Your Chances of Getting In

Mr. Navy (ASA)

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.25 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in industrial engineering
  • Naval officer for six years with intense, sometimes dangerous work experience, supervising personnel, managing complex projects and driving ships
  • Extracurricular involvement includes two years as an after school reading and creative writing tutor
  • Grew up in Europe (four countries in first 18 years), lived in Japan for two and one-half years
  • Has a working knowledge of the Italian language

Odds of Success

Harvard Business School: Less than 30%

Stanford: 20% to 30%

Wharton: Less than 50%

Dartmouth: 30% to 50%

Columbia: Less than 40%

Kellogg: 40% to 60%

Michigan: Better than 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: The dirty secret about military admissions to places like Harvard/Stanford/Wharton is that GPA is a key factor and that war stories don’t payoff as much as you think they should. Plus, lots of military applicants have shooting war stories these days as a result of ground deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. The big payoffs for military applicants, as far as schools are concerned, is not work stories per se, but working with others, both enlisted personnel and locals. ‘Helping my troops get along with the tribal leaders and setting up a school for girls, etc.’ is a real solid HBS  (and other schools) essay.

In your case, the deal breaker at Harvard and Stanford might be the GPA, assuming a solid GMAT (which we define here as 80 percent on both sides). The military career part seems in line and the extras are a plus. In general, schools are pre-disposed toward military candidates so you got a chance at non-H/S/W schools and a reach chance at Wharton. The international experience is nice, but it is not going to blow open any doors unless you can closely link it to your career goals.

Mr. Marine (OnA)

     

  • 620 GMAT
  • 3.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in geography from a public liberal arts university
  • Captain in U.S. Marine Corps with two combat deployments in Afghanistan
  • Nothing compelling in extracurricular involvement

Odds of Success:

Harvard Business School: Less than 10%

Stanford: Less than 10%

Wharton: Less than 30%

Kellogg: Better than 30%

Duke and Darden: Better than 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, Captain, I like you. But like I said to the Naval officer above, your low GPA will be a deal breaker for Harvard, Stanford and Wharton, and powerful combat deployments do not, without more, change the balance. And I suggest you format your combat experiences with suggestions above, ie. working with natives, leading different groups in different ways.

Also, if this report is an accurate reflection of your state of mind, you also need to start spinning this more and think about all the stuff you have done to help locals. A low GPA and a low GMAT is a tough nut to crack, so getting that GMAT score up will really help. If you have to take the exam five times, do it. This is not going to be a Harvard, Stanford, or Wharton admit. But guys like you are welcome at Duke, Darden, etc. Get a 680 GMAT and try those places. You’ll love it, and they’ll like you.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.