An Interview with Rijul Jain – ISB YLP

In conversation with Rijul, who cracked the ISB-YLP Programme!


Rijul Jain, a student of BITS, Goa spoke to us regarding how he made it to ISB-YLP last year. Rijul will be graduating this year and has successfully secured himself an admit to the batch that will be joining ISB in 2014. Continue reading to learn what he did right to join the elite group of students who shall graduate from ISB in 2015!


Congratulations on securing an admit to the ISB-YLP program, Rijul!


Thanks a lot!


Could you please tell us how you got to know about ISB-YLP? Also, what was your motivation to apply?


I came to know about the YLP program through an information session organized by ISB at my university campus. I knew about Harvard’s 2+2 Program and recognized that this was a first for an Indian School.


My primary motivation to apply was the reputation of the school- ISB is an institute of such high repute that I believe one does not need any further motivation to apply. After all, it is a risk-free, win-win situation.


If you make it, great- you’ve ensured yourself an admit in advance. If you don’t, it is still okay- you can always apply again, later.


That’s true! So, tell us a little more about your journey?


Well, the first stage primarily consisted of a video resume for 90 seconds and an essay. The deadline was around the last week of March. We don’t really know the particulars of the selection criterion but I suppose people with good academics, a fairly decent enough profile got through round-1.


Okay, so how did you prepare for round-2 once the shortlist was declared?


We needed to take the GMAT and write 3 essays on the topics provided for round-2. I prepared for around two weeks for the GMAT and scored a 730 on it.

However, this is not an approach for the GMAT that I would recommend as such-I had to take it within a short period of time because I was leaving to INSEAD Business School, France for an internship. My college, BITS, has this “Practice School Program” which makes it compulsory for every final year student to undergo a six month internship at a university or at an organization.I believe my internship played a key role in my admission to the YLP.

So, after taking the GMAT, I concentrated on the essays.I also believe the essays play a very crucial role to the whole process. Not just for round-2, but, also at the final interview.


Oh yes, how did you work on your essays?


I believe the essays, which are primarily regarding one’s strengths and weaknesses, require a decent amount of introspection and brainstorming. For a couple of days, I thought about what I have done in my college, what my strengths/weaknesses were- basically all my experiences and the takeaways from them.


Based on all this, I created a pretty big list. After doing this activity, I looked at the essay questions and mixed and matched my experiences to suit the nature of the essay question. It is not about very good, flowery English or an extensive vocabulary but more about keeping it simple and clear.


The next thing I did was, to get my essays reviewed by friends with prior experience in writing similar stuff. That really helped me a lot. They helped bring fresh perspective into the essays. This is important because we always have a certain amount of bias towards what we write, so asking different people to review it will bring viewpoints that you might have not considered.


Ah, that is true- how long did you take to complete your essays?


There was no fixed time as such. Different people have different approaches to essay writing. Some think a lot and write a few lines a day. Some do the essays in one shot. I belonged to the latter category. Like I said earlier, I thought about them for a couple of days and wrote them in one go.


However, the re-work I did, based on the feedback I got, took a lot more time. That is because I had to give them time to read the essays and get back to me with their feedback. And I got a LOT of feedback from my reviewers. An important thing that we should remember here is that feedback should be taken as constructive criticism. Overtly worrying about negative feedback is not going to help at all.


I understand that ISB requires applicants to submit two evaluations – who did you get them from?


Typically students applying to the YLP will not have industry exposure as such, so evaluations are usually done by respective college faculty. Both my recommenders were faculty from my college. They are given a form with 3-4 subjective questions and some questions wherein they are asked to rate the applicant on a pre-defined scale.


Interesting! So, what tips would you give aspirants, especially regarding writing their essays?


Well, for starters I’d say this- Do NOT bluff on your essays. Also, do NOT exaggerate either. Remember that the people reading your essays are veterans and can easily see through these things. By doing so, you will be showing yourself in poor light because you are trying to portray something bigger than what it really was and the admission team is quite adept at picking such things.


There is a very good book called “65 Successful Harvard Business School Application Essays”- I’d recommend this book to everyone applying to round-2. The book shows us the way to write good essays- basically, writing your story within the word-limit, showcasing your weakness as a point of strength. I believe this book is important because no one at this level would have had the experience of writing such essays.


Another thing I’d highly recommend is to get 3 or 4 people to review your essays. The feedback they give you will probably help the most in fine-tuning your essays. In fact, I would even suggest that two or three rounds of similar review will help get the essays in the best possible shape.


Alright, how was round-3 of the admissions process?


Round-3 comprised of an interview and a case study analysis. I was in Paris at that time and we were given a link which had the case-study.


The case study was simple enough, required basic common sense to analyse. Applicants were given a situation and posed a question. Within an hour, we had to respond to the question. We could use numerical data to substantiate our claim or even stick to using just the language to do that. The end objective was to prove your point- how you went about doing that was left entirely up to you.


Oh okay, was your interview scheduled for the same day?


No, I had the interview a day later. Those who had gone to ISB’s campus for round-3 had both the case-study and the interview on the same day.


So, tell us about your interview with the ISB panellists? Could you also help our readers by offering your two cents about the interview process?


There were 3 people in the panel. Since none of us had any work-experience, all the questions that MBA panel usually ask interviewees were not applicable to us.


Almost all the questions were centered on what we had written in our essays. Many people fall into the trap of assuming that starting a club in college, being one of its main office-bearers alone showcases one in good light.


However, in the interview process, the main thing really is – to be able to tell them that you took the initiative to do something, the learning you got from its success/failure, how it changed your attitude and how you would react in a similar situation in the future.

More than anything else, taking the initiative to do something is given due merit.
If you can convince them, that you identified a lacunae in the existing system and you took the initiative to rectify that, then, I believe, you are in a great position to convert!

Those are some great tips! Thank you for talking to us Rijul! And congratulations, once again!

If you’d like some help with framing your ISB YLP application essays, check out our essay analysis!