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Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships

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Location: India
Concentration: General Management, Technology
GMAT 1: 760 Q50 V41
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WE: Project Management (Computer Software)
Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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Background

I am in the clichéd IIM category – Indian IT Male. To add to that, I was 34 and had more than 11 years of experience when I wrote GMAT. And I had to manage a 30 member team at my workplace with extended office hours. Most MBA blogs, B-Schools (only after I applied) and even admission consultants suggested that I should probably go for an executive MBA only. But I was keen to go back to school to have the ‘Full Time’ experience of being a student again. Probably, this time, to be a student of life.

I have only worked with Retail clients in UK and mostly in the supply chain and merchandising area. I have around 4 years of international experience working in UK for food retail clients. My goal after MBA was IT product management, IT program management or Technology consulting. But now I am even open to supply chain or operations roles in E-commerce and retail domain.

My wife was very supportive as she had to sacrifice a lot of quality time I could spend with her to allow me to prepare for GMAT, TOEFL and the entire application process. I am really thankful to her for her support. She has more sacrifices to make when I spend the next one year in Oxford while she continues with her job in Kolkata, India.

I got all my results by April, but I could not write about my experience as I was busy with other peripherals. But I thought I should write my experience as it may help future applicants, especially Indian engineers on the wrong side of 30.

Enough of background. Now let’s come to the main story. First, I will go through several aspects of application and then I will go through the schools that I applied to briefly.

GMAT and TOEFL – My GMAT was 760 (Q50, V41) with AWA 6 and IR 5. My TOEFL was 112 – Reading – 30, Listening – 30, Writing – 28 and Speaking – 24. I have shared my experience about these in GMATClub. Please see the links below.
GMAT debrief - http://gmatclub.com/forum/indian-it-male-age-34-760-q50-v41-awa-6-in-first-attempt-219948.html
TOEFL debrief - http://gmatclub.com/forum/toefl-score-of-112-in-3-days-indian-candidate-219952.html


Shortlisting of Schools

I did not have much idea about B-School applications earlier. I went through the posts in GMATClub and several other B-School blogs to have some idea while I prepared for GMAT and even after that. As I gave my GMAT on 16th August and my first application deadline for IIM Bangalore and IIM Kolkata was 31st August, I did not have much time to do homework about my applications. At that time I thought I should get help from an Admission Consultant. I was very confused about my target schools as I had several criteria.

I was mainly looking for an international MBA, but I thought I will apply to IIMs and ISB 1 year MBA as well as they are better than middle level international schools. I was not too keen for a 2 year MBA as at the age of 34 with a family to support, time was a critical aspect for me. But I thought I will go for a top US 2 year MBA if I get some scholarship there. My high score in GMAT gave me some hope there. I also thought as a backup to apply to some Middle tier US 2 year programs that were scholarship friendly. My logic was that if I don’t get an admission from top ranked international and Indian schools, I will still go for an MBA to middle tier US schools with full scholarship. That way my debt and risk will be less. I am not saying all these thought processes were correct. I am just giving an idea about my state of mind then. I will discuss about the above points more in my key learnings section.

Seeing all my criteria, my admission consultant suggested me 13 schools. But I was not happy with the list as I progressed further in the application process and gathered more detail. I added 6 more schools myself later and ended up applying to 19 schools!! Surely, I got it wrong. But it was due to my confused mind and my lack of understanding about the process and the expectation from an MBA. Again, I will elaborate my learnings in the key learnings section.


Essays

I was helped by my admission consultant greatly for writing the essays. If you are really unsure about how to write essays or you are running out of time just as I did, it will be good to book an admission consultant for essay writing tips. But take help for only 4-5 application as other applications will be repetitive and by then you will have a good idea about essays. If you are confident about your writing skill and if you have some contacts who have gone through this experience earlier and can review your essays then you don’t need an admission consultant. There are lot of tips and samples available here and other sites and you can use them to write good essays if you have a generally good writing skill.

Some tips about essays –
• Try to make your story unique. Try to find out some of your qualities, aspects or achievements that are not common and highlight those. If you are from an over-represented group like Indian, Male and from IT industry then you need to differentiate yourself from thousands of other applicants.
• Make detailed notes about your top 3 USPs and their examples, top 3 challenges, top 3 achievements (recent ones), top 2 failures, 2 examples of leadership skill, 2 examples of team skill and top 3 extra-curricular activities. Write as much as possible without thinking about style, spelling or grammar. These will give you ideas and leads while writing the actual essays.
• Make the essays candid and personal so that people do not feel bored while reading it.
• Avoid technical / industry jargons. Try to use simpler terms that are understood widely.
• Try to give quantified value to your achievements e.g. increased revenue by Rs or %, effort savings by days or %, ranked among top x% etc.
• User STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Results) for describing achievements, challenges or example of strengths.
• Research on the schools extensively and mention valid specific points applicable to you and your goal to answer ‘Why this school’ question.
• If you are well above 30 (like me) then mention strong reasons why you are opting for MBA so late, even if it is not asked in any of the essay. Use the optional essay if required.
• Again for older candidates, you need to be pretty clear about your target industry and job function after MBA, at least on the essay and the interview. If you are applying to top 25 schools in the world then provide some long term vision to your goals. Spend some time on the research as it will take significant time to build a story around your vision. I lacked in this area and failed to impress the top schools.
• Stick to the word limits strictly.
• Review your essays with contacts who has gone through this process earlier, even if you have an admission consultant. Take as many different perspective as possible.
• For video essays, practice questions like why MBA, why this school answers within 1-1.5 minutes. Be dressed in business formal and be relaxed. Speak slowly and clearly.


