Handicapping Your Shot At An Elite MBA

After working for Oppenheimer & Co. in private equity, this 29-year-old male professional raised $5 million to start up a small oil company that had a $12 million valuation in just 16 months. Besides a 690 GMAT and a 3.95 grade point average, he has an unusual distinction on his resume: he is a whistleblower who helped the SEC catch a crook.

This Aussie male professional has done a little bit of everything, from working for a Silicon Valley start-up to an Asian-focused hedge fund. He’s scored more than 750 on GMAT practice tests and has a 3.7 GPA from a highly ranked Australian business school. Now, he wants an MBA to transition into a venture capital firm in the U.S.

He’s a 29-year-old U.S. Air Force Captain who, in his own words, “plans missions, operates weapons, and tells the pilot what to do.” With a 680 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA in finance from the University of Memphis, he’s hoping an MBA degree will allow him to move into a consulting job in civilian life. His ultimate ambition: To “develop into a future CEO.”

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

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 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. There’s also a video portion of the series (above) featuring Kreisberg live evaluating the prospects of one of our candidates: our gung-ho Air Force Captain who wants to become a future chief executive officer.

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:

PilotMr. Air Force Captain


  • 680 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from the University of Memphis
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from Penn State’s online program
  • Work experience as a combat systems officer in the U.S. Air Force
  • “I plan missions, operate weapons, and tell the pilot what to do. CSO is a rated slot (pilots, CSOs, RPAs and ABMs are all rated) and like all rated slots, they are highly competitive. I was an ROTC cadet.”
  • Extracurricular involvement in community service, including 150 hours during my Air Force career and more than 33 hours in college
  • “I am an extremely ambitious, business-minded person. I want to be a consultant so I can develop into a future CEO.”
  • 29-year-old Air Force Captain in the Air Force

Target Schools:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 15% to 20%
Chicago: 40%
Columbia: 40%
Berkeley: 50%+
UCLA: 50%+
Yale: 20% to 30%

Sandy’s Analysis:  I’ve said this before about the military and it’s important to underscore: The people who read admission folders are not veterans as a rule. They don’t have an understanding of what people do in the Armed Services. They have a very hard time determining whether you have a Gold, Silver or Bronze military career. They do understand that a military pilot is an elite thing. They understand that being a Navy Seal is an elite thing. They probably understand that being an Army Ranger is an elite thing.

If you are in the military, it’s very important that you give them a flavor of your career in terms they can understand. Unfortunately, what happens with military applicants is that your GPA and GMAT wind up counting a lot because those are easy elements for  admissions people to  understand.

What rank should you have? Most people who apply to business schools are captains. I think it is hard to get a rank higher than that within the typical five-year stint that people apply from. I don’t see many Colonels apply to business school. This guy is going to be a long shot at Harvard and Stanford with a 680 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA. There is nothing driving him in­in terms of gender, or an overcoming adversity story. Harvard and Stanford would just look for someone with higher stats.  The average GPA and GMAT scores of military admits to Harvard and Stanford would be an interesting set of numbers but I think it is higher than 3.5/680.

The only story that would overcome that would be a personal adversity narrative. He also comes across as a little too gung-ho, believe it or not. He says, ‘I am an extremely ambitious, business-minded person.’ You might think, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ Oddly, schools don’t like to hear that as directly as he puts it.

And they don’t want to hear that you want to be a consultant so you can be a future CEO. They want to hear that you want to be a consultant so that you can help companies grow and provide jobs and new opportunities.  Sure, that is what he meant, or maybe meant, but if the full application and touch and feel of the thing is too directly ambitious like that, it could be trouble.  Once you get outside of H+S, and if this application gets hip to the standard application BS, well, what you got is a pretty solid guy whom you’d like to have on your team in most situations. That should be enough at other schools he is interested in.

  • karthik.tra1@gmail.com

    Hi sandy, Jhon,

    can you guys please evaluate my profile.

    29 year old Indian male.

    GMAT- 760

    undergrad in business from not so well known school with average scores.
    2nd undergrad – bachelors in yoga and international culture from a renowned indian college (top 10% in class)

    postgrad in economics from top three indian institute with a gold medal (rank 1).

    1 yr work ex in institutional banking division of top aussie bank.

    2.5 yr ex as quant at GS (current)

    worked as an associate political strategist – advised a political party for legislative assembly elections.
    result of elections: party had a historical win.

    non academics: theatre actor – won state level best actor award (long ago)
    president of drama club, treasurer for college club.
    vice president of college, was a board member of world’s largest student union.

    extracur: teach yoga for underprivileged, has lead a project which helped
    a village to switch completely to organic farming.
    helped the same villagers to get grants from govt for toilets.
    this village has now been awarded as model village of india for 4 times.

    post mba goals: switch location and get into strategy consulting.
    long term goal: to start an independent consulting firm which focuses on developing

    targeting Insead, Kellogg, Lbs, Mit, H & S.
    Thank you.

  • Mr. Non-TFA Educator.

    Hi Sandy and John,

    I’m a really big fan of these profiles! I’d love it if you could do one for me: Mr. Non-TFA Educator.

    27 year old Male/URM (Biracial — Black/White).

