So what changed this time?

Okay, so let’s look at the cold, hard facts.

My GMAT score stayed the same (710)

My GPA is the same as well (9.03)

The last time I checked, I was still an Indian engineer

My work experience moved up from about 19 months to 26 months

My job title is now “Product Manager” and not the dreaded “Software Engineer” it was before

My post MBA goal looks legit now because I have the experience to back it up

A senior colleague at my new job wrote what I can only assume was a stellar letter of recommendation

Let me tell ya, I had to work my butt off to transition from being a code monkey to someone making actual product decisions. I must have applied to nearly a 100 places and interviewed at about 25 until I finally got the job I wanted. But I persevered because I knew that MBA or not, this was where I wanted my career to go.

I guess the lesson here is: don’t let the fact that you got rejected bring you down (if you are a reapplicant like I was). The lofty goals that you’d written about in your essay? You can still get closer to achieving them without an MBA. By self-selection, most applicants are ambitious, go-getters who honestly don’t need an MBA to get where they want to go. Of course, if you still think business school is right for you, then your application will be stronger than it ever was before.

Apart from switching jobs, I also narrowed down my goals even further. Previously, my short-term goal was to “work in company X as a PM”. I changed that to “work in company X’s Y division as a PM”. I backed it up with very relevant experience that I had and tied it in neatly to my long term goal. I’m sure it wasn’t a huge distinction, but it became super relevant during my interview, where surprisingly enough I spoke to a 2nd year student who had a ton of knowledge about my field of interest (odd because it’s quite a niche area).  I believe that this worked in my favour since I was immediately able to establish common ground and our conversation centered more around the latest developments in that industry than the usual “tell me how you…” stuff.

Finally, in my reapplicant essay, I called out what I believed were the weaknesses in my application. I addressed the age/work experience thing head on, I made a stronger connection between my short term and long term goals and finally, I mentioned in passing the gazillion students, alums and admissions officers I’d spoken to over an entire year.

Now, I do want to caveat this by saying that I did pretty much the same things I mentioned above in my reapplication to Fuqua as well, but surprise surprise, I got dinged without an interview. There is a pretty big element of luck involved, plus the relative quality and composition of the applicant pool, so there is no “fool-proof” method to this madness. It’s just doing the best you can and hoping for the best.

Hello Los Angeles!

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.

*SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE*

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 pullingthatmbatrigger@gmail.com. I would be more than happy to help!

 

Crickets… crickets everywhere!

So it’s been nearly 20 days since I submitted my Round 2 applications and so far it’s been radio silence. I’m a little antsy but I’m dealing with it… it helps that work has been extremely busy and that my social life has been on overdrive. It’s my birthday tomorrow so I’m hoping some birthday luck comes my way 😀

Also, I got my TOEFL score yesterday. 119 with a 29 in the Reading section (the irony). But I was very pleasantly surprised since I didn’t prepare at all. I’ve already reported my scores to all the schools I’ve applied to… but I’m wondering if I should notify them and ask them to match my score to my application? It’s another data point so I’m wondering if that would help at all. Thoughts?

I’m hoping to hear some good news in the next week or so. Fingers crossed!

All in for Round 2!

I finally submitted all four apps in the past two days and let me tell you, it was exhausting. Here are my thoughts on each application:

  1. Booth: I absolutely loved the Booth application. It gave me enough space to talk about everything (and I mean everything!). The prompts within the app allowed for enough detail and I even used the optional essay to fill in some gaps. I was terrified of the presentation/essay but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve made this application season. Everyone who read it seems to have enjoyed it, so I can only hope the adcoms will too. I’d say this was my favourite (and my best).
  2. Kellogg: The application for Kellogg and Booth was actually pretty similar, but I had to be much more succinct in my Kellogg app. There were three essays I had to answer (2 required + 1 for the MMM) and I think I did a pretty decent job at all of them, although some were better than the others. Hopefully, my video essay goes well and I make enough of an impact on the adcom. It would suck if my interview was waived.
  3. Anderson: The Anderson application was painless (just one essay and one recommendation) until I realized that they require a TOEFL score 2 days before the deadline for Round 2. I was this close to breaking something. Luckily, I got in my app before the deadline and put in the date I’m planning to take the damn test but until they get my official scores, my application is going to be “on hold”. Anyone know what this means?
  4. Tepper: Tepper was sort of a last-ditch effort on my part. I was also exhausted from a long night the day before, so I’m not sure how my essays were. I think I did okay, hopefully that’s enough. For the first time ever, my essays were under the word count rather than being a few over. Weird.

