A prospective's journey to the elusive mba

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Its been too long … Updates & the Tuck Loan

Somewhere between the excitement of making it to b school(s) and planning my transition, I lost sight of writing here. I apologize to those who may have been checking up on the site in my absence, but hope this post will bring everyone up to speed.

- I have quit my job as of 26th April, 2013. A lot of stuff had to be finished and I still dont know how I managed it. Its ironic although as I knew I’d be quitting in April around January, yet the last minute roadblocks don’t cease 

- I got a very generous offer from my current employer to sponsor my studies and have me back after 2 years. It is the first time EVER that they have offered to sponsor an employee’s MBA in the US so its a big step for them. Also required heavy involvement from my side to decide the term sheet. I have a gentleman’s promise with them as of now, but I dont want to commit to coming back as of now as I want to enjoy the Tuck Experience fully versus getting lax and not exploring what opportunities I could make use of while at school.

- I am back in my hometown, which is a million plus tricity area north of Delhi. Enjoying lazing around and not having to bother waking up early on weekdays

- I have started learning golf. I could hit a few shots earlier but have now formally engaged a coach. I know Dartmouth has an awesome golf course and I want to make the most of it when I am there. Also bought a golf set off a T13 at a VERY good price

- I will be doing some travel within India before I leave for the US - visiting a few temples, including the famous Golden Temple, and also my relatives in various parts of the country

- I will be backpacking in Europe for 18 days enroute to the US. I leave end July and will reach NYC on 9th August. Depending on which pre term program I get into and if i get the Tuck dorm, I’ll chill for a while at my sister’s place in NYC before heading to Hanover

The Tuck Loan

This deserves special mention. I have now been interacting with the school’s team for over 3 months. And its just been plain awesome. Each and every person at Tuck seems fabulous. I sent a long note to my interviewer on what was happening in my life and my plans to move to Hanover and she replied with such a warm toned email. The financial aid and career teams have been outstanding, answering each question with excellent detail despite there being redundant questions thrown at them.

Regarding the loan, it was so heartening to see the school facilitate a loan upto 80% of CoA (Cost of Attendance). It may surprise many readers that many schools do not provide loans to international students without cosignors, including some of the bigwigs like Columbia. The speed and alacrity with which the Tuck team responded to the loan sanction was excellent. For international students who are considering Tuck, please keep both these points in mind as it seems like a significant leg up over some of the other schools. True that many schools will provide 80% of CoA as loan, BUT the service (i.e. the way the team interacts at Tuck) really differentiates them from the rest. I can vouch for it.


Admitted to the Johnson School

Got the admit call on Friday evening India Time. Had applied to Johnson in R2, before I found out I got into Tuck. I had a very good interview - the lady remembered me from Delhi and was a pleasure to speak with. We took course of obvious interview questions, but then also spoke about the dating scene at  Cornell.

All in all, happy to receive the admit, but still a Tuckie at heart so will give up this admit, unless there is a serious scholarship involved somehow.


Demystified: The Perceived Laws of Applying to Business Schools

1. My interview invite is dependent upon where I am based

-> No its not. It basically depends on when your file was reviewed and how much workload that person has. The commitment made is that if you are someone they would like to meet, they will meet you.

2. When (day,date,time) an interview invite is sent indicates how strongly a school prefers me

-> I can’t stop laughing everytime folks fret over this on the forums. Bottom line, this has NO bearing whatsoever on how strongly a school prefers you.

3. Because I was not in the initial round of invites, I am staring at doomsday

-> And because I wasn’t picked in the first draft, no big team will pick me EVER

4. The next round starts in a week, there are 5 weeks left for this round, hence I am screwed

-> Your apps are being reviewed and assessed by humans. Give them a break. Many schools have overlapping rounds (eg: round 1 decision date is on X but Round 2 application deadline is Y, where Y < X). This is done to better predict application flow and hence interview numbers, admit offers, and so on. Hence, but naturally, the week that overlaps the most will see minimum application activity for the previous round.

5. I should apply to ALL of my dream schools in one round, using the same essays, and in one go

-> The first part is debatable, and the answer I lean on is NO. Your essays WILL get better with time. So split your dream schools in a way that 1-2 are in R1, but the others are in R2. Target some safety schools in R1, and if you make it to one of them, it will boost your confidence for applying to your dream school in R2. 

The second part is an absolute NO. Don’t copy paste essays. Each school asks for answers in a specific tone, even if the underlying question is the same. eg: what did you learn from a failure versus tell us about a time you overcame a setback. Both talk about failure, but the answer to the first one may focus more on learning and some implementation whereas the second one will focus more on implementation and results

6. I should expect BOTH an admit as well as a scholarship

-> Its actually quite strange to see applicants, who firstly didn’t think they’ll get an interview, and then never thought they’d be admitted, to straightaway post ‘In - what about scholarships’. Dude! You just made it to a top 10 (or 15 or 20 … ) school. Savour the moment. Also, when you applied, did you say I will only go here if I get a scholarship? 

