It’s a common perception that applicants from highly represented MBA applicant pools (such as Indian candidates) can’t be considered for diversity scholarships. While that’s true to a large extent for regular applicants, it also depends on how you define ‘regular’.
Megha Saraogi Todi completed her Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Economics from Lady Shri Ram College for Women. She completed her Masters degree in Management from the Delhi School of Economics in the first division. After graduating, she worked in HR consulting. Her GMAT score was slightly below the average GMAT scores for INSEAD and ISB.
Sounds like a regular profile so far? Here’s what Megha did that transformed her profile and convinced the admissions team at two of best business schools in the world with low acceptance rates, to lay out the red carpet for her – with one offering her the prestigious diversity scholarship.
Well I am Megha, a passionate traveller, artist, entrepreneur, and an incoming MBA candidate at INSEAD. I am happy to share my MBA application journey in the hope that at least one applicant may find it encouraging and useful.
I was born and brought up in a traditional joint business 18-member family in north India. I spent my early years in a boarding school, Welham Girls School in Dehradun. I completed my under-graduation in economics from LSR and pursued masters from Delhi School of Economics (DSE).
My first corporate stint was with an HR Consultancy focusing on workplace cultures and employee engagement.
To satiate my business genes and creativity, I setup my entrepreneurial venture, Pitaara Handmade, an art-based venture focusing on quirky hand-painted trunks used as home décor and sling bags, which continues till date.
I also took a sabbatical and travelled around the world to 35+ countries across 5 continents in a span of 1 year, while writing travel blogs and maintaining Pitaara’s social media presence.
This was truly a journey of a lifetime, a journey where I got time to slow down, retrospect and create incredible experiences and memories.
On returning to India, I joined back the corporate world for a consistent income and job security. I joined a leading recruitment consulting firm where I specialised in the start-up, strategy, and venture capital (VC) space.
I had been thinking of doing an MBA to change my industry and widen the horizon of opportunities since a year but wasn’t completely convinced due to the time and financial investment.
What really gave me the push was while working with high-calibre candidates from top B-Schools, I realised the plethora of career opportunities that a good MBA opens up along with growing your professional network and hence decided to pursue an MBA.
There were a bunch of concerns luring in my head when I started my MBA application – 6 years of experience which was higher than average at global B-schools, stress about securing a good GMAT score, studying after so long and my eclectic unconventional career journey.
I knew I needed professional help while writing my MBA applications as this was my one and only shot at the age of 29, any further than this would put me out of the ideal candidate pool and re-doing applications would mean delay in professional growth.
I realised I needed advice on articulating my unique life story and weaving that with my unusual career choices, to make a compelling application.
I believe word of mouth recommendations are always the best way to shortlist a consultant, especially having been in HR consulting for a while.
MBA Crystal Ball and Manish Gupta (MG) came as a strong recommendation from a friend who has a GMAT/GRE training start-up as a bunch of his students had very good feedback on MCB and MG.
And oh boy! what excellent reviews I got on MG, his working style, his honest approach, turnaround time and super helpful demeanour, whether it be the essays or scholarship application or interviews.
When I first spoke to MG, I realised he wasn’t like other consultants focusing on the financial aspect or giving false promises.
He genuinely cared about my life story, career choices and why I wanted to do an MBA – he floored me with his honest and genuine feedback and I signed up the same day (but without a GMAT score in hand).
I signed up for the 3 School (INSEAD, ISB and LBS) MBA application review package and later added on interview prep and scholarship essays to it.
I had a great experience working with MG, like I told him once – he brought magic back to my life.
Even though I had a good academic background, I felt I had missed making an impact in my professional life owing to personal constraints early on.
I now wanted to redeem myself and be in the top league even in my professional journey. I’m happy to share that I am one step closer to my aspirations with an MBA admit to my dream B-school INSEAD.
I had multiple ‘aha’ moments in my 6 months interactions with MG – most of them after the MBA application essay reviews, post which my essays were very effective without losing its authenticity.
Other moments were when MG pointed out examples, stories, skill-sets from my life making me re-think my approach – validating the fact that MG genuinely knew my story inside-out and sometimes knew things I hadn’t even narrated.
I needed an experienced consultant who could guide me – say yes or no with confidence when I had to make a difficult choice, else there is too much noise and too much unsolicited advice in the MBA applicant journey.
One of the best things about MG’s approach was that he asked me to be authentic, write my own story rather than be influence from others’ stories.
He would give honest feedback, guide me, share pointers but never spoon-feed and I believe that’s what made all the difference in my applications- highlighting my unique true profile and life story.
I applied to ISB first, and then applied to INSEAD in round 2 with an average GMAT score of 700.
After doing my research on INSEAD and other B-schools, I knew INSEAD was a great fit and had always been a dream school.
Their average work experience hovers around 5-6 years with average applicant age at 29 years, the school has a strong women leadership initiative, it encourages entrepreneurship and has the most diverse class of students with 85+ nationalities making it an unparalleled learning experience.
While speaking to current students and alumni, I learnt that INSEAD has a strong MBA alumni network that is very helpful and everyone is a minority here so it’s a very collaborative environment.
INSEAD has 2 alumni interviews and mine happened to be the same day (it was a stressful day) but I was able to answer well as I had anticipated a lot of questions owing to the rigorous MBA interview prep MG had put me through.
Within a few weeks, the results were declared and I had been admitted not only to my dream B-school but also with a scholarship, and with a surprisingly average GMAT score in round 2.
I couldn’t be happier and more proud. MG believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself, so thanks a lot MG for everything.
I got admits from ISB and INSEAD both.
For INSEAD, post the interview call I had to write in the scholarship essays within 2 weeks.
I again took MG’s help here and it was very kind of him to brainstorm and review my essays at short notice. I applied to 3 scholarships and was elated to receive the Diversity Scholarship.
I am confident that an MBA from INSEAD aligns well with my future goals in the VC industry and strategy consulting.
My entrepreneurial journey, world-travel stint and my fight towards gender-biased norms in the household and country differentiated my profile from other Indian applicants.
In hindsight, I learnt that a well-rounded application is of utmost value rather than just a high GMAT score. The essays, GMAT score, interviews and scholarship essays are all an integral part of the journey.
I feel so happy and grateful for the overall MBA journey as it helped me retrospect and find my true calling professionally.
For MBA aspirants, especially those from unconventional backgrounds, I would say if I can do it so can you. Be authentic, be true to yourself and your consultant, and let the Adcom hear your unique beautiful story as is.
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