Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

She’s a 27-year-old woman who plans to apply in round one this fall and admits to being terrified about her chances as a nontraditional applicant from the nonprofit sector. With a 3.55 GPA from a top-two liberal arts college and a strong GRE score, she hopes to get her MBA to return to the nonprofit space and gain a higher-level position where she can be “impactful, innovative, and make a difference.”

He’s a 25-year-old Latino male who currently works as a project manager for a telemedicine company. With a 690 GMAT and a 3.2 GPA from a Southern Ivy, this young professional is hoping to get into a business school to land a job in corporate strategy at McKinsey, Bain, or BCG.

After being turned down for Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program, this 22-year-old female engineer landed a job in software product development at a top-five global tech company. She is both right brained and left brained. Besides graduating in the top 10% of her class, she has performed at several dance shows, was the lead singer in a band during college, and loves trekking in the Himalayas, rafting, and painting. She wants to use an MBA to transition into a product management role at a top tech company.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What these three MBA candidates and more share in common is the desire 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 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.)

Business woman

Ms. NonProfit

  • 165Q, 168V GRE
  • 3.55 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree cum laude from a top-two liberal arts college
  • Work experience includes four years in the nonprofit sector, starting in direct public service and now as a manager at a national nonprofit organization; have worked with at-risk, high-need populations (minorities, low income, chronic disease, homeless); received a promotion several months into my first job; received a promotion and raise and bonus a year into my second job (where I currently am)
  • Extracurricular involvement throughout college and after, founding college organizations and chairing them, such as a women’s group, responsible investing club, and film collective; recently appointed to serve on a board in her city, serve on a governing committee of another nonprofit, and selected from a national pool to critique scientific research proposals to provide the patient perspective (advocate on their behalf) to help decide how millions of dollars of public funding should be spent on funding research
  • Why An MBA?: “I believe that nonprofits should be hubs of innovation, with the best and brightest working to make the world a better place. I can help to bring innovation to the nonprofit sector and increase its impact.”
  • “No quant on my undergrad transcript, so I took a statistics course and received an A at a local college and am up for taking another quant course or two.”
  • Short-Term Goal: To return to the nonprofit sector and attain a higher-level position to be “impactful, innovative, and make a difference.”
  • Long-Term Goal: To start her own nonprofit organization or benefit corporation
  • “I am planning to apply in Round 1 this fall and am a bit terrified about my chances as I am a nontraditional applicant from the nonprofit sector.”
  • 27-year-old white U.S. woman

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30% to 40%
Wharton: 40%
Columbia: 40%
MIT: 40%
Yale: 40% to 50%
NYU: 50%+
Duke: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: You have put together a highly impressive and very consistent package, with a track record in nonprofits (see video above). A lot of your outcomes at elite business schools will turn on the reputation of the nonprofit that currently employs you. There is a totem pole of nonprofits, beginning with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and going down to I don’t know what. The higher up your nonprofit organization is, the more your odds of admission increase.

During college, you worked in other nonprofits, so you have that clear, consistent history and you have the lingo. You write: “I believe that nonprofits should be hubs of innovation with the best and brightest working to make the world a better place. I can help to bring innovation to the nonprofit sector and increase its impact.”

You’ve got the rap. You went to a classy school. You have the equivalent of a 730 GMAT and a 3.5 GPA. If you work for a classy nonprofit, and you have the right attitude, you should be in very good shape. Nonprofit, by the way, is not nontraditional. It’s just a different doorway into a business school today.

It’s also impressive that you recognized having no quant work during your undergraduate years and took a stats course in person and you got an A. Schools will recognize that you are the kind of person who can sit still, absorb what they offer, digest it, and reposition it.

U.S. News still calls Yale No. 1 for nonprofit management, but I think they are a little behind the curve on that because they are pivoting toward a more traditional program. But you are real solid.

From an adcom point of view, you are a very attractive candidate. Your chances are really good at all the schools you’ve targeted. Good luck!

  • Owen P

    Hi Sandy. Ive been a longtime follower of the series and am at the stage in my life when Im actually applying to business school.

    GMAT: 720
    Gender: Male
    Age: 28
    Ethnicity: Im 1/4 Mexican, but feel guilty checking the box because I’m pretty white and haven’t felt any significant discrimination at any point in my life (White privilege check)
    Languages: English; Spanish; Farsi

    Degrees: Double major in Economics and Business for Berkeley

    GPA: 3.56 with an honors in Econ (My Econ GPA was 3.7)

    Work Experience: Active duty in the Air Force for the past five years. Currently a captain working in intelligence. My job entailed a leading team of analysts and coordinating with the other services (i.e helping the army understand what the pretty pictures mean [I joke] ). Back in college I had an internship at the national geospatial intelligence agency and at the council for foreign relations.

    Extracurriculars: Founded a consulting group focused on the healthcare space. Completed case studies with an aids clinic and healthcare start-up. Was an RA for two years and organized some somewhat significantly sized student events. AFROTC on scholarship.

    I want to get an MBA so I can transition into consulting and then eventually become a CEO.

    I am considering going back to Haas at Berkeley, HBS, Stanford, MIT Sloan, and Michigan Ross. Your suggestions are always helpful. If its relevant, Im legacy at Stanford. Thank you so much for your time.

  • hbsguru

    and let me know if you get an HBS R1 interview invite today.

  • hbsguru

    hey, I like you but middle market private eq. is a tuff place to apply from for a white guy. The PE bucket is just really competitive and so is Stanford. You are also a bit on old side, esp. in experience, e.g. 4 years at current firm and now a VP.
    Exactly why do you want/need an MBA? Given age, experience and fact that it will cost you a ~~million dollars in tuition and lost income?
    Stats and grades are all near average for Stanford (altho white male stats, and esp. white male PE stats, could be higher.)
    Extras are also OK but not SUPER Stanford-y (getting local students into PE is a fine extra, but not as fine as getting victims of intolerance who live real far away into housing and clothes– don’t mean to be cynical, just giving our readers an honest look into Stanford adcom mindset).
    This is a strong profile, reach for Stanford, in the game at HBS (apply round 1). Guys like you often go to Wharton.
    Let me repeat, need for MBA and current VP status are your biggest weakness.

  • Hi Sandy!

    Please find my profile for evaluation:

    GMAT – 770
    GPA – 68% in Economics Hons (77% – Distinction in final year) 3rd in Class
    Undergraduate Degree: Economics Hons from Panjab University (ranked no. 1 in Global Universities in India under US News)
    Master’s Degree – Msc. in Applied Economics, NTU Singapore (GPA: 3.1 / 5)
    Current Work Experience – Management Consultant at Deloitte’s Strategy & Operations Divison focusing primarily on assisting C&IP and FSI clients in Strategic Sourcing, Procurement Transformation, Customer Experience Analytics, E-sourcing Techniques and Vendor Management. Have worked in Germany and Japan. Recently got promoted with top 10% rating
    Extra Curricular Activities – No extra curricular activities on written paper. I help unprivileged kids to get acquainted with the Quizzing World and grow their overall knowledge base under new unregistered NGO run by Mother. I am a trained Bharatnatyam dancer and I train the interested kids in NGO about the traditional dance form. We are working hard to get the firm registered.
    Goal of life : Professionally – to be a Category Manager (Procurement Team) after MBA and grow as a Supply Chain leader later. Personally – to be able to help underprivileged kids in India by giving them a chance to seek education and help achieving their big dreams by the help of my Mother’s NGO.
    My target school: MIT Sloan because of strong Operations coursework as I do not really have a supply chain academic background and such environment could help me achieve my long term Goal.
    Age – 27
    Total Work Experience : 4 years

    What are my chances ?

  • Layman24

    Hi Sandy!

    I’m a bit of a non-traditional finance/private equity candidate. I’m 29 years old, and I was never an investment banker, nor did I attend a ‘target school’. I’m originally from a small WI town of <1,000 people and currently live in a large Midwestern city (think Des Moines, Milwaukee, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Fargo, etc.).

    Thanks to some serious networking and hard work, I’ve found my footing in an industry I’m passionate about (middle market private equity). I’m seeking a top-tier MBA (H/S/W) so I can use the education and network to help the rural industrial businesses we invest in to be more competitive and ultimately thrive (i.e., I’d like to come back to my current employer/area to deploy the education to help rural America). My dream would be to gain admission to Stanford’s USA MBA Fellows Program.

    Given my non-traditional background, I'd appreciate your thoughts on my profile and suggestions on what I can do to maximized my odds of gaining admission to H/S/W FT programs. Thank you!!

    – Age 29
    – White male with 7 years of professional work experience, including the 4 in middle market (<$500mm fund size) private equity (current employer).

    – 740 (should I retake as I have proven a +760 ability?)

    Work Exp:
    – 3 years as an analyst in a formal credit training program at top 3 universal bank (WF, JP Morgan, BofA).
    – 4 years at middle market private equity firm (current). Promoted 3 times in 4 years (now a Vice President) and recently allocated carried interest.

    Undergrad Education:
    – BA in Economics from small, private liberal arts university in rural MN (top 80 US News).
    – 3.7 GPA (cum laude)
    – Division 3 football team captain and 3-year letter-winner

    Continuing Education:
    – Completed intermediate accounting classes from CA-Berkeley as a part of the bank’s formal credit training program
    – Completed CFA charter in 3 years (passed each exam on first attempt).

    – Board member (+2 years) for non-profit group whose mission is to help local students and young professionals network, learn more about private equity, and give back (i.e., volunteer)
    – Member of University’s graduating class alumni committee, which is responsible for organizing the class and driving annual donations for students in need of financial aid.

    Thanks again!

  • tallboy_92

    Hi Sandy,
    It would be very helpful if you could review my profile. I am keen on pursuing my MBA at Stanford GSB.
    25 Year old, Male Indian
    Undergrad- B.E in Industrial Engineering and Management at Bangalore (Rank 1 college in Bangalore) (2010-2014)
    GPA- 9.43/10.0
    Academic Excellence Award for securing 2nd Rank in the entire Department.
    A perfect GPA of 10.0/10.0 in my final semester.
    Final Year project at the National Aerospace Labs, Bangalore.

    Master of Engineering in Manufacturing from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) (2014-2015)
    Award- MIT-SUTD scholar

    Master of Engineering (by Research) in Engineering Systems and Design from Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) (2015-2016)
    No GPA. Only 1 year of Research and Thesis as part of the scholarship.

    Current Position- Working at a Life Science Instrumentation company in Singapore as a Product Assurance Engineer. I am working at the same company where I did my thesis, when I was at MIT. The company’s headquarter’s is in Milford, Massachusetts and they have their Asia Pacific HQ in Singapore. It is not a Fortune 500 company but a leader in the field of producing Liquid Chromatography and Mass Spectrometers.

    Extra Curricular:
    MIT Global Startup Labs in Bangalore during my undergrad. Conceptualized along with 3 other members, an android application and achieved a place in the finals to present at the Google office in Bangalore.

    Career Kraft Foundation:
    Organized and chaired two events on ” Innovative Thinking” at colleges for about 200 students.
    • Trained on design thinking, marketing, management and innovation by different coaches at workshops and
    • Managed teams and developed marketing strategies to expand the NGO. Coached two students on marketing,
    management, design thinking and leadership skills.

    Jack of all Threads:
    Organized and coordinated business deals with the school management to create a bigger impact amongst students
    and the society.
    • Analyzed and evaluated the market competition, pricing, and the supply chain process to optimize the cost incurred
    by the company.
    • Achieved recognition for my passion and hard work from the Co-founder for improving the productivity of the

    I have an average GRE score . My GRE score is 310, 151 V , 159 Quant and 3.5 AWA whichI took in 2013 before applying to MIT. I am planning to send the same score to Stanford GSB as I do not have the time to take the GMAT within the deadline for Round 1.

    Goal in Life: To pivot from a technical role to a managerial role. Two options: Consulting or managerial role in tech company like Google, Apple.

  • hbsguru

    Get that GRE score–it is real impt. as an anchor for non-trad. candidates, altho let me say, you are not as non-trad as you think. And there is lots of great stuff here, including working at DISNEY, a company B schools LOVE for some reason, well, adcoms have kids, and many execs at Disney have MBAs from top schools, and it is a great Brand. I believe Mouse Ears meme is on many top-10 lists of famous whatevers, but you get the point.

    30 is high side of normal but after 2-year discovery step (you discovered it SUCKED) into law,

    you found your footing, viz:

    “-6+ years at Disney consistently moving up. Started as exec assistant
    and went on to manage digital campaigns on the creative side for
    business units including Studio, Parks, Store, and TV.”

    —————————WOW, I am not totally sure what that means so make it more clear, e.g. what would running digital campaign for Disney Parks on the creative side mean? The Parks have decided they are going to spend $X on digital advertising, awareness etc. and some other team says, OK, let’s spend that money with ads on social media, Facebook, New York Times digital etc. and YOUR team then says, “OK, what would a catchy Disney Park Facebook ad look like??”

    Anyway, if you do that, that is great, b schools will love it, etc. Just make it clear.

    “-Now at Lucasfilm in business development, responsible for client communication,
    bidding (lots of budget work), and helping to manage portfolio across 4
    global studios.”

    ——————————–Phew, see my Disney comment, I kinda know what ‘business development” is but the rest is a bit opaque. It is real impt that you begin by figuring out what your title and duties are, for real, and then think of ways you can in some honest way, ‘spin’ that to make it sound more 1 2 and 3.

    Not a big deal, happens all the time. Mostly by featuring something GOOD that you spend 10 pct of your time on, and leaving reader w. the impression that you spend 60 pct of time on that, etc.

    Lucasfilm is also good brand for B schools. Altho you will need to squib that on resume b.c. unlike Disney, most adcoms off the top of their heads do not know if Lucasfilm is some big garage, indy prod sort of platform or publicly traded company.

    Well, how smart am I???? Just looked this up, it is sorta both. “The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 at a valuation of $4.06 billion.”

    Real impt. in your story that you note LF is a Disney sub.

    The Walt Disney Company acquired Lucasfilm in 2012 at a valuation of $4.06 billion.[5]

    Your goals–

    To transition into franchise development for an entertainment company like Disney.


    I believe that the entertainment industry is going through some massive changes and it desperately needs innovators well-versed in technology, strategy, and creativity to usher it forward.






    -It’s also very important to me to increase the amount of progressive female leadership in entertainment!


    Schools: Stanford, Berkeley, Booth, Yale, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, USC




  • coamiller

    Hi Sandy-

    I’m a 30-year old white female planning to apply in round 1 this fall. I’m nervous that I’m a non-traditional applicant, and that I’m a little old. I did work two years in another industry out of school, so I’m hoping I can highlight how I went from someone who had zero experience in entertainment (didn’t even study it in college) to someone working with top-tier filmmakers in a relatively short amount of time. In entertainment it is “who you know,” but I think, with an extensive network in place, now is the perfect time to get the education necessary to make the contributions I want to.

    -3.57 GPA from a Top 25 West coast school (cum laude). Studied International Relations and Spanish.

    -330 GRE (target)

    -4 years in a women’s community service organization (1 year on executive board)
    -1 year as a director for the university’s oldest philanthropic event benefiting the local community
    -Internship at US Dept of State
    -Field research trip to Costa Rica, studying the affects of tourism and infrastructure investment on local communities
    -Study abroad in Madrid and a summer program at University of Cambridge (UK)
    -I started my own very, very small nonprofit (it’s basically just me) benefiting local firefighters, but it’s very much a small-time thing so I’m unsure about even mentioning it

    -Two years as a legal assistant right out of college, realized it wasn’t for me and switched careers to entertainment.
    -6+ years at Disney consistently moving up. Started as exec assistant and went on to manage digital campaigns on the creative side for business units including Studio, Parks, Store, and TV.
    -Now at Lucasfilm in business development, responsible for client communication, bidding (lots of budget work), and helping to manage portfolio across 4 global studios.

    -To transition into franchise development for an entertainment company like Disney. I believe that the entertainment industry is going through some massive changes and it desperately needs innovators well-versed in technology, strategy, and creativity to usher it forward.
    -It’s also very important to me to increase the amount of progressive female leadership in entertainment!

    Schools: Stanford, Berkeley, Booth, Yale, Columbia, NYU, UCLA, USC

  • antriksh

    Hello Sandy,
    I am in Third Year B.A. Political Science from St Xavier’s College, India. (3rd in Liberal Arts colleges in India)
    GPA- 3.43

    Internship- Summer intern at a fashion website, Research intern for a PHD student
    Community work- 1)Volunteered in a NGO for blind students and organized a fitness boot camp for the blind students.(6 months)
    2) Organized a Water Harvesting Program and saved 40,000+ hcf water in my village. (ongoing)
    3) Organised a Fundraiser for Acid attack victims and raised over 400,00 Rs.

    I want to apply for programs like 2+2, deferred admission of GSB, silver scholars program Yale, and 2+2 IESE Busines School.

    What are my chances?

  • Vin Nai

    Hey Sandy, would appreciate if you could evaluate my profile. Thank you

    Mr. Aviation

    Indian non-IT engineer with an MBA. 31 years old, married with a <1 year old kid.

    Undergrad: Bachelor of Engineering at a non-IIT college. GPA: 9.12/10
    2 years work experience in a defence shipyard

    Postgrad: 2 year, full time MBA (equivalent) from one of the Indian b-schools ranked in FT and Economist rankings
    Summer internship at a consumer goods company (Unilever/P&G)
    GPA: 2.54/4.00

    Resumed work for 2.5 more years in the defence sector as I was interested in the sector.
    Then joined a big 4 consultant and worked in aviation and defence for 2.5 years.
    Currently working in MBB (non-generalist but client facing role) for 10 months.

    Total work-ex: 8 years

    GMAT 710 (Q39/V48) AWA 6.0 IR 6

    Want to do a one year MBA to get a global role in industry (no consulting, please!) in the airline or travel, transportation and logistics sector. Not particular about an Ivy MBA and would prefer a more mature cohort. Any advice ? Thank you

  • David Jordan

    Hi Sandy!

    I would be very grateful if you could evaluate my profile please.

    Mr. All Rounder

    21 year old white male (Junior in College) from London, UK.

    Education: 3.9 in International Politics from SFS, Georgetown. Junior year at Oxford reading PPE (First). 720 GMAT Anticipated.

    Work Experience: Insight Weeks at J.P. Morgan, Citibank, BNP Paribas and McKinsey in London, Texas and New York. Summer internship on Sophomore Leadership Program at Citi in NYC. M&A Summer Analyst at Citi, NYC. Also previously Policy analyst at the House of Lords and Counter Terrorism Think Tank the Quilliam Foundation in London.

    Extra Curricular: Georgetown Heavyweight Crew (1 year). Vice President of the Oxford Guild. Appointed Committee on the Oxford Union. Rugby Captain of highschool team, and county and Academy level rugby player. Krogh Honors Scholar writing 12,000 word dissertation on European Refugee Crisis in Sophomore Year.

    Entrepeneurship: Winner of cash prize at the the Oxford Said Business School VIEW Entrepreneurship challenge, and currently spending private venture capital on developing an online marketplace startup. Founder of a business that prints T-shirts and has raised £7,000 for FINCA and Cancer Research UK. Founder of interfaith movement, ‘branches of peace’ aiming to de-radicalise the discussion surrounding the Israel-Palestine Conflict.

    My goals are to learn more about business as an intern at either Citi M&A or a top three consulting firm once I graduate, and then to go to business school where I can develop my network, and my managerial skills in order to build upon my previous experiences and develop a successful startup.

    I want to apply to Yale Silver Scholars Program, HBS 2+2, and Stanford Deferred Program. Failing that, I want to reapply to these schools, as well as MIT, Columbia and Wharton.

    Thank you very much for all of your helpful advice.



  • Brandonb

    Hi Sandy, I would LOVE some feedback.

    – 33 white male
    – 710 GMAT, 8 IR, and 5.5 AWA (all first attempt after negligible study).
    – 3.7 undergrad GPA, economics major.
    – JD from school with irregular 100pt GPA structure. But my GPA was at the median.
    – I’ve spent the last 4 years as an attorney doing discovery work for several large and extremely successful companies (usually in the realms of pharma or investment banking).
    My job has been to review the highest level internal strategic communications at these companies to find materials that must be produced to opposing counsel during the applicable litigation or government investigation.

    I don’t want to leave my State, so I’ve only applied to Duke. Do you have any thoughts about my potential at Duke or any of the m7s (in case I don’t make it at this time, and out-of-state becomes an acceptable outcome next year)?

  • AG

    Hey Sandy –

    Thanks a lot for evaluating for us folks-Helps a lot of us

    Demographics and Background:
    – Age 23, Indian Male
    -Son of a forest service officer so have lived all over India – States of Uttrakhand, Rajhasthan and Tamil Nadu

    – 700 (Planning to retake)

    – BE Engineering (Metallurgy and Material Sciences) from Punjab Engineering College, Chandigarh
    – 8.05/10 CGPA- The key here is that my first 2 years averaged ~7/10 while the last 2 years averaged ~9/10

    Work Exp:
    – 1.5 years presently at McKinsey and Company as an analyst with their e-PSM COC in the Procurement practice (Its a specialized practice in McK advising and implementing e-Procurement at clients).
    Have worked as a specialist with international teams in States, US and Europe though been on site only at India and South East Asian clients
    Additionally also provide part time support and cover to our internal procurement excellence benchmarking team
    – 0.5 years of internship with McKinsey as part of the global sourcing team in India during my 3rd year of college. Was unconventional as most engineering students go in for a core internship in an industry like steel in my stream as that is considered safer for grades.

    – City Leadership role in student-run philanthropy working on teaching science and maths to children
    – Secretary of the technical society of metallurgy in college
    – Received citation from the chairman of the 2nd largest private bank in India for work as part of an ideation challenge
    – Coursera verified specialization in business analytics from Wharton

    Move towards a more generalist role within management consulting as an associate at MBB and experience a new geography working culture wise

    Target Schools:
    M7- Already have an admit from SSE in Sweden for MSc (Management) this year but would like to know what my chances are if I apply to the M7 next year

  • hbsguru

    Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

    How to apply to HBS’ 2+2 program & more

  • hbsguru

    thanks John will post the link to that video so others can find it.

  • Jack Man

    Hey Sandy, thanks for your reply. I just saw your new video on HBS 2+2 . keep up the good work.

  • bax

    Hello Sandy,

    Was an aspiring professional tennis player ranked top 3 in India and ranked internationally as a junior but quit due to multiple injuries. a GPA of 3.45 in International Business from Wichita state University. GRE – Q-161 V-152 AWA-4.5.

    During Last semester, consulted with a private equity group which involved C-level executives from top banks. Ranked #1 in business simulation against 2500 from across the world in the capstone Strategic Management course.

    Worked as a project manager at IBM right out of college managing team of 9. Few months later, was handed another project with a team of 11. Did really well as a manager despite a lack of technical background and got my H-1B visa. I wanted to explore different industries to explore them and learn more about myself.

    After 3 years at IBM, I moved back to India to launch and expand a start-up focus on developing sports in the country, We work with 35000 kids in 5 different states and are expanding. I multiplied the company revenues 20 fold in the time i have been here and have managed to tie-up with about 75 schools. We started at 2 schools. Lack of proper sporting system has plagued India and we intend to change that by working from grassroots level and bridge the gap between a proper development system and a sporting culture by providing access to sports from schools to colleges to communities. We believe fostering a sports culture would lay the foundation towards becoming sporting super power in the long run. We would like to bring about the much needed change in the sports system that India needs.

    I would like to sharpen my management skills through an MBA and come back to our company and help expand. We plan to collaborate with the government in the future.

    Extra-curricular activitiés: I wanted to be a professional tennis player and had the ability to player at a very high level but was unable to to do because of injuries. I have been coaching for the last ten years to people of all ages and levels to help them get better at something that we love. I manage to do so morning and evenings and on the weekends. Currently, I help a lot national and international junior tennis player realise what I could not achieve. Also help provide sports coaching to under-privileged kids in schools and orphanages.

    Schools: No idea. As much as I would love to go to a top school, My numbers don’t cut it. I would like some insight on what schools I stand a chance of getting in. I am trying to take my GMAT but I am not the greatest test taker.

    Thanks in Advance.

  • TechBuilderGal

    Hi Sandy, thanks for sharing!
    I am a 30yr old female currently working as a construction manager for an ENR Top 400 Contractor (consistently ranked in top 40). I work in the high-tech and manufacturing division building the world’s most technologically advanced facilities for global leaders in aviation manufacturing, semi-conductor fabrication, flash technologies, and cloud services, among others.
    I would like to continue utilizing my knowledge of high-tech facility construction, my passion for creating collaborative environments, and my expertise in planning and scheduling to move into construction project management consulting to develop high performance teams for tech and manufacturing firms.

    Target schools: Stanford, but based on the competitiveness of the program, I’d like to know what other schools I should consider.

    GMAT: 700-740 (expected)

    Experience & Promotions
    2016-Current Construction Manager (cost, schedule, scope, contracts) ~$30m
    2014-2016 Program Scheduling & Earned Value Manager ~$1b program
    2012-2014 Project Scheduling Manager ~$350m project
    2011-2012 Project Scheduler ~$1b program
    2010-2011 Jr. Construction and Earned Value Scheduler ~$350m program

    Professional Certifications:
    Project Management Institute Scheduling Professional (PMI-SP)
    Associated General Contractors Lean Constructor (CM-LC)

    Special Projects & Recognitions:
    Initiated a focus group to address issues facing construction scheduling for high-tech firms (Ie. technology is not fully developed by the time construction starts, multiple changes to scope, and rush to get product to market). Paradigm shift in our scheduling strategy resulted from this group, which has since created training guides and tools for our new way of thinking, including an integrated schedule database that allows for multi-party input.
    Outstanding Service Award, selected by our client in recognition of my work in supporting their project goals
    Invited to my company’s first ever Schedule Visioning committee by our VP

    Public state university, non-ranked, Class of 2010
    GPA 3.83, Magna Cum Laude, President’s Honor Roll all terms
    Double majored: BS Architecture, BS Construction Management
    Minor in Business Administration

    Teaching Assistant for three courses – 2008-2010


    NCAA, DIV I, Track and Field, Pole Vaulter
    Top 10 All-Time School Record Holder 2008-2015
    Top 50 Student Athlete 2007 & 2008
    Post-Athletic Scholarship Recipient

    American Institute of Architecture Students
    Student Club President 2008-09, member 2007-2010

    Special Projects and Recognitions:

    Integrated Sustainable Design Studio (by invite only). Collaborative design studio course for students selected from architecture, construction, engineering, computer science, and organic agriculture programs. Developed undergrad thesis on collaborative environments in the construction industry.

    AIA guest student invited to a professional conference and tasked with finding creative ways to further the architecture field. Created a design-thinking curriculum with a local Montessori school for elementary aged children.

