Assessing Your Odds Of B-School Success

She flunked out of Harvard when her grades plunged due to some family issues, but managed to return after a year’s leave of absence and get a 3.3 grade point average overall. With a 780 GMAT and a marketing job with a top consumer packaged goods company, this 25-year-old professional hopes an MBA will help her transition to consulting or a brand management job.

He did a two-year stint in the Peace Corps, working in AIDS prevention in Sub-Saharan Africa. Now in operations for a large, regional trust company, this 25-year-old hopes an MBA degree will help him work for an entrepreneurial venture or a top management consulting firm.

She’s a cellist and a tech geek who has launched a pair of startups. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA, this 25-year-old woman wants to leverage her interest in design and her experience in brand management at a global consumer goods company to get into a top-ranked MBA program.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these MBA applicants 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 here 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 analysis:

Ms. Intelligence

  • 670 GMAT (will retake)
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from West Point, with a track in Civil Engineering (graduated in the top 30% of my class)
Work experience includes four years in the Army as an intelligence officer; currently managed a team of four, handling all intelligence analysis, security and anti-terrorism issues for a battalion of 500 soldiers; planned missions for the intelligence assets in almost all of western Iraq; led a military intelligence platoon of 26 soldiers for two years, including one in Iraq, was responsible for $12 million of equipment and training those 26 soldiers for deployment
  • Extracurricular involvement as captain of the Alpine ski team, competed in Sandhurst military competition and was an active member of the model UN team; assist a military family in my spare time to cope with transitioning after a tragic incident; taught English in Cambodia for a month as a West Point cadet; climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, volunteer with Habitat for Humanity
  • Goal: To get some solid business experience, eventually becoming my own boss
  • 27-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Duke: 60+%
North Carolina: 60+%
Virginia: 60+%

Sandy’s Analysis: You may be setting your sights too low, all of those schools– Duke, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and Darden– should be solid for you given a female from West Point with a 3.4 and a 670 GMAT and a solid military and volunteer career, especially since you have been in Iraq, with major leadership (e.g. “leader of a military intelligence platoon of 26 soldiers for two years”) and material responsibilities (for “$12 million dollars worth of equipment”).

A female from West Point with Iraq experience and lots of extras could be HBS or Wharton if you could manage a 700 GMAT on next try and firm up goals. You currently say, “get some solid business experience, eventually become my own boss . . . .” That is a bit lame and unfocused.  Try saying you want to go into consulting as a “gateway” to a career in either consulting or working for a tech company in some data related way, since that synchs up (on Planet Adcom if not in reality, but maybe that too) with your Army intel experience.

Just spin out something that is clear and involves working for well-known brands.  Schools got tons of entrepreneurs, or wannabes, and saying you want to be “your own boss” is a bit out of date. That is what dead-enders said in the 1950s when working for The Man.  Hip kids like you are supposed to say you want to create great products, services and jobs, but I would not go the “own boss” route in any case. Go with consulting. Top consulting  firms would be very interested in a female West Point applicant and the rest of your story is real solid. Take a deep breath and start thinking Top 10 B-schools.

  • abhimanyu sammy sharma

    I would really appreciate if you could assess my chances given my profile below

    28 years old male from India
    Education: Bachelor of Law from a Prestigious Law College in India
    Work Experience: 3 years law practice + 2 years Banking Industry = Total 5 years
    GMAT- 710
    TOEFL IBT- 111

    Extra Curricular- Volunteer with Rotary Club-Blood Donation Camps, Cancer Awareness and Fund Raising, Anti Drug Campaigns.

    Target School-INSEAD, Harvard, LBS, (or any top 15 US universities viz MIT Sloan etc)

  • Positive Soul

    Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Wharton, Kelloggs! 🙂

  • Positve Soul

    Hi Sandy,
    If you could assess my odds o sucesst top ranked B schools, it would be great push for my applications in the coming fall!
    26 year Indian Male
    Goal:To open a biopharmaceutical company in India (improving the current status of research and developement for medicinal product)- create more jobs for biotechnology graduates in India, affordable medicines for developing countries.
    GMAT: 720
    Work experience: 3+ yrs
    Current Job: Working as an assitant manager (Quality Control) at Dr. Reddys laboratory- A biopharmaceutical company in India from past six months.
    Prior to this I was working as a scientist (research and devlopement) for 2.5 yrs at Biocon Ltd.-Another biotechnology based company.
    Educational background: Post Graduation-Masters of Science (Medical biotechnology) -Distinction holder (78%), Graduation-Bachelors of Science (Biotechnology)- Distinction Holder (81%).
    Leadership & Community Experience:
    1) Working on innovative methods of statistical analysis for better medicinal product analysis from past two years-but unsucessful yet, work in progress
    2)Student council President -2008-09, Apart from regular student activites conducted a research awareness programm -instigated the importance of research in school going class X students, I was sent for leadership training programm from college.
    3) College Cultural Secretary 2007-08
    4) Student Council General Secretary 2006-07
    5)School Captain – Class X 2001-02
    Thanks in advance!
    Positive Soul

