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How to make your profile irresistible to the top schools?

“I plan to apply to the top business schools in 2-3 years. What can I do during this period to build my profile for Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, INSEAD, London Business School, ISB…?”

This is another of those frequently asked questions (FAQ) that we come across on various discussion threads that MBA Crystal Ball is active on. Typically the question comes from freshers i.e.folks who have just graduated from Engineering  (B.E), BCom, BSc and many other streams. But quite a few students who haven’t even completed their basic graduation are also anxious to know how to make their profile irresistible to many of their dream schools.

The simple answer we could give you is that there’s no such magic formula to aim for. And that’s true as well. But that’s not the answer you came here for.

So rather than completely dashing your hopes of being enlightened about the secrets of what will get you in, let’s look at some factors you can still focus on to improve your chances of getting into the best Bschools.

Earlier we posted an article that focused on how 4 specific soft-skills can get you into the top schools. This time we are talking about the hard-skills. Parameters that you can put your finger on. Things you’ll be able to pick up in a regular company if you are committed and diligent.

5 ways to make your profile irresistible to the top bschools


1. Choose an under-represented industry or role

It’s not that the Information Technology (IT) industry is bad. No way. In fact, the salary, perks, opportunities in the IT industry are far better than many other conventional industries.

But the problem is there are far too many applicants applying from this field. And the mainstream roles (such as software development, testing / quality assurance, business analysis, project management) also won’t get you that ‘Oh, is that what you do?’ kind of an awe-inspiring reaction.

So if you have the opportunity, choose an industry that you love (very important, but tough to decide when you’ve never worked before) and possibly one that you would want to continue in, even after completing your MBA.

2. Be part of an exclusive club

Once you’ve chosen your target industry, aim for the market leaders in the field if you can. For instance, a huge number of consultants who get into Harvard, Stanford or Wharton have already worked for McKinsey, Bain or BCG. Each industry has its list of companies with a halo around them. Within technology you have Google, Facebook, Amazon (Retail? Technology? Take a pick), IBM.

If the company you work for has a very competitive and tough recruiting process, it gives Adcoms the feeling that you are the cream-of-the-cream in your chosen industry.

3. Take on responsibilities that your peers can’t or won’t

Most of your colleagues at work would complain about getting overloaded with responsibilities. Evaluate your situation differently. If you are doing the exact same thing 5 days a week and 12 hours a day, you aren’t making much progress in terms of getting an exposure to new aspects of the business.

Create new learning curves for yourself. Apart from the technical skills you are picking up, keep an eye out for opportunities that need business skills.

See if you can volunteer for special projects that have a strategic importance for the management.

4. Have a life outside work

Even if you are the most brilliant professional in your company and your bosses think you are the next best thing after sliced bread, your MBA classmates may not agree. You don’t want to be the uni-dimensional professional nerd in the study group.

At work, your roles and responsibilities are more stringently defined. Outside work, you are the king of your universe. Rather than while away the free time, see if you can use it productively.

Be part of a sport that you like, join a social cause early on in your career, start a small entrepreneurial venture on the side. Experiment with many things in the earlier days and them focus on a few that truly excite you. By the time you are ready to apply, you’d be amazed at how much you’ve been able to achieve in your spare time.

5. Show EQ as well as IQ

Well, this isn’t exactly a hard-skill. But your Emotional Quotient (EQ) is a good glue to bind the earlier 4 points.

Whether you are at work or play, nobody likes a jerk. A high IQ without a high EQ would push you into Jerk-land (and no, that doesn’t put you in an exclusive club).

While you are working on the top 4 aspects, show some maturity, professionalism, modesty and other attributes that separate the good human beings from the rest.

There you go. The 5 ‘secret’ ingredients to make your profile irresistible to the best MBA programs at the top bschools. We’ve left out factors like a high GMAT score (most Indians score high anyway) and excellent academic grades (not much you can do if you’ve already messed this up).

What if you’ve never worked with a market leader, and never been exposed to the post MBA industry you want to work in, and never done anything that your peers haven’t? Most candidates who work with MBA Crystal Ball fall in this category. We can’t alter their profile for them and it does make things tougher for the top bschools.

So we explain to them why it might be a good idea to spread out the risk of applying. Then we work together to choose a mix of schools that go across Ambitious, Stretch and Practical categories. Then we jointly create an application strategy (including a solid storyline) that presents their profile in the best possible manner.

