Calculating Your Odds Of Getting A Top MBA

by John A. Byrne on Print Print

This 26-year-old young professional woman is an analyst at a mid-level investment bank in New York. A Big 10 grad with degrees in finance and economics, she wants to use the MBA to eventually become a leader in the private equity space.

A professional at Procter & Gamble, this 26-year-old man says he is French – but without being truly French. He was born and raised in Paris from a middle eastern background. He graduated in the top 5% of his class at a selective school in France, earned a Masters in Management from London Business School and now wants to use the MBA to transition into management consulting.

She’s a 23-year-old African American woman who works at a fast-growing government consultancy. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.6 grade point average at an Ivy League school, she’s hoping an MBA will help her develop private-public partnerships for positive social impact.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

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?

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. There’s also a video portion of the series featuring Kreisberg live evaluating the prospects of one of our candidates: a 23-year-old African American woman with a government consultancy.

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.)

Sandy’s candid analysis:

computergalMs. Private Equity


  • 740 GMAT (48Q/44V)
  • 3.4 GPA
  • “My mom was very sick when I left for college and ended up passing away my freshman year. My grades suffered as I dealt with the loss.”
  • Undergraduate degrees in finance and economics from a Big 10 university in the Midwest
  • Work Experience includes three years as an investment banking analyst at a mid-market investment bank in New York. Plan to transition to an associate role at a mid-market private equity firm within the next year and continue to work in private equity post-MBA
  • Extracurricular involvement as an executive board member in a sorority, volunteered as a tutor at a local elementary school, currently mentor a female junior analyst in our company’s mentorship program, which was designed to improve employee retention among women in the investment banking division , actively participated in recruiting efforts for my bank’s associate and analyst investment banking programs, tutor for elementary school aged children in the Bronx
  • Goal: To network with other professionals in private equity and to develop the skills necessary to become a leader in the space
  • 26-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%
Chicago: 40%
Northwestern: 40%+
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Columbia: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: You got a lot going for you but here is some tough love: white people (even females) from middle market banks + middle market PE firms + a 3.4 from the Middle West (Big 10, not sure if they are all in the Midwest but you get the idea) as a rule do not get into HBS, even with what looks like a real balanced 740 GMAT (48Q, 44V). Your extras–volunteer tutor for kids in the Bronx and mentor and other service work at your bank–are fine and probably one cut above most people in finance but that is not going to turn the tide. There are just too many high-powered female bankers with better jobs and stats and it is about that simple.

At Wharton, it is the same analysis, although the banking window is wider, so I’m calling that a reach. Columbia is going to be right on the edge and my advice there is to really think about Early Decision and show them the love by visiting, making inquires, sounding interested. Booth is in the same orbit, so apply as early as you can (that can help).  You have a compelling story in total and Kellogg might want a smart woman banker in the class. That is probably your best bet.

As to your weakest point, your 3.4 GPA, you say “My mom was very sick when I left for college and ended up passing away my freshman year. My grades suffered as I dealt with the loss.”  The impact of your mom’s illness and death  is certainly credible, given the timing, and it could be more so if you were first in your family to go to college, etc.  What is your GPA with first year grades taken out of the mix, a calculation worth making, in addition to an extended  substantive explanation.

“Goal: To network with other professionals in private equity and to develop the skills necessary to become a leader in the space.” Hmmmmm, that is a bit generic. It would help, just for application purposes, to find a part of PE that appeals to you, based on some connection to your work history or personal story, and say you want to focus on that. Sounds corny, and even though the entire goals issue is not that important for you, it helps support the application. Saying you want to lead a PE firm, for example, focused on education, educational technology, etc. will help anchor your story.

For example, note how a leading PE shop’s website defines the space and their reasons making investments there: “Companies that provide high-quality educational services, as well as the enabling products and technologies, will drive sustained growth in the education sector.”

You need to personalize that and cite companies you admire.  For a reality punch about what  that actually means in the, ahem, ‘real’ world, see the signature investments they cite. 