What I am trying to get here is that some folks out there feel they won’t even get in, but once they do, they start feeling shortchanged that ‘OMG! I didn’t get a scholarship’. Grow up guys, the admit itself is a big deal. Instead of being grateful you’re being cocky? Not cool.

7. I should worry about getting in first, and finances afterwards

-> This ties in to point 6 above. In my case, as an international candidate, I was prepared that I wouldn’t get a scholarship due to limited funds. Plus, if my plans to goto b school are on affordability rather than aspiring for the best schools, I might as well not apply to any top schools. The fact that a school is ready to give me a loan for full cost of attendance (tuition + room etc.) without a co signer - isn’t that a big deal? Try doing that in other countries …

8. ‘I applied to school X because its my dream school’ -> Admit call -> ‘… is it my dream school?’

-> This is a classic, and I must admit, I thought a bit about this also. I was desparate to get into Tuck, and when I did, after a few days I started thinking is it really where I want to go? Many people have countered that once you have admission offer(s) you tend to start thinking this way - my counter is why? Agreed, getting into school X makes you aspire for school Y which is higher ranked, and you should apply if you want. But, the reasons that made school X your favourite school in the first place havent changed. Then why the confusion? I had my moment of weakness as well, but when I got down to thinking about it, Tuck remains the absolute clear choice.

9. Its OK to negotiate a scholarship with my school after being admitted

-> I am unsure about this, but the general answer is no. Logic: you were admitted by a school after learning all they could about you. Their offer represents a ‘take it or leave it’ - if they felt you deserved more, they would have given it to you in the first place. Unlike negotiating for compensation during job searches, the leverage you have here is low, even miniscule. In a job search, the choice is limited and you are deemed the most favoured candidate (not one of them, if you are offered the job). The risks of losing what is perceived a perfect candidate for the job, is much higher than that of not having your highly ranked applicant come to your b school.

Also, schools tend to see this unprofessionally. They made you an offer, and if you don’t like it, please turn it down. If someone else offered you better terms, good for them - why dont you take that offer? 

I have heard of a few cases where students negotiate, but thats when you have a full scholarship at one place, an 80 at the other, and you say I am committing to you 80s school, but can you look if something can be done? To say I have a scholarship at another school and none from you, is not a good leverage situation.

10. I shall apply to schools based on rankings and external perception

-> Good luck being successful in life using that attitude. By that logic, you would never have joined FB when it was only a year old and  Mark Z was recruiting, because it didn’t have a rank on the Fortune 500 (does it today? don’t thin so) or wasn’t perceived as ‘cool’ (As not many people knew about it by then).

11. I shall apply to as many schools as I can until I get an admit

-> History has proven that a focused approach yields better and higher (Averaged) results than otherwise. Good luck defying history, and also common sense


'I am an Indian Applicant, I have a low GMAT score'
'How much is it?'

'Nuff said

Would love to hear about more ‘laws’ in comments below. Cheers!


Feels good to be wanted

I heard back from the Owen School of Management today at Vanderbilt. I had applied to Vanderbilt as a back up as they have a strong HR leadership track within their MBA program. I know two alums who raved about the school as well so was worth a shot. Happy to report that I have been admitted with a full scholarship.

Frankly, I don’t know much about Nashville, TN and whether I will like it their. Further, Owen isn’t that highly ranked that I would even consider giving up on Tuck, so although it felt good to hear that i have been awarded the scholarship, I will decline. My decision at Owen got delayed as my interview invite, which went out on 8th Dec, never reached me until one day before the admissions decision deadline when a member of their admissions team emailed to check if I would still like to interview :)

Ah well, fells good to be wanted.


The Hangover

The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind. It happens to me every year as although the Christmas/New Year season isn’t as widely celebrated in India as it is in the Western World, there is festivity in the air. Most of my friends who are studying/working abroad come home for the holidays and hence, for the past 7 years or so, December has largely meant reunion month. Even bigger Indian festivals - Holi and Diwali - somehow aren’t as ‘fun’ for me as December. But I’m sure I am in the minority when I say that, as I find myself in the precarious situation of having 4 of my 5 closest friends living abroad.

