Over Represented Applicant Pool: A Case Study
If you're an Indian applying to business school – especially if you studied engineering in college – you keep hearing that you are at a disadvantage because you are in an over represented applicant pool. What can you do about it?
Let's take the case of Amit. He was 30 when he decided to get his MBA. Class X SSC results were 84%, class XII HSC 90%, B. Eng. First Class. He took the GMAT and got a 700. His schools are Harvard, Kellogg, Booth, Wharton and Columbia, with Tuck as a safety school.
Is there anything else he needs to do or is he ready to apply?
The first thing people look at is the GMAT. He got 700. Everyone says you want to get over 700 so he figures that must be good enough. He wrote his essays in September and he submitted in October.Amit applied to 10 schools in Round 1. All of his applications were rejected with no interview. He got so depressed that he did not try for Round 2.
Where did he make mistakes?
The one place where everyone has control is the GMAT. Did Amit do everything possible on that test? He has a technical background. Those people are usually the ones who do best. He only took the GMAT one time. A 700 score is good but is it enough?
Maybe not. It is below the average GMAT for all these schools.
Having a higher GMAT would probably not have changed the results. We know this because he did 10 applications in one month. You can't do a good job on that many applications in such a short time. A higher GMAT would not have fixed the errors he made in rushing his essays. He did not help himself by settling for a 700 score when he knew he could do better.
He also selected some of the most popular schools. He indicated Tuck as a “safety school” even though his GMAT score is below their average. That shows that he was unaware of how competitive it is.
The first step is to make sure that you know why you are picking the schools on your list. This must come through on the application. It takes a lot of time to do this kind of research. Amit said that wanted to be a consultant.
That's a common goal. Did he have what it takes to get there? Did he pick the right schools?
All of these schools are good for consulting. There is a lot of competition for these schools though. Amit needed to show how he is a unique individual and he needed to use the application to bring out his work experience. He is a Team Lead at work and he thought that was enough for leadership because it says so on his resume. He needs more than the title of Team Leader. He should have brought in the examples of leadership and results. He started a NGO and he thought was good. He didn't talk about the project in a way that helped his chances. He just dumped information in an essay.He also was not realistic with those schools
. He has an average profile for an Indian candidate. The GMAT and the university record are not a great combination. He is good, just not great. He is like everyone else. All the schools on his list are above average for qualifications required. Amit needed to do more to get into a Top 10 school or he needed to adjust his targets to include some other schools too.He is also worried about his age
. It is not as easy to get in to a Top MBA program in your 30s. He is not too old but he needs to work hard to make it happen.
In the spring he decided that his job was a dead end and he had to get an MBA. He tried again.
He took a new approach. He found out how much the recommendations matter
. Amit has worked in a technical environment for a long time and his manager does not write well. He realized that the manager did not do a good job on his answers last year. Amit decided to ask a previous manager for the recommendation now because he will do a better job of describing Amit's work. If your recommender has never done a project like this before for someone else then you need to make sure they understand what to do and how important it is.The essays matter too.
Many technical people do not know how to answer the questions in the school essays. Amit rushed with the essays and he now knows that they were not that good. The essays need time. Getting help from reliable sources is the right strategy. Don't have your mother read your essays. Try to get help from your friends who have gotten into business school already. You don't need to pay for expensive consulting, only do your research well enough. Read a lot. Study the questions. Go onto the school chats and read for help here on GMAT Club. The essays are not as easy as they might seem.
When Amit gave the GMAT again he got a 720. That score made him more confident. He also looked again at schools. He decided that other schools like CMU Tepper are better for him because he wants to do technical consulting. Tepper has an average GMAT of 698. Amit's 720 is a lot higher. He also did a lot of research and the Tepper people were all very friendly. He didn't get the same response from the other schools.
He applied to 3 schools in Round 1 and was accepted at Tepper. He was wait-listed at one other school but he decided to go to Tepper because he liked everything about it from his research. Maybe he could have gotten in with his 700 GMAT score but he knows that he made it easier to get accepted with a high score and he learned a lot from the first applications to help be successful in the end.
What should he have done differently the first time?
• A higher GMAT score in a later round is often a better tradeoff for applicants like Amit. It doesn't help to apply earlier if your profile is not as strong as it could be.
• The recommendations need to be chosen carefully. Having someone who can write well and answer the questions with details about you is very important.
• The essays are not simple. Amit started as soon as his GMAT was done in June. He spent all summer on the essays this time.
• Selecting schools matters more than anything. If you are not a good fit then they won't let you in. Amit researched what they wanted and he was able to tell them about himself and his work experience in the essays a lot better.
Amit's story is very common. There are a lot of mistakes for Indians that don't have to be made. Applications take a long time if you are going to do them right. You do not have to have a cure for cancer to get into business school. You can be a regular guy you just need to do more work than you might expect to show admissions committee that you are serious. It doesn't matter that you are coming from an over represented pool. It matters that you do a great job and give admissions everything that you can. An “average” profile won't work if you want to go to a great school.
That is exactly what I was looking for. Thanks!