Posted on March 6, 2023

Chicago Booth Current Student shares his Experience and Advice


Shekhar Iyer, a former MER student, chose an unconventional path by opting to work for the government after a year-long stint as a software engineer. Following his tenure as a manager at the Reserve Bank of India, Shekhar aspired to pursue an MBA to get into management consulting. Despite facing several obstacles, such as an unconventional profile, an employment gap, and a shortage of time, Shekhar secured admission to Chicago Booth with a $40K scholarship for a two-year program.

In his first interview with MER, Shekhar shared his application journey, 3 top application tips, his 'fit' with Chicago Booth, and more. You can read his first interview with us here.

Shekar is currently a second-year student at Chicago Booth and has kindly agreed to provide insights into his Booth experience to help incoming Booth students.

In this video interview with Poonam, Shekhar discusses:

Talking Points:

  • Background       00:40
  • Favorite thing about the program         03:43
  • Things he wished he had known earlier      07:07
  • Support of Booth Partners' Club         10:37
  • Bidding system at Booth       13:50
  • Involvement in Extracurricular Activities      18:00
  • Challenges faced as an international student       20:28
  • His views on networking      27:38
  • Internship experience      34:05
  • Advice for incoming Booth students       37:53

And now presenting Shekhar……….


Poonam: Hello, Shekhar. Welcome back. How are you doing?

Shekhar: Thanks for having me. I am very well and look forward to sharing my Booth experience.

Shekhar's Academic and Professional Background

Poonam: Thank you for your time sharing your Booth experience. I am looking forward to a rewarding conversation. For those who have not read your previous interview, can you please talk about your academic and professional background?

Shekhar: Sure. I went to BITS Pilani, Goa Campus in India, where I earned a degree in Information Systems. After working for one year as a software engineer, I joined as a Fellow in the Prime Minister's Office. I worked in rural development for three years helping local administrations to implement rural development schemes better. After my fellowship, I joined the Reserve Bank, India's Central Bank, where I worked for four years, primarily in banking supervision focused on cybersecurity. In 2021, I quit my job at the RBI and came to Booth to expand my knowledge about the world and learn more about the corporate and private sectors.

Poonam: It sounds like these two years have been very eventful and defining years. Right?

Shekhar: Yes. It has been a life-changing experience for me. I came to Chicago Booth expecting it to be a different experience from what I have had before. I knew my weaknesses and capabilities and found the resources at Booth specifically to work on those weaknesses.

Chicago is a beautiful city with a global international vibe. I immersed myself in international cuisines and other experiences, like watching a play or ballet. So, all those things have been fun ways to learn more about myself and the world.

Shekhar's favorite Part of Chicago Booth

Poonam: Wonderful. So, it's both a professionally and personally enriching experience. What is your favorite part of the program?

Shekhar: There are several things that I appreciate about Booth, such as the flexible curriculum, the 'pay it forward' culture, and the extensive career and professional development support. The location of the Chicago Booth is also fantastic. However, two things stand out as my most distinctive MBA experiences.

Firstly, there is a mandatory program called Lead; in your second year, you get to shape the curriculum for the incoming first-year students and become their teacher. I volunteered to become a Lead facilitator and helped the new students. I found it to be an incredibly valuable community-building experience.

Secondly, the academic experience has been amazing. Booth is associated with the University of Chicago, which has a great academic pedigree. Booth has a distinctive focus on academic rigor, and I have found that the professors bring insights from other disciplines, such as psychology and sociology, to create an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving. If you're studying an ethics class at Booth, you are learning why people behave unethically. The professor will present evidence to show that people behave unethically because of systems, and systems can be designed to prevent such behavior. So psychology, sociology, and ethics are brought into a Business School classroom, and this approach has been another distinctive experience for me.

What Shekhar Wished he had Known before Joining the Program

Poonam: Wonderful. Is there anything you wish you had known before you started the program?

Shekhar: Yes, I wish I had known some things before I started. Firstly, I wish I had known about the Startup Summer program, which allows working with startups founded by Booth alumni before starting the program. You can work with them to get some experience that you lack. For example, if you have always been in finance and want marketing experience, you take up a project where you work in marketing. Participating in the Startup Summer program would have been great because I came from a non-corporate, non-private sector, and my interface with a balance sheet has only been academic. I had never seen a practical balance sheet. However, due to being a Round 2 admit and having to serve a three-month notice period, I could not participate in the program. If I had the chance to do it differently, I would have applied in Round 1 or immediately started working in a startup after resigning from my previous job.

