Can You Get Into A Top MBA Program?

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

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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  • Law Student


    I’d appreciate a look at my profile when you get a chance. Only one school on my list so its pretty simple:

    750 GMAT (49V/42Q/5W/8IR)
    172 LSAT
    3.51 undergrad GPA
    Graduated from Cornell University in 2007 with majors in Economics and Government
    Currently a 1L law student at Stanford Law School (entire curriculum is Pass/Fail so no GPA)
    Extracurriculars as an undergrad focused on military commitments

    Served for 4+ years in the US Navy as an engineer, program manager, ship driver, and operations staffer. Served on 3 ships and deployed 4 times to Middle East, Europe, East Asia and South America. 

    Looking for a dual degree JD/MBA. For the JD i’m focusing on corporate law, and the purpose of the MBA (I expect to have a general management focus) would be to increase my earning potential/credentials and learn to better relate to the needs/concerns/perspectives of my clients. I also think the MBA will help me on the business side of whatever firm I am a member of if I should make partner. Long-term I would like to re-enter public service as a congressional candidate and think the combined perspectives of both a JD and MBA (as well as my military background) will make me a more well-rounded to suit the needs of my constituents.

    26 year old male of mixed race (african-american mother/white father)

    Only target school is Stanford.


  • Jacob S.

    Sandy, I was hoping you could give my resume a look over, given that I haven’t seen a lot of other reviews of people with my more government policy-based experience and I’m not sure if that helps or hurts my odds:
    Age: 24
    GPA: 3.9 from top 20 university, summa cum laude in economics
    GMAT: Haven’t taken it yet, but realistically in the 680-700 range
    Work experience: – Two years in health policy research at one of DC’s most prominent think tanks- 1.5 years as a research analyst at the Advisory Board Company, a health care consulting firm also in DC
    Extracurricular:- Regular contributor/author on political, economic, and health care-related issues at small but growing online news outlet- Fluent in Russian- Various leadership and volunteering roles throughout college and DC
    Career ambitions: Start consulting firm to help physicians and physician practices develop new business models that allow them to contract directly with patients (rather than having to deal with private and/or public payers)
    Target schools:  HBS, Wharton, Booth, Darden

  • Kurt

    Hey Sandy, would you mind giving me your expert opinion?

    Age: 30 (at matriculation,) White male.
    GPA: 3.1, estimated to be 3.4 by graduation. University of Utah. Major is International Studies (emphasis in Art and Literature) with a music minor.
    GMAT: 720
    Target Schools: Wharton, Harvard, Yale, and Columbia.

    I joined the Marine Corps reserve (enlisted) at 17 as an infantryman and worked my way up the ranks ending at Staff Sergeant (E-6) in just 7 short years. I then got my honorable discharge at my 11 year mark. I served three tours of duty overseas (Iraq, East Africa, and South America.)

    I was a missionary in the jungles of the Philippines (literally) for two years where I learned two foreign languages (Tagalog and Ilokano) both self taught. Worked with numerous charities, organized relief projects, rebuilt schools/hospitals etc. Taught English classes to natives for free to increase their employment capabilities. The entire experience was voluntary and paid for by myself and my family.

    It’s taken me 7 years to get my undergrad degree because I was always attempting to start small businesses, which either failed or had moderate success. I imported cutlery from Asia, worked for a stint as a self-employed mortgage loan officer (then the recession hit,) and started an events service company, which lasted 6 years and provided me with steady income through college. At one point I had 6 1099 employees and was contracted to do work for several local universities.

    I recently ditched all of my businesses and am now focusing on the last year of school. I graduate May of 2013. Thank you!

  • AJ Sibley

    Hey, sorry I can’t answer your question, but I would love to talk with you about your past experiences and future goals! I am a Princeton sophomore studying Political Economy and International Relations. I am entertaining the idea of joining the Marines (a bit against my parent’s preference) and eventually getting a JD/MBA with the intention of doing international business in China. As your path seems very closely aligned with my own, and as I am looking for validation that joining the Marines would be as beneficial to such career goals as I imagine. Thank you, very much. Please reach me at (anyone else with advice too!).

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