If you want some support on personalizing and executing the ideas mentioned above, here’s what we do at a professional level to help MBA applicants build their profile.

Read these related posts:

How to get into Harvard Business School
How to plan your MBA Application Timeline
What is most important in MBA applications?
What Admissions Officers of top business schools look for in MBA applicants
How can I improve my Profile in College?

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

33 thoughts on “How to make your profile irresistible to the top schools?”

  1. @Anonymous: Sorry that you didn’t find this helpful enough. Not sure what we could’ve done to make it more specific, as the implementation of these ideas will vary for each person – depending on personality traits, interests, goals.

    As an example, an irrestible profile could be an Ivy League undergrad, with a 780 GMAT score, 4 years of experience – 2 years with McKinsey and others as a serial entrepreneur with each company being sold for a few million dollars – with extra curricular skills in movie making (several thousand views on Youtube).

    Btw, these are real traits of folks who have worked with us. But each trait belongs to a different candidate. And they’ve all got into good bschools.

    The bigger message here (to repeat the message from the second paragraph) is not to chase the goal of having a ‘perfect profile’. Bschools get folks from multiple industries, roles, countries. Each candidate brings some unique aspects. Aim to excel in whatever field you choose and present it well in your application. Leave the rest to the Admissions Committee.

    Good luck, bro!

  2. Just curious. . Is Analytics an under represent domain?. . .felt so few years back but not any more.
    what is your take on this?

  3. Sreenath: We’ve had a spike in applicants with an Analytics background. Till last year this wasn’t the case, though we did get a smaller proportion.

    Interestingly, most of those who work with us are from a few well-known firms (probably some might be your colleagues, assuming you are working for one of the market leaders).

    Several who choose the field hoping it’ll take them closer to mainstream management consulting get disillusioned over time when they find out that moving out is equally difficult.

    Too early to assume whether the trend will change in subsequent MBA admissions seasons. But for now, your observation is right. Analytics isn’t an under-represented domain this season.

  4. Thanks for the reply Sameer. . .

    Write ups here are surely helping in buliding the case for MBA applications. . Thanks !. .n keep up the good work

  5. Is having a experience of minimum 2 years a compulsory thing to get into a b-school ? can i get into a good b-school in india with a great gmat score and no experience ?

  6. @Sravya: In the diplomatic words of bschools – Not mandatory, but highly recommended.

    Without the sugar coating, what it means is – If you don’t have work experience, we’d be happy to take you application fee, but don’t expect good news.

  7. hey sameer, would a GMAT score of 740, work ex of 2.5 years in IT, respectable personal profile and academics jus above the border ( 60% Agg 🙁 ) gets me into any of the top b-schools in India? ( Preferrably ISB)

  8. Dear Sameer,
    My Profile
    Completed following two Insurance designation:
    a)AINS &
    b)CPCU (highly regarded insurance designation)
    10th 71%
    12th 58%
    & BE(IT) 72% (from a avg. college).
    Completed my engineering in 2009 & started tuition academy for class 9th & 10th std.
    My academy went bankrupt within 1 year, so joined CAPGEMINI as S/W engineer.
    Having total IT experience of (3.5 yrs) as of now.
    Also, regularly take insurance sessions in CAPGEMINI on Property & Casualty Insurance to impart insurance knowledge to employees working with Insurance project.
    Have got 2 awards for my work
    Ex Curricular: Captain of school football team, worked part-time in NGO during my college days
    My intension of applying for MBA is to make a career in Insurance industry.

    I am planning to write GMAT in 2014.
    In what range of GMAT Score can fetch me a call from good college ?
    Also is my profile suitable enough for good business school at this moment?

  9. @bhaskar: Try to get above the average of the schools on your target list. The IT profile is pretty common as you’d already be aware. Plus you’d have to justify the transition from business to service.

  10. Hi Sameer. Great article Sameer !

    Need your help on few things. First, let me state my profile.

    B.Tech in electrical from one of the top 50 universities in India in 2012 (not the IIT and NIT ). Selected into TCS though campus. Joined it, but soon realised that it’s not my cup of tea. Resigned with three months Ixperience (if you call that one! ) and joined GE as an engineering trainee in Product Management. I thought I was a complete tech guy until I feel in love with the dynamic nature of business and management at GE.

