Handicapping Your Elite MBA Chances

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

She’s a 27-year-old woman with a passion for science, Now working in software quality assurance for Wells Fargo, she hopes an MBA degree will help her transition into the biotech industry.

With an impressive 760 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA in engineering from UCLA, this 25-year-old Hispanic male works for a top private equity shop. He believes an MBA degree will give him a head start as an entrepreneur in educational technology or gaming.

A former Teach for America teacher, she now works as an adventure travel guide. But with a 740 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average from a top public university, he’s planning to use the MBA to help him land a job with the likes of GE Healthcare or Medtronic.

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:

Ms. Biotech

  • 700+ GMAT (not yet taken)
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in biochemistry and cell biology from UC-San Diego
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Master’s in biology from UC-San Diego
  • Work experience includes time at a small biotech company after graduation, but contract ended due to economy crash in early 2009. Was unemployed for six months so enrolled in a teaching program. Have been with Wells Fargo since fall of 2009 in software quality assurance, first as contractor, then analyst and hired as a full-time employee a year later in midst of a hiring freeze
  • Extracurricular involvement as vice president of public relations for my sorority in my senior year and now on the communications committee for the young professional network for Wells Fargo
  • Goal: Want an MBA to increase my business knowledge so I can eventually get back into biotech on the business side
  • “My real interest there is business development focused on utilizing bioinformatics in the biotech industry”
  • 27-year-old white female with a passion for science

Odds of Success:
Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 10 to 15%
Wharton: 30% to 50%
MIT: 30% to 50%
Chicago: 40% to 60%
Berkeley: 30% to 50%
Columbia: 40% to 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: Phew, what we got here is a great beginning, a happy ending and a so-so middle.  To wit

  1. the beginning: 3.9 in Bio both B.A.  and M.A., a projected solid GMAT score, plus an excellent first job at biotech
  2. the happy ending:  as you put it,  “get back into biotech  . . . .My real interest there is business development focused on utilizing bioinformatics . .  . .”
  3. with a so-so middle:  the actual four years you spent at Wells Fargo doing software Quality Assurance, which is a real snooze area at top tech firms like Oracle and Microsoft, and at 2nd-tier banks approaches Rip Van Winkle territory in terms of sleepiness.

I would not overly worry about the six months you spent unemployed getting a teaching certificate. That could be spun as a positive, and there’s not much you can do while unemployed.  Also, not that much  looks good anyway, except maybe body building or working for an NGO, which makes you employed.

I would worry more about how come you never landed another job in Biotech and apparently stopped looking. On your resume alone it appears that you drank the Wells Fargo iced tea–it wasn’t even Kool-Aid, since they were not really promising you anything. You just felt comfortable getting approval, and having a job, and learning new things. Not perverse motives for staying by any means, but by that time the Biotech market had recovered. Adcoms may wonder why did not hustle to get a Biotech job instead of remaining comfortably numb at Wells Fargo. Especially in light of the fact you already had worked in Biotech.

On the plus side, you are a woman in science and that is a plus. Extra-currics are vanilla.

I’m not seeing this as Stanford. They just won’t buy your story and they can get their full of Biotech biz side people from blue chip Biotech companies.  They go to Wells Fargo QA for minority candidates, the same way they go to the Big 4. Plus a lack of extras won’t help there.  HBS is bigger and the “snow globe” you have created about your goals– bio-infomatics– would appeal to them, as would the woman in science shtick.  Hashing around  so-called Big Data is a real hotspot at HBS, see this recent article, How Will the “Age of Big Data” Affect Management?  in a recent HBS Working Knowledge.

 At other schools, you become competitive based on stats alone, assuming some kind of 720 GMAT, and just presenting yourself as someone interested in what they have to offer.  E.g. I’m sure MIT does bio-data in some way. You seem to be convincing in your profile note about your knowledge of the field and your burden in the application would be to sound very convincing about the field and its variants and how you fit in.

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  • Guest

    FYI – Sandy is probably going to want to know your GPA(s) in order to evaluate this ….

  • R.Hay

    Undergrad GPA 2.8
    Grad GPA 3.3

  • MissCambridge

    Retake your GRE, you might have a fighting chance as an Indian competing with a nation full of MBA applicants.

  • Paul

    Hello, I am a 45 year old physician with 5 board certifications (including sports medicine, physical medicine and rehabilitation, and pain medicine) and am a graduate of a Harvard (Massachusetts General Hospital) residency program. My residency program was, and remains, highly competitive and typically has over 500 applicants for 7 positions.

    I attended the Ohio State University for my Medical School and Undergraduate studies. My bachelors degree was in the biological sciences (Zoology, minor in Arabic) and I finished with a 3.51 GPA. During this time, I was caring for my mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment (the reason I decided to pursue a medical career), as well as working two jobs.

    I have taken the GMAT twice, and scored 730 and 740.

    During residency I was on the well renowned MIT blackjack card counting team (from the movie ’21’ and book, bringing down the house. I also lectured during the same timeframe as a guest in MIT’s engineering department in a course called ‘Elements of design’, which led to the development of several devices, including an ultrasound unit for preserving bone density in astronauts. I was a member of a four person team which placed as a semi-finalist in MIT’s entrepreneurial contest (at that time also known as the ’50k’) for a three dimensional ultrasound analog chip for a portable scanner.

    I hold a telemedicine patent. I’ve been a director of a well regarded surgical center in the Bay Area. I also ran a major medical practice on my own, with 5 offices in Hawaii and California. I trained clinical fellows in advanced surgical procedures of the spine between 2004-2006. I have offices and licensure in California and Hawaii, and gross in the low seven figure per year working part time.

    Frustrated by a mechanical problem in a sports car I bought in 2004, I went back to school. As a result, after graduating at the top of my class at Wyotech in Fremont, California, I am the only doctor in California who is also an automotive technician, and this, along with my training credentials, led to a lucrative consulting business dealing with accident reconstruction and Medicolegal reporting. My hobbies include martial arts (first degree black belt, Tae Kwon Do), languages (Japanese, Hindi, Spanish, Punjabi), and mounted (horseback) archery.

    I want to join Stanford or Harvard’s MBA programs in particular because I already have good medical connections at both institutions. I have an uncle who has an international banking software company in Atherton (Silicon Valley) and want to work with him on developing seamless back office support for Electronic Medical records and integrate my patent into this. I also have several ideas for medical and surgical devices which I would like to pursue through affiliations with engineering departments, and on my own at the Bay Area Techshop locations.

    I would also like to get involved in the automotive industry with designs for more efficient engines (rotary bladeless turbines). I’m obviously a non-traditional candidate. I am slow looking at spreadsheets (as a result my IR score was low) but I’m working to remedy this and feel I can definitely overcome this obstacle.

    My wife is has a law degree from Japan (Kyoto University) and an MBA from Marshall/USC. She thinks my unique background will appeal to the schools I’m shooting for, but I am concerned about my age and lack of background in finance/mathematics. I am shooting high. It is only worth leaving my lucrative practice for a top 3 program and the corresponding connections.

    Please help me assess my chances.

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