Indian & Chinese MBA Applicants Face Much Higher Rejection Rates

MBA applicants from India and China face significantly higher rates of rejection by many top U.S. business schools than either domestic candidates or those from Europe or Latin America, according to a new study by Poets&Quants. In some cases, the acceptance rate for U.S. citizens is four to five times higher than the rate of acceptance for Indian and Chinese applicants.

At some prominent business schools, international applicants now outnumber those from the U.S. That’s the case at MIT Sloan, Duke University’s Fuqua School, and Michigan’s Ross School of Business. At Purdue University’s Krannert School nearly eight out of ten in its latest MBA applicant pool were international. At Washington University’s Olin School of Business, 70% of last year’s 1,490 applicants to its full-time MBA program were non-U.S.

Yet, at all of these prestige B-schools the percentage of international students who are admitted and enrolled fall far behind the percentage who apply. At Washington’s Olin School, for example, only 35% of the latest entering class is international–even though international candidates made up 70% of the school’s applicant pool. Although 53% of the 3,452 applicants to Fuqua’s full-time MBA program were international, only 30% of the students in this fall’s entering class are not from the U.S.


The rarely seen data on the makeup of the MBA applicant pool–as opposed to the actual students enrolled–comes from B-schools which have supplied this information for the first time to Bloomberg BusinessWeek. Not all schools agreed to hand over this data. Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and Columbia were among the top institutions that declined to provide this information. Yet, most business schools, including some of the most prominent, complied with the request to shed light on their applicant pools.


Though schools disclosed information for all their international applicants, admission officials say the major problem is with Indian and Chinese MBA candidates largely because there are so many of them. An internal admissions report obtained by Poets&Quants from a top ten business school certainly supports that conclusion. The report reveals that applicants from China and India are more than four to five times likely to be turned down for admission than either domestic applicants or those from Europe, Latin America, Africa or the Middle East.
Last year, for example, 20% of the applications received by the school were from China and other Asian countries while 22% were from India. The school’s acceptance rate for the Chinese and Indian applicants was 10% and 8%, respectively. The acceptance rate for U.S. citizens was 39%–four to five times higher.

International applicants from other regions of the world fared much better than the Asians. The school accepted 39% of its European applicants, and 26% of its applicants from Latin America and the Middle East. The overall acceptance rate was just a tad above 25%.

Admission officials say there are many reasons for the discrepancy between the size of the international applicant pool and the students ultimately enrolled at their schools, from a need to craft more balanced and diverse classes to language difficulties that make some international students less attractive to the job market. No less important, they say, is their own inability to meet the expectations of students from China and India to stay in the U.S. and gain visas to work here after graduation.


“We’re looking at it from the perspective of a corporate recruiter hiring our class two years later,” explains John Roeder, admissions director for Vanderbilt University’s Owen School of Business. At Owen, international applicants made up 45% of the 1,013 applicants who applied for admission to this fall’s entering class. But only 25% of the class is composed of international students.

  • John


  • YAYA

    @John A. Byrne , Thoughts?

  • YAYA

    Quick observation:
    Let’s look at Duke, for example. If 53% of the 3,452 applicants were international then roughly 1622 were US applicants. They made 865 offers If 30% of those that enrolled were international and lets say that 30% of the offers made were also to international applicants then 70%, or 605 offers were made to 1622 US applicants. This is suggesting that if you are a US applicant your acceptance rate is around 605/1622, or 37%. The acceptance rate would go higher if less than 30% of the offers were made to international residents. Is there a flaw in my thinking?

  • Vsv

    Why do we Indians run behind all these Schools, If we did have real talent wont we be in India and achieve greateness for our own country??? Its just a shame.. running behind dollars, think BIG! and build rupees!!! wake up

  • anIndian

    Not dumb at all considering the context. I am interested in knowing too. It depends on how Americans view us, (separate or together). I am an Indian and in USA I definitely feel connected to a Pakistani or an Afghanian.

    Another point, here all the Indians are commenting agreeing/disagreeing. i didn’t see any single Chinese perspective. Is Poetsandquants banned in Chine?

  • Avinash Tyagi

    Its completely true, if I were Black or Latino every school would be fighting to get me to come to their program

  • Avinash Tyagi

    You assume that Indians do not have those skills

  • AnonymousIndian


  • Reality Check -really?

    Mate, reality check in order. There is no way of explaining the staggering number of Indian CEOs running America’s largest companies (the latest being ofcourse Microsoft). Indians have made it to the top INSPITE of it all being made so hard for them. Go and compete with the next indian you find. Thats all I can say.

  • AnIndianWhoAcedCATandGMAT

    And NM lives in a cardboard box on the streets of New Delhi, smoking weed and thinking how cool and anti-establishment he is! Kudos mate, you just made it large, didn’t you?!

  • FacePalm

    The joke is MBA admissions people try to sound objective when they really are not. They ask you write essays on leadership crap, achievements etc. Ultimately none of that matters when they select. What they want has been highlighted in the article above. And there are duffers in India who question the need for meritocracy etc. etc… and the joke is this… name a branch of management (finance, operations, consulting, marketing, economics blah) and it is all rife with probability and math… It is only for the uninitiated who think management is just fancy bs that goes inside these colleges… and when it comes to number crunching all the time I doubt if meritocracy doesn’t matter?!!

    Also if not for meritocracy are all the jobs that are done outside based on drama/politics/creativity? Yes right politics is important no doubt… but then what is the need for a bell curve based review system if meritocracy has no value in the so called western world?! All that goes in the name of MBA admissions is pure BS, a money spinning and brand build exercise for these colleges. They can and never be objective in their selection criteria for obvious reasons.

