Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Ms. Non-Profit, Ms. Software Engineer, Mr. IT Health, Ms. Burger King, Mr. Big Three

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!

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