IU Kelley | Ms. Biracial Single Mommy
, GPA 2.5/3.67 Grad
Stanford GSB | Mr. Energy Reform
GMAT 700, GPA 3.14 of 4
Harvard | Mr. Startup
GRE 327, GPA 3.35
Harvard | Mr. Public Finance
GMAT 720, GPA 3.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Rocket Scientist Lawyer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65 Cumulative
Kellogg | Mr. Danish Raised, US Based
GMAT 710, GPA 10.6 out of 12
Darden | Mr. Leading Petty Officer
GRE (MCAT) 501, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Ms. Almost Ballerina
GRE ..., GPA ...
Darden | Mr. Federal Consultant
GMAT 780, GPA 3.26
Harvard | Mr. Polyglot
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Darden | Mr. Engineer Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Systems Change
GMAT 730, GPA 4
Tuck | Mr. Consulting To Tech
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Ms. Ambitious Hippie
GRE 329, GPA 3.9
Harvard | Mr. Milk Before Cereals
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3 (16/20 Portuguese scale)
Harvard | Mr. Sales To Consulting
GMAT 760, GPA 3.49
INSEAD | Ms. Hope & Goodwill
GMAT 740, GPA 3.5
INSEAD | Mr. Airline Captain
GMAT 740, GPA 3.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBB to PM
GRE 338, GPA 4.0
Darden | Ms. Unicorn Healthcare Tech
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBA Class of 2023
GMAT 725, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Mr. Guy From Taiwan
GRE 326, GPA 3.3
Ross | Mr. Verbal Engineer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Wharton | Mr. Sr. Systems Engineer
GRE 1280, GPA 3.3
Chicago Booth | Mr. Semiconductor Guy
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Mid-Market Consultant

poets and quants handicapping odds

Mr. Real Estate

  • 750 GMAT (Q49/V42)
  • 7.1/10 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business administration from a Top 10 school in Brazil Received a full scholarship from a government program for low income families and the school he attended is the best (and most selective) in the scholarship program
  • No TOEFL yet
  • Work experience includes six and one-half years in FP&A roles at two major real estate developers in Brazil, currently in a junior management position with a small team; his former employer boasts a good track record of sending people to elite U.S. B-Schools.
  • “Relevant issue: My current employer doesn’t know about (and probably wouldn’t support) my interest in applying to B-Schools abroad. Therefore, my plan is to ask my supervisors from the
  • previous company to provide my rec letters. What do you think about this approach? I’ve worked in the former company for five years, and one and one-half year in the current one.”Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer professor in an NGO focused in education to low income children
  • Short-Term Goal: To transition to management consulting (in Brazil) “to enrich my business knowledge, especially within other industries”
  • Long-Term Goal: To gain a general management role in an MNC in Brazil or abroad
  • 29-year-old Brazilian male, first generation college graduate

Odds of Success:

INSEAD: 50%+

MIT: 30% to 40%

Northwestern: 50%

Dartmouth: 30% to 40%

Duke: 50%+

Michigan: 50%+

Virginia: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: Apply to HBS. You are an acceptable reach with solid execution.

Brazil is not a rare but a welcome country at HBS. The Brazilian cohort numbers about nine kids a year. Sure, it would be better if you came from Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, or Nicaragua which often sends one or zero kids to HBS per year, but hey . . . .it beats New Jersey.

The fact that amid your other iffy items (your low GPA and maybe your current job) your last job, at which you worked for five years (vs. 18 months at current job) “has a good track record sending people to elite U.S. B-Schools,” is key. That and a 750 GMAT are all HBS and any other school needs to give you winkability–e.g. adcoms will wink at any other negatives because you have the two key elements they really care about–brains and ability to keep a competitive job.

I have often said that a high GPA is proof of the favored Adcom trinity of virtues: you can still still, eat you know what, and spit it back. Well, a good job that you have kept for five years is the same or a very good proxy. The fact that job sends kids to elite B-schools is the halo they need.

As to other worries you present: Your low-ish GPA at a top Brazil school (average grades, which are certainly not average in the HBS applicant pool), well, I wish those grades were higher but 1, they will wink at them, and 2, as a first generation student in your poor family to go to college, adcoms will understand if you took some time to transition or just never found your pace. Well actually, adcoms will be that merciful and understanding in light of your 750 GMAT!!!!! They will not be that merciful otherwise, especially if grades were really low and not just average.

As to this issue: “My current employer doesn’t know about (and probably wouldn’t support) my interest in applying to B-Schools abroad. Therefore, my plan is to ask my supervisors from the previous company to provide my rec letters. What do you think about this approach?”

This happens all the time. Just say that your application is confidential as to the current employer. It is one of those things that adcoms believe or wink at if they otherwise like you and are suspicious of if they don’t. In reality this excuse is frequently BS since you should be able to get ONE rec from a direct supervisor who is kinda on your side versus his loyalty to the company. But, hey that is murky and adcoms do not like murk; they like supporting their own pre-existing prejudices about whether they like you, which are not murky at all and frequently crystal clear.

They like Brazil, they will like your classy first job, they will definitely love your 750. You want to tell them you cannot get a rec from current employer, “sure honey, tell me anything you want  . . .”

You might make things easier on yourself if you got a second rec from the NGO you work for, but often those places are staffed by folks who are not great rec writers, although they have hearts of gold. Just saying. If you get two recs from your old company, make sure they say different things and add different types of value, if possible.

As to your goals…..

Short-Term Goal: “Transition to management consulting (in Brazil) to enrich my business knowledge, especially within other industries.”

Long-Term Goal: “A general management role in a MNC in Brazil or abroad.”

Well, you can never go wrong saying you want to begin as a consultant, blah, blah, blah. Your long-term goal sounds OK, too, although given your long and successful (we hope) background in real estate development in Brazil, you could make a case for saying what a golden opportunity that is given, ahem, how much land there is in Brazil and the need for various kinds of development, housing, commercial, theme parks, etc. Probably not going to make a difference but I’d think about projecting a progressive, impactful, needed, etc. career in real estate development.

“Main target is INSEAD  . . . . If rejected, I’ll try the 1st round  MIT, Kellogg, Tuck, Duke, Ross and Darden.”

I think odds at INSEAD are good. You are older, they will go for the 750, and you will be employed and out of Europe after you graduate, two things they like, since you can spread the INSEAD word and not compete with their less talented grads who tend to stay in the cozy EU (good benefits for marginally employed), etc.

MIT is small and has an odd adcom. They may buy the 750 as solving your so-so second job, no new rec, and low GPA problem or they may not, Brazil is a plus. I’d say odds there are in the 30 to 40% percent range.

Kellogg goes for many parts of this story, including the poverty and 750 and do-gooder potential, if presented correctly, odds here are 50%. You may need to convince them why them. Ditto Duke, Ross and Darden, which all take lots of guys like you. Tuck does, too, but Tuck is small and you are something of a wildcard. An interview there would really count. They use that to filter out wildcards who are not their kind of wildcard.

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.