Can You Get Into An Elite MBA Program?

He’s a 26-year-old analyst for one of the world’s top investment consulting firms who has been promoted three times in three years. With a 750 GMAT and a 3.49 grade point average from a nationally recognized state school, this professional plans to use the MBA degree to transition into a private equity job.

A former college cheerleader, she has spent the past three years at Payless Shoe Source as a store manager and financial analyst. Now this young female professional, who earned her undergraduate degree in just two and one-half years, wants to go to business school to help manage the way schools and districts are run.

This 21-year-old Chinese woman has led major initiatives in marketing and human resources for her family’s business, a $100 million manufacturing company in China. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.7 GPA from a top British university, she plans to apply to business school within the next two years to help her transition into a consulting boutique.

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

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 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.)

In this episode of our highly popular MBA handicapping series, Kreisberg shows some very tough love for a couple of prospective MBA applicants. Before providing his assessment to one young professional, he’s almost apologetic: “I’m about to say some harsh things about why you are not getting into HBS or Stanford, but let me begin by saying I really like you.”

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


Ms. Financial Analyst


  • 700 GMAT (expected)
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business economics from Arizona State University, graduating in two and one-half years
  • Work experience with Payless Shoe Source for three years (one year as a store manager and two years as a financial analyst); also spent two years with Teach For America, teaching high school math
  • Extracurricular involvement on Arizona State’s competitive cheer team, assuming a community relations role; treasurer for a sorority and a colony member for that chapter at my school; currently tutors underprivileged students and help with charity runs in my neighborhood
Goal: To help manage the way schools and districts are run so every child can get access to great education
  • White female

Odds Of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 25%
Stanford: 10% to 15%
Chicago: 30% to 35%
Duke: 50%+
Northwestern: 40%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Phew, I’m about to say some harsh things about why you are not getting into HBS or Stanford, but let me begin by saying I really like you, and I am sure most of our readers do too. The reality is that kids

1. from 3rd tier schools like ASU (save your angry letters Sun Devil fans, I love the place, but it does admit 83 percent of applicants)

2. with non-selective jobs and save-the-world goals,

3.  need immaculate stats to get into HBS or Stanford — if they ever do.

How come? I’m not totally sure what a regression analysis is, but let’s try this experiment. Let’s keep your exact same story but make these substitutions:

For Arizona State, substitute a Top-20 liberal arts college.

For Payless, substitute a Disney or even Target.

We get a totally different outcome. Instead of you being a very likeable and smart Payless item, you become a very likeable and smart “elite” item with a passion for helping people. If you want to be someone from Arizona State who wants to help people and reform education, you need a ~4.0, a very selective job, and a 720+ GMAT.

There is a name for stars like that, they are called White Ethnics, it is a recognized category although not written about per se in B-school admission circles. That is your category, I am assuming (often white kdis from working class backgrounds, first generation to attend college).

If you were near Ivy, and had a 3.7 GPA, a 700 GMAT, that might do because in most cases that person would have a selective job because, duh, those selective jobs at Disney or Johnson & Johnson or Nike  go to elite liberal arts majors with 3.7’s.

The entire point of the above is to say, sorry, I do not think you are getting into HBS or Stanford because you went to a prole school, your job is odd, your GMAT (assuming 700) is OK but not distinguished and Payless, especially as a store manager, sounds a bit off and overweight  to most adcoms at HSW (despite the job actually  being intense in terms of leadership, flexible skills, dealing with different people).

As to your chances at Chicago, Duke, and Northwestern? Phew again. How about considering as well Darden, UCLA and Michigan, too. Just to make sure this happens someplace. And try to have a real good (near 80%) quant GMAT score. Chicago may find this story not a fit for them and may wonder at your quant abilities. Duke and Kellogg take kids like you and ding them, largely a matter of application execution and luck.

You say your goal is to “help manage the way schools and districts are run so every child can get access to great education.” Try to flesh that out with a list of real people who do that and what their actual jobs are. My guess is, there is a list of hero school commissioners someplace, start with that. Check that list twice. Some of those folks, e.g. Michelle Rhee, are controversial (not to me!), but she is a good place to start, as this Wiki excerpt summarizes:

Michelle Rhee remains a highly controversial figure in the field of education due to her aggressive style . . . .  Rhee’s actions have earned her applause from school reformers, as well as the scorn of teacher unions and community activists.  

By the way, feel free to write back in six months and tell me what a dickhead I am because you got into HBS. I get called worse things every day — and as noted I am rooting for you.  If you told me you got into HBS, I’d give Dee Leopold a silent salute.

  • 2 plus 2 aspirant 608

    Cgpa- 3.3
    GMAT -760
    Education- Non iit , but one of the top 5 colleges for engineering in india.(BITS)
    Branch- electrical engineering and masters in mathematics.
    Work experience- interned with
    1) Healthcare company
    2) BCG ,
    3) Coca cola.
    4) ITC- conglomerate (FMCG,hotels, etc)
    5) Currently interning at InMobi

    Extra curricular-
    1.Founder enactus branch.
    2.Consulting director 180 Degrees Consulting
    3. Director general MUN society
    4. Head of sponsorship and Marketing

    Want to apply to the 2 plus 2 program and the deferred Stanford program in the next year.
    Would be really helpful to get your input


    Sounds like you are going places…Just one thing, and it’s a big one. Going into an admissions process declaring yourself as a ”natural leader” will only end in tears. Drop the overly self-love right now. You aren’t as special as you think you are. And it’s okay.

    1.) It shows a multitude of arrogance. 2.) Your profile so far does not show any true leadership experience 3.) You are competing against 6000 people with more leadership experience and most importantly, more insight into what being a leader is 4.) I considered myself as a natural leader in your age –> 8 years later with 6 years of military exp. (2 tours), and fast promotions in a T1 corporate firm only has taught me just how little you know about leading people. The level of self-reflection it takes to grow as a human being is just mind-blowing.

    Take this friendly advice from an HBS-alumni. Getting into a 2+2 program –> MOST IMPORTANT thing is to show that you are MATURE!

  • Adelia Gregory

    Hello Sanford Kreisberg,

    As an MBA guru, I anticipate you not liking my story. Trust me, I’ve heard it a million times before; but why? Because I will be applying to top MBA programs at the tender age of 21, finishing my bachelor’s at 22.

    Okay, why? I have an irrepressible desire to lead and effect changes in top organizations. Essentially, I’m zealous about the intersection of business, finance, and technology. I’m a natural leader and don’t believe that waiting around to articulate in a top-tier MBA program is the right way to go, for me. It is certainly the right way for many, but as I’ve already reiterated, I’m not one for cookie-cutter ways of thinking. I intend to make MD (Managing Director) by 35 and partner by 40 at the latest; my ultimate goal would be to be the youngest partner or future CEO of a fortune 500 company. I am fascinated by corporate strategy and ingest the equivalent of 10 business and finance-related articles per day; the more I learn, like a sponge, the more insatiable I am with soaking up knowledge. I want to bring my vivacious, energetic outlook, extremely hard work ethic, and intense curiosity to use at a top-tier MBA program.

    I don’t expect you to take any interest in my story, but per the convention, here are my stats:

    Started at Santa Rosa Junior College, taking an intensive course load (average of 16 units per full-length semester, and 6-7 units per summer semester), finishing in 2 years with a 3.954 GPA and Dean’s Highest Honors, as well as nearly 10 different merit-based scholarships. From May 2013-September 2014, I was an Editorial Assistant Intern at Sonoma Sun Newspaper (a local paper in my town), where I interviewed local businesses and academic administrators via a column I created myself, dedicated to reporting and evaluating local academic and fiscal policy initiatives. Also starting in May 2013, I worked 25 hours per week at a non-profit thrift store, promoted to Public Relations Coordinator after I successfully reorganized sales strategy to increase prices right before monthly sales and instituted the Coin Jar & Match initiative, which raised around $3k over 2 years. I ended up leaving Republic of Thrift after being offered a full-time marketing internship over the summer at Fastening Systems International, Inc., (FSI) in Sonoma, CA, which developed into a continuous role. Originally, I began the summer conducting inspections of tool-kits sold in the aerospace market. Promoted within 3 months to a research-focused position: accrued data, formulated Excel spreadsheets, worked directly with Tesla, Inc. and Gillig, Inc., and presented marketing recommendations at July 1, 2015 Board meeting. This internship lasted from March 2015-March 2016, since the CEO/President, Roger Nikkel, discovered I was a valuable asset to the team. Working with small businesses was the main way I discovered how much I value businesses with growth-oriented philosophies and strategies, as well as leaders that are likewise growth-minded. It is a prerequisite for continued profitability and improved efficiency, I believe.

