Harvard | Ms. Analytical Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Chicago Booth | Mr. Non-Profit Latino
GMAT 710, GPA 3.06
Darden | Mr. Financial World
GMAT 730, GPA 7.8
Cambridge Judge Business School | Ms. Story-Teller To Data-Cruncher
GMAT 700 (anticipated), GPA 3.5 (converted from Australia)
Kellogg | Mr. Operator
GMAT 740, GPA 4.17/4.3
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Air Force Vet
GRE 311, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Mr. Engagement Manager
GMAT 700, GPA 3.2
London Business School | Mr. Family Investment Fund
GMAT 790, GPA 3.0
Columbia | Mr. M&A Analyst
GRE 323, GPA 3.4
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Top Performer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. STEM Minor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.78
Harvard | Mr. Fresh Perspective
GRE 318, GPA 3.0
USC Marshall | Mr. Supply Chain Guru
GMAT GMAT Waiver, GPA 2.6
Wharton | Mr. MBA When Ready
GMAT 700 (expected), GPA 2.1
HEC Paris | Mr. Productivity Focused
GMAT 700, GPA 3.6
MIT Sloan | Mr. Energy Transition
GMAT 760, GPA 3.95
Harvard | Mr. Sommelier
GMAT 710, GPA 3.62
Kellogg | Ms. Strategic Photographer
GRE 318 (to retake), GPA 3.68
INSEAD | Ms. Social Business
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Hanging By A Thread
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Ms. Comeback Kid
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
Harvard | Mr. MBB Latino Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.75
Wharton | Mr. African Impact
GMAT 720, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Hedge Funder
GMAT 790, GPA 3.82
London Business School | Mr. College Dropout
HEC Paris | Ms. Freelancer
GMAT 710, GPA 5.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Healthcare AI
GRE 366, GPA 3.91

Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Woman Drinking Coffee

Ms. Global Ad Exec


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.2 GPA
  • “Low GPA for two reasons: I purposely sought out the most challenging courses, taught by the toughest professors (placing a higher value on quality of course than what my grade would be in it), and my GPA doesn’t include my year abroad plus a semester internship, accordingly a couple of “not-so-great” grades are weighted more heavily”
  • Undergraduate degree in journalism with a concentration in Middle East studies from the Medill School at Northwestern
  • Work experience includes five years at one of the world’s most famous global advertising agencies, with the past year as an expat in Asia managing the agency’s China and Asia Pacific business for one of P&G’s billion-dollar brands. Have been promoted four times in the past five years
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer and mentor for an Iraqi Refugee family (of 3 women) for four years, helping them set up a new life in the U.S; also vice president of my company’s first ever minority employee resource group, dedicated to increasing minority employee retention and cultivating a culturally diverse corporate environment
  • Goal: To eventually become either a chief marketing officer or the head of global advertising agency.
  • 27-year-old white female, first woman in my family to go to college

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 15%

Stanford: 10%

Wharton: 20%

INSEAD: 40%+

Chicago: 20%

Columbia: 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Lots to like and HBS and Stanford admit kids from Big Advertising firms. However, in your case, I think the combination of a super low GPA (despite your explanations), a marginal (for them) GMAT (700) and non-minority status will be hard to overcome. Ditto Wharton, although if they were going to make an exception to their “grades-and-GMAT” only policy for white people, it could be with you. The best way to offset those grades would be to develop an alternative transcript — that is pretty much the only explanation schools value. You should have taken calculus, stats, finance, etc. while in the U.S., especially if the Quant part of your 700 is low.

I know it sounds like hellish advice given your many pluses–Asian gig in big Ad Agency, work with Iraqi family, first gen college, and helping URMs at your firm–but that is the way I see it. I don’t think this was ever going to be Stanford. WIth an alternative transcript and a good Quant GMAT score, you might have had a less than reach shot at HBS and Wharton. Booth and Columbia are not going to be walk-ins, either. Columbia has become stats oriented as well, although your focus on advertising and their location in NYC provides a natural synergy, and makes you pretty employable. That dynamic could make them blink at GPA.  INSEAD should like this because they like Americans. You don’t seem a natural fit at Booth. Your natural sweet spot with this story and stats are U.S. schools ranked 10 and above:  NYU, Duke, Darden, Anderson.

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.