Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

This 30-something woman is a U.S. Navy submarine officer who has also spent three years as a NASA engineer. An avid surfer and licensed scuba diver, she is hoping that an MBA degree would help to advance her career.

He’s a Brazilian who works in logistics for one of his family’s companies in Brazil. With a 740 GMAT and a 2.8 grade point average, this 24-year-old now wants to go to a top U.S. business school so he could return to the family company and work in general management, eventually climbing to the position of chief operating officer or CEO.

He’s a 34-year-old IT director for a community college in California with a pair of online degrees from Capella University. With a 750 GMAT, he wants an MBA to eventually move up into a chief information officer role in a Fortune 500 company.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

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, 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:

femalenavalofficerMs. Naval Officer


  • 740 GMAT (90% Q & 90% V)
  • 3.2 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech
  • 3.35 GPA (master’s)
  • Master’s degree in aerospace engineering from Georgia Tech
  • Work Experience includes current stint as a U.S. Navy Submarine officer, with top clearances, commanding a $1 billion boat; led several naval teams in combat, emergency and watch stations; also spent three years as a NASA engineer with space shuttle and space station deployments
  • Also had Caltech summer fellowship and was a Lockheed Martin Intern,
  • Helped develop and market indoor mapping tool for blind people, programming 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, and the Czech Republic.
  • Extracurricular involvement in ocean/river runoff pollution and as a part-time debate coach and judge; an avid surfer and a licensed scuba diver
  • Fluent in Tagalog, Mandarin, Spanish and English
  • “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 U.S. naval engineer is maybe worth a look at?”
  • A 30-something Pacific Islander woman

Odds of Success:

Duke: 60%+
Wharton: 35% to 45%
MIT: 40%
Harvard: 30% to 45%
Stanford: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis:

First of all, apply to HBS. Dee Leopold LOVES female engineers, and you are the real deal. Also female vets are semi-rare and a plus at all top schools. HBS  will blink at your GPA in light of the double-barreled 740 GMAT (with 90 percent on both sides). Your work in the service and post that, viz.  “commanded a $1B boat (SCORE 1), led several naval teams in combat, emergency, watch stations (operations, nuclear engineering, etc.) (SCORE 2) and  NASA Engineer: worked as early career hire  for three years on space shuttle and space station deployment (SCORE 3) is just what schools really admire. Your internship at Lockheed Martin is another plus.

What you think they like,  “an applicant who used stock market profits to travel to six continents” is actually no big deal. Schools are totally unimpressed with people who makes $$$ trading stock. That is a different skill set, although they do admire people who found trading and money management companies, which is different.

It is amazing how many people, if asked to rank what schools would really like about them, often get it wrong. What schools like are engineers, solid GMATs and GPA, women in combat, women in submarines, and, yes, solid do-gooder stuff.

Another issue, you say, “Pacific Islander,” and I am just guessing, but given your U.S. Navy career, are we talking about American Samoa?

I assume you are a U.S. citizen?


You are an “official”  minority for U.S. government headcount purposes (US Citizen + either 1. Black, 2. Hispanic surname or from Puerto Rico, 3. Native American, 4. Alaskan — not sure what that means but my guess is, not any clown from Fairbanks — or, TA-DA Hawaii/Pac. Islander) In this  case, a super plus, because Pacific Islanders are also rare.  I don’t mean to be silly here, but schools collect this stuff and display flags from the home countries of their students, so they are the ones who fetishize this.

I talk to kids from all over the world, and honestly, on balance, those kids are more international generic yuppies than anything else, with the regional differences long since bleached out of them, although sure, they look superficially different and have different accents.

Soooo, what we got here is U.S. minority, submarine, woman, engineer with a 740 and some great work experience. In an odd way, your chances of getting into Stanford and HBS are better than MIT, where for better or worse, they are less impressed with identity politics jive than most places (but are still impressed!)

As for your community service: ocean/river runoff pollution because I am an avid surfer and licensed scuba diver–that is solid enough for me, and Stanford will not get past ”ocean river runnoff” before their eyes tear up.

What you need is some goals package to put this all together and to sound that you are in fact interested to each school you apply to.

Goals might be a real problem given that you are older–let me suggest consulting (Big 3 consulting shops are always looking for a military woman who has commanded a sub and is a scuba diver and has a 740) leading to something at the intersection of engineering, water, and making things better. Dip into the McKinsey practice areas and you will get some great ideas.

  • Will E Keith

    You are 100% correct – this profile is a fairy tale. As a current naval officer I can confirm that the career accomplishments that this person is claiming are simply not possible. You don’t make a “stint” as a submarine officer, you make a career of it or you don’t make it at all. I’d also be interested to hear about her “space station deployments” and which naval teams she led in combat. Perhaps she forgot to mention that she also killed Osama Bin Laden and rescued Richard Phillips from his pirate captors. This person may very well be a naval officer (although I doubt it), but that would only serve to make this type of hyperbolic nonsense all the more disgraceful.

  • Russian Guy

    Hello again.

    While Sandy haven’t provided his anailsys yet, I would like to ask the auditory:

    Ok, I have:

    – good academic stats (4.9 GPA, 760 GMAT, Ph.D.)

