Indian candidates face fierce competition on their quest to MBA admission abroad. But that probably isn’t news to you.
India alone offers up the highest number of foreign MBA applicants (43%), followed by China (27%) then the US (6%) according to a 2012 study by the Graduate Management Admission Council. Applicants “from China and India are more than four to five times likely to be turned down for admission than either domestic applicants or those from Europe, Latin America, Africa, or the Middle East,” states a recent article by Poets&Quants on CNN Money.
For MBA programs, the main issue behind the disparity in foreign applicant pool numbers and their slice of acceptances can be attributed to many factors: the sheer volume of applications from a particular background, the schools’ desire to diversify their classes, anticipated student loan debt burdens, and visa hurdles for foreign students who want to work abroad after graduation, according to interviews with MBA officers and another Poets&Quants article.
This is the first in a series of five blog posts oriented to Indian MBA hopefuls on how you can set yourself apart before, during and after (i.e. job hunt) the application process. Your potential success in front of a recruiter is ultimately what many admissions committees are judging too.
“For us, at Duke, we see lots of candidates from India who are strong in a functional role,” says Dan McCleary, Regional Director for India at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business. “The biggest question we ask when trying to decide is how this person going to fair when they are being interviewed for a client-facing role.”
“Getting into business school is only half the battle. We are looking for candidates who can go the distance and get hired by these organizations.”
McCleary goes on to say that over the past four years he’s seen Indian candidates become much more sophisticated in their application approach. They’re not just looking at marketing materials. They’re connecting with business school representatives, current students and alumni. They’re reading blogs to find out insider details. They’re showing a good fit with the school’s curriculum and culture. Those who don’t will stand out — but not in a good way.
“We still see applicants from people who haven’t done their homework, and it becomes more obvious.” McCleary advises, “Pick a smaller set of schools to apply to and connect with more people.”
What can you do to get to know more people at your array of school choices –(which should include your dream picks, good fits, and safeties!)
1. Network with those you know. Ask among your batchmate network or among family friends for referrals to b-school connects. Gauge whether or not it’s safe to ask work mentors or colleagues for introductions to MBA alums (but be careful not to tip off your interest in leaving the company if it’s a sensitive issue). Be prepared with a brief message (about 200 words) detailing why you’re interested in the school and your future career goals. Ask your friends to pass it along in an email introduction.
2. Prepare to ace the first of many MBA interviews. Once you’re connected, inquire about meeting for tea/coffee or stopping in for a brief chat. Or if distance doesn’t allow, set up a phone call or Skype session. Be prepared and respect their time! You should know the basics about the school and why you think you’re a good fit. Come up with good questions so you can get an insider’s perspective. If you feel like you’ve really hit it off, ask for referrals to other alums, a note on your behalf to the admissions committee, and any other advice they can give.
3. Visit the campus, or attend a school-sponsored MBA event. This shows the school that you’re really interested in their program. It’s not the time for you to monopolize the presentation with all your questions, or rattle out your specific profile and ask if you have a chance to get in! MBA programs are more and more looking at emotional intelligence when they decide whom to admit. They want to see that you’re personable and approachable, just as you hope they would be. So show them! Come prepared with one or two insightful questions, introduce yourself to other applicants and current students, and gather contact information for follow-ups.
Bottom line: Prepare yourself now to be the type of student or alum you’d like to network with if you become accepted. Well-informed, articulate, and resourceful.
Feel free to add to the comments on this post other successful methods you’ve used to network on your path toward MBA acceptance!
Get the rest of the series: Download Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants now!
Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.