    GRE: 168Q, 165V (both 95th percentile — 760 GMAT equivalent)

    Undergrad from top-20 American university (think Notre Dame/Vanderbilt/Wash U. type) — GPA 3.1. Despite poor GPA, can demonstrate upward trajectory (got 3.5 GPA last two years of undergrad, plus earned two master’s degrees — one in Liberal Arts, GPA 3.4, one in Education, GPA 4.0).

    Work Experience:

    Worked 3 years (currently in 4th year) as a classroom teacher through highly competitive alternate-route teaching program (not TFA, but has 10% acceptance rate, serves low income/minority students, and includes full scholarship for ed degree). Earned highest test scores in the district, coached sports while teaching, hired by my program after graduation to train new teacher candidates. Transferred to a charter school district after two years, where, after 1 year, I was placed into a district leadership position.

    Other Extracurriculars:

    Did lots of political internships during college, including working for Obama campaign press team. Founded an academic journal, coached sports while teaching, tutored low income/minority students.

    Career Goals:

    Work in consulting (ideally MBB) post-MBA for 3-5 years. After that, segue back into education sector to either do performance improvement for struggling districts or manage a major education organization.

    I want to attend a school that does well with social impact and consulting. School list includes Stanford, HBS, Kellogg, Tuck, Yale, Berkeley, UVA.

  • Ms. Big 4 Consultant

    Hi Sandy,

    I don’t know exactly how much weight goes to the different pieces of an application, so I was hoping you could help me judge.

    – 24 years old – Kashmiri, Muslim woman – US Citizen
    – 740 GMAT
    – BA in Economics from New Ivy (think BC, Notre Dame, NYU, Georgetown)
    – 3.24 GPA – this is what I’m really worried about but the trajectory is up, I unfortunately suffered from depression freshman year, and major GPA – 3.67, does that balance it out?
    – Transfer Pricing Consultant at Big 4 – started 2 years ago, promoted to Senior Associate, work on marquis accounts (bulge bracket banks, tech giants)
    – great recommenders – both supervisors and very successful women at the firm – one Wharton grad, another Harvard Kennedy School
    – Ultimate Goal: VC for tech startups

    For essays, I tried to keep them personal and use my own voice, some occasional humor. I talked about how I want to pursue tech finance because I love both tech and finance (I grew up with a dad that loved finance and I always loved computers, took some comp sci in school). I also talked about my depression and although I noted that it affected my grades, I really discussed it as a challenge I’ve overcome and added how it colors what I bring to leadership and the workplace. I don’t like using it as an excuse; it’s not one, I just think it’s important to qualify the “past performance indicates future performance” adage.

    I want to get an idea of my chances at H/S/W and Sloan. I also want to know what my chances are NYU and Columbia. Are there any other schools you think I should be thinking about?

  • “Mr. Banker”


    Thanks for the analysis…let’s assume for a second that I bumped my GMAT to 740 with a much stronger quant, have been consistently in the top 10% of my analyst class, and “community service” means active role on a junior Board with measurable results on iniatives I have taken…how would that change your analysis?


  • babyboom

    What is your result?

  • Sugu

    Hi Matt,

    Thanks again for your response! I definitely understand and appreciate your reasoning. I am certainly open to most schools in the Top 10-15 so I’ll hope for the best and see what happens!

  • Dakwok

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you for evaluating my profile. Very astute analysis. I agree that this would benefit from some clarity.

    So in essence, I have post strategy consulting experience in Deloitte Consulting S&O, and now working in fortune 1000, as the deputy head of strategy on CEO initiatives to develop corporate strategy, turnaround the firm, restructure, and build new businesses. It is a bit unusual because in house strategy roles are usually post Mckinsey/bain/bcg role, but I’m back tracking to get an MBA to get into PE, or go to Mckinsey or work in a fortune 100 firm doing the same thing.

    I currently work in the tech industry, where we don’t have a lot of junior people so aren’t that many kids going to Harvard because it usually requires a lot more experience to work in our industry. So I’ve been lucky to get into where I am now, skipping mckinsey, but i would like to get into HWS to have the pedigree under my belt, have mckinsey on my resume before going into PE or fortune 100.

    What do you think?

  • Cody

    Thanks Matt! Hopefully Sandy agrees and does an analysis for me… If he does read this, I would like him to know that I have reassessed my choice schools. Based on my low ranked undergraduate institution I would not likely get into the super elite programs. I have taken a step backed and refocused my sights. My Reach schools are Kellogg, Haas, Sloan and Tuck. The schools I think I may have a better shot at are UCLA, Duke, Ross, Darden, and my regional preference, Foster.

    Thanks again if you decide to evaluate my story!

  • Matt

    Hi Sugu, I am no expert so please take it with a grain of salt, but here are my thoughts.

    I don’t think there is much you can do at this point to change your profile. It is what it is, you know what I mean? Don’t get me wrong, your experience and education and etc. are all top notch (better than my own for sure). It’s just that at the level of HSW, the competition is extreme. Like at that level I think Accenture is considered 2nd tier consulting, and Michigan is 2nd tier as a university as well.

    I still think you should apply, I certainly don’t want to discourage you from that, but I don’t think you should let it get you down if you see a ding at the top schools. Who knows though, maybe you nail one of them. Your chances are probably good at the rest of the Top 10, and I think you are an excellent candidate for NYU.

