'IT sector inclination will skew learning process' - ISB Admissions Director

AICTE recognition is not relevant to a school with global aspirations but still ISB will abide with the law of the land, assures Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad's Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Mr Ranga Rao. In an exclusive interview, Mr Rao downplays the

participation of engineers and IT professionals in ISB's one-year MBA in favour of diversity of backgrounds and speaks of the institute's evolution in its five years at length.

How much has ISB achieved in its 5 years?

What we have achieved depends on what we set out to do. The most fundamental premises would be of having a globally comparable business school education, as good as it would be in any part of the world. We have a model where we get faculty from the best B-schools all over the world and partner with schools like Wharton, Kellogg and LBS in terms of in designing the curriculum and updating the electives. We try to get the best from different geographies and put it all at one location.

Secondly, we offer concentration and not specializations because leaders cannot really specialize; they need to have an overall global perspective. In that sense we have been able to connect with several sectors like real estate, retail, et cetera. Thus we are connected with the demand and supply scenario.

Thirdly, we have begun seeing diversity of students a key thing at ISB. Why is diversity important? It’s not about variety, but about making the learning experience as diverse and complete as possible. Thus we select students who have the learnability, ‘teamability’ and ‘leadability’ – the three abilities – and judge what they would bring to the class and what value addition they can get to a study group having a woman manager, an entrepreneur, a doctor or an IT professional. Then we see what these students would take away from the experience.
Taking away is depends not on what you bring to the table but what the other students bring to the table. Such groups then look at problems such as logistics or marketing in a compact and all round view. Thus what you get in the end is like a very well cooked dish with all the flavors and tastes.

Fourth, we are among the top four institutes in the world taking the highest GMAT scores. Our average had actually gone up to 714 but then we realized that GMAT scores are just one part of our learning model, the analytical skills of an individual. We wanted to concentrate on other aspects such as diversity and avoid taking only engineers and IT professionals. When I go for presentations (to prospective applicants) and ask how many of them are engineers, around 90 pc of them raise their hands. When I ask how many are from Infosys, around 99 pc hands go up.

As a matter of fact this set an alarm bell ringing a few years back. If we were to incline towards IT and numbers-oriented individuals then we probably would skew the learning process. We want to maintain the diversity of the class, otherwise we could have had a separate class for TCS or Infosys employees.

We have 25 pc women students and that is a great thing in the Indian context. Quantitatively 25 pc is close to the 35 pc in the rest of the world. We are looking for more women to join ISB. The number of entrepreneurs at ISB has increased significantly over the years. We admitted 10 doctors this year compared to 6 in the previous year.

If you see our vision statement we have three key components. Firstly we want to be globally ranked, second component is to be research driven and third component is to be independent. People ask me how ISB compares itself to the Indian Institutes of Management and frankly I don’t answer that because we all are very different. But we feel very gratified – I hope I am not sounding pompous – when IIM Ahmedabad, which has a PGP-Executive program, says on its website that their course can be compared to the one-year course at ISB. They are a 40 to 50 year old premium institute and they mentioning that they want to be compared to a five-year-old institute is a great feeling for us.

Do you think you are losing applicants to the IIMs’ PGP Executive courses?

No I don’t think we are, because of the lead start that we had. I think we have established ourselves as a brand and the pull is so much that the number of applicants has gone up by 32 pc this year. The variety of applicants has increased and today the highest number among GMAT takers from India comes to ISB. Five years back the majority went to Harvard, Kellogg, or Wharton. Today ISB is the first preference for most Indian GMAT takers, wherever they are in the world. f we analyze this we are not losing much to PGPX, though we may be losing people to top global programs in the USA.

What is the change in number of applications you received over the last two years?

We had 2,000 plus applicants the previous year and this year it was 3,000 applicants so an increase of around 32 pc.

How many international students are joining ISB classes?

Our international students who are foreign citizens holding foreign passports went up by a factor of five over last year. But if you look at pure international foreign born foreign passport holding students we had 2 last year and 6 this year, a three-fold increase. I think those numbers are very influential and next year in terms of financial aid we are undertaking something with an international student body called AIESEC. There will be 10 interns from different geographical backgrounds studying at ISB. Secondly we are working with a lot of companies and institutions all over the world, which fund the scholarship to make the program more attractive. One example is of a largest savings bank in Spain which is paying the entire tuition fee along with medical insurance and maintenance. So next year we will have five Spanish students. I am sure that by next year our international students will be at least 10, if not more.

