Assessing Your Odds Of B-School Success

by John A. Byrne on

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

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.

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  • IntelOfficer

    Thank you for your advice! I retook the GMAT yesterday and got a 710, I’m going to look at Wharton. I appreciate the advice on firming up my career goals, definitely valuable. I appreciate your help.

  • thephilosopher


    I am trying to get a sense of where I could get in (i.e reaches and matches).

    730 gmat
    3.4 gpa philosophy, uchicago
    work experience: 10 months working in investor relations at a top firm (college internship too), now: 2 years at a specialized finance firm. The firm has 5 employees but has the biggest client in this niche, no formal promotions, but rec from ceo would speak to increasing responsibilities which include daily contact with mid-size company ceos and cfos. I make funding decisions, ran program for intern, wrote article in industry’s journal, helped a pharma client grow his business from nothing to something and could get a nice rec from client as well.

    extracurricular: rowed in college (club, but it is the only team so it is considered varsity), fraternity’s philanthropy committee, now: very involved with a leadership/drug treatment/prevention program (continued involvement since high school), which includes leading weekly groups, retreats, team building programs, organizing events. Being honored at their annual fundraiser this year (rec from organization’s exec director).

    goal: combine my philosophical interest in ethics, active civic engagement, financial senses in order to manage a philanthropic foundation or development fund.
    24 year old (25 at matriculation), Caucasian, male

  • B-Curious

    I’m a different case than most candidates on here, in that I just recently started considering b-school and I’m not even going to take a shot at the top-top schools. What I want to know is whether I even have a shot at the “2nd half” of Tier 1 — say, top 25 — not because prestige itself matters that much to me, but because from what I’ve gathered in my research so far, based on my situation (more on that in a moment), it wouldn’t even be worth it to attend b-school at all if I can’t get into a nationally-respected one. If I don’t have much of a shot, I will probably apply to MA programs instead (again, more on that in a moment). OK, on to the specs:

    * 3.45 undergrad GPA from Duke in public policy

    * 730-750 GMAT (haven’t taken yet, but I teach test prep for a living and scored 1500+ on SAT & 1500 on GRE six years ago, so I’m confident)

    * MFA in creative writing from an artsy-fartsy East Coast lib arts college (3.95 GPA with stellar written evaluations), which brings me to the potential dealbreaker(s):

    * I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Long story short: looks like it’s not gonna happen. After the MFA, worked as a hotel reviewer & photographer for a NYC web startup with $10M seed money from Bain Capital; got laid off when it basically went under. Couldn’t find another job, dabbled in editing, freelanced, tutored, etc. etc. Have had some things published in respected lit journals and websites (incl. the HuffPost), but nothing major.

    * Eventually took a job as an instructor and curriculum-developer for a small American education company in Shanghai just to put an end to the growing black hole on the resume. (Was “self-employed” for more than a year by the time it was all said and done.) That’s where I currently am.

    * Now I want to get into the green sector, either via for-profit (green energy consulting) or NGO (species or habitat protection). Looking at programs strong in that field: Duke, UNC, Michigan, Berkeley, Cornell, Carnegie-Mellon, Notre Dame

    * Other previous jobs: 4 years at a Bay Area think tank doing education research; 1 year teaching test prep in Bangkok for a major American company; was editor-in-chief (led a staff of ~40) of the grad program’s literary journal; part-time test prep tutoring & teaching throughout all of the above

    * Extras: tutored underserved local children in college; New York Cares volunteering in NYC; started playing chess and competed successfully in several local tournaments; various charity runs (with several high finishes, actually)

    * Age 33 (which I assume will work against me at this point)

    Basically, as you can see, it’s been a long strange trip, and I totally understand that when both prospective employers and b-school adcoms see my resume, fair or not they’ll see someone who hasn’t been able to commit to a career path. Part of that has been the result of continual (and continuING) health problems over the past decade, but again, I assume that’s something I should stay away from in my narrative. In short, I want to hit the reset button on my career (a phrase I would obviously avoid on my apps), and with my scattered history, I see b-school as the best way to do that.

  • Mr. All-American

    25 year old white male.

    740 GMAT (48Q; 44V; 5.5AWA; 8 IR) 3.23/4.0 GPA Economics, US History Minor (Top 5 Liberal Arts School) (GPA Break down by year Fr: 2.8 So:3.2 Jn:3.4 Sn:3.6)

    Work Experience: 2 years boutique M&A Investment banking w/ financial sector focus followed by 2 years on internal acquisitions team for a public company that has a strong reputation as a serial acquirer in financial sector. I have had excellent transaction / deal experience and will have strong recomendations from both employeers.

    Extracurricular: Collegiate football player; 3 year starter; 1st Team All League, 1st Team All East and 3rd team All American senior year. Student Investment Club, sector head. Elected as economic department student representative junior year. Big Brothers Big Sisters.

    Goal: to transition from acquisitions of asset management firms into asset management and eventually found my own firm.