    – but rather average management experience (middle-management in avg. Russian company, 1000+ employees)

    Given this, what kind of questions will ask himself Stanford Adcom member, looking at my profile? Don’t forget, I am 31.

    Can anyone point out for me a similar profile, and Sandy’s analisys?

  • Mr. Legacy

    Hi Sandy, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading the series and would really appreciate your help on my profile:

    African (American) Male – was born and lived in Africa until college but a US citizen – underrepresented minority

    GPA: 3.6 from Ivy (Columbia) – Magna Cum Laude – Distinction in Major – Dean’s List many semesters + other awards – also, I had a bad freshman year (3.2 GPA) and upped my gpa every year (3.98 final semester)

    Double Major: Philosophy and Cultural Studies – Graduated #1 in my class for Cultural Studies amongst 100 students

    GMAT: 680 – Quant 48 – Verbal 35 (Did it three times but I just couldn’t up my verbal score) – I am dyslexic (my reading is really affected when i’m under pressure) but for my writing courses in college I had a cumulative 3.85 gpa

    WE: 3 years at a $2BN equity hedge fund – promoted twice – moved back to Africa to work with family business 6 months ago (energy consulting firm)

    Goals after business school: Africa focused venture capital

    Extra-curriculars: In college – president and chairman of 2 cultural groups – philanthopy chair of my fraternity – soup kitchen volunteer for homeless
    Since college: Toastmasters (Vice President) – mentor to young aspiring African college graduates – scuba diver (qualified scuba diving instructor) – events planner for college alumni events

    Other: My father attended HBS and my mother has a masters in international relations from Stanford.

    I am considering applying to:


    My questions specifically: What of my odds of getting into HBS and Stanford GSB given that I am a direct legacy at HBS and a quasi legacy at Stanford GSB? And what are my chances at Columbia seeing as I went there for undergrad? (I’ve heard Columbia does not like repeat students)

  • CPA-to-Ops

    Mr. Kreisberg, I’d appreciate the benefit of your handicapping, if it’s not too much trouble.

    – 3.7 GPA from top 40 private university (attended on a full academic scholarship; national merit scholar back in the day); double majored accounting/finance and was president of my school’s accounting fraternity; worked all through undergrad, up to 50hrs/week, taking 15-21 credits per semester

    – Presently a 720 GMAT (first attempt taken with no recent prep; I taught with Kaplan for over 3 years and scored much higher back then. The test has changed a bit since, and I plan to retake targeting 750+)

    – Work experience (this is what has me worried):

    Internship with PwC in advisory

    Approx. 2 years with a major public accounting firm (think GT/McGladry); fell seriously ill during my second audit season and was riffed within two weeks of returning to work (office downsized by 30%) – managed to pass all parts of the CPA exam (first attempt each) while working full time

    Worked with a smaller public accounting firm thereafter until I was able to land a controller position with a gold-mining startup with properties in South America; eventually became functional CFO, raising capital and engaging PE firms until the company ran out of working capital, after which I was forced to depart for the sake of my own solvency. I learned a great deal throughout this experience, however, and clearly took an enormous risk in order to pursue an interesting and exciting career path, despite the unfortunate results.

    Currently work for one of the only $-billion-plus multinationals in the Tampa Bay area in a high-profile position. I will have been there 2+ years upon matriculation and have already been able to nearly eliminate my role through process improvements. Management has taken notice, and I may even obtain sponsorship for my eventual MBA.

    Run a small accounting/consulting firm on the side that caters to internet and local startups; operate on either a non-profit or an equity-only basis.
    – Charitable work: Habitat for humanity and Junior Achievement (helping underpriveleged youth expand their financial literacy)

    – Looking to obtain an MBA to shift to a financial management role or consulting. I am not thrilled with the prospect of spending the rest of my years preparing financial statements and footnotes.

    – Target schools: Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Tuck (side note: I was accepted to UChicago in undergrad and was unable to attend due to financial constraints. It was my dream to attend then and it still is today.)

    – 27 year-old white male

  • Ms. Entertainment

    John & Sandy,

    Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeeee assess me! I’m applying to business school this fall and I
    would absolutely love your input on my chances at MIT, UCLA, Duke, Chicago, or
    NYU / Columbia.

    710 GMAT

    3.75 GPA

    Undergraduate degree from UC Berkeley – Double Major in Business Administration
    from Haas and Economics

    Work experience includes 2.5 years at PwC in Audit where I was a top performer
    and got promoted early (my second year), currently work at Warner Bros. as a
    FP&A Senior Analyst for their Corporate group but also worked in an
    International group there where I traveled overseas. I have been working at Warner Bros. for 1.5

    My extracurricular activities include youth mentoring bi-monthly, involvement
    in our non-profit group at Warner Bros., colleague mentoring at PwC, heavy
    involvement in internal events at PwC and college leadership experience.

    MBA Goal: To transition into strategy for an Entertainment company and
    ultimately work as an executive in strategy at a mid-size or large Entertainment

    25-year-old female

  • Ben

    Dear Sandy

    I really like following your series – can you do an odds assessment for me,
    based on the following criteria?


