Handicapping Your Shot At A Top School

After earning a finance degree from a liberal arts school in the Midwest, this 25-year-old professional has been working in corporate finance at a Fortune 100 company. He hopes an MBA will help him land a job at a hedge fund.

She’s an Ivy League grad who also boasts a master’s degree in arts history from one of Britain’s most prestigious universities. For the past five years, she has been working in merchandising analysis and strategy for an upscale retailer. Now, this 27-year-old Japanese-American woman is seeking an MBA to help her eventually start her own luxury label.

This 24-year-old Asian-American engineer applied to several top business schools in the past year with no success. So he plans on trying for a top ranked MBA again so he can leave his employer, a small biotech company, and work as a product manager for a Blue Chip firm in Silicon Valley.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

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 in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

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 usual, 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, we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature to be published shortly. (Please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience. Make sure you let us know your current job.)

For the first time ever, a consultant who applied to Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Wharton and Booth this application cycle asks Sandy to guess his results. “Let’s see how close you get,” he wrote. Kreisberg rises to the challenge with a witty riposte.

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

Business woman

Ms. Luxury Brand


  • 690 GMAT (will retake)
  • 1490 GRE
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in political science from Harvard/Yale/Princeton
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Associates in fashion design degree from a New York fashion school
  • Master’s degree in art history from Oxford or Cambridge
  • Work experience includes internships in college at the derivatives desk of a top investment bank; after realizing she hated the field, she has been working merchandising analysis and strategy for the past five years at three upscale department stores and vertical retailers with roles of increasing responsibility
  • Extracurricular involvement in collage as part of an elite music group that toured the U.S. and Europe; post-college volunteer in the arts for four years; volunteer supervisor for an after-school program that deals with underserved youth
  • Goal: To work in luxury retail strategy and eventually start her own luxury label
  • Fluent in Japanese
  • 27-year-old Japanese-American female
  •  “Sidenote: My older brother went to Stanford GSB and still keeps in touch with the faculty and program directors – not sure if that counts for anything however”

Odds of Success:

Columbia: 40%+
Stanford: 20%
London: 50%
INSEAD: 50%+
HEC Paris: 50%+
IMD: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: There is a place for luxury goods/arty chicks at schools like HBS, Wharton and Stanford, and man, you are close, with a classy H/Y/P education, elite music group experience, and jobs “in merchandising analysis and strategy for the past five years at three upscale department stores and vertical retailers with roles of increasing responsibility.”  Are those stores part of a brand?  Most luxury goods admits at top schools have worked for brands not stores, e.g. Vuitton, Chanel, Rolex, Prada, see this list (Louis Vuitton, Hermès, Gucci, Chanel, Cartier, Rolex, Hennessy, Moët & Chandon, Fendi, Burberry) all of which are billion-dollar companies and have analysts and strategists. I am assuming your “upscale department stores” and vertical retailers are also large enough in terms of sales and budgets to attract selective job applicants.

Your goal, “to work in luxury retail strategy and eventually start my own luxury label” sounds fine to me, but given the arts tilt to your story (masters degree in Art History, associate degree in Fashion Design) your desire to start a “label” can be misinterpreted as someone who really wants to be a designer and not a business executive. That is fine by me. Send me your first catalog, but schools may begin to wonder if you really need an MBA versus doing whatever designers do to get started. I would keep your goals real business-like, and stress the word “brand” not “label.” Being head of an innovative brand, which includes, clothes, watches, booze is actually better.

I don’t think you are getting into Stanford. There is not enough GPA/GMAT power here and not enough stardust besides to make them ignore your so-so GPA and GMAT. HBS would be a short reach and would depend on execution, strong recs, and the competition that year, to wit, the other 10-15 solid luxury goods applicants they consider strongly.

Wharton might feel that you would round out the class in terms of background and goals (the actual look and feel of the Wharton class is actually pretty luxe, stereotypes aside). You would need to be deadly serious and analytical in the app. Columbia might appreciate a higher GMAT if you retake it, and an early application, maybe even ED. You are in line there. Convince them you won’t have a problem getting a job.

“LBS, INSEAD, and maybe HEC Paris?” You should get into those schools on both numbers alone and the fact that your numbers come gift wrapped with a lot of interesting Euro-type jobs and extras plus the US luxury brand of an H/Y/P undergrad degree. To be honest, I am no expert in the ROI of attending those places. If you want a job with Vuitton, Chanel post graduation, that would be something worth looking into.

“Sidenote: my older brother went to Stanford GSB and still keeps in touch with the faculty and program directors – not sure if that counts for anything however.” Neither am I, but probably not much, unless you had some organized campaign to get into Stanford by leveraging your interesting extras and he was part of it, and involved some BFFs at the school, and you got lucky. Or unless he knows adcom director Bolton and gets him in a good mood, that could happen. Hint that a great scarf is in the offing.

  • Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier

    I guess that there would be a normal conversion system. Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier

    Immigrant, female workers from rural areas in Chinese cities financially literate ? Thats quite a specialism, Karel Koes Hiranjgarbh Missier Paragh

  • risky

    Hi Sandy, could you please provide your analysis on my odds of getting into Columbia, NYU, Cornell, Emory, and Georgetown? I would also love your opinion on whether I am aiming for the right schools based on my candidacy? Here are my stats:

    GMAT: 750
    GPA: 3.42 in Finance from University of Texas
    Work Experience: Started in a rotational management training program at a top 20 Commercial Bank, spent time as an Enterprise Risk Management analyst, and currently a Model Risk Analyst (all within the same bank)

    Extracurricular: Served as VP for sorority in college and several leadership development and volunteer activities such as IRS income tax preparation. Post college- volunteer through employer and also part of an international woman’s advocacy group that volunteers.
    Goal: To develop expertise in financial risk management in order to provide consultancy services
    I am a 24 year-old Asian female

    thank you!!

  • 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 later this year).

    -Working in a boutique strategy and operations consulting firm (“big”
    in my city and Mexico City, some minor projects in South and Central
    -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 – I know I shouldn’t convert my grades and I won’t, this is just a reference)
    -Undergraduate from top engineering school in my country, major in Mechanical Engineering, minor in Business Administration.
    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:


  • 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 later this year).

    -Working in a boutique strategy and operations consulting firm (“big”
    in my city and Mexico City, some minor projects in South and Central
    -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.
    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:


  • nosferatudracon

    Thanks Sandy appreciate the insights. I started writing a bunch of details to fill you in, but since I agree that the specifics will not likely provide any better clarity, decided it wouldn’t really add any benefit.

    I just need to bite the bullet, apply, and see what happens.

    Thanks again!


  • JcDubz

    Sandy, I’m a poet who’s planning on boosting my quant profile by taking some business courses next Fall, but, being that I don’t have a business background, I’m unsure how each field is perceived by the adcoms. Which is better for that, accounting, finance or stats (I have good calc grades and I know marketing is out). Does it matter? Thanks a ton!

  • Nick

    Hi Sandy – Would you please provide me with a quick analysis of my chances at a top 10 school (short list: Wharton, Columbia, LBS, Darden)?

