Handicapping Your Odds of MBA Success

by John A. Byrne on

For the past four years, she has worked as an mining engineer and team leader for one of the top consulting firms in Australia. The winner of the New Zealand Aluminum Smelters Undergraduate Prize, this 27-year-old woman wants an MBA to help her move into a project management position.

A U.S. Naval Academy grad, he has spent two years on an aircraft carrier, including an eight-month deployment in the Persian Gulf. This 26-year-old Naval officer hopes to overcome a 690 GMAT and a 2.96 grade point average to get a top-ranked MBA to help him transition into a new career in investment banking.

His resume includes five years of integrated circuit chip design for a leading global semiconductor company. With a 740 GMAT, this 30-year-old engineer hopes an MBA degree will help him switch careers and land a job with a private equity firm.

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. Naval Academy

  • 690 GMAT (Q: 76%, V: 83%)
  • 2.96 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from the U.S. Naval Academy
  • (Received a 3.6 GPA in major with As and Bs in quant heavy classes, but time commitment to varsity basketball all four years impacted grades)
  • Work Experience includes two years on an aircraft carrier, including an eight-month deployment in the Persian Gulf, as a Supply Corps Officer in the Navy, working with logistics, finance, contracting and customer service; was in charge of the finance hub of the Carrier Strike Group and store accounts of more than 5,000 sailors; now in charge of student pay accounts at the Naval Academy as the Disbursing Officer and Financial Advisor in charge of 4,000 student pay accounts and teach financial basics
  • Extracurricular involvement as a founder of the Midshipmen Investment Club, youngest member (by 15 years) of the Army-Navy Country Club Finance Committee, which oversees the financial health of the private, for-profit club with over 7,500 members; tutor for an underprivileged 5th grader and active at Naval Academy alumni events
  • Goal: To transition to a new career outside of the military into investment banking
  • 26-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 10% to 15%
Wharton: 35% to 40%
Northwestern: 35% to 45%
Virginia: 50+%
Duke: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, I like you, but as noted many times, the single best predictor of service academy grad success at top B-schools is undergraduate GPA.  A 2.96 in economics, even with the mitigating factor of being on the varsity basketball team, may keep you out of Harvard Business School and Wharton, especially in light of your marginal GMAT (690) for those schools.  Another boomerang in your story is your self-gravitation to disbursing and financial advisory roles once in active service and in extracurrics. While that seems counter-intuitive, schools like military admits because they can, in theory anyway, bring remote and extreme experiences into the mix. Your accomplishments tilt toward things that civilians can do, and often do.

Just giving it to you straight, man, I think running a finance hub on a carrier and teaching a class of USNA students about finance is pretty solid, as well as your extras, including being the youngest member (by 15 years) of the Army-Navy Country Club Finance Committee,  and so might schools like Duke and Darden and maybe Kellogg.

I once knew a service academy grad who was in charge of cutting checks for the U.S. brigade at GITMO (this was before 9/11 when GITMO was “just” a U.S. base in Cuba), and he got into HBS/Stanford, but he had super solid stats, and a 2nd leg of accomplishments involving evacuation war games for Seoul, which I seem to recall involved actually doing some “fire drills” which moved lots of civilians out of the city—so that sounded exciting, but I think it was mostly the stats.

That’s the bad news, as it were. The good news is that you do have a tight story based around finance which synchs up with your goals of investment banking (well, given the crazy glue possibilities in B-school application essay writing and yakking, it can be made to stick) so that is solid both for application purposes and maybe even in reality. Investment banks often hire vets, although more typically for trading and sales than for straight IB, but you can cross that bridge when you get there.

Last Week’s Column: What Are Your Odds Of Getting In?

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  • Marie

    I forgot to add, age 30 female

  • anony2012

    Hi Sandy, 

    I would be interested in a profile reading. 

    Thanks in advance!

    My biggest questions are 
    1. Should I bother retaking the GMAT with deadlines coming up?
    2. Do the school choices fit with my profile?
    3. What suggestions do you have to help me offset the weaknesses in my profile?

