Disclaimer: This is not a sob story but one that keeps me rooted. Please be patient and do not skim through the read.
'When you hit the rock bottom, the only way to go is up.'
A statement most of us might have come across quite a lot, some might have even realized it and I; I am here to share mine.
I graduated from BITS Pilani in 2015 and got an on-campus placement offer at EXL Services, Gurgaon. This is where the journey to exploring the answer to the perennial question of 'Why MBA?' began. For me (I am sure this holds true for a few of you reading this as well), the first attempt at CAT was a mock attempt to see if I am cut from the same cloth or not. Enthusiastic about my new job, I gave a lot of time to work to the extent that a day before writing CAT 2015 (You read it right! I got through in my fourth attempt), I pulled an all-nighter at my mentor's place working on a project. With zero preparation, I sat for the exam and was able to get a decent 96+%ile.
Having gained the confidence to prepare for CAT 2016; I soon enrolled at a CAT coaching centre. Doing the bare minimum needed and maintaining a good work-life balance, I got a good CAT 2016 %ile but missed the 99%ile mark by a whisker. I got calls from several Tier 2 IIMs and was able to convert them. Having had a pretty good understanding of myself (thanks to my IIT-JEE prep and BITS Pilani days), I always had the belief that I was made to go big.
So far so good. Right? Wondering why I wrote hell in the title?
Alcoholism has been running in my family since the last three generations (three is what I was told \_("/)_/ ). Having been through this phase during my entrance exam prep, I was happy that I was now living an independent life; with family concern still gripping me all the time. While I was putting in all the effort to cross the 99%ile barrier in CAT 2017, I got to know that my dad was struggling with his current job because of which his alcohol consumption increased. He lost his job and the financials at home went for a toss. Family won't be the right word to put to the relation I had with my parents then. Imagine being in a corporate and still able to take out 3 hours daily for your dream only to get pulled back by your past and present. CAT was a few months away and my life took a complete U-turn. Away from home; alone; not knowing how to handle myself (a few paragraphs ago I was enjoying my independence!) and my family, I slowly started giving up on preparation. That's what your past can do to you. Make you go in a neverending abysmal spiral. In the hope to give me some time to think, I started solo-trekking. Little did I knew then that someday this will change me inside out. I realized how happy I was while I was travelling, leaving all my thoughts back in Gurgaon. No network connectivity in the mountains meant just being me. Meeting people who were full of hope, a gleam in their eyes and a smile on their face helped me be me (at least for those 9 days).
Back to Gurgaon, a better state of mind and you write the exam. Score 99+%ile, zero Tier 1 IIM calls. Why? I couldn't get through the verbal cutoff. Reason? Confidence, self-doubt, scattered focus.
Fast forward six months from CAT 2017, it's May 2018. Things have been the same for the last year or so and now you are in a situation where water has gone over the head. What do you do now? You seek help. Professional help. Counsellors tell you that what you already know but now you learn to accept it. You stop fighting your demons and learn to go with the flow. At this point, you have hit the rock bottom and now your unprecedented rise will begin. Three months to CAT 2018, you pick yourself up and start the prep again. It is a process driven by discipline and will. Still stuck with the same job but making sure this attempt turns out to be the best, you channel your energies towards your goal.
Callback to the point when I mentioned solo-trekking. On a journey to know myself, before the exam I would have already done three solo treks in the Himalayas.
Come the D-day; sitting in the exam hall, I knew that I was prepared but most importantly I had the belief that it is going to be the last time I'll be seeing this center (which I already was since CAT 2015). Recollecting all that I went through in the past year, I was satisfied with the way I evolved. Belief does get translated into action and actions into results.
Jan'19, CAT 2018: result said a score of 99.54%ile. Fun fact: Verbal score from 79%ile in 2017 to 96%ile in 2018.
If you have reached till here, you probably know what my answers could have been to questions like 'Why MBA?; Something which is not there in your resume?; Biggest challenge?', etc. I converted my best shot at interviews- IIM Lucknow solely on the basis of the belief that I was made to do big. Believe it or not but on the given day of the interview, your thoughts will reflect in your body language.
It's been an amazing journey so far and to celebrate your success, what do you do? Time to trek the Himalayas again!! This time, it is Sar Pass. Cherry on the top? Got the IIML admit news on-trek!!
Enter IIM Lucknow and you are all set to get the monkey off your back. Be a part of one of the best cultures you will get at top IIMs, join a club/committee, network with people (this was last in the list of my answer to why MBA :P) and grow together. That's what my 5 months @ HeL(L) have been like. I have made quite a lot of memories here and have hopefully been the same person you perceive me to be after reading this.
For those searching for an answer to how I prepped for CAT, I'd say it all begins with three things- Belief, Belief, and Belief. Believe that you are capable of being amongst the best and that no matter how tough the competition is, your story makes you unique. Then obviously, start with the academic prep (there's no shying away from it). In all modesty to market myself, refer to the link below for some tips on how to prepare for CAT.
Thanks for taking out time and being patient to make it till the end. I hope that you must have been able to get some takeaways from this. Would love to hear from you.
Core Member, Team Disha, IIM Lucknow
Summer Intern at Accenture Strategy