MBA Applicant Interview with ProGMAT

Click here to read more MBA applicant interviews!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 our anonymous blogger, ProGMAT…

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favourite non-school book?

ProGMAT: I am 26 years old, and was born in a small town in North India. Being a son of a Sr. Bank Manager, I moved to different cities with my family and completed my schooling. I’ve completed my under-graduation (B.Tech) in Computer Science Engineering from a city away from my home in Northern India.

As I grew watching my father, how he managed a great number of staff under him, I always wanted to be like him and always tried to get the things done with better management. My interests are more of design, creativity, innovation, management and music. At my work, I always try to get the maximum amount of management work I can get other than my duties (coding, testing, etc.).

I have not read many books but the recent one was The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, and I really liked it. It is great classic fiction with nice vocabulary to learn.

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you up to so far? 

ProGMAT: Currently I am studying for the GMAT and writing my story side by side. I am not rushing through the application process as I have less time to study for GMAT, and my target score is 720+.

Accepted: Where and when are you planning on applying to b-school? Are you applying to any safety schools?

ProGMAT: The sooner I complete my GMAT, the better my chances are to apply this year in Round 2 process. That is why for now my complete focus is on GMAT, but I am comfortable in applying next year. After my research on schools and course types, I have a list of schools to which I would be applying including Tuck and ISB. I will also apply to 3-4 additional schools within my range for safe side.

Tuck is the best school I have known so far according to my priorities and eligibility. I dream about being a Tuckie. So in my application process, my major focus would be on the Tuck application. And for ISB, it gives me various advantages above all in terms of investment and environment (a plus point for my career and future).

Accepted: What is your current job? Do you plan on staying in the same industry post-MBA or moving to something new? Where do you hope to be in 5-10 years from now? 

ProGMAT: Currently I’m working in a Fortune 500 Company as a software developer in India. I have a total of 3+ years of experience in coding as well as management. Post MBA I would change my industry. Basically I am looking for a Consultant badge under my profile. So my short term goal is to be at a Consultant position in Big 4 firms. And my long term goal is to open my own firm. It will be related to technology for sure, but depends on the position of the market.

Accepted: In your blog you talk about your GMAT game plan — can you share a few tips with our readers about how to prep for the GMAT?

ProGMAT: GMAT is not an exam to pass and score higher. It’s all about your time management and stress management. The best thing to do while attempting a question is to get into the situation and find the best solution as fast as possible. As it is a game of time and stress,  huge dedication is needed to get through it. The best thing you can do while preparing is practice, practice and practice.

A few tips:

1.  Study the basics by going deep and learning the concepts.

2.  Study the type of questions which come frequently on GMAT.

3.  Always time your practice questions. And always try to use the official material for practice.

4.  For SC, there is limited number of rules. Learn them and apply.

5.  For CR and RC, try to read the quality material and increase your reading speed with understanding.

6.  The more you focus on the current question, the less time you take to solve it. This makes better chances of your high score.

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

ProGMAT: When I started my GMAT circus, I thought it was just like another exam, but a few days later I realized that it’s not an exam but a game like marathon. I studied different blogs and found that most of the people were suffering with similar problems. So I decided to keep track of this important event of my life that would help me to be in line and would help others who are facing similar problems as I do.

What I gained is the timeline of my preparation as well as more focus on the mistakes that I made earlier. Additionally, I am a non-native English speaker, so writing a blog will help me gain knowledge on the writing side as well. And meeting the fellow blog writers who are going through the same situation always gives you confidence to move forward.

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

You can read more about ProGMAT’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Pro GMAT. Thank you for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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Interview with MBA On My Mind: An Applicant Aiming for Kellogg

Click here for more MBA applicant interviews!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 our anonymous blogger, “MBA On My Mind”…

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Do you hold any other degrees? What is your current job?

MBA On My Mind: I am a 24 year old female from India. I was born in a quaint little town in Kerala and moved around a lot for most of my childhood (Delhi, Goa, Bangalore, some nondescript town in Karnataka, etc.). I’ve had an unconventional childhood but an immensely fun one. I went to a reputed, 100 year old school in Chennai and graduated with a B.A in Economics. I also have a Post Graduate diploma in Marketing Management, that I pursued part time to feed my burgeoning passion for marketing.

