Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Thanks to Clear Admit and all my fellow bloggers for putting me among the top 10 applicant bloggers of the year. It feels really good that you find my posts useful. Hopefully this blog will continue to provide insights on life at Wharton and B-School in general.

Congratulations to all the other winners!

I hold a US Visa now!

I had my visa interview in Chennai yesterday and I got my visa! Now I just need tickets to get to Wharton...

Coming up: A detailed post on my preparation (documents et al) for the visa interview....

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I cast my vote!

I cast my vote for the Clear Admit BoB contest a couple of days ago. I was very familiar with the nominated applicant blogs, so I hardly had trouble voting. But I must admit that I had not read too many of the student blogs. I was familiar with only a few of them and I did not want my vote to be biased. So I did a whirlwind tour of all of them and picked my favorites and sent away my ballot to Clear Admit. I really wish all of them had moved to the new blogger and categorized their posts. (Fat chance, I know. They have busy B-School lives after all)

Now all I can do is wait for the results. I hope some of you voted for me :D. All the best to all the nominees!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Resume tips

There is an oft-used marketing strategy - "State, elaborate, state again". The resume is where you can state your case. It can be used as both an introduction to your entire application as well as a concise summary of your professional and extracurricular life. So the resume is an important marketing tool and here are some tips to use it effectively:

Typically your essays will talk about your experiences, learnings, ideas and opinions. Whereas your resume can be used to list out and quantify your achievements. The size of the teams you led, the $ value of your sales targets, the amount of business you earned for your firm, the % increase in efficiency you achieved for the software you developed, number of promotions, academic/professional awards, prestigious scholarships etc. are all quantifiable entities that will make your resume impressive. When a person reads your resume he/she should get an idea of your achievements and should want to know what made you achieve them (which is what your essays will contain). So, numbers look good on your resume and your resume is the best place for numbers.

Although you will be using bullet points and resume-speak, grammar is important. Short crisp sentences in simple past tense without too much of passive voice really helps. Do not make your reader guess the expansion of your abbreviations.

Choose a resume format that does not look too cluttered and allows enough space to say everything you want to. I personally believe that a very simple functional template works better than those that offer more decorative value. Make sure there is clear demarcation between the various parts of your resume, namely, educational background, professional experiences, extracurricular interests. Ensure that you give all the relevant dates for every activity.

Do not try to overload your resume with explanations and description and thereby introduce redundancy between your resume and essays. Save the verbosity for the essays!

Make sure all the significant aspects of your education, profession and extracurriculars are listed in your resume. Missing out something could mean giving an incomplete picture of your candidacy to the adcom, specially because the resume could serve as a quick reference to your file and should contain all the key points you want your readers to remember about you.

Normally, schools specify the acceptable length for the resume. If not specified a 1 or 2 page resume is ideal. I used a 2 page resume for all my schools because none of them restricted the length to 1 page while some specified a maximum of 2 pages. So don't go overboard with the length.

Hope you find this post useful...

Monday, April 09, 2007

Your angel essay reviewers!

In this post I will tell you who can effectively review your essays and how. I will try and keep this post short :D

The author
You have to be the first reviewer of your essays. Ideally you should not stop rewriting an essay until you are comfortable enough to show it to someone else. While reviewing, pay attention to both content and style. While someone else might be in a position to comment on your style, only you can decide what is the best content for an essay. A reviewer will only be able to critique your content. He/she cannot create the content for you. Hence, for each essay, ask yourself if you have chosen the best story you have. Think if there is something else you can use to make the essay more effective. Creating a tight story is the first step. Look for glaring logical gaps in your essay. Systematically fill them up, till the essay is logically sound and convincing. If you do this incrementally each time you edit an essay, you will be well on your way to a perfect essay :-).

Partner in crime
For me, this reviewer was a person who was also applying to B-School (to the same ones as me in fact). But it takes a lot of trust to do that and I would say I just got lucky! Basically, you need someone who is familiar with the application process. He/she should be in the thick of things to have a reasonable chance of judging if your essays will sell. A fellow applicant is of course just an idea. A current student/recent alumnus can do the job too. But they are really busy and it's unreasonable to expect so much of time from them unless they are your friends. If you have a friend or colleague who really is interested in the process, or is ,say, applying next year, you have your ideal reviewer. You can coach him/her a bit with some sample essays of successful applicants. You can make him/her read school websites to understand what kind of people your target schools attract. Make sure you give them all the information they need to do this favor for you.

Clueless do-gooder
This is a person who does not know you very closely, someone who can give an outsider's take on your essays. This is the reviewer whose role is closest to that of an adcom member. It is difficult to get a stranger to review your essay for you. So get someone who is just a recent acquaintance/friend/colleague. You should be able to count on this person's goodwill and his/her language skills. All you need this person to do is to tell you if your story sounds like bullshit, did he/she find it plausible, convincing, impressive etc. Basically get an objective opinion about what did not go down well when he/she read your essays for the first time. If this reviewer has good lingustic skills, then he/she is the best person to candidly comment on your style, voice and language also.

