Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

A Fulbright Scholar who dove into research on urban agriculture in Asia, this young professional is currently an associate product manager at a Fortune 100 tech giant. He works in one of the hottest tech areas today: artificial intelligence. But with a 720 GMAT and a 3.7 grade point average, he yearns to get a dual degree from Harvard Business School and one from the Kennedy School. His goal: To transition into public sector accounting with McKinsey, Bain or BCG.

She first came to the U.S. four years ago from China to gain a master’s degree in accounting at Wake Forest University. Into a two-year stint in an audit job at Deloitte, this 24-year-old young professional got an impressive 740 on the GMAT. She now hopes to go to an elite business school to transition into a consulting role at McKinsey & Co. or move into investment management.

He’s a 26-year-old oil and gas engineer from the midwest who works as a global technical consultant to support production operations in Africa and Asia. He intends to apply to top MBA programs with a 3.98 GPA in mechanical engineering from a top ten public university and an expected GMAT score of between 720 and 740. His goal? To land a strategy consulting gig at one of the big three global consulting firms and consult with energy companies in the U.S. and abroad.

Get Sandy Kriesberg's advice to make handicapping your odds of getting in possible

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. Fulbright Food Security

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a mid-tier public university
  • Won the Chancellor’s Distinction Award, an honor given to less than 1% of graduates
  • Work experience includes a year as a Fulbright Research Scholar, investigating urban agriculture in Asia; currently employed as associate product manager at a Fortune 100 tech firm where he works on artificial intelligence and the Internet of things
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer in rural Costa Rica on sustainability in agriculture
  • Founder of a startup to empower people to grow food in urban areas that raised seed funding, won four competitions, has 12 staff members and was accepted into the university incubator
  • Short term goal: To transition to McKinsey, Bain or BCG and work in public sector consulting
  • Long-term goal: To work for the equivalent of the World Bank in Asia
  • Age and gender unknown

Odds of Success:

Harvard Business School: 30% to 40%
Harvard Kennedy School: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: You don’t have to apply to the Harvard Kennedy School. You are a walk in at Kennedy, and they will say just sign the application and we’ll hand you a fellowship fund devoted to food security.

At HBS, what we got is a guy presenting a GMAT that is 16 points below their mean and ten points below the median and a GPA that is normal and a job that is good. In fact, it’s a job from an HBS feeder organization, a good gig as a product manager at a Fortune 100 tech company in the super hot field of artiifical intelligence.

So your stats are okay and you bring to the table a consistent story that in my book you need to make a little more clear about sustainability, agriculture and food. And you have a story about a career path that begins in Big Three consulting and then goes to the equivalent of the World Bank in Asia. You are clasic World Bank, IFC, Asian Development Bank. You have a super strong case for why you want a dual-degree.

I usually don’t favor dual degrees because my thinking is you can get almost anything out of the HBS two-year program that you can get out of any dual-degree program. The things that really matter to me are meeting influential people, getting a Harvard degree of any kind, and getting a job you want. If you don’t get into HBS and you just get into the Harvard Kennedy School, it’s okay. It’s not bad. You are going to get into McKinsey, Bain or BCG, anyway. In fact, it could be a blessing in disguise. It might save you a year and a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Besides, I get the impression you are ready to hustle. You know what you want and you have expertise in it. If you only get into the Kennedy School, you should draw up a list of the 10 to 20 people you want to meet all over Harvard, from the business school, the college, even the Public Health School. You can meet those people and make those connections. That is what I called hustling.

Then, there is the issue of putting all your chips down on one bet at Harvard. Let’s say you get into Kennedy, but not HBS. Why not apply to Yale’s School of Management. You could get a dual degree at the Kennedy School and a non-Harvard business school. If that were the case, go to Yale SOM and then go to the Kennedy School. Whatever you do, get Harvard on your resume come hell or high water. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Your odds of getting into both Harvard Business School and Kennedy School are high. You are getting into the Kennedy School unless you do something radically stupid. You are a really solid guy, but the writeup you did is a little ziggy-zaggy. You didn’t present yourself well. We don’t know if you are male or female or how old you are. We don’t know what your major was at your mid-tier public university.

So here is some advice. When you apply to the schools, there are questions on the application about age and gender. Fill those out. And tell them your name and how to contact you.

  • Allan Jurovich


  • Calle

    Hi sandy, could you please evaluate my profile?

    Goals: Get a job in a top-tier investment bank on Wall Street and in the longer term get a job in a hedge fund.

    – Male, 26 years old, Norwegian
    – GMAT: 740 (50Q, 41V)
    – GPA: 3.7(Top 5%), BBA at the best Norwegian business school(acceptance rate around 10%)

    – Work experience:
    – 2 years as a sergeant in the Norwegian Army
    – 3 years as a analyst in a top-tier Scandinavian investment bank
    – Internship in a top-tier American investment bank in Southeast Asia
    – Previously a talent in soccer

    – Worked as a soccer coach in different summer camps for kids. Charity work in India. Member of different sport teams while studying. Elected to a big role in the student union.

    Target school: Wharton

  • Calle

    Hi sandy, could you please evaluate my profile?

    Goals: Get a job in a top-tier investment bank on Wall Street and in the longer term get a job in a hedge fund.

    – Male, 26 years old, Norwegian
    – GMAT: 740 (50Q, 41V)
    – GPA: 3.7(Top 5%), BBA at the best Norwegian business school(acceptance rate around 10%)

    – Work experience:
    – 2 years as a sergeant in the Norwegian Army
    – 3 years as a analyst in a top-tier Scandinavian investment bank
    – Internship in a top-tier American investment bank in Southeast Asia
    – Previously a talent in soccer

    – Worked as a soccer coach in different summer camps for kids. Charity work in India. Member of different sport teams while studying. Elected to a big role in the student union.

  • BSchoolMan

    Hi Sandy,

    Could you please evaluate my profile and let me know what my chances are? Am I wasting my time if I have no realistic hope at any of my targets given my profile?

    Male 33 years, Briton
    Target: HBS, Stan, Wharton, Columbia

    1. GMAT: Target 750 (Given my profile Im happy to increase my score should that help with my target schools)
    2. M.S. Operations Research from an Ivy. GPA : 3.47
    3. MEng Mechanical Engineering : from a UK Red Brick University. Grade – 1st Class Honours
    Awarded Graduate Award and Academic Scholarship for 4 years.
    4. Work in London in Asset Management (think GS/JPM/MS/DB) as Product Specialist / Technical Sales Support for past 4 years. Prior to that worked within Sales and Trading Support at Investment Bank for 5 years.
    5. CFA Charterholder

    6. Five plus years of involvement with firm’s philanthropic initiatives. Recently appointed to Firm’s philanthropic leadership council.
    7.Sports Clubs representing the firm in corporate tournaments
    8. Mentor for the Ivy university where I completed my MS for grads in the program I completed for the past 4 years

    Reason for applying
    1. Diversify into Actual Fund Management at similar large asset manager
    2. Change Product Specialisation from current FI to more Equities and Multi Asset exposure.
    3. Learn about how companies run their business to add value. This is to allow smarter stock picks
    4. Specific detailed immersion into finance programs at the aforementioned 4 targets to boost my professional expertise

  • Kenny Friede

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d love if you’d analyze my profile and give me your thoughts/recommendations.

    750 GMAT (47V/47Q/6E/8IR)
    Undergrad GPA 4.0 at West Point
    Major in economics, minor in statistics
    Graduated 3/1055 in undergrad
    White male from the Midwest
    Attack helicopter instructor pilot and commander
    1 deployment, 8 years active duty, age 30 at matriculation
    Currently in a command of 80+ soldiers, civilians, and army contractors

    Target schools:
    HBS, Stanford, Duke, Texas

    Goal career is most likely consulting placement in Texas.

    Thanks for your time!

  • Alexandra Rachinina

    Hi Sandy,

    Here is my profile:
    – Female, 26 y.o., Russian, 1y ago moved to the US
    – 3y in McKinsey: 2y in Moscow and 1y in Boston (I moved to join the Global Transactions Practice, now working as the leading analyst on M&As, JVs and other deals)
    – Bachelor degree in political science from top-3 Universities in Russia, Master’s in finance from top 1 Economics School in Russia, GPA 3.7 (also spent 1 semester in Geneva University, Switzerland, as an exchange student with full scholarship)
    – Speak 3 languages: Russian, English, French
    – GMAT 710
    – Active in pro-bono consulting for Russian charities and volunteerism for Russian democratic opposition, sports enthusiast (run marathons, do ballet)

    Target schools: HBS, Columbia, Wharton, Haas

    Thank you!

  • bcm

    Hi Sandy,

    Would really appreciate you taking a look at my profile and letting me know what you think.

    Currently working for a Big 4 Consulting firm in London focussing on the banking sector (2.5 years).

    Previously interned for the US State Department in Edinburgh.

    I was the captain of my university’s ultimate Frisbee team and we were a top ranked team in the UK.

    I also volunteer with a charity that runs debate competitions for disadvantaged kids.

    Undergrad- Top 5 UK university (not Oxbridge) majoring in International Relations.

    Grad School- Oxbridge with a master’s in Development Economics.

    I am a white American male- I moved to the UK to work and study just out of interest which I am hoping differentiates my application a bit.


    GMAT 710 (48Q, 40V)- Pretty sure I could score higher as the verbal is way lower than what I was getting on practice tests. Should I retake?

    Undergrad- received a First (highest degree classification in the UK) which roughly translates to a 3.8.

    Grad School- got a Distinction in my masters so was in the top 4-5 of people of a 50-person cohort (once again weird grading system but this is basically a 4.0).

    Goal of my MBA would be to jump into strategy consulting such as MBB, currently doing more operational transformation stuff with banks. With my politics background I am really interested in someday leading the public policy/thought leadership think tank at a consulting firm (think McKinsey Global Institute).

    Target schools: Haas, Tuck, Columbia, Wharton, Yale, MIT

  • Q&A

    Paul – quick question. Why didn’t you just stay on at McK and find the right exit opp. Getting into B school is one thing but what do you see as a gig coming out ?

  • irabelo

    Hello Sandy

    Thanks a lot for your help with assessing these odds, the whole series is great! I’d really appreciate it if you could evaluate my profile as well:

    – 29 years old male, from Brazil
    – 770 GMAT (Q50/V46) – simulated on GMATPrep©, hope to keep it up on the real deal
    – No TOEFL yet, though I do have a CAE from Cambridge University from around 10 years ago
    – Degree in Economics with a 8.5/10 GPA
    – 7+ years of experience as a management consultant, the last ~6 of those as a partner in one of Brazil’s largest consulting firms, to which I was invited by some people with whom I had worked at my previous job
    – Most relevant extracurricular activites were working as a TA during college; co-founding a market research center along with a professor; teaching English to teens and adults during college vacation; and participating on a few charity fundraisers
    – I want an MBA to change industries. I’m currently thinking about Tech or Consumer goods, because that’s where I envision being able to have the greatest direct, positive impact on people’s lives, through great ideas and products. Long term, I’d like to be a CFO or COO for a large, global firm like IBM or P&G.
    – Target schools are HBS, Wharton, Stanford, Booth, Berkeley and INSEAD

    Thanks again!

