Emory Goizueta | Mr. Multimedia
GRE 308, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Fanatic
GMAT 770, GPA 3.46
Harvard | Mr. Sovereign Wealth Fund
GMAT 730, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Smart Operations
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Darden | Mr. Strategy Manager
GRE 321, GPA 3.5
Ross | Mr. Airline Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.73
Stanford GSB | Mr. Corporate VC Hustler
GMAT 780, GPA 3.17
Wharton | Mr. Marketing Director
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Healthcare Startup
GRE 321, GPA 3.51
Kellogg | Mr. Real Estate Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Georgetown McDonough | Ms. Air Force
GMAT 610, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Harvard | Mr. MacGruber
GRE 313, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Poet At Heart
GMAT 740, GPA 3.7
Yale | Mr. Ukrainian Biz Man
GRE 310, GPA 4.75 out of 5
Darden | Mr. Former Scientist
GMAT 680, GPA 3.65
Stanford GSB | Mr. Sustainable Business
GRE 331, GPA 3.86
Wharton | Mr. Microsoft Consultant
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.31
Yale | Ms. Impact Investing
GRE 323, GPA 3.8
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Food Waste Warrior
GMAT Not written yet (around 680), GPA 3.27
Stanford GSB | Ms. Future Tech Exec
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Education
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Columbia | Mr. Aussie Military Man
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0 (rough conversion from Weighted Average Mark)
Harvard | Mr. Hopeful Philanthropist
GMAT 710, GPA 3.74
Stanford GSB | Mr. FinTech
GMAT Not Taken Yet, GPA 3.5
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Analytics Man
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1

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


Ms. Global Law


    • 690 GMAT (verbal stronger than quant)
    • 3.97 GPA
    • Undergraduate degree in Sociolinguistics with double minors in Spanish and Music from UC-Santa Barbara
    • Work experience includes three years at a global law firm. Started in recruiting & talent management. Unprecedented promotion after two years to legal assistant. Currently work on loan transactions with finance & bankruptcy lawyers.
    • Extracurricular involvement in community theater, choirs, and vocal performance
    • Goal: To transition to a career in international marketing (Might start out with some consulting work to get a good footing and breadth on different industries)
    • Strong recommendations from firm leaders and partners who I work with closely.
    • “Recently took an accounting class at a community college (Grade: A) and am taking stats now (Should get an A) – trying to compensate for the quant-light profile!”
    • Fluent in Italian. Strong proficiency in Spanish
    • 25-year-old white female, with an international background (born and lived in U.K. until 16 from an Italian family)Odds of Success:Wharton: 20%UCLA: 30%+

      UC-Berkeley: 20%

      NYU: 40%+

      Dartmouth: 20% to 35%

      Columbia: 20% to 30%

      Virginia: 30%+

      INSEAD: 40%+

      London: 40%

      Sandy’s Analysis: Yikes, your move from a recruiting and talent management role at a global law firm to being a “legal assistant,” needs more explaining. I believe you when you say it is an “unprecedented” promotion but many adcoms may not get it. Back in the quill-and-candle era, when I was a lawyer, paralegals (if that is what you mean by “legal assistant”) were recent grads from Ivy/near Ivy colleges who typically did two years with Class-A law firms and then applied to law school, often with great success. Paralegals then were sort of the kids who now who get hired at McKinsey and Goldman Sachs after college as analysts.

      Things have thus mucho improved, IMHO. I know how bad being an analyst for McKinsey and Goldman can be as a post-college job (despite their high demand and status), but trust me, being a paralegal at Sullivan & Cromwell or Cravath is way worse. I mean just speaking in feeble generalizations, which in my long experience, are usually true, although sure, there are refinements.

      OK, moving right along, and seriously now, you might have presented to business schools more clearly had you stayed in recruiting and talent management, since those are pure business functions. Sure, your promotion to paralegal was probably really a super big deal, and you need to have your rec writers note that and also isolate what your many strengths were that allowed that to happen, including team work, diligence, skills with third-parties, and smarts.

      Once we get past that, this is pretty solid and clear. You are a poet with a 690 GMAT, a 3.97 from UC-Santa Barbara and you have gone out of your way to take accounting and stats to beef up your quant profile. Being a successful legal assistant is proof positive of your ability to sit still, consume tons of boring stuff, and sort of organize it–the actual definition of a first-year business student! I’m not joking and that is something schools deeply credit. You seem to do it with ease. That is a great strength.

      You want to work in international marketing (whatever that means), you have an international background, and you can operate in English, Italian, and Spanish. Sounds like a good background for international marketing (WTM). You also worked for an international firm and deal with international cases and you grew up in England and are Italian. Try and spell out just what you mean by International Marketing. Marketing for MNC? These days there seems to Internet Marketing and Non-Internet Marketing and both of those often occur internationally?

      You say your reach schools are UCLA, Berkeley, NYU, Tuck, Columbia, Darden, INSEAD, LBS, Wharton. Hmm, good list, I think with clear execution, optimized recommendations, and a tight story, all of which you seem capable of, the reaches are Wharton, Columbia, and Berk.

      Tuck is always a special case, once you get to Point A with them, it becomes a “fit” issue based on visits and interviews. You may be too overtly ambitious and too proletarian in schooling and jobs for them.  They like laid-back but ambitious kids who are getting a ticket punched (not that anyone would ever put it that way), sort of your preppy/slacker/tightly-wound/secret hard-worker—that ain’t you. You are an overt hard worker. They also like genuine “lower income” types who are striving up. That could be you if someone squints. “Marketing” is also a semi-slimy word up there.   In your case they may forgive it based on thinking you come from lower income background where marketing is a proxy for business in general.

      Darden, INSEAD, LBS, NYU, UCLA–those are not reaches for you. Those can be done.

      As is always the case, a 720 GMAT versus your current 690 would help immensely. Even if your Q score stays the same. No one doubts your ability to do B-school math. The only issue is optics. Adcoms doubt their own ability to explain sagging GMAT averages to B-school deans. The deans care about GMAT averages and rankings and that is pretty much all they care about — outside of fund raising and not inadvertently stepping on some PC land mine. I mean just speaking in feeble generalizations, which in my long experience, are usually true, although sure, there are refinements.

      The recommendations you got from your law partners will be important, you really need to oversee that. Law partners don’t write many B school recs and law partners are not in the habit of wondering if golly, just because I’ve never done this, should I get help? That is not the way they became law partners.

      Prediction: once you get outside the hermetic and basically hateful environment of (even) a global law firm, you are going to really take off.

About The Author

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