What are the potential future changes to look forward to at ISB?

We will move to 560 participants for which another school will be built. We want to be research driven so we will need to increase our own faculty which is increasing by five every year. We need around 50 or 60 fulltime faculty. The charm of the model will remain in the learning imparted by visiting faculty along with research reports by our permanent faculty. Third, we would be getting in more diversity, more entrepreneurs, more women and more international students. Not for the sake of it but for the learning.

How does your association with Wharton, LSB and Kellogg trickle down to real deliverables to the students?

Kellogg and Wharton initially designed the program whereas the LSB joined in later. The idea was to structure the program to make it very globally relevant and sensitive as possible and focus on emerging markets. LSB, Kellogg and Wharton brought in their respective competencies. The view from their parts of the world on certain domains adds value to the program, which otherwise could have been a very Indian or an Asian program. What I personally feel is that the research done by our faculty, the research done in the centers of excellence in association with Wharton and Kellogg makes the program more connected to business.

How has the admission process at ISB evolved in the last two years?

As I mentioned earlier diversity is one thing we have begun looking at very seriously. The admission process is now online. We have better essays coming in and the set of questions we ask are very comprehensive.

What is the lowest GMAT score at which ISB refuses to look at the admission form?

Perhaps in the past batches we had people with scores less than 600 but currently everyone has a 600 plus score. But I still wouldn’t term it as the cutoff score.

You look for experience in community service in your application. However, the culture of social work does not exist in India. So a lot of individuals try to embellish their resumes with blown up accounts of social work. But what is your advice to people who have not done community service?

I grant it that such a culture doesn’t exist in India and we do get a sense of this while checking the applications. I keep telling people repeatedly that it is not like a checklist where we tick-mark on the basis of GMAT scores, community service, et cetera. Secondly, we are not looking for the number of years of community service but the consistency throughout school and college. What we’re basically looking for is to see whether they have teamability or whether they naturally like to volunteer. That we check through anything that is consistent, whether participation in cultural activities, sports, community service and so on.

How tough is to place the largest MBA class in India?

Luckily until now there has been no problem. In terms of numbers we have increased from having 145 companies to 200. Also several International companies from various sectors are coming to ISB. It has been no trouble so far for us.

When people talk about one crore salaries, it is totally blown out of proportion. We keep saing that if you come to ISB, come here for the learning and not for the packages offered. Then something like the one crore salary comes in our way but then again it is something we like to play down. We are also very careful in managing expectations. We don’t do magic here. We just provide you the platform to empower you. Ultimately how one uses the power is up to them.

What are the main challenges you face while placing such huge batch?

I won’t be very competent to answer questions about placements. But I think looking at the composite structure of the class profile, we need to place everyone in his or her preferred domain. At the same time we need to relate the demand and supply factor. All sectors don’t pay the same salaries. Some sectors have a boom and lean period. The challenge is also in managing expectations. We check during admission what the expectations of the students are from ISB. Moreover meeting expectations of the recruiters is also a challenge for us.

How easy is it for ISB participants to change their domain immediately after ISB?

It is not easy; after all, it is a very competitive world around. It’s about the profile that you bring in and the value addition that you get from the course. For instance, an Army major's competency is logistics. If he can utilize that skill in another domain, he can move very easily. So if the skill sets are not transferable, domain change doesn’t really happen. If some engineer who has worked on a shop floor says I want to get into McKinsey, it is tough. It can happen later if he moves into consultancy work for some years.

What is the update on the AICTE recognition bit?

AICTE is important because at the end of the day one has to go by the law of the land. It’s our responsibility and we need to relate to what is happening. But our take has always been that we don’t come under the purview of AICTE and the definition of education in India. It is not that we are not looking for that recognition, but we believe that today we have positioned ourselves on a global platform. We try to be independent to maintain the flexibility required in the global sense, which would be affected if we were not an independent body. But at the end of the day we will follow what the law has to say.

Do you face any obstacles while arranging for resources because you do not have the AICTE recognition?

Not at all! With due respect to the AICTE, I read a newspaper article that questioned whether the AICTE recognition had helped institutes in any way. Let’s look at the top ten institutes in India. Has AICTE helped them? Not necessary, or maybe. That’s one way of looking at it.

People talk about the ISO 9000. In my opinion, does it really guarantee you anything? One cannot still be sure even after having the ISO certification. AICTE probably reflects the comfort level of the government but in case of education, the resources and competency come from global sources.

