admitStreet is glad to launch a new initiative bridgeStreet, where we connect with MBA/ B-school alumni, candidates, admissions committee representatives, industry professionals etc. to gather candid first-hand insights and experiences that can help B-school applicants navigate their journey.
For our first bridgeStreet article, we have Shivam Singh, MBA Candidate at Michigan Ross share his experiences and insights on his decision to pursue an MBA, B-school application strategy, GRE preparations, Ross MBA Essays & Interviews, and reasons why he chose Ross over his other admits (Tuck and Cornell). We are thankful to Shivam for his time and inputs.
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Over to Shivam.
Embarking on an MBA journey is not just a career decision but a life-changing experience.
Here’s a comprehensive deep-dive into why I chose to pursue an MBA, my application journey, and the ultimate decision to join the Michigan Ross MBA program.
Decision to Pursue an MBA
My studies in Computer Science at MNNIT Allahabad in India laid my foundation and technical skill-sets. Working as a quant developer for 3.5 years at D. E. Shaw & Co. offered me exposure to finance and quantitative analysis. Eager to elevate my career, I aimed to leverage my technological background to drive innovation through a business role.
Being an Indian male, I knew I was part of a competitive cohort. Instead of aiming low, my strategy was to cast a wider net by applying to a higher number of B-Schools, without compromising on the quality.
B-school Application Strategy
Research and Shortlisting
Aiming high, I applied to all top 12 MBA programs (list in next point), balancing preferences for city locations with my urgency of timing, wanting to switch to a post-MBA job and salary as soon as possible. I was particularly keen on cities such as San Francisco, New York, and Boston, given their strong connections to the tech and finance industries. These locations aligned well with my ambitions to delve into strategic roles in technology-driven businesses, capitalizing on the networking opportunities and innovative ecosystems in these bustling urban hubs.
Application Round Strategy
Splitting applications across the 2 rounds: 6 schools in Round 1 (Ross, Sloan, Cornell, Fuqua, Kellogg, Booth) and 6 in Round 2 (Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Haas, Tuck, Yale) seemed reasonable with proper planning and organization. Please note that this was my strategy and worked for me; what works for you might be different.
My love for writing guided me to the GRE. Scoring 324 and then 331, I found joy in this part of the process. For those preparing for these exams, here are a few tips:
- Understand the Format: Knowing the test’s structure can alleviate anxiety and help you allocate time effectively.
- Practice with Real Tests: Utilize official practice tests to get a feel for the actual exam and pinpoint areas needing improvement.
- Build Vocabulary: For GRE especially, investing time in vocabulary can significantly boost your verbal score. Tools like flashcards or apps designed for GRE vocabulary can be helpful.
- Stay Consistent: Regular, focused study sessions often yield better results than cramming.
- Analyze Mistakes: Rather than simply correcting errors, understand why you made them to prevent repetition.
- Believe in Yourself: Your mindset is key. Confidence, paired with diligent preparation, can truly enhance your performance.
Juggling preparation with work was challenging but reinforced my determination. During my time in challenging roles, I developed strategies to balance both work and exam preparation, and here are some tips that may be beneficial:
- Create a Study Schedule: Outline a consistent and realistic study schedule. Dedicate specific hours and stick to them, even if it means waking up early or studying late.
- Utilize Breaks Effectively: Short study bursts during lunch or breaks can add up. Whether it’s reading notes or watching short tutorial videos, make every minute count.
- Set Clear Goals: Break down your preparation into smaller, manageable goals, and celebrate the small wins along the way.
- Communicate with Your Employer: If possible, discuss your aspirations and seek flexibility during critical preparation periods. Many employers appreciate the ambition and may support you.
- Invest in Quality Resources: Given the limited time, having the right study materials that cater to your learning style can be a game-changer.
- Prioritize Well-being: Don’t overlook self-care. Adequate sleep, nutrition, and relaxation are vital for both work performance and study effectiveness.
- Embrace the Challenge: Recognize that this period is temporary and that the skills you’re building, like multitasking and time management, will benefit you long term.
Crafting the Ross MBA Essays
Each essay was a chance to tell my story, ensuring quality in every application.
For applicants aiming to write impactful essays, especially for the Ross MBA program, here are some insights:
- Understand the Prompt: Be clear about what the question is asking, and tailor your response to directly address it. Ross often seeks to understand your leadership style and community engagement, so highlighting those aspects can be key.
- Tell Your Unique Story: Stand out by narrating personal experiences and lessons that shaped your ambitions. Ross values innovative thinking, so don’t shy away from sharing unconventional paths or insights.
- Emphasize the Why and How: Explain why Ross is the right fit for you and how it aligns with your career goals. Relate it to specific courses, clubs, or initiatives at Ross, such as the MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Project) that reflects your interests.
- Revise and Seek Feedback: Don’t underestimate the power of revision. Seek feedback from peers or mentors who understand the business landscape and can provide constructive criticism.