    NAWIC, AGC, CMAA, and Schweiger scholarship winner

    Community College, Class of 2006
    GPA 3.99, Honor Roll
    Associate’s Degree

    Track and Field, Pole Vault
    Top 3 School Record Holder
    Scholar Athlete Award

  • navyfinance

    Correction, R1 2017

  • navyfinance

    700 (Q48/V38) GMAT – 3rd attempt. 1st attempt 660
    3.56 GPA, 3.81 Major GPA

    BBA in Finance w/ honors from Southern Private School (SMU, Tulane, Rice, Vanderbilt) and full NROTC scholarship

    Work experience as a Nuclear Submarine Officer, which includes 1 year of additional school through the Navy, 3 years on a submarine in various engineering leadership roles, and am now currently working/teaching at a NROTC. Using tuition remission at the university to take courses in stats, CS and data analytics, while working full time. I can justify why I’m not going to finish a masters here due to time constraints, course offerings, and pre-requisites. Also, I don’t want to waste access to free college courses, and I think the courses I have chosen provide valuable knowledge.

    Extracurricular: Currently a senior mentor in the university veteran mentoring program, which links upperclass veterans with new student veterans. On the other side of that, I’m a protégé in an American Corporate Partners (ACP) mentorship. Lastly, I have volunteered for several events around campus that need professors or masters students (I’m both) to supervise/mediate/evaluate events. In undergrad I was elected to the business school student government for 2 years and played club rugby for 4 years.

    Goal: Break into management consulting at MBB by leveraging my MBA and finance undergrad, engineering experience in the Navy, and “data science” course work.

    28 year old white male applying R1 2018 to:

  • BAL

    Hey Sandy –

    Thanks for posting – definitely a fun break from work throughout the day!

    – Age 28, Male, White

    – 720

    – BS Accounting from Big 10 school (PSU/Wisconsin/OSU)
    – 3.7

    Work Exp:
    – 2 years federal consulting/advisory at Deloitte (intelligence community clients)
    – 3 years management consulting/technology implementation in the Higher Ed industry (with staff management exp.)

    – Leadership role in large student-run philanthropy in undergrad
    – Homecoming Committee in undergrad
    – Co-founded club basketball team in undergrad
    – 4+ years leadership role at church
    – 2 years volunteer experience with children in transitional housing
    – Former CPA (expired)
    – CrossFit instructor at local gym

    Transition to a career in marketing/business development in the outdoor recreation industry (think Patagonia/REI/Specialized)

    Target Schools:
    Stanford, Berkeley, Northwestern, Michigan, Duke

  • MZ

    Hi John/Sandy,

    Thanks for sharing this!

    I’m a 27 yo male from China.

    Undergrad: Top 10 Chinese Uni, Electrical Engineering; Dual degree in Business Admin in another Top 10 Uni.

    GPA of both degrees are 77.0/100 [with the school translation system, it equals to 3.2]

    GMAT: 710 (Q50 V35)

    Experience (chronological):
    -1 year full-time in one of world’s largest NGO’s China office. I had been working part-time since Freshman year. Main job was to manage the expansion of the organization. Successfully expanded to 5 universities. Travelled to 5 countries for work. Supported 4500 annual students volunteering exchanges globally.
    -2 year in Nielsen in China, working in consumer research department as senior analyst. Independently managed a client and successfully extend the contract twice.
    -1.5 year working in UPS in its global headquarter in US on marketing strategy as analyst. Successfully launched a webinar program which doubled the participants and increased 25% win rate.

    -Volunteered in Ghana on youth entrepreneurship for two months.
    -Staff club member and training council member during the time in research firm.
    -Actively participated LGBTQ activities and United Way campaigns. Active bike rider.
    -Part-time certified yoga teacher, teaching in both Chinese and English.
    -Personal travel to Japan and Cuba.
    -School dance club lead dancer for 4 years during college.

    Goal: To work in tech company as product manager (especially e-commerce like Amazon), and in the long help Chinese e-commerce companies to expand to US.

    Schools: Tuck, Haas, Yale SOM, UCLA, Darden


  • mistermarkevantonio@gmail.com


    Following are my education and work profile:

    WE: 34 Months of Work upon Application Submission
    10 Months of Work in the U.S.
    – Industry: Business Conslting
    – Duties: Marketing Research & Planning, Web Development, Instructional Design
    – Supervision: Supervised by Manager; Supervised 1 Summer Intern)

    24 Months of Work in Hong Kong
    – Industry: Food Import & Export; Food Production; Retail & Sales
    – Duties: Purchasing & Billing, Shipping & Logistics, Human Resources
    – Supervision: Supervised by Senior Administrative Clerk & General Manager; Supervise 3 Stocking Assistants

    GMAT 700

    Cumulative GPA 2.55
    Major GPA 2.76
    Graduated from Top 100 U.S. University
    (Completed honors program in community college; lost of 2 family members causing me to spend a great deal of time for recovery)

    Following are my desired schools and its MBA & related Programs:

    Boston University: MBA/MSDi
    Northeastern: MBA + MS in Business Analytics
    UMass Amherst: MBA + MSB&A
    UConn: MBA + MS in Business Analytics and Project Management
    Syracuse: MBA + MS in Business Analytics

    Anyone please kindly advise my chances of getting accepted in any of the above school and chances of receiving the scholarship. Thanks for your help.

  • mgl

    Hi Sandy,

    I’d appreciate your thoughts on my profile and suggestions on what I can do these next two semesters to optimize my chances of HBS 2+2 or GSB Deferred Enrollment:

    – Age 20, Male, 3rd year undergrad; Chinese by blood American by citizenship

    – 740+ (expected)

    – BS Math, BA East Asian Studies, BBA Finance from a Top 10 US Public School
    – 3.9+ GPA | 4.00 Math GPA

    Work Exp:
    – Incoming Summer Internship [2017] w/ Big Three Consultancy (MBB)
    – Current Part-Time internship (during spring term) w/ data analytics firm
    – Prev Summer Internship w/ Quant Trading Firm

    – Director of the only student-run quant investment fund on campus
    – Racket sport (eg badminton, table tennis) school team: starting singles player
    – Significant involvement with ethnic student professional organization (former director)

  • Alexander

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m curious to get your thoughts on my odds for the target programs listed below and any areas to focus on improving. Also curious if my GMAT will be an inhibitor given my background.

    – Age 25, Male, American

    – 720 (Q:48 V:40)

    – BS in Finance from a top 50 public university;
    – 3.7 GPA;
    – 3.9 Major GPA

    Work Exp:
    – 2 years in Investment Banking; 2 years in Middle Market Private Equity / Growth Equity (upon matriculation) – both focused on the tech sector
    – Significant experience working on tech m&a and working with rapidly growing tech companies and a lot of exposure to clients. Played large part in helping with campus recruiting initiatives as well.

    – Volunteer as a mentor/coach for disadvantaged local community college students;
    – Volunteer as a start-up coach/mentor and help to organize start-up weekend; – In undergrad, started a for-profit student consulting organization

    Why MBA:
    – In short, to move into an operating / management role at an early-stage tech company

    Target Programs:
    – HBS
    – Wharton
    – Columbia
    – Booth

  • Craig

    Hi Sandy, I would really appreciate if you could evaluate my chances at Harvard, Stanford, Wharton or Columbia. I applied R2.

    I’m a 27 year old Zimbabwean male, currently working for PwC in New York City for two years now. I have also worked for PwC in Zimbabwe, a start up in South Africa and an HIV-AIDS non-profit focused on Sub-Saharan Africa.

    I scored a 720 GPA, albeit with a weak 44Q. However, I’m a qualified Chartered Accountant and passed all the CPA exams in under 6 months.

    I started a foundation and using my savings I have paid for the education of many children in Zimbabwe, 2 in Uganda and 1 in Kenya. I also have extensive volunteering experience with low income families and homeless people in NYC.

    My GPA is also weak but I submitted an optional essay detailing how I struggled with severe depression for over 10 years from high school and how I was working full time to pay for my college education at a renowned South Africa distance learning institution.

    Many thanks

  • Indiagirl

    Hey Sandy, Happy New Year! Just wanted to inquire if you’ve somehow miraculously happened to go through my profile and consider it for your next ‘Handicapping’ post! Looking forward to receiving a response from you soon.

    Best Regards,

  • Mr Government

    Hi John/Sandy, I’d really appreciate any thoughts you had on my application?

    24 year old white male from the United Kingdom

    Undergrad: Top 5 UK University, degree in theology
    GPA 2:1 (upper second class) roughly equivalent to a 3.5
    Graduate: Currently completing a MSc in Economics part-time whilst working
    GMAT: 740

    Experience: 3.5 years of experience as a civil servant in the UK government, working in a variety of departments in strategy and policy roles on a variety of issues (including education, healthcare and Europe). Recruited through a selective graduate programme (1/50 applicants accepted) when 21 years old with no work experience, average age in my intake was 25 with 3/4 years of experience. Brief and advise cabinet government ministers, develop policy proposals, deliver on government commitments. Took a six month secondment to go work for a healthcare charity. Promoted a year earlier than most candidates. Summer internship whilst an undergrad at a Big 4 firm in their strategy consulting practice.

    Extracurriculars: President of a 170 year old debating society whilst a student, sit on the boards of two charities, governor of a school.

    Goal: To move into strategy consultancy at a Big Three firm, and in the long run to move into social enterprise.

    Schools: HBS, GSB, Wharton, Colombia, LBS, Insead

  • Jsquash

    Hi John/Sandy

    Thank you for doing this! I’d certainly appreciate any thoughts/responses you might have. Also if there is anything you would recommend emphasizing more or tightening up as I put final touches on my applications over the next couple of weeks that would be welcomed!

    25 yr old white male from US (26 at matriculation)
    Undergrad: Top 15 Small Liberal Arts College, 3.43 GPA, major: poli sci minors: econ and arabic
    GMAT 750 first attempt (99% V, 65% Q) (47,47)

    Work experience: 3.5 years at a large (about $1 billion/year) international development organization on a business development team (I.E. preparing proposals for USAID, Gates Foundation, etc. for things like girls rights’ education, health, etc. in developing countries) with 5 promotions including starting as an intern. Was seconded to one of the big four consulting firms ‘international development’ teams to further my organizations partnership with them.

    Goal: Develop and scale more disruptive/innovative business models in the international development sector such as social enterprises and Development Impact Bonds by successfully leveraging the best attributes of the public and private sectors. Looking to business school as a chance to develop a toolkit/skills on the ‘private sector side of that equation’ and then would look at consulting opportunities with boutique firms in this space like like Dalberg, FSG, IDEO, or larger social impact/emerging markets teams within firms like Accenture, Deloitte Monitor, or Bridgespan.

    Extracurriculars: Coaching squash (played at collegiate level) as part of an urban youth program. Undergrad extracurriculars in student government/peer advising positions.



  • smloverboy4@gmail.com

    Hi John/Sandy –

    This series is extremely helpful.
    Thanks for your insights.

    If possible, it would be great to get an assessment of my profile

    770 GMAT

    College Senior, Expecting 4.0
    Grade Point Average in U.S. terms by WES

    Undergraduate degree in Economics
    from Banaras Hindu University

    experience includes being a summer associate at McKinsey
    & Company and
    a summer associate product marketing manager at Google

    Extracurricular activities includes Secratary of University
    Debating Club and Captain of University Cricket Club

    23-year-old Indian male

    There is a gap of Two year between my High School and College
    because of financial difficulties of my family

    I am very much interested in the HBS 2+2 program, but I think
    my Economics background and not IIT college will hurt me

  • superman123

    Hi Sandy, thank you for posting! I was wondering if there is there any difference in applying to Stanford GSB round 2 vs. round 3 as an undergrad senior graduating in May 2017.

  • CPAHealthcare

    Hi Sandy,

    Please see my profile below:


    28 year-old male from Western Canada
    Undergrad: University of Western Ontario – Finance and Economics dual degree 3.75 GPA in last 2 years, 3.3 CGPA, graduated in 2011
    Graduate School: University of Saskatchewan – Masters of Professional Accounting 3.83 GPA, expected grad date in Jul 2017
    CPA designation
    Passed all 3 levels of the CFA on first attempt
    GMAT: 710 first attempt, will aim for 730
    Father of 3, oldest was born in 2012 and has hearing-loss
    Stay-at-home parent from 2012-2014, because wife needs to work for PR


    Relocate to the East coast (Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Philadelphia, New York, etc.) to do consulting in the Healthcare/Pharma industry. This industry is largely not present on the West Coast in Canada. Alternatively, I would also consider a rotational program at one of the big pharma. Consulting just seems to give a broader exposure, same reason why accountants go to big 4 first, then exit into corporate accounting roles. Hoping to improve the lives of the hearing-impaired, and in my wildest dreams, maybe one day find a cure for hearing loss.

    Work (starting in 2014):

    6 months as call center agent at CRA (IRS equivalent), 4 months as accountant at bottom-end F500 oil & gas company, then Associate in Audit at PwC starting in January 2015. Had to slowly move my way up because coming out of my role as a stay-at-home parent, I was caught between the new grad and experienced hire streams.

    Promoted every year at top bucket, and I’m now a Senior Associate. Worked out a plan with the partners to transition to PwC Consulting in Sep 2017. Also the winner of the annual PwC CEO Award for community impact. On invitation from the office head partner, I gave a presentation at the annual town-hall meeting to promote CSR and community involvement in front of 500 staffs and partners.


    Treasurer at Alberta Hands and Voices – a not for profit dedicated to improving the lives of hearing-impaired children. I provided financial oversight to an externally funded $20,000 toolkit project that seeks to provide a comprehensive one-stop source of information to all parents in Alberta with hearing-impaired children. There is currently nothing like this in the province. Will be completed in early 2017.

    Parent panelist to Alberta Health Services – advocated for and provided consultation on the implementation of a provincial hearing-screening test for all newborns. The hearing screening tests are now available to all newborns in NICU, and will be expanded to all newborns in Alberta in the next 2 years.


    Wharton (Health Concentration)
    Yale (MBA/MPH)
    Cornell (MBA/MHA)

    Please feel free to suggest other schools as appropriate in my circumstances.

    Thanks Sandy!

  • xx xx

    It is disappointing to see Indians in general putting so much emphasis on IIT, etc. It is what and how you accomplish is what counts and not just a degree from an elite school. By the way I am an ex IITian and a Cornell Grad.

  • Sara

    Hi John and Sandy,

    I am a female of minority/immigrant background, immigrated to the US freshman year of high school. I am currently working in the finance department of a tech company in Silicon Valley, so far most of my experience has been in FP&A and in tech. I graduated from undergrad in 2009 from UC Berkeley with a major in Political Economy, I switched majors from Microbiology junior year after taking a few economics courses and due to crazy organic chemistry classes my GPA is close to 3.2. Right out of college I joined an AmeriCorps program and later on I was hired by the non-profit that I was matched with. After 2 years I applied for the Rotary Ambassadorial Scholarship to study abroad where I received a master’s of finance degree and worked for a few months then came back home to the US. I have not yet taken the GMAT, but I understand I need 700+ score to get into top programs. I wanted to know what you think my chances are for Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley and if there are any other programs you would suggest applying to with my background. Thank you for all your help and time!

  • hbsguru

    does Indian VC firm have a history of sending associates to HBS etc. That is real question, if ‘Yes’ well join them, if ‘NO’ answer is maybe, depends on size, etc. Rest of this is solid and as often noted, Big 4 in India is more selective etc. than Big4 in USA, so this is real solid.

  • hbsguru

    dunno, if you can convince them that you will be an impactful investor in India or Dubai based on family connections and other connections, and current job working for Big Shot, they will blink at GPA and also low-ish 700 GMAT. Sure, you need to explain GPA blah, blah but they are more interested in if you are really connected, as you appear to be, and if so, what you can do for HBS brand in next 20 years in a good way. Make that case not overly — just say what your plans are and make it sound detailed, grounded in the past, and convincing. If they believe you, you may have a chance. Make sure recs make the same point.
    Don’t overly focus on explaining bad grades, just do that in 500 character BS box inside the app.

  • hbsguru

    NOT SURE, 2+2 is lottery like and hard to figure, except they really go for nose bleed grades and gold not silver credentials in terms of work experience.
    You may technically qualify for 2+2 as a lawyer might read the qualifications and apply them to you, but you are not their cookie-cutter case and in fact are pretty complicated in any context. That is not good for 2+2. Like many super specialist doctors, they do not like complicated cases, and that is what you present.
    Running family biz, as you describe, is a good thesis for a regular application, not sure about how your visa status fits into this, another complication in their mind.

  • radish

    John, Have you seen Bloomberg ranking, Rice is number 8th ahead of Kellogg!!! I cee this year is complete joke in almost everything it turns..elections, ranks, …

  • bhushan

    Hi Sandy- Please find my stats below:

    GMAT- 760
    Education: Dual Degree (B.Tech + M. Tech) in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay (2009-14)
    GPA- 3.16
    Academic Achievements: International Poster Publication in College, ~95% aggregate in Class 10th and 12th

    Age-24. Plan to apply next year (in 2017)- would be 25 then.


    Work Experience- 2.25 years as of Nov 2016 in a big 4 in their Strategy Consulting Profile, focusing on Communications, Media, Government and Private Equity Sectors. Noteworthy points are:
    a) Accelerated Promotion to the post- MBA level (Associate) in 1 year instead of 2 based on exceptional performance.
    b) Handled some of the marquee projects single-handedly including strategy and bidding support for the largest telecom and radio operators of India in the largest spectrum auctions (Strategy for investments worth over USD 2 BN), IPO support for Vodafone, and other large strategy and operational projects, including due diligence for a PE firm and Cost reduction for an IT major.
    c) International experience includes turnaround strategy for Govt. of Namibia’s fixed line telecom operator

    Looking to move to the Venture Capital space after ~2 years in Consulting. Currently have offers from one of India’s top 5 VCs for their Seed fund, and also from a small US-based VC for their India operations. The Indian VC, though renowned in India, isn’t that well known in the US. The US based VC is small, so perhaps wouldn’t be the best place to go to.

    Would appreciate your advice on which of the 2 options sounds best, and also, if it makes any sense to continue in the big 4 consulting firm itself for another year before applying to Bschools next year.

    Extra curriculars- Won over 10 quizzes, online crypt hunts, and creative writing competitions at college and national level (1st out of 10,000+ participants in some events). Served as Chief Editor of the Dept. Magazine, and also on the Editorial Board of the Campus Newsletter with a readership of ~10,000. Also managed the competitions for India’s largest Materials Science Festival with a footfall of ~5,000.

    Career Path ahead- Would look to move to the PE/VC space. Would like to eventually work in a leadership role at a tech giant, harnessing my engineering base, along with the structuring, communication and financial knowledge I would have gained in the MBA and across my professional life.

    Target Schools: H/S/W, Sloan, Booth, Kellog, Tuck, Yale

    Would be great to get your insights on the same.

  • Sriparna

    Hi there – Thanks a lot for letting me know. Well I have an undergrad GPA of 3.75 (1st class honors with distinction in economics and statistics) from Panjab University (ranked #1 Indian University in US News and Times Higher Education) and I have also pursued Msc. in Applied Economics (advanced degree) from NTU Singapore for which I admit I have a low GPA because of its high strict scoring (bell curve means even if you get 80/100 you could still be a C). So didn’t quite understand the GPA logic. A low Masters GPA will be more important during applications? Is that what you mean ?
    Since I have a very hectic work life (consulting – no rest at all) I will only be able to apply in Round 2 this year for all the listed Universities.
    Congrats on getting accepted at MIT (all I want is to get there!)

  • StanfordGSB

    Hi Sriparna,

    I think it would be much better in your case if you had a lower GMAT (710-730) but higher GPA (3.6 – 3.8), especially since you are from a non-engineering background (i.e., GPA is too low for Econ major). However, believe you can almost certainly get into Ross, while will have a good chance for Sloan and Kellogg depending on your essays. Perhaps applying round 1 can also help increase your chances.

    I have been fortunate to get accepted at MIT (even though I did not go there), so let me know if you have further questions.

  • sriparnasarkar@ymail.com

    Hi Sandy – Please find my Stats below:

    GMAT – 760
    Education: Msc in Applied Economics, NTU Singapore (2013-2014) – GPA 3.1
    B.A. in Economics Hons, Panjab University, India (2008-2011) [top 10 universities in India] – GPA 3.75 (#3 in class) Major – Eco, Stats and Maths
    Age – 26

    “Non Engineer, Non IITian”

    My story: After under-graduation degree I was placed in Oracle as a management analyst but soon after 10 months of stay I had decided to be part of the leading Exterior / Interior startup and was appointed as economic adviser of the CEO. Lone executive in the firm to do all the mathematical combinations and come up with suitable economical and reliable business plans. I had the opportunity to lead newly recruits, to motivate and to enthuse the right aptitude and attitude, so that, they can also be a part of a team that shapes the firm. After 10 months of my stay in startup world I went to Singapore to pursue Msc in Applied Economics – a stepping stone to the Analytics world (as I wanted to learn more about the statistical tools on economic models). NTU’s World Class academicians taught me the quality to stick to the business and flourish, where, even a survival of the highly intensive course with strict bell curve scoring is a matter of achievement. As soon as I graduated, I was offered the job of Business Analyst from Deloitte S&O US India practice (management consulting arm of Deloitte). For 2 years now I had been working as a Supply Chain practitioner focusing on strategic sourcing (both direct and indirect materials). Have work experience in Europe region (Germany and Switzerland) and in US. I have transformed from an economist to a Supply Chain consultant now!

    Preferred Schools: MIT Sloan MBA, Kellogg and Michigan Ross

  • Jack Man

    Hello John and Sandy
    I want to apply to Harvard’s 2+2 , Standford’s Deferred MBA and Yale Silver Scholar.
    I dont see many videos for 2+2 programs, can you make a video?
    GRE – 327/340 Q:165 V:162 AWA: 4.0
    Both these programs except either GRE or GMAT
    Toefl – 118/120
    Undergrad (2011-2015)
    Top 20 engg colleges in India. (GPA 8.7 out of 10.0)
    -In top 5 of class
    I graduated in Industrial Engg (NOT SOFTWARE, NOT ALL INDIANS CODE !)
    Had 2 internships in manufacturing firms, the role was more like Internal Consulting.
    Went to grad school at Columbia, directly after undergrad.
    Grad School – Columbia University (2015-2017)
    GPA – 3.77 currently
    -During my undergrad I Realized that I needed to learn more
    -Pursuing a STEM masters in Columbia’s Management Science and Engineering (ITS NOT AN MBA).
    -I take half my courses in Operations Research(Maths and analytics) and the other half in Columbia Business School’s DRO dept (only Decision, Risk and Operations courses)
    – I had a taste for Harvard’s case methods but only specific to operations. I want to be well rounded, learn more about entrepreneurship and leadership.
    – Worked year-long as a Part time consultant for Booz Allen Hamilton and Cubesmart (as part of the coursework)
    -Pretty close to starting my own business
    My family has a manufacturing business that employs many unskilled workers. It involves heavy manufacturing but it has a lot of trade and other aspects to it as well.
    I intend to go back at some time in the future (I’m the only kid in the family)
    Here is my story, I know I have to go back and manage my family business, Its my social responsibility. But before I go back, I wanted to try something for myself. I have a great start up idea that I want to try, but I don’t want to risk getting kicked out of the US in 1 year if my start up doesn’t take off. I have spoken to multiple VCs and they love my idea.
    I believe this MBA will not only enable me to be a leader and capable of managing my family business, it will also empower me in the sense that I will have a safety net. In the 2 years before I go to B-school I am free to try anything knowing that if I fail, I still have Harvard or Stanford. Plus I won’t get kicked out of the country just yet.
    I want to emphasize both these aspects when I apply
    1. The MBA empowers me to become a leader and lead my family business to greater heights.
    2. The MBA acts as an safety net and empowers me to start my own business in the US.
    So in the time between my masters and MBA, I can start my business, try and fail and try again till I succeed.
    Extra Curriculars
    -While in School, I was in the NCC (analogous to ROTC in the US)
    – Was a part of the Indian Red Cross for 2 years.
    – ENTP personality type (like Ms. Jersey :P)
    – I may work in Consulting after an MBA to recoup costs.
    Are there any other 2+2 programs I should apply to? and What are my chances at Harvard, Stanford and Yale’s deffered program?

    Thank you

  • Gabriel Rocha

    Hello Sandy, Can you please assess my profile? I’d like to hear your thoughts, it would be a very useful guideline!
    • Demographic: 32-year old white male from Rio de Janeiro – Brazil;
    • GMAT Practice tests ranging from 720 to 750;
    • Undergrad: Petroleum Engineering from top 5 engineering schools in Brazil – 2.8 GPA (Worked as geometry teacher preparing students for military academies during most of my time in school);
    • Specialization in Project Management from top latin America B-school – 3.6 GPA
    • Work experience: 6 years as Drilling Engineer for BP including 3 years of offshore work. Due to the downturn in the oilfield, I became the Single Point of Accountability for drilling activities in Brazil and worked with Business Development, Project Management and Budgeting;
    • Military Experience: 3+ years of service in the Brazilian Naval Prep Academy and Naval Academy
    • Extracurriculars: Public Relations of Students Corps in the Naval Prep Academy, Mathlete and Judo Athlete; Reservoir engineering teaching assistant and Reserch Assistant fellowship during undergrad.
    • Parents without college degree.
    • Aim to work with alternative energies or data analytitcs (maybe both!) starting with consulting and them moving to a big company.
    • Target schools: Kellogg, Ross, Duke, Tepper, Emory, U Toronto.

  • IndianUniversityRankings

    No I am not universally correct. I might be completely wrong. This is just my personal opinion.

    I only gave a general overview of what I think/ have witnessed in my career/ based on my personal experiences. I could be unaware of some facts, and I would be happy to know from others what they think.
    I am unsure why I am being personally attacked for voicing my own opinion. Let’s just agree to disagree.

  • hbsguru

    thanks, I think the simple answer to this question, which please remember, is HOW DO US ADCOMS VIEW AND RANK INDIAN UNIS, is for people at HSW etc. to chime in and say how many kids there are at those b schools who are NOT fr. trad. IITs etc.
    I always see admits fr. St. Steve, Brila, and Shri Ram, not so much from other schools,
    I realize this is a narrow concern, and I ack. the macro issues raised above by many thoughtful posters, but this is a narrow discussion, e.g.
    Which Indian Unis send kids to top 5 US B schools.

  • IndianUniversityRankings

    In a B-School admissions world where HYP is considered superior to the other ivy-league schools, I am *assuming* maybe that’s how adcoms may perceive elite vs non-elite.
    I might be completely wrong, I am not in a position to judge the process cos I am not involved in it.

    That being said, I personally would love to be proven wrong in this case. I completely agree with you that India has more talent than seats, and I do not disrespect any of the newer IITs or any institution for that matter. I apologize if that’s what it sounded like, on the contrary I have been talking about how there is talent in a lot of places in the country, even beyond the IITs (Which is why you find successful people from different places). I do not discriminate against any institute, I just was assuming that purely based on the fact that 1000 indian applicants fight for 20 seats, maybe that’s the priority or the way it’s ranked. But that’s my personal view, and like I said, I would be happy to be wrong in this case. Anyway admissions view profiles holistically, but it might take more effort for candidates beyond top 10, to stand out against those in top 10, since it is so damn competitive.


