Predicting Your Chances Of Admission

He is currently studying public policy at a top Ivy League university and scored a highly impressive 770 on the GMAT. This 23-year-old student has done internships at Barclays and J.P. Morgan. He now expects to apply to the Harvard Business School 2*2 MBA program.

Director of finance at a for-profit education company, this 25-year-old African-American wants an MBA to transition into investment banking. With a 690 GMAT and a 3.25 grade point average from a California state university, he hopes to get into a top business school to help land his dream job in the equity capital markets.

As a project coordinator for a prominent NGO, he has lived in four developing countries in the past year alone. But his desiredgoal to commercialize technologies and improve business performance in developing countries, he believes, requires an MBA degree.

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?

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

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, which includes a new analysis of a current 2+2 candidate to Harvard and four encore assessments, Kreisberg is his usual witty and insightful self.

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is analysis:

Geeky GuyMr. Public Policy


  • 770 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in public policy, with a focus on Middle Eastern affairs, from Harvard, Yale or Princeton
  • Work experience includes internships at a U.S. Department of State counterpart in a Middle Eastern country (Freshmen summer); Barclays Capital and J.P. Morgan – Hong Kong (Sophomore and Junior summers).
  • “After my freshmen year, when I honestly did not give much attention to my academics, I served two-years in the military as part of my country’s mandatory military draft. I voluntarily chose to do the two-years in the Special Forces, including a six-month foreign peacekeeping deployment to Afghanistan.”
  • Extracurricular involvement as a Division I collegiate Varsity rower until junior year, college a capella group that did yearly tours in Europe, active member of my university’s Arab society
  • Fluent in four languages, including English, Chinese and Arabic
  • “How much of an impact will my average GPA make in admissions? Finally, purely out of curiosity, does it matter which branch of a firm you work at? For instance, does it matter whether you worked in, say, McKinsey in Texas vs. McKinsey in New York?”
  • 23-year-old Asian male who has lived abroad his entire life

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%+
Stanford: 20%+

Sandy’s analysis: Well, assuming this is for real and not a leg-pull, for a college senior you got a lot going for you including a 770 GMAT, a 3.5 from HYP, a two-year gig in the special forces of your home country during required military service and some high-powered summer internships at “a U.S. Department of State counterpart in a Middle Eastern country,” (whatever that means but I’m impressed)and gigs at Barclays Capital and JP Morgan in Hong Kong (Sophomore and Junior summer).

The 2+2 programs at HBS and Stanford have a bias towards applicants with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) backgrounds but those programs admit close to half their applicants from high-prestige liberal arts/finance backgrounds, e.g. a really high GPA (3.8) from an Ivy or near-Ivy school, a 730+ GMAT, and some blue-chip banking or consulting internships.

The original purpose of the 2+2 program at HBS was to keep exactly those elite liberal arts kids from making the mistake of their lives by going to law school right out of college, and then doubling down and making the second (or maybe the new first) biggest mistake of their lives by becoming lawyers. That plan worked a bit — to the degree that you consider saving about 100 kids a year from becoming lawyers ‘working.” After the financial markets imploded, the image of the elite Ivy banker babies (which HBS was trying create by saving them from attending law schools) got muddied but never disappeared. So that part of the 2+2 founding formula sailed on, albeit in a diminished way. Conveniently, HBS took this spot in time to pivot away from finance and towards STEM, a hip-sounding new Holy Grail.

That HBS STEM pivot, however, also roughly coincided with a tech start-up “fever-break,” the result being that every kid graduating from a top-15 tech school could not instantly find wealth or great jobs right out of college (if not before graduating). Thus, with Wall Street in retreat a bit and technology going through a period of what used to be called “reality,” the idea of getting an addded credential at HBS was not so crazy — to techies, finance kids, and former lawyer-wannabes. Over this time 2+2 became a much-sought option for those in the know, like the present poster. To this day it is a mixed cohort of finance and tech types, all with high stats and impressive and select internships.

A new trend in 2+2 is 3+2–kids who get in often take a third year of real work before enrolling at HBS.

This is the background to my answers to your questions: “How much of an impact will my average (3.5) GPA make in admissions?” In your case, not much, given the 770 GMAT and the other bright spots in your story, viz., elite internships, rising grades, competency in four languages,and special forces experience. If they like you, they will take you. But see below for having a coherent story. The more important question is what the impact of a 3.5 would be for someone who does not have a 770 GMAT but only a 710 and who only has some OK internships but not your exotic and select ones? In general, a 710 GMAT and some so-so banking internships is not getting you into 2+2.

It really is an elite program, and those stats will not get you into HBS in general. As to your other question, “does it matter whether you worked in, say, McKinsey in Texas vs. McKinsey in New York?” the answer for 2+2 purposes is probably no, both of those are pretty selective gigs, although if someone has a secret McKinsey location score-card, please post. With banks vs consulting shops, what could matter is what part of the bank you are working for, e.g. investment banking usually being more selective than private wealth.

Given your stats and story, you are certainly in the running for 2+2 (and probably for an “007” agent license as well) if you can make your diverse one-off accomplishments (varsity rower, special forces, Hong Kong employment, Arab society, diplomatic and bank postings) sound credible and coherent. Although as to coherency, well, adcoms recognize growth and experimentation as legitimate avenues for college kids to stroll on, just be sure you give some reasonable sounding motives for each.

What you probably need is some over-arching narrative about becoming an impactful leader in your home country or area, where all those diverse experiences and the kind of general management/leadership/international savvy mojo you will intake at HBS will be helpful. As to the essay, I would write something like, “You may be wondering how these diverse experiences lead me to HBS, so thanks for letting me explain.” I would continue in that clear-eyed, reader-friendly, down -to-earth way and explain what motivated you do x y and z and what the ‘lessons’ were –all without any obfuscation, bragging or annoying persona creation. Here is some more School-Marm love: you could do this, once you get your story straight (that may take some doing) in sorta 800-1000 words.

