Handicapping Your Business School Odds

After internships at Merrill Lynch and PIMCO, this 25-year-old male professional works in the corporate treasury group at The Walt Disney Co. A history major with a 700 GMAT and a 3.48 grade point average, he hopes to get an MBA to further his career.

A Big Three consultant, he has an enviable 790 GMAT and a highly impressive 3.76 GPA in electrical engineering and management from the University of Pennsylvania. Now he wants to get an MBA degree to build his resume and his career.

After earning an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from a state school, he joined NASA as an engineer. He’s now second in command of his family’s $50 million business and wants an MBA to help support a transition to takeover the company altogether.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

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 in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

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.

In this “best of” edition of our MBA handicapping series, 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, we’ll pick a few more and have Kreisberg assess your chances in a follow-up feature to be published on Friday of this week. (Please add your age and be clear on the sequence of your jobs in relaying work experience. Make sure you let us know your current job.)

Sandy’s tell-it-like-it-is assessment:

male bankerMr. Disney


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.48 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in history
  • Work experience includes two years at Disney in the corporate treasury for interest rate risk, after internships at Merrill Lynch and PIMCO
  • “Throughout college I worked as a full-time student supporting myself, which detracted from some of my involvement with student clubs/organizations. However, I received a slew of very compelling scholarships and leveraged the experiences from my college jobs to grow and overcome difficult financial situations”
  • “Concerned about my history major hurting my chances. But I do plan on taking some extra math courses to improve in the quant. area.”
  • 25-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 15% to 20%
Stanford: 10%
Columbia: 20+%
Yale: 30%
Northwestern: 30% to 50+%
Chicago: 30% to 50+%
Dartmouth: 20% to 30%
NYU: 30% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmmm, everyone loves Disney and Disney is great feeder firm to HBS and Stanford, but usually those lucky kids are working in business development or programming of some kind, and got there after some post-college full-time, competitive blue chip gig on Wall Street or through Ivy League friends and family.

As to your concern about being a History major—pal, being a liberal arts major, and especially History,  at many elite B-schools is a plus. Business Schools are probably the last bastions in America–aside from the corrupt and sincecured and geriatric professoriate themselves (and they may have actual have doubts!)—that still buy into the now desiccated wet dream that Liberal Arts is great preparation for a career in business.

In fact, professors and administrators will tell you this if you can get them away from Downton Abbey discussion boards or cozy conferences on the state of the Liberal Arts, but I digress. I’m a Liberal Arts major and it is great training for cracking wise in features just like this, if that is your goal in life.  Of course, many Liberal Arts majors at top 10 colleges become successful in business, and go to ace B-schools and powerful careers in business and finance. But these are just really smart people, anyway, and the Liberal Arts had nothing to do with it, although you can get them to warble about the importance of the Liberal Arts at any conference which holds out the remotest fantasy they could score with some buff junior faculty or event planner.

OK, “down boy” (talking to myself), back to you. Basically you’re a guy with a lot of high quality silver and not much gold in your story and stats, which usually rules out Harvard and Stanford. Your History major has absolutely nothing to do with it. As noted, that is a plus. What is hurting you is your slightly off GPA and marginal GMAT and being in the wrong part of Disney.  (If anyone else from Treasury ever got into H or S, look hard, and you will find something different than a white male with a 3.48 and a 700 GMAT.)

You have a good deal of personal positives. Those and taking some courses will shore up your chances at other schools you list, but will not, I believe, get you into Harvard or Stanford. Getting some mega Disney big foot strongly on your side might help.  As would some amazing personal and political identity story, but I am not seeing that in the info you provided.  At other schools you list, I would call your chances in-line, both as to stats, jobs, and personal story. You should be in good shape there, after accounting for the usuals: solid execution, excellent recommendations, luck, and somehow convincing them you really want to go.

  • Jeff111

    Hi sandy. Quick question. What would be the right division of Disney?

