What Are Your Chances Of Getting In

He’s a self-taught trumpet player who has spent five years working for a Fortune 100 movie studio. With a 750 GMAT and a 3.2 grade point average from Vanderbilt University, this 27-year-old analyst hopes an MBA will help him achieve a dream to become the head of a major movie studio.

The death of her father when she was a sophomore led to a 2.89 GPA in economics at a liberal arts college. But this 27-year-old sales person for a market research firm still aims high, hoping that an MBA will allow her to start her own business some day.

After spending three years in a special intelligence unit for the Israeli military, this 29-year-old aerospace engineer has racked up seven years of work experience with major defense companies. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.4 GPA, he’s counting on an MBA to help him transition to a product management or marketing role.

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. Eagle Scout

  • 730 GMAT (Q:73%, V:99%)
  • 3.47 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in communication from “lower” Ivy (Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth)
  • Work experience includes two years at The Nielsen Company doing marketing consulting for major clients in CPG (will be 3 yrs at matriculation)
  • Extracurricular involvement includes being an assistant Scout Master for a Boy Scout troop I’ve been involved with since the first grade (I’m an Eagle Scout);  heavily involved with Nielsen’s on-campus recruiting efforts
  • Goal: To go into marketing or brand management
  • “I’m a bit concerned that I don’t have enough experience to be a competitive applicant”
  • 24-year-old African American male.

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%
Stanford: 25%
Wharton: 35%
Kellogg: 40% to 45+%
Columbia: 35+%
Tuck: 40% to 45+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmm, experience is not your problem. Three years at Nielsen at matriculation is enough, although probably on the low side of normal.

Nielsen is a good company to work for because 1. Everyone has heard of them, and 2. You associate them with data and numbers, which is a hot button item these past years, mostly BIG DATA in medicine, but data in anything, even couch potato viewing data, sounds good or can be made to sound good.

Your problem is making your core story more interesting: African-American guy working for Nielsen, Eagle Scout, on campus recruiting, CPG (that is “consumer packaged goods,” literally, peanut butter and jelly in jars and white bread in a bag, plus the Glad wrap, too), 2nd-Tier Ivy, semi-slacker grades—don’t take this the wrong way man, but that is the profile of a White Guy from 50 years ago. Didn’t I see you in a walk-on role in Mad Men??? That is the clubhouse of the 1960-era Nielsen, CPG, Ivy, Eagle Scout types.

For HBS and Stanford, you may need to make this story more, ahem, hip, e.g., using your metric/marketing skills to better serve underserved groups, especially in helping CPG producers interested in fighting obesity, cutting back on jumbo sodas, etc. Say you want to start a consulting company, which does that, and try to find one that does, in any related way, and cite it as an example. Say you also proposed a Healthy Eating merit badge in the Scouts (well, you get the idea, by this time no doubt such a badge undoubtedly exists) and have been pushing back  hard about their retrograde policies viz. homosexuals, or start doing that in some ten pixel way, enough to make your story mentionable in a resume or essay section.

Sorry if “Gays in the Boy Scouts” issue has been “solved.” I’ve lost track, but it is a good thing to mention in some way. If you think Gays do not belong in the Boy Scouts, well, that is not something I would bring up. The vast majority of adcoms believe that everyone belongs everyplace, including Girls in the Boy Scouts and vice-versa. Well, everyone belongs everyplace to a point–because adcoms do not believe that “everyone” belongs enrolled in their schools, of course . . . but hey, some girl who busted into the Boy Scouts would get a long-sock leg up.

Once we leave the magic H/S/W camping grounds and move on to Kellogg, Columbia and Tuck, things brighten considerably. I mean if Tuck is not going to go ga-ga for a White Guy Eagle Scout from the late 1950’s with solid enough stats (3.45/730), who in addition to all that, is actually Black, well, man, I’ve been peeling the wrong potatoes at KP. Ditto Kellogg, where everything seems to jive, including the marketing angle. Columbia would probably bite, too, but they are less sentimental about Black Scout Masters and would just like you on the basis of solid stats alone. Wharton could go either way.

If you are able to ‘modernize’ your story, history and goals, HBS could go for this (Essay Two: “Wish I had done better and fought harder at getting girls admitted to the Cub Scouts as part of my 15-year plan to get women in front-line combat roles  but I drank too-much macho Kool-Aid at the Jamboree!”), and maybe Stanford, but the “great-story” evidence there would have to be really compelling.