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How differentiating myself got me MBA admits in USA (full scholarship) and India

How differentiating myself got me MBA admits in USA and India

You may have read why differentiation is a big problem for Indian MBA applicants. Coneenika Choudhuri chose to tackle the challenge in style.

While other applicants grappled with their profiles to show a spike,
What helped Coneenika go full-throttle, was inspiration from her bike.
With MBA applications focussed on the when, the how and the why
Coneenika’s strategy was to bang doors, write a poem & wear a tie.


Choosing an MBA in ISB vs USA (with scholarship)

by Coneenika Choudhuri

When I was reading the MCB blogs for the first time in April last year, never could I imagine I would be invited to write one soon! But, here, I am, today, honoured to be invited to write my very own blog!


My attempts at belling the CAT

Rewind to September 2012. My MBA journey started in the third-year of my engineering studies with the rush to bell the CAT, to get a chance to enter the coveted IIMs.

Like my fellow batch mates, I, too, buried myself in heavy CAT books and tried solving questions with acquired ease. The oft-repeated question of why MBA never struck me back then. Wasn’t everybody running after a MBA degree?

Well, I didn’t want to be left behind. Without any aim or meaning, I appeared for exams of almost all the MBA colleges back then.

But, then it began to dawn on me, why would the corporates be interested in college-going kids anyway?

Armed with a ‘core’ job offer from the automation sector, I am delighted I did not give in to the mad rat race back then and instead chose to equip myself with a solid work experience, instead.


A day at work

At work, I wanted to make the most of my experience at Titan Automations. Having been selected in the R&D Division, I was delighted to be the youngest member chosen to represent Titan at the World of Industry India (WIN) India-2014, a premier industrial automation fair organized by Hannover Messe.

None other than the Director of Automation Industry Association (AIA) accompanied by my organisation’s VP spotted me while I was being interviewed by news channels at the event and subsequently invited me to deliver a lecture at (hold your breath) IIT, Delhi! I was literally in the seventh heaven on that day.


There is light at the end of the tunnel: and it is not an approaching train!

After my repeated failures to bell the CAT, I was encouraged by Byju’s Classes to look up GMAT as an alternative.

I had always thought of GMAT as the exam rich kids wrote for going to universities abroad but after few hours spent in research, I cursed myself of having been blind to the most structured global standardized MBA entrance examination that actually opened many doors.

Having enrolled in Byju’s for my GMAT preparation, I knew I had to put together a comprehensive profile that would define me as a most promising candidate.

While putting together my profile, I began to discover my own story of – why MBA – the oft-repeated question in every B-school application.

I wanted to make a greater impact in my career, appreciate a holistic perspective to business and use my skills to make a difference to people’s lives. So, an MBA in healthcare was what I looked out for.


I knew an MBA abroad would cost significantly and desperately needed a scholarship to fund my education.

Browsing through the internet for professional advice, I came across MCB and read on about how two passionate individuals – Sameer Kamat and Manish Gupta – helped weave magic into MBA candidates’ stories.

What clearly set MCB apart was the huge number of testimonials on their website, each with a different experience, bound by a common thread. I picked up quite a number of tips on how to fund the B school application process as well.

Without further ado, I decided to go ahead with MCB as my preferred consultant for my post GMAT journey.

I still remember how absolutely delighted I was at their openness to genuinely assist MBA candidates on each email (more than a 100) I wrote to them. The one thing I was completely sure of was: these guys could be trusted to deliver.


Review of MBA Crystal Ball: The Midas touch

With two years of experience, I wrote the GMAT twice in August and September 2015 securing 690 and 710 respectively, with Manish Sir’s timely advice for a retake. He has been with me throughout my GMAT journey as well, even before we started talking money. That totally floored me!

After having shortlisted almost a dozen of universities, I knew I could not afford professional advice for all of them. The college that meant the most to me was ISB as a) it was in India, which is set to be the global superpower and b) no Indian college, to my knowledge, delivers a more global education than ISB persists to.

Here, again I settled for Manish Sir’s advice to go for the essay package for ISB. I opted for their Basic Essay package.

After receiving my first review of essays, I can vouch for the amount of efforts the MCB team puts behind each essay. There was not a single punctuation mark which has not been thoroughly lifted, shaken off cobwebs and polished to shine. I was so eternally grateful for the edits.

For the second review the number of words in my essays was practically halved, which would have required humongous efforts. I could not be happier to see my essays finally taking shape.

Just before the submission though, I wanted to know whether I could submit a poem (I won an award in poetry, folks!) on my bike (I am an amateur biker, too!) instead of my optional essay.

Not only did MG Sir consent, he was accommodative enough to help me review my poem. Finally, I submitted my essays, and held my breath.

