An alumnus of Kellogg School of Management on entry strategies for top business schools:
Rajdeep Chimni holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management and is co-founder of Admissions Gateway, which has helped many candidates gain admission to top international B-schools over the past five years. Chimni has helped candidates join Harvard, Wharton, Kellogg, Booth, Sloan, LBS and other top schools and this year’s candidates received $1.2 million in scholarships. As an alumni of a prestigious B-school, Chimni offers tips for aspiring management students.
The prevailing idea is that one needs to score good grades, work hard, and be yourself to enrol in a top B-school. Isn’t this a naïve advice? What’s an effective personal branding strategy?
Good statistics are just a beginning in the highly competitive Indian applicant pool. One should devise a solid strategy, six to eight months, before applying. A winning B-school application needs to present a strong academic record, meaningful extracurricular activities, glowing letters of recommendation, and compelling application essays. College interview and demonstrated interests may also help, and legacy status is an added advantage. To achieve this, it is vital to assess one’s work profile and bolster leadership and collaborative experiences and have a clear understanding of one’s goal. Networking with alumni and on-campus students give a better understanding of the course offerings and the school’s culture. Last but not the least, a strong resume placed strategically than just a list of tasks and responsibilities works in one’s favour.
If a candidate has a weak undergraduate transcript, one can take up some courses to bolster their academic background. Selection of schools should be done only after carefully researching and understanding what fits with each school.
How does admissions to top colleges work?
Applications get segmented into groups and sent to different readers. Number of readers and the reader (student or admission committee member) varies by school. At least two readers assess a candidate’s application. They may share notes or do this independently. On the basis of this, an interview invite is sent. Mostly admission directors take the final decision.
In Round 1, send your application to four-five schools. If waitlisted, understand each school’s procedure and follow-up accordingly. One will have a small window to adjust Round 2 schools based on Round 1 results. This process sees that 97 per cent of our clients enter top tier schools.
Do high scores help?
At Admissions Gateway, candidates who gain admission to top 10 schools have GMAT scores of 700+. However, they have exceptionally strong applications. I consider 700 a necessity for applying to top tier schools. Typically, I would recommend being at or above school average. GMAT scores for Indian applicants are highly competitive.
Your tips for getting strong recommendations and crafting a compelling essay?
Candidates need to choose their recommenders wisely, preferably those who have worked along with them and can elaborate on their skills. Engaging them in the process helps them have a sense of one’s goal and why one is fit for the school.
Even with the most impeccable credentials and test scores, candidates routinely get turned down. What sets them apart are their truly unique experiences, and whether they can get them through to the admissions board in their personal essays. Do not cut-copy-paste essays from one school to another school.
When should one write GMAT?
One should write GMAT in April or May if one is aiming to apply in Round 1 (late September and early October). This gives applicants enough time for a second attempt (late July and early August). If one is planning ahead, take up GMAT in the final year of college. The scores are valid for five years.
People are socialised to believe that one must go to an Ivy League to be successful. Is a top college worth it?
My experience at Kellogg was priceless. I made influential friends, worked with exceptionally smart people and gained access to a fantastic alumni network. The academics and experiential programmes were top notch. I got the freedom to think with an open mind and chart a career of my own interest.