  • ty

    “Also an IITian” does not mean anything. It does not mean you are entitled to be universally correct. You sound like Trump.

  • Guest

    Unlike certain people, we IITians respect all IITs. I am IIT-B, yet I see potential in the new IITs and I do not discriminate amongst them. Time is all they need to be equally good. I cannot speak for BITS but I am sure just as Pan IIT does not discriminate nor does BITSAA.

    Outsiders like you live in a dream land. If India produces 1000 geniuses and IIT has 20 seats, where will the remaining go. That is why, considering our increasing population, we need more quality institutes and must have healthy inter-campus competitions.

  • IndianUniversityRankings

    Not really. There are currently 23 IITs. You can’t say that all of them are elite. Sure the standard would be high, but once you go past the original ones, the lines are blurred between newer IITs vs other colleges like BITS, etc.

  • IndianUniversityRankings

    Err…. And this is a troll because??

    Not sure you read the poster carefully, I said the original IITs are unbeatable in their standard of excellence.
    This was to talk about what comes AFTER the IITs (ORIGINAL). This is not a post just for HBS or GSB. I am trying to articulate in general about colleges which may not be well-known as much, since there doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available.

    Anyhow, This is my personal opinion. And I don’t really know why you felt the need to mention ‘As an IITan’. It saddens me that because of some people like you who feel a sense of entitlement from being in an elite school, the rest of us get tagged along with stereotypes of being arrogant/having a superiority complex. Maybe you’re still in school/recent graduate.
    – Also an IITan.

  • Guest

    HBS and GSB consider only IITs as elite. It is always like this: IIT and non-IIT. Period.

  • Guest

    As an IITian, I sense a troll here. I will have my hacking team look into this account.

  • Aditya Akhauri

    Hey Sandy, here are my stats –

    GMAT – 710
    GPA – 3.0 in UG at National Institute of Technology, India
    3.05 in Masters in Management (Communications) from MICA India which is Asia’s leading communication school.
    Work at time of joining – 3 + years as brand and communication strategist at Publicis, a global advertising giant. Campaigns and brands that I have worked on have won Cannes Lions and I have very strong career progression. Currently, I am heading strategy at a division of Publicis India.

    Extra curricular activities – Founded the quizzing society at my PG college, was the main quizmaster for UG college’s quiz fest which I had co-founded, some radio jockeying, theater work in university, contributor to various travel blogs, won some robotics and debate competitions in college too.

    Career aim – Currently, am advising CMOs and Brand heads on communication strategy and helping them craft branding strategies. However, I find this role limited and want to move to a more holistic consulting role.

    Schools aimed – Duke, Kellogg, Indiana, Emory, Ross, Washington (Foster)

    According to you what are my chances in the aforementioned schools and are there any other schools you might want to suggest?

  • MohawkMonk87

    Sorry for the delay, currently deployed and haven’t had time to check disqus recently!

    2011-2012: Taught HS

    2012-2014: 82nd Airborne Division

    2014-Present: US Army Special Operations Command: Psychological Operations (best way I can describe my job is that we use a combination of marketing and PR techniques to create behavioral changes in foreign populations).


    Hi Sandy,
    Your posts are super helpful and I have two issues at hand here: 1) It has to be HBS and 2) How do I make it happen with my 2.0 GPA (yes it is really 2.0 GPA!)?
    Background: 28 year old Indian male, born and brought up in Dubai.
    Education: Straight A student in high school in Dubai. Undergraduate degree in economics at University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, graduated in 3 years albeit with a 2.0 GPA. CFA level 1 completed. GMAT 700.
    1) 2 years investment banking at Standard Chartered Bank (#1 in Singapore at headquarters) in Singapore covering leveraged finance transaction across south east Asia
    2) 2 years at Investment Finance Corporation (World Bank Group) in Sub Saharan Africa and Latin America covering equity investments in financial institutions
    3) 2 years (current position) at a private equity firm in Dubai/New York, founded by a global well-renowned Wall Street personality. Was amongst the first few founding employees. Have successfully completed 3 majority stake acquisitions in banks in emerging markets
    4) Father owns an investment bank in India and have been involved in setting up of a $300m special situations fund for distressed assets/restructuring in India. My involvement has been from leading the MD to a strategy, preparing the roadshow materials, speaking to potential investors, sitting on Investment Executive Committee and making decisions on the plan of action. My involvement is also in our family office where we manage our investment portfolio of assets in real estate, equity, fixed income, commodities, etc
    1) Family foundation where I have been involved in initiatives in primary education in India for the underprivileged where we have invested in schools
    2) Corporate social responsibility work for the investment bank we own where I have been involved in working with the bankers, borrowers and regulators to sit on the same table to discuss case studies on how to avoid bad loans (i.e. avoid the 2008 crash) in India system
    Goal: To build a network of investors globally to attract them to credible investment opportunities in India which I have access to; essentially set up my own fund using the family platform
    Look forward to hearing from you. Appreciate if we could get in touch separately for follow up questions or if I could call you to get more insights.


    Hi Sandy,

    Really appreciate your time in doing this and hopefully you find my profile interesting enough to evaluate.


    Work experience: 2 years at an F500 chemicals company in UK. (controls/automation engineer -> project engineer) 1 year as an Analytics Consultant at Deloitte Advisory USA in risk analytics.

    Internship: With one of the major international orgs (WB, IMF etc).

    Publications: 3, not amazing work but in the analytics space.

    Extra curriculars: Many leadership roles in school, college and post-university including: school government, marketing head for large university clubs, promoting STEM education in local community, currently leading the deployment of solar power in rural India through a start up I started in graduate school (finalists in two major international social enterprise competitions).

    Undergrad school/major: Top 3 UK University, Chemical Engineering

    Undergrad GPA: First Class Honours (UK System) ~ 3.8 GPA

    Other education/coursework: Grad School, Masters in Econometrics (3.82 GPA), Duke University

    Race/nationality: Indian, Indian

    International experience: Born in India, grew up in Thailand, 6 years in UK and 3 years in USA. Worked in all three countries.

    Sex: Male

    Age: 28 at matriculation

    GMAT Score: 720

    MBA Info

    Goal of MBA: I want to be a leader in data science consulting. Post-MBA, join MBB and become a key part of their growing big data/analytics practice.

    Target schools: H/S/W just to see. MIT Sloan (Top choice), Columbia, Booth, Kellog, Fuqua, Yale, Tuck, Michigan, LBS, & INSEAD.

    Point of worry: Recommendation letter from my current employer given only 1 year of experience. Deloitte Advisory is not great (found out only after joining).

  • hbsguru

    they will overlook bad grades first year, the issue is what they think of company and work, gotta make this real clear
    4 years at the same company, local business partner of a major company. I
    work as a control systems engineer/programmer, writing the code that
    automates manufacturing processes and optimizing them. Actual unknown
    company but I work as a contractor with big name pharma and chemical

    I would not present exactly that way, OK that you can Code (well more than OK, these days real good) but you should not default to that being all you have done in past 4 years, e.g. entire work history. Need to work in jive about being bridge between contractor and big Pharma company, really know the different cultures, etc. and get recs to highlight that, one fr. contractor, other fr. Pharma.

    Rest, including 760, is real solid. Female/760/STEM is a great base!

  • Rosie

    Hi Sandy!

    Saw you were responding on here recently, hoping to get my fears assuaged.

    – 28 yr old white female

    – 760 GMAT (50Q/41V/8IR/6AWA)

    – Dual degree program at top 30 school; BS in chemistry and BE in chemical engineering

    – BS GPA 3.14 (father passed away freshman year, I was academically dismissed and out of school for a year before re-enrolling, writing most of my essays about this period of growth)

    – BE GPA 3.73 (all engineering classes, all taken after re-enrolling)

    – WE: 4 years at the same company, local business partner of a major company. I work as a control systems engineer/programmer, writing the code that automates manufacturing processes and optimizing them. Actual unknown company but I work as a contractor with big name pharma and chemical companies.

    – ECs: Mentor for girls trying to go into STEM, mentor to at-risk teenage girl, basketball referee, foster dog owner, have a blog with lots of cooking and baking and makeup and style stuff on there (varied interests??), online math and science tutoring

    – Goals are to go into consulting and ultimately obtain leadership role at pharma company. Combine technical experience with actual manufacturing operations with business knowledge to optimize things top down and reintroduce emphasis on innovation. Anti-Michael Pearson basically.

    – HBS, Wharton, Kellogg, Ross, MIT LGO

  • hbsguru

    grrr, thanks, I thought this would get complicated.
    St Stevie and Shri Ram College are ones I come across in my work.
    What we really need is someone to go thru, or guess knowingly, about
    which schools are proven feeders to HSW and other top 10 schools.
    That is what I really want to know.

  • hbsguru

    too much silver and not much gold, to wit
    low GPA,
    2nd tier schools,
    and OK but not golden feeder job or company
    HENCE H and S not going to happen, IMHO or super reach,
    W is real reach,
    Duke, Darden run older, like this profile (like it more if each part were better) and could happen.
    This is drifting into early EMBA territory.

  • Indiagirl

    Hey HBSguru, thanks for your observations! Looking forward to further review of my application from your end. Any insights on which aspects of my application I should especially highlight when applying to Stanford? Harvard? Wharton?

    One observation on top universities in India:

    if you consider #5 on your list – University of Delhi – it constitutes more than 70 colleges under its fold (a la Oxford and Cambridge). Of these 70+ colleges, some institutions (such as St. Stephen’s College and Shri Ram College of Commerce) rank top-most in India independently for the courses they offer. But when you consider Univ. of Delhi on the whole, its rankings are not in the Top 3. This holds true for other universities across India as well which are an aggregate of many colleges, some of which might independently rank highly.

  • IndianUniversityRankings

    Okay, I actually want to add in some more information here. I only posted the engineering rankings. Only the old IITs are considered very prestigious and more selective. Indian Institute of Science is considered as prestigious.

    The top 5 NITs are excellent, and BITS (Pilani campus only, not the others)
    I recruit candidates, I am an employer at a Fortune 100 company, so I can give you a rough idea of what employers consider prestigious and well known.
    Manipal and Vellore Institutes of Technology are great schools, but they are less selective than several other regional institutes, but at the same time there are some brilliant candidates there too so it depends. Schools like Coimbatore, RV College of Engineering, College of Engineering Pune, ICT in Mumbai and Delhi College of Engineering are top notch too and highly selective, with admit rates of less than 1%.
    Now there are some places like BITS Dubai which may have the BITS tag, but they’re not at all selective, they accept anyone willing to pay.

    In Summary, All IITs are not equal. The original IITs are unbeatable in their standard of excellence. There are a few institutes out there which might be equally selective. Several of the IITs and NITs are in remote locations in India so sometimes kids accepted to these schools pick good regional colleges which are also considered prestigious, and in fact more reputed than the “new” IITs.

  • CPR

    Hi Sandy, I’ve got a non-traditional background and would love to hear your take.


    – 720 GMAT (44Q/44V) – considering retake to improve quant score

    – BS Biology / 2.6 GPA from top public university (think UIUC, UW)
      BS Mechanical Eng / 3.3 GPA from state school
       (Difficulty finding professional work so I went back and did an engineering degree while commuting and working)

    – Internships: Large telecommunications company (think Motorola, Samsung); large railcar company (Chicago Tribune top 100 workplace)

    – Work experience: 4 years at F500 aerospace company (think UTC, GE, Honeywell) working on aircraft emergency power devices. Heavy international and problem-solving experience through leading cross-functional teams of US/Polish members to identify problem causes via data analysis and shop floor experiments, stabilizing new production line. Lots of travel to Poland.

    – Extracurriculars:
    Assistant Scoutmaster (Boy Scout troop); Explorers leader (planning/running activities teaching high school youth about future careers); planned ‘Take-your-child-to-work-day’ activities at my internship; member of student board in college; member of student-run record label in college;  camping/backpacking; photography.

    – Goal: Solve problems through innovative technology in a product management role.

    – 32 yo white male

    – H / S / W, Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Columbia, Duke, Darden

  • CPR

    Hi Sandy. I’ve got a non-traditional background and would love to hear your take on it.


    – 720 GMAT (44Q/44V) – considering retake to improve quant score

    – BS Biology / 2.6 GPA from top public university (think UIUC, UW)
      BS Mechanical Eng / 3.3 GPA from state school
       (Difficulty finding professional work so I went back and did an engineering degree while commuting and working)

    – Internships: Large telecommunications company (think Motorola, Samsung); large railcar company (Chicago Tribune top 100 workplace)

    – Work experience: 4 years at F500 aerospace company (think UTC, GE, Honeywell) working on aircraft emergency power devices. Heavy international and problem-solving experience through leading cross-functional teams of US/Polish members to identify problem causes via data analysis and shop floor experiments, stabilizing new production line. Lots of travel to Poland.

    – Extracurriculars:
    Assistant Scoutmaster (Boy Scout troop); Explorers leader (planning/running activities teaching high school youth about future careers); planned ‘Take-your-child-to-work-day’ activities at my internship; member of student board in college; member of student-run record label in college;  camping/backpacking; photography.

    – Goal: Solve problems through innovative technology in a product management role.

    – 32 yo white male

    – H / S / W, Booth, Kellogg, Sloan, Columbia, Duke, Darden

  • hbsguru

    As to Za Nu’s remarks below,

    does anyone have an opinion of what “top” Indian university would mean?

    For the record, “top 3 global consulting firm” in the Poets and Quants Universe means

    McK, Bain, BCG. altho the consulting arms of PW, etc (Big 3, whatever their current form) could count, that is not what we mean here.

    As to Poster, if you went to IIT, or other “top” Indian school, and work for MBB. well, you got a real solid chance at HWS, esp. if you execute serviceably, that is real solid record.

    ONE GUY ON INTERNET RATES INDIAN UNI’s–is this sorta in line w. our readers>

    1503Indian Institute of Science Bangalore
    2511Indian Institute of Technology Bombay
    3631Indian Institute of Technology Madras
    4699Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur
    5736University of Delhi
    6786(1) Indian Institute of Technology Delhi
    7872Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur
    8889Tata Institute of Fundamental Research
    9981Anna University
    101046University of Allahabad
    111168Panjab University
    121189(1) Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee
    131242Banaras Hindu University
    141315Jawaharlal Nehru University
    151407(1) Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati
    161452Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research
    171502Aligarh Muslim University

  • Indiagirl

    Dear Za Nu, thank you so much for taking the time out to read my comment and respond to the same.

    Duly noted, this is useful feedback to keep in mind. Will work towards distinguishing my profile in a more…genuine and plausible manner!

    But I assure you, what I’ve written is the wholly and completely truthful 🙂

  • Za Nu

    Some parts of this sound like they’re exaggerated, no offense. You appear to be the ‘first’ in a lot of things, and in a top 3 consulting firm which likely has a lot of talented people, it sounds less plausible that you were the ONLY and FIRST for so many things.
    Also, every single indian applicant appears to have done an extracurricular related to teaching kids english or reading.

    You sound like a smart person with a good profile, try to focus on your story that makes you unique, not what you think your profile should sound like for the admissions committee!
    – Former Adcom member

  • Brazilian advertising guy

    Hi, Sandy!

    Hope you find my profile interesting enough to be considered! 🙂


    – 30 years old male from Brazil
    – GMAT: 670 (Q44/V37) – I’m going to retake it aiming a 690/700 (I have to be realistic lol)
    – TOEFL: 110
    – Undergrad on Communications, major in Advertising (GPA: 3.6); Grad on Communications Management
    – 3 years working as a Sr. Marketing Strategist for IBM at Ogilvy Sao Paulo, one of the most prestigious ad agencies in the world; before that, I worked for small local agencies in my hometown
    – I’m a super awarded student and professional – got many medals during Undergrad school and won the first-ever Cannes Lion for IBM Brazil
    – I’m also a professional actor and co-founder of a theatre group – we’re now rehearsing a new play and I’m having the opportunity to work on every aspect of it
    – Extracurriculars: 3-month exchange program in New York; took a lot of courses, including Miami Ad School’s Strategic Planning Bootcamp; always writing and producing content around advertising and technology
    – Personal background: my mother is Taiwanese and my father is Brazilian, so I have a multicultural experience even at home; a lot of relatives live in the US, some of them are alumni from top BS (Harvard and Columbia, for example); I’m a proud gay man and my partner is also applying for an L.L.M. at most of the schools I’m thinking of
    – Focus: leave advertising agencies and work for the Entertainment industry, which is my true passion (looking for a business position – not production at all!)

    Schools: Kellogg, Anderson, Haas, Stern, Marshall, LBS (maybe)

    Thanks a lot!

  • Indiagirl

    Sandy, good afternoon!

    Looking forward to observations on my profile as below.

    Schools: HBS, Wharton, Stanford

    – 22 year old female from India
    – GMAT: 740 (Q: 50, V: 38)
    – GPA: 3.92 / 91%, Mathematics major from top undergraduate institution in India (conversion to 3.92 from 91% using WES GPA calculator)
    – 1.5 years of work experience with top 3 global consulting firm (mix of govt. + private sector clients) across India and South East Asia — Top projects include:
    (1) devising and deploying, as 4-member team, a blueprint with Indian government to improve movement of freight across one of the least developed regions in India
    (2) overseeing, as 10-member team, first-ever massive cost transformational initiative for top telecom operator in India
    (3) co-authoring a retail behaviour report (first ever analyst within India unit of the firm to co-author an industry report)

    – Co-run entrepreneurial venture on the side – tie-ups with top 20+ publishers in India to inculcate reading habits in school children (we supply story books + story telling workshops to 10+ schools across the country. Impacted 1,50,000+ children aged 4-16 years)

    – Extra-curriculars include vocal music (11+ years of Classical Indian music training), Classical Indian dance (7+ years of Classical dance training) and triathalons
    – Member of school’s first Alumni Board – interface between 3000+ alumni community with existing students to organise networking+mentorship-associated events

    – Short term goal: return to consulting firm and build strong network within India and abroad
    – Long term goal: use consulting network to scale up entrepreneurial venture operations world-wide

  • TechOperations

    Hi Sandy,

    R1 HBS, Wharton, MIT, Kellogg, Tuck, Stern, Georgetown

    26 year old white female
    3.89 GPA
    Ranked ~40th nationally private school in New England
    760 GMAT (77% Q, 98% V)

    Work (in reverse):
    3.5 years (to present) at major social media company in Silicon Valley (you’ve heard of it) in Supply Chain Operations (purchasing servers for data centers), with two promotions in three years from entry level to Senior (same level as people 10-15 years in the industry).
    1 year at large investment banking company (think JP Morgan, Citi, etc) in NYC in one-year Operations Analyst program
    2 internships while in undergrad in non-consulting roles (accounting) at a Big 3 consulting firm

    1 year (to present) as a Marketing Head for a small new financial literacy non-profit
    Few months (to present) in a mentoring program for the US State Department that involves travel to Africa

    Move into a strategic planning operations role at an early stage tech company, eventually owning all operations (COO)

    Thank you!

  • 2bNot2b

    Hi Sandy,

    I am applying in Round2 at Insead, Wharton, Kellogg, Haas. Please
    Profile : Indian,27 years, IIT graduate (GPA 7.1/10). First college graduate in family of very limited means.
    GMAT 750 (98%Q & 91%V)

    Experience : 4.5 years as of today. Started out as an oil-engineer for 6 months but moved into data analytics since then .Quant & strategy driven roles at Big MNC firms. Different domains like consulting, & financial services. Recently moved into Operations role, again data analytics based, in a top investment bank. Won exceptional reviews & awards so far at all work places. Top 1% performers in each of the firms.
    Volunteering: Both during college & Outside work, worked as volunteer teacher. Also helped raise funds($2000) for one of the non-profits I worked for.
    Goals :
    Short term -Move into Product management at tech firm like amazon.
    Long term – Eventually take products from emerging markets to global audience

    Thanks in Advance

  • Julio

    Hello John and Sandy,

    I am applying in Round 1 to Wharton, Booth, Kellogg and Ross

    Profile: Peruvian 26 years old
    GPA: 16.18 out of 20 (7th of a 53 student class) in top University of eru
    740 GMAT (Q51, V38)

    Work Experience:

    I worked 4 years in a Direct Sales Company as a Financial Analyst (I was promoted from Assistant to Analyst after 1 year) I worked with Financial Derivatives and Financial Forecasts. I was categorized as a top 5% performer in my job during my annual perfomance reviews. I worked in a multinational, so I worked with people from different countries in Latin America. Three months ago, I switched jobs to an oil Company, to be the Finance Leader, I am in charge of one of the financing of the companyn and financial forecasts.

    I am a CFA Charterholder, and my volunteer work is limited (8 hours a year)

    Short term goal: Work in an investment bank
    Long term goal: Become CFO of a large company in Peru.

  • yearzack@yahoo.com

    Hello John and Sandy,
    I am applying in Round 1 and Round 2 of this year.

    25 year old white male
    3.54 GPA (big state school, completed in 2 years while on active duty, first in my family to attend college)
    710 GMAT

    Work Experience:
    Enlisted in the Marine Corps at 18 and currently a reserve officer (transitioned from active duty to reserve due to family hardship). 7 years active duty. Selected as 1 of 25 to complete degree while on active duty. I have instructed over 100 Marines in the Marine Corps combatives program and marksmanship programs. Currently involved in mentorship programs for enlisted Marines. Have been promoted ahead of peers, have received numerous foreign/U.S. commendations/awards.
    Short term: Earn an MBA to transition into the financial industry.
    Long-term: Start a financial firm targeted towards helping veterans and at risk youth.
    Target Schools:
    Chapel Hill
    Any help or comments would be greatly appreciated.

  • gus.a.acosta@gmail.com

    Hello John and Sandy,

    I am currently planning to apply between rounds 1 and 2.

    27 year old male (half Cuban, quarters German and Irish so I put Hispanic though do not participate in ethnicity/race related organizations)
    GMAT – 710 (Q – 48, V – 39)
    3.28 GPA from a top 75 school (think Michigan State level) with double majors in Political Science and History, and a minor in Arabic
    Additionally completed an Intensive Arabic course at the American University in Cairo

    Extracurriculars in college:
    Service Vice President of a community service organization of 110+ members, directing its service program. Vice President and founding member of the school’s Arabic Club. Active on mock-trial.

    Work experience:
    Right out of undergrad became a volunteer ESOL teacher in Jordan for 16 months, and upon returning to the US started at TransPerfect, the largest privately owned language services provider, with $500M in annual revenue, that offers translation and tech services. My first 5 months were as a project coordinator for clinical trial research translations. Then I moved on to become a vendor manager, which recruits and manages freelancers for the company’s global network of linguists and conducts screening tests. I held this position for 1.5 years, and then I was invited to join HR as a recruiter, which is the position I currently hold. I led in recruitment results in both of my last 2 positions, and have 5 years of work experience in total.

    Additional experience:
    Have volunteered for 3+ years with a NYC based non-profit that brings language education to schools in under-served urban communities.

    Why an MBA? – To move closer to my carer goals of bringing sustainable jobs to developing countries with an emphasis on the Middle East. Most of my career has been in talent acquisition advising managers on their global production and recruitment needs, and fulfilling them. Next I want to gain the skills to create business models around that talent, changing career focus away from being limited to just language services, and work instead with businesses in other sectors such as CPG or durables to bring manufacturing jobs to developing countries.

    I’m trying to be realistic, but what are my chances of getting into: Michigan, Duke, Georgetown, Emory, UNC, Vanderbilt, Boston University?

    Any insight you could offer would truly be appreciated!

  • gus.a.acosta@gmail.com

    Hello John and Sandy,

    I am currently planning to apply between rounds 1 and 2.

    27 year old male (half Cuban, quarters German and Irish so I list Hispanic though do not participate in ethnicity/race related organizations).
    GMAT – 710
    3.28 GPA from a flag-ship state school (think Michigan State level) with double majors in Political Science and History, and a minor in Arabic.
    Additionally completed an Intensive Arabic course at the American University in Cairo

    Extracurriculars in college:
    Service Vice President of a community service organization of 110+ members, directing its service program. Vice President and founding member of the school’s Arabic Club. Active on mock-trial.

    Work experience:
    Volunteer ESOL teacher in Jordan for 16 months, then started at the largest privately owned language services provider offering translation and tech services. My first 5 months were as

  • nk734

    Hello John and Sandy,

    I am currently planning to apply Round 2.

    24 year-old white male
    GRE – 166Q 164W, 5.0 essay (730 GMAT equivalent)
    Planning to take GMAT in October and submit the GMAT if better than the GRE
    Chemical Engineering Major
    3.88 at Top 20 Public University

    Extracurriculars during college:
    outreach to teach STEM classes / encourage STEM education in inner-city high schools,
    chair of a team of 12 that planned a student Chemical Engineering Conference with over 22 universities and 240 students attending
    undergraduate research in nanotechnology (3 semesters)

    Extracurriculars since college: frequent blood donor (over 2.5 gallons)
    Hobbies: home-brewing beer, biking

    Work Experience: 2 years as Product Development Scientist (1 promotion during the first 2 years) for large multinational FMCPG company (think J&J, P&G, or Unilever) — formulation development working in a lab everyday. Will be 25 y/o and have 3 years of work experience by Fall 2017 B-school enrollment

    Internship Experience: 1 summer at same FMCPG company as formulation intern, 1 summer in Mumbai, India for the Indian subsidiary of the FMCPG company

    Goal: To learn general management, corporate strategy, disruptive innovation, entrepreneurial skills and either return to a FMCPG company as Product Development Manager or join/found disruptive consumer goods start-up.

    What are my chances at Harvard, MIT, Yale, and Wharton? Am I stretching too much?

    Thank you very much for your time!

  • cas37

    Hi John and Sandy,

    I am currently looking to apply Round 2.

    25 y/o white female
    680 GMAT–want to retake
    Business Major
    3.4 at a top 20 school in the Midwest
    Extracurriculars: Dorm government, various service organizations/projects in college, club field hockey, improv, mentor inner city high school students

    Work Experience: 3 years at major IT company. Started within an internal start up/business unit, working on new use cases that could be applied cross-industry for a first of a kind technology. This was an extremely small team with limited resources, so I led the efforts for offering development — from the ideation of use cases, to solutioning, to the selection of a content partner and pilot client (one of the largest CPG companies in the world). After a little less than a year on this team, I moved within the business unit on the the Healthcare and Life Sciences team. I currently work on a go to market team (consultative sales) focused on new use cases for our technology, and selling these first few deals. I also work on the clinical adoption of these technologies at client sites (working side by side with doctors). This role has provided me with a lot of international experience–I have been all over the world for work shops and selling to international Provider clients.

