Your Chances of Getting In

Ms. Biz Journalista

  • 670 GMAT
  • 3.3 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in journalism
  • 3.9 GPA Graduate
  • Graduate degree from a university in Europe in international communication
  • Work experience as a business journalist at large for magazines and newspapers in New York and as a brand consultant abroad for three years
  • Extracurricular involvement in corporate affinity groups, ethnic identity organizations, volunteer mission trips to Africa and India
  • Has also tutored high school students
  • Minority female (does that add points?)

Odds of Success
Harvard Business School: Less than 20%
Stanford: Less than 20%
Wharton: Less than 30%
Columbia: 40% to 50%
Chicago: 50%
Kellogg: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmmmmm. Deeply mixed bag here. A low undergrad GPA is, like the poor, always with us. The grad school GPA doesn’t entirely cure that because most schools know that grad school grades are mostly As and B+s. And your majors, journalism and communications, are not known to be ultra demanding in the grading department. Grad school grades could help if you took rock solid stuff like stats, micro econ, etc. But my guess is that did not happen.

GMAT is low-ish for schools you are targeting, and career, at six years, is getting long in the tooth. Harvard, Stanford and Wharton like journos who get ultra selective jobs at The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist, etc. But those kids already went to Ivies and schmoozed their way into those jobs. So it becomes self-fulfilling. In your case, it will depend on which publications you worked for exactly, what your title was, and what you wrote. Had this story stopped right there, you would have been much stronger. But another three years as a brand consultant, abroad, is a demotion in the eyes of top schools. It makes it seem like a larky trip abroad, after getting tired of journalism, and six years of work experience, or maybe seven at matriculation which is getting real, real close to an Executive MBA.

I don’t see this as an HBS or Stanford admit, quite frankly. Yes, being a minority female is a real plus and so are your extracurriculars–but your low grades, odd career stuff, lack of a clear direction, and your near geezer status, makes you a long shot. Your Wharton chances are 30 to 40 percent, depending on execution. They won’t mind age so much, but you are asking them to blink twice, on the GPA and again for the GMAT. Wharton might harbor real questions about whether you could, in fact, keep up with the quant workload. Chicago and Kellogg are open to applicants like you—with interesting career and diversity stories. But you will need to put the whole package together, including how this story fits into the need for an MBA. You are looking like some early-onset career burn out candidates and your application has to reverse that.

Here is some real tough love: Retake the GMAT as many times as you can stomach and get that score up a bit.

The Third Kind of Indian Brother (iit grad)

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.2 GPA (in U.S. terms)
  • Undergraduate degree from the Indian Institute of Technology
  • Work experience at near Ivy management consulting firm
  • Extracurricular involvement includes student president and festival convener

Odds of Success
Harvard Business School: Less than 30%
Stanford: Less than 20%
Wharton: 30%
Dartmouth: 40% to 50%
Chicago: 50% to 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: First off, IIT grades do not translate fairly into GPA by some formulas. IIT kids really need to stress class standing, especially if you are in the top 10 percent of your class. Always report that along with your grades. Schools say they are aware of this, but who knows. Some schools just blindly follow the formulas of agencies, which claim to be specialists in translating international grades. Those places often strike me as the 300-pound ladies on the sex chat lines. Who knows who is whispering into Dee Leopold’s ear that your U.S. GPA is 3.5? A world expert or the next contestant on Slumdog Millionnaire?? To the extent anyone reading this has experience with those agencies, please post in. That is a worthy topic of discussion.

All that said, IIT males (versus females which is quite rare) with low grades and non-McKinsey/Bain/BCG/Monitor consulting gigs who do not have some ace current extracurriculars serving victims, etc., as a rule do not get into Harvard or Stanford. Wharton takes guys like you, depending on your age, execution, and luck. And your chances down the totem pole of business schools go up.

Your college extras are fine to me, but schools will give you less credit unless you were doing something like helping poor people and victims. I don’t know what ‘fest convener’ is, but it doesn’t sound like working in a leper colony or even helping poor kids learn math. Chances at Wharton, Tuck and Booth are solid depending on execution.