This New Year’s eve I hopped between two parties - one at a friend’s place and another at my newly wed cousin’s house where my entire family had gathered. My parents don’t really ‘celebrate’ NYE - they stay awake watching a movie on TV until 12 AM, wish each other and their children, and are asleep by 12:10 AM. This year, as my cousin organized this party, everyone got together at her place - EVERYONE! Let me put that in context - I have 17 first cousin sisters, 15 first cousin brothers, and counting their parents and our elders, my immediate family (ONLY first cousins) numbers around 80 people. Hence, there was a good turnout at my cousin’s place - limited to my father’s side of the family though - of about 40 people. For the past many years, I have spent NYE with my friends, but this year I was determined to spend it with my family. I am not sure if I will come back this winter, like most of my friends do, and hence probably won’t spend the next two NYEs with my parents. Although they don’t really see it as that important, I do - I am basically grabbing any small festivity and looking to spend it with my parents versus my friends. Something about leaving home that gets you closer to your parents I guess …

Now that the personal update is over, let me elaborate on the title of this post. The Hangover is not meant to signal the Hangover I had on 1st Of Jan (ironic no, how most of us start our new year? :) ). Rather, it is the Hangover of the application season. Last year, at this time, I was frantic. I had applied in R1 and had seen zero success. I was thinking if I should go all out and apply in R2, or if I should accept my shortcomings (lower GMAT, lesser work ex, promise but not results to show at work etc.) and try again next year. As all of you know, I chose the latter. Having applied to 5 top schools this year, and having heard back from all of them now, it makes sense for me to give the readers a final ‘tally’

Tuck - Accepted
Kellogg - W/L, which I have given up
HBS - Ding W/O Interview
Wharton -  Ding W/O Interview
MIT Sloan - Ding W/O Interview 

As many on you will also know, Tuck was my #1 school choice. I haven’t written much about Tuck here as someone else noted, but that’s something I missed doing versus not wanting to do it at all. Further, as my deposit goes this week and I become an official Tuckie, there will be many many more updates here periodically. Until now, I have only joined the FB group - which now numbers 105 by the way, and that’s only the EA admits - and have received my official acceptance letter along with a Tuck backpack. I was perplexed - I though the school will show more love - but as I discovered through my research, that love starts flowing post you submit your deposit. Fair enough - love is not unconditional anymore in this world anyways :)

Having written so many essays, and having done umpteen revisions, I now feel a bit ‘unemployed’ and ‘idle’ with regards to the admissions process. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to write those essays ever again, but you must understand - for the past 15 months, I have had almost an obsessive relationship with essays and the b school admissions process. It’s like giving up a habit. Hence, my hangover. A typical hangover means pain in the head, dehydration, and sometimes regret. In those ways, this hangover is completely dissimilar. Yes, there was pain involved in the middle (all the rejections) but it is so much more satisfying today having done whatever I did over the past year and seeing it fructify into an admit at my preferred school.

Many people asked me on the forums, and in real life, why I was giving up the Kellogg W/L especially as it does move a lot. My retort - why not? Clearly, in my mind, I liked Tuck better. If we cannot take bets on our gut feel, in this case backed with a whole lot of data, then what are we? Doesn’t that mean we are hypocrites who would say X but do Y? And its not like someone’s judging me - Tuck won’t come at me all guns blazing as to why I went to Kellogg over Tuck. But something inside me, that made a commitment to me in terms of ‘You must chose X over Y - we spoke about this dude!’, makes me want to remain true to my choices.

But, at the end of it all, to each his own. For example, I see some of my fellow bloggers have a choice to make - MBAOver30 has to choose between Wharton and Booth, each having offered him some scholarship, and Sassafras has to choose between Yale SOM and Kellogg. I’m sure even they had a priority stack developed before and/or while applying to schools. Hence, all things being equal, it should be easy for them to make a choice right? But, choices can spoil you - not the ‘rich kid’ kind of spoil, but choices play around with your mind. Hence, all the best to both of them - I hope they make the right decision! 

The issue of fit raised by my good friend Cheetarah (cheetarah1980.blogspot.com) should guide them and all others making a choice on where to attend b school this fall. If I look back at my essays and the whole process, somehow there was a natural order that emerged in terms of my preference for schools. For me this was Tuck -> Kellogg -> MIT -> Booth -> Darden -> Yale SOM. The only way my thinking would have been screwed would have been if I got into Harvard/Stanford/Wharton - for obvious reasons. Hence, I placed Tuck, Kellogg and MIT in R1, and if I hadn’t made it to any of my top choices in R1, would have applied to Booth, Darden and Yale in R2. In hindsight, applying to only Top 10 schools in R1 worked for me, but many people advise against it, and rightly so. All the consultants I spoke to said you should apply to atleast one Top 10-15 school - eg: Cornell, Darden, Yale etc. along with the others in R1. I highly advise all those applying next year to implement this thinking.

Until the next post …


Application Tips for all those applying in Round 2 

The blogging process is very liberating and I must recommend all those who read my blog to do this. Surprisingly, it helps write your essays better. Why? Because your psyche changes from being ‘Oh what will others think of what I am writing’ to ‘Hmm … I think I write well, so many people appreciate what I post’ J Of course there are nice people out there, and a lot of them visit my blog (woohoo!) but hearing good things, and even the not so good things which you then take as feedback, is always constructive to the overall writing process.

