My Year & One-Half Journey To Gain Admits To Wharton & Columbia

After a year and one-half journey, Ankita Shrivastava has been admitted to both Wharton and Columbia. While she lacks an elite undergraduate degree or experience at a well-known multinational, she is a world record holder and international athlete

When I was 12 years old, my mother had an argument at home that showed her frustration.

‘When you grow up and go for your MBA,” she told me, ‘I will go with you.’

As a child, I didn’t know how claustrophobic she felt in a setup that didn’t give her wings. To make her feel better, I replied, ‘Yes, we will go to Stanford (not that I had any clue about what it was but that was the only name I had heard).’

It became our internal secret, planning how we would apply for visas, jobs and a future in California. Since then, until I turned 19 and she was on her deathbed, all I could tell her in an unsuccessful attempt to wake her up was, ‘Mom, I have been selected for Stanford. Get up. We have to go!’

From that day on, I took it as my life’s passion and goal to fulfill her dream and become a part of the esteemed institution.

Getting An MBA At Stanford Became Her Life’s Dream

I wanted to go to Stanford for my undergraduate studies but then my mom passed away even after I donated my liver to her. My father separated from us, leaving behind my sister and her mother with me. I had no option but to make ends meet. I began working, and I have worked in the business of media and entertainment since the age of 19, creating eight pre-school brands, doing exports in 25 countries, creating TV shows and a worldwide online pre-school, all in fulfillment of my passion to educate children.

Yet, I still harbored my mother’s ambition to gain an education at Stanford. I wanted to study in a diverse environment, with visionary leaders in innovation, marketing, and scalability–all attributes at the core of a Stanford Graduate School of Business experience.

There are few things in life that you know will happen with 100% surety. That’s what I felt about being a part of Stanford. After applying to the school’s MBA program and getting an invite for an interview in 2020 I felt strongly that it was all falling in place. It’s said if you want something with all your heart, the world conspires to give it to you. It truly did that day.

But the interview went beyond my expectations. The interviewer showed no interest in my achievements, my life story, or my vision for my future, but only concentrated on the revenues of my businesses as she came from the Millionaire Club going way past my feelings for what Stanford stands for. My entire dream crumbled in those 40 minutes.

Despite the experience, I wasn’t yet willing to completely walk away from my hope of becoming an MBA student at Stanford. So the next year I breathed Stanford in my soul, working, living and creating myself to become capable of Stanford. This time, in 2021, I didn’t even get an interview. I was rejected outright.

Undeterred, I became determined to demonstrate my absolute dedication to the school. I came to believe that my GRE score might have been a red flag in my application. I reattempted it after my rejection in Round 1 and achieved a 335 out of a top score of 340, from my initial 324 which had been five points below the 329 average at Stanford. I wrote to the AdCom explaining my situation. Stanford did reply to each email I sent but as expected decided not to reverse its decision and make an exception.

When you are so involved in the process of applying to a business school, it seems like the end of the world. But my story was heard by the best and maybe for the best. I now have admits from Wharton (with a Joseph Wharton Fellowship) and Columbia Business School in hand. I now realize that this process transforms you. I would work on my business from 10 a.m to 7 p.m. At 8 p.m, my admissions consultant in the U.S. would be online, and I would spend another three-to-four hours working on the required admissions essays. By midnight,  I would start studying for my GRE. After all, I did not come from a famous college, or work experience at a prestigious multinational firm, or the best GRE score. Instead, I have a life story I had built with passion and immense dedication.

I have seen my mother getting hepatitis B due to a blood transfusion; I have survived a coma during my liver transplant; I won gold for India, breaking the world record, at the World Transplant Games. After four years of follow-up and rejection, I got the ex-president of Disney as a co-producer and distributor for my TV Show, lost my parents at a young age, and then at the age of 20 found new ones. Life is a compilation of miracles and hard work, and I have experienced both.

It is a lie if anyone says they have achieved what they have alone. For my admits to Columbia and now Wharton, the credit goes to Jessica Shklar, a senior consultant at the admissions consulting firm of mbaMission. She has been among the most favorably reviewed consultants at Poets&Quants, landing on their best list for several years.

We started this journey a year back. I had no prior experience writing applications to elite schools but was excited about the process. I had done dozens of calls with companies, counselors in India and abroad but couldn’t decide on which one to go forward with. But when I talked to her it felt like I was speaking to myself. She was attentive, effective, and very professional about her work.

When you are a little successful in life you start dreaming about Ivy Leagues but the reality is quite different. I was overconfident. As much as I believed I would get through, I required someone who would keep me grounded and focused on the process. Her guidelines, deadlines, notes, and homework were absolutely spot on. It kept me on my toes and made sure I met deadlines.

But what was spectacular was when I started getting rejects. I couldn’t find anyone as personally invested in my failure as she was. She wouldn’t leave any stone unturned. She kept sending updates and sharing her insights. She never allowed me to give up or belittle myself. The tables had turned during this journey. Now I was the underdog, and she was the one cheering for me!

I was fortunate to have found the best counselor but also a dear friend whom I cannot wait to meet in person. And I feel fortunate to know I will be going to Wharton this fall.

Ankita Shrivastava is an international athlete, liver donor, entrepreneur and Tedx speaker.  World Record Holder, International Athlete, Liver Donor, Entrepreneur, TEDx speaker, She has won two gold medals for the long jump and ball throw and one silver (100 m) for India at the World Transplant Games by the Olympics Association. As a serial entrepreneur in the media, entertainment, and edTech business, she has co-developed eight brands (pre-school animation characters), including Purple Turtle, which has exports across 25 countries, with 350+ books and a TV Show on Discovery Kids in MENA.

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