Posted on September 10, 2019

Harvard MBA Experience- a Current Student Shares Her Story – Part 1


Mansi, a Delhi IIT civil engineer and an oil and gas professional, had worked with MER on her application for 5 top programs and was accepted by all of them - HBS, Stanford, Wharton, Kellogg, and INSEAD. She went to Harvard, her dream school. In her first interview with MER (myEssayReview) last year, Mansi had shared her application experience, career objectives, why MBA, preference for HBS, and much more.
Mansi is here today to share her amazing first-year experiences at Harvard. This interview will be published in two parts.

 In Part 1 of the interview, Mansi talks about:

  • Her Background
  • GMAT prep/ Application prep
  • Financing/ Funding MBA
  • Her favorite things about Harvard (community, case study method, in-class, and outside of class experiences)

  • What her classmates were surprised to know about her

Poonam: Hello Mansi. Welcome back. Thank you for taking the time to talk to us.

Mansi: No problems. I have been looking forward to this. So I am hoping to have a good conversation here.

Poonam: Yes, me too. For those who have not seen your first interview, could you please tell them something about your background? Where you are from? Where did you do your undergrad from? What was your pre HBS job?

Mansi: I graduated from IIT Delhi in 2012, and thereafter, I worked with Schlumberger, an oil and gas service provider. I started work in India and then worked in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Indonesia. After Schlumberger, I also worked for an Indian oil and gas company called Cairn India wherein I moved from more of an operation and technical role to a business planning and strategy kind of role, and that made me further think about my career and an MBA.

Poonam:  Looking back, you scored a stellar 770 GMAT score. Can you share with our viewers your planning and preparation for GMAT?

Mansi:  This question has been asked to me by a lot of GMAT applicants who want to earn a good score. This is a very genuine question because your entire application starts with this preparation and the score. The best advice that I can give is to start early so that you have as much time as you can in terms of not just GMAT preparation but also GMAT retake in case you want to improve the score. So to start with, start early and have a lot of time on your plate, and secondly, make a good plan, identify what you want to work on, whether it is quant or verbal, or both, and how do you want to work on that to improve step-by-step to get your desired score All this helps in putting the preparation together and take you to your target score. I took an e-GMAT online course and all the Fisher GMAT resources in terms of the official guide. I also took some online tests which were in packages one to six. I think the official resources and the e-GMAT online course are just enough for preparing for the entire GMAT.

Poonam: In your first interview with us last year, we had discussed in detail your strategy, planning, and preparation for the MBA. Could you please briefly share your MBA preparation that led to your incredible success at the top 5 MBA programs?

Mansi:  I took my GMAT around June end, so I could apply in Round I. I was sure that in a couple of months I could not apply to all the schools I wanted to which were Harvard, Wharton, INSEAD, Kellogg, and Stanford, so I thought of breaking that list up into two categories. And Poonam, you truly helped me in that by telling me to focus on Harvard in the later round when I was more prepared, more practiced, both in terms of preparing my application as well as interviews. So I applied to Wharton and Kellogg in Round I and Harvard, Stanford, and INSEAD in Round II. INSEAD was somewhere in between Round I and Round II of the US schools. That also helped in distributing my work.

Again, starting early is the key thing. In July, I was kind of lost and was trying to figure out what to do, how to do it, which consultant to work with. The first school takes up a lot of time just in terms of introspection, figuring out the story behind your application, connecting the dots in your story, and understanding your goals, etc. So be prepared that the first application takes a long, long time because you need time to figure it out yourself. So have a strategy of how you want to tackle different applications. Poonam, I still remember that Wharton and Kellogg were comparatively shorter, so we could accomplish them in the first round and by the time we came to Harvard, we both were pretty confident about my application and how we wanted to frame it. So I would suggest just know what you want in your application, be yourself, and don’t think about what the schools want to hear.

Poonam: Exactly. Can you tell the viewers how did you fund /finance your MBA?. Do you have any advice for them?

