How to differentiate yourself as an MBA Candidate – Webinar QnA

We know that as an MBA candidate, you’re probably toiled everyday by thousands of questions that race through your mind. Every aspect of the application process can be daunting if you are unable to find answers to these pertinent questions buzzing around in your head.

To help you out on your quest to dowsing your qualms, we recently conducted an Admissions Webinar with America’s most popular Admissions Consultant, Paul Bodine, leading the way. Almost all the questions asked during the webinar seemed to resonate with the majority of our audiences, so we decided to collate them all into one article. Paul has very expertly responded to each one of the queries, and we really think that anyone and everyone applying for an MBA should go through his answers.

Here we go; let’s begin.

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Question 1: My GMAT Rank is not particularly good, but I have 12 years of experience in the telecommunication Industry and I’m a teacher in the University of Colombia. How much value does the experience have against the GMAT score while applying?

Paul’s answer: It all depends on how far your GMAT score is from your target schools’ median, what your GPA was, and how compelling your experience is. Applicants who are truly diverse (as a Colombian you would be) and who have truly impressive professional experience (e.g., starting their own successful business or nonprofit) can definitely offset a weak GMAT *to some extent*.

Question 2: How does doing a post-graduation in liberal studies and next generation corp help in the application process?

Paul’s answer: The post-grad studies might help show that your English skills are OK but will not move the needle very much in terms of overall admissions odds. Your corporate work will help a lot if you are fast track and demonstrate good leadership.

Question 3: I am an Indian Chartered Accountant in a private firm with 3 years of work experience post-graduation. Where does my profile stand?

Paul’s answer: 3 years of work experience is enough to apply to top schools but accountants are not really ‘diverse’ applicants, so you will need to have 1-2+ other differentiators such as leadership, unusual extracurricular role, powerful personal story etc.

Question 4: I am working in the Central Bank of India for the last 7 years. What are my chances? I have a GRE score of 322.

Paul’s answer: A 322 can get you into many good, if not great, business schools. Your experience with the Central Bank is a good asset, especially if you ‘fast track’ and have good leadership. But as an Indian applicant you will need additional differentiation.

Question 5: What is the school looking for in the Interview? What would it mean if a candidate is rejected after the interview? Is the application weighed again after the interview?

Paul’s answer: Good English skills, self-awareness, good interpersonal skills, knowledge of their program and of your goals/need for MBA, and hopefully some poise/charisma/presence. Applicants who’ve done well in the interview can be dinged for other reasons such as non-diversity. Yes, your application is reviewed again holistically after the interview.

Question 6: Are GRE scores valid for MBA?

Paul’s answer: Yes, virtually all top schools accept them now, as a way to attract nontraditional applicants.

Question 7: I am doing my graduation right now.I want to know working and then doing MBA is better or doing an MBA after my UG?

Paul’s answer: Most schools will look for/expect 2-3 years of progressive work experience. I would wait.

Question 8: I am a female disputes lawyer from Singapore in my late 20’s and am of Chinese ethnicity. My undergrad grades are not that strong (But it was a selective program even with the 10th percentile coming in with A levels. I obtained straight A’s at A levels.) How do you think I can distinguish myself?

Paul’s answer: Being a lawyer is a huge differentiator but because your ethnic background is not especially diverse I recommend looking for additional differentiators such as hobbies/passions, extracurricular leadership, or a powerful personal background.

Question 9: I’m an Indian mechanical engineer with one year of work experience. I take care of my family business on the side. What could serve as a differentiator for someone like me who runs a family business, and also works in the auto mobile industry?

Paul’s answer: Use both jobs to your advantage. Show how they connect (if they do), e.g., does your post-MBA goal integrate your family business and auto industry role in some way? Consider stating that your long-term goal is to join the family business (if it’s a substantial business).

Question 10: What do you consider an ideal age and span of work experience for a good MBA application? Also, what brand names in terms of work experience actually matter in an MBA application, particularly when B-Schools consider India? What are the top non-US B-Schools?

Paul’s answer: Anywhere from age 24 to 28 is the MBA sweet spot IMO. Top B-school ad-coms know India’s top-brand firms, so Tata, Reliance, Infosys, Mahindra, Airtel, SBI, Wipro etc. would help you. IMO the best non-US schools are INSEAD, LBS, HEC Paris, IESE, IMD, Cambridge, and Oxford.

