Berkeley Haas | Mr. Looking To Learn
GMAT 760, GPA 3.0
McCombs School of Business | Ms. Second Chances
GRE 310, GPA 2.5
Duke Fuqua | Ms. Account Executive
GMAT 560, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Social Impact CPA
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Future Gates Foundation
GMAT 720, GPA 7.92
Wharton | Mr. Infrastructure
GMAT 770, GPA 3.05
MIT Sloan | Mr. Data Mastermind
GMAT N/A; will be taking in May, GPA 3.6
USC Marshall | Mr. Utilitarian Mobility
GMAT 740, GPA 2.67
London Business School | Mr. Aussie Analyst
GMAT 680, GPA 3.3
Darden | Mr. Sustainable Real Estate
GRE SAT 1950 (90th Percentile), GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Entrepreneurial Bassist
GMAT 740, GPA 3.61
Cornell Johnson | Mr. IT To IB
GMAT 660, GPA 3.60
Harvard | Ms. Lucky Charm
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Tuck | Ms. Green Biz
GRE 326, GPA 3.15
Harvard | Ms. URM
GRE 325, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Mr. Stay Involved
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Rice Jones | Mr. Back To School
GRE 315, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Green Business
GMAT 680, GPA 3.33; 3.9 for Masters
NYU Stern | Mr. Military Officer
GRE In Progress, GPA 2.88
Kellogg | Mr. Real Estate Finance
GMAT 710, GPA 3.0
Kellogg | Mr. Finance To Education
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Ms. Artistic Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 9.49/10
Emory Goizueta | Mr. Multimedia
GRE 308, GPA 3.4
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Commercial Banker
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
IU Kelley | Mr. Construction Manager
GRE 680, GPA 3.02
Harvard | Mr. Healthcare Fanatic
GMAT 770, GPA 3.46
Harvard | Mr. Sovereign Wealth Fund
GMAT 730, GPA 3.55

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

male banker

Mr. Large Cap PE


  • 720 GMAT (48Q/41V)
  • 3.95 GPA (top 1% of class)
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a Top 20 business program
  • Work experience includes two years at a Big Four transaction services (valuation) group and roughly two years at a large cap private equity firm in the valuation and strategy groupCFA (passed all 3 exams on first attempt)
  • Strong recommendations
  • Long-term goal: To be chief financial officer of a private equity firm
  • “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”
  • 25-year-old, white maleOdds of Success:Harvard: 25%MIT Sloan: 40%

    Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

    Duke: 50%+

    Sandy’s Analysis: You may be a little young for EMBA programs but at the right time that could be good call.

    For the MBA, the issue is going to be where do you stand in the large-ish cohort of high-performing IB/PE types. A good deal of that depends on what top schools think of the two firms which have employed you.

    You say: “Work experience includes two years at Big Four transaction services (valuation) group and roughly two years at large cap private equity firm in valuation and strategy group.”

    As often noted, the Big 4 is not a super selective place for white finance boys to start out, as a rule. Here is where going to non-Ivy college (“top 20 business program”) could be an advantage, especially if you are first generation college, working class, and can spin this as a “white ethnic” makes good story. How? By noting that “bulge bracket firms don’t recruit at my college, so I did aces with the cards I was dealt,” and that explains how come I went to Big 4 and now work at a mystery-meat chip PE shop doing valuation and strategy.

    That story, credibly built out, and some other attractive items in extras or hobbies or personal narrative, could overcome the Big Four issue.

    After that, a good deal of your outcome depends on what your target B schools think of your current firm. “Roughly two years at large cap private equity firm in valuation and strategy group . . . .” That could be a feeder firm to Stanford or a firm schools never heard of . . .it makes a difference!

    Your low-ish GMAT, just compared to averages for schools you are targeting, and especially your low V and high-ish Q breakout, comports with this picture of the nice, smart, non-slick, not glib dude we have been painting. As does your goal of  becoming the CFO of a PE firm.

    I think HBS is long shot. There are just too many dents (even if they are honest dents) in this profile, and there is no compelling reason to take you versus the balloon drop of “dentless” golden boys they have stored in the netting for R1 next year.

    Sloan has lots of golden boys as well, and more and more every day, but they go for upstanding types like you—most of the time. You are actually the classic, smart, nerdy guy Sloan always took — remember “financial engineering” is still not an obscene term at Sloan—but then they stopped believing that Sloan was an Island, and started admitting more HBS and Stanford types, and that means they sometimes ding classic squares like you for cooler kids, as defined by the World Bank.

    Tuck and Fuqua should be solid. Well, you need to pass the sniff test at Tuck and you need to convince Fuqua you want to come.

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.