As for Stanford, its 2+2 program was a quickie HBS knock-off with the added motive of saving kids from not only law school, etc but also from HBS. From what I can tell, it has always been on the back burner and motivated mostly by presenting an option for HBS 2+2 wannabes, who often are an elite group. You still need to do the Stanford application and conform to the Stanford filter of ultra -high scores and some do-gooder halo (helpful if not strictly required). Stanford LOVES a 770 GMAT and will blink at your 3.5 GPA if you can cook up a powerful Stanford story.

  • Enrique Ugalde

    My best regards for everybody that cares to read and spend a little of his/her time to send me some advise in this important matter.

    This is my academic profile:
    I’m currently studying Civil Engineering in Mexico´s #1 university (in this particular carrer).
    Current GPA of 4.0
    Member of my University’s Honor Program, where I’m researching Climate Change consequences in communities surrounding rivers in the northern part of Mexico.
    I’m still 2 years short of graduation so I still don’t have my GMAT score (although I will be preparing for it shortly).

    Extracurricular profile (2010-2017 span):
    -High Performance Volleyball Athlete for 11 years.
    -5 consecutive Junior National State Championships.
    -3 consecutive National High School Championships (including the first one in my High School’s history).
    -2 consecutive National University Championships (including the first one in my University’s history).
    -5 Junior State Championship titles in the southern part of the U.S.
    -2nd place at the U19 Panamerican FIVB World Championship Qualifier Tournament.
    -2nd place at the U23 Panamerican FIVB World Championship Qualifier Tournament.
    -13th place at the Boy’s U19 FIVB World Championships.
    -16th place at the Men’s U21 FIVB World Championships.
    -Recognized as the 10th best player in the World by stats at the U19 World Championship.
    -Recognized as the best volleyball player in my state.
    -Recognized as the best athlete in my University’s Sports Program.
    -Former team captain at:
    -Middle School.
    -High School.
    -State Team.
    -University (active).
    -Mexican National Team.
    -Currently teaching Math clasess at poor Primary Schools in Mexico.

    I would appreciate your opinion (a lot) on my chances on entering a top B-school deferred MBA program in the U.S. such as the HBS’s 2+2 and its Stanford and Yale equivalent.

    Any advice of what I should be doing on improving my profile are kindly welcomed!

  • mba quest

    Hello Sandy,

    I am from Bangladesh. Got a 660 (Q48, V32) in GMAT. AWA 6, IR 6. Will have nearly 2 years of work experience by matriculation if I matriculate in 2015 fall.

    I am finance Major with a CGPA of 3.86 from one of the leading b school of my country. Presently I am working as an Investment Analyst in a US based private equity firm located in Bangladesh.

    During my undergrad I formed a formal social volunteer group (we had many volunteers working for our group) that arranged concert for winter distressed people, worked for needy school going children and many others. I participated in various business case competition and won some awards. I was the class representative of my batch and carried out all administrative works regarding day to day class and arranged career seminars and cultural events. I was also involved with a small family business all throughout my undergrad. Currently I overlook the largest group in a social networking website that helps Bangladeshi gmat test takers. The group has more than 4,500 members and I even arranged a GMAT event for the group members at no cost. I feel very good about the group because it has helped many test takers’ to familiarize with gmat and do well.

    I want to work in a consultancy firm in future after my MBA which will help me to gather insights to help businesses grow in poor developing nations like Bangladesh.

    Do I stand any chance in any of the top 20 US business schools with this profile? I will be really glad if you can help me as we are really underrepresented in this kind of forums. Thanks.

  • Edward

    Hey Sandy,

    FIrst off, I love your reading your stuff. Second, I would love your help in weighing my chances at B-schools given my background. Here is what I am working with:

    -28 year old white male

    -700 on the GMAT

    -3.55 GPA in European Studies from Brigham Young University (minors in Business Management and Communications)

    -Received Global Management Certificate from the Marriott School of Business (BYU)

    -2-year LDS mission in Hungary (speaks Hungarian)

    -Worked for 3 years at Fortune 500 company in sales and marketing development program, managing multi-million dollar sales territories (was promoted every year while with the company)

    -First in family to graduate from university


    Looking at:
    Stanford, Northwestern, BYU, Cal-Berkeley, UCLA, Duke

    I would love to hear your feedback. Thanks for your time!


  • Radhika Parik

    Hi Sandy,
    I have been following your column for a while and I would be grateful for your insights on my chances of getting an MBA Admit in premiere global institutions.


    GMAT-760 (Q 49, V 44)
    GPA-8.2/10 (BITS, Pilani, a premier Engineering college in India, majoring in Economics and Computer Science)
    Work Ex-I am currently in the 1st semester of a 2 semester long internship at a the India office of a Silicon Valley based tech-company.

    Internships- Summer Internship at a large Public Sector Bank in India.
    Summer internship at an Indian software company.
    Volunteered as a journalist at a rural NGO in the summer after freshman year.
    Blogger/Social Media publicist for a college based finance startup.

    Extra-curricular activities- Editor-in-chief of the college newsletter.
    Media co-ordinator the college technical festival.
    Team lead for an project aimed at getting college students internships at cutting edge startups.

    I would like to know my chances at the following schools:


    If I have no chances of getting through without work experience, which would increase my chances more- Tech or Finance?



  • Jack Alexander Weinstein

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for doing this series. I am currently applying to several MBA programs and I would love to hear your thoughts on my odds.

