Can You Get Into A Top MBA Program?

by John A. Byrne on

An avid boxer, this 27-year-old entrepreneur expects to compete in the Golden Gloves tournament this year. With an expected 750 GMAT and a 3.65 grade point average, he wants an MBA to help him launch an SAT prep company.

For the past seven years, this 29-year-old Wharton undergrad has been in the Marine Corps, flying attack helicopters. Married with a child on the way, he wants to go to business school once his military commitment ends to transition back into civilian life.

He’s a disenchanted lawyer who wants to be more involved in decision-making and leadership. With a 750 GMAT and a 3.6 GPA, this 28-year-old wants an MBA to transition into consulting and eventually public sector management.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these 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, 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 candid assessment:

Mr. Pricing

  • 730 GMAT
  • 3.05 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign
  • “I had my priorities wrong and partied more than I should have instead of focusing on an extremely challenging programs, but it was a great experience. I had a near MBA experience in terms of interacting and living and socializing with people from every part of the world”
  • 3.5 GPA (Master’s)
  • Master’s degree in operations research from the University of Texas-Austin
  • Work experience includes semester internship with Marriott hotels in pricing and revenue management and forecasting; currently working for more than two years as a pricing scientist in a mid-sized Texas-based consulting firm
  • “Most senior managers in this firm are PhD’s or masters degree holders. Some of them believe business school is a joke”
  • Extracurricular involvement in fitness and nutrition over the last ten years
  • “Very affable person with great interpersonal skills”
  • Goal: To get involved in technology-based startups
  • 27-year-old Indian male

Odds of Success:

Chicago: 20% to 40%
Kellogg: 20% to 40%
Michigan: 30% to 50%
Dartmouth: 20% to 30%
Berkeley: 30% to 50%
MIT: 10% to 20%
Carnegie Mellon: 30% to 50%
INSEAD: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Phew, we get the picture, and in your next re-incarnation, my advice is, “wait a couple of years to start partying.”  Remember that no man on his deathbed ever said, “Jeepers, I wish I had gone to more stupid parties as an undergraduate than going to HSW.” No my friend, as your life passes before your eyes, you will see how going to those stupid parties, and doing other silly things you thought were fun, and meeting diverse people, and winding up at some 2nd tier business school, and some other low-rent jobs, like, er, this one, “pricing scientist in a mid-size Texas based consulting firm,” where you got to rub shoulders with such witty types as, “Most senior managers” who thought that “business school is a joke” well, all that was deeply not worth it. Especially when the “what could have been” image appears, going to a top-tier B school, where the lay-about alums hire those dead-ender PhDs to set the prices on whatever widgets they are selling and spend their days and nights at fetes for such exciting personalities as Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

I also love this crack, “I had a near MBA experience in terms of interacting and living and socializing with people from every part of the world . . .” Friend, the time to have an “MBA experience”—near or far– is after you get into a great MBA program. The time to bury yourself in your dorm and get good grades is before. Got that now??? You add, “very affable person with great interpersonal skills.”  Sounds true to me, but I hope you got my point by now.

You seem to understand that those low-ish grades and database- disc- jockey jobs are not getting you into HBS or Stanford, which is true. So you ask, quite rightly, what about, Booth
 Kellogg, Ross, Tuck (EA), Haas, Sloan,Tepper and Insead. You got a 730 GMAT (good) and 3.0 at Urbana Champaign, a highly respected program, and a mixed bag of science and stupid jobs (quant pricing guru) and an affable personality. That could be enough for most of those places, except maybe MIT, who get a lot of affable Desis like you except with way better stats and jobs.

A lot will depend on creating a thread that somehow links your esoteric science jobs with the less exciting stuff for Marriott and the Quant-Pricing consulting firm. You are obviously a smart guy and that could be enough at those places, plus some nominal do-gooder jive (which seems missing from your record).

You need to come up with goal statement which draws on your background and sounds like you have bigger things in mind than a mid-tier quanty pricing consulting firm in Texas, not that there is anything wrong with that.

