What are My Chances? African-American Politico Turned Energy Guy

This blog post is one in a series of MBA applicant profile evaluations called “What are My Chances?” authored by Michelle Stockman. Michelle, who started consulting for Accepted in 2007 and worked previously in the Columbia Business School admissions office, will provide selected applicants with school recommendations as well as an evaluation of their qualifications.

If you would like Michelle to evaluate your profile at no charge and as part of this series, please provide the information requested at http://reports.accepted.com/what_are_my_chances

Profile #5 “Kyle” African-American politico, turned energy guy

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Convince the adcom you’re the next big thing in clean energy.

-Background & Work Experience: 26-year-old African-American male graduate of top-tier Texas public university. Ran winning campaign of student body president. Worked on campaign of high-profile gubernatorial candidate (1 year), then transitioned to a Fortune 500 working in sales for energy saving performance contracts for cities and corporations (3 years).

What was that line from the latest season of House of Cards? “Power is better than money, until you’re out of power.” Looks like you were a savvy political operator, but lost the taste for it after losing a state race, or you’re facing some steep student loans and decided to take a high paying energy sector job? I could be wrong about both scenarios. If your hand was forced, by either a losing candidate or financial reasons, take heart – these can be good stories for overcoming an obstacle. Whatever the case, your leadership success undergrad and your current job in a trendy “green” slice of the energy sector make you stand out.

-Short-term goal: Energy consulting

Right on track. This goal makes sense with your past experience, and sounds plausible for your future. Do your research to find consulting companies who want people with your energy expertise. Make sure your b-school choices have good recruiting relationships with these firms.

-Long-term goal: Start-up in clean tech

Again, strong goal. Makes sense. After some time as a consultant, you could absolutely go on to work with, or finance clean tech start ups. The top schools, ie. H/S will want to see a sense of social impact with your goals. Keep that in mind if those schools are on your radar.

-GMAT: 710 GMAT (49Q/39V)

This is a good score – putting you in the top 10% of test takers. It’s a bit below average for the top echelon of schools, but with your experience – and if you interview well – it’s not worth retaking in my opinion.

-GPA: 2.5 (Double-major in Communications and Business Economics)

Yikes. This GPA is what I’m worried about for you. Looks like you were way more absorbed in your extracurricular achievements than in academics. This could cause some concern with the adcom. As a member of an under-represented minority, who has great leadership and a competitive GMAT, the schools may be willing to discount the GPA if you can provide context for your performance as an undergrad and evidence that it is not representative of your academic abilities. Your GMAT definitely helps, but a few recent A’s plus an optional essay about why your GPA is low are also necessary. Were there extenuating circumstances that caused you to miss classes, or did you just slack off? If so, what have you done since to show you have the intellectual bona fides to keep up with other b-school students?

-Extracurriculars: Last two years for Habitat for Humanity, including project with local green building architects to incorporate green design into homes; During college, heavily involved in campus politics and served as inter-fraternity Council President.

Your current extracurriculars line up nicely with your work interests and goals, creating a tidy package. It seems like you are a true leader, a people person. Talk that up in your essays – how you’ve been able to motivate others, create change, move organizations in positive directions. Make sure you communicate how your impact was vital.


Stretch matches: Harvard, Stanford, UC Berkeley

On-par matches: Yale, Michigan, NYU, UT, Duke

Safety matches: Rice, Texas A&M

Bottom Line: Check out some of the joint degrees offered by the schools above. Bonus if you can get it paid for (ie. scholarships). It never hurts to ask. You know how to get votes. Now convince the adcom/financial aid office you’re the next big thing in clean energy.

Download our free special report: Best MBA Programs

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

What Are My Chances? Midwestern Sales Guy with Start Up Ambition

This blog post is one in a series of MBA applicant profile evaluations called “What are My Chances?” authored by Michelle Stockman. Michelle, who started consulting for Accepted in 2007 and worked previously in the Columbia Business School admissions office, will provide selected applicants with school recommendations as well as an evaluation of their qualifications.

