Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds


His raw numbers are awfully impressive: A 750 GMAT that puts him in the 98% percentile of all test takers, and a equally stunning 4.0 grade point average at a private university in Chicago. For the past four years, this 28-year-old professional has been working for a Big Four accounting firm and wants to use the MBA as a way to transition into a consulting gig with one of the Big Three, McKinsey, Bain, or BCG.

He’s a 28-year-old European who graduated from an Ivy League university with both a bachelor’s and a master’s in engineering. After working for a Fortune 500 pharmaceuticals company for four years with two promotions, he now wants to use an MBA to jump from commercial strategy and operations to business development and move up the ladder in Big Pharma. And he certainly has the stats to do it: A 780 GMAT and a 3.98 GPA on his master’s degree.

He’s a former U.S. Marine Captain who has been working for a nonprofit lobbying firm to improve veteran’s healthcare and reform the Veterans Administration. With a 690 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA in political science from a Southern pubic university, this now 28-year-old white male is hoping to use business school to transition into healthcare management.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What these applicants share in common is the goal to get into one of the world’s best business schools. Do they have the raw stats and experience to get in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, is back again to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics, work backgrounds and career goals with Poets&Quants.

As usual, Kreisberg handicaps each potential applicant’s odds of getting into a top-ranked business school. If you include your own stats and characteristics in the comments, we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature to be published shortly. Now that the round one and round two deadlines are over, Sandy will be appearing more regularly. (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.)


Mr. Big Four To Big Three


  • 750 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting from a private university in Chicago, graduated as the top business student
  • Work experience includes four years at a Big Four accounting firm, two years in international taxation and two years in M&A advisory
  • Extracurricular involvement as the chairman of a junior board of directors at a large charity in Chicago, spearheaded the creation of that board and also have had experienced working with youngsters on Chicago’s south and west side
  • Goal: To transition to McKinsey, Bain or BCG
  • 28-year-old male in Chicago

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 20%
Wharton: 50%
Columbia: 50%
Chicago: 60%+
Northwestern: 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: Let’s put aside the fact that he is a 28-year-old white male. It’s very hard to get extra points for being a male these days. But things get better with your 4.0 in accounting from what you are describing is a private university in Chicago. And then you went to work for a Big Four.

I need to point this out again for many of our readers: As a feeder to the elite business schools, the Big Four is silver not gold if you are a U.S. white male. The Big Four is usually a feeder for underrepresented minorities, Europeans and Asians. If you get a job at PwC and you start out at international tax which sounds serious and move to M&A advsory which sounds like fun, you are a smart, successful guy. And you figured out how the game works: You want to go from the Big Four to the Big Three, McKinsey, Bain or BCG.

If you worked in Europe or Asia, that is gold because it is a harder job to get. For underrepresented minorities, it’s a job from whcih you can transiton from a traditionall black college to a Big Four to Stanford or Harvard. It sets you up. But you are not one of these candidates. You’ve got a great career, a 4.0 at a good school, a 750 and the right career goals, to use the MBA to transition into a global consulting firm.

Bottom line: You are a solid guy with a high GMAT. Chicago Booth will buy the numbers. It’s hard to say no to an American guy with a 4.0, a 750 GMAT and clear cut career goals to become a consultant. This is a case where everyone can be happy. You will be happy. The school that admits you will be happy. McKinsey, Bain and BCG will be happy. For them, you’re a pre-tested product. The only thing that could keep you out of Booth or Kellogg is bad luck or mismanaging the process somehow.

Wharton is just tougher. Columbia and Wharton will salivate over your numbers. You are the real deal. You are smart and you know accounting which these days is meaningful.
Let me suggest something a little kooky: You should apply to consulting firms now. You could save yourself two years and a quarter of a million dollars. Friend, consdier just smoozing with McKinsey, Bain and BCG. They are always looking for smart consultants.

I don’t think you are getting into Stanford unless your firm has a back door there, meaning someone who is FOD (Friends of Derrick), Bolton that is, the head of MBA admissions at Stanford. At HBS, your charitable work would be significant. But here’s a dirty little secret. To have impact with extracurriculars for an MBA admissions application, you’ve got to have a distinctive leadership role. If you’re a foot soldier in any one of the leading charities, it doesn’t get you enough. That’s just a fact of life in MBA admissions.

Bottom line: You are a solid guy with a high GMAT. Booth, Wharton and Columbia will buy the numbers. It’s hard to say no to an American guy with a 4.0, a 750 GMAT and clear cut career goals to become a consultant. This is a case where everyone can be happy. You will be happy. The school that admits you will be happy. McKinsey, Bain and BCG will be happy. For them, you’re a pre-tested product. The only thing that could keep you out of Booth or Kellogg is bad luck or mismanaging the process somehow.

Columbia and Wharton also will salivate over your numbers. You are the real deal. You are smart and you know accounting which these days is meaningful.

Let me suggest something a little kooky: You should apply to consulting firms now. You could save yourself two years and a quarter of a million dollars. Friend, consider just schmoozing with McKinsey, Bain and BCG. They are always looking for smart consultants.


  • AspiringPhd


    I would like to seek your inputs on my profile as below.

