I had been working as a software developer in Hyderabad for over 3 and a half years when I got an admit from ISB. And right now, I am writing this in my room at ISB which is there in one of the student villages (that’s what we call hostels here) soaking up the evening breeze and thinking of the treasure hunt planned for us by the alums later tonight.
So how did I land up here?
As a software developer from one of the indistinguishable software firms in the country, I never thought that that making into ISB was going to be easy. The odds were always going to be against me. Furthermore, ISB’s admission committee has explicitly mentioned that they keep 4 admission bucket and each student who applies for an admission falls into one of the buckets. Here are the buckets – P3) IITians with a huge GMAT score P2) IT employees/engineers P3) ‘Diversity’ profiles – national level swimmers, foreign nationals etc. p4) Applicants with a very low GMAT score who also have nothing special to write home. Obviously, the maximum amount of competition is going to be in P2 and P4 buckets.
By work experience overshadows my other qualities and automatically drop me in the P2 bucket. IT employees like me have to compete with over 4000 students falling in the P2 Bucket. Now that is stiff competition. In general, applicants to ISB are much more focused than the general CAT aspirants because the induction cost itself to apply to ISB is quite high – INR 22,000 (~17000 for GMAT and 5000 application fees). Moreover, the GMAT and ISB application preparation require the applicant to have a strong command over English grammar, and articulation, which remain untested in the almighty CAT exam. So only those people who have good command over their English apart from having a reasonable hold on logic and arithmetic, apply to ISB.
Personally, I applied to ISB because I wanted to expand my own venture which I had begun in the free time that I got from my development job. I am sure you have your own reason to grab an ISB admission. Howsoever different be our reasons, the path we have to tread is identical. Get a 650+ GMAT. Write differentiating essays. And convince the interview panel about your credibility.
Though GMAT score in itself is not going to get you admitted. I know people, from reputed colleges, with a score of 730 who did not even get an interview call. A far safer option is to improve your overall profile to stand out.
I always involved myself in a lot of co-curricular activities while I was in college, and even after coming out of college I always kept my hands full. From creating over a thousand artworks to constructing a full-fledged curriculum, I did a lot of things after leaving college and coming to Hyderabad.
I never did any of these activities with the aim of getting a dream MBA seat. I did them because I had to. But I ensured that I include a glimpse of them all in my ISB essays.
Looking back now, I feel that an ISB aspirant can add much more weight to his profile if he shows his accomplishment – no just involvement - in a range of activities. Apart from a reasonable GMAT score he/she has to showcase his involvement and learning from various activities in his essays and interviews.
After all, the thing that ISB really takes pride in and publicises so staunchly is nothing but its ‘diversity’. Amongst my current batch mates at ISB, we have a national level swimmer, classical dancers, veteran musicians, venture capitalists, Karate champions and people who have been to over 50 countries. You name it, and ISB has it. But beyond these illustrious admits, there are also a lot of people who came from the ‘humble’ IT and other unremarkable backgrounds who made it just because they were able to market their personal diversity through their co-curricular achievements – just like I did.
So here are my 2 cents in what you can do in a couple of months that will let your diversity shine through in your ISB application. It works even if you have no big accomplishments to boast of, even if you haven’t won a single prize for any of your achievements so far.
Become a curator - Create PDF portfolios
Being humans, we are likely to be interested in at least one of art, dance, singing, drama or creative writing.
But how can one make these oh-so-common interests your differentiator as an MBA applicant?
By creating a portfolio. Doodle, sketch, take pictures and video record. Whatsoever be your area of interest, you can showcase your engagement in these sketches, pictures, or recording. Done with these recording, so what’s next? Assemble them together in a word document. Give the document a nice heading. Convert it to pdf. Upload it to google drive and share that doc link in your essays. That’s it.
Remember these docs give your ‘artsy-crafty’ achievement a solid claim, a claim that is no less substantial than what a national level prize could have given you.
As for me, I love taking pics. Million other people love doing it too. How can I be different for the ISB recruiters? It is because I have a neat portfolio. I know my best pics. And I assemble them together under an interesting title. The title I chose for ‘Nostalgia for the light’. Check out my Do-it-yourself-in-a-jiffy photography portfolio. All my good, bad and ugly pics look significant here because of? Well…they are neatly arranged in a portfolio, aren’t they? This way, I rise above a being ubiquitous photographer by becoming a curator – the curator of my portfolio.
Show your leadership abilities - Meetup.com
It is the Holy Grail for proving your leadership and organising abilities. Open this website. And create meetups. From cat grooming, street sketching to teaching slum kids on weekends, any of your personal interests can be used to create meetup group around them.
But how? It’s easy. Go to their website first. There they’ll give you all the tips and push required to create your own meetup group. That’s why they are in business. Right?
Bhatinda or Kolkata, the city you are residing in does not matter for starting meetups on this website.
Created your group. Yes. So what’s next?
Share it on social media to get people to join your group. So a dozen people joined your group. That’s good, even if they are mostly family and friends. Now comes the time to organise meetups.
Choose an easy to reach café in the centre of your town and ask your group members to come there at said date and time. This is the cycle that you should follow for your meetup groups:
Publicise your group – organise meetups – repeat. Numbers don’t matter. Your will and sincere efforts do.
After a few cycles, you are ready to mention your group(s) details, your member count and the interesting things you discussed during those meetup sessions in your ISB essays. That’s it.
A single meetup group with a few meetup sessions organised shows that you are not hesitant to take initiatives, you have good communication skills, and you can lead a group of people (for some time at least) to a common goal, the goal being the purpose of your meetup group.
All the mentioned qualities are essential for becoming a successful leader, aren’t they? And you just gave a back-able proof of your own leadership authority, in your essays and interviews, by mentioning about your meetup groups.
Create your own Brand – Become the founder of NotYourAverageSharmjiKaLadka.com
More time and effort consuming than portfolio and meetup group creation, website creation will give you an edge over almost 99% of all applicants. Why? Because very few people in India, create a personal website. People do create blogs but not websites, at least not if they aren’t familiar with web development themselves.
Websites go well beyond the realm of blogs. They help you create your brand. Here, you can post your ideas, your achievements, your whatever you’d like the world to know about you. And you can build your own list of subscribers aka fans! If you do it consistently.
At the end of the day, nothing creates your personal brand faster and more effectively than your own MyNameIs<Your sweet name>.com
But you aren’t a seasoned web developer either. So how can you create your personal website? Another Holy grail can save you, which is holier than meetup.com. Didn’t you guess it?
There are a thousand YouTube tutorials that will teach you how to use a WordPress website from a domain hosting in a matter of few hours. And the super friendly support staff at GoDaddy.com will teach you how to get your own WordPress domain hosting by paying less than 1000 bucks a year.
No tech skills required at all. So why don’t more people do it? Why aren’t there more WordPress based personal websites? It is because a website requires you to write – to present your thoughts clearly in a legible language. And writing takes patience, practice, and is not solely driven by logic.
So if you are someone who has a decent command over English and can write short paragraphs explaining your stuff, then nothing can stop you from creating your website through WordPress.
And what if you aren’t that comfortable in writing much? No Problem. Use more images.
Bottom-line: Are you diligent enough to carry out these activities? Or let’s say do you have the persistence required to complete these tasks?
If yes, then you are the candidate ISB is looking for.
In the next post, I will show you how to write effective essays for your GMAT. How to focus on your learnings and growth from your experiences so far in your essays.
About the Author:
Based out of ISB Hyderabad currently, Raghav loves to teach English as a volunteer and run an English curriculum portal Volunteercurriculum.com for providing curriculum services to fellow volunteers.