Your Odds Of Getting Into A Great School

For the past eight years, he’s done a wide variety of missionary work from earthquake relief to ethnographic research in Chinese villages. With a 770 GMAT and a 3.9 grade point average in math, this 29-year-old now wants an MBA to help him transition to the corporate world.

Before his start-up crashed in the Great Recession, he had built its revenues to $1 million a month and had eight employees on the payroll. Now he works as an analyst for a Fortune 20 company and hopes an MBA degree will allow him to work in micro finance or strategy consulting.

After gaining a degree in Spanish and Classical Civilizations from a top liberal arts college, she landed a job with an online startup in the payment solutions space. With a 690 GMAT and a 3.3 GPA, this 24-year-old professional plans to gain MBA skills so she can start her own business.

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

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, is back again to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

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:

>Ms. Tech Startup

  • 690 GMAT
  • 3.3 GPA
  • Undergrad degree in Spanish and classical civilizations from a top liberal arts college
  • Work experience includes two years at an online payment solution tech startup, where I have evolved in three jobs, from customer facing to coordinating sales and marketing (involving interacting with a lot of different people and profiles) to integrating accounts with banks
  • Extracurricular involvement as an active member of my college alumni club, helping to organize events, such as walks for breast cancer, and raise funds
  • Goal: “I have an enormous appetite for cultural/international experiences. This is what’s driving me. So my long-term goal is to start a technical business with an international perspective. My short-term goal is to develop my leadership skills. I feel like I need that time to reflect and grow these critical skills away from work through sharing experiences.”
  • 24-year-old female

Odds of Success:

(if  you follow my advice)

Dartmouth: 20% to 30%
Berkeley: 30%
Georgetown: 40+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Here’s some tough love. Don’t make this any more flakey than it has to be. You are on the see-saw, the powerful see-saw inside the head of an adcom, which can either see you as:

A serious person from a top liberal arts college with so-so but OK stats (3.3 GPA and 690 GMAT), who is working for a real start-up in the online payments space (a thriving and established if not highly selective or exciting field)


A confused Spanish major with a travel and cultural Jones, with marginal stats (3.3 GPA from artsy school and gut major, and 690 GPA) who somehow flopped into a job at a payments start-up, and got lucky when others took off, which happens in shaky start-ups, and now dreams of starting an international business with a technical basis (something you have marginal background in) after your short-term goal, which, and  I quote, is “to develop my leadership skills. I feel like I need . . . time to reflect and grow . . . critical skills away from work through sharing experiences.”

Allow to me suggest that you stress Persona 1 in your application and put Persona 2 in your underwear drawer for special and intimate occasions with close friends and significant others.

I would drop the international, cultural angle as a goal driver, although sure, you can play that angle in some short essay about what clubs you might join on campus. But you really need to get your main story straight, and that is as a smart person, excited about business, who racked up great experience in your payments start-up, not so much stressing the start-up angle, but stressing the normal business angle, to wit what you said you did, “coordinating sales and marketing (involving interacting with a lot of different people and profiles) to integrating accounts with banks.” THAT is stuff that warms the heart of an adcom, not your–and here I am quoting again –“enormous appetite for cultural/international experiences. This is what’s driving me.” Adcoms don’t like enormous appetites. And while they may like culture, well, for personal consumption (although even here you might be surprised), they don’t like culture as a “driver” in an application.

Say that you are excited about sales, marketing, teamwork, and corporate communication, and after your MBA, you want to work for an innovative, marketing-driven company to learn best practices, blah, blah. A real wise move would be to look up the marketing, customer-facing companies, which hire lots of kids from the very schools you are applying to and say you want to work there. You can find such a list of companies on Poets&Quants, for many schools, and usually for all schools if you sniff around the corporate placement part of their websites.

I can see why INSEAD appeals to you. They like Americans, although usually older ones, but I would think twice about going there, unless you want to work in Europe. That may be my own prejudice, and if there are any INSEAD alums out there who can tell us how often grads go back to work in the U.S.A., please chime in. Tuck, Berkeley, Georgetown? All excellent choices, if you drop the culture stuff and just go with  the marketing, serious person who  wants to learn best practices through the Big-Normal-Cool Company route.

  • SAT

    Hi Sandy,

    can you please evaluate my odds

    GMAT -720
    GPA- 3.8/4

  • Renata

    Hi Sandy,

    Maybe you could see my profile:

    GMAT: 7,0 (tests, still studying)

    Undergrad: Top brazilian Business School, 100% scholarship, GPA around 3.

    Work Experience: I was an intern at the financial area of the most famous publisher in Brazil (1 year), then was accepted at a talent recruitment program at the leader Merchant Acquire in the country, which included the opportunity of working in several different areas through one year (sales, logistics, strategic planning, product development, accounting), having personal coaching and training. Also developed a huge group project during the year about Project Portifolio Management that was presented by me for the board and management. My final area at the Merchant Acquire was Finance and I worked there till I get an job offer to come back to the Publisher in an management position. I took the offer and am working here for about 1,5 years managing 4 people.

    During these 3 years after undergrads I took two courses in another top brazilian business school: Controllership and M&A.

    Extracurricular: I am a Chess player since I was 9, and played professionaly since 14 ( I gained money to play for a brazilian city team in the Regional Competitions). Won the Sao Paulo´s (state) and Brazilian Championships at 15. During high school I teached chess for collegues in an extracurricular class (after school). At College, I joined the Cultural Group where I managed the founds and organized several features for 3,5 years (culinary courses, writing concurse, cultural city tours, etc). Took several extracurricular courses at College, such as Sign Language, Poetry, Presentations, Art and Culture. Today I teach my co-workers from different areas how to increase their efficiency in Excel works (had two good experiences so far).

    Family History: My dad was in an accident when I was 13 (he stayed in coma for about 6 months and was never full recovered), and my family passed through a bad finance situation that made my parents move out from Sao Paulo when I was 16 and my brother and I lived by ourselves since then. I helped to maintain us with my sallary from my chess player employment.

    24 year old brazilian female, married (and my husband is applying for MBA as well)

  • Arun V

    All solid stats my friend except the fact that you are an applicant from the most competitive group — Indian Males. The only saving grace is you are not an IT professional. All the best and good wishes to recover from your chronic problems. My suggestion is — apply with realistic expectations and apply to schools in the top 15. Don’t get stuck on H/S/W hype.

  • Grizzy1

    I was hoping if someone can evaluate me?

    3.69 GPA from SUNY Buffalo god BS in Accounting
    3.50 GPA for MS in Accounting from SUNY OldWestbury
    4 years at a Big 4 firm after graduation
    720 GMAT score
    27 year old Indian
    Not sure if this would help but maybe incorporate into essay how growing up I had to have multiple surgeries starting at the age of 12 due to being born with a Hip problem that continues to deteriorate my ball and socket joints.