Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Tepper | Mr. Leadership Developement
GMAT 740, GPA 3.77
Columbia | Mr. NYC Native
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Enlisted Undergrad
GRE 315, GPA 3.75
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Tuck | Mr. Over-Experienced
GRE 330, GPA 3.0
HEC Paris | Mr. Indian Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 2.1
Chicago Booth | Mr. Community Uplift
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Worldwide
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
Wharton | Mr. LatAm Indian Trader
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Mr. MBB to PE
GMAT 740, GPA 3.98
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. MBB Aspirant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Soldier Boy
GMAT 720, GPA 3.72
Harvard | Ms. Finance
GMAT 760, GPA 3.48
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Angel Investor
GMAT 700, GPA 3.20
Rice Jones | Mr. ToastMasters Treasurer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
Kellogg | Mr. MBB Private Equity
GMAT TBD (target 720+), GPA 4.0
Said Business School | Ms. Creative Planner
GMAT 690, GPA 3.81 / 5.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Wedding Music Business
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Big 4 Auditor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Software PE
GMAT 760, GPA 3.45

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Advertising Agent

skydiver man

Mr. Social Media Startup


  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.4 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics and computer science from a top 50 liberal arts college
  • Work experience includes half a year as the CEO and sole founder of a social media platform that specializes in debate and communication. The startup has small cap VC funding, is early stage with a small team (< 10); beyond that job, two and one-half years as a business analyst, project manager and consultant with extensive international travel for a small software firm
  • Extracurricular involvement as treasurer for a statewide third party political organization, founder of a city wide activist based organization of ~20 people, host, plan and speak at statewide events
  • Goal: To leverage the knowledge, connections and experience gained from a top MBA into greater success for current and future entrepreneurial ventures
  • 25-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 10%

Harvard: 25%

MIT: 20%-30%

Yale: 30%

Berkeley: 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Hmmm, you’re an interesting case of a cross-over nerd, that is, a guy with solid tech skills from a top-50 liberal arts college who has wandered into politics, debate, communications and maybe social advocacy. You have two and one-half years of real and varied start-up experience (“2.5 years Business Analyst, Project Manager, Tech Lead, Consultant with extensive international travel at a small software firm), who has now started his own “social media platform” with small cap VC funding which “specializes in debate and communication” whatever that means. “Early stage and small team (< 10).”

“Treasurer for a Statewide 3rd party political organization” and “host, plan and speak at statewide events.”

Let’s see: tech skills, 3rd party politics, debate and communication?

Ross Perot Junior??? (Well, a junior version of Ross Perot? There actually is a Ross Perot, Jr.)

That is OK but you need to be Ross Perot in a version that B-schools would like. Technical, accomplished, patriotic and old-timey — in terms of interest in debate but with a new social media twist. That would be how I’d present myself (and I would not mention Perot, a non-starter at many PC admissions committees.)

Third party political organization is OK to a point, just make sure it is not kooky and does not touch any of the thousands of invisible third rails of business school adcoms.

You say, “Goal: Leverage the knowledge, connections and experience gained from a top MBA into greater success for my current and future entrepreneurial ventures.”

Hmmmm, isn’t that what your current venture capital investors are supposed to be doing? Beyond that quibble, and especially on these facts, it is important to (at least nominally) sketch a roadmap for how your interests and past experiences plus the MBA are going to play out.

One powerful thing you could say is that your goal is to start (or transition your current company) into a consulting shop that combines tech expertise and social advocacy, and that could mean polling, issue identification, marketing, etc. If you want to sound hip, allude to the recent story in the New York Times about “open data” companies which make it easy to scour government files and other public data for insights into issues such as crime and fire prevention, health trends, pharma marketing and development.

As to schools for you, I think the “unholy” trinity in your application of a 3.4/720/no-gold-plate job is going to ding you at Stanford, especially when presented to them as a white male communion wafer. They would like the social activism, innovation, and third party tilt (if left), but they only bite on that story when accompanied by higher numbers and more of a gold-plated resume.

HBS odds go through a similar algorithm, but they just take more kids. Soooo chances there are remote but not quantum. The new HBS essay is a perfect environment for you to lay out your story and potential.

MIT has a small side door for stories like this, if your package is super slick. They might sense a real skunkworks success story here by dint of your tech, political and entrepreneurial accomplishments.

Yale and Berk might just go for the good parts of this, of which there are many. They would be way more willing if your GPA was higher.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.