    And contributing to the community?? Do you know which country is highly individualistic? US or India? Pls go and check Hofstede ratings if you have any doubt. All the applicants that I have interacted with had beefed up their extracurricular work just for the sake of admissions and most of it was all questionable…

    If you can do some objective research on this and prove what I write here is wrong then I am ready to write an apology comment as a follow up.

  • Novobugger

    Scoretop had more people from the US involved bugger!

  • Tarun M

    Exactly, business schools sound hypocritical with this non-transparency. I’m surprised schools haven’t found a way to avoid legal trouble while providing 4 lines of personalised feedback via email. Is that too much to ask after paying $200+?

  • Max

    It’s now 60 Rupees to a $

  • AmerigoVespucci

    Wow that was crappy! The pie is gonna get bigger and yes the Asians are gonna eat well from that pie

  • AnotherIndianWhoAcedGMAT

    Ha Ha NM , poor loser dude. I don’t wear eye glasses, I run marathons, I have a small start up and currently dating the sweetest girl in the world.And I aced GMAT too.

  • NM

    I think it is assholes like you who make Indians look bad. Typical loosers who are nothing but book geeks with eye glasses that are half an inch thick. For god’s sake, life is not only about acing the CAT or SAT or GMAT and then settling down in an Indian neighbourhood in NJ or San Fran and then saving money till you die.

  • Generalismo

    “In U.S. colleges, kids with great ideas act on them without waiting for someone else’s permission” Generalizing too much?

  • RationalSelfInterest

    And what’s wrong with 49Rs to a $? Isn’t that the whole point of the US? Land of Freedom and Opportunity? Pursuit of Happ”y”ness? The American dream? “Give me your tired hungry huddled masses, yearning for…ah nevermind !

  • SomeIndianWhoAcedGMAT

    Umm, I don’t know how to convince you but no the scores aren’t inflated or fudged for Indians(and I guess Chinese too). They are real. Perhaps you should consider these points:

    1) Indians in general are obsessed with excelling in exams. This comes from our centuries old caste system in which the most knowledgeable people belonged to the highest caste “Brahmins” (And not the richest or even the most bravest.)

    2) We have something called CAT for admissions to the top management programs in India. It is VERY quant heavy. And tons of people give that. Not to mention our engineering entrance exams which are quant heavy too. The GMAT quant level is so low that even a “good” 18 year old kid can ACE that section. No seriously, I mean it.

    3) English is spoken primarily in the urban areas in India but it is damn important. If you want any good job , as a lawyer or a civil servant or an engineer, you must know English. English is a very very important language in India and all urban schools teach 90% of all courses in English.My point is that English is NOT alien to urban Indians and we are good at it. So the verbal section isn’t a big pain either. It’s quite natural to us.

    4) Probably not an important reason , but GMAT is really expensive for an Indian’s POV. It is more than half a month’s salary of an average IT Indian professional. So we take it really seriously.

  • BITSianGettingIntoDukeFuckHua

    Hey BITSian, you are NOT a typical Mr.Indian.Stereotype . BITS Please!
    I have a suggestion for you. Don’t act like a typical Indian. Act International. Move beyond the “caste” system and entitlement mentality. Spend some time abroad and interact with “foreigners”

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  • Jimmy

    I think you should give that english improvement tip to his GMAT score of 780

  • Narsi

    You have a point about the extracurriculars, a practically relevant one – although you were being needlessly harsh on the ‘English needs improvement’ part; if I were you, I’d keep this appraisal off topic….

  • Narsi

    Interestingly, almost all of the points you mention as an example of achievements of rejected indian candidates, contain meritocratic elements – top class degree, GMAT of 780, CFA, etc. This to some extent, reflects the perception that is drilled into indian students most of the time that meritocracy should be a single minded goal and an achievement of which will ensure a slot in the best schools of the world, irrespective of what they specialize in. Business schools demanding the best of academic or similarly inclined achievements alone as a measurement of ability, will find it hard to remain relevant, considering the reality that management skill has little to do with self achievement as much as it has to do with fostering achievement in teams. In US, the education system has evolved over time, and gradually progressed to meet the real needs of society. Indian system is yet to mature (is definitely on its way), and the first sign of maturity would be to dilute competition and singular focus on academics and instilling the much needed relevance to community.

  • Karen

    Excellent points you bring out here. It’s commendable that these schools concern themselves with the realities of postgrad recruitment given the flak in recent years about law schools and trade schools not fully owning up to their liabilities to students who graduate deep in debt and unable to secure a targeted job.

    However i would think the B-schools must factor in for international students whose intentions are to earn their MBA in the US then apply it immediately in their home countries to gain advantage there.

  • dallasgirl

    I applied as an international applicant(Indian female), but I’m in the process of getting my permanent residency in US. By the time school starts(If I’m accepted) I believe I would be considered a domestic student rather than an international student. Do you think it is a good idea to let adcom members know about this change of status

  • reality check

    Right, which is why Indian applicants bring high test scores, and not other outstanding qualities…including leadership, community involvement, soft skills. I’ve worked at 3 top companies in the U.S. No one cares about your test scores on the day to day basis if you can’t be a natural social butterfly or have high-level strategic thinking and ACTION orientation. Having lived in India (as an Indian American), I found tons of IIT, DU, JNU male Indians who like to TALK about doing great things…none of them acted on it. In U.S. colleges, kids with great ideas act on them without waiting for someone else’s permission.