Mansi: Yes. Absolutely. It is one of the questions people have asked me time and time again I would suggest that they should feel free to ask their seniors, peers who are in that school to guide them to go through the financial aid process. Many schools in the US have good programs of financial aid in which they help students to go through their tuition fees. Harvard and Stanford have a very great program, and I am sure Wharton does have that too. So be aware of all those Financial Aid programs before you apply to them because sometimes you have to incorporate an additional essay or information in your application that ties into Financial Aid. Harvard just has the means-based FA program which is helpful. But most of the schools have something or the other kind of program which helps provide people a better financial position after an MBA. So make sure that you are aware of that before applying to the school. Secondly, you may also search online for the kind of organizations that you have worked with in the past in India or abroad, or the kind of organizations you want to be associated with. Thirdly, taking loans also helps. I am funding my MBA partly with Financial aid, my savings, and partly with the loan. But you can definitely have your mixture to that. You can just opt for taking a loan rather than put your savings. So just be aware that there are options, and if you ask people, they are there to help you with that.

Poonam: Harvard was always your dream school. What has been your favorite thing about Harvard so far? Would you please share your best experiences in and out of the class that helped shape your career?

Mansi: My most favorite thing about Harvard so far is the community. And when I say the word ‘community’, I am not just saying it randomly, I mean it. It starts from professors, colleagues, alumni, everyone who is part of the Harvard community. Most of the learning experience happens through this community. My best learnings so far have been from the conversations I had with my people around me- my section mates, my friends, and everyone. It is not like that you genuinely want to learn something from them, it is just that being with them, listening to their perspectives, even though they differ from your own, is a great learning experience.

The case study method comes into this play because the professor facilitates the discussions among your classmates which fosters a nice environment in terms of being safe and being politically correct. You really get immersed in the discussion of the case, discuss it before and after the class and learn a lot from these discussions with your peers. It takes time, but you can start trusting your colleagues and peers. You have the advantage that you are at the  HBS and you have access to all these kinds of cases and knowledge that you did not have earlier.

I think my best experiences have been outside the class. Traveling and being with friends or peers is something I enjoy. I have traveled a lot in India and around as well but traveling here is different as you start seeing things through a different lens. For example, I attended a global course in Argentina a couple of months earlier. When you travel with your friends and professors, you learn as well as enjoy it. You start looking at things differently. You have a certain specific or background of a country or that place, and at the same time you have a perspective of your own, and you want to see as to how you can improve certain situations, I think that is the kind of difference that a school like Harvard can make in your personality that whether you are traveling or just interacting with other people, you gain a different lens to it and start seeing things in a more intellectual as well as more experiential manner.

Inside the class, with all the cases, sometimes we get to meet the protagonist as well and that has been one of the best experiences so far that we get to meet so many different protagonists that you have looked up to all your life till now, you get to meet them, you listen to them face to face. I am truly grateful for that. I remember when Indira Noori came to our class- I have seen so many videos of her and my kind of idealized her during my MBA application process as well but meeting her and getting the same learnings more or less, being face to face with her was just a surreal experience. I am fortunate to have met many CEOs who visited the classes.

Poonam: Wonderful. I was wondering if there is anything you will like to change about Harvard?

Mansi: Yes. I think it is a good question. I just sometimes feel that the class size is huge, and a smaller class could have been more helpful to connect with more people closely. So that is the only thing I could have wished for Harvard. However, this too comes with another advantage as a big class size will give you a large network in terms of the Alumni database.  I reached out to many different people whether it was organizing a conference or looking for an internship, or just connecting with people to learn about their experiences. Though the large network is helpful, the advantage of small class sizes will allow you to know people more closely.

Poonam: What do you think your classmates were surprised to know about you?

Mansi: That is an interesting question. Everyone comes out with a very nice and interesting aspect of their life, whether it is professional or personal. In my case, I think they were really amazed to hear about my oil and gas stories. And surprisingly, we had a lot of oil and gas cases as well where I was called upon multiple times. And then, I used to tell them my experiences on the oil rigs, working in conditions that they have never even heard of, and those kinds of experiences, those kinds of stories sharing was something they were really surprised by. They could not imagine that a world like that existed and that I was part of that world.

 Stay tuned to Part 2 of the interview wherein Mansi discusses the following:

  • Clubs at the HBS
  • Global Immersion program
  • Recruitment at the HBS
  • Advice to incoming students about recruitment and other resources of HBS

Since 2011, Poonam, founder, and president of myEssayReview (MER) has helped applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is  one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

Want to discuss this? Email Poonam at

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