Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Fortune 100, Mr. Military, Mr. Pawn Shop, Ms. Private Equity, Mr. Boutique M&A

After working for a couple of Fortune 100 companies, this 25-year-old African-American now has a marketing role in a venture capital-backed startup. She hopes to get an MBA to help her transition into a marketing leadership position at a major high tech company.

After spending two years as an i-banker at a well-known boutique M&A firm, he has worked in corporate development for a Fortune 500 company for the past three years. With a 740 GMADT and a 3.95 grade point average in accounting, this 26-year-old wants to go to business school to become a partner in a private equity firm or the CEO of a Fortune 100 company.

This 23-year-old is back in college after a break during which he launched a pawn shop with two friends, growing the business into more than 15 employees, with five locations and more than $2 million in annual revenue. With a 740 GMAT, he’s hoping he can get into a business school to eventually become a consultant–despite his very unusual background.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What these applicants share in common is the goal to get into one of the world’s best business schools. Do they have the raw stats and experience to get in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

Sanford “Sandy” Kreisberg, founder of 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. Now that the round one and round two deadlines are over, Sandy will be appearing more regularly. (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.)

black woman

Ms. Fortune 100


  • 700-710 GMAT (expected)
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business and journalism from a private university in Texas
  • Full business school quant course load, including economics, statistics, calculus, accounting and finance courses
  • Work experience includes one year in a marketing/leadership development program at a Fortune 100 company and six months in business development at another Fortune 100 tech company; currently work in marketing at a venture capital-backed startup and will have been in this job for two and one-half years by matriculation
  • Extracurricular involvement as a highly accompished D1 college athlete who represented Team U.S.A. at international competition, multiple All-American honors; vice president of an ethnic-identity organization post-college, VP of sorority in college, captain of D1 college athletics team; volunteer and mentor at a domestic violence shelter throughout college, and post-college (GED/job-readiness training for youth from low-income areas)
  • Goal: To return to the tech industry in a marketing leadership role, eventually becoming a CMO
  • 25-year-old African-American female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40% to 50%

Stanford: 30% to 40%

Berkeley: 50%+

Chicago: 50%+

Northwestern: 50%+

Texas: 60%+

Sandy’s Analysis: This is on track at HSW and other places too! LOTS!!!! to like, all around. Just to summarize:

–25 year old African-American female,–3.9 at D-1 private school in Texas (just guessing here: Baylor, Rice, Texas A&M, SMU?)

–NO GMAT but you think  ~700 is possible (my advice, keep taking til you get that)

–Blue-chip-ish work history

–Lots of leadership, ” VP of ethnic-identity organization post-college, VP of sorority in college, captain of D1 college athletics team . . . .” In college, domestic violence shelter, mentoring and post-college, GED/job-readiness training for youth from low-income areas.”

Get that ~700 GMAT, even you have to take it two to times.Â

This is a real strong profile with a solid GPA at D-1 school, and extras, and experience in Fortune 100 companies as well as VC-backed start-up, and  leadership as team leader and as a volunteer. Your story is has a clear path leading to plausible goals. It might be more fruitful to discuss ways you will NOT get in. I am assuming serviceable recos written by people who have done this before.

Stanford: this is sorta a bullet-proof profile for Stanford since they are always on the look-out for African-American females and you do more than meet them half-way. This is the kind of profile where you could probably get in despite essays, if it came down to it. But just for the record, try writing some Stanford-y self development jive for Essay A, along lines of “finding myself in different contexts is important to me etc.  . . .” And then give examples from five contexts– growing up, team leader, athlete, mentor, start-up employee etc. where you had some event that led to a self-revelation blah, blah. The Stanford interview, with an alum, is not that important. You would really have to do something radical to blow that.

HBS: Again, you are probably bullet-proof on essay, and just need to introduce yourself in some clear and informative way.

“Hi, I’m Jane Blow, I was an athlete at D-1 College in Texas and then worked at Jobs 1 2 3 after graduating in 20xx.

Some of the most influential events on that path were one through five and let me fill in my story–and tell you my goals– by telling you about them.”

800 words, The End.

HBS, unlike Stanford, does take the interview super seriously. You could blow that by appearing scripted, not in the flow, inarticulate (to some major degree) or just ‘out of it.’ If that happened, as much as it pained them, they might ding you, or more likely put you on the dreaded waitlist and see what their URM needs were. It would be real, real, real hard given your background, but it could happen. They have dinged some amazing people based on interview screw-ups, and the screw-ups have often been subtle, not jaw-dropping. The HBS interview process is scary, even for THEM. As attractive a candidate as you are, if you came off as lecturing, or rehearsed, or stiff, well, jeepers, they are so avid about using the interview as a filter for case method competency, they might actually fall on their swords and ding you. Even the otherwise deeply reasonable Dee Leopold has drunk the Kool-Aid on this.

Haas, Booth, Kellogg, McCombs: Phew, Booth may wonder why you are applying and may sniff out that they are a back-up school, especially if your GMAT Q is low. Kellogg would have their “We-are-not-your-first-choice” radar up, so you would need to show both interest and do some homework about why them. Man, Kellogg would super go for a profile like this and they might throw you lots of money. Same at Haas and McCombs.

You could make life easier for everyone if you made sure to get close to 80% on Quant GMAT, although you do say that you took a full quant course load as an undergraduate.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.