While I was attending interviews of the other universities, Manish Sir was candid enough to suggest me to reserve the Interview Package for ISB. He seemed to be more confident than I was in getting the interview call. But, when it did come, I was elated!

I immediately opted for the Interview preparation service and was sent the most comprehensive profile based interview questions possible. As I completed the mock sessions with Praveen Sir, this time, I began to actually feel more confident of acing the actual interview.


Tackling The MBA Interview

On the night before the ISB interview, I received a mail from the Wisconsin School of Business, Madison awarding me a full tuition waiver for their MBA course. I could not sleep the entire night due to the excitement.

A thing I particularly remember about the ISB interview was that I banged the door (albeit, unintentionally!) as soon as I walked in!

My interviewers smiled pleasantly completely oblivious to the ruckus I raised and made me instantly comfortable.

What followed for the remaining 30 minutes was a freewheeling conversation on bikes, my experiences with being the youngest member at the WIN India and of delivering a lecture at IIT, besides a couple of guesstimates.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in there and kept my fingers crossed.



When the ISB results finally came out, I was hooked to pagalguy for updates and did not receive any notification until the next half an hour. The wait was agonizing but totally worth it!

I profusely thanked everyone for all their assistance and most of all, MCB.

I was again in a conundrum as to which school I should choose from among the offers I had back then: especially between the fully-funded US MBA and the prohibitively expensive ISB.

But, given ISB’s quality of education, industry exposure, mammoth size of alumni-parameters which rank it higher than the former made the decision a no-brainer.

Besides, label me as a die-hard patriotic, I will be happier working in Indian businesses as opposed to US ones.

Also, notwithstanding the back-breaking curriculum, being at ISB will help you get back in the workforce in a year, resulting in a higher ROI.

My two cents for MBA Applicants from India

I had always tried to make the best of my time be it at school, college or my workplace, where I had taken a flurry of initiatives: paperless indenting, streamlining business process, bringing in lean management, proposing to start a Toastmasters club, volunteering in CSR etc. to name a few.

I would advise all future MBA candidates to make the best use of their work experience, top it up with suitable extra-curriculars and strive to create a most convincing profile.

Peep inside of you and look at what differentiates you from the candidate pool. Each one of us has our own talents and in trying to blend in, we lose our true selves.

So, let’s not try to blend in anymore. Let us instead stand out and bask in our differences.

Case in point:  I was the only girl wearing a tie to the ISB interview!

– Coneenika

Read MBA success stories of other Indian female applicants

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21 thoughts on “How differentiating myself got me MBA admits in USA (full scholarship) and India”

      • hey coneenika, it seemed u were quite interested in the core job that u had, yet u chose to do mba in healthcare and not mba in operations n then going for working in an automation plant/company, based on what factors u made the decision? As in i m also working currently in a core job at a manufacturing plant and even after mba i wish to still be somewhat close to the technical stuff(as of now) and i cant really RELATE to other options or fields that one can go for after mba.

  1. Hi Manish,

    I am an Indian pursuing Masters in Compter Science at the University of Pennsylvania with a 3.9 GPA (expected) . My undergrad GPA 3.54 from Birla Institute of Technology, where I graduated in First class with Distinction. Before starting my Masters I had a 3 year Software Engineering experience at at a US based product company, where I filed 2 USPTO patents, won the annual hackathon and got promoted once. I also have good GRE score- 338/340, 4.0 AWA. In Masters I took classes on Statistics and aced them (A), though I have poor math score in undergrad.

    Regarding my Masters- I felt like I needed more depth in CS fundamentals, and also it opens up the opportunity to work at top Tech companies as a Software Engineer. After my graduation, I am fairly confident to land in the US offices of Google/ Microsoft/ Amazon/ Facebook.
    Now that I am confident of my technical skills, I want to get an MBA to gain a broader overview of businesses and also network with the right people so that I can propel my career to a PM/ strategy role at Tech companies (so I am looking more at Sloan, Kellogg’s MMM or Haas). From my 3 years of pre-Masters experience, I have observed that strong CS fundamentals coupled with business/marketing chops make a very succesful Product Manager.

    Now I have a couple of queries, would love to have your feedback, if you have some time-

    1. Will my Masters in CS pose a threat for BSchool admits? Given that I wish to return to Tech after MBA. Do my goals seems feasible? Will my story stick?

    2. Do I need to take the GMAT or would my GRE (170Q/168V/4.0AWA) suffice too? Is it competitive enough to make it to top programs?

    3. Now the biggest dilemma- age factor. I heard that high workex can curb my chances at top B-schools, but frankly speaking, I need to work for atleast 2 years to pay back my student loans. So that means at the earliest I can apply at 29 (would be 30 when I start the program), with 5 years of Software Engg experience. Does that sound bad to you?