But you are not limited to reality. You can cite investments you want to make, and that can really add weight to your application.

I am just offering this template because your profile had some connections to the education space. Any ‘space’ will do, for you, or anyone else.

You just sound more focused and smarter when you pick a potential investment area.

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Air Time - Comments
  • shah

    Sandy and John, would you be willing to handicapping my odds at HBS 2+2 and Yale silver scholars programme
    i have a 3.99 CGPA from Tier 1 School in USA
    President of Student government
    President of a prestigious fraternity
    President of a Business professional fraternity.
    I own a a mobile application which boast amore than 100000 users
    Deans List
    Chancellors Honor roll
    Summa cum Laude graduate
    University medal
    i am an indian student ages 23
    Note: I transfer to this university from a poor university where I got two F’s in the first years and my performance there was comparatively poor. I transferred in junior year but after transfer i was set back by one year

  • Ms. Global Analytics

    Hi Sandy & John, thank you for reading this. Would you be willing to handicap my odds for: LBS, Wharton, Insead, Sloan, Kellogg, and Said? Again, thank you for your time and consideration.

    730 GMAT
    3.24 GPA BBA, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

    Female – both Canadian & Irish citizen (on a visa working in US currently)

    Work Experience: (3 years) Graduate of Nielsen’s Professional Services Emerging Leaders Program (5 persons selected per year), now leading a global client relationship

    Current extra curriculars: Pro-bono consulting for non-profits, recently promoted to account lead

    University extra curriculars: President Marketing Club, Gilbert Leadership Award winner, President Canadian Association

    Post MBA Goals: either big 3 consulting or brand manager in a marketing leadership program (e.g. P&G, Coca-Cola, etc.)

  • Jungle420

    Here is my stat

    **Already into Ivy League MBA***

    Age: 30
    2.6 GPA
    GMAT: 350 (I walled in to see where I stand)
    8 + years of technical experience as mechanical/manufacturing engineer in aerospace, telecommunication and electrical manufacturing (still working full time)
    Started 3 companies.. after realizing opportunities exist and all of them failed
    4 th one gained some traction and I sold it for $40,000!!
    5 th start up now has 1100 free clients and now have 10 employees located across , Canada, India, Venezuella, and US..

    It goes lot to start company , build it, transform it and then sell the idea of existance to buyers…

    Why I want to do MBA.. to share ideas and meet some highly talented people, who have hunger to achieve something…. build network and learn from experience.

    People must take risk and if they fail they can guide someone and if they survive they become leaders… It’s very important to pursue your own ideas, test it, if you fail then build next ideas on top of what you learned from previous failure..

  • Gavin

    Hi Sandy,

    Please evaluate my chances of getting into a top-10 MBA school in the US and how I can improve my chances.

    My stats are as follows:
    Dr. Biostat

    730 GMAT
    Biology and English Undergrad GPA: 4.0 (Finished top of class) (Top 40 Uni in UK)
    Biostatistics Master GPA: 4.0 (Finished top of class) (Top 5 Uni in UK)
    English Lit. Master GPA: 3.3 (Did concurrently to my biostat master) (Top 10 Uni in UK)

    Currently pursuing a Biostatistics PhD at Cambridge University and expected completion date is 2018.

    Work Experience:
    I have been running my own consulting company in the UK since April 2013. It currently has an annual turnover of over 25000pounds. I plan to expand it during the next 4 years.

    I have worked as a full time high school science teacher for 1 year.

    Additionally, I have worked as a part-time consultant in a consulting firm in Luxembourg for 6 months while teaching.

    Finally, I have undertaken multiple internships in both research firms such as BGI and consulting firms such as Grant Thornton.

    Career Goal:
    To build up my consulting company and to eventually transition into the biotech area. If this does not work, then enter a pharmaceutical company at a managerial level.