Having said that, I realize that many of you are now in the essay writing mode for R2. I have always been a R1 type of guy – applied to a few schools last year, dinged by all. Thought I will come back in R1 next year with a much better profile, GMAT score, app strategy – and I did. Should you do the same? Absolutely not. In my case, I knew there were some (modest aren’t I?) gaps in my candidature which I needed to plug. Yet, I ‘hoped against hope hopen’ and applied to get a flavor of a) how the app process works, and b) what do schools think of me. The answer to both the questions wasn’t pretty. But was it worth getting that answer? Defintiely

If you are a R2 participant, you are in the following buckets – a) For you R2 is R1, i.e. you came a bit late to the party, b) You got dinged in R1 from most, if not all, schools and you hence HAVE to apply – I sympathize my friend, and c) You got into a school in R1, but now that you have a backup in hand, you want to give the higher ranked schools a shot. All the reasons are of course worthy enough in their own context.

While applying to various schools over the past few years, I of course have gained *some* wisdom on this process. So I am laying it down for all R2ers. Do note that advice for some schools may be too India focused, given my ethnicity and the peculiarity that ‘being an Indian’ brings to the application process. Ready? Here we go


If you are above 700, and you are asking should I retake the test, please close this window and never return to my blog again. Are you kidding me? The GMAT is a standardized test, which means it adapts to your intelligence while you take the test. If you got a 700+ one thing is for sure, you are a smart dude/dudette. If your ego now wants to hassle you on proving how smart you are, then anyways you don’t need advice from anyone and you will retake the test. BUT, if you are someone sensible and have understood that a 700+ is a good score and now you should focus on the other aspects of your application, you’ll probably fare well than the guy who went and retook, got a 740, but will probably get dinged as that 740 was the ONLY outstanding part of that person’s application.

The only reason you should consider retaking the test is when you have a very lopsided split (eg: 99 percentile in Math but 70 percentile in Verbal) OR you genuinely – GENUINELY – had a bad testing day and you know you can do better. Disclaimer: On various forums, folks with a 42 V (95 percentile) and 46 Q (70 something percentile) have made it to HBS. Of course, none of them is an Indian as Adcoms expect Indians to be magical at Quant.

If you are an Indian however, put this range at 720+ And the next time I meet an Indian applicant at an admissions reception (although I won’t be attending any other anymore, the reception part can be substituted for airport/lunch/dinner etc.), and he/she says ‘My GMAT is just OK, it’s a 740’ OR ‘I need to work on my GMAT … I only managed a 710’ OR ‘HBS won’t look at me if I don’t have a 760’ etc., I swear to God, I will slap that person.


What’s done is done. You cannot change your undergrad GPA – don’t fret about it. If you feel its low, don’t apply to the school you think its low for. If it was low due to a specific reason – eg: tragedy in the family – then explain that in the optional essay. Again, for Indians or Foreign Applicants, the AdCom knows the specifics of grading in each country very well. No need to justify why you didn’t get a 70% or why you didn’t go to an IIT etc.


Be very polite to your recommenders, especially if they are writing more than 3 for you … well technically they will write one and tweak it three times, but still. Remember, that your bosses/ex bosses are senior to you, and hence presumably much busier than you. On their priority list, writing a reco for you is not top of mind. So don’t push them – they may submit a good reco for you, but you are burning bridges with them from the longer term perspective


Aah – the holy grail of the app process. A lot of people think the holy grail is the essay(s) for each school, but its actually school selection. Trust me – if you have a good fit with the school, your essays will just shine. And please do note: Fit does NOT equal business school rankings. Determining fit is entirely upto you, but here is a list of parameters you could base this on:

-          Your post MBA goals: Does the school offer good opportunities in this area?

-          Class size: Where do you see yourself working better – smaller classes/more intimate environment (eg: Tuck, Stanford, Darden, Yale etc.), or you don’t really care (eg: HBS, Wharton etc.)

-          External perception: If you want to go marketing, but are going to Columbia (Finance) you may have a tougher time finding a job. Apply the pareto principle of 80/20 – the 20 here means that of course you can search and find a job in marketing even if you goto a school like Columbia/NYU etc., but that process will be harder versus let’s say at a Kellogg  Pls read this with an open mind. Each school places all of its students in variety of functions and industries. The ‘perception’ links to how people see the school in general. if you told someone you went to Columbia, they’d probably say you are working in finance. Same for Wharton, which is even more surprising. And these are real world examples, so I’m not kidding about the whole ‘perception’ thing. Plus there are tons of other factors to consider when you choose to goto a school. Let’s say you own a house in NYC and have a solid friends network. Will you give that up to goto Kellogg just because people don’t ‘perceive’ Columbia to be too strong on that front. NO. I hope my point is clearer now.

-          Home country perception: Very important if you plan on returning post MBA. Eg: Tuck isn’t well known here. So if I had plans to return upon completing my MBA, Tuck wouldn’t have been a top choice

-          Financial Aid/Scholarships – Listed on the school website. Important to read however is the eligibility criteria. There may be 10 scholarships available, but only to American students – how does that help you?

-          Loans for International Students w/o Co Signor – Extremely important, more than scholarships. Many top programs (eg: Columbia, Kellogg – it has something but offered by Northwestern and its complicated, Cornell etc.) do NOT offer such loans. You’ll get in, but how will you attend?

