Sorebrek's Musings and Ramblings

In search of the holy grail of an MBA (class of 2008 hopeful), this space will hopefully chronicle the search and my other quixotic pursuits.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Yeti goes to HBS

So what is common between the Yeti and the most common MBA applicant? For one, they're both from the Indian subcontinent (or thereabout). They're both male (Unexplained Mysteries is yet to feature the Abominable Snow Woman, so I'm assuming). Both do pretty geekish stuff: one keeps busy churning out computer code and the other leaves silly, giant footsteps in the snow to scare the crizzap out of people; in the process, both are generally pretty adept at avoiding contact with humans. The uncanny similarity doesn't end there: both generate ample discussion, but like the mythical snowman, in its dream-habitat, a top-10 business school, only rare sightings of the Male-Indian-IT applicant have been reported, there is no documented evidence! Ok, I'm obviously getting carried away; but indulge me while I try and make my argument half plausible.

I was at the IMD reception last night and I thought that I had my Emperor's New Clothes moment. My politically correct, well-meaning friends will dissuade me from posting this, but I need to do this for my own sake, so here goes. Blogging is cathartic, believe me.

This is probably the fifth or sixth information session I've been to since I made up my mind about applying in August last year. About 40% to 50% of those who show up at these events fall into a specific demographic group: yeah, the Yeti brotherhood. Here is the stone I'm lobbing at my roomies in the glass-house:

I was flipping through the brochure with the profiles of the current IMD admits and I couldn't resist doing a back-of-the-envelope analysis. Now IMD, it appears does guzzle the diversity kool-aid from a fire-hose, no less. Let me try and describe this in b-school terms using the concept of Correlation. Two stocks are negatively correlated, if circumstances leading to the rise of one stock cause the other to dip. A Perfectly Negatively Correlated pair of stocks would move in opposite directions in perfect proportions. The IMD class of 90 students is pretty close to a perfectly negatively correlated portfolio of students. The biggest demographic group (I'm told this changes every year), the East-Indians (or those of East-Indian ethnicity from other countries) constituted less than 6% of the class (5 in all).

And here is my point: of this, all of one student was a member of the 'hood. Here is a scarier extrapolation: let us say that IMD is an aberration and that business schools in general admit this profile group at double that rate: approximately 2.5%. Let's look at the HBS class-size for a second: roughly 900 admits each year. Again erring on the side of abundance, let us multiply this by 10, i.e. the top 10 schools. At 2.5%, these schools would end up admitting all of 225 male, Indian, IT applicants! Now that by itself is not such a bad number; yeah, it won't be as soon as California, Massachusetts and parts of Texas and the mid-west decide to secede from the union and descend into a stone age where software programmers have better things to do than applying to b-schools. If the information sessions, the forums, the mailing lists and blogs or the buzz in the valley were any indicators, on the conservative side, at least 30% of the applicant pool would fit this profile. Now let us try and figure out the statistical population size of this applicant pool. Assuming that the average selectivity is around 15%, and using the Harvard class size of 900 as a benchmark, this would result in around 60,000 applicants for the top 10 schools. Ok, now for the money shot: this puts the probability of acceptance for a male, Indian, IT applicant at 1.25%. The 15% average selectivity rate means nothing for this demographic group. Ever wondered why schools don't publish applicant demographics? A lot of my Yeti brethren simply wouldn't bother. Couple of things before we leave this 'analysis': for one, this is a liberal estimate; the actual numbers could be lower. Second, I'm basing my yield numbers not just on IMD, but also on anecdotal information from current or past students. I will only be thrilled to be corrected - prove me wrong. Now this may not be something new to many of us - I didn't exactly have a rosy picture for this group to start out with, but the numbers sure make me want to go to the Himalayas, for good.

"The mathematical expectation of the speculator is zero", said Louis Bachelier. Perhaps it is because members of this profile does geeky things like computing speculative acceptance ratios that they have such a hard time breaking into the ivies (instead of focusing on world peace) :-). I give you that, so let us put on our empirical hats on for a second. Surprise, surprise: the scene isn't much different. Look around: the blogs, mailing lists and forums are strewn with carrion of desi ding-a-lings.

