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Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant.

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Hi to all MBA aspirants! Since my admission to 2 good B-schools, I have been contacted by a number of people to seek guidance on the procedure and to get some sense of direction to navigate this seemingly never ending journey. I am no “Crack the GMAT/ Ivy League colleges expert”. I was in your position just a few months back. I am simply sharing my experiences to help others take informed decisions and to collate all advice in one place for anyone to refer to. (Pheww, disclaimers are so important nowadays!).

A little bit about my background. Engineer (NSIT, ECE batch of 2014)-> Nomura Indian (Jul 14-Dec15)->Started my own niche, Colence International, within my family business (Jan15-Present). After scoring a 690 in my first attempt, I managed a 730 in second (which by Indian standards in not the most competitive score frankly). Also, this was my first MBA applications attempt. I was unsure how to proceed from here. I learnt that there are consultants who give 30 minutes free counselling and help you answer any MBA specific questions. I scheduled calls with both Indian and International consultants. There was a sharp contrast on the feedback I got from the two set of consultants (Indian vs International). The Indian consultants gave a very negative feedback – “You are not a top 5 B schools candidate according to our experience. Maybe you should apply for masters instead of an MBA. Why don’t you apply next year?” The International consultants were mostly quite positive and encouraged me to apply to absolutely any school that I wish to. Fearing that all the negativity of the Indian consultants will discourage me more than helping me and that the International consultants might not be fully experienced with handling Indian students (plus the baniya in me did not permit me to hire such expensive consultants!), I decided to embark on this journey without a consultant. I seeked the blessings of the Almighty to be my consultant on this journey - Sorry for being a bit dramatic here! Also, I could take this decision because I had a big support from my elder brother who had stayed in the States for 6 years (Engineering and 2-years work ex; not an MBA) and who guided me as and when needed. Below are some general points that I feel are worth mentioning -

1. Does the GMAT score matter? It definitely does. To what extent? No one really knows. To gain an understanding on what GMAT score is good enough for a particular college, look at the average GMAT score of the incoming class of your target colleges. It will give you some sense on colleges’ expectation of the GMAT score. Additionally, it is believed that a higher GMAT score attracts college scholarships. There is a good logic to it – colleges want to retain candidates with high GMAT scores. Why? Because, the average GMAT score of the incoming class is an important indicator used to rank colleges worldwide. And trust me, colleges are extremely cautious about their rankings! Do I have any data to support this? Dude no, you do the research!

2. Apply to the schools that matter the most to you, in Round 1. Simple logic here- all the seats are available and fewer people are able to wind up their essays, recommendation etc till the Round 1 deadlines. That should give you some advantage. Additionally, most colleges have country quotas to maintain diversity. For example, if a substantial number of Indians have been admitted in Round 1, chances of an Indian applicant in Round 2 will most likely be affected. Moreover, Round 2 can be a fall back option to apply to more colleges in case you do not get interview invites to your dream colleges in Round 1.

3. Apply to only those colleges where you’ll absolutely go, if admitted. I find it amusing when people say “I am applying to ABC, but I am sure that I don’t want to go there. I am just keeping this as an option!” Let’s be truthful – each application is a lengthy exhaustive procedure. You might want to focus on quality rather than quantity (I got selected to 2/4 colleges that I applied to). Don’t be unrealistic in your expectations, but at the same time, don’t shy away from aiming high.

4. Attend admissions events organised by colleges that you are keen on attending. These are not only an excellent opportunity to learn more about what matters most to the colleges and about the admissions procedure, but also a way to display your commitment and interest in a college during your interviews. (just like a job interview - the interviewer is always happy to see a candidate who has done sufficient company and industry research)

5. I can’t stress enough on the need for extensive school specific research. Literally dig deep enough to be able to relate to specific courses, professors, clubs etc in a particular college. You absolutely have to convey, via your essays, why XYZ is your dream college and how it will help you achieve your goals. College websites are the best source for any information that you seek. Spend as much time as possible on the websites.

6. DON’T refer to an admitted students’ essay before writing at least 8-10 drafts of your own essay. This is essential because once you read an admitted students’ essay, you frame an image of an ideal essay and invariably get influenced by the same. This jeopardises your originality. Moreover, several times, the essay might not even be the reason for a student’s admission to a particular college. The colleges look at the application in a holistic manner – they will not accept or reject a student only on the basis of his/her essay.

7. Write, rewrite your essays several times. Spend a lot of time introspecting and discovering YOUR unique story. Who is the real you? Try to answer questions such as “Why an MBA”, “Why an MBA at this stage of career”, “Post MBA goals”, “How will an MBA bring you closer to your long-term goals”, “How have you been working towards your long-term goals”. Always convey the true YOU. Copying someone, aping someone will be of little to no help.

