Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. Dance Marathon

This time our MBA handicapping series goes after some provocative targets: HBSGuru.com founder Sandy Kreisberg tells a Stanford wanna-be with some powerful touch points  how she could write her all-important ‘What Matters Most’ essay. He also tells a woman with a 780 GMAT why Harvard Business School doesn’t overly care about her leadership profile. 

And then there are these fascinating profiles of prospective applicants who want to get into one of the world’s best business schools: 

After spending two years at a bulge bracket investment bank in New York, this 23-year-old female professional is heading to the West Coast to work for a private equity shop. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.8 grade point average from a top liberal arts college, she wants an MBA to help her eventually move into a leadership role at her PE firm.

He can boast one of the more unusual extracurricular activities: Dancing for 46 hours straight in a charity marathon to raise money for pediatric cancer.  This 25-year-old Penn State grad has worked for three years in finance and corporate strategy for a healthcare concern. He’s hoping an MBA will help him climb the corporate ladder more quickly.

He’s a 29-year-old midwesterner who now works at Coca-Cola in market research. After scoring a 650 on a GMAT practice test, he wants to get a graduate degree in business and use it to transition to job outside the U.S., either with his current employer or a top three global consulting firm.

Get Sandy Kriesberg's advice to make handicapping your odds of getting in possible

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Do they have the raw stats and experience to get in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

Sandy 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.

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.)

And if you just have a short question, he is happy to answer that, too. So just post it in the comment section below.

Sandy’s candid analysis:



Mr. Dance Marathon

  • 710 GMAT
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from Penn State
  • Work experience includes three years in finance and corporate strategy for a healthcare/biotech company
  • Extracurricular involvement includes participating in a 46-hour dance marathon for pediatric cancer charity (no sitting and no sleeping; captain of the cross country team; volunteer for the national running club; leads employee running group
  • Goal: To return to current company or a similar role elsewhere in corporate strategy
  • 25-year-old male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%

Stanford: 10%

Wharton: 30% to 35%

Dartmouth: 40% to 50%

Virginia: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: What we got here is a lot of silver, a little bit of gold. I don’t think you are getting into Harvard Business School or Stanford. In God’s eyes, what we have here is a likable, athletic, marathon dancer, philanthropist, and all around nice guy. What we don’t have is anything super special. We don’t have enough prestige in either the GPA, or the GMAT, or the prestige company to get one into HBS or Stanford.

Saying that you want to return to the same company requires that is not a good idea. That is Executive MBA stuff, for people who work for mid-level, non-brand companies who just want to do better at their own firms. Harvard, Stanford and Wharton doesn’t want guys like that for their MBA programs. I would advise this guy to say that he likes the function, he likes what he is doing, and he wants to be an impactful and innovative leader in that industry. Then, he should Google the leading company in that industry and say he wants to lead that company.

At Wharton, it’s a numbers game and there are going to be athletic guys just like him with better numbers. For him, Dartmouth and Darden are gold. It’s not a long reach. He could get into Dartmouth and he sure seems himself. And this guy has UVA written all over him.

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