Lie detector
This has to be a person who knows you really well. Family and close friends fit the bill well. They just need to check if the essay portrays the real you and if you have written in your real voice and tone. This reviewer should ensure that your true personality shines through your essays. Since this reviewer will be a person you are close to, you can take the liberty of troubling them a wee bit more and demand a little more of their time, sleep and effort. This review is the checkpoint for you to make sure that you are not trying to be the ideal B-School candidate, something that the adcom can see through very easily. This review should help you drop all your facades.

Human Spell Checker
As I said before, do not trust the spell checker in your word processor. You can do the spell check yourself. If you are not confident of your spellings, get someone who is good (even bright school kids will do, you can bribe them:P) to do it for you.

Do keep in mind that you need only the above roles in your reviewers. Having 5 unique reviewers is not very practical and is very time consuming. You will need atmost 2-3 reviewers with a reasonable overlap of the roles I have outlined. As the title says, they are angels,send them thank you notes, take them out for a drink or a dinner or something. Do not let your gratitude go unexpressed.

PS: This post is not a usual "how to review your essays" post because I did not intend it to be one. I believe there are only 3 things to review: Content, Style, Grammar. I feel that it is the selection of the right reviewers that gives you your best shot at submitting winning essays. Hence the slightly unconventional (maybe even tangential) post. Feel free to leave a comment for any clarifications you might need to find this post more useful.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Funding your MBA

You might think funding is one thing you can think about after getting accepted to B-School. But think again! What if you get accepted and then realize there is a problem with arranging the funds needed to cover your MBA? I personally know people in this situation and hence I thought I should write this post to forewarn those who are just beginning their application journey.

As we all know, the MBA is an expensive expedition. Most applicants hope to fund their education through loans and scholarships. Scholarships are not easy to come by and they seldom cover the full cost of the education. Given the hectic academic and social schedule, it is not practically possible for MBA students to work for their living. So how will you fund the $100,000 - $140,000 you need to pay for your MBA? This is a question you should ask yourself even while you are selecting the schools you want to apply to.

If you are a US citizen or a permanent resident:
I am not an expert on this, but I believe there is federal aid/loans that cover a sizable portion of your expenses depending on your financial situation. So your financial concerns should be lighter than those of an international applicant.

If you are an international applicant, here are the things you need to consider:

Are you applying only to top 10 schools in the US?
If yes, rest easy! Almost all the top 10 schools in the US have a need-blind application process and have a guaranteed loan program for every incoming student. Most of these loan programs do not require a US co-signor. This makes life really easy! You can just go ahead and apply and worry about finances only during visa time (I promise a separate post on this if and when I get my visa :D).

But the top 10 schools are also the most difficult to get admitted into. So you might add a couple of lower ranked schools to your list. This is when you need to be careful. Typical questions to ask yourself before you decide to apply to a school:
  • Does the school have a loan program for international students?
  • Does the loan program require a US co-signor? Do you have someone willing to co-sign for you?
  • What is the interest rate for loans with and without co-signor? Is there a significant difference?
  • Does the loan have guaranteed approval or do you need to go through some credit check before your loan is approved?
  • How long does it take for the loan to be paid out?
  • How are you expected to sustain yourself till you get the loan money?
  • Will you need to bear the cost of tuition even before the loan money reaches you? If so, can you manage it?
  • Does the school offer some special financial assistance for people with your background (if you are a minority applicant)?
  • How do current students from a similar background as yours manage?
These are questions for which the answers may not be readily available on the school's website. After all everything in life cannot be handed to you in a platter :D. Google, current students/recent alumni, the school's financial aid office and fellow applicants (who have information) are the resources you should capitalize on to get your questions answered.

Other sources of funding you can explore:
  • Can you borrow enough money in your home country itself? Are the domestic loans competitive when converted to $?
  • Does the domestic loan cover living expenses also? (This may not be the case, the loans may be restricted to tuition and other academic purposes)
  • Do you have personal sources of funding (e.g. immovable assets, shares etc.) which you would be willing to liquidate/mortgage?
  • Will your parents/spouse/relatives sponsor you?
  • Will your employer sponsor you? If yes, what are the terms? (It is counter-intuitive if you want to switch careers but will have to go back to work for your employers if you avail the sponsorship)
As a future MBA student, you will want to make intelligent financial decisions. The answers to these questions will help you do just that and also save you the disappointment of realizing that you cannot attend a school you had your heart set on.

To reiterate, it is not enough to like a school's program. Attending the school should be financially viable too. So...Read the fine print. Look before you leap!

Some useful posts I unearthed right now :-
Clear Admit - admissions-tip-thinking-about-financing
mba.com - Paying for your MBA
MBAPodcaster-Financing your MBA
An LBS student's experience

Nominated for BoB!!!

It feels really good to be nominated by Clear Admit for its Best of Blogging Awards!