Resume

The resume should be strictly one page. Try to be as short and specific as possible. Again, quantify your professional and academic achievements. I started with a 2-3 line summary, then education with grades, then professional experience in reverse chronological order mentioning the role, location and organization and at the end awards and Extra-curricular activities. I converted it to PDF before uploading most of the times to avoid MS Word formatting issues if there was no specific guidelines. Look out for any guidelines set by the school. Highlight strengths and achievements that are aligned to your post-MBA goals.


Recommendation letter

I selected my two previous supervisors as my recommenders. My logic was, they knew me for 9-10 years whereas my current supervisor knew me for 3 months at that time. However, if you are working for 2-3 years under your current supervisor, then it might be difficult to justify why you are choosing your previous supervisor. Many b-schools do accept that if you ask for recommendation from your current supervisor then it may impact your position and role in the current organization, especially in geographies like India. Also, it will be good if you can ask a client to be your recommender if he or she has great things to say about your work. As advised everywhere, you don’t need the CEO of your company to be your recommender. Select someone who can give detailed examples of your achievements and personal feedback about your attributes. If you are probably within 2 years after you have left college then you can ask a professor of your college to be recommender. But I would suggest against it if you have more experience.

I provided a note to my recommenders highlighting several of my achievements and challenges under them and also discussed with them in detail about these. This helped them to remind about these and write some of those examples in their own language in the letter. Also, I told them about the process in detail giving an idea about how much time it would take and how many schools I am planning to apply to.


Interview

If you have a background and score like me, there is a fair chance that you will receive an interview invite if the essays are not too bad and it is not a top 10 school. Even for a top 10 school, with very good essays you have a fair chance with a high score even if you are Indian, IT, Male, over 30 and of usual background. But with a background like me, it gets very difficult at the interview stage. You need to have an impeccable interview to get an admit from a top school.

Some key tips for interviews –
• Write all the answers to usual questions like introduction, why MBA, why this school, post-MBA short term and long term goals, leadership examples, team skill examples, achievements, challenges, failures, USP, extra-curriculars etc in a concise bullet point format. Don’t memorize them, just remember the points and elaborate them during the interview.
• Practice to answer each of these question within 2 minutes. Don’t take more than 2 min 30 seconds for an answer as the interviewer tends to lose focus when the answer is long.
• Give as many mock interviews as possible with your admission consultant / contacts who can take interviews like these.
• Tell the Leadership example, team example, achievement, challenge example etc answers in STAR format discussed above in the essay section.
• Again, try to quantify your achievements.
• Make a note of your strengths and try to convey some of these while answering every question in the interview if possible. You can even mention them repeatedly as long as they are relevant to the answers. The more the interviewers hear about your strengths the more they will remember. For example, if you have a significant international experience then try to mention it wherever possible.
• During the interview, maintain eye contact with the interviewer and take cue from the body language of the interviewer. If they seem to be bored, cut short your answer.
• For Skype interviews, have a reliable internet connection. Even for Skype interviews dress should be business formal. You can wear Pajama’s if you are confident that you need not stand up during the interview!!.. :)
• Try to be confident, don’t get nervous. Speak slowly and clearly. Your voice should be audible, not feeble, not loud. All these things can be practiced during the mock interviews.
• When the interviewers ask whether you have any questions, ask some questions the answer to which is not readily available in the school website. You can always ask about their personal experience. However, you should at least ask one question even if it sounds stupid.
• Send a ‘Thank you’ mail to the interviewers immediately after the interview. Try to mention about the specific details the interviewers provided while answering your question and how they helped you. This gives a nice impression about you.


Other Tips


• You need to make payments of up to $250 for each school. So, keep a reliable international credit card ready with a good credit limit.

• Some schools may ask for the degree transcript. This is different from degree certificate. This is an official copy of the mark-sheets issued by your university and sealed by them. You need to request your university to prepare and seal them with their stamp. Order 4-5 copies early in the application stage. My university took 10 days to process the request.

• For Indian candidates, if you are not planning to give TOEFL or IELTS, then check whether your transcript from the university mentions that the degree course was taught in English or the medium of teaching was English. If not, you may need to give TOEFL or IELTS. Confirm about this from the schools early.

• You need to forward your GMAT or TOEFL scores to each school you are applying. Each score forwarding will require $18-28. You get a chance to select 5 schools before you give GMAT in the test center. So, it will save you some money if you shortlist at least 5 sure shot schools before GMAT. Also, for TOEFL, you can mention 4 schools from registration to 1 day before exam. Get the GMAT or TOEFL code of the schools from their website so that you enter the right code.


Schools I applied to and results

I applied to 19 schools in total, faced 13 interviews and got 4 admits, 2 of them with full scholarships!! It has been a long and hard application season!! I am happy now that I am heading to Oxford (hope there is no issue with the visa). Would have been happier if I got some scholarship there. But it is really difficult to get a scholarship from top Europian schools if you don’t have an overall outstanding profile and application. I will mention the schools below with my results.

IIM Bangalore, India – Applied in round 1 with deadline of August end. Got a face to face interview in September in Kolkata and I thought it was good. But rejected after that. Not sure what happened there, but age and no of years of experience might have been a factor as the average experience was 7.8 only.

Melbourne Business School, Australia – Applied in round 1 with deadline of August end. Rejected without interview. Got a mail for executive MBA after that. So probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Should not have applied there.

IIM Kolkata, India – Applied with deadline of August end, but after I submitted it was extended till October end. Got a face to face interview in mid-November in Kolkata. Did not perform well in the interview, was not my day - Rejected.

