Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

After a three-year stint in the U.S. Commerce Department, he launched a tech startup that is a blend of Groupon and social media. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.45 grade point average from Georgia Tech, he hopes to get an MBA degree from a highly-ranked school.

She has worked in public relations for digital media companies, an arts non-profit and a web design and marketing company where she is currently a project manager. With a 660 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA from the University of Florida, she is hoping to gain acceptance to a top business school.

After working as a research associate for a small hedge fund, this 27-year-old professional now works for a boutique investor relations firm. With decent GRE scores in both math and verbal and a 3.89 GPA from a small liberal arts college, he wants to get an MBA to help him land an internal marketing and communications job at a big firm.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these and other MBA candidates want to know is whether they have a chance to get into a top business school. In this best of version of the series, we’re turning to Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

As he has in the past, Kreisberg handicaps each potential applicant’s odds of getting in. 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 half dozen or more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature next week.

Sandy’s take-no-prisoners analysis:

Mr. Tech Startup

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.45 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting/finance from a good school on the scale of Georgia Tech
  • Work experience at U.S. Department of Commerce for three years, first in the Leadership Rotational Program, then permanently assigned to work on early stage tech projects and investments
  • Interned twice and got a full-time offer from a bulge bracker investment banking firm but turned offer down because I became disillusioned with banking culture
  • Recently launched tech startup that is a blend of Groupon and social media
  • Extracurriculars include volunteer on local and national political campaigns, tutor inner city kids, and fundraising events for nonprofits.
  • Fluent in five widely useful languages
  • Future Goal: To become successful in business and use leadership experience to help formulate good business policies through special public service appointments.

Odds of Success:

Harvard Business School: 20%
Stanford: 10%
Columbia: 40%
Wharton: 50%
NYU: 60+%
Yale: 60+%
Georgetown: 70+%

Sandy’s Analysis: I am assuming you are still with the Dept of Commerce and have not quit to work on start-up full-time. If you have quit, that is not good. Business schools despise entrepreneurs, especially ones at no-metrics, no VC-money, no professional websites, because anyone can be an entrepreneur and they have no way of knowing how to judge you. It helps if you have venture capital backing and revenues, but then, duh, why apply? As Mark Zuckerberg recently noted, he is seeking the best Harvard degree, honorary.

To business schools, entrepreneurs=burn outs with laptops. If you do strike gold, as per Mr. Zuckerberg, the school will be happy to become reacquainted over a cozy cashier’s check. Okay, assuming you are still at Commerce Department, here is the low down on U.S. Government jobs.

How hard is that job to get, how many kids from your department applied to business school and what outcomes did they have? I’m no expert, but the last time I looked, the Tea Party wanted to abolish the Department of Commerce and no one else was too excited about it.

If you were admitted into some selective leadership rotational program, as you say you were, that could help. But most government admits to H and S, especially for white boys (as I assume you are) come from the Treasury, the White House, and maybe the Justice Department. Anyway, that is my feel for it. If someone has data or inside-the-beltway anecdotes, please share. You got a reach chance at Wharton because of a quanty 720, the fact that you’re a bit older and they may put one finger up their nostril with the 3.45. If not, do a full nose hold. Same with Columbia, although just always a bit more easy. Yale, Georgetown and NYU, should be admits.

All that said, if you totally turned yourself into a diving bomb, and executed super-duper, and got lucky and had backing from some impressive sounding under-secretary, I could see Wharton. Somehow you just smell their type.

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  • SoutheasternCandidate

    Hi Sandy,

    GMAT: 740 (Q: 47 V: 45)

    GPA: 3.99 Undergrad University of Georgia, Finance major

    27 year-old white male

    Total Work Experience: 5 years

    Job Experience: I am currently an Associate in the Industrials group at a middle-market investment bank located in the Southeast. I have significant experience running sell-side M&A processes including developing all valuation related analyses and authoring all marketing materials. I have also worked on the buy-side for the take-private of a public company as well as several IPOs. Prior to becoming an Associate at my current firm, I spent 3 years as an analyst at a boutique healthcare investment bank.

    Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Kellog, Tuck, Ross, Fuqua, Darden

    Extracurriculars: My extracurriculars have been fairly limited since I have begun working, though I am active in my church and participate in community service projects through that. In college I was the head of a Sector team for our Student Managed Investment Fund and also in leadership for our Banking & Finance Society.

    Recommendations: I will have a very strong recommendation from the Managing Director with whom I work very closely at my current investment bank. He is a Stanford GSB alum. I will also have a strong recommendation from the Vice President at my previous investment bank.

    Objective: My main objective would be to broaden my skill set outside of Finance. With a major in Finance and 5 years of investment banking, I have a very strong foundation in finance, but I would like to build out my skill-set in the other functions of business (i.e. Marketing and General Management). I would like to transition out of investment banking and work for a corporation and focus on building value for the long-term.

    Thank you.

  • Guest

    Hello Sandy, Could we try this out for our not so exalted applicants

    GMAT: Practice test scaled score V47 Q27 ( learned of a math learning disability recently, proven documentation)

    34 year old Hispanic male immigrant from marginalized community who has disabled parent due to fatal car accident 1st year of college and was emancipated at 17.

    Total Work Experience: ~ 9 years

    GPA 2.5 in Pol. Sci. from a medium state univ. and 2nd BS attempted in Chemistry 2.3GPA (before discovery of Dyscalculia) at northeast state public flagship, 3.2 GPA after 2 summer sessions of a part time tier 2 MBA program.