    1) B.E., MBA from India followed by MSFE (MS in Fin Engg) from S’pore.

    2) 10 year of professional experience

    3) GMAT – 730, GRE – 325

    Any advise on the prospective schools for a PhD in Finance, preferably in HongKong, US would be very much appreciated.


  • oddbbo

    Hi! I would love some feedback on my profile.

    26 yo white male
    GMAT: 720 (43Q, 47V)
    GPA: 3.75
    Major: Economics, Philosophy from top 25 US university

    Work Experience: 4+ years as a financial reporter/journalist. I began my career at a subsidiary of the Financial Times before transitioning to an energy commodity price assessment/news/analysis company. Now, I work at financial news start-up (concerned with infrastructure development) with a serial entrepreneur that I met at the FT. I have worked internationally, helped develop a news product for an investment banking audience and manage a small team of full-time and freelance reporters.

    Extracurriculars: NCAA Varsity Tennis player; Program Director at a non-profit that provides sports-related intervention for children with autism; on the development committee at another non-profit that uses tennis as a vehicle for empowerment for kids in public housing.

    I want to get an MBA so that I can work in infrastructure and project finance. At the start-up where I work now I’ve helped develop a news product for investment bankers working in this space. I am looking at Columbia, MIT, Yale, NYU and Georgetown.

  • Jon

    John and Sandy,

    Would love some input on my profile:
    28 year old white male
    BS in Computer Engineering and Computer Science from U of L JB Speed
    3.77 GPA
    Graduating end of 2016 (went back to school at 25 for this degree)
    750 GMAT (Q46,V47)

    Goals: Consulting role for companies in healthcare sector, focused on new and emerging technologies.

    Applying to Booth, Kellogg, Emory, and CMU 2nd round

    Work Experience –
    5 years in sales across several industries.
    Prior to going back to college, worked (indirectly, through a vendor) for UnitedHealthcare as a Trainer/Supervisor of Licensed Health Agents (after working as one myself for a bit).
    2 years working as part of a ‘startup incubator’ within a professional services company. I write code and help drive business development activities for several new software venture being brought to market in the healthcare space.

    I participate in a number of programs aimed at tech entrepreneurs (Google sponsored StartUp weekends, a 10-week start up incubator called Lean LaunchIt)
    I also have a background in independent film production

    Want to end up at MBB post grad school and ideally would like to get a job there as an analyst before or during my MBA program (which is why I’m targeting schools they recruit from which also happen to be in cities where they have offices). Interested in consulting for healthcare companies given my experience and background in that sector.

  • Daniel

    Hello John/Sandy,

    I enjoy your analyses of these profiles; however, I haven’t seen one similar to mine. I would appreciate your breaking down my profile.
    Applying in Round one to: Stanford, Harvard, MIT, Wharton
    Career Goal: Focus on entrepreneurship.

    General Profile: Male Venezuelan with international experience (27 years old).
    GMAT: 700 (Q49,V36)
    Toefl: 115

    -Bachelor: Production Engineer from Top of Engineering in Venezuela
    Cum Laude – Top 5% – Thesis w/ honors – GPA: 4.6/5
    -International Exchanges:
    Politecnico di Milano, Italy (1 year) as part of my engineering.
    Senior year of High School in the US.

    Work Experience:
    – 3.5 years at a big international consumer goods company in Venezuela. Started as Marketing Management Trainee (2 years), then promoted to Planning Executive (1.5 years) and then, recently promoted to Manager (Youngest manager in the company).
    – 6 months internship in Geneva, Switzerland in another top consumer goods company.

    – Co-Founder and CEO of a Social Media Agency w/ clients in 3 countries.
    – Currently developing an App that promotes Sports.

    – Faculty Advisor (1 year) of the Model of United Nations Team of my former school. Led and prepared 28 students to compete in Harvard National Model of UN in 2014.

    – 2 awards for projects and performance in the company.
    – 2 leadership awards (back in school) in Models of UN organized by Harvard (Singapore 2011 and HNMUN 2013).

  • Emberkit1123

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d love for you to help breakdown my profile.

    Age: 23 year old asian female
    GMAT: 760 (Q50,V42)
    GPA: 3.8/4.0
    Major: Engineering from top engineering university (MIT/Caltech)
    Work Experience: 1.5 years as process engineer at Fortune 500 semiconductor company; prior internship at small boutique strategy consulting firm
    Extracurriculars: Was president of college paper, currently involved with creating career development initiatives for new hires at company (separate from HR)
    – I’d like to get an MBA to transition into financial sector (working as a project manager on financial projects with focus on tech industry); also interested in higher general management positions with potential to give back to URM programs within company. MBA would accelerate my path to this goal rather than just to attempt to switch industries (given my current age).

    Reaches: Harvard, Wharton, MIT, Booth

  • MohawkMonk87

    I am military, but my situation is a bit different (enlisted background, career transition, reasonably high numbers). Can you evaluate my profile?

