by. Tharun Boggala, UCLA School of Management, Class of 2022
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Little did I know then that my own tweet would perfectly sum up my MBA application journey.
2015-16 (Application Cycle 1)
I had just switched jobs within the automobile industry after working for 3 years out of college, only to realize that I would still be doing the exact same work I had been doing before. I wanted to advance my career and decided to study for and give the GMAT a go. Luckily, the number 740 popped up on my screen as my score on September 10th, 2015. Since the Round 1 deadlines for MBA applications were already so close, I didn’t conduct much research about the application process. I was honest about wanting to be in a decision-making role after MBA and wrote that I was fascinated by the technology industry. I applied to a few colleges and got into both ISB and Tepper School of Business. I gave up ISB to join Tepper, but it turned out that MBA tuition in the USA was very expensive. I hadn’t even saved 10% of the tuition fees during my professional career up to that point. So I instead decided to back out and try again the next year with the belief that I would get into a business school for sure.
Lesson Learned – Financing your MBA is not something to be overlooked. In fact, it should be the first criterion considered when shortlisting schools.
2016-17 (Application Cycle 2)
This year, I wanted to get a good scholarship to minimize my financial burden. So I decided to apply to Top 20-40 schools. This is where I went through the MBA application process in detail and started researching its every aspect. The Career goal essay that I didn’t have any trouble answering the previous year was daunting this time around. I thought I was good at analytics and market research, and thus a Brand Manager position would be the best fit for me. I applied to four schools and was rejected by all of them. However, I overcame the rejections with the hope that I would get into a business school the next year for sure.
Lesson Learned – It is very important to have an idea about Post-MBA career options and how your past experience can be leveraged. Transferable skills are something I had learned this time. Also, aiming to become a Brand Manager in another country with no prior experience is a big goal.
2017-18 (Application Cycle 3)
I personally did not see any improvement in my candidacy since last year. Fortunately, I got an opportunity to fulfill a leadership position at work. I even got opportunities to visit two countries and gain international exposure. I decided to not apply to schools this year and instead focus on developing my resume, as the average experience of students in business schools is around 5 years. I thought with this new leadership experience and international exposure, it would be okay for my number of years with professional experience to be on the higher side. All this with the hope that I will get into a business school next year.
Lesson Learned – You cannot realize your leadership qualities without being in a leadership position. Suddenly, I had lots of my own stories for behavioral questions.
2018-19 (Application Cycle 4)
This year, I encountered a big setback in my family from which I couldn’t financially recover. I had my resume, essays, and recommendations ready but just couldn’t hit the submit button.
- Lesson Learned – I need to balance life and my MBA dreams. The unexpected always happens. I must deal with it and continue pursuing my dreams.
2019-20 (Application Cycle 5)
I thought, this is my last chance. My GMAT score will expire after this cycle. I sought professional help (through ApplicantLab) as I couldn’t afford any mistakes this time. I did a lot of introspection and realized what mattered the most to me and how an MBA could help me achieve that. My confidence was at its peak and I decided to apply for the Top 15 schools. This time, my resume was perfect with leadership and global experiences. I had clarity about all possible post-MBA career options. I knew my strengths and weaknesses. My ‘Why MBA?’ essay was so ambitious that I got positive feedback from anyone I shared it with. I wasn’t worried about scholarships as I chose the schools which provided non-cosigner loan options to international students. Still, life had something planned for me.
Setback 1 – I developed a very bad dengue fever so that I had to spend the entire Round 1 deadline period in the hospital. I couldn’t apply to most of the schools that I wanted to.
Setback 2 – One of the schools to which I was invited to interview with required me to submit my original undergraduate transcripts within 3 weeks. I was not prepared for this. 8 years out of college, I realized I had lost touch with my connections from college.
Setback 3 – My father underwent a major heart surgery in February. My interview preparation got affected, and I even had one of my interviews on the day my father got out of the ICU.
Finally, I made it. I got into a couple of schools with significant scholarships. My 5-year-long wait had finally paid off. Even though Covid-19 created some unexpected uncertainties, I will be gladly joining the UCLA Anderson School of Management this fall and am fully prepared to take yet another calculated risk