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Handicapping Your Business School Odds

The first in her family to graduate from college, she now works in marketing for a Blue Chip tech company in Silicon Valley. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.47 grade point average from a top-tier University of California school, she believes an MBA will make her more strategic marketer and provide a path into management.

After a three-year stint as an equities trader, this 27-year-old recently won a promotion out of the analyst pool at a venture bank. He’s worried that his 2.76 GPA at a public Ivy university will keep him out of a world class MBA program.

A software developer for an Android maker, his only extracurricular involvement is his time in a gym. This 23-year-old works out six to seven days a week. But he has a 750 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA in computer engineering, and he wants an MBA degree in two years to transition into operations management.

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. Blue Chip Tech

  • 710 GMAT (Q85%, V83%)
  • 3.47 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics and Asian studies from a top-tier University of California school
  • Work experience consists of two years at a blue-chip tech company (not Google, Facebook, Apple or Microsoft) in marketing operations and B2B marketing; fastest amongst peers to receive promotion, with a second promotion expected in my third year
  • Extracurricular involvement in leading a student account planning team and presenting advertising campaigns; guest lecturing once or twice a year at a local, private university on real-world marketing topics; avid Yelp Elite reviewer; 5K and half-marathon runner;
  • “I plan lots of social group events and cook a lot of food”
  • Goal: To understand different parts of the business to become a more effective marketer, focused on strategy, and eventually in a management role in the tech industry
  • “Should I wait an additional year to beef up my work experience? Or apply now?”
  • Southeast Asian-American female; first in family to graduate from college

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 10% to 20%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Northwestern: 50+%
Chicago: 50+%
Berkeley: 50+%
Harvard: 30% to 40%
MIT: 35% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: This is a case of lots of silver and probably not enough gold to get you into Stanford. A 3.47 GPA, from what I assume is not Berkeley, but some other U Cal school (top tier in your words) is solid but not outstanding. A 710 GMAT with 80+ plus on both sides is good substantively but not a finalist in a GMAT beauty contest, which is often what the GMAT is (although good enough for all schools if there were other golden elements).

You’re in B2B at a Blue Chip tech company, but not an iconic one. That is again impressive but not as impressive to schools as working for Google or Apple. Great career advancement over two years is solid and will help your recommendations (that is gold, but a lot of how it will be interpreted will be the name of the actual company and how experienced your recommenders are, although, sure, great). Extras are all industry/school-related and not helping lepers, which again is OK, but not gold.

Being an elite Yelp reviewer? Phew, that could cut two ways. Why would any normal person with a full-time job, and what seems like a lot of 3-D friends, do that? Well, you have a reason: You are a social media wonk, and that is part of your story, so it works for you. It might be interpreted differently for other applicants, especially for those on geek alert.

On the plus side, your entire bio, work, hobbies, extras and goals are all tightly bound, which is good, but again, for Stanford, maybe too good. They prefer more out of the box accomplishments for the non-elite (in terms of schooling, favorite feeder firms and stats) applicants like you. First generation college, Asian female are all pluses — but not to beat a dead horse, that is “silver” minority status and not gold (Native American or Black).

I like you a lot, and so will most business schools. I am just not seeing this as Stanford. Any chance you work for Caribou Coffee (see Top Feeder Companies to Stanford)?

You might try HBS, although you did not ask. HBS is bigger, more diverse in terms of firms it is willing to consider, and you seem their “spark-plug” type. And my guess is, Dee Leopold spends more time on Yelp than Stanford’s Derrick Bolton.

At other schools you note—Booth, Kellogg, Wharton, Haas—you are totally in range, on all counts, and it just a matter of luck, execution, getting your rec writers to perform, and convincing them you want to come. MIT/Sloan might go for someone like you as well, since you are well rounded, “soft-techy,” interesting, smart-enough and female.

