Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Sandy Kreisberg (left) and John A. Byrne

Ever since he dropped out of college with a 2.4 GPA, this 29-year-old young professional has been on an upward trajectory. He joined the military, working his way up to become a sergeant and a sniper who saw two combat deployments and led 12- to 15-person teams over six years. Then, he got himself into an Ivy League university and graduated with a 3.6 GPA transcript and an economics degree. After working for a couple of years as a consultant, he now hopes to go to business school to land a job at a non-profit consulting shop or to start his own form serving the social sector.

This 19-year-old undergraduate student from Nigeria is currenly studying at a private university in the U.S. She has done internships with a Big Four firm in her home country as well as one with a mid-tier accounting firm, and she is the founder of a website that helps African entrepreneurs. She plans to meet the April 3rd deadline for Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program for deferred admission to its MBA program.

Once president of his university’s 170-year-old debating society, this young professional has since spent nearly four years as a British civil servant, briefing and advising Cabinet-level ministers on policy issues in education, welfare and Europe. With a 740 GMAT and the equivalent of a 3.5 grade point average from a top five university in the U.K., he now wants an MBA to transition into a consulting role at one of the big three global firms.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What these three MBA candidates and more share in common is the desire to get through the door of a highly selective MBA program at one of the world’s very best business schools. Do they have a chance?

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, is back 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.)


Mr. Yes Minister?

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA (2/1)
  • Undergraduate degree in theology from a top five U.K. university
  • Currently earning an MS in economics in a highly selective program in which only one in 50 people are admitted
  • Work experience includes three and one-half years as a British civil servant, working on a variety of policy and strategy issues including education, welfare and Europe; briefs and advises Cabinet government ministers; promoted a year early in job
  • Took a six-month ‘secondment’ at a healthcare charity
  • Interned during summer of undergraduate years at a Big Four consulting practice
  • Extracurricular involvement as the president of a 170-year-old debating society as a student; board member of two charities and the governor of a school
  • Goal: To transition to a consulting role at McKinsey, Bain or BCG
    British male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40%
Stanford: 30%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Columbia: 50%
London: 50%+
INSEAD: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Your profile presents the interesting question for a British civil servant: Can you get into Harvard, Stanford or Wharton if you haven’t gone to Oxford or Cambridge?

Your 2/1 is the equivalent of a 3.5, or silver-plus, not exactly gold. But your 740 GMAT score helps you a lot. You say you went to a top five university in the U.K. Of course, that could mean Cambridge or Oxford or 10 other places. Your part-time MS degree, however, is a distraction. You are a guy who should be throwing himself into his work . If you need more training, you should just be applying to business school. If you felt you needed a brushup course in economics or anything quanty, you should have just taken it a la carte.

Still, you are offering schools a powerful package here. You strike me as a future Tony Blair, who American business schools like very much, no matter what the Brits think, or future Teresa May.

American business schools like the Brits. They are anglophiliacs. Your extracurriculars show you to be a real leader. Your civil service career is very powerful. It sounds like you are doing a lot of important work in several different areas. You seem to have some real accomplishments behind you, and you clearly know the inside of the British government.

You should tell adcoms that you want the MBA to give you a set of skills you don’t already have so you can go back to the U.K. and be an impactful leader at the intersection of the public and private sectors. So tweak your goals to say you want to work in the public policy practice of MBB. You essentially want to continue what you are doing but get seconded to McKinsey forever.

London and INSEAD are easy for you. You should walk into those schools with your background and your stats. With the right execution, I say your odds at Harvard are 40%. Your odds at Stanford are also strong. I’d say 30%, just because the class size is smaller than HBS.

Wharton could very well scratch their head on your profile. Columbia has more of a public policy orientation, in part because the university has a famous public policy school—and it’s New York versus Philadelphia. Columbia would really like you, especially if you play up the idea of being in New York near the United Nations and all that blah, blah, blah. Wharton would probably interview you and then decide what to do. So if you want to go to Wharton, you better convince them you really want to go because they will think you’re headed to Harvard or Stanford.

Bottom line: It’s Yes Minister!

  • champachameli

    Thank you for helping us with making decisions. I would be grateful if you could please advise me on my applications. Please find my profile below:

    GMAT: 760
    GRE: 328
    Gender: Female
    Age: 27
    Citizenship: Indian
    Degrees: Bachelors in computer science from an average college in India, Masters in international policy from top 20 US university
    GPA: 3.5 ish for both degrees
    Work Experience: worked in a business profile with IT consultancy firm in India, after masters currently working as a programmer in non profit organization in the US that works in the government policy space
    Extracurriculars: editor of foreign affairs magazine, secretary and vice president of campus clubs, Teach for India (as a volunteer).

    I also did a bunch of other things such as being a teaching assistant, research assistant and graduate student researcher.

    I am looking for a full ride or at least 75% scholarship for schools in the US. I am also willing to apply outside the US, and am more flexible regarding the $$ amount in that case.

    Why MBA? At my current job, I use the programming knowledge from my bachelor’s degree and the policy knowledge from my master’s degree. I want to continue this journey with an MBA degree with a focus on finance, and use the additional skills I acquire to work in the data space to drive financial decisions of developmental organizations such as the World Bank and IFC. I believe that an MBA degree will be invaluable as it will help me learn key financial analysis skills, banking strategies and the myriad ways of applying economic theories in a practical and tangible setting. This is a career path I have in mind for several years now.

    What schools would you think would work best for me? I am considering Yale, Berkeley, Cornell, UNC, INSEAD, LBS, NUS. Any suggestion is also very helpful. Thank you so much for your time.

  • Himanshu Bawane

    Hi John and Sandy can you please evaluate my profile?

    23 year old INDIAN male, about to graduate (Jan 2018) made up my mind 3 years ago to pursue MBA.