IIM Ahmedabad, India – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-September. Got a face to face interview in November beginning on Delhi and it went well. Admitted. My first admit. The average experience of the previous batch was 9.5 year and minimum age was 27 years. So, probably they are more open to older candidates. Did not go there to have a more international and diverse experience at Oxford. Was a tough choice.

Insead, France – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-September. Rejected without interview. I don’t think my essays or application was as good as it should be to be accepted in Insead. Probably my age and year of experience were factors as well. Should have done more preparation.

Olin, Washinton University in St Louis, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of September end, mainly with a scholarship expectation. Did not get an interview invite till December beginning. Almost, lost hope on it. But got a Skype interview invite very late with only 2 days’ notice. The interviewer was a second year Indian student and asked only 3 questions. I asked if he has more questions and added some of my answers forcefully. But he said that your profile is very good and he does not want to continue. The rejection came within 4 days. Probably they are not open to older candidates. Should not have applied there.

Haas Berkeley, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of end-September. Rejected without interview. I don’t think my essays or application was as good as it should be to be accepted in Haas. Probably my age and year of experience were factors as well. Should not have applied there.

Tepper, Carnegie Melon, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of October beginning. With my background and goals in technology Tepper was a good fit for me. Also, it was very receptive about high GMAT scores as I received the interview invite within 1 week after submission and I could see in GMATClub that most of the early invites went to people with high GMAT score (740 and above). Got a Skype interview in November beginning and I thought it was good. But was waitlisted till the second round and subsequently rejected. Not sure what happened there, but age and no of years of experience might have been a factor.

Kelley, Indiana University, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-October. Got a Skype interview in mid-November with a second year student. The interview was not so good. Rejected. Probably my age and no of years of experience might have been a factor as well. Should not have applied there.

Boston University, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-October. Got a face to face interview in December beginning in my city, Kolkata and it went very well. Admitted. I applied for the MS-MBA program in information systems. It was a very good fit for my profile. Also, received a full scholarship from BU. Was a very good offer and a tough choice. But opted out of it as Oxford was a better brand and also a one year course, better suited for an older candidate like me.

ISB, India – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-October. Got a face to face interview in December beginning in Kolkata. The interview went well but they did not look convinced how an older candidate like me fit in the class. Rejected. Definitely my age and no of years of experience was a factor. Should not have applied there.

Oxford Said, UK – Applied in round 2 with deadline of end-October. Got a Skype interview in December beginning and it went well. Admitted. My 4 years of international experience in UK and my 11+ years of experience with UK clients might have been a factor. They are very receptive about older candidates as there are many people who are more than 30 in the upcoming class.

Goizueta, Emory, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of mid-November for the one year MBA. Rejected without interview. Probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Should not have applied there.

NUS, Singapore – Applied in round 1 with deadline of end-January (submitted my application by mid-November). Got a Skype interview in January beginning. The interviewers were only concerned why I am not applying to executive MBA. Rejected. Definitely my age and no of years of experience was a factor. Should not have applied there.

Smeal, Penn State, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of end-November. Got a Skype interview in mid-January. There was a problem in my internet connection during interview and it was conducted over phone. Interview went well, but again they were concerned about my age and fit with the other students in the class. Rejected. Probably my age and no of years of experience was a factor. Should not have applied there.

W P Carey, ASU, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of end-November. Got a Skype interview in mid-January. Interview went very well. Admitted. ASU MBA is known for supply chain and technology and my profile and goals were a good fit for the program. It started it’s forward focus scholarship from this year where it is offering full scholarships to all incoming students. So, I got one as well. One of my target company Amazon recruits heavily from ASU. These were the reason I applied to ASU even it was very low in the rankings chart. Was a very good offer, but opted out due to the same reasons mentioned above.

LBS, UK – Applied in round 2 with deadline of January beginning to give it a go. Rejected without interview. Probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Could not focus on the application well at the end of a long application season and as I had already some good admits. Should not have applied there.

Booth, Chicago, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of January beginning to give it a go. Got a face to face interview invite with an alumnus in Delhi. Could not focus on the interview well at the end of a long application season and as I had already some good admits. The interviewer was looking for a vision from a very experienced candidate like me. But I was not really well prepared for that. Rejected.

MIT Sloan, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of mid-January to give it a go. Rejected without interview. Probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Could not focus on the application well at the end of a long application season and as I had already some good admits. Should not have applied there.



Key learnings

• I could not devote much time in my shortlisting as I gave GMAT late and jumped into my round 1 applications. One needs to spend at least 1 month thinking about the post-MBA goals, industry and organizations and finalizing the schools based on those. You will know more about the program if you speak to current and previous students. There is no better way to know about the program. Also, start interacting with the school from this time only to know more about the program. If required, set up a call with the Adcom. They might remember you and it may increase your chance as a more eager candidate. This way you will only apply to programs that best fits your profile and post-MBA goals. You can justify your fit in the application and interview well and that increases the chance of an admit.

• As an Indian candidate, financing your MBA might be a challenge and you may not want to take a humongous loan. If you are looking for scholarships then apply to US schools like BU, ASU, Kelley, Olin, Smeal, Tippie, Carlson, Kenan Flagler, Broad etc. It is very difficult to get a significant scholarship from top schools, unless you have an outstanding profile. If you are older I-I-M candidate like me then it might be difficult to even get an admit from the US schools. European schools are not very scholarship friendly for candidates with common profile like me, but they are more receptive about older candidates like me than are the US schools. Most US schools seem to have fair bit of reservation about older candidates (though they will never tell you this).

• If you are applying to international schools only, then restrict the no of schools to maximum 7 and apply to first choice schools in earlier rounds and 2-3 safe schools in the later rounds.