My thanks to Clear Admit for considering me for this award. Personally this means a lot to me because it is a recognition of the effort I put into my blog. When I was scouring the web for resources at the start of my application journey, I stumbled upon Clear Admit. Since then this website has remained my best source of information on all things "MBA". I urge other applicants also to make the best use of this wonderful resource. This post is a small gesture to pay my tribute to Clear Admit!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


This post will outline a method of tackling the essay writing process and some subtleties worth considering. I will not talk too much about how to collect the content for your essays, as my previous post addresses it already.

First of all, there are 2 ways to begin with the essays. You can complete your essays one school at a time or you can group together similar questions from various schools. The first approach is more holistic while the second, although seemingly more efficient, might produce a very haphazard result. It is still a personal choice you will need to make.

Here are a series of steps you can follow to answer a single school's essay questions successfully:

Create your story...
Sit back and take a good look at the essay questions. Make sure you understand what exactly they are asking for before you plunge into answering them. Then it is time to figure out what goes where. Before beginning to answer the questions, make up your mind about what are the examples you will use for each of the questions. There might be a few compromises you will need to make, especially if the school has lesser number of questions. It is better to make these compromises early than realizing you missed a very important example after you have finished all the essays. Hence fitting the pieces of your story into the questions makes for a tighter story and will also avoid redundancies.

While creating the content for your essays remember that there are some implicit questions to be answered for almost every school you apply to irrespective of whether they are stated or not:

1. Why School X? Why now?
2. How will you make a difference to the school
3. Career progress
4. Career goals

If not asked, the onus is on you to find a suitable place to fit in the answers for these questions.

Putting it down in writing really helps to clear out the fuzz in your mind. You may not yet know the stylistic aspects of how you are going to present each essay. Still, create a separate file for each of your essays and jot down an outline for each.
You can then build on this outline to create bullet points, and then rearrange them to have a good sequence. This is the most visual way to make your story unfold before your eyes even before you write it.

Flesh it out...
Now your content is ready. It is now time to convert your essay into logical paragraphs. Paying attention to tense, grammar and voice (as elaborated below) convert your bullet points to complete sentences. When arranging your content in paragraphs make sure one flows into the next. You can use your introduction to set the stage for the essay, to inform the reader as to what to expect. Or you could begin with a bang like the opening of a dramatic scene. The same goes for the conclusion, you can use to summarize or to finish with a flourish. Simply use your imagination!

Embellish your essay...
The rest of the work is decorative. You can add quotations, sub-headings, conversations, citations et al. If the online application preserves the formatting then you can bold, italicize, use 5 different fonts, indent, subscript, superscript, whatever you please!

Written Language
Mind the language in your essays. While it is important to write in your true voice, you simply cannot be completely colloquial or have sloppy grammar in your essays. It is not necessary to use flashy, flowery, exotic words in your essays. The primary aim is to get the point across. Impressing the reader with your linguistic genius is only a fringe benefit :D. A purely functional vocabulary is more than enough to write a good essay. The idea is to make the reader feel you are talking to him/her, to create this effect you need to take care of 2 things

a) Active voice
As far as possible use active voice in your essays. Essays in passive voice sound like technical specifications. I'm sure techies will understand what I mean here. Active voice is more personal and speech-like.

b) Tense
Take care to see that your essay has uniformity of tense and smooth transition between tenses when needed.

  • Slang is blasphemous
  • Passive voice is a little inhuman :D
  • Grammar is important. Period.
  • You are expected to know your spellings. Don't trust the spell checker in your word processor.
  • Paragraphs make the reader's life easy.
  • Shorter sentences improve readability and sustain the reader's attention
  • Choose between British and American English and stick to it.
  • Punctuate your essays!

You can be humorous, witty, poetic, prosaic, lyrical, formal, semi-formal, technical, didactic, narrative, conversational etc. etc. Take your pick. But make sure it works well. Don't allow your essay to become a bad joke or a tiresome monologue or a constipated technical document.

Keep your audience in mind
Remember that your reader need not be familiar with your industry/ your extracurriculars. So unexpanded abbreviations are a big no-no. While quoting examples remember to give some context to the reader. Explain the hierarchy of your team to demonstrate where you fit in. Do not ramble away technical details of your project. If you are saying something which is culturally very specific to your country, take a couple of lines to explain it to your reader. To cut it short, empathize with your readers. Do not bombard them with jargon and hence give them a chance to question your ability to be sensitive in a diverse cultural environment (namely, B-School).

Sob stories
When it comes to failure related questions, DO NOT rant, crib, whine, pass the blame or make lame excuses. Sob stories make the reader question your leadership skills, adaptability in a team and your maturity level. State the facts as they are and focus on what you are doing/did to overcome your setbacks/failures. Openly admit your weaknesses and describe how you are addressing them. Show the adcom you are mature and down to earth.

Being unclear about what you want to do post-MBA and hence speculating a little about your future is one thing. But fibbing about your past and cooking up achievements is another thing altogether. A "story" may sell, but is the dishonesty really worth it? This is a question of personal ethics and I will leave it at that.

So... Happy Writing!

PS: I will write a separate post on reviewing essays and deciding who reviews your essays.