    Why an MBA? I believe that technology can transform how healthcare is delivered world wide, however, costs can be prohibitive in the development and widespread adoption of such technologies. The leadership and strategic thinking skills gained through an MBA will allow me to be in positions where I can set global marketing strategies on innovative healthcare solutions–which markets we should enter, how industry and country-specific trends may impact offering direction, and how we make such technologies accessible to all, regardless of location.

    Short-Term Goal: I want to lead the custom development of healthcare offerings and key partners and clients. This would include leading a team around solution design and delivery–managing the development of new products from conception and solution design to production implementation. I want to manage our key client relationships throughout these engagements as well.

    Long Term Goal: I want to move into a Strategic Marketing role, where I lead the direction of a company and offerings in new global market segments.

    Wharton (HCM major)

  • phillyguy

    Hi John and Sandy,

    I’m currently working through my round 1 essays and want to get a feel for how my chances will be dinged by a mediocre GPA and school.

    I went to a big state school (Ohio/Penn state) and graduated with 3.42 GPA in Economics. Was president of a fraternity and can add some fun things like ballroom dance and dancer in 46 hour dance marathon.

    Went to Capital One as an Analyst was promoted to Sr. Analyst before moving on after 3 years to do analytics for a really big telecom based in Philadelphia (just promoted to manager after 2 years). I got a 740 on my GMAT (first time) and don’t think I need to retake. I feel pretty good about my recommendations have focused on hanging my hat on analytics in my essays.

    Goal is to join big 3 consulting before eventually building an org based on data for decision-making.

    As a 27 year old white guy, what are my chances for Wharton/Columbia/Darden/NYU?

  • Txbound

    Hi John and Sandy — love the handicapping series.

    I’m applying to joint MBA/MPP programs in the hopes of transitioning to a job in the healthcare industry. My concern is that I’m an untraditional candidate in terms of my work experience:

    28y/o Hispanic male, first generation immigrant
    660 GMAT
    3.35 GPA at a Southern Ivy, coursework in calculus and economics

    Varsity Athlete, competed at National Championships
    Current Alumni Advisory Council for a fellowship program
    Current ESL and Adult Literacy teacher
    Volunteer Track and Field Coach

    Work Experience
    I have international work experience (1 year) in the human rights sector, mostly researching human rights and drug policy issues in Latin America. From there, I transitioned to a political campaign (we won), and eventually a non-profit issue advocacy organization where I managed two people. I now work in the US Government, in a mid-to-senior staff communications role for the Executive Branch.

    Why an MBA/MPP
    In my current role, I’ve been part of teams that liaised with business partners to tackle pretty pressing healthcare issues facing our country. Through that experience, I realized the powerful role that public-private partnerships have in solving some of the access and financial barriers to people seeking treatment for addictive disorders, and other illnesses more broadly.

    Schools (in order of preference)
    McCombs (I love the state of Texas, and they have excellent health innovation and community extracurricular opportunities. LBJ is a strong MPP program. Applying first round)
    Fuqua (Excellent collaborative environment, access to RTP which is a hotbed of healthcare innovation. Sanford is a strong MPP program)
    Kenan-Flagler (similar reasons to Fuqua)

    Booth and Kellogg are my two super reaches.

    Thanks for reading.

  • Ram

    Okay, seeing all the other responses, I feel like I need to go into detail a bit more.
    – I had 2 undergraduate scholarships, 1 of which was awarded to the top 50 in the college entrance exam (out of 72000)
    – My internship with the startup involved marketing an app which allowed users to buy food online to local restaurant owners
    – My internship with the Dutch firm involved yield improvement of semiconductor devices used in automobiles. The firm has shares on NASDAQ, and it has operations in the Philippines.
    – I’m interested in the tech industry because a lot of firms have been setting up shop in Southeast Asia as a result of globalization. I want to work in the region after I achieve my MBA in order to create a friendlier business environment for American firms in developing countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines.
    – As project engineer at Shell I worked at one of the biggest refineries in SEA where my job is to reduce cost from corrosion damage. I also have a green belt in six sigma. Shell in our country is a very selective employer.
    – I don’t have any involvements in charities or anything like that

    I’d also like your opinion on my chances of getting a scholarship. I come from a middle class family in a country where the minimum wage is around $10 per day, and I will be the first in my family to get a master’s degree, much less from abroad.

  • Ram

    Hi Sandy!

    I really want to apply to a B-school that will get me a spot in a tech firm. I’d like your opinion on my stats.

    25 y/o Asian
    3.5 GPA from the University of the Philippines
    Top 10% of graduating batch (Chemical Engineering)
    Worked as a project engineer for Shell for 3 years in my home country
    720 GMAT
    Extracurriculars: President of school organization, led several inter-university conferences
    Member of an international engineering organization based in Michigan

    Worked as an intern for a mobile banking startup and at a Dutch semiconductor company
    Published undergraduate thesis in a scientific journal

    Target schools: Haas, UCLA, Stanford, USC, Michigan, HBS, Kelley, UNC

    Thanks! Looking forward to your articles! 🙂

  • adc710

    Hello John and Sandy,

    I’m having a tough time deciding which schools I have a good shot at. Can you please help me out? I understand that I have an odd profile, so I would appreciate any sort of advice you can give me.


    26 yrs old
    Latino (Mexican)
    1st generation college student
    Transferred from a California Community College to a UC campus
    Born and raised in California


    BA in Economics from a top public university in California (think UC, but not Berkeley or UCLA)
    GMAT: 730
    Cumulative GPA: 3.13
    Major GPA: 2.63 (struggled due to family issues and depression caused by not being able to study abroad at LSE. For the latter, I had been accepted to the program, but couldn’t attend due to last minute financial aid issues.)


    Undergrad (after transfering):
    (1) Board member of a student economics club
    (2) Selected to volunteer at a Hispanic Scholarship Fund (HSF) event
    (2) Research Assistant for 6 months
    (3) Portfolio analyst intern for a small mutual fund for 1yr

    Post Undergrad:
    (1) Worked in operations for 3 months at a Y-Combinator startup (similar to GrubHub) before it failed.
    (2) Valuation Analyst for a top global Commercial Real Estate firm for 1yr (think JLL, C&W, Colliers)
    (3) Real Estate Analyst for top Asset Management firm for 2yrs (think BlackRock and Vanguard)

    Volunteer experience (post undergrad):
    (1) Assistant board member for a non-profit aimed at helping high school students obtain summer internships in careers that they’re interested in pursuing.

    Post MBA Goal:
    (1) Enter Real Estate Development or (2) transition into a different department in asset management.

    Thank you for taking the time to look over my profile.

  • XavierW

    Hi John and Sandy,

    I was wondering if you could evaluate my chances at LBS.

    29 yo french white man
    740 GMAT at first attempt (50Q, 40V, 7IR, 5AWA)

    Master in General Engineering for Ecole Centrale de Lyon (regularly ranked amont top 5 french engineering schools)
    Master in Innovation Management from University of Queensland in Australia (GPA 6.3/7)

    1.5 years as project manager in Singapore for Safran (CAC40 aerospace company).
    Current: 2.5 years as Senior Field Engineer for Schlumberger in the North Sea (offshore)

    I have lived 24 years abroad in Italy, Gabon, Algeria, Tunisia, Kuwait, Netherlands, Singapore, Australia, the United Kingdom and France (15 different cities).

    SHORT TERM GOAL: join one of the big three strategy consulting firms.
    LONG TERM GOAL: Come back to the Oil industry at a corporate strategy level.

    Thank you !!

  • Romain

    Hi Sandy & John,

    Since I started looking at MBA Admissions, your blog has been a reference in my parcour going through the numerous steps of my application, and I would really appreciate if you could give me some insights on my profile.

    Ms. Hospitality Analytics
    Demographics: White 23Y/O French Male
    GMAT: 700
    Double Bachelor Degree from two Prestige Swiss Business Schools:
    – Bachelor of Business Administration (Highest Distinction Top 5%)
    – Bachelor of Science in Finance (Highest Distinction Top 5% – N*1 Valedictorian)
    – Overall GPA : 3.6

    Total Working Experience : 3 Years
    – Intern in Finance at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts (France-EU 6 months)
    – Revenue Anaytics for Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Thailand, Bangkok 6 months)
    – Currently working in Advanced Analytics – Revenue Optimization at MGM Resorts International (Top World Gaming & Hospitality Corporation) USA – 3 Promotions in 2 Years – Senior Financial Analyst III.

    Leadership Roles/Research/etc at University:
    – College President for Eta Sigma Delta (International Hospitality Honour Society)
    – Top 3 Running Performer & Captain of Sports Clubs.
    – 2nd Community Service Award

    – One of the youngest Elite Runner twice Qualified for considered World’s most difficult obstacle race (24H long performing 60 miles last year – hypothermia after 17h).
    – Analytics Team Leader for Nevada Homeless Alliance Group (Community Service X’00 Volunteer Hours)

    – Short-Term: Work for a Top Hospitality / Hotel Asset Management Consulting Firm
    – Long-Term: CEO of a Top Hospitality Corporation (ex: Four Seasons / Starwood Hotels)

    Target Schools:
    – HBS, Wharton, Columbia, Chicago Booth & Cornell

    That would be crazy if you had time to look at my case,

    Thank you in avdance,

  • romain.faure@hotmail.com

    Hi Sandy & John,

    Since I started looking at MBA Admissions, your blog has been a reference in my parcour going through the numerous steps of my application, and I would really appreciate if you could give me some insights on my profile.

    Ms. Hospitality Analytics
    Demographics: White 23Y/O French Male
    GMAT: 700
    Double Bachelor Degree from two Prestige Swiss Business Schools:
    – Bachelor of Business Administration (Highest Distinction Top 5%)
    – Bachelor of Science in Finance (Highest Distinction Top 5% – N*1 Valedictorian)
    – Overall GPA : 3.6

    Total Working Experience : 3 Years
    – Intern in Finance at Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts (France-EU 6 months)
    – Revenue Anaytics for Starwood Hotels and Resorts (Thailand, Bangkok 6 months)
    – Currently working in Advanced Analytics – Revenue Optimization at MGM Resorts International (Top World Gaming & Hospitality Corporation) USA – 3 Promotions in 2 Years – Senior Financial Analyst III.

    Leadership Roles/Research/etc at University:
    – College President for Eta Sigma Delta (International Hospitality Honour Society)
    – Top 3 Running Performer & Captain of Sports Clubs.
    – 2nd Community Service Award

    – One of the youngest Elite Runner twice Qualified for considered World’s most difficult obstacle race (24H long performing 60 miles last year – hypothermia after 17h).
    – Analytics Team Leader for Nevada Homeless Alliance Group (Community Service X’00 Volunteer Hours)

    – Short-Term: Work for a Top Hospitality / Hotel Asset Management Consulting Firm
    – Long-Term: CEO of a Top Hospitality Corporation (ex: Four Seasons / Starwood Hotels)

    Target Schools:
    – HBS, Wharton, Columbia, Chicago Booth & Cornell

    That would be crazy if you had time to look at my case,

    Thank you in avdance,

  • #1Fan

    Hi Sandy,
    I think I have an unhealthy obsession with this blog!! I’m only a few weeks away from my application deadlines so I’m not sure if you’ll be able to assess my profile in time, or maybe you’ll be deliberating while the schools are 🙂

    Target schools: Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, and Harvard Kennedy School (potentially a joint or concurrent degree program – but I know your thoughts on those :P)

    Post-MBA Goal: My aspiration is to use my marketing skills to lead a social enterprise in the field of international development. I believe the communications industry may be best equipped when it comes to impacting societal change so I’d like to devote my storytelling ability to compelling people to join the poverty alleviation effort.

    Work experience: 5 years at Tier 1 and 2 CPG companies (6 years by the time I enroll) – Currently, I’m a Senior Brand Manager in the UK, I was promoted and relocated from the Canadian office last year. I’ve won a few awards for the performance of my brands. My internships during university were in fundraising consulting for non-profits.

    Volunteer experience (after graduating): Marketing Director for a well-known international development organization, board member for Canadian non-profit, mentor for young refugee, and partnerships manager for TEDx

    Awards: Winner of well-known international marketing competition

    GMAT: 750 (98%), Verbal: 46 (99%), Quant: 48 (73%), AWA: 6.0 (92%), IR: 8 (92%)

    GPA: 3.47 for my dual degree at Queen’s University in Canada: Bachelor of Commerce Honours & Bachelor of Arts with Distinction in Film & Media in an accelerated 4 years, plus a Certificate for Social Responsibility, and an International Exchange at ESADE University in Spain

    Extra-curriculars (at university): Various leadership roles (outreach director, co-chair of non-profit club, leader in student government, international business conference, frosh orientation, etc.), volunteer abroad trip in peru, and a few awards for extra-curricular leadership (director of the year, most in-demand event, charity event of the year)

    Demographic profile: 27 year old Canadian female (parents born in India and East Africa)

    If you aren’t able to assess my odds, it would be great to know your thoughts on two specific things:
    – My GPA is below average for my target schools, do you think my GMAT score makes up for this? Or the fact that I went to a competitive business school and completed 2 degrees along with several extracurriculars? Do you think it is something I should try and justify in the “additional information” section of the application or would that just draw more attention to it?

    – Is my goal clear and specific enough? Do you think each school will see this goal in a different light? Truthfully, my passion is in international development work but I could see myself working for a social enterprise (HBS angle), becoming a social entrepreneur (Stanford angle), or working in the comms department for something like the world bank (HKS angle). Do you think it’s smart to tailor my goals to the schools?


    Your number one fan

  • Ms.Ambitious

    Hi Sandy,

    I would appreciate any comments/suggestions you may have. I am going to apply for the HBS 2+2 program & Stanford Deferred Admissions

    21y/o Asian at a top 50 college (part of the Honors Program)
    Majors: Information Systems & Finance; getting certificates in both Entrepreneurship (based of the Harvard case method) and Leadership
    GPA: 3.74
    GMAT: Haven’t taken the actual exam, but scoring in the 720-740 range on practice exams

    Job Experience/Internships (Starting From Most Recent):
    1) Currently working on my own app idea and developing a business plan
    2) Interned at a large consulting tech company (think Accenture, SAP, Cap, IBM)
    3) Interned abroad at a non-profit organization started and supported by one of the Big 3
    4) Interned abroad at a prominent wall street law firm
    5) Worked as a Personal Assistant at a pediatric center (but filled in the role of an office manager and managed 13 employees on a daily basis)

    Why 2+2/MBA?
    SHORT TERM: I want the ability to take risks and be more flexible in the career path that I choose. I want to start my own tech company and have the freedom to take risks knowing that I will attend HBS after 2-4 years.
    LONG TERM : I am going to join my family business and I want to make sure that I am equipped to be an asset to the firm and that I can help expand it. I want to develop a holistic perspective on the business world as well as take courses on family business management.

    Leadership Roles/Research at University:
    1) Research Assistant – Conducting research on poverty in developing countries
    2) In Charge of a medium sized club (80 members)
    3) Mentor for a middle schooler
    4) Student Tutor
    5) TA for an Information Systems course
    1) Treasurer for a small club (10-15 members)
    2) Founder of an initiative to help the local homeless community
    3) Member of a service sorority on campus

  • James

    Hi Sandy!

    Could you please have a loot at the below and let me know what you think. In particular, I am not sure if my short term goal of working in Corporate finance would be “sexy” enough for business schools. I am pretty much certain I have no interest in PE/IBD and consulting.

    Demographics – Eastern European male – father is a diplomat so have traveled quite a lot and speak five languages fluently
    Scores: GMAT: 750; GPA: 4.00 from a top 25 liberal arts college in the USA, valedictorian in a class of 400-600 people
    Majored in Economics with a minor in mathematics

    Work experience: Only one employer to date, big 4 auditing firm in Europe. Work in audit, which is the most competitive job in the country I am at currently. Was given a lot of responsibility early on due to the financial crisis and high performance, handle my own clients and have 2 to 3 people working under me on most of my projects. Great yearly evaluations, with two promotions to date, both with the highest contribution index. Expecting very good recommendations from direct supervisor.

    Extracurriculars: Provide financial advice to charity which works with refugees. Main areas of responsibility include grant applications to European and global institutions;
    Co-captain of big 4 football team; organise training sessions and compete in a semi-professional league
    In the process of founding a company and developing an application providing a unique services related to soccer; in development stage

    Short-term goal: Corporate finance in a fortune 100/500 company

    Long-term goal: Sports team CFO (essays focus on what and why a sports team in particular)

    Target schools: HBS, Stanford; Booth; Kellogg; Stern

  • Mr. Engineering Manager

    Hi guys,

    Thanks in advance for your comments/suggestions.

    I am looking to apply to Kellogg MMM/MBA (still reaching out to alum’s and researching to make the final decision), Sloan LGO (with a Supply Chain/Data Analytics focus), Booth, Tuck, Darden & Ross

    I would like to get your thoughts on whether I should retake the GMAT to raise my score to outside of the middle 80% for the schools that I would like to apply to. I am asking since I feel that I have a pretty generic profile and am hoping that it would give my profile a chance to be looked at.

    I am an Engineer/Technical Account Manager managing a $1m automotive account. As the only onsite point of contact, I primarily manage the different projects with our client and interact with different technical teams to understand their needs and thereby open up new project opportunities. Apart from the management aspect of it, I work closely with the technical/design teams as an Aerodynamics expert, providing recommendations to improve performance and efficiency.

    740 Q50 & V41 – overall 97th percentile; 6 on IR and waiting on AWA scores

    B.Tech – Mechanical Engineering – from one of the top 50 Indian Univs – 2011 – 8.86/10 (Dean’s list – 3 years)
    MS – Mechanical Engineering (Focus in Computational Simulation) – UPenn (apologies if I am breaking any rules here by being explicit) – 2013 – 3.74/4

    Have always involved myself in teaching (primarily Math & Science for school children). Currently, I am a volunteer with an organization that holds a 2 hour math tutoring every week, for children who are deprived of good quality education. Additionally, I have been helping the org with writing proposals for donation drives & with improving their online presence. Besides this, I am trying to be actively involved with Toastmasters, at my work.

    With the strong analytical background and the few years of managing projects, I hope to get into Strategy/Consulting after MBA.

    I am very much interested in the Kellogg MMM program since I have been impressed with the Design Thinking concept from when I got introduced to it. I participated in a couple DT meetup’s organized in my area recently and I strongly believe that the approach would greatly compliment my ‘purely technical’ background thus far and help me to come out as a very well-rounded candidate post-MBA.

  • Mr. Caribbean

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for all the insights provided in your posts. I’m a very non-traditional applicant with a mixed background and have no idea how I would be viewed by an ADCOM so I would really appreciate if you could give me your feedback on my admissions profile.

    Mr Caribbean
    29 y/o African male from the Caribbean
    First generation college student
    720 GMAT, 3.2 GPA from top Caribbean university, Majored in Mgmt Studies min. Finance
    CFA Charterholder

    Work Experience: I worked throughout college to pay my way through. Started post graduate career
    in a small investment banking shop and left after one year to become an investment analyst at a major Canadian bank’s Asset Management unit (AUM – US$3B). Heavy quant job making buy and sell recommendations on S&P 500 companies.

    After 3 years went into the energy sector (still in finance) at a global major (think Shell, Total) managing joint ventures and negotiating deals. Performed economic evals on over US$2B in investments. Reason for move was the greater impact the work would have on my country and the broader Caribbean given energy needs.

    Extracurriculars: In college was the President of the Management Society (largest campus club outside of the student government). Elected board member of the local CFA society. Avid endurance athletes having completed several triathlons, adventure races and marathons. Manager of my work soccer team

    Member of the Renewable Energy committee of local lobby group. .

    Why MBA: Improve leadership skills to help regional energy transition to clean tech

    Post MBA: Big 3 consulting (preferably in energy practice) then transition back to Caribbean when time is right.

    Target Schools:

  • Mr. PE-Backed Entrepreneur

    Hi, I would greatly appreciate your feedback on my admissions profile! My main weakness is quant grades in college and lower on GMAT but want to know if rest of profile will outweigh that “silver/bronze” part. Thank you!

    Mr. PE-backed Entrepreneur
    27 y/o married white male
    770GMAT // 48Q (71%) // 51V (99%)
    3.3 undergrad GPA from an top 100 private university
    Majored in Finance
    C+ in Calc and Marketing during college are weak and GPA tailed off during senior year (3.15)
    Parental cancer diagnosis and eventual death during college. Had to start working to pitch in – worked 15-20 hrs/week as intern at boutique (1bn AUM) Private Equity Real Estate fund to support self

    Work Experience
    – Intern at PERE firm (mentioned above interned Junior – Senior year during school and summers)
    – Analyst at same PERE firm in Texas after graduation (served for 1 year)
    – Promoted to Associate after 1 year; junior member of 2 man team managing portfolio of ~20 properties with book value of $310M (served for 2 years). Led teams of asset managers, analysts and oversaw joint-venture general partners
    – Left to co-found industrial waste management focused start up (think mobile recycling/remediation) with a partner. Raised >$50M from blue chip PE fund to launch company. Is this considered “Cleantech”?
    – Manage day to day operations of business that has grown to 40 employees and $6.5M in revenue. Think CFO/COO hybrid
    – Planning to sell the business in 6-9mos

    – brought pediatric cancer organization to campus and led events for four years – convinced >100 students to shave their heads in solidarity with pediatric cancer victims and raised >100k
    – elected president of 150 member fraternity
    – post-college served as young membership chair for local chapter of professional org – grew membership by 20% during 3 year tenure
    – pretty much stopped any/all EC when we launched the business but recently advised and joined the board of a sober-living start up that operates 3 homes for recovering addicts

    Why an MBA?/Post MBA: I want to take opportunity after sale of business to institutionalize the lessons learned as PE investment pro and PE backed entrepreneur — I want to transition back into consulting with a specific focus on turnaround/transformation practice — eventually lead takeovers of struggling companies and lead transformation/turnaround as CEO….or I want to transition back into PE since I have entrepreneurs perspective now. Either way I want to have blue chip pedigree and network. Not sure which one I should go with in app?

    Target Schools

    Thank you much!

  • real1g

    Hi Guys,

    U.S. manufacturing family business applicant, evaluate my profile please:

    750 GMAT, 3.1 GPA
    B.S. Business Administration; Minor in Philosophy from Jesuit University in the Bronx.
    White, 27 y/o Male

    -2 years as an equity research analyst at a small, boutique $150M AUM hedge fund
    -Last 2.5+ years working at family manufacturing business located in SF Bay Area ($15M+ annual revenues, 80+ employees, 150,000 sq. foot mfg facility w/ $20M in real estate holdings, mostly do automotive, ag, solar, and recycling rubber + plastic molding)
    -Took two courses at UC Extension this past spring, Adv. Statistics and Macroecon.. got A’s.. as I’m aware my undergrad GPA is quite.. low.
    -ECs are weak.. started an ESL school at work.. near fluency in Spanish myself.

    Goal: Upon completion of B-School, take over family business as CEO.

    Schools: Stanford, Haas, CBS J-Term, Kellogg, Sloan

    Your thoughts?

  • stephentooliv@gmail.com

    Hi Guys,

    U.S. manufacturing family business applicant, evaluate my profile please:

    750 GMAT, 3.1 GPA
    B.S. Business Administration; Minor in Philosophy from Jesuit University in the Bronx.
    White, 27 y/o Male

    -2 years as an equity research analyst at a small, boutique $150M AUM hedge fund
    -Last 2.5+ years working at family manufacturing business located in SF Bay Area ($15M+ annual revenues, 80+ employees, 150,000 sq. foot mfg facility w/ $20M in real estate holdings, mostly do automotive, ag, solar, and recycling rubber + plastic molding)
    -Took two courses at UC Extension this past spring, Adv. Statistics and Macroecon.. got A’s.. as I’m aware my undergrad GPA is quite.. low.
    -ECs are weak.. started an ESL school at work.. near fluency in Spanish myself.

    Goal: Upon completion of B-School, take over family business as CEO.

    Schools: Stanford, Haas, CBS J-Term, Kellogg, Sloan

    Your thoughts?

  • Adi

    Mr. Chartered Accountant

    Demographics: 27Yrs old Indian male

    Academics: Indian Chartered Accountant, Bachelors of Commerce degree from Delhi University with 3.3 GPA UG, 700 GMAT.

    Employment status: Entrepreneur & co-founder of a wood based company, Part time association with Tax & audit work.

    Work Experience: Was involved directly in starting a trading firm(of plywood, doors etc) together with my brother in 2011, after 2 years started our own production at a leased premises and in 2016 built our own unit of 125000 sqft area.Headed various departments like Finance, administration, production, purchase & human resource from past 5 years in both our trading & manufacturing. Also as a Chartered Accountant lead audit teams, worked as a team member, tax & accountancy was a daily sort of thing.

    Why An MBA?: “I believe that most of the entrepreneurs in small cities of India like us(especially MSMEs) have a potential to grow at a global level and with the startup ecosystem flourishing in small cities in India there is a need of quality and world class finance, marketing, managerial, legal & accounting services, so MBA for me is to gain world class knowledge, to learn the point of view of people across the globe, to see how the bigger picture works and to widen the opportunities available to me (both for existing business/profession or new ones).”

    Short-Term Goal: To return to India with the knowledge & exposure and fill the gap between doing hard work & doing smart work.”

    Long-Term Goal: “To be a successful Venture Capitalist & entrepreneur and to contribute to the industries in India who cannot afford world class consultancy & knowledge but have the capability to become great and change themselves in a positive way because when they change the world will change”.

    Target Schools: Wharton, Stanford, Columbia, MIT, Chicago, Stern, Yale, Tuck.

    “I am planning to apply in Round 2 this year and am hopeful about my chances but as I am a nontraditional applicant from Accountancy field there are doubts about the same too.”

    I hope the duo of P&Q and HBSGuru would enlighten me on the situation.

  • Ms. The Next Issa Rae

    John & Sandy,

    I’m trying to soak up all of the incredible nuggets you’re sharing (I poured through all of your previous responses). I’d love to hear from you on where you think I measure up for my target MBA programs:

    Demographics: US Born African-American female, 27 from upstate NY (first generation college, immigrant parents, low income)

    Undergrad: Non-HYP Ivy, History major, 3.3 GPA

    ECs: Radio DJ, dance group, student assembly chair, editor and chief of a women’s mag, founder of an african students group, alumni annual fund

    Internships: top underprivileged teen girls non profit in marketing, 2 different blue chip more corporate/ mad men creative agencies in account management on blue chip brands (think American Express, Mondelez) – this is pretty much unheard of for a woman of color with zero connections and not from a top ad program (UF, UT, Syracuse etc – even ivies don’t mean much). I completely self taught myself, cold emailed/charmed recruiters and launched my career!

