Alisha Beotra graduated from the Lady Sriram College of the University of Delhi with an honors degree in Statistics. Upon graduation, she worked for five years for an investment banking firm and a VC Fund. Having worked in the healthcare area at these two firms, she envisioned developing innovative and affordable health-tech solutions. She decided to pursue management education to help her achieve her goal. Alisha partnered with MER for her application for four B- schools: Tuck, Ross, Duke Fuqua, and Yale, and received admission offers from two -Tuck and Ross; she was also waitlisted at Fuqua. Alisha is all set to embark on her MBA journey at her dream school Tuck.
In a candid conversation with Poonam, Alisha shares her academic and professional journey leading up to admission offers from the two top 10 Business schools.
Talking Points of the Conversation
- Background 01:48
- Planning for MBA 02:43
- Career Goals 05:42
- Planning for GMAT 06:50
- Application strategy, planning, preparation 13:12
- Challenges during the application process 17:45
- Her preference for Tuck over Ross 18:45
- Her Volunteer Experiences 21:26
- Interests and hobbies 29:13
And now presenting, Alisha…..
Poonam: Hello, Alisha! How are you?
Alisha: I'm doing well. Thank you.
Poonam: Thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Alisha: No, no, it's my pleasure. Thank you for doing this interview and giving me an opportunity to share my journey with people who could potentially benefit from it. So thanks for doing that.
Poonam: Absolutely, that's the goal. Congratulations on getting admission offers from two prestigious schools, Ross and Tuck. How does it feel?
Alisha: I think the first word that comes to my mind is I felt very relieved because this was always on my mind for the last four to five years. So, the first feeling was that of relief. I remember the feeling I had when I got the call from Ross, and I started crying on the call with the admissions team. I couldn't believe it. But then, of course, it sank in and was way calmer during the Tuck call. There was happiness. Just as I said, there was a lot of relief that this finally happened. I made it, and there was a lot of jumping around. When I got into Tuck, my dad was in the room, and I started jumping. I got in, I got in, I got in. I think it was a lot of mixed emotions. There are still a lot of mixed feelings.
Poonam: It takes time to sink in, but it's great to have offers from two prestigious schools. So Alisha, can you tell our viewers about your academic and professional background? Where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? What do you do now?
Alisha: I am from India. I was born and raised in the National Capital Region next to Delhi. I did my schooling in Faridabad and Delhi. I went to LSR for my undergrad, one of India's top three colleges. I studied Statistics, and I graduated in 2016. I started my career in 2016. I worked in investment banking for three years, and after that, in venture capital for over a year and a half. So I have a work experience of about five years. After that, I took a break just before starting my B- school.
Poonam: When did you start thinking about MBA? Why now?
Alisha: Well, when you come from an Indian household, the first thing that comes to mind is that you must study after graduation. You can't just end your education as an undergrad. What will people think of you? What will your parents feel about you? There are a lot of questions that your parents and other family members have. But I was someone who didn't want to go for a master's program right after my undergrad and in a subject that I wasn't really sure. I wasn't sure which topic I would want to specialize in. On top of it, I also felt that getting into the industry, working, and being an adult, and not like a college student, was important for me. So I worked for about a year or two of my working life. During that Phase, I understood I didn't want to specialize in one subject. I wanted to have a broader toolkit of knowledge and skill sets, and an MBA might be right for me. But ideally, I shouldn't be going for an MBA abroad after two years. And I don't think schools will take you also. So I thought I would work for some more time and then see when it's the right time to apply. During that time, I was working on my GMAT and focusing on the next move in my career. So now I feel it's the right time for me to go because I am in my mid -the 20s and heading towards my late-20s now, but I thought it was the right time because it's neither too early nor too late. It just seemed like a time when I was ready to make that switch of moving to another country altogether to get that study exposure for two years and pivoting toward the goals I had set for myself. So I have enough knowledge, experience, and skill sets from the fields I was in earlier and an idea of where I want my life to go next. So an MBA right now seems like the perfect time to start.
Poonam: I totally agree. This is the best time to pursue an MBA. Your best decision was not to go for an MBA soon after graduating.
