Thursday, December 22, 2011

Houston ... we have a problem!

So I didn't make it to Kellogg. I put in EVERYTHING I could into the application and it yielded results. I got an interview invite - despite a 690 in my gmat and 3 years WE at matriculation. I am looking at the positives of my experience - an interview invite despite the 'negative' aspects of my application, the whole application experience, the anxiety, the waiting, the speculation etc. and hence, I am in much better shape to face the admissions process next year. I was hoping for an interview invite from Duke but didn't get one. Tuck seems a real DISTANT dream now. So for me, the app season 2011-12 is effectively over.

Here's the plan going forward:

1. Retake the GMAT and score above 740. Take the test before the test switches to its new format
2. Study VERY well this time - don't be over confident
3. Make a list of schools post the GMAT. Start working on essay drafts in June using last year's questions. Even if questions change, the whole process will yield significant value in increasing clarity
4. Apply ED/Round 1 to selected schools. Start working proactively in July
5. Get feedback from friends on essays. Then engage an editing service (essaysnark?) to edit essays for the school I MOST want to get in
6. Wait and hope I don't die of depression by this time next year

Schools I want apply at basis current frame of mind and assuming a 740 on my GMAT

1. Harvard
2. Stanford
3. Wharton
4. Tuck
5. Kellogg

1. Ross
2. Cornell

So here's until the next post. I didn't really say I was off blogging now did i ;)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Kellogg Interview

So today I had my first MBA interview. It was with a Kellogg alumnus in Gurgaon at his office. There was something unsettling about it though, as it was a hospital and seeing critical patients being whizzed in and out while I waited in the lounge hardly made me feel comfortable. Anyways, his office had a great view outside - the office had full length windows. I entered and he was busy with his computer. I said Hi Good Afternoon, he said the same and asked me to sit. He spent the next 2 minutes engrossed in his laptop, then the conversation began. Btw, although I had already emailed him my resume, he asked me for it - glad I took the printouts with me.

He asked me about me - gave him a brief overview of my grad + work ex. He smiled and said thats only about work, not really about you. I thought to myself, you idiot! after all, whenever I interview and ask this question, I too always expect the person sitting across the chair to tell me about themselves holistically, not just about work. So I proceeded to give him some information about me - family, soccer fanaticism and love for skiing. And also about my stand up comedy thingey.

Then he asked me a couple of questions regarding the things I had put in the extra curricular part in my resume. Answered those. Then he asked me about an MBA. Told him about my short term and long term goals, why I think I need the MBA, why MBA and not a specialized masters in HR and so on. He didn't look convinced, grilled me a bit on why HR in consumer industries, why international companies etc. Think I answered them fine. Then asked me for plan B, I showed dedication to purpose here and didn't waiver from my answer about finding a job in HR. Also told him that I am aware about the challenges of coming to Kellogg, maybe not finding enough support on campus regarding HR jobs, but linked it to my experience and said I would handle it.

He then asked me about strengths and weaknesses - I didn't answer this well. Weaknesses were actually quite weak themselves and I actually said I hadn't done well in teams although I had worked on it! Not sure how he will take that. We spoke more around why kellogg - i think i answered this really well. He asked me why would he want me sitting next to him in class. Said something about being amiable and pleasant but he said I dont think I'd want to pay $100K only to sit next to someone pleasant. I said the $100K direct relation was a bit stretched but went on to tell him about how I'd contribute to class, the enthusiasm I would bring in and my contributions outside of class in clubs etc.

He then again asked me about career related questions, answered those. Then he asked me if there was something else I would like to say that wasn't already addressed etc. - did that. Then asked him 2 questions - 1 on clubs as I had noted he was a member of the Improv and Net Impact club and I too wanted to join these. He asked me how I knew that he was in those clubs, told him about having read the newsletter. Gave me some thoughts on these. Also asked him about the alumni club in India, linked that to a conversation I had with another Kellogg alumnus. In the end we said our byes and I made a comment which made him laugh. I also made him smile 3-4 times during the interview.

