B-School admissions: 6 parameters for selection
, Founder Director, T.I.M.E.
OF the 1000+ institutes offering management education, only around 90 can boast of imparting education of excellent quality. These 90-odd institutes are the ones worth joining. The sheer numbers of institutes and the accompanying claims (genuine and otherwise) make it extremely difficult for a student to take the right decision regarding the selection of an institute. Let us look at a few preliminary factors before getting down to the real selection:
So far, it has been observed that about 30-40% of the candidates who get into top management institutes in India have prior work experience of one year or more. Currently though, it appears that some top management institutes are taking in a higher proportion of candidates who have more than a year’s experience, where “work experience”, in most cases, is defined as “full-time, paid, work experience after completing graduation”.
The fee charged by management institutes in India varies a great deal between institutes. It is as little as Rs. 20,000 for a two-year post-graduate programme in university departments which are funded by the government while most premier institutes charge anywhere between Rs. 4 lakhs and 12 lakhs for a similar programme.
A foreign MBA?
The “abroad” option appears attractive to those who can afford it. The main attraction of management education abroad seems to be the fact that admission into them is relatively easier than getting into a top Indian management institute. However, those who are on the lookout for management education abroad should note that work experience is a ‘must’ for most of these management institutes and that at the end of the course students ‘might’ not get the kind of placement that they desire.
Degree or diploma?
Students are advised to bear in mind that the value of the management course pursued by them does not depend on the fact whether it is a ‘degree’ or a ‘diploma’; rather it depends on the ‘reputation and standing’ of the institute that is offering the degree or diploma. A ‘degree’ is not always better than a ‘diploma’. The converse can well be true. In fact, the most sought-after IIMs offer only a diploma!
When companies recruit management graduates, they certainly don’t worry about the title of the course offered at the particular institute. They look at the intrinsic worth and the reputation of the institute, quality of the course offered, and, of course, the calibre of the students.
Criteria for selecting a management institute
Students need to look at the following criteria carefully and then decide on what B-Schools to apply to.
A large number of management institutes boast of a 100% placement record for their students. With management institutes mushrooming all over the country these claims should not be taken at face value, and should be scrutinised more closely. You can enquire about such claims with the students currently studying at these institutes. But, here again, you should note that the students of the institute may not always give the true picture. There is a possibility that they, for various reasons, could exaggerate the placement performance of their ‘own’ institute.
An important factor that most students miss in the excitement of high average salaries is the average number of offers that each student gets at these schools. What this parameter indicates is the huge amount of choice that a student typically has in terms of companies and the jobs they offer at the top B-Schools.
|Even students currently studying at the institute may not always give the true picture|
(b) Quality of faculty
It is essential for any good institute to have a judicious mix of full-time and part-time faculty members. The full-time faculty team provides the continuity and monitoring that is needed over the two-year period, apart from providing any hand-holding required by students. The part-time faculty team gives students the much needed external exposure, contacts in industry, and access to real time projects.
One way of getting to know the quality of the faculty team at these institutes is to speak to those who are currently studying at the institute. Generally, students give a genuine picture about the quality of the faculty members.
(c) Quality of students
The quality of the students makes a very big difference on account of the interaction that a student has with his peers. Much of the learning that takes place at any B-School is on account of the group activities like group work and group projects. Hence, if the students are brighter, the learning experience gets richer. The quality of the selection process (the difficulty level of the written exam, the rigorousness of the GDs / Interviews) adopted by the institute gives you an idea about the quality of the students it admits.
(d) Quality of infrastructure
One of the most essential things for an institute to function satisfactorily is the availability of necessary infrastructure in terms of a state-of-the-art computer lab, a high-speed Internet connection, a well-stocked library with subscriptions to management literature, and classrooms duly furnished with facilities for teaching with the help of audio-visual aids. Any institute that does not have these facilities cannot be called top class.
Students are advised to visit the campus of the institute in question, particularly one they do not know much about, and gather first hand information about the facilities available before taking a decision on joining that institute.
Students should also find out information about hostel facilities, if available. Ironically, a number of good management institutes do not have good hostel facilities, something quite common in large metros. Of course, there are always options like staying as paying guests and pooling with college mates to rent out a flat. The fully residential programme of the top B-Schools fosters all round development as the period of interaction with peers and faculty is just not restricted to the class hours but is an ongoing 24/7 process where the scope to learn and imbibe is multiplied many times over.
