Insignts

Career Planning

To begin, I hope that you, your families, and your friends are well. During these trying times, I pray that you are safe and come out on the other side of this pandemic stronger than before.

Across popular MBA news platforms and forums, growing concerns about business school and the future of MBA education are fueling discussions. Travel and visa insecurities are driving up deferral requests by incoming students, therefore hinting at low yield. Most schools have delayed R3 and final round deadlines to May and June.  GMAC and ETS have launched at-home online GMAT and GRE testing, albeit with mixed reviews. And many top schools including Kellogg and Darden have altogether waived off testing requirements. Rumors also exist that many tier 2 and 3 schools are in hot waters with regard to filing classes and experiencing difficulties. There is no doubt that the current situation has had an impact on everyone.  With this brief article, I hope to provide my interpretation of how COVID -19 will affect 1) placements, 2) program delivery and 3) admissions.

Placements

Given that many organizations have halted hiring, and that millions have lost their jobs, there are concerns around the health of the job market in America, the destination of choice, for the most part, for MBA hopefuls. Arguably, this is a good time to re-skill.

There is historical precedence that the beginning of recessionary periods is a good time for education because time taken by the economy to recover can be used effectively to develop abilities that will be of value when the market bounces back. Those who do not develop additional capabilities now may struggle in the future and lose out to competition that is at the forefront of new thinking.  Unlike labor markets, organizations cannot and do not spend time playing catch up. They have to compete irrespective of the environment and win or lose. In the innovation age, systems can become outdated even before they can be executed and hence, employers do not have the luxury of providing employees long learning curves. They will hire those who are most relevant, and those who can immediately contribute.

I know many international students who gave up the American Dream in 2008/09 during the housing crisis, only to find a rich job market in 2011/12; this was likely the right time to catch the tide low, when tech companies were growing, and hiring. Also well known is that economists who study the future of work frequently recommend education as a path to economic prosperity. Data science, digital technologies, and cross-cultural acumen are skills that will be in demand in the future. Also, I have always held the belief that specialization, whether it is function or industry, will be the order of the day. I am not saying that generalist skills are not valuable – they are, but as you navigate your career, consider diving deep in marketing analytics, taking a course or more in applications of AI/ML, learning a foreign language, and gaining exposure to work in an international environment such as Asia or Africa. Fortunately, the MBA is well designed for such learning.

I am confident that any kind of formal education, even a Masters or a PhD, will at this stage be favorable to your career in the future. Careers in or related to automation and robotics, virtual work and communications, digital entertainment and education, integration of home and workspace, data security, and healthcare will be sought-after. Services and products that reduce human contact, such as food delivery, are also likely to be hot.

Program Delivery

There are concerns around the value or price tag of the MBA, and how education will be delivered. The MBA is a premium, expensive and professional degree program, and business schools are well aware that experiential learning, group work, industry outreach and networking opportunities are important elements amongst its offerings. While schools will take advantage of digital learning technologies, not all coursework will go online. If that happens, demand for education will fall, and schools’ ability to charge a premium will be lost. In the long and short run, I feel there will be no impact on the quality of delivery. If at all, schools will blend the best of learning practices in both digital and classroom to create an experience better than ever before. 

Evolution, any which way is inevitable; top business schools regularly revamp their programs to offer the latest in management thinking and through the best delivery channels. As examples, MIT is successfully running blended programs through EDX, and Harvard offers many courses through its well-received HBX platform. Best practices from these platforms, and others, will eventually make their way into MBA programs, and I am sure schools have been thinking on these lines for quite some time now.

Trivia: almost all schools in the top 18 have invested millions in state-of-the-art facilities – these facilities are designed for social interaction.

Admissions

At the top schools, I foresee a very competitive year ahead, given that many students have deferred and postponed their plans this year. For schools not in the top 10, getting in may be easier than before. The current situation in America is tipping the scales – if an attribute for a product becomes less attractive, another attribute has to become more desirable for the product to remain attractive. So if the prospect of an American education is becoming less attractive to you because of underlying current insecurities, it has to be compensated by a better brand. Hence, more people will aim higher.

Nonetheless, for those who value a global brand on their résumés over other attributes, such as a degree that could generate opportunities anywhere in the world, this is still a good time to apply. Even if you view yourself as a Silver or Bronze candidate – with a lower GMAT and work experience in a less well-known company, or if you are someone who is still contemplating an MBA, consider taking the plunge now. I am positive you have a shot at the top 20. Management education is an American concept; it is here to stay.

Every candidate is unique, and a detailed analysis can only be done by taking into consideration your situation, background and interests. To move out of the uncertainty of where you stand in the scheme of placements and job opportunities, to invest in your future the right way, now is the time to give a hard look at your opportunities for the future. We are a boutique firm, and work with no more than 50 candidates for each season. We provide our clients unlimited consulting hours and promise a deep and meaningful engagement. In case you wish to discuss your profile or learn more, give us a call!


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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In case you didn’t make it this season – worry not!  The nature of the game will result in many applicants not getting an offer; top schools have low acceptance rates, suggesting that in any given year most people won’t get in. To hedge your bets, you have to be careful about the schools you select, apply to a few schools, and take into consideration your interests, professional goals and cultural fit while doing so. We work with many re-applicants every year, many of whom come to me at low stages, after they have received a reject, if not more.

For the most part, I can easily identify what went wrong with their applications, but sometimes, it is not as straightforward; even great candidates get rejected. This is no way an indication of your abilities, nor is it a failure.

But the brain can trick you into giving up. Because giving up will prevent you from the pain of dealing with rejection. This is the way our DNA has evolved over millennia – to cope with the situation, some may decide to move away from the goal.  But the only way to ensure success is to go on, to objectively and unemotionally work on the next steps. I tell all my clients that one has to be in the game to win the game.

I have divided my response in two parts, a) how do you cope with rejection, and b), what are your options.

Firstly, continue doing what you are doing. Do not quit your job in frustration hoping that you will regroup. It will not get better. It is important that you feel you are mastering something, even if it is not your chosen career path. Make sure you go to work and keep busy. Secondly, it is important to try to be ‘in flow.’ In case you are not getting enough punch at work, pick up a hobby and try to master it. Play a sport, join a club, develop a new professional skill, or maybe learn a new language. Thirdly, socialize. The easiest thing to do is to go into a cocoon in defeat. By doing so you will lose energy and feel even worse. In acting, there are two popular methods: without getting into details, one theory suggests that for an internal feeling to manifest, you have to drive it from outside. By enveloping yourself in gloomy environment, you will manifest that. Force yourself to go out and interact. A progressive and happy external environment will lead to the same feelings internally. In no time your mind will wander away from your burdens and you will feel renewed energy. Fourthly, give back. It is not the end of the world and there are people who need you. Tutor children, help the needy – whatever works with you. You will feel better.

