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Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg

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Location: Thailand
Concentration: Entrepreneurship, Marketing
GMAT 1: 550 Q37 V28
GMAT 2: 660 Q47 V34
GMAT 3: 650 Q44 V35
GMAT 4: 680 Q49 V32
GMAT 5: 740 Q49 V42
GPA: 3.33
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Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 08 May 2017, 08:23
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Hi guys! The past one year has been a whirlwind for me... from the gut wrenching anxiety driven application deadlines to GMAT preps, but I am here now, going to Kellogg 2Y MBA this Fall. I'm super psyched to be in Evanston. DAK has been amazing and totally sold me to the program. I never thought this day would happen to me... to think I was just aiming for UC Irvine with a 550 a year ago is such a leap. I guess I'm almost a case of luck.

To give you a bit of my background, by round 2 application deadline I was:
Age: 22
WE: is a bit over 2 years (I entered university quite quickly)
GMAT: My GPA is 3.33.
Location: I'm from Thailand so SEA right there.
EC: President of a club during university, Under special mentorship program, Wrote case competitions, Volunteer with Social Enterprises

I worked as a consultant and run my family business on the side since university. My family business industry is quite unique so I guess it gave me a bit of an edge. Overall, I think I'm quite an odd candidate, but not the kind that make you say OH WOW but kind that makes you do a double take at the application stats.

Starting the Journey: Why MBA?

Truth be told, my reason to get an MBA in the first place was vague at best. My ex was in the states and I wanted to close the gap and the only good reason to FLY across continents to be with someone give my society is to go for a Master's. Then she dumped me so that sucked. So I had to shift my goals LOL... I knew that I wanted to continue the family business, transforming its entire operations and expanding the hell out of it at one point in my life. The task is big, an MBA should prepare me for it (I think).

I started my journey around August 2016 with a depressing GMAT score of 550 and a school list that matched the score (UCI, Pepperdine, USC). I knew I could do better and never stopped for a whole 5 months after quitting my consultancy job. (Pro tip: don't do two jobs at once while doing GMAT. It's not healthy.)

GMAT Hell

I stopped hoping for 700+ ever since I saw the 550 score, but I knew I deserved better. The score improvements were quite phenomenal in the beginning but I kept getting stuck in the high 600 areas. By the time of application deadline, I could not push the score to be higher... so I worked with the 680. However, I knew you can submit the GMAT kinda 10 days late after the deadline has passed.

GMAT Debrief

Application Process: School List Kellogg 1YR, UCLA, Georgetown, and USC Marshall

With the 680, I picked my schools according to my chances of getting in and my preference. I want to be in programs that has a VERY collaborative cohort and is very into networking. I knew from the start that I need to improve my networking skills because I suck at it big time. I'm stupid at small talk. The school that came to mind was Kellogg, UCLA, USC, Georgetown, and Berkeley. However, the only reason I didn't submit my application for Berkeley was because its essays were a bit too much... I was lazy lol. At the time, Kellogg and UCLA were reaches and Georgetown and USC was competitive.

I did not apply to any safety schools because I thought to myself I cannot do below than these schools. I am not gonna slosh my money away.

Application Process: School Research

The way I did school research is quite weird from other applicants. There were two parts to my school research, 1) for the essay and 2) for the interview. For the Essay it was typical googling and researching what the school has to offer to help me achieve my goals. For the interview, however, was for me to get closer to what the school will be like when I will be there. What I did was reach out to alums in my network to get a sense of what they had that was memorable during their MBA years. I chose the school that the alums rave about their friends. I want to be surrounded by great people who I can connect with for the rest of my life. I guess at this point, you should know what is important to your future.

Application Process: Essays under 1 month

Since I was suffering from my GMAT, I didn't really take care of my application timeline. By the time I was stuck in the 650 - 660 range, it was mid of November. I was absolutely freaking out with the essays I had to do. Fortunately, I had help from people around me who were willing to help improve my essays extensively. I learnt that it doesn't matter what you do as long as you could find your achievements and articulate them clearly, you'll be fine. Get your 3 core messages across with all your essays. (Why MBA - career, Why You - achievements, Why Now - why your goals make sense). I also wrote my essay in such a way that would help me during interviews (aka the content of my essays can answer all the major MBA interview questions) - the reason I did this was because it's easier to remember what you wrote. The 680 score came in December 26... so honestly I wasn't even prepare for round 2 applications but nothing beats powering through your essays on New Years.

Application Process: The Extra 740

After my round 2 application submission I had one more GMAT exam scheduled. The 5th one and the last one for the cycle. Since I had nothing to lose at this point, I felt at ease. Who knew that the score would show up on the screen? With 740 in my hand, I quickly modified my essay for MIT but unfortunately they rejected me without an interview. Oh well.

Application Process: Interview Prep

I was in a group for two months, practicing interview prep every week. The great thing about the group that I got together was that we get to practice in person, going through each other's answer and finding ways to improve them. The key to good interview is being memorable. I read the book called 'made to stick' and applied the principles of the book to interviewing. First of all, interviewer's attention span is quite... sad. They've been through tonnes of talk with people, so an interviewee's job is to make interviewer's day better. You don't have to throw in fancy words, just rearrange your story in such a way that can be summarized within 1 - 2 sentences. Second, be enthusiastic and generally amicable. My interview is conducted through skype so I tried myself to sound chirpy at 2am in the goddamn morning. Show that you care about the school. Third, know your main 3 - 4 stories that makes you shine at a candidate and try to bridge them to the question the interviewer asks. Lastly, do a lot of practice... get friends... consultants... whatever, just do it so much that you can answer questions on instinct if someone as 'Why do you want an MBA' on the elevator and you had 60 seconds.

