I’m not an IIT, NIT, BITS engineer. Can I get into a top MBA with an average degree?

I failed to get into IIT, NIT, BITS or any elite engineering college. Do I have a chance to get into a top MBA?

If this question has been on your mind, this article is for you.

In another article, we analysed if the brand of your employer matters and the size of the company affects your admission chances. While we saw that it does, we also determined that there are ways you can still make it to the top programs out there.

On similar lines, we will assess whether being from hallowed undergrad institutions is imperative to break into the top league programs.

I’ll give the answer upfront. And it is no, with the caveat that it certainly helps. Does that mean you should give up on your dreams? Definitely not.

But first, let’s look at some data. Unlike in the case of feeder companies, in case of undergrad, the data is even more scant unfortunately. This is partly since we are considering a much smaller subset of Indian candidates here.

As per a Forbes analysis (reference 1), the Harvard Business School Class of 2020 had 12 candidates from the IITs and hardly any from other Indian engineering colleges. At Stanford GSB, the number was just 4.

The going is indeed tough at these top schools where even those from our local top league colleges may not have much success. The story is more palatable back home at ISB where, per an analysis (reference 2), the Class of 2018 had 36 candidates apiece from IITs, NITs and VTU, with MIT (that’s Manipal Institute of Technology by the way) and SRM having 21 and 8 respectively.

You would notice in the above that we’ve restricted to engineering undergrads. Part of the reason is that those tend to be the majority in many MBA classrooms.

For instance, at ISB, nearly 70% of the class comes from an engineering background. The situation is not so dramatic at international programs with Harvard having about 40% STEM major and Stanford over 30%.

From an Indian perspective though, one can say that since our some of our engineering schools have achieved global visibility, that pool does tend to dominate at the international scene too – a more detailed look into this is something that may be the focus for another day (read, another article).

The data above shows to some extent, the difficultly being from a non-IIT/non-top tier Indian school may posit. Continuing on our earlier ABC series, let’s break down what you can do, if you don’t belong to one of these more favoured places.
 

How to get into top MBA programs without IIT, NIT, BITS engineering degree

The ABC of what to do if you don’t have a big undergrad brand on your resume?

 

A – Ace your game through numbers

Even if you don’t have a big brand, that’s not the end of the story. There are additional efforts you can undertake that can help you add some gold sheen to your academic profile.

The most basic of these is to ace your GMAT. Aim to score well above the average GMAT scores for your target programs.

Beyond those, the situation can vary depending on your professional profile and future plans. For instance, a CFA can add a lot of credibility to your academic profile. However, doing so if you are in a non-finance career now/in future, doesn’t really help.

We’ve seen a candidate use the CFA and FRM to his advantage for writing his success story at top Indian and US bschools. The basic issue is that such options are few and far between. But, where possible and available, do your best to ace the game.
 

B – Be honest about your background and how you’ve made the most of it

Yes, you are not from IIT and maybe from a no name college. Or, not from engineering background either, like Archana.

Is there a reason behind that?

Of course, schools won’t expect an explanation or rather a justification of why you didn’t pursue engineering.

However, since that tends to be a bit of default path for many in India, if you proactively chose to take the path less travelled, you may be able to use it to your advantage.

In fact, try your best to do so – this would require a deep dive into the past and devising a compelling story.

Alternatively, if you don’t have this, is there something you did to go beyond the means? Meaning, even if you were in a no-name college, how did you make the most of the relatively constrained options you may have had? Did you do something that very few in your college manage to do, ever?

While some of this is about time traveling to the past, it is always good to try and make the most of it while you have the time, meaning, if you are still in such a college.

This is what Karishma did to overcome several hurdles, including a relatively modest academic background as a freelancer. She had good extracurriculars in college and continued beyond it, making her interests as the main focus of her career. Weaving all these helped her make a winning application.
 

C – Compensate in ways, beyond academics

As you can see from this article on what matters in your MBA applications, undergrad college is only one of the several factors that go into making a winning attempt.

A good knowledge of this can help you overcome the particular hurdle of lack of brand in your past. These could involve making your way to a well known company as your employer. One can argue that one follows from another but, it’s not always the case.

The going can be tough sure, but you don’t have to give up. There are sufficient examples out there of people who’ve managed such achievements that they are not unique or one in a million levels.

Knowing your story means that you can overcome multiple hurdles, such as the no-name college as well as non-feeder company experience, and still make it big like CR Srinivasan did.
 
The bottom line is, while being from an elite college definitely helps, it’s not the end of the world and it’s certainly not the only filter.

Carefully consider all the components of your profile, start early and work on elements of the profile that may not be strong in the traditional sense.

Success will require harder effort for you, if you belong to this category. But then, chances are, your counterparts from elite colleges did the hard work in the past. There is balance in the world, you just need to find one for yourself!

Other than the few examples we’ve shared in this article, we’ve helped many applicants who are not from IIT, NIT, BITS or any other elite college. If you’d like us to help you in your journey, drop us an email: info at mbacrystalball dot com

Also read:
Will too much or too little work experience hurt your MBA admission chances?
Are MBA admission chances in Round 2 deadlines lesser than in Round 1?
 
References: 1, 2


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// MG (Manish Gupta)
MG (Manish Gupta)
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

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