Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Classic Candidate
GMAT 760, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Ms. Athlete Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Unrealistic Ambitions
GMAT 710, GPA 2.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Equal Opportunity
GMAT 760, GPA 4.0
Tuck | Mr. Over-Experienced
GRE 330, GPA 3.0
HEC Paris | Mr. Indian Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 2.1
Chicago Booth | Mr. Community Uplift
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Worldwide
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
Darden | Mr. Education Consulting
GRE 326, GPA 3.58
Wharton | Mr. LatAm Indian Trader
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Wharton | Mr. MBB to PE
GMAT 740, GPA 3.98
Darden | Mr. Stock Up
GMAT 700, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. MBB Aspirant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Ms. Finance
GMAT 760, GPA 3.48
Harvard | Mr. Soldier Boy
GMAT 720, GPA 3.72
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Angel Investor
GMAT 700, GPA 3.20
Rice Jones | Mr. ToastMasters Treasurer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
Kellogg | Mr. MBB Private Equity
GMAT TBD (target 720+), GPA 4.0
Said Business School | Ms. Creative Planner
GMAT 690, GPA 3.81 / 5.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Wedding Music Business
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Big 4 Auditor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55
Harvard | Mr. Software PE
GMAT 760, GPA 3.45
Harvard | Mr. First Gen Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 4.0 (First Class Honours)
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB/FinTech
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Break Into Buy-Side
GMAT 780, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Perseverance
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Muckraker

Patriotic soldier salute


Mr. National Guard


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.89 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in finance from a big state school (think Ohio or Penn State)
  • Work experience includes two years as a consultant at Deloitte; to more years at a bulge bracket investment bank as an analyst; currently an aviation officer in the Army National Guard
  • Extracurricular involvement in leadership positions in ROTC clubs, a business fraternity, and investment club; volunteer work on trips to poor areas in a European country as well as Miami
  • “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). “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.”
  • Goal: To work for a private equity firm to continue to help grow struggling areas
  • 27-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20%

Wharton: 30%

Columbia: 30% to 40%

MIT: 20%

Chicago: 30%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Yale: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Going to Penn State is not an issue. The top 5 business schools are OK with that if it fits some kind of first-generation college narrative of a young lad on the way up. What may be more of an issue is how they compute your Deloitte and Bulge Bracket experience. You are competing in a cohort of finance types where often the profile is bulge bracket, private equity, venture capital, or hedge funds.

So given the choice between that guy from a near Ivy-ish college (public or private) and then an i-bank/PE type, they will take THAT guy, especially if your GMAT does not go much over 700.
Ironically, that is where the Penn State DNA comes back to bite you. What you should have done was get that bulge bracket 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, though. Get a 730 GMAT and solid recs, execute your applicadtions serviceably and you got a solid shot at Wharton, Columbia, Tuck, Yale and the rest.

Not sure the National Guard vs. the regular U.S. Army is an issue because 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.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.