Handicapping Your Odds Of Getting In

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

After spending more than two years working in a male-dominated field, managing men who were four to 40 years older than her, she is now employed as a project manager at non-profit in New York City. With a 660 GMAT and a 3.67 grade point average, this 25-year-old professional hopes to go to a top business school to help her work as a non-profit consultant.

This 26-year-old Indian male went to Stanford University for a master’s in engineering management after earning a degree in computer science from a well-known regional university in India. He now works for a Big Three consulting firm but wants an MBA to advance his career.

After graduating with honors from West Point, he served his country as an Apache platoon leader and battle captain, earning multiple awards for courage under fire and commitment to mission accomplishment. This 27-year-old man is now transitioning to civilian life after suffering injuries in a helicopter crash while serving in Afghanistan.

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. Strategy


  • GMAT unknown
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school
  • Work experience includes two years of consulting with Bain, two and one-half years in corporate strategy with a mid-sized financial services firm in Australia, and two and one-half years with Deloitte doing strategy consulting
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer teacher in Tanzania at an orphanage, teaching English to refugee immigrants, and volunteering at an animal shelter – plus lots of work related activities (practice development, website building, training module development, coordinated volunteerism events
  • Extensive traveler to some 45 countries, having lived in four countries including the U.S
  • Fluent in German and English
  • 29-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 20% to 30%
Chicago: 50%+
Northwestern: 50%+
Michigan: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Lots to like including 3.7 from Ivy and what I take is career progression leading to Bain. Plus what seem like some interesting extras, including teaching in Tanzania at an orphanage (bonus points). And what appears to be real solid leadership at work, “practice development, website building, training module development, coordinated volunteerism events.” Of that list, the last one, coordinating volunteerism, probably scores highest because it is peer leadership, and you are trying to get your busy co-workers to do do-gooder stuff.

GMAT? That can be an issue, especially at Stanford, which if not a GMAT whore (more likely a pretty GMAT woman who gets drunk easily and forgets what matters most, or what she claims matters most). At Stanford, especially in the final cut of high-performing consulting types, GMATs are an easy way to make a decision. I am assuming you are currently working at Bain, if not this career progression seems odd.

Age, at 29, is also a potential issue, as is three jobs. That is one job too many for most applicants. You will need to explain all that, somehow. Are you working in Australia now? Jeepers, sure hope you are from there, if not, that would be another odd piece of data? Of the schools you list, Stanford/Booth/Kellogg/Ross, you should be real solid at all but Stanford, which is always hard, and you might think about Wharton and HBS as well.

You got a lot pros and some cons, so outcomes could be varied at top schools (H/S/W) but worth covering the waterfront. I don’t care what you want to do later in life. Just go to the best school you get into, my go-to advice unless you can make a strong case why not.

Given the ripples in this profile, this is a case where solid execution counts a bit more than your average case: you really need to explain why you’ve had three jobs and why you zigzagged from consulting to corporate and back to consulting and also how an Ivy kid winds up in Australia (if you are not native). That can be done, and you need to do it with some care and cogency. FYI, for other schools, any ol’ 700+ GMAT with even splits (near 80 pct) is fine. That is what Her Majesty Dee Leopold says about HBS and it is, for the most part, true.

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  • Kyle K


  • EngineerConsultant

    This is a wonderful series and I thank you for the perspective.

    Below are my specs. I hope you have time to evaluate my case.

    25 year old Black Male
    African Immigrant. Raised in a historically disadvantaged community (Bronx, NY)

    – 3.3 HYP Engineering (BioMed)
    – 3.8 Columbia/Northwestern/Princeton Engineering Masters (Electrical) (on a fellowship)
    – 770 GMAT

    – 6 Months R&D national research laboratory
    – 2 years McKinsey/Bain/BCG Consulting

    – Collegiate ECs: Co-President Sexual Assault Education and Counseling Group, also President minority science and engineering organization, 2 summers teaching history to under-privileged youth in NYC, developed tutoring program during summers

    – Post-Collegiate ECs: Teaching Science to Inner-City students in Chicago, Volunteering at a palliative care hospice.


