Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

She’s a 30-year-old young professional in Paris who has spent five years in advertising strategy at two of the largest and most prestigious ad agencies in the world. With a 700 GMAT and a 3.6 grade point average from Dickinson College, she now wants an MBA to help create a new kind of innovation strategy firm (see above video or below text).

He’s the 25-year-old founder of a social media platform startup that has venture capital funding. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.4 GPA from a top liberal arts college, he hopes to go to business school to more effective lead his current and future entrepreneurial ventures.

She’s a 26-year-old woman from France who has worked in Canada as a financial analyst for a French international travel retail company and as a finance manager at the top Canadian telecom company. With a 660 GMAT and a Masters in Management from a top European School, she now intends to apply to a business school to move into a socially responsible investment firm or social enterprise.

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.)


Ms. Advertising Age

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in international studies from Dickinson College
  • Work experience includes five years in advertising strategy, first at Saatchi in New York, and then focusing on brand building at TBWA in Paris (Both are of the largest and most prestigious agencies in the world); then one 1 year in a start up in London focusing on innovation consulting and Internet of Things solutions, a strategy she pioneered at TBWA
  • Extracurricular involvement representing Dickinson at conferences, ultimate Frisbee team member, study abroad in China, independent project on New Media evaluating the presidential campaigns of Obama and McCain; speaking and judging student work in marketing strategy at Dauphine in Paris, mentoring Dickinson students, conducting admissions interviews for Dickinson, completing a charity initiative that raised more than $1,000 for Saving Lions in Africa
  • Goal: “To get the business savvy to create a new kind of innovation consultancy capable of delivering a full range of business/brand solutions – as a stand alone unit or which in a consultancy”
  • 30-year-old white female from Europe

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%
Wharton: 30%
London: 50%
Cambridge: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: There are a lot of terrific and compelling extras in your profile, from Saving the Lions in Africa to being an Ultimate Frisbee Team member. You are an exciting candidate.

You have an attractive profile. I can tell by reading the lines and between the lines that you are an interesting European who has thrived in America and in Europe and is in the world of the top advertising agencies.

Here’s some advice. You say you want to create “a new kind of innovation consultancy capable of delivering a full range of business/brand solutions.” I’m not sure exactly what that means, but don’t tell business schools you want to invent something new. That’s okay after you get it. Admission offices are very conservative, and they want to make sure they have a realistic view of what you want to do.

Present goals that are a natural and conservative outgrowth of what you are doing. Say you want to go back to advertising and want to be an impactful leader and cite innovative leaders in advertising who would be role models for you. There’s not a lot of people from advertising firms inside of business schools. I don’t know why.

I think you are quite strong at London, INSEAD and Cambridge. Those schools like stories like yours. You are accomplished and European. Those schools are not obsessed with GMAT scores yet. Those schools run older. All of their European tiny quirks break in your favor.

At HBS and Wharton, here is some tough love. A 700 GMAT, which used to be okay, is now just not enough. You could retake it and try to get a 720, which could make a difference at Harvard and Wharton. If you had a 720, you would increase your odds by five to ten percentage points at Harvard and perhaps more at Wharton.

  • Patrick G.

    Hello Sandy,

    I would truly appreciate your feedback on my profile:

    – U.S. citizen, white, male, 30 years old

    Bachelor’s degree:
    – Top 3 public university: Humanities Major, Graduated with Distinction, 3.7 GPA

    Master’s degree:
    – Second-tier university in Spain: International Economics
    – Degree completed in Spanish; I am fluent
    – During this time, I also passed the Level I exam of the CFA Program

    – Overall – 760 (Q49, V45)
    – IR – 6/8
    – AWA – 6/6

    Work experience:
    – Economic research (re: International trade) at Spanish think tank (1 year)
    – Strategy practice of Big 4 consulting firm (Accenture, Deloitte, etc.) (3 years)
    – During this time, I worked in the segment CEO’s office for a year ($1.5B segment), working on strategy and corporate development (though we didn’t complete any acquisitions in that time frame)
    – Co-founder and CEO of seed-funded/semi-bootstrapped education-related startup (2.5 years)

    I have no real extracurriculars to speak of, mainly because I have spent all of my time working on my company. The company has some solid clients, but our volume of work (and thus our sales/profitability metrics) is low. We have decided to change tacks slightly, and we are currently in our last “pivot.” I have also conducted research that has been featured in online business publications (Forbes, Inc., etc.) and written a few articles (in HBR’s online publication, for example).

    Between my graduate degree (right after college) in Spain, one year of working in Spain, and a year working in South America (as part of my startup experience), I have international experience in the Spanish-speaking world. I’m not sure if this is helpful.

    I would like to attend a top program with an entrepreneurship focus: Stanford, Berkeley, Wharton, Harvard, etc. I’m interested in improving my business/leadership skills and either starting another company or transitioning into an investment role (VC) where I could leverage my own startup experience, background in consulting, and (very limited) experience with finance.

    Thank you!


  • Passionate

    Hi Sandy,

    Would really appreciate the feedback!

    Female, White, US
    Age: 24

    Undergraduate GPA: 2.9 from a private tech school in Virginia (Political Science/Prelaw), graduated at 19 (Personal family problems & young age)
    Graduate GPA: 4.0 from same school in Communication and Marketing, graduated at 21

    GMAT: 750

    Work Experience:
    2 years working at same tech university as Faculty Coordinator and Administrator (job included training faculty members, handling all faculty and class issues, finance and accounting manager, was also the director of all Study Abroad programs in the College.
    4 years teaching Communications to Engineering and Tech students at same tech university
    2 years working as a Marketing Analyst for large Entertainment Corporation (i.e. Disney or Universal) (3 promotions)

    Extra curricular:
    President of Debate Team
    Faculty Advisor of Prelaw Society
    Avid Rock climber (won competitions)
    YouTube channel: Lifestyle and Social Media (80,000+ subscribers)
    Published three Business/Communication articles in Academic Journals

    Reason for pursuing MBA: During my first Masters I realized that my interest and passion was Business. I went on to publish Business Communication articles and have participated in 5 Communication conferences. This was further confirmed when I began work as a Marketing Analyst. My goal is to work as a Marketing Manager to for a top Sports or Entertainment organization (i.e. Nike or Time Warner). But I feel that I cannot be successful in my endeavors without getting the knowledge received via B-School.

    School List: Harvard, NYU Stern, Yale, UVA Darden, UNC

  • Suliman

    This is very valuable. Thank you very much for your feedback! The more I dig into what top schools are looking for, the less likely it seems for me to get into one. Maybe I’ll just end up going to UW-Seattle and figuring out the rest without the prestige and credentials a top school hands over to its alumni.I appreciate your time and input.

  • MBA2016

    Hi John and Sandy,

    Appreciate the time you take to review our chances individually – very helpful/generous service.

    GMAT: 740 Q50V40

    GPA: 3.63 Econ Major from top-20 liberal arts college

    Work Experience: Will have 4 years total upon matriculation. I worked two years at a NYC brand strategy/consulting firm, performing primary research and quantitative analysis. After 1.5 years I was promoted from Analyst to Senior Analyst. I then moved to a small sports marketing company and built out the Analytics group. I started as an Associate and after 1.5 years was promoted to the Manager of the department.

    My post-MBA goal is to move brand side to a fitness brand in marketing research/analytics, and eventually become a CMO a work towards better integrating research, communications, product development, and business operations.

    Leadership/Service Experience: Captain/MVP/Most Inspirational of my High School Baseball Team and played Varsity Baseball in College and won the Team Award (best displaying qualities in a teammate). Now I am a Volunteer Coach for a sixth grade baseball team in a program that focusses on building teamwork and life skills to inner city youth. I was also a Teacher’s Assistant for Intro to Econometrics in College, was a member of the International Honors Society in Economics, and now am a Class Agent for my college and help build donor participation.

    Schools: I’m applying Early Binding to Columbia, and then Round 1 for Berkeley, UCLA, Kellogg, NYU, and Duke.

    Would love your feedback and thoughts! Thanks!

  • Denver


    -Male, Caucasian, US
    -Age: 22
    -First generation college student
    -North Dakota State University, Business Administration (3.0 GPA)
    -GMAT Score: 760

    -Full-Time Work: Property Manager in Fargo, ND managing over 300 units as well as a 3 million USD portfolio. The corporation I work for is multi-state and rapidly expanding. I’ve been managing my current site since age 19 with 3 promotions total since being employed there. Average work week is 50+ hours on top of full-time coursework.
    -I have recently been offered full-time positions at Raytheon in Arizona as well as a financial consultant in San Francisco, Ca.

    -Extra Curricular: I was a student consultant for resumé building on campus. I helped students and even faculty create, improve and tailor their resumes for the specific employers they were applying for.
    -Extra Curricular: I am a volunteer for United Way in Fargo, ND. I have volunteered numerous times over the past three years helping construct affordable housing in my area.

    -Extenuating circumstances: My GPA took a hit in the middle of my college career due to family illness. My grandpa fell ill and required constant care for over a year. Both of my parents were then diagnosed with skin cancer and underwent treatment for another year after, just recently being declared cancer free. My last two semesters have been 4.0 full-time course loads however. I have strong quantitative course history and will be taking more this upcoming semester.

