Sunday, December 23, 2007

A take on Duke Essays

With Round 2 deadline approaching, I have been getting a lot of queries on how to approach the essays.

Here's a quick look at this year's essays:

Why are you interested in The Duke MBA and how will it help you achieve your goals? Please also discuss your career path, including your short and long-term professional goals.
If you are interested in the Health Sector Management concentration or a joint degree program, please address in this essay.

Make sure you answer all four parts of this essay: (a) Your career progress (b) Long and Short term goals (c) Why an MBA can help you achieve these goals? (d) Why Duke specifically?

A good essay will nicely weave these stories in one steady flow, the transitions will be solid and the big picture will make sense.

The biggest mistake you can commit is to copy paste the 'Why Duke' from your 'Why Some Other School' essay. When you read your essay, do you feel that these lines can be written only for Duke? If not, then it needs to be re-looked

How will your background, values, and non-work activities enhance the experience of other Duke MBA students and add value to Fuqua's diverse culture?

This is a diversity essay that you must already have a lot of gyaan on.
The idea is to bolster your professional application by telling them about your activities outside of work. The trick is not trying to please the adcom by telling them what they want to hear, but to tell who you really are.
My theory: All applicants who try to please the adcom by presenting themselves as 'Diverse' end up having similar looking applications and hence lack diversity.
Try writing 'your' story once. You'll be amazed how effective that is.

Describe an example of where you were challenged to lead in a team-oriented context. What was the challenge you faced, how did you address it, and what takeaways or lessons learned have you successfully applied in other leadership situations?

Again, essential that you answer all parts of questions. It is good to have a one/ two sentence summary and result of the situation to set up the essay for the reader, before you get into the details.

Describe a situation in which your ability to perform ethically was challenged. What was the issue, how did you handle it, and what did you learn from it?

An initial summary of what you are going to tell in the essay should help here as well.

I like situations where there is no obvious correct path. For example, a team lead who is asked by the client to distort some facts would always want to write that he did not do it. For me, a better story would be where you had to decide whether to hire/ fire new employees (and hence impact your profits) to give a more accurate/ less accurate result to your client. I find it better because here you could have gone either way and not have been wrong.

Describe a significant leadership failure in your life. What did you learn from this failure? How has it impacted who you are today and the kind of leader you would like to be?

Summary first. After that, the story. Then your learnings and the impact the incident had on your perception of leadership.

A story not very recent might be a good idea as it gives you a chance to show how you improved and implemented your learnings from that failure. The essay also seems to be asking about what qualities you perceive are essential for a being an effective leader. So, you might want to think about your failure story in that context.

How has your personal history and family background influenced your intellectual and personal development? What unique personal qualities or life experiences distinguish you from other applicants? Note: The goal of this essay is to get a sense of who you are, rather than what you have achieved professionally.

All points noted in the diversity question above apply to this one. The difference being that the focus is more on how your background influenced your personality. There may be experiences that have led you to take some actions that you took in the above essay. Here's your chance to tell the adcom about these.

Good Luck to those who are busy finishing their essays for the January 3 deadline and to those who are awaiting Round 1 results.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed above are personal and I have had no interaction with anyone regarding how best to approach these essays.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Who is a Fuqua Graduate?

Last week, I was invited for a lunch table discussion with COLE Leadership Fellows and faculty. The conversation centered around Dean Sheppard’s desire for an MBA program that produces leaders of consequence as an outcome of Fuqua.

We sought to understand what constitutes the 'Special Kind of Student' that Dean Sheppard envisions. The discussion that ensued made it clear what brings us students together at Fuqua.

Fuqua strives to nurture students who are great colleagues and great leaders, individuals who are functionally deep and globally sophisticated. A Fuqua graduate is someone who represents a community accountable to make a difference to this world. In general, the way Fuqua looks at the 'Fit' in prospective students is homogeneity of desire and heterogeneity of styles. We want people to stick out to their own aspirations. However, difference in degree of aspirations is not desirable. A Fuqua student is someone who knows how to choose and what to choose (homogeneous) but achieves his goal in his own unique style (heterogeneous).

