ISB Admission with scholarship in third attempt

ISB Hyderabad scholarshipsThe topic of average GMAT score for ISB Hyderabad (Indian School of Business) gets discussed a lot. We published an article about an MBA applicant who got into ISB with a low GMAT score of 610.

This time we consider another aspect of GMAT scores i.e. the limited utility of a high GMAT score.

Ritesh had an impressive GMAT score of 760. You’d think such a score would make life easy for any MBA applicant at any of the top b-schools.

Far from it, as Ritesh got rejected twice. So what was it that finally got him an admit and a scholarship from the same bschool that had rejected him twice?

ISB Hyderabad admission with scholarship

Third Time Lucky – by Ritesh Chopra

My name is Ritesh Chopra, I did my under-graduation in Computer Engineering and have been working with IBM since 2005. My MBA journey started like many other Indian MBA aspirants with CAT preparations. Lot of my friends were writing CAT and I knew I had potential to crack CAT, so I also started preparing.

I didn’t know why I wanted to do MBA. What career opportunities are available post MBA… or what I wanted to do with my life. The only thing that I was sure of was, if I have to get an MBA I have to get an MBA from a top school. That was also because I was having a wonderful time at my job at IBM.

Unfortunately, in my two attempts I could manage 97.6 and 98.1 perecentile which meant no ABC calls (i.e. from IIM IIM Ahmedabad, IIM Bangalore or IIM Calcutta). Fortunately, I got an onsite opportunity at IBM, which provided me great international exposure and wonderful client side experience. At this point I had 2-3 years of experience and I was in US, so I thought let’s try GMAT.

I got a score of 760 on my first attempt. Couldn’t have asked for more :) or may be i could have :P. With some good experince, international exposure and a 760 GMAT, I thought I am Harvard & Stanford material now. May be, I was.

The only problem though was I wasn’t still clear why I wanted an MBA? Did I really want to spend that much rokda on my MBA? Did I want to spend the rest of my life in USA or India? Well, to hell with those questions I said ;), I have a score and it should be ok. Apna ISB to ho hi rakha hai, will apply there also. Will see later ke jaana hai ke nahi.

But as I started writing MBA essays, it became more and more evident that my story was not clear, even to me. And the colleges obviously saw that as well, some in my essays and others in my interviews. The life became busier after that – some medical issues in family, came back to India, went to Germany, came back to India, marriage, went back to US etc etc…you get the idea.

Then came attempt #2 i.e last year.

This time I had much better idea of my goals, my career aspirations and what schools I wanted to apply to and not simply I want to apply to top 5 colleges in this/that ratings. I was clear that I wanted to work on a technology startup in India.

For this reason, and that i had already been rejected once, I had much more respect for ISB now. But for the same reason, I wasn’t sure if U.S. MBA was right for me or not. Still I was in the US, doing well financially so I thought I would give MIT Sloan, Haas Berkeley and Ross a try as well.

This was also when I found Sameer Kamat through Pagalguy forums. I liked his approach and how simply and effectively he answered the queries of students on the forums.

After some initial discussions, I signed up with MBA Crystal Ball, and our long journey of edits/revisits began. I really like MG and Sameer because of they are more like buddies and they believe in you. And I think that is what you need to help you in the MBA journey.

I have bugged them with stupid questons – like I was checking the profiles of the students and they are intimidating and all. But they always heard my queries patiently and answered genuinely. Despite a lot of things going right, all I could manage was an ISB wailist, thanks to a pretty messed-up interview.

Attemp #3 –

I had come back to India in July 2012 after having had enough of US, so going back was not an option in my mind. ISB was my only MBA option (IIMs don’t accept GMATs older than 3 years). When I applied this time, I had already participated in a Startup Weekend and the ISB iDiya competition.

I had half made my mind up on applying to an incubator/accelerator program and was infact leaning more towards that option than going for an MBA. I still thought since this is the last year of my score, I will give it a try, only applying to ISB though.

Happy with the last year’s services, I went back to MCB folks. Another good thing that happened was these guys themselves suggested me to go for a cheaper essays package, as we had pretty detailed reviews and discussions last year itself.

Honestly, they could have asked me to get a comprehensive package, and I would have taken that as well, because this is a time where candidates would anything that could improve their chances for entry even slightly. This goes to speak itself about their values and work ethics.

Anyways, with two quick rounds of edits and the video essay, I was able to submit my application in under a week.

Not sure, if it was because I had a backup option in my mind or the meditation I had been doing, I was much more relaxed and confident in the interview this time. The interview was mostly around my business venture, the idea, the business model, my transition from tech role etc. The clarity in goals, and the amount of thought that had gone behind why MBA, why now and why ISB, finally showed in my responses.