    -Long-Term Goal: I have a strong passion to help the less fortunate. I want to become involved in the non-profit sector helping those in other countries. Fargo is an extremely diverse city with people from all over the world that have educated me on the struggles many of them face. I want to either start my own charity/foundation or join an existing one to truly make an impact on these people’s lives.

    I appreciate the time you take to evaluate my chances for any TOP Amba school. Brutal honesty is welcomed!

  • Rellz

    Hi Sandy, would appreciate some feedback on my profile and anything I should do to bypass a weak-ish GPA.

    – Female, mixed-race (African-American/Native-American and first-generation Filipino/Asian – would my application be stronger if I only highlighted one ethnicity?)
    – Citizenship: US
    – Age: 27
    – GMAT: 710
    – Estimated 3.3 GPA from top 5 university in the United Kingdom
    in International Relations and Film Studies (no GPA under the British
    education system)

    – (US) 1 year as marketing/sales coordinator at digital public relations firm specializing in the cosmetics industry (clients included global brands such as Loreal and Coty)
    – (US) Recruited as one of the first employees at first US office for rapidly expanding European-based technology communications consultancy firm (recently ranked #1 globally). Was on fast-track career path to account manager level, with 3 promotions in less than 2.5 years with the intention of an international transfer to European headquarters (was also offered an internal transfer to Australia)
    – (UK) Currently manager at European headquarters, managing teams directly as well as coordinating international teams to deliver global communications strategies for large blue-chip firms

    – Held leadership position (Treasurer) for Afro-Caribbean Society at university
    – Expanded an African-themed film festival to university town to promote unrepresented African cinema to student and local audiences
    – Hitchhiked across Europe for university ‘Rag Week’ charity initiative
    – Creative collaborator (e.g. designed and constructed a 5 piece womenswear collection) for student-run charity fashion show
    – Developed branding and comms strategy for design consultancy start-up (personal project)
    – Initiated and lead quarterly account manager meet-up to encourage more collaboration across the agency


    Short term – transition to consultant position for the technology sector
    Long term – C-level position within the technology sector, promoting diversity at the executive level


    -Languages: English, Italian
    -International Experience: have worked or studied in the US, UK and Italy (also have personal family ties to the Caribbean and Asia)

    Targets: LBS, Wharton, Columbia, NYU, Kelogg, Booth, Haas, Sloan

  • Rellz

    Hi Sandy, would appreciate some feedback on the below and anything else I can do to bypass a weak-ish GPA. Thanks!

    – Female, mixed-race (African-American/Native-American and first-generation Filipino/Asian – would my application be stronger if I only highlighted one ethnicity?)
    – Citizenship: US
    – Age: 27
    – GMAT: 710
    – Estimated 3.3 GPA from top 5 university in the United Kingdom in International Relations and Film Studies (no GPA under the British education system)


    – 1 year as marketing/sales coordinator at German-based digital public relations firm specializing in the cosmetics industry (clients included global brands such as Loreal and Coty)
    – Recruited as one of the first employees at first US office for rapidly expanding European-based technology communications consultancy firm (recently ranked #1 globally). Was on fast-track career path to account manager level, with 3 promotions in less than 2.5 years with the intention of an international transfer to European headquarters (was also offered an internal transfer to Australia)
    -Currently manager at European headquarters, managing teams directly as well as coordinating international teams to deliver global communications strategies for large blue-chip firms

    – Held leadership position (Treasurer) for Afro-Caribbean Society at University
    – Expanded an African-themed film festival to university town to promote unrepresented African cinema to student and local audiences
    – Hitchhiked across Europe for university ‘Rag Week’ charity initiative
    – Creative collaborator (e.g. designed and constructed a 5 piece womenswear collection) for student-run charity fashion show
    – Developed branding and comms strategy for design consultancy start-up (personal project)
    – Initiated and lead quarterly account manager meet-up to encourage more collaboration across the agency


    Short term – transition to consultant position for the technology sector
    Long term – C-level position within the technology sector, promoting diversity at the executive level


    -Languages: English, Italian
    -International Experience: have worked or studied in the US, UK and Italy (also have personal family ties to the Caribbean and Asia)

    Targets: LBS, Wharton, Columbia, NYU, Kelogg, Booth, Haas, Sloan

  • hbsguru

    hmmm, with a high gmat you might be able to overcome the GPA [for reasons you mention], you will have a harder time explaining current “systems auditor job,” whatever that means. I would try and make that job seems as strategic as possible. If schools think you will be big deal in Saudi petro biz, they might wink at GPA.
    “To channel social media involvement and activeness into societal change in the Arabian Peninsula via entrepreneurship.” Phew, you got any history of doing that?
    you say–“Investing in small social startups that aim at socio-economic and socio-political reform.” If that has any substance to it, well maybe, and be very specific those “small . . .startups” and what has happened.
    You sound a bit of a reformer type. Adcoms and Saudi officials BOTH don’t like that–well, when they admit you. OK to be a reformer later, after you make a pile.
    Then school will give you honoray degree, but get in first 🙂

  • Darren

    710 GMAT
    3.0 GPA
    Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from University of Louisville
    Five years of experience in project management with a 3 month stint as interim plant manager with 8 direct reports.
    President of company’s volunteer committee
    30-year-old white male from Kentucky
    First generation college student (parents have GED)

    Looking at Carlson, Tippie, and Poole

  • Bharani Chava

    hi sandy ,

    Need your feedback . ( 27 indian male )

    GMAT : 720 , Undergrad : Engineering 3.34 ( first class with distinction ) , Masters science : Microelectronics 3.3

    Specialist Researcher at non – profit research institute for European union, brussels

    Domain : nanotechnology / semiconductors
    Two promotions in 3 years
    +4 top publications


    short term : Tech consulting
    long term : Develop cheap medical diagnosis equipment with nanotechnology

    Target schools :

    1. ROSS
    2. DUKE

  • sidharth


    I would really like to have your suggestion on schools i should be aiming for.Please give me a
    rough idea about b schools in India,USA, Singapore, Europe which are best
    suited for me considering my profile.Best possible schools in which my chances
    are gud enough to get into.Also i would like to get an idea about various
    improvements which can be made over the next few months till the b school
    application process starts.

    GMAT 2015(first attempt) score 710,v-35,Q-50,ir-4,awa-4

    Xth standaard-86%

    XII standard-62%

    grad-58%(B.Sc. Hons. Maths & Computers,Punjab Univ.)

    After graduation i have been working in my family business
    for the past 8 yrs.Basically our business involves trading and fabrication of
    iron sheets.

    as far as extra activities are concerned i use to take part
    in various kinds of co curricular activities in my school days.but in recent
    times i hav less to offer.

    Also i would appreciate suggestions on extra activities
    which i can add to my profile in the next few months,activities which can help me in improving my prospects of getting into better colleges than possible with my current profile.well i would like to get into top 50 colleges or the best possible colleges
    considering my profile,colleges like ISB H,HEC PARIS,Columbia business school
    .I have sent my scores to columbia b school ,isb ,esade , manchester ,texas mccomb

    Please suggest me top colleges to which I can apply to improve my leadership,entrepreneurial skills
    and which gives me an opportunity to go to 1-2 countries in exchange during or
    after my course.



    brief about family business:
    ours is basically a retail/wholesale trading (fabrication outsourced) unit dealing in iron sheets.i am involved in orders dispatch/management,marketing,little bit of accounts n all the return filing work.we dont have as such separate teams,but we do have to deal with employees-telling them wat to do.our organisation has 12 permanent workers n yes we do hire people from outside on everyday basis if need arises n of course we outsource
    fabrication.we have started a new branch n i am working towards gathering info
    about the new market,getting a new client base, ,managing orders dispatch,returns n all.

    actually all decisions are taken by partner family
    members,all give their suggestions,discuss things n d best decision is followed
    taking into consideration various possibilities, market n business conditions.

  • hbsguru


    sarcasm isn’t known as a style that wins friends.
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  • Suliman

    To add regarding the GPA: I never wanted to get into Computer Science, but I was offered a full-ride scholarship as a CS major to the public Ivy in the US. Seeing as the benefit of leaving the country ot learn from the works of another culture, I went with it.

  • Suliman

    Hello Sandy,
    I would truly love for some feedback at your earliest convenience. I’m applying for an MBA 3 years from now (work experience + networking to get a good recommendation from a high ranked executive at the company)
    Personal: Saudi Arabian, sponsoring my family (three sisters and my mother.)
    Schools I’m applying to: Harvard, Stanford, UPenn, MIT, London
    Undergrad: 3.1 GPA from a public Ivy in the US, B.Sc. in Computer Science & Software Engineering
    GMAT: 740 (practice test, haven’t taken the real one yet).
    Work experience:
    3 years (by application time) at the world’s largest oil company as a systems auditor
    2 years researching at Saudi’s first independent think tank (alongside colleagues almost entirely from LSE).
    Volunteer work for eradicating poverty in the eastern province of Saudi.
    Investing in small social startups that aim at socio-economic and socio-political reform.
    Professional boulderer (partook in pro competitions while in the US, around v8 problems).
    7-year kickboxer
    Post-MBA plans:
    To channel social media involvement and activeness into societal change in the Arabian Peninsula via entrepreneurship.

  • Willy

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love some feedback if you don’t mind. I plan on applying after my 3rd year of medical school.

