MIT Sloan | Mr. Semiconductor Engineer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.68
Stanford GSB | Mr. 750
GMAT 750, GPA 3.43
Columbia | Ms. Cybersecurity
GRE 322, GPA 3.7
Wharton | Mr. Global Perspective
GMAT 750, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Ms. JMZ
GMAT 750, GPA 3.47
Harvard | Mr. Bangladeshi Analyst
GMAT 690, GPA 3.31
MIT Sloan | Mr. International Impact
GRE 326, GPA 3.5
IU Kelley | Mr. Businessman Engineer
GMAT 690, GPA 7.26/10
MIT Sloan | Mr. Surgery to MBB
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Ross | Mr. NCAA to MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
Kellogg | Mr. Multinational Strategy
GRE 305, GPA 3.80
Duke Fuqua | Mr. National Security Advisor
GMAT 670, GPA 3.3
Darden | Ms. Teaching-To-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.47
Wharton | Mr. Data Scientist
GMAT 740, GPA 7.76/10
IU Kelley | Ms. Marketing Manager
GRE 294, GPA 2.5
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Consulting Analyst
GMAT 700, GPA 7.7/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. FinTech Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.8
MIT Sloan | Mr. Hopeful CXO
GMAT 750, GPA 3.56
Stanford GSB | Mr. Deferred MBA
GMAT 760, GPA 3.82
SDA Bocconi | Mr. Hotel International
GMAT 570, GPA 2.8
Harvard | Mr. Renewable Energy Investing
GMAT 740, GPA 4.0
Foster School of Business | Mr. CPG Tech
GMAT 770, GPA 2.9
Berkeley Haas | Ms. Midwest Startup
GRE 328, GPA 3.51
Yale | Mr. Fencer
GMAT 740, GPA 3.48
INSEAD | Mr. Indian In Cambodia
GMAT 730, GPA 3.33
Tuck | Mr. South African FinTech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.08
London Business School | Mr. Indian Electric Tech
GMAT 620, GPA 3.5

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Finance Real Estate


Mr. NCO Air Force


  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.65 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business from a private school in California
  • Work experience includes seven years in the U.S. Air Force as a non-commissioned officer (NCO), with multiple awards and distinctions, including work as a strategy consultant to top-level decision makers
  • “It is my job to chart out the most efficient and effective way to disable our adversary systems. After I have conducted in-depth analysis, it is my job to identify any system flaws and highlight the critical elements associated with those systems. I change that technical information into easily understood terms for leadership. After all of that, I would then have to sell my concept and idea to leadership”
  • Extracurricular involvement as a mentor for under-achieving children and teens without stable family lives; Special Olympics coordinator; led many central coast initiatives related to beach cleanups, recycling days (“groups I organized collected nearly 3,000 pounds of waste from central coast beaches”)
  • Goals: “I want to advance my consulting-related experience into a strong business role. It is my goal to help companies in the Pacific North West grow. I want to help create a more stable job market for America. Also, I want to serve as a role model to under privileged teens and children looking for inspiration and a success story”
  • First generation college student. raised lower class with family on welfare
  • “Lived with many different people growing up. (Unstable family life-drugs,
  • abuse, jail)”
  • “I plan to highlight these aspects of my life, not as a pity party, but as a
  • story of success and inspiration. I currently mentor children and teens that have hardship similar to what I experience growing up. I hope to show them that no matter what anyone tells them, hard work and dedication can get you anywhere”
  • 27-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 40% to 50%

Berkeley: 30%

MIT: 30%

Dartmouth: 40% to 50%

UCLA: 50%+

Duke: 50%+

Michigan: 50%+

Virginia: 50%+

University of Washington: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: I deal with a lot of military at HSW and if I EVER came across an NCO, I forgot, although I confess, I am not an expert at military lingo and ranks, nor does this superficially exhaustive Wiki article help all that much

Someone once told me that there has not been (or very rarely been) an ‘enlisted man’ at HBS in recent memory. Does an NCO = enlisted man

in that context?

