Interview with MBA Reapplicant, “Top Dog”

Click Here for More MBA Applicant Interviews

This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing our anonymous blogger, Top Dog.

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 current job?  

Top Dog: Hello, and thanks for the opportunity to talk about myself! I was born and went to school in the UK, studying for my Bachelor of Science at the University of London. I’m currently working in southern Europe as a global relationship manager for the largest corporate and investment bank in the energy and commodities sector.

Accepted: When did you first apply to b-school?  

Top Dog: I applied to five top 10 U.S. business schools in 2013/14 (Rounds 1 and 2). I got two interviews (at MIT Sloan and Wharton) but unfortunately failed to get an offer.

Accepted: What do you think went wrong and what are you doing this time to improve your candidacy?

Top Dog: I don’t think there were any obvious issues – aside from my 12 years WE and relatively low GPA – but my applications were maybe a bit bland and failed to fully explain what I have actually achieved so far and my detailed reasons for wanting an MBA. This year I got the chance to lead an international team after my boss resigned – that’s definitely an experience I’ll be writing about in my applications that I didn’t have last time.

Accepted: Where do you plan on applying this time?

Top Dog: I’m going to be focused and reapply to MIT Sloan and Wharton, plus INSEAD for the first time. I’ve done a lot of research and love the location, culture, collaborative spirit and emphasis on entrepreneurship and social enterprise at these b-schools. I’m toying with reapplying to Stanford too – the lure of the West Coast is difficult to resist!

Accepted: Can you talk about your decision to apply to/attend a European program versus a U.S. program? What are the pros and cons on either side?

Top Dog: I have tried to balance my target b-schools this time and, while most top b-schools will give you a great education, there are differences. In Europe, I really like the international classes (INSEAD’s incoming class has 90 nationalities with c. 60% from outside Europe), but 10 months is short to fully experience the teaching, culture and career prospects on offer. In the U.S., b-schools simply rock the MBA – this is where the MBA was born and it’s still the best place to study it – plus it broadens my otherwise European profile, while the con would definitely be the cost – ouch!

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you up to so far? What has been the most challenging step and how did you work to overcome it? 

Top Dog: I’m in a good position as I have my experience from last season so I’m all done with research, profile building and I’m about to start my essays. I’ve blogged about my mistakes from last time and I’m already falling into the first trap – leaving it too late to start writing my essays (where did July go!?). Another challenge was not keeping on top of my recommenders, and I’m definitely going to be focused on this this time around.

Accepted: Do you plan on staying in your current industry post-MBA, or changing to a new field/career?

Top Dog: A big motivation for the full time (rather than exec) MBA is the ability to transition into a new field. Post-MBA I’ll go back into banking with a focus on business development and corporate social responsibility – ideally in the emerging markets – where innovation and entrepreneurship are rewarded skills. Longer term I want to combine my finance experience in a start-up, potentially a social entrepreneur focused micro-finance venture in an emerging economy.

Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?

Top Dog: I got a lot of knowledge and comfort from other bloggers last season and I’d like to give something back to the MBA applicant community. My blog encourages me to keep on top of my applications while testing ideas with others in the same position (and some helpful consultants too!). In exchange, I hope I’m giving some useful insight, sparking a bit of debate and creating a sense of companionship among fellow and future applicants.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.

You can read more about Top Dog’sb-school journey by checking out his blog, TopDogMBA, and Twitter, @topdogmba. Thank you Top Dog for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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Related Resources:

MBA Applicant Interviews
Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One
2015 MBA Application Essay Tips

Interview with 22 Year Old B-School Applicant, “Pulling That MBA Trigger”

Check out more MBA applicant interviews!This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing our anonymous blogger, “Pulling That MBA Trigger.”

Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to school, and what is your current job?

Pulling That MBA Trigger: Ah, I never really know how to answer this question. An entire lifetime in a few sentences? I’m way too chatty for that. Anyway, I’m 22 years old, female and fresh out of the college boat. Well, it’s been a year anyway, so I’m still not a jaded adult which is probably why I’m so gung-ho about this whole admissions thing.

I’m from India and I went to a school that is probably not known to the rest of the world, although a recently appointed CEO did go here. It’s doing a lot for our street cred. I graduated as an electronics engineer and I’m working for a tech startup that develops web and mobile applications when we’re not busy working with big data analytics and all that jazz. I also founded my own startup in the education space, so yeah pretty exciting stuff!

Accepted: Which schools do you plan on applying to?

