Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds


Ms. Google

  • 760 GMAT
  • 3.85 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in computer science and philosophy from No. 1 ranked university in Israel
  • Work experience includes two and one-half years as a software engineer at Google after a two-year term in the Israeli Airfare as a flight coordinator
  • Goals: Entrepreneurship in the e-commerce spectrum, providing software optimization for small-to-medium size brick & mortar retailers
  • 26-year-old female Israeli

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 50%
Stanford: 30% to 40%
INSEAD: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: There’s lots to like in your profile, including your gig with Google and your time in the military as a woman, whether it was required or not. Your stats are in nosebleed territory from the 760 GMAT which puts you in the 99th percentile of testers to the 3.85 grade point average in a dual major. That means only 1% of the people who sit for the GMAT did better than you.

So with proper execution, you stand a good chance at Harvard Business School. You can never be sure about Stanford, mainly because they admit a much smaller class and the acceptance rate at the school is just 6.1% compared to Harvard’s 10.7%. One key question is, Do you know size of Israeli cohort there? It would not surprise me if it is smaller than you might expect, but hard to prove any bias unless it is sorta zero. At HBS, the Israeli cohort kicks in from three to eight or so each year.

At INSEAD, you should be a walk in. They have a much higher acceptance rate, in the low 30s, and would love to have someone with your stats and profile.

One important suggestion for you regards your career goals. Saying that you want to do “entrepreneurship in the e-commerce spectrum, providing software optimization for small-to-medium size brick & mortar retailers is way too wonky and over specific. Clean it up. Just say you are interested in e-commerce and e-commerce tech and analytics which could mean having a career in one of three areas.

Otherwise, you’re in great shape with that 760 GMAT and a 3.85 from the best university in Israel.

  • Sandeep Somisetty

    Hi Sandy,
    Can you evaluate my chances at INSEAD, Kellogg 1Y and Stanford.
    GRE: VR: 160; QR: 170; LSAT : 95th percentile: Have admits from a couple of Top 15 law schools
    Indian Male, 29 years, Engineer from top 12 school and PGDM from top 4 school.
    Total work ex of 6 years:
    3.5 years – Working at a very large Indian power company: started off with Project Finance working with US Exim on a 600Mn USD deal – helped close financing documents and obtain first disbursement.
    Moved to Regulatory and policy advocacy role: Worked with industry associations to push for reforms in energy sector in India – responsible for many new policy reforms (as part of groups)
    Filed multiple petitions in courts and helped company win lawsuits worth ~20Bn USD.
    0.5 year – Assisted the chairman of another large power company in regulatory and policy related works
    Last 2 years – co-founded a renewable energy company (consulting and project management work) now backed by PE and traditional lenders; team of about 50 now with experience of reviving stranded hydro projects and setting up many rooftop solar projects.
    Goal: Plan A: grow network to join a start up or directly start a renewable energy company; Plan B: move to a top consult in energy practice in US; Plan C: work with a large power/energy company (not sure if that is possible as an international). Second MBA to expand network and reach out to entrepreneurs.
    Extra-currics – Lots of teaching to underprivileged students, set up infra for villagers through our company (not as CSR), set up blood donation camps, many Club president etc work at college and grad school; debating, editorial board and quizzing.
    Other factors: From a poor background, can speak four Indian languages fluently, overcame alienation as a child.
    LOR: Should manage to get good ones from my past employers.

  • DesignFounder

    Hey John/ Sandy – love your columns! I’ve have a somewhat unusual background for an MBA applicant and so hoping you can handicap my odds at some of my target schools.

    – Age: 27
    – GMAT: 730 (Q44, V48)
    – GPA: 3.45, Ivy-League School, Design (BFA)
    – 1 Year: Working for Latin American Finance Minister, Investing in Local Technology Sector
    – 3 Years: Founded VC backed tech startup in advanced manufacturing space with faculty at MIT. Served as CEO from founding to acquisition by industrial company. Named Forbes 30 Under 30, etc.
    – Present: Joined VC fund (that backed my startup) investing in industrial tech startups.
    – Volunteer Work: Mentor @ NYC Startup Accelerator, STEM Mentor @ Local Public School

    Applying To:

    – HBS
    – Chicago
    – Wharton
    – Columbia
    – MIT Sloan
    – NYU Stern
    – Dartmouth
    – Yale

    – Director of Department at MIT, Co-Founded Startup w/ Me
    – Managing Director of VC Fund, Invested in Startup, Served on Board, Hired me Post-Acquisition

    * 3-4 Alumni recommendations for specific schools (HBS, Sloan, Tuck, Columbia) from previous investors, co-founders, employees of startup

    Wondering how low GPA and verbal heavy GMAT score will affected my chances and whether having a non-tradition major will work for/ against me at the target schools on my list. And how helpful specific recommendations from alumni are vs. general recommendations from people who know me best.