    Other Information:
    I can speak five languages including Chinese, German and French.
    I am an avid boardgame designer and plan to publish these in the future. I have won an entrepreneurship competition for a business plan on this.
    I am involved in a biotech consultancy company on a voluntary basis where I work on various consultancy projects and get to work with many high profile companies.
    I was a student representative throughout undergrad and grad school, having won an award for outstanding work in this area.
    Currently taking evening courses in Entrepreneurship and Technology Management from Judge business school. Planning on either doing an ACCA or CFA qualification while doing my PhD.
    I am a white male with British and Luxembourgish dual nationality.

  • Miss. Navy

    So… Here is one I have not seen yet.

    Female Military
    -GRE 168Q, 160V, 6.0
    -GPA 2.9 (experienced an adverse situation and, combined with the added stressors of a service academy and varsity athletic, my grades suffered the first couple years)

    -graduated US Naval Academy with major in Oceanography/applied math

    -college extras: Varsity crew, gospel choir, held Regimental leadership position my senior year, was in charge of game-day operations for alumni hall staff, Sexual Assault program facilitator

    – commissioned as Surface Warfare Officer- Engineering Dept Officer and in charge of 50+ sailors. I transferred after tour and became a Public Affairs Officer for SW region (all S. Cali)

    -I was a victim of trauma and my goals are altruistic and oriented towards helping other vets suffering and experiencing similar circumstances

    -Extra-curriculars now: MVP and NaVAgator volunteer at local VA hospital, volunteer for 3 female-vet run non-profit organizations from PR and social media to accounting, set-up and facilitate local and non-local support groups, personal mentor for service academy midshipman

    -Short-term Goals: to concentrate MBA in non-profit management, especially related to operations and financial management in order to gain the necessary knowledge and experience to thrive in the non-profit sector.

    -Long-term goals: to start my own non-profit for transitioning vets with PTSD unrelated to combat

    – 25 year old hispanic American female

  • Guest

    Hi Sandy, could assess my odds for HBS, Columbia, Booth, Kellogg and LBS for this year’s 1st round?

    25yo Brazilian
    730 GMAT 50Q 40V
    Engineer, 7/10 (2nd quartile) grade from University of Sao Paulo
    2 years full-time at Bain (3 when the MBA starts)
    1,5 years part-time internship in sales at GE Energy – Wind division

    1 year exchange program in Spain (top 3 engineering university in that country)
    Exam coordinator in 2 consecutive years for Bain’s university case competition (>1000 students participate)

  • MsCareerChanger

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you help me gauge my chances at getting into INSEAD?

    Miss Career-Changer
    female / Asian / 31 years old

    – BS in Chemical Engineering, GPA 3.42
    – attempted MS in Chemical Engineering, GPA 3.91 (2 years part-time), forfeited degree for overseas job opportunity
    – have not taken GMAT, but got 550V / 770Q on GRE (only studied for a couple of weekends), aiming for > 700 with a month of solid studying
    – went to same school in US South for both BS and MS, 3rd-tier overall but has a top 50 chem eng program

    – [chemical] process engineer with an US oil major (world top 5)
    – 2 years in renewable/alternative fuel
    – 3 years in plant design ($600MM – $1.6B capital budgets)
    – 3 years in plant operation support ($32MM/day revenue) in Central Asia (one of those countries ending with “-stan”) including 1 year in supervisory role

    – volunteered at homeless shelters and food banks when working in the US
    (does this really matter?)

    Cultural Diversity:
    – born and raised in SE Asia, moved to US before university
    – have traveled extensively (45+ countries)
    – speak 2 formal languages fluently + 1 local dialect

    Personal Story:
    Mom worked as a baby-sitter after moving the family to the US [legally] with only $1000 in the bank and lots of debts. Dad (with only primary school education) stayed behind in SE Asia to run his failing business that created those debts. Worked part-time through uni as a waitress to help support the family. Dad passed away in 3rd year of uni; didn’t get to see him at his deathbed (had only money enough to send mom back).

    Career Aspiration / Future Plan:
    Sick and tired of doing boring engineering crap. Want to get into management consulting, but maybe stay in the same industry (oil & gas / energy) and leverage existing experience.

