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How I achieved my career goals after a GMAT MBA application rejection from ISB

What I did after my MBA application was rejected

From all the MBA success stories that you get to read on admission consultants websites, the breed may come across as an invincible lot. That’s far from the truth. As with any other field that involves fighting against the odds, even the best candidates and MBA consultants fail.

While failure can teach us more than success, such stories of rejection generally get brushed under the carpet – probably because it seems risky for the professional team and applicants to expose their vulnerability.

There’s another angle. While it may be easier for bigger companies (with a non-emotional, factory approach) to take such failures and rejections in their stride, when it’s a boutique team like MBA Crystal Ball working with a select few folks, we take it personally.

What helps is when the person on the other side is someone like Zoya Mehani.

When we failed in our mutual efforts to crack into ISB, here’s what she had to say:

I may not have heard from ISB, but I did learn a lot more about myself through the introspection process you put me through. I appreciate your efforts. Faults in the application, if any, were surely my own. Thank you for all your support and encouragement.

While the disappointment was palpable, Zoya’s reaction was very mature and thoughtful. Even when the chips were down, she still came across as a winner.

She stayed in touch over the years. Three years later when her academic and professional status is very different, we felt it was time to share her success story.


What I did after my MBA application was rejected by ISB

by Zoya Mehani



It was February 2011, and I had just quit my job as an analyst with a prestigious research and analytics firm to help manage a part of my dad’s footwear trading business in New Delhi. It wasn’t a big established conglomerate.

In fact we were just a two member team operating out of a cluttered 15 square feet rental space, managing channel sales for our partners while trying to build a brand of our own.

My dad with his rich 23+ years of experience in the industry knew exactly what he was doing. I on the other hand had just turned 23, and all I knew for sure was that I wanted a career in building brands. Managing sales and promotions for a startup seemed like an excellent first step.

However, I had no formal training in management, and there came a point when I realized that a degree would not only help steepen my learning curve but also put me on a fast-track to working with big brands someday. I thus decided to hop onto the bandwagon, and get myself an MBA.


My immediate preference was ISB; there were two main reasons for this. One was that ISB has a 1 year program, which meant that I could get back to earning after learning sooner.

And two, I liked their selection procedure. ISB seems to value more than just grades, and they are choosy about who makes it to the class. I decided that a vibrant mix of individuals from different walks of life would make for a pretty cool experience.

I gave myself a month to study for the GMAT, and referred to the GMAT Official Guide and Manhattan Prep test series for my preparation. I scored a 710 on my first attempt, and like most Indian engineers with less than 3 years of work-ex, I felt that it wasn’t enough.

However, instead of rewriting the exam, I decided to caste the net wider and prepare for a few more entrance exams to other prestigious colleges in the country. I scored reasonably well at NMAT, and secured admission at NMIMS’ full time 2 year PGDM program. While I was excited to be joining NM and living in Mumbai, I secretly hoped to convert ISB too!

I wanted my ISB application to reflect me in the best possible light, and so I decided to take help from people who know the drill.

After some research, I decided I felt comfortable in choosing MBA Crystal Ball. I had interacted with the founder, Sameer Kamat, a few times earlier in the year and I had always found his advice to be no-nonsense, honest, and relevant.

MCB wasted no time in getting me started on the application. They gave me unbridled feedback on my essay drafts, helped pick out the best parts from my life stories, and ensured that the application process does not suffer at the hands of other deadlines in my life.

Most importantly, they forced me to deeply introspect and answer the dreaded ‘why MBA’ question. That further helped strengthen my resolve to do what I really wanted to do in my life: build brands.

I submitted my applications in time, and waited for the results to come out. I knew there were some chinks in my armor, so I wasn’t shocked when I didn’t make the cut, but I was quite disappointed nevertheless. Not making it to a dream college after a lot of effort can be quite demoralizing.

Life after getting a rejection from ISB

I had two options now. I could either go to Vegas and win millions at Blackjack to “come out of the page” with my application to ISB next year, or I could focus on why I really wanted to do an MBA in the first place, and decide on the best way to make that happen. I am a rational (and also impatient) person, and so I chose the second option and joined NMIMS.

I have no regrets. Apart from being a great college, NMIMS offered opportunities I had not considered before. It’s a non-residential program, which forces you to fend for yourself in the crazy city that Bombay is. This daunting experience taught me life skills I am unlikely to forget. Also, being in the heart of a metropolitan city means it’s never too hard to set up meetings with potential recruiters, or find a corporate project to learn more about your dream job firsthand.

It was through one such part-time corporate project that I got my first exposure to the world of FMCG sales. I did a market research project for Pidilite Industries Limited, based on which they recruited me to be part of their management trainee program. It was a chance to work with the sales and marketing department of a company that has build some of India’s most iconic brands!

Within less than a year of being at Pidilite, I have been appointed as the Branch Manager, South Gujarat, for Pidilite’s stationery division. I am responsible for designing and implementing the region’s monthly sales & promotion strategy, and leading my team to achieve their targets. I am looking forward to my next assignment with the division’s marketing team!

My journey didn’t pan out the way I had planned it, but I am not far from where I wanted to be. It is very easy to get caught up in the MBA hype during the application season, and feel that the most important thing in the world is to make it to ‘that’ college.

But is it, really? The next time you feel that way, refer to your answer for ‘why MBA’. It’s more important than you may realize.

Good luck!

– Zoya Mehani


Here’s what it can mean when your MBA application gets rejected before or after the interview.

After the initial disappointment and analysis phase, it’s also important to keep in mind that Admission Officers of MBA colleges are a very small part of your professional journey. Don’t let their decisions sway you from your true calling.

Failure, and how one deals with it, brings out the true character and potential. If you are a champ, you will find a way to get to your goals.

While we have our fair share of failures, we have an overwhelming large number of success stories too. Check out some of them here: MBA Crystal Ball Reviews.

Drop us an email if you’d like us to help you with your MBA applications: info [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

Also read these related posts:

Michigan Ross MBA admit for Indian reapplicant who took rejection in her stride
W.P. Carey with full MBA scholarship & graduate assistantship after multiple rejections

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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

2 thoughts on “How I achieved my career goals after a GMAT MBA application rejection from ISB”

  1. @Zoya Mehani

    I salute spirit and courage.

    Among all those success stories I come across everyday, your story is a **the panoramic view** of success, as it comes. Others are just *mugshots*.

    Good Luck.

  2. Well written. A more broader question that crosses my mind every now and then… If MBA was actually required? Is it too hyped? Is sales job better than IT? After passing out from NM last year and struggling to bring about a change in the organisation, I believe most of us approach the outcome of MBA at a very myopic level. MBA teaches us great stuff, but do organizations really harvest our ideas and skills? Or are we only a singular human resource. Probably the reason why most of us want to entrepreneurs. We don’t have the patience and the time to wait year on year to crawl the corporate ladder. We are much better than that!


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