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Tips for International Students Applying to US Business Schools: How to Not Get Rejected?

Written by: admin at 01 Aug 2013         

It’s Still The Stone Age

Whether you are going for an MBA or a Master’s degree, what matters most is which category of people the admissions team going to put you in. Believe it or not, race and ethnic background still play a huge role in university admissions. With decades of apartheid and holocaust, we are still not done with racial slur and discrimination. If you are an international student and you really want to get into a top business school, you have to play your cards smart and make your background look diverse and new instead of foreign and unemployable.

CNN reports that Indian and Chinese students are rejected most often. In fact, top schools are setting the pace. They are leading in terms of rejecting Indian and Chinese applications. Admissions numbers though are still on the rise, and there has been constant positive growth in international student numbers for the past 10 years.

The obvious truth is that top universities want only those international students, who will not have a difficulty finding employment after graduation. In other words, they want students whose English is close to native and who would have no problem integrating into an English-speaking workplace. Such students are believed to contribute to the statistic of successfully employed graduates, making the institution look prestigious and appealing. In this sense, international students with an English-speaking undergraduate degree are more likely to be accepted. They already have the necessary communication skills and are more relaxed with using the language daily.

Business school (name) (state) Full-time enrollment Full-time students employed 3 months after graduating U.S. News b-school rank
Clarkson University (NY) 86 100% 101
Oklahoma State University (Spears) 76 100% 88
University at Albany—SUNY (NY) 63 100% 86
University of Tulsa (Collins) (OK) 56 100% 93
Temple University (Fox) (PA) 90 97.7% 58
Ohio State University (Fisher) 229 97.1% 27
University of Washington (Foster) 230 96.8% 23
Emory University (Goizueta) (GA) 338 96% 18
Washington University in St. Louis (Olin) 279 96% 21
Iowa State University 57 95.5% 70

Source: 10 B-Schools That Lead to Jobs at US News

What you have on the other hand is Chinese and Indian students who have yet to experience the language in an academic setting. They even have to take exams (TOEFL or IELTS) to prove that they speak the language well enough. Such students are at a major disadvantage, as admissions teams are now raising only one point: “we need graduates who will be getting jobs.”

Common Reasons To Get Rejected

  1. Weak academic performance and GMAT score.
  2. Limited managerial potential or not enough experience in a managing role.
  3. Existing experience and career goals not related.
  4. Unclear reasons for choosing a particular school. Most often assessed through your admission essay.
  5. Limited or undocumented work experience. The place where you worked is also important in terms of where it’s located and how big it is.

Our Recommendations

It wouldn’t hurt checking out universities’ acceptance rates and picking a school that you have just enough experience, ambition and background to get into. Check the Alphabetical List of Best Business Schools Profiles.

You should also be aware of common pitfalls that applicants so often trip on:

  1. No overused topics in your MBA essay or any other type of writing that you submit with your application. Be creative and showcase that you are not just another B student with still poor English. You have to sound and feel American.
  2. Don’t aim too high. Top schools retain their exclusivity through hand picking their students. The admission process has always been a black box, and with Ivy League schools for instance, you can expect your application to be rejected just because of where you are from. Plenty of research has shown Higher Rejection Rate for Indian & Chinese MBA Applicants.
  3. Make sure you convert your grades into an easily understandable format. You shouldn’t even convert into GPA, just make it understandable (i.e. percentage)
  4. Look for MBA students’ recommendation. They are currently where you would be in a year, so they surely have something to tell. Blogs could be a good place to find insights of such sort.


The reason why so many Chinese and Indian Master’s and MBA application are rejected is because colleges only want highly employable students who would positively contribute to the employment-after-graduation statistic. That’s how schools maintain their exclusivity in the eyes of employers. The better they look in employers’ eyes, the higher the tuition costs they can charge.

The truth is that depending on your ethnicity, you can either expect to have higher or lower chances of getting into a top business school. In certain sense, business schools are like private clubs, where you have to get noticed to participate. It all has to do with perceived value. Colleges want their classes to look exclusive, and they are playing with class demographics to look more appealing to employers. If employers don’t respect an institution, there is little its students could do to get a well-paying job.

The last and the most fundamental thing you could do to counter such injustice and get into a top business school (if you are an Indian or a Chinese student especially) would be to work on your admission essay. That’s one part of the application, where you are heard and where you can create any impression you like. It’s all in your hands!

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