I started this blog in 2014 and it’s taken till 2016 for me to come full circle.
After a wait of 517 days (1 year, 4 months and 29 days, but who’s counting?) since I first started this process, I’m ecstatic to announce that I’m going to be a proud member of the UCLA Anderson Class of 2018.
Okay, back to business. I couldn’t be happier with my choice and I now realize that there is nowhere else I’d rather be. Throughout the ups and downs of the entire admissions process, I’ve always believed that I would end up where I was supposed to be. Life has a way of working out, you know? I mean it’s hard to keep sight of that when you’re staring at your third rejection letter and your career is looking bleaker than Leo’s prospects of winning an Oscar – but you just gotta keep the faith and motor on (which is what I did plus a lot of binge eating, binge watching and binge regretting).
I chose not to document the entire process this time around – to be honest, I was sick of doing it without having anything to show for it. But now that I’ve actually gotten in, I’m going to dissect everything I did differently this time around for the benefit of applicants and reapplicants everywhere (I feel your pain). I also have this faint idea of continuing to blog during the MBA, although I’m not sure how realistic that would be.
In the meantime, anyone looking for help, advice or a shoulder to cry on, go ahead and send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to help!
So after many, many, many hours of internal debate that resulted in a lot of hair pulling and crabbiness, I have finally decided on my school list. I think I have been a little wiser in my choices this time around and I think each of them would be a good fit for me. It’s really weird though, when I started out, literally none of these schools were on my radar. This is mostly because I started out thinking I wanted to get into consulting post MBA and now I’ve done a complete u-turn by deciding to stay in the tech industry.
I know that I want to be an entrepreneur in the long term and I thought that consulting would get me there eventually. But when I actually sat down to evaluate the progression of my career, it made more sense to go another route, and that would be Product Management. It’s a pretty newish role in the industry but it’s growing by leaps and bounds each year. It allows me to leverage my experiences so far because I am an engineer, I work in a product development startup, the startup I founded is in the e-commerce space, I have a lot of experience in the technical aspects of developing a product and it just makes logical sense as a career path. So I can definitely say that I have a better handle on my story and how I’m going to market myself.
Weirdly enough, I had this revelation in the middle of writing essays for my R1 apps and my essays did say that I want to become a Product Manager at a leading tech firm, but by then the school choices had already been made and it was too late. Duke is still fine, since a lot of tech companies do recruit from there so my goals must have made some sense, but Yale was a complete washout. I shouldn’t have applied in the first place.
Anyway having cleared that up in my head, I know what kind of schools I should be looking at, especially to achieve my career goals. I want a focus on entrepreneurship, and a school that is welcoming to younger applicants and has great tech firms/startups visiting campus and so, drumroll please.
Berkeley Haas Kellogg MMM
Booth is where I really want to be and I think I do actually have a good chance of getting in. I am most doubtful about my chances at Haas since the acceptance rates are ridiculous but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t apply but I’m going to have to live with it because I changed my mind and I have Vandana to thank/blame 😉 Okay, I’m lying. I owe her my unborn children because she has been a massive help and I can’t thank her enough. I knew before that the Kellogg MMM program was a great fit, but I couldn’t decide between this and Haas. I mean the MMM program is quite literally customized to fit with my career goals and what maaaaay have factored into the decision was the fact that I’d need to write the TOEFL and three long essays for Haas. Ummm… sue me, I’m lazy. UCLA Anderson is so close to the Valley, as is Haas which makes both at least one of them of no-brainers. If I had the time, I would have thrown Stanford into the mix, because, well Stanford. But hey, if I don’t get in this year, I plan to quit my full time job and scale my startup by about a 100x. Quite a few VCs have been feeling my company out, but I’ve just been dragging my feet because I honestly feel like I need an MBA to plug the holes in my skill set before we open up to investors. That’s actually why I decided I need an MBA sooner rather than later. I guess I’ll come to that when it happens.
My days are so packed, I literally have no time to breathe. GMAT prep, reaching out to current students, drafting my essays, dealing with work. It’s like I can’t catch a break. I am desperately waiting for the weekend.
I’m considering a very difficult decision. Insanity maybe? I don’t know. I’m thinking about retaking the GMAT before Round 2 deadlines with a goal of scoring at least a 750 this time. I know my weakness: I’m a very young applicant. I have a great GPA, great extracurriculars, great work experience (quality wise) but my GMAT as a consultant told me is “average”.