    GRE: Quant – 164, Verbal – 167
    GPA: 3.36 (Undergraduate English at Arizona State University)
    Work Experience: Two years as a music video producer for Universal music. Also worked in production on television shows for ABC, CBS, MTV, and Fox. Founded and running a pork, beef, and poultry wholesale company for the past two years. Requires frequent international travel, customers are primarily based in SE Asia, many suppliers are in Europe. The company has expanded very quickly, revenue for 2013 is at 2.6 million. I recently accepted an offer to sell the company and I want to get back into the Entertainment Industry.
    Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, University of Southern California
    Personal: 26 year old white male. Plenty of volunteer work with the American Red Cross. Also started my own entertainment networking organization that has proved very popular. Just finished producing my first feature film and it is getting some buzz.

    I’d be glad to hear your thoughts!


  • IsabellaWho

    Hi Sandy,

    – I’m a 23 year-old Latin-American female

    – Native language is spanish. Fluent in english and french.

    – Studied one year of applied arts in France, before switching to Liberal Studies.

    – Bachelors degree in Liberal Studies from a top university of my country (finished classes on may 2013, but graduation takes place in february 2014) GPA: 3.23

    – Associates degree on Fashion Design. GPA: 3.80 (studied both degrees simultaneously but at different institutions)

    – GRE: 162 verbal 161 quant

    – TOEFL: 111

    – While studying developed an small apparel brand sold at three stores in the city. Managed 5 employees. Business closed due to low profitability (produced locally for non-competitive prices)

    – Currently working at biggest department store of the country. I’ve been working there for 10 months and have been promoted once already (started off as Operations Process Optimization Analyst worked on that for four months and moved to the marketing department as Menswear Marketing Coordinator)

    – Interned for four months in the product development department at a bridal design brand.

    Extracurricular activities:

    – Had professional ballet training for 15 years, and taught younger classes.

    – I’ve been working for a year in a non-profit organization aimed at children and adolescents with disabilities and limited resources through equine therapy, hydrotherapy, zootherapy and other conventional therapies.

    – Worked in a community service project by teaching political rights and duties to underprivileged young people.

    I’d love to know what my chances are of getting into HBS, Booth, Cornell and NYU. (Specially NYU)

    – I know I might not be your typical candidate for MBA, but I have a string entrepreneurship spirit, result driven and energetic self-starter. Pretty much EVERYTHING interests me, but I have a weakness for mass consumption and retail, which is what I’d like to dedicate myself to professionally.

    Thank you so much Sandy, I’m looking forward to get picked for a profile review

  • Meet

    Hi Sandy,

    I am curious to know why “top” B-Schools do not accept average humans. You would have guessed it that I am also from “average” lot. My present profile is:

    – 25 years. Male, India
    – 328- GRE (confident of getting 700+ in GMAT)
    – Masters in Computer Science from Prestigious Engineering College (IIT)
    – 1 year work experience at Microsoft
    – At present, studying for getting into Govt Job (preferably administrative job)
    – Extracurricular- Nothing extra ordinary. But have participated in college festivals

  • An Eclectic Entrepreneur

    Greetings Sandy –

    Thank you for running this series – as someone who has been looking into b-school for a while now, I’ve found your advice helpful, informative, candid, and very refreshing.

    I’m finalizing my school selection at the moment, and was hoping to consult a guru for a quick dose of objective realism.

    Overview: 30 at matriculation, white male, 3.4 GPA (upward trend), small private university, double majored – computer science and psychology. 710 GMAT (77% Quant, 89% Verbal).

    Work Experience: 3 years in IT Operations at a database marketing company (promoted, increasing responsibility), 2 years in the Peace Corps in West Africa, 2 years working full-time to launching an online startup (2 experienced founders working and funding it, and me managing technology and operations – great learning and mentoring experience, though sales did not pick up and we’re winding down.)

    Other: Took 5 courses via UCLA Extension over the past 2 years (economics, accounting, math), on the board of a local nonprofit supporting returned peace corps volunteers.

    Goals: Management Consulting in the short-term (I loved looking at business processes when we launched our business and I think this would give me additional diverse exposure in a short period of time). Longer-term, I’m planning to launch a business.

    Schools on the list: Tuck, Darden, Johnson, Fuqua, Yale?

    In your opinion, am I aiming in the right place? Is there anything here that sounds particularly weak or particularly strong?

    Many thanks,

    An Eclectic Entrepreneur

  • Mr. Random

    Hey Sandy,

    I noticed I come from a bit of a different background than most individuals here so I was hoping you could give me some insight on what top schools would think of my diverse background. I’m worried that the lowish GPA and rather strange path I’ve taken will be a red flag for many schools.

    – 26 year old American male
    – 750 GMAT
    – B.S. Biochemistry (3.3 GPA) from a top 25 public university
    – 2 years of experience working in a major HR Consulting/Staffing firm with an excellent track record i.e. top rankings, set records, multiple promotions, (think Manpower, Randstad)
    – 2 years with a midlevel management consulting firm
    Fluent in Spanish
    Advanced proficiency in German
    Extracurriculars include: Volunteer Spanish translator at local charities, working with local homeless shelters

    Top choices:


    Goal: Get into a top management consulting firm, working internationally.