  • Asad

    Schools shortlisted: HBS, Wharton, Booth,
    Columbia & Stern

    GMAT: Sitting next month: ( expecting
    700-730 )

    Age: 28

    Work Experience:

    Business Development Executive – Business
    Process Outsourcing company ( 1 year )

    Marketing Strategy Manager – Small
    Business Process Outsourcing company ( 1 year )


    Business Analyst ( Sales Strategy –
    Largest Telecom company in Pakistan ) (1 year)

    Marketing Specialist – Pricing ( Strategy
    & Pricing – Same Company for biggest Telco brand) (1 year ) (Very

    Ass. Manager – Pricing & Strategy (
    bigger position at a relatively smaller but a very prominent company within
    Pakistan and A lot of leadership opportunities) (By august 2013 – one year )


    Taught different prep courses in The
    Princeton Review side by side (4 years )

    Managed my own academy successfully for some
    time before I was transferred to headquarters when in Telecommunication company
    ( 6 months)

    Setting up another academy for an
    academic institution by being involved in marketing strategy, hiring &
    training of employees and course design. ( 3 months)


    Bachelors in Science ( Econ Major &
    Finance & Acc Minor) The most ranked business school in Pakistan

    GPA: 3.29 (2.56 -> 2.9 -> 3.1 ->
    3.3) also a State level position holder in 10th standard exams

    Extra-curricular Activities & Social

    Partnered in a food outlet and managed it
    for 2 years before selling it. (right after graduation as part time activity
    while working in business develpement)

    Taught a blind professor for 1 year
    enabling her to give GRE without Braille and eventually succeeding in getting Fulbright
    scholarship for PHd

    Trekking enthusiast

    Attached with different NGOs in a
    volunteer capacity

    Worked on USAid initiative to prepare
    college professors to apply for scholarships in America

    Worked in AIESEC in corporate exchanged
    department in arranging intern-ships in Pakistan for students coming from
    different universities all over the world

    Interest in dramatics as acted and
    conceived different plays right from school to university

    Story: Simply want to pursue consultancy
    so moving from making just marketing strategy to more specific department of
    pricing and strategy for Telecom.

    Have an interest in Entrepreneurship and
    Teaching but the preferences clearly show inclination towards strategy

    Additional: Declined an international
    offer and Century employee award from group company to work as Business Analyst
    to pursue pricing in Telecom.

    Got two jumps ( one promotion within
    company and other when I switched) within one year

    Please provide your valuable feedback, I
    will be grateful.

  • DukeCity

    John and Sandy,

    This has become my favorite column in the past month, and I have busily been
    scouring through all parts to gain insight into the chances for my own
    candidacy. It’s truly amazing how much direction you’ve given so
    many! I would much appreciate your
    assistance and opinion. I’m going to try for great schools, but am worried about
    my GPA, experience, and age. Here’s my profile:

    American Latino Male

    720 GMAT (Lower quant,
    very high verbal)

    3.2 GPA

    30 years old


    I received my BBA from
    2nd tier state university. During my undergrad I founded a campus
    political organization and was very active in a campus parish (everything from
    leading retreats to hosting guest speakers). In addition, I was an active
    campaigner and volunteer for congressional campaigns. Took an internship my
    senior year with the US Senate in DC researching proposed trade

    Work Experience:

    Shortly out of school
    I left my job at a local bank to be an entrepreneur and start my own business,
    which was successful for 3 years until the economy went south and I had to
    close shop. At its peak, the business employed 8, and had monthly volume of
    over $1mil.

    Then went to work for
    my family’s small business where in addition to in addition to overseeing all the firms
    marketing efforts. Finally decided to work for a large firm with the
    possibility of a higher career trajectory. Currently working at Fortune 20
    healthcare firm as government analyst.

    Post-BBA Activities

    Hospice Volunteer

    Captain of Flag Football Team
    Committee member overseeing a program to help troubled kids

    Short term goal:

    To work
    internationally as either a strategy consultant or possibly in microfinance.

    Long term goal:

    Use my international
    business expertise, global perspective and interest in the intersection of business and politics to
    work for an organization like the State Department, UN, or World Bank.

    Target schools:

    INSEAD- Consulting jobs
    ops and global perspective, perfect!





    London Business School

  • kimrunsnyc

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love your input on my profile!

    27 year old American female
    GMAT: 720… retaking and hoping for a 740+
    Education: 3.7 GPA in political science from a competitive school (top 20, but not Ivy); holds a Masters in International Affairs from an ivy (3.7 GPA)
    Work experience: 3 years at a large multinational (GE) in marketing/communications (including completing a 2-year “leadership” program and including a year in Belgium); 1.5 years at a trade association (Chamber of Commerce) based out of Shanghai, China
    Skills and extracurriculars: Admittedly more into “solo” activities than groups– Speaks passable but not fluent French and Chinese; marathoner and triathlete; has had several freelance articles published in notable news publications and policy journals

    I am afraid my work experience and background aren’t as quantitative as most MBA programs would like to see. My quant GMAT score was not bad, but not as good as verbal. I also served as an economics TA and think I can prove my quant chops this way. I already have a Masters, but I graduated undergrad in only 3 years at the ripe age of 20, and then went back for my Masters at 22. I think I have matured and my career ambitions have changed since then. I feel a bit pigeonholed in my current role and am hoping an MBA will give me the analytical/quant skills I need to end up in a strategy/management consulting role. I have international experience in both Europe and Asia which I think is a differentiator.

