With a non-competitive GMAT score, Saurav got accepted into two top part-time MBA programs- Kellogg and UCLA Anderson. He chose UCLA Anderson.
In a candid video interview with Poonam, Saurav, now a first-year student at UCLA FEMBA (Fully Employed MBA) program shares his application experience, his amazing experiences at UCLA, reasons for his preference of UCLA over Kellogg, and offers valuable advice for the prospective applicants, regarding the application process, campus life, work-life school balance, and networking opportunities.
The transcript of Saurav’s Video Interview will be published in 2 parts.
In this Part 1, Saurav talks about:
- His background,
- His preference for UCLA over Kellogg
- The challenges he faced during the application process
- His favorite aspects of the program.
And now introducing Saurav…..
Poonam: Hello Saurav. How are you doing?
Saurav: Hello Poonam. I am doing well. long time.
Poonam: Yes, it’s been a year since we chatted. Last year at this time, we were working on the applications and now you are almost ready to complete your first-year at the fully-employed MBA program at UCLA.
Saurav: Yes. It feels different. A lot of time has passed. It was worth the effort.
Poonam: Saurav, can you tell us something about yourself, where are you from? Where and what did you study as an undergrad?
Saurav: Yes, sure. My name is Saurav Das. I was born and raised in India. I am a Bengali. My father was in the army, and my mother is a retired school teacher. We moved a lot because my father used to be transferred to different places. I did Mechanical Engineering from Hyderabad, and then I worked in India for 3 years before moving to the USA in 2009. I have worked all over the east coast and have been on the west coast, SFO, for the last five years. I work with Oracle as Principal Product Strategy Manager.
Poonam: Last year, you had applied for part-time programs at Booth, Haas, UCLA, and Kellogg, and you were accepted into UCLA and Kellogg. You finally chose UCLA. Can you tell us how is UCLA the best school for you?
Saurav: Kellogg was very difficult to say ‘no’ to. It is a big school. But I chose UCLA because of multiple factors. My first reason was definitely the financial aspect. I am an international student, and Kellogg did not have great financial aid programs without a co-signer, and I was looking for a loan program without a co-signer. UCLA had one which really helped me. If I had accepted Kellogg, I would have to literally pay the whole tuition from my pocket. Secondly, I live in SFO, and Chicago is 4 hours flight, so I felt that the amount of time and effort I would spend traveling to Chicago will not leave me enough time for family, studies, and work.
And another thing was my instinct that UCLA was a better fit for me. I didn’t get a chance to visit UCLA, but I did see videos online, and I did speak to a lot of people, and based on their feedback, I learned that UCLA is a very social school; it has a Californian effect. I live in California, and the west coast culture is very different a little laid back. When I visited Kellogg, I felt the culture was slightly different, and having lived in California for five years, I thought I would be a better ‘fit’ at UCLA than Kellogg.
Also, I did inquire a lot about networking events and found that networking is a big plus in all Californian schools. That is important for me because lots of your jobs are going to come through networking, and it is easier for me to fly to LA than to Chicago because Chicago is a four hours flight. Both UCLA and Kellogg are great schools. But considering all angels, at this point in time, UCLA was a better ‘fit ‘for me than Kellogg.
Poonam: Absolutely. UCLA was certainly a better ‘fit’ for you. Looking back, what was the most challenging part of the admission process? How did you overcome that challenge? What advice you have for the applicants who are facing a similar challenge?
Saurav: I think my situation was a bit different. I was working full time and was desperate to get into an MBA program. It was kind of my last shot. My GMAT score was not competitive; it was in the low 600’s, and with a low 600 score, it is very difficult to get through top schools such as Haas, UCLA, Kellogg, and Booth, even for part-time MBA programs. I was facing an uphill battle, I was preparing for a GMAT retake and was working on applications simultaneously.
At the same time, I was constantly negotiating my deadlines with schools, and these four schools allowed me to write my GMAT and my application at the same time. In addition, I had to meet the deadlines with you as well, because you were working with different applicants.
Apart from this, scheduling interviews, scheduling those flights, looking at the schools, life, and family– all this was a constant struggle for me. I started application prep in January end and was done with all the applications in June. It was a very difficult four to five months period for me, and you were aware of my situation before we started working. I will not recommend anyone to go through application prep and GMAT prep at the same time.
Poonam: Yes, I am aware that you were dealing with too many things at the same time.
Saurav: I remember you telling me that it will be challenging to do both-GMAT prep and application building. I spoke to another consultant, and she also told me the same thing. One consultant just completely refused to work with me and said that this was not going to happen. So, I am thankful to you that you agreed to work with me. The learning was that this was just the trailer of what would happen at B-school.
Poonam: I like the analogy. Yes, that period was the trailer of what you would have to deal with at B School.
Saurav: Yes, if you are working and doing a part-time MBA, this is exactly what you have to deal with. I have deadlines this week, and my VP is chasing me for work. Also, I have group meetings and group commitments and I want to do them well, and then I have to travel every week to LA for classes. That five months period of application process prepared me to go through this grind.
My advice to prospective applicants is not to give up and have the mental strength and patience to go through the whole process. I am talking from a very tailored perspective of a part-time MBA applicant. GMAT is a beast, a monster. On top of that, the applications take a lot out of you. It is not easy to write stuff about yourself, you think you know yourself well, but you don’t, you will have to figure out a lot of stuff during the process.
Poonam: Very true. What is your most favorite aspect of the program?
Saurav: The social aspect of the UCLA FEMBA program is amazing. I always wanted to do a full-time MBA, but now I have no regrets. Even as a part-time MBA student I am having so much fun. I took a calculated risk at UCLA, and it paid off. It is a great school. I have made friends, and I am having a great time.
Poonam: Good. How about the curriculum? Does it align with your goals?
Saurav: I think it is very early to speak about it because I am just doing core curriculum in the first year which is very much the basic stuff that you need to know before you actually take on the actual electives. So far, whatever I am learning is new to me and very interesting. I have learned so much from my classmates as they talk about their experiences at work and in life. All these professors are Ph.D.’s who have industry experience and have done a lot of research. UCLA is great in terms of professors and curriculum, and most of the cases we discuss are well-known cases from Harvard or Kellogg, and some from UCLA.
Poonam: Good to know that. Is there anything you would like to change about the program?
Saurav: I think that the program is great, and I would not like to change anything. However, I do wish I was a local student living in LA. I could have gotten so much out of the MBA if I was living in LA. I cannot attend all the events because I live in SFO. I would advise the prospective applicants to try to go to the local school as a lot of events happen on weekdays with full-time MBA students that they can attend if they are local.
Poonam: Thanks for the advice.
Part II of Saurav’s interview talks about the:
- application of classroom learnings to work and day to day life
- his strategy of work-life-school balance
- his goals
- importance of networking for part-time students as well as the role of GMAT in the entire application process
You may connect with Saurav via Linkedin.