When one decides to go about doing an MBA, there are many questions one has in mind. Apart from the customary ‘Why MBA?’, ‘What is the nature of the job (and the remuneration, yes) that I would stand to get after passing out of a top b-school?’ and the silent ‘Will the life in a b-school and my job as cool as was depicted in 2 States?’ there is another question that bugs quite a few aspirants: ‘Is my profile worthy enough to be shortlisted by an IIM/XLRI/FMS or is it wise to bury the top 10 dream right away and focus on other b-schools/give up the MBA dream altogether.
Common grievances raised by aspirants when it comes to academic consideration are: Why are academics that important? Why don’t b-schools consider CAT scores only? If I am competing with someone on an equal footing (read CAT or any other entrance test), why handicap me by bringing my past academic performances into the picture? Does mugging really count for more than aptitude?
If either of these points have crossed your mind at some point in time, read along. For all ye 9 pointers, why not skip to some content based articles.
Why are academics considered by almost all the top b-schools?
As much as people with average-low academics (I am one of those with average academics) ridicule the high scorers accusing them of being robots and mugging chapters after chapters, it requires real skill to be able to comprehend, understand, memorize and replicate stuff. Most of the time, in your jobs, you would be doing the same thing. Creative problem solving techniques are useful only when you have achieved the optimum result that you can, working at full efficiency and more often than not, it would be the basic things that need to be put in place to achieve significant improvements (you will understand this first-hand once you enter a workplace as a manager with that branded b-school bag hanging over your shoulder). The basic point remains: consistent academic performance garnered over years of effort and skill are probably an equal, if not a better indicator of your ability to grasp things than say a one-off day of brilliance (no way I am demeaning your effort that went into getting that score, just that it is probably more difficult to do it consistently across 6 years). Companies value that and b-schools being the fulfillers of the demand-supply gap, have to consider the same while selecting a candidate. The other concern is with regards to the b-school curriculum which is again competitive and based on comprehending, understanding, memorizing and replicating concepts and the ones who have been good at these have a higher probability of doing justice to the academic curriculum. Also, the fact remains that a good aptitude might not translate into a good leader or manager and vice versa. To achieve the middle path, b-schools consider both the factors in varying capacities while shortlisting a candidate.
Can I change/boost my scores now?
If you are in your graduation, you can try to do so. Every extra point that you can get will not hurt. However, many are in their third or final year of graduation when they start figuring out their options and career choices and it becomes a bit too late to change your graduation academic performance drastically. But, it is advisable to score as many as possible even if you have decided in your heart that you want to go for an MBA at the earliest. If you are working currently, the answer is obviously a no.
What is considered to be a good profile when it comes to admissions and shortlisting?
There is no such clear cut indicator between a good and a bad profile. As a benchmark though, anything that lies north of an 80/80/80 would be a nice, easy on the eyes, steady profile while anything which is 90/90/90 would be exceptional and definitely top of the charts when it comes to shortlisting be it during admission or placements. If you have a 70 somewhere in between, it can be considered to be a moderate profile. If you have more than a 70 to handle, it would require a strong score in CAT to counter that. For variation across boards, few of the institutes have in place a system wherein, they have the list of the score of the 90th percentile of a particular board for a particular year and then they try to place your score into that matrix. If you still come out tops, you should be good to go. So, for those who come from low scoring boards, absolute scores are not considered in many cases and so, there is no need to worry about the disparity. In case of IIM Ahmedabad, Calcutta and Kozhikode, absolute 10th/12th scores are considered, IIM Bangalore and Lucknow considers your score with regards to that of the 90th percentiler in your board, IIM Indore considers your 10th/12th performance compared to the other CAT takers while IIM Shillong has a minimal percentage requirement. All these are the official criteria that were released for admission to the batch of 2015-17 and can be changed for the next academic session. You can go through the official shortlisting criteria by the IIMs.
How much of an impact does my score have on placements?
Quite a fair bit. Although, while shortlisting your CVs/going through your application details on their portal, companies might or might not have a stringent academic criteria. Generally, a candidate would make it to a shortlist on the basis of his/her entire CV and not just a single academic spike. Plus, as you get numerous opportunities to build your CV once you get into a b-school, you need not worry about the impact of your current CV on your final placement in the year 2017 (hopefully!)
Can I do something in addition to what I have so that I stand a good chance of getting into a top b-school?
Purely with regards to academics, no. There is nothing except your 10th, 12th and graduation marks that are being asked and so, except boosting your graduation score by a bit, there is not much that you can do. However, if you have an interesting internship/project/competition/event that you can ace, it might be useful during your interviews and so, if you can manage your prep time and your activity time wisely, you can go for it. Else, it is perfectly OK to focus solely on prep and try maximizing your CAT score at the moment.
How to answer the question in an interview?
There are many ways in which you can tackle this question. Few confess their academic shortcomings in the earlier part of their lives and delve into how they have improved over the years learning from their mistakes. Few have strong personal reasons (sickness, family reasons, etc.) behind the low academic performance and state the same in an interview (not recommended though as it takes away an opportunity to show your ability to learn and improve in front of a panelist while bringing a certain degree of discomfort to both the candidate and the interviewer/s). Few focus on their extracurricular interest and an emphasis on doing what interested them in their early years and being actually good at it. The bottom line is, you can defend low academics in an interview as long as you are willing to work on the reasons behind the same and mould them into your strength. Working with an experienced hand for your interviews would make sure you move past all these minor blips.
Also, you can read this thread for success stories and queries of individuals who had poor academics.
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