Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Poets&Quants Editor John A. Byrne & HBSGuru Founder Sandy Kreisberg assess the odds of MBA applicants

He’s a junior at a top 10 public university, with a 3.9 grade point average and a triple major in math, east Asian studies and finance. He expects to score a 740 on the GMAT and is already set up for a forthcoming summer internship with a Big Three consulting firm. He’s hoping to apply to both Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program for undergrads and for deferred enrollment at Stanford Graduate School of Business.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in computer science from a non-IIT Institute in India, this 29-year-old professional has spent the past eight years in the banking industry where he is currently a business analyst in finance at a major British bank in Singapore. With a 720 GMAT and a GPA of 3.8+, he wants to use the MBA to move into a financial advisory consulting role with a long-term goal of becoming a Chief Financial Officer.

He’s a 25-year-old associate at a global insurance broker who won a promotion after being in a two-year rotational leadership program. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.0 GPA in economics from a top 50 state school, this African-American professional wants to get an MBA to transition into investment banking.

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. 2+2

  • 740 GMAT (expected)
  • 3.9 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree will be from a top 10 public university in the U.S., majoring in math, east Asian studies and finance
  • Work experience includes an upcoming summer internship with MBB, a current part-time internship with a data analytics firm, and a previous internship with a quant trading firm
  • Extracurricular involvement as the director of the only student-run quant investment fund on campus, on the badminton and table tennis school teams, former director and member of an ethnic student professional organization
  • 20-year-old Asian American undergraduate junior (Chinese by blood, American by citizenship)

Odds of Success:

Harvard 2+2: 30% to 40%
Stanford GSB Deferred: 10%

Sandy’s Analysis: I’d like to use your profile to explain to all of our readers what the profile of successful 2+2 candidates looks like and how it differs from the typical MBA admits. The acceptance rate for the 2+2 program is exactly the same: 11%. The median GMAT and GPA scores are the pretty much the same as well: 730 and 3.7. But the big difference is that 60% of the admitted students have a STEM background. In the regular class, it’s only 38%.

Guess who pays for that? Econ and business majors. Only 20% of 2+2 admits have an econ or business major background. In the regular class, it’s 41%. Another interesting stat is that in 2+2, 79% of the admitted students in the latest class are Americans. In the regular class, it’s 65%. So if you wanted a poster boy of the successful 2+2 applicant, it would be a STEM American, just like you.

But there’s only one potential problem. You are in danger of being too quanty. Quant trading is not something that is music to Harvard Business School’s ears. You do not need an MBA for quant trading, and I would never advise anyone to say that is what they want to do. My advice to you is what you have done. You got a summer job at McKinsey, Bain or BCG. That is traditional, that is mainline, and it’s not super quanty. What you have to do in your 2+2 application is to show your non-business, non-quanty side.

Your extracurriculars are too career focused. For 2+2 candidates, what business schools look for–particularly Harvard and Stanford–is impact beyond yourself: Helping victims, helping people who are ill or disadvantaged. Starting a quant business club is too directly in line with your own self-interest. I’m just telling you what admission officials are interested in. After you get in, different rules apply.

This is not a Stanford application. You are too quanty and too business focused. I think you are going to have a hard time at Stanford unless you can get a 760 GMAT. You’ll have an easier time as a regular applicant there. At Harvard, your chances are 30% to 40%. Even though the acceptance rate is the same in 2+2, the pool is more select so it’s harder. The pool is just more selective. Candidates know about it and they apply. They are hipper.