    – 30 year old white male
    – 3.74 GPA (tier 2 public, ranked between 90-110) in Math and Philosophy
    – Honors Magna Cum Laude, PBK
    – GRE 166V/162Q/4.5W = GRE 700
    – Humanities MA (terminal) from HYP
    – 1 year teaching high school religion and history
    – 6 years enlisted military
    – 3 years special operations experience conducting foreign audience research and messaging in combat zones

    Reaches: Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, Yale, Duke

    Targets: UNC-Chapel Hill, Georgetown, Cornell

    Goals: I want to earn a joint MBA/MPP and transition into either marketing or political consultancy, both of which are related but not exact equivalents to my work with the military.

  • Nighat

    Hi Sandy,

    Please analyze my MBA odds for HBS, Wharton & Rotman MBA

    Nighat Bano (29, F)
    (I am a self-made person & consider myself as agent of change for Women Empowerment & Community Service)

    Born & brought up in a very remote & isolated area (Hunza Valley) in Northern Pakistan. While I was studying & topped every class, other girls of my age in my neighbor had hardly got till 6-7 class & left their studies then, even my 2 sisters could hardly reach class 5. Meaning I am one of the very people in my area to get into an Engineering University. Always topped my class as well as the topper of whole school/college throughout, got “Student of the Year Award” starting from nursery till passing the college.

    Mechatronics Engineering with 81%/100% (Grade A+ as per Pakistan Education system), from University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, one of the top Engineering Universities in Pakistan.

    GMAT: Not taken yet, targeting 710.

    Work Experience: Total 7 years so far

    Started With: Schlumberger, Field Engineer (Around 2 Years)
    Among the very few females from whole Pakistan who had been hired by Schlumberger as Field Engineer, worked on oil & gas rigs in & outside Pakistan. I was the only female on oil & gas rigs in Pakistan working with hundreds of male in remote areas in a male dominant society plus a male dominant profession so faced several challenges, however I continued.
    Later switched & work as Marketing coordinator with another company for 1 year

    Current Job: Weatherford, Operations Coordinator (4 years by now)
    Job role & responsibilities started with operations management & some administrative tasks, currently involved in sales & financial analysis (Income Statement review, revenue recognition, identifying opportunities for resource optimization etc.)

    Very active throughout academic period.
    Head-Girl – School Student Council
    Head-Girl – College Student Council
    Team Manager “Andigo Cricket Team” at Weatherford (my work place)

    Community Service:
    – When I was in Grade 6 (at the age of 11), I started free tutoring services at home for people in my community who couldn’t afford to go to tuition centers & academies. Juniors as well as my own classmates used to come to me for tuition; the schedule was from 3pm-7pm every day. I ran this free tuition center for some 7 years, till the time I had to move out of home for my graduation (Engineering) from a very far away city (Lahore).
    – Involvement in other community work as part of Pakistan Girls Guides Association.
    – Currently associated as a volunteer with a Community Based Organization working in organic farming of apples in my hometown. Helped them introduce their products to retailers & wholesalers in markets in big cities like Islamabad & Lahore. We are still working on exploring some more markets.

    Academic Achievements:
    Topped throughout from Grade 1 till passing out from college, so got “Student of the Year Award” every year.
    Recipient of merit scholarships throughout my academic years till graduation
    (Proud of never taking any penny from my parents to Finance my studies, rather I used to give some amount to my parents during Engineering as I was giving tuition classes — not free this time)
    Represented my school in several competitions.
    Represented my university in “Battle of Minds”, an inter university competition in Pakistan.

    Work Achievements:
    Along with several others; won as part of team “Salesfroce Anticipate the win Award” for winning multi-million dollar contract with largest National Oil Company in Pakistan.

    Post-MBA Goals:
    Want to work for community in Sustainable Energy.

  • Bulldogs2013


    I enjoy your analyses of these profiles; however, I haven’t seen one similar to mine. I would appreciate your breaking down my profile.

    Target Schools: Applying Round 1 to Harvard, Darden, Fuqua, McCombs joint MBA/MPP programs with a focus on political and economic development.

    Work Experience: 25 (26 at matriculation) year-old white male U.S. Senate staffer focusing on development in rural Appalachia. Previous experience as a campaign field director and U.S. Senate legislative aid (4 years total work experience at the time of matriculation)

    Scores: 690 GMAT (47Q,38V) – Retaking soon for ~730. Passed Harvard Business School’s HBX Core and have As in Financial Accounting, Statistics, Macroeconomics, Microeconomics, and Investments.

    Extracurriculars: I am on the board of directors for a regional chamber of commerce young professionals organization and active in its statewide umbrella organization dedicated to attracting young professional talent to the state.

    Academic Experience: 3.7/4.0 GPA in Political Science major/Spanish minor from a senior Military College (think VMI, Citadel, Norwich). To put my college selection in context, I received four total congressional nominations to federal service academies but was medically disqualified from military service.
    Three separate summer study abroad experiences in London, Spain, and Lebanon – all of which were financed by scholarship competitions. One semester Washington, D.C. fellowship on Capitol Hill. President/Vice President of multiple academic organizations and held strong leadership positions within the corps of cadets. Intercollegiate club lacrosse midfielder, Brazilian Jiujitsu purple belt.