    26 y/o, white, male

    GMAT: 750 (49Q, 44V)

    3.49 GPA from nationally recognized state school (Major: Accounting, Minors: Economics, and Int’l Business)

    Work Experience: 1 yr as investment adviser, 3 yrs as investment analyst at top investment consulting firm (primary clients are endowments and foundations) with increasing responsibility and a chance to move into a leadership position before applying to school

    Extra-Curriculars: – CFA Level III Candidate: I will have Level III results prior to applying, and be eligible for the CFA charter in February if I pass.

    – Member of the Program Board of a volunteer organization focused on providing education and job skills/opportunities for unemployed and underemployed people in the Washington, DC area. The organization also operates in New York and Jersey City. I have been involved with the organization for about 18 months.

  • JumpGrunt

    Hi Sandy,

    Just hoping you could give me a quick analysis at my admission odds (S/H/W Haas and Kellogg).

    GMAT: 700+ (projected and will have scores on 6/21)
    3.6 GPA B.S. in accounting from state school in CA
    5 years active duty Army. 3 years in 82nd Airborne Division and last 2 years as a recruiter. Was a team leader in 82nd and no wars barred, am most proud of my deployment to New Orleans post-Katrina where I was actually able to help on the homefront. My last couple years as a recruiter helped me hone my soft skills and involuntarily eliminate any public speaking fears that I may have had.

    After getting my head straight in the Army, I went back to school to maximize my potential. I interned at a Big-4 accounting firm in Silicon Valley and have been working there full-time since I graduated. My auditing of major tech companies as well as IPOs and smaller private companies is what has inspired me to pursue my MBA. I want to merge my leadership skills from the Army with my technical skills as an accountant.

    My goal is to come back to Silicon Valley either on the buy side as a VC, or into management of a start-up where I can have a direct influence on the direction of a company from inception.

    29 year-old white male.

    My only other question: I have passed all of my CPA exams but won’t officially get my license until the end of 2013/beginning of 2014. Would it be better to wait until next year to apply or would a disclosure statement in my application be sufficient?

    Thank you for you time

  • hbsguru

    Being a leader in your industry and at work is always a plus, and presenting at national org. meetings is impressive. Those accomplishments can fill in a picture of your talents and enthusiasm. There is a limit to what those accomplishments can do, however, if the rest of your application is non-trad in terms of age, industry, function, etc. If you are really old, work in a non-feeder industry, or unusual function, and if those are seen by the adcom of somehow being less selective gigs, well, that can be damaging. Hard to quantify without specifics ( would be hard to quantify with specifics but I could give you some guy response).

  • Engineer + Nonprofit Founder

    Hi Sandy, any comments on this would be extremely useful.

  • Julia

    Hi Sandy,
    Could you please assess my odds of getting into Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Duke, and Northwestern?
    I graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Business Economics. I graduated with my bachelors degree in 2 1/2 years and had a 3.7 overall GPA. I plan on getting a 700 on my GMAT (I’m taking it in August).
    Work experience: I worked for Payless ShoeSource for 3 years (1 year as a store manager and 2 years as a financial analyst) I also spent 2 years with TFA teaching high school math.
    Extracurricular Activities: In college I was on the competitive cheer team and held the community relations role. I also was the treasurer for my sorority and was a colony member for that chapter at my school. After college I spent a lot of time helping underprivileged students with school by tutoring. I also helped with charity runs in my neighborhood and was a team leader for many runs.
    Goal: To help manage the way schools and districts are ran so every child can get access to great education.

  • hbsguru


    Tough Mudder CEO and HBS grad was accused of dirty tactics

    Is Tough Mudder founder and CEO Will Dean a marketing genius or did he steal the idea while a student at Harvard?
    That question has been at the center of lawsuits and a Harvard
    Business School investigation that cleared Dean of stealing confidential
    information but questioned his motives and tactics and placed him on
    alumni probation for five years. And Dean’s litigation with an English
    businessman ended with Dean paying $725,000 in a settlement without
    acknowledging any wrongdoing.

    In 2008, when he was a student at Harvard Business School, Dean
    appealed to Tough Guy founder Billy Wilson, the self-proclaimed inventor
    of the modern obstacle course, to let him study his business in England
    for a school project. In return, Dean would provide a feasibility study
    on possible international expansion.


  • abhishek

    Dear Sir, I would be grateful if you may kindly evaluate my odds of admission into the MBA program offered by Columbia Business School, London Business School, INSEAD, Judge Business School (Cambridge), Said Business School (Oxford), Warwick Business School. My Profile is as follows (your evaluation is of greatest value so I wanted to tell you all I could, hence, please forgive the length and kindly consider):
    Indian Male, 29 years, married

    GMAT – yet to take the test,
    GPA – 58.3% (2.1 as per English System); law degree from a top 5 law college; top 15% of class; GPA increased from year to year culminating in a distinction in the final year.
    Work Experience – 6 years with one of the best Private Banks in Distressed Corporate Debt Investment team; Promoted to Manager within one year of joining; Thereafter, turned around the poorest performing sector in the country to one with highest revenues; Hence, was Promoted to Senior Manager; Presently, entrusted with Portfolio of high value Accounts spread all over the country; Have dealt with over forty distressed companies spread over various sectors; Developed personal functional style where debts were resolved without selling out the Distressed Company’s assets thereby saving it. Achieved such results by leading a team of external lawyers without having any actual authority over them other than lawyer client relationship. No International Experience but have extensive work experience in various parts of my country which are culturally as different as a foreign country.
    Career Goal – Want to leverage my experience of working with distressed Companies and legal and negotiation skills by coupling them with financial and strategic management skills, to acquire expertise in distressed private equity and turnaround management.
    Extracurriculars – Participated in Moot Court Competitions and won awards in 2.
    Personal Story – When I started college my family was facing bankruptcy and my father had been diagnosed with a medical condition severely hampering his ability to work. I did basic data entry work to put myself through college. Thereafter, since I started earning, I have taken care of my family, repaid all debts and put my brother through law school. Such experiences are a major reason for my choice of career goals. Facing and overcoming such adversities have also endowed me with fortitude, pragmatism and resourcefulness, personal qualities essential to such goals.

  • steve

    Hi Sandy –

    What do you make of this?

    29 year-old white male
    740 GMAT
    3.65 from Amherst/Williams/Swarthmore
    President of a large club in college

    4 years at a large value hedge fund in New York (will get a good rec from here)
    3 years running own value hedge fund (current)

    plan to continue running the fund while at school, building the track record. My real reason for
    wanting an MBA is to build my network and attach myself to a well-known
    brand for the purposes of raising more money. For the application I
    will try to finesse this more into seeking a “transformational”
    experience, becoming a better manager, broadening my knowledge of
    business, learning from a diverse group of people etc. Would appreciate
    any further input on how to position the application.

    Columbia – regular and early decision

  • hbsguru

    Starting 2014, a technology executive of Indian origin
    will head the organisation that owns and runs the Graduate Management
    Admission Test (GMAT). The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), the global non-profit body of business schools today announced the appointment of Sangeet
    Chowfla as President . . . .

    Coincidentally, Ashish Bhardwaj, the man who heads GMAC’s Asia Pacific region is also an FMS Delhi alumnus.

    2010, persons of Indian origin have been taking over global leadership
    positions in business education. Nitin Nohria of Harvard Business
    School, Soumitra Dutta of Cornell-Johnson, Dipak C Jain of INSEAD and
    Sunil Kumar of Chicago-Booth are all deans who had been raised in India
    but moved abroad for advanced higher education.