    Work Experience: One year as a financial associate for a local bank responsible for 35% of quarterly sales.One year as an outreach/ program coordinator at a non profit in charge
    of a USB donated computer lab and recipient of a 10,000 dollar grant
    from the Verizon foundation for a mobile language lab for community
    uses. 6 month Citbank emerging markets Intern where I collected and presented data to consortium of multinational banks for the possibility of providing financial services to emerging markets of ITIN holders ,created web content and designed corporate website of research findings. One and a half years as a lab technician at a GE learning accelerator / Think tank, winner of GE’s Imagine award for use -case ideation generation. After that worked in the IT support field for another 1 year as a level 2 technician. 8 month co-op at world leading pharmaceutical company in PA, at a contract ops and external manufacturing position. Mediated departmental wide SWOT analysis, and created new metrics reporting protocol, also led mass data migration initiative towards dept. wide info sharing portal, and created Executive to Co-op meeting initiative, a series of lecture like presentations where senior executives came and spoke to all co-ops collectively instead of each co-op trying to split their time. Led hurricane relief efforts and collected over 2 tons of goods. Influenced con-ops director to donate over 500 boxes of medications for the Princeton hospital Hispanic Health fair. Four month contract position at GE’s Global Patent Operations as a docket administrator. Left the country in 2008 to open up Caribbean’s nation 1st. ever marine biotechnology R&D company all with my own savings. Was sub-contracted out by local start-up to supervise Radio Isotope production project for a year, but venture went into hibernation due to high machinery import tariffs. Recently working with professor who is world leading authority in uses of marine flora for Agar, Carrageenan, cosmetic, and bio fuel production. While at the same time helping local non-profit to move fishing villages from over fishing to aqua farming for economic independence and sustainability.

    Target Schools: Carnegie Mellon, Ohio State, NYU, IE, IESE, Uconn, Darden, Cornell, UC Irvine, Stanford, Tuck.

    Extracurricular : Let’s see All state wrestler in high school and college, all conference baseball in high school, nationally ranked amateur judoka ( 2 gold medals, 2 silver, 3 bronze at nationally recognized tournaments in 3 years).

    Community Service:
    Smillow Cancer Hospital at Yale-New Haven
    March 2010–August 2010
    (6 months)
    Greet, escort or transport patients and visitors (by wheelchair) throughout the hospital.

    Volunteer Coordinator
    Latino Foundation of Stamford Inc.
    January 2004–January 2010
    (6 years 1 month)
    • Recruit organize and coordinate volunteers for annual toy drive and other events.
    •Wrap all of the toys that were donated by Toys for Tots
    • Transport the toys on the day of the event
    • Volunteer to play Joseph, Mary, Baby Jesus and the Three Kings.

    Volunteer Coordinator
    March of Dimes
    January 2001-May 2003
    (2 years 5 months)
    •Help recruit and organize volunteers from student organizations
    •Grass root outreach for event advertisement.
    •Lead fundraising efforts through phone calls

    Participant/ Philanthropist
    Aids Walk NYC
    May 2000–May 2007
    (7 years 1 month)
    •Fund raise money at my university.
    •Encouraging people to volunteer.
    •Participate on the walk annually.

    Un Techo para mi País
    January 2010–January 2011
    (1 year 1 month)
    TECHO is a Latin-American non-profit organization led by youth
    volunteers, that works in slums found across the continent with a focus
    on: Community Development, the search for Political Advocacy, and the
    promotion of Social Action. This work is carried out with the support of
    volunteers, who make a commitment with the reality of their country,
    and bet on the fact that a change is possible.

    District Representative of political party elective committee ( youngest Latino and member ever 22 years old)


    Assistant organizing director of the Stamford organizing project


    Objective: I know I have a weak academic record but at my young age I’ve had more professional and service experience than most people twice my age. I’m one of the earliest generations of millennials, and have behaved as such my whole life. I was in a part time MBA program but dropped out to start my company( timing seemed right) but the main reason was that I was not getting exposure to recruiters in the part time program. I need to be challenged and I’m tired of taking baby steps, I’ve never had anyone help me get a job, or put in a good word for me for a job, or even help me financially. Everything I have accomplished has been on my own through resilience and hard work, I paid my own school, got my own jobs, supported myself and my family, but I’m tired of not breaking through to management. I have a high EQ and I am really good with people, I also know that my biggest motivation is to be a part of a great team that values what I can bring to the table. Interested in pursuing a position in IT or Biotech as project management, brand management, advertising, management consulting or product development. I have my own company but I need to learn more about finance and marketing to attract bigger investors and to manage innovation. I’m tired of being a small fish and would like to play with the big boys.

  • Guest

    GMAT: 710 (Q42, V45) AWA 5.5

    GPA: 3.69 Midwest private “Ivy” university, double major in English and French

    25 year old white female

    Total Work Experience: 3.5 years

    Job Experience: I am currently a mid-level executive for the central
    office of a major national retailer, based in New York. I have been
    promoted three times in the last 3.5 years and have experience in all
    aspects of the retail/supply chain world. I currently manage a high-profile, high-volume business and have a proven track record of achieving plans and strategies. Great negotiation and interpersonal skills.

    Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Kellog, Stern, Columbia, Wharton, Sloane

    Extracurriculars: Limited extracurriculars: I mentor three employees
    in my company. I volunteer once a week at the local public school. In college, held sorority leadership positions and belonged to honor societies.

    Recommendations: I will have very strong recommendations from my current and past supervisors.

    Objective: My main objective would be to broaden my skill set outside
    of Retail/Supply Chain. Unlike many other applicants, I have actually
    run a multimillion dollar business within my organization, as opposed to
    just invested in one. I would ultimately like to transition to
    strategy/brand management and focus on long-term planning, as well as
    gain international business experience.

  • aks

    Hi Sandy, was a bit surprised about your comments on entrepreneurship given the strong selling point most MBA programs aim at when talking about the level of entrepreneurship/innovation going on in their programs and curriculums. Something does not compute.

    Thanks for your articles, great source of information.

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