    Planning to get an MBA from top international b-schools. What should I equip myself with?

    10th – 92%
    12th – 90% – 7.46 cgpa
    Was more of a nerd at col
    Did Btech project at an electrical research organization designing a superconducting motor

    Outside work, I’m a passionate trekker…

    Also suggest, what should be my target GMAT score ?

  11. @Krishna: The target score for everyone is 800. Why aim for anything lower? After that whatever you get is what you move ahead with. But before that why not spend some more time at work gaining good and diverse experience?

  12. Hi Mr. Kamat,

    I read you suggestions in the article “GMAT test day tips” & “How to make your profile irresistible” and find them really helpful for the new test takers like me.I am already preparing for GMAT and planning to Schedule my Test in first week of August.

    I have a concern regarding my profile that bothers me everyday.

    I am a Telecom Professional currently serving in Ericsson India Global services ( A Telecom Giant) looking after a Telecom Network of Brazil.

    Earlier I served in an Indian MNC Metrowireless Engg. India Pvt Ltd for 2 years based in Philippines.

    Prior to that I worked in a Local Indian Company and worked on Vodafone Delhi Network as an Outsource.This company doesn’t exist anymore.It will sum up to approx 4 years of work experience.

    I did my schooling from a CBSE Board affiliated Institute and secured 86% in 10th & 67% in 12th Standard.

    Further,I pursued my BE in ‘Electronics & Communication’ from a Private Institution (of-course not descent at standard Platform) and secured 70.2%.

    It would be really appreciating if you could please evaluate my profile and suggest some measure that could help in making my profile strong.Further,What score range is suitable for me to get into a good Business school?



  13. hello, first of all a great salute to you for this very good article.
    so I need help from you, can you help me clarify some doubts.? I am a 2013 passout BE mechanical from an average institute who have discovered or how I even I don’t know that I am tottaly not interested in the technical field. don’t want to go towards engineering and not even to IT sector. only field I like is FINANCE. so my dream is to do MBA in FINANCE from a top branded college, location may or may not be India. but before that I want to work in banking field so that I get real good exposure in finance. now my concern is that as I don’t have mba at hand so I will not be getting managerial role in a bank…I can have the officers role in operations mostly. and have got a chance to join a leading prvt bank in branch operations junior officers role. so my que is to is that,will joining bank in the junior grade help me in my mba dream if I score good in CAT/GMAT ????
    what other courses or certifications in the meantime you can suggest me to land a good chance in top institutes if you see it from both profile strengthening and knowledge acquiring aspects… exclusively from FINANCE field. do you suggest me to do mba in distance mode to gain in depth knowledge n making a strong profile along with my job… before the regular mba??…….apart from that I work for an NGO part time and a die hard photographer…… please please help me… say something please… I am desperately waiting… as soon as possible plz…….

  14. Hello sameer ! First of all congratulations for the amazing work you are doing here. It’s incredibly reassuring to see that there is a place where novices like me could get some crisp and credible advice related to our MBA pursuits. So, I just completed my third year in industrial engineering at IIT Delhi, and have been shortlisted for the second round of the ISB’s YLP. I am from a family of purely professional background ( surgeons, teachers that kinda stuff ) and I would be the first one to even try and explore the option of going into the corporate world. I have developed a profound interest in entrepreneurship over the course of my three years at college and am planning to structure my admission essays around the same.

    Could you give me some tips as to how I can get my internship ( at a car interior manufacturing plant in gurgaon ) to blend in with my career goals. The problem is that I don’t actually have a well defined role currently. I am free to choose my project. So what I have in mind at the moment is a complete plant assessment from an operations management perspective wherein i’ll be trying to improve the productivity. Another option is to simply sit on a laptop and learn to code for CNC machines, which would be considerably easier, but in my opinion might not have the same impact on a MBA application. What do you feel about it ?

    Also, I was thinking about reading some books which could help me understand “entrepreneurship” better. Kindly recommend some books and authors which you think would be helpful.


  15. @Samarjyoti: Finance is a vast field and with many mainstream & niche areas you can work in. Working in a regular retail banking role is different from an Investment Banking role. The skills are very different. So you’d first have to plan for a specific goal before you start changing directions.

