Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

Ms. Oxford Bulge Bracket Player

  • 3.3 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from Oxford University in philosophy, politics and economics
  • Work experience includes two years as an equity research analyst, promoted to associate a year early, at a bulge bracket American bank in London
  • “Now the number 2 in my team with two juniors reporting in to me. I am the analyst and associate representative for equity research – responsible for representing juniors to management and organising training and events”
  • Extracurricular involvement includes founding an online newspaper at Oxford where she also was president of the business society; currently active in a well-respected choir and a local taekwondo club; volunteer tutor for underprivileged students in a level English weekly
  • White, female

Odds of Success:

Harvard: 20% to 30%
Stanford: 10%
Wharton: 30%+

Sandy’s Analysis: What we got here is a white, female, Oxford grad with a 2:1 and one job as an equity analyst at a top firm (bulge bracket) which she seems to have excelled at. No GMAT/GRE is reported (please don’t analyze the HBSGURU contemplated stock offering with that degree of sloppiness) but let’s call it 730, to make the analysis centered (that is an average score for this type of applicant, and will highlight what I am about to say).

She says a 2:1 is similar to a U.S. 3.3, which sounds right.

A Wikipedia entry on the topic, British Undergraduate Degree Classification notes:

“The 2:1 is a minimum requirement for entry to many postgraduate courses in the UK
. . . .The percentage of candidates who achieve upper second-class honors can vary widely by degree subject, as well as by university.”

So what we got in Handicapping terms is

GPA: silver (and below average for target schools)

GMAT: silver (for her target schools, GSB, HBS and Wharton)

Work: gold (bulge bracket equity analyst with some great success, viz: ”  . . . will have 3 years experience by the time I apply next year at a bulge bracket, top-ranked American bank in London. I was promoted to associate a year early and am now the number 2 in my team with two juniors reporting in to me.

There is an asterisk on the work analysis, however, because she has only had one job and the standard progression for hot-shots in IB is to start at a job like hers and move on to a private equity firm, etc. and apply from there instead of applying from the  same old bank you joined after college. If any readers have success stories at HSW after applying from your third year at an IB, please share.

Anything else: “At Oxford I founded an online newspaper and was president of the business society . . . .”

Well, I’m impressed but this is not game-changing stuff, although if you greatly built out either of those or got them involved in do-good activites, that begins to sound better.

“Today I am actively involved in my Choir (a well respected almost semi professional group) and local taekwondo club. I also volunteer tutoring underprivileged students in a level English weekly.”

Many adcoms are Choir types and will like that, TKD is not going to break down any doors in the House of Adcom, though tutoring, especially amid your busy job, is a plus.


I don’t think you are getting into Stanford. There’s just too much silver and no X-factor of major impact helping victims or being a victim. Your extras are OK, but they’re not going to overcome the strong silvery parts of the app.

Even if they consider you in some esoteric bucket of IB kids who have not moved on to PE, there will be some other applicants with as much job success and higher grades and GMATs.

HBS analysis is pretty much the same, but odds go up, just based on more spaces, higher admit percent, etc.

Your HBS case is close enough, though. A real strong essay putting this story together, in terms of influences, overcoming adversity or success in starting that newspaper rf heading up the business society, plus choir could help, but that is hard to do, both as a matter of execution and more importantly, having a factual basis.

A real interesting question to me is, “How many non-URM Brit kids are there at HBS with a 2:1?”  I got a feeling that is a real small number. Anyone???

Wharton takes and dings applicants like you, depending a good deal on GMAT!
I don’t think they will blink at a below average GPA and a below average GMAT, but in your case, the rest is strong, you play into their strengths in finance, and you seem to be employable.

Also, given the untrammled surface of how you present (Choir!), you seem like a sensible person without odd ideas about starting an app company that helps you bet on Cricket matches (although I am sure those exist,*** just an example). Hence, someone who may actually stick it out in finance and be employed at graduation and come back and hire Wharton grads.

Ahem, all that said, if your actual GMAT is not close to 730, well, keep taking it until it is.

*** Exists??? The app not only exists, there are many and even sites which rate them!  bettingapps.com/best-cricket-betting-apps.