All in all, I am unsure of how it went. Could I have done better - yes! but that would almost always hold true for any interview. Was this my best attempt at an interview - NO, and that is the more important aspect. I could have spoken about my community involvement, but I didn't - felt stupid about that afterwards. Anyways, what's done is done. I'll hope for a positive outcome and the next 3 weeks will furiously speculate on how today went.

How did I prepare for the interview? - well I din't do much. I ordered a seminar for $30 off which was quite useless for me. I asked for help from a friend I made during the app process, and she was kind to have a mock interview with me on skype. I must point out that Elizabeth (cheetarah1980) has been TREMENDOUSLY helpful! I sincerely wish she and I both make it to Kellogg - would love to have her as my classmate.

So done with the interview and now unsure of what next. My application at Duke and Tuck continues to be under review and I will hear from Duke only by 14th Dec and Tuck - god knows by when! Hoping for the best ....

Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Interview and a Movie

I am absolutely THRILLED about getting an invitation to interview for Kellogg! After having my interview waived earlier, I was fearing a ding at the school. I understand my stats aren't really with me - 690 GMAT, 3 years WE at matriculation, non IIT. But getting this invite is a HUGE morale booster for me - makes me think that the thought process behind my applications was pretty good after all! I emailed my interviewer today, and should hopefully be interviewing with him sometime early next week. I am traveling this week, so will utilize that time to get hold of some resources to better prepare for what may be my only interview this season.

I am still in two minds about applying to Cornell for their MBA/MILR program. Let's see, will work on the essays and ask for the recommendations. Deadline is 30th Nov, so have some time before I need to apply. Will speak with some current students as well.

I saw Rockstar yesterday
The movie started on a very promising note. The music is ABSOLUTELY brilliant. Although you always expect A R Rahman to do really well on his score, this outscores most other soundtracks. The songs "Tum Ho', "Jo bhi Main", "Phir Se Ud Chala", "Saada Haq" and "Katiya Karun" are brilliant. However, the story is OK - nothing you haven't seen before - and the execution is very poor. Ranbir kapoor's acting is solid, and this is probably his best performance ever. Nargis Fakhri is a statue - she can be admired when still, but acting is just not her thing. Dialogue delivery is poor and her face kinds screws up when she talks. Overall, not really a highly recommended watch. Also, this is the second movie where AR Rahman has had injustice done to him - his soundtracks for Rockstar and Delhi 6 are probably the best he has ever come up with. However, in both movies, songs weren't metted out the treatment they should have gotten on screen. Picturization was poor and sometimes even the whole song did not play out on screen.

Anyways, as mentioned the next week or so would be completely devoted to prepping for my Kellogg interview. Hoping I do the best I can ...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tuck Submitted

I just submitted the application for Tuck ... well not just, submitted yesterday. It is my absolute favourite school, and I have resolved that even if I don't make it anywhere this year, retaking the GMAT next year will solely be focused on Tuck. Here's why:

1. Human Process - The overall vibes I got from the school were the most 'human' amongst all business school What do I mean by Human - well for starters their alumni and students do not have any airs at all about themselves and where they went to study. Amazing people. I got a response from each and every Tuckie I reached out to, some followed up even though I sometimes forgot to do so. Their comments were amazing - one of the alumnus told me straight up that if I wanted to go to Tuck, my essays needed to have different career goals. The ones I had wont fly. Other schools such as Columbia, their alumni were so stuck on the brand name that they never put up a red flag! They were like 'well everyone's doing something or the other, so I'm sure you'll be able to carve out your own niche here'

2. Beautiful Environs - I haven't been there, but I've seen official and amateur videos+pics of the place. And it is stupendously beautiful. The small class sizes and beautiful setting is idyllic, and something that really draws me to Tuck. Why not a Duke/Cornell then? well they do too, but Tuck's overall repute and strong focus on general mgmt. edge them out

3. Amazing faculty - Tuck has the highest % of full time faculty, and when a school commits to such a high number of faculty, their commitment shows right back. Saw essays via youtube of classes at almost all the b schools I applied at - Prof. Finkelstein clearly stood out.

