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What Adcoms are Looking for from Chinese Applicants

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Admissionado
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Schools: Brown University, Harvard Business School
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New post 18 Oct 2019, 14:11
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What Adcoms are Looking for from Chinese Applicants

We at Admissionado have helped thousands of Chinese applicants realize their dreams in U.S. MBA programs over the past decade. One of the first questions we get from these clients—particularly after last spring’s discrimination lawsuit against Harvard University—is “What do I have to do to stand out?” It’s a good question, and an important one given the large number of Chinese applicants vying for the comparatively small number of international student spots.

First, the obvious: Most of what makes an application from a domestic student “good” will also work for a Chinese student. Impressive, high-stakes leadership accomplishments, conveyed in well-told stories and strung together to show a clear upward career trajectory, are always going to be fundamental to success at competitive MBA programs. Basics like a polished application package and test scores well within the school’s average ranges are simply the price of admission—no matter where you’re applying from.

But there are a few additional factors that come into play when navigating the ultra-competitive Chinese applicant pool. Specifically:


“Does this applicant know what he/she is getting into?”
This is the extra question that every international applicant must face. The adcom’s job is to pick folks who will stay for the entire duration of the program—every student who quits halfway through costs the university a huge amount of money. Usually this happens because an international student was not ready for the double shock of both starting graduate studies and adapting to life in a new culture. It’s imperative that we show you are NOT one of those quitters. As a Chinese student, coming from a large and culturally distinct country, you will likely face a little more skepticism about your familiarity with America than, say, a Canadian or a Brit. You need to prove that you “get” the West, and will be able to flourish in an international, highly collaborative group setting.

The best way to prove that? Prior experience. Emphasize experiences you’ve had working or studying in the U.S. If you’ve never done that, talk about times when you worked with people from the U.S. If you haven’t done either of those things, experiences in Europe or working with Europeans can work as a substitute, demonstrating a general familiarity with Western business culture. If that’s not an option either, getting an admit from a U.S. B-school will be challenging, but (in our experience) not impossible. Just try to identify the experiences in your life most similar to moving abroad, for example, switching to a radically different industry, or adapting to a workplace with a dramatically different corporate culture. The key is to demonstrate both a clear-eyed knowledge of just how challenging the culture shock will be, and that you have the adaptability to manage it.

Differentiation
The second major hurdle a Chinese applicant faces is the fact that his or her country is just so large and influential in the business world. That means thousands of other applicants coming from a similar background, which makes it harder for your application to stand out. The Chinese education system and professional culture is also very standardized, offering fewer opportunities for the kind of quirky extracurricular activities that U.S. undergraduate universities and companies tend to encourage. So while domestic U.S. applicants certainly also have to work to differentiate themselves, the challenge is larger for Chinese applicants.

The key here is to go beyond the stats, and beyond the resume. Think about all your peers who are applying for business school, and all the MBA alumni you know. What’s something you’ve done, that most of them wouldn’t even consider doing? Acting in a TV commercial? Studying German literature? Stand-up comedy? Find what’s unique about you, and mention it. This shouldn’t be the focus of your application, but it can make the difference between an admit and a ding. There are so many Chinese applicants in the MBA admissions pool that even after adcoms eliminate all of the people with too low test scores and insufficiently impressive resumes, there are still more applicants remaining than there are spaces available. Give the adcom a unique hook, a reason they can use to justify picking you over the other qualified candidates.


The reality is that most Chinese applicants don’t even make an effort to address these two points. They simply don’t know what adcoms are looking for. By reading this post (and perusing this forum) you’re already ahead of at least half the applicant pool. If there are any questions we can address to help you get even further ahead, let us know in the comments below!
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Farrell D Hehn: MBA
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New post 18 Oct 2019, 15:02
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Great article. Important points.

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Farrell Dyan, MBA Admissions Consultant
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Admissionado
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Joined: 30 Nov 2009
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Schools: Brown University, Harvard Business School
Re: What Adcoms are Looking for from Chinese Applicants  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Oct 2019, 18:57
Glad you found it helpful!
GMAT Club Bot
Re: What Adcoms are Looking for from Chinese Applicants   [#permalink] 20 Oct 2019, 18:57
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