    GMAT: 700 (2nd attempt)

    First 3 years: started at top globally ranked creative ad agency working on blue chip category leader brands (think P&G, Coca-Cola, Nike); skipped entry level assistant/coordinator role right to Account Executive after graduation; began managing direct reports after 6 mos (solid reco from a Cannes/Effies judge EVP/former boss); worked on some of the most quantitive ad campaigns of my peer group – brand restage segmentation, rigorous Millward Brown consumer quant testing, global focus group learning plans, ground floor technology product storytelling with R&D teams etc

    Next year: was poached to go to a 200 person, VC backed Silicon Alley startup (think Warby, Bonobos) in brand management, elevated to manager. Expanded my marketing mix skill set, beyond the advertising promotions side of marketing into the other “P’s”, pricing analysis, packaging, ecomm strategy/retail, supply chain operations etc. I reported to division GM (solid reco/former boss). Only left because I was poached by my dream company that I didn’t think I had a shot at pre-MBA.

    Past 2 years: senior manager in branded content marketing at a top media company (think NBCU, HBO), top of my cohort/peer group, managing a group, winning awards for marketing programs (including a business school case study) as well as personal achievements (think 30 under 30), guest lecturing at my alma mater, speaking on industry panels etc.

    Current involvement: exec board for a marketing trade organization, admissions interviewer for my alma mater, early childhood literacy advocate (volunteer for summer reading drives and literacy programs), poetry/spoken word, dance

    My mission: The media and advertising landscape as we know it is sinking out from under us (paid TV audience erosion, ad blockers/skipping, short form dominating above all else)…as someone who started my career as a digital native on some of the earliest truly 360, fan first campaigns and programs, I’m well poised to leverage MBA tools and elevate myself as a leader in architecting new world order marketing and entertainment across all screens.

    Reach: Stanford, HBS

    Match: Cornell, Northwestern, Marshall, Anderson, Yale SOM, Tuck

    Safety: UMiami, Duke, Ross

    Excited to hear back

  • Mnraider

    John and Sandy, I’d really appreciate it if you could give me an idea of where I stand for a few MBA programs as the Round 1 deadlines fast approach.

    Demographics: 27 Year Old US Born Male

    College: Small liberal arts college in the midwest. Majored in accounting. 3.81 GPA

    Masters: Notre Dame, MS Accountancy, 3.65 GPA

    GMAT: 700

    Work Experience (most recent to least recent): 2 years at Fortune 10 healthcare venture capital firm, known for creating businesses from idea to concept all the way through funding and scale. Served as interim VP of Finance at portfolio company during tenure as an associate with CVC group. 2 years in healthcare investment banking at well-known (in healthcare circles) middle-market bank. 1 year as public accountant at big 4 firm, also a CPA.

    Career Goals: I want to use an MBA to to expand my network outside of the midwest and ultimately lead investment and management of a portfolio of disruptive healthcare startups.

    Extracurriculars: Played four years of varsity football in undergrad (~30+ hrs per week), created and hosted campus televison show (only non-journalism major to host show), accounting tutor (undergrad), student-athlete study hall monitor (grad), avid sports fan, cyclist, anti-inflammatory cooking novice and yogi.

    Schools: Wharton, Stanford, Harvard, Kellogg, Columbia

    Thanks for your time,

    Mr. Healthcare Finance

  • niketsubhedar@gmail.com

    Hey John and Sandy. I’d really appreciate it if you could give me an idea of where I stand for a few MBA programs as I am beginning to think about where to apply.

    Demographics: 25 Year Old US Born Indian Male

    College: Top 100 Private University. Majored in Healthcare Management with Minors in Business Administration and finisihed Pre-med as I thought I would want to go to medical school. 3.36 GPA although junior and senior year I averaged a 3.9.

    Work Experience: 3 years in a Management Rotational Program at a top 10 Pharma company (think J&J, Merck, Bayer). Had rotations in Sales, R&D Business Strategy, and Brand Marketing. I was 1 of 25 selected for my class.

    Career Goals: I want to use an MBA to come back to the Pharma/Biotech industry to pursue higher level roles as a brand management or strategy manager.

    Extracurriculars: Was youngest appointed member for my company’s Vice-President advisory board. Ive volunteered for 3 years teaching health and fitness for mentally disabled patients. I started a healthcare management club during college and led it to be one of the fastest growing student body clubs. Also an avid tennis and basketball player.

    Schools: Wharton, Duke, Cornell, University of Michigan, Georgetown, Boston University, USC and UNC Chapel Hill.

    Thanks for your time as always,

    Mr. Big Pharma

  • Pick CBS

    The CBS MBA is going to open way more doors in the private sector than an HKS MPA. Also unless sponsored, HKS grads come into McKinsey a level below the MBA’s. As for cost some programs such as HBS/HKS offer a free tuition fellowship the first year. Finally, make sure the program actually has a joint degree with HKS, I think Kellogg discontinued theirs and don’t believe CBS has one (probably want to funnel students to SIPA).

  • jcjufer@gmail.com

    Hello all, I am currently serving in the military and I am looking to utilize the GI Bill once I finish my current enlistment. Considering a dual degree with either law or public policy.

    Professional Goals: I am unable to discuss the nature of my work in depth due to this being an open forum, however I can say that my work for the military draws broadly from the research methods and practice of marketing. I would like to transition into marketing or political consulting (hence the dual degree).

    UGPA 3.74/4 (Tier 2 Public, usually ranked around 90-110)

    Majors: Philosophy, Mathematics

    GRAD: MA in Religion (Ivy, GPA not calculated)

    GRE V:166 Q:162 W: 4.5 (should I take the GMAT or are these tests given equal value? GMAT conversion places my score at a 700)

    Work Experience: One year teaching high school, five years enlisted military (2-3 years in Special Operations, creating political, cultural, and communications products for foreign audiences)

    Other relevant factors: intermediate working proficiency in Farsi (Iran) and Dari (Afghanistan)

    Reaches: Harvard, Dartmouth, Yale, Duke, Virginia

    Targets: Cornell, UNC Chapel Hill, Georgetown

    Safeties: Stetson, U of Florida, Florida State

    Thanks in advance!

  • hbsguru

    ha, ha. Probably not, but even your hypo is not the slam dunk you may think it is. For one thing, lots of HKS kids go to McKinsey, and chances of getting a job at MCK fr. CBS vs. HKS could tip that metric to HKS (depending on how you did the math). Also, there is X factor, chances of meeting new, important, life-changing people is way higher in the HKS eco-system, altho this is hard to put a number on, and a good of that happening depends on what kind of person you are and what your interests are.
    Real life outcomes are rarely what people imagine they will be entering B school.
    Just saying.

  • WEST

    wait a minute! “I’m a huge believer (shocking, I know) in branding. Going to Harvard in any legitimate capacity is life changing, even the flipping Ed School” even for pure business professional? are you saying that the MPA from Harvard is better than an MBA from Columbia (for example) for someone in GE Power wants to move to Mckinsey? just as example.

  • Ms.Govt

    Also do you think I’d be a good fit for Stanford? They have the dual program in Ed Leadership

  • Ms.Govt

    Thanks for the feedback! Can you expand more on what you mean by being less screamy, haha? am seriously considering HKS but an MBA is attractive to me because of the new skillsets/topics I’d be exposed to since my experience has been so heavy in the public sector. And I absolutely have role models in govt/ed sector who have MBAs so will definitely take your suggestion to discuss them, thanks!

  • Ms Oil & Gas

    Hello John & Sandy!
    I would be applying for MBA this year and was very anxious about my odds. I go through your posts regularly but couldn’t find the exact fit as my profile. Could you please give your expert opinion on my profile given below.

    Ms. Oil & Gas
    -710 GMAT (50 Quant & 35 Verb) Plan to retake and get my score atleast to 740.
    -9.04 CGPA/ 10 from IIT India (Department Rank 1, Institute Silver Medalist)
    -Integrated Masters Degree in Geology (5 year course in IIT)
    -Worked with the top service provider in Oil & Gas (Schlum/Baker/Hali) for 3 years. Involved in advising technical solutions to oil and gas majors in India (ONGC, OIL etc) and globally (KOC, Exxon). Member of 6 member team generating 1m$ annually,
    Involved in a project for the Ministry of Petroleum & Gas worth 90$ and was on a drill ship in deep water to advice real time operational decisions to stake holders from India, US and Japan to explore a new source of energy for the nation.
    Had trainings in Abu Dhabi and Italy with students from wide range of nationalities (11-12 countries at a time).
    -Quit recently to pursue a challenging role in energy consultancy. (No offer yet)
    -Extra-curriculars: Led pan India events (award ceremony and other competitions) for the service provider I worked for. Managed teams of 10-15 for the same.
    Maintained a blog (fashion genre) with 100K+ views and collaboration with major brands in India.
    Coached fresh members for fashion events during college time.
    Taught underprivileged students from nearby villages during college for a year. And participated and organized awareness plays for their parents on importance of education.
    Participated and won various events on unconventional energy resources held by Shell in college.
    -Also received the DAAD scholarship and had a 2.5 months internship in Germany during college.
    -Received awards of excellence from the organization and appreciation letters from several clients.
    -Goal: After having gained experience in the oil and gas industry, I want to pursue MBA to build my management skills and business knowledge to successfully pursue the dream of contributing as an energy consultant with a major player (MBB).
    -25 year old Indian female

    I am planing to apply to round 1 of the following colleges:
    Stanford, Berkeley, Wharton, NYU Stern & Kellogg
    Any other college where you see a bright chance for this profile?


  • TechMSGuy

    Hi Christina,
    Thank you for your response. I am actually a Cloud Architect for Microsoft. I do not know much about the Consortium and MLT Programs. I will conduct some research on both programs and apply. Will the programs increase the odds of getting in the programs also?

  • hbsguru

    grrr. As you sense, this is a real strong K-school/MPA application, and given the choice between getting an MPA fr. Kennedy School or an MBA fr. Mich or NYU, I would go w. K-school, unless your real dream is flip into IB and make millions, or any variant of that.
    Lots of K school kids also wind up at McKinsey etc., something else to think about.
    Your ‘problem’ is not GPA, it’s that resume does not clearly lead to B school, and no amount of your yelling in the app is going to change adcom’s mind. They may admit you anyway b.c. they like you and w. better GRE score, you might have OK stats for them.
    I’m not seeing this as HBS altho I could be wrong, they take 1-4 kids a year with similar
    TFA + 1 and 2 more experiences, altho those kids are often golden children with rock solid GPA/GMAT scores, TFA and maybe one more job as right hand person to Secty of HEW etc. On the other hand, you are cert. in the trenches, and they may respect that.
    I believe (someone confirm) that you can apply to dual HBS-HKS program and get admitted to HKS and dinged at HBS, soooo, you should do that, if dinged at HBS, think real hard about HKS.
    I’m a huge believer (shocking, I know) in branding. Going to Harvard in any legitimate capacity is life changing, even the flipping Ed School.
    HKS is a wonderful license to hustle, as I have noted in the past.
    You may get into the other MBA programs you note, lots to like here.
    An elevated GRE score would make life easier for everyone.
    Do a less screamy and more substantive and quiet job about why MBA, allude to edu and other govt figures w. MBAs and say they are role models.

  • Ms.Govt

    And silly me forgot the schools I’m applying to:

    HBS (potential to apply Dual HKS)

  • Ms.Govt

    Hi there, would greatly appreciate your feedback on my admissions profile! I feel I have a strong narrative and reasons for wanting an MBA but am very worried about my test scores.

    Ms Govt
    25 y/o white female, 26 at time of application (Round 2)
    First-generation college student, parents did not finish high school
    3.5 undergrad GPA from an ivy-like (like a Duke)
    158Q, 159V GRE – will be re-taking
    Work experience includes two years in TFA, held school leadership roles and won teaching awards
    One-year selective public policy fellowship where worked in a city’s public housing agency, focused on their financial sustainability plan and working with local elected officials
    2+ years working in chief operating office of a large school district, promotion after 1 year, current management position, focus on strategic advisement
    extra-curricular involvement: on junior board of a neighborhood youth development organization, volunteer in neighborhood group voting on local policies

    Why an MBA?: I have worked in environments where it’s tough to break the status quo and make measurable impact. In order to lead in these settings one must be able to come up with creative solutions, make decisions utilizing difficult to gather data, build relationships with various stakeholders, and for lack of better phrasing, bring private sector skills. I want to develop my skills in quantitative analysis, build my confidence as a manager, and expose myself to new ways of management.

    I originally thought about an MPA but since I have ~3 years working in government I want a degree that will expose me to new ways of thinking and courses that can add other skills to my tool belt. I’ve considered HKS but not sure I can afford three years of graduate school and think my public policy fellowship was enough in this area.

    Post-MBA goals: public sector consulting to hone my skills in analysis, then would like to go into state/federal government and run a program either in education or housing, long-term pipe dream would be to run for some sort of local office

  • JohnAByrne


  • hbsguru

    ahem, some back channel poking by li’l ol’ me got Papa John out of his trance.

  • Warren

    It took him 3 minutes to approve it. Is his minute a day for you?!

  • hbsguru

    Sign of things to come? The Hamilton question?

    Wake Forest University new essay question: Hamilton
    has become a cultural phenomenon with history and rap and the “often-overlooked story of Alexander Hamilton.”
    Choose an unsung historical figure who deserves the Hamilton treatment.” Whom would you nominate?

    People wonder why adcoms are often thought of as trendy, stupid, inarticulate, and [add your own].

    I think what this question is getting at is finding High School kids who know about Broadway, e.g. kids w. wealthy, liberal parents.

    Anyway, consultants love stupid crap like this, but that is more confirmation of my point above, e.g. they are also looking for kids whose parents hire consultants.

  • hbsguru

    VERY useful article about feeder colleges to top B schools, esp. HBS and Wharton–you can extrapolate from there. Read this in synch w. my post directly above it.

  • hbsguru

    USC is similar to my alma mater, NYU, not as well regarded as other schools nearby [Columbia, Stanford, Berk] but a plausible place to come from, esp. if 1. you had reasons for going there (they gave you lotsa $$$), 2. You broke out from the soft core of beach bunnies, jocks, slacker rich kids and other stereotype USC types and got a first job at a selective place.
    Also see very informative stats in article below, the link to which may take John Burn a while to approve, I understand he is at a 3-day EST cave-meeting.

  • Trojan

    sorry .. perceived

  • Trojan

    S California.

  • Trojan

    Sandy, how USC undergrad persevered by the top 5 b schools?

  • hbsguru

    Going to Penn State is not an issue, Top 5 B schools are OK with that if it fits some kind of first-gen college, etc. narrative of young lad on the way up. What may be more of an issue is how they compute Deloitte and Bulge Bracket experience–you are competing in a cohort of finance types where often the profile is Bulge Bracket–PE or VC or HF.
    So given choice between that guy fr. Near Ivy-ish college (public or private) and then IB-PE, they will take THAT guy.
    Esp. if your GMAT does not go much over 700.

    Ironically, that is where the Penn State DNA comes back to bite you. What you shudda done was get Bulge Brack. job right out of college. “Ha ha, you say, that is real hard at Penn State.”
    Yup, I say back, that is how top b schools punish kids like you without saying they do that.
    Let’s not get too cute, tho. Get a 730 GMAT and solid recs, and execute serviceably and you got a solid shot at Wharton, Columbia, Tuck, Yale etc.
    Not sure the Nat. Guard vs. reg. Army is an issue, military service is a plus–and schools don’t split hairs over it. I’d be real interested if anyone has anecdotes, hearsay, etc. contra.

  • bob

    Hi Sandy,

    Would appreciate your input on my profile. I plan to apply next year.
    Age: 29 (will be 30 at application)
    White male
    Haven’t taken the GMAT but tend to do quite well on these types of exams. Got a 680 on a practice test cold with no prep. I believe I could get 750+.

    Have CFA Level I

    2.9 GPA, no-name state school in the midwest. Broken transcript w/ starts and stops and graduated at 26. During one break I was playing poker full time which the financial firms to which I will eventually apply might like but (the women in) adcoms might not.

    Work experience is all over, had to job hop a lot but now I am in a good spot. I started off with a low level data entry role during which I took on a big database project that led to being an actuary at a large F500 company. Now I am in the finance department of a private mid-size company that does a few M&A deals a year. So I will have had 3 jobs total when I apply, each of them for a little over 1 year.

    Goal is to be an investment banker and get into any school that is high enough ranked to accomplish this (Anderson or better). Would prefer south or west coast for the weather.

    Thanks for your input.

  • Christina Brown

    Blink is right. I don’t see HBS or Stanford unless you amp up the impact in your leadership and community services. You have a great profile nonetheless and since you are going to PM (which I personally am aiming for down the road), look into MIT Sloan/ MIT LGO (MS in Engineering + MBA), Kellogg MMM (MS in Design + MBA), Haas (ur alma mater I know, but ya lol), Tuck, UCLA Anderson, Cornell, and Wharton.

  • Christina Brown

    Have you checked out the Consortium/ MLT program? You should! 🙂
    Are you a strategy/corporate dev consultant in your current job? I sense you are working at Google or FB.

    I see NYU, Ross, Darden, Cornell, Columbia, Yale, Duke, and maybe Tuck. I think Wharton, Kellogg, and Booth are stretches but you have to put together a very compelling application with well-rounded admission and optional essays, and really think deeply about why you want to attend those schools. But it is worth a shot! 😀

    With the Consortium, I can see you definitely getting full-rides at top 10-20 schools.

  • Mr. Almost There

    Hi Sandy,

    These posts have been very helpful, If you’d be so kind, I’d greatly appreciate
    an evaluation. I’m a white male, with a Hispanic sounding
    last name thanks to Ellis Island during WWI – I usually do not identify my
    race, and, truth be told, our family’s history is not that clear.

    I and taking it again soon, but my current GMAT is 700, GPA
    is 3.52 (in-major is 3.694) from Marist, a small-medium sized selective private
    school, with good placement at the Big 4, and at places like Goldman Sachs,
    Morgan Stanley in NYC, and IBM, so it is not unknown. It is primarily known for
    Finance, Accounting, Comp Sci, and Fashion (I studied IB), and has a small,
    selective, but very strong Strategy cohort, of which I am a part.

    EC activities included leadership within the Greek system, my
    fraternity on the national level, and the theater program, as well as heavy
    & diverse charity involvement, primarily relating to domestic
    abuse/relationship violence. I continue this kind of work through my nationally
    ranked (club) rugby team. I was involved in sports, and I am an active Second
    Dan in Shaolin Kempo Karate – this, in part, is why I have a Daoist/Austrian
    Economics mindset/history, of direct progress through indirect means, by
    diversifying my activities & studies I can apply what I have learned elsewhere,
    often in ways that others have not, towards my goals/tasks.

    I am certified in Level 1 Competitive Intelligence from, and
    won accolades at, the F.G.H. Academy of CI.

    I interned a local consulting firm (Big 3 retiree couldn’t stay retired) and
    then at my current company, a 3-year old start up that works at the
    intersection of business, law, and healthcare.

    While a start-up, I recognized the opportunities this
    company would afford me from my internship. For example, I am interfacing, and
    on a first name basis, with the continental director of one of the largest
    insurance companies in the world, I work with VPs, executive, and other directors
    at hospitals and healthcare systems across the country, and my work goes in
    front of the higher levels I do not directly interface with.

    My current responsibilities revolve around our data
    analytics – coordinating and managing the logistics and operations, performing the
    analytical evaluation and pumping out reports, and representing business needs
    to teams of software engineers to continually improve the abilities of our in-house
    analytics platform.

    Before this role, I worked as an analyst, solving problems
    as they arose, mostly relating to market and target research profiles, but also
    including major projects such as researching and codifying specific laws in all
    50 states (for translation into the analytics system), the maintenance of a
    predictive forecasting model (designed by someone else with far more experience
    in modeling, but based on my initial findings), and the development of a
    back-bone ID infrastructure – now used in all of our business platforms – that is
    specifically designed to account for the co-opetition (and transfer of assets
    amongst clients) within the industry – this is what led to my promotion.

    My goal is to leverage my experience + an MBA into a strategic
    consultant role for one of the big 3, and then find my way into a corporate strategy
    leadership role, either leveraging my experience in healthcare, or making the
    jump to Aerospace and Defense Technology.

    Targets: # 1 is
    Northwestern MBA/JD Program, and Harvard, Duke, Yale, NYU, and Wharton MBAs, as
    I have not taken my LSAT yet, and I can pursue the JD at a later date if I get
    into a top 5.

    Why the JD?:

    A&D and Healthcare are two of the most highly regulated industries
    and, due to the increasing importance of technology in these fields, a mass of changes
    and regulations is sure to come down as technology continues to far outpace
    existing laws. Understanding and interpreting the laws, as well as the law
    makers, when negotiating and predicting major movements, will be essential to
    strategy in these industries.

    When it comes to gold-plated opportunities, I have a knack
    of making it through 5 interviews before something happening in the last round:
    Google, Bloomberg, UTC (Lockheed bought Sikorsky); this is what keeps driving
    to go big or go home.


    Thank you!

  • Catherine

    Thanks that is really helpful and puts my mind a bit more at ease re age. The one year courses do feel like they might work and may apply if I can get my application together in time. Thanks for replying!!

  • Mr. National Guard

    Hey Sandy,

    After pouring through all your past posts I thought I’d try my luck. Hoping I catch you in a generous mood…

    I went to a big state school (Ohio/Penn state) and graduated with a degree in finance and a 3.89 GPA. Took some extra classes in math and stat post graduation. On my first GMAT attempt I scored a 700 but will definitely take it again.

    Had a financial advisory internship during college as well as a Deloitte advisory internship. I spent two years in Deloitte consulting right after graduation and then two more at a bulge bracket IB as a analyst. I’m also currently a aviation officer in the army national guard.

    During school I had leadership positions in ROTC clubs, a business fraternity, investment club and took trips to poor areas in a European country as well as Miami to do volunteer work. Since then I’ve stayed active with volunteer work to help deal with poverty.

    I should have great recs from both national guard and from work. I don’t exactly know how to explain going national guard instead of full time army (it just made sense to keep the ball rolling with my career). I haven’t seen any profiles with any reserve/national guard people. Is that good or bad? Also, is it a big red flag that I didn’t go to a better school? No excuse other than I didn’t give it much thought and just got motivated after being there.

    My goal is to get a PE gig to continue to help grow struggling areas.

    27 year old white guy

    Target schools are Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Booth, Tuck, and Yale

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say and thanks for doing these posts, all really helpful stuff!

  • Nate

    Hey Sandy,

    I really appreciate your posts, they have helped to shape my CV/Applications. I thought I would add my profile to the mix:

    GMAT: 760
    Undergraduate GPA: approx 3.4 (Upper Second) – Psychology – Top 20 UK University
    Masters GPA: 4.0 – International Business – Top 10 UK University
    Work Experience:

    4 months business development internship in Shanghai for large Asian company.
    8 months as research analyst for social media research company.
    4.5 years within Third Party Risk Advisory at Deloitte London, promoted twice (currently manager) – Top 10% appraisals for the past three years. Work has predominantly been within the IT sector although I have also worked with multinational banks and pharmaceutical companies. (Gained Diploma in Management Accounting Qualification).

    Extra Curricular:

    Lead Contact for Teach First Business Mentoring Scheme (organizing volunteers to act as mentors for socio-economically disadvantaged kids).
    Volunteer Co-Ordinator for Age UK (Help organize the Friend to the Elderly Program).
    Volunteer Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor – Teach class a few times a month at my local gym and coach people at tournaments.

    Short Term Goals: Move into Big Three Strategy Consulting – preferably with a focus on consumer electronics although not essential.

    Long Term Goals: Stay in big Three until Partner or take a leadership role at a large consumer electronics / e-commerce firm (i.e. Samsung, Apple, Amazon etc).

    Age: 28 (British Born – Parents are from Nepal / The Philippines – first in family to go to College).

    Target Schools: HBS, Wharton, Columbia, MIT, LBS

    Appreciate that I am quite old in comparison to my short-term goals so any advice on how to best position myself would be great.


  • Chris

    Hey Sandy,

    After pouring through all your past posts I thought I’d try my luck. Hoping I catch you in a generous mood…

    I went to a big state school (Ohio/Penn state) and graduated with a degree in finance and a 3.89 GPA. Took some extra classes in math and stat post graduation. On my first GMAT attempt I scored a 700 but will definitely take it again.

    Had a financial advisory internship during college as well as a Deloitte advisory internship. I spent two years in Deloitte consulting right after graduation and then two more at a bulge bracket IB as a analyst. I’m also currently a aviation officer in the army national guard.

    During school I had leadership positions in ROTC clubs, a business fraternity, investment club and took trips to poor areas in a European country as well as Miami to do volunteer work. Since then I’ve stayed active with volunteer work to help deal with poverty.

    I should have great recs from both national guard and from work. I don’t exactly know how to explain going national guard instead of full time army (it just made sense to keep the ball rolling with my career). I haven’t seen any profiles with any reserve/national guard people. Is that good or bad? Also, is it a big red flag that I didn’t go to a better school? No excuse other than I didn’t give it much thought and just got motivated after being there.

    My goal is to get a PE gig to continue to help grow struggling areas.

    27 year old white guy

    Target schools are Harvard, Wharton, Columbia, MIT, Booth, Tuck, and Yale

    Can’t wait to hear what you have to say and thanks for doing these posts, all really helpful stuff!

  • eddysham

    You are excellent candidate for INSEAD ( where for Jan intake you can do an internship and an exchange for two month at Wharton or kellogg). INSEAD loves Cambridge educated folks. OR if you are to American School, think seriously about Columbia January-Term or Kellogg 1Y.
    in all cases you are NOT old at all for any mba program 2 or 1 year. 29 is just perfect. I strongly believe you will make it into MIT Sloan and Wharton (they are quite tolerant in term of age), and you will make it into Kellogg for your experience in consulting and career goals for FCMGs.. as women, you have very good chance for Harvard as well and 100% you will make it into INSEAD.

  • John

    INSEAD sounds like a great fit for you. They would value your in-depth consulting experience. Besides, being older is a plus for European B-schools.

    Have you thought about an EMBA? With just several more years of experience and maybe after an industry (consumer goods?) role, you’d be a prime candidate. You’d be networking with much more senior people in industries by then.

    With your experience, I suspect you might border on “overqualified”. 6.5 years in consulting would mean you’re likely a Senior Manager/Principle? Most people do an MBA to land a job as a post-MBA level consultant, which I assume you’re well past. Do you really want to network with people who haven’t even started and trying to break into consulting?

    If you’re really into an American MBA, take a look at which schools have the highest average age. Harvard wants younger students increasingly, before they’ve become uncoachable. Think about why they’ve started the 2+2 program to attract 22 year olds before they’ve even worked. Then again there are the handful of 30+ who get in….though many from military/unusual backgrounds.