    Currently attending top med school (Harvard, Yale, Hopkins, Stanford, Columbia)

    3.9 Undergraduate GPA, BS in Chemistry (from lesser known liberal arts school)

    700 GMAT (assuming, haven’t taken yet)

    D1 Varsity athlete in college

    3 years experience as professional baseball player ( drafted by MLB club, played in minor leagues)

    Volunteer for handicapped baseball league

    Interested in healthcare management (academic administration) or possibly development of medical devices/biotech.

    I also have authored multiple publications in scientific journals.

    I’m interested in applying to : Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Yale, Wharton, Tuck, Stanford

    Please chance me, thank you!

  • hopeful

    Hi Sandy,

    Would you please give me some hints on how would I fare at H/S/W? I sincerely appreciate your help in advance.

    Background: 30yr old Korean male. Attended high school and college in the US.

    GMAT: 730 GMAT (Q50/V38/IR8)

    Undergrad: Undergraduate degree in economics from a Midwest ivy-equivalent university. GPA 3.85/4.00 (Magna Cum Luade)

    Work Experience: 3 years at an Infrastructure fund in a state-owned bank. (will be 4 years by the time I matriculate.)

    Why I want an MBA: to build network and experience in global alternative investments sector, especially in infrastructure. Ultimately hoping to bridge the gap between advanced and developing countries with my experience/skills/network by helping to expand infrastructure in those countries.

    Immediate Goal: infrastructure coverage at an investment bank (or global infrastructure fund)

    Fluent in English, Native in Korean, CFA level 2(waiting to hear result on level 3)

  • bei

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m a professional pianist who has always been very interested in entrepreneurship and technology. Before I start listing my lacklustre academic performance, I would like to state that I am an accomplished pianist- I have travelled nationally in Australia to perform, had my playing broadcasted, played with orchestras and have won prizes nationally and internationally. But, I always felt that I was more of an entrepreneur. I am interested in several elite business schools.

    I know my chances are slim but I would like to know how slim…

    Here’s my profile:

    Degree: Bachelor of Music at Melbourne University (top uni of Australia)

    GPA of 3.1 (travelled often to compete in international and national piano competitions which distracted me from my music academic subjects)

    GMAT: intend to get 700+


    Worked as a representative/agent for my father (who is an artist) for two years. Managed everything business related from finance and sales to scheduling. I exhibited his works and sold his works overseas, made customer connections, managed his social media and website etc.

    Taught at two private music schools for a year.

    Managed and taught at my own studio for 3 years.

    Worked for one year as project manager for a small team of coders for a startup company based in Melbourne.

    My own startup with a team of coders (currently pending lol)

    Always studying coding intensively.
    Doing a few business related massive open online courses

    Targeting (2016) :

    Harvard University

    I will be 29 when I apply. I Speak Chinese and English. Asian guy here. I live in Australia.

    I believe that my experience as a pianist and musician may help me become a more empathetic and, perhaps, unique manager. I intend to complete a MBA degree to be a creative but capable entrepreneur who will have the knowledge to grow a business and sustain it. My career change is the result of personal growth and wanting to fulfil my passion for business. I always believed that I would end up in the business world- after much reflection and personal growth, I have finally mustered the courage to pursue a career as a businessman or entrepreneur.

  • hbsguru

    schools mostly care about total score and the way you clawed your way back up to a 700 is admirable, plus the fact you have strong grades in Quanty courses you note should be enuf. There is not a serious question of your ability to do B school math, the only issue is optics, and the 700 is OK-ish. And the fact you have worked for top companies in banking.
    I think top 12 is cert in reach w. that profile.

  • FinanceGirl

    Hi Sandy –
    Appreciate you looking over my profile, I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

    Target school is HBS
    25 year old white female
    740 GMAT (46V,47Q,8 IR)
    3.8 GPA at University of Virgina’s McIntire School of Commerce (finance and accounting concentration)
    Work: 2 years at Deloitte Strategy & Operations Consulting, past year working for the CFO/COO at an education technology company (he and CEO are HBS alums) doing all financial modeling, strategic analysis, and support for fundraising/M&A.
    Extracurricular: Author of a personal finance and investing blog to educate young women and engage them in the markets. I also held multiple, free financial workshops and talks and have the series 65.
    Post MBA Goals: To build on my extracurricular to create my own financial education company for young adults/women.

    Thank you!

  • Sally

    Hi Sandy,

    I admire your candor and would love to hear your valued perspective.

    About me…

    GRE: 800 Q, 700 V (expires soon though)
    GMAT: 760 (47 Q, 48 V, 5 AW, 5 IR)

    Undergrad: I was a Presidential Scholar at a NESCAC and graduated with a 3.82 GPA. Phi Beta Kappa, Faculty Honors each semester, International Studies major and French Studies minor (spent a semester in Paris and studied at a French institute).

    Work Experience: 4 years of Marketing experience at Boston tech companies with 3 promotions. Manage 2 people. At last company I established Global Marketing and Marketing Automation strategies to accelerate their European marketing expansion. I currently manage customer communications and retention strategy to optimize customer lifetime value.

    Extracurriculars: Significant community service during college (mentoring, various college organizations). Post-college, I’ve been involved with a small local charity in a marketing & analytics consulting role. Passionate about art, ranging from DIY endeavors to museum touring.

    Why I want an MBA: I want to help solve the marketing inefficiencies that international companies face. Leading global marketing operations at a top tech brand, I’d focus on expanding into new markets, driving international strategy and improving customer engagement.

    ASL: 26-year-old white female in Boston

    Schools: HBS, Stanford, INSEAD, MIT, Tuck

  • Ravi P

    Sandy, I’d like to get your assessment on my profile

    Age: 32, Indian-American

    8 years work experience
    -2 years FP&A
    -3 Years Equity Research/Investment Banking
    -3 Years Venture Capital (Current Role)

    Miami (OH) University: Political Science & Economics
    2.63 GPA – low GPA related to family and medical issues

    GMAT: 740

    Applying: Tepper, Ross, Fuqua, Kellogg

  • MokeAnalyst

    Hi Sandy,

    Looking for a little guidance on my odds and would appreciate some honest advice. Thanks in advance!

    BA Business Administration
    3.48 GPA (upward trend), 3.83 Major GPA
    Non-target Liberal Arts College in the Pacific NW

    740 GMAT (48Q, 44V)

    27 year old Native Hawaiian male (indigenous, not just born here)

    4 years at a regional commercial bank (subsidiary of BNP Paribas) where I help manage bank’s $600MM real estate portfolio. As a bit of context, it’s the largest and oldest bank in the state, where “megabanks” (e.g. GS, MS, etc.) don’t really have a presence. Role includes both acquisitions and asset management activities of RE management. No official promotion in 4 years as my division consists of myself, VP and CFO, so nowhere for me to really be promoted to despite a lot of increasing responsibilities.

    Prior to my current role, I was with a small telecommunications company for 7 months.

    Extracurriculars include weekly volunteer work at a homeless shelter for the past 3 years teaching computer skills, helping create/edit resumes and help residents apply for jobs, competitive Brazilian Jiu Jitsu for the past 9 years, some club leadership and DIII wrestling in undergrad.

    CFA Level III candidate this past June, will hopefully have CFA charter by matriculation.

    Goal(s) is/are endowment/foundation management and/or impact investing.

    Targeting Wharton, Booth, MIT, Columbia, Tuck, Duke and Yale

    Slightly worried about non-selective school, non-selective job at non-famous company with no promotions.

    Would love to hear your thoughts and thank you in advance.


  • LBS or HBS or Insead

    Hi guys, i d love to have your thoughts on my profile for HBS and LBS.

    GMAT 680 (84 verbal 68 quant)
    3.3 average GPA
    111 toefl
    I hold a MSC from a french business school. (top 10)
    age:29 ; Male
    I am both french and Moroccan and lived in 5 different countries in my life.
    Total professional experience is 7 years, 4 years for PwC in Europe as real estate financial auditor, 3 years as financial controller for a big sovereign fund in the middle east (current employment).
    I am in the real estate business, and I am happy to remain in that business even if I am open minded for a change.
    I d like to pursue an MBA to advance my career quicker and reach a management role before my 40s ( in finance, ideally CFO)

    Given my current good job (tax free!!!), I wont go for anything else than the best MBAs and therefore would appreciate you assess my odds being admitted.

    thank you!!

    By the way, 2 specific assets for me: i speak 4 languages and was a semi pro tennis player.

  • hbsguru

    Not worth mentioning that you flunked interviews, if that is the question!
    Worth mentioning the you are interested in working for MBB if that makes sense. What caught my eye about flunking interview is if that would be an issue in the dings, e.g. if interview was not case based but just talking, and guy could not do it, might explain similar bad performance at B school interviews. SO might case flunk, but that is an artificial enviro and not as 1-1 a proxy.

  • HKS

    I’m curious on this as well. Assuming you meant MBA/MPA (and that you’ll be an upcoming MPP). My hunch is it has very little effect, most of the MPP’s that applied were not accepted to MBA programs and those that were accepted to Tuck/Wharton/GSB/Sloan had backgrounds or stories that blended into the MBA cohort (i.e. fancy undergrad, consulting, high level politics, famous parent(s), etc.)