    Have you considered Duke? That is a school on the rise it seems to me. Have you considered Michigan? I suspect you would be a shoo-in there! Just to flesh out some of those “safety” options. I feel like NYU is a finance school and you don’t mention financial services aspirations in your goal statement.

    Feel free to let me know what you think.

  • Shane Simbeck

    Thank you Matt. That is good to know, I know that Johnson school of Business (Cornell) is very receptive towards veterans also. My plan is to start taking the GMATs and begin the application process in 2015. Any more insight by others would be appreciated as well. Thanks!

  • Matt

    I am not qualified to give you an in depth analysis, but I will say that plenty of people go to business school with only military experience. I have heard that some schools are much more military friendly, for example Darden.

  • Sugu

    Hi Matt,

    Thank you very much for your reply, and I appreciate the kind words!

    If you don’t mind me asking, would you happen to have any suggestions as to how I could differentiate myself (given my experience) to push me over the edge?

    Again, thank you for your response!

  • Matt

    Don’t think you need to retake a 720 GMAT. Right age, good GPA, good GMAT, good experience, good extracurriculars..

    Sandy would probably say you are in a tough cohort and might not have enough extra special sauce mojo to “push you over the edge.”

    Best of luck!

  • Matt

    You seem like a great dude – best of luck.

  • Matt

    Bet you anything, Sandy would say your story, work history, and goal statements are all confusing. He’d suggest your employers may not be sexy enough and ask how many kids your current employer sends to Harvard each year.

    Good luck to you in your MBA search!!

  • Matt

    Sorry but I still think this assessment is way too harsh. 20% – 30% for Georgetown!? That seems off to me.. I’d be interested to hear some other opinions.

  • Yash Kotak

    Hi Sandy,

    I have been reading your analyses since the last couple of
    years and I really appreciate the help you are offering to prospective MBA

    I am applying for HBS 2+2 and Stanford GSB deferred admission in last round this year and it will be a big help if you can evaluate my profile.

    21 year old male, Indian

    GMAT- 770 (Q50, V44, IR 8, AW 5)

    Senior Undergraduate majoring in Electrical Engineering with Minors in Management and Computer Science from IIT (GPA 9.00/10)

    Accepted to Young Leaders Programme at the Indian School of Business

    Career Goal: To be an entrepreneur in Internet/Healthcare sector in India

    Internship experience:

    Internship in Business Development at an innovations division of a Fortune 500: Envisaged a multi-million dollar product opportunity and working on proof-of-concept. Co-invented 4 US patents (to be filed in a month or so)

    Worked in a research internship in Singapore for a month (foreign exposure)


    Entrepreneurship project: Working towards starting a Big Data company; have started testing and validating product with customers.
    Developed prototypes of smart cane for blind people and peripheral for quadriplegics as college projects.


    Leading student government of 25 students at IIT
    Led team of >50 people for organizing college festival events
    Student Counselor for 1 year
    Taught poor children at social initiative at IIT


  • FormerTFAer@Elite-MBA

    Lets be honest with ourselves — this is not an elite candidate profile and thus will not get in to elite schools. Keeping all this constant, you can eliminate Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Yale, and Northwestern from this list. There is literally no way this profile is accepted at a top 10 program.

    I would say your chances of getting to the rest are:
    UVA: 15% – 25%
    UNC: 20% – 30%
    Georgetown: 20% – 30%

    A couple things that would improve your profile:
    – Get a GMAT in the 720+ range… even 700’s aren’t that impressive these days
    – Get a job in the private sector, or something ‘management/strategy’ oriented in the public sector — but NOT with TFA. First off you are 24 years old, so you are on the young end, and the fact that you have only done work in TFA is not that compelling. Get a really sexy job in social impact (maybe use Education Pioneers or New Sector Alliance to help in placement)
    – Amp up your current extracurricular activities
    – Obviously other things you could do that would help, but are a little less control-able: write stellar essays (which means know very specifically what you want to do next) and secure out-of-this-world recommendations. Finally — visit all the schools and make a good impression.

    Good luck!

  • Dakwok

    Hi Sandy, John,

    Really appreciate all that you do…I would like to introduce myself: Mr. post consulting strategy manager.

    -27 year old male, american working in Asia; GMAT 730

    -undergrad in top state school in New York- double honors program, GPA 3.4 in financial economics, member of the top ranked debate team in the country
    -Started career in buyside portfolio management (top 3 institutional portfolio management fund) for less than a year due to financial crisis
    -Received master in econometrics (statistics) in a a top Australian University (with distinction)
    -2+ years in Deloitte Consulting Strategy & Operations at consultant level (post business analyst) in Asia
    -1.5 years in leading customer strategy consulting firm (top performer, assignment manager, and also written winning proposals)
    -1+ year as the deputy head of strategy & business development for Asia Pacific in a fortune 1000 payments company (market leader in the field) working on grow strategy, M&A, and also restructuring

    Post MBA goal is to enter MBB (Mckinsey, Bain, BCG) with a longer term goal of either transitioning to PE (on the portfolio management side to turn around and grow companies), move up the ladder in consulting to become partner, or enter industry in tech or consumer payments as a general manager to grow & manage a PnL

    I want to attend a MBA program with strength in both Finance and Consulting; therefore, Target Schools: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, CBS, Kellogg, Booth, MIT

    Many thanks!