After school, I had a two year stint as Marketing Manager at a start-up that marketed teas (it was at this point that my fascination with tea blossomed and I enrolled to become a professional tea taster). Tea tasting to this day remains an elixir guaranteed to bust stress! In 2013, I co-founded a social enterprise business, in the Skill Development arena and have been absorbed in it ever since!

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you? 

MBA On My Mind: I am wedged somewhere in between insanity and a frenzied need to get stuff done… It’s been a harried 6 months, but I am loving every moment. At this point, I am prepping for my GMAT exam, while working on second drafts of essays for round 2. My days are full!

Accepted: Where are you applying to b-school? Do you have a top choice? Safety school?

MBA On My Mind: I plan to apply to 6-7 schools in round 2. (Yes, I am crazy.) My school list looks something like this 1. Kellogg  2. Ross  3. Stanford  4. Yale  5. Haas.

(I will be adding 2 or 3 schools to this mix provided they fit into my tally board.) Kellogg is my top school! I really really want to go there. The school just sings to me. I don’t have any safe schools so to speak, I understand that ‘safety schools’ are categorized based on higher acceptance levels (ergo, these schools are more open to candidates whose GMAT scores that aren’t particularly in the 99th percentile, <4.0 GPAs and folks who aren’t ridiculous overachievers), so although it makes sense to cover all your bases, for me the paramount deciding factor is fit and whether the school can offer what I want. There is not a single school on my tally board that I would not love to go to. I love all of them equally….okay, I lie. I love Kellogg a smidgen more than the rest. :)

Accepted: Can you tell us about your Business School Tally Board? 

MBA On My Mind: I am someone who likes to do things in a systematic and cogent fashion. So, when the application season rolled around and the time came for me to stop being vague about the schools I wanted to go to. I sat down and listed out my short term and long term goals.

A word of advice for anyone who is on the brink of plunging into the MBA applicant pool, you will be doing yourself a HUGE favor if you introspect and freeze in on your long term and short term goals. Your school selection will be so much easier, you just have to figure out which school will provide the best and most enriching route to achieving your goals.

The Business School Tally Board is more of a qualitative take on the entire school selection process, and it is inspired by this blog post I read and fell in love with, on the Kellogg MBA Students Blog. It still isn’t complete, though. I am still researching schools, there are 2 more schools I want to add to the tally!

Accepted: What has been the most challenging aspect of the admissions process so far? What steps have you taken to overcome that challenge? How would you advise others in a similar situation?

MBA On My Mind: Start early! Stay positive! Get the GMAT out of the way!

THE biggest challenge is time, initially I wanted to get two apps in by round 1, but I was unable to because I was not satisfied with my GMAT score. So I will be working overtime to get 6-7 applications ready for round 2. Luckily for me, I produce my best work under pressure.

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

MBA On My Mind: My immediate post MBA goal is to work with a for-profit social enterprise, particularly in marketing, while my mid-long term goal is to come back to India and expand my social enterprise’s operations.

Expansion requires aggressive/out of the box marketing, market research, liaising with government officials and seamless dissemination of our vision to the end customer. I hope to pick up these skills up at my immediate post-MBA job. So, to answer your question, yes I intend to stay in my current industry.

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

MBA On My Mind: I remember stumbling upon a few MBA applicant bloggers in 2013, and reading their posts, more importantly the comment sections, there seemed to be a genuine camaraderie between fellow MBA applicant bloggers and the support that went around was amazing.

I knew I had to start a blog of my own to be a part of that world, besides I do love to write. Today, I can say with absolute certainty that I’ve forged close friendships with some wonderful people, through my blogging. (You know who you are!)

I can only hope that my readers find my posts helpful.

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

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

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Click here for more interviews with MBA applicants!

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 our Jon Taves…

Accepted: We’d like to get to know you! Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What’s your favorite non-school book?

Jon: I grew up in a tiny town in Northern Minnesota and went to undergrad at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN – a private liberal arts college near Fargo, ND. There I double-majored in economics and accounting.