Why is the fees Rs 15 lakhs at ISB?

The visiting faculty module is an important part of curriculum. We need to take care of their expenses. Secondly, we are planning to increase the batch size to 560 so we are building a new school. Two more centres of excellence have to be built. There are a lot of commitments, which need to be fulfilled. But I don’t see the fees increasing further. As long as we are providing globally competitive education at one third of the cost, it’s a good thing.

What brand value do you see of ISB in the global market?

It is an emerging brand. Whatever we do, we would want to be among the top 20 schools worldwide. Once the AICTE approval is done, we would be featuring in India too. Secondly, for people wanting to do global businesses, wanting to work more with India and carry out research, we would like to be seen as place of choice.

In terms of being positioned like Wharton is for finance or Stanford is for entrepreneurship, we have a long way to go. They have been around since several decades whereas we just started five years ago. But in these five years, we started with entrepreneurship, then analytic finance followed by logistics. Besides we are building a global platform for research. We are trying to tell people what the industry is looking for along with what the world is researching on.

My ISB Interview Experience - I

I had attended 2 interviews with ISB and would like to share my experience with you. My purpose of sharing my experience is that I would like to tell everyone about the mistakes I did and I want to make people aware of the kind of questions asked by ISB.

In India, mostly people with 2-3 years of work experience do not have a clear idea why they want to pursue an MBA. The most common reason is to move out of the rat race of IT. So the approach followed in ISB is more mature than that required by the much reputed IIMs.

I applied to ISB for the 2005-06 session for the first time with a score of 710. I spent around 15-20 days on my application which I must say is a very less time for a first timer. I had close to 2 years of work experience at that time without having many opportunities to display me leadership capabilities at the workplace.

Also sharing the essay topics during that period:
1. Evaluate your application and provide a critical assessment of it. Outline factors that might differentiate you from others from a similar background. (600 words)
2. Discuss an ethical dilemma that you experienced first hand, and how you resolved it. (400 words)
3. It is said that successful leaders learn as much from their failures as they do from their successes. Discuss a situation in which you failed and what you learnt. (400 words)
4. ISB places a lot of emphasis on teamwork. Tell us about your experiences in working as a part of a team. Your essay should talk about the difficulties that you faced and how you overcame them. (200 words)
5. How do you define leadership? Take the example of a leader you admire (living or deceased), and indicate the traits you like. (200 words)
6. Post ISB where do you think you would like to be professionally. (200 words)

I would like to share with everyone my assessment of these essay topics as to what to cover in which essay and how. But I'll probably share it for my next post.

Let's move on with the interview:

There were 3 people in the panel, and really I do not remember any of them... it's more than 2 years.

The questions asked were (not necessarily in order):
1. Tell us something about your family and things you want to discuss in the next 20 mins.
2. Why mba?
3. A few questions about my work like what all responsibilities do I have, how do I manage the project, what are my contributions.
4. Did you come across any difficulties/setbacks?
5. Why IT Consulting (I had written about IT consulting as my goal when I know nothing about it
6. What position/companies would you like to work in post isb? (Gave them the names of some IT Consulting companies and described the profile associated).. No one looked convinced with this.
7. Why have you Madan Mohan Malviya as your ideal leader, I thought everybody forgot him? (I had mentioned him because I am from BHU, so thought it would have an effect ;)). I told all crap and was screwed in my own eyes. MISTAKE 2 - no homework
8. Any questions? (I asked them a few)

Finally I came out with the usual feeling - confused.

Tips -
- Do your homework well. Know what you are writing on your essays. Interview is only to see how you talk. They should know you by your essays and it should be genuine.
- Define your goal and should be well-related with your past experience. Be precise about Why MBA?
- Highlight your responsibilities well in the essays and do mention your accomplishments related to them.

So finally I waited for the result and then didn't make it. I asked for feedback and was told that my experience is less for an MBA at this point of time of my career. A clear indication that I appeared immature.

Business School Essay Secrets

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Business school students face a
uniquely difficult challenge, because most programs require a series of essays
rather than a single, comprehensive personal statement. This fact alone should
indicate the importance that business schools place on your written responses.
Part of the reason for this extra required writing is that business schools also
place a stronger emphasis on practical experience. Academic ability may still be
the number-one factor, but it's not enough to get you into a school, just as
it's not enough to guarantee your success in the business world. Business
schools pay close attention to personal qualities, including your leadership,
communication skills, initiative, vision, and many more. Grades and scores do
not explain this side of you, and neither does a resume.

