New Special Report for Indian MBA Applicants

Indian applicants – this one’s for you!

Our newest special report, Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants, is geared towards Indian applicants who are looking to differentiate themselves from the large (and always growing) pool of Indian b-school applicants.

Download your free copy of Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants now!

The report is loaded with specific, concrete tips that will guide applicants through the admissions process, from researching programs to winning fellowships. If you are an Indian applicant AT ANY STAGE of the MBA application process, then you’ll want to read this report!

Please download your free copy of Against the Odds: MBA Admissions for Indian Applicants now!

If you have any questions about the report or about MBA admissions in general, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

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 Some US investment banks and other companies stopped hiring foreigners and even rescinded offers.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:

• Insead:

• Esade:

• HEC:

• IMD (Women):

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):

• Aga Khan Foundation:

• Fulbright:

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.