Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

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.

  • Mr. Boutique M&A


    I am the person whose profile you analyzed above. As an update, I applied round 1 to HBS, Wharton and CBS. Didn’t get an interview at HBS and got interviews @ Wharton and CBS. Got accepted to Wharton but rejected from CBS. The CBS interview went exceptionally well so I believe I was rejected to protect yield. As another datapoint, my stated career goal was PE. Thanks!

  • Lavnads

    Hi Sandy, would love to get your view on my profile since I haven’t been able to find anything similar in other posts and comments.

    26-year-old Indian female
    750 GMAT (49Q/42V)
    Undergraduate degree from IIT in architecture, GPA 7.1/10

    Did not enjoy architecture and switched my field to market research and consulting, niche firm in Delhi. After one year, switched to ecom firm Snapdeal (competitor of Amazon in India) — top performer here, 3 promotions in 2 years. Working as process excellence manager in supply chain, led several projects end to end

    Extracurricular involvement as a trekking and adventure enthusiast. Trekked extensively in the Himalayas, also paint and sell paintings online successfully.
    Goal: To lead the strategy and planning department of a consumer goods company

  • KC

    Hey Sandy, thanks for the advice. Dug down deep and got a 750 (50Q, 41V) on the actual test. Do you think I have more than a 50% chance at each of the schools I’m planning to apply to? Any other tips?

  • alonso_ra91@hotmail.com


    I am a 24 year old mexican male economics major. I had a 3.6 GPA (top 5% of my class) at the most prestigious university (when it comes to economics) in mexico.

    I have a 730 GMAT (42V, 48Q, 7 IR).

    I have worked in central banking (internship during college) and now at a small investment banking firm where I have a lot of responsibilities and ability to lead projects, some of which are defining for my country´s future, yet I am only an analyst (but it is a very small firm). The firm´s CEO was chief of advisors for the Secretary of the Treasury in Mexico and holds a Harvard economics PHD. I could also get another solid recommendation letter from clients or another one of the partners here. My total work experience time will be slightly over 2 years, if we count internships, at the time i write my application (otherwise it would be about a year and a half, but over 2 years and a half by the time i actually went to b school).

    I also have done volunteer work constantly for a few years at 2 foundations (one for homeless or underprivileged children and one to encourage and support organ donors)

    What should I do to maximize my chances of getting into HBS, Wharton, Chicago, Columbia or Kellog

  • michaeljwarren@yahoo.com

    Mr. and Mrs. Army,

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for the great info. Please review my profile.

    Mr. Army

    -164V 163Q
    -3.25 GPA Associates from Junior Military Academy
    -3.15 GPA, BA in Communication from average University
    -ROTC grad (last 2yrs served as a cadre member responsible for 30-40 students)

    Leadership Schools Include:
    -Leadership Training Course
    -Leadership Development Assessment Course
    -Basic Officer Leadership Course
    -Captains Career Course

    Work Experience:
    – 30 months as Squadron Operations Officer (slotted position for 2 ranks above mine) with direct authority over 9 Troopers/NCO’s. Responsible for an entire Squadron of 400 Troopers complete readiness for rapid deployment and critical shortage needs. Conducted multiple quick reaction force drills while on standby for NORTHCOM mission while in Alaska. Received excellent marks and GO status during the National Training Center Rotation to evaluate a units overall ability to deploy. Played a vital role in the Squadrons deployment to India and the important training of the Indian Army (Gurkhas).
    -12 months as Brigade Operations Officer with direct authority over 12 Soldiers/NCO’s. The active army component did an overhaul of its Kiowa helicopters/units and transitioned to a larger supply of Apache helicopters/units. For my entire 12 months my team and I were responsible for making it a smooth transition. This required a lot of critical thinking as 2 of my subordinate units were being completely gutted and not mission capable. Working with big Army and cross-leveling we accomplished the task 2 months earlier than projected.
    -18 months as a Division Operations HROC OIC (officer in charge). Responsible for a team to leverage knowledge and experience in order to innovate training across the Division Operations section and increase unit deployability. Secondary focus was to evaluate weak areas in regards to strength and fill critical shortages within each subordinate unit.
    -3 promotions throughout that duration and Secret Clearance.

    Volunteer Work:
    Significant amount of work in the community and with young enlisted Soldiers and family (I won’t elaborate).

    -Very Strong

    -Plan to apply first round and I’m a first generation college graduate white male.
    -Age 31

    Target Schools:

    Mrs. Army

    -166V 165Q
    -3.5 GPA Associates from Junior Military Academy
    -3.3 GPA, BS in Health Sciences/Minor in Public Health average university
    -ROTC grad (last 2yrs served as a cadre member responsible for 30-40 students)

    Leadership Schools Include:
    -Leadership Training Course
    -Leadership Development Assessment Course
    -Basic Officer Leadership Course
    -Captains Career Course

    Work Experience:
    -Very Similar background with the exception of a deployment to Jordan. All excellent marks and promotion on the fast track.
    -3 promotions during that duration and Secret Clearance.

    Volunteer Work:
    -Solid amount over the course of the last 5 years within the community.

    -Very Strong

    -Plan to apply same time
    -Female 27

    Target Schools:
    -Same (although I think she could do better than me)

    I can go on with a lot more blah blah, but I’m sure you get the picture. Any consideration will be grateful. Thanks

  • [email protected]

    Hi Sandy,

    I really enjoy reading your advice. I would really appreciate any insight you can provide on my profile below.

    -720 GMAT (48Q/41V)
    -3.95 GPA (top 1% of class)
    -Undergraduate degree in finance from top 20 business program
    -Work experience includes 2 years at big 4 transaction services (valuation) group and roughly 2 years at large cap private equity firm in valuation and strategy group
    -CFA charterholder (passed all 3 exams on first attempt)
    -Strong recommendations
    -Long-term goal: PE CFO
    -25 year-old, white male

    Target programs are HBS, Sloan, Tuck and Fuqua. Planning on applying R1. If I wasn’t able to get into any of the aforementioned programs, I would strongly consider EMBA programs such as Columbia or Yale and continue working.

    Thank you so much for the help!

  • yagmur.onur@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy ,

    Thanks a lot for the help provided here.

    32 years old from Istanbul/Turkey. I am looking for 2017 fall entry to HBS , Sloan , Booth , Stanford , Yale , Wharton , Stern , Columbia ( application round 1 )

    Undergrad : Top Tier College in Turkey with exceptionally low GPA : 2,34 (2006)
    Grad 1 : MSc in Economics Top Tier College Italy / Milano 86/110 ( 2008)
    Grad 2 : MSc in Financial Engineering Top Tier College Turkey 3,95/4,00 (2016)
    GMAT : 730

    Work Experience 8,5+ years at time of matriculation,
    Emerging Markets Trader , with experience in Top Turkish Banks (5,5 years of experience) + 2 years of experience working for Swiss Bank as a Trader in Geneva.

    Thanks a lot for your help

  • Ms. Social Sector

    Hi Sandy,

    Love these articles. Could you review my profile and tell me my chances for HBS, Booth and MIT?

    – 730 GMAT
    – 3.8/4.0 GPA (Masters); 2.8/4.0 GPA (Undergrad)
    – Masters in international relations from overseas American school; undergrad degree in humanities from small liberal arts school
    – 3 years experience at well-known public health institution serving in a project management role. Work focuses on building capabilities to respond to outbreaks in Africa and Asia. Included a short stint in West Africa assisting in the response to Ebola. Promoted twice and received several honor awards.
    – 2 years experience in AmeriCorps (pre-grad school) serving in a project management role at a small non-profit organization.
    – Low undergrad GPA is due to personal issues during freshman/early sophmore year. GPA for junior-senior year is 3.6
    – Goal: To move into social sector consulting or obtain a leadership role at an innovative globally-focused foundation (like Gates Foundation)
    – 31-year-old white female.

  • J

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for all your insights! I would really appreciate a review of my profile.