If you would like Michelle to evaluate your profile at no charge and as part of this series, please provide the information requested at http://reports.accepted.com/what_are_my_chances

Profile 4: “Matt” the do-gooder Midwestern sales guy, with start up ambition

Check out the rest of the What Are My Chances? series!

Don’t forget your hometown advantage.

-Background: 28-year-old white male from Midwest. Business major with 3.7 GPA from state university in Indiana. Scholarship cross-country runner and team captain.

Matt, you’re like a lot of biz grads in the U.S., perhaps a bit bored after a few years in the workforce. You see a long, slow road ahead if you settle for climbing the corporate ladder. You seem to want to test yourself and follow your dreams. What you’ll need to prove to the admissions committee is your unique worth—what you have to offer to the rest of the student body in terms of skill, knowledge, and drive.

What does set apart your undergrad experience is your strong extra-curricular as a scholarship cross-country runner while managing a very decent GPA. I’m sure your tenure as a team captain gives you several stories of leadership and teamwork. But college was a long time ago. Keep your application as much in the present as possible.

-Work Experience: Four years as account manager at rapidly-expanding B2B technology firm
 in Chicago. Managed a sales team of 20 people.

CFA level II candidate.

You’ve got solid work experience on an upward trajectory at a, likely, regional firm that’s respected within the industry, but not a Blue Chip brand on the national or international stage. It’s fantastic that you’ve managed a sales team of so many people—shows you’ve got to know how to motivate and delegate. Can you quantify the impact of your leadership?

On the other hand, I do wonder why you are pursuing your CFA. It doesn’t seem to mesh with your career path in sales, and I’m not sure a sales background would qualify you to become a charterholder. Perhaps it’s a side interest?

-Short-term goal: Found a tech startup in the software industry.

As an ad comm. member, I would have lots of questions about this goal. What is your idea, exactly? What kind of research have you done to show demand? As a sales guy, do you have the technical expertise needed, or do you already have partners in mind? Do you have any prior experience in start ups, or fundraising? You would need to connect the dots in the application.

-Long-term goal: Eventually move into private equity investing.

Ah, this is where the interest in the CFA likely comes in. If I were you, I would not reach so far with your long-term goal. If you’ve got a reasonable story to support entrepreneurship, stick with the long-term goal of growing your start up into a larger firm. Delving beyond that into private equity investing could be confusing to the ad comm.

-GMAT: 700 45 Q/40 V.

This is a pretty good GMAT, but the quant is a little low for the top echelon of schools. You may want to consider retaking if that’s your first try. A higher score would increase your competitiveness.

-Extracurriculars: 5x volunteer for Christian summer service group building schools and water projects in Ghana. Run twice-weekly youth program at church.

Wow, you’re a busy, faithful guy. These activities show long-term dedication and international reach. The ad comm. will want to see that you’ve moved up into leadership positions, and perhaps introduced some innovations to the projects.

 It’s important to show you have values, but don’t get too preachy. The ad comm. may hold a different belief system from you. Focus on how you may have helped communities, and even better, individuals to improve not so much by the transformative force of a higher power, but by smart, innovative leadership on your part.


Stretch matches: Kellogg, Booth

On-par matches: Michigan, CMU Tepper, Emory Goizueta, UT McCombs

Safety matches: Notre Dame Mendoza, Indiana Kelley

Final Note: Don’t forget your hometown advantage. You’ve done well in the Midwest, likely building up lots of respect and connections locally. You’d do well to tap into those by staying in the Midwest for b-school, and then through the connections you make, build out.

Learn how to evaluate your profile to determine the best business school for you!

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

What Are My Chances? Adopted Vietnamese-American Teach for America Alum

This blog post is one in a series of MBA applicant profile evaluations called “What are My Chances?” authored by Michelle Stockman. Michelle, who started consulting for Accepted in 2007 and worked previously in the Columbia Business School admissions office, will provide selected applicants with school recommendations as well as an evaluation of their qualifications.

If you would like Michelle to evaluate your profile at no charge and as part of this series, please provide the information requested at http://reports.accepted.com/what_are_my_chances.

Profile 3: “Cecilia” Adopted Vietnamese-American Teach for America Alum

Tips for handling a low GMAT quant score.