(e) Image of the Institute
A factor that need not specially be emphasised is the reputation a given management institute commands and the image it perpetuates in the industry. While it can be said that it is natural for older institutes to have a better reputation than the ones that have started recently, it cannot always be generalised. Also, remember that it is often possible that a recently set up institute has been established by an older, well-established institute. In such cases, the “parent/guardian” institute certainly helps the new institute through its formative years. This help may include, but may not be limited, to faculty support, support in the selection procedure, and, more importantly, placement support. If an institute falls into this category, even though it is a newly-established one, students can be assured that the institute is a good one.
One relevant example here are the relatively new IIMs. For instance, every time a new IIM is set up, there are doubts about whether it will be as good as its older siblings. It has to be remembered that, in due course, it is bound to establish itself and enjoy the benefits of the “IIM” brand name. What matters in the long run is the image of the institute during the course of one’s career and not just its image at the time one studied there.
|"The placements are better in institutes located where there is a concentration of industry"|
(f) Location of the B-School
Location refers to the geographical location of the B-School. The location indirectly affects the placements on the campus. The placements are better in institutes located in places where there is a concentration of industry. This happens because companies find it much easier to recruit management graduates from institutes located geographically closer to their own headquarters rather than go to an institute which is located far away. For this reason, other things remaining the same, institutes located in Mumbai, New Delhi, and Bangalore always score better than institutes based in other cities. Chennai, Pune, and Hyderabad make up the next level of cities. The impact that the location has on an institute is very little for the top ten institutes, while it becomes more and more pronounced as you go down the ratings list.
Programmes offered by institutes
They can be classified into two categories:
(1) General Management Programme and
(2) Specialisation-based Programme.
A General Management Programme (GMP) gives a student the flexibility to join any sector and thus affords maximum diversification and placement opportunities as opposed to a Specialisation-based Programme (SP). All the IIMs and most of the Ivy League schools offer this programme to students.
Some B-Schools offer programmes catering to a specific sector or specialising in a specific area. Institutes like XLRI, MICA, IRMA, IIFT, and TISS, are the best in their respective sectors and students should have no reservation while applying to any institute amongst them.
However, there is a plethora of programmes emerging now catering to specific sectors and needs of the industry like those in actuarial science, retail, and insurance. The placement opportunities in these specialised programmes are restricted to companies in that sector and as such do not lend the kind of flexibility to one’s career that a GMP offers.
Many top institutes offering GMPs have, of late, started offering specialised programmes. Students should note that though the image of the institute lends credibility to such programmes yet it cannot be equated to the GMP being offered. As one goes down the ratings list, this rub-off effect diminishes and one needs to carefully evaluate such specialised programmes before applying to them.
What you should do
The first question that needs to be addressed is: “How many B-Schools should I apply to?” Let us look at a few factors this depends on. The first factor is your budget. With the application fee for each institute being in the range of 500 to 1600, you may not want to look at more than 7-8 institutes. But, whatever be the number of institutes you want to apply to, it is always a good practice to select institutes across categories/tiers.
The second factor is what you are doing currently:
(a) Pursuing final year of graduation: In this case, you may be very keen on getting into a management institute but can afford to try again next year if you do not get into an institute of your choice. So, you may apply rather selectively.
(b) Completed graduation in last academic session, not pursuing any higher studies, and not working either:
In this case make sure that you get into some institute (a reasonably good one), come what may. So, the number of institutes that you have to apply, will be more than in the case of the first category.
(c) Completed graduation and currently working: You can be very, very selective unless you have been working for more than 4-5 years in which case, you may not want to lose further time in getting into a management institute.
The third factor in deciding the number of institutes to which you should apply to is your performance in the entrance exams. Depending on what the performance is, you may want to hedge your bets by applying to more institutes – particularly, to institutes across categories that we discussed above.
Now that you have decided on the number of institutes you will apply to, let us see how you will go about deciding the institutes to which you will apply. The cardinal principle is that in order to safeguard your interests and reduce your risk, you should apply to institutes in at least three different tiers.
Let us say that you have decided to apply to seven institutes. First, check how you have performed in your Mock CAT series and what your percentile score is.
Let us say you are in 85-95 percentile range. Then apart from the IIMs, you will need to apply to three institutes in the next category and two institutes in the category after that. It will also be worth applying to XLRI and/or FMS. In addition, if you are interested in specialisation programmes, you should apply to some of the sectoral institutes like IIFT/IRMA MICA/TISS.
Finally, it is always a good idea to apply to as many institutes as possible to maximise one’s chances of making it to a B-School as one is never sure as to what criteria each institute would follow to shortlist and select students.
The author Manek Daruvala is the Founder Director, T.I.M.E.