• If you are also applying to Indian schools then the maximum number of schools can go up to 10 as you may not need so much time for IIM essays and for IIMs you can restrict your pre-application networking to one student per school. Again apply to first choice schools earlier and safe schools later. Don’t apply to ISB if you have more than 10 years of experience, unless you have a fascination for it.

• Don’t rush your applications ever. This was a mistake I did and I paid for it. You should give at least 1 month for 4 applications after you shortlisted the schools so that you give enough time for networking, essay writing and review. If you think you cannot give enough time for your applications to first choice schools in round 1 then apply for them in round 2. There is not much difference between round 1 and round 2, though it is slightly better to apply in earlier rounds.

• If you have a very good GMAT score (>= 730) and have a very good all-round profile with some extra-curricular and community activities, then go hard for the top 20 schools that is a mutual fit for you. For a good school, you will get a loan for the tuition fee and most of your second year living cost should come from internships. You need to just manage a bit more than the first year living cost from your savings. There is no replacement of the brand of a good school. It will stay with you for life. It cannot be compensated by a scholarship of $80,000 from a far lesser brand. However, this is my personal opinion. You may have different priorities.

• Speak to as many students and alumni as possible right from the shortlisting stage to the beginning of your MBA program. Even if you don’t make it to the school, you will make some good contacts. I started speaking to the students and alumni from the interview stage only. It was too late for the top level schools.

• Don’t blindly listen to your admission consultant for school shortlisting, application essays, recommendations and mock interviews. Get a second opinion from a current student or alumni if possible, or at least someone who knows you and knows about the MBA application process. It’s not that you have to incorporate his comments. But you will have another view point. You can always consult this view with your admission consultant.

• Follow up with the Adcoms regularly so that they remember you as an eager candidate. However, don’t over-do it. May be one mail or call every month is sufficient.

• While speaking to the students / alumni ask about their experience rather than asking them to guide you. Ask what they wrote in their essays or what they told in their interview. Ask what they think about the schools, what are their target companies etc. Most of them are very helpful and will be happy to talk about their own experiences.


Post-Offer

After I got the offers, I spoke to a lot of students and alumni to finalize my decision about Oxford. Currently also I am speaking to the students and alumni to prepare myself for the intense program starting in September 2016. Unfortunately, I cannot leave my job earlier due to my financial situation and that is causing my preparation to be more difficult.

I got my loan from Prodigy finance and they have approved almost the entire tuition fee of GBP 50,200 (around Rs 50,00,000) without any guarantor or collateral. It was not possible with Indian banks. Also, Indian banks would have charged at least 2 per cent higher interest rate than Prodigy. Most of the Indian students from our batch is taking loan from Prodigy only. The process with Prodigy was also very smooth. I had to write some emails and get some documents uploaded in their site. The response time was very quick compared to the Indian banks.

I have started my discussion with the Oxford Said careers team and started preparing for the long hard year ahead. I know it will be difficult to get a job in UK with the current visa situation for Indians. So we need to prepare ourselves very well for the challenging job market. However, I hope this will be a great, life changing experience.

This has been a really long post. Thanks for being so patient and coming this far with me. I hope that it will help other candidates like me in future. Please feel free to ask for any specific details. I will be more than happy to help. Best of luck.
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Himpuju.

My Oxford MBA Experience - https://gmatclub.com/forum/know-more-about-oxford-said-business-school-be-the-next-oxonian-241819.html
My GMAT Story - http://gmatclub.com/forum/indian-it-male-age-34-760-q50-v41-awa-6-in-first-attempt-219948.html
My Application Story - http://gmatclub.com/forum/indian-it-male-age-35-13-interview-4-admits-2-full-scholarships-219953.html#p1695073
My TOEFL Story - http://gmatclub.com/forum/toefl-score-of-112-in-3-days-indian-candidate-219952.html


Last edited by himpuju on 23 Aug 2016, 03:39, edited 5 times in total.

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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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New post 09 Jun 2016, 15:16
Appreciate the long and detailed post.

I am 34 years and have been sailing in merchant navy for last 10 years and presently serving as a senior deck officer with world's largest energy major.

Which schools would you suggest , given that my profile is different from most of the candidates?

My post MBA goals are to work in supply chain .

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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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zapak, Thanks for your comments.

It is not logical to shortlist schools for someone else. Especially with only a few details. You need to think about your priorities and career goals clearly, identify the fit with the program by speaking to current students and alumni, consider several other factors like duration, tuition fee, target geography, target companies etc to finalize your choices.

However, Michigan State - Broad, Penn State - Smeal, Purdue - Krannnert, ASU - WP Carey, MIT Sloan (Will be very difficult, very low acceptance, especially for international candidates) are known for Supply chain. You may not need an MBA as well if you want to move to supply chain. There is a very good 1 year SCM masters program in MIT. Several other Universities offer such programs in supply chain. You can check those as well.

Hope this helps. Please let me know if you have a specific query.
_________________

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Himpuju.

My Oxford MBA Experience - https://gmatclub.com/forum/know-more-about-oxford-said-business-school-be-the-next-oxonian-241819.html
My GMAT Story - http://gmatclub.com/forum/indian-it-male-age-34-760-q50-v41-awa-6-in-first-attempt-219948.html
My Application Story - http://gmatclub.com/forum/indian-it-male-age-35-13-interview-4-admits-2-full-scholarships-219953.html#p1695073
My TOEFL Story - http://gmatclub.com/forum/toefl-score-of-112-in-3-days-indian-candidate-219952.html


Last edited by himpuju on 23 Aug 2016, 03:38, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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New post 13 Jun 2016, 14:45
Thanks so much for posting and sharing your journey! Thank you for sharing the specific school feedback!
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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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New post 16 Jun 2016, 11:44
Thanks for sharing your experience. Good luck in your MBA adventure!

