If you are still reading it, then probably you want to get to the part where Frodo manages to destroy the ring. Every story deserves a happy ending and I will give you one. End of part 2 was worse than end of part 1 on so many levels. Because that’s when hope starts to waver and confidence starts to shake. At such a time choices are costly. For me it was apply to schools where I didn’t want to go but where I had a better chance of getting in or wait for another year and apply to “my school” with the little hope still left, but risk everything. I am a hard-ass. What do you think I would choose?
This time I decided to change my strategy. First change was to take it easy on the applications. What you feel is what you project in your essays. I did not want to sound desperate; I wanted to sound confident and valuable. And most importantly I had to find THE school which valued me for what I am. I had a very unconventional work profile and had a different career path planned ahead of me. This should be valued in your application, not frowned upon. But make no mistake, was still looking at the top schools. It had to be the best and worth every penny I spent and time I will devote for my education. The research took me back to 2006 when I had first applied to Tuck: Ivy League school, Beautiful place, highly diverse class, strong focus on general management and a big chunk of class from non-traditional (non-profit, etc.) backgrounds. This seemed to be the one for me. I wonder why you don’t get to hear about Tuck so often, at least in India.
Even though I had my entire story chalked out in the form of essays from last year, I still had lots of work ahead of me. I wanted to write fresh essays as much as possible. One thing which was lost in my essays the last year was personal touch. By that I mean writing about the quirky things about me. Not many people know I am an avid Rubik’s cube solver. I was sure there is a place to write that which I am not using. Because we are so intent on telling about our professional experiences, our rags to riches story, our community work and how we have meticulously planned each semester even before coming to the school, that we often forget how BS it can sound to them if you leave out your day-to-day life events, frustrations, constraints from your story. In general my writing is very casual and informal, but essay writing can stifle the style to the order where it becomes boring and insipid. I said to myself: I am a blogger for a long time, I can certainly write better!
I decided to write about my plans in life, and how I am going to get married and move with my wife. How all this fits into the grand design of things. I told them about so many things on a personal level which I guess struck a chord with the school’s personality. The small ‘insignificant’ things are what make life interesting and that’s what makes an essay interesting too. For example, earlier in the year I had finished an endurance race, biking for 110 kms and hiking/running for another 40 kms in a day. Now this may sound irrelevant but it is not. This is interesting stuff. If your friends think of you as a fun person, ask them what makes you so. Your friends don’t know shit about how you managed to increase the revenue in your company, but they do like you, because of your quirky little things. Try to bring that flavor in your application.
I was preparing my applications in the midst of my engagement’s arrangements. I had to research diamond rings and optimize carat/clarity/color vs cost equations! And finally that interview invite from Tuck came! I did NOT jump in joy because this has happened to me a lot and every time I was left hurt. So this time I took it easy on me. I said silently to myself: You have screwed this up a bit too many times and may be this is the time you bring some changes. First thing was make sure I don’t end up giving a phonic interview. I suck at phone conversations. No alum interviews, if possible. I had a bad time with one of the alum interviews from a top school. They can throw odd balls and they generally tend to talk more about themselves than the candidate. And anything you know about the school is not going to satisfy them, which is natural. Luckily for me, I was to be interviewed by an Adcom member, in person.
I did not prepare for the interview at all. And this was the best strategy. And I strongly feel that if you have done enough research about the school while deciding on it and then while writing the essays, you do not need this. I like the Pune-Mumbai Expressway a lot. And so while I was driving to Mumbai from Pune, for the interview, I found the best time to ‘prepare’. In my mind I imagined how the interview will go and what will I talk about. The good thing about making mental notes is that you don’t sound rehearsed as opposed to if you practice by writing them down.
I arrived to Mumbai at my mother’s place; changed into a business suit and a tie. Funny fact: the diamond ring had burnt such a big hole that I wore the suit I had bought for my engagement, for which I intentionally got a business suit. Poor yet clever me J Anyway, so I touched my mother’s feet and with her blessings with me left for the interview. There I was in the beautiful Gateway Taj hotel, all sharp and confident. I started to feel I am going to rock this time and that helped my confidence a lot. The interviewer was a nice lady, who sat through the entire interview listening to my rants and encouraged me to talk very candidly. The interview went very well. I could sense it. If I was getting to a B-school, this was it. After the interview I gulped down a pitcher of beer at The Pizzeria on the Marine Drive J with my school friend. What a day!
In a week I got engaged in the same business suit and eventually the D-day came. The results were going to be out 3 o ‘clock in the morning India time. But I got a call from a US number, starting with +1-203, in the evening. And I knew I had done it. I couldn’t say anything other than “thank you”, but that was more than enough. This was a time to just feel it, to sink in. The next morning I woke up and felt as if I had lost 10 kgs. Just for this feeling, everything is worth it. I cannot really write much after this point, as these things are best left to be experienced. I wish everyone who dares to dream, all the best. Always remember, no goal is unachievable and the best choices are the ones that you make. Hard work, sincerity, perseverance and good wishes will always fructify. Be relentless.