    Mr. post-consulting strategy manager

  • Cody

    Wish this was not so long! Sorry for writing a novel!

  • Cody J.

    Lets see what you think! Just an average joe following his dream!

    – 720 GMAT
    – 3.65 GPA (4.0 major GPA)
    – Business Major from a private school in California. Ranked 161 nationally.
    This was completed entirely on active duty.
    – 7 years, United States Air Force, NCO (Not officer). Multiple awards and
    distinctions. I served as a strategy consultant to our top level decision
    makers(Strategic Intelligence Analyst). It is my job to chart out the most
    efficient and effective way to disable our adversary systems. After I have
    conducted in depth analysis, it is my job to identify any system flaws and highlight the critical elements associated with those systems. I change that technical information into easily understood terms for leadership. After all of that, I would then have to sell my concept and idea to leadership. I am essentially a consultant to executives for short term and long term planning at the absolute highest level. Front line management experience, and proven ability to build effective teams.
    – MBA will be paid for by the GI Bill
    – Extracurricular: Mentor for under-achieving children and teens without
    stable family lives. Special Olympics Coordinator, Led many central coast initiatives related to beach cleanups, recycling days ect. Groups I organized collected nearly 3k
    lbs of waste from central coast beaches.
    – I will be applying to HBS, Stanford, Haas, Wharton, Tuck, Duke, Booth and
    – I want to advance my consulting related experience into a strong business role. It is my goal to help companies in the Pacific North West grow. I want to help create a more stable job market for America. Also, I want to serve as a role model to under privileged teens and children looking for inspiration and a success story.

    Additional information! Very important I think!
    – First generation college student.
    – Raised lower class, family on welfare.
    – Lived with many different people growing up. (Unstable family life-Drugs,
    abuse, jail, ect.)
    I plan to highlight these aspects of my life, not as a pity party, but as a
    story of success and inspiration. I currently mentor children and teens that have hardship similar to what I experience growing up. I hope to show them that no matter what anyone tells them, hard work and dedication can get you anywhere.

    Thank you!

  • Sugu

    Hi Sandy,

    Your posts have been incredibly helpful, and I would love your input on my profile:

    I am a 26 year old Asian-Indian from New York City.

    – BSE, Mechanical Engineering from the University of Michigan- Ann Arbor
    – GPA: 3.65 (Magna Cum Laude)
    – GMAT: 720 (Retake?)

    Work Experience:
    – 4 years with Accenture as a Systems Integration & Technology Consultant
    o Project experiences include work in application development, system implementation, and digital analytics
    o Individual role experiences have evolved from technical to more functional positions with heavy client exposure as well as experience managing an offshore team in China.

    – Managed 70+ person Accenture Volunteer Committee to organize, publicize, and participate in 30+ community service initiatives (soup kitchens, walk-a-thons, community clean-ups, etc.) with 15+ non-profit organizations.
    – Led $20,000 fundraising campaign to help build and implement clean and safe water solutions in Kenya, Uganda, India, and Malawi through a New York-based non-profit organization.
    – Organized Accenture-sponsored Blood Drive through local New York blood bank acquiring 29 blood donations for 87 people in need. ·

    MBA Goals
    – Short Term: Transition from Technology Consulting to Strategy Consulting.
    – Long Term: Technology Strategy or General Management role in the Non-Profit space. Ideally, I would like to integrate Technology into the way Non-Profit organizations operate so that they can better address their cause.

    – Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Northwestern, Columbia, NYU

    Thank you very much for your consideration.

  • Indian IIT Solar Guy

    Hi Sandy,
    Can you please have a look at my profle?
    25 year old Male, Indian
    Planning to apply for the 2015 intake
    GMAT – 750 (50 Q, 38 or so in V)
    Graduation – Mechanical Engg IIT (GPA 8/10 but in the top 10% of the class)
    Work experience :-
    1) Out of college – 3 years in a Tier 2 strategy consulting firm (think delloite,KPMG etc) in the Indian office. First year I worked on whatever was given to me and then chose to be one of their first employees to start working in the solar sector. Worked in consulting for solar for 2 years post that doing your standard consulting assignments.
    2) Post consulting till date – Work as a Business Development manager in one of the countries biggest solar energy companies focused on India. The company has a good track record of sending employees to the M7 (mostly M4-M7). My work is very varied and I am constantly leading teams much more experienced than me. My role involves getting large scale projects in solar set up and then selling the energy to customers (government bodies, farmers , retail customers etc). I chose to work in this company post consulting primarily to understand how solar technology really gets installed and how electricity generation , transmission and distribution from various sources work.
    Goal Post MBA – Work in a solar company focused on the small scale market to learn how to build up a energy retail business,. I will have learnt the necessary knowledge on how to install and create large solar projects in my current job. Long term I want to set up / be part of a solar company focused on supplying power to utilities and retail customers in Africa and Asia.
    Target Schools :-
    Berkeley (Basically schools with both strong MBA and strong alternative energy research programs)

  • HSWaspirant

    Hi John,
    Thanks for doing a great job and hope my profile will be assessed by Sandy.
    Please evaluate whether my profile is competent for top 5 schools in US or Top 5 schools in Europe.

