Tips for Chinese students

Interested in business school but not sure when and where to apply? Do you feel you have enough work experience to now take the plunge into the world of an MBA education? As the Regional Director in China for Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, I am often asked such questions. Here are a few tips for Chinese students considering such questions:

When is the Right Time to Apply

There are two main reasons for you to take your time if you feel you have “less” work experience. First, your lack of experience may cause you to jump to any program or attend any school as opposed to going somewhere that truly fits. In most cases, the MBA will be your last experience in the classroom, learning in a formal setting. Be sure to make the most of it!

Secondly, MBA education is very different from other disciplines such as the sciences or the arts. It focuses on developing students’ comprehensive capabilities to become effective business leaders, rather than rote memorization of facts right out of a textbook. Discussions both in and outside the classroom and case studies are very important. Lack of experience in your pre-MBA career will make it harder for you to contribute and possibly make it more difficult for you to absorb and process all that you are learning. Of course, business schools look for “quality” rather than “quantity” when it comes to work experience. After self-assessment, if you consider your work experience “weak” because it is short, then maybe the best solution is to keep on working hard. Do the right thing at the right time.

Understand the Importance of Diversity

What type of candidate is the Fuqua School of Business looking for? What the applicant is really asking is how can I transform myself exactly into the type of person you’re looking for? The truth is: there is no such a thing as an “ideal” applicant. Business schools today want diversity. Diversity of thought, nationality, interests, industry, culture and the list goes on!

You may respond: that is so cliché. We all know that many Chinese applicants from consulting firms, big-name banks and Fortune 500 companies are admitted by top business schools every year. Well, those applicants are admitted because they are truly excellent candidates, not because they are from a specific industry or how well known the employer is. At the Fuqua School of Business, we have many students from the public and non-profit sector in addition to serial and budding entrepreneurs. A former NBA player, chess masters, surgeons, marines, lawyers and dancers have also earned their MBAs at Duke. Among Chinese students, we have SOE and government employees, private business owners, teachers and even a pilot! If there is anything we believe they have in common, it is the potential to become future leaders of consequence and make a positive impact.

How Do I Stand Out

We firmly believe that every applicant is different and everyone has their own merits and strengths. If you can’t find anything special about yourself for your MBA application essays then search harder. There’s passion and special talent and skills somewhere inside you and we want to know about them!

You don’t have to save the world three times to impress admission officers. All you need to do is to tell them something about yourself, small or big, success or failure, to allow them to get a clear sense of you. Don’t make up any stories, because it will be no harder to see through than a 7-year old’s lies to his parents. Forget about the sample essays on the internet and stay away from those firms that provide essay-writing services. You are not the only one to have access to such resources, and you’ll kill your chances of getting admitted if an admission officer sees similarities.  Be yourself and believe yourself. These are important attributes for all leaders of consequence!