    At SRJC, I was also a Public Relations Volunteer at a local non-profit animal shelter, Pets Lifeline, where I was also a devoted volunteer since senior year of high school. Began with manual jobs, like caring for animals; used Sonoma Sun Intern experience to prepare promotional materials, like newsletters and grant proposals. Promoted to training new volunteers and leading the team of new recruits. I was also a regular participant in leadership activities through Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, like assisting the launch of the “Hungry Cub” food pantry for hungry students; selected as the Extended Opportunity Programs & Services (EOPS) Outstanding Transfer Student of the Year for 2014. During 2014-2015, I was the Vice President of the Petaluma Campus of my JC (student government), was an active participant in 3 committees, as well as creating my own Council to head the entire campus’s student activities budget and affairs. Personally drafted all budgets, lobbied Senate for funding, increased student activity events from 2 to semester to over 5, and was promoted to Executive Vice President of student government.

    Thanks to my academic performance, extracurricular involvement, and lots of hard work, I was granted the great privilege of matriculating at University of California, Berkeley, where I am currently finishing my last few months as Junior. I have maintained a 3.9 GPA at a tier 1 school, and am part of Alpha Kappa Delta Honor Society for high-performing Berkeley sociology majors, and the Sigma Alpha Pi National Society of Leadership and Success.

    This semester at UC Berkeley, I was selected for Fundraising Committee Internship at the Democratic Education Program at Cal, colloquially referred to as “DeCal”. The Fundraising Committee works as a team to plan and execute fundraisers throughout the semester to fund the Board’s operations. I facilitate the entire process, from communicating with company managers and recruiting team members in the University Plaza, to handling monetary inflow and outflow. My initial goal for my individual project was to create the most profitable DeCal fundraiser in the last 5 years, with my fundraising team. However, the Director of the Committee suddenly dropped out, and I have stepped up as strategic lead of fundraising operations. My goal this semester is to reengineer the entire committee to focus all resources on applying to a $10,000 grant–instead of focusing on arbitrary amounts of fundraisers that aren’t lucrative and aren’t a good use of our precious time–which will change the course of DeCal forever. Directly managing monetary inflow and outflow through this fundraising internship helped me discover my aptitude for “money sense” in regard to generating profit and mitigating cost. Consequently, I discovered that my passions were an excellent fit for the financial world, as it’s a nonstop and feeds off the economic activity that is generated from our economy’s ups AND downs. This is my current focus, as well as my other internship this semester.

    I am also an Intern at the California Management Review at Haas School of Business, a prestigious, academic management periodical. CMR connects those who study management and those who practice it, distributed in partnership with Harvard Business School. This semester, I drafted a research-based analysis of Crowdfunding; currently researching Open Innovation, Corporate Strategy, Leadership/HR Management, Intellectual Property Management, and Hybrid Organizations. As an Intern, I assist CMR’s marketing team in producing high-quality, interesting articles to publish on our LinkedIn channel, as well as increasing traffic to the LinkedIn page through a variety of marketing initiatives. I fully intend to take a leadership position with either of these amazing opportunities for the upcoming fall.

    For this upcoming summer, I will have the privilege of interning as an Operations Analyst for Goldman Sachs. Courtesy of the GS website: “Capital Market Operations acts as the front-line of the division to enable all of the firm’s businesses and supports the life cycle of a trade by partnering with clients and other divisions to mitigate risk and provide excellent client service”. In essence, Operations is the spine, veins, and circulatory system of Goldman Sachs–while IB is the heart that pumps the livelihood through the firm. Also, I will be directly contributing to new financial operations programs to drive efficiency, improve client services (as well as returns to shareholders), as well as working to reduce the firm’s operational risk.

    With proper preparation this summer especially, my anticipated GRE is a 320. It may be higher; this is only my initial estimate, before having officially started my GRE preparation classes.

    Please let me know if you think I have any potential for the Harvard Business School 2+2 program, Yale SOM’s Silver Scholars program, or NYU’s Stern School of Business William R. Berkley scholarship. I know that my lack of 2-6 years of work experience post-BA makes it nearly impossible that I’ll get into Columbia BS, Cornell Johnson, Dartmouth Tuck, Cal Haas, Chicago Booth, Kellogg, etcetera, but a girl can dream. I absolutely want to defy the statistics that say that people like myself have a very difficult time getting into MBAs straight from their bachelor’s. I’m ambitious, meticulous, and extremely type-A; I think I am a good fit for programs like HBS’s 2+2 and Yale SOM’s SS program.

  • Manushi Kapur

    Hey Sandy,

    I am a senior at Fordham University’s Gabelli school of business with a major in Business administration and a concentration in Finance. My last semester is about to begin but so far my cumulative GPA is 3.79. I transferred from Univ of Delhi, India with a 4.0. I have secured a job in commercial banking at Citigroup New York and will begin this year. I am yet to take my GMAT but am aiming for a 700+ score. Could you assess chances for getting into an MBA program after a work experience in Finance for say, 3-4 years? My target schools are Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Chicago Booth and Yale.
    Thanks !

  • disqus_gGZBCBobww

    Hi Sandy,

    Wanted your objective analysis on my story:

    26 year Indian male from ethnic minority group.

    GMAT – 710

    Undergrad in Economics from a reputed Indian University –
    roughly 3.5 GPA equivalents

    Masters in Finance from a top tier Business School in UK –
    roughly 3.5 GPA

    Went back and worked 1 year at the Finance Ministry of India
    then moved back to the UK to work for a top tier Investment bank (in a trading
    support role though not a front-end role, I believe I can spin it in a positive
    light though)

    Extra-curriculars are around charity, volunteering events with
    the company

    Short term goal – working in IBD/financial consultancy

    Long term goal – setting up own shop to help small-size
    companies in India

    Only applying to top-tier MBA programs across US and Europe


  • Juniper

    I have an undergraduate gpa of 2.56
    GRE Scores – Verbal: 152, Quant: 149]
    Over ten years of work experience
    Can I get into Michigan State or U of M Ann Arbor?

  • Mr. Supply Chain

    Hi Sandy,

    If you choose, could you assess my odds for M7 (especially for Harvard and Stanford)?

    My background:

    · Chinese Male, 28

    · GMAT 770

    · Undergrad: Bachelor of Arts in Economics in China (not a top university in China), GPA:3.94/4.00 (No.1 out of 138, National Merit Scholarship, Only awarded to 48 out of 30,000 students in university), Exchange student in Junior in Germany

    · Grad: Master of Sciences in Supply Chain Management (a top 15 university in the U.S.), GPA: 3.82/4.00 (University ranks top 15 in the U.S.; GPA ranks No.1 of the graduating class, Knight Scholar, The Outstanding Graduate Student, only awarded to 1 student)

    · Work Experience:

    1 year in China after undergrad school in a Healthcare Consulting Company as market research analyst

    3 years in the U.S. after grad school in a supply chain technology company (not very prestigious company, 2000+ employee and $8 Billion Revenue). Projects include designing and implementing supply chain strategy for Dell China, Lenovo Brazil, ALU U.S…; Get promoted 3 times in 3 years; Year-end evaluation: A+ Player (Top 5%), over 25% salary increase every year

    · Extracurricular: Founded a career consulting volunteer group in the U.S. in helping international students equipped with skills to succeed in today’s job market (e.g., tips of how to find jobs in the U.S., resume/cover letter polish, mock interview). Have over 70 volunteers and helped over 60 international students till now

    · Short-term career goal: (It is the time to go back home) Go back China to take over my family business (currently, it has over 300 employees and is doing E-business)

    · Long-term career goal: Make my family business go internationally and public

  • ShyShy

    34 years old, marketing major at a Baruch College, 3.8 GPA, GMAT 700, works for a powerful partner at an elite law firm (top 5 in US), 17 years work experience all white shoe, elite firms. What are my chances for entry into an elite business program? Say Columbia? I can most likely pull a professional recommendation from my partner who is an ivy league graduate himself (Harvard).

  • mamta

    sir, i am mba(marketing) from kurukshetra university and i have also done lateral entry mba(finance) from PTU jalandhar in different years . i want to know that am i eligible for lectureship or my degree will become master of none

  • hbsguru

    I answered this on most current edition of My Chances, the one now on the homepage of website.

  • Hashir Arif

    Hi Sandy, My name is Hashir, I am an undergrad student from the top most Business school of Pakistan; Institute Of Business Administration. I am studying Finance and Supply Chain Management as a Major, and have also done a one-semester U.S State funded exchange at Florida State University. I scored 2100 on my SAT’s. Wharton is my dream school, would you please tell me what I need to get on my GMAT, and where should my work experience specialize in order to get in?
    I also plan to give my CFA’s in the coming year.
    P.s: I still have 2 years of undergrad school left. I am 20 years of age. (Middle eastern race). I also am a Public Relations Manager at an NGO.