    Goal: Social entrepreneurship focused on maximizing public-private partnerships in sustainable development, social welfare, and rural connectivity. I want to take my public sector experience to the next level in the private sector.

  • Jose

    Hi Sandy and John,

    Thank you for the great videos and posts!

    – 26 year old hispanic male (U.S. Citizen)
    – 3.6 GPA from a top-25 university in the northeast, business school honors program, double major in Finance & Economics
    – 740 GMAT
    – M&A Associate at a bulge bracket investment bank (3 years working in structured debt, 2 years in current position)
    – Extracurriculars (are limited, banking doesn’t allow much free time): Ran in numerous marathons and half marathons, intramural soccer leagues, volunteer at retirement homes and soup kitchens, coordinated Alzheimer’s fund raising events (raising 5k+ in donations in each)

    Target Schools: Stanford, Haas*, Mccombs*, UCLA*, USC* (*looking to apply via the Consortium, any insight on what they are looking for would be very helpful too)

    Goal: Transition into venture capital / MBA focused on entrepreneurship, would like to develop VC focused on the Latin America region

    Thank you again!


  • Kat

    Hi Sandy,

    Would appreciate any insight you have, as I have a rather unconventional background!

    – 28-year old Asian female based in London
    – 730 GMAT
    – First Class (4.0 equivalent) from top university for music in the UK, with conservatoire training from the Royal College of Music on the side
    – Masters in Musicology from Oxford / Cambridge
    – Work experience includes 3 years at a boutique consumer products strategy consulting firm in the UK specialising in customer insight, 1.5 years at top FMCG consumer products company, 6 months in family business (eco-hotel) developing community projects
    – Extracurricular involvement in competitive wakeboarding and performing in a band, as well as led a team of volunteers at the Beijing Olympics
    – Goal: to transition to a customer-focused marketing role in a tech-driven consumer products / services company in the US, with the long term goal of starting up my own business in the same field
    – Target schools: H/S/W, MIT, Kellogg, Columbia

    Thank you so much!

  • Jeremy

    Hey there,

    I am looking to work for/start an educational non-profit and am looking at several programs at Ed Schools, but am also looking at MBAs to broaden my options. Specifically looking at Stanford’s MBA/MA in Education degree and welcome suggestions as to a few other target schools. My stats:

    Hispanic Male, U.S.-born
    GRE: 170/170 Verbal (99%ile), 164/170 Quant (87%ile); apparently equivalent to 750 GMAT if such a conversion is even valid.
    (Considering a retake to boost Quant as my sole preparation for the test was an afteroon spent taking two practice tests; did not review a few basic concepts that, in hindsight, I should have.)
    UGPA: 3.0 with upward trend after changing majors at a top 50 national university
    Master’s GPA: 3.75 at top Ed School in Ed Policy

    Work Experience:
    *4 years full-time teaching experience (math! hence my frustration with quant), one as department head/team leader; rated a “highly effective” teacher, recipient of a teaching award
    *One year as as a substitute teacher
    *One year as an education research assistant

    I appreciate any insight into my chances at Stanford and/or any other target schools. I would also be interested in schools that A) have something of a non-profit focus and B) offer fellowships for which I may have a chance. Thanks.

  • Now you have me laughing out loud. That’s the perfect analogy for me as well!

  • zgd3200@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,
    Target Schools: MIT, Haas, HBS, GSB, INSEAD
    GMAT: 780 (50Q, 48V)
    GPA: 3.58
    Majored in Chemistry at a top 50 school with a large amount of graduate work.
    Work Experience: 4 years at a medium sized biotech/pharma company is medicinal chemistry (read drug discovery) (3 promotions)
    Several publications as the main author in major research journals (not sure if anyone cares)
    Internships at a major oil services firm for two summers in R&D.
    Extracurricular activities: Tutored organic chemistry during college
    Research assistant in an organic chemistry research group during college. Led a project where I was responsible for training and managing other undergrads on my project.
    Pursuing part time masters in computer science (Online top 10 program)
    Marathons (semi-competitive sub-3 hours)
    Volunteering: Mentoring urban high school students entering science fairs (3 years)
    Volunteer at various charity races and run with homeless bostonians as outreach.
    Goals: Start company at intersection of pharma and chemistry to further automate the drug development process.
    25 y/o white male.

  • cbrumbergs@gmail.com


    I’m preparing to apply to Harvard, Wharton, Chicago and MIT.

    GMAT: 780, (47V/50Q) (1st try, not sure if that matters)
    GPA: 3.7
    Majored in Finance and Economics with Accounting minor from a top 10-12 University, undergrad business school
    Work experience includes 3 years in M&A at a large mid-tier bank in New York, followed by 2 years in Private Equity in DC focusing on energy & infrastructure, exclusively in emerging markets.
    Extracurricular involvement includes volunteering a couple times a year (non-leadership role), and a more significant amount of time over the last 6 months serving as a mentor advising small business entrepreneurs.
    Goal: Create a start-up
    27 year old white male

    Thanks for your help!

  • Fernando

    Thanks for the deep advice!

    I think the low GPA is explainable – but it’s good to know that I’ll have to give some attention to that. Will try to talk with some Alumni from my uni that went to these schools and check how it was.

