Most M/B/B kids have high GPAs and GMATs, but not all, especially GMATs  (M/B/B firms often require high GMATs, ~720, to be hired FROM B school, I’m not sure if they ask about your SATs during interviews at colleges, anyone???).

Not sure what to say about the 3.2 GPA. That is low, and the issue will be whether they will blink because you were majoring in chemical engineering and not puppetry (a favorite major of future Goldman tigers, who must learn to manipulate their “Muppets”).  I think what you got going for you is the thread –your science background, your health care practice work at a Big 3 consulting firm, and your goals.

As noted, B-schools like the idea of a narrative arc, almost as much as Hollywood.   That, plus being a female in science (a small but real plus) and possible firm sponsorship (another plus, but a good sign if it happens because it is a proxy for strong recommendations).  Put all that into a beaker, and either shake it or stir it, and you got something in the top half of the Big 3 martini, which is a position that often leads to an admit.

The only shortcoming in this profile is your lack of do-gooder extracurriculars, which would make for a nice plus, but is not strictly necessary. Your desire for a Masters in Public Health dual degree is neither here nor there, although mentioning it might increase your bona fides. I’m against dual degrees (except MD-MBA) but that is a personal bête noir, others may disagree, my thinking is, you can get most of the value of the MPH by shrewd course selection your 2nd year in B-school, and save yourself about $200,000 in missed income and tuition. I’d be happy to hear from anyone who disagrees.

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  • Consultant

    Here is my profile:

    White Male
    Age 25

    Public Ivy (Cal/UCLA/Michigan/Virginia) 3.8 GPA Economics and Political Science
    Phi Beta Kappa
    Cum Laude

    GMAT: 740

    Board of Directors for college HIV/AIDS charity w/ 500k+ in revenue
    Fraternity, several committee chairs but no executive council
    University Tour Guide.  This was actually a very prestigious job.  Roughly 350 people applied for 20 positions each year.
    In current job: Lead effort to organize company participation in HIV/AIDS walk each year for past 3 years.

    Deloitte Consulting, Strategy and Operations, 3 years
    Promoted once
    Firm paying for B school
    Past experiences: Internship at a very small and very young M&A Investment bank
    Internship at a mid-size tech company Mkt Cap ~$500mil writing content for their website

    Dream School:
    Stanford GSB

    Goal: Transition to a general management position in tech.

    Additional Schools of Interest:

  • Big 4 Consultant

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d really appreciate it if you could comment on my chances, I have an odd mix:

    Target schools:
    Wharton, INSEAD, LBS, Columbia, Yale

    – 26-year old Caucasian female, originally from the Ukraine
    – GMAT – 730 (97% Verbal, 76% Quant, 96% overall)
    – Undergrad – top 20 undergrad business school, 3.1 GPA (I was pre-med freshman year – didn’t work out) – dual concentration in Finance & MIS

    Work Experience:
    – 8 month internship in the UK at a multinational consumer products co. in their finance department
    – 4 years at a Big 4 accounting firm, in the Finance consulting space; started off in the IT Advisory practice & obtained Certified Information Systems Auditor certification; focused on Consumer Products and Media & Entertainment industries.  I’ve led several international projects, across as many as 17 countries at a time.  I’ve spent a total of ~4 months working abroad in the UK/Poland/Canada/Mexico

    – Part of firm’s women’s network
    – Actively involved with Cosmetic Executive Women for 2 years
    – Active in NYC tech/start-up scene as part of firm’s small business initiative. Frequently attend events hosted by Social Media Week, TechStars, etc.
    – Ad-hoc volunteering with New York cares (2-3 times/year)
    – Violinist for 17 years – have played in numerous orchestras, & performed at Lincoln Center twice
    – Avid traveler – out of the country at least 2-3 months/year 
    – Amateur photographer

    Main concern: Low undergrad GPA, low quant score on GMAT

  • GrouchoMarx

    Please help. I have a very interesting profile: 

    Black Male/Underprivileged upbringing
    GRE: 1570 (800 Quantitative)
    Undergrad: Dartmouth
    Work Experience. JP Morgan and various PE shops
    GPA: 2.7 (!…but i have good reasons/mitigating factors)

    What are my chances at Wharton, HBS, Stanford, Columbia, NYU, Tuck, Sloan, Yale, and Duke?

  • Gamer guy

    Hi Sandy/John,

    Would be great to get an eval of my stats. Targeting applying for class of 2015.  Focusing in on Stanford, Kellogg, and UCLA, but also interested in chances at HBS and Wharton. 

    – 760 GMAT
    – 3.6 GPA
    – Degree from Northwestern in Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences
    – Work experience includes two years in boutique strategy consulting (e.g., Marakon) along with two years (at application) at a major entertainment company (e.g., Disney, WB) doing product strategy for video games and other emerging technology- Earned peer-nominated coaching award at consulting firm for excellence in leading more junior analysts
    – Serve as part of inaugural junior board for non-profit serving children in Africa and Latin America; led fundraising $10K as part of a social media initiative with partner organization- Undergrad extracurricular involvement on executive board of NU orientation program and community development organization (PR role)- Goal: To build my management “toolkit” to eventually build my own tech startup or rise to a chief strategy officer at a Fortune 500 company – 26 year old (gay) white male