Alisha: Honestly, I don't really find the value of going for a course like an MBA right after undergrad, and we have discussed this because we were so actively in touch during the admission cycle. After graduation, you have not experienced anything in the professional world to go for a Master of Business Administration.
Poonam: Now, at this stage in your career, you have clarity on what you want to do now. What are your career goals?
Alisha: As I mentioned, I've worked in IB and VC. Eventually, in the long term, I would like to be an entrepreneur. I want to start something of my own, and immediately after an MBA, I feel consulting and technology are two sectors that excite me. I like both equally and feel both the industries, in their specific ways, would give me that kind of thinking and skill set I would need to excel in my career ultimately. So right now, I will be recruiting for these two industries for the next two to three months. So, I am excited.
Poonam: Of course you are. As we know, the GMAT is a critical component in the application process. So, can you tell us about your GMAT prep? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome that?
Alisha: I wrote a very extensive post on LinkedIn about it because I'm so close to this topic. Yes, the GMAT is a crucial aspect of the entire MBA application journey. And as you know, we discussed that it's not the most important thing. But it's important to have a decent score. In my case, I was using the right resources from the beginning but not following the proper process. And the important thing for someone to succeed is equally good at both. You have the perfect resources and must follow the right process because if one of these is missing, you will fail. So my journey spanned over two years, starting on July, 19, when I started. I prepared for six months, studying, not studying, going on vacation, doing things in my personal life.
My exam was in November. I rescheduled it for December; before the exam, I knew I would not get more than 700. And if I get it, I would be very lucky because my mock scores ranged from 680 to 700. And, of course, I ended up with a 680. So, on July 20, I retook it in July 2020. I got 680 again and was devastated. And then, I kept studying. Again, the issue was that the studying was on and off, but the stress was constant. I was not helping myself. So July 2020 was my second attempt. And in December- January 2021, I decided to book the exam because it was an online exam, and I did that because a few of my friends booked the date, took the exam, and got a good score. So I thought maybe I would also be lucky and take it as a mock exam. I wasted Rs 20000 and got a 690. And of course, I was extremely sad again. The resource I was using was e-GMAT approach, and I thought I might as well reach out to them and tell them about what I had been doing wrong or right. And it's not like I didn't know. I'm a very self-aware person, to know that. Then they assigned me a person who started monitoring what I was doing. He gave me specific sheets where I had to put the input key. For example, how many hours of studying was I logging in daily? How many topics was I covering? What kind of an error log was I supposed to make? So, when I started doing these things, I finally got a 710 in June 2021, and I was like, I'm done with this exam. I'm not taking it ever again.
Poonam: What suggestions do you have for applicants struggling to get a decent score?
Alisha: I can go on and on about things to avoid. There are many better people to talk about it, but I can definitely talk about what they shouldn't be doing. First, don't do too many things at once; if you want to take the GMAT, just focus on GMAT for that time, and it should be your only priority apart from your work. The second thing will be to follow one resource; find the best resource for you and follow that. For me, it was e-GMAT, and I advise the same thing to everyone else.
Secondly, find a resource and stick to it. Don't plan to do verbal from one resource and quant from another just because your friend is doing that.
Poonam: That can be suicidal.
Alisha: Yeah, you're just confusing yourself too much. So, avoid it as much as you can. Then, it's crucial to fix a timeline. Your life mission can't be preparing for the GMAT. I have seen so many people start studying and when I talk to them one year later, they are still studying for the GMAT. Just book a date and take it and you know your schedule best, right? Like no one else can tell you when you should be taking it. Then, when you start studying with a focus, you can take the test within six months and get a good score.
Poonam: Exactly. It's vital to have a focus and manage your time well.
Alisha: So, I think people should try to incorporate in their study prep to get that score. And if you do this well, you can get way more than a 710. And lastly, just maintain error logs properly, and the error log does not mean I got this wrong. It must be a very in-depth version of why you made that mistake. But it's very important, and I think these things can make people get that 730, 740, or 750 score.
