Thug life is when you walk into a top university with a cool $125K in scholarship despite a low GRE score, low undergrad GPA, being a reapplicant…and 15 soul-crushing rejections!
But where do you pin the blame after getting all those rejections from MS and MBA programs alike?
The obvious culprit was a below average GRE score for his target bschools. And maybe his low academic grades. What about the non-profit background? Did that fail to impress the admissions committee? Or was it his carpet bombing approach to applications?
GMAT Club moderator, Vivek Kumar, was at his wit’s end trying to figure out what it was that was stopping him from getting into a good university. And the generic feedback he got from some of the programs that rejected him didn’t help either.
He explains what he did in his third year of university applications that got him a full scholarship worth 85 lakh Indian Rupees.
How I got a full scholarship worth $125,000 after 15 rejections
How I got into the Questrom School of Business (Boston University)
by Vivek Kumar
I had worked for 3.5 years in a US based MNC and for 2 years in a non-profit.
Even when I was working at the MNC, I had assumed a leadership role in the firms CSR wing. This got me really interested in contributing to growing the trends of CSR.
So, I decided to expand my horizon and take on the next level of challenge. Hence, I made my next switch to the Non-profit industry.
I gave my test in 2016 and got a low GRE score of 319 with bare minimum preparation. I felt that my profile was similar to that of any average Indian applicant.
I was interested in doing my Masters in something which was at the intersection of Management and Technology and Master of Engineering Management (MEM) looked like a good fit for me.
I applied to 3 of the top MEM programs in USA (including Duke and Northwestern) and got dinged.
I received a feedback that these programs need much better academics and a bit lesser work experience.
MBA was something which had always attracted me but an MBA from USA was way more expensive than a Master’s program.
I already had more than 4 years of experience by then and thus I decided to apply for the US MBA programs hoping that I could somehow get some financial aid from the school.
I applied with the same GRE score in Round 2 of 2017 to almost 10 different business schools in USA and Canada.
As far as I can remember, the schools I applied to were – WP Carey, Questrom, Smeal, Olin, Caroll, Katz, Fisher, Desautels, McGill, Rotman, Alberta, UBC Sauder.
I got dinged by 11 of them and waitlisted by one.
Since there was not much improvement in profile, my waitlist status got turned into a rejection in the month of June. It was heartbreaking to be rejected after being put on the waitlist for 4 months.
I didn’t give up. I decided to reapply in R1 in the following year.
I opted for that and started preparing for GMAT simultaneously. I gave my GMAT in October but couldn’t get a better score compared to my earlier GRE score.
I decided to apply with the same old low GRE score and give my best in the application process.
The MBA MAP process helped me understand my strength and weakness and also helped me decide which schools I shall be a good fit for.
I asked for feedback to each of the 12 schools that dinged me. I got feedback from about 6 of them.
The feedback from most of them was more or less generic (highly competitive applicant pool and lower academics).
Change in application strategy
I applied to just 4 business schools this time (2 in R1 and 2 in R2) and did a lot of research on each of them.
I spoke to 3-4 current students, faculties from each school, and also attended each of their events. I revised my essays and resumes multiple times with the help of Vibhav.
Vibhav pointed out unique strengths in my story that I would have never thought of on my own. My essays were now in a much better shape after several rounds of constructive criticism from Vibhav.
I also worked as a moderator for GMAT Club helping out many aspirants and conducting admission events for different schools. That experience helped me to gain further insights into the overall process.
I got interview invites for all of them. I nailed all the interviews and started playing the waiting game and preparing for the second round.
Finally, the first-round result was declared on 15th of December.
I still remember that night. I was excited to see that I was admitted with a full tuition scholarship from Boston University, Questrom School of Business for the dual degree program – MBA plus MS in Digital Innovation.
Having a low GRE score, low GMAT score and a low GPA, and still getting a free ride with full scholarship after 3 years of struggle was always a dream for me.
Incidentally, it was the same school that had waitlisted me for four months last year and eventually dinged me.
I couldn’t sleep that night. I didn’t have to worry about the financials and joining BU was a no-brainer for me.
Morever, Questrom has a Social Impact MBA and a dual degree program which perfectly aligned with my goals.
Lessons from my MBA application experience
I am loving my MBA experience so far. I am a part of so many different and diverse teams and I love working with them on so many individual projects. Had I done my MBA from India, I would have got this much needed exposure and experience.
My biggest learning is that your academic grades and scores are not everything. I applied with my two-year-old low GRE score and a low undergrad GPA.
One should be able to prove the fit aspect and how badly one needs to get into a business school.
Also, being a reapplicant, it’s crucial to show what exact improvements you have made in your profile.
Improvements could be in the form of better test score, more networking, better essays, better fit, LORs, promotion at workplace, or any achievement in extracurricular activities.
One should do his or her own research before reaching out to any MBA consultant.
If someone thinks that he knows his reasons and motivations for doing an MBA, has complete awareness of the strength and weaknesses in his application then he might not need a consultant.
However, it’s always good to have someone to help you in the process especially if you have weaknesses in your application, lack blue-chip companies on your resume, running short of time, or simply don’t know how to position your profile as per the requirement of business schools.
Also, even the best MBA application consultant doesn’t reduce the need for you to work hard. They make sure that we work in the right direction.
Even though I had a consultant to help me, I had to do lot of research on deciding my post MBA goal and what exactly do MBA grads do in those roles and how it relates to my skills.
This is a very crucial step and having a clear set of goals will help you even after joining the business school.