Handicapping Your MBA Odds

A West Point valedictorian, he’s a military intelligence officer who has had direct leadership of more than 100 soldiers. With a 700 GMAT, this twenty-something officer wants an MBA so he can return to the U.S. Army and eventually guide its cyber intelligence unit.

An Ivy League grad with a 750 GMAT and a 3.75, he’s a consultant for a top-three firm. But this young professional wants an MBA to help him achieve a goal to direct strategy at a major tech company or to create disruptive business models in developing countries using technology.

After playing varsity baseball at a top 100 university, this 26-year-old professional works on strategy and partnerships for a large health care provider. His goal is to move into private equity, working with healthcare companies on growth strategies.

What these 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 HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, is back again to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

As usual, Kreisberg handicaps each potential applicant’s odds of getting into a top-ranked business school. But for the first time ever, we’ve included a video portion of the series featuring Kreisberg live evaluating the prospects of one of our candidates. In this debut video, Sandy evaluates our West Point valedictorian and addresses many of the issues facing military candidates who apply to highly selective MBA programs.

Given the fact that Sandy hard at work for MBA candidates on their Round One applications, the remainder of this week’s column is a best of collection.

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.)

Let’s go to our video analysis first:


Basic RGBMr. Army Intelligence


  • 700 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from West Point
  • Valedictorian of his class
  • Work experience as a military intelligence officer who has had direct leadership of more than 100 soldiers and has managed large private contracts
  • Has earned a dozen professional cyber network certifications
  • Extracurricular involvement as team captain of a national champion fencing team while at school; volunteer for Big Brothers, Big Sisters and Special Olympics; tutors autistic children
  • Goal: To eventually guide the Army’s cyber organization through its expansion over the next 20 years.
  • “Looking at HBS or Wharton to geographically match my wife’s applications to Med School programs but would consider others”
  • Male in mid-twenties
  • “I heard that admissions panels emphasize different things when looking at active duty applications. What can I do to maximize my chances?”

Target Schools:

Harvard Business School
Stanford Graduate School of Business
University of Pennsylvania (Wharton_
University of Virginia (Darden)

Sandy’s Analysis:  See the video above for Sandy’s blow-by-blow assessment.

  • UNMtoGStoMBA

    Sandy, You say HBS plausible, Stanford less so, Wharton good, and Yale for sure. Can you quantify those measures into %. Is Wharton good equivalent to a 60%? Plausible = 30%? etc.

    Thank you

  • Des McGowan

    Hi Sandy,
    Age: 26
    White Male
    GMAT: 780
    Work Experience: 2 1/2 years auditing financial services firms at a Big Four in New York, transferred within the Company to its Real Estate Valuation department where I’ve been for 2 years. Expect to be promoted to manager right before beginning the application process.
    Education: Top 30 university, 3.3 GPA. Graduated from the Business School’s Honors Program with concentrations in Finance and Accounting
    Professional Licenses: CFA, CPA
    Target Schools: Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Columbia
    Extracurricular: Member of the Board of Directors (Finance Director) at a neighborhood elementary school.
    Goal: To work at a late-stage startup after graduating

    Thank you!

  • OfftoBschool

    Asian American female
    Age: 25
    GMAT: 720
    GPA: 3.5
    Education: B.A. in Econ and Int’l Relations @ a top liberal arts school

    WE: 4 years in financial analysis and management at an ivy league institution with significant and diverse responsibilities and exposure to senior leadership; 2 promotions

    Extracurricular: admissions interviewer for alma mater, admission counselor for low income high school students, tutor at local middle school, founded an entrepreneurship course, various leadership roles in clubs during college

    Other: first generation college student passionate about education opportunities for disadvantaged students, fluent in mandarin, 1 year study abroad

    Goal: transition into product management at a medium/large tech company(with relevant work experience to support this goal), then take on senior management role at company

    Schools: Wharton, MIT, Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Chicago, Berkeley

    Thanks for your time!

  • Mr.Digital

    Hi Sandy and John,

    I have been following this column for a long time and finally decided to take a further step to kindly ask you guys help access my chance of getting into my dream schools.

    Below is my detail profile:

    Undergraduate: An ordinary Chinese University, major in finance
    Postgraduate: Finished a part-time 3 year program in a Top 5 university in China, major in Communication & Journalism
    TOEFL iBT:110

    Work experience: Total 4.5 years working experience. Worked as a strategic media planner in Ogilvy & Mather for 1 year, then moved to my current company in 2010, one of the biggest independent public relations agency,top 3 in China market among all international PR agencies. I am the youngest senior consultant in my company, responsible for the entire digital communication practice in Beijing office and heading a 7 people team. My clients are world class brands such as Visa, Volkswagen, Citibank etc.

    International experience:
    1.I had a 3 months exchange experience in US when I was in college, not academic though…
    2.last year, I was selected as the FIRST employee from China to join the Global Exchange Program and worked in our firm’s headquarter in NY for 1 month.

    Extra resources:
    My boss is an alumni of Chicago Booth, she went there for EMBA program and still actively participating a lot of alumni activities and engaging with the school committee members, she said she would love to recommend me.

    Target Schools:
    Wharton, my first choice.( Attended one day school visiting program last year and really liked this school)
    Booth, cos I really trust my boss’s opinion.
    What’s more, I also want to know is there any possibility that i can be lucky to be picked up by HBS?

    Thanks very much!

  • African Vagabond

    Mr Kreisberg what are my odds? my profile below
    GRE: V163 Q157
    WE: 2 years at Deloitte in strategy operations in West Africa and currently 2. 8years as associate at Mckinsey & Co. in North Africa
    Graduated from the best University in Morocco Top 25% of class
    Extras: Hult Prize Top 5 Finalist; Our Ideas was considered by Bill Clinton and the Clinton Global Initiative as one of the ideas capable of changing the world. Co-founded a Micro credit Co-operative in the Middle Atlas of Morocco which employs 33 women (I had the support of the minister of social affairs willing to write a letter of recommendation for my contribution to social development) Member of the Islamic art and Culture,
    Goal: to be a consultant in Agribusiness
    Nationality: Cameroonian
    Age: 27 years old

  • TooBeFair

    Just to second that, I’m pretty similar to you as well. AA male, top 10 University, 3.2 GPA, 3.5 years WE (Capital One, Federal Govt), 750 GMAT. Plenty of well qualified AA applicants. Hope to see you both on Campus this time next year ha.

