Many assume that beating the GMAT is easy for engineers. After 4 attempts, the highest score that Pallavi Mittal could get on the GMAT was a 650. But she knew she needed to go higher if she had any chance at her target MBA programs. So she switched from GMAT to GRE(Also read Switching from GMAT to GRE led to admits with scholarship). Her decision paid off and she got a considerably higher score (equivalent to a 50-point jump). Also read this story of an ISB MBA admit with GRE score.
But she had another dilemma to deal with – should she go for an MBA or MS? And her GRE score helped her with that decision as well.
Switching from GMAT to GRE gave me better results
Dilemma: MBA or MS after Civil Engineering?
by Pallavi Mittal
I have always been a studious student from my school days with a greater focus on excellence than on preparing a long resume.
Being an introvert and having an OCD definitely adds to it. I come from a family where education is the most important factor and there is no compromise there.
Even before I started my under graduation, I was prepared for further studies. I still remember solving CAT papers during my summer holidays.
My father is a civil engineer and the stronghold that he has on the subject is an inspiration to many. Hence, getting a major in civil engineering was the obvious choice.
In my final year, I got placed in one of the top real estate developers of India and was given the role of a structural engineer. In this role, I was responsible for the review of structural concepts, analysis, and design.
The profile was challenging in terms of technical commitment and required out-of-the-box thinking to optimize cost and project delivery timelines.
Although I was blessed to have supportive managers throughout my journey, there were times when being a female in the male-oriented arena created implicit authoritative and opportunity clashes. It was not easy to impose decisions on my male subordinates during my initial stint.
On the other hand, being on a client-side and working with so many business verticals trained my critical thinking to make business-oriented decisions.
This is where I realized how important it is to have an MBA which can mold you in a correct manner and transform you into a future-ready leader.
My journey for MBA started in 2015 wherein I was only preparing for CAT whenever I got time. My major commitment was towards my job only.
I got serious in July 2018 towards my MBA preparation and decided to prepare for GMAT once I realized that I am pretty much out of the CAT race (2 years Indian MBA).
I finalized my long term goal and shortlisted a few schools.
I was aware that demanding hours at work will not let me focus properly on GMAT or on SOP’s. So, I started searching for MBA consulting services.
Manish has always been patient with my questions and never made any false claim about their application consulting services and clients which I admired.
Before talking to my consultant, Vijay, I was confident that having great academics and a decent job profile will be enough to prepare an SOP.
After our initial discussion, I realized that I have not even decided on my short term goals, what each school has to offer and what makes me different from others. Only thing I was sure about was that I want to remain in the operations industry.
Vijay had a unique way of explaining to me the strong and weak points in my profile, which I could not have thought on my own.
Anyway, we started preparing the MBA SOP & resume while studying for GMAT.
I gave GMAT with hopes of getting the desired score of 720+ but got stuck at 650 even after 4 attempts!
I applied to Katz with this score for MBA in supply chain management.
Meanwhile, the low score got me worried about my finances and dwindling opportunities for MBA scholarships.
I continuously felt that I could have done better in GMAT and that I deserve to at least apply to my dream schools.
As a last resort, I gave GRE and to my surprise, I got a stellar score with 170 in quants!
Quants had always been my strong area and one year of GMAT practice had really polished my reading skills. So, I only had to prepare for GRE vocab.
I was always sure that I would never be able to perform well in GRE as vocab had been my weak point in GMAT as well.
But after giving both the exams, I realized that GMAT and GRE are comparable only for section names. Both exams are completely different. GRE is more straight-forward and GMAT is a more analytical approach based.
The only challenging part for me in GRE was memorizing vocab. Plus not having the dreadful sentence correction in GRE was a life saver.
I applied to ISB with the GRE score and received an interview call from both the schools (including Katz with my low GMAT score).
Getting an interview call was unexpected for me as with my low scores and average profile, I was not expecting it and hence had not prepared actively for this.
The preparation time for interviews was very short (1 week) and I was traveling abroad for work, so I was not able to work with MCB for MBA interview preparation.
This resulted in shocks during the interview process.
Both interviews were approx 30 min – 45 min long with two interviewers; one alumni/ adcom and another one from the respective area of expertise. The interview started with general questions – about myself, hobbies, my work experience, learnings, etc.
The grilling part came later in the form of Why MBA, career goals, and post-MBA job profile. I was completely unprepared for the job description and how I will fit in there.
The interviewers were successful in convincing me that I should explore more on my post MBA goals and maybe take a break of 1-2 years to figure out what I want. Naturally, I was not able to convert the admits.
The rigorous interview process made me realize that I was not ready for an MBA. I was going for an MBA for all the wrong reasons and I am glad that it got stopped right there.
The admission decisions could have been different if I had collaborated with MCB for few rigorous mocks but then the above realization would have occurred later when going back would not have been possible.
Frankly, I was not ready to see myself debt-ridden for the next 5 – 6 years or more. The constant worry of H1B visa after F1 also played a role.
Liberated, I was ready to make some bold decisions like letting go of my MBA plans and to get a stronghold on my technical expertise by going for a Masters.
Changing paths from GMAT to GRE had already opened a wide array of options. I could now apply for STEM courses, H1B problems can be kept aside and a solid GRE score of 322 will provide scholarship opportunities.
I was not interested in a conventional civil engineering masters degree and started searching for sustainable project management opportunities which can directly place me in project director/ manager roles.
I connected with faculty members and alumni to get a deeper understanding of the course before applying. I was diligently doing my homework this time.
Stanford University and UC Berkeley had courses exactly what I wanted and I applied to them right away.
I applied to CMU, Georgia Tech & UT Austin as well for their interesting syllabus and liberty to modify the course structure. I also applied to Purdue & Texas A&M as SAFE schools and also to boost my confidence.
I already had a structured framework with me for my current experience and future goals, which were prepared during MBA SOP and collaboration with Vijay. I got admits from ALL except UT Austin and Stanford.
I was the happiest I have been in months the day I received my University of California, Berkeley admit email with 50% scholarship for the Engineering & Project Management Program.
It is an unbelievable feeling when you get what you wanted in the first place with no compromises!
This admission journey has finally come to an end for me and I for one could not be more relieved.
For all the ups & downs that I have seen, I am glad I went through it. I made some very life-changing decisions here.
The most important lesson to learn here is that there is a reason why our SOP’s ask for long-term goals; it is futile to chase a goal without analyzing future implications.
Read more inspiring stories and strategies of candidates who’ve overcome serious challenges (low test scores, bad academic grades, career breaks, rejections & more) to get into their dream university with the help of MBA Crystal Ball: