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

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I have received some questions about letters of recommendations for MBA applicants. I have written some thoughts here and also found some good posts here. I am writing some additional points:

1) Recos are very important for an MBA application, because until the school meets you as a person during the interview, these letters show a third person's view about you. Most schools would like to have a reco letter from your supervisor or immediate manager. This is not mandatory. If you do not plan to tell your company or manager about your MBA applications, then you can take reco letters from other people who have closely supervised your work. You will then have to explain your reasons for not taking a reco from your manager in your application.

2) Reco letters from peers or colleagues at the same level are not desirable, except if the school specificaly asks for such a letter. Think about your projects and people with whom you have developed a good relationship while working- this could be somebody from your client side or even someone you worked with on a recent fundraiser for quite some time. Make sure you are comfortable approaching such people. Should you approach your friends then? Nope- the bschools would like professional letters of recommendation. If you are cheating while taking a reco letter, thinking that the school might not realize such things, then how do you plan to adhere to ethics?

3) Spend Time! - I cannot overemphasize this. You will need to start early, meet with your recommenders, let them know about your goals, explain the recommendation process to them and if necessary, provide them with sample recommendation letters, so that they know how such letters are written. I met my recommenders in late August/early Sept. For the first deadline around mid-October, I still felt this was slightly late. Ideally, early August looks like a good timeframe. I also provided them with my goals essay, sample reco letters from Montauk book, my resume and spent some time discussing my goals and the reco process. There are lots of websites that talk about this process and provide sample recos. For example, I found's sample reco letter here

4) Follow Up appropriately - Most likely, your recommenders are busy ppl. Therefore, follow up with them when the deadlines are approaching. Don't wait till the last week of your deadline date. At the same time, don't bother them persistently.

5) Should you write the letter yourself? - Nope, I wouldn't. The schools are adept at understanding your language style, so if they realize that the applicant himself has drafted his reco letter, then I am sure, you would be aware of the outcome. The best thing is to spend some time with your recommender talking about your aspirations and your reasons for doing an MBA. If you have approached the right people for this, then I am sure they will take the time to understand you and write a nice letter on your behalf.

6) My recommender should be a known personality, a top CEO or VP or a leader from my country - This is not necessary or even mandatory. If your recommender is a known person, that's good for you. But, even if this is not the case, it's fine as long as, your recommenders validate your overall story and write genuinely about your qualities.

7) What should the reco contain? - the reco itself should be school specific and should answer questions in detail, attaching examples to most questions. Typically, the reco should talk about your qualities in leadership, maturity, analytical abilities, integrity, team work, outstanding achievements and your weakness (yes, that's right.)

An excerpt from an MBA admissions director- We ask for specific data and examples -- like the impact the candidate has had on a person, group, or organization -- from the applicant's direct supervisor. Also, we ask for the characteristics they would like to change about the person. The more specific examples the recommender can provide, the more legitimacy we give to the letter.

8) Overall, the process is simple. If you are applying to 6+ schools, then you might to approach multiple people, instead of the recommended 2, so as to not burden them. If you have chosen the right people, have faith in them that they would do what's right for you.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

An engineer's MBA

My foray into the industry began as a software engineer. Most MBA applicants have backgrounds in finance/banking/consulting. During my application process, I was confronted with many questions about my background- ranging from "Are engineers at a disadvantage while applying to MBA schools?" to "Does my engineer background help in my MBA?". Simply because, I could not see a one-to-one mapping between what I did at work to the courses and work in an MBA or post MBA. Well, that would make my life tough. Furthermore, bschools do not assess your skills prior to application. I had to rely on business week forums, online research to decide how to confront these questions. After spending a month pouring over these forums and talking to some people, I was relieved. There are several folks who have crossed this path. If you are a software engineer like me, don't be tense. Here are a few guidelines:

1) Beyond Coding/programming/whatever : What have you done that goes beyond coding? I am sure that as an engineer, you are not simply coding in the corner. You have to present,defend and build your ideas. Sometimes, you may have done project management as well. How about process defining, formulation and actually implementing it in a team? Make a list of all such things and think about you will convey these.

2) High level picture: Present a high level picture of the things that you have done. You are the CEO of your own work. Go beyond "developing systems" to thinking about "why this system was built? What role does it play?What's the impact of this system?" and mention those things in your application.

3) IT language: that's a no-no. MBA application is not your project report. Avoid using too much IT talk. Instead of saying "built a client server front end module to retrieve HR database records from some system", use laymen language that is easier to understand. Include other elements of your project. Did you lead a team while doing this project? Did you manage or direct other for their tasks? Now, how about "Managed a team of 3 to develop a HR system with client server functionality".

4) Write those numbers: Did your work improve productivity, caused an increase in sales or revenue, impacted your company positively? Get those stats in your resume. When someone else is reading your resume, these will help them to easily quantify your impact.

5) Communicate well: The general assumption is that engineers are 'ok' or 'not so good' at their verbal skills. If you are not constrained by this assumption, then you should present your application clearly and convincingly. Outside, you might keep yourself out of bschool.

Last, but not the least, being an "XYZ engineer" is your biggest advantage, and will help you to stand out from the pool of i-bankers, consultants, finance specialists applying to b-school. Engineer an articulate and convincing application.