    Preparing for GMAT for first time. GPA 3.3 from a deemed university of INDIA having branches in Dubai and Singapore.

    During my B. Tech tenure, I led a new university student project team selected to develop student formula-1 cars. I was also the senior management committee member of my department’s official technical club, handling promotions and marketing.

    I did my summer internship at BOSCH as a production planning and controlling intern. I also did a second internship as a Marketing Intern under senior professor of Indian Institute of Management.

    Apart from that I have sent a review paper on early diagnosis of Cancer to a reputed journal and I am still working closely with a professor of the university and his international team on the same subject.

    Recently I got myself enrolled in Online United Nations Volunteering program where I am supporting a foundation with my graphic designing skills to print books and manuscripts for children with cancer. Apart from that I have done online courses to compensate for my low GPA.

    GOALS: Transition to consulting firms, especially FMCG (given my father’s background in FMCG industry)

    B-Schools: Yale Silver Scholars Program, HBS 2+2, Stanford Deferred Program, ISB 2+2

  • Ramya

    Hi, can you please evaluate my profile? 28 yr old, Indian, female. GMAT 730. GPA 3.56 from a state university. Worked for 5 years with 3 promotions. Currently, I lead a team of 3 in Amazon in a mid senior level. Selected and was a part of Leadership development program. Mfg, operations and supply chain background. Extra curricular actives include stem education supporter, first robotics tutor, community involvement thru teaching and mentoring young girls in india who are less fortunate to afford education.
    Goal to get an MBA is to enhance my leadership skills and grow into a senior level position in tech industry.

  • Tej Patel

    Hi, I would appreciate it if you could evaluate my profile :

    Age 28

    730 GMAT

    3.5 GPA in Economics and Finance – 10th Best school in Australia.

    Honours in Economics – Second Class

    8 Years Military service in the Australia Army – Marine warfare officer (Promoted 3 times).

    CFA – Passed all three levels.

    Extracurricular :
    Founded an international student run equity research organisation – Locations America,Hong Kong and Australia. Managed about 40 students globally.

    President of the Finance Club in university – 300 Members.

    Founded the Economics Club in University.

    Founded a Politics Club in University.

    Founded a Forex club with an industry partner .

    Internship in economics think tank in America – 20k Scholarship.

    Consultant to many start ups in Australia.

    Born in Kenya, Indian Decent.

    Target Schools : H,W,S, Haas, Cornell ,Columbia, Booth, Kellog, Fuqua, Yale, Tuck, Michigan, LBS, & INSEAD.

    Goal: Start-up in Kenya to help get rid poverty through technological innovation.

    Any help would be appreciated.

  • hbsguru

    HAHA –Stanford 2+2 — YES, HBS 2+2 — NO (and no interview)

    Yippie!!!! Great outcome for you!!!!! SO glad this worked out.
    For those keeping score at home, proof of my often stated rule that Stanford GSB goes for BIG GMATS the way that teen boys go for big bra sizes, while HBS also wants a nice personality.

  • Ms. Mathy


    I just want to say thank you for evaluating my profile. You definitely know these programs very well because just as you expected, I was too financ-y for 2+2 (dinged without an interview). However I was lucky enough to be accepted at Stanford! Thank you again for all of your advice! You are amazing for doing this!

    Ms. Mathy

  • 2018aspirant

    To add: No other charity work or extracurriculars. Goal is to enter public market investing, open to all sorts of investing.

  • 2018aspirant

    Hi Sandy,
    Could you please tell me my chances/areas to focus on?
    -27 year old IIT grad, female
    -2.5 years of quant-trading, trading US – equity
    -2 years of Tier-1 VC, investing in Indian tech startups
    -Both jobs in India only
    -Applying to HBS, Wharton, GSB, for class of 2018
    -GMAT=760, GPA=3.36
    -Have a few research publications from College
    -Thats about it

  • hbsguru

    what round, could really make a difference w. a bubble set of stats and jobs like this–beyond that could be what they think of your current employer, ad agencies, even “top” ones are not favored prospecting areas for your target schools, esp. for ‘vanilla’ demographics like US Asian Male.
    Also, at places like Wharton, CBS and Sloan, it helps to prove in app that you really want to go there, by visiting, going to info sessions, alluding to friends who attend. etc.
    Booth WL-Admit seems random to me, would not have been surprised, if you told me this list led to ONE admit, if that ONE was Booth, CBS, Wharton–you just got lucky there or unlucky at the other places.

  • Bobsfred

    Hi Sandy,

    Hope you can hook me up with some advice.

    Demo: 27F from New Zealand
    GMAT: haven’t taken yet (good start…), aiming for 700+
    GPA: NZ doesn’t have these! Did two undergrad degrees concurrently. Guestimating a ~3.8 for Business (Accounting) and ~3.2 for Law. Got top award for Accounting, top 1% in business courses.
    Not sure how to explain away law grades but my reasoning is as follows: bell curve grading, VERY competitive, worked 30+ hours a week during final two years (when I did only law courses) for an International Hall of Residence, where the students sometimes got overly emotional and excited during exam time and kept having parties/fights/break ups, even knife attacks(!) the night before my law exams.
    I also got a scholarship to study at a public University in Idaho and used it as a study exchange year (aka: I studied fun stuff like Fine Art and Languages) and came away with a 4.0
    I also am about to graduate with a Chartered Accountancy diploma.

    Work: 3.5 years at NZ’s largest company (it’s in the food/bev industry). 2-year Graduate Rotational Leadership Programme in the finance stream (the Chartered Accountancy diploma was a painful requirement). Now working in the Aussie office in Supply Chain, managing our largest suppliers (wanted to grow relationship management skills and deal with real world problems). Identified $m in continuous improvement initiatives and selected for a 2 year Business Leaders Programme (NB: my actual role doesn’t include much leadership though, other than motivating/harrassing/charming my gruff all-male aussie factory suppliers). Also interned at competitive Big-4 in undergrad.

