Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

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

A high school dropout who got a GED ten years later, enrolled in community college and worked her way into a top five Ivy League university, this 31-year-old black woman works for a Big Four accounting firm. She’s hoping an MBA will help her transition to a more elite consulting firm and later help her land a job as a human resources executive.

This 21-year-old, white male student initially went to a top private liberal arts university as a pianist wanting to master the classics. By the end of his freshman semester, he switched to finance and stats. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average, he now wants to apply to Harvard Business School’s 2+2 deferred admissions program.

For the past two years, this 26-year-old professional has worked on the corporate development team of a large bank focusing on deals in Central America. With a 750 GMAT and a 3.6 GPA from a top 15 university, his career goal is to work internationally for a global healthcare concern.

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. Freddie Fannie

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.3 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in information systems from Penn State University
  • Work Experience includes six months at Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, after a stint in the consulting arm of a Big Four accounting firm
  • Founder of a cell phone and computer consulting firm for five and one-half years
  • Extracurricular involvement as a Little League coach, and a volunteer with the American Legion and an organization devoted to helping those with pediatric cancer
  • Goal: To transition to McKinsey, Bain or BCG
  • Stretch schools are MIT Sloan and Wharton
  • 25-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

MIT: 10% to 15%
Wharton: 10% to 15%
Columbia: 20%
Virginia: 30% to 40%
UCLA: 30% to 40%
Dartmouth: 20%

Sandy’s Analysis: The golden variety of a tech guy like you has a higher GPA and a higher GMAT and who has the savvy into a McKinsey, Bain or BCG. You work at a Big Four and are a white male. That makes you a diamond in the rough. So you are the silver version of that golden candidate.

At Wharton, MIT and Columbia, I don’t think this is going to happen. There are just too many other white guys like him in their applicant pools with higher numbers and even better resumes. I think you are going to have a real hard time at those schools. Wharton and Columbia have become very focused on the metrics: How many 3.3, 700 white males are there combined? I don’t know but I don’t think there are all that many. For a guy with your profile, MIT would be looking for a 750 GMAT.

Feel free to send me a telegram telling me I’m an idiot and that you got into MIT, Wharton or Columbia. But I predict you’re not going to make it.

So then you are down to Darden, UCLA and Tuck. You are a totally solid guy and Darden and Anderson are possible with your numbers. You’re working for a big government organization and that is of interest to a school trying to build a diverse class.

The intersection of the American Legion and the top 20 business schools in America may..I don’t think it’s going to get you a lot of bonus points in this game. Tuck is a place where you if you are the Tuck type, there’s a sniff test. Tuck would go with veterans more than a volunteer for the American Legion. They go for grads of the elite liberal arts schools in New England. They go for smart outdoorsy people. So just based on the personal touch and feel of your profile, you may have a hard time at Tuck. I don’t see you fitting in at Tuck just from the way you present, but I hope I am wrong.

Darden, Anderson, Cornell, USC, those are places where you fall more naturally.

Here is some tough love if you want to work at MBB. If you got a 720 GMAT instead of a 700, you still wouldn’t get into an MIT, Wharton or Columbia. But it could make the difference in working for McKinsey, Bain or BCG after you get an MBA from Darden, Anderson, or Cornell.

There is something admission officiers say to people who don’t get in: They say there is nothing wrong with you. We just liked other people more. In your case, the people they like more are those with a 3.6 and a 730 or 740 GMAT of whom there are a lot of people. At MBB, I think you are going to need that 720 because they are interested in your GMAT score.

I also don’t think you are going to get much credit for founding your cell phone computer company. It pains me to say this but business schools don’t credit the fact that you started a computer consulting company. What they want you to do is join a large computer consulting company and work your way through the ranks.