  • sai

    Hi Sandy,

    If you choose, could you assess my odds for Harvard, Stanford,Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Stern or LBS? Alternatively if i can’t get into these, could you suggest what i should be aiming for?

    27-Year old Chinese male born in Britain

    750 GMAT

    Masters in Financial Mathematics @ Imperial College top 5 university (Merit UK scoring top 20% of class)

    Bachelors in Economics Top 20 university. (First class degree UK Scoring Top 5% of class)

    Summer at Harvard, 2 courses only GPA 3.5

    Completed all 3 levels of the CFA qualification

    I have completed 4 internships at tier2 banks/ boutiques during my undergraduate/ postgraduate studies. (70-80 hour weeks on top of full time study)

    I was also a teaching assistant during my undergraduate for mathematics

    Also 2.5 years experience in M&A post graduation at no-name boutique, promoted to associate


  • Rob

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love to have one of your detailed analyses done.

    I plan to apply for a Healthcare MBA program in 2-3 years at the likes of UNC, Wharton, University of Michigan and Boston University

    My stats are:

    23 Year-Old White Male
    Attended “#74 Regional University in North” for undergrad as ranked by US World & News Report w/ cumulative 3.98 GPA
    During college interned at Teva as well as for a boutique healthcare consulting firm in NYC
    About to start Management Training Program with Aramark’s Healthcare segment, and hopeful for the company to sponsor my MBA
    Have not taken GMATs yet, but let’s assume (generously) that I can score in the 90 percentile range

    This would be awesome! Thanks.

  • Mr Anonymous

    Looking to apply to Ross, USC Marshall,, Rice university – Jones, UT – McCombs, UVa -Darden, Tepper, Cornell university-johnson and Kellogg

    Asian male, 24

    2.2 gpa in UG in Mechanical engineering from India.
    GMAT 720

    1 year internship at Governmnet Organization Indian space research organisation (ISRO)
    1 year work experience with reputed MNC Bombardier.

    ECs National level Soccer player, State level athlete.

    Can you please calculate my odds in getting admission to above mentioned Universities and other reputed universities.

    Thank You.

  • Salman Qasim

    Hello. Below is my brief profile and please suggest me what b-schools are good for me and if I have any chance at any of the preferred schools for MBA.

    Age: 24
    Nationality: Pakistan

    Qualifications: HDA, BSc, ACCA, CFA, FRM, PRM

    1) Three year bachelor’s degree awarded in First Class Honours by Oxford Brookes University, one of the leading universities in UK. GPA is equivalent to 3.6(As per iGPA calculator of World Education Services)

    2) 750 GMAT score (Second attempt)

    3) Simpson Scholarship awarded by the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants. Out of 6000 applicants, 20 were short listed and among the 5 winners, I was one. It was awarded on the basis of brilliantly written essays and strong academic history.

    4) Was awarded Certificates of Merit for obtaining highest score in the world in two of the ACCA exams.

    5) Was awarded Candidate of the Year award by Professional Risk Management International Associations for obtaining highest score in PRM exams in the world.

    6) Completed Higher Diploma in Accounting in shortest possible time in my school.

    7)Devoted to Continuing Professional Education and have several Coursera Verified Certificates with distinction.

    Extra-Curricular Activities:

    1) Volunteered with Community Rural Development Program which is a non profit organization and was founded by my brother. We worked for developing the lifestyle of the people in the troubled tribal areas of Pakistan and established more than 10 mobile schools and put more than 2000 children in schools. Mobile schools were established on temporary basis until we raise enough money to build a proper permanent building for school.

    2) Have played cricket for my college and represented my school on international level.

    Work Experience:

    3 years of work experience in Investment Advisory at Consulting Dept of Deloitte Pakistan and 1 year of Human Capital Consulting Experience at PwC, Saudi Arabia.

    Post MBA Goals.
    Be a Finance leader and also work for the betterment of the Pakistani troubled community.

    Preferred Schools.
    Stern &

    I hope to hear from you, Sandy!

    Kind Regard

  • Nichole

    Forgot to add highlights of my work: I launched the country’s first trans-coastal company since the war in 1989 (it is currently the only vessel that can bring goods from the capital Monrovia to the other outports); I have produced two (working on a 3rd) highly marketing-oriented annual reports for our concessionaires and investors, transforming our reports from word documents to having an international appeal in content, look and feel; I have worked on a number of re-branding initiatives from the re-launching of our website to writing speeches for the MD to communicate the authority’s new image and strategy; I also conduct the market research on interested investors so that the MD and the exec team are properly prepped during courtesy visits and can articulate what the best partnerships between the investor (or country representative) and the NPA would be (i.e. UK Minister for Africa visits the port….what should we come out of the meeting with?)

  • Nichole

    Hey Sandy,

    I plan to apply 2nd round to HBS, London Business School, Oxford and maybe one or two other ‘safe’ schools this January. I’ve taken the GMAT once but plan to take it again before December to boost my score within the 720-750 range. I’m confident I can hit the mark as I have consistently scored in this range for the past 2 months. Please take a look at my profile and let me know what you think my odds are. If you could give me your most blunt and honest opinion about my chances in to these schools or your own suggestions, I would really appreciate it.


    Nervous wreck from applications!!!


    > 24 yr old (black) Liberian-American (Liberian by heritage, American by birth)

    > GMAT (expected): 720

    > GPA: 3.1 (I was the first student from my school to solidify an exchange program between Euromed Management business school in Marseille, France

    > SCHOOL: Howard University Business School in DC . Note: I applied for the honors program in the 2nd semester of my freshman year and got in. I was an active member for three years and served as the team leader for Citi Group, essentially acting as a liaison between the firm and my honors program. I also lead and won many case studies that were sponsored by our honors program sponsors (i.e. Goldman Sachs, Bank of America etc). However, since my GPA didn’t survive study abroad, I did not graduate with my honors program in our senior year. Nonetheless, I did participate in the program up until graduation.

    > MAJOR: International Business concentration in Marketing

    > OTHER EDUCATION: I also participated in the Harvard Business School Summer Venture in Management program as a rising junior; Post graduation I did a certificate program in Project Management at Georgetown University as part of their continuing education college

    > UNDERGRAD ACHIEVEMENTS: As part of the 21 CAP program at my business school, for 1 year (my sophomore year), I lead a team of 28 freshman students in a business plan competition sponsored by Ford. I lead my team to a first place victory, beating 22 other teams in the same program; As a mentioned earlier, amongst hundreds of other applicants I was chosen to represent my school as an exchange school at Euromed Marseille; etc.

    >> WORK EXPERIENCE: During my junior year, my mother and I launched an ngo dedicated to the maternal/infant mortality cause in Liberia, West Africa. For the past four years, I’ve served in the capacity at Executive/Projects Director and have raised over 100,000 and impacted more than 2,500 women and children in rural Liberia. As I am currently living in Liberia, by night and on the weekends, I wear my ED hat!

    Post graduation, I was looking for a truly international opportunity so I sought out an opportunity with the National Port Authority of Liberia (NPA), convincing the Managing Director that the NPA needed to better marketed in order to attract the large scale financing partners and concessionaires the country is/was looking for. I picked up my things and moved to Liberia and have been working as a full-time Marketing Strategy consultant to the NPA for the past 16 months.

    > CAREER GOALS: After working in both the ngo and government (albeit, NPA is an autonomous agency of the govt) space, I feel strongly that what Liberians/Africans need is less aid and more economic opportunities. I’ve seen first hand that aid can, in fact, be extremely deprecating and demoralizing overtime and can create a first-rate handout culture. While African leaders are discovering their moral conscience, I want to help provide jobs for people in Liberians and Africans so that they depend less on the government and more on their own skills and capacity. Just like the United States and Western Europe, continental Africa is coming upon its own industrial age where manufacturing will be the single most important turning point for many African economies. Liberia in particular, in partnership with the World Bank and Norway (amongst other donor countries, has undertaken a project to lower the barriers to electricity through the renovation of the country’s largest power plant. Once that barrier is lowered, I want to open Liberia’s largest textile manufacturing company. I want to use my MBA to transition from general marketing to textile production with a focus in supply chain management as, in my capacity at the port authority, I have observed that efficient supply chains is the difference between large companies in Africa and barely scaled SMEs.

    > RECOMMENDATIONS: 1) a Nobel Peace Prize winner that has been a great friend and mentor to me for the past 4 years (she has seen my work with the nonprofit and was a guest speaker at our first fundraiser); 2) my managing director

  • Raj Bhakta

    Hey Sandy,
    I got a 550 on my GMAT, the problem being I don’t test well! But I have 2 years work ex with the consulting division of a big 4. I spent 2 years volunteering with Greenpeace and successfully lobbied large MNC’s and got them to change their unethical ways. Growing up, I have lived across 3 continents and have attended multicultural schools and colleges. My GPA if converted is around 3.7 (2.1 in the UK system), I did several extra curricular activities in school and university and have led large teams. At the time of applying I would be on the youngish side (24-25).

