Last week, Admissionado and Beat the GMAT teamed up to host over 160 prospective MBA students from India and across the globe. They dug deep into the concerns of and strategies for the Indian bschool applicant, pinpointing essential tools for standing out from the crowd. For those of you who missed your chance to attend – or for those of you who joined us late or just want to go over it again – here is a recording of the presentation.
We had an absolute DELUGE of great questions throughout the seminar and didn’t get a chance to get to all of them, so we thought we’d take a stab at some of them… and let everyone get a chance to share in on the answers.
Given the current economic situation in Europe, is it riskier to apply to European bschools? How about the US MBA programs, given the US economy?
Regardless of the current economic situation across the globe, it’s no riskier getting an MBA in Europe or the US. It’s hard to say what the employment conditions will be by the time you graduate with your MBA, but the quality of the education or value of the degree won’t change greatly. You’re still going to be more hirable and more equipped to succeed in the business world with an MBA than without one. You’re not REALLY going to bschool to learn “business skills.” You’re going to bschool to learn how to THINK as an MBA and, most importantly, to network with other entrepreneurs. This stuff is beyooooond invaluable, no matter what condition the global economy is in when you graduate.
Can I have a client I’ve worked with write one of my letters of recommendation?
So, the simple answer is yes, but they’re not the BEST people to give you an LOR. A client-written LOR gives you corroboration on a particular project and a definite nod to customer satisfaction with your work, but it won’t give you the “development arc” that you’d get from a supervisor or manager. It’s still WAY better than a colleague or (the always to be avoided) subordinate LOR, but it’s not ideal.
What’s better – six years of experience at one company, or three years of experience at two companies?
Good question, dude, and applicable to folks in every field. It really all depends on what happened in your career over those six years. Did you get four promotions in the six years at one job? Did you never get promoted at either of the two jobs that you were at for three years each? It’s all about the nature of the work experience, not necessarily the length. If you left one company to become the CEO at another company, then that’s DEFINITELY better than staying in one sub-manager position for six years.
How important are test scores, and how much do they matter compared to work experience and the essays?
There’s no way around it, test scores are important. Especially for Indian applicants. They’re definitely not the MOST important part of your application, but if your GMAT is 100 points below the published school average or minimum score level, then you’re probably in REAL trouble when it comes to your chances. Now, if you’re only 10 points below their average score and have a 4.0 GPA coming in and six years of awesome experience, then the score won’t be a deal-breaker.
When it comes to Indian applicants, not even a perfect GPA can really help if your GMAT and TOEFL aren’t up to par. There are SO many strong candidates coming out of India with GMAT scores of 720, 730… even 780. If you’re an Indian bschool hopeful, your scores just have to be… higher. If you’re not getting at least 700 (or closer to a 730, 740…), you’re going to have a hard time getting into a top 10 US program.
That being said, the key to the whole process is your essays. Unlike your test scores or GPA, your essays show the adcom that you’ve got a plan for the future and the experience to get you there. Essays show POTENTIAL, which is what the adcom is really looking for.
How important is it to visit prospective schools?
A school visit is, admittedly, pretty important. After all, can you REALLY know for sure that you want to go to a particular school if you’ve never visited it? Probably not. Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to visit their dream bschools. Let’s say you’re applying to six or seven schools in the US this fall and they’re spread out all over the country. Now, let’s say you live in India. Chances are, you don’t really have the cash or the time to spend crisscrossing a foreign country checking out bschools. So, what can you do? The benefit of checking out schools in person is showing your eagerness to get in, possibly making some early networking connections that will help you when you get your app in. If you can’t get to the school itself, reach out in other ways. Contact faculty that you’re interested in working with, reach out to the student services and admissions offices, and find out if you can get in touch with any alumni through the alumni services office. These are all great ways of “getting your foot in the door” without setting foot on campus. But, we’ll say it again, you should do everything you can to set foot on campus.
Is international experience required to get into an MBA program?
This is an interesting question, mostly because it doesn’t have a really solid answer to it. If you’re looking to get into INSEAD, LBS, or another one of the top European bschools, then international experience is pretty much a must-have. It kind of reflects Europe as a whole; if you’re from the Netherlands and you’re less than two hours from another country in every direction, then you’ve got no choice but to be “international.” Now, the American MBA programs are not as stringent, but they also consider international experience a big plus…. and pretty much mandatory if you’re an Indian applicant.
When it comes to Indian applicants, the adcom has to be sure that you’ll be able to handle coming to the US and not wash out because you’ve never interacted with other professionals outside of India. They need to know that you can successfully work with different people, and that you will be OK in a culture completely different than your own. And what to do if you don’t have the opportunity to travel outside of India for work? Find SOMETHING to do that allows you to “get out” a bit. Maybe it is volunteering to take on a project in which you’ll work (remotely) with people from other countries. Or maybe it is traveling for pleasure. Find something that says “International.”
And that’s all, folks. Lots of great questions. And hopefully you have some new information to arm yourself with as you navigate this process. It’s a tough one… but as you saw in this webinar, it is possible.
By the way, if you’re looking for more tips for those apps, check out our upcoming event: “The Unique Challenges of the India IT Applicant,” October 7 at 8:00PM India Standard Time. Register here for free.