The journey of transitioning from military life to civilian life can be an incredibly emotional and challenging experience for veterans! These brave men and women have dedicated years of their lives to serve their country, putting their own lives at risk to protect others. However, the reality of returning to civilian life can be daunting, as they face the overwhelming task of adjusting to a completely different way of life. It’s like starting over in a new world, with new rules, expectations, and challenges.

Although pursuing an MBA can serve as a launchpad for a corporate career, the process of identifying suitable programs and establishing new connections beyond one’s familiar circles can be daunting for transitioning veterans. Nonetheless, with determination, resilience, and guidance from mentors, veterans can confidently navigate this transition and thrive in their civilian lives.

It’s truly an honor and a privilege for MBAGuide to have been a part of the MBA journey of a gallant and highly decorated Army Officer, Ketan Pandey, who has demonstrated exceptional valor in combat and other military operations. We are overwhelmed that he trusted us to guide him during this defining phase of his professional life as he embarks on an MBA journey at India’s most coveted IIM A PGPX.

Testimonial as written by Ketan Pandey (ex Indian Army and IIM A PGPX student)

My profile & decision to pursue an MBA

I superannuated from the Indian Army as a Major in March 2023. After serving for more than a decade in the Indian Army, a smooth transition from military to corporate was very crucial for me and MBA seemed a natural choice to lay a solid foundation of business concepts before I step into the corporate world.

The trickiest part of my profile was my 12+ years of job experience and my age (I’m 36 years old). Given this fact, I was suggested by several ‘experts’ to go for an executive MBA program (not full time MBA); however, to maximize my learning during my MBA and build a strong network, my singular goal was to pursue a regular Full-Time MBA program (2 years abroad or 1 year in India).

The fact that the average work experience and age profile for any regular Full-time MBA program is only around 6 years and 30 years respectively, posed a serious challenge in front of me!

GMAT Preparation

I prepared for GMAT for nearly 4 months and scored a 710. Though I planned to re-attempt and improve my score however I could not retake the GMAT due to my service commitments and hence decided to go ahead with this score and start my application process.

College Selection (India vs Abroad)

In the start, after I attempted GMAT, I posted my profile on GMAT Club for ‘evaluation’ by experts. Of the many responses I got from the various admission consultants, Aanchal’s evaluation stood out.

Instead of advertising her company’s services, which almost all other consultants who responded to my post did, Aanchal gave me an honest response, brought out the ‘pluses and minuses’ in my profile, and listed specific action items in front of me. The clarity and crispness which was evident in her response made me inclined to speak to her further.

Application  Phase

During our first call, Aanchal gave me her detailed introduction. Her extensive corporate experience along with the fact that she also had a stint interviewing MBA applicants for INSEAD made me very excited and I decided to take her guidance and help as an Admissions Consultant for my MBA application process.

We chalked out a plan and divided the list of colleges into the ‘safe’, ‘target’, and ‘reach’ categories. What I liked the most about Aanchal here is the fact that she never sugarcoated things; she transparently told me not to expand my energy on some of my dream schools simply given the fact that my profile does not match with what these schools want. Though she advised me not to apply to these schools in the first go, but at the same time she assured me that if we get a good response from the first rung of schools we apply to, then we will definitely give these dream schools a shot too, later.

She spent plenty of time (more than six 1-hour sessions) sequentially going through my personal and professional experiences in life and coming up with relevant stories which I can leverage in my applications. I admire the way she went into detail about each of my experiences and carve out relevant aspects out of them which will later form my stories.

The first step in my application journey was to prepare a resume. Since it was the first time I was making a resume in many years and the MBA standard resume format is different than a regular format (fancy CV templates found on Google) Aanchal spent a lot of time with me to guide me prepare it. After multiple iterations, I had a resume ready for me that listed my experience with my accomplishments on a single page! 

With Aanchal, I could prepare a very realistic list of schools we would apply to, and for each school, she gave me a different and school-specific strategy (in terms of research, networking with current students and alumni, engaging with the school adcom, etc) to work on. This helped me a lot to write essays that aligned with the school requirements.

For the first couple of schools, writing my essays was very difficult as it was the first time I was doing something like this. Aanchal made sure to guide me at every step. She proofread all my drafts (the first few drafts give me a good laugh when I read them today) and suggested changes and additions I can do to effectively narrate my story. At times more often than not, she pushed me out of my comfort zone to consistently work harder to diligently shape my experiences into effective stories.

