“Analytical skills showed during European Client’s Intellectual Property Right Strategy assignments, community orientation shown through social involvement,…” I was sitting down on my office desk, jotting down the points with a small pencil on my even smaller diary, two integral contents of my pocket for last two weeks. Jotting down my every damn thought on that diary had become my habit. A stupid/smart grin was the only answer to my teammates who kept asking what’s up.

A day before, my GMAT was done and I had precisely 13 days in hand before ISB’s first round deadline. For the last two weeks, I had been busy preparing for GMAT. The leisure time had turned out to be useful in coming up with ideas on the essays. Infinite Google searches, lapping up the forums and bouncing off my ideas on intelligent people had helped me to polish the basic content for my essays. The fourth day I was ready with my first drafts on the three essays – two case studies and one ‘your three key differentiators’ question – and began with the review process.

I got my essays reviewed my 9 people – mostly students or alumni from ISB, Wharton, Kellogg, London School of Economics and IIM. 3 of them were from non-MBA backgrounds to add a different perspective to my essays. The volume and rate of feedback were huge, given the short time available and the urgency I had communicated to my reviewers. Managing this process of editing my essays, in that sense, was a make-or-break aspect of my essays quality. I did not go ahead with mindlessly editing my essays based on whatever the reviewers suggested. For every feedback, specifically if it was on the storyline, I would ask the question, “Why did he/she give this feedback?” I would take a feedback, apply my mind to it, discuss the feedback with another reviewer, decide whether to take it or leave it and discuss the decision back with the original reviewer. ‘Feedback of feedback’ approach helped me to quickly reach the core message, resolve conflicting reviews and rank the reviews. The essays-polishing process picked up rocket speed indeed. For the final review, one of my close friends and English language expert agreed to extend her support. With an American looking into the grammar, sentence structuring and expressions aspect of my application in the final drafts, I was able to deliver high quality essays.

Building clarity in what the essays were trying to communicate was the biggest challenge that I faced, given the time constraints. In fact, for ‘three key differentiating factors in your profile’, I was not clear on the third key differentiator till the last day. It was my friends and reviewers who pointed out that my sense of humor was indeed a differentiating factor. The whole interview, later on, circled around this element of my application. More on that in my next blog when I speak about my ISB interview and the key takeaways.

Backing my claims in the applications through good recommendations was the next challenge. Two were required. I took the first recommendation from my immediate boss. The second recommendation was a tough choice between my super boss, who could have written great things about me, and my client, who hailed from a developed Asian country and had been working in Europe for quite sometime. Considering my objective to highlight inter-cultural awareness as a key strength in my application, I chose my client.

The optional essay enabled me to highlight my personal side – social involvements in specific. I talked about how I was involved in a social initiative despite a demanding schedule. I revealed my personal side by explaining the specific activities and my passion for them.

My top three takeaways from my effort would be:

  1. For the first drafts, write without worrying about word limit. Putting down your thoughts is much more important than meeting the word limit. This strategy helps you to include everything possible under the sun and gives you enough options to bring out the best points in possibly the best possible words/emotions
  2. Take loads of inputs from your friends for the essays that want you to specifically talk about yourself. Helps a lot in cutting the noise and getting down to key points to be highlighted.
  3. Get your essays reviewed by as many people as possible. The idea is not to get your essays reviewed by a lot of people but to get alternative viewpoints on the same thing. But never allow the reviews to dilute the core message that you want to convey in the first place.

I still keep a pencil and a small diary in my pocket all the time, a habit that I have held on to after my selection to ISB. They are still close friends of mine in putting down my thoughts on paper and structuring them, whether it I am thinking of a market entry strategy assignment or preparing a to-do list for the weekend.


© 2011, Rachit Agrawal | Indian School of Business. All rights reserved.

Rachit Agrawal | Indian School of Business

Rachit Agrawal did his MBA from Indian School of Business (ISB) and B. Tech from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur (IIT-K). He made it through ISB by scoring 710 in GMAT with 25 days preparation and writing his essays in 15 days while managing a hectic work schedule. His profile is distinguished by a unique industry he worked for – Knowledge Process Outsourcing in Intellectual Property Rights. Rachit is currently involved in an entrepreneurial venture in the space of consulting and analytics. Prior to his MBA, Rachit was working with Evalueserve in the Technology Strategy and Licensing Division.