INSEAD | Ms. Social Business
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Hedge Funder
GMAT 790, GPA 3.82
Harvard | Mr. Fresh Perspective
GRE 318, GPA 3.0
USC Marshall | Mr. Supply Chain Guru
GMAT GMAT Waiver, GPA 2.6
London Business School | Mr. Engineering To IB
GMAT 770, GPA 3.43
London Business School | Ms. Private Equity Angel
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
London Business School | Mr. Soccer Club
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3 (85th Percentile), First Class Standing.
London Business School | Ms. Audit Meme
GMAT 710, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. Healthcare AI
GRE 366, GPA 3.91
Chicago Booth | Mr. Corp Dev
GMAT 730, GPA 3.34
Chicago Booth | Mr. Non-Profit Latino
GMAT 710, GPA 3.06
Harvard | Ms. Risk-Taker
GRE 310 (to retake), GPA 3 (recalculated)
HEC Paris | Ms. Freelancer
GMAT 710, GPA 5.3
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Harvard | Mr. Green Energy Revolution
GMAT 740, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. MPP/MBA
GRE 325, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Ms. Analytical Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Technopreneur
GRE 328, GPA 3.2
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
London Business School | Mr. College Dropout
Harvard | Mr. MBB Latino Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.75
Stanford GSB | Ms. Top Firm Consulting
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
INSEAD | Mr. Truth
GMAT 670, GPA 3.2
INSEAD | Mr. Powerlifting President
GMAT 750, GPA 8.1/10
Harvard | Mr. Mojo
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Ross | Mr. Law To MBA
GRE 321, GPA 3.77

Can You Get Into HBS, Stanford, Wharton?

Are these MBA applicants good enough for Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, or Wharton? Or for that matter, could they pass muster with Columbia, MIT, Chicago, or Kellogg?

Mr. Hollywood has been an Off-Broadway actor, a director and CEO of a film production company, even a personal trainer. He’s earned black belts and blue belts in the martial arts. As he himself puts it, “I have a strange path and am not sure if schools will laugh out loud, scratch their heads, or give someone like me a shot?”

Ms. Pink Collar is a public relations strategist for Wells Fargo Bank, but wants an MBA to escape the “pink ghetto.” She’s a regular volunteer for a non-profit that serves up meals and groceries to clients with HIV/AIDS.

Then, there is an engaged couple from India who want to enroll in a top MBA program together. He has a 720 GMAT and has worked as an investment banking analyst at a bulge bracket Wall Street firm. She has a 710 GMAT and works at a global credit ratings agency.

What these and other MBA candidates want to know is whether they have  a chance to get into a top business school. For the fifth consecutive week, we’re turning to Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru, to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

As he has in the past, Kreisberg handicaps each potential applicant’s odds of getting in. If you include your own stats and characteristics in the comments (please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience), we’ll pick a half dozen or more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature next week.

An important reminder, if not warning label: Reading a handful of stats and random attributes of a would-be MBA candidate is like reading tea leaves. There’s no science and a lot of art to this process. Without the benefit of having all the details of an applicant’s candidacy, it’s not possible to say with total certainty what the exact odds for any one person might be.

Nonetheless, Kreisberg’s judgments carry a lot of weight. Since becoming a full-time admissions consultant in 1995, he has seen and interviewed thousands of candidates who want to get into the very top schools. He knows who has made it and who hasn’t, and he’s willing to share that knowledge here.

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is take:

Mr. Hollywood


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.9 Grade point average
  • Undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania with major in psychology and English
  • 3.75 GPA
  • Graduate degree from the University of Southern California in cinematic arts
  • Work experience: Actors in off-Broadway productions and Hollywood; director and CEO of a film production company; personal trainer and therapist for at-risk patients
  • Extracurricular activities include mixed martial arts including a Kung Fu black belt and a Brazilian Jiu Jitsui blue belt
  • Runs a non-profit for the education of underprivileged youth
  • “This is a bizarre entry and I swear I’m serious and not being silly. I have a strange path and am not sure what schools will think. Would they laugh out loud, scratch their heads, or give someone like me a shot?”

Odds of Success

Harvard Business School: Less than 10%

Stanford: Less than 10%

Columbia: 40+%

NYU: 50%

Kellogg: Less than 40%

USC: Better than 60%

Berkeley: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: How old are you? B-schools take Hollywood types, even kids who have been living in the steerage decks of The Good Ship Indy- Productions, as you apparently have. They especially like kids with a 3.9 GPA from UPenn (you’ll always have that!). Schools also know what a no-name “film production company” means (nothing!) but will give you credit for getting a film made. Okay, that concludes the good news, except, sure, charity work is solid.

I’m impressed with all the martial arts, but personal trainer AND THERAPIST!!!! That is something you should leave out of this story, that is what buff guys do instead of becoming bums (and a much better choice it is! you might wind up the non-paying boyfriend of Sasha Grey in The Girlfriend Experience. If so, let me know, I’m a huge Sasha fan). So drop the personal trainer stuff and simplify: You went to Penn, you got a 3.95, you went to Hollywood and made a movie, and now you want an MBA to focus on new media, new ways of delivering stories, the intersection of X and Y, blah, blah, blah.

If you are not super weird or real old (over 32!) and shut-up about everything since your movie, and just pitch that story, well, this is not HBS or Stanford, although they take kids almost like you, except one standard deviation better in every way, viz.,  some work with real studios, or agencies, have better GMATs and some gold dust in terms of connections—in short your Hollywood Boulevard of Broken Dreams soundtrack with a slightly better script and some B-list stars.

So who will take you? On the Right Coast–maybe Columbia, or NYU, Duke, or Darden. Chances at those places are solid, if you execute cleanly and put your resume on a diet. On the Real Coast: not Stanford, but surely USC and Berkeley would be interested. And in flyover country, Kellogg, Chicago and Michigan (that media center) might bite with solid execution and a total hose down of your weirder elements.

Remember, you are normal, just like those hateful kids from Princeton who go to Hollywood and work for DreamWorks getting coffee, and then get into HBS (happens my friend, quite often, although they usually also got big GPA and GMATS, and a recommendation from someone most ordinary and star-struck peeps have heard of).

About The Author

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.