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My ISB re-application strategy: Higher GMAT score, better interview and meditation

ISB Reapplicant Strategy

After getting rejected from ISB in his first attempt, apart from improving the regular application areas – GMAT score, essays, interviews – Kalpesh (name changed) added another secret ingredient to his reapplicant strategy – meditation.

ISB reappliant strategy that helped me

by Kalpesh


After completing my under graduation, I started working with John Deere India in Pune. After 2 years at work, I started contemplating about my career and the inevitable what-next question popped up! By this time I had also developed a flair for the operations domain and I was at least not repelled by it.

Even though most of my batch mates and friends were successful in cracking the CAT and getting into IIMs, I was not sure if I would fit into that formula.

Soon I realized global business schools had a more holistic approach (One that doesn’t revolve around your performance in 5th Grade) for admitting students for their MBA program.

In 2013, when one of my colleague left to ISB, I realized that now is the time to take the next step towards my MBA. I gave my GMAT in October after preparing for 4-5 months and scored a 690!

Like any obedient MBA aspirant, I compared my ‘Profile’ with my friend (who had gone to ISB) and noticed that I had the exact same ‘profile’ in terms of GMAT and work experience.

In the next few weeks, I raced against time to apply for ISB in R2. With no due respect to the application process (Read: ESSAYS), I successfully completed my application. I was obviously surprised by ISB’s decision to not invite me for interview. I spoke to few friends at ISB and realized how I had royally screwed up my essays!

In 2014, I decided to have a more structured approach to my application and that’s when I bumped into the MBA Crystal Ball blogs. I started reading a lot about the application processes which b-schools adapt and in particular how does ISB admit its students.

I first spoke to Sameer and MG about my application to ISB in September and asked for an evaluation of my previous application. Through my initial interaction with MG, It was pretty clear how superfluous my essays were.

He also suggested me to re-take GMAT and we decided that I will simultaneously prepare for GMAT and work towards my application.

Through the testimonials from MCB’s website, I kind of knew what to expect from them. We started with a brain storming session, which left me with more questions than answers. It helped me introspect a lot on what I wanted in life!

I thoroughly enjoyed the process which we followed throughout my application.

MG has a no-nonsense approach when it comes to providing feedback on how bad your drafts really are. This was the only reason why I eventually got better at it. I love how he brings the best in your essays without really affecting the story. He simply doesn’t believe in including fiction in your essays.

After 4 weeks’ time, we completed my essays and I was surprised how I can write such stuff. In the mean time I re-took my GMAT and scored the exact same 690!

Nevertheless I went ahead with my application and secured an Interview call in Mumbai. I am sure signing up with MCB was one of the main reasons for the call, so I decided to take MG’s help to prepare for the interview as well. I was confident about my preparation.

I went to Mumbai a day early to ensure that I am fresh for the interview. I had a stress interview with both the panelists constantly trying to negate/ridicule my answers. Even before I left the interview location I was sure of the results.

The rejection mail (in early 2015) was a mere formality and I was disappointed with the way I handled my interview.

It took me more than 2 months’ time and some meditation classes to even think about my MBA again.

Through the blogs of Stacey Koprince (MGMAT Instructor) I learnt about the free meditation podcasts (you can search for UCLA Meditation courses).

I practiced it for around 4-5 weeks on a regular basis (however I want to continue this habit instead of resorting to it only when things go haywire).

Eventually I regrouped myself.

Even though I really liked how GMAT works, I always felt that I never gave my 100 % in my GMAT preparation. In March, I decided to have one final shot at GMAT. I prepared for 3-4 months and gave my GMAT again in August. I scored a 740 in my 3rd attempt!

I immediately discussed with MG about my application strategy and we decided to apply for more schools to hedge the risk involved. Before applying to the other bschools, I wanted to comfortably finish my ISB application. I requested him for a full school package.

Instead of simply enrolling me to whatever I had requested, he suggested I should just take an essay review pack instead of the whole thing. This speaks volumes about his work ethic!

After submitting the ISB application, I also applied for the Kenan Flagler Business School and W.P. Carey.

ISB invited me for the interview again. I repeated the whole process one more time hoping that this will be my last. Being the last person to be interviewed for day 1 at Mumbai, I had a straight forward interview, typically focused on my work experience. I also was interviewed by UNC Kenan Flagler in the same week.

The decision dates for both ISB and KF were in the second week of December. While I was expecting a decent scholarship from KF, I only managed to get an admission. I always knew an MBA in US was not viable for me without good scholarship (unless I get into the top schools).

However, I DID manage to get into ISB in R1. After 2 years of toiling around with this whole process, I now look forward to the next chapter of my life in Hyderabad.

If you have read this clichéd story this far, you might as well go on to read about what advice I would give to my fellow Indian MBA applicants.

Over the last one year, even though, I researched a lot about the US MBA programs, I could only apply to a limited number of schools (Read: Plan your GMAT at least 6 months before the application starts).

So please plan everything from GMAT to application in advance so that you get to apply to the best ones and stand a realistic chance! By the time I interacted with students at Duke and Tuck to get insights about the school, R1 deadlines were already over.

Finally, if you are a MBA aspirant and you are already in the testimonial section of the MCB website, you should go ahead and sign up. I am sure it will be the right decision as it was for me!

