Waiting is torture.
MBA candidates spend months honing their application. They weigh every word in their essays and study tirelessly to tack a few points onto their GMATs. Always seeking an edge, they pore over every blog and chat with any alum who’ll return their calls. In the end, they’re powerless. It’s called the black hole, that abyss where applicants second-guess every choice and imagine every worst case scenario.
After this, the interview is the easy part. Question is, what are your odds of landing one? That was a question tackled in January by Wayne Atwell, a 2016 graduate of NYU Stern. Currently a McKinsey associate, Atwell runs MBA Data Guru, a blog that parses through school data supplied by GMAT Club. In January, he examined five years of GMAT and GPA data to come up with interview probabilities at the leading MBA programs.
NOVEL APPROACH CROSS-REFERENCES GPAs AGAINST GMATs
In the process, Atwell offers real insight to applicants on their chance for receiving an interview invite from various schools. He does so by cross-referencing GMAT and undergraduate data. For example, say an applicant coupled a 710 GMAT with a 3.5 undergraduate GPA. This individual would fall under the 700-730 GMAT range and the 3.40-3.59 GPA range. At Yale SOM, the candidate would enjoy a 41% chance of being afforded an interview according to Atwell’s data. At the same time, this applicant would enjoy a 77% chance of an interview at Kellogg.
In other words, Atwell’s approach not only reveals probabilities, but it enables MBA candidates to compare their odds side-by-side and school-by-school. It isn’t a perfect system, however. For one, a GMAT range of 700-730 is an awfully wide swatch that covers many of the GMAT averages at the Top 25 American MBA programs. At the same time, it ignores GMAT averages from 731-740. Even more, it doesn’t factor in supply-and-demand, which is represented in the number of applications and applications per seat – the numbers that reflect how selective programs can be.
Even more, the rubric doesn’t account for intangibles, adds Jeremy Shinewald, a Darden MBA and author with two decades of MBA admissions consulting experience as founder of mbaMission. “It really is a holistic game,” he admits.” Applicants are judged on the basis of their GMAT, GPA, professional experience, extra-curricular involvement, post-MBA employability, execution of application components and more. Each applicant will have strengths and weaknesses within this ‘portfolio.’ I couldn’t point to one or two that are more important – very much candidate specific.”
ELITE PROGRAMS LOOK CLOSELY AT UNDERGRAD GPA
That doesn’t mean that MBA applicants can’t learn a ton from Atwell’s efforts. That’s particularly true when it comes to the impact of undergraduate GPAs on the odds of admissions. It is common sense that lower GPAs are mitigated by higher GMATs. Turns out, Atwell’s research confirms it…to a point.
Take applicants with GPAs below 3.40. Not surprisingly, elite schools shun such candidates regardless of GMAT. At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, just 3% of applicants who fall into the quadrant with a GMAT below 700 and a GPA below 3.40 managed to get an audience with a Stanford GSB adcom. How much of an albatross is a GPA under 3.4? The odds rise to just 12% even with a GMAT above 740!
Stanford is no aberration. At Harvard Business School, just 5% of applicants with a GPA under 3.4 and a GMAT below 700 land an interview. Those numbers follow a similar pattern as Stanford GSB, with just 13% of applicants with a GPA below 3.4 and a GMAT above 740 earning an interview. There is a similar leaning towards academic achievement at MIT Sloan, Berkeley Haas, and Yale SOM, where the odds range from 12%-15% for students with a GPA under 3.4 and a GMAT above 740.
ODDS IMPROVE AT KELLOGG AND TUCK
That’s not to say some top MBA programs aren’t more forgiving of lower academic scores. At Northwestern Kellogg, lower GPAs aren’t necessarily an application killer. A program that values teamwork, Kellogg interviews 67% of students whose applications include GPAs and GMATs under 3.4 and 700. That’s not to say Kellogg is a school for slackers. Look no further than the Class of 2019, where the average GPA and GMAT came in at 3.6 and 732. However, Kellogg is more open to providing a forum to students with so-so academic performance.
The same holds true at Dartmouth Tuck, another values-driven program with a clearly-defined, close-knit culture (along with a 722 average GMAT and a 3.51 average GPA). Tuck interviews 58% of applicants that fall below the 3.4/700 threshold. And that number rises to 71% when to GMAT rises above 740. That doesn’t mean a 740 GMAT is necessarily a remedy for an undergraduate GPA that falls under 3.4. For these applicants, the odds of an interview at Wharton MIT Sloan, Berkeley Haas and Northwestern Kellogg actually declines compared to those who fall in the 700-730 GMAT range.
The trend lines follow suit in the 3.40-3.59 GPA range. At the lowest level – a GMAT under 700 – Stanford and Harvard again maintain stringent standards, interviewing just 6% and 12% of students in this range. However, this is quite an uptick over MIT Sloan, where Atwell reports the interview rate as 0% (a potential error considering the rate is 14% for applicants who fall into the range of an average GPA and GMAT under 3.4 and 700 respectively).
INTERVIEW RATES ALSO TIED TO DEMAND AND SEATING
By the same token, some schools warm up to candidates in the 3.40-3.59 range as their GMAT averages rise. Just look at Columbia Business School, which only interviews 17% of candidates in this range with a GMAT under 700. However, that number doubles to 34% when GMAT averages run from 700-730. Similarly, Chicago Booth interviews 28% of candidates when a GPA and GMAT fall below 3.40 and 700. However, that numbers jumps to 68% when the GMAT tops 740. Under these same conditions, the interview rate at Yale SOM climbs from 24% to 63%.
Go to next page to find your odds when your GPA is a 3.6 or above.