Be it bad luck, poor preparation or just the huge number of competitors in India, it is a fact that many aspirants are not going to get a B-school of their choice. Some would be fine with a compromise, others would not. This article tries to address what one should do in the latter case.
There are 2 scenarios:
Appear For CAT Again Next Year
If the aim is to appear for CAT again next year, that still leaves you with a whole year’s worth of time. As most aspirants would be aware, CAT exam is not one that requires a year of devoted preparation while leaving everything else aside. Regular study coupled with your job is sufficient.
As to whether you should appear again, it depends on what your goal is and how motivated you are. If your poor performance this year was due to factors that you can change over the course of a year (excluding bad luck), then I would recommend you to give it another shot. But that does not need you to spend all your time just on preparation. An hour a day along with 4 hours each on the weekend is sufficient. Take mock tests once every 2-3 weeks so that you know where you stand and which topics demand most attention. Maintain an online log where you track your performances and how many hours you are putting in. Only consistency matters. Perform well in your job or startup alongside.
If you see CAT as your sole path, you risk putting yourself under needless pressure. Keep enjoying life as you normally would. That keeps you in an enthusiastic state of mind and motivated. Most importantly, you should be at your peak performance around CAT.
Pursue An Alternative Career Path
In a few cases, it would be better to avoid another CAT attempt and focus wholeheartedly on other avenues. Despite your best efforts, if you continue to get relatively lower percentiles (depending on your target college), it could mean time to focus elsewhere. An MBA is by no means the only way to be successful or be a manager.
One good option available to people with 3+ years of work experience is an MBA from abroad. While it would be expensive, it would definitely help you get closer to your desired career. Another option is to focus on certifications, in case your target is finance. Certifications like CFA and FRM go a long way in conveying your employ-ability to a company.
Also, keep an eye on interesting internship options. LinkedIn often comes up with surprising and unexpected job opportunities. Who knows, you might learn much more and advance much faster in a startup than at a B-school.
Another reason for avoiding CAT could be if you stumble upon some genuine interest while you are going ahead with preparation. It is perfectly fine to have the long term goal of cracking CAT in mind. But if along the way, due to your job experiences or otherwise, you realise that your goals have probably changed, then do not hesitate to change your career path.
Coming to a B-school by itself does not solve your career goals. It provides the means to get to there. But if you have that clarity even before coming and that goal does not require an MBA, why waste 20 lakhs and 2 years.
In a nutshell, give it another sincere shot if your goal has not changed. But do not be afraid of changing track if some more likeable option makes itself available. All the best to everyone