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

Mr. Military Intelligence Officer


  • 700 GMAT
  • 4.0 GPA
  • Valedictorian of West Point Class
  • Work experience includes a multi-year as a military intelligence analyst and officer; has led over 100 soldiers in cyber operations
  • Extracurricular involvement as captain of the fencing team at West Point which captured the national championship, volunteer in Big Brothers and Special Olympics
  • Goal: To return to the military in a leadership role

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 60%+

Stanford: 50%

Wharton: 60%+

Virginia: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: What we have here is a very impressive guy. He’s got a very good chance of getting into Harvard or Stanford.I would like to do is to use him as a test case and go through his assets one-by-one for people who are not valedictorians.

A 700 GMAT is acceptable for Harvard Business School if everything else is solid. What Harvard likes to see is 80% splits on both verbal and quant sides. As a rule, if you are the valedictorian of an Ivy, a near Ivy or a service academy, that is something business schools respect. This is important about military applicants: Business schools don’t really know how to appraise a military career because they don’t know the difference between being in a combat zone or running a cyber lab.

They also don’t know how people who graduate from service academies get assignments. I don’t know what leading people in cyber operations mean. What I imagine is a bunch of guys in a dark room sitting in front of computers. That is not the iconic leadership you see from a military guy.

What it does for military applicants, unfortunately, is that it makes your stats count a lot more. What you find is you can sort them out by some matrix of GMAT and GPA. The only way this guy isn’t getting into Harvard Business School is if he blows the interview. If you changed a few things, this guy would be questionable. If he weren’t the valedictorian, if he just had the 700 GMAT and was only the captain of the fencing team and they were unable to get some bead on his military career, he could wind up being beaten out by other military candidates. His trump card is being a valedictorian.

Just for the sake of being provocative, if you twisted the dials on this guy you could say, you know something, this guy is a little bit of a nerd. His grades are almost too good. He’s interested in cyber stuff. And if he didn’t have the fencing, which gets him back to normal mode, that could be a possibly dangerous profile.

This guy also says he wants to spend his career in the military. I don’t know how many military applicants say that. I think you want to say you want to work for McKinsey or Goldman instead. I think there are fewer service academy graduates at Harvard today than ten years ago. But he’s got a great chance at all the very best schools.

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