Video: Handicapping Your MBA Odds — Mr. Tech Marketing Manager

He’s a 27-year-old product marketing manager for one of the hottest tech firms in the world. Think Google, Facebook, or Twitter.

And he has a degree to boot in math and finance from a top Ivy League school. Think Harvard, Yale, or Princeton.

With a 730 GMAT and a 3.4 grade point average, he has now set his sights on getting into an elite business school. What are his chances?

In this video, Editor John A. Byrne and Founder Sandy Kreisberg discuss this candidate’s profile and handicap his odds of getting into Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and MIT Sloan–his target schools.

Mr. Tech Marketing

730 GMAT
3.4 GPA
Undergraduate degree from an Ivy League school in math and finance
Work experience includes product marketing manager at Facebook, Google, or Twitter, responsible for go-to-market strategy, product evolution, and marketing for a “very high-profile advertising product and one advertising product doing amazing well,” previously worked in consulting and also built a startup in private equity operations
Extracurricular involvement in multiple campus and fraternity leadership positions, founder of a student-run investment fund, and founder of an entrepreneurship forum to bring venture capitalists and industry leaders together
Goal: To move out of adtech to either find startup team or startup idea while in B-school and eventually move into the VC industry
27-year-old Asian American male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 40%
Stanford: 30%
Wharton: 50%+
MIT: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: What we have here are two great candidates and whether or not you combine the two into one great candidate is a very interesting question. If he were a product manager at Google and had these qualifications and wanted to go on in product management and then business leadership in the tech industry, that would be a great profile. If he had a startup history and then wanted to go to business school, that is a good story.

The fact that it is a hybrid story doesn’t make it better. Business schools are like doctors. They don’t like complex stories. What doctors want is for you to go in, give your symptoms, then diagnose you and say here is a pill that can fix this.

By presenting a complex story, you begin to wonder what this guy really wants and what is really driving him and why he is leaving a product management role at a premier company to go to business school.

What business schools like is people who are already on one track and want to stay on that track. I don’t care what they say. What they like is someone who works for Google, has been successful at Google, and guess what, wants to go back to Google. What he should tell business schools is that he wants to become a mega-manager at Google.

His odds for Harvard are pretty good. But a 3.4 GPA even in a STEM major is on the low side and I hate to say it but that could hurt him at Harvard and Stanford. But MIT loves this guy. It’s a school that would buy the hybrid model, and MIT loves Google more than Stanford does because it is just farther away and more rare. Wharton will go for a guy like this. As so often is the case, he has to convince them he wants to go there.

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  • chance inquiry

    Hi Sandy,

    Any chance you could look at my profile? My reach schools would be HBS/Stanford/Kellogg/Wharton.


    GMAT: 750
    College: Business Admin & Stats – UC Berkeley
    GPA: 3.8
    Asian American
    1.5 years in investment banking in NYC (3 closed transactions) with 1 year at a HF in NYC. Now 1 year of experience in a Fortune 100 in Corp Strat/M&A (highly visible role)

    Volunteer through meals on wheels (HIV/AIDS)
    Strong experience in classical music and volunteer experience (Raised over $100k in benefit concerts for Red Cross/Unicef)

    Thanks for your input!

  • HealthNerd

    Hope you can review this one!

    780 GMAT
    3.85 GPA in political science at a private university – think Duke, UChicago, NYU
    Work experience: Current job: 2.5 years as launch manager in new product development in an established healthcare tech & consulting firm. By next application cycle, expect to have $500K+ revenue to “my” business launch, which is a mostly tech play by the way. Some managerial experience as well. Previous work: in-house strategy associate; political campaign work.
    Extracurrics: Strategy consulting for nonprofits. Volunteer at soup kitchens.

    Goal: To return to healthcare, launch new businesses or ventures in this space that solve the industry’s very complicated problems.

    Demographics: White male, 26 years old.


  • Mr. Promotion

    Supplement – All of my work experience and education has been in the same mid-western Canadian city, but my projects have been 50% international.

  • hbsguru

    hmmmm, not sure of context of your remark, but, e.g. if you have a tech background and work for a Defense Contractor, you will do better by saying to adcom you want to be a govt/defense consultant after MBA versus saying you want to use MBA as platform to to hustle your way into PE (even if that is what you really want to do). Is that lying?

