What Are Your Odds Of Getting In?

by John A. Byrne on

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

1 2 3 4 5
  • Entertainment Guy

     Hey Sandy! Would love to hear your input for my profile:

    700 GMAT

    GPA 3.1 (5 years to graduate, 3.47 GPA in final 2 years at graduating institution which is a top upstate NY school)

    Double Major in Finance and Film

    Division 1 and 3 athlete, 3 years at D1 institution, 1 year at D3 institution where I graduated.

    3 years at major MVPD entertainment studio in LA(1 year in
    creative development in Early Leadership Development Program, 1.5 years in niche corporate TV entertainment finance, currently working in Television Studio FP&A)

    CFA Level 1, CFA Level 2 Candidate.

    Extras: 1 year as adult leader/merit badge counselor for local LA Boy
    Scout Troop, Currently a School on Wheels tutor in community, soccer
    men’s league, screenwriting.

    Short Term: I want to work for an entertainment specific investment
    banking group or PE Shop making deals in entertainment sector.

    Long Term: My eventual goal is to open my own financing company for films and TV.

    Schools: UCLA, USC, NYU, Columbia, Stanford, Wharton

    I want to know if completing my CFA candidacy can help my profile,
    and how entertainment candidates are viewed at schools like Stanford,
    CBS and Wharton, my stats are so-so but I feel my unique profile can
    turn heads and give me an edge. Your thoughts?

  • French

    Hello Sandy, I would really appreciate if you could review my profile. I intend to apply for entering class of 2013. Thanks !- Caucasian male, French, 23-24 years old.- 3.58 GPA from a B-school in Paris with BBA in finance and marketing; valedictorian.- 740 GMAT- Work experience: 2 years at a boutique investment bank in NYC specialized in the Power & Utilities industry (3 at matriculation – went straight from graduation). Very small (6 bankers total), so much less deal-flow than BB, but more exposure. Boss is a Harvard U undergrad and Harvard Law grad, taught at B-school, and has connections on Harvard U board. Three alumni from my school in France worked at the bank (one 10 years ago, the two others left 2 years ago), and all three ended up at Tuck.- CFA level III candidate. Took it a week ago, waiting for results.- Extras: At school: was part of a student organization that welcomes US exchange students. In junior year, spent a semester at a Emory Goizueta; founded a club on the GMAT there.- Goals post-MBA: work in asset management (HF/PE/Mutual fund). If I can’t, stay in IB.Target schools in order of preference:- Harvard- Stanford- Wharton- Columbia - MIT- UCLA- NYU - Cornell- Texas-Austin- USC

  • futurebostonmba


    I am looking to apply for Fall 2013 entrance.

    Undergrad: BA Accountancy, 2008, Top 35 business school
    GPA: 3.18 (graduated in 3 years)

    Grad: MS Taxation, 2012, Same school as undergrad.
    GPA: 3.13 (completed part-time while working full-time)

    GMAT: 710 (47Q, 40V)

    Registered CPA in Massachusetts
    Age: 25
    Nationality: American (of Syrian descent)

    Work Experience:
    years work experience at Big 4 accounting firm. Experience mostly in tax and but some time in
    audit. 3 years of Private Equity experience and 1 in international tax consulting. Promoted to Senior Associate and will have 2 years experience at
    that level upon entrance. Continuously gaining more leadership and
    responsibility roles within the firm. Heavily involved in campus
    recruiting and peer mentoring within firm. Selected as one of 3
    associates to participate in National Leadership Adventure (program to
    recruit top intern candidates from around the country). Currently
    working in Financial Services but have experience in International

    On the side, I am involved in various charitable
    organizations. Organizing a 2nd annual fundraiser to bring awareness to
    men’s health. Tax advisor/preparer for charitable organization that provides underprivileged children in Ghana better opportunities.

    college I had lots of involvement in our community service organization
    serving as a leader on the board. Heavily involved in athletics (and
    still am). Member of Accounting/Finance business fraternity and in a
    leadership role.

    Future goals are to work at one of the Big 3 consulting firms in the Private Equity industry

    1: Harvard (dream)
    2: Columbia (dream/reach)
    3: Chicago
    4: NYU
    5: MIT
    6: Northwestern
    7: Duke

    know my GPA’s were low but have various reasons to explain them
    such as having been diagnosed with a tumor and having massive surgery 2
    weeks before senior final semester began and not missing a day.

    Any advice will greatly help!

    Thank you very much for your time.

  • Ms. Accenture

    Hi Sandy,
    Thanks SO much for your analysis and positive words about my candidacy.  What’s your % handicapping at HBS?  20%?
    -Ms. Accenture

  • avik banerjee

    Hi Sandy,

  • Andrew T.