8. Get your essays reviewed by multiple people (especially those who have themselves cracked the college you are most interested in). Again, follow your instincts and accept only the feedback that truly convinces you. There is never a right or wrong. Different people perceive the same data differently. Hence, have the courage to trust your judgement.

9. Spend a substantial amount of time cleaning up your resume. It’s that single page that speaks on your behalf to the admissions team. I will share the links in the comments as I am not allowed to share URLs until I have 5 posts.

Lastly, through this article, I am not trying to discourage you from hiring a consultant. NO. Consultants have helped thousands of students achieve their MBA dreams. They can be of good help to someone who has no fall back option and needs an experienced set of eyes to review his/her essays. I am simply cautioning you to not listen to everything they say. Additionally, I am cautioning you from charlatans who exploit naïve individuals and charge hefty fees despite 0 knowledge. If you hire a consultant, don’t forget to ask the below essential questions to check the credibility of the consultant –
1. Does the consultant hold an MBA degree? If yes, from which college?
2. Does the team have any person who previously served on admissions board of a reputed college?
3. What is the mode of communication with the assigned consultant? Is he available on call/ skype/email etc? Is he available on weekdays/ weekends?
4. How many students are typically assigned to a consultant?
5. Are the employees of a particular consultancy full time employees or part time employees? You don’t want a part-time employee to disappear in the middle of your application.
6. How many people will typically work with you on your application?

I hope this helps some MBA applicants in their journey. I will soon try to pen down my interview experience. Feel free to ask any follow up questions. I will try to answer as many as I can. All the best. Believe in your ability to achieve! Once you reach your destination, it's worth all the time and effort.


Adding the link to another article that I wrote recently http://www.mbacrystalball.com/blog/2017 ... ent-979271

Last edited by mahakgarg on 27 Feb 2017, 02:36, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jan 2017, 07:06
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Nice post. Congrats on getting in to Stanford and CBS! I think that, generally speaking, any individual qualified to attend any top 20 MBA program will be able to get in on their own merits without the help of a consultant. It's just a daunting process to start on your own, and you're immediately confronted by a horde of consultants vying for your custom by telling you that you *need* them to get in so the temptation to hire one can be strong. All the information on each school is already out there, and current students (especially if they're from a similar background) can be surprisingly eager to not only share their experiences but also to help review your application. Your own "personal story" just comes from honest self-reflection. A consultant might help you get there quicker, but if you're smart enough to handle a challenging MBA curriculum, you can get there on your own.

I'd add a 5.a. to your list: get on the interesting extracurricular/professional club websites for your schools of choice, find the points of contact, and reach out. I have a military background and the veterans clubs at each school I applied (and some I didn't) were all extremely helpful. It's one thing to read about a school on its website, but it's quite another to talk at length to current students to find out how all those buzzwords really play out. Nurture those relationships and you may find it can even give you a leg up down the road; some programs have formal or informal systems to allow their students to recommend applicants!

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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jan 2017, 07:11
Hi Mate,

Congrats, that is an incredible achievement!

I too believe that you should apply only to the universities you are 100% sure you want to attend. Many people ask me why I applied only to Stanford. My answer - I don't want to go to any other universities :D Applying to more shows nothing more than undetermination.

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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jan 2017, 21:34
Sharing the link for resume guidelines: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/alumni/career-resources/job-search/resumes-cover-letters

HBR - How to write a resume that stands out

(The Club is still preventing me from adding URLs)

Last edited by stonecold on 06 Feb 2017, 14:34, edited 2 times in total.
Added the URL.

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mvictor wrote:
Hi Mate,

Congrats, that is an incredible achievement!

I too believe that you should apply only to the universities you are 100% sure you want to attend. Many people ask me why I applied only to Stanford. My answer - I don't want to go to any other universities :D Applying to more shows nothing more than undetermination.


Thank you Mate for your warm wishes. I am glad to hear that. I know quite some friends who applied only to Stanford and made it in the very first attempt. My best wishes to you!

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tneu64 wrote:
Nice post. Congrats on getting in to Stanford and CBS! I think that, generally speaking, any individual qualified to attend any top 20 MBA program will be able to get in on their own merits without the help of a consultant. It's just a daunting process to start on your own, and you're immediately confronted by a horde of consultants vying for your custom by telling you that you *need* them to get in so the temptation to hire one can be strong. All the information on each school is already out there, and current students (especially if they're from a similar background) can be surprisingly eager to not only share their experiences but also to help review your application. Your own "personal story" just comes from honest self-reflection. A consultant might help you get there quicker, but if you're smart enough to handle a challenging MBA curriculum, you can get there on your own.

