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How a computer engineer got into Kelley, Rotman, ISB, Emory, UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA with scholarships

How a computer engineer got into Kelley, Rotman, ISB, Emory, UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA with scholarships

Computer Engineer, Rishika Karnani (name changed), had a profile that was not too different from the thousands of Indian MBA applicants. And her goal to get out of the technology industry into a business role wasn’t too different either.

But she was able to crack into 5 top ranking business schools in USA, Canada and India, with 4 of them offering her scholarships.

Despite being media-shy, she agreed to our request to share her application experience, some strategies that worked for her, and practical tips you can use when you apply.

How I got into top ranking MBA programs in USA, India and Canada with scholarships

by Rishika Karnani


I am a computer engineer and have about 4 years of experience working as a Technology Consultant at Deloitte Consulting. MBA for me is a way to transition out of technology, into a role that allows more client interaction.

I have a GMAT score of 710, an average academic record and an above average background in extra-curricular activities, both in college as well as at work. I also have a meaningful work experience with an early promotion and other achievements to show for it.

MBA Crystal Ball first helped me via the MBA MAP. The direct tangible outcome of the process was a list that told me where I stand, which schools for me are safe, ambitious etc. But the more meaningful outcome of the process was the clarity it gave me about my own goals and my story.

Sameer didn’t feed my story to me. He basically asked me questions that forced me to think, and then told me how to go about doing the correct research so as to know for myself what my target role and target companies should be. The process basically gave me everything I required to begin the next phase – the college applications, the essays.

Next I started working with MG for my essays. It took me time to get a hang of the entire process but I did feel myself getting better with every school. MG’s inputs were insightful.

I’m the sort who’s really unsure and nervous, I don’t trust easily; so initially I kept talking with others, reading up to cross check whether the inputs I was getting from MG were the right way to go. I continued this for a while only to realize that I was wasting my time.

MG’s way of thinking and mindset is exactly like an Admission Officer’s. He can think and react like they do.

I worked with him for essays and mock interviews and every advice he gave me was bang on. So for anyone who decides to work with MCB, I’d suggest, trust them, they know what they are talking about. But I’d also say, for most of you, you’re most likely going to apply only once. Don’t let anyone, not even them tell you that you’re not good enough for a school. If you believe you’re a fit for a certain school, apply, go for it!

I researched quite a few MBA application consultants before I signed up with MCB. The two things that struck me the most about them were:

1) They believe their work will show for itself, and it does. They won’t push you to sign up, on the contrary, they’d encourage you to research for yourself and find out which consultant works best for you.

2) They will NOT do your work for you. Neither will they write your essays for you, nor will they encourage you to make up stuff in your profile that does not exist – and that is the way to go! What they will do is – help you choose the right life/work experiences/incidents to showcase and present them in an effective manner.

I applied to ISB, Rotman, Emory, Darden, Ross, Cornell, UNC Kenan-Flagler and Kelley and had interview calls from all of them except Darden. From the ones I interviewed with, I converted ISB, Rotman (10% scholarship), Emory (63% scholarship), UNC Kenan-Flagler and Kelley (50% scholarship). I got waitlisted at both Ross and Cornell.

MBA Application Tips

The biggest tips I’d give to any applicant are –

1) Be genuine. You may fool someone into calling you for an interview, but it won’t be easy to justify what you’ve written in front of a seasoned ad-com if it isn’t true.

2) Do your homework before starting the application process, be sure of your story, target companies, 5 and 10 year plan/goals and about what you want to do post MBA and why. As per me, this is the hardest part, but once you’re clear yourself, that conviction and surety will reflect in your words and voice.

3) There are some schools that will give you a word limit for recommendation letters and some that won’t. In the ones that don’t, make sure the recommendation letter is not too long – even if it is genuine, I think it’s hard for anyone to believe that an employer would write so much. I think this contributed to me not getting a Darden interview call.

4) Every school is different and you need to understand that. You need to respect the process – research must be done for every school, no shortcuts. You should also reach out to current students and alumni. Attend any and every event of the school that happens in your city (if possible travel to other cities if required). Let your research reflect in your essays and interviews. The ad-com loves to see you’ve done your homework.

