The MBA Admission

A consolidation of various “MBA Admission” related posts from my blog

Arun Shiam Kumar Rajamohan

MBA Applications

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Some Useful resources My GMAT Experience To MBA or Not Self-Awareness Decisions Leadership What makes you a unique Applicant? Low Academics Prototype of my MBA Resume Career Goals (Story line) Sample MBA Interview Questions

Some Useful resources ###Check Bookmarks--> MBA App Research for the updated list### Where to start • • • • • • •

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Grammar/Usage Reference

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BSchool Research

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Other Good Sources and Resources

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My GMAT Experience Thought I should write a little on my preparation for GMAT. I am sure no one would ever have had such a strange and sweet experience with the GMAT. Having just graduated, I aspired to attend a Bschool as quickly as possible and attempted at India's most demanding entrance exam: CAT 2005 was a huge flop. Decided to pursue a comprehensive preparation and gave my best shot, the following year. Had joined the test batch series from T.I.M.E and Career Launcher. I understood that both GMAT and CAT were similar in terms of preparation, despite dissimilarities in their patterns. This encouraged me to schedule a GMAT appointment for December, immediately after CAT. Believe it or not, it worked extremely well. I gave no additional efforts, except for understanding the structure and basic patterns in the exam. Princeton review for GMAT is the book that I referenced for both GMAT and CAT. No official guide; No JJs; No 1000 SC/RC/CRs!!! Anyway, managed a score of 730. Final Score: 730/VA: 39/QA: 50/AWA: 4.0 The ideal approach for beginners would be to start with reading experiences of previous GMAT takers posted in and Not everyone gets to follow the same strategy, I would recommend to adopt one strategy that best fits in your abilities. Feel free to review The Communique that I collected whilst preparing for the CAT. Currently, I am in the processes of sending applications to various schools for the fall 2008 cohort. Wishing good luck for all future aspirants!!!

To MBA or Not It’s almost certain that one would find things difficult converting applications to admission offers, if he has no idea of why he needs an MBA. Perhaps, “Why MBA” is the most important question that I had to explain as part of the whole application process. And honestly, entire application process helped me realise my short-term goals and where I should be heading up to. I am sure every MBA aspirant will have great dreams and am no different. Ambitiously, I aspire to establish not for profit ventures and associations, operating similar to those of profit-businesses, but measuring profitability in terms of social impact. I chose a path that allowed me to develop problem-solving skills both as a manager and team player. The General Secretary/transit planning experience at

BITS, co-ordinating of medical camp and sporting events at Oracle offered me priceless value additions to my administrative abilities. My contributions to the social activities group and canteen committee at Oracle, various clubs such as Marketing, Sponsorships, Publications, Correspondence and National Service scheme at BITS provided me plenty of opportunities to work as a team. The database administrator career offered me invaluable experiences on prioritising tasks, resource allocation, client interaction (requirements understanding, data analysis, solution proposal, negotiation, implementation, etc) and managing information. I picture myself with certain business skills and now, I lacked a fundamentals-toolkit that will help me build frameworks to counter business problems. I believe that MBA is the best available enhancement to supplement my skills, at this time of my career to make the most of unforeseen opportunities. Given that I do not have a previous business experience, I intend to take up management consulting as a strategic career step immediately after my MBA. I believe that researching and implementing solutions across cross-functional issues will add tremendous experience in terms of having a mindset to run an organization. As part of various consulting assignments, I look forward to cultivate potential contacts and this will have straight significances in advancing me to my second strategic career phase: A top-level position in a small/medium or entrepreneurial venture. Focusing on multiple business units, as a leader, will help me learn to discover opportunities, formulate strategy and manage risks. This will be the final cog in the wheel, before I make my mark in the entrepreneurial and eventually social entrepreneurial arena. I have had many shortterm goals that eventually evolved all the way, however, my long-term ambition has been the same. “Why MBA” question, in actuality, turned out to be “Why not an MBA”

