FAQ - Gameplan for International MBA Admissions

An overwhelming number of Puys on these forums have queries related to the admissions process for international B-schools. The levels of awareness vary considerably, depending on where they are in this race. There are those who’ve done a little bi…

An overwhelming number of Puys on these forums have queries related to the admissions process for international B-schools. The levels of awareness vary considerably, depending on where they are in this race. There are those who've done a little bit of research - in the areas of schools, entrance tests, essays, recos - but not enough to provide a complete picture. Then there are those who are somewhere midway in the process ('I've got a GMAT score. Now what?'). There's also a section that wants a confirmation of whether they are heading in the right direction.
So based on my several years of existence on this forum, I've tried to create a generic list of steps that a new candidate could consider. This is not a perfect list (it'll be impractical to even aim for something like a 'perfect list'), but I'm hoping many Puys would be able to use it as a starting point and customise it based on their current status and career objectives.
- Getting started
'Is the investment worth it?
This simple question could be the most difficult to answer. Some aspects that'll help you address it. Look at your current situation and evaluate in objective terms what is good and what is missing. Is it money, job satisfaction, growth prospects, unmanageable workload, stress, international prospects...? Expand this list based on your personal situation.
- Now for each of these areas, see if an MBA will make a considerable difference to your status. Also think about alternative options that'll help you reach your goals. Think about the risks involved and how you'd be able to tackle them.
Some good tools to help you in the process:
- 'Managers Not MBAs' Prof Mintzberg's book that takes a critical look at the degree
- 'What Color Is Your Parachute?' A book that address many questions for Job hunters and career changers
- 'Beyond The MBA Hype' A funny, audacious and revealing look at the MBA industry. Goes beyond the glossy brochures and websites to provide the inside dope.

- PG forums: You'll find a lot of queries related to this phase with helpful responses.
- Find a good mentor: It could be a relative, a friend, a colleague who is aware of the process and can give you solid advice. In a stormy environment, they can be the proverbial candle in the wind.
- Shortlisting Schools
We are talking about the ever-popular queries on discussion forums - 'What are my chances?' or the re-phrased 'Which schools will take my application seriously?'
- Identify your strengths and weakness in the academic (undergrad grades, awards, achievements), professional (quality of work-ex, career growth so far) and personal dimensions (personality, soft-skills, general knowledge):
- Look at the top b-school rankings: Rankings published by Financial Times, Business Week, Economist Intelligence Unit are good starting points
- Study the websites of a few schools listed in these rankings. Choose a mix of schools in the top-10, top-20, top-50 and top-100 categories. See if you can identify a pattern.
- For these schools, look at the web-page that says 'Current Class Profile'. This should give you a fairly good idea of the entry barriers there.
Tools: B-school rankings, School websites, the 'MBA Crystal Ball' applicant profiling report, and of course PG forums.
'What's a good GMAT score target for me?'
- If you've managed the previous topic well, by now you'll have a fairly good idea of the kind of GMAT to aim for. General rule of thumb - the higher the better. But let's face it, all of us can't (and don't need to) reach 780. If you have a decent score, you could then get this out of the way and focus on the other aspects of the application as mentioned below.
- Tools that'll help:
- Self-study: The Official Guide for GMAT, Kaplan, Princeton Review. Make sure you pick up the latest edition. Apart from the textbooks, there are several websites that'll help you brush up on your verbal/quant concepts. Solve as many mock-tests as possible, to get a feel for the real deal.
- Coaching classes: Comparatively a more expensive option. But it might help in adding structure and discipline to the process. Career Launcher, IMS, TIME and several others are active in this field. Find out about the experiences of people who've attended these courses to find out more.
- Essays
'How do I tackle so many essays (e.g. approx 5 schools X 3-4 essays/school)?'
- Each school that you apply to will have their own set of essays. But you'll see overlaps across many schools as the essays tend to be around similar themes (motivation for applying to b-schools, identification of strengths/weaknesses).
- The first school that you work on would require the maximum effort. For subsequent schools you may be able to pick content and ideas from the first school and customise them.
'Do I really need to spend so much on consultants for essay editing, interview prep etc?'
Essay editing services, just like GMAT coaching, can be damn expensive. The same reasoning that you applied before enrolling for a GMAT coaching program would apply here.
- If you think you've understood the requirements of the schools you are applying to, have a good story to narrate and have a compelling style of presenting it, then you could do it on your own.
- If you are looking for an external perspective from experts who've seen many profiles and applications similar to yours, then the investment may make that small yet critical difference between a good application and a successful application.
In the end, it's a personal call. But considering the fly-by-night 'axe-perts' out there hoping to make a quick buck, do your research really well before signing up. Find out about consultant's educational background and real world experience.
- Recos
'Whom should I approach?'
Usually schools ask for two recos - from people who know your capabilities and can vouch for you. It could be a manager that you worked with recently, or some other professional colleague. people generally assume, the higher the designation of the recommender, the better. Not true. If the MD of your company writes a superficial reco, it can actually put you at a disadvantage.
'What should I ask them to write?'
Two approaches to this.
1. Try to cover aspects that aren't already covered in the rest of your application.
2. Re-affirm some qualities that you've talked about in your essays e.g. commitment, vision, innovativeness, leadership etc.
- Interview
'What will they ask me?'
Some schools, specially the bigger, older ones with a huge alumni network, ask their 'alums' to interview shortlisted candidates. Others, for the sake of maintaining consistency, insist that someone from the Admissions committee be involved in the process.
'How can I prepare?'
Study your application content thoroughly. Think about what you've written in your essays, in your resume. Are there any leading questions that you can predict? Work on those responses so you aren't taken by surprise. Ask someone else (friend, colleague, a neutral party) to review your application and ask you questions.
Sometimes it gets technical. There may be case studies, general knowledge topics and even puzzles.
A full-fledged mock interview would help.
- The Offer
'I've got multiple offers. Now what?'
Lucky you! Congrats. But having multiple offers can also pose a dilemma. Go back to your original list of reasons why you are pursuing an MBA. See which of the mulitple schools go beyond the others. Talk to alumni of these schools and get their perspective. If you've done your homework well in the initial phases (shortlisting etc), it's a win-win situation for you anyway. So don't stress out too much.
'What do I do next?'
You still have to think about finances (loan), visa, travel formalities. But with the big challenge of securing a good seat, you can now focus on the logistics.
'The 10-Day MBA' by Silbiger or any of the MBA-in-a-book adaptations are a good way to kickstart your preparation process. It won't make you an expert. But at least you'll be aware of the basic fundamentals across finance, marketing, organizational behaviour, operations etc before you step into the classroom.
'Despite my best shot, I've no offers. What do I do?'
Back to self-analysis. Some schools may offer feedback in terms of what they felt was lacking in your application. Was it your GMAT score, your work experience, absence of international experience, your acads? Take the feedback seriously. See how much of it can be addressed before taking a second shot. Also think if you need to alter your shortlist of schools.
Let me know if you have any suggestions to improve this list and make it better for all the new Puys. Based on your suggestions, I'll try to keep the list updated.
Also, feel free to share your own game-plans that helped you. Others visiting this thread will find them helpful.
Good luck.

