Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

For nearly two years, this 25-year-old male has worked at a boutique private equity fund with a focus on emerging markets, a position he took after turning down a prestige investment bank which offered him a full-time gig. He has an Ivy League degree from the holy trinity of undergraduate schools–H/Y/P–and a master’s on top of that from Oxford/Cambridge. He believes an MBA will allow him to achieve his goal of moving to a top-tier consulting firm with a strong PE practice.

This 28-year-old woman is a first generation college student who has racked up three promotions in her five years at a leading bank where she works as a commercial fraud analyst. With a 650 GMAT and a low 2.5 GPA from a state school, she is hoping to get into a business school to transition into a marketing job at a top consumer products company.

Ever since graduating from Washington & Lee University, he’s been a classroom instructor for Teach for America. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.75 grade point average, this 26-year-old white male doesn’t have a ton of “extras” but wants an MBA degree to enhance his career opportunities.

What all three candidates and more share is the ambition to attend one of the world’s best business schools. Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of Boston-based MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru.com, 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.Just post it in the comment section below. (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.)

Sandy’s candid assessments:

Mr. Teach For America


  • 720 GMAT (45/44 split)
  • 3.75 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from Washington & Lee University
  • Work experience includes three years as a teacher in Teach for America where he is currently chair of the science department
  • “Not a ton of “extras” – – besides the things that come with teaching (tutoring; mentoring). Has shown leadership through various school initiatives (piloting new programs; planning community STEM nights; school wide incentive systems)”
  • 26-years-old white male at matriculation

Odds of Success:

MIT: 40%
Northwestern: 40%+
Stanford: 20%
Tuck: 40%+
Virginia: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: This is an interesting case, a Teach for America pure play. The question this presents is whether Teach for America is a proxy for an investment banking job at an elite firm. I’m curious to know what the answers are going to be.

At Kellogg, this is where your hair parts naturally. This is a Kellogg story. Kellogg is interested in the intersection of business and education. It’s known for being the home for the good guys, as is another school he is interested in, Tuck at Dartmouth. And you are clearly a good guy.

The issue for you is what are your goals. You graduated from Washington & Lee. You joined Teach for America. And now you want to go to business school. I want to know what you want to do. I wish you had stated your goals. Why do you need an MBA?

Let me give you a suggestion, friend: You want to become a consultant. That is where this profile naturally leads. This is a profile that leads to McKinsey and you can say you are interested in educational reform. Visit the McKinsey website and they have tons of information about that. From there, you’ve got a very good application.

Your long-term goals could be as the head of an educational reform organization, or getting involved in educational reform or becoming a leader of a private enterprise in education so you have a consistent story. Whether that happens or not, we don’t care. From an admissions point of view, however, you really would have packaged yourself very well.

The Harvard Crimson has been in the aväntˈɡärd of Teach for America blowback. The famous editorial in the Harvard Crimson was headlined, ’Don’t Teach for America.’ Their argument was that people are slumming in Teach for America who are not planning to be teachers and they are disrupting the real teachers and stopping educational reform. And that it’s just a pedigree program for elite undergraduates. But the Harvard Crimson is way ahead of where the state of thinking is on this. In terms of business school admissions, Teach for America is still a kind of gold standard, the educational equivalent of the Peace Corps in earlier days.

MIT Sloan might give you a close look depending on your quant score. Your raw score on the quant is 44th percentile and that may be a slight concern for MIT. But I still think you have a 40% chance at MIT because of your 720 GMAT.

At Stanford, it’s all about executing in an effective way on the essay questions, getting a little lucky, and standing out in what the cohort of white male do-gooders. You didn’t target Harvard but you should apply to HBS where I think your chances are about 35%.

You seem like a Tuck or Kellogg kind of guy, so I give you a 40%+ chance at both of those excellent schools.

  • JordanDF

    Hello Sandy and John,

    I’m thinking about making the dive into attending a MBA program. Would you take a look at my profile, give your opinion, and keep my goals realistic? I’d appreciate it!

    GMAT: 740 (even split)
    GPA: 4.0
    Undergraduate degree in accounting, finance, and economics from an unknown, private university (needed 150 credits for a CPA)
    Work Experience: CPA, 3 years in Big 4 audit, transferred to Transaction Services doing financial due diligence for PE firm with management and leadership experience (5 years total work experience)
    – Started a non-profit program in college off a sizable grant to teach underprivileged children about financial literacy
    – Active in my former boy scout troop (Eagle Scout myself). My main initiative is to help the boys find what they like and to help them prepare for prosperous careers
    – In college, president of the largest academic organization on campus (accounting/finance related), president of our campus’s chapter of Beta Gamma Sigma (international honors business society)
    Long term goal: To lead a F500 company from the financial perspective as the CFO (I’ll make this sound sexier). Possibly start my own non-profit focused on financial literacy and preparing kids for college
    Why MBA? I want to attend a MBA program to expand on my financial foundation to become more well-rounded. I can’t lead a company even as the CFO unless I’m comfortable with the other departments of a corporation. I come from a smaller market (think Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia), so a MBA will also give me access to firms I wouldn’t have access to without one. My dream (like many other people) is to work in a company like Google or Amazon
    ME: 28 (at matriculation), Male, Biracial (Asian/WHite, I can identify as both)

    Target Schools (I need help rounding this out): Wharton (unrealistic stretch), Booth, Fuqua, Kellogg, UNC, Yale SOM, Teppers

    Mr. Big 4

  • Guest

    Hi John and Sandy –

    I’d appreciate if you’d handicap my odds. I am a little green to start applying, but I want to use the next 2-3 few years to beef up what I can. I have a bit of an inferiority complex about my undergrad university as well as my current job as both are far from gold-plated in the prospective applicant pool.

    +GMAT:780 (50Q / 47V / 8 IR)
    +GPA: 3.97 from UNC.
    +Major: Economics. Minors: History, Stats. Graduated in 3 years.

    Work Experience:
    +2 years in an actuarial consulting role at a large benefits/HR consulting firm (think TowersWatson, Aon, Milliman)

    Goals: Transition from an actuarial consulting role to a broader managerial consulting role

    +Roosevelt Institute (a progressive policy think tank) – Economic development director
    +Order of the Bell Tower (“Tradition keepers” for the university) – Future Students Director
    +Federal Reserve Challenge – Research team member

    Age: 22

    HBS, Stanford, Booth, Kellogg, UC Berkley Haas, UNC, Fuqua

  • ICHawkeye

    Hello There,

    -740 GMAT
    -3.83 GPA in Political Science and Geography from the University of Iowa
    -Currently in Master’s in Public Affairs program at Princeton University
    -2 years working in Myanmar for a social enterprise on solar energy
    -1 year working in Beijing for a non-profit on energy efficiency
    -Several national awards, including the Harry S. Truman Scholarship, Morris K. Udall Scholarship, Coca-Cola Scholarship
    -Fluent in Chinese

    I’m a 25 year old American and will be finished my degree at Princeton when
    I’m 27 (will have 3 years of work experience). I’m interested in social
    enterprise and wondering what my chances are for Stanford and Harvard
    are… Thanks!

  • BigMike

    Hi John and Sandy,
    Love reading these, would you please give your feedback on my chances? Planning to apply to B-school in ~3 years
    660-700 practice GMAT
    3.9 GPA
    Undergrad in Finance from a large state school
    Opportunity to choose a 15 month rotational program with Vanguard or typical Big 4 position this summer
    … Or focus on my business
    Extra Curricular:
    Developed a product and garnered significant media attention (Interview on Fox Business Network) and sales (sold to people in ~15 countries and almost every U.S. state)
    President of 100+ member Finance Organization
    Founder and President of Ping Pong club
    Executive member in Fraternity
    Lead Analyst in Student-Run Hedge Fund (highly competitive)
    Residential Assistant all 3 years
    Love kids: leader in kids church, worked as a kids counselor, Big Brother
    Don’t have a clear direction yet, either want to be corporate exec or focus on the entrepreneurial rout. I’m essentially paying someone to run the day-to-day aspect of my business while I focus on school/career.

