New Blog Series: What are My Chances?

We’re launching a new blog post series called What are My Chances? It’ll give you a glimpse at how we might advise an MBA prospect to start strategizing his or her application.

To start, we’ve put together some fictional, composite profiles based on the profiles of applicants whom Accepted consultants have advised over the years.

If you would like Michelle to evaluate your profile at no charge and as part of this series, please provide the information requested at Thanks! 

PROFILE 1: “Rahul,” the Indian male IT guy

For advice for Indian MBA applicants, click here.

Concentrate on how you managed people to success.

-Background: 26-year-old Indian male, from rural village, first college attendee from family

Rahul, that you are the first in your family to earn a college degree will likely pull heartstrings on the ad com–especially if you can show that you, not just your family, made sacrifices to afford tuition. What are you doing now to show you are giving back? Perhaps you are paying for your sister’s education?

 -GMAT: 680

Ooh. As an Indian male, a 680 is a low score if you’re looking to apply to top tier US and European MBA programs. If there’s time, retake the test. Aim for a balanced 720 and above.

 -GPA: 78% from Indian Institute of Science (IISc) – Bangalore, Electrical Engineering

IISc Bangalore is arguably one of the best universities in India, and your GPA is outstanding. No worries there.

 -Work Experience: Last 4 years as team lead in an IT consulting company (think Infosys or Tata Consultancy) with financial institutions as main clients

A leadership role at one of India’s best companies. Looks good, but there are hundreds of other ambitious team leads gunning for the same MBA spot. What will set you apart is your ability to show management skill and executive presence. Did you manage a 20+ member team, come up with a solution for an untapped business opportunity that pulled in major revenue? Did you have experience interacting with clients, such as at sales meetings that helped seal the deal? Don’t write in detail about the technical solution you devised. That’s boring! Concentrate on how you managed people to success. Highlight how you improved the bottom or top line.

-Extracurriculars: Tutored underprivileged kids 2-3 hours a week for an international org, participated in music performances, theater and robotics group in college.

Quality not quantity is the key here. You show membership in array of clubs, but no leadership or significant impact. Did you decide to start an afterschool robotics program at multiple schools, and help to raise funds from corporate sponsors—that’s still ongoing? Extracurricular activities are most powerful when you can demonstrate long-term involvement. You need to show that you made a difference, not that you blended in. Right now you’re not a standout.

 -Anything else interesting?: Involved in a number of software-consulting start-ups. All have failed. Most recent endeavor is to win a software-consulting bid in a government-sponsored scheme to modernize medical recordkeeping for healthcare providers

Your failed entrepreneurial ventures sound very interesting. Even if you didn’t succeed, talk about the lessons you learned from your failures. What did you do “smarter” on your next attempt?

-Goals: Wants to go into management consulting

Ugh. This goal is very vague, and not very exciting. You need to show you have some exposure already to management consulting. Did you work on a project with a Western consulting firm that made a big impact? Did you gain some experience in a client-facing role? What kind of possibilities did that inspire in you? Have you tried to make social contacts at firms where you would like to work? The adcom needs to see that you have the potential “executive presence” to make it through the recruitment rounds for consulting internships.


Low possibility: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton

Potential matches with current GMAT: Kelley Indiana, Rochester Simon School of Business, UT McCombs, University of Washington Foster School of Business, Boston University, Cambridge (UK), Emory Goizueta, UT Rotman

 You should look at an array of schools. Definitely include your dream school, but also choose schools where your GMAT is within average range, or above average. Then RESEARCH and NETWORK – before applying! You will be evaluated by current students, admissions officers, and finally, the admissions director. Get to know students and read up on the admissions staff so you can get a feeling for what they want in a colleague or alumni. Dig into the school’s curriculum and programs on the website. Figure out which courses would provide the knowledge you need to make your goals a reality. 

Again Rahul, sincere kudos to you. You have worked incredibly hard to attain both your school ranking and your leadership position at work against stiff competition. Brace yourself to face that competition again. Stand out by focusing on the “personal” so that you are not just another number.

Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.

  • Sanket

    Hi Michelle, thanks a lot for starting such a wonderful series on this blog. I have few questions –
    1. What schools would be good fit for ‘ Rahul’ if he raises the GMAT to 720 and other parts of the profile remain as it is?

    2. What would be the scenario if ‘ Rahul’ takes the GRE (instead of reattempting GMAT) and scores balanced 90+ percentile on the GRE? Can he be good fit for top 15 US Business Schools?

    It would be great if you could let us know your thoughts on these hypothetical (or realistic new perspective to Rahul if he is reading) scenarios!

    • Michelle

      I’m going to focus my response on US business schools as that appears to be your focus.

      720 GMAT: “Rahul” should still consider an array of schools, including some from the list above that I already recommended. If “Rahul’s” GMAT was a 720, potential match schools with a good placement record in consulting include:

      Dartmouth Tuck (has general management focus, case study method, though still a stretch school due to small class size), Yale SOM (its stock is on the way up with new dean, focus on globalization), Duke Fuqua (strong outreach to Indian candidates), Univ. of Virginia Darden (rigorous case study method like unto Harvard and Tuck), Michigan Ross (strong entrepreneurship record), Cornell, Carnegie-Mellon

      GRE: I would say that the reason B-schools are accepting the GRE is to diversify their applicant pools. They wanted to attract graduate school-bound liberal arts and science folks who might have been turned off by preparing for ANOTHER test (GMAT) after already having taken the GRE.

      With Rahul’s background, I would wonder why he opted to take the GRE instead of the GMAT. Top tier MBA programs say they weigh each test equally, but it still seems to be a strange choice if he hadn’t already pursued other graduate studies.

      BUT, he does have the option. Top Ten US B-schools are looking, on average, for GRE scores between 326-330, which would fall in the 90+ percentile range.