Acing the Ross MBA Interviews
The interviews are generally conducted by either the admissions committee members (AdCom) or Ross alumni. There’s also the possibility of a second-year MBA student conducting the interview, especially during campus visits. A shift to virtual interviews has been observed post-COVID. Interviews typically last between 30 to 45 minutes, although you might want to plan for an hour to accommodate any small talk or unexpected questions. Most interviews are behavioral and conversational, aiming to gauge your fit with the Ross culture, your leadership qualities, and career goals.
Some common questions revolved around leadership experiences, handling failure, community engagement, and specific post-MBA goals. For Ross, there was a strong focus on teamwork and innovation.
Key Interview Questions
- Leadership Experiences: “Tell me about a time you led a team. What were the challenges, and how did you handle them?” Here, they are looking for your ability to lead, motivate, and whether you have a participative or authoritarian style.
- Handling Failure: “Describe a situation where you failed. How did you handle it, and what did you learn?” Ross values resilience and the ability to learn from failure.
- Community Engagement: “Can you share your experiences with Digital Wings Foundation?” This question taps into your social responsibility and how you plan to contribute to the Ross community and beyond.
- Post-MBA Goals: “What are your short-term and long-term career goals post-MBA?” With this, Ross is gauging whether their program aligns with your aspirations.
- Teamwork and Innovation: “Tell me about a time you had to innovate or think outside the box while working in a team.” Ross places a heavy emphasis on teamwork and innovative thinking.
- Ross-Specific: “Why Ross?” or “How do you plan to take advantage of Ross’s MAP (Multidisciplinary Action Projects) program?” Your answer here should be tailored to Ross’s specific offerings that align with your career goals.
Tips for Candidates
- Research the School: Understand the core values and culture of each institution, and relate your answers to their specific offerings and ethos.
- Prepare Your Story: Have clear, concise narratives ready for common questions but also be ready to adapt and think on your feet.
- Show Genuine Interest: Be passionate about why you’re choosing that particular school, referring to specific courses, professors, or clubs that excite you.
- Practice with Peers: Simulate interviews with friends or mentors, ideally those familiar with MBA interviews, to build confidence and refine your answers.
Why I chose Michigan Ross
My goal was to engage with cutting-edge technologies across geographies like Silicon Valley, where pioneering innovation is at its core. I believe that integrating technology with strategic business insights can forge new paths and redefine industry standards.
An MBA from the University of Michigan seemed like the best avenue to enhance both soft and hard skills, especially targeting a leadership role in the tech and AI strategy sector. Structurally, there are 3 key reasons why I chose the Ross MBA program:
Culture & Community
Collaborative Environment: When you talk about Ross’s collaborative environment, it’s not just a tagline you read somewhere, right? It’s more of a vibe you caught during your interactions, perhaps as early as your research phase.
You might have started sensing it while going through student testimonials or alumni interviews, where everyone seems to be talking about the community, rather than just the academics or job placements. This whole ‘we’re-in-it-together’ spirit starts to stand out, especially when you compare it to other schools you might be considering.
And then, of course, there’s the interview itself. When you’re sitting there with either a Ross alum or an AdCom member, and you notice that they’re not just grilling you with questions but also genuinely interested in what you’re saying. It feels more like a conversation between future colleagues rather than an interrogation, right?
Maybe you’ve even attended a few virtual sessions or webinars where professors, current students, or alumni speak. And you start picking up on how people don’t just talk about their own achievements but also how they collaborated on projects, helped each other in study groups, or even organized community events. You’re like, “Yes, this is what I want to be a part of.”
So, when you say “sense of belonging,” you’re talking about a whole ecosystem that you feel you can genuinely contribute to and benefit from. It’s almost like you can already see yourself there, actively participating in classroom discussions, leading initiatives in the Private Equity Club, or brainstorming with peers during the MAP program.
Leadership Opportunities: The chance to lead as the President of the Private Equity Club was aligned with my goals.
Academics & Opportunities
Curriculum: The blend of theory with real-world applications, including the option to do an action learning internship at Microsoft, appealed to my practical nature.
Network: Access to a vast network of professionals and alumni further enriched the Ross experience.
Alignment with Goals
Timing Over Location: I got admits from Cornell and Tuck apart from Ross. While I initially leaned toward big city schools, the timing and alignment of Ross with my career aspirations made the decision clear.
From my early days in Computer Science to the strategic application to top MBA programs, my journey has been one of meticulous planning, embracing challenges, and enjoying the process. The blend of experiences, connections, and personal growth at Ross is more than I could have ever anticipated. Here’s to the pursuit of excellence and the excitement of what’s yet to come. Go Blue!
Should you have any questions or need guidance on any aspect of the MBA application journey, feel free to approach me through admitStreet. I’m happy to share insights, support your ambitions, and help you navigate this exciting and transformative experience. Looking forward to connecting with fellow aspirants!
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