    Program Interested: MBA FT

    Work experience:
    Total 5 years in Technology consulting (SAP). First 3 years in Indian MNC IT
    consultancy firm and next 2 years in Big 4 consulting firm (PwC).
    2 promotions in these 5 years.
    Have experience in leading a team of 10 people in my project. All my
    work is from home country (India) but worked with US, Europe people.

    GMAT: 700

    GPA: Bachelors 77% (1st class with distinction) in Computer Science from Anna University (2008) (Top 5student in my class) – Diploma 90% (1st class with honors) in Instrumentation & control engg.(2005) (State 4th Rank – news came in paper but i don’t have the paper with me now)

    Extra curricular activities:
    During college I developed a Student Management software for my college
    to help efficiently manage students information, College football team
    captain, Company cricket team captain, volunteer for Rotary club
    International and other NGO involved with under privileged children. Lead a team of 100 in National Cadet Corps.

    Nationality: Indian
    Age: 26/M
    Certifications: SAP Certified in Supply Chain module
    Target programs: Harvard/Stanford/Wharton/Tuck and other top programs in US and Europe
    When you apply: In the next 1 year

    Post MBA goal: Short Term – To get into Management consulting to help businesses grow profitable. Long Term – To be seen as a go to guy for business transformation who leads the company from bankruptcy to profitable path.

    Thanks for reading and evaluating the profile.

  • reiman

    Hi Sandy/John –

    I’ve found these types of postings to be very insightful.

    I’ll be looking at applying to schools for the fall 2015.

    Hispanic male, raised Europe/US

    Age at enrollment: 28
    Years working experience at enrollment: 5

    College: Top Southeast Public University (think VTech/Gtech/NCSU)
    Undergrad – Computer Engineering, 3.89
    Masters – Computer Engineering, 4.0

    Expected GMAT: 680-700

    -During grad school, I also took 2 Technology Entrepreneurship courses with the University’s school of business which was a joint program between engineering/business and the technology incubator on-campus. We went the the process of surveying available technologies on-campus and taking them through the business-plan development and venture capital pitch.

    -Throughout college/grad school/professional work was very involved with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Held various leadership positions, participated in local hispanic community volunteer events, and provided scholarships to local students via my company.

    -Work for 5 years as an embedded software developer for top mobile industry giant. Individual contributor for ~2 years, then served as software lead on various projects leading development for up to 5 other developers (often more senior). Constantly pulled into front-facing customer meetings for technical presentations and brainstorming. Last 3 years, relocated to serve as the main point of contact and site-lead for a small remote office in another tech-centric part of the country (same division). Position is still developer-focused, in addition to leading the local hiring, space management, strategic development of future on-site projects, and interfacing with other divisional groups on-site. Recently received a promotion which is the fastest anyone has moved to my level of developer in the division.

    -In the distant future I’d like to see myself as a CTO for a tech company or a division VP leading strategic direction. In the short term, working as a tech-focused product manager or consultant in the technology and/or green energy sectors are very appealing to me.

    Based on my research my top schools would be:



    I’d appreciate any suggestions and/or insight!

    Thank you!

  • Legitimate Question plzAnswer!

    SK and JB, I have a really good question but you’ve already done my profile. But since you only do one “thing” at a time, and this is the current one, gotta ask here.

    OK for the past decade plus, it’s been HSW, right? And now people are saying B is joining the party and it’s mad awkward because W won’t roll over and give up that easy. But I’ve heard a few older people say Stanford wasn’t always so great, blasphemy I know, and it was HBK or HWB or something. But not clear on when this was, how long it lasted, or how many other pretty much agreed upon leader clusters there have been.

    So my question is, what have been the generally accepted top programs been over the years? The rankings only go back so far, and most of them are pretty bizzare. So I’m not asking who’s been ranked the highest, but who people really thought were the best, say in each decade. What people actually thought, not just the biased few claiming their school is the best, like the people who come on this website and try to push their program up the ranks via pure force of will and number of comments, i.e. “where is Fuqua getting all this momentum from?!” “Can Cornell become top 3 by 2015?! At this rate, who knows! I’m just asking!” “wow that Fuqua!”


  • Shane Simbeck

    Forgot to add, Major in Business concentration Finance.

  • Shane Simbeck

    Hi Sandy,

    I really need advice and an assessment of my situation. My goal is to go to Cornell. I am a four year veteran and in my last semester of undergrad. I went right from high school to enlisting in the military then right from the military to undergrad.

    I will graduate with a 3.85 GPA and am 25 years old. I go to a private liberal arts school that has barely any alumni in high finance/Wall Street positions. My goal is to break into the hedge fund industry and some day own my own hedge fund. I love the stock market and trading and investing and have been independently investing since I was 19. Lets assume I get a GMAT score of 720.

    How important is it for me to get a good job out of undergrad to get into a top 15 school like Cornell? What if I just try to go right from undergrad to get my MBA? Would I have a chance at getting accepted to Cornell with 3.85 GPA and 720 GMAT, 4 years of military experience but no really solid corporate experience? I would really appreciate your input as I graduate in 3 months and am clueless on whether or not I would even have a chance at a top 15 school. Thanks!

