missionmba on December 17th, 2009

Visiting your target school is perhaps the best way for an applicant to judge his/her fit with the school. But certainly, not everybody can do it. This is specially true for the international students. Goizueta Adcom understands this and has arranged for coffee chats with current students through out the winter-break.

Talking with an insider is the next best thing in case you can’t visit a school. Personally, I benefited a lot by talking to students at my target schools and I’d strongly recommend taking advantage of this opportunity. All you need is to visit this link and contact one of the students in the city of your choice.

As for me, I am in NYC/Edison area for next four days and starting next Wednesday, I’ll be available in Atlanta. If you want to meet, leave a comment or drop me a mail at my mail ID from the link above.

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missionmba on October 3rd, 2009

“Leading Organizations and Strategy” is one of my favorite courses so far. The course, as the name suggests, primarily deals with the issues of people, strategy and leadership.  The class for the subject is highly interactive and offers opportunities for  learning from experiences of people from different cultural and professional backgrounds.

Last Thursday’s class dealt with issues of Organizational Culture. 10-15 minutes into the class, when we were done with the introduction to the concept, the professor asked us (about 60 of us in the section) to think of a single word that comes to the mind when we think of the culture at Goizueta. Next, he asked us all to come and write down the word on the board. I was juggling with “collaborative” and “community”, but then went ahead with “community”. As I returned to my seat, I was surprised to see the pattern that clearly emerged from about 60 words on the board. “collaborative” seemed to be the most common choice, with “community” not too far behind. Together, these two covered about two-thirds of the board. Some of the other words (with relatively lesser frequency) that I remember from the board are: intense, team and rigorous, (I agree with these too 🙂 ) and some creative ones: JB (our associate dean 🙂 ) and Ron Weasley (No clue where that came from. 😐 )

As I later came to know, the other two sections had  similar results too. The order may have changed, but the top two words remained the same. At this, I was reminded of one of the blog posts that I had read when I was applying to Goizueta. This post was written three years back and then, the answer was “family”, certainly not too far from the current result in the sense that it conveys. Clearly, the family/community culture at Goizueta is something that has been consistent across years.

I would certainly agree with the results from whatever I have seen so far. Right on my first day in the States, I was received on the airport by the Harriet Ruskin, the Director of MBA Program Office. I was really wowed by this experience. (I come from an undergrad institute that I still consider next only to my family, but even there, I would not expect a Dean/Director to be there at the railway station.) This was not all. For the next few days, she drove each of us through Atlanta, taking us for grocery, furniture, laptops etc. She also took us for some local sight-seeing, including CNN office and Georgia aquarium.  This again is consistent with experiences of previous years.

Later, I have found this feeling of community echoing time and again, during Winshape (our formal induction program), block 1 exams, preparing for a career fair* and even the routine classes. And this is true not only while interacting with batch-mates, but even with seniors, professors and the alumni. Everybody I reach out to is more than eager to help. I really feel proud to be a part of such a close-knit community.

*Each of these experience perhaps deserves a different post. Stay tuned; I’ll continue to bring you inside story at Goizueta on this blog.

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missionmba on September 2nd, 2009

A proud moment for me as a Goizuetan: Today the NYSE closing bell was rung from the courtyard of Goizueta Business School. This was the first time ever that the bell was rung from any educational institute..

Here’s a glimpse of the moment (Although no video can match up the experience of being on the spot of creation of history)

Really proud to be a part of Goizueta family!!

PS: I know that this blog is missing in action for some time now. I promise the readers that I’ll be back very soon providing you the live coverage of my life at Emory..

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missionmba on July 22nd, 2009

“What price is anonymity??” This has been in discussion over the blogosphere for some time now. Metal raised the issue last month here () and there was an interesting discussion on this topic with prominent MBA bloggers like JulyDream and MaybeMBA chipping in with their views on the topic. And then ahembeea, my blogger-pal for more than a year and now a fellow-Goizuetan, too touched on this topic. All this reminded me of my original plans of disclosing my identity to  the blogosphere, once my MBA plans are finalized.

