Stanford GSB | Mr. Entrepreneurial Bassist
GMAT 740, GPA 3.61
McCombs School of Business | Ms. Second Chances
GRE 310, GPA 2.5
Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Cornell Johnson | Mr. IT To IB
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Kellogg | Mr. Green Business
GMAT 680, GPA 3.33; 3.9 for Masters
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Account Executive
GMAT 560, GPA 3.3
NYU Stern | Mr. Military Officer
GRE In Progress, GPA 2.88
Kellogg | Mr. Real Estate Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Education
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Emory Goizueta | Mr. Multimedia
GRE 308, GPA 3.4
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Commercial Banker
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Fanatic
GMAT 770, GPA 3.46
Harvard | Mr. Sovereign Wealth Fund
GMAT 730, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Smart Operations
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Strategy Manager
GRE 321, GPA 3.5
Ross | Mr. Airline Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.73
Stanford GSB | Mr. Corporate VC Hustler
GMAT 780, GPA 3.17
Wharton | Mr. Marketing Director
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Healthcare Startup
GRE 321, GPA 3.51
Georgetown McDonough | Ms. Air Force
GMAT 610, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Harvard | Mr. MacGruber
GRE 313, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Poet At Heart
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Yale | Mr. Ukrainian Biz Man
GRE 310, GPA 4.75 out of 5
Darden | Mr. Former Scientist
GMAT 680, GPA 3.65

Handicapping Those Tough MBA Odds

Ms. Design Consulting


  • 640 GMAT
  • 3.54 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a state school
  • Work experience includes six years in architecture and LEED AP despite construction industry slump
  • “Currently taking accounting at community college. Worked a few months in Greek village after study abroad in Italy”
  • Goal: To work in design consulting (IDEO, Frog), bringing innovative products/services to market
  • 28-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Northwestern MMM: 20% to 25%

MIT: 10% to 20%

Cornell: 30% to 40%

Texas-Austin: 40%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Here’s some tough love. Retake the GMAT, even though your quant skills seem solid, schools view GMAT as well as a beauty contest.  And although you have not mentioned how many times you have taken it, schools don’t really care. Just get the score. They also EXPECT applicants with low-ish scores like 640 to take it more than once.

One thing that is difficult to get a handle on in your write-up is your work history, you say “Architecture and LEED AP (still employed in spite of the construction industry tanking)” but don’t give any firm names.

As I have often noted, business schools are suckers for brand names and distrust candidates who work at off-the-grid places, although they are aware that jobs in architecture are less centralized than those in, e.g., banking.  I am assuming you have worked for six years in a solid firm, or firms.

That leaves the question, similar to the last guy we profiled, the guy from Mid-Western PE shop for six years, as to why exactly you want an MBA?

You say, “Goal: Design Consulting (IDEO, Frog), bringing innovative products/services to market . . . .” I just cruised the IDEO website and even their job listings page, sounds like a hip company (it was new to a old fogey like me) in that annoying, welcoming and really geeky elitist way Google used to be before Google became just plain BIG and UGLY, but it was not clear, amid all that, that they were looking for MBAs.  Viz , this tidbit from their oh-so-hip and snarky FAQ page,

“I really want a job at IDEO! How can I get hired?

IDEO looks for talented people who have a wide range of interests. Most new hires have advanced degrees or significant experience working in a specific field, but they’re not specialists. We look for people with at least one deep area of expertise and a broad reach of other skills and experiences to draw on, whether from past employment experience or personal endeavors.”

Isn’t that You now??? Well, if you know more about this place, and their track record in hiring MBAs, let us know. Although what matters more is not what IDEO (and Frog!) are really looking for but what you can convince the adcom of some business school they are looking for.

It also strikes me, again, as with the Mid-West PE guy, that many of your dreams can come true with an EMBA of some kind, and that might also satisfy the IDEO folks.

Moving right along, if you are dead set on spending $500,000 to get an MBA vs. EMBA, you should make your goals more MBA-centric, although maybe you were just talking in shorthand for purposes of your write up. Design Consulting may be the right path. Just elaborate on what it means, and how an MBA is part of it.

I’m not sure if this will help, and everyone is different, but I stumbled across this profile of a kid at HBS with a similar background to you on LinkedIn and it demonstrates the kind of LEED, AP types B-schools prefer and what “design” means in this context:

Currently a MBA student at Harvard Business School

Licensed as a Professional Engineer (P.E.) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional (LEED AP)).

Interested in an international career in infrastructure advisory consulting (public private partnerships, private sector development in emerging markets), renewable energy sector, entrepreneurship, operations.

Major Accomplishments:

Construction Management Team XYZ Corporation

$8.3B Tunnel Project in NYC.

• Led the construction of 3 miles of tunnel

• Received “Thrift and Innovation Award” for saving MTA $4M, having identified tunnel design errors, initiated, and led an interdisciplinary team to redesign tunnels.

OK, tunnels are about as basic as you can get, but I hope you get the idea.

Back to you: “Target Schools: Kellogg’s MMM, MIT, Cornell, UTAustin – Open to suggestions that fit my goal.”

Hmmmm, I am not seeing this at MIT. And you would not be too happy there anyway, well, existentially, although the prestige makes up for a lot. Your GMAT is too low. You are not their typical applicant, and despite a lot of blah, blah to the contrary, the school is pretty insulated from e.g. MIT School of Architecture. (Which is a cool place, see this

Kellogg MMM (dual degree with the engineering school)? Dunno, given your background, you would just be taking on a lot more hard-core engineering stuff (yeah, the school says it is interested in ‘design’ which is a granola buzz word these days, but I wonder.  If any current MMM students can reply back about how much “design” is the focus, versus what one thinks of as old-timey engineering, well, I’d appreciate it) and the place is self-described as “quanty.” You would need a much stronger GMAT to get in, and might be happier at just plain old Kellogg.  Cornell and UT Austin are possible from an admissions POV.  I am not certain if programs there are up your alley.

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.