    Hello Sandy,

    Thanks for all the great admissions info to you’re putting out. Would be curious to see my profile evaluatedAsian Male, 28 at MatriculationGPA 3.3GMAT 740 (73%Q/99%V)Undergrad Degree in Finance from a top state school and rcognizable business program)
    Dual majored in Pre-Med as well with all the Physics, Bio, Chem, you could shake a stick at.4 Years of work experience first at a well known IT Consulting/Outsourcing company with a healthcare focus. Worked on the acquisition team of a strategically important acquisition. Brief stint in IT project management but wasn’t for me. Transitioned into sales operations, data analytics, and business intelligence.  
    While working there, was acquired by a Fortune 50 tech giant and got to experience acquisition from the other perspective.
    Extracurriculars:My own photography businessBoy Scout leader and steering committeeMentoring high school students that recently immigrated from Asia
    Goals:Remain in healthcare technology (software and IT, not biotech/pharma/devices) but in a more entrepreneurial environmentWork for a healthcare IT startup or Healthcare focused VCSchools:Wharton, Columbia, Stern, MIT, Johnson, McCombs

  • RedRoosevelt

    Hey Sandy, Thanks for your help! §  710 GMAT (Q: 76%, V: 92%)§  3.43 GPA§  Undergraduate degree in international relations from top 30 USNWR school§  Work experience includes one year serving in AmeriCorps on national pilot team to test and gather data about the program’s impact in schools and two years as program director of a growing nonprofit organization that introduces high school students to social entrepreneurship. Currently in-charge of day-to-day operations including program growth, fundraising, social media and internet presence, board communication, etc. Lead a team of 3 and organization has already experienced significant growth and development under my leadership.§  Current extracurricular is field organizer for a high profile political campaign §  Goal: To create a social venture that promotes entrepreneurship in under-served, urban areas. I’ve become frustrated with the inefficiencies in the nonprofit and public sectors and truly believe that private enterprise can be used to achieve positive social change. §  Long-term goal: Parents started and currently run a highly successful, yet non-traditional business in the education space. Ideally, I would like to take over the reins of this business down the road.§  Concerns: My work experience is a little hard to explain and non-traditional§  25-year-old white male§  Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Yale, Kellogg, Haas, Fuqua, Sloan

  • Competitive Bidder

    Wow part 40 already? Here’s hoping I make it into part 41:

    760 GMAT

    3.7 GPA in Mechanical Engineering from Queen’s University in Canada

    Work experience include 4 years on the competitive bid team at a Fortune 100 company (think Honeywell), plus 1 year at a competitor after receiving a better offer.

    I specialize in deals ranging from $1-$10 billion that involve financing between government and private organizations. I’m one of a handful of people in the Western world with experience in this niche, as the industry is so new, so I can’t point to any MBA success stories yet.

    Extracurricular activities: I was an amateur boxer before I blew out my soldier (4 wins 0 losses), and after the disaster in Haiti I spent a month rebuilding the country with a superior court judge, who will provide a glowing recommendation.

    Goal: Banking/Private Equity/Trading

    26 year old white male

  • MrScoutsHonor

    Hi Sandy it’d be greatly appreciated if you looked over my profile.

    730 GMAT (Q73%, V99%)

    3.47 GPA

    Undergraduate degree in Communication from “lower” Ivy (Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth etc)

    Work experience includes 2 years at The Nielsen Company doing marketing consulting for major clients in the CPG industry. Received a promotion after my first year. Extracurricular involvement includes being an Assistant Scout master for the Boy Scout troop I’ve been involved with since the 1st grade (I’m an Eagle Scout). I’m also heavily involved with my company’s on campus recruiting.

    My goal is to go into marketing or brand management.

    24 year old African American male.

    I’m a bit concerned that I don’t have enough experience to be a competitive applicant.

    What are my chances at:

    Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellog, Columbia, and Tuck

  • Competitive Bidder

    Forgot to list, I’m looking for Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and Colombia. Seems like outside of those 4 I may as well just stay in Canada for an MBA. Thoughts?

    Have a great weekend!

  • Ms. Accenture

    And yes, I am external (client-facing) not internal 

  • TroutSlayer

    Here is the summary of my profile:
    White male, 26 years old @ matriculation.
    GMAT: 740, 99%V, 77%Q, 5.5 AWA
    GPA: 3.71
    Major: Industrial Engineering
    School: Arizona State University
    Work Experience : 50 months at matriculation at Boeing. 3 years as a system support engineer leading all logistical support efforts for a $350,000,000 foreign military aircraft program. Frequently presented support analysis to high ranking US and French Air Force officers. 1 year as a product integration engineer with both commercial and military customers. Recieved a promotion typically requiring 3 years of related work experience after 14 months out of college.
    Extracurricular : E-mentor for at risk youth, led team project which met once a month to perform community service projects this year.
    LORs: Manager – high praise, not a gifted writer.  Professional mentor  – very enthusiastic, well written, very impressive credentials, chairs a NATO board for unmanned aerial vehicles. 
    Target schools : Stanford, Harvard, Booth, Haas, Anderson, Kellogg.
    Career aspirations – MBB consulting short term, tech entrepreneurship long-term. Would like to focus on strategy, operations and entrepreneurship at school. Specifically interested in developing strategy for companies to adapt to disruptive technology as technological advances are accelerating at an exponential rate.  