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New post 16 Jun 2016, 11:50
Great post thanks for sharing your experience very insightful!

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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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New post 16 Jun 2016, 12:12
I am just happy to see this post. Definitly a great help to all IIMs (indian IT males). All the best for your journey ahead :)
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New post 18 Jun 2016, 09:27

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New post 18 Jun 2016, 10:13
Thanks for sharing your experience. Per school feedback is great. This gives a great insight to us who belong to I.I.M category.

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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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New post 18 Jun 2016, 11:03
Thanks a lot for sharing your experience in such details... I am 33 yrs Old and am aiming to apply Fall 2017 program. I am in same boat.
Really appreciate for your experience for each school.

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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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New post 19 Jun 2016, 15:44
Great post mate....very good one
especially us in the over 30s category..
The biggest shock for me was INSEAD....since you have a very high GMAT score, i would have thought it should at least get you to interview stage..

Anyways, welcome to Oxford, have a splendid time and all the best post MBA....

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Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships [#permalink]

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New post 19 Jun 2016, 17:20
Thanks for generously sharing your story and tips.

All the best to you and your wife's journey.
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New post 02 Aug 2016, 18:35
Thanks for sharing your experience. What an inspiring story of efforts and outcome! Congratulations on the success and best of luck at Oxford! :)

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Thanks for that article himpuju

Definitely a very motivating read for those applicants who are from the Indian IT Male category and over 30 (and for those who are not too! :-) ) Thanks for structuring this and bringing out all the elements of your experience out in so much detail. Will definitely help future applicants.
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New post 22 Aug 2016, 20:17
Thanks for sharing your amazing story. A lot of useful information for all types of applicants. All the best with your new adventure.

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New post 23 Aug 2016, 04:33
himpuju wrote:
Background

I am in the clichéd IIM category – Indian IT Male. To add to that, I was 34 and had more than 11 years of experience when I wrote GMAT. And I had to manage a 30 member team at my workplace with extended office hours. Most MBA blogs, B-Schools (only after I applied) and even admission consultants suggested that I should probably go for an executive MBA only. But I was keen to go back to school to have the ‘Full Time’ experience of being a student again. Probably, this time, to be a student of life.

I have only worked with Retail clients in UK and mostly in the supply chain and merchandising area. I have around 4 years of international experience working in UK for food retail clients. My goal after MBA was IT product management, IT program management or Technology consulting. But now I am even open to supply chain or operations roles in E-commerce and retail domain.

My wife was very supportive as she had to sacrifice a lot of quality time I could spend with her to allow me to prepare for GMAT, TOEFL and the entire application process. I am really thankful to her for her support. She has more sacrifices to make when I spend the next one year in Oxford while she continues with her job in Kolkata, India.

I got all my results by April, but I could not write about my experience as I was busy with other peripherals. But I thought I should write my experience as it may help future applicants, especially Indian engineers on the wrong side of 30.

Enough of background. Now let’s come to the main story. First, I will go through several aspects of application and then I will go through the schools that I applied to briefly.

GMAT and TOEFL – My GMAT was 760 (Q50, V41) with AWA 6 and IR 5. My TOEFL was 112 – Reading – 30, Listening – 30, Writing – 28 and Speaking – 24. I have shared my experience about these in GMATClub. Please see the links below.
GMAT debrief - http://gmatclub.com/forum/indian-it-male-age-34-760-q50-v41-awa-6-in-first-attempt-219948.html
TOEFL debrief - http://gmatclub.com/forum/toefl-score-of-112-in-3-days-indian-candidate-219952.html


Shortlisting of Schools

I did not have much idea about B-School applications earlier. I went through the posts in GMATClub and several other B-School blogs to have some idea while I prepared for GMAT and even after that. As I gave my GMAT on 16th August and my first application deadline for IIM Bangalore and IIM Kolkata was 31st August, I did not have much time to do homework about my applications. At that time I thought I should get help from an Admission Consultant. I was very confused about my target schools as I had several criteria.

I was mainly looking for an international MBA, but I thought I will apply to IIMs and ISB 1 year MBA as well as they are better than middle level international schools. I was not too keen for a 2 year MBA as at the age of 34 with a family to support, time was a critical aspect for me. But I thought I will go for a top US 2 year MBA if I get some scholarship there. My high score in GMAT gave me some hope there. I also thought as a backup to apply to some Middle tier US 2 year programs that were scholarship friendly. My logic was that if I don’t get an admission from top ranked international and Indian schools, I will still go for an MBA to middle tier US schools with full scholarship. That way my debt and risk will be less. I am not saying all these thought processes were correct. I am just giving an idea about my state of mind then. I will discuss about the above points more in my key learnings section.

Seeing all my criteria, my admission consultant suggested me 13 schools. But I was not happy with the list as I progressed further in the application process and gathered more detail. I added 6 more schools myself later and ended up applying to 19 schools!! Surely, I got it wrong. But it was due to my confused mind and my lack of understanding about the process and the expectation from an MBA. Again, I will elaborate my learnings in the key learnings section.


Essays

I was helped by my admission consultant greatly for writing the essays. If you are really unsure about how to write essays or you are running out of time just as I did, it will be good to book an admission consultant for essay writing tips. But take help for only 4-5 application as other applications will be repetitive and by then you will have a good idea about essays. If you are confident about your writing skill and if you have some contacts who have gone through this experience earlier and can review your essays then you don’t need an admission consultant. There are lot of tips and samples available here and other sites and you can use them to write good essays if you have a generally good writing skill.