  • sylpr23

    Hi Sandy,

    30 year-old Hispanic female

    GMAT: 640 (46% Q, 92% V, 5 AWA)
    GPA: 3.5

    undergraduate: Carnegie Mellon University B.A. Communication Design & Cognitive Psychology. minor in Business

    -extracurriculars: Organizational Behavior knowledge transfer research. 2 experiments NSF published. Brainstorming research NSF published. Explanatoids! NSF grant to involve girls in math and science concepts. Young Hispanic Committee at Museo del Barrio.

    -worked at Conde Nast, Ralph Lauren, Bloomingdale’s, Anthropologie, Gilt Groupe

    -Have led two startups. One a magazine that sold at Barnes & Noble another a email marketing tech startup, and currently involved in a beauty startup.

    Target Schools: Columbia, Stanford, Harvard, NYU

    I’d love to hear what you think about my weaknesses and chances….
    Thank you!


  • Yvonne

    Ms. Corporate

    740 GMAT

    3.7 GPA

    Undergraduate degree in management from Ivy League school

    Work experience: 2 years (at matriculation) at a Tier 2 consulting firm (rotational across industries)

    Extracurriculars: Various volunteer programs in Asia, Mentoring program for high school students

    Goals: MBB after business school, then director in Corporate Strategy firm focusing on expansion into emerging markets (i.e. Asia)

    23-year-old Asian female

    Targets: Wharton, HBS

  • Daniel

    Hi Sand,
    What do you think?
    Thanks in advance.

    Schools: Stanford, HBS

    White male from Czech Republic

    Age: 26

    GMAT: 710

    Education: Double Masters’ degree in Economics and Management:
    · MSc in Economics from top University in Czech Republic (graduated in top 5%)
    · Masters in Management from ESSEC, top French Grande Ecole (graduated in top 5%)

    Work experience:
    · 3 years M&A experience at the top Investment Bank in London (think GS, MS, Lazard). Strong transactions record with a number of closed deals under belt. Consistently ranked at the top of the analyst class;
    · In parallel to IB inspired and led an international team of 5 to develop and launch a mobile app for android platform providing best value entertainment locally. Product in the rollout phase, early indication of very promising user traction;
    · Previous long- term internships with McKinsey (Czech Republic), AXA (France), Accenture (Czech Republic). Offered graduate jobs in each company, possibility to obtain stellar letters of support.

    Extracurricular activities: Marathon Runner, Iron Man Triathlete, mentor for kids from underprivileged backgrounds, overland traveler (think ride a bike across Africa). Led a team of 50 organizing biggest student events in Czech Republic

    Fluent: English, French, and Czech

    Short term goal: move to Silicon Valley and land a corporate development or operations role in one of the world’s hottest startups (think Dropbox, FAB, Square)

    Long term goals: build an industry changing product in the consumer technology sector capable of changing the way people do everyday things

  • EJ Ourso MAB Ballin

    How did severe ADHD guy type that whole post? It must have taken him AT LEAST 4 months, which is time that he could have spent improving his awfully subpar GMAT and getting Bibi to work on the two state solution.

  • sai

    Thank you for taking the time and i loo forward to your comments.

    Female, African, 27
    GMAT: 700
    Maters : International Law and Economics, World trade Institute (Switzerland) – 3.7 GPA
    Undergrad: University of Toronto, Hon Major of Arts- Major Economics, Minors: History and Geography- GPA 2.5, President of the Undergraduate Economics Council
    Work experience: 1) Ministry of Trade, Gambia (3 years), 2) UN consultant (6 months), World Trade Organization (8 months)

    – I am a dual national of the Gambia and UK. I have lived, worked and studied in various countries (Gambia, UK, Kenya, Canada, Switzerland). I have worked mainly int he area of trade and development and believe in trade as an enabler of group if utilized. My long-term goal is to start my own think tank/consultancy on issues related to trade and growth in developing countries. I would like to pursue and MBA to build my business skills and in a top tier school particularly to create important networks that can harness these goals.

