Sankalp Damani

Can you introduce about yourself?

Hi, I’m Sankalp. I gave my GMAT in September 2016 and I scored 730, post which I applied to a few business schools – the top tier and middle tier business schools. I have got an admit in Michigan Ross.

 

Can you tell us about your work profile?

I graduated from IIT Bombay in 2013 and started my career in consulting with EY, post which I moved to Boston Consulting Group (BCG). I worked there for a year, took a break and worked with a FinTech startup based in Bangalore over a year and moved back to BCG. So, I have a cumulative experience of five years and will be joining Michigan Ross this year.

 

What advice would you offer to aspirants planning for MBA?

GMAT was not in my plan initially. I thought of doing MBA very late. That’s probably one advice I would like to give MBA aspirants: plan your career in advance. Plan for your MBA and start working towards it right when you are in college. I planned to do MBA only a couple of years ago when I was with a startup. There were things I did to make my profile more attractive – I wanted to pursue consulting at a better firm, I did some social work on the side, I’d written the GMAT once before, so I rewrote the GMAT to get a better score. So there were a few twists that I had to sort out for my MBA profile. From an MBA standpoint, you should be doing this well in advance so that you’re doing these things for a consistent amount of time so that when you show your story to an MBA board, you can say that you are passionate about something and you have been doing it for a long time.

 

What do you think the B-schools will be expecting from a candidate?

From the talent standpoint, I think it was very difficult to understand what these business schools want. You want to tailor your profile to suit their requirements, but there’s only so much you can do. Eventually, you have to present what you want to do in life and do the best in whatever you are doing because if you try and tailor your profile towards every business school, you are not going to end up doing something you like.

The biggest challenge I faced was not being able to understand what the business schools wanted. Only when I started researching about them and talking to people did I understand the level of preparation that is required, which I realized that I hadn’t done beforehand, so I started working towards it in a short period of time. Another challenge I faced is that it is a long and tedious process – preparing for GMAT, thinking about the essay story that works best for you, and bringing all your personal and professional elements in order for that particular story. Bringing everything in one tune is a challenging aspect, but if you have your story in place in advance, you can weave your career to fit the story.

 

Tell us about your overall Application experience.

Last year, I only applied to the business schools like Wharton, Kellogg and MIT Sloan, keeping rankings in mind. Unfortunately, I did not make it to these schools, primarily for two reasons – I hadn’t done much research about these schools and my story was not coherent. So, in the next year, I applied to a mix of middle- and top-tier schools. I realized as long as I can get to my intended goals, a middle-tier school is also good enough, and my story became much more understandable. My initial storyline was centred around entrepreneurship, which is very difficult to do in the US – but I hadn’t given that a lot of thought. So the second time around, I looked at the logical storyline that I can come up with and I built my story around that. My story was around coming back to consulting, and more B-Schools have 30-40% placements in that so I guess it rung well with them.

 

What prompted you to come to CrackVerbal?

When I started planning to do MBA and essays that were required, I was completely blank. I did not know what to write, no matter how much I discussed it with my friends. That is when I thought of taking help from a consultancy. I spoke to a lot of consultancies from India and the US. I consciously chose an Indian consultant as they can deal with you much better than international consultants. Since I was in Bangalore and CrackVerbal was also in Bangalore, I approached them. They sounded good and had a good history of placing students in top-tier business schools. So, CrackVerbal was a natural choice for me. I also took help from my friends outside of CrackVerbal. CrackVerval helped me come up with a sensible storyline.

 

What did you like about the team at CrackVerbal?

Arun Jagannathan is very comfortable and easy to deal with. He understands your context really well and understands what you want. He helps to bring out your best and does not try and change your story and bring out something that is not natural. That’s something I liked about him and working with him.

 

How are you planning to manage your finances?

There are multiple options, but the most common practice is to take a loan from Prodigy finance.

 

What is your suggestion to MBA aspirants regarding interviews?

My suggestion is, plan your profile well ahead of your application. Your application may be a one-year process, but preparing for your application is a 4-5 year process. Start preparing it in advance, building your profile, bringing out the leadership aspect in you. Do not hesitate to take help because MBA is a big investment in terms of money as well as time. Build your profile in such a way that you can go to Harvard or Stanford, but do not be disheartened if you do not end up there because all other schools in the top 50 are also good.