Thus your admission will depend
largely on your ability to convey your experiences and goals in written form.
Self-assessment is a significant part of this process, as is a careful review of
both your life and what you have done professionally. Many successful
professionals have simply never had to articulate their accomplishments before
and now for the first time must communicate this information in a very clear,
concise, powerful manner that is accessible to anyone, even without knowledge of
their field. Being able to convey both the substance and significance of one's
work life is crucial for all applicants.

As the founder of EssayEdge.com, the
Net's largest admissions essay prep company, I have seen firsthand the
difference a well-written application essay can make. Through its free online
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helps tens of thousands of student each year improve their essays and gain
admission to business schools ranging from Harvard to State U.

Having personally edited over 2,000
admissions essays myself for EssayEdge.com, I have written this article to help
you avoid the most common essay flaws. If you remember nothing else about this
article, remember this: Be Interesting. Be Concise.

Why MBA?

Nearly all applications will feature
a question that asks about your reasons for wanting to obtain an MBA at this
stage of your career. Some will explicitly ask you to tie these reasons into
your background and your goals. Even for schools that don't offer this specific
direction, you should plan on such a discussion of past and future, as it
provides essential context for your application.

"Why MBA?" is often the
first question asked and without a doubt the most important essay you will
write. It includes essential information about whether you're qualified, whether
you're prepared, and where you're headed. The other essays fill in details about
these fundamental points, but a strong answer about, for example, how you
overcame a failure will not revive a candidacy that failed based on a lack of
career focus.

Every answer should contain the
following elements, unless the application has separate questions addressing
them individually:

1. Your long- and short-term
2. Your relevant past experience.
3. An assessment of your strengths and the gaps in your experience/education.
4. How an MBA program will bridge your past and future and fill in those gaps.
5. Why this particular MBA program is a good match for your needs.

There are no groundbreaking reasons
for pursuing an MBA. This is not a place to aim for bold originality. Rather,
you should focus on articulating detailed reasons that are specific to your
situation. Moreover, there is plenty of room to distinguish yourself when
discussing past experience and future goals; the reasons themselves, however,
come from a more limited set. That said, you should not try to drop buzzwords
for their own sake. Make sure you tie your specific objectives to other aspects
of your application.


1. Don't Use Company

As a prospective business student, you have probably spent the past few years in
a corporate environment with its own in-house terminology. Remember that you are
writing for a reader who hasn't attended your company's meetings or contributed
to its products. You should certainly describe various aspects of your
professional life--your leadership skills, your career trajectory, your triumph
in the face of obstacles, and so on--but do so in language that is as accessible
to your reader as it is to you. Imagine that you are composing a document for a
customer who must decide whether to buy a particular product: you. Write clearly
and personably.

2. Don't Bore the Reader.
Do Be Interesting.

Admissions officers have to read hundreds of essays, and they must often skim.
Abstract rumination has no place in an application essay. Admissions officers
aren't looking for a new way to view the world; they're looking for a new way to
view you, the applicant. The best way to grip your reader is to begin the essay
with a captivating snapshot. Notice how the blunt, jarring "after"
sentence creates intrigue and keeps the reader's interest. 

Before: I am a
compilation of many years of experiences gained from overcoming the relentless
struggles of life.

After: I was six
years old, the eldest of six children in the Bronx, when my father was

3. Do Use Personal Detail.
Show, Don't Tell!

Good essays are concrete and grounded in personal detail. They do not merely
assert "I learned my lesson" or that "these lessons are useful
both on and off the field." They show it through personal detail.
"Show, don't tell" means that if you want to relate a personal
quality, do so through your experiences without merely asserting it.

Before: If it
were not for a strong support system which instilled into me strong family
values and morals, I would not be where I am today.

After: Although
my grandmother and I didn't have a car or running water, we still lived far
more comfortably than did the other families I knew. I learned an important
lesson: My grandmother made the most of what little she had, and she was known
and respected for her generosity. Even at that age, I recognized the value she
placed on maximizing her resources and helping those around her. 

The first example is vague and could
have been written by anybody. But the second sentence evokes a vivid image of
something that actually happened, placing the reader in the experience of the

4. Do Be Concise. Don't Be

Wordiness not only takes up valuable space, but also confuses the important
ideas you're trying to convey. Short sentences are more forceful because they
are direct and to the point. Certain phrases, such as "the fact that,"
are usually unnecessary. Notice how the revised version focuses on active verbs
rather than forms of "to be" and adverbs and adjectives.

