Handicapping Your Personal MBA Odds

She’s managing the social responsibility program for a renewable energy developer. With an expected 700-plus GMAT and a 3.67 grade point average from UC-Berkeley, this 27-year-old woman hopes an MBA degree will allow her to work for a company with large investments in Africa to “bridge the divide between for profit and non-profit sectors.”

With undergraduate and master’s degrees in physics under his belt, he currently works for Accenture as a business analyst. This 29-year-old Hispanic American hopes an MBA degree will smooth his transition to work in portfolio planning for a small-to-mid-sized biotech company.

After a two-year stint with Ernst & Young, this 26-year-old professional works as an investment analyst for the International Finance Corp. of the World Bank. He wants an MBA to eventually run a developmental financial fund aimed at supporting investments in green energy.

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 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. 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.) This feature typically appears weekly on Fridays.

Sandy’s candid analysis:


  • 700+ GMAT (expected)
  • 3.67 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in development studies from UC-Berkeley, with emphasis in economics and a geographical focus on sub-Saharan Africa
  • Work experience includes three years with a start-up renewable energy developer; initially based in London but now in West Africa, managing the corporate social responsibility program and local operations
  • “I was a part of the company from inception (started as an independent consultant evaluating the potential investment in West Africa before the company officially existed), was brought on full time as employee No. 2 when the initial contract was signed with the government. The company will have IPO’ed by the time of my application. It’s been a wild ride.”
  • Extracurricular involvement includes a strong background of volunteering with NGOs; currently spend weekends as a volunteer helping street kids; widely traveled throughout the world, avid sports fan and coffee snob
  • “Homeschooled through high school (self motivated and independent, not weird and nerdy)”
  • Goal: To work within companies with large investments in Africa to help them bridge the divide between for profit and non-profit sectors
  • “Interested in developing new best practices in CSR for companies working in developing countries (particularly in Africa), and in how the NGO world can complement the growth spurred by investment in infrastructure”
  • First in family to graduate from college
  • 27-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%
Stanford: 20%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Berkeley: 40%
Yale: 50%
Columbia: 50%
Chicago: 50%
Dartmouth: 50%
UCLA: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, get that 700+ GMAT. The rest is impressive and potentially solid, but see notes. A 3.67 from Berkeley and your current job at a “start-up renewable energy developer with projects in Africa” where you were employee #2 in a company that has now grown to 75+ staff in three countries is pretty good.   Working in London,  and now West Africa is also a plus.  The part I don’t fully understand is when you say, about current duties, “managing the corporate social responsibility program and local operations.”

I’m just not sure how someone who is employee #2 in a renewable energy developer winds up managing the corporate social responsibility program, or even what the corporate social responsibility program at a firm that size is?  You say, “started as an independent consultant evaluating the potential investment in West Africa before the company officially existed” which strikes me as an odd job for recent college grad, even one with a degree in “Development Studies  with an  emphasis in econ and a  geographical focus on sub-Saharan Africa . . . .”

Anyway, my point is, you need, in your application, if not here, to make this job seem legit and conventional. What does managing local operations in a renewable energy developer in Africa mean? Isn’t that a job for some techie in steel-tipped boots?? It just does not compute.  So make that clear.

Assuming you can, well, you got a solid and exotic background with some trendy touch points — to wit, renewable energy, Africa, NGO’s, home schooling, first generation college.  You say your goal is to work “within companies with large scale investments in Africa to bridge the divide between the for profit and non-profit sectors.” Hmmm, that needs work. It just seems like a bunch of fashionable jargon thrown together, which quite frankly, I do not understand.

You add, “interested in developing new best practices in CSR for companies working in developing countries (particularly in Africa), and in how the NGO world can complement the growth spurred by investment in infrastructure (particularly energy) . . . “ OK, I sort of understand that, but is that a job?  Who does that now?

You might allude to what titles the heads of CSR have now in established Western companies, and say you want to do that, and cite examples, but to be deadly honest with you, at some point, all the odd parts of this story—what you do, how you got this gig, what company does (soon to be an IPO? with 75 employees?)  begin to collect into a real bump in the road.

You’ve got a swashbuckling story of sorts, in a fabled setting, and while many are attracted to do-gooder, alternative energy, home schooled, free spirits in Africa managing both local operations and CSR  (me for one! in my pre-hermit mode, now I look for people who can do CPR not CSR), B-school admission committee members can be skeptical sorts under all that wonderful and empty blather. You really need to pull this together more clearly.

Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Berkeley, Yale, Columbia, Chicago, Dartmouth, UCLA—could be all or nothing. If you work for a real company in a real role, if you get your goals into some normal format, if you get a 700+ GMAT, well, you are certainly in the running at all those places, with serviceable execution.  Given the iffi-ness of some of this, clear and solid recommendations will also be important.

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  • Mr_Polo

    Hi Sandy,

    Wondering my odds for some top programs:

    Undgrad GPA: 3.6
    GMAT Score: 760 (practice tests)/Please let me know what would be a good target for schools listed
    Gender: Male
    Race: White
    Age: 22

    Degree/School: B.S. in Management, Concentration in Finance, Minor in Economics/Binghamton University School of Management

    Extracurriculars: Founding Father of a fraternity, VP of both a social and professional fraternity, Mentor for university’s and high school’s business program, involved in alumni associations, Resident Assistant while in undergrad, Founded a strategy consulting group for local area while in undergrad, Extensive volunteering

    Employment: Management Consultant at KPMG, Financial Management practice. Prior experience as a summer-intern at a $5B+ AUM hedge fund in NYC (finance division).

    Goal: Either move into a more strategy based consulting role at M/B/B or move into IB/PE

    Other notes: Working on CFA, First generation MBA applicant, Parents did not graduate from college, Can get recommendations from Columbia, Harvard, Cornell, Stanford & Wharton alumni, along with the Dean and other top faculty from undergrad.

    Targets: Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Booth, Yale, Kellogg, Fuqua, HaasStanford, NYU, MIT, Ross, Darden

  • Canadian Consultant

    Hey Sandy,

    I was hoping to get some feedback on my work so far. I’m a fan of the work you guys do and have been following your advice for the past few years.

    Industry: Management consulting
    WorkEx: 3 yrs
    GMAT: 730
    GPA: 3.0
    Extracurriculars: heavy in ugrad (ran consulting group / started own non-profit focused organization), working on adding to the list before applying (looking at non profit consulting engagements / joining small non profit org board)

    – I’m a 26 yr old visible minority male (first gen immigrant, first to attend college in family), attended top canadian business school (think Rotman / Queens / Shulich)
    – During Undergrad I worked full time and got some pretty solid extra-curriculars, running the consulting group and starting an organization myself.. this in addition to 12 months of internships taken during a gap year in the high tech (think microsoft / google) and financial services (Risk / IT) industries
    – Did a semester on exchange at the University of Hong Kong
    – I am now 3 years out of Undegrad, have joined Accenture MCDP at a large office in the US and got promoted to the global strategy group (most selective out of MCDP) after ranking top analyst in the region
    – During analyst years mainly focused in market entry / growth strategy / cost reduction in high tech industry (industry leading clients, for the most part), while running several internal groups in the firm and participating in business development roles way above my pay grade

    I’m looking at Insead, LBS, Kellogg and Tuck (in that order). My goal is to continue in management consulting, hopefully at one of the big 3 strategy shops.

    I look forward to your response, thanks in advance!

    Mr. Canadian Consultant

  • sachin koul

    Hi Sandy

    I would really appreciate your feedback on my profile and my odds of making it to my target schools

    HBS MIT Stanford UPenn Columbia Tucks


    Nationality : Indian

    GRE 162(v) 168(q)

    Undergrad in Mechanical Engineering National Institute of Technology- Rourkela,India GPA(8/10) (honors)

    Graduate Masters in Computer Science Texas A&M University College Station GPA 3.7/4

    Little lower GPA because devoted lot of time to research and
    published 6 conference and 1 journal paper in two different research
    domains.Assisted my adviser in writing NEH research grant proposal
    ($30000) which we won.

    Other research work funded by NSF

    Work Ex: 4+ years (AMD , Microsoft , eBay(research) ) all in US and
    promoted every year for excellent performance On track for another
    promotion next year.

  • Ms. Physicist

    Hi! Just found this site a few days ago and would love some feedback, as I haven’t found a similar background to my own (yet, there are still many pages to filter through).

