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Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey

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Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey



Most of you guys who follow me on GMAT Club are somewhat familiar with my story. Long story short, I had a terrible 2016 - my GMAT was average (for Indian standards), my essays were crap and my outcomes were an MBA applicant's night mare. I decided to soldier on and gave another shot to apply for business schools and guess what - I turned my story around. I have a pretty long story about how I increased my GMAT and the odds of an Indian applicant in top schools - so go there to find out more. This post is going to be all about how I approached essays, school research, and yes - admission consultants!


School Research


Well, I knew that MBA applications is, as much as we might dislike it, a numbers game. As I mentioned on this post - that some schools may be friendly to Indians more than others, but admissions strategy change each year for schools, and your fate often ends up on how the "class is shaped" - ugh! Hate that phrase!

How I went about school research is a bit of a paradox. I knew that I wanted to reapply to most of the schools that I applied to the year before. Why do you ask? Well, many consultants told me that reapplicants have stronger chances of getting in - which, in my humble opinion, is total BS. I definitely think as a reapplicant (except for Stanford which does not care) you chances are significantly diminished. The biggest reason, I can imagine, is that you not only have to show that you are an awesome candidate all over again, but also you have to show growth. This is especially hard if your last application was crap (mine was for most schools). Anyway, without digressing, once I zero-ed on some of the schools I was going to reapply to and some new schools (based on what my favorite admission consultant told me - but more on her later), I picked about 10 schools to apply in R1. My boss at work knew I was going to do this and she was unusually supportive and gave me enough time to work on them while being flexible with my work commitment.

Researching schools was a pretty sizeable challenge. There is this fabled concept of "fit", which dictates you are supposed to know where you truly belong by having a few superficial conversations with current students/alums and, if you are wealthy, a school visit. I knew early on that I would look at negatives rather than positive, simply because schools are really good at marketing their positives. I reached out to current students and alums on school websites and LinkedIn, although I have to say, that school website connections were significantly faster and better than cold messages on LinkedIn. I tried to talk to some people who are from my background (nonprofit, education), and some people who are from the industry I want to get into (EdTech). For most schools, I talked to a 5-6 people to get an overall idea about the school culture. One of the mistakes that you can avoid here is asking about objective stuff such as "oh which classes you loved or which clubs are you a part of" - these are not great questions in my opinion, and you can reserve them for emails. When you are talking to a current student or alum, I would recommend aiming at a conversation instead of an interview. Few questions that I asked were centered around what is so good or not-so-good about the school's culture. What do you think the school can do better? What are its strengths? Aligning your goals with that of the student you are talking to is really helpful here, because you don't have to spend time on more connections to include in your essays (which, let's just admit, is the reason you are getting on these calls anyway).

Some schools ended up being better than others. It could be because of my sample experience, but Ross was amazing. I spoke to 2 current students and they ended up connecting me with at least 10 others - so I ended up knowing about 5% of the class of 2019, which was pretty cool (#GoBlue). Anyway, so long story short: figure out what you will talk to current students about before you call them, try to get into a conversation instead of a bland Q&A, ask to be connected to more students.


Applications and admission consultants


Note: I will NOT name the consultants I did not have a great time with. Please do not PM me for those names. I believe in public praise and private criticism, so I will NOT entertain requests for specific details - #SorryNotSorry

Okay things get really complicated here. I was bruised from my experience the year before. I had used an Indian consultant, who was great on paper. However, we just did not align with how we wanted our stories to shape. As I was insecure about my own content, I ended up blindly agreeing to what he said to me regarding goals, essay stories, and also writing style. My goals were very generic (at that time, I was not sure about my post MBA goal and I wanted to commit to something that was realistic and achievable - which in hindsight shows little research and introspection) and my essay stories were just bad. It is also largely my fault, because I did not critique my own work enough (quick note: criticizing your own work, especially subjective stuff like essays, is far easier said than done). When I read the essays I wrote in 2016, it was clear that I really was not answering the question, my writing was dense, and my stories were terribly unclear for someone who did not belong to my industry (#1 reason for crappy essays).

As I was left with zero admits in 2017, I was scared, nervous and pretty distraught. Insecurity is a funny thing - it totally destroys your self-confidence and makes your do things you would never do if your self-esteem were intact. I was also having a terrible time in my relationship, so all in all, I was a ball of depression. Impressed by their efforts in marketing themselves, I reached out to a big admission consulting firm. I spent thousands of hard-currency-converted-dollars and it was, to say the least, the most uninspiring experience in admission consulting. I was getting really varsity inputs on my essays, and there was no strategic push (I had signed up for only two schools). Also there was only one call involved and most of the stuff were on emails, which is pretty useful, but at same time leaves much to be desired for a real conversation. The thing with big consulting firms is that it can always be a hit or a miss. You might get an incredible consultant who really likes your story and wants to help you more strategically, or, like mine, your experience could be vanilla. This consultant was very prompt, super nice and cordial, but when it came to the meat of their work - the protein just wasn't there. Anyway, I was not super happy and was looking for a better experience. (Also, just FYI, I was dinged at the both the schools I used this consulting company for, despite getting interviews and admits in higher ranked schools without their help).