  • Life’s a Marathon Not a Sprint

    Hey Sandy,

    Thanks for this series.  I love reading your posts and have lerned a lot.  Will you take a look at my profile and let me know what you think?

    GMAT: 770
    Did poorly in high school
    3.2 GPA freshman and sophomore year at Tier 2 university
    3.6 GPA junior and senior year at non-Berkeley/LA Univ of California after transferring
    Graduated cum laude with BS Mechanical Engineering
    3.6 GPA Masters in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech (distance learning)
    Various evening and distance courses in engineering, management, and computer science from Stanford and Washington in the last few years

    Work: soon to be 8(!) years at Boeing since undergrad, including 2 years as entry level engineer, 2 years leading small software development team, 2 years leading project teams which generated tens of millions of dollars in cost savings, and currently finishing 2 years living in Japan successfully leading a team of 35 supplier engineers.

    Extras: taught math and science to disadvantaged elementary school students for 3 years, led a team of 15 volunteers running a 3000 member professional development and community service organization , built/led the fundraising team and mentored university students with the local chapter of Engineers Without Borders

    Personal: 31 years old at matriculation, white male American, speaks Japanese

    Interested in: Harvard, Stanford, Tuck, MIT LGO

    Goals: Senior leadership positions in innovative, high-engineering content manufacturing company, possibly starting my own company in the longer term, and promoting advanced manufacturing in the US

    I think I’d have a good shot  if I had the same profile and was 26 instead of 30 (as of today), but how strongly does my age affect my chances?  Should I emphasive my international work/living/leadership experience?  

    Thanks for looking this over.

  • anil

    Hi SandyI would be grateful to have your reviews on my profile
    27 yr/Indian/Male
    GMAT 710GPA 3.4
    Education: (1) Engineering (Computer Sci) from Delhi College of Engineering ( top ten Indian engineering colleges). (2) Start-ups graduated top(worldwide) incubator programs(Founder Institute; Seedcamp; Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad).
    Work Ex: 5 yrs(all outside home country and travelled over 15 countries), started as R&D Software Engineer–>strategic marketing analyst(reporting to Strategy Director and the CTO)–>strategy expert(reporting to Strategy Director and the CTO) currently in big technology product company(annual 2billion rev). 
    Extra-curricular: Multiple International awards(top-15 worldwide by Microsoft for consecutive years and Yahoo! south east Asia) in tech field; served as judge in Microsoft start-up competition;designed unmanned aerial vehicle for US Army and DARPA competition, test-flight at US soldier battle lab; few start-up experiences; blood donation camps, yoga camps, volunteer at elderly care centres..
    Short term goal: To relaunch my previous startupLong term goal: entrepreneurship
    Target-schools: Kellogg, Booth, Tuck, LBS, Insead, ISB, Sloan
    Concerns: Low gmat(compared to peer), rejects last year from few top schools (feedback was poor recos). What do you think are my chances? What schools should I apply to?

  • Sports Guy

    Thanks for your time.
    770 GMAT (Q: 85, V: 99)
    3.8 GPA from Vanderbilt; Double Major: Human and Org. Development and English & History
    26 year old white male
    Work experience: 3+ years in licensing/marketing/business development at the NFL Players Association, with some interesting, high-level involvement during the NFL lockout (on the commercial side, not labor side). Meaningful, diverse responsibilities on a number of other projects including overhaul of licensing business and launch of e-commerce site. Can count on strong executive-level recs even though I’m relatively junior.
    Extracurriculars are light — things like intramural sports and fraterntiy leadership position. I think I could tell an interesting story about being a shop steward (junior staff at NFLPA is unionized) and negotiating against management for wages/working conditions.
    Goal: To develop quant and leadership skills in order to work at a high level in sports business industry. I plan to use the MBA experience to build knowledge and relationships that will allow me to bring a more progressive perspective to an industry that often lacks innovation.
    I am confident I can write good essays and convince schools I want to be there, but worry about coming off as somewhat of an outsider at the elite schools. Still trying to figure out how best to play the non-traditional background as a strength.

    Curious to know what my chances are at the Top 7 or so, particularly Stanford, Wharton, Sloan and Kellogg.

  • Aspiring Real Estate Baron

    Hey Sandy -

    I’ve enjoyed reading these and have been trying to apply your responses to my profile, but (similar to many other people, I’m sure) it seems like there is always different enough that still leaves me with questions. I’ll post my profile here, and would appreciate any form of feedback I can get.

    GMAT: 710 (66% Quant)

    Undergraduate: 3.1
    Indiana University – Finance Major
    Two semesters (2nd Fresh, 1st Soph) with extremely low GPA. Jr and Sr year GPA averages to about 3.4.

    Work experience: 5 years of work experience in real estate transactions group of a Big 4 at application time. Don’t carry a manager title but have functioned as a manager a handful of projects

    Extracurricular: Associate board member for a charter school that got approved this winter. Created their fundraising materials and am continuing to work on fundraising campaigns. Fraternity leadership position in undergrad, and started an event planning company in undergrad which I shuttered after graduation.