Secondly, I would have planned my wife's life in Chicago better.For married couples considering the MBA program, planning and considering the student's busy schedule is vital, especially during the first year. The MBA program can be all-encompassing, with academics, events, recruiting, and post-MBA plans taking up most of the student's time and attention. It can be challenging for partners to feel involved in the journey as they are not as much a part of it as they want to be. Although we did plan, it was not as specific as it should have been and was challenging for us when we arrived.

Shekhar's Wife's Participation in  Booth Partner's Club

Poonam: I am curious how the Booth community welcomes students' partners. Could your wife participate in some activities?

Shekhar: Yes, Booth is very supportive of a partner's experience. As an international partner, my wife can't work in the US, which can be challenging. So, what should she do? Would she also go to school or only socialize? Booth has a club called Booth Partners Club, a community of Booth students' partners. While the club's focus is to allow partners to socialize with each other, it also helps partners become good members of the community. For example, partners can do some volunteering work or share job openings at the University of Chicago, which might not be relevant for international partners. We enjoyed being members of Booth Partners a lot last year when my wife decided to take on a slightly more leadership role in the second year. She is now one of the co-chairs of Booth partners, which is an important element of her interface with the Booth community.

Additionally, there are a lot of clubs that Booth partners can go to. There are classes that partners can sometimes attend. You can sit in on the class and take all the learnings the MBA offers.

Poonam: Yes, it's wonderful that partners are allowed to attend the classes.

Shekhar: Yes, they are allowed to attend a few classes.

Shekhar's Take on Booth's bidding System

Poonam: Yeah, it is great. Another Booth student I previously worked with told me that the school operates on a bidding system. At the beginning of the program, students are given some points that they must use to take some classes. Can you explain how this system has worked for you?

Shekhar: Yes. Booth's bidding system is based on the demand and supply for each class, which aligns with the university's belief in free market economics Whether or not you get a class is based on the demand and supply for that class. So, at the beginning of a quarter, students are allotted a few points to bid for classes they are interested in. You would naturally bid higher if you are more interested in a class. You will want to pay higher if it's a more popular class. So, it's like markets outside work where you want to spend more money on something you like. It often happens that you have bid many points, but you still don't get a class. And that kind of signals to you how popular a class is and how limited is the supply of professors teaching that class.

This system works well for me as it gives me some direction on how to craft my Booth journey. With a flexible curriculum, it can be overwhelming to choose from 200-300 classes, and the bidding system gives me some signals about which classes are popular and why. I seek to investigate why certain classes are popular and evaluate whether I need those classes or not. There is a lot of support from academic services, and academic advisors can recommend courses based on a student's professional and personal goals. Today is the start of bidding for the next quarter, which will be my last quarter before graduation.

Poonam: Good that you have become an expert in the bidding system in your second year.

Shekhar: Yes. I feel like I gained much expertise in my second year.

Shekhar's Involvement in ECs at Booth

Poonam: I remember you were actively involved in social work in India. As Prime Minister's Rural development fellow, you took several initiatives and contributed to the welfare of underprivileged communities. I am curious to know if you got opportunities to do volunteer work at Chicago Booth.

Shekhar: When I came to Chicago Booth, I wanted to get involved in Booth's nonprofit ecosystem and volunteer. However, I felt I could better contribute to the community by using my experience as a second-year student to help first-year students. This is how a lot of learning happens at Booth. First, I volunteered to be a Lead Facilitator program I spoke about. I design the leadership journey of new first-year students and help them build a community with other first-year students. It has been an enriching experience for me.

Secondly, I sought to pay it forward by supporting students with recruiting, particularly in management consulting, technology, and investment banking. That could be in the form of telling them how their experience was, what kind of resources they could access, how they should look for specific things, what is a coffee chat about, how to write a thank you note at the end of their coffee chat, or what is networking all about? As international students,  students don't even know what networking is or what it entails.

Challenges Shekhar Faced as an International Student

Poonam: This was my next question: What challenges did you face as an international student, and how are you helping first-year students overcome those?