  • Starter Upper


    Would you mind handicapping me for HBS and Sloan?

    30 year old white male
    760 GMAT
    Skipped two years of high school
    3.9 GPA in computer science at the University of Melbourne (#1 Australian university but unsure if well known in US)
    Started an honours year in software engineering and got a 4.0 average in first semester but dropped out before writing the thesis because I didn’t want the university to have IP rights over whatever I created – can go back and finish before applying if needed
    No real extracurriculars or leadership activities (but planning to apply at the end of next year so I have time to pick something up if needed)
    10 years work experience as an analyst/programmer making serious money, including about four years at a Top 4 Bank in Australia
    Also worked full time all through undergrad in exchange for a software company paying my tuition fees and a salary
    Quit my high paying job two years ago to found a start up. The start up scene in Melbourne is very small. Have finished a few projects since then (an online seating planner, an app that connects an exercise bike to video games, and an online reservation tracker) but none made any money. I’ve got products but finding it hard to find a business partner or get funding. I’m also finding the sales/marketing aspect difficult.
    Dad was diagnosed with cancer a year ago. This has sparked an interest in working in health or biotech startups.
    Objective at Bschool is to make some contacts, find some business partners for my start up, get some funding and learn more about business marketing.

  • B School Hopeful

    Sandy- Will you please handicap my odds? I am interested in GSB, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, and Haas

    730 GMAT
    3.75 GPA, BBA in Finance from University of Iowa
    26-27 year-old white male
    1 Parent is graduate from GSB (not sure if this makes a difference)
    Have audited a couple of post-college statistics courses successfully.

    Work Experience: 2.5 years at a mid-size feeder marketing consulting company as a Financial Analyst focusing on internal forecasting and planning.
    9 months at the Arena Football League Front Office as a Financial Analyst.

    Extracurricular Activities: 2 years in leadership role at mentoring program for high-performing inner city kids, helping with college applications.
    2 years on a young associates board of a non-profit based around teaching youth sport coaches how to properly motivate and coach.
    Working as a volunteer coach for a youth basketball team (mentoring and coaching are my passions!)

    Why MBA: Now that I have experience in forecasting and understand the financial inner-workings of my current company, I believe I can transition to a client-facing role in the firm and climb my way into a leadership role. I recognize to which industries we can expand and believe by studying Marketing and Operations Management, I can put myself in a position to be a strong consultant for the type of work that we do.

  • Ani

    Hi Sandy! Would highly appreciate if you pick up my profile to include.

    Ms. Central Banker
    – 29 year old Eastern European female, currently working on a high profile financial stability team at the central bank in my country (Bulgaria)
    – 700 GMAT (Q:47-70%, V: 39 – 88%)
    – 3.45 GPA (undergrad, double major Economics and Business from the top university on the Balkans :)), which is a US style liberal arts school, then 3.35 graduate GPA, from an MA in Economics at NYU GSAS. I did take the GRE back in 2007 but it has expired (it was 1,400 with Q: 750 and V: 650).
    – Worked for 1 year in an Asset Manager (~hedge fund) on Wall Street, as a Research Associate, then had to leave to fulfill a Fulbright requirement to work in Bulgaria
    – Worked for 1 year in an investment banking boutique in Bulgaria, then joined the central bank in a team analyzing financial institutions. Have been at the central bank for 2 years.
    – Want to do an MBA at Stern/Columbia/Wharton/LBS and get an associate position in a financial institution group at a major investment bank, ideally with emerging markets presence as well. long term plan is to be advisor on banks and perhaps restructuring in my region but that comes after private sector experience according to me.
    – extracurriculars – i have been quite involved in a project providing tutoring to refugees in Bulgaria over the past 2 years; in undergrad I was a newsperson on the local radio and a peer educator (but that was in 2003-07).
    – I have travelled quite a bit for studying and work in the US and Europe.
    – I speak Spanish, Russian, and Bulgarian and I am a CFA Level 1 Candidate

    Thanks for any comments you may have!

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