    My reason behind pursuing a MBA is to build on my leadership skills and social network since I plan to start my own venture after an MBA. I want to pursue it from a reputed school to enhance my credentials too. Which schools would you recommend for me. Also, is it true that if you can finance your studies without assistance you have a higher chance of getting in?

  • Mr. Big 4

    Hi Sandy

    Great read. Hoping you can assess my odds at the MBA too. Here’s my story:

  • FW

    Nationality: Singapore
    Age: 29 (Intend to apply in 2014, when i would be 30)

    Work Experience: 3.5 years by the time I send in my application
    (Started career late due to compulsory military service and university transfer)

    GMAT: 760 GPA: Economics, approximately 3.5 (2:1 degree from a top 5 UK University)

    College Extra-Curricular: Founder and president of the 5th largest student society with 2000 members (The only Asian student to have founded a top 5 student society ) Led a multi-cultural team of 30, and became the first in europe to bring a leading American business competition to campus.

    Post-Grad Extra-Curricular: Volunteer for 2 social enterprises that seeks to use technology to improve the female migrant workers’ job prospects and to facilitate cultural exchange and language learning between kids in different countries. Also served as Ernst and Young’s campus marketing team leader during which i led a team of about 30. Also volunteered to provide career coaching for my junior students as an alumnus.

    Post-Grad Work History: Worked in Ernst and Young’s London office for 1.5 years before moving into the corporate development role in a large Chinese
    real estate developer. My current job involves identifying, analyzing and executing overseas investment and development targets in 7-10 countries in Europe. I negotiate with government officials, bankers, lawyers, consultants to execute all the necessary works. I work primarily with the CFO and deputy Chairman, with a budget of approximately 10,000 m RMB. I have also initiated a cross-asset marketing strategy that got approved by the company’s leadership team, which is the first of its kind in China’s real estate industry. Having an international background and being multi-lingual allowed me to gain these high level responsibilities relatively quickly

    Goals: Join the M&A/Corporate Finance practice of a consulting firm (MBB, PwC, At Kearney, Deloitte) before joining the corporate development department covering international acquisitions in an MNC in China. Ultimate goal is to leverage my experience to help Chinese companies globalize more successfully, either as the VP of corporate development or MD of a Chinese company’s overseas business.

    Target Schools:

  • stagleton

    I want to get an mba to help me become CEO of an oil and gas contractor. Hoping for MBA from: Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Haas, Stern.

    Undergrad GPA: mechanical eng. 3.45 w/ final 2 years around 3.68 and a masters from top 3 school with close to 3.7.

    Currently work in Norway for a large operator and will soon work for a smaller contractor hopefully offshore within 3 months.

    I’m 27 and hope to start at 29. I will take the GRE’s since I did well the first time I took them. Also have some ok extracurriculars. Why am I not getting into my schools of choice?

  • Ben

    GRE: 170 V 162 Q (99th and 84th Percentiles Respectively)
    GPA: 3.7, Social Sciences Major (Not Econ), Magna Cum Laude
    Won “Top Graduate” Award within major
    Undergrad: Private top 15 national university (ivy-ish?)
    College Extra Curriculars: President of political magazine (50 staff), awarded funded Political Science research fellowship
    Work: 3 years at a boutique management consulting firm (government sector focused). Promoted twice and am now a project manager. Work includes developing business strategy plans, analyzing government policy implications for business, and M&A due diligence. Have briefed CEO-level clients for billion dollar corporations and senior government agency leadership semi-regularly for past 1.5 years (space/satellite industry). Other people from this ~100 employee firm have gone to top-five business schools, but it’s not a brand name.
    Volunteering: Tutor underprivledged children on weekends in reading for 3 years
    Hobbies: Ran first marathon this past May
    MBA Goal: To transition away from consulting to leadership position in a government-focused space company or government agency

    I’m especially interested in dual degree programs such as MIT Sloan / Harvard Kennedy and HBS/HKS due to interest in both business and government.

    I’m concerned about the low Quant score. The ETS score converter says that a 162 on GRE predicts a 43 Q on the GMAT, which would only be 58th percentile. Too low?

  • Guest

    My Profile:

    – GMAT: 700-720 (expected)
    – 3.30 GPA in Accounting from SUNY Buffalo (cum laude)
    – Passed 2 Levels of CFA Exam
    – Currently work at top bank (GS/MS) doing Investment Reporting for PWM (1 year), Spent 2 years at a travel industry company (Hertz/Marriot) doing revenue management where I was promoted to be responsible for ~100m of revenue annually and a small team of people who supported me (spent 1 year in that role).
    – Mentored incoming freshman in college, currently doing Big Brother Big Sister (~1 year)
    – Lead and won a case competition in college judged by a panel of local businesses leaders
    – 25 year old white gay male
    – Goal: Looking to move into management of a large manufacturing company

    – Would like to apply: Columbia, Tuck, Yale, Stern, Stanford, Wharton, HBS

  • Manu

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you please assess my odds at Kellogg, Duke, Tuck, Darden and Booth?

    24 year old Indian male.

    730 GMAT (51 Quant, 37 Verbal)

    8.7/10 Undergrad GPA in Industrial Engineering and Management from one of the highly ranked institutes in India.

    My extra-curricular include coordinating the B-Plan event during my undergrad, headed the committee which handled the sponsorship in the college cultural fest.

    Have been working with a leading Consulting firm in the pharma domain (at one point of time almost 50% of US pharma Incentive-Compensation practice area was handled by this firm) for last 26 months. I have worked across multiple practice areas within the pharma domain including IC, Customer profiling, Alignment management and reporting. Currently I am leading the Alignment Management module in my team.

    I have worked closely with many strategic consultants during my tenure at this firm and have been very inspired by the way their decisions affects the healthcare delivery environment in US. Therefore, my goal is to attain a position of strategic consultant within the pharma domain. Eventually, I would like to move to India to work in the healthcare sector to provide low cost solution to improve the healthcare delivery system.

    Given my week extracurricular activities and relatively less work experience in terms of tenure could you please assess my overall profile and my chances in one of the above mentioned schools?


  • muunkky

    Been accepted at IE in Madrid, but thinking of applying to INSEAD, and HBS.

    – 32 yo White male

    – 680 GMAT

    – Low gpa from UBC engineering (good school in Canada)

    – Current job title: Innovation Manager

    – Current employer: small manufacturing firm scaling for growth

    – Currently making solid 6 figure salary with a job offer to come back to (employer not paying for education)

    – 8 years work experience in Engineering consulting with some international exposure in latin america and middle east.

    – My goals are to help drive innovation culture in the energy sector.

  • SC

    Forgot to add, I double majored in American Studies and Ethnic Studies with highest honors, and finished an honors thesis. I am a low-income Southeast Asian male. My extracurriculars right now include being a Kiwanis, mentoring high school students at my high school’s Key Club, and fundraising for a biannual community arts and local entrepreneur exhibit (500+ attendees).

  • SC

    GRE Score: TBD
    3.7 GPA at UC Berkeley
    Will have been at a labor-affiliated nonprofit in Silicon Valley (economic research and grassroots organizing institute) for 5 years.
    Started as an intern in 2010, then hired as a community outreach specialist, then promoted to campaign manager, and finally promoted to development manager.
    Goal: To help further develop nonprofits in the Bay Area to have stronger infrastructure, capacity building, and in fundraising.

    Looking at Stanford MBA and Yale MBA for nonprofit management track.

    How are my chances looking so far?

  • Jeff

    Hi Sandy,

    Looking at HBS, Columbia, Booth, Wharton, Tuck, and McCombs

    White male, 24

    GMAT: Expectation of 700-750 GMAT

    GPA: 3.77 in Finance/Economics from private Texas university
    (top 30 business school)

    Currently working as an equity research analyst (sell side)
    at a mid-sized private investment bank (company has been around for 100+
    years). Previously, worked for two years as an analyst at a start-up hedge fund
    directly under the portfolio manager and CFO and co-managed the development for
    a portion of the fund. CFA Level II Candidate (took in June) w/ expectation of
    passing all 3 levels by the time of application.

    Extracurriculars: Volunteer w/ local charity organization
    focused on helping underprivileged children, avid homebrewer, currently
    obtaining pilot’s license

    Goal: Short-term – reenter the buy side as a consumer analyst;
    Long-term – found a value-oriented multi-strategy hedge fund/investment firm

  • NorCal Hopeful

    Hi Sandy, thanks for providing your insight on the schools that might most appreciate particular stats. If you can find the time I would appreciate your input.