Self-Awareness This is the second most important (next to “why MBA”) question that an MBA aspirant needs to work on for a powerful application. It’s imperative that he relates a common theme across his strengths, past experiences, current experience, MBA, career immediately post MBA and career long-term post MBA. To me, this selfrealisation helped me identify the right kind of schools that could fit into my experiences and aspirations. For example, I understood that I am more of a “learn by doing” kind of a guy. Accordingly, I was obsessed with schools that operate CaseMethod as the primary teaching style than the Lecture-based style. Unquestionably, it’s essential that an applicant clearly articulates and demonstrates past successes in the application, but make sure that it doesn’t sound arrogant. Talking too much of successes can apparently have an egotistical tone, but sticking to the central theme of relating past successes to future goals, can significantly reduce the “overconfident” factor. On the other end, being over modest can sometimes provoke you disregard potential successes, which is again a bother. Make sure to maintain a good mix of both "Marketing" and "Modesty" and not "Exaggeration".


Everyone has great dreams and ambitions, but not everyone has a structured game plan. I accept that given the unpredictability of the environment surrounding us, it’s practically impossible to formulate “the ideal strategy”. But, in my humble opinion, this is never an excuse for not planning short-term objectives that could eventually lead towards achieving one’s ambition. The best way to start organising future goals could be, perhaps, to start thoroughly researching the past successes, failures and more importantly the decisions that we experienced. One thing people would be surprised to know about me is that I am ‘a Civil Engineer and a Chemistry Graduate’ by qualification, ‘Oracle Database Administrator’ by profession but now, aspiring to become an MBA. I simply perceive these career changes as just advancements and I consider that I have been hitting my priorities right. I intend to comprehend my full potential in every aspect of my professional career; consequently, my short-term goals have been evolving over the years. However, my long-term dream has remained the same. In my second year of college, I decided to leave behind the civil/chemistry academia and focus on IT skills to become a DBA. It is not unusual for engineers with non-computer science background to carry out such shifts, but to me the decision was not so obvious. I had ruled out options such as MS/PhD that could narrow my career options and deny the generalist perspective. In contrast, the DBA career seemed to provide the perfect broad focus that I needed. I was thoroughly impressed with the fact that Information Management is a critical aspect that a firm has to effectively deal with, for survival. Consequently, I discovered that no other immediate career as the DBA could couple as much, with my skills, before I stride towards my ambition. I knew that this career change would be an uphill task for any fresher, especially for one with a non-computer science background. Companies rarely invest in inexperienced DBAs because the DBA tasks are highly critical and even a slightest mistake can cost millions. The risks that I, as a fresher, won’t find a job were high. But despite all the threats, I decided to move ahead and carefully designed my game plan. I pursued numerous electives and projects to diversify my IT skills. I also had the opportunity to instruct graduate level senior students as a professional assistant for a database related course. Finally, the DBA certification facilitated me the crucial breakthrough. The very fact that only experienced professionals pursue this and that I was able to clear it in record time, right during my college tenure, helped me sell myself as a competitive DBA. And now, with around three years of experience as a DBA, I trust that an MBA would be the next perfect priority that can significantly accelerate my dream.

Leadership The MBA Admission is more comparable to the dating process. Whether that be dating or admission, in order to find a better match, you should establish “fit” with both the concerned parties. Each BSchool has it’s own trait and it’s essential that, if you believe that’s the right school for you, you must highlight these traits in your application. This is possible only by researching the school rigorously. Blogs, message boards, alumni and current students may be valuable resources. But as a rule of thumb, every school looks for one common characteristic : "Leadership". Schools expect their students to have demonstrated leadership abilities

