Handicapping Your Elite MBA Odds

After going to community college, this Asian-American professional landed at a University of California campus and went on to work in the insurance industry. For the past year and one half, this 27-year-old has been working in wealth management for Guardian Life where he is on a task force exploring the impact on the insurance industry of autonomous vehicles. With a 680 GMAT and a 3.14 GPA, he’s now hoping to get into a highly selective business school

Once a professional cellist, he landed a job in the mail room of a Big Four accounting firm and literally worked his way up into a consulting job for its healthcare practice. With a 3.5 GPA on his Temple undergraduate degree in cello performance and a GRE of 324, this 24-year-old now wants to go back to school for a solid grounding in business that he never got while studying music.

He’s a 26-year-old professional who works for a wind and solar company. With a 720 GMAT and a 3.0 GPA from Virginia Tech, he hopes to get into business school to use the experience to incubate his own startup in the renewable energy field.

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

Sandy Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com

What all three of these candidates and more 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 Kreisberg, founder of HBSGuru.com and a leading MBA admissions consultant, 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. And he is at his usual tell-it-like-it-is self.

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.)

If you just have a short question, he is happy to answer that, too. So just post it in the comment section below. And if you would like to be considered for a one-on-one Fridays With Sandy video analysis, apply here.

Mr. Room To Grow

  • 680 GMAT (46Q/35V)
  • 3.5 GPA (community college)
  • 3.14 GPA (UC)
  • Undergraduate degree in business from UC-Riverside
  • Work experience includes five years in the insurance industry, with the last year and one-half in wealth management for Guardian Life
  • On a task force to study the impact on the insuracy industry of autonomous vehicles over the next 20 years
  • “Taking MBA Math to compensation for the GMAT score”
  • 27-year-old Asian-American male

Odds of Success:

Northwestern: 10%

Michigan: 10% to 15%

Cornell: 20%

NYU: 20%

UCLA: 10%

Duke: 10% to 15%

Virginia: 10% to 15%

Sandy’s Analysis: Let me be honest with you. That 3.14 GPA is really concerning.

Starting out at a community college is something a school would wink at, Depending on your family background or your circumstances, that could be an okay place to start. They would appreciate your transferring to UC-Riverside, a mid-tier UC system school, but you are supposed to get a 3.8 or a 4.0 there. The fact that you couldn’t hack it there would mean that you can’t sit still, absorb information and spit information back or they would think, ‘Gee this guy is not too smart.’

Working in the insurance business isn’t going to help you all that much, either. It is a silver, not a golden place where business schools go looking for applicants. I don’t think that is going to open any doors. Schools aren’t going to say, ‘Oh, he works for an insurance company but he works for wealth management.’ That is not the equivalent of investment banking.

You’re involved in a task force at work on autonomous vehicles and their impact on the insurance industry over the next 20 years. And that’s a plus if you can make it into a selective task force because that is all schools care about. They want it to be selective. Got a job in insurance but he really shined once he found his footing. That is how you need to present yourself.

I don’t think taking MBA math is going to convince an admissions committee that the 35 verbal you got doesn’t count. The only way to make up for a low GMAT score is to retake it. This is tough love note number one: retake the GMAT.

Get the GMAT up. The score you got on the verbal part of the test will cause some questions but schools mainly just care about the overall score. Take the GMAT and keep taking it until you get a 700 or above. In the famous words of Dee Leopold, the much beloved former director of admissions at Harvard Business School, “I don’t care about your GMAT as long as it begins with a 7.” I don’t mean to infer the beloved Leopold is no longer at Harvard. She is the director of the 2+2 program

This is a muddled profile. It does not lead to selective acceptance. What you have to do is two things: You have to rebrand yourself as some kind of do-gooder in the insurance business, and you’ve got to get a higher GMAT or GRE.The target schools you’ve chosen don’t match your raw stats.

Friend, retake the GMAT and your odds will get a lot better.

About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.