Ding and no more

March 8, 2010

It’s not quite a month yet since Feb. 12 2010. Some one referred to it as “Bitter Friday” on one of the forums. That perfectly summarises that day. Thousands of us have now been stranded without an interview invite. The flurry of hitting the F5 key on the 12th gave away gradually to despair, and then [smash!] the dreams broke into a million pieces. For some of us, who have spent well over a year preparing for GMAT and applications, it came as a sad reminder of where we truly stand. For internationals like me trying to make it to a good US school only two things can lead us there – a very strong academic past and dad’s moolah. Sadly I have none. For those who are relying on their ECs and WEs and GMATs to get into HBS, go back to your college transcripts and see if you have a 3.7+ GPA. If not, bury your application and let it rot there.

The saddest thing is to say goodbye to the forums, the blogs, the newsletters, the twitter-feeds, the connections that one has grown used to. There’s no more dreaming of Boston, or New York. No more dreaming of plum consultancy/ finance jobs, no more dreaming of Wall Street/ Manhattan, no more thinking of Porsches, or fine dining at The Pierre. It’s back to the grimy life we’ve been leading before we learnt to dream.

This will be my last post here. This will also be the last post to carry the HBS tag. And I shall bid yet another goodbye – this time to my own blog and twitter feed.

Team Gr8r

December 26, 2009

Today, I’m meeting one of my recommenders in the evening. I’ve been thinking about it since last night. He has been by direct supervisor, my mentor, and knew I’d be applying for an MBA even before I’d told him so. He’s not the only one. All my recommenders are in the same league – supervisors cum mentors who know me so well, and believe in me so much that it is almost humbling. And they have had to take time out of their very busy schedules to read the essays I’ve sent them – one containing interview excerpts of Ms. Leopold, another a write-up of the history of HBS and details of the admission process and student and faculty profiles, and yet another listing the work I’ve done under them. The last essay is totally useless, for they know it all. And then they’ve had to write the recommendations – each 250-word essays.

And they are just one set of people who are helping me through the process.

When I look at the journey I’ve undertaken over the course of … well, over a year now, I have come to understand that I am indebted to a lot many people – my GMAT tutors who prepared me and constantly encouraged me to go beyond what I thought I could achieve, my friends on Beat The GMAT from whom I learnt so much, and who so thoroughly encouraged me through-out the preparation phase, my friends who looked through my essays despite their own busy schedules, current students from HBS who sat down with my essays soon after their first semester exams and gave such incredible feed-back, friends from GMAT Club who form such a great community, and from whom I have learnt so much, people who have guided me to the right materials, given me the right advise, my recommenders, my family, my friends, and strangers.

And I realise just how much it is at once my effort as it is everyone else’s. It is as if I am part of a team determined to get me to my destination – pushing me, guiding me, correcting my course when I go astray. I said earlier that the faith my recommenders have shown on me is humbling; what is even more humbling is the help I have received from others – at times from pure strangers.

I dedicate this post to my ‘team’ – to all of you who have been there and are still there. Because without you, it wouldn’t have been as much fun.

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.

The Digit ‘7’

October 5, 2009

When I went for the GMAT two days back, there were eight people who entered the Pearson Vue center in Delhi, and I was one of them. I was assuming that the number would be a lot less, considering that R1 is already over, and R2 is a long way off. It appears that I’m not the only one to have postponed the GMAT and applications to R2. That would mean that forums like BeatTheGmat will continue to be buzzing with activity for at least a few of the coming months.

This post is about online forums, BeatTheGmat (BTG) in particular, and particularly about the posts at the I-Beat-The-GMAT (or equivalent) section in such forums. I have always faced a certain disquiet reading about the experiences of test takers who have scored 700 and above; not because I thought it to be personally unattainable, but because the sheer number of people who appear to score a 700 and above appeared to be a bit too large. In fact, very few posts, even today, on BTG actually talk of a sub-700 score. So, I began to wonder if a 700 and above score was normal, and if that was the way things are.

I am not aware of the percentage of test takers who get a 700 or more in GMAT in a particular year. Perhaps a reader of this blog with the figures can educate me on that. But if I were to believe to what is there on the forums, it would seem that the percentage would be pretty big. Almost as if, anything below a 700, and you’ve failed.

It took me a while to realise that a person receiving a sub-700 score would not write about it in forums. There are a few stories from sub-700 score receivers, and very inspirational ones, but for the most part they tend to stay off, striving till they have received a 700 and above score before they post their experiences. What this does, is it creates a false feeling that a 700 and above score is the norm, and that anything below it either does not exist or is totally unacceptable.

I think moderators need to address this issue, and bring about a parity in the scores posted on their forums. It will lessen a lot of heartbreak among test takers who have now come to believe that they have failed in their efforts if they have a sub-700 score. To be honest, even I thought the same, and it took me a lot of self reasoning to make myself understand and accept the fact that not everyone gets an 800 and similarly not everyone gets a 700 and above score.

[Disclaimer: I scored a 700.]

A quick word about shifting grains from chaff.

June 17, 2009

A quick word about shifting grains from chaff. The Internet, I’ve come to notice, is flooded with mostly well-meaning individuals and associations who advise and opine on issues plaguing most MBA applicants — the GMAT, the essays, the LoRs. I must thank them for their time and their inputs, but it appears that the challenge I face is having to differentiate advice from opinion. The flood of suggestions is a queer mix of those coming from admits, applicants and consultants. Out of the three sets, the first and the last are usually advices; the middle set is almost always opinion. All applicants are really in the same boat with or without the leak. Of course, sometimes it does occur that an applicant has a good idea — a way to proceed, but more often it is an opinion which does not have any value for me.

An admit can say what worked for him/her; a consultant is usually only cryptic, and forums are littered with people tossing in their 2 cents which are usually worth just as much. In such a scenario, it pays to listen carefully to what’s been said and determine if the inputs are advices or opinions. I think it was Aristotle who said, “It is a sign of an educated mind that can entertain a thought, but without actually accepting it.”