The landscape is different for Chinese MBA applicants
Chinese MBA applicants (and Indians!) constitute the largest category of applicants to top MBA programs in Europe and the US. In 2011, a Poets & Quants study found that Indian and Chinese applicants face much higher rejection rates from top US business schools. Yet, this does not mean that Indians and Chinese are similar either in terms of their backgrounds, education systems, or skills that they bring to their MBA applications. The only common thing, perhaps, are their large numbers, which make Chinese and Indian applicants belong to over-represented categories.
It is not that Chinese nationals do not have choices – in fact, there are excellent business schools in China itself. As Forbes notes, there are a number of Chinese business schools, and they would serve the cause of those looking only at a China-centric career well.
For those looking at a more global education, but still based in China, there is the excellent CEIBS MBA, the HKUST MBA, and the CUHK MBA. However, this post is for those Chinese applicants who want to apply to top MBA programs in Europe and the USA.
As a Chinese national, applying to a top MBA brings not just the usual challenges, but also much more competition from your own country.
What can Chinese applicants do to overcome the odds and prepare better for top MBA applications? GyanOne offers some advice based on our strong experience of working with many Chinese applicants:
Chinese applicants need to ensure that their English skills are adequate
Most top schools consider weak communication and inadequate spoken English skills as a significant factor for Chinese applicants. If you struggle at communicating in English, consider taking an English language course.
Expert fluency is not a requirement, but clear expression is. Without this, an MBA admit will become very difficult because the interview stage will pose problems.
Unlike Chinese applicants, Indian applicants are not as closely scrutinized on this parameter (just another point of different between these two large groups of applicants).
The verbal score on the GMAT is very important – focus on it
Most Chinese applicants are competitive in terms of their GMAT scores, but their Verbal scores sometimes lack way behind their Quant scores. Even if the overall score is good (650+ to start looking competitive at some schools, but usually 700+ at most schools), a low Verbal score can raise questions.
This is one parameter that Western MBA admissions committees look at closely, so if you feel your Verbal percentile is low, try and fix that through a retake. Verbal percentiles above the 70th are usually fine.
Garner global business exposure, if not experience
As an applicant to a top international MBA program, you will be required to demonstrate a good understanding of global business. Some Chinese applicants we have worked with in the past tend to be too inwardly focused.
They have a good view of China, but little understanding of the international environment. Again, expect applications and interviews to probe this point, so developing this perspective is important.
Did you work for a global MNC in China? Talk about it. Did you have a short stint working for a foreign employer in Hong Kong? Mention it.
As a Chinese applicant, you need to show stronger motivation and drive
Way too often, Chinese applicants are too fact-focused. They will not discuss their deeper motivations behind seeking an MBA and how it will help them further their careers.
Direct is good, but it should also be supplemented with detail and reason. You might also need to explain the business environment in China and the specifics of your role in your organization.
Business in China is different from that in most other parts of the world, and you should not assume that your reader already has a sense of it.
Some schools offer early and priority submissions – take them!
As applicants from an over-represented category, you do yourself no favor by waiting if you can apply earlier. Plan to take the GMAT, talk to your recommenders, and get your action plans in place well in time.
As seats fill up post R1 and R2, you will have a much less chance, especially at the top schools. Look out for priority programs at some schools that allow submissions even before official R1 deadlines. Duke in the US and Ivey in Canada are two good examples of this.