5) If you decide to work with a consultant – stay away from people who say, I’ll do the school research for you, I’ll definitely get you in XYZ school – if you hear the last line just run in the opposite direction! If someone does all this for you, they are just depriving you of the chance to do it yourself, and if you don’t do it yourself, you can’t sound like you did in front of the ad-com.

6) For Indian Applicants – remember that Indian Schools (with the exception of ISB) are very different from International Schools with respect to the criteria they evaluate on and how they conduct their interviews. Interview prep for the two type of schools should be of a different sort, it would have only some similarities.

I don’t ever talk about myself so much on a public forum and only did it because I couldn’t say no when MG asked. I don’t know how good/bad of a job I’ve done, but I certainly hope you find it useful.

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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 Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

23 thoughts on “How a computer engineer got into Kelley, Rotman, ISB, Emory, UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA with scholarships”

  1. Hi Manish,
    My name’s Gabriel.
    I live and work in Uganda. I have been in Pensions Administration since graduation (Bachelors in Actuarial Science).
    I am considering MFin at various Ivy League Universities but given the competition I am not so sure I’ll make the cut. Something tells me I can though so I have not given up just yet.
    I have always had this interior conflict between pursuing actuarial science, finance or economics so I have applied for the three programs at various universities in the US, UK, Germany, France and Spain. Cost is a major factor for me, in fact the availability of a scholarship could easily determine which program I would go for.
    Your thoughts?
    How do I proceed?

    • Gabriel, since you have already applied, not sure if this is still an open question? The choice between the three has to be driven by your career preferences – not something I can comment on without knowing them.

      MFin programs are great to get into the financial services space; rarely into economics and actuarial roles. Since you may be considered from a minority category, you could have a shot at financial aid provided you have something strong in the profile – academics/GMAT/ECs.

  2. Hi Manish, sir
    I want to evaluate my chances of getting into iims,
    My academics are,
    10th :- 85%
    Have 2 years of gap, then go for graduation,
    Graduation(b. Com in accounting and finance) :-71%.

    I have completed my graduation this year, and i m appearing for cat this year,
    So my question is how much 2 years of gap after 12th will affect my admission in iim???
    What should i do now to improve my profile?

  3. pl advise a good mba college in usa where a fresh engg graduate can seek admission. how to identify the school is genuine and its degree is recognised.

  4. Sir, this was very very inspiring. I have been having a few doubts about the same lately. If you don’t mind, may I ask you for some advice ? I have finished my Master’s in Microbiology in a reputed college and am planning to pursue PhD. I have written NET and it’s highly competitive. Moreover, I feel like I need more research exposure. I was thinking about pursuing another Master’s abroad as it is entirely research-oriented and then continuing on to do a PhD. Is it foolish to do such a thing ? I feel like it could help me gain more practical experience in research. May I know your opinion ? It would mean alot. Thank you.

    • Nikita,

      Another Masters is definitely a good idea also because the quality/process of Master’s in India is very different than in the US/Europe. So it will also provide you a way to ease into the PhD life.

  5. Hello Sir, I am a third year engineering student.May I know the details regarding the MS consultancy in MCB and also regarding GRE preparation?

  6. Hello Manish Sir. I am currently in that state where the next step seems very foggy & I would be grateful if you could offer some insights, so that I can get an idea on how to move ahead. I am kind of on a roll when in comes to aptitude tests (:P) with a 770 GMAT score, 99.98 in ATMA, 99.99 in MAT (as per predictor, will know officially in 2 days) & will be appearing for CAT shortly. My aim is obviously a top class MBA that will allow me to transition into MC. My profile in brief-
    X- 92
    XII- 91.25
    Grad- 82.9 (B.Tech)
    Work-ex – 15 months in IT & 3 yrs as an Administrative Officer in UIIC
    ECs – played club cricket professionally for 2.5 yrs & helped my team gain promotion for 1st division from 3rd division, lots of social activities in the field of education of the underprivileged. Plus the usual school staff (medals in Annual Sports, Debate certis etc)

