Next up in our series of featured MBA bloggers is Anujan, author of the blog, GMAT and B-school app diary of a re-applicant. There’s a lot to be learned from re-applicants (even if you are a first time applicant), so read on for some serious insight into the MBA admissions process!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from, where did you go to college and when did you graduate; and what prior degrees do you hold?
Anujan: I am from the city of Pune, India, more popularly referred to as the Oxford of the East. I have done my entire schooling in Pune city and I graduated with a Bachelors of Engineering (Electronics & Telecommunication) from the Pune University in July 2008. As of now, the B.E. degree is the only degree that I hold.
Accepted: When was the first time you applied to b-school?
Anujan: Here is an interesting anecdote regarding my b-school application.
I originally planned to apply in the application season of 2010 (i.e. for the ISB academic session starting in 2011). I started off with my GMAT preparations and even appeared for the exam in mid-Nov. 2010. My score was 620. At that stage my recommendations were already submitted and my essays were roughly drafted. At that point I decided against going ahead with my application to ISB for that year. The reason for holding back in 2010 was two-fold. Firstly my score was way below the average of ISB which was around 710. Secondly I had around 2.5 years of work experience which meant that I would have been one of the least experienced students in the school where the average work experience is around 5 years. Thus despite having an application framework almost ready in Nov. 2010, I decided against applying that year.
My actual first application was last year (i.e. the admissions season of 2011-12). I was aiming for the academic session starting in April 2012.
Accepted: What do you think went wrong?
Anujan: In retrospect I think I made mistakes on multiple fronts which actually summed up on the causes of my ding.
- The Schools: I should rather say school here. Owing to a variety of reasons, most notably the financial angle of affordability of fees and the course duration, I did not think beyond ISB. It was my only choice and I did not apply to any other schools last year. This was a mistake that I made (i.e. I place all my eggs in the same basket). While there is a lot of advice on applying to multiple schools I decided against it since I felt I could afford the risk of not making it to ISB. However I would advise my fellow applicants to avoid such a situation. It is always beneficial to have a b-school admit and not join rather than not having any admit.
- Essays: Despite knowing the fact that essays take a significant amount of time to draft I took this part easy. By the time I drafted my essays and had them reviewed it was around Nov. 20th. By the time I applied, I had my essays reviewed by a few friends and an ISB alumnus. I was pretty confident that I had put forth some really good essays. Alas, they were not. When I had my essays critically reviewed by a few experts after my rejection, I realized that I did not put my best foot forward in terms of essays. I spent a lot of words trying to lay the background for my essays and hence lost out on the actual content.
- GMAT: My GMAT was not up to the level of the school average. I took a risk on this aspect and was hoping that the other parts of my application would make up for the score. In short my score was not competitive for the school I was applying to.
Accepted: What have you done since then to improve your candidacy?
Anujan: The first step that I have taken is to improve on my GMAT score. I have been working in a steadfast manner this time and my approach has been much more structured.
Another important improvement is in my work experience. Since my application in Nov. 2011, I have had a chance to go out on international assignments and add some international exposure to my work experience. I have had 3 international assignments since Dec. 2011 till now. Also I have been promoted at work. Hence in terms of my work experience there is a marked improvement in my profile.
I have laid down a skeleton for my essays and I have also prepared a dossier of all the important events in my life till date. I intend to use this dossier as a reference for selecting the essay points when I write my draft essays.
Accepted: How many times have you taken the GMAT? Do you have advice to offer applicants who have not yet taken the exam?
Anujan: My GMAT score and history is not something that I say with much pride. I have taken the GMAT twice, once in 2010 and then in 2011. There was not much of an improvement in my scores. However I consider this experience as a chance to learn from my mistakes and I hope to score well this time around. Also owing to my 2 previous attempts I have some pretty “experienced” advice for my fellow applicants.
The GMAT is more about the strategy and application of concepts studied by the test-taker. It is important to have quality practice rather than quantity. This test is really brutal in terms of exposing the flaws in one’s study and approach. For example: One’s strong point in quant might be Algebra and the weak point might be inequalities. The test normally has a question on inequalities and one can get a rather tough one at the start of the exam. One might answer it right but then either time, confidence or both take a beating. From then on it is a real uphill task to get out of the quagmire of a timed test’s pressure.
My advice would be to Let Go. There is no point spending 3.5 minutes and getting it wrong. Instead once you have assessed that the question is tough for you try to narrow down the answer choices using your application and then choose one from the narrowed down choices.
Also there is a lot of stuff out there on the internet which can leave one confused. So my advice will be practice using the standard study materials and avoid non-GMAT type material. It is important to study smart rather than slog hard.
When practicing always practice with a timer and analyze your answers and performance. This is the most important point that I would like to make. Make an error / analysis log of all your questions irrespective of whether you answered it correct or wrong. It is OK to make mistakes but it is of utmost importance to learn from your mistakes. If it was an unknown concept then note it down and take some time to do some focused study on that concept. If it was a correct answer then think back on alternative approaches. How can you reduce time, how can you solve it more efficiently? Could you have plugged in some numbers, was there any formula that could have been used, could you have used POE (Process of Elimination)? The answers to these questions are what will help in improvements. There are many forums around and I can assure you that your question would already have been posted by someone else. If not posted by anyone then go ahead and post it and explain your approach and what you are seeking to learn. This will be really helpful in your preparation.
Accepted: How many programs do you plan on applying to this time around? Which programs are you considering?
Anujan: I am planning on re-applying to ISB this year. Other than ISB, I intend to apply to 3 more schools. I am pretty much clear that I want to apply to one-year courses only hence my school selection pool is relatively small.
Accepted: Why did you decide to blog about your experience?
Anujan: I decided on blogging about my experience sometime around my last application in 2011. However I was not committed to it and did not pursue with writing articles after the initial 4-5 posts.
After my rejection, I realized that there are too many things going on and that I need to start writing a diary to note down all the happenings. Also, invariably, one gets varied thoughts and ideas during the application and GMAT preparation cycle which tend to get lost if not documented. Hence I seriously started blogging only from April 2012. My blog entries are an attempt to show my posts as if there were my diary entries.
From then on, I am trying to share my understanding of the GMAT and general applications tips with my fellow applicants. The perspective of a working professional who is a re-applicant is something I am trying to present. Both these aspects are something that I did not find a lot of material on. There are some unique aspects like work commitments, work load, mental fatigue, etc. that affect the working professionals most. Similarly there are some things unique to a re-applicant like the re-applicant essay and the improvements in profile. In a nutshell, it is important to learn from one’s mistakes and I am trying to share my learning’s with everyone. Life is too short to learn everything by committing mistakes yourselves. One needs to be smart and learn from other’s mistakes as well.
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