    – 770 GMAT
    – 3.9 GPA, econ/finance major at an Ivy
    – 2 years as a sales and trading analyst at a mid-market bank (think RBC/Nomura/Macquarie) but decided to leave amidst the turmoil in my group when it got downsized and am currently in my first year at one of the largest real estate PE firms according to the PERE 50 (think Oaktree/Lone Star/Carlyle)
    – Extracurriculars include working part-time in the finance/strategy department of a well-known environmental non-profit organization and volunteering for GRID alternatives
    – Southeast Asian male, will be 26 at matriculation, former national athlete
    – Goal is to return to PE in the short term with an eventual goal of starting my own PE firm back home in Southeast Asia
    – Targets: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, MIT (round 1)

    Thank you!!

  • Mr. Army MBB

    Hello, Sandy!!

    I really appreciate you doing all this. Makes it so much easier especially for us europeans to scope out our chances. Hopefully you find time to evaluate my profile as well.

    – White european male, will be 28 on matriculation. Married for 4 years.
    – 740 GMAT
    – top 30% Undergrad GPA from an army university in Europe // Major Strategy
    – Summa cum laude (top 0,16%, the only one to get summa cum laude in 4 years) masters from a top 30 business school in Europe // Major: International business // Track: Business intelligence

    – 1,5 years in the military, responsible for training the logistics company’s leadership and mission control. I taught brigade’s personnel to use the newly implemented ERP-system. I also trained troops going into Somalia and Afghanistan.
    – 1 year of working as a Market researcher for a boutique consulting firm specialized in finding growth potential in their existing operations. Worked in major cases for both private sector and the government. My work had actionable impact on a company that has over 300M € turnover.
    – While working for the boutique consulting firm, I SIMULTANEOUSLY worked for a local consumer goods startup company PRO-BONO as a Chief executive officer. I oversaw the daily operations of the factory, organized relationships and deals with the subcontractors and made sure all deliveries were taken care of.
    – After my master’s degree I have been working for an MBB consulting firm as an business analyst/senior business analyst for 18 months now. Worked on mostly IT-restructure and operations cases in pharmaceuticals and energy sectors.

    My supervisor at the MBB has said he will give me stellar recommendations. I am considered to be top 10% in my company.

    – President of the high school government
    – 3,5 years in Lions club (vice president for a year)
    – FOUNDER and president of my university’s Management consulting club
    – Speak 4 languages fluently
    – Succesfully finished 7 courses in coursera, all in business analytics and project management
    – Certified in Microsoft dynamics PowerBI, skilled in many other softwares that are useful in business life.

    Short-term I am interested in brushing up on my skills in order to have a better chance at attaining a great spot at a major top tech firm in the US (think google, facebook, twitter etc.).

    Long-term I would be very interested in co-founding a great startup I can offer my skills and help to shape them to become something massive. I think my goals are achievable and make sense considering my profile.

    Schools I am looking for are:

    – Harvard
    – Stanford
    – Wharton
    – Tuck
    – Columbia
    – Duke
    – Darden

  • LostInShanghai

    Hi Sandy — I’d really appreciate your help, as I’m in a bit of a nontraditional position. Planning to apply R1 next year to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Sloan, Kelogg, Booth, INSEAD, Columbia, and Berkeley.

    26 y/o Indian-ethnicity male
    3.84 GPA in Business & Economics from a top public school (think UCLA, UMich, UVA, UNC)
    720 GMAT
    – 3 years of top-score consulting performance at a M/B/B firm, including one year in a prestigious think-tank division where I authored several published reports in China. Promoted to post-MBA role during this time.
    – 1 year of experience (at time of application) at a top Chinese venture capital firm (but one that is practically unknown in the US). I am the only foreign employee. (current job)
    – Lots of leadership positions in college — president of my school student body (not overall student body), president of habitat for humanity, on the board of the Library system and Career Services Center
    – Little leadership / community service since then, although I’ve recently started volunteering at a dog shelter in Shanghai.

    Short term goal: Join a US-based VC firm
    Long term goal: Start my own VC firm in India

    Let me know what you think!

  • KC

    Thanks, I’m honored that you responded to me. I just might hire you come essay and interview time. I totally agree and am setting my minimum at 730 – slightly more than what Mckinsey looks for apparently. Freaks me out that your most recent ding report has a very similar profile to me but guy has a 780 GMAT.
    Any thoughts on my comments on R1 vs. R2? Also on the topic of MIT LGO – my current employer is one of the major sponsors and I would be applying outside of my employer’s sponsorship. Would that look bad despite my goals?

  • hbsguru

    all those schools like this profile — my tuff love is JUST focus on the GMAT, the rest of this is strong and baked in. I don’t want you beaten out by some other dude w. similar likable manufacturing story with higher GMAT.
    Sounds nutty, but esp. at MIT and Wharton, they really look at GMAT and 700 would be a small cost to their coddled average and mean scores.
    HBS might swallow the 700–but why make life hard.
    Rest is real solid.

  • WASPy Name

    Same guy. Thought I’d mention that I tutor middle-school children in math at an inner-city school. Sample story, kid asks how old I am and after I answer he says his mother is about the same age.

  • KC

    Hi Sandy,

    Ramping up my MBA application prep. Wondering if you could assess my profile and give your opinion on if I could use some help from a consultant.

    • 700 GMAT (practice, trying to get closer to 750 before I actually take it)
    • 3.66 GPA
    • Bachelors in Systems Engineering from top midwest private school that you previously called “a well-respected school in the B-school universe” and “a collecting point for bright kids”
    • Post Undergrad WE: 4 years at matriculation, all as Program Manager for that Pacific NW airplane manufacturer

    • Manage (matrix org) engineering and procurement of multi-million dollar seat development projects with airlines and suppliers around the world
    • Worked my way up from smaller projects to currently overseeing all seat projects for one of the top US airlines

    • Recs from Managers: will steer them towards how I broke the mold of only hiring people with 10+ years of experience and am now matching (and in some cases exceeding) performance of more experienced peers
    • UG ECs: Student Council and Fraternity leadership (nominated for campus wide awards)
    • Current ECs: Alumni admissions interviewer, Alumni college recruiter, Intern mentor and Volunteer at Food Bank
    • Goal: obtain MBA and move to consulting for M/B/B in aerospace/defense or travel/transport/logistics practice, then become a more impactful leader in industry
    • 25-year-old Asian American male

    Looking at applying Round 2 matriculation Fall 2017 (big delivery at end of year that could really improve recs) – or should I try for Round 1?

    Programs: Harvard, MIT (potentially LGO; Global Airline Industry Program is intriguing), Wharton, Columbia (grew up in NYC), Kellogg, Ross, Carnegie Mellon



    Hi Sandy,

    My profile might be quite atypical and so I think it will be an interesting one to handicap! I am looking to apply to only top 10 MBA programs, and my targets are Harvard, MIT and Stanford.

    – 720 GMAT

    – Undergraduate education: 1st Class Honors (I think 3.8 – 4.0 GPA?) degree in an engineering field. Top university in UK.

    – Graduate education: 3.90 GPA. Masters in Statistics @ Duke. 50% scholarship.

    – Work Experience post undergraduate degree: 2 years at Fortune 300 company in the chemicals industry (UK office). Role: Project Development Engineer. Responsibilities: Leading project bidding activities for turnkey solutions built for clients in the O&G, glass and chemicals industry. I managed teams of upto 5 engineers for each bidding activity, managed bidding activity budgets, and presented solutions to senior management and clients.

    – Work Experience during graduate degree: Short term consultant to the World Bank.

    – Work Experience post graduate degree: 3 years as senior consultant at Big 4 Advisory (US office). Provide analytics for business process improvement, anti money laundering, forensics and risk management. Clients in the o&g, utilities and financial industry.

    – Short term goals: combine my engineering and statistics degree to deliver advanced analytics solutions to the energy industry. I aim to reach this goal through a startup in this space. To achieve this, I want to hone my business acumen and build a strong network at a top business school.

