Handicapping Your Elite MBA Chances

She’s a 27-year-old woman with a passion for science, Now working in software quality assurance for Wells Fargo, she hopes an MBA degree will help her transition into the biotech industry.

With an impressive 760 GMAT and a 3.9 GPA in engineering from UCLA, this 25-year-old Hispanic male works for a top private equity shop. He believes an MBA degree will give him a head start as an entrepreneur in educational technology or gaming.

A former Teach for America teacher, she now works as an adventure travel guide. But with a 740 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average from a top public university, he’s planning to use the MBA to help him land a job with the likes of GE Healthcare or Medtronic.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these would-be MBA candidates 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.

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 assessment:

Ms. Biotech

  • 700+ GMAT (not yet taken)
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in biochemistry and cell biology from UC-San Diego
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Master’s in biology from UC-San Diego
  • Work experience includes time at a small biotech company after graduation, but contract ended due to economy crash in early 2009. Was unemployed for six months so enrolled in a teaching program. Have been with Wells Fargo since fall of 2009 in software quality assurance, first as contractor, then analyst and hired as a full-time employee a year later in midst of a hiring freeze
  • Extracurricular involvement as vice president of public relations for my sorority in my senior year and now on the communications committee for the young professional network for Wells Fargo
  • Goal: Want an MBA to increase my business knowledge so I can eventually get back into biotech on the business side
  • “My real interest there is business development focused on utilizing bioinformatics in the biotech industry”
  • 27-year-old white female with a passion for science

Odds of Success:
Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 10 to 15%
Wharton: 30% to 50%
MIT: 30% to 50%
Chicago: 40% to 60%
Berkeley: 30% to 50%
Columbia: 40% to 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: Phew, what we got here is a great beginning, a happy ending and a so-so middle.  To wit

  1. the beginning: 3.9 in Bio both B.A.  and M.A., a projected solid GMAT score, plus an excellent first job at biotech
  2. the happy ending:  as you put it,  “get back into biotech  . . . .My real interest there is business development focused on utilizing bioinformatics . .  . .”
  3. with a so-so middle:  the actual four years you spent at Wells Fargo doing software Quality Assurance, which is a real snooze area at top tech firms like Oracle and Microsoft, and at 2nd-tier banks approaches Rip Van Winkle territory in terms of sleepiness.

I would not overly worry about the six months you spent unemployed getting a teaching certificate. That could be spun as a positive, and there’s not much you can do while unemployed.  Also, not that much  looks good anyway, except maybe body building or working for an NGO, which makes you employed.

I would worry more about how come you never landed another job in Biotech and apparently stopped looking. On your resume alone it appears that you drank the Wells Fargo iced tea–it wasn’t even Kool-Aid, since they were not really promising you anything. You just felt comfortable getting approval, and having a job, and learning new things. Not perverse motives for staying by any means, but by that time the Biotech market had recovered. Adcoms may wonder why did not hustle to get a Biotech job instead of remaining comfortably numb at Wells Fargo. Especially in light of the fact you already had worked in Biotech.

On the plus side, you are a woman in science and that is a plus. Extra-currics are vanilla.

I’m not seeing this as Stanford. They just won’t buy your story and they can get their full of Biotech biz side people from blue chip Biotech companies.  They go to Wells Fargo QA for minority candidates, the same way they go to the Big 4. Plus a lack of extras won’t help there.  HBS is bigger and the “snow globe” you have created about your goals– bio-infomatics– would appeal to them, as would the woman in science shtick.  Hashing around  so-called Big Data is a real hotspot at HBS, see this recent article, How Will the “Age of Big Data” Affect Management?  in a recent HBS Working Knowledge.

 At other schools, you become competitive based on stats alone, assuming some kind of 720 GMAT, and just presenting yourself as someone interested in what they have to offer.  E.g. I’m sure MIT does bio-data in some way. You seem to be convincing in your profile note about your knowledge of the field and your burden in the application would be to sound very convincing about the field and its variants and how you fit in.