  • eliroberts@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,
    I’m a 33-year-old American/Israeli. My goal is INSEAD or Columbia, with HEC or NYU as a second.
    -Started two education companies and one FinTech start-up in SE Asia (Myanmar and Thailand)
    *started first business six years ago on $18K and grew annual revenue to $1.5 million within 5 years
    *120 employees at time of exit from first company with 85,000 students through Thailand and Myanmar
    *accepted into start-up accelerator for FinTech project
    -Served in the Israeli Military
    -GMAT in progress – testing 620 now with a goal of 700 (obviously higher if possible)
    -Graduated 2005 from USC in LA with a 2.98 GPA
    -Speak Japanese, Thai, Hebrew, Arabic, French and Spanish
    My goal is to deliver financial products to the unbanked 2 billion.
    Beyond my named schools, what schools would you recommend for someone with such a conflicting – low GPA vis-a-vis work experience – background? I wonder, if in my case, it would be advisable to apply to more rather than fewer schools?

  • P Sam

    Hi Sandy,

    Looking for some tough love here. Any comments are appreciated!

    Personal Background
    – 27 at matriculation, international student from China
    – Undergrad & work experience in US
    – Career focus on Entertainment industry

    Education & Test Scores:
    – Undergrad GPA 3.84 from a hidden ivy in West Coast, top 25 university in the nation, business major
    – 770 GMAT (Q51 V42 IR8)

    Work Experiences:
    -2.5 years at Big 4, started in Assurance group then transitioned into Project Consulting. Spent 1 year in Oceania doing international projects. Majority clients are from entertainment industry. The top rated consultant in the market.
    – 1.5 years (at matriculation) at a Hollywood Major studio as a Senior Analyst in corporate financial planning.

    – Volunteer with The World Bank to build partnerships with oversea charity foundations created by local celebrities.
    – Strong involvements at work (volunteer crew) as well as back in College (found student orgs to host business case competition, participation in the city film festivals, intern at social entrepreneurship NGO promoting education opportunities for under-represented children in Asia).

    Career Goal:
    – Short term after MBA: strategic planning & business development at a leading Entertainment/Media company
    -Long term: Using a mindset of corporate entrepreneurship to lead an
    Entertainment company to achieve global expansion, tech innovation, as well as creating social welfare (think entertainment education).

    Why MBA:
    – Need solid management skills to match with my career goal.
    – Meet exceptional fellow students and make great connections.

    I am targeting at Stanford/HBS/Berkeley.

    Thanks again!

  • P Sam

    Thanks for the posting – would love to get more insights on how Adcoms evaluate a blended GPA

  • DownSouth

    Sandy – Your column has been incredibly insightful to me, and I would appreciate your input on my odds:

    Goal: Medium term – To transition away from banking into a corporate management role via either a pivot into job in management consulting (and later ideally into a direct position with a client or peer of a client) or directly into a corporate development or strategy role. Highly interested in internationally focused organizations, international expansion and cross-border M&A/due diligence. Pursuing an MBA to renew and develop general management skills, learn non-banking oriented financial and quantitative analysis, and expand my network outside of the banking industry. Long-term, I want to either become CEO of a mid-cap company or buy/MBO a small to mid-cap company with PE backing.

    29 Y/O White Male
    GMAT: 730
    Majored in Finance and Management at a top 3 public university’s undergraduate school of business after transferring in from a top scholarship at a top 25 public university in the Southeast.
    GPA: 3.63 blended (3.91 First University; 3.36 Second University)

    Work Experience (chronological):
    Investment Banking Summer Analyst at a mid-market Southeastern bank in 2008
    ~1 year as an Analyst in the Emerging Markets Research group of a top 2 Spanish bank in Madrid
    ~1.5 years as Senior Analyst in an investment banking boutique formed by ex-STRH and Warburg-backed Cortview bankers
    ~3 years at US sub of top Japanese corporate bank (top 6 global market cap / assets). Associate in mid-corporate ($500M to $2B revenue) space for 2.5 years then promoted to VP / Credit Products.

    I graduated in 2009 after spending a summer in the M&A practice of a Southeastern super-regional bank hard hit by real estate losses. Disillusioned with M&A as capital markets shut down, I shifted my focus to international finance and parlayed my Spanish and Portuguese language skills into a position on the Emerging Markets Research team at a top Spanish bank’s Madrid headquarters. I worked on a daily basis in 3 languages, covering 21 countries and collaborating with colleagues in 5 offices in Asia and S. America. After approximately a year, the bank was unable to convert my visa to an EU work visa, and I had to return to the US.

    Transitioned back into M&A and capital markets with a Southeastern small to mid-market investment banking boutique largely comprised of former STRH bankers. Only junior deal team member, so I received excellent access to client CEOs/CFOs. After a year and a half, two of the three partners sold their stakes and exited the firm, causing the flight of most senior bankers.

    Followed a senior banker to a US sub of the top Japanese corporate bank as an Associate responsible for business development, relationship management, underwriting, and liaising with capital markets partners. Actively pursued an interest in underwriting, becoming a lead underwriter for 3 offices. Promoted after 2.5 years to VP Credit Products. Helped grow new Southeastern office to approx. 20 clients. Underwrote $1bn+ in syndicated loan commitments, including JLA and co-manager roles. Lead underwriting presentations to senior management, including head of commercial bank, chief credit officer, and Japanese executive credit officer. Extensive exposure to capital market products.

    My group was folded into the corporate and wholesale banking group in an institution-wide restructuring. After a messy integration, my position was eliminated in February along with ~50% of my group nationally.

    I was given a 6.5 month severance package and the opportunity to pursue my goal, as stated above. After networking with alumni, professional contacts, and people in corporate strategy and development roles, and attempting to compete with MBAs applying for these roles, pursuing a MBA has become the most logical choice for meeting my medium and long-term career goals.

    College Extracurriculars:
    Honor Society recognizing top 12 male and top 12 freshman leaders on campus.
    Founded college chapter of CARE
    Student Government Academic Affairs committee member, secretary, and sub-committee leader; Greek liaison for election campaign.
    Delta Prize for Global Understanding Selection Committee
    Fraternity philanthropy chair

    Post-College Extracurriculars
    Local alumni club board member
    Ultimate frisbee team captain (team comprising 10+ nationalities)
    Whitewater kayaking trip leader and river cleanup volunteer (Class II to IV)
    Large-scale hands-on home renovation with eventual intent to flip (~27% unrealized total return to date)
    Lightly published amateur photographer

    Weaknesses: Two gaps in employment due to persistent and targeted searches due to the collapse of the IB market and off-cycle IB hiring. Current unemployment.

    Reach: HBS, Stanford
Target: Kellogg, Tuck, Stern/Columbia
    International: INSEAD, LBS, IESE
Other: Kenan-Flagler, Goizueta

  • TechMSGuy

    I am also looking at UVA-Darden

  • Blink182

    There is no inherent disadvantage. But if your long term goal is to make a difference in your country for your people, then you must opt for European B-Schools.

  • TechMSGuy


    Can you all give me some advice on which schools I should apply to.

    – 27 Year old African American- Male (First Generation, lower class household, spent first two years of undergrad with health problems in which the last 60 hours are 3.5 and above)
    – GMAT 720
    – 3.2 UGPA from HBCU (Engineering)
    – 3.6 GPA from graduate school (IU- Computer Science)
    – 3 years of experience at major tech company as a consultant
    Would like to get an MBA to do Strategy Consultant in High Tech (Bain, BCG, or Mckinsey)
    Schools – Kellogg, Tuck, Wharton, Yale, Booth, NYU

    Thank you for your honesty

  • Catherine

    Great point and yes I should probably look at those schools too – you do really lose the US centric network aspect of the MBA and no internship as 1 year courses. I’m not just doing MBA to “tick a box” so losing those things wouldn’t be great…Reading between the lines of your suggestion are you saying that coming from abroad is an inherent disadvantage?

  • USArmy CPT


    I preface that this is to help me outline my
    personal plan in my admissions search. I will be attending an MBA in Fall ’18,
    paid my the US ARMY. All data provided will be accurate as of the time of
    matriculation. My focus will be Organizational Leadership, with
    a secondary emphasis on Quantitative Marketing.

    Facts and Assumptions:

    – 37 year old American Caucasian Male

    – 750 GMAT (After taking a few practice tests my target
    is a 770 (Q49, V47))

    – 2.89 UGPA from the University of Arkansas, Little Rock

    * First several years were
    atrocious (<2.0)

    * Enlisted into the
    National Guard for an opportunity in forced maturation.

    * Upon return from Basic
    Combat Training, I completed final two years in 18 months with a 3.5 gpa, while
    working 40+ hrs/week, taking 18 hours a semester to include summer classes, and
    an additional 10 hours in ROTC. I was a server at a fine dining restaurant
    during the second half of college. At the time I was married and the sole
    income for a family of six, now eight.

    – 3.9+ GPA from the University of Arkansas in Operations
    Management (Online)

    * Using this to offset my
    UGPA. Being in the military, access to hard campus graduate work is limited.

    – US Army Field Artillery Captain (O3), post-command,
    consistently ranked in the top 25% by raters (enumerated as #1
    twice). Will improve my enumeration while in Battery Command. Army
    Officer career progression is built upon success/failure while in
    a Command Billet. These opportunities are limited. I will make the most of
    mine, which I am now entering. My performance as a commander will be a
    driver in my recommendation letters.

    * Battery Command (equivalent to
    Company Command) is of a Headquarters and Headquarters Battery consisting 180+
    personnel and $100 million in property.

    – Post MBA is to be retained by the Army as a career
    officer. MBA is fully funded by the Army and I will still be employed by the
    military as a Student. My only requirement to the Army is attend graduate

    – Significant involvement in volunteer and support to the
    military community, usually as a team effort with my wife and family. This has
    been ongoing throughout my career. We were nominated for Post Volunteer Family
    of the Year.

    Details of Work Experience:

    – As a Lieutenant I was an Executive Officer for a Basic
    Combat Training (BCT) Battery, where the Cadre introduces new
    Soldiers to the Army lifestyle and prepare them for their Advanced Individual
    Training and gaining units. During BCT Soldiers learn basic Soldiering Tasks
    and qualify with their individual weapons systems. An Executive Officer
    (XO) is responsible for the resourcing of food, equipment, supply,
    billeting, transportation, and training of approximately 240 trainees. In
    addition, the XO ensures that the Battery Commander is prepared to
    brief all superior officers and proofs all official correspondence
    and documentation the leaves the Battery. As an XO, I was consistently noted
    for being the hardest working of my peers, enumerated as the #1 lieutenant in
    the Battalion, and chosen to assume a temporary command in support of a
    joint Battery that integrated Reserve Army Drill Sergeants and Cadre during the
    Summer Months to augment the Active Army during the summer rush of Trainees.

    – As a Captain, I first was the Battalion S1
    (Administrative Officer) where I was responsible for all
    personnel actions, awards, and movements within a Firing Battalion of 580
    Soldiers, NCOs, and Officers. In addition, I advised the Battalion Commander on
    Officer Moves and Career Progression. I also served in additional advisory
    capacities for Battalion Informal Funds, Family Readiness, and Public Affairs
    for the Battalion. I was rated in the top 3 Captains the Commander rated.

    – Currently billeted as the Battalion Fire Direction
    Officer where I am responsible for the planning, resourcing, and training of
    all Fires Direction for the Battalion. At the Battalion level my Fire Direction
    Center (FDC) provides the capability to mass fires provided by three Batteries,
    each having six 155m howitzers. In addition, I plan and execute Battery FDC
    level certifications and the procurement of artillery shells, fuzes, and

    – I take Battery Command next month.

    – I will matriculate into an MBA program in Summer/Fall

    1. What programs do I align with naturally as a decent
    fit? I must be admitted into a program in order to attend school. I don't want
    to overshoot and miss out on a fantastic opportunity at what is perceived to be
    a lesser program. That being said, I want to attend as good of a program as I
    can be admitted. This a no-cost situation to me, as I am only limited by the
    schools to which I will be accepted.

    2. I am currently interested in the following
    programs (I have no illusion as to being a guaranteed admit into any of
    them). Feel free to suggest any additional programs to which you see me as
    being a good fit.

    Stretch: Yale SOM, Duke Fuqua, Cornell Johnson, Columbia

    Competitive: CMU Tepper, Emory Goizueta, Rice Jones

    Safer: Vanderbilt Owen, Georgetown McDonough, Notre Dame

    Thank you for your time.

  • Don’t!


    Thanks for your response!

    I have mentioned the stats for which I am responsible. Not stating that there were other managers (managing the same quantity on their part and together as a team summing up we were contributing the whole of it) doesn’t mean that I am the only one responsible for the whole of it.

    Again in case of the employees and contractors, I am mentioning those that are directly under my supervision. I understand that from your experience at TSL you know a lot but I understand that your portfolio might be a little different and am putting this very decently. I am responsible for my section and the job entails implementing the levers and being their owners exactly as I have mentioned it.

    I agree that from insider’s POV the experiences seem embellished and I do intend on keeping the hard facts as they were. But I am trying to count on my experiences in a positive way and how they have or could impact the future. Nothing to brag about here. Plus I do have the people to testify for the same.

    Your post really helps in a lot many ways! This is exactly what I needed.

    I will make it a point to be brief and concise in my applications!

    Thanks again.

  • Juju

    I have worked with TATA Steel at Jamshedpur. I am pretty much aware of the managerial posts. But you have to be very clear. Were you solely responsible for the US $250 Million worh of ore? Or were there other managers along with you?

    If you were solely responsible, then it makes a solid case. Otherwise, no. I am aware of how supervision is done in plants. I would recommend avoiding this line as TATA Steel already has strict safety norms and processes as part of vendor management. There a mere presence cannot be constituted as handing all the workers and contractors. I am aware of how drivers are required to train themselves before driving inside the complex.

    Adcoms know when you are overshooting and that is what it looks like. Don’t. Be brief. Be to the point. Make sure you have substantial proof or have people at TATA Steel ready to vouch for you if B-Schools wish to verify.

    Scores, academics and extra curricular activities are great. 23 is too young but if you rack up a good essay and solid recommendations, you have a shot.

    But to be honest, all these experiences seem to be embellished. Let your story be precise and impact worthy.

  • Akash Srivastava

    Hi Sandy,

    This is a quite long one, however, I will still request your feedback on my profile and chances of admission in Sloan, Kellogg, Yale, Duke Fuqua, Darden, HEC Paris.

    – 23 Year old Indian Male. From lower middle class
    – GMAT 740 (Q50, V39, AWA:6, IR:6)
    – First across 4 states in High School. Was Student President of my school also.
    – IIT, Varanasi(TOP 5 Indian school) -> B.Tech(Mining Engineering) : 8.73/10 (Gold Medalist
    and Institute medal for exceptional academic record)
    3 papers (2 National conference, 1 International Conference), 1 Book Chapter (Springer,
    Introduction chapter)

    – Have held some good position of responsibility during my college time such as Placement Representative, Departmental Undergrad committee Senior Representative and have also participated and led my team in some National level competitions such as CIMA Global Business competition etc.
    – As a senior representative of Undergrad committee, I was instrumental in framing of a new constitution for the institution in a very sensitive situation when the whole institute had sat on a protest (I am sure I will not be writing it in this way in my application, but I think that experience of handling a 4000+ voices changed me!)

    – I had my startup during my final year but sadly it could not take off and I ended up joining TATA STEEL.

    – Details of Work Ex at TSL ->

    I did my internship at a TATA STEEL (5 selected among 300, it’s kind of a choosy company!) and was subsequently offered a Pre-placement offer (company generally offers a Pre-placement interview!) and joined it as a Management Trainee Technical. Now while Mining is a very tough profession, it’s also a very interesting one with a lot of opportunities for improvement and innovation.

    At TSL, first and foremost, I decided to follow up on my internship work, took the responsibility on myself and implemented the improvement measures in the mine which while a having a great deed of good short term effect also saved company from immediate expenditure of 20 million INR in expenditure on new Mine fan installation. (They can forget about it for next 5 years)

    Next, I was off to an Open cast coal mine of TSL, which was struggling with the Industrial relations issue of workers actually not wanting to work because of which there were huge production losses. I realised that the officers were actually most of the time in fire-fighting mode, trying to solve issues as they arose with no sense of planning and implementation. I suggested a performance based incentive to the Dumper operators (subsequently worked upon by HR division) and took to the measures to implement scientific mining methods in the mine which led to vast improvements in productivity and production.
    In the same mine, I also worked out on a new mining method by tweaking the existing technology and using my previous expertise of underground mining which actually increased the life of mine by 10 years. I was the Team lead to investigate in this new mining method with other 4 Management trainees of various expertise.

    In other open-pit iron ore mine of TSL, I investigated in the fuel related issues that were being faced by the mine. I suggested the implementation of a Fuel Management system which is being done now and am part of the team that is overseeing the process. Also, I was asked by Top management of the mine to look into the operator issues and see if any scope of improvement is there and am working on this, as well as, am working on the operational aspects of fuel consumption and intend to benchmark the fuel consumption by various vehicles in the mine. I am also working on the digitisation of the production reporting in the mine with my colleagues so as to well ,save paper 🙂 , and making the process of reporting and action making more streamlined.

    I have been recently promoted to Manager, Mining Operations, a job that holds me responsible for production of 250 million $ worth of Iron ore and its desptach (and in supervision of 100+ people, both company and contractor). The job also entails looking into various aspects of implemetation of TQM, ISO standards and safety standards. Its a statuory post (required under Mining Act of India, 1957) and involves constant communication with government authorities over various aspects of Mining and related issues.

    POST- MBA : work in consulting with focus on metals&minerals and steel industry.

    PS: Promotion is out of question (for the next 2 years) due to company rules etc.

  • Blink182

    Why don’t you try for European schools? INSEAD, HEC Paris or LBS.

    You can fulfil your ambitions through them as well and then land up in the US.

  • Blink182

    Awesome score. Great profile. But for HBS your profile is what they usually get. There are many with the same mix. You will have a hard time differentiating unless you can sell your USP. HBS is known to ding people with 780 GMAT scores.

    Your long term goal is so obvious that 1000s would be typing the same thing. It’s like the whole world has become startup crazy.

    Short term goal needs some spice. It seems bland and too generalised.

    MIT, Kellogg, Tuck – plausible.

    HBS – Moonshot

  • rtinitaly

    – 770 GMAT (46 V, 49 Q, 5.5 AWA, 8 IR)
    – 3.9 GPA, liberal arts degree from UC Berkeley (but was pre-med for 2 years, so took plenty of science/math classes)
    – 2.5 years at Deloitte doing tech consulting, 1.5 years at startup as solutions/sales engineer
    – college: some limited leadership experience, some limited volunteer work
    – post-college: no volunteer work, but plenty of hobbies/passions
    – medium-term, want to get an MBA to leverage business/tech background into product management at tech company, to increase confidence, to acquire a general business foundation
    – long-term, would eventually like to build and lead teams
    – 26-year-old Asian female

    Schools: Harvard, MIT, Kellogg, Tuck

  • Hidden Identity

    He has quite a few blue chip companies as his clientele. My point is – say let’s take the worst case scenario; no VC/PE or 3rd party money – if the business is receiving orders from such companies, then isn’t it enough to realize that there is trust?

    If say Apple is ordering material, then why would they order if there is no trust in quality or performance? Doesn’t it mean they are trusting him? After all, the logic behind VC funding is that: Okay, I need huge capital. I cannot take the risk of putting my money. So let’s pitch and get outside money. Or I do not have money, but my idea is brilliant enough to attract investors in series A itself.

    But the outcome of all these scenarios should be racking up orders or showing sales figures. After all, so many startups get funding but fail in making any sale.

    Yeah, I guess we are digressing, but it’s healthy discussion.

  • hbsguru

    we are getting far afield of the key basics of his app. But loan would count as 3rd-party endorsement IF it were only secured by the business and not Dad as co-signer, etc.

  • Hidden Identity

    Yeah. His venture was able to get a loan approved by a bank after a project report was submitted. So the bank’s money is involved as well. Of course, the percentage of personal funds is greater in proportion. I do not know if banks count. Do they?

  • hbsguru

    My more basic point is to get 3rd-party [non-dad] funding fr. VC if possible, or PE direct investment guys, or angel investors. It is just a vote of confidence from a person willing to put up their own money, and it indicates that you can sell your idea to 3rd party. All good deeds as per adcoms.

  • Hidden Identity

    Sandy, one more key information: In his line of work, VCs are non-existent. VCs are mostly into e-commerce or software services, which is not the case when you go to the US.

  • Blink182

    Why do I get the feeling that this bro of yours wants to make his own mark in the world and get away from the shadow of his father?

    What you have revealed is magnificent. I think then he has a shot. But I think Sandy, is right. If we simply go my your original info, then things seem pretty dicey for H/S/W.

    He can play the dad card. But I think he should give the GMAT again. No harm. Or maybe he can apply and see. If he gets dinged, then he can work on his GMAT. But the question is: Will he have time?

    Moreover, I think if he really had that fire in him for an MBA, he would have already given the GMAT again. Or maybe never never got the time.

    Or you can tell him to apply 10 times and become another Jack Ma. Haha! Then he may satisfy his ego by hiring these elite graduates. No offence.

  • Josh

    Hi Sandy,

    Big fan of the articles, was wondering if you could review my profile:

    White male, age 25

    4.0 GPA, Industrial Engineering from top 5 engineering school

    GMAT: 710 (35 V/48 Q, applying this fall so probably won’t have time to retake)

    Work experience: Did software consulting for a credit bureau for 1 year and will be working for a boutique consulting firm that does credit card analytics for major banks for 3 years upon matriculation. Currently manage 2 analysts while performing statistical analyses for several clients.

    Personal: Do 1-on-1 professional mentoring for underprivileged teenagers hoping to get full-time employment for 2 years

    Goal is to continue working in the credit card space as a product manager for a bank and work my way up to be the head of cards

    Target schools: Fuqua, UNC, Yale, Texas, Emory

  • Hidden Identity

    And yes, his dad has an MS degree. But not an MBA.

  • Hidden Identity

    Thanks for the constructive criticism, Sandy!

    His engineering college is ranked 3-4th in his country.
    Yes he has done internships during college at a big automation firm and then at a big oil firm. Straight out of college, he was given the post of Assistant Manager in a real estate firm that is ranked 2nd in the world. He left it within a year. It wasn’t what he aspired, but was tasked to manage vendor teams while he was in the company at a pretty young age. His long term goal is to create energy efficient technologies for the developing world and knows that he will need VC funding for that.

    You guessed it right. His dad will be taking care of the business if he gets to do an MBA. His logic is even if he prepares for the GMAT and scores really high, it will not change the rest of what he has achieved. So GMAT will be a mere – as he put it – “hypocritical token to subjugate the soft egos of the admissions committee.”

  • Geophj

    Thanks, Sandy–I appreciate the feedback! I’ll be very careful and strategic in how I position myself with the other pieces of my application.

  • hbsguru

    agree with specific suggestions above about what he needs to do. A fair amount will depend on size and stability of company, oddly, just in some trophy sense. And where he went to college (a bit, but 4.0 in engineering is solid in most cases). Retake GMAT, just to show them you are serious.
    Aside from college (maybe) there is no marker schools can relate to–e.g. any work history beyond the start-up. That is troublesome to them, even internships during college would help a bit.
    As to need for MBA, that is a tricky piece, as others have noted, and what he wants to do next, what state of company is now, etc.
    All that said, I dont think this is H/S/W admit, they got too many guys sorta like this but just better in every count, e.g. worked for blue chip, then started company, higher GMATs, company has VC funding (who can write recs), etc. Same might apply to MIT, but they may be a little more open if company he started was sizable, impressive, etc. This does not seem like a Booth profile.
    Fact that dad started/sold a business could be an asset to schools, does dad have an MBA? It looks like dad may have helped out here in the bootstrapping? That is not the kiss of death, and could explain why he did not need VCs. Otherwise, I would not brag about not needing VC’s. B schools LOVE VCs.
    Yeah, as others have noted, he needs to make some case about why NOW, what is going to happen to biz, etc.
    🙂 Say dad will be running it!

  • Catherine

    Ms ” Good in the UK”

    Interested to see what chances are for UK

    – GMAT 710
    – Roughly 3.8+ GPA [1st class from Cambridge (science) – depends on your conversion]
    – 6.5 years at large European consulting firm (but NOT the big 3 McK / BCG, Bain) – but during that time worked for 1 year in PepsiCo strategy team in NYC and spent 1 year as part of a small team setting up NYC office for firm (no sponsorship)
    – Extra curriculars OK, impressive sporting achievements at university and after, involved in giving back at firm, lite on anything philanthropic outside of work
    – Wants to get MBA in order to move into a VP+ management position in a global consumer goods company, ultimately wants a significant senior role at a large global consumer firm

    – 29 white british female

    Aim Harvard / MIT / Kell / Columbia / NYU

    key questions would be 1) am I too old? (some of the people on here suggest yes!) and 2) how difficult is it to make US biz schools see british experience as high quality [particularly as my recommendations will be british)

  • hbsguru

    haha, taking your remarks in the most helpful way, I think what is true (and what you may or may not be trying to say, assuming you are not just being silly and snarky?) is that non-traditional types will have hard time getting into HBS, esp. if you define non-trad as not working for feeder firms and also not having GMAT/GPA in line w. published averages–that is basically true, with age being another stat that could be off the average.
    Many traditional applicants and admits are “just” hi-performing kids who broke out of their college cohort, got a gig at selective IB or MBB right ot of college, did 2-3 yrs there and got 2nd selective gig at PE etc. Those admits, the classic core of the class, are not ‘big boys’ (unless that is what you meant by big boys) nor are they ‘oil company sponsored’ altho working for Blue Chip energy in extraction or servicing is another well worn road, most of those admits are not ‘sponsored.’ As to be rich, dunno, my guess would be well off but not rich enuf to make any credible dent in the admissions process (that happens once in a thousand). “Politicians.” Again not very often but if you are son of senator etc. and can play that correctly, it could help.
    ” It leaves those of middle class to other schools.” Dunno, depending on how you define it, the vast majority of HBS admits are middle class, if you include having doctor, lawyer, professor, corp middle management parents as middle class.

  • Harold

    with all due respect, it is highly unlikely that someone aged +30 will get into HBS. The spots is very limited for this age group and it is reserved for the big boys, oil company sponsored folks, rich kids, politicians, ..etc. It is HBS after all, and it is for certain elite class. It leaves those of middle class to other schools.

  • Sophie

    Hi, I’d appreciate your feedback on my profile:

    -28 y/o black female from francophone Caribbean (naturalized citizen)

    -3.4 GPA, but also earned cum laude (GPA from years 2-4 of college was above 3.6); top-5 liberal arts school; also won additional honors

    -GMAT: just took first practice test and scored 690. Aiming for 740 on official test in 2 months

    -Work experience: 1.5 years as analyst in investment management in US; 2 years in social-enterprise consulting in US; 2.5+ years working in tech consulting in francophone Africa. Company is well-established tech start-up HQed in US. Earned 2 promotions – second promotion ahead of my peers – and manage 3 people directly. Have worked in 8 countries in Africa in the last 3 years. Role is both technical and client-facing.

    Note: not a ton of quant courses on my transcript, but work post-college is highly quantitative and technical. (Was told to highlight that I am an Excel ninja, but not sure where to do so).