Lastly, don’t blame yourself.  The more you believe you were responsible for the outcome, the more miserable you will be. Reality is that external factors played a role, just like they play everywhere in life. I have observed the workings of a top school’s admissions office for years. I assure you that the same application read on different days or by different people will lead to different outcomes. Just tell yourself that you did your best, and that circumstances beyond your control were not in your favor, and that you could have done nothing to change the current state.

In case you are looking to start in January, there are a number of great options: Columbia, INSEAD, HEC France, IE Spain, Ivey in Canada, and AGSM in Australia all have January intakes. In Canada, a number of Schools such as Queen’s Smith School and York’s Schulich offer Master’s programs that start in January or throughout the year. As an example, Queen’s runs its Masters of Management Analytics in January and May, and the Masters of Management in Artificial Intelligence in August. Specialized programs are a great alternative to the MBA, and can provide very fulfilling academic experiences and rewarding careers.

We have deep experience with all these schools. If you would like to learn more about them, of if you need help with your applications, please reach out.


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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The world has evolved over the last two decades, and today, the pace of change is faster than ever before. Sign onto Linkedin and look at jobs posted by multinationals and well-known firms, and you will observe, without any question, that ‘data,’ ‘digital’ and ‘technology’ are routine keywords on their descriptions.  In fact, in Canada, where I recently spent considerable time, rarely did I come across a job that didn’t require an understanding of technology and data. So much so that even traditional consulting and accounting firms now have specialized innovation hubs and AI practices. As examples, look at Accenture Innovation Hub and Deloitte Omnia AI.

The world is evolving, and over the last two decades, the pace of change is faster than ever before. Sign onto Linkedin and look at jobs posted by multinationals and well-known firms, and you will observe, without any question, that the keywords ‘data,’ ‘digital’ and ‘technology’ are routine on their descriptions.  In fact, in Canada, where I recently spent considerable time, rarely did I come across a job that didn’t require an understanding of technology and data. So much so that even traditional consulting and accounting firms now have specialized innovation hubs and AI practices. As examples, look at Accenture Innovation Hub and Deloitte Omnia AI.

As market needs are shifting, so are business schools. First, they are seeking the STEM designation for their MBA programs, such as at CMU’s Tepper and Michigan’s Ross, which now offer a STEM MBA curriculum, and second, they are offering specialized programs such as a Masters in Analytics. As examples, MIT Sloan, UCLA Anderson, UVA Darden, CMU Tepper, and LBS are few top schools that offer a degree in Analytics. Some of these programs are more difficult to get into than their respective school’s MBA programs!

Canada seems to have been ahead in this data revolution. U of Toronto’s Rotman School, Western’s Ivey School, Queen’s Smith School, British Columbia’s Sauder School, and York University’s Schulich School, all offer a Masters in Analytics. These programs are well regarded in the country. In fact, Queen’s University was also the first to start a Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence in Toronto. The program features a state-of-the-art blended curriculum, star faculty, weekly interaction with industry experts, company visits, and a capstone project, all very well managed by the School.

I have always advised my clients to (a) follow their interest, in case they know what they want, and (b) prepare for where the ball will be in the future. The MBA is here to stay, and the future is digital. Whether you get an MBA or a Masters, successful professionals will be at the forefront of data and AI. And if you opt for an MBA, you should, at the very least, expect to equip yourself with technical tools within your focus area, whether function or industry. For example, if you wish to study Marketing, plan to get deep knowledge in marketing analytics, and if you wish to study the entertainment industry, intend to get comfortable with technology trends in that space. All top MBA programs now offer a plethora of courses that will allow you to gain skills you need for your chosen space.

Ultimately, both degrees offer a path to corporate leadership. Once you join a company, other factors, both internal and external will play a role in your progression. What program to opt for will warrant a more detailed observation of individual profiles. Each candidate has a set of circumstances, and it is impractical to generalize with simple frameworks. With this article, I hope to provide you with some information to aid your decision-making.

 My recommendation is as follows – in case you are on the less experienced side, and prefer to fast track your career with a degree, a Masters in Analytics may very well be the way. Also, if you have an undergraduate degree in business or commerce, a degree in Analytics will add depth to your profile. For those who have technical backgrounds, such as in computer science or engineering, or for those who wish to seek broader industry exposure and keep options open, the MBA will likely be the degree of choice.

Then there are other programs. In case you have identified an area of interest, you could go for a specialized program, such as a degree in Supply Chain, Digital Product Management, Real Estate, Fashion Merchandising, Hospitality, or Finance. There are top-ranked programs in every space, and career opportunities post them are aplenty.

In case you need help with your Masters or MBA applications, please feel free to reach out to me.

The world has evolved over the last two decades, and today, the pace of change is faster than ever before. Sign onto Linkedin and look at jobs posted by multinationals and well-known firms, and you will observe, without any question, that ‘data,’ ‘digital’ and ‘technology’ are routine keywords on their descriptions.  In fact, in Canada, where I recently spent considerable time, rarely did I come across a job that didn’t require an understanding of technology and data. So much so that even traditional consulting and accounting firms now have specialized innovation hubs and AI practices. As examples, look at Accenture Innovation Hub and Deloitte Omnia AI.

As market needs are shifting, two things are happening in business schools. First, they are seeking the STEM designation for their MBA programs, such as at CMU’s Tepper and Michigan’s Ross, which now offer a STEM MBA curriculum, and second, they are offering a Masters program in Analytics. As examples, MIT Sloan, UCLA Anderson, UVA Darden, CMU Tepper, and LBS are few top schools that offer a degree in Analytics. Some of these programs are more difficult to get into than their respective school’s MBA programs!

Canada seems to have been ahead in this data revolution. U of Toronto’s Rotman School, Western’s Ivey School, Queen’s Smith School, British Columbia’s Sauder School, and York University’s Schulich School, all offer a Masters in Analytics. These programs are well regarded in the country. In fact, Queen’s University offers the only program of its kind, a Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence in Toronto. The program features a state-of-the-art blended curriculum, star faculty, weekly interaction with industry experts, company visits, and a capstone project, all very well managed by the School.

I have always advised my clients to (a) follow their interest, in case they know what they want, and (b) prepare for where the ball will be in the future. The MBA is here to stay, but the future is digital. Whether you get an MBA or a Masters, successful professionals will be at the forefront of data and AI. And if you opt for an MBA, you should, at the very least, expect to equip yourself with technical tools within your focus area, whether function or industry. For example, if you wish to study Marketing, plan to get knowledge in marketing analytics, and if you wish to study the entertainment industry, intend to get comfortable with technology trends in that space. All top MBA programs now offer a plethora of courses for you to gain skills you need for your chosen space.

Ultimately, both degrees offer a path to corporate leadership. Once you join a company, other factors, both internal and external will play a role in your progression. What program to opt for will warrant a more detailed observation of individual profiles. Each candidate has a set of circumstances, and it is impractical to generalize with a framework. With this article, I hope to provide you with some information to aid your decision-making.