    There is a diff between omitting or misstating facts from past (work history, gpa, etc) vs. intentions, which are speculative to begin with. I’m not going to get into some drawn out discussion about how those two are different, but the latter happens more frequently in all fields and does not by itself contribute overly much to the reputation of MBA’s.

    Spinning facts into some future picture (politics,marketing, grant writing, charity, and ahem, religion) is part of advanced society –for reasons I will let experts discern and elaborate on. Such spinning is not unique to business and MBAs, whatever you think of it, or want to call it.

  • Steve

    John & Sandy – Great book (handicapping your mba odds) and website! I’m really curious to see where my profile fits into your framework. I appreciate you taking the time. Thanks!

    Mr. Promotion?

    -660 GMAT (47Q/34V/7IR) (plan to rewrite – freebie after test issue, 580 first attempt).
    -3.47/4.00 GPA STEM major from not well-known Canadian state university. 3 academic awards, dean’s list every year. Business minor. 4 student groups with leadership roles. Australia exchange.
    -4 accomplished positions with increased responsibility and from 3 diverse employers:
    —Senior Engineer, R&D
    ——Security feature design for currency – domestic and international customers.
    ——2013 Best New Coin Innovation
    ——$2.5B, 1200 person crown corp.
    —Lead Engineer, Radiation Therapy Systems, R&D
    —–$10M surgical theatre design & project management.
    —–NASDAQ listed 72M, 120 person co.
    —Mechanical Engineer, Composites, R&D
    ——Neurosurgical tool and head fixation device designs deployed at Har/Yale/UVA/others.
    ——Top Performer, R&D
    ——NASDAQ listed 72M, 120 person co
    —Materials Engineer
    ——50+ successful materials engineering consulting projects for multiple sectors.
    ——$10M, 20 person industry driven not-for-profit consortium.
    -2 patents pending, 4 publications, and collaborated on 4 other patents.
    -Solicited a $30k investment for my own 3 person startup that accomplished a lot technically but achieved no sales due to scaling issues. Not sure about the sell on this…
    -Professional Engineer designation
    -Community: Youth mentorship (3x organizations), work with the disabled.
    -Personal: Former pro ski/ snowboard instructor and athlete (2x awards). Active in team sports, travel, and music.
    -From abusive background, but not sure about the sell on this…
    -Goal: Corporate strategy at a global company – tech, consulting, or consumer products.
    -29 year-old Caucasian-Canadian male, 30 at matriculation.
    -Target Schools: H/S/W, Chicago, Kellogg, Berkeley, MIT, NYU

  • Reader1

    So what I gather from this is we need to lie to the Admissions Committee in order to get into a top program. Then once we are there, we could do whatever we want… funny how being dishonest is the advice we get. This is why MBAs have a bad reputation, because they will do whatever it takes to get ahead, even lying. Instead why not tell this applicant not to apply until they truly know what they want to do?

  • Mr. Wannabe Entrepreneur

    Hi Sandy/John,

    I’m right now debating about applying for a full time MBA or just saving my money and starting my own business. I know both of my GPA’s are low and I am wondering if my efforts are better spent developing my own business plans or writing b-school applications.

    -GMAT 760
    -Undergrad GPA 2.6 Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at top Ivy-League Engineering School

    -Graduate GPA 3.4 Masters in Engineering Management (Part-Time program in Boston)
    -Work Experience: 2 years at an Engineering Construction company (think Jacobs/Turner), 2-1/2 years at a small-medium sized engineering/construction company, 1 year as a project manager at a large NYC university
    -Extracurricular: Coached 8-12 year old ski racers for 4 years, training for a triathlon, placed 2nd in a Boston Start-up competition and was a semi-finalist in MassChallenge
    -Goal: Become a cleantech VC or join/start a cleantech start-up
    -27 year old Asian American male
    -Schools: H/S/W, MIT, Columbia, NYU

  • TiredofPoetsandQuants

    What did you guys score on the GMAT? I assume that both of you have MBAs to be running this site. On the videos thus far, you guys tend to pick the people with the same data points: High GMAT (700+), High GPA, and awesome work experience. You should have more mixed data points because admissions’ officers have to sort through these applicants as well.

  • Mr. Non-Profit

    Hello Sandy and John,

    This is Mr. Non-Profit here! I believe I have a fairly unique profile and would love to know how I stack up with all the financial analysts and consultants. I’d love your input. Here is my profile:

    23 year old Asian-American male hoping to matriculate at 2016. The biggest problem with my profile is that I don’t have any brand names.

