HBS Guru 2.1: A 770 GMAT film producer's b-school chances

📅 written
After the inaugural Kreisbot “predicting your b-school chances“ post last week, the response was overwhelming. Dozens & dozens of you asked to have their fates decided by the Kreisbot. We might not get to every request, but keep those requests coming all the same.

How’s Kreisbot work?

We touched on this last week, but if you’re just tuning , the Kreisbot is an algorithm we’re building at admitbrain to help b-school aspirants understand their odds at elite business schools. Plenty of admissions consultancies have ‘profile evaluation’ forms on their websites, but the Kreisbot has two important distinctions:
  1. It considers multiple data points. While the data points themselves are subjective (as most predictions are), we think incorporating more data points leads to a sort of ‘wisdom of the crowds’ effect, improving accuracy.
  2. It’s the only ‘chances’ calculator powered entirely by the famed predictions of the HBS Guru, Sandy Kreisberg.
In a nutshell, we’ve fed the Kreisbot every article Sandy’s written on the topic of admissions predictions. Then, when we evaluate a new profile, the Kreisbot finds candidates similar to the new profile & aggregates the predicted chances.

Kreisbot meets his namesake

To our surprise (well, I guess we did tweet at him), the inaugural running of the Kreisbot drew the attention of The Guru himself, Sandy Kreisberg :
A disqus comment from the HBS Guru that says 'thanks guys, I support this wonderful effort and am flattered Just make sure your algo values identity politics. Super important.'
We were thrilled about this for two reasons:
  1. It isn’t a cease & desist order (we knew Sandy wasn’t the litigious type!).
  2. It confirms something we’d suspected from looking at the data: hard-to-quantify details are at the heart of the questions we’re trying to answer.
We’ll save in-depth analysis til’ a-later post, but suffice it to say that making predictions on admissions decisions relies heavily on unquantifiable factors. Conventional wisdom (whatever that means) in admissions says that the hard numbers can tell you if it’s possible to get into a top school, but it’s the ‘fuzzy’ stuff that gets you from ‘possible’ to ‘yes.’
And, for an algorithm-driven approach like the Kreisbot, those fuzzier elements are the hardest to crack (we have the limits of computers to thank for this, as anyone who’s ever found themselves screaming angrily at their Alexa can attest to).
A comic from XKCD captioned 'in CS, it can be hard to explain the difference between the easy and the virtually impossible.'
Source: https://xkcd.com/1425/
So, with the Guru’s blessing, we’ll keep digging into the data & producing ‘chances’ breakdowns for our users. Want that to be you? Just fill out this form & stay tuned.

The Candidate

Next up to get their numbers crunched is a candidate with scores to die for & some solid film/media bona fides.
UndergradWriting & Media @ Johns Hopkins, 3.72 GPA (Honors)
GMAT770 (50Q/46V)
1st jobBroadcast News, ABC News
2nd jobFilm Production, Turn 4 Films
Goals“I want to go into the entertainment industry after my MBA in business development and try to foster nascent immersive technologies into a key part of a major studio’s programming.”

The Computations

The Candidate’s casting a wide net, asking for chances predictions at 12 schools (around a cool $3k in app fees!). Unfortunately, there isn’t enough data around certain school + score combinations to make a prediction. This happens a lot with safety schools, but given the publicly available data on median scores, etc., we think you can make some safe assumptions on this Candidate’s odds at schools with average scores well below his.
Harvard34.3 %
Stanford GSB27.5 %
Wharton40 %
Sloan31.7 %
Kellogg39.5 %
Booth40 %
Columbia45 %
Yale50 %
NYU Stern55 %
UVA DardenNot enough data
UCLANot enough data
U. Southern CaliforniaNot enough data

