US MBA, Undergraduate Admissions from India - GMAT, GRE, SAT, Essays, Recommendations, SOP

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Admissions consulting for top US MBA and undergraduate programs and the Indian School of Business

STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO FOREIGN ADMISSIONS

 

Critical, complex and challenging are the three Cs which aptly describe the process of admission to an international MBA program. The decision to join an MBA program is a critical decision affecting your career and the process of application is both complex and challenging. Yet, it is a popular choice as it gives the necessary impetus to your career and helps you to progress and fulfil your aspirations.

 

Before you traverse this daunting yet invigorating path, it is important for you to understand the key elements of this journey.  In this process, you need to bring together a pool of diverse aspects about your profile where your strengths outweigh your limitations and weave them into an effective application package.  In addition, you must make a determined and focussed endeavour to ensure a positive outcome. The entire admission process can be broadly categorised into planning and preparation, processing the application and the post application stage.

 

  1. PLANNING AND PREPARATION

 

Once you decide to seek admission in a business school, you need to take a few steps in the right direction well before time.

 

  1. Understand and create a suitable profile:

Most business schools look for applicants with a combination of academic aptitude, leadership potential, innovative spirit, ability to work in teams, professional maturity to name a few. In order to gauge how well your profile supports these dimensions, you need to introspect and make a list of your activities and achievements. Major activities and achievements that support the above aspects are professional experience, community service, extra-curricular activities, GMAT and GPA scores and international exposure. Several months before the application process you must evaluate your profile thoroughly and try to bridge the gap between your existing and the expected profile.  You cannot make a monumental difference but some loopholes can be plugged. 

 

  1. Understanding the requirements of the business schools:

Once you have understood your profile and have clarity about your career goals, it is important to understand the features and requirements of different business schools to find the right fit for yourself. Before you select the business schools, it is important for you to gather information about the available options in terms of curriculum, duration, career prospects, expenses and commitment. It is advisable to understand the rankings and research the schools carefully to make an informed choice. Websites, brochures, student body, alumni, faculty and articles on the internet, newspapers and books can be useful sources to collect information about a particular business school. Some of you can consider visiting schools to get the real feel of the environment. Having done a reasonably thorough research on the schools, you should choose a pool of approximately ten schools which offer a good balance between dream, reach and safe schools to maximize your chances of admission.


 The requirements of the schools vary and there is always some flexibility in the system.  However, the generally accepted norms are as follows:

 

 

US/Canada

Australia/NZ

UK

Eligibility

Min. 4 yrs. Education after 10+2

3-year graduation accepted

 

3-year graduation accepted

GMAT

Essential

Not required for most B-schools

Recommended

Work experience

Recommended/Reqd. for most schools

Essential

Essential

  1. Taking the qualifying tests:

Business schools measure your academic readiness from your GMAT scores. While this is only one component of the application package and a high GMAT score alone does not ensure your admission, a poor score would certainly reduce your chances.  Obtaining a good score will give you confidence as you tackle the diverse aspects of the application.  Therefore, prepare thoroughly and take the GMAT well before you begin the application process.  You could take help of books or test-prep courses which guide you in the right direction.

 

  1. A time-line for the application process:

Preparing a time- line for the entire admission process is an invaluable tool and helps you to be in control of the process.  It makes you aware of the manifold tasks ahead of you and compels you to plan your time accordingly.  Since most of you are busy professionals, you will only be able to achieve your targets if you make a focused yet realistic schedule. Successful candidates have consistently told us that making a suitable time-line played a key role in their gaining admission.  It also helps to avoid last minute rush and tensions.

 

  1. THE APPLICATION PROCESS

 

Having prepared thoroughly and planned meticulously for the admission process, you are all set to launch the application process.  At this stage, it is important for you to understand the key components of an application package.  Business schools broadly use the same framework for the application process; yet hidden behind a thread of commonality are unique aspects that distinguish one school from another.  Be aware of these differentiating features when you prepare the application package for your chosen schools.

 

In general, every business school will request the following information in its application:

 

  1. Academic transcript:

The transcript reflects your performance at the undergraduate level and is essential to the evaluation of your academic abilities.  Business schools expect a transcript from each college that you have attended after secondary school with complete details of the courses, subjects and credits involved.  If the transcript is in a language other than English, then it must be translated into English by the issuing authority.  This is a factual component of your application and you cannot really alter it once you are out of college.  However, you can embellish if by highlighting relevant course works or

special features of the course.  If your transcript isn’t very strong, you can balance mediocre grades with a high GMAT score or use the additional essay to explain your situation.  On a logistical note, give yourself plenty of time to receive your transcript.