Before: My
recognition of the fact that the project was finally over was a deeply
satisfying moment that will forever linger in my memory.

After: Completing the project at last gave me an enduring sense of

5. Do Address Your
Weaknesses. Don't Dwell on Them.

At some point on your application, you will have an opportunity to explain
deficiencies in your record, and you should take advantage of it. Be sure to
explain them adequately: "I partied too much to do well on tests" will
not help your application. The best tactic is to spin the negatives into
positives by stressing your attempts to improve; for example, mention your poor
first-quarter grades briefly, then describe what you did to bring them up.

Before: My grade
point average provides an incomplete evaluation of my potential and of the
person I am today, since it fails to reveal my passion and determined spirit
which make me unique and an asset to the _______ School of Business.

After: Though my overall grade point average was disappointing, I am
confident that the upward trend in my undergraduate transcript will continue
in business school. Furthermore, my success on the GMAT and in the corporate
world since graduation reinforces my conviction that I have a keen business
sense--one that I hope to develop at the _______ School of Business.

6. Do Vary Your Sentences
and Use Transitions.

The best essays contain a variety of sentence lengths mixed within any given
paragraph. Also, remember that transition is not limited to words like
nevertheless, furthermore or consequently. Good transition flows from the
natural thought progression of your argument.

Before: I started
playing piano when I was eight years old. I worked hard to learn difficult
pieces. I began to love music.

After: I started playing the piano at the age of eight. As I learned to
play more difficult pieces, my appreciation for music deepened.

7. Do Use Active Voice

Passive-voice expressions are verb phrases in which the subject receives the
action expressed in the verb. Passive voice employs a form of the word to be,
such as was or were. Overuse of the passive voice makes prose seem flat and

Before: The lessons
that have prepared me for my career as an executive were taught to me by my

After: My mother taught me lessons that will prove invaluable in my
career as an executive.

8. Do Seek Multiple

Ask your friends and family to keep these questions in mind:

  • Does my essay have one central

  • Does my introduction engage the
    reader? Does my conclusion provide closure?

  • Do my introduction and
    conclusion avoid summary?

  • Do I use concrete experiences as
    supporting details?

  • Have I used active-voice verbs
    wherever possible?

  • Is my sentence structure varied,
    or do I use all long or short sentences?

  • Are there any clichés, such as
    "cutting-edge" or "learned my lesson"?

  • Do I use transitions

  • What about the essay is

  • What's the worst part of the

  • What parts of the essay need
    elaboration or are unclear?

  • What parts of the essay do not
    support my main argument?

  • Is every single sentence crucial
    to the essay? This must be the case.

  • What does the essay reveal about
    my personality?

9. Don't Wander. Do Stay

Many applicants try to turn the application essay into a complete
autobiography. Not surprisingly, they find it difficult to pack so much
information into such a short essay, and their essays end up sounding more like
a list of experiences than a coherent, well-organized thought. Make sure that
every sentence in your essay exists solely to support one central theme.

10. Do Revise, Revise, Revise.

The first step in an improving any essay is to cut, cut, and cut some more.
EssayEdge.com's free admissions essay help course and Harvard-educated editors
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Please discuss the factors, both
professional and personal, influencing the career decisions you have made that,
in turn, have led you to your current position. What are your career goals for
the future, and why is now the appropriate time to pursue an MBA at NAME? How
will you avail yourself of the resources at NAME to achieve these goals?

Turkish news nowadays carry vivid images which have become terrifyingly
commonplace: the surface of the sea littered with dead sheep; a landfill
explosion leading to a number of deaths; vendors offering radiation-contaminated
tea for half-price; a little girl's death resulting from her fall through an
open sewage manhole in her schoolyard; radioactive waste sold to unsuspecting
scrap dealers; a twenty-year-old tanker breaking into pieces, spilling hundreds
of tons of crude oil into the ocean and killing sea life all around.

The frequency with which these environmental disasters fill Turkish news
broadcasts -- along with the obvious insensitivity of the authorities towards
both environment and health issues -- prompted me to learn about ways to prevent
these types of disasters. At the age of fifteen, I decided to focus my studies
on environmental sciences in order to equip myself with the technical tools I
would need to make a real contribution.