I was just randomly getting into calls with other consultants at the same time (hello! I was applying to 10 schools remember? I also did not have money to throw away, but I saved everything from the previous year to make sure I am financially capable of utilizing every opportunity I can possibly get). A few interesting, and a few downright obnoxious calls later, I found Maria. Maria is the founder of ApplicantLab and let me just go ahead and say it - Maria saved my 2016-all-dings-butt this year . At the risk of sounding like a promotion, I would just go on to list the things she did for me.

    1. I first used the Career Vision module. If you have not seen it before, it gives you some ideas about whether your goal will stick. I realized my original goal was crap when I watched her video on super-common goals. For example, I was applying with a consulting goal and I have not had any formal consulting experience at all. For some reason, that did not seem strange to me (or my former consultant) at all last year 9 The career vision module will also force you to explain your transition and push you to think about whether your goal logically stem from what you have been doing pre MBA or is it a far-fetched idea that your parents (and your neighbors) want you to do.

    2. Once my career goal moved away from plain-vanilla consulting, I thought more about what I really enjoyed about my current work. My present job was at the confluence of education and tech and I was bootstrapping an EdTech project to scale our organizational impact. I had really enjoyed the work I did, but for some reason (well, I know the reason - it was peer pressure and preconceived notions of what business schools were supposed to be all about) I chose to ignore it. I rehashed my goal to joining an EdTech firm and I could write about my own expertise and long-term vision much more effortlessly than talking about leading a practice at a consulting firm without any experience in consulting (go figure…)

    3. Once the foundation of our goal was set, I used the lab to figure out how to classify my stories according to several brand traits. ApplicantLab has many brand traits with explanations (both text and video for all you folks with different learning styles). The lab will force you to reflect and write stories from your past that would fit certain brand traits. This was incredible, because once I had 12-15 stories set up, the skeleton for almost all my essays, interviews and even short answer questions were pretty much set. DO NOT AVOID THIS STEP. A lot of folks write random crap to move on to the essays. BAD IDEA. DO NOT DO IT. DO NOT. DON'T. STOP IT.

    4. After figuring out my stories, I moved on to the essays. ApplicantLab has detailed explanations (and videos) of how to frame each essay and also which brand traits to focus for which essays. It was amazing because it is directly mapped (the aptly named section is called Mapping), to the stories I have created before so it takes the brainstorm part of writing essays out of the equation. Maria also hashes out extremely detailed explanations in her essay advice - from big picture stuff to even things like where to find what on the school website which, I guess, must have taken her hundreds or thousands of hours - well it did end up saving hundreds of hours of mine.

    5. Lastly, in the interview module, she handles 15 most popular interview questions which are framed generically enough to overlap with almost the entire spectrum of business school interviews. Each section has a video from Maria where she goes on excruciating details about how to answer each question, how not to answer each question, and most importantly, how different answers make you sound/look. Brilliant stuff.

    6. Also, I purchased a few additional hours for her to review my essays because I was insecure af, and needless to say they were amazing.

Could I be more resounding in narrating my experience with ApplicantLab? Probably not. But it is worth the praise it receives. Anyway, another point to note which was bigly important to me is that Maria cannot function without humor. So every video she makes or paragraphs she writes she can't help but throw in a joke which always makes me chuckle. In all the stress and depression, I have been in back in September, the laughs took the edge off.

Recommendation tips


This can be tricky for a lot of people. I keep hearing from people about their recommendation challenges. A few of which turn out to be that "my recommender does not write english well" Or "my recommenders will not praise me as much as I want her to" - it happens. I realized early on that the recommendation culture in the US is very different from that in India. In India, recommendation generally means a slightly more worded version of "I know this person. He/she did well. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours" (I always make fun of how we Indians write - I am an Indian so there's no racism involved! Don't judge). But in the US, especially in the field of business school admissions, your recommender is supposed to be your cheerleader. Anything short of that put you in a territory that you really do not want to be.

Recommendation portals for your supervisors also come with a rating grid. What I (and most admission consultants) would tell you that your recommender should award you a mix of the highest and the second highest rating. I am not a big fan of this rating system because ultimately it generates a score which can be manipulated, especially if people are writing their own recommendation (which happens all the time), so it ends up being an inflated data point.

In terms of the actual recommendation letters, I would recommend figuring out stories and also giving your recommender a draft. That draft should ideally be a brainstorm or even a complete letter, and your recommender should edit/add/subtract to make it his or her own. I had very supportive recommenders, and I cannot thank them enough to write 10+ letters for me. It took a fair bit of back and forth, but I had really professional supervisors helping me out.

It would be weird not to mention the selection process of your recommenders. I think it is simple. Here are my recommendations for recommenders (lol)

Best: Current supervisor and former supervisor
Second best: Current supervisor and former indirect supervisor
Third: Indirect Supervisor and former direct supervisor
Not so great: Any other combination.

