Application essays for B-schools touch upon various facets of your personality as an applicant. B-schools use these as substitute for short-listing interviews to choose good candidates for the final telephonic interview. We can divide application essays into three categories:

1. Essays on Your Professional Career and Aspirations

Such essays usually cover the following points:

a. Your short-term (immediate post-MBA) and long-term career goals
b. The career path that has brought you to the present position
c. Why the present stage of your career is the most suitable time to undertake MBA studies
d. Why you have chosen to apply to that particular Business School.

2. Biographical and Speculative Essays

Biographical essays ask you to describe

a. moral dilemmas you have faced
b. your experiences of success and failure
c. successful and/or unsuccessful team efforts that you have participated in as a member or a leader
d. what you are like as a person outside of your work place
e. events and persons that have influenced you

Speculative essays can be about:

a. what you would have done if you had stepped into the shoes of a celebrity (of your choice)
b. who you would choose as a traveling companion or dinner guest
c. what you would write in a biographical editorial on the eve of your retirement
d. what you would like to change about your past

From these essays, the selection committees want to know your values, intelligence, foresight, initiative, sociability, sensibility, originality, self-perception, ambition, etc. Be truthful, be candid and be positive. State how you handled the experiences and what lessons you learnt. Give a realistic evaluation of your own contribution to your successes. This approach to essay-writing will set you apart from the rest of the applicants more surely than imitating well-written essays of others available on the Internet.

3. Essays on Your Reasons for Applying to that Particular B-School

You will be applying to several B-schools. To support your choice of B-school, discover the details of their offerings and their vision and the mission statements. Think and state how these would help you achieve your career goals. Investigate the links to professors’ websites, where you might find their informed opinion about what the admission committee wishes to know from the essays.

In conclusion, be honest and introspective. Explore your motives; draw on your experience and be precise. Do not to veer from the essay topics and do not to exceed the given word-limit; use the right words to convey the intended meaning, and above all, write in Standard English.

Besides gaining you admission to the B-school you desire, you will find writing of these essays an enlightening experience that will help you think clearly about your career and other important goals.

Here’s a useful link with more useful information: making compelling MBA applications

For help in preparing application essays click here.

GMAT Pattern ChangedThe GMAT has been facing competition from the GRE for some time. Around 600 business schools accept the GRE scores. The less expensive revised GRE, introduced last year, has changed its gears a bit and moved from a heavily vocabulary-based Verbal section to one based more on reading comprehension and critical reasoning skills.

In other words the GRE has become more similar to the GMAT. The GMAT is gearing up for this challenge with the new Integrated Reasoning section.

The Graduate Management Council itself says: “Today’s business word is rich in data. To succeed, you’ll need to analyze information from a variety of sources, and develop strategies and make decisions based on that information. It’s called Integrated Reasoning and it’s something you do every day.” On MBA.com they also say that in a recent survey, 740 management faculty worldwide identified several skills as important for prospective graduate management students. These are skills that the business community says are — and will continue to be — essential to success at the management and executive level:

1. Synthesizing information presented in graphics, text, and numbers
2. Evaluating relevant information from different sources
3. Organizing information to see relationships and to solve multiple, interrelated problems
4. Combining and manipulating information to solve complex problems that depend on information from one or more sources

Therefore the new Integrated Reasoning section, which is intended to test these skills, consists of questions requiring a blend of skills in critical reasoning, complex problem-solving, interpretation of visual data and conversion of quantitative data between graphical and verbal formats. Though this sounds very complicated, it’s not all that difficult according to the official blog on MBA.com: “Students who have participated in pilot studies for the Next Gen GMAT and who have taken the Integrated Reasoning section have told us that they are already using these skills in their undergraduate study or at work. One student said, ‘…it’s just the PowerPoint, spreadsheet paradigm we live in every day.’”

To read a good analysis of the competition between the GRE and GMAT read this article: ‘The Battle of the B-School Gatekeepers

Financial Aid

Are you worried about how to pay for the cost of education in an American university? Well, take heart, the costs need not be as high as you think. Over the years thousands of middle class (and even economically disadvantaged) students from India have managed to pursue Master’s and doctoral programs in American universities. The only reason why so many of them have managed to do so when the cost of higher education in American university can range from 20 to 40 lakhs is the generous financial aid given to students by American universities. With such financial assistance, which is given in a variety of fields, the cost can come down to 15 lakhs or even less!

Of course, such assistance is not guaranteed: first, you have to show that you are an academically excellent student. But, it you do so, you stand a good chance of being awarded one of the many kinds of financial aid that are available. Below is an explanation of some of the forms of aid that American universities give to their students.



Several universities award assistantships in the form of teaching and research assistantships to masters and doctoral program students. These require awardees to perform certain services for a specified number of hours in a week. The awards are usually for the current semester and may be extendable depending on awarding requirements of the department and the funds available with it. Continuation also depends on the student’s maintaining a good academic record.

