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Applying for an MBA as an Indian Woman: Expert Advice


Are you thinking of applying for your MBA? You’re not alone! During the last year and a half of the COVID-19 pandemic, interest in going back to school to earn an MBA has jumped all over the world. In India, many talented young business minds—and a growing proportion of women—are weighing their options, preparing for the GMAT exam, and crafting applications for top business school programs abroad.

To advise this rising tide of future women business leaders, earlier this summer the GMAT team connected with top female MBA admissions experts and formed a group to share their insights with prospective applicants. Read on for their expert advice on applying for an MBA as an Indian woman this year.

Indian candidate interest in applying for an MBA abroad is high right now

So, what’s driving the trend of increased MBA applications from Indian women?

Vibha Kagzi, founder and chief education officer of ReachIvy, points to three contributing factors:

  • Deferrals due to the pandemic. “…because of the pandemic, we saw a lot of people either trying to defer or admission or not go… so we saw some deferrals and we saw some people literally withdrawing and reapplying.”
  • The new Biden administration in the US. “The Biden presidency has obviously sent out a very positive note and people are optimistic.”
  • Recession applicants. “In a recession people want to go back to school because there is no growth in the economy, some people get laid off…
  • it’s an off year, so I might as well go upskill.”

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The value of an MBA amid the uncertainty of COVID-19

Amid the pandemic, we’re all feeling a heightened sense of uncertainty about the future. When things can change so fast, how can you possibly plan for your long-term career success?

For many, this feeling of uncertainty is driving interest in earning an MBA, too. Investing in your education, keeping your options open, and committing to lifelong learning are ways you can be ready for anything life wants to throw at your career.

“Going forward, increasingly, it’s going to be more and more important in a post-COVID world for people to get that MBA education, add value to themselves, and come out of it so they can change their careers ever few years,” says Nupur Gupta, founder of Crack the MBA.

“It’s not like before when you could be a lifer at a company. Not only are you not at one company, but you’re also changing careers completely. An MBA also gives that flexibility to reinvent yourself constantly.”

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With an MBA you can feel confident that if economic conditions change—or even just if your interests change—you can pivot your career in a new direction because you’re employable in all kinds of organizations in a variety of roles.

Top MBA programs are eager to recruit Indian women like you

A top goal of MBA admissions committees is to build a class with student diversity.

“If I’m an admissions officer, my job is to craft as diverse a classroom as I can, and part of that diversity is of course gender,” explains Vibha Kagzi of ReachIvy.

That means that female Indian MBA applicants like you are of particular interest, but don’t assume that means you can get in with a subpar application.

 “You’re not going to get through the pile of female candidates if you’re a substandard or mediocre applicant,” continues Vibha Kagzi. “At top programs you’re looking at anywhere between a six percent to 18 percent acceptance rate across the top tier schools…so even if you made it to that women’s only stack, 80 percent of them are also being chucked out the door.” 

Your best bet in the MBA admissions process? Authentically tell your story.

“Think of yourself as a brand,” says Deepali Naair, CMO of IBM India and South Asia. “This is what I say to all candidates. Whoever you are, you are. You can’t change your background…you’ve got to be authentic. But learn to put the best foot forward for your brand.”

Tell your story: Personal branding for your MBA applications

mba.com’s free guide, Tell Your Story: Personal Branding for Your MBA Applications, provides you with step-by-step, expert guidance on how to position your personal brand in your applications to ensure you tell an authentic and compelling narrative that differentiates you from other qualified applicants and sticks in the minds of the admissions committees.