    I know this is a very brief glimpse at my profile but from ur vast experience, do u think this profile has a shot at winning FULL scholarship in mid ranked US B-Schools (Cornell, Emory, UNC, McCombs) or Judge or Rotman. Coming from an extremely middle class family, finances are a HUGE concern for me, which is basically why I am targeting FMS & JBIMS through CAT & MAT/ATMA respectively (the schools with the best RoI in Asia probably). In an ideal scenario, I would kill for a Top US degree which is what is making me write to you to get an idea on where exactly I stand in the scholarship arms race. It would require serious financial commitment if I decide to go ahead, so I just wanna get a brief idea of the MBA scholarship race…. Thanks in advance, will greatly appreciate if you could give some insights…

    • Sathyajeet, as you said, the profile details here are too sketchy. Besides, it is nearly impossible to predict scholarship chances – in general, the lower you target, better the prospects. In that context, I would recommend applying to a good mix of schools. With your experience, I am not sure CAT based programs are ideal.


  7. Hi Manish,

    I am an IT engineer working with Indian consulting firm for nearly 7 years now. I am thinking of doing an executive MBA and gave my GMAT a month back. Got a score of 670. I have a good academic record in school and college. I was thinking of giving the GMAT again to score a 700+ but now having second thoughts if I should start applying with this score? I know I represent a largely represented pool of MBA applicants. Do you think a 700+ score will improve my chances coupled with my years of experience. Please let me know your insights. I badly need some advise on what would be my next step. Thanks in advance.

  8. Hello Sir,
    I am studying in a private university persuing B.Tech in CSE.
    Sir I am in my second year, and I want to know that what all should I do in order to study MBA in the top college of USA or London
    When should I start taking coaching for GMAT?
    All I need to know the steps to achieve the goal like MBA in Harvard Business School?

    And also does GMAT matter in London?

  9. Hello Manish
    I am Abhishek
    Just wondering if some has low gpa in graduation and high gpa in post graduation and a good gmat score will that help
    in getting admission in in a decent business school

  10. Dear Manish
    I have been reading MCB for couple of years but can’t find a detailed discussion on EMBA (particularly for those with ~10yrs of post MBA experience)

    If you can suggest me how should I plan ahead for Msc Fin or EMBA

    My profile:BE + MBA Finance + CFA L1
    8 yrs of work exp (4 yrs equity/credit/quant research + 2 yrs CorpFin with listed Auto ancillary + 2 yrs Corp Strategy with listed Infra).
    Age 33 yrs

    I intend to boost my career and seek global opportunity.
    Persuing second mba from global top 10 would be very challenging (given my profile). Please advise me if Msc Finance or any other course can help me in achieving my goals.
    Given my age, experience and qualifications should I look for Msc Finance from LBS, Judge, UvA or NUS wealth management. Else, should I further develop my profile for EMBA/Sloan.

  11. Thanks for the reply Manish.
    Yes EMBA will not help me with my goals.
    1. Can you suggest some specialized programs like Sloan (Sloan i believe requires more experience and a stellar profile).
    2. Any thoughts on Msc Finance from LBS , JUDGE or MIF from Amsterdam. Should I take a shot or they are not fit for my profile (given my experience and age).
    Had a word with UvA adcom and they told me that avg age for MiF is 31 (with 90% placement before graduation).
    3. A MCB post mentions that a few good European mba programmes have an avg age of +30yrs. In case you have shortlisted those programmes can you please share that list… it would be really helpful.


    • Anubhav,

      There are 3 programs – Sloan Fellows/Stan MSx/LBS Fellows. These are quite unique and don’t really have an equivalent elsewhere. Do your research and interact with the program adcoms to understand your relative situation better; don’t just rely on stuff you read on the internet.

      Only a few MS programs might make sense. We don’t have a ready list and you’d have to do your own research. But be very cautious before taking this approach though to ensure you don’t end up going a many years back in terms of career position.


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