 My recommendation is as follows – in case you are on the less experienced side, and prefer to fast track your career with a degree, a Masters in Analytics may very well be the way. Also, if you have an undergraduate degree in business or commerce, a degree in Analytics will add depth to your profile. For those who have technical backgrounds, such as in computer science or engineering, or for those who wish to seek broader industry exposure and keep options open, the MBA will likely be the degree of choice.

Then there are other programs. In case you have identified an area of interest, you could go for a specialized program, such as a degree in Supply Chain, Digital Product Management, Real Estate, Fashion Merchandising, Hospitality, or Finance. There are top-ranked programs in every space, and career opportunities post them are aplenty. In case you need help with your Masters or MBA applications, please reach out to me. 


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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After having lived in Canada this past year, I have had the opportunity to learn about its education system and interact with many business school graduates. University of Toronto’s Rotman School, Western University’s Ivey Business School, and Queens University’s Smith School of Business are generally considered the top schools. All of them are located in Ontario, and feature state-of-the-art campuses in downtown Toronto; Ivey and Smith have satellite campuses in which they run EMBA, Accelerated MBA and other executive and Masters programs. I have had the privilege of visiting the facilities of each one of these schools, which, by any global standard, are topnotch. Other well-reputed schools are McGill in Montreal, and University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

After having spent considerable time in Canada, I have had the opportunity to learn about its education system and interact with many business school graduates. University of Toronto’s Rotman School, Western University’s Ivey Business School, and Queens University’s Smith School of Business are generally considered the top schools. All of them are located in Ontario, and feature state-of-the-art campuses in downtown Toronto; Ivey and Smith have satellite campuses in which they run EMBA, Accelerated MBA and other executive and Masters programs. I have had the privilege of visiting the facilities of each one of these schools, which, by any global standards, are topnotch. Other well-reputed schools outside of Ontario are McGill in Montreal, and University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

With respect to the quality of education, curriculum and instruction, I was impressed with how responsive and current the Canadian system is. All Schools offer an array of specializations and concentrations, and boast star faculty, whose published books have made way into classrooms even at top American programs. The Schools also feature well-known research institutes and innovation hubs that are at the forefront of new-age thinking, such as AI. One such lab is the Creative Destruction Lab. Housed within the Rotman School, it is a dream workspace for budding entrepreneurs wishing to incubate and commercialize their ventures.

Location is definitely an advantage at many of these schools. Toronto is a fast growing commercial and tech hub. It is home to large multinationals, many startups, and the financial industry, all of which are a stone’s throw from these campuses. As examples, Rotman is within minutes of Mars Discovery District, the largest urban innovation center in the world, and Ivey’s downtown campus is located inside the Exchange Tower at Kings Street. It can’t get any better than this!

My goal from these articles is to answer the question in an unbiased way so that you can make the best decision for yourself, given your circumstances and future goals.  Lately, interest in Canada has risen, in part due to insecurity associated with post-MBA work authorization in the US, and relatively easier routes to Canadian residency. I hold a Diploma in Canadian Immigration and can well comprehend the attraction of a global and multicultural ticket.  A two-year program in Canada gives you a work-permit for three years, or in other words, makes you eligible for the Post Graduate Work Permit Program, which is a path towards residency. Further, any Master’s degree from Canada will give you additional points on your Express Entry application, making education a worthwhile endeavor if residency is your goal.

Having said that, in Canada, post-MBA salaries are lower, and the exchange rate is weaker. If you check placement reports of Canadian business schools, the average starting salaries are lower than those posted by their American counterparts; $80k to 90k Canadian is nowhere near $140+ American posted this year by some top US schools, especially if you take into account exchange rates. Reported Canadian salaries may also be slightly inflated because American companies, such as consulting firms and tech giants, pay higher than domestic companies to maintain parity across borders. Also, it is no surprise that in Canada, underemployment is high. Studies have also indicated that first generation immigrants face challenges, and make lower than local residents, although in the long run these gaps taper; I have interacted with many immigrant professionals making upwards of 300k.

So should you get an MBA in Canada? Absolutely! We have worked with many candidates who are now in business school, or settled in Canada, and all of them are very satisfied with their decision. Many of them have made it to multinationals and other top companies, which would not have been possible without a top academic program. I continue to maintain that education is the best route to the Canadian dream as time spent in University gives you exposure to the market and helps build important connections, both important for your job search.  Given the effects of Globalization, and Canada’s growing position, this may very well be the right time for a Canadian degree. In a few years, as Canadian firms make way into the rest of the world, the stamp’s brand equity is likely to be comparable to that of top American schools.

For now, in case you weigh the possibility of residency and a great education over short-term salaries, consider Canada. On the other hand if you want a stamp from a top global brand, one you can flash today anywhere in the world, consider the US or Europe (I would argue that all top schools provide a great academic experience, and a multicultural environment).

Please feel free to reach out to me in case you have any questions.

After having lived in Canada this past year, I have had the opportunity to learn about its education system and interact with many business school graduates. University of Toronto’s Rotman School, Western University’s Ivey Business School, and Queens University’s Smith School of Business are generally considered the top schools. All of them are located in Ontario, and feature state-of-the-art campuses in downtown Toronto; Ivey and Smith have satellite campuses in which they run EMBA, Accelerated MBA and other executive and Masters programs. I have had the privilege of visiting the facilities of each one of these schools, which, by any global standard, are topnotch. Other well-reputed schools are McGill in Montreal, and University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

With respect to the quality of education, curriculum and instruction, I was impressed with how responsive and current the Canadian system is. All Schools offer an array of specializations and concentrations, and boast star faculty, whose published books have made their way into classrooms at top US Schools. The Schools also feature well-known research institutes and innovation hubs that are at the forefront of new technologies, such as AI. One such lab is the Creative Destruction Lab. Housed within the Rotman School, it is a dream workspace for budding entrepreneurs who wish to incubate and commercialize their ventures.

Location is definitely an advantage at many of these schools. Toronto is one of the fastest growing cities in North America; it is home to large multinationals, successful startups, and the financial industry, all of which are a stone’s throw from these campuses. As examples, Rotman is within minutes of Mars Discovery District, the largest urban innovation center in the world, and Ivey’s downtown campus is located inside the Exchange Tower at Kings Street. It can’t get any better than this!

My goal from these articles is to answer the question in an unbiased way so that you can make the best decision for yourself, given your circumstances and future goals.  Lately, interest in Canada has risen, in part due to insecurity associated with post-MBA work authorization in the US, and relatively easier routes to Canadian residency. I hold a Diploma in Canadian Immigration and can well comprehend the attraction of a global and multicultural ticket.  A two-year program in Canada gives you a work-permit for three years, or in other words, makes you eligible for the Post Graduate Work Permit Program, which is a path towards residency. Further, any Master’s degree from Canada will give you additional points on your Express Entry application, making education a worthwhile endeavor if residency is your goal.