  • Lala

    Thanks for the insight Reacher !

  • Lala

    Many thanks for your reply Sandy. This is what I had in mind, yet it is always difficult to properly assess up to what extent schools will be sympathetic/sensitive to the odd point in someone’s application.

    I will thrive to explain things in the most clear, synthetic and objective way, hoping that my professional path to date will provide some validation that, even from my current employer’s perspective, I have great potential.

    Thanks for your help !

  • hbsguru

    if you are certified Native American (don’t mean to be flip but I think there are tribal registries, anyone know, please write in???) and also have
    connections to Native Am communities by dint of extra currics, upbringing, etc. that could be enuf to tilt your profile to YES since it is pretty close to your target schools anyway, and goal plan is solid, etc. Get that 725!!!!

  • hbsguru

    Should I still fight to get a mild rec from my current supervisor ?
    NO!!! just explain why you don’t have one in the space schools give you to say jive like that, e.g. the 500 character box at HBS (different than essay).
    Schools are not as dumb as they seem in public, which I agree is pret-ty dumb, esp. when you actually talk to them one-to-one, which is what that box does, and explain something reasonable from the real world.

    They understand not getting a rec b.c. your B school plan is secret fr. current employer or that supervisor is an odd job (just be convincing and normative in saying how and why. )

  • Reacher

    @Lala: just my two cents: I believe that a good recommendation will be much more important than applying R1 vs R2.. just don’t apply in R3

  • s hl

    Sandy –

    Thanks in advance for your guidance!

    – Male, 27 years old at matriculation w/ 5 years work experience
    – GMAT: 730 (47Q,44V,8IR)
    – GPA: 3.7 in Finance at Mid-Level State University (think Maryland/PSU/Wisconsin)
    – Work Experience: 5+ years at a boutique healthcare-specific M&A Advisory & Consulting for Private Equity Firms and Companies. All 5 years since Undergrad spent at the firm. After interning as a rising senior, was recruited directly by the firm’s CEO to join full-time and spent first few years as his Chief of Staff. Sat in on all meetings, learned various business lines, met with VIPs and managed strategic projects. After two years, promoted to Vice President – youngest at the firm and bypassed role of Associate. As VP, I’ve lead launches of new businesses and service lines for the Company. One such example includes working from the business plan to market launch and now as a client-facing advisor for the Company’s entry into a new type of healthcare advising. When applying to schools, I am targeting their HC programs or making it clear their healthcare major will be my focus. Looking to transition from a role as an advisor to biz dev/strategy at a healthcare company.

    In addition to my day-to-day responsibilities, I am the lead supervisor of the firm’s summer analyst program and have managed over 75 interns in 5 years. Also serve as the lead on recruitment efforts for both senior and entry level hires. Experience handling everything from business development, sales, operations, management, etc.
    – Extracurricular: typical college stuff (philanthropies and clubs) as well as some post-college mentoring of undergrads. Nothing that will move the needle.
    -Target Schools: HBS, Wharton (HCM program), Kellogg, CBS (Early Decision) — R1 at each

  • Lala

    Thanks Nick, hope you’re right !

  • Lala

    Hi Sandy,

    Many thanks for your feedback. Please do find hereunder some more info:

    – my Leveraged Finance and PE experience are at the same bank
    – no one applied to B School, it is ABSOLUTELY not in the Bank’s culture.

    I gauged my bosses’ feelings about my MBA project several times, the feedback has been very weak (partly because they sense I will not come back despite the great promotion they gave me, as I was the youngest ever to be promoted investment manager). Hence, I did not disclose that I will apply in the next weeks.

    Actually, this is my biggest concern regarding the strength of my application: I will need to rely on past bosses’ recs if I want to have proper advocates. How do you think it could impact my chances ? Should I still fight to get a mild rec from my current supervisor ? My core target schools are Columbia, Sloan, Wharton, HBS and Stanford.

    Also, why would Round 1 be much better indicated than Round 2 ? HBS Round 1 might be a bit early for recs, I was more planning on Round 2 for this one, yet Early Decision for Columbia, Round 1 for Sloan, Wharton and Stanford.
    From what I get, both rounds yield a bit less than half the class, with only Round 3 to be much more competitive, as only 5% to 10% of the class is admitted from the last round.

    Would be great to do a mock interview if I am invited by my core targets !

    Many many thanks

  • FranzVoss

    Hola Sandy,

    thanks in advance for your feedback.
    · Male, 28 years old, mexican with german citizenship
    · GMAT: 770 ( 50Q, 44V, 8 IR, 4.0 AWA )
    · GPA: 3.82 (94/100) BS Chemical Engineering at top mexican university
    · Work Experience:
    · 1 year as supply chain project engineer at a textile/apparel company ($60M)
    The CEO noticed my work and put me to work for the Board of Directors.
    · 2 years as Director of Apparel Bussiness Unit ($10M) (same company)
    One of three BU Directors reporting directly to the CEO and the Board.
    The other two were MBA graduates with 15+ years of experience.
    Responsible of Design & Development, Sales, Procurement, Production, HR.
    Over 400 employees in my BU.
    Left after moral disagreement with the owner
    · 1 year as Projects & Planning Director at a precast concrete manufacturer
    Main project: leading the merger of the companies 3 constituents
    · Spent one year as full time volunteer before college
    · Target Schools: 1. Stanford, 2. Harvard, 3. Sloan, 4. Haas.

  • hbsguru

    Work experience (3 years):
    – 2 years in the Private Equity team of a very large French bank
    – Moved to my current team & promoted investment manager after 1 year as a leveraged finance analyst
    770 GMAT is good differentiator as may be Euro background.
    This should be an admit at targets based on that and serviceable execution and convincing 2nd-tierish schools you want to attend.
    At HBS and Stan, well, anything can happen, apply ROUND ONE, SUPER IMPT, and try to hit their mantras.
    Check back for mock HBS interview, 😉 that can make a diff. even tho you seem like cool customer.

  • Nick

    Sounds very solid to me man.. would be interested to hear Sandy, but I think you have a great shot at all of the schools!!!

  • Lala

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks you for your insights and the help you provide through your analyses !
    Please do find below the highlights of my profile, in the hope that they will make for an interesting analysis.

    Demographic: 28 years Swiss / French male (born & raised in Switzerland ; moved to France after high school)

    GMAT: 770 (48Q, 47V)

    – Graduated in Finance & Corporate Strategy (3.7 GPA) at top-5 French school
    – Transferred from History program at reputable French Uni (3.8 GPA)

    Work experience (3 years):
    – 2 years in the Private Equity team of a very large French bank
    – Moved to my current team & promoted investment manager after 1 year as a leveraged finance analyst

    Internships (2 years):
    – 2x 6-months gigs in the Corporate Strategy department of Fortune Global 500 companies in Paris
    – 3 months Asset Management in Hong Kong for a Swiss Bank
    – 6 months Wealth Management in Paris for a Swiss Bank

    – Active member of the Student’s artistic association while in school
    – Coached disadvantaged children (Math, English) while in HK

    Post-MBA goal:
    – Transitioning to a large Private Equity fund.
    – Could also be interested in joining a Hedge Fund / Corporate Development team.
    I’m using the MBA to explore these opportunities & gain broader international exposure

    Target schools: Columbia, MIT, HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Yale, Booth, NYU, Tuck, Cornell, Berkeley

  • Will

    Should also mention
    Goals: Investment management (L/S equity hedge fund or event-driven/activist funds)

  • Will

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m a 21 y/o white male,
    Heading into final year of undergrad at top 50 private liberal arts university (in UG b-school)

    Finance and Statistics double major, Economics minor
    3.5 GPA (cumulative), 3.8 GPA (major combined)
    GMAT: 740

    5 total internships (including now)
    – Top investment banking BB SA (GS, JPM, etc.)
    – Sophomore summer investment banking SA in NYC (think RBC, Nomura, etc.)
    – Freshman and second half of sophomore summer (after above internship) with boutique cross-border M&A investment bank (got asked back)
    – Sophomore winter hedge fund internship

    – President of student-run investment fund
    – Founder of Wall Street Club (financial modeling classes, etc.)
    – Treasurer of social fraternity
    – 2 club sports

    Initially went to said school for their performing arts/music program (classical piano), changed major from music performance to finance + stats at the end of my freshman fall semester

    Goals: HBS 2+2 –> if not, HBS a few years down the road (if realistic)

  • Garp Frm

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m a 25 year old male from Bangladesh, now into my third year of work (Financial planning, experience includes financial planning of a merger between two MNCs and also operational investments of hundreds of millions of dollars) with my first full-time employer.

    GMAT 750 (Q50, V41)
    GPA 3.25
    Bachelor of Business Administration (Finance)

    What should be my stretch, safety, and target schools?

  • tallboy

    Hi Sandy, It would be very helpful if you review my profile:
    25 Year old, male Indian
    Undergrad- B.E in Industrial Engineering and Management at Bangalore (Rank 1 college in Bangalore) (2010-2014)
    GPA- 9.43/10.0
    Academic Excellence Award for securing 2nd Rank in the entire Department.
    A perfect GPA of 10.0/10.0 in my final semester.
    Final Year project at the National Aerospace Labs, Bangalore.

    Master of Engineering in Manufacturing from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (2014-2015)
    Award- MIT-SUTD scholar ( full scholarship to study at MIT). The scholarship proved very helpful as my high school and undergrad fees was paid by my uncle and aunt. It was financially tough for my parents to support my education.

    Master of Engineering (by Research) in Engineering Systems and Design from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) (2015-2016)
    No GPA. Only 1 year of Research and Thesis as part of the scholarship.

    I have a GRE score of 310, 151 V , 159 Quant and 3.5 AWA that I took in 2013 before applying to MIT.

    Current Position- Working at a Life Science Instrumentation company in Singapore as a Product Assurance Engineer.
    • Ensuring smooth transfer of mass spectrometry products into Singapore from around the world.
    • Providing technical support to contract manufacturers and suppliers in the diagnosis of faults on mass spectrometry products during manufacturing.
    • Investigating on failures and performing root cause analysis attributed to the manufacturing process.
    • Training of suppliers in the testing of mass spectrometry products.
    • Performing IQ/OQ/PQ of test fixtures and equipments used in the manufacturing supply chain.

    I am working at the same company where I did my thesis, when I was at MIT.

    Extra Curricular:
    MIT Global Startup Labs in Bangalore during my undergrad. Conceptualized along with 3 other members, an android application and achieved a place in the finals to present at the Google office in Bangalore.

    Career Kraft Foundation (NGO):
    • Organized and chaired two events on ” Innovative Thinking” at colleges for about 200 students.
    • Trained on design thinking, marketing, management and innovation by different coaches at workshops and
    • Managed teams and developed marketing strategies to expand the NGO. Coached two students on marketing,
    management, design thinking and leadership skills.

