Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Teach For America

sales guy

Mr. Consulting


  • 770 GMAT (51Q/44V)
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics and psychology from a Southern Ivy (Duke/Vanderbilt/Rice)
  • Work experience includes three years as a Deloitte consultant in strategy and operations, working mostly on healthcare projects, while leading pro bono efforts with local nonprofits on the side
  • Extracurricular involvement as a mentor for Best Buddies International, serving on board for a national nonprofit that provides volunteer opportunities to college students; qualified for Boston Marathon
  • Goal: To work for an elite nonprofit consulting firm (Bridgespan) or foundation (Bill & Melinda Gates)
  • 25-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 30%

Berkeley: 50%+

Duke: 50%+

Texas: 50%+

Vanderbilt: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: What we got here is a tight and impressive story from a white, male Deloitte consultant with very impressive stats: a 770 GMAT with good splits and a 3.7 GPA from a solid school (“Southern Ivy”). With those basics, you should be applying to Harvard and Wharton as well as your original target list because you can never tell about Stanford, and in your original list, if you don’t make it at Stanford, your next prestige pick is Berkeley. But Dude, on the highway between Stanford and Berk, there are some wonderful roadside attractions including HBS and Wharton. Especially since you will almost certainly get into Wharton just based on the numbers. The 770/3.7 (plus solid job!) reject list at Wharton would make short and interesting reading, and my guess, it would not include you.

At Harvard, you are in the 40% to 50% group. It’s just a matter of execution and not blowing the interview.

At HBS, and especially Stanford, ultimately it’s a question of whether there is an X factor that we are not seeing. Stanford has four guys like you. Which one or two do they take? The X factor is what will make the difference. The X factor for otherwise traditional white males can be extraordinary leadership in do-gooder things or perhaps pointing out that you’re a victim of some kind. But note, for Stanford to take a white guy from Deloitte really requires something! As I have often noted (and I’ve been right each time) Stanford often uses the Big 4 as feeder companies for promising URMs. There has almost been a reserved seat or two at Stanford for black women from the Big 4 in most of the past 15 years.

OK, let’s talk about you. If you’re at a Big Four (Three?) firm and a white male, you are at a disadvantage at Harvard and especially Stanford. (Guys like you often get into HBS just by being totally solid.) So this is a case where execution really counts. The extras you list aren’t going to do it, my guess. “Extracurricular involvement as a mentor for Best Buddies International, serving on board for a national nonprofit that provides volunteer opportunities to college students . . . .” Hmmmm, if some of your best buddy mentees are former displaced children from Civil Wars in Kosovo or Africa, well, you get the idea. You would need to personalize those stories as part of your own growth and learning narrative for Stanford. At HBS, you could “just” show how they contributed to the development of your social enterprise consulting goals.

A smaller point. It’s an open question whether you should list your goal as wanting to work for an elite non-profit or foundation, as if you hold consulting firms like MBB in slight contempt. People who are driven to work in “only” non-profits are a suspect category. You are much better off taking whatever you want to do good in and projecting that along the spectrum of for-profit, hybrid (public/private) or non-profit.

Your task at Berkeley, Duke, Vanderbilt and Texas is just convincing them you are willing to come if invited and not making them think they are your fourth or fifth safety school.