Having said that, in Canada, post-MBA salaries are lower, and the exchange rate is weaker. If you check placement reports of Canadian business schools, the average starting salaries are lower than those posted by their American counterparts; $80k to 90k Canadian is nowhere near $140+ American posted this year by some top US schools, especially if you take into account exchange rates. Reported Canadian salaries may also be inflated because American companies, such as consulting firms and tech giants, pay higher than domestic companies to maintain parity across borders. It is no surprise that in Canada, underemployment is high and white-collar jobs do not pay as much. Studies have also indicated that first generation immigrants face challenges, and make lower than local residents. Although in the long run, these gaps narrow. I have interacted with many immigrant professionals making upwards of 300k. So should you get an MBA in Canada? We have worked with many candidates who are now in business school, or settled in Canada, and all of them are very satisfied with their decision. I continue to maintain that education is the best route to the Canadian dream as time spent in University gives you exposure to the market and helps build important connections, both important for your job search. In case you weigh the possibility of residency and a great education over short-term salaries, consider Canada. On the other hand if you want a stamp from a top global brand, one you can flash anywhere in the world, consider the US or Europe (I would argue that all top schools provide a great academic experience, and a multicultural environment).    


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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Panel: You seem to be timid and submissive. Do people take you seriously?

Candidate (Male): They don’t, till the time I open my mouth. Once I do that, things change.

(Result – Admitted)

Panel: You’re not appropriately dressed for an interview. Do you walk into work this shabbily?

Candidate (Female): I’m overweight. I can’t carry off a skirt, and look bloated in a sari. I wanted to make an impression, and a Patiala suit was best I could come up with to make me look thin.

(Result – Admitted)

Panel: Did you take feedback on your previous application?

Candidate (Heavy Bengali Accent): Yes – they said my communication skills were not up to the mark.

Panel: And what do you feel?

Candidate: Given my background, I cannot speak the Queen’s English. I want to build a career in Engineering. I may not sound impressive, but I can explain drawings better than anyone else.

(Result – Admitted)

Panel: Money or ethics?

Candidate (Female): Money.

Panel: Elaborate.

Candidate: There is no absolute black or perfect white – all I see around me are different shades of gray. I am not unethical, but I don’t see any saints around me. To move ahead, I need to be smart, and play my cards well.

(Result – Admitted)

These are actual ISB interviews. I know this, because I was sitting in them! For every such success story, I have at least one more of a candidate who was rejected. And after having conducted hundreds of actual interviews, I can assure you that winning candidates have attributes in common. The MBA interview is not designed to be rough (and surely not crazy), and the above questions aren’t the typical questions, but keep in mind that the panel can ask you anything. Also, don’t mislead yourself into believing that these candidates displayed brilliance – they did, but more than that, they displayed authenticity.

The ISB interview will be a panel interview – you will have two to three members who could either be alums or senior staff. Personally, I am not very fond of 3-member panels. I don’t find the process very efficient; there is pressure on candidates and a large panel makes the environment intimidating. Moreover, members could have a tendency to struggle for airtime, which could make the process unproductive. Foreign B-Schools will have one member – a senior staff or an alumnus. In India, most foreign schools will have alum interviews or ‘discussions.’ Harvard interviews, as some of you know, will be conducted by staff.

No matter whom you interview with, the nature of the interview remains fairly common. For most schools, including the ISB, the interview will remain within the realms of your own profile. For the most part, there will be no ‘trick’ questions, and if there are any, they will be from your own function or industry, and will only facilitate a validation of your claims. Alums are instructed to check whether (a) they would want you in their study group and (b) they would want you in their alumni network. This thought has merits. Alums have interest in their school’s reputation. Given that they have been through the journey, they will want to associate with candidates who display potential. Amongst the many strategies out there, here are a few that work.

Approach the interview as a conversation. The interview is not about right or wrong answers. It’s about how you answer and how you substantiate your claim. Be careful while using statistics – they cannot be argued with. Don’t be the smart alec. Alums generally do not like arrogance. Try to gauge the evaluator’s body language, and respond to it. If they want to change course, or ask another question, they will give you signals. Follow their lead!

Answer the question and don’t beat around the bush – request the panel for a minute in case you need to bring structure. Don’t memorize and don’t try and cover everything. The panel can gauge how desperate you are for the MBA, and believe it or not, trying too hard can lead them into believing that you are needy. Confident and high potential candidates come across as deserving but not needy. Often a time displaying interest in a program comes across as neediness. I once interviewed a candidate who went on and on about clubs she wanted to be a part of, the classes she wanted to take, and alums she was in touch with. She didn’t get in. The panel doesn’t want to know how well you researched the program; they want to see whether you are serious about your career, and whether you have taken measures to learn and progress.

While you prepare for your interview, think about examples from your life that left an impression on you, and then try to apply them to various questions. For example, a project you worked on in China or Africa could be relevant to various behavioral questions on handling people, challenging situations or diversity. Stick to examples from your professional life, unless you are committed on a curricular interest. B-Schools are interested in your career, and they know you are not going to throw ball for a living! As an informal rule, 80% of your answers should be from your professional career.

All schools will evaluate you on communication. Communication does not mean fluent English; it means clear thinking and getting the meaning across. Be honest about your shortcomings and do not appear defensive. If you can, position your weaknesses as strengths, or try to display measures you have taken to improve upon them. I once interviewed a candidate who was laid off. He tried to mask his unemployment by talking about how he had become richer as a result of his travels, which his work was not allowing. Again, he went on and on. Ultimately, I had to tell him that an evaluation was only possible if he answered the questions. He didn’t get through, and this was not because he was unemployed. It was because of his judgment – he doubted the panel’s intelligence. If he was honest about his situation and elaborated on his struggles, he would have had a shot.

Read the newspaper. ISB is unlikely to ask you questions around current affairs, but they can ask you deeper questions about your industry or function. You are expected to talk intelligently about matters you have claimed in you application. Having a grip on current matters pertaining to your industry will give you an advantage.

I know some alums and staff who ask puzzles and trick questions. I am not particularly fond of such questions, and they are not the norm, but you may still get them. Take a minute or two, but if you cannot solve the puzzle, don’t waste time. Walk the panel through your thought process and respectfully surrender!

The firm handshake and the ‘thank-you’ note – give me a break (I’m bringing some humor here)! I never found anyone who made an impression with a handshake, let alone get an offer. Staunchness comes across as simulated. I’m not saying don’t shake hands – gauge the environment. If you evaluator asks you to sit, and the table is large, you don’t have to walk all the way around only to greet the panel. Similar is case with the ‘thank you’ note – ditch it, because nobody reads it!

At CollegeStation.in, we have a special interview package in which we go through your application, give you a list of unique questions designed for you, simulate interviews, and give you feedback. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with us on info.collegestation@gmail.com or +918725800159.


DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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(This post is not about the ISB, but I am starting it with some insights from my experiences at the school. I have covered the 2+2 at Harvard as well.)

A few years back, the ISB introduced the Young Leaders Program (YLP) and the Early Entry Option – admissions programs designed for candidates in college, or with less than two years of experience.  These products are testament enough that the Indian School of Business also wants more applicants with less experience in its program.  These decisions are not based on notions and fancies, but on well thought through facts discussed in various forums led by the School’s top management and Dean’s Office.

One of these facts, which should not be a surprise, is that the MBA market is also driven by supply and demand. And demand, for the most part, is driven by recruiters. One of the reasons the ISB introduced the YLP and the Early Entry Option is because there were indications from the recruiting community that they wanted more candidates in this demographic; candidates who could easily be molded into their corporate cultures. Having worked at the placements office at the ISB for a number of years, I can assure you that the number of jobs posted for such candidates has been on the rise.

So what do you do to increase the odds in your favor? In my previous blog for candidates with more than 8 years of experience, I have advised candidates to establish depth of experience.  For the younger generation, my advice is against establishing depth of experience, because you don’t have any!  In case you position yourself as an expert, you are likely to face tough questions from senior alums and staff members who have more experience than you.  Instead, focus on your value system and motivations – highlight your interpersonal skills by focusing on your journey and the choices you have made.  In my experience interviewing YLP and Early Entry candidates, I have observed that the panel invariably gives points to ‘likable’ candidates – candidates who are modest, and who display genuine interest in their future goals.  Don’t sound boastful about your achievements because it is too early in your career to be vocal about them.  Also, don’t try to cover everything. Harvard, as I understand, has a phrase for such candidates: scripted. Instead, be subtle – state your achievements, but focus your journey.

Here are some facts about YLP and Early Entry ISB applicants: They have higher GMAT scores, they have good grades in Xth and XIIth, and they went to well-known colleges.  There is no preference for a particular undergraduate program – in other words, there is no indication that a B.Com will have a higher probability of success than a B.Tech, or visa versa.  Winning candidates are also almost always working at a top firm, or have secured a job at a top firm.  Analyst roles seem to be popular in this group.

I have reason to believe that for the 2+2 program at Harvard, successful candidates are more likely to be American Caucasians with STEM backgrounds.  For Indian applicants targeting the 2+2, I recommend you get your profile evaluated by a consultant who understands Harvard.  In four out of five cases, I have recommended that the candidate push the application to a later date, and complete four years of experience.  For Harvard, it is also possible that women applicants from India have a slightly better shot.

As always, all advice is based on likelihoods and probabilities!  There are no rules to the game, and we are trying to maximize opportunity based on profiles and patterns. To learn more, do get in touch with us.

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

 

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(This post is not about the ISB, but I am starting it with some insights from my experiences at the school)

If you belong to the Senior Executive Club (SEC), the ISB is a good choice! In any given year, between 50 and 100 students with more than eight years of experience join the ISB – some of these candidates have well over 10 years on their CV. Upon enrolling, they become members of the SEC club, which works with the school on a number of initiatives in learning & development, networking, and placements.  Right from the beginning, the school closely works with each member of the SEC on wide-ranging matters such as targeting lateral roles, career management, leadership training, academic planning, interview prep, and industry connect.  The ISB is a great place to be for candidates with more experience, but make no mistake, you will need specific strategies if you want to get in.

First of all, let me begin by saying that the ISB has no bias for older or younger applicants.  For quite some time, the ISB has advertised during its admissions info sessions that it likes those senior candidates who have potential to reach the CXO suite within 5 years of graduating.  In practicality, such a presentation is not as simple as it sounds.  Often a time, putting your best foot forward is more difficult when you need your goal the most.  And for many, this is a stage in which candidates are looking for a springboard to accelerate their careers.

Amongst the strategies that work, focus more on your depth of experience and highlight your professional expertize.  With many years of experience, softer skills are considered a given.  Emphasizing leadership experience and curricular involvement are unlikely to make you stand out, unless these experiences are truly great.  On the same lines, it may be a bad idea to state ‘career change’ in your short-term post-MBA goals. I have observed that in this group, candidates who fare well generally have a focused career path, goals that have evolved from past experience, high confidence, and conviction to handle their own careers.

The key takeaway from this post is to craft an application that doesn’t make you look needy – you have to present yourself as a scarce commodity who has plans, and who can reach the C-suite with or without the MBA.  Also, get the best GMAT score possible.  For senior executives, a high GMAT is very important.  Admissions committees like the reassurance they get from high scores because for experienced candidates, high scores give a certain ‘wow’ factor – the feeling that this candidate scored high despite being out of books for so long!

For candidates looking at the US Schools, avoid dwelling over statistics on average age. Instead, come up with good reasons for why you are targeting the specific school. While all the schools have students who are in their 30s, I have reason to believe that some schools are more open to older applicants.  Look at Duke, UCLA, INSEAD, IE Spain and IMD in Switzerland if you are a senior executive. The average age at IMD is way higher than that at other schools and many students here are well in their 30s.  It is also a close-knit program with a fantastic network. Another school to look at is IE Spain.  It has dual degree arrangements with Yale SOM and MIT Sloan – Not bad if you get two top degrees in two years, and all this while building a network across two continents.  At IE, you don’t even have to take the GMAT; although you will have to take IE’s own assessment in case you opt out of the standardized tests.  Also, you may want to look at 1-year programs at Kellogg, Emory and USC Marshall – these are great programs if you are on the other side of average age.

In the end, I would like to point out one observation – at most schools there are fewer people in the 30+ or 32+ category not because they don’t get in, but because they don’t apply.  I have conducted actual interviews year on year at ISB for applicants in the 8+ years category, and there is absolutely no bias in the way senior executives are evaluated. In my own experience as a student and as a staff member, I’ve really enjoyed interacting with SEC members; they have great experience, and have greatly added to my learning at ISB, even when I was working there. If there were more applicants in this group, it is likely that more would get in. The fact remains that at a certain stage in life, taking the plunge becomes more difficult if you have added responsibilities, and this is most likely the reason why there are fewer senior MBA students at top schools.

At CollegeStation.in, we are working with many students with more than 8 years of experience.  They have very interesting stories to tell, and we love working with them.  If you would like to discuss your profile, or simply learn more, do get in touch with us.

 

DISCLAIMERThe views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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In some of my previous blogs, I have touched upon the importance of specializing.  With that, I am saying that in the current times, it is better to build depth in a certain function or industry.  Years back, the MBA program was introduced to provide breadth to corporate employees who had limited exposure to work outside of their own departments.  At most schools, the MBA started out as a ‘general management’ program that would give these candidates an appreciation for all business functions. Things are very different today – the speed at which work is executed has increased significantly, boundaries are no longer the same, and learning options are aplenty.  Today, high school students can create solid digital marketing campaigns.  By the time they are out of college, they have acquired exposure not only to best practices, but also to a number of industries.

