Did you know about ISB's Young Leadership Program (YLP)? Well, It is a deferred admission option given to high potential students pursuing their Bachelor’s or Master’s education. People who make it to this programme are, are ideally positioned to transform into future's exceptional business leaders. But, that doesn't mean they have it easy. They also have to go through the same stressful GMAT prep, nerve-wracking essay prompts and interviewers convincing you that you are more apt for MS than a PGP. At least, that was Vipul Soni had to go through. Vipul is currently working as a Deals Advisory at PwC DIAC and graduated out from ISB Hyderabad in the year 2019. To know more about his journey, keep reading.
Learn more about YLP here.
(Above) Vipul Soni, PwC DIAC - Deals Advisory, ISB Hyderabad, Passed CFA Level 2
Please give us a brief introduction about yourself and your profile.
My name is Vipul Soni. I am working with PwC DIAC in their Mumbai office and I'm part of the Deals Analytics Advisory team. My clients are Private Equity firms and my team helps them make data-driven decisions for buy/sell-side deals, primarily in the tech space in the US. Right out of engineering in 2016, I started working for Deloitte Tech Consulting, where I led the incident and change management of the Real Estate processes of a Fortune 500 client.
After working for 20 months, I joined ISB Hyderabad in April 2018 - I secured a seat back in 2015 during my 3rd year in college via the YLP route. At ISB, I majored in Strategy and Finance and was a core member of the Academic Affairs Council. Additionally, I have also cleared CFA Level 2 held in June 2019.
How did you prepare for the GMAT/GRE? What resources did you use?
I took the GMAT in July 2015 - I believe the exam has undergone certain changes but the core areas still remain - Verbal (CR, SC, RC) and Quants (Prob Solving & Data Sufficiency). I had self-prepared with whatever material I had and did not take tuitions as such. Quants were fairly okay to prepare for - I practised from Manhattan books and solved questions from the Official Guide (OG) and gave more emphasis on the Data Sufficiency section as they can always get tricky. Verbal was where I struggled during the mocks and realized that it was my Achilles heel. Preparing for Verbal was where I spent the majority of my time during the GMAT journey. I realized while SC section was fine for me, I struggled with CR and RC more. So I completed all the questions from OG and also practised from the book - Powerscore CR Bible, which helped me a lot. For SC, GMAT SC Grail and Manhattan Review SC Guide were great! RC- I felt just doing OG was more than sufficient. Another great source was gmatclub.com, I feel if explored diligently, it has a wealth of resources that can really boost your preparation across both Verbal and Quants. Everything said I believe nothing can substitute mocks and to any candidate aiming to write the GMAT, I would strongly recommend appearing for at least 7-10 mocks (assuming 8 weeks of preparation). Back in 2015, I took mocks from Kaplan, Manhattan, Veritas and the 2 official GMAT mocks.
Could you tell us how you went about answering the essay prompts at ISB?
I allocated one week to answer the essay prompts for ISB. It was a time when I was relatively free and had already drafted my resume for the placements at my UG. So I had a lot of clarity about my profile. However, answering the essay prompts forced me to introspect and evaluate where I really wanted to be a few years down the line and what made sense at that point in time. I think if you can communicate in 300 words what your goals (both long and short term) are and how ISB can help you achieve them, there should be no problem. I did not use any sophisticated vocabulary but just kept it simple. I definitely recommend candidates to make a very good case for themselves for the essay around the lines - Why should you be considered among the 900 applicants. I think the best way forward is to tie it with a story (anecdote) and bring out how you would add value to the already diverse pool. Feedback is really important and so I got my essays reviewed by my peers/friends/family and was able to come up with the final version after several iterations.
Did you use the services of an admissions consultant? If yes, how did they help and would you recommend consultants to ISB applicants? If not, how did you go about drafting your application?
No, I did not use any services but did it on my own. I believe the biggest part of the application is your essays and resume that I already touched upon previously. For LOR, I took one from a senior professor who was also the head of the student chapter that I was leading in college. I looked up the net to understand the best practices one should incorporate when writing SOP/essays or when presenting a resume.
What made you choose ISB? Did you apply to other institutes?
No, I did not apply to other institutes since I got my admission in Oct 2015 when I was just in the middle of the seventh semester. I knew I would be a part of the class of 2019, which I thought was great and therefore did not consider other institutes. ISB's brand, the fact that it was just a 1-year program, the excellent faculty profile (the fact that you could be in a class with a prof from Harvard) and the diverse pool of applicants were some of the reasons I chose ISB. I also wanted to be in the consulting domain in the years to come and ISB is generally considered a good B-school for a career in consulting.
How was your ISB interview experience? What questions/type of questions were you asked?
ISB interview was a good experience, frankly, it was more "chill" than I'd expected. Right before the interview, I was asked to write 100 words on the word "Competent". The interview lasted around 30 mins, there were two people on the panel. I was asked a lot of questions about my essays. Since it was a YLP, I think a lot of those questions were around initiatives and any leadership roles. Some of the questions were around why ISB, why PGP and what's your plan B. They tried convincing me that I should consider MS and not a PGP. Guess, I was able to convince them otherwise :)
PS - I was expecting a few current affairs/GK questions, but surprisingly it did not come up. But there were other folks who were asked anything from a simple gk question to devising a business plan for a firm.
What in your opinion makes up an ideal candidate for the PGP program at ISB? What kind of stand out qualities is ISB looking for in candidates? Why do you think you made it?
I believe ISB looks at your profile holistically. You should have a strong overall profile and must have shown decent achievements or tried out things throughout your career that add value. Aspects of leadership, time management and variety form the core of an ideal candidate. Of course, a low score (say in GMAT) can be compensated with other impressive things, which can even include your hobbies. The good spikes can range anywhere from - an early promotion, leadership roles, startup experience, competitions, excellent grades, publishing papers to things such as - knowing a foreign language, writing a book, excelling in sports/music/art etc.
In retrospect, what do you think of your decision to join ISB? What were your learnings, and what will you take away from the one year spent at the institute? Is it worth joining one of India's most expensive business schools?
In retrospect, I am quite humbled with my one year journey at ISB. The quality of education, exposure to different perspectives, pedagogy and both inside and outside the classroom experience is worth the money they charge (which I feel is a bit on the higher side and things can look better if GST is waived). The learning curve was extremely steep for me. I enjoyed the rigour of the course. It was a place where I with just under two years of work ex could pick someone's brain who had 6+ years of experience in the industry. The case-based learning is world-class and almost all assignments, especially the group ones were engaging and posed really thoughtful questions. One day you could be preparing for a quiz, the next day you are doing pre-reads for a case to be discussed in the lecture and also taking a stab at case competitions. Whether it was academics or those uncountable all-nighter parties, I got to learn so much from others during the twelve months, it left me wanting even more. The campus has so many things going on and it's very common to get the "FOMO".
Any suggestions to the aspirants who are vying for a seat at ISB?
Just be crystal clear with your goals why you think ISB is the best place for you. Be open to learning new stuff and bring out the good aspects of your profile. Spend a good amount of time on your application (don't leave it to the last minute) and always get feedback. Remember, GMAT is just a part of your application - I know folks with 750+ who could not make it. That said, once you've figured it out, joining ISB will definitely be one of your best decisions just as it was for me.
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