Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Wharton | Ms. Software Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.84
Harvard | Mr. FBI To MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 3.85
Darden | Ms. Business Reporter
GMAT 2150, GPA 3.6
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Analytics Man
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
Yale | Ms. Impact Investing
GRE 323, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. IB Deferred
GMAT 730, GPA 3.73
Kellogg | Mr. Military In Silicon Valley
GMAT 720, GPA 3.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Orthopaedic Surgeon
GMAT Waived for MCAT (36/45), GPA 3.92
Harvard | Mr. E-Sports Coach
GRE 323, GPA 5.72/10
Wharton | Ms. PMP To MBA
GMAT 710, GPA 3.72
Columbia | Mr. CPA
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Health Clinic Founder
GRE 330, GPA 3
Tuck | Mr. Waterflooder
GMAT 700, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Aspiring Tech Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.4
Tuck | Mr. Risk Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 7.1/10
Harvard | Mr. PE Strategist
GRE 326, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Student Product Manager
GMAT 760, GPA 3.4
London Business School | Ms. FANG Tech
GRE 321, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Mr. Corporate Development
GMAT 740, GPA 3.2
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Sports Management
GMAT 690, GPA 3.23
Wharton | Mr. Private Equity Analyst
GRE 320, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Digital Health Start-Up
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. International Trade
GRE 323, GPA 3.6
Said Business School | Mr. Strategy Consulting Future
GMAT 720, GPA 3.98
Stanford GSB | Mr. Robotics
GMAT 730, GPA 2.9
London Business School | Mr. Supply Chain Latino
GRE 320, GPA 3.4

Handicapping Those Tough MBA Odds

Mr. IB


  • 750 GMAT
  • 3.8 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance and accounting from a third tier school in the  Midwest
  • Master’s degree in management from the London Business School (2nd of 141 graduates)
  • Master: London Business School masters in management. Student Award (2 of 141, highest student honor)
  • Work experience includes two years as a sales analyst for a top-tier investment bank in Asia, managing a $50 million portfolio with his manager; had started an e-marketing business and made over $100,000 in one and one-half years while in college
  • “Had a six- month rotation on a project management team helping the bank to build its banking business (deposit/loan), supervised four teams and reported to senior management (COO)”
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer for two years to help low income people prepare tax returns; backpacked to more than 80 cities in five years
  • Goal: To work in the U.S. as a manager for a Fortune 500 company in technology or energy
  • “I know you may laugh at this… but after living in the States, U.K. and Asia for 7 years, I confess that I do see the U.S. an ideal place to settle down. I have an opportunity to manage a large Chinese SOE’s U.S. business, supported by family members, on condition that I get an MBA from a top U.S. school”
  • 25-year-old Chinese male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%

Wharton: 30% to 40%+

Columbia: 40% to 50%+

Stanford: 10% to 15%+

Berkeley: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Top schools are neutral to blah about Masters in Management degrees, and most admitted students at H/S/W do not have them, and I don’t see any trend either. The reason is that the Masters in Management degree is often sought by graduates who are trying to burnish their credentials, like you were, I assume, after graduating from a 3rd tier (your words) U.S. college.

In most cases, top schools admit kids who have solid credentials to begin with. In your case, it might be considered a plus, since LBS is a brand name and it goes to show that your high GPA at a 3rd tier U.S. college was not just a result of no competition from bumpkin classmates. Your 750 GMAT does a lot of talking as well.

Basically, a guy like you will be seen as smart, focused (double major in finance and accounting), well-meaning (volunteer tax prep for low income folks) and hard working, including founding your successful e-marketing business (whatever that is). Unfortunately, those traits at HBS and Stanford may be read as narrow, wonky (in bad way, they are all finance related, expect for the e-marketing, whatever that is) and belt-and-suspenders caution, e.g., getting the Masters Degree. Those schools do not like wild boys, poets, beatniks or even in most cases artists, but they do like standard issue guys with a touch of some of that, sort of, on weekends.

A lot of your chances at HBS and Stanford will turn on what they think of your current job, which you describe as “2 years as a sales analyst in a top tier investment bank in Asia, manage 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).”

I’m not sure exactly what that means, but if it is a standard IB gig at a bank we have all heard of, well, that is good. If you are in trading, well, as I often note, I am impressed, but schools (H and S mostly) consider that a bit greasy, compared to whatever it is that “real” IB guys do. Traders get into Harvard and Stanford, but they usually have tons else going for them, and work for brand name outfits.

Other schools you note,  Wharton, Columbia and Berkeley, are more likely since they like normal, serious,  hard-working  people without any glitz  (Wharton may take a greater shine to whatever it is you do at the bank as well, and they may even understand it).

So given your high GPA, high GMAT, and goody-goody degree from LBS, you are in the running at those places.

You note: “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.”

Hmmm, lots going on here (and Her Majesty Dee Leopold at HBS might appreciate that you are a Chinese “princeling” of sorts. You Royals gotta stick together). But to cut the chase, I would not say that, in quite that way, although feel free to act on it once you get admitted.

I would say your interests are in building out your finance/management skills as the CFO or COO of an established or growing company where you can add value, create jobs, and optimize resources. Not sure how Tech or Energy fit into this story, from anything you have done, so be careful about focusing on that. Just say you want to make a difference at impactful and value-adding companies. It is O.K.  to say CFOs you admire are X, Y, and Z because of blah, blah.

As noted, managing the U.S. business of a Chinese SEO is something you should do, if that can be arranged, but I don’t see how that speculative pay-off will make you more attractive to a U.S. business school. You got a real solid background. That will be enough. You can play it straight.

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.