Some tips about essays –
• Try to make your story unique. Try to find out some of your qualities, aspects or achievements that are not common and highlight those. If you are from an over-represented group like Indian, Male and from IT industry then you need to differentiate yourself from thousands of other applicants.
• Make detailed notes about your top 3 USPs and their examples, top 3 challenges, top 3 achievements (recent ones), top 2 failures, 2 examples of leadership skill, 2 examples of team skill and top 3 extra-curricular activities. Write as much as possible without thinking about style, spelling or grammar. These will give you ideas and leads while writing the actual essays.
• Make the essays candid and personal so that people do not feel bored while reading it.
• Avoid technical / industry jargons. Try to use simpler terms that are understood widely.
• Try to give quantified value to your achievements e.g. increased revenue by Rs or %, effort savings by days or %, ranked among top x% etc.
• User STAR format (Situation, Task, Action, Results) for describing achievements, challenges or example of strengths.
• Research on the schools extensively and mention valid specific points applicable to you and your goal to answer ‘Why this school’ question.
• If you are well above 30 (like me) then mention strong reasons why you are opting for MBA so late, even if it is not asked in any of the essay. Use the optional essay if required.
• Again for older candidates, you need to be pretty clear about your target industry and job function after MBA, at least on the essay and the interview. If you are applying to top 25 schools in the world then provide some long term vision to your goals. Spend some time on the research as it will take significant time to build a story around your vision. I lacked in this area and failed to impress the top schools.
• Stick to the word limits strictly.
• Review your essays with contacts who has gone through this process earlier, even if you have an admission consultant. Take as many different perspective as possible.
• For video essays, practice questions like why MBA, why this school answers within 1-1.5 minutes. Be dressed in business formal and be relaxed. Speak slowly and clearly.


Resume

The resume should be strictly one page. Try to be as short and specific as possible. Again, quantify your professional and academic achievements. I started with a 2-3 line summary, then education with grades, then professional experience in reverse chronological order mentioning the role, location and organization and at the end awards and Extra-curricular activities. I converted it to PDF before uploading most of the times to avoid MS Word formatting issues if there was no specific guidelines. Look out for any guidelines set by the school. Highlight strengths and achievements that are aligned to your post-MBA goals.


Recommendation letter

I selected my two previous supervisors as my recommenders. My logic was, they knew me for 9-10 years whereas my current supervisor knew me for 3 months at that time. However, if you are working for 2-3 years under your current supervisor, then it might be difficult to justify why you are choosing your previous supervisor. Many b-schools do accept that if you ask for recommendation from your current supervisor then it may impact your position and role in the current organization, especially in geographies like India. Also, it will be good if you can ask a client to be your recommender if he or she has great things to say about your work. As advised everywhere, you don’t need the CEO of your company to be your recommender. Select someone who can give detailed examples of your achievements and personal feedback about your attributes. If you are probably within 2 years after you have left college then you can ask a professor of your college to be recommender. But I would suggest against it if you have more experience.

I provided a note to my recommenders highlighting several of my achievements and challenges under them and also discussed with them in detail about these. This helped them to remind about these and write some of those examples in their own language in the letter. Also, I told them about the process in detail giving an idea about how much time it would take and how many schools I am planning to apply to.


Interview

If you have a background and score like me, there is a fair chance that you will receive an interview invite if the essays are not too bad and it is not a top 10 school. Even for a top 10 school, with very good essays you have a fair chance with a high score even if you are Indian, IT, Male, over 30 and of usual background. But with a background like me, it gets very difficult at the interview stage. You need to have an impeccable interview to get an admit from a top school.

Some key tips for interviews –
• Write all the answers to usual questions like introduction, why MBA, why this school, post-MBA short term and long term goals, leadership examples, team skill examples, achievements, challenges, failures, USP, extra-curriculars etc in a concise bullet point format. Don’t memorize them, just remember the points and elaborate them during the interview.
• Practice to answer each of these question within 2 minutes. Don’t take more than 2 min 30 seconds for an answer as the interviewer tends to lose focus when the answer is long.
• Give as many mock interviews as possible with your admission consultant / contacts who can take interviews like these.
• Tell the Leadership example, team example, achievement, challenge example etc answers in STAR format discussed above in the essay section.
• Again, try to quantify your achievements.
• Make a note of your strengths and try to convey some of these while answering every question in the interview if possible. You can even mention them repeatedly as long as they are relevant to the answers. The more the interviewers hear about your strengths the more they will remember. For example, if you have a significant international experience then try to mention it wherever possible.
• During the interview, maintain eye contact with the interviewer and take cue from the body language of the interviewer. If they seem to be bored, cut short your answer.
• For Skype interviews, have a reliable internet connection. Even for Skype interviews dress should be business formal. You can wear Pajama’s if you are confident that you need not stand up during the interview!!.. :)
• Try to be confident, don’t get nervous. Speak slowly and clearly. Your voice should be audible, not feeble, not loud. All these things can be practiced during the mock interviews.
• When the interviewers ask whether you have any questions, ask some questions the answer to which is not readily available in the school website. You can always ask about their personal experience. However, you should at least ask one question even if it sounds stupid.
• Send a ‘Thank you’ mail to the interviewers immediately after the interview. Try to mention about the specific details the interviewers provided while answering your question and how they helped you. This gives a nice impression about you.


Other Tips


• You need to make payments of up to $250 for each school. So, keep a reliable international credit card ready with a good credit limit.