Poonam: Of course, thank you. I always advise people not to simultaneously work on GMAT Prep and application Prep. These are two different things. First, get GMAT out of your way and then begin your application prep because there's no way you can do justice to both while handling them in parallel. I have seen people struggling with handling application prep and GMAT Prep simultaneously.
Alisha: And you have been seeing people for, I think, 10 years, 11 years now, so you know way more than I would have seen. I was in school at that time.
Poonam: I have been doing it for 11 years.
Alisha: But this is something my partner and I also tell people that your timeline should be perfect, and 6 months has to be the time where you lock your GMAT score.
Poonam: Exactly. So, Alisha, can you share your application strategy, planning, and preparation with our audience/ readers?
Alisha: You know this, and as I mentioned just now 20th June 2021 is when I was done with my GMAT. I had been in touch with you, but I think we hadn't kind of sealed the deal because I didn't know if I would get that score in June. But I kind of had an inclination that whatever score it is, I have to apply anyway. So, we started working officially around the first week of July. I was a Round 1 applicant, so it was clear that there was not much time left. So the deadlines were 1st September for Tuck, 2nd September for Duke, 14th or 15th was Yale, and 20th was Ross.
So there was hardly any time for us, and we had to crunch everything in those two months. But there are different stages involved in building an application for any school. First, you have to know which kind of schools you want to apply to, and you have to put some thought into it. I was very clear that I wanted to be in a school with small class size, college town. This was important for me. I was very focused on the culture of the school. every school has a great culture, but it's good in different ways, and for me, I wanted a certain kind of thing, and I didn't want to live in a city. I've been a city girl all my life, I'm excited about being in a place that is away from city life. So just deciding and introspecting where you want to go takes time. So that's step one.
The second step is like once you know all these things, you will see the essay prompts. You will discuss them with your consultant. Before that, we'll do some brainstorming also. What's your life journey exactly? Because people don't really think about all this. And I journaled. I'm someone who journals, but even I wouldn't be so self-aware to know what to write in those application essays because those aren't the things you think about every day.
Alisha: Then you have to network with the people in the school, be it Ad Com, the students, and the alums. And doing all of that, of course, you know, is time-consuming because you have a certain time schedule, you want to get it over with by mid-August perhaps because you're focusing on your school, but they don't operate on your timetable. The first-year students haven't gone to school yet, so they can't tell you what's special about this club, etc. They can just give you some application strategies; the second-year students are in their internships. The alums who have just graduated are starting their new jobs, so they're also in between a major life move from the campus to the city, starting a new life. So, if I had started early, it would have been slightly more peaceful for me. Not that I couldn't talk to people because many people were very nice to me, but I think it would have been way more peaceful and less anxiety and trust-inducing if I started a little sooner. So, I think that's something that would advise people. As we discussed, do your GMAT start early, do it properly because you get in-depth research if you have more time. I think that's quite important and you can also develop a good relationship with people in the middle of that. If you remember, there were people in Fuqua who I could develop certain relationships with them that they were willing to endorse me. And that was only in a couple of days of knowing them or talking to them. Sometimes it was just one conversation or two. Still, if I could continue that relationship for a longer period, I could have gotten either more or better endorsements or letters. So, I think those things matter. So, people should prioritize starting early.
Poonam: Looking back, what was the most challenging aspect of the school admission process? How did you approach that challenge and overcome it?
Alisha: I think managing timelines was the most challenging aspect of the admission process. Syncing my schedule with other people's schedules was a bit challenging for me. I think this is something I could have managed a little better. Apart from that, I didn't have many issues.
Poonam: So this is something that you feel you could have done better during the application prep.
Alisha: Yes, I think life would have been simpler for you and me both.
Poonam: You were accepted into two prestigious programs- Tuck and Ross. You decided in favor of Tuck. How is Tuck the best school for you?
Alisha: So I think you remember we were having this conversation when I got into Ross. I updated you and we did have a call after that. I think you responded to my e-mail immediately because we both were very excited by that offer.
Poonam: Of Course.
