Strategic College selection for your MBA applications
Request Sent Successfully
Something Went Wrong

Strategic College selection for your MBA applications

Admission Counselling :
  • Written by UnivAdmitHelp
  • Category: Admission Application
  • Published on 04 May 2022

Strategic College Selection


College selection is a tricky bit when it comes to your MBA applications. Plus the fact that most schools don’t publish detailed acceptance-criterion and acceptance data, makes the process all the more challenging.

Let’s look at a few statistics which are contrary to most people’s beliefs - 

Example 1: UBC Sauder is deemed as a middling rank B School by most standards. Accepting slightly under 200 students, close to 45% as international students, Sauder is amongst the most selective in the world, even harder than the likes of GSB and Harvard. At 6%, it has one of the lowest acceptance rates, ahead of all the M7 schools. Given that the class size is extremely small, the process becomes all the more competitive. 

Implication - If UBC Sauder is your safe school, you may want to recalibrate that thought, and may evaluate schools which are relatively easier to get into.


Example 2: Especially for international students, there are severe acceptance implications when you apply in round 2. Please note that while most schools don’t publish round-wise-acceptance data, our experience of dealing with hundreds of students over the last decade has given us a bird’s eye view on acceptance preferences. Round 1 sees at least 50-60% more acceptances than round 2 for Indian students. This behavior has become more stark post Covid-19, and seems to be a norm in highly-selective, brand-name schools like M7 schools, Yale SOM, Cornell, etc. Contextually, your chances of scholarships tank as well, when you apply in round 2.

Implications - Try to apply in round 1 to bolster your acceptance chances at top-10 B schools. It also increases your chances of getting a scholarship.


Example 3: B-schools have established profile objectives that keep changing from year to year, and even from round to round. A school might get a directive to recruit more Asians, or more engineers or more experienced people depending largely upon the previous year’s job outcome reports. Expect these preferences to be baked in the current year’s acceptance objectives. Additionally, there are pressures on schools to maintain diversity, whilst recruiting the most capable class. What ‘capability’ is, would differ from school-to-school, and may also change from round to round. It may happen that a school might have seen too many entrepreneurs in round 1. As a result, it may cool down towards entrepreneurs in the subsequent rounds. Furthermore there are established preferences noted in the school charter or legacy - IVYs preference towards ‘legacies’ or Darden’s preference towards ‘services’ are some examples of such dimensions.

Implications - Depending upon your profile, you can enhance your chances in certain schools. Arrive on your school list after careful and deliberate research.


When I look at Indian candidates I see a few things in good measure - Males, Engineers or CAs, a few specific professions - Consulting, Private Equity, a couple of GOI sponsored organizations or other Impact sector professionals. This implies that the moment you belong to any of these subsets, it becomes harder for you to stake your candidature for the top schools, because the acceptance rate in your subgroup would be lower because of a much higher number of candidates in your profile segment. This means that when you are looking at the list of your potential colleges, you may want to assess the past trend in those schools (which is harder to determine) and match it to your profile to arrive at a list of high-probable B Schools. Carpet-bombing wont help!

Another very strong dimension is around historical trends in a particular group/ segment. For instance, An organization saw as many as 25 admits to M7 schools in 2016-2018. However, 2-3 students from that group did not find a job post their MBA. This meant that the school group has cooled down towards candidates from this organization. Furthermore, while 4 years back, this organization still presented a novelty value, that value has since then tapered off. The total number of admits to M7 schools from this organization has come down to sub-5!

Trends are not permanent! Some of them are in vogue right now. For instance if you are an engineer in a core-engineering job (Civil, Electronics, Petroleum, Mechanical, etc.), you have a better chance of getting in. (Not a software engineer). If you have sold off a successful business, then you are already in the crowd of favored bets. Or alternatively, if you are a woman working in male-dominated sector like off-shore drilling, mining or investment management, then your chances improve.

Some students have a very strong school-specific profile dimension. A student of ours, with a medical equipment background, had a very good fit with potential employers in that region. Duke Fuqua sits at the center of Research Triangle Park, with established relationships with companies that were looking for people like this specific student. The moment this fit was established, it became a relatively easy exercise going forward. The student got into Fuqua with a 100% scholarship!

Ofcourse, the usual factors would always be there - class size, potential job possibilities, setting - rural or urban, close to your desired job location, ranking and stature, etc. Do bake these in your assessment process as well to arrive at a comprehensive measure.

In the end, all of this is an indication. 

Eventually what matters is the level of differentiation in your profile. You can belong to the most common profile group/sub-segment, yet have a huge amount of differentiation and excellence in your profile. How you establish that and convey it in your essay narrative counts the most towards you getting an admit from a top school. Most of the time, your profile is a given - don’t agonize it beyond a point and strive to convey your most powerful story in your essays!

All the best!

Other Related Blogs:

Positioning ideas for B School applications: Consulting profiles

B School Applications advice for people who have worked in startups

MBA Applications: The Right Time