  • downhome

    Hi Sandy,
    I know there are quite a few profiles to choose from, but here’s to hoping you pick mine!
    -23 yr white male
    -740 GMAT
    -Triple major in International Business, Economics and Management from a large southern state school with a strong reputation for international business (also a double minor in non-business subjects)
    -3.95 GPA
    -extracurriculars include being a scholarship athlete and member of a Division I baseball team and winning a national championship with that team. Inaugural member of the investment club at our school. International case competition participant. Current volunteer at Big Brothers Big Sisters.
    -work experience includes internship with a small, boutique investment bank and current position with a lesser known fortune 500 in a finance rotational position (2 years) Have recieved great reviews and been promoted accordingly. However, the company is not accustomed to the b-school game and I am concerned about recommendations for this reason.
    -goals: to move into strategy consulting and leverage the experience into a strategy position within a major multinational (alternative route to lead a fourth generation family business with $50 million+ in revenue. would be the first in the family to attend b-school. however, i am not sure this is where i will end up and was thinking this might be something to keep in the bag during the application process – thoughts?)
    – looking at Harvard, Stanford, Booth, Columbia, NYU, MIT
    Do I have a snowball’s chance?

  • Steve

    Hi Sandy, these posts have been a tremendous help for me and would love to have your insight on my profile and odds of getting into a great business school.


    -26-year old Asian male
    -720 GMAT based on practice tests
    -B.S. in Environmental Chemical Engineering with 3.1 GPA, but 3.6 GPA in final 2 years
    -Graduated from reputable engineering/sciences school in Northeast (WPI/RPI)
    -3 years working experience

    Work experience:

    -Worked 2 years in a global operations leadership development program for Fortune 400 manufacturing company. 1st year as a global operations project manager, traveling to manufacturing sites in China, East Asia, Central America, and Europe working on operations excellence, process improvement/six sigma, and cost reduction projects. 2nd year I worked in supply chain and product portfolio management.

    -Currently working at online retailer/Fortune 100 company as category manager, making strategic sourcing decisions, developing merchandising strategies and negotiating with suppliers and managing P&L. I have been with the company 9 months and I have already delivered great results and have been recognized as a future leader by multiple senior VP’s. I would be able to get strong recommendations at the SVP level of both my company and external suppliers, as well as my current manager, who is a Wharton alum with 4-5 years at McKinsey

    Career goals:

    Short-Mid term: Management consulting for the retail industry, corporate strategy for CPG company

    Long-term: International business development CPG company – growing global supply chains, creating global brand presence, opening retail stores/launching products into new markets


    -Traveling, blogging, photography, cooking, music/guitar/songwriting, basketball
    -President of Korean Student Association (through college)
    -VP Operations student government (college)
    -VP Christian Bible Fellowship (college)
    -Active in Church outreach, including missions trips, soup kitchens, charity fundraisers, helping in-need urban youth
    -Active leadership roles at current church, including worship team leader, mid-week bible study leader, youth Sunday School teacher

    Going to a top business school will allow me to build the network and rapport that I need to become a global leader. Could you please give me feedback on where you think I stand at the following schools or if there are other schools I may be a good fit for? Any advice on how I might want to spin my application letter would be great too.


    Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you!

  • JoVi

    Hi Sandy,

    First off I just wanted to say thanks for doing this – it has been incredibly helpful for me as I’m beginning to think about applying to B school. I have a pretty awesome job now so I’m planning on applying in the next two years or so – just getting my feet wet now.

    Time to dig in. I’ll admit I’m not the typical applicant. Not sure if that’s a positive or negative.

    – 24 year old American female – account manager for funded big data startup in Boston

    – haven’t taken GMAT yet but expecting 730

    – 3.79 GPA/magna cum laude from small liberal arts college in 2011 – studied communications
    – Started college experience at large public ivy in Midwest before transferring

    – Letters of rec from 3 HBS grads

    – Accepted to Penn, Michigan, Columbia and BC School of Ed – thought I wanted to get my master’s in Higher Ed

    – Completed startup accelerator in Boston

    – Extracurricular: incredibly engaged and involved undergrad. Honors societies, sorority, communications honors society, student rep for committee on academic affairs, student affairs, alumni affairs, class agent for alma mater, mentor and alumni director for startup accelerator

    – Post-MBA: looking to get into EdTech, VC or VP at a college. Interested in the future, and business, of higher education.

    – Looking at Yale, HBS, Michigan, Stanford

  • Rising Sun


    First off — I’m a huge fan of yours. Thank you for all of your guidance and insights, re: the admissions process.

    Secondly — would love a shot at being profiled in your next set of candidate profiles, please.

    This is me (thanks for your consideration):

    years old, male, bi-cultural international marketing/communications
    professional, with 8 yrs w.o. (nyc, honolulu) at few of the world’s
    leading agencies (ogilvy & mather, mccann erickson, ddb) managing
    fortune 50 blue chip brands (ibm). looking to play a contributing role
    in japan’s future renaissance.

    -born/raised in tokyo, japan (to
    italian-american father from brooklyn; japanese mother from tokyo);
    fluent in english and japanese (elementary proficiency in italian). went
    to private international school in tokyo; I.B high school diploma.

    BS in Communication Studies at NYU (2005); magna cum laude, dean’s
    list, lambda pi eta (National comunications honors society).

    (q45, v40) – expected (also will enroll, and hope to complete prior to
    app due, in UC Berkeley Online extension courses: Calculus, Math for

    -very active at nyu: Chair of NYU Dean’s Circle –
    led 50 students on research and study abroad to Havana, Cuba; President
    Japanese Culture Club; NYU – McCann Erickson Ambassador; American
    Advertising Foundation; NYU Stern Economics Club. Study Abroad:
    Florence, Italy (Fall 2001, Spring 2002); London, UK (Fall 2004).

    -extracurriculars: Board of Directors, American Marketing
    Association (Hawaii Chapter); Co-founder & Chief Marketing Officer
    of online cloud-based procurement system startup. Guest Lecturer at
    local university teaching Marketing Consumer Behavior course. Director
    West Region) of high school alma mater. Marathon coach (2:50
    marathoner) for honolulu marathon clinic – coached over 100+ runners.

    -short term post mba goal: transition into management consulting, specifically in strategy consulting service.

