There are very few architects from India applying to international business schools. And competing with engineers who crack the GMAT with relative ease is another daunting task for applicants from non-quantitative backgrounds.
Manisha (name changed) faced these hurdles during her part-time MBA application to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, considered to be the second best part-time MBA program in the world (according to US News). If you are wondering, the top position goes to the Haas Berkeley Part-time MBA.
I was born and raised in India. Since my childhood, I was very creative person and undergraduate degree in Architecture provided a natural outlet for the creative side in me. During my studies, a dissertation in ‘Energy efficiency’ exposed me to research that buildings are the biggest contributor to environmental and climate challenges.
This sparked my interest in sustainability and I decided to pursue a graduate degree in Sustainable Architecture from US. After graduation, I shifted my focus from designing buildings to providing consulting for Energy Efficiency, Sustainability and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) management services.
Over the years, I have provided consulting services across diverse sectors. However in last few years I have realized that to lead the sustainability efforts from front I need to gain knowledge of how to integrate sustainability in business processes and strategies. I knew an MBA degree would be immensely helpful for me, but this became reality when I started feeling stagnated in my career.
With 10 years of substantial experience under my belt I knew that two year Full time MBA program would not be a good fit for me. From the very start, I targeted one year MBA and part-time MBA programs. I quickly realized that if I need admission in good school, than there is no escape from GMAT even for part-time MBA programs.
With 4.0 GPA in my graduate studies, I did not comprehend how difficult it is to cross the “golden” 700 GMAT score. I tried different online courses and different methods but, with every passing day and my office workload it seemed difficult to ace GMAT. Eventually I decided to continue my GMAT preparation along with my application process.
From one of my friends, I got to know about Manish Gupta (MG) at MBA Crystal Ball and how immensely helpful he was in his MBA journey. Apart from regular full-time programs, they’ve helped applicants crack into the top executive MBA and part-time MBA programs too. This led to my decision to take the admission consulting help from MBA Crystal Ball.
After my initial discussion with MG we decided to start the application process for the MIT Sloan fellows – one year MBA program. The MIT brand name and the fact that GMAT waiver was awarded to some students for this program were the biggest driving factors for me.
While working on the MIT application, MG suggested me to visit school and interact with the current students. His advice was extremely valuable as the school visit really helped me to gain more insight for the program. After my school visit I was able to include more relevant information in my essays, and realized that I won’t be eligible for GMAT waiver.
Further, the school visit helped me to understand that Sloan Fellows program might not be appropriate for me. The program is targeted for mid level managers who are not looking for career services help in recruiting process after graduation.
Most of the part-time MBA and one year MBA provide on campus recruiting but the Executive MBA don’t. This was the primary reason for my decision to not pursue Executive MBA.
Eventually I ended up not applying for the MIT Sloan Fellows program, but the whole process really helped me in the application process for next school – University of Chicago Booth Business School. Although I was not able to cross the 700 mark in GMAT but I got 660, which was in school’s 80% GMAT range.
For the essays, MG did an excellent job of making them look impeccable. They were much better framed and looked more cohesive with MG’s input. His approach of quantifying every achievement, in essays and resume, made everything REAL rather than Fluff.
Throughout the application process, the brainstorming sessions with MG were the most essential component for writing the essays. Before the session MG would ask to come up with as many ideas as possible for each essay question. During the session, he provided feedback on which stories to pick and how to connect them together to sound one cohesive narrative.
Further, MG was very responsive in the whole application process. I have sent him many emails requesting advice / feedback and he always replied me promptly, sometimes in less than 15 minutes.
The last hurdle during the process was the in-person interview. The University of Chicago Booth Business School interviews each candidate as part of the part-time MBA application process.
Here, my Skype mock interview with MG before visiting MIT really helped me a lot. I was much more confident and prepared for the in-person interview at Chicago Booth. My interview with the alum was casual and interactive, but the interviewer covered everything from my background, my future aspiration to which clubs I intend to join and which classes I intend to take.
Since I was putting all my eggs in one basket and applying to only one school, I wanted to ensure that I leave no stone unturned. I thoroughly researched the program and also attended on-site information session. This all really helped me, and at one point the interviewer mentioned that I am one of the few candidates that have thoroughly researched the school.
My advice to future MBA aspirants would be-
1. Invest time in thoroughly researching the school and the program. If you make that effort you will have a reality check on your expectation from the program, and you will shine in the essays as well as in the interview. If you are a young professional with 4-5 years of work experience and looking for career change then full-time MBA program is definitely ideal for you. If you have substantial experience then consider one year, part-time MBA or Executive MBA in USA.
2. If you have a unique background then ensure that you elaborate it in the essays. The MBA schools always look for diversity to enhance the classroom discussions.
3. Invest substantial time in researching your stories and writing your first school’s essays. This ground work will be useful for other school applications as well. For instance all schools will ask about short term and long term goals post MBA in essays.
4. Getting exceptional recommendation letters can be challenging. It’s always better to pick your recommenders from different companies so that your recommendation letter does not include the same examples.
5. Invest in right resources such as good admission consultant for a strong application. GMAT score is important but it is not the only parameter. An overall strong application includes outstanding essays and recommendation letters so invest considerable time for those.
I hope that you find my experiences useful.
Image credit: ncmodernist.org