    -29 year old white female, first gen college grad
    -740 GMAT
    -4.0 in double major of Physics and Applied Mathematics, Economics minor (uninteresting state school)
    -5 year internship during school for Sandia and Los Alamos National Labs
    -Helped to organize/develop a new user facility while at the labs
    -MS from Johns Hopkins in Materials Engineering (worked in a Biophysics lab at the medical school, which means my classes were engineering but my research was biomedical, don’t even ask me why the school structures it that way). I started out as a PhD, and was accepted to Yale/Oxford for academia, but I do not think that is necessarily reflective of my chances for MBA programs. Changed major in order to go to business school.
    -NSF Fellowship award
    -Started a reasonably successful home healthcare company which has been growing each year (started in 2008). Sole source of income.
    -Lived abroad for 2 years and worked as a physics teacher, no brand name institutions to drop though
    -Variety of community service positions

    Clear lack of a Google/Goldman/Bain/McKinsey internship/job concerns me.

    Goals: I’d like to leverage my quantitative background to contribute positive changes to the healthcare industry via consulting. An MBA will also provide the resources to advance my business while benefiting the healthcare industry as a whole. (My business is focused on improving care/training regulations for seniors to decrease instances of abuse and overall costs).

    HBS, Wharton, Yale, MIT

  • eye yam IM

    Hey Sandy, would love to hear your feedback..

    – 25 year old American born Minority
    – 750 GMAT
    – 3.53 Undergrad GPA from Fordham University, Applied accounting and Finance Major.

    Work Experience: 2 years (3 by matriculation) in Internal Audit at a large bank (think
    JPMorgan, Goldman, etc). Work on credit risk and valuation issues for
    non-traditional credit products (derivatives, swaps, syndicated loans)
    for the purposes of calculating required reserves.

    – Professional
    licenses: Working towards my CFA, sitting for Level I next week and feel
    confident, so I should be sitting for Level II by next summer.

    – Extracurricular: Not too much since college with CFA studying. Occasionally volunteer to coach basketball to underprivileged elementary school children. Was selected to be a part of the Finance Leaders’ Program at school, Intramural sports.

    – Goal: Investment Management (Equity/Credit research, Portfolio Management, etc). Long-term, would like to promote financial literacy in less educated communities (have a somewhat reasonable story as to why)

    – Misc: Bilingual (Urdu), first in family to graduate college, worked throughout college to pay my way.

    Target Schools:
    – Stanford
    – Wharton
    – Chicago
    – Kellogg
    – Berkeley Haas
    – Columbia
    – NYU

  • B-School Convert

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks so much for all your help. I love reading your analyses. I’m ready to be ripped to shreds. I’d been averse to applying to B-schools for some time, but am just now coming around and realizing the MBA’s utility.

    I haven’t seen an entry yet for someone who leans as heavily into the non-profit and humanities worlds as I do. Would you mind taking a swing at my stats?

    Thanks for everything!

    GRE scores equivalent to 710 GMAT

    3.56 GPA; Environmental Studies major at liberal arts Ivy equivalent, class of 2012

    Work experience: working two years as a self-directed program coordinator with global literacy non-profit on a Native American Reservation. Partnering with tribal government, schools, and community institutions to launch educational programs, classes, fairs, and other initiatives. Originally planned to stay for one year before transferring to another location, but am responding to an urgent need in the community by remaining for another year.

    Extracurriculars: published writer, columnist in college paper, intern at community-based environmental advocacy group, executive team member of college religious organization, director of a capella choir

    23 years old; minority female

    Fluent in Mandarin and Spanish

    Goal: to become a more effective non-profit manager and asset, especially with educational, environmental, or public health initiatives in underserved communities.

  • Mr. All Over the Place

    I’ve got an odd one, wondering what you think:

    740 GMAT (V44, Q47)

    2.8 GPA, history major at Ivy equivalent

    Work experience: 1 year teaching English in rural China, 1 year teaching English in Buenos Aires, currently unemployed (returned to US 4 months ago from 6 month Latin America backpacking trip)

    Fluent Spanish speaker

    Extracurricular – mountain hiking, captain club lacrosse team in college

    Age: 26, white guy, US citizen

    Goal: international development consultant

  • Christine

    Hey Sandy, love your writing. I’m ready for some hard truth

    28/ Female / 6 years work experience / 3.54 GPA State School

    Archtiecture and LEED AP (still employed inspite of the construction industry tanking)

    GMAT 640 / As in Calculus & Structures

    Currently taking Accounting at Community College

    Worked a few months in Greek village after study abroad in Italy

    Goal: Design Consulting (IDEO, Frog), bringing innovative products/services to market
    Target Schools: Kellogg’s MMM, MIT, Cornell, UTAustin – Open to suggestions that fit my goal

  • hpk

    Hi Sandy,

    I’ve been a long-time reader of these articles and I really appreciate your analysis. Wondering if you can estimate my odds as well!

