Handicapping Your Shot At A Top School

She’s a 25-year-old engineer at a leading medical devices company recently acquired by Johnson & Johnson. With a 750 GMAT and a 3.43 grade point average from Johns Hopkins University, she wants an MBA to help her move into a strategy or operations role at a technology or biotech company.

He’s a 25-year-old African-American who works as a business analyst for a global oil company. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.17 GPA in chemical engineering, he’s hoping the MBA will help him transition into the alternative energy industry.

After spending a couple of years at a boutique consulting firm and a short, failed attempt to get a startup off the ground, his girlfriend convinced him to take a shot at social entrepreneurship. With strong GRE scores and a 3.3 GPA, this 24-year-old is seeking an MBA program that will help him start a social enterprise or triple-bottom-line business.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

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.

As he has in the past, 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 (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 next week.

Sandy’s assessment:

Ms. Mechanical Engineer


  • 750 GMAT
  • 3.43 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from Johns Hopkins University
  • Work experience includes three years in a fast track engineering rotation program at a leading medical device company just acquired by J&J, including roles in operations and product development and a yearlong assignment in Switzerland
  • Extracurricular involvement as director of a college outdoors program, four years of research in surgical robotics including guest researcher position in Japan, published at a major medical robotics conference, played club soccer, running half marathons; also volunteer at Habitat for Humanity and mentor at-risk girls
  • Goal: To move into upper management strategy or operations role at a technology or biotech company
  • 25-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 50%+
MIT: 60%+
Stanford: 30% to 40%
Berkeley: 60%+
Columbia: 60%+
Northwestern: 70%+
Chicago: 70%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Bingo! We have a winner.

This is great!

Female, Hopkins, Mechanical Engineering, 750 GMAT, 3.43 (OK, that is gold plated, not gold, but it was a 3.43 in a nerd major competing against many male tools), three years at a “successful” medical device company (recently acquired by J&J, so you got experience with super-big successful company), great engineering rotation program (engineering and rotation are sizzling words in B-school applications these days) and publications!, outdoors stuff, half-marathons, and mentoring “at-risk girls.”  And a yearlong assignment in Switzerland, which is neither here nor there, but sounds glam and fun. Surgical robotics! Dat is kool. And “guest researcher in Japan,” also mega impressive.

At Stanford, this could be one of those cases where Bolton says, “we took this person despite the essays . . .” (which he has said, along with saying that essays really count, so take your pick, although in your case, your pick is essays may not always count.) All that said, try to write some OK essays, in tune with the Stanford vibe. “What really matters to me is being a scientist who cares….”

Great applicants like you have blown HBS interviews, so that is something to watch out for (ahem, you might hire a great interview prep service like, ahem, ahem the one I run) and at other schools you note, MIT (woman with 750 GMAT, stop reading and admit), Columbia, Kellogg, Booth, it will just be a matter of convincing them you want to come. You got a lot going for you, on paper and maybe in reality, but it is on paper that mostly counts in this game, so I am predicting great succes

  • Patricia

    Chances of getting into HBS?!

    GPA: 4.0 (top of the class) in BsC in Management
    GMAT: 730 – Top 5 EUROPEAN university
    Native in 4 languages
    3 years in top 2 Commodity Trading firm – Oil Trading Graduate Program with rotations in Africa, Asia and South America.
    Extra Curricular: 1st University Squash Team – 3 months of volunteering in South East Asia
    White Female



  • Ms. Mechanical Engineer

    Hey Sandy, Ms. Mechanical Engineer here. Thanks so much for the assessment! Any chance you could give me one last piece of advice? GMAT is actually 760 with 6.0 AWA and 8 IR (750 was a practice) and I’m now thinking of adding Wharton to the list. Odds? Any other schools missing from the list? Thanks!

