Assessing Your B-School Odds

by John A. Byrne on

He’s a self-described handsome and personable 29-year-old who works as a senior project manager for a consulting firm. With an undergraduate degree in sociology and philosophy, this poet wants to go to business school to help him start his own consultancy “at the nexus of the government and the private sector.”

She a quant and a poet, a Big 4 auditor who has played the violin for 17 years, having twice performed at Lincoln Center. But this 26-year-old Ukrainian woman is worried that her low 3.1 undergraduate grade point average  and low quant score on a 730 GMAT will keep her out of a top-ranked business school.

A graduate of the U.S. Navy’s Nuclear Power School, he’s spent five years as a Naval Officer. He’s now looking to get an MBA to help him transition into venture capital and entrepreneurship. His dream school: Stanford.

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. Big Four Ukraine

  • 730 GMAT (V97, Q76)
  • 3.1 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business and MIS from a top 20 B-school
  • Work experience includes four years at a Big 4 accounting firm, starting off in the IT Advisory practice focused on Consumer Products and Media & Entertainment industries; obtained Certified Information Systems Auditor certification
  • Extracurricular involvement in firm’s women’s network; actively involved with Cosmetic Executive Women and active in New York’s tech/start-up scene
  • Violinist for 17 years, having played in numerous orchestras and performed at Lincoln Center twice; amateur photographer and avid traveler
  • Main concern: Low undergrad GPA due to my pre-med classes, low quant score on GMAT
  • 26-year-old Caucasian female, originally from the Ukraine

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 30% to 35%
Columbia: 30% to 40% (if Early Decision)
Yale: 30%
INSEAD: 50% to 60%
London: 50% to 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, violin-playing Ukrainians and amateur photobugs score high with me, and you have a good deal to like even for adcoms, whose tastes often have different hot spots.  I think your concern over your ‘low’ Quant score on the GMAT (76 percent Q with total score of 730) is misplaced. That is fine for most schools, and the fact you were working in (and majored in) finance and MIS should tamp down any actual fears about your abilities to do quant-type stuff.

The rest of the GMAT is a beauty contest, and your 730 is quite a good-looking score.  The GPA issue is a more valid concern, schools will cut you some slack with the pre-med story, but what is GPA with first, pre-med year out of the mix? That could be an important issue.  Your work experience, consulting at a Big-4, is solid for schools you are interested in, and you have both firm and general extracurrics, which make you seem like an active and attractive addition to most B-school classes.

You don’t state goals, but I assuming something to do with Consumer Products, Entertainment and Media (CPEM? TED’s Balkan cousin?). So that is a good fit in an expanding and exciting area. The fact you can leverage actual tech skills (“Certified Information Systems Auditor” certification)) into sectors like Consumer Products and Entertainment, is another employability plus.  Those areas often attract ‘soft’ applicants who then discover, “ whoa dude, there is numbers here and not just taking pictures of models in the latest shade of blush.” Your quant background (even beside GMAT score) will be a plus.

All that said, I think Wharton may gag over the 3.1 and Big Four. Although as we have noted, Wharton’s “80 percent GPA window” is wider on the low side  than many imagine.  Some rave recommendations would help.  Columbia does not like swallowing a 3.1 either, but if you applied Early Decision there, and stressed how being in New York City could help you hussle in your CPEM career aspirations, and made it clear how employable you would be, well, it is an acceptable reach. Really lobby them by going to forums, taking the tour, etc.  Yale is a wild card since they are trying to re-imagine themselves, partly with solid stats. I think you stand a good chance at INSEAD and LBS.

LAST WEEK’S COLUMN:  Handicapping Your Business School Odds

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  • Jakemgraham

    Hi Sandy, I really appreciate the help.
    27 year old white male
    GMAT: 740
    GPA: 3.1 Econ from a large state school
    Work Experience:
    5 years with a FTSE 100 Engineering Company
    2012 – Sales Manager – Brazil ($30m responsibility, 8 direct reports, youngest department manager in company (16k global employees))
    2011 – Brazilian Automotive Sector Head (Brought operations of a new US division to the Brazilian market, 2 direct reports)
    2010 – Mergers & Aquisitions Analyst at HQ in the UK
    2009 – Operations Coordinator at one of our Chinese Plants
    2008 – Marketing Analyst in the US
    Extra: Youngest person identified as a “Rising Star” (the 100 fast tracked employees of the corporation), corporate ethics trainer in the UK, US, Mexico and Brazil, organizer for the Brazilian equivalent of Habitat for Humanity.
    Recommendations: 1 Division President, 1 Global Director
    Short term goal: to have P&L responsibility for a B2B business division operating in the US or Latin American markets
    Long term goal: CEO of a global company
    Target Schools: HBS, Stanford, Berkeley, Northwestern, UCLA, USC

  • Tony

    Sandy, these posts are awesome, thank you.  I have read nearly all of them, but I don’t think I saw one from my industry, so I was hoping you could give me a quick assessment.  Thanks either way!

