Posted on May 27, 2023

Indian IT Professional’s Journey to ISB & McDonough – 720 GMAT+2 Years’ WE

Indian IT Professional_Reetvik

Reetvik graduated from VIT Vellore in computer science in 2020 and worked with two tech companies for two years. Despite having only two years of work experience and average non-work experience, he applied for MBA programs in the US with a 720 GMAT score. He collaborated with MER for his Round 1 application and received interview offers from Tuck and Foster. He was also waitlisted by Tepper. However, Reetvik couldn’t convert his interviews into admission offers. Following our advice, he applied to ISB and McDonough in Round 2 and received admission offers from both. He is still on Tepper's waitlist.

Watch Reetvik's interview with Poonam from MER to learn how he transformed his Round 1 failure into Round 2 success.

Talking Points of the Conversation:

  • His background      01:52
  • Why MBA/Career Goals   03:12
  • Planning for GMAT 07:25
  • Application strategy, planning, preparation   10:58
  • Improvements he made in Round 2 applications   13:49
  • Suggestions on how techies can distinguish themselves   22:15
  • LOR Advice    26:42
  • His preference for McDonough over ISB    29:44
  • Reetvik's Suggestions on Video Essay    34:32
  • Hobbies and interests    38:10

And now presenting Reetvik…….

Poonam: Hello, Reetvik. How are you doing?

Reetvik: Hi, Poonam; I'm doing great. Thanks for having me over. How are you?

Poonam: I'm doing well too. Congratulations on getting admission offers from ISB and McDonough. How does it feel?

Reetvik’s Reaction on Getting Admission Offers from ISB and McDonough

Reetvik: Thanks. Right now, it feels good, but in hindsight, I had contrasting emotions regarding both my admits. ISB was my first admit, right? After that, it was more of a sense of validation that we got an admit for which we had worked so hard for a while. So that felt nice. But McDonough admits was more of a sense of relief and surprise. I was a bit anxious about the result date, waiting for a call and checking the GMAT club and other forums. People are getting calls, but I was not getting a call. I didn't get any mail as well. So, I thought this ship had sailed as well, no problem. But before wrapping up my day around 1:00 am, I again decided to see the portal. Once I saw the portal, I saw the decision there and said to myself, "This seems like an admit letter. Let me go through it again." So I felt a sense of relief that we finally achieved what we had targeted.

Reetvik’s Background

Poonam: Of course, you told me there was a lot of drama before you finally got the good news. Anyways, all's well that ends well. You have two admission offers, and you accepted McDonough's offer. Reetvik, can you tell our viewers your academic and professional background?

Reetvik: I completed my B. Tech in Computer Science from VIT Valor in 2020; since then, I've been working as a software engineer. Not a typical profile of a software engineer in the sense that I work in the field of DevOps, which is cloud and infrastructure management, so it is a bit different from what a typical software engineer does. But that has been my role DevOps engineer later on Senior DevOps for my entire professional career. So initially, I worked at an early-stage startup called Lumiq for around two years and helped them grow from a 50-60 organization to 200 to 300-employee organization. Recently, I switched to a company called Innovasa which handles health tech. I've been working here for close to around 9-10 months now as a Senior DevOps Engineer.

Reetvik’s Rational for Pursuing an MBA with Two Years of Work Experience

Poonam: Thank you. So, you decided to apply for an MBA program with only two years of work experience. Usually, people apply after four or five years of work experience. What inspired you to go for management education at this stage of your career?

Reetvik: There are a lot of pros and cons of working in an early-stage startup. So one of the main pros is that there's no limit to the responsibilities which you are given. It depends on how much you can handle. So I think I leveraged that really well at the start of my career because I took on more responsibilities even though I knew when I was getting overboard, but I was like, "OK, let's take it, let's see how it works out." Because of that, I was really lucky to work with some senior professionals and some stalwarts of the IT industry, whether they were senior engineers, architects, or even CxOs. For a project, I was actually reporting to my CEO for 2-3 months, and I worked with him on a personal level. That gave me an idea of the path I was on and where I would end up if I continued down that path. However, it didn't click with me because it was too technical. I didn't want to restrict myself to a particular implementation or technical domain. That's when I realized I love tech, so I did engineering. I want to stay in this industry, but I want to have a different kind of impact. So, I needed to gain technical expertise. But what happens after that? So I started researching and saw that an MBA is something that aligns with the kind of impact I want to have in my career. After a couple of years of thought, I realized that if I'm clear on what I want to do, why wait? Let's give it a shot. The GMAT is valid for five years, so I decided to take it one step at a time.. And that one step at a time led me to you. We had our initial communication, and then things progressed from there.