 

  1. Qualifying Scores:

Business schools commonly use the GMAT as one of the many selection criteria for admission to an MBA program.  As discussed earlier, understand its requirement carefully and take the test well before you begin the application process.

 

TOEFL score is used by business schools to measure the English proficiency of applicants whose native language is not English.  This test is not mandatory and you should check the policies of your target schools.

 

  1. Admission Essays:

One of the most important tools for convincing the admission officers about your candidacy is your essays.  The admission committee use your essays to understand who you are, why you consider a business school as your next logical step and how you will add value to their campus.  Use the essays to create a personality which highlights your strengths and suits the profile of the institution.  Use the inventory you had prepared during the planning stage to write the essay, making them logical, cohesive, organized and closely related to the questions.  Essays profile you beyond your grades and test scores and in many ways are the most important part of the application package.  In case you do not feel equipped to handle the essays do not hesitate to seek professional help.

 

  1. Recommendations:

In addition to learning what you think about yourself, business schools want to know how others evaluate you.  If your essays help to profile and project you, your recommendations reinforce the image that you are trying to present.  Most schools ask for two or three recommendations.  Choose recommenders who can reflect a wide range of work experiences, professional and personal qualities and are in a position to substantiate what they state in the recommendation letter.  It is obvious from the above that they should know you closely.  The Wharton Blog confirms ‘more important than pedigree or title is how well a recommender knows you’.  Finally, give your recommenders enough time to write the letters of recommendation.

 

  1. Resume:

The resume summarizes your background into one page.  It is like a window into your profile and can be an effective point of reference especially for the interviewer.  It is suggested that you follow the standard one-page reverse chronological order format. Many business schools have standard formats that their applicants are required to follow.  In general, your resume should consist of three broad sections: professional experience, educational background and additional information.  Like all other components of the application package, use it as an effective tool to create a strong case for your admission.

 

  1. POST APPLICATION PROCESS

 

Once you have submitted the applications to your chosen colleges the next major step in the admission process will be the interview.  From a large pool of applicants, the admissions committee prepares a short list of aspirants that it finds suitable for the program and the interview is used for the final selection of the MBA batch.  Some business schools invite all the applicants for an interview.  Once the interviews have been completed, the final decision on admissions is rolled out.  If you are in an envious position of having an admission offer from more than one college, then you need to make an intelligent choice.  If you have been ‘wait listed’ you need to get pro-active to convert this into a firm offer and if you have been unfortunate to receive a ‘rejection’ letter then you need to put your act together for the next opportunity.

 

a.     Interview:

If you have been invited for an interview, you have already convinced the admissions committee that you are a sound potential candidate.  Convert this potential into a reality by planning, preparing and presenting yourself in the most suitable manner.  This would involve listing of likely questions, formulating suitable answers and going through mock interview sessions.  It would be advisable to go through some specific guidelines on the types of interviews and preparation for an interview.  Finally, approach the interview with confidence and composure.  There are strong chances that you will achieve success.

 

b.    Admission offer:

Universities usually inform applicants of their admission decisions well in advance of the beginning of the term.  If you have received admission offers from more than one school, you will have to make a choice.  The factors influencing your decision at this stage would be a combination of the most reputed program, the best funding offer and the most suitable program for your career goals and personal needs.  This is one of the more pleasant though not the easiest of decisions that you will have to make.  Go where your heart tells you and where you will get the most out of the MBA.

 

c.     Admission with condition:

Some business schools may offer you conditional admission requiring you to successfully complete a pre MBA course. Your business school will usually be willing to support you to complete the course before the semester begins.

 

d.    Wait list:

You may receive a letter that informs you that you are on a ‘waiting list’.  The first step you should take is to understand your target school’s policy on the wait list.  Then you should review your application and evaluate the possible short comings.  Having done this, you could use the following tools to strengthen your case: a phone call to the admissions officer reiterating your interest in the college, sending an additional recommendation, interacting with a faculty member, improving your GMAT score or a follow-up letter.  The secret to evolving a suitable strategy for getting off the wait list is to put together some combination of the above methods that addresses the weakness in your application.

 

e.     Denial:

‘The Admissions committee has thoroughly evaluated your application and is unable to offer you a seat in the incoming class’. In such a situation, you are bound to feel dejected, but you must take it as a learning experience to understand the weaknesses in your application and eliminate them with determination.  If you carefully plan, prepare and process your application, you will maximize your chances of admission to the business school of your choice.

 

The above step-by-step guide is the first step to an international MBA program. It gives you an initial insight. Remember to fortify yourself and strengthen your tools as you move up the path as a well strategized attempt will, in all probability give you success.