Berkeley Haas | Mr. Navy Electronics
GRE 316, GPA 3.24
Kenan-Flagler | Ms. Big Pharma
GRE 318, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Big 4
GMAT 770, GPA 8/10
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 1st Gen Grad
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Career Coach
GRE 292, GPA 3.468
Kellogg | Mr. Indian Globetrotter
GMAT 750, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. S.N. Bose Scholar
GMAT 770, GPA 3.84
INSEAD | Mr. Indian In Cambodia
GMAT 730, GPA 3.33
Tuck | Mr. Federal Civilian
GMAT 780, GPA 3.4
Duke Fuqua | Mr. O&G Geoscientist
GRE 327, GPA 2.9
Chicago Booth | Mr. Indian O&G EPC
GMAT 730, GPA 3.75
Wharton | Ms. Product Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Berkeley Haas | Ms. Jill Of All Trades
GRE 314, GPA 3.36
Berkeley Haas | Ms. Midwest Startup
GRE 328, GPA 3.51
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB
GMAT 740, GPA 3.95
Wharton | Mr. Swing Big
GRE N/A, GPA 3.1
Stanford GSB | Mr. Big Brother
GRE 329, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Low GPA Product Manager
GMAT 780, GPA 3.1
Kenan-Flagler | Ms. Nonprofit Admin
GMAT 620, GPA 3.3
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Top Three
GRE 310, GPA 2.7
Ross | Mr. NCAA to MBB
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
Kellogg | Mr. 770 Dreamer
GMAT 770, GPA 8.77/10
Tepper | Mr. Tech Strategist
GRE 313, GPA 3.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Musician To Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 1.6
Harvard | Mr. Bangladeshi Analyst
GMAT 690, GPA 3.31
MIT Sloan | Mr. Generic Nerd
GMAT 720, GPA 3.72

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Special Ops

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

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, 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.

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.