    27 years old male, with mixed background (Germany/India).


    – Undergrad: business studies from a school in Germany (Top 10% GPA) –
    graduated 2010

    – Double master’s degree in business well known European universities (GPA 3.3) – graduated 2012

    Work experience:

    Will have 2 years of McK-exp. upon joining b-school, mainly advising automotive
    and consumer goods clients. McKinsey will sponsor me.

    Work exp. at other consulting firms (think Kearney, Deloitte)
    and consumer goods/entertainment (think of top FMCG, online media)

    Other: Some leadership roles outside professional env.

    Three years old GMAT score of 660 (Q 49/V 97) – plan to retake it this summer
    and target 700+

    Targeted class year: Class of 2016, would like to enroll for start in fall 2014

    Schools in my Focus (US totally preferred):

    Columbia, NYU Stern, Booth, Kellogg, HBS, Wharton, MIT Sloan, Stanford, London
    Business School, Insead

  • PRC

    Forgot to mention 21 year old white male

  • PRC

    Hi Sandy, I’ve been reading for a while, and would appreciate a profile.

    I’m intending on applying to Harvard and Stanford’s 2+2 programs in fall 2014. Currently I’m getting a double major in engineering and political science at a public ACC school, with a 3.85 GPA. I’m projecting a 720 GMAT.

    Extracurriculars include involvement with the Student Government for multiple years, working with administrators to improve projects that students would like to see on campus in addition to the allocation of millions of dollars to various student groups. I’ve also spent the past couple of years as a peer advisor to incoming freshman engineering students, serving as a mentor and holding weekly meetings to aid them in the transition to college. I’m the treasurer for my fraternity where I manage a budget of over 50K. Furthermore, I work with an educational non-profit which serves over 5000 students internationally, and I held a leadership role where I coordinated a staff of 80 and was responsible for a budget of 150K. Finally, I co-founded a group on campus which works with helps connect students with local non-profits via pro-bono consulting style work.

    For work experience, I interned at a boutique operations consulting firm where I worked with several large retail clients. I then interned as a consultant in one of the top consulting firms in the world outside of BBM (think Deloitte/Accenture/Booz).

    Short Term Goals: It’s hard to get attention at a non-target public school from the likes of Bain/McKinsey/BCG. I’d like to use an MBA to open the door at one of these firms.

    Long Term: I’d like to work at one of the big 3 for several years, and then jump over to private equity a la Mitt Romney. Using my engineering background, I want to work for a firm that has operations specialists like TPG Capital.

  • The Phoenix

    I AM A PHOENIX! (Now how much does this hurt me?)
    700 GMAT (76% Q / 90% V) in one try
    3.21 GPA (worked full-time in management, travelled, and moved states while doing my degree.. some mitigation explanation of a 3.21 @ U of P
    Unfortunately, 29yr old white male (Mexican wife / half mexican child and I speak fluent Spanish.. I REALLY want to check the “identifies with hispanic culture” box on some apps).
    Undergraduate degree is in business management at the University of Phoenix (in person – most of it. I had to move due to a job promotion with about a year left. Also did 25 credits at a state school before starting the U of P)

    Work Experience: 7 years with a $50B company that is now owned by Berkshire Hathaway. Started in the union and am now middle management (Manager title) with 11 direct union reports, 1 secretary, oversight of about 90+ contractors and I manage a plant with $40-$50M in inventory at any given time. I’ve been promoted twice, every 2.5-3 years on a logical pattern – each time more reponsibility. Great performance reviews (top 3-4% of the company) and should get good recs.
    Extras: Heavily involved in the leadership in church groups, small groups, mission trips to Mexico (I speak fluent/native-like Spanish and intermediate German (self taught)) as well as being a key leader in planting a church in my current hometown. Member of a few work-related organizations but nothing too impressive.
    I’m looking at Booth/Northwestern as well as Indiana and Carlson as my “safety schools” (I hope). Ideally Booth or Kellogg though.
    Thanks for taking the time to read this. I got a 6.0 on the writing portion of the GMAT and I think my essays should be fairly strong… I know my “story” pretty well.

  • wharton15

    With your international background you should look at the Wharton/Lauder program.

  • Justin

    Okay, after speaking with 2 other people in the game (one an admissions consultant), I apparently undervalued my candidacy a bit. Although there’s something to like (for me) at each of the schools I listed, I’m still shooting for the best I can get in to (for the most part). Thus, use this list instead: Fuqua, Tuck, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Darden, Ross. Also, I’ll be applying this fall, not next fall as previously mentioned.

  • Mr Analytics

    Hi Sandy,

    I understand that there are a lot of posts similar to mine and you have limited time to spare. Currently I am having difficulty deciding on schools given my GPA and age. I will be
    really grateful even if you give me the percentages for the schools. Thanks in advance.