Demonstrating leadership with 2 Years of Work Experience

Poonam: Of course. So how did you demonstrate leadership in your previous role in your two years of work experience?

Reetvik: Right from the start, within one year of my professional career, I was given more responsibilities, as discussed earlier. I was given a senior position which entailed leading a team. For the remaining years of my professional experience, I have been leading teams ranging from 6 to 8 people. Even before my professional career, I have always been a person who doesn't shy away from giving opinions and stepping in when something doesn't seem to be heading in the right direction. I engage in debates and discussions. I think my organization picked up on that and allowed me to lead a team. It has been a learning experience as I go because it was all new to me—leading a team, stakeholder management, managing team goals, and ensuring I don't burden them too much while meeting deadlines. It's all about striking a balance. I have had my ups and downs, and I'm not perfect, but I have been learning along the way. I hope an MBA can help me improve, teach me new things, rectify any mistakes I may have made, or do things even better.

Reetvik’s Suggestions on GMAT Prep

Poonam: Of course, it will. Yeah, Now let's talk about GMAT. The GMAT is a critical part of the application, and you took about four months to boost your GMAT from 710 to 720, although you aimed for a 750. Eventually, you decided to take a plunge with a 720. Do you have any advice or suggestions about GMAT prep?

Reetvik: In my first attempt itself, I scored a 710. So initially, I was like, "OK, I've crossed that 700 barrier. It's the 91st percentile. I am happy. This seems easy enough". But after doing some research and having our initial contact, I realized that as an Indian IT male engineer, this score was below par, no matter what anyone tells you. Schools will always say that it is just one component of the entire application, but for this category, it's a very critical component. Even after our discussion, we were on the same page that we needed at least another 20-30 points to put us in a better position. So I made attempts to improve from a 710. I was achieving good sub-sectional scores, but they didn't come together as a whole. In one attempt, I got a V41, but my quant score dipped. In another attempt, I got Q49, but my verbal score dropped to V38. It was clicking in parts but not together.

I don't know if you realized it or not, but it was really helpful when you reached out to me four months later, in July, and said, "Reetvik, my slots are filling up. I only take a limited number of people. You need to make a decision whether you will be applying or not." At that time, I was fully focused on the GMAT. I was thinking, "Okay, let's see what happens. Let's focus on the GMAT right now." But when you reached out to me, I realized I needed to make a decision. We had a discussion, and you mentioned that I could apply next year as well, as it wasn't a do-or-die situation. I thought, "Why not? Let's give it a go. What's the worst that can happen? If I don't get an admit, I'll also have next year." It wouldn't cause any harm, and I would gain more familiarity with the application process. Business school applications were something new to me. The kind of introspection required, especially for Indian students, is not something we generally do. We tend to focus on the exam and the results. So, I thought, "Let's give it a go. What can happen if things don't work out? I'm applying in round one, so I'll have time to take the GMAT again if needed." That's when we took the plunge and started working together.

Reetvik’s Application Strategy, Planning, and Preparation

Poonam: Yeah, you had both options either apply next year or apply this year with your current GMAT score of 720. And we started working on your round one applications in mid-July and completed applications for five schools before the round one deadlines. That was a record time in my view, and I never faced any issues with timelines with you. I would like you to share your application planning and strategy. How did you complete all the work and meet my tight deadlines within such a short period?