    – Long term goals: utilize experience to help developing countries build their smart grid infrastructure.

    – Extra curriculars: Leadership roles in social enterprise and charity organisations in undergraduate school. Won university level startup competitions.

    – 29 year old male, from India

    – Have lived in 4 countries (in Asia, Europe and North America) and worked in 2 countries.

    Thanks in advance!

  • WASPy name

    26Y/O Male here applying in the next R1

    3 years Analytics/Ops Consulting Role @ AT&T (via DIRECTV, also an F100, merger) – 4.5 @ matriculation. Several minor promotions(harder to get promoted in the middle of re-orgs + grad school). Entire department created by SVP after a project I worked on as an intern got a 13MM issue looked into. Latest project that I spearheaded from start to finish resulted in my manager getting a company-wide customer service award(he’s willing to say I basically did everything in his LOR); handle Latin-American reporting; manged interns; taught technical subjects to people across the US; industry is relevant to my future career path(personal/family reasons for tech/telco)

    – 770 GMAT equivalent(took GRE): q97%, v95%, awa98%
    – 3.38 GPA on transcript of uni I graduated from (3.54 at community college, 3.1 if you include repeats in Calculus 2 that are excluded from official GPA calculation); combined overall average is either a 3.45 or 3.25 depending
    – Math-econ major w/ minors in stats + accounting @ top 40 public school known for grade-deflation
    – First gen college grad – dealt with short term homelessness and having to work/intern up to 60 hours/week; white, WASP, heterosexual male

    – 4.00 GPA in MS Analytics (in progress, expect AT LEAST 3.9 when applying if not 4.0) @ a top 20 B-School, in with 30% scholarship, <9% acceptance rate. Part-time, while working FT. Want to matriculate right after MS ends.

    – Former moderator on graphics design forum (also won a few minor design contests), former VP of business club in UG (still somewhat involved and take on mentees), on board of Young Professional's group (headed event where CEO spoke, joint-company mixer w/ 2 other F500s, taught an Excel lab, and more), bodybuilding/fitness(+70lbs), team trainer award @ F500 retailer during undergrad, acted as a TA while my manager taught a lab @ top 15 B school, plays video-games in foreign languages, (and more… )

    In future: international volunteer trip in Latin America to teach math/personal-finance + business consulting, etc. Applying to pre-MBA fellows program @ same top 15 BSchool manager got his MBA from and where I TAed

    Goal: MBB short-term; long-term management/executive role(ideally CTO/CIO) in tech/telecommunications; I'm passionate about democratizing information; HUGE believer in the transformative power of the internet (learned about bodybuilding, academics, career, etc. and mentored others online)
    Want MBA for soft skills, already have/getting hard-technical skills.

    Odds @ R1: HBS, GSB, Wharton, MIT; R2: Haas, Kellogg, Booth, Tuck, Yale?

  • xelink@gmail.com

    -Deleted don’t want personal info w/ my old email

  • PPS

    Hi Sandy,

    Thank you very much for the helpful tips and advice you post on this website. I was wondering if you could handicap my odds for admission at Berkeley, Columbia, Wharton, HBS and Stanford.

    – 720-740 GMAT (projected/based off of practice tests)
    – 3.53 GPA
    – Undergraduate degree in Finance at a well-regarded public university with a top-ranked undergrad business program (think Berkeley/Michigan/UVA).
    – Work experience includes two years at a mid-tier investment bank (think HW/Blair/Baird) with wide-ranging industry focus (not sure if relevant, but I was the only female banker at my regional office) and two years at a middle-market private equity firm in the consumer practice.
    – Extracurricular involvement in college included elected sorority leadership positions and membership in a few philanthropic organizations. Currently, I serve on the leadership council of my local Red Cross chapter for young professionals and volunteer with animal rescues.
    – Long-Term Goal: I would like to work in corporate development for a large, branded consumer company in the apparel or health industry (sectors where I have done the most relevant work in) and help grow its D2C presence through strategic acquisitions and operational improvement. Though I primarily come from a finance background, I’m especially interested in and have experience with analyzing retail metrics and e-commerce strategy.
    -25-year-old Asian female

  • eric

    This is directed towards John and/or Sandy and/or anyone else. What are your thoughts between MIT and Booth? If you got into both, where would you go?

  • Mr. Development

    Thanks for the feedback!

  • hbsguru

    real solid all around, the only issue might be how long you have spent working for the Devil, that is OK for a while (two years) but you might be four years by the time you matric. It would help if your commitment to development had some continuity beyoned Peace Corp–there is a real type of applicant: Peace Corp, Job 2, B school, and the issue is whether you can present as gold or silver version of that –3 or 4 yrs at Barclay’s in Equity Research and no other do-gooder jive for past 3 years could be read as silver. HBS takes kids like you (discounting goals and just responding to solid stats and jobs) sometimes, so does Wharton. This aint smelling like Stanford, take out Peace Corp and you got not much but a smart white guy in finance with a silver not gold job.
    Sorry for the tuff love, but that is way I read it. Kids can get jobs w. IFC pre-B school, and those kids are more likely to tell a compelling version of this story.

  • Mr. Development

    Great blog, I’d appreciate feedback on how I may stack up at top schools. Also equally interested in which programs may make sense if I’m targeting scholarships. Thanks for the help! I’m interested in dual MBA/MPP programs and plan to pursue a career in development.

    -GRE (168Q, 165V, 5A)
    -3.89 GPA, undergraduate degree in Finance from honors business program at Indiana University
    -selected to help manage student run investment portfolio. selected by alumni board as stock pick winner
    -leadership roles in business fraternity
    -supplemental instructor for introductory econ

    -Work experience: 2 years as Peace Corps volunteer in Balkans, working on local economic development (current)
    -3 years at Barclays (New York) in equity research. Promoted from Analyst to Assistance Vice President. Worked on top ranked team (ranked by institutional investor magazine)

    -Professional Goal: Launch a successful career in development, making a positive impact on the world. I’m interested in impacting social change by empowering private market actors. Looking to leverage my skill set in financial analysis and interest in the global financial and economic markets with passion for helping others. Dream job would be to work for the International Financial Corporation or other multinational (USAID, World Bank), or a large foundation (Gates foundation, ect.)

    -White American male (age 28 at matriculation)

    -Targets: HBS, SBS, Wharton
    -Scholarship Targets: UCLA, NYU, Duke, Georgetown

    What do you think!?


    Hi Sandy,

    My profile might be quite atypical and so might be an interesting one to handicap! I am looking to apply to only top 10 MBA programs.

    – 720 GMAT
    – Undergraduate education: 1st Class Honors (I think 3.8 – 4.0 GPA?) 4 year BEng and MEng combined degree in an engineering field. Top university in UK.
    – Graduate education: 3.90 GPA. Masters in Economics. Duke.

  • Young Professional

    P.S. I also had a 4-month student teaching experience at a school full of underprivileged students.

  • Young Professional

    Your experience and insight is very helpful! I would appreciate if you reviewed my profile. I realize that my profile is not ideal and I want to find out what I can do to make myself more attractive to business schools. (Advanced degree? Quantitative courses at a local community college?)
    -Asian American Male
    -Age: 22
    -GMAT: 700+(intended)
    -Education: 3.38 GPA, undergrad degree in Secondary Education, minors in Economics and History at Penn State University(main campus)
    -Extracurricular: Held various leadership positions as a member of fraternity, coordinated fundraising efforts for pediatric cancer research
    -Work Experience: Summer Internship for a Jewelry wholesale firm(<30 employees)
    Production management and design at the family jewelry manufacturing firm(<10 employees). I am currently learning the industry, hoping to take over the firm in ~10 years.
    -Short term goal: Work towards admissions into a top MBA program followed by a 2 year stint with a top consulting firm
    -Long term goal: Use my education/skills and take over the family jewelry manufacturing firm.
    What more can I do to improve my profile? Should I go for an advanced Master's degree in a business-related field such as management or finance to strengthen my credentials?
    Any and all feedback or criticism is appreciated!