    GMAT: 700 (73% Q) (84% V) (should I retake? not much time left for R1)
    GPA: 3.3 
    Undergrad: Midwest Ivey, Major in Econ
    Work experience: 
    IB experience out of collegeCurrently at Healthcare IT company No one in my role/company has gone to business school to compare to
    Extra curricular:
    Treasurer of local women’s group; Helped organize events in the community (e.g. financial literacy workshop for battered women’s shelter, in process of organizing clothing drive)Participating in non-profit leadership program – to partner with non-profit arts organizations in the south side of ChicagoParticipating as state level Baldrige examiner
    ST Goal: Transition to broader consulting role in healthcare industry or in non-profit world
    LT Goal: Work with tech start ups in healthcare or non-profit industry
    General: 27 years old, FemaleSchools:TuckStanfordChicagoMITDardenFoster

  • Grace

    Hi there! Don’t know if you are still doing these, but thank you in advance for any handicapping you could provide!
    GMAT: 7503.78 GPA from Harvard undergradWork Experience: 2 years of i-banking at a bulge bracket firm (investment banking coverage), 1 year at a hedge fund (special situations/merger arbitrage)Extracurricular: Heavily involved with alumni organization.  On board of educational non for profit in NYC connected to the alumni organization26 year old Asian female.  1st generation immigrant. Fluent in Mandarin.Goal: Realized that my long term dream job is in the C-Suite and not as a hedge fund PM (and definitely not as an investment banking MD).  Want to transition to corporate management from finance, possibly with an eye towards working in China.Thanks so much! 

  • Grace

    Oops.  That posted poorly.  Let me try again.
    GMAT: 7503.78 GPA from Harvard undergradWork Experience: 2 years of i-banking at a bulge bracket firm (investment banking coverage), 1 year at a hedge fund (special situations/merger arbitrage)Extracurricular: Heavily involved with alumni organization.  On board of educational non for profit in NYC connected to the alumni organization26 year old Asian female.  1st generation immigrant. Fluent in Mandarin.Goal: Realized that my long term dream job is in the C-Suite and not as a hedge fund PM (and definitely not as an investment banking MD).  Want to transition to corporate management from finance, possibly with an eye towards working in China.Thanks so much!  

  • Ms.Average Undergrad

    Not sure if this column is being continued but I would love some stats. or advice.

    Ms.Average Undergrad  (looking for a miracle)
    Rising College Senior
    Born in U.S. but also a citizen of Algeria 
    International Business Major 
    Mid-size private school 2ed/3ed tier (no pulls here)
    GPA: 3.0 
         Yikes! I know it’s low but it got better as I matured – Starting with a 2.0 freshman year, 3.0
         sophomore year, and 4.0 junior year. I hope to get a 4.0 my senior year as well but this will not                     factor in before I apply. – I was dealing with an illness 
    GMAT:700 – 740 (diagnostic and practice test).
    Intern at Stifel Nicolaus during school year
    Involvement: Volunteering with habitat for humanity, president and founder of school marketing/admissions club with 40+ members. 
    I will be getting my recommendations from professors in classes which I am an avid participant and frequent discussion leader as well as team leader when it comes time for group work/projects. 
    I also have a blog that comes up when you google my name – post range from stories of my friends 
    and I, reviews on classes and book reviews as I am a pretty avid reader and the blog includes post on authors such as Ayn Rand, James Joyce and Milton showcasing my intellectual and also my fun side. 

    What should I do with what I’ve got senior year and what are my chances as I stand. 

    Harvard 2+2
    Yale Silver Scholars

    Any other direct MBA?

  • Avg. Under

    Also what about INSEAD?

  • BA


    My profile:

    GMAT: 720
    GPA: 3.81 in Industrial Engineering at Georgia Tech
    Work Experience: 2 years at a rapidly growing software consulting firm. Not a brand name, but universally known in the utilities industry and has many F500 clients. Was promoted after my first year
    Extracurriculars: Construction work with Habitat for Humanity, taught computer literacy classes for elderly at local retirement home
    Other: White Male, Age 24, Originally born outside of US and fluent in another language. 

    Target schools: MIT, Columbia, Cal, Chicago, Northwestern. 

    Thanks in advance!

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  • Cubicle Quant

    Hi Sandy,

    I am really gunning for MIT Sloan, what are my odds?

    -GRE (ETS practice tests): 167V-97% 167Q-96% (1st practice) / 170V-99% 164Q-90% (2nd practice)
    -GPA: 3.58 in finance from University of Washington
    -Good grades in difficult finance classes, 5 on AP Calc and Physics, 3.7 in microecon and 3.5 intermediate micro (much more difficult and calculus based)

    Work Experience:
    1 year at a very small consumer goods sales company doing just about everything from sales analysis to IT (helped design and build the new database for the entire company) to warehouse work (probably won’t mention that on the app)
    2 years in the finance department at a top biomedical research medical school doing grant work, invoicing, and some budget analysis.

    ECs: Study abroad in eastern Europe, volunteer a non-profit that works with kids in homeless shelters (for a while now), volunteered at YMCA, and a prominent First Nation foundation.

    25 year old white male

    Goal: To work for a small to startup biotech/biomedial company that develops novel treatments or creates novel solutions for problems with existing treatments (such as finding a way to create a malaria vaccine that does not need to be refrigerated) as an analyst/financial manager, ultimately CFO.

