What Are Your Odds Of Getting In?

An Eagle Scout, he works in equity research at a large asset management firm. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.55 grade point average from a highly ranked university, this 27-year-old professional wants an MBA to some day start his own investment management company.

A first generation college graduate, he boasts undergraduate and master’s degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology. For the past two years, he has been working in a quantitative derivatives role for a bulge bracket bank and now wants an MBA to help him make the switch to venture capital.

After a stint as a law clerk for a federal appellate court judge, this 26-year-old attorney has been working in corporate law for a Top 20 law firm. With a 700 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA from a state university, he is hoping an MBA will allow him to transition into investment banking or corporate strategy.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

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 an invite? Or are they likely to end up in a reject pile?

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 he has in the past, 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 (please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience), we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature next week.

Sandy’s assessment:

Mr. Eagle Scout


  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.55 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a well-respected, non-Ivy school (think Georgetown, USC, UCLA, UVA)
  • Work experience includes four years at a large asset management firm, with $400 billion+ assets under management; started out as a junior PM and transitioned into full-time equity research; firms has hired MBAs from Harvard, Wharton and Tuck but has no history of sending anyone to an MBA program
  • Extracurricular involvement as an Eagle Scout; studied abroad in Rome; worked for a professional sports team during college; assisted undergrad athletic department with game-day operations; mentor and two sequential leadership positions for a national non-profit helping low-income students get into college; member of city’s young professional civic engagement group, which assists the mayor in shaping city policies. Attained CFA charter; avid sports fan, completed a marathon, and enjoy traveling to beaches all over the world (Sicily, Florida, Australia, Thailand, France, Caribbean).
  • Goal: To develop a global network of intelligent investors and business contacts.
  • Long-term goal: To start my own investment management firm (could probably use some guidance)
  • 27-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 40%
Stanford: 20% to 30%
Wharton: 40+%
Chicago: 50%
Columbia: 50%
MIT: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmm, Eagle Scout with 3.55 from a UVA-type school and a 740, with “4 years at a large asset management firm ($400 billion+ assets under management)” doing lots of things and landing in equity research. Totally regular white guy, well-meaning (“mentor, and 2 sequential leadership positions for a national non-profit helping low-income students get into college”) and “member of city’s young professional civic engagement group.”  And importantly, “firm has hired MBAs from HBS, Wharton, Tuck, but no history of sending anyone to an MBA program . . . .”

Close one, but guys like you often do not get into HBS or Stanford but often get into Wharton. Beyond that, you are “solid” at places like Chicago, Booth, Columbia, MIT (add Tuck, they go for straight arrows like you) — all of which will like your smarts, your many and strong white-bread attributes, and your accomplishments. At HBS and Stanford, there is just nothing driving you in, and your legacy of “silver” not “gold” schooling and employment often becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The issue there is whether your real solid extras and solid enough stats will be enough.

I take very seriously your firm’s lack of success in placing people in MBA programs — either because people do not apply or do not get accepted. That just strikes me as odd. The one long shot is to have a big-shot at your firm call or bang on the table at HBS and Wharton and say, “Hey there, we hire clowns from your programs, sooooo, how about a little reciprocity???” (Well, that would be the sentiment; I assume big shots know how to communicate that idea.) At Wharton, that could help too but they could like you all by yourself since you are solid, have a super GMAT, and they don’t consider finance a dirty word.

“Goal: to develop a global network of intelligent investors and business contacts. Long-term: to start my own investment management firm (could probably use some guidance).”

I would recast this along the lines of becoming a leader of an investment management firm focused on A, B or C (do some homework) where A, B and C are interests, passions, and experiences of yours. It really helps to sound focused on some part of the market, although, sure, it is just whistling in the dark.

Here’s a list (from Wikipedia!), bang on 20 of these and you may get the idea.

Ideas could include investment management firms focused on types of investments or types of investors.  It’s all B.S. but it helps to sound smart and informed and focused.

If you read the websites of some of those companies, you will get the right buzzwords. Then, it is just a matter of finding the ones which work for you and making them your own.