I’m pretty decent at taking standardised tests and I’m sure that with proper preparation I can beat the 710 I have. But I am worried about how I’m going to manage this with work, my startup, my volunteering work and actual applications. On the flip-side, having a really strong GMAT score could make me stand out and offset the damage I do to their admission statistics with my paltry work experience by increasing the average GMAT score.
Now, another sign that I’m losing my mind is that I am considering applying to Booth in Round 2. Yep. You heard me right. A school that is ranked way above Duke and practically up there with H/S/W. Why you ask? Primarily because this: Chicago Booth Early Career Candidates
…the Admissions Committee will bear in mind the applicant’s proximity to the college experience when considering factors such as leadership, supervision experience, and academic success.
I found myself checking off everything on that list. BUT, and this is a huge but, the average age is still about 28 though with 4.5 years of work experience. Does that mean I’m reading too much into this whole pitch they have for early career candidates? Well apart from this, I like the fact that the program is extremely analytical and personalized, and they have a great focus on entrepreneurship and non-conformity. I am still debating this internally, but I must admit a 750 would make me feel a little better about applying here. NaijaMBAGal, any insights? 😛
Other than that, I’m still deliberating my list. Cornell Johnson is definitely in there and I’m debating between Ross and maybe UCLA (didn’t think I’d want to be on the West Coast, but oh well). So if not this year, then what? I’m going to rethink my job situation and work towards getting into a top 10 school next year. Until then, decisions decisions.
UPDATE: A few hours after I wrote this post, thanks to some helpful feedback from gnpth and mbablackgirl, I decided what the heck and booked my date for the GMAT. 23rd December it is. It will be my third attempt (630, 710 and ?). I did absolutely no extra preparation between attempt 1 and attempt 2 so I have no idea how I managed that. Worst case, I get a score lower than 710 and I cancel it. Best case I get a 750+. Seems quite low risk to me so I took the plunge. Is it weird that I’m excited about taking the test?
Hello everyone! It’s been nearly 10 days since I last posted and a lot has happened since then. It’s amazing how 10 days can be a lifetime in this process, because I feel like a lot has changed in such an insignificant amount of time. First off, I attended a Fuqua information session last Sunday, hosted by Jake Kiser and I was not disappointed. Although I felt like I already knew most of what was being said, simply because I’ve spent hours reading the website and student blogs, it was interesting to see the kind of people Fuqua looks for. The session was attended by four local alumni as well and they were able to give a lot of context to slightly abstract terms like “Team Fuqua”, “collaboration” and “giving back to the community”.
The turnout was far higher than I expected, but suffice to say, a lot of the questions asked were cringe worthy. But Jake and the alumni were really nice and answered everything with a lot of juicy anecdotes and stories. Before this session, I was already fond of Duke simply because I heard so much about it from my family friend. The way he described it just made me feel like it was the right place for me. After this session, I just fell in love with Fuqua even more.
I feel very reassured about my decision to apply Early Action to Fuqua because I can’t wait to be a part of this family. I love basketball (I played for my school’s women’s basketball team) and so the more I hear about the Blue Devils, the more I want to watch them play. Also Campout! Fuqua Friday! Climbing the wall! Gah. I just want to get into Fuqua and be done with the entire process already. Yale comes close, but not as close as Fuqua already is to my heart. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket though, so I’m trying to be more rational about this and split my time between schools equally.
I have a list of 30 things for my “25 Random Things” essay which I need to cut down. I’m quite happy with my list because it pretty much describes me as a person. When it comes to the “Why Fuqua” essay, I’m trying not get too poetic and dreamy because I just sound like a love-struck idiot… but that may not necessarily be a bad thing.
Hope y’alls GMAT prep is going well! I’m getting a head start on my Southern accent 😀
It’s official. I’m removing Darden from my list of schools and putting Fuqua into the mix instead. Darden did tick a lot of boxes for me, but as good as it is for consulting, I don’t want to put myself under an undue amount of stress and pressure. I’m not saying that an MBA should be a breeze, but I don’t want to spend all of my time cooped up indoors. As an engineering grad with a 9+ GPA, I’ve spent enough time with my nose stuck to a book. I want to have enough time to really explore the campus, get involved in all the activities a school has to offer and meet a ton of different people.