• Some schools may ask for the degree transcript. This is different from degree certificate. This is an official copy of the mark-sheets issued by your university and sealed by them. You need to request your university to prepare and seal them with their stamp. Order 4-5 copies early in the application stage. My university took 10 days to process the request.

• For Indian candidates, if you are not planning to give TOEFL or IELTS, then check whether your transcript from the university mentions that the degree course was taught in English or the medium of teaching was English. If not, you may need to give TOEFL or IELTS. Confirm about this from the schools early.

• You need to forward your GMAT or TOEFL scores to each school you are applying. Each score forwarding will require $18-28. You get a chance to select 5 schools before you give GMAT in the test center. So, it will save you some money if you shortlist at least 5 sure shot schools before GMAT. Also, for TOEFL, you can mention 4 schools from registration to 1 day before exam. Get the GMAT or TOEFL code of the schools from their website so that you enter the right code.


Schools I applied to and results

I applied to 19 schools in total, faced 13 interviews and got 4 admits, 2 of them with full scholarships!! It has been a long and hard application season!! I am happy now that I am heading to Oxford (hope there is no issue with the visa). Would have been happier if I got some scholarship there. But it is really difficult to get a scholarship from top Europian schools if you don’t have an overall outstanding profile and application. I will mention the schools below with my results.

IIM Bangalore, India – Applied in round 1 with deadline of August end. Got a face to face interview in September in Kolkata and I thought it was good. But rejected after that. Not sure what happened there, but age and no of years of experience might have been a factor as the average experience was 7.8 only.

Melbourne Business School, Australia – Applied in round 1 with deadline of August end. Rejected without interview. Got a mail for executive MBA after that. So probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Should not have applied there.

IIM Kolkata, India – Applied with deadline of August end, but after I submitted it was extended till October end. Got a face to face interview in mid-November in Kolkata. Did not perform well in the interview, was not my day - Rejected.

IIM Ahmedabad, India – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-September. Got a face to face interview in November beginning on Delhi and it went well. Admitted. My first admit. The average experience of the previous batch was 9.5 year and minimum age was 27 years. So, probably they are more open to older candidates. Did not go there to have a more international and diverse experience at Oxford. Was a tough choice.

Insead, France – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-September. Rejected without interview. I don’t think my essays or application was as good as it should be to be accepted in Insead. Probably my age and year of experience were factors as well. Should have done more preparation.

Olin, Washinton University in St Louis, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of September end, mainly with a scholarship expectation. Did not get an interview invite till December beginning. Almost, lost hope on it. But got a Skype interview invite very late with only 2 days’ notice. The interviewer was a second year Indian student and asked only 3 questions. I asked if he has more questions and added some of my answers forcefully. But he said that your profile is very good and he does not want to continue. The rejection came within 4 days. Probably they are not open to older candidates. Should not have applied there.

Haas Berkeley, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of end-September. Rejected without interview. I don’t think my essays or application was as good as it should be to be accepted in Haas. Probably my age and year of experience were factors as well. Should not have applied there.

Tepper, Carnegie Melon, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of October beginning. With my background and goals in technology Tepper was a good fit for me. Also, it was very receptive about high GMAT scores as I received the interview invite within 1 week after submission and I could see in GMATClub that most of the early invites went to people with high GMAT score (740 and above). Got a Skype interview in November beginning and I thought it was good. But was waitlisted till the second round and subsequently rejected. Not sure what happened there, but age and no of years of experience might have been a factor.

Kelley, Indiana University, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-October. Got a Skype interview in mid-November with a second year student. The interview was not so good. Rejected. Probably my age and no of years of experience might have been a factor as well. Should not have applied there.

Boston University, USA – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-October. Got a face to face interview in December beginning in my city, Kolkata and it went very well. Admitted. I applied for the MS-MBA program in information systems. It was a very good fit for my profile. Also, received a full scholarship from BU. Was a very good offer and a tough choice. But opted out of it as Oxford was a better brand and also a one year course, better suited for an older candidate like me.

ISB, India – Applied in round 1 with deadline of mid-October. Got a face to face interview in December beginning in Kolkata. The interview went well but they did not look convinced how an older candidate like me fit in the class. Rejected. Definitely my age and no of years of experience was a factor. Should not have applied there.

Oxford Said, UK – Applied in round 2 with deadline of end-October. Got a Skype interview in December beginning and it went well. Admitted. My 4 years of international experience in UK and my 11+ years of experience with UK clients might have been a factor. They are very receptive about older candidates as there are many people who are more than 30 in the upcoming class.

Goizueta, Emory, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of mid-November for the one year MBA. Rejected without interview. Probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Should not have applied there.

NUS, Singapore – Applied in round 1 with deadline of end-January (submitted my application by mid-November). Got a Skype interview in January beginning. The interviewers were only concerned why I am not applying to executive MBA. Rejected. Definitely my age and no of years of experience was a factor. Should not have applied there.

Smeal, Penn State, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of end-November. Got a Skype interview in mid-January. There was a problem in my internet connection during interview and it was conducted over phone. Interview went well, but again they were concerned about my age and fit with the other students in the class. Rejected. Probably my age and no of years of experience was a factor. Should not have applied there.

W P Carey, ASU, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of end-November. Got a Skype interview in mid-January. Interview went very well. Admitted. ASU MBA is known for supply chain and technology and my profile and goals were a good fit for the program. It started it’s forward focus scholarship from this year where it is offering full scholarships to all incoming students. So, I got one as well. One of my target company Amazon recruits heavily from ASU. These were the reason I applied to ASU even it was very low in the rankings chart. Was a very good offer, but opted out due to the same reasons mentioned above.