Thank you MG and Sameer for being there throughout the last 2 years. You provided me the much needed guidance, support and strength.
Image Source: Spiceflair

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

16 thoughts on “My ISB re-application strategy: Higher GMAT score, better interview and meditation”

  1. Hi MG,

    I also scored GMAT 690 in both my attempts and never felt I was fully prepared to take the exam. I was just running against the application deadlines in both my attempts to GMAT.

    1st attempt: January 2015 (Applied in 2 schools in round 3 for Fall 2015, Rejected from both the schools)
    2nd attempt: September 2015 (Applied in 5 schools in Round 1, rejected from 3 schools because these schools doesn’t take the Indian IT Male candidates below 700)

    The 2 schools that offered me an admit is Terry UoG, and Eller UoA with almost full tuition waiver. However, I feel that I’ll not get the full value for my MBA from these schools. To be honest, I don’t even know why I applied to these schools and I don’t feel shy to admit that I just messed with the whole GMAT and application process.

    Right now, I’m planning to retake the GMAT in March and will see if I score significantly better than 690. If I does, probably I can wait for next year. But my only worry is my experience. Right now I’ve 5.5 years of exp.

    Would like to request you an advise on how should be my strategy?

  2. Hi Manish,

    I am an IT Engineer and have done MBA from Welingkars, Have a 5 year work ex(Post and pre) In Sales, Credit finance and largely into program management in a leading automobile company. I have a decent score throughout my tenure and I recently have started preparing for GMAT. I am planning to take a 1 year program from INSEAD, PGPX MBA from IIM and ISB. Need your advice whether it would be a good idea to do this now. Would 1 year or 2 year program be a good booster to my profile and what are the other options I can look at.


    • You seem to be looking at the question from the wrong-end here Aditya. You should ideally fix your goal first and then evaluate whether an MBA is needed – not the other way round! Pickup a copy of Sameer’s book to get a bit more smart on this:

      Also check and ensure that the programs you are targeting are ok with a second MBA. Second MBAs are not uncommon – but the rationale and post-MBA plan has to be even more water tight in that case.

  3. Hi Manish,

    I have >15 years exp (on and off 2 years US/Europe), 10 year hard core IT Technical and last 5 years Engineering Manager (IT). I co-owned a startup as well (7 years back), and that did go too well (in water after ~1 year).

    My academics are Avg : Xth (CBSE) – 75%; XII (CBSE) – 66%; B.SC – 73%; MCA – 73%

    Age (biggest drawback) – 35yrs

    I have 730 GMAT, and I am targeting ISB/IIMs/XLRI (1 year). I wanted to check if my profile suits these top-schools? If not then what can I do next? If yes, then do you recommend any other options you want me to dig?



  4. Hi Manish

    Engineering Graduate with 3 years of Experience in Sales(service sector). Now i need to do MBA or EMBA . My aim is to settle in Canada. Can you please advice for me to achieve it ? Shall i continue with my Job?? or What i have to do?

  5. Hi MG,

    I hold An MBA from a mediocre university in the UK. I have one year experience in operations with a multinational bank and 3 years exp as asst marketing with a international automotive company. I am 29 years old, am I eligible for a second MBA? Even if I ace gmat, will schools admit me as I have already an MBA?

    My academic crediantials are also not great. I hold a second class ug degree from an elite college in the country.

  6. Hi i am working in ss kothari mehta &co for the last 2.5 years as a paid assistant .My last group of CA final is left….my age is 27..i have good exposure of auditing in my firm.Further i am unable to clear my last group from last 3 years.(6 Attempts). I am thinking of leaving a CA and planning to do an MBA from top colleges by giving the Gmat exam.Can u please suggest me what is the viable option for me,whether i quit and started preparing for mba bcz age is a considerable factor for the parents.So sir next question is whether 2.5 years of SS Kothari experience is counted as experience in GMAT.ISB and Great lakes are the preferred colleges i look around.Please suggest me what should i do,which option i prevail.

  7. Hi MG,

    First of all, thank you very much for your blogs. I have started referring to MBAcrystalball recently given my decision to take the GMAT route after 9 years in the oil industry (ongoing). I took my first GMAT only yesterday and got a score of only 550 that is way below my target as I had short-listed the top Indian B-schools (ISB, IIMB, IIMA, IIMC & SPJIMR) for the 1-year programme for executives. I am aware that I might have to reappear for the GMAT and get myself a better score, but do you think I should nonetheless go ahead an apply for the programmes in these schools as they might consider my work experience (assuming that I manage to put up an impressive application profile). Would you reckon I might even have an outside chance of being invited for interviews?


  8. Hiii, Very good article and insights to get into ISB. I wanted to know that do i really stand a chance to get into ISB

    I have given GMAT and scored 690 in April 2017. Planning to enroll in 2018. My academics are as follows
    1) 10th – 66.8 %
    2) Diploma in Mechanical Engineering – 72.25% (1 Year backlog)
    3) in Production Engineering – 66 %

    I have 5 years of experience in Industrial Technical sales. Presently i am working as Assistant Manager – Sales in Bharat Forge Ltd.
    In this span of 5 years have changed 4 companies

    Not much of extra-curricular activities, have been into leader ship roles in college fest.

    Request you to please advise my chances of getting into ISB..

  9. Hey Manish i had a doubt regarding ISB application Process If my application got rejected in Round 1 is it possible to reapply for round 2 or should i wait for another year To work on my application?


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