Diversifying diversity: Why now is a great time to apply for business school from a smaller market
Last season we had an extraordinary success story here at Admissionado. A client got in to every school he applied to: Harvard, Wharton, Booth—a clean sweep, all the top programs. Not uncommon for us, except… this client didn’t initially seem strong enough.
Let’s talk profile: male, late twenties, middling test scores, decent undergraduate GPA, technical background, low-level manager in a regional office of a multinational, with a small retail enterprise on the side. His verbal English was okay, his writing had a certain poetic flair, but he was entirely educated in his hometown, at an obscure university that the adcom would almost certainly have to look up. His international experience measured in months (a training program in Europe), otherwise he had lived his entire life in his small home country in Central Asia. His goals involved a post-graduation technical consulting stint in the West, followed by a return home to found a tech startup. In sum, a solid client, but not the kind of man who gets into every program he applies to. So how’d he do it?
To find the answer, we need to consider some history. International students have always been a substantial part of the U.S. MBA student body, but the mix of national origins is continually in flux. In the late 90s, Japanese students would have been the largest international demographic in a typical classroom, but still less than 10% of the total international student population. Today Chinese (30%) and Indian (20%) students together form a rough majority of international students, with every other nationality taking a small single-digit slice of the pie. This demographic upheaval is key to our Central Asian client’s success.
Twenty years ago, this same client would almost certainly
Today, the situation is very different. To understand the difference, pull up your favorite news site and think like the director of an admissions department at a U.S. business school. The headlines should feel disconcerting. A huge portion of your business is educating young people from India and China’s rapidly growing middle classes, but the international relationships that facilitated that business model seems to be hurting after trade wars, currency fluctuations, media narratives about gun violence and political posturing. You suspect and hope these relationships will recover, and you’ll continue to accept many Indian and Chinese students. But… could the “business” part of your business school survive if a big country suddenly pulled all their students home? It’s not an academic question: just ask the your Canadian colleagues, who recently lost 16,000 students to a diplomatic row.
The obvious solution is to diversify your portfolio of
Our client’s story is a compelling example of how the recent
One person who seems mostly satisfied with these trends? Our client, currently enjoying his first year at a top-ranked business school.
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