India's growing economy has created many exciting opportunities for people with the business education that will enable them to lead and manage growth there. However, to access the top business education, Indian students must first gain admission to one of the elite MBA programs. With hundreds of Indians applying to these business schools each year, how can you pull yourself out of the crowd and distinguish yourself in the eyes of the admissions committees?
First, understand what the typical Indian applicant reveals in his application. Then, differentiate your own.
The Average Indian MBA Applicant: Works for a family business
Working for a family business can be extremely educational: you earn high-level responsibility earlier, manage teams of employees, and gain perspective into the workings of the entire company. However, family businesses lack the influence and scope of larger companies, and it is difficult to compare your performance to others'.
The DIFFERENTIATED Indian MBA Applicant: Has made an impact in a bigger pond
An applicant who has proven his abilities in a family business and then applied the skills in management at a large international company is able to demonstrate that he is truly talented beyond the scope of his own family. Letters of recommendation written by impartial superiors, unlike those from family members, employees, or even clients of a family business, carry more weight in the eyes of the admissions committees and can demonstrate that you truly outperform your peers and have honestly won the recognition of senior management. The Differentiated Applicant can then illustrate his impact on this large organization in his resume, work history, and essays.
Did the marketing campaign you designed boost sales of the product by 50% within 6 weeks?
Have you earned a promotion every year or become the youngest department manager?
The Average Indian MBA Applicant: Works in India's burgeoning high-tech industry
India's high-tech sector has blossomed in the past few years as global companies have tapped the highly educated and hardworking population in India. Many of today's business school applicants have experience in that industry.
The DIFFERENTIATED Indian MBA Applicant: Has gained management experience
While your background may be in technology, you can prove to the admissions committees that you have what it takes to lead commerce in the future by demonstrating that you are leading and managing teams of employees, designing company strategy, earning promotions, and boosting your company's bottom line.
Did you identify an untapped market and lead a taskforce to create a product to tap this niche?
Do you manage 30 people, the largest revenue producing sector of your company, or its most prestigious clients?
The Average Indian MBA Applicant: Has modest goals
Most Indian applicants aspire to either expand their family business or launch their own small business.
The DIFFERENTIATED Indian MBA Applicant: Has great ambitions
The top business schools are searching for applicants whose ambitions will have impact on a larger scale. Furthermore, you need to convey your excitement and enthusiasm for your career and your goals. Grant the reader some insight into the emotional reasons behind your decision to pursue your path.
Did your experience collaborating with a Western consultant to boost the results of your department inspire you to launch your own consultancy?
Did spending your afternoons toiling on your family's vegetable garden motivate you to develop an environmentally safe insecticide and lead a company on a mission to increase the world's food supply?
The Average Indian MBA Applicant: Has many extracurricular activities
Unlike many other population groups, Indian applicants are often involved in many activities outside of school and work.
The DIFFERENTIATED Indian MBA Applicant: Leads outside of work
Don't confuse hobbies for involvement and impact. The top business schools are looking for applicants who hold active leadership roles in a few organizations, not a jumble of low-key memberships. Be sure to continue your active extracurricular involvement and leadership even after college.
Has your love of the sciences prompted you to found an after-school program with free science tutoring and exciting interactive experiments that now includes 20 schools across India?
Do you lead the Red Cross volunteer recruiting efforts across India?
The Average Indian MBA Applicant: Thinks all top business schools are the same
Indian applicants tend to know they want a top MBA, but they don't do enough research on the programs to determine if and how each aligns with their goals. They tend to give a brief overview of the skills they hope to gain from the MBA and don't demonstrate that they know anything about each program.
The DIFFERENTIATED Indian MBA Applicant: Knows why he is applying to each school
There are two reasons why you need to understand each school's program: for your interest and theirs. Just as it is in your interest to know what requirements the school has, for instance a fourth post-high school year of study (e.g., the Master in Commerce) before you apply to ensure that your application is even considered, so too it is in your interest to determine if the schools you are considering will meet your needs. If you plan to concentrate in a particular industry, you need to make sure that the schools you are applying to have courses of study in that industry.
The top business schools seek applicants that can demonstrate that they understand the school's goals and how their program will help them meet the applicant's needs. They are looking for applicants who have visited the school, spoken to alumni, researched their specific interests, and know what makes this school distinct.
Do your medical background and future aspirations to fund medical technology ventures steer you to Fuqua?
Do you want to refine your manufacturing background in a specialized program like Kellogg's?
Putting it all together
Each school is sifting through those hundreds of applications to find the Indian applicants that will be able to benefit from its program and enhance the education and experience of its other students. But determining which stories differentiate your application is daunting.
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