Kellogg and Tepper – Ding #2 and Ding #3 + Updates

So March 25th was D-day for both Kellogg and Tepper, but since I pretty much knew what the outcome was going to be, I didn’t really care that much to be honest. Kellogg waived my interview and anecdotal evidence showed quite early on that once you’re waived, it’s pretty much over for you. At least, that’s how it was this admissions cycle, particularly if you’re Indian.

I’d like to say I was surprised that Tepper dinged me, but I’m not. My essays for Tepper were hastily edited versions of my essays from other schools, and trust me, it showed. In hindsight, it was dumb of me to apply just for the heck of it. I hadn’t spoken to any current students, I had no real connection with the school and I applied anyway because I thought it was ‘safe’. Don’t make the same mistake I did! I don’t know exactly how, but your interest (or lack thereof) in a school’s program can be clearly gauged by the admissions committee. They can see right through a last minute application, so even if your stats look good on paper, you will have a tough time of it. I also noticed a typo in my essay a week or so ago. This is what happens when you blearily try to mishmash content from three other essays at 3 a.m, two hours before the deadline. I repeat, don’t do this!

To prove the point I made above, I interviewed at Anderson, which for all intents and purposes is more ‘difficult’ to get into than Tepper and the only reason I made it this far is because I worked my butt off on that one essay and I spoke to at least 5 different students throughout the process. The result will be out on April 2nd, not too far away now.

How am I dealing? Well, mentally I’m prepared for a ding. With five other dings already, it’s not that much of a stretch. I’ve been trying to shift out of my engineering function into product management, which was basically my post MBA goal anyway. I figure if I have to reapply next year, it might be good to show that I’ve already made that shift. Besides, it’s where my true interests lie so I’m going to be much happier there. I’m also going to be heading to South Africa for about 10 days in May. It will be my second trip to this gorgeous country and I can’t wait to take a break from all this madness and come back refreshed to do it all over again.

Also, congratulations to everyone who’s made it to their target schools… looking at you Scott and My Life of Bliss!

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UCLA Anderson Interview Debrief

I just finished my interview with a second year student from UCLA Anderson and it went so much better than I imagined it would! I think I got lucky on several counts. Firstly, my interviewer was a woman. This was actually a perfect match since a lot of my leadership stories are related to the struggles of being a woman in the male-dominated tech industry and it seemed like she could really relate. Secondly, she also comes from a background in technology so I’m certain that all of my stories made sense to her. Finally, she was just a really nice, fun person to talk to! Lots of smiles, lots of jokes and just a real sense of comfort that I have yet to experience in an MBA interview. No awkwardness whatsoever! What also helped was the fact that it was a Skype interview, so I was sitting in the comfort of my bedroom and it felt like I was talking to a friend across the continent. Overall, a great experience.

Okay now getting down to the details that might actually help applicants who are yet to interview. She started off by telling me about herself and her background really briefly. Then onto the questions:

  1. Walk me through your resume: She said she had my resume in front of her, so she didn’t want me to go into too much detail. I just gave her a brief overview of everything in there, focusing more on the reasons behind my career choices and my biggest achievements.
  2. Why MBA: I kind of had to throw in my short term and long term goals here briefly to answer why an MBA but I didn’t go into too much detail because I knew a separate question would be coming up. I explained myself briefly mentioning why specifically an MBA at UCLA.
  3. Why UCLA Anderson: She wanted me to go into more detail about why UCLA specifically, so after covering the basics like location, weather and LA, I got more specific and spoke about the classes I wanted to take and the resources that are offered. She actually said that one particular class that I named was an excellent class and that I should definitely take it.
  4. Why now: I think this was a really important question, but I feel like I nailed it mostly because I want to work in a niche, product technology space that is really going to boom in the next 5-10 years so for me the timing is everything.
  5. Short term and long term goals: The usual. Just have to be really clear about what it is you want to do, why you want to do it and most importantly, how it makes sense considering your experience so far.
  6. Story about leadership: I chose a story where I wasn’t directly leading people, but influencing them. It wasn’t a very conventional story, but she actually said it was a perfect answer to this particular question so it paid off.
  7. Story about dealing with conflict: I think more than the actual background to the story, it’s important to show what you did to resolve the issue at hand. I’m not entirely happy with this one because I went into too much detail about the situation, rather than talking about what I learnt from the experience.
  8. Strength and weakness: More than the actual strengths and weaknesses, I tried to show how the former would be useful to me at Anderson and how I would try to work on the latter at Anderson. Basically connecting the question to reinforce why UCLA.

Once I finished answering all these questions, we were at about 25 minutes so she opened the floor for any questions I had. Her enthusiasm for the school was infectious and everything she said about the school was spot on. She even gave me some advice in the end about making the most of your MBA experience that I have written down (it really was that good). I also managed to squeeze in a few activities that I would love to be a part of at Anderson during the last few minutes as an organic part of our conversation. I guess the only thing I’m slightly disappointed she didn’t ask was about my life outside work, because hey, I’m a fascinating person 😛 but the rest of it went well so I really can’t complain.

After it was over, I sent her a quick thank you note and that was it! The interview was super casual and friendly, much like Anderson students themselves and I have no doubt in my mind that it is a great school. I’m just going to have to keep my fingers crossed till the 2nd of April, which luckily isn’t too far away. Best of luck to everyone else who interviewed/is waiting to interview!