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Moving Beyond MBA Profile Evaluations

June 01, 2018 :: Alex Collazo

MBA Profile Evaluations

You’re pursuing an MBA at your dream school.

Bombarded by information online (average scores, applicant demographics, admissions rate, etc.), the first logical step is to seek a profile evaluation.

“Is it worth applying to my dream school if my profile isn’t up to par with the average alumnus?”

“Do I stand any chance with X, Y, or Z on my resume?”


Comparing your current profile to the average of the student and alumni populations at your target school will give you a solid understanding of the gaps in your application, your weaknesses compared to other successful applicants, and where you fall in the school’s ranges.

How do your metrics stack up: GMAT, GPA, age? What’s the real acceptance rate for your specific slice of the applicant pool? How did people just like you fare? This is useful information to have… but can be misleading.

The problem with relying too heavily on profile evaluations is that MBA admissions is not a deterministic process: put two equivalent profiles in front of the admissions committee and there’s no guarantee you’ll get the same result. Here are a few factors to consider when comparing your profile to someone else’s:


Applicant viability can change dramatically depending on the year and time of application. Some factors include:

  • Rounds 1, 2, 3, and 4 – As you may already know, an applicant’s chances can change depending on the application round. Typically, the later the round, the lower the chances.
  • The number of applicants—If there are more applicants this year, matching a guy who got in last year might no longer be good enough; if there are less, the comparison might discourage you from applying to a school that is now within reach.
  • Applicant quality—The quality of the MBA applicant pool is roughly linked to the economy’s performance: in bad times, more talented people will seek out the safe haven of business school.
  • Applicant demographics—In addition to random chance, market shocks and demographic trends in the overall population, year-by-year applicant demographics can be substantially affected by international politics.
  • Admission positions available (for YOUR demographic)—The total number of students in a class changes fairly slowly, but adcoms regularly tweak their desired class composition.

Timing is particularly important to applicants from small demographics. Let’s say Wharton aims to have 2-3 folks from Central Asia—if last year they got eight serious applicants from the region, and this year they get six, those six have a MUCH higher chance of getting in. The same goes for people from rare fields: musicians, fishermen, etc. For this reason, a profile evaluation that compares your application to past years will be more predictive if you come from a very common demographic, for example, a male engineer with a tech background going into management consulting.

Your Application Materials

While it’s possible to compare the quantitative aspects of an applicant profile, GMAT score and GPA ranges tend to be very wide. Why? MBA programs really care about your resume, essays, interview and letters of recommendation. Even if you have exactly the same experience as the profile you’re comparing yourself to, the way that applicant presented their experience matters a lot.

Excellent essays and a sharp interview can turn even mundane administrative work into leadership gold. Unless you have visibility into all aspects of the application, your understanding of the applicant’s strength is incomplete.

>> Recommended Reading: The Real Role of the MBA Essay

Extenuating Circumstances

Alright, you’ve done everything you could to bring your profile up-to-par with the top of the top of your dream school. You hit submit and play the waiting game.

From here on out your success is out of your hands. Admissions decisions are made by a team of people, and different readers can evaluate the same application in very different ways. Random things could have a big effect. Did the reader read your essay on a cloudy day? Did they have a headache when your application landed on their desk? These are human factors that you can’t control.

The only thing you CAN do, is to put your absolute best foot forward.

Sure, start with a profile evaluation. Use the info you collect to build a target school list, to identify the gaps in your profile and application, and to craft a strategy for improvement.

Profile evaluations are great as general guidelines, but they are not predictive.

If someone with a very similar profile to yours got into Harvard Business School, take that as a good sign, but definitely not a guarantee or license to devote less attention to your application!

Get a good understanding of what your dream school is looking for and devote your time to developing the best application possible.