Up Close and Personal with Author of "Break the MBA Admissions Barrier"

On a busy Wednesday after class, I hustled to Spangler Grille to find a table with access to an electrical outlet. I was eager to plug in my laptop and take notes on my discussion with sectionmate and author Mohit Jain. Mohit spoke candidly about his motivation for writing a book on how international students from developing countries can best manage the U.S. MBA application process.

Q: What unique admissions challenges do international students face and how does your book address these challenges?

A: One of the challenges faced by international students is finding literature that specifically speaks to the cultural differences inherent in the U.S. MBA application process for non-U.S. students.

One such example is in requesting recommendations from employers and mentors. In India, it is not appropriate to influence your recommender or to suggest that you would like that person to write or to ask for revisions later. My book addresses how to best respect cultural norms such as these while successfully attaining your end goal.

Additionally, most books briefly brush on issues related to securing Visas. I discuss the documentation process in detail. Another challenge faced by international applicants is how to best market one’s self to a U.S. culture that values proven examples of leadership. In many international cultures, students are encouraged to pursue vocational careers such as engineering or medicine. Once in these roles, many become focused on the functionality of the job and not necessarily on assuming leadership roles within these positions. Instead of being a passive software programmer, one should be focused on taking the lead role on the team. Further, the international curriculum in non-Western Europe and U.S. universities does not have a huge focus on business or the economy. Overall, my book speaks to international students in “their language” and attempts to bridge the cultural gaps in the MBA application process.

Q: Who is your target reader? Is it the experienced professional or the student just starting his or her career who has the flexibility to seek out the leadership responsibility you speak of?

A: My book actually attempts to address both. For experience professionals, my book advises on how to best differentiate one’s self from other international applicants. This includes how to highlight one’s accomplishments and how to present a well-rounded picture, including community-service experience.

For the recent graduate entering the work force who aspires to attend a top U.S. MBA program, my book advises on the importance of seeking leadership opportunities early and making sure every decision that he or she makes is beneficial to the long-term goal of getting in to a top business school in the U.S.

My book also discusses the ideal time for applying to a program. Contrary to popular belief in India that the best candidates have 10 years of experience, I would argue that four to five years of experience is better because the student will be more receptive to the principles taught.

Q: What differentiates your book from other admissions books available in India?

A: There is one book available in India that touches on U.S. business schools. However, this is only a small portion of the content as the book discusses U.S. universities in general, not just MBA programs. Also, the tone of the book is written for all international students. My book is the only one that addresses issues specific to international students in developing countries.

Q: How long have you been writing?

A: I submitted a few articles to local publications in the past and was an editor for my undergraduate newsletter and associated with student publishing in college.

Q: Editing, huh? So can I expect you to join the Harbus staff?

A: (Smiling) Yes, I intend on writing for the Harbus next school year.

Q: How long did it take you to write your book and where is it sold?

A: The process took four months of writing and editing. I negotiated my publishing contract. The book is only sold in India right now but will be released in Southeast Asia later in the year. Based on its success there, the book will be released in developing countries and then the U.S.

Q: Do you plan on writing any books in the future?

A: I definitely plan to write in the future. My next venture will be a compilation of short stories. Later in my career, I plan to share my experiences in the U.S. and in management with readers.

Q: What advice can you give to aspiring writers?

A: Many writers face the challenge of getting their manuscript accepted because publishers get so many ideas from aspiring authors that competition is fierce. Don’t be easily discouraged and don’t get hung up on finding a “big name” publisher. Just get your work out there so you can be seen. Once you are published, it will be easier to establish credibility and secure financing in the future.

Also, you should be hands on with the entire process. Don’t be afraid to demonstrate your enthusiasm. Pitch your book as if it is a business plan. Help out with the marketing. And please contact me if you have any questions.

Mohit Jain has an undergraduate degree in life science engineering from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), the premiere institution in India. Mohit is pursuing summer opportunities in healthcare and is currently advising associates in India on the development of a program to help prospective Indian students gain admittance to top-ranked U.S. MBA programs. Information on “Break the MBA Admissions Barrier: Making it to the World’s Best Business Schools” can be found at www.pearsoned.co.in under a catalogue search. Mohit can be reached at mjain@mba2007.hbs.edu.