When you hit a wall, you only need to find the right window of opportunity, to allow the rays of hope and inspiration to enter.
We wrote earlier about why anyone would plan for a second MBA after IIM, and also the pros and cons to be aware of.
IIM Kozhikode grad, Garimaya Gaur, was a rock-star even before coming to us. And we mean that in a literal sense. In his pursuit of a second MBA from USA after IIM, he agreed to our unusual (or bizarre?) suggestion to use his guitar and singing skills, to stand out from the competition.
The result – an admit with scholarship from his top choice – Kellogg.
Second MBA from USA after IIM
How I got into an M7 MBA (Kellogg) with scholarship
by Garimaya Gaur
Never imagined in my wildest dreams that I will be guitaring my way to one of the top schools!
Right from my childhood, I have placed equal importance on academics and extra-curricular.
Academically, after completing my schooling from Dehradun, I went on to study electronics and communication engineering from College of Technology, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand.
On extra-curricular front, I started learning music at a very early age and went on to complete a senior diploma at the age of 14.
The creativity ingrained through this has manifested in many ways across my academic and professional journey and has shaped up my career interests as well.
Apart from music which made me participate in a lot of extra-curricular, coming from the foothills of the Himalayas, I am an adventure freak.
I have done numerous treks in my childhood and even went on to complete a skydiving certification recently in 2018. Scuba and skiing are also some activities I have been doing annually in recent years.
After completing my engineering, I realized that a career in management, and specifically marketing, was much more aligned with my personal interests, something I had realized while leading several extra-curricular activities during undergrad.
Thus, after working in the IT sector for around 2 years and getting some corporate exposure, I went on to do my Post Graduate Diploma in Management (PGDM) IIM Kozhikode, one of the top 10 B schools in the country.
In no small way, the program helped me make the pivot, effectively. Post my MBA, I joined the RPG group as part of its flagship Group Management Resource (GMR) program.
It catapulted me into the top echelons of corporate exposure. I worked with a lot of senior managers of my organization and in one of the role, even got the exposure of working with our MD and CEO.
It is precisely this exposure that made me quickly realize that my learning and impact has been very India specific.
Collaborating with top consultants, I also observed how digital has been rapidly changing the way business is done and how analytics is now an entrenched part of modern business decision making.
It is these facets, and more, that I want to learn and build further on, through an International MBA.
Start of Journey with MCB
When I was in the process of deciding whether I should give a shot at an international MBA, I wanted to first evaluate my profile and understand whether I have a realistic chance of converting any of the M7 colleges.
I talked to a few friends and connections who had done their MBAs from top colleges but was unable to get convincing answers to some of my queries as my profile was very different and also due to the second MBA angle.
Researching online, I found out about the MBA Profile Builder offered by MBA Crystal Ball.
After taking some feedback from one of my friends about MCB and reading experiences of other candidates available on their website, I straight away signed up for it.
Thus, I had started working with Manish Gupta (MG) even before my GMAT.
Through the in-depth assessment of my profile early on, Manish helped me set realistic targets: what GMAT score to target, what colleges will be best for my career goals, what more can be done to improve my profile, etc. And this is where my journey began.
GMAT Prep Story
As I had planned to apply only to the top colleges and considering that the Indian applicant pool is over-represented, Manish had suggested to me that I should be aiming at a 740+ score to stand a realistic chance.
I started my GMAT prep in 2019. Having aced CAT in 2014, I was very confident of my abilities but some mocks made me realize that I needed to change my strategy to tackle the verbal section of GMAT.
I started with the GMAT official guide (OG) and some free online sources to kick start my studies.
After looking at my scores in a few mocks. I knew that I needed to do much more and get some guidance.
I enrolled for the e-GMAT course when the lockdowns started and found some of the strategies really useful, especially in CR.
There was still a lot of confusion regarding the GMAT slots at centres during the initial months of the lockdown. So my attempt got a little delayed and it was only in July’20 that I gave my GMAT online, sitting at the comfort of home, and scored a 750 (Q50V41).
I was pretty satisfied with the score as it was aligned with my expectations but at the same time, I was a little worried as I had only around 2 months to complete my applications.
Having a good score made me confident about the process ahead and after a detailed discussion with Manish, I prioritized only M7 colleges in Round 1.
MBA Application Strategy
Apart from the MBA Rankings, the 3 main criteria which I considered while selecting these colleges were:
- My post-MBA goals of moving into consulting.
- Working in different geographies and industries in the near future.
- The ecosystem available on campus to be able to work on the initiatives I have been working on in the field of digital and marketing.
I also had ROI in mind and thus had a preference for 1-year courses and this is where Kellogg one year MBA was a perfect fit for me and thus on top of my priority list. I also applied for Wharton, Booth, and Sloan in Round 1.
Making the best use of admissions consulting
After researching online and talking to a few current students of my targeted colleges, I realized that the application process is quite intensive in terms of time, effort, and money.
Also, I realized that I only had around 40-50 days left for the R1 deadlines. Having had a good experience with MG during profile building, I wasted no time and approached MG to help me out with the applications.
I was confident about the strengths of my profile but MG helped me out in structuring my thoughts well and gave valuable insights as to how I can stand out from the rest of the applicants.
For example, Manish asked me if I can write some lyrics and sing in one of the Kellogg video essays to justify my creative and innovative mindset.
I did just that and I am sure that it would have got the admissions committee’s attention.
This, I would say, was my Aha moment during my journey with MG.
Similarly, I got great inputs as to how I can position myself to different schools in different ways based on the vision of the school and past admission records.
For this, I used to interact with as many current students as I could to find how I can be a good fit for the college and vice-versa.
Kellogg interview prep and experience
I had my Kellogg MBA interview just 15 days after I submitted my application. The interviewer was a Mumbai based alum working as a director at a top consulting firm.
Kellogg typically has a set list of questions that are asked during the interviews and they try to find whether you are a good culture fit through the discussion.
As Kellogg was top on my target list, I wanted to give my best shot and decided to do a few mock interviews with MG. Those mock interviews surely helped me out in structuring some of my answers better and being confident going into the final interview.
My interview lasted for around 70 minutes. It was a casual discussion about my profile, career goals, professional and personal experiences, etc.
The interview went very well as my interviewer and I could relate to each other’s professional journeys. In this regard, I consider myself lucky to have been interviewed by an India based alum.
MBA admission results
It was a long 2-month wait for the results.
Finally, in December, I got the result that I got an admit from Kellogg along with a $15,000 scholarship!
I was delighted as months of efforts reaped rewards.
Also, as a marketing professional, it was a dream come true to be accepted at one of my dream colleges and Mecca of marketing.
India being an over-represented pool, it is very important to differentiate yourself in the MBA admissions and showcase how you can bring diversity to the class. That, I think is what the admission committee surely looks for.
In this regard, working on building your profile from the very start is important. I have a strong extra-curricular record and have been in constant touch with my hobbies and interests during my jobs as well which I could highlight pretty well in the essays.
Other learnings for me were around the level of introspection that is needed while writing the essays and the research that goes into the same.
Here, I would again emphasize the importance of interacting with current students and alumni of targeted colleges as much as possible. It helped me throughout the process.
For second MBA applicants, my suggestion will be to shortlist the right colleges which are open for second MBA applicants and also fit perfectly in your set of goals post your MBA.
Also, do address your rationale for pursuing a second master’s program in your essays as it can be one of the biggest factors for MBA admission officers to decide on your candidacy.
Currently, I am relieved and have taken a break to work on my ideas and some personal development before the MBA storm starts in a few months.