Your Odds Of Getting Into A Great School

For the past eight years, he’s done a wide variety of missionary work from earthquake relief to ethnographic research in Chinese villages. With a 770 GMAT and a 3.9 grade point average in math, this 29-year-old now wants an MBA to help him transition to the corporate world.

Before his start-up crashed in the Great Recession, he had built its revenues to $1 million a month and had eight employees on the payroll. Now he works as an analyst for a Fortune 20 company and hopes an MBA degree will allow him to work in micro finance or strategy consulting.

After gaining a degree in Spanish and Classical Civilizations from a top liberal arts college, she landed a job with an online startup in the payment solutions space. With a 690 GMAT and a 3.3 GPA, this 24-year-old professional plans to gain MBA skills so she can start her own business.

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 an invite? Or are they likely to end up in a reject pile?

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.

If you include your own stats and characteristics in the comments (please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience), we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature.

Sandy’s assessment:

>Ms. Tech Startup

  • 690 GMAT
  • 3.3 GPA
  • Undergrad degree in Spanish and classical civilizations from a top liberal arts college
  • Work experience includes two years at an online payment solution tech startup, where I have evolved in three jobs, from customer facing to coordinating sales and marketing (involving interacting with a lot of different people and profiles) to integrating accounts with banks
  • Extracurricular involvement as an active member of my college alumni club, helping to organize events, such as walks for breast cancer, and raise funds
  • Goal: “I have an enormous appetite for cultural/international experiences. This is what’s driving me. So my long-term goal is to start a technical business with an international perspective. My short-term goal is to develop my leadership skills. I feel like I need that time to reflect and grow these critical skills away from work through sharing experiences.”
  • 24-year-old female

Odds of Success:

(if  you follow my advice)


Dartmouth: 20% to 30%

Berkeley: 30%

Georgetown: 40+%

Sandy’s Analysis: Here’s some tough love. Don’t make this any more flakey than it has to be. You are on the see-saw, the powerful see-saw inside the head of an adcom, which can either see you as:

A serious person from a top liberal arts college with so-so but OK stats (3.3 GPA and 690 GMAT), who is working for a real start-up in the online payments space (a thriving and established if not highly selective or exciting field)


A confused Spanish major with a travel and cultural Jones, with marginal stats (3.3 GPA from artsy school and gut major, and 690 GPA) who somehow flopped into a job at a payments start-up, and got lucky when others took off, which happens in shaky start-ups, and now dreams of starting an international business with a technical basis (something you have marginal background in) after your short-term goal, which, and  I quote, is “to develop my leadership skills. I feel like I need . . . time to reflect and grow . . . critical skills away from work through sharing experiences.”

Allow to me suggest that you stress Persona 1 in your application and put Persona 2 in your underwear drawer for special and intimate occasions with close friends and significant others.

I would drop the international, cultural angle as a goal driver, although sure, you can play that angle in some short essay about what clubs you might join on campus. But you really need to get your main story straight, and that is as a smart person, excited about business, who racked up great experience in your payments start-up, not so much stressing the start-up angle, but stressing the normal business angle, to wit what you said you did, “coordinating sales and marketing (involving interacting with a lot of different people and profiles) to integrating accounts with banks.” THAT is stuff that warms the heart of an adcom, not your–and here I am quoting again –“enormous appetite for cultural/international experiences. This is what’s driving me.” Adcoms don’t like enormous appetites. And while they may like culture, well, for personal consumption (although even here you might be surprised), they don’t like culture as a “driver” in an application.

Say that you are excited about sales, marketing, teamwork, and corporate communication, and after your MBA, you want to work for an innovative, marketing-driven company to learn best practices, blah, blah. A real wise move would be to look up the marketing, customer-facing companies, which hire lots of kids from the very schools you are applying to and say you want to work there. You can find such a list of companies on Poets&Quants, for many schools, and usually for all schools if you sniff around the corporate placement part of their websites.

I can see why INSEAD appeals to you. They like Americans, although usually older ones, but I would think twice about going there, unless you want to work in Europe. That may be my own prejudice, and if there are any INSEAD alums out there who can tell us how often grads go back to work in the U.S.A., please chime in. Tuck, Berkeley, Georgetown? All excellent choices, if you drop the culture stuff and just go with  the marketing, serious person who  wants to learn best practices through the Big-Normal-Cool Company route.

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