With an MBA from India already on the resume, like most second MBA applicants, Kartik Gupta was sure that it’s a top international bschool or nothing for him.
If his application planning didn’t work out as expected, he wasn’t willing to wait for another year either.
High-risk/high-reward application strategies such as this make us uneasy. But when the applicant is convinced about it, we play along.
Here’s how Kartik went about tackling each step of the application process.
My Top-bschool-or-nothing second MBA application strategy
by Kartik Gupta
After finishing school, I did engineering from MIT, Manipal. I was quite active in extra-curricular activities, holding leadership roles. Which also meant that my undergrad grades weren’t great.
I decided to pursue my MBA in India (technically called a PG diploma in India) and I joined MDI Gurgaon directly after, specializing in HR.
I am currently working in the Organizational Development and Talent Management team in my organization. I have always wanted to work and live across the world and an MBA was a good way to do this.
One specific project that I worked on was alongside a management consulting firm. This experience was the catalyst for me to decide to get a globally renowned MBA and embark on a career shift in the process.
Around the beginning of 2015 I decided to apply to B-schools for admission in fall of 2016. I had decided that I would be choosy with which schools I would apply to and made a list, basis rankings, of schools below which I would not apply.
If I didn’t get in to the schools on my list, I was ok to not go as well. I planned to only apply in this cycle and not the next year, even if I didn’t make it. I also decided that I would only give the GMAT once. All this was mental preparation to ensure that I put in everything into my applications in one go.
GMAT Study Plan
I knew Indian male engineering candidates are plenty to choose from for the top B schools, and many would have great GMAT scores. So for the GMAT, I aimed for a score higher than the mid-80% ranges that B schools specify, trying to be beyond the 80%. I did the research on GMAT score weightage to the overall application.
I saw a useful video by MBA Crystal Ball (MCB) on this and realized that the GMAT would constitute maybe only 20% of the weightage of the whole application.
You can’t change most things at this stage, like your work experience, your degrees and your grades. The GMAT was in my control and I wanted to maximize this part of my application.
The first thing I researched was how much time I should put into preparing for the GMAT. I decided that 3-4 months is a good amount of time to bring out the best in your score. 3-4 months can mean different things for different people depending on how many hours a day you can spare for your preparation, so I also decided on exactly how many total hours I would put in and how many practice tests I would take.
This helped me plan my 3 months well and also helped ensure that I felt I did all I could at the end. I used the official GMAT guide and bought the Manhattan GMAT tests. The Manhattan tests were useful but they were definitely tougher to score on than the actual GMAT and the official GMAT practice tests.
The verbal section was my strength and I aimed to maximize on this. I did the Manhattan sentence correction guide thoroughly. For quant, I mainly concentrated on the tests and the official GMAT guide. In hindsight, I should have maybe done an advanced quant guide from the outset.
MBA Crystal Ball Review
For anything related to the MBA I would keep reaching the MCB site for answers to my questions and it was really a great source of information from the outset.
Once I got my GMAT score, I undertook the MAP with MG at MCB. This was a great way to start off my preparation for the whole application process – beginning with the end in mind, actually ‘applying’ to MG as the Adcom.
I got to test my own ‘why MBA’ story, get feedback on the list of schools I was applying to and also got feedback on my essay drafts. Doing this towards the beginning of the process helped me have a focused 3 months of applying and gave me the confidence that my decisions had been vetted by an expert.
Fit with the business school is very important to decide which programs you apply to.
While you can get a lot of information online and by talking to people, I felt the need more so to work with MCB, because my work experience was not so common among a typical Indian MBA candidate.
I had a good discussion with MG to decide which schools to apply to and fine tune my overall strategy. Whichever stretch schools I was applying to, I decided to do it in round 1 itself. I applied to 6 schools in round 1 in total but I really had to stretch.
I had 3 schools kept for round 2 and I knew after that I would be done. Each person needs to customize their strategy keeping in mind their goals. Seeing my results at the various B schools, I felt the report generated after the MAP was quite accurate.
MBA Interview Experience
My interview was very relaxed, with an alum in a café in Delhi. There were basic questions like why MBA, tell me about yourself, give an example of leadership you admired…
I had made a list of 25-30 questions before the interview for which I went over the answers in my mind once, so that I wouldn’t be caught off guard.
I used the “Tell me about yourself” question to speak for as long as possible about what I wanted to highlight about myself and my profile.
Final Admission Results
Michigan Ross admit. Anderson waitlist as of now. Did not apply in round 2 anywhere.
General Advice for MBA applicants
Ideally, apply like it’s the first and last time ever. Give your GMAT like that as well.
One thing that I could’ve done more of was networking with alumni, current students etc. well before the process began. Every school looks for this, to see how interested you are in the school. It is good for the essays and some applications have a separate section too about this specifically.
Most of your application is your past, which you can’t change, so don’t keep thinking about grades you didn’t get in college or extra-curriculars you wish you had.
Take time to figure out which schools are a good match for you and once you have done that just think forward. Put in everything to the parts that are in your control and stay positive.
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