PTMT: I’m glaringly honest with myself and I know that my chances of getting into the top 5 schools are astronomically low. With that said, I’m targeting the lower 10’s and pretty much any school in the 10-20 range. I haven’t narrowed down the names yet, but I’m angling towards MIT Sloan simply because of their focus on entrepreneurship and the fact that they happen to like engineers from the technology space. I’m also considering Yale (Ivy League, ’nuff said) and Booth (quant focused with a soft spot for younger applicants, or so I hear). I’m applying to a maximum of four schools and this is more strategic than anything else simply because if I get dinged from all four of them, I can reapply next year with plenty of options still left open.

Accepted: What would you say is your greatest profile strength? Weakness? How do you plan on overcoming that weakness?

PTMT: I guess my greatest strength lies in the fact that I am an entrepreneur and a leader at heart, and this kind of spills over everywhere in my application. I have only ever worked for startups and I have founded a startup. I never felt the need for an MBA to take that plunge and I guess I would say that I’m ballsy. Not sure how I would put that on my application, but eh.

Weakness is pretty obvious. I am very, very impatient. I can’t wait any longer to get that MBA and so I’m quite stupidly applying after having worked for only a year (or two at the time of matriculation). It’s going to be quite a challenge convincing schools that I’m emotionally and professionally ready to get an MBA.

Accepted: So…how are you going to convince the adcom that you’re a candidate worth paying attention to with only one year of work experience? 

PTMT: Honestly, I’m not even sure I’m convinced just yet! I’m just faking it as I go, maybe eventually I’ll actually believe that I’m someone worth paying attention to. But with that said, my plan is to focus on all that I have managed to achieve in such a short period of time, possibly as much as other people achieved in two years. Impatience has its own rewards, which is why I jam-packed my years in college and post-college with every activity imaginable and that is now paying off. I am mainly going to emphasize the success of my own startup (albeit on a modest scale) and my stint as the secretary of the student body in college.

Accepted: Why do you want an MBA? What are some of your goals and how will an MBA help you achieve them?

PTMT: In my current role as a software engineer, I’m limited to my work as a code monkey and I have no exposure to how the company gets its clients, or how they measure the bottom line and success/failure. I guess this kind of points to a role in consulting post an MBA, simply because it would allow me to look at how different companies across different industries function, without slotting me into a role that is limiting in terms of what I’m able to learn (i.e. software engineer, product manager, marketing manager and so on). Long term though, I’d like to use all the consulting knowledge from watching other companies’ mistakes to set up my own company in the tech space.

Accepted: What has the b-school application process so far taught you about yourself?

PTMT: The b-school process has forced me to thoroughly excavate my head. I had to visit corners I never wanted to revisit. It has been torturous at times and merely annoying at others. It’s taught me that I have a high tolerance for pain and that I should really get a commemorative tattoo when I’m done. Okay, okay. It’s also shown me that I have vast reserves of strength, resolve and motivation. I know I can pull through and even if I don’t, I know I’ll have the energy to do it again next year. I also think I’m a lot more interesting than I thought I was. I actually have interesting stories to write down in my essays. Who knew?!

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What do you hope to gain from the blogging experience?

PTMT: My blog is called Pulling That MBA Trigger and it’s no coincidence that I want to shoot myself in the head about once a day during this whole process. It’s basically a place for me to vent and document my thoughts before I go crazy. I hope it provides slight comedic relief to others going through the same thing and perhaps makes them feel better about their own chances of getting in. At the end of it, I want to be able to look back and think, “Ah, I’ve made it so far,” unless of course I get dinged everywhere in which case I’m going to nuke the blog off cyberspace and pretend it never existed.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages.

You can read more about PTMT’s b-school journey by checking out her blog, Pulling That MBA Trigger. Thank you PTMT for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

Navigating the MBA Maze

Student Body, Recruitment, Location: Future UCLA Anderson MBA Interview

Click here to learn more about UCLA Anderson!This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a follow up interview with Piyush, who was recently accepted to UCLA Anderson. (We first met Piyush last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: Can you remind us a little about who you are?

Piyush: I am an incoming UCLA Anderson MBA candidate with experience in development consulting, entrepreneurship (retail) and oil and gas. Most of my roles in these industries have been people-orientated and in sales. I am a biotech graduate from London and have lived in 7 countries, mostly in the Middle-East.

Accepted: Which schools did you get accepted to and why did you choose UCLA Anderson? Why do you think that’s the best school for you?

Piyush: I got accepted at number of top-tier business schools in India and the U.S., but choose Anderson mainly for the student body, diversity in recruitment and location. I have expanded this in detail on my Anderson student blog post here.

