Handicapping Your MBA Odds

Poets&Quants Founder John A. Byrne & HBSGuru.com Founder Sandy Kreisberg

She’s a 28-year-old professional who has spent the past two years in supply chain management for a major semiconductor company, traveling to factories and suppliers throughout Asia. She now manages two high impact product categories with annual revenues of about $450 million. And she wants an MBA degree to move into a strategic leadership role in the high tech space.

He’s a 30-year-old African-American who works as a senior trader at a top-tier proprietary trading firm in Chicago. With a 740 GMAT and a 3.3 grade point average in computer science and finance from a prestige public university, he’s hoping to use an MBA to transition into a private equity job in emerging markets, ultimately with a goal of starting his own PE firm.

A 2+2 candidate at Harvard Business School, this 23-year-old African male will be graduating from a low-tier school in Europe where he founded two startups in his first year at university. One company failed but the other was sold to a family friend, and he is now working on another startup before starting a master’s program in public policy at a Top 20 European university. With his MBA, he hopes to use his MBA knowledge and connections to create a company in the healthcare/pharmaceuticals sector in Africa.

Get Sandy Kriesberg's advice to make handicapping your odds of getting in possible

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What they all share in common is the desire to gain an MBA experience at one of the very best business schools in the world. Do they have the raw stats and experience to get in? Or will they get dinged by their dream schools?

Sandy is back again 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.)

And if you just have a short question, he is happy to answer that, too. So just post it in the comment section below.

Ms. Chain Supply Management

  • 161V/161Q GRE
  • 3.8 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from Arizona State University with a triple major in supply chain management, business law and English literature
  • Work experience includes two years in supply chain management in the energy industry with a major oil and gas company based in Houston; started as a buyer, moved into category management and then market intelligence/business analytics; and two years currently in supply chain management at a major semiconductor maker, traveling to factories and suppliers throughout Asia; originally managed a $100 million category and after a promotion now manages n additional category worth a total of $450 million
  • Extracurricular involvement as board member on alumni council for undergraduate business school; mentor to students; member of all-female community service organization; also did two study abroad programs as undergraduate in China and Italy/Greece
  • Goal: To stay in the high tech space, hoping to move into a strategic leadership role within a major tech company
  • 28-year-old white female

Odds of Success:

INSEAD: 40% to 50%
Harvard: 25% to 30%
Stanford: 25%
Wharton: 25% to 30%
Dartmouth: 30% to 40%
Northwestern: 30% to 40%

Sandy’s Analysis: Your GRE translates to a 660 GMAT so my first piece of advice is retake the test.

You didn’t provide a title so I have a little trouble figuring out exactly what you do for your major semiconductor manufctuer.

So the quick analysis is that the fact you are a female is good. Your 3.8 GPA from Arizona State is good. Your GRE score is problematic. The fact you are a woman working in a tech environment is a positive. It sounds like you come in on a regular basis and make sure everyone has their ties pulled up and their shoes tied. You’ve got a lot of hard core, real business experience. And you’ve worked and gotten promoted at two major companies: a major oil and gas company and a major tech company.

The question is does all this add up to an admit at Harvard or Stanford?

For Stanford, what you need is an X factor. Either you come from an adversity background or you are helping adversity victims. Another X factor is what I will call X squared. You got a 4.0 from Princeton and then you worked for Goldman Sachs and Blackstone. It’s resume that weights a lot. You don’t have that so I don’t think you are getting into Stanford.

I think Harvard is going to be a reach because of the GRE. Let’s say you had a 740 GMAT. I think you would be a strong Harvard applicant. That could make a big difference because you are the real thing. You are not some smart woman who majored in Chiense and then worked for McKinsey for two years. You’ve worked for real businesses in real jobs. No dis on McKinsey here; that’s just the truth.

And if you are a first generation college student, your degree from Arizona State could work to your advantage.

My tough love for you: Study for those standardized tests, whichever one you can do best on. Take it three or four times if you have to. There is nothing more important that you can do than to raise your standrdized test score.

If you get near the Harvard average on either the GMAT or the GRE, you have a good shot of getting in. In fact, I’d add ten percentage points on all your odds if you were able to even get your equivalent GMAT score up by 40 points to just a 700.

Wharton is going to like the same thing everyone else likes. But Wharton pays more attention to GMAT and GRE scores.