    +Considering Haas and Stanford (I’m currently tied to the location but would consider other schools in 3 years)
    +26 year old middle class white male I don’t really qualify as any type of diverse, though I am married
    +Graduated from a top 25 state school in the southeast US with a 3.9 GPA in finance/accounting.
    +The last four years I have worked in at GE rotating between finance and corporate development assignments, including stints in Japan/Australia and throughout the US
    +Haven’t taken the GMAT but I anticipate a score of at least 700 based on practice and previous testing performance
    +Eight years of volunteering experience with special needs populations and led a volunteer club for two years during undergrad

    I’m looking to round out my business knowledge as I have focused on primarily finance/accounting, and transition to a consulting firm post-MBA. I really appreciate your guidance!

  • ace

    Hi Sandy,

    I really love your column and would appreciate if you could ballpark my estimate at: Stanford, Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, UCLA, Berkeley, and Ross.

    27-year-old Indian male (born in India, raised in US)
    730 GMAT
    3.0 undergrad GPA (electrical engineering)
    Work Experience: 2 years at Microsoft, 4 years at Deloitte
    Extra-curriculars: 2 years regional board of 40-60 person non-profit, going into national role. 3 years leading community organizer for Deloitte for Junior Achievement non-profit
    Currently working in healthcare IT (“Obamacare”) and want to transition to strategy healthcare roadmapping on the provider/health plan side

    What are my chances?

    Thank you so much for taking the time!

  • Globetrotter

    Schools of Interest are

    Booth, Northwestern, Michigan

  • Globetrotter

    GMAT: 710 (Strongly skewed towards verbal.)

    GPA: 3.3 w/ 3.6 in major

    Age: 27

    Education: BS in Chemical Engineering from a Small (highly regarded) State School in the Midwest

    Demographic: White Male

    Work Experience: 4 years at a midwest based Oil Company/Refining company. Company is well known in the industry. Vast work experience in Asia, including China (~2 years at various locations). Time in Europe, Russia, and South America as well. Functional Mandarin language skills. Work entails managing the start-up of complex customer projects, ensuring both my employer and customer are satisfied with the service provided by our company. The work requires strong analytical, communication, and organizational skills. Work often requires working in a country where I don’t know the language. Largely a consulting role, but some physical demands as well. I have spent the majority (~95%) of the last 3 years outside of the USA.

    Goal: A management or finance role in the energy/oil sector

  • Rick


    Looking to apply to HBS, Stanford, MIT, Wharton, and Kellogg

    Asian male, 27

    3.5 in Mathematical Economics from Rice/Vanderbilt/Emory caliber school
    GMAT 720

    2 years as an IB analyst at a bulge bracket (think JPM/MS) in healthcare group
    2 years at MM PE shop on the west coast

    ECs include cancer research at MD Anderson, along with other research positions at other hospitals

    Looking to move into corporate development/management at a large biotechnology/pharmacy company


  • Ms. Non-Profit Management

    Hi Sandy,

    I really enjoy your column and your astute, honest feedback to candidates. I’m hoping for your feedback on my profile, too. Thanks a lot!

    – GMAT: 710 (71% percentile on Quant, 90% on Verbal) (took it twice, and scored 700 the second time)
    – Went to a top nationally-recognized liberal arts college in the Midwest; GPA: 3.60
    – Undergraduate major/minor: English, Women’s and Gender Studies
    – 25- year old female, born in India, grew up in Singapore (Singaporean national), came to the U.S. for college and have been working in the U.S. since (on H1-B visa)
    – Work experience:
    1. (Current)
    Research Analyst in the public health department of a well-known non-profit social
    science research organization in the D.C. area (federal contractor)- we work mainly
    on research contracts with the HHS, CDC, NIH, etc. Second author on research article that has been cleared by the CDC for publication. Apart from my research responsibilities on projects, I play a substantial role in managing teams when our department bids on proposals (RFPs)—I have served as Proposal Manager for tight turnaround proposals and have been recognized internally for these efforts (this is not a responsibility usually given to Research Analysts at my organization). I have been working here for two years and plan to stay on while applying to business school (have been promoted once). It is my experience at this job that has gotten me truly interested in non-profit management—I find the research interesting, but I am far more intrigued by how our organization is managed and what could be done to help us achieve our research goals more effectively and efficiently, etc.

    2. (Previous)
    Legal Assistant with a boutique immigration law firm—served as Case Manager for
    client account with a UC university (managed a portfolio of about a hundred
    clients). Did this for one year before taking current job.

    – I am a little concerned about the lack of my quantitative background. Most of my college transcript is focused on courses in the humanities and social sciences. I took a few quantitative courses in college (statistics, applied regression analysis) and scored either an A or an A- in all. While working in D.C. I have taken a Microecon class and a Finance class at local MBA programs and have scored an A in both. I did a lot of calculus in high school (in Singapore) but don’t have anything on my transcript to prove it.

    – Volunteer experience: volunteer with local South Asian organizations during their monthly “immigration clinics” and “health clinics”; previous volunteer work in college with local women’s health organizations.

    – Other extracurriculars: wrote for college’s Media Relations website, served as a writing tutor for three years in college for both “regular” students and ESL students

    – Goals: I know I need to define my goals more clearly, but broadly speaking I am very interested in non-profit management. In the short-term after MBA, I’d like to go into non-profit/public sector consulting, and I hope to use that experience as a launching pad to eventually work on the management side for a high-functioning non-profit organization, or perhaps in CSR for the private sector, etc.

    – My dream school would be Stanford because of their esteemed Public Management Program, but I’m aware that it’s a very long shot. Still, I’d like to hear your assessment of my chances.

    – Target schools: Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley, Dartmouth, Duke, Yale, Darden

  • Reh.Hawk

    hey..can you please advise me regarding a B-School. I have BBA (Hons) degree with majors in Accounting & Finance from Pakistan. CGPA is 3.31. I have a job experience of around 5 years. I also hold a Post Graduate diploma in Public Accounting from Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Pakistan (ICPAP). currently working as the Assistant Commissioner as member of the Pakistan Administrative Service; the premier service of the Federal Government of Pakistan; involved in highest level of policy and decision making.I have taken 710 in GMAT. please advise me some good B-Schools where i could have fair chance of getting admitted.

  • LowGPAFool

    Thank you for the information. I was originally planning on an alt transcript, but decided against when I read that quant-heavy courses were preferred. I was actually a math minor in undergrad, so I’ve taken almost all of the upper-level math/stat/econ classes already. Do you think it is still a good idea? If so, what other courses would you recommend?

    Thanks, again!


    I was a “low gpa” applicant that recently applied and was admitted to UNC’s on-campus MBA program. I too had a lowish GPA (2.93) from an average university (Clemson). I was told to build an alternate transcript and take some college level courses. My GMAT score was 730. I would suggest that don’t waste any of your time on the GMAT; 740 is a very solid score.

    Take a few proper college level courses in Econ, Stats, Corp Fin, etc and build an alternate transcript to overcome that 2.3 gpa. UCLA extension has a good reputation. All those European schools will go for an American woman…but only if you can overcome that 2.3 gpa by convincing the adcom folks that you can handle rigorous quantitative classes. A 2.3 is not like a 2.8 or 2.9 that you might be able to get away with (even then it’s hard and most consultants I spoke to said that a sub par GPA should be addressed).

    Most people consider a gpa of less than 3.1-3.2 to be a “low gpa”. Anything less than 2.75 is considered a “very low” GPA. The good news is that there are quite a few success stories of folks who got admitted with low GPAs. Among these applicants, during my research, I found that many of them went on to get a Masters degree and somewhat blunted the GPA issue. Several others, like I did, took courses to bolster their academic credentials. A few others had mitigating circumstances that included getting degrees from schools like MIT or Georgia Tech in majors such as Astrophysics or Nuclear Engineering.

    To be honest, I researched this low gpa issue quite thoroughly and found the following strategies quite helpful.

    1) Apply Early decision — usually the odds are a little more in your favor and the acceptance rates are slightly higher. I applied EA to Duke but was wait-listed and then rejected during R1. Duke is a school that might take a chance on a lowish GPA, but it’s going to a hell of a lot of convincing for them to bite on a 2.3.

    2) There are a lot of excellent schools ranked 15 to 20 that would accept people who are motivated and want to attend their program. UT-Austin. Emory, CMU, Kelly-Indiana are all schools that I think are excellent and will give folks a chance, especially with a high GMAT score (assuming you build a solid alternate transcript).

    3) Unless you have a major trick up your sleeve, don’t waste your time on the M7 schools and schools like Duke and Hass and Yale. You are better off targeting lower ranked programs and you might get lucky and even get scholarships. Of course, if you have some trick or have some high level contacts in these schools, then anything is possible.

    4) European Schools will admit American women. In fact, those schools particularly seek women from US/ Canada etc because it’s such an underrepresented group. Not many American women in their late 20s or early 30s want to go study in a European b-school.