After earning a master's degree in environmental sciences, I completed a
professional international management certificate program in order to gain a
management perspective of the field. I then realized that, in order to
effectively combine my technical knowledge and management skills, I needed to
accumulate real-world experience. Specifically, working at a large company would
allow me to develop insight into various industries, as well as an overarching
vision of the international business arena.

I have now worked for nearly two years in the energy and environment group of
Koc Holding, Turkey's first and biggest diversified conglomerate. As a project
engineer, I am mainly responsible for our holding companies' environment and
energy sector investments. This position has given me the opportunity to
interact with businessmen from all over the world, thereby expanding my
international perspective. Because of my outstanding work performance, I was
chosen to attend various meetings with local and international governmental
bodies such as OPIC, IFC, and the World Bank. It is highly unusual for a young
associate to represent the company at such events, and my self-confidence -- as
well as my management skills -- was further enhanced by that successful

While working in various business lines, including the automotive industry,
consumer durables, and the energy sector, I have realized that the root cause of
many environmental problems is financial. I believe that many people in the
environmental sector are so ignorant or insensitive that they will cheat
customers to increase profits. Furthermore, businesses do not prioritize
environmental investments; as a result, insufficient funds are allocated to
adequately prevent problems. For instance, despite a population over eight
million people, Istanbul, Turkey's largest city, still lacks a properly
operating sewage system. In most of the areas of the city, waste water is
discharged directly into the Bosphorus.

In the long term, I hope to help solve my country's problems by starting my own
environmental-services business in Turkey. The company will serve both local and
international customers by providing cost-effective, adaptable solutions ranging
from waste management to safety management. In order to accomplish this goal,
however, I must deepen my knowledge of the field. Despite my experience, I still
lack some important knowledge and management skills, especially in finance,
marketing, and entrepreneurship. I am also aware that my knowledge of American
environmental issues is insufficient. Since dealing with aspects of
international business will be an integral part of my job as an entrepreneur, it
is essential that I fill in these gaps.

The NAME School's MBA program is the perfect bridge from where I am to where I
want to be. I am attracted by the inventiveness and uniqueness of its
entrepreneurial and finance programs, and believe that I will increase my
practical knowledge of entrepreneurship by interacting with my classmates. I
value the fact that at NAME entrepreneurial education does not stop at the
classroom, but rather continues through internships and extracurricular
activities. I feel that a business school for entrepreneurs should balance a
dose of theory with real-world application, and NAME's curriculum and hands-on
experiences through associations, internships, and the management field study
provide such balance.

I am also drawn to NAME because of the school's emphasis on teamwork and
technology, reflected by such exciting courses and programs as High Technology
Entrepreneurship, International Finance, 12-week field application projects, and
the global immersion program directed to teach global thinking and global
action. Additionally, the school's profusion of student groups and its flexible
entrepreneurial program -- with electives from 200 courses -- will allow me to
tailor my course of study directly to my career interests. It is precisely this
flexibility that I plan to draw on while at NAME and beyond, by taking advantage
of (and contributing to) the school's strong international alumni network.

Above all, a NAME MBA will help me strengthen both the finance knowledge and the
entrepreneurial skills necessary to secure a position as an environmental
specialist in a multinational American-based firm. Such a position, in turn,
will prepare me to accomplish my long-term ambition of building my own company.
By developing and maximizing the technical knowledge and managerial skills I
have already accumulated, NAME will allow me to ultimately make a concrete and
substantial contribution to Turkey's environment. 

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Diversity in a B-school

B-schools have constantly been focusing on “diversity” to build their batch of students. In almost every B-school, one of the essays do require details on how a candidate can add to the diversity or probably what is the one thing which would be unique to the candidate’s profile. All they are asking for diversity.

Admission committees focus on building a class of interested people from varied backgrounds. Their purpose is only to build a group where learning is not only a classroom focussed learning but also to learn from the varied experiences the students might have had.

According to Chicago GSB:

“The conviction that diversity enhances learning is a fundamental tenet of the Chicago MBA. We are strongly committed to fostering an environment where different perspectives are encouraged and embraced.”

MBA is only about how you handle business situations and how to apply one’s business learning into practice. One reason because of which most of the schools focus on case-based learning.

As Harvard puts it:

“Diversity among the student body is a foundation for the HBS experience—both inside and outside of the classroom. Indeed, these differences are critical to the HBS learning model, which thrives on the many perspectives and life experiences our students bring to the classroom from around the world.”

