You’ve read many stories on our blog about success after failed attempts. You haven’t? Well, here’s one –> W.P. Carey with full MBA scholarship & graduate assistantship.
But, the one that we are covering below is unique. It is a ‘successful’ success story that happened after multiple ‘failed successes’. Confusing?
INSEAD MBA student ‘MBA Juggernaut‘ (her parents gave her a much better name, but this is what she prefers to be called in this post) had to take a pretty long ride from the time she started her applications till the time she could actually get into the program that gave her the admit. Over to MJ!
After three acceptances, an ego-crushing ding and a mighty conundrum over 5 years, finally at INSEAD!
I began my MBA journey at the tender age of 15, when I decided that an MBA was my first priority after I graduate from college. At this point, I wasn’t sure of where I’d complete my undergrad, but I had plans, and big, elaborate ones at that.
In the summer of 2008, I started preparing for the GMAT. I graduated from college in 2001, and after 6 years at a job that didn’t give my grey cells much of a workout, my math was a bit rusty to say the least. I bought a multitude of books/CDs/practice tests to help me prepare for my first real exam since undergrad, and spent the next three months ruing my high school tardiness; who would’ve thought that loci and the two sides of the number line would return to haunt me in my late 20s?
After chickening out on my first test date, I took the GMAT plunge late 2008 and landed a 690, just below my target of 700+, with a very disappointing quant score. I pondered whether I should retake the test, but the thought of poring over high school math again was too off putting.
With a 690, I decided to apply to ISB. I procrastinated endlessly till three days before the round 2 deadline, when I submitted my application with what I perceived as a half-baked application. I was surprised when I received an interview call a month later.
The telephone interview was quite a disaster. My confidence evaporated when I was asked to explain what caused the credit crisis, and I stammered for almost a minute before I admitted that I wasn’t very clear on what CDOs were…!
It went on for an hour, and although it ended well, I wasn’t confident about getting in. But surprise, surprise! I received my acceptance email for round 2 early February 2009. However, due to extenuating personal circumstances, I couldn’t accept the offer, sadly. The ISB application committee was very supportive and encouraged me to reapply the next year.
The next year, I decided that I wanted to take a shot at an international school. I applied to London Business School in pretty much the same manner that I did for ISB, only this time I spent even less time on the application. I breezed through the 6 essays like I was writing a blog post, and I submitted my application for round 3.
I discovered what a huge mistake this was when I received the much dreaded email – in MBA-speak, I was ‘dinged without interview’.
After a few days of wallowing in the ignominy of rejection, I put my MBA plans on hold.
Come 2011, the fact that I still didn’t have an MBA began to gnaw at me again. Many of my peers had graduated from elite business schools and had landed plum roles, leading to an existential crisis of sorts for me.
I worked for an exciting company and was doing reasonably well, but my career had begun to settle into comfortable nonchalance, and boredom began to set in. I started working on my application to INSEAD, which was my original school of choice and fit perfectly into my plans.
Long story short – I applied for round 2, received an interview call, was interviewed by two alumni as per INSEAD protocol, and waited eagerly for the decision. On Feb 22, 2012, I received an email with news that I didn’t know how to react to. I was waitlisted. I had a thousand questions.
What does this mean? How long am I waitlisted for? When will I know?
The MBA admissions officer was sympathetic but her response was measured. ‘We don’t know at this moment. We will let you know when a place frees up. It can happen at any time, please be assured this process doesn’t reflect on the quality of your application.’ Disappointed, I gave up on hearing back from INSEAD and went on with my life.
In July, I received a call from INSEAD congratulating me for getting off the waitlist. Ecstatic on the call, I realized after hanging up that the course began in one month! I had to quit my job and arrange funds for the tuition within two weeks.
After a week of frantic emails and phone calls, hurried loan applications, sleepless nights and frustrated tears, I realized I had to decline the offer. I couldn’t raise the funds in time. I felt like a character in Groundhog Day, the same scene playing out over and over again – MBA application to a top business school, acceptance, followed by me having to decline the application.
No sweat. I decided to apply again! I applied to INSEAD in round 2 again, Dec 2012, this time with stellar recommendations – I figured the recommendations were probably the weak point in my previous application, the possible culprit for my agonizing waitlist situation.
The essays gave me several sleepless nights, though, and I suffered from relentless writer’s block. I’m verbose by nature and I found it particularly exacting to keep my usual dramatic, flowery sentences out of my essays, but at the same time retain the flavor of my writing and avoid sounding manufactured.
I asked for Sameer‘s help in rationalizing the content and editing out the flyaways, and I pushed my application in on the last day for round 2 applications. I received an interview call early 2013, the acceptance call a month later, and here I am, writing this blog post from INSEAD.
I’m generally against making a ‘shining example’ of someone’s story, least of all mine, because everyone’s circumstances, problems and struggles are different.
However, if there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s this: Never give up!
The MBA application is not about a sky-high GMAT score or your Dean’s List GPA or the amazing extra-curricular activities you have purposefully cultivated – it’s about your story and how well you narrate it through your essays.
Most importantly, if you have a goal in mind, why are you still reading this blog? Get cracking with your MBA application NOW!
Apart from the virtue of being persistent, MJ’s story also highlights the importance of planning for the finances. There were circumstances and last minute developments beyond her control. But we do get offline queries from folks who’ve got into the top MBA schools in USA, Europe, India, but haven’t thought about the MBA financing aspects. Start thinking about it while you are working on your application strategy.
Here’s a post we published on education loans without collateral for international MBA many months after MJ’s story was published.
While MJ is busy moonwalking her way through the academic workload, she’d be happy to take questions if you post them in the comment section below.