So why go ahead and get an MBA?  Well, for starters, the MBA has also evolved.  At most of the top schools, it is a very flexible program in which you can build depth in case you are generalist, and acquire breadth in case you are a specialist.  Also, academic content is not the only reason you go to business school – you go to b-school for the ecosystem it provides, and access to outside of class opportunities that you otherwise will not find easy to get.  The right MBA will provide you with enough opportunity to explore an industry or function in detail.

But there are also some top programs that we don’t look at – programs that are more focused and that are a great alternative to the MBA. Most of us are somewhat familiar with category rankings. In this blog, I am sharing some specialised master’s programs that are very well known in the industry, and provide the same opportunities that an MBA does.

Finance – Besides the heavyweights Wharton, Chicago and NYU, consider the Master of Finance program at MIT Sloan, London Business School and Cambridge Judge. These programs are feeder programs to the best of best in the banking space.  If you want to work in Financial Engineering and risk, look at the Master of Financial Engineering program at UCLA Anderson and Berkeley Haas. If you want to complete your CFA while getting your master’s, consider the finance program at Rutgers University. The school’s proximity to New York makes it an attractive proposition for recruiters in the area.

Supply Chain Management and Operations – Both Georgia Tech and MIT have specialized master’s programs in supply chain management, and both are really well known in industry. The MIT program is a standalone program while GATech’s is housed within the department of Industrial Engineering. Also consider Michigan State University’s Master in Supply Chain Management. It is housed within the College of Business, and many consider it to be the No. 1 program in the US.

Consumer Products and FMCG – This is a no brainer. Go to Kellogg if you get in.  Consumer products account for about 14% of the total hiring at Northwestern – this figure is much higher than that of any other school in the top 25.

Luxury and Fashion – If your heart is set on working at LVMH, you will have to apply to HEC in Paris. If you want to work at Bulgari, go to Bocconi in Italy.  Many of the executives in the luxury, fashion and beauty space have advanced degrees from these schools. Both schools offer specialization in fashion and luxury, and both schools are very strongly connected to industry. ESSEC in France is also very well known in this space.

Sport Management – Ohio University has a world-renowned Master of Sports Administration program.  Equally well known is the Sport Management Program at Columbia University. If want to work at a sports league such the NBA or NFL, or if you want to work as a sports agent – look no further.

Music Business – Music business majors understand both music technology and business. Today graduates of the Berklee College of Music and the Steinhardt School at New York University are working in companies such as Apple, Sony Music and Google.  Both schools offer a master’s degree in music business. At Berklee, you can also do an MBA in Music completely online.

Entertainment – For film and television, the top schools are USC Marshall and UCLA Anderson. Every year graduates from these schools head to the studios, agencies and tech firms such as Netflix. This is a highly competitive field, and not for the faint of heart. But if you have the passion and are willing to persevere, you could be rewarded with an exciting career. NYU Stern also offers a major in Entertainment.

Hospitality – There are not many schools in the US for this specialization. But the one school that is there amongst the few is arguably the best in the world – the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. If you want to interview with hotel chains and Casinos, you’d have better odds if you went to Cornell. There are other very well known programs in the EU. Amongst them is the Master of Management in Food and Beverage at Bocconi, Italy.

Real Estate – Incidentally, Cornell’s Hotel School also houses the top ranked real estate master’s program in the nation. Take a look at it if you are interested in real estate finance and investment. Also look at MIT’s Master in Real Estate Development Program. Both these programs are in the top 2 in the US, and with such brands attached to your CV, be rest assured that you are on your way to a great career.

Airline Management – If the airline industry interests you, and you want to travel the globe, look at the following world famous programs – MBA in Aviation at Embry Riddle University, Florida – USA, and MSc in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University, UK. These schools are feeder schools to pretty much all the airlines in the world.

Human Resources – Cornell is a powerhouse in the field of Industrial and Labor Relations. The ILR School offers a world-renowned master’s program for those interested in Human Resources. The Ross School at University of Michigan is also known to be strong in HR.

Public Administration – Harvard Kennedy School’s MPA degree is one of the best there is in Public Management.  The program is much easier to get into than the university’s MBA program. Given Harvard’s strong brand, the MPA is probably a better bet than many other MBA programs.

So go ahead and specialize. I firmly believe that we are in an age in which specialization is key. Breadth can be built and generalist skills can be acquired at any stage, but after a certain point, it is difficult to specialize. And if you have lost that boat, you are likely to not develop skills that will allow you to stay on top of the game. The programs that I have mentioned are business specializations – you could, on the other hand, opt for specializations outside of business.  Advanced degrees in User Experience, Cognitive Psychology, Statistics, Computer Science, Ergonomics, Robotics, and Urban Design, to name a few, are examples of programs that are likely to give you the same opportunities.

To learn more about MBA and master’s programs, get in touch with us.

 

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

 

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Routine activities have evolved over the years. Advances in technology have not only brought us close, but they have also enabled us to get to know each other better.  Today, we can not only connect with friends from all over the world, but we can also get a better idea of who they are from what they post and tag on social platforms.  Technology has enabled transparency, and there is less information asymmetry.  In a connected world, nothing is as ‘hidden’ as it was in the past, and for the most part, what you see is what you get!

Keeping up with the times is probably a B-School agenda!  The current generation of millennial MBA applicants is very different from applicants even as recent as ten years back.  Not so long ago, HBS asked for five essays as part of its application. Now it asks for only one, and that too starts with, ‘what more would you like us to know…’.  Schools now have more creative requirements such as presentations and pictures. Some require video essays, and there are others that allow the applicant an open hand to present what they want to in any medium of choice.  Chicago Booth provides you this open canvas. Kellogg, MIT, Rotman and Insead have video essay requirements, and NYU wants to learn about you through pictures that best represent you.

So what are the admissions committees hoping to achieve with these new requirements.  To cut the answer short – the new generation is better at expressing themselves with a free hand, the number of platforms to communicate ideas has increased, and the new platforms are more ‘transparent.’ The admissions committees want to get to know you, and hence, with these new requirements, they are giving you more opportunity to present your true self, and they are doing so by pushing you into mediums that more authenticate your profile.

One less talked about fact is that traditional application requirements are now becoming boring. It does not take a lot of intelligence for the AdComs to realize that majority of the recommendations have been gamed – LORs are often long, full of praise, and frequently capture more detail about the candidate than asked for or required. There is no surprise that the ISB has reduced its LOR requirement to one.  Similar is the rationale behind limiting the number of essays.  Consultants are making essays faultless to the extent that admissions committees are not finding them to be thought provoking anymore. The essays often come across as so unoriginal that reading them becomes a lackluster exercise for the committee members who have to evaluate thousands of applications.  Having said that, even if all the essays were interesting and real, I don’t see how four essays can do the job one essay can’t – and AdComs have realized that the incremental benefit of having additional essays is low.  With four to five years of average work experience, not all students have gone through journeys that allow them to paint interesting stories for all the questions. And schools know that such traditional application requirements give advantage to some candidates, and disadvantage to others.