  • Aniket

    Hey Sandy! Thought I’d add my profile since I cant seem to find a direct match

    Indian Male (US permanent resident) 27
    GMAT: 710
    GPA: 3.74, magna cum laude, Babson College, MA (#1 ranked undergrad entrepreneurship program in the world)

    Work Experience: 3.5 years with Tier-1 investment bank IBD in Hong Kong and Singapore (Think Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley)- worked across different product groups and sectors focusing on equity capital markets and M&A – leadership role (sole analyst) in a US$4Bn transaction / Quit to become Co-founder of media-technology business based in Indonesia (6 months, quit due to differences with co-founders. Startup still doing well) / Joined TechnoServe (business solutions to poverty) (8 months – ongoing). Total experience ~5 years

    Extracurricular Activities: Volunteer with the Landmark forum (2+ years), Athletics – Run Half marathons (4+), Mountain climbing (Mt. Kinabalu, Kilimanjaro and Base camp Everest), Department of Statistics – Assistant, Tutor & Grader, Mentor – low income youth looking to study in top U.S. undergrad schools, Leadership roles in 2 undergrad clubs

    Goals: Short-term: Looking to break into a H/S/W/ Booth and transition to the private-equity / Venture-capital space, specifically into funds that are more hands-on involved with operations

    Longer-term: Found a Social Impact Fund / Developmental Capital in India that also mentors portfolio companies, with high social impact

  • Aniket

    Hello! Thought I’d add my profile since I cant seem to find a direct match

  • indianwoman

    Hi! I went through all profiles to see if there is a match with mine, but since I could not find any – request you to do an analysis please.

    Indian Woman, 27 years old
    GMAT score- 740
    Total 5 Years of work exp. 2 years as a management consultant in UAE, 3 years in New Delhi in Corporate HR in a French energy MNC handling talent management in a leadership role (building leadership pipeline, Competency assessments, development of potential).

    Undergraduate from Delhi University in Economics Honours with 70% (not sure how to convert in GPA), Post graduate diploma in HR management from a reputed Indian management institute with 7/10 CGPA.

    Extracurricular activities include Public Speaking, I hold leadership position in Toastmasters Club, also have formal training in Hindustani Classical vocal music

    Social Contribution – Counselling for Rape Victims in India – work for a Women’n NGO

    Goal: A career in consulting in Mckinsey post an MBA from Harvard/ Stanford

  • Mr. Big Pharma

    Good morning Sandy!
    I’ve been researching pharmacists and I haven’t seen an applicant similar to myself. I am a 30 year old African American male. Please indulge me with your expertise.

    Mr. Big Pharma

    -680+ GMAT (Projected-Private tutoring)

    -3.64 GPA Doctor of Pharmacy (Pharm.D.). University is well respected in the industry

    -Work experience-

    -Two years Clinical Services Director at a pharmacy benefits manager (PBM) with about 200K lives. Roles include developing, implementing, and managing clinical programs. Provides
    clinical direction and leadership to in house staff including four pharmacists
    and twenty customer service reps and technicians. Increased revenue of one of clinical programs over 225% within six months of employment. Created a medication therapy management (MTM) program with a revenue model that positions over 200 independent pharmacists in the community setting to aid, what soon will be, a stress healthcare system due to 30 million patients gaining access to coverage in 2014. This program keeps independent pharmacists competitive against big chains and profitable against other PBMs who marginalize the dispensing of Rx medications. Trained and acclimated 200
    pharmacists to the new program. No other decentralized MTM program exists in the industry.

    -One year clinical pharmacist at OptumRx, a UnitedHealth Group company. Left to build clinical programs vs. being a cog in someone else’s system. Leaving was my best move.

    -Four Years staff pharmacist at Rite Aid pharmacy.


    – In 2009, I won a business plan competition at a school with a top 14 MBA program vs. other
    undergrad and graduate students. **Granted, I have no business education.

    -Real estate development from 2008-2011. Accumulated over 800K in assets. Ultimately failed due to internal disputes/litigation with partners.

    -Rho Chi (Pharmacy Honor Society)

    -Guest Speaker at a well-respected city sponsored Entrepreneurs’ Forum in a major northeastern city, representing my real estate development company.

    -Guitar Player. Not any good, but just enjoy playing


    -Become a leader in the PBM industry. With the new healthcare overhaul and with 50%
    of the drugs in clinical trials being very expensive specialty medications, the
    industry is and will continue to look for new ways to manage drug spend while
    using the change in healthcare laws to it’s advantage.

    -Schools of choice