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


Ms. Real Estate


  • 700 GMAT (41V/45Q)
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from Georgetown University
  • Work experience includes three years as an analyst and associate at a large British bank in New York; three years at a smaller, more regional New York bank doing investment banking and having client-facing responsibility, promoted to vice president
  • “Most of my current clients are in the real estate industry (construction and development), has sparked my passion for working in the field”
  • Extracurricular involvement serving on two junior boards of directors of local charities in NYC, the second of which she co-founded; golfer (11 handicap, captain of high school team)
  • “One of my essays focuses on how golf has helped me in business as a female”
  • Short-term goal: To work for a top multi-national bank (Goldman/JPM/BofA) in real estate corporate finance
  • Long-term goal: To become a principal at a real estate investment fund
  • 28-year-old Indian-American

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 15%

London: 40% to 50%

Northwestern: 40% to 50%

Chicago: 30% to 40%

Wharton: 25% to 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: Let’s cut to the chase. You’re not going to get into Harvard and explaining why is revealing. Six years of work experience at silver—not golden—financial institutions equals a ding at HBS for a number of reasons. The financial cohort of applicants at Harvard is unbelievably selective and elite. They’ve got people with four years of experience at banks that you want to work at. Two years at Goldman and two years at Blackstone, or a variant of that work background, is what the typical HBS applicant presents.

Harvard accepts people with similar GMAT splits, a 41V and a 45Q, but not investment bankers. That is an important distinction right there.

The six years of experience is on the high side of people applying particularly from banking and particularly for Harvard. With that amount of experience, people begin to say you should be earning a lot of money and you should have a lot of contacts. An experienced and cynical admissions officer might say, ‘Madam, why don’t you get that job at Goldman right now?’

While her golf game looks good, she’s not going to swing her way into Harvard Business School. There is no hole-in-one in MBA admissions. Those qualities, if you are on the border, could help push you over but they are not going to blow open the door.

On the other hand, London Business School runs older. They like accomplished people. They like bankers and people who hold out the possibility of being employed after they attend the school.

Wharton is an interesting case. You are totally up their alley with your background in banking and finance. Your stats are on the low side of acceptable for Wharton. I predict it’s not going to happen simply because there are a lot of people with the same story and a better version of it. The six years is a real killer.

Chicago is the same story as Wharton. Kellogg is possible because the six years in finance is not Executive MBA program but it’s getting there. This is classic Duke, Darden, maybe Kellogg, USC. By the way, your dreams can come true there—except for Goldman. The way to get into Goldman is to apply to the firm right now. If they need someone in real estate who is accomplished and connected, they will hire her. You don’t need no stinking MBA!

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