Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Call her the Marlboro Woman. She got her start working on the best-selling brand of cigarettes in the world and moved into the pharma industry after a pair of promotions. With a 720 GMAT but a lowly 2.9 undergraduate grade point average, she’s hoping to get an MBA to ease a transition into strategy or sustainability consulting.

He’s a 27-year-old European who racked up nearly two years in the military where he was responsible for training in a logistics role and has since been a market researcher for a boutique consulting firm. With a 740 GMAT and a master’s from a Top 30 business school in Europe were he graduated in the top 16% of his class, he now wants to land a spot in a major Silicon Valley tech company. Think Google or Facebook.

After working for nearly five years as a legislative assistant in the U.S. Senate, this 26-year-old female professional joined a top Washington, D.C., think tank, doing project management. She boasts a smartbuwt not nerdy GPA of 3.4 from a prestige liberal arts college in New England and a well-mannered GRE split of 163Q and 165V. She hopes to use her business school education as a spring board to a career in social sector consulting.

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?

Now that he’s finished mock interviews with some 50 round two applicants to Harvard and other business 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.)

lady woman gal

Mrs. Marlboro

  • 720 GMAT
  • 2.9 GPA
  • “Black spot in application is my GPA”
  • During her undergraduate years, her father suffered a stroke that impacted him permanently
    Undergraduate degree from an unknown institution
  • Work experience includes career start at Philip Morris, where she worked on the best-selling Marlboro brand and was promoted twice; now works in the pharmaceutical industry and has been promoted to regional director within her first year
  • Extracurricular involvement as the chapter director for a women’s rights organization and a volunteer for the Sierra Club political committee
  • Goal: To work as a consultant: strategy and sustainability (long-term sustainability, supply chain environmental impact).
  • “I want to make a career switch to align with my personal and professional interests”

Odds Of Success:

Berkeley: 10% to 20%
Columbia: 20%
NYU: 20% to 35%
Virginia: 30%+
Michigan: 30%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Marlboro!!!! My own brand before switching to Camels Classic, the non-filtered guys, along with all the other tough-guy pre-men in my Bar Mitzvah lesson classes at Hebrew School, circa 1959.

Not a pretty picture  . . . but moving right along.

I’ve always wondered how big a black mark working for a tobacco company is on MBA apps and my guess has been, for super-selective schools like H/S/W, it would just be seen as a “non-selective” job but certainly a “brand name” one, especially in your case at Philip Morris.  From just a selectivity point of view, I think it is easier to get a marketing job at Marlboro than at Google–even though marketing Marlboro’s might be more challenging. For the record, in my mind, both companies are equally annoying and predatory, although sure, AdWords does not cause cancer — but listening to hipster Google-types endlessly might.

In your case, and with your story, starting out at Marlboro can actually become part of your narrative. Given your low GPA, it was a good job and you took it seriously, got promoted two times, and then switched to the pharmaceutical industry, which has a better rep with MBA adcoms than tobacco companies.  So you are moving up in the world, both in terms of responsibilities and also in terms of the adcom status hierarchy.

Now you want to get an MBA to switch into consulting, one of the best reasons in the whole wide world to get an MBA, as I keep saying.

That is not irony folks — if in doubt, always say consulting.

And you got a 720 GMAT!

It’s all a good story except for that pesky 2.9 GPA.

Note, however, that given the choice between a low GPA and a low GMAT, ahem, gimme the low GPA. Adcoms weigh GMAT WAY more than GPA, as many articles on Poets&Quants have noted. 

And for the schools you are targeting — Berkeley, Columbia, NYU, University of Michigan, and University of Virginia — that is double deeply the case.

OK, here is the generic advice about the GPA: Try to take some courses like stats or econ just to say you are sorry and to prove that you

  1. can sit still,
  2. swallow boring jive,
  3. and spit it back on exams.

That is what the GPA tests for anyway. And it is a pretty good proxy of B-school performance and reality.

Then put together a narrative that explains your brilliant career so far and presents your time in the tobacco fields without fear or favor. Don’t apologize, don’t complain, don’t underscore that you are now a member of the Sierra Club Political Committee which wants to ban smoking outdoors as well. Just focus on what you did at Marlboro and how it was a platform for what you want to do in consulting.

Speaking of which, you say, “I want to make a career switch to align with my personal and professional interests. Post-MBA, I want to work as a consultant, specifically in strategy and sustainability (long-term sustainability, supply chain environmental impact, etc.).”

This could be important. Do not stress the idea of switching careers to align with your “personal and professional interests.” That sounds a bit like you have regrets.  You do not need to realign anything. Your career is pretty straightforward.

Just say you want to be a strategy consultant and help companies grow and have more impact. That is what consultants do and that is what you have been doing.  Your take on that above, viz., “specifically in strategy and sustainability (long-term sustainability, supply chain environmental impact, etc.)” sounds confused and compensatory. Like you need to give back after all that great work at Philip Morris getting teens hooked on smoking. Was Joe Camel one of your brainstorms?

Anyway it is water under the bridge. You got nothing to be ashamed of except the 2.9. Spend your time explaining that and taking a few courses.

A 2.9 is way lower than the average GPA at your target schools but they take some people with 2.9s. Those people usually have higher GMATs (like you) and a good story (like you) so there is some Hail Mary hope but this could be hard.

I don’t think you are getting into Columbia or Berk, but you got a chance at NYU and UVA with a good story and smart execution.


  • Omar W.


    I enjoyed reading your blog. I want to apply for the fall of 2018 to an elite school, leaning towards HBS.

    I’m a black male (first generation American and first in family to go to college).

    GRE practice tests (320 average) – Taking GRE because I’m not super strong in math

    3.63 Undergraduate GPA from a state school
    Teach For America Alum

    Experience: Teaching currently in my 4th year in Inner City Charter School and will apply during my 5th year of teaching
    Created an organization in my school to enhance student growth
    Masters Degree in Special Education GPA 3.09 from a city college

    Goals: Applying to Business School in order to work for a non-profit education consulting firm to create reforms in Public/Charter Schools and create my innovation techniques to increase student success with hopes of eventually creating my own charter schools.

    Target Schools: HBS, GSB, and Wharton

  • onyekg@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy– I got dinged at HBS.I figured it’s along the same light of what you mentioned.

    My profile updated– I now work in Marketing running a $73MM business, (Moved cross-functionally from Supply Chain)

    I have interview with Kellogg (applicant initiated) next week. Any key things to focus on?


  • rep

    Hey Sandy, I really enjoy your column, was hoping to get your opinion.

    690/710 GMAT (most recent practice tests, will be taking that actual test in a couple weeks)

    3.75 GPA from BYU in Business Management (emphasis in Finance)

    Professional Experience:
    Blackhawk Pilot for U.S. Army (Captain)
    Distinguished Military Grad at BYU
    Distinguished Honor Grad at flight school
    1 combat deployment to Afghanistan (and about to go again at which time I’ll need to be applying)
    Currently a Company Commander of 88 Soldiers and over $50 million of equipment (and will deploy as such)

    Extracurricular: lots of church service, boy scouts, etc… compete in triathlons as well

    Lived for 2 years in Brazil as LDS Missionary (speak portuguese fluently)

    Married with 3 young children

    Age 30 (will enter B-School at 32… based on active duty commitment after flight school)

    Goals: perhaps consulting, finance maybe, I’m interested in a lot of things really

    Target Schools: HBS, MIT, Wharton, Kellogg, Duke, UT-Austin

    Your opinion is greatly appreciated!


  • confuscious

    Hi Sandy

    I am loving your columns! Would love to have your brutally honest opinion on my profile for chances at either Harvard or Stanford.

    Female, 28, MD-India (grad 6 years ago)
    2 years post-doc in mid-tier US Univ
    4 years clinical research regulations and compliance (in #1 in NIH funding US (ivy) univ for clinical research)
    Post MBA career: Pharmaceutical leadership/Health system Administration.
    GMAT 730 (Q49/V40)- unhappy with the score and wish to retake it for a score of 760.

    Do you think 760 would brighten my chances or should I stick to the current score and apply to lower tier B schools?



  • bschool_mbb

    Hi Sandy,
    Your columns are always fun and insightful. I was hoping you could take a quick look at mine and provide any insights/advice. My profile is below:
    – GMAT: 770
    – Undergrad: BA in Math from top 50 liberal arts school in the Midwest, 3.5 GPA
    – Grad School: MS in Statistics from a Big 10 school, 3.1 GPA
    – Personal: South Asian (not Indian) male, not a U.S. citizen. Will be 30 at matriculation.
    – First Job: 2 years as an analyst at a Fortune 500 consumer financial services firm in the U.S. Really good ratings and promoted after 1 year.
    – Second Job: Went back to home country (in South Asia) and started a commodities trading company. This was actual trading where we took possession of the actual goods and were responsible for all the transportation and logistics as well. Traded both locally and internationally. After 3+ years business is not as good as it used to be (market conditions, adverse legislation, etc.) so we will be shutting down the company by the end of the year.
    – Goals: Management consulting at a major consulting firm (M/B/B etc.). Eventually I would want to do consulting for start-ups (although given my own startup history that might be a stretch!)
    – Target Schools: Stretch – HBS (stretch), Kellogg, Tuck, Booth, Yale, Darden, Fuqua
    Would love to get your thoughts on my profile. One other specific question – what are the chances that I get bucketed in with Indian male engineers? I am guessing that would significantly lower my chances.

  • The Dancing Digital Marketer

    Oops, I forgot to add that I’m considering ESADE and IESE, both in Barcelona, in addition the to US schools. Thanks again Sandy!

  • The Dancing Digital Marketer

    Hi Sandy, I’m a highly atypical applicant and I’m groping in the dark about where I should apply. I’d really appreciate your help! I’m 25, Singapore-Indian and female. I’m fluent in English, Chinese, Tamil and Spanish. I have a GMAT score of 720.

    Undergraduate degree: 3.7 GPA in Philosophy & English at a top 20 UK University
    I edited an arts and culture journal, performed regularly with my university dance troupe and worked summer internships in marketing and PR with international fashion brands in Singapore.

