LOW GMAT SUCCESS STORIES: Journey to Rotman
In this article, we are speaking to a chemical engineer who supposedly has a regular profile of an Indian engineer with a “low GMAT score” of 670 and still cracked the admissions of one of the best business schools in Canada (Rotman) to embark on his journey for her second MBA.
Through the journey of a successful candidate, we are here, addressing issues like how to bring uniqueness in your applications despite belonging to an over-represented MBA applicant pool, how important is GMAT for MBA, how to choose the right MBA programs and what Rotman looks for in a candidate.
Q: AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER DID YOU DECIDE THAT YOU NEED A SECOND MBA ABROAD?
I have been thinking about a second MBA for a long time. But once when I got the opportunity to visit and work in my company’s London office, my interaction with many different personalities from varied cultures inspired me to start considering global options for my second MBA.
Also, pursuing a second MBA can be a golden opportunity for me now because I belong to the Oil & Gas Industry and it’s very niche. Now, with the pandemic, the industry is going through a rough time and so from the career point of view, it made sense to do an MBA now and pivot my career to consulting.
Q: BEING A 670 GMAT, WHICH IS SUPPOSEDLY A “LOW GMAT SCORE”, DID YOU FEEL UNDER-CONFIDENT AS REGARDS YOUR CHANCES TO THE TIER 1 BUSINESS SCHOOLS?
So, I got this score back in 2019 and I still remember vividly, I was not at all satisfied and for me it was a low GMAT compared to my mocks and back then also, I reached out to Shantanu for advice on whether to retake or not. Since I had time, he advised me to give it another shot and I did, not just once, but several times and it did not work out for me. And I think it’s okay to have a low GMAT score if you have an otherwise strong profile. Also, a lot depends on how you communicate your profile to adcoms which in many ways also helps to compensate for a low GMAT. So, while I knew a 670 GMAT is a low GMAT score especially for a candidate from an over-represented MBA applicant pool like an Indian engineer, I did not lose hope and Shantanu always advised me that it’s the overall profile that matters.
Q: AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR MBA APPLICATION PROCESS DID YOU FEEL THE NEED FOR A CONSULTANT?
My biggest hurdle, which I think many Indian applicants can relate with, was a low GMAT score with an over-represented MBA applicant pool of Indian, engineer applicants and so, I knew I was not playing on very safe ground. Being a low GMAT, I had to have exceptional essays in my MBA applications to make a mark on the adcoms and so, for that, you need someone who understands the school well as well as put more than the required effort in understanding you to connect each and every dot. So, I knew what I was looking for in a consultant and I found Shantanu an optimal choice because of his deep and expert understanding of the school and the scientific process he follows throughout the application which also made me believe that my low GMAT has a very limited effect on my application.
Q: HOW WOULD YOU WANT TO DESCRIBE YOUR WHOLE MBA APPLICATION JOURNEY? HOW YOU STARTED, WHAT HURDLES YOU FACED AND WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE GAINED FROM THE WHOLE JOURNEY?
For me, it was a hell of a journey! I started with MBA and Beyond 8 months before the deadline. And we started with the content gathering process where there were hundreds of questions in a document that was sent to me, my friends and my family. This helped me to introspect a lot about myself that I think I never could get time to, plus with the feedback from people closer to me, we could remove the personal biases from the information we collected about me.
So, after the whole branding process ended and we got the theme and direction of my application, we started with essays. We used to have long sessions and work on at least 4-5 drafts for every single question before reaching the final answer.
Two of my biggest hurdles were my goals essay and low GMAT. A lot was going on, I needed to think through every part of my goals and life and it required a lot of research. But the best part was, Shantanu was there to be patient with me, to set me in the right direction and walk with me side by side during this whole process. So, I think, the best decision I took is I knew I had a disadvantage of a low GMAT and over-representation and to get an edge over others, I started my MBA applications much earlier.
Q: ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT DECISIONS FOR MBA ASPIRANTS IS TO CHOOSE THE “RIGHT” SCHOOLS. WHAT EXACTLY THIS “RIGHT” MEANT FOR YOU AND HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT MBA PROGRAMS FOR YOURSELF?
So, I think, this decision of the right schools should be very personal and it should first come from within. The first step that should go in choosing the right MBA programs is introspecting on your own goals, career and preferences. This can help you cancel a lot of noise around you.