Final thoughts for all of you applying in 2018


MBA applications are tough, random, and often heartbreaking. I am a reapplicant and so are some of the extremely accomplished people I know. I strongly believe that if you have done good stuff in life, and if you have selected a range of schools that shows you are not just after superficial ranking junkie, you will get admitted. For some of you, it might take a bit longer, like it did for me. That doesn't stop you from giving your best shot.

Also, please free to ask me any MBA admission question on this thread. I respond there more than I do on PMs.

Adios!
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Originally posted by souvik101990 on 16 Mar 2018, 04:45.
Last edited by souvik101990 on 04 May 2018, 23:39, edited 3 times in total.
Added the recommendation section
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Mar 2018, 04:55
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Congrats Bro... U truly deserve it...!! Mind sharing the school to which you are admitted and your profile?? It will help 2018 Applicants like me.
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Mar 2018, 04:56

Much awaited post is here. Congratulations souvik101990. :)

I have been with you in some part of this journey and I know what you have been through.

But at the end, great battle won. Ross is lucky to have you.

All the best for your future endeavours. See you sometime in Michigan. :lol:


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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Mar 2018, 05:45
Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017!!! Good to hear souvik101990...

Sometimes you lose a battle to win WAR

Your Brief will surely inspire people like me with Work Exp 6- 10 Years

abhimahna Eagerly waiting your Adcom Exp and admits :-)
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Mar 2018, 08:09
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Congrats Bro. You had been an inspiration to many on the forum including me. ;) And thank you so much for all the help and support.

All the best for next journey with Ross! :thumbup:
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Mar 2018, 09:17
Congratulations souvik101990 ... Much awaited post :)

All the best for journey ahead.
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Mar 2018, 09:37
I am glad things worked out well for you souvik! Congratulations!
If I may, where did you get the admits from and where are you headed to?
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New post 16 Mar 2018, 09:41
Congrats Souvik , did you made it to Ross? Fantastic .
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 16 Mar 2018, 15:45
Thank you for posting and sharing your experience Souvik. While I did know your story on the background, reading it and putting it together, it almost seems crazy that you would have this bumpy of a ride taking into consideration your presence and access to information on GMAT Club. Why did you feel you needed an admissions consultant?
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 17 Mar 2018, 00:44
Added a short note on recommendation. Here's my thoughts for the ones who have already read the post.

Recommendation tips


This can be tricky for a lot of people. I keep hearing from people about their recommendation challenges. A few of which turn out to be that "my recommender does not write english well" Or "my recommenders will not praise me as much as I want her to" - it happens. I realized early on that the recommendation culture in the US is very different from that in India. In India, recommendation generally means a slightly more worded version of "I know this person. He/she did well. I wish her all the best in her future endeavours" (I always make fun of how we Indians write - I am an Indian so there's no racism involved! Don't judge). But in the US, especially in the field of business school admissions, your recommender is supposed to be your cheerleader. Anything short of that put you in a territory that you really do not want to be.

Recommendation portals for your supervisors also come with a rating grid. What I (and most admission consultants) would tell you that your recommender should award you a mix of the highest and the second highest rating. I am not a big fan of this rating system because ultimately it generates a score which can be manipulated, especially if people are writing their own recommendation (which happens all the time), so it ends up being an inflated data point.

In terms of the actual recommendation letters, I would recommend figuring out stories and also giving your recommender a draft. That draft should ideally be a brainstorm or even a complete letter, and your recommender should edit/add/subtract to make it his or her own. I had very supportive recommenders, and I cannot thank them enough to write 10+ letters for me. It took a fair bit of back and forth, but I had really professional supervisors helping me out.

It would be weird not to mention the selection process of your recommenders. I think it is simple. Here are my recommendations for recommenders (lol)

Best: Current supervisor and former supervisor
Second best: Current supervisor and former indirect supervisor
Third: Indirect Supervisor and former direct supervisor
Not so great: Any other combination.
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Have an MBA application Question? ASK ME ANYTHING!

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My GMAT Resources
V30-V40: How to do it! | GMATPrep SC | GMATPrep CR | GMATPrep RC | Critical Reasoning Megathread | CR: Numbers and Statistics | CR: Weaken | CR: Strengthen | CR: Assumption | SC: Modifier | SC: Meaning | SC: SV Agreement | RC: Primary Purpose | PS/DS: Numbers and Inequalities | PS/DS: Combinatorics and Coordinates

My MBA Resources
Everything about the MBA Application | Over-Represented MBA woes | Fit Vs Rankings | Low GPA: What you can do | Letter of Recommendation: The Guide | Indian B Schools accepting GMAT score | Why MBA?

My Reviews
How I got into five schools from zero - Applicant Lab Review
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 20 Mar 2018, 07:16
Congrats on making it to Ross. If I may ask, which schools you applied in 2017 and the schools applied now?

Thanks

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New post 29 Aug 2018, 00:10
Wow great post)
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey  [#permalink]

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New post 06 Sep 2018, 02:59
Long overdue...congrats mate. Hope your journey has got off to a great start.
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Re: Zero admits in 2016 to five admits in 2017 - My MBA Journey &nbs [#permalink] 06 Sep 2018, 02:59
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