Admissions for the Class of 2013 at Indian School of Business(ISB), Hyderabad, are in full swing. While the Round 1 (R1) deadline has been announced as September 15, 2011, the R2 deadline is two and a half months later – November 30, 2011.
R1 or R2?
First, the often-asked question – “Should I apply in R1 or R2?” The answer to this question is really simple. If you are ready with the application in R1, then apply now. However, if you are not (need more time for GMAT / documents not in place/expecting a promotion shortly) then by all means wait for R2. If you are a strong candidate, you will get through in R1 or R2 regardless of when you apply. Sometimes, candidates tend to rush their application (take the GMAT much earlier than when they would be ready for it/ submit the essays before putting in enough thought on them) in a quest to beat the R1 deadline. They feel that their ‘profile’ will ultimately shine through. This is a mistake. Remember, your profile is not just made up of details about your academics and your work experience. It includes other critical elements too – your GMAT score, your essays, and your recommendations.
How important is the GMAT score?
Your GMAT score is a critical determinant in the assessment of your overall academic profile. While the GMAT score is not the only criteria, it is the most recent test you have taken on basic quantitative and verbal skills. Therefore, if you are faced with the choice of putting in some more time for GMAT preparation and then applying in R2 v/s taking the GMAT early (with insufficient preparation) to meet the R1 deadline, always choose the former. Your GMAT score reflects your current academic potential and your essays create the story that makes you stand out from the general applicant pool. Neglecting these aspects is a critical mistake. The mid-80% range GMAT score at ISB is 670-750, and the median score is 710. With the ISB applicant pool being highly competitive in terms of GMAT scores, it is worth the effort to put in more time and get a higher score.
Sensible essays make business sense
Next, do not take your essays lightly. Unstructured, unfocused essays can destroy an application faster than a lightning bolt! Your essays are not an invitation to restate your achievements and hope that the admissions committee will take notice. They are a unique canvas to project your abilities and accomplishments, and clearly demonstrate to the admissions committee that you have a clear career goal which ISB can help you meet.
For instance, the first essay this year asks you to list two significant achievements (personal and professional) that are relevant to your ISB application. A host of applicants we guided this year have wanted to use this to talk about personal achievements not related to their application at all. For instance, one applicant wanted to talk about how she won a local painting competition in school. While this may be a cherished personal achievement, it bears little relevance to her ISB application. We accordingly advised this applicant to change her essay and use it to portray a more recent and relevant event.
When writing your essays, keep the following things in mind:
(a) Don’t just restate facts: It is not helpful to let the admissions committee know that you are bright because you made it to engineering college. Instead, prepare a story that talks about why you think this is a significant achievement, what hardships you had to go through to get it, and why you think this is significant to your application.
(b) Get rid of the ‘by the way’ mindset: A couple of applicants that we have helped this year were very bright individuals (toppers in academic life, doing very well at work) who wanted to position their MBA as another target to be knocked down. Don’t make this mistake. Your MBA is not something you do ‘by the way’ or because it is something that would fit in with your credentials. You do it to fulfil a very specific career goal. Let the admissions committee know what that career goal is.
(c) Keep you application relevant: Make sure that your essays are relevant to your application. A few things that are not relevant to your application are (and these are actual examples from candidates): how social you are, whether you organize office parties, whether you belong to a joint family, whether you went through a painful separation from your spouse, why you love India, and why an MBA is really the bare minimum that one needs in terms of education nowadays (it’s not!).
In part II of this article, we will talk about the role played by recommendations and strategies to apply for a scholarship.
Find out the recommendation and scholarship tips for ISB(Indian School of Business)
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