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How not to select business schools: MBA application don’ts

Written by Sameer Kamat

It’s common practice on discussion forums for MBA applicants to approach peers (including competitors!) and admission consultants in droves for free advice on everything from whether an MBA is right for them, to choosing the right bschool, to tips in essays. And there are more than enough folks to respond to such queries, including us. Marketing, a necessary evil of the business world! We’ve got to have a presence out there, so people have a way to evaluate us.

However if you have carefully analysed our responses on various threads that we are active on, you would have realised what we are going to talk about in this post. In our discussion forum responses, we are more than happy to answer general questions about strategies and dilemmas. But when it comes to providing a list of the best schools for any candidate, we shy away. If you push us too hard, we might ask you for your choices and provide our high level inputs.

When everyone is more than happy to recommend top business schools based on a GMAT score and a few lines about work experience, industry and role, why are we shooting ourselves in the foot by not doing the same? Why do we stretch the process and make it painful for both sides by insisting on first testing your essay writing skills, your interviewing skills, the credibility of your post-MBA goals…and putting a price tag on it when everyone else is doing it for free anyway? Yup, we are referring to our MBA Mock Application Process.

Here’s the reason. Choosing the right bschool will be one of the most important decisions of your life. It CANNOT be based on a few basic parameters.

On online forums, it’s a little tough for us to say – ‘You come from a very competitive pool and there’s not much in your profile that tells us what makes you unique and special. But let’s not worry about that. Here’s a list of schools you should apply to.’

The individual parameters (your grades, your GMAT score, your number of years of work experience, your nationality) that go into the final decision don’t mean much if you take out the story that binds them together. The information that you can share on discussion forums and the inputs you get back are good as an ice-breaker, but it is hardly enough to provide solutions that you can act upon.

During the MBA MAP process, when we first receive the basic information from candidates, to be honest most profiles do appear quite similar. Pretty much like on discussion forums. It’s only when we start the interaction phase that their profiles really come to life. Often average sounding profiles start gaining new dimensions, while apparently stronger profiles (many with high GMAT scores, the best institutes in the country and impressive sounding professional backgrounds) lose their sheen.

So if you are planning to get free evaluations based on basic profile data, please be aware of the limitations of the process. Get multiple perspectives, but don’t base your important decisions purely on the basis of such high-level advice.

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Sameer Kamat

About Sameer Kamat

Founder of MBA Crystal Ball | Author of 'Beyond The MBA Hype' | Cambridge MBA Connect with me on Google+ | Twitter @mba_cb

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