Above all else, I’m a huge economics nerd. To me, nothing’s better than using economic theory to analyze and explain markets. In my freshman year at Concordia I read Moneyball by Michael Lewis and was fascinated by his subject: Billy Beane. Not so much from a baseball standpoint, but by how he exploited market inefficiencies. That led me to take Economics 201 my sophomore year, and the rest is history.

For its long-lasting influence on my life, I’d have to say Moneyball is my favorite book. (Not to mention the fact that Michael Lewis is a fantastic writer. His story-driven approach to explaining complex topics is a style I try to mirror in my own writing.)

Accepted: What stage of the application process are you up to so far?

Jon: I plan to apply in Round 2, so I’ve got a few more months to put the finishing touches on my essays and press “submit.” I probably could’ve done so in Round 1, but I want more time to coach my references and get involved in the community again – I’ve missed it while I was studying for the GMAT all spring and summer.

Accepted: What’s been your greatest admissions challenge? What steps did you take (or are you taking) to overcome that challenge?

Jon: To date, my greatest admissions challenge has been the GMAT. Prior to the GMAT, the last test I’d taken was the Certified Public Accountant (CPA) exam. To pass one of the four parts of that exam it’s a simple equation: spend 150 hours reviewing topics and answering practice problems. Get something wrong? Study that topic. Lather, rinse, repeat.

That’s not a formula for success on the GMAT. More than I’ve ever experienced before, the GMAT is truly a test of how you think. I’d read about that in guides and various sources online, but it took me awhile to actually believe it. After taking the GMAT, I can honestly say that that’s the most important takeaway. (I’ll elaborate further in the next question.)

Accepted: It looks like you’ve got lots of GMAT advice on your blog. What are the three categories one should allocate their time to when studying for the GMAT?

Jon: In short, one should allocate their time between the following three categories:

1. Topical areas

2. Timing of answers

3. Identifying question patterns

To expand on what I said in question #3, the GMAT is a test of how you think. The best advice I can give is that having an above-average understanding of the topics covered is important, but having an above-average understanding of test strategy is even more important. In total, I studied about five months for the GMAT. At first glance, one might assume that 5% of their time studying should be spent on test strategy and 95% on topical areas. After all, that ratio was successful in high school and college, right? That couldn’t be farther from the truth: I would estimate that I spent 60% of my time on test strategy and 40% on topical areas. (If it focused only on topical areas, an eighth grader would be able to ace the GMAT.)

How long it takes for you to achieve that 60/40 ratio will vary. If it takes you a month to get comfortable with grammar rules and geometry, then plan for two months spent on test strategy. Test strategy is broken up into two parts: timing and patterns. The pace in which you answer questions matters. If the goal of the GMAT is to test how well you think, then it’s relevant to incorporate not only how long it takes you to answer a question, but also in what order you answer correctly/incorrectly. Think of the GMAT as a water park. You want your timing to be like a “lazy river.” Simply put, getting five questions wrong with consistent timing will equate to a higher score than answering the same amount correctly while riding the Verruckt.

With its proclivity for patterns, the GMAT is like Taco Bell. Have you ever noticed how they introduce a new product every few months – although it isn’t really “new,” it’s just some derivative of a taco or burrito? Similarly, all GMAT questions are testing the same thing: “What’s the best way to solve this problem?” Keep that in mind while you’re studying. When doing practice problems, your work isn’t done once you answer it. Make sure to ask yourself what other questions it relates to. This will make those thirty-seven quant questions look less like thirty-seven individual feats of mathematics and more like a bunch of tacos and burritos.

To close, I’d like to comment on the importance of the GMAT. Do your best, but don’t let the pressure to perform well consume you. A great GMAT score and nothing else doesn’t amount to much. Perhaps when schools preach about their “holistic” approach to admissions they’re underselling the GMAT’s importance, but that doesn’t mean it’s everything. It’s a lot easier to dominate one test than to be a well-rounded applicant that’s not only intelligent, but also a leader, collaborator, and problem solver.

One of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Cuban. He says that “there are three types of entrepreneurs: innovators, imitators, and idiots.” To stand out to an admissions committee, you need to distinguish yourself. Everyone applying to the top schools will have fantastic GMAT scores. What’s different about you? Whether it’s an interesting initiative you led at work, an extracurricular activity, or a unique perspective on the world, remember that you’re more than a score from 200-800 in ten point increments.

