What Are Your Odds Of Getting In?

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

For the past five years, she has been a twice-promoted, human capital consultant for Accenture. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.66 grade point average, this 27-year-old English major wants an MBA from a top school to build on her professional success so far.

He’s a 25-year-old Asian American who someday wants to grow up to be the chief executive of a Fortune 500 company. With a background in sales and marketing, he’s hoping an MBA will help him either start his own company or begin his upward climb on the Fortune ladder.

This 29-year-old West Point grad has commanded more than 250 soldiers in Afghanistan and managed millions of dollars in infrastructure projects in Iraq. He wants an MBA for an unusual reason:  to help land a job that will allow him to change the way the Army Corps of Engineers goes about its work.

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:

Ms. Accenture

  • 740 GMAT (Q: 80%, V: 97%)
  • 3.66 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in English from a mid-tier liberal arts college
  • Work experience consists of five years in Accenture’s consulting practice, specializing in human capital and talent management; rated in top 5% and have been promoted twice
  • Extracurricular activities include heavy involvement in Accenture “extras”: Women’s mentoring, Green Practices Initiative, Recruiting (five years) Pro-bono consulting work for environmental non-profit doing strategic planning and culture alignment work (2 years) Mentorship for young woman with Autism through local community center (1.5 years)
  • Goal: To get into a McKinsey/Bain/BCG strategy practice for a few years to build out experiences before launching my own small firm focused on intersection of talent and strategy
  • “I know I don’t have any gold plated anything, and I will have to well articulate the “why now” (as I’m a bit “old” for the consulting set)”
  • 28-year-old white female at matriculation

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 10% to 20%
Chicago: 40% to 50+%
Northwestern: 40% to 50+%
Dartmouth: 40% to 50%
Michigan: 50+%
Virginia: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: I don’t think you are getting into Stanford for the reasons you note: “I know I don’t have any gold plated anything.”  Also, some small points, five years is a long time to spend at Accenture before applying to business school and Accenture (and the consulting arms of other legacy Big-4 arms, if any are left) does send kids to Stanford, but they are often minorities.  A profile of a Stanford non-minority admit from a Big-4 consulting firm is you, but after two years you ideally would have gotten another job at a boutique consulting firm (with Stanford connections) and applied in the 2nd year of your second job.

All that said, you are super solid. If anyone at Accenture has any pull with Stanford, well, see story below. The area you are in, Human Capital (what used to be called, and still is, HR) is an acceptable practice area, so long as you are providing advice to clients, as appears to be the case.  If you are internal HR or HC, and a “cost” and not a profit center, that is considered a less potent gig.  Don’t blame me, that is the way the schools look at it.

I did once hear of a kid who was  pretty darn high-up in internal HC for McKinsey/Bain/BCG and was put on the Wait List at HBS.  When he told his manager, who handled global internal HR (and was thus in charge of vetting all the firm’s many, many hires from HBS), the manager called Her Majesty. Long story short, that dude was not on the WL long.  I was not privy to the conversation, but when you are the person who directly hires more HBS grads every year than anyone else, well, you get a very attentive hearing.

OK, we all love stories like that, but back to you. First, try HBS versus Stanford. You just got a better chance there on odds alone. Or throw HBS into your mix. Your extras: “Women’s mentoring, Green Practices Initiative, Recruiting (5 years) Pro-bono consulting work for environmental not-for-profit . . . Mentorship for young woman with Autism through local community center (1.5 years)” are varied and likeable, and your stats (3.6/740) are rock solid. It would help if you concocted some jive about how you want to be an advisor at the intersection of two of your interests, e.g. consulting and green practices, and that your long-term goal is to lead a firm like that.

Saying you want to do strategic work at M/B/B is OK, but so is saying you could work at a boutique firm in “green practices” as well. For apps which ask why now, e.g. Columbia, and maybe Wharton, you may need some fancy footwork but just say you now feel ready, know your goals, and can optimize the experience. The “Why now” is not a super important element of the application, even for schools which ask it, although a bad answer can be damaging, and your many years at Accenture (vs. normal applicant tenure at consulting firms) warrants an explanation.

At Booth, Kellogg, Tuck, Ross, Darden, man, you are solid, you got a lot to like, just execute well and make them feel the love.

LAST WEEK’S COLUMN:  Handicapping MBA Applicant Odds

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  • MarineAir

    Sandy, Looking for some analysis if you’ve got it:

    GMAT: 740
    GPA: 2.8 in finance from respected state school
    12 years experience as a Marine Aviator in two aircraft
    Deployments to Afghanistan and humanitarian aid missions in other countries
    Selected for highly competitive (less than 5% are selected) flying billet
    Held many respected positions of leadership in the Squadron.

    Targets: HBS, Wharton, Tuck, MIT

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