Pragya’s HEC Paris Success Story

Hey guys! Today we have Pragya with us, who got into HEC Paris in 2010 Fall. She is a very close friend of mine. In fact she had been a student of mine and we have together finished a two day endurance race! Was the most fun I had in my life. We biked together for more than 100 kms and hiked along the ghats of Sahayadri mountains around Pune. She was more than happy to share with us her journey to a top B-school. I had been getting lots of requests to interview someone who was not from IIT, so I am excited about this post as it will cover three new aspects: Female applicant, European B-School and a non-IIT background. So enjoy the post and leave a thanks for our guest speaker to show your appreciation 🙂

  1. Hey Pragya, tell me a little bit about your background.
  2. Indian, IT, Female. One of the largest applicant pools.

    IT Engineer from University of Pune. Got campus placed with an IT Consulting Firm. Started off as an application programmer moved into business intelligence consulting. Got the opportunity to work for some major International clients including onsite management roles. It was a good 4.5 years. Learnings, exposure & progress I was pleased with. Can’t say the same thing about the money though.

  3. What made you decide to get an MBA?
  4. Couple of things,
    – An International MBA was something I had always wanted to do but it inadvertently just kept getting delayed.
    – Had worked as the business intelligence data provider for the marketing & branding function for an FMCG biggie. Was really intrigued by their line of work. Decided I wanted to be on the other side of the table.
    – Something was amiss. Didn’t want to write code or manage a unit which did that after 5 more years. Needed something more creative in addition to what I already had. If I wanted a switch it had better be now.

  5. As a successful applicant, can you tell us a little bit about your strategy?
    • How did you choose the schools you applied to?
    • I had a big time & budget constraint, so looked at only 1 – 1n1/2 year MBA programs. Filtered those by schools having a marketing focus. Had worked in Europe before so was keen on coming back here to study. Schools I applied to – HEC Paris, NUS, NTU, ISB. Schools I almost applied to I.e. wrote all the essays for but backed out coz of an empty bank balance and complacency! – Oxford Said, Insead, Essec.

    • What was your timeline?
    • Gave TOEFL in Dec 2008. Started GMAT Prep in Feb 2009. Gave the GMAT by Mid May. Wasted June in procrastinating. Shortlisted schools in Jul through Aug. Sept to Jan – Went beserk writing essays. Applied mostly in the 1st/2nd rounds. Jan got my first acceptance letter. Sweet Relief =)

    • How you approached the essays?
    • I had heard of the horrors of application essay writing before. But never realized how painful it would get. Penned down important achievements from kindergarten to work, defining moments, responsibilities well executed and initiatives taken and tried to fit them all in the 4-5 application questions. Honestly took a lot to write the first draft and in the end it still looked like crap. Wasn’t used to blatant self glorification but realized soon that was needed (very subtly ofcourse). After 7-8 edits, got what-I-thought-was the final version of each essay reviewed from 3 trusted sources. Also, speaking to existing B School students on the approach to tricky essays helps.

    • Tips on getting recommendation?
    • Build a good rapport with managers/colleagues who you plan to get the reco from. When to get them in confidence about your B school plans is subjective and circumstantial. In most cases keeping your plans under wraps and only letting the concerned know is a good idea.

  6. What was the interview process like with HEC?
  7. 2 rounds of Alumni Interviews with a 10 minute presentation (on a subject of our choice) to each. Luckily, I was able to travel and meet the alumni for face to face interviews. It was a very relaxed & friendly discussion on the usual why this school, how this school, why mba, post mba plans type of questions and was only grilled over a ques or 2. I was asked my opinion on a couple of things in the news at that time. HEC is the only school which requires you to make presentations to the interview panel. The topic can be anything – a passion, something related to work, current affairs, post mba goals or any abstract thing. But it’s important to be totally convinced about it. I presented on the opportunities for growth of luxury brands in India. Worked well as one of the Alums had worked with Louis Vuitton and the other one (like me) found this topic aspirational =)!

  8. What was the most difficult step for you in the entire application process?
  9. – To start ‘seriously’ preparing for GMAT.
    – To write my 1st application essay.
    – Following up with my recommenders during & after each application. Trying hard they don’t get pissed off coz its annoying job for them too. Apart from your good impression on them there is absolutely no incentive for them to fill in N applications of praises for you.
    – And the wait!

  10. How did you prepare for your GMAT?
  11. The books and the prep method have already been mentioned on this site by the guru himself so won’t repeat all that.

    I took advantage of the 2009 slump in the IT sector and used a lot of time in office for preparing. Kept it hush hush as a lot of people were being shown the door at that time. Formed a study group (very important) with people planning on giving GMAT at around the same time. We routinely met up for prep, helps keep you focused and on track. Through pure good luck was introduced to the GMAT veteran Mukul, whom I pestered over the next 3 months with everything from quant doubts to practice test results. Now that he’s in B school himself others won’t be that lucky =).

  12. How did you manage financing your education?
  13. Part loan, part scholarship, part savings, part borrowed from mon pere.

  14. What do you plan to do post MBA?
  15. I would like to repay my loan and buy a convertible. That apart from my ambitions in the world of marketing (which is a separate topic).

  16. Do you have any advice for the readers?
  17. The GMAT is the first big qualifying factor for applying to a dream school but not the only one. A lot of people get overworked and retake the GMAT multiple times to increase their score by 20-30 points. One has to think if spending at least another 2 months and 12000 Rs is really worth it only to get your score up from say a 700 to 720. Think about how much of a difference it will make to your overall application and then only decide to re-take.


Thank you so much Pragya! I believe I can always pass on a few questions to Pragya for anyone who is sincerely hoping to get into HEC. All the best guys and gals! And do not forget to Subscribe to GMATing. There will be more of these awesome stories coming. So keep coming back for more!

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  1. Please provide me more information because i am looking for a business school where I can get admission. Your post is having great information and very useful for me.

  2. Amazing score. All the best & congrats. Can you tell me which books you would refer to a novice like me?

  3. Great way to put your journey, I am sure things were not all merry when your were juggling all the things to do. Thanks for sharing your story.

  4. Informative and inspiring!

    I am looking forward to apply to HEC for MSc Sustainable Development. Would be glad if you could interview an Indian student or alumni from the course.

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  6. Thats really great Pragya. I am proud of you. If you allow me, I will post this article in my website



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