It is great to be amongst brilliant people. At first meeting, some people tend to give out an impression – “don’t know how he got in here”. But as one interacts or just observes him, one can appreciate “why he is at ISB” and “what makes him good”. Not to say that people who could not get through the admission process were not good. I will put a regression equation to explain why some people, who are equally good could not get through and what needs to be done to better chances of getting in.
Y (admission) = β0 + β1X1 + β2X2 + β3X3+ β4X4 + β5X5+ε
• The first term β0 is about basic qualifications
• The second term β1 is about academics (GMAT & Transcript)
• The third term β2 is about diversity (background)
• The fourth term β3 is about leadership attributes (within/without career)
• The fifth term β4 is about career goals focus and commitment to do an MBA
• The sixth term ε is an error term.
The first term needs no explanation. Each school has its own basic requirements.
Since most of the people who are targeting a b-school admit are already graduates, there is not much one can do about Transcripts. GMAT, if still not attempted, is a good source of improving one’s chances. B-schools are finicky about this as a higher GMAT average increases their ranking. I have already commented about association between performance and GMAT scores.*
Not much can be done about diversity issue in short run. If one is from an industry from which most of the b-school applicants come, one has a problem if there is no additional diversity factor such as an odd serious hobby, or sport or some special skill. Alternately, if one is very strong in acads, this diversity factor can be taken care of. In the long run $, one can change jobs, or get into some voluntary activity, etc to add diversity to.
Again, not many people will have many leadership experiences by the time they want to come to b-school. Since the b-school can know about this only by looking at recommendations, essays or additional certificates/claims of such attribute, one can retrospect and find some instances or situations where one had taken leadership role, discuss this with recommender to write in recos, and make sure these experiences are articulated in essays
The fifth term is critical. One needs to be clear about why one needs an MBA education and/or degree. Each person has his own reasons / ‘has to have his own reasons’. There is a need to introspect and come with reasons which explain past and can give clues to the Adcom about the fact that one has thought and clear about career. No b-school wants its alum to be unsuccessful; at least not because the alum was not clear about what he wanted to do.
The last term is an error term, which is completely beyond one’s control. People call it luck. The error term can include competition from stronger profiles from the same background or someone from diverse background, having a strong GMAT or acads, or a very good reco. An interview again is not fully controllable. One may want to put interview in this category too. Of course, with good preparation, the implications of the error term can be minimized.
One can add more Betas to the equation to factor in other conceivably important variables and work around them to improve the chance of an admit letter.
*There is statistical evidence, as GMAC claim, about strong linkages between GMAT score and performance in first year of MBA. But by now I know of enough statistics to want to see more of their data to see if they have used any tricks in their regression equation to trick all b-schools into asking a GMAT score for admit decisions. GMAC, as one knows, make money (not necessarily profits as GMAC is not-for-profit) and name when we take GMAT exam.
$ In the long run all are dead - Keynes