Indian & Chinese MBA Applicants Face Much Higher Rejection Rates

by John A. Byrne on

School Total 2011 




Int’l Students 




Washington (Olin) 1,490 70% 35% -35
Emory (Goizueta) 968 58% 34% -24
Duke (Fuqua) 3,452 53% 30% -23
USC (Marshall) 1,826 44% 21% -23
Boston University 1,322 59% 36% -23
Michigan (Ross) 2,929 55% 33% -22
Purdue (Krannert) 679 78% 58% -20
Vanderbilt (Owen) 1,013 45% 25% -20
Texas-Austin (McCombs) 2,253 40% 24% -16
UNC (Kenan-Flagler) 1,720 47% 32% -15
MIT (Sloan) 4,490 52% 38% -14
New York (Stern) 4,416 41% 28% -13
Northwestern (Kellogg) 4,490 45% 34% -11
UCLA (Anderson) 2,727 47% 36% -11
Univ. of Washington (Foster) 558 38% 27% -11

Source: Business schools reporting to Bloomberg BusinessWeek
Notes: Table shows the percentage of international students in the most recent applicant pool for each business school and the percentage of international students who enrolled in the latest entering class in the fall of 2011


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  • 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?

  • 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.

  • John A. Byrne

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.


  • 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.

  • Alois de Novo
  • 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.

  • Top B Schools in India

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Ussi

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

  • 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…”

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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….

  • Jimmy

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

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  • 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”

  • 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.

  • 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 !

  • Generalismo

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • AmerigoVespucci

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

  • Max

    It’s now 60 Rupees to a $

  • 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+?

  • Novobugger

    Scoretop had more people from the US involved bugger!

  • 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.

  • 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?!

  • 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.

  • AnonymousIndian


  • Avinash Tyagi

    You assume that Indians do not have those skills

  • Avinash Tyagi

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

  • 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?

  • 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

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