    I am looking at the top tier schools, as well as Tuck, and possibly some top tier international programs.


  • HReduGirl

    Hi Sandy, I was wondering if you can evaluate my profile and give me any tips on what I should improve on in the next few years to get in:

    GPA: 3.4
    Double major- Molecular Biology and Sociology from Cal Berkeley
    Work experience: just began working as a tax consultant at one of the Big 4 (PwC, Deloitte, etc) Firms
    -Fluent in Mandarin
    -During college: involved with urban city math & science education the first 2 years, some leadership roles within that, studied abroad twice- in China and Spain. Came back from abroad leaving behind pre-med aspirations and wanted to pursue business something to do with bilateral relations between China and America
    -heavily involved with community service
    -active role in alumni association
    short term goals: go into management consulting to gain more experience. long term: start my own educational/human capital consulting service between US & China
    -currently 22 yo, planning to apply in 2 years.
    any advice on how to step up my game in the next 2 years to better prepare myself? Thanks so much!

  • African Applicant

    Hi Sandy,
    I was wondering if you could evaluate my profile
    24 YO African American Male (African Immigran/recent US citizen)
    Education: Top State School 3.5 GPA (3.7 GPA over the last 4 semesters)
    Double Major in Economics, and Political Science
    720 GMAT
    Current work experiance:2 years at the International Monetary Fund doing working with developing nations. During my tenure I have been a part various country teams and have taken part in various country missions to advise on important economic issues.
    African Applicant

    Target Schools:Harvard,Stanford,Chicago,Wharton,Columbia

  • Elcaudillo

    Other relevant info:

    Gender: Male
    Department: 5 students, ranked 3rd, all the rest went into academia

    Ran small internet business freshman and sophomore year with a partner at Harvard that paid for all my college costs. Partner went on to Stanford GSB directly out of Harvard and it was a significant part of his story.
    Ran a small energy company that bought and sold natural gas junior and senior year, again paid for college costs.
    Founder of Minorities in Commodities USA, a support/information network focused on minorities in the commodities industry or those looking to enter (2 years).
    Founder of Othello Group, a GRE/GMAT tutoring network focused on minorities after noticing my colleagues had weak test scores and weak test taking strategies (1 year).
    Mentor and Judge at National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship (recently changed name to Network For Teaching Entrepreneurship), which focuses on mentoring and providing role models for predominantly hispanic and black children in junior high school and high school, and which also runs a business plan competition for which I am a judge for the students culminating project which is a business plan (involved for 11 years, first as a student who was mentored and won a competition, which was co-sponsored by Goldman Sachs, then as a mentor and judge)

  • MBAprospecting

    Thanks for the great posts, it’s nice to see how you inject your personal voice and opinions into what are essentially just sets of numbers and brief personal stories. If you have time I’d love to get your take on my candidacy for the schools that I’m considering.

    • Background: I’m a first-gen degree holder from a small, very conservative Virginia town where I felt like I could never be out of the closet (I’m gay) and that thread continues as I moved schools during college for a more accepting environment, overcame some inferiority complex issues from being gay, and met some influential managers through internships who helped me transform into a leader. My strengths now are a strong bias for action, creative solutions for automating processes, listening and instilling confidence in others; my biggest weaknesses are inconsistent confidence (when self-doubt creeps in) and sometimes my assumptions are invalid so I rely on my co-workers and manager a lot for bouncing off project ideas. • Undergraduate institution: Average state school – the story here is that I started at a tier 1 liberal arts college and transferred to a more diverse school where I could be out • Undergraduate degrees: B.A. English, B.S. Communications (professional program), highest honors, ranked #1 in the communications school• Undergraduate GPA: 3.93, 4.0 in majors
    • Undergraduate Study Abroad: 1-year abroad in the U.K. to study English literature at a top-5 world university with high marks • Undergraduate work: 30-40 hours per week for work in internships/jobs to fund college • GMAT: 720 (even spread) • Graduate institution: University of Virginia • Graduate degree: Commerce • Graduate GPA: 3.5 • Job:, new management rotational program for students directly out of school- rigorously analytical program that converges business analysis with operations/management to own the entire business cycle from using data to discover problems to creating the projects that solve them and measuring the results • Current Volunteering: 2 LGBT Organizations (Law Clinic & Mentorship), and pet fostering for sick animals • Years of experience at time of application: 3-4 • MBA Schools: Michigan, UCLA, Kellogg (one-year program)
    My top school choice is the University of Michigan. I’ve met so many grads from Ross and I believe it would be a great environment for learning, growing and helping people to do the same.

    Thanks for any feedback you can provide. Either way, I will look forward to you future posts. 🙂