Chartered Accountant gets into ISB with full scholarship (100% tuition waiver)

It’s a tough road to become a Chartered Accountant. Ranked among the most difficult exams in the world, the passing percentage for all 3 CA exams is in the low single digits. If you considered folks clearing all three exams in the first attempt it drops to a shocking 1%. That explains why many drop the idea midway. Why would anyone consider going for an MBA degree after CA, when they are already part of a super-selective professional group?

Chartered Accountant, Suraj Mehta (name changed), outgrew his role rather quickly and started thinking about getting an MBA. His concerted planning and efforts got him into India’s best business school ISB with a full tuition waiver!

In a class of 800, only 7 students (less than 1%, just like the CA pass percentage) are offered a full scholarship i.e. 100% tuition waiver, the highest amount of financial aid you can get from ISB. With taxes that amounts to around 25 lakhs. Quite a bit of savings there.
 


MBA after CA: How I got into ISB with a 100% scholarship

by Suraj Mehta

 
MBA after CA for Chartered AccountantFrom my childhood I have had an interest in finance and the stock market. This was an interest kindled by grandfather who introduced me the stocks and shares at the age of 9. This interest led to my educational decision to take up the Chartered Accountancy.

The course involved a lot of hard work and multi-tasking, juggling articleship with a Big 4 audit firm, undergrad studies and the CA exams itself (the 3 exam levels cumulatively have a less than 1% first attempt success rate).

Post qualifying as a Chartered Accountant, I took up an opportunity to work abroad in an audit role based out of London. I enjoyed the international experience and working with different people on projects.

But, within a year felt constrained that my core role revolved primarily around solving for operational risks. I started volunteering with a UK based social enterprise and found it both challenging and fulfilling. With a view to take a leap out of my comfort zone and engage in work I would find more meaningful I took up a social sector fellowship program in India.

In my current role I have had the opportunity to work on a wide domain of problems outside my core expertise such as in digital marketing. I have also had interesting experiences such as working with a banana hand cart vendor – thereby extending my comfort zone manifold.

With the desire to extend my interest in problem solving further I was (and still am) keen on becoming a Management Consultant in the near term before specializing in social sector consulting in the long term.

I saw the MBA as a good option to help facilitate this transition.
 

How I prepared for the GMAT exam

Before starting my GMAT prep, my goal was to score at least a 700. But, after conversations with MG from MBA Crystal Ball I decided to aim higher.

GMAT is in no way going to be the only deciding factor for any application, but it is certainly one of those factors that is changeable (compared to work industry, undergrad GPA etc).

I relied on a self-study regime using Manhattan strategy guides for Quants and Sentence correction. For practice I relied primarily on GMAT material – OG, practice questions and tests. The key to excelling in the GMAT is quickly identifying your strengths and weaknesses and practice.

I gave a GMAT mock even before starting prep and scored an abysmal 550. But, this clearly helped me understand key focus areas (Sentence correction and quant – I did well in Critical Reasoning and Comprehension) and I tailored my study pattern accordingly.

With about 4 months of preparation along with work I scored 710 in the test. I wasn’t particularly thrilled, since I had scored 740 in one of the mocks. I decided to forget about the GMAT for a while and got back to work.

After a few months, I decided to re-take the GMAT, but with only a week’s revision. This time in the mock I scored 700 but decided to give it anyway as the scores usually have a variability of +/- 30 points.

I was ecstatic to see a 740 flash on my screen at the end of the test.
 

Working on my ISB MBA application

I consider myself a logical and objective thinker normally. But, when it comes to thinking about key decisions for myself as it did for the MBA applications, I tend to lose track of objectivity and act emotionally. I knew expert advice would be extremely useful here.

Here, MG was the perfect guiding force – from helping me shortlist colleges, to brainstorming for and reviewing essays.

I had already read Sameer’s book – Beyond the MBA Hype – and found that it provided an authentic account of the “MBA scene”.