Also, one thing you should take out of your head RIGHT AWAY is that getting in is more important, everything else follows. NO – it is not a step by step process. Eg: if the school doesn’t offer no cosignor loans, and you are an international student who anyways has a low chance of a scholarship, why would you apply to the school in the first place?

SCHOOL SPECIFIC ADVICE – this is where it can get more contextual to Indians

-          HBS: If you didn’t go to an IIT AND don’t work for a well-established global company (The likes of Bain, McKinsey, BCG, Booz, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes, Unilever, P&G etc. OR haven’t worked with a senior director/CEO at Tata – large donor to HBS, Mahindra – again, large donor to HBS plus the Chairman is an alumnus and a very active President of Harvard Club of India), your chances of making it are very low.

-          Wharton: A little more lenient on the above, but strong preference to the set that fits above

Note: This year, HBS and Wharton have taken many more women into the class of 2015 than before. This does NOT mean that lesser qualified women got in versus more qualified men. BUT, the preference to admit smarter women is definitely there - so do be realistic in assessing your chances.

-          Stanford: I think even Derrick Bolton is puzzled after the admissions season is over as to who all and what type of people he admitted. So no advice

-          MIT Sloan: Not a good year to apply. They miscounted their class last year, got a higher yield, and hence have fewer spots available this year. Further, as yield was higher last year, they will be cautious this year and hence extend fewer offers. So, a much more competitive year at Sloan than normal + they gave away this year’s scholarship money (a decent part of it) to those deferring from last year.

Edit: Only 4 students defered to this year. However, I still maintain this year’s competitiveness - comments in the section below

Edit2: The MIT Sloan ding letter explicitly mentions that there are 324 seats in the MBA program this year. They have mentioned 324 twice, and specifically mentioned that this year ‘approx. 4,000 applicants will compete for 324 seats in the MBA program’. This seems a step down - last year they admitted 400 students. Hence, even more competitive this year

-          Kellogg: Be ready for nail biting and venting your frustration at the adcom. One of the most confusing and ridiculous interview policy – only for international students, with maximum effect on Indian candidates. I wrote a long post of them earlier – worth a read

-          Tuck: They have the most helpful admissions staff hands down. They make applying to the school a pleasure, even though the $250 you just plunked down to get a rejection will eventually hurt. Do note that, as per the discourse during the Delhi/bangalore information session, 50% of the class gets decided in the EA/Nov round. BUT, Jan is the biggest round for Tuck and fills almost 40-45% of the class. Hence, Jan is neither less nor more competitive - its just normal. This year EA volume was up by 20-30%, which may mean that they extended more offers in the EA round as the deposit for that is due on Jan 18th and will give a better sense to the adcom on where they stand. 

-          Cornell: They are really behind this year with their application migration (from paper to paperless) debacle. Hence, if you are a stickler for discipline, you will have testing moments. Their R2 deadline was 27th Nov, but they haven’t even started reading applications yet!

Nothing specific on other schools. As I got into Tuck, the only other thing I must mention is that the school is VERY VERY particular about fit, and NO, the only way to demonstrate fit/interest is NOT to visit campus. I didn’t. Researching in depth about the school, speaking with alumni (and remembering their name in the interview), how you will contribute at Tuck and as an Alumni etc. are really key statements. You will be asked all of this in your interview. I know 2 much more qualified individuals from India, both are my friends, one of them has a $200Mn firm (well his dad does) so doesn’t require scholarships from the school, is ‘pre placed’ as he will come back to run the business, and is probably a future donor to the school – he got interviewed but was rejected. When we compared notes, the one area where he was week was Why Tuck?


All the best guys! I truly hope you taste success in your endeavours in R2. I hope all of you all had a Merry Christmas (although the essays would have made it a bit ‘un’ merry I am sure) and have a terrific new year – starting with getting that admit! Cheers!


A general update … and some more

So finally I am back to writing another post. The past 1 week has been one of the happiest of my life. I made it to Tuck! A school I have loved for the past 2 years of my life, known about forever, and one where I’ll finally be going next year. I had also re applied to Kellogg and was waitlisted. Read my post below on why Kellogg’s interview policy sucks - I received a waiver, wasn’t re interviewed this year, and still put on the wait list. How does someone explain THAT! Anyways, between Kellogg and Tuck there’s not much to choose, so I gave up my spot on the Kellogg WL almost instantly and will go to Tuck. Yipee!!

I have already started to spread the Tuck spirit online. On the FB page, have asked people in India to meet up, invited any candidates from abroad to touch base if they are planning to visit India pre MBA etc. There is a decent number of Indians/Indian origin round 1s on FB. I also connected with a few international admits on GmatClub, who told me they haven’t joined FB as yet as they haven’t publicly announced (re: office, before appraisals) that they are going to Tuck. So the group size on FB should go up from 65 to maybe a 100, pretty soon. The Tuck admitted students website is good, but nothing substantial as of now. Many videos and a lot of reading to come up to speed. I think there will be more action from the school’s side post Christmas/New Year. 