The question will be: “Can she hang with the quants?”

-Background: 27-year-old adopted Vietnamese-American female. Learned English at the age of 5. Participated in state-level speech competitions, attended Ivy League (think Dartmouth, Cornell) as molecular biology major.

Normally I steer applicants away from discussing their pre-college years. But in your case, full steam ahead! Almost all schools will give you a chance to tell this story, whether in the regular set of essays or the optional essay. Focus on what you learned about yourself by going through the experience. How did it inform your future career choice, and the impact you desired to have on the world around you? Also, both Dartmouth and Cornell are feeder schools (not the top feeder schools, but definitely feeder schools) to top B-school programs such as Wharton, Harvard and Stanford.

-Work Experience:
 Teach for America alumna in Philadelphia. Taught for 3 years, Biology Team Lead, had 90% passing state exam, served as mentor to incoming TFA teacher. Currently working at in charter school network in New York as a recruitment coordinator. Grew applicant pool by 30% through both travel and online networking.

TFA is a great credential, as you’ve already been through a substantial vetting process and taken on a challenging, impact-driven career move. Most business schools have some sort of application waiver, deferral program, or major tuition break for TFA applicants. Some of the best packages are offered by Yale, Darden, UT McCombs and NYU. You likely haven’t been making huge money, so seriously consider schools with a good scholarship package so your debt won’t be so burdensome. I would think you’re a dynamic and persuasive speaker as a recruiter, so you’re well on you’re way to having that “executive presence.” The question will be: “Can she hang with the quants?” when it comes to the academics at top programs.

-Short-Term Goal: Work for management consulting firm (Deloitte, McKinsey, Bain) in human resources efficiency and recruitment.

Great goal in line with your past, making sense with your future. Do yourself a favor by researching now the recruitment rates for these companies from your set of schools. Talk to current students about the interview process for internships, and how best to angle yourself for this niche.

-Long-Term Goal: Start consulting firm intent on assisting for-profit companies and academic institutions to attract talent to economically struggling US cities.

Inspiring goal. As you are focused on a large geographic swath of the US in the future, think about how the “brand” of your future institution is respected, not only in the city where you anticipate taking up residence post-MBA, but also across the nation.

-GMAT: 680, 45 Q, 38 V

Your GMAT is not a W/H/S median score, which is floating right around 730. Those don’t have to be your only dream choices though, and may not be the best fit. Even so, your quant score is a bit low. You may want to think about retaking for a better shot at your stretch schools. Also show you have significant “quant-ability” through your GPA or on-the-job demands.

-GPA: Increased GPA each semester, from 2.5 freshman year to 3.8 last two semesters.

If low scores in core humanities courses, or a failed foray into classes like Sculpting 101 brought down your GPA, I wouldn’t worry too much. But if you did poorly in quant courses, you really should retake the GMAT.


- Mentoring inner city dance troupe

- Started foodie society mapping out monthly “restaurant crawl” meet-ups that now boasts +200 members with healthy online following, and average attendance of 20 per event.

Very cool extracurriculars. I expect these are your most current, and you left off those from college. What’s great is that you are still currently involved, and they show a sort of entrepreneurial leadership, and joie de vivre—you know how to work hard, and play hard.


Stretch matches: Stanford, Yale, NYU

On-par matches: Darden, Michigan, UT McCombs, Vanderbilt

Get clear, practical guidelines for answering the MBA goals essay question. Click here to download our free report,

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

What are My Chances? Multicultural LDS Goldman Sachs Operations Analyst

This blog post is part of a series of MBA profile evaluations called “What are My Chances?”  by Michelle Stockman. Michelle, who started consulting for Accepted in 2007 and worked previously in the Columbia Business School admissions office, will provide selected applicants with school recommendation as well as an assessment of their strengths and weaknesses.

If you would like Michelle to evaluate your profile at no charge and as part of this series, please provide the information requested at http://reports.accepted.com/what_are_my_chances

PROFILE 2: “Simon,” the multicultural LDS Goldman Sachs operations analyst

Download Leadership in Admissions to learn more.

Tell your story clearly and show professional leadership.

