Handicapping Your Shot At An Elite MBA: Mr. Indian-Engineer-Turned-Strategy Analyst


Mr. Political Strategist


  • 710 GMAT (Q 77/V 92)
  • Top 10% of graduating class
  • Undergraduate degree in engineering
  • Work experience includes one year at a small non-profit as a project manager then as an assistant director; two years as a campaign manager for the 2014 general elections in India for a sitting Minister in the Indian Cabinet of Ministers, and one and one-half years as a public policy consultant to the same Minister at one of the Ministries in India.
  • “Built and now manage a team of close to 1000 volunteers and 20 full time employees in a $5 million campaign”
  • Extracurricular involvement starting a non-profit to educate underprivileged children where he manage close to 80 volunteers. Captain of State cricket teams.
  • Goal: To start a political strategy consulting firm that focuses on grassroots organizing. “I love what I do as a Campaign Manager, and the reason I want an MBA is so that I can get better at it.”
  • 26-year-old male from India

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 50%

Stanford: 30%

Wharton: 40%+

Yale: 50% to 60%

Sandy’s Analysis: I feel for this guy. I think he was forced into the Indian engineering education track. He didn’t get into an IIT but rather what he calls a mid-tier engineering school. Based on his GMAT score, with a high verbal and a little quant, he is not a natural engineer. I think he is a natural consultant.

His chances of getting into a top American school are going to turn on exactly this: whether they think this guy is going to be a big deal. What he now has to do is convince an admissions committee that he has the political connections and contacts to position him as someone who in 15 years will be among the 100 people in India with influence. If he can convince top schools that he is on that track then he has a chance. But that is going to be a hard case to make.

As a rule, if you went to the admissions office of an elite business school and said here is candidate one who has managed 1,000 people and here is candidate two with a 780 GMAT, the school would pick the 780. It would think that anybody can manage 1,000 people. Getting a 780 is tough.

I don’t doubt that you have leadership ability. But the degree is called a Masters in Business Administration. It is not a MBL, a master’s in business leadership.

Starting a charity is good. It tightly wounds his story that he is going to be an impactful leader in India. It will give schools a chance to admit an Indian non-engineer. This guy is a natural at INSEAD and I think INSEAD would be a good place for him. I think he would get in easily.

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