  • justsaying

    maybe your sense of entitlement and chip on your shoulder came across in your app, as they do here. did you have great extracurriculars. I find a lot of Indian citizen apps don’t….it’s just not as stressed in Indian or European high schools as it is in the U.S. Also, your English needs improvement…it’s…”if I WERE gay, European, or female…”

  • Ussi

    I know this is a dumb question but will Pakistanis and Bangladeshis be counted as ‘Indians’ too?

  • American Joe

    Having the hightest test scores may make someone one of the best engineers, but it does not make someone one of the best or most effective managers. A top-performing manager must have a “total” package that, while including analytic prowess must also include strong communication and soft skills (not just scoring on a test, but actually getting people to trust, like and follow you toward a goal) and the ability to easily adapt to different environments while relating to vastly different types and personalities of people almost instantaneously. Those abilities cannot be measured on a test; in fact, many of the highest scorers on exams are largely inept in these areas.

  • Dr.Sarkar

    This article has exposed what I was rightly suspecting about the top US business schools.Their selection of MBA applicants is neither transparent nor based on merit.How can they reject Indian students having GMAT of work experience at top MNC,Top class degree from a leading university of the world including one full year at stanford,a CFA from USA,and command over english language much better than most americans?.Thsese top US schools like HBS,Wharton,MIT ,Booth should claim themselves to be the best in the world.I have seen many american business executives with these US mba and found them no match to Indians with mba from IIMs in india and working in top MNCs.A school cannot claim to be the best without best meritorious students.American economy is down inspite of the HBS ,wharton and stanford mainly because they dont produce the really best managers and how can they do when they do racial profiling and do not select students purely on merit.Soon in another 10 to 15 years these US schools will loose out to IIMs of India,Inead,HKUST,NUS etc.

  • Getting a MBA degree has been on the top of the list of “achievements” for almost everybody.

  • Mr.Indian.Stereotype

    I’m an Indian Engineering undergrad student from a fairly prestigious college with a <2% admit rate. (Rank 1 privately owned, top 10 overall, ranked higher than the majority of IITs)

    It's not very well known outside Asia, though fairly well respected in the gulf/south-east asia. I'll be graduating with around a 3.2 (converted) GPA (which is fairly ok, class average would be around 2.3-2.4)

    What I really want to know is whether the presence of alums in the target university can aid my chances- atleast prevent an automatic ding based on GPA+haven'theardofthiscollegebefore… but what can I possible to minimize this possibility?

    (My college has around 60 guys in Stanford MS at any given time, produced a co-founder of hotmail, at least 3 billionaires, the Dean of Sloan's Finance division and, recently the youngest full prof at Wharton.)

    I don't want to keep blabbering about my alma mater when I apply, yet I don't want to be put in the 'no-name college' category.

  • Alois de Novo
  • Canadafrican


    Thanks very much for this article. I have two passports (Canadian and South African), and am wondering if there would be an advantage to applying as a South African. To be sure, I have worked as a Canadian diplomat for the last 7 years, hence this might seem odd. I did, however, spend my high school years in South Africa and my masters thesis focussed on the country’s post-apartheid transition.

    I would also be interested in your assessment of my chances of being accepted to top B-Schools. I have a 720 GMAT, but the breakdown is not pretty. I scored in the 59th percentile in the math section and well into the 99th percentile in the verbal section. I have a 3.7 undergrad GPA from McGill University (this was one of the highest GPAs in my program), and a 3.85 GPA from my McGill masters degree (half of which was completed at Science-Po, Paris). I have done foreign postings in Afghanistan (Media Relations Officer) and Israel (Senior Political Officer). I am a 31-year old male of Indian descent, though I have no formal ties to India beyond my genetics. My goal is to enter into the consulting world for a few years, to gain private sector experience. In the long run, I would like to explore how public-private partnerships can enhance international humanitarian/peacekeeping missions.

    Thanks in advance for any views you might have on the above.

  • Bangladeshi

    Hi John,

    I just came across this article and thought it gave a fascinating insight into MBA admissions policies.

    I am applying to several top 20 schools this year so I am interested in knowing your views on how a Bangladeshi candidate would be viewed? A few experts on the forums have told me there is a risk that I would be put into the Indian bucket.

    Given that B-schools have hardly any Bangladeshi students I actually thought it could look a bit unique, especially since I have no IT background and did my undergrad in the U.S.

    Not that I can do anything about my background, but it would be interesting to know regardless.


  • vik

    ^^ First of all there is no specific cut-off GMAT score in most of the universities. While higher might be better, 710 is quite a solid score even for the top schools, at least you can not get a reject directly based on that score. This applies for all the nationals, be them Indian/ Chinese. You know, 760 means 99%. Please do not make us believe that if one is an Indian/ Chinese and can not score >=760, his chance becomes zilch. Anything above 700 will make one competitive in GMAT perspective. There are loads of other staffs in your profile, Adcom will consider. Tell me from the Adcom’s point of view who will make the cut: an Indian IT Male with 790 GMAT score and 3.9+ GPA and no significant extra-curriculars/ int’l experience or an Indian with 710 GMAT/3.5 GPA/Significant NGO works in Africa/ transatlantic experience/ Speaking ability in French, German, Hindi, English.

  • IndianAbroad

    The average cut-offs do not tell the complete story, most schools have different GMAT cut-offs for different countries.. while a 710 cut-off may be applicable to students applying form Europe and America, Indian and Chinese students have a higher cut-off at around 760.

  • Go Joe

    Hi John,

    I like your website. Dedicated to MBA aspirants….

