Your Chances Of Getting Into An Elite Business School

by John A. Byrne on

He’s a 25-year-old U.S. Marine Captain who has had two combat deployments under his belt. With a 730 GMAT score on his first try and a 3.57 grade point average in accounting, he wants an MBA degree to transition back into civilian life.

He’s a 26-year-old analyst at a boutique management consulting firm after having spent two years at an IT support firm for hedge funds. Captain of his college hockey team at a liberal arts school in New England, he has a 740 GMAT and a 3.3 GPA. He hopes to use an MBA to shift to being a strategy consultant for the technology industry.

She’s a 31-year-old woman who has worked at the same financial service technology company for eight full years. But outside of work, she is clearly a person seeking adventure: she is into mountain biking, kayaking, hiking and yoga. With a 680 GMAT and a 3.4 GPA, this white female professional wants to earn an MBA to make a transition into consulting.

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. 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.)

This week’s batch is a special video collection of candidates’ chances. So you can watch the video tape dissection or simply read what Sandy has to say about each applicant’s odds to get into their target schools.

Sandy’s candid lowdowns:

Mr. Marine


  • 730 GMAT (first try)
  • 3.57 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Kansas, graduating in three and one-half years
  • Work experience as a U.S. Marine, having served two combat deployments
  • Was commissioned at the age of 21 and will come out as a captain
  • 25-year-old male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40%
Stanford: 30%
Wharton: 40% to 50%
Chicago: 40% t0 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: This is a case where everything lines up. The University of Kansas is the kind of school that Harvard and Stanford like to accept people from if they can.

The 3.57 in accounting is a couple of eyelashes on the low side, but the 730 GMAT helps him there. And then he has had a distinguished military career with two deployments. As I have said many times, admissions officers have a very difficult time hashing out a military career. Ghey don’t know what a golden career is versus a silver or bronze. One of the things they do understand are deployments. He’s got that going for him and he seems to have graduated to captain in what seems like a fast amount of time. That’s helpful.

Depending on how this guy tells his story, guys like this get into Harvard certainly. Stanford there might be a missing X factor that we don’t know about. At Harvard, he is in the hopper for sure.

Business schools are open to the military, but in their minds, there is the good military and the bad military. They’ll never admit this, but in the bad military are those who conform to the stupid stereotype of military people: that they are gung-ho, that they follow orders, and aren’t very reflective. If he presents that way, he will damage himself. A good military candidate is reflective, non-kinetic in anything other than a combat situation, and likable.

It’s a question of how you come cross. Do you have a more fluid body language. If you go in there with the yes-ma’am, no-ma’am stuff, they don’t like it.

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  • Mr, Religious Institution Grad

    Hey I would love for you to give me my odds of getting into, Columbia University, Sterns, or Rutgers Business school (I choose these based on their being located in the tri-state area, if you think others would be more appropriate please share your thoughts) for a MBA

    This is my Profile

    -22 Years old, White male, American born and bred, Jewish Orthodox Religious.

    -GMAT score: N/A (Haven’t taken it yet)

    -GPA: 3.8

    -BA in Religious Studies

    Our school system just gives every one who actually completes it, the above degree. So instead of going back to a mainstream college for a bachelors of business, I’ve decided it makes more sense to only put in time and money of years worth of education to walk out with a MBA. A better degree, less years, and (possibly) cheaper.

    My only Full-Time work experience was

    Program Director for a local Elementary School that I did for one year as a volunteer,

    mentoring 66 college students in programs interacting them with the elementary kids etc… This was done as part of my certification to receive my degree.

    and summer jobs such as,

    -I’ve been a Curriculum Supervisor and Program Director for a camp of 100 kids.

    -As well as Assistant Director and Director of Drama for a camp with 300 children.

    Personal Business Experience:

    -Founded and built a eBay business in my senior year of High School, sales for this past year exceeded $70,000 all as a part-time enterprise while in college.

    -As part of the eBay business have managed 3 part time college employees effectively raising their productivity and profit margins.


    -Short term I plan graduating with an MBA then going into either manufacturing or technology to get a feel for the fields and decide where my true passion lies (as well as make my mistake while working for someone else).

