August 25, 2013 11:40 pm

A journey of a thousand steps

Abhinav Charan

MBA: Cambridge Judge

As clichéd as it may sound, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Inspired by Stephen R. Covey’s second habit – “Begin with the end in mind”, from his book The 7 habits of highly effective people, I sought clarity on “why business school” and “which business school”.

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“Why” is often more difficult to comprehend. Is it for business knowledge or a powerful network? Or is it because I fancy bidding farewell to my six-figure salary and sleeping only on national holidays? Perhaps, all of the above.

The choice of programmes can be perplexing, especially when there is no dearth of good and great business schools. Transcending the rankings-driven transactional thinking, my personal choices were based on the programme prospects, location, culture and structure. With the shifting nature of the global economy, I yearned for a programme with above par international recognition and composition. Having already obtained a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon in the US, I was willing to consider either side of the Atlantic.

Since I hadn’t invented a way to prevent tsunamis or solve global poverty, a decent GMAT score was the next best option to launch my business school campaign. As the only objective and scalable component of the application process, the GMAT serves as a “hygiene factor”. Chasing an abbreviated application timeline, I had to optimise time sharing between the GMAT and application essays. Therefore, I made a Faustian bargain to swiftly achieve an average GMAT (for my target schools) while focusing on quality essay writing.

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Most top programmes could easily fill their classrooms with über GMAT scores. However, this is rarely the case because essays and references come into play.

The ability to express succinctly the motivation for an MBA through essays is golden. I had my essays critiqued by friends and supervisors to the point of exhaustion. I believe this effort literally moved the needle.

After steering through the interviews, I ended up with four interesting choices: Cambridge Judge MBA, McCombs MBA (University of Texas at Austin), MIT’s Global Scale programme, and Saïd Business School, University of Oxford MBA.

The ultimate decision rested on how the programme (a) could support my professional goals and (b) how I could contribute to the programme.

With a network of 197,000 alumni and 800 years of intellectual leadership, the Cambridge ecosystem appealed to me. The refreshingly personal approach of the admissions team, an eclectic cohort of 150 students from 40 countries and a culture of collaboration convinced me that my search was over.

I had spent about 100 hours on the GMAT, travelled more than 1,000 miles for interviews and written essays that exceeded 1,000 words. Past these prelims, I look forward to September when the real games begin at the Cambridge MBA.

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