In conversation with Darshana Sivakumar, who got an admit to the ISB Young Leaders Programme!
Hi Darshana, first of all congratulations on your admit to the Indian School of Business under the Young Leaders Programme! This programme is only into its second year now, so how did you get to know about it?
Thank you so much. I initially got to know about this program through some of my friends who applied for the first batch of the ISB YLP. I interned with some of them last summer. Later, I came to know more about it through several websites, blogs and online info sessions.
The GMAT is a pre-requisite for the course. Would you please share your GMAT score with us?
I scored 740 on the GMAT!
Great! While still in college, how did you manage your GMAT preparation?
I prepared for the GMAT for about a month on my own. The Official Guide for GMAT was what I primarily used. I didn’t have much of a problem with the quantitative part of the GMAT, but the verbal part was a little tricky. Hence, I concentrated more on the Verbal section, giving the Verbal and Quant preparation an 80-20 split.
I also took several full-length practice tests, which gave me the stamina to give my best on the day of the actual test. My general suggestion for ISB YLP applicants is to not stretch GMAT preparation for too long – especially because there is not too much of time gap between stage 1 results and stage 2 deadline (Unless you plan on starting your GMAT preparation earlier). Focused, dedicated preparation for about a month or two will suffice.
Also, the GMAT score is not the only component of the stage 2 application. Aspirants must also give importance to the essays that bring out their personality and achievements.
There are a lot of components in the entire selection process- essays, a video, recommendations, interview etc. How did you go about planning your application and what did you think was the toughest part of the whole process? Any tips for other aspirants on how to make a winning application?
The ISB application is a three stage process. In the first stage, applicants need to submit a one page resume, an essay and video response, along with a listing of extra-curricular interests and achievements. In the second stage, the GMAT score, three essays and two recommendations need to be submitted. The third stage comprises a personal interview and case study at the ISB campus.
For every stage, I ensured that I had enough time to think over the requirements of the stage and what I wanted to put down on my application.
In the second stage, after I had given the GMAT, I had about three weeks to work on my essays. That gave me enough time to collect my thoughts and write down several drafts of my essays, which I reviewed over and over again, till I was completely satisfied with what I had put down. I got my essays reviewed by the CrackVerbal team, friends and family members too.
My recommendations came from a mentor at a company I interned in, and my professor at college. It is important to choose recommenders who know you well. Also, educate your recommenders about your application, essays, etc., without influencing their recommendations.
For the interview, I went through my entire application thoroughly. Every aspect of your application is a reflection of yourself, and it’s important for you to be able to talk about and substantiate each and every aspect. I also spent a lot of time getting to know about specifics of the YLP program and ISB – the curriculum, exchange programs, faculty, and other features of ISB that make it a unique, world renowned institution. This helped me to better understand why I wanted to be a part of the YLP program.
How did CrackVerbal help you through the different stages of the MBA application process?
I came across CrackVerbal through an online forum. I attended one of Arun’s webinars on the YLP and GMAT, which was very useful. After taking up the GMAT, I penned down my essays. That’s when I decided to approach CrackVerbal, to see if I was moving in the right direction.
It’s very important to be original in the essays and not let other people influence what you have to say in them. However, it is also important to get feedback on what you are missing and how to improve. The CrackVerbal team did a great job at that!
While still in your third year of college, what motivated you the most to decide upon doing an MBA, that too under such a scheme where you’ll be joining a class of students who already have an average at least 5 years of industry experience under their belts?
I was actually in my fourth year when I decided to apply for the YLP. I’m currently pursuing an integrated Masters degree in Software Engineering (5 year course) at PSG College of Technology, Coimbatore. As a part of our curriculum at PSG Tech., we are expected to do two industry or research based projects, each for six months, in our seventh and tenth semesters.
Due to the structure of my program, I got the opportunity to intern in the technology division of an investment bank for six months during my seventh semester. It was during this internship that I observed the roles that my managers played in the firm. The roles fascinated me! This was one of the reasons that drove me to think about higher studies in management. I also spoke to several MBA graduates from various universities, some from ISB.
I spoke to them about their MBA experience and learning, their pre and post MBA roles, and discovered that what I want to do in future can be accelerated by a top MBA program like the ISB YLP. I believe that the fact that I will be joining a class of students who will be from diverse backgrounds and having different years of industry experience in their belts will give me a great opportunity to learn from their wide and varied experience.
Now that your seat in ISB’s Class of 2016 is reserved :), what are your plans for the two years before the actual date of joining the PGP?
Professionally, I will be working in the technology division of an investment bank over the next two years. Apart from that, I hope to spend time pursuing my other interests like artwork, playing Frisbee and so on.
A big thank you from us for taking time out for this! One last question- what advice would you give to future applicants to the ISB YLP?
Thank you! I would like to end by saying that it is important to be original throughout the application process. People often believe that clichéd goals for an MBA aspirant need to be stressed on to get into a top MBA program. I don’t think that’s true. In fact, programs look for originality and diversity. Try to bring out whoever you are, just the way you are, to the Admissions Committee.
The Admissions Committee will definitely see through clichéd applications. Also, make sure that you substantiate every aspect of your qualities and achievements. Most importantly, spend time on your application. Learn all you can about the YLP program. Understand why you want to do an MBA. The entire application process is a wonderful experience, and will help you get to know yourself better.
Good luck, future aspirants! 🙂
If you have any questions about the Young Leader’s Program at ISB, leave a comment below!
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