Reetvik: Once I decided to take the plunge, I was fully committed. I believe that if you're going to do something, you must go all in. Don't do things halfheartedly. So from our initial communication, we realized that completing applications for five schools in just under two months would be a bit of a stretch, considering our deadlines were in the second week of October. Originally, we were planning to apply to three schools in round one and maybe two in round two. But I didn't think too much about all that. I entrusted all the preparation and timelines to you. My main agenda was to complete the tasks you assigned me as soon as possible without compromising quality. I tried to finish them in a couple of days while ensuring the work was done properly. I followed your guidance and timelines, submitting my work for review and making revisions based on your feedback. Kind of like homework, right? Do it all the timeline. And I think all our iterations were in a couple of days. I just completed the 'homework' you assigned me. Our iterations were quick, with responses and edits exchanged within a few days. By working efficiently, we were able to finish everything before the deadlines.

Poonam: Exactly. I'm really grateful to you for diligently following my tight deadline timelines of 24 to 48 hours. You even accommodated my vacation plans in the last week of September, and we finished everything before I flew out for my vacation. So, thank you for that.

Reetvik: I'm thankful that you provided me with a timeline and a plan to follow. It made it feel like doing homework back in high school.

Factors that Contributed to His Round 2 Success

Poonam: Haha, yes, I was good at giving you homework. Alright, moving on. As we know, you were unable to convert your interview offers from Tuck and Foster in Round 1, but you remained positive and determined and followed my advice of applying to more schools in Round 2. Can you tell our viewers the factors that contributed to your success in Round 2? How did you improve your interview skills in particular?

Reetvik: From my experience with the application process, I realized that managing expectations is crucial. I struggled with it a bit during Round 1. We had two interviews, one with Tuck and one with Foster, and I believe both went well. The Tuck interview went particularly well since it was conducted by a second-year student, allowing me to gauge the interaction. The Foster interview, on the other hand, was conducted by an Adcom member, making it challenging to assess. Despite feeling optimistic about both interviews, I didn't receive the desired outcomes. When I didn't hear back from Tuck, I thought to myself that it could go either way, regardless of how well the interview went. However, when the Foster result came in negative, it left me disappointed. I spent about a week contemplating what went wrong and feeling down. because everything aligned with Foster, my career goals tech industry, my targets for the tech industry, and Foster's affinity to tech; my score was also above their average. But then I decided to focus on the way forward. I couldn't keep dwelling on the disappointment; I needed to learn from the experience and move ahead. That's when you suggested applying to some of the top 20 or top 25 schools as well. As international students, especially from India, we tend to focus too much on the T-15 schools-its T-15 or nothing. You encouraged me to explore other excellent schools beyond the top 15. After conducting my research, we both finalized a school list, including McDonough. From my previous round's disappointments, I learned not to overthink things and just give it my best shot. I prepared thoroughly, researched common interview questions, practiced in front of a mirror or camera, and maintained confidence in my communication and interview skills. I had recently gone through a job shift, so I was already in an interview phase, which boosted my confidence. Although an MBA interview differs from a job interview, the typical interview habits are the same, so I was pretty confident about that. I approached the interviews with a positive mindset and avoided overthinking, and that strategy worked out decently enough for me.

Challenging Aspects of the MBA Application Process

Poonam: Perfect. Your positive attitude played a significant role in your success at McDonough. You're going to love it there. So, what was the most challenging aspect of the application? How did you tackle that challenge?

Reetvik: I believe there were two challenging aspects for me. The first one was the GMAT exam, not the preparation itself, but the test-taking habits. The curriculum and studying part were manageable, but the test-taking aspect, especially for adaptive tests, was a challenge. It becomes a bit of a mind game. What I mean by that is not overthinking things. Let me share an example from my second attempt. I started with the verbal section, and towards the end, I found the questions relatively easy. Instead of taking it as a positive sign, I began doubting myself, thinking I must have performed poorly to receive easier questions. During the break, I had already convinced myself this attempt was a failure. So, when I started the quant section, I was already preoccupied with thoughts of my next attempt and wasn't fully focused. As a result, I received a good verbal score (V41), but my quant score was (Q47), so I would have gotten a better quant score if I hadn't overthought things. One aspect of the challenge was managing the adaptive nature of the test and focusing on one question at a time without dwelling on past or future questions. It's easier said than done, but it's crucial to maintain that focus. That's one area I personally struggled with.

