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How to manage the stress of MBA applications

Posted: April 29th, 2019, 8:40 pm
by MBACrystalBall
What’s the most stressful part of MBA applications? You might say GMAT exam preparation, TOEFL test, writing good MBA essays, convincing recommenders…or all of the above.

These are all phases where you are actually doing something. What happens when you’ve hit the ‘Submit MBA Application‘ button or after you’ve just completed your MBA interview? Does your tension and stress go away? Hah, wishful thinking!

With nothing else to do, but wait for the all powerful MBA admissions committee to decide your fate, the mind goes into overdrive. For many that’s the most difficult part of the MBA admissions process.

Rajesh Ramanna chose to jump into the fray in the last admission round for INSEAD (which invariably means another generous helping of stress). He explains how he managed his stress and retained his Zen-like expressions throughout the gruelling admissions process.
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How to manage stress during MBA applications
by Rajesh Ramana

Who you are in life, is dictated by the decisions you make on where to invest your time and effort. Let me explain what you will get by investing the next 10 minutes of your life reading this blog and you decide if you wish to carry on.

If you’ve come here, you are either thinking about or are in the process of applying to the top ranked business schools, I was too until a few months ago. Back then I spoke to a number of people and read through forums and blogs of others B-school applicants; and I found many of them drowning in stress.

I myself, managed to remain relatively calm throughout the application and waiting for the result phases. I realize that my success in getting into a top b-school (INSEAD) and remaining stress-free during that phase can be attributed to a certain mindset and some good decisions that I took. This mindset can be learned by anyone including you.

Read on if you wish to understand this mindset along with snippets of my own life story depicting my decisions in life.

A Brief Pre-MBA Background

I belong to the most common and competitive MBA applicant pool – Indian, male, engineer. My choices of becoming an engineer and pursuing an MS were dictated by my family and popular trends in society at the time. While doing an MS in the US, however, I decided to stop pursuing popular trends and do things that would set me up to do what I really cared for.

I thought deeply about what really mattered to me and was able to narrow down on solving problems and working to improve people’s health. Luckily the openness of studying in New York exposed me to a variety of options both in school and outside to be able to make this decision.

I chose to join management consulting to understand how businesses and organizations function and chose to focus on the healthcare industry. A few years on when I felt I was ready to augment my theoretical learning with ground realities, I chose to return to India and join a healthcare NGO working in rural India.

Using this learning I narrowed in on various pressing problems in healthcare that needed a solution. I then went on to create a solution for diabetes management using technology and founded a company to promote it. We tied up with a number of hospitals, NGOs, pharmacies, doctors etc. to promote our offering.

Despite our product’s clinical success, we were unable to reach the projected direct-to-customer user numbers set by our board. A decision was made to roll-off the company. I managed to find a buyer in a reputed hospital to carry on using the product and taking it to a larger audience with their brand backing.

MBA Application Journey

As the transfer of our company to the buyer was going through, I had to sit back and think about what next to do in life.

I was clear about my long-term goal of starting a second venture to solve problems in healthcare. Among the different routes I saw of getting there was an MBA from a reputed institute.

The timing of this decision was in mid-July and I had just two weeks to prepare an application for the INSEAD FINAL ROUND. INSEAD January batch was one of the few options I had without having to wait too long before starting b-school.

MBA Crystal Ball Review

I researched online and spoke to a few MBA consultants to help with my application. Most were apprehensive of the short time period and on my insistence on applying to just one school.

When I spoke with Manish, he asked me if I was sure of this decision. My answer to this was “See I clearly know why I want an MBA and have to put that into my essay. If I don’t get into INSEAD then I’ll work on reaching my goal without an MBA.”

Despite the timelines being challenging Manish responded “I’ll need 100% cooperation and quick turnarounds from you. If you are willing to, then let’s do it.”

MBA Crystal Ball was kind enough to offer me a tailored application program to accommodate the challenging timeline. Manish’s feedback on what aspects of my experience to highlight in the essays was instrumental in my acceptance. He was also very responsive on his part to ensure the reviews reached me in time.

Post MBA Application Submission Phase & The ‘Mindset’

I had approached the MBA application as a means to achieving my larger goal in life. This made my entire application process fairly straightforward as I could connect an MBA specifically with how it would help me achieve my goal.

During the process of waiting for the results too, I continued to do things to achieve my larger objective in life. In my mind this made the MBA a good to have and helpful step, but, not the be all of life. This made my wait for the results stress free.

MBA Application Tips to Reduce Stress

To you as an MBA applicant I would offer the following suggestions:

1. Take some time off and think about what you really want to do in life before you start your MBA application. I think this is a good time to introspect and your life may take a completely new and positive turn.

2. Think again if an MBA is really needed to achieve this larger goal that you really care for. If it is, try to articulate how and why?

3. Then go about selecting a good MBA consultant. When I started I was clear on what I wanted to write, despite this fact, Manish and I still made many impactful changes to the essays.

An important note in selecting a good MBA consultant in India (or USA or elsewhere) – speak to them on the phone before you decide. Explain your specific goals and hear out what they have to say. Make sure you will be comfortable working with this person. Many times even the best MBA consultants (based on popular perception) may not be the type of people you’d be comfortable working with.

4. Get the apps in on time. Get them done early if possible so you’ll have plenty of time to make final changes.

5. After the apps are done, carry on working towards your goal like you didn’t even apply to b-school. If it happens, good, if not, fine. It’ll be a stress free phase if you follow this.

Good luck and Enjoy your app journey!

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As you might’ve guessed, it’s about managing the stress, not eliminating it. A little bit of stress is good to keep you on your toes and push you to give your best. Hope you can use some of the application tips shared by Rajesh.

All the best with your MBA applications. We’d love to host your success story here soon.