And the result was that I was not just able to make it to the class of 2014, but also get 5 Lakh Rupees of merit based fee-waiver. Wooohooooo!

Advice for Indian MBA aspirants –

I would like to advice Indian MBA aspirants to do a lot of introspection and decide what they want to do. Decide where you want to be and then take the call whether MBA fits in your plans or not.

Don’t be a part of rat race or do it because people around you are doing it. These days lot of new careers have emerged which were not available even a few years ago. People are making photography their career and making a decent living out of it. Technical careers are paying very well and offering competitive salaries.

Secondly, don’t short sell yourself. Believe in yourself. Believe that you can do it. If I could do it, you sure can.

Lastly, keep trying. Persevere. Never give up. You never know how close to success you are to the success.

As a re-applicant, the ISB scholarship that Ritesh got in his third attempt shows that the potential was always there in his profile. But it took three years to discover and present it.

If you are targetting any of the competitive MBA programs, go beyond the superficial categorisations (like IT – Male – Engineer with a high GMAT score) and start looking at your profile the way Admission Officers would. It takes time to discover the Wow element. So, start now.

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MG (Manish Gupta)
MG (Manish Gupta)
As a principal MBA admissions consultant & career counsellor with MBA Crystal Ball, MG has helped many get into the top B-schools from ISB to Wharton. He is an IIT topper, an ISB alumnus (Dean's list honors) and a former McKinsey strategy consultant.


  1. Tanvi says:

    What is the criteria ISB looks at for the merit scholarship?

  2. Sameer Kamat says:


    Like any other top business school, while making scholarship decisions, ISB looks for a good combination of academic performance + GMAT score + professional accomplishments + several other factors.

    Good luck with your application!

  3. Ajay says:

    If I am writing a blog, does that count as an extras curricular activity relevant to ISB?

  4. Mukul says:

    I am 34 years old Ph.D. in law and at present working as in-house counsel in Reserve Bank of India. Before RBI I was in academics as Asst. Prof. National Law University, Jodhpur. In total I have 10 years of experience. My aim is to pursue interdisciplinary research especially in areas where law and management intersect, as such fields are not explored much in India.

    Hence I would like to pursue a second Ph.D. in management from a top B School so as to understand the business research methods. However, in order to secure admission in business phd programme, I would like to do IIMA PGPX / ISB PGP so as to zoom in on the areas of management where my knowledge of law is relevant and could be leveraged.

    whether IIMA PGPX / ISB PGP will admit a candidate like me whose dream and vision is to pursue phd in management and want PGP/PGPX course as a base to leap forward.

  5. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Ajay: Having a blog doesn’t mean much (anyone can start one in 5 minutes) unless you’ve achieved something worth mentioning (like a good readership, marketing via social media exprience, niche topic, or monetisation etc).

    @Mukul: You already have spent a whole lot of time getting your PhD. Are you sure you want to spend the next 4-5+ years chasing 2 more degrees? Not to mention the application time (1-2 years). Also, age isn’t exactly working for us here. You might be better off thinking of alternatives e.g. working with US teams but being based in India.

  6. Anuradha says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am a Mtech in Biotechnology & have a work exp of about 3 years however have shifted about 3 companies in this span & have a academic gap post college for a year. Honestly dont have any extra curriculars that could highlight my profile & make me stand at par. Could you guide & suggest me how to build my profile & if shifting a company base affects my selection criteria in any way.

  7. Sameer Kamat says:

    Anuradha: Why not stick around in the current job for a few years and make a strong impact. Otherwise, the frequent transitions will come up as a yellow (if not red) flag.

  8. sunny says:

    Hey hii..I am doing my final year btech in aerospace with a score of 8.01 and recently got placed in TCS through campus placements. I am actually very interested in doing my MBA in a top rated B-school like ISB. Upon surfing the net i have got to know that experience is a major criteria for ISB. So what kind of professional accomplishments they look for??? For a starter like me..what should i do exactly which would make me to land up in ISB as soon possible??

  9. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Sunny: Apart from the regular operationa and technical experience, focus on getting some managerial and leadership experience as well.

  10. PAWAN KUMAR says:

    Hello sameer…I feel you are doing a great job by bringing in new perspectives…To present a brief idea,i am currently working in the merchant navy as a second engineer.I have a work experience of 8years and decent extra curriculars.I would like to Look for growth opportunities on shore and a global M.B.A or a Masters in logistics I believe would facilitate this.I am looking at the I.S.B and MIT misi,Malaysia 2015 intake…I’m currently On vacation and preparing for GMAT…My query is that which programme out of the two, according to you, would help me grow better professionally and open new doors for me.. I’m 30 years old so do you think I might face any age issues?..Thanks and keep up the good work….

