If you are reading this, you are most likely a candidate from India who is wondering what you need to be working on now to maximize your chance for admissions success to top MBA programs next season and beyond.
You are not alone. According to GMAC’s Profile of GMAT® Testing: Citizenship Report, Five-Year Summary, TY2011–TY2015, the largest applicant pool to MBA programs outside of the United States comes from India. Indian citizens comprise approximately 12% of the global GMAC testing pool, while approximately 68,000 Indian citizens sent scores to MBA programs this past year.
Given the strong prospects for MBA graduates all over the world, it is not surprising that there has been a surge in international candidates to top MBA programs, especially from India. Indian applicants routinely cite the need to gain global exposure and grow beyond technical positions, looking to the MBA to fill in the gaps. Additionally, a recent boom in Indian MBA programs has led to increased competition in the job market, giving those who graduate with a global MBA a distinct advantage.
Because the candidate pool is more competitive than ever, it is important to start early to develop and differentiate your candidacy for top MBA programs. Based on our extensive experience at Stratus Admissions Counseling working with Indian candidates who have achieved their dream of studying at a world-class MBA program—from Harvard Business School and Yale School of Management to London Business School and INSEAD—here are our top admissions strategies:
Beat the GMAT
Although a high GMAT score is not a requirement for admission, to be as competitive as possible, we advise our clients to work with a private tutor to increase their scores to competitive levels, which in many cases is in the 700s. Once your score passes a level where it is above the school average (ideally by twenty points), there is no need to continue focusing on improving your score. You should then focus on strengthening other elements of the application.
Recently I had a client from India with a GMAT score in the 600s who was admitted to Harvard Business School. This client emphasized his significant leadership experiences through extracurricular achievements with his alma mater, including international collaboration. In contrast, another client had her application put on hold by Columbia Business School until they submitted a GMAT score that was above the 715 average. Thus, a GMAT score by itself won’t necessarily make or break your candidacy, but a competitive score does help maximize your chance of success.
Broaden your Mix
The second key is to apply to a good mix of programs. I encourage candidates to look all around the world and develop a school selection strategy. Indian candidates should apply to between six and 10 schools per round to give yourself an appropriate amount of stretch, target and safety options. Look beyond the U.S. and consider great programs in other parts of the world, including the new Asia School of Business in Malaysia and University of Western Ontario’s Ivey Business School. Another recent Indian client applied to eight top programs, was admitted to five, and was awarded a $100,000 merit-based scholarship from a top-five program on the strength of the application, which focused on the his authentic passions, personal growth experiences and fit with the program.
I also always advise clients to apply in the round in which their application is the strongest. If you are ready to hit submit, Round 1 will have the greatest number of seats, as well as scholarship funds, available. If you are willing to commit to a program such as Fuqua or CBS, apply in the early decision round to send the admissions committee a clear signal that their program is your top choice.