-Background: 28-year-old male. Half Japanese, half American-Caucasian. Grew up primarily in California, and lived in Japan for about 8 years.

Flag for international! Questions you’ll want to answer: did your multi-cultural heritage play a large part in shaping your identity or give you skills that you’ve used to your advantage in your career thus far?

-GMAT: 710 (47Q /40V/6.0 AWA/8 IR)

Good. Your quant is a little low. You might consider retaking, but it may not be necessary if you can show “quant-ability” from undergrad classes or current work responsibilities.

-GPA: 3.43 GPA from Brigham Young University. BA in Japanese with a minor in business (3.79 major GPA).

An OK GPA from a respected, but non-Ivy private university. It’s a bit low for some top programs. An admissions officer will definitely want to examine your transcripts in more detail to understand the difficulty of your course load. A Japanese major is nothing to sniff at, but you DO come from a Japanese background and you lived there–twice. Did you take any quant heavy courses in undergrad?

Work History: 1+ years at Goldman Sachs as an operations analyst, and will have been promoted twice by matriculation. Prior to Goldman, spent 2.5 years at an HR consulting firm/corporate milestone and recognition award manufacturer and distributor. Worked in international operations managing client and vendor relations for Asia-Pacific countries.

International reach at the consulting firm and steady progress at one of the top feeder firms to b-schools. Seems solid. BUT, I’m still left wondering what you achieved professionally. From this description, it’s hard for me to tell if you led or managed a team or what type of impact you made. Did you identify an unexploited opportunity that led to a new revenue stream, fix an inefficiency that saved time or money, or seal a deal with international clients? When did you have the chance to show executive mettle?


-Founded a non-profit in 2011 to help increase community awareness of childhood sexual abuse. Helped several victims in need of financial assistance and counseling. Awarded the Lieutenant Governor’s Volunteer Recognition Award for work in the community.
- Mentor/instructor for Junior Achievement.
- Ambassador for the Trevor Project in my state. Regularly respond to LGBT teen’s questions regarding the struggles they face in everyday life.
- Avid marathon runner
- Served a two-year mission for the LDS church in Japan, appointed regional leader for one year overseeing 20 to 30 missionaries.

Wow. Really interesting extracurricular activities. Your mission adds to the “international” flavor of your background, but 1) it’s difficult to see impact on the greater world outside of your church from this experience, and 2) I don’t see how you have applied your intimate knowledge of Japanese culture and language to greater achievement professionally (although that could be made apparent in an essay or resume).

What does set you apart is that you have gone outside of the oft-perceived “insular” Mormon world to lend support to sexual abuse victims and the LGBT community, with recognized impact. This is especially interesting considering the tricky politics between the LDS church and the gay marriage movement. It shows sensitivity, independence, and risk. You will DEFINITELY want to write about this in your essays!

-Post MBA goals: Short-term – To transition from operations in the financial industry into an operations leadership role in the consumer products industry (Ideally a place like Nike).

Long-term – To become of the COO of a global consumer products company and use the business knowledge and experience I have gained to become an influential leader within the community especially with youth related organizations.

I like these goals as they are specific to function and industry, and make sense with your current position dealing in operations, interest in sports, and youth work. BUT, I wonder how dealing in consumer products connects to your past experience. Perhaps you can show how you led a team through numerous project cycles, and introduced innovations?


Stretch matches: Tuck, Haas, Kellogg, Sloan

On-par matches: Yale SOM, Darden, Ross, CMU Tepper, and Anderson

Safety: Indiana Kelley

The stretch schools are within range, but the competition will be stiff. You have to tell your story clearly and show professional leadership.

The on-par schools will meet your needs, providing you with a strong general management background and/or global perspective and preparation for a career in operations with the long-term goal of becoming a COO.

Overall, you’ve got an interesting profile that shows me you have the drive to make a difference. I’m left wondering, however, how you would manage teams and negotiate in a client-facing role. Those will be vital in leading operations at a company that drives consumer trends.

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

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 http://reports.accepted.com/what_are_my_chances. 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.