The second aspect was the introspection part, which was new to me. It involved understanding my career goals, strengths, and weaknesses and defining who Reetvik is. It was a new experience, and we had a timeline to adhere to, which added to the difficulty. So, these two aspects, test-taking habits, and introspection, were particularly challenging for me compared to other parts of the application process.

Poonam: Many students have told me that self-reflection is the most challenging aspect of the application process because it requires deep thinking and delving into your stories, priorities, and motivations. What matters more to you and why? What are your goals, and how do you plan to achieve them? Why do you specifically want to attend a particular school? These questions force you to consider who you truly are as a person. Unfortunately, we rarely take the time to reflect on ourselves.

Reetvik: Personally, I had never really thought about it. Who cares about who Ritvik is? Let's just get things done. However, this process made me realize the importance of understanding myself authentically, without any pretense. It's about understanding the reality of who I am, what my goals are, what I genuinely want to achieve in life, and how I intend to approach things. This part took some time for me. Initially, when you shared the master document containing all those questions, it covered various aspects from my professional background to why I made certain choices, my family, my goals, and more. It was a comprehensive exercise, and it took me some time to navigate through it. Once I was able to reflect on those aspects and compile the master document, it provided clarity and direction. But yes, it was a bit challenging for me.

Poonam: Many students have told me that the questionnaire helped them discover their true selves. Now, let's talk about the fact that you belong to an overrepresented applicant pool, which makes the process even more challenging. Can you provide insights into how Indian male IT applicants can differentiate themselves from other candidates?

Reetvik’s Advice for Indian IT Male Applicants for Distinguishing Themselves

Reetvik: Absolutely. As Indians, we face competition in almost every sphere. Wherever you go, you're likely to find Indians. This is especially true for male IT engineers. The first and foremost aspect, as we briefly mentioned earlier, is the GMAT score. It's crucial for Indian IT engineers to aim for at least a 730 or 740 because that's the expectation from our category. While it's true that other application components can compensate to some extent, it's challenging to stand out as an IT professional if you have a subpar GMAT score. It's difficult to differentiate yourself when the technical aspects of our work seem similar. So, having a strong GMAT score is the initial key factor.

In addition, you need to focus on quantifying your accomplishments. Because engineers, specifically IT engineers, are impressed by our technical accomplishments, but we forget to quantify things. As you have pointed out multiple times in my resume and essays, it's essential to showcase the impact of your technical achievements. Don't just mention the accomplishments themselves; quantify the outcomes. Did it save money for the organization? Did it bring in new clients? By quantifying your accomplishments, you can demonstrate their meaningful impact, even without knowing the background of the person reviewing your application.

Lastly, regardless of our technical nature, we all have at least one or two hobbies that we are genuinely passionate about. While some people may mention generic hobbies like traveling, it's important to highlight hobbies that are specific to you. In my case, it was sports and gaming. Be passionate about your extracurricular activities and showcase in-depth knowledge and involvement. Don't mention hobbies just for the sake of it. These three aspects—GMAT score, quantifying accomplishments, and showcasing passionate extracurriculars—were the focus of my application to distinguish myself.

Poonam: That's a great point, and sometimes during interviews, they ask about your hobbies and passions. I remember you mentioned that.

Reetvik: Yes, in all my interviews, I was asked about my hobbies. Football is one of my hobbies, and in two interviews, the Tuck interview and the Georgetown interview, we ended up discussing the Messi vs. Ronaldo debate for about 5-10 minutes out of the 40-minute interview. It was an interesting conversation because both interviewers were from South America and had their perspectives, while I held a different view. They were on one side. I was on the other side of the debate. So it's important to be knowledgeable and prepared about the hobbies or passions you mention because they will likely ask about them.

Poonam: Absolutely. The admissions committee wants to see well-rounded personalities, not just individuals who are good in front of a computer.

Reetvik: Exactly.

Reetvik’s Advice on Recommendation Letters

Poonam: You were able to demonstrate that. Now, let's talk about recommendation letters. They play a crucial role in the application process, providing a third-person perspective on your professional abilities. I don't recall you having any issues with selecting recommenders or guiding them. Can you share your insights on your recommendation letter strategy?