  • insuranceguy

    Official role title – Underwriter

  • insuranceguy

    Dear Sandy,

    It would be much appreciated if you could evaluate my chances:

    26 year old male born in Hong Kong but grew up in UK.
    I hold a British passport.

    710 GMAT (Q50, V36) – I am planning on retaking to hit 750-760

    Undergrad: Top 5 Uni in UK non-Oxbridge
    Degree: Mathematics
    GPA: 2.1 – I believe this equates to 3.2-3.3 GPA

    Work experience:
    4 years in insurance. I have been promoted twice during this time. I am one the youngest in my profession at a comparable role by 2-3 years. I typically underwrite financial institutions across the world. Due to a flat company structure I have no direct reports but I was the only person selected to lead a new product development project in a rapidly growing niche. I was also responsible for formulating the budget and forecasts for a team of ~20.

    Accomplished musician. I represented the University in American Football which is a little bit unusual in the UK. I have continued to play after University for an amateur team and won a National Championship. I was the captain of a small sports team in University. After University, I occasionally volunteer at sports events for underprivileged children (but no leadership role).

    Short term goal: To move into strategy consulting specialising in financial services.

    Long term goal: To start a JV with a multi-national insurance company in China providing niche insurance products. Due to the high barriers of entry and low penetration in that market, it is an area that can provide a multi-national insurance company with significant growth.

    Harvard (long shot)
    Chicago Booth
    Northwestern Kellogg
    Dartmouth Tuck
    Duke Fuqua

    Many thanks in advance

  • UF Grad

    Hey Sandy,

    I’m an avid follower- thanks for reviewing.

    -27 Year-old white male

    -3.5 overall GPA from the University of Florida as a
    Business Administration major with a focus in Marketing. I attended UF because
    I received a full scholarship to go there (plus, I’m a huge Gator fan).

    -(If it matters, I received a 3.72 GPA in my major)

    -700 GMAT

    -Very involved in undergraduate: member of student
    government, President of a large, 100+ member Fraternity, voted as Brother of
    the Year in my fraternity, member of Florida Blue Key, member of the Order of
    Omega Honors Society, and founded a philanthropy on campus that still exists

    -Work experience includes:

    -1 year in a corporate development program working with the
    CEO and CFO of a small(ish) public company shortly after it made its IPO

    -2 Years at a middle market investment bank as an analyst
    (think Baird, Harris Williams, Raymond James, etc.)

    -2 Years as a venture capital analyst at a middle market shop

    -During my work tenure I volunteered in a program that sent
    young financial professionals in to middle school classrooms to help children
    in lower socio-economic areas gain fluency in personal finance before they went
    to high school and presumably got jobs to help support their families

    -My goal is to work in either private equity or business
    development for a company in the Southeastern U.S. I believe there is a lack of
    private capital in this region of the country and there is a large upside to
    investing or expanding here. I also believe a lack of capital saturation has
    kept regions of the Southeast financially depressed and I want to be a part of
    growing the region of the country I came from. I believe an MBA would help
    expand my business acumen in both management and operations- two areas I would
    need to improve in vastly before making an impact at a PE firm or in business

    Target Schools:










    Thanks in advance, Sandy.

  • UF Grad

    Hi Sandy,

  • Looking to Europe

    Hi Sandy,

    I am a 25 year old white male. I currently work for the federal government at a financial regulatory agency as a bank examiner. I am looking to get my MBA in Europe (particular emphasis on UK schools) in order to transition from the public sector to the private sector at a financial services company. I am ready to stop being the “referee” and get in the game as a “player”. I am only looking at European schools because I want to experience living abroad, and I feel that this is the right time in my life to do so. Here are my stats:

    3 years work experience with solid progression and I have recieved agency wide recognition for my contributions

    Undergrad degree in finance from a normal state school

    GPA: 3.77

    GMAT: 710 (71% Q, 96% V, 6 AWA, 8 IR)

    Committee chair for an American Cancer Society event, and I have
    recently begun volunteering with a nonprofit teaching financial literacy to
    low-income school children.