    Jack of all Threads:
    Organized and coordinated business deals with the school management to create a bigger impact amongst students
    and the society.
    • Analyzed and evaluated the market competition, pricing, and the supply chain process to optimize the cost incurred
    by the company.
    • Achieved recognition for my passion and hard work from the Co-founder for improving the productivity of the

    I am planning on applying to Stanford, Harvard and Wharton.

    Short Term Goal: To move into a leadership role that creates impact on people’s lives. I am looking at consulting or social entrepreneurship.

    Long term goal: To focus on three areas: Education, poverty and animal welfare.

  • Rishabh Bhatti

    Hello sandy,

    I’m a 21 Year old Male from India,
    Right now I’m in my undergrad final Year

    basic stats are:
    GRE: 320
    B.E (manufacturing process and automation) from Netaji subhas institute of technology, DU (among top ten engg colleges in the country)
    CGPA 6.75/10

    1. Gerenal Motors, Marketing and sales intern, VSSM team
    2. Defence research and development organisation, Mechanical Design Intern, CAD department

    Social Impact:
    Have been working with a social start – up ‘Thinkink’ which works in the education sector and organises free educational workshops for the less-privileged students in orphanages. 

    x have been helping a few students prepare for their Engineering and Architecture entrance exams.

    what MBA programs can I apply to without work experience with a good chance of getting accepted?
    what other programs do you suggest?
    what else can i do right now to make my application stronger?

  • mongo

    Hello Sandy,

    I’m hoping you can comment on my profile and level set expectations as I consider applying. Thanks again for the service you provide for the community here.

    25 year old Native American male
    3.5 in Math from mid-tier public school (first-gen college/stayed close to home/worked nights)
    GMAT – TBD (let’s assume 725)

    Work experience:
    2 years at a health insurance company
    2.5 years at top HR consulting firm (think Mercer, Towers, Aon)

    Transition from HR/Benefits consulting into strategy consulting (specifically within the healthcare sector)

    Target schools:
    Booth, Kellogg, Ross, Columbia

    Am I reaching here?

  • frozenfire42

    Hello Sandy,

    I am an avid reader of all these breakdowns. It really helps demystify the whole admissions process. Thanks for doing them and taking the time to read this.

    26 y/o white male
    Double Major in Physics/Applied Mathematics
    3.94 GPA and Valedictorian at Senior Military College (Not a service academy)
    720 GMAT (49Q/39V)

    Work Experience:
    -Commissioned into the US Army as an infantry officer and spent 9 months in various leadership/training programs
    -Worked for 12 months as an aide to a Battalion Commander overseeing his affairs/working as a liaison officer to coordinate missions between Brigade and Battalion commands during large scale (5000+ Soldiers) training exercises
    -Mechanized Infantry Platoon Leader during a 9 month deployment to Afghanistan and Kuwait commanding 34 Soldiers in combat at a remote outpost 100 miles away from nearest US forces
    -Currently a 1st Lieutenant working as an Instructor at the Army Officer Candidate School training 40+ officer candidates per 14 week cycle (this job is typically filled by a Captain, but I interviewed and was approved to fill it anyway)

    Undergrad Experience:
    – Selected to 2nd highest rank in the Corps of Cadets at my college and led planning and execution of the year long New Cadet Training Program by supervising 120 cadet instructors and training over 550 Freshmen. Additionally was Chief of Staff for the senior class directly managing 10 cadet officers with staffs of over 400 cadets working to organize public university operations
    -Intern Project Leader (3 person team) that managed $15,000 mathematical research project sponsored by Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab for the US Navy

    -Established and volunteered as my unit’s Military Family Readiness Group Liaison Officer position to facilitate coordination between military families and training events for my 700 person battalion over the course of a year
    -Volunteer physics/math tutor for all 4 years of undergrad

    -Short term: Use my experience and frustration with military technology to transition to the National Defense/Security sector, specifically as a project manager with work that can expose me to multiple facets of the industry
    -Long term: Become COO of one of the big defense tech companies/form a defense tech startup

    Target Schools:
    -HBS, MIT, Darden

    Any advice or critique is welcome. Thanks for your unique perspective.

  • Jeff D

    Hi Sandy,

    Really appreciate what you do here, it can be hard to get an honest answer.

    26 y/o white male
    3.6 GPA at top 15 U.S. university
    750 GMAT (Q48 V46 IR8 AWA6)

    Work Experience:
    2 years working in the corporate development team at a large bank focusing on central america deals (promoted early)
    1.5 years at a private equity quasi fund of funds

    Prior: Founded a charity in college to benefit Alzheimers patients
    current: mentor a recently immigrated high school student, english language tutor for refugees

    Post-MBA Goals:
    Work internationally for a healthcare focused multinational then at a startup

    Harvard, Wharton, Sloan, Booth, Kellogg, LBS, Columbia, Haas

  • hbsguru

    haha, as they say, can’t hurt. MIT and Stan go for nose bleed scores, and this will indent their numbskulls a bit –an actual 780 GMAT would get x percent more attention, but it’s all good.

  • Paul

    Finished a GRE retake today – 170V / 167M (supposedly 780 equivalent). Think that may move the needle any more?

  • Sriram Sankar

    Hi John & Sandy,
    Would like your opinion on my profile.

    GMAT – 760 (Q51, V41) AWA – 4, IR – 8
    GPA – 7.9/10, B.Tech. IIT Roorkee, India

    Experience –
    Worked 4 years in a Marketing analytics firm (450 employees, global presence) in India.
    Collaborated with marketing teams of SABMiller, P&G, Amazon and few others on market research projects. Promoted every year- a rarity in our company. Led initiatives, mentored new-comers, held training sessions

    Post-MBA Goal –
    Transition to marketing in the CPG industry; aiming for product/ brand management role.

    Extra-curricular –
    – Athletics (100m, 200m sprints) and rowing in college
    – Ardent trekker and currently, on an career-break to pursue mountaineering. Been on 2 expeditions so far.

    Volunteered for
    – a rural development project aimed at imparting computer education. Volunteered for an year.
    – career guidance and teaching high school students. Did this for 2 years
    – health camps, green initiatives and community service

    Indian, Male, Age – 28
    Target schools – Kellogg, Fuqua, Booth
    Please point out other schools that I should target. What are my odds with H/S/W?

  • Kevin131


    Thank you very much for your feedback, I really appreciate it

  • hoosier13

    Hi Sandy,

    Any insight you could provide on my application would be invaluable!!

    -27 year old white male
    -3.76 GPA majoring in econ and philo at Big Ten state school
    -760 GMAT
    -Applied to top programs with one year of experience and (not surprisingly) was rejected across the board, although I was waitlisted at Booth R1

    Work Experience:
    -Retail industry with an increasing focus on healthcare since taking second job
    -First Job: Target, 1.5 years
    -Second Job: Amazon, 2.5 years (one promotion and tracking toward a second pre-MBA)

    -Tutor / mentor local high school students
    -Cook meals for terminally-ill local residents

    Post-MBA career goals:
    -Transition to a product / tech-focused leadership role at a healthcare company
    -Long term passion is to improve the healthcare industry through focusing on consumer needs and simplifying consumer decisions

    -HBS, Kellogg, Stanford, Booth
    -Interested in taking undergrad CS classes concurrently if possible

  • Kevin


    Really appreciate the thoughts. Definitely in line with what I was thinking as far as my experience vs. other finance roles are concerned. I’m thinking of going early decision to Columbia as giving me my best shot at top 10 school. Any guesses on my percentage chances here vs. some of the other schools listed?

  • gokuarya

    Hi Sandy,

    I have been following your series on P&Q for years and I look forward to hear your thoughts on my profile.

    23 year old Indian female
    3.8 GPA in business/commerce from top 5 indian college/university
    GMAT – not given yet, but targeting 730+

    Work Experience
    2+ years at a Big 4 in consulting with one promotion. Work in the government/development consulting team.

    On the leadership team of many clubs in university and won leadership awards for extracurriculars organised in university and school.

    Post-MBA career goals
    Short-term: consulting at MBB
    Long-term: Work for an international NGO/Foundation or Impact Investing

    Stanford, Yale, HKS/HBS

  • Spencer

    Hi Sandy,

    Love the series, and would love your help. After watching your videos, I’d guess that I’m mostly silver with a touch of gold plating, but I’m hoping with a bit of advice to transmute that into a little more gold. I’m especially wary of how to position my church service experience. Let me know what you think.

    26 year old white male
    3.7 GPA in economics at a top 50 private university
    750 GMAT

    Work Experience
    3 years at a boutique Salt Lake consulting firm (~100 consultants). Early promote. Currently manage a team of 3 that handles marketing (~$5M in annual sales) and backend data (SQL database and Tableau reporting layer) for our education practice. Solid analytics experience, and have a natural interest in the psychology/feeling behind the numbers. Defined our flagship and education practice brand strategies. Deep market research experience.

    Executive committee member over finance for local LDS congregation (manage team of 2 and oversee ~$1M annual donations and ~500 membership records). 2-year church service mission (served in highest leadership role overseeing training and development of 150 missionaries).

    Post-MBA career goals
    Short-term: Brand manager at a fortune firm (also considering McKinsey/Bain/BCG)
    Long-term: CMO of a large education consulting provider

    Kellogg, Harvard, Tuck

  • hbsguru

    as often noted, adcoms do not have the experience set to evaluate military careers if you are not a pilot or special forces, something they give you some extra points for.
    Your a solid West Point guy with 720 GMAT, guys like you get into ‘
    Wharton, Columbia, Booth, Kellogg, etc. with luck, good recs and serviceable execution.
    As to going to K school or Insead, your background has nothing to do with it, What job do you want when you get out and where.
    Most K school guys work in govt and some in consulting (huge discussion of that on this thread ) if that is what you want to do, go there. If you want to work for McKinsey etc. you would do better at a B school, and you are a consulting type. Logistics is something MBB can relate to as a hiring point, even if you never practice it once you arrive.

  • hbsguru

    GRRR, LOTS TO LIKE but private wealth management and beyond that, ” Highest producer among peers in region,” are not trad paths for white, male lacrosse players to HBS who want to do private equity. The ladies on the adcom may read this is glad-hander on the make we don’t need. Versus, investment banker and guy already in PE on the make we could need. Those guys/gals are the upper half of your finance bucket and getting into HBS vs. them could be hard.
    If any white, private wealth, male out there ever got into HBS, please do tell.
    At other schools your stats could be enuf. Wharton could go for this, but again, they may have more qual. finance types as per HBS model. Tuck goes for lacrosse players of a certain type,
    and that could be you, and stats help a lot.
    I’d stick w. consulting as the stated goal.
    You’re a smart guy with real solid people and sales skills. That is a good base for consulting. Even consulting to your former industry.

  • Kevin

    Hello Sandy,

    I just retook the GMAT after posting a 680 the first time and scored a 750, so I’d love to hear your thoughts on my chances:

    23 Year Old White Male (24 at Matriculation)
    3.96 GPA at Relatively Unknown State School
    750 GMAT (Q49 V42 IR8 AWA5)

    Work Experience:
    Four years working for a Private Wealth Management Group (Two years as fully registered-representative while in school. Promoted three times in four years. Highest producer among peers in region. Passed the CFP in 7 months (usually takes about 18 months).