Opportunities such as club leadership positions provide good exposure, but Fuqua is striving for the next level. Fuqua lets students lead the way in shaping the school's present and future. The synergy between student leadership and faculty mentorship leads to an effective governance and leadership model. It is the students who come up with ideas and feedback, but it is the authorities that mould the thoughts into implementable actions. Based on student feedback, the need for a stronger emphasis on global business environment was identified. This has led to the introduction of Global Institute Program for incoming daytime students before the start of Fall Term. Right from day 1, involvement of first year students was sought and implemented in order to achieve the desired outcome from the program.

An immense involvement of the Fuqua student
is sought in shaping the B-school experience. It is this commitment and desire to utilize the two years in the best possible manner that creates a unique leader and a Fuqua Brand Ambassador. It is discussions such as the one I was part of that mark the essence of my B-school journey.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Fall Break is here!

I am one-term old at Fuqua now and really looking forward to the week long fall break. While time has not exactly flown, past six weeks have been pretty intense.

I always knew it was going to be an intensive two years. However, it is the magnitude of the intensity that I was probably not prepared for. People still ask, “How’s it going?” I no longer find it surprising when people do not bother to listen to my response, but that is the only time during the term that I got to step back and think, how actually it is going.

Most finance and consulting companies ask for your grades. Most people are working hard towards a good academic performance. In such a scenario, more than your understanding of a certain topic, the importance preparing well from an examination point of view drives your intent to learn. I wonder if people are able to extract more out of their academic experience at schools that have a grade non-disclosure policy.

Overall, it has been an amazing two months. There has been a significant change in my perspective. Academically, there has been enormous learning. To be able to peruse and understand a firm’s annual report after taking an Accounting course for just six weeks, is a great feeling. Every day is a new revelation. There’s been a plethora of leadership opportunities – everyone gets to aim at what he/she thought will be his idea of leadership experience.

The highlights of this term were the meeting Marquis in person, the Campout, the Accounting course (a special thanks to Dr. V – our amazing accounting professor, who made such a big difference in our learning experience, with his passion and ability to bundle everything for us in a splendid manner.)

Monday, October 01, 2007


I am back from a 36 hour roller coaster that is called Campout at Duke. Every muscle in my body is screaming for rest. Over the weekend, I got to sleep a total of 8 hours (and I must have slept the most out of all 1500 odd participants). Yet, I have no doubt that I had the time of my life.

Basketball is a religion at Duke and tickets to matches are limited. So, Duke has come up with this amazing way to distribute tickets to fans. The ask all grad students to Campout.

For 36 hours, you stay out in RVs/U-Hauls/tents in an open space. You do not get to sleep or to go home in this period. The idea is to queue up and sign-in everytime there is a bell, and this makes you eligible for a lottery sale of seasons tickets to Duke basketball matches. To maximize their chances of winning tickets, people team up in groups of 10-15 and then campout. This means that tickets you (or any of your team mates) win as an individual will now be shared by your team. You now have 10-15 times more probability of getting to watch a match.

I have been part of so many team building exercises both within and outside of Fuqua. Campout achieves team building like nothing else. Its a 36 hour non-stop party where you spend time helping each other stay awake, dance, drink, do crazy antics. You not only spend time with your team, but with people in RVs parked all around.

Am sure some of the bonds that I formed during campout are going to last forever.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Today in my life...

Here's how I spent my last 24 hours:
0200 hrs: Go to sleep. I've had enough of the previous day.
0650 hrs: Wake up alarm goes off!
0735 hrs: Leave for Fuqua
0800 - 0830 hrs: Stats Quiz
0830 - 1015 hrs: Stats class
1030 - 1115 hrs: Some internal class event
1130 - 1215 hrs: Discuss Team Charter with Leadership Fellow and suggest imrovements to team processes.
1220-1250 hrs: Resume review by Career Management Center
1250 - 1310 hrs: Stand in queue, grab your lunch and eat it
1315 - 1530 hrs: Deliver a company research presentation as part of Management Communications course. Provide peer feedback to others.
1600 - 1800 hrs: Go back home, work on resume and set up next review appointment for tomorrow.
Write and submit applications for a couple of leadership activities.
Get dressed in business attire. Rush back to Fuqua
1830 - 2030 hrs: Attend a Company Special Interest Pesentation (SIP)
2030 -2100 hrs: Rush home. Change into casuals to attend Peru Earthquake Fund Raiser Party.
2100 - 0000 hrs: Party!
0030 -0115 hrs: Check e-mail. Cook dinner, eat (As a rule, you do not get much food at parties. Plus, I'm a veggie).
0115- 0125 hrs: Write this blog.
0126 hrs: Thankfully, Wednesdays are no-class days, which means I can put off studying for Accounting and Economics quizzes to tomorrow. So, shut down and sleep. There's a symposium lined up for 8.00 AM the next day.
To top it all, the second years say things are just beginning to warm up. It gets a lot busier than this :)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hey! Howz it going?