This means I’m now applying to:
Tuck Early Action
I guess that means my scientific analysis was a little skewed. But I guess I would have to change a few entries in that to get a better picture of schools that fit me best. Darden wouldn’t score as much in the ‘Fit’ section and Fuqua would get some points there. Durham, NC isn’t that bad after all. Also with Fuqua, I will have an alumni referral and Team Fuqua seems to be pretty big on that. Hopefully that helps because I really love the sound of the program and the bond that students seem to have even decades after graduating. I guess it really helps to talk to someone from the program face to face rather than over email!
It feels like it has been a while, even though it hasn’t really. Work has become super hectic, we’re working on a new release of this app and I happen to be the team lead on this. I’m drowning in bugs and test cases — which is why an MBA is going to save me from this endless drudgery. Okay, it isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be but you get the picture. I like coding, I do. It’s super challenging and makes me feel smarter than I am every day. But as much as I enjoy it, it gets monotonous and I can only stare at the computer screen for so long.
The founder of my company is doing one of my recommendations, as I’d mentioned earlier. I was hoping to ask my client to be the other recommender, but he’s very busy marketing the app I’ve been working on. I figure it’s better to ask another one of my managers for a recommendation rather than risk asking someone who might not be able to give his 100% to it. I have to make sure they both cover different aspects of my work here so that they can give a more comprehensive picture of me as an applicant.
I finished draft one of my Yale essay and after receiving feedback on that one (there was lots of it), I’m now working on draft number two. I think they are shaping up to be pretty strong, but I can’t help but imagine how they compare to other applicants with more experience since I only have so many things to write about. That’s the downside of being a younger applicant.
I also recently met one of my dad’s friends from college who went to Duke for his MBA and he was personally affronted by the fact that I wasn’t applying there. He spent the next hour brainwashing me about the virtues of Fuqua, while I tried to convince him that the only reason I wasn’t applying was because it was out of my league with a class size larger than I would prefer. But he wouldn’t have it and now I’m confused. AGAIN. I would get $125 waived off on the application fee with an alumni referral but then I would be applying to five schools which is one more than I would like.
Which brings me back to… should I exclude Darden from the list entirely? I like everything about it (small class size, tight alumni, college town, strong for consulting), but I’m a little worried about how intense the program is supposed to be. Every alum I spoke to said the same thing. Expect not to have much of a life outside the classroom in the first year, although it eases up in the second year. Some people actually preferred it this way since they said it gave them more bang for their buck. While I wish I was that intellectually enlightened, I’d rather have an easier course with a good balance of everything. Hey! You’re only young once. I don’t want to spend most of two years holed up in a library. This is probably why I’m too immature to apply to Darden in the first place 😛
Yeah I can debate this both ways quite easily, but for the time being I’m going to sit on it and wait for some divine intervention that tells me which school to pick.
I had a lot of things planned for my day off, since I work 6 long days every week. Yes, including Saturdays. I have it rough. But I went out Saturday night and I spent most of Sunday sleeping it off. Yeah, 22 and I already feel like I’m too old for this scene. This is not good! Anyway, I’ve been working on the outlines for my essays and I think I have a good story. I’m going to be working on it more this week. I also balled up this Saturday and told my boss about my plans for an MBA. I was nervous about his reaction, because I do work for a startup and every single person here is a pretty valuable resource. But I was pleasantly surprised by his reaction, he seemed genuinely pleased for me and we even discussed my choice of schools and my future career plans. He offered to put me in touch with some connections of his that are alumni of my chosen schools. That was well beyond the call of duty. Oh, and most importantly, he said he would be more than happy to be one of my recommenders. I am so happy (and grateful) that he seems excited by this whole process, because god only knows I need some strong recommendations to get past the hurdles in my application. He also agreed to speak to a client about being my second recommender! Seeing as my client is American, I think this could add a lot of value to my application and prove that I can successfully fit into the American business landscape. I did manage to get my recommenders packet done though, it turned out to be much longer than I expected (3 pages!), so I hope they have the patience to read it through.
I also had a few calls with the alumni from the schools I’m applying to, a few of them were actually productive and the rest I learnt nothing new. But one of the people I spoke to worked in the admissions committee of the school and currently has his own career services startup and he had some excellent insights to share. The thing that shocked me the most was the fact that he told me to be wary about using the services of admissions consultants. Apparently, after reading thousands of applications each year, the adcoms have learnt to recognise which company has worked with which applicant based on the essays alone. He said he can differentiate an Alex Chu from a Stacy Blackman and an Accepted from an mbaMission. Wow. Even if you write the essays on your own, I guess each company has a ‘template’ per se, which leaves a unique signature on your essays. I’m not sure how much of a bad thing this is, but I think it’s best to be careful.