    Demographic: 28 year old white male

    Goals: Looking to shift from advisory to direct real estate investment (perhaps PE RE if I can get a job after I graduate) and continue to grow my skill set so I can start my own real estate investment firm

    Northwestern JD/MBA (I know you aren’t a fan, but I think its got practical uses for real estate)
    Columbia (and how would early decision help me?)


    Thank you for taking the time to read this.

  • GE FMP

    Hi Sandy,

    Really enjoy reading your posts. I rarely see a profile with low GMAT but other strong credentials. Generally you post low GMAT, with “meh” extras and job work OR low GMAT with ethnicity/military. Was hoping you would take a look at my profile or provide an analysis of someone that does not fall into the two buckets listed above.

    GMAT: 660(Q:71%, V:74%) Retaking and hoping for 690/700.
    GPA: 3.66
    Undergraduate major in Finance from U. of Wisconsin

    Work experience consists of a yr and a half in GE Healthcare Financial Management Program. GE Healthcare elect’s one analyst every 6 months to work in Brazil for a rotation – I will be moving in July(long application and interview process to get role). Also first analyst to be nominated for GEHC Olympic award(Award given every 4 yrs to top employees). 

    Was elected Co-Chair of the GEHC FMP Philanthropy committee in 2011. Also member of professional development committee for the FMP program. And GE liason for FMP recruitment from my Undergrad University.

    Received Business honors during each FMP rotation. And have strong recommendations.

    Post MBA goals: To get into a Mckinsey/Bain in their Healthcare Consulting group.

    If GMAT remains at 660, do I or someone with similar credentials have a chance at getting into a top Grad school? 


    Thanks for the help!

  • Harsha Pakhal

    Hi Sandy,


    Thank you for all the great admission info in your series. I would love
    to hear your input on my profile.


    Demographic: Indian male, 30 years at matriculation

    Nationality: American


    Undergrad: Bachelor’s in Mechanical Eng. from IIT Madras.

    GPA – 8.9/10 (or 3.56/4.00). Grading is tougher than most schools. I
    was ranked 12th in my Mech Engg class (out of about 110 students).


    Grad: Master’s in Mech. Engg from Purdue

    GPA – 4.00/4.00


    GMAT – 750 (Q49 85%, V42 95%), AWA 6.0


    Work experience:

    6 years at Schlumberger. 4  years
    as Mech Engg in various roles, then promoted to Project Manager at 4  years seniority (average seniority at
    promotion for this position is 6-7 years). Also, got a Senior Engg grade
    this year (Schlumberger has both Tech and Mgmt track, so I can switch between both if I want to).

    Work as Project Manager involves managing new product development
    projects. I currently handle four projects, with a team of 4 people reporting
    to me. I have worked on a couple of high profile projects (one of them is a “Top
    50” company project with a large impact to the company product portfolio).


    Recommendations: Can get two strong recommendations (one current
    manager and one previous).


    Extras: Volunteer with company’s volunteer organization over the last 6
    years, helping with different events. I also volunteer at a food bank as a
    volunteer co-ordinator, managing shifts of 300 volunteers. I recently started volunteering
    with an education development program and am also a Big Brother. In undergrad, I
    worked with a national scheme to teach Math and Science to children from poor
    neighborhoods around campus and volunteered in tech and social events.



    Post MBA goals: To get into an M/B/B firm with a focus on energy and
    later transition in to a corporate role with an energy firm.


    Target Schools: MIT, Kellogg, Chicago


    Concerns: Age. 7 years of work experience (at matriculation), so will
    have to face “why now” questions. Weak extracurricular activities.


    Curious to know what my chances would be at my target schools. Thank
    you for your time.

  • 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 of 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
    Targets: HBS, Stanford, Berkeley, Northwestern, UCLA, USC


  • Anonymous

    Where can I report MBA application fraud? I know somebody who put fake job experience on his application and got into a very good school.

  • papajonz

    don’t do anything please..let him for his destiny 

  • James


  • hbsguru

    Most top schools hire outfits like Kroll to check key data on resumes, e.g. jobs etc. That often happens after admission and deposit is received. The checking is pretty cursory, e.g. someone fr. Kroll (often contract worker in India) will call up HR office at company noted on resume and just ask if Joe Blow worked there fr. dates x to y. Similar checks are also made to rec writers, e.g. someone calls and says, “did you write a reco to school X for Joe Blow?” That process may filter out case you allude to, if not, I agree with poster directly above, ‘none of your beeswax,’  and all you can do is get into moral and legal trouble– if you make an accusation like that and it is somehow  incorrect, guy can sue you for libel/slander etc.  And even if correct, oddly, few adcoms appreciate snitches, this is not Wikileaks material and line between “snitch” and “whistle-blower” seems to favor snitch on these facts.
    On the other hand, to all of our  correspondents who send ME  insider info about the incompetence, veniality, and juicy hypocrises of b school adcoms, well, THAT IS A REAL COMMUNITY SERVICE AND KEEP IT UP.  To Snapper in SF, loved those Dee Leopold pics, she is a buff gal, I agree.   