    Even thou I had some volunteer experience, it was mostly on the field and not on a leadership position, so I know this won’t help me as much as I wanted – good to know that at least LatAm favors me in that sense.

    My company office usually sends ~6 indivivuals to B-Schools yearly, but hardly more than one for each. This definitely makes me a bit more comfortable although I know I still have a lot of homework to do.

    Since I’ve still have some time left before I apply, I will try to steer my project selection inside the company to try to make the case for the future career goal 🙂

    Thanks a lot for the tips – it’s a good exercise to reflect on my application. I’ll definitely watch HBS and East Coast in general! 🙂

    Best regards,

  • Sawant

    Hi AP,
    Thanks for the reply. I gave the original GMAT with no preparation at all and answered just 27 questions in quants and 36 questions in verbal. My pacing was all over the place in that exam. I have studied quite a lot in the past month and am scoring 720-750 in my practice tests (MGMAT, Kaplan and GMAT Prep).
    Will a 2nd try at GMAT make any difference? Will it be less impactful if I my scores are from a second try?

  • AP

    Just curious – I don’t think you should have too much difficulty in getting into ISB with your background and a 670.

    If you’re set on Wharton though (And I’d also include Booth, LBS and Columbia – strong Finance schools in that), you need to roast it on your GMAT. That’s the sad truth. The GMAT has becoming nothing less than an arms race. Sorry! Please try to get a 730+. That will aid tremendously when you apply to Wharton!

  • Sawant

    Hi Sandy,
    I am currently preparing to apply for an MBA this September to Wharton. Since, I am from a finance background, my aim is to get into Wharton. Below are my credentials. Please help me out. My only concern in the application process is that I have too much domestic experience.

    Nationality: Indian (currently residing in Mumbai, India)
    Age: 26

    GPA: 80% in final public exams of BSc Business Studies from Mumbai University (1st in my college)
    Completed my MSc Finance from an internationally reputed UK university (think UCL, KCL) with a 2.1 (top 10%)

    Total of 4 years work experience, 3 years in Investment Banking and 1 year in Private Equity.
    Worked for 3 years in a major Indian Investment Bank. The investment bank that I worked for is the premier Indian IB firm who has conducted many Q&A sessions in Wharton as well as has a sizeable Wharton alumni as its staff.
    Worked for a year with one of the biggest private equity firms in India. The private equity firm is a Joint Venture between an Indian PE firm and one of the largest international PE firms in the world (think TPG, Apollo, Bain) and manages about USD 6 billion in assets

    GMAT: 670 (Gave the test without studying, hoping it to be just maths and verbal. Now ready to give it again after better preparation)

    Reason to study for an MBA: I have been working as an Analyst for the past 4 years and a promotion in my field is dependant on an MBA from a premier institute.

    Short term goals: Gain work experience at an Associate level in a real estate private equity firm (All my 4 years of work ex are focused on real estate)

    Long term goals: Start my own real estate focused fund which targets distressed assets. Currently the market for distressed assets is huge in India and not well explored.

    Extra-curriculars: Member of an NGO that promotes education among poorer sections of the society.

    Please let me know about my chances for getting into Wharton

  • Shannon

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you voice out your opinion about my chances for HSW?

    29-year old asian male. 2 year with IBM in consulting, 1 year self-founded startup, 1.5 years MBB in APAC. Worked in SEA and Australia across 6 different industries.
    740 GMAT

    Work experience:
    – Current: Consultant at MBB with APAC experience [19 months by application]
    – Previous: Co-founded startup with MBB consultants in recruiting/headhunting [~14 months tapering off]
    – Previous: IBM consulting with implementation experience and APAC scale transformation [ ~20 months]

    – Malaysian Top State University
    – Undergraduate Major: Social Science – minor in Physics
    – GPA: ~3.1 (changed majors and GPA is slightly lower due to racial discrimination, understand that this may be hard to prove or negative to write about)

    – Used to be a professional musician playing for large corporate events. (not much playing anymore due to work and travel)
    – Co-founded student organization to help underprivileged students go for student exchanges to grow their worldview

    – Back to consulting in US/ APAC – potentially fortune 500 company leadership in medium term
    – Potentially explore startups in the US

    Many thanks!!

  • shannonwong103@gmail.com


  • Canadian Real Estate

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you let me know what you think my odds are?

    GMAT: 720 (46V/43Q/8IR/6AWA)

    – BCom specializing in Finance from a top Canadian university, 3.7 GPA
    – CFA Charterholder, passed all 3 exams on the first attempt

    Work Experience:
    – 5 years at a top Canadian real estate investment firm. Spent 4 years on the investment team before being recruited/promoted by exec team to join the corporate strategy team. Report directly to CFO and work close enough with the CEO to legitimately get a ref.

    – Mentor students at my alma mater in a semester-long case competition that I participated in
    – Student/recent grad mentor at local YWCA

    – short-term – continue in commerical real estate working in portfolio management and business development
    – long-term – CEO at real estate investment management firm

    28 year old half-Asian, half-white female with dual US and Canadian citizenship

    Targets: Wharton, Columbia, Haas and Anderson for Fall 2018

    Thank you!

