Webinar Recap: Advice for Chinese MBA Applicants

Last week, Jon Frank, Eric Weisman and Rong Zhang circled up with 100 aspiring Chinese MBA applicants to talk shop about how to get into grad school and how to succeed once you’re there. There was only enough room for 100 people to join, but we didn’t want everyone else to miss out on the expert advice…. so we’re sharing a portion of the Q&A here.

Hope you find it all helpful…

1. What is the Chinese students’ competitive edge after getting an MBA in the USA when looking for a job there?

The competitive edge is simple: INTERNATIONAL CREDIBILITY. If you want to get a job in the U.S., of course it’s easier now that you are located in the U.S. and seem less foreign. But even if you want to go to a different country—to Canada, Australia, even back to China (including Taiwan, HK, etc.) – once you have studied abroad, employers will assume that you are able to perform to an international level. This will convert into more jobs, more dollars, and, of course, more options in the future.

2. According to the presentation, most of Chinese students are taught to memorize but not question. How can Chinese or any other Asian students be stimulated to ask more questions?

This is one of the hardest things for international students, and for Chinese students especially. What is the trick for helping Chinese students? One thing and one thing only: PRACTICE YOUR ENGLISH! If you are not confident in your English, you will find it even harder (perhaps even impossible) to raise your hands and to participate. Practice English every day—if you aren’t speaking English at your current jobs, it is THAT much more important to practice. Without that background, you may never overcome the intimidation to participate in US classes.

3. I know top B-schools like IB/MC/PE/VC candidates very much. I am a fresh graduate this year, and will work for a leading FMCG company as a management trainee, mainly focus on accounting and finance field. How could I stand out?

In fact, my friend, business schools need people in ALL fields. Not just IB, MC, etc. FMCG is a huge area, and certain schools (Kellogg, especially) are VERY interested in these candidates. Now remember, jobs post-MBA in this area are sliiightly lower paying than the ones in finance. And that is just fine for those who are passionate about marketing. How do you stand out? Same way anyone else does—find some great leadership experience if you can. LEAD things, and be successful, and the rules are no different for you than for anyone else…

4. Is CFA popular in the IBank industry? Is CFA more popular than CPA?

Yes my friend, most people who are in banking and PE at some point get the CFA. The CPA is more for accountants, not quite as high-level as the CFA. Both, of course, are valuable. But for higher levels in finance, the CFA is your goal. It is also very difficult to pass all three levels—but if you can, it will give you more of an edge in the job market than a CPA ever could.

5. What do you think of b-schools in China like CKGSB (Chang Jiang Business school), Fudan MBA, Peking University, etc?

Some schools in China are great, and the ones you have mentioned are at the top of the list. In HK especially, we like HKUST. The challenge is that these programs are not TRULY global— that is, most students will be Chinese. So one of the MAIN reasons why people go to MBA programs in the U.S. is to get connected OUTSIDE China. If you are satisfied to have a mostly Chinese network, then you can do just fine in these programs. If you have aspirations to a career in international business, then you might consider a more global program—and they are available in Europe, Asia, the US, etc.

6. I am from one of the Big Four. As an auditor, my long-term goal is to enter the PE/VC industry. I want the experience of being an auditor to strengthen my financial judgment. Afterwards, I want to transfer my career through an MBA degree. Does HBS need this kind of applicants?

Yes, my friend. When I was at HBS in 2005 one of my classmates was an auditor for one of the Big 4. With his financial background, he DID go ahead and get a job in Private Equity. It wasn’t easy for him, but he did it, largely thanks to his strong background in finance. So yes, you could do the same thing. You just need to be very careful in your essays, to make it clear that while you are doing DETAIL oriented work now, you want and aspire to do more BIGGER picture work, in finance—not just accounting.

7. Do recommendation letters matters a lot? If I couldn’t find a HBS Alumni to recommend me, would this be a disadvantage?

Letters of Recommendation are very important aspects of the application. And schools always know when candidates forge their letters— when they haven’t actually asked someone to write them on their behalf. Now that being said, it doesn’t matter whether someone is an HBS alum to write their LOR. What is much MORE important is how well the recommender knows you. If he knows you well, no matter what school he want to, you will have a good letter of recommendation. If he doesn’t know you well, but he DID go to HBS, it will still be a very bad recommendation. The most important thing by far is that the guy who writes for you knows you well. That is the key, not “what school did he go to.”

8. It is a truth universally acknowledged that if a person wants to be successful in business, he or she must gain a experience in Top B-schools in the USA?

Haha, no of course—nothing could be further from the truth. The most successful people don’t need to go to business school at all—in fact, the most successful people don’t even need to finish college! Just look at Bill Gates, Michael Dell, etc. An MBA program in the U.S. can help you along your career, but it is NOT necessary at all. It can just be very, very, very helpful.

9. What should I do to improve my skills to meet the standards for HBS or other Top 7 MBA in the USA?

The most important thing for MBA programs—whether HBS, Kellogg, Indiana—any good program, is LEADERSHIP experience. If you can show that you have this experience, and if you can IMPROVE upon it before you get to school, you will be in very good shape. If you don’t have a finance background, the school will ask you to come early to learn these skills. As a Chinese applicant, the main skill that MBA candidates usually lack is ENGLISH skills. This is the thing that you would be well advised to focus on right now. It will make it SO much easier for you to fit in, once you get to school. That, and brush up on your leadership skills…

10. When choosing B-schools, what should we consider for the first priority?

We at Admissionado have a saying: “Go to the best school you can get into.” What does it mean? Well, it means that in the world of business, nothing is more important than REPUTATION. So, for example, if you want to go into marketing, and you get into HBS and Kellogg, what you DON’T want to do is to go to Kellogg, simply “because it is the best for marketing.” Nope, you go to HBS, because no matter where you are in the world, you can say Harvard and people will respect you. So think about what school will get you the farthest, from a REPUTATION standpoint. That is the most important thing, to go to the best school you can get into, period.

[We’ve got a lot more online classes in the pipeline. Check out the full schedule and register.]

The Tuesday Q&A: Do I Really Need Extracurriculars?