  • hbsguru

    hmmmm, odds at HBS are 25-40 percent, you need to get rec writers deeply behind you, and somehow pick two essays topics and execute in solid way so that we REALLY like you, beyond  how much we like the basic story in profile.  For “short reach” cases like yours–essays can really help and rock solid recs are a necessity.    

  • Jay

    Hello Sandy,
    Thanks for this series and for your help.
    Would you please take a look at my profile below and let me know your thoughts?
    - GMAT:
    700 (Q47 / V39)
    - 30 years old French male (31 at matriculation):
    I lived 2 years in London (2008-2010) and currently in Singapore (since 2010).
    - Education:
    Master of Arts (MA) in Political Science (from Sciences Po – top Institute of Political Studies in France);
    Master of Science (MSc) in Management (from a top Business School in France & Europe (top 5 in France and top 15 in Europe)).
    - Cumulative GPA:
    - Education Leadership:
    Student Representative, Captain of the soccer team (win the French Business school tournament), Co-president of the sport association in my Business School, Member of the humanitarian association in my business school (mainly focused on Africa).
    - Internships:
    I did 2 different internships (16 months + 6 months) in a top French Investment Bank in Paris during my studies.
    - Work experience (excluding internships) – Total of 5.5 years
    1.5 years in Project and Export Finance in one of the largest German industrial company based in Paris;
    2 years in Project and Structured Finance in a top bank in London (top 3 bank in the world in this field);
    2 years in Project and Structured Finance in the same bank in Singapore (got promoted).
    - Languages:
    - Community:
    Tutored younger high school students to help out with maths, french and other subjects. Involvement as a member of a non-profit organization focused on education and child development in Africa.
    - Extra:
    Sports (Soccer (member of the national U15 team), ski, golf, etc.).
    Travel (more than 25 countries visited so far – mainly Europe and Africa).
    - Reasons for MBA
    Move from Project and Structured Finance to Strategic Management Consulting (MBB). (Career change).
    - Target Schools:
    Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Columbia, Insead, London Business School.
    - My main concerns:
    My age …
    Please let me know if you need more information.
    Thank you very much.

  • Forel

    Hi Sandy, I really like your analyses and sincere comments.  I would appreciate if you could have a look atmy profile. 29 Male, From Israel.GMAT: 710 (V38, Q49)Undergrad: Aerospace Engineering from the Technion, Israel instituteof technology. I was also on student body.GPA: 3.4

    Work Experience (chronologically): 3 years military service + 7 years in Defense corporations. 3-years
    military service, special intelligence unit. Did some supervision on
    others and also helped define concepts of operation.5 years
    experience (before and during undergrad) on one of the top 3 major
    defense companies in Israel. Developed, tested and instructed unmanned
    systems. Worked with clients world wide, did some marketing and
    demonstrations. Received citation. 2 years experience after
    graduation, same company, did system engineering and led a small group
    (in a matrix, 5-7 people)of integrators and engineers in a
    cross-industry $100M+ project.

    Current job – 1 year experience in
    another major defense company, as an aerospace engineer. Doing some
    exclusive R&D, and some analysis and flight test planning.

    Why MBA: Learn necessary skills, boost my career and get into leading
    positions. Do not want to stay on the technical side solely.  

    – Last 2 years in a team in “Engineers Without Borders”, developing a
    plan to raise livelihood of 3 specific rural communities in Nepal. Hoping on traveling there to test it at yhe end of the year. Also
    did a lot of volunteering in the recent years, from guiding gifted youth
    to renovating homes of less fortunate families, lots of environmental extras (cleaning beaches, helping “green” enforcement and so on).Avid photographer, Practices Brazilian martial arts, likes trekking and backpacking.

    Target: Haas or MIT. May likely add Stanford (because of technology), Kellogg (marketing) and BoothWharton.

    In a nut shell – I would really like to work in the technology field as
    a product manager or in a marketing position, probably in companies
    that make tangible stuff (as opposed to software companies) like Apple,
    Cisco, GE and such. I enjoy working with people and having a wide view
    of things (hence management wishes).

    Long term career goals: Lead a major defense company, probably back in Israel.

    Recs: I will get an exceptional rec’ from my previous employer, and probably a good one from the current employer (I’m only one year on this job).

    Thanks a lot!


  • Oil&Gas Guy

    Hi Sandy,


    Thank you for all the great admission info in your series. I would love
    to hear your input on my profile.

    Demographic: Indian male, 30 years at matriculation
    Nationality: American (naturalized citizen at age 28)

    Undergrad: Bachelor’s in Mechanical Eng. from IIT Madras.
    GPA – 8.9/10 (or 3.56/4.00). Grading is tougher than most schools. I
    was ranked 12th in my Mech Engg class (out of about 120 students).

    Grad: Master’s in Mech. Engg from Purdue
    GPA – 4.00/4.00

    GMAT – 750 (Q49 85%, V42 95%), AWA 6.0

    Work experience:

    6 years at Schlumberger. 4  years
    as Mech Engg in various roles with one promotion (after 2 years), then a second
    promotion to Project Manager at 4  years
    seniority (average seniority at promotion date for this position is 6-7 years).
    Also, got a Senior Engg grade this year (Schlumberger has both Tech and Mgmt
    track, so getting Senior is a different process).

