When you don’t have enough experience for a full-time MBA, what would you choose – MiM or Deferred MBA – after completing your bachelors degree?
Kolkata lad, Mridul Agarwal, graduated in commerce from the well-known St Xavier’s College in Kolkata. Coming from a family business background (and planning to head back to it), he wasn’t looking for a degree to impress recruiters.
From the title of this article, you know where he got in. Can you guess which one he finally chose to attend and why? You’ll probably get this one wrong.
How I cracked the MiM admissions process at LBS, ESSEC and ESADE
Top European MiM after BCom with low GMAT score
by Mridul Agarwal
I consider myself self-motivated and ambitious. My friends wouldn’t disagree. In fact, they’d add hardworking to the list.
On the extra-curriculars front, I have been considerably active – pool and snooker (placed 2nd in an inter-school tournament), Chess (placed 2nd in an inter-school tournament), Tennis (hobby), Enactus (Project Director), Badminton (Hobby), Cricket (hobby), and various business events both in school and in college.
Experience at my family business has been phenomenal. I learnt some of the greatest lessons there. At one point or another, I have been involved in almost all business verticals – Sales, branding, logistics, production, procurement, IT, HR, and even legal!
I think that a family business is the perfect place to explore where your interest lies. The motivation level is ultimate for me here because I see my father working hard right in front of me and the sense of belongingness to the organization is there from Day 1.
My undergrad course (BCom Hons) was not challenging at all, to be honest. Just that, we are unfairly penalized at St. Xavier’s College. Nobody scores more than a 8.5 GPA out of 10 GPA. So colleges abroad tend to think that we are poor academic students.
The good thing about it was the mix of subjects. It gave me an all-round knowledge of business in India, at least at some level.
I chose Xavier’s because it is highly reputed, and I didn’t have to move to a new city. That way, I could give ample time to my family business.
I decided to go abroad for master’s in my first year of college itself. I began researching about different options and the prerequisites for each of them. I was pretty determined to make it to an ivy league college for a deferred MBA program.
I took the GMAT twice but couldn’t score more than 690 even though my mock scores were not going below 720. I kept MiM for backup.
I knew that a normal MBA was not an option for me because once I enter my family business completely, I won’t be able to take a 2 year off after 5 years. So MiM was my only choice.
Since the deadlines for MiM were running out, I decided to drop deferred MBA plans and put in effort for my MiM applications.
Also, I knew that my chances of getting into a good MiM were much higher than deferred MBA. These were, however, personal reasons.
I also spoke to a lot of people who went abroad for masters and found out that the average age at an MBA class is much more than what my age would be when I join the cohort.
So, I decided to take up an MiM since that would be more suited to me.
Now, I chose ESSEC as my first priority because I wanted to design the curriculum my way.
By God’s grace, getting placed is not a concern for me, so the ranking of the college and the placement opportunities don’t matter much.
I knew that my modest GPA and my low GMAT score would not stand in the way of me getting a quality MiM, because the median GMAT at these MiM schools is something around 700. So I am just 10 points behind the same.
I believe that I could compensate that with the kind of experiences I have, my profile and of course, my application.
I was concerned about my lack of internships. Since, I always preferred to explore opportunities at my family business, I never got the time to take up internships.
So, I started hunting for big name internships (got rejected by a ton because of XYZ reasons). Eventually, I ended up interning at a big company (Baker Tilly DHC aka DB Desai Associates).
I was concerned about how I portray myself because I knew that my modest GPA and GMAT could be made up for by my variety of experiences at my family business. But I just didn’t know how to portray it.
I started my GMAT prep with the lockdown. And I took my first attempt in October when I scored a 690.
I was disappointed and ordered for my ESR. I identified my weaker areas and promised myself a 10 percentile increase in them for the next attempt.
That actually materialized but somehow (I don’t know how), I ended up getting a 640 in my second attempt in November. That shattered me and I took this as a failure.
I made a tough call of switching to MiM from a deferred MBA aspiration. I reinstated my GMAT score of 690 because that seemed good enough for ESSEC and various other MiM colleges I applied to.
So, a consultant has seen a lot of cases and maybe some even similar to mine. The consultant may or may not have been helpful to those cases but the consultant knows what the admissions committee is seeking and where.
Friends are a good option to work with but that depends on the equation you have with your friend. S/he may not be able to devote enough time and you might land in a soup.
This won’t come from a professional. I worked with consultant and friend both.
There is no right method to shortlist a consultant. Most of the process is via word of mouth.
There is a local consultant in Kolkata who helped me in my GMAT Prep and I know a ton of people who took help from him in their applications.
The feedback was mixed but I didn’t really like his professionalism. So I was kind of on my own to find a good MiM essay consultant.
I filled up various Contact Us forms on various websites of some elite US-based consultants and I spoke to a couple of people over call also.
What caught my eye about MBA Crystal Ball (MCB) was that no matter what query I google about an MBA, MCB already has an article to answer that. That indicated that these guys are extremely knowledgeable.