  • Matt

    I agree that H & S are unlikely. I also agree that a better GMAT/GRE score would be very helpful – a 700+ GMAT or equivalent is usually recommended!

    I don’t agree that he can’t get into any of those schools; in fact, I like that he has chosen schools across a broad spectrum. Mr. Do-Gooder, I would say you have a good shot at UVa, a great shot at UNC, and I think you will be accepted at Georgetown.

  • Latino Asian

    Hi Sandy,

    Can you please asses my chances into some of my MBA school


    Asian Male: 23 (am I too young?)

    Latino background, actually born and raised in a Latin
    American country

    Fluent in: Spanish, English and Cantonese. Medium level proficiency
    in Mandarin

    Gre (V:166, Q:166, A:4.0) Percentile (96%, 93%, 54%). Don’t
    think they care much about Analytical writing. Using the GMAT comparison tool
    from ETS, this compares to a 740 GMAT.

    B.S. in Actuarial Science, with some actuarial exams passed
    (these are hard and very quantitative tests), maybe I can talk about them…

    3.5~3.6 GPA range (right around the middle) from a state
    school in the southeast (think FSU, UF, UM)

    Work experience: Just started… Around 3 months as a sales
    consultant for a not well-known software company.

    ECs: Silver Medal in both Physics and Chemistry Olympiads in
    high school

    Corporate Sponsorship Chair in Professional Organization
    while in college

    Student Senator in College

    Vice-President of fraternity

    Why MBA: Want to go to the challenging field of finance, preferably
    working as an investment banking associate at first and maybe switch to PE/HF
    down the road. I want to challenge myself intellectually. My goal would to be
    to open/partner to create a new PE or HF fund with the experience I gain, in my
    country. After that I would like to enter into politics to better the economic
    and social problems there.

  • Startedatthebottomnowwehere

    Hi John,

    I hope you’ll pass on my profile to Sandy.

    Male, Indian Origin, 26
    BA: Political Science,with commendation from small Liberal Arts College: think Oberlin, Macalaster, Middlebury
    GPA:3.46 with steady upward trend: was a 4.0 senior year
    GRE: 161 V 159 Q

    Bio: Moved to the States in the late 90’s but realized a few years in that I was undocumented. Recently got accepted to President Obama’s DACA, allowing me to legally work in the States and am beginning to transition out of restaurant work. Working part time for a food start up with long term plans of building my own company to compete in the fast casual food space. Three years working at high end restaurants and managed to put myself through a highly respected four year college despite no SS number.

    Currently working at restaurants in the evening and building business experience at the food startup during the day. Spend two days a month volunteering at a soup kitchen. Helping organize a music festival.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts because I bring a somewhat unusual background to the party and I’m sure there are other people with my DACA background that are curious to know if our unusual backgrounds will be a hindrance or virtue during the admissions process

    Many thanks,

  • pogotosh

    Hi Sandy, John,

    Really admire and appreciate your work. Will appreciate if my you can evaluate my profile

    27 year old Male, Indian.

    GMAT- 720 (Q49, V40, IR 7), 94th Percentile

    Undergrad from India in Mechanical Engineering- Non IIT but Prestigious State Engineering School. GPA 7.649/10 ( 4.0 GPA based on WES)

    Masters in Management from London School of Economics (68% , 3.60/4.0 based on WES)

    Worked for 9 Months in Manufacturing in Tata Motors after Under Grad. Working in a Bulge Bracket British Bank in London for past 3.5 Years in a Portfolio Management function.

    CFA (Chartered Financial Analyst) Qualified

    Have been involved with Societies at Uni during my UG and PG. Also involved with Charities focused at Child Education since my UG days. Also functioned as a mentor to underprivileged kids in India and in London during my Masters. Currently involved as a Volunteer with a Charity in London that helps under-privileged children in India and also mentor graduates and assist them in preparing for Interviews at Banks . Have also raised funds on 2 occasions for Charities including trekking to Ben Nevis, Tallest Mountain in UK.

    Currently interested in an MBA as I am interested to further my career in Investment Management. Immediate Post MBA goal is to work in an Investment Management firm within their Research or Strategy Function. Long Term MBA goal is to start a investment management advisory in India.

    Hence Target schools are B-Schools renowned for being strong in Finance. These being Booth, Wharton, Columbia and Stern. I am also considering Harvard owing to its reputation and their Network.

    Can you please handicap my odds?

  • Realistic

    Do your GRE score is too low, your goal sucks, and your choice of schools is way too high. Take the GMAT. Real MBA applicants take the GMAT. There is relatively little data for GRE scores. 159 on the Quant side for the GRE is low. You won’t get into any of those schools, despite the high GPA. For your goal, you don’t need an MBA for that.

  • Mr. Do-gooder

    Hi Sandy,

    -24-year-old white male

    -GRE 162V, 159Q (or about a GMAT 650)

    -3.76 GPA (Phi Beta Kappa)
    -Undergraduate degree in history from large state school think Virginia Tech, NC State, Rutgers (graduated in 3yrs)

    -Work experience as a Teach For America Corps Member teaching 1st grade and 2nd grade
    -Promoted to Grade Level Chair in charge of 5 teachers and process of reviewing instructional
    practices, appointed to my schools Race to the Top Committee

    -After TFA worked as a Peace Corp Volunteer serving in Guatemala teaching middle school english and science

    Extra Curriculars include:

    -Wrote for College Newspaper, Officer of History Honor Society (Phi Alpha Theta) and won Best Chapter Award

    -Served on Teach For America Development Committee (in charge of fundraising and media outreach)

    -Founded an after school drama program and science program at my placement school during TFA
    -Fluent in Spanish

    -Goal:“I want to create a network of international charter schools teaching skills needed for the 21st century economy.”

    Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Yale, Northwestern, UVA, UNC Kenan-Flagler, Georgetown



    Mr. Do-Gooder

  • Bass

    Hey Sandy,

    I’d like you to asses my profile:

    Indian Male, 25
    BS in Biology 3.6 GPA
    GMAT – 790

    After college, I was a full-time musician for two years. Did loads of gigs, played with some big people, etc.

    A year in a start-up in the education sector.

    Two years at a Digital Marketing firm – working with clients across domains such as oil & gas, travel, banking, etc. Involvement in three verticals of the company. I’m also Reporting to the GM of one of India’s biggest private sector companies.

    Google Analytics Qualified

    I have also completed two online programs:
    Content Marketing Strategy by Northwestern University (Brownie points for Kellogg?)

    A Online Calculus Course offered by UPenn on Coursera – I did this because I wanted to showcase some proficiency at Math & Calculus since schools like to see it and I’ve been out of touch at it since high school.

    Volunteer Work includes working for an organization that caters to mentally challenged children. Also experienced in working with a Department of The Police that helps women who’ve suffered hate crimes.

    Post-MBA – Work in Management Consulting.

    Looking at schools like Kellogg, Tuck, Berkeley. Is there any scope for me to get in any higher ranked programs than these?


  • Sepujr

    Dear Sandy,

    I’m a huge fan of this awe-inspiring series, please check out my profile and assess
    my odds of getting into a top school:

    – 29 year old Hispanic/Latino male, 30 at matriculation (dual citizenship, US-Dominican

    – Business major from a top caliber school in the country; 3.33 undergrad GPA (received
    & maintained a merit based grant despite having to work & study @ the same time); Aiming for +700 GMAT

    – Currently working @ the Central Bank of DR as a Senior Analyst/Management Consultant for 5+ years across Corporate Strategy, Development and Project Portfolio Management to achieve superior alignment, efficiency and effectiveness in Strategic and Operational Plans. Earned promotion to join team as the youngest Analyst in a group of four Consultants

    – Business Analyst Volunteer, founding member of the country’s Project Management
    Institute Chapter, serving as lead bilingual liaison between the board and the Project Management Institute in management operations and local growth strategy (3+ years)

    – Business Analyst Volunteer at a Disaster and Humanitarian Relief non-profit,
    aligned planning and work-plan with key performance indicators and deliverables, and
    also created operating plan frameworks (1+ year)

    – Career goals: An MBA (with a strong focus on Finance, Non-Profit and Entrepreneurship) is the next indispensable step to leverage business competencies, gain leadership capabilities and strengthen soft skills:
    + Return to the institution as Chief of current Division in the short term
    + Long-term: Deputy Director of the branch- as an aspiring innovative-impactful leader in the organization, I’m committed to transforming our branch into a Center of Excellence for
    Business Analysis and Project Management

    – Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Columbia & Tuck (strongly considering a joint degree MBA-MPP/MPA-ID to fully integrate a
    policy-making and economic impact perspective)

    Thanks in advance for your time and cooperation, keep up the good work.

    Mr. Strategic Planner

  • hbsguru

    take some courses to develop an alt transcript. get that GMAT, beyond that a lot depends on work history and how assured adcoms are that you are not classroom-phobic. On facts presented, going to have a hard time in top 8. If you got other assets,well, that can help.

  • PeterParker

    Hi i have a question on applying to MBA programs for a hispanic male with 2.4-2.7 GPA from a top public university, but getting a GMAT score like 700??…what school are possibilities? thanks

  • OSUBuckeye


    I’ve been reading your column for a long time and would like to share my stats as I will be applying to schools this year for Fall 2015 entry.

    -24 year old American Male, 700 GMAT

    -3.47 GMAT from Ohio State (Finance Degree) Graduated early in 3.5 years

    -Work experience at matriculation (54 months) All in specialty retail at two different companies in Columbus (Think Abercrombie, Express, Limited Brands, DSW, etc.) First in planning/allocation and currently in financial planning and analysis.

    -Outside of work: Volunteer with a local youth hockey program targeted at giving mentally or physically disabled children the ability to play the sport.

    -Career Goals: Career switch into Investment Banking. This has long been a goal of mine however, I graduated when firms were not hiring (especially kids from non-targets) due to the crisis.

    Targets (Dream Schools)
    -Harvard, Wharton, Booth, Columbia, NYU, Kellogg, Dartmouth, Yale, Fuqua, Darden

  • Ranked

    My pleasure John, and thank you for the site! It has been a great resource, and I’ve been following it for quite some time now.

