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I am Aditya Singh and I will be joining IIM Lucknow. (2021-23). This is my journey to Hel(L)

It is 2018, and I am in the 3rd year of my engineering college pursuing a degree in computer science. By now the realization had dawned on me that I am not enjoying coding that much. So, what should I do after engineering? The answer is MBA. That is what comes naturally. But never thought about why MBA, as it involves introspection and the need to ask tough questions to myself.

So, I joined CAT coaching in January and started preparing for the exam. In the first mock test, I was shocked by my performance, because I had single-digit scores in VARC and LRDI. More than 90% of my marks came from the QA section. There I started questioning my choices in general. But I thought to myself that I have to do an MBA and I cannot give up. So, I started reading newspapers, solving puzzles daily to get the hang of LRDI. Slowly scores started improving. But there was one big thing that came up in July 2018. “PLACEMENTS”. I was not confident with my coding skills. Also, mentally my mind was fixated on CAT. So, for the first 2 weeks, I kind of did not study for placements. But then my roommate in the hostel who got placed in the 2nd week told me that I better take things seriously. He told me that you never know with CAT, like what happens on that day, you cannot be sure. This hit me hard, as he was the one who influenced me to join CAT coaching. But then, I had to make a choice. I decided to take placements seriously. So, took a break from CAT preparation. I managed to get a decent job in one month. Actually, my CAT prep helped me in clearing aptitude rounds. But after that I kind of lost motivation. With CAT preparation, the moment there is a break in the flow, it is difficult to pick yourself up and I also failed in that. But for some reason, I had confidence that I will do well in the exam. In November, I wrote the exam, and I was sad after that. It did not go well. When the result came, I had scored 89 percentile. (98 in QA, VARC-66, LRDI-70). Not at all inspiring.

That was my first CAT attempt!

Now we come to August 2019. I have graduated from my engineering college, and I am working. To be honest, I was enjoying my time. Like the first time I was earning some money on my own, that is a good feeling. Now my plans had somewhat changed. My main plan was to take the GMAT exam to go abroad. I had started imagining what I wanted to do post my MBA, I wanted to get into the business side of sports, For that, I felt that I should go abroad. In India, it is only worth doing, if you do an MBA from a top college. For that, you need a 99+ percentile in CAT. The last attempt had made me believe that I will not be able to do that. So, I prepared for GMAT. Here also the Verbal Ability part pulled my score down. After my first GMAT attempt, I started doubting myself again as I did not get a great score. I had also registered for CAT 2019. Rather than lying low with disappointment, I decided to give CAT full focus. I had only one month. So, this time I decided to only take mock tests. VARC was still weak, but LRDI, I felt that I should be doing well, so I focused on that more. When I googled for the LRDI CAT strategy, I found out for the first time that for this section, we must spend some time selecting the sets, rather than just start solving from question 1. That was my level of understanding. So, I put that into practice in my mocks, and my scores started improving. Then I gave the CAT, I got 93.22 percentile ( VARC- 80, LRDI-94, QA-95). I was not that disappointed, as I saw a remarkable improvement in VARC and LRDI. But I still never got the confidence that I can make it in CAT.

So now it is March 2020. I had just come back from one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. It was my first Himalayan trek. (Sandakphu in West Bengal- you guys must visit when lockdown ends). I made some new friends, walked through some of the most beautiful landscapes, and most importantly, picked up the habit of meditation. But what happened next was something unprecedented. A nationwide lockdown was announced. Fortunately, I had meditation to keep me in a positive frame of mind.  One more thing that happened was, that I picked up the habit of reading books. So, I started with reading cricket books. It is the classic case of “Read what you love until you love to read “. Meditation had improved my concentration and mindset in general. With this mindset, I set off for GMAT preparation again. I was having a good time in the lockdown as these things kept me busy. Even though most of my friends went back to their hometowns, I was in Bangalore, slogging it out. But then I gave the GMAT, I did better than last time, but still not up to my expectations. This pressure of “I must do an MBA” and I have to do it fast was affecting my performance. Luckily, my parents were very supportive. They just told me to relax and take it easy. As parents, they only wanted me to be happy. This made me feel lighter and it felt like a massive load has been lifted off my shoulder. These small things can make a huge difference.

Now comes the CAT preparation part. It is October 2020 and I am back in Mumbai, with my parents. CAT is just one month away and this time the pattern has been changed. But one thing was still there, I still did not believe that I will be able to crack the CAT exam and make it to the top B schools in the country. But I left that thought aside and started giving mock tests. I gave 20 mock tests in a month. Did proper analysis of each test. Luckily, I had made a timetable and stuck to it. This made me realize the power of discipline and habits. My mock test scores weren’t the best but still way better than what I was getting leading up to the CAT in the previous 2 years. But still, there were no great expectations from my side. This helped me write the CAT exam with a relaxed mind.  So now it is 29th November, the day of the CAT exam. Unlike the last 2 times when my examination centre was 40km from where I stayed, this year it was only 4 km. That is a good start. I was in the third slot. By then I was aware of the exam pattern. So, I go into the exam room in a positive headspace knowing that I have nothing to lose and that this time this suffering is only for 2 hours. Those 2 hours just went so smoothly for me. This was the most fun I ever had while giving a competitive exam in a long time. My father was waiting outside the center, and he also told me that he has never seen me this happy after an exam. But still, I had low expectations.

