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Applying from Abroad: 4 Tips to Craft a Stand-Out MBA Application for International Applicants

When it comes to getting that business degree, American MBA programs remain strong choices for international applicants. Of the top 10 MBA programs in the world, six are located in the United States, according to the Financial Times. Fortunately, these well-ranked business programs consistently look for competitive applicants from overseas. For example, international students formed 34 percent of Harvard Business School’s Class of 2013. When it comes to the MBA application, it’s all about how you market your global experience and unique skills as an international applicant.

Be Prepared to Translate Your Academic Experience into U.S. Grading Norms

MBA admission committees need to know that they’re comparing apples to apples when looking at international applicants’ college grades. In many cases, MBA applications ask for grades in your local grading system as well as on a standard 4-point GPA scale. For example, students from India typically receive grades on a 10-point cumulative grade point average (CGPA) scale. Use an online conversion calculator or ask potential programs for their preference in grade conversions. If you feel that the conversion isn’t an accurate reflection of your academic abilities, contact an admissions representative to ask how best to translate your scores. Some schools may agree to add a comment to your file about the academic rigor of your home institution or other factors that influence grade conversions.

Demonstrate Assertiveness

In many non-Western cultures, group harmony may be valued more than individualism. When it comes to the MBA application, however, it’s essential to assert yourself. Don’t worry about coming across as a braggart; now is the time to detail your extensive experience and accomplishments. To ensure your essay stands out, ask at least two Western readers to look it over and provide comments. American MBA programs look for candidates who think critically, confidently state their experiences and have demonstrated leadership abilities.

Prepare for Alternative Interview Settings

If you’re living in Hong Kong, flying to the U.S. for a series of business school interviews may not make sense. In most cases, business schools provide accommodations for candidates who cannot make the on-campus interview, often by providing a Skype interview option. Just because the interview takes place online, however, does not mean that it should be taken less seriously. Dress to impress, prep extensively by looking at sample questions, and know your application inside and out, suggests U.S. News and World Report. Most importantly, test your Internet connection several times before the big day. If you’ve been having difficulty establishing a reliable connection, seek out FiOS vs. cable service for faster speeds, less lag time and a better Skype connection.

Learn the American Test-Taking System

If you were raised outside of the American system of standardized testing, attacking the GMAT or TOEFL may pose serious challenges. To ensure that you get top scores, invest in a test preparation course or book. For example, Kaplan offers an online GMAT prep course that emphasizes test-taking skills, common question formats and unique strategies to boost your test scores. Give yourself at least three or four months to prepare for any standardized tests and to become familiar with the types of questions you’ll need to master.

Author: Monique Young

Monique is an elementary and part-time college educator from Atlanta.

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