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You may have often asked yourself what you should write in your application form to get into the top Business Schools. MBA applications require you to provide loads of paperwork – more than other academic activities. But before you apply, you need to find the right school and the school needs to know it has found the right candidate.

When your application has been favorably received, you will need to clear the interview round. So, let’s look at both these activities one at a time.

When you are looking to find the right B-school, remember that it’s not all about rankings. It comprises a whole load of other factors as below:

  1. International reputation: This is a strong criteria. The better the reputation, the higher the pay packet, the list of contacts and so on.
  2. Scholarships: Receiving a full or even partial scholarship certainly helps you decide and fix on your choice of school.
  3. Career placement: Helping you look for a job is a key component of any B-school. Many schools have companies coming on campus to interview students. For instance INSEAD and LBS have over 150 companies visiting their campus many of which are international recruiters.
  4. Specialization: After looking at the list of rankings zero down on eight schools. Your list should comprise three top schools, four to five mid level schools and the rest should be chosen from slightly further down the list. Now narrow down your selection based on the various strengths of the school. Match this with your own interest so that you get the right fit.
  5. Rankings: These are important but beyond the Top 20 business schools, you should also look at — a school’s accreditation status; one that equips you with skills and knowledge and one that gives you both depth and width as a person.
  6. In a nutshell your MBA degree should give you — skills, a good address book and a brand strength in the area you have chosen as your career path.

Now that you have zeroed in on the B-school, you need to know the basics of the often dreaded interview round:

  1. Presenting yourself: Wear a suit. It is always good to look business like and not appear in jeans and a sweater.
  2. Your body language must be positive: This means that you make eye contact; smile and appear relaxed and confident without appearing aggressive or over self-assured.
  3. Be sure of your answers: Most interviewees are asked the common question, “Why are you applying here?’’ Don’t give a glib answer. Many MBA courses offer the same things – classes, internships, placements, a good `address’ book, consulting projects and so on. So, you will need to be more detailed in your answer.
  4. In order to do this, take a hard look at your short term and long term goals. The former could be, wanting to get into marketing, consulting, financial services, become an entrepreneur etc. The latter will be your mission in life or where you see yourself 10 years hence.
  5. Now look at what skills you need to achieve your short term goals – technical skills like accounting or analytical skills such as strategic planning or even interpersonal skills. Put these together and hone in on the strength of the B-school/s you are applying to. Ask yourself if they meet your needs. When you answer the question, focus on the school’s features and programmes.  Elaborate on which ones are relevant to you and why.
  6. In short: start with your short term goal, give your long term aspiration, show how an MBA is necessary to achieve these goals, end with the aspects of the school that are relevant and which focus on you meeting your goals.
  7. Prepare well: The golden rule here is to know where you are going and never to arrive late. So allow extra time for traveling.
  8. Know your CV well and be prepared to explain it in detail if you have to.
  9. Different styles: Business Schools differ in their interviewing styles. For example Harvard Business School will ask you about your future goals; Stanford on the other hand will focus on your past actions in specific situations; Wharton conducts purely behavioral interviews; Kellogg’s interviews are based on your resume and so on.
  10. Trawl the Internet to find out what the interview style at the school you have chosen is.
  11. Finally: Last but not least, expect the unexpected. Remember that if you want an entry into a particular B-school, the school will need to establish whether it is the right fit for you as well.

Lessons Learnt

  • You need to find the right school and the school needs to know it has found the right candidate.
  • Most interviewees are asked the common question, “Why are you applying here?’” Don’t give a glib answer. Instead do your homework on the B-school/s you have applied to.
  • Know your CV well and be prepared to explain it in detail if you have to.
  • Business Schools differ in their interviewing styles. So find out as much as you can about how the B-school you have selected will conduct its interview.

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