Based on my interests and past experiences, I will be looking in pharma/biotech marketing and sales at tech companies such as Google or Amazon. Anderson has focused its curriculum around different functional tracks including marketing, allowing me to focus early on. Also the school has a great relationship with companies such as Amgen and Google.

Accepted: Can you talk about your decision to attend a U.S. MBA program over a program in India?

Piyush: It is difficult to compare MBA programs in India and the U.S. because they are serving different markets and addressing different business problems. India scores more on the economy growth front, job placements numbers, and cost. But U.S. schools such as Anderson stand out for job readiness, leadership, exposure, diversity and experience.

It also boils down to where you want to work immediately post-MBA. The schools have the biggest value in their respective regions. Having studied and worked in India, I was looking for a new and diverse experience.

Accepted: What are you most looking forward to with starting b-school in the fall?

Piyush: I am most looking forward to being a student again. The excitement to learn new things, ask questions and at the same time have fun. I am also very excited to meet my classmates at Anderson.

Accepted: Can you talk about your waitlist experience at UNC? What did you do in between getting the news that you were on the waitlist and then getting the acceptance letter? Did you take steps to improve your profile, write a waitlist letter, etc.?

Piyush: I think the term waitlist should be renamed to some actionable term such as reach-out or something. A lot of candidates simply choose to wait, which really does not help their application. I understand that some business schools (such as Ross), only allow you to send one update but most schools are happy to host you on-campus and learn about your progress.

I was waitlisted at a few schools, and the first thing I did was seek feedback. You will be surprised how the admissions team views your application. Since I was not able to improve my profile drastically, I visited the school, networked with current students, and reached out to admissions team frequently.

Patience and persistence is generally rewarded at this stage of application.

Accepted: An MBA is not cheap – do you have any tips for our readers on paying for b-school?

Piyush: There are number of ways to finance an MBA, ranging from company sponsorship to private loans. I believe a strong GMAT score and application certainly helps you land a scholarship.

Apart from customized loan programs for international students, students can ease their financial burden during studies with academic internships and teaching assistant positions.

Accepted: How do you plan on spending the time between now and when you start school in the fall? Are you doing anything to prepare for b-school?

Piyush: I am taking some time off from work and travelling in India. Anderson has kept us busy with weekly emails, which ensure that we are ready with everything. The UCLA Anderson Parker Career Management Center has started working with us closely.

I am also doing a small pre-MBA course at to get ready for the academic rigor of business school.

Accepted: What would you say are your top three MBA admissions tips?

1. Start early – This is very important. I used a number of resources from and Admissionado to kick-start my applications.

2. GMAT score matters, at least for Indian applicants – A couple of business schools asked me to increase my GMAT to 740 during the waitlist period because I was competing with fellow Indian citizens many of whom also presented stellar applications. My GMAT score was already 720.

3. Take the medicine – Spend the time and resource to learn about the business school you are interested it. Your research and interest directly reflect in your essays and interview.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school applications, please see our MBA Application Packages

You can read more about Piyush by checking out his blog, Piyush Jain: Science, Technology & Sports, and following him on Twitter here. Thank you Piyush for sharing your story with us!

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The Money will Sort Itself Out: IV with a Future INSEAD Student

Click here for more MBA applicant interviews!This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with MBA applicant bloggers, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at the MBA application process. And now…introducing Hasmita Nair.

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?

Hasmita: I’m a South African and was born in a small coastal town called Port Elizabeth. I later moved to a bigger city, Johannesburg, and studied Actuarial Science at the University of Witwatersrand. After that, I worked at Procter and Gamble as a financial analyst, then moved to Nedbank Capital where I worked in Market Risk, and for the past 4 years I’ve been at Anglo American in Treasury.

I love reading; my favourite book is probably A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini.

Accepted: Congratulations on your acceptance to INSEAD! Why do you think this is the best program for you? What are you most looking forward to?

Hasmita: There were a few things that attracted me to INSEAD. First, the global appeal of the school. I loved that I could study in both Singapore and France. I also liked the fact that it is a relatively short MBA. Because I am self funded, the U.S. MBAs of 2 years+ were not really an option for me.

Accepted: Can you talk about how you raised your tuition money? 

Hasmita: I got a partial scholarship from INSEAD, and also got a loan from Prodigy for a portion. For the rest, I used money generated from the sale of my apartment and my car. As a last resort, I was going to cash out my pension but I’m glad I didn’t have to.

Accepted: Can you share a few tips for our applicants who may also be struggling with how to finance their MBAs?

Hasmita: I think that if you can get into a world class MBA, the money will sort itself out. Money is really not a reason not to apply if you believe you have the potential. There are so many scholarships out there, and student loans are always an option too. I like to think that my salary post MBA will make it worth being in all this debt now.