Question 11: What could be a good way to introduce ourselves while visiting the institute for application?

Paul’s answer: Go with a smile, a business card, a compelling elevator pitch for why you need an MBA, and a couple of smart/non-obvious questions about their program.

Question 12: I speak 4 languages fluently. What is the best way to discuss this without looking boastful/arrogant? Does being sturdy help? I am studying Industrial Management in Executive Masters in the #1 French Engineering School. What can an MBA bring to me?

Paul’s answer: Talk about why you learned those 4 languages and how they tie into your global post-MBA goals. The tone you use in talking about your languages will protect you from seeming boastful. A Master’s from a top French school is a good asset. The MBA can give you a versatile degree and a global network that would facilitate a career change or management career.

 Question 13: I am a recent BSc. graduate in Economics from a leading UK university, and have just started working in Management Consulting for a well-known Global Consultancy firm. My thought is that I should wait for 5 years to differentiate myself and build up my profile before applying for an MBA. Do you think I should wait that long?

Paul’s answer: I think waiting 5 years is longer than necessary especially if you are demonstrating fast-track career growth and know what you want to do after the MBA. You could apply after 3 years and then if necessary reapply (there is no downside of being a reapplicant).

Question 14: I am Indian. Are Business Schools interested in freshers without work experience?

Paul’s answer: Not really — unless you are a true rock star with your own successful company or nonprofit or have some other form of a wow-factor profile.

Question 15: I interviewed with Sloan but got rejected. I am Indian, 31 years old, have worked in a Nuclear reactor operator and have been a part of an Indo- Nuclear deal. I will be travelling to Russia for a foreign assignment. I have a GMAT score of 770 and an undergrad degree from a not-so-great school. What should be my post-MBA career strategy?

Paul’s answer: State post-MBA goals in the global energy industry and highlight your Russia experience. That and your GMAT are big assets for you.

Question 16: I am working in an Analytics consulting firm and have taken up leadership roles over the past 2 years. How do you think working with machine learning techniques can be a differentiator, and how do I show it in my application?

Paul’s answer: Show the connection between your consulting work and machine learning. How did the former help you see that the latter is your career passion. Other applicants also talk about machine learning, AI and analytics so drill down deep enough to find a specific untapped niche within that space.

Question 17: I am a nurse with 18 years of work experience; 5 years as chief and 13 years in a critical area. I want to do an MBA in Management, from one of the many universities in the world. I’ve been told that I should have experience in the management field. What do you think?

Paul’s answer: You should look at executive MBA programs and should probably state post-MBA goals in health care. But emphasize your leadership experience over your nursing technical skills. Good luck.

Question 18: I am Romanian. I will soon complete my BA in International Relations and European Studies. I have been working in Marketing and Market Research, and I volunteer in the Educational Sector. I am also planning to start my business in Event Planning. My GPA is not great; around 9 (On a scale of 1 to 10). Do you think all the fields that I am activating will help me differentiate myself or will they demonstrate uncertainty? What do you think are my chances of being accepted in top B-schools at this point? Should I wait for a few more years before applying?

Paul’s answer: I would wait 2-3 years before applying. Make your event-planning business as successful as possible. Marketing and international relations are functional skills relevant to any business so there is no ‘uncertainty’ in highlighting them (especially if your goal for your event planning business is to go global. Your Romanian background is a big asset; build your post-MBA goals around it.

Question 19: Hi I am Zi Yuen from Malaysia, I have been a Project Manager in the Oil and Gas Industry for 6 years. I have a GPA of 3.53. and I am aiming for the top 10 US B-Schools. I wish to move into consulting post-MBA. What do you think are my chances?

Paul’s answer: Your GPA is good (not great). Aim for a GMAT score above 720. Being Malaysian and a manager are good differentiators; being in the oil & gas industry is not so distinctive. Your odds of bagging an admit in one of the Top 10 schools will depend on your GMAT score, your breadth of leadership experience, and how ‘interesting’ your personal story is.


And… that’s a wrap, folks!

Paul can answer your questions too! We shall host another webinar with Paul very soon. Make sure you keep subscribed to our mails to not miss the update when it arrives!

To know more about Paul, visit his profile on QS-LEAP!

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