  • TeacherMan

    Mr. Kreisberg, I’d love your help judging my odds. Here is my background:

    -3.4 GPA; degree in Public Policy from Duke (GRE – 161 V; 162 Q)

    -Work experience: Currently a second year teacher with Teach For America (planning on at least one more year at the same school);

    -Extracurriculars: Created leadership development program for students at the school where I teach; college mascot (interesting twist?); managed 100+ person community service program in college; part-time job as special events manager in college

    -Goals: I want to improve the way schools and districts are managed, making them great places to work. Education consulting and eventually school/district leadership (hoping to combine with an M.Ed. or MPP) with the aim of leading a school district or education consulting firm

    24 year old white male

    I’m looking to apply to multiple joint-degree programs (for business and education), but should I still take the GMAT? Or will the GRE be fine?

    Target schools:



    Thank you!

  • MrOnlineRetail

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d appreciate your thoughts on my profile:

    -26 year old Asian Male
    -Have not taken GMAT, but expecting a 720
    -Graduated from WPI (reputable engineering school) with a degree in Civil & Environmental Engineering. I wanted to pursue a career in business – taking initiative, I enrolled in a part-time MBA program while doing business internships in order to transition my career. After a year, I was successfully hired into a Global Leadership Development program at a Fortune 400 manufacturing company. I now see the value of obtaining a top MBA in order take my career to the next level, and would be willing to leave the program I am currently enrolled in.

    -B.S. Civil & Environmental Engineering (3.1 GPA, with a 3.6 GPA in the final 2 years)
    -Currently enrolled in a part-time MS/MBA program (operations and supply chain management master’s), with a 3.7 GPA so far

    Work Experience:
    -2 years in Global Leadership Program at Fortune 400 company. Managed global operations projects, traveled to China, East Asia, Central America, Europe to collaborate with local leadership and complete projects. Also did a rotation in Product Management, which is my desired career path.
    -Transitioned into new role at Fortune 100 retailer (2nd online retailer in the world) in category management, driving the overall growth of the company in Technology categories. I have been w/ the company for 6 months, and I plan to start applying after I have worked here for 2 years. My current manager is a McKinsey-sponsored Wharton alum and would be able to write a strong recommendation for me.

    Career Goals:
    -I want to leverage my experience in supply chain and the online retail industry to be an influential leader at a large organization with a global supply chain. I want to be in charge of the strategy of a brand/product portfolio with a focus on global growth.

    -Love sports (basketball, baseball, snowboarding, golf, and many more), cooking, traveling, music, guitar, songwriting, blogging, photography
    -President, Korean Student Association
    -VP Operations, Graduate Student Government
    -Vice President, Christian Bible Fellowship
    -Worship team leader, bible study leader, and youth group Sunday school teacher at my church since 2006.
    -Active in Church outreach, including missions trips, soup kitchens, and charity fundraisers

    My top choices for schools are Northwestern, Chicago Booth, Wharton, UC Berkeley, UT Austin, Michigan Ross, Dartmouth Tuck, Carnegie Mellon, UCLA-Anderson

    I am also open to 1-year programs, where I might be able to transfer completed courses, and leverage the fact that I am already in the industry that I want to grow and advance in.


  • NC_MBA_hopeful

    Hey Sandy – I would love to get your thoughts on my profile. I am just a little unsure about what kind of schools would go for my profile

    *25 years old, male, Asian (American national)

    *GMAT: 730 – 48Q 42V (Also took the GRE – 800Q 610V)

    *Education: 3.4 in Math/Economics at top 10 liberal arts college

    *Work experience: I Spent 1 year doing an education-based Americorps program. I am currently working as a junior researcher for a research institute that studies health care and is affiliated with a large, reputable research university. My job primarily consists of doing statistical analyses (ie cleaning data, regression analysis, and a bit of mapping). I have been at my job for 1.5 years. Also, before my Americorps year, I spent three months at a large internationally focused NGO.

    *Goals: I hope to get into a top economic/litagation consulting shop (NERA, Analysis Group, Cornerstone, etc).
    *Extra-curriculars: I serve on the alumni board of the americorps organization I worked with. I also tutor students once a week. In college I was VP of the model UN club and tutored middle school students twice a week.
    *Target schools: Wharton, Columbia, Chicago, Fuqua, Sloan

  • Mr. International

    Hi Sandy, would appreciate if you could evaluate my odds. Many thanks!