This guy is (was?) also on a first name basis with the entire admissions team and he stressed on how friendly and approachable they were. He urged me to meet them if they were at any events in India and he even said that they would let you know right away if they felt you weren’t a right ‘fit’ for their school. I think that’s a pretty great way to look at it, since applicants wouldn’t need to waste their time and energy on a school they probably wouldn’t get accepted to. He also spoke to me about the options available if I wanted to go into consulting and he encouraged me to have a closer look at Kellogg. Although it is known for its reputation of having the best marketing program around, they place about 100 – 150 students into the largest consulting firms (MBB), which is still a significantly larger percentage than the schools I’m looking at. I personally felt that it would be a long shot for me, but he thinks I have a competitive chance and that I should give it a go.
I have to say I’m a little confused now, but I think I’m going to do some more research and decide whether it would be a good decision to add one more to the list. Must sleep on that thought.
Decisions, decisions! It was unbelievably hard for me to pick exactly which schools I should apply to. I had very happily assumed that my consultant would take care of this for me, unfortunately (and appropriately), he refused to make the decision for me based on my ‘chances of getting in’. I am usually a very decisive person, however this situation was made complicated simply because I am also very adaptable. I can pretty much live in cities or in the suburbs, I can handle hot and cold, I can do the case study method and the lecture method. I do have preferences of course, but if I see something else I like about the program, that instinct kicks in and all my perfectly calculated nuances go right outside the window.
I finally decided to stop meandering back and forth and make a scientific decision instead. Hello Excel sheet. I loosely based it on the one made by MBA Girl Journey, but I put my own spin on it.
So I basically started by taking the rankings and kind of aggregating all of them to group schools into three classes. I removed the top 5 at the get go (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth and Kellogg) and grouped the remaining in the 5 – 10, 10 – 15 and 15 – 20 category. I then assigned weights to them assuming that the lower ranked ones would be less competitive and thereby easier to get into. With that done, I needed to figure out what mattered the most to me.
In India, even if some of the larger schools are unknown, people have generally heard of the Ivies. This is an important distinction to make since I know I want to come back to India 2 – 3 years post an MBA. So the Ivies got multiplied by a factor of 2 just for that reason alone. I know my interests lie in consulting and although all the top schools act as feeders to the industry, I just highlighted the ones that seemed to have a better conversion rate. It was kind of difficult to do this objectively since the data is all over the place, but I tried. Next, location. I went to college for undergrad at this university town and I absolutely loved it. You could walk around everywhere, have the typical college experience, you would bump into 10 people you know just about anywhere and the feeling of camaraderie was just awesome. I decided that I would like to live on a campus town and not in a big city. This also led to a preference for slightly smaller class sizes (but this wasn’t an actual factor). Finally, the must subjective of them all… fit. I seriously wish I had time to visit at least some of these schools, but I just have to go by the stuff I read and hear from people. I spoke to a LOT of people from Yale and I love the sound of it. Darden is the one I’m not too sure about fit wise, but I have mailed a few current students and recent alumni to ask them about it, let’s see what I hear.
With all the factors in place, the maximum possible score was a 10 and as you can see, Yale ticked all the boxes for me. I have a really good feeling about Yale since it is ranked right where I feel like I would have a competitive chance. For me, it has that prestige of a Harvard or an Oxford, you know that old world charm and sometimes I can’t even imagine brown skinned me playing croquet or whatever on those green lawns. Luckily, that’s only my mental imagery and Yale is a beautiful mix of the old and the new. It is absolutely my number one choice. Next comes Tuck which by all accounts is a really great school. Again, it has that Dartmouth Ivy thing going for it apart from the obvious benefits… and their consulting stats look pretty good. Last two are Johnson and Darden, but I think I’m going to replace Darden with Said (Oxford) as I do want to throw a European school into the mix and I am only applying to four schools. I’m a little put off by the fact that Said is a 1 year program and I will barely squeak past the required 2 years of work experience, but consulting seems to be one of their strongholds and the Oxford brand is inimitable.
