Experts’ Global: Hi Keerthi, thanks for making the time to speak with us! Could you share your story in your words?
Keerthi: For me, the GMAT preparation itself was a lengthy process. I had significant experience in project management and business analysis, and was working in a finance role when I decided to take the MBA leap and begin my GMAT studies. After nine years as a professional, getting back to academics was a challenge. It took me six months to get the GMAT done and I got a 680 on the same.
Experts’ Global: In your opinion, what factors made all the difference?
Keerthi: Deciding that I wished to have a career evolution and enter a more profound leadership role was the first step. Greater self-reflection made it clear that an MBA was the best accelerator for my ambitions.
I went on to create a roadmap for how to proceed. This helped me stay focused throughout my MBA prep, as I did not really have a GMAT online course or anything of the sort to refer to in idle moments and so I had to make the most of my pre-decided study time daily. Perseverance even during the applications stretch, and working in tune with the deadlines for each of my target schools’ round one admission processes was also vital.
Experts’ Global: What part of the GMAT did you find most difficult and how did you overcome the challenge therein?
Keerthi: I had been good at maths throughout my life, but Verbal was tough. Sentence Correction was easier because the grammatical rules I had to apply were apparent, but Critical Reasoning presented issues. I tried to approach this issue the same way I would a math problem. I began to try out different strategies to improve my performance on Critical Reasoning questions, and with trial and error, worked out what gave me the best results. Practicing regularly but also being quick to change a strategy that is not working for you is necessary.
Experts’ Global: How was your experience with applying to business schools and what things did you do correctly to secure your admit?
Keerthi: I began my application process independently and applied to several Indian MBAs. While I was able to secure interview calls, I could not get any admits. This was a blessing in disguise as I thereafter realized that I wanted an international MBA experience, with a cohort comprising a wider range of professionals. Thus, with the help of MBA admissions consultants Experts’ Global, I began to dig deeper into the MBA admissions process. Starting off with introspection, I gradually built a story that showcased my achievements, USPs, and lessons from failure.
Research into what schools offered the best return for my profile, and the best way forward for me to realize my career goals helped me better select my targeted programs. Thereafter, working on the application essays was a difficult yet creative stage. Redrafting them was a regular practice, and quite rewarding as well.
Experts’ Global: With what area of the application process did you struggle the most and how did you overcome the difficulty therein?
Keerthi: The essay drafting part of the applications was quite challenging. Writing authentic essays requires you to think about your past, and as someone who is always forward-looking, this was a new experience. The actual act of sitting down and writing your thoughts is also taxing, and putting together the fruits of your self-reflection in an engaging manner requires multiple drafts. The MBA interviews were also challenging, as I had only been in interviews for technical jobs before, and the questions I had encountered therein were very different and straightforward.
Experts’ Global: What lessons did you take away from managing the application timelines?
Keerthi: As a person who prefers to undertake big steps in life in a planned fashion, I reinforced the importance of timelines for myself during the application process. Even beyond the application deadlines for your targeted schools, following a timeline of your own and setting milestones that you adhere to while working on different application materials is a good practice. This will also allow you to complete the first iteration of your materials with enough time to spare for revisions and redrafts so that you can further optimize your chances of admissions success.
Experts’ Global: What common mistakes should all GMAT and MBA aspirants avoid?
Keerthi: Make sure to use all the materials at your disposal, especially if you are taking help with your GMAT prep. In particular, make sure to treat the official material from the GMAT website as your north star. Taking GMAT mocks regularly is also necessary. Further, you have to take full responsibility to push yourself and improve your aptitude for the GMAT in order to score better. If you are taking coaching for the exam, do not be complacent and demand external motivation to get better.
Even during the MBA, there is no guarantee that you will be placed, and you will need to drive your own success. Being on point with your self-imposed deadlines is also necessary. This will free you up to review and reflect on each part of your application journey, be it the GMAT, the essay drafting, or the MBA interview itself.
Experts’ Global: How was your MBA interview experience?
Keerthi: As I mentioned previously, I was not used to the kind of reflective questions one encounters in MBA interviews. Thus, my MBA interview prep included formulating answers to commonly asked questions, practicing my body language while answering, and refining my responses and delivery to be engaging. Taking regular mock interviews with Experts’ Global also helped me get in the right frame of mind.
Thereafter, I had a three-step interview process. The first one was with an admissions team member, who asked me regular questions about my career drive and my reasons to pursue an MBA. I then had to complete a video interview for which I was given a prompt on the spot and had to record a two-minute answer. The final interview was a relatively brief interaction with an alum, which was more of a confirmation that I was getting an admit!
Experts’ Global: What was your MBA experience like?
Keerthi: My MBA experience was defined in some part by the earliest decisions I made, in terms of shortlisting certain schools. My immersion at EDHEC placed me in a smaller MBA cohort that allowed for greater ease of relationship-building with all my peers. The school also has faculty with a great deal of finance expertise, and I learned much from all my professors there.
The kind of research in progress at the school was quite informative, and the team-driven pedagogy in the classroom taught me much. All of my team members were from different cultures and functional backgrounds, and seeing each one’s unique work ethos transformed my perspective.
Experts’ Global: How was your post-MBA job search and what advice do you have for other applicants about the same?
Keerthi: You need to have the same mindset that you have during the MBA application process. You also need to learn how to sell your story, and remain truthful to yourself and your strengths at the same time. In my case, I began looking for a job in the middle of my MBA, in the summertime. You need to take the time to understand the job market, see what kinds of companies hire international students, and categorize your prospective employers according to your chances of landing a role with each.
Thereafter, networking becomes absolutely essential. Try and build relationships with professionals in your chosen post-MBA domain. Networking is even more important considering that many MBA students are facing a change in role, location, and domain in their post-program employment search. Having a good network to tap into, and being able to get that extra referral or the inside track on a job opening through your contacts can make all the difference.
Being able to deal with rejections is also necessary, because if you apply to 50 companies, maybe five at most will even respond to you. Staying in touch with your school’s career management team can help you stay motivated through this process, and they can help you out with advice on how to craft a better resume, write better cover letters, and answer more convincingly in job interviews.
Experts’ Global: How has the entire pre-application phase contributed to your post-MBA growth?
Keerthi: I am currently in a product management role in a start-up, and my path to this profile was made clear during the first half of my MBA, as I reflected on my goals thereafter. The rigor of my GMAT preparation and the discipline required in the application process helped me adapt to the considerable workload of the MBA itself. I dealt with intensive coursework, group projects, assignments, external club activities, and my networking all within the same year’s span.
I also took a lot from the pre-application preparations into my post-MBA job hunt. Since my program ended, I have switched roles twice, and remain on the lookout for a higher-potential opportunity.
Experts’ Global: What is your final message to the MBA aspirants out there?
Keerthi: Try and enjoy the GMAT prep and application process as much as you can. With your studies, try approaching each aspect of the GMAT syllabus as a rewarding puzzle that you get to figure out. Take a free GMAT practice test when you begin your prep to get a head start on understanding your areas of improvement. Thereafter, practice and self-reflection will carry your momentum forward, and having the flexibility to adapt to changes in the timeline or unexpected circumstances will help you make the most of your MBA admissions attempt!
Experts’ Global: Thank you for sharing your inspiring journey with us today, Keerthi!
Keerthi: It was a pleasure connecting with you!