    – 27 year old Indian male; grew up and studied in Africa and North America

    – Undergraduate degree in Economics from top 6 Canadian university (GPA: 3.7)
    – GMAT: 660
    – 4 yrs work experience at leading mobile tech/smartphone company (think Apple, Samsung, BlackBerry, Nokia etc), looking after BD/strategy and company’s expansion into emerging markets in Asia. Work included lot of travel globally (about 12 countries) and large, complex deals and negotiations with C-levels at channel partners. Promoted to manager level after first 18 months.

    – Extracurriculars:

    1) Treasurer of university’s international students association (one of the largest on university campus)

    2) Fundraising for NGO-affiliated student clubs

    3) Mentor at Economics Students Association
    4) Fitness enthusiast and marathon runner
    5) Avid soccer player (played varsity level in school and at competitive, intramural level in university)

    -Goals: Would like to complete an MBA focusing on strategy and general management and ideally, continue working in the tech industry in a BD/strategy role after graduation. Eventually, I would like to use this to carve a path into consulting or entrepreneurship.

    Target schools:





    Oxford Said

  • CLS

    Hi Sandy – would love to just receive some advice in general. For a prospective MBA candidate in ~3 years what would be valuable extracurricular activities? For example, would serving on a junior board or young professional board of directors for a non profit be something that adcom’s like to see? What are some things that can really separate a candidate that comes from an undergraduate state school with an average GMAT (think 650 – 680)?

    Thanks in advance!

  • Hi Sandy – thank you for your reviews of us MBA applicants! I’d appreciate it if you’d review mine! =)

    GMAT: 740 (90% in both M and V)
    Demographic: early 30s, Pacific Islander
    GPA: 3.35 graduate school, 3.2 undergrad, aerospace engineering, Georgia Tech

    Work Experience:
    US Navy Submarine Officer (Lt.): top clearances, commanded a $1B boat, led several naval teams in combat, emergency, watch stations (operations, nuclear engineering, etc.)
    NASA Engineer: worked as early career hire (fresh out of college) for 3 years on space shutle and space station deployment
    Other: Caltech summer fellowship, Lockheed Martin Intern,

    Travel/Entrepreneurship Experience (during grad school):
    –helped develop and market indoor mapping tool for blind people
    –programmed Python scripts and traded ($100K<) on the stock market. used profits to travel to 20+ countries on six continents, including Brazil, Israel, Egypt, Japan, Turkey, South Africa, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong, Czech Republic, etc.

    Languages: tagalog, mandarin, and spanish. all fluent.

    community service: i detest putting something down, just to put something down, but the two items i focused on were [a] ocean / river runoff pollution [b] "part-time" debate coach/judge. [a] because I am an avid surfer and licensed scuba diver and [b] during my high school years, i was the debate captain, and feel an afinity for "giving back" what it taught me – learning to speak clearly in front of any crowd.

    Looking at: a good fit – Duke? Wharton? MIT? I hate my GPA, but I have a solid GMAT score, and I think an applicant who used stock market profits to travel to six continents, helped launch space shuttles, and served as a us naval engineer is maaaybbbbee worth a look at? thanks!!! jess.

  • brock_vond

    HI Sandy,

    Please tell me what you think my odds are for getting into a top MBA

    I’m a 34 year old white male. I graduated from a community college and started working full-time at 20. After several years, I completed my degree through an online school.

    GMAT: 750+ (based on practice tests)

    M.S. in IT Management – 4.0 from Capella
    B.S. in Information Technology – 4.0 from Capella
    A.A. in General Studies – 3.3 at a community college

    Work History:
    I work at a community college in a mid-sized
    agricultural community in California. I stayed in the area a lot longer
    than I wanted for family reasons but am now trying to move upward and
    onward. I started at the college as a software developer, left for a
    year and a half to a private company and came back to take a management

    2 years as an IT Director (most recent)
    7 years as a lower-level IT manager (previous)
    4 years as a software developer. (oldest)

    Cryptography (code breaking)
    5th/6th grade basketball coach (one season)
    Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

    Future plans: I would like eventually to move up into a CIO position in a Fortune 500 company.

    Target schools: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, Haas, Ross.

  • Justin

    Meant to specify in my post re: GMAT…I’ve taken one practice CAT before studying and scored a 610. That was my first experience with the GMAT, so I feel comfortable after going through some of these MGMAT guides I can hit the 700 mark. Thus, just use 700 if necessary. Thanks!

