Standing Out as an International Applicant from India

indiaOne of the most competitive MBA applicant pools year-in and year-out is the vast crop of talented applicants originating from the subcontinent of India. Every year, top business schools are flooded with qualified Indian applicants that present a bevy of challenging decisions for admissions committees around the world. If you’re a member of the Indian applicant pool, it is important to understand how the admission committee will view you – having a good handle on this can help a smart applicant properly strategize on producing a “winning” application.

With so many candidates and so few spots available, it is more important than ever for Indian applicants to create an admissions package that stands out from the masses. But how is this done?

Let’s discuss some different ways the typical Indian candidate can create an application package that stands out from the competition.

Work Experience

The Indian applicant pool is known for being predominantly populated by one of the country’s biggest industries: the IT industry is by far the biggest pipeline of MBA talent coming out of India. This fact feeds into the reputation of the “homogeneous” Indian applicant, and “homogeneous” is rarely ever a good buzzword when it comes to gaining admission into business school.

For many application-ready candidates, this is a tough area to stand out in. But there are still some things to do for those candidates in the early stages of planning for their MBA, or those already in the midst of application season. For those in the early stages, this can involve pursuing industries that align with an area of interest, particularly if that is outside of the IT industry.

For those already within their target industry, taking on leadership opportunities in an existing role or exploring development in other areas or functions of your current job can present a strong growth trajectory. Whatever stage you are in as a candidate, the key here is to showcase yourself as a high-potential future leader with the flexibility to succeed in multiple work functions and industries.

GMAT Scores

This one is pretty simple – with so many applicants flooding the business school pipeline; it is critical for a competitive Indian applicant to achieve a strong score on the GMAT. What is a strong score, you may ask?

Many Indian applicants come in with above-average GMAT scores, which makes this aspect of the admissions process particularly competitive. With so many high-performing applicants coming from this region, admitted candidates often report GMAT scores that exceed school averages.

Generally, you will want to aim for around +20 points above the average score for your target program, with anything above that, of course, being increasingly more beneficial for your application.


Education is another fairly competitive area that is pretty unique in comparison to the typical structure favored by U.S. educators. Coming from a nation with a unique ranking system and some high-profile colleges, this is an area where international Indian candidates can try and stand out. Another common item on the transcript of the Indian MBA applicant can actually be an MBA. It is not uncommon for candidates to pursue a second Western MBA after already completing one in-country, so if this is you, make sure to have a clear rationale on why a second MBA is necessary.


A common knock against the Indian applicant is the non-data portion of the application process. A lot of focus tends to go into the GMAT, and not enough on other more nuanced elements of the application. This reputation feeds into the “homogeneous” reputation of the Indian applicant, as the opportunity to differentiate is often missed.


Undergraduate engagement is important, but continued engagement is also key. The focus in this area should be on leadership within these activities and not just participation. Don’t be afraid to leverage these experiences for other areas of your application as well – your ability to share highlights and impact from your engagements will go a long way in establishing these as meaningful experiences in your application.


Be interesting! Too many essays are bland responses focused on writing what the candidate feels the AdComm wants to hear. Breakthrough essays will be introspective and passionate responses that provide a unique insight into a candidate’s personal and professional background and goals. Avoid generic responses and use language that builds a narrative that cannot otherwise be gleaned from a resume or transcript.

Understanding the perception of your applicant pool is a key first step in creating a strategy to differentiate your profile from the masses. Use these tips as a starting point to creating a breakthrough application that showcases you as a unique candidate.

Applying to business school? Call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today, or click here to take our Free MBA Admissions Profile Evaluation! As always, be sure to find us on FacebookYouTubeGoogle+ and Twitter.

Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here

Free GMAT Critical Reasoning Online Class for Our Friends in India!

This coming Wednesday, August 4, Veritas Prep will host a free live online GMAT Critical Reasoning lesson for our friends in India. Everyone is invited to attend, but this one has been scheduled to work best for people on IST. The 3-hour class will run from 7:00 PM to 10:00 PM IST.

Taken directly from Veritas Prep’s full length, $1,600 GMAT course, this lesson will demonstrate proven strategies for conquering the GMAT’s Critical Reasoning questions, representing one of the most difficult facets of the verbal half of the exam.

The class will be taught by Brian Galvin, Veritas Prep’s Director of Academic Development and a top-rated U.S. GMAT instructor with over seven years of GMAT teaching experience. After teaching hundreds of students from India and Southeast Asia through his popular online events, Brian would like to take this opportunity to host a session at a convenient time for Southeast Asian students – 7:00 PM IST. We hope that you’ll take this opportunity to get Brian’s valuable insight and ask him any questions that you have about the GMAT.

After registering for the class, you will receive a confirmation email verifying your enrollment. On August 3rd, the day before the class, you will receive an additional email from Veritas Prep with an electronic copy of the Critical Reasoning lesson booklet and instructions on how to access the live online class.

Also, during the free trial class Brian will unveil a special offer for all GMAT students in India. But you have to resister and attend the online class to get the offer!

You can read more and register here. We look forward to seeing you online next Wednesday!

Photo courtesy of GoonSquadSarah, under a Creative Commons license.

HBS 2+2 Application Deadline Announced for 2010

HBS 2+2 ProgramHarvard Business School has just announced this year’s application deadline for the HBS 2+2 Program: June 15, 2010. Note that this is a couple of week’s earlier than last year’s deadline.

Harvard launched the HBS 2+2 Program to encourage high achieving undergraduate students who are not on a “business track,” to pursue careers in business. The program targets students focused on non-business concentrations such as engineering, liberal arts, science etc. Accordingly, they’re looking for students coming from those majors, rather than from undergraduate business programs. (If you’re in college now and fall into the latter camp, have no fear! That’s what the traditional HBS two-year MBA program is for.)

If you’re current a college junior, this deadline announcement is most relevant to you, since you will apply right after your junior year ends. To get a feel for what to expect in the coming months, take a look at the HBS 2+2 Program Timeline on Harvard’s web site. You’ll notice that the timeline suggests taking the GMAT or GRE this spring. If you haven’t yet gotten ready for the test, take a look at Veritas Prep’s GMAT prep options.

After getting the GMAT or GRE score that you want, then you’ll need to focus on writing a terrific application. Fortunately, we’ve been helping applicants do that for years, and we have helped many HBS 2+2 Program applicants since the program’s inception in 2008. To get an early read on your own admissions chances, give us a call at 800-925-7737 and speak with a Veritas Prep MBA admissions expert today!

What Counts as Significant International Work Experience?

For international experience to be significant it has to be something that you can write about at length and appropriately in a b-school essay.

  1. Can you articulate how you lead a team in a multi-national or cross border environment? This is what the adcom would want to see if you were writing an essay. A lot of applicants have worked occasionally overseas. More important is what you learned, how it changed your perspective, how you overcame an obstacle and how you produced a positive team outcome.
  2. That is, what you got out of it and what you can put down on paper is what will set your experience apart from other applicants. That is where I consider the line drawn with respect to whether or not an experience is significant.
  3. With respect to any extracurricular international experience (start-up, professional volunteerism, etc.), if you can write about it effectively as part of your positioning then it