Calculating Your B-School Odds

by John A. Byrne on

After a stint with Bain & Co. as a consultant, this 26-year-old made the enviable switch to a hedge fund. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.7 grade point average at a “little Ivy,” he’s now hoping an MBA will give him the tools to start his own investment management boutique.

She grew up in the family business, a hotel company with over 10,000 rooms worldwide and now works for a start-up owned by AOL founder Steve Case. This 27-year-old professional wants an MBA to help prepare her for the day when she could take over the family concern.

He’s a Big Four auditor who works in Silicon Valley. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.7 GPA, this 25-year-old wants an MBA to help him transition into the role of a chief financial officer of a tech company some day.

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 an invite? Or are they likely to end up in a reject pile?

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm, takes a crack at analyzing these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

Sandy is busy earning his living working with Round one HBS applicants this week so we have posted five classic profiles below. He will be back next week. If you include your own stats and characteristics in the comments (please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience), we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature.

Sandy’s assessment:

Mr. Hedge Fund

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from a little Ivy college (Williams/Amherst/Swat)
  • Work experience includes two years at Bain Consulting before transitioning into an equity hedge fund for about 3.5 years
  • Extracurricular includes being president and founder of a number of clubs, sat on a number of advisory boards to college executive leadership (diversity boards, career services boards, lecture committees). Also had a hand in developing alumni relationships for the career services.
  • Goal: “Starting a full service investment management boutique.”
  • “Mostly wondering if I’m already too experienced to make a run at the MBA.”
  • 26-year-old Chinese born in the U.S.

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 10% to 20%
Wharton: 40% to 50+%
Columbia: 40% to 50+%
MIT: 30+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Do I have this right: five/six years of experience, two at Bain, and then since 2008 at an equity hedge fund? That could be a real issue at HBS and also Stanford, where they begin to distrust applicants that far out based on some mildly nutty theory (a rare screwy bee in Harvard Dean Nohira’s bonnet) that applicants over X years in banking/finance are somehow being shipped off to business school as a sop for not being promoted to Junior Master of the Universe.

Now just what equals “X years experience” in this formula is an issue, and less of an issue with you since you have only been in finance for four years, and X is less than that. But the two years at Bain might get unfairly stapled onto that, in some wacky thought system (which adcoms are subject to) so that is the way your work history could bite you.

All the rest is solid, although let me add, for general readers, not sure if this applies to you per se, that extras having to do with alum clubs, and the board work you seem to have a long list of, are good but not as good as outright engagements and ladling soup at do-gooder orgs with an impact far removed from yourself. Beware of seeming too much like a board networker and not a genuine do-gooder.

Columbia should fall into place. Sloan will like how solid all this is, and they are the last place standing which welcomes applicants interested in financial engineering , which it seems like what you do. Sorry if I misread that, but they will like what you do anyway. The issue at Harvard and Stanford is the too-much experience and lack of impactful do-gooder extras, although difficult to say how big an issue that will be.

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  • m7_m3

    Hi Sandy,
    Can you please evaluate my profile:
    30 year-old Middle-Eastern male
    Bachelors and Masters in Electrical Engineering from Purdue University both with 4.0 GPA
    GMAT: 760 (50Q and 42V)
    Experience: 6 years in the automotive industry working on future vehicle technologies. Worked on electric/hybrid vehicles, natural gas conversions, next generation turbo engines…
    Short term – Work in private equity after MBA to gain strong experience in finance
    Long term – Start my own car company with revolutionary designs
    Extracurriculars: Lots of racing, been racing since I was 12. I am also a volunteer racing instructor for amateur drivers.
    I also teach folk dance to children 12 years and younger, and perform as part of a troupe a couple of times a year.
    Target Schools:
    Michigan Ross
    Thank you!

  • Ecoenv

    Hi Sandy,
    Can you please evaluate my profile:
    23 year-old Indian male
    Education: Bachelors in Economics with 3.2 GPA from Cambridge/Oxford
    GMAT: 760
    Experience: 1 year at McKinsey in Europe, internships directly under top government minister in China/India, internship with top social venture fund (think Acumen Fund..), President of largest student society in Oxford/Cambridge.

    Short term – Rejoin Mck (have MBA funding and return offer) Medium term – start a social enterprise focussed on sustainability
    Long term – Work in Government
    Extracurriculars: Ran a social business with lots of recognition including several awards, College level sports, Diving

    Target Schools:
    Thank you!

  • Jessica

    Hi Sandy,

    I would appreciate your evaluation. Especially since I am finishing off my dream application (Stanford) and getting ready to start the rest of them…

    710 gmat, ~82% for both verbal and quant; 6.0 AWA

    -BA in psychology from UPenn w/minors in computer science, English, and cognitive science (neuroscience focus)
    -low undergraduate gpa (3.1 or 3.2)
    -MA (with honors) in psychology from Pepperdine, gpa 4.0

    Work experience:
    -started working part time at regional accounting firm (my dad was a partner) on internal side
    -regional accounting firm acquired by tier 2 national accounting firm –> opportunities for growth –> promoted to manager
    -very admin and office management type job

    -Took five years to get a 2 – 3 year degree because I switched from standard psych to MFT when I realized I wanted to work in the business world, but still wanted to get my license (sense of closure – could still practice if I wanted to). Had a hard time finding a place for practicum, eventually realized that I wasn’t making it happen because I didn’t really want to do it. Switched back into standard MA program and finished (finally!).
    -Run half marathons, raised $3600 for AIDS Project LA and ran marathon in Hawaii, help with ACG cup locally.

    Want to apply psychology concepts and theories (which I love) within business world – I talk about how I believe everything is about people and people/relationships give life meaning. Want to make people happy, make organizations run better by helping their personnel live more satisfying lives, etc. Realized that business/money gives you the power to do that on a large scale and you get to work with people that want to see change happen.
    At this time, I see me fulfilling this goal by working in management consulting, although I am open to information that changes my mind between now and then.

    And I’m from LA. And I want to come home, ultimately, when I’m done.

    Hoping for Stanford. Columbia is on the list because I would enjoy living in NYC for 2-4 years (before running home to the beach). The more research I do, the more I think Kellogg is a good fit. USC and UCLA backups. A bunch of schools have been emailing me requesting that I apply… haven’t even looked into that yet… plan to apply only if they waive the fee, as I am looking for a specific set of experiences, not just a degree / another master’s.


  • pharmer


    26 year old male

    BS (3.0) /MS Biomedical Engineering (3.5) State school

    WE: 3 years with government health organization (ie FDA, DHHS, CDC)

    1 year clinical research at top research institution

    Goal: move from government to pharma, preferably in some sort of business
    development role, leveraging experience

    Chances at Duke, Kellogg, MIT, Wharton, Columbia

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