Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

HBS Guru Sandy Kreisberg & P&Q Editor John A. Byrne

After a three-year stint at Bain & Co., this 25-year-old Indian male professional is leading he launch of a drink at a beverage startup. With a 730 GMAT and a short-term goal to return to Bain as a manager, he now wants to return to school for an MBA.

When she applies next year to business school, this Oxford graduate will have three years of experience as an equity research analyst for a bulge bracket American bank in London. She won a promotion to associate a year early, is actively involved with a choir and a local taekwondo club. Her goal: To earn an MBA from Harvard, Stanford or Wharton.

After earning an undergraduate degree in cello performance, this young professional gained his first job in the Atlanta mailroom of a Big Four accounting firm and worked his way into a consulting gig with its healthcare practice. Now he wants some formal business training along with a deeper healthcare dive in a dual MBA and master’s in public health program.

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. Cello-Playing Healthcare Consultant

  • 160Q, 163V GRE
  • 3.5 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in cello performance from Temple
  • Work experience includes a stint as a professional cellist; worked way up from the Atlanta mailroom of a Big Four firm and transitioned into healthcare consulting at the Big Four; consulted on the Ebola and Zika virus, the opiod epidemic, healthcare provider preparedness
  • Extracurricular involvement includes playing cello in college for the symphony and doing pro bono work in healthcare
  • Goal: To return to Big Four in the healthcare practice in a managerial role
  • Considering a dual degree with a master’s in healthcare or public health along with an MBA

Odds of Success:

Yale: 30% to 40%
Cornell: 40%
University of Washington: 50%
Emory: 50%

Sandy’s Analysis: From a hard headed admissions point of view, you are a real Big Four healthcare consultant. And you’re a likeable guy. You have a story with a life-changing breakthrough, moving out of the mailroom and into a consulting job. You get promoted and are one of the top performers at the firm.

Besides, business schools like musicians. It gives them the delusion that what they are doing is artistic. The cello is an instrument a lot of people like. This is all good stuff.

But your GRE score translates into a 660 GMAT. So what you are saying to these schools is, “Take me. I’ve got a 660 GMAT.

For Yale, the average GMAT is 725. So that is a reach. For Cornell, it’s 700. That is also a reach. At Washington, it’s 691, and at Emory, it’s 682.

Dude, my tough love is take the test again. Keep taking the GRE. These people probabaly want to meet you half way. The standardized tests count more and more. It sounds like torture to even take it one or two more times, but your scores kind of drifts up. So retake the test.

And you need to have the people at the Big Four back you. You are applying to bookcase schools. You are not talking about Harvard and Stanford. Your reach school is Yale, and you would be on target at Emory and Washington if you had 20 or 30 more points on your exam.

Your likeable guy and I think you’ll get into Emory, Washington and even Cornell. But Yale needs a bigger GRE score.

For the record, I’m against dual degrees. It’s a lot of money. You lost a year of income and you pay the tuition so that frequently comes out to a quarter of a million more. You don’t need a health degree to rejoin the Big Four in a job you already have. Somebody has to say, ‘Gee, do you learn anything getting a degree in public health? I don’t think you’ll learn anything. What you do is you will expand your network. But are three additional friends worth $250,000 over the network you’ll get from a business school? I don’t think so.

But an MBA would sign, seal and deliver you into your dream job.