LAST WEEK’S COLUMN:  What Are Your Chances of Getting In

  • wantanMBA

    Hi Sandy,

    Caucasian female, American, 23 years
    I am working in Audit at KMPG in NYC, want to go to get MBA after 2-3 years work experience (2 yrs would be better- I don’t want to put more years into audit experience when necessary when I want to switch to consulting anyway). I am really worried that audit experience will be looked down on by top MBA programs.
    720 GMAT
    Masters in Accounting and Finance from London School of Economics (graduated with Merit)
    Bachelor in Accountancy from George Washington University (3.59 cumulative GPA)
    Want to go to a top school- Harvard, Wharton, Booth, MIT, NYU, Stanford, Duke, etc.
    President of Beta Alpha Psi at George Washington University

    Please please PLEASE help me out by giving me your opinion!! I would really appreciate it!

  • Tyler

    Just some perspective (I have no idea regarding Business School).
    Undergrad: Stanford
    GPA: 3.58 in Econ
    Work Undergrad: Worked for 3 start-ups in the valley, including starting one in college that failed; Worked for a Private Wealth Management Company and an Investment Bank (Jefferies) in Technology
    Current Work: Highly competitive rotational business development program at Disney between Internal Consulting for Parks and Finance
    No GMAT yet, plan to apply in 2015

    Do I have a shot at Stanford or Harvard? My GPA is a little low, but I’m not worried about GMAT, I usually test well or standardized tests.

  • Reighlei2013

    Enhance Leadership/Mgmt and some hit on Finance.. Include Northwestern Kellogg.  People dont understand lot of people who want to goto Finance have much lesser competition in Kellogg as most of the students there are consulting or marketing focused and all the top banks hire there!

  • Sadie

    Thank you for these breakdowns. I have found them incredibly informative as an undergrad trying to figure out what I need to be doing to set myself up for admission to a top business program. Although I’m not absolutely sure what career I’m shooting for, more than likely an MBA or a masters of some sort  will be necessary so I need to be well prepared for graduate school. I realize undergrad advising may not be your area of expertise but I would truly appreciate any advice you offer. So..
    Is having an undergrad degree in business/economics/finance really “gold” and prefered over other majors?
    Is it safe to assume no one goes straight from an undergrad to an MBA program and I should prepare for at least two years of career in between?
    Are these questions are as naive as they sound?
    What questions should I be asking? 
    I am a UT freshman currently majoring in international relations but I’m on track to transfer into McCombs School of Business. I’m content to major in international relations in the liberal arts school for undergrad, but I’m worried I won’t be able to get the right kind of job to impress the top schools and just won’t be well prepared for MBA programs.
    Any tips? other than put your nose to the grindstone and get a 4.0?

  • Matt4156

    Name:  Matt
    Top Schools:  HBS, Wharton, Columbia, Chicago, MIT, any top 15
    GMAT: 720
    GPA: 3.0 (didn’t make many C’s, however did not make a lot of A’s either)
    Undergrad:  No name state school for undergrad, but did obtain B.B.A – Accounting, B.B.A – Finance, and associate degree in Economics.
    Certifications:  Licensed Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
    Work Experience:  4 years public accounting (including “big four” firm experience) as an Auditor/Consultant.  I have work in almost every industry imaginable and jump right into every companies busiest time of year – the year end issue of financial statement (e.g – as my audit experience is on company financial statements).  Really good experience, I would like to go into consulting, high finance, or add value to my current firm.  Also, one of my biggest hobbies is the stock market, I feel comfortable putting that is my letter/ holding my own in any related conversation if a recruiter were to ask me anything specific. 
    Intangibles:  First one to graduate college in my family and am a real people person that knows the definition of respect/hard work.  I managed my own landscaping & repossession business from age 15 to 22 successfully before my professional career, was elected captain of my high school football team, and belonged to various honored business fraternities at my college.  Personal activities I enjoy currently are tennis, golf, working out, and spending time with my finance’/family.

