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How to get into ISB YLP: Application essays, success story, fees, acceptance rate, placements

How to get into ISB YLP

Assuming you aren’t familiar with either of the two 3-letter acronyms, we’ll start with the basics. The full form of ISB YLP is ‘Indian School of Business Young Leaders Programme’. Quite a mouthful? Let’s break it down.

ISB YLP is the deferred MBA option for the Post Graduate Programme – the bschool’s flagship program equivalent to an MBA.

How to get into ISB YLP


You need to be in your final or pre-final year in any undergraduate or postgraduate degree to apply. A successful admission would get you a guaranteed seat to ISB PGP when you’re still a college student.

ISB YLP Acceptance Rate

While ISB does not specifically mention the percentage, from anecdotal evidence one can assume that the acceptance rate for ISB YLP is in the 20% to 25% range.

But statistics such as the selectivity rate (even if authentic and accurate) don’t paint the full picture – since what applies to others may not apply to you.

The only aspect in your control is to understand the YLP application process and submit the best possible application. More on that later.

Application Process

There are 3 stages to complete. Here’s what you need to do in each stage and the deadline.

Stage What to submit Deadline
1 Application form, an essay and the application fee. End March
2 GMAT or GRE score, another essay and an evaluation. End August
3 Clear the interview Early September to early November

But there’s a lot of ground to be covered, so don’t wait till the last few weeks. We’d recommend you to get started several months before the YLP deadlines, to ensure you aren’t submitting a sub-optimal application.

How the ISB YLP process works

Once you get an admit, you’ll need to do two things:

  1. Gain at least 20 months of work experience before you can join the PGP class.
  2. Attend all the compulsory on-campus learning weekends. This would also help you interact with faculty, current PGP students and become familiar with the campus.

Application Fees

We’re not sure why the official site doesn’t mention this. But for anyone who’s curious – the application fee for ISB YLP is ₹3,000.

That’s lower than the application fee for their PGP (₹5,000 to ₹7,500 depending on the admissions round). Considering the target audience for YLP (students who aren’t earning yet), they may have decided to lower the entry barrier to encourage more applications.

Placements at ISB YLP

Many ask us about the placements and average package at ISB YLP. Recruitment happens at PGP, not after a YLP admit. YLP is just a stepping stone to the main program that attracts the top recruiters across industries ranging from consulting to finance, and everything in between.

For placement and compensation details, read this: ISB Placement Success Stories and Salary Statistics

Let’s move on to hear from Samdeesh Mahajan, who cracked the ISB YLP admissions process.

How I got into ISB YLP

by Samdeesh Mahajan

I am a pathetic writer.

I fall short of words every time I try to pen down my thoughts. Hence, articulating my thoughts into essays (and even this de-brief) was not only a mammoth task but also a confusing challenge.

Hi everyone. My name is Samdeesh Mahajan. I graduated from KMC, Delhi University in 2021 having done my bachelors in Physics. I scored a 750 on my GMAT and was recently offered a place in the ISB YLP (Co’24). Here’s my story.

I have always been a practical, hands-on learning person. The type of person who would mount a table fan on top of his father’s car to see if a rotating fan can light up a bulb connected through a dynamo when he got to know about A.C. generators in his class 10th science textbook.

This pragmatic nature, coupled with the business case studies that my father (a businessman) brought to the dinner table every day, shaped my business acumen at a very young age.

Since I was highly interested in Physics, I chose a B.Sc. (H) degree at Delhi University over the coveted B.Tech. degrees at DTU, NSUT and other prestigious NITs and IIITs.

Apart from my aversion to engineering, another secret and subtle reason for this choice was that I understood how business schools value diversity.

Since I knew I had to eventually get into a business school to hone my business skills, I made a conscious decision not to be part of an over-represented category of applicants.

This still remains a very questionable decision to all my peers, but I went ahead with my gut. Saved me a year and a ton of money! :p

Ever since school, I was very actively involved in extra-curricular activities. I am a Hindustani classically trained vocalist, an avid debater and an amateur theatre enthusiast.

I started preparing for the GMAT in April 2020. I took GMAT prep services from Jamboree. My fundamentals in quant were already solid, but cracking verbal was a challenge.

I went through a repertoire of questions from OG, Advanced guide, Manhattan prep series and Veritas prep series, consistently solving 30+ questions a day for about 2 months.

Once I was convinced of my basics, I started writing mock exams on the Jamboree portal and eventually took the Manhattan and Veritas test series. Once I aced them with a 750+, I booked my slot for the GMAT.

On the day of my GMAT, I developed a mild fever. I ended up scoring 730. This was not my best.

This could not be the score I submitted to international business schools, especially with a lack of big names on my resume. Against my peers’ recommendation, I decided to re-write the exam.

I ordered a detailed report from GMAC to analyse what went wrong in the first attempt. Upon reviewing with my mentors, CR turned out to be the chink in my armour. I revisited my concepts and focused only on CR for a couple of weeks.

But as fate would have it, I developed COVID 3 days before my second attempt. The deadline for my first application was just a month away now. I needed to take the exam as soon as I could.

I took the exam just 7 days after testing negative for COVID. I remember taking paracetamol during the break given between the exam. I managed to score a 750.

Application experience

I was quite confused at the beginning of the application process. No one in my close friends or family had applied to international business schools. I started researching the basic application process and eligibility criteria.

I was suddenly bombarded with a mountain of questions –

  • Will a three-year degree be acceptable at business schools?
  • How will I be able to afford an MBA?
  • Is getting an MiM a better option at the beginning of my career, followed by an MBA later?
  • Does my profile stand any chance with applicants having IIT and McKinsey on their resumes?
  • And most importantly – Is getting an MBA coherent with my long term goal of setting up my own venture?

