Like many Indian and international students planning to study abroad, if you feel that the university ranking and brand power means everything, you’d be impressed with Anamika Agarwal’s resume. But what’s more intriguing is the journey behind it and the lessons she has picked up from her experiences.
The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Bombay) B.Tech graduate had set her eyes on the best universities for her Masters degree i.e. MS in USA. With an average GRE score, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy.
With her well-drafted MS applications she was able to convince the MS admissions team that her GRE score wasn’t such a big issue. Her strategy and approach worked. She got into Stanford, MIT and several other good U.S. universities.
While an MS at Stanford University would’ve been the ultimate addition to any CV, Anamika turned down the option. The reason being – MIT offered a free ride (full scholarship) for their Masters in IT course.
She worked for Goldman Sachs (New York) after completing her MS from MIT.
Several years later, she did it again. With a relatively low GMAT score (for an Indian engineer) of 690, she got into London Business School (LBS) for her MBA degree.
What was it that helped her tackle the tough admissions chances (with her not-so-impressive GMAT and GRE exam scores) and get into the best MS programs in USA with a scholarship and the toughest MBA in the UK?
Anamika shares her journey and some interesting lessons (specially about the value of brands) she learnt along the way. If you think you have a low or average GRE score (or GMAT) or you think the odds are stacked against you in the race for the best MS programs in U.S. or MBA courses across the world, read on.
6 Lessons from my MS in US (MIT) and MBA in the UK
by Anamika Agarwal
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever ~ Steve Jobs
This quote summarizes quite well my career journey till date – an interesting mix of experiences, some of which was planned while rest was sheer serendipity. The mantra (beyond hard work of course) has been to keep moving forward and embrace new ideas, opportunities and places with open arms and trusting for something bigger and better to happen.
Having completed my Bachelors from Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, MS from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and MBA from the London Business School (LBS), I got the opportunity to study in some of the best institutions of the world.
Eight years of experience across four countries in various functions and industries has given me great exposure and a holistic view to build any business. As I revisit the past years while putting together this blog post, few things pop my mind as key influences/ learnings/ turning points in my career journey.
1. Our aspirations are a reflection of the environment we live in, the exposure we get and the company we hang out with.
The above mentioned factors have played a crucial role in grooming my career and personality in the early days. It’s the best way to stay motivated and continuously learn new things.
My entry to IIT was driven to a large extent by the company of friends I had back then in school. The desire to match up and compete in everything we did aspired me to clear JEE.
The induction effect continued thereafter at IIT as well and paved way for further milestones in my educational and professional journey say it be doing MS in USA, MBA in UK, job at Goldman Sachs in the U.S. or my current role with a start up.
2. Persistence is one of the biggest drivers to make things happen
I would not qualify myself to have had a smooth sail to the places I landed for education and work. It was a lot of persistence, hard work and some amount of luck that eventually made things fall in place.
In spite of an average GRE score, I got admits from Stanford, UIUC, Purdue and MIT for MS in USA (Masters degree). With persistent follow ups with the professors, I was able to convert my admit at MIT to half scholarship, followed by a full scholarship.
Similarly, during my MBA application, my GMAT score was 690 but I was successfully able to convert LBS.
My advice would be – don’t be disheartened in case you don’t have the most amazing scores (of course, they need to be above a threshold).
Work towards a stellar application as scores are just one component in the application. Now being a part of the candidate interview process for LBS, I have been able to validate this further.
Don’t be shy in reaching out to people for help (LinkedIn, Alumni Network, FB). In my journey, the loose & distant connects have been the most helpful. I was picked up by an Alum for my very first job at Goldman Sachs when I reached out to him.
3. Have a plan, but be flexible. There might be greener pastures in store for you
We all have plans and define goals for ourselves. Give your 100% in achieving the same. But at times, things might not work the way you would have wished.
It could be attributed to the timing or other external factors beyond your control. At such junctures, be open to the idea to explore other opportunities – even those that you might not have imagined ever in your wildest dreams.
I have seen this personally play out in my career journey multiple times.
While in undergrad, my goal was to pursue earthquakes but I ended up learning cutting edge technology during my Masters in US. Further the plan was to pick up a career in Finance but I eventually chose a role in a startup.
Now when I look back, I feel embracing new opportunities in a non-judgmental way has given me exposure to new avenues and enabled me to identify more interesting and satisfying career opportunities.
4. Brands and compensation are NOT the only metrics to define a sustainable and satisfying career
Lot of people call me a brand whore when they see my CV 🙂 Brands in your early career definitely help you get the credibility and access to different networks.
However, soon you realize there are other equally or more important factors that drive your satisfaction – quality of work, growth, passion, work life balance, impact and value creation. [Try this free online career guidance tool if you haven’t already]
It’s important to not lose sight of these aspects while choosing your career path.
5. Comfort zone means hitting a learning block and the time for a shake-up
It’s important to have the awareness and be honest to our own self when we feel we are getting comfortable in whatever we are doing.
Bringing a change when everything is going smooth does not come naturally to anyone of us.
But being aware of this feeling and pushing ourselves to constantly strive for the next challenging opportunity would help in the long run.
6. Believe in yourself
Last but not the least is to believe in your ability to make things happen! Play on your strengths while being aware about your weaknesses.
Don’t let a low GRE score or an average GMAT performance derail your success stories.
For general queries about MS applications, please post on our MS discussion forum.
If you are really serious about getting Anamika’s help for your MBA or MS application, check out our professional MS SoP review service and drop us an email with your profile details on: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com.
Read these related articles:
– GRE scores for MS in USA
– Average GRE scores for MIT | Average GRE scores for Harvard
– Why I rejected a full scholarship for Masters from an Ivy League university
– MS in Computer Science in USA as an international student
– How to get into Princeton University