Handicapping MBA Applicant Odds

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

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

  • Anony

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

  • Teach4AmericaMan

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

  • 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

  • Dreaming Big


    I’m hoping you can take a look at my profile. I haven’t seen anyone with a profile similar to mine on this thread…

    740 GMAT (50 Quant, 40 Verbal)

    GPA: 3.5 in psychology / minor in chemistry from Southeastern public state school

    – undergraduate coursework is loaded with science courses, I was pre-med but during my senior year decided not to pursue medical school

    – 3.9 over last two years of study

    Military Experience:

    6 years in US Marine Corps reserve infantry – enlisted

    – combat deployment to Afghanistan during college (would have been my senior year, but had to come back and finish a year late)

    – because of maturity level / work ethic was selected to a “police-mentoring team” during deployment to Afghanistan; lived and worked exclusively with a small team of Marines and a company of Afghan military on a remote Afghan base in southern Helmand province

    – responsible for mentoring and training Afghani military in military tactics, techniques, and procedures with an emphasis on preparing them to take over military responsibilities in the region after US withdrawal

    – significant interaction with Afghan populace – constantly working to gain their trust and help to develop their local infrastructure

    – over 150 combat patrols

    – team leader – directly responsible for 3 Marines, by end of deployment I was responsible for anywhere between 6-10 Marines at a time

    Other Work Experience:

    – began working for the nation’s largest tank truck transport company in their Management Development Program – traveling to various operations learning different job functions and roles within the company – basically a “ground up” immersion program

    – Company specializes in bulk transportation and logistics of petroleum and specialty products (bulk chemicals and merchant gasses) – nothing glamorous, really just logistics / trucking

    – Assigned to a management role (current role) after 8 months (usually takes people in the program between 1 – 1 1/2 years to be assigned to a similar role) – I’m the assist. operations manager for one of our larger operations in the southeast that specializes in petroleum transport / logistics

    – In this role I came in and completely reorganized the staff’s schedule and responsibilities – to accomplish the same output with 50 fewer man-hours per week – big cost saver

    – I implemented new standard operating procedures for our largest account (generates over 2.5 million annually) that has increased the account’s revenue per hour (a big measuring stick in our industry) and thereby increased profit

    – directly responsible for 4 people and share responsibility with my direct supervisor for 35 others


    – Leadership roles in elected positions within my fraternity every semester of my sophomore, junior, and senior years

    – Community service through the fraternity including helping to plan and execute philanthropy events

    GOAL: : Utilize my MBA education and the problem solving and decision making skills I learned in the military to transition into management / strategy consulting

    At least one of my recommendations will be strong (my former military commander)

    The other should be strong but I am not so sure (my job is very unhappy that I’m leaving them to pursue an MBA)

    I’m a good writer and should be able to successfully articulate what my goals are, why I need an MBA, and why I need it now.

    25 years old (at matriculation) white male


    – Some schools say they count military experience that occurred before graduation towards the full time work experience, others don’t say anything – without the military I would only have two years of full-time experience at matriculation.

    – Work experience outside the military is not glamorous and most admissions people will probably have never heard of my company, even though we’re the biggest nationally at what we do – my industry doesn’t usually send people to MBA programs because they don’t apply. I took the best opportunity I could get in the business world out of undergrad as a pre-med / psych graduate.

    – How do admissions committees look at military experience in an enlisted capacity? All the veteran profiles on school websites seem to be officers.

    My target schools are:







    Am I aiming at the right schools? (I know Chicago is a reach but it’s a dream)

    Are there any top schools that might like profiles like mine that I’m not considering?

  • Jim

    Hi I was hoping you could take a look at my profile in regards to admissions into a 2+2 MBA Program. I am currently in my Junior year.


