Harvard | Mr. Fraternity Philanthropy
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Wharton | Mr. Energy Industry
GMAT 740, GPA 3.59
Columbia | Ms. New York
GMAT 710, GPA 3.25
Harvard | Ms. Chemical Engineer
GMAT 720, GPA 3.53
Harvard | Mr. Aspiring Social Investor
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
London Business School | Mr. Global Graduate Scheme
GMAT 750, GPA 7.2/10
Stanford GSB | Ms. Startup Poet
GRE 330, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Ms. Transformation
GMAT 720, GPA 3.6
Stanford GSB | Mr. Navy Officer
GMAT 770, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Startup
GRE 327, GPA 3.35
INSEAD | Mr. Sailor in Suit
GMAT 740, GPA 3.6
Tuck | Mr. Global Corp Comms
GRE 325, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Aero Software ENG
GRE 312, GPA 3.3
Kellogg | Mr. Lucky Banker
GMAT 730, GPA 4.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. Honduras IE
GMAT 730, GPA 3.4
Stanford GSB | Mr. Energy Reform
GMAT 700, GPA 3.14 of 4
HEC Paris | Mr. iOS App Developer
GMAT 610, GPA 3.3
IU Kelley | Ms. Biracial Single Mommy
, GPA 2.5/3.67 Grad
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. Systems Change
GMAT 730, GPA 4

Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds: Mr. Indian Tech Product Manager

Mr. Four Strikes Against Him, But Can This Desi Make It To HBS?

  • 740 GMAT (Q49/V41/IR8)
  • 9.35/10.0 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in engineering biotechnology from a top five Indian university in the UAE (non-IIT)
  • 3.2 GPA (Master’s)
  • Master’s degree in finance from a top three global program based out of Madrid, Spain
  • Work experience includes one year at a large financial services firm in India in equity research and (currently) two years at a Big 4 firm in India with one promotion to senior consultant. Work experience includes
  • multiple industries and mandates over four continents.
  • Passed all 3 levels of CFA
  • Extracurricular involvement leading a U.S.-based NGO in East Africa during a three-month sabbatical, developed program aimed at improving training and employability of 60,000+ youth in East Africa; served as Student council representative in 1st year (undergraduate); organized speaker series for consulting club (graduate); represented school in prestigious CFA Institute hosted competition and winner of the Iberia regional finals (graduate); organized and participated in club level tennis competitions (undergraduate), and volunteered at a special needs school for children with disabilities (undergraduate)
  • Awards include several work related accolades; thesis paper (undergraduate) was presented in International renewable energy conference in Athens; scholarships to attend programs (undergraduate and graduate), and an award from White House signed by U.S. President (this was back in school…)
  • Short-term goal: To join MBB to develop product management and go-to market strategy skills across broader range of industries
  • Long-term goal: To start a private equity fund that invests in core industries in underserved economies and improves their strategic and operational performance
  • “Applying to all schools in Round 1”
  • 26-year-old Indian

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 10%

Harvard: 20% to 30%

Wharton: 30% to 40%

London: 50%


Chicago: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Is this Desi Big 4, Non-IIT guy getting into HBS or Stanford?

Not usually. He wants to be a consultant and that application cohort is just jammed packed with super accomplished kids who in addition to IIT/MBB and super GPA/GMAT backgrounds often have other WOW stuff like major leadership/NGO stories.

I’d actually like to know the entire number of Desi males at HBS and Stanford who come from Big 4 firms and non-IIT backgrounds. That number could round off to zero. And if it is not zero, make sure to cross-examine any alleged members for

OTHER stuff like political or financial connections.

I believe there might be Desi, male, non-IIT, Big-4 students at HBS and Stanford who present stories based upon their membership and leadership of Dalits or e havother powerful overcoming adversity stories, but it will take something like that.

That being said, you come close. The question is, does the sum of your many positives, plus the high GPA and GMAT turn the corner?

In order of importance (to me and I think adcoms), beyond the very solid stats and very solid professional development, we got:

Three months sabbatical at a leading US-based NGO in East Africa. Worked to develop strategy for a program aimed at improving training and employability of 60,000+ youth in East Africa.

Adcoms LOVE Africa. If this were some extended gig, like a year off, where you WERE in Africa (not clear from context if that were the case) doing something hand’s-on vs. “developing a strategy” and your efforts had powerful results, AND you are still engaged in this, well, that story would be more powerful and could be the core of a powerful essay, recs, and even goals. Don’t get me wrong, buddy, this is still a plus. I am laying down the Platonic version of this kind of work for the education of our readers, who can then plan and spin accordingly.

Student council representative in 1st year (undergraduate) 

Nothing special

Organized speaker series for consulting club (graduate)

No big deal but that could be helped by your efforts to bring in powerful speakers, although how ‘powerful’ is defined in this context is up for grabs. If you brought in a controversial speaker and then took powerful efforts to teach folks about free speech that is a plus.

Represented school in prestigious CFA Institute hosted competition and winner of the Iberia regional finals (graduate)

Well, it beats killing baby seals, and we get it, you are active and smart (we already knew) and it mounts up.

Organized and participated in club level tennis competitions (undergraduate)

Well, works better for underserved tennis players, e.g. people missing limbs, the blind, etc.

Volunteered at a special needs school for children with disabilities (undergraduate)

Good. Although a while ago, and more impact and sustainability is better.

Just to make this clear, the above is illustrative of how adcoms “weigh” extras in isolation. There is an impact that engagement with many extras over your entire career has as well, and you may earn some credit on that score. The perhaps under-appreciated truth is, however, that ONE powerful extra with a victim/PC target group and large impact weighs more than lots of little stuff.


Several work related accolades

Beats being fired.

Thesis paper (undergraduate) was presented in International renewable energy conference in Athens. 

I’m impressed, especially if renewables is some part part of your goal shtick.

Scholarships to attend programs (undergraduate and graduate) 

I hope because of need in part, and if so, that is worth stressing in other parts of the application. If just because you are smart, well, sure, but don’t expect bonus points, we already know that.

Award from White House signed by U.S. President (this was back in school…)

Huh!!! Which President? If Obama, you never can tell how this will play.

Promise to show it to an adcom.

OK, the envelope please. Sandy says, not enough TNT to get you into Stanford, though HBS is a real possibility. You are a smart guy with high stats and if you can spin the entire application to show that schooling and post-college jobs were a steady and notable climb from some disadvantaged base, you got a chance.

If you are first-generation college, dude, that can really help. That is now an HBS area of interest because of a very recent large gift to help just those types.

https://poetsandquants.com/…/hbs-gets-big-gift-for-first gen -scholarships/

I think Wharton will go for this, as will LBS, INSEAD, and Booth. You are just a super solid guy, and more, even for a Desi male.

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.