  • nosferatudracon

    Sandy/John/Anyone else who has an opinion

    I have been reading your Handicap series since the beginning, but I don’t really recall ever reading anything which might directly answer the below. Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated.

    Can you give me any sort of idea how significant admissions committees consider serving in leadership positions on local, regional, and national professional associations, publishing in trade periodicals, and presenting at industry conference?

    Also curious about industry professional certifications. I know some are viewed more favorably than others. Chances are many Adcom will never have heard of my certifications.

    I ask this because I come from an underrepresented function (i.e. I’m not talking about accounting, finance, consulting, or IT). There is a good chance that most Adcom at most schools will never have heard of the organizations I’m involved with or the certification I have completed.

    I have a rather non-traditional background, I’ll spare you all the details, so I’m trying to gauge to what extent these experiences will matter, if at all, during the admissions process.



  • hbsguru



    Sixty percent of women who have a bachelor’s degree from prestigious institutions such as MIT and Harvard work full time, according to a study from Vanderbilt University, compared with 68 percent of women who went to the least selective schools surveyed.

    Among married mothers who hold master’s of business administration degrees, the contrast is even more striking. Only about a third of women who did their undergraduate work at top colleges and universities have full-time jobs, compared with two-thirds who earned degrees at schools in the lowest tier.

    ‘It’s hard to figure out how to do that halfway.’ — Katrina Yolen, on
    MBA women balancing family life with careers involving long hours

    Katrina Yolen of Newton, who has a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and
    an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, took
    five years off when her three children – now ages 6, 8, and 11 — were
    younger, then spent a few years doing part- time and contract work.

    When she returned to a full-time marketing job last summer, it was as
    a senior brand manager, not the vice president she might have been if
    she had stayed in the workforce.

    “The careers that MBA women go into are often high-powered,” with
    long hours and few part-time options, she said. “It’s hard to figure out
    how to do that halfway.”

    As female graduates of elite schools work less, it could have an
    impact on corporate culture, flexible work arrangements, and efforts to
    diversify boardrooms and executives suites. These are the women most
    likely to land powerful jobs and ascend to leadership positions, with
    the opportunity to promote other women. But, as Yolen’s experience
    shows, those opportunities could be delayed, or lost.

    “If more women were in leadership positions,” said Kevin Lang
    , an economics professor at Boston University, “the workplace might be more ­family-friendly, and fewer of them would withdraw.”

  • UK Applicant

    Hey Sandy, its me again. Is it right to infer from this post that Adcoms use such rankings as yardsticks, when sizing you up against the rest of the pool?The Law Rankings are a good sign for me!

    Also, how is Oxbridge viewed like in the US? Sorry for all these inane questions, just merely wanting to find out where I stand in this competitive pool. Also, I would be grateful if you could handicap my chances( my profile was posted some days back) Cheers!

  • UK grad

    With regards to British degree classifications, this link (from fullbright site also) made more sense to me:

    From this I understand:

    1st degree [70%+] -> (3.68 – 4.00) GPA
    2.1 degree [60%-69%] -> (3.33 – 3.67) GPA
    2.2 degree [54%-59%] -> (3.00 – 3.32) GPA
    3rd degree [42%-53%] -> (2.30 – 2.99) GPA

    So we can calculate the GPA of any UK % from 42%-69%.

    eg/ Since the 2.1 classification is spread over 10% (60%-69%):
    UK 62% -> 3.33 + 2*(3.67-3.33)/10 = 3.40 GPA

    we assume the last GPA bracket (3.68 – 4.00) goes across a 10% range
    also (70%-79%) then we can calculate the GPA’s for different 1st degrees

    eg/ My own degree: 1st (77%)
    UK 77.1% -> 3.68 + 7.1*(4.00-3.68)/10 = 3.91 GPA

  • hbsguru


    Report Ranks Universities by Individual Subjects
    QS, a British education company that produces an established
    international university ranking system, rated institutions based on
    specific majors in its latest report published last week. Prospective students can search 30 individual subjects to see how 200 top universities fare.

    Harvard,Oxford and Cambridge are the top three — in various combinations — in
    English, medicine and law. Harvard takes the top ranking for political
    science, followed by the London School of Economics and Yale. The best
    places to study computer science are the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University and Oxford. The University of California, Berkeley, is the top choice for statistics, sociology and media.

    Among the top three universities in each subject, there were only a few
    institutions outside of the usual U.S.-U.K. elite. The University of
    Melbourne is the third-best place for someone looking to study
    education, and the University of Tokyo is the third-best for civil

  • Myra

    These posts are extremely helpful, thank you so much Sandy and Tia! The university i attended is not very well known but it very highly ranked for my subject, so I will be sure to mention that! I have two more questions, and I would be very grateful if you can answer them:

    1. I have a first-class degree (70% +), but that is only according to the British system, which does not take my first year grades into account, and gives my final year grades far more weight than my second year grades. Do I calculate my GPA based on this (and provide an explanation about the British sytem), or should I average the marks scored across all three years equally, which would yield a much lower GPA?

    2. Given my one failed quant course, and poor performance in the first half of my degree, do you think that a good performance on an academic, quantitative master’s degree from a top UK University would help improve my prospects at schools such as Wharton, Columbia, Cornell and Yale? Or is it better if I continue working with the family business before applying?

    Thank you again Sandy, and I hope that you will still consider handicapping my chances!

  • Tia Trussardi

    If you have a 2.1 in Law from Cambridge, I wouldn’t worry too much about the academics. The Oxbridge brands are arguably considered even more prestigious in the US than in the UK. The more pertinent issue might be what you have achieved since graduation and the reasoning you provide in your essays for why you need an MBA.

    It would also be worth your while to get a good quant score on the GMAT since you will presumably have nothing quantitative on your transcript and might not even have done Maths etc at A Level. A high verbal GMAT score will also be expected for a Cantab law grad. I had a completely non-quant background myself and my GMAT was slightly below average.

    Since Law is a 3-year post graduate programme in the US, I think it’s relatively rare for someone to apply with a law degree, so you would perhaps stand out from the crowd, in a good way, in that respect. That would be an interesting perspective to have in the class, which is often missing in US b-schools.

  • Sammy

    Hi Sandy,

    It’ll be great if you could evaluate my profile:

    GMAT: 720

    Undergrad: Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), GPA: 7.5/10.0

    Grad school: University of Alberta, Canada, GPA: 3.2/4.0 (published 2 papers including 1 on chemical engineering education)

    Work Experience: Business Analyst at Capital One, USA for 2.5 years; presently working on a family business in India (will have ~6 months of experience by the time I apply; this role entails general management of the company and business development); 3 month research internship in Africa during undergrad (United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) sponsored project)

    Extra curriculars: Elected Vice President of Academic Council while at Alberta; Volunteer at the Fringe Theater Festival, Alberta; Guidance & Counseling Unit Head during undergrad; Several student body positions while in undergrad.

    Aiming at: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Rotman (Toronto)/Other Canadian schools.

    Please let me know if I can expect to be admitted in any of these schools.

    Many thanks,


  • hbsguru


    A Rush to Recruit Young Analysts, Only Months on the Job
    When private
    equity recruiting season began in early April, junior analysts at banks
    like JPMorgan Chase and Morgan Stanley eagerly awaited calls from
    recruiters who could set up interviews at leading companies.