    I took a ‘gap year’ in South America between my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. I studied Latin dance forms in Cuba, Brazil and Argentina and wrote a travel column about it for a lifestyle magazine in Singapore.

    Postgraduate degree: 3.5 GPA in Sociology at LSE/ Oxford/ Cambridge
    Extracurricular: I was president of the ballroom dance society at university and I wrote art and cinema reviews for a local magazine.

    I will have 3 years work experience as a copywriter with a leading advertising agency in Sydney, Australia by the time I start B-school in 2017. I’ve recently been promoted to senior copywriter. My current extracurricular activities are choreographing and teaching dance at a school in a deprived neighbourhood.

    Goals: I want to study for an MBA in marketing so that I am well-equipped to move back home and start my own event marketing company. Singapore has a burgeoning arts and culture sector, which currently receives 500m dollars in annual government funding and offers rich potential for events start-ups. I believe my creative background and entrepreneurial nature combined with a business education will make me ideally suited for this.

    Universities: UC Berkeley Haas, UCLA Anderson, USC Marshall, UCSD Rady.

  • P Sam

    Dear Sandy & John,

    I would love to consult with you about my MBA chances – really appreciate any feedback/comments!!

    Personal Background
    – 26 Asian Male, international student
    – Passionate about the Entertainment industry.

    Education & Test Scores:
    – Undergrad GPA 3.7 from a top 25 university in LA, major in Accounting
    – 760 GMAT

    Work Experiences:
    -2.5 years at Big 4 Assurance, including 1.5 years in LA serving Entertainment clients in LA and a year-long international assignment in Oceania doing consulting and business development projects. Top rated with Distinct Employer Award.
    – Recently joined a Hollywood Major studio as a Senior Financial Analyst in corporate planning. Great exposures to top executives.

    – Volunteer with The World Bank to build partnerships with oversea charity foundations created by local celebrities.
    – Strong involvements at work (volunteer crew) as well as back in College (found student orgs to host business case competition, participation in the city film festivals, intern at social entrepreneurship NGO promoting education opportunities for under-represented children in Asia).

    Career Goal:
    – Short term after MBA: strategic planning & business development at a leading Entertainment/Media company
    -Long term: Using a mindset of corporate entrepreneurship to lead an
    Entertainment company to achieve global expansion, tech innovation, as well as creating social welfare (think entertainment education).

    Why MBA:
    – Need solid management skills to match with my career goal.
    – Meet exceptional future leaders. Entertainment industry highly interacts with other industries after all.

    I am targeting at Stanford, HBS, CBS, and Berkeley.

    Much appreciate for your thoughts!

  • mbapplygo1@gmail.com

    Dear Sandy & John,

    I would love to consult with you about my MBA chances – really appreciate any feedback/comments!!

    Personal Background
    – 26 Asian Male, international student
    – Passionate about the Entertainment industry.

    Education & Test Scores:
    – Undergrad GPA 3.7 from a top 25 university in LA, major in Accounting
    – 760 GMAT

    Work Experiences:
    – 2.5 years at Big 4 Assurance, including 1.5 years in LA serving Entertainment clients in LA and a year-long international assignment in Oceania doing consulting and business development projects. Top rated with Distinct Employer Award.
    – Recently joined a Hollywood Major studio as a Senior Financial Analyst in corporate financial planning.

    – Volunteer with The World Bank to build partnerships with oversea charity foundations created by local celebrities.
    – Strong involvement back in College.

    Career Goal:
    – Short term after MBA: strategic planning & business development at a leading Entertainment/Media company
    – Long term: Using a mindset of corporate entrepreneurship to lead an Entertainment company to achieve global expansion, tech innovation, as well as creating social welfare (think entertainment education).

    Why MBA:
    – Need solid management skills to match with my career goal.
    – Meet other exceptional future leaders. Entertainment industry highly interacts with other industries after all.

    Essay & Recs should be solid. I am targeting at Stanford, HBS, CBS, and Berkeley.

    Much appreciate for your thoughts!

  • pfan@usc.edu


  • lnskoog

    Hi Sandy!
    I would really appreciate any help/insight you can provide here.
    GPA: 3.58 B.S. in Chemical Engineering from a top 15 Engineering school
    GMAT: 760
    Work Experience at time of applying to B-School – 6 yrs – 5 years in Process Engineering/Project Management and 1 year in quality assurance for engineering
    I worked at two different companies for those 6 years – 3 years at the first – consumer products company
    3 years at the second – a multinational chemical company
    Both Fortune 500 companies
    28 yr old white female.
    Lead the volunteer committee at the manufacturing site where I worked for my first company
    Avid member of the women in business groups for both companies.
    Strong ally and supporter of the LBGT community at my current company and a leader in the LBGT ERG.
    Long term goal – Consultant in the Oil and Gas/Chemical Industry – Looking to leverage my technical skills with an MBA to provide a unique insight in the industry.
    Schools Considered:
    Full Time: Stanford, Wharton, Berkeley, Chicago, UCLA, Columbia
    Part Time/Online: UT (McCombs) and IU (Kelley)
    Any advice or insight would be greatly appreciated.

  • BschoolApplicant111

    Hi Sandy,
    I would like to hear your thoughts on my prospects for UCLA, Columbia, NYU, & Northwestern. I’m also considering applying through the Consortium for UCLA & NYU, so if you have any thoughts on that please let me know.

    Here are my stats!

    – 710 GMAT (41 V, 45 Q)
    – 3.6 GPA from a mid-tier UC school, 3.5 years work experience at time of application
    – 24 year old “diverse” female

    Work experience:
    – 1.5 years in private wealth management as a financial analyst. Passed Series 7 & 66 certifications. Highly involved in company culture, started a health and wellness newsletter. Led several trainings for new hires. Participated in company-sponsored volunteering events.
    – 1.5 years at Warner Bros as a financial analyst. Mentored an underprivileged high school student twice a month through WB’s corporate outreach efforts.
    – Will have 6 months as a Senior Financial Analyst at NBC Universal at time of application. Manage financial models and forecasting for department’s digital media customer revenues

    Pre-MBA prep:
    Pre-MBA Fellow at UCLA Anderson (2015)
    Forte Pre-MBA Fellow (2016)

    Volunteer work:
    – WB mentoring (mentioned above) (2014-2015)
    – mentoring high school student through Anderson pre-MBA program once a month (2014-2015)
    – peer coaching facilitator for Riordan program- leading discussions with current fellows on finding their strengths, goal-setting, and coaching one another on career progression (2015-2016)
    – leading classes on Saturdays once a month for underprivileged high school students to teach them about business concepts they would otherwise not receive in their regular curriculum (2015-2016)

    Post MBA goals:
    Short term – I would like to transition out of finance and into a corporate strategy role in a company which is at the intersection entertainment/tech (i.e. Netflix)
    Long term – join an entertainment tech company that focuses on producing content that is educational in nature

  • hbsguru

    this is classic EMBA profile given age and different experiences. Yes, GPA ( a bit ) and non-trad work experience will be issues. As will desire to e.g. graduate at age 35 and start working for MC firm
    You will have hard time getting in to MBA program and Top 15 schools but might have a chance at local school,
    “Land a job in management consultancy. Work for few years and starts my own Education-Business mix corporation”

    Given IT experiences, you might be able to get job at MC firm now, altho it will take some schmoozing.

    Lots to be said for sticking w. current business, although you are best judge of that.
    If you want to roll dice w. FT MBA program, I would say goals are build out skills and experiences in IT someway, either by joining big company or IT focused consulting firm.

    I’m rooting for you but this is hard road.

  • asma.batool@yahoo.com

    Hi Sandy,
    I am Pakistani women and mother of 2 kids. I would appreciate if you evaluate my profile and assess my chances of getting into top 2

  • hbsguru

    shooting fr. the hip,
    1. too many jobs and not enuf super blue chip jobs
    2. kinda low GRE score
    dings at Stanford, Columbia, Yale, and Berk.
    All of whom are super snotty about taking Non-Profit types like you. They take Non-Prof management wannabe types but those kids present solid gold schooling, GMAT/GRE and Work History (e.g. Gates Foundation, etc. )
    There is some smart, unawoken kid w. a 3.8 from Yale and 740 GMAT sleepwalking thru 2-3 yrs. at Gates Foundation whose Fairy Godmother just sprinkled wake-up dust on his/her head. That dude is going to Stanford, etc.
    Other schools you note in list above are “in line” if you present an app that explains your jumpy story in some winning way and also has evidence you want to actually go to that place.

  • hbsguru

    as noted, lots to like, and rare profile, good luck.

  • sansley8@gmail.com

    Yes, I am a US citizen.

    My other work history included:
    product test engineer at a top semiconductor firm for 1 year.
    engineer at a top car manufacturer for 2.5 years. (this includes participating in their 18 month leadership development rotational program. The program required 3 month rotation at Germany HQ.)

    I just met with someone who works in the Venture Capital department at my current employer, and she told me I would definitely need to go back to school for an MBA. I will use your advice and focus on technology management, and explore my options while in b-school. I am definitely doing my due diligence researching/exploring my possibilities for career paths.

    Once again, Thank you!

  • ZaphodB

    Hi Sandy, can you please have a look at my profile above? There is actually a big gap between your analysis of Indian profiles and the ground reality with the latter seeming a lot worse. Can you please comment?


  • hbsguru

    See below for analysis of your resume. As to GMAT: just try to get near 80 pct on each side, sorta 680+ if possible. Anything over 700 is fine with this profile.

  • hbsguru

    Black females (and I am assuming a US Citizen) in tech are rare, so you are in the running. I am not sure I fully understand work history, text above a bit jumbled, but if this is correct

    current role as analog engineer in top chip manufacturer (2.5 years at Fall 2017 start date)

    that is real solid.

    I would present myself as someone who wants to transition fr. tech to tech management, people who want to start companies are a DIME A DOZEN, and that is often FLAKE central.

    Black women with engineering backgrounds who want to become leaders in tech management are super rare!!!!

    You say:
    “My goal in a nutshell is to go back to school and utilize the venture
    labs for a chance to create my own product. Working in a creative lab is
    possible at my current employer but the transition out of engineering
    seems impossible without a business degree. After a year or two in the
    startup world; I’d like to transition into VC.”
    They may blink at that, but I would not say it, b.c. people do not get into VC that way, and total plan just seems unknowing about how the game is played.

