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Kellogg One Year MBA admission with scholarship after GMAT score jumps by 90 points

Kellogg One Year MBA admission after GMAT score improvement

Rishi Bajaj (name changed) would be soon flying from Singapore to Chicago to join the Kellogg One Year MBA program on a cool $25,000 tuition scholarship. This is the culmination of a long, intense and often frustrating ride he’s been on since 2013. It finally got to a stage where he had offers from not only the Kellogg School of Management but also Tepper (CMU), ISB and Anderson (UCLA) with a $40,000 scholarship.

As you read Rishi’s story, you’ll realize that he doesn’t like putting all his eggs in the same basket. He used the diversification strategy at various stages in his business school preparation process with different results and emotions.

  • He took the GMAT 5 times and improved his score by 90 points from a 650 to 740.
  • He applied to multiple bschools in diverse regions (USA, Asia, Europe) and programs with different formats (2 year and 1 year MBA).
  • He did the same while choosing to work with MBA consultants. Instead of hiring one team to help with all his target schools, he worked with over 4 admission consulting firms spread across the world (including ApplicantLab, an online DIY self-help option).

The last experience of dealing with multiple consultants and their working styles left him with a bitter feeling about the entire admissions consulting industry itself. Apart from documenting what worked for him, we asked Rishi to share his lessons & views about working with multiple MBA consultants (skipping individual team names, out of professional courtesy).

In the interest of being transparent, we have to mention that Rishi worked with MBA Crystal Ball for general career counseling before he started his MBA application process. We sure are happy that he chose to come back to MCB to publish his story.

Kellogg One Year MBA admission with $25K tuition scholarship

Improving my GMAT score from 650 to 740 got me admits from ISB, Tepper and UCLA

by Rishi Bajaj

My schooling started on a rough note and I flunked in 1st standard. Thereafter I kept my focus on studies and was always amongst the top 5-10 students in my class. I always enjoyed being well aware and so I read newspapers and magazines from an early age. I left home right after high school to join Bansal Classes in Kota (Rajasthan).

I did my engineering from MIT, Manipal following which I worked in Reliance’s petrochemical division in an engineering role. My passion to explore my potential bought me to NUS where I did my MSc in Management of Technology and subsequently started working for Lanxess, looking after process improvement projects in their petrochemical manufacturing unit in Singapore.

I was always sure that I wanted to do an MBA. I scored 98-99 percentile twice in the XAT exam, but couldn’t get the program of my preference. I always wanted to go abroad. So I shunned the Indian entrance exams after 1-2 attempts and decided to go the GMAT way.

Most people go abroad for money or for a better lifestyle. Honestly, this wasn’t my motivation. When I talked/looked at my managers in India or Indian MBA grads who were senior to me, I just couldn’t imagine myself being the kind of person they were (no offence!).

My readings convinced me that if the 20th century was about democracy, then the 21st century will be about diversity and that experiencing other cultures and becoming a global citizen will be critical to my personal and professional success.

5 GMAT attempts and my GMAT study plan

I gave my first GMAT in July ’13 and scored a 650. I was rejected by Krannert and Rice MBA programs but luckily made it to NUS MSc program (not based on GMAT).

After my MSc program, I worked with MBA Crystal Ball on career planning and understood I would still need an MBA in the medium-term.

I took the e-GMAT course, gave my 2nd attempt in March ’16 (680; perfect Q51), 3rd attempt in May’16 (660, cancelled), 4th attempt in July ’16 (680 again) and final 5th attempt in Oct. ’16 when I scored a 740 (Q50, V40).

I have never been a good test taker and had a habit of losing my nerves and getting anxious during exams. Hence I started practicing Mindfulness meditation that helped me keep my mind cool during the exam. For a bit of motivation, here’s the GMAT study plan I pasted on my wall.

GMAT Study Plan

In July ’16 after my 4th GMAT attempt I had lost all hope of getting a good GMAT score. So, in parallel I started working on MBA applications. I hired 3 separate consultants for INSEAD, Judge and ISB, since each was well known for respective business schools. Since I had a low GMAT score I wanted to give my best in applications. I had made my first B-school application back in 2013 hence I knew the importance of hiring a good consultant.

In October ’15 after I got a 740 I decided to drop Said and NTU from my list and added 7 American business schools. I was more interested in the top one year MBA programs in the world, hence I never considered US programs with a 680. But with a 740 score, I felt not applying to US b-schools would be cheating myself.