  • Matt

    Hi Sandy,

    I would greatly appreciate your perspectives on my chances at top schools and where I should focus in the coming months to improve my chances of admissions.

    – 25-year-old white male
    – Bilingual dual-citizen who is US-born and raised in Poland (16 yrs)
    – Undergraduate degree in Economics from “Little Ivy” (Amherst, Williams, Wesleyan)
    – GPA:3.7
    – 3 years of Strategy & Operations consulting experience at Deloitte Consulting; top ratings and promotion after two years; MBA sponsorship likely
    – MGMAT CAT of 690 (aiming for 710/720 when I take the test in may)

    Undergrad EC
    – Founded a pro-bono consulting group during undergrad
    – General Manager of 100+ student sub-division of the undergrad IT department
    – Psychology research lab; lead multiple studies
    – Internships in asset management (Dodge & Cox) and economic consulting (Brattle Group)

    Post-Grad EC
    – Volunteering with Junior Achievement of NY (3yrs)
    – Pro Bono consulting volunteer trip to Panama
    – Co-founded social impact group/initiative at Deloitte
    – Developed proposals to gain Deloitte funding for non-profit projects
    – Deloitte networking lead for NY office
    – About to being providing advisory support to the consulting group which I founded and the IT division that I lead during undergrad

    Short Term: Rejoin Deloitte to focus on market entry/growth strategy and build the emerging market practice
    Long Term: Return to Poland and Eastern Europe to help renewable energy and smart grid technology penetrate the eastern European market which is currently dominated by shale fracking and “dirty” energy (energy experience from Deloitte and both undergraduate internships)

    Target Schools: Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Columbia, MIT, Haas, Duke

    I would greatly appreciate your perspectives on my chances at top schools and where I should focus in the coming months to improve my chances of admissions.

    Thank you in advance!

  • Hamed M

    Hi Sandy,

    Thank you for your all your insights, they have been invaluable to me. If possible, would be great if you could have a quick evaluation of my profile.

    Nationality: British
    Gender: Male
    Residence: London, England
    Ethnic Origin: Pakistani

    GMAT: 740
    Undergraduate GPA: 3.45 equiv. (in Economics from a top 5 UK University)
    CFA and CAIA Charterholder

    Work Experience:
    Investment Banking: At a top 2 UK Investment Bank (1.5 years)
    Private Equity Funds of Funds: top 5 globally (2 years+)

    – President/Board Member on three finance/social economics student societies (1-2 years)
    – Co-founded an angel investment firm for early stage start-ups with some success while I was in banking. I had to depart when I started at my current position, due to potential conflict of interests (1 year)
    – Pro-bono consultant to 3 start-ups (1-3 years+)
    – Alumni Mentor for two educational non-profits (3 years+)
    – Languages: Proficient in 4 Asian/Arabic languages

    – Short/Medium term goals: continue to work in investment management within fundamentally driven public equities investing in the US (my long term partner is a New Yorker and we plan to settle there initially)
    – Long term (Professional): Return to the Middle East, where I lived till I was 12, to start a fundamentally driven investment management firm
    – Long term (Personal): Start a foundation supporting/investing online education globally i.e. Khan Academy

    Dream schools: Wharton/Columbia
    Applying to: HBS, Wharton, Columbia, Booth, Kellogg

    Thank you!

  • El Cap

    Hi John and Sandy- I’d love to hear your thoughts on my chances. (all #s projected at MBA matriculation)

    26, white male
    770 GMAT, 99th% quantitative
    undergrad at private university, 50th +/- 5 in US News
    Engineering degree, 3.1 GPA (mostly B’s, some A’s, some C’s, decent upward trend)
    4 year varsity rower (w/ major scholarship)
    fraternity leadership position (co-chair for ~$60k annual philanthropic campaign)

    3 years w/ Booz Allen, defense focus
    Strategy consulting & data analytics primarily
    Quick progress in firm, strong recs

    Amateur competitive martial arts & road cycling
    STEM tutor for HS/college

    Goals: get out of federal and switch to commercial, ideally MBB management consulting. Flexibility to move temporarily or permanently to EU at some point.

    MIT (dual w/ MS engineering)
    Kellogg (legacy FWIW)

    Top international schools (London, INSEAD, IMD)

  • Rotational MBA


    I am curious how a rotational program at a Fortune 100 company looks.

    740 GMAT
    3.6 GPA from Michigan Technological University (well respected in the engineering community)
    3 years experience at The Dow Chemical Company in a supply chain rotational program. 3 distinct, 12 month roles in purchasing/supply chain improvement/operations.

    Few professional certifications.. APICS CPIM

    Leadership positions in the company’s internship program, toastmasters chapter, and a local nonprofit school board of directors. A few other activities, but not in leadership

    27 year old white male looking at Booth, Ross, Kellogg

  • MBA Underdog

    Hi John and Sandy,
    Thank you for reading this as I am seriously wanting to get into a top program but am not sure if I have a shot, primarily because of my undergraduate institution and GPA. In any event, I would like to go to (in order): Wharton, Chicago, UVA, Texas, Indiana or Vanderbilt. I realize the top schools mentioned are probably dreams at best but below are my qualifications:
    710 GMAT
    3.25 GPA from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Finance & Investments (for what it’s worth I received a “needs based” scholarship and worked the entire time I attended)
    Passed Level One of the CFA exam and am currently a level two candidate
    28 year old white male
    Work Experience: about four years as an analyst for the institutional asset management division at a top 20 bank. I’m the only one promoted to AVP with my position across all markets in the division, and I directly support our head of institutional consulting. I was also the youngest person selected to serve on a bank-wide portfolio construction team managing over $12B in assets.
    I currently volunteer with two well known non-profits and have many others in the past.
    Post MBA goals: Either work for a fund (hedge or mutual) or do Corporate Finance / Strategy for Microsoft, Amazon or other well known tech company.
    Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you!

  • Ms. Global Analytics

    Hi John & Sandy, thank you for reading this. Would you be willing to handicap my odds for: LBS, Wharton, Insead, Sloan, Kellogg, and Said? Again, thank you for your time and consideration.

    730 GMAT
    3.24 GPA BBA, University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

    Female – both Canadian & Irish citizen (on a visa working in US currently)

    Work Experience: (3 years) Graduate of Nielsen’s Professional Services Emerging Leaders Program (5 persons selected per year), now leading a global client relationship

    Current extra curriculars: Pro-bono consulting for non-profits, recently promoted to account lead

    University extra curriculars: President Marketing Club, Gilbert Leadership Award winner, President Canadian Association

    Post MBA Goals: either big 3 consulting or brand manager in a marketing leadership program (e.g. P&G, Coca-Cola, etc.)

  • Andrew


    I have nearly the same background as you (art gallery experience) and will be matriculating at Columbia in the fall. Any questions let me know – I would be happy to help.

  • Bruce Wayne

    Sorry! Add Stanford and Wharton. Thanks

  • Bruce Wayne


  • Bruce Wayne

    Hiya John and Sandy! Could you do me the honor?…

    27 Year old African at matriculation
    760 GMAT
    GPA: 3.9 (Summa Cum Laude, Honors Program)

    -Double Major: Accounting & Finance; Minor: Economics

    -Undergraduate at small, non-target/feeder university in the USA

    Work Experience:
    -3 years at Pricewaterhouse Coopers (in my country) as Assurance associate

    Extracurricular activities:
    -College: Resident Assistant, President of Film club, VP of Business Club, VP of Business Honors Society, write film reviews for school newspaper, organize special early screenings of blockbuster movies for entire college in collaboration with Cinemark, established A capella group on campus, many more Honors societies..
    -Continuous volunteering at Children’s hospital, teaching children, frequent international travel,

    Short-term Goals:
    – To switch from assurance to consulting (either strategic or financial)
    Long-term goals:

    Harvard, MIT, Columbia, Yale, Cornell, Oxford, Cambridge, Kellogg, LBS, Mendoza

  • pgl

    Hi John and Sandy,

    Really enjoy reading your analysis. Would you be able to evaluate my chances at H/S/W, Kellogg & Booth? I’m also open to MIT & Berkeley as well if there’s a fit.

