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
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Operations Manager
GRE 328, GPA 3.1
Harvard | Ms. Media Entertainment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
GMAT 770, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Mr. Basketball To B-School
GRE 334, GPA 3.73
INSEAD | Ms. Insightful Panda
GMAT 700, GPA 87.5%
NYU Stern | Mr. Bioinformatics
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Impact Investment
GMAT 760, GPA 3.2

Handicapping Those Tough MBA Odds

Mr. Think Tank


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.71 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Wisconsin (graduated in three years)
  • Work experience includes three years as a program coordinator at a large, think tank in Washington, D.C. that focuses on domestic economic and social policy, handling an $800,000 budget and managing a small team of research assistants
  • Extracurricular involvement running a 600-student Model U.N. conference, piloted program to teach urban high school students public speaking and professional writing skills; coordinated children’s tutoring program for ESL program in urban setting
  • Goal: To transition into strategic consulting for the public and non-profit sectors
  • 24-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 35%

Wharton: 30% to 40%

Northwestern: 40%+

Columbia: 30% to 40%

Yale: 50%+

Virginia: 50%+

Carnegie Mellon: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Well, it is all here, barely. Wisconsin is a good school, and a 3.7 is a good GPA. Poly Sci is a good (if often gut-filled) major, a 700 is an OK GMAT and your extracurriculars are real solid. You probably also have more actual leadership experience at work than most guys from IB, PE, and MC and that is something that comes through. Consulting seems like the perfect skillet to fry up all those pluses.  These days, macro policy issues, of the sort you have been working on, seem to be driving events at companies –a point made in an astute New York Times story this week:

“Policy issues have joined and in many cases overly displaced corporate fundamentals in driving intraday price movements and volatility,” said Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive and co-chief investment officer at Pimco . . . . “Part of this is warranted, as corporate behavior is being influenced by policy uncertainty in a meaningful manner, be it here, China or in Europe.”

I would try to spotlight that idea, and say you want to combine your leadership and policy backgrounds and MBA degree to help both companies and institutions manage growth, future opportunities, and volatility.  You said you wanted to do public and non-profit consulting, which is worth noting, but I would not limit it to that.

Faddish and high-minded thinking like using macro-economics as one tool to help manage companies and institutions (whether it is valid or not, and this seems valid to me, for what that is worth) can often really spark an application to HBS and Stanford. That — plus your OK stat pack, solid work experience and real good extras — may be the magic wand. You should be a solid candidate at other places you note, Kellogg, Wharton, Columbia, Yale, UVA and Carnegie Mellon. Just convince them you really want to attend.

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.