    At work – selected for the Graduate Exec Committee (5 of 100 Grads were chosen). Organised far too many events at work and been in social committees at all sites I have worked at. Totally smashed it in the Xmas decorating comp.

    Outside of Work – currently volunteer at a Children’s Palliative Hospice in Australia (I support terminally ill children and their families). 5+ years experience with children’s cancer organisations. Also volunteer with Australia refugee organisation as a tutor and new migrant mentor. 10+ years experience volunteering with international students and new migrants. 3 years experience tutoring minority students.

    Other interesting (relevant??) things: I have travelled to 28 countries, backpacked solo through Sth America for a year, enjoy hiking, was a regional rep tennis player and swimmer. In NZ I sang for an acapella group that won gold at nationals and competed at worlds.

    Post-MBA Goal: to work for a top-tier consulting firm, specialising in food/bev and consumer goods companies in the transformation stream. Long term I want to return to my current company as a senior leader and use my best-practice consulting skills to transform the business (particularly interested in working in the South America region and increasing supply of raw materials from local suppliers).

    Target schools: INSEAD, LBS, Cambridge, IESE, Harvard, Stanford, Tuck….any other suggestions??

    Sorry that was so long. I’d like to think it means I’ve had a vibrant and interesting life to date, but I’m probably just overly-wordy….and to make it even wordier I wanted to say thanks for doing the series. I think it’s important to have a good dose of intimidation on the bus ride each morning.

    Bobsfred (a.k.a my imaginary friend when I was 7)

  • HBS 2+2 African Applicant

    *Late update* I received an interview invite for HBS – April 19th!!! Haven’t heard back from Stanford, honestly hoping it’s not a flat-out ding, cause for a school I applied to last minute, I’ve grown to love it over the past 3 weeks lol and would probably choose it over HBS

  • hbsguru

    agree with post above, 30-year olds are not good candidates for 2+2 programs even if they otherwise technically qualify. Given your really good stats and resume, to wit:
    750 GMAT,
    3.81 from Georgetown
    and 6-years of military service in ‘Special Force’
    plus an internship at major Wall St bank,
    AND! being Hispanic (and maybe better yet, Cuban)-American,

    I think you got a solid case as a regular applicant, you’d sorta be in the military bucket, even tho you are no longer in service and instead finishing school. (if I got that right).

    Given the above, just do a serviceable application which explains transitions, and presents accomplishments in some non-braggy way.

    if you want to transition to PE, well, try to make that sound based on work on Wall st and interest in having an impact on helping companies grow and develop vs. just the $$$$.

    Lots to like here–HBS and Stanford always hard, but both take guys like you, fer sure, And you already climbed Mt. Everest!!!

  • hbsguru

    haha, made my day, good for both of us.

  • J

    @hbsguru:disqus Again, thanks for the consult and humor Sandy. Before you opt out to the fee-for-service camp, would you mind prescribing me your recommendations of the “with convincing execution, you may find get into M7 but I dont think it will be HSW.” to improve my prognosis with the non-HSW M7? I promise to not ask for more. I’d also ask you to trust me on that, but I am not yet a doctor.

  • hbsguru

    “The goal with the MBA is to leverage into a role and skill set that
    would innovate movements to facilitate organizational changes promoting
    workforce redesign and remodeling to align the clinicians with the
    Well, good for you, and OK goal as far as schools care about goals — once you come up with a goal that passes the sniff test (which this and ones you noted in posts above both do)– but this high-minded goal is not going to erase other factors I already noted in how your application will be diagnosed by adcoms. It’s like showing up to a doc with real signs of some disease (viz. ‘Secondtieritis’) and the doc saying, “You have secondtieritis,” and you retorting, “Well, maybe I do but ignore those signs and just focus on the fact that I’ve got 20-20 vision and great hair for a guy my age.” That may be true, but it does not make the secondtieritis go away.

    ” Would appreciate further comments on my chances and shortcomings.” May need to be co-pay for me from here on, doc. Altho I welcome others chiming in using Obama-care model.

  • J

    @hbsguru:disqus Appreciate the comment – my story is mainly that I see with the healthcare reform the role of physician will continue to change to face more barriers to their practice, and unlike the patients who have great clinicians (docs, nurses, everyone alike) sacrificing much to help them, not many people champion the true interest of every day clinicians on an organizational level.

    The goal with the MBA is to leverage into a role and skill set that would innovate movements to facilitate organizational changes promoting workforce redesign and remodeling to align the clinicians with the admins.

    I am not failing out of school or in bad standing or anything like that – in case anyone is wondering. Would appreciate further comments on my chances and shortcomings.

  • hbsguru

    well, as someone with a BA, MA and JD, I feel your pain.
    Dunno about your story, there are many dudes in MD-MBA joint programs, which is what you are attempting to rig up here. Often those folks go to top 5 med schools.

    I think you 760 GMAT will be appreciated at a lot of place, and with convincing execution, you may find get into M7 but I dont think it will be HSW.

    Insead??? Not sure that gets you off on the right foot for US career in this case, if that is the goal?

  • hbsguru

    not per se, but someone who can use geographic background (esp. rural, poor, ghetto, even manufacturing centered area, etc) as part of overall story can score a bit. Most applicants to B school are usually a couple of moves away from original geography.
    E.g. you often went to college someplace else, then had jobs 1 and 2 in different locations.
    US Geo IS impt when applying to college, and admissions is often divided into geo regions, esp. at Ivies.
    all that said, good places (a bit) to come from: Alaska, Hawaii and any Native American reservation.

  • David Jordan

    HI Sandy and John,

    I was hoping that you might be interested in handicapping my application for business school?

    Thank you!

    Mr. All Rounder

    Demographics: 21 year old white male (Junior in College) from London, UK.