    760 GMAT (practice tests)

    3.2 GPA in Electrical Engineering from University of Michigan (GPA looks low on paper, but decent for STEM – does this count for anything?)

    Work experience: 4 years as a software engineer for 3 different companies:

    – Project lead at a medium-sized (not well known) manufacturing company. Wrote software to control a $12 million automobile testing robot

    – Senior engineer at a health care startup (acquired in 2011) and an e-commerce startup

    Extracurriculars: During school: Leadership position in a student events organization, wrote musical scores for four campus theater productions. After school: Not much in the way of volunteering

    Goal: To join a top consulting firm for a few years, then transition into a technical leadership role in industry.

    26 year old white male

    Target schools:

    MIT (Sloan)
    Northwestern (Kellogg)
    Chicago (Booth)


    Michigan (Ross)


  • DCThinkTanker

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love your assessment.

    – GMAT: 700
    – 24 yr old white male applicant
    – Education: 3.71 from University of Wisconsin (Political Science major); graduated in 3 yrs
    – Work Experience: 3 years at matriculation, all of my experience is at a large, top-ranked DC think tank (nonprof), program coordinator for center that focuses on domestic economic and social policy (poverty, education, economic opportunity, federal budget deficit), handle $800,000 budget, manage small team of staff/research assistants, run events with government agencies, help publish a series of policy briefs, etc.; when I started as an intern, supported executive education program that taught leadership and ethics to senior government officials and business leaders; have been promoted within the organization very quickly
    – Extracurricular: Ran 600-student annual Model United Nations conference while in college, piloted program to bring in more urban high schools and training program to teach delegates public speaking and professional writing skills; coordinated children’s tutoring program for ESL program in urban setting during high school/college
    – Goal: strategic consulting for the public and nonprofit sectors
    – Target schools: Harvard, Wharton, Northwestern, Columbia, Yale, UVA, Carnegie Mellon

  • hello

    Chicago is actually a joke to get into.

  • Old(er) Applicant


    I think it’s great you do this and would appreciate your assessment.

    -27 yr old reapplicant (applied to HBS, GSB, Wharton); will be 28 if/when I start bschool
    -Chinese-american (born in China but moved to the US at very young age)
    -720 GMAT
    -University of Michigan – Ross School of Business (GPA: 3.9/4.0); full-ride, graduated in 3 years

    Work Exp (6-7 years total):
    -2 years at bulge bracket IB (tech)
    -2 years at multi-billion PE firm (tech)
    -2 years at multi-billion debt / HF platform (generalist), effectively
    part of a new 2-member team focused on new product (currently position,
    joined after I applied last time)

    -Volunteer board member (3 years) for non-profit organization focused on providing tutoring and financial assistance to underprivileged minorities to attend private middle schools and high schools
    -Community HS basketball coach

    -Seeking career-track opportunity in buy-side opportunity post-bschool (either at current firm or another; current firm likes its investment professionals to have MBAs, generally, before promotion)
    -Also, potentially looking to do something finance and/or tech related in Asia, specifically China (growth equity, HF, etc.)

    -Grew up underprivileged, went to college on full-ride/scholarships and graduated in 3-years

    Target schools:
    HBS, GSB, Wharton

    I know it’s somewhat cookie-cutter (prior to my third job), but I feel the combination of my (longer) profile and older age may severely handicap me. Got into Wharton last time I applied but had my doubts which in hindsight was a bad decision. Would like to get your thoughts as I’d realistically only apply to the previous 3 schools I applied to.

  • SocialInk

    Hi Sandy, can you handicap this one!

    30 years old – north african

    GMAT 700

    Born and raised in North Africa, until 18 years old. went to France for study and worked to ensure livings

    Graduate from a top10 french engineering school (telecommunications) with a GPA of 3.0

    Most significant work experience at Arthur D Little in the telecommunication field (France, Nordic and Eastern Europe and North Africa)

    Did a lot of strategy, operations improvement, due diligence and have been ranked top consultants in my office.