“Most senior managers in this firm are PhD’s or masters degree holders. Some of them believe business school is a joke.”  Love it! Do you know what a lot of MBA’s also think is a joke? Spending eight hours a day in some air-conditioned strip mall in Nowhere Texas, applying your God-given quant skills to figuring out how much to charge for peanut butter. Especially when you could be doing productive things with your talents, like manipulating Libor rates, and telling regulators why you actually didn’t. That future, my affable friend, is yours at most of the schools you mention. Just get your act down.

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  • Leah

    740 GMAT (Q46, V46)
    3.59 GPA
    26 years old, white female
    Undergraduate degree in marketing with minor in finance from Missouri State University. I was president of my sorority for 2 years.
    Work experience: 3.5 years at large oil and gas equipment manufacturer in Houston. Spent one year in a rotational program moving between various business units and functions, then transitioned to a permanent position as a marketing representative for one of the business units. In marketing, my responsibilities ranged from day-to-day marketing communications to developing a process to launch new products. After a year and 9 months in marketing, I moved within the same business unit to a financial analyst role (which is my current position). My job responsibilities include coordinating financial planning and forecasting for a global sales force and analyzing sales and markets on multiple levels, and assisting with due diligence on acquisition opportunities. My marketing background has helped add context to the financial reporting I do now. Since I work closely with the sales force, knowing our products and markets has proven to be valuable.
    Extracurricular activities: led a United Way fundraising campaign for my business unit at work for 2 years, taught after-school apprenticeships through Citizen Schools for 1 year
    I want an MBA to further hone my analytical skills and continue to build upon the blend of marketing/finance or creative/analytical and use that to pursue a strategy position at a Fortune 100 company.

  • Leah

    Forgot to add the schools I’m targeting: HBS, Tuck, Kellogg, MIT Sloan

  • NumberCruncher

    Hi Sandy,

    I would appreciate so much if you could take a look at my profile. I’m contemplating either applying now, or waiting for two more years to get a Master’s to boost my chances.

    GMAT: 700+ (Expected)

    Education: Double Bachelor’s Degree:  FinancialMathematics, Economics, Minor: Statistics from a small private liberal arts school

    GPA: 3.57

    Work Experience: 3 years full-time including, 2 year rotational investmentprogram for a blue chip asset management company (ex: PIMCO, FranklinTempleton, Fidelity, Vanguard), 1+ years as an investment analyst for the samecompany. Additional work experience: Solid internship research experience (2+years) at a mid-tier investment company (AUM: ~100 Billion) while in college.


    Volunteer/Extracurricular: NCAA Division II Varsity Trackand Field all four years (team captain Senior year), played the violin for the university’ssymphony, Vice-President of Student Investment Fund. Currently: Mentoringat-risk girls at a local middle school.


    Post MBA: Become a portfolio manager, specializing ininstitutional investment solutions, portfolio strategy and asset allocation. Ihave developed the quantitative skill set in Finance, as well as solidleadership and communication skills. I would like to merge the two, as there seemsto be a need in the industry for people who can take the quantitative side of investmentsand develop asset allocation strategies that are feasible to clients. Thereneeds to be more women leaders in the financial investment research field.


    Target Programs: Wharton, Columbia, NYU, U Chicago, MIT,Berkeley, Duke


    Profile: 25 years, Female, White


    Additional: Looking into a part-time 2 year Masters inApplied Mathematics program to strengthen the quantitative skill set sincethere are not a lot of women that understand this side of finance. Would thishelp give my candidacy a boost, especially if I’ll be 27 when applying?