  • hbsguru

    For openers, do you know anyone from your Operations Office at GS who has applied to B school, which ones, and what outcomes? We need a fix on how ‘selective’ that job is considered by top schools. If you do not have that data, my guess wld be, with those stats, and solid execution and recs, you’d be in the same league as an IT guy at any non-tech company (e.g. not Goog, MSFT, AMZN). I think you shot at HBS is plausible, Stanford less so, Wharton good, and Yale fer sure.

  • Ankit

    Hey Sandy,

    Look forward to your feedback on the following profile:

    Age: 27

    Gender: Male

    Nationality: India

    Undergraduate College – Indian Institute of Technology, Electrical Engineering

    Undergraduate CGPA – 8.1/10.0,

    Best Outgoing Sportsman of Graduating Batch

    Coordinator – Placements Cell. Led a 100 member voluntary team

    GMAT – 710 (low verbal score)

    Work Experience – 4 years

    1 year – Early stage tech start-up in Bangalore, India as a marketing & product manager. Start up failed

    1 year – Growth stage tech start-up in Delhi. Business Development head of North India. Contributed to 20% of company’s revenue. Part of one of the most successful tech and analytics startup.

    Wanted to explore more and shift to social sector.

    2 year – Social Enterprise in Primary healthcare, based in rural India – unique model led by innovations in human resources and technology. Developed and implemented technology and financing solutions for the company. Publications in public health journals on implementation research. Working with the board to develop the 3 year growth plan of the company (network of primary healthcare clinics).


    Marthon runner and amature mountaineer.

    Volunteer with another non – profit and institute alumni clubs.

    Long term goal – Start a social enterprise that develops technology solutions for the social sector in fields like healthcare, education and financial services.

    MBA Goal – Global exposure, Learn business skills, Get into a job in organizations like Gates Foundation to get a global exposure of the development sector.

    Target Schools:

    1. Stanford

    2. MIT

    -> Both are my dream schools.

    3. Kellog

    4. Harvard

    5. Duke

    6. Berkeley

    Applying in Round 2. Need to short-list 4 out of these 6 schools.

  • A.

    Hi Sandy, would appreciate some feedback/advice. Thank you in advance.

    – 31 year old white female
    – GMAT: 680 (45Q/38V)
    – GPA: 3.43; BA in Economics from NYU (CAS)

    – Experience: 8 years as an Analyst (promoted from Junior Analyst) at 1 company that was initially a $1 bln asset management firm and then transformed to a financial services technology company a couple years ago. Back in the day, when we managed assets, I did lots of data mining & number crunching, wrote quarterly letters and ad-hoc research reports for clients, attended conferences, etc. After the above mentioned transformation, my quant responsibilities remained the same but I am now also responsible for contacting hedge funds/PE funds on behalf of our clients and getting them ‘onboarded’ on our platform, which involves pitching them on what we do and what our onboarding process is like, liaising between the funds and our legal team to get NDAs in place, getting all the necessary docs & info from the funds, etc. I’ve consistently achieved the best results compared to the rest of the team and measured by the number of funds added to our platform and the overall quality of work, according to my boss.

    – Goal: Looking to deepen my knowledge of Finance and improve analytical and communication skills in order to move to management consulting

    – Extracurriculars: well, nothing impressive really, just a couple volunteering attempts after Sandy and a number of hobbies, like mountain hiking (ascended a bunch of peak in the Adirondacks and a few 14ers in Colorado), kayaking, yoga, photography, etc

    – Schools I’m interested in: Ross, Darden, Cornell, Tepper, UNC (Please feel free to suggest other schools where I may have better chances)

  • Radek

    Hi Sandy,

    I am really amused by some of your analysis and would greatly appreciate if you could take a look at my profile:

    Personal: 25 years old, white, Polish, male
    Summary: Aspiring final year pharmacy student with global leadership and management experience, particularly in fast-paced and multicultural team settings, with proven
    relationship management skills;
    Undergrad: Master of Pharmacy Candidate 2014 – final year student, Top 3 med university in Poland. Awards/scholars for outstanding education outcomes. Spent 3 semesters abroad at University College London.
    GPA: 3.3 (top 5-10% of the class)
    GMAT: 730 (Quant stronger comparing to Verbal – non-native speaker)
    Work: Glaxo Smith Klein, Poland branch – Assistant within Future Leaders Programme – Commercial (just started)
    Extra curricular: Very strong background here. President of a global NGO for pharmacy students (over 330,000 members in over 70 countries). Handled administrative responsibility for leadership, management and operations (finances, marketing, fundraising), supervised organization of 3 global 10-day long meetings for 500-800 attendees, conducted/chaired general meetings and directed activities of the 15-member executive board, corresponded frequently with partners – academia, corporate, international organizations, incl. United Nations and World Health Organization, established quality assurance system for the projects and events, improved advocacy initiatives (pharmacy education, global health issues, pharmacy profession) – provided training and established & directed a committee to handle this task in a structured way. Been re-elected for the second mandate following the commitment during the first one (this gives 2 years of such experience). Also youth trainer: organised and
    executed numerous hours of training sessions for peers on local, national and
    international scales; Focus on leadership development, emotional intelligence, strategic
    planning, project management, monitoring and evaluation aspects, etc. Taught underprivileged students in my class – maths. Several leadership positions (president, vice-president) in local and national associations with proven record of stimulated student involvement and number of activities/initiatives provided to them including those of international scale, also leading to the improvement of my national NGO’s perception internationally.