Keeping this in mind, we can think of how to add value to a class in a field in which, in the best case, you are the best, or unique. Just think of something which can be unique. It can be:

  • A hobby
  • Family background
  • Academic background
  • Ethnicity
  • Nationality
  • Extra-curricular activities, viz, a state/national football player, community service

How can you build diversity?

I am not going to talk about creating stuff for your application. Though that is possible, but the admission committees have been reviewing application for years and it would be too difficult to fake. So the point lies in introspection.

Build on your hobby

Here comes a problem for candidates who think they have a common profile and they are no different than the others. That’s not true. Everyone’s different. You just need to identify that one thing in which you are, or you were good at. Build on that.

Maybe you used to paint when you were in school. Work on that. Take it to the next level. Participate in some exhibitions. Or publish your art on the net.

Pick up a new language

You can go for a foreign language course. And don’t just stop at the basics. Learn it to a level where you can converse in the language comfortably. Okay, this might take time; probably 6-7 months, at least. But just an idea.

Some general guidelines

  1. Say something extra. For the uniqueness factors mentioned above, ethnicity, background, etc., do not mention them just for the sake of it. Discuss how that factor has helped you shape your personality, your career. What have you learnt from a particular life experience you might have. You can also discuss on the effect it has had on your decision to go for an MBA.
  2. When discussing your hobbies, talk about at what level you used to participate. It could be sports, art, photography, writing, anything. Discuss what your contributions were, what motivates you. Discuss if you are going to continue it after your MBA program begins. If the school provides a platform for that, mention it as your advantage.
  3. Soft skills cannot make you unique. For a B-school, leadership, communication skills, etc are required. So this is expected of all candidates. You might be good at it, but you are not unique. Emphasise on these points in another essay which talk about your qualities, but do not mention it as your uniqueness factor.
  4. Join some clubs. It could be a non profit organisation or a theme club. As an example, you can join Mensa, if you feel you have above par IQ. You can join Toastmasters club, if you are good at public speaking.

Just be to the point and make sure to cite examples. You can always talk about your experiences in diverse situations, but be sure to be to the point and mention your contribution to the class.

Why MBA?

Time and again, in all B-school applications, whether in India or abroad, this question has been asked and is probably given the utmost important in a candidate's selection. More often than not, this question is asked directly in the application; but at times, you may be asked to relate your past experience with your post MBA plans, or probably you may be asked for a reason to go for an MBA at this stage of your career. So there are multiple approaches to the question but the focus should not be lost. Without doubt, this is the most important essay in your application. So I wanted to share with you everything I can understand that goes around this question, ie, the purpose, the importance, the expectation from the applicant in response, etc.

As I said, "Why MBA?" forms the most essential part of your application. It includes essential information about whether you're qualified, whether you're prepared, and where you're headed. The other essays include details about these fundamental points, but if a lack of focus is sensed, even other strong answers might not be able to strengthen the candidature.

Every candidate must retrospect on the following points and try to include them in the essay so as to let the admission committee know you very well just by going through your essays. Your objective should be to leave no stone unturned to help the AdCom know you as a candidate through your essays. Interview should only be a formality.

1. Your long-term and short-term goals.
2. Your relevant past experience.
3. An assessment of your strengths and weaknesses.
4. Skills required to achieve your goals.
5. How will an MBA help you acquire these skills?
6. And why this particular MBA program?

When you know your long term and short term career goals, you just need to convince how and MBA will be a tool to help you achieve those goals. You need to be convinced yourself that those skills/platform that an MBA qualification or a particular B-school can provide you with, cannot be acquired at the work place. And your goals post MBA should be inline with your past experience until and unless you are going for an MBA to make a career shift.

For eg, an engineer working in a product manufacturing firm might have good sales skills, but might not be able to move to Product sales because of lack of qualification. So he might pursue an MBA with an ambition of moving to Product Sales as his background as an engineer would help him understand the product’s technical details ultimately making him more confident in a sales deal.

Self-awareness is a more difficult thing than it sounds. Knowing your strengths is easy. But you should know how you can build on those strengths. You should be aware how these strengths can make you a unique candidate. You must be cultivating a hobby for which you take time out of your schedule.

When it comes to weaknesses, people become confused. Come on, having a weakness does not reduce your candidature. Rather not having a weakness makes you less human. Self-awareness is strength and if you have it you are aware of your weaknesses. Knowing your weakness is not enough, you should know, rather should be working on improving on it. That makes you unique. Just be aware, that a weakness should not be so severe that it hampers your chances of getting in. After all, for what are you making this much effort.