Accepted: Do you plan on returning to that industry after you graduate, or entering a new field? 

Hasmita: My hobby is freelance journalism, I write for a few magazines and a national newspaper, focusing on food and travel. I would love to merge my passion for writing with finance somehow. Perhaps strategy for a large travel company? I’m keeping my options open right now.

Accepted: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the b-school admissions process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?

Hasmita: Because the deadlines were all at similar times, and I applied to 8 schools, the application process was all consuming for a period of time. The application essays were grueling, and it took a lot of time and energy. Applying was also expensive; I just paced myself and took it one step at a time. I also project managed my referees, because asking them to complete 8x referrals was an equally grueling request. I made them aware of what needed to be done long in advance and all went smoothly.

Accepted: Can you tell us more about your blog? When did you start blogging? What have you gained from the experience? Do you plan on continuing to blog over the course of your studies?

Hasmita: My blog, Jozilicious, started as a way for me to express myself creatively. I’ve always been passionate about food and travel, and found myself giving recommendations to people a lot, so I thought that I’d be better off posting all my favourite spots online. About a year and a half ago, I was offered my own page in a national newspaper, and after that my freelance journalism career took off. It’s been great to have such a fulfilling hobby, but it does get difficult managing my time. I am definitely planning to blog while I’m in Singapore and France. I think my readers will be interested to see what I’ve been up to.

For one-on-one guidance on your b-school application, please see our MBA Application Packages. For specific advice on how to create the best application for INSEAD, check out our INSEAD 2014 MBA Essay Tips

You can read more about Hasmita’s b-school journey by checking out her blog, Jozilicious. Thank you Hasmita for sharing your story with us!

Navigating the MBA Maze

Interview with an Admitted UCLA Anderson [Re]Applicant

Click here to read more MBA student interviews!This interview is the latest in an blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. And now for a follow up interview with James Huntington, who was recently accepted to UCLA Anderson. (We first met James last year – you can read our first interview with him here.)

Accepted: It’s nice to have you back! Can you tell us a little about how you’ve spent your last year?

James: Thanks! I am excited for the opportunity to share a little bit more about my experience. I never imagined how much time, energy, and effort would go into applying to b-school. It definitely consumes you. Other than applications, interviews, etc., I have tried to spend as much time as I can with my wife and kids (we are expecting another boy here in a couple weeks). We did a couple family surf trips, one to Washington and one to Mexico…Mexico was a little bit warmer. I have also spent the past couple months brushing up on some math/Excel skills, as well as taking a few computer science and coding classes to help prep me for my goal to transition into the tech industry.

Accepted: Congrats on your acceptance to UCLA Anderson! In our last interview, you had said that you were applying to Tuck, Haas, Kellogg, MIT, and Yale – but no mention of Anderson! When did you add Anderson to the list? Did you apply to any others not on your original list?

James: Thank you so much! Anderson was on my shortlist of schools I wanted to apply to, but I decided I didn’t want to tackle more than five applications in round one, even though I got a very early start being a reapplicant. After being dinged or waitlisted by the schools I applied to in round one, I decided to apply to Darden, Tepper, and Fuqua, in addition to UCLA Anderson.

Accepted: Where else were you accepted to? What tipped the scales to favor Anderson? 

James: I ended up getting into Darden and Tepper as well. At first, I was having a very difficult time deciding where to go. There were aspects of each program that I really liked and I knew I could be successful at each one. However, as I talked to more students/alumni, reflected on my personal/professional goals, etc., Anderson was clearly the right choice for me. This is not to say that Darden or Tepper lacked in any of these areas, but there were a few things that really stood out to me about Anderson:


Throughout this whole process, I have found that Anderson students have been some of the most, if not the most responsive, friendly, genuine, and helpful students I have talked to. Of the students I contacted or was introduced to, 100% of them responded and took time to talk with me. The only other school that came remotely close to that was Tuck. All the students I spoke with at Anderson were down to earth and very friendly. A few even offered me a place to stay while I look for housing. I appreciated the fact that after I was accepted I was assigned a buddy by the admission office. I was also contacted by an alumni and spoke with him about his experience at Anderson. Another thing that really impressed me compared to some of the other programs was the amount of help/advice Anderson students gave me in terms of preparing for school and a career transition.


One factor I didn’t think would be too important to me while I was researching programs, but became increasingly so, was the location of the school. For my career goals, to transition into tech, aside from perhaps the Bay Area, I couldn’t have picked a better location. Plus, having grown up in California, I am looking forward to returning to my home state and enjoying the great weather! No more snow 2014!!!