  11. Sandeep says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am preparing for GMAT to get into ISB. I have experience of 4 years plus as of now. During my experience, i took initiative for market development for my company and i was successful. Besides, i have market experience of main 3 regions of the country i.e North, East & South which adds to quality to profile. Only drawback is i dont ve good academic career but i possess good qualities that is required for leadership & good manager. I just want to know how much my low score academis make impact to get thru ISB?

  12. Anjana says:

    Hi Sameer ,
    I wish to pursue my Mba and i am looking at ISB for the same . I have a work experience of 2.3 Yrs in Lifesciencs Industry and have now decided to take a break to focus on my Mba preparations (GMAT , Applications etc.)
    For the 2 yrs of Work , I have been with 2 different companies (1 yr each) . My profile also includes Good Extracurriculars during & post college. (Voulenteer Work) .
    With this do let me know what could be counted as weak in my profile . Also please do suggest , how i could strengthen my profile , for this B-school .


  13. rckumar says:

    Hi Sameer,
    Am following GMAT Cristal Ball forum and it is quite interesting as you are helping every one of us with your valuable suggestions for building the right path and making into B-Schools.
    I am preparing for GMAT to get into ISB and IIM A, B, C, L Executive Programs, targeting for 2016 intake.
    I have 7 Years of IT experience post MCA with an average academic back ground.
    Professionally, designated as Assistant Project Manager. Handling 3 critical projects and managing about 20 team members. Mainly involved in client engagements and Project handling.
    I started my career with as developer in CapGemini worked around 21/2 Years; Moved to Ernst & Young worked around 8 months and currently working at NTTDATA and completed 4 years.
    Coming to achievements
    Awarded me with Young leader for year 2012.
    Now am part of Middle Level Management Program, where in company will groom the middle manager to take up the higher roles.
    Got award “Smart idea challenge” initiative drive for posting good idea.
    Need your Suggestions:
    1. My Concern is average academic background; will it make impact for admission for ISB and IIM?
    2. Am planning to take PMP and Six sigma certification, will that be use full to build good profile?
    3. As am IT guy, Please suggest me which certification or tasks to accomplish to build my profile and get into good B-schools.


  14. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Pawan: Of the two programs you’ve listed, I’ve heard of only one. ISB is one of the best options in India. So, good to go. Can’t say anything about the other one.

    @Sandeep: Low scores will always pull the profile down. You need to take a call on how well the other aspects are and if they are strong enough to get you noticed.

    @Anjana: It’s not common for GMAT MBA applicants to take a break for preparations. The lesser experience and career transitions are also unusual. Be ready to tackle queries there. The best way to strengthen the career would be to show a consistent and growing career path.

    @rckumar: Academics are important, and will matter. Last minute certifications aren’t a good idea.

  15. Sandeep says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Thanks for your support. I am ready to face this challenge also.

  16. harshad says:

    Hi there,

    I am an electrical engineer and have already completed an mba from a tier 2 b school in india. Prior to that I had worked in an IT firm for a couple of years. Over the last 4 years I have been working with a manufacturing firm and head the south east Asia sales operations. I have had experience at sales in the African market for a year or so with around 3 years of experience in SEA and ANZ markets. I have travelled extensively in the SEA markets and can speak a couple of local languages too. However i feel I need fresh exposure and over the next few years move towards general management or entrepreneurship. I feel an ISB or an international MBA would come handy and cut short what would otherwise be a longer process. Can you comment how my profile would be seen upon by thw admissions team especially considering that I already have an MBA from a decently reputed indian b school. I’ve had decent to good academic records with above average extra currics including a state level representation at sports during good old grad days.


  17. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Sandeep: Good luck!

    @harshad: Please post on our forum where we are doing profile evaluations.

  18. Parag says:

    Hi Sameer,
    I am a pharmacy graduate and completed in Pharma Management from tier 2 B-School. I m currently working with MNC in pharma analytics from last 2 years. i am thinking of taking break for prepation of GMAT as i think that will help me get enrolled in an intl MBA or other premier school in India. I have an average academic background. Could you guide & suggest me how to build my profile.


  19. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Parag: Taking a break for GMAT is unusual. Most international applicants don’t do that. Apart from the test score, focus on getting managerial and leadership experience, and try to build up skills that are relevant to your post-MBA career goals.

  20. Sangeeta says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I have completed my engineering in 2011, and am working in a software organization since then.
    I am planning to apply to ISB and other top colleges for MBA.
    Could you share some insight on how should I prepare for the essays. How should I present my points that make me stand out from other applicants. I want to give it my best shot, and all help would be very much appreciated.


