Handicapping: Ms. Analyst, Ms. Social Sector, Mr. Startup, Ms. Finance, Mr. Sovereign Fund, Ms. Ed Tech, Ms. Marketing, Mr. Banking


After gaining her undergraduate degree from a top New England college in 2012, this 25-year-old woman landed a job with a global consulting firm. But her true love is the social sector and more recently she began working for a small consulting firm to mission-driven organizations. With a 720 GMAT and a sterling 3.92 GPA, she wants to go to business school to gain the knowhow to help the social sector collect, understand and leverage data.

He’s the 25-year-old founder of a social media platform startup that has venture capital funding. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.4 GPA from a top liberal arts college, he hopes to go to business school to more effective lead his current and future entrepreneurial ventures.

In the past year, she’s been working for the chief operating officer of an education technology company, a job she landed after spending two years with Deloitte Consulting. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.8 GPA from the University of Virginia, she hopes to create her own financial education company for young adults and women.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

You already know what all these candidates share in common. They want to get through the door of a highly selective MBA program at one of the world’s very best business schools. Do they have a chance?

With Round 2 deadlines just around the corner for most of the top business schools, Sandy Kreisberg has been consumed with clients who are putting the finishing touches on their MBA applications. He’ll be back with an entirely new edition of Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds immediately after the Jan. 6th Harvard Business School deadline.

Until then, we’ve picked some of Sandy’s smartest, wittiest and most entertaining profiles of the year. Whether you caught these when they first came out or want to experience them again, you’ll learn a ton about elite MBA admissions from the tell-it-like-it-is, no-holds-barred Sandy Kreisberg.


Ms. Financial Analyst


  • 700 GMAT (expected)
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business economics from Arizona State University, graduating in two and one-half years
  • Work experience with Payless Shoe Source for three years (one year as a store manager and two years as a financial analyst); also spent two years with Teach For America, teaching high school math
  • Extracurricular involvement on Arizona State’s competitive cheer team, assuming a community relations role; treasurer for a sorority and a colony member for that chapter at my school; currently tutors underprivileged students and help with charity runs in my neighborhood
Goal: To help manage the way schools and districts are run so every child can get access to great education
  • White female

Odds Of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 25%

Stanford: 10% to 15%

Chicago: 30% to 35%

Duke: 50%+

Northwestern: 40%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Phew, I’m about to say some harsh things about why you are not getting into HBS or Stanford, but let me begin by saying I really like you, and I am sure most of our readers do too. The reality is that kids

1. from 3rd tier schools like ASU (save your angry letters Sun Devil fans, I love the place, but it does admit 83 percent of applicants)

2. with non-selective jobs and save-the-world goals,

3.  need immaculate stats to get into HBS or Stanford — if they ever do.

How come? I’m not totally sure what a regression analysis is, but let’s try this experiment. Let’s keep your exact same story but make these substitutions:

For Arizona State, substitute a Top-20 liberal arts college.

For Payless, substitute a Disney or even Target.

We get a totally different outcome. Instead of you being a very likeable and smart Payless item, you become a very likeable and smart “elite” item with a passion for helping people. If you want to be someone from Arizona State who wants to help people and reform education, you need a ~4.0, a very selective job, and a 720+ GMAT.

There is a name for stars like that, they are called White Ethnics, it is a recognized category although not written about per se in B-school admission circles. That is your category, I am assuming (often white kdis from working class backgrounds, first generation to attend college).

If you were near Ivy, and had a 3.7 GPA, a 700 GMAT, that might do because in most cases that person would have a selective job because, duh, those selective jobs at Disney or Johnson & Johnson or Nike  go to elite liberal arts majors with 3.7’s.

The entire point of the above is to say, sorry, I do not think you are getting into HBS or Stanford because you went to a prole school, your job is odd, your GMAT (assuming 700) is OK but not distinguished and Payless, especially as a store manager, sounds a bit off and overweight  to most adcoms at HSW (despite the job actually  being intense in terms of leadership, flexible skills, dealing with different people).

As to your chances at Chicago, Duke, and Northwestern? Phew again. How about considering as well Darden, UCLA and Michigan, too. Just to make sure this happens someplace. And try to have a real good (near 80%) quant GMAT score. Chicago may find this story not a fit for them and may wonder at your quant abilities. Duke and Kellogg take kids like you and ding them, largely a matter of application execution and luck.

You say your goal is to “help manage the way schools and districts are run so every child can get access to great education.” Try to flesh that out with a list of real people who do that and what their actual jobs are. My guess is, there is a list of hero school commissioners someplace, start with that. Check that list twice. Some of those folks, e.g. Michelle Rhee, are controversial (not to me!), but she is a good place to start, as this Wiki excerpt summarizes:

Michelle Rhee remains a highly controversial figure in the field of education due to her aggressive style . . . .  Rhee’s actions have earned her applause from school reformers, as well as the scorn of teacher unions and community activists.  

By the way, feel free to write back in six months and tell me what a dickhead I am because you got into HBS. I get called worse things every day — and as noted I am rooting for you.  If you told me you got into HBS, I’d give Dee Leopold a silent salute.

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