This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing Balaji.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What is your favorite non-school book?
Balaji: I’m based on out Bangalore, India. I currently work as a Program Management Analyst in a Fortune 100 company. I did my undergrad in Bachelor of Engineering (Electronics & Instrumentation Engineering) from Anna University, Chennai.
I love reading fictional and history books. My favorite ones have been Dan Brown’s series and my most favorite book related to history is Glimpses of World History by Nehru.
Accepted: What stage of the admissions process are you up to?
Balaji: I did not start my application process yet. As I currently only have 3 and a half years of experience. And after thorough study, I thought I would require 5 years of experience to have a good chance of getting into top b-schools as the average WE is 5 years.
Last year, I tried applying to one b-school to get some experience in the application process. But I was dinged without interview, and I think it was due to my WE, as I had only 2 years of experience while applying.
Accepted: Do you plan on staying in your current industry post-MBA, or changing to a new field/career?
Balaji: I haven’t decided on that yet. I wanted to stay in my field for sometime post-MBA, as I love Project/Program Management – rather to generalize I love management/operational stuffs.
Also I have a plan to start my own business at some point in future.
Accepted: As an Indian male in the software industry (a highly represented applicant group), you’re going to need to work hard to distinguish yourself from the crowd. What are some things that set you apart from your competition?
Balaji: Yes, I belong to Indian-Male category but not in software industry any more. My previous employer was a top 15 IT service provider in the world. But as soon I was done with my undergrad, I wanted to pursue an MBA. So I avoided any software related jobs in my previous employer, so I worked as Enterprise Project Management Analyst. After 3 years working with CGI. I moved to Honeywell (here I work for Aero Division). I thought working in Fortune 100 Company will make my profile/application more visible and strong.
Now moving onto distinguishing myself from the highly represented group, below are my extra-curricular activities I presently do/did during my work, undergrad and high school.
A. Student Coordinator in National Entrepreneurship Network during my last 2 years of my undergrad.
B. Core Cultural Committee member during my last 2 years of my undergrad – in charge/single point of contact for all technical related activities.
C. Was a Sergeant of National cadet corps in my high school.
D. Was a vice-captain of my high school football (soccer) team.
E. Was core member in corporate social responsibility team at my previous employer. We conducted many charity and fundraiser events for orphanages, etc.
F. Certified Competent Communicator and Competent leader from Toastmasters International. And also served as Vice President Education for 2 terms.
G. Finally was a core member in Employee Welfare Association club at my previous employer.
On Entrepreneurship: My in-law runs an event management company. I take care of the business when he is held up with other important works or on travel.
Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?
Balaji: There isn’t a better way than forums and blogs to tell everyone around the world who is currently preparing for the GMAT/MBA application that it is easy to get into top b-school with your efforts and perseverance. I thought, if I start blogging about my experience I can learn my mistakes. (In PM terminology: We always to tend to document our project plan and risks etc., so that it will be helpful for the lessons learnt at the end of the project.)
And for others, there will always be room to improve from one’s own mistakes from others’ mistakes/experiences.
You can read more about Balaji’sb-school journey by checking out his blog, GNPTH: My GMAT/MBA Journey. Thank you Balaji for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.
Wait! Are you sure you’re ready to hit submit? Are you certain that your MBA application is in tip-top condition and ready to go live? Don’t you want a definitive stamp of approval? An A+ grade that will enable you to send off your application with confidence?
With Accepted’s new Final Check service, you’ll receive a final review and critique of your essays, resume, and short answer/optional question responses. Our expert consultants will let you know what you can do to further optimize your application to get it ready for submission.
Now’s the time to get your Final Check…especially with the following deadlines right around the corner:
• Sept. 23 – MIT Sloan
• Sept. 24 – INSEAD and Kellogg
• Sept. 26 – Booth
• Oct. 1 – Stanford, Haas, Johnson, and Wharton
Submit with confidence! Get your Final Check today!
This post about the Columbia supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools.
In addition to the basic Common Application essay, the Ivy League schools require supplemental essay responses. These extra essays help these elite schools gain a deeper understanding of the applicant. They are your opportunity to explain how the school is a good match for you and vise versa. These schools want to know what is important to you and how they fit into your future goals!