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Saurabh Gupta

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Vivek Saurabh

Can you tell us something about yourself?

Hi! My name is Vivek Saurav. I took my GMAT in 2015 in the month of August and scored 630. I was in a dilemma whether to apply for it again or not. I worked in Bosch for six years and currently I’m working in Harman International as a senior software engineer supervising a team of twelve engineers.
 
 

What made your take up the GMAT?

When we were in college, we saw our seniors do MBA after their engineering, which inspired us. I even joined a GMAT coaching institute in my third year, but when I got a job, the idea fell back and I decided to continue with my job. When I met Arun Jagannathan of CrackVerbal through a free webinar session, the way he spoke was very inspiring for me. So, I took the course for GMAT and I scored 630. I was hesitating to apply to colleges but I did it anyway. Currently, I have admit from three colleges – University of Pittsburgh, Purdue University, and William and Mary School of Business.
 
The first issue is the time gap between when I took the exam and when I applied to colleges, and it’s not even a great GMAT score. The perception among students is that if your score is not over 700, whatever you are going to invest may not give you returns. That was the fear in me, but after exploring a lot online and discussing with many people, I came to know that GMAT is not the only deciding factor. It also depends on your application and how you have portrayed your real story. There were small achievements while I was in college or at work that I was not sure of including in my story. After I visited CrackVerbal and met Shivaranjani, I had a brainstorming session, which was the best part. She asked me about each and every small achievement that I did not find great, but she put them across and made a beautiful essay out of it. I wrote an essay for around 2000 words and she edited it, shrunk it to around 250 words, retaining whatever I told her. That was the reason I got calls from five colleges out of six applications.
 
 

What advice would you like to give to the aspirants during the interview?

You can’t know what the person is going to ask you. My only advice is during the interview be true to yourself and be honest with the interviewer. Also, do some research about the schools. Interviewers want to know how interested you are in the program and they want to see how useful you will be to them as an alumnus. So it’s important to explore about the school, too.
 
 

How are you going to manage paying the fees?

The savings I have done from my earnings for the last few years will not be enough to manage the fees and other expenses. So, I’m getting support from my dad. In addition, I’m going for education loan that covers a major chunk of it. Also, the college I am going to join, Katz Business School, has offered me a scholarship of 50%. So, I have to arrange the other 50% by my savings and education loan.
 
 

How did CrackVerbal help you?

I can clearly say that CrackVerbal is not money-oriented. I have been to multiple institutions before so I can say this: many institutes have a set pattern that they want you to think according to. But hats off to Arun’s teaching and communication skills. I haven’t scored a lot but I did learn a lot. It has exceptional faculty members and other staff who are always ready to help you. Initially, I had doubts about paying such a huge amount only to apply to three colleges but when I was going through the process, I realised you get your money’s worth. They know things about what to put in, in ways you would never think about on your own. Srilekha took the mock interviews and gave me real-time feedback, the interviews were very similar to the real interviews I went through.
 
 

What advice would you like to give to the aspirants taking the GMAT test?

Arun always used to say follow only the official material while practicing questions. With CrackVerbal, you already have thousands of practice questions that are official questions. They have a very good collection of official questions that train your mind on how to sole on the actual exam day. People think that if we solve the difficult questions, then the easier questions will be like a piece of cake, but GMAT is not like that because when you are solving a question, the system knows how your behavior will be for the next question. Just solve the official questions, it will help.
 
 

What made you choose to do MBA?

The reason I chose to do MBA is to bridge the gap between what I am right now and what I want to become.

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Akshat Khanna

Can you tell us about your background please?

I graduated in 2013 from the College of Engineering, Pune, with a degree in electrical engineering. I got a job at Oracle in Bangalore. My parents were also in Bangalore at that point; they are still are in Bangalore. For me, it was a no-brainer, I thought “This is a fantastic job for me, I get to stay home. I’m going to take this job.” I looked at the financial benefits and decided this is the job I’m going to do. Within a year, in the middle of 2014, my parents said, “Why don’t you get an MBA?” They said they’d pay for my GMAT classes so why don’t I just go attend the classes, so I enrolled for the CrackVerbal classroom program at the Infantry Road center. I attended four classes and ended up quitting because I didn’t have that inherent motivation. Arun talked about having a strong “why” and I didn’t have that “why”. Whatever my parents said, it didn’t work. In the end, I fell into the drudgery of an IT job. I put on a lot of weight, became unfit, unhealthy. I used to play a lot of football in college, so one day, it just hit me. So, I bought a cycle and decided to use that to commute to work, which was 3km away. In the beginning, I stopped twice on the way, because I was not able to breathe, just covering that 3km on that cycle. This is something that is worrying for me, so I said, forget MBA, forget everything else, let me just get my health in order first.
 