Its been two weeks since I've been in the US now. Orientation is over and classes started on Monday.

On the first day of school, just before the prof started, an American-born Indian crosses by me and says, "Hey, howz it going?". And he's gone even before I could open my mouth to respond! What a wierd guy I thought. Then I noticed everyone says the same thing to everyone else here.

One of my American classmates later went on to tell me that this is just another way of saying a polite Hello. No one cares about the answer anyways.

So, how do you answer back when someone comes up to you and says, "Howz it Going?" and actually does not walk away. A little more research into this tells me that there's two standard responses to this. 1: "Ummm, not too bad". 2: Smile and say, "Howz it going" even before he's finished his question! I found the latter more exciting so I myself end up saying "Howz it going" most of the times.

Well, that's public speaking lesson number one for me in the US.

On Fuqua, its a great school. The class composition is diverse, not only in terms of nationalities represented but also in terms of professions and richness of work and life experiences. Its amazing to sit in a class and listen to so many diverse perspectives on the same topic.

The Team Fuqua culture is not just an 'on the website' thing. You get the feeling that everyone really goes out of the way to help others around. All in all, looks like I am going to have a good time over the next two years.

So, if you ask me Howz it going, I'd say, "Not too bad" :)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cheers Duke

A regret letter from Tuck greeted me in my inbox today morning. So, here's a toast to my only successful application.
Blue Devils - here I come :)

Friday, June 01, 2007

How significant is GMAT?

Earlier this week, my friend received feedback from Keenan Flagler on his rejected application. Amongst other things, it said, "...we anticipate that the average GMAT score of our successful applicants this year will be well above last year's average score of 660. Consequently, any efforts that you can make to improve your GMAT score from 720...".

The debate over GMAT's significance for a top 10 B-school admit is as atleast old as when I first started looking at a foreign MBA as an option. You will find many so-called 'low GMAT' success stories. MBAbabe got into H/S despite having a less than 80% in quant. Hobbes made it to Duke this time with the same GMAT that he had been asked to improve upon.

All schools say that GMAT is not the only component that they look at. There are a lot of things that make an application and each aspect carries its own weightage. Applicants can offset certain weaknesses in their application, such as a low quant GMAT score, with strong academic background in Mathematics.

My two cents: The adcoms are being honest. They do look at all components before deciding on an application. Importance of GMAT is the same for all applicant pools. What varies is the average GMAT scores among these pools. The average GMAT score of a school may be 650 but adcom cannot help it if you happen to be in a pool where the average GMAT score is in excess of 750 (read Indian IT male in case of my friend). Same goes the other way around as well. If you are competing with a pool where average GMAT is just 550, you stand a good chance of getting into that school (having GMAT average 650) with a score of 600!

Bottomline - tough luck if you happen to be in such a competitive applicant pool. No use frowning over why the feedback given to you says your GMAT can do with some improvement. Either improve a whole lot of things to offset the GMAT (which is manageable if you have a GMAT 720) or bite the GMAT bullet once again.

Of course, as I said before, there are many success stories. Its not impossible to get an admit with a low GMAT, its just tougher than usual. For those curious, my GMAT 720 friend did make it to a good school in the end.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Sunil Gavaskar obliges

The 'Little Master' visited SAP campus on Friday and our cricket team managed a photo-op with him :)
I was on leave the previous day and so was not aware that the whole team is turning out in white. Hence, the odd-man out.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Tuck update: The agony continues

This is turning out to be quite a pain. Tuck has decided to extend my waitlist by another month.

I was hoping they will save me the agony of waiting till the very last moment. I am virtually in a no man's land. I am not sure where I am headed.