Alisha: It was a very close call because I was equally excited about both schools. There's no way you can attend both schools, but I wanted to make it happen, so I can go to Ross for one year and Tuck second year. As you can see, my background is the Tuck campus. And it's something it's exactly like my dream vacation place also. I'm an avid traveler. Whenever I'm going, I look for places in the midst of nature where I can ride a bicycle and go for long walks. So, this seemed like an ideal place from that sense. That is why choosing between Ross and Tuck was such a close call and a gut feeling. I had to base it on little things such as what the location is like and where I will enjoy more in terms of the vibe outside of class? Because inside the classroom, it's the same at both schools - the niceness factor, the collaborative factor, and the cultural aspect. When I was talking to the students last year during the application cycle, I got almost the same level of warmth from both the schools and the other schools I applied to. So, I think the decision was a difficult one. However, because my partner and I were both admitted to Tuck and Ross, and he was leaning a little more towards Tuck, that made the final decision easy.
Poonam: The most amazing thing is that you and your partner are starting your journey at the same school. That is a blessing.
Let's talk about your volunteering experiences. I found your volunteering experiences intriguing. Would you like to share details about your volunteering efforts with our viewers?
Alisha: I have been involved in different kinds of community services since my school days – since 2011. At that time, it was still more limited because, in school, you focus way more heavily on academics to get that perfect board exam score, and you're limited to the locations where your parents can take you. I was not allowed to go out 15 kilometers away by myself. But in college, I started volunteering more actively. I was involved with an organization where I went to a village in Rajasthan. I spent two weeks of my vacations there, working towards developing the communities and helping the women in the community reach a certain level of economic independence. I continued my association with that same organization for a while throughout college and a little more after that.
When I transitioned from student life to professional life, I had to balance many things. Slowly, I got back to that spirit of giving back to the community, and I briefly started a project where I was going to schools- to help the students develop a habit of reading. I remember my mom used to read books to me and then encouraged me to start reading books, and I felt that these schools didn't have libraries and had not even seen a book to read for entertainment. They have just seen study books. So how about making it interesting for them? So, I did that for a while. Then there was another NGO that was working towards cultural awareness among these students. So I collaborated with them and headed this project for them.
Apart from this, in Soda village, women are not economically/ financially independent, so I thought with my experience of advising so many businesses daily, I could provide consulting service to women who want to start their businesses but don't have that know-how and business acumen. I helped them with basic things or create a network they could access and take advantage of. And by businesses, I don't mean fancy $1,000,000 businesses, I just mean small businesses like starting a home bakery or tailoring business. They could benefit from getting access to someone who can make an Instagram page or a website for them or tell them about the best routes for sourcing funds. These people will not go to VC funds and look for the easiest routes available. So I just gave them access to a lawyer friend of mine. So, I did a bit of this, and you know this has been my experience volunteering since childhood, college, and professional life.
Poonam: These are very impressive volunteering experiences. Do you think these experiences contributed to strengthening your candidacy for MBA applications? We used these stories in essays.
Alisha: We used these stories in essays, and I feel when I was applying with a 710, I was very under-confident, but I feel that because I had enough stories to show my personality as a whole, so I wasn't someone who was just working or someone who was just studying in college.
Alisha: There were so many things that made me who I am and made it easier to tell the school that these are my past experiences and values you're looking for. I do think that it probably helped to a certain degree. I started a fitness group because I am into fitness, and I feel this has become a very lonely activity, and people need to have a community to remain consistent. So, in 2018, I started running, and I made this group of people who want to start running on Sundays or do X kilometers of running every month or every week. So many people joined me, and then more people joined who came through those people, and that group became a thing. It was a small Instagram group, and you know, I had mentioned this fitness support group in my resume. And in my Tuck interview, that part seemed the most exciting to my interviewer. That was something she started with, as she knew that was part of my personality. So I feel that you should write about every little or big thing you have done. You don't have to start NGO to help 500 people or something. You don't have to do everything at scale. Little efforts also count.
