Kellogg | Mr. Chief Product Officer
GMAT 740, GPA 77.53% (First Class with Distinction, Dean's List Candidate)
Harvard | Mr. Political Consultant
GRE 337, GPA 3.85
MIT Sloan | Mr. Refinery Engineer
GMAT 700- will retake, GPA 3.87
Said Business School | Mr. Across The Pond
GMAT 680, GPA 2.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Singing Banking Lawyer
GMAT 720, GPA 110-point scale. Got 110/110 with honors
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Corp Finance
GMAT 740, GPA 3.75
Kellogg | Mr. Marketing Maven
GRE 325, GPA 7.6/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Vroom Vroom
GMAT 760, GPA 2.88
MIT Sloan | Mr. Low GPA Over Achiever
GMAT 700, GPA 2.5
N U Singapore | Ms. Biomanager
GMAT 520, GPA 2.8
Yale | Mr. Army Infantry Officer
GMAT 730, GPA 2.83
Berkeley Haas | Ms. 10 Years Experience
GMAT To be taken, GPA 3.1
Yale | Ms. Social Impact AKS
GRE 315, GPA 7.56
Wharton | Mr. Army & Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 360 Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Improve Healthcare
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Wake Up & Grind
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Darden | Mr. Fintech Nerd
GMAT 740, GPA 7.7/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Minority Champ
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Darden | Mr. Senior Energy Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 2.5
Harvard | Mr. Merchant Of Debt
GMAT 760, GPA 3.5 / 4.0 in Master 1 / 4.0 in Master 2
Stanford GSB | Mr. Indian Telecom ENG
GRE 340, GPA 3.56
Stanford GSB | Ms. East Africa Specialist
GMAT 690, GPA 3.34
Harvard | Mr. Nonprofit Social Entrepreneur
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Ms. Start-Up Entrepreneur
GRE 318 current; 324 intended, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Health Care Executive
GMAT 690, GPA 3.3

Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Mr. State Department

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.079 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics and political science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst
  • Work experience includes four years at the U.S. Department of State, as an economic officer on the Pakistan Desk and economic sanctions office, congressional advisor on Afghanistan and Pakistan issues, and also a one-year assignment in Afghanistan at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul
  • Goal: To work in the private sector (maybe the energy sector), and then return to the government to work on pressing foreign policy issues, such as energy security, climate change, and economic/trade relations
  • ”First in my family to graduate from high school and college”
  • 27-year-old Vietnamese-American male

Odds of Success:

Wharton (Lauder program): 20% to 30%

Harvard: 20%

Northwestern: 30% to 40%

Berkeley: 30% to 35%

Columbia: 30%

New York: 20% to 30%

Yale: 40%

Michigan: 40%

Virginia: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: I suppose I’m not the first to suggest this, but have you thought about an MPP (government school jive) instead? Those programs are 1. More natural to your background, and 2. Easier to get into (as a rule) and 3. Often send kids to the private sector, so much so that a few years ago there was some rumble at the Princeton Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy  and International Affairs  over the fact that most of their graduates were going into the private sector instead of government—  that was during a Wall Street  boom but you get the idea.  Also,  your stated goal is  to return to government, which is kind of tipping your hand as to where your real passion is. I might tamp that aspect down, to be frank, if you persist in your quest for an MBA.

As to chances, what we got is a low GPA and a 2nd-Tier school (U Mass –Amherst is deeply considered 2nd –Tier at HBS because all the local coverage for the past 20 years has been lousy in various ways, however you may escape that broad brush given your Vietnamese background and  first gen college, etc.  since U Mass is a gateway school for first gen college kids) on the downside,  and a really solid diplomatic career plus a 720 GMAT.    That does not add up to HBS because of low stats, lack of pedigree and no compelling reason for the MBA, even though your diplomatic career sounds exemplary.

I also think Wharton-Lauder will be a reach for same reasons, and I’m not sure via your own explanation of short-term goals, which is to work in private sector, you are even a Lauder target applicant, since those kids often want to work abroad, although you could make a case that you want international energy experience, which my guess is, most people in the energy biz would say is bogus, since energy is separate trans-national country unto itself of oil rigs and fields. But sure, you could build a rubber band and wood plane out of that story which could fly under the radar.

Lauder might like your super solid international experience and the folks in Philly might think more highly of U Mass. Sort of giving it some status nearby the University of Pennsylvania in their minds.  And, much of your vibe is very Lauder, or “tres Lauder,” as they might say there, in a required second language.  You got an outside shot there just based on likeability.  I am not seeing this as Columbia either but could happen. They care a good deal about GPA over there, although you have a lot of compelling other features. Including to them, a 720 GMAT. Other schools you list are maybes.

Your real problem, if some school wants to wink at the  GPA (and given great experiences and 720 and first in family to go to high school, they might) is that your need for MBA just does not compute. You really should reframe your story as someone who wants to go into energy consulting either at a big firm or boutique, and use your global savvy plus what you will learn in a B-school to advise companies about energy,  security, and how to reposition themselves (whatever that means, but it’s a business). I don’t know what energy consultants actually do, but my guess is there are “real” ones, who know about technical issues surrounding  drilling and  mining, etc. and then higher-paid BS consultants who do what consultants do for anything, which is to tell firms to fire people, or take over other firms, or get out of this sector of the business and into that one, and whoopee, you don’t really have to know all that much about drills and atoms and oil or the ocean, or pirates,  and you are in business. I would suggest you say you want to be one of those guys, and build off your base.

That would really up your chances, and stay away from the idea of returning to government, and being some kind of wise counsel about “energy security, climate change, and economic/trade relations” because nobody is going to pay for advice about that except a government, well, maybe advice about trade defined broadly, but “private” companies  will pay you to come in and fire people, so that should be what you want to do. Except, of course, not stated quite like that.  With that story, you got a fighting chance at places like Lauder,  Northwestern, Berkeley, Yale, Michigan, and  UVA.

All that said, my bottom line advice is find someone in government you know who knows someone at The Kennedy School. They will take upstanding dudes like you. Go there for one year, get a Harvard brand, and apply for a gig at McKinsey coming out. You got a lot to offer and they hire K school kids. Man, that would save you a lot of time and money—and amazingly, you might wind up in a better place. My guess is, it is easier to get a McKinsey, Bain, BCG gig coming out of the Kennedy School than most non-“Big 5” MBA programs.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.