My application strategy

My criteria was to apply to the top schools in every geography. I am personally of an opinion that choosing a top school in a geography makes your life much easier. Hence instead of choosing a single geography, I chose to apply to the top schools in every geography i.e. ISB in India, INSEAD in Singapore/EU, LBS and Judge in the UK and 7 of top 15 schools in US. On an average, I talked to 3-4 people in every school (10+ for INSEAD and ISB).

Why Kellogg 1Y MBA

I applied to the Kellogg 1Y MBA program primarily because it’s one of the very few top one year MBA programs in USA. Moreover, I had done some management courses in my prior Masters at NUS and Kellogg’s 1 year MBA program is designed to recognize your prior business knowledge. The program gives you an option to waive off the basic course and delve more into electives. This made the Kellogg 1 year management course one of my top choices.

Further, the newly built “Global Hub”, the collaborative community and my overall interaction with Kellogg alumni and students made me understand my fit for the program. On the admissions part, Kellogg tries to interview every single applicant and has one of the least conversion ratios post the interview stage. Understanding the Kellogg culture, it’s focus on creating “social leaders” is in my opinion the single most important thing for Kellogg (other than your overall profile, leadership skills, GMAT score etc.). Also, Kellogg is one of the very few b-schools that have video essays (Kellogg started this trend) hence you do need some practice for that.

Interview experience

I interviewed in Singapore with a Kellogg alum. He was an Ex-McKinsey guy and had been interviewing for McKinsey and Kellogg for years. We met at a coffee shop and it was more like an informal discussion with a senior colleague. He asked me about my leadership experiences, why Kellogg and why MBA kinda stuff.

At the end of our interview I ended up asking multiple questions to which he replied very patiently. Another thing I must mention is that he was super excited and positive about Kellogg, I didn’t notice that kind of enthusiasm with my other interviewers.

In total I interviewed for ISB, Kellogg, UCLA, Tepper, Ross and Haas.

Kellogg 1 year MBA vs UCLA vs ISB vs Tepper

I got final offers from UCLA ($40k scholarship), ISB (early round), Tepper and Kellogg. Initially I was a bit nervous choosing Kellogg as I had opted for the one year MBA program (which is slightly different from the Kellogg 2 year MBA) and given the geopolitical challenges I thought it was quite a big risk. But after having discussions with the Admissions Director at Kellogg and multiple other current students and recent alumni I decided to choose Kellogg. I also managed to negotiate a USD 25,000 scholarship from Kellogg at a later stage.

I read Beyond The MBA Hype back in 2012-2013 when I was just starting off this journey. It was an eye opener as I could not imagine then how much an international MBA would help me. My stint in Singapore further convinced me to go for a top-notch international program.

Tips and Closing thoughts for MBA applicants

I am more distressed than happy with the MBA consultants I used despite the fact that I got the desired outcome (almost). I feel the admissions consulting business is very opaque and exploits the lack of awareness and the anxiety of MBA applicants.

It’s very hard for an applicant who lived and grew up in a totally different culture to understand what admission officers of top US business school might like/dislike. But in today’s age of internet and IT, this shouldn’t cost thousands of dollars.

In my opinion Admission Consultants today are digging a hole for themselves, sooner or later someone will disrupt this industry and then they will cry foul. I like to compare this with Uber and Taxi Drivers. Taxi drivers have been cheating on customers for all these years so now they have no right to complain against Uber.

After this long MBA journey, I feel slightly accomplished but much more nervous and anxious. I am nervous because I know this joy is temporary and I have long way to go to improve myself. I still actively network with people and I feel there’s so much to do and learn. I am still far from being my best.

My honest suggestion to any applicant would be not to waste time just ‘thinking’ about an MBA, but to actually make a start somewhere even if it’s not a perfect one.

  • Be unapologetically honest to yourself.
  • Learn to hold yourself accountable for the mistakes you make.
  • Life is about becoming the best version of ourselves and making your work count.
  • Find ways to create value for others, you personal success will follow.
  • Never compare yourself with your peers, as they’ll keep changing, rather compare yourself with what “you” were few months back and keep exploring ways to improve yourself.
  • Never give up and stay humble, no matter how tough it gets.
  • And most importantly…

    Stay hungry, Stay foolish!!!