4. Career services - I am not too well versed with this aspect, but seems Tuck always figures in the top 3, if not the top, schools with the highest % of students in jobs 3 months after graduation. Wow! - talk about consistency and the career services commitment, not to mention the school's amazing brand name

5. Alumni - this is clearly an outlier. I rate their alumni network the strongest, and got a sense of it when I spoke with students. Not one person was there who did NOT exemplify how strong the network is. And the stories were remarkable. Compare that to a Wharton, where even the alumni who lived in Delhi itself, met for the first time at the admissions reception only. You may feel that this can be quite common, and I agree - but that's exactly how tuck stands out!

Anyways, my rant here is just to show how much i absolutely love the school. As I wait with bated breath (read that somewhere, too dramatic) I sincerely hope that even if I get rejected w/o interview everywhere else, I make it to Tuck. Will probably not ever want anything else in life, well atleast for the next 2 years ;)

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Consultants ... yet again!

So I exchanged some emails with EssaySnark - awesome guy/girl/persons. Gave me a lot of good gyan on applications and general advice. Felt very 'human' about my application, speaking with them - something like Tuck's admission process.

I also got a review done by Precision Essay and all I can say is Wow! - amazing stuff! Their high quality of edits was phenomenal - especially as they gave me a high level suggestion on how to improve my essays instead of just pointing out what the shortcomings were. Recommend folks get a free review done by these guys - would be very helfpul

Moving along

After Duke, my (hoepfully) last application is at Tuck. I had actually intended the Tuck app to be my first. Wanted to apply EA but my recommender had some issues at his end and absolutely said NO to submitting within the timelimit. To be fair, he was extremely apologetic but I empathize with him as he was facing a personal issue within his family. Knowing that he would be able to provide the best reference, I waited to submit in Round 1 instead of EA.

I have realized that as we move along the application process, the quality of essays substantially increases. If I compare what I submitted at Columbia and what I will be submitting now at Tuck, there is a WORLD of difference. Does this mean applicants should save their most important apps for last? not quite. I think in this respect, admissions consultants add the maximum value as they cut to the chase and take an essay from mediocre to wow immediately. For someone like me who cannot afford the consulting service the price we pay is late realization around actual quality an individual can produce.

However, there are upsides as well. I used beatthegmat and gmatclub forums, and had many users there give me their opinions on my essays. I believe they helped me tremendously. I then used a cheaper proofreading service to check my essays for errors etc. I sent them 2 essays first, and once I got the results, I sent them the others. Was very happy with what they had done. I recommend Great rates, good turnaround time and very good edits. Coming back to the upsides, I was able to make new friends, had a holistic quai consulting experience with them and now know what to compare my consultant with, if I ever hire one. Further, I did a LOT of research which I am sure I wouldn't have done if I hired an admissions consultant, as he would have all that data ready with him.

That said, all school have now released some interview invites and it is quite disheartening to read the messages on gmatclub etc. announcing interview invites. Some of the posts made by those invited to interview (how do I log in? What kind of username makes sense? When should I interview - later or sooner, what time?) are so ridiculous, it makes me clench my teeth in annoyance as to how such individuals could be interviewing at schools like Harvard! I can't speak about other demographics, but seeing Indian students pose such questions really pisses me off! I have always been someone who concentrates a lot on the softer skills (presentation, diction, dressing sense, sensibility of conversation) and hence my displeasure.

One thing I advise anyone who reads this blog and wants to get as much of 'free' stuff that they can, is to use the free editing services some companies provide. be selective here though, because everyone will give you different views and given that you feel these are credible authorities, they may end up confusing you real bad. I highly recommend essaysnark ( for his (or her?) humourous undertone to the GMAT and MBA admissions. I submitted an essay to them a week or two ago, and they reviewed it yesterday. (
I was very happy to get a good review from them, and the parts they have mentioned are lacking are actually present in my essay, albeit the structural issue they mentioned is very valid. I am rooting for an interview invite from Kellogg. EssaySnark too felt my essay 4 was really good, and I felt the same. But an application is an overall package so cannot really base my hopes on just one review.

