Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

This 30-something woman is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has also spent three years as a NASA engineer. An avid surfer and licensed scuba diver, she is hoping that an MBA degree would help to advance her career.

He’s a Brazilian who works in logistics for one of his family’s companies in Brazil. With a 740 GMAT and a 2.8 grade point average, this 24-year-old now wants to go to a top U.S. business school so he could return to the family company and work in general management, eventually climbing to the position of chief operating officer or CEO.

He’s a 34-year-old IT director for a community college in California with a pair of online degrees from Capella University. With a 750 GMAT, he wants an MBA to eventually move up into a chief information officer role in a Fortune 500 company.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

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, 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:

femalenavalofficerMs. Naval Officer


  • 740 GMAT (90% Q & 90% V)
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech
  • 3.35 GPA (master’s)
  • Master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech
  • Work Experience includes current stint as a U.S. Navy Submarine officer, with top clearances, commanding a $1 billion boat; led several naval teams in combat, emergency and watch stations; also spent three years as a NASA engineer with space shuttle and space station deployments
  • Also had Caltech summer fellowship and was a Lockheed Martin Intern,
  • Helped develop and market indoor mapping tool for blind people, programming Python scripts and traded ($100K<) on the stock market. Used profits to travel to 20+ countries on six continents, including Brazil, Israel, Egypt, Japan, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, and the Czech Republic.
  • Extracurricular involvement in ocean/river runoff pollution and as a part-time debate coach and judge; an avid surfer and a licensed scuba diver
  • Fluent in Tagalog, Mandarin, Spanish and English
  • “I hate my GPA, but I have a solid GMAT score, and I think an applicant who used stock market profits to travel to six continents, helped launch space shuttles, and served as a U.S. naval engineer is maybe worth a look at?”
  • A 30-something Pacific Islander woman

Odds of Success:

Duke: 60%+
Wharton: 35% to 45%
MIT: 40%
Harvard: 30% to 45%
Stanford: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis:

First of all, apply to HBS. Dee Leopold LOVES female engineers, and you are the real deal. Also female vets are semi-rare and a plus at all top schools. HBS  will blink at your GPA in light of the double-barreled 740 GMAT (with 90 percent on both sides). Your work in the service and post that, viz.  “commanded a $1B boat (SCORE 1), led several naval teams in combat, emergency, watch stations (operations, nuclear engineering, etc.) (SCORE 2) and  NASA Engineer: worked as early career hire  for three years on space shuttle and space station deployment (SCORE 3) is just what schools really admire. Your internship at Lockheed Martin is another plus.

What you think they like,  “an applicant who used stock market profits to travel to six continents” is actually no big deal. Schools are totally unimpressed with people who makes $$$ trading stock. That is a different skill set, although they do admire people who found trading and money management companies, which is different.

It is amazing how many people, if asked to rank what schools would really like about them, often get it wrong. What schools like are engineers, solid GMATs and GPA, women in combat, women in submarines, and, yes, solid do-gooder stuff.

Another issue, you say, “Pacific Islander,” and I am just guessing, but given your U.S. Navy career, are we talking about American Samoa?

I assume you are a U.S. citizen?


You are an “official”  minority for U.S. government headcount purposes (US Citizen + either 1. Black, 2. Hispanic surname or from Puerto Rico, 3. Native American, 4. Alaskan — not sure what that means but my guess is, not any clown from Fairbanks — or, TA-DA Hawaii/Pac. Islander) In this  case, a super plus, because Pacific Islanders are also rare.  I don’t mean to be silly here, but schools collect this stuff and display flags from the home countries of their students, so they are the ones who fetishize this.

I talk to kids from all over the world, and honestly, on balance, those kids are more international generic yuppies than anything else, with the regional differences long since bleached out of them, although sure, they look superficially different and have different accents.

Soooo, what we got here is U.S. minority, submarine, woman, engineer with a 740 and some great work experience. In an odd way, your chances of getting into Stanford and HBS are better than MIT, where for better or worse, they are less impressed with identity politics jive than most places (but are still impressed!)

As for your community service: ocean/river runoff pollution because I am an avid surfer and licensed scuba diver–that is solid enough for me, and Stanford will not get past ”ocean river runnoff” before their eyes tear up.

What you need is some goals package to put this all together and to sound that you are in fact interested to each school you apply to.

Goals might be a real problem given that you are older–let me suggest consulting (Big 3 consulting shops are always looking for a military woman who has commanded a sub and is a scuba diver and has a 740) leading to something at the intersection of engineering, water, and making things better. Dip into the McKinsey practice areas and you will get some great ideas.

  • Will E Keith

    You are 100% correct – this profile is a fairy tale. As a current naval officer I can confirm that the career accomplishments that this person is claiming are simply not possible. You don’t make a “stint” as a submarine officer, you make a career of it or you don’t make it at all. I’d also be interested to hear about her “space station deployments” and which naval teams she led in combat. Perhaps she forgot to mention that she also killed Osama Bin Laden and rescued Richard Phillips from his pirate captors. This person may very well be a naval officer (although I doubt it), but that would only serve to make this type of hyperbolic nonsense all the more disgraceful.

  • Russian Guy

    Hello again.