    -medium long term goal: general management, director position at a
    Japanese multi-national corp; industry flexible but passionate in
    Telecomm, Auto, and Consumer Electronics; utilize my professional
    (Marketing, MC), personal (Japanese who understands West), and academic
    (General Management MBA) background; strong position for long term goal –
    breaking into the Executive team.

    -loong term goal: Lead (as Chairman & CEO) a Japanese multi-national
    organization that will play a vital leading role in the future
    of Japan. Serve as an officer at JANE (Japan Association of New Economy
    – started by HBS grad/Rakuten CEO, Mikitani) – advising political
    leaders, administrators, labor unions, and citizens on the future growth
    and prosperity of the Japanese people.

    -why mba:
    1) To develop foundational business concepts – such as Finance, Accounting, Statistics.
    2) To hone my strategic and leadership faculties in an environment that
    encourages it, and to apply them in the classroom as well as in
    student-led organizations.
    3) To develop my analytical and quantitative skills.
    4) Enable job transition to consulting which would be difficult to do on my own from my current position.
    5) Avoid getting pigeonholed into an exclusively
    Marketing/Communications role in an organization (breaking through into
    General Management).
    6) Maximizes my opportunity to live/work around the world.

    -school selection: dream schools are hbs and kellogg; pending gmat, also considering: booth, haas, columbia, yale, ucla, nyu.

    -planning to apply in round 2.

  • Michael Ralsh

    Hey Sandy, I really appreciate your effort in chancing a vast number of people. I’ve been reading these chance threads for two years now and was hoping that I could finally get my predictions.


    750 GMAT

    3.66 GPA

    Undergraduate degree in Economics at University of Michigan-Ann Arbor

    Internships at F500 corporate finance and MM investment bank. Work experience includes 2 years at the F500 corporate finance company and 2 years at the MM investment bank.

    Extracurriculars include: Leading a few community service projects, receiving a Community Service Scholar award, Teaching children with learning disabilities about personal finance (how to budget money, basic investments, etc).

    26 year old Pakistani-Myanmarese born and raised in America. I’m fluent in English, Urdu/Hindi, Spanish, and Arabic.

    First Generation College Graduate

    Goal: I’m interested in landing a consulting role or venture capital role.



  • jpo645

    Hey Sandy,

    28 year old, white Male. Went to a local state university (does “America’s Best Colleges” count as ranked?). Graduated in 2009 with double majors in accounting and finance; minored in Comp Sci. (dad wanted me to be an accountant; I wanted to be a computer programmer.)

    GPA is an abysmal 2.6ish. For the first year of school, I was on the Dean’s list. My grades plunged thereafter. After graduation, I was diagnosed with narcolepsy, but during school year it was mistreated and misdiagnosed. That’s my won’t-you-please-forgive-my-really-bad-grades-story, at least the one I imagine I would have to tell adcoms. But, in truth, when things got rough, I just let them take control. I’d rather my admissions essays reflect that lesson…thoughts? I don’t think I’ve earned the triumph-over-adversity story. People have done lost more than me with lots less.

    – Writing a book on developing business applications with Excel with established publisher to be released this Fall. As well, I run a blog on Excel development that garners decent traffic.
    – (Current) Data Analytics Developer, almost 1.5 years: joined my former client-site boss’s startup -developing customized analytical tools (dashboards, reports, data visualizations) for defense, health, and sports. The company is doing well, but don’t have any specific accomplishments to date.
    – Operations Research Analyst, almost 3 years: Worked for Booz Allen Hamilton with a military research center as a client. Published study that was widely distributed on Capitol Hill and appears in a defense bill, cited by newspapers. Developed software tool to help NATO training mission; presented the tool to top brass in Kabul in 2011
    – Junior Auditor for 1.5 years, while in school: found $60 million savings in an audit using data analysis. Also programmed up a new set of automated software auditor tools, which the agency adopted universally—tools became standard installation across the entire agency of about 700 people (did this on the side because of my background in comp sci). Got awards for both savings and tool. Also, I hated auditing though, which is why I’m no longer in that field.

    Practice GMAT came back 680. I think (hope) I can push it past that 700 barrier.

    Why get an MBA: I was hired not only to work in the data analytics space, but to develop and mature the space so that in five to ten years I could be the director and, I hope, buy-in as partner. I don’t think I have the business savvy or training in leadership yet to fully realize this goal. Second, an MBA education would also be instrumental in learning about the tools that finance professionals use so I could develop a larger footprint in that market. Finally, since I missed out on some of my schooling the first time around, I’d love to go somewhere where I can do it right.

    Unreasonable? Duke, UVA, CMU, NYU, Michigan, Northwestern. I thought about HEC because another Excel blogger whom I admire is a professor emeritus there—and they liked my candidate profile—but I’d have to uproot my life for that. Should I be looking at even lower tier schools? I know my GPA is hard to swallow.

  • Nonprofit Ed Guy

    Hi Sandy,

    I’ve really appreciated your analysis – especially when tackling some of the nonprofit/military/NGO/older applicants who don’t quite fit the traditional mold. Thanks for looking at this profile if you’re willing. Sorry it’s a bit long. I work in the nonprofit education world and my job titles, responsibilities, and accomplishments don’t translate so clearly to the business school world without some explanation.

    GRE #1: 167V (97%), 158Q (74%), 5.5AW (96%).
    GRE #2: 163V (91%), 161Q (83%), 5.0AW (92%), tried to get the math up, didn’t study as much for anything else. Took the GRE aiming for policy school before realizing business school was probably a better long-term fit.

    EDUCATION: 3.6+ from non-HYP Ivy (3.8+ over final 2 years), history BA with a lot of social science. Later, four non-matriculated graduate education courses from same school in labor econ for education, stats, econometrics and program evaluation/policy analysis, urban school governance (took courses while working full-time).