    3.55 – Small liberal arts college – top tier according to US News, but not a well-known school. I specifically went because it has one of the top Religious Studies programs.
    Double major
    – Religious Studies (Christian studies and side focus on Asian religions especially Hinduism with India study abroad)
    – Communication Studies (focus on Organizational Communication) top 3 in class, Lambda Pi Eta member
    Music minor (Vocal/Choral focus)

    750 (Q50, V41), IR 8, AWA 5.5

    Work Experience:
    – Digital Strategist at an international medium-sized marketing and fundraising consulting firm for cause and faith-based non-profits (10 months and counting – plan to stay here until I attend b-school). Strategize and execute email, website, and social media marketing and fundraising campaigns for 4 large international clients, and 4 small/medium local clients. Put in charge of developing the social media arm of the company effective starting 2014. Although it is not a part of my job description, I also lead IT strategy and growth for the company.
    – Previously IT Consulting (9 months professional + 4 years in college)

    – Co-founding (COO/CMO type role) a non-profit for international students in the U.S., currently working towards 501(c)(3) status. Hopefully this will expand nationally by 2016.
    – Music for all my life, and love it (Vocals, Acoustic Guitar, Electric Guitar, Drum Set, Bass Guitar, Piano, Cello). Led many music teams for different churches and at my college.
    – Church: interned and taught at 2 churches during college, led in multiple community groups, play music consistently for services, currently volunteer in the largest young adult’s ministry in the US, local and international relief/mission trips, many other random leadership opportunities.
    – Founder and President of a Christian non-profit in high school that grew to about 1,000 people, it is still active but I am an advisor now. When I led it, I managed 10 board members and 60+ volunteers.

    Trying to break into MBB or Bridgespan consulting for two or four years to build experience, then start/join senior management in a large non-profit in cross-cultural and/or inter-religious reconciliation and dialogue.

    HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Tuck, Kellogg, Haas, Fuqua
    Potentially with MA in International Studies or MPP dual degree program.

    Some other information – 2 cousins went to HBS and an extended family member is chair of one of the departments at HBS. I don’t know if this will help much, but it definitely doesn’t hurt.

    Thanks for your time, I look forward to hearing from you!

    Mr. Non-Profit

  • Darren

    Hi Sandy and John, here’s hoping you’ll review my profile!

    Mr Human Capital

    -720 GMAT (48Q, 41V)
    -3.35 GPA (3.5+ final 2 years, 3.5+ in major)
    -Small Business Management degree from Tier 2 northeast state school
    experience: 3 years in mental health services (promoted twice, youngest
    manager in 1000-person organization). 2 years Global Recruitment for
    Clinton Foundation. 1+ years leading recruitment arm and consulting for
    start-up HR consultancy.

    Extracurricular involvement as
    volunteer business adviser for a friend’s jewelry company, annual
    suicide awareness fundraising, triathlons. Previously led quarterly
    fundraising campaigns for shelters and created and managed softball team
    for mental health clients.

    Short-term goal to
    enter human capital practice at Deloitte, McKinsey, or another major
    management consulting firm. I want to combine my skills and experience
    managing diverse and global human capital projects to better shape
    talent strategies to business
    needs. My long-term career goal is to
    launch a consulting practice that helps nonprofit organizations design
    and implement talent strategies and organizational structures that
    support local innovation and improve organizational performance.

    My apartment burned down in July (I had to run out in my underwear) so I missed most Round 1 deadlines.

    Target Schools



    Cornell (duel degree)
    possibly INSEAD, Fuqua

  • Mr Tech Consultant

    Oh, GMAT: My GRE equiv was 740, so I’m targeting 730-750

  • Mr. Tech Consulting

    -27 yr old white male (28 at matriculation), 1st gen college graduate
    -2 year church mission, with over a year spent in leadership
    -3.5 gpa international studies/political science (top 5-10 public school) (graduated in 2.5 years)
    -Worked pt during undergrad at library + was in an elected position in student gov
    -President of Model EU, one of 15 college students selected for EU visitors program (met with EU officials and toured EU institutions).
    -3.7 gpa Master Public Policy – focused on economic policy (decent ranked program)

    -Graduate assistant with full tuition waiver, volunteer consultant for nonprofit, worked for federal government all during grad school.

