GMAC says that a 700 GMAT score would put you in the 90 percentile (ok, 89 to be specific). But sadly, for certain candidates (like the far-from-endangered Indian IT Male Engineer MBA applicant species), it is still considered an average GMAT score by the top 25 business schools.
After getting rejected by 3 top business schools (despite being close to their average GMAT scores), Ashim Agarwal decided to not only retake the GMAT, but also do a complete re-evaluation of his approach to MBA applications.
How I got into a Top 25 MBA program with an average GMAT score
by Ashim Agarwal
From a very young age, I was fascinated with the world of computers. I joined the Computer Science engineering program in my undergrads to build strong fundamentals in technology, especially on data analytics and cloud computing. The passion to code and help firms generate insights on customers brought me to Capgemini.
I started my career as a software engineer developing smart data analytics tools for the financial services client Capital One. My hard-work and analytical skills got immediate recognition and I was promoted to an associate consultant to lead the credit decisions platform engagement for Australia-New Zealand Bank.
This new role gave me an opportunity to work with some immensely talented people and analyze things keeping the bigger picture in focus. I have always seen my work from a technical perspective but the business aspect and the consumer focus of developing great products and solutions is a whole new level of interaction that I am very excited about.
I’m now looking to complement my technical background with the necessary business knowledge in order to pursue a career in product management. The breathtaking speed of innovations in cloud computing and big-data is forcing large technology organizations to overhaul their business models. In the longer term, I want to lead a consumer-focused technology company, helping the firm develop innovative solutions and extend its growth and presence in developed and developing markets.
My past roles have facilitated specialized technical knowledge, but I need theoretical and practical exposure to management disciplines. To build successful products, one must understand technology, marketing, competition, funding, etc. An MBA will help me build strong business fundamentals and bridge the gap between technical and business expertise of developing products.
It will provide me a toolkit to gather key customer metrics, analyze data and develop appropriate strategies for driving a product from vision to reality. Most importantly, the MBA experience will allow me to build strong personal and professional connections with top representatives within the technology industry, as I look to build a career in product management.
– Why tech professionals are leaving IT companies for MBA
Why I decided to hire MBA application consultants
I took my first GMAT in December 2015 and I scored 700(Q50, V34). I had prepared the Quant section entirely on my own and took the E-GMAT course to supplement my Verbal preparation.
I was a bit dissatisfied with my score and thought of applying to three schools in Round 2 (Duke, Tuck and Ross). I got rejected from all three of them!
I got a feedback call from Tuck where they told me to increase my GMAT and write clear statements for my post-MBA goal, linking the past and the present with future aspirations.
I was determined to get past the GMAT hurdle this time, but I also took a rational decision of taking helps of MBA consultants for building up my profile and help me through the application process. Finding a quality MBA consultant for Indian Applicants was indeed difficult.
After searching for months on websites and GMAT Club Forums, I contacted Sameer and Manish to help me understand my position as an Indian applicant in the highly competitive US MBA arena. I had read the reviews of MBA Crystal Ball on many forums and was also highly impressed by the discussions Sameer and MG used to have with other prospective applicants.
My first conversation started with Sameer (on LinkedIn) and he immediately told me to contact MG for understanding the process and how they can help me with my applications. I started sending all my small queries to MG (this was without any payment!) and every time he responded back immediately or within a day.
There was no sugar-coating and no consolation on offer by MG. He told me that with a 700 GMAT score; my previous target schools were very aggressive. To get a glimpse of my current position as the typical Indian Male IT Applicant, I enrolled for the MAP service offered by MCB.
MAP brought out every reality and every possible question that I never thought about. The MAP report was clear and well compiled to provide an overview of my entire application. It had all the practical, ambitious and stretch schools listed. The entire process pushed me to understand the though process of the adcom and how an applicant should think about their goals and the purpose for an MBA.
My first goal was to hit the target GMAT. I again started my prep from April 2016 and gave my exams in August 2016. I panicked in the verbal portion of the exam and scored 710 (Q51, V34). Despite knowing that I had a low score, I was keen on applying in Round 1 to appropriate schools based on my profile. I again took the Essay-writing help from MCB.
Despite the delay from my side in initiating the process, I choose their five-school essay editing package. I was assigned Mithun as my guide. The interaction with Mithun started immediately and during my first call, he explained every small bit about the process. He also asked me about my opinion related to the schools and also about my personal stories. The guidelines were clear: Essays won’t be written by Mithun, it will be the efforts of the applicant only. They were just there to guide me and bring out the right details for each essay.
Before starting with every school, there was an initial brainstorming call scheduled. I had to tell my thoughts and views about the school’s essay and how to approach it. Mithun used to listen and help me out with my thought process, correcting me in my approach.
My initial draft for each school started with absolutely zero structure and a distorted presentation of my stories and experiences. Mithun would take that draft and keep on pondering me over and over for particular mistakes, loopholes, inappropriate content in my stories until the essays became structured, to the point and appropriate according to the designated school.
My Interview experience
I got interview invite only from the Georgetown McDonough School of Business and I was ecstatic. I had all my stories clear and I had practiced a lot with my friends and colleagues. The interview was conducted by a second-year student and it was mostly conversational.
All standard MBA interview questions on leadership, international experience, work ethics, weaknesses, goals were asked. The final results came out after two excruciating months of waiting and it was an admit – “a dream comes true moment for me”.
A top 25 university in the US had accepted me to their programs and trust me, I could have never ever thought about this without the support of MCB, MG, Sameer and Mithun.
Georgetown McDonough School of Business is the oldest Jesuit University in USA and is situated in Washington DC. Located at the intersection of business, government, and international relations, Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business develops principled leaders with a global mindset to be in service to business and society.
The course is mainly case-based with equal mix of lectures and practical applications. The incoming class is divided into cohorts that complete the core curriculum and residences together and also in individual study teams for mutual bonding and development.
There is huge presence of finance and consulting companies at GT and various student led clubs for personal and professional growth opportunities. GT is strong in tech-recruiting as well with Amazon as the leading recruiter for the past several years. Combined with its strong brand and DC location, Georgetown provides a strong base and alumni support for me to excel in my post-MBA goal of product management.
My journey started way back in 2016 and ended on a positive note in 2017 and I am really happy to finally head towards a top ranked business school. In these 2 years, I have rewritten GMAT, reanalyzed my application strategy and worked with some of the best people at MCB to craft a good application.
Indian students face tough competition from well-qualified candidates from around the world and from students within India and therefore we do have to score as high as possible in the GMAT to get noticed. The journey ahead for me will be full of challenges and I am ready to face it.