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How I got a free MBA in USA and saved 70 lakh rupees

UNC Kenan Flagler MBA with scholarshipThe green lady you see in the background has been trying hard to woo Abinesh. She made multiple offers he couldn’t resist.

One was worth $40,000 and another that was over $100,000 (70 lakh rupees) in the form of MBA scholarships to come and attend a leading MBA program, virtually gifting him a free MBA in USA.

A top ranked MBA in USA typically gets applicants who have 4-5 years pre-MBA work experience. Statistically, the odds start going down rapidly after a certain age + experience threshold.

So it was natural for Abinesh to target 1 year MBA courses in India like IIMA PGPX and IIMB EPGP, where his profile would have a better match.

But he also took a chance with a select few MBA programs in USA despite their track record for preferring younger candidates and ended up with a free MBA offer.


How I got a free MBA in USA | Full MBA scholarship

by Abinesh Nimalan

After working for about 8 years in a Global Technology Product firm as a product developer, I realised that to get to the ranks of the Senior Executive Leadership in a tech firm I needed to use the Product Management route. It is my belief that the Product Management team is considered a premier talent pool from which a company’s future executives are drawn. And to kickstart my Product Management career I believed a full­-time MBA was essential. With this in mind I delved into the world of MBA applications and began my journey.

How I prepared for the GMAT exam

I started off by doing my basic research in Nov 2012 and came to the conclusion that I was too late for the 2013 fall cycle. Given that I had almost 9 years of work experience I knew that I would be an outlier in the demographic of full­-time MBA applicants.

As a result, I realised that I had just one shot at this and I wanted to ensure that it was my best effort. Having then decided to target the 2014 fall cycle, I started off the hunt by preparing for the GMAT. Given the inherent weaknesses in my profile such as age, average UG academic scores and coming from the most competitive applicant pool (Indian IT Male) I wanted to ensure that I had a good GMAT score on my side to balance it out.

After a hectic 5 week preparation I was ready to tackle the GMAT beast in mid July 2013 and I was pleasantly surprised with the result. I had scored a 760 which placed me in the 99th percentile of GMAT scores.

Feeling glad about this score I was determined to put it to good use and consequently assumed it would be smooth sailing the rest of the way, but little did I realise the tortuous journey that lay ahead of me.

How and Why I chose an MBA Admissions Consultant

Starting with selection of colleges, preparing the essays, getting the recommendations lined up, preparing for the interviews, and arranging the finances, I realised that without proper guidance I would end up floundering in this vast MBA app ocean.

I was always confident in my writing and articulation skills but where I needed help was to have my story vetted by an expert who could also take a dispassionate look at my profile and give me unbiased advice on where I would need to tighten up.

During the course of looking for such an expert I stumbled upon MBACrystalBall and I was impressed by the wealth of heartfelt testimonials from successful past candidates. Normally I would have done thorough research along with a comparison to numerous other consultants before making my decision, but this time I decided to trust my first instincts and go with Sameer and MCB and on looking back now I realise what a fulfilling decision that has been. I noticed that the MBA MAP was exactly tailored to my needs and was precisely what I needed to arm myself in the MBA battle.

Application Strategy or Trial by Fire

Sameer’s mock interview was a trial by fire and gave me the necessary inputs for fine-tuning my MBA application strategy. His MBA MAP report was an awesome insight into my own strengths and weaknesses and gave me the confidence to leverage my profile to the maximum benefit.

But the biggest gain for me was the various tips that Sameer provided not only during the course of the MAP evaluation but also in my subsequent follow up mails. His vast experience was an invaluable asset in this regard and his patience in answering every single query meant that he would go well beyond the call of his duty.

This, I realised, was the hallmark of someone who is in this business not just for the financial gain but to genuinely make a difference in the lives of potential MBA candidates.

After working out my strategy based on the MAP report I decided to apply to a mix of US, European and Indian B­schools. The 5 month application period from Aug to Dec 2013 tested me like no other and Sameer was with me throughout this journey, patiently listened to my cribbing whenever I received a ding and congratulating me to no end whenever I received an admit.

MBA application results

I’ve shared some of my MBA interview experience on the MCB forum.

At the end of it I had received admits from IIMA PGPX, IIMB EPGP, ISB, Carnegie Mellon University CMU Tepper (with 40K scholarship) and Kenan­Flagler (with a free ride i.e. full 100% MBA scholarship). After discussing with Sameer I eventually decided to take up the Kenan­ Flagler admit.