    Work as Project Manager involves managing new product development
    projects. I currently handle four projects, with a team of 4 people reporting
    to me. I have worked on a couple of high profile projects (one of them is a
    “Top 50” with a large impact to the company product portfolio).

    Recommendations: Can get two strong recommendations (one current
    manager and one previous).

    Extras: Volunteer with company’s volunteer organization over the last 6
    years, helping with different events. I also volunteer at a food bank as a
    volunteer co-ordinator, managing shifts of 300 volunteers. I recently started
    volunteering with an education development program and am also a Big Brother.
    In undergrad, I worked with a national scheme to teach Math and Science to
    children from poor neighborhoods around campus and volunteered in tech and
    social events.

    Post MBA goals: To get into an M/B/B firm with a focus on energy and
    later transition in to a corporate role with an energy firm.

    Target Schools: MIT, Kellogg, Chicago, Wharton

    Concerns: Age. 7 years of work experience (at matriculation). Weak non-professional
    leadership experience.

    Curious to know what my chances would be at my target schools. Thank
    you for your time.

  • EnlistedHopeful

    Hi Sandy,

    I really enjoy reading your evaluations. I especially enjoy the bluntness and wit you use in telling people how they will likely fare at their dream schools. I’ve read each of your weekly articles and done a great deal of independent research, but I’ve yet to find anything on MBA applicants from the enlisted side of the military. I understand how the general demographic trends for officers versus enlisted would tend to heavily favor the latter in terms of desire and general aptitude for a top-tier MBA, but I hope to be an exception to that standard. As such, I would really appreciate your feedback on my profile.

    28 year old white male
    GMAT: 740
    GPA: 3.7 (regional university, completing out-of-cycle in December concurrent with employment, transcript contains some transfer credit from pre-military colleges featuring pretty unimpressive grades)
    Major: Finance/Economics 
    Work experience: 6 years enlisted USAF, currently a non-commissioned officer.
    Job duties: 
    -  Direct supervision of 2-8 personnel (varied by rank)
    -  Oversaw supply-side accounts totaling $224m
    -  Worked as part of unit consultant team for various maintenance elements, to include hazmat program, technical data maintenance, tool control
    -  Volunteer special duty as unit IT manager
    -  Volunteer special duty as unit PT leader, developing and leading tri-weekly personal training sessions for 20 personnel and performing fitness testing
    - Numerous military volunteer organizations 
    -  Volunteer at local animal shelter
    -  Top Secret clearance (I doubt it matters unless I apply to a consulting firm dealing heavily with military/government, but there it is)
    -  First generation college 
    Story:  Went through high school and first year of college with no real focus, lost scholarship, waited tables for a couple years, enlisted at 23 to pay for college, finally matured and found what I wanted to do (consulting). Realized my college options were limited while enlisted, so did the best I could and hoped to go on to get the best graduate education I could and hopefully go on to a top consulting firm.
    Goal:  As noted above, entry into a top tier consulting firm (M/B/B ideally of course, but I’m willing to be realistic about what I’m bringing to the table here)



    (I tried for a decent spread of realistic [I hope?] schools with a history of recruitment by M/B/B and other major consulting firms. If I missed a big one where I might be more marketable, I’d definitely be interested.)

    Sorry it’s long, but I’ve honestly not found anything on enlisted-to-MBA, and I’m starting to wonder if that’s entirely because nobody is trying or because it just doesn’t happen. I’d ideally be applying first round, since the last thing I really need is a late round handicap, but I don’t know if my being short a couple classes still at that time would be a serious enough problem to push it back. Thanks for any help you might offer.

  • Guest

    For what’s it’s worth, I met two enlisted veterans when I visited Cornell last year, so it’s not impossible to get into a top school going that route.

  • TA

    Sandy ,I’d appreciate it if you could give me insight into my chances at the following programs(unless you think I have a long shot at someplace better). Cornell



    Tuck (with early admission)


    Columbia(with early admission)


    I’m looking to move onto a global platform now and work in management consulting or explore entrepreneurial or start up options in technology

    GMAT- 730
    28 y.o Indian male (29 at matriculation)
    Electrical Engineering : University of Illinois Urbana – Champaign (ranked #2 after MIT for electrical engineering and is considered a blue chip school in the engineering world)

    GPA: bit low ~ 3.1extremely challenging program – rated to be the toughest major in the united states at undergrad level.I did however spend 3 semesters in a college in India before transferring to Illinois and my gpa there would have been a 3.7 so if the schools are looking to maintain admission stats my overall undergrad GPA is about 3.4-3.5

    W/E after undergrad:

    1 year at a start up company(started by a professor from the University in Champaign area itself) focusing on micro and nanotech based optical communication devices. Work was very high end and catered to very niche consumers such as US army .