The Download

Film production background

This Candidate’s numbers are as close to beyond reproach as they come. While the Writing & Media might imply a weakness in quant, one can’t do much better to mitigate that concern than a 50Q on the GMAT.
The bigger source of uncertainty in this profile is the film production bit (owing mostly to the relatively small number of film production types that apply to b-school).
The Guru’s shed light a number of times on the topic. A few years back in a profile called “Mr. Hollywood,” Sandy writes:
B-schools take Hollywood types, even kids who have been living in the steerage decks of The Good Ship Indy- Productions, as you apparently have. They especially like kids with a 3.9 GPA from UPenn (you’ll always have that!). Schools also know what a no-name “film production company” means (nothing!) but will give you credit for getting a film made.
Mr. Hollywood (who weighed in at a 3.2 GPA from a comparable school & 750 GMAT) was given odds at Harvard of 30 %+. To put that in context, consider a histogram of all of the predictions Sandy’s made for HBS admission since 2011. As you can see, 30 % is right at his average prediction which, from where we sit, makes the candidate’s 34.3 % a pretty good sign.
A histogram of HBS admission predictions made by the HBS Guru, Sandy Kresiberg. It's normally distributed with a mean of 30%.


Coming from a field without many MBAs can leave a lot of candidates uncertain on where to look for recommendations. On this point, Sandy notes:
Having your recommenders be semi big-shots (in terms of the business side of the studio, we don’t need boldface names) would also help, as would rave recs. If the schools get the idea that you are some wannabe film-maker doing scout analysis work for nobodies, well, finis for you. At Wharton and Kellogg, there just might be enough gold dust here to slip by. That 750 is really helping you. Columbia considers itself as part of the communications and media in-crowd, if not films per se, and a well-told story based on learning finance and leadership skills might work there.

Post-MBA Goals

One of the reasons film types don’t often go to business school is the relative dearth of areas that call for an MBA. Sandy gives some advice on addressing this, encouraging Mr. Hollywood to be perfectly clear on the reasons for his application.
“Launched a successful and ongoing media/photography/film production company.” Mazel Tov (Oh Linda!!!), but why do you need an MBA? That is what I am not seeing clearly enough here. I’m being tough on you because I’ve seen a lot of similar types get disappointing results. A plus for you could be if your movies actually dealt with B-school pet topics like victims, etc. And I don’t mean hipster band kids who are victims of crack addiction.
Given the Candidate’s experience in the production side of the house, the MBA might make sense as a stepping-stone into business development, but the story connecting all of this to the long term goal of expanding a studio’s portfolio into “nascent immersive technology” (which, if the rumors about the VHS vs. Betamax war are to be believed, might mean “VR porn”) has to be salient–perhaps more-so than a candidate from a more conventional background.
Another point worth noting is the scarcity of studio jobs (relative to other industries). It’s frequently noted that unrealistic goals can imply a lack of seriousness to admissions, and the probability of stated goals might be an indicator here. On her goal of “head[ing] up worldwide marketing at a major Hollywood Studio,” the Guru advised “Ms. Hollywood Marketing Guru” (a 3.2 GPA with a 740 GMAT) in 2016:
There’s one thing I would suggest. I would change out your goal. There aren’t many Hollywood studios so you don’t want to tell a business school your goal is to be one of six people in the world. Instead, you want to say your goal is to be a marketing leader at a media and entertainment company. That way you sound smarter and, by the way, I doubt you would care that much if you were able to become the head of worldwide marketing at Google.
Basically, you stop the music at working for a major Hollywood studio. Schools love that. Kellogg is historically known for marketing so you would be a welcome admission there. Wharton is the one that could have the hardest swallowing that 3.2 pill. HBS will go, come on in. I think you are a very strong Harvard candidate.


All-in-all, the Candidate’s numbers & schools’ apparent affinity for film-types means his chances are pretty solid. While clarity of intention is important for any applicant, though, the Candidate should pay extra attention to making sure his “why MBA” is as clear & brilliant a story as the ones he’ll be projecting into our brains in 30 years as head of BD at Time Warner/AT&T/AOL/Hyundai/Exxon (or whatever horrifying media conglomerate emerges from another 3 decades of the Golden Age of M&A).

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