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How I got into Cornell MBA: My journey from data analytics to bschool

NIT graduate and analytics professional, Sayoni Chakrabarti, got into an ivy league university for her MBA. She explains the research work she did to find out more about her target school. She used her creativity to her advantage and chose to include a slideshow in her Cornell Johnson MBA application.

[Edit: After this article was published, Sayoni shared the news with us that she now also has an offer from the Tepper School of Business.]

How I got into the Cornell Johnson MBA program

by Sayoni Chakrabarti

How I got into the Cornell Johnson MBA programI graduated in Electrical and Electronics Engineering with distinction from the National Institute of Technology, Warangal in 2015. While in my 2nd year of college, I co-founded a social start-up to empower the differently-abled called OneStage.

As a part of the start-up we were able to positively impact the lives of 300 under-privileged and differently-abled children.

My experiences while working with OneStage and interning at Schlumberger Asia Services Pvt Limited, helped me realise my interest in problem solving, be it social or corporate business problems. Hence, I decided to join EXL, an analytics services provider in 2015.

At EXL, my growth was exponential. Within 1.5 years of my career, I had grown from a business analyst to lead a team of four. EXL not only gave me a comprehensive picture of the corporate world, but also helped me become well-versed in various analytical tools and software.

I worked on various product related business problems for clients in retail, media and fraud analytics and received prestigious awards from EXL and my client in recognition of my contribution.I was also the first person in my team to be invited to travel to the US for a proof of concept project.

But, after 2.5 years at EXL, I realised that my work had been restricted to only the product domain. My experience in analytics helped me understand the potential of data-driven decision making and I felt the need to solve a more diverse range of business problems.

I had a knowledge gap when it came to the other functional aspects of organizations like staffing, operations, etc. Hence, I decided to apply for an MBA to accelerate my growth in the data driven consulting domain.

I started my application journey with the GMAT exam. I scored a 730 on the first attempt and decided to go ahead with the further steps.

My decision to apply to business schools in the US was predominantly influenced by my post MBA goal of being a management consultant. The headquarters of the major consulting firms are situated in the US, which naturally means more internship and full-time work opportunities.

My seniors who have graduated from various top business schools in India also agreed with me in my assumption.

I was aware of the recent policy changes in the US but I believe that qualified international students have better prospects in the US in terms of both jobs and career growth than in other parts of the world.

The next step in the application process was to decide on the list of schools I wanted to apply to.

Apart from Business Week and Financial Times rankings, I also looked at the placement statistics of various top schools to ensure that I shortlisted schools that would help me achieve my career goals and continue in the consulting domain.

The SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University was one such school.

My research on the Cornell MBA

The school website had basic information about all the course-work and clubs. But, I decided to talk to current students and alumni of the school to understand how I could contribute to the Johnson community while growing personally.

LinkedIn was the perfect social media platform for me to talk to students. I reached out to a lot of students of the school and they were all very friendly and eager to help. My interactions with these students helped me to not only learn more about the school, but also gave me a clear picture of the collaborative environment at Johnson.

I gained immense knowledge about the student clubs, fellowship programs and the unique immersion program offered by Johnson and could envision myself growing as a leader while working towards my post MBA goal at Johnson.

The BR Consulting Club, The Women’s Management Council, The Johnson Leadership Fellow Program and a Semester in Strategic Operations (as a part of Johnson’s unique immersion program) seemed tailor-made for my goals.

Then came the gruelling task of writing the MBA essays. Apart from the usual Goals essay, Cornell Johnson had two unique questions: One about factors that influenced me to apply to Johnson and another a back of the resume essay.

My interactions with students and research about the school helped me with the prior but, I was extremely confused about the latter.

As media presentations were allowed for the back of the resume essay, I decided to go the slideshow route.

I built an interactive presentation about my life with self-explanatory photographs and also included a travelogue with suitable captions to showcase my love for travelling.

All done, I was finally ready to click submit.

The interview that followed was fairly like that of all other business schools and was mainly conducted to gain more insight into my personality.

Getting accepted to Cornell Johnson was a dream come true and I hope that business school will be a one of a kind experience.

I believe that my rapid growth at EXL as well as my passion towards social work, helped me stand out from the rest of the applicant pool and land a seat in an Ivy League institution.

I also believe that the presentation for the back story of my resume was very personal and genuine and could have helped to impress the members of the admission committee.

My suggestion for future MBA aspirants would be to have their story straight and have reasonable career goals.

Also, for Johnson, the back of the story resume provides an opportunity to showcase your personality in a creative manner. This, should be leveraged to give the adcom an insight into your character.

I am extremely excited about my business school journey and look forward to being a part of the Cornell Johnson community.

Also read:
What every Cornell Johnson MBA student should know
Why I turned down a masters with scholarship offer from Cornell University
Cornell 1 Year MBA admission blog by stock-trader and entrepreneur
Cornell Tech MBA review and admission experience

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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 Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

6 thoughts on “How I got into Cornell MBA: My journey from data analytics to bschool”

  1. Hi Manish Gupta

    Currently I am a consultant in Deloitte with 3 years of experience and was named Employee of the year .I graduated from Pune university in 2015 , but i have a low gmat score of 550 . Suggest me Whether I will get admit in any b school and what bschools ranking should I consider for my application.

    Please guide me.


  2. Hi sir
    Please suggest me??
    I am working with FMCG company as treasury sales executive and I want to do MBA so please tell me which is good for me

  3. i am MBA holder i work for federal government and private companies as well as consultant so i would like sir to give me if still other opportunities in the politics in world or th the globe in africa specially for those MBA holders thsnk u

  4. Hi.. Currently I am pursuing my degree in Economics. I thought it would be better to opt for MBA rather than go for MA. Economics as it would help me to branch out to different fields. I’m from Kerala. so can u please help me out as to what all i should do for going abroad for my PG. I just know that I have to clear IELTS exam. It would be soo helpful if you can please help me regarding good colleges, their fee structure, etc.

  5. @Priyanka – Tough to break into the top league at that score. Here is what you can look at: Why not go for a retake?

    @Rajesh – There are hundreds of schools out there. Depends on your career and personal preferences. See here:

    @Abdullahi – not quite able to understand the overall question. Do feel free to write clearly.

    @Saifullah – GMAT based MBA requires 4-5 years of solid experience. If you’ve just completed undergrad, best to being your professional career first. Read here:

    @Swetha – Same suggestions as that for the previous one; GMAT based international MBA programs expect a lot of work experience. So plan for that.


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