    Mr. Analytics

    – 710 GMAT
    – 69% from a top Indian university (non IIT) in mechanical engineering
    – 3.18 CGPA (masters) in mechanical and aerospace engineering, Member of Golden key international honor society (membership offered to top 15% in class, by invitation only)

    Work experience (chronological):
    – 1 year as a freelance automotive tuner (drag racing and rally’s) between
    undergrad and masters
    – 3 months as a trainee for a no name SAP consultant company
    – 1 year managing family business around 50 employees due to fathers illness
    – 1 year 3 months as a business analyst in a boutique analytics firm working with
    fortune 500 clients
    – 2 years with a fortune 100 company (high tech) in the business analytics division,
    joined as a business analyst and moved to a business consultant in one year
    (current job). Project lead in 2 projects.
    – Part of a team that developed and implemented a predictive model tool that had a business
    impact of $80 million (Big Data)

    – President APICS student chapter
    – Co-authored a white paper that was presented at a premier analytics conference
    – Managing sub-committee member of a club that promotes social, recreational and sporting activity for youth in particular, also organizes a special event for orphan’s once a year

    Goal: To get into one of the big 3 consulting firms

    29 year old Male from India applying in the 1st round for fall 2014

    Target Schools:
    – Harvard
    – Columbia
    – NYU
    – Cambridge
    – London
    – Yale

  • Tripsd

    Additional details. 28 year old white male . 2+ years experience at start up.

  • Russian guy

    Dear Sandy,

    Could you please evaluate my profile?

    – 31, Russian, male, intend to apply this fall.
    – 760 GMAT (Q: 90%, V: 96%)
    – TOEFL not taken yet
    – Master degree in maths in a top russian university, GPA 4.9 out of 5.0, (gold medal)
    – PhD in maths in a top russian university (completed it while worked full-time)

    Experience (10 years):
    – SW developer (1.5 years) in a small but world-wide known software company that is listed in top-3 in its area. Two promotions in a short time.
    – Moved to internaltional sales within the same company (1.5 years), selling small technological projects ($20-$60K) abroad.
    – Moved to the small international software company to perform the role of product manager (new product development and marketing of existing products). (1 year).

    For 5 recent years I have been working in a top-10 russian system integrator (1000+ employees) performing different activities related to the growth of the revenues and margins: working with partners to get additional discounts, supervising presale team to get deals closed, improving effectiveness of contracts renewal, etc. Some of these activities lead to measurable benefits for the company (each year I make a project that brings 100-500K to the company as a profit or direct economy), these activities are rather direct and straightforward (catch orphaned customers, push managers to insist on renewals, etc.). The position is also called ‘product manager’ but I don’t own solely ‘the product’, since ‘the product is too big.

    – Extras: I wanted to be a scientist, thus I participated in math Olympiads (was in top-50 on a country-level), I wrote some scientific works – the first one in the university, and I continue to write them on a good level as a hobby – the most recent work have been published at 2013. This explains my PhD.

    Goal: Join a large Silicon-Valley brand company in a role of the product leader. I need MBA to combine my technology background with strategy and leadeship skills, which I’ll get on MBA program, and to get credibility in the eyes of U.S. employments. I don’t exclude working for management consulting to pay the student loan.

    My concerns: 1) age 2) little to show as a leadership experience (I have 1 direct report now; the ‘team projects’ where I was the leader are now 3 years old or more) 3) slow career progress last years. 4) no brands at the list.

    My current position seem to be a dead-end (and I don’t know what would be recommendations from there – my boss left the company year ago and now I am more struggling than achieving). I think about changing the job before application, but I don’t see what should be the direction. I can pursue the jobs in branded companies (Oracle, IBM, others) here in Russia, or jobs in smaller companies where I will get more dynamic and leadership-like position, but my ‘area of impact’ will shrunk. But it can look like a professional decline for adcom. I would appreciate your point of wisdom on my profile evaluation and how can I improve it.

    Schools: Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, Haas (?), INSEAD (?)

  • Tripsd

    Hi Sandy,

    With a bit of an unusual background I would really love to hear your thoughts on my profile.

    – 3.7 GPA from small liberal arts college. Economics Major

    – Masters in economics from “public ivy” with 3.8 GPA. All but dissertation on PhD.

    – 760 GMAT

    – Part time experience as research assistant and teaching assistant. Main points are helping to write a sports economics text book as well as editing a book looking at economic factors of the 3 gorges dam project in china

    – Co-Founder and VP of academic affairs at an educational start up. Current size is around $3M in annual revenue and 100 employees

    – social work relating to cancer awareness including fundraising over $5K as well as 5 hours a week as an research assistant

    – target schools – Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg. Top 10

    – Goals post graduation. Return to consulting (interned throughout undergrad) and eventually transition into starting a boutique firm focused on statistical analysis or focusing on Non-profit management.

  • AS

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m curious what my chances are. Your input will be very much appreciated.

    Female, will be ~24 when applying, 3-4 years out of college. HBS, Stanford, and Wharton are my top 3.

    BS in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech (graduated in 3 years coming from high school)
    GPA 3.8
    GMAT – have not taken it yet, but hopefully above 700. I scored around the 92% percentile on the SAT, so I don’t envision a spectacularly high GMAT score.

    Work experience:
    Planing to work at top management consulting firm (But not one of the MBB, just below that) for 3-4 years (just graduating college now and accepted the consulting offer). I plan to try for at least one international assignment.