  • sansley8@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    -GMAT not taken. Currently studying. I’d appreciate your idea on score I would need.

    -Education: Bachelor Science in Electrical Engineering from HBCU; -3.51 GPA

    -Work experience: 1 year in semiconductor industry as test engineer; ; 2.5 years in rotational leadership development program at top global vehicle/transportation company (includes 3 months in Germany and a promotion); current role as analog engineer in top chip manufacturer (2.5 years at Fall 2017 start date) also covering maternity leave for strategy and operations under current department.

    -Extras: lots of work in community outreach, especially for bridging the gap between underrepresented minorities & females into STEM fields; world traveler and constant learner of cultures, history, philosophies and sociological impact and ways of life.

    -short-term goal: implement my idea for tech venture either during MBA in venture lab or at prospective employer; work in new business development at current top chip manufacturer or other high tech company;

    -long-term goal: work to help develop strategy for tech start-ups at an early stage Venture Capital firm

    -29 year-old, black female; be honest am I too old? I feel young at heart.

    Target programs are Stanford, Michigan, Berkeley, Carnegie Mellon, Washington (Foster), Virginia/Duke?, NYU. I need an MBA to transition from hardcore tech work into business development and strategy. I have plenty of ideas for start-ups and not enough bandwidth to implement them. My goal in a nutshell is to go back to school and utilize the venture labs for a chance to create my own product. Working in a creative lab is possible at my current employer but the transition out of engineering seems impossible without a business degree. After a year or two in the startup world; I’d like to transition into VC.

    Truly appreciate the advice!

  • gapped89@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m having trouble finding people with similar backgrounds in the archives. I’d really appreciate a look at my profile

    -GRE: 322 (164V / 158Q) (I was originally thinking of MA’s or MS’s but really have come to the conclusion that an MBA would be where I would learn the most and best serve me.)

    -3.7 GPA

    -Undergraduate degree in music from Northwestern.

    -After figuring out that the performance track was better suited to a passion than a career, I had about a year and a half of intern/full time contract work in the development departments of a top, highly respected regional Chicago theater and nationally respected music festival. I then did 2 years in development for a large and respected social services agency in the Chicago area, before making a slight career change to a boutique philanthropic consulting firm as a team member for our two largest foundation clients project managing their total operations and grant cycles. I would be there two years at the time of matriculation.

    -I want an MBA to build my analytical, leadership and business skills to better understand our UHNW and corporate clients and how to innovate the use of philanthropic and corporate resources to make the most social impact. Immediately post MBA I would like to return to philanthropic consulting, or possibly a program/strategy job within a large private or corporate foundation if I could swing it. Long term goals of running a large private or corporate foundation or a philanthropic consulting firm.

    -Extra-curriculars: Member of the LGBT Employee Alliance while working at the aforementioned social services agency. Immediately after leaving the agency I took a leadership role as co-chair of the auxiliary board. I also serve on a philanthropic board of a project of a large community foundation in Chicago that provides seed grants to small, local non profits. Additionally, I still gig frequently in the area and am a professional, unionized classical musician. I dont know if that is worth noting.

    -28 year old, gay white male upon matriculation.

    Schools of Interest:









    If you have any suggestions of schools that would be a good fit for this kind of interest/specialization in an MBA program that I haven’t listed, I’d also appreciate any info you had. I feel as though I would benefit from a program in a large metro area as opposed to a college town (it certainly would be better for me personally)

    Thank you!

  • Giulia

    Hi Sandy,
    Would love to get some feedback on my profile below!

    – 690 GMAT (verbal stronger than quant)
    – 3.97 GPA from UC Santa Barbara
    – Undergraduate degree in Sociolinguistics with double minors in Spanish and Music.
    – Work experience: 3 years at a global law firm. Started in recruiting & talent management. Unprecedented promotion after 2 yrs to legal assistant position. Currently work on loan transactions with Finance & Bankruptcy lawyers.
    – Strong recommendations from firm leaders and partners who I work with closely.
    – Recently took an Accounting class at a community college (Grade: A) and am taking Stats now (Should get an A) – trying to compensate for the Quant-light profile!
    – Extracurriculars include community theater, choirs, and vocal performance.
    – Have an international background. Born and lived in UK until I was 16, entire family is Italian.
    – Fluent in Italian. Strong proficiency in Spanish.
    – 25 year-old white female

    Reach schools: UCLA, Berkeley, NYU, Tuck, Columbia, Darden, INSEAD, LBS, Wharton
    Good chance: USC, Georgetown, Emory, Foster, Duke, Cornell, Bocconi, Oxford, Carnegie Mellon

    Post-MBA plans: Career in international Marketing. Might start out with some consulting work to get a good footing and breadth on different industries.
    Thanks so much for your help! 🙂

  • EU Bound


    I’d like some advice on my prospects to INSEAD and LBS:

    -730 GMAT
    -3.98 GPA
    -BS in Economics from BYU, minors in Business and European Studies
    -2 year LDS mission in Belgium/Netherlands
    -U.S. State Department student ambassador to Russia as exchange student for senior year of high school
    -Fluent Dutch, conversational Russian and Spanish, limited French and German
    -Internship with globally ranked (#5 in the world) economics think-tank in Brussels, Belgium
    -Internship with State Department Embassy, U.S. Mission to the European Union (Brussels)
    -2 years work experience in top-tier economics consulting (Cornerstone/NERA/Analysis Group)
    -Solid research assistant experience for economics professors as undergrad
    -Extracurriculars: Eagle Scout, tutoring at-risk kids in math and science, economics club at BYU,
    -Strong recommendations from world-renowned economists
    -26 year old white male, American

    Goal: Do macroeconomic consulting work for EU and European countries.

    How do you think I’d do targeting INSEAD and LBS? Thanks.

    -EU bound

  • J

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for all your insights! I would really appreciate a review of my profile.

    – 770 GMAT

    – 3.9 GPA, econ/finance major at an Ivy

    – 2 years as a sales and trading analyst at a mid-market bank (think RBC/Nomura/Macquarie) and am currently in my first year at one of the largest real estate PE firms according to the PERE 50 (think Oaktree/Lone Star/Carlyle)

    – Extracurriculars include working part-time in the finance/strategy department of a well-known environmental non-profit organization and volunteering for GRID alternatives

    – Southeast Asian male, will be 26 at matriculation

    – Goal is to return to PE in the short term with an eventual goal of starting my own PE firm back home in Southeast Asia

    – Targets: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, MIT (round 1)

  • mssrishti@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    Thank you so much for providing this column, it has been very informative and helpful! I would really appreciate some individual advice on my profile below.

    – 780 GMAT
    – 3.64 GPA, Cum Laude, Honors Program
    – UG degree in STEM major from a Top-50 state school, Full academic scholarship
    – 3 years experience as a Life Sciences Consultant at AT Kearney, 2 Promotions

    – Strong volunteer service record

    – 26 year old mixed (East-Indian and Hispanic) female

    I am targeting for the big dogs with HBS, Stanford, Yale, Wharton.

    My post-MBA dream is to continue progressing in consulting at BCG/Bains/McK.

  • Engineer Girl

    Hi Sandy – would really appreciate your feedback as as well because I have not read any in-depth material on being a younger candidate from a non-business bg

    GMAT: 740 (47 V, 45 Q)
    3.6 GPA in Chemical Engineering from a top Ivy
    Heavily involved in women’s empowerment, specifically STEM fields
    Heavy involvement in volunteering for low income students
    Moderate involvement in alumni association
    Internships in environmental research and in R&D at well-known F500 health/pharma company (think J&J)
    Rotational leadership program in technology and operations at bulge-bracket bank, mostly strategy work similar to consulting. Title promotion after 2nd year (typical timeline is 3-4 years)
    HBX CORe graduate

    At matriculation: 3 years full time, age 24

    Goals: F500 corporate strategy/biz dev, Tech management, Mgmt consulting

    Targets: HBS, Stanford GSB, MIT Sloan, Haas, UCLA

    GMAT quant is low, but I think my technical education makes up for it. Confirm/Deny?
    Toying with idea of applying a year early, but that would only be 2 years full time, age 23, and barely any “real time” with title promotion. What do you think?

  • hbsguru

    Friend that better GMAT can get you in the running at your target schools, altho you may not stand out enuf at MIT, and may or may not be Tuck type, new score will get you in consultant beauty contest at other places. You are pretty vanilla so 740 helps.

  • ConfusedB

    Hi Sandy,

    I received some advice from you about a year ago on re-taking the GMAT in order to strengthen my chances of getting in to my target schools. So with a revised GMAT score, here I am once again.

    About me: 25 year old. Grew up in Pakistan. Came to the US for my undergrad when I was 18 (now a US citizen).

    3.60 undergrad GPA from USC (SoCal) in Finance

    Work Experience: 2.5 years of Big 4 Advisory experience (I know you have mentioned on multiple occasions that it is not considered too exclusive so hoping some of my other experiences will compensate for it)

    GMAT: Previously 700 (47Q/38V). Now 740 (49Q/42V)

    Extra Curricular: Volunteering for a U.S. based non-profit aiming to educate Pakistani high school and undergrad students about opportunities for higher studies in the U.S. and process of application / means of financing education.
    Also in a manager role for my firm’s local office volunteer committee and initiated a mentorship program with one of the 2 big universities in Los Angeles.

    Target Schools: MIT Sloan, Dartmouth Tuck, Columbia, Cornell, Booth, Fuqua

    Post MBA Plans: Looking to break in to MBB.

  • Steve Alexis

    Hello Sandy,

    First and foremost amazing work on your series.

    I am in dire need of your advice, as my profile is a bit more difficult to align with many of those I’ve seen in the series.

    I’ll go by the name of Mr. GPA Rough Start

    -GMAT 680 (47Q/36V/8 IR/5.5 AWA)

    -GPA Cumulative 2.7

    2005-2007 Went to St Johns University, lacked focus only managed a GPA of 1.8 while earning 55 credits. Took a 4 year hiatus from school and worked.