Against the Odds: Indian MBA Applicants – Prepare for Your Job Hunt Now

Prepare for Your Interviews

Be Prepared for Your Interviews.

So what if you make it? You get into your dream MBA program. Next you’re expecting to land your dream job upon graduation—in the US. It might not be that simple if you’re an Indian national.

According to a recent Bloomberg article, only two out of the top MBA programs responded to a survey about international student job placement rates: Chicago Booth—95.2 percent, and Stanford—91 percent. Those are pretty good stats, but they do not differentiate between placement inside the U.S., or whether those jobs were elsewhere.

Across the board, new MBAs hit a rough patch in the immediate aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, especially foreign nationals. Some US investment banks and other companies stopped hiring foreigners and even rescinded offers.

Hiring practices have recovered since those dark days, but stats are still hard to find. Some sectors, though, didn’t change their recruiting – like tech firms who value strong analytical and engineering skills, say admissions officials. They offer jobs to many Indian nationals and have been consistently hiring.

But there are key issues that Indian nationals should be aware of as they contemplate the end game in their MBA experience – the job offer.


One obstacle that can stand in the way of international MBA students seeking placement in the US is obtaining a work visa, according to Bloomberg:

International students have F-1 visa status, which means they are non- immigrant students in the eyes of the law. They can all stay in the U.S. to work for 12 months after graduation without an additional visa; those with pre-MBA backgrounds in science, technology, or engineering can stay for 24 months. After that, international grads must get an H-1B visa, which requires employer sponsorship.

Most top MBA programs have already thoroughly vetted the companies that recruit on their campuses. They know which firms are willing to hire foreign nationals and sponsor their visas, or not. For each position you consider, be prepared to show how your specific skill set is vital to that job description—an essential part of the visa process. Do that research now so that you know in advance if your goal career is attainable.

Stay Informed

Take at close look at your chosen industry. Careers in tech, consulting and supply-chain management are globally oriented and employers are seeking international candidates to expand their reach. Marketing, however, is increasingly hyper-local. With your cultural knowledge, you may be better served to look for placement, even an MBA, domestically in India. Several MBA programs are sending out summer reading packets about US business upon acceptance. Delve into these materials so you have a clear picture of what’s ahead.

Be Flexible

Associate Dean of Admissions at Emory Goizueta Julie Barefoot says she would give the same advice to Indian nationals as she would to any student on the job hunt: “Be flexible. There’s more than one desired path, and you might have to take an interim step.”

That could mean working for your choice employer back in India, or elsewhere outside the United States. Some companies now offer a training year in the US before sending MBAs back to their home country. They’re aware of the US salary differential, and may offer a bonus or commensurate salary to make it worth your while, according to Bloomberg.

Be Prepared

To properly prepare for your job search, Kellogg’s Director of International Coaching and Global Relations Carla Edelston says the first step is to be self-aware – of your strengths, your preferences, and weaknesses you need to improve.

She advises foreign nationals to take advantage of the resources they are already paying for as part of their MBA experience to successfully land a post-MBA position. Kellogg offers access to the Career Leader, a psychological assessment tool designed by two Harvard faculty members, to help students identify a career match. Job hunters are then advised to conduct a market-assessment, and network with fellow students who are some of the best resources for leads and connections.

Finally, job seekers need to prepare themselves for interviews – how to convey what Edelston calls, “an executive presence,” the ability “to speak with a firm tone, with confidence.” Career offices offer many opportunities to work on your interview skills and MBA officials strongly recommend that you internalize their feedback, and willingly adjust your style.

Here are some common issues Indian nationals can run into during the interview process for US companies:

- Fixation on touting credentials over answering the question. Interviewers want to know they are being heard. Avoid weaving in your academic record or list of awards in responses. They can gather this information from your resume. Recruiters want direct answers.

- Identify pronunciation problems. Candidates from many English-speaking countries, not just India, can be difficult to understand to a foreign recruiter. Get some honest feedback from a US-based friend or coach and work on your phrasing or vocabulary. This is important across the board, but especially important for communications-heavy positions like consulting.

- Overly long resumes. One page. Just one page. That is the only format acceptable in US business practice.