  • LowGPAFool

    Hi. I would really appreciate any feedback you could provide regarding my profile:

    740 GMAT (46Q/46V,5AWR,8IR)

    2.3 Undergrad GPA from average university (explanation: grades suffered due to distraction of terminally ill parent)

    28 year old American female

    5 years of work experience – currently (and for last 1.5 years) head of operational finance for a software startup recently valued at $150mil, 90 employees in 7 countries, managed growth from 20 employees to current size, experience with PE capital raise with major PE firm, up for promotion in the next 3-6 months; prior to that spent 1.5 years as regional finance manager for a telecom handling $300mil/yr in my region, went from 2 to 35 direct reports, promoted 3 times; spent first two years of career in regional CPA firm specializing in privately held construction and technology companies

    Extracurriculars – Board gaming (including some local tournament wins), state and county polital party executive board member, treasurer of county political party auxiliary group, certified in campaign finance reporting, volunteer at local nonprofit in resume lab, congressional intern in undergrad. I generally work 60-80 hours a week, so I don’t have alot of time for extras…

    Career goals – I’m a little fuzzy here, to be honest, but given my work history I’m thinking about something along the lines of consulting for rapidly growing companies to ease growing pains related to rapid expansion and using that experience to eventually move into a COO role at a mid-sized or large multinational. I’ve built a pretty solid career on being able to use my natural deductive and inductive reasoning skills to solve problems, but lack in fundamental “business” knowledge (i.e. during this capital raise, I’ve spent countless hours Google-ing investment jargon to translate what our investment bankers were saying). I’m also interested in using the MBA experience to become more “global.”

    Looking at Booth, Yale, Insead, LBS, Cambridge, HEC, ESADE, and IE. Also Duke and UNC as I’m local to them. LBS or Yale are my “dream” schools, but I’m seriously concerned that the GPA and lack of corporate pedigree will do me in. Any other school suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Also, a note on my GMAT – due to work obligations, I was unable to prepare much leading up to the test. I think if I took it again I could improve to at least a 760, but I’m not sure if there is much of a difference between a 740 and 760, adcom-wise.

    P.S. Your column is great! Even when a profile is completely dissimilar from mine, there is almost always some sort of universally applicable information that I find very valuable.

  • Mr. Mexican engineer

    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:


  • Solar – IIT

    Dear Sandy,
    This is my profile

    GPA (8/10 – not sure how it converts to a 4 point scale)
    Graduation – engineering IIT Indian Insititue of technology India (one of the top univs in the country – very selective in terms of selection)
    GMAT – 730 – Verbal 40 quant 50 (Should I give it again?)
    Work Experience :-
    5 years in total (at the time of applying)
    first three years out of college – Strategy consulting at a Big 4 firm (think PWC , delloite) where I worked across sectors in the first year and then chose to be part of the new solar energy consulting practice where I worked for the next 2 years.
    Post consulting till date (one of the worlds largest solar power generation companies) officially I am in a business development role providing solar solutions to clients. I handle new client generation, project management, trainings for sales staff etc. However I have also conciously chosen to learn about the technical complexities in this field as that is one area I did not get exposure to in consulting
    Goal – Short term – finish off an mba by 2016 as 2018 is the time I predict solar costs to match general power costs.Post mba (armed with the right knowledge on how to structure business offerings in an environment experienceing rapid changes ) I want to come and manage the regional solar strategy for a company
    Long term – partner with like-minded people from wind,biomass etc to start a firm owning power assets across renewable energy classes providing power solutions in places which do not have access to power (india itself has about a 100 million people without regular power access)
    Target schools
    (primarily schools with sister universities having a large endowment for research into alternative technologies – Id like to start developing relationships with researchers.financers etc)

  • IC

    Hola Sandy, any chance you can assess my chances? I’m not afraid to cry.

    700 GMAT (expected)
    3.5 GPA
    -Dual Undergraduate degree from Syracuse University (Newhouse and Maxwell) in Journalism and Political Science
    -9 years work experience: currently Business Development Manager at an international
    corporate law firm– areas I cover include: Latin America region, Project Development and Finance, Bankruptcy & Restructuring and Executive Compensation and Benefits; Prior post-Undergraduate experience includes: paralegal at another major international law firm; store director of major retail luxury brand in NYC; journalist/editor of a national lifestyle publication

    -extra-curriculars: tutoring and “Girls Write Now” program

    -Goal: to provide consulting services to law firms, and eventually other types of service firms, in emerging markets (Latin America, Africa and elsewhere) seeking to develop Business Development and Marketing departments

    -Fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, French and basic knowledge of Turkish

    -Expect to have strong recommendations from eminent business lawyers

    -32-year old Puerto Rican (raised on the island, moved to US for college)

    Will my 9 years of post-undergrad work experience hurt me in this process? Looking to apply in the US and Europe. Open to working in US or abroad. Round 1 focus. Obrigada.

  • hbsguru

    Yes, altho early grades may take some explaining. A 3.7 is a 3.7 if that is what your school says the US equiv. is. The fact that your school weighs early years less is something US schools will accept –to a degree. Anyway, apply, esp. to HBS.

    A first is a first, and schools are always looking for reasons to blink at bad grades, and you give two: 1. you have a first class degree, 2. you have, by official tally, a 3.7, and that is what they can report to magazines, so there is no ‘cost’ in admitting you as far as rankings go. Unless I am missing something about UK grades are done.

  • Myra

    Hello Sandy, this is Ms. Family Business (China). Thank you so much for your assessment of my chances, your advice is extremely helpful, apart from being enormously encouraging. However, as I mentioned in my previous comments, I have a failed quant course on my transcript, and the GPA for the first half of my degree was poor, although my grades rose substantially for the second half of my degree; my 3.7 GPA is calculated by the British standards, where the final year counts for the majority of my overall degree classification i.e. I have a first-class degree thanks largely to my excellent grades in my final year.
    This is why I didn’t even consider Harvard or Stanford…do you still think that I stand a chance, given the information above? Thanks again!

  • what are the tiers

    Thanks for the response. To clarify, know the school isn’t a feeder; that was never in question. Was only referring to your example for the sake of a tie-in to the article.
    how does one translate a ____ list (US News, FT etc) of UG schools to tiers? So what, loosely, would you consider the lower range of of neutral (i.e. won’t help but also won’t hurt you?

  • Eric

    Thanks for the reply! Quick questions… boffo?? Which certificate programs? What about some of those 9-12 month specialty masters like MIT SCM, do they hold much value?

  • hbsguru


    FORTUNE — John Dionne is stepping down as a senior managing director of
    private equity investor relations and business development for The
    Blackstone Group, Fortune has learned. He will remain a senior advisor
    to the firm, while he is expected to be spending most of his time on a
    new project over at Harvard Business School.

    In a Blackstone press release, they noted:

    Much of our success in raising BCP VI, which at $16.2 billion, is likely
    to be the largest post-recession private equity fund raised for many
    years to come, can be attributed to John’s efforts and the advice and
    guidance he provided the team. John also has played a lead role in
    raising Blackstone Tactical Opportunities, one of the largest-ever
    first-time fundraises.”

    Not clear to me what project this dude will be doing at HBS or why you leave Blackstone to go there. Another shoe to drop, my guess, but maybe he just wants to frolic in the green grass.

  • hbsguru

    Not seeing this as potential HBS or Stanford admit — unless after PhD you get boffo job at very selective company and do miracles. Even so, by the time, MBA will be your 4th degree, and you will be getting old. The more practical programs you cite, LGO or MMM at MIT and Kellogg make more sense, as would one-year certificate programs or EMBA programs. You would not be using the MBA, in your fact pattern, as a way to re-invent yourself and meet new and exciting and elevating people, you would be using it for very clear, limited and practical reasons, to pivot to engineering leadership position. That is a diff. universe. Get good grades, get good jobs, get good recs. It sounds like you have already gotten real.

  • Eric

    Edit: G GPA – 3.98/4.00

  • Eric

    Sandy, any advice for students coming from a research background with a Ph.D. in engineering? I will begin a Ph.D. in Industrial Engineering this fall at a top 20 school in the field, after which I would hope to work for 3-5 years doing research in industry. Research seems like it will be fun for a time, but eventually I think I would prefer to be in management (i.e. “from the lab coat to the corner office”).

    If at the time I still hope to be working in an operations kind of role, my dream would be to do MIT LGO, or, less so, to do MMM at Northwestern. Additionally, consulting would be pretty sweet, so I might also apply to others at the top like Harvard, Stanford, Penn, and so on and see what happens.

    One note, the university where I will get my Ph.D. has a lower reputation overall; could the school’s overall reputation present a challenge in MBA admissions at the very top schools? My undergrad (Actuarial Science and Statistics) and MS (Industrial Engineering) are from an equally un-prestigious state university (i.e. non-AAU member).

