Against the Odds: Indian MBA Applicants — Speak to Your Audience (In Their Language)

By - Jun 19, 08:50 AM Comments [0]

I-Love-NYWhat I wouldn’t give right now to munch on a plump gol gappa from a local street vendor, or to hop into a tuk tuk and take a ride to Khan Market, where I would order a mouthwatering Mutton Seekh Kabab romali roll from Khan Cha Cha!

If you’ve ever lived in Delhi, you know what I’m talking about. Here for the summer in New York, I’ll just have to settle for the memories.

In my travels around the globe, I’ve often found that chatting about cuisine is a great conversation starter, and often leads to exciting dinner invitations. When I’m homesick, I always feel a quick bond with other travelers who can talk up their favorite New York City eateries – and love NYC’s lemon poppy seed muffins as much as I do. If you crave these delectable pastries, you definitely speak my language.

Right now – that’s your challenge. If you’re planning to apply to a US-based MBA program you need to make sure you’re speaking to the admissions committee in their language.

Make your essays local

Admissions officers can be the jealous type. They want to know that theirs is not just one of a dozen programs to receive your application. You need to show that you’ve done extensive research, talked to locals, even walked in their shoes.

For example, Columbia wants to know why the New York location is important to your goals. Quoting lyrics from this song will not be convincing enough.

Be specific. What doors opened for your friend at last year’s Venture Capital conference at the Digital Sandbox on Broad Street? What HACKATHON event did you attend where you networked with entrepreneurs who’ve received start up funding? Do you plan to unwind on Sundays up in Van Cortlandt park playing on the 35 acres of new cricket pitches?

Supplying this level of detail applies to every school. It’s easiest to be specific after you’ve visited. If that’s not possible, talk with those who have, send emails to organizers, or to people who’ve been profiled in event media coverage. Use this local information to write your essays. I can’t guarantee they will all respond, but that’s part of the hustle you’ll need to stand out.

But will they understand what a stand out I am in India?

You’ve already worked so hard to rise to the top in India’s competitive testing climate. Many Indian applicants are concerned about whether or not American MBA programs fathom their level of academic achievement, as US vs. Indian GPA systems are very different.

Don’t fret though. Top MBA programs are savvy enough to understand the Indian grading system. They should also take into account if you’ve majored in a technical subject like engineering, then your GPA might be comparatively lower. Feel free to mention briefly on your resume if you received an accolade like graduation or first class, or “With Distinction”. You do not, however, need to worry about converting your GPA. List it as given from your undergraduate institution.

Use words the admissions committee will understand

Finally, scour your essays to make sure they are written using terms an American audience will understand. It’s not placing a value judgment on the language used – it will just make it easier for your target audience to comprehend your message. That’s key in good communication.

Dan McCleary, the Regional Director for India over at Fuqua, has a great list of terms that might trip up an American reader. Also, ask an American friend to read over your essay to make sure there is nothing else that stands out as confusing, or too culturally specific to India.

Bottom line – make the effort to go local so you can come enrich your top MBA choice with your unique perspective!

Stay tuned for more posts in this upcoming series …

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– Prepare for your job hunt now … at home or abroad, what’s best

Michelle Stockman is a professional journalist, former Columbia Business School admissions insider, and experienced MBA admissions consultant.'s experienced admissions consultants can help you create the most impressive application possible with comprehensive packages, or provide targeted assistance from picking perfect programs to designing a dazzling resume, constructing engaging essays, or preparing for intense interviews…and more! has guided thousands of applicants to acceptances at top MBA programs since 1994 – we know what works and what doesn't, so contact us to get started now!

This article originally appeared on the Accepted Admissions Consulting Blog, the official blog of

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