Sriraghav, Hitesh and Krishna talk to Reshmi Suresh, an alumnus of the ‘15 batch, who is currently pursuing her MBA from Yale School of Management under the Yale Silver Scholars Program.

Is the program you’re enrolled in only for freshers? Could you tell us more about your program?

Yes. Only final year undergraduates can apply – it’s called the “Yale Silver Scholars’ Program”. They took in about 17 people this year. Under this program, you attend the first year with the regular MBA students – just a normal Yale MBA – and then you have a one year internship where you don’t go to school – you just do the internship. Then you have your second year of MBA. So it’s basically three years, except that the middle year isn’t school, it’s a job.

How relevant is CG for your grad school app, and how important are your extracurricular activities and PORs? Do you have any tips for writing the SOPs, for recommendation letters and so on?

What I’m going to say is based completely on my own research and on talking to people, I don’t claim to be an expert on what they want.

CG:

Generally, a higher CG means a better chance;  especially if you’re the class topper or second or in the top 2 % or 5% of your class. But fret not; I’m not a 9-pointer myself and I got selected.

SoP and Essays:

With regard to SoPs, it’s important to understand that most B-Schools don’t ask for SoPs in the MBA app; they ask for essays instead. An SOP is just a general statement about what you’ve done so far and what you want to do in the future, so some research on the institute that you like or something. An essay is a very specific question; like, the question for UCLA’s Anderson School of Business was, ‘This is our motto. How do you think this relates to you in your life so far and how do you think it will affect you after graduation?’. This is a vague question, you have to really sit down and formulate a response, and it deals with what you’ve done and what you will do.

Essay questions in general are like this: Describe one incident in which you grew as a person and what you learned from it. (Behaviour-oriented questions). One question which will generally be there is ‘why MBA’ and ‘why this school’.

The number of essays also depends on the school, and the length varies from school to school. The problem with this is that you will have to write different essays for every college! If you apply to 5 schools you’ll have to write 10 different essays; none of which are similar to each other.

Recommendation:

Recommendation for a MBA application is best obtained from someone who’s seen you work in a leadership role and not someone you’ve worked for in an internship (interns generally don’t get many leadership opportunities) – perhaps someone you’ve worked with in an NGO or the professor who coordinated your work in Shaastra/Saarang. But if you don’t have anyone who could vouch for your leadership skills, it’s not the end of the world – I got it from my Airbus mentor.

GRE/TOEFL/GMAT Scores:

The test scores are definitely important; but it’s definitely not the main/only criterion for selection. A GRE score of over 320 or an equivalent GMAT score is good enough. Some schools might require you to even submit TOEFL scores.

Video Essays:

This is basically a recording of one of the admission committee members asking a question, after which you have 20 seconds to prepare an answer. And then the software starts recording automatically and you have to answer in a minute or so. Some schools let you practice as many times as you want, some let you practice once or twice to get used to the software and others don’t let you practice at all. Some of the questions can be really vague, like they asked me what is one thing you wish your parents had taught you. This part of the application is a live untampered representation of you; so obviously it carries a lot of weight. It’s worth the effort to practice recording beforehand to see how you look on camera, and it’s also a good idea to ask a friend to help you practise with the kind of questions they might ask.

Well, they say that everything carries equal weight and that’s actually true – like if for example you had a student whose CG was not that good, his GRE was average, and his interview was not that good, but he has three startups and he’s done a lot of work for a non-profit organization – they’re not going to say the student’s grades are not good, hence we’re not going to take him. They look at other things too. So it really depends on a lot of things.

Interview:

Many schools have interview as a standard part of the process. It’s normally thirty or forty minutes long, and there are a lot of behavioural questions. Sometimes you get a personal interview. London School of Business flies to india and so you can have a personal interview. Otherwise it’s done via Skype (unless you want to travel to the US). The number of interviewers usually is one, but sometimes there’s two; it depends on the school. All my interviews were skype interviews and I had two interviewers for Yale and one for everything else. About the interview – they’re not trying to grill you (at least based on my experience) they’re trying to actually talk to you. So they ask you things like, tell us about that one time that you had to tell your coord that he didn’t do proper work or tell us about a time that you couldn’t do what you said you would. Needless to say, the interview is a crucial step in your application process.

Which schools would you recommend applying for?

A fresh graduate doesn’t have much of a chance of getting accepted into a regular MBA program; most schools expect you to have a bit of work experience for such programs. Instead you could apply for freshman MBA programs like the Yale Silver Scholars Program or Harvard Two Plus Two program. In fact, many other programs like Stanford (10-15), ISB (YLP) or London School of Business (LSB)’s Masters in Management are also amazing programs to look at.

Also, it’s important to realise that applying to these programs is an expensive affair. Most basic applications cost around 250 USD and it takes around 50 USD to send the GRE/GMAT scores to each school. So, it’s important to selectively apply to schools; and give your full efforts into each app.

Any final words of advice?

At the interview,  they will ask you if you have any questions for them; and it’s important to ask them something. It shows your interest towards that school and it shows that you don’t have any inhibitions in asking questions. It can’t be something that can be found out on the website, so you need to talk to people, read alumni/students blogs and figure out things you still can ask. In these questions you can casually mention the people you’ve talked to earlier. It shows pro-activeness.