Once the interviews were over I felt the control I had in my life flew away. It's the waiting game now.

Interview Debrief: UCLA, Georgetown, USC

End of the Race: MIT (Rejected without interview), Kellogg 1YR (YES), UCLA (40k), Georgetown (60k), and USC Marshall (90K)

The call from UCLA came first... I was super excited to receive a good amount of scholarship from them. Since I'm an international candidate, it is quite difficult for them to give the offer to people like me. The calls from other school were kind of expected at this point given my stat points... the money from USC was just amazing though. LOL.

End of the Race: School Visits

Since I had UCLA and Kellogg 1Y in my pocket, I was quite torn about where to go. Deep down I knew I wanted a good program but I want to take advantage of the 2 year MBA as well. It was UCLA $$$ vs. Kellogg 1Y for me. So I thought what would be best for me was to go see the schools myself to choose where I want to spend my Master's. I went to Kellogg first as the school's admit weekend was held before UCLA. I was totally blown away by how organized and aggressively friendly the students there were. It was an amazing experience to hear Dean Sally and Facebook's CMO talk about... not really the school but what constitutes a good MBA experience. Kellogg spent the majority of the time trying to make the best of the admit weekend for the student. I felt that the school wasn't selling me anything explicit and it felt great. UCLA on the other hand was kind of unorganized... with a lot of confused admitted students walking around. However, I could understand why the students were super collaborative. The stories I hear and the interactions I felt with the current student was very touching. Every time I was walking alone confused I had student who were managing the admit weekend come up to me and asked whether I needed help/direction/a friend. It was pretty amazing.

Although UCLA is a perfectly good school on its own, the one thing that made me changed my mind to attending Kellogg 1Y was the people. I knew I will fit into UCLA's culture perfectly... and seamlessly. But I was not going to gradschool to feel comfortable, I wanted to walk out of my comfortzone and grow. I wanted to meet new type of people. (Aggressively friendly mid-westerners).

The End is not the End: Kellogg 1YR to Kellogg 2YR

Although the 1 year program Kellogg is pretty amazing on its own, I know that my age is quite on the GODDAMN LOW side and it's better to build my potential over time. I emailed the admission committee on the possibility of transferring across programs and it was possible! The requirements were that I had to do an extra essay about why 2 year that's it. The rest is another waiting game. I'm not sure whether my visit to the school during the admit weekend assisted in the process but I don't think it hurt.

At the end they granted me the transfer... so I jumped on the Kellogg train. Overall, even if Kellogg didn't grant me the transfer I would still to the one year program. After visiting UCLA and Kellogg I knew that I would be better off with what Kellogg has to offer as their network is the largest in my country. (Also the new building is kickass).

In hindsight, I wished that I could have applied to HSW for the kicks of it because at the end of the day you'll never how your life and chances could be changed just because of a standardized test score. It's better to try than not. In the grand scheme of things, filling applications and paying $700 are relatively negligible compared to the cost of an MBA.

Key Takeaways from my application process:

    1. Start early and plan your timeline accordingly. Rushing at the end will exhaust you mentally.
    2. Never give up on your GMAT or your dream schools. Go at it until the policy stops you.
    3. Everything with schools are quite negotiable after you get in.
    4. Go to admit weekends to find out which school suits you best.
    5. Dream big and ask for help.

Resources

The best way to have your best chance to the application process is to expose yourself to great resources you could learn from. For me, I chose GMATCLUB and reddit r/MBA. Through the forums, I made friends and learnt so much about the application process. The journey became all the more bearable. :)
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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 08 May 2017, 15:51
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Congrats! Amazing story, thanks so much for sharing.
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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 08 May 2017, 22:56
Very motivational story! Thanks very much for detailed debrief and wishing you great 2 years in Evanston.
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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2017, 04:10
congrats

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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2017, 08:43
Incredible story and well deserved. Good luck :)

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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 09 May 2017, 17:35
Congratulations, you story is amazing you put a lot of effort on the GMAT. Thanks for the detailed debrief I learnt a lot.
Good luck :D

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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 10 May 2017, 02:57
Wow!! Congratulations. Thanks a ton for sharing this story.

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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 10 May 2017, 07:22
Wow - fantastic result and determination! Really happy for you!

P.S. Thank you for being honest about your MBA goals being somewhat vague at first. That will be reassuring to hear for many who lack focus, and there are many of us who do.
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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 15 Jun 2017, 04:04
Thank you for sharing your story, Mimster! It's really motivational!
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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 09 Nov 2017, 08:45
Hi!

I realize this is a super old post but I just had to say thanks SO much for posting this...it definitely gives me hope. I have a low gpa but Kellogg is my #1 and has been my best interview performance so far so I am keeping my fingers crossed! I am also waiting on Anderson so I love your perspective between the two programs as well.

Thanks a lot and I hope Kellogg has been everything you hoped it would be!

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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg [#permalink]

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New post 10 Nov 2017, 02:50
Hi Mimta and best of luck for your MBA i'm really amazed because you are a great researcher and you know all things well before starting your MBA education wish you best of luck for your studies.

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Re: Dream Big then Bigger: From 550 to 740 to Kellogg   [#permalink] 10 Nov 2017, 02:50
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