    -.Long term. My dream is to go into business for myself, building up my own company until its impact is felt everywhere (One can always dream XD “There are no limits to your imagination, just how much effort you manage to put into making it a reality” My personal motto)

  • Nikolaki

    John and Sandy,

    As another Marine Captain with a different profile, I request that you evaluate my chances:

    -Applying to CBS early decision and Stern first round for 2015
    -I will have just turned 29 by matriculation
    -White male who is about to get married
    -GMAT 710 (44q 44v) one attempt
    -GPA 2.98 in marketing at a Catholic school in Philadelphia
    -PMP qualification
    -12 years playing rugby at various levels including serving as club president for 3 years and team captain for 1 year during college, as well as 3 time All Marine Rugby player (1 time team captain against British Royal Marines) and 1 time All Armed Forces

    Work Experience:
    -3.5 years as a Marine logistics officer (at time of application) including a combat deployment to Afghanistan; various leadership positions and cross functional team development
    -3 years of experience in the international affairs program track working with various Latin American militaries including 9 total months working in the U.S. Embassy, Mexico City
    -I have done the “standard” military stuff of leading Marines in combat and serving on staffs at various levels (think logistic analyst) as well as the “non-standard” military stuff of being hand picked to advise the 5th largest Marine Corps in the world (who happens to be currently deployed all throughout their nation against the drug cartels)
    -I have a number of military qualifications based around strategic messaging, cross cultural communications, leadership and strategy/ planning

    -To attend a top ranked business school in NYC (there’s a reason I’m transitioning out of the Marines) and pursue employment in Latin American business development or global wealth management so that 3-5 years down the road I can transition to a non profit organiztion focused on Latin America

    -I have a strong geographic preference of NYC which severly limits my options
    -My poor undergraduate GPA will certainly not help me but I can show how the dip in my grades is partially related to attending officer candidate school and, more importanly, how I have developed strong time management skills and the ability to thrive in diverse, often uncertain environments

    Parting thoughts:
    -I will need to carefully craft my story of what I have done and leverage my diverse international experiences to create a compelling plan
    -As a reservist, I will work in the civil-military operations field also specializing in Latin America
    -While I won’t say that I am “extremely motivated” I will say that I have a “burn the ships mentality” and will accomplish my goals

    Thanks for the help! Please evaluate the chances of more military applicants as I’m sure I’m not the only one that would appreciate it.

    Also, FYI, promotions in the officer ranks in the military are mainly timeline based early on in ones career. For example, in the Marines you will get promoted to Captain at around 4.5 years time in service (+/- 3 months). There really isn’t much you can do to accelarate that.

  • WannabeCentralBanker

    Dear Sandy,

    Thanks in advance for a critique of my profile:

    31 y/o Indian male
    GPA: 3.55/4 in Chemical Engineering from IIT (WES Conversion)
    GMAT: 720 (50Q; 38V)
    WE: 6 years – 1 year as a Petroleum Engineer in the largest (oil) energy company of SouthAsia. Followed by 5 years in Indian Administrative Service (IAS), the premier public management cadre of Indian Government – highly selective entry with 0.05% selection rate and assured career path – best people retire as Central Bankers or Secretaries of Treasury etc. Worked on assignments in 4 southeast Asian countries. Project finance and program management roles, 2 big awards by government and 2 quick promotions. Strong recs.
    ST Goal: To head the Investment Management Division of the chief capital market regulator of India. (think of Security Exchange Commission) – a PhD in Econ or a top MBA is huge plus and also a unwritten requirement. This position usually occupied by people of my service (IAS) with 7-10 years more experience than me. So an MBA cuts the slack.
    LT Goal: Central Banker/Chairman of (Indian) SEC
    Masters: Pursuing 2 year Masters from Harvard Kennedy School of Government (on Scholarship – so couldn’t take up dual degrees) – GPA: 4.1/5 might improve by 2015.
    Extracurriculars: Student General Secretary in undergrad, Leadership in Rotary Club, Led operations of the largest student run conference at Harvard
    Schools: Yale SOM, Kellogg (1Y), Columbia (J-Term), INSEAD, London

    Best Regards

  • montanasosa21 .