    I dont really have a question just need advice. I applied to Ross Business School round 1 and was one of the first to be interviewed. I am sure that I did not blow the interview yet I do not think I nailed it.

    Waiting is never fun. Even Christmas is not enough to distract my mind. As with any waiting scenarios, it is never fun. I kept trying to figure out my chances. My GMAT is pretty low. Between 630 to 650. Every night I toss and turn at that!

  • Anonymous Reader,

    Not at all. Of course, international students are applying to multiple schools but so is everyone else in the applicant pool. Ideally, of course, one would have the actual data that would show acceptance rates for each group of applicants. But in the absence of that data (you can’t get it except in the one unidentified case of a top ten school where I was able to get my hands on this), this is the best we can do.

  • Annonymous Reader

    Isn’t the data scewed if it is based on Enrollment rather than Admittance? International students could be applying to multiple schools, getting admitted to the programs, but choosing a different school.

  • Undergrad Student

    I am an Indian citizen and I’m currently getting my bachelors in the United States at a Top 30 University on a Student Visa. My major isn’t in the Sciences but it is still pretty quant heavy (Econ). I’m pretty active in Student Government etc. I have a couple of Philosophy Dept. awards if that means anything.

    I don’t anticipate getting a Green Card by the time I apply to B-School but should the fact that I’m not the stereotypical IIT applicant help?

    Is there anything we can do to distinguish ourselves?

  • fromTokyo

    And you know the most interesting fact? … the admitted international student percentage -> actually a lion’s share is filled up by the foreign students who already studied in the US or worked in the US!

    All these crappy sweet statements from AdComs on diversity – just forget about those, … all coming from air to inspire more applicants to apply – so that schools can show off to the world how MANY applicants applied and how LOW their acceptance rate is (that is, how COMPETITIVE (read BIASED) they are)!

  • Sandy,

    Certainly, someone who has a Green Card who alleviate concerns that the student couldn’t be placed in the U.S. market. So if someone has a Green Card, they should make that clear in the application process.

  • Sandy

    John – a lot of the rejection is linked to the H1B visa related issues. How about Green Card holders in the USA who dont have any visa related issues?

  • 2012App,

    As a U.S. citizen, I don’t believe you would face the same issues. That fact alone immediately takes you out of the pile. Good luck to you!

  • Ranjit

    Thanks for that answer. I get it now. Its not being Indian or Chinese that is the problem. The problem is that too many applicants from these countries are too similar for many bschool adcoms to like. That combined with the fact that these two countries usually have the most number of applicants makes rejection rates for these two nationalities the highest………


  • 2012App

    Thanks for the great article. Quick question – would an applicant such as myself (a US citizen, half Chinese half white, but with a legal Chinese name) face similar issues?

  • Ranjit,

    I think it does matter a lot. But not because those travels and experiences take you out of the Indian bucket. Instead, they allow you to more clearly differentiate yourself among many applicants who unfortunately look alike. for any individual applicant, getting yourself out of the pile and noticed is extremely important.


  • Ranjit

    Hi John,
    I was reading the comments on this article. I was wondering if you or anyone else reading this could comment on my question:
    Like myself, there is a pretty sizable number of applicants who are Indian citizens, have never lived in India but in other places like the Middle East. How are these applicants viewed by adcom committees?

    In my own case, I was born and brought up in Dubai, studied in Dubai and the US and work in Houston for about 3 yrs. I also have a green card. Will I also be viewed in the same pool as applicants applying from India or will I be seen differently?

    Please let me know.


  • Eric

    @ Dingtwiced

    I am not happy about it, but sometimes I think that it is okay and not worth dwelling on. We all are born with certain disadvantages and certain other advantages. I will make the best I can with the opportunities that are available to me.

    These are truly words of wisdom. You will do well no matter where you go.


  • Consider this:

    You walk into a college classroom where most of the faces are Indian and Chinese (or “South Asian” and “East Asian” for the more broad term – and in this context, it’s not really a question of citizenship i.e. Indian-American vs Indian but of race).

    If you were a recruiter for Goldman Sachs, McKinsey, Apple or any global company, would you perceive this school to be MORE or LESS prestigious? If you were a recruiter where post-MBA jobs are managerial and become more relationship-based (not analytical/technical), and where the key contacts your company corresponds with (investors, Board members, clients, customers, government officials) are mostly white (American or European), or at least a sprinkling of various nationalities and cultures (but still mostly white), would you be more willing to hire students from this classroom, or would you be more inclined to recruit from a similar caliber of school where there were more white faces in the class?

    Now, if you were an applicant and walked into this very same classroom, would you perceive this school to be more prestigious or have an “exclusive” brand compared to a class that is more diverse (or where at least half were white)? As an applicant, would your opinions be different depending on your own race or nationality (which gets into the ugly truth that even in non-white countries, the perception of prestige and exclusivity is still defined by whether white people will buy it). And if b-school classrooms looked more like MS-Engineering programs (where the overwhelming majority are Indian/Chinese), would that increase or decrease the likelihood of you applying to a highly selective business school? (Note that “highly selective” and “prestigious” can be related but are not synonymous.)

    And herein lies the ugly truth of race, prestige and admissions.

    For business schools, and especially those in the very top tier like Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, and so forth – a big part of ensuring that their MBA programs stay relevant is to maintain their perceived prestige (exclusivity), because as we all know – while having an MBA can be of value, it’s not necessary for success in business, as amply shown by countless examples of incredibly successful entrepreneurs and executives out there without any formal business education. The perception of exclusivity for b-schools is rooted in the assumption that blue chip white males/females are the people others (regardless of background) want to be associated with. And that feeds on itself – the more of these people who apply, the more it will attract others to apply (including Asians), which creates a “network” which b-schools will then trumpet as something invaluable to its students (who are then networking with each other).