    In terms of extracurricular: Football and Judo practionner and have dedicated 2 month sabbatical for a NGO in sub africa (Mali) working on education issues

    Goal: PE for companies in developing markets, mainly in Africa, that will have impact on social developement

    Target schools: INSEAD / IMD / LBS / Harvard / Stanford / Wharton

  • hbsguru

    🙂 good luck –as noted in my analysis, I like you.

  • Guest


    Thank you so much for the feedback, I really appreciate it. I particularly like your use of the word ‘swashbuckling.’ Believe me, sometimes my life sounds fake to me too! I’ll try to do a better job of bringing it down to earth on the applications… and into reigning in that goal statement.

    Honestly though, tons of useful notes in there – I will be taking them to heart.

    Thanks once again,

    Ms. CSR

  • Thailanddude357

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m reposting this because I realized that last time I forgot to indicate my age.

    29 year old white male

    720 GMAT (V47-99% / Q42-59%)

    Degree GPA 4.0 (1.5 years of transfer credits from an east coast liberal arts school where I was in the honors program – GPA of 3.53 for those credits)

    Undergraduate degree in Marketing (specialization in International Business) from a Big Ten school that is not Michigan or Northwestern. Two semesters abroad – first in Australia and then in Thailand.

    Most significant work experience includes five years as a Legal Assistant working in
    the Energy / Project Finance team of a large US law firm (top 50 in the US by revenue). This is my current position. During this entire time worked in the Bangkok office and on power project development / finance and M&A deals (most between US$100M and US$500M) mostly in Thailand and the Philippines. Role has evolved such that partners now remark my work product and responsibilities are the same as those of a third year associate attorney. Went from very limited client interaction to now handling 80-90% of our team’s interactions with clients, reporting directly to firm partners. This year have served as lead draftsperson on construction and supply arrangements for four solar / wind projects. I have been published in a notable trade publication for an article I wrote about renewable energy regulations.

    Volunteer work includes teaching English on the weekends to Burmese who have migrated to Bangkok to improve their opportunities. One of 10 honorees awarded a community service award in 2010 from our firm’s head office for this (firm has more than 2,000 employees). Speak conversational Thai but not at work.

    Goal: To work for one of our clients or a similar company doing power project development / finance in Asia (preferably renewable energy), moving from a legal role to a commercial / finance role in the same industry. Hoping to build on my existing transactional experience and network in Asia and that an MBA will provide the financial toolkit and proper branding and networking opportunities I need to break into this type of work. Plan to leverage energy clubs and Asia study abroad, possibly an Asia based internship, to help expand my network. Another option to break into this work would be for me to do power related banking or consulting.

    Target schools: Stanford, Wharton, Berkeley, Michigan, Kellogg, maybe HKUST (not sure about reputation despite okay rankings), Texas or UCLA

    Thanks for taking the time to look over my profile.

  • GregR

    Age: 22 years old
    Gender: Male
    Race: Caucasian
    Nationality: Canadian
    GMAT: 780
    GPA: 3.9
    Undergrad: BS in Economics from the University of Utah

    Work: 2 years at an economics consulting firm, working with clients such as United Health Group, Best Buy and Sears.

    Extracurricular: Volunteered at a National Monument, Served on the Board of Directors for a local Anti-Drug Coalition for 5 years, Participated in Model United Nations and worked on Staff at Regional and National Competitions. Competition Rock Climber.

    Extras: Fluent in Spanish, First Generation College Graduate.

    Target Schools:
    Arizona State:

  • Dreaming Big


    I’m hoping you can take a look at my profile. I haven’t seen anyone with a profile similar to mine on this thread…

    740 GMAT (50 Quant, 40 Verbal)

    GPA: 3.5 in psychology / minor in chemistry from Southeastern public state school

    – undergraduate coursework is loaded with science courses, I was pre-med but during my senior year decided not to pursue medical school

    – 3.9 over last two years of study

    Military Experience:

    6 years in US Marine Corps reserve infantry – enlisted

    – combat deployment to Afghanistan during college (would have been my senior year, but had to come back and finish a year late)