  21. Avanti says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I have completed five year law course (BLS LLB) from Government Law College, Mumbai and I am also a qualified CS. I have PQE of 4 years out of which 2.7 years is experience with a leading law firm in India. During my term at this law firm, I was a part of transactions like mergers, acquisitions , private equity/ venture capital investments, advising several international companies for setting up presence in India etc. I am aiming for ISB and plan on giving GMAT soon. I have also cleared level 1 of CA examinations and as a hobby completed one level of german language from max mueller. Request you to share your insights on the strength of my profile for getting seleted at ISB( subject to a good GMAT score).

  22. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Sangeeta: You’ll find many posts on our blog that talk about how to write bschool essays

    @Avanti: Please post on our ISB thread where we are addressing queries like this.

  23. Navin says:

    Hi Sameer,

    I am an IIT grad of the class of 2012, working as a Business Analyst for IT company’s consulting division in th e Automotive domain. I was hired for Future leadership development program through campus, by the time I get in, I will be completing about 3 years of work experience.

    I have a GMAT score of 720, have pretty decent acads with a GPA of 8.28, normal extra curriculars and a little community service experience as well, I also hold few certifications of the NSE (National stock exchange) such as series 8, and series 4.

    What are my chances of getting throuh ISB for April 2015 intake? Also, if I take a recco from my Boss, who also happens to a ISB graduate, will that be a add-in in any way for my profile?

    And, as is evident from my Finance certifications, I have interest in Finance and wana shift my career to the Financial services industry (one of the reasons that I am planning to write for the “Why MBA?” questions in interview or essays). Will I be able to make a radical shift from consulting to Finance at ISB?

    Would be glad if you could advise me on the above points. Thanks in advance.

  24. Sameer Kamat says:

    @Navin: As mentioned in the earlier comment (just before yours), please post this on our ISB thread.

  25. aditya says:

    Hi Sameer

    I am planning to do my mba from ISB, attempted my GMAT last year and achieved a low score of 560 and then got busy in my professional life.
    I have a total of 5+ years of work experience in Banking & Finance industries , Knowing that I want to do MBA from a top notch institute to accelerate my career but still not sure whether I should do it or not and trying to get the clarity on this front before I start preparation for my GMAT second attempt.


  26. @Aditya. That is a common dilemma. I would suggest you pickup a copy of Sameer’s book to get some perspective on this. Post that, check out one of our forum threads for specific questions

  27. Maaz says:

    i am currently pisuing my 4th year BE in telecom.
    i have a plan of doing my mba in india or abroad what should my strategies to get into a good mba program in a good university. i am really interested to be an investment banker. can anyone please give me some suggestions..

  28. @Maaz – we will soon be starting an offering aimed at profile building for MBA. Drop us a mail in Jan/Feb and we can help

  29. SAURABH says:


    I have started preparing for gmat and my target is for 1 year mba in ISB mainly. My extra curricular activities are strong along with my involvement in some business activities but my academics are not good moreover i did my B tech from a non prestigous college. I know academics matters a lot but what are my prospects to get an admission into a branded college like ISB. What will be the major aspects do i need to consider and focus more to improve my profile.


  30. Kvegs says:

    Hi Sameer,

    Good insights and experience. I would like to pursue MBA from ISB, me having 14 years of experience. I had written GMAT earlier in 2008, score was 550 :(. Am MCA graduate and my academics were good enough. Current role is IT professional and role demands lot of interactions with on-site/off-site and clients. Can I try for EMBA at ISB ? Can you please give some insights on the future prospects post EMBA from ISB ?


  31. @ Saurabh. Your query is a bit high level and difficult to give specific feedback without knowing more about the profile. In general, the educational pedigree point can be addressed with a stellar GMAT to a certain extent and some additional certifications in your intended area of work post-MBA. For a detailed feedback, feel free to post on our ISB profile evaluation forum thread.

    @Kvegs, I am assuming you are referring to the PGPMAX and not the regular PGP in your query? In general, the EMBA is not a great option to ‘change’ your career. It is more suited if you are looking to ‘accelerate’ it instead.

  32. Rajveer says:

    Hi MG,

    I am an IT professional with nearly 11 years of Experience. I am currently working as a SAP consultant for the last 5 years. I have developed an interest of doing an MBA from ISB recently. This is due to the factor that at this juncture I need something which can help me in getting a leap in my career. But at the same time, I am worried that at the age of 34/35, is it the right move to do one year PGP program from ISB i.e both in terms of time and money ROI. Also the average age for PGP program is nearly 27 and considering my age, will I be able to get my self placed in the firms with higher pay package.

    Thanks & Regards,

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