Handicapping Your Odds of Getting In

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

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

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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