    – because of maturity level / work ethic was selected to a “police-mentoring team” during deployment to Afghanistan; lived and worked exclusively with a small team of Marines and a company of Afghan military on a remote Afghan base in southern Helmand province

    – responsible for mentoring and training Afghani military in military tactics, techniques, and procedures with an emphasis on preparing them to take over military responsibilities in the region after US withdrawal

    – significant interaction with Afghan populace – constantly working to gain their trust and help to develop their local infrastructure

    – over 150 combat patrols

    – team leader – directly responsible for 3 Marines, by end of deployment I was responsible for anywhere between 6-10 Marines at a time

    Other Work Experience:

    – began working for the nation’s largest tank truck transport company in their Management Development Program – traveling to various operations learning different job functions and roles within the company – basically a “ground up” immersion program

    – Company specializes in bulk transportation and logistics of petroleum and specialty products (bulk chemicals and merchant gasses) – nothing glamorous, really just logistics / trucking

    – Assigned to a management role (current role) after 8 months (usually takes people in the program between 1 – 1 1/2 years to be assigned to a similar role) – I’m the assist. operations manager for one of our larger operations in the southeast that specializes in petroleum transport / logistics

    – In this role I came in and completely reorganized the staff’s schedule and responsibilities – to accomplish the same output with 50 fewer man-hours per week – big cost saver

    – I implemented new standard operating procedures for our largest account (generates over 2.5 million annually) that has increased the account’s revenue per hour (a big measuring stick in our industry) and thereby increased profit

    – directly responsible for 4 people and share responsibility with my direct supervisor for 35 others


    – Leadership roles in elected positions within my fraternity every semester of my sophomore, junior, and senior years

    – Community service through the fraternity including helping to plan and execute philanthropy events

    GOAL: : Utilize my MBA education and the problem solving and decision making skills I learned in the military to transition into management / strategy consulting

    At least one of my recommendations will be strong (my former military commander)

    The other should be strong but I am not so sure (my job is very unhappy that I’m leaving them to pursue an MBA)

    I’m a good writer and should be able to successfully articulate what my goals are, why I need an MBA, and why I need it now.

    25 years old (at matriculation) white male


    – Some schools say they count military experience that occurred before graduation towards the full time work experience, others don’t say anything – without the military I would only have two years of full-time experience at matriculation.

    – Work experience outside the military is not glamorous and most admissions people will probably have never heard of my company, even though we’re the biggest nationally at what we do – my industry doesn’t usually send people to MBA programs because they don’t apply. I took the best opportunity I could get in the business world out of undergrad as a pre-med / psych graduate.

    – How do admissions committees look at military experience in an enlisted capacity? All the veteran profiles on school websites seem to be officers.

    My target schools are:







    Am I aiming at the right schools? (I know Chicago might be a real reach but it’s a dream)

    Are there any top schools that might like profiles like mine that I’m not considering?

  • Eagle09

    Got it. Thanks so much for your response!

  • hbsguru

    “Simply put – as a 25 y.o. white male big 4 auditor – what can I do to make my profile more palatable?” I like auditors at Big 4, but in the US it is not considered a ‘selective’ job, e.g. it is not as hard to get as Top consulting gigs or IB jobs right out of college. Jobs are often filters to B school, as are undergrad. colleges. Basically, the adcoms of colleges and post-grad first job hiring committees are looking for same blah, blah as adcoms of B schools, so it makes sense that kids who got into selective colleges and then got selective jobs get admitted to selective B school programs. Of course theere are some ‘mutations’ along the way. I dont know if if working at Big 4 is as hard, or strategic or blah, in reality as working at consulting firm, but schools think consulting is better gig. What you can do is get a job as a consultant, or try to switch to any consulting part of your own firm’s practice. Big 4 is a great job in Russia, and Stanford B school used to have a long history of using Big 4 as a recruiting ground for minorities. But you are not Russian or a minority, it is less desirable place to apply from than IB, consulting, or even my guess, corporate finance at Fortune 500 (and esp. F-100) company.

  • Tim


    Thanks very much for your analysis and
    insights. There seems to be quite a growing trend for business schools to
    offer one year pre-experience master degrees. May I ask if you think having a
    master in management degree would lower one’s odd to get in an MBA? I’ve
    read quite a number of entries of the MBA handicapping series,
    but could not find anyone with a master in management. It would be greatly
    appreciated if you could offer some feedback for this group.

