Calculating Your Odds Of Getting In

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

He plays guitar and the trumpet and sings in a band when he’s not working as an analyst for a Boston-based investment management firm. With a Ivy League degree and a 740 GMAT score, this 27-year-old hopes an MBA will allow him to “build something—not just judge others’ ability to do.”

With the exception of a low grade point average, she is an ideal elite MBA candidate. She has a Stanford degree in management science, works as a health care policy analyst and boasts a 760 score on her first attempt at the GMAT. This 24-year-old Vietnamese-American woman also is the first in her family to graduate from both high school and college.

To get into a top MBA program, he had to overcome an obvious hurdle: his age. This 34-year-old African-American has spent the last eight years with a Fortune 50 corporation and now wants to go to a full-time MBA program to help him achieve the dream of creating an incubator program that supports under-represented minority tech entrepreneurs.

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, 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. Healthcare Management

  • 760 GMAT (first attempt)
  • 3.1 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from Stanford in management science and engineering
  • Work experience includes on year in basic science research at Stanford, a year in clinical research at UC-San Francisco managing multi-site clinical trials, and a half- year as a health policy analyst; internships with Morgan Stanley
  • Extracurricular involvement as an officer in a female business organization; founded a non-profit science camp for disadvantaged girls and advised disadvantaged youth on science projects; have volunteered as a board member of a community clinic and advocating for more homeless housing in San Francisco.
  • “From a low-income non-English speaking family. Was first 
person in my family to graduate from high school and college”
  • Goal: To pursue healthcare management
  • 24-year-old Vietnamese-American female

Odds of Success:

Yale: 60+%
Stanford: 20-30%
Berkeley: 50%
Wharton: 40+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Lots to like obviously, including your immigrant Vietnamese background and the fact that you are the first to go to both high school and then Stanford College! And a 760 GMAT, plus your genuinely impressive extracurrics, both in college (founding science camp for poor girls– that one is a winner) and after college, your current work at a Community Health clinic, where you seem to be active in fundraising,.

I am having a hard time figuring out your post-graduate work, viz. “1 year in basic science research (Stanford)-1 year in clinical research (UCSF),” what does that mean, exactly? Were you hired to be a lab assistant by a professor or a post-doc??? You say, “ managed multi-site clinical trials, oversaw 1 research assistant-1/2 year health policy analyst, managed 2 administrative assistants.” Is last job, the half-year as a health policy analyst, the same as managing clinical trials, if not, in what context did that happen? It is also a bit mysterious how someone with what appears to be a non-science background got so much authority so soon. I am not doubting you, just suggesting that you need to make this more clear in your application.

Your 3.1 GPA is low for most schools. Obviously you have a lot of evidence that you are a good performer in an academic setting, and your extras also show a lot of leadership. But that needs to be explained as either taking time to adjust to Stanford from your background or just mismanaging your many commitments.

All that said, and especially with a 760 GMAT as the anchor, there is a ton of accomplishments to like here, and many business schools will wink at the GPA, as either being an adjustment issue or just an outlier. You certainly can get things done when you put your mind to it. Nonetheless, that needs to be explained.

Because there is such a tight fit between your excellent extras (both in college and afterwards), your background story from a disadvantaged community, first-gen college, and your do-gooder goals, I believe schools will bend over backwards to give you the benefit of the doubt on the GPA and non-traditional work history.

Yale has a legacy of going for people like you, e.g. social service types, but in the past several years, with a new building and new dean, it is on a campaign to up their stats (which they have, average GPA is 3.5 and average GMAT is ~720). Yale is in a death-struggle with NYU as to which will be considered a Top 10 School on several rankings (they have been tied for 10th place in several recent years at USNEWS). So they take stats pretty seriously. Nonetheless, it is worth taking a close look at the stats in the recent Poets and Quants story, GPAs & GMATs: What You Need To Get In, which show the “10-90 percent window” of GMATs and GPA’s at 25 leading schools. According to that story, your GPA does fall off the charts at Yale, where the 10-90 percent GPA window was 3.10 at the bottom. Which means 10 percent of the class has a LOWER GPA than you — and I doubt most of those people have 760 GMATs or your other powerful features in terms of extras and personal story.

The 10-90 GPA window is not available for HBS, but at Stanford it is 3.36-3.97, at Berkeley it is 3.39-3.90 (which is higher than Stanford on the floor!) and at Wharton 3.18-3.87, and let’s assume HBS is similar to the 3.3-3.9 range. That means at those schools, your GPA will be in the bottom 10 percent (probably the bottom five percent, given bunching around 3.3.). But again, I doubt those other bottom five-percenters have your 760 GMAT and powerful extras. More likely those low GPAs are special cases – minority applicants, princelings, or stories like yours.

So, drum roll please. I think you have a real solid chance at Yale based on stats and story, and an acceptable shot at Stanford (might help there, as it always does, if you had a champion to ease the way, maybe one of those profs you worked for) and HBS (which is big enough to take risk cases like you, although I don’t see a whole lot of risk).

Wharton and Berkeley are the least sentimental of the top 10-ish, and assuming you are trying for the Health Care Management Program at Wharton, they might want to see a more traditional, and less “research” HCM background — not sure that running clinical trials is spot on enough for them — but it could be. The woman who runs that program, June Kinney, has been doing it for years, and probably has a good nose for attractive risk at this point. Also, the fact that Wharton’s “bottom” 10-90 GPA is 3.18 belies a bit the reputation the school has for being stats crazed (that may be more true when dealing with their meat-and-potatoes finance types).
You need to execute very clearly on what your current jobs are (and have been) and how they link up with your goals. Getting some very savvy recommenders to champion your case might also help.

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  • JohnAByrne

    It’s impossible to tell based on the info you provided. There are many factors that are considered in MBA admissions, besides GPA and your GMAT score, including what undergraduate institution you attended, what company you work for and how much work experience you have, what leadership opportunities you’ve had, etc.

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