    1-Yr WE: AmeriCorps member serving in the first year of a then-newly nation-wide college access program for low-income high school youth (local site based at the same university I attended). Built a lasting partnership with teachers and school leadership, and served a caseload of 80+ juniors and seniors.

    3-Yr WE: Joined the full-time staff of the program when it was still in start-up mode (we doubled the size of the corps after my corps year). Built site operations and training curriculum, trained full-time and part-time AmeriCorps members, undergraduate coordinators and volunteers. Managed daily operations during leadership transition. External research showed a full 14 percentage point increase in the likelihood of college attendance for all 12th graders attending schools we served compared to same-district schools we didn’t serve. University affiliation allowed me to take grad classes (above).

    2-Yr WE (just started Yr3): Left on great terms to manage learning and development for a local site of a nationally recognized, evidence-based education nonprofit (think Citizen Schools) in the same city with a focus on supporting younger students (grades 3-8) to stay in school, on track, and be college/graduation ready by high school. In 2+ years here I have professionalized training for AmeriCorps members, built partnerships with school and district staff to align our training to English and math curricular goals, and contributed to the highest percent retention of AmeriCorps members ever at this site (98%). Selected for two internal national leadership development opportunities this year by site leadership and national office.

    COMMUNITY: Currently serving as co-chair (and resident kid) of the board of a four-year-old community-founded charter school in a small city with a 42% child poverty rate (i.e. not a big-box charter management school). Created the finance committee and have been working to build better, sustainable systems for Board oversight of academic progress, financial viability, physical buildings, and personnel (none of us has ever served on a board before) while supporting a team of committed teachers and educators, many of whom grew up in and/or live in this same community and founded the school. Planning for leadership transition with transparency and focusing primarily on academics and good governance to keep things going next year when I am in school.

    GOAL: Looking for MBA programs that will give me the leadership and management tools to help education and youth/family/community-serving organizations in the public/nonprofit sectors perform better, drive mutually beneficial public-private partnerships, and achieve lasting change for kids in domestic urban communities. Interested in either (a) improving large dysfunctional/semi-functional organizations from the inside or (b) strategically leveraging cross-sector partnerships to build social/civic capital to invest in children and education. Policy dual degrees are appealing complements but not essential.

    PERSONAL: Wife is a public school chemistry/special ed teacher applying for curriculum development masters programs and happy for a relocation adventure for a while; lining up our metro areas produces the list below:

    SCHOOLS: Interested in HBS (w/ HKS), Stanford, Columbia, Wharton, NYU Stern (w/ NYU Wagner), Michigan Ross (w/ Michigan Ford), Texas McCombs (UT is a top choice for my wife). Yale would make sense for me but New Haven doesn’t offer her much. Really have no clue what is within reach and what is just delusion given my profile and appreciate any guidance.

    BASICS: 28 year old Caucasian male.

  • Anonymous

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m trying to get a head start here in positioning myself to get into an elite MBA program 2-3 years down the line though I do have some concerns. I want to know your thoughts on my potential to attend the elite schools, ideally I would like to end up at Booth.

    I just graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Finance and minor in Economics. Graduated with a 4.0 major GPA and 3.51 overall GPA. I took 4 grad level Finance courses. I was in school 5 years, I started out pre-med and have many C’s and B’s the first 2 and a half years of school. All C’s were in my science courses and i have one W in a science class. Last two years of schools I got all A’s and one B. I did have one D in a marketing course which I retook for a GPA recalculation and received an A. I had done really well in the course the first time around as well, but due to a misunderstanding of how heavily weighted the course was on attendance/pop quizzes my grade suffered. My poor attendance was due to some personal problems/depression I faced and I became very isolated that semester affecting my attendance. This is a real concern for me with trying to get into a business school as my transcripts don’t look that great but overall my GPA reflects good performance.

    In school I interned for two years in wealth management at UBS. I was selected to represent my school in an investment challenge to manage a 20 million dollar portfolio put on by a leading finance professionals organization. I tutored at my school’s writing center. I also was also chair of finance and president of a student organization which promoted diversity. I was youth coordinator and program coordinator for a non-profit cultural organization and managed my own investment account. I have now received a job offer with a boutique economic consulting firm with some leading experts and academics, one happens to be the former dean emeritus of the top 7 business schools. I’m pretty certain I could get good recommendations at this firm and I also do want to pursue the CFA as well. In economic consulting, it is necessary that one pursues further education or there is no room for growth or to switch careers which is why I would like to get my prospects for getting an MBA cleared up now before I accept the offer since the D is of real concern.

  • Airman

    ~700 GMAT (expected)
    3.3 GPA

    Undergraduate degree in Aerospace Engineering from a Public Ivy
    Current US Air Force Officer of 4 years as a Project Manager of a multi-million dollar space acquisition program for satellite systems. I coordinate the efforts of 50+ people which include civilian contractors.

    Extracurricular involvement consists of being a volunteer tutor to recent Somalian immigrants, as well as a volunteer for Habitat of Humanity, Relay for Life and the American Red Cross. I have held leadership positions in my fraternity and a cultural student group.
    Both parents passed away during the first two years of college (lost home)
    Goal: To shift from technology to management and strategy at a consulting firm (short-term). To shift to being in the intersection of the upcoming private space technology and business (long-term).
    28-year-old Filipino-American male, first-generation immigrant
    Looking to get into: Harvard, Wharton, Berkeley, Tuck, Columbia, NYU, Fuqua, Darden, Yale, CMU
    Thanks Sandy for what you do!