    Worked a little over a year at a Fortune 500 company as a business analyst (internship + half time) – spent some time in product management, product marketing, and international business. Have done some very interesting projects – drawing insights from a lot of data.

    Had two additional internships – one in a startup defense company and one in a small consumer products company.


    Was the president of a female organization in college (and before that a vice president).

    2 years of being a vice president of a social entrepreneurship organization.

    At Deloitte I plan to get involved in the women’s network, pro-bono consulting, industry groups, etc.

    I also plan to focus on a volunteering cause in the next few years – two possible ones are female trafficking and animal cruelty.

    Another possibility for me is a startup or some kind of mild business on the side.

    Born in Russia, came to the US as a child – bilingual in Russian and English. Very unique story as to why my family came to America – my dad had a very unique job (not defense related, not seeking asylum, etc.) which made for a very unique childhood – but I don’t know if that will count. I am the first to go to college in the US, but both my parents are technically college educated.

    Goals: I want a business education so that I can have the tools to start my own business. I have a strong interest in startups and social entrepreneurship (think Grameen Bank and microfinance). A long term career goal is to be CEO of a company – whether my own or someone else’s.

    Thank you in advance!

  • CAA

    Hello Sandy, read most of your threads, really liked them, would like to hear your advice.

    Male, Chinese, US citizen, 27 years old. Moved from China to Texas at age 10, living in Germany for 3+ years.

    GMAT: plan on taking this summer, goal is to get at least 700.

    School: Electrical Engineering, GPA: 3.9, graduated top 2% from a Service Academy (USMA/USNA/USAFA).

    Military Experience (all with a unit based in Germany):

    – 25-Man Reconnaissance Platoon Leader (18 months), deployed to Afghanistan during 2010 Surge, 4 months of combat operations followed by 8 months of infrastructure development and Afghan training.

    – Battalion Maintenance Officer (12 months),supervised operations of 30-Soldier maintenance section, responsible for repair/services of a 150-vehicle fleet, oversaw safety, environmental compliance, and budget control

    – Executive Officer (2nd in command) of a 250-Soldier Headquarters Company (10 months), primarily dealing with logistics, maintenance, and administration; due to deploy to Afghanistan this summer to participate in retrograde operations (packing up and shipping out) as one of the last American unit to leave.

    Business Experience

    I had an 8 month break-in-service due to medical reasons, at which time I worked for a Chinese energy SOE in Houston as an HR assistant, primarily handling labor relations (i.e. disputes between Chinese bureaucrats and Texan rednecks). Additionally, I have been around China-US business most of my time growing up (my parents had an import/export business), from finding parts suppliers in Texas to sell to China with my mom to discussing joint ventures with Chinese businessmen and officials with my dad over shots of rice wine.

    Extra circular:

    – College: President for 2 student organizations: Chinese Culture Club and an Engineering Honor Society; volunteer at Big Brother/Sister for 2 years; Certified tutor with a few hundred service hours; did Habitat For Humanity during my break-in-service

    – Post College: Started a small Chinese Club on my base, held a few events with the local Chinese community; member of the local photography club, photographed my travels throughout Europe; volunteer tutor at local community college helping enlisted Soldiers getting their degrees; I write a blog, in Chinese, focused on US-sino cultural differences; with topics from my blog, I also record periodic (about once a month) radio interviews and monologues with a Chinese-American radio station in Texas.

    I want an MBA from H/W/S or London Business School to round out
    my engineering background and continue my leadership development. My goal (long
    term and short) is to build/structure/manage China-US businesses.

  • Young

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love to hear an assessment of chances:
    Target Schools: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia
    Canadian/Caucasian Male, 25
    Education: Undergraduate from Richard Ivey School of Business in Canada
    GPA: 3.6
    GMAT 720 (94%), Q45 (68%) V44 (97%), AWA 6 (90%), IR 8 (92%)
    Work Experience:
    – 2 years at a no-name asset management firm (500 million AUM) in buy-side equity research
    – 1 year at PricewaterhouseCoopers in audit (co-op terms)
    – 1 Co-op at Canadian Tire in Retail analysis
    – At University: President of Business Entertainment Club, member of other clubs
    – After University: Board of directors of a charity helping kids with learning disabilities, Scout leader, Volunteer at Toronto International Film Festival, Volunteer on Political Campaigns
    Other Stuff:
    – Diagnosed with the learning disability, Dyslexia
    – Legacy Status at HBS (brother is currently a student)
    – To work in venture capital with a tech/entertainment focus or as a management consultant or in a general management role at a tech company/entertainment

  • Mr. Big Data

    Thank you for the insight, Sandy! It’s very helpful to have some positive feedback as I start shifting away from GMAT preparation and toward winnowing my schools and (eventually) composing my applications.

    For any other readers who are considering soliciting Sandy’s advice, I would highly recommend it not only for the appraisal, but also the exercise in distilling your path and goals into a cogent pitch. I revised my comment on the last “Assessing Your Odds” post quite a few times and cut out a number of things that felt superfluous. Composing an actual application will obviously be different and more expansive, but this exercise has helped me identify certain common threads that I would like to highlight when I get there.