I got comments on my Tuck essays from two current students. One of them gave a glowing review, another felt the content was good, but some things needed to be added/deleted and the structure modified. Will work on these before submitting on the 9th.

Here's to much more waiting ahead!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Duke Application

Just hit submit. I am unsure of how this will go - application went in but I felt I didn't really push it that much. lets see.

I am REALLY pepped about my application to Tuck but my low GMAT score is sure to play spoilsport. If I apply next year, it will only be Stanford, Harvard, Kellogg and Tuck. Hopefully, it won't reach that stage.

Reading about others getting that interview invite, while you are yet to see such an email, is really depressing. God! hope that changes soon,

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Admissions Consulting

Admissions consulting companies are a result of the immensely convoluted MBA admissions process that schools have set up. While admissions officers say they want to hear about the real 'You', they don't mention that they also want to read an impressive application - i.e. the structure, flow etc. should be very different and surprising. how do you anticipate a student will do that now - I don't really buy their BS about writing in your own unique voice etc. Come on - would you really want to admit an Indian applicant who can't write well? The GMAT is coachable, you could do well on your verbal without really being good in English. And the applicant, assuming he is aware of what aspects of his application he falters in - such as essay writing - will definitely seek external help. Anyways, I too spoke with 3-4 admissions consultants for an initial review of my candidature. What follows is my experience and what I thought of the consultant in particular

- Stacy Blackman - I spoke with Bill Chonis. He was an awesome person to speak with, very courteous and knew his stuff. Said I had shots at the schools I intended to apply to. I agreed with his assessment (not of schools but generally) and he would have been my #2 choice if I did pay a consultant to help me

- Amerasia - Spoke with Paul. he's plain awesome. Amazing insights, means business - won't give you BS around well I have seen XYZ type of people getting in so you have a chance too - says what he wants to upfront and these end up being effective candid views. Would have definitely hired him if I had the money

- Adam Makus - he's too stuck up - I think he is only good for Japanese clients maybe or those who have immaculate stats and will get in for sure, thereby making it safe for himself in terms of acceptance rates

- Aringo - Spoke with Karin, their CEO. She was alright, gave me a good rate but am not sure whether I want to use their hourly rate or no

- Accepted - Spoke with someone I dont remember her name. She also said I could be competent basis my atypical profile, and was very nice to speak to. Her experience showed in the way she spoke to me and what all she recommended

- Clear Admit - I was supposed to speak with one of their consultants who's ex Columbia Business Scool (forgot her name) but she was a bit unprofessional - she never called, and always had issues in fixing up a time to spk. I think she's one of their busiest consultants so maybe thats the case. I did speak to someone else (again dont remember the name - its been long) but she was good

Essay editing - haven;t paid anyone as of yet but I think Essay Snark is really good - humourous guy/team that gives great insights. Also heard decent things about Essay Critique

All in all - Indian applicants do have some disadvantages - from an applicant pool perspective and also from the fact that they can't afford to get consultants to help them. I think there are 2 types of Indians who use these consulting services

1. They come from filthy rich backgrounds such as my friend who hired a personal consultant (single man service, one of the best) and paid him $6,000 for 2-3 schools. He got into 1 which was in the top 10 and matriculated. $6,000 is Rs. 300,000 or half of the total yearly compensation of an Analyst at Bain & Co.

2. They are consultants/IT folks who go abroad on client projects, save on their per diem and use that money (as they get it in $s) for such things

Anyways, I am firmly continuing in my own journey, consultant-less

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Story Thus Far ...

Background: I am an Indian Applicant. I grew up in a city called Chandigarh and graduated with a degree in Computer Engineering from Panjab University - that's right, that's how you spell it. I scored in the 99.8th percentile in my CAT exam and 99.92 percentile in my XAT. I successfully converted admissions calls at IIM Lucknow and XLRI, but chose to work instead (indians - I know you may be gasping at this!) Have almost 3 years of work ex now, first in the research captive of a major consulting firm, working across HR, internal strategy and operations. Now with a leading executive search firm, helping clients face complexities in evolving organziational models and also aiding them in inducting new leadership as they grow organically/inorganically.

