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.

  • Mr. Eagle Scout

    Mr. Eagle Scout here, checking in almost a year later. So first of all, let me say off the bat, that I really appreciated Sandy’s feedback and used this column pretty frequently when coming up with my bschool strategy. That said, I ignored pretty much all of his advice and stuck with my “boring” story. I quote boring there not because I disagree with him, but because that’s what he actually said. I ended up applying to HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, and Duke. I got into all of the schools except Kellogg (which is fairly humorous considering they should’ve been the best fit in terms of my background). Just goes to show how much of a crapshoot this whole process is! Thanks for the advice Sandy, and best of luck to all future applicants!

    -Mr. Eagle Scout

  • azn

    Hello Sandy,
        I would greatly appreciate if you could offer some comments on my profile.

     – 730 (47Q 42V)

    Educational Background
     – Received a Bachelors and Masters of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering from a non-HYP Ivy.
     – Also completed an undergraduate minor in Engineering Management.
     – Undergraduate GPA: 3.56
     – Masters GPA: 3.76

    Work Experience
     – Just completed my first year at a top-tier aerospace firm (parent company is a Dow component) as a design engineer.
     – Given my inexperience, I think my best course of action is to complete a couple of more years at my company before applying.  However, all options are open for me.

     – I was president of the student section of an engineering professional society, which had become fairly inactive in previous years.  I led the student board in renewing and expanding the group’s role as a conduit between students, faculty, and corporate recruiters.
    – I served as a teaching assistant for two semesters.
    – I am currently an active volunteer with one of the diversity groups sponsored by my current employer.

    – Still formulating, but I would like to go into finance or private equity.  In particular, I’d like to work at the intersection of engineering and these fields.
    Other Details:
     – 24 year-old Asian American male
     – I actively follow the markets on a daily basis, and invest a limited amount of money.
     – Considering taking the CFA exams to develop some more financial background – will this help at all in the application process?

    Target Schools:

    Thank you.

  • Ms. Book Nerd

    Hi Sandy—I would love it if you would consider evaluating my profile. I come from a somewhat unconventional background, and it’s very difficult to find profiles against which I could measure my odds. Thanks so much for any help you can provide!
    730 GMAT (47/76% Q and 44/97% V) – currently in the process of building an alternative transcript to boost quantitative credentials

    26-year-old female; naturalized Eastern European immigrant from
    single-parent, low-income family background

    Undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in English and
    Political Science with 3.77 GPA  

    4 years of experience in top company in publishing industry,
    with 1 year in a rotational program (highly competitive admission) and 3 years
    in marketing (worked my way up from assistant to marketing manager).

    Current extra-curricular activities: avid runner (member of company running
    club), volunteer literacy mentor (2 years). College extra-curricular activities included editor-in-chief of campus literary magazine; work at a publishing company, literacy organization, and adoption agency; research writer for student-produced guidebook.
    Goal: use my MBA marketing degree to shift industries to CPG brand management.
    Looking for candidacy at:


  • Mr. Real Estate

    Hi Sandy,

    Undergraduate degree in Economics from NC State – GPA: 3.51
    Master’s degree in Economics from NC State – GPA: 3.56
    GMAT 730 (may retake)

    Work Experience:  4 years (at matriculation) as a Quantitative Credit Risk Analyst at a super regional bank including the following responsibilities:
    -Build Credit Loss Forecasting models ( for CCAR stress testing exercise) and took leadership role with other analysts in initial model building effort
    -Key contact point for reporting of quarterly stress test results
    -Involved in development of quantitative loan pricing initiative at the bank
    -Ad hoc portfolio strategy work which includes quantifying the bank’s portfolio diversification
    -Ad hoc macroeconomic analysis for executive management (including CEO)
    -Won an honorable mention for the “CEO innovation award” (company-wide contest, only 5 winners and 3 honorable mentions)

    Extra Curriculars:
    -2 year LDS mission to the Philippines (fluent in Tagalog)
    -Assistant scoutmaster for 2 years

    I want to start my own real estate business. The idea is to create a business that refurbishes old and run-down homes and fixes them up into quality affordable homes for low to middle income families. The idea is that the business can acquire homes at low cost from bank foreclosures and short sales that may be in disrepair, fix them up and do rent-to-own programs for potential future borrowers who may not have enough of a down payment. Basically, it is house flipping of low-price homes.

    Target schools (mainly based on strong real estate and entrepreneurship curriculum):

    30 year old male (at matriculation)

  • Forel

    Hi Sandy, this is  “Mr. Aerospace Engineer”. Thanks a lot for providing a sincere and clear analysis of my profile.

