STUDY ABROAD aspirants, while preparing applications for top university admissions try to highlight a high GRE, GMAT or SAT score, and focus more on their past academic achievements, extra-curriculars, projects undertaken etc. But most often they fail to portray a vision for innovation and value creation, which are the most sought after attributes of these institutions. In addition, a futuristic element can transform their profiles from an academic learner to a great strategic thinker with immense hidden potential.


TOP UNIVERSITIES and premier b-schools abroad prefer those students who have an eye for future and not the ones who confine their thinking to the past. This is because the real essence of education is to make a difference to the world we live in, and only innovations can bring about that transformational change. Thus, admission committees look for future leaders and consider financial aid and scholarship for those who show the promise to make, create and innovate.

Secondly, these institutions believe ordinary students can deliver extra-ordinary results, as also academic brilliance need not always translate into professional excellence. In other words, merit gets more weightage than marks. Hence, even an average student can get into MIT, UC Berkley, Stanford or Wharton. Sounds strange, but not impossible!


THIS PROVES why, in 2016, a 17-year old girl from Mumbai, Malvika Raj Joshi who is not even a matriculate got accepted at Massachusetts Institute of Technology with scholarship.

Just ask yourself, would any Indian university ever accept such candidates? Rather our institutes look for academic toppers but not passionate innovators. The result is – there is hardly any technology which originates in India.

Globally, top universities prefer dynamic and inquisitive solution seekers over static learners. Thus, they give more importance to the hidden potential inside candidates for innovation and their ability to transform the world with their outstanding out of the box thinking. This also proves why all path-breaking inventions come from the US, European countries or other developed nations.


PASSION AND compassion, but not compulsion is the real secret behind an individual’s ability to achieve excellence. Unless you love what you do, you are not inquisitive. And if you are not curious enough to find out the unknown answer, you are not innovative. And without innovative thinking, you are nowhere – one would end up following the herd instead of emerging as a trendsetter.

Malvika Raj Joshi was extremely passionate about Mathematics and programming, which is why MIT saw potential in her. She is a three-time medal winner (two silver and a bronze) at International Olympiad of Informatics. MIT has a provision for accepting students who have topped the Olympiads. As quoted on different websites, discontinuing her formal education after grade IX, Malvika started learning various subjects, and soon fell in love with programming. And that is how she could win three medals within four years at the Olympiad.

So, if you can portray your passion for the subject and the real ability to identify new opportunities and add value to existing systems or respond to global challenges with exceptional ideas, the chances for securing admissions are far higher.


UNLIKE INDIAN institutions, foreign universities’ view is – A scientist is an innovator, and not necessarily an academic topper, as also one can’t become a great scientist by studying science alone. On the other hand, iconic entrepreneurs are unique because they can identify opportunities and create new value and aspirations for the world, which very few can visualise.

Therefore, what makes you stand apart from others in the applicant pool is your ability to visualise a new evolving world of disruptive possibilities and how you can contribute to create new solutions in the emerging landscape.

In comparison to job seekers, who are primarily executors, entrepreneurs are more dynamic in exploring and identifying new opportunities. They develop jobs and wealth for society. In other words, the fountainhead of innovation lies in entrepreneurship. So it is not just b-schools, but every program prefers students who have business experience or are dreaming of their own enterprises post-studies.


IN FACT, overseas institutions look for an Einstein, Edison, Tesla or a Bill Gates or Steve Jobs inside you. Much more than your academic scores, they are eager to find out the hidden scientist or a promising value creator within applicants.

Remember, Edison had been to school for just three months in his lifetime. In middle school, Einstein was a very ordinary student, and was also believed to be a dyslexic. Both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were college dropouts. There are several such examples which can be quoted.

Thus, the ability to become a distinguished scientist or an illustrious entrepreneur depends much more on innovative thinking than on being a class topper. So, unparalleled creative thinking holds the key to path-breaking discoveries or great business ideas.


A GREAT thinker is what differentiates an outstanding achiever from a highly qualified follower.

Much like science fiction writers, the ability to visualise unprecedented future possibilities and evolution of the human race is the hallmark of great thinkers, who perceive the world from a very high altitude. Historically, iconic influencers of all ages, from scientists to social scientists have always created revolutionary ideas for society using their power of great thoughts.

Thus, it is the great contemplating mind in you which can visualise astonishing possibilities. So talk of out of the box thinking you can bring to the class, and what are the potential areas of research where you see promise. Writing in your university applications how you could acquire a new vision and a diverse inter-disciplinary thinking pattern because of the wisdom gained through your multi-dimensional engagements prove that you are a holistic thinker and integrated learner.


HAVE YOU ever wondered why Universities like to know your extra-curricular activities and involvement in social work, sports, adventure etc?

This is because imagination does not blossom unless you explore the diverse and difficult terrain of the real world. For, in this infinite planet, what we learn in our educational curriculum is negligible compared to the wisdom we can gain by our active association to the earth we inhabit. Thus, looking widely beyond academic learning and showing your responsive nature to the planet reflects one’s ability to propel ahead in a fast evolving and diversely rich world. Sir Albert Einstein had remarked, “The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” Moreover, extra-curriculars add to leadership, broadens vision as also it imparts courage and conviction.


ONE CAN’T become a philosopher by reading books on philosophy. Nor can anybody emerge as a renowned dancer by going to a dancing school. Rather, you have to take a different approach to attain amazing heights.

Therefore, building a strong non-academic side really adds more value and strength to a profile than focussing on academic successes. Students can do so with simultaneously participating in different activities – be it social, cultural, political, economic, sports, adventure – or for that matter any or every engagement that interests them. Diverse attributes, multiple interests, outstanding experiences at workplace like visualising new improvisations add to your strategic and analytical thinking abilities.

Exchange of knowledge and information brings about new breakthroughs and more optimised results. Thus, those who are part of varied groups and multiple interests can bring new thinking to the class, which can broaden others’ horizon, thereby adding value to the class. Hence, universities abroad put a lot of emphasis on team learning, whereby participants share as also challenge each others’ ideas, beliefs and knowledge. Extra-curricullar interests turn out to be a determining factor in not just the success of the student concerned but also of the entire academic batch.


ARE YOU an academic learner, college topper, gold medalist or an agent of change?

Remember, your outstanding academic background at IIT, NIT or being a state topper is no guarantee for admissions to leading universities. Similarly, GMAT, GRE or SAT score is just one factor for your admissions to materialize.

Rather, try to show in your application the unique creative side of yourself, and what specific difference you can make to your field as a result of the new learning. If you can do that, notwithstanding average past academic scores, you would be lapped up by the universities.

So what matters is not your past background, but more essentially your far-sight for the future. After all, they are looking for agents of change!