My life, my blog, and B-school somewhere inbetween

A catalog of one reapplicant's journey towards an MBA in 2008

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

What do I need to get in?

For some strange reason, I find myself visiting the message boards here and there when I'm bored at work. I have no idea why since I never find anything of interest there. Clearly, I've reached "the end of the internet." Anyway, one phenomenon I became increasingly aware of is that there always seems to be someone saying, "Here is my profile, is it good enough to get in?" It is often from an International applicant, which is understandable because they are not surrounded by products of the American education system and probably do not have friends from college/work or siblings who have gone through the MBA application process. And considering most other graduate programs (ex. law school) are heavily dependent upon a scoring system using factors like GPA, standardized test scores, etc., it is quite understandable that someone would assume the same for b-school. But, that is not the case. B-school applications are an art, not a science. While it is excusable not to know this going in to the process, it is incredibly tiresome to find people asking the same questions over and over instead of spending some time researching the whole thing in the first place. Answers to all application questions can probably be found with a little searching effort. It amazes me that someone who is considering an MBA has done so little effort in his/her research to figure out if it's even worth considering that he/she wouldn't know there is no set "scoring system". I think the schools have been fairly open on that one thus far.

In light of this, I've decided to post Redwolf's Very Rough Approximation of a Guide to Getting into B-school. It covers what I think are the basics, not to determine if one will get in, but if one is "competitive" amongst applicants for a top MBA program. As you'll see, certain topics are very vague. This post would probably be more valuable had it come out in the fall when most people are thinking about b-school, but I'm doing it now because I feel like it and I'm feeling inclined to help those who have gotten their shit together early and are considering an MBA now. Besides, what else are archives for?

The Guide

B-schools "grade" you on four major categories- Academics, Goals, Experience/Leadership, and something I'll call "Worldliness".


GPA: There is no "minimum score". If you'll notice, the average GPA for the top MBA programs is around 3.5 while the average GPA for the top Law schools is around a 3.8. Clearly, GPA does not matter as much (I think it's unlikely that MBA applicants are less intelligent than Law School applicants and so their GPAs are lower). But, that doesn't mean if you have a 2.0 you stand a good shot if you're average in every other category. The GPA and the GMAT are used to reflect your ability to handle the academic rigour of the program. If you meet the minimum requirements, you're pretty much all the same as far as the b-school is concerned. I'd speculate if you have a 3.0 or above you're in contention, provided your GMAT is sufficient. GMAT seems to be the more important Academic factor.

GMAT: Again, no "minimum score". But, schools have been more explicit about this one. Some believe that as long as you break 700 you're ok. I'd beg to differ. I think the composite score isn't as important as the individual scores. Wharton has explicitly stated they want an 80%/80% split between quant and verbal (that's percentile, not raw score), and other schools seem to follow this as well. That's not to say if you get less you won't get in, but if you do it is a cause for concern. Contrary to popular belief, I don't think a GMAT of 750+ means anything more than a GMAT of 710 in the adcoms' eyes.


This section is the simplest part. You've got to be able to clearly articulate why you want, actually I should say "need", an MBA. First priority- long term career objective. Shoot for the stars with this one (ex. CEO, run your own Private Equity shop, etc.), but make sure it makes sense (don't say Chairman of the Fed if you were an Art History major and work at a non-profit). The nice thing about b-school is that it is what I call a "start over card". One of the most common uses of the MBA is to change one's career path, and this is a totally acceptable answer as far as the adcoms are concerned. They just want to make sure you've thought about it thoroughly and the MBA is the best path towards achieving your goals. You have to be able to say "I know currently know X, but I need to learn Y to become [long term goal] and b-school is the best place to learn that." Finally, you need to paint the picture of how you intend to go from b-school to the long term goal. Talk about the job you want straight out of b-school and how it makes sense as a stepping stone to the long-term goal. Adcoms can't always figure this part out.


This and Goals section are the most important categories. This basically comes down to two things- your work experience section of the app and your essays. On the numbers end, you probably need at least four years of work experience (three if you've worked in a slave-type job like I-Banking). But that number is nowhere near set in stone. What really matters is how you've developed as a professional. Experiences themselves seem to count for very little. All the adcom cares about is what you've learned from the experience. They want to know about you the person, not you the short bio. That is how you make use of the essays. List your work experience in the work experience section, but in the essays tell the adcom how these experiences have shaped what kind of professional you are. And, of course, the most important trait they're looking for is Leadership. They want to see that you have experience leading from your work experience or extra-curricular activities and that you've learned something from these experiences. They seem to understand that some professions are not conducive towards leadership experiences (ex. research analyst), so then they look for it in the extra-curriculars and maybe try to infer it from the essays. The real challenge in this section is trying to explain everything you've learned sufficiently in 1,000 words or less.


This is a slightly less important category, but still something that can keep you out. Basically, b-schools don't want corporate flunkies for their students. Nor do they just want professionals. They want people. If all you've done is work at your job and haven't been a part of something other than your company and family, you need to do something else. They love volunteering. It shows you have interest in things outside of work but also that you actually want to give back to the community. B-schools like their alumni to be philanthropists. Also, they want their students to be open to other people's ideas. That's part of the whole learning process at b-school- learning from each other. If you can show that you have a "worldly" perspective, it implies that you're willing to hear other points of view and potentially change your own. It also means that you'll be able to add a melange of viewpoints to any discussion. Oh, and if you're international and thinking "I'm from another country so I can add a different perspective to all the Americans at b-school", guess what- so are all the other applicants from your country. Just being from another country doesn't make one more "worldly" or "open-minded".