    6 months at another tech-start up company (started by seasoned people from the industry and not a bunch of college kids) on Wall Street in New York city. The company designed and developed wireless communication and safety products for mass transit systems. Their biggest customer was the New York City subway.

    Unfortunately the H1B visas for the year ran out and I would have had to wait almost 10 months outside the US before coming back to work in the following fiscal year so I decided to go to grad school:

    M.S in Operations Research at the University of Texas Austin (Highly challenging quantitative coursework and again considered a blue chip university in the engineering world)
    Grad GPA – 3.5/4.0

    Fully funded my masters myself by working as a research/ teaching assistant.

    My masters report was on optimizing silicon wafer production in fabrication industry.
    Interned with Marriot hotel(Revenue pricing and modelling) for a semester while studying.

    W/E after graduate school:

    Presently working in a mid size Texas based pricing science company as Pricing Scientist for over 2 years and will be touching 3 years of work in December when I apply

  • Moondog33

    Hi there! Hoping you might take a look at me.
    GMAT: 700 (99th V, 55th Q) Lopsided, i know… retake?GPA: 3.35 (3.85 in my major, if that matters)School: Service AcademyMajor: Business Management (Bachelor of Science due to taking many engineering/sci courses)Minor: Brazilian Portuguese (spent a summer studying in Brazil)
    Work: Acquisition Officer, working at the HQ level on a large (~$10B) weapon system acquisition. I have also worked a couple other much smaller programs.
    EC: -Multiple leadership positions held during my time as an undergrad, to include a command of 120 people. -Currently involved in fundraising activities to support base activities, and I do some volunteer work on the side.-Conducted research at the Naval Postgraduate School’s School of Business, and was given a research award by a very high-level DoD official. Research was focused on the composition and effectiveness of DoD Acquisition reform initiatives.- I have a fledgling (alpha development stage) web start-up focused on social trend analysis and the stock market.
    Goal: If i stay in the military: work to reform DoD acquisition policy and/or find ways to retain talent (which is currently a huge problem). If I get out: work as a consultant and eventually start a business which advises  foreign companies seeking to enter the US defense market.
    23yo white male.
    I’m curious what you think of my chances, as I obviously do not fit the standard “war hero” military mold…
    Michigan (Ross)
    Thank you!

  • BV

    Both I and my partner are planning to apply for B- School.

    My Profile:

    Nationality- Indian

    GMAT: 650(79th) [V-35/ 74th, Q-45/ 71st]

    Age: 35


    GPA-3 (Undergraduate degree in Business Management from
    an Indian University)

    Part Qualified Chartered Accountant from UK (ACCA)

    Experience: 9+ years, International experience in Middle East (6
    promotions in 7 years, currently Director of Finance) Manage team of eleven in
    directing day-to-day financial activities within $2B business unit of organization across Middle East and Africa.
    Collaborate with senior leadership regarding financial statements, forecasts,
    financial models, and executive reports. Provide training for second line of
    leaders to assume leadership in diverse divisions.

    Extracurricular involvement: Volunteered a year with Junior Achievement
    Worldwide, Kuwait chapter.

    Goal- Having been in the Middle East, through my working life I would
    want to transition back to India to a General Management role. Both goals would
    be possible if I were to get an MBA from a top 10 b-School.


    My partner’s profile.

    Nationality- Indian

    GMAT: 700+ (expected)

    Age: 31


    GPA-4 (BE in Computer Science from an Indian

    GPA-3 (MS in Software Systems from BITS, India)

    Experience: 6+ years, (of which 2.5 years International experience in
    US).  Took a break in Aug’ 2009 from work
    to start a family, at that time was managing a team of 15

    Goal- Transition back to work into a lead role on Software Development.

  • Maverick


    It’s been insightful to read your comments here.  I’d be appreciative to hear your thoughts on where I stand.

    Age 31, white male

    GMAT 710 (Q41, V45, AWA 6.0)

    GPA 2.95 (Columbia, Political Science/Int’l Affairs), but including a D in Calculus (had taken Calc in high school; assumed I didn’t need to attend class.  Oops).  I plan to take a Calculus class at local community college as evidence of commitment and ability [is this worth it?].  B’s in Macro & Micro.

    Extracurricular: Army ROTC through partner school (sole member of undergrad class to earn commission through Army ROTC); served on school newspaper staff one year; volunteered during school outreach programs around NYC.  Two awards for outstanding graduate of ROTC program. Plan on adult soccer team now, including time as captain; will run marathon this fall.

    Work: Army combat officer (4yrs active; 2.5 reserve in logistics), including 15-month deployment to Baghdad during the “surge”.  Commandant’s list grad from Army schools, including somewhat quantitative mortar course.  Responsible for training & leading teams of 7-43 soldiers in a mech. infantry platoon, mortar platoon, intelligence working group, personnel office, and plans shop.  Led 100+ combat patrols of cross-functional teams; awarded Combat Action Badge and Bronze Star. Pioneered first-in-Baghdad partnership with former insurgent groups as part of multinational team.  Deployed to New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.  Served as mentor to first-ever Afghan officer to attend the Army’s introductory tank officer course.