For me, geography was one of the most important factors. I already have opted the USA out of my preferred locations because of the visa issues and I was definitely interested to look for options in the UK because I have had work-experience there and I was fascinated by the culture I experienced. So, after deciding the geographies, we started looking for schools, networking with alumni of different schools and evaluating each MBA program on various parameters like career opportunities, ease of living, the culture of the schools etc. and I still vividly remember it took us 21 odd days to just shortlist the schools.
Q: SO, NOW THAT YOU ARE A ROTMAN ADMIT WITH A 20,000 CAD SCHOLARSHIP, WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE KEY TO CRACK ROTMAN’S MBA ADMISSIONS?
I think I may sound very cliche here but when Rotman says it reviews your profile holistically, it does truly mean it. And I believe that is why Rotman’s average GMAT is low compared to its counterparts in Europe and the US. So, I would suggest every Rotman MBA aspirant out there who is hesitating to apply to Rotman due to low GMAT or other concerns should definitely give it a try putting the best foot forward. And to make you believe in what I said, I am a real testimony to it. I have a low GMAT, I come from an over-represented MBA applicant pool and I am going for my second MBA!
It’s hard for me to comment on the key to Rotman’s admissions but there are a few things every MBA aspirant for Rotman must care about. Rotman asks a very different question which is about the Spike factor. The fact that it’s a 1000 word essay already advocates for the importance of this question. So, the first requirement of this essay is to make it interesting enough for the adcoms to compel them to go through your entire essay in one go and already make your mark.
And by interesting, I do not mean that you must have a very adventurous life or moments to speak about. This essay should speak about something that you think has changed you drastically personally and professionally. To give you my example, there was one time when I was not getting paid for my work but I did not let it affect my work and contribution to the company. And that became my spike factor! But the success of this essay depends as much on how you write and present yourself as much as it does on what you write. Also, putting pictures help you create an impact and connect the story well in this essay.
Then goes the video interviews and final interviews. For video interviews, they are a very good opportunity for you to compensate for your essays. If the case is that you were not able to bring a unique personality of yours on paper, video interviews are good opportunities to bring this personality out to adcoms. And here I would want to give credit to Shantanu that because of his efforts I was called for an interview before even submitting the video interviews.
Q: EVERY MBA ASPIRANT MUST HAVE HEARD THAT IT’S IMPORTANT TO BRING UNIQUENESS TO YOUR APPLICATIONS. HOW DO YOU THINK YOU BROUGHT THIS UNIQUE FLAVOUR TO YOUR APPLICATIONS?
As cliche as it sounds, I would like to believe that your MBA application must speak of you. Uniqueness is all about you. Every trait, desire and goal of yours make the whole of you and it’s a unique combination that you would not find in anybody else. So to bring uniqueness to your applications, you must first see the uniqueness in you. Find your unique combination and simply bring that on paper.
If I speak about myself, during my own application process, I have fretted about other applicants being higher achievers than me and maybe better than me at many things. And it did make me self-conscious but then my time with Shantanu made me realize my strengths, weaknesses and my unique combination that no one can provide to the school. Everything about you is unique, the way you think, the way you behave and it’s only that you need to realise it and bring it out confidently in your applications. This will help you know what you have and how you are going to contribute to a business school’s community.
Q: FINALLY, HOW DO YOU THINK THE APPLICATION EXPERIENCE AND THE JOURNEY WITH SHANTANU HAVE CHANGED YOU AS A PERSON?
I think the whole application experience is very exhaustive for everyone and it brings changes to everyone in different ways. For me, I think not just the experience but also the interaction with Shantanu has made me confident about myself. I am a very self-critical person and with MBA and Beyond, I came to know my USPs and this is important for everyone to discover their unique self.
In context with the process itself, all throughout the process, I made myself aware that even if I have a low GMAT, I still have a hundred things that make me better than everyone else. So, yes my MBA journey has made me realize if one thing does not work out in your favour, you have a hundred other qualities to make it work out.
We want to see this resilience in everybody! To all the applicants out there, MBA and Beyond wants to say that do not hesitate or limit yourself because of a low GMAT or GPA, or that you may belong to an over-represented MBA applicant pool or even if you’re going for a second MBA. You have in it to make it to your dream school! And we are here for you to hold your hand and lead you there!