Another less admitted fact is that schools are now placing more weight on the measurable and credible elements of your application.  In no way am I saying that the essay is becoming outdated. The essay is here to stay.  All I’m saying is that schools are moving away from traditional essay requirements to methods that (a) provide creative freedom, and (b) are more likely to ‘validate’ the candidate’s story. The open-ended essay is an example of a medium that provides creative freedom, and the video essay is an example of a medium that validates the candidate’s profile.

If you would like to learn more about how you can craft a solid application and put your best foot forward, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at info.collegestation@gmail.com or +918725800159.

 

DISCLAIMERThe views expressed on this site and in this article are opinions, and all data and information provided here are for informational purposes only. CollegeStation Eduservices LLP, its partners, clients or any of its associates make no representations as to accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information provided on this site and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.

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One of the most critical decisions for those who are now getting ready to apply to MBA programs is which schools to apply to.  Many of you are absolutely sure of your application strategy, and this is an envious position to be in, but for the vast majority of the candidates, this could turn out to be quite a nerve-wracking decision that frequently changes with bits and pieces of new information.  It is natural and it happens to the best of us. We are genetically programmed to maximize the probability of reward, and new information will push us to scratch our heads.  So what should you do?

The first thing that I tell my clients is to have a diversified application strategy.  This means that you should apply to schools that are safe, within reach and ambitious for you.  This strategy is especially important for those candidates who have the most stellar profiles and those who do not want to target anything less than the top 5. Now obviously, I am not asking anyone to go to a lesser-ranked school, and why should you, but the fact remains – you can only choose where you finally go to at the time of admission, and not at the time of the application.  Given the really low acceptance rates of top schools, admissions, even for the most brilliant candidates is a matter of chance. To maximize the probability of reward, it is wise to hedge your bets.  Also, avoid taking acceptance rates at face value – most of you reading this blog belong to the Indian demographic – which means that you will be compared with the Indian pool in addition to the overall applicant pool. And acceptance rates for the Indian pool is lower that those published by business schools. At the end of the day, you really can’t go wrong with any of the top 15 schools. Applying to schools safe for you could reward you with possibilities that you otherwise could not have imagined at the application stage – such as a merit scholarship. I can’t stress enough the importance of this strategy – many a time very brilliant candidates come to me as re-applicants. When I learn more about their previous year’s applications, I can pinpoint with a fair amount of ease that their application strategy has been suboptimal. I myself fell in this trap when I was applying to MBA programs years back.  After getting the GMAT score I wanted, I applied only to two of the top 5 schools and landed up getting the ding letter from both of them.

Another piece of advice, which in continuation to the above, that I offer candidates is to focus their energies on an ideal number of schools rather than a large number of schools.  My logic to this is quality over quantity.  Given the time constraints associated with work and other commitments, applicants come to a point as which they start facing a writer’s block and lose objectivity. They rush to get things done, and ultimately don’t answer the question asked.  Often a time I have interacted with candidates who have applied to between eight and 10 schools.  When I review their applications, I can easily pinpoint that some of the applications are a cut-copy-and-paste from a previous application.  Admissions committees don’t have to be trained to gauge this sort of thing – they can easily make out whether the candidate has genuine interest, and whether he (or she) has answered the question that has been asked.  If an application makes the AdCom members feel that they are the candidate’s safety fallback option, or that the application does not display a certain amount of genuine interest in the program, they don’t feel very good – nobody wants to feel that they are unimportant! I know a candidate who once, upon receiving a rejection from a top 15 US school, sought feedback from the school’s Director of Admissions. The Director explicitly stated, ‘we don’t think you are interested in us, and we are a proud school.’ My recommendation to most candidates is four schools. In certain situations I have recommended five schools, but not beyond that.  This seems to be the ideal number for maximizing reward.

While you are considering schools and working on strategies, you may also want to pace yourself. Many a time candidates ask me whether there is any advantage to applying in R1 vs. R2.  The most clichéd answer is that you should apply when you are ready – till date it remains the best answer. At most schools R1 and R2 acceptance rates are not significantly different, and in case they are, the added advantage of the slight difference in acceptance rates will not outweigh the benefit of a better application, or a better foot forward. Many applicants who have not yet taken the GMAT ask me whether it is better to apply to the ISB in R1 or with a better GMAT score in R2. My answer is to take the GMAT before the R1 deadline, and apply if you get the required score, and postpone to R2 if you don’t.  Don’t stress over the number of GMAT attempts – while we feel it is more important to be perceived as intelligent than hardworking, this is not entirely true for the way others perceive us.  A little known AdCom secret about the GMAT is that the number of attempts has absolutely no bearing on your admissions outcome. In fact, if you have improved your score from a 600 to a 720, it is likely to be viewed with an element of awe.  You are immediately perceived as a committed and hard working person.

There are other considerations when deciding on which rounds to apply in.  You may want to take advantage of the ‘early-decision’ round at some schools, such as Columbia. In case you opt for early action, you are trading off the possibility of more opportunity in the future, for a higher chance of getting in now.  In case you have your eyes set on a top school, but are on the edge in terms of your credentials, early-decision may very well be for you.  Other considerations include awards and scholarships. If you are hoping for some sort of aid or a merit-based scholarship, some schools require you to apply by a certain deadline, which could be R1.  Given the soaring costs of a top US MBA, you might as well apply early.  At most schools, I would avoid applying in the final round, which could be R3 or R4.  Acceptance rates at most schools are significantly lower for the final round, and most students who apply during this round are those who don’t make it in the earlier rounds – AdComs know this, and are basically providing some highly qualified candidates one last opportunity to secure an admit.  Having said that, I have reason to believe that at some top schools, final round acceptance rates are at par with those at earlier rounds, or at least high enough.  These schools include Michigan, Cornell, Texas at Austin, NYU, and possibly Virginia, and Duke.