    Other: took a break to volunteer/work in a hospital in Taiwan as clinical pharmacist trainee.

    I am particularly aiming at HBS 2+2 programme (enrollment in 2016) which seems to be targeted at senior students. Any advice?

  • Risky

    Hi Sandy, Thank you so much for your posts- I love reading them when I need a break from writing my application essays! I would really appreciate your analysis on my profile:

    – 24-yr old Indian female
    – 750 GMAT (V 44, Q 49)
    – 3.4 GPA from Univ of Texas in Finance
    – Currently working in risk management for a top 20 U.S. bank, I have been promoted twice in 2 years (started working right after graduation in 2011)
    – Post MBA goal: to pursue a role in management consulting with a risk focus
    – Extra Curricular: volunteer and dance; currently Status of Women chair for an international women’s advocacy org.

    Target Schools: Columbia, Cornell, NYU, Chicago, Wharton


  • ?

    Military you’ve covered, what about the JD/MBA odds for th e consultant in this series who asked?

  • Tippenheimer

    Hi Sandy,

    Hoping you could assess my odds:

    Age: 22 (23 at matriculation) – I graduated college at age 19, I’m not sure if this hurts or helps and if I should make a point to mention/address it.

    GMAT: 770 – 50Q (89%), 46V (99%)
    GPA: 3.99

    Degree: B.S. in Physics (graduated in 3 years) from a mediocre U.S. private school. They have a national ranking of ~150. I received a full scholarship to attend.

    Work Experience: Currently have two years of experience in Public Finance Investment Banking at a regional municipal bond dealer in NYC. I was hired as entry-level, and my company gives that position a title of “Associate” unlike everyone else on the planet. I was promoted to “Assistant VP” January 2013, but this is probably more analogous to Associate everywhere else.

    Extracurriculars: Decent extracurriculars in college, none after college.

    Post MBA Career: Investment Management for either a small value investing firm or a not-for-profit.

    Target Schools: Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley

    Thanks for your help!

  • Mr. Campaign Manager

    Hey Sandy,

    Thank you for taking the time out for doing these profile analysis. I would appreciate if I could get your insights on my profile:

    – India, Male, 26
    – GMAT: 710 (q 77th, V 92nd)
    – Undergraduate degree: Engineering ( not so great school, top 10% of graduating class)
    – Work experience (which I believe is my strength)
    * 1 year: Working for a small non-profit organization right after college, first as a project manager then as an assistant director. Worked in three countries.
    * 2 years: As a Campaign Manager (still managing this campaign for 2014 general elections in India) for a sitting Minister in the Indian Cabinet of Ministers. Built and now manage a team of close to 1000 volunteers and 20 full time employees. (This is a $ 5 million campaign.
    * 1.5 years as a Public policy consultant to the same Minister at one of the Ministries in India. The Minister would write one of my recommendations.

    * Started a non-profit to educate underprivileged children. Manage close to 80 volunteers.
    * Captain of State cricket teams.

    Post MBA Goal: To start a political strategy consulting firm that focuses on grassroots organizing. I love what I do as a Campaign Manager, and the reason I want an MBA is so that I can get better at it.

    Schools interested in: Stanford, Harvard, Wharton and Yale.

    Could you please give me a feedback.


  • lxwarr30

    Hi Guys,

    – GMAT: 700-720 (expected)
    – 3.30 GPA in Accounting from SUNY Buffalo (cum laude)
    – Passed 2 Levels of CFA Exam
    – Currently work at Morgan Stanley doing Investment Reporting for PWM (1 year), Spent 2 years at Hertz 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).
    – Would stay at role for another year before applying
    – 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, MIT

  • Renata

    Hi Sandy,

    Maybe you
    could see my profile:

    GMAT: 7,0
    (tests, still studying)

    Top brazilian Business School, 100% scholarship, GPA around 3.

    Experience: I was an intern at the financial area of the most famous publisher
    in Brazil (1 year), then was accepted at a talent recruitment program at the
    leader Merchant Acquire in the country, which included the opportunity of
    working in several different areas through one year (sales, logistics,
    strategic planning, product development, accounting), having personal coaching
    and training. Also developed a huge group project during the year about Project
    Portifolio Management that was presented by me for the board and management. My
    final area at the Merchant Acquire was Finance and I worked there till I get an
    job offer to come back to the Publisher in an management position. I took the
    offer and am working here for about 1,5 years managing 4 people.

    these 3 years after undergrads I took two courses in another top brazilian
    business school: Controllership and M&A.

    I am a Chess player since I was 9, and played professionaly since 14 ( I gained
    money to play for a brazilian city team in the Regional Competitions). Won the
    Sao Paulo´s (state) and Brazilian Championships at 15. During high school I
    teached chess for collegues in an extracurricular class (after school). At
    College, I joined the Cultural Group where I managed the founds and organized
    several features for 3,5 years (culinary courses, writing concurse, cultural
    city tours, etc). Took several extracurricular courses at College, such as Sign
    Language, Poetry, Presentations, Art and Culture. Today I teach my co-workers from
    different areas how to increase their efficiency in Excel works (had two good
    experiences so far).

    History: My dad was in an accident when I was 13 (he stayed in coma for about 6
    months and was never full recovered), and my family passed through a bad
    finance situation that made my parents move out from Sao Paulo when I was 16
    and my brother and I lived by ourselves since then. I helped to maintain us
    with my sallary from my chess player employment.

    24 year old
    brazilian female, married (and my husband is applying for MBA as well)

  • David

    Sandy, Thank you!

  • hbsguru

    take the GMAT again if you get a low score, and apply Round 2. so take GMAT 2 more times, etc. It could be critical in your case. Think about Duke and Darden, both are older and military friendly.