A few days went by and I then opened the answer key and tally my scores. I got a raw score of 113. Based on all the different percentile predictors, I found out that I will be crossing the 99+ mark for sure this time. I was elated because till now it seemed impossible to me. I had underestimated myself. But this was half the battle. The other half was the interview. I had to now again seriously think of Why MBA? What personality traits are there in me that will make me a good MBA candidate? These were tough questions, and I was clueless about where to start. So, I looked up some resources, there I came across the CL PDP program. I immediately enrolled in it. I started to attend the sessions organized by the professors. As I said before, I was confused about where to start. Like how I should go about realizing/finding an answer to why I want to do an MBA. These sessions helped me in realizing how I should go about answering this question. Like, have a vision 2030 and then work backward. Realize what you need to do to reach that stage in 2030 and how MBA will help you in realizing your vision 2030. Things started making sense to me now. This helped me answer some difficult questions and then I went about writing my Who Am I essay and the follow-up questions before my first interaction with my mentor.

Now comes the day of the CAT results. I checked my score and I scored 99.52 percentile (VARC-96.77, LRDI-99.3, QA-98.6). Unfortunately, due to some personal reasons, there was not much elation. But I knew that this was half the battle. Then came my first interaction with Sreeni Sir. This was an eye-opener for me as it made me realize that I had a lot of work to do. I am grateful to Sreeni Sir for being brutally honest with his feedback in our first interaction. I was not well informed about the current affairs (could not answer about Farm Laws), then I had completely lost touch with my graduation subjects. There were many such lows. But it was really important and gave me motivation. One valuable piece of advice that Sreeni Sir gave me was that you should be curious in general, like whatever has happened good or bad, you should try to understand why it happened. Like I talked about my weight loss as one of my achievements, so what happens inside your body when you exercise. These small things matter a lot and it keeps the zeal of learning in you. But the most important thing that happened was the reassurance of my passion. Till now I was kind of hesitant to say that I want to get into the sports business/ industry as I felt there were fewer opportunities, and it was unconventional. But Sreeni sir told me to stick with it and explore more on that side. This was something refreshing for me, and it gave me a lot of confidence. There were a few articles and discussions on Sreeni Sir’s blogs that gave me a good starting point. This was very important for me, and I was happy that I took my first PI at the earliest. It opened my mind up and got me in a good headspace.

From there on I went on this journey of learning new things, staying updated with the current trends, developing a better understanding of the business side of sports, and most importantly discovering more about myself. I had calls from IIM Lucknow, IIM Indore, CAP IIMs, NITIE, IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur. Taking all the points from my first mock PI, I started preparing for these interviews. I worked on refining my answers for why MBA, staying updated with the news, reading books, revising college subjects. These few months were enlightening as I discovered a whole range of things that I was never aware of. Then came the interviews. CAP IIM interviews went well. Then came the IIM Lucknow interview. This was my best call. So, I was nervous. After the interview, I felt I had a sinking feeling. I did not feel that it was a bad interview, but it just went too fast for me. Like I was asked questions like, what are natural numbers, real numbers, etc. Then I was asked why the pie chart is not called a pizza chart. This was an absurd question, but I guess I gave one of my most clever answers ever. I said, “According to me based on Adam Smith’s growing the pie concept, a share is always represented as a slice of pie, so they followed that convention”. I am still proud of that answer. Then I had my other interview. All other interviews went well. I gave the NITIE interview when I was suffering from COVID. This was another unique experience.

So, then I made it to IIM Lucknow in the first list itself. I was not expecting it to be a direct conversion, but a few things I have realized that

  1. You should not assume things and get yourselves demotivated. But still, it has been a great journey and I am looking forward to seeing what is next.
  2. I am confident that these learnings/good habits that I have acquired in the last year will keep me in good stead.
  3. I would just like to say that it is very important to stay calm and have a positive mindset. It helps you in achieving things that you feel are out of reach.

Lastly, I would like to thank my parents who have constantly supported me throughout this journey and have always encouraged me to be stress-free and have given me a great degree of freedom. It has helped me become the person I am today. Also, one last mention to Sreeni Sir, whose constant guidance has kept me motivated in this entire journey and has made me believe that in 10 years’ time I might be heading the business operations of some big sporting franchises in the world.


Aditya Singh

(IIM Lucknow 2021-23)


Other Converts- IIM Indore (HRM), NITIE, IIT Delhi, IIT Kharagpur, CAP IIMs

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