Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Ms. World Bank

Mr. Inner City Teacher

  • 320 GRE Practice Test
  • 3.63 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a state school
  • 3.09 GPA
  • Master’s degree in special education from a city college
  • Work experience includes four years of teaching in an inner city charter school after a stint with Teach for America
  • Extracurricular involvement in creating an organization at his school to enhance student growth
  • Goal: To work for a non-profit education consulting firm to create reforms in public/charter schools and create “my innovation techniques to increase student success with hopes of eventually creating my own charter schools”
  • “Taking GRE because I’m not super strong in math”
  • First-generation black male and first generation American

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 30%

Stanford: 20%

Wharton: 20%

Sandy’s Analysis: Let’s start with the fact that you are a black male, a first gen college student and a first gen American. Those are all pluses and is very attractive off the bat for these schools, along with your 3.63 from a state school. Those are anchors for good business school application. Your GPA shows that you are able to sit still, pay attention, absorb information and spit back stuff on exams which is what schools are looking for.

So let’s deal with the GRE scores you have gotten on your practice tests. You say you are getting a 320 average. As most of our readers know, the GRE is scored from 130 to 170. So the top score is a 340 and you’re just 20 points below that. At Stanford, the average is 164 on both the verbal and quant. So the overall average at Stanford is 328, probably the business school with the highest average. So if you can really score a 320, that’s really good (see Average GRE Scores At The Top 50 U.S. Business Schools). You’re in the general ballpark, not even the underrepresented minority ballpark. So my advice to you is to really study for the GRE and get your practice score.

The other interesting thing about you is that you did Teach for America and is now in your fourth year of an inner city charter school. So your only work experience is teaching. That is a little unusual and a wrinkle in your profile. In an ideal world, for your MBA application at least, you should have done two years of teaching and then moved onto a consulting firm for more of a mainstream feeder job into an elite business school. That would have given you a more favorable profile, especially for the schools on your target list, because those jobs are more selective. Nobody wants to make a judgment on your intrinsic qualities. It’s why they look at GMAT, GPA scores, where you went to school and where you work. They just want to know what filters you’ve passed through.

Your goals are okay. In order to work for a non-profit education consulting firm, it would help if you had a list of three of these firms and used that as a base for creating your own charter school. The issue this raises is why are you not applying for a master’s or a PhD in education instead of an MBA. I’m sure if you looked at the Harvard ed school website, you could get a PhD in charter schools and with a doctor of education you could get the same job at a consulting firm like McKinsey in their education practice. So you have an added burden to explain why you want an MBA, especially because you already have a master’s in special ed. If you can get a 320 GRE, you would walk into Harvard ed school.

At Harvard, I think your odds are 30% if you can write a good essay and get through the interview. At Stanford, I think you have a 20% chance if you can get the 320 GRE. Wharton is going to be the least romanced by you. They are more cynical. They care more about the numbers. And they might think you would have trouble in a quant program and wonder what would you want in our MBA program.

Bottom line advice: Look into education school and think about that as another option for you to get to your goal.

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.