    Target Schools:




    HEC Paris

    I’d love to hear what you think about my chances!!


    Looking to Europe

  • Hi Sandy,

    I am a 24 year old Filipino Chinese Male

    Undergraduate degree in Management Engineering (honors course that accepts top 15% only) minor in Chinese Studies from top school in Philippines
    CFA level 2 candidate

    GPA: 3.16

    GMAT 730

    Work experience: 2 years at family business as second in command

    – tasks include working as project manager for our 8 million dollar cold storage during construction; dealt with suppliers from korea. australia and china.

    – set up various systems that reduced expenses by 30% (examples include: procuring a new technology called Ozone that reduced spoilage by 30%)

    -Business is the top agricultural distributor in its field. (worth: 10 million dollars)

    currently (1 year) at number 1 airline in the country, first airline in asia.

    -interviewed by the ceo of the largest conglomerate in the country for the position

    -worked with turnaround team to do the 5 year business plan

    – part of the negotiation team for the financing and purchase of a 5++ billion dollar aircraft portfolio

    Reason for the transition to the airline industry: Getting a call from the ceo of the largest conglomerate in the country is just too good of an opportunity to pass up and at the same time the metrics for airlines are about the same for our distribution business.

    Extra curricular experience: Overcame severe asthma and bronchitis during sophomore and junior year in college to post near 4.0 gpa in senior year.
    Dealt with shooting incident at house with one cousin passing away, business going through a severe crisis and turning the business around during tenure there.

    goal: Use the high level business education to expand our business from being only a distribution business and integrate it backwards to the suppliers in the rural communities since the Philippines has not yet fully tapped its potential as an agricultural haven.

    target schools: HBS, Yale SOM and UPenn Wharton

  • Figure Skater Turned I-Banker

    Sandy, I forgot to mention that I’m also highly involved in my bank’s women’s network as a committee member.

  • Figure Skater Turned I-Banker

    Hi Sandy,
    I have a unique story and was hoping you could do a profile on me. I am a 27-year-old Asian American female who is currently employed as a first year investment banking associate at a lower-ranked Bulge Bracket bank.

    -GMAT: 750
    -Undergrad: Top public university (Berkeley/UCLA/UMich/UVA)
    -Major: Political Science
    -GPA: 3.3

    I was a competitive figure skater since the age of nine, and while in middle school and high school, I was ranked nationally and internationally. Thus, school was never a priority; not only was I a part-time student, I also missed school for weeks at a time for competitions and to train with Olympic-level coaches around the country. Consequently, while in college, I never realized academics were important, which accounts for my weak/low GPA. After a series of injuries, my parents forced me to quit when the doctors told me I’d need to undergo back surgery if I continued. Still, I stayed involved: I was the treasurer and secretary of my school’s Figure Skating Club and helped start the school’s competitive team. Now, I spend an hour or so a week with other figure skaters, teaching mentally handicapped children to figure skate.

    I switched from political science to finance after taking a year off from my school to go to Washington, D.C. and intern on Capitol Hill for a well-known Congressman. While interning 40 hours a week, I studied at Georgetown as a visiting student and received second honors. I decided I hated politics and turned to finance, landing an internship at a well-known elite boutique the following summer as a summer analyst in the bank’s asset management branch. Then, I summered at a lower-ranked Bulge Bracket as an investment banking analyst, returned as a full-time analyst and is now a first-year associate with them.

    I’m not sure if this matters, but I was also an opinion columnist for my school’s newspaper for a few years.

    My decision for pursuing an MBA is to break into asset management because I enjoyed it as a summer intern while at the elite boutique.

    Dartmouth is my absolute dream school. But I’m also wondering what my chances are at Columbia, Booth, Wharton and Harvard, which I realize are all extreme reach schools.

    Thank you so much!