  • fpinterrupted

    Hi Sandy,

    Would greatly appreciate your advice on chances/target schools!

    – 26 y.o. female

    – GRE of 163 Q (86%) / 165 V (95%) / 5.5 W (98%) with plans to take the GMAT next month

    – 3.4 GPA at top NESCAC (Williams/Amherst) with 3.7 excluded from undergrad GPA from junior year at Oxford/Cambridge

    – 4.5 years of work experience includes: legislative assistant in the U.S. senate, followed by 2.5 years in project management at top DC think tank (specifically, working in foreign policy/international development)

    – Extracurricular: Led 3 clubs in undergrad, volunteering roles post-grad, member of several leadership boards within my organization with demonstrated impacts of influencing policies to improve diversity & tackle institutional inefficiencies

    Goal: Hoping to work in social sector consulting immediately after my MBA, and long-term, working in social entrepreneurship or in a leadership role at a foundation or nonprofit

    Target schools: Tuck, CBS, Kellogg, Yale, Sloan

  • MrTechConsultant

    Hi Sandy,

    I would appreciate if you evaluate my chances:

    – 730-740 GMAT (expected)
    – 3.3 GPA, BS in Electrical Engineering from University of Maryland, College Park
    – Work Experience: 4 years at big tech consulting firm (i.e. Accenture) with Project Management and Technology Architecture roles
    – Extra Curricular: Volunteering in Hour of Code
    – Goal: work in leadership positions at the same industry

    – 26-year-old Male, raised in Middle East

    What are my chances at Stanford, Sloan, LBS, Wharton? Which schools you suggest?


  • Ben

    Hi Sandy,

    I love reading through your insights and advice – I would really appreciate a review of my profile.

    – GMAT: 750 (47Q/46V)
    – GPA: 3.6 (University of Texas at Austin, BBA in Marketing)
    – Work Experience: 1.5 years at Halliburton in Singapore working in client services
    1.5 years at a major media agency in NYC working on AT&T’s digital media campaign(top 5 largest media buys in the world)
    6 months at a major media agency working on Microsoft’s digital media campaign
    -Extracurricular: 2 years as the marketing and advertising manager for a student newspaper and website
    Founded a tutoring organization and executive tutor to calculus 1 & 2 students
    Club level tennis player and competitor
    Presently volunteering with an organization that offers free tennis lessons to under-privileged and at-risk youths. Additionally I’m heavily involved with the marketing of the organization.
    Member of multicultural advertising industry organization that mentors college students looking to get into the industry
    -Demographic: Asian American Male – 27 at matriculation
    -Short term goal: Work in digital marketing consulting or the internal marketing organization of a major luxury goods or apparel company
    -Long term goal: CMO of a luxury goods company

    -Target Schools: HSW, Columbia, MIT, Booth, Kellogg, LBS


  • Icareon

    Hello Sandy,

    I see a lot of fantastic advice coming from you on this site and would like to throw my “profile” into the hat as well since I haven’t seen anything similar on the website yet.

    My target schools are HBS, Stanford, Booth and MIT and my stats are as follows

    – 680 GMAT (Q44,V40)

    – BS (top 3 German University) + PhD in Mechanical Engineering (Virginia Tech)

    – GPAs: 3.81 (BS) and 3.76 (PhD) respectively

    – Background: 31 y/o, male, German-Iranian-American (2nd Iranian immigrant to Germany who immigrated to the US)

    – Languages: German, English, Farsi, (some) French

    – Work Experience : 5 years in Railroad manufacturing and R&D. I am part of a specialized team inside our company which is merging data science/signal processing/programming with the traditional railroad engineering discipline. in my position I interact directly with the highest levels of leadership in our company as we develop product differentiators to manifest our industry position. I am leading international projects (technical side) in this capacity and have worked in Australia, Canada, Germany, and Switzerland.

    I am also an adjunct professor at a university where I live and teach undergraduate courses (early in the morning) and where I advise graduate students on their thesis.

    – Extracurriculars: I am a board member ( one of three) of the German Engineers Association in North America, teach at the university which is a ton of work but I just love it and as an undergraduate I was the VP of the mechanical Engineering honor society.

    – Goals: Advance the state of freight rail in the middle east. If I get my MBA I will be very well prepared to make strides forward in this area utilizing my technical background as well as the business skills that the MBA would give me.

    I haven’t come accross anybody yet with a PhD who has has gone to one of the top 10 business schools for an MBA. I am very intrigued if that is possible and what my chances would to accomplish this.

    Thank you very much,


  • Eric

    Hi Sandy,

    I didn’t get into HBS. Just found out, Didn’t even get an interview. And I know why – its my work experience. I had:

    770 GMAT
    3.8 GPA from MIT
    2 years at a boutique consulting shop.
    1 year at a boutique consulting shop
    6 months (would be 1 year by matriculation) at boutique consulting shop
    Wanting to go into healthcare (all my consulting was focused on healthcare).

    I did get into Booth, but I don’t think I want to go. I really want Harvard. Do you think its worth reapplying round 1 of next year (so I’d have 2 years at this current job). Is this a bad decision?


  • hbsguru

    allow me to add, to make things worse, that HSW have a list of feeder firms [both PE and industry and sometimes niche consulting] that you may never have heard of with a history of sending kids to those schools, Sometimes those firms have an influential alum, or track record, or some secret sauce.

  • hbsguru

    well, I like you and one may wonder what might be missing from a guy with a 750 GMAT and 3.75 GPA fr. an OK public college.

    Unfortunately, 2+2 programs are really difficult, esp. for finance (white males, I assume?).

    What is missing here is some glitter. All your extras are career oriented, jobs are with silver not gold firms, and goals are sorta get rich, or seem that way.

    The actual strong part of this story is “aerospace company doing operations, and elite engineering university doing aerospace research.”

    I would try to build that up more as both influences and goals.

    I dont think you are getting into Stanford, you are not their kind of future rich kid–they prefer future rich kids to be born rich or learn quicker how to manipulate the system– and go to Ivy schools and work at tip-top finance firms. Given that no save-the-world BS attached here as well, well, nothing driving you in.

    HBS story could be similar but door is wider. You may get in to HBS in 2-4 years as a regular admit.

    I dont really have a feeling about Yale. My advice would be to apply to H and S, get dinged, and joint the Ding+Admit club in 2-4 years.

  • Mr UK

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for all the help – my target schools are LBS, Insead, Columbia, Kellogg with a potential reach at HBS or Stanford(?) Born in Singapore, but lived in the UK for most of my life.

    – 25 year-old White/Asian male.
    – 720 GMAT (49q/40v)
    – Upper Second Class Honours (maybe equivalent to a 3.5?) at a Russel Group university (~top 15 in UK). Majored in Philosophy, Politics and Economics
    – 2 years at a Finance graduate scheme in a multinational tech firm (think Google/Amzn/FB) in 2012. Led and implemented a project in logistics saving $2m a year.
    – Left to work in the Strategy team at a newly IPO-ed British Tech company. Current Market Cap of around ~$2bn.
    – Moved into a product management role, and lead a 5-person dev team. Expect to get a promotion in next few months.
    – Extras include being a School Governor for two years, playing rugby at college and currently playing football with the LBS alumni team.

    -Short-term goal: Move into consulting for Tech firms/ or MBB if poss.
    -Long-term goal: Get into VC, or start my own business.

    I know the US schools are a stretch, but hoping that my UK background might give me a small edge?

  • deepthinker

    Hi Sandy,

    I appreciate what you. Could you review my profile and tell me what you need are my chances of getting into HBS 2+2, GBS 2+2, and Yale Silver Scholars (3+2)? Thanks!

    -750 GMAT
    – 3.75 GPA, undergrad business degree in Finance of top 20 publicly ranked university in South.
    – Extracurricular: Analyst at Student Managed Investment Fund at school, leadership positions in several business organizations

    Work Experience:
    – internships at middle market elite boutique investment bank doing financial advisory (valuation), aerospace company doing operations, and elite engineering university doing aerospace research.

