Stanford GSB | Mr. Financial Controller
GRE Yet to Take, Target is ~330, GPA 2.5
Kellogg | Mr. Texan Adventurer
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Tuck | Mr. Metamorphosis
GRE 324, GPA 3.15
Stanford GSB | Ms. Retail Innovator
GMAT 750, GPA 3.84
MIT Sloan | Mr. Unicorn Strategy
GMAT 740 (estimated), GPA 3.7
Darden | Ms. Teaching-To-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.47
Cambridge Judge | Mr. Nuclear Manager
GMAT 700, GPA 2.4
London Business School | Ms. Aussie Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Kellogg | Mr. Geography Techie
GMAT 740, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Aussie Sustainability
GMAT 650 (retaking to boost chances), GPA 4
Wharton | Mr. Food & Beverage
GMAT 720, GPA 3.75
Stanford GSB | Just Jim
GRE 335, GPA 3.99
London Business School | Mr. Impact Financier
GMAT 750, GPA 7.35/10
Kellogg | Mr. Sales Engineer
GMAT 740, GPA 3.00
Columbia | Ms. Mechanical Engineer
GMAT 610, GPA 3.72
Georgetown McDonough | Ms. CRA11
GMAT 720, GPA 3.61
Harvard | Mr. Impact Investment
GMAT 760, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Private Equity
GMAT 750, GPA 3.8
Columbia | Mr. Worker Bee
GMAT 710, GPA 3.56
Columbia | Mr. Alien
GMAT 700, GPA 3.83
Columbia | Mr. MD
GMAT 630, GPA 3.24
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Digital Marketing Analyst
GMAT 710, GPA 3.27
Harvard | Mr. AI in Asia
GMAT 760, GPA 3.25
IMD | Mr. Future Large Corp
GMAT 720, GPA 3.0
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Career Coach
GRE 292, GPA 3.468
Marshall School of Business | Mr. Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
NYU Stern | Mr. Long Shot
GRE 303, GPA 2.75

Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Mr. Congress

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.56 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Midwestern “Ivy”
  • Work experience includes three years as a Congressional staffer handling finance and commerce policy issues and two years as a junior level campaign staffer
  • Extracurricular involvement as a leader in professional development organizations and student government
  • “I have an understanding of the regulatory side of finance and business, and I want to get private sector experience to get a real understanding of how finance and business work (thinking specifically corporate finance or consulting). I believe an MBA would help me make that jump…I might consider a joint public policy degree. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts of my odds on getting into a top-tier MBA program and a joint MPP program.”
  • 27-year-old male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%

Stanford: 20%

Yale: 50+%

MIT: 40%

Northwestern: 40% to 50%

Chicago: 40% to 50%

Wharton: 30% to 40%

Columbia: 40%

NYU: 40% to 50%

Virginia: 50+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, you won’t have any trouble getting into Public Policy schools, which are not so hard to get into the first place, and you sure got the resume. Your solid GMAT and GPA scores could make you a contender at top B-schools if you can formulate a less dizzy and more savvy goal statement than the one you list above, “I want to get private sector experience to get a real understanding of how finance and business work (thinking specifically corporate finance or consulting)” which makes it sound like you are taking adult ed courses instead of being focused on an actual career.

This is a delicate area, but when it comes to goals, you need to propose some plausible and “considered” plan, even if it means faking it a bit. You can say you are interested in the “intersection” (great word, adcoms love that) of finance and government and your career could include consulting, corporate finance for companies with heavy government interaction, and possibly running for office.

You admire dudes like X, Y, and Z who have done blah, blah (ahem, Jon Corzine, just kidding) and you want to use them as a role models. Your ability to get into Harvard and Stanford will turn in part on getting some big shot in Washington to really back you, possibly with a phone call. Of course, who is an effective big shot is an interesting question. I know of cases where applicants had second-tier cabinet officials (viz. the actual secretary but not of, e.g., Treasury) make a call, and nada. Ditto for actual Congress-peeps, but in other cases that did work.

One of the problems schools have with “political” types like you is that they have no way to compare them to the cohort of political types, and as we know, Congress itself runs the gamut from near-genius types to many dunderheads, and I imagine staffers are the same. Thus, the “quality” of your recommenders, and their willingness to walk the extra mile for you, become a kind of crude proxy for where you are in the staffer cohort. Your committee, Finance and Commerce, sounds like one of the more serious ones (I’m no expert, but neither are most adcoms) so that is a plus. So, get your goals real clear, and your bosses real hyped-up to help you.

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.