    NYU (legacy)
    University of Michigan
    University of Pennsylvania
    University of California-Berkley

    22 Years Old, White-Latino Male
    GMAT 750
    GPA 3.9
    University of Denver, DU
    Work Experience:
    Shadowing Physicians, Private Offices
    Emergency Room Volunteer
    Possible Internship with JP Morgan in Commercial Banking (3 Months Summer Internship)

  • MNRC

    Marine captain – 730 GMAT
    Business analyst – 740 GMAT
    Woman – 680 GMAT

    How sexist can you get? First, the men all have titles–“marine captain”, “analyst”–while the woman is just a “woman”. That’s not even a title, that’s a gender! Where is the job title for the woman?? And why does the she have the lowest GMAT score? Thanks, your gender discrimination is really supportive to women interested in business school.

    I am a woman and a master’s degree candidate in applied math continuing to a PhD. I am at one of the top 5 applied maths programs in the United States. I have a perfect GRE quantitative score. I am far from the exception to the rule. You need to adjust your articles to better reflect the realities out there–that there are A LOT of women (albeit mostly Asian American or foreign-born) who are able to completely crush these standardized tests.

  • MNRC

    I think your chances look very good. I am currently a student in a master’s program in applied math at a top 5 U.S. school. I can’t advise your on MBA programs, but generally speaking, business schools are looking for future leaders that will make a big impact on society in some way. If you can get excellent recommendations from senior executives or upper management at a prestigious company, it will go a long way in improving your chances of acceptance.

  • IowaCityHawkeye

    I’d love to know my success:

    -730 GMAT
    -3.83 GPA in Political Science and Geography from the University of Iowa
    -Currently in Master’s in Public Affairs program at Princeton University
    -2 years working in Myanmar for a social enterprise on solar energy
    -1 year working in Beijing for a non-profit on energy efficiency
    -Several national awards, including the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, Morris K. Udall Scholarship, Coca-Cola Scholarship
    -Fluent in Chinese

    I’m a 25 year old American and will be finished my degree at Princeton when I’m 27 (will have 3 years of work experience). I’m interested in social enterprise and wondering what my chances are for Stanford and Harvard are… Thanks!

  • ERM

    Hi, Sandly. I’d love to hear what you think about my chances for Wharton, Stanford, and Harvard.

    -25 year old, caucasian, transgender male
    -GMAT score: 700
    -GPA: 3.9 (Graduate program in social work from ivy league univ.), 3.79 (Undergraduate – Psychology, 3.5 years, well known liberal arts school)

    Work Experience:
    -Consists primarily of internships in mental health and social justice settings (~3 years total)
    -Currently working as an outpatient therapist at women and LGBTQ centered nonprofits. First transgender therapist at a previously women-only organization, helping them transform their organization to become trans-inclusive (1.5 years)

    -Co president of LGBTQ school group in grad school
    -Various recreational sports leagues

    Goal: Work within larger corporations to aid in organizational development strategies, diversity and inclusion, and high performance practices.

    Concerns: Lack of traditional business experience. Possible lack of leadership demonstration if I don’t play my cards right.

    Thoughts? I’d greatly appreciate any and all feedback!

  • Healthcare Startup

    Hi Sandy, Let me know your thoughts for HBS and Stanford:

    GRE: 168Q / 160 V
    GPA: 3.88 from top tier public University (Michigan, UNC or UVA)
    Major: Double major in Mathematics and Finance
    Career: 2 years in Investment Banking, short stint at a hedge fund and left to join a leading healthcare software company (have been there for the last year and a half)
    Goals: Want to create a healthcare start up

    25 year old white male

  • Mike Travis

    Hi! Looking for chances at: Cal, UW (Foster), Stanford and Columbia.

    33 year old white male
    GMAT: 740
    GPA: 3.68 from Gonzaga University
    Parents never graduated from college

    I went back to school at 26 and graduated at 29. Experience before going back to school was primarily with disabled individuals. After graduation, got job as audit associate with BDO (one step outside big 4). After two years, offered revenue manager position w state of Alaska, promoted again after one year to internal services to assist with financial statement development for state and lead large group trainings.

    Long term goal (7-10 ys): treasury management with publicly traded mining company

  • MechE

    John and Sandy –

    I’d be thrilled if you would evaluate my chances of getting
    into Harvard, Columbia, Wharton, Duke and Rice. Just for fun Stanford.