I have no doubt that Tuck is my first choice. However, that is only when I look at Tuck and Duke on a level ground. As it turns out, the ground is no longer level. I already have an admit from Duke. The people there have shown that they live by the 'Team Fuqua' culture that they boast of. With Duke students, alumni and staff having been so cordial and helpful, and with me having a small scholarship from them as well, I now wonder if it is worth waiting till June 13.

Durham is a small town and most of the good apartments will already be taken by the time I start looking for one next month. Then there's the Visa issue - if I change my school after getting my Visa stamped, I will have to go through the whole Visa process again.

As of now, I think I will confirm that I want to remain on waitlist, hope for an early decision, hope that the decision goes my way and then run around to get all logistics done on time.

Good luck to me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Tips for waitlisted applicants

I hate waitlists. Many times during the process, I was at loss to know what to do. I could not get much help on the web either.

A school's reasons for waitlisting applicants may vary from managing the yield to balancing the diversity of the incoming class. From an applicant's perspective, it means only one thing - You are not good enough to fit into their scheme of things outright and need to try harder. An optimistic way of looking at this would be that you are not a 'weak' candidate and they dare not reject you outright.

The critical question is how to handle waitlists. I list down some points based on my experience with two waitlists that I had to deal with. These are some of the things I did or I read about after I received those excruciating waitlist decisions.

  1. Do not act in a hurry. Take your time before you send any update/ communication to the adcom. They are not expecting an update from you the very next day. You generally have about a week's time to decide if you want to remain on the waitlist.

  1. Check what steps specific to your school are to be followed once you have been put on waitlist. Most schools send across a Waitlist FAQ along with a waitlist decision. Schools such as Wharton do not allow you to send any additional material.

  1. Ask the school if you can send stuff like additional recommendations. In my case, Fuqua encouraged this but Tuck categorically told me not to send any additional reco.

  1. Go through your entire application package. Ask someone familiar with the process to read your essays e.g. I got my Tuck application essays reviewed by a friend who had cleared his waitlist at GSB Chicago and so had a fair idea of what the missing links in an app could be. Do you need to re-emphasize something? Maybe your why MBA was not as strong as other parts of your app. Maybe you need to explain this again.

  1. Check with your school if they are willing to give you a feedback. If yes, you are in for a windfall - you have a perceptible weakness that they think can be overcome. Show them that you are willing to make amends.

  1. Check with your interviewer if he can give you any feedback based on your interview. I did that and it turned out to be useful.

  1. Make a list of possible updates that you can send to the adcom.

a) Examples of updates that I know people sent include: Promotions/ change in roles or responsibility/ improved or new test scores (I had my TOEFL waived off at most schools but sent my TOEFL scores as an update later). Updates such as salary hike/ bonus are debatable. If you decide to send such updates, you should have received this bonus/ hike as a result of of performance and you should make it a point to tell the adcom the same.

b) Updates may also include info on any initiative that you took within/ outside of office. Something like you being felicitated by your CEO ;), you launching a new initiative etc.

  1. I would recommend not to send too many update mails during the waitlist period. Two or at the max three update mails should serve the purpose. The adcom should not feel as if you do not have the maturity to understand what needs to be sent and what not. As Thomas Caleel, Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid recommends on - The Development has to be:

unanticipated, and
of significant benefit to the applicant in the time remaining until matriculation
to merit informing the Wharton adcom.

  1. Do not forget the fundamentals: Why is the update important? How will it improve your overall application? What value will you add to the incoming class because of that update?

  1. Can you visit the school? Nothing like it. I was not in a position to go to the US after I got waitlisted but the whole world seems to advice about making that piligrimage to bolster your chances to the max.

  1. I have read about cases where applicants have got current students and alumni to officially put in a word for them. Worth a shot. I did not get this idea while there was still time, neither did any alum/student know me well enough to recommend me. Still, it is an option that people seem to have exercised.

  1. If you already have an admit from some other univ, I think it does not hurt to inform the waitlisted school about this and tell them that despite the admit you would still like to attend their program.

  1. Apart from the updates, it is nice to express your love for the school in your correspondence. Continue your research on the school, continue talking to staff/ students/ alumni/ interviewer.