    “I have had four interviews in two days,” said one young analyst at a large
    bank. . . . . Young analysts are approached by executive search firms hired to fill anywhere
    from one opening at a hedge fund to a few spots at a middle-market
    private equity firm to more than 50 positions at big operations like
    Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the Blackstone Group or the Carlyle Group.
    Traditionally, these jobs do not begin immediately but a year and a half
    later, after analysts finish their two-year contracts.

    “Right now, major investment banks are so highly regulated that they are no
    longer the most exciting places to be . . . .Private equity shops are smaller, leaner
    and much less bureaucratic. You’re given the leeway to be creative and
    take risks.

    Young bankers rely on recruiters for advice when navigating private equity . . .
    “If you’re far along with Blackstone or K.K.R.
    and you’re interviewing with Carlyle, they’ll tell you to absolutely
    name-drop . . . Because they are trying to
    place analysts with such little work experience, recruiters will look
    for anything to identify the cream of the crop. College grade-point
    averages, high school test scores and community service are all fair
    game . . . .

  • Steven

    Forgot to mention, I was President for Pi Tau Sigma (mechanical engineering honor society), as well as Vice President and Service Coordinator.

  • Steven

    Hey Sandy,

    Could I please have an assessment on my chances at:

    Wharton, Sloan, Booth, Tuck, Yale, McCombs, Rice

    My Profile:

    -GMAT: 680, essay 6/6, IR 8/8 (first time taking it without any practice tests; I’m assuming I could get it up to at least a 720 after some practice)
    – 3.78 GPA in mechanical engineering from UT Austin
    – 3 years at Shell as an engineer
    – 24 yrs old (biracial male)
    – Goal: to be a VP or Director in the oil/gas or finance industry

    Thanks in Advance!

  • BD

    Hi Sandy, I’d love it if you would review my profile and let me know what you think. I’m aplying in R1 this fall.

    White, Male, 25 years old
    Bachelors in Engineering from the University of Michigan, GPA 3.1
    GMAT 760 (Q48 V48)

    I have worked for 3.5 years at a manufacturing company in the midwest. I started in a 2 year rotational program and was promoted to an Engineer position after the program. On top of day to day tasks, which involve a good amount of data analysis, I have worked on a number of projects in the company geared toward saving money/profitability.

    Extracurriculars: I volunteer for the local chapter (non profit) of a society made up primarily of engineers. I started on the executive board then served as Secretary for a year. I am currently serving as Vice Chair and will be promoted to Chair next month. We hold monthly meetings, which involve dinner and a technical speaker from the area. We organize events for local students to get them interested and engaged in engineering. We also organize day long seminars available to professionals throughout the society. I have organized many of these events and meetings and by all accounts have excelled at improving the chapter.

    I have also participated in smaller events such as Habitat for Humanity and worked with a local organization that alters toys for disabled children.

    My MBA focus is Marketing/General Management. I am kind of enamored with CPG companies, but am not opposed to technology or industrial (Microsoft, Amazon, John Deere, Whirlpool, etc.) companies.

    The schools on my list are Tepper, Ross, Fuqua, Kellogg, and Booth. Do you think the adcoms at these schools will be scared off by an engineer that wants to switch to marketing?

    Thanks a lot.

  • sam

    South Asian -Nepalese
    Age -22

    325 GRE Q-165 V-160

    CGPA- 7.5/10 Civil Engineering Punjab Engineering College ,Chandigarh India,Top 10 Government Engineering College.

    Extra curricular-

    Average during my stay in college

    Work Experience-

    Internship for 5 months at Hydro power Construction during my junior year(Nepal Government Project) at a pioneer consulting firm of Nepal. Offered a full time position at the project after my engineering studies.

    Work experience of 4 Months after my graduation at Clean Energy Development Bank Ltd. (CEDB), a joint venture with FMO – Netherlands, the first national level
    development bank and perhaps the only Bank in Asia to have a focused
    developmental agenda towards harnessing the nation’s abundant natural
    resources in addition to uplifting the standards of living of the people
    of Nepal.Did financial analysis and hydrological studies for due diligence of various hydro power projects.Left that job to do something meaningful for society and join Teach for Nepal.

    Currently Working as a fellow at Teach for Nepal(A partner of Teach for All),Selected as one of 33 fellows from a rigorous selection process where
    only 7 percent of the applicants made it into the program for inaugural
    fellowship program,and currently serving as teacher in low income public
    school in Lalitpur District,Nepal. will apply to business schools after that

    Goal- move to Consulting in sustainable Energy or non profit sectors






    Suggest me schools
    Please give a frank appraisal of my candidacy.

  • hbsguru

    “So i guess it is safe to assume that a case by case basis would be taken?”

    NO!!!! Do not assume that, you can hope that, but you really need to be your own advocate. If you attend a program where a First is very rare, you need to make that clear, Do not expect the adcom to know this, altho they might. Esp. if you were reading Law at Cambridge and got a 2.1 and were actually in top 15pct of class. etc.This is especially true in light of Tia’s remarks about some stat out there where 30 pct of kids in UK get Firsts. That is just the sort of fluff/newspaper stuff that some adcoms take for gospel. But as we have seen, it varies a great deal by school, etc.

  • UK Applicant

    Another issue is that I will be turning 30 soon. I hear that there is some sort of slight discrimination against the aged. Thanks a lot Sandy.

  • UK Applicant

    Thanks a lot for the replies Sandy and Tia. They were truly informative. Well the percentage who get 1sts in Law at Cambridge are astronomically low at no more than 10%, compared to those in other courses and other universities. So i guess it is safe to assume that a case by case basis would be taken?

  • Roughly 30% of Oxford graduates do get a First, but the national average in the UK as a whole is 15%. At the national level, 66% of UK grads achieve either a First or a 2.1. It’s a broad brush system alas.

  • insuranceguy

    Dear Sandy,

    It would be much appreciated if you could evaluate my chances:

    26 year old British Chinese male
    Born in Hong Kong but grew up in UK (British Citizen)

    740 GMAT (Q48, V44) – This was a retake 1st attempt was 710 (Q50, V36)

    Undergrad: Top 5 Uni in UK non-Oxbridge
    Degree: Mathematics
    GPA: 2.1

    Work experience:
    4 years in insurance at a US insurer at their London branch handling international business (which is defined as anything excluding US). I have been promoted twice during this time. I am one the youngest in my profession at a comparable role by 2-3 years. I underwrite financial institutions across the world. This involves dealing with institutions from Australia to the Caribbean. Due to a flat company structure I have no direct reports but I was the only person selected to lead a new product development project in a rapidly growing niche. I was also responsible for formulating the budget and forecasts for a team of ~20.

    Accomplished musician. Performed with a number of orchestras and chamber groups.

    I represented the University in American Football. I have continued to play after University for an amateur team and won a National Championship with them. I was also the captain of a small sports team in University. After University, I occasionally volunteer at sports events for underprivileged children (but no leadership role).

    Short term goal: To move into strategy consulting specialising in financial services.

    Long term goal: To start a JV with a multi-national insurance company in China providing niche insurance products. Due to the high barriers of entry and low penetration in that market, it is an area that can provide a multi-national insurance company with significant growth.

