Advice for International Applicants Considering US Business Schools

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Every admission cycle I work with clients from around the world who are considering applying to US business schools. If you’re not a US citizen and thinking about applying to business schools in the United States, there are a few factors my colleagues and I at Personal MBA Coach recommend you consider when deciding if it’s the best option for you.

Where do you want to live and work post-MBA?

If you’re looking to begin your career in the United States, business school in the States is likely a great (though not the only) option.

However, for those applicants planning careers outside the United States, determining whether a US business school is the right choice is more complicated. In this case, you want to consider which schools would offer you the opportunity to develop the necessary knowledge to achieve your career goals.

If you do not plan to work in the United States, you’ll want to be sure to apply to schools that will open the right doors wherever it is you do plan to work, whether that be in your home country or another.

What is the value of an MBA in your home country?

It is equally important to consider the value of the MBA in your home country and assess which schools hold the strongest reputation.

Pursuing an MBA in the United States is naturally an expensive proposition (though Personal MBA Coach helps candidates secure sizeable scholarships each year). If you choose this path, you want to be certain that future local employers will value this education.

Similarly, certain schools have stronger brand names in one country or another. This reputation may or may not be correlated with the latest business school rankings. Speak to future employers and look at where their management team studied to assess which schools are worth the investment to local recruiters.

Once you have established that pursuing an MBA in the United States is right for you, find out if you are a strong candidate.

To determine this, ask yourself these three questions:

❓ Do you have prior international exposure?

While prior international experience is not required, it can be helpful.

It will prove to admissions committees that you fully understand the commitment required to live abroad and that you have experience adjusting to new cultures. Living abroad is a big commitment and adjusting to a new culture can be a challenge. Therefore, if you lack prior international exposure, you will need to show that you have fully evaluated this decision and document any experience you have had living or working with diverse peers.

❓ Do you have enough professional experience?

The average candidate to business schools in the United States have 3-6 years of experience. However, candidates living outside the US often have more years of experience than domestic candidates.

You want to ensure that you have an adequate professional background to clearly articulate growth and leadership throughout your career.

❓ Do you need to take the TOEFL (and if so, are you prepared for it?)

Some US schools require this exam if your undergraduate instruction was not in English. Needing to take the TOEFL should not be a reason not to apply, but you do need to be sure you allocate the time to prepare for and take this exam.

Other special tips and considerations for international applicants

While nearly all MBA application best practices will apply for candidates living outside of the United States, based on our years of experience and success, Personal MBA Coach has a few tips specifically for international applicants.

  • Consider preparing your recommenders earlier than usual. If your recommenders are not familiar with the , you will want to give them some additional time to write you a strong letter.
  • Evaluate the visa implications of your post-MBA goals. If you will need a visa to work in the US, you might want to consider mainstream companies and industries that are large enough to sponsor you for a visa.
  • Articulate what differentiates you from your peers. While this advice holds true for all MBA applicants, it is particularly crucial for international applicants coming from over-represented countries. Show how you have excelled compared to others from your home country. Share what you have accomplished beyond standard expectations for someone in your role or with your experience.
  • Embrace your uniqueness. Admissions committees look to recruit diverse classes. Thus, your uniqueness will be one of your greatest selling points. Show the readers who you are and what is unique about your education, upbringing or cultural experiences, and how you will share this with your peers.

Scott Edinburgh is an Featured Contributor and the founder of Personal MBA Coach, a boutique MBA admissions consulting and tutoring firm.

Founded by a Wharton MBA and MIT Sloan graduate who sits on the Association of International Graduate Admissions Consultants Board of Directors, Personal MBA Coach has been guiding clients for 14 years and is consistently ranked #1 or #2, currently holding the #1 ranking in the US on Poets&Quants.

We help clients with all aspects of the MBA application process including early planning, GMAT/GRE/EA tutoring, application strategy, school selection, essay editing and mock interviews. Our team includes a former M7 admissions director and former M7 admissions interviewers.

Last year, our clients earned more than $6M in scholarships!

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