Overall, the 3.40-3.59 GPA range is a far more predictable measure. Here, interview odds rise as GMAT scores increase. However, the likelihood of getting an interview at either Berkeley Haas or MIT Sloan still stands below 45%. This may be a testament to the schools’ 16-to-1 and 14-to-1 applicant-to-seat ratios respectively, which frees them to be more selective with candidates than most other MBA programs.
STELLAR GPA AND GMAT DON’T GUARANTEE AN INTERVIEW
Last, but not least, are the applicants who boast undergraduate GPAs above 3.6. Such academically-inclined students are most welcome at Dartmouth Tuck, Northwestern Kellogg, and Chicago Booth, where they enjoy a 58%-65% chance of landing an interview – even with an average GMAT under 700. Not surprisingly, Stanford and Harvard are more skeptical about such students, interviewing them at a 13% and 12% clip respectively. Par for the course, MIT Sloan, Berkeley Haas, and Columbia Business School give less weight to an average GPA and GMAT. In this quadrant, applicants have just a 1-in-4 odds of winning an interview at these schools.
What about the proverbial unicorns – those students whose applications feature GPAs above 3.6 and GMAT over 740. According to analysis, they are hardly a shoo-in for an interview. Looking for an illustration of just how hard it is to get the attention of Stanford and Harvard? Check out the high performers in the best quadrant. Just 22% of candidates who apply to Stanford ever receive an interview. And the number is an equally dismal 27% at Harvard Business School.
Such impeccable academic credentials don’t guarantee interviews at many other top MBA programs. At MIT Sloan, just 39% with a 740+ GMAT and a GPA over 3.6 make it to the interview stage. That number is a give-or-take 50% at Berkeley Haas. At Wharton and Columbia, the odds are 55% each.
HARDER TO GET AN INTERVIEW AT SLOAN AND HAAS THAN WHARTON
The best bet? Think Northwestern Kellogg, where 83% of these unicorns win an interview (three points less, ironically, than 740+ candidates with GPAs in the 3.40-3.59 range). Across town, Chicago Booth meets with 73% of candidates with stellar academics, just a point below Dartmouth Tuck at 74%.
In short, when it comes to the waiting game, applicants face Herculean odds of making it to the interview round at Stanford and Harvard, even with top notch academic credentials. Applicants also face daunting odds of getting the call from MIT Sloan and Berkeley Haas, with Wharton and Columbia rejecting far more than they invite for interviews. The news isn’t always depressing. Despite their academic rigor, top tier programs like Northwestern Kellogg, Chicago Booth, and Dartmouth Tuck are more apt to look beyond the numbers and give gifted applicants a platform to state their case.
So what factors do schools to identify which candidates merit an interview invitation? Alex Min is the CEO of The MBA Exchange, one of the world’s leading MBA admissions firms. An MIT Sloan grad and Marine Corps officer, Min considers essays to be the most “meaningful and motivating” component in any MBA application. The reason? They make the candidate come alive beyond the page.
“SELF-AWARE, APPROACHABLE, AND INTRIGUING”
“Effective essays instill the feeling in readers that they’ve already met and like the applicant,” he observes in a written statement to Poets&Quants. “A candidate who reveals himself or herself as being self-aware, approachable, and intriguing is someone who the adcom wants to know better through an interview.”
Min ranks the recommendation as the second-most valuable part of the application – and for much the same reason. “These informed, candid, third-party insights and observations on the applicant as a person – describing past and present behavior – give the adcom a compelling preview of what it would be like to actually sit down and engage with him or her,” he adds. “Recs help vet a candidate as being qualified for and worthy of an interview invitation.”
FOCUS ON FIT AND STANDING OUT
For Linda Abraham, founder of Accepted and a frequently-cited expert on MBA admissions, there are two ways that applicants can stay out of the ding pile or waitlist. For one, they must lay out how they are a solid fit with the school’s ethos.
“Fit means the applicant’s ability to do the work and includes grades and test score and cultural fit with the school’s community – values, missions, and personal qualities,” she tells P&Q. “In addition goals are an important component of fit. Most schools want to know they can help their students achieve their goals.”
The second way, Abraham notes, is by finding a way to clearly and memorably “stand out” from other candidates. “Applicants can evidence this distinctiveness and ability to contribute through their accomplishments both on and off the job, interests, background, and goals.”
Abraham cautions, however, that landing an interview doesn’t indicate smooth sailing afterwards. Content wise, she explains that applicants can expect “probing question about decision points and gaps in their applications.” While Abraham urges interviewees to emphasize how they fit culturally and stand out from the traditional mold, she adds that other variables are equally important in making the right impression on adcoms.
“Communications ability, poise, and presence are critical to moving that application from the “maybe” to the “accepted” pile. Applicants must come across as people the interviewer would want to have as part of their school’s community.”
To see school-by-school breakdowns by GPA and GMAT, go to the next page.