Is High GMAT Score the Only Key to Top B-School?

If you are a MBA aspirant and aspire to get admission into a top global B school then the month of August and September is the most crucial time for you. After selecting the appropriate business school, it becomes important to develop a strategy for gaining admission to the school of your choice. Most of the Indian students tend to be majorly focused only on the GMAT score and once they get a score in the range of 730 and 770, they tend to think that they will get through all the top B-schools like HBS, LBS, INSEAD, Wharton, Stanford, etc. But the students, who blindly fill out the application forms in a non-stellar manner, can be assured of receiving a very polite letter from the admissions office, thanking them for their time, congratulating them on their past accomplishments and nothing more. The bottom line is that relying on a good GMAT score, academic credentials and respectable work experience is simply not sufficient.

We at Leverage Edu, advise our students to think like an MBA admission committee. At the leading business schools, the application process becomes intensely personal. The typical well-known barometers – GMAT, grade point average, and years of work experience – only provide a “first cut” necessary to weed through the thousands of applications received each year. Since most schools reserve places for approximately 200-300 students (schools such as ISB – 770, Harvard – 880, Wharton – 790, INSEAD – 600 or few more business schools are exceptions to the rule), the admissions office needs to be assured that a highly-coveted spot in the entering class is not squandered on a high-flying young professional with a dubious ethical code and/or unsettled career goals. The goal of a business school is to educate the future business leaders of the global business world – those leaders who demonstrate the requisite personal characteristics and vision in order to succeed in this rapidly changing environment.

How to think like a pro?

Understanding the Applicant Pool: An Indian candidate applying to a global MBA program will be competing for not only against, say, a New York banker with a degree from Princeton, but rather, against other Indian candidates also applying to the school. Each school has unofficial targets for the number of spots which are allocated to the Asian/Indian region. For an example, X Business School (seats 600), limits the number of entrants from any one country to 15% of the entering class. Do the math, and it’s clear that a maximum of only 90 Indians has the privilege of studying there every year. 

Emphasizing Global Business Skills: Since the Indian business experience is not as standardized as the American/European business experience, the admissions staff will likely feel more comfortable accepting an Indian candidate with a traditional background at a multinational firm with a Mumbai, New Delhi or Bangalore office. The admissions office is well-acquainted with the business skills learned at a leading global firm, such as McKinsey, Coca-Cola, Credit Suisse, KPMG, BCG etc. The office is only remotely acquainted with the skills learned at a small Mumbai brokerage or an advertising firm in New Delhi. As a result, it is precisely these candidates with experience only at Indian firms who need to take more effort in convincing the admissions office of their skills and ability to succeed in a global business environment.

Explaining the Personal Side: This is probably the most neglected part of the application process. Only some rare candidates can write a series of personal application essays which offer real insights into his or her motivations and thought processes. A typical application essay asks, “Why are you applying to X school?” It is simply not enough to write the typical, “X school is one of the leading business schools and offers a top-rate management education in a global business environment.” The admissions committee would like to see an understanding of how its particular program provides the correct cultural fit for the candidate, and how the business school experience will be leveraged in order to accomplish stated career goals. Moreover, the admissions office would like to understand the rationale for previous choices, such as university education and employment within a particular industry sector.

Highlighting Individuality: This section is closely linked to the Personal Side. Consider the following example: most top business schools with strong finance programs (Columbia, Yale, and London Business School) can easily fill an entering class with financiers from Wall Street and other leading financial centers. Young professionals from leading Wall Street investment banks typically flood the leading business schools with applications. From the Indian perspective, how does a corporate finance professional at XYZ – Mumbai based Company differentiate an application from that of a ABC – New Delhi Based equity trader? The key is stressing those accomplishments or aspects of your personality that may not be readily discerned from a standard, vanilla application package. The application may offer plenty of opportunities to discuss recent professional and academic experiences, but it is only in the essay portion of the application that a candidate can discuss unique experiences such as exhibiting paintings at National Gallery of Modern Art New Delhi or playing on a top Indian Sports Club etc.

The best recommendation to Indian candidates seeking admission to a competitive global business school is to: 1) “Get in the front door” by obtaining the target GMAT score for the desired school, 2) Make the admissions office comfortable with global business competency and then 3) Highlight the individual aspects of your application that can differentiate your application from the mass of other Indian applications.

– Team Leverage

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