    – 730 GMAT
    – 3.5 GPA
    – Undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Aerospace Engineering from Montana State University. Graduated in 4 years.
    – 3 years work experience at BP working as a Drill Site Manager in charge of all rig operations and crews while managing budgets up to $30M.
    – Bi-lingual in Mandarin Chinese and English. (Interesting upbringing. Grew up in China and lived there for a total of 15 years. Also, very well traveled around most of Asia.)
    – Goals: Management consulting with a focus in the oil and gas industry.
    – 25 yrs old, Caucasian male.

    – Extra: Real estate investor. I currently own 5 townhomes/condos, which I manage and perform maintenance on myself.

    Volunteer math tutor to junior high school students.

    Marathon runner and avid outdoorsman enjoying snowboarding, dirt biking, kayaking and rock climbing to name a few.

    Mr. Mech E

  • MrEarlyPlanner

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m a student finishing my undergraduate degree and trying to shape the next 3-5 years into a career path that gets me a shot at Harvard, Stanford, MIT or Yale.

    – Indian male
    – Undergraduate degree in Computer Science from University College London (UCL, one of the top 5 schools in the UK) + a year abroad at ETH Zurich (one of the top tech schools in the world)
    – GPA: 3.85 (by the strictest standard and 4.0 by a relaxed one)

    Work Experience:
    – Going to be joining Oliver Wyman in London as a strategy consultant (with the aim of gaining experience heavily in renewable energy, technology, and corporate governance cases) (One of the things that attracted me most to OW was that I could go up the ranks quicker than at most other firms, is this a plus in my book?)
    – Previous internship experiences include technology consulting with KPMG, renewable energy private equity (where I proposed a mechanism that generated a 7 million-pound return), research work on self-driving cars and 2 stints at a tech start-up (including one where I wrote my final-year thesis on detecting decision-making patterns in traders using data on their sleep, exercise and other indicators of physical health)
    – Also did a short stint at an Indian non-profit that installs solar power plants in small villages, retaining a very good relationship with them such that I can always get a job there should it prove to be the right next step at any point

    – Mentoring new students at my undergraduate university department (twice as a mentor and once as the leader of the mentoring team)
    – Various leadership positions at university and high school clubs, but nothing exceptional (even though leadership is a crucial part of who I want to be as an individual and a professional)
    – Learned French and some German by myself online, along with taking a lot of online courses in various non-technical subjects
    – A few half-hearted tries at entrepreneurship (implemented some part of 2 ideas, got interest from investors and did a few testing rounds with 100+ users, but couldn’t work on them with enough gusto alongside school)

    I’m ambitious, enjoy working to my fullest capacity (right now I work 2 jobs alongside university and learning French) but I know I lack direction and feel right now I have no X-factor and also lack in leadership (even though it’s something I have been doing since my earliest years in school, but I was always the guy with the second-tier positions i.e. School Prefect but not Head Boy, Team Leader but not President, etc.)

    I realise a lot of the other commenters have more pressing needs since they are applying right now, but I feel that if I could add the right direction to my efforts right now, I have the opportunity to mould myself into the right candidate. To this end, I would really appreciate any advice you have.

  • MrEarlyPlanner

    Edit: I realise I forgot to include a goal, but that could be because I don’t have a specific one.

    I find technology interesting, but what I really like are the business aspects of technology-based industries eg. not just how to build an electric car, but rather how to create a hugely successful business around it. I am also quite interested in policy issues, but worried that a career in policy might be frustrating because you could have an idea that makes sense but wait for years for someone to implement it.

    I know I enjoy leading teams and solving business- and people- focused challenges, ideally in technology-focussed industries, and especially ones with social impact (which is why I’m choosing not to go further down the tech start-up route)

  • MrEarlyPlanner

    Edit 2: I’ve also been considering getting another degree before applying for an MBA, in particular a Masters in Technology Policy from the University of Cambridge. Would this be a definite positive on my profile?

  • 680goodEnough

    Hi, kindly review my profile and let me know my chances:
    GMAT score : 680
    GPA: 4.0 from top college.
    Field : Computer science
    5 years work exp.
    Extra : avid runner, trekker, filed patents in my field of work.
    What are my chances of admission in HBS, Stanford, Columbia, Wharton, Booth?

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