  • David

    Sandy, thank you very much for reply. Your response helped me tremendously. Well, I am an Asian American and grow up in China. I know… I just completed shattered the stereotype that all Chinese are excellent at Math. I took the GRE first because I thought it was easier than GMAT, I scored 150 on each section. Clearly, I was wrong. I decided to take the GMAT as second attempt, the 600 is actually a practice test score and I will take the real GMAT on the 25th of September. I hope to score 650. If I score lower than 600 and should I submit GRE instead of GMAT? I am already 32, I am afraid that further delay to apply MBA would impede my chance to get accepted by a top program. I am applying the following schools

    1) Stanford
    2) Berkeley
    3) UCLA
    4) Cornell
    5) Emory

    Thank you again!


  • 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. There have been many posts on the traditional finance/consulting/engineering/army background and I would love to see you post about someone with a non-traditional background and an interest in CPG.


    -26-year old Asian male
    -700 GMAT based on practice tests
    -B.S. in Environmental Chemical Engineering with 3.1 GPA, but 3.7 GPA in final 2 years. I did very poorly my Freshman year.
    -Graduated from reputable engineering school in Northeast (think WPI/RPI/BU)
    -3 years working experience

    Work experience:

    -2 years in a global operations leadership development program for Fortune 400 manufacturing company. Global project management experience, process improvement/six sigma, supply chain strategy, and product portfolio management.

    -Currently working at Fortune 100 retail/e-tail company as category manager making strategic sourcing decisions, merchandising strategies, supplier negotiations and P&L responsibility for a major $100M+ category. I would be able to get strong recommendations at the SVP level as well as my current manager, who is a Wharton/McKinsey alum

    Career goals:

    Short-Mid term: Management consulting or corporate strategy for retail/CPG
    Long-term: International business development and global growth for CPG company


    -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, bible study leader, youth Sunday School teacher

    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? I understand I have a lower GPA, and would love to have your insight on the best way for me to overcome it and the schools that I have the best show at getting into with my profile.


    Thanks and looking forward to hearing from you!!

  • Adam

    No problem. I’d advise really hitting the OG books HARD (I specify OG books because they give you a sense of test difficulty( as opposed to off brand knockoffs which may be harder or easier), which will help with developing a sense of when its time to move on from a problem you can’t complete in a timely fashion). I found that taking 30-40 Qs per night was a good way to prep (you can work you way up from 20 ish). That way on test day fatigue is not even in your mind, and the questions become so common place nothing surprises you.

  • M

    I’ve always maintained that you need to get above the median (which is 730 at H/S) in order to help your profile the best. 700 really isn’t that great in comparison. You need to hit that 730 or above to have it help your app

  • The Volunteer

    Hi Sandy,

    I hope you have time to review my profile. It is not a typical B-school candidate

    -25 year old African American (Ghanaian-American)

    -670 – 700 (not taken yet projected score based on practice tests)

    -GPA: 3.1 Undergrad from Rutgers Uni. (Public Health), 3.5 grad school from
    Boston Uni. (MPH)

    -Last year as a Peace Corps volunteer (Africa Region) in Community Health
    Outreach Sector – working with an HIV/AIDS CBO.

    -Did a lot of extra curriculum activities and held leadership positions in
    undergrad such as president of my fraternity and the African student
    association. Tapped as a member of one of the school’s most prestigious society
    for campus leaders and scholars.

    -Other activities include mentoring high school students and speaking to inner city
    school kids.

    -Short-term Goal: Work for consulting and management firm such as Management Science for Health (MSH), John Snow Institute (JSI), or the Social/Public Sector for

    -Long-term goal: Starting my own firm and NGO aimed at improving organizational
    capacity and management of NPOs and CBOs in Africa, particularly those in the
    health sector.

    -Applying to: Tuck, Duke, Columbia, UNC, Ohio State, Emory

    What are my chances with my low undergrad score and no major full time work

  • hbsguru

    PHEW, LOTS to like–3.6 is fine, how many times have you taken the GMAT?

    Man, with a 680 GMAT you might have a real shot, right now you are Hail Mary territory at those schools, altho it could happen. If you have only taken GMAT 1x or even 2x, keep taking it, schools only care about the score, they don’t actually believe in the test much, and expect low scoring dudes to take it 3x etc. Sorta hazing with a purpose. ALSO, consider the GRE if you can do better on that–some schools who want to take kids like you but are concerned about their own numbers, e.g. for magazine rankings, prefer you submit a GRE which I believe can be ‘off balance sheet’ as my pals at Goldman say. Meaning it does not impact the GMAT scores the school submits to the mags. I have heard kids tell me that adcoms have told them to do this–altho would love confirmation of that from any poster. I have also heard of schools insisting kids w. GRE scores also take GMAT (even tho school ;nominally’ accepts both). Love to have that confirmed and that adcom person NAMED AND SHAMED.

    Back to you, are you a minority as well, e.g. US Citizen and Hispanic, AA, etc??? That wld also help, but at this pt. think about total war on those standardized tests.

  • NoNameSomeGain

    Thanks. Knowing there are AA candidates like yourself competing against me (and everyone else) I guess I’ll take the test again before year-end.

  • NoNameSomeGain

    Manhattan GMAT tests I get around 710/720. GMAT Prep usually 720/730. Had a post-test consultation. Ended up scoring 690 again. I’ll probably do a bunch of quant questions for a month and see if I can score a 750 on the practices, and maybe the test-day decline will be above 700.

  • UNMtoGStoMBA


    Spent the last 13 hours reading through every handicapped score on this site and only have a rough estimate of where I stand. I was hoping you would chime in on my credentials and provide some clarity.

    Age: 22 (26 at Matriculation)
    Gender: Male
    Race: Asian
    Undergrad: University of New Mexico
    Major: Business Administration
    GPA: 3.9
    GMAT: 730
    Job: Operations Analyst at Goldman Sachs
    Goal: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, …. Yale
    Post Graduation Goal: McKinsey, BCG, Bain
    Why?: I want to be a CEO of a manufacturing company

    I have received a full time offer to work for Goldman Sachs Operations (back office). I am trying to find a sense of direction for the next four years to maximize my chances of getting into H/S/W.

