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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  • Mr DownUnder

    Hi Sandy, John,

    Love your work guys! Keen to get your thoughts on my chances:

    Background: Male, 26, Indian heritage

    Undergrad: BE, Electrical Engineering from a top 3 engineering school in Australia.

    Graduated with first class honours, Deans Honour list for all years at uni.

    Studied on a full fee faculty scholarship (which is uncommon for an international student)

    GPA: 3.4+ (As per a basic converter )

    GMAT: 680, Q76%, V78%) (weakest link on my application!)

    Work experience:

    1) Internship at Canon Inc. (R&D arm)

    2) A small telecomm company for 6 months post graduation

    3) Presently employed at AECOM (3 years)

    – promoted once.

    – accredited deputy project manager internally to assist with major project delivery and about to receive project manger status (manage projects of construction value of upto 800k).

    - relocating to London next month to undertake a secondment.


    1) Student mentor with the international student services for a short time during university.

    2) Member of the graduate committee at my workplace. Was part of the team that organized charity fundraisers, professional networking events, professional development events such as tech talks by industry experts.

    3) Presently, I’m a member of the key account management team for one of our clients that accounts for A$150m+ in revenue for the ANZ business. Responsibilities include liaising with client managers across different offices etc.

    Why MBA?

    The engineering consulting market landscape is changing. I feel that in a few years time, our roles will evolve, placing greater emphasis on business strategy, building client relationships and focussed project delivery and I believ this is the right time for me to take a break and broaden my skill set. I also developed an interest to the business side of our work since I’ve started with the organisation.

    ST goals: A more traditional path of working with a strategy consulting firm

    LT goals: Would like to return to engineering consulting industry and leverage upon my experience and networks from strategy consulting an B school.

    Target schools: MIT, HBS (?), Tuck, Haas and Darden.

  • Awhatsmith

    Hi Sandy and John,

    White, Male, 26. BUT wait! This is my second try at the MBA application
    process, with my first attempt at 24. I was wait listed for all 3 rounds at
    Darden, with app rejections at H/S/W/C. Would greatly appreciate your expert
    advice on my profile.


    - 3.3 GPA, dual major (3.8 senior
    year) from USC in Business & International Relations

    - 700 GMAT (45Q40V)


    - During college, boot strapped a small business
    (media publishing) with 100K revenue College internships in wealth management, apparel
    manufacturing (China) and apparel retail (SF)

    - 2.5 years at a technology consulting firm for
    ERP transformations

    - 2 years in Industry Strategy & Marketing at
    a “hot” software company (hint, leading the maker movement) focusing on X-industry
    and Architecture, Engineering, and Construction

    Some could view this as hopping around, but I’ve
    purposefully created this “rotational program” so I can gain as much
    operational experience, in as many functions, as possible before my MBA.


    - Design and 3D printing hobbyist

    - Toastmasters (founding one club currently)

    - Taproot Volunteer (finance)

    - Led local fundraising and outreach events for
    Presidential election

    - Father is Wharton Alumni

    Career Goal: I am a 3D printing (otherwise known as additive
    manufacturing) champion. The structural detailing capabilities, customization,
    and near-zero mfg waste can be a platform catalyst for many industries. I am driving
    towards building/growing an organization that is laser focused on applying AM
    to stagnate and wasteful industries.

    Do I apply again at H/S/W/C??

    Shoot, do I even get an MBA?

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