    2011-2013 Eventually re-enrolled to a community college for 34 credits at 3.18 GPA then transferred to a regional NY state college and graduated with a 3.3 GPA.Achieved GPA while working full time and having a part time internship in Marketing concurrently.

    -Work Experience includes starting out in retail wireless at T-mobile, promoted 5 times in 6 years, and eventually participated and graduated in a “Career Development Program” which allowed me to transition into a Business Sales District manager role. Multi-unit sales manager position, strategic decision on my part because i knew it would translate better on a MBA resume then an “in-retail” role.

    – Demographic Profile- 28 Year Old African American Male, Parent are Haitian Immigrants

    – Good recommendations

    -Member of the NBMBAA

    – My goals are to enter the CPG field at companies such as P&G, Coca Cola, Pepsi, Unilever

    – Applying now to NYU, Baruch (Value pricing/highly regarded in NY), Georgetown, Howard University (Safe school), Also, not adverse to being in a part time program, especially in NY area.

    Also would love some insight on some additional schools that may be of value.

  • Steve Alexis

    Love your articles

  • hbsguru

    Or should I think about moving to more of a “prestigious” HBS feeder firm or top-3 IB

  • hbsguru

    that is a real solid profile TAM, your target schools are always looking for hi-performing STEM undergraduates and African Americans and being both is a real plus in this game. Work sounds solid and saying you want to transition into consulting is always acceptable. Try Stanford too.
    Check back for a mock HBS interview 🙂

  • hbsguru

    Ha ha, could be, especially if they get more applicants, that would lower everyone’s odds.

  • Physics PhD Dropout

    Other than the MS(with a high GPA) it’s in a lot of ways comparable. Engineering at a Fortune 50 company (w/ 2 promotions) that’s in an industry related to my long term path, decent ECs with leadership roles and a dash of do-gooeder, less international exposure, some sob story about financial hardship (which was obviously overcome) due to factors outside of my control but not sure how much that matters due to being a a white male.
    My instinct is that I’d be similar in competitiveness to the aforementioned posted but maybe a dash less at some places, a dash more.
    I’m thinking that if I fail at admissions this year, I’ll take the GMAT as the GRE is going to expire in a bit over a year anyway. I don’t know how possible a 750+ GMAT is, I felt I got lucky on the GRE when I took it and was super motivated at the time.

  • hbsguru

    A GMAT score is always preferable, to what degree is hard to dope out beyond some point, and another issue is what rest of your profile is. For original poster, real solid guy but with no ~Ivy or deep blue chip work experience, a GMAT could be an anchor schools can rely on, plus a high score is rankings candy. It’s a touch and feel kinda thing, but so is admissions itself within a certain zone: I call it the Shecky Zone (after Shecky Greene, great Yiddish comic), similar to the Shengen Visa Free Zone: anyone in that zone can be admitted, but GMAT can help.

  • Physics PhD Dropout

    What about 780 GMAT scores vs 780 GRE equivalent… similar situation where it’s worth taking the GMAT when you already have a strong GRE sitting? I originally wanted to go the PhD route and dropped out after getting the complementary MS and went into industry.

  • Julian

    Given Booth’s higher ranking, does that mean that it’s going to be harder to get into now? (ie your odds that you’ve estimated will go down?)

  • hbsguru

    Not totally sure, to be honest, not really a large sample of couple apps in my data bank. I think in your case, no offense, the issue is how long Mr. MBA’s coattails are. I think Mr is reach at HBS, long reach at Stan, and 50-50 at Wharton. He is solid guy in crowded and high–performing field, I don’t think Mrs is getting into H/S/W, stats and work history is just not SUPER enuf. DItto MIT.
    Kellogg would go for Mr and might go for Mrs all by herself (if GMAT turns out OK) and might give you a small couple halo, e.g. they may see the benefit of having a couple on campus. Other places are more likely for both of you. 🙂

  • MBAcouple


    Would love thoughts on applying as a married couple. We’re trying to go to the same program, but might consider same city/different schools if need be. How does applying with a spouse impact apps?

    Target schools: H/W/S, Booth, Kellogg, MIT, Haas, Darden, Yale, Tuck

    Mr. MBACouple/Mrs. MBA Couple

    GPA: 3.75 in Accounting/Business Admin and History from top 20 liberal arts college

    GPA: 3.66 in Math and Spanish from same college as Mr. MBACouple

    Taking the GMAT together this spring, but Mr. MBACouple has gotten a 730 in the past (score expired); targeting 730-770 range for both

    Professional experience: Mrs. MBACouple taught high school math for a year; currently works for top HR consulting firm as actuarial consultant (will have FSA credentials when applying, currently ASA credentials). Mr. MBACouple has two years of boutique IB, 3 years of middle market PE (promoted early at PE firm to Senior Associate)

    Recommendations should be good for both; particularly glowing for Mr.MBACouple (Mrs.MBACouple’s peers don’t tend to go for MBA)

    Extracurriculars- both very involved in college; post-grad, serve as co-presidents of college alumni chapter, Mrs. MBA also serves as sorority adviser, in Junior League while Mr. MBA volunteers with adult literacy program

    PostMBA goals: Mr.MBA wants to return to PE (larger firm/different city) with long term goal of own PE firm; Mrs. MBA wants to go into HR with a long term goal of CHRO for Fortune100 company

    Mr. MBA was going to attend top 10 school (not H/W/S) last year, but received an offer to stay and be promoted at PE firm instead

    Mr. MBA is 28 White/ Mrs. MBA is 27 Asian

  • hbsguru

    Ha, ha, talking about GMAT is like talking about Donald Trump–no expert ever went too far wrong predicting that a GMAT bump, no matter how seemingly trivial or unimportant or silly, could be important. Schools are just hypnotized by GMAT scores, deny it as they will. SO who I am to say it would not make a difference.
    If it is not a big hassle and you “enjoy” it, and can get a 760, well, sure try.

  • bellabiz

    Thank you for the reply! Appreciate the insight on the spouse issue – I’ll avoid that topic.

    As for the GMAT, I have the time to study more before applying (husband is currently deployed) and I’m hoping a higher score would increase my chances of getting scholarship – do you think it would make a difference?

  • hbsguru

    how come you are retaking a 740 GMAT?
    this is pretty solid –and you should be inline at Fuq. and Darden –even without GMAT retake. Wharton goes for this, altho it may depend on what they think of your current firm, but those are real solid stats and a clear story and goals.
    HBS is possible, again, depends on what they think of firm. I would not present myself as trailing spouse to any of these places– that describes many of the adcom ladies themselves and they may not extend you any professional courtesy.

  • hbsguru

    Inside the Carlyle-Beltway revolving door and great dish about the history of Carlyle, PE, and David Rubenstein.
    The Billionaires’ Loophole newyorker.com/magazine/2016/03/14/david-rubenstein-and-the-carried-interest-dilemma [just put in a browser]

  • hbsguru

    It is a sad commentary on how the B school world works, but GMATs are favored a good deal by schools esp. top-10 schools outside of HBS and Stanford, and even Stanford will ogle a 750+.
    Despite what schools say about accepting both scores, in your case, if admitting you also came with a GMAT tickle, it could be an issue.
    Think I’m crazy, see the Stern/USNEWS ranking story leading PQ today — USNEWS uses percent of applicants taking GMAT as an important metric in ranking schools, amazingly so. SO much that when Stern omitted this one piece of data, USNEWS punished them w. lowest ranking in school history.

  • bellabiz

    Hi Sandy,

    I enjoy reading your column! Would love your opinion on my stats:

    3.92 GPA in English and Spanish from top-20 university (think Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, or Berkeley). Completed honors programs in both majors, awarded best thesis

    740 GMAT (retaking)

    Professional experience: 2 years at a boutique financial market research firm (promoted into new position created for me), 2 years in consulting (Fortune 500, think Accenture). Promoted within six months of starting.

    Great recommendations

    Involved in various volunteer activities, but not in leadership roles (many leadership roles in my company, however)

    26 year old white female

    Target programs: Fuqua, Darden, Wharton, HBS. Considering applying early action to Fuqua. Applying to East Coast schools since my husband is active duty military and stationed on the East Coast.

    Post MBA plans: consulting, or marketing for tech/IT

  • Eurostar80

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love to hear your thoughts on my profile.

    – Aiming for GMAT over 700

    – 3.0 GPA (3.5 major), engineering degree from top HBCU for engineering (first generations college student, not much support, wasn’t sure about engineering but didn’t know what major to change to, father was in an accident that disabled him permanently and brother was dying from terminal disease)

    – Started career at top Fortune 500 global manufacturing company in operations rotational program for two years

    – Made a career change and went to a finance startup. Started in operations role then got licensed and went from Training Associate, to Associate, to Senior Associate in sales and marketing. Been there for 9 years. Not pursuing director promotion since I want to go to school.

    – Pro bono consultant at solar energy social enterprise in Sub-Saharan Africa. Have traveled and worked there during time off.

    – 35 year old African-American gay woman

    – Post MBA goals, work in IB and/or PE focused on renewables and infrastructure in developing countries, make partner or start my own firm

    – Targeting HBS, Wharton, and Columbia first round. If no acceptance, maybe Georgetown and NYU.

  • malmndoca

    Hi Sandy,

    I may be an unlikely (extremely unordinary) choice for an MBA candidate but I’ll give this a shot. Thanks you in advance.

    690 GMAT (Expected)

    2.89 GPA

    BA in Journalism San Francisco State University
    As and Bs in Statistics, Micro & Macro Economics, Accounting, but these were back in the City College
    Electives predominate in the Music, Business, and French departments.

    Extremely turbulent but explorative and productive (teens and) 20s. This has to do my inability to accept my immigrant parents (poverty background), having too much time-depleting interest and holdings in Real Estate in the Land of Dreams.

    Female, Filipino, Age 40

    Work History:

    -I’ve been working since I was 13. I found my jobs on my own.

    -Right out of high school, I created my own internships by knocking on the doors of two record labels (Jazz Electronic Hip Hop) in the 90s: Public Relations and Retail Marketing. A few releases garnered over 40 reviews, a handful from national magazines. Help put these labels on the map.

