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Advice for International applicants

The MBA application process is a project in itself and often involves elaborate planning and hard work. Here are some tips/ important factors to be considered by international applicants

  1. Plan well (Application Deadlines): Make a tentative list of schools you wish to target and check the deadlines in advance. There are two factors to be considered while deciding whether to apply in R1 and R2. You should plan to apply to your dream schools (maximum 2) in R1 so that the results are out soon and hence you may discontinue application to other schools in round2. The second factor is scholarship. There are certain schools which require early application for consideration of scholarship. You should apply to these schools in R1 itself (or by the deadline as specified). This approach is likely to save money and ensure effective time management.
  2. TOEFL/ Language requirements – command over English language is critical as MBA involves high interactions, networking and heavy readings. It is hence important to see if the b-schools you are applying to require TOEFL and accordingly plan to write TOEFL ahead of deadlines. Some schools also waive TOEFL if you have completed graduation in English medium. Even in such case, it is advisable to write a mail to Adcom and doublecheck regarding the waiver.
  3. Evaluate your short term and long term goals before applying – Since an international MBA is an expensive affair. It is important to assess your goals. You should be clear whether you wish to work abroad/ settle down in home country after MBA. This is a decisive factor in choice of b-schools.
  4. Prepare your transcripts – Most of the b-schools require an official copy of transcript (issued by the college you attended) to be sent. Also, you would be required to convert the grading system to provide your scores in line with US education system (typically 4 point GPA scale). Do these activities in advance.
  5. Visa – It is imperative to understand the visa/ immigration policy and rules applicable to the countries where your target b-schools are located. This is the prime reason that b-schools encourage international MBA aspirants to apply early. Another important point to be noted is that student visa is generally issued specific for the institute that an MBA aspirant will attend. Therefore, once you make up your mind, ensure that you are not likely to change it else the visa process may need to be repeated.
  6. Work ex– Many a times, the organizations that international aspirants work for are not big MNCs and hence not known to the admissions committees in target b-schools. It is, therefore, advisable to elaborate a bit about the organization and kind of work in the essays. Optional essay is generally a good place to do so.
  7. Cost and financial planning – The amounts involved in international MBA are by no means small. Please plan for the funds in advance. In case you definitely require a loan, read the financial aid policies of b-schools. It is suggested that you prefer schools which guarantee a loan after admission. Please note that scholarships in good MBA programs are few and can’t be taken as a reliable and full source of funds.
  8. Understand the international education system – Last but not the least, MBA aspirants must ensure that they have researched/ learnt through networking about the education system and culture of the b-schools/ countries they are applying to. After all, everybody wants to avoid a situation where you mind is occupied with the thought ‘is this want I wanted/ where have I landed myself”. Attending MBA tours/ b-schools get together/ alumni interactions are some of the best sources to do the same.

A geometric view to B school admissions

‘What will get me into my B school of choice?’ is as profound a question in B school admission circles as ‘What is the meaning of life?’ outside of it. While the latter would require reams of paper and me to be an incarnation of the Buddha, the former is a little less intimidating.

The four quadrant approach to explain admission into a business school is something that I particularly have a fancy for. If Michael Porter takes a fancy for geometric shapes to explain strategy, should we be far behind?

The bottom line is: most institutes are in search for smart individuals who would fit into the fabric of the institute. And a manifestation of that search is the four quadrants of the graphic below.

The first quadrant is the application profile quadrant. The academic pedigree of the student, the work experience, the extra curricular activities and the diversity that he/she will bring into the classroom are intrinsic to this quadrant. For an applicant, this is the ‘facts and figures of my life’ quadrant.

The second quadrant is the GMAT quadrant. Despite not being an adamant believer of the doctrine that life is a number line, it is a fact of the living world that numbers like GMAT scores do matter. The score serves as a benchmark for institutes to evaluate the analytical and verbal abilities of the applicant. Whether this is justified or not is for a debate for other times.

The third quadrant is the application essays quadrant. Thankfully, the essay as against popular belief is not a check of your creative abilities. If it were, only Lord Byron and Shakespeare would have made it to the Ivy League. Perhaps posthumously. The aim of the essays is to discover the personality that is the applicant. They are very often instruments that the applicant should make use of to warrant a personal meeting.

The fourth and the final quadrant is the Interview quadrant. It is a privileged quadrant; one that is opened up to those who have made the cut in the other three. Institutes take interviews seriously because they fully well know that the ones they are talking to are the ones who will carry the name of the institute in the outside world tomorrow.

Good luck.

How most B schools evaluate applications

Most B schools evaluate the applications holistically. The various parameters on which applicants are evaluated are undergraduate Academic performance, GMAT score, Work experience (both duration and quality of it), extra curriculars and any other special achievements which can help the candidate earn brownie points.

On an average B schools assign the following weightage:

Undergraduate Academic performance : 10 %

GMAT score : 20 %

Work experience (both duration and quality of it as seen through letters of recommendation): 20 %

Application & essays : 20 %

Extra curriculars : 10 %

Interview : 20 %

Role of GMAT, work ex., essays in MBA admissions

Role of GMAT, work ex., essays in MBA admissions

As indicated, 40% weightage is on tangibles which can’t be changed in a short time or can’t be changed at all. Rest 60 % can be done better ( GMAT score, essays and interview ) and can increase your chances drastically.

When B schools evaluate applications they give marks on all the parameters and calculate the weighted score.e.g. if an applicant gets 80 on undergraduate Academic performance, 90 on GMAT score, 60 on Work experience, 50 on Application & essays & 30 on extra curriculars ( all out of 100), the weighted score is 80X0.10 + 90X0.20 + 60X0.20 + 50X0.20 + 30X0.10 = 60 ( out of 80 , interview score not added).

Now top N students are given interview calls based on these scores. After interviews, the interview scores are added to the above score to calculate the total weighted score and again top M ( # of seats) students are given admission offers.

Disclaimer: This above analysis is based on talks and inputs from adcoms and students of different schools and profile on inputs class for various years and not on data released by any school.

What to write in an Application?

An application is all about showcasing yourself. Just like a presentation to a client highlighting features and USP of product or service, an application highlights your achievements and career goals etc and tells the school why you can be the right student they are looking for.

In a nutshell, though it might appear a little blunt but you have to sell yourself to the school and application plays an important role in that.

According to us the best way of writing application essays for schools like Harvard, Stanford, Duke, Ross, Oxford , ISB, Insead etc is to start with a laundry list of whatever you have done in your life right from schooling, to college to all companies you have joined. Don’t forget extra curriculars. After that think which ones are good and will be valued by the B school. This is where B school alumni’s experience comes handy and can make the difference. Make sure that you are selling right thing packaged rightly to the right school.

Complete your drafts and get it reviewed by people who have applied to schools, current students or alumni. Don’t be fussy about stuffing good words because that’s not what adcom wants to judge.

In the end, don’t forget that the story line should be strong and should look distinct and not like any other application.


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