  • Confused/Uncertain

    I would love to get some feedback before applying. It’s too expensive and time consuming to apply to unattainable/unrealistic programs. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

    660 GMAT (2nd attempt, 61%Q & 84%V)

    I took AP Calculus in high school, a Basic Stats course and an Environmental Economics course in college; I know that I can handle the quantitative side of the program, but I am taking Accounting and Finance Math/Statistics to prove my quantitative chops.

    3.67 GPA, graduated cum laude a semester early with a liberal arts major and two minors at NYU

    Work Experience: 1.5 years working as a project manager in a male dominated field and managing men 4 to 40 years older than me for an NYC Govt. Agency and then 2 years working as a project manager for a well-known nonprofit in NYC, currently working here.

    Current Extracurricular Activities: Marathon Runner, SAT tutor at ESL high school, Food Stamp (now SNAP) Counselor, Member of global nonprofit’s junior board

    Short Term Goal: To work as a non-profit consultant at an organization such as REDF, CRE, TCC group, etc. which prize previous work at a management consulting firm.

    Long Term Goal: With the skills and connections obtained through my MBA program and consultant position(s), I want to launch my own environmentally-focused social enterprise.

    25 year old white female

    Schools: Yale, Berkeley, Northwestern, Dartmouth, UT-Austin, Georgetown

  • John USMC

    Hey Sandy, great blog. I appreciate any counsel.

    -26 year-old white male

    -3.64 Undergraduate from tier-2 private university. Worked 24 hours a week for four years as bartender to pay my way through school. Campus leadership positions of service group and Economics Honor Society. Recipient of scholarship.

    -680 GMAT with 88%V, 63%Q

    -Decorated Marine Corps Captain (4.5 years) with two combat deployments. One deployment I founded a school for 230 Afghan children and led a helicopter assault against a Taliban stronghold. The other deployment I traveled the world training 9 different militaries in Asia and the Middle East. Ranked extremely high on military fitness reports and secured letter of recommendation from respected Marine Corps colonel.

    -Current work as a non-profit manager (less than a year). Act as Director of Strategic Operations at a grassroots, military-support nonprofit. Nonprofit is extremely respected in military community.

    -Interned in the House of Representatives during college (six months).

    -Founded fundraiser (still active) for my wounded Marines and Sailors and raised $18,000+. Member of lecture series on international policy, politics, economics, current events, etc..

    -Future goal is to open social financial enterprise to invest in institutions that better communities–similar to the work I did with the school I founded. Short-term goal is to work with commercial finance to give me practical experience to achieve long-term goal.

    Target Schools: Northwestern JD/MBA, University of Chicago, HBS, Ohio State University, UVA

  • Justin

    Hi Sandy.

    Although I’ve been thinking about b-school for a couple of years, I’m just now getting serious about making it happen. I plan to apply next year (matriculation 2015), so I have some time to improve my resume (although I’m certainly not getting any younger).

    27, white male, environmental engineer based in the southeast (AL)

    Haven’t taken yet, but will be taking in April.

    -BS in Civil Engineering from state school (US top-100 public engineering school; nothing glamorous)…3.38 GPA, 3.51 major GPA, 3.97 GPA senior year (all engineering courses)
    -MS in Engineering, focus in Environmental Engineering (same school)…1 year into the program, will finish a year from now…currently have a 4.0 GPA

    -(1 yr) Co-op with a regional design build firm; work consisted of preliminary design of commercial facilities, and some minor project management on small projects (<$200K).
    -(3 mos) Civil Engineer at a very small, local utilities department; work consisted of design and project management of ongoing facilities expansions
    -(1.5 yrs) Environmental Engineer at very large (top-5) private engineering, construction, and technical management firm (think URS, CH2M Hill, Parsons, Bechtel, etc.); work consists of environmental remediation projects for private clients and government agencies (DoD, etc.); some project management on small projects (<500K or so). Identified as an "emerging leader" within my organization, and serve as a team leader for our early career development program (helps new hires get oriented to the company, etc.; the emerging leader thing is cliche and somewhat cheesy, but whatever).

