If you are reading this, then Congrats! I am sure you are bitten by the “Global MBA” bug and hence interested to read on! Not only that. It’s actually amazing to know that you want to do your MBA from one of the top B-Schools such as Harvard, Wharton, LBS, INSEAD or MIT Sloan. Definitely it’s a great ambition given that you have the ability, determination & perseverance to fight it out with the top class Global MBA aspirants from across the world.
But before we start discussing what it takes to get into one of these Top 10 Global B-Schools for your dream MBA, let me share a few pertinent points for you to ponder upon:
- WHY MBA? Why do you need to do an MBA at this stage of your career? Is it because one of your cousins or friends is doing it/ has done it? Do you want a career shift or a career progression that is possible only through an MBA degree?
- WHY NOT AN INDIAN MBA? Why don’t you plan an MBA from one of the top Indian B-Schools instead? Why a Global MBA? What’s in it that attracts you? Are you looking for an international career?
- ARE YOU A POTENTIAL CANDIDATE? Are you really sure that with your current work experience and management exposure you are a prospective MBA candidate in these top B-Schools? As you know the top B-Schools are crazy about the quality of students. People who apply there can be a Consultant in McKinsey or a Subject Matter Expert from Google or a Quality Manager from Tata Steel or even a Sales Manager at General Motors. They will typically have a high GPA and a 700 plus GMAT score. Some of them have been to 3 or 4 different countries as a part of their studies or work. While exceptions are there (say, a Navy Corps with 4 years experience in combat zone having a low GMAT of 660 or a just an average graduate who started an online gaming portal that gets 1 lac hits a month having a GPA of 2.2 etc.). But these are “outstanding exceptions”. So, do you think that you fall in that “high quality” or “outstanding exception” bracket?
- CAN YOU AFFORD? Can you afford the Tuition Fees (even considering that you get a good amount of Education loan) at these premium B-Schools? Say, Harvard MBA will cost you approximately INR 1.2 Crores (all inclusive) in 2 years? How do you plan to finance it?
While I don’t want to sound a spoilsport, but answers to these questions are going to be very crucial if you really want to achieve your dream of getting an MBA admit from Harvard or LBS.
Considering you are through with the above points and still want to pursue your dream, now let’s come to your main question.
How do you make your profile “attractive”? Actually you don’t even try to do it!
I mean the Ad-Com is too smart to understand this profile makeover thing. They are not attracted to the superficially attractive profiles. So don’t even try to get into the mess. Rather be honest and logical, highlighting on your strengths. Make it interesting. The Ad-com will be interested to know your interesting story. They would like to understand and assess your potential as a future leader. Give them a “compelling true story” that focuses on your strengths and achievements.
So, if you want to fall into that “high quality” potential leader bracket, what do you need to have in your profile? What do you need to show so that the Ad-Com of Top Global B-Schools will be interested in you?
- Academics: You will need consistent and above average Academics – a high GPA! Besides, academic honors/ ranks/ scholarships/ dean’s medal/ cum laude/ academic papers whatever you have achieved from high school till college. I know you can’t do much about this right now, but in case there are any gaps/ inconsistencies make sure that you have a reasonable explanation for that.
- GMAT: A fascinating GMAT score – very important if you are eyeing these top B-Schools. Although there are instances of people getting in Harvard or MIT with as low as 650, but most of them are exceptional. For a more generic profile, a score of 720 plus is required. Of course, higher the better.
- Work Experience: When I say experience it doesn’t mean number of years you have worked. You will need a great work exposure that shows you have business acumen. Work profile that shows that you do something interesting and something valuable for the company. Not “run of the mill” coding or testing or selling or coordinating. It should focus on your management exposure, business understanding and leadership skills. Think about team handling, project management, client interaction, critical problem solving, cross functional & multi-location team work etc. If you have helped your organization to close a few business deals worth some million US$ or to save a few million US$ that’s really great!
- Certifications: Additional certifications (like PMP, Six Sigma, Google Adword, SAP etc.) from reputed institutes/ bodies/ authorities that are related to your academics, area of work or are important for your future career goals can also be a good add-on. It shows that you are ready to take on extra load in order to excel in your professional career.
- Extra Curricular & Activities: Don’t fool yourself by trying to food the Ad-com. Don’t just join an NGO 1 year prior to your MBA application to show that as your extra-curricular. If you have any significant achievement or involvement (well documented from reliable sources) in Extra Curricular (could be sports/ arts/ music/ NGO anything) or if you have been Vice President of the College’s Student Council or if you are a part of your organization’s cross functional team for “Go Green Policy” then it’s helpful. But please don’t “make it up” for the sake of the admission.
- LOR: Two solid “Reco” (Letter of Recommendation) from someone senior with whom you have shared a working relationship of more than one year. I mean don’t end up getting a Reco from a friend who is working in your project. Not even your ex-Team Leader. Try getting a recommendation from the Project Manager/ Delivery Manager or still better a Senior Partner in your current or previous company. Ideally the person should know you very well and must know what it means to get into a Harvard or Stanford. Recommendation letter should be very personal and it’s not possible for someone to write a personal recommendation if the relationship is not cultivated over a period of time. You can even take it from someone senior in your Client team (that is if you have a client interfacing profile in the first place). Especially if your client is a globally reputed MNC and your referee is some Sales Director (an alumni of one of the Ivy League colleges) in that company, the LOR is going to carry a lot of weightage.
- MBA Essays: Well these were the ingredients. Now you can mix them up well and come up with nicely written MBA Essays that show the strengths of your candidature. Be prepared to write at least 5 Essays for each top B-School you are applying to. And the cut-paste job (that is write one essay for Harvard and paste it for INSEAD, MIT Sloan, Stanford and LBS) won’t do. It is because the essay questions are different, the B-school ethos is different and what they expect from the candidates vary widely. So keep writing.
After reading all these, if you are still determined to go for it, my suggestions will be:
a) Prepare hard for GMAT. If you are confident and have sufficient time then go for self-study. Else you can go for a good institute or a personal coach. But please don’t end up in a coaching institute that will make you sit in a batch of 15 to 20 people. What you need is guidance and personal attention from the faculty. Go for the good ones where the batch size is 5 or less. Ideally the faculty should know what GMAT is all about (still in India, most of the institutes work with CAT faculty for their GMAT batch and it’s like using Coconut Oil for cooking Pasta).
b) Once you get a good GMAT score, you should take the help of an Admission Consultant or a friend/ senior who has got accepted in one of these top B-Schools in the last 2 to 3 years.
Best of luck if you decide to embark on this fascinating journey. Believe me it’s worth every bit of it.
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