    Three year captain on university lacrosse team & all-conference selection. Work with home for underprivileged youth. Coach startu-up youth lacrosse program.

    Post-MBA Goals:
    Work in consulting and eventually private equity.

    Columbia, Harvard, Wharton, NYU, Yale, Tuck, Kellogg

  • hbsguru

    Phew, not sure what happened last time. I may take feedback at face value, they just liked other military/consulting types more.
    Big issue for you this time is explaining why move to Current Company and how that is part of goal story, or modified goal story. I’d write entire HBS essay on that.
    MIT may go for this, so apply. GSB a black box a bit –if they did not go for this last year, new job is prob. not enuf to tilt outcome this time. But if they like company and you present as consulting-to-techie type, who knows.
    Good luck at HBS.

  • 2 plus 2 aspirant 608

    Want to apply to the 2 plus 2 program and the deferred Stanford program in the next year.
    Would be really helpful to get your input

    Indian male
    Cgpa- 3.3
    GMAT -760
    Education- Non iit , but one of the top 5 colleges for engineering in india.(BITS)
    Branch- electrical engineering and masters in mathematics.
    Work experience- interned with
    1) Healthcare company
    2) BCG ,
    3) Coca cola.
    4) ITC- conglomerate (FMCG,hotels, etc)
    5) Currently interning at InMobi

    Extra curricular-
    1.Founder enactus branch.
    2.Consulting director 180 Degrees Consulting
    3. Director general MUN society
    4. Head of sponsorship and Marketing

    Want to apply to the 2 plus 2 program and the deferred Stanford program in the next year.
    Would be really helpful to get your input

  • Paul

    Thanks for the response!

    Applied R1 last year. On my post-TD feedback call, I luckily got connected with the person who conducted my interview. She said I had a “great interview” and even read a bit from her notes – all positive and complimentary. She mentioned being in 2 heavily oversubscribed buckets (i.e. military, consulting [I was still at McK at the time]), and encouraged me to reapply. Last year my story – while tight and interesting – may not have come off as achievable; I went heavy on future plans of entrepreneurship with 0 demonstrated background in it. This year won’t have that issue – I changed jobs soon after the TD, so that’ll be a new story / new info to the adcoms.

    Pending getting another interview, will likely take you up on the interview coaching!

    Have a wild guess for me on % rates at HBS, GSB, MIT? Didn’t even get a GSB interview last year… MIT may get added to the list.

  • Mr. Blonde

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d be interested to hear any thoughts on my chances.

    25 y/o white male
    3.82 GPA Economics at top 25 univ.
    770 GMAT (50Q 46V IR8 AWA6)
    Upcoming college senior (Graduate Spring 2018)

    4 years active duty in Marine infantry (enlisted directly after high school)
    Multiple combat deployments, in charge of up to 12 other persons

    Decent amount of philanthropy/volunteering.

    Post MBA goals to work in consulting.
    Targeting H/S/W this year.


  • admissions@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    Appreciate your thoughts on my chances.

    Thank you Sandy!

    29 y/o asian male
    3.45 economics at a top asian university
    GMAT 780 (Q51, V46)

    Work Experience:
    2.5 years at a rotational leadership programme at a 400m manufacturing company
    1 year in a supply chain function at Sony / Unilever / Fedex
    2 promotions

    At the board of 4 local non profits – passionate about helping low income families. Involved in a slew of undergrad and postgrad activities revolving on the aforementioned theme.

    CAIA Level 2, CFA Level 2, FRM Level 2 (passed)

    Motivation/Goals: Pivot into Investment Banking

    Target Schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton only. Backup: Booth, Columbia.

  • hbsguru

    here’s some tuff love, retake the GMAT and get a 720.
    GRE scores you list above are not going to move needle and are sorta ~700 (or less!!!) GMAT equiv.

  • hbsguru

    Yikes, what round did you apply to HBS? And how did interview go? Most kids at HBS dinged after interview were dinged because of interview screw-up of some kind, often very subtle, but you are still dinged.
    Lots to like here including Military, MCK, and exciting growth company. Plus real solid stats.
    Profile could tumble over into dumb, white, extreme sport Dukie/special forces type, and some whiff of that may have dniged you at HBS, so don’t let that happen.
    Don’t usually sell here, but a mock interview at HBS from world’s leading expert (moi) could really help.
    Well, enuf about me, getting back to you, just execute in some serviceable way that presents all your strengths, it’s powerful profile.

  • Andrea

    Hey Sandy,
    you assessed my profile in the 3rd of May version of Handicapping you mba odds (i copied pasted my profile below).

    I took the GRE today and scored 159V 165Q. So, what should I do now? Report only the GRe? only the GMAT? both? What do you suggest?

    HI Sandy, would appreciate if you could assess my chances.

    26-year-old Italian male

    700 GMAT (48Q37V) – planning to take GRE (target is 164/164) (or will they blink at my below average GMAT??)
    Toefl 116

    Undergraduate degree in Economics from a public school in Italy (3.77 GPA)
    Msc in Management from Bocconi University (GPA 3.7) and CEMS (double degree program)
    Also during my undergrad i spent one semester at a public school in the US, spent a semester at Ivey Business school in Canada during my double degree program, and completed a summer school in China.

    Work experience: spent two years at a big FMCG (think P&G/Unilever) in a very selective graduate program (rotated among 3 positions within sales/marketing both in Italy and abroad) then moved to Amazon where i’m a business development associate.

    Volunteering: spent a month in Myanmar with an NGO whose focus is to address the basic existential needs of disadvantaged Burmese communities that lack adequate shelter, sanitation and education. Ran several local projects with the founder (who is a Harvard alumni).
    I’m part of Amazon’s charity committee where i participate in fund raising events for local NGOs.

    Target schools:

  • hbsguru

    You should apply to HBS, Wharton, Columbia and Kellogg, etc.
    Lots to like and worldly seminarians are a favored category among adcoms (some of whom are criss-crossing similar paths between God and Mammon).

    –3 years of channel sales and account management, company contracted by Cisco to manage a portion of their business–

    I assume this is current job. A lot may turn on what adcoms think of that job and the company. To the extent you can present it as close to Cisco, a respected brand name in this game, the better.

    Your 750 GMAT in this context is a powerful sermonette about your potential and ability to play above your current roles. With some well explained execution you could become likable enuf for 1-7 schools to take a chance on, and not much cost for that bet, given your stats.

  • wps_mba

    E&P is exactly what you stated. Independent, in this context, means “non-integrated”. Essentially, we only operate in the upstream business, unlike the Exxons, Chevrons, Shells, etc. of the world which have refining and marketing operations.

    My current position is more selective than an entry level position at a Big 4 firm, and also very different work from the public accounting experience, which I’m hoping can be articulated in the resume and rec letters.

    Thanks for the feedback.

  • Sriram Sankar

    Hello John and Sandy,
    More than the analysis, I loved the selection of caricatures. 🙂
    No doubt, your comments are very useful. Spent several hours last night reading your feedback.

    Would like your straight-from-the-heart opinion on my profile.

    – GMAT – 760 (Q51, V41) AWA – 4, IR – 8
    – GPA – 7.9/10, B.Tech. IIT Roorkee, India
    (Rank 9/26 in my department; took your advice of mentioning the rank and not converting the GPA)

    Experience –
    4 years in a Marketing analytics firm (400+ employees, global presence) in India. I worked with the marketing teams of SABMiller, P&G, Amazon and few others. Projects related to market research.

    Role –
    Designing research as per objectives, coordinating with multiple internal teams and vendors during data-collection and analysis, identifying key trends and insights, engaging with client teams over calls and emails.

    Achievements –
    Promoted every year; have been a high performer
    Lead initiatives to improve workflow; automated processes through programming.
    Mentored new-comers
    Held training sessions

    Post-MBA Goal –
    Transition to marketing in CPG industry; aiming for product/ brand management role. I believe my market research experience combined with an MBA will be a good fit for the role.

    Extra-curricular –
    – Active in sports; involved in athletics (100m, 200m sprints) and rowing during college.
    – Ardent trekker since college; been on 9 high-altitude treks, recently to Everest base camp.
    – Currently, on an year-break from work to pursue mountaineering. I have finished 2 month-long mountaineering courses and summited two technical peaks (both ~20,000 ft) in India. The recent summit attempt was a joint expedition comprising of Indian and Japanese climbers.

    Volunteered for
    – a rural development project (SIIRD, funded by Ministry of Comm. and IT, Govt. of India). Helped imparting computer education to school teachers and students. Conducted several training sessions and followup visits to the ensure training is brought to fruition. Volunteered for an year.
    – teaching middle and high school students. Provided career guidance to high school students and tutored them for competitive exams. I was doing this for 2 years, during the first and second year at college.
    – health camps and cleanliness drives conducted under the flagship of the National Service scheme.
    – community service as a Boy Scout during school

    Indian, Male, Age – 28

    Target schools – Kellogg, Booth, Fuqua
    Please point out other schools that I should be targeting. Any chances with H/S/W?

  • jaschirmer

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d love to hear your thoughts on my non-traditional background that mixes religious studies/outreach and business:

    25 y/o white male (26 at matriculation)
    3.86 in Religious Studies from a large private university
    1 Year of Seminary education
    GMAT 750 (Q50 V42)

    Work Experience:
    3 years of channel sales and account management, company contracted by Cisco to manage a portion of their business
    5 months of volunteer and internship experience with two different churches leading community and outreach programs
    4 months of teaching English overseas, 2 with students in Indonesia and 2 with North Korean refugees in Seoul, South Korea

    Consistent involvement in church outreach to local homeless shelters and refugee communities

    Motivation/Goals: I hope to combine my heart for people and my fascination with business to use business/economics as a platform for addressing poverty overseas
    Short Term: To transition into management consulting to hone my understanding of business strategy and best practices
    Long Term: To use the skills gained through an MBA program and consulting experience to do social impact consulting

    Target Schools: Tuck, Fuqua, Darden, Emory Goizuetta

    Thank you Sandy!

  • M Z

    Hi Sandy, would appreciate your thoughts on my (non)traditional background
    How much would an improved GMAT (~750) impact my odds for Rd 1 or 2? Any other advice?