    -ECs: In college: Created and ran a student periodical; managed very large pool of $ as part of student org; post-college, elected for 5 years on board of an org. In the last 2 years, pro-bono consulting work with social enterprises in Africa (volunteering in a meaningful, long-term way hasn’t been easy with my frequent travel schedule). Various leadership initiatives at work as well.

    -Reach: Stanford, Wharton
    -Goals: MIT, Booth
    -Others: considering INSEAD, LBS, Ross, Dartmouth

    Thanks for your feedback.

  • hbsguru

    sure, a good question but not really critical in this case. This dude is getting admitted or not based on how well he explains basics.

  • hbsguru

    You could become case 2387 on this board in the file called: SAVED BY THE GMATs.
    But in your case, execution of basics really counts.
    You need to explain both [in order of importance]
    1. what you do at State U, viz. size of operation, budget, number of employees, etc. etc. And how you interact, what duties are, etc.
    State U is not a typical feeder organization for applicants to your target schools but given typical size, etc, it could be. My guess is, the biggest thing against State U as a feeder is that it is not selective, and typical folks who work there in admin are slap-happy locals or trailing spouses (often the same person after a while, especially after prime spouse marries grad student and both move away leaving Spouse #1 as the terror of the comptroller’s office).
    Well, you need to show that ain’t you.
    2. You need to explain in some more than average way how rural upbringing, transfer, yadda yadda impacted early academic performance and how recession impacted job choices.
    As often noted here, adcoms will sometimes blink once but not twice. That means adcoms will not blink at both your low-ish GPA and outlier work history.
    But 750 GMAT may buy you a second blink, just make sure you make it easy for them.
    The response you are getting at Alum Forums, etc. –“interesting” — is, as you seem to know, code for ‘WHAAAA?’
    You need to learn how to pre-empt that by saying, “Ive had some jumps but I’m in a great place now doing strategic planning at State U. . . .”
    More importantly, make that case in your app, using official app talk. Your target schools are a little open to likable guys with OK but not super backgrounds. You need to present that way.

  • hbsguru

    Note for real stat freaks. I don’t know this, but I got a hunch that percent of admits to HBS from the under age 30 pool could be less than over 30 pool, and that would be more the case if you do one quick filter of both pools to remove obvious nutcases. There are a lot of 35 year old guys working in local insurance companies or as stock brokers who want to apply to HBS, if my mail is any indicator. If you take those guys out of both pools, it may be the case that is “easier” to get in over 30, as a matter of naked stats, ESPECIALLY if you are over 30 and a PILOT or a DOC.

  • hbsguru

    Yup, I agree, full reasons given above in this thread.

  • hbsguru

    Fox thing is reliable as far as it goes. It does not focus on who the 10% of age outliers are [e.g. who gets in at age 30, 31, 32 etc]:
    As noted here MANY TIMES, the most common outliers (e.g. 30+) are military, esp pilots, who are REQUIRED to sign up for extended service obligation, and Docs who have completed training, worked a bit, and now want to run a hospital etc.
    [N.B. at HBS those 10 percent ‘outliers’ = ~94 people, we are not talking about one person. Yeah, I know 10 percent is 10 percent whether it is 10 percent of 10 or 1,000–but the fact that there are, in fact, 94 people over ~30 means HBS has a base of outcomes etc. to go by and feels comfortable admitting these people, year after year, all the generic reasons [ROI] against doing so whipped up on other websites notwithstanding.]
    Also, as noted, military guys are deeply attractive to MBB for many reasons, even tho they are older.
    For one thing, former military are attractive to MBB CLIENTS, esp. in early stages of an engagement.
    Happy to hear views on this fr. Vets or MBB types or both. SK

  • C. Taylor

    The F(x) analysis clearly assumes all people finish undergrad studies at 22. Data is from HBS as referenced.

  • Blink182

    He cannot quit a running business unless he has someone to take care of it. If he has someone, then fine. Otherwise, doing an MBA does not make sense.

    Bootstrapped or not, outside funding will be required later for an IPO. However, all that is irrelevant now. Almost all manufacturing giants are controlled by families at the top be it Samsung or Bechtel. So that is fine.

  • F500-HR

    How reliable is this Fox thing?

  • C. Taylor

    Mode for previous three classes was four years out of undergrad. The long tail is to the right, of course. Apparently this data is published annually around the beginning of September on the admissions blog. Most recently, September 3, 2015. F(x) MBA Consulting did an analysis of that and published age estimates (see below).

    My take is that age bias at HBS is less of an issue than some make it out to be. In terms of timing, the admissions folks seem to care more that 1) the MBA makes the best sense at this time for this person, and 2) this person can use this MBA on her/his intended career track.

    Too bad we don’t have access to ding/accept records at HBS. Would be interesting to test for bias.

    hbs (dot) edu/mba/admissions/Pages/from-the-admissions-director.aspx?showall=1

    fxmbaconsulting (dot) com/analysis/too-old-full-time-2-year-mba-program-top-school-stanford-hbs-wharton-sloan-booth-or-kellogg/

  • Sali

    aged 32 with 3 kids! It is hard to imagine HBS or GSB accepting such profile. Both schools prefer and love kids of 23 to 24. around the avg of the classes there. Some get there aged 28 or 29 but very extreme case and mostly with donations from parents to the school, or politicians involved. Bear in mind that admission process in these two schools is anything but ethical.

  • Chanel

    *HBS doesn’t give any info on age.

  • Chanel

    You can have a rough estimate based on Stanford’s disclosure of the age stats. HBS doesn’t. The assumption here is almost all those who feel they are qualified for GSB also apply to HBS.

  • rep

    Sandy, your thoughts?

  • Chanel

    Well I do not see the incentive for him to do an MBA. However, if he does apply, his essay will have to demonstrate why he needs it from the chosen B-School. I see that entrepreneurship runs in the family and that is good.

    In addition, he must not ever mention that he took the GMAT flippantly. Result: Dinged.

    I think the academics seems strong. I believe it will all boil down to the essay and the recommendations. And how he words his goals.

  • hbsguru

    I agree with the ‘age not a problem’ crowd below, there are 32-year olds at HBS and other B schools, and the classic explanation for older kids is pilots, docs and other military. Schools realize that being pilot requires extra years in service [because of the intense training and certification involved]. I don’t have stats, but man, if ‘average’ age at HBS is 27, that means there are lots of peeps beyond that, since my guess is, there are not many kids younger than 23 so to get average at 27, well, blah, blah.
    I would like to know ‘median’ age as well.

    Moving right along, as noted many times, b schools have a hard time judging the ‘quality’ of military careers, but as noted, the two things they do understand is pilot and combat, you got both.

    Stats are solid and other misc things are perky too. Yup, a better GMAT would not hurt, but this is a solid story. I think you got a real shot at HBS and other places go for this with serviceable execution. Say you want to be consultant. Cannot go wrong with that and MBB love guys like you.

  • rep

    Age is not the issue. You need to understand military service obligations especially for pilots. Plenty get into the top 7. Looking forward to hearing from Sandy.

  • Chanel

    No. Average age is 27.

  • MBA-Admission

    at age 30 or above you are too old for full time MBA. consider EMBA or online. For HBS for example, average age for full time MBA should be 24 or less.

  • Chanel

    Apply for E-MBA. You are too old for an MBA now.

  • Hidden Identity

    I am posting on behalf of my brother.

    Well here’s the deal. He gave his GMAT in 2013. He did not take it seriously and scored 700. But his GPA is 4/4 in engineering. His extra-curricular activities are that he was a part of his college editorial board. He is a member of IEEE. In high school, he also won several merit certificates etc.

    He was already busy with his startup idea and in 2013, he initiated a startup in industrial electronics. Bootstrapped. No VCs. He wants control. This year his startup has shown profit. Revenue is 3 times last year’s figure.

    Clients like Lafarge have gone ahead. Some major corps have added him on the supplier list. He has acquired several Purchase Orders.

    So does he stand a chance at Harvard and other top B-Schools as he has a running business. What do you think? He is 26 years old.

    He is the kind guy who respects the rigorous curriculum of elite B-Schools but is confident enough to succeed without the degree.

    So what are his chances?

    His father was also a fairly successful entrepreneur who co-founded a software company in the 90s and sold off his equity in the early 2000s. The market cap was > $ 100 Million of that company.

  • juju


  • rep

    Hey Sandy, I really enjoy your column, was hoping to get your opinion.

    690/710 GMAT (most recent practice tests, will be taking that actual test in a couple weeks)

    3.75 GPA from BYU in Business Management (emphasis in Finance)

    Professional Experience:
    Blackhawk Pilot for U.S. Army (Captain)
    Distinguished Military Grad at BYU
    Distinguished Honor Grad at flight school
    1 combat deployment to Afghanistan as Flight Platoon Leader(and about to go again at which time I’ll need to be applying)
    Currently a Company Commander of 88 Soldiers and over $50 million of equipment (and will deploy soon as such)

    Extracurricular: lots of church service, Boy Scouts Scoutmaster, Cubmaster, etc… compete in triathlons as well

    Served for 2 years in Brazil as LDS Missionary (speak portuguese fluently) – leadership positions over 20+ missionaries

    Married with 3 young children

    Age 30 (will enter B-School at 32… based on active duty commitment after flight school)

    Goals: perhaps consulting, finance maybe, I’m interested in a lot of things really

    Target Schools: HBS, MIT, Wharton, Kellogg, Duke, UT-Austin

    Your opinion is greatly appreciated!


  • Geophj

    Sorry–My ECs in college were working 30 hrs/week, volunteering as a tutor at a local middle school and high school

    Current ECs are volunteering few times a month distributing food at a food bank–have also helped them expand sources of food donation by contacting grocery stores/restaurants outside of immediate area. I also hike and mountain climb and volunteer with a local hiking/outdoor advocacy non-profit building trails and recruiting additional volunteers.

  • Christina Brown

    Where/what are your EC’s?

  • Geophj

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m working on putting together my whole application strategy and identifying strengths/weaknesses. I have no name-brand corporate experience and I’m also afraid that the first 2-3 years of my work experience will be looked upon unfavorably. I have also attended a few pre-MBA networking events and got a couple of “hmm, interesting choices…” from alumni who asked which schools I am applying to (what’s so “interesting” about my choices!?). Most were very encouraging, however. I’d be grateful for any insights for positioning, tough love, or encouragement you or others have to offer. Thanks!

    Demographics: 27-year-old white male from rural working class background
    Undergrad Institutions: One year at top 40 public school, three at top 40 liberal arts
    Major: Psychology
    GPA: 3.4
    GMAT: 750 (47 Quant/48 Verbal/8 IR/6 Writing–1 attempt)

    Work Experience: 5 years
    Reverse chronological:
    Current: Business Analyst in the administration of large public university (1.5 years)–lots of operations/inventory management/budget planning (will have two awesome recs)
    Previous 1: I was promoted to current position after 9 months in a lower position at the university
    Previous 2: Low level position (i.e. customer service) at a bank (1 year)
    Previous 3: Graduated peak-recession, stitched together several part-time “take anything I can get” jobs and volunteer positions (2 years)

    Short-term goal: M/B/B or similar
    Longer-term: Would like to run my own strategy/operations consulting practice working for state/local governments and non-profits


  • Christina Brown

    Interesting. 🙂 I don’t know the target countries for top MBA programs, but if you increase your GMAT to at least 740 and write a compelling story about that real estate company, I can see H. You can probably get into HBS without retaking it, but I think a higher score is the icing on the cake. However, Wharton pings this profile the most. You can probably get into Booth and Columbia as well, but Wharton is front and center with Columbia and Booth trailing not that far behind, given your international background.

  • Christina Brown

    Cookie-cutter indeed. Yummmm, You can probably get into M7 and Top 10 with your stats, but for H and S, you have to really dig deep into your EC’s and figure out how you can differentiate yourself from the other IB/HF/finance applicants. If for example, you have raise $$$$$ or increase membership for any of your volunteer organizations, I can see H. If the charity work is worthwhile and it truly matters to you and your well-being, then probably S. But for your profile as of now, H and S are stretches. Reaches/Safeties are Wharton, Booth, Columbia, Tuck, Ross. Columbia and Wharton in particular

  • Christina Brown

    I don’t see H or S in your profile. Increase your GMAT and try Kellogg, Tuck, and Haas. You will probably get into your safety schools. If you decide not to take the GMAT again, apply to Darden, Ross, Cornell, and Duke. But if you want a really good application, wait a year and improve your EC’s.

  • MsSoftwareEngineer

    Hey Sandy and John!

    Ms. Software Engineer here. Thanks a ton! This was super helpful, I appreciate Sandy’s honest feedback. Another quick question, What is your opinion on getting a recommendation letter from a professor for early career candidates? I worked on a year-long project in ‘Big Data Analytics on Social media’ with a professor, got straight As in his classes and I wrote a research paper which is soon to be published in an international journal. I believe this can be a strong recommendation letter, but Would it be better to look for references only at work? Do Recommendation letters play a significant role at HBS or is it simply something that should Do-no-harm, like the essay?


  • hbsguru

    You’ve got a strong story for doing something mildly unusual.
    Most JD-MBA admits happen before you matriculate at either school and the one’s that do not usually happen during 1st year at L school. Not sure they will care, and your story about wanting to be Corp Counsel at F-100 (or even 500) company is supported by record. Also, fact that you have worked at MBB really helps since that is very B school type “culture” vs. large law firm which is very A-hole type culture 😉 [I’ve worked at a few].
    I’d try talking to folks at B school first, so you just don’t come in over the transom. I’d also try to meet current kids in your law class who are already in dual program. A great thing to do would be to find law prof, maybe the one nominally in charge of dual degree program, and get friendly with him.
    As to your story, it all works fine as you have delivered it, and B school will secretly believe they will make you see the error of your ways and convert you into management track, but anyway, they are prob. OK with you becoming Corp Counsel to F-100 etc. and bossing around squads of IBs and PE types, not to mention outside lawyers.
    Off the top of my head, if this HBS it is going to be a lot easier than if this is Stanford, for size and story reasons both, but you might be OK at Stanford as well.

  • hbsguru

    GRR. Four years ago I might have easily said, NO.
    These days, schools have become so GMAT focused, it’s harder to say.
    A 740 could move the needle at Kellogg and Tuck, although those places ding kids w. that as well.
    If they otherwise liked you, though, it could make it a lot easier for them to uncross their legs.


  • ScarboTweed

    Hi Sandy,

    I’ve got kind of a weird/specific situation and I’d love to hear your thoughts. I just finished my first year at Havard / Stanford law school and intend to apply to the business school during my second year and work toward a four year JD/MBA. Prior to law school I spent two years at MBB, have a 740 GMAT and 3.85 GPA from a good, but non-ivy school (think Duke, Georgetown etc.)

    I interned in the legal department of a F100 over the summer. I’m hoping to intern at a large corporate firm next summer and, long term to become general counsel at an F500 company. I think the MBA would be beneficial to round out my experience and provide additional value to my clients while at I’m at a law firm, as well as down the line in a leadership position at a company.

    Any thoughts on how to best position myself for this and about how business schools look at applicants from associated law schools? Thanks!

  • C. Taylor

    I dunno what the guru will say. I don’t agree with CB below. From what little I’ve seen, a lot will depend on your company and–in particular–what you’ve done there.

    If now happened to be six months ago, I’d suggest switching to consulting at Deloitte or similar, ASAP. Another option would be an internal transfer to something strategy related (overseas would be fun). You could still take this route now and apply after a year of the new gig. Of course, this, not knowing about your current role/impact on your company (which might be better?).

    If you really want to apply this season and aren’t an Atlas carrying your company, maybe consider Emory as well. Your GMAT is near the 90% mark and Emory grads get consulting gigs that pay.

  • Christina Brown

    Thank you for your service. Uhmm…The first word that came to mind of your profile was Tuck. I don’t see H, S or W. But I do see Columbia, Tuck, Ross, and Duke. Increase your GMAT and I can see Wharton.

  • Christina Brown

    Increase your GMAT and I can see Kellogg. Otherwise, Kellogg is a stretch. McCombs is a safety while Fuqua, Darden, and Ross as target/stretches. You can probably get into those 3 programs with a well-executed essay/optional essay if available to discuss your low GPAs/LORs.

  • Christina Brown

    Interesting. Show leadership in your EC’s, increase your GMAT up 10-20 pts at least, and ace the essays (your story) and I can see HBS, Wharton, Booth, and Columbia. You will probably get a full-ride at Stern and Duke.

  • Christina Brown

    I see MIT Sloan, Wharton (Healthcare Management Program), Haas, Stanford. I don’t know a lot about international schools, but I believe your GMAT/GPA is above their medians, so it’s worth a shot. HBS/Stanford is worth a shot, but I want to see the quantitative impact of your EC’s and job.

  • Christina Brown

    If you can increase your GMAT to 730+ , I can see your target schools plus HBS, NYU Stern, and Wharton. Without retaking it, I see NYU Stern, Ross, Anderson, and maybe Fuqua as targets with HBS, Kellogg, Wharton, and Haas as reaches. Your list may change unless you have EC’s in college, which I don’t see.

  • rorimcelroy08@gmail.com

    Hey Sandy,
    I’ve loved all your posts so far, keep it up!
    Anyway, I’m a current undergraduate and I plan on becoming a Marine Corps Officer when I graduate. After about 5-6 years I’ll apply to some of the top business schools, namely Harvard. By the time I apply my profile COULD look a bit like this…
    ~3.6-3.7 GPA International Business major (Top Midwest liberal arts college)
    -Either student body president or a senator of student government
    (currently a Senator)
    -Varsity football: 4 years; Academic All-American
    -Several other clubs and significant yearly volunteer work in and around my community
    -Studied abroad in Japan for 1 semester
    -Proficient in Japanese, Mandarin, & Arabic
    -Elementary in Spanish, Russian, and French
    What else can I do to improve my chances? Also, I have been looking into the possibility of law school and saw that Harvard had a joint JD/MBA program…. but it would be another 4 years of school. As I said before this isn’t 100% accurate but just a comment back would be greatly appreciated!

  • Matt

    Thanks for honest feedback.

    Do you think retaking the GMAT and jumping up 10-20 points would make a significant difference at this point with schools like Kellogg or Tuck? I was originally thinking no, but I’m also not the one on admissions making those calls

  • hbsguru

    Super solid GPA and GMAT, and solid, if non-thrilling work ex.
    2+2 is real, real hard. They may demand some X factor from you which seems missing in terms of IMPACT BEYOND YOURSELF which seems missing in profile above. Could happen, tho, given stats, and feel free to write back and say I was wrong.

  • hbsguru

    You are not getting into H or S simply because there are applicants w. similar goals and just stronger GPA! GMAT, schooling, and work exp.
    By stronger I mean more blue chip and higher numbers.

    Kellogg is a maybe–your explanation of why Hcare and not engineering is a good story and THAT is the best way for you to stand out. You come by that honestly and you can convince us.
    Kellogg might go for that.
    So might Tuck where they sometimes give you a chance to explain yourself for real. Darden and Fuqua are less selective but you are on the bubble there, given low GPA and OK (only) GMAT –you need to visit, show interest, and max out apps w. engaged recs, and solid interviews.

  • Matt

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m a big fan of the column and would love to hear your thoughts on my chances. I imagine I’m a pretty typical candidate for MBA programs, so I often wonder what’s going to make my application stand out and impress some of the larger programs.

    Goal: Gain the skills necessary to navigate the business world and successfully lead a healthcare company or healthcare system. End goal is to be the CEO of a health system or healthcare related company.

    24 y/o white male
    GMAT: 710 on my only attempt ( 48Q / 40V / 8IR / 6AWA)
    GPA: 3.28
    Majored in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Business at a Notre Dame. Actively involved in the campus community as the President of two on campus organizations (both engineering related) and a RA for my dorm senior year.
    Chronological Work Experience
    ~4 month Internship with a GE as an engineer prior to senior year of college
    ~4 month Infectious Disease analyst at a 1000 bed local health system (post graduation but pre “real” employment)
    ~2 years at a mid-level consulting company that specializes in Healthcare. I worked on a variety of solutions throughout the Healthcare practice, with a high level of quant work and process improvement/implementation work at 5 healthcare organizations across the country (clients ranged from national catholic healthcare systems and prestigious academic medical centers to small community hospitals). Promoted after 1.5 years (average promotion timeline is ~2.5 years). I’ve received glowing reviews from every project I’ve been on, especially as it relates to my interpersonal / client-facing skills, work ethic, and team mentality. My hope is that will translate into strong recommendations.

    I moved out of the engineering and into consulting because I felt like I was too far removed from the customer/end-user. I want to actually be working with and talking with the people I’m trying to help, not just hearing about it from my cubicle. A straight up finance or IB position doesn’t interest me. I love the healthcare field (strongly debated medical school) and the clear positive impact on individuals and communities that is possible. I don’t want to work in a job where I can’t tie my work or the work the company does back to helping others (as annoyingly cliché as that sounds). I’ve led efforts on implementing new communication processes, data analytics programs in data starved organizations, and accountability/monitoring structures for existing and newly formed processes. With my goal of being CEO of a healthcare system or a healthcare related company, I want to make sure I have a strong financial and management education, hence the b-school plans. At the same time, I don’t want to limit myself to just a healthcare focused graduate program (like MHA or MHSA).

    As far as extracurriculars, I haven’t done much outside of my job since graduation since I spend most of my time traveling and working. With that said, I’ve been actively involved in non-project activities in my current job, such as recruiting and volunteer events (3-4 times a year), but probably not consistently enough to call it out in an application. Recreational fisher and diver.

    Reach: Kellog, HBS, Stanford
    Target: Darden, Haas, Tuck, Fuqua
    Safety: Mendosa, Wharrington

  • Crystal

    Hi Sandy, thanks in advance! Really looking for some help here:

    I am a 23 year old gay Nigerian female, born in the US.

    3.4 GPA from UNC, graduated with honors. Did LOTS of research there. Started own project on African American students at PWIs and won many grants. Had some personal health trouble one semester and got Cs in Econ 101 and Stats (which killed my GPA of course) but took 2 more stats courses later on and gots As in both.

    GRE: 158Q, 159V, 4.5AW (welcoming some tough love on this…)

    Work experience: For my first year out of undergrad I worked as a College Adviser with Carolina College Advising Corps (part of the National College Advising Corps) at a disadvantaged high school. Now I just began a position as a Client Support Consultant at a growing education tech company (I’m using this position to help get my foot into their product management and user experience design team as they let me help on some projects). For a few months I have been working pro bono on a freelance diversity website as a user experience designer.

    Short term goal: To transition into a product or brand management role at a top (maybe tech) company to help make products that are inclusive of all races, genders, and ages.

    Long term goal: To be a leader of an innovative tech company, open the door for other minority females like me.

    Target schools: McCombs, Fuqua, Tuck, Johnson, Simon, Goizueta

    Safety: Penn state, Boston U, Rutgers

    Any other schools you recommend?

    Thank you so much again!

  • superman123

    Hi Sandy,

    I’m a rising senior applying to HBS 2+2 and Stanford’s deferred b-school program.

    20 y/o Asian male(Skipped a grade)
    GMAT: 770
    GPA: 3.86/4.00
    Majored in computer science, economics and biology at an Ivy League

    Work experience:
    Sales and trading internship at bulge bracket bank
    Consulting internship at MBB(expected to receive return offer)

    TA for two different intro-level classes, RA, tutor
    Marathon running
    Martial arts at a 501(c)(3) school- have been practicing martial arts for ten years, have hundreds of hours community service teaching younger students


  • hbsguru

    [first time? I’d not retake it. 😉 ]
    Also breaking into MBB consulting from this background is not hard, those places are open to artsy-780 types, believe me, esp. ones who have already shown how much s!!t they can eat at an add firm. You got a hi-class brain, you got a solid steel butt, you apparently can talk clearly–that usually works at McKinsey.
    Similarly, your other target “brand management at top lifestyle brand.” You could get that job post-MBA as well. [By the way, you might be able to get a McKinsey job NOW–they are way more impressed w. a 780 GMAT than they are w. an MBA, and rightly so!!! Just saying and check it out, find someone who works there and get some informational interview.]
    Ahem as to getting IN to B school versus getting a job once you get out, dunno, just give ’em guff about the low GPA, they will get it, and GMAT plus eating s!!t equals OK GPA to most adcoms.
    Kellogg would go for this, and HBS might. Other places too, on your reach list, just execute in some balanced and clear way, as you did in this post.

  • Mr Madmen

    Hi Sandy-

    I love the column and would really appreciate your reviewing my profile–

    Goal: To transition from job as an ad exec into career in brand management at top lifestyle brand OR pivot into job as consulting (I know this requires a serious pivot.) Pursuing an MBA to buff up my quant/financial training and expand my network outside the advertising industry. Ultimately, I want to be CMO of a lifestyle brand.

    28 y/o white male
    GMAT: 780: 50Q / 51V / 7IR / 6AWA (first attempt)
    GPA: 3.24
    Majored in Acting at top 15 liberal arts college in Northeast. Minored in History.
    Studied abroad at world’s most selective acting conservatory in junior year.

    Work Experience (chronological):
    <1 year as professional actor
    <1 year at boutique marketing firm
    1 year in sales at tech startup (clients were hedgefunds, PE, commercial real estate, major non-profits)
    2.8 years at award winning advertising agency working on leading tech brand (apple, google), global CPG (Kraft, Colgate), and global sport/retail brand (Nike, adidas, etc).

    I graduated with ambitions to be an actor but I grew disillusioned quickly. Networked my way into a job at a forgettable marketing firm, and from there I took a client dev/sales job at a a rising tech startup ($60M+ private investment) offering pricey business development tool. Managed and grew multiple accounts through combination of inside and outside sales.

    Transitioned into account exec at boutique advertising agency. Promoted after second year– my current title is in keeping with my age in the ad industry, so I've made up for lack of focus in early career. Last client was a global CPG where I focused on launching new products in EEMEA region, specifically Russia, Middle East, & Africa. Current client is a retail brand where I develop creative strategy with client, manage creative teams, oversee budgets, and produce through-the line-advertising for client's global comms. We're the lead agency responsible for overseeing secondary agency (social, retail, etc.) creative direction. Recent brand campaign won multiple industry awards and has earned significant press for my agency and client brand.

    Extracurricular: Young alumni leadership committee/reunion committee/class agent for my college. Play squash recreationally. Classically trained in Shakespearean theatre (seriously), but I don't act anymore. (I'll readily admit I don't volunteer at the soup kitchen, etc. because I work 70-80 hour weeks and am applying to b-school.)

    Reach: HBS, Kellog, MIT, Columbia
    Target: Tuck, Fuqua, Darden, Haas, YSOM, Ross
    Other: Kenan-Flagler, McCombs


    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks in advance.

    27 y/o white male
    GMAT: 700
    GPA: 3.67
    Majored in Film + Advertising from top 5 public school

    Work Experience: 5 years at big media company (CBS/FOX/NBC) working in sales + marketing. Multiple promotions including getting to work on the biggest property at the company.