  • riah_28@yahoo.com


    With just 18 months full time work experience by the time I apply, Will I be viewed unfavorably by adcoms, compared to candidates who have 5+ years of work experience since they bring more ‘real-world experiences’ to the classroom?

    I don’t see a reason to wait longer. I work at a top 5 tech company, have interned at a government organization, worked with a college tech start up (We won an international award by a fortune 100 company. I was among the first 8 employees and first female employee.)
    I want to use my technical expertise, get an MBA and become a product manager in tech. This feels the right time to me, but would it be a disadvantage?

    I don’t know if this matters but I’m an Asian american Computer engineer who studied at a top 20 Engineering college in India, and graduated in the top 10% of my batch. 710 GMAT.

    Would appreciate your feedback, Thanks! 🙂

  • fabioacero@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    I have a unique profile for you to think about. I appreciate your insight:

    25 year old Colombian male

    710 GMAT (40V/48Q), planning retake aiming for a 740


    Lawyer with minor in business from top university in the country (top 5 in LatAm), 3.41 GPA, including a scholarship from the university

    Currently enrolled in postgraduate degree on Tax Law at same school

    Scholarship from the Colombian Government to pursue any postgraduate degree (the catch is I HAVE to apply this year)

    Extracurricular: worked in my school’s legal clinic for 1 year providing legal services to underprivileged people in need (also counts as work experience?)

    Work experience:

    15 months at a commercial litigation boutique law firm in Colombia

    15 months at a coporate and tax boutique law firm in Colombia (will be 28 months at enrollment)

    Goal: transition into business in order to lead and expand a family owned real estate development company in Colombia

    Schools: Harvard, Wharton, Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth

    Thanks in advance!

  • fabioacero@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    I have a unique profile for you to think about. I appreciate your insight:

    25 year old Colombian male

    710 GMAT (40V/48Q), planning retake aiming for a 740

    Lawyer from top university in the country (top 5 in LatAm), 3.41 GPA, including a scholarship from the university

    Scholarship from the Colombian Government to pursue any postgraduate degree (the catch is I HAVE to apply this year)

    Extracurricular: worked in my school’s legal clinic for 1 year providing legal services to underprivileged people in need (also counts as work experience?)

    Work experience:

    15 months at a commercial litigation boutique law firm in Colombia

    15 months at a coporate and tax boutique law firm in Colombia (will be 28 months at enrollment)

    Goal: transition into business in order to lead and expand a family owned real estate development company in Colombia

    Schools: Harvard, Wharton, Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth

    Thanks in advance!

  • Chance

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m thinking about applying this fall and would love to get your thoughts on what my chances are for the following schools: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Sloan, Yale, & LBS.

    25 year old African American male

    760 GMAT. 3.15 GPA (had some serious health issues that affected my academic performance throughout college) at a top undergrad business school; specialized in finance and economics.

    Work experience:

    – Current: Market strategy & operations at a unicorn (think Airbnb/Uber); promoted once (second promotion likely this winter) [1.5 years, 2.5 years at matriculation]

    – Previous: Management consultant at a tier 2/3 firm (think Accenture/Big 4) in NYC [2 yrs]

    Extracurriculars include extensive involvement in student government in college (university senate, student council, admissions ambassador/tour guide, founded successful mentorship program for freshmen that administration adopted the following year), tutor students in math at inner city middle school, and lead choir at church. Trained singer and musician. Passionate about music and entertainment.

    Post-MBA goal is to pivot to a strategy role within the music industry, either at a record company or within tech (i.e. Spotify/Soundcloud).

    Thank you!

  • AJ

    Hey Sandy,

    I’ve been reading this column for a while and I always learn a great deal. I wonder if you would review my chances?

    – 24 year old white male.
    – 3.6 GPA in Urban Studies and Political Science from top 50 liberal arts college (turned down better schools for a full ride)
    – 160Q/168V GRE first try, going to take again for 165Q (focused on GRE because I’m considering a dual with planning or policy)

    – Current: Fulbright Scholar in SE Asia – projects focusing on community transit solutions (ride-share), education and public diplomacy.
    – Internships in the public sector: White House/EOP, European Parliament, etc.

    – Founded and ran three successful community organizations during undergrad (received university awards)
    – 2 years as VP in community non-profit working with 50+ agencies overseeing 60+ team (received national awards)
    – Lived in 4 countries and worked or researched in 12+ more

    – Nonprofit management (think United Way, Habitat, Red Cross, YMCA) focusing on an MBA specifically because so many non-profit organizations lack leaders with rigorous high-level training because, it seems, the vast majority of MBA students aim to transition into high-paying industries like tech, real estate, consulting, pharma etc.

    I’m shooting for schools such as UNC, Duke, Northwestern, Berkley, Michigan, and Notre Dame. I realize also that I’m on the younger side, so I wonder if you think my chances for these or better schools would increase if I work a few more years? Deciding if I should apply now or transition to a traditional feeder industry like consulting, maybe in a name-recognized firm like Deloitte for 1-3 years before applying.

    Thanks in advance,


  • Too Early?