    Here’s my background:

    GMAT: 750

    Undergrad: a third tier US
    school in the mid-west (double majors in Finance & Accounting, 3.8/4.0)

    Master: London Business School
    masters in management. Student Award (2 of 141, highest student honor)

    Nationality: Chinese. Age:

    Work Experience: 2 years as
    a sales analyst in a top tier investment bank in Asia, manages a $50MM USD discretionary
    portfolio with my manager. Had a 6 month rotation in the project management
    team helping the bank to build its banking business (deposit/loan), supervised
    four teams and reported to senior management (COO). Will have 3 years of work
    experience before matriculation. Before IB, I started my own business in
    E-marketing and made over $100,000 in 1.5 years while I was in college.

    Extra-Curricular: two years
    of part time volunteering at IRS preparing tax returns for low income people
    (VITA). Backpacked to over 80 cities in five years (mostly free through my
    online marketing business).

    Recommendations: direct
    manager (executive director in the bank) + program director at LBS (ex-director
    at Booth). Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    Goal: Work in the US. I know you may laugh
    at this… but after living in the States, UK and Asia for 7 years, I confess
    that I do see the U.S an ideal place to settle down. My goal is to work in a
    Fortune 500 as a manager, ideally in Tech and Energy. I have an opportunity to
    manage a large chinese SOE’s US business, supported by family members, on
    condition that I get an MBA from a top U.S. School.

    Target School: HBS / Wharton / Columbia /
    Stanford / Berkeley.

    Thanks in advance for reading this!

  • Eagle09

    Sandy – thanks so much for all that you do. I do have a question/complaint:

    My profile is very similar to Mr. CPA/CFA, and I have to ask, what gives? Why is Big 4 Audit experience so lowly regarded when it comes to MBA admissions?

    I am a couple years younger than Mr. CPA/CFA, starting year 4 as a Big 4 auditor, with an eye towards applying to B-schools in the next 3-5 years. My fear is that I am starting to head down the same path – “too old with not-quite-good-enough” experience. I always thought of the MBA as a springboard to change careers but it seems like the dirty little secret is that you have to make the switch on your own, beforehand.

    Simply put – as a 25 y.o. white male big 4 auditor – what can I do to make my profile more palatable?

    Thank you to Sandy and anyone else who would like to chime in, I appreciate the assistance!

  • hbsguru

    thanks –make that clear in your apps as well, and good luck. it sounds similar to internal consulting, esp. about new products.

  • Solar

    Thanks for the analysis Sandy. ANother one for consideration:

    28 year old male

    770 GMAT (50Q,45V)

    Undergrad GPA: 3.1 in Philosophy from a “Public Ivy”

    Previous work experience includes founding a company with a high school friend, volunteering in Ghana, working for 2 different U.S. Senators on capital hill, Currently Director of Project Management and Operations at a solar energy development and finance Company:

    Joined the current company pre-funding 3 years ago as an intern. Currently report directly to the CEO and have 3 direct reports (fewer than 15 people total in the company). Responsible for solar project technical review, design and engineering, materials procurement, and project and asset management. I’ve overseen technical evaluation of over 500MW of project pipeline (includes redesigning projects to lower installation costs, and increase energy harvest), project managed over 2 MW and over see asset management of all projects constructed, Also serving as solar SME for extremely high profile solar project planned for 2015-2017.

    Goals: move to senior management,and then c-level in a renewable energy/clean tech company. Eventually found my own company.

    Target Schools:







  • Gabriel A. Craft

    Good morning Sandy,

    Here is my back story,

    African-American Male, 29 years young, 1st-gen college, grew up
    in trailer home w/ single mom, very poor, battled depression and drug use in
    college for four years, hence low grades, volunteer work in non-profit serving
    under-served minority students helped lift me from depression. I made a
    commitment when I was accepted to a top education credential program that I would
    not follow my father and 3 older brother’s paths. All four are felons with drug
    problems. I ceased all drug and alcohol use. Clean and sober for 9 years,
    turning my life around in the process and turning my focus toward growth within
    our public education system, an aim for which I am deeply invested.

    740 GMAT (V96%/Q83%)

    2.88 GPA

    Undergraduate degree in Mathematics Education from a tier-3 University of

    3.8 GPA – Master’s degree in education from a top 3 School of Ed./left one quarter
    early to attend poor health of a family member (now resolved) & because I
    got a tremendous job offer at a non-profit.