What really struck me during those discussions with Sameer was that while reflecting on the entire application process he kept using the terms “we” and “our” as in “we had a strong profile”, “we overcame these weaknesses in our application”.

This really touched my heart and completely vindicates the decision I made to take him along with me on one of the most important journeys of my life. I couldn’t have asked for a better guide.

– Abinesh

Without a strong profile and credentials, it’s tough to make a clean sweep with Indian as well as international MBA programs like Abinesh has managed to do. That makes it a little awkward for us to see him down-playing his own efforts and giving us more credit than we deserve.

If you have questions for Abinesh about any of the other business schools that he got admits from – UNC Kenan Flagler MBA, Indian School of Business ISB, IIM Ahmedabad IIMA PGPX, IIM Bangalore IIMB EPGP – please post them below.

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

33 thoughts on “How I got a free MBA in USA and saved 70 lakh rupees”

  1. Sir, I am final year student of Civil Engg and I am in view of studying Masters(MBA) in Construction Management abroad(for india we have only RICS and NICMAR only); The questions arises as to which Exams I would Have to face for foreign Universities, As well as the term of SCHOLARSHIP available and to whom the scholarships are provided? Does it worth going for foreign Universities??? If you could clear out my queries

  2. Firstly, Congratulations! Very inspiring indeed.Can you pls elaborate on your “hectic 5 week preparation” for the GMAT? Did you join any classes or study by yourself? And if you did study by yourself, can you pls elaborate on the study plan you adopted and material you followed? Thx, and all the best!

    • Sir,
      Im so impressed and I likd abt ur achievement…im ug graduate in economics, I’m so interested person to doing mba bt im a very poor backround person. But im willing to study in abroad, can u give a guidlines for me to study???? This s my humble request pls………

  3. Hi Abinesh, congratulation for the admissions and hats off to the amazing GMAT score in just a month of preparation. I am also preparing for the GMAT and i will approach Sameer once the scores are out. I have a small query, did you apply to any other European bschool than oxford ? Why do you think you have rejected by oxford, i mean was the interview went bad or the oxford was not happy with your overall profile ? ( I am asking this question because my profile seems quite similar to your profile and i’m more interested in European school than an American one )
    I appreciate any guidance and wish you all the best in your career … 🙂

  4. Hi Abhinesh,

    Congratulations for the admit and scholarship!

    I can relate a lot with your story.
    I took GMAT a week back and scored 750. I am working as a product developer
    for a company and I have 3 years of experience.

    My interest is also in Product Management and I would like to know
    how did you narrow down on the list of colleges and what are the factors
    helped you getting the scholarship (much needed for me).

    I would love to talk to you or communicate over mail.


  5. Dear Abinesh,

    I really appreciate your efforts and handwork of 5 week to crack this Giant GMAT exam. I am also having 6+ year of work exp. I am keenly interested for MBA program but funding is the main concern for me.
    But I personally believe If we have a true spirit wish…We can achieve even the impossible So as per my analysis following area that that plays the vital role for MBA admission …
    1) GMAT : High priority with more than 700 score.
    2) Academics (Transcripts) (SSC=66.69%, HSC 69.67% and B.E in CSE 62.22%)
    3) Your work experience : 6+ years in Software industry.
    4) TOFEL/IELTS : High priority
    5) Statement of purpose : Need to work on it.
    6) Motivational Letter : Need to work on it.
    7) Essay : Need to work on it.
    8) Recommendation letters : Need to work on it.
    9) Interview : High priority

    SO the biggest obstacle right now in front of me is Good GMAT score.(>=700 Marks) because till date i haven’t took any shoot on GMAT exam.
    I am targeting top 10 B-School.

    I will really appreciate if you can guide me for scoring good GMAT (>=700 Marks) to make my application strong and acceptable.

    You can share your opinion and guideline at [edited out]

    Looking forward to hearing from you soon.


  6. Hi Sameer,

    I am moving to USA in December 2014 and will prepare for GMAT for 2016 fall. I am really worried as I have to quit my job and pursue a family business. How will it affect my application as I have left a top notch MNC and pursuing my family business. Do I have odds to get in Stanford, Kellogg and Wharton with no work experience at companies. I have a work experience of 2 years with MNC.

    Awaiting your response.