  • Mr. Sponsorship

    Sandy – Would greatly appreciate an assessment of the profile below. Thanks for the time.

    – 760 GMAT (85Q/99V)
    – 3.60 GPA Economics (3.80 within major)
    – Liberal arts college in 20-30 national ranking range
    – 3 years experience at a major sports league front office (NFL/NBA/MLB)
    – Current responsibilities include managing sponsorship research/analytics projects and building partner marketing proposals; started career through rotational program at same league
    – Leadership positions in college with volunteer elementary school tutoring organization and student-managed equity investment fund
    – College internships at a boutique economic development agency and food conglomorate (in a contract manufacturing/purchasing function)
    – Goal is to transition to a strategy and analytics role at a broadcast media company, or work in a media practice at a consulting firm
    – 24, first-generation Asian-American male
    – Schools of interest: H/S/W, MIT, Berkeley

    Hoping to gain some entrepreneurial or international experience before applying, as I am genuinely interested in both. Open to hearing any other schools that may be a fit as well. Thank you again!

  • Canadian Banker

    Mr. Canadian Banker
    670 GMAT
    3.6 Cumulative GPA; 3.9 Finance GPA
    Undergraduate degree in Finance from Canadian Ivy (think UofT, McGill, Queens)
    Work Experience includes four years at a Canadian bulge bracket firm (think RBC, BMO, CIBC) working in investment banking as an analyst (3 years) and promoted to an associate (1 year). I work on M&A and financing deals in a sexy sector (think biotechnology, clean-tech, biofuels). I have been involved in recruitment for the firm and have conducted interviews etc. Firm has hired MBAs from top-ten US MBA programs for the associate position (my current role).
    I can get good recommendations from a managing director and a vice president.
    Extracurricular: Varsity lacrosse in university, active member of a charity (fundraise for them etc.)
    Goal: To work on the buy-side or in corporate development in my sector (I receive calls for similar roles frequently)
    25-year-old brown (not sure if it matters) Canadian male
    Schools: Yale, Berkeley, Stern, Cornell, Wharton

  • hbsguru

    B schools and esp. adcoms are very old-fashioned about many things, including what they secretly think about online courses, even if they start offering them themselves. All things being equal, they prefer “real” (as they would call them in unguarded moments) courses with your butt in a chair and some person yapping with chalk in her hand in the same room. E.g. Classroom courses not online courses. Stats is better than Micro, for you, and most, b.c. stats is considered more “Quanty,” which is what we are talking about in the first place.

  • Mr. Big Pharma

    Got it! Thanks Guru

  • Dreamer

    Hi Sandy.

    I would really appreciate if you could assess my chances.

    -24 year old Asian-American male
    -Studied business at one of these (UVA/NYU/Michigan)
    -750 GMAT; 3.5 GPA
    -Started a profitable import/export business with mid 5 figure revenue
    -Previously interned at Morgan Stanley for Fixed Income Sales and Trading
    -MBA Goal: to foster entrepreneurship and learn from others who have had experience in established corporations

    Target schools: Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Columbia, MIT

    Thank you Sandy!

  • Teacher Man

    Sandy, I’ve really enjoyed following the series and would really appreciate your help on my profile:

    -~3.5 GPA; degree in Public Policy from Duke (GRE – 161 V; 162 Q)

    -Work experience: Currently a second year history teacher with Teach For America (planning on at least one more year at the same school); other internships at New Orleans charter school and a historical preservation-based real estate firm

    -Other experience: 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, with a focus on making them great places to work. Wanting a business education to develop the technical/quantitative skills of management, but also to learn from and connect with people (fellow students and professors) who break the mold and turn around companies/organizations in their industries. I am also looking at MPP and Ed.D degrees with the goal of leading a school, district, or nonprofit/consulting firm.

    24 year old white male

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

    Target schools:


    Thank you! I really appreciate any guidance/tips you may be able to offer.

  • Intel Dude

    Forgot to mention: My undergrad was in Marketing at a very ‘meh’ state university.

  • Intel Dude

    Hey Sandy,

    You do awesome work boss. I love reading these articles. Sometimes I’m depressed, other times I’m elated, but I’m always interested. If you find the time, please assess my profile.

    27 Yr old African American Male (28 if I wait to apply R1)


    690 GMAT Q44 V39

    2.97 GPA (I know) with an upward slope for my junior and senior years.

    Associate of Arts in Korean (3.2 GPA)

    Work Experience
    4 years as a cryptologic linguist for the United States Air Force and NSA. I basically created intelligence products for the intelligence community in a process not all that different from business I would imagine. 6 Month deployment to Afghanistan.

    Top Secret Security Clearance
    Member of American Marketing Association my senior year
    Volunteered at food shelters my freshman year.