    After Army: worked at a very small (25-person) Norwegian technology company (radar) that was acquired by Vestas.  Led small multinational teams during on-site equipment installations throughout North America; worked with international teams to improve product design, procedures, and operations; responsible for project planning & project management of the product throughout North America, including aspects of integrating it into the Vestas organization.

    Goal: General management rotational program (short-term) leading toward mid-term focus in operations management and eventually corporate strategic planning.

    GMAT – 710 is ok, but is a 41 in quant any reassurance that my college quant stuff was an aberration? (I doubt it).  How to overcome this? (was scoring 730 on practice tests – worth retaking, considering IR is here?)

    GPA – There is a generally positive trend, but nothing to write home about (final semester a whopping 3.4).  Is performance in ROTC (career track at the time) any mitigation for the bad numbers?

    Age: 31 at time of entry to program. Help or hurt?

    MBA v Part-time MBA: Married, no kids.  Part-time would be the “easier” fit, but I view it more as a last resort than a worthwhile option.  Curious to hear whether you have any thoughts on the merits of part-time programs with respect to career services for career changers.

    Wharton (dream shot)
    Duke / Fuqua
    CM  / Tepper
    Georgetown / McDonough
    UVA / Darden . . . or others you might see as being a fit?

  • Vikasbarca


    I Indian Male with BS in Mechanical Engineering From Northeastern University (3.26 GPA, Cum Laude)

    Total work experience 4 years in India.

    1 year in a start up in the Medical Field.
    1 year in a SME in Business Development
    2 Years in KPMG in Strategy Consulting

    Started and Led BD team in KPMG for Consulting and Started Basketball team as extra-curricular.

    Have some NGO intern experience also

    What are chances in


  • Pepe15


    Please give me your thoughts on getting into HBS/Wharton/Booth based on my background, and what I should focus on / prioritized to maximize my chances:

    Citizenship: International Student (Hispanic)

    Undergrad Business School: UVA/Michigan/Notre Dame

    Undergrad GPA: 3.50 Cumulative (3.7 Major GPA) (Double major in Finance & Econ)

    1st Job Out of College: Investment Banking Analyst at Citi/Credit Suisse/Barclays (NYC Office )(2 yrs)

    2nd Job: Unknown Private Equity fund focused on Emerging Markets but part of incredibly small team and exposure to very senior people (ex investment banking MD’s, group head, etc.) (3-5 people) (1.5 yrs)

    GMAT: 700

    Current Age: 26-27

    Many thanks in advanced!

  • Dek415

    Hoping you might take a look at me.
    South Asian male w/mixed ethnicity
    GMAT: 720
    GPA: 3.5, B.S. in Applied Math / Economics from Columbia University
    Work Experience:
    Investment Banking Analyst for a tech M&A shop, 1.5 yrs
    Mobile Product Manager for publicly traded English Education conglomerate in Korea, 2 yrs
    Education Pioneers Fellowship — Business Analyst at a well-known education nonprofit, 1 year
    Currently – Business Manager at Education-focused tech company in SF, 6 months+
    Director of Program at a SF-based nonprofit for getting underprivileged youth into college
    Started a nonprofit college advising company, 75% of students admitted to 1st choice school
    Co-authored an e-book on grad school admissions, available on amazon
    Skills: Fluent in Korean, conversational Japanese & Hindi
    Goals: Combine interests in business, technology, and education to start a company providing technology solutions to college admissions. Use MBA to improve negotiating and management skills to scale the business.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1091850360 James Stuart


    I was enlisted for 8 years as a Navy Nuke (Radiochemist) so I myself am in a similar situation. I’ve just recently applied. Although I have come to feel that the odds are against us, I believe that drive and dedication can accomplish any feat.

    How have you faired in your quest for admission to a top program??

  • Lucky123

    21 Years old male / Spanish/chinese

    800 GMAT
    4.0 GPA
    GOLD medalist in IMO and Silver in iPhO
    Mega Society Member who accepts one in a million based upon IQ scores, my IQ was estimated to be 179.
    Ph.D in Maths (destroyed every single national record and became the youngest person in my country to obtain a Ph.D, previous was 27 years old) I finnished high school in 2years my bachelor nd master in 2 and Ph.D in 2

    extracurriculum activities: partipicant in the swimming olympics, and national junior chess champion, no im not socailly active, and I have never joined or been a part of any sort of organizations. I am also a huge gaming entusiast, my main games are World Of Warcraft and Starcraft II (im a 3x r1 in WoW and a GM terran in Starcraft II

    ZERO work experience, no internships, nothing. Only social thing I have ever done is traveling around the city I live in and doing some math advertising at high schools to get more and younger student to study science and in specific math at university. (im kinda “famus” in my country)

    Goal: become a billionaire and create one of the leading hedge funds in the world, following in the footsteps of ray dalio, john paulson, george soros & warren buffet. and of course graduate at harvard, this has been my main goal in life since I was 10 years old.

    speaks: 7 languages very well. include: japanese, chinese, korean, english, german, french, and spanish

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