Again, take the time now to research how best to target your industry, and start working on your “executive presence.”

An MBA is just a piece of paper – you need to embody the title.

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.

Against the Odds: Indian MBA Applicants – Find a Way to Pay

What are your options for financing your MBA?

A quick survey of total out-of-pocket MBA expenses at some of the world’s top business schools may leave you weak in the knees. The range is about $150,000 to over $200,000 USD. That’s before adding in lots of extra costs like travel, computers, and loan interest repayments.

Now most schools offer some sort of financial assistance. Harvard, for example, boasts that 65% of students receive some sort of financial aid.

But as an Indian applicant, you may have a few additional hurdles ahead as you secure financing for a U.S.-based MBA. The current 1 USD → 60 Indian rupee exchange rate means you’ll have to dig deeper into your bank account to cover costs. You also have fewer resources than U.S. citizens when it comes to securing loans if you choose an American MBA program.

What are your options then for financing your MBA?

Personal and family resources, company sponsorships

Most schools suggest you should first rely on your own savings, then assistance or loans from family. For those who’ve been savvy savers or lucky enough to have deep-pocketed relatives, this zero percent interest approach is a great way to start chipping away at your behemoth tuition fees and expenses.

If you plan to return to the company where you’re currently employed, then ask for a corporate sponsorship! Not only will this cut down on your costs out-of-pocket, but it may also enhance your chances of acceptance. Many one-year and accelerated MBA programs look very favorably on sponsored candidates as it means guaranteed tuition payment, and guaranteed job placement.


**Please note that all these resources are suggestions, not endorsements. Loan terms may be subject to change after publication of this blog post. Be sure to verify these sources on your own.**

Domestic loans from India

Start at home on your hunt for loans. But school financial aid websites can also be a good place to start! Cornell Financial Aid has a great website listing domestic loan options specifically oriented to Indian students. Columbia also has a page that lists domestic Indian loan and grant options.

US Federal Student Loans

Unfortunately, international students are not eligible for US federal student loans through the Department of Education, unless you are a permanent resident with a green card, or in the case of some other very rare exceptions.

Private US Loans

That leaves the private loan market as the only lender source for Indian nationals. It will take dedicated research to identify the right loan provider for your needs. Several US loan programs that did not require a creditworthy U.S. co-signor shut down in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. Deutsche Bank then launched an alternative program in 2009 called ALPS (Affiliated Loan Program for Students) that was embraced by some top MBA programs, but they have since stopped offering loans to new borrowers. Lenders have a tendency to start and stop their programs frequently. It is thus best to confirm directly with schools that a loan program is still in existence before deciding to depend on it as a funding source.

Private US loans — no U.S. co-signor

Several MBA programs such as Wharton, Harvard, Stanford, Cornell and others offer loans through credit unions that do not require a U.S. co-signor. Carefully read the terms of the loan though. Wharton’s program covers only 80% of the first and second year budget. Cornell’s arrangement funds “cost-of-tuition only less any scholarship received.” If you choose this option, you will likely have to cover additional expenses with another funding source.

Private US loans – with U.S. co-signor

Again, make school financial aid websites your first stop when on the hunt for such lenders. Check out numerous schools’ sites, even if you don’t plan to apply. They may have information on private loan sources that your choice hasn’t mentioned. For example, Cornell has a list of resources for private loans requiring a U.S. co-signor. Check it out!

School grants or fellowships, outside scholarships

If you’re a stand out applicant, it’s likely you’ll be offered some money to attend.

Schools make this decision as part of the application process. If you don’t receive an offer with your letter of acceptance, it’s likely you won’t be considered for an award. But after you’re accepted, it still never hurts to ask.

If you do receive money from one school, be careful and tactful about playing schools off each other to get more award money. Each program may have different criteria to determine who gets awards. Money may be available to you at one school, but not another.

Some schools make additional grants taking your background or nationality into consideration. Stanford just announced the new Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship that covers “everything for up to 5 Indian students to attend Stanford GSB, and the top 50 finalists for the Fellowship will even receive a break on applying – submitting Stanford’s application for free.”