I knew I needed help. So I started hunting for the best consultant for ISB YLP.

Best consultant for ISB YLP

There are many consultants who focus on ISB YLP. But how does one decide which one’s the best?

Word of mouth referral from a trustworthy source can help here.

One of my acquaintances referred to Mr Shantanu Joshi from MBA Crystal Ball. Shantanu fitted my expectations just right.

In our first call, we had an elaborate discussion on my motivations to pursue an MBA. We brainstormed on the multiple possible career paths that I could carve with or without an MBA.

He asked me those right questions, which at the moment I had no answers to, but were essential in shaping up my MBA applications.

Why international business schools? Why not give CAT and get into IIMs?

Here’s the thing. I want to pursue a career in renewable energy. I’m fascinated by the process of generating energy and the impact it has on human civilization.

This, coupled with such magical theories as each building being a micro-grid generating enough electricity to power itself by Professor Jeremy Rifkin in his book “The Third Industrial Revolution” cemented my interest in working to provide equitable access to distributed renewable energy.

Now, renewable energy, and especially solar energy, is a particular nascent industry. There is a huge scope of learning from our European counterparts who have cracked strategies to execute this vision.

Hence, understanding successful policies and business approaches at European or American energy companies made a lot of sense.

At first, I tried my chances at international business schools. I understood that I had very slim chances. But I saw this as my first shot at my dream school, without having to pay the application fees (deferred MBA applications are generally free of cost).

For international schools, I decided to work with an international consultant, given that they had adcom members of my dream school in their strategy team.

Yet another questionable decision of my life – I jumped into getting expensive consulting based on the assumption that adcom members will help me draft a winning application without checking my compatibility with the mentors.

I applied to 8 international schools – HBS, Kellogg, Columbia, Booth, Darden, IESE, MIT Sloan and Yale.

Each application was a long, tiresome process of:

  • Going through the school’s website with a fine-tooth comb.
  • Figuring out what excites me about this particular school (clubs, special networks, alum network, curriculum, professors etc).
  • Connecting with the school alums and current students through LinkedIn or e-mail.
  • Scheduling meetings with them to understand particular resources at each school which will be beneficial in my career path.

But more than that, I wanted to understand the culture and environment of each school. I was more excited to know about the Tech Treks that Darden students organize, or the dance battles by the Hudson river organised by Columbia Business School students during their orientation week.

To my surprise, I got interview calls from Columbia, Booth and Darden. But after being waitlisted by Darden for 2 months, I was finally rejected at all 8 schools. (rejected by 4 schools on the same day!)

In retrospect, I believe there were two major reasons why my application didn’t make the cut.

Firstly, I had not done enough in the field of renewable energy at the time of my applications, hence I could not show my interest in the field that I was passionate about through my work experience.

Secondly, I fell prey to following a template in my interviews. I had answers prepared to – Why MBA? Why Columbia? What are your short term and long term goals?

Though these answers were not mechanical and were mostly conversational, I believe that pre-written answers limited the scope of opening up casual conversations with my interviewer.

The second round for ISB was in August. This gave me a much-required breather for 3-4 months.

I started working with a clean-tech startup where I learned a lot about the Indian Renewable Energy industry and the specific challenges that it faces based on the demographics, consumer behaviour and government policies.

Within 2 months, my co-founders started giving me leadership positions in the company, where I had to lead a team of 4 interns.

I doubled my company’s ARR within 2 months (it was not a lot, to begin with) and played a pivotal role in finding the product-market fit.

Tackling the ISB YLP essay and interview

I once again reached out to Shantanu from MBA Crystal Ball for his help with my ISB YLP essay.

I loved the way he refined my essay and helped me put a better structure to my writing. By answering the right prompts asked by Shantanu, I sailed through the second round of the admission process.

Now, during my ISB interview in February, I had a lot to talk about the Indian Solar Industry. Having led my company’s Business Development team for about 4 months, I had reasonable insights into team management and leadership qualities.

My interview revolved mainly around pitching the bright future of renewables in India to my interviewers and how my company would play an important role in this. The casual conversation ended with some humbling feedback from the interviewers.

A couple of months later, I was offered a place in the Young Leaders Programme at ISB.

What worked for me?

  1. Having a clear, well-defined problem statement that I want to solve in my career. I am passionate about renewable energy and cleantech. I believe an energy revolution with renewables and smart grids will change the way we think about electricity. And I’m willing to put in the effort of building something that will facilitate this revolution. Show, don’t tell.
  2. Research about the school – not only from the school’s website but also from its students and alums. I spoke with 30+ alums from 8 schools before I put in my applications. There are a lot of things I discovered during these conversations about the schools which made me feel that the school fits right with my expectations
  3. Having an unconventional profile – A Physics honours undergrad, a Hindustani-classically trained vocalist and a theatre enthusiast, who is extremely passionate about Renewable energy (and not MBB!).
  4. Shantanu Joshi and MBA Crystal Ball 🙂

Also read:
All about the ISB PGP Early Entry Option
All about the ISB YLP Young Leaders Program

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Manish Gupta
About Manish Gupta
Chief Consulting Officer at MBA Crystal Ball, ex-McKinsey, IIT & ISB topper. MG can help you get into the top B-schools. Read more about this top MBA admissions consultant. Connect with MG on Linkedin, Facebook or Email: mcb [at] mbacrystalball [dot] com

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