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Second MBA from CEIBS (China) vs ISB (India) vs SDA Bocconi (Italy) vs CUHK (Hong Kong)

MBA in China CEIBS vs ISB India vs SDA Bocconi vs CUHK

A distance MBA puts many professionals in a dicey situation. More often than not, the distance / correspondence degree doesn’t provide the expected career boost and it makes it tougher to apply for a second MBA from a more prestigious college at a later stage.

Dhruv Cairae had the patience to wait for the right opportunity, and that made all the difference. He shares his application strategy and experience that got him 4 admits from the top business schools across the world.

Second MBA from China or India or Italy after distance MBA

CEIBS vs ISB vs CUHK vs SDA Bocconi

by Dhruv Cairae

I first contacted Sameer way back in 2013. I was working in IT at that time. He flatly told me that an MBA would not help my career and that his team would not be able to help me. There had been unavoidable job and career switches in my life, although I have always been clear about my goals things appeared messy on the CV. He also told me that after stability in a good role after a few years there may be a window of opportunity.

I liked the honesty in the approach, there was no mincing of words. At this point of time I had decided to contact them again after a few years.
I moved into the Public Sector in Coal India shortly after my communication with Sameer. We decided that after 3 to 4 years I would apply. I got in touch with Sameer in 2016 and he connected me with Manish Gupta (MG).

We initially shortlisted only 5 schools including ISB but ultimately I ended up applying in close to 12. MG’s approach of selecting schools with the right duration and consistency with career objectives is something I incorporated in my applications that went beyond the first five schools.
I had initially signed up for the one school package for INSEAD. This was before I gave the GMAT. Vibhav was assigned to help me. During our first call he asked me about my estimated score. I told him that I was looking at a score between 690 and 700 based on my practice tests.

Based on an assessment of my profile he said that at least 720 would be needed and less than that could be a challenge. I only had resources for one school and wanted to focus on the best school with reasonable chances. I requested a switch to ISB, MG and Vibhav happily agreed.

I am based in a remote area with frequent power cuts and bad internet connectivity. There have been times when I had to drive to a place where there was decent network, study online for GMAT in my car. I had moved to Mumbai around 2 weeks before GMAT as I did not see the point in suffering and preparing, ultimately my preparation was getting effected. These 2 weeks were critical and the fact that focus was all on GMAT helped.

As per the original plan I would be preparing the essays and preparing. Not working on INSEAD application while preparing for GMAT  was a very intelligent tactical move rightly suggested by Vibhav. I ended up with a score of 710.

This was within my estimates but I have a bad under-grad GPA and I was desperate for a good score. I got in touch with Vibhav and MG again. MG was clear that its not a bad score and maybe a 20-point bump would help. I would be heading back to my place of posting as I had exhausted my leaves. In that place, given the constraints I was positive a  20-point increment would not happen.

Vibhav was clear that the score would not help the ISB application substantially but it would not hamper it as well. I knew I was dealing with honest people so I decided to proceed with a 710.

Things are actually a lot harder for Indian applicants because of the sheer number of Indian applicants, this is  a well known fact so please take guidance as its likely that the numbers are not in your favor.

I had planned on focusing on the progress that I had made in my life in my essays. For this we would have to start the story from a low point in my life. Vibhav was clear that there is no need of mentioning any negatives, the idea is to sell yourself as an applicant. All the red flags will not be mentioned even if there is an ultimate turnaround. The focus has to be positive and future career plans.

Every worthy MBA applicant has a fluid idea about their career goals post MBA. Under normal circumstances you may not be able to structure and convey the plans. Vibhav was able to give structure to my post career goals. This has been the biggest game changer.

When we finalized the essays I was amazed with myself after reading the essays. This is the basic idea. Content is same but expression and focus had changed entirely.
I have a distance learning MBA. I did not get the classroom experience and the credibility of an elite program. Hence I am going for a second one year MBA. But the fact that I have an MBA degree and not a PGDM makes me ineligible for an MBA program across several schools in Europe. I received close to 6 dings in January, 4 of them due to eligibility issues.

I am not saying I would have made it in any case but I did not even get a fair chance. If you have an MBA degree or any academic deficiency which could be an issue please confirm with ad-com before proceeding.
I received interview shortlists in ISB, CEIBS, CUHK and SDA Bocconi all in one single week. I contacted MG and Vibhav about the good news. They suggested an interview package. I wanted conversions so I chose to invest more resources. Vibhav prepared me well for the interview. The most significant contribution at this stage was more personal. The dings had sort of pulled me down. He was clear that I must be positive and enthusiastic in the interview. I realized that I have to conceal the big ball of disappointment in my head if I am going to make it.

Thoughts from Vibhav (Dhruv’s consultant)
Looking back, the biggest challenge that Dhruv and I started with was his baggage of the past. During the first few calls, I had to instill a sense of positive thinking and purpose in him to ensure that he brings out his best in the essays.

Over the iterations, we peeled the layers around his professional experience to ensure that the essays focus on his strengths and achievements.

His ability to soak in the feedback and work upon it sincerely and sheer hard-work through the iterations is the biggest reason of his success.


