Handicapping Your MBA Odds: Mr. Fulbright Food Security, Ms. Healthcare Tech Startup, Ms. Accounting, Mr. Oil & Gas

A Fulbright Scholar who dove into research on urban agriculture in Asia, this young professional is currently an associate product manager at a Fortune 100 tech giant. He works in one of the hottest tech areas today: artificial intelligence. But with a 720 GMAT and a 3.7 grade point average, he yearns to get a dual degree from Harvard Business School and one from the Kennedy School. His goal: To transition into public sector accounting with McKinsey, Bain or BCG.

She first came to the U.S. four years ago from China to gain a master’s degree in accounting at Wake Forest University. Into a two-year stint in an audit job at Deloitte, this 24-year-old young professional got an impressive 740 on the GMAT. She now hopes to go to an elite business school to transition into a consulting role at McKinsey & Co. or move into investment management.

He’s a 26-year-old oil and gas engineer from the midwest who works as a global technical consultant to support production operations in Africa and Asia. He intends to apply to top MBA programs with a 3.98 GPA in mechanical engineering from a top ten public university and an expected GMAT score of between 720 and 740. His goal? To land a strategy consulting gig at one of the big three global consulting firms and consult with energy companies in the U.S. and abroad.

Get Sandy Kriesberg's advice to make handicapping your odds of getting in possible

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. Fulbright Food Security

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.7 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a mid-tier public university
  • Won the Chancellor’s Distinction Award, an honor given to less than 1% of graduates
  • Work experience includes a year as a Fulbright Research Scholar, investigating urban agriculture in Asia; currently employed as associate product manager at a Fortune 100 tech firm where he works on artificial intelligence and the Internet of things
  • Extracurricular involvement as a volunteer in rural Costa Rica on sustainability in agriculture
  • Founder of a startup to empower people to grow food in urban areas that raised seed funding, won four competitions, has 12 staff members and was accepted into the university incubator
  • Short term goal: To transition to McKinsey, Bain or BCG and work in public sector consulting
  • Long-term goal: To work for the equivalent of the World Bank in Asia
  • Age and gender unknown

Odds of Success:

Harvard Business School: 30% to 40%

Harvard Kennedy School: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: You don’t have to apply to the Harvard Kennedy School. You are a walk in at Kennedy, and they will say just sign the application and we’ll hand you a fellowship fund devoted to food security.

At HBS, what we got is a guy presenting a GMAT that is 16 points below their mean and ten points below the median and a GPA that is normal and a job that is good. In fact, it’s a job from an HBS feeder organization, a good gig as a product manager at a Fortune 100 tech company in the super hot field of artiifical intelligence.

So your stats are okay and you bring to the table a consistent story that in my book you need to make a little more clear about sustainability, agriculture and food. And you have a story about a career path that begins in Big Three consulting and then goes to the equivalent of the World Bank in Asia. You are clasic World Bank, IFC, Asian Development Bank. You have a super strong case for why you want a dual-degree.

I usually don’t favor dual degrees because my thinking is you can get almost anything out of the HBS two-year program that you can get out of any dual-degree program. The things that really matter to me are meeting influential people, getting a Harvard degree of any kind, and getting a job you want. If you don’t get into HBS and you just get into the Harvard Kennedy School, it’s okay. It’s not bad. You are going to get into McKinsey, Bain or BCG, anyway. In fact, it could be a blessing in disguise. It might save you a year and a couple of hundred thousand dollars.

Besides, I get the impression you are ready to hustle. You know what you want and you have expertise in it. If you only get into the Kennedy School, you should draw up a list of the 10 to 20 people you want to meet all over Harvard, from the business school, the college, even the Public Health School. You can meet those people and make those connections. That is what I called hustling.

Then, there is the issue of putting all your chips down on one bet at Harvard. Let’s say you get into Kennedy, but not HBS. Why not apply to Yale’s School of Management. You could get a dual degree at the Kennedy School and a non-Harvard business school. If that were the case, go to Yale SOM and then go to the Kennedy School. Whatever you do, get Harvard on your resume come hell or high water. It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Your odds of getting into both Harvard Business School and Kennedy School are high. You are getting into the Kennedy School unless you do something radically stupid. You are a really solid guy, but the writeup you did is a little ziggy-zaggy. You didn’t present yourself well. We don’t know if you are male or female or how old you are. We don’t know what your major was at your mid-tier public university.

So here is some advice. When you apply to the schools, there are questions on the application about age and gender. Fill those out. And tell them your name and how to contact you.

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