    In college I was the president of my business fraternity and the consulting club. I published a 100- page casebook for the consulting club and was the first undergrad to ever interview with McKinsey & Co.

    Can you provide your analysis?


  • David

    Sandy, thank you for your post. It was very informative. Well, I am also an Intelligence officer. I graduated from the Citadel (Got it, not West Point) with a 3.6 GPA (Not very high). I scored 600 on my GMAT (Very low for top schools). I was an intelligence officer for the Special Forces and managed up to 80 people. I am a first generation immigrant who arrived to US at the age 16 and speak no English, l lived in extreme poverty and resided in a homeless shelter during high school, and I worked my way up from Private (Lowest rank in the army) to Captain. My question is, do I have a chance for Stanford, Harvard, and Wharton? Will top schools offer a chance for people like me. Thank you very much.

  • Puck

    Hi Sandy,

    This is the first series of anything I’ve marathoned. Thank you for providing such insight!

    Target schools: H/S/W, Columbia, Booth, Stern, Sloan, and …Yale
    * Background: Age 24 Asian American Male
    * College: Chicago, Economics, Math Minor, 3.66 GPA, Graduated 3 years, worked 20 hr/wk to finance education
    * GMAT: 760, 6.0 AWA
    * Job: Worked since 2010 with internal development and business analysis for major asset manager. (Got to manage major multi-million dollar project for a year)
    * Promoted twice in 3 years, Associate –> Analyst –> Senior Analyst
    * Goal: To broaden perspective and lead product development at higher level. Dream lifetime goal is to lead the industry in making meaningful, customized wealth management far more accessible than the elite advisory service it is today.

    * Volunteer instructor at local weekend school
    * CFA Passed all 3 levels (in 18 months for what it’s worth)
    * Bi-lingual
    * Currently obsessed with (more academic) studies of organization complexity, machine learning, seriously considering PhD instead of MBA

    Profile fear: coming across as a boring _almost_ consultant who is _almost_ working in finance, with misplaced dreams about bringing rainbows and unicorns to the finance industry. Is this a valid concern?

  • c

    Curios as well Sandy!!

  • GMAT

    Which practice GMAT tests are you taking and scoring 720?

  • Adam

    Just my 2 cents as a fellow AA applicant (profile: 3.6–750–2.5 years of WE)

    WE:Your work experience seems fairly interesting (assuming you can position it in a compelling fashion for the adcom). Especially the micro-finance portion. With regards to the investment analyst job, it will probably depend on (a). how well known your firm is and their previous track record (do they send people to top Bschools) (b).how strong your rec will be from them (assuming you choose to get one). Personally I think the Kenyan micro-finance experience will be a better piece of experience to hang your hat on. Mostly due to the fact to Bschools will get a mountain of apps from investment analysts (many of whom will come from more blue chip companies with stronger pull at top schools). Make sure you have some great specific stories you can tell the adcoms that stem from that fairly unique experience. Making your application stand out in a smaller pool is much easier.

    GMAT: I’m not sure which round you are applying in, but if its the second i’d really advise you to try push that score up. You say you’ve been getting an average of 720 on practice tests (hopefully non repeated ones), which means you are def within shooting distance of breaking into the 700s. Just because you are a minority does not mean that they will always blink at a substandard score (comparatively). GMAC notes that 1.9% of AA candidates score above a 700. Given the fact there are about 10,000 AA test takers per year that means there will definitely be enough 700+ AA candidates to take your spot. Give yourself the best chance possible; hunker down for a month or two and take the test they way you know you can. This advice goes double for you given your 3.0 GPA. You should shoot convince the Adcom that you can handle the rigor of a graduate degree.

    Good Luck, and maybe i’ll see you next year

  • NoNameSomeGain

    Hi Sandy, quick stats
    Age: 25 (26 at matriculation)
    Gender: Male
    Eth: Black American
    Undergrad: Top 15 university, Economics
    GPA: 3.0 (had a bad freshman and sophomore year. improved senior year)
    GMAT: 690. Verbal 93% Quant 61%
    Work: Worked as an investment analyst in Seattle for 2.5 years. Not the largest investment management firm out there, but respected in Seattle and on the West Coast. $10B in assets under management. Conducted research/due diligence on investments. Firm allocated tens of millions of dollars to investments that I recommended.
    Currently work at a small micro-finance NGO in Kenya. I help founder attract talent, determine proper loan amount, attract volunteers, apply for grants and international donors, and other operational work. Donations have increased significantly since implementing my recommendations.
    My GMAT scores during practice average 720, but after three tests, my highest score is still a 690. I’m not sure whether I should retake. Especially since application deadlines are nearing.
    Goal: Honestly, I think I’d like to get back to finance in the United States…although I wouldn’t be opposed to also working in operations again…in the United States.

    Extra Curricular:
    Although I can’t count the NGO as an extracurric, I’ve got a some meaningful ones. Played club soccer in college.

    Schools: Duke, Michigan, UNC, Harvard, Stanford
    Should I even apply to H/S with my low stats and lack of a brand name except for my undergraduate institution? I know being black doesn’t help THAT much in grad school admissions. My minority friends at H/S/W all had 3.4+ GPAs.

    So can I get in somewhere?

  • Disney Brand Strategy

    Hi Sandy – Hoping for a quick assessment of my odds – haven’t seen one done for Disney yet…Thanks a ton – schools im applying to are HBS, GSB and Kellogg.

    Age: 24 (25 at matriculation)
    Gender: Male
    Eth: White
    Undergrad: U. Southern California
    Major: Communication, Spanish
    GPA: 3.5
    GMAT: 740
    Work: Currently doing brand strategy at Disney in the Media Networks group. Oversee a portfolio of brands driving over $2B in sales in ’13. Was appointed International Team lead by VP. Was promoted to Coordinator in Dec. 11, promoted again to Assistant Manager in March ’13.