    -A few failed businesses here, mostly in event productions.

    -Employed in a small business in Music/Event productions, niche market. Learned bookkeeping here and this help put me through school.

    -Internship at LGBT Magazine as a staff writer. I later found myself disillusioned with the news/media industry.

    -Employed at Mid-sized business: American luxury fixture manufacturer $18M revenue the highest one year, $12M it’s lowest; 85 year-old three generation company. Started as Accounting Clerk and trained in various aspects: Customer Service, Marketing, HR with a focus on Accounting. Learned all facets of accounting here. Ended as an accounting associate and trained 6-8 people during downsizing and restructuring. Other side projects include photographing full ads and marketing materials. Voluntary laid off.

    -World Music and Dance Music Education as a Accounting Contractor – Non-Profit:
    I simultaneously worked here while working at the Fixture Manufacturer. I took one accoutning course and applied everything I learned to revamp the books and bring it to spec. two years late filing / unified taxes, we were able to receive the 501c3 thanks to my help and of course a dedicated leader and board. Saved money, avoided potential local and state and IRS audits, and obviously help build the financial foundation of the organization.

    -Spent almost a year here building a base for a photography business– taught myself marketing, research, business planning, strategies. all the makings of starting a businesses.

    -Pediatric Research to Affect Public Policy – Non-Profit – High profile large growth. this is considered a “start-up” organization within the health industry. Huge funding and interest from Big Tech, Research, Large Health Organizations. This non-profit went from $2M-10M in two years. From 12 people to 38 in two years. Responsible for and owned the responsibilities to help build and scale the accounting department to match the growth and future of the organizaton . Polished my accounting/businesses skills here but title didn’t reflect my Senior Accounting duties. Trained supervised managed accounting staff and interns.

    -Marketing Sales Entrepreneur for Mortgages – a test run of full marketing cycle on three projects yielded many leads and $4M in loan refinancing (closed sales) in less than 6 months. This was taken on while employed during down time at the pediatric research. This was exciting, ironically. My partner and I were both newbies.

    -International NGO/Non-Profit assisting in elevating the water issues in the Nile through a music collaboration of the 11 countries that surround this body of water. Responsible for bringing the finances to pass audit, with a future goal of local, state, federal and international government funding.

    Goal: Consultant and/or Key Employee/Entrepreneur to help lead businesses through start up or growth, specifically small to mid sized businesses, as well as Non-Profits. Potential target industries: design/arts, music, real estate, various services

    “I want to increase my knowledge in Marketing, Finance, and develop a business acumen to fill in the missing gaps so that I can me a more competent leader in the types of businesses, organizations, and industries that I am passionate about.

    School Target: Top 25 if I can swing it!

  • Shoot me straight


    I appreciate your time and effort. Please advise on the following target schools based my profile below:

    R1 Target schools: Tuck, Kellog, Darden, Fuqua, Kenan-Flagler

    -Quant: 162/170 (84th percentile)
    -Verbal 159/170 (81st percentile)

    -3.9 GPA
    -Large state university in the south – not selective
    -Strong campus leadership in student gov, judicial affairs, and greek life
    -Founded two major philanthropic initiatives
    -Worked summer as congressional intern

    Work Experience
    -TFA (three years): founding team of high-performing charter organization, won awards at state level, took on admin role
    -Highly-selective principal prep program/residency + one year as school leader in school located in public-housing development
    -Currently work for small ed-tech/public sector consulting firm – well known in public sector but by no means a blue chip company. Support state govs and large school districts in a range of capacities.

    -Evaluator for state charter board
    -Youth sports coach

    27 Y/O White Male

    Short Term: M/B/B

    Thank you for the column and for your evaluation.

  • MrTechConsultant

    Hi Sandy,

    I would appreciate if you evaluate my chances:

    – 730-740 GMAT (expected)

    – 3.3 GPA, BS in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland

    – Work Experience: 4 years at big tech consulting firm (i.e. Accenture) with Project Management and Cloud Architecture roles

    – Extra Curricular: Volunteering in Hour of Code

    – Goal: work in leadership positions at the same industry around the world

    – 26-year-old Male, raised in Middle East

    What are my chances at Stanford, Sloan, LBS, Wharton? Which schools do you suggest?


  • TAM

    Hi Sandy

    Thanks for taking the time to review all these profiles

    I’m interested in HBS, Booth, Sloan and columbia

    -24 year old african male
    -710 GMAT
    -3.9 GPA from US state University in Electrical Engineering
    -3 years full time work experience at top US engine manufacturer
    -Promoted at 2 year mark
    -Extra-curriculas include track and soccer
    -Volunteer at various organizations focused on promoting education

    Goal is to begin a career in management consulting after B-school

  • FirstGenHopeful

    Currently working full time. MS is part time as part of a B-school. In with substantial scholarship. Originally was looking at Applied Stats programs, hence the GRE…

    Currently have an application in with the Riordan MBA fellows program (w/ Anderson alumni manager for LOT + Riordan alumn writing a referral to the program director)

  • FirstGenHopeful

    I’m targeting mostly top schools

    -334 GRE (169Q/165V)
    -3.4 GPA from Mid-tier UC (Davis/Irvine/SB) in Math-Econ (transferred from community college, have a 3 subpar grades excluded from GPA calculation at very start of undergrad)
    -4.0 GPA in MS Analytics from Emory/NYU/Northwester/USC/Vanderbilt (in progress, likely to finish with ~3.9)
    -Worked part-time through college @F500 retailer with awards
    -Leadership positions in multiple clubs/organizations
    -Lots of ECs (tutoring underserved children, mentoring a lot of people)
    -International volunteer work tutoring children forthcoming (loosely ties into WE)
    -American/Caucasian Male; first gen college grad; dealt with issues like short term homelessness

    Work experience (At Application)
    4 Years at a major Telco (AT&T/Verizon):
    – In big-data/ops consulting role. 2 promotions

    -Reach Schools: HSW
    -Target Programs: MIT, Kellogg, Booth, Haas
    -Other Options: Yale, Dartmouth

    MBB st; tech/Telco leadership lt, ideally as CIO or CTO
    I’d like to apply R1 this year.
    Also went to the same school as the guy who was at the German automotive company.

  • jes14@bu.edu

    Hi Sandy & John!

    Thanks for all the help you provide here. Can you review my profile and please tell me what I need to do to get into HBS!! Thanks!

    -760 GMAT (48Q/46V split) (first try)

    -3.75 GPA, magna cum laude, undergrad finance degree from the Honors Program of a top 25 school of business in Boston

    -4-year varsity rower in college (~top 5 nationally ranked D1 team), Intercollegiate Rowing Association All-Academic Team

    -Work experience: 2 years at a middle market leverage finance firm (think of a cross between investment banking and private equity, ie high finance… but definitely not prestigious as either). Promotion from Analyst to Associate in 1.5 years (normal progression is 3 years). Have received a good amount of responsibility early on.

    -Short-term goal: To work for a leading PE firm.

    -Long-term goal: To start my own investment firm focused on insurance, technology, and energy.


    -Volunteer workshop leader at local YMCA (designed and lead a 4-week long fiscal management workshop for teen internship program, have lead numerous other workshops for teens (resume writing, job interview, career and goal paths, leadership skills))

    -Run a website focused on value investing strategies, economic news, stock market tips, finance lessons

    -CFA Level II candidate (hopefully will have passed Level II by application and Level III completed by matriculation)

    -Actively participated in recruiting and interviewing for my firm’s analyst program

    -23-year-old white male (would be 24 by the time I apply)

    -Targets: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia

    I know I probably have a better shot at Wharton and Columbia, but I REALLY REALLY want to go to HBS. I’m concerned with my work experience though – it’s a little niche-y and obviously not a bulge bracket IB. Do I have a good shot at HBS if I can execute on essay, recommendations, interview? Or should I think about moving to more of a “prestigious” HBS feeder firm or top-3 IB? Or what about a MM PE firm (even though I know you say MM PE guys have a tough time getting into HBS)?


  • MostlyHarmless

    Hey Sandy,

    Thanks for the feedback, I appreciate it! The insight into the GMAT is very interesting…I’ve been considering taking the GMAT but I wasn’t sure it would be worth it…

    You may have just convinced me 🙂

    Thanks again!

  • hbsguru

    OK, got it now, my bad, was sorta clear fr. post.
    You have sorta ~750 GMAT and real solid experience esp. for MMM programs but also for ‘straight’ MBA. GPA is a shade low, the only boo-boo in this story.
    One issue will be what schools think of company, and its record, if any, of sending kids to MBA programs.
    If you execute in a way that captures the full depth of your experience, I’d say

    chances at Wharton are sorta 40%+, and higher at Kellogg. Sloan might go for this profile, it is totally up their alley. Clear, solid story, you should do OK.

    Man, you might have helped yourself w. GMAT instead of GRE, just a subtle, hard to prove thing, but K, Sloan and Wharton all super like 750 GMATs and don’t get as big a hard-on from similar GRE score. 😉

  • MostlyHarmless

    Sorry, to answer your other question: at application time I will be 25.

  • MostlyHarmless

    Hey Sandy,

    Sorry about the confusion, it will be a little over 4 years total! The break down is below the 4 years. But yeah these jobs are all within the same company but in different divisions.

  • hbsguru

    is that 8 years of full time experience???? How old are you???
    are those jobs with different companies???

  • MostlyHarmless

    Hey Sandy,

    I’m targeting the M7 programs, ideally Kellogg or MIT for dual MS/MBA programs

    -332 GRE (168Q/164V)
    -3.46 GPA from Mid-tier UC (Irvine/Davis/SB) in Mechanical Engineering
    -Worked part-time through college with promotions for on-campus job
    -Leadership position in multiple clubs/organizations
    -American/Indian Male

    Work experience (At Application)
    4+ Years at a German Automotive OEM:
    -1 Year Engineer and a Management Development Rotational Program
    -1.5 years Engineer in R&D USA
    -1.5 years Resident Engineer in Germany as an Expat
    -2 months Sr. Engineer in R&D USA (Will be 1+ year at Matriculation)

    -Reach Schools: Wharton
    -Target Programs: Kellogg MMM is #1, MIT LGO, Booth,
    -Other Options: Tuck, Ross, Anderson

    I’d ideally like to apply R1 this year.