    While Sandy haven’t provided his anailsys yet, I would like to ask the auditory:

    Ok, I have:

    – good academic stats (4.9 GPA, 760 GMAT, Ph.D.)

    – but rather average management experience (middle-management in avg. Russian company, 1000+ employees)

    Given this, what kind of questions will ask himself Stanford Adcom member, looking at my profile? Don’t forget, I am 31.

    Can anyone point out for me a similar profile, and Sandy’s analisys?

  • Mr. Legacy

    Hi Sandy, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the series and would really appreciate your help on my profile:

    African (American) Male – was born and lived in Africa until college but a US citizen – underrepresented minority

    GPA: 3.6 from Ivy (Columbia) – Magna Cum Laude – Distinction in Major – Dean’s List many semesters + other awards – also, I had a bad freshman year (3.2 GPA) and upped my gpa every year (3.98 final semester)

    Double Major: Philosophy and Cultural Studies – Graduated #1 in my class for Cultural Studies amongst 100 students

    GMAT: 680 – Quant 48 – Verbal 35 (Did it three times but I just couldn’t up my verbal score) – I am dyslexic (my reading is really affected when i’m under pressure) but for my writing courses in college I had a cumulative 3.85 gpa

    WE: 3 years at a $2BN equity hedge fund – promoted twice – moved back to Africa to work with family business 6 months ago (energy consulting firm)

    Goals after business school: Africa focused venture capital

    Extra-curriculars: In college – president and chairman of 2 cultural groups – philanthopy chair of my fraternity – soup kitchen volunteer for homeless
    Since college: Toastmasters (Vice President) – mentor to young aspiring African college graduates – scuba diver (qualified scuba diving instructor) – events planner for college alumni events

    Other: My father attended HBS and my mother has a masters in international relations from Stanford.

    I am considering applying to:


    My questions specifically: What of my odds of getting into HBS and Stanford GSB given that I am a direct legacy at HBS and a quasi legacy at Stanford GSB? And what are my chances at Columbia seeing as I went there for undergrad? (I’ve heard Columbia does not like repeat students)

  • 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

    – Presently a 720 GMAT (first attempt taken with no recent prep; I taught with Kaplan for over 3 years and scored much higher back then. The test has changed a bit since, and I 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. I learned a great deal throughout this experience, however, and clearly took an enormous risk in order to pursue an interesting and exciting career path, despite the unfortunate results.

    Currently work for one of the only $-billion-plus multinationals in the Tampa Bay area in a high-profile position. I will have been there 2+ years upon matriculation and have already been able to nearly eliminate my role through process improvements. Management has taken notice, and I may even obtain sponsorship for my eventual MBA.

    Run a small accounting/consulting firm on the side that caters to internet and local startups; operate on either a non-profit or an equity-only basis.
    – Charitable work: Habitat for humanity and Junior Achievement (helping underpriveleged youth expand their financial literacy)

    – Looking to obtain an MBA to shift to a financial management role or consulting. I am not thrilled with the prospect of spending the rest of my years preparing financial statements and footnotes.

    – Target schools: Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Tuck (side note: I was accepted to UChicago in undergrad and was unable to attend due to financial constraints. It was my dream to attend then and it still is today.)

    – 27 year-old white male

  • Ms. Entertainment

    John & Sandy,

    Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeee assess me! I’m applying to business school this fall and I
    would absolutely love your input on my chances at MIT, UCLA, Duke, Chicago, or
    NYU / Columbia.

    710 GMAT

    3.75 GPA

    Undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley – Double Major in Business Administration
    from Haas and Economics

    Work experience includes 2.5 years at PwC in Audit where I was a top performer
    and got promoted early (my second year), currently work at Warner Bros. as a
    FP&A Senior Analyst for their Corporate group but also worked in an
    International group there where I traveled overseas. I have been working at Warner Bros. for 1.5

    My extracurricular activities include youth mentoring bi-monthly, involvement
    in our non-profit group at Warner Bros., colleague mentoring at PwC, heavy
    involvement in internal events at PwC and college leadership experience.

    MBA Goal: To transition into strategy for an Entertainment company and
    ultimately work as an executive in strategy at a mid-size or large Entertainment

    25-year-old female

  • Ben

    Dear Sandy

    I really like following your series – can you do an odds assessment for me,
    based on the following criteria?


    27 years old male, with mixed background (Germany/India).


    – Undergrad: business studies from a school in Germany (Top 10% GPA) –
    graduated 2010

    – Double master’s degree in business well known European universities (GPA 3.3) – graduated 2012

    Work experience:

    Will have 2 years of McK-exp. upon joining b-school, mainly advising automotive
    and consumer goods clients. McKinsey will sponsor me.

    Work exp. at other consulting firms (think Kearney, Deloitte)
    and consumer goods/entertainment (think of top FMCG, online media)

    Other: Some leadership roles outside professional env.

    Three years old GMAT score of 660 (Q 49/V 97) – plan to retake it this summer
    and target 700+

    Targeted class year: Class of 2016, would like to enroll for start in fall 2014

    Schools in my Focus (US totally preferred):

    Columbia, NYU Stern, Booth, Kellogg, HBS, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Stanford, London
    Business School, Insead

  • PRC

    Forgot to mention 21 year old white male