    – While at USC, worked at a laundry/dry cleaning delivery service as coordinator, promoted to manager and led a team of 10 overseeing all operations and financials
    – Currently also a Marketing Manager with pro bono consulting group helping non profits create/revamp their marketing and branding strategies
    – Philanthropy chair in fraternity at USC, led events to drive over $10k in donations for LAFD
    – played on USC Mens Lacrosse team
    – Created TV/FIlm production company with director partner and currently producing a pilot focusing on social enterprise in third world/emerging markets
    – Take screen writing classes on the side

    Any advice on positioning would be greatly appreciated.

  • USC

    Retake the GMAT…smart enough for 3.8 from ND in Econ? Either you cheated, had no social life, OR u should be able to do better than 710…

  • hbsguru


    -your assessment of the First Captain is correct. btw he/she would be no
    academic slouch and probably be in 4.0 range with less of the nerd factor.

    -A silver star is a big deal not sure if adcoms see it as such but there
    are only three USMA guys from grad years 05-07 to receive one and only two are
    alive, one of whom graduated HBS (670 GMAT)

    -I found there was one enlisted man in HBS ’13

    -very difficult to assess a “successful military career” (Army) for people
    with under ten years of service even for someone in the Army. Duty assignments
    are based on your chosen branch and time in service. There is almost no
    flexibility. Two infantry guys or military intel guys with equal terms of
    service will more or less look the same on a resume.
    -Evaluations are tricky as they almost never say anything negative unless
    you’re in the bottom 5% or you’ve committed war crimes. Top performers will
    generally be ranked as being in the “top 3” or higher…depending on the size of
    the rated pool….everyone else usually gets a narrative that makes them seem
    like MacArthur to the casual observer but will lack the numeric ranking. To
    another army officer, the lack of the numeric ranking tells you that this is an
    average performer.

    -My buds at USNA tell me it’s pretty much the same for
    the navy

    -I’m plugged in with a lot of USMA grads at HBS and Stanford from the last
    couple years. i think you’re leaning a little high on service academy grad stats
    for HBS. 700-720 GMAT and 3.6-3.8 seems to be sweet spot for USMA at HBS. I
    found the USMA stanford guys to have higher GPAs and GMAT scores than their HBS
    counterparts…just my personal research.

  • hbsguru

    hard to say, and might depend on if anything dramatic will change in the added time.

    Applicants tend to over value new info to the adcom, well, for obvious reasons (hope over experience). Fact is, for most applicants, only game changers post college are 1. dramatic pop in GMAT/GRE (esp. curing a low, low Q score), 2. Going fr. Silver to Gold job, not usually getting promoted at same old, same old, altho sure that don’t hurt, and is usually a quick proxie of many other good things, e.g. they like you at work. As to you–

    18months at Sony at time of submission, given your age, etc. vs. year later, prob not going to move the needle–to adcom’s mind you are: College Story, GMAT story, Works at Sony –the end. Reductionist a bit, but accurate. Since Sony is Tier 1 company in the mind’s of most adcoms, you are prob optimized right now, only thing that could change is if work performance is so-so, and you make it WOW in a year, but that is real speculative and wont matter all that much.

    It’s almost like a blind date: you take a look at x y z, and you know what you got. Talking to date for 60 minutes vs. 30 minutes aint going to change things, and many wld say the same for 60 vs. 30 seconds.

  • claimant32

    Age: 23
    Gender: Male
    Ethnicity: 23

    Degree: Economics
    School: Large western public university
    GPA: 3.75
    GMAT: 760

    Experience: 2 years at boutique consulting firm specializing in healthcare and retail. 1 year in business strategy with Fortune 20 healthcare provider.

    Extracurricular: Served on board of directors for state-wide anti-drug coalition, tenure included passage of three state laws sponsored and authored internally. Volunteered at local school for developmentally challenged children. Model United Nations high school national champion and staff for the two following years.

    Goal: Just as you suggested for Mr. Baseball, Healthcare consulting, to help with the nation innovate and adapt to healthcare changes.

  • Melissa

    Ouch – 0 female profiles this edition.

  • bmp

    Let’s not sugar-coat it: in the context of the applicant’s target schools, 700 is below almost every one of their average GMATs. How is that anything but “not that great?” Yes, compared with a less competitive b-school’s applicant pool and the GMAT pool at large, it’s an awesome score, but ignoring the important context here would be disingenuous.

  • RG

    Just lost respect for John Byrne with his “700 is not that great a score” comment

  • hbsguru

    Apologies to USAFA grads and wld be happy to hear fr. you, along w.

    Coast Guard and Merch Mariners. Making resume clear to non-mil readers is a plus, I have seen military apps with heavy extra curric involvment, often on deployment, e.g. some org. which helps locals, raise money, etc. This was Kosovo era (I been around a while). Doing comm service in US also a plus. Also, some schools have ex-mil on adcom or access to vets to help dope out stuff, but don’t count on that. There used to be a military guy on HBS adcom in some capacity, don’t think so any more. I’d still be interested in hearing fr. academy grads as to what the “earmarks” of successful military career are, if they exist.
    One obvious issue, I am not sure adcoms can ‘read’ medals, etc. E.g. I believe a Silver Star (Army) is a sorta big deal, not sure most adcoms know that. Believe me folks, I don’t mean to diss any medal, just trying to get real, real granular.

  • bbpp

    That all makes sense–I guess it just means it’s more important to translate military resume into civilian-speak, then. Do you have any tips on what one might be able to do to distinguish him or herself in light of this? If a GMAT is high enough and a GPA is unchangeable, what else is there to stand-out? Do, say, graduate degrees or extensive community service serve to separate vet applicants?

    Oh, and you forgot USAFA in your request to vet students!

    And, at least in the AF, I would say the easiest ways to ‘evaluate’ a career are stratification among peers and selectivity/prestige of assignment. Fortunately, the AF puts a big emphasis on frequent stratification, so a person ought to be able to know precisely where he or she stands and have it documented. As you point out, that might not be apparent to a civilian reader, so I imagine it’s beholden on the applicant to ensure either letters of rec or the resume conveys these datapoints in no uncertain terms.

