Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Business school selection and why I chose IESE Business school

Recently in an earlier post I had a chance to receive a lot of feedback on what should i blog about in my subsequent posts. This post is to address a suggestion from a reader named Jeffrey who suggested that that i write about my reasons for selecting the schools that I applied to. I also thought I'll add why I chose IESE Business school in the end.

Before I selected my schools, I did some self-reflection on what I want from a business school. I had written about it in a post called Selecting Business schools. At that time, one thing was clear to me - I did not want to go to a US Business school. Now don't get me wrong; MBA was invented by the Americans, and US has great b-schools. But after studying, living and working in the US for a considerably long time, I wanted to experience something different - something that would add a significant weight to my overall profile; something that would make me my profile more international.

There were two options in front of me - Asia and Europe, and honestly at the beginning of the admissions process I was really eager to study in Asia. But at a later stage, I realized the importance of diversity and how a diverse network can radically impact one's profile. European schools are the champs when it comes to diversity. For example, IMD in Switzerland has a class of about 100 students of which about 95% of the students are international and they come from about 50 different countries. Now isn't that awesome! But this did not keep me from applying to Asian schools. I applied to a bunch of them. I got rejected from a few hkust and got accepted to a few NUS.

The other reason why I was not drawn to Asian schools, as much I was towards IESE, was the feedback that i got from students and alumni. I felt that the atmosphere there is more competitive and less collaborative. Now this is not at all uncommon in Asia and my asian friends would agree here with me. MBA is Asia is relatively new but is definitely growing at a rapid pace. I think in a few years Asian schools would become as international (student diversity) and as collaborative as the European and American (diversity - nah!) b-schools. But for now that did not work for me.

I also applied to a business school in China - Tsinghua University and which btw is considered the MIT of China. I did a tremendous amount of research and homework on this, as you can imagine, studying in a country like China can be quite intimidating for a non-chinese. The school was suggested by one of my mentors. I even started learning mandarin for that. But again, I learnt from students and alumni that I definitely had to struggle and work enormously if i wanted to establish a career in China! So even after being interviewed by the school, i dropped the idea. (On a side note: Mandarin is a brilliant language and i recommend everyone to try to learn it. There are very few languages with as much cultural tie-up as Mandarin).

Now to the million dollar question - Why did I choose to apply to IESE?
Here are my top 5 reasons:

1. Diversity - IESE is an international program with a diverse student body. Students come from around 55 different countries and from various fields - from fashion designing to biomedical engineering.

2. Reputation - Isn't that obvious? well ofcourse but I am not the person who just goes by rankings. High rankings are good but they are even better if it fits your need!

3. Location - The first country I took off my list of places where I could do my MBA was Canada. Why? Because its cold. I am not a fan of chilly winters and even living in NJ for the past 5 years have not made me appreciate it. So for a person who loves warm places and loves beaches - Barcelona is a dream.

4. Student community - Of the b-school student community that i've interacted with there was no school with such an active and helpful student community as that of IESE. They were always ready to talk and ready to help.

5. Case Study Method - IESE is a case study based school which means that at least 80% of the classes are case-based. I love case studies and i would prefer it any day over a boring lecture! But in order to be 100% sure I attended a sample case study presentation organized by the school and needless to say I was sold!

One additional reason: The Assessment day - The AD was an event that has become a part of IESE's admissions process since 2008. I thoroughly enjoyed the event and was rather impressed by the measures that the school took to make sure they have a great incoming class. The day screamed of team work and collaboration. This was the day that i decided that if i get admitted I'm going to IESE.

So that was my b-school selection story. I would also love to hear yours, if you have already selected your schools or would love to hear your reasoning if you are in the process of selecting b-schools. So go ahead and post your views or stories in the comment section.

Cheers and have a great rest of the week!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Thanks everybody - Now MoMA is 15000 strong!

I wanted to take this time to thank all you readers for your readership and for the trust you have showered upon me. Now this blog has passed 15,000 visits!

This blog has been an integral part of me throughout my MBA application journey. In the last post I was able to get some smashing feedback from you guys as to what you all like to read and one popular feedback was to continue blogging. I take this not as a compliment to my writing skills but as the trust and relationship I've developed over the past year with you people across the globe. Thank you once again for that!

Now at this point of blog's life, allow me to present to you some fun facts:

1. Total visits since Feb, 2009 - 15,0000

2. Top 3 most popular posts:
3. Top 3 referring sites:
4. Top keywords on google leading to my blog:
  • hari for mba
  • IESE Assessment Day
  • Preparing for admissions interview
  • gmatfix review
5. Top 5 countries from where my visitors come from:
  • USA
  • India
  • Singapore
  • UK
  • Canada
6. Total number of countries from where my visitors come from: 104 countries

7. Month with the most number of visitor till date: February, 2010 (Thats when i got my admit:)

8. Approximately, 30% of my total traffic are non-referral, i.e., they directly come to the website!

I would once again like to thank you for your readership and I hope continue to connect with you through the word of mouse!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Life post admit..

...is pretty good, I should say. There are just so many things happening so fast. The most important of all is The Big Move!

I've been in the US for 5 years now and I enjoyed my time. A nice job, a decent car, the steady income, partying with friends - all this is going to come crashing down in a matter of weeks now. I'm quitting my job and moving back to India to spend some time with my family. The thought of the move, gives me nightmares. There are just so many things to do such as pay off credit cards, sell my stuff -my car especially, meet atleast ten thousand people to say good bye and wow I have 4 weeks to do that! But anyways, there is always a sweet pleasure in all this as there is something to look forward to - the change that i wanted.