in the past and present. Of course, they do understand that Leadership is not just leading people but also managing extra curricular activities, innovating, teaching, managing multiple assignments, handling pressure, etc. To me, my college experience provided me with plenty of such opportunities and I did highlight them on my applications. The five-year tenure provided me the best flexibilities to capitalize on non-academic activities. The "General Secretary" responsibility had put me in charge of the finances and administration of 30+ student run clubs and departments. On the job, I had to manage large groups of people and conduct events as businesses that would generate profits. The council meetings and general body meetings served as boardroom wars, helping me understand people and processes better. The university operates two semesters and students travel home twice a year for vacations. Transit planning was traditionally outsourced to a third-party student, approved by the Institute and almost every student runs his travel requirement through this facility. In an effort to improve the transparency of financial transactions, I took it over and integrated with the activities of union council. Transiting 5000 students was no easy task and I had to group a team of 12 students to run this effort. The entire process embraced two important stages: One, having the desired train tickets reserved in accordance with the student requests and two, arranging buses to get to the nearest major railway station. Managing the information provided by students and minimizing discrepancies were the most demanding rudiments. The effort involved managing heavy finances and strategic relationships with Indian Railways and Roadways. My enthusiastic attitude helped me build better relationships and the fact that I never hesitate to voice my opinion, served as the perfect supplement. I have eventually understood that leadership is the ability to break down complex problems into actionable fragments and drive the team by communicating the vision clearly. I have also understood that a leader must accurately define the roles and responsibilities of individual members in his team. Delegating responsibilities is important because it not only instigates involvement among the players, but also encourages their leadership capabilities and I view this as the success of the group on the long run. I am sure that every MBA prospective student would have sweet leadership experiences. Never forget to highlight them on your application even you are not explicitly asked.

What makes you a unique Applicant? IIM is the latest buzzword that you will normally come across in applications from India. To those who don’t know what IIM is all about: it represents the “Indian IT Male” and not the prestigious Indian Institutes of Management. If you fall this category, then you need to ensure additional efforts to persuade the admissions committee that you are different and not another typical IIM. Extracurricular activities, unusual growth curve in your team, social involvement, etc can certainly differentiate you; so start engaging with such activities right now, if you haven't already.

I am no different from a typical IIM. In my applications, I had talked about my ability to bond with strangers and build a network of trust fully utilising my enthusiastic outlook. Honestly, almost every activity that I engaged with, had coupled an element of fun and I demonstrated in my apps that this passion and high-spirit greatly enhanced my learning and working environments, with numerous examples to support. Managing information and time was no easy task for database administrators and in particular, having come from a non-traditional background, I found that it was a huge challenge to work on multiple IT projects simultaneously and gain credibility among my team mates at Oracle, who had at least two additional years of experience than I did. But my experiences from college and enthusiastic personality helped me offset all fear and execute critical tasks successfully. I have learned to use the fun-factor as a successful tool at my workplace to build outstanding associations. I also have a history of having infused a number of fun-related activities to the work environment such as celebrating birthdays, organizing team-outings, Caroms/Chess tournaments, etc. I believe that the "enthuse" has ensured high energy across the team, building personal relationships within professional environments. The credibility earned me additional responsibilities such as team’s resource planning, workload management and tasks allocation. I had also structured and documented many critical tasks, helping the team avoid ‘reinventing the wheel’ and save time. I now serve as the point of contact for such activities and I train many of my senior colleagues in that aspect. Despite being the junior most in the team, I had played significant roles in the recruitment process and introduced several innovations. All these successes helped me achieve "Exceeding Expectations" rating at the Oracle’s employee performance review and have been recognised for demonstrating excellent information management skills. I tried to differentiate myself with this "Enthuse" trait!

