MBA Admissions: Advice for Chinese Applicants

Hundreds of Chinese apply for a few coveted spots in the top U.S. business programs each year. What are those programs looking for in their applications?

Demonstrate your experience in a Western business environment

The top American and international business programs like Chinese applicants to demonstrate their ability to work in an international business environment. If you've worked overseas or with a multinational company in China, you need to discuss that experience: explain the kinds of cultural differences you observed and give examples of how you surmounted the cultural gaps with your foreign counterparts and team members.

  • Were the Westerners brash? How did you help them learn to communicate with the Chinese staff?
  • Were the Chinese reserved? How did you help them learn to share their ideas with Westerners?

But what if you haven't had the opportunity to work abroad or with a foreign multinational? You still need to prove your ability to work with foreigners and understand international business culture. You can do so by discussing your interaction with foreign suppliers or buyers or with Western consultants or auditors. Furthermore, you could draw on your experiences as a volunteer with an international non-profit organization such as the Red Cross to testify to your cultural aptitude and experiences with foreigners.

Share your impact

Impact is best demonstrated with numbers. Your work experience section, resume, and essays need to give details such as the percent increase in sales that your initiatives have effected, the percent or amount in costs that your efforts have saved, or the number of offices or branches you have expanded. Use these numbers to complement your descriptions of how you revolutionized the systems, methods, and operations of your company.

  • Did the marketing campaign you designed boost sales of the product by 50% within 6 weeks?

Show that you are a rising star

Rising stars are already recognized by senior management through promotions and increased responsibilities. To demonstrate that you are a rising star: 1) report the number of promotions you have earned, 2) describe how your responsibilities surpass those of peers your age, 3) compare your age to those on your level in the hierarchy, and 4) detail how you are collaborating with and recognized by senior management.

  • Have you earned a promotion every year or become the youngest department manager?
  • Do you manage 30 people, the largest revenue producing sector of your company, or its most prestigious clients?

Prove that you are a leader, manager, and mentor to others

Use your essays to illustrate the strategic initiatives you have designed to steer the company in new directions and detail how these initiatives are contributing to growth. Describe the trends you have foreseen in your industry and how you are preparing your company for them. Detail the plans you have created to nurture your staff to help them grow. Tell anecdotes about how you have led your team through controversy and difficulty.

  • Did you identify an untapped market and lead a taskforce to create a product to tap this niche?
  • How did you lead the team through the crisis to bring the product to market in record time?

Reveal your passion and direction

MBA programs are seeking Chinese applicants who are passionately pursuing career growth and impact. Don't just tell the reader about your grand plans for the future; overcome your reticence and convey your excitement and enthusiasm for your career and your goals. Grant the reader some insight into the emotional reasons behind your decision to pursue your path.

  • Did your experience collaborating with a Western consultant to boost the results of your department inspire you to launch your own consultancy?
  • Did spending your afternoons toiling on your family's vegetable garden motivate you to develop an environmentally safe insecticide and lead a company on a mission to increase the world's food supply?

Discuss your community activism

American MBA programs are seeking students who are involved outside of work and school. You need to show the admissions committees that you are more than the sum of your education and career. You are a person committed to the community, who makes an active contribution to more than just your company. Tell stories about your volunteer activities and how you are recruiting others to become more involved.

  • Has your love of the sciences prompted you to found an after-school program with free science tutoring and exciting interactive experiments that now includes 20 schools across China?

Demonstrate that you need an MBA from an American institution

As a Chinese applicant, you need to convince the admissions committees that you need an MBA from an American institution, specifically the program you are applying to. First, detail the international aspect of your future goals. Second, describe how your goals are linked to this institution's program. And third, explain the importance of interacting with the international student body.

  • Does your medical background and future aspirations to fund medical technology ventures steer you to Fuqua?
  • Do you want to refine your manufacturing background in a specialized program like Kellogg's?

Ace the interview

What's the biggest interview obstacle for Chinese applicants? Spoken English. To improve your English, join an English conversation group, befriend English speakers in China, and read voraciously in English. Throughout the interview remember your profile and what has driven you throughout your career. Prepare examples in advance to discuss how you have led teams, overcome conflicts, and made an impact in the community. Know everything you can about this business school: what programs, majors, and clubs it offers, which you plan to participate in, and what its student body is like. Know exactly why this is the best program to help you achieve your goals. Finally, review's MBA Interview Feedback Database to prepare for each school's interview questions and format.

Putting it all together

Each school is sifting through those hundreds of applications to find the Chinese applicants that will be able to benefit from its program and enhance the education and experience of its other students. But determining which stories best illustrate your impact, advancement, leadership, passion, activism and knowledge of the school is daunting. An editor can help you reflect on your experiences, select the anecdotes that best portray your exceptionality, and fit them into each school's individual questions to help your application become one that they don't let slip through their fingers!

By Jennifer Bloom, Senior Editor

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