    – 325 GRE score (160 Q, 165 V)
    – Undergrad degree in science (Biotechnology major) and Economics (minor) from the University of Waterloo in Canada.
    – Work experiences include university internships in online marketing at an e-commerce startup, marketing at a prominent F500 business software corporation, marketing at prominent F500 database technology corporation, operations management at a prominent F500 food & beverage manufacturing corporation.
    – Currently work as a full-time program manager at a global technology and marketing services consulting corporation, where in addition to my regular responsibilities I also personally manage several internal initiatives for the Managing Director, VPs and Directors.
    – Extracurriculars at university largely include working with the university VPs to found, finance, lead and grow a TEDx event management organization for two years, whose videos have been featured on TED.com and received more than 3 million views worldwide.
    – Currently also a member of a worldwide young professionals network run by the World Economic Forum, in which I was the lead author of a white paper on a prominent social issue (religion and secularism) which is currently being reviewed to inform the WEF’s research on the subject.
    – Goals: To switch into a career in finance. Short/medium-term goal is to join a management consultancy with a strong private equity practice, or a venture capital/impact investing firm; Longer-term goal is to join a private equity, venture capital or impact investing practice in a leadership role, or start one myself, and also engage in philanthropy in the arts, culture and education.
    – Looking for an MBA in finance and strategy, with also a strong focus on operations (specifically at the intersection of technology and finance).
    – Any advice on how to package my story and/or career goals would also be most appreciated.
    – Canadian male of Indian (South Asian) origin, 25 years old.

    Thank you.

  • MBA Hopeful

    To P&Q,

    Trying to see if you could profile my qualifications:

    26 Asian Male (GC holder)

    750 GMAT
    3.5 GPA (Top 50 US University) Undergraduate in Finance, Graduated in 3 Year
    Prior to University, served 2 years in mandatory conscription (1st Lieutenant in Marines Equivalent)
    Work Experience:
    1.5 Years Strategy Consulting in NYC for international boutique firm (Promoted twice)
    2 Years MM IB (Associate Level in Satellite City)

    Extra Curriculum:
    Varsity Athlete in Cycling – Team Captain and Director (Nationally Ranked)
    Volunteer at Red-Cross as functional consultant + several pro bono consulting work

    Additional Info:
    2 Languages as Native Speaking (English & Chinese) + 1 Working Proficiency (French)

    Columbia, NYU, Berk – Long shot at H/S/W
    Hoping to work at MBB post MBA

  • BoothBound

    Hi Sandy, I’d love it if you could assess my profile!

    GPA: 3.3
    Economics BA and Mathematics BA from top 20 school (non-Ivy)
    GMAT: 730 (99th percentile verbal)
    Current Job: business analyst at fortune 50 consumer products company focused on process improvement during an IT transformation (2 years of work post-college)

    Volunteered at adaptive sports camp for kids with physical disabilities
    Regular volunteer at habitat for humanity
    Runs successful personal analytics-focused sports blog
    Youth basketball coach
    Worked part time in now disbanded (due to executive personal reasons) ecommerce startup in business development and marketing
    Knowledgeable in several programming languages (C++, Visual Basic, Java, SQL, HTML)

    Goal post-mba: either work for a professional sports team front office or work for a tech company

    Target schools:
    Booth, Kellogg, HBS, MIT, Duke, Emory

  • MAR325

    John & Sandy,
    I would really appreciate an assessment at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT and
    GMAT: 740
    Undergrad GPA: 4.0
    Undergrad degrees: Economics and Music Performance (from Case Western Reserve
    and the Cleveland Institute of Music)
    Work experience: 3 years in non-profit orchestra management (6 years if
    including internships/part time work while in college)
    2 years doing corporate strategy and business development at a high-growth
    Extracurriculars: Leading
    from inception a music seminar with (arguably) the two highly renowned teachers;
    board member at local cultural organization
    Goal: Lead a non-profit organization
    Demographic: 27 y/o white female

  • saj

    Hi Sandy & John,

    I’d love to get your thoughts on my chances for HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, Columbia, and Tuck.

    GRE: 170/170/4.5

    Undergrad: 3.7 GPA from Williams, double major in math & physics, cum laude, highest honors for mathematics thesis

    Work: 3 years internal management consulting at fortune 100 insurer

    Extracurriculars: Serious violinist through college, TA for upper-level math classes, violin teacher during school. Post-college interest in olympic weightlifting

    Goal: I want to get experience in a non-insurance industry and ultimately become a senior exec in a large corporation. (Not exactly sure the best way to spin this one, I’m still a bit undecided, but think I do well in a corporate environment and want to own a piece of the business, have P&L responsibility, feel like I’ve built something. I don’t have strong preferences on industry, etc. at this point)

    Female, 25

    I’m concerned about a lack of leadership experience and a fairly generic goal / experience. I’d appreciate any thoughts you could provide!

    Thanks very much!

  • George

    White male – 26 years old

  • George

    Not sure if I am too late to this post to get a response, but I was wondering if you could still benchmark my odds at the following schools:
    – Stanford
    – Harvard
    – Chicago
    – UCLA
    – Berkeley

    – University of Notre Dame
    – 3.1 Cum GPA / 3.6 Business / Finance GPA
    – Started on the varsity football team for 4 years
    – 3 on campus jobs (incoming student tour guide, student-athlete tutor, Corporate Finance TA)
    GMAT: 730

    Work experience:

    – National football league
    – 2 years bulge bracket investment banking
    – 2 years MM Private Equity – generalist fund

  • Charles

    Hey guys,

    Still a bit young but wanted to see if you could try to gauge my odds at HBS, Stanford, Wharton, and Booth, assuming I apply in ~ four years (two years IB + 2 years PE megafund/top tier mm PE fund)

    22 White Male
    Attends Big Ten University – currently a senior (think Illinois/Indiana/Wisconsin)
    Working for a Greenhill/Lazard/Moelis type firm upon graduation – M&A/Investment Banking
    GMAT: 760
    GPA: 3.63
    Athlete for two years before injury

    In addition, is there anything else I could do during the next few years to boost my resume? Not as though I can really change my GPA much in this last semester and I feel pretty comfortable with my GMAT. Thanks!

  • Julia Smith

    Would love to know what my chances would be at HBS:
    780 GMAT, 3.2 GPA – Economics @ Cornell with concentrations in IT and Business
    Summer internship at major supercomputing center sophomore year
    Summer internship at Morgan junior year
    5 years in Big 4 mgmt consulting, promoted to manager in 4 – big name large clients (think Sony, Goldman, Citi, GE…) with major roles
    Looking to move to McKinsey/Bain mgmt consulting, eventually private equity turnaround specialist/C-suite
    Worked my way through college as IT supervisor
    Went to top New England all-girls’ prep school (known name)
    Extracurricular – in college yes, since? 90+ hour work weeks with travel as a consultant, so sleep is my primary.


  • x01

    So, this is a bit unortodox profile for consulting (took a lot to get through), probably even less for top15 business school:
    2+ years at McK/BCG/Bain, with 2,8 GPA for Bachelor and Master from rather unknown university with some minor extracurricular (lead a rather big student club, held a big volunteer position in a big movie festival abroad). Great recommendations from Alumnus, GMAT >750. Male, 23, Europe. Any thoughts 😉 ? Don’t think I saw anything similar in your articles. How much the company brand and GMAT will offset low GPA?

  • CuriousExBanker

    Hi Sandy,

    I would love to get your take on my chances at some MBA programs.

