Handicapping Your B-School Odds

by John A. Byrne on

She works for a major Russian metallurgical company, heading up a finance and economic analysis unit. With a 740 GMAT and a 4.0 grade point average, this 28-year-old professional hopes to get an MBA to transition to management consulting or investment banking.

He was a collegiate football player for a top five liberal arts school. After spending two years at a boutique investment banking firm and another two on an acquisitions team for a public company, this 25-year-old wants an MBA degree to help him land a job with a top-notch asset management firm.

This 26-year-old professional manages one of the largest solar farms in the U.S. With two master’s degrees from Ivy League schools under his arm, he now wants a third in business to help him become a major energy developer.

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 HBSGuru.com, 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. Auditor

  • 740 GMAT (Q50, V41)
  • 4.0 GPA
  • 109 TOEFL
  • Undergraduate
degree in accounting from a no-name University in Siberia
  • Work experience includes five and one-half years in the audit department of a Big Four firm in Moscow; among top 5% of employees in each year; also one and one-half years as head of finance and economic analysis department in a Russian metallurgical company
  • “No one from
the Russian office of our company has an MBA. Head of our U.S. division has an MBA
from Chicago Booth.”
  • Extracurricular involvement as coordinator for a children’s educational organization, helped with resume and English workshop for disadvantaged youth, volunteered in Africa for one month in local hospital, LBGT activist and member of Toastmasters Club; also have a small start-up with a colleague
  • “Have a good
history of overcoming adversity: first generation college, worked part-time through school years, single parent, mother’s serious illness”
  • Goal: To transition to management consulting or investment banking
  • Applied to INSEAD and was dinged after interview
  • 28-year-old
Russian female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% 25%
Northwestern: 35% to 45%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Chicago: 35% to 45%
Columbia: 40+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Jeepers, this is pretty solid and your ding at INSEAD is surprising. It might have been your interview or the fact that no one at your company can write good recommendations, since no one has a U.S. MBA.  Not sure what to say about that. You need to remind those clowns, that writing a recommendation for a U.S. school requires phrases like,  “John is the best analyst I have seen in 20 years, in a cohort of over 300 other analysts . .  .”  and that only means that “John is sorta OK,” unless you back that up with many stories and metrics proving it.

One issue for you is that you are in the age range for an EMBA, with what looks like eight to nine years of work experience at matriculation.  That could impact your chances at places like HBS, where admitted students with 9+ years of experience this year (according to chart on Dee’s Blog) = 31, out of total class of ~915. And a good number of those 31 are probably military or special cases, which you are not.  I would not be surprised if stats at other U.S. schools were similar, although Wharton tends to run older (as do Duke and Darden, which you might look into, as well as Tuck ).

If you had not told me that you were dinged at INSEAD, I would say to apply there, as your best shot, and that is still my advice. Reapply. TOEFL of 109 is low-ish, so that could be another issue. You might think about retaking.  Aside from that (age, low TOEFL), man, this is real solid. You seem to have Fortune 500-level jobs (which make up a bit for no-name schooling) and a 740 GMAT with real solid extras. As noted here in the past, Big 4 jobs in Moscow are considered much more selective than Big 4 jobs in U.S., although another issue for you could be that your work is audit vs. consulting. Still, it is a selective job, which you did well at, and got out, and transitioned to analyst at a Fortune 300 metals company. Add some adversity stories, first generation college, and dunno, I like you, so give it a whirl.  HBS might go for this if execution has good karma, although alas, their new application makes it hard for someone like you to explain herself.


Wharton runs older, and has a more welcoming application, and as noted, Duke and Darden run oldest, and your dreams can come true there. Columbia won’t give you a loan unless you have a U.S. co-signer, so that bums out a good many International applicants. Aside from that, you’d be a solid applicant there, too, based on stats.

Consulting and IB are OK goals, although being 30-31 when you graduate could make getting entry-level jobs in those fields challenging, but you have real special auditing and language skills, so that could tip things in your favor.  You might pick a goal which better leverages your accounting and metals savvy, although I am not sure what that would be. Transitioning to executive track at company like the one you currently work for might do it.

1 2 3 4 5 Next
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=25503923 Bruce Vann

    Darden definitely does. It might have more than Fuqua. I’d say that UNC does too.

  • vandygal

    Thanks for replying so promptly. I was actually asking about undergraduate reputations.

  • Guest

    I would say Vandy is a well-respected undergrad institution (just check media rankings to see), but I would also say not to worry about how MBA programs perceive your school since there’s nothing you can do about it.

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

Site Design By: Yellowfarmstudios.com