    29 year old at entry, Asian Canadian Male (Born in Asia)
    3.73/4.0 GPA, Dual degree in Math & Business @ Top Canadian Math / Engineering School
    GMAT: 710 (Q50)

    Interned in top consulting firm in Singapore
    1st Job: 2.5 years at Top-tier (non-MBB) Consulting Firm (Moved to US)
    2nd Job: 1.5 years as an education social entrepreneur in China (left consulting)
    Current Job: 0.5 years @ Boutique VC firm in China (Ended Social Enterprise)

    Founded or Headed several school-level clubs in University
    Consulting projects for Clinton foundation
    Consulting projects for social enterprise incubator in China

    Essay / Goal:
    Essay: 2nd gen immigrant want to improve social mobility for those less fortunate
    Short term goal: Work in education tech or Product Management for top-tech firm
    Long term goal: Education tech entrepreneurship to improve social mobility

    Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT

  • Paul

    5 years is more typical. I was injured during the course of my service and separated early

  • Islander19

    Hi Sandy,

    Interested in your opinions on a rather unorthodox candidate:

    32 y/o U.S. white male
    3.7 GPA in Anthropology from Ivy League school
    GMAT 780 (Q50, V47)

    Work Experience (all based in two small developing countries in the Asia/Pacific region):

    1 year volunteer work as a secondary teacher
    1.5 years work as a secondary teacher
    1 year as Director of a youth services NGO (30 employees)
    2 years working in policy development for a government agency
    4 years (at time of application) managing a small company exporting sustainably produced local products.

    In addition, significant consulting work helping local communities design and implement projects focused on climate change adaptation and economic development.

    Goal for an MBA is to shift into consulting work focused on sustainable economic development in the Asia/Pacific region and eventually to move into a position with the World Bank or similar organization.

    Target schools: HBS, Tuck, Kellogg, LBS, IMD

  • M Z

    Hi Sandy, would appreciate your thoughts on my (non)traditional background
    How much would an improved GMAT (~750) impact my odds for Rd 1 or 2? Any other advice?

    29 year old Asian Male Canadian at entry (Born in Asia)
    3.73/4.0 GPA, Dual degree in Math & Business @ (U of Waterloo) Top Canadian Tech School
    GMAT: 710 (Q50)

    1st Job: 2.5 years at Booz & Company (US)
    2nd Job: 1.5 years founding education social entrepreneur in China (after quitting Booz)
    Current Job: 0.5 years @Small VC firm in China (after stopping Social Enterprise)

    Founded or led several school clubs in University
    Projects for Clinton Foundation & social enterprise incubator in China

    Essay / Goal:
    Essay: 2nd generation immigrant want to help improve social mobility for those less fortunate
    Short term: Work in education innovation/technology
    Long term: Education technology entrepreneurship to improve social mobility

    Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT

  • Minorleague

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love to hear your take on my prospects –
    27 yo White Male – U.S.
    Gmat: 760, 50 on quant, 41 verbal
    Undergrad GPA: 3.63 from top 50 US university
    Work exp: 2.5 years equity research at bulge bracket bank; 2.5 years start up economic consulting firm
    Extra curricular: 4 hours a week at a large garden in NYC (not including winter obviously); organized and led corporate group volunteer event at said garden; also am a CFA

    Goal of mba: switch out of ER to a corporate strategy role in hotel/tourism industry (sectors I currently cover). Tired of being in a derivative industry and want to make a hands on impact on a company.

    Schools: Stanford, Wharton, Haas, CBS, Sloan, Tuck, Stern

  • Maxtherhc

    Hi Sandy,
    A brief on my profile
    -27 Indian Male, Engineer from one of India’s top 10 Engineering institutes.
    – 2.5 years as production manager at TATA Motors(indias largest auto manufacturer
    -3 years at a NGO ranked 23rd by global Geneva. I have worked and initiated projects in domains of livelihood generation and alternate education in remote rural areas of India and made them sustain. Currently in Africa(west Tanzania) spearheading a water and sanitation project in for 500+ households.
    Post MBA wish to work in strategy consulting and implementation with organizations working towards international development and long term head global operations.
    Target schools are Tuck, Fuqua, Yale SOM, Ross, tepper ,MCcobs.
    Hope to get advice if the career path makes sense ,the school selection and my chances

  • Question

    I thought the military applicants usually have 5 years of service, or at least the majority that post on here do. Is 2 typical?

  • Paul

    Hi Sandy,

    Hoping you may do a handicapping review for my profile – “Military+McKinsey, and Moving On”

    -27 white male
    – GRE 162M/167V/6W
    – 3.72 GPA, Political Science, Duke
    – 2 years as a military officer in training for a highly competitive special operations program (think Rangers, Recon Marines, Pararescue, etc.)
    – After military, spent ~2.5 years at McKinsey as a Business Analyst / Senior BA
    – Currently Director of Strategy at a growth-stage FEC company (think iFLY, TopGolf, K1 speed, etc.) that recently closed a Series B
    – Goal: (Both at current employer) short term, P&L responsibility of a geographic region; Long-term, COO/CEO leadership
    – “Extreme sports” profile – skiing, skydiving, scuba diving, deep water soloing, etc. Interwoven between personal and professional life
    – Target schools: HBS, GSB, MIT Sloan (interviewed, non-admit at HBS last year)


  • Sailee

    -26-year old female, India.
    -Dentist by profession.
    GPA- 3.2
    – Total 5 years of Experience . 2 years work with reputed hospitals and head of the Dental department in the last one. Founder and Senior Consultant of a Hospital and a Health solutions agency/ consultancy in India.
    Volunteer Experience- General Secretary at the College Committee, Started a women’s health initiative, Conducted Screening and health camps for more than 3000 under-privileged students in association with a big corporate CSR program. Public speaking coach for the Times of India education program.
    Goals- I want to get in the MBA/MPH program at HBS and Harvard School of Public health. I want to leverage my knowledge and experience in Healthcare to improve Managed healthcare in rural India. It is the Management and strategy learnt in the HBS and the structural public health training in HSPH along with the network of both that I intend to gain. I see myself taking up leadership positions in Non-profit and government healthcare organisations in a 5-year plan and run for the office health ministry in long term.

  • jpm

    Thanks for the feedback Sandy! Will make sure to get that 720+.

    What do you think would be the best approach for the McK break-away job?

    I really want to point out that I had the chance to work closely with the partners from the beginning, having Associate responsibilities even before the MBA and that for most projects we competed neck and neck with McK and more often than not our propposals won, so the work there was really top of the line.

  • Kevin131

    Hello Sandy,

    Thank you for your insights and I very much enjoy this series. I am currently approaching a decision point at which I will have to determine whether I want to continue in my career as an army officer or transition out. I would like your feedback on my profile in order to help determine what courses of action I may be able to take if I decide to leave the army.

    – 26 year old white male from the midwest
    – Graduated with a 3.76 GPA and a Bachelor of Science in International Relations and French from West Point
    – Served for five years as a Army Logistics Officer stationed in Germany. I would transition out at the rank of Captain after serving as a Platoon Leader, Executive Officer, and Operations Officer
    – 720 GMAT
    – Military experience revolved around project management, logistics, and general military leadership
    – Post MBA goals would probably involve consulting

    How would you assess my chances, should I be focusing more on Kennedy or international schools like INSEAD with my background? Any feedback or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

  • vikram jindal

    First of all thank you very much for giving your invaluable time, in guiding all mba aspirants
    Gmat 760 july 2017
    Gender male
    Age 32 at entry
    Citizenship Indian
    Degree- Bachelor in medicine and surgery from top three college in India, ranked 24/250000 in entry exam, 1 year in national administration academy, 6 months as visiting fourth student at Uni Texas Southwestern medical Centre Dallas
    GPA- 3.9/5 ish
    Work experience 8 years at entry- Member for prestigious Indian Administrative Service IAS ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Administrative_Service ,a cadre of 4500 officers managing administrative setup of country, ranked 21/500000 for entry exam) for 5 years,
    -currently on urban assignment, executive head of city municipal govt population 1.3 million managing 7000 employees and 100 million$ in annual budget. Planning and implementing govt policies and decisions
    Member of central govt accounting service for 1.5 years
    Medical resident burns and plastic for 9 months
    Extracurricular- work involves lots of activities with communities, in rural and urban sector
    Hobbies- Professional mountaineering, lead three expeditions, deputy leader for govt Everest expedition, Flamenco music, horse riding and etc.
    Desired school- Harvard, Stanford, wharton
    Why mba- I want to go in public sector/ healthcare consulting and work, as I worked at grass root level leadership position and am fully aware of the issues. MBA will provide me technical skills, connections
    Let me know if I can attach my detailed resume, How do you assess my chances, any particular recommendations? Thanks!

  • hbsguru

    hmmmm, maybe too much odd stuff in your story, even if good stuff. In order to get into H and S, it would help greatly if they knew current company, or if recs could explain and normalize it.
    Might happen, and as noted, lots to like.
    Check back with outcomes and for a mock HBS interview if you get one.

  • MrAustria

    Thank you Sandy, very helpful. There have been 3 major jobs: 1. start up 1 (for almost 2 years, promotion to team lead), 2. 1 year boutique media/tech consulting (led complete turn around for client) 3. almost 2 years current start up (130 staff, prestigious vc, 8 offices), been promoted way ahead of time to report directly to the Ceo.
    Part of my essay will address how I became good at leading tech people while being a non techie (gather smart people, tell them WHAT we want to achieve but not HOW)…
    Do I directly compete with the tech bucket that has Google, Amazon, Facebook etc. on resume? Do you think I have a fair shot at Stanford/ HBS with proper execution of application?

  • hbsguru

    well, I like you and lots to like. One problem is that adcoms may not be familiar with either schooling or any of your jobs, so esp. in jobs, you need to make it clear how substantial the underlying company is.
    You say about current job, ” in leadership role (strategy) of large vc funded startup in Berlin . . . ” That is right approach, on resume be as specific as possible as to size, number of employees, who major backers are, and ahem, name of company.
    Before that, you say, “interned at Warner in US, then 4 years with media/ tech start ups.”
    If you jumped around for 4 years at 2,3 4 companies, that can be an issue, even in start-up environment. You need to make that sound as professional as possible.
    A lot of this outcome is going to turn on what they think of current job, and how present those “other” jobs. You do not have a technical background (major was ‘business admin and psychology’–in other words, BS) so how you became such a presence in start-up world needs to be explained. Start-ups as a rule do not hire recent grads for ‘strategy’ etc jobs.
    Get past that, lots to like including your extras, but that is icing, you need to bake the cake first.

  • MrAustria

    Hi Sandy,

    Love this series and would really appreciate some feedback on my profile:

    -28 at matriculation, white male from Austria
    -750 gmat (q49/v42), graduated with distinction (5.2 on scale 1-6) at top 5 University in Switzerland (business admin and psychology
    -speak 4 langugaes
    -work: interned at warner in US, then 4 years with media/ tech start ups. Currently in leadership role (strategy) of large vc funded startup in Berlin
    -other work: numerous entrepreneurial undertankings and projects I can point to
    -extensive non profit engagement mostly with initiatives for refugees. Co founded a non profit organization 2 years ago.
    -post mba goal: either leadership role in tech or entrepreneurship

    Target schools: columbia, stanford, hbs, insead, wharton

    How do you assess my chances, any particular recommendations? Thanks!

