Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

She’s an award-winning teacher of literature at a top-tier university, but this 30-year-old professor wants to change careers. She’s hoping an MBA will help her transition into marketing for a non-profit organization.

She played the violin for her university’s symphony orchestra and was team captain of the varsity track and field team in her senior year. After a little more than three years working for a blue chip asset management company, this 25-year-old woman wants an MBA to help her become a portfolio manager.

This 26-year-old woman is a financial analyst for a large oil and gas equipment maker in Houston. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.59 grade point average, she’s expecting the MBA degree will position her for a strategy job at a Fortune 100 corporation.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

What these 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, 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. And for the very first time, all five MBA applicants profiled are women. Ranging in age from 24 to 30, they include an investment banker in Hong Kong, a manager for a non-profit, and as noted above, a financial analyst for an oil and gas equipment maker in Houston, a literature professor, and an investment analyst for a well-known asset management firm.

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 candid assessment:


Ms. Literary Professor

  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in English and Hispanic Studies from a top-tier university (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa)
  • Ph.D. in English from an elite research program
  • Work experience as an award-winning teacher of literature and writing at a top-tier university for the past four years; winner of several highly competitive research fellowships, extensive publishing record, extensive experience in public speaking
, Extracurricular activity includes a long record of volunteer work with nonprofit organizations
  • Fluent in Spanish
  • Goal: Looking to change careers and go into marketing for non-profits
  • 30-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 25% to 35%

Stanford: 10% to 30%

Wharton: 30% to 40%

Northwestern: 40% to 50%

Columbia: 30% to 40%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Yale: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Jeepers, try getting tenure someplace and then you can do whatever you want, including marketing for non-profits.  That would be my call, although my guess is, despite all the awards above, you are not on tenure track, which these days, in English, can be nearly non-existent.

I don’t think Harvard, Stanford of Wharton is going to buy this profile, with open arms, although if you have, as you say, “a long record of volunteer work with nonprofit orgs” that could help and that should be the basis of your application. (No news, but just saying).

A lot will depend on which organizations you work for and what roles you have played, and how serious you can leverage that into reasons for a career switch. You would really need to convince them that this is thought out, serious, and something you could do.

I might shift away from your goal of “marketing for non-profits,” to actually running a non-profit. Marketing sounds girly-girl for one, and is actually more technical and boring than you might think, e.g. figuring out mailings, arranging robo-calls (I get them all the time) and joint-campaigns with companies, not to mention search optimization, mobile strategy, and analytics of all kinds– and not what you may have been dreaming of, writing speeches for the CEO of the non-profit to give at the U.N. You also might be in charge of a Facebook page and Twitter campaign, which is not so exciting and has a good deal of technical, social media mojo aspects to it.

OK, if you know all that, and that is what you want to do, try to get that in your application as well, just to beat back the obvious picture we get here of some prof who is tired of teaching John Donne to idiots, or reading what the idiots say about him:  “I too believe, with John Donne,  that “no man is an Island,” even though I live on Manhattan, which IS an island (it does have bridges and tunnels to other places, however) and on Manhattan  everyone is connected, especially on Twitter and Facebook.  Donne could not have known about those devices and platforms since he lived and wrote before they were invented,  but still, what he said is true.  And let me add, if John Donne ever did have a Twitter account, I would love to join.  I think “Good Friday, 1613, Riding Westward” is a great tweet. (And you are thinking,  professor, ‘if only my kids were that smart, or knew the second poem.’)

Based on your obvious brains and talents and awards, and probably “Humanist” likeability, you might be able to sell some version of this to Kellogg, Columbia (less so), Tuck or Yale. Also try Booth: they got a soft spot for artistic types, despite the finance rep.

Those schools will also give you more room to expand on your motives than HBS in its current Two-Pic application, although  Dee Leopold (at HBS) is a real book and lit fan, but that may not  turn the trick for you, I fear. When she sits in her deciding chair, well, it ain’t all business, but it is a lot of business, and she’s only got 1000 spots to give away, or more likely, 20 spots to off-beat types like you.  Someone actually working full-time for a non-profit may beat you out.  On the other hand, you do seem like a smart, firecracker type, so you may get in as a wild card.  Age could be an issue there, but who knows.  A good word from someone at your “top tier” university could get you on her radar screen and your energy and brains might do the rest.

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