Kellogg | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.15
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Indian Dreamer
GRE 331, GPA 8.5/10
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86
Kellogg | Mr. Innovator
GRE 300, GPA 3.75
London Business School | Ms. Private Equity Angel
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Yale | Ms. Biotech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.29
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Kellogg | Mr. Engineer Volunteer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Ms. Global Empowerment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.66
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Apparel Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Armenian Geneticist
GRE 331, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 1st Gen Grad
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
Ross | Mr. Travelpreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 2.68
London Business School | Ms. Numbers
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
IU Kelley | Mr. Fortune 500
N U Singapore | Mr. Naval Officer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
NYU Stern | Ms. Entertainment Strategist
GMAT Have not taken, GPA 2.92
INSEAD | Ms. Spaniard Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 8.5/10.00
NYU Stern | Mr. Army Prop Trader
GRE 313, GPA 2.31
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthtech Venture
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5

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

woman in tech

Ms. Bulge Bracket Tech


  • 740 GMAT (47/V, 45/Q)
  • 3.6 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from a top Ivy
  • Work experience in a rotational leadership program in technology and operations at a bulge-bracket bank, mostly strategy work similar to consulting. Title promotion after 2nd year (typical timeline is three to four years)
  • College internships in environmental research and in R&D at a well-known Fortune 500 health/pharma company (think J&J)
  • Extracurricular involvement in women’s empowerment, specifically STEM fields, with heavy involvement in volunteering for low income students and somewhat active in alumni association
  • Goal: To transition to a Fortune 500 corporate strategy or business development role, tech management or management consulting
  • HBX CORe graduate
  • “My GMAT quant is low, but I think my technical education makes up for it. Confirm/Deny?”
  • Toying with idea of applying a year early, but that would only be 2 years full time, age 23, and barely any “real time” with title promotion. What do you think? Would I be compared to 2+2ers or the broader pool, and what would the implications be, oh wise one?”
  • 24-year-old female at matriculationOdds of Success:Harvard: 30% to 40%Stanford: 20%

    MIT Sloan: 40%

    UC-Berkeley: 40% to 50%

    UCLA: 50%+

    Northwestern: 50%+

    Sandy’sAnalysis: Lots to like and don’t worry about the “low” quant score in  GMAT: 740 (47 V, 45 Q), especially with your 3.6 GPA in chemical engineering from a top Ivy. Schools are not going to worry about your ability to do business school math (which is mostly 1.can you borrow enough money to attend and 2. statistics). Someone please tweak me if I am wrong about how much math you actually need in B-school.

    In a nutshell, your issue is whether you should apply with two years full-time work experience vs. three, given the following:

    1. 740 GMAT,

    2. 3.6 Ivy, good extras, and

    3. Current gig, “Rotational leadership program in technology and operations at bulge-bracket bank, mostly strategy work similar to consulting. Title promotion after 2nd year (typical timeline is 3-4 years) . . . .”

    Let’s deal with the timing issue first. Two versus three years of full time work experience, what is the difference in this case, if any. To me, the bottom line is that another year of FT work experience is probably not going to make a difference in your case. As you note, 2+2 is a good bumper sticker, e.g. it sets a baseline for business schools who say at least “in slogan terms” that two years is enough.

    Even though many, and maybe more than half, of Harvard’s 2+2 admits actually work 3+ years before enrolling, working two years is acceptable in that cohort.

    Beyond 2+2, I believe the average number of years of work experience for the admitted HBS class in general is four. (50 months according to an annoying but official class profile by HBS). I think (well, I guess) that percent of HBS class with two years or less of FT work experience is 10% to 15%.

    That stat sounds like an outlier, and therefor scary, but the real question is what is percent of the admitted class has three years work experience or less, since those are choices for you. Either two years or three. According to HBS, that number is 30. So, to be cute and approximate about it, 15 percent of the class enters with 0-2 years of work experience, and another 15 percent enter with just 3 years experience. But that does not mean your odds double by waiting a year. It just means more kids apply with that profile.

    OK, my wise guy, what are just the odds of admission with people applying with two years FT work experience versus three years? Good question! Not sure, and not sure that number by itself would tell you much, since those applying with two years, like this person, are often more qualified. For one thing, they have the balls to do it.

    Moving right along, we got another issue. The poster says her job is:”Rotational leadership program in technology and operations at bulge-bracket bank, mostly strategy work similar to consulting. Title promotion after 2nd year (typical timeline is 3-4 years) . . . .”

    Is that a feeder gig to HBS, Stanford, Sloan, etc.? She says “mostly strategy work similar to consulting.” Hmmm, I am not sure if that is the case, and it don’t sound that way, quite frankly. More importantly, I am not sure adcoms judge the gig that way, although you should certainly spin what you do in that direction, which you may already be doing. If so, good work.

    Coming from a prestige “investment banking analyst” gig at a blue-chip IB or consulting firm is as good a major feeder platform as possible (even if those jobs also semi-suck in reality, hey, there is always something). Other jobs at IB’s are thought to be less selective, viz. private wealth, operations, marketing, HR.

    The gig we got here sounds like a silver not a golden job, although silver polished to a very high degree. I am not sure what “rotational leadership” means in this context but that sounds like what happens when you join blue-chip tech firms like Google, Facebook, Dell, Oracle, etc. as a just-graduated techie.  Rotational leadership jobs at “real” tech firm are a good track to business school, especially if you start migrating into leadership roles or tech leadership roles, or “strategy work similar to consulting.” Ahem very well put. Supply some solid examples on your application of jobs you have done at IB which is strategic (you got some poetic license here with the actual facts, but not 100 percent) and you may do fine.

    The very early promotion you got is a big deal in this setting.  It makes it seem like you were born a consultant but somehow got adopted by a family of techies and it took you some time to discover your true calling.

    Business schools enjoy partaking in “career reassignment surgery” just so long as you did well in your first career. Note that “career reassignment surgery,” as in this case (from tech consulting to strategy consulting), is very different from career switching, which is usually tech nerds wanting to “jump” into private equity.

    OK back to this patient.

    Goals: F500 corporate strategy/biz dev, tech management, management consulting.


    Targets: HBS, Stanford GSB, MIT Sloan, Haas, UCLA, Kellogg?

    Stanford equals a long reach. Just does not feel like it unless your firm is an FOD (Friend of Derrick).

    I am aware of your volunteer work, viz., “Heavily involved in women’s empowerment, specifically STEM fields. Heavy involvement in volunteering for low income students.” Yes, that does sound Stanford-y. But you would need some stand-out founder or leadership position to have any impact at Stanford, or deep current involvement.

    HBS: A tough call, because a lot could depend on execution (that is not always the case but your resume and goals do not fully square, so explaining that in your case could matter a bit. Believe me, if HBS likes you based on DNA and just “girl-in-STEM” they will look past anything but you never know.

    MIT: They go for this story and “operations” is not a soiled word over there.

    Other places: You just need to convince them you are serious about attending their schools.

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.