Assessing Your Odds Of Getting In

Tough Love

Talk about tough love.

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of Boston-based MBA admissions consulting firm, offers a good bit of tough-love counsel to this latest batch of female MBA candidates whose goal is to get into one of the world’s best business school.

To the 25-year-old woman who has an Ivy League degree in computer science, a 770 GMAT score, and is fluent in five different languages, Kreisberg concedes he’s not sure what admission committees will think. “But you will probably get a lot of social interest from our readers,” he quips. The young woman has no work experience, yet wants to go to Harvard, Columbia or Wharton.

To the 22-year-old college student at a top university in the Netherlands with an interest in Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program, Kreisberg advises that her GMAT and grade point average is pretty much a deal breaker for a 2+2 program. She scored a 690 on a mock GMAT test without doing any prep.

And to the 24-year-old Asian-American woman who has worked for a retail/consumer goods consulting firm during the past three years, Kreisberg tells her “you are in a lot of traffic for the top five schools. Other drivers in your lane have elements of your story and often better stats, so my advice off the bat is to retake the GMAT, as many times as you can.” Right now, she’s sitting on a 700 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA from a top three public university.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of

In every case, of course, Kreisberg offers some savvy advice to help each candidate improve her odds of admission. In this all-female edition of our popular MBA handicapping series, the admissions consultant is back again to analyze these and a few other profiles of actual MBA applicants who have shared their vital statistics, work backgrounds and career goals with Poets&Quants.

Included in this batch is another video edition of our handicapping series in which Kreisberg assesses the candidacy of a 24-year-old Native American woman with an engineering degree and a 690 GMAT. Despite her “silver” GMAT score and the fact that she works for a 200-person construction management firm that is not well known, he’s far more bullish on this person’s ability to get into Harvard and Stanford due to her status as a hard-to-fill minority in business school admissions.

As usual, 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 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 lowdowns:


Ms. Project Engineer

  • 690 GMAT
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in civil engineering from a top 20 public university
  • Work experience as a project engineer for a management construction company with 200 employees during the past three years; received three promotions; co-led a team which identified inefficiencies within a software program used by operations on a daily basis
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer for a group that harvests fruits and vegetables and brings the to local food banks and soup kitchens; president and marshall of a civil engineering society when in college; tutor to fellow undergraduates in civil engineering courses
  • 24-year-old Native American female

Sandy’s Analysis:

Let me focus on the elements that are really important.

You are a female engineer and that is a real plus.

You’re a Native American and that is a real plus.

And you have a job working for an engineering firm as an engineer. That is a super plus.

If you can be convincing on all of those issues, you’ll be a strong candidate.

Let’s start with the Native American part. It’s helpful if you claim Native American heritage to have a narrative that has deep support in Native American heritage and issues. Sen. Elizabeth Warren declared herself to be a Native American and she took a lot of flak for it because she is only 1/16th Native American. But it is among the most difficult, hard-to-fill minorities for business schools so that could give you an edge.

The second issue I see is, ideally if you are an engineer you want to work for a huge engineering company, one that everyone has heard of. It’s not necessary, but it is very helpful. You work for a 200-person engineering company and the one project you describe is fixing software.

That’s not adding luster to someone who is an engineer. What we want is someone who is out there with an orange vest with a whistle, stopping traffic and bossing around guys who are driving big rigs and then going back and doing planning to quarterback that. You want to upgrade that issue.

Aside from that, the 690 GMAT is silver, not gold. Schools like H/S/W want to see a 700 or up. They are certainly willing to wink at it and they probably would because you are a female Native American engineer. Still, a 710 or 720 would look a lot better. The median and the mean GMATs are real high at Harvard and Stanford.

Your extracurricular activities are great in God’s eyes and great in my eyes. I don’t think it is going to cut a lot of mustard among the cynical admission committees you’ll face. The fruits and vegetables thing is just not scaled enough and it doesn’t intricately relate to what you do. Being class marshall of a big school is something that an admissions committee appreciates because it shows leadership. Being the president of a civil engineering club isn’t going to move the needle.

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 50%

Stanford: 20%

Michigan: 50%+

Northwestern: 50%+

Duke: 50%+

USC: 60%+

Notre Dame: 60%+

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