Now when you have jotted down the story of your experience, become aware of your strengths, your skills, it’s time to connect the dots. You just have to relate your work experience, coupled with your strengths and skills to be acquired at the B-school, used as a tool, to your post MBA goals. You got the answer.

Apart from this, there are many more important points which you will come across during an application, like diversity, why this school, etc. I will wrote more about that later. You and I have a lot of homework to do.

GMAT Verbal Tip: Coordinating Conjunctions

Usage of conjunction comes handy usually in the sentence correction section of the GMAT, which undoubtedly is the most difficult section (popular opinion) of GMAT. In addition, this article would also be handy and useful in writing. Found an article on Coordinating Conjunctions, sharing with all:

Coordinating conjunctions are some of the handiest, dandiest words in the English language. Essentially, they help us string our thoughts together in a way that is complex and meaningful, and without them writing would be very short and choppy.

You can remember the coordinating conjunctions by memorizing the word:

FANBOYS = for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

Coordinating conjunctions are used between independent clauses, and paired with a comma. For example, the following sentences can be combined with a coordinating conjunction:

This place has the worst food I have ever tasted. I will never eat here again.

Combined with a comma and coordinating conjunction:

This place has the worst food I have ever tasted, so I will never eat here again.

Some other examples:

  • I love you, but I can not marry you.
  • I want to go to the store, and I want to go to her birthday party.
  • He had not known her long, yet he felt very close to her.

Coordinating conjunctions are some of the most commonly used words and very easily misused by leaving out a comma or putting it in the wrong place. Be mindful that the parts you join are complete sentences that can stand alone.

6 Foreign Expressions You Should Know

It has been a very long time since I have written something useful targetting self-improvement. In fact, I haven't made any additions to the blog since like half a year. This post, basically is not about GMAT, but can be useful in writing essays for applications or AWA.

Well, it's one of the things I would like to improve about myself is good writing. And for that, vocabulary and word formation are important aspects. While surfing through Daily Writing Tips website, I found the following information very useful, so sharing it with everyone:

Whether you like it or not, foreign expressions represent an integral part of the English language (and of many other languages, too). Knowing the meaning and usage of the most used ones is very important. First of all because it will enable you to understand pieces of text that include them. Secondly, because you might also need to use those expressions on particular situations (avoid using them just to sound smart though). Below you will find 6 foreign expressions commonly used in English, enjoy!

1. De Facto

De facto is a Latin expression that means “actual” (if used as an adjective) or “in practice” (if used as an adverb). In legal terms, de facto is commonly used in contrast to de jure, which means “by law.” Something, therefore, can emerge either de facto (by practice) or de jure (by law).

And what of the plastic red bench, which has served as his de facto home for the last 15 years and must by now be a collector’s item? (NY Times)

2. Vis-à-Vis

The literal meaning of this French expression is “face to face” (used as an adverb). It is used more widely as a preposition though, meaning “compared with” or “in relation to.”

It’s going to be a huge catalyst in moving the whole process forward and it really strengthens the U.S. position vis-a-vis our trading partners (Yahoo! News)

3. Status quo

This famous Latin expression means “the current or existing state of affairs.” If something changes the status quo, it is changing the way things presently are.

Bush believes that the status quo — the presence in a sovereign country of a militant group with missiles capable of hitting a U.S. ally — is unacceptable. (Washington Post)

4. Cul-de-sac

This expression was originated in England by French-speaking aristocrats. Literally it means “bottom of a sack,” but generally it refers to a dead-end street. Cul-de-sac can also be used metaphorically to express an action that leads to nowhere or an impasse.

But the code of omerta was in effect for two carloads of fans circling the cul-de-sac to have a look at the house. (Reuters.com)

A cul-de-sac of poverty (The Economist)

5. Per se

Per se is a Latin expression that means “by itself” or “intrinsically.”

The mistake it made with the Xbox is that there is no game console market per se; there are PlayStation, GameCube, and Xbox markets. (PCMag.com)

6. Ad hoc

Ad hoc, borrowed from the Latin, can be used both as an adjective, where it means “formed or created with a specific purpose,” and as an adverb, where it means “for the specific purpose or situation.”

The World Bank’s board on Friday ordered an ad hoc group to discuss the fate of President Paul Wolfowitz (CNN)