We 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As much as we’d like to believe we’ve moved beyond stereotypes and outdated social mores, the truth is, we haven’t. Not in India, at least.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.