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.