    27 year old white male (enough Hispanic to qualify, how much would that help?)
    GMAT: 750 (Q: 48 (80%) V: 44 (97%)) 
    GPA: 3.2 – major in Economics, Financial Econ minor from Vanderbilt

    Work: 5 years experience at one of the major movie studios in Los Angeles (part of a Fortune 100 corporation).  Started at a very entry level position, the only way for someone who didn’t know any one in Hollywood coming straight from school, but since I have been promoted through four levels in my time here, now at an analyst level. This progress is commendable if I can say myself, especially during a period when my industry was suffering losses and going through major cut backs.  

    Recs: Solid.  My current boss is SVP and earned an MBA from UCLA and will write me a very positive recommendation.  My other one or two will also be very good, with one of them also being from an MBA grad.

    Extras: Have produced several shorts, one of which got into a short film festival in Los Angeles, as well as a couple commercials.  Co-commissioner of company softball league (huge company), some various volunteer work but nothing too noteworthy. Also a part of other sports rec leagues.  And a recently self-taught trumpet player.

    Short term goal after MBA:  An executive position in Strategic Planning or Distribution for a major studio or production company.  Would like to focus on burgeoning international side of business (where my experience is currently).

    Long term goal: Head of studio or production company.

    Why now:  I am at the doorstep of a next level job, and an MBA will strengthen and hasten my case in becoming an executive. I have developed a great working knowledge of my industry, and an MBA would bolster the skills necessary to put this knowledge to use.

    Schools:  Stanford and HBS (long shots to say the least I know), Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Tuck, Columbia, Stern, UCLA, INSEAD, LBS.  are there any other top programs who might take a shine to someone like me?

    Perceived weaknesses:  is there any way to explain away my undergrad GPA other than youthful naivety that could make these schools look the other way?  I am immeasurably wiser at 27 then I was at 19.  Could an even higher GMAT nullify the GPA?

    Also, coming from a niche/underrepresented industry – does that help or hurt me?

    I know this post may be a bit long, but thank you for any sort of response you can provide!


  • Korean Female

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate if you could review my information!
    Korean female, 26 years old
    710 GMAT (over 80%/80%), TOEFL (as I am int’l) 118
    GPA 4.0/4.3 I graduated as the first class in my school (Summa Cum Laude) from one of the 1st tier universities in Korea (undergraduate major : business)
    WE: I work for the top PR firm in the world and I worked for about 3 years now and was promoted three times. Before, I worked at retail/operations and managed revenues, mkt activities, 100+ store employees, etc. I also worked as an intern in one of the major NGOs and did fundraising. (overall work experience : four years all in Korea)
    Extra curricular: Taught English for blind, worked as a school ambassador (undergrad), worked as student representative to help the school get a prominent international certification
    International experience: lived in Europe, US, other Asian countries for 10 years
    Reason for MBA: want to make a transition to management consulting that will give me increased opportunities to help a client (not limited to pr and mkt), eventually want to start my own consulting firm that also puts focus on pr/messaging as well
    Dream schools: HBS, Wharton, Sloan, CBS, Kellogg, Booth, Tuck, INSEAD
    Concerns: PR not a hot job for schools (a field where almost no one has a MBA nor wants one), schools are not very familiar with Korean universities (apart from the very top one) and I’ve heard stories that they don’t really understand what level those schools are, took GMAT multiple times, in a competitive pool (Asian female.. maybe not as competitive as Asian male but still these ppl tend to have higher GMAT)

  • Omar


    Can you please evaluate my profile….

    Average grades in school and graduation B.E.

    Worked for 3 years with IBM
    IBM certified developer

    Started my own healthcare company during the job (as I was bored of IT) and currently working full-time
    (1 year part-time and 1 year full time)

    Traveled extensively to African & Middle Eastern for my business
    Have 1 patent
    2 papers published in international journals
    Know 5 languages – English, German, Arabic, Hindi , Urdu (my native)
    Worked as a volunteer in an NGO for 6 months
    Besides this have certification in skiing and trekking and other extra curricular experience

    Why I want to do MBA

    I feel the lack of management skills in areas such as marketing, negotiations, strategy, finance etc. hampering my business growth.

    There have been several instances where this lack of knowledge has been clearly felt.

  • Omar


    Forgot to share other info that I forgot to mention in the above post

    I want to do an MBA with a focus on general management

    Can I make it to ivy league

    GMAT and TOEFL yet to give.



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