A lot of people who are planning to apply to B schools abroad believe that they can do it all by themselves and do not need professional help. I was one of those. After writing my GMAT, I set out on the daunting task of applying to B schools. I researched on schools, their rankings, career options and what not. As I read on, I realized that there was so much I did not know. My ignorance was baffling. I was going to make the biggest investment of my life and I wasn't informed enough to make any decisions. That is when I realized that I needed a professional consultant to help me out.
My city did not have MBA Consultants. I made a trip to the closest metro to meet consultants in order to find the right person. I made numerous calls to almost all major consultancies. I even visited their offices in order to meet consultants face to face. The responses in all places were rather disappointing. In bigger consultancies, I only got to speak to the receptionist who was hardly in a position to answer any of my questions. Even if I insisted on speaking to the consultant (at least on the phone), I was refused. They said that I could only speak to the consultant after I enroll. This reaction really put me off. I did not want to gamble 40K to work with someone I had not even spoken to. I carried on my search. In a few places, I actually got to meet the person who would be assisting me in the process. The first thing that was evident after speaking with them was that they had never set foot outside the country. Their knowledge was limited and their answers well-rehearsed. Second, they were quick and very eager to point out the weaknesses in my profile. Although, this did not bother me; but it did seem like a cheap ploy to make me feel "ignorant and unaware" so that I jump at the first offer of help. They also discouraged me from applying in Round 2 even though the R2 deadlines were a good 2.5 months away. After all these interactions, I gave up hope of applying this year.
I came back to my city. I was squandering my time away "facebooking" (since I was told that I could not apply this year), until I came across an advertisement of an MBA Consultant- Vikram Shah. I went to his website. The first thing I noticed was that he too was an MBA grad from a very reputed B- school. The website was crisp, informative and the best thing – there was a mobile number. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was pretty confident that there would be no response if I called. I thought that if at all someone answered; nobody would like to entertain me on a weekend. I was wrong. I called and Vikram responded and I had the longest conversation I had had with any consultant. The differences between Vikram and all the other consultants I had met were glaring. First, he was smart and he knew what he was talking about. Second, he didn't have any qualms about giving out free information. Third, he was not pushy like others. After talking to him, I started wondering if I made the wrong decision in not applying this year and took some time to mull over it. Vikram was always helpful, ready to talk whenever I had any questions for him (this is when I wasn't even a client). I think it would be safe to say that it was because of Vikram that I changed my mind (so glad I did). I had never met this person, but I felt I could trust him. I decided to give MBA applications a shot this year. Time was short but I was confident Vikram would steer me through it.
We started working full swing on resume writing and college selection simultaneously. About the resume, I think it would suffice to say that the Resume that Vikram helped me build was 100, or let say 1000 (or even more) times better than what I would have built myself. I must point out here that Vikram has a way with words. He knows exactly how to put a positive spin on sentences and bring out the meaning with utmost clarity in as few words as possible (which is very important in resume as well as essays). I hope to be as good as he is, someday. On to college selections, that was a very collaborative process. I was insistent on applying to the big names and Vikram helped me choose the right mix of colleges. The most noteworthy thing here is that we discussed the reason why we are NOT applying to certain schools and why we ARE.
After spending a considerable time on resume and college selections, I started writing my first application. Vikram interviewed me and helped me build the stories that would become the subject matter in my essays. This, I believe is the most important aspect of writing an application. It is absolutely essential to get a neutral party's opinion on everything that you have done in your life. Since Vikram had been through the grind himself, he was very well aware of which stories were more compelling than others. He made me look at my own life stories from a different angle and bring out the qualities that are required in an MBA student. That was a unique experience and an eye-opener too. After the thorough self-introspection, I enthusiastically started working on my first set of essays. It would not be an overstatement to say that my first essay was full of crap. Even though I have been an editor of a published book, writing essays is a different ball-game altogether. I particularly found it hard to pen down my life stories and market myself to the admission team. Vikram was a savior here too. He gave me a comprehensive feedback on every word and line in my essays. The essays went through multiple review-rewrite cycles before any of them were finalized. Vikram would not settle for an essay until he found it to be prefect. (Vikram's perfectionist attitude is bound to rub off on all his clients.) He was impeccable with his work. He gave timely (read as hardly took any time) feedback and always gave suggestions on how to improve my essay. Like I said before, he is a master with words and he would help me strengthen my essays, make them as crisp and as emphatic as possible. The final outcomes were always infinitely better than my first drafts. Also, kudos to his patience. Sometimes, I used to get bored of reading the same essay again and again; but, he wouldn't. The thing about the process of MBA Applications (as Vikram had clairvoyantly pointed out before we started) was that one's level of enthusiasm tends to depreciate as the months go by. By the time I was on my third application, I was stressed out, deflated and sapped of any energy or enthusiasm that I had towards my applications. The process, in simple words, was exhausting, especially, when I was trying to balance work and application writing at the same time. It was much more challenging than I thought. That was when Vikram really played an extremely pivotal role. That was the time when I really needed someone to give me a push. At some point, it felt like Vikram wanted me to go to a B-school more than I wanted it myself. However odd this sounds and I hate to admit it, but I often thought of giving up. Vikram was the hugely supportive and as pushy as a parent ;). Finally after 2.5 months of rigorous efforts (more from Vikram, I feel), I finally sent out my applications to 5 very prestigious schools.
Then came the interview calls. Vikram met me in person and helped me practice using mock interviews. He sent me a huge list of questions and material which ultimately helped me a lot during my interviews. Vikram gave me a feedback on everything; the content, the body language, the posture and what not. All that really helped me ace my interview. For my second interview, which was telephonic, Vikram once again conducted mock telephone interview with me and gave me suggestions and feedback to improve my performance. Now, I am finally enrolled at the college of my choice with a significantly large scholarship. And, honestly, a huge amount of credit goes to Vikram. There are many good things about him. But, the best ones are that he is thoroughly professional, takes his work very seriously. He is unbelievably reachable all the time. He is brutally honest, extremely efficient and painfully punctual. All I can say is that, he is the reason that I will be attending B-school this year. And, I am so glad to have come across that advertisement on a fateful Sunday afternoon which pretty much changed the course of my life.
Also accepted at Boston University with a full tuition scholarship.