Hmmm. A lot of thank you entries showing that this post has been appreciated. But no new posts offering diverse perspectives!

I was hoping some of the experienced puys who've gone through the rocky road would post their fundas here to help out the anxious souls out here. But seems like the number of people on the 'other side' of the MBA program who can provide insights are too few compared to those waiting for some useful advice.

Always good to have a balanced view about such things rather than let one person's (probably biased) view influence your thoughts.

So if you come across anyone from other threads giving out useful gyaan, pls ask them to post their general strategy here.

I would like to add a few lines to the Getting Started point.
I've seen numerous people wanting to do a US MBA just because someone they knew did it, currency converted, you become demi god back home, and most common, as i'm not happy with my job and my pay is less i'll do it.
A Phoren MBA brings with it a lot of pressure. Pressure of living in a country which is not your own. Pressure of outperforming everybody so that you can prove your worth to recruiters.Pressure of securing job to pay back loans. Pressure of performing in job. MBA's get hired fast and fired even more fast. Pressure of turning blind eye to some instances of discrimination.
If immediate aim of MBA is fat paycheck you are better off in switching jobs or doing indian MBA( most true for IT people). Believe me switching jobs every 2 yrs would get you much more money and you'll also be able to assume senior roles and then part time MBA can help you. If you want to explore a new geography and want an MBA education rather than MBA degree, please please think about Phoren MBA.

But before you take any step, get your priorities very clear.

While considering Shortlisting schools..do pay close attention to number that school sends to Industry/Function which you'll like to part of post MBA

For all other points. Take a week of and go through PG threads. Believe me all threads combined, the knowledge is much better than all top authors combined.

having said that, these best sellers are absolutely essential. Richard Montauk is one which i used.
and the following resource
Hella List of MBA Applicant blogs

no one can guide you better than fellow and ex applicants.

We tend to worry a lot about profiles. Not too fruitful. Anyway I/I/M/4yrs/730 Ross R1 - Admitted, Duke R1 - Admitted, Tuck EA - Waitlisted, Kellogg R1 - Ding. Cornell R3 ,UCLA R2 , Darden R2 - Will withdraw

Things that worked for me:
1. Richard Montauk 'How to get into the top MBA program' was my bible.

