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Zeroing in on the right B-school in US

education Updated: Apr 07, 2010 09:40 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

What would you do when you have a 100 per cent scholarship offer from a tier-two US B-school while a top B-school (in India?) is not giving you one?

Go to the US of course. And when you bag a high score (730 or above) in GMAT, your dream of getting a fee waiver at one of the top 50 B schools abroad could be possible. “Those with an extremely good score can even get 100 per cent scholarship. We had a student from Banaras Hindu University with a score of 750 getting full fee waiver and also earning extra money every month working as a research assistant. That made it possible for him to call his mother from India to stay with him for some time,” says Nirmal Pal, head, management programme at the Penn State University, Pennsylvania.

Which school fits the bill?
While narrowing down your choice, you should always ensure that the particular B-school’s specialisation is in line with your career goals. If you want to start an enterprise, then Stanford is the right fit for you and not the Harvard Business School. “MBA is a very generic term. First you should decide the domain you want to specialise in. Choose the B-school accordingly. Remember, Kellogg is known for marketing studies, Wharton for finance, Chicago for theoretical studies in finance and Harvard for business leadership,” says Prafulla Krishna, class of 2007, Harvard Business School.

Aditi Sreenivasan, who is a product of the Wharton School of University, Pennsylvania (class of 2004) had chosen her alma mater over top B-schools like Yale, Michigan, London Business School and Duke as she found it the right fit. “I had applied in seven B-schools and I got through all of them and even got huge scholarships (about $50,000) in Yale and Duke. But I chose Wharton for the strong alumni network around the world – which is also very active here in India.

The other thing which impressed me was the level of involvement the students enjoy in every activity of the university, starting from the admissions process.

They are allowed to give their opinion on the credentials and essay submitted by prospective students, which doesn't happen even in Harvard,” she says.

Weigh all factors
The fact of the matter is that you can’t base your entire decision to join a college only on the scholarship. Other factors like job prospects after you graduate, proximity to big cities, cost of living and career services provided to international students should also be considered.

Your decision should also be based on why you intend to go in for an MBA. If you intend coming back to India, then studying on a scholarship is a good idea.

However, if you plan to stay on and work there, then it’s a different matter. “Before you pursue your MBA, you should focus on the primary purpose of why you want to do it and your career aspirations. Doing an MBA is an experience of a lifetime. Ensure you enjoy it and cherish the experience,” says Sagar Hebbar, senior financial analyst, Hewitt Associates LLC and a product of University of Illinois, 2009.

Proximity to big cities should also be a major consideration. “Studying in a far flung B-school is sheer wastage of money. One must study in a university located close to a metropolitan city. If you are closer to industries, you would have better opportunities to zero in on an internship and a job. It also bolsters the level of industry interaction at the B-school,” says Kaushik Barua, Head, Delhi Operations, Global Reach, overseas education consulting firm.

What they have to say

MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience

My GMAT score was 710 and I was offered a full scholarship from the University of Georgia (Terry School of Business). I also got a $54,000 fee waiver from the Southern Methodist University (Cox School of Business), but I said no to both the offers to do MBA from University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, where I received a scholarship of only $7,000.

I believe MBA is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and one should take a balanced decision to choose the right programme. Though mine was not super expensive, I took a loan. My choice of Illinois attributes to several factors. One is that the university has Illinois Business Consulting (IBS), the largest student-run consulting organisation in the US and does real work for real clients for real money.

IBC was a great platform for me to gain valuable US consulting experience while getting my MBA, and helped me to differentiate myself from other business school candidates.

Another reason of choosing the B-school was its proximity to Chicago, which is a huge advantage for networking opportunities.

Most of the top 10 schools are very expensive. Costs for the MBA programme usually range from $120,000 to $160,000 (including living expenses). In comparison, I did my MBA in less than $75,000 (including living expenses). You should choose your B-school on the basis of school's ranking, university reputation/size, proximity to a large town/city, cost of living, cost of programme, career services focus on international student and alumni relations.

By Kabid Choudhury, class of 2009 University of Illinois

Top B-schools were out of my reach

After I finished my BCom from Sydenham College, Mumbai, I got a job in KPMG. I wanted to do an MBA after some experience but could never imagine that I could make it to the top US B-schools. Having come from an average family and not-so-impressive academic background; Harvard, Wharton and Stanford were out of reach for me.



However, I appeared for GMAT and managed to score a 760. By that time, I had only one-and-a-half years of experience. So, I didn't apply immediately as American B-schools normally consider two to three years of work experience as one of the prerequisites. Later, I worked for one more year in the corporate advisory services of CRISIL, a premier credit ratings organisation.



After three years in the industry, I courageously sent applications to six top B-schools in the US and one in UK - the London Business School. Much to my surprise, I got calls from all of them.



Getting calls from Yale, Wharton and Duke was a pleasant surprise. I would advise students to apply in all top universities. These universities strive to


create very diverse mix of students in each class, with people from different backgrounds and geography. Who knows, you might also get through.



Aditi Sreenivasan

, alumnae of Wharton School

You should always cross-check a B-school’s claims with present and former students

How can one make a correct choice when it comes to a US B-school?
Students should not fall for the big claims made by some American B-schools. If one claims to specialise in all streams, then it can’t be true. You should always cross-check their claims with present and former students to get the true picture. Try getting in touch with them through pagalguy.com and businessweek.com

What's expected of a candidate aspiring to join a US B-school? What should an applicant keep in mind before applying for the top B-schools?
Essentially, they look for four things. The first one is that you should have the potential to achieve great things in life. You must be able to convince them that you have the ability to be an achiever. Secondly, you must come across as more than ambitious, but someone with a heart for social causes. Always highlight your association (if any) with NGOs at the school or college level. Third, your distinct personality counts. They have informal reservation for many categories. They want some people from India, a few from Europe, etc.

Then comes the stream... some students are from consulting, others from finance, etc. So, it is very important to explain how distinct you are. Finally, don’t make big claims which are hard to prove.

Harvard has 800 students in one batch. How are they managed?
They have a sufficient number of qualified faculty members. Harvard has the largest endowment among all B-schools in the United States, and it can afford to pay more to its faculty than what any other B-school can.

How did you manage to get through to HBS, and that too on full fee waiver?
My GMAT score was 760 and my overall academic record, statement of purpose and professional experience saw me through. I did my electrical engineering from IIT Bombay after which I worked for McKinsey for three years. The fee waiver was given on the basis of merit-cum-means. My salary wasn’t too high to pay for Harvard's MBA fee, which was $1,60,000 for two years in my time. So I was given full tuition fee waiver amounting to $75,000 (including the stipend I received from the university) and I had to take a loan to pay off the rest of the money.

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