    25 year old Indian-American Male
    Undergraduate (USC/UCLA): Business Major, Political Science Minor
    GPA: 3.55 – Ranked in top 10% of my class, Half-Tuition Merit Scholar, Part of Honors program
    GMAT: 710 (considering retaking but cant see myself getting higher than a 730)

    -President of two well-established student organizations during my Undergrad
    -Teach Financial Literacy at local high schools on a weekly basis (past 3 years)
    -Serve as an Adviser to Non-Profit focused on teaching financial lit in inner-city schools
    -Between graduating college and starting my full time job, I worked full-time for a different non- profit in Skid Row that helped homeless individuals secure jobs and learn financial life skills through mentorship and job training. (~5 Months)

    Work Experience:
    -Two and a half years at an M&A analyst at a Boutique Technology Investment bank (120 Employees). Not Elite, but very well known and respected in the tech-ibanking community. In the past 4 years 2 analysts have gone on to Booth and 1 to HBS.

    -Currently in my second year at well known tech company (Uber/Snapchat/Twitter) in Corporate Development role.

    Post MBA Goal: To enter general management or corporate strategy role within a established company (preferably tech) or VC-backed start-up and eventually become the head of Corp Dev or Bus Dev. Would consider management consulting right out of college as the first step in this journey.

    Dartmouth EA
    Columbia (would consider ED)

    Thanks in advance, I really appreciate any advice you might have.

  • Ms. Nonprofit Management

    Hello John and Sandy! I would very much appreciate your input on my case – I have a bit of an odd situation with an atypical background.

    -28 year old, white, female
    -Top 20 liberal arts college (think: Wesleyan, Vassar, Oberlin)
    -Major: Art History
    -Undergraduate GPA: 3.1 (polarized grades — one year of extenuating life circumstances that can be written about in an application, but not on an internet forum).
    -Nonprofit Management Graduate Certificate (6 courses) from a well known national university w/ 4.0 GPA
    -After the graduate certificate, I took: Intro Finance, Intro Accounting, Intro Microeconomics, Stats I, and Calculus I w/ 4.0 GPA
    -GMAT: 760 (I’ve only taken it once – might be able to raise it to something like a 770-780)

    -I volunteer weekly at a domestic violence shelter and maintain an active yoga blog, but most of my free time, over the past few years, has been taken up by studying math in order to make myself a more competitive MBA applicant.

    -Work experience: interned at art galleries and an art museum, managed a women’s clothing boutique, worked as an art gallery assistant at three galleries (press releases, sales, managing client files, marketing strategizing, etc.), marketing and development assistant, and also promoted from gallery assistant to development and executive assistant at an international, well-publicized start-up art gallery (which is my current position).

    Why I’m interested in an MBA:

    Directors of galleries and museums have, in the past, typically come from curatorial backgrounds, but it seems ludicrous to me that the directors – the people at the helm of these multi-million and often, in the case of major museums, multi-billion dollar ships – do not have the requisite management and financial backgrounds to run these nonprofit organizations in a more efficient manner. I would like to move from my position of assisting the directors to becoming a director myself. I would like to gain the business acumen I believe is necessary to positively influence the way these institutions are managed.

    What are your thoughts?

    My last comment: if my low undergraduate GPA and atypical background is too much for top 10 schools to blink at, would investing in an MA in Art Business or trying to get a management/directorial related position (or even something in nonprofit management consulting) and then applying in a couple more years improve my lot?

    Thank you so much!

  • Mr. Curious


    I would love your take on my MBA odds. I am looking at Stanford, HBS, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, and Sloan.

    GMAT: 750
    GPA: 3.75 at top 10 undergraduate business school (think USC/NYU). Graduated at age 20 and Magna Cum Laude. School gave me a half-ride to go there over Berkeley.
    Work Experience: 2 years in Valuation (Advisory) at Big 4, Went from there to finance at a leading tech company in the Silicon Valley (1 year)
    Extracurriculars: Won international and national case competitions in college, VP of the student government.
    Goal: To pivot into MBB


  • MattPC

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d really appreciate some feedback on my statistics and prospects for the top MBA programs.

    – White male, 24 (will be 25 when applying this upcoming fall)
    – 730 GMAT (Quant-50/Verbal-40)
    – 3.52 GPA Finance Major from Penn State (minors in Italian and International Business)

    – 3 years of work experience at a large international bank doing commercial banking–manages own portfolio. Joined as part of a structured commercial banking training program.
    – Attended leadership development training program at bank headquarters in UK for 3 weeks along with other high performing trainees across globe.
    – In addition to managing my own portfolio: I spent a period of time, as an analyst, managing the other analysts on my team, despite several of the other analysts being older than me.
    – Should have strong recs

    – Volunteer coaching basketball to youth
    – Have captained the team for all of commercial banking department for 3 straight years at annual volunteer event to clean up the city.

    – Have developed financial and accounting skills. Would like to go into consulting to develop management skills and eventually run my own business.

    – H/S, NYU, Yale, Cornell, MIT, Columbia, Tuck

    Clearly, H/S would be a reach–but how realistic are the other top schools? I feel confident about being able to articulate my desired career path and ultimate goal of owning a business and the interview process as well.

  • mbathinker

    AWA 6.0

  • lovinglife2015

    Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Chicago, MIT, Yale, NYU Stern

  • lovinglife2015

    Hi John & Sandy–this is amazing. Would you mind evaluating the following case?

    Mr. Middle East+Singapore Banker

    +750 GMAT (equal weight on both Verbal and Quant)
    +3.9 GPA (magna cum laude)
    +Undergrad in Economics from New York University’s portal campus in the middle east, full-scholarship. 1 year study abroad at NYU Stern during junior year
    +2 years in mergers and acquisitions at Citi in Singapore
    +1 year Singaporean-based PE
    +Member of tennis and rowing varsity team, won some business case competitions, was active in student government
    +Male, 26, from Malaysia

  • HCVC

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for putting this together I’d love to hear your thoughts on my profile

    GRE: V:168 Q:162
    Biracial male (half black),26

    Undergrad in degree in Math at top Liberal Arts School (Amherst, Williams, Swarthmore) 3.3 GPA, Varsity Athlete (All Conference and National Champion)

    2 Years at BB Bank as an Investment Banking Analyst in the Health care group after college
    2 Years at midsized (~ 150mm per fund, ~500mm total AUM) venture fund, Healthcare with a focus on Med Tech and HCIT

    Young leaders board for charity with a focus on HC in the third world


    Work to improve the quality of HC in the US through innovation as either an investor or a hospital administrator

    Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Booth, Sloan

  • greenconsulting

    Hey John and Sandy!

    Thanks for providing your opinions. Care to evaluate my chances?

    640-700 GMAT (haven’t taken official test but expecting that range)

    2.9 GPA (Chemical Engineering undergrad degree from ‘southern ivy’) (low gpa due to supporting family financially, through half of college, gpa in last two semesters of undergrad was 3.1-3.3).

    First college grad from immediate family – male immigrant/minority, 23 years old.

    Currently working at an international environmental consulting firm. Most of my work experience so far has been working for fortune 100 & 500 clients (oil&gas supermajors, manufacturing and defense contractors).

    School choices (no order):

    Uni. Chicago

    Just don’t care to apply to Stanford. Not sure why but wouldn’t mind not going there. (PS. I don’t hate Stanford, didn’t apply there for undergrad either)

  • mbathinker

    Just to update with my actual GMAT score: 730 (Q45Q, V47, IR8, AWA?)

  • alex

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love an evaluation (if you can)!
    32-year old white male
    GMAT: 780 (50Q, 48V)
    GPA: 3.3 in History from a Public Ivy
    Grad GPA: 3.9 from Naval Postgraduate School in Middle East Studies
    Work Experience: Nine years in military intelligence (5+ years in DC). Spent two years in the Pentagon writing and delivering intelligence briefings to top military leaders. Currently part of an organization responsible for figuring out how to optimally employ ISR assets (spy planes).

    Extracurriculars: In college, I founded theater company in college that raised money for charity; more recently I’ve been involved with organization that helps get rescue dogs adopted and am currently working as a part-time GMAT tutor.
    Career goals: I’m interested in breaking into management consulting (MBB); long-term I’d like to help companies develop strategies for starting and expanding businesses in emerging markets.
    Target schools: HBS, Wharton, Booth, Kellogg, Ross


  • Mr Major Blink

    Hi Sandy,

    It would be an honor to have you take a look at my odds. I think I have a major ‘blink’ with my low undergrad GPA, but will my profile, masters GPA, and experience help?


