Obviously the first place to look when considering whether you can make it into a top MBA program is the school’s class profile. You need to know their average GPA and GMAT and age. This is the necessary start to your strategy. If your stats are too far off of any (or all) of these averages, then it is a sign you’re not hitting the marks on a typical student at this school. That’s not at all where the analysis must end though — and if you ARE hitting on those averages, it’s no guarantee you’ll get in.
Each individual’s outcome in the admissions process is dependent upon the whole package that they present to the school. This is what the admissions folks mean when they say they do a “holistic review.”
Usually when an admissions person uses the phrase “holistic review” they’re trying to reassure you. They’re saying, “Look, our GMAT data is the average, and we admit people across a range of scores. We post the 80% range [or sometimes 100% range] to prove it.”
The thinking then goes, if your GMAT score is within that range, you’re qualified to get in.
And that’s absolutely the truth — but it also absolutely falls short of the actual reality of what may happen when you submit.
A better way to think of class profiles published by the schools is that if you’re at or above their averages, you have a somewhat better chance overall, but it still totally depends on your execution of the strategic parts of the app. Which are the essays, resume, and recs. If those fail to impress, you’re simply not going to get in, no matter if your GMAT is a 780 and you have a 4.0 GPA. (Which, by the way, is exceedingly rare.)
Don’t be deceived by those ranges, either. If your GMAT score is within the 80% range, then that means that you’re qualified, or more precisely, that they’ve accepted others with that score before. But if your GMAT score is on the low end of that range and your GPA is also lower, then that’s a doubly-whammy of LESS COMPETITIVE — and steps should be taken to ensure you are “bringing it” with the totality of your app.
Basically, what we’re saying is that if your GMAT and/or GPA are on the high end, then GREAT! You have a real chance. And now it’s time to work hard on every other part of the execution of your app.
If your GMAT and/or GPA are on the low end, then you still have a chance! But you need to work even harder to make sure that you’re executing on a full-spectrum strategy that compensates for those weaknesses.
And the main point of this post is a warning: You cannot rely on some basic assessment whereby someone looks at your GMAT and GPA and years of experience or industry and assesses your chance of success.
If it were that straightforward, then all the schools would do it that way. They would just ask for those core stats and make their decisions thereby.
They don’t work that way.
To make pronouncements on whether you have a shot at Harvard or wherever doing only a cursory superficial review of one component of the application and not the whole is doing you a disservice. This is often done by those we have previously dubbed the “adcon” and this post is a warning about that.
The best way to know at the beginning of the process if your school targets are in line with what your profile looks like today is our Comprehensive Profile Review. That lets us dig a bit deeper into the details of your profile and gives you a lay of the land assessment of whether you’re being realistic with the schools you have in mind or whether a broader strategy is warranted.
At the other end of the process, after you have your essays and resume and everything all pulled together, we offer the Pre-Submit MBA Sanity Check where we examine your pitch from the perspective of the adcom at your target school, and give you our take on whether you’re likely to get an interview invite based on how you’ve presented yourself.
It’s inappropriate for an admissions consultant to do the job of the admissions committee. Meaning, it’s not right for an outsider to the school to declare that you don’t have a chance of getting in, before you’ve even applied.
(It’s also ridiculous for a school to assert that nobody except for the school can accurately assess a candidate to that school, so Stanford adcom, you can stuff it.)
Use the data wisely, Brave Supplicant.
Know what it represents and whether, and how, it can be useful in setting your own strategy.
Then go forth and prosper!