Things that changed from Round 1 in Round 2:

  1. I had one solid recommendation in Round 1 and the other, was to put it mildly, just fluff. I know because the recommender (head of volunteers) decided to show it to me once I’d submitted all my Round 1 apps. I’m not even sure how I got invited to interview at Duke with that one. It was a huge wake-up call. This time, my client (from my startup) agreed to be my second recommender and I know he’s going to do a killer job because I did some killer work for him.
  2. I paid a lot more attention to the short answers and little entry fields in the application. Last time, I’d pretty much copy+pasted bullets from my resume into these fields, but this time I made sure to bring up things that had never been mentioned before. My apps this time covered every single aspect of my profile.
  3. I had help every single step of the way from Vandana and NaijaMBAGal (a shoutout to FinanceFurry here as well). I absolutely could not have done it without them. They were my supporters, critics and confidantes throughout this round and their feedback on my essays was always genius. Every time I second-guessed something on my app (which was pretty much all the time), I knew I had these guys on my side. Thank you so much you two!

What lies ahead? I’m going to finish up my Kellogg Video essays, get in a short vacation in Bangkok this weekend, come back and get the TOEFL over with and then just wait! I have a good feeling about Round 2 🙂 I also feel like this time I won’t be so anal about it… some exciting things have been happening at work and I caught myself thinking “Oh crap, if I get into an MBA program, I’m going to miss all this”. Yup, instant realization. MBA this year or no MBA this year, I’m gonna be okay!

Congratulations are in order!

This week my feed has been a blur of amazing news. Congratulations to my friends Naija MBA GalTopDogMBAVandana and Finance Furry for getting into some of the best schools in the world! We’re talking INSEAD, Kellogg, Booth, Sloan, Wharton… the list is pretty insane. You guys should be so proud! I couldn’t be happier for you guys, each and every one of you deserved it. I am also jealous that you guys are now done with the stress-fest that is MBA admissions and can now countdown the days till you quit your jobs.

Guys, you are seriously amazing. I am totally inspired and I hope I can re-create even a smidgen of this success for myself. With that said, I’m realizing that I could use all the help I can get, especially since all of you are older, wiser and you’ve clearly done something right! I’m just starting to get really anxious and antsy, plus my confidence is in the pits (I just have a little over a year of work experience, wtf am I doing? Am I kidding myself?) Meh.

If any of you would like to volunteer to have a look at my essays or give me any tips/suggestions, I would be incredibly grateful. I don’t want to put anyone on the spot by directly asking (okay, I might have asked some of you already) 😛 hence this broadcast. Anyway, if you think you have some time to spare, please let me know and I’ll reach out to you. I would owe you a piece of my eternal soul. No, really.

In other news, not that anyone really cares at this point (I wouldn’t either if I got accepted somewhere), my GMAT is 5 days away on the 23rd and I’ve been doing well on the mocks, so fingers crossed.

And again, congrats you guys! It’s time to celebrate 😀 Break out the bubbly!

Onwards and upwards

It’s been raining invites on all my friends out here – congratulations to Naija MBA Gal, TopDogMBA, hugoness, Vandana and Grant Me Admission!! Having had the privilege to blog alongside such incredibly smart and nice people, I have no doubt that they deserve admits at the schools of their dreams. I am counting down the days to hear some more good news.

In the meantime, I’m back on the horse again, this time for Round 2 applications. My school choices are up in the air for the moment, because I cannot for the life of me identify where I would have a competitive chance. I don’t want to apply to schools just because I know I’ll have better chances there, but on the other hand, I don’t want to apply to schools where I have no chance either. It’s a tough call. I’ll keep you guys posted when I finalise my schools and possibly the rationale that went behind picking. One thing is for sure though, I am not going to get emotionally attached to any of them. I’ll do my research and I’ll talk to students, but this is going to be the equivalent of a friends with benefits situation. No emotions, no commitment.

I’ve started with GMAT prep, I think it’s going well. I remember most of it, which is something of a feat considering it’s been over two years. I’m trying to get on the upper levels of both Quant and Verbal, which means a lot of targeted studying. It helps that I enjoy it though.

I literally can’t wait for March now where my fate will be decided either way.

P.S: A really weird observation. My blog got maximum hits on the day I announced my ding from Duke. People love tragedy!

Now that the sting has worn off…

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?