【Tips on How An Indian Engineer Beat The Odds Into Harvard Business School】
Sleepless nights worrying about being in the most over-represented pool
For the 26-year-old Indian, the call represented the end of a long, angst-filled journey to one of the most highly selective business schools in the world. His anxiety was well-placed, because Misra was in the most over-represented part of the elite MBA applicant pool: Indian engineers. It’s not known exactly how oversized that candidate pool is, but it is known that highly qualified Indian engineers routinely confront rejection rates that can be four to five times the average at leading business schools.
If that ratio holds true for Harvard, which does not disclose such detailed figures, it would mean that HBS’ acceptance rate for Indian passport holders who apply to its MBA program is not much more than 3% to 4% — much lower than the overall 11% acceptance rate. Misra faced daunting odds of admission. Consultants estimate that as many as 1,300 Indians apply to Harvard Business School in any given year, but a typical HBS class boasts no more than 40 Indian passport holders out of some 940 students.
How could I differentiate myself?
“For me, the biggest area which gave me sleepless nights was not the GMAT,” says Misra, who scored a 770 on the test. “What I really was worried about was how to position myself given that there are a lot of people from India who apply. I wondered, ‘How could I differentiate myself?’ I knew there were many ways I was different from other engineers in India, but how could I make that clear in an application?”
An excellent student from Uttar Pradesh
Son of an engineer and a college-educated mother who stayed home to raise him and his sister, Misra grew up in Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in India. He was an excellent student at Seth M.R. Jaipuria School in Lucknow, which has been ranked among the top ten schools in the country. When he graduated from Jaipuria, Misra went on to the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur where he earned a bachelor’s degree in tech and a master’s in geoinformatics.
He joined The Boston Consulting Group as an associate in the firm’s Mumbai office. A year and one-half later, Misra gained a promotion to senior associate and an assignment in Singapore. But he left in eight months to pursue a long simmering passion for social enterprise, moving to Geneva to join Gavi, the vaccine alliance, as strategy manager. The organization brings together public and private sectors to provide equal access to vaccines for children living in the world’s poorest countries.
Misra never even thought about doing an MBA until he landed the job at BCG. “Once I got into BCG, I was locked into the management world,” he says, noting that the MBA was a credential on virtually every partner’s resume.
“I still wasn’t sure. But I am really passionate about social entrepreneurship which is why I transitioned into Gavi. It was during my time there that I realized the MBA was the right path for me to get core business skills and a more global perspective.”