    Goal: To work in hedge fund or asset management industry, and use that experience to create my own investment fund.

  • Ross

    Hi John, any insight to this question?

  • Mr. Value Investor

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for all the help you provide here. Can you review my profile and please tell me what I need to do to get into HBS!! Thanks!

    -760 GMAT (48Q/46V split) (first try)
    -3.75 GPA, undergrad degree in Business Administration (concentration in Finance, minor in Economics) from the Honors Program of a top 25 school of business in Boston
    -4-year varsity rower in college (~top 5 nationally ranked D1 team), Intercollegiate Rowing Association All-Academic Team

    -Work experience: 2 years at a middle market leverage finance firm (think of a cross between investment banking and private equity, ie high finance… but definitely not prestigious as either). Promotion from Analyst to Associate in 1.5 years (normal progression is 3 years). Have received a good amount of responsibility early on.

    -Short-term goal: To work for a leading PE firm.
    -Long-term goal: To start my own investment firm focused on technology, healthcare, and energy.

    -Volunteer at local YMCA (designed and lead a 4-week long fiscal management workshop for teen internship program, have lead numerous other workshops for teens (resume writing, job interview, career and goal paths, leadership skills))
    -Currently mentor a junior analyst in my firm’s mentorship program, actively participated in recruiting and interviewing for my firm’s analyst program
    -Run a website focused on value investing strategies, economic news, stock market tips, finance lessons
    -CFA Level II candidate (hopefully will have passed Level II by application and Level III completed by matriculation)

    -23-year-old white male (would be 24 by the time I apply)
    -Targets: HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Columbia

    I know I probably have a better shot at Wharton and Columbia, but I REALLY REALLY want to go to HBS. I’m concerned with my work experience though – it’s a little niche-y and obviously not a bulge bracket IB. Do I have a good shot at HBS if I can execute on essay, recommendations, interview? Or should I think about moving to more of a “prestigious” HBS feeder firm or top-3 IB? Or what about a MM PE firm (even though I know you say MM PE guys have a tough time getting into HBS)?


  • MaybeMBA?

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m having trouble finding people with similar backgrounds in the archives. I’d really appreciate a look at my profile. I have a feeling I may be aiming too high or not have a good focus! Clarity would be appreciated.

    -GRE: 322 (164V / 158Q) (I was originally thinking of MA’s or MS’s but really have come to the conclusion that an MBA would be where I would learn the most and best serve me. I’m sure you will say take the GMAT, but I really don’t have the resources or the time. I don’t feel I am the best test taker.)
    -3.7 GPA
    -Undergraduate degree in music from Northwestern.
    -After figuring out that the performance track was better suited to a passion than a career, I had about a year and a half of intern/full time contract work in the development departments of a top, highly respected regional Chicago theater and nationally respected music festival. I then did 2 years in development for a large and respected social services agency in the Chicago area, before making a slight career change to a boutique philanthropic consulting firm as a team member for our two largest foundation clients project managing their total operations and grant cycles. I would be there two years at the time of matriculation.
    -I want an MBA to build my analytical, leadership and business skills to better understand our UHNW and corporate clients and how to innovate the use of philanthropic and corporate resources to make the most social impact. Immediately post MBA I would like to return to philanthropic consulting, or possibly a program/strategy job within a large private or corporate foundation if I could swing it. Long term goals of running a large private or corporate foundation or a philanthropic consulting firm.
    -Extra-curriculars: Member of the LGBT Employee Alliance while working at the aforementioned social services agency. Immediately after leaving the agency I took a leadership role as co-chair of the auxiliary board. I also serve on a philanthropic board of a project of a large community foundation in Chicago that provides seed grants to small, local non profits. Additionally, I still gig frequently in the area and am a professional, unionized classical musician. I dont know if that is worth noting.
    -28 year old, gay white male upon matriculation.

    Schools of Interest:

    If you have any suggestions of schools that would be a good fit for this kind of interest/specialization in an MBA program that I haven’t listed, I’d also appreciate any info you had. I feel as though I would benefit from a program in a large metro area as opposed to a college town (it certainly would be better for me personally)

    Thank you!

  • In your essay.

  • matt

    how do you convey on an application that the job is selective?

  • If it’s an obscure company or industry, you need to make it clear that your job is highly coveted and selective. Otherwise, it’s unlikely that an admissions officer would know. They are not going to call up others to find out. There are just too many apps to deal with that.

  • My sense is that it will not give you a significant advantage over other applicants, but it certainly won’t hurt you–and should help somewhat, especially if you do well in the courses. HBS has been making Core available to incoming MBAs so the school clearly sees some upside on getting the basics before starting the MBA program. My advice: Take full and complete advantage of the program, engage thoughtfully and make sure you get the best grades possible. Good luck.

  • EG

    Can you comment on the benefits of HBX? My company is sponsoring it for us, non-finance background analysts. Will this help positioning for b-school application in the future?

  • Charlie

    You mentioned a lot about the selectivity of a gig, but how do the adcoms know that? Ok, MBB, GS, PE, those are no-brainers. But for some more obscure industry/company, do they call up one of their current students who worked there to weigh in?

  • Nikolas

    Yes, HBS actually answers questions over the phone. Obviously questions that the website can’t answer. So I give them credit for that. Have a question – CALL THEM! This is one positive aspect of HBS, other schools – forget it. You’ll have to be on hold for like 40 minutes at Wharton – yes I tried to call Wharton – and get through to someone who will then say “I’m not sure, sorry I can’t help.” Which is why I’m NOT applying to Wharton.

  • hbsguru

    If you get Wharton int. let me know, can accommodate you.
    HBS is neutral on Ec Consulting, depends on firm (a lot, and its rep. for selectivity) and whether you backed into it, or it was a clear lane out of your college exp. and other facts on resume.

  • hbsguru

    Wow back. I was unaware HBS answered questions like that. And this could be one of those, “you-had-to-be-there” moments

    where we really need a transcript of what you said, what HBS said, etc.

    In general, I don’t think that applying now or next year is going to make a big diff in your case. Real issue is accounting for early departure fr. Firm 2 in some winning way and dealing with whatever happened at Firm 1 in some smart way, which could include not mentioning it all. Since you did work 2 years there, which is often a standard gig. If you can explain why you took job 2, and why you only planned to be there a year, that is OK outcome which will optimize your application “genome”–so to that extent HBS advice was OK.

  • Daui

    1) Big 4 ACA (UK equivalent of the CPA) qualified, 3.5 years experience in financial services audit. Currently working in M&A advisory at a slightly lower ranked accounting firm (think BDO, Grant Thornton, RSM, etc) doing a mix of lead advisory, financial due diligence on transactions and IPOs and helping clients assess their strategic options before a sale/purchase.

    2) GMAT 700

    3) UK college (top 100 in world rankings) – bachelors 3.0 GPA (extenuating circumstances – knee operation) , masters 3.6 GPA

    4) Started small business (Director) – can’t say too much more on this as it would be personally revealing, fluent in German (initially self taught), conversational in Spanish

    5) ACA (UK equivalent of the CPA)

    6) Goal is to move into Investment Banking or small to mid cap Private Equity

    I am only really interested in Top 10 (Top 15/20 at a stretch). Do I have a realistic chance?

  • Digital_Politico

    Thanks! Appreciate it

  • hbs dreamer 2018

    What is the max number of times to apply to HBS? I applied 2+2, applied round 1 this year (didn’t get in), and I really want to go to HBS. I did get into Booth round 1, but not completely sold. I hear its bottom of the m7.

  • Nikolas

    Wow. So here’s my situation. I worked 2 years at consulting, then switched to another consulting firm – had to switch because i wasn’t getting enough responsibility – and now at another consulting firm. I was only at my job a few months and I called HBS admissions, and some woman told me it was better for me to apply now (so I would have ONE year by the time I enroll), as opposed to waiting another year before applying (so I would have TWO years by the time I enroll). So basically, this woman screwed me over, because as you’re saying, it’s “not nice.” wow. Why would they give me this advice?