    -770 GMAT (50Q/44V)
    -2.5 GPA Double-degree undergrad in Finance & Economics in the Philippines
    -3.4 GPA Masters in Int’l Business & Diplomacy in a top Dutch School with a FULL SCHOLARSHIP due to impressive leadership track (see below)
    -28 year-old Asian/Filipino on matriculation

    WORK EXPERIENCE (chronologically):
    -FMCG (P&G/Unilever) in Singapore as intern during undergrad study
    -European IB (think: UBS, DB, CS) in the Philippines in the corp. fin. practice for 1 year.
    -Top IB (GS/MS/JPM) in the Netherlands as M&A Analyst to Associate for 2 years (multiple times as top performer & glowing recs from Europe VPs)
    -Global Top 100 NGO for 1.25 years in lead global advisory role for an economic empowerment advocacy organization (think: my projects led to impacting ~90million in 118 countries through financial inclusion strategy development and implementation for Governments / Central Banks, and financial education curriculum integration for Ministries of Education)
    -United Nations on financial inclusion practice for < 1 year

    Note: Due to my work in the field, I'm now part of some financial inclusion steering committees in World Economic Forum (WEF), Microcredit Summit, Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion (GPFI) – big names in financial inclusion field. I'm also a frequent speaker for financial literacy and youth leadership in international conferences organized by OECD and by (mostly Asian) governments.

    3 most significant (have more, but I believe this will show best side of me)
    -Student Council (Executive/Board Role) in a Dutch University, making me the first international student to be part of the executive board, and also with highest ever voted in by the student body at 94%
    -National President of national coordinating body of a socio-civic organization in the Philippines (think: youth community activities, livelihood programs for less fortunate, back-to-school material drives, etc.), also received national government award for leadership in a socio-civic org
    -Founded a non-profit org in the Philippines that connects Filipinos abroad to mentor young Filipinos in their province in the Philippines, with the ultimate goal of using a structured mentorship program that will open younger generation's perspective to become more global and motivate them to dream bigger (elements often missing in rural communities), while inspiring Filipinos abroad to maintain a connection to their roots/"where they came from" (Just reached all regions in the Philippines, and model is planned to be reapplied to 2 other countries in Southeast Asia using same)

    -MBA as stepping stone to go to strategy consulting (MBB) or top international development consulting firms (think: Bridgespan, Dalberg, etc.) to help elevate practice in the non-profit/public sector and bridge corporate practice with social impact. Long-term is to establish or join a firm that supports scaling-up sustainable social innovations [globally].

    TARGET SCHOOLS: Tuck (#1 target), Harvard, Kellogg, Columbia, Stern, Duke

    – I know you mentioned that details sometimes don't matter, but the low GPA during undergrad was due to my father's passing with me having to take over a diversified family business (construction, agri crops, and microfinance), while finishing double-degree studies ahead of time and maintaining intensive extracurriculars. On that note, should I mention this in my applications? Or should I just use the Masters GPA to replace the undergrad GPA in my applications (if acceptable). Your opinion about this will be most helpful.

    Thanks, Sandy!

  • Ronnie

    If it might be helpful, I’m part of some steering committees and consulting member for financial literacy/inclusion in World Economic Forum (WEF), Global Partnership for Financial inclusion (GPFI), Microcredit Summit, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) — and am a frequent speaker for financial inclusion, youth leadership and involvement in international conferences organized by OECD, government ministries, and central banks thru network established during stint in iNGO.

  • Ronnie

    Hi Sandy,

    It would be an honor to have you take a look at my odds. I think I have a major ‘blink’ with my low undergrad GPA, but will my profile, masters GPA, and experience help?


    -770 GMAT (50Q/44V)
    -2.5 GPA Double-degree undergrad in Finance & Economics in the Philippines
    -3.4 GPA Masters in Int’l Business & Diplomacy in a top Dutch School with a FULL SCHOLARSHIP due to impressive leadership track (see below)
    -28 year-old Asian/Filipino on matriculation

    WORK EXPERIENCE (chronologically):
    -FMCG (P&G/Unilever) in Singapore as intern during undergrad study
    -European IB (think: UBS, DB, CS) in the Philippines in the corp. fin. practice for 1 year.
    -Top IB (GS/MS/JPM) in the Netherlands as M&A Analyst to Associate for 2 years (multiple times as top performer & glowing recs from Europe VPs)
    -Global Top 100 NGO for 1.25 years in lead global advisory role for an economic empowerment advocacy organization (think: my projects led to impacting ~90million in 118 countries through financial inclusion strategy development and implementation for Governments / Central Banks, and financial education curriculum integration for Ministries of Education)
    -United Nations on financial inclusion practice for < 1 year

    3 most significant (have more, but I believe this will show best side of me)
    -Student Council (Executive/Board Role) in a Dutch University, making me the first international student to be part of the executive board, and also with highest ever voted in by the student body at 94%
    -National President of national coordinating body of a socio-civic organization in the Philippines (think: youth community activities, livelihood programs for less fortunate, back-to-school material drives, etc.), also received national government award for leadership in a socio-civic org
    -Founded a non-profit org in the Philippines that connects Filipinos abroad to mentor young Filipinos in their province in the Philippines, with the ultimate goal of using a structured mentorship program that will open younger generation's perspective to become more global, and motivate them to dream bigger, while inspiring Filipinos abroad to maintain connection to their roots/"where they came from" (Just reached all regions in the Philippines, and model is planned to be reapplied to 2 other countries in Southeast Asia using same)

    -MBA as stepping stone to go to strategy consulting (MBB) or top international development consulting firms (think: Dalberg, DAI, etc.) to help elevate urgency and bridge corporate practice with social impact. Long-term is to establish or join firm that supports in scaling-up sustainable social innovations [globally].

    TARGET SCHOOLS: Tuck (#1 target), Harvard, Kellogg, Columbia

    – I know you mentioned that details sometimes don't matter, but the low GPA during undergrad was due to my father's passing with me having to take over a diversified family business (construction, agri crops, and microfinance), while finishing double-degree studies ahead of time and maintaining intensive extracurriculars. On that note, should I mention this in my applications? Or should I just use the Masters GPA to replace the undergrad GPA in my applications (if acceptable). Your opinion about this will be most helpful.

    Thanks, Sandy!

  • ParalegalDan

    Hi Sandy –
    I’d love some feedback!
    GMAT: 750 (Q49V42)
    GPA: 3.31 in Economics from Georgetown (’11)
    WE: Immigration paralegal. I’ve spent 3.5 years here and received two promotions. I’ve taken on leadership and managerial responsibilities, and had strong letters of recommendation from boss and managing partner. In college, I spent two years interning at a wealth management firm
    Goals: Consulting (Global Brand Development)
    Extras: Volunteering at a soup kitchen, tutored throughout college, played club sports in college and rec teams since, play piano. Live in Virginia (relevant for UVA).
    6 schools I applied to, in order of preference: Chicago, Northwestern, MIT, UVA, Cornell, Georgetown.

  • hbsguru

    haha, anti risk taking and a resume which is a straight line is FAVORED by adcoms in reality, altho they sometimes give BS speeches that anyone can and should apply. The truth comes out on decision day. Right now i am sorting thru HBS Round 2 interview invites for my mock interview service. duh, guess who HBS invited for interview? The same 100 types they always invite. The colorful oddballs are bye-bye.