    Hi Sandy,

    I would appreciate your evaluation of my chances at HBS, Wharton, Stanford, Booth and Kellog.

    I’m deciding between applying this fall or next fall, round one in both cases. Your opinion here would also be great.

    24 year old white male with 1.5 years at a big-four in the strategy consulting practice. Ranked top 5-10% in peer group for first performance cycle, and received a promotion after 1 year to a ‘senior associate/analyst’ role. 3.8 undergrad GPA from a top public university, Bachelors in Bioengineering. 770 GMAT.

    Work experience:
    Go-to-market and customer engagement strategy projects in telecom and pharmaceuticals. Have done work in both India (3 weeks) and Japan (5 months).

    Leadership development for the associate board of a large non-profit and alumni board membership of a college organization
    In school, managed a bar on campus and was president of a 3500 member student organization.

    Move to MBB

  • Hopeful

    Applying R1 this fall.

  • Hopeful

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you please let me know your thoughts about my chances at HBS, Wharton, and Kellogg?

    25 year old Asian female working in management consulting for 3 years. Ranked top 5-10% of peers for all performance cycles. 3.7 undergrad GPA from top public university, double-majored in Business and Psych. 750 GMAT

    Work experience:
    Marketing planning and operations projects within consumer tech space. Projects ranged from customer lifecycle analysis to campaign creation to marketing process and team optimization.

    Extracurricular highlights:
    At firm, west coast lead of all new joiner initiatives and lead of student club sponsorship programs between alma mater and firm (for recruiting). In college, founded entrepreneurship society and VP of nationally ranked advertising team.

    Brand manager and eventual CMO of consumer tech company

  • hbsguru

    this is real solid at Berk if you can explain the low GPA, do you have access to class standing, that would help schools understand what is going on, even tho they claim to know about such things. Also go to some Berk events and info sessions and ask them if they are familiar w. low GPAs at your school.
    Stanford is always tricky and on the surface you do not have any of the do-gooder, save the world jive that they look for in males (not sure if you are white, but males who have worked for Yacht companies 😉 ) but on the other hand they are always looking for Latin Ams, and Brazil is a favored country.
    //Current: Consultant at Big 3 Management Consulting [18 months current, ~30 months when I apply]// That is real solid and instant credibility.
    What is track record of dudes fr. your class applying to B school? As often noted, that is a great metric to begin with.
    //Goal: Any Business Development position within Renewable Energy Industry, hopefully a Renewable Energy start-up in West Coast.// that is also real good if you have any track record to pin this to.
    Hey pal, looks like you are California focused, but explain that GPA and think about HBS –could work and odds much better than Stanford.

  • no

    fair points, no dog in this fight, i just think odds are a bit lower than you do. i just finished my first year at a non H/S m7 and off the top of my head can’t think of many big 4 (outside of deloitte consulting) + no name college students in the class.

  • Fernando

    Hi Sandy,
    Could you voice out your opinion about my chances?

    25-year old Brazilian male. 2 years work experience in a Big 3 management consulting firm, across industries, functions and geographies. 740 GMAT, targeting Stanford and Berkeley-Haas, hoping to apply in 2017.

    Work experience:
    – Current: Consultant at Big 3 Management Consulting [18 months current, ~30 months when I apply]
    – Previous: Business Intelligence Intern at homeware startup, part of Rocket Internet GmbH [6 months]
    – Previous: Research Intern at Brazilian yacht shipyard [6 months]

    – Brazilian Top University + 1 year exchange program in Tier-1 university in Sidney, Australia, sponsored by Brazilian Ministry of Education
    – Undergraduate Major: Naval Architecture and Ocean Engineering
    – GPA: ~2.6 (my school hardly distributes GPA >3.0)

    Extra-curricular: Some involvement with pro-bono structured consulting for Brazilian entrepreneurs through an accelerator. Past experience teaching English at Taiwan. Founder and former president of Brazilian Student Association in Australia’s uni.

    Goal: Any Business Development position within Renewable Energy Industry, hopefully a Renewable Energy start-up in West Coast.

    Many thanks!!

  • Jason

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks in advance for taking a look at my profile and odds. Love your articles.

    Education: 2.67 GPA Top 50 Public State School (Accounting) This I can explain being immature and have taken 3 quant classes recently and have gotten A’s in all 3 and also have my CPA.

    Demographic: 25 year old, Caucasian, male

    GMAT: (730 49Q 40V)

    Work Experience: Internal auditor for a Fortune 500 Company I’ll have 3 years of experience once I start an MBA program. Early promotion within our Audit program. Our Audit program is a known feeder to upper level Management Positions within the company.

    Extracurriculars: Weekly teachings of personal finance to middle school through highschool students.

    Goal of MBA: Management Consulting

    Target Schools: Ross, Darden, Fuqua, Kellog, McCombs

    Would love to hear your feedback, I know your thinking Mr. Accountant probably not the best personality, but I’m one of the few that goes against the grain. If I can get the interview at one of the schools I’m pretty sure I can get in. I’m also thinking of going to a couple of the meet and greets at one of the schools before applying.