    @Anshuman: Use the internship to gain the skills you want, not what you think the MBA Adcoms want. Do it with longer term plans, not short term gains. When you are ready to write essays, it’s going to be an easier process to choose the relevant stories and accomplishments. The best way to learn about entrepreneurship is by ‘doing’ not ‘reading’. So start something small and learn as you go along.

  16. Hi Sameer,

    Thanks for your article. Like all other comments here, I also need a little perspective on my profile. I wish to get an MBA from an Ivy league college and intend to join next year.
    Key pointers in my profile are as follows-
    1) B. Tech from IIT Delhi- CGPA 7.8
    2) 3 years of experience in Management Consulting in KPMG
    3) Two years of experience working with two different NGOs (one was related to teaching english to underprivileged students and the other is related to providing pro bono management consulting services to other NGOs)

    Additionally, I have received few appreciation awards for my contributions to college activities during my undergrad as well as couple of awards for good performance in the consulting projects.

    I would be highly obliged if you could let me know what more could be added to make it a considerable profile for the top b-schools.


  17. Hello Sameer,
    I am Jaideep. Just completed my schooling and joined Amity international business school, noida for my bachelors (BBA IB).
    I scored 76% in 10th and 12th. And about extra-curricular activies: I have been to district and state level twice for basketball.
    I just want to study in the top B schools for my MBA. So I just wanted to know what are the other requirements for a B school apart from GMAT score. And how many years work experience is required and what kind of work?


  18. hello sir………
    sir i passed BE wid 64%…in 2014 ..10thworking 12th 84%cureently working in a bank….plss suggest me apart from gmat ….what r the other steps i should take to get into a good gmat school……is it necessary to work in a sofware companoes or private companies like infosys ibm etc to get in a good school……is.working in a bank will make my profile weak as compared……???????? pls give me a rit direction to move accordingly…….eagerly waiting for ur reply

  19. Hi Sameer,

    First of all, congratulations for the fantastic work you are doing and the reputation you have built for that. I am currently reading your book “Beyond The MBA Hype” and needless to say that it is clearing lot of my doubts.

    However, I need some advice from you on my profile and how it can be improved to better suit the top Business Schools. So here is my profile in brief –

    1. I am from a small town called Hooghly in West Bengal
    2. I have done my schooling from West Bengal Board with 76% in 10th and 69% in 12th
    3. Done B.E. in Electronics & Communication Engineering from Dr. B. C. Roy Engineering College, Durgapur under University of Burdwan with 71% marks in 2004
    4. Done MBA from Jaipuria Institute of Management, Lucknow with 54% marks in 2006
    6. Have 8.5 years of experience in Market Research, Analytics, and Business Development domains across IT and FMCG/Retail industries (Managed both Indian and Foreign clients)
    7. Have worked with Ricoh India, Bharti Airtel, TCS, Nielsen India, and Fractal Analytics (Current) and last 3 – 4 years in leadership roles (wherein my designation had either a manager or lead tag and I led a team or projects, took initiatives such as mentorship, trainer, etc)
    8. I have got few awards as well while I was in TCS and Nielsen for my contribution
    9. Photography is my hobby and I have attended few workshops conducted by Nikon

    I am only targeting the top B Schools in India. My questions to you are –

    1. I have changed jobs frequently (5 companies in 8 years). I can justify it, but will it create a bad impression even before I get the opportunity to justify it?
    2.Can my low marks in MBA reduce my chances of getting a call and/or getting selected?
    3. Can my experience in market research or analytics give me some advantage of underrepresentation?
    4. Is there any quick remedies to improve my profile like some certification or social work which I can complete in 3 – 4 months?
    5. Most important one – my post MBA goal is to get a job in branding or marketing function at mid to senior management level. I have mainly worked on agency side till date in market research or analytics or consulting domain, but post MBA I would like to move into the client side in Marketing function. Is it possible through an 1 year full time MBA from a premier institute in India?

    It would be really great if you can help me with the answers to my above questions, it will boost my confidence.

    Thanks in advance and all the best for all your future endeavors.


  20. @priyanka: Apologies to be blunt, but you really need to do something about your writing skills. Bschools (and even admission consultants) won’t take you seriously if you write this way.

    @Saikat: Lots of questions. let’s jump right in. I’m assuming you are looking for a reality check and not just sugar-coated inspiration pills.