  • Ichirey

    Hi Sandy,

    International applicant here. Need your review on following profile:

    – GMAT : 700 (Q48 V38)
    – GPA : 3.3 GPA
    – International Applicant. Undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from top university in Indonesia.
    – Work Experience includes two years as regional support manager at top telecommunication company (Ericsson) with International exposure and managing 11 direct reports. Running various project with multicountry background team members; two years as support supervisor and; two years as senior engineer at the same company.
    – Extracuricullar involvement as managing various events at campus, active in student board and campus press, neighborhood tutoring and lecture assistant for two years
    – First in family to get degree
    – Goal : to get into consulting firm (McKinsey/BCG/Bain); longer term to get executive position in top tech company.
    – 30-year-old male Indonesian

    Target school : Wharton, Sloan, UCLA, McCombs, Foster

    Thanks !

  • SoYoureSayingTheresAChance

    Hi Sandy,

    I would really appreciate an evaluation as I consider myself less traditional than your average applicant. I am 31 year old white male, graduated from state school with 3.69 GPA, Double Major in Finance and Economics. 700 GMAT

    Work Experience: a little over 1 year with a small boutique consulting firm (M&A, and Strategy Consulting). 3 years as an Analyst/ Project Leader with a Technology/ Financial Services firm (leader in its industry). Have passed my CFA Level II exam, but do not plan to take Level III until I am certain of my future role.

    Extracurricular: Volunteer work with at-risk youth teaching them leadership skills and principles. Co-founded the club grappling team at my school. Co-founded the Finance and Economics club at my school. Brazilian Jiu Jitsu World Champion. Lead, manage, and direct our company’s annual fitness challenge.

    Goals: I really enjoy the Financial Services and helping Entrepreneurs/ Small-Midsize businesses. I would like to leverage my MBA to a role in a venture capital or PE firm, or strategy consulting for one of the major consultants (Bain, McKinnsey, etc.)

    My targets are Booth, Kellogg, Dartmouth, Darden, Emory. Any ideas or advice would be extremely appreciated.

  • worried

    Hi Sandy,
    I’d also appreciate an evaluation!
    21 Y/O white female
    BA from Oxbridge – humanities, don’t have a GMAT yet and my GPA is 3.6.
    WE: Interned in markets at bulge bracket US investment bank (London), worked for an MP, internship at small consulting firm.
    Goals: Want to start in financial markets and then move into online financial journalism (on the managing/strategy side) post business school, hopefully through my own start up…
    Extras: was president of a big careers society, heavily involved in student journalism before founding an online newspaper, currently learning coding.
    Schools: 2+2 at HBS and deferred entry at Stanford…
    Will have to apply in round 3 – do I stand a chance?

  • dukealum

    When I went there a few years ago pretty much all of my classmates (who weren’t from the South) got rejected from their dream school (HYPS) but picked Duke over UPenn or Columbia etc.

  • Thaidreamer2015

    Hi John and Sandy,

    Thank you so much for your wonderful work. Would you please help evaluate my chance at H/S/W and Kellogg ?
    710 GMAT (41V/46Q)
    3.34 GPA
    -Undergrad in Finance from University of Oregon
    -Work experience included:
    +1.5 year founding a social enterprise startup with a HBS MBA candidate. Raised $32K on Kickstarter campaign. $100K from 1 accredited investor. $190K in revenue supporting 2 orphanages and 55 handicapped craftsmen in Thailand.
    +1.5 year leading product development with a small digital marketing firm in NYC.
    +1 year with a top VC firm in Thailand as product manager.
    -Extracurricular involvement: Raised over $40K for a youth entrepreneurship bootcamp with Stanford professors and Google executives in Bangkok. Organized FIELD collaboration for 80 HBS MBA candidate with the previous VC employer. Raised over $30K for different charity organizations in Thailand since high school.
    -Essay focus in the experience founding the first social enterprise and how it shaped my career as a driven social entrepreneur.
    -Short term goal: Continue to figure out a scaling model for the social enterprise. Find a new co-founder (ex-Co-founder decided to take a big job offer in South America and get married) then raise next round of funding.
    -Long term goal: return to Thailand and build an innovative school similar to General Assembly model focusing in Coding, Finance, Design.
    27 year old Thai male.

    Thanks again for your time. I look forward to your reply !

  • op

    DO you think that will work against me in admissions?

  • op

    Thanks Sandy! by that I assume you mean that I am very much against taking risks?

  • Mr Television (and politics)

    Hi there, I’m sure I’ve missed the boat for assessments by now… But here we go:

    Mr Television (and politics)

    GRE- 170V 158Q

    BA from Oxford/Cambridge, wIth scholarship. (humanities degree)

    6 years of work- 3 years as a speechwriter for a UK politician and also a researcher in the Chairman’s office of a midsize media company (IP/Brand Management and TV Production- company is unknown but brands are household names, think “Sherlock Holmes”); 3 years at smaller US-based TV Production company working in kids entertainment (company is also unknown but shows are on Disney, Nickelodeon, BBC etc and partnerships with Mattel etc).

    Job in US involved significant promotion leading a team and managing relationships with partners noted above.

    Objective: to transition from small TV Production company to a business that is defining the current changes in entertainment media- Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, YouTube.

    Extras: conducted a 70-piece symphony orchestra during college. Relatively little since graduating.

    27 yr old white male. US perm resident.

    Note: for the first job, the politician and the company chairman are the same guy- hence the double role.

    Targeting Stanford, Haas, Kellogg, Booth and UCLA.

  • hbsguru

    “my current startup job is at a no-name, does it make a difference that I have structured partnerships with big names-”
    A little, those brand names do attest to the bona fides of your own start-up. As does the fact it is VC-backed. It removes you from the “vapor” start-ups, e.g. anyone can say they are working for a start-up. And incidents in your career in dealing with those brand names could help add stability to essays, etc.

    All that said, tough love remains the same: Get a good GMAT score.

  • Ms. Startup

    Thank you, Sandy! Appreciate your feedback. I’m confident I can break 700 on the GMAT, but will work (tirelessly!) towards the 730–hoping to sneak in in Round 3. In terms of the work experience, I have a follow up question …

    Even though my current startup job is at a no-name, does it make a difference that I have structured partnerships with big names (i.e., Ketel One, Heineken, Live Nation, Goldenvoice, etc.)?

    Ms. Startup

  • hbsguru

    Well, broadly speaking, you probably could get into Ross on those stats, if you were not in law school, although it would be an interesting question if they held no work experience against you in that set-up. Being in law school is probably an advantage, since it makes your employment prospects better.
    I do not know the ins and out of JD/MBA at Ross, e.g how big it is, if they admit kids applying from 1L year, etc. If there is no secret handshake (e.g. you must apply to both programs at same time), you should stand a good chance. Schools favor their own and you are already a double alum (to be). I would not list entrepreneurship as a goal, it is coming out no place and you have a belt and suspenders and elastic waistband resume as per risk taking.

  • Mr. Hopeful

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate it if you could handicap my odds!

    GPA: 3.6 University of Michigan
    Currently at University of Michigan Law School, applying for JD/MBA

    Work Experience: Next to nothing. Worked at a law firm during undergrad.

    Goals: entrepreneurship and real estate legal counsel

    Age: 23 at matriculation
    Applying ot Ross

  • Senor Banker

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d be interested to hear your feedback on my profile. Love this series!

    760 GMAT 50 Q 42V
    3.5 GPA
    Honors College at an SEC school, received a research grant in college for behavioral economics, and worked for the dept of labor during college
    2 years in commercial banking in a leadership development program, and then as a branch manager, with 3 direct reports
    2 years in Big 4 consulting focused on financial services
    Some extracurricular involvement in school (Exec Board of Fraternity) and volunteer work after school teaching at risk youth
    Goal is to focus on entrepreneurship and work for an innovative financial services firm in strategy and BD (think paypal, lending club, SoFi)…longer term, start my own business
    White male 27 at marticulation

    Schools I’ve applied to: Fuqua, Kellogg, HBS, Wharton, Yale, McCombs, and Columbia

  • hbsguru

    I am not sure, but probably. Although actual number of Duke kids at HSW –and in fact– in Top 10 B schools, probably exceeds that of Rice and Vandy (for other reasons, e.g. Duke gets business focused kids).
    Your accounting of Duke, Rice, Vandy status among undergrad applicants could be correct and is very finely tuned. B school adcoms are looking at same facts not from the ground but from 3rd floor, which tends to smooth out things. From B school POV, all 3 schools are selective, and serious. A good GPA at any of them is a solid indicator that you are the type of smart, well behaved, not easily stressed type they like.
    What really matters to kids at Rice and Vandy is how well you manage the First Job lottery. (And 2nd job lottery and intern lottery). It may be the case that getting e.g. job at MBB from Duke is easier than same at RIce or Vandy. Hence, if you go to Rice or Vandy, you need to hustle more. But that is your problem, From B school POV at MBB job form any of those schools is pretty much Tier 1.