    Schools: HBS, Wharton, Tuck, Columbia and Darden.

  • Longwaytogo

    Hi Sandy,
    would appreciate if you could evaluate the following profile
    - 26 yo Asian male (27 yo at matriculation)
    - Grade: 2nd Upper (GPA equivalent 3.3-3.5?) from a top 3 university in Asia. Graduated with dual degrees in Bioengineering and Business
    - GMAT: 750 (Q 90%, V 93%, AWA 5.0, IR 93%)
    - Work Experience: 3 years (at matriculation) as an analyst in a global private equity house’s Asian office right out of undergrad.
    During university had multiple internships in major investment banks, venture capital, technology start-up, public relations and human resource consulting in various locations across the globe (New York, London, Hong Kong)
    - EC: During college, board member of student union (20,000+ members). Negotiated and brought in a over $100,000 sponsorship from corporation. Held multiple leadership positions in many other clubs, mostly business related.
    After college, volunteer at HIV/AIDS centre as counselor helping with HIV testing and HIV/AIDS education outreach programs in LGBT group. Other interests include extensive scuba diving (Dive Master level), rock climbing (Instructor level), recreational golf and world traveling. Personal blogging on entrepreneurship (especially biotech and IT start-up)
    Post-MBA plan: Move to late venture/early growth stage of private equity. Preferably in IT/biotech field given my education background. However I will have an open mind if I get accepted and enter business school.
    Target schools: H/S/W/Booth/Columbia
    For what is worth, former analysts at my office were accepted into H and W.

  • AWholeAwfulLot

    I’d be interested to see what you think of my chances.

    -26 year old white male
    -750 GMAT
    -3.56 GPA
    -Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from a big ten school
    -Undergraduate co-op experience (3 terms) in product development for a big consumer products company
    -Work experience in supply chain at a fortune 150 company (production supervisor, promoted after 18 months to production planner, promoted after 18 months to materials manager)
    -Schools: Tuck, Kellogg, MIT, Virginia, Cornell, Georgetown, Carnegie Mellon

  • Maria

    Hi! Could you
    please give me an insight into my chances with HBS, Kellog, Wharton, Chicago or
    Columbia or any other top school?

    740 (Q50, V41)

    4.0 GPA

    109 TOEFL ibt

    degree from a no-name University in Siberia, worked half-time during study as
    chief accountant deputy. Major in accounting.

    Have good
    history of overcoming adversity. First gen. Worked part time college. Single
    parent. Mother’s serious illness.

    Work experience
    1: 5.5 years in audit department of Big 4 Moscow with a focus on pharma
    companies. Was among top-5% employees during each year of employment. Left as
    an audit managers.

    Work experience
    2: 1.5 years in Russian big metallurgical company, which is widely presented in
    US and Europe (at the level of Fortune 300, 3rd in the world in it’s
    industry) as Head of finance and economic analysis department. No one from
    Russian office of our company have an MBA. Head of our US division have MBA
    from Chicago Booth.

    coordinator for children educational organization (at University), lead
    accounting, resume and English workshop for disadvantaged youth, Big Sister.
    Volunteered in Africa for 1 month in local hospital. Volunteer for Sochi
    Olympic games 2014. LBGT activist. Member of Toastmasters club.

    Have small
    pharma start-up with a colleague from EY.

    28-year old
    Russian female (will be 29 in 2 months).

    Career goals -
    management consulting or investment banking.

    Applied only to
    INSEAD, was dinged after interview.

    Thank you in

  • Elcaudillo

    Undergrad: Princeton
    Major: Geological Sciences
    GPA: 3.2 (The average science major’s GPA at Princeton is 3.1)
    GRE: 800Q 670M
    Age: 26

    Hispanic (yes, and with a Hispanic surname)
    Masters in Statistics from a top ivy with 3.8 GPA while working full time
    Completing Masters in Electrical Engineering at USC, currently 3.8 GPA while working full time

    In energy field in developing and managing renewable power with a Fortune 500 company. Commissioned largest solar farm in New England ($10 MM) and largest solar farm in Northeast in 2011 ($100 MM). Currently manage largest solar farm in all of the Eastern USA ($150 MM). One of the youngest managers in company history (24). Recently promoted to portfolio manager position. Current salary in six figures.

    Schools: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia, Tuck, NYU, Yale

  • Elcaudillo

    670V*. Goal is to become a major energy developer or manage a large player in the field, already have the sci/engineering cred, and relevant experience, need MBA for the general management credibility and network.

  • Elcaudillo

    In terms more readily accessible to the adcoms: The solar farms I’ve helped develop and manage provide enough power for over 25,000 homes and provide an annual reduction in carbon emissions of over 100 million pounds – the equivalent of taking more than 10,000 cars off the road

  • Elcaudillo

    MIT also might be a good fit, so throw that into the mix as well

  • 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)

  • 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

  • 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.


  • 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

  • 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

  • Positive Soul

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

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