    Work experience includes 3 years of math teaching and 2 years of work for #6
    educational non-profit doing consulting and professional development for large
    urban school districts and superintendents to help with policy change
    initiatives that improve high school grads employability and close the Achievement
    Gap. Then, another 2 years teaching.

    The non-profit stopped the consulting work, which was a very small arm of
    its 65 employee /$50M budget, to focus entirely on its core competencies. The 7
    person team was dissolved and I decided to reenter teaching profession with
    goal to finish an Admin. Service Credential, which I have. My recommenders from
    there do not have any special HBS/Stanford connects, but the CEO who I am close with does have strong
    ties with McKinsey’s Ed. consulting wing, since we housed their major education
    field work in 2010.

    Attaining an MBA from a top gen. management program is central to my goals.
    Post-MBA, I want to join a leading charter school management organization, such
    as KIPP, Rocketship, or Harlem Children’s Zone, as a Chief Operations Officer.
    This will expose me to the front lines of charter education reform, which is
    working well, and round out my knowledge of what it takes to bring change to
    the public education system. From there I will lead a large urban school
    district in California (think SF, Oakland) and eventually I would like to begin
    a political career that culminates in a California Superintendent of
    Instruction post or an appointed position with the US dept. of Ed.

    In 2010, after I left the non-profit, and returned to the classroom to
    implement my newfound knowledge of curriculum development and leadership within
    a school. In those two years I built a host of important credibility improving
    accomplishments. I am the top driver of mathematics student achievement results
    in my district (Q1 benchmark exam 2012), I coached over 60 students as coach of
    the surf, soccer, and basketball teams, I mentor new-to-teaching teachers, and
    I now have the magic 5+ years in the classroom. Many educators take the <5
    years, TFA style educators less serious as they move higher in the education
    pecking order. I had desired to enter MBA program two years ago, but the last
    two years turned out to be key as I have learned to lead my organization regardless
    of formal authority, which will be highlighted by my supervising principal in
    his recommendation letter.

    Target Schools:

    Stanford, HBS, Ross (great experience at Upclose diversity weekend/best public
    sector-nonprofit management experience outside top three schools), Berkeley
    (great non-profit focus), Cornell (love program diversity, hard time explaining
    desire to be at Johnson otherwise), Yale (great “social responsibility” focus),
    Tuck (great “do gooder, social resp. focus”), NYU (love NY, hard time
    explaining desire to be at NYU otherwise)

    Hope my schpeel has enough good talking points to be worthy of your unique
    and genuine analysis. In any event, I appreciate your posts and even as critics
    jump on you for your take I see the obvious. Sandy (& any others helping
    him write/analyze), you, unlike the vast majority of the herd, always keep it
    real. Much respect and may each dose of unrelenting truth bring you a special
    tingling of joy and prosperity in the years to come.

  • Mr Physics

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for your insight and recommendations.

    Portfolio planning (sometimes called portfolio management or pipeline planning) is the function within a pharma company that executes the C-level strategic plans. So if the CEO says that in 15 years we need to have a drug that treats disease X, portfolio planners goes about making that happen, whether that is by making the decision to fund one drug in early development vs. another drug or by acquiring a smaller company with a promising drug in disease area X.
    Mr Physics

  • TZ

    Hi Sandy,

    Here is my background

    750 GMAT

    86/100 GPA (Top 5%)

    Undergraduate degree in Environmental Engineering from a top China university

    3.9 GPA (Master’s)

    Master Degree in Environmental Engineering from a U.S. state university. Came to the U.S. with full assistantship

    Work experience include less than 1 year R&D engineer in a local company on environmental technology and renewable energy; 2 years engineer in the National Weather Service on evaluating the impact of climate change; and 2 years (when matriculate)business analyst at Capital One.

    Strong extracurricular when at school (leadership roles in several student organizations and sports team, lots of social and environmental volunteer activities, highest honor and scholarships), weak extracurricular at work

    CFA L3 Candidate, CAIA

    Grow up in a 4 street * 4 road small town in China; first been abroad in the family history

    Goal: Get MBA in addition to my engineering background and go back to China to work for
    cleantech venture capital

    28 years (when matriculate) old Chinese male

    Target School:
    Wharton, MIT, HBS, Booth