  • Natalie

    Hi Sandy,

    I think your profile reviews are really helpful, and thanks for taking the time to do this. I’d really appreciate your thoughts on my opportunities. My profile is:


    26 year old Hispanic female

    USA, living in NYC

    Degree/College Experience:
    – Bachelors in Business Administration (concentrating in International Business & Marketing)
    – Minor in Latin American & Iberian Studies (essentially Spanish language/culture)
    – Small, mid-tier private American university (business program was top 10-15 when I went there but has since dropped)
    – Studied in Barcelona for a semester
    – Interned for a summer at American Express in London in acquisition marketing
    – Also interned for an early-stage tech startup for a year in marketing, primarily social media
    – Vice President of Finance for my sorority
    – Received Marketing Department’s most prestigious scholarship
    – Published in global business journal

    GPA: 3.74, Magna Cum Laude

    Work Experience:
    – Have worked at the same company since graduating college 4 years ago, which is a large online stock brokerage in the United States, slowly expanding into Asia (think Fidelity, TD Ameritrade, Charles Schwab, eTrade)
    – Spent just under 2 years in social media, leading cross-functional teams in piloting new social media capabilities and building the strategy to integrate social media into company practices (such as advertising and job recruiting)
    – Spent past 2 years in marketing procurement, as one of two people responsible for vendor selection, contracting, contract negotiation, risk management, etc. for all of the outside companies the marketing department works with or purchases from. This was a lateral move from my role in Social Media, but I have been promoted twice since being in this role (just under a manager role now)

    – Active member of 20-member Toastmasters International club at my office for 4 years. Club President for this past 1 year, and Club Vice President of Education for the 2 years prior to that. As President, led club to become a Distinguished Club in the district. Also achieved my Competent Communicator certification from Toastmasters.
    – Have tutored recent immigrants in NYC in learning English two hours per week for the past two years, getting to learn about many world cultures/customs in the process
    – Volunteer for UNICEF in advocating to U.S. government representatives on behalf of issues affecting children around the world, through email, phone, and social media campaigns

    My career post-college has been very United States-focused, but I always hoped to work in a more global role and would like the MBA to help with that, along with moving away from the financial services industry. Would like to work in social media/digital marketing at a large, global tech company (think Facebook, Google, Amazon, AirBnB), potentially in Europe.

    Schools of Interest: London Business School, Oxford Said, Cambridge Judge, IESE, ESADE, Alliance Manchester

    Thank you!

  • hbsguru

    totally solid story with solid stats, Big 3 Auto job in finance rotational program (not long enuf to pay off a typical lease but long enuf for this exercise). and 740 GMAT.
    Kellogg, Booth and Ross, all like auto companies (b.c. it upper Mid-West deal among many other reasons) and you should be real solid there. Man, HBS and Wharton take guys like you.
    I’d apply there, too.
    Consulting makes perfect sense.

  • hbsguru

    Tesla is great place to work, hot company, growing, tech and auto. So that is good.
    Mexican with 3.4 from top tech school in Mexico is mixed bag, mostly good. If school has tuff grading, mention, and try to get class standing as well. E.g. top 10 pct would be good.
    Working for MCK break-away firm is mostly good, but schools will prob. not consider that as ‘selective’ as working for MCK, nor did you survive MCK bootcamp and just shutting up and doing good work for 2 years, altho it sounds that what you did came close, and there is chance you actually had more powerful experiences (not super impt to adcoms, they have hard way of knowing unless recs really deliver on the details of engagments).

    Return to MBB consulting (probably in Mexico or US) or continue career
    as a strategy leader in a top tech company expanding in LatAm (Google,

    real good, it would help if you have evidence of returning to Latin America, WHICH YOU DO SINCE YOU DEAL WITH LA NOW, adcoms suspicious of that song, and hear it all the time.
    GET THAT 720 GMAT.

    Lots to like, not sure we have the Stanford X factor (beyond Tesla, and that could do it), HBS would go for this and they have an 8-9 per year Mexican cohort (not as large as Canada but lots of reasons for that).
    With solid execution you got real chance there.

  • hbsguru

    are there any white, male US accountants at HSW is a leitmotiv of these handicapping series. See the profile of Ms Accounting above for a summary of standard wisdom for folks applying to B school from accounting shops. Mostly Big 4.

    Not entirely sure what

    Two years in Accounting Development program at a large, independent E&P company (current job)
    Internships with Wal-Mart and ExxonMobil while in school

    means, I am assuming E&P is Oil exploration and production, and indy means not Big X. Anyway the brand of company matters, since you will be competing w. accounting types from Big 4.

    Lots to like, obviously, including 4.0 and 740. I still do not see this as Stanford. Wharton is more open to this profile. I think Berk and Duke would welcome your stats and your solid Mid-West citizen vibes and extras.

  • hbsguru

    not sure how helpful I can be, a good deal of this will turn on current job at NGO, which one it is, and how impressive that is to adcoms.
    Trying to get scholarship $$$, esp. if you are not US Citizen, can be tuff
    Try these PQ stories for openers

    MBA Scholarships At Top Business Schools – Poets & Quants

    The Right Way To Negotiate For MBA Scholarships – Poets & Quants

    Top Ten Schools In MBA Scholarships – Poets & Quants

    if these do not show as links, just Google.

  • hbsguru

    1. First gen college: the HBS application, and many others, asks outright that you list each parent and also asks that for each you state “Highest level of education completed.” SO that is one way schools know if you are first gen college.
    You should also write about it if being first in your family to attend college is part of your narrative about upbringing, influences, overcoming adversity, etc.
    2. Bi-racial (Asian and White) and URM: URM is a legal term, it means for purposes of admission, that you need to be, first of all, A US CITIZEN. Coming from Africa, South America etc. and NOT being a US Citizen means you are not URM, altho those facts can still help you in essays, perception by adcom that you could add to class,etc.
    After you check the US CITIZEN box, you need to also be
    Black, Mexican-American, Native American (that is,
    American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian), and mainland
    Puerto Rican to be considered legally URM.
    Asian American don’t count, nor does “Bi-racial” in general.

  • hbsguru

    Well, the issue for Mr Food Security was getting a Harvard degree that would be perceived positively by folks in real world who would then hire him. My point was either an HKS or HBS would be a big positive.
    Extension School is respected as well as showing that you took initiative to get the degree and stuck with it.
    I do not believe Extension School is as selective to get into as
    HBS or HKS, and that is also one thing a degree represents.

  • champachameli


    Thank you for helping us with making decisions. I would be grateful if you could please advise me on my applications. My profile is as follows:

    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 thinking Yale SOM, UVA Darden, UNC Kenan Flagler, Stanford GSB, Cornell Johnson, CMU Tepper. Any suggestion is helpful. Thank you so much for your time

  • Doug

    Hey Sandy. I would really appreciate it if you would rate my odds.

    – 25 year-old white male
    – 740 GMAT
    – 3.92 GPA. Finance degree from a top 10 undergrad business school
    – 4 years (at matriculation) working for a big 3 automaker in their finance leadership development program. Ranked in the top 15% of employees on my last PR
    – Extracurriculars include leadership roles on various committees at work

    Looking to make a move into strategy consulting. I’m particularly interested in Kellogg, Booth, and Ross.

    Thanks for your time.

  • XTOL

    Really appreciate the reply jointee! And the Sandy banter was a nice bonus haha

  • HarvardExtensionSchool

    Hi Sandy,
    In reviewing Mr. Fulbright Food Security, you mentioned that it is valuable to “get a Harvard degree of any kind.” How are Harvard Extension School degrees perceived by adcoms?
    Thank you!

  • wps_mba


    Many thanks for the insight you are providing. I stumbled upon this series today and have enjoyed reading through the various profile reviews, and was hoping I might be able to have my own profile evaluated.

    Demographics: 25-year-old white male

    GMAT: 740 (one attempt, four years ago for MAcc admission; 44V/48Q)

    4.00 GPA, BSBA and Master’s of Accountancy from the University of Arkansas
    Minors in Information Systems and ERP
    Honor’s College Fellow (Highest Award offered by the University)

    Track and Field All-American, part of a team National Championship, team captain senior year

    Work/Professional experience:
    Two years in Accounting Development program at a large, independent E&P company (current job)
    Internships with Wal-Mart and ExxonMobil while in school
    3/4 CPA sections passed (plan to finish this year)

    Volunteer Work (post-grad):
    Guide to visually impaired athletes as part of a local, non-profit in Houston
    United Way Community Investment Team member (make recommendations for allocation of funds)

    Post MBA Goal: Sports Management or Tech ( I realize I need to decide and have a compelling “why?” here)

    Target Schools: Stanford, Wharton, Berkeley, Duke

  • Matthew


    Would greatly appreciate some insight. Profile below:

    -GMAT: 730 (42 V, 48 Q)

    -3.81 GPA at big state school (think Ohio State, Penn State), graduated with distinction

    -MIS major, Economics minor

    Work experience:
    -Two years as data analyst at small supply management firm, working with big data/consulting with clients
    -Two months (1+ year at application, 2+ years at matriculation) as pricing analyst (includes internal consulting with sourcing and finance teams) at Fortune 11 pharmaceutical wholesaler, expect to be promoted prior to application. Expect good recommendations.
    -Confident in my ability to depict these two jobs as being connected – first was working with the mechanics of big data, current is working with data-based decision making (very similar role to that of the clients I would consult with at first job).

    Extracurricular experience:
    -Volunteer high school boys basketball coach for two years (three years at application, four years at matriculation). Promoted to head varsity assistant prior to beginning of first season. Strong skills in all elements of coaching (Strategy, decision-making, leadership, relationship-building). Expect great recommendation.
    -Member of Beta Gamma Sigma honor society for business students, plan to attend leadership events throughout next two years.

    Goal: To further develop my data analysis and data-based decision making skills to attain a leadership/management position working with all aspects of big data (data issues, decision making, presentation)

    -24-year-old white male (25 at application, 26 at matriculation)

    Target schools: Harvard, Wharton, Sloan, Columbia, Anderson
    Safety school: Marshall

  • hkhanum@chd-expert.com

    Hi Sandy and John! I woudl love for you to please assess my odds below! thanks very much!

    Academic background:
    • I am a 26 F American citizen of Pakistani descent.
    • I have a 710 ( 49 Q and 37 V) and a 3.8 from top public school ( think Berkley, U of M). Where I graduated cum laude with an English and Political Science Double major. (I transferred from an elite southern school think Emory or Duke when my parent was diagnosed terminally ill )
    You can refer to me as Ms. Resourceful Retail

    • I want to go to Wharton and Columbia for Retail. I have extensive experience in ecommerce analytics role in which I was intimately aware of problems, but felt I had little status to be intimately aware of how they get solved. and I want to go to school so I can be high enough to be leading the solutions.
    Professional background:
    • I have 3 years of experience at Sears from their selective rotational Business Analyst program, where I earned 3 promotions in 3 years culminating my career with presentations of my models to Eddie Lampert the chairman of Sears. However, Sears is a failing company and I was laid off, I took a break for 6 months. This totals 4 years of working.
    • During my time off for six months I became a yoga teacher, active blogger and published the novel I wrote for my senior these when I was back in school. I am interested in challenging and growing in every facet of my life—the stretch is where it’s at—as I tell my yoga students!
    • I then joined a French analytics and advisory company focused on the Foodservice industry/ I report to the CEO and founder and my title is Project Manager.
    • I work on analytics for special projects for our high profile clients—I am well respected here and I love it.
    • I have recommendation letter from my former boss at sears and my current boss.
    Volunteer Experience:
    • I have extensive volunteer experience – I have been a non-profit consultant for the past 4 years with Pivot and a counselor with the Junior League where I have contributed more than 500 hours of volunteer work over the course of my career—I am a well respected leader with my League, regularly formatting the decks for our annual meetings for our league President
    • I want to know what you think of my odds considering said background, experience and goals for chances at programs like
    1. Wharton
    2. Columbia
    3. MIT
    4. Yale
    5. Booth
    6. Tuck
    Thank you so much!