  7. Hi,
    You saved a whopping amount . I really wanted Kenan but could not get through in Round 1. I have a GMAT of 720 and with around 3 1/2 years of Work exp at HP Globalsoft and Tata Steel. I work in the Order generation area with project ranging from International trading, Marketing / Finance , Indian taxation, Exports etc. I thought a profile of IT + Manufacturing could do the trick. One place where I fall short is my CGPA but I explain that. I can’t make out if you could not crack a particular college, but if that is the case, how would you go about doing a self analysis.? One more thing , I have read other posts regarding scholarships but is there anything in particular that landed you a 100% .

  8. Hi..i am planning to prepare for gmat from next month..could you guide me with best institute along with I need to score well enuf to acquire for the scholarship. Currently have 2+ years xperience..please guide me on the same..or plz mail

    • @Sneha. There is no ‘best institute’ in absolute terms. It depends on how you prefer studying.
      Many prefer following self-study plans using the standard GMAT prep material. Others like online MBA courses for the flexibility. Some prefer classroom based GMAT coaching.
      You’ll have to do the research on what approach you prefer.

  9. How much are you earning now .
    Stupid question but u lucky to get a full scholarship. suwerpposingly a person has a chance to get into the school, but has a budget problem and hence opts for bank loan can he repay his loan easily , If u dint get a scholarship how much would it hav costed you, On an average how much does a person will hav to shell out assuming that he doesnt get a full scholarship or worse case scenario no scholarship.

  10. Helo sir I m doing final year and I want to do MBA in abroad but its cost very high give me advice how can I get scholarship plzz reply n help me

  11. Hi Abinesh and Sameer,
    I have done BTech in Biomedical Engg and currently having 2 years of experience in IT-Healthcare field.
    I wish to pursue an MBA in Hospital/Healthcare Management.
    I am looking for material for GMAT preparation.
    Could you please advise me which would be the appropriate colleges/uni to apply for pursuing MBA in USA or germany.
    Also I am concerned as to whether my experience could fall short for a good scholarship.

  12. Hi!
    i am getting married and my would be lives in north carolina. i have 3yrs of work experience in core company. i wanted to pursue mba (no other choice its only in north carolina). Is Kenan Flager good for mba / duke university / uncc Charlotte ? and for which specialization. i am very much confused in choosing specialization. (whether finance or operations management or general management). i will be writing my gmat in a couple of months in india before getting married.

  13. If I am not too late to the party, can anyone guide me too ? I am a bit interested in studying overseas but I seek guidance regarding MBA/MS , how to prepare, what is the TOTAL COST involved as I am from a lower-middle income group family. I am currently an ASE in a software firm and have graduated in CSE from 2014 batch.

  14. Hi sameer i have 12years of experience in marketing. Presently in life insurance for the last 7 years. I have plans for doing mba in it possible for me as i am 35 years Old am also looking for some scholorships .sameer pls guide me for the Whole process

  15. Hello,
    I have experience of 2.2yrs in banking and planning to do mba in us..what about gre,gmat should i attempt both and what will be the best way for bagging scholarship? plz guide me.

  16. Hello sir ,
    I have completed my MBA-HR (2013-15) batch and want to pursue MS in HR in USA. I had already given my GMAT and score was too low but now i want to appear GMAT again in Feb 1st week. Can you please suggest or advice me that how to improve my study schedule and score card.

    which materials should i use for GMAT exam ?

  17. Hi many congratulations abhinesh

    Me working as a supply chain management professional in TATA motors.
    My current details
    1) GMAT : will try for 700+
    2) Academics (Transcripts) (SSC=85%, HSC 75% and B.E in ECE 74%)
    3) Work experience : 3 yrs
    4) IELTS : 6.5 but will improve if required
    5) Statement of purpose : Need guidance
    6) Motivational Letter : Need guidance
    7) Essay : .Need guidance
    8) Recommendation letters :Need guidance.

    Hoping for positive feedback from you to start my journey with your cordial response.


  18. Hi Mr.Abhinesh,
    I’m a 18yr old doing my BE 1st year. I plan on doing a MBA in US as a follow up. I have a few queries regarding this. I really hope you answer them

    1. I’ve come to know that a few colleges take GMAT while others take GRE . What do u think is best for me to land in a top A-List college? Will I have better chances if i take both?

    2. Is it alright for one to prepare for GRE/GMAT by oneself with just the study material?

    3. What will be the minimum amount of work experience that i might need? Will I be accepted in a college even when I do not have any Work experience?

  19. Hi Sameer ,
    Can you share some of your past students success stories , where they got admission calls to Indian B schools with GMAT.


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