Calculating Your Odds Of Getting A Top MBA

by John A. Byrne on

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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  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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..

  • 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.)

  • 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

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