Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

by John A. Byrne on

He was on varsity crew for four years while earning his degree in engineering from an Ivy League powerhouse. After three years as a consultant for a top-tier management consulting firm, this 25-year-old professional wants an MBA to transition to an executive role at a manufacturing company.

With undergraduate and master’s degrees in psychology, she works for a regional accounting firm in Los Angeles. She hopes to get an MBA to apply psychology concepts and theories to the world of business as a management consultant.

He’s a first-generation college graduate who works for the International Monetary Fund. A 24-year-old African-American with a 720 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average, he hopes to get an MBA degree to move his career forward.

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 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. HIs witty and incisive commentaries on each applicant’s chances at their target schools has become of the most popular features at Poets&Quants and the subject of our first published book.

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. Our Handicapping series usually runs weekly and appears every Friday morning on the site.

Mr. M&A

  • 740 GMAT (practice tests)
  • 3.10 GPA (notably very weak GPA, but with strong performance in quantitative courses including Linear Algebra, Differential Equations)
  • Undergraduate degree in industrial management from Purdue University (Minor in Finance)
  • Work experience includes three years in corporate banking for super regional bank (US Bank, PNC, BNY Mellon)
  • Extracurricular activities include involvement with local Chamber of Commerce, and volunteer activities with underprivileged middle school youth
  • Goal: To transition into a financial leadership role with an established company, or leverage banking experience to transition to M&A boutique
  • 26-year-old white male, first in family to graduate college

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 20% to 25%
Dartmouth: 30% to 35%
Berkeley: 40%
Chicago: 25% to 35+%
Columbia: 20% to 30%
Northwestern: 30% to 40%
New York: 40% to 50%
MIT: 20%

Sandy’s Analysis: Get that 740 GMAT! That is my first piece of advice. Once we got a 3.1 and a so-so job at a super-regional bank, well, if you apply with a 2nd-tier GMAT, e.g. ~650, schools start to think of you as someone who never got an A.

But, poof, you put a 720+ GMAT in the mix, or a premium 740, and then the whole picture takes on a different tone. To wit: A guy with real solid abilities, first gen college, Purdue (solid 2nd-tier school in Mid-West), also solid meat-and-potatoes major in industrial management, a striver and a success at a regional powerhouse bank, plus real settled goals which grow out of your experience, and there’s more . . . Chamber-of-Commerce type and do-gooder with underserved kids . . .not bad.

I’m not seeing this as Harvard or Stanford-–even with a 780 GMAT. There’s not enough stardust and you are competing in an ultra- competitive financial sector. Wharton is an acceptable reach, with real solid execution and boffo recommendations, given your good grades in really hard quant courses (and again, a 720+ GMAT).

As to Tuck, Haas, Booth, Columbia, Kellogg, Stern and Sloan?

You are in the running with a 740 GMAT. That is just really important in your case. Tuck likes solid guys like you, and they like bankers, so that is a plus, you can go visit and try to charm your way in. They are open to that. Columbia may balk more at the low GPA than most places, just for their stats profile. Kellogg likes Mid-Western solid types like you. Booth may be a bit more snobby, and Sloan will be a reach.

What you need to do until you apply is keep doing good work at your job, and study for the GMATs. Plan to take as many times as necessary. I hate to say it, but that test is critical for you.

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  • jilljackwentuphill

    Hello Sandy,

    Could you please take a look at my profile ?

    Age: 24

    Gender : M

    Race: Indian

    Nationality: American

    Education: Bachelors in Engineering from a Non-IIT school in India. GPA of 3.8.

    GMAT:760

    Experience: Worked for one of the 3 Detroit Based Automobile Companies ( Worlds Largest Automobile Company) for 3 years. 2 of those years in Manufacturing. Part of a 3 man team specifically assigned to improving the efficiency of one of the Company’s manufacturing plants in Ohio. Increased it by close to 10%. 1 Year in Treasury at the same company. Got Promoted Twice so far.

    Post MBA Goal: To become a C-suite executive at the Same company. Senior Vice President of Global Manufacturing type role.

    Cleared all 3 of the CFA exams.

    Extra-Curricular:

    1) Taught Math to Autistic Kids for a brief period of time.

    2) Some Chariity work in Rural places in India

    3)Climbed Mount Kiliminjaro

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