  • k.xia19@gmail.com

    Thanks Sandy for your feedback! 🙂 I really appreciate you taking the time to respond with your thoughts.

    Do you think that either Stanford or Wharton would be a better choice of school specifically for what I’d be interested in?

  • hbsguru

    As often noted, Stanford often uses Big-4 as a source for URM’s like you, and much else in your story is Stanford-y, including being well-liked guy and leader at firm. Firm sponsorship is excellent proof of that.
    GPA may be hard for them to get over, and 690 GMAT only goes half way to that.
    If someone at firm has touch w. Stanford, or if the firm can really get behind you, maybe, but I got a feeling their Big-4 URM slots your year may go to women or dudes with more solid stats.
    HBS is same story, altho door may be bigger.
    MIT really likes this profile but they are the least likely of the ultras to blink at a 2.9/690.
    Booth is similar but more flexibile, Kellogg and Tuck go for this and are relatively easy blinkers when it comes to GMAT/GPA stories.
    As noted with similar cases, in your instance, execution is more important than usual, both explaining the GPA and making sure reco writers deliver.
    Goals and extras need to stress the URM angle more, one problem you have at Stanford (not sure how big it is in the total story) is that your many extras are all around the professional axis, and not real uplift stuff in poor countries fighting disease, etc.
    I’ll say this, you are the type to become impactful consulting leader, for real, schools just need to see it.

  • s.i.qureshi@gmail.com

    Thanks. Appreciate your moral boosting feedback 🙂

  • WAM

    Hi Sandy – thanks for taking the time to review my

    School/Numbers/Personal Data
    -Graduated from top 10 liberal arts college in the south – think Stephen Curry
    -Economics Major w/ Spanish Minor – 2.9 GPA (Econ was the hardest major in the school)
    -I also worked close to full time during school in random odd jobs around campus to support myself and family, so that definitely
    contributed to the lower GPA
    -GMAT – 690
    -Undergrad Internship – Bank of America/Wells Fargo – IB
    -25 year old African American Male from Jamaican Decent – Dual Citizen and lived there for 5 years when I was younger
    -Born and raised in NYC

    Work History
    -Management Consulting for the last 2.5 years since graduation – think firms like ATK/Deloitte/OW
    -Experience in consumer goods/retail, private equity, automotive, media and publishing, public sector and defense industries
    -Promoted 2x during my tenure over the past 2.5 years and am currently at the post MBA level (technically speaking – essentially the firm wants folks like me to go to a top 10 business school)
    -Top 10% performer and my firm is willing to sponsor me to attend school (has to be a top 10 school)
    -Huge leader within the firm – I train all new analysts with excel skills, also the lead for undergraduate diversity recruiting

    Extracurricular Activities
    -Alumni Board for community based organization in NYC
    -Class ambassador for undergrad institution and help raise
    money for financial aid and scholarships for minority applicants
    -Improv – I enjoy acting, cooking

    Short Term Goals
    -Plan to return to consulting and continue to progress in the firm and building client relationships

    Long Term Goals
    -Make it to partner in my firm, build a strong reputation
    and client base, become an industry/practice leader within the firm, and become
    known for thought leadership

    Target Schools
    -HBS, Stanford, MIT, Columbia, Booth, Kellogg, Tuck,

    Planning to apply 1st round this year to matriculate in 2017

  • Ony M

    Thank You so much!

  • MBA-Watch

    It looks like you are a good candidate for Columbia J-Term .. look at it.

  • s.i.qureshi@gmail.com

    Thanks :-).

  • Kushagra Pandey

    hahaha thanks 🙂 wat about Kellogg?? Is that a far cry like HBS? and yes my grades are low.

  • Ben

    Vietnamese, why do you ask?

  • Asian-American dude

    What type of Asian-American are you?

  • hbsguru

    dunno, man, not sure I get all of this, but if you got some connections in UAE and can have big impact there, maybe, otherwise as a Big-4 guy blah, blah, who seems to change jobs a lot, you may get beaten at HSW and Col by more attractive Non-US Big 4 candidates, both in terms of the others having way better GPA and GMAT, being younger, and having a WAY more simple story.
    Saying your post MBA goal in life is to work for Goldman Sachs is a bit tone deaf, even you are just telling me in private here.

    “Never wanted to do any job and always wanted to be a realtor managing family holdings!”

    Ahem, sounds good to me.

    I got a feeling there may be some other shoes to drop here, but those are only likely to confirm my gut feel on this: profile we get here does not appeal to top programs because it is odd, too many jobs, and contains hints of mania and instability, viz.
    “used to get all A grades in one semester and barely passed the next one.”
    It is all good by me but for app purposes, make this as simple and clean a story as possible.


  • hbsguru

    well, liike to like and low stats (both GPA and GRE).
    There is enuf accomplishment here to make any school blink at GPA and GRE, but man, you could make life easier for them if you managed through practice and retaking to get that near a 650-680 equiv GMAT, currently it ~GMAT 580-600.
    What looks like solid success in Leadership Program at blue chip fast moving consumer goods company is a plus, and recs fr. there could really help you out.
    You might lose out to similar guy like you in HBS beauty contest, or they may go for this, hard to say.
    Execution in your case is going to count more than for the average dude. Both explaining away why both GPA and GRE are not predictive and also showing what a star you are and getting this into a consistent narrative of how supply chain leads to brand management (not all that hard) and wrangling recs which really convince readers you are the real deal.
    I’d say your target schools are about right.
    Man, Stanford goes for this story, if stats were a couple of steps up on the Great Chain of Being, you’d be super strong applicant there.

  • s.i.qureshi@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    I like your feedback and would appreciate if you can provide me with your insights on my profile:

    – 8.5 years professional experience out of which 2.5 years with a very renowned UAE Group as Head of M&A and am also the Chief Operating Officer for a subsidiary in a South Asian country, 4.5 years spent in Saudi Arabia with a Big 4 firm in Transaction Services (M&A and Valuations – got three promotions), less than a year with Deloitte in a South Asian country and 8 months stint with a South Asian I-bank.
    – Age 31
    – GMAT 680
    – South Asian
    – Got one MBA from a top 3 school in my home country before starting professional career with 3.2/4 GPA
    – Reason for low GPA – Was never serious with studies, used to get all A grades in one semester and barely passed the next one. Never wanted to do any job and always wanted to be a realtor managing family holdings !
    -Strong recommendations
    – Worked on more than 50 corporate finance engagements during my career covering M&A, LBOs, Buyouts, valuations, financial strategy etc. etc. with Big 4’s and the I Bank
    – Post Second MBA Goal – Work at Goldman Sachs
    – Keynote speaker on several Middle Eastern M&A and PE forums


  • hillmf6@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy, John,

    I’d really appreciate your input on my profile.

    – White Male from the US

    – 3.5 GPA from Wake Forest University, double major in Economics and Chinese Language
    – 760 GMAT V/Q:48/47
    – After graduating, completed a one year intensive language program in Harbin China. Fluent in Mandarin
    – 2.5 years at a leading Chinese consulting firm in the metal commodity sector. Promoted twice, eventually to regional manager. Started in Beijing, then helped launched and eventually managed offices in both London and New York. Left because wasn’t satisfied with consulting, wanted more direct impact on the market.
    – 2 years at physical commodity trading firm in NYC. Launched and managed their specialty metal physical commodity trading desk. Eventually left to start my own firm.
    – In the past year I started (with a partner) a physical commodity trading firm. The business is growing fast but I am concerned it will plateau if we focus strictly on trading. If I pursue an MBA my partner would manage the day to day activities while I would maintain involvement at a high level.
    – Charity: Very involved with Tour de Cure (American Diabetes Association fundraising event), sit on the planning committee, top fundraiser. Important cause as I am a type 1 diabetic.
    – Target Schools: Wharton, Harvard, Berkeley, MIT, Kellogg, NYU

    Any input would be greatly appreciated!


  • ony mgbeahurike

    yes, I am a Nigerian-American.

  • [email protected]

    Hi Sandy,

    I really enjoy reading your advice. I would really appreciate any insight you can provide on my profile below.

    -720 GMAT (48Q/41V)

    -3.95 GPA (top 1% of class)

    -Undergraduate degree in finance from top 20 business program

    -Work experience includes 2 years at big 4 transaction services (valuation) group and roughly 2 years at large cap private equity firm in valuation and strategy group

    -CFA charterholder (passed all 3 exams on first attempt)

    -Strong recommendations

    -Long-term goal: PE CFO

    -25 year-old, white male

    Target programs are HBS, Sloan, Tuck and Fuqua. Planning on applying R1. If I wasn’t able to get into any of the aforementioned programs, I would strongly consider EMBA programs such as Columbia or Yale and continue working.

    Thank you so much for the help!

  • hbsguru

    HBS likes kids from Samsung research but that appears to be a while ago and not your passion. Schools will blink at once-in-lifetime attempt to become pro-athlete, but current gig seems sketchy! And fact you are seeking MBA makes it more so.
    So this could be hard, low-ish grades (I think) are not helping.
    Sooooo, HBS going to be hard, Duke more like it, and you will have great time running around there in nice weather.

  • hbsguru

    are you African-American? E.g. A US Citizen and also Nigerian heritage?

    could make a big diff in this profile.

  • hbsguru

    I agree with you. Totally fine application in 3 or 4 years, 2+2 could be hard b.c. it is so competitive. No breakout extras, altho what you do is fine. Work experience is silver plus and not gold, altho I could be wrong. You may get lucky, but this is small reach, and nothing driving you in. In 3-4 years you will be real solid candidate at HWS, so I would think twice about joining 2+2 program at other schools now.
    good luck and check back in 3-4 years.

  • hbsguru

    It can offset low GPA if you take serious classes like Stats or Intro Econ and do well, esp. if those classes are taken at serious school (and w., pre-meds in the group!) It can also show adcoms that you are serious about applying and willing to go thru the

    hassle. Stats and Econ are probably the best, taking generic business courses like Marketing is less impactful, adcoms know, 1st-hand, those courses are BS!!!!