Many of the readers of the blog know me simply by the blog-name: missionmba. Some of them know me by the Pagalguy handle/Gtalk ID: quizophobic. (I know that sounds stupid, but quizmaniac wasn’t available on gmail). Still, to some others, I am “Shobhit Sinha”, the pseudonym that I had assumed for varous forums during the GMAT preps time, when I didn’t want my plans to be public in the office. In fact this pseudonym was a good differentiator: Everytime I used to get a call from an unknown num that asked for Shobhit, I knew it was from one of my GMAT/MBA apps buddy. And tell you what, my ears have now become accusstomed to respond to the name “Shobhit”. 🙂

But now, the things have changed: I don’t really feel the need to be anonymous anymore. (Though frankly speaking, I have started loving having a dual cyber-identity. 🙂 ) But as ahembeea said about his blog, my blog too has enough clues to pin me down if you want to.  (In fact, I clearly remember at least two instances, when ppl have come to ask me whether I am the man behind the missionmba blog.) Besides, I have already pointed to this blog to a number of people (who know me in person), who had contacted me for GMAT guidance.

Finally, as mentioned here, I have developed a decent network of friends through this blog and I would like it to continue that way. It would certainly suit me better  if these guys are in network of Amit Bhatnagar (Yup, that’s my real name), rather than that of some undercover character: missionmba/quizophobic/shobhit.

So here’s the link to the real me: My personal blog.  In case you are interested in knowing what else do I do other than apping to B-schools, do visit the link. The blog is not as regularly updated as this one, but I plan to be more regular now. (Will I get the time to handle two blogs at a B-school?? Time will tell..)

missionmba on June 12th, 2009

Yesterday was the day for my visa-interview and despite assuraces from everyone that it’s going to be  breeze, I was very nervous and apprehensive.

A day before, i got all the documents ready , including a statement from CA, which I decided to add at the last moment. I was pretty sure that the statement was not required as most of the people told me that it’s needed only when you are showing assets like gold, property etc, whose monetary value is not directly determinate. This wasn’t the case with me. Nevertheless, I decided to play safe and got the statement ready just a day before.

2:45 was the scheduled time for my interview. I was there by 2. At the entry, after the elementary frisking, I was assigned a ticket number and was told to wait in the waiting-hall and look out for my ticket-number, when it would be displayed on the screen.  I was surprised at the arrangements in the waiting-hall. In the scorching heat of June, the minimum that you’d expect is an air-conditioned hall. Perhaps it had something to do with some renovation that they were undergoing as per a signboard.

Anyways, I waited for my turn and very soon, num 271 was displayed on the screen and I proceeded for the pre-screening. Unfortunately, something went wrong with the system. From what i could gather, the bar-code scanner wasn’t recogizing the code on my app-form. The girl at the counter was struggling adjusting angles of the form and the scanner, but wasn’t able to work that out. Sensing the nervousness on my face, she assured me that there’s nothing wrong with my form, it was a issue with the scanner/computer. Finally, somehow, she could make it work and then I proceeded to the next stage of waiting for my interview.

First 10-15 minutes were excruciating; I was a bit nervous, going through all kinds of what-ifs. Then, decided to chuck all the negative thoughts out and try conversing with other ppl. This helped me pass the time and finally, it was my turn for an interview.

The Visa-officer was an American somehere in his thirties i guess. I greeted him with a smile and he looked cheerful too, at least this far.

VO: So, you are going to Emory? Why Emory?
Me: Some fundas about it being a top school, great in grooming leaders, good for my career goals etc etc
VO: Whatever you have just told me can be said for nearly every school in top 25. Whyspecifically Emory?
Me: Some more fundas.  /* Thought it’s going in the wrong direction */
VO: I know that Emory is a great school, but let me ask my question in a different way. Which other schools did you apply to?
Me: Tuck, Darden, Duke and ISB.
VO:  And what were the results?
Me: No admit from Darden and Duke, waitlisted at Tuck, Admitted at ISB.
VO:  I don’t care about ISB as that’s not an american school. To me, it’s pretty clear now. You are going to Emory because it was the only school that accepted you.
Me (embarrassed): The reasons I gave were the reasons that I chose to apply to Emory and the same reasons hold for the other schools that I applied to. Of course, right now, I do not have many choices, but even if I had an admit elsewhere, I would have chosen Emory due to the full-tuition scholaship I am getting.
/* At this stage, I thought it has gone all wrong so far, so had to insert the full-schol somehow */
VO: Oh!! You got full waiver! /* Had a look at my I-20 */
VO: So what do your parents do?
Me: Father has retired from service and Mother is a housewife. /* Didn’t want them to touch this part as I had heard that in case none of your parents are working, they are a bit concerned about financial data. */
VO: Retired from where?
Me: Told.
VO: OKay sir, your visa is issued and your passport will reach you at the address you have specified.
Me  🙂 😮 /* Wasn’t expecting this to come all of a sudden */

As I look back at this,  I realise that he was keying in some info all the time. The Qs were mostly to keep me busy while he was doing the necessary formalities.

