Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. Grunt, Ms. Hollywood Marketing Guru, Mr. Brazilian Advertising, Ms. Quant Girl

He’s a 29-year-old military man with a highly unconventional background that includes a master’s degree in religion from a top-tier Ivy League school. After teaching for a year at a public school, he joined the U.S. Army where he has been for the past six years, three in special operations. Now he wants to get into a top MBA program.

This 25-year-old young professional works for a major Hollywood studio, providing marketing strategy and analytics for multi-million-dollar movie campaigns. An Asian female with an impressive 740 GMAT but a low 3.2 grade point avearage from a top 25 U.S. school, she is hoping to get into a prestige business school to unlock the next step in her career as an entertainment marketer.

A professional actor and co-founder of a theater group, this 30-year-old Brazilian male works as a senior marketing strategist for one of the most prestigious ad agencies in the world. With a 670 GMAT score and an undergraduate degree in advertising, he’s hoping to get an MBA to help him move into the entertainment industry.

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.

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. Grunt

  • GRE 166V/162Q/4.5W
  • 3.74 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in philosophy and math from a tier-two public university usually ranked between 90 and 110
  • Master’s degree in religion from an Ivy (HYP)
  • Work experience includes a year as a teacher in a public high school and then enlisted in the military for six years, with three years in special ops, creating political, cultural and communications products for foreign audiences
  • Intermediate working proficiency in Farsi (Iran) and Dari (Afghanistan)
  • Goal: To transition into marketing or political consulting
  • “I would like to pursue an MBA/MPP dual degree, both of which my job in the military draws its research and practices from”
  • 29-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%

Dartmouth: 40% to 50%.


Duke: 50%+

Virginia: 50%+

Cornell: 50%+

UNC: 50%+

Georgetown: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: There’s a screenplay lurking in your profile. It sounds like you were infiltrating local newspapers and TV stations. It’s a combination of writing propaganda and special ops. That’s a very interesting intersection of things. You are no Army grunt. You present an attractive profile of an well-meaning, thinking military guy. And then you want to go into political consulting?

You could walk into the Kennedy School at Harvard right now. It used to be the case that if you go to the Kennedy School you could get a job with McKinsey. If that’s the case, you should go to the Kennedy School. They would love a guy like you, and you would get into Kennedy. As our readers already know, I don’t like dual-degree programs. I just don’t think they are necessary.

Still, your chances at Harvard Business School are very good, too. HBS takes military guys. They are willing to go older for military guys. And you are Mr. Bookish, Special Ops. You are cerebral with a helmet. And you are a Tuckie type, too. An intellectual military guy like you would ring their bell. With Yale, Duke and Virginia on your list of target schools, you also are really picking them. Those schools are the filet mignon of smart military candidates

Let’s just look at that GRE score of yours. It’s the equivalent of a 700 GMAT. GREs tap out at 170. So the 166 verbal is strong. Your quant at 162 is pretty low for some of your target schools, even though you only missed something like eight questions. But with everything else in what is a strong profile, it’s good enough. Having been a math major, there will be no fear that you can’t do business school math.

But here’s the deal: My advice is just go to the Kennedy School. You don’t need an MBA to be a political consultant, if that is what you have your heart set on.

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