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Parents of MBA students and aspirants: Read This

MBA ParentsWe are treading on thin ice with this article, as it involves the most pious and revered relationship in India – between children and parents (ranking second only to the bond between children and their mobiles).

In a land where the only acceptable flow of wisdom is from parents to children, it may be difficult for you to reverse the direction and risk straining the relationship.

So, we’re willing to play the villains in the story and suggest a few things that Indian parents can do in their child’s quest to study abroad.

If you’re folks aren’t techno-savvy view articles shared online, take a printout and share it with them and discreetly step out to recharge your mobile.

For Indian parents it’s not just an academic decision

As much as we’d like to believe we’ve moved beyond stereotypes and outdated social mores, the truth is, we haven’t. Not in India, at least. You see, in a country where family values mean more than anything else, going to B-School could upset the applecart – for parents!

While we hope there are many parents and students for whom these perspectives don’t apply, some of what you read below might sound familiar.

If you’re a young woman, your dreams and ambition are likely to crush your folks, so careful how you break the news to them.

All they will see are their daughter’s prospects of ‘getting a good match’ slipping further and further away. And by the time you’re done with getting that darn degree and then putting it to use in a high-profile career (Yeh ‘financial analyst’ kya hain?), your folks will be frantic because your biological clock will be ticking and, oh no, will they ever get to be grandparents? Double whammy!

But the reality is flipping for many Indian parents, who now want their sons and/or daughters to sport the ‘MBA’ badge.

One, it helps them climb the social ladder to say their son or daughter ‘is an MBA’. In an India only just beginning to revel in the trappings of a global economy, ‘being an MBA’ is talked about as if it were a career track rather than a qualification – an end in itself rather than a means to a better career.

Two, you guessed it, those three little words offer huge leverage in the marriage marketplace – and what could be more important in a country where family values mean more than anything else? Yes, Scenario No 2 is the exact opposite of Scenario No 1.

Whereas there was a time when taking the IAS exam to become a bureaucrat put you on top of the heap, followed by a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer, and later an IT professional or ‘techie’, the new, most-coveted marriage qualification is an MBA degree.

For grooms who view marriage as a business transaction (yes, the breed still exists), the ‘MBA’ tag sent already astronomical dowries into the stratosphere but the women caught on quickly and stymied these evil demands with an MBA of their own. Of course, no one really cared where the degree came from or how you scored. The marriage marketplace plays by its own rules.


Bitter Truths for Parents

What has any of this got to do with career prospects? Unfortunately, nothing. Thankfully, there’s Scenario No 3 – where an MBA degree is sought for the right reasons. The good news is that an increasing number of young professionals in India are choosing to acquire this qualification to steer their careers in a certain direction.

Deciding to enroll in a B-School is a time for reflection and introspection (when you aren’t stressing out about getting a job), and a decision that will make many parents face some bitter truths.

Since an MBA degree implies a leadership role in their son’s or daughter’s career, some parents probably wonder whether they were overprotective of their kids while raising them; others question whether they were adequate role models; while still others ask themselves whether they taught their kids the leadership and practical skills their child will need in the career path they are seeking.

And if this is a testing time for parents, imagine what it must be like for the young student who is about to make a career choice that will probably define the next four decades of their lives.

Parents can play an active role in helping their sons and daughters make this tough decision as they need all the support they can get.


Dos and Don’ts for Parents of MBA applicants


1. Be A Good Listener

It is all too easy for youngsters to get swept up in the tide, and many may consider enrolling in B-School because ‘everyone else is’. Others may consider an MBA degree because they are simply bored at work while some may want one so that they have a wider choice of careers. In each case, it’s the wrong call.

Having seen more than their share of ups and downs of life, parents should sit with their kids and help them make the decision for the right reasons or not at all.


2. Help With the Research

Another big decision concerns which B-School to apply to.

One, never push your child to attend the same B-School you graduated from, if they don’t want to. Their aspirations are different from yours. What was hot and in demand during your time may have changed.

Two, research schools thoroughly because it is important to find the right fit as there is a variety of B-Schools out there.

And, three, the MBA rankings don’t really matter that much. Finding a suitable B-School is more important than name-dropping.


3. Don’t Be A ‘Helicopter Parent’

Many parents are guilty of being overprotective and overindulgent during this testing time. As much as you love your kid, this is not going to help.

  • Do not accompany them on campus visits, alumni events or class observations;
  • Do not write their essay or fill in their application form;
  • Never contact the admissions office and speak on their behalf, interfere or intervene;
  • Do not insert yourself between the applicant and his or her admissions consultant.

There’s a huge difference between showing interest versus intrusion; and support versus micro-management.

4. Be Supportive

It helps to just ‘be there’ for your kid besides offering help in many practical ways.

