Thursday, April 01, 2010

Build your unique brand in your MBA application

My class at Wharton was very diverse, very international and one that had the best of the best from various walks of life. A few students had accomplished unparalleled feats. Sample this, we had amongst ourselves -

1) An Olympian athlete and a medalist
2) Few people who had climbed Mt. Everest and other top peaks in the world
3) Someone who had fought for and survived the Tiananmen square protests
4) Someone who had worked in the poorest of nations in the world and had made international development their lifelong goal

For a regular applicant, it would be difficult to beat these accomplishments. However, could you think like a marketing pro and build your unique brand in your MBA application and the rest of your MBA journey? Consider this:

Many a times, applicants focus most of their time and energy in answering the 4 or 5 essay questions posed by the school in the MBA application. And little attention is paid to understand how all these pieces fit together to describe “you”- the person, your unique story and positioning & differentiation within the fiercely competitive MBA applicant pool.

Most of the application components provide you ample space to write about your professional achievements. This is only one side of the picture. Draw the rest by writing about yourself, about activities or interests that you are passionate about or where you have spent a good time and have made a difference to a group of people or transformed an organization.

The MBA admissions committee wants to know about the whole person and how that person will evolve into a business leader using all his qualities and make a difference within their community and this world at large. Make sure to write about your unique story and stand out!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Craft a realistic MBA application story

Over the past few years, I have received a good number of emails regarding MBA applications – ranging from the really basic “How should I kick start the application process?” to the rather direct “Could you post your essays?”

Having completed the program, I now have a different perspective on how I would have thought through my own applications as well as courses/things I would have done in my school to companies I would have recruited for.

While I will not be posting my application essays, I plan to write a few blog posts covering some important questions before I bid adieu to this blog. Let me start with the first one – Should I do an MBA?

This is where it begins! Some professions require that candidates should have a MBA degree, while others “prefer” MBA candidates. While considering an MBA degree, it is important to have a very good idea about your short term & long term aspirations and whether a MBA degree is needed for those. If so, how a MBA degree could serve as a bridge between where you are currently and how you can get to your goals.

I know of several candidates & friends that have worked in financial services industry and were required to have a MBA degree to move to the next level in their career. At the same time, the MBA program is a strong requirement for candidates wanting to switch into investment banking roles for a few years. These candidates could then move into industry finance positions such as corporate M&A or PE or other.

Given the number of applications pouring in at schools, it is very important to show that you are aware of these career trends and craft a “realistic” application story based on what you have achieved currently and where you intend to go.

While reading applications of some MBA hopefuls, I found that some applications are not necessarily realistic or tangible in their goals or aspirations. For example, one candidate wrote about becoming the “best CEO” in his industry and not more. Its fine to write about becoming the “best CEO”, but it is even more important to show how the MBA program will help you in becoming one, based on where you are right NOW.

To sight another example, one candidate with 4+ years of telecom experience had drafted a very convincing application about they envisioned themselves to be shaping telecom strategies in emerging nations in the future. To achieve that, they wanted to move into corporate strategy roles after spending few years working with a top strategy consulting firm. A realistic and winning app- because the candidate had goals based on where they were - strong industry experience & knowledge in the telecom domain), global projects with strategy experience and working alongside with telecom leaders and a knowhow of moving forward in corporate strategy.

There are exceptions to almost all rules. There are people who haven’t felt the need for an MBA or have not pursued these programs and have achieved unparalleled success in their career. Remember to have a realistic & tangible side to your application story to show that you have really reflected on why you want to do an MBA.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Stay tuned

I started this blog when I began applying to MBA schools and went to Wharton. Now after graduating, I am continuing the journey to document my thoughts and experience regarding the MBA application process (questions I have received from MBA applicants)

A few posts that I plan to post soon:

1) MBA application: how should I begin?

2) Why MBA and now?