    Immediate: Venture Capital with strong medical device exposure.

    Long Term: Strategy work in a medical device manufacturing firm managing R&D or tech transfer, or a start-up in medical devices.

    -Target Schools:

    (* for schools with schools with joint Engineering Management/MBA programs
    ^ for schools with joint Bioengineering/MBA)

    I know the GPA is bad but do I stand a chance at any of these schools?

    Would it make more sense for me to apply as a dual degree applicant or an MBA only applicant?

  • CPA-to-Ops

    Mr. Kreisberg, I’d appreciate the benefit of your handicapping, if it’s not too much trouble.
    – 3.7 GPA from top 40 private university (attended on a full academic scholarship; national merit scholar back in the day); double majored accounting/finance and was president of my school’s accounting fraternity; worked all through undergrad, up to 50hrs/week, taking 15-21 credits per semester
    – Currently a 720 GMAT (first attempt taken cold, plan to retake targeting 750+)
    – Work experience (this is what has me worried):
    Internship with PwC in advisory
    Approx. 2 years with a major public accounting firm (think GT/McGladry); fell seriously ill during my second audit season and was riffed within two weeks of returning to work (office downsized by 30%) – managed to pass all parts of the CPA exam (first attempt each) while working full time
    Worked with a smaller public accounting firm thereafter until I was able to land a controller position with a gold-mining startup with properties in South America; eventually became functional CFO, raising capital and engaging PE firms until the company ran out of working capital, after which I was forced to depart for the sake of my own solvency.
    Currently work for one of the only $-billion-plus multinationals in the Tampa Bay area in a high-profile position.
    Run a small accounting/consulting firm on the side that caters to internet and local startups; operate on either non-profit or equity-only basis
    – Looking to obtain an MBA to shift to an operations/general management role; not thrilled with the manner in which CPAs are pigeon-holed and am enamoured with accounting to the point of spending the rest of my career acting as one.
    – Target schools: Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Tuck
    – 27 year-old white male

  • Enlisted

    Good afternoon,

    I am intrigued with everything said about veteran applicants. My question is what about the enlisted veteran? Every case I’ve read so far deals with officers in the military. How do enlisted veterans measure up?

    I was an enlisted Marine, I served for six years and fought in Iraq and Afghanistan. I was in the Marine Corps infantry and served as a section leader and Platoon Sergeant while in Afghanistan responsible for 27 Marines and over $5million worth of equipment and serialized gear. While in Afghanistan, I also led a machine gun team on 30+ missions. We pushed out the terrorists and helped establish villages and cities free from Taliban influence. We set up a local aid stations and schools and helped the locals with vaccines and helped train the village doctor on basic first aid. I was injured in combat from enemy fire and received the Purple Heart Award.

    I got out of the Marines and took advantage of the GI Bill and got a business management degree. I currently work for a fortune 500 company in their Financial Leadership Training Program (2yrs with company by desired MBA start date). I have learned that corporate finance is not where I want to be and I want to transition into consumer packaged goods to ultimately be a brand manager and help the world, especially the youth and younger generations of less-fortunate backgrounds develop healthy living habits and understand that there is more to life than what is currently theirs.

    I volunteer as the assistant coach for a high school varsity lacrosse team. Last year they won three games, and this year with the new coaching staff we are currently 8-1. I also volunteer as leader and supervisor of a local Boy Scouts of America troop. I spend 15+ hours a week with the lacrosse team and 10+ hours a week with the boy scouts.

    I lived in Brazil for two years as a missionary for my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and managed 160-180+ missionaries and supervised missionary training for my mission. I speak Brazilian Portuguese fluently.

    Will my upbringing play a significant factor? I’m the first of my family to get a bachelor’s degree. I will be the first to go to grad school. Mom was 17 when I was born and I have been passed around from family member to family member because of my mother’s drug addiction and her time in jail. Maybe TMI??

    Undergrad GPA 3.72

    GMAT 600

    Dream schools: Northwestern, Duke, Michigan, Texas McCombs, BYU

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