Perspectives from ISB

I had been refreshing my inbox and logging in to the admissions portal every 5 minutes for 2 entire days when I finally accepted the reality. I had not been shortlisted for an interview for the PGP Program at the ISB.

While applying I had heard a lot of encouraging words from my friends and acquaintances who had been part of the Indian School of Business at some point. All of them had assured me that my profile with 5 years of experience was in the infamous “sweet spot” of ISB applicant pool. I had drawn confidence from the words of an alum who had reviewed my essays and remarked that I had achievements that projected outstanding leadership qualities. My brother, who is an ISB alumnus himself, had assured me that my GMAT score of 710 was more than enough. I had my application essays reviewed by 6 different people including ISB alumni from diverse backgrounds and even a friend who worked as an editor in a publishing house.

Yet there I was, rejected by a B-school that admits nearly 900 candidates every year and interviews many more.

I spent the next 10 months distancing myself from anything to do with MBA.

I tried to convince myself that my Engineering knowledge and invaluable experience in the Oil and Gas industry were enough for a successful career. Grapes are sour. Who needs a MBA to be a leader? I really don’t want to be lost in a crowd that is increasing by 900 every year.

These were the consolations that I kept harping on for almost a year. Whether they were true or not is immaterial. These were simply justifications I kept giving myself for my failure. These were facts that were not unknown to me before I had applied to ISB.

A turning point was a discussion I had with my HR manager. I had met her to get a “No Objection Certificate” to enroll in a part-time MBA program with a top tier IIM. She looked surprised that I was opting to spend 15 lakh rupees to do a part-time MBA. She said that at this stage of my career, if I had to study MBA, I should do it full time. She stressed how the peer-group and the entire on-campus experience was such an integral part of the takeaways from MBA and how a part-time MBA would never make up for it. She added that MBA was a big investment and I should not commit to it if I am not ready to go all in.

I didn’t look back from that day onwards. I cast all my biases and ego aside and analyzed the reasons for my rejection. I did not rush things and apply the very next year. I invested in myself and improved my candidature to re-apply 2 years later. Today, with over 7 years of work-ex, I have been admitted to the ISB PGP class of 2020. 4 months in and I am still super-excited to be living one of the most hectic and enriching years of my life!

My tips for anyone dealing with rejection from a B school:

  • Allow yourself some time off (at least 4 months) from all the admissions discussions and post-mortem. A rejection is a rejection and you cannot go back in time and change it. Engage your mind in other things so that if you do decide to re-apply, you can approach things with a fresh mind and a broader perspective.
  • Don’t take things personally. Remember that a B-school admissions process is not a judgement of your capabilities. Unlike other academic institutions, most B-schools are somewhat driven by placements statistics. They do not reject you because you are not intelligent enough or you gave a wrong answer in an interview. They judge whether you are a good fit for their class. They gauge whether you will be able to cope with the rigor of academics and competition and be accepted by a recruiter at the end of the course. Let’s face it – no B-school in the world likes students who can’t pass the course or don’t have a job offer when the course ends.
  • Before starting to analyze what went wrong, spend time to decide why you want to do a MBA. Convince yourself that getting into the B-school of your dream is worth investing another year for. Hit reset and try to circle back to why you wanted to do a MBA in the first place. If you feel strong enough about the reason, then it is definitely worth fighting for.


-Nilayan Dey | ISB PGP Co’20

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