Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

poets and quants handicapping odds

After spending three years at a boutique consulting firm in the public health sector, this 25-year-old white American male has moved to Booz Allen where he has a largely quant analysis role. With an undergraduate degree in psychology and a master’s in public policy, he now hopes to return to school for an MBA to transition into one of the big three global consulting firms.

For nearly three years, this 25-year-old professional has worked for a Big Four consulting firm’s public sector technology practice. With a 770 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average in electrical engineering, he has an unusual goal for an MBA candidate. He wants to return to his firm to work on an innovation fellowship he had a role in creating.

He’s a first-generation college graduate from a low-income family in Brazil who has worked in real estate development for the past six and one-half years. Though this 29-year-old has an impressive 750 GMAT score, his undergraduate grades were merely average. He wants to use the MBA to transition into management consulting.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What these MBA 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 an invite? Or are they likely to end up in a reject pile?

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 with Poets&Quants.

As he has in the past, 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 (please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience), we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature the followin week.

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

Mr. Mid-Market Consultant

  • GMAT 700-720 (expected)
  • 3.55 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in psychology from a private college ranked in the 70s by U.S. News
  • Master’s degree in public policy “from a good but not a great place”
  • 3.94 master’s GPA
  • Work experience includes three years at a boutique public sector health consulting firm, with a promotion, and currently works in a similar role at Booz Allen where he largely does quant analysis and expects a promotion before he would matriculate to business school
  • Goal: To transition into one of the big three consulting firms—McKinsey, Bain or BCG—in public sector health care consulting
  • 25-year-old American white male

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 25% to 30%
Dartmouth: 20% to 25%
Columbia: 20%
Yale: 20%
Virginia: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: The good news is that you have a solid story as to public sector health care consulting. You present the case of how do you get into a Kellogg, Dartmouth or Yale with a middle market background. Your profile is, as I often say, silver—not gold, and in this case, it might be silver with some bronze.

But let me give you some inside baseball, tough love. The secret thing that McKinsey, Bain and BCG look at that many people aren’t aware of when they apply to business school is your GMAT and they respect it greatly. The big three consulting firms are open to people coming from the boondocks to the big city. What they are not open to is people with low GMATs.

Let me give you two profiles and ask you who McKinsey would likely hire? Candidate one is deeply experienced in public sector consulting and is a striving guy like you from middle-market schools iwth a 3.5 and a 700 GMAT. Candidate two is a liberal arts major who has spent his entire life visiting museums in Europe thinking he wanted to be a art curator and he has a 760 GMAT.

How hard a decision is that for McKinsey? Not hard at all. They’ll go with the 760 GMAT. They also say, you know something. No matter where you come from we are going to chop you up and turn you into a McKinsey robot, anyway, so who cares.

Friend, get that 720 GMAT. If you apply to Kellogg with a 720 GMAT and a 3.55 GPA, those are slightly below average stats at Kellogg. The question becomes what are you bringing to the table in addition to your lowish stats as a white American male?

If you don’t get a 720, retake the GMAT—a million times. The admission committees are developing more faith in the GMAT versus almost anything else. It is a sad development, but that’s my sense of it. Your test score really counts. There was a time many years ago when Dee Leopold at Harvard said we don’t care what your GMAT is as long as it is a 700. That’s no longer the case.

Kellogg and Dartmouth are places where you can sometimes charm your way in. They will credit a slight deficit in your standard profile. They might say you are a couple of basis points off, but he’s our kind of guy. The question is, Are you their kind of guy? I don’t think so at Tuck.

I think you belong at UVA Darden. Your whole history is going to solid middle-market places. Calling Darden, Duke, Cornell, and USC. Those schools would give you a license to hustle. You’ve got to work hard to distinguish yourself from your classmates but that’s not enough. You have to make things happen. If you are at Darden and you want a summer internship at McKinsey, those people are hard workers and hustlers. They are focused, energetic and a little sharp elbowed. That’s what I mean by hustler. You are the meat and potatoes of Darden (and it doesn’t hurt that the current dean of the school is a former McKinsey partner who has made McKinsey the school’s number one recruiter).