We got an opportunity to interview Sumegha, graduate from IIT Madras and Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship awardee by Stanford University for its 2-year MBA program. She will be starting her program in coming August and agreed to give us her two cents on the MBA application effort.

MBAfusion: What do you think are the critical elements that determine the attractiveness of a B-School application?

Sumegha: GMAT, Essays, Recommendations, Work Profile, Academic Profile are the five critical parameters in my opinion. Each one is equally important I must say.

Work experience with Schlumberger, unique profile, working in the oilfields for 3.5 years across Middle East, Europe and India did the magic for me, I believe.

MBAfusion: How did you perform on GMAT?

Sumegha: Not very impressive I must say. I got much less than the Stanford average GMAT score. But I decided rather to focus my efforts towards essays. I was confident about my profile and was sure of making up for the GMAT through my academics track-record.

MBAfusion: Which schools did you apply to?

Sumegha: I had applied to Stanford and Sloan in the first round and to INSEAD and ISB in the second round.

MBAfusion: When did you come to know about the Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship? How did you go about applying for the fellowship?

Sumegha: I started working on the essay ‘How do you aspire to shape your country’s future?’ in May. I started with a brainstorming session. Talking to one of my closest friends helped me. Over several sessions, we figured out my aspirations, articulated my thoughts and demonstrated that my aspiration was practical and feasible. Connecting dots from the past, I could also show my ability to achieve my aspiration.

My suggestion here would be to concentrate less on the known facts about the topic and more on what would be your style/methodology of addressing the issue.

I got my essays reviewed by two people and had about one month for preparing the fellowship application.

MBAfusion: How did you go about writing your essays?

Sumegha: I had taken a break from work and had enough time to think hard on my essays. My father and my close friend would review my initial drafts and add their corrections. I would then send the revised drafts to B-school alums or current students. I got my essays reviewed by INSEAD alum and ISB alum.

My two cents on writing impressive essays would be –

  1. Crisp sentences,
  2. Coherence (flow of the story/essay),
  3. Clear message/takeaway at the end of the essays.

In my case, I had to take special care of conveying highly technical aspects of my work profile in lucid and comprehendible language to everyone.

I would also strongly recommend that the application, as a whole, should be seen a number of times before submission. Special attention should be paid to identifying the contradictions in the application.

MBAfusion: How did you go about answering the toughest question on “What matters most to you?” in Stanford application?

Sumegha: I believe the starting point of answering this question is thinking through the various phases in your life and analyze why you took certain decisions and what were the factors that drove you to take those decisions. Instead of choosing two-three things as important, I finalized the single thing that was most important and centered my essay around the factor.

In my case, I was able to infuse passion into words only because I wrote about something that really mattered to me.

For identifying your own strengths and weaknesses, it is very essential to sit and discuss with people who know you the best. Mentioning strengths is something which everyone does. What could possible distinguish you is mentioning a weakness in a subtle way and proving it in the application that you are working to overcome it or you have already overcome it. Sometimes people use clichés such as being over perfect or being a perfectionist is my weakness. Does not add value to your application, I must say. The admission committee goes thousands of such applicants mentioning the same strengths in the veil of weaknesses.

It’s also strength to discover your weakness and work on it to improve oneself. So, be honest with weaknesses.

MBAfusion: How did you answer the question on “Tell us about a time when you made a lasting impact on your organization” and “Option C: Tell us about a time when you generated support from others for an idea or initiative.”

Sumegha: I had to think hard on all the projects I had done, choose the one that created the greatest impact and brought out the best of my leadership qualities. Quantifying the results of the project is an essential aspect to be kept in mind.

MBAfusion: How did you choose your recommenders?

Sumegha: I chose a peer who had worked with me closely and two managers. I worked at only one organization so it was easy for to choose recommenders. They really knew my strengths and weaknesses and I believe that really helped.

MBAfusion: How was your Stanford interview experience?

Sumegha: I had about 7 days time to prepare for Stanford interview. It was 45-minute long and the interviewer was an alumnus of IIT Madras and Stanford MBA program. The interview was blind one and pretty much conversational. The key questions were around ‘tell me about yourself, leadership experiences, team building stories and challenges in oil fields being a woman.

MBAfusion: And when did you hear about your results? What are your plans before joining Stanford?

Sumegha: I heard about my results on 15th December. The two years are going to be hectic. Realizing that, I have planned to travel, spend time with my parents and learn Guitar.

About Sumegha

Sumegha M, graduated from IIT Madras, was awarded Reliance Dhirubhai Fellowship and will be starting her 2-year MBA program at Stanford this year.

Till recently, she was working with Schlumberger as a Senior Field Engineer for three and a half years. Sumegha realized that applying to MBA along with a Schlumberger-job is a big challenge. She left the company and dedicated a full month working on her application. Apart from the spikes in her profile, this effort helped her to shape her application really well.

Sumegha is currently working with Intellecap, a Hyderabad based Bottom-of-Pyramid initiative.


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