Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

HBSGuru Sandy Kreisberg & Poets&Quants Editor John A. Byrne

He recently gained a promotion at a Big Four firm in India to senior consultant and boasts something few applicants have: An award from the White House signed by the President. With a solid 740 GMAT, an undergraduate degree in engineering biotech and a master’s in finance, this 26-year-old Indian-born professional hopes to gain an MBA to land a job with McKinsey, Bain or BCG.

For the past seven years, he’s worked as a management consultant for one of the leading firms in Brazil. After getting a 770 on practice GMAT tests, this 29-year-old professional is aiming high. He hopes to apply to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Chicago, Berkeley, and INSEAD. His goal: To use the MBA degree to transition out of lconsulting and join a tech or consumer products firm.

For the past six years, this 32-year-old young professional has worked as a key staffer for a U.S. Congressman, running his entire reelection campaigns and overseeing a staff of three to ten people. With a 700 GMAT and a 2.8 GPA, he now wants to get an MBA to transition to a job in management consulting. But his ultimate goal is to start his own tech-based political consulting firm.

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. Indian Tech Product Manager

  • 335 GRE (Q170/V165/5AWA)
  • 3.42 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Top Ten non-IIT engineering school in India
  • Work experience with the world’s leading payment network, first as a software engineer and then as a tech product manager
  • Have five U.S. patent filings in his name
  • Extracurricular involvement as two-time Quora Top Writer, also published in Forbes and Huffington Post; volunteer for two years as an English tutor for underprivileged children
  • 24-year-old Indian male who grew up in a Middle Eastern country
  • Goal: To land a job with the one of the big three global consulting firms, MBB

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 40%
Wharton: 50%
Northwestern: 50%
Dartmouth: 40% to 50%
Michigan: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis:  Just because of the powerful stats, with a 780 equivalent,a perfect quant score, and the patents, I think you would be a walk-in at Kellogg, Tuck and Ross as long as you can convince them you want to go. Wharton would go for the numbers, especially if you work for PayPal. If it’s some backbone to payments you never heard of, your case is weaker. If it is PayPal, it’s great.

Let’s make a point here: Would an admissions committee prefer a GRE score with a perfect quant score or a 780 GMAT score. So the question is which gives you more bang for your buck? Even seasoned admission officers frequently have to think about GRE scores. People instinctively know what a good GMAT score is. That includes me. The piece of advice is if it is no difference to you, take the GMAT. If you think you can do better than a GRE, then take that exam.

You might be a stronger candidate next year because you started out as a software engineer and you now identify in tech product management. That begins to smell like business school. If you wait a year and get some case work under your belt and say you managed this or that product, you become a more powerful candidate, particularly at HBS.

You don’t need any extras when you have test scores this high. The extras are overrated in many cases.

If you apply now with this story your odds at HBS are 40%. The only thing you have to worry about is that there is someone else like you that they like better. But you’re probably that guy.

Over at Wharton, the only way you don’t get in is if you mess up that group grope interview. You should get into Kellogg, Tuck and Ross. The fact that you are a writer is interesting. I am using that as a proxy for thinking you are more social, more articulate than the average engineer. You are not a total nerd, for sure.

There’s not much downside to apply now to HBS, getting dinged and coming back next year as a re-applicant. There is no downside except the grief. For this year, I would only apply to HBS. If you don’t get it, reapply next year along with your other target schools. You are going someplace good.