  • sly5georgetown5

    Hi Sandy, I have 2 questions about under-represented minorities and first-generation college students. You’ve mentioned a few times how being one (or both) of these two groups can be beneficial in the application process.

    1. While it’s easy to tell if you’re an URM in the application process, how can schools know if you’re a first-generation college student? Is this something that should be written about in essays, or is there somewhere else in the application where they ask about the education levels of your parents?

    2. I understand that being African American, Hispanic American, or Native American definitely qualifies someone to be an URM, but I’m wondering what about ticking the biracial box? I’m half Asian and half White and identify as both, so I always tick the biracial box when I can. But, I’ve noticed that quite often, biracial is assumed to be half African American and half White in the United States – so, does ticking that box place me in the URM group?

    Thank you!

  • catherine

    Hi Sandy,

    I would really appreciate if you could assess my admissions odds!
    Demographic: 25 y/o white female, American (lived in London for 5 years when younger)
    GMAT: 710 (took 3x) V- 42 Q- 44 IR- 8 AWA- 6
    Academic: 3.8 GPA from University of Southern California – double major in International Relations & Communication
    UG Extracurriculars: Leadership position in sorority, teaching gov. classes at local high school
    Work Experience: 3 years (at time of applying) at Accenture (promoted 2x, now a management consultant), working primarily with tech clients in our internet & social group in SF, experience working with retail client as well. Type of work includes process design & project management, also just spent 1 year on a partnership team with a leading tech company working on developing marketing solutions that utilize machine learning.
    Extracurriculars: mentoring (resume review, interview prep) for KIPP, coach for internal case competition, adoption events at local dog rescue

    Goal: Brand Management at Retail Company (think: L’Oreal, LMVH). I am interested in how the retail industry is currently changing/being disrupted and how I can use both technology & marketing to keep and attract customers.

    Target Schools – applying R1: Kellogg, Anderson, Stern, Fuqua, Ross

    Thanks again!

  • hbsguru

    THANKS, let me try this out w.out causing some fireworks.
    IMHO your average HBS admit is by dint of schooling, testing, work experience, and etc.
    a bit ahead of your average HKS admit.
    Long way of saying that IF you are at HKS AND actually have accomplishments like guy profiled (Fulbright, etc) AND you also can hustle (network, blah, blah whatever you want to call it)
    –in that case, you can really get the school, fac, etc. to support you.
    Let me note that hustling is not a plug and play talent, it usually takes the form of first doing well in a course, meeting prof, etc. and being open to networking.

  • jpm

    Hi Sandy.

    Thanks for this series! It has been really informative. Would love to get some feedback on my profile, since I haven’t seen many comparable in the series.

    – 26 year old mexican

    – 3.45 GPA Civil Engineering degree from the top university in the country
    – Fluent in Spanish, English and Italian. Basic knowledge of German

    – 3 years as management consultant in a very successful consulting firm founded by McKinsey partners
    – Promoted from Analyst to Associate after little over 2 years, youngest and fastest analyst to do so
    – After that, 6 months as a Strategy & Global Markets Business Analyst at Tesla, leading all expansion projects in Latin America,overseeing over 5 countries (will have over a year here when I apply)

    – Not taken yet (will take it in around a month), but expecting ~720 from practice tests

    Long term goal:
    – Return to MBB consulting in Mexico or as a leader in a top tech company in the country (Google, Tesla)

    – 2 years working with a cancer treating institution for children with low resources with initiatives to raise money for surgery/therapy

    Target schools:
    – Harvard
    – Stanford
    – INSEAD
    – LBS
    – Columbia

  • HKS

    Will also add that unless sponsored, HKS MPP/MPA students join MBB at a lower level than MBA hires. The above is correct that the HKS non-sponsored hires are few and far between.

    Furthermore, networking across schools is possible but it is hard. Even with Drew Faust’s One Harvard initiative the schools are pretty silo’d. You’ll have academics and your own degree social life to deal with.

  • Lcr

    Hi Sandy,

    This series has been really informative, thanks for all you’re doing here.
    Below is my profile, a quick evaluation would be much appreciated!

    Demographic: 25 year old white male. Grew up in the southeast.

    3.25 years (at matriculation) as a Computer Hardware Engineer at IBM in Austin, TX.
    Also Coop and internship at Fortune 500 tech companies.
    Would be attending school on Educational Leave of Absence.

    3.55 GPA, Dual degree in Computer and Electrical Engineering from a
    large state school (Top 30 in Engineering).
    Minor in German Studies. Conversational and business German fluency.

    GMAT: 730

    – 2 years as project lead of an Engineers without Borders Project,
    bringing solar power and education programs to a rural community in
    Sierra Leone, West Africa
    – Math and science classroom tutoring at a local school in Austin, Texas

    – Product Management in big tech
    – Long term entrepreneurial interest

    Target Schools:
    MIT Sloan (1st Choice), Stanford GSB(long shot), Berkeley Haas, Kellogg, NYU Stern, Carnegie Tepper

  • hbsguru

    haha, thanks. you are a great salesman for the program.

  • jointee

    The HBS/HKS cohorts are roughly 20-30 with most being in the 24-28 range. Mine was 25.

    One additional point is that by being at both schools, you can really see how different perspectives are about the same problems. I think it allows us to develop a more holistic lens through which to view problems. We often find ourselves wearing different hats at each school. What I mean by that is that at HKS, we need to sometimes remind that capitalism has many redeeming characteristics, especially when executed with the right leadership. At HBS, we sometimes need to voice that capitalism doesn’t and can’t solve everything.

  • hbsguru

    some of this could turn on IMPACT and BRAND of firm you work for. My guess is HBS has lots of Desi techies with more attractive stories who also work for 100pct tech companies like MSFT, GOOG, etc. , so HBS could be hard.

    Other places might be real interested in that 780 GMAT with the rest being not too shabby. I’d say you got solid shot at Columbia, Stern (fer sure) Insead and LBS. Tuck might turn on some intangibles about fit and reason you want to go there.


  • hbsguru

    thanks, great points.
    How large was your dual degree cohort?

  • Scott

    I would love feedback on this profile, Sandy. Let’s jump right in:

    – White Male US Citizen
    – 29 years old
    – Bachelor of Science in Economics from a Top 70 National University (as ranked by US News)
    – 3.65/4.0 Overall GPA
    – 740 GMAT
    – 5 years of work experience at an asset manager (unfortunately it does not have brand-name recognition, and has not historically been a feeder school for top MBA programs) with $12 billion assets under management. Work as investment analyst for almost 2 years followed by a promotion to Assistant Portfolio Manager for an additional three years. Assist in hiring and management of other analysts.
    – Fluent in 2 languages
    – CFA charterholder

    Target Schools: Johnson, Ross, Anderson, Tuck, Fuqua, Sloan, Columbia, Stern, Chicago, Northwestern (I don’t think that my profile is “gold” enough for H/S/W, but let me know if you disagree)

    Long-term career goal: continue to work in the investment management industry; become portfolio manager at larger investment firm, or start my own investment firm.

  • jointee

    There is something to be said of having meaningful access to both networks. Once misconception is that by going to one Harvard graduate program, you have access to all and that could not be further from the truth. You’ll have some access but it’s nowhere near the same and faculty/alumni don’t treat you the same way.

    I agree with Sandy’s high level sentiment that for the most part, you can get out of HBS what you would from any joint degree program if you’re strictly talking about your immediate post-MBA career. The joint HKS degree will play a greater role in the long term as it adds additional credibility and signaling that you are indeed committed to the public sector and have a great network to tap into for guidance and possible roles. I will caveat that by saying some jobs may not like pure MBAs if they are concerned they are a flight risk to the private sector and thus, not worth their investment.

    As for why I did it. I had spent time working in both the public and private and felt an additional year of graduate school would be invaluable for a few reasons:
    1. The elective curricula at both schools are phenomenal and I did not want to have to fight to cross register for only one or two classes that I likely wouldn’t get into if I wasn’t a full student at the school.
    2. In the grand scheme of my life, I know I won’t ever regret one additional year of school that allowed me to take interesting classes and meet interesting people. Some of my best friends come from each school and I know I would be remiss if I only did one.
    3. The opportunity to do two internships. They can both be private, both public or however you want. You’re free to make it your own so two chances to try something different and new.
    4. The joint degree cohort, something I learned after the fact, is extremely tightknit. Not only the year you belong to but the ones above and below you also since we’ve developed a community. For your specific cohort at HBS/HKS, you move together in lockstep through the program and get to know each other well. I would say most find the joint degree cohort experience more meaningful than the section experience, which is already great so that is saying a lot.

    Full disclosure that I did receive a full-ride to HKS and pre-matriculation, it did play a big role in my decision to do the joint degree and not just the MBA. At the time, I think no fellowship would have driven me to do just the latter. In hindsight, even if I didn’t receive the fellowship, I would still do the joint program.