Reetvik: Yes, I didn't face any difficulties with my recommenders. I was initially a bit anxious because it's part of the application where you depend on someone else to take time out of their schedule for you. Fortunately, throughout my work experiences, I have been able to develop personal relationships with colleagues. So, I was fortunate to have two people who were willing to write my recommendations. I knew them both professionally and personally. One factor that is often overlooked is the personal connection and comfort level you have with your recommenders. I could have chosen the CEO of my previous organization to write a letter for me, which would have looked impressive based on the designation alone. But I went against that because I felt a sense of compatibility with these two individuals. I could reach out to them for updates, deadlines, and iterations. They were open to communication and not just doing it as a formality. After I received my admissions, I even treated them to dinner as a token of gratitude. I believe personal connection was their motivation throughout the process, and I'm grateful for their help. They met all our deadlines and provided valuable support. Again, it all comes back to my personal connection with them. They were my seniors, and I worked with one of them throughout my internship and a full-time job. Despite the hierarchy, we had that personal connection, which paid off in the end. So, in summary, choose the person over their designation, focus on how comfortable you are with them, and how well they know you. Only then can they truly reflect who you are.

Poonam: Yes, you have provided very helpful advice. It's not only professional connection but personal connection as well that helped you with this critical part of the application process. So, you were accepted into two good programs, ISB and McDonough, but you decided in favor of McDonough. How is McDonough the best school for you? What were the factors that contributed to your decision to go for McDonough?

Reetvik: At the beginning, when I started applying, my goal was to gain foreign exposure, work in a different environment, and get to know different kinds of people to see how the world works in another part of the globe. That was my initial target. However, the research you do before applying is different from the research after receiving an admission offer. Initially, you focus on average GMAT scores, essays, school rankings, career outcomes, and other factors. But after receiving an admit and having to choose between schools, different considerations come into play, such as the location, your comfort, your lifestyle, and the long-term impact – factors that you hadn't thought about before. So, I was in a state of confusion for about a week when I had both admissions in my hand and had to make a decision.

I discussed it with you, and your emphatic answer in favor of Georgetown helped me. After that, I had discussions with my family and friends, and they made me realize that my initial goal was always to gain foreign exposure and work in a different environment. So why was I second-guessing? ISB was kind of a safe choice for me, as I would have been comfortable in my familiar zone. I would have had to work less, not from an academic perspective, but in terms of lifestyle. I know how things work in India, the college curriculum, and not having to handle everything on my own, like cooking. Those were the factors. However, I needed that foreign exposure and I wanted a bigger impact. My career progression had been good so far, but I wanted something more significant. I felt that Georgetown could provide me with a much larger impact than ISB.

Additionally, I realized that the location, which you pointed out, plays a key role, something I hadn't considered before the application process. When I was undecided, you shared a couple of articles with me explaining Georgetown's location in DC and everything it offers. That aligned with my goals, as well as its affinity towards tech.

I also had a few sessions with the career team at Georgetown. I directly emailed them, expressing my confusion, and they reassured me that while Georgetown is primarily known for consulting and finance, its tech affinity and outcomes have been improving for the past 5-6 years, with many students pursuing tech careers and a strong tech pipeline. That resonated with my goals and the community as well. I reached out to three alumni from my undergraduate college who were at Georgetown, and they were all very helpful in providing insights and assistance. Lastly, you may not initially pay much attention to the community and think you can handle everything on your own. But as you move ahead in the process, you realize the importance of networking and making connections. I found that Georgetown excelled in that aspect too. One person I connected with had just started his internship and was incredibly busy with the transition, but he still took half an hour to talk to me and answer my questions. These were the factors that ultimately led me to decide on McDonough.

Reetvik’s Suggestions on Video Essay

Poonam: Without a doubt, community plays a significant role in your decision, and if you were comfortable with the community even before joining, it's great. I would also like to talk about video essays. You submitted a video essay for your Tepper application. Can you provide suggestions on how to go about video essays in the application?