    I have a real passion for this subject, and I believe it will come across in my cover letter and interviews (should I get to that point). I want to use my MBA to transition from public to private sector, and to hone my quant/analyst/leadership skills. I spoke with quite a few MIT alums and current students, and I believe that MIT’s emphasis on collaboration across disciplines and tendency towards the tech industry is a perfect fit for what I want to do.

    My work experience is definitely my killer here. My current workplace has a very sexy brand name, but my job is not attractive at all. I am hoping that crushing the GRE and having decent grades, plus some good stories to tell on essays, will get my foot in the door. If not I plan on working hard to transition to the private sector without an MBA then applying again in a couple of years.

  • mbaHopeful

    Hi, I am interested in seeing how you rate my odds of getting accepted.
    My college GPA was not very good, and I wonder if being 6 years removed
    with a new-found focus and will be able to overcome that. I’m a 30
    year old white male. I am the first of my family to graduate college,
    my parents went to college but did not graduate, not sure if that means
    anything to the admissions gatekeepers.

    My goal is to move into management consulting for high-tech companies and am considering a dual-degree in engineering.

    GMAT: 750 (42V/49Q)

    GRE: 161V/165Q


    BS in Computer Engineering from Kettering University

    83 on a 100 point scale, roughly translates to a 2.7

    Work Experience:

    Work as a civilian for the Army. I started as a co-op in 2003 and remained there after graduation.

    Volunteered to travel to Afghanistan for six months and worked as the
    Theater Lead Engineer for Southwest Asia for a vehicle platform.

    Currently working with the CIO on a special project to develop a workforce manning forecasting tool to be used across the Army.


    Alumni Advisor to the Sigma Chi fraternity at Kettering U. (should I include this?)

    Looking to get into Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, MIT, Kellogg

  • Chiquitita

    Hi Sandy

    I am an Indian female, 28 years old.

    1. CFA charterholder
    2. MBA in Finance from top Indian B-School. Equivalent GPA – 4.0
    3. Engineering undergrad from top engineering school in India. Honors with distinction. Equivalent GPA – 4.0

    Work Experience:
    1. Started out as Management Trainee in India’s largest private bank — in Investment Banking. Assisted in a large transaction in financial services.
    2. Currently working in a mid-market boutique investment bank – with lot of exposure to Private Equity & M&A transactions. Have executed 4 deals personally across, PE, Structured Finance and Cross-Border M&A.

    1. Worked as editor for Chemical Engineering society at Engineering College
    2. Organized technical events in Engineering College by soliciting sponsorships from large companies
    3. Worked as Placement Co-ordinator at B-School in both years

    Goal: To expand my experience in the investment industry, particularly private equity. To work in a buy-side organization with portfolio across various geographies.

    GMAT — Yet to appear. Please take a score of 720 or so.

    I would like to know my chances in H/S/W, Booth, Kellogg, INSEAD, Columbia etc


  • SDH

    I’m preparing to apply to several schools, and would like to know your thoughts on my chances and advice for best representing myself to those schools.
    Here is my profile:
    740 GMAT (44 Verbal, 48 Quantitative)
    3.64 GPA undergrad in Chemical Engineering from the University of Utah
    Six years professional work experience at chemical manufacturer Celanese. Five of the six years have been in leadership positions of increasing responsibility. Current job involves leadership over 85 union employees and responsibility over a chemical operating unit.
    Community involvement includes a 2 year mission to North Carolina, working among the hispanic population. Also, 2 years in leading a youth organization and 3 years of handling the finances of my local church.
    I would like to use my technical background in manufacturing leadership, combined with general management principles to lead change in a global organization.
    30 year old white male
    Top choices:
    1) Harvard
    2) MIT LGO
    3) Stanford
    4) Wharton
    Hope you’re still doing this.

  • Banking Boy

    Hi Sandy,

    Would appreciate any advice you could provide. My stats are as follows:

    27 yr old Indian Male

    3.9 GPA in engineering undergrad from an Indian University

    3.7 GPA in Finance & Stats masters from US Ivy

    GMAT – 720 minimum

    1 year work experience in PE in the US
    3 years work experience in mid-market IB in India with experience in cross border M&A and IPO

    I only really want to apply to Wharton. Would be great to get your thoughts on my chances.

  • Kate Schleitwiler Kruizenga

    Only applying to Haas & Stanford as I have a spouse in the Bay Area. What are my odds? I think I jive pretty well with Haas’ core values considering my commitment to public service/social justice, ability to learn new/skills & industries but worry some parts of my resume are unsavory.