    Education: 3.9 in International Politics from SFS, Georgetown. Junior year at Oxford reading
    PPE (First). 710 GMAT Anticipated.

    Work Experience: Insight Weeks at J.P. Morgan, Citibank, BNP Paribas and McKinsey in
    London, Texas and New York. Summer internship on Sophomore Leadership Program at Citi in
    NYC. M&A Summer Analyst at Citi, NYC. Also previously Policy analyst at the House of Lords
    and Counter Terrorism Think Tank the Quilliam Foundation in London.

    Extra Curricular: Georgetown Heavyweight Crew (1 year). Vice President of the Oxford Guild.
    Appointed Committee on the Oxford Union. Rugby Captain of high school team, and county
    and Academy level rugby player. Krogh Honors Scholar writing 12,000-word dissertation on
    European Refugee Crisis in Sophomore Year.

    Entrepreneurship: Winner of cash prize at the Oxford Said Business School VIEW
    Entrepreneurship challenge, and currently spending private venture capital on developing an
    online marketplace startup. Founder of a business that prints T-shirts and has raised £7,000 for
    FINCA and Cancer Research UK. Founder of interfaith movement, ‘branches of peace’ aiming
    to de-radicalize the discussion surrounding the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

    Goals: My goals are to learn more about business as an intern at either Citi M&A or a top three
    consulting firm once I graduate, and then to go to business school where I can develop my
    network, and my managerial skills in order to build upon my previous experiences and develop a
    successful startup.

    Target Programs: I want to apply to Yale Silver Scholars Program, HBS 2+2, and Stanford
    Deferred Program. Failing that, I want to reapply to these schools, as well as MIT, Columbia and

    Thank you very much,


  • Ms.Mathy

    Not sure how that works when you are at Penn and I am in New England. But good luck with your application!

  • southerndan17@aol.com

    Sandy- assuming all other things are equal, do adcoms give a rip about geographic diversity in American applicants? Does someone from the south or flyover territory have a leg up on a typical NYC/big city applicant?

  • J

    Haha, rare as it is, some find their mission in life later than others. It’s definitely tough, hope you won’t have to go through with it.

  • Wharton Undergrad

    Hey man, are you just collecting random diplomas? Are you also planning to get a law degree after MBA?

  • J

    Would really appreciate any insight into this:

    760 GMAT and 40 MCAT (99.9 precentile)
    3.5 undergrad GPA, 3.95 graduate GPA

    Undergraduate and graduate degree in neuroscience from a top 10 public school in the US

    No significant work experience, trajectory was undergrad -> grad -> med

    Extracurricular involvement in medical school involved founding a hospital project and received $100k funding, leadership in a pioneering business educational program within med school for students, represented school in committee for a project from state-level organization, medical internship in asia

    Goal: Current 2nd year medical student at a midwest medical school ranked in 30s, looking to take leave of absence for MBA for a career in consulting or healthcare management. Thinking about INSEAD, M7

    25-year-old Asian male

    Thank you.

  • chemalytics

    Hi Sandy,
    Really appreciate your time in doing this and hopefully you find my profile interesting enough to evaluate.

    Work experience by application in 2017: 2 years at an F500 chemicals company in UK. (controls/automation engineer -> project engineer) 1.5 years as an Analytics Consultant at Deloitte.
    Internship: With one of the major international orgs (WB, IMF etc).
    Publications: 4, a couple in journals and a couple in industry magazines.
    Extra curriculars: Many leadership roles in school, college and post-university including: school government, marketing head for large university clubs, promoting STEM education in local community, currently leading the deployment of solar power in rural India through a start up I started in graduate school (finalists in two major international social enterprise competitions).
    Undergrad school/major: Imperial College London, Chemical Engineering
    Undergrad GPA: First Class Honours (UK System) ~ 3.8+ GPA
    Other education/coursework: Grad School, Masters in Econometrics (3.82 GPA), Duke University
    Race/nationality: Indian, Indian
    International experience: Born in India, grew up in Thailand, 6 years in UK and 3 years in USA. I have worked in all four countries.
    Sex: Male
    Age: 28 at matriculation
    GMAT Score: 730

    MBA Info
    Goal of MBA: I want to be a leader in data science consulting. Post-MBA, join MBB and become a key part of their growing big data/analytics practice.
    Target schools: H/S/W. MIT Sloan (Top choice), Columbia, Booth, Kellog, Fuqua, Yale, Tuck, Michigan, LBS, & INSEAD.
    Point of worry: Recommendation letter from my current employer given only 1 year of experience. Also none of my recommendations will be from MBA graduates.

  • Matt

    Hi Sandy,

    Just wanted to thank you again for your advice. You actually handicapped my odds six months ago and told me that I will get into 3 out of 6 schools I applied to – turned out that you were exactly right! Will join LBS in August 🙂

  • rahulbajpai.mba@gmail.com

    facetious – nice word Sandy

  • Wharton Undergrad

    Are you finishing your undergraduate degree now?

    If not, you won’t be eligible for 2+2 program.
    If yes, you missed the application deadline for 2+2.

  • Johnathan Chavez

    Would I be able to get some advice on my profile?
    30 year old male- Cuban American
    3.81 GPA from Georgetown
    Majored in Mathematics/Minor in Spanish and Economics
    GMAT 750
    -interned at large IB 1 summer(i.e. Goldman, JPMorgan)
    Member of the cross-country and track team
    -selected for US National team in Cross Country
    -participant in the US Olympic trials
    Member of the Air Force ROTC program
    -received the Type 1 scholarship
    Work Experience
    Military Service(6 years)- i.e. Special Force
    -master scuba certified, helicopter and pilot training
    -trilingual(English, Spanish, Mandarin)
    -climbed Everest
    Target Schools: HBS, Stanford
    Goal: transition to private equity

    Does my application have a stronger chance in the 2+2 program?
    What would be the main weak points of my profile?

