In Search Of Higher GMATs In China


It often takes at least three hours of interview practice, he says, before Chinese applicants start feeling confident. “The interview is the very last step of the application process,” says Warner, as if speaking directly to a client. “They have worked so hard on the GMAT, the TOEFL and getting their essays clearly written. They’ve sat down with their recommenders to beg them to be their recommender and then had to coach them through the process. By the time we get to the interview, I tell them, ‘This is it. If you don’t do well on the interview all that hard work is wasted.’ They change from being very fearful to being courageous and excited about the whole process.”

As he guides MBA wannabes through the often tortuous admissions process, Warner alternates between being a personal coach and a match maker. When one client wanted to transition into investment banking but had no financial experience, he managed to get him an interview with a former client who ran a boutique investment banking firm. The client got the job and the pre-MBA experience in finance that would become, says Warner, a critical part of his essays while the previous client served as one of his recommenders.

In another case, Warner says, he opened a young woman’s eyes to “powerful career goals.” She had worked for a U.S.-based venture capital firm assisting with translation and arranging events. A brainstorm with Warner, she came to believe that her experience could be leveraged to set up an angel group of investors in China and an MBA would be helpful to achieve that goal. But there was a problem: “Her GPA and GMAT scores were not strong, but her career goals were powerful enough to get her admitted to a top MBA program,” says Warner. “She got inspired in the MBA program and established her own company in the Bay area.”


The consultant believes that applicants from China have a lot to offer the best U.S. schools and tend to be less introverted than Koreans in their willingness to fully engage with other students once on campus. “Chinese students are much more open to American society, and they are very familiar with American TV shows. I had never watched Big Bang Theory but many say it’s their favorite show. The people I am working with speak very good English. They are not afraid to talk. They want to interact with Americans. They don’t fall into that introverted stereotype. I also push them really hard. If they have those challenges, I try to break them out of them.”

Warner also says that rankings—particularly the Bloomberg Businessweek list—hold a great deal of influence over school selection. “All they think about is the pure ranking,” he says. “They don’t care about fit and they rarely care about location. When they do, it’s California, Boston, and New York. The rest of the U.S. is not important from the Chinese perspective. But the rankings take precedence over everything else. I have to struggle to get them to look at other schools.”

Certain schools, however, come up again and again. “UCLA and Berkeley are very popular among the Chinese,” he says, “so is Duke. Duke has been very proactive. Back in 2005, duke was then taking 30 to 40 Chinese every year (see table below for where Chinese students go for their MBA). So the school has built up a large base of alumni and started a campus outside of Shanghai. Michigan is another very popular school. I’d say there are about 20 MBA students from mainland China at MIT Sloan, another 20 at Harvard, and about 25 at Stanford. The Chinese are more interested in Stanford than Harvard because they want to start their own businesses. They are equally impressed with Yale, which has fantastic brand recognition in China, particularly on the undergraduate level.”


What’s in it for Warner? He seems to enjoy helping people achieve their dreams—and nothing turns him on more than helping a young Chinese professional realize a hard-earned goal. He says he had one client who was at first determined to go the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, but after interviewing with the admissions director at MIT Sloan, had changed his mind. Soon after gaining acceptance to Sloan, the client immediately called Warner with the news.

“He wanted to thank me for helping him see the all the potential he had inside himself,” says Warner. “I was so excited about his future. I was really happy to know that I helped him because he is going to do great things in the future!”

Chinese MBA Students At Leading U.S. Business Schools


School % From China Estimated Total
UC-Davis 40% 14
Wisconsin-Madison 29% 11
Georgetown (McDonough) 30% 59
Yale School of Management 22% 50
Rice (Jones) 22% 15
Boston College (Carroll) 22% 13
Arizona State (Carey) 21% 9
Michigan State (Broad) 21% 12
Southern California (Marshall) 20% 23
Minnesota (Carlson) 17% 9
Duke (Fuqua) 16% 55
Cornell (Johnson) 16% 26
Boston University 16% 15
Florida (Hough) 16% 3
Texas-Austin (McCombs) 15% 18
UCLA (Anderson) 15% 31
Rochester (Simon) 15% 16
Brigham Young (Marriott) 15% 8
Illinois-Urbana-Champaign 15% 11
Pennsylvania (Wharton) 13% 74
Indiana (Kelley) 13% 18
Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) 12% 17
Michigan (Ross) 12% 40

Source: Business school data provided to U.S. News

Notes: Percentage of Chinese students is the percent of the international total. So at UC-Davis, where 35.8%, or 34 students, of the MBAs are international, roughly 40%, or 14, of the international students would be from China. Many schools, including Harvard, Stanford, Chicago Booth, and Columbia, failed to provide the data.


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