Handicapping Your Odds Of Acceptance

Mr. Military

  • 630 GMAT (second time, raised score from 500)
  • 3.43 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of New Mexico
  • Work experience includes six years as a captain in the Marine Corps; managed 200 personnel and $5 million of equipment; supervised a 39-man section and 50 Iraqi security personnel to provide protection and rebuild schools; also two years as an analytical chemist for a biotech company in San Diego
  • Extracurricular involvement on the masters swim team, secretary of the American Chemical Society, three weeks building homes for underprivileged families in Mexico
  • 32-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10%

Stanford: 10%

Dartmouth: 20+%

Chicago: 20+%

Wharton: 20%

Duke: 30-50+%

NYU: 25%

UCLA: 25%


If so, your chances are probably better than if you had spent six years in the military and then got a two-year chemistry gig at a biotech Company since your military experience is varied, impressive and full of leadership, business-type stuff, and consulting, even by military standards.

Schools are willing to blink at age for military applicants, and especially applicants, typically pilots, who are required to commit for eight+ years as part of the training.

If you left the military, got the job as a chemist with the biotech company, and now, two years later, have come to a B-school moment, that is probably less attractive, and schools might suggest you look into part-time or EMBA programs.

As noted many times, the dirty little secret with HBS (and Stanford) and the military is the surprising importance of the GPA (and also, a bit, the GMAT. Even years and many foreign scrapes later, the GPA still counts, and Harvard and Stanford (and other schools as well) trust it as a filter because they have a lot of experience with GPA and also much semi-bogus statistics.

Your GPA is a little low, and your current GMAT is way low. So Mission #1 for you is getting the GMAT to 680, or ideally 700, if you can. (Take it five times, no one cares, they just want to see the score.)  You’re a great guy with some dense and rich experience, but that will not overcome a low-ish GPA and a low GMAT.

I’m not seeing this as HBS or Stanford. There are just too many dents in the profile, e.g. age, lowish metrics, odd work stuff, whatever you are doing currently. H and S like military guys who are 1. service academy or ROTC and 2.  who do their five-year gig, and who move on to B-school.

Your best chance on the medal stand is Wharton, which is real partial to military guys, even older ones, but Wharton is also the most GMAT focused of H/S/W, so you really need to jack up that score, if possible.

Tuck likes older guys as well, and you seem, at a quick look (which is often correct) to be their type: earnest, athletic, community-minded. Booth is a possibility as are other schools ranked third to tenth on PoetsandQuants because of reasons already stated. The classic schools for older, military applicants are Duke and Darden, and you would fit in very well there as well, so check ‘em out.

If you are working for a biotech company now, sure, get that into your Goals/Mission/Why this school statement following advice to Marine Biologist in profile above. Biotech is sexy, but it not going to seduce HBS or Stanford in light of the irregularities of GPA, age, and military+job already vs. just military.

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