Your Chances Of Getting An Elite MBA

Mr. Submarine Officer

  • 670 GMAT (taken twice, not taking again)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in systems engineering from the U.S. Naval Academy
  • Work experience as a submarine officer and a department head on his second sea tour; will have nine years experience when he applies to business school next summer
  • Extracurricular involvement includes teaching Sunday school and mentoring younger sailors on financial management and budgeting
  • Goal: To attend a top ten business school in order to attain a position in either the energy industry or financial services
  • 30-year-old male, married with two children

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 10%
MIT: 15%
Wharton: 15%
Dartmouth: 20%
Chicago: 20%
Duke: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: As often noted, one real important element of service academy applications is your GPA, even if it was 10 years ago, and you got a lot of water, as it were, over that bridge. A 3.5 in Systems Engineering is acceptable and a 670 GMAT is marginal but OK if schools otherwise like you.

I’m not super familiar with service requirements for submariners (do you have to sign up for nine years, like jet pilots? I don’t think so) and spending that much time in the service could be a small negative at places like HBS, where I think this is going to be a reach based on nothing compelling driving you in, old age, marginal GMAT, and, well, that will usually do it.

MIT might go for the system engineering background but GMAT (compared with other military guys who are younger) might be an issue there. Ditto Wharton. Other schools you mention, Tuck, Booth, and Duke are plausible. Tuck and Booth could go either way. You should be strong at Duke and also consider UVA. Both run older and are military friendly, and your dreams can come true at both as well.

Your say your goal is “the energy industry or financial services”—I would go with energy industry, based on your undergrad major in systems engineering and your time spent on nuclear subs. Whatever the reality is, that makes a good background story. Schools got plenty of finance types, but they don’t have guys who work with nuclear energy on an up-close basis. I would think about saying you want to be a consultant in energy, and do some research about what that means. Just search for McKinsey (or BCG, Booz, or Bain) + energy, and you can get a real education in about two hours. E.g. Unlocking energy efficiency in the US economy—A McKinsey report.