  • PleaseAnswerJustThis1FollowUp!

    Sandy, I have a big follow-up to Senor Consultant. You’re opinion of the JD/MBA is quite negative, which is fine and probably deserved. There are very few circumstances where it is appropriate, but they are out there. SO, the value call and your personal judgment has been noted. However, you didn’t answer the question!
    ASSUMING this person knows this and has one of the rare legitimate reasons to undertake the “boondoggle”, what would his odds be? Noting the standalone odds you place above, what would be his chances (all else held equal – only adding his 170 LSAT) for Wharton/Penn, Kellog/NWern, and Som/YLS (all 3-year programs, so it’s only one extra year beyond normal MBA), and of course HBS/HLS (Romney did this) or GSB/SLS, which are respected as you noted above? Aside from giving him all the data for a life-changing decision, it is a very interesting theoretical question how the schools where the MBA program dominates (W, K) treat dual candidates vs. the schools where the law program is better – Yale.
    Side note – HBS only takes 2 rec’s now, in fact the GSB is the only place I know of that asks for 3. You contradicted this in your response to Mr. Varsity. Great column, was getting worried we haven’t had one in so long!

  • techie

    Hi Sandy – would love your perspective on my application:

    Work Experience
    Currently: Product Marketing Manager (think Facebook/Google/Twitter) – responsible for go-to-market strategy, product evolution, and marketing for one very high-profile advertising product and one advertising product doing amazing well; previous experience has been in US/LTAM ads strategy (with some international travel) heavy in analytics/data
    Previous: consulting (most recent: building a startup company to 10x people and 20x revenue; latter: one in private equity operations)

    27-year old Asian male
    GMAT: 730 (80%+ on both V/M)
    GPA: 3.4/4.0 (math and finance double-major from elite US Ivy-plus STEM school)

    Currently: started entrepreneurship forum to bring VCs/industry leaders together to discuss trends and opportunities; alumni interviewer for undergraduate admissions office
    College: multiple campus and fraternity leadership positions, started student-run investment fund

    Goal: learn from courses/classes/cases/classsmates; expand horizon and network; move out of adtech to either find startup team or startup idea while in bschool; eventually want to move into the VC industry

    Dream schools:

  • hbsguru

    “why wouldn’t they just take any number of exuisitely simple steps to fill the gap?”
    Well, once you got the gpa + gmat + recs,–and beyond that in some cases, an interview, it is not that much of a gap. And judging the five military service years of guy 1 vs guy 2 3 4 is not crystal clear anyway, even if you knew the basics. In civilian life, banks, consulting firms, tech companies, etc. all have “pecking orders”. and even pecking orders within the organization itself. B schools are aware of those orders and it sometimes adds one layer of subtlety to an analysis, e.g. this guy works at GOLD consulting firm and this guy works at Silver consulting firm, Not clear service gigs could be classified that simply, altho if you really, really knew the Army, you could get one layer deeper in reading an app–fer sure. But that last layer is rarely a decision maker.

    Altho I appreciate it in some satisfying way, when contemplating a civilian app. e.g. yeah, and this guy went from Shop 1 to Shop 2, boy does that make sense, given other subtle vibes coming off this story.

  • Piyush

    Hello Sandy,

    Just saw your Handicapping series, will really appreciate if you could asses my profile.

    GPA – 4.0
    GMAT – 730
    Age – 29

    Experience – 7.5 years
    Present – Audio Lead – Blackberry – Ottawa
    Sr. Audio Design SonyEricsson – Beijing, Sweden
    R&D Engg – SFX – Edinburgh, U.K.

    Very wide experience in manufacturing, Design, project management, HW, SW, Mechnical, tooling, testing etc…
    Worked on lead Flagship BB and SE products.
    2 International Patents to improve Audio Technology

    -Dip. in Mechanical Engineering – LTIT – Mumbai
    -BEng (Hons) – Mechatronics – Edinburgh Napier University, U.K.

    Goal – Corporate Strategy.
    After MBA – come back to Telecom Industry and see one of the medium size firms growing. Atleast this is what i have in my mind.

    Target Schools – Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, MIT (any suggestions for Business Schools for Corporate Strategy ! )

    Peace Ambassador – UPF (Universal Peace Fed), Dir. Marketing n Communication for Non-Profit Org. – Festival of India Ottawa.

    I am not sure where my profile falls in you assessment but i do have a concern reg my age. I have read a great deal about it and 30 yrs is like a taboo age and once you cross that Business schools get less and less interested to invest in you. In my defense, all i want to say is that I did not want to do an MBA until I had a solid foundation, in-depth understanding of various different sectors of a company and how they work together. And now at this stage of my career i think i do understand telecom industry fairly well and therefore want to move to the higher level.

    Any other pointers,,,,,,,,,,, will really appreciate your assessment.



  • The Volunteer

    Hi Sandy,

    I hope you have time to review my profile. It is not a typical B-school candidate

    -25 year old African American (Ghanaian-American)

    -670 – 700 (not taken yet projected score based on practice tests)

    -GPA: 3.1 Undergrad from Rutgers Uni. (Public Health), 3.5 grad school from
    Boston Uni. (MPH)

    -Last year as a Peace Corps volunteer (Africa Region) in Community Health
    Outreach Sector – working with an HIV/AIDS CBO.

    -Did a lot of extra curriculum activities and held leadership positions in
    undergrad such as president of my fraternity and the African student
    association. Tapped as a member of one of the school’s most prestigious society
    for campus leaders and scholars.

    -Other activities include mentoring high school students and speaking to inner city
    school kids.

    -Short-term Goal: Work for consulting and management firm such as Management Science for Health (MSH), John Snow Institute (JSI), or the Social/Public Sector for

    -Long-term goal: Starting my own firm and NGO aimed at improving organizational
    capacity and management of NPOs and CBOs in Africa, particularly those in the
    health sector.

