Handicapping MBA Applicant Odds

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

He thinks of himself as a charismatic and empathetic leader who has been working for two years at a mid-market private equity shop after a two-year stint at one of the Big Three consulting firms. But this 27-year-old is worried that his work experience makes him fall s into the oversubscribed bucket of MBA applicants.

He graduated from the Juilliard School of Music at the age of 17 and toured the world as a concert cellist. But after suffering nerve damage in his left hand in an auto accident, his musical career ended abruptly. Now in marketing for Parker Hannifin, this 26-year-old wants an MBA to help him start his own business.

He’s a consultant with Deloitte with internships at three resume-enhancing companies: Amazon, Bank of America, and Procter & Gamble. But this 24-year-old African American is concerned that most of his projects at work have focused on systems integration, which is hardly perceived as sexy.

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 tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

Mr. PE Consultant

  • 710 GMAT
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business
  • Work experience includes two years at one of the Big Three consulting firms and the past two years at a middle market private equity shop
  • Extracurricular involvement includes a two-year stint on a Mormon church-service mission, have also led multiple young professional mentorship initiatives as a global steering committee member for global alumni organization and have professional development initiatives as member of student government
  • “In a nutshell, I’m a charismatic and empathetic leader with a passion for mentorship”
  • Goal: “To raise my own growth equity fund and provide entrepreneurs with the capital and advice they need to change the world with their ideas”
  • 27-year-old white male, married with three children

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 20% to 30%
Harvard: 30% to 40%
Wharton: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, if you read this column regularly, you’ve heard this from me before: Guys like you get in and get dinged at HBS and Stanford depending on, in your case, most importantly, what the school thinks of your private equity shop and what its record is at those schools. If someone can juice your app with a phone call if you don’t get interviewed right away or if someone is a FOD (Friend of Derrick), your chances improve considerably.

Other generic issues are your GPA, which is fine in general but could be on the lower side for LDS (Latter-day Saints/Mormon) applicants, who often range from 3.9 to 4.0 in my experience. Only partly joshing, but you are in a tight cohort of PE white guys and a sub-group of McKinsey/Bain/BCG PE white guys, and then a further sub-set of all that and LDS PE white guys, as you seem to be aware.

Similarly, a 710 GMAT is totally fine but guys like you often present scores like that.  You could gain some tiny halo effect if your Mission was in some exotic and non-English speaking area of the world. And to complete this nay-say on what is, in general, a strong profile, your non-Mission extras are going to be devalued a bit as too much ‘inside baseball” by which I mean too much done as a service to firm and to school, and focused on business. There’s not enough impacting communities outside your neighborhood/comfort zone, viz. working with HIV-positive sex workers in Mexico.

You say, “In a nutshell, I’m a charismatic and empathetic leader with a passion for mentorship.”  I actually believe you but those qualities are hard to capture in an application, especially the new anorexic current HBS app. That is why having recommenders and champions at Harvard and Stanford are so important. You might get in through the front door, especially at HBS where that door is wider. But a lot may turn on dumb luck, your current firm’s ‘brand’ at those schools,  and intangibles.

As to your goals, you want to “raise my own growth equity fund and provide entrepreneurs with the capital and the strategic advice they need to change the world with their ideas.” Dat’s nice and it would be  nicer still if you can point to projects at your current PE firm where you got a taste of that–one way to get that into your HBS application, beyond the 400 words they give you. That is good jive for Stanford, too, not that they care much, but it beats saying you want to explore social media as a way of marketing cigarettes to Asian youths both in the USA and in developing countries.

You might notice that Stanford recently sent out a press release touting the school’s emphasis on turning out entrepreneurs, with this excerpt: “Graduates describe the ideal business culture as one that is flat, non-hierarchical, encourages risk-taking and has a strong culture of mentorship.”  To the extent you can align yourself with that ethos as a reason why you “really, really” want to go to Stanford, it might get you some good karma. All that said, find some FOD and work that angle real, real hard.

Guys like you get into Wharton all the time, it is just a matter of serviceable execution, convincing them you really want to come.

LAST WEEK’S COLUMN:  Assessing Your B-School Odds Of Making It

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  • Teach4AmericaMan

    GMAT: 710

    GPA: 3.76 (Graduated in 3 years)

    School: Undergraduate Degree in History from Virginia Tech

    -Honor Societies: Phi Beta Kappa, Golden Key, National Society of Collegiate Scholars, and Phi Alpha Theta

    -In college I was an officer in Phi Alpha Theta the History Honor Society helping secure the Best Chapter Award

    -Opinions columnist for the school newspaper, The Collegiate Times

    -Teach for America Corps member; I was part of a charter corps region (first year of a new region) and am the youngest corp member in the entire region. I taught 1st grade and both years teaching my students grew 1.87 years in reading and 1.91 years in math.

    -Worked as a School Operations Manager at Summer Institute in between my first and second in Teach for America

    -Interned over the summer for a US Senator

    -I’ll be applying for to MBA/MPP Dual Degree Programs

    Goal: To be at the forefront of the education reform movement; making sure education policy is not only focused on preparing kids for the needs of the 21st century economy, but it is also centered around equal educational opportunities.

    -22-year-old white male

  • Teach4AmericaMan

    Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Columbia (MBA/MIA), UVA, Duke

  • Anony

    wow! I worked on the project for Sanofi and Genzyme merger. Talk about impact!

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