However, I had no client feedback for MCB. I exchanged emails with Mr. Manish for quite a while and did all I could to understand the process. What I really like was the professionalism followed and the brutal honesty.
A lot of consultants glorified my profile and said a lot of things but none of them pointed out where I lack – GPA & GMAT.
That’s what Mr. Manish did the moment I told him about the same. That’s when I knew that these guys won’t give you false hopes. If you suck, you suck. Period.
I signed up for a 2 school consultancy and subsequently an interview prep package.
MCB did not really help me to zero in on my master’s program. I already knew what I wanted. However, they did help me by telling me about my chances.
I worked with Mr. Avinash, an extremely professional and qualified consultant. His inputs helped me make it to the colleges.
I was fascinated by his professionalism. There were times where he sent me edits to the essays in as short as 1 hour. He even helped me with edits of other schools.
I couldn’t have structured the essay properly, modified the wordings and taken care of the minute details such as repetition of facts, if it were not for his help and guidance.
I applied to 4 schools – ESSEC, ESADE, LBS & INSEAD. I selected ESSEC for its curriculum, ESADE as backup, London Business School for location and INSEAD for its brand name.
I couldn’t get through current students. I could get through only an LBS Alum who told me things that were already mentioned on the website. Just that, when he said it, it seemed much more credible.
One thing that’s not there on the website was the way in which classes are conducted. He told me about a specific negotiation case of his and how it helped him grow.
The interviews were 30-45 mins long. It was a panel of 3 people – One alumni (CEO of some company), Admissions director, and a current student. They wanted to know me more.
The CEO was a little resistant initially but I broke his resistance by the end of the interview.
For practice, I chose MiM interview preparation package with MBA Crystal Ball, because I think that it is more vital than anything else. It carries the most amount of weightage in the application. And I was not wrong.
The 2 mock interviews prepared me to answer questions that I would not be able to answer spontaneously.
Moreover, I learnt about other soft areas like presentation and how to not twitch my thumbs during the interview.
Took them 1.5 months to declare the results. I don’t how about how many admits and scholarships. I was delighted because I woke up to that email.
MiM application results
I made it to ESADE, ESSEC and London Business School!
I am choosing ESSEC because I want to customize my curriculum as much as I can.
The specific electives like those on negotiation, family business management and project management coupled with specialized tracks such as the CIMA track which would enable me for 14 exemptions from the CIMA professional course would fast track my career goal, which is to scale up the operations of my existing family business.
Right now, classes are hybrid which I believe will end by next year.
There’s curfew in Paris after 6:30 pm. So that is going to be challenging. But things will fall into place I feel.
Tips for your MiM application
So I don’t have a very strong internship experience as other candidates would. Neither do I have a very impressive GMAT. That does not mean that I am less competent than my counterparts.
This is what I believe and I went on to recognize my strengths. I sat down with myself and analysed what was I doing when the other applicants were doing their big ticket internships.
I was investing my time in my family business to understand if that is something I want to pursue in life.
I can’t thank myself enough for doing that because it gave me a lot of exposure. It introduced me to some of the greatest minds in my industry. That is something not available to an intern at a large company.
In other words, the exposure you get by working in a mid-size organization (of course, at a good position) is greater than that you will get by working at a much larger organization because in all probability, a 2nd year student won’t be sitting next to the CMD or the country head for that matter.
So, once I knew my strength, I leveraged on the same – both in life and in my application.
I learnt that not everything should be left to the last minute and I don’t think there’s anything I would have done rather differently.
The overall journey has been great!
I feel that the applications are designed in such a way that you cannot take a wrong decision. So, every college will ask you why you want to study at their college. For that, you need to know about the college and do your due diligence.
You need to know about the student clubs, the courses offered, the extra-curriculars, the USPs of the college and so on. That is easily available on the college website.
So, once you go through each college’s website, you will know what’s best for you. This is obviously subject to the condition that you know what you want to do after your MiM.
For example, you want to become a consultant for companies engaged in mining. In such a case, a fancy elective on marketing won’t serve your purpose.
You will have to pick a college that will offer you an elective in your area of interest and that college might not be the best ranked MiM college.
This is the only reason I didn’t apply to HEC. I know that HEC has an unparalleled reputation but I like ESSEC better because it is offering me what I need.
The placements offered by the institution are not really a concern for me because I know that I have to return to my family business right after my MiM.
My advice would be to not browse the college first. First, determine what you want from your career.
If you are unsure about the kind of job you want, do not go for a Master’s program.
Take up a job right after graduation and explore your interests. This process would take some 3-4 years. Then, go for an MBA.
However, if you know what you want (a process consultant, let’s say), list down the kind of skills you need to master to be a good process consultant.
Now browse colleges and check if such skills are imparted at the ABC college’s XYZ program. Then, choose.
Ranking should only be a factor when you have two colleges offering the same thing to you.