Express encouragement; offer to be a sounding board during the application process; volunteer to proofread their final application for spelling and grammar errors only, not for content; and encourage them to reapply if rejected.

Watch out for signs of ‘interference’ and take a step back as soon as you sense resistance. You can also help by identifying and introducing the applicant to someone who has already acquired an MBA degree and can offer valuable and relevant advice.


5. Discuss Finances

An MBA is an expensive degree and figuring out a payment plan will greatly help your son or daughter’s choice of college or institute besides reassuring them that there is a way they can do this.

Should the applicant apply for a student loan or a scholarship, and can you, as a parent, contribute at all?

Financial planning must take into account the applicant’s career plans, including the kind of salary they can expect after attending B-School.


A word of advice for applicants. You’re an adult (even if your parents refuse to accept the fact), presumably in your early to mid-20s.

So apart from leaning on your parents for advice, a certain amount of emotional support and perhaps financial assistance, you are expected to be capable of making adult decisions, judge which MBA program best suits you, set long-term career goals for yourself.

And, yes, let your folks know when their involvement borders on interference.

As for parents, well, trust that you’ve done a good job raising your son or daughter, and that they are capable of making the right decisions for their future.

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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

10 thoughts on “Parents of MBA students and aspirants: Read This”

  1. Hello Sameer,

    This is Sonia. I have 5.5+ years of work in an Oil giant, currently working in Retail Sales of same. I completed BE from a top league engineering college and am a twice gold medallist, including best all-round graduate awardee. Also, I am an international scholarship (DAAD-WISE) winner and was also selected on-campus for an paid industrial internship at a prestigious Indian company. Got recruited in an Oil giant and have been working there ever since, first 3 years in Operations and Logistical management (Supply and distribution) & then in Retail sales, which the creme profile of the company and where I am amongst the very few females who work in this department, given the high work pressure. Bagged a promotion too during this tenure.

    class 10- 84 %
    class 12 – 84 %
    gradation – 8.21 CGPA
    GMAT score – 620

    Basically slow career growth in PSUs- both profile wise and monetary wise, nil international exposure till say 10-15 years minimum, a routine job made me think of doing an MBA. Having already handled a top level assignment in my current company, I feel I require something extra to further my avenues of personal growth, exposure, people, culture and skills. I have also been thinking of a job switch which offers international exposure and pays better.

    Do let me know what are the best options available before me – in terms of an MBA at ISB, and 3 colleges in Asia pacific, NUS, NTU, HKUST.

    Please let me know my prospects.

  2. My son is doing PGPM and MBA (Digital Marketing) from ICFAI, IBS Bangalore. Is it worth doing executive MBA or doctorate in MBA in IIM Bangalore or Ahmedabad after this. What are the job opportunities after this. Please explain. With work can he pursue higher studies also?

  3. @Subha: The two degrees you’ve listed have different eligibility requirements and also very different career paths.

    As mentioned in the article above, I realise that you are helping him with step 2 (research), which is good.

    But it might be best for your son to first decide (independently) what he wants to do with his career first. He has to live it for the rest of his professional career. Allow him some time to figure out the introspective part.

  4. my son has completed mba from lingyas university from faridabad , did not get good job and now engaged with phd works since last 6 months, i am planning to send him abroad for job/further study, do u have any good advise and help?

  5. @Subhamoy: Apologies for being blunt, but this is exactly the approach that we are trying to discourage in our article above.

    Sending your son abroad won’t solve the problem (of not getting a job despite an MBA) he is facing. It’ll just temporary defer it. If it’s tough for him to get a job in India, it’ll be tougher for him to convince an international employer to file for his work permit.

    If you really want to help him, try to support him in understanding where his skills and interests lie. Pushing him back into the academic world will not allow him to discover the harsh realities of the real world.

  6. I am currently doing my Btech in Chemical Engineering(3rd Year) from MNNIT, Allahabad.My father wants me to pursue Mtech or MS after graduating But I dont want get into technical more rather I want to opt for MBA. Isnt it an equally good option for better job options?

  7. Hlo i currently passed out from bba programme and my parents are forcing me to pursue my mba in logistics so can u advice me anything

  8. My son is doing final year mechanical from a govt college in Kerala. Though he had prepared well for GATE 2018, the exam was very difficult for him and even his marks 52, when normalized, became 48 with a rank of 15000. Though I am not financially sound, by pawning my residence and a few cents we live, perhaps I will be able to raise the money required to send him to do MS. Which country is the best and cheapest for him with facility for part-time job so that the loan can be wiped out at the earliest possible and also to get permanent residency?

  9. @MD: Since you aren’t financially strong to bear such a big expense at this stage, it may be better for your son to get a job in India after graduation, learn what it means to earn independently, and build up his savings.

    You’ve done your job in getting him the basic education needed to get a job. Let him decide when he’s ready for another degree, and to shoulder the responsibility of the education loan.


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