I haven’t been blogging as regularly as, for regulars here, I broke my laptop three weeks ago. My new laptop arrives tomorrow. I was meaning to buy it since two months, but felt I should wait to hear good news in R1 to buy a good laptop, else a cheap one and spend the rest of the money on apps in R2. Clearly, its a good laptop :)

Big shout outs to Sassafras (www.mybreakaway.com) for making it to Yale and Kellogg. Good luck solving that dilemma. And also to MBAOver30 (www.mbaover30.com) for the admit at Booth (I’m sure Wharton’s on its way). You both truly deserve it!

Having gotten into Tuck in Round 1, I am not doing Round 2. Instead, am focussing my energy on helping fellow applicants, should they deem me fit enough to do so, which the section below is all about. Happy Reading!

Disclaimer: The section below details how I can help fellow applicants, based on the number of queries I have received on GmatClub/BeatTheGmat/on my blog. It is hence NOT for everyone’s interests. If you are not seeking help, then best to spend the next ten minutes of your life elsewhere :) Cheers!

I received a LOT of PMs on GmatClub - more congratulating me with my success at Tuck, most congratulating me on my jubilation as a re applicant, but some requesting me to help them with R2 applications.

The latter surprised me - if you look at my success rate, I ONLY got accepted at Tuck this year (1/5) and last year didn’t get in anywhere (0/4) - unless you count ISB where I got in but didn’t join. So I actually quizzed these folks as to why they were looking to get my inputs versus say the better bloggers with better success rates. The feedback I received largely implies that:

a) I really understand the application process and my critique of schools, including the last post on why Kellogg’s interview process sucks, was valuable,

b) that two years of research and solid continuation of pursuit of goals makes me knowledgeable (take that failure!),

c) that I must have undergone a journey in the two years in terms of quality of my essays, and

d) that I generally come across as someone helpful and well, nice. 

Firstly, thank you for these wonderful comments. Its always nice to hear good things about yourself and I am hence helping a few people. I don’t consider myself someone very good with the American style of grammar - prose, flow, sentence construction etc. - as I myself took some help on that aspect. But, I think I can help some fellow applicants by providing a view on how I see their application. Over the past 2 years, the maximum value I derived was when others told me how they see me as a person through my essays and more importantly if they understood my background and how I fit into a school. Happy to pay it forward and help others in that direction.

Having already helped a few applicants, I can say that this is definitely time consuming and hence the ‘free’ help option isn’t on offer. Those who think I am being unreasonable, please take a moment and rationalize this. So here’s what I have to offer anyone who needs my help -

Reviews/School Selection: a full review of your application (i.e. essays and resume) for $50. The review will be over a call, which I expect should last 30 minutes. I actually think you should use someone like essaysnark for this type of service (they charge $100-$150) but if you want to give me a shot, go ahead. But, I really think I can help you the most with one thing - SCHOOL SELECTION. I thin I have that part figured out very well. Hence, $50 for a 30 minute call on school selection OR on Essay/Resume feedback - whatever you want.

Interviews : I actually think this is somewhere I will add much more value to fellow applicants than otherwise. In my current role, as an executive recruiter (I help recruit CXOs for companies with revenues exceeding $500 Mn) I do this on a daily basis - interview, assess, recommend. I also did this at my past employer for on campus recruitment of junior associates. Hence, I am well versed with ‘assessing’ individuals rather than ticking a mere check box against questions. If anyone wants to do some mock interviews with me, again $50 for the interview - 30 minute for the telephonic interview and 30 minutes for feedback. 

Why is the pricing low? You are outsourcing to India :) Cheers!



Finally, two years in the making. Accepted at Tuck! Dream school. Reapplicant, interviewed in Delhi earlier this year. Just got the call from my interviewer who said im glad we met because you have an atypical background which isnt easy to understand and you did really, really well in the interview!

More later, especially the interview debrief. I just realised that my long blog absence means i never posted i interviewed at tuck and how it went. Extremely sorry folks!

Right now im going out to celebrate! Woohoo!


Why Kellogg’s Interview Policy Sucks …

… For international applicants.

Kellogg is a school I love, but I despise their admissions policy, specifically the interview process. I am an reapplicant from India and hence have been through the rut twice. For all those international applicants in ‘areas of high demand’ - read those in India and China - the process plainly, well, sucks! Here’s why …

Application Season 2011

Applied right on the deadlines for each of Part 1 and Part 2 in Round 1. Received a Waiver within 5 weeks, subsequently invited to interview. Denied finally.

Determined to succeed the second time round, I chose to look much more carefully at Kellogg’s interview policy. Alas, the school fails TERRIBLY at what it promises to do.

