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Dealing with failure and rejection in MBA applications: Siblings from top bschools share tips

Dealing with failure and rejection MBA admissions

There’s nothing more heart-breaking for a sister, than to see her struggling brother wearing an ‘Epic Fail‘ T-shirt, even if it’s in jest.

Priyank put his life on hold for 4 years in pursuit of his long-term ambition – to get into an elite MBA program. His long battle with the GMAT and applications finally bore fruit. He explains what he did over those rocky years to get into one of the most respected business schools in India – IIM Ahmedabad.

His biggest pillar of support came in the form of his family – and especially his sister, Priya, an MBA grad from the Indian School of Business (ISB), who had already gone through the grind.

The siblings from the 2 top Indian B-schools share their story and some tips to deal with failure and rejection from MBA programs.

Dealing with failure and rejection during MBA applications

4 admits after 4 years and 4 GMAT attempts

by Priyank Boob

IIMA PGPX One Year MBAI had around 10 years of global experience in developing, deploying, and managing various IT products and services. My top concern may sound clichéd – that I was a typical Indian IT male applicant – an extremely over-represented profile.

However, in my opinion, there were some differentiating points in my profile:-

The first good thing with my profile was my plethora of extra-curricular activities in the social sector – something that I love to do as a responsible citizen.

Secondly, I knew that my international work experience with Fortune 100 clients was far better than the international experience acquired by an average IT consultant.

I was fortunate to work on niche consulting roles from the inception of the project. That gave me a chance to travel, learn new facets of life, and the opportunity to work under very senior foreign delegates from globally respected brands.

Thirdly, my switch from an MNC to the fast-paced startup world has indeed played a great part in shaping my business knowledge and management acumen.

In the last few years, my experience of working with a few of the startups, on futuristic technologies, was exceptionally rewarding. It helped me break the mental barrier and the traditional way of thinking.

Self-realization, introspection and detailed stories of all of the above points helped me in writing my unique MBA application story, and confidently presenting the same during face-to-face MBA interview, and finally getting admitted to IIMA.

Pleasant surprise

I went to one of the yearly MBA seminars in Mumbai, organized at the Taj. During the session break, I was standing at a corner engrossed with a lot of pamphlets from several top B-schools in USA such as Kelly, Columbia,Tuck etc.

A guy noticed me, and he came up to me with a smile asking “How are you? How are you finding this seminar?” and general chit chat about MBA and B-school.

After half-an-hour of discussion, this guy said “My name is Sameer Kamat. I help people with business school admissions and career advice”.

I was flabbergasted, as I had already read so many MBA Crystal Ball blogs and was already a die-hard fan of Sameer, since I have read his book “Beyond The MBA Hype”.

Among the top MBA sites, the two that I regularly read for my MBA wisdom were Poets and Quants and MBA Crystal Ball.

I was so happy to meet the founder of MCB and get some words of wisdom face-to-face.

Luckily I had his book “Beyond The MBA Hype” in my bag that day, as I was out for MBA seminar, so I managed to get his autograph on the book.

I was so in awe of this person – he was so genuine, so empathetic, so down-to-earth, and extremely helpful.

It’s been 4 years since I know him, he has helped me throughout my journey by dropping me text messages on any query that I have had related to my career or MBA or life in general.

I consider him best mentor & friend, with whom I can talk about anything without any apprehension and can be sure that I will get most practical and logical answer for the same.

In these 4 years, he tolerated all my career related gibberish without even trying to sell me any B-school services.

For the record, all the gyan that he has shared with me was out of personal relationship that I have developed with him.

Neither he has asked me for any money nor I have paid anything for general counselling that he did for me every now and then.

My battle with GMAT prep

Ironically, my GMAT prep story is dreadful. I had to give 4 attempts in 4 years with 4 different courses namely Manhattan GMAT, Veritas Prep, Jamboree, and e-GMAT to finally reach my target score.

My GMAT scores were 560, 600, 640 and 680. The highest score by which I applied to all good universities was 680.

My GMAT prep story began in year 2013, That time I was into software engineering job and wanted to move up the ladder. I gave one shot and failed miserably. I tried again and failed.

After two failed attempts, I decided to put GMAT on the back-seat and decided to switch the roles at my current organization.

Post that with the help of supporting managers, I successfully changed by job role from software engineer to IT consultant with in the organization. With the new assignment, I went to UK and got immersed in my new IT consulting role.

Finally, the offers start rolling in!

After coming back from UK, in 2016, I again gave a shot at GMAT and with a little better score, I decided to apply to business schools. The best offer I have got was an admit from Katz Business School with 50 percent scholarship.

Although, Katz – University of Pittsburgh, was ranked consistently in the top 100 programs in the world, I gave a lot of thought and did not pursue Katz MBA.

Instead, I switched jobs and got the profile more closer to Product Management – area that I wanted to Pursue post MBA.

After switching jobs and 6 months into the job, I again started preparing for GMAT, with the intention to get big brand name admits.

This time I managed to score pretty well and have gotten admit to Master’s program from Foster School of Business and Carnegie Mellon University.

However, life had other plans for me. I was already about to get into my thirties and everyone in the world was conspiring to get me married. At that time, I decided to put marriage above studies and took a defer admit to CMU.

Finally, last year I got married.

In this whole saga of marriage, MBA, career goals, family responsibilities, as I had deferred admit, I started getting not-so-positive thoughts about moving abroad.

Thoughts of having been forced to stay in foreign land for for years until the debt was cleared, getting away from loved ones in India, leaving behind the aged parents when they need me most, circling life around uncertain visa status and Green Card.

All of the above thoughts compelled me to apply again in 2018 with same GMAT score that I had, to Indian one year MBA programs.

IIMA PGPX application experience

I was pretty clear that I have very few choices in India – one year IIM Ahmedabad PGPX, one year Indian School of Business PGP or maybe EPGP IIM Bangalore.

Out of which personally, IIMA PGPX rang the bell for me. IMO ISB PGP is exceptional for younger folks with lesser work experience, folks who are still figuring out what they want to do out of life.

In contrast, IIMA PGPX is great for folks who know what they want, who want to learn from more mature and experienced peers, who are interested in the case study teaching methodology, and who want to get into senior executive positions after MBA.

Hence I applied to IIM A, and fortunately got the admit.

My IIMA PGPX interview experience was awesome. I went to the IIM Ahmedabad campus for the interview. As per the IIMA standard format – extempore set the tone for my interview.

And then two professors and I had a happy chat on politics, business, current affairs, my life etc.

However the MBA interview experience will differ from person to person. For anyone reading this, the best advice from my side – expect the unexpected in an IIM-A interview, and try to be cool as cucumber, while answering the questions logically.

Someone rightly said, even if you give them everything that they ask for, it’s never enough.

After getting an admit from IIMA PGPX, I enjoyed for a week. Then one day I pinged Sameer Kamat again, asking him if it is wise to attend the program, or if I should go for top 15 global brand name.

He put me at ease with his logical views and told me to do little introspection.

After this, I have now finally decided to join the best management school in India for a one-year full time MBA course.

My younger sister is an ISB grad. As she has already been on MBA path, she has been a great support to me for years, throughout this mad ride.


A sister’s perspective

by Priya Boob

ISB MBA Female StudentPriyank knew that he had to pursue an MBA very early in his career. In fact, I remember GMAT was not a very popular exam that time in India.

We both wanted to pursue a global MBA and have a holistic experience – sitting in class full of people coming from different walks of life, culture and countries.

Post his initial few attempts when he did not get the desired score,he was frustrated.

I along with my parents were equally sad because we knew how much time and effort he used to put in and how badly he wanted it.

I have seen him appearing for GMAT, failing at getting the desired score, getting his heart broken, and then picking himself up only to fight back.

But, after this cycle repeated thrice, I saw him being completely shattered. He judged himself and his capabilities.

To me, the reason for his low scores was his anxiety towards taking the test because his mock test scores were always sharp.

I wished I could do something about it besides encouraging him not to give up and at the same time expressing that not getting into a top B-School is not the end of the world and certainly not something that defines your caliber or personality.

Emotionally, he was going through a lot of stress because he had literally put all other aspects of his life (Read – relationships, wedding, vacations) at hold to prioritize this dream and his efforts were not paying off.

Seeing him go through such turmoil, we all wanted him to take a break and get sane.

Meanwhile, I was preparing for my MBA.