  • hbsguru

    depends a bit on industry. Bankers often apply in 4th year of 2 yrs IB, 2yrs PE, that is very common profile. Things get sketchy if you have more than two jobs, or if you are applying in first year of 2nd job, e.g. you plan to only work ONE year at that company and then go to B school. That takes some explaining. [to adcom and maybe employer!]
    Consultants: common pattern is similar: 2 yrs consulting plus 2/3 yrs next job at
    either client company, Fort-500, or shift to start-up or growing company. Same deal, if more than 2 jobs post grad, you need some explaining.
    Consultants often have a gig at Teach for America, etc. as do others, that may explain your finding of 5-6 yrs experience –and Wharton, I think, runs older than HBS.
    For others, there is no “ideal”–if YOU have 3yrs at McKinsey [or other consulting company] that is also a “lane” in. If you have 2yrs at company 1, and are applying in year 1 of 2nd job that is more rare. That means you got to Job 2 and started applying. NOT NICE and requires some explaining.
    Lots of variants to this, including military service [usually apply in year 5, when getting out] and as noted, some NGO gig.
    I’d say the sweet spot is 4-6. But as noted, there is a 3 year lane, e.g. 3yrs at McKinsey, etc. or even 3 years at Fort-500.

  • Whitney

    What is, ideally the number of years of work experience BY matriculation? I’m going through a lot of profiles of Wharton and HBS students, and I think it seems to be like 5-6 years!! I only have 3 years at the moment. Is that too few?

  • YW

    I’m interested in the answer to this question as well. Also, what would be considered a “gold” company versus a “silver” company versus a “no-name” company?

  • Kevin

    Thanks, Sandy. Did not receive interview from HBS yesterday, so focusing on Wharton now. Do you do practice interviews for Wharton? Hoping I at least get an interview. Guessing economics consulting is considered a different “bucket” than regular consulting? I know at HBS they don’t like economics consulting, is that correct?

  • Ross

    Just to clarify. Do adcoms like you to have a more significant position at a small (no name) company or would they rather see you as a no name position at a bog company

  • Ross

    Hi Sandy, I have a quick question I am hoping you could answer. What do you think is more important? The role you have at a company or being at a “prestigious company”

  • hbsguru

    ha,ha. You are an interesting test case. Outcome at Wharton for you might turn on what bucket they put you in–e.g. if consulting, they may have applicants with similar stats and more “golden” experiences, and they will take them. Some of this outcome will be driven by what they think of your current employer and its track record w. Wharton. Also, in your case, execution of app and explanation of all this will be more impt than for most other applicants. Real impt that you explain how last two jobs happened, and how they are a platform for goals. If you present as economics consultant –that could hide some of the boo-boos.
    Let me know how this turns out. I think gold stats and silver-plus work-ex might get you far in this process, and possibly across the finish line.

  • Pat M

    So Chicago Booth has a class size that is almost half the size of Harvard’s (~500 vs. ~900), and yet Booth’s acceptance rate is pretty much double that of Harvard’s (~25% vs 12%), which means that not a lot of people apply to Booth. So the odds of getting into Booth must be high. Why is that the case? If Booth really were such a good school, shouldn’t there be the same number of people applying?

  • welett@yahoo.com

    Thanks Sandy.. Just want to check something.. Does the analysis above assume that entrepreneurship is my current job? Would it change if I said it was my first job, and consulting is my current job?

  • actuaryguy

    Hi Sandy,

    I was really hoping you could provide a profile review for me please! ( I am having trouble finding people with similar background to me. )
    My goal is to potentially move in to financial management in healthcare or a health insurer, leveraging my skills in financial economics, actuarial, and FP&A modeling.

    Targets: Booth, CBS, Wharton

    Work experience: 4 years at $1 B insurance carrier working as an actuary in both valuation, pricing, product development, and financial planning
    Extra stuff: Music, singing for philanthropic causes
    Undergrad school/major: Univ of Florida, Math & Econ double major
    Other education/coursework: ASA from the society of actuaries, near FSA, coursework in PhD level Econometrics and proficient in various programming languages

    Race/nationality: Caucasian/USA

    Sex: Male

    GMAT Score: 780
    Undergrad GPA: 3.56 Overall, 3.83 Major

  • Kevin

    At Wharton, do “high stats” overcome mediocre work experience? I have a 760 GMAT, and a 3.7 GPA from Duke. I jumped around a lot from “silver” experiences. Worked 2 years at a no-name consultancy, then worked a year at Cornerstone (economics consulting), then so far 6 months so far at another boutique consultancy. Well known but boutique. Thoughts?

  • hbsguru

    here is some tuff love–try to get a higher GRE score, just for cosmetic purposes.

    B schools go for media types like you, but your targets, H, W and Columbia have lots of choice, after a while, they just tilt towards the stats. If you can get that to a 700 GMAT equiv. [it is currently ~660] that could squeek you into W or Col.

    And have Ms. Huffington write a rec, if possible.

    “Goal: to use my digital/analytics background to work in a strategy role at an ecomm retailer” If you have any digital/analytics background and work exp, make sure to highlight it in the app. Career summary you posted reads like fashion/journo etc.

  • JohnAByrne

    Go with the higher Q score. That’s because admission officers want to make sure you can do the quant work, first and foremost. There also is suspicion that the GRE quant is easier than the GMAT quant so many schools especially want your Q score on the GRE to be higher.

  • MMeyers

    Hello! Very brief question.

    I took the GRE twice and I’m wondering which score to go with.

    162 Q (83%)
    161 V (87%)

    160 Q (78%)
    165 V (95%)

    The overall score on the second take was higher but my quant is below 80%. Which is the better score?

  • katejp22489

    Hi Sandy,

    Would greatly appreciate your advice on chances/target schools!

    – 26 y.o. female
    – GRE of 163 Q (86%) / 165 V (95%) / 5.5 W (98%) with plans to take the GMAT next month
    – 3.4 GPA at top NESCAC (Williams/Amherst) with 3.7 excluded from undergrad GPA from junior year at Oxford/Cambridge
    – 4.5 years of work experience includes: legislative assistant in the U.S. senate, followed by 2.5 years in project management at a top DC think tank (specifically, working in foreign policy/international development)
    – Extracurricular: Led 3 clubs in undergrad, volunteering roles post-grad, member of several leadership boards within my organization with demonstrated impacts of influencing policies to improve diversity & tackle institutional inefficiencies

    Goal: Hoping to work in social sector consulting immediately after my MBA, and long-term, working in social entrepreneurship or in a leadership role at a foundation or nonprofit

    Target schools: Tuck, CBS, Kellogg, Yale, Sloan

  • mba20162018@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy — hoping you can help assess my profile given I’m a very different applicant (I work as a fashion editor at a big media company). Any advice/help would be much appreciated!

    25 yr old bi-racial female from Canada

    GRE Q159 V161

    3.76 from top 30 school (think NYU, Tufts, BC in journalism/poli-sci)

    Four years experience as a fashion editor at HuffPost (promoted three times)

    7 internships throughout college at NGOS/fashion mags (places like Harper’s Bazaar, Human Rights Watch, The Innocence Project)

    Goal: to use my digital/analytics background to work in a strategy role at an ecomm retailer

    Target schools: HBS, Wharton, Columbia

    Thank you so much!

  • MBA Hopeful

    Hi Sandy,

    I would greatly appreciate it if you could give me your thoughts on my profile. I’m planning to apply in the fall. Thanks!

    -740 GMAT (Q: 45, V: 47)
    -3.5 GPA (3.65 over last 2 years)
    -Undergraduate business degree from Berkeley/Virginia/Michigan

    Work experience:
    -After undergrad, two years at a well-known PE firm (not a megafund but has strong track record at HBS, GSB and other top schools)
    -Then two years in finance & analytics at a ~$1B enterprise cloud software company in NYC (managed multiple quant-heavy projects)

    Transition from analytics to a more operational role, ideally in business development, and eventually hope to manage a P&L at a disruptive tech company.

