Differentiation can be a big problem for many MBA applicants from over-represented countries like India.
However, being too different from the crowd can actually be a bigger challenge to overcome, as Karishma Mehta discovered in her first year of applying independently. She got rejections from 10 business schools.
As a freelance marketing professional who was also involved with an NGO, she had too many disconnected pieces to present to the admissions committee in a logical manner. And despite a good GMAT score, the overall packaging (essays, recommendations, resume, interviews) didn’t work.
After losing a year to the expensive trial and error process, here’s what she did next.
A management graduate with a major in marketing. 2 years work experience at a book publishing company in a marketing role. 2 years work experience as an independent marketing consultant. 710 GMAT score. Soft skills trainer at an NGO. Also, a Tupperware Consultant since April 2015.
“Your profile sounds interesting. Can you elaborate?”
This is the question that stumped me every time it was asked. Having such a ‘unique’ background, I found it really difficult to tell my story the right way, not knowing what I should include and what I shouldn’t.
It was probably the reason why I failed to get an admit from any of the 10 schools I’d applied to for the fall 2016 intake – lack of clarity. I’d applied to Kellogg, Ross, Tuck, Booth and Cornell in the first round and Columbia, Tepper, UCLA, Darden and Rotman in the second round.
When I got a No from the last school where I’d been waitlisted, I was crushed for a while, thinking about what went wrong despite giving my best. But after a lot of deliberation and discussions with my family, I decided to apply again for the fall 2017 intake.
But this was my last chance before I started hearing the age old question of when I would get married, so I had to be really smart and work extra hard to make sure I didn’t repeat the mistakes I’d made earlier.
I researched more schools this time around and made sure that the schools I selected would actually be the right ‘fit’ for me rather than aiming for just the top ranked schools. I picked 2 ambitious, 2 stretch and 2 safe schools- Yale, Duke, UNC, Georgetown, Rice and Rotman (where I was a re-applicant).
I already had a decent GMAT score of 710 after over a year of study and three attempts. I knew I could work more and get a score of 730-740 but I thought I’d focus my energy on improving the other aspects of my application rather than a few points increase in my GMAT. I knew I needed help with the essays after feedback from Tuck.
I soon started hunting for a good consultant to work with. It was really difficult to choose one which didn’t have an astronomical price tag (read $1000- $1500 per school) and also be good at providing honest feedback rather than just asking me to write my essays certain way or worse, offering to write them for me.
That’s when I came across MBA Crystal Ball. I read the admission consultant reviews on the website and was impressed at the way some people wrote about Sameer and MG giving advice that meant loss of business revenue for MCB but an honest feedback for their client.
I then wrote to MG and asked him about the process and a few other doubts that I had and even interacting via email, I got a good feel for the way they worked and decided to sign up for the essay editing services.
I started working with Mithun and I have to say, he’s provided me with honest (and sometimes brutal) feedback which made me really think about my answers and my story.
To give you all a brief, I’m a management graduate with a major in marketing. I love reading books and after graduating I combined my two interests and started working at Jaico Publishing House in the role of a Digital Marketing Executive. The time I spent at Jaico was a steep learning curve where I identified my strengths and weaknesses as a professional, made great working relationships and basically built the entire digital face of Jaico.
But just as I was closing in on two years, two things happened simultaneously. I felt that I’d stopped growing as a professional and an individual and needed more opportunities to explore that weren’t available at Jaico.
At around the same time, my father fell ill and I was needed more at home. I decided to leave Jaico and take some time off for my family which would also give me time to think about what I wanted to do further.
As it turned out, my father got better but his good health was contingent upon maintaining a stress free environment for him.
Ours is a family business where I’d helped out from time to time but now I took up some of my father’s admin responsibilities and paperwork so he could cut back on his hours and come back home early. This situation made it impossible to get a new job since I was unwilling to split my commitment and also because I felt that the opportunities I wanted could not be found in a job which would have its own restrictions and set of rules.
During this time, my neighbour, who ran a Montessori play school, asked for my marketing expertise to increase enrollment at her school for the next academic year. She was my first ‘unofficial’ client as a consultant. I loved working on her project and decided to take up marketing consultancy as an independent consultant, which would allow me to work from home and take care of all my responsibilities without sacrificing anything.
It was the best possible solution and luckily, I started getting clients through referrals. Sometimes, the scope of work wasn’t exactly what I wanted and sometimes, it was so challenging that I felt out of depth. But it was these experiences that helped me recognise my own strengths and specialities.
After a year or so, I got calls from a few clients, asking for my help in more strategic decisions that were above my level of expertise but intrigued me nonetheless. That’s when I realised it was time to pursue that MBA I’d been waiting to get ready for and started preparing for it.
This is my story that I needed to tell and Mithun helped me make it clear, concise and presentable. I applied to the six schools that I’d shortlisted in the first round and got an interview invitation from Georgetown and Rice within a week of applying.
As I’d already been through an interview the previous application season and then gotten rejected, I decided to utilise MCB’s interview prep services as well. I had two rounds with Mithun and after each round he told me where it was I needed to improve and what I was doing consistently wrong.
I gave both my interviews in the same week, with the Rice interview with a second year student going slightly better than the Georgetown one. This was in the last week of November and I waited patiently for the decision that would be announced within the next month. I also started preparing for round two, shortlisting the schools and prepping for the essays, just in case I didn’t get through in the first.
One by one I started getting dings from all the schools and finally only Rice and Georgetown were left. By 15th December, I got waitlisted for Rice and my hopes fell because I really felt that my Rice interview went better than the Georgetown one. I decided I would I continue work on my second round applications once I got back from my Christmas vacation.
Two days before my birthday and five days before I left for my vacation, I was at my father’s office for work, when I got a call. The caller ID showed it was from Washington D.C. and even before picking up, my heartbeat went into overdrive.
I picked up the call and as I listened to the associate dean of admissions congratulate me for getting into the MBA program, I was dancing inside and hushing everybody around the office. My months of hard work had finally paid off and I was going to Georgetown!
That whole night I couldn’t sleep, waiting for the official email and at 6.30 am the next morning, I saw the email notification and opened it eagerly.
After so many rejections, it was liberating to read the letter of acceptance and therein lay a second surprise. I’d been selected as a Forté Fellow and was awarded a scholarship of $60,000. I was ecstatic! I couldn’t have dreamed of something like this and for the whole day I kept re-reading the letter.
For this amazing news, I have to thank Mithun. Without his input and feedback, I’d never have known where I was going wrong and would never have been able to secure an admit with a scholarship.
To all the people out there who are confused between which MBA consultant to choose, please know that I’ve been there and choosing to work with MCB was the best decision I made. Also know that if you choose to work with MCB, you will have to do the hard work yourself but MCB will put you in the right direction so your efforts are awarded.
After all, that which is worth having is never easy but all efforts are worth it in the end!
I’d also like to say that there are certain parameters for everyone that have to be fulfilled (x no. of years of work-ex, x GMAT score, etc) before you apply for your MBA so that you stand a chance but please know that the most important factor that will set you apart from every other person who fulfills that same criteria is ‘YOU’.
You have to be aware of your unique qualities and this is something Mithun taught me.
If you don’t know what makes you special, you won’t be able to convince others either.
But don’t worry, if you work with MBA Crystal Ball, you’ll definitely figure your unique thing during the application journey. I wish every person thinking of and planning to apply for an MBA, all the very best!
– Karishma Mehta