1) When and why did you decide to apply for further studies?
While I was pursuing my second year of Bachelor’s at IITM, I happened to develop an enthusiasm for trekking and I met Arul Sekar who was pursuing his Master’s in Entrepreneurship at DOMS. At that point in time, Arul was planning on start a low-cost no-frills eco-tourism service.
At that point in time, I was exploring every single activity that I could get my hands-on. I intended to take up a research internship to test my appetite for research. I took up activities for Shaastra and Saarang and was planning to run for a Hostel Secretary post. So, I jumped at the chance of exploring a start-up which served as a great exposure for me. I realized my inclination towards business and decided to test it out and gather some work experience, before pursuing any business education.
Eventually, after working for 2 years in manufacturing at ITC, I was convinced and felt more prepared to dive into Business Management. I applied to multiple MBA programs and got accepted by Harvard Business School.
2) Is a high CGPA required for applying? How relevant are extra-curriculars and Positions of Responsibility? Any tips on essays, recommendations etc?
An application is comprised of different elements such as your essays, work experience, recommendations, CGPA, PORs, and GMAT score. The order of importance is roughly as listed, given that you have the basic average on every front.
Essays and Recommendations are the only elements that speak about you to the school before they meet you in person. I would urge anyone who is applying to draft their essays very carefully and to articulate aspects of their accomplishments that a resume can never do. As far as recommendations are concerned, they need to be very specific and it is always better to have recommenders who know your work very well than having a generic recommendation from a big shot.
3) Why do you think Harvard selected you?
There are multiple elements that go into the selection process and obviously, I would not have a comprehensive idea of what made my case for the admissions committee
As a candidate if you ask me to point out one thing that made it for me, I would say my work experience and recommendations. When I applied, I had gathered solid ground work-experience and had taken up a couple of non-traditional projects that were not a part of my job description, at a hierarchical company. My managers (recommenders) were great people who supported me throughout the process.
Having said that, I know of a couple of great folks with solid profiles and they were not selected. One reason I could come up with was the Class configuration that all business schools (including Harvard) try to achieve. To that extent, I believe that I had something unique to offer and I was lucky.
4) How and which colleges did you decide to apply to?
I applied to four schools because I could not have done a great job applying to more than that. Applications are a lot of work and I did not think I could manage them well with an ongoing project that was peaking. For selecting schools, I googled and read up blogs about all the top schools and tried to get in touch with people to get a sense for what the curriculum at a particular school focuses on.
5) Did you have a mentor?
I did not have a one-to-one mentoring relationship and I did not know anyone who made it personally. Nevertheless, I reached out to alumni and cold-called them. I was so surprised by the generosity of their responses to my queries. I got significant inputs which helped me shape my applications. I couldn’t have done well without them.
– Srivani Amrutavakkula graduated from IIT Madras with a B.Tech in Electrical Engineering in 2010.