Friday, September 14, 2012


Sunday, July 8, 2012

Moving to Tumblr

I have moved the blog to Tumblr - better, cleaner design. Kindly point your browsers accordingly going forth.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Phase I continues, Phase II beckons

Been a little while since I posted. here's what I have been upto:

1. Writing up my essays. I started with Wharton and have sort of finished two essays. I sent them to a friend for reviews and would say that I got an encouraging feedback. The good thing about my friend is that she's very constructive, knows me well enough, but wants to always push me beyond what I am to what I can be - if you have a peer who can advise you like that at work, during app season or in life - treasure them
2. Started drafting outlines for Stanford essays
3. Finalized my school list. here goes (in order of application round)
- Stanford
- Wharton
- Kellogg (RA)
- Tuck (RA)
- Cornell


Last app season I absolutely fell in love with 2 schools - Kellogg and Tuck. I applied, interviewed at Kellogg but didnt make it. This time, I am not taking NO for an answer :)

4. Watched a hell lot of movies. Some I'll review below:
 - Margin Call - Kevin Spacey movie about the last night at Wall Street before the collapse started. Very clearly tries to show you what happened at Lehman Brothers. Excellent movie, very good dialogues and being an executive recruiter. I was really intrigued by the management decision making and board room dialogues
- Gangs of Wasseypur - Brilliant Indian cinema. Inspired by Gangs of New York and then rustically transformed into a movie of the Indian hinterlands. Must watch! Anurag Kashyap - a true prodigy - delivers and how
- American Reunion - Found it to be really funny. Call me a sucker for old fashioned comedy, but it was very nostalgic watching the gang that taught me (and most Indians) more about sex than any other visual aid form
- Amazing Spider Man - OK watch. Improvements: better spiderman, better girl, better Aunt Mae, better action, better ... no wait ... first time 3D; Bad - Mundane script, low on humour, boring villain. Given how in superhero movies the hero needs to be impactful, but the villain even more so (Dark Knight anyone?) the movie is OK nothing great

The Phase I i mention above referes to starting the app process. So it obviously continues till Decemeber or so. Phase II is recommendations. My friend Cheetarah1980 wrote a great post about recos ( While I enjoyed reading it, I did feel stark differences between foreign managers and Indian managers. You can't ignore the cultural nuances and the way companies operate in different countries. So I'll give my thoughts on the recommendation process:

1. Be diplomatic - this doesnt mean lie. but as most of my Indian peers may be aware, once you announce you are applying for an MBA, some managers have the tendency to write you off as Bench material figuring you will get through. They arent well versed with the process, so will ask how mucch you scored on your GMAT. being an Indian you'll say a number that's >= 700 and Boom! their typical response 'ho hi jayegi' or loosely translated, means you'll definitely get through - no two ways about it. It doesnt matter if its Stanford or San Fernando Valley University. They assume you are going

So measure your manager, AND also your organization, very well.

2. Be honest - If you are applying, be honest and give your manager a heads up. Honesty is always appreciated no matter what, heck it may even become a talking point in your recommendation. i am a reapplicant, my boss already knows I will apply. yet I was promoted - not too many Indian firms that do that works well in consulting, but maybe not IT

3. Time it well - Indian managers need to be pushed hard to meet timelines. I reminded my boss 5 times, set calendar invites, told her secy to remind her - yet she barely managed in time for 2 schools. Plus, she didnt do work beforehand, so in Columbia's case, wrote what I can only fathom to be a bad recommendation. Get this - Columbia had a recommender question - what adjectives would you use to describe the candidate. She told me she wrote 3 words and thats it. I was aghast!

The timing is not only to write well ahead of time, but to write right! This year I will work more closely with her in terms of helping her understand what B schools expect in recos. i dont think writing your own recommendation letters is a good idea at all - and she agreed - but if you are going to end up doing that, best to have someone else (A friend) write what you dictate. then ask that friend to rephrase everything. Else your writing style will match in a heartbeat in the adcom's eyes

4. Dont overask - more than 4 recommendations per recommender is a red zone. Your manager may get irritated. Look for backups always and keep em prepared eg: im thinking of applying .. blah blah... will keep you in the loop ... blah blah ... round 2 deadlines are typically in Jan ... blah blah.

5. Choose the right recommenders - dont go for title, but if you work with someone senior, make sure they only write the reco. Eg: I work directly with the managing partner. Also, for Stanford, you want to choose a peer whom you have actually worked with, not someone who thinks well of you only. Trust me, no matter how well you write it, it will show. Also, use any b school alumni you have access to within your company.