    Volunteer activities:
    -Co-led fundraising team to provide clean water to developing areas in Mali, Kenya, Ethiopia and Bangladesh
    -Junior board member of a national mentorship program that prepares at-risk youth for college and future careers
    -Was active in student gov. and bschool newspaper in undergrad

    -25 year old Asian-American male

    -Target schools: Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, Kellogg, Tuck, Fuqua, Stern

  • hbsguru

    digital marketing is a hot area and schools may admit you with idea of having you work for them as intern while you attend, not kidding, you might mention it.
    Stats are cert solid enuf for your target schools, and if you took CoRE or some other jive, it might convince them you are serious.

    for goals, dude stay away from Capital One, that is your grandfather’s employer (altho I dig their bank/cafe in Harvard Square) and just say you want to be a leader/manager in digital marketing. That way you will be employed when you graduate, one of the key admission traits they look for.

  • Digital_Politico

    Hi Sandy –

    I posted this on the last article and am posting again because I’d love to hear your take. As a non-banker I enjoy reading the “non-traditional” applications you review but I don’t think that any I’ve read closely reflect my profile. I’ve also seen you recommend CoRE a few times and am wondering if that’s a good application-padder (I’ve been accepted but have deferred the admission).

    No GMAT, but GRE is 169V, 163Q, 6/6 on the writing section.

    English/Art Double Major at a top 25, non-East Coast Liberal Arts school (think Colorado College, Bates, Oberlin, or Macalaster), 3.44 GPA (out of 4.0).

    Work experience is 3 years at a DC-based web development/digital marketing firm focused on the non-profit/political clients + 2 years at a digital marketing firm with political clients at the top tier of politics (think Presidential) and a cozy relationship with the big players in the tech advertising space (meaning we’re testing the latest ad products from the likes of Google and Facebook even before the rest of the market given the good PR from this particular client niche). I’ve been repeatedly promoted and manage my own team and portfolio of business.

    Extracurriculars include Toastmasters, volunteering for local political campaigns, blogging, and designing and developing websites for friends and family and as a side business.

    The way I typically present myself is that my Liberal Arts education (English + Art) has given me the writing and design skills so necessary to succeed in the quickly changing marketing space (move from traditional TV and radio to digital) while my work experience has given me the technical and quantitative chops to understand the complicated ad tech space and analyze the wealth of marketing data produced in digital marketing.

    My reason for business school is to pick up more of the quantitative skills I will need to continue to succeed as well as the management skills I will need as my career progresses and I manage larger teams and larger budgets. My goal for after getting an MBA is to continue working in the tech communications space, potentially at a start-up or at a big corporation like Capital One that is looking to build up their in-house innovation capabilities.

    I know that my chosen majors, less than stellar (but hopefully still solid enough) GPA and alma mater, and the marketing career path probably aren’t setting me up for success in the top tier of schools. Do I have any chance even at the likes of Duke, Berkeley, Yale, or Darden? Given that I am based in DC, how about Georgetown? Any that you would recommend that would jump for a white male with a liberal arts background?


    Digital Politico

  • hbsguru

    that is a solid STEM background –so far so good. However, because 2+2 etc is so competitive, you may lose out to guys who have more solid gold schooling and internships. It’s pretty hard for HBS or Stanford to separate out applicants with generally strong stats and resume like you, so they often just go by brand name schooling and jobs. You are possibly silver in that reckoning and not gold, and that could screw you. Hope not, but if you don’t get interviewed, that is the reason, assuming execution is solid.
    It is possible in your case that execution could actually become a positive (as noted rare) since you seem to have done several impressive things that need a bit of explaining, sooooooooooooo, make sure you do that.

  • vmuktino@purdue.edu

    Hello Sandy,

    I’m a 2+2 applicant for Harvard and Stanford. Here’s my background –
    Indian Male Electrical Engineer, Undergrad from BITS Pilani – 8.4/10 GPA
    Pursuing my Masters in ECE from a Top 10 school, Purdue, with a 4.0 GPA. No gap between the two degrees so I’m eligible to apply.
    GRE – 170Q 167V 5.5AWA
    Full Scholarship to go to Purdue in the form of a guaranteed Teaching Assistantship with EPICS (Engineering Projects in Community Service). Mentoring over 60 students each semester design Human-Centered Solutions for our community partners. Recommendations from the supervisors here.
    President of the Entrepreneurship club back in my undergrad, involvement in rural entrepreneurship projects and organized a high budget Business Plan competition. Technical Internships in Defense related research institutes during my undergrad, one research-based summer internship at Texas A&M on Genetic Engineering.
    Took a few MBA classes at Purdue to see if I’m a good fit, ranked in the top 5%.

  • poetorquant

    Hi Sandy, appreciate if you could weigh in on top 10 schools where I stand a chance:

    Female, International

    GPA 3.0 in social sciences (top college in country), GMAT 730

    2.5 years work experience in applied data analytics of country’s national research agency. Currently, project manager in our largest innovation lab with a financial services partner, team of around 20 PhD scientists and engineers.

    Previously involved in technical delivery of fraud prediction project for another partner – top 5 e-commerce firm, and also scoped projects.

    Also a volunteer at a non-profit leading a new initiative to train social sector professionals in data analytics

    Post MBA goal is to transition into management consulting.

    Thank you!

  • Charlene

    I don’t follow?

  • ROMBA on

    It is. Just Google “Wharton HCM resume book”. It is released every year. Just amazing backgrounds. You need to be superhuman.

  • hbsguru

    “Wharton actually asked on their application what I identified as.”
    Correct answer: admitted.

  • hbsguru

    thanks. is that resume book a public document??

  • ROMBA on

    My 2 cents. I had:

    a 3.9 GPA from Cornell, 750 GMAT, worked at bain doing a lot of pharma consulting, and got into Stanford and HBS, but did not get into Wharton and I applied as a HCM. Didn’t even get an interview. So yes, HCM is probably much much much more competitive. Plus, you can still do healthcare things in the regular wharton pool. Oh well, Wharton was not my first choice anyways. #ByeFelicia

    (P.S. I really don’t see how the kid who started this thread would have a shot at HCM. Look at the HCM resume book. You definitely need GOLD work experience)

  • hbsguru

    interesting question, and I am not sure of the answer altho I think it depends.
    I can imagine (don’t have data!) a situation where an HCM applicant who has ‘passed’ the reg. Wharton process gets dinged by Kinney b.c. of bad vibes, bad luck, bad interview day, or just bad answers to HCM type questions.
    What I cannot imagine is kid who has marginal admit process outside of HCM and wld probably be dinged then speaks to JK and that makes the diff on the upside, SHE insists he gets admitted. etc.
    Sooooo, my guess is, HCM is probably harder to get into –if I understand the process correctly.
    If not, someone please advise.

  • Charlene

    I’ve always wondered about the gay issue. I am a lesbian. Wharton actually asked on their application what I identified as. I wonder why they ask. I didn’t get in.

  • Thomas

    I tried to contact HCM/Wharton several times regarding how the HCM admissions process works, but never got a response. I am applying round 3. I’ve been hearing that it is HARDER to get into HCM. And that people who might have gotten into Wharton, may not get accepted if they pick HCM. So, I’m thinking not choosing HCM. Will let you know if they ever get back to me, but I doubt it.

  • hbsguru

    Phew, how do you like Kellogg??
    Chicago can be a feeder school if you do well there in a hard major, viz. 3.8 in Economics. Esp. Economics, the that dept has a strong rep.
    June Kinney has a very strong role in selecting admits to Wharton’s HCM–and possibly the final vote. Any folks in that program want to chime in on this, much appreciated.

