What’s cooking?

November 19, 2009

Over the last many months a few blogs have been my constant companion. All of them are by HBS students — an Israeli, an American Jew, two Indians and three Americans. And most of these blogs are currently on hibernation. Apart from the usual gossip about happenings in HBS, these blogs are also an excellent source of information about the countries their authors come from and the traditions that they bring with them. It is through these blogs that I was first introduced to pictures of Israel – something I’ve never seen before though ‘Indo-Israeli’ is a term we hear often in my country. And this mild introduction to a country and a culture has been fascinating.

My only experience of Jewish culture has been eating a sumptuous plate of Malawach. I Googled it. It’s a Yemeni dish very popular in Israel. It’s what Indians might loosely refer to as ‘laccha paratha’ — a multilayered wheat flour pancake which, in my case, was stuffed with a lot of cheese and an abundance of olives. It came with a bowl of raw tomato sauce too.

I tried eventually to prepare the dish myself. In Israel one can reportedly find ready-made Malawach which can be quickly slapped around a frying pan and had with the sauce or even boiled egg. I looked up recipes online but mistook flour to mean ‘maida’ which is basically very finely ground flour made from wheat grains whose skin has been scraped off. The result was that what I came up with was a crispy fried ‘namkeen’ – a crisp salty snack, not what the Malawach ought to be.

So my learning of Jewish culture is hopelessly inadequate.

On a side note, I’ve been noticing that the first thing that comes to my mind these days when I think of HBS is not Baker or Aldrich, but Spangler. Is that a cause for concern?

Miracles & Calculations

November 16, 2009

What does it take to be selected to a quality B-school? Forums would have me believe in success stories that are truly inspiring. Forums would want me to believe in numbers that make a difference. Forums would want me to believe that miracles do happen. Do they?

It’s often that I find applicants working out intense calculations on the number of applicants in a particular round, the number of admits, the waitlisted, the ratio of admitted to dinged, the ratio of applicants to those called for interview, the ratio of those interviewed to those dinged. In all, a labyrinth of calculations — done much like a professional gambler — done to determine their chances of getting that coveted call. I’ve read entries of people with sub-700 or even sub-600 GMAT calculating their chances of getting in based on their pool or their WE or their community experiences. I read blogs by sub-600 applicants applying to HBS and disappointed at not receiving an interview invite.

Do miracles happen? Perhaps they do. But it seems to me that the only minor advantage that can make or break an application is not of numbers, but of luck. And luck is not in our hands. I like to tell myself that getting into HBS is 80% luck, 20% hard work and 10% magic. It comes to a 110% and that is what HBS requires. Anything less than that 110% and I can kiss my dreams goodbye. And by the way, the last 10% is what I have to create. It’s a very individual thing.

Calculations can give hope, not results. If one has a sub-par application, he’s not getting in. I would advise myself, and others, not to leave anything to chance. If something can be improved upon, do it. Low GMAT? Retake. Low GPA? There’s nothing you can do; but try to push up the WE and GMAT. Low WE? Don’t apply. It’s that simple.