Getting waitlisted and the journey to ISB Hyderabad

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My preparation for an admission to ISB started early in Jan 2015. I wanted to get into brand management/marketing roles that I had deviated from 2013 – 15. A lot had changed in the business world and I wanted to up my knowledge and signal to corporates/brands that I was serious about my career. Therefore, MBA.

I was pretty clear in my head that I wanted to live in India. With about 8 years of work experience, IIMs were not an ideal option. I chose ISB especially for its 1 year flagship MBA (PGDM) programme. I always thought myself to be weak in quant but surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly) scored higher in quant. My score was low, below average for an ISB intake; but I knew I couldn’t go through prep again. Also, I wanted to apply in R1 and I took the GMAT on Oct 9th (Oct 15th was the deadline). I wrote my essays over the next few days, got them reviewed by 2 friends (IIM alum and another one an IITian). Made a few changes to the essays, reviewed the application and clicked submit.

I got a call to interview on Nov 7th – one of the first ones to be interviewed in Bangalore. I was asked to write a short (500 words I think) essay on the word ‘perfect’. It was quite funny when I was relating the experience to my friend later and said the essay was perfect and he repeatedly asked yes, but what was the topic J

The interview itself was quite chilled out. I had 2 senior alums interview me. The questions were quite basic and the process was more of a conversation than a Q&A. The interview began with a few questions on my short essay itself (on the topic ‘perfect’) – I had written about how perfection was overrated and that I found imperfection more interesting. There were a few laughs exchanged here as well (they were laughing with me and not at me!) I then had to summarize my resume, why MBA (I spoke about why MBA at ISB as I had applied only to ISB), roles I was looking for post ISB (marketing – that was my background and that was what I knew and wanted to continue at it). I was told that I would have to do more work at getting jobs of my choice given my 8+ years of work ex. I said I understood that aspect. I’d say the interview went well and felt good about my chances.

As I have mentioned, I had applied to just ISB and it was practically like placing all eggs in one basket. I was hopeful, desperate and nervous as Dec 15th approached – the results day for R1 (Round 1). I had chosen ISB Hyderabad as my preferred campus. I was out visiting some family friends with my family on result day when I got the email from the admissions team at ISB. I had been waitlisted.

My brain stopped processing logic from that moment onwards. I gave up hope and decided that I was just not ISB or MBA material. I took the waitlisted status as a rejection. I spoke to my older brother (the IIM alum) and my husband (the IITian) who tried to convince me that I shouldn’t give up, that I hadn’t been rejected and even if I was, I should try again.

It took me time, but I realized that there were people who were rejected (the community at Pagalguy was a great help at this time) and that I was at least in the running. The months were slow but March 5th 2016 did arrive – the results or R2 (round 2). I had an interview that same day which went extremely well. I told myself that if not ISB, I would have a job in marketing, a role that I liked and wanted.

There were already updates on ISB – people who had received the coveted accepted to ISB update on the ISB portal. Minutes ticked by, the refresh button on my laptop at wits end and finally there it was – accepted to ISB! The elation, the ecstasy, I felt vindicated, I felt worth it (yea L’oreal!). 5 days later I paid the acceptance fee and got the loans processing in action. Come April 16 2016, I was on campus at ISB Hyderabad and the journey has been fantastic. I graduate in April 2017.

Here’s the deal – getting waitlisted is not easy. It is easy for people to tell you to be patient and that all will be alright. But you have to reach that place yourself; I had to do that myself in spite of all the support I received at the time. I remember my Dad telling me to stay strong, that I would get into ISB, and he was the proudest when I told him that I had been admitted.

I am frankly not sure if doing anything while being waitlisted helps. I did not do anything. I checked to see if alum recommendation at the time helps but I came up with no great or any insight or information at all. I would suggest getting an alum recommendation early on – during application stage, would be great if you have worked with ISB alum and made a strong positive impression. Being waitlisted simply means that ISB wants to see if there are better applicants among your peers (similar work ex, background, education etc) so that ISB can decide at the end of R2 and choose the better applicant among the pool of applicants.

To all those planning to apply to ISB, or any other institute for that matter, all the best.

Do leave a comment if this was helpful and if there’s more you would like to know.

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