Would You Get Into a Top Business School?

Last Updated Jul 18, 2011 2:50 PM EDT


Reprinted from PoetsandQuants.com
What would be your odds of getting into one of the best MBA programs in the world? In a previous post, Sanford "Sandy" Kreisberg, founder of MBA admissions consulting firm HBSGuru, examined half a dozen composite profiles of typical MBA applicants and assessed the odds of success of each candidate.

Now, Kreisberg analyzes the stats of PoetsandQuants readers.

One caveat: there's no science and a lot of art to this process. Without the benefit of having all the details of an applicant's candidacy, it's not possible to say with total certainty what the exact odds for any one person might be.

But Kreisberg's assessment carries weight. Since becoming a full-time admissions consultant in 1995, he has seen and interviewed thousands of candidates who want to get into the very top schools. He knows who has made it and who hasn't, and he's willing to share that knowledge here.

Sandy's verdict on these readers' stats:

Mr. State Legislature

  • 740 GMAT
  • 2.89 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree in physics/sociology from a near Ivy public university
  • Work experience in a state legislature
  • Extracurricular involvement in political campaigns
Odds of Success Harvard Business School: 20%
Michigan: 50%
Duke: 60%
Texas: 70%
North Carolina: 65%

Sandy's Analysis: "Harvard Business School takes pols, but usually from the White House or the Treasury Department, and those kids usually have stellar records at Ivies and superb schmoozing abilities. Your chances at other schools you note depend on what your actual role is in the state legislature, what state (is it a state in which the school is located?), and who can push buttons for you. If none of that, GMAT might neutralize GPA and with sharp execution on your applications, you stand a chance at several of these schools."

Ms. Hospitality

  • 660 GMAT
  • 3.7 Grade Point Average
  • Undergraduate degree in art and communication from UC-San Diego
  • Work experience in marketing at a well-respected international hospitality design firm
  • Strong extracurricular involvement in ethnic identity organization and some involvement in other organizations
Odds of Success
Harvard Business School: 20% or less
Columbia: 40% to 55%, if you apply early admission
New York University: 55% to 70%
Chicago Booth: 40% to 60%
Michigan: 40% to 50%

Sandy's Analysis: "A 3.7 is good, but your GMAT is low-ish and you're your current job does not sound selective. Having a hard-to-get job--one where you can be compared to other rising hot shots--is another one of those dirty little secrets of the admissions game.Your chances at Harvard are remote. Booth takes kids like you with solid execution. NYU is wary, but apply. Not Ross. A lot will depend on what schools think of your current job in terms of selectivity and as a platform for your goals."

Mr. Canada

  • 710 GMAT
  • 3.93 GPA
  • Undergraduate degree from a Canadian university
  • 3.72 Graduate GPA from a very good Canadian university
  • Work experience with a small analytics consulting company
  • Extracurricular involvement in leadership positions on student council and student clubs; awards in business case competitions
Odds of Success
Harvard: 35% to 50%
Stanford: Less than 35%
Wharton: Less than 50%
Kellogg: 50% to 60%
Tuck: 50%

Sandy's Analysis: "Your GMAT, GPA and schooling are fine, but I ask you to consider the dirty little secret mentioned above: 'How selective is your job?' and what is the history of your firm sending kids to business school? Harvard, Wharton and Stanford respect analytics firms, especially the big blue chip firms like Nera, CRA and Rand, but less so the smaller firms. That might not be a deal breaker, but it will be a big hurdle. If your firm does not have a record of employee admission success, you will have a real burden in explaining how selective it is, and who the owners are, and what projects the firm has done. Lack of interesting extras and no-name firm might be too much to overcome at H/W/S but solid other stuff might do you fine at most other schools."

Mr. Science

  • 720 GMAT
  • 3.3 Grade Point Average
  • Doctorate of Pharmacy from reputable program
  • Work experience at a large pharmaceutical company
  • Extracurricular includes alumni involvement and very active participation in an ethnic identity organization

Odds of Success
Harvard Business School: Less than 40%
Stanford: Less than 40%
Wharton: 35% to 50%
Columbia: 50% to 65%
Kellogg: 50% to 65%

Sandy's Analysis: "Hmmmm. There is a PhD cohort at Harvard, Wharton and Stanford, but it more often includes PhDs in biology, chemistry, computer science, etc. Given that you went to pharma, though, you might be considered in that cohort. A dirty secret here is where you got the PhD. You say 'reputable program,' but Harvard, Stanford and Wharton almost limit PhD admits to top programs, so that is one issue. GPA is another. That combined with a degree in an off-track discipline like pharmacy could be a real cloud on your application.

"I'd say chances at Harvard/Stanford are less than 50 percent and at Wharton chances are 35% to 60% depending on execution and what you in fact do at that pharma company and how well you segue that into your goals. As for non-H/W/S schools, you are a maybe. They take guys like you, unless you're just dishing out pills."

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image courtesy of flickr user University of Salford
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    John Byrne is the editor-in-chief of PoetsandQuants.com and PoetsandQuantsforExecs.com. A former editor-in-chief of BusinessWeek.com and Fast Company magazine, Byrne also is the author or co-author of eight books on business, including two national bestsellers. Follow him on Twitter.