Reetvik: I think that was the one aspect where we had a lot of back and forth. All our other essay iterations were rapid, right? I would send an iteration; you would be happy with it and make some changes. That process went smoothly. However, we hit a bit of a roadblock with the video essay. I was sleep-deprived the first time I sent it to you for review, and everything from my attire to the lighting was off. You replied, "What is this? This is not how you're supposed to approach a video essay." So, we had a lot of back and forth on that, but ultimately, I realized that the missing part was treating the video essay like an interview. It's important to address the goals and questions as if you're speaking to a person, not just recording a video. As you pointed out, small things play a significant role in the video essay. This includes looking at the camera, not reading from a script, and not making it seem like you're improvising or memorizing. These small factors, such as attire, lighting, and sitting position, may not be the first things you think about, but they ultimately make a difference. You helped me a lot in that aspect by emphasizing the importance of looking into the camera and not making it seem like I had memorized my responses. It took us about a week to get it right, but these small things truly are the game changers for a video essay.

Poonam: Of course, these small things are the game changers. You should look pleasant and not like you have just gotten up to record a video.

Reetvik: Yeah, that happened in one of the iterations. One time I was sleep deprived, and another time, I had just woken up.

Poonam: I really think that the prospective applicants would benefit from your experience and suggestions. Let's talk about your interests and hobbies. We know you are into sports.

Reetvik: That's right. I had two hobbies that I was passionate about. I could have mentioned a few generic things, but I wasn't truly passionate about them. So, in every interview, I focused on these two hobbies. One was football, a popular sport, and the other was gaming. Gaming is rarely mentioned in MBA applications, at least based on my experience. But I've been passionate about it for a long time, and it occupies much of my free time. We even incorporated the gaming aspect in a few of the essays. When it comes to using hobbies, I suggest choosing what helps you stand out and what you're genuinely passionate about. So, during our interviews, we had a five-minute debate about Ronaldo, and I firmly stood my ground as I believe he's the better player. So, it's essential to be passionate about the things you mention and be clear about them. No matter how small you may think they are, they all play a role. In fact, I had questions related to my hobbies for the interviewer as well. For example, I couldn't find a dedicated football or soccer club at Georgetown, so I asked the interviewer about the scene there. We had a back-and-forth discussion about it, and he provided me with contacts of people who handle such activities. This helped me connect with fellow admits and seniors, serving as icebreakers. So, no matter how small you think things are, they all play a role.

Poonam: Of course they do. It was really wonderful talking to you today. And is there anything that you would like to share that I haven't asked?

Reetvik: Well, you've covered everything, as always. I would just like to end by saying that throughout the application process, everyone has their own unique journey. It's important to manage expectations and always remain positive. Even if you don't receive an admit from a particular college, it doesn't reflect on your candidacy or make you any less of a candidate. School admissions can be tricky, and you never know what will happen. If one school doesn't work out, there's always another option. So, it's crucial to stay confident in your abilities and not let rejection discourage you. I believe my journey is a testament to that. So, stay positive and avoid overthinking. I've certainly done a lot of overthinking, whether it was during my GMAT preparation or the application process. So my advice is don't overthink things.

Poonam: It's helpful advice to prospective applicants. I'm sure this interview and your valuable insights will assist the prospective applicants who are about to start their journey. Thank you so much for your time today; it was great talking to you. I wish you good luck with your journey at McDonough, your time in DC, and continued success in your career.

Reetvik: Thanks a lot. It's always a pleasure.

Poonam: Thank you. Thank you. Bye, bye.

You can connect with Reetvik via LinkedIn.

Click here for Reetvik’s testimonial of MER Services

Click here for Reetvik’s Review of MER on the GMAT Club

Click here for his recommendation on LinkedIn.

Related Posts

Indian Engineer Got into UCLA Anderson and Kellogg with a Non-competitive GMAT Score

Indian Engineer’s Journey to Oxford and ISB at Thirty

Data Science Engineer's Journey to Chicago Booth MBA Program

Indian Techie Got into NUS and HKUST with Substantial Scholarships

Anderson FEMBA Current Student Shares his Experience and Advice

For more student interviews, click here.

For Case Studies, click here.

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).

Do you have questions about your application for the 2023-24 application cycle? E-mail Poonam at or sign up here for a free consultation.