Can You Get Into HBS, Stanford, Wharton?

Mr. Stuck in China (Jetlag)


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in international studies from “a good school—not an Ivy”
  • Managing a company’s mining and oil and gas operations in China for three years
  • Extracurricular activity includes work with a children’s education charity in China
  • Accepted into Southern Methodist University’s MBA program

Odds of Success

Harvard Business School: 20% or less

Stanford: 10% to 20%

Chicago:  40% to 50%

London Business School: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Lowish grades and marginal GMAT (for HBS and Stanford), no prestige schooling or work, unclear selectivity about work (my opinion could change if job were better described and I had some idea about how hard it was to get your job, and what history, if any, that company has for sending kids to B-school). Extracurricular stuff is okay, but we don’t know level of involvement. I hope your application is better executed than this summary of your story.

Sooooo, on the facts given, there’s nothing driving you into Harvard or Stanford. Chicago sometimes goes for guys like you, if the job and extras and goals are all optimized. London Business School might think you solid, and a useful node in China, as might other schools. So give yourself some points for that. The nature of your job and employer could make a big difference—or not.

Mr. Civilian


  • 680 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a top private university
  • 3.6 Graduate GPA
  • Graduate degree from same school in finance
  • Has been negotiating multi-million dollar defense contracts for the U.S. Department of Defense for two-plus years, with significant leadership experience
  • Extracurricular activity involves leadership role in alumni organization and a volunteer at the National Gallery of Art and a local community center

Odds of Success:

Dartmouth: Less than 50%

Columbia: Less than 50%

Kellogg: 50%

Darden: 50+%

Duke: 50+%

Michigan: 50+%

NYU: 50% to 60%

Georgetown: 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: This is all of a piece, with sorta okay school, but not Ivy or public Ivy, or apparently Williams (sorry if I am wrong because “top private university” can mean a lot of things), lowish GMAT and GPA, and a job which sounds on the low side of a good job–once again, issue is, how selective is that gig?

A good version of that same job, I think, is the Rotational Leadership Program at a major defense contractor: to wit, Raytheon, Lockheed, which are often big league gateways to eager beaver kids from second-tier colleges. Not sure if the Pentagon is exactly in that ring or next one out.  Columbia is a good reach for you so I would try to apply early decision, but you will need to get a bit lucky. Your GPA and GMAT are just one standard deviation off for them (like I know what that means, but you get the idea), and this is not reading like a New York story. I’d say your chances at Kellogg are 30 to 50 percent, if you execute well, and sound Kellogg-y (which you do! given extras, and rah-rah Bowdoin/Bates/Scripps type college); Darden/Duke, hmmm you are on younger side there, if indeed you are two years out of college, but it all adds up; Michigan maybe; Georgetown takes kids like you; Tuck, see notes on “one standard deviation” off.


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