Accepted: What is your current job? Do you plan on staying in that same industry post-MBA? Or moving into something new?

Jon: My first job out of college was for a public accounting firm in Minneapolis. I worked there for a little over two years until I left for Travelers last November. At both companies I’ve worked on federal tax projects for C-corporations. Accounting is a solid field and I’ve met some amazing people while working in it. Post-MBA, however, I’d like to switch careers.

In the short run, I hope to use my MBA to start working in management consulting. After that I hope to start a social enterprise. I was on the board of directors for a non-profit in Minneapolis for two years; I’ve seen firsthand how difficult it is to be financially sustainable. I hope to put together a business whose profits will be able to support the communities I love indefinitely – not just until the last grant dries up. I believe the credibility and connections that I’ll gain through an MBA program will allow me to make that dream a reality.

Accepted: Where and when do you plan on applying to b-school?

Jon: I’ve narrowed down my list to the University of Michigan (Ross) and the University of Minnesota (Carlson). Both schools have the characteristics I’m looking for, most notably: strong entrepreneurship programs and a plethora of experiential learning opportunities. Ross and Carlson are pioneers in the hands-on method of teaching; students are able to go out into the marketplace to solve problems, not only study cases about them in the classroom.

Where they separate from each other is with Ross’ prestige and its relationship with Detroit, MI. There’s no more fertile ground than there to do the kind of work I’m interested in. Carlson, however, can give me something Ross can’t: a built-in network. Particularly for my post-MBA plans, I understand the importance of relationships. (And my mother would be much happier if I stayed in the state of Minnesota.)

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? Who is your target audience? What have you gained from the blogging experience?

Jon: A professor told me my junior year at Concordia that the best way for him to retain information – and truly understand it – was to write it down. I recalled this advice a few years ago when I wanted to find a way to remember the information I was reading in economics and finance-related books and articles. It’s been one of the greatest decisions I’ve ever made. Not only do I feel like I know more about the topics that interest me than ever before, but I’ve rediscovered my love of writing. (I was the guy in your college writing class that asked all of the questions and revised his essays a dozen times.)

To be honest, my audience is myself. I don’t publicize my posts on social media, but thanks to the wonder of WordPress, I’ve gained a small following of fellow GMAT takers and MBA applicants. It makes me extremely happy that I’ve been able to help others along their journey. In general, I write about whatever interests me in the economics/finance sphere. At the time, it’s business school. If my musings on those topics interest others, as well, that’s terrific. I suppose in that sense I have a Field of Dreams-esque approach to my blog: “If you build it, they will come.”

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

You can read more about Jon’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, EF ESSAYS: Essays on Economics & Finance. Thank you Jon for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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RoadToMyMBA: 26-Yr Old Consultant from Brazil Applying to Top US B-Schools

Click here for more MBA applicant interviews!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 our anonymous blogger, RoadToMyMBA…

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? 

RoadToMyMBA: Hi, I’m a 26 year old financial consultant from Brazil. I have a BA degree in international relations from a private university here in my city and I’ve also studied economics for 3 years in another university but did not obtain this second bachelor’s degree since I’ve put my registration as “on-hold.”

I currently work for a Big 4 consulting firm in the corporate finance area. I work with valuation, M&A and long-term fundraising projects with companies of various sizes throughout Brazil. I’ve been working here for about 4 years and right now I’m a Senior Consultant.

Accepted: Where do you plan on applying to b-school? 

RoadToMyMBA: I’m planning to apply exclusively to US MBA programs and right now I’m narrowing my choices, but they are between Tuck, Stern, Darden, Fuqua, McCombs, Kenan-Flagler and Kelley. I know it’s a lot of options but it’s a hard decision, especially for me that can’t travel to the campus and to the best MBA events in USA. I’m doing my best to make the right choice.

Accepted: What attracts you to the U.S. programs, as opposed to other top schools in Europe or Asia? 

RoadToMyMBA: When I was younger (15 years old to be precise) I had the opportunity to live in the USA for one year as a high school exchange student. Since then, I’ve thought to come back and live in the USA for a longer period.