Poonam: Of course. That's valuable advice. That's right. That's why when you were thinking of retaking the GMAT after 710, I told you not to worry about it because I was very confident about your personal and professional stories. Also, you were very clear about your goals. You did everything that I advised you to do; you took extra pains, and made extra efforts in reaching out to students and attending school events. So all that pays. It's not only about getting 10 to 20 extra points on GMAT, it's a combination of factors contributing to your success. That will be the most valuable, most precious advice you would give to the audience aspiring for top ten schools, Ivey league schools.
Alisha, I was thinking of asking you about your other interests and hobbies. You have already talked about one. Do you want to share your other interests and hobbies?
Alisha: I love to travel. In fact, I spent the week that I had after leaving my job. Mostly, I've been traveling alone only. I got married in February.
Alisha: Thank you. Then I went to the Middle East. My mom stays in the Middle East, so I was there with my husband for about two weeks. Then we were off to Europe for a month, and then, I went to Kashmir with my mom. That's a place I've always dreamt of going. So, I am delighted to take that item off my bucket list, and now recently, again we were off to the hills because it was too hot in Delhi. So, we were off for a romantic retreat or getaway. That's the extent to which I love traveling, and I am making up for all my struggles of the last two years, which I think are very common to everyone. And I've just been traveling very extensively.
I like to read. I love cooking, and now that I'm moving to another country, this is something I'll be doing a lot. So the best thing is that when my friends were moving abroad, they were still learning how to turn the gas stove on. So even though I think you have electric gas stoves over there, that was something they were learning, I'm very happy that these days I am not doing any cooking because I want to be treated like a princess at home before I fly to the US. I know I will manage everything myself because I can cook anything in just 20 -30 minutes. So it's pretty cool.
Poonam: Yeah, I remember we mentioned your baking skills in your resume. Coming back to traveling, we talked about your solo traveling adventures in Fuqua essay. Would you like to talk about that?
Alisha: Definitely. traveling with my partner is a very recent aspect. Before that, I loved traveling alone. It has been a while since I took my last solo trip. In 2019 I was with my friends on my birthday and then I had them all go away, and I stayed alone in Goa for 3-4 days. But my best adventure is the one I had in Europe in 2018. My agenda was to take a solo trip to Europe for 10-12 days. So that was like the most adventurous, the most memorable time. I had a blast, met so many people, made friends, learned a lot of things, made many spontaneous decisions and so.
Poonam: Yes, you shared their story in your 25 random things essay for Fuqua.
Alisha: That is quite tough to crack.
Poonam: But it's the most fun essay. Most people get very serious about it, and I always tell them have fun writing this essay. This is your opportunity to have fun with writing. And Fuqua's 25 random things essay is my favorite essay of all times.
Alisha, it has really been a pleasure talking to you. Is there anything you think I haven't asked that you would like to share with our viewers?
Alisha: I think all your questions were very exhaustive and very extensive. It was great to recap the entire journey of the last year and even before that, right from when I started thinking about applying. So, this has been very refreshing. I would reiterate one piece of advice because it's so important to get the GMAT over with early. Don't have that mentality that OK, this attempt does not go well, I will take it again. Just do it once, do it right and start your applications on time. If you have more time, you can talk to many more people and build many more relationships you value for the rest of your life. And now that travel is opening up again, you can even use that opportunity to visit schools. I know it's costly, so it's not possible for everyone. There are many constraints, financial, visa wise, etc. I didn't go, but if I had the opportunity, I would have liked to visit the schools I was applying to. So just get done with the burden of GMAT early on so you can do all these things. They matter; they add value. So, this is just the last piece of advice I would give.
Poonam: Thank you so much for your time. I'm sure the prospective applicants will greatly benefit from your valuable input. It was a pleasure talking to you, and it was really nice working with you on your applications. I wish you good luck at Tuck. You will have a wonderful time at the dream campus you are soon going to.
Alisha: Thank you so much. Thank you for being the support system throughout the journey, at least for those six months we worked together. So, thanks for just being there throughout.
Poonam: Thank you. It was my pleasure. Bye and good luck.
Alisha: Bye. Have a nice day.
You can learn more about Alisha by connecting with her on Linkedin.
For Alisha's feedback on MER services, click here.
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