Dream Schools: Handicapping Odds

He’s a failed Internet startup guy, an international traveler and a self-taught computer programmer. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.8 grade point average, he wants to know if he has the right stuff to get into Harvard, MIT Sloan, Tuck and a few other exceptional business schools.

She’s a marketing consultant and “half minority” with an impressive 760 GMAT. But she wonders if her underwhelming GPA of 2.5 is a “non-starter” that will keep her out of a top school.

He’s a sky-diving, snow-boarding certified public accountant who claims that he doesn’t fit the stereotype of a “desk-ridden bean counter.” With a 720 GMAT and a 3.2 GPA, he wants what his chances are at Berkeley, Yale and Duke.

We’re turning to Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

This is a “best of” edition of our popular MBA handicapping series. After analyzing candidates for ten consecutive weeks, Sandy has taken the week off to focus exclusively on his admission business. With the round one deadlines fast approaching, he finds himself busier than ever. But he’ll be back next week with a new cast of applicant characters.

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 future follow-up stories.

Sandy’s assessment:

Mr. Internet Startup

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.8 GPA
  • Earned a joint BS/MA degree in applied economics from a 50ish ranked private university
  • 26 years old
  • Built, launched and ran a web startup that ultimately failed
  • Writing has been published by The New York Times
  • International traveler who is also a self-taught computer programmer
  • Extracurriculars include volunteer experience and soccer and rugby player

Odds of success:

Harvard Business School: Less than 30%

Stanford: Less than 30%

Wharton: 40%

MIT Sloan: 50%

Dartmouth: 50%

Columbia: 60% if early admission

Sandy’s Analysis: You are a good example of a guy with a lot of impressive stuff that weighs more in the real world than it does on planet admissions (which is sorta like the moon in some cases, with its own gravity field). A 3.8 GPA and a 720 GMAT are totally fine, as is quant background. Spending four years with a web startup is something schools will pay lip service to, but at bottom, they would prefer that you either worked for Google or founded Groupon, never got an MBA, and gave them a building in 30 years.

There is not much in between. Ditto on your writing published in The New York Times. I am impressed but schools don’t care all that much since it does fit in their wheelhouse. (And the record of journos who do attend business school is mixed: they often write tell-alls which have been done already).

Why do you want an MBA? That will be key. This ain’t smelling like a H/S/W admit, although maybe Wharton. You should try Sloan, which nominally says they like entrepreneurs. I have my doubts about how many kids they admit with only entrepreneurship experience (Rod Garcia–the MIT Adcom head—if you are reading this, please check in and tell us).

The trouble with you from the school’s POV is that you are too self-taught and that seems to be your preferred model. You need to explain why you need an MBA and MBA training.

This is like that Eagles song Desperado. That has been your M.O. and now it is time to explain why you have come to your senses.


Desperado, why don’t you come to your senses?

You been out ridin’ fences for so long now.

Oh, you’re a hard oneI know that you got your reasons

These things that are pleasin’ you

Can hurt you somehow

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