He guided me and jokingly used to say – I want you to do what I could not do ‘yet’, wearing a T-shirt that said, ‘Epic Fail’.

I was shocked when I saw him wearing that for the first time, wanting to squish him tightly and reassure that dude! There is a lot that you have done, already.

Anyway, I got into ISB along with few other good schools in US. I remember he was very happy and advised me to take up ISB.

Nevertheless, after a year he decided to appear for GMAT one last time.

I felt hopeless and powerless sometimes as there wasn’t much that I could do to help him having gone through a similar journey myself. I did help him with his applications.

He got into few top US schools including CMU Tepper. Even now, the journey was not easy for him as US economy was at turmoil and he also had his wedding planned out. So, he skipped that year and decided to go for it this year.

Finally, he accepted IIM Ahmedabad, one of the ace schools of the country.

I have decided to gift him a T-shirt that would say ‘Epic Triumph due to Epic Passion’ on his first day of joining IIMA 🙂

It is not easy to give your heart, soul, blood, and 4 years to a dream and fail 4 times. Fortunately, it was all worthwhile at the end.

But, one thing that we are both extremely proud of is our parent’s sensitivity and understanding towards valuing education and pursuing dreams.

In the face of conventional Indian society that we all live in, it is extremely difficult to go against societal norms of holding off on your wedding or giving so many years of your youth to something that has not been working out.

Success after failureWe draw our strength to overcome challenges from ‘home’ – whether it is me as a female child from a middle-class family wanting to pursue professional education before her brother or my brother’s headstrong behavior towards unfavorable circumstances.

This system of value and the courage to follow your passion is infused in our family by our grandmother – ‘Amma’ as we called her.

I believe that such understanding and support from your loved ones is one of the major source of motivation for emerging successful.

As they say – you have to fight through some bad times to earn the best days of your life! Priyank has proven this and I am extremely proud of him!

– Priya

[Editor’s note: A few days after this article was published, Priya kept her promise and gifted the T-shirt shown above to Priyank]


Read this next:
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Maximizing the X effect at IIM Ahmedabad PGPX (1 year MBA)
IIM Ahmedabad PGPX | MBA for Executives | Placements in private equity
Twin brothers get admits to the same MBA program
Does a 760 GMAT score guarantee admission?

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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

3 thoughts on “Dealing with failure and rejection in MBA applications: Siblings from top bschools share tips”

  1. Thanks Sameer bhai for sharing this story.

    Priyank, well done. The story resonates to me in many places, your journey is worth everything. May god bless you with the Success! All the best for the program.

  2. Priyank, sheer grit and awesomeness! I can resonate with you.
    I did try twice with GMAT back in 2009 and spoke with Sameer as well (when he first kicked off MBA Crystal Ball).
    In my case I did not really know why I wanted an MBA, barring the fact(s) I am a successful misfit in my career and saw MBA as a way out. Nevertheless, here I am no MBA yet BUT a bit relatively successful in my career.
    Thanks to Sameer, I realized MBA is worth a wait till you are categorically clear on the “why?”.
    I am still searching for the answers nevertheless those essay questions are not just to get an admit BUT introspect on how you envision the “degree’ changing your life.
    For me, the answer insofar was not a degree but learning and I did get that in the last 8yrs (of 14) of corporate career.
    So in a nutshell MBA does not define your career or life, it took me 8 yrs to learn what you may do in 1yr of MBA school but without the opportunity cost. ;o)
    Here’s hoping you fly high and unencumbered! All the darn best!

  3. I have been through a similar experience in my life. I dreamt of getting into IIM when I was pursuing engineering. I devoted my 2 years for the preparation of CAT/GMAT etc. exams. However, due to some problems, I could not succeed both the times. My scores in the exams were low, and I was nowhere near to my goals. My dreams were shattered completely. I joined as a developer in a start-up. But, the thought of not being able to get into IIM kept me demotivated.
    I later joined another MBA college because I wanted to get the degree and a tag of MBA. Thankfully, I was going on the right track as the college is pretty good enough. I completed my MBA with a good score and got placed in an MNC at a decent package (this was back in 2012). After a few years, I switched my company and was offered twice the salary I was getting in my previous firm. So, I would say that the world does not end if you fail. You just have to take chances and move ahead positively.


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