– Rishi

Read these related articles:
Kellogg Dual Degree – JD MBA program FAQ
How to get into the Kellogg School of Management
Kellogg MBA: International student experience, H1B, OPT and life after MBA
MBA reapplicant and waitlist strategy – Kellogg admit
Reviews of ApplicantLab, MBA Crystal Ball and other consultants
Kellogg professor blends business and neuroscience
ApplicantLab Reviews and Discount Code
Clearing the confusion of multiple MBA admits
Kellogg logo: Image credit

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Sameer Kamat
About Sameer Kamat
Founder of MBA Crystal Ball. Author of Beyond The MBA Hype & Business Doctors. Here's more about me. Follow me on: Instagram | Linkedin | Youtube

10 thoughts on “Kellogg One Year MBA admission with scholarship after GMAT score jumps by 90 points”

  1. Sir, after reading this one becomes a bit doubtful with regard to choosing educational consultants. MBA Crystal ball is a reputed one no doubt. Please guide us on this

    • With all due respect to Rishi, I would like to point out that I do not feel that he has approached his application process well. Why did he go to NUS in Singapore if his ultimate aim was to get an MBA? That was simply waste of time and opportunity not to mention money. He took GMAT so many times. Was it really needed? I am also surprised that he calls himself humble but he feels Indian MBA graduates are below him and admission consultants who he hired are also not upto the mark. I am sorry but I am not impressed with his attitude.

      • Hi Avinash,
        I went to NUS because at that stage in my career I felt I wasn’t ready for an MBA. On your point of “ultimate aim”, I must say MBA was never and is still not my ultimate goal. Education to me is a means to improve myself both personally and professionally.

        On your point of not being humble, I agree with you. This is one of the first articles I have ever written and I shouldn’t have openly criticised Indian MBA graduates and other admission consultants as that’s not really the point of this article and I did not even elaborated enough on why I said what I did. My apology if it offended you or anyone else.

        I hope there were at least some parts of the article that you found helpful.

  2. @Rahul: Glad you asked that question.

    When there’s a disconnect between the promises made, the process followed and the results obtained, there is bound to be angst.

    Over the years, we’ve published plenty of stories of folks who have worked with us and found it useful. But we are also upfront in admitting that we don’t have a 100% success rate. Read this article:

    Though we are in the consulting industry, we felt it was important to also share the counter perspective too. And Rishi delivers, without holding back his punches 🙂

    Just like working with doctors, lawyers, and professionals from any other sphere, the range of expectations, experiences and outcomes will vary. It’s up to the applicant to review the pros & cons and decide what option works best.

  3. Why do you say ‘find ways to create value for others’? There is nothing in your story that indicates that you created an iota of value for others. Stories and all are fine sir but dont give fundas without thinking…..:-)

    • Hi Gaurav,
      You’re right. This “funda” is kind of misplaced in context of the article. I don’t write too often hence I believe it’s my amateurishness. Most of the improvement that I saw in GMAT actually happened when I started responding to other’s problems on gmatclub/e-gmat. I realised helping others with there GMAT preparation helped me tremendously with my own GMAT preparation. Similarly, for applications, I have helped quite a few candidates over the last 2-3 years to build their story and edit their essays. This is what I had in mind when I wrote this point but I agree this is kinda misplaced for this article 🙂

  4. Hi Rishi. I am a bit confused with what you say in this article. You said you were disappointed with the consultants you used, but you chose to get featured on a consultant’s site. There is also a consultant site (not this one) where a glowing testimonial from you has been posted on how they helped you, and you thanking them. So my question is, did the consultant help you or not?

    • Hi Amit,
      I think the answer lies in your question itself. I used multiple consultants but chose to write my story and testimonials only for 1-2 consultants that I “actually” found helpful. Also, in this article I have clearly put a disclaimer that I used Career Counseling service of MCB (and not the application service). I decided to put my story on MCB as I felt I could reach out to maximum potential applicants through this channel. Hope this helps!

      • Hi Rishi. Thanks for your reply but it is not convincing. I am not pointing fingers at this site here, but at you. Dont you think it is ironical that you say that MBA consultants are digging a hole for themselves in this article and then get caught giving glorious testimonials to MBA consultants on the web! Sorry but I have to say that points to zero credibility for you. Im feeling a bit apprehensive about Kelloggs quality bar for applicants now.


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