This is what it looks like in order of priority:
I think this is the final list, but I will probably run them by my consultant and see what he thinks of them. I would love to hear you guys’ opinions. Bring them in!
I think when I started out with the whole idea of let me get an MBA, I had some major tunnel vision that led me to believe that an MBA was synonymous to Harvard/Stanford/Wharton and nothing else. Hey! It’s not just me, everyone wants to sit on the lunch table with the popular kids. But as I got older and slightly wiser, I quickly realised that:
I was kidding myself. Unless I did something extraordinary in the next few years, this was not going to happen for me.
And even if I did manage to pull out a rabbit from the proverbial hat, I actually didn’t want to go to the crème de la crème of these schools (as I said earlier, Stanford is an exception. I’d give my left leg and a kidney to get in there).
After coming to this happy conclusion and most definitely circumventing assured rejection, I began to look at schools beyond the ratings. The numbers only mean something to a point beyond which they’re just numbers with no context. I wouldn’t expect a school to judge me based solely on my GPA and GMAT scores. Likewise, I wouldn’t want to put a school through the same narrow metrics. Luckily for me, cost isn’t a debilitating factor, so I can afford to go without a scholarship which makes things that much easier. Top three things that I value, in order of priority are:
Fit. How well would I fit into the school and its culture? I seriously wish I had the time to visit schools, because I would really like to. But I have to settle for secondhand narratives and hopefully meet some alumni who can give me a better picture of what the school is like.
Specialisation. What is the school really known for? For instance, Sloan is action based, collaborative and very tech + entrepreneurially oriented. They also have an Entrepreneurship & Innovation Track (E&I) that I love the sound of. Even though I do want to join the consulting world, I will always have a special place in my heart for startups.
Location (pre + post MBA). Where is the school located? Where could I expect to work after I graduate? I know that I do want to come back to India after recovering what I spend on the MBA. Which school has a great international network? Which school has a good brand value that is recognisable in Europe and Asia? These for me are super important criteria. IE and IESE are great schools, but I’m a little unsure of the job market in Spain. Even if I do learn Spanish, I’m apprehensive about the possibilities and I am certain that it is a relatively unknown brand in India… making it a somewhat unattractive choice for me at this point.
I’m still waiting on my chat with the consultant to kind of discuss my thoughts and hear his perspective on them. Another pair of eyes should clear up any kind of misconceptions that I might have. Also, check out these free school guides from Veritas Prep here, I absolutely loved how much information they packed into it. It would take days, if not weeks to actually do it myself. Huge fan of them.
I’m not sure I’m even qualified to be writing about this at the moment because I’m still not sure where I’m going to be applying. I do have certain parameters though, which should help make it a little easier.
I am only going to apply to 4 schools, based on the assumption that if I don’t get in this year, I’ll have several options left to apply in the next year.
I have no illusions about my competency as a candidate. The top 5 are immediately out and honestly, I’m not too bothered about that. The only school I would love to attend is Stanford, because I feel like Wharton is too finance-y for my taste and Harvard is too stuffy. But my chances of going to space are less astronomical than me ever getting accepted to Stanford even after a year or twenty, so I have that going for me.
I want to apply to schools that have a good placement record in the consulting industry, since that’s where I’d like to land up.
I have this vague idea in my head of travelling across Europe sipping little cups of cappuccino with a dreamy Italian serenading me, while getting an MBA of course. I do want to put in at least 1 (if not 2) European schools in the mix. Traditionally, they attract an older set of students so I’m not sure how feasible this would be. IESE and Said require that students have a minimum work experience of two years, and I would be pushing that pretty close.
I want warm weather, interspersed with good cold weather. I can’t do gloomy all year round, I would just get depressed. I don’t mind California type sunny weather but it’s too Indian for my liking.
I can’t imagine living in the southern belt of the States, nuh uh no way. East or West coast for me. I’m also a city girl. The great outdoors are nice and all, but do I want to live in the middle of it? Nope. Nothing in the boondocks.
I would like to be a part of a bigger class. Bigger the class, bigger the friend pool and the more likely I am to actually meet people I like. Also, would love it if there was a significant international representation and a younger crowd of people.
Ummm, yeah. So these are just thoughts I have at the moment, so they’re not set in stone. I’ll probably get into it in more detail after I’ve had a chat with my consultant. Also, yes I did decide to go with a consultant to help with the admissions process. I figured I could use all the help I could get.