    -Led a team that designed a solar water disinfection method for small, remote communities around the globe, and was one of 3 teams selected nationally to present at the 2011 ASCE-EWRI World Congress
    -Performed other leadership activities within school chapter of ASCE (organized teams for student conference competitions, etc.)
    -Participated in the annual science olympiad for local students (K-12) (judged, tutored, etc.)
    -Serve as mentor/tutor for our local Boys and Girls Clubs; haven't been in this role long. Plan to increase my involvement within the organization and serve on the board of directors in the near future.

    I'm quite old to not have more work experience, but I definitely fit the "late-bloomer" stereotype. I floundered for 4 years in undergrad, before finding my niche. Once I finally got serious about my career, I performed very well. My ultimate goal is to remain in the environmental/energy resources sector, but I want to make the move to the consulting side of things. I feel I can have more impact there compared to the technical side of things (design, etc.). At some point in the future, I want to start my own environmental remediation/energy resources firm. I have approximately 1.5 years before applying to b-school, and about 2.5 before actually starting. Do I have even a remote shot at my target schools, or should I adjust my expectations? Also, any advice to better my chances?

    Thanks, Sandy! Appreciate all your hard work (and hard truth).

    Target Schools: Tuck, MIT, Fuqua, Haas, Ross (I know I don't have a shot at Stanford or HBS, thus my target schools are probably equally unrealistic. Don't get me wrong, I'm a confident person, and I've taken advantage of my opportunities thus far. However, I'm also a realist, and understand stats are stats…)

  • Nerdness

    Hi Sandy,

    Would really appreciate a profile evaluation. I have not seen you evaluate any profiles with Masters of Engineering Management degrees. Thank you!

    770/ Q 50 / V 45 /6.0

    Work EX
    Total of 3.5 Years to date
    1 Yr in Local Strategy Consulting Shop in India. Worked with Fortune 50 clients .Significant responsibly as youngest member of firm
    2.5 Yrs in Big 3 Consulting Firm(BB – Not Mckinsey) in the US. Promoted from AC-> Consultant
    Interned for a summer a few years back directly under extremely well known CEO of Fortune 500 company in India.. Potential LOR

    Bachelors in Computer Science from well known Regional university in India(Not IIT). 80%/100%
    Masters in Engineering Management from Stanford – GPA 3.9

    Extra Curricular and Community
    Significant work/leadership with Alumni Association of undergrad college. Founder of Mentoring program which has impacted 200+ students.

    Was also head of major technical society during undergrad for region ( with several 1000 Students Members).

    Assistant campaign manager for election campaign of candidate to Indian State legislature. Worked full time for a month .Apart from overall responsibilities, was specifically responsible for technology outreach and youth appeal. Candidate was elected with significant margin.

    Consistent record of working with public education in India for past 8+ years.Volunteer consultant with Teach for India .Working with a $200 Million+ company in India on their CSR strategy. Formal leadership responsibility in CSR with company(on their CSR committee). Company has schools running and more in pipeline. Key influence in their decision to pursue more schools. Worked on many education projects in currently consulting role.

    Harvard, Stanford , Wharton & Booth

    Post-MBA goal

    Continue in firm for the foreseeable future and again more experience- specifically with the education practice. Long term would like to make a difference in Education in India .Would ideally like to be a Not for Profit CEO of an educational foundation .

  • JustWantToGetIn

    Hi Sandy – would be great to get your thoughts on my profile. I am concerned that I am too bland in an already competitive pool. Any suggestions on how to spiff up in the next 4-5 months?

    * 26 years old, male, Filipino based in the Northeast
    * GMAT: 740 GMAT, 42/96% V, 48/78% M (this was my first try without much prep – should I retake?)
    * GPA: 3.9 GPA. Majored in Philosophy and Economics at a top 10 liberal arts college in the Northeast. Full-ride scholarship.
    * Work Experience: Private equity focused on healthcare (3 years). McKinsey consultant (3 years, outstanding sponsorship offer if I choose to return).
    * Goals: I hope to go back to PE, either in an investing role or a more operating role.

    * Extra-curriculars (college): Founded model-UN club and won award at Harvard Model UN conference. Chaired Filipino club. a capella group, peer adviser at the career center. writing tutor.
    * Extra-curriculars (post-college): Treasurer of LGBT volleyball association ($100K of operating funds). Play 6+ hours of volleyball a week, travel to 1 gay volleyball tournament a month (I am captain). Mentor high school student.
    Target schools: Sloan, Columbia, Stanford, Wharton, Stern, HBS