Shekhar: I am glad we could plug in the two questions. And the Booth community does a great job of making you comfortable when you get admitted to Booth. Before you came to the US, you already had friends because you had done zoom calls and played games with other Boothies. As an international student, I faced many challenges, including limited job opportunities and networking. A major challenge is recruiting. You have limited roles that you can apply to. For example, if you want to work in CPG (consumer package goods), finding a role that sponsors an H1B is challenging. So, you have limited roles. Another challenge that you have is networking, which is an essential component of recruiting experience. And you get some support from Booth career services and professional development offices. Second-year students provide a lot of support by sharing their own experiences, providing tips and tricks, and conducting mock interviews. And when networking has been done, and you are looking to prepare for interviews, for example, for management consulting, an interview would be called a case interview. It is learning by doing kind of thing where you do case interviews and learn from those case interviews. So, first-year students do many mock interviews with second-year students because they have gone through this process and know the pitfalls.

I got immense support in my first year, so I have looked to pay it forward by helping first-year students with their mock interviews and case preparation and by co-chairing the Behavioral Sciences Group. This student group creates events around behavioral sciences and helps shape a community around that topic, where Booth has a lot of expertise.

International students face a multitude of questions about networking. However, being in a new ecosystem with most domestic students (58-59%) and a minority of international students (41-42%) can be intimidating. This may lead to unnecessary feelings of inferiority as international students may assume their American classmates are more knowledgeable. Cultural differences, such as the distance between professors and students in India, can further limit their experience, making it challenging to approach professors or engage with them after class. It did happen to me in my first year, but over time, I learned how other students behaved, and I learned from them. So initially, it is a challenge because you might feel that you don't have as much access to the professor as you do. The professors are very helpful and are always willing to engage with you.

Poonam: I think this is a cultural difference.

Shekhar: Yes, this is a very cultural thing. International students may hesitate to share their experiences because they feel that their experiences are not great, or others may not be interested. And all of this has happened to me. So, if you are listening to this and coming to a Business School outside your home country, share your experience because that is how others will learn from you.

Poonam: Exactly. Everybody has different experiences coming from different cultural backgrounds, and people will be receptive to their experiences. Sharing experiences is how you learn from each other and grow in a multicultural environment.

Shekhar: Absolutely. And they will value those experiences a lot.

Shekhar's Experience with Recruitment

Poonam: Of course. Do you have anything else to say about recruitment? Did it meet your expectations?

Shekhar: Yes, exactly. In terms of recruitment, I have had a great experience at Booth. I was interested in a more conventional post-MBA career in management consulting, and the career services team has been incredibly supportive since the moment I received my admission offer. Booth's career services team focuses on providing as much access to career resources as possible, starting months before the start of the program. I remember our first few webinars in June, three months before I stepped into Chicago. They offer webinars and panels with professionals from different industries, so you can get exposure to a wide range of industries and decide which ones to consider. So, when you come to Booth, you know which one or two industries you want to consider. And then, you will get resume help, where you will have various resources to fine-tune your resume. Poonam, I used the same resume to apply for jobs at Booth that I had prepared with you for my MBA applications.

Poonam: Good to know that the resume we prepared also worked for the job.

Shekhar: They also provide personalized support with resume building, recruiting strategies, and targeting specific companies or industries. Within a month, you know the timeline, strategy, and action plan for the first few months at Booth. When you arrive at Booth, there are a lot of workshops and student-run clubs that offer tactical advice on networking, case preparation, behavioral interviews, and more. They guide which cities or offices to recruit for and when to focus on specific aspects of the recruiting process. If you want to support, particularly in conventional industries for MBA students, such as management consulting, technology, and investment banking, you have so many resources that you probably would have to say 'no' to a lot of help. Booth also offers support for non-conventional careers, such as venture capital or private equity entrepreneurship, through its Professional Centers. Many resources are available, and students must proactively seek help when needed.

Poonam: It is great to know they have invaluable resources to help students, and I appreciate that you mentioned that sometimes you don't even have the bandwidth to get so much help they are willing to offer.

Shekhar: Yeah, it happens in the first quarter, particularly when recruiting is at its peak for management consulting and investment banking. Yes, it can be especially challenging during the first quarter when recruiting is at its peak for management consulting and investment banking. As a new Business School student, there is much to learn, and things move quickly. You have to balance classes and recruiting, and there are many different aspects to recruiting, such as networking, resume preparation, and interviews. It can be a lot to manage, and sometimes you have to turn down offers of help.

