Niladri Chakraborty – From Goldman Sachs to Kenan-Flagler
In conversation with Niladri Chakraborty, a CrackVerbal student who scored 750 on his first attempt, and cracked admits to multiple schools.
What was your profile like before you applied for an MBA?
After my engineering from PSG Coimbatore, I joined Goldman Sachs as an analyst and have been working with them in their Asset Management Division for about 5 years now.
What made you want to pursue an MBA?
It was a very personal decision for me. While I was working with Goldman, the environment was a very business oriented one. Although I work on developing software, my role involved a lot of understanding Finance related work too. So as I progressed through my 5 years at Goldman, I realised I’m more interested in the Finance aspect as opposed to the plain technology aspect. I felt getting into the Finance sector would be a lot more exciting to me and I thought the MBA is the way to go.
How long before your GMAT did you begin you preparation?
My initial plan was to move to the US for a job, understand the market and then take the GMAT so I could pursue an MBA. But that didn’t work out. I would say I took about 2.5 months to prepare because I didn’t want to wait. I decided to give my GMAT immediately after I complete my preparation.
So you got a 750 in the first attempt itself? 🙂
Yes I did.
How did you go about your preparation for the GMAT?
My focus was on getting done with the GMAT in the first attempt. I didn’t want to give it twice. I started out with CrackVerbal’s Verbal classes because that aspect of the test was my immediate concern. I then advanced to the Quant classes.
I would like to point out that it’s important that you make a note of the things you’re doing wrong rather than just focusing on the things you do right. Analyzing your wrong answers is critical to boosting your score as it tells you a lot about the errors you are making, the approach you use and lots more.
The other thing is maintaining a schedule. Try and put in some hours of prep every day. Keeping your preparation time frame short (about 3-4 months) will also help you remain focused as opposed to delaying taking the exam over a period of 6-8 months.
What was your prep schedule like?
I would put in about 6 to 8 hours per day. I would wake up each morning at 4:30 a.m. and study. Then again at 6-7 p.m.
How did you go about choosing which MBA programs you would like to apply to?
I started thinking about the programs while I prepared for the GMAT. I knew I wanted to get into Finance and I wanted to study in the US in the East and North-East coast as there are plenty of opportunities for Finance there. I was very clear about that.
I started by trying to talk to friends who are in an MBA program, though I don’t have too many friends doing an MBA. I then started seeking out profiles from the schools’ alumni groups where I could access their e-mail ids and then began conversing with people who seemed approachable.
How approachable were the alumni when you spoke to them about the programs?
They were fairly approachable, though you have to ask them straight-forward questions about the program rather than ask them questions like “Why Darden”, this will help you get a response effectively.
To understand the details before I asked my questions, I read a lot online and carried out plenty of research. After that I went ahead and approached the alumni.
How did you go about the application process?
I’d say the initial part of getting into the frame of mind to write clear, succinct essays in the crucial part. When I began writing my essays they would be about 1500 words and I worked with CrackVerbal in this regard. Arun would help me refine my essays a great deal by pointing out the issues they had. Writing essays for the B-school application isn’t as easy as writing in college or school. It takes a lot of effort.
Once I got used to how I should write, I think it became a lot easier and I worked with the CrackVerbal Admissions team on the writing part. I think the initial stages is vital and one must set aside about 15-20 days to get used to the process.
Which colleges did you apply to?
My first round strategy was applying to the very top schools: Wharton, Booth, Kellogg and so on. I got a call from Booth and from Darden. I was waitlisted by Booth and Darden but didn’t get through!
In the second round I applied to Johnson, Kenan-Flagler, and Rochester.
What was the interview process with the B-schools?
Each school follows a different process, like Kellogg for instance tried to talk to each and every applicant. Wharton or Booth on the other hand are more selective, so they would only interview candidates who they feel make the cut.
Kenan-Flagler has a more open policy – every candidate who applies should be interviewed as well. It’s recommended that this applicant-initiated interview be done as soon as possible and it could be via Skype if you are not in the US or it could be face-to-face if you are in the US. I had mine in Bangalore and I had to email the panel asking them about the interview panel.
Is the panel made up of people with a similar background as yours?
I think it’s difficult to come across a panel consisting of people with a similar background. Especially the alumni interviews are not the best as they don’t seem well versed with the interviews.
How well informed are they about your profile?
They are not very well informed, their knowledge is limited to your resume and your application essays.
In terms of your short-term and long-term goals, how did you prepare for those questions?
I think that’s something everyone asks you and it’s important you sound convincing and not come off sounding staged. For me I had very clear cut ideas about where I want to go and what my final destination is. So that helped a lot and I think it’s crucial and converting an interview as well.
Should your goals be aligned to the school you are applying to as well?
I think the goals should definitely be in-line with your personal goals and the school you are applying to as well. They can be a bit lofty but they need to appear achievable to the Adcoms.
Any words of advice for the other aspirants out there? 🙂
I think firstly it’s important you take the GMAT immediately and not delay the process.
My perspective on the GMAT is a bit different, I feel it’s an exam where they set some traps and you need to learn how you can avoid those traps.
Secondly, while choosing schools be a bit pragmatic. I had a 750 so I chose the top 10 colleges for my first round. In the long run I think that affected me, I feel I should have applied to the top 15-20 itself in the first round. I feel had I done this I would have gotten a better scholarship too.
How do you apply for a scholarship?
Most colleges don’t have a specific essay for the scholarship, except for Tuck which had one. The scholarship review takes place while they review your application. I didn’t have to do anything specific for a scholarship and thankfully I received one! 🙂
What was your experience with CrackVerbal like?
The first thing I loved about CrackVerbal was how forthright Arun was about results. he didn’t promise a high score, instead he simply said he would teach us what we need to know and it’s upto us to make it happen.
The second thing was how CrackVerbal taught me how to talk to someone who is not from my background. I think it’s easy for us to get carried away and sprinkle our essays with technical jargon, but it won’t help in telling your story to the panel. This was a major eye opener.
Thanks for your time Niladri – we’re sure your experience will help many other MBA aspirants!
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