Anyways, now that the final  hurdle is cleared, I am all set for Atlanta. Have already booked an apartement, will be booking the tickets to Atlnata shortly. Am really very excited now and looking forward to the next two years!

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missionmba on June 4th, 2009

Is AWA worth the effort??
Simple answer is: Depends on how much effort you are talking about.

I was talking to this guy, who is  a good friend and a class of 2012 aspirant. He has already finished most of the stuff that I had suggested (Kaplan comprehensive, OG etc) and is presently getting scores around 750 in practice tests. When I last talked to him about his preps, he planned to spend his last month before the test working mainly on AWA. 

If your idea of effort is something similar to this guy’s (Before my GMAT, I used to think on somewhat similar lines too, though even at that time, I would have considered 1 month for AWA as too much) , let me assure you: it’s not really worth ths amount of effort. The primarily reason that I say this is that unless you score abysmally low (which is 3.5 or lower), nobody really cares about your score.  In last two years, I have gone through numerous threads and blogs, contacted a number of current and prospective students and attended many B-school events, but till date, I am yet to find an instance, where a candidate was denied admission due to a low AWA score. Why should the schools actually care about how you write on some random topic, when they already have their essays to guage your writing skills?

However, I am not suggesting that you dismiss AWA altogether.  In particular, if you are headed towards a real good GMAT score, you’d surely like it better if it’s accompanied by a stellar AWA score too. ( At times, it pinched when while entering GMAT scores for a school, I had to write AWA percentile as 53 (score 5.0) after mentioneing Quants and Verbal as 99 and 97 respectively. 🙁 ) Also, I have heard that some schools schools compare your AWA essays (yes, they get your essays too instead of just the score!!) to check whether the app-essays have actually been written by you. (I find this a bit unreasonable as it’s not fair to compare a time-bound performance on a random topic with your output on topics that are about your life and about which you typically have more than 3 months to think about.)

Another reason AWA needs to be practiced is that it’s the first section of the GMAT and if you feel good about what you have written your essays well, you’ll start the real stuff on a confident note. Also do practice a few full-length tests with real AWA essays. That will help you develop the test-taking stamina lasting 3.5 hours. 

Enough of why AWA is important and why it’s not. Here’s how I would suggest handling it:

  • Get a template ready for both issue and analysis essays. There are many templates available on the internet.Use that as a base and get one of your own ready. Remember that one of the readers of your essays would be a computer. So make sure that you include proper transition words.  
  • Download the list of AWA essays from mba.com.  These are two long lists of 130+ topics each and the topics that you’ll get on the test day would be from these lists. 
  • Everytime you get too loaded correcting sentences or testing data sufficiency, take a look at one of the topics and think of 3-4 points for the topic.  You don’t have to write it every time. 
  • For Analysis of Argument, normally, it’s suggested to keep a strong stand in your analysis.Your CR preps will help here. The claims made in the question stem are invariably bogus and you can easily find at least 3 flaws in most of these. 
  • For Analysis of  Issue, normally, it’s suggested to keep a moderate stand in your analysis. Think of what stand you’d like to take on the issue. Think of at least 2(preferably 3) points favouring your stand and preferably one opposing it. After the opening para, expand each point into a para. Try to include some examples. (See next point). In the penultimate para, acknowledge the other side and then towards conclusion, mention why you still favour your original stand. 
  •  If you go through the issue-list, you’d easily locate 6-7 recurring themes. I can recall a few from the list that I had prepared: “business and ethics”, “Successful/powerful women”, “rags to riches” , “technology V/s environment” (Will add more to this list in case I locate my notebook.)  Get ready a few real world well-known examples for each of them. You’d be surprised to see how preparing examples for a small list will help you cover a very good number of essay topics. 
  • Find some time may be once a week in your last month to complete a time-bound AWA exercise. Once you complete that post your answers on your blog or some GMAT prep forums.  Not many would care to comment, but some times you can get some real good inputs.  (I got very good feedback as comments on the essays I posted on this blog.)
  • Practice atleast 3-4 full length tests with the AWA section as well.  As discussed above, this will help you test your real GMAT stamina. Most of the tests (other  than the official ones:GMAT Prep and Powerprep) will either have no AWA secion or essays on topics different from the ones in the offical list. So it’s better to open the official list and start on any randomly picked topic. 
  • FInal, but very important tip: For practising AWA, never use MS word or any other editor that offers features like spell-check or grammar-check. The editor in the real exam will have minimal features. (As far as I remember, just cut, copy, paste and undo/redo upto last one operation.) You can try that from the GMATPrep software. (Even the powerprep editor is different from the one that is currently being used.)