In relation to location, one thing I really like about Anderson is they offer academic internships. With the relatively strong tech start-up scene in the Los Angeles area, this will give me the opportunity to further gain and develop the needed skills and experience while in school to land a job in tech post-MBA.


Along the lines of location and career, another big plus for Anderson was the strength of their tech club, the High-Tech Business Association, and the amount of different offerings for students interested in tech. With nearly a quarter of the students from Anderson going into the tech industry, the school has put a lot of resources into developing this area of their program. With some of the other schools, I felt like I would have to put a lot of personal effort into being able to get anywhere near the experience I would at Anderson. Another big draw to the program was that Anderson’s Career Management Center, Parker CMC, has consistently be ranked one of the top MBA career management centers. From all my conversations with Anderson students, the strength of the Parker CMC is one thing that came up in almost every conversation.


Although there are a ton of other reasons I chose Anderson, the last one I will talk about is the community. I mentioned this earlier, but all of the students and fellow admits that I have spoken to have been very down to earth, friendly, and receptive. I initially really wanted to be in a small town to make sure I got the tighter-knit, community feel from the program I attended. However, after the experience I have had thus far with Anderson, I am confident I will get the tight-knit community feel while being in one of the most vibrant cities in the world!

Sorry to go on and on, but as you can tell, I am really excited about Anderson!

Accepted: Can you talk about your different interview experiences (this year and last year when you applied the first time)? And can you share a few tips with our readers on interviewing?

James: Absolutely! Of the entire application process, I enjoyed the interview the most. I felt like I was able to paint the best picture of myself while interviewing, as long as I was prepared. The difference between my first interview last year and my last interview this year was like night and day. I think some of it had to do with just gaining experience interviewing, but it was mostly due to my level of preparation and understanding my story.

Of all of the interviews I did, my favorite was by far my interview with Darden. The interviewer came in completely blind, she didn’t even have my resume, and she asked me to tell her my story. She wanted to know about my personal life, my professional life, and my goals. She would interject from time to time with questions, but overall, she let me direct the conversation. Because I wasn’t restricted to answering specific questions, I felt like I was able to express who I am and who I want to be much better than in other interviews. I think that question would have been overwhelming if I hadn’t prepared and didn’t know that Darden was known for the “Tell me your story” interview style, but thanks to the various forums and interview reports, I was, and it made the experience very enjoyable.

For those that will be interview soon, make sure you prepare! Don’t just prep for general interview questions, but look up interview reports for each school, the interview formats can be very different. The better prepared you are, the smoother the interview will go.

Also, know your story inside and out. Own it! Know what you want to do, how you are going to do it, and how the school you are interviewing with is going to help you. When asked, “Why our school?” don’t respond with general comments like, “Collaborative culture,” “Tight-knit community,” etc. Be specific! If those things are important to you, tell them how their school exhibits those characteristics. Be genuinely specific about classes, clubs, conferences, and activities that are going to help you achieve your goals. Again, be specific about how you will contribute to you class and the program. In order to do that, you will need to prepare, research, and talk to students/professors.

Accepted: What are you most looking forward to in starting b-school in the fall?

James: I have always enjoyed going to school. I am really looking forward to stepping away from work for a while and devoting all that time and energy into school. I believe that an MBA is a great opportunity to better yourself personally and professionally, and I am looking forward to doing that with some great classmates. I have already had the chance to connect with a few members of my future class and I have been impressed by all the different backgrounds and things they have accomplished. I am really excited to get to know them better and to meet more great people. Outside of school, I am looking forward to going surfing, and my kids are pumped to be so close to Disneyland!

Accepted: Do you still blog? How do you think your blog will evolve now that you’ve been accepted? 

James: I am still definitely blogging. So many of the other prospective students’ blogs and current students’ blogs helped me throughout this process, I want to give back in some way if possible. Hopefully some of the things I write about will help those that are just beginning the process, and maybe inspire some reapplicants to keep working hard and going after their dreams.

My blog has definitely evolved since I started it. When I first started writing, it was mainly for myself. It was an outlet for all the pent up thoughts/anxiety brought on by the application process. I feel like it has become more of a place for me to share my experiences and information I have come across to help benefit others who are going through the process now. My hope is that it will become a resource for those individuals. I plan to blog while I am in school as well, although it might not be at the same rate, and offer insight into life at b-school, specifically UCLA Anderson.

You can read more about this blogger’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, MBA Reapplicant! Thank you James for sharing your story with us!

Tips to help you ace those MBA interviews!