What are the formalities to be completed as part of the Application process?
  1. Register and Pay online to initiate the online admissions process for the b-school.
  2. Take the GMAT well in time for the deadline that you are applying for.
  3. Prepare your One Page Resume. Prepare well thought out answers to each of the essay questions asked on the application form, keeping in mind the word/character limit for each response
  4. Identify your referees, enter their details in the online application and ask them to fill in the Letters of Recommendation questions at the password protected link sent to them directly by the b-school
  5. Get the original transcripts from the college from where you have completed your graduation
  6. Check and upload all the documents and submit online.
  7. The B-school will intimate you on the status of your application. On getting the Interview call, attend the personal / skype / telephonic interview
  8. Make arrangements to pay for the course. This includes Personal savings, Private assistance, Bank Loans, and Scholarships from the B-school or outside.
  9. Apply for the student Visa after receiving the mandatory documents from the B-school
  10. Finalize your mode of residence for the program.
In which month do MBA programs usually begin?

A majority of programs (almost all in the US) begin in the months of August/September. Some MBA programs (mostly in Europe) also begin in January. A few programs such as ISB Hyderabad's PGP MBA program and IIM-Ahmedabad's PGPX Executive program begin in April.

By which month should I apply to b-schools in order to meet the application deadlines?

The admissions deadline dates depend on the course commencement dates. Most b-schools have more than one round of application deadlines.

For courses that commence in Aug/Sep, b-schools usually have Round 1 deadline in September of previous year, Round 2 deadline in December of previous year, and Round 3 deadline in March of the same year

For courses that commence in January, b-schools have Round 1 deadlines in February, Round 2 deadlines in April, Round 3 in June etc.

Many b-schools have rolling admissions until a particular last date, so you can apply anytime before that date.

Does it matter which round of the admissions cycle I apply in?

B-schools start filling up seats as soon as they get good candidates. So it is possible that in Round 1 itself, more than 50% of seats are taken. Also, as far as scholarships are concerned, only those who apply in the first or second round deadlines may be eligible. as per the b-school policy for international student scholarships. Moreover, most b-schools discourage candidates from applying in the last round, because it may not leave them with enough time to complete visa and other formalities.

At Sharp Minds, we have had students who have made it to the likes of Harvard and Insead by applying in later rounds, so there is no compulsion to apply in Round 1 only. A strong candidate will secure admission in any round,

Are there any immediate MBA options at all if I am attempting GMAT in the month of February?

Yes. You might be able to catch the 3rd or 4th deadline for some b-schools. You will also be well in time for the Round 1 deadlines for programs that commence in January. E.g. INSEAD, IMD, ESADE etc.

How important is a good GMAT score for selection to a top ranked MBA program?

The GMAT score is one of the most important parameters in your application, especially for candidates who may not have adequate work experience, or may want to compensate for average or below-average academic performance.

All top ranked b-schools attach a lot of importance to a candidate's Intellectual Potential and use the GMAT score as an indicator.

How many years of work experience do I need to apply for an MBA program?

Some b-schools specify a minimum work experience of 2 years where as others do not state but do prefer at least 2 years of work experience. However, you have to keep in mind that the average work-experience at most globally ranked b-schools ranges between 48 and 75 months (counted till the time of entry into the MBA program). Therefore, once you have completed around 2.5 years in your jobs, you can start applying since you will enter with 3.5 years of work-experience (because round 1 deadlines are scheduled around one year before course commencement)

What are the MBA admissions essay questions like? Can you enlist a few sample essay questions?

The essay questions will ask you to elaborate on various aspects of your candidature such as:

  • Reasons for pursuing an MBA
  • Challenges faced in the workplace
  • Descriptions of previous situations that called for team and/or leadership skills and so on.

Below are a few sample questions:

  1. Give a specific example of when you have had to test your leadership and/or team working skills either professionally, or outside of work. What role will you play in your first year study group?
  2. Tell us about something you wish you had done better.
  3. What do you consider to be your single most important achievement and why?
  4. Where do you see your career progressing five years after graduation and what is your longer term career vision?
  5. Tell us about a time in the last three years when you went beyond what was defined or established.
Some b-school applications ask for 'Any additional info...' as an optional essay. What should I write here?

In the 'Any additional information you wish to share…' essay, feel free to write anything which is relevant to the application and which you could not convey in the other essay questions. For e.g., you may want to talk about your other qualifications, such as a previous MBA, in more detail

From whom should I take the Letters of Recommendation (LoRs) for MBA applications?

Letters of Recommendation (LoRs) for MBA applications should ideally be taken from your present or past line managers. The person whom you report to (or were reporting to in your previous job) will be your best referee. Do not get tempted to go for a senior official in your company - such as a CEO- because this does not make your application any better and does not impress admissions officers. You can also take an LoR from a client, especially of you interact with the client frequently.