    – Haas Evening MBA & Standford MBA both take GRE
    – I have a 610 Verbal, 720 Quant, 5.5 Writing from January 2008. Had planned to apply to graduate school sooner, but chose to get married instead. Will an ‘old,’ but relatively competitive score hurt me?
    -3.53 Undergrad from University of Wisconsin
    – Political Science + International Studies
    – Graduated with double major in 3 years, distinction in Political Science
    – Lowest grade was a C in calculus – missed many lectures due to travel to East Coast for rowing, but I hope my quant score on the GRE compensates here?
    -Spent 2 years on the UW Lightweight Rowing Team [team won nationals, but I wasn’t in that boat]
    – Very involved in organized community service programs through multiple organizations on campus including leading alt spring break trip.

    Work Experience
    – Working since HS to pay my own way through college [no loans, graduated debt-free]
    -1 Year of AmeriCorps service in 3 public schools with small, local nonprofit. Strong results for program I implemented.
    – 2 years of state government work – this is a ding, as I was an office manager and this was a job to pay the bills while my spouse finished his PhD
    – I think it shows commitment & ability to work with very difficult colleagues & supervisors. Did increase responsibility and have very strong recommendations.
    – With Teach For America Staff since July 2010, promoted every summer, now in third role joining Manager-level doing strategy/design work that is quite rigorous. Given how competitive TFA is, especially for non-TFA corps alumni, I feel this helps alleviate the sting of prior non-rigorous state government work
    – One of 3 women [out of 18] on church leadership team; leading development and strategy efforts to increase the budget by 50% in one year and greatly expand church’s impact; spend 15 hrs/week on church work in addition to 50 hr/week FT job. [Only 2% of the Bay Area attends church, so I feel that my Christian faith makes me very unique for both campuses]
    – Avid road cyclist, completed 1/2 marathon last year

  • big 4 hopeful


    Wondering my odds for HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Darden, MIT, Kellogg:
    Profile: 26 year old white male (27 at matriculation)
    GMAT: 710 (78 Q, 90 V)
    GPA: 3.86 (Virginia Tech)
    work experience: Big Four audit for 3 years (4 at matriculation), very visible clients
    extras: president of honor society at school, CPA, some light volunteering to mention


  • thanks

    this made me happy.

  • Mr Europe

    Hi Sandy, am I late? here is my profile:
    -Italian white male 26 yo at matriculation
    680 GMAT (50Q and 32V planning to retake it)

    – BSc degree in Business Administration (GPA: 3.86), Bocconi University (top Italian)
    with international experience: Exchange at San Diego State University.
    MSc degree in Finance: (GPA: 3.6); Bocconi University (again) with international experience: Erasmus program at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid (Spain) (European Union scholarship)

    – Work Experience: Deutsche Bank CIB (1 year 8 months), joined as intern, then equity research analyst; KPMG advisory (8 months)

    – Extracurricular: volunteer as a tutor in an mentoring program for High School students,
    – Goals: High level position in a Socially Responsible investing firm.
    -Target: Harvard, Berkeley, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, MIT, Stanford

    Thank you in advance

  • Asad

    Hi Sandy,

    I would really appreciate if you could evaluate my profile 1) 700 on GMAT 2) 3.29 GPA from best business school in Pakistan (BSc – Econ and Finance) in 2007 3) Worked as specialist for the pricing of biggest telecom brand in Pakistan and now working as Assistant manager Pricing and growth for niche markets ( Telecom company ) one of the top 10 organizations in Pakistan ( revenue wise ) 4) have had a chance to startup and manage for two years a two sale point food outlet and then sold to pursue job as i was relocated 5) have extensive teaching experience and a good story of teaching a blind professor for one year and helped her apply and get Fulbright scholarship

  • SurprisedByGMAT

    Hi Sandy,

    I haven’t found anybody even close to my profile. I had been planning on going to accounting grad school, but did really well on the GMAT so I decided I’d look into some of the top MBA programs.
    GMAT: 770, 51 Q, 46 V (took once)
    Undergrad: 3.9 GPA in Math (teaching) at State university in the Rockies (full academic scholarship)
    Work experience: missionary 2 years in China, 3 years in U.S., and now 3 more years in China–currently on multi-national leadership team overseeing 100+ staff, nearly fluent in Chinese (although the more I learn, the more I realize I don’t understand)Things I’ve had to do as part of my job: conference program director, speaker at university fellowship meetings (100+ students), fundraising, ethnographic research in villages, earthquake relief coordinator.
    29, white male, married, daughter
    Goals: want to use MBA to transition from mission field to marketplace. I think the values that served me well here–integrity, teamwork, servant leadership, and cultural understanding–will serve me well in the corporate world. I love leading others and get more excited about their excellent work and creative ideas than I do my own. After graduating from business school, I would like to be in management at a non-financial services corporation, preferably.tech-related.

