Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. International, Mr. Toastmasters, Ms. Entrepreneur, Mr. Non-IIT, Mr. Real Estate


Mr. Non-IIT


  • 730 GMAT
  • 3.85 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in computer science and engineering from India, notan IIT
  • 3.75 GPA
  • Master’s degree in computational biology from a top-ranked Ivy
  • Also spent two years in research at an IIT while at school, with research published as a cover article in an international journal; thesis also published as a book by a German publisher; also published in Nature Neuroscience, a top journal for my research
  • Work experience includes two years as an associate at one of the largest non-MBB life sciences management consulting firm; have worked on global projects, managing small teams.
  • Firm hires primarily from Ivies and Stanford, Berkeley. Colleagues have previously been admitted to HBS, Wharton, Booth, CBS
  • Extracurricular involvement as co-founder and board member of a healthcare professional network; heads of various school clubs in both undergrad and graduate school
  • Goal: To work at McKinsey/Bain/BCG, specializing in the healthcare practice
  • 27-year-old Indian male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 35%

Wharton: 40% to 50%

Columbia: 40% to 50%

Chicago: 40% to 50%

MIT: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Your undergraduate degree is not from the gold plated IIT, but keep reading. You have powerful stats: a solid 730 GMAT and a high GPA in a demanding master’s program­ in computational biology­ at an Ivy. And you work for what sounds like a blue chip firm.

This is all impressive, tight, and consistent. All you are trying to do is move from working at a non-MBB consulting firm (“one of the largest non-MBB life sciences management consulting firm”) to the MBB.

That is such a tiny step.

Such a tiny, tiny step.

Some might say that is a tiny step backwards.

Here is a dirty tiny secret (“dirty secrets” being a specialty at the Ask Sandy Bistro): Mrs. Admissions Director will read that and say, “Man, you had me at tiny.”

You are a tiny-risk candidate who is going to be employed. The worst case is you go back to where you already are with a t-shirt, 8 faux new friends, and $100,000 of debt. That is bad for you and OK for the school. The upside for both of you is that you join MBB or figure out why you do not have to.

You said, “Colleagues have previously been admitted to HBS, Wharton, Booth, CBS.” Exactly, and so will you.

All you need is serviceable execution of your application and a lack of bad luck. This is a tight simple story. You are going to get the same outcomes as colleagues in your firm: HBS, Wharton, Booth, and MIT. Your chances at every place but HBS are 40% to 50%. At HBS, your chances are 35% to 45% because there might be three guys like you who went to IIT and in the not-quoted-often-enough words of Dee Leopold, “There is nothing wrong with you. We just liked other people more.”

Also, at HBS, do not blow the interview.

Hire someone very good to help you prepare for that (ahem). I would be surprised if you don’t get invited to interview there, but I have to tell you, I have been surprised by them many times.

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