    GMAT: (I havnt taken it yet but based on SATs I think I can definitely score above 700)

    School: 3.85 GPA in Honors Program for Finance and Economics from the University of Delaware

    Work Experiences: Two IB internships at JP Morgan and and internship with a Delaware Senator

    Extracurricular Activities: Vice President of the Investment Club, Vice President/Treasurer of the Real estate Club, Secretary UD ALPFA Chapter, Honors Student Advisory Board, Business School Advisory Board, Started two Non Profit Ventures (One is a program that teaches science to kids with cancer at a local hospital, the other is an organization that provides basic school and medical supplies to underprivileged children in Nicaragua)

    Goal: To work for a venture capital firm. My parents are entrepreneurs and I am very interested in the idea of investing in start up companies.

    I am a 20 year old Nicaraguan Male (Don’t have a Hispanic surname)

    Target Schools:

  • Dm


  • Lae27

    Please take a look at me:

    Mexican 27 years old
    GMAT 700
    3.64 GPA in accounting & Finance from a top mexican university (Monterrey Tech)

    3.52 GPA in a financial analysis specialisation course in Spain

    English TOEFL 647
    Fluent in Portuguese

    Internship in a wealth management firm in Northeast USA

    Actual job and only job: Three years at a leading boutique investment bank in MX, previous analysts have gone to Booth and Stern.

    Extra-curricular includes english and history classes to elementary school kids and tree planting.

    Raised capital and invested in the market during college with good results.

    Future goals: VC, impact investing in emerging countries

    Chances for:
    Maybe Tuck and Berkeley…

    (I don’t like Wharton)

  • Mehrnoosh

    HelloI read this and last years articles about Admission odds & handicapping and etc. I still have serious questions.

    Can Mr.Kreisberg , considering my profile, give me some advice? or answer some of my questions.

    My profile:

    Female,27, Iranian

    Education :    Finance from the best school in my
    country – I got my degree in 5 years (had to work)

    GPA : 15.1/ 20 (our top student graduated with GPA
    under 19).

    GMAT : not taken expect 700+ (by practice tests at home)


    -2years  PT(Part time) from sophomore year – Intern then junior accountant – in small NGO

    -1Year PT (4th year student) Junior auditor – auditing firm

    -8 month FT (still in school) Acting as the whole department of finance&accounting&internal audit/policy in a retail company

    -* 4 Month FT (right after school) as CFO in an international NGO(responsible for accounting, bookkeeping, payroll, writing annual budgets,
    assessing projects budgets, so on + doing all these work for the
    previous year and getting the audit report in just 3 month because they
    had fired the last person 7 months back) 

     * Special moral circumstance for leaving: reporting sexual harassment to regional office&board of directors and also not having any standard in operations and spending the projects budgets on luxury of CEO& Board members

    –  **almost 4 years (going on) FT in a newly established consulting firm that me& my friends started. We work in entrepreneurial field, helping developing,new or small businesses be the best they can.

    ** I’m the HR expert but not limited to this field. Because we’re a
    small group we have to do everything on our own so although we each
    have specialties, we know something about everything from law to market research to finding suppliers and etc.


    management faculties Volleyball team for 4 years

    VP of Green Earth Club at M.A.M**

    Honorary member of Adolescent group at M.A.M

    Events organizer/volunteer  at M.A.M

    **M.A.M is an NGO working around/educating families specially mothers.They also have different sub-groups about  environment,game club,different age groups,…

     aside from volunteering there, my first work experience (2years) was there

    What are my chances at these or other top B-schools?

    (BTW: My dream school is Wharton, then Michigan& Kellogg)


    General Questions:

    What happens to international Students?

    With all the odds and profiles that you put here, no international student has a chance for these schools. Either they don’t have work experience in well-known companies or their schools are average even in their countries.

    Is there a different measurement for international students?

    How are they supposed to compete with a Harvard or UC-berkely
    or even michigan state graduate when their world school rankings is over

    Should they give up on top 20 or 30 schools or they might have a chance?

    Thank you for the time and effort you put into these articles