  • James

    Thanks Sandy

  • hbsguru

    get a job with a great company, one that is selective and respected, or as close as you can to that. Make sure you get a solid GMAT, even if you have to take it 2 or 3 times,

    GT is possible, I dont think you are getting into Col or Booth, grades are too low, employment is a mish-mash.

  • Shashank

    Hi Sandy,
    I have an integrated BE + mba degree from BITS Pilani (India…top 5 school) with a cgpa of 7/10. I am working as a business analyst with Genpact (formerly Ge capital international serviced). I have total 3 years of work experience, I lead a team of 5 analysts (one of the youngest team leaders in the organization), and support the forecasting organization of Ge Energy.I am planning to apply next year, but wanted to know how b schools view applicants already having an mba, even if a integrated one?

  • JulianD

    Hi Sandy,

    Im 25 and my non-tech start up is not going to work out, so I am looking to get back into finance which was my original career goal out of college. I am looking to apply to matriculate in 2015.

    I have a degree in finance and management from Georgetown with a 3.2 GPA. I worked for a year in the legal department at a telecom before focusing on my (un-successful) business. I would expect to get mid 700s on GMAT.

    My question is what can I do over the next 12-18 months to improve my chances of getting into a top program. My dream schools would be Columbia or Chicago, though I think they are out of reach. I love Georgetown and would be completely happy going there as well.


  • bshopeful

    Hi Sandy,

    I was
    wondering if you could take a look at my profile and give your feedback. Here
    is my profile:

    – 26-year-old
    male from South America

    – Undergraduate degree in
    Mechanical Engineering from The University of Florida (3.5/4.0)

    – Graduate degree in
    Mechanical Engineering from The University of Florida (3.6/4.0)

    – 640 GMAT (35 Verbal &
    43 Quant)

    – 4 years of experience at a
    large aerospace company while getting my MS

    – President of a Hispanic society
    for a year (~100 members)

    – Associate in a leadership
    development program in my company (leadership training and community service
    are the main focus areas)

    Goal: To be senior executive
    at a large aerospace company. Focusing primarily on international business.

    Schools I’d like to get in:
    HBS, MIT, Booth, NYU, or Duke

    I’d really appreciate you
    taking the time to give me your feedback.



  • hbsguru

    Ha, ha, thanks. Maybe I should use Sandy Zing as a pen name, b.c. of the many attempted zingers!

  • Alex

    I must admit, Sandy’s column is just so much fun to read, he reminds me of Stanley Bing.

    Thank you!


  • Alex

    Thanks Sandy!


  • hbsguru

    Hmmm, Rhodes and Marshall winners are prob. smart enuf to leverage the assets which won them those trophies in the first place to write a winning ticket, if that is what you meant. Basically prize committees and adcoms are looking for the same things. Altho my suspicion is that in the history of the universe, several of those winners have been declined at H and S–for idiotic execution or more likely some downward spiral of career following the prize period, which was then followed by Hail Mary pass to B school. It happens.

    Truman and Fulbright are a real plus, and good halo to an app. You want the reader to walk away thinking, “Yes, I just read this app, and I was in a good mood when I found out the applicant was a prize winner and I am still in a good mood now, and I can see why this person won that prize.”

  • hbsguru

    Depends on how far you got the first time, if you got interviewed at HBS and HRH Dee Leopold told you in feedback session that it was a hair-splitter, well, YES reapply. If you have new info, like spiked GMAT score, new job, etc. or you took summer course in stats at Cal Poly and got the book award, well that can help. etc. Ok, you knew that, what are your chances the very next year at H/S with nothing really super new? Depends if you are “admissible,” which for me is a diff term than the way the school’s use it when they say that 80 percent of the class is admissible, which clearly is not true. That is why using the interview as a filter is impt. The number of kids who were

    1. Not interviewed at H and S.

    2. Have Nothing Really New


    3. Reapply at H+S and get in
    is prob. pretty small.
    If you were interviewed –or think you were pretty darn close to that based on gpa, gmat, employment, -H +S are by no means one and done. IF you are NOT close to
    being interview quality, well, SURPRISE, it is unlikely adcom lady doing a first review of your folder is going to somehow be hypnotized by cosmic vibrations at that time and give you an interview.

  • Indiangirl

    Hi Sandy,

    This will be the 2nd time I am applying (had applied a 3 years ago because I thought I knew better).

    Here is my profile. Hope you’ll be able to evaluate it.

    – 27 year Indian female, Engineer
    – 760 on the GMAT (49 Quant, 44 Verbal, awaiting IR and AWA results went quite well though)

    – Electronics Engineer from a top university (not IIT) Top 3 in class throughout (class of 90)

    – Worked as a Consulting engineer for a fortune 500 american tech company (5 years) primarily based out of India but worked on long consulting assignments in 5 different countries across 4 continents

    – Working with the ILO in south east Asia for now (about 6 months at the time of application one year or more by the time I have to join). Some interesting small business and developmental learning program,

    Always academically good, first rank in school and college. Top ratings at work, youngest in team at work to have been awarded all the onsite consulting engagements.

    – LBS, INSEAD, Harvard, MIT, Tuck, Duke

  • Andrew

    Hi Sandy,
    I’ve been a long-time reader of these articles and I really appreciate your analysis. Wondering if you can estimate my odds as well for Harvard, Stanford, MIT, and Northwestern. Thanks!
    760 GMAT (45 Verbal, 49 Quant, 6 Analytical Writing, 8 IR)
    3.87 GPA, double major in Mathematical Sciences and Economics from the US Military Academy
    26 year old white male
    Work experience: 4 years as an Army officer. I’m currently a Captain and the assistant operations officer for my battalion. My previous positions are scout platoon leader and company executive officer. I have one deployment to Afghanistan and an upcoming deployment to Kuwait.
    Extracurriculars: Lead my battalion’s community outreach program to one of the local towns outside of our training center. Volunteer at a local women’s homeless shelter.
    Goal: Transition into investment banking at a large BB bank and work my way up to managing director.

