How to get into the best MBA programs in the world

GMAT prep, MBA applications, selecting business schools in USA, Canada, India, UK

 

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n overwhelming number of international MBA aspirants have queries related to the admissions process for international business 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.
 
Based on our several years of experience in this field, we’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 we are hoping many candidates would be able to use it as a starting point and customise it based on their current status and career objectives.

 

How to get into the top international MBA programs

 

Is an MBA worth the time and money?

This simple question could be the most difficult to answer. Some aspects that’ll help you address the ‘why MBA‘ query. 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 international 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:

– ‘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.
– ‘Managers Not MBAs’ Prof Mintzberg’s book that takes a critical look at the degree
– ‘What Color Is Your Parachute?’ A book that addresses many questions for Job hunters and career changers

MBA discussion 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 or a good MBA coach 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.

Related articles:
6 Benefits of getting an international MBA degree
Types of jobs after MBA in Marketing, Finance, Operations, Technology
Is an MBA necessary to succeed in life?
Is an Executive MBA (EMBA) worth it?
 

Selecting the right business schools

We are talking about the ever-popular queries on discussion forums – ‘What are my MBA admission chances?’ or the re-phrased ‘Which business schools should I apply to?’

Rather than relying on others to give you quick (and meaningless) business school recommendations, take some time out to do the research.

– 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: Business school rankings, School websites and of course our ever-popular ‘Profile evaluation and strategy (MBA MAP) tool.

Related articles:
Best ranking business schools in the world
Official MBA Admissions team interviews
How to select the right business schools for your MBA
How NOT to select business schools: MBA application don’ts
 

GMAT Preparation

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. Find out about the experiences of people who’ve attended these courses to find out more.

Online GMAT coaching: A growing trend considering it offers flexibility and access to some of the best material out there.

Related resources:
All about the GMAT exam
Best GMAT books for self-study
GMAT toppers share their success stories
 

MBA Essays

How do I write good MBA essays?

On an average, you can expect to write 15-20 different essays (5 schools X 3-4 essays/school). Unless you write strong essays, you will not be invited for the next stage (interviews).

– 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.

Related articles:
How to write business school specific MBA essays
How to handle gaps in your education and career in MBA essays
How important are extracurricular activities for MBA application essays?
Dealing with layoffs and career breaks in your pre-MBA jobs
MBA Essays: No NGO, Non-profit, social work experience?
 

Do I really need to hire MBA consultants for application help?

MBA essay editing services, just like GMAT coaching, can be 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 their MBA consultants’ profiles specifically their educational and professional backgrounds. You are going to engage the consultant for one of the most critical decisions in your life.

Read these related articles:
Is hiring an MBA admissions consultant worth it?
Best MBA admissions consulting Ranking factors
how to choose an MBA admission consultant in India
Should you hire an MBA consultant in India or abroad?
Don’t ‘outsource’ to MBA Admission Consultants
 

MBA Recommendations

How should I choose my recommenders?

Usually schools ask for two letters of recommendation (LoR) – 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 LoR, 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.

Related articles:
Don’t neglect your Letters of recommendation for MBA (LoR)
Letters of recommendation (LoR): How to choose your MBA recommenders

 

MBA Interview

What will they ask me in my MBA interview?

Some schools, specially the bigger, older ones with a huge MBA 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 for MBA interviews?

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 MBA interview would help you do a dry run beforehand, rather than experiment in front of the Adcom.

Related articles:
MBA Interview Etiquette | Tips for In-person and Skype interviews
How can you prepare for MBA interviews for free?
Situational or Behavioral Interviews: What questions can you expect?
MBA Interview experiences and actual questions asked by top business schools
Mock interview preparation
 

The MBA Admission 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 multiple 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.

Read this:
Clearing the confusion of multiple MBA admits
GMAT bschools shower scholarships after 4 failed CAT exam attempts
 

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 got rejected by all business chools. What do I do?

Back to self-analysis. Some schools may offer feedback in terms of what they felt was lacking in your application. You could also consider a rejection analysis done. 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 us know if you have any suggestions to improve this list and make it better. Based on your suggestions, we’ll try to keep the article updated.
 

Just getting started?

Here are some very basic MBA articles:

What is an MBA? Details of MBA courses
Why MBA
Full form of MBA
MBA applications
MBA types: Executive MBA, part-time
MBA fees & costs
MBA Books
GMAT Books
MBA jobs
Most common questions about an MBA abroad
 
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