Friday, September 26, 2008

Must read for Business school applicants

Everyday I get some very common questions on MBA applications and admissions with not so easy answers. Obviously everyone wants the most returns with least amount of effort. However, when it comes to B-school applications it not easy to judge where your effort is best spent. There is lot of judgement exercised by the admission committee in making their decisions and hence there is no objective answer on whether you can make it to so and so school based on your profile. Nevertheless people still ask the questions and I still attempt to answer several every week. I felt it might help some applicants if I post some guidance based on my experience. So here goes -

Q1: Can I get into so and so Business school. Here is my profile GMAT:X, GPA:Y , Experience 5 years in Z, Extra curricular A and B?

If it were so easy to grant admissions based on just the above information, trust me the admission committee of every school would not be spending hours and hours reviewing and discussing every application. Adcoms are looking for everything from your academics, your analytical skills, communication skills, quality of your work experience, your achievements on and off work and thought and reflection on your decisions. Why you have done the things you have and why you want to do things you have set out to e.g. pursue MBA etc.

Having said that you can to some extent ballpark your chances based on how you compare to the average applicant on some dimensions. Look at incoming class profiles (you will find the on the school websites in information for prospective candidates) for every school to determine how you compare with mean/median GPA, GMAT and work experience. This is only an indicator and does not give any concrete answers. Only way you will know for sure is to apply and give it your best shot.

Q2 Which schools should I apply to?

Apply to schools that you are really really excited about. Maybe its the teaching method, faculty, culture or people. Make sure it meets your career objective and it provides an atmosphere you can do well in. Pay some attention to whether you can get into the school by looking at the incoming student profile (refer previous question) but don't let that dictate your answer. As I mentioned in previous question its not just about a few parameters. Refer to my previous post 2007 and 2008 for my thinking on school choices.

Q3 How do I find out more about the school? How do I know if I fit?

The best place to start is the school website. Look at the resources for prospective applicants. What does the school say about itself. What is the teaching method, curriculum, culture, profile etc. What is the school philosophy and how does the school position itself. Rankings help here but see whats behind the rankings. Go to other sites on the web explore what is being said about the school. Blogs are a good source of this information. Some books also provide an overview of the school. Next, look at the things that are important to you based on where you are now and where you want to be. Examine different dimensions, not just career. Your fit or lack of it will start to come out. This research will put you in good stead when it comes to writing the essays.

Q4 What should I write in my essays

Each school has its own set of questions and is trying to find different information. Write a interesting story but keep it crisp. Dig deep and find out what drives you. The essays are insightful when you write not just what you want to do but why you want to do it. Think of incidents that shaped you and make you the person you are. Before you get down to the essays you should have resolved in your mind why you are pursuing MBA, what set of skills you have and those you looking for, what environment best suits you, and where you are headed long term and why? One thing I found helps in this introspection is to ask yourself 'why?' repeatedly till you fight the root driver of your feelings or thoughts.

Here's Sara Neher, Darden's admission director's advice on applicant essays

Useful links

Where do I start

Thinking about career goals

More to follow....

I'll keep adding to this post. Leave a comment if you want generic questions answered

1 Comment:

Christof Meyer said...

Good job Anand,

I especially think that your point about how you can't use a precise formula to predetermine whether you're going to get into such and such B-School is really helpful.

For whatever reason people always want life to be predictable, easy, and quick. Well... I got news for you, life is complex. Convincing the adcom of a top B-School is also complex. Pretty much everything in life is complex, so the best thing to do is get busy becoming the kind of person - on all fronts - that you'd let in to B-School if you were the chair of the Admissions committee.

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