    Yes, the frequent transitions and low marks would raise eyebrows. You are not competing in an under-represented pool. There are no quick remedies (everyone would do that, right?). Sure, a career change is possible, if you can demonstrate that you have the potential to move into the new role.

  21. Hi Sameer,

    The article is a great read, crisp & concise. I would appreciate if you could review my profile & help me with a little perspective on my profile.

    My profile goes like:
    10th Std- CBSE- 85%
    12th Std – CBSE- 81.4%
    BSc. (H) Chemistry – Delhi University – 53.8%

    Total Work experience: 6.5 years in Marketing Communication role
    5.5 years mainly in Infrastructure, Energy& Power Industry,
    1 year with a leading advertising agency -BBDO.
    Currently working for Social Infrastructure system at Toshiba
    I hope the industry & the role isn’t cliched.

    I have couple of extra curricular certificates at University & School level, a gold medal in creative writing (National level). I was also the joint secretary at the college.
    I have been working for environmental & social causes since school, have worked with a few a NGOs as volunteer.

    I m also learning Spanish.
    I took my first ever mock test yesterday and scored a mere 600.

    I’d appreciate if you could guide me a little about how to further work on my profile. What score is considered decent for a B School in Europe?



  22. Hi Sameer,

    Hope all is well. Appreciate your effort.

    My brief profile is mentioned below;
    1) 10th CBSE, 2004, 80%
    2) 12th CBSE, 2006, 80% (PCMC)
    3) B.Tech Civil engg, 2010 VIT University, Vellore, (feeder to top universities for PG)
    4) MSc Management (Spl. in Energy Business), 2013, Imperial College London (among the top 5 universities in the world)
    5) MBL (distance learning), ongoing (expected 2017), NLSIU Bangalore

    1) 2 years with Cushman & Wakefield (one among top 4 International Property Consultants), 2010 – 2012
    2) 1 year with a real estate private equity, 2014 – 2015
    3) Recently joined JLL (one among top 4 international property consultants)

    1) Co-founded a wedding fashion and management company in 2014
    2) Co-founded a cafe in 2014
    3) Equity partner (not co-founder) in an internet start up, close to closing one round of funding (co founders are alumni of IITD and IIMA)
    4) Involved in family business in an advisory capacity (helping them diversify)
    5) Amateur golfer
    6) Getting involved with the alumni network of both VIT and Imperial

    I am contemplating an MBA (target schools, in that order; Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Columbia, Booth, LBS ,Kellog, MIT), most likely for 2018 in take, please let me know what you think of my profile and what areas I should work on. I believe a GMAT score of 720 – 740 is achievable.

    Looking forward to your feedback.

  23. Hi sir!
    I am pursuing B.Com honours from the University of Delhi. I’m currently in the first year.
    I wanted know what all can be done at this stage to form an impressive application for the top B Schools.
    And what is the criteria to get selected for full Scholarships.

  24. Hi Sameer ,

    Well buddy , here is the thing that am preparing for the GMAT . I want some guidance to work on my profile. There are several amenities which will help yo know about me more clearly ,
    1. Am a cricketer , played at very good level i.e. national and state level .i was also selected in national cricket academy U-19. Trained under such big guns of cricketer i.e. lalchand rajput, karshan ghavri, sameer dighe, mukund parmar etc
    2.Won many trophies and certificate , which shows my personal achievements .
    4.I am member of ART OF LIVING programme in which we have help or provide some help by taaking donation from people for helpless’ food and other amenities

  25. Hello Sir,

    I work as a software developer for a German product based company which caters to automotive industry.
    I have 4 years of work experience.
    I have good marks in X(86.80%) and XII(80%).
    I have done Mechanical Engineering with 62.67%.
    I am also learning German Level1 course.

    I want to target good B schools.
    My future plan is to work for some years after MBA and then start a business
    most probably in energy sector.
    I also have interest in supply chain and stock markets.

    Please tell me how can I improve my profile.
    What are the courses that I should target.

    Thanks and regards


  26. Sir, i m currently pursuing my from Uttar pradesh technical University which is considered as decent University for engineering.
    I need to know that how should i prepare for gmat and does my decent University has any effect on my gmat profile.
    What type of profile should i make so that i can get into top colleges.


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