This interview is the latest in an Accepted blog series featuring interviews with MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a chat with Vandana Sathpathy, a student at Northwestern Kellogg. (We first met Vandana last year – you can read our first interview with her here.)
Accepted: Last we spoke, you had just been accepted to multiple b-schools. Where did you end up going? What year are you?
Vandana: It was a tough decision, but finally I chose to go to Kellogg. I’m finishing up my last few weeks as a first year, after which I’ll be off for my internship from June-August.
Accepted: Why did you choose Kellogg? How was it the best fit for you?
Vandana: It was a tough decision to make, but I chose Kellogg predominantly because of the MMM Program. I loved the idea of being able to graduate with a Masters in Design Innovation in addition to my MBA, I thought the skills I would develop through this program would be very relevant to the career I want to build in the tech industry, and we definitely have had some cool courses!
Accepted: Are you involved in any clubs on campus? How central to student life is club involvement?
Vandana: I’m the VP of Leadership Recognition in the Business Leadership Club at Kellogg and the role has a focus on ensuring that the small, but significant acts of leadership Kellogg students and staff demonstrate every day do not go unnoticed, and I’m very excited about the role! I also volunteer for admissions events and prospective student outreach and am on the Food Committee for the new Kellogg building that’s being developed, and I am passionate about all these things.
I think at the overall Kellogg experience is very student-driven, and clubs and club events enhance that experience to a large extent, whether it is interest based clubs (Kellogg Eats, Arts&Culture Club, etc.), social clubs (India Business Club, South East Asia Club, BMA, etc.), skills professional clubs (High Tech Club, Consulting Club, etc.). Students are involved with planning and organizing almost every event on campus, and I definitely think club involvement is extremely central to student life, leadership position or not. Almost every student at Kellogg wants to ensure that their expertise/research benefits the larger Kellogg community, and clubs are a great way to contribute to the Kellogg community and pay it forward.
Accepted: Do you have an internship lined up for the summer? What role did Kellogg play in helping you secure that position?
Vandana: Yes I do! I’ll be heading to Apple this summer, and I’m so excited to be in Cupertino. I interviewed with multiple companies on campus and was fortunate to have the opportunity to choose between a few internship offers.
Kellogg has always been known for its collaborative culture and outstandingly supportive people, and this is what stood out for me while I was recruiting for internships. I had a lot of help, from a lot of people.
My career coach from Kellogg’s Career Management Center spent many hours reviewing my resume with me, giving me feedback on my cover letters and elevator pitch and just helping me figure out which role was right for me. And one of the best resources at Kellogg is our peers. I received invaluable advice from so many second years at Kellogg who were willing to talk to me about their internship experiences and recruiting process – they volunteered their time to help many first years like myself navigate the recruiting process (despite being busy recruiting for their own full-time jobs) and their stories and insights were critical for my applications and interview prep. The High Tech Club at Kellogg is really top notch and the resources they painstakingly put together to guide us were incredible.
Accepted: Can you tell us about Kellogg’s to-do list for new students? How did that help you prepare for life as a student and life at Kellogg?
Vandana: Kellogg had a very handy checklist to help us prepare for the move to Evanston and everything we needed to do before our first day on campus. I love lists, so it was especially helpful for me since I would have made one anyway. But it had everything from what documents we needed to send to Kellogg, health insurance information, visa related information and checklists with timelines, financial aid information and to-do items, housing options and guidance, certain coursework that needed to be completed before arriving on campus and some (optional) links to primers on basic business school fundamentals (excel basics, accounting basics etc). It was an A-Z list of everything that we needed to do with timelines, and in retrospect, I can’t imagine not having such a list! It removed a lot of the stress and guesswork from if and when something needed to be done, and brought structure to what could have been a messy and stressful affair.
Accepted: Can you talk about your experience as an international applicant and student? What are your top 3 tips for international applicants?
Vandana: As an international applicant, it was hard to stay confident and not second-guess what I put in my applications.
As an international student, there are additional hassles when it comes to moving, getting a student visa, etc. It is also harder while recruiting because a significant percentage of companies do not hire international students or sponsor work visas, so it’s good to know which these are earlier on. I found it helpful to talk to current students to get help with moving to US and my career coach and fellow students to navigate the tricky world of recruiting as an international student. It’s great to have a supportive network.
Top 3 tips for applicants:
1. Tell a story in your essays. I know a lot of international applicants that have outstanding work experience and achievements, but they just weren’t able to bring their stories to life in their applications. Admissions Officers read hundreds of essays each day, and they don’t just want to know what you achieved at work. I’ve read more than a few that were just really boring.
Whatever the essay prompt is, it’s important to let your personality shine through and be able to get the reader to visualize your story and empathize with you. Context setting is important, and so is using the right language, which brings me to….
2. Check your language and grammar. Spell check. Use the right school name (!!) in your essays. Get your essays read by a Grammar Nazi friend. Don’t use jargon that is specific to your country. Be mindful of the way you enunciate and speak during interviews; be clear and concise. Vocabulary doesn’t matter as much as delivery and clarity of thought.
3. Understand your audience. Get a feel for the school. Visit if you can. If not, talk to a whole bunch of current students to really understand what makes them tick. What do they love about the school? What would they change? Are they in any of the clubs you’re interested in – talk to them to find out the types of events those clubs do and how you can get involved. Maybe talk to an alumnus, to understand how graduating from a particular school changed their career trajectory, the support they receive from the school and what the network is like. Ask for specific examples of scenarios that stand out for students and alumni from their time at business school, and this will give a deeper insight into what makes the school tick.
You can read more about Vandana’s b-school journey by checking out her blog, My Journey to Business School. Thank you Vandana for sharing your story with us!
For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.