OK, back to the facts:

1. NCO, with a 3.6 GPA at a no-name college, a 720 GMAT, seven years in the Air Force, and has a great narrative of 1st gen college, disorganized home life, but, in his words, ‘no pity party.” Also note, as general information, applications to business schools are WAY MORE rare from the Air Force (this guy) than from either the Navy and the Army. I actually see as many Coast Guard apps as I do Air Force apps, which I imagine is a smaller service. Any explanations of lack of Air Force peeps at B school vs. Army/Navy are also welcome.

2. To the poster, your original post, which has been shortened (as are all) for presentation purposes, was engaging, especially the part about how you were an internal consultant to those Dr. Strangelove types: “It is my job to chart out the most efficient and effective way to disable our adversary systems. After I have conducted in-depth analysis . . . . I change that technical information into easily understood terms for leadership. [HA, HA, I LOVE THAT PART, BOTH BECAUSE THEY ARE STUPID AND BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT ANY GOOD PRESENTER DOES] . . .I would then have to sell my concept and ideas to leadership. [ALSO GOOD] I am essentially a consultant to executives for short-term and long-term planning at the absolute highest level.”

3. What you got going for you are rock solid stats, 3.65/720, and what sounds like a solid career. Age 30 is old-ish for civilians but in line with military apps. You also, as per above, have a good narrative about what you have done on a daily basis in the service.

4. Goals: “I want to advance my consulting related experience . . . to help companies in the Pacific Northwest grow. I want to help create a more stable job market for America. Also, I want to serve as a role model to under privileged teens and children looking for inspiration and a success story.”

Hmmmmm, OK to a point. Let me suggest that you continue the consulting role you alluded to in the service and just say, for openers, management consulting interests me because I want to help companies grow. And you also want to create good jobs and products. “I want to help create a more stable job market for America . . .” is getting close to what pols running for office say and not what B-schools applicants say. See No. 5 below.

5. Self-Presentation: If you were just a work-a-day ROTC guy who enlisted as a 2nd-Louie (is that how you spell it?) with your stats and did your five years ordering around guys like you, you’d be a real solid candidate for Kellogg, MIT, Berkeley, Anderson, and Tuck.

So what is the difference? Allow me to suggest, not much. You just need to sound like an officer, which you almost do, and be respectful of your past and the obstacles you have overcome, without either apologizing or un-apologizing (“no pity party”). It is not a party or a non­party. It just happened and had impacts 1 2 3 . You also need to ‘normalize’ the job description above, which I love personally but got my chip-on-the shoulder radar up (well, if having a chip on your shoulder were a special rank, I’d be a Field Marshall). Just say you were a consultant who did x y z, which I am sure is true and impressive, which leads to my wanting to continue that.

I am not trying to make you more vanilla — that ain’t going to happen, given the clear facts of your story. I am trying to suggest, and this is ODD coming from me, that you appear in terms of world view, vocabulary, explanatory style, and outlook, pretty darn close to the regular ROTC and service academy guys, who are not exactly Cary Grants to begin with. So it is not a super reach. You seem to enjoy dumbing down what you do, which is OK to a point if clarity is the goal, and also reaching real high, “I want to help create a more stable job market for America.”

Just shave off the last 10 percent of both of those tendencies. The center of your story is so strong, we don’t need any special pleading or saving jobs across America.

“My reach schools are Kellogg, Haas, Sloan and Tuck. The schools I think I may have a better shot at are UCLA, Duke, Ross, Darden, and my regional preference, Foster.”

Dude, Kellogg and Haas take guys like you all the time, and also do not take guys like you, but those are not really reaches. Sloan might be a reach just because it is smaller (might depend on quant scores there, too). As to “UCLA, Duke, Ross, Darden, and my regional preference, Foster” . . .with serviceable execution, those should happen. It might depend on what the military cohort is your year, but you have a lot to offer.

Stressing the regional interest in the Northwest is a good idea, especially for all West Coast schools. Help companies in that region grow, innovate, go green, create solid jobs, etc. etc. Everybody likes the Northwest.

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.