    Stats: UG GPA – 3.79/4.00, G GPA – 3.98/3.00, GRE – 168/162/4.0 in Q/V/AWA

  • hbsguru

    was trying to post links to PQ top feeder college lists but cannot, they refuse to paste in, if anyone can do this, JOHN BRYNE perchance, please do so.

  • hbsguru

    Sorry no list that I know of and one could argue, if there was one.

    “when you said the Sun Devil above might get in if she’d attended a top-20 lib arts, . . .”

    I said if you have a 3.7 and are white ethnic, AND went to top 20 liberal arts (that means near Ivies, Pamona etc., Vassar etc. Wash U, etc. schools like that), YOU would also,probably, have a more selective job than running Payless shoe store (altho that is harder in many ways than many bank jobs!) and thus wld be positioned to be strong applicant to HSW etc. ASU is OK, as are non-selective schools like it, but you need a super GPA and SELECTIVE job coming out –that is what B schools look for. Boy, PQ runs lists of feeder colleges to top B schools, if you want to know what schools HSW Col. Duke, etc. favor, read those lists.

  • hbsguru

    Poor white protestants or evangels cld be considered White Ethnic, but no need to split hairs, I was just making a pt. that poster seemed to fall into that category. I am also not sure if she was poor, my guess is, lots of middle class types at ASU. I was just saying, if she were first-gen college, she shld have branded herself that way. Proles, again, I was just speaking loosely. My pt was: if you are a “white ethnic” (1. white, 2. first gen college, 3. not rich– let’s leave it at that) you can use that to get into HBS etc. but you need to have really, really pwerful stats and adversity story –if you were a late bloomer, e.g. did not discover that you wantted to be a STAR until you found yrself at ASU, well, you wld need super GPA, strong GMAT and real, real good job. The poster was close to that, but the combo of ASU, Payless and so-so GMAT (700, projected) just seem to miss to me. Altho read close case.

    I think Dee calls these non-elite types as she sees them, some of whom she calls ‘admits’ depending, and the others, well, are ‘rejects.’ Or the nice word, ‘declines”

  • Shaniqua James

    Sandy: “White Ethnics” are, by definition, Catholics. My guess is that 90% of the Catholics in Arizona are Hispanics of one sort or another. “Prole” is to some extent a concept of economic class. The out-of-state crowd at ASU may not be overachievers, but they’re not proles in that sense.

    Do you think Dee calls these nonelite types proles or bitter-clingers?

  • Daniel

    Hi Sandy,

    Can you please Assess my chances for the following programs:

    HBS, Stanford, Columbia, Haas, Stern, Booth and MIT.

    My profile:

    Age – 29

    Nationality – Israeli

    GMAT – 750 (49 – quantitative, 42 – verbal, 5.5 Essay, 8 – IR).

    GPA – 3.4 (85/100).

    Dual Undergraduate Degree – Business and Film from Tel-Aviv University.

    Work Experience –

    3 years in an Elite infantry combat unit in the Israeli Defense Force – Served as Combat field medic and as Staff

    1.5 years in a mobile advertising startup company – promoted once from Account manager to team leader in Business Development section. currently am head of a team responsible for Developing Smartphone App advertising capabilities and strategical cooperations.

    Community –

    Counselor for risked youth and mentally challenged youth ( Approx – 3 years).

    Volunteer film projects for a couple of social organizations.



  • what are the tiers

    Sandy, quick question about “Tiering” Undergrad schools. Is there a link you could provide to clear up how this is applied & used?

    Of course, one can look up US News’ Top 200 National list, but this is only big schools, state schools, etc. What about the schools on the lists such as, say, Top Masters’ Universities in the South? For a hypothetical, I went to #4 on that list, and it’s not well known but still “better” than ASU. All else being equal, when you said the Sun Devil above might get in if she’d attended a top-20 lib arts, would the top 5 schools on each region’s “US News Masters’ List” be the 20 to which you refer? Or do you mean the Ivies & “Little” schools in the Northeast?

    This is a question I have to imagine is common for a consultant of your type, but it’s never made clear anywhere I’ve read. I know I didn’t go to Yale, but I didn’t get my BA online, either. How are the $30-40k+ a year small private schools tiered? The extremes are obvious but for the ones above middle-of-the-pack, it’s tough to discern how admissions value them. Again if you have a quick link that’s fine, if not, I’d really appreciate an explanation and I’m sure others would too.

  • hbsguru

    THINGS YOU DON’T LEARN AT HBS, OR APPARENTLY GOLDMAN, SACHS EITHER: from a NYTimes feature story about the very funny and tell-all book The Buy Side, about the author”s (Turney Duff, yes TURNEY!) drug-fueled and corrupting education on Wall Street as a buy side trader.

    As Argus’s head trader, Mr. Duff became a coveted contact for brokers
    seeking business from the fund. Goldman Sachs thought enough of Mr. Duff to invite him to speak to its class of summer M.B.A. students.

    One of the interns asked, “If I’m your broker and I want to increase
    my business with your hedge fund, what’s the best thing for me to do?”

    “You can start by taking me to Vegas,” Mr. Duff said.

    The entire article worth a look, and possibly the book too.

  • hbsguru

    The Buy Side–funny and smart Wall St. expose by hi-flying trader and addict (now reformed):
    Wonderful detail fr. New York Times feature article below:

    “As Argus’s head trader, Mr. Duff became a coveted contact for brokers
    seeking business from the fund. . . .Goldman Sachs thought enough of Mr. Duff to invite him to speak to its class of summer M.B.A. students.

    One of the interns asked, “If I’m your broker and I want to increase
    my business with your hedge fund, what’s the best thing for me to do?”

    “You can start by taking me to Vegas,” Mr. Duff said”

    Duff is also famous for the bon mot, when confronted with a crowd of gate crashers in front of a club, “I don’t wait in lines, I snort them.”

    His book would make an excellent diversion and reality check fr. the joy of writing B school apps. .

  • MilitaryDUDE

    1. West Point and naval academy graduates are officers

    2. Sounds like Sandy is saying there are 3 female officers in the class of 2014 and you’re saying you met four women admitted to the class of 2015.

  • Guest

    You’re too kind. ASU admits over 90%! I’d hate to meet the people that don’t get into there.

  • MBAreapplicant84

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love to hear your feedback.

    Demographics: 28 year old male. Half Japanese. Born in Japan, but grew up primarily in California. I lived in Japan for about 8 years.

    GMAT: 710 (47Q/40V/6.0 AWA/8 IR)

    Academics: 3.43 GPA from Brigham Young University. BA in Japanese with a minor in business (3.79 major GPA). Graduated in 2008. (Note: I moved back to the US when I was 10 years old and didn’t speak Japanese again until I was 19. I decided to major in Japanese to deepen my understanding of the language and the culture that was such a large part of my heritage.)

    Work History: 1+ years at Goldman Sachs as an operations analyst. I have been promoted once and expect to be promoted to an associate in January. At matriculation, I will have 2 and a half years at Goldman.

    -Prior to Goldman, I spent 2 and a half years at an HR Consulting firm/corporate milestone and recognition award manufacturer and distributor. I worked in international operations managing client and vendor relations in Japan, China, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia. I started at the company as a general international operation rep, but moved up to managing those international client and vendor relations.

    Extracurricular: In early 2011 I founded a non-profit organization to help increase community awareness of childhood sexual abuse, and to provide financial assistance to underprivileged victims in need of one-on-one counseling. We have helped several victims and I have had the chance to speak to hundreds of members of the community. I was awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Volunteer Recognition Award in 2011 for my work in the community.

    -I have also been a mentor/instructor for Junior Achievement since the beginning of 2013.

    -I am also an ambassador for the Trevor Project in my state, and I regularly respond to LGBT teen’s questions regarding struggle they are facing in everyday life.

    -I am an avid runner and have run in several marathons.

    -I served a two-year mission for the LDS church in Japan. For one of those years I was a regional leader and oversaw the work and well-being of 20 to 30 other missionaries.

    Post MBA goals: Short-term – To transition from operations in the financial industry into an operations leadership role in the consumer products industry (Ideally a place like Nike).

    Long-term – To become of the COO of a global consumer products company and use the business knowledge and experience I have gained to become an influential leader within the community especially with youth related organizations.

    Interested in feedback for Tuck, Haas, Kellogg, Sloan, Yale SOM, Darden, and Anderson.


  • Mr. Healthcare

    Hi Sandy,

    If you choose, could you assess my odds for Wharton, Columbia, UC Berkeley, Chicago, Northwestern, Duke, Tuck, or MIT?

