Handicapping Your MBA Odds

She’s a 27-year-old executive at a global ad agency, managing the China and Asia Pacific business for one of Procter & Gamble’s billion-dollar brands. This professional has had four promotions in the past five years. She now wants an MBA degree to help her achieve the goal of someday becoming a chief marketing officer or the head of a global advertising agency.

For the past four years, he has worked in the clean tech and environmental NGO sectors in both San Francisco and Beijing. With a 670 GMAT and a 3.4 GPA, this 25-year-old Hispanic professional wants an MBA to help him move into consulting.

After a two-year stint with Teach for America, this 26-year-old Asian American female has held three separate jobs in less than three years. With a 710 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA from UC-Berkeley, this first generation college student now wants to go to business school.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What these 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.

As usual, Kreisberg handicaps each potential applicant’s odds of getting into a top-ranked business school. There’s also a video portion of the series featuring Kreisberg live evaluating the prospects of one of our candidates: a 23-year-old African American woman with a government consultancy.

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 shortly. (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 candid analysis:


Ms. Teach For America


  • 710 GMAT (39V/48Q)
  • 3.8 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in industrial engineering and media studies from UC-Berkeley
  • Work experience includes two years at Teach for America, with superior results and an amazing recommendation; less than a year in a management role at a private industrial supplies company with “slightly above average results;” less than a year at an education startup in a curriculum role, with “above average results;” less than six months at a tech/marketing startup in Africa
  • “Each transition was by choice (re: I no longer felt passionate or that I was professionally developing in the roles. In my last role, I had to leave abruptly due to an accident and return to the states.”
  • Extracurricular involvement as an active TFA alum and interviewer, volunteered at an orphanage, and involved in other progressive leadership organizations
  • “How will admissions view my profile? What is the best way to position my story? I know my professional background is conventionally inconsistent and I seem noncommittal since I haven’t stayed in a role longer than a year since TFA. This is because I felt like I was no longer being challenged in my roles and I was no longer passionate about the company and its work.”
  • 26-year-old Asian American female, first generation college student

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 20%
Berkeley: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis:  !! but not !!!.  Female engineer with a 3.8 from Berkeley and a 710 GMAT (with a 48Q!!) and first gen college! Plus TFA and lots of work in Africa! Stanford is really fixated on Africa, and they are open, when it comes to explaining career turbulence,  to people saying  “I was no longer challenged” IF you have rock solid GPA/GMATs.  Other explainers need not apply.   Like most aristocrats, Stanford parcels out its compassion in curated doses. I dont think the GSB limo will be slowing down for your roadside plea, although it is close.  If the companies you had left after TFA were more prestigious,  maybe.

As to how to spin this: you need some ‘uber’ story about who you are and what happened after TFA. You need to explain or otherwise excise (or exorcise) how you wound up at a “private industrial supplies company!!!!! in a management role . .  . . ”  Madame,  that does not compute. If you drop that gig out of the story, and just do two jobs IN AFRICA, well,  they may blink.  Will they blink at three quick post-TFA jobs, all at seemingly random places? Dunno.

Your ability to wiggle out of or around those facts will depend on what in the first instance the truth was for accepting the first job and what you learned there. If you were attracted to its location or customer base (e.g. if it is a gritty company with a social mission of some kind, and lots of industrial clients) etc. etc.  and, cue the pivot music,  while there, you got more impassioned about that mission (which we just made up, but no matter, if there is an atom of truth to this, go with it)  and decided to work in Africa, well, that is a piece of elasticized glue which can cover a lot of holes.

That way, all three jobs become diving deeper into some passion, which is a veddy, veddy Stanford-y concept, and they MAY blink at how much glue and how many holes there are. Write your first essay along the lines that  DISCOVERY matters most to me, and use key moments at those jobs to DISCOVER even greater commitment to Stanford Mantras A, B and C.

Could work. Especially if you can convince them that you are serious about Africa or Africa-type issues in USA. Stanford cares way less about your actual outcomes at those jobs. That seems a focus of yours. They care about WHAT YOU DISCOVERED ABOUT YOU, YOUR PASSION, YOUR ABILITY TO CHANGE THE WORLD. So cast your app. that way.  You seem focused on nursing your disappointments. That will not work.

As to Berkeley, the second school you asked about, they may admit you on numbers alone, although above story works for them as well.