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5 key things to make a B-school choose you

  Every business school is looking for the best candidates. So you have to make sure that youre standing out among the crowd. With just a couple of months remaining until the GD-Essay-PI rounds begin, nows the time to start thinking how you can increase your chances of getting into your dream B-school.  

Right now, you’re relieved that the first obstacle to your MBA is over – CAT 2018. The next big thing is the second round of selection – with group discussions, essays and personal interviews. In this round, you will be evaluated on several obvious factors:
•    Your personality,
•    Your academic record and work experience (if any),
•    Co- and extra-curricular activities, and
•    Whether you are the right fit for the school.
As you can see, the last factor is the most enigmatic, and it is also one that business schools will never elucidate. What makes you the right fit? What are B-schools looking for in candidates? And most importantly, how can you ensure that you’re the right fit?
While there is little actual data available to break this down, there are a few things that you can work on to ensure that you stand the best chance of getting an admission.

This is a small word, but with a vast meaning. The B-schools are looking for candidates who are clear about what they want in their career, why they want to pursue an MBA degree, but most importantly, who they are. You need to have total clarity about your personality, your interests, your ambitions and what you intend to derive from your two years at the B-school.

What you should do: Spend a lot of time thinking about this. Go back to your early teens, think about your likes, your dislikes, why you took up a certain hobby, why you took up your undergraduate stream and now an MBA.
A good way to do this is to take around half an hour every day, and write down bullet points about each of these aspects. Keep doing this for a week, and you will have a laundry list of points. Fine-tune them further down to not more than 10 points, which should immediately show the kind of person that you are.

Career goals
Here too, you need to have clarity, but be extremely specific. B-schools are looking for candidates who have a defined goal for their career. Don’t say, “I want to use my talents to contribute to the betterment of my organisation.” This is extremely vague. A better career goal is, “I want to use my inherent talent for analysing facts and numbers in the field of data analytics, for a market research or value investment firm.”

What you should do: As before, write down bullet points. This is just an extension of the same thought process as the point above. Write down your interests, think how you can apply them in your chosen field of career. If you can’t, that’s not the field you should choose!
Break down your career goals into short term and long term goals. Typically, short term goals are up to 3 years after your MBA, and long term goals are 5-8 years after.
Moreover, be as specific as possible. In your short term goal, try to mention the industry or sector you would want to work in (technology, finance, etc), then the kind of company you would like to work for with actual examples (don’t write only the best companies you’ve heard of, look up various companies in your chosen sector and find out what they do). Finally, try to mention the kind of role you want to be in, since that again displays clarity (brand manager, financial consultant, etc).
Obviously, your long term goal has to be an extension of your short term goal, and cannot be as specific. But the short term goal has to lead to the long term goal eventually. This should include the sector and the position you want to be in 8 years down the line. Again, be specific. Don’t say, “I want to be a top executive of an MNC.” Rather, say, “I want to be the head of finance/marketing in an Indian MNC in the FMCG sector.”
For those looking to start their own venture, remember to say what kind of start-up it will be, when you intend to start it, which industry, and the market gap you’re addressing. Don’t say, “I want to start my own business.” Rather, say, “I want to start a web services company within 8 years, and cater to small- to mid-size clients in the logistics business.”

This is critical if you want to make a favourable impression. Remember, the B-school is looking for candidates who can contribute meaningfully in their batch, not someone who joins simply for a good job and high salary (even though that is just as important!).
Hence, you will face questions such as, “Why do you want to join our institute?” Instead of giving vague, unspecific answers, you need to show that you’re truly interested in being part of their class, and that being at the B-school will really help you in your career.

What you should do: Go through the B-school’s website and prospectus in great detail. Look at their curriculum and try to identify topics you are interested in. Go through the faculty profiles and see if anyone has experience teaching something you really want to learn.
Check out the various clubs and activities, the various events and guest lecturers who visit, and how you can personally contribute and benefit from any of these. When you’re facing the interviewers, you will appear better informed.

As mentioned by almost every B-school, they are looking for dynamic individuals capable of leadership. They want to know if you always keep your nose buried in books, or if you contribution meaningfully to the people around you. And having definite extra-curriculars or hobbies shows that you’re a well-rounded person.

What you should do: Again, jot down your bullet points. Think back to your school and college days, and note the extra-curricular events you participated in. If you have a hobby, try to introspect, “Why this particular hobby and not any other?”
When you’re writing down your hobbies, be specific. Don’t say that you love cricket or badminton. Did you play in school or college? Have you won any prizes? How often do you play? How religiously do you follow the sport?
Also, don’t just write “reading”, “watching movies”, or “travelling”. If you’re really serious about any of these, you need to back it up with specifics. Which genres of books / films do you love? Which authors / directors do you follow? How often do you read? How has reading helped you? How often do you travel? How many places you have been to? What differentiates you from the average tourist?

This is an area a lot of students struggle with. Yes, B-schools don’t ask you to choose your specialisation until the second year of your MBA (apart from the likes of SP Jain). But remember, they’re looking for clarity. You will make a great impression if you can show them that you already know your chosen specialisation area.
If you’ve deliberately chosen to keep an open mind about your specialisation, it is better to state this and follow up with your interests, and therefore, indirectly towards a specialisation.

What you should do: Do your homework. Go online and look for articles and blogs on the various specialisations like Finance, Marketing, Operations, HR, Systems, etc. Search on Google and spend a couple of hours every week reading about each field. Not only will you understand what these various fields are, but you will appear to have clarity, and your answers will be more informed. And as always, remember the rule of thumb.
The entrance test is only the beginning. The true test comes during the GD-Essay-PI rounds. If you can follow the steps outlined in this article, I guarantee you will increase your chances multi-fold to get into your dream business school.