    Work Experience
    -Post grad, work for a consulting firm in federal practice (think Accenture, IBM, Booz Allen Hamilton). 3 years total WE at matriculation
    -First project was with a Healthcare company doing organizational design work, have since been on a long-term, and large ($60 million +/year) contract. Through this I was given a position typically reserved for someone 2 years ahead of me, after one year I was promoted (which is 1 year faster than normal), and given a position reserved for someone with 3-4 more years experience than me.
    -My work has focused on client relationship management (tracking and reporting metrics, responding to client requests, creating executive meeting presentations), managing proposal which have resulted in $10 million + in additional revenue, managing $25 million of the contracts financials, and working across divisions within my company.
    -Work daily with a company partner and executive, both of whom would have supported my career and would write a b-school recommendation.
    -Top performance rankings, received a company award, which is not very common for someone with my level of experience
    -Those that I have known go to b-school got into Booth and Darden, another got into Law school at Georgetown and another medical school. Most of the new hires already have an MBA, so I know very few leaving for school.

    -Volunteer with local church group for 4 years now, working with youth
    -Volunteer with a refugee placement center doing financial literacy training, employment training, and assisting with adjusting to area (buses, shopping, etc).
    -Worked with a local nonprofit, helping them apply for and receive grants, and helping them with web/social media strategy
    -Involved in alumni sports teams

    To move into strategic/management consulting at a firm such as MBB or even Deloitte. I actually really enjoy consulting, but would like to be at a firm with more diverse clients and shorter term projects. My ultimate goal would be to eventually transition to one of the major development foundations (Gates, Clinton, Ford, Kellog, etc).

    Target Schools:
    Tuck, Kellog, Booth, Ross, Haas, Yale, Duke

  • Ms. Advertising

    Hi Sandy,

    Love your advice to these candidates and would appreciate if you could help evaluate my odds. Thanks!

    -33 year Asian female
    -3.5 GPA, BA in Advertising from the top 1 university in China (with a Motorola scholarship)
    -3.7 GPA, MA in Communication Research from a second-tier university in Chicago (full tuition wavier + teaching assistantship).
    -720 GMAT (Q:50, V38, AWA 5.5 IR 8)
    -2 years experience at a top American advertising agency in Beijing. Assisted in
    developing advertising campaigns for IBM and Motorola.
    -6 years experience (from analyst to account manager) at one of the top Marketing Research agencies in New York. Managed survey research for product innovation and consumer insight for FMCG companies such as Coke and Unilever.
    -Why an MBA? I want to advancing my business and management skills and move from marketing research to product marketing/management/strategy (in other words, move from a service provider to the client side and be involved more in business than in research – I may not need an MBA to do so, but I think studying MBA benefits a longer term).
    -Key concern: I resigned from my job a few months ago due to a difficult pregnancy and I also want to concentrate on preparing GMAT and the application. Not sure if the gap has a negative impact.

    -Target schools: Columbia, NYU Stern, Wharton and Yale (have to be near NYC to take care of family and kid)

  • hbsguru

    UNCANNY as to John — in both looks and manner and role in life,. But don’t I remind you of, ahem, Hugh Grant???

  • hbsguru

    All the companies you name are selective and prestige companies, where jobs are hard to get, etc. How selective the company’s hiring is the main criterion, and beyond that, whether the adcom has ever heard of it.If you work for a hip, small company, it is impt. to note if it has venture backing etc (a sign of quality to adcom) along w. free frosball. etc. Some areas of tech, e.g. video, internet, etc. are considered hipper than others, e.g. hardware, in general, so that could be a subtle advantage. Adcoms might consider Google as hipper than MSFT, but in terms of looking at an applicant, both wld be considered as working for great companies, and both would be a real solid add to the class.

  • Towski

    Sandy and John remind me of the rockstar and his manager from Love Actually.

  • Mr. social enterprise manager

    Hi Sandy

    Could you help with my profile

    Indian, IIT male.
    720 GMAT (80 percentile in both) GPA:3.3
    WE1: 3 years. Developed a social enterprise start up. set up 10 sustainable social businesses from ground up. in addition to handling projects, i raised funds, engaged clients and partners, build teams of project managers, recruited and trained more than 30 employees. provided full time jobs to more than 2000 rural youth.
    WE2: TAta motors, 2 years, Manager – Projects
    26 yrs old.

    Post MBA goal: Impact Investing.