  • onyekg@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy- Thanks for taking your time to review my profile. I really appreciate it! 🙂

    School/Exam Data
    – GRE: 160(Q), 155(V), 4A
    – 2.89 GPA (3.4 Major GPA) Have personal extenuating circumstance to follow. Made deans list one semester.
    – Graduated from top 50 US University, think U of Minnesota, majored in Manufacturing Operations, B.A.Sc.
    – Board member : NSBE collegiate chapter
    – Undergrad internship at Pepsico/FritoLay
    – Owned and Operated a snow plowing business with 2 people on payroll while in college for 3.5years.

    Work History (Consumer Goods company, think General Mills, PepsiCo, Kelloggs)
    – 2yr-Supply Chain Leadership Program (promoted 6 months early)
    – International Supply Chain Planner (managing 5 business units)

    – Patent Pending on a product I developed (Patent is already published by USPTO)

    Extracurricular Activities
    – President NSBE Professional Chapter- Minneapolis.St Paul
    – Chapter Advisor : NSBE Collegiate board.
    – Supply Chain Consultant : Agribusiness Startup in Nigeria
    – Small & Growing Business Lead – a Non Profit focused on helping businesses grow in Africa.
    – Featured as success story on undegrad’s college’s magazine, Driven to Discover feature among others.

    – Short term Goal: Get into Brand Marketing at a consumer company, most likely stay with current company.
    – Long term goal: Lead, grow and develop the business/brands in Africa, if at current company, lead/execute the company’s strategy in Africa.

    Target Schools: HBS. Kellogg, Michigan, Darden, Duke, UT Austin, Emory.

    Planning to apply ALL first round (this year for 2017) with recommendations from VP of HR Recruiting, VP of Supply Chain and President of a Business Unit and/or current manager.

  • Ben

    Hi Sandy,

    I love reading through your insights and advice – I would really appreciate a review of my profile.

    – GMAT: 750 (47Q/46V)

    – GPA: 3.6 (University of Texas at Austin, BBA in Marketing)

    – Work Experience: 1.5 years at Halliburton in Singapore working in client services

    1.5 years at a major media agency in NYC working on AT&T’s digital media campaign(top 5 largest media buys in the world)

    6 months at a major media agency working on Microsoft’s digital media campaign

    -Extracurricular: 2 years as the marketing and advertising manager for a student newspaper and website

    Founded a tutoring organization and executive tutor to calculus 1 & 2 students

    Club level tennis player and competitor

    Presently volunteering with an organization that offers free tennis lessons to under-privileged and at-risk youths. Additionally I’m heavily involved with the marketing of the organization.

    Member of multicultural advertising industry organization that mentors college students looking to get into the industry

    -Demographic: Asian American Male – 27 at matriculation

    -Short term goal: Work in digital marketing consulting or the internal marketing organization of a major luxury goods or apparel company

    -Long term goal: CMO of a luxury goods company

    -Target Schools: HSW, Columbia, MIT, Booth, Kellogg, LBS


  • SRpr

    Hi Sandy,

    Let me know what you think of my profile:

    29, Eastern European male (will be 30 at matriculation)

    GMAT 750


    Top economics school in my country, graduated with BSc Econ in top 5% (GPA equivalent about 3.8-3.9). The university is not great in international rankings, but a lot of top MBA candidates from my country studied here. Some scholarships and merit awards.

    Work experience:

    Started in Big 4 assurance in London, then moved to advisory role (Corporate Finance/Restructuring/Valuations) after 2.5 years, where I moved up to Manager. Currently working for same firm in a wider Advisory role in a developing country (think Central Africa, SE Asia). City I live in is considered quite dangerous, so have a few stories of how it is to work here.

    I am a CFA Charterholder as well.


    A lot in undergrad, ran a large student organisation, student leader in university council, leadership role in national student projects. In the last couple of years, a leader in community programmes at the office, mentor for students from my country, some work with communities and young social entrepreneurs in the developing country where I live.

    Goals: Long term – C-suite role for tech/telecom company in Africa (a lot of my current clients are tech/telecom); Short term – top strat consulting firm (MBB) at one of their offices in Africa.

    What are my chances for: H/S/W, Columbia, MIT, Yale. I know age might be an issue at H and S, but do you think I have a chance? How about European schools: LBS/Insead? Be as honest as you usually are.



  • Kushagra Pandey

    Heyy i am a big fan of handicapping the mba odds! It would be great if my profile can be looked into!!

    Indian btech in computer science from NIT rourkela!! Cgpa 6.93/10.

    Worked as an android developer for 19 months at samsung research.

    Left job to fulfill my long filled dream of playing professional soccer. Went ahead played for local clubs . Had trials for big clubs. Failed at it but gained a once in a lifetime experience and currently into corporate football/soccer management with a company of young entrepreuners.

    Two time national level muay thai fighter silver medalist at one event. District/ institute level swimmer, university level volleyball player.

    Extra- calisthenics, freestyle soccer, vedic astrology and analysing military history and warfare techniques!My colleges at aim are harvard kellogg duke !! What are my odds please. Gmat of 720 50q38v

  • greg

    Hi Sandy. Below you can find my info. I am interested to apply for 2017 entry to CBS in Early Decision process. (also interested in HBS, Wharton, MIT, Berkeley)

    – Chilean, 28.
    – 720 GMAT (47Q/42V).
    – 111 TOEFL.
    – Undergrad: Business Administration at PUC-Chile (Top 1 LatAm University).
    – GPA: 3.6
    – Work Experience: (4y7m) Begin at CSAV (largest maritime shipping co. in LatAm) as financial analyst, promoted to Head of Corporate Finance. Part of CSAV- HapagLloyd merger and surviving the process to stay at the parent co. after the transaction. Currently Head of Finance at Falabella Retail (Dept Store subsidiary of the largest retailer in LatAm).
    – Extracurricular involvement as volunteer teacher and volunteer consultant in NGOs.
    – Post MBA objectives: Hopefully get a sponsorship from my employer and come back to the holding company to a higher responsibility position on Finance or Strategy.



    I’m interested in your thoughts on my profile

    AGE: 24 (Chinese from Hong Kong)

    GMAT: 740

    Undergraduate Degree: 1 of top 3 schools in Hong Kong (top 10 in Asia) in a quantitative subject, First Class Honors (GPA 3.7)

    Work Experience (2.5 years now and would be 3.5 years upon admission in 2017)
    1.5 years at the sales division at a top financial firm (think Goldman/JPMorgan/BlackRock)
    Currently working at an equity hedge fund in Hong Kong as a research analyst, now managing part of the portfolio (with full discretion) of the firm. The fund is small as it is still growing but already has some reputation in Asia. Track record is top notch. Have been working here for 1 year and intend to stay until MBA.

    Career goal: to stay in finance with some slight changes, say, changing from Hong Kong to other places such as London/New York/Singapore. And/Or from equity to credit/rates/FX

    Extra-curricular included some society leadership positions in undergraduate. Some volunteer work. Local champion and regional finalist of a prestigious global business competition in undergraduate. To be honest, I am not strong in extra-curricular.

    Targeted B-schools:
    Harvard, Wharton, Chicago Booth, Columbia, London Business School

    Thanks a lot

  • smit.ruparelia@gmail.com

    Can you please handicap my odds

    AGE: 28 (Indian Male Engineer)

    GMAT: 760 (Q50 V42).

    My profile –

    * Citizenship : Indian

    * Class X Percentage : 88.00

    * Class XII Percentage : 78.00

    * Graduation : B.Tech in Civil Engineering from National Institute of Technology, Surat; GPA : 8.14/10

    * Work Experience:(5 years 3 months)

    1) Assistant Manager (Civil) with ESSAR OIL

    Job responsibilities: Site in-charge. Supervising construction of pipe racks and had a staff of around 20 people reporting to me.

    2) Assistant Engineer (Civil) with Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation which is a state government department involved in encouraging Industrial

    development in the state of Gujarat, India.

    Job responsibilities: Supervising development of infrastructure required for industries

    Supervised several civil engineering related projects, like developing water supply schemes, road networks, storm water disposal systems etc.

    Daily interaction with the top level management of various multinational companies to resolve various issues faced by them.

    Marketing state policies and facilities in order to attract various multinationals in the state of Gujarat.

    *As a whole it can be said that my total work experience is mostly related to civil engineering.

    *While working with GIDC I had an opportunity to interact with bureaucrats from several countries and CEOs and was in-charge of marketing state of Gujarat as a better place to setup industries. This is when I felt the passion for marketing and want to satisfy that desire with a degree in management.

    *Extra curricular activities: I am deeply interested in music and also hold a degree in music (for tabla-classical Indian instrument.) I have won several quizzes at State level. I have also volunteered several times in organizing “Vibrant Gujarat”, a biennial event organized by government of Gujarat to promote growth in the state. I have won several medals and trophies in Basketball and Football at school level.

    Targeted Colleges:

    UCB Haas;
    Dartmouth Tuck;
    Virginia Darden;

  • hey bozo

    jon g- Let’s say they take a holistic approach to your application- if so, they would then focus on what a clown you are. Your ego and pretentiousness are so off putting that I don’t see you getting past an interview. Nobody wants someone in their mba class who talks about how talented and smart they are. And if you are the genius you love to tell everyone you are, you don’t need an mba. You remind of a donald trump, except compensating for even smaller hands.

  • Good Luck

    Jon: Dear Sandy, what are my chances at HBS and GSB. Here is my bio.
    Sandy: Well you may not be what GSB is looking for.
    Jon: I am what they’re looking for! You’re wrong!

    Yeah from everything on this site it seems adcoms don’t usually appreciate sacrificing artificial “school points.” But lots of outliers so good luck!

  • Johnny Anon

    I’m interested in your thoughts on applying to HBS 2+2 Round 3.

    College Senior
    GMAT: 750
    GPA: 3.8
    Undergraduate School: Ivy League
    Major: Business and Engineering

    – Software Engineer at top tech firm (e.g. Apple, Facebook, Google)
    – IBD at bulge bracket investment bank

    The goal is to end up somewhere in the tech industry, but the problem I’m having is building a cohesive narrative that connects all of my experiences. I apologize for being vague with some of the details above – I’m trying to preserve my anonymity.