  • Penn Slacker

    Hi Sandy,

    This year I’m applying to Wharton, Kellogg, Columbia, Michigan, Duke and NYU for Fall 2013. My profile is below, and I admit I slacked off in college (partied too much). What are my chances?

    GMAT: 690 (55% Q 97% V)
    UPenn undergrad
    GPA: 3.0 in Economic History (mix of Econ and History), with some Cs, some Bs, and some As
    Career: will be 4 years in summer 2013 at 20-25th Vault ranked consulting firm. Worked internally in biz dev research group, with extensive leadership experience. Directly manage 2 reports, as well as manage 5 members of external consulting team. 2nd in command to a 53 year-old former Big 4 partner (writing one rec) who reports directly to CFO. Promoted twice in 3.5 years. Have led teams to our international offices in Asia and across the US as most senior person on team, including personal meetings with office, region, practice heads
    White Male, will be 26 in 2013
    Little to no extracurricular
    Goal: To move into corporate strategy in consumer products. Undergrad minor was psych, took marketing classes at wharton. What I currently do involves much of the research part of corp strat, but less of the strategy. I’ve made final rounds at prestigious consumer goods firms (Coach, Apple), but keep losing out to MBB/IB candidates, and aging out of positions where career switch is easier w/out MBA (also, all people I interviewed with at Coach had MBA from top 10 school)

  • Ms. Retail

    Sandy and John,
    I would love to hear an assessment of my profile. I haven’t seen very many profiles like mine discussed so this would help tremendously! Choice of SchoolsHBS/Wharton/Kelloggs/Booth/Columbia/Stern/Haas
    Undergraduate: Electronics and Instrumentation Engineering from a Tier 2 school in IndiaGPA: 4.0 Graduated 2008
    Graduate Degree: Masters in Engineering Management, Duke University GPA: 3.2( Bad Planning, first time in a US School) Graduated 2009
    Work Experience: Apple, Inc.: Apple Retail Leadership Development Program(2 years): 24 month immersion into leading and operating Apple Retail stores. In-depth exposure and leadership experience in strategy and operations. Experience launching products, leading teams of 50-60, and store ops. Project and Internship experiences with Nokia, Ernst and Young, and PwC. Left Apple in July to move back to India. Now looking for a job with a successful telecom company or a consulting company(Retail services). In the meantime, working as a Manager with a Telecom start-up in India.
    GMAT: Yet to give. Assume 720-750GRE:1450 25 year old Indian Female6. Extracurriculars: Nothing crazy extraordinary here. Lot of leadership experience. Have been Duke’s Alumni Ambassador for applicants. Social chair for my program at Duke( lead team of 12 to organize some quite large scale events). Led logistics team(team of 10) during undergrad for event management.
    Look forward to hearing from you guys!

  • Lyon

    Hi Sandy! I went over all the 41 groups of profiles at once when google directed me to the sites. it’s so helpful! And here’s mine, I’m thinking of a MBA right after graduation of undergraduate, please help me out!

    University of Delaware
    Finance major, Chinese, 24
    GMAT: 700-720
    GPA: 3.3 / major GPA 3.8 / GPA excluding freshman year 3.7
    CFA Lv1 (make up a lit bit for the low GPA?)

    Work Experiences: Summer internship at largest Chinese local PE firm (many top B-school alumni, subsidiary of CITIC group); Winter internship at boutique investment bank Houlihan Lokey (world largest private investment bank with expertise in M&A); Summer internship at second largest Chinese local investment bank in fixed income department (Guosen Securities, did send people to Wharton); Winter internship at Baidu (US-listed, known as Chinese Google, current market value of $40billion, sent people to Yale); Summer internship at Sequoia Capital in Beijing (they are now only have three major branches, China, Israel and India).

    Are the Chinese internship experiences inferior then those in the US?

    Extracurricular: President of an ethnic student organization (members>80); run a non-profit website to help various kinds of charities raising fund, involved both online and offline works; member of a student-run investment club, which has $1.2million of portfolio; member of a business fraternity; regularly participate in volunteer works; Chinese Martial Arts the Fifth Duan-wei (medium-high level, 5/9); Chinese National Second Grade Sportsmen in swimming; Manage a fund of $50,000 for my friends and my parents’ friends, invest in stock market with an annualized return of 20%. Speaks Mandarin, English, Japanese and very basic German.

    My mother and I are actually Buddhist, I spent a lot of time in Buddhism temple and service, and I spent a year to learn Confucianism. Should I mentioned about these?

    Is it possible for me to get into a MBA program without any full-time work experience? What would be my odds? H/S/W?

    Thank you so much!!

