Handicapping Your Odds of MBA Success

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

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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  • 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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