What Kellogg Says

Please allow up to eight weeks after submitting Part I to receive either an interview assignment in your local area or an interview waiver in areas of high demand. Assignment priority may be given to those who have submitted Part II.

Source: http://www.kellogg.northwestern.edu/Programs/FullTimeMBA/Applying/Deadlines-2013.aspx

(Uploading pic below just in case my blog has an effect and the adcom rewords this)


What I did

- Submitted Part 1 on August 23rd, 2012. This HAS to be a record of sorts - I know the Indian applicant psyche very well (I am one :) ) We don’t submit our applications, be it Part 1 or otherwise, just until a few days or hours before the deadline. Even if we did, I am very certain I was probably one of the very first applicants at Kellogg. Why? because ever since Essays were released, I made it a point to check when the application would go live. Did this almost everyday and I think I submitted Part 1 only 3-4 days after the app went live. For all those who have applied, you know that submitting Part 1 is no big deal - its basic data. So why wait? Also I am definitely applying to Kellogg, so spending that $250 is not an issue.

The Issue: Read the statement above. You will receive an invite OR a waiver within 8 weeks of submitting Part 1. I received my waiver on November 5 - almost 11 weeks later!

- You may argue that well, you submitted Part 1 but Kellogg doesn’t know whether you are an applicant in Round 1 or Round 2, and hence the clock shouldn’t start ticking for you until you submit your application. Well that makes sense, but Kellogg said 8 weeks after Part 1 not Part 2. Plus, in the US, you can interview once Part 1 is submitted irrespective of which round you submit Part 2 in, although your admission decision will be received in the round the latter is received in.

- Kellogg Says Please note that while we assign off-campus interviews based on Part I of the application, assignment priority may be given to those who submit Part II earlier. Err, no you don’t. My Part 2 was submitted on 16th September - even before the Part 1 Deadline! I had begun working on my essays very early and hence I was comfortable submitting early. Even my recommender submitted early September. 

- Kellogg Says A waived interview does not negatively affect your application. BS - You don’t admit anyone without an interview. Those who don’t get interviewed don’t get admitted and a waiver is the first step in that direction, so how does a waiver NOT affect a candidate adversely?

- Kellogg’s official policy is to interview as many people as they can. And they also say that they don’t read your application until you have been interviewed (If your interview is complete, your application has been forwarded to the committee. If not, then it will be once the interview has been completed.) This clearly means:

a) interviews assigned on first come first serve basis - clearly not true based on the data above regarding when I submitted my apps

b) assigned randomly - in which case how does 'priority may be given to those who have submitted part 2 earlier' make any sense? 

- Can someone finally explain how most candidates (not all, some get in after they get a phone interview post the waiver) that make it to Kellogg get an interview straight up and not a waiver initially? Doesn’t that mean that the adcom is reading your application beforehand?


I know many of you will think I am over analyzing/over thinking this. And these people will primarily be applicants in the US - as this problem doesn’t arise in your case, although I hope you will empathize with me and others. However, my main reason for this post is to make people more aware. We are spending $250 on an application, which in Indian Rupees is 12,500+ - a sizeable number. Any consumer (applicant in this case), irrespective of whether they are paying in dollars or rupees, deserve to get fairly treated. If the seller (school here) is outlaying policies which they say they will adhere to - PLEASE DO.

Kellogg’s application hence is extremely unfriendly for international applicants. Compare this to HBS/Wharton/Booth for example - one date OR a range of dates for interview invites. Boom! Even if you look at Tuck, which has a Kellogg type interview policy, they say we’ll keep inviting you until the last day. No confusion with the whole waiver thing and no confusing language on ‘submitting first’ etc.

I haven’t yet received my decision from kellogg, and there’s a slight chance that they use my interview from last year despite me having requested another one. Yet I am posting this today for two reasons: a) Believe in the freedom of speech. Not passing derogatory marks against the school or its staff, but detailing why I feel so strongly about what I do. Even if I get in, I will ensure I get these across to the admissions director when I am on campus, and b) If I do get rejected, and then had posted this, people would have felt I am just venting anger and frustration at being rejected.

What Did I Do? (Believe in taking action towards solving the problem for the larger populace, not just writing about issues)

- When I got my waiver, I was perplexed. I sent an email. Got the usual - cannot tell when interviews will be assigned, you may get a phone interview, you may not request for an interview, doesn’t have a bearing on your application, etc.

- I called the admissions office (not the interview scheduling/coordination office - they are different, or atleast the latter is a subset of the former)  last week. The lady who answered seemed very confused as to how come despite being a reapplicant who had asked for another interview, and having improved my profile considerably (she asked me you must have shown improvements and I said yes GMAT, double promotion blah blah), I haven’t received my interview invite. She put me on hold, spoke to a colleague, and when she came back said why don’t you speak  to the interview scheduler as it may happen that your file somehow got mixed up somewhere. I couldnt believe what she just said!

