Planning to apply for an Ivy League school? Take a moment to pause and reflect


A lot of professionals in this country do not understand why and how an MBA would help them. Yet they chase this dream without any objectivity, and Ivy League schools stay a mile away. What is missing? Why are we burning ourselves for something we don't even know we want, or understand why we want it?

A lot of applicants start their MBA Journey with an Ivy League school in mind. Before you consider burning yourself from both ends, I am going to give you an option to choose - red pill or the blue pill. Remember, you always have a choice!

The red pill is - find Harvard, and then make your life happen around it! Start planning your studies, college, jobs, pleasing your bosses, ignoring families, and creating more and more habits that get you closer to cracking Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford.

On the other hand, the blue pill offers - do not set Ivy League as an aspirational dream, and do not chase it unless you really know, deep inside, it's what you want. Explore deeply and inquire - why do you want to do it ? Find a life, create beautiful visions, empower yourself and people around you to see a better world, find a cause or a problem that you think is worthy of your time and your life, and use Harvard/Wharton/Stanford as accessories to help you solve the problem that is important to you. The option is simple: make Harvard happen on the way.

My suggestion? Do not take the red pill. Going down that road, you will likely not have a very inspiring life, if I am to give my honest opinion. You will burn the candle from both the ends, but imagine this - what if you woke up one day, and realized that you had come a long way in the wrong direction? A direction you took because of hearsay? You never stopped to wonder why Harvard, Wharton, or Stanford were important for you , but you realized that the world around you attaches a lot of weight to these places, and in order to "fit in", you decided to burn yourself too.

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I am not saying that going to these places is a lot like burning yourself out. However, working with Indian applicants keen on exploring top global MBA programmes and witnessing their fears, I realized that humans attach more importance to an MBA than it actually deserves. Why would someone be so afraid as to freeze during the GMAT exam, or even during a Harvard, Wharton, or Stanford interview?

I feel proud when people get Ivy League admits and scholarships. But the reality is that more than 98 percent of us do not know why we want to go to these institutions. One of the exercises that all of our applicants go through is "finding your goals in life", as that is very important for a business school to know – why are you keen on applying for their MBA programme? Surprisingly, almost everyone I speak with has a vague idea of what they want out of their participation in an MBA programme.

Then the question is - if you do not know what you want from them, why do you get so afraid at the thought of not cracking it? What inspires you to write this question years before you actually consider applying?

You and I are very short-lived, and in this short life, must find a meaningful purpose. Find something interesting and worthy of your time, identify ways to solve problems, and in doing so, when you realize that you are missing certain skills or have handicaps that will not let you go past the current state, reach out to Harvard.

If you are not convinced yet, here is a detailed red pill for you. I do not know what stage of life you are in, and I do not know how inspiring it will be to pursue Harvard, Wharton, and Stanford unless you know what you want in life. The guidelines I am sharing below can be put to good use to create success for yourself rather than making this a meaningless chase for yourself. So let us get you started on your journey to Harvard.

Instead of feeding an answer, I want to coach you in understanding how to make the best of the last 4-5 years of your school life to reach a stage where you land on your feet powerfully. Let us get to it right away.

As the first step, I want you to understand the differences between knowledge-based learning and skill-based learning. The existing school system in India rewards knowledge-based learning, and the score in Class XII serves as filters to assess whether a child deserves an entry into a great future or not. While international universities such as MIT definitely have high-school percentages and GPAs as a selection criterion, a great level of emphasis is laid on other accomplishments that are representative of skill-based learning. For example, if you have managed budgets for a student association in your school, or have assumed active leadership positions, or have a propensity to impact your classmates and make surroundings better for them, an Ivy League university will see that as a reflection of your character.

Start with building the right plan of attack and focusing on both knowledge-based and skill-based learning, and explore the best of both the worlds. While you are in college, or are working full-time, start understanding the importance of extra-curricular activities, and build skill sets that will really matter to the international universities such as Harvard, MIT, University of Pennsylvania, Stanford, North Western, and many more. Engaging in extra-curricular activities will hone skills that will stay with you for decades to come, and give you a very rewarding and satisfying career while you gain real mastery in communication.

Communication is not limited to a language proficiency. Real communication occurs when you are expressive enough in generating results, values, and outcomes with diverse communities and limited resources with effectiveness. Build strong reading habits and start emphasising on team-based engagements and leadership skills. You probably heavily loaded yourself with knowledge-based learning in Class X, Class XII, and college as those grades mattered then, but now you got to build a strong skill-based resume as well.

The process itself will mould you in ways you never imagined. As you work on creating a strong fit with some strong international programmes, you will realise the magnanimity of what you can accomplish in the future. It is important because “you” are the future.

A year before you apply, start your GMAT game, and get a GMAT score above the global average of Harvard Business School.

If you took the blue pill, writing stories and building applications will be a cakewalk for you. However, if you took the red pill, you may need to spend more than 5-6 months (for some people, a year) learning to build stories. You may also need a mentor on the way (especially if you took the red pill) to help you with communication. So, what is it going to be - the blue pill, or the red pill?

Jatin Bhandari is the Founder and CEO of PythaGURUS Education.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)


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