However, differentiation on any of these attributes (gender, ethnicity and industry) seem to dramatically increase the odds of admission. No, the schools aren't lying; they value diversity and I for one don't want to question the benefits of a diverse classroom yet, not without the benefit of experience. In fact my work experience alludes to the beneficial effects of diversity. But then the selection criteria at work is not the same as at a b-school - axiomatic concepts like demand and supply prevail in a laissez faire atmosphere. Oh well, I am rambling and getting hung up on using big words. I will take the current and past students for their word on this issue. However, considering the analysis above, it does behoove the schools to maintain this less than weak form efficiency. It is just that applicants of this profile group need an expectation adjustment; which is all I'm really trying to get at.

I was talking to a fellow-applicant during the reception and his rant went: "Everything that worked for you all your life - your ability to reason and use logic, sticking to the beaten path to success, everything that you associated with achievement, all of this is now working against you." You're boring because you're one of many, albeit with 750+ GMAT scores and two-startup histories. The no-good, neighbor kid your mom used to calibrate the lower-limit of achievement, ended up at an ivy thanks to majoring in, well, world-peace at the University of Iaminthesticks.

You will take comfort in that there are one or two other demographic groups that feel the same way. I've said more than my fair share of politically incorrect things for a day, so I won't go there, at least not today. I'm tired: this post will have no witty coda - you have endured enough.


  • At 9:28 PM, Blogger Reddy said…

    There are some discrepancies in your post. You said IMD has 5% of Indians, then you said IMD is aberration other schools have double the rate, doesn't double mean 10%(not 2.5%).
    You said probablity is 0.38%. You said there are 60,000 applicants, 30% fit Yeti profile, so that's 18,000. You said 225 got admitted that is 1.25%(not 0.38%).
    In general I think Indians are 10% in their classes, so 15% of 60,000 is 9000 and out of it 10^ is 900. If total Indian applicants are 18,000. So 900 out of 18,000 is like 5%.
    So out of every 20 INDIANS one has chance to at Ivies.

  • At 10:54 PM, Blogger sorebrek said…

    Thanks for pointing that out Reddy. My 'analysis' is Yeti-specific. IMD's class has 5% Indians, but one Yeti. That's how I arrived at 2.5% (i.e. 1/90 x 2)

    But you're right about the probability % being wrong: 225/18,000 = 1.25%. I've made the correction.

    You're probably right about 10% of the class being Indian, but again my argument is about the Yeti category.

  • At 11:06 PM, Anonymous byron said…

    One thing about your analysis: you picked one of the smallest MBA programs out there, so I wasn't too surprised that a) there was lumpiness (it's hard to come up with, say, exactly 7/90th of a person from a particular demographic group) and b) the largest group changes from year to year (because if you wind up admitting two or three more from a particular group than you did the previous year while holding the class size constant, it'll probably be enough to have that effect)

    It would be more interesting to do this sort of analysis on the student population at a diploma mill^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^H^Hlarger school such as HBS, Wharton or Kellogg.

  • At 11:28 PM, Blogger sorebrek said…

    Byron, you're absolutely right about the 'lumpiness'. But as I said, I'm also considering empirical/anecdotal evidence to reach my conclusion. Say Chicago with a class size of about 500, do you think there're more than 10 admits that match the Yeti profile? I am curious. Based on hearsay, the HBS numbers should be much lower. We may never get the exact numbers until and unless the schools decide to publish applicant demographics.

    At any rate, my objective is to illustrate the very low selectivity rate within this particular demographic group vis-a-vis that of most other groups.

  • At 7:10 AM, Blogger yukta said…

    btw, have you read 'managers, not mbas' by minzberg? it will make you reconsider getting sucked into the mba-frenzy.