    Extracurricular activities: President of my undergrad alumni association in NYC. Organize events for thousands of alumni in the area and award $40K in scholarships annually. We also organize volunteer days each month.

    Transition from “legacy” media company to a tech-first media company (Google, Amazon, Netflix). The goal is to work in business development.

    Reach: HBS
    Targets: Kellogg, Ross, Fuqua, Anderson, Haas

    Thank you!

  • Schlum Burger

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks for the eval. My primary concern is that my profile is too generic/cookie-cutter without anything to set me apart, especially for the M7. I’m sure they get a ton of people from the samer kind of background and group them into the same bucket, so any advice on how to tailor my application to stand out would be much appreciated. The fund I’m at doesn’t really have a history of sending people to business school or recruiting out of business schools, unlike the Bain Capital and Blackstonese of the world.

    -26 year old American male
    -3.9 GPA in finance from a top public school (think UVA, UNC, Berkley, Texas, Michigan etc.)
    -750 GMAT
    -2 years bulge bracket investment banking
    -2 years of credit / distressed debt investing at a large hedge fund
    -Pretty generic extracurriculars (exec. board for a couple of organizations at school, worked on the investment team for my university’s endownment, member of an alumni council for an organization at school, do some charity work for my church)
    -Goal is to transition into activist investing

    Thank you!

  • LatinLaw

    Hi Sandy,

    I have a unique profile for you to think about. I appreciate your insight:

    25 year old Colombian male

    710 GMAT (40V/48Q), planning retake aiming for a 740


    Lawyer with minor in business from top university in the country (top 5 in LatAm), 3.41 GPA, including a scholarship from the university

    Currently enrolled in postgraduate degree on Tax Law at same school

    Scholarship from the Colombian Government to pursue any postgraduate degree (the catch is I HAVE to apply this year)

    Extracurricular: worked in my school’s legal clinic for 1 year providing legal services to underprivileged people in need (also counts as work experience?)

    Work experience:

    15 months at a commercial litigation boutique law firm in Colombia

    18 months at a coporate and tax boutique law firm in Colombia (will be 28 months at enrollment)

    Goal: transition into business in order to lead and expand a family owned real estate development company in Colombia

    Schools: Harvard, Wharton, Berkeley, Chicago, Columbia, Dartmouth

    Thanks in advance!

  • A

    thank you!!!!! much, much appreciated.

  • hbsguru

    “GPA counts 10% for Law schools vs. 7.5% for business schools.”
    Ahem, yes for folks at USNEWS doing the rankings, but do not let that fool you, applicants, that B school adcoms count your GPA only 7.5 percent, it is more like
    30-50 percent, depending on other stuff in your eco-system, but it is real important.

    As to USNEWS, I got a feeling a lot of their weight elements are to some degree at bottom based on GPA/GMAT. For instance, they consider as a weight element how b school deans rank schools, but my guess is,
    a good deal of that is just ‘informed’ hearsay based a good deal on dean’s feeling for stats, and general reputation. It is not like Deans visit other schools and conduct some deep, peer reviewed analysis of the program and that intense analysis often leads to outliers where stats are low but based on other things, school gets super high rankings. That just does not happen. Some formula combining just GPA and GMAT could do a very good job of replicating the USNEWS list, all the editors footnotes and guff notwithstanding. A good deal of dean’s rankings is just gut stuff based on what is in the air, and much of what is in the air is GPA and GMAT.

  • hbsguru

    JOHN (editor of PQ), I think a column done by a stats savvy contributor listing top 10 B schools by how much they favor or not GPA vs GMAT, similar to this finding about Berk (that is puts more weight apparently on GPA than peer schools), would be of some use. Altho I got a feeling we are talking about small differences but maybe not.

    Note to Hmm, got any idea why this is so for Berk??

  • hbsguru

    this is pretty maxed out profile of a biz-arts type, including a 3.9
    at Princeton, year in UK, real solid GRE’s [if you want some tough love, a similar GMAT score would be even better, esp. in your case, where it would set off in high relief the artsy stuff, altho GRE does that a bit too],

    Only tiny issue here is ” past 5 years at a mid-sized NYC auction house: presently specialist in
    charge of 2 fine art sale categories, but work on approximately 15 sales annually.” Five years is long time in one job, esp. in your game at your level (correct me if I am wrong), and “mid-sized” is never a plus in Apps Universe, altho since art galleries, auctions etc. is a niche industry to begin with, it may not count as much. Anyway, not a super issue, and the 5 year issue is dealt with a bit by what seem like lots
    of promotions.
    “Ultimate goal is to start an art investment fund.”
    Hmm. that may be a bridge too far–investment fund in art, pork bellies, toxic sludge remediation credits or tech start-ups is more about INVESTNG than the content. You don’t have an investing background and you are not going to get on, in the eyes of most employers, at B school.
    Investors are kids who did IB, PE, etc after college. This may be
    different in the closed and linen napkin world of “investible” art, but I
    don’t think so.
    My strong advice is to say you want to lead a
    gallery that has a new model, e.g. “internet whatever” [I assume you
    know what a new good model would be] and to do that you plan to take a
    REAL BORING WHATEVER gig at Sotheby’s or Christie’s or yadda, yadda.
    I don’t know the name of that job, but those places employ MBAs and look that up and say you want that job.
    cert. need some version of that for J-term at Columbia which is focused
    on applicants going back to their boring jobs or something like that
    after MBA.
    All that said, this is a real tight story and the extras
    are solid and the poll-tested kinds of do-gooder things people like you
    do [“Board of Arts Charter School in Bronx”!!!], so another plus.

    to like, and MIT and Booth will take comfort in OK GRE Quant score, and
    then think what a great add you’d be to their often not-to-artsy class.

    HBS gets a small number of cases like this every year and you are a solid version of the type, so odds there are good.
    Stanford has people like you, too. Could happen there.

  • hbsguru

    could you clarify this

    – 1 year teaching high school religion and history
    – 6 years enlisted military
    – 3 years special operations experience conducting foreign audience research and messaging in combat zones

    when did you teach HS?
    is 3yrs special ops exp. part of your 6 years in military?
    Are you in military now? And will you be applying fr. military?


  • Nighat

    Please analyze my MBA odds for HBS, Wharton & Rotman MBA

    Nighat Bano (29, F)
    (I am a self-made person & consider myself as agent of change for Women Empowerment & Community Service)

    Born & brought up in a very remote & isolated area (Hunza Valley) in Northern Pakistan. While I was studying & topped every class, other girls of my age in my neighbor had hardly got till 6-7 class & left their studies then, even my 2 sisters could hardly reach class 5. Meaning I am one of the very people in my area to get into an Engineering University. Always topped my class as well as the topper of whole school/college throughout, got “Student of the Year Award” starting from nursery till passing the college.

    Mechatronics Engineering with 81%/100% (Grade A+ as per Pakistan Education system), from University of Engineering & Technology Lahore, one of the top Engineering Universities in Pakistan.

    GMAT: Not taken yet, targeting 710.

    Work Experience: Total 7 years so far

    Started With: Schlumberger, Field Engineer (Around 2 Years)
    Among the very few females from whole Pakistan who had been hired by Schlumberger as Field Engineer, worked on oil & gas rigs in & outside Pakistan. I was the only female on oil & gas rigs in Pakistan working with hundreds of male in remote areas in a male dominant society plus a male dominant profession so faced several challenges, however I continued.
    Later switched & work as Marketing coordinator with another company for 1 year

    Current Job: Weatherford, Operations Coordinator (4 years by now)
    Job role & responsibilities started with operations management & some administrative tasks, currently involved in sales & financial analysis (Income Statement review, revenue recognition, identifying opportunities for resource optimization etc.)

    Very active throughout academic period.
    Head-Girl – School Student Council
    Head-Girl – College Student Council
    Team Manager “Andigo Cricket Team” at Weatherford (my work place)

    Community Service:
    – When I was in Grade 6 (at the age of 11), I started free tutoring services at home for people in my community who couldn’t afford to go to tuition centers & academies. Juniors as well as my own classmates used to come to me for tuition; the schedule was from 3pm-7pm every day. I ran this free tuition center for some 7 years, till the time I had to move out of home for my graduation (Engineering) from a very far away city (Lahore).
    – Involvement in other community work as part of Pakistan Girls Guides Association.
    – Currently associated as a volunteer with a Community Based Organization working in organic farming of apples in my hometown. Helped them introduce their products to retailers & wholesalers in markets in big cities like Islamabad & Lahore. We are still working on exploring some more markets.

    Academic Achievements:
    Topped throughout from Grade 1 till passing out from college, so got “Student of the Year Award” every year.
    Recipient of merit scholarships throughout my academic years till graduation
    (Proud of never taking any penny from my parents to Finance my studies, rather I used to give some amount to my parents during Engineering as I was giving tuition classes — not free this time)
    Represented my school in several competitions.
    Represented my university in “Battle of Minds”, an inter university competition in Pakistan.

    Work Achievements:
    Along with several others; won as part of team “Salesfroce Anticipate the win Award” for winning multi-million dollar contract with largest National Oil Company in Pakistan.

    Post-MBA Goals:
    Want to work in Sustainable Energy field.

  • MohawkMonk87

    I am military, but my situation is a bit different (enlisted background, career transition, reasonably high numbers). Can you evaluate my profile?

    – 30 year old white male
    – 3.74 GPA (tier 2 public, ranked between 90-110) in Math and Philosophy
    – Honors Magna Cum Laude, PBK
    – GRE 166V/162Q/4.5W = GRE 700
    – Humanities MA (terminal) from HYP
    – 1 year teaching high school religion and history
    – 6 years enlisted military
    – 3 years special operations experience conducting foreign audience research and messaging in combat zones

    Reaches: Harvard, MIT, Dartmouth, Yale, Duke

    Targets: UNC-Chapel Hill, Georgetown, Cornell

    Goals: I want to earn a joint MBA/MPP and transition into either marketing or political consultancy, both of which are related but not exact equivalents to my work with the military.

  • kevin lee

    Hi Sandy,
    Thank you in advance for your opinion, very interested to hear what you think of my profile for Harvard and Wharton
    – New Zealander 26 yrs old
    – GMAT 760 first attempt
    – GPA: First class honours at top 5 UK University
    – Work experience:
    3.5 years equity prop trading for Merrill Lynch London
    1 year equity prop trading (ran risk trading for couple regions) Merrill Lynch Hong Kong
    1 year hedge fund sales in Korea
    – Extra curricular:
    University investment club founder, course rep, other finance society executive
    London Professional Network services Marketing officer
    Internship/ Graduate recruitment mentor
    – CFA Level 2 candidate
    – Short term goal: Equity strategy
    – Long term goal: Equity PM

  • zgd3200@gmail.com

    Hi Sandy,

    Target Schools: MIT, Haas, HBS, GSB, INSEAD

    GMAT: 780 (50Q, 48V)

    GPA: 3.58
    Majored in Chemistry at a top 50 school with a large amount of graduate work (Big Private in NE USA).

    Work Experience: 4 years at a medium sized biotech/pharma company in medicinal chemistry (read drug discovery) (3 promotions)
    Several publications as the main author in major research journals (not sure if anyone cares)
    Internships at a major oil services firm for two summers in R&D.

    Extracurricular activities: Tutored organic chemistry during college
    assistant in an organic chemistry research group during college (2.5
    years 20+ hrs a week) where I co-led a project where I was responsible
    for training and managing other undergrads (2).
    20+ MOOCs in CS/Math/Business (Wharton Coursera Foundations series)
    Teaching myself German (Somewhere around B1 or B2 level proficiency)
    Pursuing part time masters in computer science (Online top 10 program)
    Marathons (semi-competitive sub-3 hours)

    Volunteering: Mentoring urban high school students entering science fairs (3 years)
    Volunteer at various charity races and run with homeless bostonians as outreach.

    Start company at intersection of pharma and chemistry to further
    automate the drug development process (perhaps after a few years in

    25 y/o white male.

  • hbsguru

    this is pretty maxed out profile of a biz-arts type, including a 3.9 at Princeton, year in UK, real solid GRE’s [if you want some toxic love, similar GMAT score would be even better, esp. in your case, where it would set off in high relief the artsy stuff, altho GRE does that a bit too],

    Only tiny issue here is ” past 5 years at a mid-sized NYC auction house: presently specialist in
    charge of 2 fine art sale categories, but work on approximately 15 sales
    annually.” Five years is long time in one job, esp. in your game at your level (correct me if I am wrong), and “mid-sized” is never a plus in Apps Universe, altho since art galleries, auctions etc. is a niche industry to begin with, it may not count as much. Anyway, not a super issue, and the 5 year issue is dealt with a bit by what seem like lots of promotions.
    “Ultimate goal is to start an art investment fund.” Hmm. that may be a bridge too far–investment fund in art, pork bellies, toxic sludge remediation credits or tech start-ups is more about INVESTNG than the content. You don’t have an investing background and you are not going to get on, in the eyes of most employers, at B school. Investors are kids who did IB, PE, etc after college. This may be different in the closed and linen napkin world of “investible” art, but I don’t think so.
    My strong advice is to say you want to lead a gallery that has a new model, e.g. “internet whatever” [I assume you know what a new good model would be] and to do that you plan to take a REAL BORING WHATEVER gig at Sotheby’s or Christie’s or yadda, yadda.
    I don’t know the name of that job, but those places employ MBAs and look that up and say you want that job.
    You cert. need some version of that for J-term at Columbia which is focused on applicants going back to their boring jobs or something like that after MBA.
    All that said, this is a real tight story and the extras are solid and the poll-tested kinds of do-gooder things people like you do [“Board of Arts Charter School in Bronx”!!!], so another plus.

    Lots to like, and MIT and Booth will take comfort in OK GRE Quant score, and then think what a great add you’d be to their often not-to-artsy class.
    HBS gets a small number of cases like this every year and you are a solid version of the type, so odds there are good.
    Stanford has people like you, too. Could happen there.

  • A

    Advance thanks and gratitude for your insights, Sandy!

    White female, age 26
    3.96 GPA from Princeton in art history; received several thesis prizes and full scholarship for 1/2 junior year abroad at a UK university
    GRE: 170 Verbal, 166 Quant
    Work experience: past 5 years at a mid-sized NYC auction house: presently specialist in charge of 2 fine art sale categories, but work on approximately 15 sales annually
    Personal: indoor cycling instructor and physique athlete; Board of Trustees of an arts charter school in the Bronx
    Applying: Columbia J-term; Harvard; Stanford; Booth; MIT
    Ultimate goal is to start an art investment fund


  • James

    Hi Sandy, Love the series and constant interaction with the comments section. I am a current Army officer (past 3 years) with an additional 4 years of civilian work experience finance/consulting (3 yrs of which was spent working in China) prior to military.

    Age/sex/ethnicity: 30/M/W

    – Mil: Infantry Platoon Leader, Battalion Staff officer (consistently ranked as top performing officer in peer group)
    -Civ: 3 yrs in China split between two US firms: 1st at leading PR firm and 2nd at financial consulting firm. Prior to China did 1-2 yrs at US mutual fund (operations role).

    Degree: 3.5/4 from a midwestern state school (completed BA in 3 yrs), also completed nondegree course work from most prestigious university in China, and recently completed HBx CORe certificate.

    GMAT: 700

    Extra curricular: Been volunteering for same international high school exchange program nonprofit for 5 yrs, last two spent as the lead State rep for my State overseeing student/host family placement and recruiting.

    Goals: Investment Banking associate at a BB.

    Target schools: Harvard, MIT, Wharton, Columbia, NYU

    Appreciate the feedback.

  • Dan

    Hi Sandy, I really enjoy reading these columns and would love for you to evaluate my profile.

    730 GMAT (48Q, 41V)

    3.6 GPA

    Undergrad degree in math from a top 15 liberal arts school (think Vassar/Hamilton/Wesleyan). Varsity athlete all four years of college, voted captain senior year.

    Work experience: Will have five years experience in supply chain management in the semiconductor manufacturing industry at matriculation. This includes two years at a Fortune 100 tech company before my organization was acquired by one of the world’s leading semiconductor manufacturing companies, where I will have been for the last three years. Job role involved supply planning and working directly with customer to address any potential problems. I was selected to work on the account of one of our company’s largest and most important customers. Received one promotion.

    Extracurricular: Volunteer work at a local LGBT non-profit, mentoring and providing a safe space for LGBT youth as well as helping to organize fundraising events.

    Goal: Transition to management consulting (MBB) or product management at a top tech company.

    27 year old gay white male

    Target schools: Dartmouth, Northwestern, Berkeley, Virginia, Michigan, U of Washington


  • Daniel

    This is what I needed to hear! Thanks for the facts. This is exactly what I wanted.

  • CT

    Hi Sandy,

    Would love to get your thoughts on my profile as a Canadian applicant.

    • Demographic: 24-year old mixed-race female.

    • GMAT: 720

    •Undergrad: Bcomm from top Canadian school (think Ivey, Queen’s). Only 3.1 GPA.

    •Work experience: 2 years at major retailer (hint: starts with W) with 2 promotions. One year as rotational leadership program associate. Promoted to associate manager in buying department (full P&L oversight). Promoted to manager on strategic project team (pricing).

    • Founder of small fitness business that serves young professional women. Featured in some major media outlets and blogs.

    • Extracurriculars:

    Undergrad: leadership roles for women in business society, leadership roles organizing a few conferences, volunteered abroad in Central America.

    Current: Avid runner, yogi and fitness enthusiast. Lost a lot of weight and wrote about experience in national magazine. Blog about wellness, work-life balance, new-grad careers, networking and professional development for major blogs –been syndicated on Newsweek, Forbes, The Muse, and in national Canadian papers.

    • Goal: To transition into top-tier consulting firm in retail and consumer goods practice OR corporate strategy at a major retailer or consumer goods company.

    • First in family to graduate from university.

    • Target schools: Kellogg, Yale, Tuck, INSEAD.

  • hbsguru

    PS: the girly-girl adcoms are also impressed with combat war stories, if told the right way. Impact of being in combat on your values, outlook, empathy, etc. is obviously powerful, ; list of “towel heads” you mowed down and lyrical account of your courageous charge into nest of ji-hard-ons, not so good.

    “Ha, ha Sandy, that is soooo obvious, why are you even mentioning it?”
    Because obvious or not, many essay writers screw this up. Not because they are immature, boozy drunks and braggers but because they are unsure essay writers and they default to some bad tropes, unaware of what the impact of their style is.
    Friends, as often noted, DO NO HARM, rule number 1.

  • hbsguru

    hey, I like you, but this is not so unique. Basically its a ROTC/military app from a guy w. a 3.5 GPA fr. a so-so state school and a 700 GMAT.
    Your military service may involve more ‘leadership’ than other military guys, but as often noted here, the girly-girl pacifists who read your app are not too savvy about what is a selective/impt military gig vs. not. Basically the key metrics for you, and most military guys, are 1. undergrad school prestige, 2. GPA, 3. GMAT, 4. any halo effect fr. military career which usually means any obvious badge that the girly-girls can understand: PILOT and NAVY SEAL being the two badges they all know.
    The admire those gigs because they are thought to be hard to get, viz. selective. What you actually do as a pilot, e.g. fly trash containers out of forward bases twice a week vs. engage w. fighter jets fr. Iran over the straights of Hormuz is of NO interest to anyone (well hardly). You’re a pilot, that is hard to do, moving right along . . . .
    In your case, you got a fine job and they respect that, and if you can tell some powerful leadership stories in your essays, as it appears you can, that will max out your essay score. A maxed out essay score is not going to barnstorm you into your target schools because the key metrics above [schooling, gpa, gmat etc] are not in line.
    Sorry if this is something a bubble bust, but thems the facts, and don’t shoot the messenger.
    HBS, Wharton, Stanford!, and Columbia are going to be a real reach w. this profile. Tuck might be open to your full story, esp. if you visit and wow them w. your personal interview, but that is long shot. There are MANY schools between those and Texas that you might look at, sorta 10-25 USNEWS.

  • Peter

    Hi Sandy,

    thank your for for evaluating my profile, here we go:

    German, Male, 30
    GMAT 710 (Q48, V39), 1st attempt
    GPA 3.5 in Environmental / urban planning from a German university, top graduate of class
    Master thesis published in an international, peer-reviewed journal
    4.5 years work experience at Big4 Consulting in Germany, Strategy & Operations practice, two promotions
    1.5 years work experience in operations and investment in a blue chip insurance company

    Goal is to either return to real estate investment (that’s what i’m doing now – fallback option) or to work in the smart city sector, i.e. diversified industry (infrastructure, technology, transportation).

    Target schools are only European, since I only target 1y-programs:



  • Daniel

    Hi Sandy I think I have a fairly unique resume! I’d love to hear what you think about an Air Force officer who is not a pilot.

    Age/sex/ethnicity: 25 male caucasian
    Career: First Lieutenant Aircraft Maintenance Officer
    Degree: 3.55 (Magna Cum Laude) in Finance from a average state school (think U Houston/Mizzou/U South Florida)
    Commissioning source: ROTC
    GMAT: 700 — 48Q, 38V, 6IR, 6AWA

    I’m always told, even by pilots, that there’s no better opportunity in the Air Force to lead at a young age than as an Aircraft Maintenance officer. (Anecdote: a General who was a pilot told me it took him 15 years to get the leadership opportunity I had on day one) I am the Officer In Charge of an Aircraft Maintenance Unit that contains 100+ maintainers. Technically this is a job for Captains. In the Air Force, it is the Maintenance Group that owns the Aircraft. It is my job to negotiate and generate the flying program and manage the triage and the chaos that that entails. On a daily basis I have to grapple with bureaucracy and resource shortfalls. I believe I can sell the process oriented/outside the box thinking mentality I developed here to convey why I can become a successful business consultant.

    Extra curriculars: my senior year of college (3 years ago) I volunteered twice a week at a children’s hospital. Last year I managed a base wide fundraising campaign that raised $14,000 for 4 charities supporting Airmen and their families. I have been involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters for just over a year.

    Goals: I want to be a consultant at Bain/McKinsey/BCG

    Target schools: Harvard, Stanford, Dartmouth, Wharton, Columbia, Texas (safe school)

    Thank you so much!

  • Jon Q

    Demographic: 28 year old, African American male

  • Jon Q

    730 GMAT

    3.15 Undergraduate GPA / 3.65 Double Masters in Management (think 1st year MBA curriculum) & Accounting

    Undergraduate degree from Ivy League (HYP).

    Masters from reputable graduate accounting program. Licensed Certified Public Accountant. Completed Chartered Financial Analyst Level I exam.

    Work experience includes 2.5 years in public accounting at a “Big Four” firm providing tax compliance services to firms within the asset management industry. Promoted to Senior Associate in one year and a half.

    Extracurricular involvement includes participation in Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program. Also active in local youth and financial literacy events.

    Goal: To pursue a top MBA and transition to a career in finance; specifically investment banking

    Considering: HBS, Fuqua, Wharton, Booth, Columbia, & Stern

  • Jason

    Hi Sandy,

    Thanks in advance for taking a look at my profile and odds. Love your articles.

    Education: 2.67 GPA Top 50 Public State School (Accounting) This I can explain being immature and have taken 3 quant classes recently and have gotten A’s in all 3 and also have my CPA.

    Demographic: 25 year old, Caucasian, male

    GMAT: (730 49Q 40V)

    Work Experience: Internal auditor for a Fortune 500 Company I’ll have 3 years of experience once I start an MBA program. Early promotion within our Audit program. Our Audit program is a known feeder to upper level Management Positions within the company.

    Extracurriculars: Weekly teachings of personal finance to middle school through highschool students.

    Goal of MBA: Management Consulting

    Target Schools: Ross, Darden, Fuqua, Kellog, McCombs

    Would love to hear your feedback, I know your thinking Mr. Accountant probably not the best personality, but I’m one of the few that goes against the grain. If I can get the interview at one of the schools I’m pretty sure I can get in. I’m also thinking of going to a couple of the meet and greets at one of the schools before applying.



  • hmm

    Appreciate the color, it’s very helpful. I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets dinged from H/W/C/M – combined odds of 50% for those four schools if I have to pull out a number. But if nonprofit has a higher “status” than CPG, I could be way off. I won’t be competing with her in any way, so I wish her best of luck 😉

  • hbsguru

    I answer this below, dealing w. MANY glitches in this Discuss software, if you reading this John Byrne!!!! Including lock ups, inability to enter data, and disappearing long posts!!!

  • hbsguru

    I re-read the profile and I’m sticking with the program, with this caveat, as noted in text.
    “A lot of your outcomes at elite business schools will turn on the
    reputation of the nonprofit that currently employs you. There is a totem
    pole of nonprofits, beginning with the Bill and Melinda Gates
    Foundation and going down to I don’t know what. The higher up your
    non-profit organization is, the more likely your odds of admission
    Assuming this gal works for blue-chip non-profit, she has a tight, impressive story with the right lingo, the right career path, the right pushy goals (to make innovation, even the slow moving non-profit world), and a history of doing this. There is also just a halo of likability around the whole profile.
    You ask, “Isn’t 27-year white female in non-profit as common as while male consultant or white female in CPG?” Hmm, not exactly. The cohort of white male consultants at tier one firms with “average” stats for HBS, is more crowded and admit algo is more daunting. White female fr. tier-1 CPG with solid HBS type GPA and GMAT fr near Ivy and tight record of doing good work in CPG, plus being likable, like this person . . .would have real solid HBS odds with solid execution, recs, etc. Also, on the magical invisible status stairway, Non-Profit is higher up than CPG. Another intangible.
    I agree with you that we do not have real granular info about this applicant (nor org names), but working with the info we do have, this is impressive applicant.

    What odds would you give her????

  • hbsguru

    test, since last comment was disappeared by cache error (dont ask).

  • Cam

    You think Berkeley would blink at a 2.6 that easily? I have a 3.1 with 740 GMAT and have little optimism heading into applications because Berkeley has seemed to be a school (even their Law program) more focused on GPA than the average.

  • hmm

    And by clear story I meant a linear career trajectory (i.e. career accelerator) with near-term future goals tightly aligned with one’s background/work experience.

  • hmm

    Sandy, I’ve enjoyed reading your series and I tend to agree with your assessment on candidacy odds, but this time I’m a bit surprised at the odds you put out for this Ms. NonProfit candidate. 30-40% at HBS, along with 40%+ odds for other top schools, seems to be on the high side of candidates you reviewed through your series, and I just don’t see a 40%+ odds at top schools in this applicant. Isn’t 27-year white female in non-profit as common as while male consultant or white female in CPG?

    Cum laude from Amherst/Williams is definitely a plus, but the scores are in-line with those schools’ average at best, so I’m having a hard time reconciling the high odds with the given information. Maybe schools value consistency in one’s career and like a clear story? Then my question becomes do schools like career accelerators more than career changers holding all else equal? I’d love to hear your thoughts, thank you.

  • hbsguru

    if any questions about the above, or you want a profile eval. Post here.