Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. & Mrs. MBA

He’s a 28-year-old senior associate at a mid-market private equity firm. She’s a 27-year-old actuarial consultant at a leading human resources consulting firm. They are married, having met at a Top 20 liberal arts college, and both want to go to the same business school for their MBAs.

This 25-year-old young female professional currently works as a legal assistant for a global law firm. A liberal arts major with a creative bent, she would like an MBA degree to transition into a career in international marketing.

With an undergraduate degree in music from Northwestern University, he’s a classicial musician with a union card who now works for a boutique philanthropic consulting firm. This 28-year-old gay white male is hoping the MBA will be his ticket to a more substantial role in philanthropy.

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?

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. Now that the 2015-2016 admissions season is all but over and Sandy has completed dozens of mock interviews with candidates, Sandy will be appearing more regularly.

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. (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.)

married couple

Mr. & Mrs. MBA

Mr.

    • 730 GMAT
    • 3.75 GPA in accounting and history from a top 20 liberal arts college

Mrs.

      • 730 GMAT (targeting)
      • 3.66 GPA in math and Spanish from a top 20 liberal arts college
      • Work experience for Mr. includes two years at a boutique investment banking firm and three years at a middle market private equity firm, promoted early to a senior associate; for Mrs. includes a year as a math teacher in high school, currently working as an actuarial consultant for a top HR consulting firm
      • Extracurricular involvement includes heavy involvement in college and post-grad, couple serves as co-presidents of their college alumni chapter; Mr. volunteers with an adult literacy program, while Mrs. serves as a sorority adviser and a member of Junior League
      • “Recommendations should be good for both, particularly glowing for Mr. MBA”
      • Goals: Mr. MBA wants to return to PE with a larger firm in a different city, with a long-term objective of owning his own PE firm, while Mrs. MBA wants to go into human resources with a long-term goal of becoming chief human resources officer for a Fortune 100 company
      • “Mr. MBA was going to attend a Top 10 school last year but received an offer to stay and be promoted at PE firm instead”
      • Mr. MBA is a 28-year-old white male
      • Mrs. MBA is a 27-year-old Asian woman

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%
Stanford: 10%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Chicago: 30% to 40%
Northwestern: 40% to 50%
MIT: 30% to 40%
UC-Berkeley: 50%
Virginia: 50%
Yale: 50%
Dartmouth: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis:  (see video above) Let’s first deal with the question: If you apply as a couple what does that really mean? Is that a plus, a minus, or neutral? If you Google “MBA apply as couple,” you won’t get any useful information. Kellogg is the only school that addresses this issue and they say it doesn’t make a difference.

I don’t believe it. Applying as a couple changes the application. If one party is super strong and the other party is okay, there can be real coattails. I don’t care what these schools say. When the days dwindle down to a precious few for the admissions committee, they don’t care who they take. If the second party is on the waiting list and the school really wants the part of the couple they’ve already admitted, you know who is getting off the waiting list.

In this case, neither one of you are superstars, though you both have very good profiles. It makes sense to apply as a couple. It’s something you should think about, strategize over, and how you indicate that following your spouse is very important to you.

Let’s deal with Mr. MBA first. Let’s say he gets the 730 GMAT again. With his background, a lot will depend on what the schools think of the PE firm. You have a totally solid story but you are in an ultra-competitive cohort. You are dealing with people from Ivy to PE and those are among the most credentialed candidates in the world. So the schools will ask why should I take you from this mid-market firm with a 3.75 and a 730 GMAT when I have people from golden PE firms with a 4.0 and a 750 GMAT?

Mrs. MBA is testing high and she has a math background. Let’s say she gets a 750. She works for this benefits company and that is very attractive to Wharton and many of the other schools. Her goal to work as a chief human resources officier for a Fortune 500 company is a solid goal for what she has done.

At Harvard, Mr. MBA might not be getting in—but she could. It’s also not going to happen at Stanford for either of you. I like the two of you but these are not Stanford profiles. There just is no X factor here. At Wharton, Mr. MBA is facing the more golden PE candidates and could have some difficulty there. On the other hand, both of you are very attractive at Northwestern, Haas, Darden, and even Yale with odds of 50. Congratulations. You both are going to a a great business school as a couple.