Hope this helps.  If you have any specific Q about AWA section that is not covered here, leave a comment and I’ll try to cover that as well.

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missionmba on May 29th, 2009

Posting after a long time, almost a month.. Have been very busy lately.. Office work, visa-documentation, trips with friends (there have already been four this year and at least, one more in pipeline) and some more stuff..  Amidst all these, I finally found time for something that I was planning for over a year now: moving my blog to my own website. Finally, I did it, though many changes like finalizing the blog template (current look is a temporary one) and enabling Google-search are still in queue.. 

In other updates, 

  • Goizueta hasn’t finalized the loans yet, though they have confirmed availability. A bit worried about these, but still positive. 
  • I’ll be getting my I-20 today.. Once I have that, I’ll be booking the dates for visa-interview. 
  • Had a get-together with the other three Delhi-admits to Goizueta 2 weeks back.. Lively fellows! Hope life would be enjoyable with ppl like these around. 
  • Puuting in my papers this Monday.. Coincidentally, I am resigning from this phase of corporate life precisely on the day that I had started it. (I started my career 4 years back on June 1, 2005.)

Now that the blog is in decent shape, I’ll get back to the promises that I had made to the readers of the blogs.. Posts on school-selection, Essay-topic analysis to all schools that I had applied to (Except Darden, where I didn’t manage to get any calls) and  some posts specific to Goizueta have been long overdue.. Stay tuned, all of these would be coming in soon..

missionmba on May 1st, 2009

Clear Admit Best of Blogging 2008-2009Thanks Clearadmit for hosting the wonderful contest. Also thanks to all my fellow-bloggers, who voted for this blog and helped it get a place in top 5 applicant-blogs. Congrats to Tieny, DG and ahembeea for getting the first three positions. You guys surely deserve it. 🙂 

Special congratulations to the entire team of student-bloggers led by MaybeMBA and JulyDream. You people have done  awonderful job taking time off your busy schedules and letting us know the inside-stories from your B-schools. I hope Co2011 bloggers continue the wonderful work that you have been doing. 

I have been very busy lately. Will get back to active blogging very soon.

missionmba on April 23rd, 2009

Just got this awesome news at the accepted students site:

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School is pleased to announce that it is finalizing an agreement with an external partner which will provide loans to admitted and current international MBA students.  International MBA students enrolled at Goizueta Business School will be able to borrow for their MBA studies with a competitive interest rate and repayment terms.  A U.S. cosigner will not be required for this new loan program.  Specific details of the loan program structure will be available in the coming weeks after the agreement is finalized.

As highlighted here, I was now very nervous. But this news came in just at the right time. I would still wait before I start the celebrations. The terms and conditions are yet to be announced. But I am sure that there would be nothing prohibitive for the international students. I just hope that they decide to cover the expenses upto the costs of attendance.

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missionmba on April 22nd, 2009

Every time somebody asks me about profile-building for applying to an MBA program, I get reminded of the book: “How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life.”  The book is about a girl named Opal Mehta, whose parents are hell-bent on making sure that she gets an admit to Harvard. Unlike most of us, who start thinking of applying a maximum of 3-4 years in advance, Opal was preparing for this since the age of three or something.  So by the time she is ready to apply, she is fluent in four languages, has attended a number of leadership seminars, has undergone music classes of all kind and in addition, has a matchless academic record. 