  • cantabrigan

    My Profile:
    27 year old British Born Indian
    Speak 4 languages fluently (English, French, Spanish, Bengali)
    Cambridge Uni Econ BA(Hons) – 2.1 (3.6 GPA equivalent, Undergrad, First Class results macroeconomics, mathematics)
    Goldman Summer Analyst Sales & Trading, JPMorgan 3 years Equity trading, 4 years bulge bracket swiss bank equity sales-trading (Director level) – both jobs involving mentoring junior/other team members and cross project/regional work/collaboration.
    Frequent traveller professionally (Europe) and further afield (own interest). International Work experience (NYC, HK)
    Community service in local schools whilst at secondary school and involved as part of company new joiner mentor program.
    GMAT – not taken yet.

  • CSR_gal

    Thanks so much for writing all of these… I’ve found them incredibly helpful. Not sure if you’re still selecting profiles, but I’ll throw my hat into the ring just in case. Regardless, I’ll be pouring over everyone else’s profiles and your responses to feed into my application process.

    -GMAT: not yet taken, figure 700+
    -Undergrad GPA: 3.67, Berkeley: BA Development Studies (emphasis in econ, geographical focus on sub-Saharan Africa), w/ honors

    -3 years work experience for a start up renewable energy developer with projects in Africa (I was employee #2 – company now has 75+ staff in 3 countries). Initially based in London office, now based in West Africa (not Nigeria), managing the corporate social responsibility program and local operations.
    -I was a part of the company from inception (started as an independent consultant evaluating the potential investment in West Africa before the company officially existed), was brought on full time when the initial contract was signed with the gov’t — company will have IPO’ed by time of my application. It’s been a wild ride.
    -Will have solid letters of rec from CEO of the company, and a from a director (Harvard EMBA)
    -Extras: strong background volunteering with NGOs (especially in Africa), currently spend my weekends volunteering with a small organization benefiting street kids.
    -Widely travelled (40 countries, 6 continents), avid sports fan, coffee snob
    -Homeschooled through high school (self motivated and independent, not weird and nerdy). I doubt high school extras matter, but I was pretty successful in speech and debate (several national accolades etc.)
    -First in my family to graduate from college
    -Goal: To work within companies with large scale investments in Africa to bridge the divide between the for profit and non-profit sectors. Interested in developing new best practices in CSR for companies working in developing countries (particularly in Africa), and in how the NGO world can compliment the growth spurred by investment in infrastructure (particularly energy).
    -27 year old white female
    -Targets: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Dartmouth, UCLA

  • Ants

    Hey Sandy, my situation is a bit different in that I’m currently a senior in undergrad, planning on applying to b-school after two solid years of work experience. Would love to hear your feedback on my chances at a top b-school given the information below (I have a lot of interest in Notre Dame’s 1-year MBA and schools on the west coast). I’m curious to know both strengths and weaknesses from your perspective. Thanks for the opportunity.

    680-700 GMAT expected (college senior, not yet taken)
    3.8 GPA
    Undergraduate degree, BBA in both Accounting & Business Honors at Texas A&M University
    Hispanic Male (~24-25 whenever I plan to apply)

    -Work Experience: will begin at a Big 4 management consulting practice in NYC beginning in August. Prior work experience includes (I know it’s not nearly as important, but may serve as a good indicator for future): 2+ years as a coordinator for scholarships and the Business Honors program at Texas A&M’s b-school, two summer internships at a Big 4 firm, a summer working in sales at a regional bank, a summer cold-calling on businesses for a private wealth manager, and a year working in Sales at Sears Holdings

    -I’m planning to apply to b-school after 2 years of working at the Big 4 management consulting practice in NYC

    -Extracurricular Involvement: was previously Vice President of large business fraternity, attended selective MBAJumpstart program at Wharton for minorities to be introduced to banking/consulting careers, selected into Business Fellows program at Texas A&M, Boy Scouts (Eagle Scout) and leading freshmen undergrads to help ensure successful transition as undergrad students

    -Goal: After mgmt consulting experience, plan to transition into interactive entertainment management at a company like Nintendo or Microsoft– I firmly believe that these companies offer products with high intrinsic value to their customers and I aim to be a part of that culture (career goal? President of Nintendo of America, or product innovation leader at Microsoft).

    -Target Schools: Notre Dame (major interest), Stanford, HBS, Columbia, Berkeley, UCLA

  • IanKehoe

    Hi Sandy

    These articles are so insightful, hopefully you will online to do them.

    Please rate my profile for the top us b schools

    GMAT – 680 ( confident I can retake and exceed)
    GPA 3.55 (approx translation of high 2.1 law from red brick uk Uni)
    Irish male.
    First in family to graduate.
    3 years project management (non IT) at a top uk law firm (promoted after 1 year)
    2 years consulting with PA Consulting Group in London
    Leadership positions within GLBT groups
    Mentor to disadvantaged high school kids
    Goal – move into MBB in the US

    Thanks in advance

  • German Guy


    I really would appreciate if you could rate my chances, although I might seem like plain vanilla.

