Have you wondered about your chances at IIM-A if you are a fresher? Or if you are heavily invested in college extra-curriculars that leave you with very little time for other things?
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Today we have Divij Kishore Jain (IIM-Ahmedabad 2020-22), Economics undergraduate & a fresher, here to share his tryst with CAT, IIM-A and dealing with the B-School entrance mania!
10th - 9.8 CGPA | 12th - 94.8% (Science with Economics)
B.A. (Hons.) Economics - 8.19 GPA
College of Vocational Studies, Delhi University
Divij is a fresher & this was his first attempt at the CAT.
Hey guys, Divij here!
Before I share what went right for me during and after CAT 2019, let me tell you a few things about me & give you a background.
1. As an Economics student from CVS, Delhi University set to graduate in 2020, I had not one but two set of exams, including CAT, during the month of November.
2. I had done two internships and two live projects, just to make sure that an MBA is the degree I want.
3. I actively took part in co-curriculars and had various activities to look after as the President of the Finance and Investment Cell of my college as well as the Vice President of the music society.
4. Lastly, to blow off some steam, I took part in various music competitions with my band, which required loads of practice and jamming sessions. Music is something I take very seriously and am a Grade 8 certificate holder from Trinity College, London.
Although none of these helped me score a 99.35%ile in CAT 2019, they definitely proved to be a game-changer during the interview. (I've linked the transcript of my interview right here)
Let’s look at how I managed it all!
To be honest, deciding to go for an MBA was a far more serious proposition than actually preparing for it. I remember people telling me that “there is a strong preference for people with work experience” or that only “a small percent of non-engineers make it”.
Of course this was somewhat demoralising. Proving them wrong, however, was a feeling that was oh-so-sweet, and it can definitely be done, albeit with some effort.
At first, cracking CAT seemed like an uphill battle. It was perhaps consistent preparation that helped me get to my dream college, IIM-Ahmedabad in the very first attempt. While I had joined classes to prepare for CAT in February 2019, my preparation was mostly structured around the mock tests that I regularly took, regardless of how much of the ‘syllabus’ I’d already covered.
[Hint: Do not wait to be proficient in any subject to start giving mocks! It will never happen. Just go for it!]
Before I proceed further, let me clarify that CAT has no real syllabus. What we study is based on what has appeared in past papers and the best guesses of CAT gurus and book writers.
In general though, most of the ‘syllabus’ is just stuff which we have already studied, but perhaps forgotten.
Just that thought made a huge difference for me. If I’ve done it before, I can for sure do it again!
I realised that I could bell the CAT with rigorous practice through mocks.
Is it true freshers don't convert their calls?
No, that is absolutely a myth. If you can get a call, you can convert it.
I'm a fresher, and looking at the batch profile for IIM-A, one can find about 30% of the students with no work experience.
The only thing you've to be worried about if you're a fresher is that the interviews will be more focused on your academics, since the work-ex thing is, you know, not there.
It makes sense to brush up on your acads, which should still be fresh in your brain.
So, unlike people with work-ex who have no clue whether their interview would revolve around their past acads or their work-ex, we freshers have it easy since there's only one thing we need to focus on, Acads!
It’s not so bad anymore, is it?
What about the fact that most of the students are engineers?
Yes, it's true that the bulk of the IIM-A batch (or any IIM for that matter) comes from an engineering background.
But considering that a major chunk of the applicants are engineers as well, is that really any reason for surprise? Yet, as per the batch profile of IIM-A, students from a Commerce/Economics background form about 18% of the batch!
So, consider your non-engineering background to be your strength. You'll definitely stand out during the interview and in the college.
Another great thing about interviews for us freshers is the fact that there are a few questions that are bound to be asked. After all, the interviewers are humans (although with God-like knowledge) and so some repetition is expected. Questions like:
1. Why not do an MBA after some work ex?
Now, there can be a lot of approaches to this question. The one which I focused on was the fact that I was lucky enough to know that an MBA is what I aspire to do in the future, so why not do it today?
I also added points like wanting to contribute to a firm in a better and more efficient way from day 1, and an MBA would train me better. Basically, put forth your need for upskilling yourself before entering the job market.
2. How will you understand business and real-life corporate situations during class?
Got internships under your belt? Great, use those.
If not, a stint in a college society or two? Highlight those.
Neither of the two? Don't worry, draw from real-life experiences.
All you need is the ability to share your experience of working with other people, be it an internship, a college society or your general knowledge of the business world.
From what I hear, there might be times when being a fresher would be disadvantageous in the MBA class. I'm yet to discover as to whether that's true or not. In any case, that's when your experienced friends at campus will help you, so fret not!
3. Doesn't being a fresh college graduate put you at a disadvantage?
No, definitely not! You're straight out of college, you're in a 'study-mode', and you would easily adapt to the rigorous curriculum. Further, this might be a bit subjective, but as a fresher, you might be more receptive to newer ideas. So highlight that.
Although, if that's actually true, don't rub it in the faces of your friends with work-ex on campus, haha!
Lastly, a question which most Economics students might face is:
4. How would Economics help you during and after an MBA?
Firstly, we're slightly better off than the engineers who have to justify why they want to completely switch their line of study, so trust me and chill.
Economics ties into Finance very well, considering topics like Macroeconomics, Econometrics, etc.
So for finance enthusiasts, highlighting your interest in Finance would explain an MBA post an Economics degree.
For the Marketing and HR fans here, consider talking about your interest in Microeconomics. Since we learn about the behavior of individuals to an extent, it segues nicely into why MBA as well.
So, you can mention whatever field you're interested in, and tie in how the field of economics would only add to your skill-set.
All in all, freshers and economics students DO make it into amazing B-schools (Case in point).
It might seem intimidating at first, but all these things can become your strengths if you look at it from the right perspective.
There's a reason that Indian B-schools don't have work-ex as a mandatory thing to have, unlike a lot of B-schools around the world.
So, just do it!
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Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!