  • Vincent

    I transferred out of a Big 4 into a bulge bracket IB and ended up at one of H/S/W. A few people in my year at the Big 4 did end up at top b-schools as well (white and asian male in audit both ended up at Booth) but they invariably had high GMAT scores (760+). I would imagine that M&A / Transaction Services would be seen as more selective than Audit / Tax so that should help as well.

  • CT

    Hi Sandy,

    I love this series! I’d love to get your input on my profile:

    • Demographic: 24-year old mixed-race female.

    • GMAT: 720

    • Undergrad: Bcomm from top Canadian school (think Ivey, Queen’s). Only 3.1 GPA…oops. Specifically weak in quant classes.

    • Work experience includes 2 years at major retailer, with 2 promotions: 1 year in rotational leadership program, 10 months as associate manager in buying (full P&L oversight), currently manager on a strategic project.

    • Founder of small fitness biz that serves young professional women. Featured in some major media outlets and blogs.

    • Extracurriculars:

    Undergrad: leadership roles for women in business society, leadership roles organizing a few conferences, volunteered abroad in Central America.

    Current: Avid runner, yogi and fitness enthusiast. Lost a lot of weight and wrote about experience in national magazine. Blog about wellness, work-life balance, new-grad careers, networking and professional development for major blogs –been syndicated on Newsweek, Forbes, The Muse, and in national Canadian papers.

    • Goal: To transition into top-tier consulting firm in retail and consumer goods practice OR corporate strategy at a major retailer or consumer goods company.

    • First in family to graduate from university.

    • Target schools: Kellogg, Yale, Tuck, INSEAD.

  • hbsguru

    thanks for the new info. I also omitted to say that coming fr. a no name college could be an advantage to this applicant. It explains a bit how he got to Big 4 in first place, those firms are often testing grounds for talented kids fr. smaller, less well known schools, who did not get the chance to compete for MCK, BCG etc. during college b.c. those elite shops don’t recruit at their schools.
    Essentially getting the 4.0 and doing well at Big 4 is proxy for smart, well behaved dude who by dint of coming fr. non-Ivy background used lesser known college and Big-4 to level the playing field.
    And as I have often noted, at Stanford GSB, there is a narrow but
    solid tunnel fr. Big 4/URM candidates, they take 1 or 2 a year.

  • lex

    I was BIG 4 with a 740 and 3.75. Was successful applying this last fall but am URM which i am sure put me in another bucket.

    But I know handfuls of (white) applicants who were successful in applying from Big 4. M7 + Haas, Tuck and SOM have pretty similar admissions requirements so I disagree that anyone with a 750 plus 4.0 plus legit corporate job is not getting into a top 10 school.

    Sure admissions is not jumping up and down excited about them but lets not pretend someone who worked at Barclays is keeping admissions up at night with the excitement of Christmas morning

  • C0UGAR

    Sandy, thanks for the analysis. I am Mr. Litigation Support. Wondering if you have any additional thoughts – I retook the GMAT and now have 750 (49Q/44V). I can fix my goals to say I’m a CPA doing lit support and want to do consulting with Big 4. My LDS mission was stateside (so probably not a big help). Think my chances at Tuck or Kellogg are any better with the 750? Thanks..

  • hbsguru

    haha, I think a 750 gets the attention of those adcoms, and a 4.0 helps focus it even more.

    Sure, other things in the mix, but that is an excellent start and schools were adcoms have to report to the deans, and the dean’s only question is, “How we doing on USNEWS?”
    Any evidence out there fr. Big 4 applicants welcome, please check in and tell us any data points.

  • nope

    i disagree that the 4.0/750 is a lock at wharton/booth/cbs. the stats are nice but how much weight does a 4.0 really hold at what i’m assuming is a no name school? former big 4 employees with 750+ GMATs and no name undergrads are not getting admissions departments at m7 schools very excited imho

  • jem.rosenthal@gmail.com


  • Jane

    Hi Sandy,

    Interested to know your thoughts on my chances.

    26-year old Australian female. Five years work experience in IB and Strategy with a Consumer focus. 700 GMAT, and targeting Harvard and Berkeley-Haas.

    Work experience:
    – Current: Strategy Manager at Australia’s largest Beer Company (Parent Co is one of the largest in the world) [6 months]
    – Previous: Strategy Analyst at a National Sporting Body (2nd largest professional sport in Aust.) [2.5 yrs]
    – Previous: Investment Banking Analyst (M&A – PE, Consumer focus) at Bulge-Bracket European Investment Bank (Sydney office) [Almost 2.5 yrs]

    – Australian University + 6 month study-abroad in Boston
    – Undergraduate Degrees: Law (LLB) & Commerce (Majors: Finance & Accounting)
    – GPA: 3.1

    Extra-curricular: Involved in a number of initiatives through employment focused on supporting young women in finance / sport. Currently leading a major environmental initiative at current company.

    Goal: Strategy at Head Office of Major Consumer Goods company in the USA (think PepsiCo, Unilever) OR Consumer-focused PE firm in a major US city.


  • Cam

    God 780 GMATs and 4.0 GPAs. Makes me feel like I’m at a nascar race and everyone is revving their engines and I’m beeping my little toy car horn