When MBA education costs are spiralling out of control, a full-tuition scholarship can mean a lot to Indian candidates with pockets that aren’t as deep as their other MBA classmates.
Smeal MBA granted a full-ride (100% tuition waiver) and more, in terms of a steady income (stipend) to Pushkal Kumar.
He stands tall and confident today, as the entrepreneur in him knows very well that he’s already got his RoI even before he starts his MBA program at a top school which enjoys a respectable MBA ranking for its Supply Chain Management (SCM) specialization.
In this guest post, he describes how and what he did to get not only an admit but also a whole lot of free money from one of his top choice business schools.
Smeal MBA: Full scholarship + stipend from Penn State
by Kumar Pushkal
“Thank you almighty,” are the three words that came to my mind before I even picked up a phone call from +1 (xxx) xxx-xxxx. I knew it was the Smeal MBA Adcom giving me the good news in less than 24 hours after my interview. The end of a 2 year long journey was finally here!!! Not only was I admitted but also I got a full tuition scholarship + Graduate Assistantship (GA) stipend of $700 / $1400 per month. It was the 7th of December I remember clearly.
The bschool journey started way back in 2010 with my first GMAT. Then another 2 GMAT test attempts in 2011. The GMAT preparation journey was itself very painful for me accompanied by the death of my beloved dog Ronnie 9 days before attempt 2 in July 2011.
I finally settled scores with the GMAT on the 9th of Sept 2011. By then I had already missed my R1 ISB deadline. But I had done something very good during my GMAT prep.
Working on MBA applications
This good thing was that in the entire 1 year of GMAT attempts I had built a strong network of people who would help me with the app process- family, friends, peers and professionals. I knew at least 2-3 people from each school to which I was going to apply. I started with Sameer Kamat on the MBA Mock Application Process (or MBA MAP as it’s called) and then worked with his teammate MG for my applications. I must say they are very professional and up to the mark. Sameer’s team will never write essays for you but the reviewed essays are so ripped apart that you will feel like killing yourself for having written the poor essays. But at the end of the day you will realize that it was all for good.
I also made sure that along with the MBA Crystal Ball team, my essays were also being read by my friends and people (alumni/students) from the concerned school. One quick pointer here – once you are done with your final draft of essays please make sure that you have taken a print out of the essays and read them 4-5 times. I bet you will find mistakes which you will never do on the computer screen; our brain is programmed to read even the incorrect spells correctly, this might remind you of that stupid forwarded email that your colleague sent you in your last job with all the spells jumbled and yet you were able to read the doc correctly.
Ok back to me, I put in only 4 applications- Quality above quantity.
My selection of bschools
1. Indian School of Business (ISB Hyderabad) – still waiting for an interview after having written a super strong app – oh BTW I have a decent profile, I worked for 2 years in Accenture Mumbai, even though I was a fresher I had graver responsibilities, thanks more to my managers than to my skills for having overburdened me with tasks. However, today I realize how thankful I am to them for the valuable (more importantly documentable) experiences gained. Also thanks to my family business setup that I could plan and setup a small manufacturing firm with the help of my Dad. I handled this company for 2 years and made it fiercely competitive with the city’s MFG giant in the sector.
2. My second app was for the Kelley MBA, again a really strong app but could not strike the chord with the interviewer. I was taken aback by the rejection a few days back. On a positive note I am happy the Kelley ding made my Smeal decision easier.
3. Smeal MBA :-)
4. Fourth and final app is the Tepper MBA for which I am still awaiting an interview call. However, I would be taking up Smeal mostly because of the full tuition + stipend they have offered me.
I have a family business setup and thus I am very skeptical of money investments that we make. Finally I am not doing an MBA to get ahead in the rat race or to earn like an investment banker. Instead for me it’s another new academic and professional journey of bettering myself professionally and personally. At the end it’s my family business I would be coming back to in the long term.
Working with MBA admissions consultants
A final word of advice to all people reading this. In the previous season, I had also applied to over 10 schools with lame essays in March 2011. I got enticed into the app process by an admission consultant from Mumbai (this was before I knew about MBA Crystal Ball). Ended up wasting 1 lac rupees with 0 admits. I was even rejected by the S.P.Jain Global MBA !! I was called for an interview within 1 day of applying, took a flight to Mumbai, got through first 3 rounds (I don’t know how) and I did not even have an idea of the “why MBA” jargon for the SP Jain adcom in the 4th and final interview round with the Dean (I am sorry sir for wasting your precious time :D).
Today I realize how dumb I was to apply in R3 and R4 with a 650 GMAT and poorly written apps. But in hindsight the application process in March 2011 kind of helped me prepare for the REAL application process in October 2011(Round-1 this time). I had learnt a lot of tricks of the trade although at a heavy price $$ and 2 months of my time. So if you are planning to work with an admissions consultant, do your homework really well. It can make all the difference.
So wishing all you bschool aspirants a very good luck. Final words of wisdom from an old “winning” horse:
MBA application tips
1. GMAT is not everything, but be sure to get a within range score for target school.
2. Unnecessary time invested in GMAT retakes can be better invested in getting in touch with target school students and reading about the school online. I talked to at least 5 students from Kelley/Smeal/ISB on skype/phone. What this does is that it prepares a killer mindset in you for why school X and also makes you adept with the best parts of the school which you can talk about to the interviewer.
3. Never ever wait for an interview call or walk in unprepared. Prepare at least 5-7 times with real settings on skype/phone/live with friends or well wishers for the interviews. I used to record my responses on my webcam and then play them over and over again for improvement.
4. Be confident. “adcoms are; not dying to reject you, but trying to understand you”.
This is ‘bblast’ (my forum name) signing off from the GMAT & bschool application arena, a very hearty thanks to MBA Crystal Ball team and all my friends/family/mentors from BTG, GMAT Club as well as Pagalguy.
Read my next post: Day in the life of a Smeal MBA student.
– Kumar Pushkal
As always, our friend has not been subjected to any third degree torture to include feel-good and promotional comments about us. But I guess when a good school is actually paying you to join them (rather than the other way around), the gratitude is all natural, all organic (pretty much like the ingredients that go into herbal soaps).
Don’t miss these other success stories of Indian MBA applicants who’ve got MBA scholarships.