Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

Call him Mr. Silver. He didn’t go to an Ivy League School. He has worked for a Big Four accounting firm and a mid-market private equity shop. And he has a 710 GMAT. But this 24-year-old professional has gold ambitions: To get into Harvard, Chicago Booth or Northwestern Kellogg.

This young professional at Accenture describes herself as a “human capital consultant girl who wants to go to business school to gain some hard skills.” With a 720 GMAT and a 3.8 grade point average from a top liberal arts school, this 23-year-old has a long-term goal of becoming the chief HR officer at a Fortune 500 company.

This 28-year-old Indian-American male already has an enviable job: He works for a prominent Bay Area unicorn in market strategy and operations. With an impressive 760 GMAT and a 3.63 GPA at a top 40 private university, he hopes to get into business school to transition into a large tech company such as Google, Facebook or Amazon and lead a strategy and analytics team.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

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, 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. Silver

  • 710 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in accounting from a top ten public undergraduate business school in the U.S.
  • Completed CPA exam
  • Work experience includes two years at a Big Four firm in transaction advisory services; currently with a mid-market private equity firm
  • Fluent in three languages
  • Goal: To enter the venture capital specializing in Israeli tech businesses
  • 24-year-old male Israeli, Belgian and U.S. citizen

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 25%
Chicago: 30%
Northwestern: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: You are pure silver. Everything about you rings silver, and this is what I mean by that. Silver means not gold.

If you didn’t go to an Ivy League school, but you went to a good school, that is silver. If you work for a middle-market firm and not an elite firm, that is silver. And if you have a 710 GMAT, that is silver. That is what I mean.

A lot of people who are silver look for alchemy. They want to turn themselves into gold. That’s hard to do, if not impossible.

Your Big Four experience for a white male is silver. I think transaction advisory services means number crunching in a cubicle. That is also known as silver. And you’re now at another silver job in a mid-market PE shop. Yet, your goal is to enter a gold field in venture capital.

Silver plus silver plus silver plus silver equals not gold. But all your target business schools are in the gold category. I don’t see Harvard from your background. It’s no dis on your story and your life. The problem is that every part of your MBA application is silver when many other applicants will be presenting gold. Someone with a 740 GMAT and a 3.8 with a CPA went to an Ivy school and instead of working at a Big Four could be working at McKinsey or Bain and then went to a gold PE firm. That describes a lot of people that Harvard Business will take and they won’t even take everyone of them. We don’t know how these people are viewed in the eyes of God, but in the eyes of Adcom those people are viewed as being ahead in the line.

How do you get into Kellogg and break out of the pack? Kellogg is open to looking at the whole story more than most business schools. So then the question becomes, “Are you the Kellogg type?” I don’t think so. You didn’t cite any extracurricular involvement. You want to demonstrate that you have been a successful team member and collaborator. It’s possible you left out examples of your teamwork and extras like working with puppies and lost kittens. There is no evidence here that you have value add for Kellogg.

Booth seems to be more focused on the GMAT so I think that’s a long-shot, too. I have two main pieces of advice for you: Expand your list of schools and look at INSEAD, Duke, NYU, Darden, Cornell, Michigan, UNC, Indiana, and USC. Given your silver application, these are all more realistic options for you at this point.

Here’s some tough love, Mr. Silver. Take the GMAT again. Years ago, no one would ever retake a 710. But a 730 for you could really make a difference. I don’t mean to support the arms race among schools on GMAT scores but improving your GMAT school is the easiest and most powerful thing you can do to improve your chances. It would increase your odds at your target schools.