    I really appreciate all your help and the invaluable input you give. Thank you for your consideration.

  • Wharton Undergrad

    I have a great idea to improve our chances. We can start dating and if one of us doesn’t get in, we can help each other out once one of us is there. How’s the idea?

    Don’t say no without thinking first lol. I may have a better chance of getting in based on my profile.

  • Ms.Mathy

    Hahaha you crack me up. Thank you so much for the respond! Anything else I can do to stand out? Oh well if my charm doesn’t work, at least I tried to apply.
    Thanks again Sandy!

  • hbsguru

    gold medals in math are OK window dressing, and along w. 770 might convince them to take you on brains alone (that sometimes happens, adcom says to itself, “OK, another finance person but even in that collection of smart stiffs, this applicant stands out.’). Those medals, however do not change the fact that on your passport, you are listed as finance and not STEM (even tho the M there is MATH.) How come? Because of invisible law of Adcom Union that ‘math applied to finance = finance not STEM.’

  • Ms.Mathy

    Hahaha this is weirdly funny

  • Ms.Mathy

    dude I’m doing finance so there are like 500 kids with the same profile

  • Ms.Mathy

    Dear Sandy,

    Thank you for the feedback! I really appreciate it!
    Does it help at all if I am a Math major? and Won multiple national gold medal in Math?

    I also founded a finance club on campus but not sure if that helps.

  • thecoldeye

    Thank you.

  • hbsguru

    big bucket

  • thecoldeye

    GMAT is the mission. Roger that. Last question: do you think military applications go into a big bucket marked “Military” or four smaller buckets marked “Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines”?? Thanks for your answer.

  • hbsguru

    that may be overthinking it a bit. No school has any doubt about your ability to do work, picking out x military admits from the bucket of 5x applicants is a beauty contest based on big stuff like gpa, gmat, etc. You are being too granular about admissions. Saying you want to major in ___ can be helpful as part of your BIG narrative about goals, and getting that narrative convincing could be impt, but that is a lot of cushion shots, as they say in billiards, focus on the big stuff first, and yes, get the narrative right too. But first the GMAT.

  • thecoldeye

    Thank you. I think you’re 100% correct. I am doing a re take. Given my 50 quant, do you think my top five chances improve if I indicate a quant oriented MBA concentration?

  • hbsguru


    this has been widely reported in last few days, Ziad Ahmed, a Muslim teenager, was admitted to Stanford College (not B school!) by replying to the ‘What Matters Most To You and Why Essay’ (same on for both college and B school, apparently) this way, he repeated the sentence

    #Blacklivesmatter 100 times.

    Note carefully, this guy had a very solid history of advocacy for URM issues, esp. for a high school kid, and he fell into the category that I have called, “They will probably take you no matter what you write, unless it is offensive or stupid.”

    I would not use this as precedent for your own Stanford essay writing (or any other school),

    Different rules a bit for grad school and why take chances. If you are a super solid applicant like this guy, just write some pro forma essay. Why take chances.

    More imptly, if you are long shot applicant, folks, an essay like this is not going to magically get you in. On the contrary, it will just take your from long shot to DOA.

    said it was ‘refreshing to see that they view my unapologetic activism as an asset rather than a liability’

  • hbsguru

    Grrrrr, as noted many times, military apps are judged a lot (and probably too much) by GPA and GMAT unless you are pilot, special forces, sniper, or something that girlie adcoms can get their girlie heads around. They do not really understand the ins and outs of what makes a distinguished military career (and neither does this macho man consultant), but they do understand what makes for a selective consulting career (me too) and thus consultants are judged by lots of things and military are judged a lot by just GPA and GMAT.
    That is not good news for you. 3.37/710 are both probably on the low side of military admits at HSW, and could be on the low side to average stats of military admits at schools 4-7 USNEWS, etc. So just dealing w. basics, we got some shadows. You may get a break for Chem Engineer major since those majors tend to grade lower.
    Try to point that out, if you have some department class standing, etc.
    [altho they know].
    App execution will be a little more impt. to you than average person, since at top schools you will coming in thru last half of your cohort and you need to bring something to the party, even if two bottles of OK wine, instead of one.
    I’m trying to keep this nuanced, you got a lot to like, and should get some OK results at schools 5-10 USNEWS, getting in to 1-5 will be hard, but could happen.
    Here is some super tuff love, sailor, retake GMAT.
    A 730 could really impact outcomes in your case, in a way that 20 points usually does not.
    Your current score, w. 50 Q score, is a bit lopsided, while on the one hand, adcoms may say, ‘Ok this guy is real strong in quant, and we know he can talk . . . ‘ They are more likely to say,
    “Gee, army guy over here is sorta the same and has a 730 GMAT, so why not go for beauty contest winner, they are both otherwise OK.”

  • hbsguru

    Agree, but read my analysis, above.

  • hbsguru

    well, lots to like, and you will do fine as regular applicant if you join some gold-plated freq. feeder firms over next 2-5 years in PE etc. That seems deeply possible given facts.
    BUT: As a 2+2 applicant, you are in the running, but as often noted, 2+2’s first love is STEM (not you)

    altho there is a finance bucket. Rest of kids in that finance bucket present sorta like you, so it is lottery-like a bit, You do not have any WOW factor. A 770 GMAT is something adcoms will take home from the bar near last call, but it is not by itself something they will leave early for.

    It’s all “good,” but so are the profiles of your competition.

    Your outcome may turn on what they think of prior employers, and just the “touch and feel” of what you said, application, recs, etc.

    I like you plenty, but 2+2 is hard and a bit whacky.

