Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. Brand Manager, Ms. Private Trader, Mr. Startup, Ms. Stanford Law School

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Sandy Kreisberg (left) and John A. Byrne

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Sandy Kreisberg (left) and John A. Byrne

She’s a 25-year-old young professional who works for a marketing startup that advises such major clients as Unilever, Google and Frito-Lay on how to market to Hispanic customers. With a 700 GMAT and a 3.7 grade point average, she hopes to get an MBA to transition into a traditional brand management job.

After nearly four years at a big four consulting firm, this 28-year-old Italian woman became a private trader, something she’s been doing for the past three and one-half years. With a 760 GMAT and a pair of master’s degrees in accounting and international management, she now wants to get an MBA in the hopes of landing a job at a hedge fund.

He’s currently pursuing a master’s degree at Columbia University in management science and engineering. But this Indian graduate student now wants to apply to Harvard, Stanford and Yale for deferred admission so he can use the time in between his current master’s and his MBA to start a company.

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

All three of these candidates and several more 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.)

Ms. Brand Manager


  • 700 GMAT
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a top public college in Virginia
  • Work experience includes two years at a marketing startup that advises such large companies as Unilever, Google and Frito-Lay on how to market to the Hispanic and multicultural consumers in the U.S.; reports directly to the president of the startup who will write her a glowing recommendation
  • “Although the company is small, it is seen as a thought leader in total market strategies”
  • Extracurricular involvement as an advocate for brand marketing via total market strategies
  • Goal: To be a brand manager who progresses to a top marketing role
  • 25-year-old female

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 40% to 50%

Duke: 40% to 50%

Virginia: 40% to 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: Your chances turn on some things we don’t know. You say, for example, that you graduated from a top public college. If you have a 3.7 from UVA, that’s great. If you have a 3.7 from a public school in Virginia without a national reputation, that’s another thing. A lot of this will also turn on what an admissions committee thinks of the company you are working for. It’s small and likely unknown so you are going to have a lot of explaining to do.

If the firm is, as you say, a thought leader in total market strategies and your boss writes a glowing letter on your behalf, that is a real plus. But often times, presidents of companies don’t know how to write glowing recommendation letters. You are someone who can actually use a consultant because you have to package the company you work for, including getting someone to help the president write a powerful recommendation.

There is a level of inflation in a great recommendation letter that some don’t get. A great recommendation letter should go something like this: “My name is Joe Blow. I have worked for the XYZ company for the past 35 years. During the course of that time, i have worked with 68 people in the applicant’s peer group. This person is ranked one or two out of those 68 people based on her analytical abilities, her teamwork skills, her ability to innovate, and an unprecedented ability to bring in new business which has never been done by anyone at her level.

You clearly know your story by the target schools you’ve chosen. If you execute in a servicable way, I think you have good odds at all of them. There’s a lot to like here but you have to make it real. You’ve got to make it specific, describe campaigns and do a better job in using the correct language for what you do.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.