Note that you can apply via the Common Application or the Columbia First-Year Application. The school has no preference; however, applicants can only submit ONE of the applications.
When addressing each prompt, consider the overall character and focus of the school in relationship to your personal objectives. Visit the school website, read about their educational mission, and think about how the school supports your interests. Columbia takes pride in the synergy created between its diverse residential student population and its location in the heart of bustling New York City. It also embraces a rich educational tradition in its interdepartmental Core Curriculum that encourages creative critical thinking by encompassing writing, science, philosophy, literature, art, music, and history.
What single activity listed in the activity section of your Common Application are you most proud of and why? (150 words or less)
This is an opportunity to highlight one of the activities you listed on your Common Application. Select an activity that reveals something important to you. This may be something you have been involved with for years or an experience that exposed you to something novel. Whichever activity you select, make sure to convey your enthusiasm and what it reflects about you. If appropriate, tie your interests to opportunities available at Columbia and in NYC.
Please tell us what you find most appealing about Columbia and why. (300 words or less)
This is a very important question. You need to convince the admissions committee that Columbia is the best school to help you meet your goals. You also have to show them how you can enrich the dynamic educational environment at Columbia. Discuss what excites you most about the Columbia experience. They want to know what kind of student you might be at Columbia.
Columbia University requires additional essay responses for students applying to Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science:
If you are applying to Columbia College, tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. If you are currently undecided, please write about any field or fields in which you may have an interest at this time. (300 words or less)
If you are applying to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, please tell us what from your current and past experiences (either academic or personal) attracts you specifically to the field or fields of study that you noted in the Member Questions section. (300 words or less)
Both of these prompts ask you to consider your interests and experiences that helped you determine your specific career path. If you are truly undecided, in the Columbia College response, focus on the areas you are currently interested in, what excites you about those topics, and your hopes for the future. These prompts ask you to think broadly about your life experience as well as provide specific examples of how these experiences affected your interests and propelled you toward a particular area of study. Your discussion should reveal your passion for the subject. Remember to include why the program at Columbia is the best match to help you achieve your goals.
In addition to essay responses, Columbia requests the following lists. As you select required readings, books, and other forms of media, think about the breadth and depth of your interests. Consider how your selections represent your identity, reflect your intellect and curiosity, relate to Columbia’s Core Curriculum requirements, and make you a good match for the overall educational experience at Columbia.
List the titles of the required readings from courses during the school year or summer that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)
This is an opportunity to showcase a particular area of interest to you. Consider classes, which you discovered something new and exciting, allowed you to explore a previous area of interest in more depth, or covered a topic that helped you see the world in a different way.
List the titles of the books you read for pleasure that you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)
The admissions committee wants to know the sorts of topics that you find interesting. What better way than to share your recent favorite books? They are trying to gain a deeper sense of who you are and how you might fit in at Columbia. This list sheds some light on how you spend your spare time.
List the titles of the print, electronic publications and websites you read regularly. (150-words or less)
The sources of information and media you engage with routinely provide insights into how you perceive the world. This list to some degree demonstrates what topics are important to you. It also indicates the modes of information exchange you find most comfortable.
List the titles of the films, concerts, shows, exhibits, lectures and other entertainments you enjoyed most in the past year. (150-words or less)
This list is allows you to tell the admissions committee the sorts of activities you do for fun! Your responses suggest the kinds of activities that may appeal to you at Columbia and provide insight about how you engage the world around you.
The admissions website clearly states Columbia’s commitment to a holistic approach to the admission process: “every single application is given a thorough review, and there is positively no minimum grade point average, class rank, or SAT/ACT score one must obtain in order to secure admission to Columbia.” That said Columbia has a highly competitive applicant pool. It received 32,964 undergraduate applications for the class of 2018. Only 2,291 or 7% were offered admission and over 90% of students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with average SAT scores of 2245 and an average ACT score of 33. Your essays make you more than a number.