Do not forget that your waitlist may have more to do with the quality of other applications with a similar profile rather than any weakness in your application. Leave it to the adcom to decide whether you fit into the scheme of things or not rather than being overzealous.

I am still awaiting a decision from Tuck but whatever the result, I am sure that I will not be left out due to lack of trying :)

Edit: A post that should help waitlisted applicants. Rahul added another useful link as a comment.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Duke cheating scandal

Fuqua has lately been in news for not exactly the reasons it would have wanted to be.

Disciplinary action was taken against 34 odd students for a breach of the Fuqua Honor code. Not surprisingly, this sort of action at one of the top-notch univs in the US has garnered condiderable media attention. Media coverage is not only confined to news about the incident. There is a lot of specualtion about how it will affect Duke's image and the future of its current students and alumni.

I understand that the press and people suddenly have some 'hot' topic to discuss about and they are at it in a full-blown manner. Fuqua management probably saw it coming and hence reached out to all new admits and alumni.

Some say it is appreciable on part of Fuqua to come down heavily on any sort of honor code violation and if anything it will encourage employers to look at Fuqua as an ethically strong institution. If I were a recruiter, I too would look at at in this manner.

Personally, I think it will be back to normal once all this hoopla dies down. No loss of image or anything. No gains either. Some students were caught cheating and disciplinary action was taken against them - end of story.

I doubt if someone's decision to join Fuqua or not this Fall will be influenced by such a one-off incident. Atleast mine is not.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Yaye for SAP Labs

SAP Labs India has been ranked 8th in the Great Places to Work Study 2006 by Business World and I am so proud to be working here. The Great Place to Work Survey spanned over 120 major companies in India. SAP Labs participated in this for the first time and made it to the top 10!

More noteworthy is that amongst IT companies, SAP Labs is ranked 3. I have not worked with too many companies but going by the experience of my friends in various other companies, SAP is definitely one of the best places to work for.

Infact, I am surprised to see it lagging behind Google and Mindtree. I wonder how much more can those companies be doing for their employees. We have a sprawling campus, free food, free transport, amazingly flexible working hours, the independence to think and express our thoughts openly (for an IT guy, there is nothing more vital than this), a liberal cross-project transfer policy, numerous discussion forums, clubs, a dedicated and active CSR initiative, cricket, football tournaments, dance classes, a nice gym, festival celebrations, Family Day celebrations, guests such as Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore kick-starting the New Year, etc etc etc. Not to mention a highly qualified and intelligent pool of employees who egg you on to perform your best. And these are just some of the things that come to my mind at this moment. I can list down much more if I sit back and think.

I remember on Diwali weekend last year, I had to stay back till 8.30 PM due to some sudden customer escalation. As I sat in the shuttle, I realized that there were just 3 employees going that late! After a fab display of fireworks at office that evening, it was possible for most of us to go home and celebrate. Even though I was unlucky enough to be among those three people, I felt proud to be working with a company that cares and in a company where it is possible to balance your work and life so effectively.

Three cheers for SAP Labs! Go SAP...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Things to do

It is really difficult to concentrate on office work in office these days. I already feel there's so much to do and so little time left. Last week, I began preparing a list of action items that need my attention. And this list just keeps on growing longer.

Some examples of things on my list are:
  1. Impress Tuck - and that's absolutely vital!
  2. Research on what kind of laptop will suit me best there and where will I get the best deal.
  3. Learn excel shortcuts - I am really bad at this.
  4. There's some fuss being created over getting parking permits at Fuqua. Need to knwo what's the big deal about this.
  5. Check on vaccinations and immunizations. I can save money if I get this done with while I am still in India.
  6. People seem to have already booked apartments in Durham, and I do not even have a flatmate yet (Guess I can blame Tuck for this :))
  7. Then there's a lot of usual research that I need to do about Fuqua - such as a deeper research into the clubs.
  8. Ah! and the VISA - how can I forget that.
  9. Is flight availability already a problem? I heard this a couple of times already.

On top of all this, finish off pending stuff at office, give KT etc etc...

Friday, April 13, 2007

Indian IT professional? Here's how you begin

I sent a similar mail to some people who approached me for advice. Thought its better to put it on blog.