Other matters include the value proposition of the MBA program.  I almost always tell candidates that the ISB offers a fantastic value proposition – it offers state-of-the-art infrastructure, a great residential experience, fantastic placements, a plethora of international exchange programs, the opportunity to specialize in a number of subjects, and most of all, top faculty from the world’s best business schools, and all this, at a fraction of the cost.  One of the reasons I feel that the ISB has been successful in such a short span of time, is its exchange faculty model.  Many professors of Indian origin working in the US wanted to come back home to India from time to time. Their initial positive experience teaching at the ISB opened up doors to other professors exploring this option. And today, if you look at the ISB faculty roster, you will notice popular names from the likes of Wharton, Kellogg, NYU, MIT, LBS, UCLA and many others.  Having said that, let me also assure you that ISB’s own tenured faculty is par-excellence. Walk into the Operations Management course by Professor Milind Sohoni, and you will be blown away.  Take the New Product Development course by professor Arun Pereira, and I guarantee you that you will not want to budge from your seat.  A B-School is really about faculty, and kudos to them for committing their lives to achieving such depth, and making such a difference in the lives of so many.  I really hope that some of you in this new generation commit to higher learning and get PhDs.  Professors make all the difference – they are truly in a noble profession.  For the sake of not getting carried away, and coming back to the point I’m making – The ISB is an excellent value proposition. If you want to finish in 1-year and quickly get back to work without heavy debt, or if you want to live and work in India in the long run, my alma mater may very well be a great option for you.

Yet another consideration is the time you want to commit to further education.  In case you want to remain in the same industry of function, have already built a certain functional expertize, don’t want to go through the hassle of looking for an internship, or if you simply don’t want to be out of the workforce for too long, the 1-year MBA may be a good option for you.  Keep in mind that there are fewer top 1-year MBA programs, and you are better off with a few 2-year programs on your list as well.  In addition to the ISB, Insead, Kellogg, Cornell, Emory and USC Marshall offer the 1-year option.

Ironically so, I am more in favor of the 2-year program, which I feel has certain advantages.  In case you wish to build depth in a certain function and specialize, the two-year program will give you more opportunity and time to study subjects in more detail. For students wishing to work in Finance, you should to go for a 2-year program.  Finance recruitments have evolved to include a lot of weight on past experience, and hence, performance during the internship is a key parameter for evaluating candidates for post-MBA jobs.  There is a reason for why the finance heavy schools are all 2-year programs.  I’m not saying that you should totally avoid the 1-year MBA if you are a finance major – all I’m saying is that access to new opportunity and the likelihood of a desired placement will be higher at a 2-year program. Do keep in mind that no matter where you go, relevant experience and academic qualifications will play a role in how you finally fare.  If you have relevant experience and qualifications, or certifications such as the CFA, you are likely to get by with ease even at a 1-year program.

The 2-year program also has the advantage of a more holistic experience.  There are more opportunities to conclude tasks that you start, take on certain club and curricular activities in a deeper fashion, learn from 2nd year students, and enjoy the industry specific excursions and immersions. The 2-year program also provides more opportunities to network and form deeper friendships. By the time you get to know people, you have already finished one year. The 2nd year is really when you start building your friendships.

Also, you need to think about what kind of learner you are.  If you are a slow learner, and like to sleep over or philosophize over material before grasping it, the 2-year program may be of interest. But if you are a fast and intuitive learner, or that kind of engineer who has excellent visual and pictorial skills, you are likely to fare equally well at a 1-year program. Teaching methods will also play a role here.  Most of the schools adopt a mix of different styles that include case study, lectures, group work and simulations. Harvard and Darden are the only two US schools that deliver over 70% of their coursework through case studies. Cases are a type of flipped classroom, in which you do prior reading on a challenge that a company is facing, and discuss it in class with the faculty leading the discussion. If you like this sort of thing, you will be very happy with B-School no matter where you apply, because all of the schools use this method for at least part of the coursework.  Of the schools that tend to be more instruction based, Chicago, UCLA and Carnegie Mellon come to my mind. Personally, I feel that the case based method is not fitting for certain kinds of courses such as accounting, quantitative analysis and finance. Cases are more productive when everyone is class has some level of proficiency. Because this is not always the case, and grading is a result of class participation, there is a tendency for students to scramble for airtime, and this leads to random and often pointless discussions.

You may also want to reflect upon the location and size of the program. My advice on this tends to favor schools close to or in the major economic hubs of Boston, New York, Chicago and the Valley, to name a few.  It is not surprising that schools in these areas enjoy a good reputation. The ecosystems of these hubs foster mutually beneficial associations between universities and industry. Amongst other advantages, these associations lead to corporate requirements that bring about cutting-edge research, and research that is capitalized by corporations, not to mention research that has lead to the creation of successful companies. Many of the faculty members at these schools are closely linked to these organizations, and are on their boards.  Many of the faculty members are also running their own companies.  All these advantages translate into better classroom experiences and more opportunities for you, which ultimately culminate into a more effective job search.  Having said that, in case you want to enjoy some time off and live in peace and quiet, love the outdoors, or want to be free from the distractions of city life, a more intimate environment may very well bring out the best in you.  Consider Tuck, Darden and Cornell if you thrive in an intimate environment.  And then there is always the middle path; college towns that offer the best of both worlds – large enough to provide a great off-campus experience, and small enough for you to focus on the task at hand. Ann Arbor, MI and Austin, TX fit the bill here, and if this is what you want, go ahead and apply to Ross and McCombs.

You may also want to capitalize on your cultural outlook or fluency in a certain language.  If you are the kind of person who loves a multicultural environment, a European school will be a good bet.  The same holds true for those who can speak one of the EU languages. Research has indicated that knowing an additional language translates into significantly higher earnings in the long run.  You may want to exploit your strengths by taking up a job that requires you to be bilingual or trilingual.  At schools such as Insead, you will have many opportunities to interview for such jobs.

I will also urge you to look at schools that are powerhouses in their own regions but not often considered by top applicants. Schools such as Rotman in Toronto, AGSM in Sydney, and the Melbourne Business School are truly great programs, and very well respected in their own countries. If you want to work in these economies, these schools will provide better opportunity than even the most elite programs.

I have saved the most important piece of advice for the end – apply to places where you feel you belong. Ask yourself, ‘will this program provide me with an ecosystem, i.e. access to opportunity and recruiters in my desired industry, to fulfill my long-term goals?’  No matter what statistics say, you have a higher likelihood of getting into a school where you feel you belong. This is because your story and interview will naturally be in flow, and convey genuine reasoning and logical interest.  I feel that is world is progressing towards specialization. I also feel that technology is often evolving faster than it can be executed, and hence, pure generalists will be in lower demand.  Don’t view the MBA as an opportunity to create more options for yourself. Instead, have a narrower focus, and use it as an opportunity to build on what you already have a background in.  Even current psychology research has indicated that committing oneself to a single long-term goal leads to a higher probability of financial success and life happiness – so why not? If you want to work in Sports, consider Ohio University’s top ranked Sports Management MBA. If media is your calling, you may want to apply to NYU Stern. If its fashion and luxury, consider SDA Bocconi in Milan and HEC in Paris, and if you wish to work in the automotive industry, you might as well apply to the University of Michigan.

In case you are still unsure, get in touch with alums you know from schools that you are interested in.  They will be able to share insights and experiences that may aid you in your decision. There is always the option of reaching out to an admissions consulting firm – some of them have Admissions Office experience and deep information on what really goes inside business schools.  At CollegeStation, a profile review is free of cost, so why not use the opportunity!

 

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