  • Ms. Scientist/consultant

    Hi Sandy,

    I was hoping you could have a look at my profile since I couldn’t find many profiles from Europe and I have no idea what my chances will be in the US… Thank you so much in advance!

    I am an Asian female living in Europe (non uk).
    Undergraduate: double major physics and mathematics from a European university (top 100 in Times HE ranking, non uk), GPA 3.6 (according to my school’s conversion system, absolute grade was 7.5/10, I would estimate top 25% of my class)
    Graduate: masters in physics from a different European university in the same country (top 50 in Times HE ranking), GPA 3.8 (7.8/10)
    ECs: serious volunteer work at a national organization, organized three large events at uni (budget ~€300,000), student advisor of the university board, semi-professional musician, international exchange year
    Work: after graduation I’ll be starting at MBB, the plan is to apply for an, MBA after two-three years
    Long-term career goal: strategy/management in public sector or NGO (I would love to end up at UNICEF, WFP, Save the children, or the like)

    I think it will be relatively easy for me to get into one year MBA programs like insead, but I am mainly wondering what my chances in the US are. How are European degrees viewed, and is it possible to go from MBB in Europe to a top business school in the US? What GMAT should I aim for? What else can I do the coming years to improve my chances? I am mainly interested in HSW, Columbia, MIT, if these don’t work out I’ll probably just go for insead.

    Thanks for your time!

  • Lost

    And what are my chances at international schools like INSEAD, Judge-Cambridge, Said-Oxford, NUS, Nanyang, LBS?

    I already have an admit from Rotman, UofT from last year with 1 yr 3 months of work experience (no project management and pre-sales experience till then.)

  • Lost

    Hello Sandy! Hello John!

    This seems to be a long shot but I’m still putting up the highlights of my profile here. A pointer from you guys would go a long way in helping me narrow down my choices.

    Bio: 25, Indian, Female
    GMAT: 710
    UG GPA: 9.01/10, Bachelor of Technology degree in Chemical Engineering from National Institute of Technology Warangal (consistently ranked amongst the top 10 universities in India including IIT s)

    Academic Background: Graduated with Distinction. Merit Scholarship holder in UG, 4th position out of 66 students in the Chemical Engineering Batch of 2010. 

    Work-Experience: 2 years. Among a batch of 40 management trainees hired as part of a special fast-tracked management hiring initiative by Wipro Technologies. The program -Wipro STAR –the first of its kind, entails exposure to various roles such as that of a Business Analyst, Software Developer, Demand Generation and Project Management Officer over a span of 24 months. Underwent certification by ESI International on Requirement Gathering and Documentation and by Dale Carnegie ® Training on High-Impact Presentations as part of the same.§  Worked as a Software Engineer and shadow Business Analyst for a Fortune 500 US e-retailer client.§  Suggested and implemented Continuous Improvement Proposal which incorporated Lean Principles to reduce the efforts involved in the project thus resulting in a reduction of efforts and hence monetary expenses by 17%.§  Undertook a study and review of the client’s Disaster Recovery Plan and presented my findings to the Global Delivery Officer within Wipro identifying the areas with scope of improvisation.§  Awarded the ‘Silver-Striker’ certification and the ‘Feather in My Cap’ award at Wipro for technical expertise and noteworthy contribution to a project, respectively.§  Took up professional mentoring on ‘Change Initiatives’ to the next set of Wipro STARs for the Retail, Consumer Goods and Transportation Sector within Wipro.Currently working as a Project Management Officer for a European client with an employee base spread across Germany, Portugal and Netherlands. Responsibilities include resource planning and forecasting, effort planning, invoicing and improvement of operating margins.

    Extra-curricular: Nominated Member of the Students’ Council, Training and Job Placement Co-ordinator for the Chemical Batch of 2010, acted as Joint Secretary and subsequently as Additional Secretary of the Photography Club of NIT Warangal, Member of the Class Review Committee for four semesters.