In this environment it is essential to remain calm and focused. Keep in mind, while adhering to the designated word limits and deadlines, your goal is to distinguish yourself from your peers by sharing your personal examples, anecdotes, and perspectives. In short, by providing sincere insight into what makes you, you! And why you are a good match for Columbia! Be sure to allow yourself appropriate time to reflect on your educational goals and to convey your best self to the admissions committee through your essay responses.
By Marie Todd, Accepted’s college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications.
Listen to the recording of our conversation with Ann Richards, Interim Director of Admissions and Director of Financial Aid at Johnson at Cornell University to learn more.
00:02:06 – A run-down of the Johnson MBA programs.
00:06:34 – Overview of the 2-year MBA program.
00:12:25 – Performance Learning (Is it different from “experiential learning”?) and Immersions.
00:18:17 – The student-run funds at Johnson: not monopoly money.
00:21:41 – The Family Business Initiatives.
00:25:27 – The Johnson application! (What you really wanted to hear about)
00:28:54 – Admissions events for subgroups.
00:33:06 – What applicants should think about/do before starting the admissions process.
00:41:48 – What Ann LOVES to see in an MBA application.
00:42:46 – Take note: Advice for all MBA applicants.
*Theme music is courtesy of podcastthemes.com.
• Johnson at Cornell University
• Johnson at Cornell University 2015 MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines
• 7 Tips for MBA Applicants from Family Businesses
• Smith Family Business Initiative
• The Cayuga Fund
• Where Does Wall St. Hire: U.S. B-Schools Sending Grads into Financial Services
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Since the number of secondary applications that you receive can be overwhelming, you may be tempted to take a few shortcuts. Some shortcuts are warranted while others are just too risky to consider using. To ensure that you are one of the “lucky” few who receive a medical school interview, avoid the following egregious errors:
1. Cutting and Pasting material from other essays and submitting with the wrong school name.
Almost every secondary application will have a question about why you want to attend their medical school. It may be tempting to cut and paste this essay response over and over again. However, the best essays that respond to this type of question include specific details about the school that you have researched and therefore pertain only to that particular campus. Also, it may be obvious if you provide a generic response that you are recycling it—or worse, if you forget to change the school name before submitting it—you may forfeit an interview. It’s such an easy mistake to prevent by proofreading each application carefully before submission. Having another person review it may be the best way to prevent errors that you may have difficulty seeing yourself.
2. Writing about the same activity for each essay response.
Since most secondary essays have multiple questions, it’s important to be strategic in selecting the content for each response. Make sure that you cover a wide variety of leadership, community service and clinical experiences in the essays so that you do not find yourself writing about one example or activity over and over again—especially within one secondary. To avoid this kind of repetition, print a copy of your updated CV or resume and a copy of your AMCAS application activities and review the list. You will have lots of options right in front of you!
3. Focusing on events or experiences in high school.
Unless an essay specifically requests that you include information about your early life, I don’t recommend focusing on that time period. If you are asked a general question about the most stressful event in your life or a meaningful clinical experience, often, it would be best to cover material from college and after. There are some exceptions—like the serious illness or death of a loved one—but very few. If you focus on high school as being a defining moment in your personal history, the application reviewers may question your maturity level. Ideally, you will have encountered many challenges that culminated in periods of significant personal development during college and after. Keep track of the areas you tend to focus on in the timeline of your life.
4. Going off topic or not answering the prompt.
This is one of the worst mistakes to make because it can be the most time intensive to correct. Also, it would immediately disqualify you for an interview since you wouldn’t be providing the adcom with the information that they are requesting. This type of error often occurs from either cutting and pasting material from other essays or completing essays at the last minute. If you are rushing through your essays, it may be better to slow down and take more breaks to stay focused and on topic. The best way to avoid this problem is to create outlines for each essay prompt. A carefully planned and constructed essay will actually take less time to write and you will end up with a better final product.
While these approaches can have the most damaging results on the medical school application process, they are easy to avoid. Using the simple strategies provided above, you can significantly increase your chances of receiving a medical school interview. Remember to take your time and do your best.
Alicia McNease Nimonkar is an Accepted.com advisor and editor specializing in healthcare admissions. Prior to joining Accepted, Alicia worked for five years as Student Advisor at UC Davis’ postbac program where she both evaluated applications and advised students applying successfully to med school and related programs.