Initial conversations with MG convinced me that these were guys that weren’t after your money but were genuinely interested in helping you achieve optimal outcomes.

In fact, on multiple occasions MG told me to not sign up for an MCB product that would cost more, purely because he didn’t think that would add value.

This convinced me and I signed up with MCB. Since then, MG has been the perfect guiding force – from helping me shortlist colleges, to brainstorming for and reviewing essays. This is something that was consistent when working with MG.

The first time I would look at an essay topic ranging from – the deeply reflective to the insanely creative, I would wonder how in the world I was going to deliver. MG was tremendously helpful here – he gave me honest feedback on my essays and helped me put my best foot forward in the applications.

The one thing I learnt from MG throughout the process was the importance of structure while communicating. This was something that came in super handy during my interview.

I applied to ISB in round one (read about ISB Round 1 vs Round 2) and got an interview invite. Keeping MG’s advice in mind I had done my interview prep trying to ensure structure to my answers. One of the interviewers on a few occasions asked me to outline my responses on a paper. He said this would help him evaluate how structured my thinking was.

The interview went well with questions ranging from my career goals, work profile, industry knowledge and hobbies.The interviewers ended saying that I was an interesting person. I didn’t know if this was a good or a bad comment from an MBA admissions perspective and was hoping for the best.

Finally, I was thrilled to see the results – Admit with a Rs. 10 lakh merit based tuition waiver. Around 25 to 30 candidates (out of a class of around 800) are offered partial tuition waivers ranging from Rs. 5 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh. I happily accepted the offer.

A few days later, I learnt that they had changed the partial scholarship to a full scholarship.
 

Why I chose an MBA in India instead of going abroad

Why did I take up ISB instead of applying to other top 20 US programs?

Firstly, ISB is one of the best if not “the best” MBA program in India. Studying here would be a great experience and would help me transition into my preferred role post MBA.

Secondly, recent events in the US including the election results increase the level of uncertainty to secure a work permit post-MBA. While, this is in no way to suggest that from now onward getting a work visa in the US will certainly become difficult, it just increases the level of uncertainty raising the overall risk.

Thirdly, I see myself more as a “What person” than a “Where person”. What matters to me more is the kind of role I take up rather than where I am based out of. Of course, the “what” and the “where” don’t need to be mutually exclusive, but knowing what matters more simplifies decision making.

The MBA application is a journey in itself – forced me to reflect on key aspects, from thinking about my strengths and weaknesses to developing clarity about my long term goals. While the process was quite draining it was also enjoyable – from making infographics to writing rhymes for the creative essays.
 

Aiming for a scholarship at ISB?

For those planning to apply to ISB and seeking a scholarship, I would suggest working on the following 3 things in no particular order of importance:

1. A strong GMAT
2. Clarity about goals (Communicated clearly in the essays and interview)
3. Interview prep – communicating with structure.

The above 3 might seem generic, but are mostly the only things changeable by the time you decide to apply. Factors such as work experience, undergrad performance and others are normally fixed by the time one decides to apply.

I wish you all the best and all I can say is – Enjoy the applications journey!

– Suraj
 


Editorial Update (5th Dec 2016): Three days after this article was published, Suraj got back to us saying ISB had hiked the partial scholarship to a full scholarship. So, he now gets a free ride at ISB. We’ve updated the article accordingly, based on his update.
 
Read these related posts:
Chartered Accountant (CA) vs MBA: Differences & career prospects
Is Chartered Accountancy (CA) articleship counted as experience?
How I got into ISB with scholarship in my third attempt
ISB Hyderabad admission with low GMAT score of 610


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MBA Crystal Ball provides professional Admissions Consulting services. Hire us to improve your chances of getting into the top international universities. Email: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

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. Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

12 Comments

  1. Siddhartha Tomar says:

    Dear MG,
    I am Siddhartha Tomar, currently working as Product Manager with 11.5 Yrs of experience in Software industry.I am interested in doing MBA to enhance my overall Industry knowledge base in terms of functional expertise and to expand the career opportunities.
    I have been a average student in my academics.
    I am interested in doing 1 Years MBA programme,I visited ISB, IIMs(A B C) websites,the experience range they look for the 1 year MBA programmes, I feel I am over experienced now for them.
    Can you guide me which all option do I have right now.
    Another query, ISB has started a programme PGP Pro for Weekend batch, can you share your thoughts on this program..

