If you’ve been around on our blog for a while, you might have occasionally suspected that Pranjali Deshpande spends more time writing for us than for her own blog. We took it one step further and requested her to write a ‘short’ 500-word blog post for us covering her UNC-Kenan Flagler story. She sent us 1300+ words! So recruiters, when she says in her resume that she ‘endeavours to go beyond expectations’, take her seriously.
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My journey through the application process has been nowhere close to sensational or ground breaking as it has been for some of my blogger friends. Mining for every nugget of my professional and personal life which I had deemed insignificant not so long ago has tired me out and also made me more patient, honest, humble and reflective.. Okay, the last one’s a stretch!!
My appetite for an MBA was definitely induced by my husband. I would be lying if I denied him the credit! AT first I only saw it as a distant dream, a distraction from my mundane work days. I never realized it would become an all consuming passion, a kind of passion that keeps you awake till 5 am when you are re-shaping your ‘almost perfect’ essay and are desperate to hit ‘send’ to your reviewer, an equally weary eyed mortal who has looked at your worst drafts to your best gems and now knows your deepest, darkest secrets!
Most people research their schools, goals and GMAT for ages before they embark on this exhilarating (read exhausting) journey. A normal person would have planned it in the following manner:
1. Shortlist colleges aligned with your goal
2. Know the acceptable GMAT range for these colleges
3. Plan for GMAT and actually get a score in that range.
For me, this wasn’t the normal sequence of steps. I first planned for the GMAT in March and took a date for 6th June. I worked really hard but landed badly with a 660 (Q48, V33). At that point, I knew that this score wasn’t going to work at all, given the ‘competitive’ (yes you, the IIMs!!) pool of applicants I belong to.
After a few days of ‘mind detox’ I decided to take the GMAT again. I quit my current job and had accepted a new job offer and had precisely 5 weeks in between. And so I knew I had to make the best use of the available time! I retook the GMAT and you can view for yourself my journey at this link. As you can see from the URL, I scored a modest 710 (Q48, V40) and managed an >80 percentile in both sections. It isn’t spectacular, but at least I had taken care of that tick in the box opposite the GMAT component of my application.
And then began the real hard work. Since I had very little time as I had finished my GMAT by mid September and had precisely 1 month to the R1 deadline. Before I took the GMAT, my previous list of schools was: Booth, Darden, Fuqua, Schulich, Ross. I chose these schools on the GMAT simply because I didn’t know about other schools. I wouldn’t advise the same to anyone else. You need to have a fair idea of what you are getting into and use the 5 schools that will receive your scores for free wisely! After all, sending a score to every other school afterward costs approximately INR 1200. I had spoken to very few current students before short listing my colleges. I mostly trusted the BW rankings for reference.
Since I was way past mid of September I decided to hire one of the famous chain of admission consultants in India. To avoid controversy, I wont elaborate on the things that didn’t work me on the consultant front. If you wish to know more, feel free to write to me and we can discuss about what worked for me and what didn’t , on the consultant front. Sameer, I hope I don’t get into trouble for writing this!! I sincerely wish I had gone through the MCB website and its services before I applied. But all’s well that ends well.
Let me run the numbers by you .
1. GMAT: 710 (Q48,V40)
2. GPA: 3.5 or so (my school calculated this automatically, didn’t have to convert and send my GPA)
3. Work profile: business process and solution consultant for a telecom client
4. International experience: UK and Germany
I applied to only two schools in R1 – Darden and UNC. I ensured that I didn’t stress the ‘burger (wada pav) eating coder sitting in the corner cubicle furiously coding away till the wee hours of morning’ aspect of my work experience at all. Anyway, I can’t code to save my life and I ensured that my usual ‘software engineer’ experiences were least emphasized! A few pointers for the application process that worked for me.
1. Every nugget of your personal and professional life that you deem insignificant IS NOT! It doesn’t matter what you did as long as you know how to project it to your best advantage without sounding arrogant or boring.
2. If you feel your work was insignificant or your contribution to your project wasn’t as great as you would like it to be, ask yourself. Did the other person in the project do it the way I did it? What did I do differently that led to the success of my project? Compare yourself to other people and you will get fresh insights into your own personality.
3. Chose a balanced mix of reviewers. In my case, I had the following sets of reviewers
A. A non-techie: my sister – a prolific writer and a non-techie. She rapped my knuckles (metaphorically) every time I used “IT” specific terminology that didn’t make sense to a businessman (read Adcom).
B. A current student: A current student, if he/she is willing, is the best gift to an applicant. But you need to know where to draw the line. At the end of the day, the student only has his /her perspective on what got him/her in the school. Refer to Sameer’s article on this topic to know more.
C. A close friend/spouse/girl friend/boy friend: Someone who appreciates you and knows whether you come across as ‘yourself’ in the essays, while helping you use your best experiences in life to your advantage.
4. Essay writing is an incremental process. Too many people get caught up in writing the perfect ‘first draft’ to send to the reviewers and lose precious sleep over it. It wouldn’t be a draft if it were perfect right? So relax! The most important thing is to organize your thoughts and know which experiences you are going to use in which essays. Put these experiences in your first draft and then work on these. So essays are like ‘achaars’ or ‘old wine’. They mature with age!
5. Develop a marketing strategy for yourself by trying to describe yourself in 4-5 words and that should be the overall message of your application. I ensured that I read my application as a complete package and noted down different qualities that I wanted to depict in different essays. I removed any traces of redundancy. Don’t overuse the same /similar examples all over your application unless you are able to bring out different qualities of your personality in the essays. Also, factor in the examples that your recommenders will write about you. When I wrote down points for my recommenders, I knew that I could not use those examples in the exact same manner in my essays.
Once I had submitted my application, I prepared extensively for the interview. I had pinned down every detail I needed to take care of, right down to the watch I would wear with my business suit on the day of the interview! I used ClearAdmit Wiki as my database of interview questions and then worked with my reviewers and mock interviewers over the phone. I have a more detailed debrief of my UNC application on my blog if you are interested in viewing the same here
If I were to go back and change things I did, I would!! But right now, am just happy that its over and I now have to take care of the daunting dollars I need to raise to sustain two years at school. Any sponsors out there?
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Check out Pranjali’s blog for more tips and ideas, except maybe the little section on ‘sticking to the word-count in essays’ where you might want to do your own research. Any questions for Pranjali?