  • 12apples

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love your read of my chances at HBS, Booth, and Stanford. I’m considering applying second round to get my GMAT score up another 20 or so points, but would appreciate your feedback on if that is necessary or even worth doing so.

    GMAT: 720; GPA: 3.6/4.0 at top 15 school (i.e. Dartmouth, Northwestern type)
    Demographics: 25 yrs old Asian female
    Professional Experience: 2 years of banking at middle market investment bank and 1 year into 2 year program at PE
    Extracurricular: Associate Board of Non-Profit; Mentoring at one of the student groups at my alma mater
    Goal: HC related VC or startup


  • top12hopeful

    Hi Sandy and John,

    Will my low quant score kill my chances of getting into a top-12 school? Thanks.

    Demographic: White Male
    Age: 22 (applying in 2 or 3 years)

    Goal: Investment Banking

    Diagnostic before any study: 480
    GMAT 1: 580
    GMAT 2: 680 (Q46/V38)
    GMAT 3: 700 (Q41/V44)
    Undergraduate College: Top Liberal Arts School
    Undergraduate Major: Economics
    Undergraduate Minor: Political Science
    Undergraduate GPA: 3.45
    Undergraduate Additional Notes: Strong grades (A, A-) in all accounting / finance / statistics courses

    Work Experience:
    Internship Experience: Internships in Consulting (Boutique) / Mortgage Banking (Freshman and Sophomore)
    Full Time: BB Operations Analyst (JPM, GS, MS)

    Varsity Athlete (major sport at D3 school) (3-year starter)
    Study Abroad – Argentina

  • EnergyFreak

    Hi Sandy,

    Please take look at my profile and comment on what you think about my chances at Berkeley and Duke:

    Indian Male, 26 years old

    Bachelors in Engineering: Manipal University – India, GPA: 3.56 (Top 10 of my class)

    Masters in Engineering: Georgia Tech, GPA: 4.0

    GMAT: 740

    Working with the electric energy grid operator in the US. The company is non-profit and federally regulated. I’m working in the renewable energy division of the company to integrate solar into the electric grid.

    Extra-curricular: Mentor and tutor an adult learner in math over the weekends – recently conducted a charity gala for sending my student to culinary school. Have held several leadership positions while in college. Sit on the Executive Committee of a Toastmaster’s club in the area.

    Long term goal: Influential leader in the energy space especially in a regulatory and policy front while gaining some business acumen.

    Berkeley and Duke have excellent energy focused MBA programs and that’s what I am looking for in a business school.

  • AmbitiousPQIA

    At least at this MBB, they have only case interviews happen in both prelim round and final round, but yea, they were final round case interviews with 3 senior partners.

  • Interview

    Hi Sandy
    Why did the comment about the interview at MBB catch your attention?
    I also got to the case interviews stage with MBB. Do you think is worth to mention it in a post mba goals essay?

  • imaginationless

    Dear Sandy and John,

    Please could you share your thoughts on my profile, and comment on my chances at H/S/W?

    – 27 years old Korean male
    – GMAT 760 (Q50 / V42)

    – Bachelor/Master Mathematics at Oxbridge (GPA 3.4 bachelor /3.2 master)
    – Went to school in England since the age of 13

    – 2 years at MBB consulting (now)
    – 3 years mandatory work at local tech firm as an alternative national military service
    – Some community service teaching English to North Korean refugees and other developing country students

    Aims to return to consulting, with a focus on facilitating cross border businesses with a focus on China.

    I know it is a very generic profile, so it would be really helpful if you could hint on how I could make my application competitive at the top 3 schools.


  • bschoolquestioning15

    Thanks Sandy, really appreciate the advice and the reality check of what my profile comes off as

  • Antonio

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love to get your input on my chances for LBS, HBS, Stanford and MIT

    – Demo: 23 yo white male from Spain
    – GMAT: 770
    – Job: MBB for the last 3 years in Spain and West Africa (pubic sector work)
    – Extra curric: Did some freelance consulting in college and participated in 5 case competitions around the world representing my Uni(good national school, but not very well known abroad)
    – Goal: Stay on MBB for the next ~5 years. After that it is still a bit blurry, but would probably shoot for starting my own project in the education area

    Thank you for doing this, it’s really awesome of you!

  • dondestanlaschicas

    Sandy – I would really appreciate it if you could give me advice on my admit chances if I apply R1 this fall to HBS, Stanford, and Wharton.

    25 year old Asian male today
    760 GMAT
    3.72 GPA / Honors with Distinction from Northwestern/Dartmouth/Duke
    Triple Majored in Math, Economics, Pre-Law
    1.5 years in strategy consulting at LEK/Parthenon/Monitor
    0.5 years at india-focused social impact venture firm similar to Acumen Fund
    2 years in middle market technology PE firm
    ECs: chair of social impact nonprofit, official mentor/advisor to 4 international-based and US-based startups at well-known tech accelerator program

    Thank you!

  • hbsguru

    I’m sticking with the program. I’m smoking the burnt resumes of many people like her who get dinged at H and S by other peeps in the super competitive finance and banking bucket. Ivy dudes with higher grades and totally gold plated resumes as to work and more powerful extras.

  • hbsguru

    noted, this does not change my analysis. Nor does note below. Recs fr. faculty are disfavored compared to work bosses. If guy is bigfoot at the Uni you are applying to and he wants to huff and puff in your direrction, that CAN help, e.g. put his personal favor bank account on the line.

  • hbsguru

    read this real fast to rule out H and S. So done. Nothing driving you in (altho I am impressed by your Hab 4 Hum work in NYC, and so might they on the margin, not going to flip this). Wharton will always give a smart guy w. a 770 a close look, esp. one in any part of banking. Other places you note could go for this.

    “(had final round interviews at consulting MBB recently which didn’t work out”
    hmmmmmmmmm, how come, were those case interviews or just tell me about 1 2 3 ???

  • hbsguru

    GMAT madness among schools like Booth, Wharton work in your favor–worth a semi Hail Mary at Wharton too. This is solid silver application (work, scores, schooling) and outcomes at Booth Kellogg, Tuck will turn on fit.
    Accounting not a favored major and white male accounting major at HR firm does not send hearts of adcom gals pitter-patter (nor does your squash and marathon running, but you will have the last laff as you live forever).
    Sooo, you got work cut out, being in Singapore a plus.
    You smell like Tuck type, so apply there, drink the bottled water, and see what happens.
    Yours in whitemaleatude and good luck.

  • Hzahaha

    Hi John and Sandy,
    I would love to hear your feedback on my profile:

    25-yr old white male, 740 GMAT 1st attempt (45-V, 47-Q, 6.0-AWA, 5-IR)

    3.82 GPA in Civil Engr. from a 90-100th nationally ranked state school (minors in Econ, German, Intl. Studies, 12 months abroad)

    2 years in residential infrastructure development for an unheard of regional engineering consulting firm– no promotions (per licensure practices impossible in my industry before 4 years) but expect solid recommendations demonstrating quick adaptation and rise to project leadership

    College extracurriculars:
    -Multiple officerships in Engineers Without Borders
    -Co-founded microfinance student group (has probably dissolved by now)
    -Interned as pro-bono managerial/operations consultant for local non-profit
    -Lean Six Sigma Greenbelt
    -2 years as student “Ambassador” for exchange opportunities in Germany
    -3 years as engr. research / teaching assistant

    Only post-graduation extra-“curricular” achievement is winning 1st nationally in a year-long contract bridge competition (card game, not infrastructure) – I consider it easily my most impressive lifetime achievement but assume most people’s’ reaction is “ah-what?.

    Goal: switch industries and roles completely to supply chain in order to place myself in more challenging and dynamic situations (current industry is very linear regardless of merit and would involve little change throughout career).

    1.) My goals feel vague to me, but to be much more specific would be a little disingenuous, and I lie poorly – the truth is that variation (now and future) is more important than any industry.
    2.) Local-tier nature of my education and professional experience.
    3.) My education indicates many trades but may betray indecisiveness, so not sure how hard I should sell that part.

    Target schools (2016), in order of preference: Sloan, Harvard, Stanford, Haas, Ross, fallback if round 1 fails is Foster

    Thank you!

  • bschoolquestioning15

    Hi Both

    Really enjoy the articles and appreciate the help you are providing to everyone. Was wondering if you could take a look at my profile and share your thoughts (please be harsh if need be)

    27 y/o white male

    3.5 GPA from a state school (U Illinois) in accounting

    760 GMAT

    Work experience is 5 years in consulting with one of the big HR consulting firms (I’m aware this is a tier down) a couple promotions and I have spent the last two years working in the singapore office

    Outside interests are probably fairly low relatively but am an avid squash player and marathon runner

    Looking to jump to one of the big 3 consulting firms and generally just create a more well rounded and knowledgeable individual through the MBA

    Am considering Kellogg, Booth, Tuck and maybe Wharton as a reach, are these realistic?

  • Flavio

    Hi Sandy,

    Can you please help me out with my odds? Thanks!

