Sunday, May 30, 2010

Bring on the EMAILS!

A few days after getting accepted into INSEAD one of the R1 (round 1) admits started a Google Group and an email chain with it.

And then came the emails.

First it was a few hey - how are you type emails. Introductions and so on.

Then came the questions about visas & financing - probably the two most-discussed questions for any students attending INSEAD - a lot of us are not eligible for good interest rates in our countries of residence or citizenship since our lives/travels have taken us elsewhere. (e.g. I was born in India, grew up in Thailand, and currently in USA -I hardly qualify for loans here in USA).

Then there's the banks to work with - BNP Paribas in Fontainebleau and HSBC France in Melun - the two top choices due to proximity to Fontainebleau. Both banks also offer great rates for INSEAD students.

Other emails were around laptops to purchase, renting cars versus bikes, pre-reading, and running groups.

But my favorite so far has been two of the following:

1. One student modified Google Maps to include all the living options in reference to INSEAD, banks, groceries, etc... I used this map to decide on where to live! Finding a place to live, securing it in time by placing deposits with your landlord, and meeting your future housemates is one of the most important things to get done when deciding to attend any school outside your country of residence! Remember that! And there are many tools to help INSEAD students (will list them here soon).

2. Travel blogs - where people were going around the world - I mean it - around the world between getting accepted and starting in January. No continent was left unexplored. In fact, if I could, I would like to create a world map (seriously thinking about this) for future classes in MBA Connect where students can list their locations from the date of acceptance until starting in Fontainebleau or Singapore so that, at any time, anyone visiting a particular city could look at the map and see dots indicating students - "hey - x,y,z is/will be there, then!"

In fact, if you could see that map now and play it, like a video graph, you would see a living organism.

Cells converging in certain locations, achieving critical mass during Open Days (or various meet-ups in cities with high density of accepted students), followed by erratic movements from consultants during their final months on the job, admits wanting to use up their vacation time, and many heading home to see respective families - then a convergence of all the dots forming two pulsing masses in Singapore & Fontainebleau - 11D buckling down for P1 and P2...

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meals I have Eaten...

This one is actually a shout-out to a friend who provided me with some much-needed assistance in the application process.

She was candid in her feedback, yet very friendly in the suggestions she left me to consider - And more than anything else, she was very diligent with my essays even with her own full time job to consider.


The Phone Call (Decision)

At 8AM on Friday May 27th, my better half was getting ready for school (in Hyde Park) and I was getting ready for work (post-early-morning Conference call) in Lakeview. We were on the phone and I was trying very hard not to bring up the glaring fact-of-the-day.

Today, May 27th, was the final day for INSEAD to accept (and reject) incoming students for their December 2011 MBA class. It was 8AM in Chicago, which meant it was 4PM in France. On a good week that is about 1hr from the weekend.

Up until this point, I was hopeful. I was a bit worried about one of my essays where I basically talked about how great Thailand is, only to find, three weeks after submitting the essay, that there were violent protests throughout Bangkok and the entire country was thrown into turmoil. I truly believed that THAT one essay I had written would actually end all my chances. If there was any doubt about the application up until now, this would lead the admissions committee to remove me from "Doubt" pile to the "Out" pile.

And she laughed at this idea, trying to lighten my mood - constantly reminding me that the process was 4-step. My application was solid. The interviews had gone well (read post on interviews: May 8th). All in all, if INSEAD was going to reject me based on my inability to tell the future, then so be it. The Oracle would have to get prepared for part time b-school in Chicago.

She's been right almost every step of the way so far, and a pillar of support... I should've listened.

Instead, a few minutes after our conversation, my gradual acceptance of the inevitable rejection started to set in - and then, my phone started to ring: caller ID started with +33 (yes, France country code)

Before answering the phone I asked myself a simple question - would INSEAD go through the trouble of informing students of rejection via phone calls? Maybe they wanted to make a special case out of me, seeing how "gullible" my essay on Thailand was (by the way - I will stand by that essay word-for-word even in light of the crisis).

I was greeted by the sweet French accent that I so missed from my days of IB French in High School. And it was INSEAD - before I could apologize for I truly believed they were calling to reprimand me, I was cut-off by "Welcome to INSEAD..."

Chicago through a new lens

The day I got accepted into INSEAD, I stepped onto the 134 express to go to work, and felt... different.

Chicago looked like a completely new destination to me. The people seemed foreign. Lake Shore Drive, which I had frequented more often than not in the past 5 years here, felt like a welcome surprise - I found myself rethinking: "Whose great idea was it to build this "outer ring road" along Chicago?"

Even the air seemed different. A fresh breeze of experiences seemed to flood my senses as I embraced the new reality about to overtake me.

I was a tourist, once again, in the Windy city.

One of the most frequently photographed places in Chicago

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Interview(s) w/ a Twist

One of the second best things about the INSEAD application process (the first being the separation of church & state, I mean marketing & admissions) is that one of the most important components of the application process is the interview.

Make that TWO interviews: Two separate Alums are selected. Generally one is an expert in your field and the other has little to no experience - basically how do you converse with someone who speaks the same language and a complete outsider. Speaking of languages (pun intended) - some interviewers will bust into a 2nd language as indicated in your application so if you're thinking about forging knowledge of a language (or stretching your actual fluency) be prepared for a pop quiz!*

*Small disclaimer: this was my experience and based on what I Googled about other peoples' interviews. This may or may not be the case for you :)

Anyhow, my interview experience was very different from any others I've had - for jobs & school.

The interaction with Alumni was a great way for me to learn more about the real INSEAD experience - I'm not going to provide too much personal information on the interviewers themselves, since this is a public forum, but the point is that the interview process was eye-opening. Being accomplished in their fields, each Alum had insights that I did not expect. Walking out of that interview either solidifies your interest (and hopefully their's in you) or leaves you asking very important questions about next steps.

The best way to prep for the interviews is two-fold. First, read. Not just before your interview. Because that sort of regurgitation is very obvious and generally, out of nervousness, you will use up all the information you've stored within the first few minutes of the interview, leaving you with a lot of empty space :)

If you've had time to read and assimilate and understand and interpret and form your own ideas and opinions about what you've read, then you can have a conversation.

Secondly, practice answering some of the most basic questions like: strengths, weaknesses, examples of leadership, failures, your job description, the future of your company, your five year plan - these are all good topics of conversation that, with friends, you could probably spend hours. But when you only have a short amount of time, you want to make sure that you get to the point, make an impact in your observation (don't force it), and leave time for follow-up. Being clear and concise goes a long way.

In the end, so much of what INSEAD does is different from other b-schools you might encounter. The interviews play a key role in your application because they assess your fit with INSEAD among other things. They give you access to a breadth of knowledge about the campuses, courses, etc... Essentially it is a mutually beneficial process. Kind of like a first date where you ask each other important questions about long term goals and if she's a cat person and you're not only allergic to animals but dislike cats (because maybe you're a Mummy), then you both know to move on. There's other fish in the sea, right?