Posted on September 5, 2019

A Re-applicant’s Journey to Schulich with non-competitive GMAT & 10 Years’ WE

Dinesh, a manager at the Union Bank of India, applied to several MBA programs last year with a non-competitive GMAT score. Unfortunately, his application was unsuccessful. However, he didn't give up. With no change in his profile, he partnered with MER this year and applied to 6 higher-ranking Business schools in the US and Canada. His efforts paid off as he was interviewed by 3  out of 6 schools (Schulich, Simon, and McDonough) and accepted by Schulich business school . Dinesh is all set to begin his MBA studies at the prestigious Schulich.

In this video interview with Poonam, Dinesh talks about:

  • His background
  • Planning for MBA
  • GMAT prep, the mistakes he made
  • Career Goals
  • Application planning & preparation/ Challenges faced
  • Tips for Reapplicants
  • Benefits of online consulting
  • Interests/ hobbies

Poonam: Congratulations on being accepted into Schulich. As a re-applicant, with a noncompetitive GMAT score, you were interviewed by 3 good MBA programs and were accepted by the prestigious Canadian program Schulich. Your story is an inspiration to prospective applicants. How does it feel?

Dinesh: Thank you very much and thank you for introducing me. I started my MBA journey by applying to two Business schools last year- Robert Smith School of Business and Purdue University Krannert Business School. I partnered with a local consultancy in Chennai. I was rejected by Krannert Business School and waitlisted by Robert Smith School of Business. I did not get the admission offer. This time I was interviewed by three business schools- York University Schulich School of Business, Rochester University Simon School of Business, and Georgetown University McDonough School of Business. I have been offered admission by Schulich School of Business, and I am set to commence my MBA journey from September 2019.

Poonam: Dinesh, can you tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What you do now?

Dinesh: I hail from a town called Madurai, Tamil Nadu, a temple town in India. After completing my B. Tech in Information Technology from Anna University, I got a job with Cognizant Technologies Solution, but I didn’t accept it for personal reasons. Instead, I took a job as a Consultant with Hotel Heritage Resident in my hometown Chennai. I worked with them for three years and played a significant role in getting the property listed in on-line travel aggregators and was instrumental in opening up the key services of the hotel to the outside public. After that, I appeared for the Indian Banking Personnel Selection exam, an exam taken by around a million candidates every year for a job in Indian Public Sector Banks. I cracked the exam in the first attempt and joined Union Bank of India as a Probationary Officer in 2012. For the initial five years, I worked first as a Deputy Branch Head, and then as the Financial Inclusion In-charge at the Regional Office, South Delhi. My posting at the Regional Office, Delhi South, coincided with the new Indian NDA Government, which had Financial Inclusion as the topmost item in their agenda. From there, I have been continuously associated with financial inclusion. In 2017, I got promoted as a Manager and was transferred to Chennai. Here I now continue as a Manager, Financial Inclusion along with the additional responsibility of Fraud Risk Manager-the the two key areas of the Indian Banking Industry.

Poonam: When did you start thinking about an MBA? Why now?

Dinesh: I first thought of an MBA in 2014 after completing my diploma in Treasury Investment and Risk Management. As I learned basic things about other aspects of Finance, such as treasury, valuation, mergers and acquisitions, currency exchange, FOREX exchange, and arbitrage on that, I found them interesting. That was the starting moment, and that was also the time when Dr. Raghu Ram Rajan took over as the Governor of the Reserve Bank of India. I always admired him as my role model, and he was also a very widely accepted person in our Banking Industry in India. I believed that the global exposure and the kind of knowledge he inculcated earned him huge respect among the masses. These things inculcated thoughts in my mind that I should go for an MBA to develop myself and do my bit to improve society.

Poonam: Can you tell us your GMAT prep? I know it was pretty challenging for you, given your super demanding job.

