In the pursuit of an elite M7 MBA, Yajur Taxali had to face almost every big hurdle – non-feeder profile, average GMAT score in his first attempt, application rejections and waitlists. But he took every setback as an opportunity to learn and become better. His efforts finally paid off.
Persistence, single minded focus and a positive attitude have been the guiding forces in my life. I grew up near Amritsar, Punjab and my first major transition in life was from my school in small-town Punjab to DPS RK Puram, one of the premier high schools in the country.
In addition to being the school head boy and leading a variety of events in college, I was involved in extra curriculars such as debating and dance. Travel has been another passion of mine and I have been fortunate to see some of our beautiful world.
My friends would describe me as extroverted, experimental, trustworthy and someone who goes the extra mile to stay in touch/ maintain friendships.
I graduated as a mechanical engineer for Manipal Institute of Technology and spent my initial professional years as a consultant at Deloitte and, later, as an associate at Teach-For-India (TFI).
At TFI, which was only in its second year of operations, I learned timeless lessons on how to build a brand, make the most of limited resources, and manage teams effectively.
Prior to joining the MBA, I worked 4 years as a general manager in my family’s enterprise involved in the manufacturing of machine tools and tractor components.
My responsibilities included generating new business/finding clients, development of new product line (tractor parts), managing relationship and growing business volume with our existing clients, as well as managing daily operations at the factory. I also set up and ran one of India’s first traveler’s hostels (InnDia Boutique Hostel) from 2013 to 2016.
For most of my pre-MBA career I worked with smaller organizations. I felt I needed to expand my business skills, especially in the areas of finance, data analytics and strategy. I also wanted exposure to global business and economy, and in-depth knowledge about different industries.
I decided to pursue an MBA to hone my existing skill set, and to better equip me with problem solving skills to become a more effective general manager (which would hopefully help me grow my family business as well in the long term).
I made the first attempt at GMAT in 2012. I studied the Princeton review GMAT (which I found to be a good resource for initial preparation). That was followed by doing practice exams and questions – mostly from GMAC.
By the time I gave the test I was consistently scoring 720+ in practice tests. I ended up scoring 710 on the final exam, a score that seemed adequate at the time.
I attended information sessions for most of my target schools – traveling from my town in Punjab to Delhi frequently.
I advocate attending these sessions, even if it entails travel, as these events give an applicant a deeper understanding of the school’s culture and what it is looking for in candidates.
Especially for applicants who cannot make a trip to a different country to visit prospective schools, these sessions are the best way of meeting several alumni in one place and hearing firsthand about their life and experiences at that school.
In my first application attempt in 2012, I targeted five schools – based on school rankings and the interactions I had with alumni.
I did not secure admission from any of them. I then decided to take a strategic approach and wait a couple of years to build my profile before applying again, this allowed me to polish my skills and potentially show a jump in my career trajectory.
As a reapplicant, it is important to show the admissions committee a significant change since the last application.
By the time I applied again in 2014-15, I had new professional achievements, that I could speak about. I had also done more thorough research on the business schools through MBA forums and speaking with students and alums. I improved my GMAT score to 740 in my second attempt.
Kellogg was always my favorite school because of the culture – it seemed to be a very student driven and collaborative environment where I felt I would thrive. The general management curriculum, excellent track record in marketing and consulting recruiting, and locale of the school were other factors that grabbed my attention.
Kellogg was one of the few schools to have resources and classes dedicated to family business and hospitality – two areas of my interest. I could also identify with several alums I spoke to- they had made interesting, and sometimes, offbeat career choices and the Indian alumni network was growing stronger every year.
The other schools I applied to were Tuck, Fuqua, Ross, Darden, Stanford, LBS and UCLA.
Interviews varied in length from 30 mins (Darden) to 1.5 hours (Kellogg). The Kellogg interview was more of a free-flowing conversation. From my experience, interviews with admission committee members tend to be shorter (and more straightforward) than ones with alums.
In my interviews, a lot of questions were around the various transitions in my personal career- why I had made those choices and what had I learnt from each of those experiences.
It goes without saying that it is very important to know your resume well, and clearly communicate why you are looking to do an MBA, and why you’re interested a school.
The questions you ask the interviewer at the end also indicate the thoroughness of your research and your inclination to attend the school.
I was waitlisted at LBS, Kellogg and Tuck and got an admit from Darden. I was advised to, and decided to visit the schools – as a waitlisted candidate it sends a signal to the school that you are keen on attending
Being on the waitlist can be a long and painful marathon. But if it is a school you really want to attend, you must stick in there, stay patient and communicate with the school – at the frequency they ask of you.
Too many emails/recommendations can hurt your application.
I sent my waitlisted schools one email update (2 months after the first waitlist communication) which encompassed the changes/achievements in my professional and personal life, and one letter of support from an alum.
I also made sure to send an email to my waitlist manager informing her of my visit to the school.
Recommendations are supporting evidence for what you write in the essays and resume, and hence it is essential that they are in line with what the rest of your application conveys.
Submitting them on time shows to the school your managerial capability- that you can work with people to accomplish tasks on time.
It is important to have conversations with your recommenders in advance and discuss which stories/examples from your performance you want them to highlight in the recommendation, especially if there has been a considerable time lapse since you worked with that recommender.
If you are a reapplicant, it is advisable to have new content / recommenders instead of rehashing the same information, as schools keep previous applications on file and refer to them before deciding on an admit.
Since I was employed by my family as well as running my hospitality business when I applied, I got recommendations from a client for the family business, the head of the local industries association and the tourism officer for my city.
I want to pass on the best advice I received when I was applying for the MBA – it is 2 prime years of your life, and a lot of money forgone in salaries, most likely on top of a hefty student debt you’re signing up for.
Don’t settle for a compromise – these could (and should be) the best two years of your life.
[Coming soon: My life as an international student at Kellogg]