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 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 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.

1 2 3 4 5
  • 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:
    Stanford
    Harvard
    Booth
    Kellogg
    Darden
    McCombs
    Tuck
    Fuqua

  • Frank

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

    Profile:
    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?
    Harvard
    Wharton
    Stanford
    ColumbiaNorthwesternNYU
    Yale
    MIT

    Thanks for your help!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25503923 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!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25503923 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
    school), graduated in 2 years due to college courses completed in high school.

     

    3.7 GPA: MPP, Economic policy and program evaluation (Top 20
    program)

     

    Work Experience: 2 years work experience (upon
    matriculation) at IBM as a change management strategy consultant focusing on healthcare
    and state and local clients. 1 year graduate level internship with government
    agency, 1 year graduate internship with a think tank. I don’t know where other
    IBM consultants have gone, since I’ve been the only non-mba hire in my
    practice.

     

    Extras: 2 year LDS mission, with leadership responsibilities
    over 25-30 volunteers for 1 year. Didn’t go anywhere exotic though. Elected to student
    government position (not president), President of West Coast Model EU, mentor
    and tutor for low-income students. Currently volunteer with middle school
    students and work with the diversity recruiting program at IBM.

     

    Goals: I want to switch to a top tier consulting firm (MBB +
    Booz + Deloitte) doing strategy work in tech or healthcare. After a few years I
    would like to switch to a nonprofit consulting firm (Bridgespan or FSG), and
    eventually work in sr. leadership at a nonprofit or foundation.

     

    28 yr-old (at matriculation) white male, 1st generation
    college student, raised by single mom.

     

    Targets:

    Tuck

    Kellogg

    Ross

    Darden

    Haas

    Chicago

     

    Additional comments: Took the GRE for grad program and
    scores will still be good, should I bother with GMAT? I could also wait an
    additional year at IBM, which would allow an expected promotion to be reflected
    on my resume. I’m also considering switching to Deloitte, not sure if that will
    improve/hurt/do nothing to my chances.

  • Sammylee831

    Hi Sandy,

    I would greatly appreciate it if you could take some time to evaluate my profile.

    UC Berkeley, Media Studies B.A., 3.2 GPA

    GMAT: 740

    Planning to take Calculus and Statistics in CC and getting A’s in them

    Work Experience:

    Marketing Associate at Safeway 1 year

    • Research white space topics to define health and generational opportunities.

    • Manage the production of private label products to get them from concept to the shelf.

    • Conduct category analyses and provide recommendations for product flavors based on sales and trends.

    • Create new item proposals and help build forecasting for future products.

    Product Marketing Associate at Intuit- 2 Years

    4 Rotations:

    1 in Product Management- led cross functional team to develop a key product to a $10 Million business

    1 in Social Media Marketing- developed the social media strategy for a new customer base

    1 in Product Marketing- managed the marketing from concept to execution for a new business

    1 in Bus Dev- worked w/ different business to create new business opportunities

    Associate Product Marketing Manager at Intuit- 1 Year

    Currently managing a key function in a new product that’s currently in development

    Possibility of being promoted to Marketing Manager next year if I do a good job this year

    Volunteer:

    Coaching Corps (part of Americorps)- 3 years

    I coach a 6-8 year old team throughout the year for under-privileged areas in the Bay Area

    Church- Worship Team

    Play the bass every week on Sundays for my church

    Basketball Camp-

    Take a week every summer to help coach youths in the Bay Area for a basketball camp

    Reason I want to go to B-School:

    I’ve wanted to always combine my sports passion, religion, and work
    skills, and I believe this is a way to do it. The reason I had this
    revelation is because an experience w/ my volunteer work w/ Coaching
    Corps. Long story short, one of the youths on my Coaching Corps team has
    a lot of potential for basketball, but his family can’t afford to pay
    his basketball development. I ended up paying out of my pocket for him
    to attend. Because of this, I want to go to B-School to create a
    national nonprofit sports/basketball camp for the underprivileged, so
    that everyone can have a chance to get better at a sport.

    Targeted Schools:

    I want to be in an urban area because I want to be in the heart of a
    basketball mecca. I do not want to attend a Sports MBA program because I
    want to learn from the best general MBA programs. In addition, I might
    apply next year or this coming year, not sure. Is it possible to give me
    a breakdown for next year, assuming I get promoted as well?

    -Columbia (Social Enterprise)

    -Kellogg (SEEK)

    -Haas PT- so I can continue what I’ve been doing locally

    -HBS (non-urban)- Sports Club

    -Wharton- Sports Club

    -USC- School of Sports Management

    -UCLA- LA Area

    Thank you!

  • Sammylee831

     Also left out that I’m 26 and Asian

  • Law Student

    Sandy, 

    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.

    Thanks!

  • 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 asibley@princeton.edu (anyone else with advice too!).

Partner Sites: C-Change Media | Poets & Quants for Execs | Tipping the Scales