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It is often found that recommendation letters are more generic and carry almost the same format (may be because of the cultural norms). However, in reality the MBA programs are accustomed to hearing more glowing language that is supported by specific examples. International applicants should guide their recommenders to have recommendation letters are more in line with what top-tier business schools are expecting and looking for.
It is often noticed that applicants tend to focus more heavily on their professional experiences in the essays (and in most of the cases a replica of their resume); this is likely due to cultural norms where sharing personal stories are often frowned upon. While professional achievements should be highlighted, it is just as important to highlight personal experiences as well. Admissions Committees want to understand your values, motivations, and what has shaped you; these elements can often help an international applicant stand out from the crowd.
For example, highlighting on a time when you questioned or challenged a belief or idea. A problem of an ethical dilemma which is of personal importance that you solved? Challenging the cultural norms to achieve your goals?
Having grown up in environments where academics and strong professional experience are emphasized, many applicants from India, have very little or no engagement in extracurricular activities where they have had meaningful impact. Many international applicants are under the impression that with a high GMAT/GRE score, high undergraduate grades, and strong recommendation letters, they stand a great chance at being accepted to top-tier MBA programs. Unfortunately, that is not enough for these business schools. It is extremely important for all applicants to be actively involved in extracurricular activities in leadership roles and demonstrate impact. Applicants can be ahead of their international competitors by showing these engagements in their application.
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International applicants tend to choose schools solely based on brand and ranking. While this is understandable, it's important to broaden the schools to which you are applying given how competitive the MBA admissions process is. Also, it is important to correlate your long term career goals (post-MBA goals) and research multiple MBA programs. Outside of the top business schools, there are fantastic schools that will help you attain your goals and will be great fits.
By being aware of these common mistakes, you will be in a better position to navigate the application process and apply early as an international applicant.
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