My MBA interview experiences

  1. ISB- This was the most hostile interview that I gave. Maybe the guys were from power sector. Questions were normal and routine but the interview was stressful. It was an alumni interview but the experience was unpleasant.
  2. CEIBS- Best interview that I have given. The admissions director was brilliant, she was able to get all the information she wanted and I was at ease the whole time. After the interview I had finalized CEIBS.
  3. CUHK- Focus was more on professional work experience and education was evidently not a priority. The interviewer was funny and intelligent. He had some concerns which I clarified. I was actually impressed with the quality of questions about my job. He was insightful.
  4. SDA Bocconi- Alumni interview in an informal setting. The interviewer was well informed, he clarified my concerns about an education in Europe. He was very honest and frank. The interview was conversational.

The common theme is always the post career goals, why the school for the goals. Don’t apply unless you know the answer to these questions.

I got admits from these 4 schools with a scholarship from CUHK. Vibhav and MG shared their insightful advice with valid reasons, they were unanimous about ISB.

Frankly I was very keen on CEIBS, despite their advice  and if it were not for personal reasons which I don’t wish to disclose I would have gone to CEIBS. The truth of the matter is that all our choices are not governed by numbers so I am proceeding with ISB.

My advice to applicants

  1. Best to invest in consultants. I can vouch for Sameer, MG and Vibhav. They can only work with what you have but its presentation would be impeccable. Honestly is what you would get for sure.
  2. Check eligibility and focus on schools consistent with career goals. Don’t change your goals as per schools and give disingenuous information. They evaluate thousands of candidates they would spot the inconsistency.
  3. Have a heart. Unless you have exceptional qualifications, fantastic scores and splendid work experience, be prepared for Dings. There is subjectivity in the evaluation process, odds are not terrific for Indian applicants. Without sizable dings don’t expect reasonable number of admits.

Vibhav and MG were right there with me when I was going through the awful phase, a grand two months, not significant from a life time perspective. But I had to go through it.

I have shared around three examples where contribution of MBA crystal Ball is obvious. Choosing the right time to strike, side stepping a landmine and finally over coming disappointments to focus on task at hand. Its ultimately your efforts and choice but right guidance can make all the difference. It has in my case.

– Dhruv Cairae

Read these related articles:
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Why a second European MBA after an Indian MBA and career in the entertainment industry
1 Year MBA Abroad (INSEAD) vs 2 Year MBA in India (IIM)
INSEAD Singapore vs MBA in India, USA and France
Retail Management MBA in India vs GMAT MBA abroad
Best MBA programs in China for international students
Second MBA abroad with scholarship for happy IIT IIM grad
Image credit: Asia Times

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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 Email. Or follow on Linkedin, Facebook.

12 thoughts on “Second MBA from CEIBS (China) vs ISB (India) vs SDA Bocconi (Italy) vs CUHK (Hong Kong)”

  1. Hello
    I did 4 yrs Advance Diploma in Tool & Die Making from 2002-2006
    Worked in Eicher Motors purchase dept as Junior Manager for 3 years
    Quit job to join Merchant Navy, did 1 year pre sea (Diploma in Nautical Science)
    finished sea time for cadetship, gave exam and got my 2nd mates licence and BSc Nautical Science degree in 2015.
    Have sailed on Bulk and Gas Carriers as Junior Navigating Officer.
    Now I want to do MBA mostly in Supply chain or Operations.
    Please suggest me how do I go about it.

  2. Dear Sir,

    I have passed Btech in CSE in the year 2005 also having 10 years working experience. I have also published two international research paper. Should I eligible to get PhD degree from any university in India or out side India.

    • Debashish,

      Most PhD programs are pretty liberal when it comes to basic qualification criteria. To really make it though, you will have to showcase interest and evidence of recent work in your intended area of study. If you can do that, and can get good scores (some programs may require a GRE score outside), then it should definitely be feasible.

  3. Manish sir,I just completd my Bsc in Geology and petrochemical science sir i want to study abroad for improving my knowledge & Carrer Opportunities in my field sir generally Geology student think to study in india but i think to study in abroad is that correct decision or not? and also sir if i decided to study abroad then which course for master is better between petroleum technology or earth science according to Carrer oppportunities in overseas

    • Mayur,

      I am not sure where your data about geology students preferring India comes from?

      Whether to go for MS or not is however a personal choice. Research on career opportunities after both those streams and then decide which you want to take up. Both offer good opportunities but of a very different kind usually.

  4. Hello Sir
    Its been an inspiration, reading your Princeton university scholarship article and to be honest it was really brave of you to take such a decision at such a life changing juncture. I on the other hand have a really peculiar question i guess. I am a sophomore in electrical engineering at IIT Delhi and i wish to apply for M.S after my btech in USA. I am interested in field X and currently working on a project related to it, however i have done a research project lasting 8 months in field Y and i might have a publication on the same. So if i apply for the former field will my publication in the latter field even matter like will it be a great help, no help or might have bad effect.

    • Tinish,

      It would mostly likely not have a bad effect. If positioned well, it can work to your favor to show your potential. You would however have to explain why the change of heart in moving from Y to X.

  5. Hi manish
    I did my 10+2 in 2004 and after that started working.
    Working full time since August 2004 ..till now,Currently working as a business development manager with past working experience relevant to current job profile.
    Started my Distance BBA in 2011 and completed it in 2015 , Have given IELTS and scored 7 overall.
    Planning to do Masters in management (Not MBA) ..Dont want to take GMAT.
    Want would you suggest?

  6. Hello Sir,

    I’m pursuing my graduation in commerce from DU SOL. As for now, I have finished my second year of studies. After completion of this course, I wish to join an MBA program in France or USA.
    Are there any viable options available for fresh graduates? I worked while studying. Is it counted as work experience?


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