    Harvard (long shot)
    Chicago Booth
    Northwestern Kellogg
    Dartmouth Tuck
    Duke Fuqua

  • hbsguru

    THANKS HELPFUL POST- We still have a wasteland at UK grade 2:1, which you view as 3.5-3.7 and Fulbright chart lists as 3.0-3.3. Key diff. as we all can agree. Times says 15pct of UK grads are First, while Fulbright says 30 pct. So the message for applicants is to make it clear what percent you are in your college.

    “I’m not sure if Sandy would agree, but I also get the impression that
    British students tend to be the most over-represented European
    in the applicant pool at top US b-schools. . . .”

    DK about applicant
    pool, but FYI, among the admitted pool at HBS, we have (combined numbers
    for both 1st and 2nd year kids)

    Austria: 23.


    Bulgaria: 3

    Cyprus!: 3

    Denmark; 0 !!!

    Egypt: 11

    Finland: 1

    FRANCE: 25

    GERMANY: 23

    INDIA: 85

    Luxembourg: 0

    Nether;lands: 3

    Poland: 3

    Portugal: 4

    Romania: 6

    Russia: 14

    Spain: 14

    Sweeden: 2

    Switzerland: 2


    SK’s tip for best country to come from in terms of gaining admission.
    Stateless: 0 (one kid so declared at Harvard College).

  • hbsguru

    -“I’m not sure if Sandy would agree, but I also get the impression that
    British students tend to be the most over-represented European
    in the applicant pool at top US b-schools. . . .”

    DK about applicant
    pool, but FYI, among the admitted pool at HBS, we have (combined numbers
    for both 1st and 2nd year kids)

    Austria: 23.


    Bulgaria: 3

    Cyprus!: 3

    Denmark; 0 !!!

    Egypt: 11

    Finland: 1

    FRANCE: 25

    GERMANY: 23

    INDIA: 85

    Luxembourg: 0

    Nether;lands: 3

    Poland: 3

    Portugal: 4

    Romania: 6

    Russia: 14

    Spain: 14

    Sweeden: 2

    Switzerland: 2


    SK’s tip for best country to come from in terms of gaining admission.
    Stateless: 0 (one kid so declared at Harvard College).

  • Weekend

    Thanks for this Sandy!

  • I did my undergrad at Oxford and am also a Stanford GSB alum so might be able to help with this.

    According to the Daily Telegraph newspaper, roughly 15% of UK graduates achieve First Class degrees. At Oxford, the US GPA equivalent of a First for postgrad admission purposes is considered to be 3.7 or above on a 4.0 scale and a 2.1 (Upper Second) is deemed equivalent to a 3.5 – 3.7 GPA. This seems to tally with the general notion that a GPA of over 3.5 is on target for competitive b-school applications. In the UK b-schools such as LBS usually seek a 2.1 degree or above (or foreign equivalent).

    In my b-school class, there were several Europeans, Indians and Asians who had also attended UK universities, not just Brits. There were also Brits who had done their undergrad in the States, usually Ivy League or similar. However, it’s interesting to note that all the graduates of UK universities in my class came from about five top schools in total, ironically except for one English guy who had gone to a rather random rural school (but he went on to have a rather stellar career history with a blue chip multinational corporation prior to his MBA).

    One tip I have heard for UK applicants from schools that are less well known in the US is to try and squeeze in a mention of your undergrad institution’s Times ranking when listing your degree on your resume. if it ranked well (you can use the individual subject ranking rather than the overall institutional ranking if that is more flattering). Some very good UK schools, such as Bristol or Durham, are unfortunately just not especially well known at all in the States.

    I’m not sure if Sandy would agree, but I also get the impression that British students tend to be the most over-represented European nationality in the applicant pool at top US b-schools, so the novelty factor is not the same as for e.g. Icelandic applicants. I think the bar is set relatively high for British applicants as a result, particularly at somewhere like Stanford that likes to talk about how many different “passports” are represented in the class.

  • hbsguru


    See link below for a rough guide, a lot also depends on your college, major, and what they sniff about your transcript in terms of gut courses, and what your post college career reveals about your ‘grades’. In some very important ways, your first job, and how selective it is, is the best ‘guide’ to how US schools view your grades, and that is more so with British grades. In the chart below, there is, as many have noted, a big waste land between 4.0 and 3.3.
    In USA, to gunners (grade grubers) there are only two grades in the whole wide world. A or A- . B+ =screw up. Also keep in mind that at top 5 US MBA programs the ‘average’ GPA is ~3.6. Alas, in the British system, an upper second, can mean sorta anything from

    3.0 to 3.8 or so, and that is a huge difference.

    Maybe some of our Brit friends can confirm chart below, that a first is achieved by 30 percent of the class? That sounds high to me. If true, then top 5 US B schools would expect a first. By the way, feel free to advocate for yourself on your resume, or elsewhere in application, when explaining what you believe a misconceptions in grades, e.g. if you have an upper second, and your school only gave firsts to 10 percent of the student body, NOTE THAT.


    Conversion Guide

    A rough guide for converting between the UK and US grading systems
    can be found below. If you are studying in the US for a short period of
    time, your UK university will most likely apply its own system of

    UK Class
    UK Percentage
    US Grade
    US GPA


    Upper second

    Lower second




    Please note that the percentage values differ
    greatly between the US and the UK. This is important to keep in mind
    when applying to a school. If asked for a percentage, do not list your
    UK percentage as a US percentage. They are not the same!

  • TJ

    I would discard or filter some of the noise. But here are the facts about Ross:

    1) Acceptance rate is now about 40%.

    2) Ross is cutting its class size from 500-550 to about 400-450 (There was a story in businessweek about this, which included comments from the dean of admissions about how the MBA has lost some of its luster; she also acknowledged some issues with job placements.

    3) The local economy in Michigan has taken a hit. Despite all the political hullabaloo about how “GM is back” etc etc, truth is MI’s economy is hurting. One of Ross’ main strengths is in manufacturing / supply chain, but Ross hasn’t been able to leverage it in this depressed economy.

    4) The policy of not allowing co-signers on loans issued to foreign nationals has resulted in fewer quality applicants from Asia.

    5) Based on the research that I have done so far, it’s clear that the classes and professors at Ross are top notch. The intellectual capital is intact. What has let the school down badly is its career services.

    6) Every school has its own unique sub-culture and Ross is no different. But it’s ridiculous to paint the entire student body with a broad brush.

    7) Ross hasn’t necessarily lost ground; it’s just that the others have moved forward at a much faster clip. The competition between schools ranked 7-15 is fierce, and Ross seems to be a bit behind the eight ball.

    8) Ross’ Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP) – the capstone winter course – has had very mixed reviews from students. Some of them really like the approach, while others feel it doesn’t really enrich the MBA experience at all and ties them up for the entire duration of the winter semester. Students work in teams of 4 to 6 along with a faculty member in solving real business problems. The issue is that there is a great deal of variability in the student experience because each project is different (in different sectors / size of the firms) and each faculty member will bring his or her unique perspectives and approaches to the project. As a result, students have vastly different experiences. Some of them are stuck on projects that they absolutely hate, and with faculty members that aren’t inspiring (from the student’s perspective). Unlike a consulting practicum or an entrepreneurial immersion program or a study abroad program, the MAP program is mandatory. On a side note, a couple of the Ross students I spoke to (who were not involved with admissions), were quite candid and scathing in their criticism of MAP.

