Handicapping Your B-School Chances

by John A. Byrne on

He’s a Teach for America history teacher with a public policy undergraduate degree from Duke University. But this 24-year-old teacher is hoping an MBA degree will be his ticket to a leadership job  that will allow him to improve the way schools and districts are managed, with a focus on making them great places to work.

He’s a mechanical engineer who works for a fiber optic cable company, helping the firm’s design team prototype new products, among other things. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.2 grade point average from a public Ivy, this 25-year-old professional wants an MBA to help him make a career switch into consulting.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

For the past four years, he’s been a cryptologic linguist for the U.S. Air Force who had been deployed in Afghanistan for six months. With a 690 GMAT and a 2.97 GPA from a state university, this 27-year-old African American now wants to go to business school to transition out of the military.

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 tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

Male teacherMr. Teacher Man


  • 161 V; 162 Q GRE
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in public policy from Duke
  • Work experience includes two years as a history teacher with Teach For America (planning on at least one more year at the same school); internships at New Orleans charter school and a historical preservation-based real estate firm
  • Extracurricular involvement creating a leadership development program for students; college mascot (interesting twist!); managed 100+ person community service program in college; part-time job as special events manager in college
  • Goal: To improve the way schools and districts are managed, with a focus on making them great places to work
  • “I’m looking to apply to multiple joint-degree programs (for business and education/public policy), but should I still take the GMAT? Or will the GRE be fine?”
  • 24-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 25% to 35%
Virginia: 50%
Duke: 50%
North Carolina: 50% to 60%
Columbia: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: This has the advantage of being a very tight profile where college major, jobs, and extras all connect to each other and those connect to your goals: “I want to improve the way schools and districts are managed, with a focus on making them great places to work.” However, I am not sure I would state your goals with that degree of limitation. You might do better picking up some innovation and do-gooder vibes and jargon, e.g. innovate, support new learning models, get the most of out education budgets, upgrade working conditions and opportunities, AND HELP STUDENTS AND INCREASE EDUCATIONAL OUTCOMES.

The way you say it, it sounds like you want to improve management, first of all, with not much concern for outcomes. The key buzz concept in education reform right now is how to measure outcomes and how to measure  what bang are donors (taxpayers or tuition paying parents in charter schools) getting for their bucks. OK, you knew that, and were just defaulting to some cliches.

How do kids like you get into HBS or Stanford GSB as part of getting a dual degree?  (Getting into HBS or Stanford ed school, as one-half of dual degree ‘biathlon’ is  easier and will not be difficult with your experience and stats.)  TFA admits at HBS and Stanford  often come from Ivy/near-Ivy colleges (Duke counts) and have, besides TFA, very strong academic records, real solid GMATs or GREs, and some X factor. You check some of those boxes but not all.  You have a solid GPA (3.56), which is silver not gold. Your extra curric brag sheet is similarly silver not gold, to wit,  “created leadership development program for students at the school where I teach . . . managed 100+ person community service program in college; part-time job as special events manager in college.”

Those are solid but not breakout accomplishments, with two of them occurring in college. In order to be Boffo,  the leadership development program you manage at work would need to be something scalable (and scaled) to get on the screen as a gold and not silver or bronze accomplishment. Being the college mascot, as you also mention (Blue Devil?) is certainly worth noting and might cut some mustard with the right reader, but only if your decision is being taken out to three decimal places. That said, it can be one of those tiny and contained ball bearings of an accomplishment around which a whole story congeals. Especially if you were THE mascot and not just one of many.

Working at an historical preservation real estate firm is also interesting, and sounds like a real job, but again, not a door buster. Bottom line: it is going to be close, probably not enough stardust here to get a white male in at  Stanford (you did not ask, but I am telling). HBS could be real close and might depend on developing real solid recommendations, where the writers themselves have some clout as teachers, pols, or TFA aristocrats (calling Miss Wendy).

I have taken the above issues out  to such lengths as background to another question you have asked.

GRE – 161 V; 162 Q–should I take the GMATs as well?  I’m no expert but those are 83-85 percentile scores of GRE takers (according to this http://www.princetonreview.com/grad/gre-exam-score.aspx), and were those GMAT scores, they would be real good  although good enough to be  “beauty contest additive,” which unfortunately, is how, in part, your peer group will be winnowed out.

I think those scores are fine for Darden, Fuqua, Kenan-Flagler (schools you listed as targets) and will probably pass muster at Columbia. I also think they are fine for HBS.  Stanford might want to see  more nose-bleed scores.

Ahem, all that being said, there has been chatter on this website about certain schools, for instance, Tuck (of all nice guy places), showing a real bias in favor of GMATs vs. GREs. I am not sure what other schools are in that group of secret GMAT likers.  The allegation, from a former Tuck adcom, that Tuck has asked some waitlist candidates with GRE scores to take the GMAT strikes me as pretty damning since the place says they accept both scores. I’ll change my mind if the Tuck adcom just wants a better score (on either test). That happens, but if Tuck admissions somehow does not fully trust the GRE, and wants merely a similar GMAT score, well, someone should tell someone at the GREs so they can make nice to  the adcoms (with a conference, not sure if there are any goody bags), apparently the same way the GMAT folks do. If any applicant can confirm that they applied to Tuck with GRE scores and were then asked to submit a GMAT score,  please write in.

All that said, for you, I don’t think a GMAT/GRE retake is Job 1. You got a solid score, I think the schools you target, outside of HBS, should be doable with your present story and stats, and HBS could happen, as noted. Make your goal statement more student and outcome focused–and more scalable and sustainable.

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  • Christian

    Mr. Kreisberg, could you do an assessment on my profile? Thanks a lot for your time.

    Mexican, Male, 25 years (26 by the time I submit my applications for 2013).

    -Working in a boutique strategy and operations consulting firm (“big” in my city and Mexico City, some minor projects in South and Central America).
    -720 GMAT (49Q / 39V), took 3 times (first 2 attempts were 2 years ago, got 680 on both)
    -GPA: 3.0 / 3.1ish (on a 100 scale it is an 83/100)
    -Undergraduate from top engineering school in my country, major in Mechanical Engineering, minor in Business Administration.
    -Extracurricular: Currently coordinating (since early 2012) community project which consists in building homes for the underprivileged, as well as thoroughly designing economic activities for them (think big impact on few beneficiaries).

    -Took graduate level Corporate Finances from top tier graduate school in my country (got 93/100).

    -Post-MBA goal: Join a top tier Firm (MBB).

    Target Schools:


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