Which is better: A 1-year MBA or a 2-year MBA program?

Overall, there is no difference in the output / credibility of the two programs - 1-year MBA or 2-year MBA. The differences are as follows:

  1. A 1-year MBA program will always be more intensive than a 2-year program, and will therefore be more demanding
  2. Your cost of tuition and cost of living for a 1-year MBA will be lower than that for a 2-year MBA
  3. A 2-year MBA will include a 3 month internship, which 1-year programs do not offer
  4. You will be back on the job within a year in a 1-year MBA, hence your opportunity cost of income foregone will be lower
  5. Most US b-schools offer only 2-year MBAs, hence if you are looking for a 1-year MBA, you will have to look outside US
What specializations can I opt for in a top global MBA program?

Most MBA programs offer a common set of subjects in the first half of the course and a vast choice of electives in the second half.

You can choose from these electives and focus on a specialization such as Finance, Marketing, Production / Operations, Human Resources, Information Systems, Supply Chain / Logistics, or Entrepreneurship. You can also mix your electives and specialize (major) in more than one area., if such a combination suits your career plans well.

What is an Executive MBA program? Who is eligible?

An Executive MBA program is designed for executives who have already reached senior managerial positions in their companies but need to enhance their management skills thru a formal course. Most executive MBA programs will insist on at least 8-10 years of rich work experience. Some also require a company sponsorship for the course.

What kind of starting salary can I expect on completion of the MBA course?

Your starting salary will depend on:

  • Your field of specialization
  • Your recruiting company
  • The reputation of your b-school
  • The location you are taking up a job in

Starting salaries in global top 20 b-schools range between USD 110,000 and USD 230000 per year, along with starting signing bonuses that range between USD 20000 and USD 50000

Where should I do my MBA from: USA, Europe, Canada, or Singapore?

We advise aspirants to choose the b-school and not the country. Most globally ranked programs also offer global placements, so you will not be restricted to working in that country alone. Speculating on the recessionary environment etc. in certain countries is just that - speculation. The situation may be very different by the time you graduate.

From the cost angle, countries such as Singapore and UK will usually offer you cheaper programs than, say, USA. From a work permit perspective, countries such as Canada are a safer option. From a job opportunities point of view, USA offers the maximum opportunities.

How much does an MBA abroad cost?

The total cost will consist of the following factors:

  1. Tuition fee
  2. Books, insurance etc
  3. Cost of living & accommodation and other day to day expenses

Given below is the approximate Total Cost for a few MBA programs:

Stanford (USA) – USD 225,000 for a 2-year program
Wharton (USA) – USD 217,000 for a 2-year program
London Business School (UK) – 100,000 pounds for a 15 month program
Oxford-Said (UK) – 70,000 pounds for a 12-month program
INSEAD (France Campus) –  110,000 euro for a 12-month program
HKUST (Hong Kong) – HKD 800,000 for a 12 month program
Nanyang (Singapore) – SGD 75,000 for a 12-month program

Is it true that unless I score 700 on GMAT, I should not apply to top schools such as Harvard, Wharton, Insead, or ISB Hyderabad and IIM-A in India?

Last year, over 10% of candidates who made it to top b-schools such as Kellogg, Berkeley Haas, and Columbia had GMAT scores of 680 or below. The lowest score at most Ivy league schools for last year's intake was around 560-580. Therefore, it would be pre-mature to decide against applying to a top ranked b-school on the basis of GMAT score alone. Please refer to our answer to a related question: 'What is a good GMAT score for applying to b-schools for MBA?' which details out the various parameters that influence your selection

What is a good GMAT score for applying to b-schools for MBA?

While pondering over the question of what is and isn't a good GMAT score, you have to keep in mind that the GMAT score is not the only parameter on which B-schools short-list candidates. For most top ranked b-schools such as Harvard, Stanford, LBS, INSEAD, Wharton etc., the full range of GMAT scores of admitted candidates is generally from 600 to 800

This broad range exists primarily because the schools also look at the quantity & quality of your work experience, your academic record, the answers to the essay questions on the application form (very important - can make or break an application) and the recommendation (LoR) that your bosses or clients have written for you.

Therefore, a score of even 650 may be good enough for someone with a very strong application (work-ex > 7 years, strong academics /decent extra-curricular activities, solid career progression) whereas a score of even 760 may be inadequate for someone with a weak profile. Having said this, since most top ranked b-schools have an Average (Mean) GMAT score in the range of 690-730, you may set this as a target score range to ensure that your application remains competitive, other things being equal.

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