    9) Ross has a very strong alumni group and is a very powerful brand in N.America. But given the options one has between schools ranked 7-15, it’s not easy to make a strong case to attend Ross over the three other schools (Duke, UVa and Cornell) you mentioned, unless you bring in financial aid or personal reasons or other intrinsic factors into play.

  • rapplicanth

    Does it say anything about the school when we see such vulgar comments from people who claim to be students? I have only seen this issue with Ross, here and anywhere. Some of the comments should be deleted as they are extremely offensive.

  • hbsguru

    I don’t have a real ‘touch and feel’ sense of Ross, so you might do better asking students you met, if remarks you cite are a concern, as they should be, if true and prevalent. In general message boards like the comments section on PQ can be easily titled by 2 or 3 people if they want to. That could be what is going on. On the other hand, stereotypes are often true in SOME way, altho the way they are true can be vastly different than the stereotype, “hateful towards . . .foreign students” can often mean the school has fewer than peer schools. But that itself could be a cause of concern. [I’m just speculating, I have not checked Ross numbers]. If you went there and felt comfy and welcome, and students (real students not adcom greeters) said they liked it, dunno, that is pretty compelling evidence. Usually a trip to the place flushes out the truth although often in very trace amounts. So, if issues raised in commments were not an issue on campus visit, that is strong reason to ignore them.

  • hbsguru

    hmmmmm, did you get laid off or fired? Talking about lessons you learned from being laid off, e.g., a reduction in force that was not personal to you, except that you lost your job, is totally OK. Talking about lessons you learned fr. getting fired is risky, adcoms (despite mantras to the contrary) do not believe, deep in their hearts, that people grow or change, despite adcom/b-school blah-blah to the contrary, this is especially true if you are claiming to grow/change, etc. in last 2 years or so. You should disclose, and indeed many apps ask, why you left job. Say reduction in force (cannot argue with that, if you were fired, that would be a reduction of one, but it usually means lay offs of lots), and if they press in an interview, say that tight economy blah, blah led to select reductions. Then segue into silver lining story, and sure, learned a lot, etc. I may be a minority view here, and I welcome other thoughts, but saying you were fired for bad attitude, sloppy work habits, smelly hygiene etc. and then saying, “Yeah, but I turned that around . . .does not score much and is dangerous. As noted, many folks like adcoms , who get to see lotsa, lotsa stories and people, are quite cynical about transformative jive.

  • Kate

    Hi Sandy, I’d really appreciate it if you could give my stats a glance over for Booth, Kellogg, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley, assuming I spend another year and a half to two years at my current job. Thanks!

    White female, 25 years old, GRE conversion to GMAT: 700

    GPA: 6.62 from Barnard College, with a year at the London School of Economics (upper second class honors), degree in political science concentrating on democratic theory and the Middle East.

    Work experience: two years as an executive assistant to the president at a non-profit that published a quarterly political science journal, 8 months (so far, with another 2-3 years expected) in fundraising for the Earth Institute at Columbia University. (ideally with a promotion in the works).

    Extra-curriculars: Secretary/Managing Editor of a student-run journal on sustainable development as an undergrad, post-graduation involvement in high school alumni association, secretary of the junior board for a non-profit that engages with individuals in conflict situations to teach them the skills for conflict-resolution

    Goals: Ideally I’d like to stay in a field related to development/fundraising, like I am now. I know I have a non-traditional background for an MBA, but I’d like to open up my options for jobs into the realm of consulting for organizations who need stronger development/fundraising programs, or on the corporate side in corporate responsibility to help decide where the money should go.

    Extras: I’m not sure how much this counts for, but I’m also a double legacy at Booth. (Does anyone still care about those sorts of things?)


  • African Applicant


    Thanks for the update. I did in fact manage to cure a slightly lopsided split, and I am now situated more comfortably in both regards (According to GMAC data, for USA applicants i’m (gratefully) in the 90%+ percentile for both). Thanks for all your help/advice.


  • Engineer + Non-Profit Founder

    GMAT: 700

    Masters: 3.5 GPA Computer Science from Texas A&M University.

    Undergrad: Computer Science from India. First Class (US GPA equivalent = Somewhere between 3.5 and 4.0). The university is not well known internationally but it is the best school in the region there.

    Background: 31 year old Indian male living in the US

    Work experience: Principal Engineer at HP in Bay Area. Working on designing state-of-the-art Cloud Computing solutions. Lead engineer for multiple complex cloud computing software products. Joined as a staff engineer 7 years ago after grad school. Multiple promotions and worked in different software development groups at HP. Working in one of the main focus areas of the company. Multiple internships at Intel and Samsung while I was in grad school. No one from my current business group in recent past has applied to the schools of my choice. Primary reason is that it is a very tech heavy group, where people leave to go back to get masters or PhD but not MBA.

    Extra curricular: Founder and president of a non-profit that works to provide electricity to remote villages in rural southern India through solar panels and setting up small generators. Has electrified 3 schools and 100 homes in last 2 years. Currently, serve as a commissioner (volunteer public servant) for City Commission on Human Rights (in Bay Area). Also sit on the board of a local non-profit in Bay area working for at-risk school children. Ran a marathon to raise money for foster children in India. While in India, served on the board of a very large student organization.

    Goal: I am torn between two possibilities. Want to finalize when in B-school: (1) To work in management consulting for large scale high-tech projects for national/federal governments or (2) Become a social entrepreneur and start a technology business that solves a real world problem

    Targeted School: Harvard, Stanford, MIT Sloan, INSEAD, Wharton, Columbia

  • Myra

    I forgot to mention my extra-curriculars: I volunteer as a tutor with a program that aims to make immigrant, female workers from rural areas in Chinese cities financially literate.

  • UK Applicant

    Hi Sandy, I would be so grateful if you could evaluate my profile. Thank you.

    1) 3 year corporate attorney at Skadden/ Sullivan & Cromwell/Cravath kind of firm. Worked at both NY and HK Offices. Prior to that, interned with a Blackstone, TPG, KKR like PE fund
    2) 730 GMAT
    3) Oxbridge, Law, 2nd Upper Division Honours( what does this amount to in terms of GPA?), 2006
    4) Army Officer- Non American Army( Platoon Leader then Intelligence Officer). Formerly full time. Currently in Reserve. Very Strong Leadership positions in College.Strong track of community service over a long period of time.
    5)Candidate for CFA Level II, NY Bar
    6) Your target programs.
    – HBS, GSB, CBS, Sloan, SoM, Wharton
    7)I do not have a politically correct goal as of yet. But I would like to eventually go into PE(after perhaps some time in IBD).

    8) South East Asian Chinese

  • CoolRanchTaco


    I’ll be submitting my profile soon enough (my GMAT’s piss poor right now so testing again) but I do have a general question. I was laid off from my first job and I was able to get my current job within four months so it’s not something that will need to be explained. However, my butt getting canned was probably one of the best learning experiences of my life because it was a rock bottom experience that I pulled myself out of. I also learned to be thankful for every opportunity and my work ethic is through the roof at my current job where I have done an amazing job.