    Accountability monitor keeping track of over 100 Airmen
    Proficient in Korean
    Many hours of volunteer work in the designate driver program for the military base

    Target schools
    Northwestern / Chicago / Michigan / UT Austin / Indiana U

  • Said

    Hello Sandy,
    I read that you recommend taking a quant course over again if you have a subpar grade on your transcript such as Stats, Calc, or MicroEconomics. Personally I am going to go ahead and retake Stats and Micro. Would it be a problem or a turnoff from the adcom’s point of view if I took those courses through an online program? And in order of importance between those three courses, which one would impress the adcom more. I am staying away from calc because frankly it scares the hummus out of me.

  • hbsguru

    Just re-read your profile. I would leave the real estate stuff OUT of this, it does you no good, and it muddies the waters of your long-ish and twisiting career which already has enough question marks in it. The way you are getting in to a selective school is by curating your story and presenting it as: Minority Guy who worked his way up from Rite Aide to Pharma Ph.D. to now the Great Minority Hope to Reform Health Care and Drugs especially for under-served grouips. Pal, just focus on that and leave everything else out. You got a sell-able but barely stable story, keep it as simple as possible.

  • HenryCarnival

    If you like the idea of Tuck’s tight knit community, you should consider Duke’s Fuqua. I’ve heard good things about the collaborative spirit that is pervasive on its campus.

  • Mr. Big Pharma


    Thanks for taking the time to craft a response.

    I just wanted to clarify a few things that I may have not expressed clearly in my short bio. First, you are correct in the order of my employment history-Rite Aid first, then OptumRx, and now the undisclosed PBM which is smaller than Optum, but provides me with increased leadership opportunities and program development opportunities.

    Second, I see your point regarding the disclosure of my real estate drama; however, I tend to think the venture overall shows some talent. Would the mention of the venture be helpful if I omit the drama?

    Finally, you mentioned, “You should not present yourself as someone who just wants a promotion to re-arrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.” That is funny, but let me clarify my goals. In your wiki search on PBMs, you pasted, “PBMs compete to win business by offering their clients a range of sophisticated administrative and clinically based services, enabling them to manage drug spending…” So the industries that PBMs operate within are a hybrid of managed care and pharmacy practice. We manage drug spend for clients (e.g. employer groups, Medicare part D, etc.). The service we provide to these clients is what saves the clients’ health plan a lot of money. There are many angles across different industries to manage drug spend. Manufacturing is one; manage care and pharmacy networks are others.

    Now, to your point, I wish to manage the drug spend for large clients, including those in the Medicare part D space. Yes, I want to lead the charge in better benefits management. Better benefits management includes better access to care, cost stability, cost transparency, and a few other industry buzz phrases. We manage the “me too” meds through formularies and other mechanisms. Of course, when my team and I are managing this cost there will be a consult element to the overall service. Sitting on a board or an advisory committee that meets quarterly with the feds is something I’d also consider. The PBM game has a lot of moving parts and is an area requiring expertise. My goal, simply put is to get the right drug to the right patient at the right time, and at the right cost.

    I hope this clears up any confusion.

    Thanks again

  • Tina

    Hello Sandy,

    Thank you so much for the posts. I wish you can access my profile.

    GMAT: 730
    GPA: 77 in 100 scale.

    Master Degree from China,

    Major: Design

    Work experience: 6 years with Nokia, two promotions. Current title is product manager.

    Great Extracurricular work at university, but little after school

    Lived and worked in four countries, now in US
    32 years old female

    I was dinged by Wharton and MIT. what is my chance with


    Columbia J term

    Thank you in advance!

  • Mr Brewer

    Hi Sandy, could you please help me with my profile? because i`m pretty different from others candidates:

    *24 years old Brazilian man

    *Gmat 620(Planning to retake it)

    *GPA in Business Administration, Brazil is a little different GPA but i was in a top 15% at a prestigious school

    *Work experience:

    i leave the college i opened my own business, is a firm who put all
    smallers wholesellers and industries togheter to make a common large buy
    of raw material from big suppliers abroad, getting better prices and
    finding the right quality to then, i`m employ 3 people on that business
    and i`m planning to open another office soon.

    *Extra curricular.

    At school i was class representative

    school i aways had been a huge fan of craft beer, i started to drink
    after this i had learned how to do it and i become a homebrewer, but my
    brews start to make sucess so i opened a brewery with a partners and 2
    employees and today we have 4 beers year round and some seassonals, we
    recieved the prize of the best Beer brewed in our state, and i`m active
    member and assist our association president, and work hard to spread the
    beer culture around us i`m also had teach a lot of people how to brew a
    good beer.

    My target Schools is: Tuck, Stern (Accepting sugestions about that but must to be a top tier school i was thinking about Darden)

    Really aprreciate your help!

  • hbsguru

    Well, you might be on to something, as to the specifics, maybe the poster in question can clarify,. I was attempting to use the profile to tease out generic info useful to most applicants: 1. that female army/navy/air force vets at B school are rare, and if you are one, you should apply if interested;

    2. that being a Pacific Islander + an US Citizen is a certified minority group,
    and a real plus in an application, something poster did not seem aware of.

    3. that making money as a stock trader is NOT as impressive to adcoms as being a leader etc.etc.

    4. Also, that if you have a genuine engineering background and a 740 GMAT with good splits, schools may blink at a low GPA, esp. one full of engineering courses.