GMAT history - taken 2 times, and got identical scores - 690 - even split across Math and Verbal. GMAT is a weak point in my profile I think - Indian students always score high on the test, and I would have too. First time, i wasn't well prepared actually but the second time, I came down with a 103 fever for 2 days, right upto the day before the actual test. The gap between the two attempts was 2.5 years.

Applications - reasoning that it would be better to spend $250 on a solid MBA app this year than retake the exam, i am applying to Columbia Business School, Tuck @ Dartmouth, Duke Fuqua and Kellogg - all round 1. I actually applied ED to Columbia and was rejected, wanted to apply EA to Tuck but my recommender had some issues and I am pushing this to Round 1.

Post MBA Goal and reason I need an MBA - Grow into the CHRO role at a major corporation such as P&G or GE. Need to go to business school and learn about management and leadership. The role as I have seen it as a consultant (through exec. search experience) today needs a strong connect to business and strategic foresight, unlike previously when HR was just another support function and getting an MBA for your HR leader wasn't really a big issue. basically, I am preparing for the future. NOW - because the earlier I switch to a line role in HR, the better as it is more to do with learning on the job. however, I do need to equip myself with the business and management intelligence to be effective and ready, which I am seeking to do by becoming a part of the class of 2014

Previous applications: Had applied to 2 masters courses - MILR at Cornell and MSc Management at LSE. Got accepted to both but thought it would make more sense for me to invest in a solid business degree recognized globally, than a selected program, too narrow in focus. Plus wouldn't have been able to go then anyways given financial issues.

Backup Plan - I wont apply anywhere else this year. If I don't make it, I intend to retake the GMAT in the summer of 2012, before the format changes. WilL ENSURE that I don't mess up this time, neither let anything else like health let me down, get a 720+ and apply to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg and Tuck

The Prospective's Guide to an MBA: The Setup and the Name Choice

The Prospective's Guide to an MBA: The Setup and the Name Choice: Well, as I sit in my room wondering how I can kill time, I think why not start a blog? Maybe thats how (great) blogs are born - out of bored...

The Setup and the Name Choice

Well, as I sit in my room wondering how I can kill time, I think why not start a blog? Maybe thats how (great) blogs are born - out of boredom. That, and an intent to share with the world one's thoughts and views on various topics. I also think a key driver to setup a blog is when you have something you want to write about, just so you get feedback and help from those around you, on subjects you are currently confused about. It is this last reason that is most compelling in my case to setup this blog.

I am currently in hot pursuit of an MBA in the US, and having gone through many blogs of others which have helped me along the way, I hope I can be regular enough to hopefully help others around me some day, well atleast those who somehow stumble upon this blog.

The choice of name "UnClearAdmit" is a play on words on the infamous admissions consulting company - Clear Admit. No offense to them, in fact they are an inspiration with their insights into the complicated process of applying to B schools and the baggage that comes along with. However, as I sit at home today and reflect on what has transpired thus far, it is all the more clear to me that I am really ... an unClear Admit. There is NO visibility whatsoever as to what the outcome of this admissions season will be. And hence, I chose the name. I initially checked for Zazzles - please dont get me wrong. It has nothing to do with my fascination with such words. I am a big fan of the Big Bang Theory, and the way Sheldon Cooper (real life - Jim parsons), uses this word, its hillarious. It wasn't available - I guess many 'nerds' in the cyberspace blogging based on The Big Bang Theory names - however as I was brainstorming, suddenly UnClear Admit came to mind. i checked, and Voila! the name was available.

I do understand that if and when this blog becomes famous, although that is not the intent as I write tonight, I may receive an email from the ClearAdmit team. But until then, here's to what I hope will be regular blogging! Cheers and godspeed to all applicants this fall