  • JON G

    Yes I obviously had to send my transcript. I’m actually focusing more on GSB, so I’d love to hear why my I’m not the Stanford type, considering that I’ve worked in tech for almost my entire career. Also two of my coworkers at my first company went to GSB, and my seniors (one HBS one GSB) would give my glowing recs.

    For what its worth, despite your snarkiness, I’d do it all over in a heartbeat. I was so right in believing that employees care more about my work experience and talent than defining myself by some arbitrary number. Even now I see 100s of sterling GPA applicants all shot down without an interview. I still have faith adcoms take a holistic approach to reviewing applicants, and if they can’t appreciate sacrificing some articifial “school points” to truly teach myself, learn more, and score literally the most competitive jobs in the country, than so be it.

  • Class Taker

    Hey Sandy,

    Do you really think that taking classes will somewhat offset a low GPA and/or GMAT/GRE?

  • Jon G

    Yes I obviously had to send my transcript. I’m actually focusing more on GSB, so I’d love to hear why my I’m not the Stanford type, considering that I’ve worked in tech for almost my entire career. Also two of my coworkers at my first company went to GSB, and my seniors (one HBS one GSB) would give my glowing recs.
    For what its worth, despite your snarkiness, I’d do it all over in a heartbeat. I was so right in believing that employees care more about my work experience and talent than defining myself by some arbitrary number. Even now I see 100s of sterling GPA applicants all shot down without an interview. I still have faith adcoms take a holistic approach to reviewing applicants, and if they can’t appreciate sacrificing some articifial “school points” to truly teach myself, learn more, and score literally the most competitive jobs in the country, than so be it.

  • k.xia19@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy, I’m interested in the HBS 2+2 Program and I know that you have done a few of those on your reviews, but was hoping to get your input on my profile.

    GMAT: 720 (46Q/42V)
    Undergrad University: Top 15 Public Schools
    Major: Finance
    Minor: Technology & Management – selective program of 50 students from university’s engineering school (top 5) and business school
    GPA: 3.6

    – Small tech Start up in NYC (freshman year) – marketing intern
    – Retail company (sophomore year) – e-commerce finance intern
    – Human Capital Management Software Tech Company in SF (junior year) – finance intern
    Full Time for upcoming fall – Product Manager at Workday

    – Professional Development Chair for Business Honors Society
    – Volunteering and leadership role within local church as a small group leader (think personal development for members with weekly responsibilities – 2 years)
    – Coordinated a youth retreat for 150+ youth over the summer addressing issues of identity, self-worth, and hope

    Interested in the MBA/MPP joint degree, joining the tech industry with the public sector in terms of child development – somewhere within education, serving underprivileged youth, or foster care.

    I know that my extracurriculars and maybe even stats aren’t very strong compared to other 2+2 applicants, but I wanted to hear your input still. I’ve tried to gear my work experience more towards the tech industry as that’s what interests me. But at the same time, I think working with people and personal development has become a big interest of mine, especially for youth (bc of the pivotal life stage they’re at) and so I was looking for something to combine my two passions. I personally feel as though I might be a better regular candidate in a few years given more experience within the tech industry and strong extracurriculars, but I heard that 2+2 reapplicants also get better chances so I thought I’d try for 2+2 now too.

  • redsox06355@gmail.com


    I’m looking to apply this upcoming fall for the class of 2019. Any shot at an M7? Any other schools you would recommend for a lower GRE score?

    Undergraduate Career:

    – 3.3 GPA from well known engineering school in New England

    – Degree: Mechanical Engineering

    Professional Career:

    – 2 years in patent law (top 30 major law firm), followed by

    – 2 years in strategy consulting at a very well known DC think tank, obtained TS security clearance


    – Currently tutor underprivileged kids in the DC area in math

    – fraternity member and officer in college,


    156Q, 154V, 4.0 writing

    Made the switch into federal consulting and enjoy the work. Now want an MBA to go into corporate strategy consulting for aerospace and defense.

    I was admitted second round to a Top 20 (by US news only) in the midwest (not Kellogg or Booth). Considering waiting until next year and applying first round at better schools.

  • [email protected]

    Haha, this profile is either…

    1) A troll
    2) A not-so-subtle gloat
    3) A true story from someone with Aspergers

  • Ken B

    Hi Sandy–would be great if you could review my profile

    Targets Schools: HBS, GSB, Wharton

    GMAT: 770 (50Q / 45V)

    Undergrad Career
    -3.9 from a non HYP Ivy (Dartmouth, Columbia, Penn)
    -Degree: Political Science

    Professional Career
    -3 years at MBB, promoted to post MBA role after 2 years
    -2 years (upon matriculation) in larger cap PE (think TPG, Carlyle, KKR, Warburg, Berkshire)–send lots of people to HBS / GSB

    -Have done a number of longer term strategy projects with the boards / leaderships of large non-profits in my community–can speak to the specifics and their impact in application
    -Mentor for high potential lower income students applying to colleges

    Goal: Continue working in private equity or transition to a hedge fund post MBA

    Age: 27 at matriculation
    Other: African American Male

    I feel like I have solid stats, but worried about the somewhat weaker extra-curriculars and the extra year of work experience. Would be great to get your thoughts on chances and ways to make my application stand out

  • hbsguru

    did you have to give them the full 3.2 transcript when applying for the 2nd deferral? did they admit you after that, if so, they may have swallowed the 3.2 and your opportunistic approach to education and life. Well, for a year.
    This all sounds under-reported a bit, or misreported, as was certainly the case in initial post (both!), so not sure if there is another shoe to drop.
    Anyway, on ‘facts’ here, yes, you need to explain a bit, including drop in GPA. Working for Netflix/Hulu type company, after the smoke clears, and with start-up experience, are both big pluses.
    You do not seem like Stanford type (that type is just as predatory but more careful about appearances) but if they like your current company, and it has relationship w. Stanford, and you are golden boy at current company, well, maybe.

  • Melinda

    I am an Asian woman, as well. Thank you!

  • Marchesa

    Hello Sandy and John,

    I’m looking to apply in the upcoming cycle. Target schools: Stanford, Kellogg, Haas

    Undergraduate Career:
    – 3.48 GPA from public university ranked between 50-60 on US News
    – Degree: Business

    Professional Career:
    – 2 years in Leadership Development Program at top defense contractor, followed by
    – 2 years in Teach For America (upon matriculation)

    – President of two student organizations, one social justice, one Greek – Undergrad
    – Continued involvement in youth mentoring in same organization, different locations (going on 8 years – since start of undergrad)

    – M.S. in Education from Johns Hopkins University (will be completed upon matriculation)


    Made the switch in education for the mission. Now want an MBA to go into education consulting to create innovative, systemic change.

    Would appreciate your thoughts. I am in the process of writing my essays for application this fall.

  • Jon G

    I said yes, and deferred for the max two years, and then ran out of deferrals. I wanted my equity to vest at my current company and HBS wasn’t budging. I’m asking cause I’m more curious for the future. BTW that first job was supposed to say ~2.5 years, so I can see the confusion. No F’s, mainly C in gen Ed classes I put off in order to focus on engineering.

  • hbsguru

    what does turning HBS 2+2 down mean?
    if you said yes, and joined them now, you would be ~4+2, just like the vast majority of kids who matric. fr. 2+2 (most kids work 3-5 years before matric).
    GPA fell from 3.8 to 3.2???? Total 4 year GPA???
    Send me some of that crack, ok, I’d like to try it. Did you get F’s with penalty points for bad sportsmanship?

  • TakeAShot

    Sandy, can I ask for my profile to be reviewed?

    -ASEAN Emerging Market Male

    -760 GMAT Q51 V41 AWA6 IR8

    -3.02 GPA at a top 3 school in my country (Top 20% of graduating class)

    -Student Council Representative for my major

    -Management Trainee for a Local Bank (Top 10 in assets)

    -Rated 1st in the Trainee class

    -2 years in the local bank in Corporate Banking (Credit Analysis and Account Management)

    -Promoted after my first full year in the position

    -Moved to a local boutique IB firm in M&A, where I’ve been for 2 years

    -No promotion yet but given additional responsibilities after being identified as a potential account manager in the future (account managers are all VPs right now in the firm and I was given a small project to be account manager in as a test run)

    -Volunteer work just started with an award winning social enterprise involved in alternative energy (Founder graduated from HBS)

    -Passed CFA level 2, hopefully passed level 3 by the time applications roll around

    -I do some work with a college finance organization in another top 3 school (not where I took my undergrad), mainly talks on financial analysis but I also help out students with their career plans

    -Post MBA goal is buy side investment analysis, PE or a Sovereign Wealth Fund/IFC type is the dream but being realistic, I’d be quite happy in another buy side position like Corp Dev.

    -Long term MBA goal is to find myself in a position to return to my country in a senior investment analysis role in order to help facilitate increased business efficiency in a developing country

    What are my chances for:


  • Jon G

    Sandy, I think you’ll find my case really interesting/difficult to guess

    760 GMAT (99% both)
    3.2 GPA (Engineering, UCLA) **explained later
    – 2 years at top media tech company in Mobile Product Management (Netflix, Youtube, Hulu, etc.)
    – 1.5 years at a medium sized YC backed startup as Head of Engineering/Product, in charge of our product design and leading our technical engineers (I can code)
    – 25 white male
    – I was previously admitted to HBS 2+2, but turned them down to continue at my YC backed company. After being admitted, my GPA slipped (3.8 to 3.2) as I focused on recruiting full time and teaching myself to code. It was a sacrifice that was well worth it but I’ll need to explain that
    – Goal: join VP track at Google/Apple type

    -HBS (again)

  • Buddy


    -710 GMAT (47 Q / 40 V) (<<1st attempt. plan on retaking…think i can get higher on Q)
    -3.6 GPA in Petroleum Engineering and Chemical Engineering (separate B.S. degrees) from public university in South
    -4 years work experience at large energy company (XOM/CVX/Shell). 2/4 offshore involved in operations, 2/4 in office doing design work.
    -Looking to get MBA and return to energy sector on the business side.

    How are my chances looking at HBS/Columbia/Chicago?