Kellogg | Mr. Maximum Impact
GMAT Waiver, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Mr. Finance
GMAT 750, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Concrete Angel
GRE 318, GPA 3.33
Chicago Booth | Mr. Healthcare PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.8
INSEAD | Mr. Product Manager
GMAT 740, GPA 63%
Kellogg | Ms. Sustainable Development
GRE N/A, GPA 3.4
UCLA Anderson | Mr. SME Consulting
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55 (as per WES paid service)
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Harvard | Mr. Military Quant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare PE
GRE 340, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Ms. Female Sales Leader
GMAT 740 (target), GPA 3.45
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Kellogg | Ms. Big4 M&A
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Army Aviator
GRE 314, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Gay Techie
GRE 332, GPA 3.88
INSEAD | Mr. INSEAD Aspirant
GRE 322, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
MIT Sloan | Ms. Rocket Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Army Engineer
GRE 326, GPA 3.89
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Salesman
GMAT 700, GPA 3.0
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Columbia | Mr. Energy Italian
GMAT 700, GPA 3.5
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Quality Assurance
GMAT 770, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. African Energy
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
NYU Stern | Ms. Luxury Retail
GMAT 730, GPA 2.5

Handicapping Your Shot At A Top MBA

femaleMs. Economics


  • 700 GMAT (practice tests)
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from a top 10 university in India Master’s degree from the London School of Economics
  • Work experience includes two years in strategy consulting for a Big 4 in India
  • Extracurricular involvement as vice president of the debate club in college; a leadership position in the strategy society at LSE,
  • “Led a social awareness project studying the impact of the ‘education for all’ government program in India, participated in several international Model United Nations and player for the women’s cricket team in college”
  • Short-term goal: To continue in management/strategy consulting for McKinsey/Bain/BCG with a focus on retail and consumer
  • Long-term goal: To move into industry in a strategy role
  • 25-year-old Indian female

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 40%

Michigan: 40+%

Virginia: 50+%

Duke: 50+%

Dartmouth: 40%

[all assuming an evenly-split 700+ GMAT]

Sandy’s Analysis: You are the Indian sister of the gal from Warner Bros. directly above you.

As noted there, working for a Big 4 or Big 3 — or however many of those accounting/strategy firms are left calling themselves “Big” in India (or Europe) — is usually selective and schools respect that as an important first job.

We got a 3.9 from a “top 10 university in India in economics” which is a good GPA and probably an OK school. Do you know its placement record for alums X years later  for international business schools? That is one key metric, obviously,  of how it is considered by US schoolsYou say, “led a social awareness project studying the impact of the ‘education for all’ government program in India,” well, say no more, sounds aces to me already, and you continue,  “participated in several international Model United Nations and player for the women’s cricket team in college . . .” Also good.

Yup, I like you and so will most schools. You say, your “goal is to continue in management/strategy consulting with an aim of working for MBB with focus on retail and consumer; long term goal is to move to industry in a strategy role.” How come retail and consumer? Do you have a background in that? It just seems random. Nobody super cares, but try to have your ST and LT interests emerge in some way,  from your prior experiences. Having those goals emerge directly is actually favored because that means you will be more employable, and  business schools are, in fact, really risk averse themselves, despite them preaching  to  you how great smart risks are.  Yes, you take those smart risks, but as for the school, they  don’t want to risk their USNEWS metrics about post-grad placements.

If you are, God forbid, someone who is changing careers or industries, show how the things you have done leads to that. Do not say, “I HATED working with infrastructure clients so now I want to do retail.”  Do say, “I LOVED how infrastructure consulting required balancing new technologies to fixed budgets and ultimately the needs of the end-users, and I am even more excited about pursuing those interests in the consumer space directly.” (Well,  that needs work too, and I am exaggerating, but only a bit, but most importantly,  the attitude is right!) As to your stated LT goal, ‘to move into industry in a strategy role,” well, sure, but it is also OK to lead a consulting firm. Or lead a business. Stop thinking of yourself as a role player versus a leader.  For app purposes, you are a leader, and should present yourself in this process as such. Even if it means being a leader within your division.

As often noted here, MBB (McKinsey, Bain, BCG consulting) is a good place to say you want to wind up, given the number of hires those firms make at the schools you mention. And as also often noted, there is an semi-official minimum GMAT score filter at Bain of 720, and possibly at McK and BCG, too, so don’t think your GMAT disappears after you get in to business school. In light of that, it might be worth taking more than once to get a score in that range.  This could be real important actually, although dull, and my guess is, at non-HSW schools, GMAT has added importance for MBB. A sorry fact of life.  If anyone has done MBB recruiting at non-HWS schools please confirm, or hopefully, modify.

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.