    Originally I though to skip HBS, as I didn’t think that I fit well there, but I might give it a try after reading your thoughts about it. How would you estimate my odds there?
    In addition, a lot of schools seem  to love to hear about “sustainabilitygreen” topics. Should my goals be redefined to take that into account, aside from what you’ve specifically recommended?

    Thanks again!

  • racercase522

    Sandy, please assess my profile.  I think I am on the cusp with several of the upper echelon progams.
    GMAT: 710 (V 45, Q 42)

    Undergrad: 3.5 at Boston College w/ double major in
    Finance and Management/Leadership

    26 years old, white male currently living on the West

     Work Experience (4.5 years)

    –I will describe the roles in a bit more detail below,
    but I initially worked in a client-facing role for 2 years at a wealth mgmt
    firm, then realized that I wanted to be more focused on the investing side of
    the business and was promoted to our research department, which focuses on
    analyzing external investment managers and recommending best-in-class managers
    to our client services group. I think it is intersting experience because my
    responsibilities are very different from the typical “wealth
    management” firm that is more focused on asset allocation amongst their own products. I have had exposure to several
    remarkable hedge fund and mutual fund managers.

    I hope to pursue an MBA because I have continued to move
    closer to direct investing; I started on the client side, moved to manager
    research (which is effectively one step removed from direct investing), and
    would like to develop the skills (either through investment banking,
    consulting, or PE/VC/Hedge Funds) to become a research analyst in either PE,
    VC, or Hedge Funds. I want to build a network, and acquire the modeling and
    business analysis skills in order to become a better investor.


    -Research Analyst at a wealth management firm that is
    focused on creating multi-asset class portfolio for ultra high net worth
    families, pensions, and endowments.

    –responsibilities include performing due diligence
    on external equity investment management firms and maintaining up-to-date
    knowledge of the portfolios and teams of several high profile mutual fund and
    hedge fund managers. It has been great experience because I have been able to
    learn from and interact with some of the most well-known investors in the world
    in face-to-face meetings.

    –Very team-oriented work environment in a small group of
    ~20 people (out of ~100 in the firm). Roughly 14 of the 20 in the research dept
    have MBAs, primarily from Stanford and Wharton.


    -Client services/portfolio mgmt analyst at the same
    firm. This was more of an introductory role (I was promoted into the research
    department described above).

    -Core responsibilities include assisting internal
    Portfolio Managers with creating customized client portfolios and reports based
    on research provided by our internal research department.


    –Passed Level I of the CFA examination; plan to pursue
    Levels II and III once I have more clarity about whether or not I will be
    attending a top school next year

    –Sporadic volunteer work: Boys & Girls Club, Food
    Bank, State Parks Conservancy

    –Team-based intramural sports: Softball, Kickball

    –Manage personal portfolio of mutual fund and stocks

    Recs: I would likely have recs from direct supervisors
    that are CFA charterholders and have MBAs from either Stanford or Wharton.


    Targets: Wharton, Booth, Columbia, Tuck, Stern, Stanford, Duke and/or Kellogg.

  • trnyc2012

    Sandy – any feedback on my profile would be very much appreciated

    GPA: 3.2 from H/Y/P
    Degree: BA Economics
    Extra: College athlete, fraternity member

    GMAT: 740

    Work Experience: Four years (5 at matriculation) merchant banking at a mid-size, foreign investment bank in NYC serving a book of clients that includes many of the world’s largest consumer products firms – three internal promotions in four years, now running a product category within the bank

    -I use my triathlon hobby to raise money for a children’s charity for kids with cancer that I have been involved with on and off since high school
    -Heavily involved in the alumni organization for my college rugby team, tasked with revamping alumni outreach and networking, as well as heading young alumni fundraising efforts

    MBA Goals:
    Having worked in a hybrid banking-consulting-strategy role facing clients primarily in the consumer products space, my goal with business school is to pivot more towards the consumer-retail space (potentially luxury), with an eye towards a marketing concentration.  Ideally, I would have the opportunity to stay in or near New York city due to its proximity to employers and the wealth of resources here, but I am also looking a little more far afield (i.e. Kellogg or Haas).  I will likely be spun as a “career switcher” 

    Target Schools

  • Duh

    no chance at hbs/stanford: you have no real work experience. law school is an excuse for many who could not find jobs in the last few years. employers reject people, but anyone can go to a law school.