LEARNING FROM MISTAKES, AND MAKING A SOUND ARGUMENT
Pratik tried none of those strategies, though he knew changes were needed. First, he improved the quality of his essays, giving them “more introspection, more depth.” He also did a lot more research about the schools, talking to students and alumni to understand how successful applicants approach their application. And he did a lot more preparation for his interviews. In fact, he says, he hadn’t done much last year at all — a mistake he was determined not to make again.
“I think I was able to identify the areas of improvement and learn from those mistakes to improve,” Pratik says. “Also, I think I articulated my life story and my aspirations in a much better manner versus last year. Furthermore, through my applications, I was able to present a sound argument of why I was a better candidate this year versus last year and show the growth, addressing the reapplicant question.”
With the help of an admissions consultant, Pratik overhauled the presentation, packaging, and storytelling of his application, “clearly bringing out the impact/learning in each life story shared versus simply listing them down in a task-focused manner.” And he pinpointed a flaw in his execution, and decided he could get closer to admission by improving upon it.
‘A LOT MORE RESEARCH’ — AND A LOT OF INTROSPECTION
So what was the flaw in his execution? “If I just look at the way I approached the application process, it was by leaps and bounds much better this year,” Pratik says. “Last year I don’t think I had a process in mind, in terms of what it takes to put together a good B-school application. Specifically, this year versus last year I spent a lot more time — I think 10 times or 20 times more time — thinking through my life, my experiences, what I learned from them, the growth I’ve seen, versus last year when I think the first time I thought about this was when I was actually drafting my first essay. I kind of paid the price for it.
“This year, I did a lot more research to understand what made previous applicants, successful applicants — what are the kind of experiences they write about and share with these schools? What are the kinds of interview questions you get? — to form some sort of an idea of what exactly they might be looking for.”
And he spent time — months, not weeks — thinking about his life. Just thinking and shaping his life story for the telling.
“I think from the period of early May to about late July or even early August, I was just thinking it through,” Pratik says. “Not drafting essays, not writing my CV, just really going deep into each one of my experiences — all the time thinking about how I can see a pattern in these. Do they tell my life story in terms of who I am today? And what are the experiences I can talk about and what are not? This level of execution I had definitely not done the last time around.”
OUTCOME-FOCUSED RATHER THAN TASK-ORIENTED
The schools themselves weren’t much help. Seeking feedback after his series of dings, Pratik came up empty.
“The day I got dinged from HBS, I reached out to the admissions committee office, but the only response I got is that many times it’s about how the class fits, ‘so while we did not see any glaring problems … ‘ It was more of a cookie-cutter response,” he says. “At Wharton I reached out to them but never heard back. And with Stanford I did reach out, but then again it was a very standard response, ‘Stanford protocol does not allow me to give any personalized feedback, but at the end of the day it’s about how holistically you come out as a candidate, etc., and there are so many different factors, external factors, diversity, and other things.’ So nothing concrete came out of that feedback, unfortunately.”
He was, in a big way, on his own. One thing he did know: There wasn’t enough time to have any dramatic changes in job experience to feature in a new application. So he knew he needed to position his experiences better.
“I did not know before that maybe the admissions committees, after reading about my experiences, would be thinking, ‘OK, so what is it that he’s learned and applied in some way?’ This time around, those are lenses through which I reviewed each one of my stories,” Pratik says, “and when I packaged them or presented them, I was a bit more outcome- or impact-focused, rather than being task-oriented.”