If you are reading this blog then you have already started doing the right thing.
First things first: Start reading blogs - they are amazing resources of first hand experience from fellow applicants and current students. People who have been there, done that.

Visit Clearadmit regularly. You get some useful info there. Read the blogs of all Best of Blogging nominees.

With blogs, you get a very good idea of the application process. There are some things that can help you in deciding upon which schools to apply. While going through these (and other) blogs, I would recommend that you be on the look out for the following things:
1) What schools are keen on Indian Students
2) What are the kind of profiles of Indian students getting into these schools
3) What differentiated them from others who were not successful
4) Which schools not to apply to. This is a critical question to address - there are some schools that entice you to apply based on their strengths, brand name, your gut feeling etc etc. However, do not get swayed by emotions - do your research well before you apply. It costs a substantial time and amount to apply to each school, not to mention the disappointment of not getting through. My earlier blog caters to this aspect. There are schools that simply are not too keen on my type of people and my educational interests also are not served as well by them. All applicants I talked to did not know anyone in India who got interviewed by MIT. Bottomline: Apply wherever you want to, but Be Aware!
5) A common thread you'll find across all successful 'Indian IT male' applicants in India (I am not sure of Indians who apply when they are working abroad) getting into the top 10 schools is a good GMAT score. No doubt the application consists of a lot of components, but for an Indian IT male, it takes a Herculean effort to sway a decision your way given a low GMAT score.
6) Do not hesitate to contact these bloggers - they are people like you and me, and after a looong application process, they are willing to share their thoughts with anyone who wants to listen.
7) You'll find a lot of comments on these blogs - check them out to find out about other bloggers.

Again, no matter what you do, do not compromise your GMAT preparation for anything. Aim for 800 :) It doesn't take hard work to score well - work smart!

All the Best

Thursday, April 12, 2007

My ideal Inbox

Things I wish to see when I check my mailbox in the morning:

  1. A full freeship award letter from Duke/ Tuck
  2. A pre-approved VISA without having to appear for interview
  3. No work at office
  4. My manager mailing me that since there aint much work, I can go on a paid vacation for my last two months
  5. A mail from a fellow admit saying all my housing needs have been taken care of and I just need to get my $@# in there
Alas! If wishes were horses...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

What constitutes the 'Fit'?

Most people are of the opinion that you should just look at the fit-factor from your point of view and let the university decide whether you fit in its jigsaw puzzle or not. I would say we should always start looking at a school in that way, but in the end, the decision to apply or not should also depend on the probability of getting accepted to the school you are going to apply. It takes around $250 to submit an app to a top school and we better spend this money wisely.

To present an example, here's 5 reasons why I applied to INSEAD:

  1. A major reason behind my decision to pursue an MBA is the opportunity to interact with a diverse student body. Where else than the most 'International' of all MBA courses - going by the statistics that is. It has arguably the most diverse student body in terms of nationality as well as quality.
  2. One of the better one-year courses in the world.
  3. Brand name, esp in Europe. For someone looking to pursue a career in Europe, INSEAD is bound to be among the top-choices.
  4. Amazing spirit of community.
  5. It costs lesser than a two-year course in the US.

And here's 5 reasons why I should not have:

  1. I have never travelled abroad. To apply to INSEAD with the international travel part of your application blank is blasphemy for a profile like mine.
  2. Demonstrated leadership is a crucial factor for admission at all top B-schools around the world. INSEAD seems to value this demonstration a lot more at work than outside it. I was a team lead at my previous company, but later switched to a product development form and am currently leading a team of zero. INSEAD's essay one goes thus: "Please give a detailed description of your job, including nature of work, major responsibilities; and, where relevant, employees under your supervision, size of budget, number of clients/products and results achieved."
  3. Most of the Indians getting through either already hold a master's degree or have diverse work experience (read non-IT).
  4. One of my stronger points was GMAT, and INSEAD simply couldn't care less for this given the rest of my profile.
  5. To make the most of my education and succeed post-INSEAD, I now think that more work-ex than 3-4 years is preferable if I was looking for a career switch. So while I still think INSEAD is a good fit for me when it comes to enjoying my education and learning the most out of it, INSEAD may actually have done me a favor by not offering an admit.
The point is that there are a whole lot of things to be looked upon when you apply to a B-school. We all apply to schools we think are stretch targets for us. But it is wise to choose the best out of those stretch-schools and not just go ahead and apply. Would I apply to INSEAD again if given a chance to begin my app process all over again? I'm not sure...