Another important aspect is how well renowned the American universities are in business education. I’m looking forward to studying with some bright students and world-class faculty.

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? 

RoadToMyMBA: I’m pretty much in the beginning of my application. I truly believe that I will only be able to apply in the second round for all MBA programs I’ve chosen so far.

The most challenging step so far is the GMAT. I did my first GMAT test two weeks ago and scored a low 560. Right now I’m back to studies since I’m planning to retake the GMAT in mid-November.

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

RoadToMyMBA: I would like to change my career to work in the financial sector, such as investment banking or private equity more precisely. Since I work as a corporate finance consultant, the change will not be very hard. At least that is what I think…

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

RoadToMyMBA: The main reason is to help others in the same situation as me (professionals coming from emerging countries that want to do a top notch MBA abroad and needing some help in the process).

The other reasons are to help improve my communication abilities in English and to make me relax a little bit during the whole process.

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

You can read more about RoadToMyMBA’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Road to My MBA. Thank you for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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NaijaMBAgal

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 our anonymous blogger, NaijaMBAgal…

Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? What did you study as an undergrad? What is your current job?

NaijaMBAgal: I’m a twenty-something years old Nigerian female. I have six years experience in risk assurance and one year in non-profit. I have a B.Sc in computer science and I love to dance even though I can’t sing.

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

NaijaMBAgal: I first applied to business school last year. It was a disaster and I got several dings.

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

NaijaMBAgal: Everything was wrong. My GMAT score was really low and I did nothing to make up for it in the applications. Also, my applications did not show my reasons for picking each school and by the time I realized that and changed it, it was round three and most of the class was already filled. I really think the timing affected my outcome.

Before applying this year, I took the GMAT again, my new score was within the 80% range of all the schools I was targeting. Also, I’m applying earlier this time. I’ve submitted my applications in round one (hopefully, I will not have to apply in round two but I will definitely not be applying in round three). Another thing I did differently this year was to ensure that I showed why I wanted to be part of each school in my application; talking to current students really helped me achieve this goal.

Accepted: Where did you apply this time? Do you have a top choice? Are you applying to “safety schools”?

NaijaMBAgal: I applied to Booth, Sloan, Stanford and Wharton. My top choice kept on changing as I researched each school, right now it’s a tie between Stanford and Wharton but that may have something to do with submitting their applications most recently.

I did not apply to any safety school; last year, I got into my safety school but could not convince myself to attend, so this year, I applied to schools that I will love to attend when admitted.

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

NaijaMBAgal: I know it’s a cliche but I’m tired of the consulting industry which is amusing because I find a lot of people get an MBA to get into consulting. I plan to become an entrepreneur either during or after my MBA.

Accepted: What are your thoughts on the presentation essay on Booth’s application? 

NaijaMBAgal: I love Booth’s presentation essay. I think it was my favorite part of the applications. For me, anything is better than writing an essay but the fact that it was a presentation made it more interesting, I should probably mention that I make a lot of presentations so I am very comfortable with the medium. I think the presentation is the best reflection of Booth’s culture, giving applicants that flexibility with a main essay is phenomenal.

Accepted: How do you think being from Africa affects your candidacy?

NaijaMBAgal: It’s like a double edged sword. On one hand I think it amplifies my profile, gives me an edge and reduces the applicant pool that my application sits in. On the flip side, there is a smaller percentage of the class available for us regardless of how many good applicants there are within that pool. Since both sides nil-off, I don’t think it helps or hurts my application – except if there are a lot of less qualified applicants in the pool then it’s good for me.

Accepted: Can you tell us about your blog? What have you gained from the experience? What do you hope others will learn?

NaijaMBAgal: When I started my blog, it was not supposed to be an application blog but a b-school experience blog but it had to transform with my plans. One of the best things that has happened since I started blogging is that I have become a part of this amazing group of people composed of fellow applicants (including bloggers) and current students. I have had people give me advice, books and templates which I try to share on my blog so that people that read my blog can use that information in their own application. I hope others can leverage on my experience to make their own admission process smoother.

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

You can read more about NaijaMBAgal’s b-school journey by checking out his blog, Naija MBA Gal. Thank you for sharing your story with us – we wish you loads of luck!

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