- I sent another email (the person didn’t answer my call when the admissions office transferred my call). Got the usual - cannot tell when interviews will be assigned, you may get a phone interview, you may not request for an interview, doesn’t have a bearing on your application, etc.

- Eventually, I left an  email saying that my email should not be seen as me venting anger. However, here are a few suggestions (eg: rewording the waiver language) that will help anxious applicants like me in the future.

My email wasn’t acknowledged.

Its unfortunate that this issue isn’t highlighted more prominently. EssaySnark wrote about why Columbia B School’s app is unfriendly and how it should be improved. The post was well received. Sadly, EssaySnark, or others like them, aren’t too well versed with the problem I have highlighted above as it has mostly to do with international applicants - within that also mostly Indians and Chinese applicants.
Until the next post …
Edit: The Application Instructions on Apply Yourself says the following 'Please allow up to eight weeks after the Part I deadline to receive either an interview assignment in your local area or an interview waiver in areas of high demand. Assignment priority may be given to those who have submitted Part II’

- Absurd as your website, accessed my more applicants than the instructions, says otherwise (after submitting Part 1 and NOT Part 1 Deadline)
- Even this mentions priority to those who submitted Part 2 earlier, which didn’t happen. How do I know? I know 3 other applicants from India through forums, who got interviewed even though they submitted Part 1 and 2 right on the last date. All didn’t receive waivers - straight invites - and are those who have invites from multiple schools indicating they have strong profiles.
This feeds back to my point of saying the adcom does read your app and then extends an interview versus making applicants think that no one is prioritized over the other as is Kellogg’s policy


Long Overdue

Just realized I haven’t blogged for almost a month now - wow! I had gotten used to blogging, and suddenly was not used to it anymore? Hmm … something’s amiss.

While I figure that out, I don’t have much good news to report. I have ended most of my recent posts on an optimistic note, but if there was any shred of hope that that could work, it has evaporated. I was dinged without interview at Wharton, and while HBS didn’t hurt me much, Wharton did. I visited the school in April this year and thought I submitted strong essays. i even got them reviewed by someone who got admitted last year and who I think is a rockstar at reviewing essays. Somehow, I am perplexed as to what went wrong. This led me to do some research on Wharton, and the conclusion I arrived at is that I shouldn’t have applied in the first place. Plainly due to statistics, and here’s why:

1. Wharton, as everyone knows, is pushing for a higher percentage of female participants in its class. India is known to historically have the least number, atleast percentage, of female applicants. To improve diversity, Wharton is really trying to get more Indian women in its class. A friend of mine from India started at Wharton this year - I think she told me (I don’t remember the numbers) but that close to 70-75% of those accepted from India were women and that most of the true Indians (studied in India, work in India) are in fact women. Assuming 100 people apply from India and 70 of them are men, and Wharton selects 25 with 70% women (i.e. 18) as a guy I have a 7/70 or 10% chance of getting in. I know a lot of you will feel I am over exaggerating and maybe venting because I didn’t get in - don’t know about the former, but the latter is definitely NOT true - it’s pure stats

2. Find me someone who went to Wharton in the past 2-3 years who either wasn’t from an IIT OR didn’t work at a premier firm such as Bain, McKinsey, Schlumberger etc. In most cases, you will find that people have done both, OR graduated from a university in the US, then worked at a good firm in India. No one, like me, who doesn’t have both on his resume, has made it to Wharton in the past 2-3 years. I am happy if someone proves me wrong, I’ve been trying to do that myself

These two reasons themselves are enough for me to not have applied, but I did. I am sure my app was read by Ankur Kumar, but a 5 minute read versus some pre conceived notion of what type of people will be accepted, doesn’t bode well with me. Sorry Wharton, but I should have been more prudent and chosen a Booth over you.

I am a reapplicant at Kellogg, which means they may not interview me this year even though I requested an interview (I was interviewed last year). I don’t know if I can be admitted in that manner, but if not, then the game seems pretty much over. This ding will hurt me brutally. I put in a VERY SOLID application at Kellogg this year - the people I showed my essays to literally fawned over them. I educated my recommender very well so I am confident even that was fine. The GMAT improvement and strong career progression are of course there. 

MIT will only give some indication in Dec, but given how competitive a school it is, I am again not too optimistic as even the ones I was confident on (eg: kellogg) havent shown love.

Which bring me to R2. I am applying to Cornell - I had thought I will apply when I took my GMAT (sent them a score report there and then) but wanted to wait on how my other apps turned out. Applying 28th Nov, racing against time to wrap up my essays. I will be applying for the MBA/MILR degree. I will also apply to Booth and Darden in Round 2, and I am thinking of having a go at INSEAD. Its a tiresome process applying to INSEAD and I am leaning towards a Jan 2014 start instead of fall next year - a work issue.

So that’s what I have to update the loyalists who read my blog. I must point out that many of you sent me PMs on various forums and left me comments - most were positive and a common underlying theme was that you enjoyed my blog, found it helpful, and would like me to blog more often. I will try not to disappoint.