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MBA from Harvard

An MBA from Harvard?
Why not? Harvard MBA is used as a phrase to symbolize exceptional intelligence, talent, and success. Harvard Business School alumni form the highest proportion of CEOs amongst Fortune-500 companies.

And not to forget that the placements are arguably the best in the world, with the average base salary this year being $105,000. In other words more than half the class started off with a 6 figure salary and this does not include signing and performance bonuses which can easily double that figure.

Here are some more interesting facts to put things in perspective, Harvard had a batch-size of 880 last year. This size is typical amongst all the top US Business Schools (Wharton has 750 students), and so is the general profile they seek in their applicants. Never mind the jargon-laden text used in their brochures, they all simply look for intelligent, well-read, well-balanced, and ambitious young men and women. Each one brings not only a strong academic background but also significant extra-curricular experiences and achievements.

You may seated next to an Olympic-level swimmer from Japan, or a Captain from the Italian Air force, or the daughter of one of the biggest tycoons in Brazil. The only thing common is that each one of them is immensely bright, confident and driven.

This unique mix of diversity and yet commonality amongst the students, is probably what make these schools the best in the world. Industry big-shots consider it an honor to take even a single lecture there, professors consider an assignment here as the pinnacle of their careers, and even the world’s largest corporations practically show off the graduates they manage to recruit from here. How do you as a humble Indian with little work-experience make it to the hallowed portals of Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Stanford, MIT, etc??

You basically have 3 options, considering the very exacting requirements of the admissions committees of these colleges and the highly competitive nature of the applicant pool.
1. Double MBA: Complete your MBA degree from India (hopefully from the IIMs), work for 2-3 years in a top-notch firm and then apply abroad. This makes sense because even the best institutes in India do not compare to the Top-20 B schools of the world in terms of infrastructure, international exposure, and career opportunities. Some Universities explicitly discourage “double MBAs”, but most others welcome them because of the knowledge base they bring to the classroom and their substantial managerial work-experience. For non-engineering graduates the problem of the 16th year of Education is solved by an Indian MBA.

2. C.A. Expressway: Contrary to popular misconception, a C.A. is a recognized qualification in the US and it satisfies the 16th Year requirement. At first, most colleges did not appreciate the true worth of C.A.s. But after Harvard and Wharton began wooing them actively on discovering their peerless grasp of finance and accounting, other colleges quickly followed suit. At present most colleges, including some of the best ones, openly seek out the CA applicants. You will need 2-3 years of post-CA work experience to get on this expressway. Article ship does not count as work experience.

3. Plain Vanilla Graduation: The toughest option of the lot that can’t be discounted either, is of graduating plain and simple, working for 3-4 years and then applying. Those who did a 3 year bachelor’s should do a post-graduation, part-time, so as to eliminate the 16th year problem. The key to making this plan work is to obtain really good work experience, and remember that the name of the company you worked for is secondary – the job content is most important.

Bottom-line: The goal at the end of the tunnel is truly a fabulous one and well worth making an attempt for. But it will require a good deal of preparation and focused effort.

Look upon Harvard as a mere symbol of a great education and career abroad. There are of course other symbols. Therefore look at other options too.

Think seriously and patiently about when you want to apply, if at all, and then plan the process rigorously. The rest is sure to fall into place.

Article courtesy CIE
Centre for International Education

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