I'd add a 5.a. to your list: get on the interesting extracurricular/professional club websites for your schools of choice, find the points of contact, and reach out. I have a military background and the veterans clubs at each school I applied (and some I didn't) were all extremely helpful. It's one thing to read about a school on its website, but it's quite another to talk at length to current students to find out how all those buzzwords really play out. Nurture those relationships and you may find it can even give you a leg up down the road; some programs have formal or informal systems to allow their students to recommend applicants!


Thank you very much for your kind words Sir. I completely agree with everything that you wrote! Exactly, all the information is already there. Plus big consulting firms usually have a number of FREE RESOURCES on their website. Accessing that information can be time saving (all your deadlines, statistics in one place etc).

5.a. is an absolute must. I completely forgot about all the emails/calls I conducted to gain insight of current/graduated students. They were a key source of information to understand the culture of a college. Thank you for bringing that up!!

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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 26 Jan 2017, 23:50
mahakgarg wrote:
Exactly, all the information is already there. Plus big consulting firms usually have a number of FREE RESOURCES on their website. Accessing that information can be time saving (all your deadlines, statistics in one place etc).

Brilliant crack, Mahak bhai!

For applicants who want to work independently, apart from the information that's easily available online (deadlines, statistics etc), what is it that sites providing free resources could include?

Anything that was missing while you were doing your research that you'd have loved to read more about?
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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 29 Jan 2017, 11:13
MBACrystalBall wrote:
mahakgarg wrote:
Exactly, all the information is already there. Plus big consulting firms usually have a number of FREE RESOURCES on their website. Accessing that information can be time saving (all your deadlines, statistics in one place etc).

Brilliant crack, Mahak bhai!

For applicants who want to work independently, apart from the information that's easily available online (deadlines, statistics etc), what is it that sites providing free resources could include?

Anything that was missing while you were doing your research that you'd have loved to read more about?



Hi Sameer,

Thank you for your wishes. (Just an FYI, Behen here nor bhai :P)

It's not something completely new. But I really liked/used some consulting websites that included free guides to many top colleges. These, I feel, give a quick "at a glance" kind of review about the college, it's culture, previous year's statistics, courses offered (For example I did not know that Columbia has a J Term option until I read it at a consultancy website) etc. This is helpful to do an initial college filtration.

Because college specific research is quite important for the entire application process, I would have been happy to get more details about more colleges. That would be a big time saver in my opinion. Nothing else that pops up in my mind for now. But if something comes up, I will surely share with you!

Hope this was helpful!

Cheers

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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 29 Jan 2017, 11:37
Thanks for your story. You did a really good work on your application. GSB and CBS are great schools and your story is an inspiration for other international students.

Good luck :-D

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New post 29 Jan 2017, 11:40
mahakgarg wrote:
Because college specific research is quite important for the entire application process,...

Good to see that you spent a considerable amount of time doing bschool research, Mahak (behen!). I'm sure it reflected in your application.

This is among those crucial things that most candidates take very lightly, or expect others (read, consultants) to feed them on a platter.

Congrats once again on smashing the 6% barrier. I'm sure the bigger and more impressive conquests will start after you graduate.
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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 30 Jan 2017, 09:31
Nice post.. But I guess mostly ppl do all those things.. How did you differentiate yourself? What was your Unique selling proposition?

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New post 31 Jan 2017, 04:46
MBACrystalBall wrote:
mahakgarg wrote:
Because college specific research is quite important for the entire application process,...

Good to see that you spent a considerable amount of time doing bschool research, Mahak (behen!). I'm sure it reflected in your application.

This is among those crucial things that most candidates take very lightly, or expect others (read, consultants) to feed them on a platter.

Congrats once again on smashing the 6% barrier. I'm sure the bigger and more impressive conquests will start after you graduate.


It did consume a substantial amount of time for sure!

That's very very true. Most of the people who have been requesting me for information have almost 0 clue about many things or are running really late for their submissions. People really need to structure their thought process and work consistently keeping the deadlines in mind.

Thank you very much for your warm wishes! I am quite excited myself. You are yourself doing a great job by guiding people in the right direction. All the best on your endeavour.

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New post 31 Jan 2017, 04:50
cesarucv wrote:
Thanks for your story. You did a really good work on your application. GSB and CBS are great schools and your story is an inspiration for other international students.

