Apart from the regular pre-requisites (GMAT score, MBA essays, recommendations, TOEFL score) listed in the MBA applications guideline pages of many top business schools, if you’ve paid attention to the academic requirements section, you’ll find something on the following lines – a degree from a recognised university, transcripts that mention the grades / performance (GPA, CGPA or percentage). This may suffice for most applicants, but there’s generally nothing that specifically mentions about how they treat MBA applicants who have completed their undergrad degree through distance education or correspondence courses in India.
Check out what a few of the top b-schools have to say on their website:
Harvard Business School expects the ‘equivalent of a U.S. bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution’. For those who’ve graduated from international universities, their definition of ‘valid equivalents’ includes three-year baccalaureate degrees.
INSEAD wants applicants to submit transcripts that indicate the ‘diploma and grades achieved from each college or university’ attended and the authenticity of the transcript to be confirmed with the ‘official seal and signature of the institution’.
Columbia Business School is happy to receive a ‘bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited institution’ that you’ve attended as a ‘registered student’.
Wharton accepts transcripts showing the academic work at the ‘baccalaureate/undergraduate level and beyond, whether or not for credit or a degree’.
What’s common across these descriptions is that their stand on correspondence courses and distance learning degrees is pretty ambiguous.
Most MBA applicants go with the general assumption that bschools expect a full-time undergraduate degree as the pre-requisite. And that may be true for many MBA schools. But where does it leave applicants with correspondence and distance education degrees? Are they eligible at all or does their part-time education (as opposed to full-time, classroom based degrees) knock them out of the race?
One of the MBA applicants approached us offline for advice. As an entrepreneur, he had done well in business. He also seemed really passionate about pursuing an international degree. However he had a double hurdle to cross. Apart from a correspondence degree, he also had a low GMAT score.
We confessed that our knowledge on this topic was limited (no shame in admitting it rather than taking folks on a wild-goose chase!). We suggested that he reach out to universities where his profile was closer to the class average to check directly if they would accept his application.
Some MBA colleges responded back saying they accept correspondence degrees. The applicant shared the list with us and we in turn thought it might be helpful to share it with MBA Crystal Ball readers who are in a similar situation. We haven’t re-verified this list independently, so use it only as a starting point to authenticate if these MBA programs would accept your application.
Of course, for folks who have stronger profiles suited for more competitive programs, this list may not help much. But the takeaway from this exercise is that you may be able to locate MBA programs that accept applications from correspondence degree holders, even if this fact isn’t specifically mentioned on their website.
As always, instead of relying on this one factor, look at other aspects of the program as well. What is the market value of the degree and the brand? How selective is the program? What calibre of classmates can you expect?
If you have approached bschools to check whether they open the MBA admissions process to folks who have completed a correspondence degree or a distance education course, please share the name of the university and how you found this out (mentioned specifically on the website, or confirmed via email/phone).
Update: One of the applicants who read this article and went on to connect with several business schools was kind enough to share his findings with us.
In his email to the admission teams of several top MBA programs, he mentioned that he was 35 years old and had a distance degree in Bachelor of Arts from Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU). He asked if he would be eligible to apply. He received a positive response from the following business schools that confirmed his eligibility.
While some were very specific in saying ‘Yes, you are eligible,‘ there were some that simply pasted a standard response about accepting 3-year bachelors degree, without getting into the specifics of distance or correspondence degrees. Berkeley Haas was the only one to highlight the fact that candidates with a distance / correspondence degree could be at a competitive disadvantage in the pool of applicants who have a 4-year bachelors degree.
When you can’t do much about your degree, focus on the other aspects that still matter – like your essays, goals, recommendations, resume, interviews. Make the admission officers appreciate what else you have to offer.
After you’ve confirmed the eligibility aspects with your target schools, if need some help in building an impactful application, send us an email: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com
Read this story of a candidate we helped, who got multiple admits from top business schools despite having a distance / correspondence degree.