  • hbsguru

    Well, you’ve convinced us about how much law sucks, but adcoms already know that. You need to convince them of what career roadmap is, and your employability as a 36-year old new MBA.
    As often noted, no matter how wild and crazy you are, GPA and GMAT never completely leave the equation, but moving along.
    Lots of schools have dual degree JD-MBA programs, but that ain’t you strictly speaking, that is dopey 20 year old, often with elite schooling trying to do that program at Top 5 schools.
    You need to present yourself as career “transition” type, not career switcher, you need to lie, lie, lie and tell them how exciting legal career has been and how fascinating it has been to see how 1 2 3 and 4 operate at board and F-500 level,
    and you want to build out that experience into a job like internal consulting at F-500 company or biz development, blah, blah, something which plausibly combines crap you have done w. more crap you learn in B school, etc. That is real important, do some research, point to actual role models at F-500 companies w. dual degrees, they do not have to be famous, and say that path you want to follow.
    It is mildly iffy to say you want to join MBB, I am not sure if they hire 36 year olds as entry-level types, anyone??? Saying you want to join boutique consulting firm doing blah or blah would be more impressive, esp. if you find and name those firms.

  • hbsguru

    will try to do more, often posters do not ask directly as much as HSW. Also Sloan is small and “black-boxy,” in a way they may feel proud of but is not going to pass peer review. Admissions there is kinda long week-end and some late nites with a bunch of adcoms/profs getting punch drunk as time goes by, so last half of admitted class is random-ish, viz. “Jeepers a girl in supply chain, w. OK other stuff but not great, hey, let her in, haven’t seen one of those in a while and she visited, so will not screw us by going to Wharton, I hope.”
    NO! above is not based on Russian hacking or first-hand knowledge, and is broadly stated and facetious (look it up!!), but it gets at the reptile core of what goes on there. So turn off your PC outrage radars and learn something.

  • hbsguru

    you are welcome and good luck at both H and S.
    Let us know if you get an interview invite.

  • andrell@live.com

    So what do you think? Positive? Negative? Neutral?

  • Ana

    Hi Sandy,

    I would be grateful to have your opinion on my profile or some tips on what to focus in my application. I have a bit of an unusual situation.

    -GMAT: haven’t taken it yet, but I scored 710 on a practice test without much preparation. I am going to take about 3 months this summer to prepare, aiming for 740+
    -TOEFL: 116 (R:29, L:30, S:29, W:28)
    -Education: Studied at top 3 university in my country, undergraduate degree in Finance and Banking (3 years), Master’s degree in International Corporate Finance (2 years), of which one semester abroad in Italy at a big university with scholarship.
    -GPA for undergrad 9.7/10, for master’s 9.57/10

    -Work experience: internship at top local bank (part of a French group), during my master’s program I worked about 10 months in customer facing role at top bank from US (think Chase, Citi, Bank of America), left to do semester abroad in Italy, came back, I was still in school but I got a new job where I
    spent 1 year and 4 months at global top company that provides sustainability research for institutional investors (banks, pension funds), I focused on financial institutions, real estate and commercial and professional services, worked with people from 5 countries. I was promoted from junior analyst to analyst after only 8 months, trained and mentored 2 new hires, in addition one of the lead sector analysts left so I took over many of the responsibilities.

    -Now this is the part that gets interesting. My family moved to the US and I wanted to come here too, so I enrolled in an Associate Degree program at a community college, studying management. So far my GPA is 4.0. I also have a student job part-time in the school’s foundation office

    -Extracurriculars: currently I’m a member of the school’s Honor Society and the VP of the Entrepreneurship Club. During my master’s program I represented my university in the national CFA research challenge.

    -Goal: to transition to investment banking or PE (should I say just IB?)

    I was wondering if I should say for a long term goal something related to bringing the principles of responsible investment to mainstream IB. Finding a way to integrate them as part of the risk assessment. Many banks in northern Europe do this to a certain extent, so it’s not impossible.

    -Target schools: Kellogg, Booth, Wharton, Columbia, Haas, UCLA, Stanford, Cornell, Ross
    -Female, 25, from eastern Europe (Romania)
    Thank you for taking the time!

  • Russia’s Boss

    take it easy, dummy

  • Putin on the ritz

    It’s helpful to provide target schools but without targets Sandy can still suggest schools that she should consider. Were you trying to be unneccessarily antagonistic, or were you just misguided in providing constructive feedback?

  • Russian’s Boss

    Not a problem at all. Your GPA in HEC is a bit on the lower side. Is your GPA from Russian university higher?

    I think Wharton is a bit harder to get into with this profile, have you heard of Columbia Early Decision program? You can try that to improve your chances if you are sure that you want Columbia.

  • Iana

    Thank you for the comment – target schools are Wharton and Columbia.

  • Russian’s Boss

    How can he evaluate your profile if you didn’t even provide your target schools?

  • Iana

    Hi Sandy,

    I would really appreciate if you can evaluate my profile.
    24 year from Russia, female
    Expected GMAT – 720-730

    Education: Bachelor – one of the top Russian Universities – International Business; MSc from HEC Paris GPA 3.4
    Internship: Russian Investment Bank – Data Analyst; Financial Services Provider (very recognizable) – Intern in Strategy Department (Paris)
    Work experience: Top tier consulting firm in Dubai – 2 years ( Projects in Saudi, Kuwait, Qatar, UAE Moscow, Kazakhstan)
    Extracurricular activities: Volunteer; Worked Aiesec Moscow as project manager, One of the founders of Aviation club in my previous university; Presenter in ERASMUS conference; Took second place at the Nationwide case competition in Russia

    Thank you in advance!

