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.