Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

HBS Guru Sandy Kreisberg and Poets&Quants Founder & Editor John A. Byrne

He’s an equity analyst at a well-known hedge fund who looks for companies his fund could short, but he also has worked in consulting for a top strategy consulting shop and a major brandname corporation. With a 760 GMAT and a 3.8 grade point average at the University of Michigan, this 27-year-old professional hopes to get an MBA to eventually start his own hedge fund.

She’s a graduate of Oxford University who works for a bulge bracket American bank in London. She sings in a highly respect choir, is active in a local taekwondo club and also tutors underprivileged. Now she’s aiming her sights at a prestige MBA program.

This 25-year-old Indian male graduated from the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi and works as a management consultant at Bain, gaining two promotions in three years. He has acted and directed in over ten plays, including three with a professional theater group. His goal is to earn a to–flight MBA, return to Bain in a managerial role, and eventually launch a beverage brand that makes nutritious drinks for rural Indians.

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.)


White Male Hedge Funder

  • 760 GMAT
  • 3.8 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in business from the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business
  • Work experience includes two years in strategy consulting (think Monitor/LEK/Booz); a year and one-half in global corporate strategy (think Coca-Cola/PepsiCo/Disney) and two years as an equity analyst for a multi-billion dollar hedge fund whose founder often appears on Bloomberg and CNBC
  • Extracurricular involvement as a mentor to an inner-city teenager; also co-organized and managed a standup comedy show to raise money for cancer reserach while in college
  • Goal: To start his own hedge fund
  • 27-year-old white male

Odds of Success:

Stanford: 20%
Harvard: 40%
Wharton: 50%
Columbia: 50%+
NYU: 50%+

Sandy’s Analysis: You’re a white ace, as we used to say. You are a white male who went to Michigan, which is a good place for guys who are smart but not super smart. You got a 3.8, a 760 GMAT and you’ve had quite the career. You’ve worked for some very good companies and now work for a hedge fund where you go around looking for sick companies, particlarly secretly sick companies, that can be shorted. That’s quite a line of work.

I am of the belief that if you are a white male and in banking, finance, private equity, venture capital or hedge funds, you really should apply to Harvard Business School in round one. I believe this based on what I’ve heard and results I’ve seen with clients over the years. Harvard has a bucket for guys like you and when the bucket is filled, they close the bucket and they don’t care what comes in later. It’s not like they say, ‘Oh, we have a lot of people here. Let’s take half of them and see what comes in during round two.’ They eat their full and it’s over.

At Harvard, you’re competing with people who go to schools like Michigan and schools that are better than Michigan. You also are competing with people who also have 760 GMATs and may have a cleaner work history. Their first job could be with Goldman Sachs and then a second job at a premium feeder private equity firm. The question is how many of those candidates are there and are there enough of them who are better than you? Harvard could say, ‘No thanks, we have our 30 guys like you and they are more interesting and better.’

I think you should get into Harvard, but a serious question for you is why do you need an MBA when you already have what many would consider a post-MBA job? That is a question you might face in an admissions interview.

I am happy to eat my hat here but I don’t think you are getting into Stanford unless you have connections. You just don’t have the Stanford X factor, a powerful, politically correct extra? There is no victim history that will help you at Stanford. You’re the kind of guy that Stanford like to reject for just being too and Stanford is not in favor of standup comedy.

Your chances of getting into Harvard are good but not certain because you are competing with a lot of other high white performers who are very similar to you. Harvard has guys like you coming out of their pockets.

Wharton would love you and so would your other target schools. It’s just a matter of convincing them.

Write back and tell us your outcomes.