  • At 7:55 AM, Anonymous swoop2 said…

    Great post. Dont pick on the statistics, but YETI is the best kept secret in the admissions business. YETI's atleast populate the otherwise sparse info sessions of unknown business schools, pay $200 willingly to the already rich ivies as "chanda" (donation), make admissions consultants richer, and make otherwise normal adcom people into superstars on forums!!

    YETI's have done a great service to this otherwise dull process.

  • At 11:11 AM, Anonymous riter said…

    You sound like a "sore" brek.

  • At 11:19 AM, Blogger sorebrek said…

    That sounds pretty judgemental for someone who deleted his/her(?) blog ;-)

  • At 1:37 PM, Anonymous riter said…

    Theres a false sense of security that comes with deleting one's blog. :-)

  • At 8:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Funny post sorebrek! Thoroughly enjoyed reading it. 1.25% seems to be the desi..hmmm...YETI golden number.

    Having gone through the "top" MBA process (unsuccessfully) so far, my patience and political correctness have worn off.

    Diversity is all fine an nice but it is really becoming a case of overt discrimination; overt atleast to the people who know about the shady workings of B-school adcoms. Most Indians know that the odds are stacked against them -- unfairly in my opinion -- but do not know the true extent.

    Maybe it is time for full disclosure and to bring the shady top-10 operations into broad daylight.

    Several schools claim to be free market without knowing what it means. Free markets means the best will win without artificial taxes/tariffs/barriers. Unfortunately, we have reached such a level of political correctness among top-10 schools that their admission processes have become a reflection of the welfare state.

    "Screw the achievers. Bring on the artsy-fartsy right brained loosers -- we will offer them admission/comfort and encourage others of the same ilk."

    Frankly -- I don't give a damn -- I am quite happy being a YETI.

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  • At 7:55 AM, Blogger Ash said…

    Im reading this post way late...but
    well...i dunno man...i hate to agree with you...but the YETI worked for me..or so I think...
    being Indian..coming from a non It background helped...though i did not study about world piece...i stuck to my branch of engineering (chemical/petroleum) and did not goto IT (though I came this close to doing it)...
    so being falling in the Indian applicant pool with 10000 other people...did not bother me alot...
    but i can see some of my mates from IT...who got into HBS...but a very small percentage of em ! the shame is these folks wanna be bankers rather than open their own companies some days...
    im rambling...but your blog does that to me
    cheers matey!

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  • At 11:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice post but there was a tone of frustration, I believe, which resulted in some mistakes in calculations. It sounded like a trail of emotions.

    Lets talk about a YETI. Who is he? An male Indian, working in an IT company but dreaming to be an investment banker someday, somewhere in one of those high-rise buildings of Manhattan but can't study even one book on finance and can't take one course on economics in a local college. And what does he have? An engineering degree, decent academic history, no interest in his own branch of engineering, unaware of why he did metallurgical or mechanical engineering, unaware of existence of any club in the college, always taunted his friends who wanted to collect some fund for orrisa cyclone victims, dreamt of coming to US, went to all the pubs and clubs in America but is not even sure if Red Cross office is on the next street, etc... Even in India, he did not maintain any relationship with self-help groups, never helped even one person, did not play cricket or volleyball because it is difficult to wake up or these are not the games of stature, tried tennis couple of times but could not serve and did not go after one month, etc...

    Now think... why would HBS take them? They may apply in numbers but all of them are essentially same. One of them may work in Java and another one in Oracle but does that matter as far as an MBA is concerned.

    I am not aware of any of the numbers you have mentioned but I can understand why they do not take so many Indians, if they really do not take as you have claimed.

  • At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It is true!. I know a number of people who got into H/W/S. I work in Investment Banking. Most are this profile
    Ivy Undergard or Grad( prep school is a plus)
    Bulge Bracket IB /Consulting
    Athletic/Good Looking( yes this matters a lot in IB)
    Upper middle class/rich families from all the world

    I think B schools are right though. Biz is all bout relationships/netwworking/walk the walk talk the talk
    Its not so much about how smart you are or if you can crack a code! Its business!Thats life!

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