    4. I have minimal leadership experience (was a TA at Penn, teams I led won hackathons). Once I join job after MS, I plan to get involved with an NGO or the CSR initiatives of my company. Any other pointers on what I could do?

    5. Does my profile “stand out” from the crowd ? Any other activities do you suggest to strengthen my case. I still have 3 years in my hand before applying.

    Thank you so much,

    • Some of your queries I can address here, others I can’t because that will be premature. The GRE is perfectly alright to apply with – almost all schools accept it now. Your score is way beyond competitive and definitely a big plus. You will have to check the validity of the score though when you apply.

      From an age perspective, though on the higher side, you should still be just about ok. An MS is not a threat.

      How to build your profile and what career steps to undertake is something I can’t really suggest here. You can check out our Profile Builder package aimed at doing exactly that:

  2. HI,

    I am Gaurav and planning to pursue MBA from US. I have taken GMAT with 480 score, i know it is too less but i am again trying to achieve good score . Due to current job profile i cant give more time on GMAT prep, so one side i am thinking to get admission on basis of present score. For the same i have two option either HULT SF or Clark University.

    Would i get the admission on these university, as i am having 6+ year Exp.

    After reading feedback about these two university, i get more confused, as i got 50-60 % positive and remaining negative feedback.

    I am from middle class family so i want to ask you , is HULT worth for money and time?

    Should i proceed with HULT / Clark?

    kindly suggest me .


  3. Hi Manish and Sameer,
    Kudos for helping us stay put on the right direction.
    Recently, I appeared in GMAT and scored 720 (50Q 37V) but didn’t apply to schools this season as I have some financial Loans to settle.
    I had been working in a Top10 MNC for past 4 yrs in a Manufacturing plant.
    Incidentally, I also made a career switch from Manufacturing to Education ( IIT-JEE training) as I want to live my dream of changing lives for good. However, I want to return to do an MBA post clearing my financial dues and fulfilling my passion ( which may take 5 more years). So, I will be like having 9~10 yrs of work ex in completely different functions.
    I intend to do General MBA and have no specific inclination towards SCM.
    My query is would B-schools buy my story ? Will recruiters prefer candidates like me ?

    • Ashish,

      Not sure about your age but at 9-10 years, you become a bit of an outlier for most regular programs. While programs make an exception, you’ll have to have a strong rationale for it. If this is your gameplan, you may want to evaluate programs such as Sloan Fellows and Stan MSx

  4. Hi Manish,
    Thanks for the insight,
    Btw I just turned 27!
    I was also evaluating PGPx programs of IIMs and found the avearage age / work ex on the higher side. That said, I found most of the profiles having zero career switch!! I guess risk takers are not rewarded in Indian MBA scenario.
    Any views on this ?

    • There is a bit of selection bias there in your data Ashish. People definitely manage career switches after the IIMs. Also depends on how you define career switch really. In general, career switchers are never in majority from any bschool globally either.

  5. hi sir – i am giving my requirement for my son who is doing 2nd year BBA. he is an average student and like to do MBA in a foreign university. i want to know the following – a) what all the things he should undertake before joining an foreign university b) which country best suits for a middle class family in doing MBA with regard to cost and career prospectus. c) what will be total cost ie., fee, accommodation and other expense till completion of the course d) what will be chance in assessing scholar ship and loan.

  6. Hi Manish,
    I am Sangeet and I am planning to go for MBA in US. I have completed my graduation from St. Xavier’s College,Kolkata and am also a CA & CFA.
    I have completed 2 years of work exp with Credit Suisse. Can you please help me with the below questions:

    1. Would 3 years of CA – Articleship exp count for MBA Admission ?
    2. If I manage to get a good GMAT score, then based on my current profile, what are my chances of getting a scholarship. Cost of MBA is too high. I want to get into NYU because it’s nearer to Wall Street.

    Sangeet Patni

  7. Hi guys,

    I am a doctor. I finished my MBBS in 2012 and am keen on pursuing an MBA. I am 28yrs old now. What are my chances of getting into a top B school In the US, provided I get a good GMAT score. Kindly help me get a picture of the level of difficulty.

    • Shalini, the information you have provided is pretty perfunctory to make a good profile assessment. In general, many doctors are going for MBAs. In this context though, an individual practice has lesser benefit compared to being part of an organization/hospital for instance.

  8. I am 32 years Indian woman…Btech (IT) 2005..then did lecturership in a pvt engineering college from 2005-2008…did Mtech(IT) from Jadavpur University 2008-2010..then joined IBM in 2010-2014..then join Cognizant in 2014 and I am still working in Cognizant,Kolkata..west Bengal,India…want to move to US for MBA and job. and preparing for GMAT.can you please tell my chance to get admitted in Tippie,Wisconsin,wp carey etc with scholarships ??Kindly help me get a picture of reality


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