    Business in a top 3 Business University in Brazil
    GPA: not sure the value of this, but 7.8/10 (top 15% of class)


    – Internship/1 year job as demand planner in Supply Chain at top swiss pharmaceutical company in Brazil
    – 3 years at Trust Business, first as a trainee in Curaçao and then as Account Rep for LatAm in Barcelona, Spain
    – Current (past 3.5 years), Sales Rep/Account manager for a major financial software/data provider for Peru (based in Brazil). Top seller on my first year, and on the top 10% on the company. Established relationships with major banks, corps and government institutions. Working closely with product development

    Extra curricular:
    – 2 expeditions with Habitat for Humanity in Sao Paulo slums
    – Teaching English for the past 1.5 years for underprivileged kids in Sao Paulo
    – Mentoring/mock interviewing for teenagers
    – 50+ community hours yearly for the past 2 years (less time in the previous years, teaching Excel)
    – Co-Founded and managed (1 year) an investment club in college
    – A part from work, have lived with my family in Spain, Switzerland and Mexico
    – Fluent in Portuguese, English and Spanish
    – I play guitar and bass, and am self taught in drums

    Targets (2016):
    – HBS
    – Wharton
    – Columbia
    – Haas
    – NYU
    – LBS

    My idea is to relocate with my current company, and most likely looking for part time/executive, or in the case of HBS full time MBA.

    I am a white Brazilian male

    – To work my way up to senior management at my current company.

  • JohnAByrne

    Good luck to you Sam. Great choice!

  • Sam

    One last thing, Fuqua is my dream school and I love my fit culturally to Durham. I do not plan to stay in New York City and would rather be in a smaller city. I am applying early action to Fuqua.

  • AmbitiousPQIA

    Also (this might not be relevant), but alumnus at one of the universities I’m targeting (not same school though, obv), and planning to get secondary recommendation from former chair of graduate CS department at the university (for whom I worked for about a year). And audited a couple of advanced PhD. level classes at Business school whilst there.

  • AmbitiousPQIA

    Oh, btw, 25 year old Indian male (to be 26 by the time 2016 rolls around)

  • AmbitiousPQIA

    Hi Sandy,

    Here’s a profile for you to take a gander at (apologies in advance if I come off as too ambitious – please be harsh):

    Computer Science at a top 20 University in India (non-IIT)
    Senior Year GPA: 9.17/10; CGPA: 8.84/10

    Computer Science at an Ivy League
    2nd Year GPA: 4.0; CGPA: 3.63 (magna-cum-laude equivalent)

    770 (50Q/47V) + 8/8 Integrated Reasoning

    – Head TA for multiple classes at Ivy
    – ~2 years (so far) at a BB bank on Wall St, as a coder turned Business Analyst for the brokerage side of the firm (low latency trading)
    – Led multiple big scale projects despite being a rookie; up for promotion in current cycle
    – Two Global Recognition awards for excellence

    Extra curricular:
    – 3 expeditions with Habitat for Humanity in Queens and Coney Island (most recent one was rebuilding a home hit by Sandy)
    – Monthly food deliveries to home-bound seniors in Manhattan
    – Occasional festival based soup kitchen work
    – Introduced case method for interviews, visited alma mater for campus recruiting and interviewed candidates in first + superday rounds
    – Organized department wide book club to encourage networking + ideating

    Targets (2016):
    – HBS
    – GSB
    – Wharton
    – Booth
    – Kellogg

    – Eclectic interests: Entrepreneurship, High Tech, Strategy Consulting (had final round interviews at consulting MBB recently which didn’t work out), Social Impact work (think tank?), PE/VC

  • hbsguru

    well,lots to like, just don’t go overboard in explaning grades–what they want to see is some clinical recap of issues along lines of
    then discuss issues which led to your distraction, inability to focus, etc. in some quick and clinical way. They will buy into it or not–you making it more emotive than the basic facts are not going to help. What schools want to see most is a tone that shows them that you are now past these issues, as powerful as they were, and that you are not re-enacting them, which, to be honest, you seem to be in your post.
    Your GMAT score will also give them comfort that you are smart enuf to to the work, they just want the added comfort that you can sit still, eat s!!t, and spit it back, a/k/a being a student. So sound like someone who can do that. 🙂

  • Sam

    Additionally, I am a 27 year old Indian American male that will be 28 upon matriculation. I will have 6 years of work experience by matriculation, but the first 2 years were essentially research. Additionally, I have already made the switch from research to sales/business development, but want to pick up the business knowledge to play a bigger role down the road. In fact, the enjoyment I have taken from the business development portion of my business is the reason why I started considering business school.

  • Sam


    I would love your thoughts on my chances of getting into some business schools that I am looking into.

    My background:

    B.S. in Neurobiology with a 3.0 GPA from a top state school (think Texas, Florida, UNC)
    – Spent a lot of time doing research (10 hours/week) as an undergraduate researcher – Sophomore year onwards
    – Ran an organization on campus – Treasurer/President – junior and senior year
    – My major was particularly difficult with a lot of science classes being calculus based
    – Got A’s in Calculus 1 and 2 in school
    – Built an alternative transcript by taking and getting A’s in Finance and Accounting Classes

    730 GMAT (49Q 41V IR 8 AWA 6.0)

    Work Experience:

    – 2 Years of research as a junior research technician and senior research technician in a cancer lab at Cornell Medical School in New York City (1 promotion)
    – 3 Years of sales in the medical research furniture, equipment, and supplies distributor as an account manager managing $2,500,000 in sales (1 promotion after 2 years)
    – 6 months as a territory manager for a biotechnology supplier covering all of New York State and also supporting quality assurance. Managing $10,000,000 in sales and one step below the national sales director.


    – University alumni base in New York City – Involved since 2012; philanthropy chair and board member; business school liaison (working directly with business advisory council for top 25 business school)

    – Run a biotechnology organization chapter in New York City since 2014 – Have grown the chapter considerably and turned the organization to a network of professionals in the biotechnology and digital healthcare space; CEO and base in San Francisco has done an incredibly poor job of helping the organization reach its true potential so I have grown the chapter in spite of that. Great learning experience and a growing network to draw from in New York City area.
    – Rock climber; hiker; organized basketball


    – Find my way into strategy and business development for a healthcare/biotechnology/pharmaceutical company on the management side
    – Get into the following schools – Wharton, Fuqua, Berkeley, McCombs, and Jones (Rice); I have visited all of these schools and kept in touch with students and graduates at these schools. What are my chances of getting into these schools?

  • Lord Stark

    I really hope you do get in to Booth… Good Luck with the applications 🙂
    Go Illini!

  • hbsguru

    well, I like you but in terms of Wharton, Tuck and MIT, this profile is below par on
    GPA, GMAT, and to some extent, selectivity of work exp, esp. for White Male.
    As to getting a 730, that will not get you into Wharton, Tuck**** or MIT or prob Columbia. Duke, Darden, Berk, Cornell, USC etc. is where you fall, and those will not be easy. You have valuable solid work experience, schools just don’t find it selective-and as often noted, what you do AT A JOB is less impt than brand of the job. Same is true w. B schools in general, with the word LEARN replacing DO. But we all know that by now. Right ?

    ***** a 730 might put you in Hail Mary status at Tuck if you somehow made them fall in love with you, and just saying something impulsive here, you are not super their type–they like clean cut centrist types like you with some LEFT tendencies, that could mean extras, outlook, personality, etc. We aint talking hard left, just academic left of center–that dont strike me as you, but I could be wrong. They TAKE guys like you with totally solid stats and jobs, but not b.c. they love them, they just like them enuf. Happy to expand on this provocative idea, and cert. welcome any feedback fr. Tuckies.

  • BigChuck

    Hi John & Sandy,

    Thanks for doing what you do, it really is a huge service. Hoping you can give me some feedback on my profile, and temper my expectations / let me know if i need to retake GMAT to even have a chance:

    25yo white male
    710 GMAT (47Q / 41V / 5.5 AWA / 7 IR)
    The 710 was my second attempt, the first being a 700
    3.3 GPA from Penn State, Majored in Management of Info Systems (business degree with technology focus)

    I worked for 2.5 yrs for Big 4 advisory in the financial services domain before being hired by my client (FNMA), where I am currently working. I am working in a role where the average experience is around 7-10 years on an initiative to reshape the way the GSEs are structured and will have a major impact in the world of mortgage banking going forward.

    I also own my own LLC where I provide database development and network / technology infrastructure support for clients ranging from small businesses to large energy companies. I have built/supported applications and provided support to energy companies during mergers and acquisitions which mostly includes transitioning technology assets to the new companies network and establishing connectivity. I have been doing this for 5.5 years.

    Minor extracurricular stuff, was a little league coach and volunteered at the American Legion.

    I am targeting Wharton, Tuck, MIT, Haas, Darden, and Columbia.

    Goal is to move into strategy consulting (MBB).

    What are my chances with my current profile? Given I am a wm, should I even bother unless I’m at the 730 mark?

  • hbsguru

    not likely but why do that in the first place. If you apply now for some MBA-MPP dual degree, that will be enough degrees AND there will be enough flexibility in those programs to take elective economics courses. You are a stronger applicant NOW fr. Govt job you have than next year from being a grad student at Oxford etc.
    Also, you do not need THREE grad degrees, two is enough.
    Unless I am missing something, apply NOW for enrollment in MBA/MPP degree in Sept 2016.

  • AfricaMBA

    Hi John and Sandy

    Please handicap my odds –

    28 year old black African male

    730 GMAT, 3.2 GPA

    Originally from Tanzania, grew up in Botswana, currently live in South Africa.