    All that said, thanks for the poke, this profile does look a bit “maximized.” 🙂

  • DWS

    This profile is ridiculous. Females were just allowed on submarines a few years ago and they are all junior officers. The first female commander of a submarine will be a huge milestone for the Navy, it just hasn’t happened yet (the current female officers are too young to have had a chance to make it through the upper ranks). The fact that the above profile claims command is highly suspicious and just plain false.

  • Mr. Environmental Engineer

    Hi Sandy.

    I would very much appreciate your input, as I’m a little unsure if I’m concentrating on the right schools.

    27 year old US white male, environmental engineer from Alabama, looking to apply round 1 for Fall 2015 start

    Education & GMAT
    -BS in Civil & Environmental Engineering from the University of Alabama-Huntsville; 3.38 GPA, 3.51 major GPA, 3.97 senior year GPA (all engineering courses)
    -MS in Engineering from the University of Alabama-Huntsville; currently hold a 4.0 GPA one year into the program, and will complete the degree one year from now (working full time as well)
    -Will be taking GMAT in April, shooting for 720; most recent practice CAT was 710

    Work Experience
    -(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); this was during undergrad
    -(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 a very large (top-5) private engineering and technical management company (think URS, CH2MHill, Parsons, etc.); work consists of environmental remediation projects for both private clients and government agencies (primarily DoD); some project management on small projects (<$500K or so); identified as an "emerging leader" within the organization, and serve as a team lead for our early career development program

    Extra Curriculars
    -Mentored and tutored at risk kids at a local school as part of an honors course on social responsibility (~2-3 hours per week for a semester)
    -Led a team that designed a solar powered water disinfection method for small, remote communities, 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 K-12 students (judged projects, tutored, etc.)
    -Active in local professional chapter of ASCE (American Society of Civil Engineers)
    -Active in local professional chapter of SAME (Society of American Military Engineers)
    -Volunteer with the Boys and Girls Clubs of North Alabama (mentor, STEM tutor, athletics)
    -Very active individual, and outdoor enthusiast (rock climbing, mountaineering, kayaking)

    I'm a little old to not have more work experience, but I definitely fit the "late-bloomer" stereotype. I meandered somewhat aimlessly for 4 years in undergrad, before finding my niche. After getting serious about my studies/career, I performed well. Essentially, I'm pursuing an MBA to transition into consulting. I enjoy my career and I'm passionate about my work, but I feel my impact will be more significant as a management consultant for environmental engineering/remediation/tech companies. Thus, my short term goal is to leverage my environmental engineering knowledge and experience and begin working for a management consulting firm. Long term, I plan to open my own environmental remediation/energy resources company.

    Target schools: Fuqua (top choice), Tuck, Johnson, Darden, Ross, Tepper, McCombs, Goizueta

    Am I looking at the right schools? Any advice on what I can do over the next year or so to better my chances?

    Thanks, Sandy!

  • Mr. Midwest Engineer

    Hey Sandy,

    What a great way to wake up – a new handicapping post! Would you mind reviewing my profile? I’m kind of at a standstill in regards to which schools I should focus on.

    25 year old US white male, will be 26 at matriculation. Looking to apply round 1 for Fall 2014 start.

    Education & GMAT
    – BS in Mechanical Engineering from Midwest Public Ivy
    – GPA: 3.2 (3.5 last 2 years)
    – GMAT: 730 (might retake, how much would that help?)

    Work Experience
    3 years (at matriculation) of experience as an Application Engineer at a large (~$1B revenue), but not well known fiber optic cable and component manufacturing company. I don’t think I’ll get any bonus points for the company itself, but we do large business with pretty much every major US internet and TV service provider, which makes it at least relateable.

    My job gives me access to almost every aspect of our business (this is actually one of the things that made me interested in an MBA). I work with our customers and sales team to recommend products and receive feedback for new products. I work with our design team and product management to design and prototype new products, and I work with our manufacturing team to help implement and manufacture our products. Along side our product managers, I am the central hub for product expertise and customer support.

    During my career I’ve done well and been able to take on a great deal of additional responsibilities. I started working with one product set in a single market (customer based, not regional) and now work with all our products in two of our three largest markets.

    Awards and Activities
    – A few awards and commendations at work – award for terrific customer-based work, recognition from the company president about an internal white paper I wrote.
    – Member of American Society of Mechanical Engineers.
    – Started an after school science program for youths in poorly funded school districts. We are partnered with and run under a larger non-profit, but myself and my co-founder have full control and responsibility of the entire program.

    My goal is to work in the high-tech industry and be
    on the forefront of driving cutting-edge technology into the future. I’ve noticed a gap between emerging technology and its respective business strategy, and I feel that with the skills an MBA will give me I can add value to these developing businesses. My short term goal is to work as a consultant at a high-tech consulting firm, while my long term goal is to become the CTO of a world-class firm.

    My dream school would be Stanford. I’m also looking at: Harvard, Columbia, Haas, MIT (both LGO program and Sloan), Duke, Ross, Tepper, UCLA

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated. It would be really great to know where I would stand with those schools, and which would be most receptive to my application. Also, any other recommendations for schools would be great.

    Thank you.