    That’s why b-school admissions is more like the selection process for a private club: a country club, the freemasons, a hot nightclub (bring in all the hot girls, groups of guys are left standing in line), motorcycle club, or any sort of private organization. They can admit and reject whomever they want, and constantly change the parameters for admission to suit their needs (which isn’t to graduate the “best and brightest” but to maintain that perception of prestige). Business school admissions is NOT a meritocracy, and it never really was, since the admissions process by nature is subjective and a “black box” if there ever was one.

    When it comes to race and admissions, it’s not about trying to marginalize white or Asian applicants in the name of diversity – that seems to be a common refrain from many detractors who feel that adcoms are on some socialist, pinko, leftist agenda to admit as many “blacks, Hispanics and lesbian paraplegics” (of course, all mentioned in a derogatory tone by these very detractors) into b-school over more qualified white and Asian candidates –which is simply not the case because that is not what recruiters want, and it’s not what will ensure that applicants see these b-schools as “prestigious” (which will ensure that these schools continue to receive a crapload of applications each year).

    In short, top MBA programs want their schools to be *diverse* (read: mostly or at least half white) rather than *ethnic* (read: mostly non-white) – that helps to ensure perceived prestige and exclusivity in our current culture of how we view the relationship between race and status symbols, which then helps to attract the maximum number of applicants as well as the most “exclusive” (read: highest paying) corporate recruiters. That is partly why they also are looking at younger candidates: it’s a way of reaching into the blue chip American pool (white kids with Ivy/equivalent backgrounds) to ensure that their numbers don’t drop off to the point where b-school has to start looking like an MS-Engineering program – the less white people in the applicant pool, the more “ethnic” they have to go. This is ugly to say, but it’s what is bubbling underneath all of this.

    The one big silver lining to all this is that how we perceive race changes over time – it’s not static, but fluid. Even now, for many b-schools, the incoming classes are no longer overwhelmingly white, but again, the schools are “diverse” and not “ethnic”.

    One example of how perceptions changed is that of the Jewish community – from “ethnic” to “mainstream.” Ivy League schools in the post-WWII era had a reputation for an unspoken two tiered admissions standard as a way to stem the influx of Jewish students for the very same reason: the perception of prestige. Many of these Jewish kids had as strong if not stronger credentials than their white counterparts to the Ivy League’s law and medical schools (b-schools back then were a bit of a backwater), but would still be underrepresented in these classrooms relative to the applicant pool. And yet, within a generation, that bias (at least when it comes to university admissions) has all but disappeared by the early 1980s.

    With race and prestige today, I am confident it will change as the economic and cultural input of non-Western communities is considered mainstream, but this is where we’re at right now. So who knows, maybe in 10-15 years time, these biases may disappear altogether at least in this context of university admissions.

  • Nagender Kaushik


    I am a new entrant into the MBA arena. I have Indian nationality, close to 4 years of cross-cultural work experience in US and India, MS degree from US (very reputed school in North East) and bachelors degree in IT. Presently, working for global Telecom major in India and eying top universities in North America for possibly 2012-13. I have first hand experience when it comes to difficulties one might face with respect to job hunting as getting right quality work and sponsor can be a tricky business especially in present uncertain times. I think schools do prefer to have that American look and to be fair to them, every country gives its citizens some advantages over foreigners. Kudos to the schools who are providing details about their intake mechanism at least when dealing with foreigners. Someone stated that people from other countries generally end up getting inflated GMAT scores ..I don’t know about others, but, I will have to work very hard to get a great GMAT score 🙂

  • Waseem

    Thanks for your reply. More importantly thanks for the great work – just love reading your articles.
    I’d be interested and I’m sure other applicants would as-well on some indepth analysis on how important the gmat is for the top 10. For example, I’ve been told unless you are a female from Western Europe or a US minority or military, a score below the top 80% range or indeed a 700 is virtually an automatic no. I know schools will never reveal their policy but I’m sure some of the B School factories such as Wharton and CBS scan based on gmat alone.

  • Marv

    Extremely helpful and insightful article. John what would be your views on my application I was raised for a few years in the UK , did my undergrad in Dairy Technology in India, then a Masters in Food Science from Ireland, specializing in Cheese science and now I am working in California for a private food company. However my GMAT is 620. I am working on making all other aspects impeccable. I was an avid public speaker in college who overcame his stammer. How would you evaluate my case ? Constructive inputs from everyone are welcome.

  • vik

    ^^ I think that Pakistani people don’t fall under the above mentioned highly competitive bucket. In India, especially, IT people with a BE/B.Tech and 4-5 years of experience, form a large part of the applicant pool. You can see that the most have similar profiles with engineering education, hi-tech IT jobs, a little/ no extra-curricular activities, high GMAT and quant skill, certifications etc.. I do not think that you will be viewed as the same with the above category, provided that Pakistani applicants form a cohort of significantly less number.

  • Waseem,

    Of course. I believe a Pakistani would be placed in a completely different bucket. So you wouldn’t get caught up in the problem that candidates from India and China are facing. Good luck to you!


  • Waseem

    John / Anyone – Pls can you offer your thoughts on whether Pakistani’s are considered within the Indian bucket of applicants? I am a Pakistani but based in London. Curious to know where I’d be placed. Thanks in advance for your courtesy to reply.

  • SW,

    Thanks much for sharing your observations. I think you make some very important points here.