    My question is, is this something I should disclose on the application and during interviews? It definitely is a nice “story” but I’m worried about the possible stigma that could be attached if I mentioned it. I can definitely spin it into a positive but I’m just worried if in the minds of admissions staff that it’s a “red flag”.


  • UK Applicant

    In essence, would there be a conversion system, or do Adcoms view it in an entirely different light?

  • UK Applicant

    Props to this post. I myself have a British background and would love to
    see how the American Adcoms view our ‘GPA system’- that of a class
    system, i.e 1st class, 2nd Upper, 2nd Lower…. seeing how it is quite
    substantively different. It would be refreshing for Sandy to describe
    the issues a British applicant would face when applying for an MBA( with
    particular emphasis on the academic record). Thanks Sandy!

  • hbsguru

    Huh, is below you? A 740 would improve chances, but your chances are pretty solid to begin with–at HBS the way a guy like you does not get in, is that you blow the interview, that happens, and 740 and a blown interview, still =ding. At Stanford you need to execute on the secret handshake of what they want to see and here, you already PASS on gap/gmat/work ex. So a 720 vs. 740 etc, is not going to change the outcome. At Wharton Chic and COlumbia you don’t get in by 1. bad interview etc. or not convincing them you want to come. Those dangers lurk w. a 720 vs. 740. MIT would like you a 740 and also like you with a 720 if you can explain why you want an MBA etc. Soooooo, oddly, altho a 740 is better than a 720, in your case, which as I noted originally is real strong, the issue is not really GMAT. IT is execution and convincng them you want to come, all that said, a 740 is better than a 720 ,but your ability was never the real issue, it is packaging and luck and wearing the right ‘necktie,’ and not screwing up in person. If somehow you have cured a low Q score on the GMAT, etc. that could help more than just a “generic” bump fr. 720-740.

    Mr. IMF

    720 GMAT

    3.5 GPA

    Undergraduate degree in economics and political science from a top state school

    Work experience includes two years at the International Monetary Fund, working with developing nations.

    “During my tenure I have been a part various country teams and have
    taken part in various country missions to advise on important economic
 Can get recommendations from alums of Harvard, Chicago, UPenn,
    Columbia, and Yale”

    24-year-old African American Male (1st generation African immigrant/recent U.S. citizen)

    Odds of Success:

    Harvard: 30% to 40%

    Stanford: 20% to 30%

    Chicago: 50+%

    Wharton: 40%

    Columbia: 40% to 50%

    Sandy’s Analysis: You got a real solid story and touch every base hard: 1st-generation African-American; 3.5 GPA; 720 GMAT; and IMF. Those are all winner items.

    At Stanford, it’s a matter of putting together some plausible “What
    Matters Most” story, and mixing up some “change organizations/ change
    the world” Kool-Aid goals. Other schools you note are really in line
    and it is a matter of execution, recs, and not blowing the interview–and
    for places like Chicago and Columbia, convincing them you want to come.

    You say, “Can get recommendations from alums of Harvard, Chicago,
    UPenn, Columbia, and Yale” Well, don’t feel the need to get recs from
    writers who went to that very school. That is not as impressive as many
    applicants think. Just go with recommenders who know you best.

  • MBAClassof2016


    Thank you for all the time and effort you put into these posts. I have really enjoyed reading. I wondered if you would be able to comment on something I have noticed in the “Comments Section” of a number of post here on P&Q. Along with Duke, Darden, and Cornell, I am considering applying to Michigan Ross.

    As of late, many posters have had pretty harsh things to say about Michigan Ross (“racist students”, “on a downward spiral”, “hateful toward minorities and foreign students”, etc.). While I always take comments posted anonymously on a message board with a grain of salt, the prevalence of the comments has got me wondering. I just returned from a visit to Ann Arbor and loved the campus, the school, and the students I met. Additionally, in no other online forum have I seen any comments of the like or kind.

    Any insights you could provide would be helpful.

    Thank you again.

  • hbsguru

    Not sure, quite frankly, there is nothing I have read, or no secret tip fr. the admissions cloak room which is changing my mind. Over time, one influence on my thinking,could be how many applications a school received in the past year, which impacts outcomes, and gets factored into the brew of my thinking. That is often a distortion b.c. I am using last year’s data vs. what is going to happen this year. E.g. if apps are up this year, which seems the case, your chances at X Y or Z should be harder, but my head is still in last year. If by looser on my percentages, you mean I am being more optimistic, hmmmm, not sure, could you cite a case?

  • hbsguru

    I feel your pain. Working in IB/MBB is a demanding, and kids who work there often get into H/W/S with thin-ish extra currics, altho they usually offer powerful things the are interested in, with some backing for that, often intense in UG years and less so during MBB years. Another common extra is ONE signature engagment, tutoring one kid via some program or church-related extra, and that is developed skillfully. If you have a gold plated record at college and and at work, with powerful recs, you can get into H/S/W with pretty thin current extras, altho a solid record of extras in college is often a big help.

  • hbsguru

    Well, let’s start with which outcome gives you the highest GPA? If that is your home school 4 semesters, you might report that w. a footnote or explanation in your resume.

    If you gain fr. including the 2 exchange GPAs, well, that is not a crazy way to calculate a GPA, assuming the exchange schools were not flakey. You will need to present transcripts of all six semesters, my guess, so you may not be ‘fooling’ anyone for long, and if you play it too cute, that can backfire. What you ideally want to do is give school a way to meet you in their own reporting of your GPA, assuming you are otherwise likeable. If this is just for some advice to me, tell me the whole story.

  • jomi0388

    Hey Sandy –

    Would appreciate an assessment on my profile:

    – 730 GMAT
    – 3.7 GPA from top 50 college (finance/accounting major)
    – 1.5 years at a Big Four (in consulting group)
    – 1 year at start up in NYC (company flopped)
    – Presently at a well known pre-ipo tech company in a corp finance/ops role
    – CPA
    – On the youth board of a non-profit that teaches business skills to inner city youth
    – 25 year old hispanic male (born outside the US, grew up in the northeast)
    – Goal: Become an influential figure in the start-up world (VC or executive level of a growing company)

    Top schools:

    – Stanford
    – Haas
    – Harvard
    – Columbia

    Aiming to apply in 2 years or so. Anything I can do to improve my profile?


  • sam


    Asian -Nepali

    325 GRE Q-165 V-160

    CGPA- 7.5/10 Civil Engineering,Top 10 Government Engineering College,India having many Harvard alums

    Extra curriculars-

    Average during my stay in college

    Work Experience-

    5 months-Hydro power Construction(Nepal Government Project)

    4 Months -Hydro power Project Development in Energy Department at a national bank,
    Working as a fellow at Teach for Nepal, will apply to business schools after that

    Goal- move to Consulting in Renewable Energy or non profit sectors








  • Kris

    Hi Sandy,

    I have a question regarding GPA and exchange semesters.

    During my three year bachelor I was able to head out for two semester long exchanges. What is the best way to look at my GPA?
    1) Calculate the two other GPAs into my main school GPA
    2) Consider them as three different GPAs (in this case, what is the best way to compare myself to the other candidates in these “handicapping” posts?)
    3) Only my main school GPA counts

    How would you handle this?

    Thank you in advance for your reply!

  • Weekend

    Sandy – how low is the extracurriculars bar for a MBB consultant/investment banker?

