Do You Have The Right Stuff To Get In?

The first woman in her family to graduate from college, this 26-year-old works as a lending analyst at a large regional bank. She now wants to get an MBA to achieve an ambitious goal: to become the chief financial officer of a Fortune 500 company.

He’s a 32-year-old U.S. Army Captain currently deployed in Afghanistan as a planning officer. He hopes an MBA degree will help him transition into the private sector and a job in investment banking or sales and trading.

With undergraduate and master’s degrees in economics, this 26-year-old Indian woman now works in private banking at a U.S. bulge bracket firm. But her goal is to use the MBA to break into investment banking in Asia.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these MBA applicants share in common is the goal to get into one of the world’s best business schools. Do they have the raw stats and experience to get in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

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

In this column, the 24th edition of our highly popular handicapping series, Kreisberg is his usual witty and irreverent self. His blunt message to one applicant with visions of Harvard dancing in his head: “Your jobs are off the beaten path and your goals are too narrow…There is nothing driving you into the school in terms of stardust.”

To another applicant worried about how his undergraduate degree in history will play with MBA admission directors, Kreisberg advises that “business schools are probably the last bastions in America–aside from the corrupt and sincecured and  geriatric professoriate themselves–that still buy into the now desiccated wet dream that Liberal Arts is great preparation for a career in business.”

As usual, 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, we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature. (Please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience. Make sure you let us know your current job.)

Sandy’s honest and entertaining assessments:

Ms. CFO Wannabe

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.1 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance, marketing and international business from a Big 10 school
  • Work experience includes three years as a commercial lending analyst at large regional bank
  • Extracurricular involvement as a college athlete who spent a semester abroad; held lots of leadership positions and volunteer experience with boys and girls’ club-type programs teaching financial literacy
  • First in family to go to grad school and first woman to complete undergraduate degree
  • Goal: “Want an MBA to become CFO of a Fortune 500 company”
  • 26-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 15%
Chicago: 30-35%
Northwestern: 30-35%
Duke: 30-40%
NYU: 40+%
Berkeley: 25%

Sandy’s Analysis: Lots to like and your story all fits together which is a plus.  The low GPA and non-prestige job are your big drawbacks. Have you thought of what is called in this game, “developing an alternative transcript,” which usually means taking several courses at local colleges, either over the summer or at night. In a pinch, you could take these courses online, although IMHO online courses are not valued as much. People usually take ‘harder’ courses like stats, accounting, calculus, microeconomics, etc., and if you already took those, try the next level up. (You seem smart enough).

The idea is to show the schools that you are serious, so serious, you are willing to go through this hassle of taking those classes. Well, that would be the idea for you, since you have an anchor GMAT score.  For other applicants with both low GPA and low-ish GMAT scores, taking courses shows that you actually can do the work.  Even with an alternative transcript of some kind, I’d say you’d be a reach at Wharton. Too many applicants like you with better GPA, more elite schooling,  and better jobs with similar GMATs.

At Kellogg and Chicago, you could be in the hunt, since both of those places are open to your compelling personal story (athlete, extras, etc.) and your goals are a tight fit with your past. You might think about saying you are interested in regional banking as well, or just plain big banking. You have the background for it.   Tuck would be a good reach as well. You’re their type, totally.  As noted here before, you need to rush them like a Sorority: visit, make friends, etc. Duke, Darden (which you don’t mention) Cornell (also worth thinking about), NYU and Berkeley are worth applying to. An alternative transcript of two or four courses between now and when you apply would really help meet those places half-way.