Dinesh: Honestly, I didn’t plan my GMAT preparation very well. My first GMAT attempt was in March 2017. Initially, I went through various websites and studied material on the internet and got a score of 630. This was not competitive for top B-schools, so I wanted to retake GMAT to improve my score. In between, I was promoted and transferred to Chennai. I enrolled myself with a consultancy in Chennai for a two months course and retook the GMAT but couldn’t improve it much. So, I knew that I was wrong somewhere in grasping the concepts which are essential for GMAT. I think it is not the hours that matter, but the quality time you are putting in. The main reason I couldn’t improve my score significantly was my demanding 12-hour work schedule. In my subsequent attempt, I could boost it to 640, and I applied with this score.

Another major mistake I did was that I took the GMAT exam too frequently. I attempted GMAT in 2017 three times in two months, and again, three times in two months’ in 2018. This was the biggest mistake. By the time I realized that I was taking GMAT too many times, I had exhausted my six attempts out of eight. At that time, I realized that I was left with only two more attempts, and I wanted to keep these as a contingency plan if at all, a situation arises. I advise the candidates not to make this mistake. They should have sufficient preparation time so they can introspect where they are lagging in the conceptual part, correct their mistakes, and reschedule the GMAT only after they feel confident in their preparation.

Poonam: I agree. What are your career goals, Dinesh?

Dinesh: My short-term goal is to become an Associate in a reputed Investment Banking Company. Long term, I plan to rise to the position of Vice President. I also plan to do Chartered Financial Analyst certification parallel to propel my rise to Senior Vice President of Director. Apart from that, I also have my long-term goal to commence, advise, or mentor a financial startup in India, to enable the company to help the investment decisions of Indians who are not part of the main financial stream.

Poonam: Can you share your application strategy, planning, and preparation with our audience/ readers?

Dinesh: My first advice to the candidates who plan to apply to the business program is that they should be ready with their resume because résumé is the base for everything that will follow. So, after getting GMAT out of the way, I focused on my resume and ensured that the resume is in good shape. After that, the next step is short-listing the B-schools that you will be applying to. In my case, as my GMAT score was low, it significantly limited the number of schools that I had to choose. But candidates who have a strong GMAT score will have plenty of choices. So in that scenario, they have to go to the website of individual universities, search every aspect of the program whether it is fee structure or student-run clubs or the electives that the students be studying, or what are the exchange programs they are having, industry collaboration, placement records. These are a few important aspects which I browsed and found out from each university’s website. As my interests are in finance, I browsed through the schools’ website for their employment records to see the proportion of the students who got placed in the finance industry last year. I think the prospective applicants should have that kind of analysis so they can short-list the best possible universities where they will also be a right ‘fit.’

Poonam: Right. Your school research was pretty comprehensive. I remember you had prepared an excel sheet with all the information.

Dinesh: Yes. And you were there to take care of the rest of the things.

Poonam: Sure. Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the school admission process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it? What would you advise other MBA applicants who are facing similar challenges?

Dinesh: Most of the B-schools have a holistic admission process. I would suggest students not to focus on any one particular thing and miss out on something else. In my case, as you said GMAT score was below par, but other parts of my application were strong, so I was able to secure admission in a reputed B-school. There are three phases- GMAT preparation and taking GMAT, application preparation and submission of application, and the interview part. I feel that all these three phases of application are equally important.
In my case, I found the application submission process the most challenging. I had additional pressure due to my low GMAT score. Every day, I tried to recollect what all I had accomplished in my professional life of seven years, and I felt that revisiting 7 into 365 days was a daunting task. I had to strengthen my application so that my below-par GMAT score does not affect the probability of my selection.

Poonam: You applied as a re-applicant this year after an unsuccessful application last year. In what ways, your application had improved this time? What advice you have for the re-applicants?

