What Are Your Odds Of Getting In?


Mr. Lighting

  • 700 GMAT (Q: 45%, V: 40%)
  • 3.45 GPA (3.9 in final two years)
  • Undergraduate degree in economics and psychology from a state university in the Northeast
  • Work experience includes four years in sales marketing, two as a regional specification sales manager for a global leader in lighting and two as a marketing manager for a $1.2 billion Indian company with no brand recognition in the U.S.
  • Extracurricular involvement as the founder of a non-profit focused on education and child development; a Big Brother and a partner in a social media website
  • Goal: “I’m an entrepreneurship at heart, so I am always pursuing various interests and passions.”
  • Long-term goal: To start my own company or become the CEO of a Fortune 500 company
  • Concerns:
”GMAT & GPA seem to low, given that I am not the typical Ivy league applicant, and I don’t think my occupation is spectacular”
  • 25-year-old Asian American male

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 30% to 50%
Chicago: 30% to 50%
Harvard: 10% to 20%
Wharton: 20% to 30%
Columbia: 30% to 50% (if early decision)
Berkeley: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Some of your worries are correct, and some are not and some are not worries per se, but just elements in play. A 3.45/700 GMAT from a Tier 2.5 State School plus real on-the-road sales experience  (of lighting stuff as a regional manager vs. selling ad words for Google) and current job as marketing manager for huge, but no-name Indian firm, well all that  is a Camry not a Lexus profile for HBS and Wharton.

I think you will have a hard time there because too much of your story is on the margin.  The same schooling with a 3.9 and a 740, and the same jobs, except 2nd job is with Blue Chip company which sells something we all know (Pepsi, Dell Computers, oil tankers) would put you in the running. But too many things are just a bit off.  Your rising grades will help a bit (3.9 in final two years) but as noted, GPA is, in part,  a “beauty” contest, so final number is what gets reported to magazines and rating sites, although, sure, if a school really likes you, they will recognize the trend and blink a bit.

You’re an example of someone who probably has more on-the-ground business experience in sales and project management than 90% of most admits at top 10 schools, but in the wacky world of business school admissions, that somehow does not count as much as someone who was pushing papers and building models at selective prestige companies.

I’m not seeing this as HBS and probably not Wharton for all those reasons. Your best shot at the ‘gold’ is Columbia Early Decision, which I super recommend you do. That will be close but it could happen. Kellogg and Booth admit and ding guys like you based on execution, luck, recommendations and more luck.

Your many extracurrics will be a plus, if properly executed. Also try to get recommendations from guys in your current no-name but big company with MBAs, if possible. That could help, and be sure to explain size of company on resume, in terms of sales, number of employees, etc. Even though the internal application usually asks for that, put it on the resume as well.  I would downplay the entrepreneur angle from your profile. Despite all the buzz that term is getting these days, schools are not really looking for declared entrepreneurs, or if they are, only in discrete numbers (and from applicants with documented success at starting companies), despite whatever BS they may put out for public consumption.

Your fledging internet start-ups are worth noting but stick to saying you want to use your great track record in sales and project management as a foundation to transition to an impactful, leadership role in brand management/marketing,  either for a Fortune 500 company or a smaller consulting shop.