2. Accepted.com , clearadmit.com, businessweek.com

3. Online chat sessions, official information sessions

4. Formed a group of close friends who were also applying with me. They ripped apart my essays many times, which helped me polish the content. Stay away from folks who rate your first draft as A+

Choosing US B-Schools
1. MOST IMPORTANT - Prepared the list of schools that have no-cosigner loan for international students

2. I have an open mind about post MBA goals. Although I can clearly articulate what I want to do post MBA, I am open to the idea of changing the industry/function after I witness the opportunities at the b-school. Therefore, I chose schools that will position me well in any industry/function :). In other words, I chose great brand names!

3. I do not enjoy very competitive study groups so avoided apps to H/S/W

4. Avoided applying to schools where I was sure of getting in but I did not want to go. INR 10,000 is a lot of money to spend on a safety school only for ego satisfaction

1. I projected various personal aspects of my personality. I did not try hard to show how I was different. We all are very different. Vivid descriptions of our personal lives make exciting stories. I had a bunch of stories that showcased various aspects of my leadership qualities. I repackaged a subset of these stories to tailor the taste of the school I was applying to. For instance, Duke focuses a lot on teamwork so I included two anecdotes about teamwork - one at workplace and the other personal.

2. For every anecdote or experience I mentioned in my essays, I followed the Situation, Action, Result format. I talked about the thought process I underwent while making the decision.

3. Listed all the possible weaknesses about my candidature and tried to address them. I made good use of the optional essay.

4. Communicated with the Presidents of the bschool clubs. For instance, if you are interested in consulting, exchange mails with the President of the respective club. You will certainly get more information than on the school's website.

1. Leveraged my great relationship with my recommenders to position the letter of recommendation to reflect my personality at work place also. For instance, the lor talked about how I greet my team members, how do I respond to questions/feedback from juniors in the team etc.

1. Got hold of a 2009 R1 admit's one-page resume and replicated the format

2. Make sure you include a lot of 'action words' in your resume. Pull out all the management announcements about the projects you have worked on. Get "inspired" by the words/numbers used in those communications and include them in your resume

Datasheets (admission form)
1. Positioned my extra-curricular interests using the datasheets

1. Refered interview questions on clearadmit.com and accepted.com


Hope that helps.

PS: This is a copy paste of a post I made on a different thread on PG

My 2 cents

Profile: GMAT 750 4 yrs work ex in Mgmt consulting in US. BE + MS (GPA 4.0 in both)

Schools: Kellogg - R1 admitted (going here), Booth R1 - WL then admitted, ISB R1 - admitted
I did not apply to any schools in R2

1. School websites
2. Accepted.com , businessweek.com
3. Friends studying in my target schools

I did not attend info sessions/chats etc - but that is more so because I had a good sense of the school & culture from my friends.

School selection criteria - in no particular order:
1.Location/cost - I didnt want to select a location that would blow my budget so west coast and NY were out of the question. Have a very clear idea of how much you are willing to spend. It is very easy to go $10-20K over your planned budget when you are at school
2.Brand value - Went for schools with established brand value in India. I am debating about moving back to India post MBA so this was a critical point for me.
3.Fit - A big deal. You will be spending the next 2 years of your life with people of a certain type. Try and talk to people from the school to get a sense for the school culture.

1.Be honest My essay said I am in consulting I want to stay in consulting MBA will do blah blah blah for my career. No big stories about my 5 -10 year plans I simply said I dont have one.
2.Start with the school with the most generic essays. It helps in thinking through and prioritizing all the tidbits you want to mention in your essays. I started with my Kellogg essays (most generic I have encountered) and tailored these for my Booth essays
3.Situation, Action, Result format
4.Based on the school emphasis should shift between work & extracurricular experiences

1.I think recommender with a MBA helps. Choose your recommenders based on the school.
2.I gave my recommenders a list of key experiences mentioned in my essays and asked them reinforce the key takeaways

1.Will make or break your case. I screwed up my Booth interview big time and the feedback I got from a frd was that the interview got me a WL instead of an admit.
2.Online forums list out most of the questions asked they tend to be behavioral and fairly casual

Let me know if missed any key topic. Best of luck!

hii.. mine is a complicated case.... have lots running...!!

i completed my B.COM in foreign trade in 2011 from Osmania University board, St. francis college, hyd.
now for some reason i have to go to US asap.
i have 15 years education here. so:
1. can you suggest me Universities there accepting 15 years
2. if not can you guide me if i take up MBA in India, do it here for one year then can i transfer my Indian university credits to US?? i mean i will have 16 years education in India but will that be accepted there because technically i will not be completing my education for 16 years in India.
3. i have my F2 visa valid upto 2018 but my husband's F1 visa expired in 2013. he is going to do his masters this year. but for some personal reasons he has to come to India. his status there is good.
If i apply for F1 visa here, will it be fruitful? i mean can he come to India and apply for F2 visa here??

many more doubts.. please start by helping me out with these..