  • Ranked

    I think that if you are smart, and you assumably are if you are applying to b-school, then you can pretty much dress up any military assignment to make it sound impressive. From reading your past posts I think you’ve caught onto this. Now, and this is important, I do not necessarily mean that in a negative way – the fact is all the jobs are important, demanding, and entail significant and meaningful contributions. They’re all good jobs, and this is really true regardless of officer or enlisted. Of course, the more glamorous jobs are always going to be Special Forces (SEALs, Rangers) and pilots (everybody wants to be Maverick), but everyone is pulling his or her weight and it’s usually not too difficult to dilineate that. The hard part for some people is filitering out the jargon.
    To your question: I can only speak to Navy because that is my background, but I think that any job involving nuclear technology would probably stand out to an ADCOM. This would include any officer aboard a submarine (they are all nuclear trained) and a handful of officers serving aboard nuclear aircraft carriers. These jobs are very selective and the training pipeline is long and difficult (many drop out). Explosive Ordnance Disposal is pretty “sexy” as well. These guys deploy and diffuse explosives, and roll with the SEALs. Beyond that all the jobs are special in their own way, but with a declining “wow factor”. Hope that helps.

  • Mr. Ed Reform

    Thanks John! I am really excited to hear back from Sandy!!1

  • JohnAByrne

    That’s very cool, Hamm0. And Johnson and Ross are great schools with fantastic MBA programs. Congrats!

  • hbsguru

    thanks for the roadmap. Do you have any insight into what ‘gigs’ in the military outside of pilot and SEAL/Ranger are instantly noticed by adcoms as being special. Or am I right, that most adcoms have a hard time making sense of a successful vs. OK military career based on assignment, etc. I’ve been following the current cheating “scandal” with the missle launch guys and I noted with interest that since the Cold War, that assignment has become a lot less ‘sexy.’ All that said, I remember one military applicant who got into HBS and one of his major accomplishments was going to GITMO to help enlisted men fill out their IRS forms, no kidding, he set up a service on the base.
    He also had real solid GPA/GMAT and was the type of guy you would send to do that.

  • JohnAByrne

    Mr. Ed Reform,

    Wow. That’s an impressive list of accomplishments. I will definitely put you in the mix for a future evaluation from Sandy. Thanks for reaching out and sharing your profile with us. Good luck to you–and keep your eye out for the next edition of handicapping. You’ll be in it!


  • JohnAByrne


    We love getting feedback and I’m more than happy to hear that Sandy was pretty accurate with his debrief on you. Thanks for reading!


  • JohnAByrne


    Thanks for your explanation. Really appreciate it because we have a good number of readers at P&Q who are in the military and view the MBA degree as a great transition device back to civilian life. Good luck to you and thanks so much for your service!


  • Mr. Ed Reform


    Thanks for all you do… I’d like to introduce myself: Mr. Ed Reform

    – 26 year old male, born in the US, parents from India; GMAT: 760, 99th percentile

    – Finance and Marketing double major from top big-ten undergrad business program (think: Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin); 3.2 GPA; masters classes for TFA = 3.7 GPA; College leadership included being President of Fraternity among other top leadership distinctions (won numerous college and national awards for leadership)

    – Post college: Teach For America, H.S. math teacher (2 years) – results in the ~top 5% of all TFA teachers nation-wide (also helped bring ~$150K+ in tech. grants to school)

    – Currently: Accenture, Strategy Consulting (2.5 years) – worked across M&A, Private Equity, and Non-Profit spaces; Received highest project ratings and numerous awards

    – Also founded 1.5 year old non-profit matching my consulting and education reform interests – much decorated, including admission to international accelerator program; involved in a host of other smaller extracurricular activities spread across my college fraternity, TFA, Accenture, etc.

    – Career Goals: long-term – run a large charitable foundation (e.g. Gates, Clinton, Rockefeller), or at least the education-investment arm; short-term – work in Impact Investing (e.g. Acumen Fund, Robin Hood Foundation, Skoll Foundation) where education reform work is much more cutting edge. I am specifically interested in the growing field of Social Impact Bonds.

    – I want to attend a MBA program with strength in both Finance and Non-Profit; therefore, Target Schools: HBS, Stanford, CBS, Kellogg, Yale, Haas, Tuck, Stern

  • Ranked

    Sandy – always appreciate your analysis of military applicants, and I hope you will continue to profile these guys/gals moving forward. Just wanted to confirm for you the assumption that “Captain” is the rank most likely for a military b-school applicant.

    The rank of Captain (O-3 paygrade) is attained in 3-4 years, depeding on the branch of service (for the Navy the rank titles are different, and Captain = Lieutenant). The time required to reach the rank above Captain/Lieutenant (which is a Major or Lietenant Commander depending on service) is quite long. I can’t speak for all the services but I know in the Navy it takes between 6-8 years after becoming a Lieutenant to promote to Lieutenant Commander, and barring some kind of miracle battlefield spot promotion there is no way to advance that timeline regardless of how good you are. At that point you’re talking a total of 10-12 years of service, and people tend to just stay in at that point as they are already halfway to retirement (20 years, best deal out there). That’s why you probably don’t see many people above the rank of Captain or Lieutenant applying. Also, a Colonel is an O-6, which means he or she has been in the military for 20 years or more.

  • Hamm0

    Always love reading these – some interesting stories out there.
    FYI Sandy, you were pretty accurate on the debrief you did for me a couple years ago!