So I got a 770 on the GMAT; now what? Now it’s simple, isn’t it? Apply to the top B-School and get in. Not so fast! The only thing the 770 did for me was to raise expectations. Honestly, before taking the GMAT, I did not even know about half the schools. I was hoping to make it to some half decent school and get the MBA degree and be happy. But the score gave me a reason to think that I may be destined for something bigger maybe. And that’s where it all started.
It was October of 2006, when I took the GMAT. My plan was to get into a B-School where I would surely get in and then go to US and forget all about the failure in CAT (for those who don’t know, it’s the entrance exam for top Indian B-Schools). I had no clue about how the whole thing around US B-School admissions worked. I started my research. Business week articles, rankings, Pagalguy forums, friends at IIT were my top sources for the research.
It did not take long for me to realize that I have certainly missed the Round 1 of applications and even the Round 2 will be bit of a stretch. I did not have enough time to write essays, get my transcripts, get the recommendations, etc. And to be very honest, I was mentally underprepared for such a big endeavor. I was tired after the GMAT. I needed some rest. On top of that I had over-committed at work in order to compensate for my early absence from office during GMAT preparation days.
As I researched, one thing became clearer: I can target top B-Schools with this score but maybe I needed more time. I had hardly one year of professional work experience on my Resume. But I saw those stupid statistics where I could see that 2% of the class had below one year of professional experience. And I said to myself, “Hey if they can, maybe I can too!” And that was a very stupid thing to say, because B-School admit is not about numbers, never about statistics. It’s about you and the school. How you fit in their picture. Do they want you? And do you want enough to be there? Stupid me, I decided to apply to Wharton, Tuck, Ross, Yale and McCombs.
If you are not laughing right now, may be you don’t understand how stupid this list is. Let me tell you again, that the only professional experience I had was of one year and I was competing in the dreaded IT + Male + Indian pool. Basically, disadvantaged from all sides; add to that my IIT degree (which creates an extra bit of expectation and peer competition), I was destined to be screwed, royally!
The only school in which I had a fair chance was McCombs, which is a good school, around 20th rank among US schools. But I didn’t listen to people around me, who had an objective view of things. In fact I was spending my sister’s money to apply to those schools and making wrong decisions. I feel so stupid now.
Anyway, I started writing the essays, without a clue as to what should be written. I just tried to answer the questions, with my shallow understanding of what they actually want to see through those essays. I did not give proper instructions to my Recommenders as to what is expected from them. I realized that I really didn’t know what I was doing. What I wanted from an MBA. What my goal was, what my vision was. And even though I became surer of my failure every day, I started to like the process.
The essays were on my life story, my decisions, my goals, what I wanted in life, from that school, about tough situations, about things I liked. And as I continued doing a crappy job in writing all of them, I liked the process. I loved the introspection. I liked that it bared me to my bones and made me aware of myself. It was like looking at your flaws, standing naked in front of the mirror. B-School applications are not for those who are not yet ready to ask the tough questions about their life.
With cigarettes all night long, and Pink Floyd playing, the days went by in a blur of tireless essay writing, editing, proof-reading. And in Feb 2007, I started getting the reject mails. I did get an interview call from Ross and McCombs. There was a ray of hope in the form of the Ross interview invite. I knew it was a good school and if I make it, it’s all good. Again, the interview brought out all that which was weak in me. I couldn’t frame proper answers while speaking. I clearly lacked experience, not just work skill wise, but more importantly people skills. I just had not worked long enough to have encountered tricky situations, dilemmas. I did not know what my style of work was. Till that time it was: get work assigned by your boss, work on it, take coffee breaks, cigarette breaks, finish the work, go home and drink beer. Come next day, repeat the above.
So basically, even before the interview was over I knew I will not make it. I did well on the McCombs interview though. I even got waitlisted on that. And the interviewer had told me specifically to call up because he knew I would at least be waitlisted and he would like to put a good word. I could have done that, and may be even made it, but I didn’t; because something had changed inside me. I was not the same impatient guy as before, I was more educated, more aware of my flaws. And I knew that I can make it big, it’s just a matter of having that goal always in front of you and working towards it, not for it, but towards it.
Make no mistake, it was tough. The time after that was very hard. I had a plan which totally bombed, I ended up wasting money, I had no immediate plans and there was a distant target which seemed even further that time. This is the part of the story where Frodo has the ring and he has to travel to Mordor, but he doesn’t know how. All he knows is that he is the only one who can do it, if it can be done. And help will come his way. He just has to stick to the task and not to be distracted. Till now I have been just trying to get away. I did not have the want to go somewhere. I had to find that place and give my best. But that will take time, I just need to stick around.
Next read about how a new chapter started in my life and how I failed again in 2009!