Disclaimer: Thoughts mentioned above are personal and have nothing to do with what INSEAD recommends.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Waitlisted at Tuck

Was surprised to see correspondence from Tuck early in the morning today. They've decided to waitlist me, and that too a full week before their announced decision date for the January round.

Having been through a waitlist already, I can vouch that its quite a pain. Whatever updates I had sent to Duke, I already included in my Tuck Application. Add to that, I have to deposit acceptance fee at Duke by April 2 and I am pretty certain Tuck will not give me a decision by that time.

Will write more on this later...

Friday, March 09, 2007


I made it to Duke guys!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Fingers Crossed...

Fuqua Round 2 results are due some hours from now. Though rejects are not earth-shattering news for me, more so after receiving four of them on the trot, I sure hope the tide of luck favors me this time round. I have my fingers crossed...

Friday, February 23, 2007

Thoughts on ISB

This may appear like an example of sour grapes. By the time I got to know I am not through to ISB, I had almost decided not to join anyways. Despite three other rejection mails, this one does not cease to surprise me.

I was a re-applicant to ISB this year (had applied with my GRE scores last year). Got rejected last time and requested for a feedback. Here’s what they said: ‘You may look at a good GMAT Score, improving communication and interview skills further, if you are planning to re-apply.’.

I felt the basis of rejection was strange: I have a pretty good GRE score and if they want people to take the GMAT, then there was no need to keep the GRE option open at all. Secondly, ‘improving your interview skills’ is a very generic statement. This probably means that the profile is fine, but they did not like the way I presented myself. I later came to know of many other candidates who received the same feedback. It was as if they had used a standard template for people asking for feedback. Or maybe this was a major criterion for selection and they felt that many applicants actually lacked these skills.

I think ISB is a decent option for anyone who is looking to pursue management education in India. However, ISB interviews sessions are very ‘crude’ to say the least. Each interview lasts approx 20-25 minutes. There are 2-3 people in each interview panel. They never ask Why MBA, Why now or Why ISB in their interviews. They seldom ask about your experiences outside of work. Here’s what I was confronted with this time:
What has changed in your candidature over the past one year?
Why job switch?
What business does your grand father do?
If you were to open a soap factory, how much soap will you be able to sell, and what factors will you consider?
Asked me 'How do you do?' in German when they discovered that I knew German.

And here’s what they asked last year:
In what sectors would you recommend FIIs to invest in India?
What do you like doing on weekends?
A question related to the technology I am working on in office. How am I different from other candidates?

While all these are questions that one can expect in an interview, I am not sure how much a short 20 minute discussion with 3/4 questions helps the adcom. In my case it was enough for them to decide that there are 450 better candidates than me. Maybe my answers were not as refined as they should’ve been. Maybe I was not assertive enough. Maybe they felt that I am just another one of those run-of-the-mill IT guys applying for an MBA. Whatever the case, the fact remains that I wasn't able to sell myself well in front of them for two consecutive years now.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

No Feedback

Here's what Haas has to say on my request for feedback:

"The Berkeley MBA Admissions Committee will only provide feedback to applicants who are denied from our waitlist or denied after completing an interview. In past years, we have provided feedback to all unsuccessful applicants. Unfortunately, the overwhelming number of requests became a significant strain on our limited resources and we found ourselves unable to devote sufficient time to other important projects. As a result, we have reluctantly decided to provide this service only to those individuals who were originally placed on our waitlist or interviewed.

We sincerely wish that we had the time and resources to provide feedback to all of our unsuccessful applicants, especially considering how much time and energy you spent completing our application. Unfortunately, we simply do not. We suggest that you may wish to compare yourself to the profile of admitted students that is available on our website the profile for this year’s entering class will be available in the early fall. This may help you pinpoint weak areas in your application. We wish you all the best as you pursue graduate management study.

The Berkeley MBA Admissions Team

Seems there's simply too many people around everywhere these days.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tuck Interview Experience

My Tuck interview took place in Delhi last week.