Shekhar's Internship Experience at Boston Consulting Group

Poonam: I understand. And congratulations on getting an internship with the top consulting firm BCG, which is everyone's dream. Can you share your internship experience with us?

Shekhar: Thank you. I feel very fortunate to have had that opportunity, especially given how challenging recruiting has been this year for many MBA students. I was recruited last year when it was not so tough. I had support from professionals and seniors, which helped me prepare for the networking and interview process. Then BCG was kind enough to offer me an internship and allowed me to work full-time for them.

The internship was intense but also incredibly rewarding. I came from a public sector background where the pace of work was much slower, so the quick-paced work in consulting was new to me. However, BCG was supportive and allowed me to learn independently before assigning additional responsibilities. I worked on a marketing case, a new experience, and I learned a lot from it. Additionally, working at a major consulting firm means being surrounded by incredibly smart and capable people who are friendly and supportive. I'm excited to return to BCG full-time after completing my MBA and continue my professional development in such a warm and supportive environment.

Poonam: It's great to hear your internship experience at BCG was amazing, although intense, and that you will start a full-time job as a consultant at BCG.

Shekhar: I hope to start in July.

Poonam: Congratulations. I'm so excited for you.

Shekhar: Yeah, Thank you very much.

Shekhar's Advice for Incoming Students

Poonam: Lastly, can you share some advice for the incoming Booth students? How can they thrive at Booth?

Shekhar: Yes, I have three pieces of advice. First, get involved in activities at Booth. There are many opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities, and it’s important to get as involved as possible because that is where much of the learning happens.

Second, use all the resources the University of Chicago provides. This takes me back to my Booth interview on the same day two years back- February 13. My interviewer, a Booth alum, gave me this advice. He said the University of Chicago has a rich history in many fields, including economics, behavioral science research, and physical sciences. So, you want to use all these resources whenever you can. Attend an event where there will be students from other schools. Engage with them, talk to them, and understand their perspectives about the world, which is very different from how you know the world as a Business School student.

Finally, challenge yourself to break out of your comfort zone and engage with others different from you. If you are from a country with a big population, say India or Latin America, you will have many people like you. At Booth, we probably have 100 students from India or South Asia. So, there could be a temptation to be only in that bubble and be around them because it is comfortable. But you should challenge yourself to break out of that bubble and engage with others who are different because you will learn so much from them. You will know how we are all different but also the same. So, the underlying similarity of many of our beliefs can break barriers. You are at this great place, so enjoy and participate in the learning experience you signed up for.

Poonam: That is such precious advice. You have provided us with immensely valuable information about Booth's resources and how incoming students should take advantage of Booth's resources and offerings. Thank you for taking the time to provide this useful information for incoming students and me. Thank you so much.

Shekhar: It's been a pleasure. Thank you.

Poonam: It was wonderful catching up with you after two years, and it's amazing to see how much you have grown as a professional and a person. And it's wonderful to talk to you and see you grow at Chicago Booth. So, thank you for your time, and I wish you good luck in your post-MBA career at BCG and continued success in your life and career.

Shekhar: Thank you so much, Poonam. I'm very encouraged by the fact that you have noticed those changes. I would be interested, maybe later, to know what changes you've explicitly seen. It was great chatting with you after so long. Thank you very much.

Poonam: Thank you very much. Have a great day.

Shekhar: You too. Take care. Bye.

You can connect with Shekhar via

Click here for Shekhar's testimonial of MER Services

Click here   for Shekhar's Review of MER on the GMAT Club

Click here for his recommendation on LinkedIn.

Click here for his typical day at Chicago Booth.

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About MER (myEssayReview)

Poonam Tandon, the founder of MER (myEssayReview), is a Ph.D. in English with 12 years of MBA consulting experience and three decades of teaching experience in India and the US. A master storyteller, Poonam has successfully guided hundreds of students from around the world to gain admission into the esteemed MBA, EMBA, and specialized Masters's programs in the US, Canada, Europe, and Asia. Throughout her four-decade-long professional career, she has reviewed 10,000+ essays written by applicants worldwide. Poonam is recognized as one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club (142 reviews).

You may email Poonam at with questions about your application for the 2023-24 admission cycle.