  • Jaime

    Hi Sandy,

    Just beginning to think about applying to business schools, would love an eval. Coming from the tech sector, where business degrees are often scoffed at, I’m a little unsure what my chances are/whether or not it’s even worth applying. Every MBA I talk to seems to have a differing opinion.

    – 27 year old white female, working class family, upstart from the Midwest story

    – no GMAT yet, GRE 1530 (old rules)

    – UG: Honors at “Little Ivy” (think Amherst, Williams, Tufts), 3.7 GPA, English Major

    – WE: 3+ years at a growing tech company with a focus on p2p e-commerce. Came in at an entry level position in Customer Support (god love the English Major), taught myself to program, was pilot candidate for an Associate Product Manager program, moved into a strategic Product Management role w/in 1.5 years.

    – Extras: tutoring/mentoring programs, pro bono work, alumni organization, continuing education courses in math, econ and computer science, running.

    – Goals: return to a p2p platform (not necessarily the one I’m at), move into an executive role w/in 5 years focusing on strategic development and operations. Disrupt inefficient systems (think education, media, transportation).

    – Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT


  • Barba

    To clarify, my position titles were:

    Archaeological Projects – Operation Director

    Green Energy Company – Lead Billing Operations Analyst

    Education Research – Content Analyst (3rd highest of four research positions: research associate -> senior research associate -> content analyst -> senior content analyst)

  • DisneySFA

    Hi Sandy,

    Hoping for a profile evaluation.

    – 25 year old white male

    – GMAT: Not taken (goal would be to break the 700s)

    – UG: Honors Program at average state school. 3.8 GPA. magna cum laude.

    – WE (in order): 2 years big 4 audit (CPA), 1 year big 4 valuation,
    currently 1 year as an SFA in finance and planning at Disney. my group
    plans the P&L for an entire business segment, tracks and analyzes
    performance, and works on various ad hoc projects related to strategic
    initiatives and plans. Plan would be to matriculate after 1 more year
    here, or possibly 2. That would put me at 5 or 6 total years of post UG

    – Extras: worked part time throughout college, honors program and
    professional fraternities participation during UG, and recently
    participating in employer sponsored charity events. honestly, nothing
    special, but could improve this piece fairly quickly.

    – Goals: Not totally decided, but either banking focused on TMT
    industries, or corporate strategy type role working in the technology
    and media space.

    -Schools: H/S/W/MIT/Booth…Beyond those I might pick a few #10-15 schools and hope for scholarship $$$. Possible?


  • Barba

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d like to see you try your hand at handicapping this one:

    Age: 25

    GMAT: 730

    Undergrad GPA: 3.5

    Undergraduate degree from ~50th ranked university in History

    Narrative: It took me a while to figure things out. I graduated high school at the top of my class, but decided to forego college to get some “real world” experience as a construction worker. After a year of construction work, I moved on to attend my state school. My early GPA sagged and I left school for more “real world” experience as a ramp agent at a large international airport. After two menial jobs working with some of the most disadvantaged people in the country, I went back to complete my degree and brought my GPA up to a respectable level.

    Throughout college (during the summers), I worked at and eventually oversaw archaeological excavations in Belize, and after graduation I took a job to lead a project in Mexico for three months. After that, I moved to work in IT operations for a major green electricity provider for 18 months and then moved to DC to work in education research, where I have been working for about 7 months.

    Do you have any idea where my raw stats will take me, and whether my narrative will help/hurt my chances, if presented correctly? I think I will be focusing on schools that feed into the DC metro area.


  • Oiltrotter

    Hello Sandy,

    I was hoping you could help handicap my chances at a few of the top schools. I’m looking at Booth, Ross, and Kellog as my top choices, but would be curious to know about my chances at other schools as well. Here’s my profile.

    Age: 27
    Degree: BS in Chemical Engineering from a Public University in the Midwest
    GPA: 3.3 overall
    GMAT: 710

    Work History: I work for a Refining Services company that specializes in start-up work. I travel from project to project inspecting the construction of the project, then assist the customer with the start-up. Start-up work often involves detailed analysis of the performance (Engineering), Securing payment milestones and agreements from the customer, liaison between the customer and the office (Midwest based company). It’s a highly technical and analytically intensive job, with a focus on project management and customer relations.

    The work comes with constant travel (Think 3 weeks in the office per year. All my stuff has been in storage for the better part of the last three years.).

    Places I’ve lived and worked

    Asia – ~ 18 months over the course of 3 different projects. Nearly 12 months in China total. Can speak some Mandarin (functional or operational Mandarin).
    South America – Brazil (~2 months), Argentina, Columbia (~4 months)
    Russia ~ 6 months
    Middle East – Saudi Arabia (~3 months), Qatar (~ 3 months)
    India – ~ 2 months
    Europe – ~ 3 months in various Eastern European countries

  • Harriet

    Hi Sandy

    Admissions consultants I’ve approached have suggested to me that Harvard and Stanford are less forgiving on re-applicants and I should approach them as a ‘one and done’ deal (compared to the rest of the M7 who are neutral – i.e., if you get dinged and then re-apply, they essentially treat you as if you are a new applicant). Do you have the same take?



  • James

    Hey Sandy,
    I was wondering how much a lesser-known but still prestigious scholarship would help with admissions. Would a Truman or Fulbright significantly help a student get accepted to H/S/W, assuming decent stats, work experience and recs? I know that a Rhodes or a Marshall winner can write her own ticket, but how about the lesser known scholarships?