3 things that will get you a scholarship from a top business school
4 May, 2020
Today I want to introduce you to 3 things you can do to maximize your chances of getting scholarships from Top MBA Programs. How can you get top International business schools to pay you to educate you?
I have worked with applicants all across the globe and together we have generated close to 100 crores of top MBA scholarships. Could not have done it without my amazing applicants so a big thank you to them.
I have talked a lot about “What not to do to get a scholarship during MBA applications?” in various seminars across the country. To understand the entire machinery of what generates scholarships, let us look at a basic principle. Business schools will not give you scholarships because you need it. They will give you scholarships because they need you. Do you get it?
Think about it this way:
Let us say you are the head of the admissions committee, and the dean of your business school says, “Hey! I am giving you a 10-Million-dollar cheque. Go and get people from 42 countries, 45% Women, 28% international women, I want 40% internationals, 20% technology, blah blah blah”. They are doing it to create the optimal mix of the incoming class.
They want you to convince them that you are going to help them with the class mix they are trying to create. And if they like you more than you like them, they are going to throw money at you. Simple! So, one thing is clear, most scholarships are not need-based scholarships. No admissions committee is going to give you money just because you need it. These are merit-based negotiation tools, i.e. they are going to throw money at you to get you to sit inside their classrooms.
Think about it from their point of view, you make them like you so much that they know that an admit will not be enough for you and you might go somewhere else. But they know that throwing, let's say 50,000 USD, will make you at least think twice before turning them down.
Now, let us look at what will make them like you!
If you want to marry a girl, you impress her. You just won’t just pop the question. She will freak out man. You will need to impress her.
What will make you impress a business school? Let us look at the three reasons that will make them give you scholarships.
Have Meat In your stories:
When I say meat, I mean deep and meaningful things that showcase your worth. If you feel like you do not have a lot of accomplishments that you are proud of, it could be because you’re comparing yourself with a lot people across the internet, and telling yourself ‘DUDE, I have done nothing’. Know that it is the context that is decisive and not the content.
I work with a lot of MBA applicants and have seen tonnes of scholarships and these applicants do whatever it takes. They do not walk into our office with a background of million-dollar start-ups, or 4 years of international exposure with McKinsey, or a 770 GMAT. Not everyone will have these.
But they work hard to bring the meat in their stories. For example- somebody that I was working with had an essay on the most significant accomplishment that went something like, “I did blah blah blah that led to 20-Million-dollar impact in an XYZ thing in my bank”. So, I asked her, “Do you think this is a good story because it has 20 Million dollars and you are dominating them by throwing money in the essay?”.
This applicant worked for the treasury of one of the largest national banks in India. Even the office boy there had been around 10 Million dollars. Look at the context of your profile- this could not be the accomplishment of her life. And she later realized that coaching and mentoring her schizophrenic mother was the biggest deal of her life. How she had evolved as a person, how this accomplishment was driving her life in a lot of positive ways, and how she was stronger than most people were the biggest accomplishments in her life.
Business school admissions committees are not going to throw money at someone with a GMAT score of 630. To be considered, first, you need to dress up. And by that, I mean that your GMAT, work-experience, GPA should be in the range of what that business school looks for. Now, these are not sufficient by themselves. These are the basic elimination criteria. Let's say that the school is keen on picking up 4 people from your background, and for these 4 seats, 400 people are applying with this hygiene. That essentially refers to the ones that meet the criteria of the range of factors within your demographic. Hygiene is like the outward appearance. No one will be interested in the meat that we talked about earlier if the packaging is not right. The mistake that a lot of applicants make is that they think just the packaging, i.e. the GMAT Score, the promotions at work, the years of work experience, and the name of the Undergrad university, is sufficient to get them a scholarship to the top-ranked school of their dreams.
Packaging matters if the meat is good enough. Another mistake that many applicants make is that they have meat but do not have the packaging. The meat will sell only if the packaging is attractive. If you have good and effective stories, but the key factors such as Work experience, GMAT, GPA etc. are not in the ballpark, then you might get appreciation from them, and your consultant, but not an admit. If your GMAT Score is significantly low, find a way to get the right score. If your work experience is 3 years below average, or if you are planning to quit your job so that you can prepare for GMAT, stop right there.
Your stories will be respected, but they will just wish you good luck for your future endeavors and move on.
Now that the meat is right, and you have the correct packaging as well, the third ingredient is delivery.
Delivery, in this context, means where would you want the school to deliver you. It is like a supply chain. Where are you headed, where are you from, and how deeply can you connect with why do you want to come to their program are very important.
I can’t emphasize enough on the growing importance of employability. I am referring to this equation:
This is the GOD of your MBA Applications. Answer me this:
How many top 50 Schools were there 30 years ago? 50? Right.
How many top 50 Schools are there now?
It was a trick question!
Do you know that the number of applicants wanting these top 50 has increased more than 10 times- and a lot of people have both the MEAT and the Packaging? What will the schools do now? How would they raise the bar in a world where everyone is coming from great organizations, the GMAT Tutoring industry is producing more and more people with a great score? GMAC’s R&D team is finding ways to create questions and algorithms that can distribute people on a normal distribution curve again, but we still have tonnes and tonnes of people with a great GMAT score, and amazing jobs.
If you were the admissions committee member at one of the top schools, what would you do to raise the bar again? You will tell the applicants, “Hey, tell me precisely, why do you want to come here, what will you do, why did you pick me, what areas will you work on, etc.?”.
This is not a world in which you can go through the school website, pick up fancy reasons, recreate it in your own language, and give it back to them in an essay. Look at the analogy of the marriage proposal. How do you tell that person why they are meant for you?
If you cannot differentiate between Wharton and Columbia and do not work towards it. I mean, your reasons for going to Wharton and Columbia may be similar if they look like a glorified brochure of these programs. If your reasons from the past are not sufficiently well connected, or you are not able to identify how will the school help you in doing whatever you want in the future, your entire supply chain in this delivery model will break and you won’t cross the barrier.
I tell this to everyone that I work with, have worked with and will be working with, Your Past + MBA = Short Term + Long Term Goals, why did you pick a particular school, and what makes them unique for you should be equally clear for you and them. They should feel like you have spent a year in the school already and are laser-focused. I am sorry, but this is how it is going to be.
If you want them to like you enough to make them throw money at you, then you have got to do this.
Get your Meat in order
Get the Packaging right.
Know your Delivery, i.e. where will you be getting shipped.
Get this in order, and the world will pay for your education.