Handicapping Your MBA Odds

An avid reader and blogger, she’s a rising senior at a second-tier private school. Although she has scored up to a 740 on a GMAT practice test, her grade point average is just 3.0. But her goal is to get into Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program.

Applying to Harvard and Stanford with a 690 GMAT and Ivy League degrees in engineering, he was dinged last year but wants to reapply. This 29-year-old venture capitalist  hopes the degree will help him achieve his goal to lead a technology startup in
Silicon Valley or New York.

She’s a consultant with Deloitte, working with health care and media clients. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.55 GPA, this 25-year-old wants an MBA to help her employer to grow its West Coast emerging markets practice.

Sandy Kreisberg, HBS Guru, in Harvard Square

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 here again to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics with Poets&Quants.

Back from vacation, 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 tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

Ms. Average Undergrad

  • 700 to 740 GMAT (practice test)
  • 3.0 GPA
  • “I know it’s low but it got better as I matured – Starting with a 2.0 freshman year, 3.0
 sophomore year, and 4.0 junior year. I hope to get a 4.0 my senior year as well but this will not factor in before I apply”
  • Rising college senior in international business at a second- or third-tier private school
  • Work experience includes an internship at Stifel Nicolaus during school year
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, president and founder of the school’s marketing/admissions club with more than 40 members
  • Avid reader and blogger whose posts on such authors as Ayn Rand, James Joyce and John Milton showcase “my intellectual and also my fun side”
  • “I love the world of business and want to continue learning and leading”
  • Female born in the U.S. but also a citizen of Algeria

Odds of Success:

Harvard 2+2: -10%


Wharton: 10%

Yale: 10% to 20%

Sandy’s Analysis:  Lots to like in general but after the smoke clears, getting in to 2+2, or any deferred program,  is going to be real, real hard.  Despite the hoopla those programs want to see one thing, a high GPA.   Having an upward trend is commendable, and getting a 4.0 next year will help, and you should do that anyway, for later,  but it would take more than you are offering to overcome the bad start, you would need some adversity story combined with a knockout set of extras which have real impact on others.

Being president of the marketing club is not going to turn the tide, and marketing is often deemed, sub silento, a collecting place for literary types such as yourself, both at school and in real life. Although in real life, and increasingly so, marketing is becoming very quanty. And while I might enjoy your blog, as a rule, adcoms don’t read blogs, which on balance, is good for applicants, since the description of the blog is often more powerful than the actual thing.

Also, and I mean this in all seriousness, you say you are an “avid reader.”  Hmmmm,  being an avid reader, and not having any actual business experience, can be a raise issues. The bookworm/marketing club axis with no work experience can be misinterpreted as some Walter Mitty fantasy (you know who he is, but non avid book readers might go here).

Dee Leopold, the adcom head at HBS, is an avid reader, and if you got a 2+2 interview with her—preceded by  a 3.9 and two biomed or even IB summer gigs — well your avid reading might pay off in some marginal way, assuming you did OK on the more substantive parts of the interview (such as “What did you think of your biomed internship and what would you suggest in an exit interview to improve it?”).

Sorry if this is harsh, but you may need a wake-up call. You have a lot of energy, humor, and latent smarts. The best thing you can do, if you are really interested in a business career, is to get a marketing job after college, do really well, get a better job after that (more selective and at a better brand) and apply in three to four years. You will probably have a way better idea of what you want to do at that point anyway and you will be able to max out your two years at B- school.

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