That's pretty much it. Hope the above is useful. long post, but hopefully worthwhile.

until the next blog entry ...

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Working on those essays

So I started working on my first essay for Stanford (what do you REALLY want to do). Am toying between 2 approaches and wrote about 100 odd words before getting distracted by the Portugal Denmark match in the ongoing Euro 2012 competition. I guess building momentum is key for writing essays, and I'm starting with Stanford as I feel it's a very introspective and connected app. Will lead to clarity of thought and faster progress on other apps.

I also registered for the Stanfrd GSB event in Delhi n 13th August. Pls go to their admissions events page to check their Tavel schedule and if they are accepting registrations. Cheers!

Monday, June 4, 2012

And we're off!

Seems adcoms are up early this year from hibernation. Harvard has already released its essays along with a post explaining changes about a week ago. Tuck announced application deadlines while Columbia announced both essays and deadlines. And now, Stanford has joined in and declared the essays for the upcoming app season, although not the deadlines.

HBS and Stanford are schools I am definitely applying to and hence to have an early start on essays for these schools is very welcome. Tuck is another school I love and will probably apply to as a reapplicant.

Stanford's essays are unchanged from last year, while HBS has thrown a big surprise by revamping essays completely. I can bet my bottom dollar that the school will definitely see more people 'trying' to get in - basically HBS will end up attracting a lot of aspirers than it otherwise would, due to 'simplification' of the essays. This doesn't necessarily translate into an increase in overall applications, and hence HBS might see applicant pool quality actually go down.

I have a very interesting thought on Stanford's what matters most to you and why, and hence for the next 2 weeks or so I'm gonna write a huge essay, without caring for word limits, and see how it turns out. The topic I intend to write about is very very close to me as an individual and one I strongly believe in, plus I have umpteen examples/impacts to accompany the story. Hopefully my review team (which is composed of my friends at Yale and Wharton Business Schools, and maybe a couple of cousins) will find the first draft worthy enough to consider.

Is it too early to start? I dont think there's a definitive answer to that - to each his own. Let the proverbial juices flow!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

690 -> 690 -> 730: Finally conquered the GMAT!

Below is posted from my entry at the GMATClub Forum (

Aaaaaah! Thats my sigh of relief as I sit down to write this post. A journey that started in 2008 (more here: has finally ended today. Just got back from the test center and am delirious to report that I scored a 730 (Q49 and V42; overall 96 percentile).

I had last taken my GMAT in August of 2011 and was terribly disappointed to have scored the exact score I did in 2008 - a 690. I have always been targeting the best programs in the US, so I knew I was at a disadvantage while applying as I come from the Indian applicant pool. I know admission officers say that being an Indian doesn't put you at any disadvantage in terms of high scores, but even if I compare my score to averages at my target schools, I was below the mark. Nonetheless, buoyed by friends and many on this forum, I applied to 4 schools last year - Columbia, Tuck, Kellogg and Duke. I was interviewed at Kellogg, but finally not invited to join the class.

In retrospect, getting the Kellogg interview (in India you are invited to interview by Kellogg unlike in the US) was a major boost, and interviewing with the alum was a major insight into how unprepared I went for it :) However, what I did realize was that I could do much better on my GMAT, and basically improve this one aspect of my candidature that is in my control (work ex, career growth etc. being others).

If I look back at why I didn't improve my score last August, the major reason was overconfidence. I went into the test thinking that the 2.5 years that had passed since I took the test in Dec 08, I had become 'wiser' just based on my life experiences. The GMAT brought me back to the ground - I was down in the dumps. After my app season got over, I could see with much more clarity as to why I needed to improve my GMAT score, not merely because I should being an Indian applicant, but because I wasn't doing justice to my candidature by showing a score that didn't reflect my true academic potential - for example, I have always ranked very high in English/Verbal examinations throughout school, and even at work am lauded for my English speaking/writing skills. I read a lot as well, and hence I thought I wasnt performing up to the mark in Verbal (I scored 35 in Verbal in my last GMAT). I have always been good at Math but a little slow. In both tests, I remained at 48, so my assumption was that I could improve my math to 49 maybe 50, but need to REALLY focus on Verbal - plus what better way of differentiating yourself from the Indian applicant pool than by outdoing most of the demographic in this section :)

My retake strategy was as follows:

1. Take the GMAT before the format changes - I was (un)fortunate to be in the testing window where test takers got a preview of the section. I HATED it and didnt want to take it. However, when it came to choosing dates, I was in a dilemma. i had started thinking about retaking the GMAT in Jan/Feb and thought I'd retake in March. However, better sense prevailed and I thought about delaying the test as much as possible, to allow myself maximum time to practice rather than rushing into it. This proved to be a great decision as 1) I was doing extremely well at work and hence a lot of pressure came about in March-April, thus not allowing me really to practice on the test, and 2) I made a plan to visit my sister in the US in April. I thought I'd go visit some schools and get inspired - I went to Wharton, attended class, loved it, and came back extremely motivated to do well

2. I focused a LOT on Verbal instead of Quant. I read the SC guide by Manhattan. At work where thankfully is not blocked (but is - Hurray for BB!) I practiced a random question in verbal/quant as much as I could. Deliberately started reading more - Fortune, Forbes, NYTimes etc. and analyzing sentence structures. Helped me A LOT!

3. Did practice tests as often as I could. Did MGMAT tests 3 times (yes 3 X 6 = 18 tests!) but not really in the testing sense. I used to look at the question, attempt it, then search online and see if I did right or wrong - basically, I realized that once the test is over I am very lazy to really go into analysis mode. So the only way to keep analyzing was to do a live assessment. Hence, most of my MGMAT scores were >760 but I never took them as an indication of my actual performance. However, analyzing questions immediately helped me tremendously.

4. I saved the GMATPrep for last. Did 2 tests - one I did last week where I got a 770. Some of the questions were known to me as I had done the GMATPrep tests multiple time, so again I didnt let the score dictate my actual performance (do note, I kept my overconfidence in check!) The last test, I took yesterday and simulated the GMAT conditions as much as I could - got a 730

I had made up my mind that come what may, I wouldn't take this test lightly, won't go out saturday night etc. A very (hot) girl, who's a friend of mine, invited me to go out with her last night to a club. She had been under medication for a while and hence hadn't partied for long, and she actually said I want to get hammered tonight - GOD was really testing me. r much control I said No and stay put at home. Slept at 11 PM woke up at 7 AM feeling very refreshed. Btw, an interesting thing happened (Murphy's Law?) When I took my GMAT last year, I contracted viral fever 2 days before. This time something different happened - the electricity in our building went off and the power backup failed - which means I was trying to fall asleep in the arid Delhi hear (35-40 degree celsius yesterday night). However, God was kind - after an hour, the power backup was resuscitated and I slept peacefully around 12 AM.

Had a bath, ate a bar of Snickers and drank Red Bull on my way to the test center. Reached in time, smiled at the invigilator when he was explaining the rules - I had been through them too many times now - and started my test. Analysis of Argument/Issue were fine. Have a very fast typing speed so ended with more than 10 minutes in each case. Took a break, took a deep breath, prayed and started Quant.

Overall level varied from Moderate to Difficult. Overall, there were 5-7 VERY tough questions that ate my time. In fact I had only 3 mins for the last 2 and I got them both wrong. After I ended my exam, I went outside for  the break and solved both questions in my head. Both took only a minute to solve mentally, but I succumbed to pressure - could have easily gotten a 50 on my Quant. Of course I didn't know this then, so I thought I may have just screwed up my quant, and hence really really focused my energy on verbal.

Verbal was pretty OK to say the least - 1 RC was tough, no boldface questions but 2-3 complete the argument types. I clicked next after the section ended and next, next next etc. until I came to the screen about reporting test scores. I closed my eyes, prayed for 1 minute to God, saying that if you deem me suitable enough to become what I dream of becoming, please let the score be >720. I first saw Quant at 49 and was aghast - I thought I had blown it. Then I saw verbal at 42 and immediately the total. Pumped my fist in the air, feeling like I had conquered the world, and thanked god for the amazing result.

Came out, went to the loo and released the tremendous pressure built inside, and exited. Called my dad who told me he's proud of me, and this my friends completed my day out with the GMAT. I have a blog ( where I very bravely stated that my target school this year is HBS. I very enthusiastically wrote that I will score above 720 - and I did. One small step for business school, One giant leap for a kick-ass career!

Thanks to everyone on this forum - you all make it what it is. I look forward to now interacting with everyone on my (successful) app cycle.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Review Update

Forgot to add that all school snapshots are absolutely FREE!!!

Also pls excuse spelling errors below. The iPad after all is not as miraculous as we feel it is.