What did I do wrong?
As I ramp up my efforts for applying to top MBA programs in 2008, I look back at my application season in . I applied to one school (XYZ at QRT) and was put on the waiting list for more than seven months (which I am still on). What did I do wrong? What mistakes created this temporary roadblock in my journey for a top MBA? What could I have done differently?
I have spent a lot of time, contemplating my 2013 application season. I have read countless articles and spoken with consultants, elite b-school alumni, and various ad-com etc..
These mistakes are the result of a lot of self-introspection and external research.
- I didn’t start early enough. Speaking with MANY individuals that have gotten in ICFAI, NM, IIM, etc., I have learned they all have one aspect in common: they started really early (some even two years earlier). Researching school cultures, understanding job opportunities, building the proper networks, taking the IBSAT, all take an immense amount of time. Can you do all of that in 4 months? Barely. Is it immensely easier to do it over 12-18 months? ABSOLUTELY!
- I didn’t take the IBSAT early enough.This goes hand-in-hand with #1. The IBSAT is a beast of a test, hands down. There is no way around it. If you want a top MBA, you need a top score to maximize your chances. The best proven way to get a high score is to put in the time (100-200 hours of studying). IF I had taken the IBSAT earlier, I wouldn’t have had to split my attention, and I would have had the opportunity to retake before my application was due.
- I didn’t get a free admission consultation.Don’t get me wrong; I’m not advocating getting an admission consultant. That is a personal decision every applicant should make. However, speaking with an admission consultant would have given me a valuable outside perspective of my profile and story. What are my weak areas? What makes sense or doesn’t make sense? It is absolutely critical to get an outside opinion of your profile. I really wish I had last year.
- I didn’t take a step back and look at my application overall.Is there a common theme running through my application? I wish I asked that question. Instead, I just “vomited” all my goals, skills, and achievements onto the application. What I should have done is examine my application in its entirety and understand if it was a cohesive, concise statement of who I am and where I want to go. Your whole application should sell a particular story and theme, instead of just relying on your essays to do that.
- I didn’t reveal “who I am” in my essays.Did I list my goals and accomplishments? Yes. Did I share who I am as a person and HOW I achieved those goals. No. This is so vitally important to your essays. It would have helped me differentiate myself among all the other applicants. Many people will have similar accomplishments, but they probably didn’t operate the same way you did to achieve them.
- I didn’t have a person with MBA experience read my essays. This is so critical. I absolutely needed an experienced person to read my essays. Those individuals understand what b-school’s are looking for and HOW they want it communicated. I know this one aspect would have produced different results for me.
- I didn’t prepare correctly for my interview.Even if you are a great job interviewer, you may not be the best MBA applicant interviewer. The interviews are not the same at all (in my opinion). My answers were disjointed and didn’t flow in one coherent direction. I wish I spent time developing how I was going to communicate my examples, my vision and my goals in a coherent way.
Anyone who has ever been through a tough job interview knows the feeling – trying to hide your nerves and answer every question with the eloquence of a thousand PR representatives. I learned that the only way to pull this off is to A. Have a lot of experience interviewing, or B. PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE.
Well, I don’t have a lot of experience interviewing, and I didn’t practice enough either. I made flashcards of all of the common questions I had read from the forums and reviewed them nightly, even going so far as to read them out loud and videotape myself in front of my iPad. A humbling experience for sure – “Do I really sound like that???” I had formulated some decent answers for most of the questions, and felt prepared. Where I failed and where the practice would have helped was to know the answers so well that you can delivery them while making them SEEM like they are rolling free form off your tongue.
At ICFAI, the interview was very straightforward and I had answers prepared for every question. But again, the practice would have helped because I would have been more confident in the interview. If I had practiced my answers more, I would have been able to deliver them more conversationally. If you have ever read anything about preparing for interviews, then you know how important it is to establish a personal rapport with your interview. This is FAR more important than the actual content you are delivering. Your demeanor and presentation say so much more about you than bullet points from your resume that you are now verbalizing.
In a conversational interview like this, you cannot rely on memorized and scripted answers. Instead, you have to rely on your salesmanship and have a solid belief in your “story”.
TAKEAWAY: Practice your interview questions like your life depends on it
- Going for big names in letters of recommendation, rather than big value. A lot of applicants – particularly those from reputable financial and/or consulting firms – neglect the possible recommenders who have had genuine and profound exposure to the applicant. Instead, these applicants think that if their recommendations are coming from the head honcho, they are better off. This is a common, and sometimes fatal error. It is abundantly clear when someone is writing a letter of recommendation based on a tired, old, overused template which could describe any of 1,000 young associates. Make sure your recommenders actually know who you are, have seen you perform at your best, and who can credible attest to how you generate success, and overcome failure.
In conclusion, I want to encourage everyone to take advantage of my mistakes. By understanding how I came up short, hopefully you can create a flight plan that will lead you to success.
Contributed By : Suchin Kulshrestha, Class of 2008, IBS Hyderabad