  • Vinny

    Wow that’s surprising. I was under the impression that most schools except booth consider Chicago to be a non-feeder school? I am at Kellogg now, but never applied to Wharton because I did not understand how HCM works. From your comment, Sandy, it is suggested that June is the one reviewing the applications? Is the regular adcom not involved? Just curious. Not an applicant here.

  • hbsguru

    that is a strong Wharton profile. Chances of getting in are real high unless June the K. has a hair across her —————————-glasses, when she considers you.

    You might get in to HBS as well, and cert. worth applying. The white, male, silver consulting cohort there is small, but it exists, and your profile is very tight.

    Gay is a non-issue. 3.8 from Chicago in Economics is impressive.

  • hbsguru

    thanks, that is good essay in terms of “aw-shuks” voice about farm and other personal experiences, and spin of those facts to some general, feel good goal statement–so sure, do it that way. Altho if that essay had same hi-minded goals but less impressive factual basis, it could become annoying. [It actually is a little annoying to me, but only in the dog whistle range of A leading to B, huh? That could be made more easy to swallow if you toned down the goal rhetoric and kept same farm boy innocence thruout–but that is only why an Olympic judge might take off some tenths of point, as a reg. and servcieable HBS essay it is totally fine].
    all that said, outcome for that candidate would turn on stuff outside essay, e.g. job history, gpa, gmat, etc. All of which seem impressive.

  • Wharton Hopeful

    Hello Sandy!

    So, I see this theme of you saying that numbers matter a lot at Wharton. By how much? Here’s my issue, I have:

    3.8 GPA from the University of Chicago studying economics
    760 GMAT
    25 year old gay white male (does being gay help?)
    3 years of “silver” consulting experience (4 years by matriculation) in healthcare space. I’m looking to apply to the healthcare major at Wharton (Also would not know what that would mean).
    Extracurricular: active hospital volunteer,etc.
    Goal: To switch from consulting into pharma
    How much weight would my numbers carry?

    I know, I have nothing “driving” me for Stanford and Harvard. So Wharton is my reach school.

    A Wharton Hopeful

  • Nolfi

    Found this summary of a current HBS student. I think this would get someone in for sure.

    “I grew up an a dairy farm, and when I was a kid, I wondered if the microorganisms in my cow’s first stomach could be cultured in a mason jar filled with water and sugar. I formed a hypothesis.
    I conducted an experiment.
    I determined that I was wrong.
    I fell in love with the scientific method as a means to test my assumptions and satiate my curiosity.

    As a professional, I practiced the scientific method while creating rice varieties that produce life-saving protein pharmaceuticals. As I gained experience as a project manager and collaborated with my teammates in the lab, I realized how businesses can create massive, self-sustaining good, particularly when designed with an awareness that aligns organizational purpose with organizational structure. This realization led me to pursue my MBA.

    A few years ago, I found myself sitting on a hospital bed, deeply humbled by the incredible empathy shown to me by the hospital staff. I was struck by how powerfully this empathy influenced my perception of the medical care I received from them, and also my perception of myself as a patient. Ever since, I have been dedicated to learning how human-centered design can be applied to create products and services that carry meaning for people.

    My mission is to apply the scientific method, business principles, and a practice of empathy to create products that people treasure.”

  • hbsguru

    you are going to be 38 by the time you attempt to transition to PE–that is age most guys in PE are getting married for the third time and thinking about retirement and wife 4. You may be able to leverage your global banking experience (if it was IB type work) and engineering background and join a lean and mean PE firm right now–I would suggest trying to make that happen, but it will not happen by sumbitting resumes. You need to network and hustle.
    MIT may wonder why you need the degree. As do I, except as Hail Mary pass to find the next thing. Haas may be willing to buy the 770 and give you a base to schmooze for two years.

  • hbsguru

    Should I be talking about my
    goals, “why MBA?”, “why HBS?” Otherwise there’s no other place for me to
    talk about it! How important, honestly, is the HBS essay in terms of
    the whole application?

    You might allude to your goals in some quick, non-braggy way, there actually is a place for that in the HBS app–the 500 characters they give you to talk about how come you are applying for MBA.
    We only need goals in essay to the extent it helps Introduce You to classmates.
    We do not need, in essay, Why HBS or Why MBA, your classmates do not care.

    Basically HBS essay should give us a sense of your quick story, your influences, and your voice. It should be informal-ish and non-braggy. We don’t want your 3 biggest accomplishments BS.
    Hi Everyone, I’m Joe Blow, after graduating from Dope University I worked at
    X Consulting Company for two year and then joined XYZ corporation, in their X division.

    At Dope I became really interested in X and Y.
    Here’s a funny, honest and interesting story about that.
    I joined Consulting Firm because and learned a few things there about both consulting and what I liked to do.
    [tell us what]
    For the past X months, I’ve been doing 1 2 3 at X which has focused my interests. SAY HOW
    What I’d like to do after grad. is __________________[be general about it ]
    Outside of my professional life, I’m interested in
    [be short, honest, informed and interesting]
    At HBS I plan to get involved in the 1 2 3 orgs,
    THE END,

    That outline will work, and most importantly, DO NO HARM.
    Sure if you can make it personal, winning, and have the reader say, “I like this person” that is good too., If you got a major sob story, get it in, in some non-sobby way.
    Do not brag, do not lose track of personal voice.
    For most people, essay is a matter of not doing harm and making them think you are in bottom part of your sub-cohort based on likability.
    For some people, essay DOES to have explain some things, about career switches, how goals relate to past, etc, but that is rare.

  • Alex

    Hey Sandy,

    Thinking about applying round 3 for HBS, and I have NO IDEA what to write for the essay! Introduce yourself? Should I be talking about my goals, “why MBA?”, “why HBS?” Otherwise there’s no other place for me to talk about it! How important, honestly, is the HBS essay in terms of the whole application?


  • SRpr

    Hi Sandy,
    Could you please handicap my odds for a top MBA?
    My profile is:
    29, Eastern European male (will be 30 at matriculation)
    GMAT 750
    Top economics school in my country, graduated with BSc Econ in top 5% (GPA equivalent about 3.8-3.9). The university is not great in international rankings, but a lot of top MBA candidates from my country studied here. Some scholarships and merit awards.
    Work experience:
    Started in Big 4 assurance in London, then moved to advisory role (Corporate Finance/Restructuring/Valuations) after 2.5 years, where I moved up to Manager. Currently working for same firm in a wider Advisory role in a developing country (think Central Africa, SE Asia). City I live in is considered quite dangerous, so have a few stories of how it is to work here.
    I am a CFA Charterholder as well.
    A lot in undergrad, ran a large student organisation, student leader in university council, leadership role in national student projects. In the last couple of years, a leader in community programmes at the office, mentor for students from my country, some work with communities and young social entrepreneurs in the developing country where I live.
    Goals: Long term – C-suite role for tech/telecom company in Africa (a lot of my current clients are tech/telecom); Short term – top strat consulting firm (MBB) at one of their offices in Africa.
    What are my chances for: H/S/W, Columbia, MIT, Yale. I know age might be an issue at H and S, but do you think have a chance? How about European schools: LBS/Insead?

  • welett@yahoo.com


    I would be really happy to have suggestions as to which schools to target.

    – 35, male, Eastern Europe
    – UG GPA 2.5, engineering, top school in country.. I was interested more in extracurriculars
    – Have a quant heavy masters from a global top 5 program (think MIT – Stanford); finished first in class (3 years ago)
    – GMAT: 770, q:50, v:45 ,(recent)
    – Resume highlights: 3 years entrepreneurship, still profitable engineering services sme.
    3 years with a global bank, joined through a hard to get into leadership development program. Worked in 4 countries.
    3 years strategy consulting with a top 5 firm. Strong project and leadership experience
    – Have community leadership roles in different countries over the years, and some volunteer coaching / mentoring in a number of NGOs.

    I want to do an MBA to transition into private equity ecosystem in San Francisco. I had some relevant projects with my job.

    Target schools:

    MIT (MSMS)

    Any suggestions?