Predicting Your Odds Of Getting In

After six years as a player in the National Football League (NFL), he’s thinking about stepping away from the game and taking the next step in his life. But he wonders if his ambition to get an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is entirely realistic.

He’s a 29-year-old high school math teacher at an urban public school. With a 650 GMAT and a 3.4 grade point average, he hopes to get into a top business school to eventually pursue his highly ambitious long-term goal: to become Secretary of Education.

She’s a self-described 23-year-old sassy black woman, a U.S. immigrant from West Africa, who has overcome all kinds of adversity, from plane crashes and civil unrest to bombings and jobless parents. A volunteer for a corporate social responsibility initiative in Niger, she expects the MBA will help her achieve her objective of creating jobs in Africa.

What all of them share in common is the goal to get into one of the world’s best business schools and graduate with an MBA degree. Do they have the raw stats and experience to get an invite? Or are they likely to end up in a reject pile?

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru, is back again 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 into a top-ranked business school. 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 few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature next week.

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

Mr. Football

  • 700+ GMAT (studying now and hopes to land a 700+)
  • 3.9 Grade Point Average
  • Undergraduate degree in business management with a minor in accounting
  • Work experience includes six years of playing in the NFL. He and his wife have also started a small business—women’s fitness studio–that has been up and running for 18 months. “I feel my work experience has taught me a lot about leadership and teamwork.”
  • Extracurricular activity focused on football
  • Goals: “Ultimately I am not sure what exactly I want to do post MBA. Does this hurt me? I have an idea based on what interests me now but will be open-minded as I go through grad school. But I feel an MBA is a great way to bridge the gap between football and the real world.
  • Concerns: “Because of the timing with deadlines and our current season, I will be forced to apply to round three for all my schools. Does this eliminate my chances of getting into a Top 10 program?  I have my eyes set on Stanford but would love to know if this is realistic.”

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 50%+
Harvard: 50%+
Wharton: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, a 3.9 and an NFL career, and any kind of ~700 GMAT would put you in solid contention for Stanford and HBS and Wharton, even in the third round.

Schools love stories like yours since it supports the myth of their own diversity and openness to any background. Plus the solid stats make it risk free for them. Also, many adcoms are jock sniffers, although I am not drawing any straight or dotted lines to the peeps at H/S/W.

As to goals, just say you are interested in leadership, and that could be in sports or business. You want to have an impact: create opportunities for others. Stanford, or Wharton or HBS will help you become a general manager (that is key term) and also help you learn different leadership styles. The fact that you have started a small business is not as critical as you think, although sure you can mention it.

It might help to locate role models with athletic backgrounds who have become business leaders, although not many come to mind. Maybe our readers can help. Wikipedia says that Greg Comella, an NFL veteran, studied for an MBA at HBS, not clear if he graduated or what he is doing.

See this story, “For Pro Athletes, Business School Is No Game,” for a 2009 take about why B-schools like athletes in general, and why a lot of pro athletes go broke, and a part-time program for NFL players at several business schools (mostly involved in money management), but less helpful on identifying full-time pro athletes who have gone on for an MBA.

But you don’t need to find athletes with MBA’s per se, you just need to find athletes who have used their leadership and team skills to become successful in business and say that is what you want to do.  You’d be a natural to start as a consultant and then join a growing or established company as one path, or use that base to start your own firm.

Oddly, The Harvard Crimson yesterday (Nov. 3) has a story about Clifton Dawson, an NFL veteran (Colts, Bengals and Houston Texans) who is now at HBS. The full story is worth a look. He is majoring in general management, and he also coached his section in flag football. You might drop him a line.

As to the third round, don’t sweat it, dude. If you got a 3.9 and an NFL career and a ~700 GMAT, you chances of getting in are real, real solid.

They will find a place for you in Round Three.