  • David Jordan

    Hi Sandy!
    I would be very grateful if you could evaluate my profile.
    Mr. All Rounder
    21 year old white male (Junior in College) from London, UK.
    Education: 3.9 in International Politics from SFS, Georgetown. Junior year at Oxford reading PPE (First). 720 GMAT Anticipated.
    Work Experience: Insight Weeks at J.P. Morgan, Citibank, BNP Paribas and McKinsey in London, Texas and New York. Summer internship on Sophomore Leadership Program at Citi in NYC. M&A Summer Analyst at Citi, NYC. Also previously Policy analyst at the House of Lords and Counter Terrorism Think Tank the Quilliam Foundation in London.
    Extra Curricular: Georgetown Heavyweight Crew (1 year). Vice President of the Oxford Guild. Appointed Committee on the Oxford Union. Rugby Captain of highschool team, and county and Academy level rugby player. Krogh Honors Scholar writing 12,000 word dissertation on European Refugee Crisis in Sophomore Year.
    Entrepeneurship: Winner of cash prize at the the Oxford Said Business School VIEW Entrepreneurship challenge, and currently spending private venture capital on developing an online marketplace startup. Founder of a business that prints T-shirts and has raised £7,000 for FINCA and Cancer Research UK. Founder of interfaith movement, ‘branches of peace’ aiming to de-radicalise the discussion surrounding the Israel-Palestine Conflict.
    My goals are to learn more about business as an intern at either Citi M&A or a top three consulting firm once I graduate, and then to go to business school where I can develop my network, and my managerial skills in order to build upon my previous experiences and develop a successful startup.
    I want to apply to Yale Silver Scholars Program, HBS 2+2, and Stanford Deferred Program. Failing that, I want to reapply to these schools, as well as MIT, Columbia and Wharton.
    Thank you very much for all of your helpful advice.

  • I know that

    I will bet that you are from WashU!

  • Wharton Undergrad

    Dang, this profile is very strong. I would hate to compete with you for the HBS seat, honestly.

  • andrell@live.com

    From accredited private University of Nowhere. Aside from extraordinarily high bar passage rate, and location in the State Capital, it’s nothing special.

    I can’t stand law. I was sold on the perception of a JD’s versatility for both law and business… Which is simply not true anymore.

    Not significant. Just 33.

    Additional info: my position has been to review internal executive-level communications at very large companies, in order to find materials that may be produced in discovery for class actions or govt investigations.
    Nothing is off limits to me, as I’m the one that usually answers the subject matter questions. I also make the final call on whether a trade secret restriction is warranted, or if anything must be fully withheld as a legally privileged communication.

    This is really what’s driving my desire to get into corporate strategy. I’m tired of being on the outside looking in.

  • ftjd02

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love to hear your thoughts if you have the chance, as well as any thoughts on potential risk of saying “I want to go back to my consulting job” as I’m a bit worried that might be too unsexy or even unambitious compared to some other applicants. I’m targeting HBS, Kellogg, Sloan, and Booth for this upcoming fall.

    – White female, 26
    – 760 GMAT
    – 3.6 GPA from strong private university in Midwest (think UChicago/Northwestern/WashU)
    – 3 years work exp at a strategy consulting firm, non-MBB but with strong pipelines to and from my target schools; majority of my work is in Education
    – Recs, project experience, and workplace accolades (selected for competitive international rotation, likely ahead-of-track promotion to post-bschool title and role, sponsorship, etc.) should demonstrate consistent strong performance at current company
    – Post-MBA goal is to return to this company as a case-team leader and ultimately become a partner and strategic leader at the company
    – XC’s mostly related to grassroots lobbying and community organizing around immigration-related state legislature, as well as some refugee resettlement work back when that was still possible to do

    Thank you in advance!

  • Boss

    Which university is the JD from and why do you want to get your MBA?

    Also, are you well over 30 years of age?

  • andrell@live.com

    Does the fact that I have a JD, and have been a practicing attorney for the last 4 years, impact my likelihood of admission?

  • Ms.Mathy


    Please advice me on my profile below:
    – GMAT: 770
    – GPA: 3.7
    – Undergrad: one of Harvard/Yale/Princeton
    – Female, senior in college, SouthEast Asian nationality (think Thai/Vietnamese, etc)
    – Work experience: interned at a long/short hedge fund, and two middle-market PE funds
    – Long term goal: infrastructure investing in developing country
    – School: Harvard 2+2 and Stanford deferred program

  • HBS 2+2 African Applicant

    Thanks so much for your advice! I turned in my application today *fingers crossed*. I also started my application for Stanford’s deferred enrollment, hopefully I’d be able to get it in by Tuesday. Thanks so much again!

  • thecoldeye

    I am applying directly out of four years active duty in the Marine Corps for B-school Class of 2020. Quant 50/Verbal 35 (710). Chemical Engineer Near Ivy Top 20 school. 3.37 GPA. White Male age 26. For a top school, what are my chances, Sandy? Thank you.

  • 2017hopeful

    Would it alarm HBS admissions if post MBA career goal is technology? Would they think you are also applying to Stanford?

  • rahul.bajpai.mba@gmail.com

    Thanks a lot Curious. Your 2 cents are worth way more. Completely agree with your suggestions. Will surely portray myself as a dreamer in my application.

    Any handout/book you can suggest that highlights the peculiar subtle differences or something that gives more on the way the sentences should be constructed?

  • Curious

    Your profiles sound interesting (will leave Sandy to judge on the merits!) but you’re going to have to clean up how you write about your experiences and goals! 1. It feels all over the place with no clarity and 2. There’s no coherent story!

    I also think adcom likes dreamers more than they do survivors. The most obvious example I can think of:

    You wrote: goal is to work for a “reputable” global company like Google./ work in consulting until I pay off loans. -> survivors

    Sounds slightly better: Goal is to work for an innovative company where I can create impact in X field and improve the lives of Y people in Z way./ I want to work in consulting so I can round out X skill sets and apply them later in Y industry where I will make this amazing Z impact.
    -> dreamers

    Just my 2 cents on the matter. Sure sandy will do a more comprehensive review! Good luck!