    – German citizen (age 27)

    – 1 year social works in South America after High School (equivalent to US Peace Corps)

    – Attended #1 undergraduate Business School in Germany finishing top 10-20% (they do not disclose)

    – LSE (UK) postgrad degree top 10-20%

    – 2 consultancy internships during studies (1x tier one (BCG/MCK), 1x tier two (BCG/MCK)

    – 18 month of work ex with BCG/MCK in Germany

    – started NGO consultancy run by students during graduate studies with high profile clients

    – failed with own start-up








    Two Questions:

    – As a European guy what do you think is the tradeoff between a European and a US school in terms of career prospects?

    – Will the failed start-up hurt?

    – What are the prospects for BCG/MCK guys from abroad? Most peers around here go on to Europen school?

  • Guest

    Hello Sandy,

    My situation is a bit unique and Deborah Knox who is also a poets and quants contributor advised I get your feedback.

    Bio :33 y/o Indian, Female, IT Project Manager with 7 yrs work experience both in India and U.S

    Short-term and Long-term goal:
    Transition from Consulting into IT Product management. Want to work for an e-commerce firm (Google/Amazon) towards launching and managing innovative web applications.
    Leverage this experience towards launching my own IT entrepreneurship venture targetting innovative solutions in the education domain for emerging markets.

    Education :
    B.Tech – Top 20 Indian School – non IIT !
    M.S (Comp Science – UT Arlignton – 3.8/4.0 gpa)

    GMAT : 710 GMAT

    Total Work Experience : 7 Yrs.

    Work Experience Details:
    USA : 5.5 yrs total (1.5 Yr at tech start-up, Followed by 4 yrs at Deloitte Consulting). Moved to India after layoff at Deloitte.
    India: 1.5 years at a mid-sized Management consulting firm reputed in the Asia-pacific region. Served as project manager, solid work experience with recognition and awards for leadership.

    Extra-curriculars: IEEE Publication, Ton of volunteering from undergrad and grad school – consistently in the area of education including Junior Achievement, Lions Club. Most significantly, right after my move to India following Deloitte lay-off but before taking up work in India, I served as a life-skills tutor for 1 year at an education Non-profit in India.
    This experience has shaped my short-term and long-term goals. They will be one of my references.

    Current status :
    Recently moved to US where spouse is based. Unable to work the last 10 months as my husband was diagnosed with a serious medical condition. It was chaotic and a major life event for us. However, I’m headed back to work in Nov 2012 for a reputed American Consulting firm with operations in India.
    During this employment gap, I have used my time towards volunteering with Junior Achievement, Toastmasters. Also completed trainings and certifications relevant to my line of work (Certified Scrum Master, PMP). I continue to volunteer significantly for the education non-profit in India mentioned above.

  • CalgaryAuditor

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d appreciate if you could handicap my odds of getting into Harvard or Stanford. Here are my stats:

    -750 GMAT (98%), 44 verbal (97%), 49 quant (85%)
    -4.0 undergraduate GPA (2nd out of 242 graduates) from Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada
    -4 co-op terms (internships) during university at Grant Thornton LLP (Ottawa, Canada), KPMG LLP (Victoria, Canada), and 2 at Ernst & Young LLP (Calgary, Canada)
    -Rowed competitively for 6 years prior to and during university. Was on the university varsity team and had some reasonably strong success (including winning a major international race in Boston) but never made the national team.
    -3 years full-time experience at Ernst & Young working in the audit group. Currently entering my second year as a manager. Received the fastest promotion to Manager in over 20 years (2 years compared to a standard 4-5).

    -In addition to auditing, I’ve provided accounting advisory on a couple major ($500M+) deals in the energy industry and I’ve been involved in a number of office-wide quality and efficiency initiatives.

    -Received my CA (Canadian version of a CPA) designation and placed first in Western Canada on the final exam (1,100 people passed the exam that year in the region, so estimates are that approximately 1,400 wrote the exam)

    -Recently passed my CFA level 2 examination. Scheduled to write level 3 next June.

    -Extra-cirriculars include: (1) CFO for a not-for-profit I co-founded promoting the use of social impact bonds in Canada to fund social initiatives (still a very new company with $40,000 in initial research and PR funding), (2) Member of the Board of Directors for a Calgary charity focused on engaging youth in volunteering (about $700,000 in annual donations), (3) mentor for Junior Achievement, (4) play in soccer and hockey teams in recreational adult leagues

    -In addition to English I speak French decently and I’m learning Mandarin

    -24 year old white male from Ottawa, Canada


    Short-term: To take a management position at a small company focused on new cleantech or efficient energy technology. Note that my work experience is entirely with clients in the power and utilities industry. I’d like to be involved in helping a company like this to manage their growth and determine an effective strategy to market their technology.