3) What makes me unique?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Waitlist Strategy

Waitlist Process
When the admission results are announced, some people are either suprised or frustrated to find themselves on the Waitlist. After all the effort, all you get is a waitlist! Don't despair. If you are really interested in that school, there's many ways you could demonstrate that to the school and convert your waitlist entry into a admission. This is what I found out when I was trying to convert my MIT Sloan waitlist into an admit, but ultimately sent a different letter to them, because I decided to goto W.

The bschool generally wants to admits those students from the waitlist, who will accept their offer. Therefore, you have that you really want to be there.

1) Get in touch with the school and find out their waitlist process. Most schools will ask you to send an additional letter or an essay indicating your interest in the school. Some might also permit an additional recommendation letter or a reference letter from an alumni. Follow the school's guidelines.

2) Visit the school, if you haven't yet visited the school. Meet the students, professors and see what you like. Did you find a good match between your interests and what the faculty does? Or are you excited by some programs that the school has? Mention that in your letter.

3) What have you done since the admission decision? - any new projects, charity work, or anything that adds to your leadership - mention about this in your letter to the school. The school wants to know about these updates.

4) Some other interesting things that I found while reading these blogs - one student made a support group from a set of current students, whom he knew, to make a case for him and send a recommendation letter for him.

5) Be creative - the more you learn about the school, the more you could write about what impact you could have on your classmates and the school community if you were admitted to the school.

Finally, be persistent about the waitlist and interacting with the adcom. But like any other, if you don't make it, it is not the end of the world. You could apply next year with whatever you have learned through the experience, or decide to move on, to work on your goals without doing an MBA.

Monday, June 25, 2007

MBA Scholarships ...

For those who are wondering what needs to be done for MBA financial aid, here are some ideas:

1) Financial aid for US universities comes in many forms - loans , grants, fellowships, scholarships, corporate sponsorships and awards.
2) Some schools might offer you some $$$ when they admit you, but some other have an additional process, which you can find from the school itself.
3) Top tier financial firms (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs) have fellow programs, which one can apply for, through your bschool
4) Some top tier consulting firms such as McKinsey, Booz Allen Hamilton also have scholarship programs
5) Popular resources on the internet are:

  • FastWeb
  • Forte Scholarships for Women
  • Mittal Steel Co. Scholarships for Kellogg students-especially of Indian origin
  • Rotary Scholarships from your country

Start with your school's FinAid office to see what help you can get. There are quite a few scholarships/grants for minority students and those from developing nations.

MBA Interview

Interviews can be stressful at times. But this funny video from YouTube has a nice Grease-y take on the whole thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bschool Questions

While doing bschool research, I had approached current and past students at bschools, asking them about the school, its program and their experience. I would modify the questions depending on whether I knew the person or not, and what knowledge I had built about the program. Here are some of the questions I asked:

1) What do you particularly like about your school?
2) If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?
3) Name some courses that you really liked. What are the most popular courses?
4) What are the most popular student clubs?
5) How is the bschool environment - healthy competitive, cooperative?
6) How does the career services department help students in their job search, career development?
7) My interests lie in X and Y. What activities are present in these areas besides clubs and conferences?
8) What level of business familiarity does the school expect from its applicants?
9) How was your overall experience and what did you really like about the school?
10) What could you advice me regarding the application process?

Obviously, there are many more questions that you can ask. The ones above should give you an idea.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

GMAT Resources

I was cleaning up my machine, when I came saw an old file containing links to GMAT resources. Enjoy! (Note: I haven't used all of these. So, I am not sure which ones are good.)

1) Crack Gmat - Free downloadable sample GMAT, full length test
2) MicroEdu - Sample test
3) 800 score - Three most common question types:
4) - This page has several links to tips, questions and tips for test day!
5) Thompson Peterson’s - A few sample questions:
6) GMAT tips -
7) Princeton Review does have one online test that you can take on their website with no obligation, you might want to try that to start with.It can be found here:

8) If you are a more point-n-click oriented person, Test Tutor offers a free online GMAT counrse at this URL
9) Grammar traps at