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.

Beyond the laminated glass

December 21, 2009

Every day, on my way to work, I see people on the sidewalk, I see people hanging off buses, crowding into rickety cabs, on their way to work. Many of them have an education, many don’t. Many have fled the tragic droughts of eastern states, their bank accounts nil, deep in debt with money-lenders forever on the head. They come from places thousands of miles away in search of a living. They toil hard for every scrap of food, every scrap of clothing they can afford, and send what-ever they save back to their villages, back to their sons and daughters, and wife and ailing parents.

And as I look at them I wonder … how many of them have thought of a Harvard education?

There are very few who can think beyond basic necessities. Who have the luxury, if I may call it so, of spending sleepless nights over a GMAT score, fewer who bite their lips over a 700. Even fewer who can think of applying to Harvard for an MBA. The vendor on the side-walk selling his deep fired samosas has not even had an education and perhaps never will.

I must be very ungrateful if I neglect to realise that I am lucky, very lucky indeed, to just be able to prepare my application for an MBA. There is very little that I have done which makes me a candidate. Most, or almost all, of it has been done for me. I salute those who have been accepted to their chosen schools in R1, I salute those who will make it to their choices in R2 and then R3. I must not however forget that there’s a world out there which’d never have a Harvard degree, or even the need for one. And I express my gratitude to HIM for allowing me this opportunity and hope I can make the most of the experience for the benefit of those who haven’t had this opportunity.

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.]

The Chinese Trick

August 8, 2009

Oh Yes! I’m supposed to write something. I just read on http://www.beatthegmat.com about something the Chinese call a ‘JJ’ guide. This, essentially, is a digest of GMAT Quant question which various applicants have encountered in their actual GMAT. It follows the ‘someone-planted-a-tree-for-me-I’ll-plant-a-tree-for-someone’ — a very thoughtful gesture; very useful social co-operation, and an outright cheating mechanism. The debate was furious. Most posters denounced the ‘JJ’ and the original poster. The admin kicked him/her out of the forum, and warned that no copyright violation will be tolerated.

I posted the following:

“It’s very, very tough to prosecute a Chinese entity in China on a suit filed by a non-Chinese entity. The reason is that the Chinese government, whose job it is to prosecute, almost never agrees to whip one of it’s own to please a foreigner. As a lawyer dealing in foreign investment and foreign trade, I’m very wary of the Chinese when it comes to implementation of Chinese law. I remember a colleague talking about an international arbitration case involving a Chinese party and a foreign party. The arbitration award went in favour of the foreign party. Guess what the Chinese did? They just got up and walked away. They knew they would not be prosecuted in China. Of Course, it gets worse. No country can force China to adhere to international laws, or protocols. It’s too big, too powerful, and too important to be bullied. So I doubt if this ‘JJ’ thing will be closed upon international pressure. How about kneeling down and pleading to the Chinese administration to do MBA applicants a huge favour by outlawing the ‘JJ’. But why would they want to when it’s benefiting them?”

Yep, that’s what I’d want to know.

In Response:

July 7, 2009

This is in response to Sophie’s comment on my post “Getting what I paid for.”

In my opinion, the coaching did have an important impact on my preparations: It helped me maintain a certain momentum. Knowing that I would have to be in class every weekend answering questions and competing with fellow classmates meant that I would make sure I was well prepared through the week. I did find the momentum slacking significantly immediately after the end of coaching. With no weekend targets to keep up with, that was natural. It’s only now beginning to climb up.

Further, in addition to giving me a momentum, coaching also provided me with an immense moral support. Knowing that I had help, and knowing that I could get stuck somewhere and be cleared by the faculty was a great moral booster. So, while I still rue not learning the tips/tricks/short-cuts at coaching, it wasn’t a totally wasted affair.

Though it certainly was not the ‘complete package’ as I might have expected it to be at one point.

Getting what I paid for.

July 1, 2009

As a corporate lawyer, my work timings are pretty much at par with those of my professional brethren in New York, London or Hong Kong. Taking a scheduled coaching for GMAT therefore is one of the more demanding of tasks I’ve had to endure during the past few months. Fitting in the meetings, seminars, conferences, appearances, dinner parties, luncheon parties, not to mention work with the coaching schedule was easy. Really, if I can pile in seven, why not one more? But I had to pay a price. In order that I am able to attend the coaching at the time suitable for me, I had to compromise. It seemed like a good deal – INR 17k and flexible timings during the weekends – but the relatively low price tag ought to have raised more red-flags that it did. When others were charging INR 25k-32k (fixed timings), going in to a 17k institute with flexible timings appears a very good bet. After all, GMAT is kid’s stuff, right? Wrong. My trainers apparently thought that GMAT tests only basics and taught me just that – basics, and left out the hints, short-cuts, way-outs, tricks, tactics etc from the syllabus. Those I now have to learn by myself.