  • SW

    I studied at a top 10 US MBA. From what I’ve seen, I can say that the biggest reason adcoms don’t want to admit too many internationals, especially Indian and Chinese, is their employability after graduation. Most of the internationals at my school struggled to get internships and full-time offers and had to go back to their home countries after graduation. The reason, apart from the visa problem? Cultural fit and communication skills that hindered them during the recruiting process. Companies look for people who will fit in their organizations and many of these applicants couldn’t show that they would be able to integrate into the culture of a US company.

    Another problem was verbal communication skills. Indians fared better here, but I saw many Chinese students who were really bright, but whose verbal skills were very poor. And all these people had GMAT scores of 740 and above, so the test does not tell the whole story. And bear in mind that these people were the ones that the school chose to admit, i.e. they were among the best applicants in the pool.

    Being smart is not enough – companies want people who would be able to communicate seamlessly with their teammates on the job. It didn’t help that most of these students didn’t make the attempt to integrate into the broader student population and would cluster together with others of their own nationality. The ones that had the most success in the job search were those that had studied in the US for undergrad. Schools are just being pragmatic about their admissions process – they don’t want to admit people who will not be able to find jobs afterwards and that’s why they try to pick the most employable candidates. So if your English is not fluent close to the level of a native speaker (nobody cares about your accent as long as it’s easy to understand), I’d say you need to work on your verbal communication skills or be prepared to be disappointed during the recruiting process. This is reality and I saw many internationals admit it at the end of the program, when they decided to go back home, but now with a student debt of $150K.

  • Adam S.

    Hi John. Thanks for the article. Was wondering
    If Indians applying from the middle east stand
    A better chance?

  • Raghu,

    Thanks for your thoughts and insight.


  • This is a timely article. Thanks for writing it, John. You have addressed an important aspect of graduate admissions. At Babson College, our 2 year MBA program has 49% international students several of whom received scholarships. GMAT data for the last year has 55% interntional test takers and when you segment by score (600+ for us) the numbers get somewhat skewed. The larger question is whether we are doing enough to prepare our students for a globalized world? We are not. 62% of the world’s population lives in Asia and when they can, they speak English with an accent!

  • Waseem

    I want to know whether PAKISTANI’s are placed into the India bracket or they are considered more in line with the MENA bucket (Middle East North Africa) thanks

  • Waseem

    What pool is a Pakistan applicant put into? I think its unfair if Pakistani applicants are placed into the India bucket.

  • randolph

    Perhaps the heavy focus on quant in the Indian/Chinese school systems comes at a cost. That is, subjects that are “softer” in nature are overlooked, resulting in less “well-rounded” students from these applicant pools.

  • prolificsoul

    Hi everybody.

    It was nice going through this discussion & after I pondered over this issue, thought well to put across my perspective about the matter. In my opinion, there nothing conclusive that comes out of many comments nor has the author gone ahead to validate any concrete stand & if one were to add up the merits & demerits of what is implied by the author, this article seems to be only informative one sided, but yes, very intriguing.

    We may not deny the fact that the global population has crossed 7 billion & every third person belongs to India/China & if one were to compare the quality of education imparted at top Indian/Chinese b-schools with other global schools, factoring the extreme competition for few coveted seats offered, we may not be wrong in justifying this increase in number of applicants.

    Information transparency has led to knowledge crossing borders more easily than before, its rate being much higher than what changes b-schools/educational institutions can bring about in terms of accommodating this increase. I’m saying this because by the time the no of top education institutes come up in India/China, their population would have increased abysmally. Not only that, the population would have become smarter, better & more qualified.

    So, as per me, this change is to be taken with a pinch of salt & b-schools should select people based on individual merit rather than trying to prove the point of ‘diversity’ in their classrooms. In no way Indian/Chinese students ought to be rejected when they have potential, but if one were to prioritize diversity in class with the analogy that doing so brings about quality discussions, might have reasons to reject better candidates.

    It is only when we look at education from a higher i.e. a global point of view, would we actually understand my reasoning that in times to come there may be no boundaries or barriers as far as knowledge exchange/information is concerned & people in the remotest areas would be able to comprehend a MIT doctoral student’s hypothesis, partially though, and therefore would know about, analyse & hone their capabilities to reach the top institutes which are based, mostly, in other parts of the world.

    Good luck!!….

  • Indian/British

    Telecom_guy, Stu – I am also half-Indian, half-British but I was born in the US and thus have US citizenship. I attended a top MBA program and admissions loved the fact I could bridge the cultural gap between the Indian, European and American students. Admissions will love the diversity but the bottom line is, if you are not a US citizen you will require Visas and sponsorship to live and upon completion of your MBA work in the US. This will raise the stakes for any MBA program or employer to consider you as a viable candidate.

  • Stu


    I’m sorta in the same boat. Half-British, half-Indian, born and raised in the UK.

    I actually think being mixed might strengthen the odds. If you’ve got significant numbers of Americans and Indians in a class, then who better to bridge the divide than someone who knows both!?

  • Telecom_guy

    Does this data apply specifically to Indian/Chinese citizens, or also to those of Indian origin? I am a Canadian citizen of Indian origin, and was considering applying to b-school in the US for the 2013 admission cycle. I’m assuming the adcoms are looking for racial diversity in their classrooms, so I’m probably looking at poor odds of admission =(

  • Johann Adler

    One of the points made in this article is that it is very difficult for foreign students to find jobs in the US after graduation. Given that most of the top 30 b-schools in the US boast around 90% employment placement of their graduates, and that foreign students make up about 25-30% of their students, what really is the claim here? That the ones admitted are selected so that they are the ones that can land jobs, or that if more were admitted that would exceed the number of jobs potentially available to foreigners? Or are the foreign students somehow not included sufficiently in the jobs data?