  • Tyler

    Out of curiosity, are Duke/Vanderbilt/Rice really synonymously lumped together as “Southern Ivies” (per Mr. Consultant’s profile)? I feel like a 3.7 at Duke is much more impressive than at Rice.

    I’ve always thought of Duke as the school for kids who are unable to get into actual Ivy League schools/Stanford, and Rice/Vanderbilt for kids who aren’t able to get into Duke. Not to take anything away from Rice, great school and fantastic network for Texas, but I was curious if adcoms actually group Duke/Vandy/Rice together.

  • hbsguru

    How Not to BLOW Round Two HBS interview is now on PQ homepage. It has updates on what is new this year at HBS etc.
    altho, as hinted, what is OLD is more impt than what is new.

  • mbathinker

    I’d love to get an evaluation, especially since i come from a very different background than most potential MBA grads and am a bit older (over 30).

    -mid-2000s graduate from an Ivy League, BA in Political Science, 3.77 GPA
    -Expect a GMAT score in the range of 720-750 (practice exams are nicely parked at 780 but I don’t want to be too optimistic)
    -One year working for a university in Europe
    -Then seven years as a U.S. Foreign Service Officer with the Department of State, serving as an Economic or Consular Officer in two different countries (one in the Middle East, one BRIC)
    -Current role is managing a visa unit with approx. 20 employees (mixture of Americans and foreign nationals), currently five direct reports
    -Will likely be running a larger visa unit with approx. 40-50 employees by the time I apply
    -Foreign Service experience includes wide range of experiences, such as economic reporting, organizing large events and VIP visits, public speaking, representing U.S. policy to foreign counterparts, etc.
    -Speak at least three foreign languages
    -Strong interest in management, leadership, technology, innovation; involved in a number of enterprise-wide projects in these areas
    -As only major work experience is federal government, desire MBA to transition to private sector (target is tech industry) in order to gain wider experience; eventual goal is probably a return to government with all my new shiny private sector skills and ideas.
    -Currently looking at top 10 (or 5) schools
    -Caucasian female

    Any thoughts would be much appreciated, especially ways to strengthen my candidacy.

  • Renewable,IIT,Consultant

    Hi Sandy,
    Could you please give me profile a look?
    GMAT – 740
    GPA – 8/10
    College – IIT India
    2013-till date. Worked in the business development team of a large global renewable energy power producer. Main responsibilities are to source new clients who I can sell multiple forms of renewable energy to and then set up projects to generate said energy. basically end to end project sourcing and construction management of renewable projects
    management Consulting Big 4 India . Set up the renewable consulting practice over three years and learnt the standard stuff on creating presentations, working with excel, etc . Moved to an infrastructure company to learn how renewable projects are actually set up on the ground

    Extracurricular – Nothing major. however I have set up the first employment program (results awaited) in the company focused on providing 20 year jobs to bottom of pyramid villagers near our project sites

    Goal (nothing fancy) : – To get an MBA to transition to a regional leadership role in the same company . I can either rotate across divisions for 6 years or get an MBA and reach the same goal in 2 years (told to me by my firm).

    I am targetting the M7 and plan to apply either in R3 this year or R1 next year (Any thoughts?)

  • Bass

    Hey Sandy,

    Indian Male, 25

    BS in Biology – I have a First Class Degree and was in the Top 20% of the graduating class. (This was a three-year degree. Will that be a stumbling block?)

    GMAT – 790 (Q-50, V-48; AWA 6.0 and IR 8)

    After college, I was a full-time musician for two years. Did loads of gigs, played with some big people, etc.

    A year in a start-up in the education sector. I worked on product development and was the guy responsible for signing off on the interactive products that schools in rural India used.

    Current Job: Two years at a Digital Marketing firm – working with clients across domains such as oil & gas, travel, banking, etc. Involvement in three verticals of the company. Also helped acquire new clients and start a new boutique offering within the firm. I’m also Reporting to the GM of one of India’s biggest private sector companies. (Note – A guy from this place got into Berkeley some years back)

    Google Analytics Qualified

    I have also completed several online programs on Coursera to help me prepare for business school –

    * Content Marketing Strategy by Northwestern University (Brownie points for Kellogg?)

    * A Online Calculus Course offered by UPenn on Coursera – I did this because I wanted to showcase some proficiency at Math & Calculus since schools like to see it and I’ve been out of touch at it since high school.

    * Introduction to Finance – University of Michigan

    Post-MBA – Product Marketing at Amazon, eBay or in an FMCG Company such as P&G

    I know I ain’t getting into Harvard, Stanford and Wharton. Looking at schools like Kellogg, Tuck, Columbia, Darden, Fuqua, MIT and UCLA.


  • Wondering

    Hmm interesting. Thanks for answering.

  • Marimo

    Hi Sandy,

    Wondering if you can give me an evaluation…

    GMAT: Aiming for 720 (likely biased toward Q than V)

    GPA: 2.95 (BASc Electrical Engineering from top Engineering school in Canada)

    Experience: 2.5 years in Consumer Electronics industry, 1.5 year in Financial industry. I used to work at a start-up hardware company but felt the work didn’t align with what I was looking for in career. Now working at one of the top 5 banks in Canada (TD) as Business/Data Analyst, analyzing end-to-end process in the bank to improve operational efficiency. I work with big data to look at trend and prepare report for senior directors. Currently focused in Canadian housing market.

    Short Term Goal: Looking to be a consultant for top US firm. I like looking at the big picture and coming up with solution that is backed up by data.

    Long Term Goal: Entrepreneurship in tech.

    Extras: Unfortunately no major volunteer activity that is worthy to put on resume.

    Language: Fluent in English, Japanese, Korean

    Age/Race: 28. Will be 29 at matriculation. Asian (born in Canada).

    School: Kellogg, Wharton (will take other recommendation)


  • hbsguru

    I am not sure I would say goals are PE, unless you put some do-gooder spin on it. At any rate, don’t sound too greedy or eager. 🙂
    What is b school app record of kids at World Bank in your program, that is one issue. Given a 800/4.0, hmmmm, I think you can count on being near the top of that cohort. Even if none of those kids got in to H or S, you might have a chance.
    Assuming this is not a prank, 800 GMAT is hard to ignore, although Stanford often brags about rejecting all 3 800s one year (seriously, a while back). . Even so, that, and the 4.0 (UMASS is OK school, and I assume Honors College = free ride and some $$) should get you into Wharton, et al. HBS goes for stories like this, with serviceable execution and no interview FU.
    Just cool it on the PE, for a while, anyway.

  • TheBurg

    Oh, 27 y/o White USA Male

  • TheBurg

    Hi Sandy,
    I’d appreciate an evaluation! Guess I’ll go with Mr. Chemical Engineer?
    GMAT: 720 (Q49 V40 IR8 AWA5)
    GPA: 3.62 BS Chemical Engineering from Mid-Ranked Big Ten school
    WE: 2 years at a top chemical manufacturer as a production engineer focused on process improvement as well as trouble shooting an electrco-chemical reaction process (Produced an herbicide that is the only of its kind in the world), working with seasoned operators and various maintenance functions
    2 years at a top CPG company in a process/quality/engineering role. Control procedures and formulas for over 1000 products, work on small capital projects, lead continuous improvement events and initiatives.
    Goals: Break into brand management for a CPG company. I think my production knowledge as well as being close to product development will give me a great foundation (also general analytical and problem solving ability from my engineering back ground)
    Extras: Nothing major, lots of rec sports teams (in undergrad as well as through work). Tutored through college for the math department (Also proctored exams, graded homework and exams), tutored chemistry and math on a volunteer basis as well. Have some here and there volunteering experiences.
    Hoping to pull on my leadership experiences from work as opposed to EC’s, I lead a number of teams at work and have led a number of projects across departments.
    Schools: Top targets are Kellogg and Booth
    Lay it on me!