Check out this list of other school fellowships oriented to students from developing countries. And again, scour your top choice schools’ financial aid websites for more information:

• Wharton: http://www.wharton.upenn.edu/mba/admissions/grants-and-fellowships.cfm

• Insead: http://mba.insead.edu/schlmgmt/dsp_schl_info.cfm?schlcode=EC01

• Esade: http://www.esade.edu/ftmba/eng/fees-and-financing/need-based-scholarships-programme

• HEC: http://www.mba.hec.edu/How-to-apply/Funding/(level2)/281

• IMD (Women): http://www.imd.org/programs/mba/fees/scholarships/Nestle.cfm

Finally, here’s a brief list of outside scholarships oriented to Indian students. They’re all competitive, but worth your time to consider.

• AAUW (Women): http://www.aauw.org/what-we-do/educational-funding-and-awards/international-fellowships/

• Aga Khan Foundation: http://www.akdn.org/akf_scholarships.asp

• Fulbright: http://www.iie.org/Programs/Fulbright-Foreign-Student-Program

Every penny counts, especially those you don’t have to pay back!

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.

Against the Odds: Indian MBA Applicants — Speak to Your Audience (In Their Language)

I Love NY

Speak to the Adcom in Their Language

What I wouldn’t give right now to munch on a plump gol gappa from a local street vendor, or to hop into a tuk tuk and take a ride to Khan Market, where I would order a mouthwatering Mutton Seekh Kabab romali roll from Khan Cha Cha!

If you’ve ever lived in Delhi, you know what I’m talking about. Here for the summer in New York, I’ll just have to settle for the memories.

In my travels around the globe, I’ve often found that chatting about cuisine is a great conversation starter, and often leads to exciting dinner invitations. When I’m homesick, I always feel a quick bond with other travelers who can talk up their favorite New York City eateries – and love NYC’s lemon poppy seed muffins as much as I do. If you crave these delectable pastries, you definitely speak my language.

Right now – that’s your challenge. If you’re planning to apply to a US-based MBA program you need to make sure you’re speaking to the admissions committee in their language.

Make your essays local

Admissions officers can be the jealous type. They want to know that theirs is not just one of a dozen programs to receive your application. You need to show that you’ve done extensive research, talked to locals, even walked in their shoes.

For example, Columbia wants to know why the New York location is important to your goals. Quoting lyrics from this song will not be convincing enough.

Be specific. What doors opened for your friend at last year’s Venture Capital conference at the Digital Sandbox on Broad Street? What HACKATHON event did you attend where you networked with entrepreneurs who’ve received start up funding? Do you plan to unwind on Sundays up in Van Cortlandt park playing on the 35 acres of new cricket pitches?

Supplying this level of detail applies to every school. It’s easiest to be specific after you’ve visited. If that’s not possible, talk with those who have, send emails to organizers, or to people who’ve been profiled in event media coverage. Use this local information to write your essays. I can’t guarantee they will all respond, but that’s part of the hustle you’ll need to stand out.

But will they understand what a stand out I am in India?

You’ve already worked so hard to rise to the top in India’s competitive testing climate. Many Indian applicants are concerned about whether or not American MBA programs fathom their level of academic achievement, as US vs. Indian GPA systems are very different.

Don’t fret though. Top MBA programs are savvy enough to understand the Indian grading system. They should also take into account if you’ve majored in a technical subject like engineering, then your GPA might be comparatively lower. Feel free to mention briefly on your resume if you received an accolade like graduation or first class, or “With Distinction”. You do not, however, need to worry about converting your GPA. List it as given from your undergraduate institution.

Use words the admissions committee will understand

Finally, scour your essays to make sure they are written using terms an American audience will understand. It’s not placing a value judgment on the language used – it will just make it easier for your target audience to comprehend your message. That’s key in good communication.

Dan McCleary, the Regional Director for India over at Fuqua, has a great list of terms that might trip up an American reader. Also, ask an American friend to read over your essay to make sure there is nothing else that stands out as confusing, or too culturally specific to India.

Bottom line – make the effort to go local so you can come enrich your top MBA choice with your unique perspective!

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.