She coached me on the art of effective experience-sharing (storytelling). She taught me the amazing skill of condensing the essay to abide by the given word limit without losing its essence, which is crucial learning for me and will remain with me throughout my professional career.

For each school from which I got an interview invite, Aanchal took a series of Mock Interviews. It was a huge help and I realized that she is an ace interviewer (she had earlier interviewed for INSEAD) as she pointed out some of my shortcomings which I never realized had existed. Aanchal introduced me to the ‘STAR’ method of answering questions during an interview which was a real game changer for me. During mocks, she also guided me on the macro as well as micro communication aspects which made me more comfortable, natural, and confident during my actual interviews. For me, these acquired interview skills are precious which I would surely leverage during my future interviews and placements as well.

Decision Phase

After applications, I got rejected from Tuck and IESE, but waitlisted from Michigan Ross, ESADE, UNC Kenan Flagler, Kelley, and Owen, and got admits from the two Indian schools I applied to i.e. ISB and IIM Ahmedabad.

Given my above average work experience, the economic scene in the West and to avoid huge debt in such times, I decided not to wait for the US and European schools for an admit. I had now to make a choice between ISB (PGP) and IIM Ahmedabad (PGPX).

Both ISB and IIM-A being great schools it was a tough choice to make. I did thorough research and I had the following factors in front of me:-

Average Age and Work Experience:-

The admission criteria for ISB required a minimum of 1.5 years of experience, leading to a relatively younger cohort with an average age of 27 and an average work experience of 3-5 years.

On the other hand, IIM-A’s admission criteria mandated a minimum of 4 years of experience, resulting in a comparatively older cohort with an average age of 32 and an average work experience of 8-10 years..

Class Size:-

The class size at ISB at around 850 students, who are distributed between the Mohali and Hyderabad campuses, and they all participate in the same placement process.

In contrast, IIM-A’s class size is much smaller, consisting of only 145 students. This smaller class size can provide me with better learning opportunities, a more favorable teacher-to-student ratio, and potentially less competition during the placement process.

Brand Value and ROI:-

IIM-A brand to me was a no-brainer with IIM-A acing in all fields including an extensive and globally spread alumni network. Also, the ROI for IIM-A (fees ~Rs 32L) is much better than that of ISB (fees ~ Rs 45L) as seen for the past 3-4 years’ placement reports.

In the end, keeping all the above-mentioned factors in mind, I chose to go for IIM Ahmedabad as it matched my age profile and work experience criteria and provided me a better brand value (in my opinion) with an exceptional ROI.

Aanchal as an Admissions Coach

Aanchal has been the real pillar of strength and the foundation of my MBA admission journey. It would have been impossible or at least 10 times more difficult for me to pursue MBA from a top school like IIM-A if she had not been there.

I would like to list some of Aanchal’s traits I liked the most:-

  • She is a thorough professional who knows her game well.
  • She is very approachable and never too busy for her clients. It just takes a message or an email and she is always available on the same day to speak to you.
  • She is extremely responsible. She will push you to your limits, and outside your comfort zone until and unless you have given your best – be it essays or interviews, or college research.
  • She will keep updating you frequently on articles to read, resources to follow, people (with similar stories/ profiles) to talk to and videos to watch – to keep consolidating you as an MBA candidate.
  • She is transparent and will never sugarcoat things if you are going in the wrong direction. She will make you know the reality even if it seems harsh to you at that moment (ex- if you are overambitious for a school) – so that your efforts and energy are not expanded in the wrong place/ direction. Very few MBA admission consultants do that.
  • She will never let you miss an application deadline and if you are lagging behind, she will make sure that you get to finish your essay and submit it on time.
  • She will prepare you exceptionally well for the interview – so much so that you will feel at home when you are giving an actual interview.
  • Her skills for preparing a resume, essay, and interview are so good, that if you learn well, you reap the benefits even during your MBA placements and in times to come.

For anyone who desires a professional and personalized (in reality) admission journey, I would like to highly recommend Aanchal to help in his/her journey toward pursuing MBA from a top school.

Reach out to us on email at mbaguideconsulting@gmail.com

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