Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. Big Data, Mr. IEEE, Ms. Government, Mr. Startup

Sandy and John

This 27-year-old white male grew up in a trailer park, the son of a single parent. But after a pair of degrees in electrical engineering from the University of Missouri, this 27-year-old, first generation college graduate now has a job at one of Silicon Valley’s well-known hardware firms. With a 710 GMAT, he wants to go to business school so he can transition into a role helping small start-ups in under-privileged locales.

This big data analyst at a major telecom company in Philadelphia once participated in a 46-hour dance marathon. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.4 GPA in economics from a big state school, he hopes to get the MBA to land a job at McKinsey, Bain or BCG in strategic consulting.

He’s a white male with a Hispanic sounding name who has been working for a startup at the intersection of business, law and healthcare. With a 700 GMAT and a 3.52 GPA from Marist College,  this young professional hopes to leverage his experience and an MBA into a strategic consultant role for McKinsey, Bain or BCG, with the longer-term goal of gaining a corporate strategy leadership role

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

These candidates and among the many who want 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 again 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.

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.)


Mr. Big Data


  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.42 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in economics from a big state school (think Ohio State or Penn State)
  • Work experience includes three years at Capital One as an analyst, promoted to senior analyst after two years; two years at a major telecom company based in Philadelphia working with big data and recently promoted there
  • Extracurricular involvement as the president of his college fraternity, ballroom dancer, participated in a 46-hour dance marathon
  • Goal: To join a Big Three consulting firm and eventually build an organization based on data for decision making
  • Concerned about what he calls “a mediocre GPA” but expects to get good recommendations from managers
  • Plans to focus his essay on analytics
  • 27-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Wharton: 40% to 50%

Columbia: 40% to 50%

NYU: 50%+

Virginia: 50%+

Harvard: 20% to 30%

Sandy’s Analysis: The bottom line is you should apply to Harvard Business School. You are a big data guy. Big data, analytics, data-based decision making, risk management are all a large part of the future and if you can do it, you are a hot hand.

A 3.42 at a big state school, like Ohio or Penn State, ain’t great but it’s acceptable. Working for Capital One as an analyst and a senior analyst for three years is okay. So far we are talking about business schools rated five through 15. Then, you moved to a big telecom in Philly—I am guessing Comcast—which I call a promotion because it is a big, powerful company in so many ways. And you are doing big data analytics there which is again hot.

The cherry is the 740 GMAT. That makes it all congeal, baby, it’s like an Etch-A-Sketch thing, all of a sudden you get the whole picture. The GMAT brings it home. You are a smart guy, who knows how to have fun, and you probably have a lead butt that can do analytics at a boring company. You just get the picture of you being a future possible rock star in analytics, particularly the management of analytics.

Don’t worry about your GPA. When you look at how much weight business schools give to GPA, your score won’t matter all that much, especially bcause of your GMAT and your good recommendations. You should get into Wharton, and

if you can execute well on the application, you have a good chance at Harvard.

There is a whole playing deck of Stanford and Harvard types and you are a card in that deck. You are the Jack of Hearts. You are a face card, you’re well-liked and you’re real solid. In fact, for some of your target schools, like Darden and Stern, you need to convince them you really want to go there because you are a candidate who can get into a more highly ranked school.

In your essay, you should make a case on how you have grown in the field and how you intend to build upon that. Make it clear you know the industry well. You should locate people who are nerd managers and say these are your role models. You should point to managers at Comcast who might fit that description. I’m sure there are plenty of nerd managers there.

You said you plan to apply in round one to most of your target schools. Throw an app into Harvard for round two. That is my advice to you.

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