  • Adam S.

    Hi John. Thanks for a very insightful article.
    I am an Indian myself, with work experience
    in Dubai & Bahrain and basic Arabic skills.
    I am applying to B-school from the Middle East.
    Will this in anyway help me stand out from
    the regular Indian applicant pool?

  • Tans,

    Thanks much for your thougtfulbcomments. They add a lot to the conversation here.

  • Tanis Kmetyk

    Thanks for a terrific article.

    As an admissions consultant dealing exclusively with international applicants (I’m based in Europe), these are issues I deal with daily. I put a lot of energy into managing expectations, so seeing schools do the same (“No less important, they say, is their own inability to meet the expectations of students from China and India to stay in the U.S. and gain visas to work here after graduation.”) is major. I appreciate their transparency and hope that more schools will follow suit. No matter how great the international applicants are -and many are amazing- their chances of landing a job in the US post grad are low.

    It’s no secret that the Indian/Chinese profiles have a far higher bar to clear, but I’d like to weigh in on a few things.
    – I second the general comments on the quantitative strength of the Asian/Indian school system.
    – I have rarely had reason to suspect a good GMAT score in spite of having seen hundreds, if not thousands, of applications over the years.
    – Language skills are important but many Indian apps have been schooled in English, so let’s not confuse “language” and “accent.”
    – Obsessiveness with test results/scores is bred into these applicants from childhood. It’s not about to change.

    – One angle not mentioned is that not only do many of the Indian/ Chinese apps have similar academic backgrounds and test scores, but they also have extremely similar extra-curriculars and community activities. Not to cast dispersion on some wonderful initiatives and organizations, but when the same names show up in the same group, year after year, it dilutes the message.

    Ultimately, the best advice here comes from dingedtwice: “We all are born with certain disadvantages and certain other advantages. I will make the best I can with the opportunities that are available to me.”

    Well said.

    Tanis Kmetyk

  • MBA Aspirant 2012

    @Alois, I might disagree a bit. Even in India, what you learn in IIT-Bombay may be different from what you learn in IIT Delhi. How a manufacturing guy in a pharma firm solves a problem maybe different from how a manufacturing guy in automotive firm solves a problem.

    To help you understand, take your profession. How an Indian admissions consultant looks at an Indian profile is different from how a Foreign consultant looks at the same Indian profile.

    My point is, it is a valuable experience to learn the same things through different perspectives, as it broadens your mind and helps you develop a mindset especially if you want develop a global business. Foreign universities have certain plus points that Indian Institutes do not, and Indian Institutes have some that maybe foreign universities lack. In the end I think it is a personal choice how an individual views his career and considers what steps he/she should take to walk that path.

    (PS: I know Indians with very good profiles and financially well off, but opting to go for Indian B schools rather foreign B schools because they want to focus their careers only in Indian localized business)

  • mbahopeful,

    While I have no data to back this up, I can tell your with some assurance based on my interviews with admission officials that the odds are not stacked against you as they are against Chinese and Indian applicants. That’s largely because there are relatively few Malaysians and Indonesians who apply to the top business schools. The largest single reason for the higher rejection rates for those who apply from India and China is simply that schools are overwhelmed with candidates from those two countries.

  • mbahopeful

    Interesting article. I would be interested to know what the chances are for non-Chinese and non-Indian Asians like myself are. It is evident that Chinese and Indian applicants make up a significant portion of the applicant pool, and therefore find it harder to stand out. But I wonder if Malaysians/Indonesians/Filipinos/Thais face the same difficulty, given that there are far fewer applicants coming from these countries. Any thoughts?

  • Sandy

    Agree with you on all points. Also agree with Robert on foreign students not minging with others. And Indian students being a touch more obsessed with GMAT scores and at times being hyper-competitive.

  • Alois de Novo

    @Sandy and Pradeep — Although b-school may not be law school, it ain’t rocket science. Nearly any Ivy grad, even an English or philosophy major, is capable of doing well at any b-school, particularly HBS.There is no reason for an arms race in quant skills because b-school will forever be a stone age pursuit.

    @MBA Aspirant 2012 — There is simply no such thing as a “world class education.” Education, in fact. is a commodity — you’re likely to learn as much in Bangalore or Mumbai as you’ll learn in Cambridge, Mass. The only real difference between schools has to do with regional affiliation. Stanford is dominant on the West Coast just as Harvard and Wharton are dominant on the East Coast (yes, I know there are exceptions). In any case, the realities of US immigration policy make it unlikely that most foreign students will be in a position avail themselves in the advantages of their school’s regional affiliation.

  • Robert

    I sat in on a 2nd year class at UT McCombs recently and observed Indian and Chinese students present a case. They struggled using the English language, making it extremely difficult to understand what was being said. Furthermore, I noticed these students were outcast- rather than mixing with the rest of the class they sat off to the side. Their team consisted of the other foreign students in the class who could not speak English well, rather than mixing with the others.

  • Sandy,

    Thanks for your very thoughtful comments.

  • ak

    I’m very curious as to how applicants from these countries that have US citizenships fare. In other words, does this bias also extend to asian americans?