In sum, she has a perect profile for admission to anywhere. As expected, she sails through the admission-interview impressing the dean at every stage. But Opal is stumped when she is asked “What do you do for fun?”. She has no clue what fun is, because there’s nothing that she has done because she loves it. Everything was fed to her keeping the unidimensional Harvard path in mind. The dean asks her to go back and apply in the next cycle. Sure enough, she goes back, learns to live life and lands an admit in the next cycle. 

The bottomline: You do need to have a good “profile” to get in. But if the profile means bullet-points on your resume without any real passion for any of the activities, then it may actually contribute negatively to your application. 

I follow and advice a very simple rule for profile-enhancement: “Identify your passions/strengths, follow them; Identify your weaknesses, address them”. Keeping this rule as the base, here’re some other quick tips for “profile-building”.

  • Strengths: Think of it, what are the things that you are really good at. Are you a terrific classical singer? Then, what about initiating a SPICMACAY chapter? Or were you the college  tennis-champ, who does not get to play now, because there’s no good partner to play with at office? Try talking to company HR and initiate a tennis-club at office. Get a coach for training employees after office-hours or maybe if you are good enough, volunteer to be a coach yourself. 
  • Passions: What is that that excites you? Did you always miss having a strong alumni community in your undergraduate days? Perhaps, now that you are an alumnus, it’s time that you start working towards it. If you are passionate about your alma-mater (like I am), you must be in touch with at least some of the current studnets and some of the alums. Use this and work towards improving alum-institute interaction. (I did, though this still is a work in progress.)
  • Weaknesses!! Everyone of us has some and we shy away from situations that may expose them. But  I always believe that first step to identify a weakness is to identify that it exists. Second step would be taking conscious steps towards addressing that. So if being on stage gives you heebie jeebies, then starting a Toastmasters club may be a good idea. This would not only help you overcome stage-fear, but would also give  you a lot of leadership opportunities. 
    /* As an aside, I would like to mention that I rate Toastmasters right next to my undergrad-institute in list of organizations that have changed my life. If you’re interested in starting a club/knowing more about it, leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you. */
    Similarly, if you are somebody having zero international experience (and have no realistic chances to add to that) and you feel that your school is concerned about cultural sensitivity, consider picking up a foreign language. (This was the feedback given by Tuck to a friend, who apped last yr.)
  •  Extra-curricular leadership, not just activities: If you closely see the examples that I have stated above, each one of them involves some initiatives, some leadership or some organizational opportunities.  Being just another member of the local NGO doesn’t count for a lot, but leading the membership-drive or organizing a fund-raising program for the same NGO surely means something. 
    Please note that leadership is not synonymous with holding offices. Everyone of us has seen lots of Presidents, chairpersons, who hold the post just for the tag and have nothing substantial to show for. At the same time, each one of us has seen dedicated people, who work tirelesslly without holding any post. If you can be the latter and do your job well, the offices would follow you automatically. 
  • How does the school benefit: You may have a great story about how you were passionate about a certain activity and how you followed your passion giving you great personal and professional heights. But the story would look incomplete if you don’t fit in the last piece: How does the school gain out of your passion? 
    This is also a great opportunity to showcase your homework about the school. Tell them how your passion fits in the activities of a certain club or if it doesn’t, how do you plan to start a new club for that. If you are a techie, who feasts on new technologies and ideas, tell them how you would contribute to the activities of Technology-club. 
    An example of the same from my application. : I researched and found that Tuckmasters (Toastmasters club at Tuck) is now defunct. So I offered to work towards the rejuvenation of the club. This homework found some appreciation in the telephonic interview that I had with them. 

Finally, a word on ethical aspect of profile-building. Many applicants feel that profile-building just for the sake of MBA applications is a bit manipulative and unethical.  I’d agree with this if your profile-building steps strictly fall under the category of “just for the sake of MBA applications”. A quick test for this would be to ask yourself: Would you still be doing it if you already have the admit from your dream-school? If the answer is “yes”, go ahead and build your profile; you actually have a passion for your passion. But if your answer is a clear “no”, you will be just another Opal Mehta and you may not be as lucky to get a second chance.
But what if you are in doubt? In that case, I would still encourage you to go ahead with your profile-building activities. At least, you would be getting some opportunities and exposure, which may actually ignite your passion for that activity. In any case, you are still doing a better job than those losers,  who cook up stories in their essays just by buying off some certificates.

So wish you all: Happy Profile-building! Happy apping!!