Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

She’s an award-winning teacher of literature at a top-tier university, but this 30-year-old professor wants to change careers. She’s hoping an MBA will help her transition into marketing for a non-profit organization.

She played the violin for her university’s symphony orchestra and was team captain of the varsity track and field team in her senior year. After a little more than three years working for a blue chip asset management company, this 25-year-old woman wants an MBA to help her become a portfolio manager.

This 26-year-old woman is a financial analyst for a large oil and gas equipment maker in Houston. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.59 grade point average, she’s expecting the MBA degree will position her for a strategy job at a Fortune 100 corporation.

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. And for the very first time, all five MBA applicants profiled are women. Ranging in age from 24 to 30, they include an investment banker in Hong Kong, a manager for a non-profit, and as noted above, a financial analyst for an oil and gas equipment maker in Houston, a literature professor, and an investment analyst for a well-known asset management firm.

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:

Ms. Literary Professor

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in English and Hispanic Studies from a top-tier university (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa)
  • Ph.D. in English from an elite research program
  • Work experience as an award-winning teacher of literature and writing at a top-tier university for the past four years; winner of several highly competitive research fellowships, extensive publishing record, extensive experience in public speaking
, Extracurricular activity includes a long record of volunteer work with nonprofit organizations
  • Fluent in Spanish
  • Goal: Looking to change careers and go into marketing for non-profits
  • 30-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 25% to 35%
Stanford: 10% to 30%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Northwestern: 40% to 50%
Columbia: 30% to 40%
Dartmouth: 30% to 40%
Yale: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Jeepers, try getting tenure someplace and then you can do whatever you want, including marketing for non-profits.  That would be my call, although my guess is, despite all the awards above, you are not on tenure track, which these days, in English, can be nearly non-existent.

I don’t think Harvard, Stanford of Wharton is going to buy this profile, with open arms, although if you have, as you say, “a long record of volunteer work with nonprofit orgs” that could help and that should be the basis of your application. (No news, but just saying).

A lot will depend on which organizations you work for and what roles you have played, and how serious you can leverage that into reasons for a career switch. You would really need to convince them that this is thought out, serious, and something you could do.

I might shift away from your goal of “marketing for non-profits,” to actually running a non-profit. Marketing sounds girly-girl for one, and is actually more technical and boring than you might think, e.g. figuring out mailings, arranging robo-calls (I get them all the time) and joint-campaigns with companies, not to mention search optimization, mobile strategy, and analytics of all kinds– and not what you may have been dreaming of, writing speeches for the CEO of the non-profit to give at the U.N. You also might be in charge of a Facebook page and Twitter campaign, which is not so exciting and has a good deal of technical, social media mojo aspects to it.

OK, if you know all that, and that is what you want to do, try to get that in your application as well, just to beat back the obvious picture we get here of some prof who is tired of teaching John Donne to idiots, or reading what the idiots say about him:  “I too believe, with John Donne,  that “no man is an Island,” even though I live on Manhattan, which IS an island (it does have bridges and tunnels to other places, however) and on Manhattan  everyone is connected, especially on Twitter and Facebook.  Donne could not have known about those devices and platforms since he lived and wrote before they were invented,  but still, what he said is true.  And let me add, if John Donne ever did have a Twitter account, I would love to join.  I think “Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward” is a great tweet. (And you are thinking,  professor, ‘if only my kids were that smart, or knew the second poem.’)

Based on your obvious brains and talents and awards, and probably “Humanist” likeability, you might be able to sell some version of this to Kellogg, Columbia (less so), Tuck or Yale. Also try Booth: they got a soft spot for artistic types, despite the finance rep.

Those schools will also give you more room to expand on your motives than HBS in its current Two-Pic application, although  Dee Leopold (at HBS) is a real book and lit fan, but that may not  turn the trick for you, I fear. When she sits in her deciding chair, well, it ain’t all business, but it is a lot of business, and she’s only got 1000 spots to give away, or more likely, 20 spots to off-beat types like you.  Someone actually working full-time for a non-profit may beat you out.  On the other hand, you do seem like a smart, firecracker type, so you may get in as a wild card.  Age could be an issue there, but who knows.  A good word from someone at your “top tier” university could get you on her radar screen and your energy and brains might do the rest.

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  • Bravo


    I noticed that this round of ladies has brought forth the idea of MS degrees is business fields such as finance. (I did also catch the ‘Rise of Specialty Masters’ article on the site).  Do you think it would help both pre-MBA and/or post-MBA to possibly do an MS in Finance or MS in Supply Chain.  I would like to maybe do one of the distance learning MS degrees for intellectual satisfaction (Kelley School/Embry Riddle (Aero background even though it may not be the best school.)) May even possibly do a BSc from the Univeristy of London (take tests from LSE at a variety locations)

    I figured I would play the lottery with the handicap as well….

    -740 GMAT (took five times/not a quitter/most painful 1250$ ever spent/hate when people put expected GMAT here)
    -3.55 Cum GPA from a school that is currently under ethical scrutiny (I am not one of those die hards by any means)
    -BS in Aerospace Engineering
    -BS in Economics
    -Minor in Entrepreneurship
    -Work Experience includes a 3 mo. internship in Dalian, China at Steam plant
    -3 month internship at NASA KSC working on a feasibility study (published results in 2010 in AIAA)
    -3 month internship at Accenture working at a Chemicals company (Management Consulting)
    – CURRENTLY: Full time Accenture working at a Steel client (Systems Integration)(only 1.5 years)
    -Was president of Aerospace Honor Society at uni/held leadership roles in a few clubs/volunteer regulary through Accenture/lead of analyst program
    -Worries: Systems Integration Accneture is probably not the traditional route to MBA and no star dust as you would say/How long should I wait( I was hoping only one more year but the trend seems to be more 4 to 5 years now/definitely would like to use an MBA consultant/ 25 YO white male(at end of Aug)
    – I would like to move into strategy consulting (PLEASE INSERT STARDUST HERE)

    Sorry for all of parenthesis and forward slashes.  If you do choose me; I am most excited about what title you give me… Mr….  (You already had a Mr. Accenture)

    Thanks for your time.