Low Academics It’s never a crime to possess low undergraduate grades, but it’s a grave blunder if you fail to address this weakness in your MBA application. I have a poor undergraduate record and honestly, it's the accountability of my own. However, it’s not an indicator of my potential and intellectual ability. I attribute my low GPA to the decision that moved me away from Civil/Chemistry careers and work towards Database Administrator profession. My college provided me the right flexibility to focus on my aspirations rather than worry about academic grades. I pursued numerous IT electives/projects to diversify my computer science skills. The infrastructure had also allowed me to comprehensively engage with numerous extracurricular activities. Subsequently, I prioritized my total focus perking up my IT and administrative abilities and eventually integrating them. I also believe that the figures such as GMAT, DBA-certification score, High School performance and Oracle's employee performance rating: “Exceeding Expectations”, demonstrate my academic and professional capabilities. I am sure that you can find the right reasons that either directly or indirectly contributed for your low grades. Be sure to address them as part of the application, even if you are not explicitly asked for.

Prototype of my MBA Resume

##Click here to access the enlarged version##

Career Goals(Story line) ##Later I translated this table to “Why MBA” essay## Learning in the past/ Phase Future/ objectives

#1 College

Leadership, teamwork, networking, inventory management, budgeting and planning, money management, financial transactions, general body meetings, resource allocation, teaching, managing critical/high priority tasks, diverse IT skills, risk taking abilities. Time management, Multi tasking, Prioritising issues, Information management, Resource allocation, Leadership, Teamwork, Communication skills, Commitment (Late hours), Problem solving and client interaction (Interact with client, analyse data, understand problem and propose solution; Debugging), Interviewing skills. Strong foundation on business fundamentals such as finance, accounting, marketing, statistics, organizational behaviour, strategy, economics, communications, technology, operations Heavy emphasis on strategy Broad Curriculum and gain diverse set of skills Strong focus on General management, strategy, leadership, entrepreneurship and non-profit Learn to develop strategies and solutions to business problems Networking

#2 DBA Career

#3 Business School

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Learning on a long/ continuous run • Non profit focus • Networking • Leadership • Team play • Decision Making • Learn multiple cultures • Play strengths and defend weaknesses • Put my ideas into action/learning • •Integrate information technology and management skills • Learn to formulate and implement broad/long-term objectives, by developing short term strategies • Learn to initiate and manage change • Learn planning, organising, leading and guiding

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#4 Strategy/ Management Consultant

Consulting as a strategic career step for 24 years–Because I am a person with no previous business experience and this is experience is going to be very critical Generalist focus/ general strategy consulting. Work on projects that are cross-functional and across different industries Develop high level contacts as a part of consulting assignments Analyse different business situations. Consulting would give a broad exposure to an array of management problems Research, analyse, report, implement and administer solutions to business problems. This adds tremendous values as a manager. Broaden the thinking and gain the confidence to solve business issues I believe that Consultants gain tremendous experience in terms of having the mindset to run a company, adding value, sales and marketing. Consulting career would prepare me to gain skills for general management positions Learn to identify and assess potential business opportunities Focus on multiple business units, corporate strategy and leadership Focus on business development, general strategy and internal consulting Formulate, implement and evaluate crossfunctional decisions Learn to manage organisational operations, transitions, growth, etc Ultimately, learn to manage risks Identify and launch a potential business venture Lead the venture towards being a successful establishment Ultimately, establish not-for-profit ventures and associations and operate similar to for-profit businesses, but for measure profitability not in just terms of money, but in terms of impact on the society and social values

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#5 Top-level General management position in a Small/Medium/ entrepreneurial venture

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#6 Entrepreneurship/ Social Entrepreneurship/ Notfor profit associations

Sample MBA Interview Questions

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Discuss yourself/ Walk me through your resume and explain your roles and responsibilities. Name three words or phrases to describe yourself to others What is an activity you are involved in? Why is it important to you? What contributions would you make to a group? What do you do to relieve stress? What are your hobbies outside of school and work? What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses? Please discuss the factors, both professional and personal, influencing the career decisions you have made so far.