    -Applying to: Tuck, Duke, Columbia, UNC, Ohio State, Emory

    What are my chances with my low undergrad score and no major full time work

  • Takashi

    Job is currently in marketing for gaming systems. 25 years old right now

  • Takashi

    Hi Sandy, I have a quick question regarding when to apply.

    Here’s my profile: I grew up in Brazil. Attended an Ivy League, transferred out to a ~Top 100 school because I partied too much and lost focus in my studies. Undergrad took me 5 years to finish

    Did a 1 year Master’s in Financial Economics at Oxford
    GMAT: 790

    Working in Sony in Japan for 6 months now. Want to go back to US as soon as possible. I speak Portuguese and Korean (family is originally from there)

    If I apply in 1 year’s time (September 2014), I will have 2.5 years work experience by entry (1.5 years at application time).

    My question is: will applying in 2 year’s time instead of in 1 year increase my chances at top schools? If so, by how much? Is it worth it to stay one extra year just to increase my chances? (If the % increase is negligible I will take my chances in 1 year)

    Will a promotion make a difference? I might be promoted in early 2014- if not, I’ll have to wait until February 2015 to get promoted. Should this affect the timing of my application?

  • Mr. Bowler

    Hi Sandy, I’d absolutely love your candid feedback on my profile. I believe there are several unique elements, but I’m not sure how much these elements would help me to stand out in my cohort.

    Schools: Stanford, HBS, Kellogg, Booth, Tuck, LBS

    24 year old, White, Male

    Education: University of Notre Dame, 3.8 GPA, Economics

    GMAT: 710

    Job: Strategy Consultant at PwC, 2 years (would have 3 years experience upon matriculation)
    – I also had an internship (international trade non-profit) in Sydney, Australia for 3 months in college

    Extra-curricular activities:
    – Co-lead a 500+ person organization within PwC that focuses on networking and professional development for junior staff
    – Tournament Director of Tier 1 college bowling tournament, which is 1 of the 2 largest collegiate bowling tournaments in the world with 130 teams from 70 schools (ran tournament for past three years)
    – Lead a team for pro bono consulting work (two strategy projects, one for an entrepreneur in El Salvador and another for the non-profit itself)
    – (college) Founder of ND Consulting Club, which now has one of the largest member bases on campus
    – (college) Captain on Bowling Team and 3 time Academic All American

    Post MBA Goal: Continue consulting with one of the big 3 strategy firms (MBB). Long term goal is to set up a non-profit foundation to provide consulting services in developing countries (similar to the pro bono projects I’m doing on the side of client work now).

  • bbpp

    “Business schools don’t know how to evaluate military careers”

    Given that it seems a lot of schools work closely with their veterans’ groups in admissions issues, and that adcoms see countless military apps every year, why is this necessarily true? If this was such an apparent weakness in their vetting (pardon the pun) process that it was common knowledge among admissions consultants, why wouldn’t they just take any number of exuisitely simple steps to fill the gap?

  • Mr. Ex Bean Counter

    Mr. Kreisberg,

    Long time reader, first time submitter here. Thank you for providing and publishing your analyses in your handicapping series, each issue has great data points which help map out the types of candidates top schools look for. I am currently an Associate at a private equity firm and I am contemplating applying to business schools in the Fall of 2014, any analysis you could provide to me would be appreciated. Below is my background info:

    Age: 28 at matriculation
    Gender: Male
    Ethnicity: White
    GMAT: TBD confident I can get 700+

    Undergrad: Arizona
    Major: Double major in Finance and Accounting
    GPA: 3.3 Cumulative (last 60 units were a 3.7), 3.8 Finance, 3.3 Accounting

    Grad School: USC
    Degree: Master of Accounting
    GPA: 3.5
    Reason for going: CPA licensing credit hour requirements

    Certifications: CPA with an active license

    Years of work experience: 5 at matriculation

    Private Equity Associate (Current Job): One year and ongoing – I am currently a Private Equity Associate working on the deal side. We are a small fund and as the only Associate, I work directly with the Partners and get to see every stage of the deal process. I get more hands on experience with a larger variety of tasks than one might normally see at a larger firm. At the firm, I work with all different aspects of our financial and industry diligence, strategic planning, core and growth strategies, and performance improvement.

    Big Four Audit: I spent three years as an auditor in the Audit practice of a Big 4 with a focus on large private equity and hedge funds. In addition to Audit I did a three month rotation in their M&A group performing financial due diligence for private equity acquisitions The rotation required internal applications, essays and interviews and was competitively selected where only about 10% of applicants got into the program.

    I was promoted at the end of my second year and received top performance ratings all three years I was there (the ratings were consistent with being in the top 10% of my peer group). In addition to being a leader on my engagement teams and managing the staff on my engagement, I led multiple internal initiatives including creating and leading a market initiatives team; one of our focus areas was on strategically identifying and winning new clients for the firm. I received recognition from the Partners for starting it up and getting buy-in from my colleagues to work on our projects.

    Non Profit Experience:
    Committee Member (since 2010) of the local chapter of a global non-profit that focuses on helping and preventing victims of child abuse. I have been actively involved in fund raising initiatives and charity events over the past three years, as well as volunteering time at grantee organizations. I served as Membership Chair for my first year on the committee, and I have helped lead a sub-committee responsible for securing prize donations for events we host.

    Other Extracurriculars:
    I was involved with several organizations during my undergrad – two different accounting associations and I held a board seat as a member of the Business School’s ethics board, I am also an Eagle Scout.

    Long-term Goals:
    My long term goal is to develop my leadership skills and join a leading private equity firm where I can gain more operational experience actively managing their portfolio companies and helping make strategic decisions to enhance equity value.

    I understand that my biggest hurdle that I have to overcome is my low 3.3 GPA from a mediocre undergrad. However, the last 60 units were a cumulative 3.7 GPA and while I was there I did double major and my Finance GPA ended up at a 3.8.

    Schools I am thinking of applying to:
    Tuck (Early Action)