  • rahulbajpai.mba@gmail.com

    Thanks a lot John for the prompt response and swift action. I wish I also end up thanking you for reviewing mine and my wife’s profile with Sandy.

  • JohnAByrne

    It was held up because the post contained a non-offensive word that merely halted immediate publication and put it in our moderation queue. It’s now on the site.

  • rahulbajpai.mba@gmail.com

    Can anyone explain why my comment is not getting posted here? I have posted the same comment twice – once as a guest and again as a registered user as well, but it has not been published after moderation. I made the comments approx 11 hours ago, and I don’t think there was anything inappropriate in the comment.
    I desperately want to have my odds assessed by Sandy

  • Guest_CPG


    Would appreciate your thoughts!

    GPA – 3.1 (dealt w/ maturity issues first 2 years of college career, deans list final 2 years) from large Big 10 school
    Major – Econ
    GMAT – Targeting 720 (have achieved on practice exams)
    Work Experience – 1.5 years in F500 retail company’s finance rotational program, followed by 2 years finance at well-known F200 CPG
    EC – College: finance clubs, Current: board member at youth-focused local nonprofit, project volunteer with a nonprofit that consults with African food companies
    Demographic – White male, mid 20s
    Post MBA Goal – Would like to end up on the East Coast in MBB
    Target Schools – Columbia, Stern, Yale, Tuck, Darden, Fuqua

  • Curious

    Sandy, in your candid opinion what’s a good GMAT for a serious shot at top 10 MBA programs, if you are

    1. White typical
    2. White non traditional
    3. URM typical
    4. URM non traditional
    5. Indian/ Chinese typical
    6. Indian/ Chinese non traditional
    7. European/ African typical
    8. European/ African non traditional

    Typical = consultant/ banker/ techie
    Non traditional = military, non profit, education, etc.

    Since adcoms are too PC to break it down, thought you’d give a more straightforward opinion!


    and him.



  • disqus_ToSTnTUFZR

    Hi Sandy!

    Would love some feedback on my profile – namely ding analysis.

    GPA – 3.6 from UT Austin
    GMAT – 750
    Work Experience – 2 years in manufacturing in Singapore for a fortune 100 company handling client services, followed by 2 years at a top ad agency working in media on 2 of the largest accounts in advertising
    EC – Club level tennis, lots of tennis related non-profit work post college, involvement and mentoring in diversity in advertising organization
    demographic – Asian american male, mid 20s
    Post MBA Goal – MBB Consulting

    ding w/o interview – HBS, GSB, Sloan, CBS, Wharton
    Accepted from WL – Booth

  • disqus_1Mo6XOBl8j

    Hi Sandy, I’m currently unsure if I should try to shoot for some good schools:

    Age: 26, M
    GMAT: 740
    School: UCSB, 3.21 Computer Science

    Work experience:
    If I apply this fall, 3 years software engineering experience at “hot” ERP tech company. I’ll also have received 2 promotions, and potentially a move to a more prestigious role by the time of application

    Extra curricular:
    I’ve volunteered with Hillary for America, and run fundraising and accounting for my local March for Science. I’ve also worked with BlackGirlsCode and another group that encourages underrepresented participation in white-dominated fields. I also teach programming part time at General Assembly. Unfortunately, it’s all fairly recent work the earliest being August 2016.

    Goals: Consulting or tech product management.

  • HBS

    Who gives a crap about Sloan?

  • Guest808

    I notice you rarely give admission % for Sloan. Why is that?

  • Ben Hilton

    Hi Sandy,

    Sorry if there’s somewhere else these are supposed to be posted, I looked a bit and couldn’t find an official submission email or anything.

    I’m a US 25 year old white male (will be 26 when I do my applications)

    GMAT 770 (Q50 V47)
    3.5 GPA in EE from top 15 engineering school (State school in Texas)

    Work experience: 2.75 years at a very large consulting firm (think Deloitte/Accenture) in public sector technology consulting. I’ve worked mostly on large scale healthcare exchange and Integrated eligibility (like a healthcare exchange but also does medicaid/TANF/food stamps etc.) clients.

    Co-founded our companies new public sector innovation fellowship, which meets directly with national public sector leads and comes up with ideas on how to improve public sector innovation

    I’ve worked with our local March of Dimes chapter for three years, with an increase in responsibility each year.

    Goal: Return to my firm and push the innovation fellowship into a full time job by working with the sector leadership to have developers assigned to it full time so we can create full scale solutions for the ideas we come up with.

    Applying to:

  • Ima

    Hi Sandy!

    I would really appreciate a feedback on my profile.

    Brazilian Male 29 years old

    750 GMAT (Q49 V42). No TOEFL yet.

    Education: Undergrad in Business Administration from a Top 10 school in Brazil. I’ve got a full scholarship from a government program to low income families and the school I’ve attended was the best (and most selective) one to offer scholarships under this program. I come from a low income background (no minority), being the first of my family to go to college. My scores weren’t great, 7.1/10, slightly above average.

    Work Experience: 6,5 years in FP&A roles in two major Real Estate Developers in Brazil, current role is a junior management position with a small team. The former company has a good track record sending people to elite US B Schools.

    Relevant issue: My current employer doesn’t know about (and probably wouldn’t support) my interest in applying to B Schools abroad. Therefore, my plan is to ask my supervisors from the previous company to provide my rec letters. What do you think about this approach? I’ve worked in the former company for 5 years, and 1.5 year in the current one.

    ECs: Volunteer professor in a NGO focused in education to low income children (Junior Achievement).

    Short Term Goal: Transition to management consulting (in Brazil) to enrich my business knowledge, especially within other industries.

    Long Term Goal: A general management role in a MNC in Brazil or abroad.

    Schools: main target is INSEAD January 18 intake. If rejected I’ll try the 1st round admissio
    ns to MIT, Kellogg, Tuck, Duke, Ross and Darden.