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Why the MBA? Why now? Why are you interested in a general MBA program? What do you expect from this program? What can you contribute to our program and into our classrooms? What makes you unique among other candidates and why should we accept you? What would you do if not accepted? What are your long- and short-term goals? Why? Where do you see yourself in ten years? Which other schools are you applying to? How did you choose these schools? Why so many/few? Which school is your first choice? How do you plan to use your MBA in your career and your community? Why does this school appeal to you?

Undergrad Experience
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Why did you choose your undergraduate major? Which school did you attend and why that one'? What was your major and why? Would you choose the same studies again if you could do it over again? What overall grades did you get? What is Honours? Which courses were you best at? Why? Did you work as an undergrad? Do you think your grades are an accurate reflection of your ability? What did you like most about this part of your education? What did you least like about this part of your education?

Professional Experience
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What was your first job out of undergrad? Have you been promoted? Talk about experiences you have had at work. Can you briefly describe the key responsibilities of your current job? Describe a typical work day.

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Discuss your career progression Give examples of how you have demonstrated leadership inside and outside the work environment Discuss any experience you have had abroad How does your performance compare with that of your peers at a similar level? What specifically have you done to help your company change? What have you done to develop those under your responsibility? What could you do to be an even more effective member of your organization? Describe your most successful accomplishment at work. Describe a failure on the job. Why did you choose this profession? Why this company? What do you like best/about your current job? What are the key challenges of your job? Have you ever supervised employees? Have you switched firms? If so, why? What is most frustrating at work? Describe your relationship with your boss. What is good and bad about it" Where is your industry heading in the next five years? (all the more important if your interviewer works in the same domain) How would co-workers describe you?


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Discuss a time when you successfully supervised a diverse group of people toward a difficult goal. Give an example of when you accomplished something significant that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been there. Tell me about a situation where you had to persuade someone to agree with your point of view Describe a time when you had to gain upper management’s support for an idea/proposal Name a time when you had to convince someone who didn’t report directly to you to do something they didn’t want to do Describe a time when you had a conflict with another person in a corporate or school setting Describe a situation in which you identified key problems early on in a project and were able to avert a crisis Tell me about a time when you led a team to a goal even though the individual team members were sceptical that it could be accomplished Tell me about a time when you worked with someone who didn’t follow through. What did you do? How have you dealt with a person who was difficult to work with? Discuss a time when you had to make an unpopular decision Tell me about the toughest group that you ever worked in. What made it so tough, and how did you handle it? Describe an ethical dilemma that you faced in your career. How did you resolve it? Give me an example of when you pushed back against doing something What is the hardest decision you have ever had to make on the job? Outside of your job? Tell me about a time when you took a smart risk

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Name a time when you developed a unique and resourceful solution to a problem Describe a situation when you had to make an important decision without having all of the necessary information at hand Tell me about a time when you had to analyze facts quickly, identify the issues, and develop an action plan Give me an example of when you thought out of the box Have you ever had to bend a rule to get your work done more efficiently? Discuss a time when you didn’t succeed on the first try. What is the worst professional decision you have ever made? Tell me about a time when you weren’t very pleased with your performance. Describe a situation in which you wish you had acted differently with someone in your group. Describe a time when you inspired someone to work harder. Discuss a project that required the use of your analytical skills. Tell me about a time when you led a team to success despite opposition from others. Describe a situation where you brought an idea forward, and it failed.

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Tell me about a topic you just read? What trait you possess that I would not get by reading your file?" To test your communication skills: Pick a subject from the current news, assume I don't know anything about it and give me a brief synopsis. Describe a time when you had to convince an antagonistic group of the merits of your proposal. Explain the process. What team skills will you learn in MBA program? What are three major challenges that your industry is currently facing? Who do you admire most as a leader, and why? What was your greatest accomplishment? How do you define success? What would you do if a team member wasn't pulling his own weight? Who are your heroes? Why? What have you done that you are proud of? Define teamwork Define leadership What is your favorite sport? What aspect of it appeals to you'? What is the last book you read? What did you think of it?

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