Against the Odds: Indian MBA Applicants Should Take a Look at Fit, then Brand

Which brand is the best fit for me?

Which brand is the best fit for me?

This is the second post in our new blog series Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants.

Close your eyes and name the top two MBA programs that come to mind.

Bet I can guess which ones you picked. Harvard and Stanford right?

Harvard boasts former US presidents, CEOs of JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs and business tycoons like Ratan Tata who cut their teeth on its famed case study curriculum. Stanford has produced tech giants like Sun Microsystems co-founder Vinod Khosla, and these days, a bounteous crop of start ups nurtured by Silicon Valley investors with money to burn. They both enjoy a world-famous brand and attract recruiters in droves.

Family pressure and internal ambition may mean limiting your choice to only a handful of the world’s most famous MBA brands. But what you really need to ask yourself is – what brand is the best fit for me?

Return on investment

First, you need to think about the return on investment for your time – both pre- and post-MBA.

You’ll have limited hours to put together a stellar application – time shaved off from sleep, leisure, and away from family and friends – so put it to optimal use, not into a pipe dream. Beyond studying for the GMAT, you need to reserve time for researching programs, networking with current students or alumni and writing essays tailored to each school. Don’t apply to a dream school just give it a shot. Apply to the right schools to get in.

You’ll also be taking 2 years off from the work force and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on tuition. Carefully weigh whether your MBA path will lead you to make up these lost earnings quickly – that doesn’t always mean one of the top two or three ranked schools, according to this excerpt from AOL Jobs:

At Notre Dame’s Mendoza School, last year’s MBA graduates landed average salaries that exceeded their pre-MBA pay by 149 percent. At the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, the increase was 132.2 percent, and at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School, it was 122.2 percent, and these numbers exclude starting bonuses and other bennies that are often handed out to MBAs when hired.

Bottom line – take the time to look beyond the brand to the stats. You may uncover some pleasant surprises.

Know how you fit the stats

With a nosebleed GMAT score (740 or above), solid GPA, work experience at a known feeder firm or entrepreneurial venture, and a robust extracurricular leadership role you may beat the 7 percent acceptance rate at Stanford or the cut of 1 of 10 to become Harvard bound. But if you lack in one of the above criteria, especially if you belong to the overrepresented pool of Indian applicants, you’ll need to realistically expand your options.

Bottom line –  you should place above the average GMAT and GPA scores to consider an MBA program a good fit. Otherwise it’s a reach school, and other factors from your background will need to compensate.

Career interest

Carefully review your target schools’ career placement data. You may be surprised that the company you’re interested in working for recruits elsewhere besides Harvard and Stanford. With a little extra effort or travel on your part you can land an internship or job in a top market.

This MIT student gained a spot at top consulting firm BCG in Chicago – the heartland of US manufacturing. This Cornell Johnson student won a place at Accenture consulting.

This Darden student says he’d have no problem landing a position at a top consulting firm outside Virginia. This Duke student landed an i-banking job in New York, and she said the one-hour flight worked to her advantage.

Bottom line – do your research now for where you’d like to work when you graduate. The recruiting season starts almost immediately when you arrive on campus. The specific niches and location of an MBA program may appeal to you more once you scratch below the surface.

Location and Size

Are you a bright lights, big city kind of gal? Are you the type of guy who wants personal attention, after attending a big university where you were just a number?

It’s essential that you evaluate the fit and feel of your MBA picks before plunging in. New York, London or Boston may seem exciting, but as this Darden student shares, sometimes smaller class sizes in smaller cities mean better bonds between batchmates, professors and alumni.

You may already have an established network or family ties to a specific city. Perhaps there’s a strong religious or immigrant community that you or your spouse can tap into to help feel more at home as you transition into your new life. Maybe this city is the hub of your preferred industry.

Bottom line – if you can visit campus before applying, do so. Just because it looks good on a website or on a business card, doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for you. You’ll be spending two years of your life at this school, and it’s the launch pad for your future. Make sure it’s a great fit.

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.  

Against the Odds: Indian MBA Hopefuls Must Prep for Uphill Battle


Network with those you know.

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.