What Are My Chances At Harvard Business School? by: Jennifer Jackson, MBA Admissions Consultant, Stratus Admissions Counseling on June 06, 2023 | 5,960 Views June 6, 2023 Copy Link Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email Share on LinkedIn Share on WhatsApp Share on Reddit Harvard Business School, Stanford GSB, Wharton, and other top business schools have become so competitive that none can be called a target anymore, even if you have a 3.9 GPA from Stanford, a high GMAT score, and stellar work experience. As an MBA applicant, you may have heard that you should apply to some stretch schools, target schools, and likely (or safety) schools. What does this mean, and how do you go about it? In today’s super-competitive MBA application process, it’s a good idea to do your research to figure out where you stand so you can make an informed decision about which MBA programs are stretches, targets, or likely schools for you. Start with a broad list at first—maybe 15 or more—so you don’t eliminate too many right at the beginning. Then once you’ve narrowed them down more—maybe eight to ten—start compiling a list of how many are stretch, target, or likely for YOU. How do I know which are stretch or reach schools? One of the first rules of thumb with the top ten business schools is that they are essentially stretches for EVERYONE. Yes, even you with the 770 GMAT score. So, as you compile the list of schools you will apply to, put every top ten school in the stretch list. Beyond these top schools, a stretch school is one where your GPA and GMAT are on the low end of the 80% ranges the schools report. In some cases, you’ll only see an average GPA reported, so use that as your barometer. If your GMAT and/or GPA are way below the average, that school is a stretch for you. Also, consider your work experience. If you are significantly over or under the school’s average number of years of work experience, that puts you at a disadvantage in the applicant pool. This is particularly true if you are only a year or two out of college, as schools now are looking for candidates who can share significant work experiences with their classmates. If this is you, consider waiting a year or two to become a stronger applicant. If you are on the younger side, having a high GMAT or GRE score can help offset the smaller amount of work experience. Which schools are target schools for me? Target schools for you are schools where your stats fall within that school’s reported ranges. For example, if you are applying to NYU Stern with a 3.5 GPA and a 710 GMAT, it may be a target school for you since Stern’s 80% GMAT range is 700-760, and its GPA range is 3.34 to 3.89. Remember that you are also compared to others within your demographic. Therefore, if you are well outside the range of your own demographic, even if your numbers fall within the school’s range, it will be harder for you to gain admission. These numbers are not broadly distributed, so they are more difficult for applicants to find. Knowing which schools are likely, or safety, schools MBA programs that you are likely to get into are those where your stats fall above their 80% GMAT range and well above the average GPA. For example, someone with a 3.6 GPA and a 750 GMAT could consider UNC Kenan-Flagler a likely school since its 80% GMAT range is 660-720 and average GPA is 3.43. Of course, even likely schools are not a guarantee if you haven’t answered some key questions in your application, including why you need an MBA, why now, and why at that school. Now what? Now that you have your list of schools and you’ve identified which are stretch, target, or likely, you should apply to some of each. If you decide to apply to six schools, perhaps apply to two stretch, two target, and two likely. Many applicants apply to three (or more) stretch, one or two target, and one likely. Do what feels right to you, but realize that without a likely school or two in the mix, there’s a chance that you’ll wind up empty-handed when decisions come in. Sometimes applicants spread their applications across rounds, applying to stretch and target MBA programs in Round 1 while preparing to apply to an additional target as well as likely schools in Round 2. Remember to consider YOUR list of stretch/target/likely schools, not your friend’s or co-worker’s list. Georgetown University may be on your target list but on your friend’s stretch list. It’s not where the school is in the rankings but where YOU stand in relation to that school that matters. Jennifer Jackson is an MBA Admissions Consultant at Stratus Admissions Counseling. Jennifer’s background includes four years at Edelman Public Relations, where she focused on communication strategies. After completing her MBA, Jennifer joined Hewitt Associates, a human resources consulting firm. Comments or questions about this article? Email us.