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Home > Business > Columnists > Guest Column > Arvind Gupta


Gateway to your American dream

December 22, 2005

Indian students spend more than a billion dollars annually on management education in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and Australia; and the interest in foreign B-school degrees has been on the rise in line with economic prosperity in India.

American MBA programmes present students with many advantages such as a global perspective, interacting with a very diverse set of students, cultural exposure, and a curriculum taught by world-class faculty.

Most US MBA programmes differentiate themselves by admitting students with prior work experience and make extensive use of case studies. An MBA degree from the US is also a gateway for many international students to pursue their American dream.

Selecting and applying to appropriate B-schools is a challenge and very expensive affair and potential applicants need to do their research before starting the entire process.

I interacted with many potential applicants at the World MBA Forum in India recently, and many commonly asked questions and concerns are addressed in this article.

Rankings of B-schools

Most popular rankings differ in their choice of the Top10 schools, but if carefully studied you can find that they have a common set of schools in the Top 25. These rankings can be used as guidelines for entering students, to decide for the best option among the colleges available. Prospective students do need to bear in mind that recruiters also use these rankings to decide about the colleges to visit for campus interviews and also to negotiate pay packages. US News and World Report, BusinessWeek and the Financial Times publish the more popular business schools rankings.

While rankings provide a good starting point, students should not solely depend on the same for selection of colleges. First-hand information such as campus visits, talking to alumni, etc. is very useful in deciding the colleges to apply and eventually study.

Specialisation

The intended area of specialisation and the college's reputation on that particular area should form a very important criterion for college selection. Potential applicants should keep in mind that many students change their area of specialization mid-way through their MBA and having a school with a very good general management program is always very useful.

Location

The location of business school plays a very important role with two considerations. Firstly, for calculating your living expenses for the duration of the course and secondly, and more importantly, for your job prospects and business networking. The proximity of some business schools to certain industry domains plays a very important role in eventual placement. For example, if you want to be in financial domain, you want to be close the financial centres of the US.

Investment

The total investment should include cost of tuition for the duration of the course, living costs on a full year basis (many schools calculate for 9 months only per year), books, purchase of laptop and other study material during the course of study. Many schools do offer scholarships and partial tuition fee waivers to outstanding candidates and one should only account for them if committed in advance. Proving adequate financial resources is also a very stringent visa requirement.

There are many sources that one can look for to obtain financial assistance and a few of these are

Global Student Loan Program: This is available to international students. For more information check out www.globalslc.com.

MBA Loans from the GMAC: For more information visit www.salliemae.com/mbaloans.

Personal Loans: More information is available at www.citiassist.comand www.finaid.org.

While these are good criteria to select the business schools, one needs to match his/her profile with the profile the schools are looking for. There is no right or wrong candidate and no minimum and maximum scores. Most of the schools are looking for a diverse and involved class that will eventually add value to their school, classmates and faculty. Most of the schools are scouting for well-rounded students with a good story to tell about their background and future plans.

Scores

The TOEFL score is a passing score and generally not a criterion for admission. Most of the MBA schools look at GMAT score, with a few also considering GRE in special cases. GMAT scores are only one aspect of the overall application and not the sole criteria.

A high GMAT score does not necessarily mean an automatic admission into a top business school. Similarly an average GMAT score does not rule out a good candidate from a top MBA program if he/she has all the other aspects very well covered. Potential applicants must keep in mind that most MBA programs give their median scores and have no prescribed minimum criteria.

Apart from scores, other criteria for selection are: undergraduate grades, work experience, letters of recommendation, essays and optional interview.

Undergraduate Degree

One's undergraduate degree plays a huge role in their selection of business school and eventually their acceptance into the MBA program. Candidates with 3-year degrees in India must clarify if the schools accept the 3-year degree and waive the 16 years of education criteria. Many schools do waive the same in case the candidates have high quality work experience, other professional degrees like CA, LLB, MCA.

Applicants with 3-year undergrad degrees and having one year of Masters are also not acceptable unless they have completed their master degree. Most of the business schools are part of a university system and these regulations are dictated more by the graduate admissions of the university and the business school have very little role to play in the same.

As most of the undergraduate degree programs differ in marking systems, it is very important to submit a normalised undergraduate score. Most American universities have a 4.0 GPA scale and are able to relate well to a 4.0 GPA system and if there is a fair, uniform and accepted formula to convert undergraduate percentages/scores to the 4.0 GPA system, applicants should present an attested copy to the business schools.

Work Experience

Most of the top MBA programs desire above 2 years of relevant post graduation work experience. The average work experience in top business schools is about 5 years. It is highly encouraged for potential applicants to posses relevant work experience and relate to the same in their essays/statement of purpose and in their need for an MBA degree. Candidates with good work experience also stand a better chance of getting good campus placements.

Job Prospects

Potential applicants should check out the placement record of the school for international students and whether the school's placement office provides assistance to international students. Most international students are allowed one year of practical training and there is a special H1-B quota so far, for international students having a graduate degree from US universities.

The author a graduate of IT-BHU, has a Masters in Computer Science and MBA from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA and a PhD in Technology Management. He has worked in leading global management consulting organisations in USA and now is the CEO of a software firm based in India.




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Sub: gateway2American dream

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