So Where Was I?

Okay! So, as I was recollecting my travelling experiences and preparing a couple of blog posts, I stumbled upon…err no!…a friend stumbled upon me trying to pester him into taking the GMAT. By the time I ended painting the pretty MBA picture he had these words for me – “TLDR bro! put it up on your blog and gimme the link.” My face would have been a resounding :-/ for sure but well, I liked the idea. So here I am trying at it…ahem!

I have recently been accepted to one of the schools of my choice, and long story short, I feel that I have warped through the last year. Such has been the journey till date that for me MBA translates to Most Brain-racking Adventure, and I am yet to join the program. But, weirdly enough, it has already been a rewarding adventure.

First of all, MBA is not the end of this world. You do not have to be one to be successful, be happy or feel respected. So, if you are hell bent on getting an MBA, you should be able to convince yourself of why is it so. A good way to start doing so is to really introspect about what you love about your current job. Once you can figure that out you can unearth the strengths you use most of the time. Next think about what your ideal job could be and see how that differs from your current job. If the differences lie in maximizing or building on your current strengths, you may not need an MBA to start doing that. However, if you can identify elements missing in your skill set, you may need to develop new ones. An MBA can certainly help in that regard; if and only if what an MBA gives you and what you are looking for are a perfect match. Else it’s a futile effort of matching a triangle with a square.

Once you are convinced that an MBA is the way to go the first hurdle is the GMAT. I have heard people spending enormous amount of time not on the exam per se, but on a ridiculously high number of preparatory materials. The flow of action should be – get the basics right, practice until satisfied, take a few mock exams to see if you are where you want to be and minor tweaks thereon. This does not necessarily mean poring over millions of pages of practice material. Plan your preparation wisely. The MBA journey begins sooner than you think.

The actual task begins once you have a GMAT score in your pocket. The first thing one should understand is that GMAT is but one part of an enormous data set that any school evaluates. So there is no need to break your head over it. It should just act as a marker as to where you stand and which colleges you may apply to. The only consideration here should be that you should not apply to a college where the GMAT score will become an eliminating factor. As long as that is taken care of you should be fine.

So now, you have a GMAT score and you know a bunch of colleges you can/ may apply to. The most difficult part begins…

Read as much as possible about the colleges you are targeting. The sheer amount of information available through their websites is staggering and can get easily overlooked. Once you religiously go through them, you will start zeroing in on the colleges that really attract you. 20 or so colleges will quickly become 10. At this stage it is important to understand how each college is different from any other. Keeping a list of attributes/ things you like about a college will help with that. The subtle differences between the colleges are the basics on which you will start building your resumes, essays and interview responses. Colleges love to know that the candidate has done his/ her research.

A parallel activity will be honest and prolonged introspection. This takes a lot of time, and I mean…a lot of time. To answer simple questions like “why MBA?”, “why xyz college?” etc. you will end up spending days if not weeks. Do not rush through as this is critical to your success. Only when you are aware of the colleges’ slightest differences, unique strengths and your own purpose can you relate to each college meaningfully, and that attachment gets highlighted all throughout the application.

A few things to take care of at this stage-

  • DO NOT use the same resume or essay replies for all. Each college is unique and so should your responses be. Try and see which of your qualities/ accomplishments align to the values and mission of a college and frame your written responses accordingly.
  • Avoid redundancy – DO NOT repeat the same stories across resume, essays etc. unnecessarily. Try and give a fuller picture by sharing multiple experiences. Make it interesting for people who are going to read it, and do put in considerable effort on the resume – the first material they see. The first impression is a make or break for all.
  • Get your written stuff reviewed by a few people who can give ruthless, unbiased feedback. Small failures in front of them will translate into success in front of the admissions committee. In this regard seeking help from a professional consultant may be of help as he/ she has gone through this cycle many times in the past, and so comes equipped with invaluable insights.

Once, you have gone through the above stages the application is complete. Hopefully after a brief wait you will bag a number of interview calls. That means the colleges will be happy to have you – you have passed the minimum requirements. Now, the only catastrophe that may happen is you messing up your own opportunities – an admit offer is yours to lose at this stage. Be calm and confident, as in any interview, and continue building on your college research and you should sail through.

A few things to take care of at this stage-

  • Know your resume better than you know your own name. A resume is the foundation of all interviews, and so understand what you are trying to convey – prepare anecdotes and stories to corroborate and substantiate each point.
  • Know the college and its MBA program better than ‘them’. Your best friend here? Google.
  • Connect with current students and alumni to get their perspectives. Not all experiences have been captured digitally. A phone call can do wonders.
  • Keep your responses concise and to the point, however, do not be robotic. Engage in a conversation as you would with a friend. The interviewers are giving you time to let yourself in. They are friendly.
  • Know your interviewer before he/she knows you. This may not always be possible. But whenever it is, a little research can help you frame relevant questions to ask – makes the interviewer happy.
  • Do not panic. No matter what. A question has stumped you? Relax. The interviewer is not running away. Breathe, take your time and your brain will do the rest.
  • The interviewer wants to know you. And you know yourself the best in this whole wide world. So you will always have the advantage. Be confident.

I am sure there’s plenty more advice one can give to any aspirant. What I wanted to show is that the advice is more common sense than anything else. I hope they make sense and that they help you. Lastly, you managed to read all of the above. Ah! You have what it takes to crack the code – patience. You are all set 🙂

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