Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Yes Minister?

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

Ever since he dropped out of college with a 2.4 GPA, this 29-year-old young professional has been on an upward trajectory. He joined the military, working his way up to become a sergeant and a sniper who saw two combat deployments and led 12- to 15-person teams over six years. Then, he got himself into an Ivy League university and graduated with a 3.6 GPA transcript and an economics degree. After working for a couple of years as a consultant, he now hopes to go to business school to land a job at a non-profit consulting shop or to start his own form serving the social sector.

This 19-year-old undergraduate student from Nigeria is currenly studying at a private university in the U.S. She has done internships with a Big Four firm in her home country as well as one with a mid-tier accounting firm, and she is the founder of a website that helps African entrepreneurs. She plans to meet the April 3rd deadline for Harvard Business School’s 2+2 program for deferred admission to its MBA program.

Once president of his university’s 170-year-old debating society, this young professional has since spent nearly four years as a British civil servant, briefing and advising Cabinet-level ministers on policy issues in education, welfare and Europe. With a 740 GMAT and the equivalent of a 3.5 grade point average from a top five university in the U.K., he now wants an MBA to transition into a consulting role at one of the big three global firms.

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. Yes Minister?

  • 740 GMAT
  • 3.5 GPA (2/1)
  • Undergraduate degree in theology from a top five U.K. university
  • Currently earning an MS in economics in a highly selective program in which only one in 50 people are admitted
  • Work experience includes three and one-half years as a British civil servant, working on a variety of policy and strategy issues including education, welfare and Europe; briefs and advises Cabinet government ministers; promoted a year early in job
  • Took a six-month ‘secondment’ at a healthcare charity
  • Interned during summer of undergraduate years at a Big Four consulting practice
  • Extracurricular involvement as the president of a 170-year-old debating society as a student; board member of two charities and the governor of a school
  • Goal: To transition to a consulting role at McKinsey, Bain or BCG
    British male

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40%
Stanford: 30%
Wharton: 30% to 40%
Columbia: 50%
London: 50%+
INSEAD: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Your profile presents the interesting question for a British civil servant: Can you get into Harvard, Stanford or Wharton if you haven’t gone to Oxford or Cambridge?

Your 2/1 is the equivalent of a 3.5, or silver-plus, not exactly gold. But your 740 GMAT score helps you a lot. You say you went to a top five university in the U.K. Of course, that could mean Cambridge or Oxford or 10 other places. Your part-time MS degree, however, is a distraction. You are a guy who should be throwing himself into his work . If you need more training, you should just be applying to business school. If you felt you needed a brushup course in economics or anything quanty, you should have just taken it a la carte.

Still, you are offering schools a powerful package here. You strike me as a future Tony Blair, who American business schools like very much, no matter what the Brits think, or future Teresa May.

American business schools like the Brits. They are anglophiliacs. Your extracurriculars show you to be a real leader. Your civil service career is very powerful. It sounds like you are doing a lot of important work in several different areas. You seem to have some real accomplishments behind you, and you clearly know the inside of the British government.

You should tell adcoms that you want the MBA to give you a set of skills you don’t already have so you can go back to the U.K. and be an impactful leader at the intersection of the public and private sectors. So tweak your goals to say you want to work in the public policy practice of MBB. You essentially want to continue what you are doing but get seconded to McKinsey forever.

London and INSEAD are easy for you. You should walk into those schools with your background and your stats. With the right execution, I say your odds at Harvard are 40%. Your odds at Stanford are also strong. I’d say 30%, just because the class size is smaller than HBS.

Wharton could very well scratch their head on your profile. Columbia has more of a public policy orientation, in part because the university has a famous public policy school—and it’s New York versus Philadelphia. Columbia would really like you, especially if you play up the idea of being in New York near the United Nations and all that blah, blah, blah. Wharton would probably interview you and then decide what to do. So if you want to go to Wharton, you better convince them you really want to go because they will think you’re headed to Harvard or Stanford.

Bottom line: It’s Yes Minister!