    28-Year old white male

    730 GMAT (willing to retake to balance out my crappy undergraduate GPA)

    3.84 GPA from graduate school

    3.14 undergrad GPA in biological sciences from an ACC school known for engineering (not Georgia Tech)

    Started undergrad at age 17, and had a 2.3 GPA my first two years, however after having a parent pass away midway through college, I found motivation and finished out my last two years with 3.6-4.0 semester GPAs.

    Have been working for the past three years as a strategic planning associate for a top-5 medical school/top-5 academic medical center, helping to guide the medical school’s and hospital’s clinical, academic, and research operations. Also involved in the strategic planning for the research institution, which has been associated with 15+ nobel laureates.

    Can speak Mandarin Chinese, having volunteered to tutor ESL Chinese college students for two years, and my wife is also Chinese.

    My goal is to work in strategy consulting or financial consulting for innovative healthcare, healthcare IT, and med-tech companies (think Epic, UHG’s Optum, McKesson, CareFusion, GE Healthcare, companies that deal with telehealth, etc.) Eventually I would like to move in-house for a company like this, and a distant goal of mine would be to work in healthcare venture capital. I hope to assist in developing healthcare technologies and products that reduce the health disparities that affect the impoverished, minority, and rural population. I developed my interest in healthcare after I had a parent pass away unexpectedly in college, which prompted me to redirect my interests to help those in similar situations. I turned my grades around, but I worry that I didn’t do it in time.

    I understand that my undergrad GPA might be the hole that sinks my ship, but could my graduate GPA/GMAT even it out? Thanks for your help.

  • Mr. Russian product manager

    Hi Sandy,

    I decided to post once again, here is my story:

    I am 31-year-old, Russian, male.

    Education: Moscow State University, GPA 4.9 out of 5.0.
    GMAT 760 (Q/V: 90%/96%), TOEFL 112.

    I always wanted to be a scientist (maths), but near the graduation my life took a great twist, and I had to start making money for a living in amount that is more than a young scientist can.

    So, I became a C++ programmer for 1,5 years in a known tech company (not google-like, but quite a good one), then I tried to move to a more ‘management-like’ position, so I switched to a sales job first within the same company for another 1,5 years, and then to product management job in another company.

    I was a product manager of the software product in a small software company for a year, and for the last 5 years I am a product manager in a big Russian IT-company (system integrator, 1000+ employees). The job is not very exciting since it is related mostly with the ‘tech. services’, but it gives me the opportunity to cope with a wide number of topics – presales, vendor relations, enabling new partnerships, tuning the presale process, optimizing , methodology, analysis, etc. Though, I shouldn’t mislead you – I didn’t manage really someone (except of 1 my direct report), it’s better say that I supervised a small group and was able to introduce something new in the way how the company is working.

    At the same time, my passion for science did not disappear, so I was able to get a Ph.D. in maths (in Russia also), at the same time working in a full-time job. I did this using my free time, it was a long story and took several years to happen (more than 5 actually).

    Right now I would like to combine my maths, C++ and management background to become a product manager in a known IT company like Amazon, Google, Oracle, etc. Right now the problem is in the geography 1st and 2nd: lack of ‘good experience’ that will be valued by these companies.

    Though, I have some projects to show as accomplishments like the project that saved a lot of money ($M+) for the company through introducing a parts-stock optimizaion, the joint-development project that led to a new product creation, etc… But I think, it is really an MBA degree will increase my chances.

    I would like to target at schools that are known in Sillicon Valley: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Haas, MIT Sloan, and European schools: LBS, INSEAD.

    Can you give your advise?

  • Dreamer

    They were in the military (two from the naval academy), two from west point, not sure if that counts as officer. It could just be that there are only 4 or some choose Stanford

  • hbsguru

    just to confirm, you met four FEMALE military officers at the Round 1 HBS admit week-end? Females?

  • Dreamer

    I met 4 just in R1 admit weekend for the class of 2015 so 3 seems a bit low.

  • Mr. Biotech

    Hi Sandy,

    Hope you can assess my chances of getting into Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, Haas, and UCLA, or another school you think would be the better fit.


    – GMAT – 660 (will retake)

    – Undergrad GPA – 3.1 (B.S. in Chemical & Biomolecular Engineering from Johns Hopkins w/ minor in Entrepreneurship & Management)

    – Grad school GPA – 3.5 (M.S. in Biotech from UPenn)

    – Experience: 1 year (current job) in consulting for pharma/biotech (have worked with a handful of the larges pharma companies on US and global projects for blockbuster brands.)

    – Worked as a research assistant / graduate research fellow during undergrad and grad school (5 years total) at JHU’s and UPenn’s medical centers. Was a TA at UPenn.

    – Extracurricular experience: Participated in consulting interest groups in grad school, a business plan & innovation competition in grad school (and won grand-prize), and heavily involved as a volunteer teacher for church organization where I have taught students ranging from 1st – 12th grade in the US and in parts of Africa and the Middle East. (Got involved in at the end of high school and am still doing it today).

    – Goal: Interested in transitioning to early-stage venture capitalism, particularly in medical tech/biotech

    – 26 y/o Asian male

  • hbsguru

    A friend of a friend tells me that HBS military women in class of 2014 =~3.

    Anyone able to confirm that or add color to it.

  • hbsguru

    Hmmmm, my guess is no, they would make some arrangement for him to be some visitng XYZ. Nor would Karp want to come. The issue is not having a college degree, they would wink at that in the rare but right circs, the issue is motive? Gottesman, who was President Bush (II)’s body man and aide, was a guy for whom an MBA made sense, he was right age, and on a corporate track.

    A more powerful question is someone who has started a business, made $10M-30M or so, and you never heard of him/her. And they kid was ~26 years old. That person might have a chance, depending on motive, etc. And how they presented. The college degree or not is a non-issue.

    For those who do not know Gottesman story

    see this
    Blake’s progress

    Despite his low approval rating, George Bush’s recommendation still
    goes a long way. Just ask Blake Gottesman. Mr Gottesman is the
    president’s 26-year-old personal aide, responsible for carrying his
    breath mints, logging his telephone calls and dog-sitting his Scottish
    terrier. In June the self-described “luckiest college dropout” in
    America, will leave the White House to enrol at the Harvard Business School (HBS), where the president himself studied.

    Mr Gottesman completed only one year of undergraduate study. Yet the
    possession of an undergraduate degree tops the list of admission
    requirements on HBS’s website. But Jim Aisner, a spokesman for the
    school, says extraordinary circumstances will sometimes compel it to
    drop the rule. He will not comment on the case of Mr Gottesman, but he
    does note that the lack of a degree would hardly keep the likes of Bill
    Gates or Michael Dell, both college dropouts, from being admitted.
    Needless to say, holding the president’s hand-sanitiser is a far cry
    from heading a Fortune 500 company.
    Sanford Kreisberg, an admissions consultant who follows HBS closely
    as the head of Cambridge Essay Service, says he is not surprised by the
    decision: “HBS likes political figures of all stripes—it is a variety of
    leadership, their key mantra.” Mr Kreisberg also believes the
    admissions committee was impressed with Mr Gottesman’s ability to fit
    into a “high-stress elite” environment. Although HBS claims there is no
    single formula for a successful application, a recommendation from the
    president is one formula it finds hard to resist.

  • Apoorv Bhargava

    You don’t talk about any combination of low GPA and high GMAT?

  • Pallavi

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you please assess my chances of getting into:

    Wharton, Harvard, Columbia, Berkeley, Northwestern


    – GMAT – 700
    – GPA – 3.5 (Bachelors of Commerce (H) Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, India)
    – Work Experience – 3+ years Google, Online Sales (2 Years in Sales operations, 1+ in Online Sales)
    – Started my own clothing line in college – ran for 2 years
    – Taught underprivileged kids for 4 years, volunteer at school for children with special needs, currently working on scaleable projects for a small Solar power start up

    – Goal: To become an entrepreneur in the affordable, high street fashion space in emerging markets


  • david

    Hi Sandy,
    A hypothetical- HBS supposedly admits special applicants without an undergrad degree (Blake Gottesman comes to mind)- would they accept a guy like David Karp of tumblr after his sale to yahoo! if he decided to attend b-school, yet never went to college?. Would his real world experience suffice to impress the adcom?.

  • 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 a 720 after some practice)
    – 3.78 GPA in mechanical engineering from UT Austin
    -Certificate in Business Foundations (24 hrs of business; 4.0 GPA)
    – 3 years at Shell as an engineer
    – President for Pi Tau Sigma (mechanical engineering honor society), as well as Vice President and Service Coordinator
    -Was a teaching assistant, undergraduate research assistant, and tutor during college
    -captain of intramural basketball, flag football, soccer, and softball teams at UT over 4 semesters
    – 24 yrs old (biracial male; lived in Korea for 13 years)
    – Goal: to be a VP or Director in the oil/gas or finance industry

    Thanks in Advance!