    Work as Business Development Manager at the largest private asset management company in Africa. Studied at the University of Cape Town.

    I want to apply to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Yale, Columbia.

    I want to use the MBA to shift industries and go into management consulting for a few years, then start a venture capital company in South Africa.

    How would you rate my odds, or what should I emphasize?

  • Samkhya

    Dear Sandy and John,

    Please share your thoughts on my profile.

    31 year old Indian Male

    GMAT: 710 (Q 49/ V 37/ AWA 5.0/ IR 5)


    Bachelors in Commerce from an Indian University (WES GPA 3.86/4.00)


    Chartered Accountant (All India merit rank: 14 – out of 2,600 candidates that passed); CFA level 3 candidate


    Low income family; lacked informational resources and timely guidance while growing up; despite limited mentorship got admit offers from top colleges including a regional engineering college and a top ranked Indian national law university but could not join due to financial constraints. Took up Chartered accountancy as it was affordable and offered decent financial stability post qualification. Speak 4 different languages (apart from English).

    Professional experience (oldest to newest):

    – 3 years of articleship with an audit firm with SMB clientele;
    – Investment banking (back office) analyst for a bulge bracket IB for 1 year;
    – Currently with M&A advisory (tax and regulatory) of a Big 4 accounting firm (4 years now).

    Community work:
    Fellow with asocial services organisation offering one-on-one mentoring to low income
    students (problems I faced because of lack of guidance in childhood made me
    associate with various education related and mentoring initiatives from the
    fact). Leading my employer’s charity efforts for education scholarship initiative
    targeted at under-resourced students.

    Plans after MBA:
    Work in a strategic consulting profile (M/B/B) or a PE/VC; understand commercial and
    strategic aspects of running business, which my current professional
    qualification does not offer. In the long run, set up a multi-disciplinary
    strategic consulting firm offering financial and other business solutions to underserviced SMEs – create jobs directly (employing professionals in my firm) and indirectly (by helping clients grow).

    Target schools:
    Harvard/ Stanford/ Columbia/ Tuck/ INSEAD/ Yale/ Northwestern/ UCB/ Booth/ NYU

  • ZtoA


    Thank you so much for your response. If I may ask but one more question? I have an offer to study for an M.Sc in Economics this September at a very strong British university. Given I’d be undertaking graduate-level courses, would this, somehow, affect my chance of admission to an MBA programme?

  • hbsguru

    if this is not a prank, I’d say you should look into Stanford Africa Fellowship (missed deadline for this year I think, but if so, apply to Stanford anyway, they will find a way to support you) and apply to top B schools HSW, they all would find this a compelling profile. I think HBS-HKS combo might give you best networking.

  • hbsguru

    “Will my experience outweigh the low GPA and GMAT score?”
    It should, its great. But see the picture of the adcom monkeys below and etc.
    Famous Sandyism, “adcoms sometimes blink once, they rarely blink twice.” [E.g. forgive low gpa and low gmat!].
    You’ve got great experience, but Wharton will take someone with a bit less experience and a bit more GPA/GMAT.
    If they are giving out exceptions to that, I will less likely be to white, male.
    Retake GMAT and do the best you can. Experience is real solid and someplace OK will admit you, altho not likely Wharton.

  • hbsguru

    thanks VHI, you got a great name, but except for the V, H and G it don’t add up to much in Scrabble points. 🙂

  • hbsguru

    Haas should be doable, I got a feeling admit rate of 770 GMAT applicants (without criminal records) is pretty high.
    Not sure about Q 1, but “writer” is something of dirty and scary word in most business circles. Except code writer!!!

  • hbsguru

    well, sure, but can someone see the picture of the 3 adcom monkeys below and post a mash-up of another one, reading a GMAT report and getting excited, how hard can that be.

  • MBAPivotTime

    Hi John and Sandy,

    Can you please provide some input on my chances for getting into Wharton?

    -26 year old white male
    -700 GMAT (retaking next month)
    -3.1 engineering GPA from Penn State (Transcript tells a story of a C/B- student during the first 2 years transformed into a A/B student during the last two years)

    -experience: 4 years of manufacturing operation experience at fortune 250 consumer products company
    First 2 years involved in leadership development program including international (Mexico) assignment.
    After the program, managed manufacturing operations of high growth product group including direct reports and 50 shop floor individuals.
    Last 6 months, promoted to manage manufacturing savings opportunities for 7 plants located in North America, Europe, and Asia. Will continue gaining this experience until Fall 2016 start.

    -I’d like to pursue an MBA from Wharton to pivot into finance. My current role is a grey area between engineering/manufacturing and finance. I am a numbers person and enjoy the operational finance aspect of my current role which has made me want to switch into the world of finance.

    Will my experience outweigh the low GPA and GMAT score?

  • ZtoA

    Hi Sandy and John, would it be viable to assess my chances?

    – Black, Male.
    – Citizenship: British and West African
    – Age: 22
    Emigrated to Britain age 6 as parents were political prisoners – very well documented (Amnesty international). Very famous father; essentially brought democracy to our country.
    – GMAT: 780
    – Undergraduate GPA ~ 3.9, BS in Economics (Finished first – with distinction – in my department at a competitive British University)
    Experience (In the country I emigrated to from):
    – Policy analyst at the Ministry of foreign affairs; promoted to senior analyst on the international development desk after 3 months (youngest to ever do so; 8 months in total). Earmarked and currently seconded to the PM’s office.


    – National student champion (Boxing).
    – Youth chess champion.


    – Volunteer for homeless charity (6 years).
    – Teaching assistant at an underperforming school (2 years).

    Pursuing an MBA (ideally an MBA/MPP) to develop the relevant leadership skills to: First, effectively influence public and private discourse and decision-making on private sector development in Africa. Second, eventually lead my father’s party and endeavour to see political change.

  • BSchoolParadox

    Can someone please give any kind of feedback to my profile? I would like to know if I am really reaching with my target schools.

  • JohnAByrne

    Good luck to you!

  • RituS

    Hi sandy,
    what do you think my chances are at
    H/S/W, Booth, Anderson, Haas, Kellogg, Stern?
    Any suggestions on improving my profile?

    – 21 year old female
    – Computer engineer from top 15 engineering college in India
    – US citizen, spent half my life in India
    – Will be working for 2 years at a top software company (Oracle/Microsoft/IBM) by the time I apply
    – 750 GMAT
    – 3.5 GPA (3.75 upper division GPA)
    – lots of extracurriculars, class representative

    Goal: to get into product management in tech sector

  • Pierre

    Hi Sandy & John,
    I’d love to get your analysis on my profile too.
    Targeted schools: Wharton, Columbia, NYU, Yale, INSEAD, HKUST
    * 700 GMAT
    * 26 yo, French Male
    * Lives in China
    * Engineering Master degree in France, 6 months exchange Program in Sweden. Major in Automotive engineering. No GPA under the French education system.
    * Work experience starts with an intership in Switzerland (Watch industry), then 4 and a half years in the automotive industry in Shanghai, China. I started in China as Sales engineer, then got promoted twice. Currently working as Program Manager (Team size: 21 headcounts, project with industrial footprint in China, Japan and Mexico, R&D budget of ~5M$, TO of ~50M$ over 5 years).
    * Extracurricular: Humanitarian raid in Morocco, President of student union, several extra-scolar engineering projects.
    * MBA short terms expectations: Career switch from the Automotive industry to Corporate Finance Consulting,
    * MBA long terms expectations: Consulting to Investment Banking,
    Thanks a lot!

  • LBS or HBS

    Just two differencing addiitionnal points: i speak 4 languages and was a semi professional tennis player

  • LBS or HBS

    Hi guys, i d love to have your thoughts on my profile for HBS and LBS.

    GMAT 680 (84 verbal 68 quant)
    3.3 average GPA
    I hold a MSC from a french business school. (top 10)
    age:29 ; Male
    I am both french and Moroccan and lived in 5 different countries in my life.
    Total professional experience is 7 years, 4 years for PwC in Europe as real estate financial auditor, 3 years as financial controller for a big sovereign fund in the middle east (current employment).
    I am in the real estate business, and I am happy to remain in that business even if I am open minded for a change.
    I d like to pursue an MBA to advance my career quicker and reach a management role before my 40s ( in finance, ideally CFO)

    Given my current good job (tax free!!!), I wont go for anything else than the best MBAs and therefore would appreciate you assess my odds being admitted.

    thank you!!

  • Vessela Hristova Ignatova

    Hi Sandy and John, Thank you for doing my profile! Solid feedback, things I have been thinking about a lot! Marketing and advertising are getting quite closer and hence the difficulty to nail only one career path I’d do. I really want to explore in the short term, but an impactful leader sums it all up. Thank you. vhi

  • John@BSchool

    Hi Sandy, I’d love any feedback you might have

    Undergrad: Bio-Electrical Engineering (Average but not great school)
    Undergrad GPA: 3.3 (B+)
    Year long paid internship at NASA while in School
    1.5 years working as an engineer at a Federal Nuclear Research Facility

    Grad Program: Law School (Think top 15-20)
    Both Summers spent during law school at one the best intellectual property law firms in the country.

    About to enter my 3rd year of Law

    GRE: 166V/164Q/5.5AW

    At matriculation I was have approximately 1.5 years of experience as an officer in the Army reserve.