    Have won numerous prizes in theme-based photography events (adjudged by Mr. Unni Pulikkal, Associate of Royal Photographic Society). Passionate cook and craftsmen. My pet peeve is to make beautiful things out of waste materials. 

    Social: Part of Wipro’s CSR Initiative Wipro Cares. Voluntary member of a youth organization during college and helped craft their fund-raising strategies.

    Goal: To use my cross-functional knowledge of the Retail industry and a thorough management education to set up a consultancy firm which would provide affordable advice to small scale/ cottage industries in India to leverage technology and contemporary competitive strategies to maintain viability and increase reach.

    Phew! It’s a bit long, I know.

    What do you think are my chances at the top 10 b-schools? Keep in mind that I am not from an affluent family and hence scholarship/financial aid would be a strong consideration for me.

  • Career Switcher

    Asian American, first generation college.

    Work: Currently work in process improvement role for a Shared Service Center (HR, Accounts payable, Travel and Expense, other support functions) for a Defense Contractor (1 year), previously did accounts payable role for Merck(8 months). prior to that was an analyst role in a college hire program for BofA in their internal real estate group supporting project managers for real estate construction projects (3 yrs).

    Extra curriculars- organize community service projects for my Sunday school group. worked as an RA to support myself in undergrad. Group leader for a $100,000 student managed investment portfolio in undergrad.

    730 GMAT
    3.8 GPA
    The University of Georgia- Bachelors in Finance

    Goal: Career switcher into I-banking, wouldn’t mind working in NYC obviously but I currently live in Charlotte NC and would like to come back to work here if possible.

    Chances at: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Tuck, Columbia, Fuqua, Darden, Kenan-Flagler

  • dgreg

    -23 Indian Female-720 GMAT(85% Q, 89% V)-3.42 GPA from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (Electrical Engineering); although I was there only for 2 years, transferred from a college in India in my Junior Year (top 20, not IIT, chose to stay close to my family due to personal reasons, first class with distinction in all semesters)-I’ve been working at a small company focusing on Healthcare Finance for the last 2 years, got promoted after only one year, before any of my peers did, to senior consultant, youngest senior consultant in the history of the firm. Grew the team after a huge turnover from 3 people to 15 people. I understand the company is a weakness, but I chose a healthcare company because that is where my interests lie. The company was started by 2 Chicago MBAs 15 years ago but nobody in the company has left to get an MBA in the last few years.-I am currently also working with one of the largest hospitals in India on a micro insurance scheme for rural India-Want an MBA to compliment my Healthcare Finance skills and to be able to grow the micro-insurance scheme in rural India. I come from a family of doctors and I have grown up with healthcare chatter all around. I would have gone to medical school if not for my fear of blood, no jokes. Using my knowledge of technology and finance, I would like to start a non-profit that will find a better way to help the poorer segment of the Indian population plan for healthcare/pay for insurance. I may also choose to work for the United Nations/WHO, something I have been contemplating for a few years now.-EC: Post College: Board of Young Professionals of Chicago (leading a campaign called Organization to Community to help increase member participation); Raised over $5000 for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (highest fundraiser for the City of Chicago’s half marathon program in 2011), pended to be on the 2013 Junior Board of AIDS Foundation of Chicago(Education and Policy Committee); College: Board of Directors of Honor society, single-handedly hosted the biggest corporate networking event despite the lack of interest to spend time/money on such an event because of the recession. Helped build a foot-bridge in China by working with a non-profit in Hong Kong. Board of Promoting Undergraduate Research in Engineering – Initiated liaisons with other departments to form a larger Undergraduate research oriented organization-Languages: Spanish (conversational), English, 3 Indian languages including Hindi-Interests: Triathlons, Long distance running, traveling, trying unheard-of-restaurantsChances at H/S/W, Chicago and Kellogg. Any other schools I should consider?