Dinesh: My profile this year has not improved significantly. The ten marks improvement in GMAT score and a couple of accomplishments in my professional life were not significant achievements that would swing the decision of the admission committee wildly in my favor. But I found the right consultant this time; secondly, I short-listed the right schools which also will find the right fit in me. These two are the major changes that happened this time which helped me secure admission to Schulich School of Business. And for prospective re-applicants, my suggestion is that they should focus more time and dedicate more energy on finding the right B-schools so that they can present their fullest strength to the school and have a good probability of selection.

Poonam: And do you think they should find the right consultant as well?

Dinesh: Yes. Absolutely. It matters a lot. In my previous application, none of those schools were selected by me. Both schools were suggested by my consultant, and I readily obliged by accepting them. But this time you gave me that liberty; you guided me, handheld me, and told me that these are your strengths and weaknesses, so I should select a school based on these criteria. This helped me find a lot better list of schools this time.

Poonam: True. When you worked with a consulting firm last year, was it an in-person consultation? Do you think online consulting is advantageous in comparison to in-person consulting?

Dinesh: No, it was not in-person consultation. I had one face to face meeting with my consultant. After that, it was mostly telephonic communication, not even on-line communication where both of us could see each other’s faces in a video meeting.

Poonam: In our case, it was on-line consulting only. We had four video sessions, and the rest of the communication over a three to four months period was through e-mails only. Do you think this mode of communication was better for you?

Dinesh: This method of communication worked best for me. As I told you, 12 hours of my time in a day are almost gone for professional related things. In the remaining time, I hardly had two to three hours in the evening, so online consulting was the best mode of communication for me. I can say confidently that to the best of my ability, I had prepared a very good application to all the schools that I applied to, and this mode of communication was a significant factor in helping me with my best application.

Poonam: What are your interests/ hobbies? What are your favorite books?

Dinesh: Outside of the work, I tutor underprivileged children in an orphanage home in Chennai during weekends. I teach Mathematics, English, and Computer Science to those students. In my Schulich Interview, I was asked the same question. When I told him about my volunteering experience, he immediately asked for the contact number of the person who is running the orphanage center. I had the contact number of that person on my mobile phone, so I gave it to him. Later, I came to know that they did call that contact to confirm my part of the story. So, the applicants should never present stories that are not true. They should be careful that whatever they tell in the interview is supportable.

Apart from volunteering, I have other interests. I am good at pencil sketching. I am a part of the largest cycling group in Chennai (WCCG) that goes for regular cycling trips. Earlier I used to cycle only on the weekends. Now it has become almost a daily routine. We go for 30 to 40 km per day on cycles.

Poonam: Interesting. You have a good profile, and you have been successful in a very good school. Is there anything else you will like to tell that I haven’t asked?

Dinesh: I feel this interview was very comprehensive, and we have covered all the aspects of six months of our association. The only thing that I wanted to tell the candidates is that they should be confident in whatever they do. In this context, I will like to give an example of my interview with McDonough. There was a one-minute video essay wherein I had to introduce myself to the prospective batch mates. I told them in that one-minute video that I love pencil sketching; I also pencil sketch my most valued colleague or friend, and I am looking forward to meeting my most valued friend amongst you all. So when I was interviewed by McDonough, my interviewer told me that a one-minute video played a major role in short-listing me for the interview- Candidates should try to present themselves differently. The admission committee picks different types of students so that the students learn from each other. So students must present their unique side to the Admission Committee.

Poonam: Yes. you had written about your pencil sketching hobby in many of the written essays as well. I remember you sketched your two-year daughter also, and you also had the opportunity to sketch the former President of India late Dr. Abul Kalam. Dinesh, it was wonderful talking to you, thank you for sharing your story with us. I wish you good luck with your Schulich experience and continued success in your career.

Dinesh: I also wish all the prospective applicants best wishes and good luck to achieve all their ambitions and future endeavors.

You can connect with Dinesh via LinkedIn

For more video interviews of successful MER students, click here.

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

For questions, email Poonam at

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