How to improve your MBA profile for top business school admissions

The question pops up on various forums frequently and there are two categories of guys who want to know. The first set are a few months away from application deadlines and have recently realized that their competitors look and sound better on paper than they do. This is the ‘uski kameez meri kameez se safed kaise’ syndrome. We aren’t talking about this category in this post (if there’s a strong response from apne bhai log out there asking for an answer, we could think about covering this later). For now we focus on the other category – those who have started their MBA preparations early and want to leave no stone unturned to ensure that their profiles fit into the ‘ideal MBA’ applicant framework.

Awright. First myth breaking moment. There is no ‘Ideal MBA’ applicant [glass shattering sound in the background]. MBA Admission Committees (Adcoms) aren’t looking for an ‘A’-list candidate with Aamir Khan’s creativity, Amitabh’s baritone, Amartya’s Sen’s intellect and Ambani’s business sense. Even if they did, they wouldn’t find anyone…as MCB team members have already completed their MBA degrees long time back (no, we aren’t arrogant, we just have a warped sense of humour that is difficult to rectify at this age).

But there is a set of characteristics that most Adcoms would find interesting in Indian candidates, an applicant pool that looks notoriously homogeneous. And the ‘A’ list that we just spoke about has some pointers to help us out. Let’s go backwards with it.

Business sense: You don’t need to be Ambani, but you do need to have a basic understanding of how businesses function. You pre-MBA performance is a good way to highlight that. If you’ve had a strong professional background, you’ve been better than your peers and you’ve shouldered more responsibilities than your job description warranted – then you are doing good, baby.

Intellect: This is the raw mental brainpower that drives most initiatives in your personal or professional lives. And if you aren’t found lacking in that department it would be relatively safe for employers and Adcoms to assume that your efforts would be in the right direction and that would benefit the organisations and institutions that you are associated with. Your academic grades, your GMAT score and the fact that you are sincerely committed to leaving your Farmville obsession behind would be good indications.

Communication skills: No baritone needed when you are making presentations and trying to sell a product or a service or just an idea. Though it’ll be nice if you don’t sound like the result of a cross-breeding experiment involving Minnie Mouse and The Great Khali. Ultimately it all comes down to your ability to assimilate all available data, structure your thoughts in your mind before your vocal chords expose your brilliant mind to the eager world waiting out there. For B-school applications, Adcoms will use your essays and your interview to judge this.

Creativity: This is an area where even the best business school will not be able to help you. But it’s that 1% inspiration that you’ve got to arrange by yourself so it helps you utilise the remaining 3 faculties. Aamir might have come up with that bald-attendants-in-every-theatre marketing gimmick for Ghajini that everyone in the media went gaga over. That’s the creativity part. For the remaining 99%, it came down to his ability to plan, schedule, communicate and execute the plan. Use your extra-curricular activities to demonstrate aspects where you’ve demonstrated creativity, leadership, and anything else that makes you an interesting candidate that your classmates would love to hang out with after your MBA classes are over.

If you have time on your hands to sculpt your profile, try looking at these 4 areas and see where you currently need some work. Did you find this post useful? Let us know. Any specific departments that you are struggling with?

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Sameer Kamat
Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. If you are looking for Admissions Consulting or Career Counselling, connect with me on Google+ | Twitter | Facebook


  1. Pranjali says:

    I dare not speak for others but creativity is something we Indians need help with. Developing a multi-dimensional marketing pitch to the Adcom takes work and loads of creativity. Some more information on how extra-curricular activities can be best woven into the application would be great help.
    Something on the lines of segregating the activities and drawing out the juice from these stories to show that you are a born leader, a good team player and an enthusiastic human being. For instance, activities that are
    1. Unusual , offbeat
    2. Involve team building, consensus building and involves team effort
    3. Individualistic but rare
    4. Even the smallest of volunteer work in case people havent had leadership positions with NGOs or other social organizations
    5. activities that require event management skills – this can be used to show how enthusiastically you will arrange events at school,which kinds of events you will arrange and what difference will your presence make to the school , its image and events
    Maybe I am sounding idiotic but I guess this kind of information is not readily available on the other forums/blogs. One of my friends ( a guy) had planned a wedding for his family and used it beautifully in his app). Now, how many people can use such info?

  2. Avijit Shukla says:

    Need to know about the top notch university for mba in sports and what all is need for this

    • Sameer says:

      Check out Indiana, Arizona State Univ, Oregon, San Diego State Univ.

      If you are open to MS programs, then Columbia offers a good one.

      Not too many top ranked schools that are known to be strong in this area as it’s an upcoming field. So another approach is to target the top schools for a regular MBA program and network your way into sports organisations.

  3. Zabi says:

    One of those pretty realistic articles about MBA admissions I have read recently..thanks..and yeah I love the humor part in it!!!

  4. Rajan says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I have a keen interest in programs like master of global affairs.There are few universities in USA which offer such programs.I am planning to apply for fall 2016 so i do have time to build up
    my profile.What are the things , you would suggest me to do to build up my profile?

    Background: IT job in Infosys ( 3 years); for last one year, i am looking into my family business.

    Extra curricular:

    Has been very active in volunteer work in an NGO. Have also taken leadership role in many initiatives like fund raising, providing education to poor children at govt schools in villages in remote
    location in Chennai.
    Have won several awards in Public Speaking forums like International Toastmasters.
    Was part of Chennai runners club. Have particapted in Half Marathon drive – 20 kms.
    Member of Chennai trekking club- whenever I used to find time, used to go for trekking.One of things i love to do.

    • Pulastya Basu says:

      Dear Rajan,
      Nice to see your profile. Now a days I am considering the option of joining a NGO and work with needy since I haven’t done any community service in the recent past.
      At present I am staying in Chennai. So can you help me find a NGO where I can get involved in ‘giving back to the society’?

      Best Wishes for your MBA,
      Pulastya Basu

  5. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Rajan: For folks who have time to mould themselves before applying to the top universities, we offer a profile building service. Send us an email if you are interested.

  6. kishore sherigar says:

    Hey sameer,
    Would like to know bout your profile building services as m planning to apply for the top b schools in the nxt 2-3 yrs

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