    Schools, TUck, Yale, duke, UCLA, USC, Kellog, Oxford
    Lond distance runner (1:45 half marathon), passionate about rock music, avid reader

  • Mr. social enterprise manager

    Hi Sandy

    Could you help with my profile

    Indian, IIT male.
    720 GMAT (80 percentile in both) GPA:3.3
    WE1: 3 years. Developed a social enterprise start up. set up 10 sustainable social businesses from ground up. in addition to handling projects, i raised funds, engaged clients and partners, build teams of project managers, recruited and trained more than 30 employees. provided full time jobs to more than 2000 rural youth.
    WE2: TAta motors, 2 years, Manager – Projects
    26 yrs old.

    Lond distance runner (1:45 half marathon), passionate about rock music, avid reader

  • MBA Hopeful

    Hi Sandy and John – How do the reputations of various tech companies factor in business school admissions? For example, do certain business schools look more favorably at product marketing managers from Google vs Microsoft? Facebook vs Venmo? etc. Thanks!

  • Avneet Singh

    Hi Sandy and John, I need your suggestion in deciding my target schools. What should my essays convey about me that is not conveyed through my stats/profile below. Thanks!

    Undergraduate: Engineer from IIT, India. GPA of 8.3/10
    GMAT: 740/800
    Work experience: Close to 3 years.
    Two years as a project manager in an entrepreneurial venture of largest Indian FMCG company.
    Current: Head of maintenance for Foods factory for largest Indian FMCG company. Leading a team of 30.

    Two research publications in prestigious technical journals (IEEE and Springerlink)
    Founder of Non-profit chapter of Engineers without borders at IIT. Led solar electrification of primary school for the underprevilaged children in India.
    Founding VP of Business club (to foster entreprenurial and manegerial skills) at IIT
    Founding member of Formula Car Racing Team at IIT (Represented IIT in Inter national Formula student competition at Silverstone, UK)
    General Secretary of Departmental Society
    Represented IIT at inter-IIT championship (biggest inter college meet at IITs)
    Lead drummer in school band.
    Volunteer at the Indian youth climate network. Formulated the charter on climate change and presented to Environment Secretary of Delhi, India

  • FrontierInvestor

    Hi Sandy and John, I’m hoping you could evaluate my odds of chances to a few schools? I’ve seen all your videos, and I think its a great thing you guys are doing – makes the whole series a lot more interesting and insightful. Not sure if my profile is interesting enough to make it to your next series, but fingers crossed!

    – 730 GMAT (Q49-86%, V41-92%, 6/6-91%) 96%
    – 3.8 GPA (Top 15 Liberal Arts College in the Midwest)…Full (tuition+all expenses) scholarship
    – Economics major with Math and Physics background (switched from pre-engineering to finance)
    – Work exp – 3 years at matriculation in Fall 2014 at a large investment manager (think -Fidelity/PIMCO/Vanguard in research/portfolio management) in New York
    – Hoping to pass CFA Level III in Jun 2014
    – 23 year old Pakistani international student (non-citizen, non-resident). 24 before starting MBA Fall 2014

    ==Soccer – played intramural in college (started DIII varsity but swtiched to intramural) (won a tournament as an underdog team), play pickup soccer with kids in my neighborhood in queens, organized all indoor and outdoor soccer sophomore year at college, passionate british club soccer supporter and fan
    ==Volunteering – mentor for a program where the mentee is an immigrant and first in family to go to college, volunteer for local volunteering organization primarily working with kids education and physical well-being/exercise, mentor for ‘at-risk’ high-school student applying to college, volunteered at daycare for 2.5 years while in college,
    ==Cooking, Running

    ==At college: president, vice-president and actively involved student (elected, appointed and by choice) in many activities and organizations (not sure how useful they are now unless they fit with application theme). Also worked around 15-20 hours a week part time on campus while in school (max possible allowed for international students)

    ==ST Goal – Continue working in Buyside/Asset management but in a more client focused role
    ==LT Goal – Start my own asset management firm in Pakistan (very under-penetrated market. >170 million people, solid and stable GDP growth rate and stock market performance despite all the negativity, yet only under 5% household invest in mutual funds (compared to around 50% in US) Shockingly, the whole country has only under 100 actual mutual funds and currently no ETFs)

    Ideal MBA program: something that combines a strong finance foundation with solid entrepreneurship spirit and education (particularly relating to frontier/emerging markets)
    Targets: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, MIT


  • FrontierInvestor

    Hi Sandy and John, I’m hoping you could evaluate my odds of chances to a few schools? I’ve seen

  • bob

    Sandy, what would be his odds if just did the Google stuff and none of the startup stuff?