Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

This 27-year-old management consultant in India already has an MBA degree from an Indian business school. But with a 730 GMAT and a goal of running a non-profit in his home country, he now wants to get a second MBA from a top U.S. program.

After serving for a year in Americorps, this 25-year-old woman became a programmer at a venture capital and major studio-backed entertainment startup. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.7 grade point average from a public ivy, she hopes to go to business school to enhance her career opportunities.

After racking up two years as an investment banking analyst at a bulge bracket bank in New York, he’s been working as an associate for a private equity firm in the past three years. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA from Duke University, this 26-year-old Asian male now hopes to use the MBA to transition into a corporate strategy role.

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, work backgrounds and career goals 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.)

sales guy

Mr. Second MBA


  • 730 GMAT (will retake to try for a 750)
  • Undergraduate degree in engineering from a second-tier engineering college in India, graduating in the top 3% of the class
  • MBA from a top five business school in India, graduating in the top 15% of the class
  • Work experience includes a short, one-year stint for an information technology firm before getting the MBA and transitioning into financial services as an analyst for a year; has worked for the past two and one-half years for a major consulting company that is a major feeder to business schools
  • Extracurricular involvement running own non-profit fitness center, joint secretary/treasurer for festivals and conventions at both the engineering institute and business school; coach of a local power lifting team (all individuals belonging to underprivileged groups from my non-profit gym); singer, fitness modeling; Have won several awards in debating, stage plays, singing, technical paper presentations
  • “My life story as been quite challenging. I was raised by a single (school educated) parent (my mother) mostly in a rural setup in India, and completed all my education on scholarships before finally becoming self sustaining (financially) after MBA. So a lot of career/education decisions were driven by the financial condition”
  • Goal: “I wish to come back to India and make an impact in or help develop the non-profit fitness industry”
  • “Reasons for the second MBA: I wish to get some profound education/learning in social entrepreneurship, a kind of education I couldn’t get earlier”
  • 27-year-old male in India

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 20%
Northwestern: 30% to 40%
Duke: 30% to 40%
Virginia: 30% to 40%
Berkeley: 20% to 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Let me cut to the chase. Your stated reason for the second MBA is that you want to take two years off and get an MBA to pursue social entrepreneurship. My first advice is, don’t say that. There is a lot going on here, but you can and should boil it down to something simple.

There are a lot of people in India who get an MBA and then want an American MBA for reasons of upgrading their employment or higher status. There is a way to package that. It is recognized and the trend is your friend. I would say the Indian MBA was technical, and now I want to learn about leadership and strategy to be an impactful leader. I would say you want to be an impactful management consultant and an American MBA could extend my horizons.

You sounds like a really smart guy. Either because you were poor or you may have missed the IIT and you are presenting yourself as an outsider within the inner world of the Indian hierarchy, trying to break into class one. Get the chip off the shoulder. Get more savvy about how to present yourself. And if you can get a 750 GMAT, it wouldn’t hurt. Due to the fecklessness and spinelessness of of the MBA admissions community, the GMAT has become much more important than it ever has been. It’s hypocritical of them to value the GMAT the way they do and then give a sermonette about what they are looking for.

Harvard and Stanford are stretches because they have enough Indians without your problems. There are a lot of Indians who do not have problems. Wharton has a lot of high-performing Desis. They were first born, not second born. You are a classic second born kid. You’ve had to figure stuff out. Things don’t come naturally to you. That can make for a very powerful personality in the fullness of time, but in the eyes of Harvard and Stanford admissions, that is a reach. You are not getting into those schools.

If you get the 750 GMAT, Wharton is an acceptable reach. If you present yourself correctly and do your homework, you could get into a lot of other very good MBA programs. I don’t say this very much, but you should educate yourself or hire a consultant to get you in sync with what counts in this game. If you do that, you would be a natural fit at places ranked five through ten in Poets&Quants’ ranking.

What you need is a pair of gray slacks and a blue button-down shirt. If you could get that part of your story correct, you would be attractive because of your tech background. McKinsey, BCG or Bain could say, yeah, we could put this guy on tech cases after you get your MBA.