That's about it for this "guide". I'm sure I've missed things and I'm probably a little off on a thing or two, but I think this pretty much covers the basics. Any comments/additions would be welcome. Remember, it's easy for a school to reject an applicant, but harder to reject a person. Use the application to show them who you are. You may be great and all, but if you don't tell them how in your essays how are they going to know?


  • At May 25, 2005 3:36 AM, Blogger britchick said…

    I share your frustrations on hearing "can I get in with these stats?" for the nth time, but I think it's worth remembering that it's the first time they've asked, even if it's the millioneth we've been asked. Plus, in some cultures/societies asking other people for advice is the expected first step in researching something, so it's maybe not lack of research but a different approach.

  • At May 25, 2005 3:48 AM, Blogger britchick said…

    To add to your tips:

    GMAT - I know that Wharton says 80/80 is a guidle line, not a rule, and if someone's below the 80% mark they'll look to see if there's other evidence of those skills (from transcript, work experience etc)

    GPA - I think trends also play a part, so low GPA as a freshman but a high one on your final year would be viewed differently to the other way around. Plus, I've heard it said that a low GPA and high GMAT suggests ability but lack of application.

    TOEFL is also a factor for a lot of internationals, and there is usually a minumum core for that.

    I think I'd add teamwork to leadership/experience, and also our self-awareness in somewhere. And don't forget the importance of recomendations in demonstrating all of this.

    Finally, think it's worth remembering that all applications seem sto have a section that lets you explain anything that needs explanation - a set of bad grades in college, a false start on a career path, why you're not getting you direct manager to write the reco etc.

  • At May 25, 2005 11:17 AM, Blogger mba2006 said…

    Nice Summary!

  • At May 26, 2005 10:46 AM, Blogger Redwolf056 said…

    BC- In reference to the first comment, I had not thought of that. Excellent point.

    In reference to the second comment, all welcome additions to The Guide. The teamwork thing is, imo, the biggest miss on my part. A must have under the WE/Leadership category.

    MBA2006- Thanks!

  • At May 29, 2005 12:16 AM, Blogger PupStar78 said…

    Good summary post!

  • At December 04, 2005 11:10 AM, Blogger vijay said…

    Hi ,

    I am new to this blog. i found that this blog is really a useful blog for an international student who is willing to get into a MBA program . I am a software Engineer by profession with about two years of experience. i would like to know whether a score of 700 will be sufficient to get into Harvard or Stanford . i am eyeing only on these two schools . i would also like to know whether i would be given a full scholarship for the program . Please do help me out in this .

    Thanks and regards ,

  • At December 31, 2005 1:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Not a chance on either.


  • At January 12, 2006 1:53 PM, Blogger Redwolf056 said…

    The 700 is fine to get in. But realisticly, you're not getting into Harvard or Stanford. Indian software engineer. You're a dime a dozen. You could be really unique and I'm just wrong about you, but you're fighting an uphill battle being in that demographic. "Class Sculpting" will mean that only so many software engineers will be admitted, and likewise only so many people from India will be admitted. As these two characteristics are quite common, in combination or no, it makes you less unique. Or at least that's just what I think Adcoms think. They have sort of claimed otherwise in the past, but not exactly. Anyway, scholarships are hard to come by for any school, so it's most likely a "no" to answer your second question. I think it's even harder for international applicants to get, but I'm not really sure. My opinion is that they just use scholarships to entice people to join they think might go somewhere else.

  • At March 03, 2006 1:12 AM, Anonymous A rod said…


    I was wondering if anyone has any insight on what type of schools I should be applying to:

    1) I definitely didn't take things seriously until after college, where I only had a 2.4 GPA with a degree in Microbiology
    2) I am very intelligent however, and received a 720 on the GMAT
    3)I have 3 years work experience in the pharmacautical industry as a validation microbiologist
    4) I have 2 strong references.


  • At March 31, 2006 12:11 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    boy oh boy .. A rod's post really cracked me up. I start reading this blog with Wolf venting out in full steam ... and then bang Mr Rod decides to ask the same question over again ... wohoooohhhoooo

  • At August 23, 2006 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Crappy summary.

    What is wrong with asking ex ad coms or experienced people about one's profile? What is wrong with getting someone else's opinion?

    It amazes me that someone who is considering an MBA has done so little effort in his/her research to figure out if it's even worth considering that he/she wouldn't know there is no set "scoring system". I think the schools have been fairly open on that one thus far.

    ==> Where do you get this? How do you say that they didnt make enough research because they ask for expert opinion. They dont expect a definite answer from those people.They just expect guidance and holistic advice. Not a score and yes/no answer. You need to work on your critical reasoning skills.

    710 and 750 are the same???What are you talking about?? So 680 and 710 are the same , then 680 and 750 are the same??? Do your best in GMAT,you wont get into HBS because you got 750 but even 20 points can make a difference. I can tell you didnt get 760+, otherwise you would know that even some top schools send special invitations to 99% scorers. Of course ,your overall application should be solid but saying 710 is same as 750 is just a sign of ignorance.I dont even talk about the role GMAT plays in scholarship decisions.

    Oh, and if you're international and thinking "I'm from another country so I can add a different perspective to all the Americans at b-school", guess what- so are all the other applicants from your country.

    ==> Crappy comment again. Why do you assume that international applicants just say I am from another country etc. and not I am from this country and worked in these two other countries and learned 3 languages??

    I dont understand why US top schools still admit 70% americans? Anyway, 20 years from now, 60% will be international for sure, this summary proves it would be good for all of us!

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  • At October 13, 2013 7:34 AM, Blogger nancy john said…

    Good post about GMAT it is very useful for students

    GMAT Raw scores


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