Good luck :-D


Thank you for your kind wishes Mate. I am glad it's serving as an inspiration for some of us!! All the best. :)

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New post 31 Jan 2017, 05:01
CrackMBAnow wrote:
Nice post.. But I guess mostly ppl do all those things.. How did you differentiate yourself? What was your Unique selling proposition?


Thank you!

If people do all these things, then maybe they need to do a lot more introspection while writing their essays. People often want others to tell them what story will work. There is no set formula. For me I wrote things that I am truly passionate about. My essays really reflected who I am, what inspires me, why I need an MBA etc. People usually read an admitted student's essay before actually writing their own drafts. They think this will help them to get a sense on what works and what does not. But that becomes a problem. Their thought process is bound to get influenced by that 1 essay. Lastly, don't forget to connect the dots. Don't assume that the reader will be able to guess the personal and professional choices that you have made in your life.

Hope that helps mate. :)

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New post 06 Feb 2017, 01:47
Thanks for sharing! Very encouraging. :)

Do you mind talking a little bit about your interview experience with GSB and how did you prepare for it? Thanks in advance!

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New post 06 Feb 2017, 14:47
mahakgarg wrote:
Sharing the link for resume guidelines: https://www.gsb.stanford.edu/alumni/career-resources/job-search/resumes-cover-letters

HBR - How to write a resume that stands out

(The Club is still preventing me from adding URLs)



Outstanding Post.
Simple and Precise.


I have a question for you -> Coming from a family background/own startup how did you choose your recommenders?

Looking forward to your Interview Debrief for both schools.
Have fun at GSB/CBS (off course you would choose GSB :) )


P.S-> I have added the link in your above comment.


Regards
Stone Cold

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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant. [#permalink]

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New post 13 Feb 2017, 12:09
mahakgarg wrote:
Hi to all MBA aspirants! Since my admission to 2 good B-schools, I have been contacted by a number of people to seek guidance on the procedure and to get some sense of direction to navigate this seemingly never ending journey. I am no “Crack the GMAT/ Ivy League colleges expert”. I was in your position just a few months back. I am simply sharing my experiences to help others take informed decisions and to collate all advice in one place for anyone to refer to. (Pheww, disclaimers are so important nowadays!).

A little bit about my background. Engineer (NSIT, ECE batch of 2014)-> Nomura Indian (Jul 14-Dec15)->Started my own niche, Colence International, within my family business (Jan15-Present). After scoring a 690 in my first attempt, I managed a 730 in second (which by Indian standards in not the most competitive score frankly). Also, this was my first MBA applications attempt. I was unsure how to proceed from here. I learnt that there are consultants who give 30 minutes free counselling and help you answer any MBA specific questions. I scheduled calls with both Indian and International consultants. There was a sharp contrast on the feedback I got from the two set of consultants (Indian vs International). The Indian consultants gave a very negative feedback – “You are not a top 5 B schools candidate according to our experience. Maybe you should apply for masters instead of an MBA. Why don’t you apply next year?” The International consultants were mostly quite positive and encouraged me to apply to absolutely any school that I wish to. Fearing that all the negativity of the Indian consultants will discourage me more than helping me and that the International consultants might not be fully experienced with handling Indian students (plus the baniya in me did not permit me to hire such expensive consultants!), I decided to embark on this journey without a consultant. I seeked the blessings of the Almighty to be my consultant on this journey - Sorry for being a bit dramatic here! Also, I could take this decision because I had a big support from my elder brother who had stayed in the States for 6 years (Engineering and 2-years work ex; not an MBA) and who guided me as and when needed. Below are some general points that I feel are worth mentioning -

1. Does the GMAT score matter? It definitely does. To what extent? No one really knows. To gain an understanding on what GMAT score is good enough for a particular college, look at the average GMAT score of the incoming class of your target colleges. It will give you some sense on colleges’ expectation of the GMAT score. Additionally, it is believed that a higher GMAT score attracts college scholarships. There is a good logic to it – colleges want to retain candidates with high GMAT scores. Why? Because, the average GMAT score of the incoming class is an important indicator used to rank colleges worldwide. And trust me, colleges are extremely cautious about their rankings! Do I have any data to support this? Dude no, you do the research!

2. Apply to the schools that matter the most to you, in Round 1. Simple logic here- all the seats are available and fewer people are able to wind up their essays, recommendation etc till the Round 1 deadlines. That should give you some advantage. Additionally, most colleges have country quotas to maintain diversity. For example, if a substantial number of Indians have been admitted in Round 1, chances of an Indian applicant in Round 2 will most likely be affected. Moreover, Round 2 can be a fall back option to apply to more colleges in case you do not get interview invites to your dream colleges in Round 1.