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi MG,

    Thanks for the post. I have been following MBA Crystal Ball for sometime and am a big fan of you guys. If u can, please reply to this query.

    I have slightly less than 7 years of total experience in Analytics at 2 companies ( Infosys 5 years and currently in Genpact). My current salary is 13 lpa and I am getting offers from other companies for around 20 lakhs thanks to a booming Analytics industry.

    I had always wanted to pursue a Full time 2 year MBA but because of personal reasons never wrote CAT. Now my dreams are still alive considering one year MBA programs like IIM-A and ISB and their quality of education well proven by the global rankings. ( I would consider only these 2, studying abroad or at nay other college in India is not my aspiration)

    I only plan to work in India except for short business trips for a few months. Do you think i should go for the one year MBA? Considering that if I change Company now and at a compensation of 20 lakhs, will the MBA be worth it.

    Since I would be investing around 30 lakhs and a year of my time; Will I get a adequate compensation when i pass out a year later.

    Also without the MBA I expect to make around 25 lakhs by the time I pass out of the MBA. Will the MBA bring a good change in my compensation.

    Also please advise of the Long term benefits of the MBA keeping aside the salary factor.

    Please advise.
    I have posted anonymously for obvious reasons.

    Thanks in advance.

  3. Aniket says:

    Hey Manish/Sameer
    I have 4+ yr of exp. in S/W development.I started my career from a startup and it got acquired by a bigger company recently.I was the first employee of that company.Now i am leading a team here.I want to pursue my MBA from ISB.Will this help me to get in there?

  4. RM says:

    Hi,

    As an offerholder of ISB Mohali Co2018, I want to understand the things that I may have experienced had I been selected at Hyderabad, and which I may have to forego at Mohali campus. I understand the school has a philosophy of one college two campuses, and that it has the same faculty, same placement procedures, etc for both campuses. But I want to understand how different are the two college on the softer aspect, i.e., the general experience outside education – not partying culture and all, but the general atmosphere that gets influenced by the quality of students (which they claim is the same across campuses but I am a bit skeptical because they wouldn’t risk losing the best candidates by offering them Mohali campus, which is still a lot less popular), level of interaction with and availability of faculties, manner of conducting case competitions and other activities, and the other details that may come to your mind and which you think cannot be controlled by the program administrators.

    I personally believe that the overall MBA experience is much larger, of which formal education and teaching is only a part. The experience outside the formal teaching is something that shapes an individual by a greater degree.

    Experiences of ex / present alum at Mohali will help answer my question. Thanks in advance:)

  5. Pooja says:

    Hi MG and Sameer,

    I happened to come across your website while browsing for one year MBA programs in India and I must say I am pretty impressed. So I have a query that I am sure only you guys can answer.
    I have done M.Sc. in Biotechnology in 2011 and have excellent academic records right from schooling to masters. Since last four and a half years, I am working as a Scientist in a Govt. organization. I intend to change my career path and want to transit into corporate world. I am planning to take GMAT in next three months and I am targeting to get into IIMA, IIMB or ISB one year MBA program. I have no business experience as such and I am keen to know whether they consider applicants from non-business backgrounds. I would appreciate if you would reply. Thanks in advance.

    • Pooja,

      While schools definitely consider folks from non-business backgrounds, but the onus of convincing the adcoms is a lot more on you. You need to have fair clarity on your post-MBA plans as well as transferable skills you bring to the table.

  6. Ruchi says:

    Great insights MG. Can you pls tell the process of applying for scholarship of part fee waiver? My husband has a final call from ISB PGP for 2017-18.
    The fee for the programme is high and part fee waiver can also make a difference!

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