LBS, UK – Applied in round 2 with deadline of January beginning to give it a go. Rejected without interview. Probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Could not focus on the application well at the end of a long application season and as I had already some good admits. Should not have applied there.

Booth, Chicago, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of January beginning to give it a go. Got a face to face interview invite with an alumnus in Delhi. Could not focus on the interview well at the end of a long application season and as I had already some good admits. The interviewer was looking for a vision from a very experienced candidate like me. But I was not really well prepared for that. Rejected.

MIT Sloan, USA – Applied in round 2 with deadline of mid-January to give it a go. Rejected without interview. Probably my age and year of experience were the main issue. Could not focus on the application well at the end of a long application season and as I had already some good admits. Should not have applied there.



Key learnings

• I could not devote much time in my shortlisting as I gave GMAT late and jumped into my round 1 applications. One needs to spend at least 1 month thinking about the post-MBA goals, industry and organizations and finalizing the schools based on those. You will know more about the program if you speak to current and previous students. There is no better way to know about the program. Also, start interacting with the school from this time only to know more about the program. If required, set up a call with the Adcom. They might remember you and it may increase your chance as a more eager candidate. This way you will only apply to programs that best fits your profile and post-MBA goals. You can justify your fit in the application and interview well and that increases the chance of an admit.

• As an Indian candidate, financing your MBA might be a challenge and you may not want to take a humongous loan. If you are looking for scholarships then apply to US schools like BU, ASU, Kelley, Olin, Smeal, Tippie, Carlson, Kenan Flagler, Broad etc. It is very difficult to get a significant scholarship from top schools, unless you have an outstanding profile. If you are older I-I-M candidate like me then it might be difficult to even get an admit from the US schools. European schools are not very scholarship friendly for candidates with common profile like me, but they are more receptive about older candidates like me than are the US schools. Most US schools seem to have fair bit of reservation about older candidates (though they will never tell you this).

• If you are applying to international schools only, then restrict the no of schools to maximum 7 and apply to first choice schools in earlier rounds and 2-3 safe schools in the later rounds.

• If you are also applying to Indian schools then the maximum number of schools can go up to 10 as you may not need so much time for IIM essays and for IIMs you can restrict your pre-application networking to one student per school. Again apply to first choice schools earlier and safe schools later. Don’t apply to ISB if you have more than 10 years of experience, unless you have a fascination for it.

• Don’t rush your applications ever. This was a mistake I did and I paid for it. You should give at least 1 month for 4 applications after you shortlisted the schools so that you give enough time for networking, essay writing and review. If you think you cannot give enough time for your applications to first choice schools in round 1 then apply for them in round 2. There is not much difference between round 1 and round 2, though it is slightly better to apply in earlier rounds.

• If you have a very good GMAT score (>= 730) and have a very good all-round profile with some extra-curricular and community activities, then go hard for the top 20 schools that is a mutual fit for you. For a good school, you will get a loan for the tuition fee and most of your second year living cost should come from internships. You need to just manage a bit more than the first year living cost from your savings. There is no replacement of the brand of a good school. It will stay with you for life. It cannot be compensated by a scholarship of $80,000 from a far lesser brand. However, this is my personal opinion. You may have different priorities.

• Speak to as many students and alumni as possible right from the shortlisting stage to the beginning of your MBA program. Even if you don’t make it to the school, you will make some good contacts. I started speaking to the students and alumni from the interview stage only. It was too late for the top level schools.

• Don’t blindly listen to your admission consultant for school shortlisting, application essays, recommendations and mock interviews. Get a second opinion from a current student or alumni if possible, or at least someone who knows you and knows about the MBA application process. It’s not that you have to incorporate his comments. But you will have another view point. You can always consult this view with your admission consultant.

• Follow up with the Adcoms regularly so that they remember you as an eager candidate. However, don’t over-do it. May be one mail or call every month is sufficient.

• While speaking to the students / alumni ask about their experience rather than asking them to guide you. Ask what they wrote in their essays or what they told in their interview. Ask what they think about the schools, what are their target companies etc. Most of them are very helpful and will be happy to talk about their own experiences.


Post-Offer

After I got the offers, I spoke to a lot of students and alumni to finalize my decision about Oxford. Currently also I am speaking to the students and alumni to prepare myself for the intense program starting in September 2016. Unfortunately, I cannot leave my job earlier due to my financial situation and that is causing my preparation to be more difficult.

I got my loan from Prodigy finance and they have approved almost the entire tuition fee of GBP 50,200 (around Rs 50,00,000) without any guarantor or collateral. It was not possible with Indian banks. Also, Indian banks would have charged at least 2 per cent higher interest rate than Prodigy. Most of the Indian students from our batch is taking loan from Prodigy only. The process with Prodigy was also very smooth. I had to write some emails and get some documents uploaded in their site. The response time was very quick compared to the Indian banks.

I have started my discussion with the Oxford Said careers team and started preparing for the long hard year ahead. I know it will be difficult to get a job in UK with the current visa situation for Indians. So we need to prepare ourselves very well for the challenging job market. However, I hope this will be a great, life changing experience.

This has been a really long post. Thanks for being so patient and coming this far with me. I hope that it will help other candidates like me in future. Please feel free to ask for any specific details. I will be more than happy to help. Best of luck.


This post needs glorification. What a journey! Kudos to you sir!
_________________

Aiming for a 3 digit number with 7 as hundredths Digit

Kudos [?]: 16 [0], given: 246

Re: Indian IT Male Age 35 - 13 interviews, 4 admits, 2 full scholarships   [#permalink] 23 Aug 2016, 04:33

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