Teaching Assistantships (TA): these involve assisting a faculty member in teaching (mostly, elementary lab courses), conducting tutorial/problem-solving sessions or grading answer scripts. Teaching assistantships may also provide students opportunities to work outside their department in areas like Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics depending on their competence and interest in the subject. Many universities assess these through a test.


Research Assistantship (RA): students interested in working on research projects in the university should contact the faculty in whose work they are interested. The selection may involve an interview/written exam to test your aptitude, knowledge and skills.


Both teaching and research assistantships require students to work up to 20 hours a week and carry a stipend and tuition waiver depending on the extent of the award (the full 20 hours or less). In general even a 10-hour job substantially reduces tuition and compensates for living expenses. The student’s performance in the duties assigned is closely monitored. The student is also required to maintain his academic performance in the graduate program and show good progress in his research work.


Tuition Waivers

Universities may offer tuition waivers to a few outstanding students a after the first semester i.e. waivers are offered depending on the student’s first semester performance. Students who are offered tuition waivers do not have to pay tuition fees or pay reduced amounts. In other words, waivers may be full i.e. they cover the entire fees for a semester or a partial i.e. they cover the fees for only a certain number of credits.


In-State Tuition: This is the tuition fee charged to the residents of the state in the US. Certain universities, particularly Texas, offer a nominal scholarships to international students including in-state tuition. The award can be a substantial saving since in-state tuition fee is about 40% of out-of-state tuition.

Graduate School Fellowships and Assistantships

These are offered only to outstanding students. The student is nominated by their graduate program. Generally, the awards are given to students admitted to PhD programs in the department and, as a rule, exempt students from any specific duties. The students are expected to perform full-time research and may be occasionally required to perform teaching duties for a semester as a part of their program.


On-Campus Jobs

International students in US universities are allowed to work on campus. Campus jobs may include working at the university’s cafeteria, bookstore, library, or health club, or within the university’s administrative offices. The payment is usually $6 to $8 per hour and you are allowed to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week.



Students are also allowed to take up internships after completion of at least two semesters of full-time education in an area which is directly related to their field of study, and which can be considered a part of academic training. Carefully review information about these options and consult the International Students’ and Scholars’ Office for clarification. In the US the internships are of two types:


Curricular Practical Training during the course of the program usually in the summer semester after the first year and Optional Practical Training, after the completion of the MS program. These are governed by rules framed by US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) and require appropriate authorizations.


Merit-Based Scholarships from the Indian Government and Other Indian Trusts:

Doing some research and finding out information about scholarships offered by Indian Government and other trusts can come in handy. The Government of India (GOI) offers scholarships for advanced education to SC and ST students and these are administered by the Social Welfare Departments of respective state governments. GOI also has a scheme of supporting higher education in areas where India lacks facilities for such education.

There are also a number of private trusts like Inlaks, India Foundation, Lila Poonawala Foundation, J N Tata Trust, Aga Khan Foundation and K C Mahindra Scholarships which offer substantial amounts to students going to top ranking universities. (There are also the Cambridge Trusts if you want to apply to Cambridge). However the trust may have certain specific criteria which have to be met by the applicant. The announcements for these scholarships appear in leading newspapers.


Education Loans from Banks

Another important and major source is the Education Loan scheme of banks which offer loans up to 20 lakh rupees at competitive interest rates and extended periods of repayment.

See also: What You Need to Know about Educational Loans




News: USCIS announced that the H-1B cap for this year is full. What does this mean for you regarding job opportunities after MS in the US? The economy is showing signs of healthy job growth for non-US citizens in the US! Its getting better.

On the first business day in April, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services opens the rounds of petitioning for coveted H1-B visas for highly skilled foreign workers. The agency awards the 85,000 visas on a first-come, first-served basis and companies scramble to get in their applications for foreign hires as quickly as they can. The cap has been the same since 2004, with 65,000 slots for foreign hires and 20,000 spaces reserved for graduates of U.S. universities. This year human resources managers, knowing the cap was close to being filled, worked through the weekend, racing to file.

The speed at which the cap is reached is a loose indicator of the economy’s state. In 2007, the slots filled up on May 26 (July 26 for university grads). In 2008, the cap was reached in a single day: April 2. In 2009, applications were sluggish and took eight months to reach the cap. In 2011, the slots were filled in seven months.

It now appears that things are picking up again—a good sign for the economy!

Current Students:

Ok, what does this mean? People who graduate in December should be OK, as they can move on an F1 and apply for an H1 on April 1, 2013. People graduating in June/July 2012 should be OK too, as they can move on F1 and file next year on April 1, 2013. So for now most people would be safe. So everything looks good for now!

PS. If the situation gets too hot, we may end up in lottery like scenario, but even then its better than 2007-2008 as we now have a cap gap and a 27-month OPT extension on F1 for STEM.

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