London Business School | Mr. Midwest Engineer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.69
Stanford GSB | Ms. Access To Opportunities
GRE 318, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Low GPA To Stanford
GMAT 770, GPA 2.7
UCLA Anderson | Mr. International PM
GMAT 730, GPA 2.3
Harvard | Mr. Policy Development
GMAT 740, GPA Top 30%
Cambridge Judge Business School | Mr. Champion Swimmer
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Future VC
GMAT 750, GPA 3.6
USC Marshall | Mr. Low GPA High GMAT
GMAT 740, GPA 2.44
Tuck | Mr. Product Marketer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.1
Wharton | Ms. Finance For Good
GMAT 730, GPA 3.7
MIT Sloan | Mr. NFL Team Analyst
GMAT 720, GPA 3.8
Chicago Booth | Mr. Consulting Hopeful
GMAT 720, GPA 3.6
Kellogg | Mr. Tech Auditor
GRE 332, GPA 3.25
Wharton | Mr. Senior Analyst
GMAT 750, GPA 3.2
NYU Stern | Mr. Washed-Up Athlete
GRE 325, GPA 3.4
UCLA Anderson | Mr. Southern California
GMAT 710, GPA 3.58
Ross | Mr. Brazilian Sales Guy
GRE 326, GPA 77/100 (USA Avg. 3.0)
INSEAD | Mr. Fraud Associate
GMAT 750, GPA 8/10
Wharton | Ms. Project Mananger
GMAT 770, GPA 3.86
Chicago Booth | Mr. Average White Guy
GMAT 680, GPA 3.2
Stanford GSB | Mr. AIESEC Alumnus
GMAT 750, GPA 3.38
Kellogg | Mr. Brazilian Banker
GMAT 600, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Upward Trajectory
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Fish
GRE 327, GPA 3.733
Harvard | Mr. Community Impact
GMAT 690, GPA 3.0
IMD | Mr. Gap Year To IMD
GMAT 660, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Italian In Tokyo
GMAT (710-740), GPA 4.0

The Gatekeeper At The Indian School of Business

V.K. Menon, senior director of careers, admissions & financial aid

V.K. Menon, senior director of careers, admissions & financial aid

When applicants are turned down for admission to the Indian School of Business, they often call or email V.K. Menon, senior director of careers, admissions and financial aid. Sometimes, he says, there is shock because their test scores and undergraduate records are among the best in the world. More often than not, they seek clarity as to why they didn’t make the cut.

“The more adventurous guys always call,” says Menon, from his small, corner office at the school. “It’s more of an ‘I’d-like-to-know kind of call. We give them feedback and advice because we have a friendly re-applicant system. So they can improve their candidacy for the next time.”

One of the most challenging things the school is trying to convey is that a high GMAT score isn’t enough to get a candidate into the Indian School of Business. For a nation where young people routinely focus on rote drilling and test-focused exercises, that can sometimes be a hard sell. But Menon says the GMAT only accounts for about 30% of the weight in the school’s admissions decisions.


“The GMAT is not a make-or-break part of our decision making,” he says. “The guy with a 600 score has a chance of making it here, while a guy with a 780 might not make it. At the end of the day, there are a whole lot of qualitative assessments the director has to make.”

That can cause a good deal of head scratching among Indian applicants who have spent the better part of their lives taking board exams and tests and trying to be among the top 5% or 10% of their classes. “The problem is that the domestic mindset is all around test scores,” says Menon, a former executive with Philips and U.S. West, who had lectured at a business school in Mysore before joining ISB. “They think if you crack an exam, you make it. It’s difficult for us to tell them that it’s not a single-score selection. That’s our strongest challenge.”

Menon says the primary focus of admissions is on “three buckets”—academic analytics, including GMAT, GPA, and exam scores, leadership ability, including promotions at work and involvement in extracurricular activities, and finally the personal interview used to assess a candidate’s communication skills and presence. Each of the three buckets is ultimately assigned a score that is used to determine whether or not a candidate gets through the screen.


In a typical year, ISB will accept about 22% of its 4,100 applicants to draw together a class of about 770 students. When applications come in, they are immediately divided up into four pools:  P1, P2, P3, and P4. The single best category to fall into is P3 meant for the very top of the applicant pool. “These are people from IIT with 780 GMATs,” says Menon, using the network of Indian’s elite engineering schools as an example of the best possible feeder institution into ISB. “A P3 is rejected only if there is a significant reason to reject.” In other words, pretty much every applicant designed a P3 gets the chance to interview, and these applications are read once by Menon’s staff.

“P4,” adds Menon, “is the reverse of P3. It’s someone with a weak GMAT from a weaker school. We still read those applications because sometimes we get some interesting sparks.” But generally the applicants who fall into the P4 pile are not going to get an invite to the school.

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.