Can You Get Into HBS, Stanford, Wharton?

Mr. Impact Investor & Ms. Indian First Generation

(Engaged couple both applying to B-school)

Impact Investor


  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in electronics and communication engineering from a non-Indian Institute of Technology engineering college in India
  • 3.8 Graduate GPA
  • Masters degree in finance from a top Indian university
  • Work experience includes two years as an investment banking analyst at a bulge bracket Wall Street firm, a year in the development practice of a Big Four firm, and a year and one-half at the private investment arm of the World Bank
  • Lots of extracurricular involvement including leader of Cricket team
  • Won Best Research Project Award for a paper published in the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer journal.
  • 29 years old
  • Goal is to work in venture capital or private equity and to eventually start an “impact investment firm”

First Generation


  • 710 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business from a top Indian university
  • 4.0 Graduate GPA
  • Graduate degree in finance
  • Started and ran for two years a small venture creating accessories and gift items, employing women from marginalized communities
  • Currently working for three years at a leading global credit rating agency. Also working on firm’s strategy with the CEO.
  • Heavy extracurricular involvement, including founding member of an alumni advisory council
  • 24 years old
  • Goal to work in consulting before setting out on her own

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 60%

Stanford: 40% to 60%

Wharton: 60+%

MIT: 60+%

Chicago: 60+%

Kellogg: 60+%

Dartmouth: 60+%

Columbia: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Just in general, couples are not treated as packages, and a super strong partner cannot drag in a less attractive partner (from the school’s perspective), especially at Harvard, Stanford or Wharton.

The one big exception is the Wait List. If one of you is naturally in, and the other is on the WL, and it is about late June, what the hell, schools often say, “We may as well take the spouse versus any of the other single and uncommitted and callow clods on the WL. After all, who cares anyway and couples make the world go round.”

At schools outside of H/S/W this may vary a bit, and the magnetism of the stronger applicant can sometimes help the weaker one, especially if the weaker partner is not chopped liver to begin with. As to how being ‘partners’ or ‘significant others’ and not legally married impacts this, well, a bit, in some fuzzy way. To the extent you appear to be married in terms of duration, commitment, etc, and can demonstrate that, the better.

Being engaged, well, when is the marriage? Although I understand Indian couples don’t often run off to city hall.

As to Impact Investor, the future hubby, it’s sloppy but this is real strong based on super duper extras, World Bank branding (Is that your current gig? That’s important), research interests (not that schools care about research, and in some ways too much is a negative. If you sound like a Finance PhD or even Business PhD material, and you don’t want to sound like that, especially given the M.A. degree, so make sure that doesn’t happen). But in your case, the jobs and research bleach out the impact of lowish grades and non-IIT. World Bank experience and World Bank type goals are a real plus at H/S/W, especially in your case when coupled with bulge bracket experience in India.

This just all adds up to a smart, committed, impactful guy–and that story works at H/S/W if you execute correctly, which in your case means not sounding like a future PhD, and if you can get some semi big deal to back you. Age is maybe one or two years off, but they may blink at that.

As to First Generation, the future wife.

Okay, in general, credit rating gigs (Moody’s, S&P, and Fitch) are not considered selective jobs by H/S/W but are, similar to Big Four gigs, an acceptable place to find minorities or other off-the-grid stories. That being said, such jobs outside the U.S. held by internationals (both credit rating and Big Four) are considered more selective because, well, they are.

In your case, you are 1) International, 2) First gen college, 3) Have classy other jobs, even if odd in terms of timing, 4) Have a compelling do-gooder business stor, and 5) Lots of extras.  Plus the 4.0 GPA (twice) is the clincher. GMAT is fine, and a non-issue.

Lots to like. Applicants like you get into H/S/W, depending on execution, luck, and maybe having some big shot at the Credit Shop go to bat for you, which is possible since you appear to be working with the CEO. This just has the whiff of a winner. So chances are good at H/S/W (40% to 70%) and even higher at other places, but you will need to, especially at Tuck, Columbia, Booth and Kellogg, convince them you really want to come.

There maybe some synergy with your husband, since both stories dovetail a bit, in terms of lots of extras and social impact. An adcom might correctly get a vibe you two would be a real plus on campus. That could especially help at Tuck (which is friendly and couple-y) and MIT (which always needs high-performing non-nerds).

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