  • Ann

    Hello Sandy,

    Thank you for looking at my profile. I really appreciate your time and patience spent on a stranger like me who is thinking of her chance to get into Stanford.

    Aspiration: The reason why I am applying MBA is that I need the business foundation and great school labeling to signal to investors that I am capable to create a profit-making social enterprise which helps talents to be optimized—-though those talents maybe stigmatized as “disabled” or “mentally ill” or “retarded”.


    GMAT (predicted from mock GMAT result)

    undergraduate GPA

    in journalism; double minor in Sociology and French from the
    University of Hong Kong

    GPA because I needed to study and worked at the same time to support
    my school fees

    Work experience in undergraduate period included:

    Wall Street Journal
    -Local top-tier English newspaper and
    broadcasting media
    -The Government

    by CNN Beijing for China coverage

    TV show about entrepreneurship for the local media

    Current job:
    -Working as the youngest product manager in an international social media company, my responsibility is to create new entertainment products which now have users accumulated more than 1 million. 
    -Users concentrate in Facebook and China’s largest social networking site—Tencent. 
    -Earned Tencent’s Best Product Innovation Award
    -Leading a large team of designers, editors and engineers on project basis
    -Promoted within 12 months
    -Working in this company because technology is the foundation of impact nowadays. I would like to stretch my ability in coping with ever-changing problems. I love learning in this company, especially since it makes me reflect on why the e-business I started before had failed within 4 months.

    -Spent a semester in the University of Queensland,
    On Dean List, ranked 1st
    in French

    -Received accredited mediator training to help those in need
    -University’s official magazine reporter
    -Counselling hotline volunteer
    -Tutoring for underprivileged children
    -Good playing of Erhu music

    Other characteristics:

    4 languages well: English, Putonghua, Cantonese, French

    -traumatic childhood

    -Asian female

    years old

    Thank you very much again for your help! Support poets and quants :)

  • Mr Snickers

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate your advice on my
    chances at Stanford, INSEAD, Wharton, HBS, Kellogg, MIT, and Booth.

    Undergraduate: 3.0 GPA in Management and International Business (top 50
    University globally, located in the Asia-Pacific). Was awarded a Sporting
    scholarship by the Prime Minister to attend university.

    Post-graduate: Masters in Management at the same
    University (3.9 GPA); graduated first in class and published an academic paper
    in conjunction with a Professor.

    GMAT score:

    Experience: Before university: Professional cyclist for 2 years
    (2 silver medals at the USA National Championships, 8th
    in the World as a junior). Was a member of the USA National Cycling team for 1
    year and the Australian National Cycling team for 4 years (dual citizenship);
    Competed at World Cup and World Championship level.

    After post-graduate study: 10 months at Deloitte
    Consulting as a Business Analyst. Since then, 4 years at Mars Inc (producers of
    Snickers, M&M’s, Whiskas, Uncle Ben’s rice etc): 3 years in Mars graduate
    leadership development program – 1 year in Market Insights, 1 year in Field
    Sales, 1 year in Business Development; Currently a Brand Manager for Chocolate.

    Extra-curricular: VP of membership for the country’s
    top Toastmasters club. National running relay champion and team member. Educational
    e-book author.

    31 year old white male

    Reason for MBA: Want to move into a larger Consumer
    Goods company (e.g. P&G, Unilever, Pepsi-co) in the US where MBAs are expected..

    Thanks for your time.

  • Frenchie

    23 yo Caucasian Female from France
    730 GMAT
    3.76 GPA – Summa Cum Laude from Old Dominion University, Norfolk, VA (2010)
    Double major in Finance/International Business

    Born and raised in France, moved to the US on a NATO scholarship for college

    Work experience, all US based:
    – Internships at Merrill Lynch in wealth management and at a local Import/Export consulting firm
    – Currently Financial Advisor at a local independent Wealth management firm (started as an intern in college and got offered a full time position at graduation) since 2010

    – Habitat for Humanity regular volunteer
    – Avid runner (anything from 5k to mudrunners to semi-marathon)

    SHORT TERM –> Seeking a consulting job in import/export or business development strategy in the top 5 of the industry. I’ve hit a wall in my career path because without an MBA from a top-ranked institution, I’ve just another costly foreign individual in need of a visa sponsorship.
    LONG TERM –> Want to be a top manager running the business development department of a multinational corporation (French preferably!… Nestle, LVMH, Total…)

    YALE is my dream school, but also considering Darden, Haas, Sloan.
    Got offered consequent scholarships at Rochester and Notre Dame…so I’m trying to see if I should go for those or if I have any chance with a top 10 school.

  • Pop

    Hello Sandy,
    I would greatly appreciate if you can help evaluate my profile-
    Background – 23 yrs Asian, Male
    Education – Undergrad in Economics 3.1 GPA, California State University, originally transferred with a 2.6 from little known distant learning college while attempting to take courses from overseas
    Professional experience – About 4 years of experience in Military, US Military special operations.
    GMAT – 680
    Extra curricular – Avid Volunteer, Runner, Econ tutor, Linguist for Govt.
    -Combat Operations as reasoning for low GPA.
    Schools –
    Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, Kellogg, Booth, Wharton, Yale, UCLA, Georgetown
    Goal – To manage a top fortune 500 company or public service in foreign service.

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