I got lucky.
“How?” – you might ask. Read on.
A few hits, plenty of misses
I had been writing CAT since 2012. Till 2015, the best percentile I could manage was 87.xx (CAT 2014). Till 2014, I was in two minds whether to do an MBA or not, so my preparation was half-hearted. So I did not apply for other exams and the non-IIM colleges. Only in 2015 did I decide to go ahead and get an MBA degree. I enrolled for a test series program to complement my self-study. Till then I had never enrolled for test series programs or coaching classes. But CAT 2015 was a disappointment, especially DI-LR section. Final overall 84.xx percentile, even less than that of 2014 when I had attempted with less serious preparation. XAT was a nightmare with 40-something percentile. SNAP brought some cheer with 93.xx percentile and a GE-PI-WAT call from SIBM Bengaluru. I cleared NMAT cutoff and got CDPI call from NMIMS MBA core and MBA HR. SIBM process went okay I suppose. NMIMS CD for both core and HR did not go so well. PI for core was not so good, HR was okay. Final results:
1. SIBM-B waitlisted
2. NMIMS Mumbai rejected for both core and HR
3. NMIMS Bengaluru selected for PGDM
NMIMS Bengaluru was not enough for me. I wanted better. I felt I deserved better. So I did not join.
Do or die
I decided to attempt CAT 2016. By the time I had made this decision, it was March 2016 and I had around 2.5 years work experience, which is considered ideal duration. I have heard placements being a bit difficult for those who had 3+ years of pre-MBA work experience. So if I attempt CAT 2016, I will enter that danger zone of 3+ years. I still decided to go ahead. But I knew there would be no CAT 2017 because 4+ years would be even more problematic. So it was either 2016 or never. Do or die.
This time I was grimly determined to do anything to get into a top b- school, so I enrolled myself for classroom coaching, despite my misgivings about coaching institutes. You see, I had this notion of coaching centres as money-minting centres taking advantage of the desperation of students to get into IITs and IIMs. But I guess desperate times called for desperate measures and I ended up spending 4 hours every weekend in a classroom, learning the nitty gritty of Verbal, Quant and DI-LR.
Lady luck smiles at me, at least a lot of the time
When you see the above statement about lady luck, you might be thinking I got into IIM A/B/C. Well, read on.
Classroom sessions went by in a blur, and I soon ended up taking mocks. Nothing encouraging. Mostly 70-80 %ile, with a couple of 90s thrown in. I soldiered on. It was CAT day. Morning session. I had a good verbal paper, verbal being my strongest point. Next came last year’s monster, DI-LR. I surprised myself by managing 7 attempts, higher than the abysmal 2 last year. However, the difficulty level seemed the same. Not 100%ile effort, but encouraging enough to have a slightly relaxed Quant paper. Apart from CAT, I appeared for the same exams as last year – NMAT, SNAP and XAT. I almost did not appear for NMAT, having decided to apply a few days before the deadline.
One by one, the results were announced. 92.xx in CAT. Slightly happy that I entered the 90s, but this still meant no IIMs. Or so I thought. Later I get an email inviting me to WAT-PI session for IIM Lucknow’s sustainability management program. Not a flagship program, but still an IIM! A bit of good news. I applied and was called for WAT-PI in HR program of IIM Ranchi. So far so good. I heard my profile has a decent chance of a call from IIM Jammu, Sambalpur and Vishakhapatnam. I got GD/PI/WAT calls from IMT Ghaziabad and XIMB too. SNAP results were wonderful at 96.xx %ile, till I realised there was no call from SIBM Pune, and not even from SCMHRD. Did not seem so good now. I did not apply to SIBM-B this time. The only other Symbiosis college I applied was the sports management program of Symbiosis School of Sports Sciences (SSSS). It was my backup plan if I do not get into regular MBA programs this time too. Atleast I can differentiate myself and take advantage of the IPL-ISL-PKL fever. I got a call for GE-PI-WAT of SSSS. XAT was a disaster again with 50-something percentile. I know, improvement from last time’s 40-something right? Positive thinking. NMAT turned out good this year too. NMIMS again.
Now here is where I feel I got really lucky. In most of the PIs I attended, I was asked questions on my favorite topic – tennis. Especially NMIMS Core, where most of the questions were about the game. I seemed completely at ease, despite that being the first GDPI process of my season. No first-time jitters. Probably my familiarity with NMIMS from last year helped too. IMT and XIMB interviews had a few tennis questions too. IMT process did not go as well as that of NMIMS. But XIMB was probably the worst. I might have irritated the interviewers on a few occasions during that interview. So the non-tennis part of the interview was mostly a stressful one. IIM Ranchi HR too had a few tennis questions. Suddenly tennis seemed to be in the limelight in a cricket crazy nation! IIM Lucknow was restricted to sustainability management, I think it was okay-ish. Now came the final results, with some surprises:
- NMIMS Mumbai – Core converted, HR waitlisted (not much of a surprise considering the tennis-themed interview of core)
- NMIMS Bengaluru – converted
- SSSS – converted (with 96.xx, atleast I converted this one!)
- IMT Ghaziabad – PGDM Marketing converted
- XIMB – BM converted, HR waitlisted (surprise, surprise! PI was bad! Maybe I handled the stress well)
- IIM Lucknow – sustainability result awaited
- IIM Ranchi – HR result awaited
- IIM Vishakhapatnam – accepted expression of interest, now awaiting WAT-PI call (or is there a direct profile-based admission? I don’t know)
- IIM Sambalpur – accepted expression of interest, now awaiting WAT-PI call (I know for sure there is a WAT-PI for this one)
- IIM Jammu – hopeful of profile-based admission
Edit 1: I got an invite on April 26 for WAT-PI process of IIM Sambalpur scheduled on May 3.
Edit 2: As of May 12, I am in waitlist 2 of IIM Nagpur. The closest I have got to an IIM admit so far.
So far, I have rejected SSSS, NMIMS Bengaluru, IMT and XIMB. Accepted NMIMS Mumbai Core. A funny thing, accepting a college I almost did not get into, as I mentioned earlier about applying for NMAT only few days before deadline.
Take away for MBA 2017 aspirants
Do not lose hope. Keep trying. Make MBA aspiration an obsession, but do not get too lost that you forget everything else. Use the 10 months time that you have till the GDPI process to not only prepare hard for the exams, but also improve your knowledge of current affairs. Also, cultivate a hobby! As you have seen, tennis saved me. The interviewers were intrigued when I told them I was a tennis player, and they asked questions. It gave me something to talk about. More importantly, something UNIQUE to talk about, in a country where most sports lovers mention cricket as their sport. Thus, if possible, have a similar hobby that differentiates you from the crowd. Not only tennis, it could also be ventriloquism (I am serious!), novel writing (many might read one, but do not write. Try to get it published!), birdwatching, etc. Google about unique hobbies, see what interests you! But please remember, it is not guaranteed you will be asked questions about your hobby, though, as I mentioned in IIM Lucknow experience. But you might get lucky like me, and if you do, then seize the opportunity to control the interview. For that, you must be serious about the hobby, and must have good knowledge about it. All the best!
About the Author:
My name is Nipunn Vepakomma. I have 3.5 years of work experience in the IT sector. I completed B.Tech in Electronics and Communication engineering from Amrita School of Engineering, Bengaluru. I would be joining NMIMS MBA core for 2017-19, unless I get a better option.
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