    Long-term: similar to short-term but to lead such a company and take it from unknown technology to a widely known and recognized technology with positive environmental impact.

  • David

    Hi Sandy,

    I very much appreciate you reviewing prospective applicants chances at top tier schools, your insights are extremely interesting. While I’m not yet to the point of applying for an MBA myself, actually considering a master’s in public policy before I do commit, I would really appreciate a review of my projections for when I do apply to an MBA program. With that said, my qualifications are more or less assumptions, especially my work outlook for the next 3-4 years, but I am confident that most things will remain generally the same.

    29yr old, white male
    GMAT: 700
    Undergrad GPA: 3.85 (business finance major at a small Catholic school)

    -Graduate Degree in Public Policy, GPA: 3.5 (hopefully will be from Georgetown U.)

    Work Experience: 4 years as a staff assistant with a China focused Capital Hill Commission in Washington DC. Primary duties at Commission include Accounting/Budgeting, Human Resources, and marketing/outreach. Also interfaced with Congressional staffers and assisted with economics/trade research. Internships with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Labor.

    Future Outlook: Will be returning to the Boston, MA area in four years to take over family business that is in the energy, heating, a/c, plumbing, etc. industries. Business will be marking its 100th year operating in 1919 and I will be taking over as a fourth generation family member. Annual revenues are in the $20mil range and employs around 50 people.

    My goal upon returning is to earn an MBA from HBS or MIT Sloan. Any insight you may be able to offer me would be much appreciated.


  • Traderwannabe

    Hi Sandy,

    Just wanted to know my chances at a top school.
    30 year old Indian Male
    University of Chicago BA in Economics 3.7/4.0 GPA (I transferred in)
    GMAT 620/800
    Quant 47
    Verbal 28
    IR 7/8
    AWA 6/6
    Work Experience is 6 years as an Interest Rates Trader in BB Investment Bank
    Ran a team of 4 people generating Profits for the bank. Pretty significant pnl actually. Honestly have had some pretty good years. The whole reason for doing the MBA is to learn the valuation side of the business. I trade macro but I want to learn to trade bottoms up. Its hard to put the message across to adcoms I think. I need to learn valuation skills in distressed assets, special situations and combine it with my risk taking background. I reall want to do this and then eventually move back to India.

    Extracurricular while working has been sponsoring a small school in rural India
    While in college I was president of a club, Treasurer of my Fraternity and ran a small student business.

    Problems I see are
    1. The super low verbal score. English is practically my first language. I was a debating champion in high school and grew up in London/Bombay. I just bombed the verbal section. If they interviewed me they would know its not an issue.

    2. My salary at the moment is much higher than a post MBA salary out of a top school. I am not trying to come across as arrogant, just that I had good years at work. But now at 30 I realized I do not have a set of skills I need. I am willing to give up time/money to acquire them….

    Am I doomed…

  • K Shank

    Hi Sandy,
    I’m at the U.S Naval Academy and I want to attend one of these Business Schools in the future. However, I have to decide now weather I want to become a Naval Aviator (with a longer service commitment) or a Surface Warfare Officer (Stationed on a ship). I was wondering if admissions looked at either one in a better light. I have heard Naval Aviation may be worse since you are older when you get out of the Navy, and you get more management experience as a Surface Warfare Officer. Any thoughts on how what you do in the Navy helps or hurts your chances of getting in?

  • You are idiot

    You are such an idiot! No way at Top 10 without work experience! What the hell is University of Delaware? H/S/W from such a third tier school? What the hell is Guosen Securities? From reading your profile, I easily identify you as Chinese student from third tier US college. Idiots, but think they are Gods.

  • Lyon

    Wow. it’s been three years and you bring me back here. Well, what can i say… as a future MBA, you need to open your eyes and see the world trend. Knowing nothing about China is not something fancy to be proud of, it’s actually a shame in nowadays world, especially for someone in business pursuing a MBA… You know AIIB? Just like China and its Asian & European partners are so tired of US and decided to do something constructive without it, I’ve forgot about the plan of pursuing any kind of “MBA” or “HSW” in the US for a long time… As a co-owner of a p2p lending company and an ad-firm, I’m currently okay to be an “idiot”. Not to mention that when I was still a FOREIGN full-time sutdent, I used to pay $80k of tax a year solely beacuse of capital gain — what an idiot, right? I’m no god my friend..we all know which country on this planet is most addicted to play god… ha

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