Here's what I was asked:

If I were not to see your resume, what one thing would you take along if I send you to Mars? Then some discussion on what I answered.
What one word describes you the best?
What makes teams work? Some ques about teamwork v/s individual brilliance.
Questions about my experiences as a team lead.
What will your friends say if I ask them about your strengths? And weaknesses? Asked for examples on why I felt those to be my weaknesses.
My experiences in community service – what is one particular experience that you are proud of?
Why MBA?
Why Now?
Why Tuck?
Any questions you want to ask?

The Tuck interview is a bit different from that of other schools. Tuck has appointed a dedicated representative for Asia, and he interviews prospective students across Singapore, Bangladesh, India, China etc. In the end, I was not too sure if this is a good idea. The representative is not a Tuck pass out, so I felt the interview lacked the vital ‘Tuck perspective’ that an alum would have provided me with. At the same time, I think it is better than a telephonic interview that is the norm for most US B-schools - in case no alumni is available.

Overall, it was pretty much a ‘textbook interview’. I came out with a feeling that there was still some information that I could have put across. A key question I wanted to address was why they should take me in Tuck. While I did weave in plenty of stories that would help him judge the answer to this question, there was still some stuff that I could add. He did not ask me if I wanted to say something else, and I thought it wise to leave it at that.

With lots of rejects already in my bag, I surely hope the adcom thinks I have it in me to be a part of the Tuck community.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Duke interview experience

I interviewed with a Fuqua Alum in Bangalore a couple of weeks back. It was a very pleasant experience. My interviewer gave me a good picture of life at Duke. It was nice to meet someone so passionate about his alma mater.

The interview was pretty much on expected lines. We went on to discuss almost everything I could pack in my application. Some questions I remember were:

1) Tell me about your family
2) Info about my undergraduate institute
3) My decision to join IT after graduating in a non-computer science field
4) Experiences at work. Why job switch?
5) What is my idea of a leader? What are my leadership experiences
6) Which leader inspires me the most and why
7) Why MBA
8) Why now
9) Why Fuqua
10)What other schools have I applied to and why
11)If he were the director of admissions and asked me why Duke should take me, what would my reply be in 30 seconds
12)A situation where I have let someone down.
13)Any questions I have for him.

Mid-way he said he is very candid in his feedback to applicants. He mentioned that I would make a good fit at Fuqua. However, he also said that off the record, he feels that another year of work experience (I currently have 3.5 years of work ex) would do me no harm since my career is yet to hit a plateau and since I am the kind of person who learns from his experiences. He also commented that I have excellent academics though I personally do not think so :)

I think I was able to express my love for Duke in a convincing manner, and he was impressed with most of my answers. The best part of the interview was when he told me enthusiastically about his own experience at Duke. How they used to camp outside for days to get tickets for basketball matches. How everyone is so friendly and involved, and how education at Duke has really made a difference to his outlook.

Considering that I have been waitlisted by Duke, I feel that the interview should do me no harm.


Its been pretty long since I wrote something on my blog. No particular reason for this - probably been too lazy.

For the record, my app process is going something like this:
Kellog, Haas and INSEAD: DWI
Duke: Waitlisted and subsequently interviewed (will write my interview experience in a separate post)
ISB: Interviewed
Decided to apply to Tuck in the January round and have been called for interview.

A lot of effort has gone into the application process since April last year - time I started preparing for GMAT. I had a GMAT score of 770 to show for two and a half months of efforts, and my MBA dream was off to a flying start. At least I was assured of an MBA, if that was all I cared for. An MBA is assured even now - where and when is uncertain.

I scheduled a feedback session with INSEAD, and the lady told me that the major factor for rejection was absence of international experience in my profile. Not that I was taken aback by this, considering that the school in question was INSEAD. But subsequent DWIs from Kellogg and Haas mean there has to be more than this single reason for my rejections.

I have polished my app since then and decided to apply to Tuck. What transpires remains to be seen. Atleast, its not a DWI this time. Applying in a staggered manner (with an even distribution in rounds one and two) seems to be a better choice as there is no doubt that one's application improves significantly with time.

Also, I am not sure whether I will join ISB even if I get through. It may sound very foolish to have applied at all when I wasnt even sure of joining but I would rather prefer to make that decision after I have something in my hand.