  • almostThere

    Hello John, Byrne & Sandy,

    I’m hoping you can tell me if my lack of confidence towards successful admits is just my inferiority complex or a rational fear out of moderate awareness.
    Thank you for your time. 🙂

    -CFA Level 2, 780 GMAT (Q50, V48, IR8, AWA 5.5)(April 2015)
    -MUNs, Moot Courts, Debates in Undergrad, multiple student leadership positions
    -Software Engineer with Fortune 100 Financial Firm
    -Indian Male, 23, Non-IIT Engineering (IT) (I can almost hear you groan), 8.3/10 GPA
    Goal: Consulting(Finance, Public Sector)
    Target Colleges: CBS, HBS, Tuck, Stern, INSEAD, LBS

  • hauling_oats

    Target Schools:

  • hauling_oats

    WM, Age 26
    Undergrad BS Mech E from a large southern state school, summa cum laude
    GPA: 3.83 (top 10%) GMAT: 730
    Presedential Scholar & Phi Kappa Phi

    Worked 5 years at a Fourtune 5 oil company with 2 promotions starting from entry level engineer to project team lead to business strategy. Transitioned to work for a nationally ranked law firm for the past year (the position closer to my goals)

    Extra curricular includes humanitarian work in southern Peru (design and build village improvements), relay for life team captain, local food bank volunteer, founded a mentoring program for college students, studied abroad during undergrad (dual language fluency)

    Goal after MBA is to move to management consulting, preferentially MBB internationally

  • hbsguru

    What exactly do you want to know?
    Tuck interviews everyone, it’s part sales job and part of their selection process. I’m not totally sure about this, and if anyone is, please chime in, but as with most interviews in B school, YOUR interview can be a show stopper (that means a bad interview can screw you) but not a show maker (a great interview will rarely transform a sub-marginal candidate into an admit, despite that being a deeply held fantasy of many driving up to Tuck for their interview).
    Is there some middle-muddle ground where they sort of have
    30 or more spots and 200 more applicants and all those 200 people are pretty close in terms of stats, and etc?
    So the interview in that case could be important.
    Dunno, but I don’t think it works that way . . . .
    As to there being a “Tuck type” or more importantly, an “anti-Tuck type,” well, as with all verbal gimmicks like that, it is helpful to a point, and subject to refinements, subjectivity etc.
    Like all schools Tuck is open to finance, consulting, NGO types, etc. Each one of those people can present wonderfully or very badly. In cases where they are presenting “to type” etc,– e.g. ‘that gal is such a consultant, that guy is such a finance type,’ lets say on a scale of 0-100, with 100 being really annoying and 90 being annoying and 80 being, hmmmm, the scale at Tuck might be 80 as being “annoying” and hence damaging, for finance types. With maybe an easier scale for consulting and NGOs.
    As with all interviews everyplace, it helps to be aware of your own “shtick” and not to overplay it. Viz, do not wear suspenders and a bespoke suit to your Tuck interview, altho Wall St is not a dirty word there, it is just their type of Wall St.

  • crafty111

    White Male age 24
    -720 GMAT
    -graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.98 GPA in Finance from University of Georgia

    Work Experience:
    -at time of start it will be 3 years at a fortune 30 retail company with over 90 billion in sales
    -consistently considered top of my cohort at work and promoted two times during the 2+ years I have been there so far
    -will have very adamant supporters in my letters of rec

    Post MBA goal:
    -go back to fortune 30 company to work in strategic development
    -eventually start my own outdoor equipment retailer or join an existing one to try and become CEO

    -very passionate about rock climbing and even have two small sponsors
    -decent community service involvement including being the head of the ‘giving back committee’ at my job and working weekends at ReStore which provides the funding for Habitat of Humanity builds

    -Academic Excellence Award in Finance from UGA

  • hbsguru

    I’d be interested in hearing that as well, and also what seems to be driving the other dual-degree candidates you know, and if, on balance, the dual degree is worth it.

  • crafty111

    White Male
    -720 GMAT
    -graduated Summa Cum Laude with a 3.98 GPA in Finance from University of Georgia

    Work Experience:
    -at time of start it will be 3 years at a fortune 30 retail company with over 90 billion in sales
    -consistently considered top of my cohort at work and promoted two times during the 2+ years I have been there so far
    -will have very adamant supporters in my letters of rec

    Post MBA goal:
    -go back to fortune 30 company to work in strategic development
    -eventually start my own outdoor equipment retailer or join an existing one to try and become CEO

    -very passionate about rock climbing and even have two small sponsors
    -decent community service involvement including being the head of the ‘giving back committee’ at my job and working weekends at ReStore which provides the funding for Habitat of Humanity builds

    -Academic Excellence Award in Finance from UGA

  • hbsguru

    thanks for those refinements about different HKS programs–
    As to the guy for whom the profile analysis was written,
    who has a really classy background in 02138 terms (Fulbright, food security, and a history of schmoozing)
    I’m sticking with the high lever advice:
    Viz: “I usually don’t favor dual degrees because my thinking is you can get
    almost anything out of the HBS (SIC!) two-year program that you can get out of
    any dual-degree program. The things that really matter to me are meeting
    influential people, getting a Harvard degree of any kind, and getting a
    job you want.”

  • iwantmba

    Indian Male Engineer
    -760 GMAT
    -Master’s in Electrical Engineering-Power and Renewable Systems-Arizona State University -3.3/4
    -Bachelors- Electrical Engineering-Vellore Institute of Technology-7.6/10

    Work Exp-4 years ( all in US)
    -2 years in one of the biggest engineering consultant in the energy sector in US.Worked with the biggest clients in the united states like PG&E, Duke Energy, SCE etc, Got promoted last year.
    -2 years at smaller engineering consulting firm in the energy sector. Worked with top utility clients.

    Post MBA goal- Energy consulting

    Extra Circulars-
    Ran marathons in Japan, USA and India
    Local Community service

    Target Schools-

  • XTOL

    Would you share what drove you to apply for the joint HBS/HKS degree? Did you have a specific career goal in mind? Thanks.

  • Peter

    Upps, my main targets are:
    – Sloan (favourite)
    – Wharton
    – INSEAD
    – HBS
    – GSB

  • Peter

    Hi Sandy & John,

    Thanks for another great video, long-time fan here! Would appreciate a quick comment on my (unusal) profile:

    German White Male
    Age: 30 at matriculation (old due to German school system, military service and the 2yr MSc)
    Education: – BSc Business Admin. with a 3.4 GPA at Top3 German business school / Top1 university
    – MSc Mgmt & MSc Int. Mgmt (Dual Degree) with a 3.9 GPA from Top European and Asian Business school (top5 in Financial Times ranking)
    GMAT: 770
    Work Exp:
    – Internship and 2 year student employment in big 4 consulting, internship at Europe’s biggest company builder for one of their portfolio companies in Asia
    – 1 year at Google in AdWords Consulting / Sales in the European HQ as top1% performer
    – 10 months as head of a sales for a new market at a tech unicorn
    – Then solo-founded my own tech SaaS company, completely bootstrapped without any outside funding, has been running for 2 years now, 500k revenue in first year, 3MM in 2nd year with 30% net profit margin, 4 employees, I will probably exit for 3-5MM by the end of this year.
    Extras: None really, first high school and university grad in family, financed my entire studies with online poker (200k winnings, thus bad GPA in undergrad)
    Goal: Start a new company, possibly with future classmates. Sadly my main motivation is to get a top tier brand name on my CV that is internationally recognized, not just locally (or outside the US) as with my current education. Everyone says I am crazy for even considering that as it makes no sense as per my goals, but I have already done the GMAT and I am really serious about it.

    Thanks for any insights.

  • navyfinance

    Sandy – Can you expand on the Tuck interviewer comments?

  • A

    Hi Sandy,

    Haven’t seen a lot of marketing background profiles, so would appreciate your insights!

    Taiwanese American Male – Dual Citizen
    Age: 26 at matriculation
    GPA: 3.8 in Psychology from Top Public Ivy – A’s in all Stats classes, 95% grade on Financial Accounting MOOC, and 100% on MBA Math online course
    GMAT: 720 (45Q, 44V – scored higher 47Q on prior GMAT)

    Goal: F500 CPG Brand Management (emphasis on Big Data & Emerging Tech)
    Work Exp.:
    – Currently: 1 year (will be 2 at matriculation) at VC-backed, Google Partner ad tech startup managing Google AdWords & YouTube (media strategy, data analytics, & business growth). Natural progression from past ad agency roles – retained past ad firms as clients. Client Management across F500 CPG, , Financial, Tech, Healthcare, Entertainment, etc. Major focus on CPG & have proven CPG success & passion. Brought in $10M+ in client revenue growth and led top CPG client to Google Best-In-Class marketing distinction. Global experience in expanding Google bus dev in Asia as well.

    – 2 years prior at top ad agencies (1 year at Interpublic Group & 1 year at Omnicom Group firms) in Strategy roles – clientele list: F500 Auto, CPG, Retail, Hospitality, & Financial. At Omnicom, led emerging tech/”Internet of Things” global marketing strategy – interfaced directly w/ C-Suite management internally and client-side. Managed $50-80M marketing portfolio.

    – Scholarship evaluator/advocate (at largest US minority scholarship provider) for group of 30-40 minority, first-in-family college applicants
    – Co-founded company group helping educate on general investment (Stock Market, Real Estate, & Foreign Markets)
    – Cannes Young Lions media competition participant
    – Heavy involvement with alma mater & fraternity – alumni mentoring & lead career panels
    – Regional Ad Club member
    – 2 years in undergrad developing marketing, branding, & outreach for 30-40 education, healthcare, & social justice non-profits as part of alma mater’s cultural center
    – Undergrad Newspaper Photo Editor, led team to winning top national journalism award (collegiate “Pulitzer”)
    – Europe multi-country study abroad
    – Published Food Critic, Exhibited Photographer, & Traveler (40+ countries, lived in 3)

    Target Schools: Columbia, Kellogg, Wharton, Haas, & Yale

  • jointee

    I graduated from the HBS/HKS joint degree program and Sandy is inaccurate about some of what he says regarding HKS:

    1. Sandy mentions you could save a year of costs if you went to just HKS. That is incorrect. A degree from HKS alone is TWO years, not one. This includes the MPP, MPA and MPA-ID. The exception to this is the MC/MPA which is the one year mid-career’s master program. Only the MPP and MPA-ID can be done with HBS. The MPP, MPA and MPA-ID can be done with other schools making it only one additional year ONLY if combined.

    2. He mentions you will get into MBB anyway. The overwhelming majority of those who go into MBB with an HKS degree are pursuing joint or concurrent MBA programs. Pure HKS students have a harder time recruiting into these roles although there are a small group each year that end up at McK or BCG. Bain does not have a formal recruiting pipeline at HKS and I have yet to meet a pure HKS go to Bain.

    3. There are only four other business schools with which you can pursue a concurrent MBA. They are: GSB, Wharton, Sloan and Tuck. You would not be able to do this with Yale SOM.

  • jhd311

    Hi Sandy, your insight is always appreciated.

    I have a big black mark by way of my GPA, and would love your take on whether my ship is sunk.

    Short term career goal: transition from consulting in construction operations to Infrastructure project finance advisory at a bulge bracket investment bank.

    Long term career goal: would be to move after 3-5 years to Infrastructure PE or Project Finance.


    28 Year old white male (29 at matriculation)
    GPA: 2.97 in Mechanical Engineering from Lehigh University (low-mid tier ranked school)
    GMAT: 770 (51Q – 97%/44V – 98%)
    UC Berkeley Extension: 2 Math/Econ classes – all A’s

    Work Experience:

    -2 Years as a construction engineer/superintendent for top 3 US GC/CM – Directly managed union labor. Promoted once. Left to take consulting offer.
    -1 year at a small specialty construction consultant specializing in disputes. Left to jump to Big 4 Advisory.
    -3 years in Big 4 Construction Advisory. Promoted once.


    -Work as a tutor, recently began working with the management team to develop new business and make strategic partnerships with schools in area. Spend about 50% of time tutoring HS and College admissions tests pro-bono to disadvantaged students. Have led and organized a few classes.


    Round 1:
    -Harvard and Wharton (complete hail mary, just want to take a shot)
    -Columbia ED

    Round 2:

    Would love to hear your input on whether my GPA is an app killer and any thoughts on school choice.

    Thanks! JD