    Assuming these (apparently, time-poor) candidates had good extra curriculars at university, before going into full time work, how big of an issue is having no significant post-university extracurriculars?

    Is it the difference between getting into H/S/W vs. getting into Columbia/MIT/Kellogg/Booth? Or is it the difference between getting into a Top 5-7 school at all?

  • LogisticsEngineer

    Mr. Biotech Engineer here. Thanks for the evaluation! It’s given me a lot of optimism that if I put in the work and execute better, I can have a lot of success if I apply again. You are correct- my applications in retrospect were a bit rushed- I had made the decision to apply early last fall. Reading my applications now, my essays were too cookie-cutter and didn’t stand out. As you mentioned, I wasn’t as familiar as I could have been with how the game is supposed to be played.

    To elaborate a bit, I applied to a few schools; MIT LGO was one of the programs I was dinged from this year. I’m currently on a waitlist for one of the schools on my list, but since getting accepted and matriculating this late in the game could put me at a disadvantage, I feel I’m much better off going through it all again…looking at it objectively, that seems like the best way to go.

  • Myra

    Hello Sandy, I would be incredibly grateful if you could predict my odds for Wharton, Columbia, Yale and Cornell, assuming that I continue working with my family business and apply in 2 years time. If you do not think that I stand a chance at any of these schools, where would you reccomend? Thank you so much!

    Chinese Female, 21 years old, GMAT: 740 (3rd attempt, previously 690 and 720)

    GPA: 3.7 in Business Administration- Attended a Top-20 University in the UK

    (not Oxford/ Cambridge/ LSE/ Warwick/ Imperial)

    (GPA for the first half of my degree was 3.1, with one failed financial

    appraisal unit but it doesn’t count significantly towards my overall GPA in the

    British system. The second half of my degree, I had a GPA of

    3.8, and I did well in all 3 quantitative units during this period: accounting,

    financial equity and statistics)

    Work experience: 1 year with my family business, a manufacturing company in China, where I’ve lead initiatives for significant change in the company’s marketing and HR procedures, with positive results. I plan on working for another 1-2 years before applying. The company has an annual turnover of approx. $100 million.

    Business Goal (in the short term): To work with a boutique consultancy
    specializing in family businesses, and gain experience on how best to deal with
    the unique challenges that this type of business brings

    Business Goal (in the long term): To assume overall leadership of the family business and:

    1. Maximize productive efficiency by increasing horizontal and vertical integration

    2. Move into new, emerging markets with significant potential for expansion

    3. Establish an R&D center and emerge a local technological leader in our industry (which is currently low-tech and traditional)

  • Israeli

    Hey Sandy,

    Would greatly appreciate your remarks on my post:

    700 GMAT

    Dual BA Degree from Tel-Aviv University:

    Political science: 94% (top honors)
    Philosophy: 90%
    Judging by some GPA conversion charts I found, It is probably around 3.7 or 3.8
    The degree, is a three year degree. However, I completed it in 2 years.

    As a child grew up in various countries (Europe, Asia, Israel) as my father served as an Ambassador.

    Work Experience:

    12 years in the Israel Defense Forces Intelligence Corps, 10 as an officer. Currently a Major.
    Completed with honors one of the Intel. Corps. most prestigious courses, serving in an Intel. Technological unit with a very low acceptance rate.
    – At the age of 20 managed a team of 12 soldiers.

    – At the age of 21, was acting head of Section (managing over 30 soldiers) for half a year.

    – 22-24 – Head of operational group, working under tough conditions, with 6 direct subordinates and almost 90 in total. Including many subordinate officers.

    – 24-25- Head of Section, 4 direct subordinates and a total of 16. While managed less people than previous role, it is considered a big promotion (think moving from managing factory production line to more professional HQ management).

    25-27 – completed my BA

    27-30 – Switched to a more professional (rather than managerial role), in many manners equivalent to a CFO of a very large department (thousands of people).

    Extra Cur.

    – Baseball: Captain of Israel’s national Jnr. baseball team and player on Snr. team. Including numerous tournaments in Europe and the USA.

    – During college – Completed a “young ambassadors course” and took part in student-led projects promoting Israel abroad. Volunteered, giving weekly classes on Israeli society and values in under-privileged high-school.

    – Military – took part and led numerous volunteering projects. On a weekly basis assist under-privileged high school kids with their studies.

    – Marathon runner.


    Short term: make a switch to the Business world and gain international experience. Either through consulting or a managerial role in a high-tech company.

    Mid-term: Following experience in large company, start my own high-tech start-up.

    Long-term: Following business experience enter Politics.

    30 Year old Israeli Male.









  • Tyler

    Sandy, I’ve read everyone one of these ‘handicapping’ posts, and I love them all. You did a review on me back in the LI edition.

    One question though – objectively, do you think you’ve become a little looser on your percentages in the last few posts?

    A couple disclaimers – first, the candidates recently, and in this post, are terrific, so they definitely deserve some high ‘odds.’ Second, this isn’t an accusation, there is no problem if you have adjusted your scale.

    I’m just curious if there has been something you read, or have gotten feedback, or maybe I’m just imagining. Let me know if you have any thoughts on this. I’d be interested to see what you think.

  • jmike

    Hi Sandy,

    I would really appreciate some insight on my profile.

    -White Male

    -3.1 GPA in Econ from well ranked state school

    -730 GMAT (not great splits, 99% verbal, 67% math)

    -Work Experience – 5 years w/ a large, publicly traded engineering company

    -Came on in fast track rotational program, did 6 month placements in US, UK, China and Brazil. Then worked in business development for 2 years in Brazil, promoted to manage the team of 9 after 1 year. Recently promoted again to global business development role back in the US.

    -Fluent in Portuguese and Spanish

    -Extracurricular as a mentor for under privileged students, and a Brazilian equivalent of Habitat for Humanity. Also give corporate ethics training globally at my company.

    -GPA explanation – I never graduated high school, and left school and home when I was 16. I later got my GED, and worked my way full time through college. I didn’t have the maturity to really focus until later in life, after finding a career, getting married, etc.

    -Goals – To work in consulting, helping companies and brands to expand strategically in growing markets. I worked in several different divisions of my company, and can point to success in new market development.

    -Target schools – HBS (I know it’s a reach), Berkeley, UCLA and UT.


  • African Applicant

    Hey Sandy,

    I was wondering if you could look over the previous assesment you provided and tell me whether a 740 GMAT would improve my chances in a noticable fashion. Additionally, what do you think my chances are at a school like MIT which seems to weigh the GMAT more heavily?


    African Immigrant


  • Anonymous

    Thank you for your service and sacrifice for this country. I hope you get into every school to which you apply!

  • DailyCamera

    I am a 26 year old female Marine Corps Communications Officer.
    GMAT: 700 (plan to retake)
    GPA: 3.6 with honors within my major from UPenn (ROTC and track)
    I currently am an instructor and mentor for new Marine Corps communications Officers, in charge of a class of 70 students. I have focused my instruction on cyber/IT. Prior to this, I was a company commander (130 Marines) and prior to that a battalion communications officer (50 Marines/10M$ gear- responsible for all communications both deployed and in the USA for a battalion of 800 Marines).
    If you could evaluate my chances of getting into Wharton/Harvard/MIT/UVa I would very much appreciate it (and recommendations about retaking the GMAT-possibly with a prep course). Thanks!