On another note, last Monday I was like a kid in a chocolate factory jumping up and down. I got my brand new macbook and my android phone. The gadget freak that i am, I was on them till 2 in the morning. :)

Oh btw, I need your help on one thing. Please answer one question of mine. Thats it. Just one question and here it is - "What do you want me to write about?"
I thought instead of going on a clueless ranting spree, I should ask you guys what would you like to read? Anything relating to Business, management, MBA, GMAT, Application, Interview, technology, gadgets, books, life in the US, relocation or whatever you would like to read. So post your suggestions/questions/queries on the comment section below and I'll do my best to offer my views on the same in the form of a post. Thanks guys, appreciate it.

Take care.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Is my GMAT score good enough?

Of all the emails that I've received in the past few months, the most common questions that I'm being asked by applicants are - How good is my GMAT score? Will I get into XYZ business school with a xx0 score? and What GMAT score do i need if I want to be accepted by ABC business school?

So instead of repeating the same response, I thought I'd put out a post for the benefit of all the applicants. What all these questions really point to is the burning doubt in the minds of thousands of applicants about the weightage of their GMAT scores. Here are some of the points that I feel would be important in judging your score:

1. Is my GMAT score important? Yes it is. Business schools were having a hard time evaluating the applicants' ability to handle the rigor of an MBA curriculum. Hence the GMAT was born. GMAT provides a universal scale to evaluate the quantitative and verbal ability of a candidate and this would help the schools understand whether the candidate would be suitable for their course. Now as competition went up the scores of applicants applying to top schools went up to. But still the GMAT serves the very same purpose even today and that is to evaluate the candidates academic potential. So yes GMAT is important.

2. But really, how important is the score? I would say if your academic history does not illustrate a good level of your quantitative or verbal (English) ability then it becomes more important. For example, lets consider an applicant with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Obviously its hard to illustrate his/her ability to perform complex calculations through his/her academic coursework. Hence GMAT becomes a great medium to just do that - show the schools that the applicant is in fact capable of sailing through the MBA curriculum.

3. Is my GMAT score low? It depends on what you consider a poor score. I've come across candidates who consider 650 a poor score. A score such as this is actually pretty good. If you have taken several quant courses in the past and have a good level of English ability then a 650 shouldn't stop you from applying to the schools on your wishlist. But be aware that if you are applying to a top school there will be applicants with much higher score. So the million dollar question in fact would be, "what have I got to offer to the school that others haven't?" All things considered a score of 600+ should be a decent score that will prove to the school that you will be able to handle the curriculum.

4. How do i evaluate my score with respect to the applicant pool at a school? There are several ways to do that. One way is to check the schools' website and analyse the "student profile". Most b-school post a page on their website that shows the students' profile for the current intake. This will give you two very useful data - the mean GMAT score of the current intake and the top 80% GMAT range. The mean tells you the average GMAT score of all the applicants who got accepted, and the 80% range tells you the range of GMAT scores that are mostly accepted. So for example, if a school shows its 80% range as 580 to 680, it means that 80% of the accepted students' GMAT scores falls within this range. So if your score falls within the range, your GMAT score will not keep you from admittance. The only other possibility is if your score falls above the range in which case you are a great candidate for the school based on GMAT and if you score falls short; but you have a brilliant profile then you could still stand a chance.
Also another aspect to note is that if your GMAT score is equal to or over the mean then you need not worry about your score at all. But if your score is much below the mean say 590 as per the above example then you might need to provide further evidence of your academic potential - just to be safe!
BTW did you know that Harvard's 80% GMAT score range is between 580 and 780, which means people with 580 and even lower have got into HBS and there is a rumor that once Stanford rejected all applications with a perfect 800 score!

5. Can I overcome a low GMAT score? Of course you can! I stand as proof of this. If your score is below the school's typical intake score, you might still stand a chance. If you have a technical background, or have taken many quant courses in the past, or have extensive industry expertise or significant work experience, or have recently taken professional or quantitative courses, or are simply a brilliant candidate with an unusual profile that the school can't let go off - then don't loose hope you still can make it. In my case, my GMAT score was below the school's typical intake but I used the essays to emphasize my 6 years of technical education (engineering) and 4 years of technical work experience. Use the optional essays to your advantage to show the schools that GMAT might not be a proper indicator of your intellectual potential. A strong undergraduate GPA is another potential weapon to over power a low GMAT. Do you think a school will doubt a candidate's ability to handle their curriculum, if he/she has a 4.0 GPA? I don't think so.

So there you go, my 2 cents on GMAT scores. If you think I left out on any important aspect of evaluating the GMAT please do comment below or email me at hari4mba@gmail.com with your query/comment and I'll update this post with additional data.

Rocky was kind enough to share 2 very important pointers regarding GMAT score - thanks!. Here they are for the benefit of all:
1. A good GMAT score can be a differentiating factor for scholarships: This is very true as most scholarships are awarded on a merit basis and GMAT forms one of the important criteria for this. So if you are looking for a scholarship its best to get a high score or apply to a school where your score lingers around the top of the typical GMAT intake range.

2. Consulting firms might ask for GMAT scores when applying for a job: This falls into the gray area between fact and myth. Although i know of many consulting companies (some of the big ones) that explicitly ask for a GMAT score, many schools restrict companies from asking this to its students when they come for on-campus interviews. Be aware that what happens outside the school is not a area where b-schools have a say in. So, this goes to prove that your GMAT score might be important not only for b-school application but for future job applications as well.