What started as an exercise, just for the sake of getting fit, eventually grew into a passion. In 2016, I ended up in racing at the nationals. The entire journey I went through in these two years was fantastic. Not only did it help me get my life back on track but also gave me a lot of direction in terms of what I wanted to do with my career. After Oracle, by the end of 2014, I joined a cycling startup. I was the head of ecommerce there. It became India’s largest online cycling company. Then, I established my own startup in the performance apparel and wearable tech space, which was in place for two years and recently, the IP part and the entire supply chain got acquired by a business in Mumbai. So, that has been my professional journey.
 
 

What made you decide on taking up the GMAT?

Sometime in the beginning of 2017, when my company finished one year of operation, I started having difficulties scaling it up. Upto one point it is fine when you learn from mistakes. As people say, when you start a company, you learn from mistakes and keep growing, but after you enter the big league, those mistakes are just not allowed. That is when I felt I needed an MBA and that became my “why”. I figured that I wouldn’t be able to attend classes because work was pretty hectic, so, I enrolled for the online course at CrackVerbal. Because I had such a strong why, this time I was able to stick to the study plan which they prescribed to the T. Over a period of two months, I got done with my preparation and appeared for my GMAT for the first time. I got a pretty decent score.
 
When it comes to the GMAT, if you ask me what worked for me, I can say I just stuck to the study plan they had prescribed. A lot of times, you have that inclination to go and refer to the external study material or go and enroll for another four or five tests because all your friends are doing it, but I didn’t do it. I thought of just adhering to this study plan and it worked out well.
 
 

Any comments for students preparing to take the GMAT?

During the GMAT, I would say, don’t get too flustered when you get a question or two wrong. I’ll give you a personal example. I entered the test center and my AWA was fine and IR was okay, but I had done better in the mock tests. This started playing in my mind. So, I went outside, just washed my face and when I got back to the test for quant, I realized that I was two minutes late. When I started the test, I think the first question was a simple profit and loss question, but I still ended up struggling with it. And then you get into the trap of trying to predict: is this a 650-level question or 680 or 700-level question? Before that could become a catastrophe for me, I decided to focus on the question and take one question at a time and gave the GMAT. It worked well and I got a decent score in the first attempt.
 
 

What are the challenges you faced in the application processes?

One thing that I had done was, I overestimated the amount of effort that it takes to take the GMAT and underestimated the amount of effort that the applications would actually require. I got in touch with Arun and took his help to get done with my application for all the B-schools that I wanted to apply to and the first school that we decided was Kellogg. I happily looked at the leadership essay question I got and I wrote the essay. I felt quite confident about it, so I gave it to my dad. He did not give any immediate response, but I could gauge from his reaction that my essay was not working. When I got on a call with Arun to discuss the essay, there were a lot of changes. He literally changed the essay; he changed the story. My story was wrong, forget the grammar or adherence to word limit. It was evident that I was not focusing on the topic and that is when I realized that the entire process of filling the application is much more taxing than the GMAT preparation. I would suggest not to leave it for later. Start thinking about your “why” right now. It might help you later on when you are filling out the application.
 
 

Which business school did you finally choose and why?

I ended up applying to four US schools and one Canadian school. In the process of applying to different schools one by one, I became confident, especially since my GMAT score was good. One of the most difficult parts was the waiting I had to do to hear from the schools. After a long wait, I got an admit from Rotman and then I did not bother about applying for any other schools in round 2 because when I researched about Rotman as an MBA program, my “why” actually helped me decide that this school will be the right fit for me. What I like about Rotman is they have a creative destruction lab and an in-house incubator, which is one of Canada’s biggest tech incubators right now. As an entrepreneur, this got me excited. They also have a self development lab that focuses on developing its students’ soft skills. That’s not just a single semester course that you do, it goes on throughout the two years of your MBA program. I have been interacting with my peers since a while about how life is going to be in Toronto and I feel like I’ll get to learn a lot from my peers, which makes me even more confident about my choice.

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