  • ThoughtfulAussie

    Thanks, Sandy, I really appreciate the help!

    I’d like to ask two final questions, if that’s okay:

    1) Is it safe to say I want to work in the tech industry post-MBA (this is my real goal – I can point to my writing & extracurriculars), or should I stick to something blander like ‘corporate strategy in an industry I’ve covered’?

    2) If I can get the story right, would I have a realistic shot at Haas?

  • Antonio

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love to get your input on my chances for LBS, HBS, Stanford and MIT

    – Demo: 23 yo white male from Spain
    – GMAT: 770
    – Job: MBB for the last 3 years in Spain and West Africa (pubic sector work)
    – Extra curric: Did some freelance consulting in college and participated in 5 case competitions around the world representing my Uni(good national school, but not very well known abroad)
    – Goal: Stay on MBB for the next ~5 years. After that it is still a bit blurry, but would probably shoot for starting my own project in the education area

    Thank you for doing this, it’s really awesome of you!

  • hbsguru

    dunno Mate, those are pretty good stats and maybe low expectations.
    Wharton will go for the numbers, and finance background, altho work history of
    “Around 7 years’ work experience with boutique investment research firms, with gradually increasing responsibilities” is not common feeder track–you seem one of those guys more suited or happy writing about stuff than doing it, etc. Also, one hopes you have not had TOO MANY jobs over those 7 years, as that is also CAUTION light for adcoms, altho more common in your biz than most.
    Chuck a Hail Mary into HBS –with some shrewd execution you might have a chance. If they take you, and you are hurting $$$, they will take care of you via their need-based fin. aid program. And going a bit into debt to pay for HBS degree is usually a smart bet.
    You need to do a solid job of explaining what you did as “schmuck” writer and what you plan to do post MBA, and road map.

  • hbsguru

    Here is a candid of the adcom at your target schools.

  • hbsguru

    Unfortunately, a GMAT arms race has become part of the B school admissions
    game these days, esp. in “generic” applicants like you–e.g. Non-minority, male, Big 4 types –schools got many, many applicants like you, and while you seem more thoughtful and engaged in extras than most, adcoms barely care about your NGO work and dreams of reforming Paki Edu sector vs. 20 GMAT points, especially at the ‘see no good, hear no good, speak no good, show me the GMATs’ dumb monkey adcom schools you are targeting, viz. Sloan, Columiba, Berk (mostly) etc.
    Those adcoms rub each other at conferences and blather on at Forums but when decision time comes, go for the GMAT. Sorry to report this, but true.

  • ConfusedB

    Hi Sandy,

    I will be applying for an MBA this year in Round 1 and 2 at the following schools:

    MIT Sloan

    UC Berkeley Haas


    Yale SOM


    About me: 25 year old male. US citizen but grew up in Pakistan

    Undergrad: Marshall with a 3.58

    GMAT: 700 (47Q/38V) but strong grades in undergrad quant classes. Need to retake?

    Work experience includes 3 years in the Advisory function of a Big 4 firm. Non-profit work includes extensive volunteering/leadership role at my firm. In addition I have been a volunteer for an NGO working in the Education sector in Pakistan. Want to make a transition to an MBB firm in Asia.

  • ThoughtfulAussie

    Hi Sandy,

    How would you rate my chances?

    * 770 GMAT
    * Australian male, late 20s
    * Graduated with First Class Honours from an Australian university (bachelors’ degrees in accounting & law) & completed CFA program.
    * Around 7 years’ work experience with boutique investment research firms, with gradually increasing responsibilities.
    * Extracurriculars: Writing for various publications
    * Goal: Transition out of finance and to a more ‘hands-on’ business role
    * Looking at local programs (AGSM, Melbourne) plus Wharton, London, Cambridge Judge, & UCLA. Happy to drop down to tier 2 US/UK if this means better chance of getting a full ride.


  • Ali

    Hi Sandy, I’d love to hear your take on my chances:

    – 26 year old from Pakistan

    -Graduated with a 2.89 GPA with a bachelors in Economics and Finance from a top Pakistani University

    – 730 GMAT

    – 3 years work experience at a large fmcg MNC, showing constant progression, increasing income and responsibility. Currently area sales manager

    – Constantly involved in community service

    I want to transition to a tech firm in a product manager role. I’m thinking of applying to Haas, Fuqua, Kellog. Thanks!

  • hbsguru

    this is actually better stated than my answer.

  • hbsguru

    were you interviewed at H or S last year (dinged posters, keep that mind when you post!).
    Dunno, lots to like, but this is pretty stupid, or maybe just badly stated.

    “why MBA” then is centered around eventually doing my own startup but
    have the safety net to be employable back in Tech should that fall
    Better story could help, this aint smelling like Stanford, altho their GOOG standards are pretty low, I mean after you get into GOOG.

  • hbsguru

    not sure I fully understand your past work history, is it the case you never got a FT gig? What was full spectrum of outcomes last year?
    I respect a 770 GMAT but if apps were like this annoying post, results not a super surprise, altho you did have an uphill battle.

  • RebeccaRobot

    Hey Reapp,

    I was in the same situation this year – dinged at H/S last year (no interviews), more years out of undergrad than most applicants, post-MBA job/salary, etc. I reapplied and interviewed at both this year and was accepted at one.

    I think that changing my career goals to be more realistic and in-line with my experience was a big difference-maker. I wrote with a more genuine voice and believe I came off as a grounded individual with some authority in my field rather than a naive drifter.

    I don’t know that including a “safety net” option in your career goals is a good idea… They want to hear about what you REALLY want to do and how you’re going to accomplish it… Not about what you REALLY want to do and what you’re going to do once you give up on it. That mentality is likely not something that a student would want in their classmates.

    Additionally, the goal of creating a start-up is great, but perhaps not one that you should share unless you’ve already taken steps to make it happen. Many start-ups are founded because the founder wants one, not because the company solves some critical business/social problem. It’s those individuals that business schools want to avoid because their plans are too idealistic and they don’t actually have any idea what they’re getting themselves into other than their own fantasy.

    I think you have a good shot at admission with the correct presentation. I hope this helps!

  • JohnAByrne

    Sandy, Very good advice!

  • hbsguru

    HBS interviews sorta 1800-1900 peeps for ~1100-1000 admits (to get to an enrolled class of 920-40). Soooo, after interview odds are more like 60pct. I think of all the post-interview dings, maybe 30pct screw up the interview by HBS lights (sound scripted or annoying, very few dings cannot in fact speak English, the nominal reason for interview). A lot of kids do OK in interview and just lose out to better candidates in their bucket.
    Because there is a good deal of subjectivity in the bottom of the interview pool, e.g. the last 300-500 of those 1800-1900 kids being interviewed, getting a total 40pct does not mean you are 80 or 70 pct likely to be interviewed, it means you have a good chance of being in the last 300-500 interview kids, who often get dinged, or chance of being first 300 kids not interviewed.
    Lots of kids being interviewed are marginal by HBS pool, altho sure, usually strong in general.
    And, as often noted, the best thing you can do at Interview is NOT SCREW up by sounding scripted, forced, annoying, affected, etc. despite the fact that 99 pct of kids go into interview thinking they have to STAND OUT–a big mental problem for folks engaged in this process.
    Your stats, gmats, work history etc. is baked in and is kind of how good looking you are, the interview is sorta your shirt and tie. Don’t wear a funny tie.
    Blue shirt and normal tie sorta do it. If you are not good looking enuf, no tie is going to help, if you are, tie can only hurt you. HAHA, million dollars worth of advice that many have hard time digesting.

  • Grace

    Hi Sandy,

    I would appreciate if you can help me to handicapp my odds for the elites.

    GMAT: 730 (planning to take it again for 750+)
    GPA: 3.7

    Undergrad: Finance and Political Science in Top 50 School located in the South and feeder school into Energy Trading

    WE: 5 years in US Major Oil’s rotational trading program. Jobs includes various functions on the trade floor. Currently one of the youngest and few female traders on the floor. No obvious leadership experiences directly related to work because of the structure of the trade floor.

    Student government in undergrad including one year as the VP for Finance.
    On the board of employee affinity network for two years, but had to drop it due to new job function in the past year.
    Volunteer at local children’s hospital (four hours weekly for two years)
    Equestrian for two years.
    Almost all extracurricular had to be dropped in the last two years due to a serious equistrian accident two years ago.

    Goal: I want to be on the management track for a US Super Major by going into a MBA program right after school.

    Asian Female 26

    Fluent in Mandarin. Immigrated from China during middle school.

    Target Schools: HSW+ Chicago+UT

    Thank you.

  • hbsguru

    Great! You sound like a focused and smart guy with a real plan and goals.
    For HSW, in general, however, I am sticking with the program. Staying at one job in no-name tech company for nine years would be a difficult bump to get over.
    As I often say, tho, your dreams can come true at many b schools.

  • Balt

    Sandy- 2 questions for you? Appreciate your time

    1. When you say a candidate has a 40 percent chance at HBS does that mean they are 80 percent likely to get an interview? I.e. 50 percent get weeded at.
    2. Is it really an even playing field if you get to the interview stage. Or do schools have people they want and just need to make sure they are normal humans?