    What are my strengths that I should emphasize in my
    application? What are my weaknesses (GPA is mediocre, even if it is more
    technical degree)

  • Teacher

    Hello Sandy,

    730 GMAT
    3.67 GPA
    Undergraduate degree in managment from large public university in Texas.
    Work Experience: 3.5 years in business to business sales with large window manufacturer.  Sales territory covered a large part of the Pacific Northwest.  Left to join Teach for America.
    4 years teaching in low-income communities in the Rio Grande Valley.  Served as mathematics dept. chair and helped double the amount of middle school students achieving success on high school level math courses.
    Goal: To obtain a position as a consultant with a firm like the Parthenon Group that focuses on both the public and private sector.  Eventually, I would like to lead a large economically disadvantaged school district
    29 yr. old white male
    I was hoping you could help me assess my odds at being accepted to the following schools:

  • Frank

    Hi Sandy I’d really appreciate your input on my chances atsome top B-Schools…

    GMAT: 770
    Ugrad GPA: 3.1
    Graduated Cum Laude at Rutgers New Brunswick (Biomedical Engineer)
    Current Work: Process Engineer at Top Pharma Commpany (thinkPfizer/Novartis)
    Prior Work Experience: 2 Years as Manufacturing Engineer at Abbott Labs (Diagnostics Division – New Product Introduction)
    Goal: To combine technical knowledge of Medical Devices/Pharmaceuticals gained through positions at top Medical Device/Pharma companies with the business acumen needed to effectively run a company and become an integral team member of a start-up biotech firm.
    25 Year Old Indian Male

    Do I have a shot at any of the schools below?

    Thanks for your help!

  • Bruce Vann

    ” Do you know what a lot of MBA’s also think is a joke? Spending eight hours a day in some air-conditioned strip mall in Nowhere Texas, applying your God-given quant skills to figuring out how much to charge for peanut butter. Especially when you could be doing productive things with your talents, like manipulating Libor rates, and telling regulators why you actually didn’t.” HILARIOUS!!

  • TA

    I agree. Its ridiculous when I talk to them about pursuing one. They have such self limiting beliefs its sad. Sandy is absolutely right!!

  • Bruce Vann

    Yeah.  Pretty much.

  • Ms. Bollywood

    Dear Sandy,
    I hope you get a chance to respond to this…ProfileGMAT:710Undergrad GPA: 3.8 (cross checked by WES)Graduated from Symbiosis University (India)Work Ex: Analyst with PwC – transfer Pricing for 1 year (India)Currently (2 years) working with a well known Indian Production House (television)Extra curricular: Editor and Board member of a Youth Group for young leaders (3 yrs), Yoga and Dance.Goal: To work in Broadcast network Company and eventually return to work in Indian Media and television.23 yr. female – Indian.Do I have a shot at:NYUHBSWhartonINSEADCornellKelloggUC Berkely

  • BreakingTheOdds

    Hi Sandy,

    I hope you can give me odds of getting into B-school with my rotten GPA.

    GMAT – 750 (expected 08/10)
    GPA – 2.28
    University: University of Toronto, Economics Specialist Degree (Honors)

    Age: 26
    Location: Toronto, Canada
    Ethnicity: Asian     Gender: Male

    To mitigate the family’s financial condition, I started working in my 2nd year of University as a part-time teller at one of the top banks in Canada. I was promoted unprecedentedly in 9 months to financial services and to investment consultant 4 months after that. 
    Teller: Nov 2006 – Aug 2007; 
    Financial Services: Aug 2007 – Feb 2008; 
    Investment Consultant: Feb 2008 – Dec 2010
    I started working at a boutique FX Brokerage in Dec 2010 as a FX Sales & Trading Associate, and was promoted to FX Trader in April 2012. 

    In 2009, I partnered with an computer engineer and developed a software that connected students with employers and school. Think of it as a dropbox + career engine, and we sold this software at a very modest price to a university.
    In 2010 – 2011, I recruited another engineer and a fashion guru for a mobile app, however, after intense venture negotiations and funding activities, it failed as I prioritized on funding opportunities instead of focusing on traction and development cycle.

    I hope you can give me an insight on my odds of getting into:
    – Columbia
    – Booth
    – NYU
    – Wharton
    with the rotten GPA of mine. Although I have not written my GMAT, I am confident that I can get 740 – 760 based on my practice exams.

    I’d be grateful if you can kindly share your insight on my odds of getting into above schools.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Lynnmnguyen

    All boys this time around…where are my laadies?

  • BigBlue

    GRE: V650 Q790 (720 GMAT equivalent)


    3.5 GPA: BA, International Relations (Top 5-10 public