Berkeley Haas | Mr. Looking To Learn
GMAT 760, GPA 3.0
McCombs School of Business | Ms. Second Chances
GRE 310, GPA 2.5
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Account Executive
GMAT 560, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Social Impact CPA
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Future Gates Foundation
GMAT 720, GPA 7.92
Wharton | Mr. Infrastructure
GMAT 770, GPA 3.05
MIT Sloan | Mr. Data Mastermind
GMAT N/A; will be taking in May, GPA 3.6
USC Marshall | Mr. Utilitarian Mobility
GMAT 740, GPA 2.67
London Business School | Mr. Aussie Analyst
GMAT 680, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Sustainable Real Estate
GRE SAT 1950 (90th Percentile), GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Entrepreneurial Bassist
GMAT 740, GPA 3.61
Cornell Johnson | Mr. IT To IB
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Harvard | Ms. Lucky Charm
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Tuck | Ms. Green Biz
GRE 326, GPA 3.15
Harvard | Ms. URM
GRE 325, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Mr. Stay Involved
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Green Business
GMAT 680, GPA 3.33; 3.9 for Masters
NYU Stern | Mr. Military Officer
GRE In Progress, GPA 2.88
Kellogg | Mr. Real Estate Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Education
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Emory Goizueta | Mr. Multimedia
GRE 308, GPA 3.4
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Commercial Banker
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Fanatic
GMAT 770, GPA 3.46
Harvard | Mr. Sovereign Wealth Fund
GMAT 730, GPA 3.55

Handicapping Your B-School Odds

Mr. Blue Chip

  • 570 GMAT (practice exam)
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from a no-name state school
  • Work experience includes two and one-half years in a finance/accounting job at a major blue chip company and then a leap to another blue chip high on the Fortune list in a job with greater responsibility
  • Extracurricular involvement includes various volunteering activities.
  • “I do have some good leadership experience, but some of it is politically charged and highly controversial and I’m not sure whether I should risk mentioning it.”
  • Career Goals: Upper management role in a blue chip firm. “My real goal is entrepreneurship and I have some action there, but if B-Schools despise entrepreneurs who “think big” and may, as a result, become “rich,” then I guess people will be incentivized to hide that aspect of their personalities.”
  • Plan to matriculate at age 27 or 28. I would feel more ready if I could matriculate at 28, but I’m worried about age
  • First in family to go to college from an extremely poor background

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 25%+

Stanford: 20%+

Wharton: 25%+

MIT Sloan: 20%

Chicago Booth: 40%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Get the chip of your shoulder about schools disliking success and entrepreneurs and stop being paranoid about “politically charged” volunteer work, assuming it is not anti-gay rights, anti-choice (closer one, but downplay) or anti-immigrant. Dunno what I’d say if you were Tea Party honcho. That could be close and require special treatment. I probably would not mention Tea Party by name but just say you are an  activist for limited government.

On the bright side, you got a lot going for you, including a 3.9 at a non-name school, poverty, first in family to go to college and a couple of blue chip jobs. High GPA from a no-where school and Blue Chip work experience is usually a great formula to get into top schools. Just try to get some kinda 650 GMAT.

The fact that you got 3.9 as Econ major will go a long way in giving schools assurance that you can hack B-school math.  As to goals: YES, stick with wanting to be a leader in a Blue Chip firm and do not, out of the blue, say you want to be an entrepreneur. That does just not compute and anyone can say that. You could also say, in the proper application lingo, that you want to lead a ‘growing’ or ‘innovative’ firm or make some Blue Chip firm more so.

I don’t think it makes a big difference if you matriculate at 27 or 28, although 27 is probably better. But if you say you want to be a management consultant or join some Fortune 100 leadership program after earning your MBA, most schools will see that as plausible even if you are 31 at graduation.

Guys like you, with real victim and sob stories and full backing of firm, get into Stanford with a ~700 GMAT. HBS takes dudes like you, if you execute properly. MIT cares the least for sob stories, and the GMAT really counts over there, so chances are the least there, oddly.  Wharton would like a 680. Best chance with a 650 would be HBS, strange to say. You don’t need to push any envelopes on the application, just take a regular-sized envelope and address it very clearly.

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.