Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Ms. CPA, Ms. Museum, Mr. Consultant. Mr. Football, Mr. Boutique Consultant

She’s a first generation college graduate, working at a Big Four accounting firm for hedge fund and private equity clients. With a 680 GMAT and a 3.5 grade point average, this 25-year-old African-American professional hopes to use an MBA degree to transition into management consulting.

After graduating with a degree in art history from a top liberal arts college, this 28-year-old young professional went to work for several art galleries. With a 760 GMAT and a 3.1 GPA, she now wants an MBA to gain the management skills to become an effective director of a gallery or museum.

After starting on the varsity football team at Notre Dame all four years, he did stints with the National Football League, a bulge bracket investment banking firm and a mid-market private equity fund. With a 730 GMAT and a 3.1 GPA, this 26-year-old hopes that a business school degree will help him advance his career further.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

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:


  • 680 GMAT (41Q)
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Top 50 private university
  • Received A-minus grades in quant courses, such as statistics and accounting
  • Work experience at a Big Four accounting firm as a CPA, focusing on hedge fund and private equity firm clients
  • Extracurricular involvement in sorority’s alumni chapter, serving on executive board; co-founded the first diversity group at her employer and has given financial planning seminars to college students at her alma mater
  • Goal: To transition to management consulting
  • First-generation college graduate
  • 25-year-old African-American female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40%+

Stanford: 30% to 40%

Northwestern: 50%+

Chicago: 50%+

Virginia: 50%+

Duke: 50%+

Dartmouth: 40% to 50%

Michigan: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: I think you should include Stanford among your target schools. Stanford is a place that admits people from Big Four accounting firms who are accomplished and are under-represented in the MBA applicant pool. As a first-generation, African-American woman at a Big Four, there’s almost a reserved seat for you at Stanford. You are the perfect candidate for that seat.

You’ve got a CPA. You have stats that are solid enough to give the school tremendous comfort that you will be able to do the work of a top MBA program. You have your head screwed on right. You know who you are and you know what you want. You’ve been very involved in extracurriculars. Your 41 quant split is on the low side so the fact that you have those quant courses with A-minus grades on your application is really helpful. All you need is serviceable execution on your application. So try applying to Stanford as well.

As Stanford goes, so do the other top business schools. Every business school is trying to fill out their under-represented minority forms and the women forms.

What can go wrong is you could violate the first rule of applying: Do no harm. You could do harm by saying things that are not plausible, by saying things that make it clear you have no idea what a business school does, by saying you work at GM and you want an MBA to go into private equity. You never tell an admissions committee you want to get into private equity unless you already have a background in private equity. The way you have presented yourself here that makes that unlikely.

And you can’t go wrong with wanting to transition into management consulting. People from business school get those jobs, especially people with Big Four training. If you can live and succeed in a Big Four accounting firm, you can live and succeed in a Big Three consulting firm.

Palo Alto here you come.

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