  • hbsguru

    always head scratchers –but nothing really “new.” See my Round 2 HBS interview prep guide, which should appear in PQ tomorrow, which summarizes Round 1 interview intel. Spoiler alert: nothing much new there either. It is pssble there will be 5-10 pct movements in e.g. taking kids fr. this cohort instead of that cohort, or age at admission, or internationals, or Asians, etc. E.g. like the fall off in Japan cohort noted by Nohria in WSJ interview, but those are hard to pick up in my significant but sorta 5 percent data base. One blip could be increase in family biz applicants, esp. internationals. I saw a lot of those, altho it is not a large cohort absolutely. Ahem, that is NOT being driven by rise in dollar vs. other currencies, that, in fact, makes HBS MORE expensive (and could be a general issue if trend increases and persists), but it could be driven by general economic instability outside USA, blah, blah, Lots of speculation. Including a wave of 2nd gen HBS wannabes coming of age.

  • Blue

    Please make my day (you never know, I may hire you. I ‘ll obviously need help.)

    GMAT: 700 Q48 V38
    GPA: 2.5 SEC State School (Not Vanderbilt)
    Major: International Relations
    WE: Internships at regional WTO office and well-known, but boutique marketing agency. 4 years (2 promotions) with well-known CPG company. Current role is international marketing manager.

    Short term goal: Product/brand management for Nike, Under Armour, or Luxury Retail
    Long Term Goal: VP or Retail and Online Sales (Ron Johnson or Angela Ahrendts)

    Extras: Big Brothers Big Sisters (inner city with high murder rate), Board Member for Undergraduate alumni club, Former campaign manager for sitting state representative

    Age: 28 year old URM male, First generation college graduate

    Schools: Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Tuck, Columbia, Duke, UCLA


  • Walt


    Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Columbia, Wharton, NYU

  • Walt

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate it if you could handicap my odds!

    GPA: 4.0 from University of Massachusetts Honors College

    Work Experience:
    Internship at major think tank ( think Brookings, Council on Foreign Relations, etc..)
    2 years at World Bank in the Junior Professional Associates Program

    Goals: Transition into Private Equity

    Age: 27 at matriculation
    Biracial (Asian/White)

  • Wondering

    Sandy, what kind of client results are you seeing from R1 this year? Any insights / paradigm shifts / head scratchers from you latest crop?

  • MBA Techie


    I really enjoy the series and would appreciate your help in handicapping my chances at Stanford, HBS, Wharton, Chicago, Dartmouth (already had the student-initiated interview), and UT (McCombs). I applied to all schools in round two.

    GMAT: 740 V:42 (96%) Q:49 (79%), I only took it one time.

    Undergrad: 3.84 Magna cum laude, majored in electrical engineering at a Top 20 National University in the U.S. Deans list all semesters and hold a department award.

    Masters: 3.725 in electrical engineering from Stanford University.

    Work Experience: 7 years at a global semiconductor company.

    -Lead designer for high speed custom microchips. I engage with clients to develop new product specifications and coordinate the efforts of design and layout engineers for successful project execution. I work closely with test engineers to develop efficient test methodologies and with product engineers to successfully characterize and evaluate products for mass production.

    -Provided technical and project leadership across worldwide design centers (one in Japan, two in the U.S.) for a new technology node that is the foundation for our current product development efforts across all clients.

    -Tasked with acquiring Samsung’s business and successfully led the definition, design and execution of projects that have created $6.8M in new revenue (9M units sold).

    -Directly contributed to multiple projects for clients that have generated over $125M in revenue (over 170Million units sold).

    Entrepreneurship: Founder and President of a residential real estate investment company. Nothing big but it has been a great learning experience. Currently own and manage six properties.

    Extracurricular: Associate Selector for Camp Rising Sun Alumni Association of Peru. Camp Rising Sun’s mission is to develop in promising young people from around the world a lifelong commitment to compassionate and responsible leadership for the betterment of their communities and the world.


    Short Term: In order to leverage my technical background, I aspire to work in a technical business development role where I can assess business opportunities and pursue those that can generate the highest returns and best utilize the technical strengths of the team.

    Long Term: Would like end up leading a business unit/product line in a technology company where I am responsible for the all business strategy, planning, pricing, revenue generation and day to day operations.

    31 year old Peruvian male. Unfortunately it took a long time to get my green card due to the great recession and it definitely impacted the timing of my applications.

    Thank you for your help.

  • hbsguru

    If you are applying from Namibia, and live there NOW, that can help, fer sure.
    There are no current HBS kids from Namibia, I believe, and possibly NO Namibians at ANY SCHOOL AT HARVARD (college, law, medicine, HBS, HKS, etc. etc). Getting a new flag is always a big deal!!!
    If you are NOT in Namibia now but have a N. passport, that is almost as good.
    2+2 prob has a much less percent International cohort than reg. HBS class, but there are some International kids, I think (not certain, anyone??). I do know for certain of International passport holders going to college in USA who have been admitted. So apply, and man, if you can play the Namibian card, well, do it.
    HBX Core [see next post for what it is] can help a bit, in that it shows initiative and ability to do business type work in semi case method setting. But for 2+2, man, you need to be way past that. So it will confirm your bona fides, but not do much more than that. Friend, here is how you spell HBS. N-A-M-I-B-I-A
    Good luck.

  • Dreaming Big


    Could you handicap my odds at UNC, Fuqua, Darden, Booth, Wharton & HBS?

    GMAT: 750 (44V/49Q)

    GPA: 3.65, at a small Catholic college you’ve probably never heard of (Franciscan University)
    Major: Dual BS in Finance & Accounting

    Experience: Currently working as a senior treasury analyst (recently promoted) in a startup sub-prime auto lender. 2 Years experience here.
    Prior to that 2 years working as an analyst for a consulting team in the hospitality industry. It’s a small company with lots of client interaction that’s more typical of a consultant role.

    Volunteer: Previously on a board of directors for a Montessori preschool that recently shut down. Currently on the board of directors for a brand-new Montessori preschool in the area.

    Extracurricular: Fraternity President, Intramural Football Captain & Resident Assistant in college. Currently involved with the Boy Scouts of America (Eagle Scout)

    Career Goal: I want to leverage my leadership & Finance background with a Finance MBA to continue to move up within the Finance world (though not at an I-Bank). My volunteer work with Montessori is not something I ever intend to pursue as a full-time career, but it’s something I know a lot about and it adds of lot of value knowing that I can volunteer my Finance expertise to help grow education in my community.

    Personal: 26-year old white male. Married.


  • molimalkar

    Hi Sandy. Thank you for this amazing serie ! I’m originally from Namibia which has 0 alumni at HBS and people told me this can help a little bit my application ,is that true ? I’m also applying for 2+2 and I heard they don’t really target international student and the program is mainly made to attract US based applicants.
    Finally , what do you think about the new HBX core ? Do you think it can help in the application ?

  • hbsguru

    “I’d never really been single and dating,” she said, noting that she
    had met her long-term partners at college and through work. “If you
    think about it, those are the two biggest pools you meet at. Why not
    optimize for that?” While Ms. Bradford declined to share specific
    numbers, she said that the League currently has a few thousand members
    largely drawn from the network she built during the years she worked at
    Salesforce and Google [and] Stanford . . . .

    I forgot to note that it was unlikely Ms. Bradford’s Stanford Essay was: “Finding elite people to date within my prestige networks at Salesforce and Google really matter to me, and so does helping other pals of mine do the same . . . .”