3. Apply to only those colleges where you’ll absolutely go, if admitted. I find it amusing when people say “I am applying to ABC, but I am sure that I don’t want to go there. I am just keeping this as an option!” Let’s be truthful – each application is a lengthy exhaustive procedure. You might want to focus on quality rather than quantity (I got selected to 2/4 colleges that I applied to). Don’t be unrealistic in your expectations, but at the same time, don’t shy away from aiming high.

4. Attend admissions events organised by colleges that you are keen on attending. These are not only an excellent opportunity to learn more about what matters most to the colleges and about the admissions procedure, but also a way to display your commitment and interest in a college during your interviews. (just like a job interview - the interviewer is always happy to see a candidate who has done sufficient company and industry research)

5. I can’t stress enough on the need for extensive school specific research. Literally dig deep enough to be able to relate to specific courses, professors, clubs etc in a particular college. You absolutely have to convey, via your essays, why XYZ is your dream college and how it will help you achieve your goals. College websites are the best source for any information that you seek. Spend as much time as possible on the websites.

6. DON’T refer to an admitted students’ essay before writing at least 8-10 drafts of your own essay. This is essential because once you read an admitted students’ essay, you frame an image of an ideal essay and invariably get influenced by the same. This jeopardises your originality. Moreover, several times, the essay might not even be the reason for a student’s admission to a particular college. The colleges look at the application in a holistic manner – they will not accept or reject a student only on the basis of his/her essay.

7. Write, rewrite your essays several times. Spend a lot of time introspecting and discovering YOUR unique story. Who is the real you? Try to answer questions such as “Why an MBA”, “Why an MBA at this stage of career”, “Post MBA goals”, “How will an MBA bring you closer to your long-term goals”, “How have you been working towards your long-term goals”. Always convey the true YOU. Copying someone, aping someone will be of little to no help.

8. Get your essays reviewed by multiple people (especially those who have themselves cracked the college you are most interested in). Again, follow your instincts and accept only the feedback that truly convinces you. There is never a right or wrong. Different people perceive the same data differently. Hence, have the courage to trust your judgement.

9. Spend a substantial amount of time cleaning up your resume. It’s that single page that speaks on your behalf to the admissions team. I will share the links in the comments as I am not allowed to share URLs until I have 5 posts.

Lastly, through this article, I am not trying to discourage you from hiring a consultant. NO. Consultants have helped thousands of students achieve their MBA dreams. They can be of good help to someone who has no fall back option and needs an experienced set of eyes to review his/her essays. I am simply cautioning you to not listen to everything they say. Additionally, I am cautioning you from charlatans who exploit naïve individuals and charge hefty fees despite 0 knowledge. If you hire a consultant, don’t forget to ask the below essential questions to check the credibility of the consultant –
1. Does the consultant hold an MBA degree? If yes, from which college?
2. Does the team have any person who previously served on admissions board of a reputed college?
3. What is the mode of communication with the assigned consultant? Is he available on call/ skype/email etc? Is he available on weekdays/ weekends?
4. How many students are typically assigned to a consultant?
5. Are the employees of a particular consultancy full time employees or part time employees? You don’t want a part-time employee to disappear in the middle of your application.
6. How many people will typically work with you on your application?

I hope this helps some MBA applicants in their journey. I will soon try to pen down my interview experience. Feel free to ask any follow up questions. I will try to answer as many as I can. All the best. Believe in your ability to achieve! Once you reach your destination, it's worth all the time and effort.


Well done on the admissions and thank you for the advice!
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New post 16 Feb 2017, 02:30
What an Inspirational Story Mahak. I have a very similar professional Background as yours and your post has indeed lifted my confidence. Cheers and All the best. :-D
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New post 21 Feb 2017, 02:49
aimelulu wrote:
Thanks for sharing! Very encouraging. :)

Do you mind talking a little bit about your interview experience with GSB and how did you prepare for it? Thanks in advance!



Hi,

I am really sorry that I missed responding to your message. Thank you for your kind works. Sure, I can. Mind sharing your email id please. I can send some specific links/ questions that I prepared. That should help I believe. (Hope I am not too late in getting back to you!)

Thanks,
Mahak

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New post 21 Feb 2017, 02:51
rohan2345 wrote:
What an Inspirational Story Mahak. I have a very similar professional Background as yours and your post has indeed lifted my confidence. Cheers and All the best. :-D



Hi,

I am really glad that my small post is helping at least some people in some way or the other. Wish you all the luck with your application and the interview procedure.

Regards,
Mahak

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Re: Admitted to Stanford GSB and CBS. With 730. Without a consultant.   [#permalink] 21 Feb 2017, 02:51

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