  • Sandy


    Very insightful, I think that given the shape of the global economy (esp. in the USA), it is only fair for B-schools to manage expectations and not promise the sky. There are two aspects to this – one is the possibility of getting rejected during the application process (much higher if you are a foreign applicant) and the other is to not find a job upon graduation from these stellar institutions. I personally know friends at MIT, Kellogg and Wharton who could not land a job upon graduation. They are all VERY bright, very capable and will be more successful over a ten year period than their classmates. But bottom-line, they could not land a job in the US. So life is certainly difficult, and yes, all is not fair in this world. So, it is then the duty of the B-schools to openly communicate these challenges when they go overseas to woo candidates.

    Were there other schools that did not participate or provide data for this study?

    I agree with Pradeep and Dingedtwice, the quantitative prep in India/China is ten times better due to more rigorous selection from schools to top colleges. The US schools can’t do without foreign students who are more global in outlook and better prepared for an MBA than the local students who are slightly oblivious to the world outside the USA (can’t blame them, the US B-school curriculum is very US-centric. Its only recently that HBS has got more foreign case studies than from the US, and its only now that the schools organize meaningful study trips to East Europe, Middle East and Asia). Therefore, it is only fair on part of the ADCOMs at various top schools to be open about the challenges for foreign students (both in terms of getting in and in terms of getting a job).

  • hawk nation

    As a current MBA student at a supposedly top 30 school, I think I can add a bit to this topic. In my class, the vast, and I mean the vast majority of foreign students are from India. All Engineer geeks. Their command of English is on par with the domestic students-minus the accent, of course. But I have to tell you, and this must be a cultural thing, they drive me up a wall. Very bright young men and women, but their ambition is only matched by their selfishness. They are incapable of making a decision without million hours of debate, will sabotage any class discussion or a group meeting for their own benefit, and the competition and backstabing that occurs amongst themselves is hard to believe. Again, just my opinion.

    I asked one of them, why are they so determined to stay in the U.S? His response: 49 rupies to a dollar.

  • dingedtwice

    Roeder says that language skills are a problem. That is not true. There are many applicants from countries other than India and China that also do have accents or other language or communication difficulties. There are Americans with language problems who cannot compose grammatically correct sentences who still get into good business schools. George Bush went to Harvard.

    The real reason is that there are a huge number of applicants from India and China. In fact, white males from the consulting and finance industries also face the same difficulty. There are way too many of them applying to business school.

  • dingedtwice

    As a member of one of these groups, I have experienced this. 99th percentile GMAT, grad degree engineering, experience in 2 startups, dinged twice by a top ten business school. We call ourselves ‘MIT’s for male, Indian, techies. I did get into a second tier program. If only I was gay, or European, or female, or into sustainability, or non-profit, (or a liar), a better school would have admitted me. I am not happy about it, but sometimes I think that it is okay and not worth dwelling on. We all are born with certain disadvantages and certain other advantages. I will make the best I can with the opportunities that are available to me.

  • MBA Aspirant 2012

    Hey all, I am an Indian applicant. I guess this article is informative. There are trends and trends do change. Authenticity of standardized exams can be relied upon. And I think it is normal for anyone to have ambitions and desire to get world class education. If the talk is about numbers, the percentage of Indians or Chinese applying to foreign B schools will be a small percentage of their individual country population, as compared to US applicants percentage of US population.

  • John,
    Thank you for your analysis of this issue. I think any MBA admissions consultant, like myself, who works with both US and International applicants knows that the hurdles for international applicants are often much greater. It is great to see some actual numbers tied to it.

    Indian applicants, especially males, face immense difficulties with this process compared to any other group I work with. Their often excellent academic credentials, GMAT scores (which are as completely real as those from anywhere else), and employment records compare favorably to the American clients I work with, but everyone (including most certainly the applicants) knows they are not being treated equally.

    Maintaining class diversity is a real need for any school and one that is understandable. On the other hand, helping applicants understand the actual level of difficulty they face is something that any MBA program should be able to do. The schools that provided this data have done a service to applicants. The schools that have not, continue to engage in the sort of non-transparent practices that their professors, no doubt, would criticize in other industries.
    -Adam Markus, Admissions Consultant and Blogger

  • Pradeep

    @Alois de Novo

    I can understand the American paranoia of more qualified Indian and Chinese applicants coming in. But calling their GMATs fake? You should go, get a life. I’ve personally seen my Indian friends ace the GMAT with little to no prep. Its just that India’s high school/college curriculum is way more quantitative than that of any other country.

  • Alois de Novo

    This is one of the reasons why getting into the best schools, the H/S/Ws, isn’t really so hard if you’re an American and you’re not a reach applicant. Admission to the “best” b-schools is not a Rhodes.

    Whether this is unfair is a matter of perspective. One view is that these are American schools and they should give priority to American applicants, if only because the US tax code shields them as non-profits. Another is that American schools should be culturally American (I never enjoyed science classes at my undergrad because of the foreignness of the faculty). And then there’s a sense that GMAT scores (and possibly other credentials) of Chinese and Indian applicants are inexplicably inflated. Remember the ScoreTop scandal a few years back? Nobody believes GMATs from those countries are real.

  • Horace Greely

    What do you mean inferred? It’s crystal clear. If these kids spend $120,000 to go to school here with the expectation of employment, that is immoral. They won’t get to stay. It is principled of admissions not to bait and switch them, would be easy to take their money. Normal distribution assures nations with 1.5 billion people have roughly 5X the students 4 deviations from the mean on the intelligence scale, but can they speak English, are they sociopaths, etc.

    Just can’t take them in proportion.

  • jake clawson

    “No less important, they say, is their own inability to meet the expectations of students from China and India to stay in the U.S. and gain visas to work here after graduation.”

    what can be inferred from these lines ? . shame on top b schools and our American b school directors .