  • roger

    HBS guruji,

    Greetings from yet another Indian kid! I’d really appreciate your thoughts on my chances

    Background: Indian male, age 26
    GPA: 740
    Undergrad: IIT; Master’s at Stanford (GPA-3.98)

    2 years at a top tier strategy consulting firm (MBB) doing growth, sales strategy and cost cutting at technology, telecom firms

    Currently at a $20 bn revenue Koch consumer goods company (~15 months)- as strategy manager: Worked on growth strategy, pricing, sales strategy, ecommerce, digital marketing; Boss who’s an HBS alum will write a stellar recommendation as will an SVP

    Goals: Short term-launch an enterprise software start up (based on experience in current role and consulting); Long term- Become an early stage/growth equity investor in US, India;

    Extra curriculars: Debating; Dramatics; Volunteer teacher for under privileged children in India; Organized several college festivals; Treasurer; Launched a start-up

    I’m planning to apply to Harvard, Stanford, Kellogg, Wharton & Booth.

  • BSchoolParadox

    Thanks for that note! It’s really great to see someone not count themselves out!

  • DiggaLittleDeeper

    I would say don’t worry about it. I worked for only one company for 9 years (in tech and NOT a well known MNC). I belong to a highly competitive applicant pool – Indian/IT/Male. Yes! The most lethal combination. Yet, I was accepted into five top 20 full time mba programs including a solid top 10 program. Moreover, I am 33 years old, graduated from relatively unknown Indian university with a GPA of 3.08, a mediocre GRE score of 323 (whichever equates to 670 on the GMAT). And Sandy, you will have to admit that with these numbers, you would never given me a chance in hell. Honestly, many consultants told me the same. But by having very clear and meaningful career goals, solid work experience in terms of achievements and leadership roles, essays articulating a complete and honest picture about myself, and strong interviewing skills (taking advantage of open interview policies of many of the schools), I was able to overcome the so called deal breakers.

  • OverAndDoneWith

    I’ve been following this series on and off for awhile and even though I already know where I’m going, I’m just going to throw this out there because curiosity is getting the better of me.

    28 yo male
    770 GMAT
    3.5 GPA in humanities from an average school (think Syracuse or UDel)
    5 years mostly freelancing in a creative field — gradually increased responsibility as I changed jobs average of once per year — working for both small businesses and a household name Fortune 500 company.
    I wanted to leave the freelance world behind and get into either consulting or tech — the thinking was I’d try recruiting in one field that had a set recruiting calendar and another that hired more just-in-time.

    Last year, I was dinged after (self-scheduled) interview last year at Tuck. I couldn’t bring myself to reapply and have to rewrite their essays. Would I have had a chance? What about a reapp to Booth? Or a new application to Darden?

  • Wantreprenuer

    My business is VC backed, going well and strong. I just want the MBA.

  • hbsguru

    did you get interviewed at H or S???
    real impt.

  • HS Reapplicant

    Reapplicant, dinged last year from H/S accepted at Ch/K//Haas but only want H/S — I know W isn’t a fit.

    27 yo male
    740 GMAT (previously 720), 3.7 gpa
    HYP undergrad, Econ major
    3years at McKinsey, 3.5 yrs at Google by matriculation focused in Scaling operations for a key business line.

    Since getting dinged I retook the GMAT, was promoted at Google, and performed two pro bono consulting gigs.

    I’m only applying to H/S since I already have a target job for most people and am close to post MBA salary there is little incentive to give that up unless it’s for those two. My positioning for the “why MBA” then is centered around eventually doing my own startup but have the safety net to be employable back in Tech should that fall through.

    Thanks in advance.

  • Telecom Guy


    What do the top 20 adcoms think about work experience from the big telecoms (AT&T, Verizon). I have 1.5 years in sales and a 2 years as an analyst (promoted to a senior position).

    Haven’t really read many profiles with this experience and am curious how it affects my profile.


  • Matthew

    Hey Sandy–

    Great stuff. Have a question regarding the prestige of certain programs.

    Mexican American who went to the University of Missouri to study Journalism (first J-school in the world actually and known for this program).Graduated with honors (3.6) and have a 720 GMAT.

    My question is, will it be a plus or will I get dinged for going to a “non-ivy” even though I went for a specific program. I was accepted to some very high profile state schools (UT,Michigan), but at the time chose to pursue Journalism .

    Thanks for any advice you can provide!

  • hbsguru

    well, yes, you qualify mostly because you do not need a summer internship, which is the way MANY 2yr MBA types looking for career change begin the process.
    K and esp. Col are MOST concerned about whether you will have a job after grad, or if you will be hanging around like a slacker college kid back home w. Mom + Dad.
    So make it clear in app. that company is still going and you will rejoin it. A goal statement which say –‘Man, I am going to meet all sorts of cool partners and VCs at Columbia and graduate raring to go in some new business that we will all dream up, is, ahem, not convincing to them.
    How come?
    “Never s!!t a shi!!er”

  • Wantreprenuer

    Hi Sandy,

    Being an entrepreneur, would you view the 1 year programs from Kellogg or Columbia? I imagine they’d be more receptive to the “why an MBA if you’re an entrepreneur?” question if you’re applying to those programs. The fact is, entrepreneurs still need higher level business education, and the networking and contacts can be a lifesaver.

  • hbsguru

    don’t worry about it if that is you–fact is, the vast majority of admits to HSW WITH over 4 yrs exp. have worked for two companies–the adcom thinking is that getting 2nd job is a moment when all applicants are put thru some screening process of job search involving getting recs, finding opportunities, building on accomplishments of job 1. THAT is a process schools deeply respect as easy admissions proxy. If you are slightly off the grid applicant, and do not get trad. job in banking, consulting etc. and then STAY there for four years, despite good work for 4 years, the take-away may be you are not ambitious, focused, or that job was dead end you sunk in to.
    The only large exception would be manufacturing/MNC gigs where job changing is not as common. In hi- tech companies, it is REAL unusual for someone to stay for 4-5 years, esp. kid out of college. Happy to hear contrary opinions,
    but one thing I do know, number of H/S/W admits among all applicants who are

    1. 4- 5 years out of college and
    2 not counting MNC) and
    3. only present one FT post college job, is real small.

    (military also an obvious exception).

  • Question

    Hey Sandy..Why is working for 4 years in one company a “tiny boo-boo”? Is this an issue even if a candidate got promoted a couple times, took significant responsibilities under his/her wing and provided solid recommendations from their supervisors?

  • BSchoolParadox

    Hi John & Sandy,

    I would love your thoughts of the chances I have of getting into Kellogg
    & Booth, I will not be applying until next year, so please give feedback on
    how I can improve my app as well.

    740 GMAT

    2.4 GPA from UIUC majoring in Engineering Management ( engineering application
    with many business courses that would pertain to the concentration,
    Construction Management, Real estate Development) During college years I went
    through the best moments and worst moments a person could go through. I plan on
    explaining them during some point at application. Any suggestions on how and
    what not to do? I want the focus to be more so on HOW I was able to still succeed
    through all my trials and tribulations and not why I had poor grades instead of
    a big excuse for poor grades. I went through depression because of loss of
    grandparents. I got married. I had a very rough pregnancy during one semester.
    Took two years off to stay at home with son/toddler while husband finished
    school. Came back to finish last two years and during midterms my little
    brother (Whom I helped raise in a single parent household with mother) an honor
    student in H.S. was shot and killed by someone he didn’t know at a party.
    Finished the semester the best I could. My last semester of undergrad my
    husband and I had our second son during my midterms and I graduated a few weeks

    Worked as marketing director of a national student housing Management
    Company for a year during college, helped turn around and manage a distressed
    16 building/500 bed apartment complex. Leasing in saturated market, weekly
    market analysis, product development, risk assessment for tenants (like
    underwriting) marketing campaigns etc.

    After graduation I was hired for a 1 year rotational leadership development
    program for Mortgage with fortune 200 bank. Worked on many successful projects
    that involved work with many investors and government regulators and acted as
    consultants to execs by improving processes and giving possible solutions that
    were implemented. Did rotations in processing, underwriting, closing, investor
    relations, & sales.

    Switched lines of business (Same Company) to commercial real estate as an
    underwriter. Working on multi-million dollar deals. (Will have worked in this
    role for 3 years by matriculation.

    Started my own turn-key company, rehabbing multi-family units in low income
    neighborhoods with a focus on teaching my tenants financial literacy to help
    alleviate poverty. With hopes of them buying their own home possibly even my buildings.
    Mentor young women similar to my demographic showing them that no matter how
    the cards are stacked against them they can accomplish all their dreams as long
    as they have what I call “Want to”

    On the board of directors and a treasurer for a non-profit org that helps
    young fathers from low income neighborhoods (like the one I am from) learn
    parenting skills, financial literacy, help with earning a trade or GED,
    furthering education etc.

    Goal: I would like to get my MBA so that I can work for a management consulting
    firm in Real Estate. Giving expertise in market strategy and Real Estate
    Banking/financial services and RE management.

    Black Woman
    Age at matriculation: 29

  • Kevin202

    Hi Sandy – really enjoy your assessments!

    A question on dual degrees – If you plan on applying for the joint MBA/MPP program through Harvard Kennedy School and Tuck / Wharton / Sloan, does this hurt or improve your chances of getting into the MBA programs, or have no effect at all?