ISB Application Feedback – How Useful Is It?
Every year, Indian School of Business (ISB) rejects literally thousands of applicants seeking to gain admission to its prestigious PGP program. While many of those rejected know that they didn’t make it because of a clear factor (poor GMAT score, poor essays, and issues with the quality of the application submitted, for example), many others aren’t really sure. Their GMAT scores are decent and within range for the consideration of ISB. Their essays (at least at first glance and in the applicants’ own opinion) don’t have much wrong with them either. Some have even done (again, in their own opinion) decently well in their interviews. Still, the question remains – what went wrong? Every year, we are approached by many applicants from the previous year who seek to know what they could have done better. While we try to help (by requesting for the actual application and reviewing it, and understanding how the applicant had approached the process), we do often get a nagging question – should I approach ISB directly for feedback?
ISB Application Feedback – Sources of Information
Perhaps the most obvious point of reference when looking at reasons for the rejection is the ISB admissions committee itself. ISB is known to provide feedback for many applicants who ask for it.
The feedback process is not quick – while the PGP admissions process for ISB ends in mid-March, the feedback does not arrive till at least May, and in many cases, later.
This is still in good time for the next year’s application, though. Before we get further into evaluating whether the feedback is relevant, lets look at sources of information (ISB-specific) that applicants usually get this feedback from.
Current/former (previous batch) ISB students: At ISB, many students from the current class are involved in evaluating applications. They are of course not the only filter, but they are there. Some applicants try to get feedback directly through this source.
Assertions of how ‘an ISB student who is the friend of a friend of a friend’ provided feedback are not unheard of. In our opinion, this source of information is plain untrustworthy.
ISB students are forbidden from sharing information on any application(s) they evaluate. Even if some student violates this rule and risks trouble, it is difficult to ascertain whether the feedback is accurate and trustworthy.
Feedback on phone from ISB: This is relatively very rare. ISB states on its website that it provides only written feedback. Some applicants, though, at least in years past, were able to get some basic feedback on phone on their application.
This practice seems to have now completely stopped. For those who did obtain this feedback, it is unlikely to be a source of much enlightenment. At most, the person on phone would be able to provide an overall assessment, and would have neither the time nor the access to really provide personalized feedback.
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Written feedback from ISB: In almost all cases, ISB has provided written feedback on applications in the past. Per the link above, ISB itself also states that the feedback will focus on the overall approach rather than on specific details of an application.
This is not unusual – most top schools around the world provide no feedback on previous MBA applications, and hardly any schools provide detailed feedback if they do. In ISB’s case, the feedback will not be detailed, but will it be relevant? The evidence is mixed.
In many cases, the feedback did accurately capture what the applicant lacked, but in at least some others, it did not, choosing to focus on common areas that did not apply at all to the case at hand. Given this, it is difficult to use the feedback from ISB as an avenue to identify and then possibly fix issues with the previous application.
ISB Reapplicants – How to Know What to Fix
We would suggest an alternative method to put your best foot forward to achieve success as an ISB reapplicant:
Start with the obvious and admit what you lacked: Begin simply by looking at your application parameters. Did your GMAT score fall below the ISB average? Did you fail to ask the right person for a recommendation? Did you leave most of the Activities and Awards section blank? Some of these things may be clear as daylight, but we have often seen reapplicants refuse to acknowledge them. Unless you acknowledge the weakness first, it can never be fixed.
Take action on what you need to fix now: If you need to raise your GMAT score, begin working towards it now. Do not wait for the R1 deadline for the next year to loom.
If you were weak on the leadership aspects, identify and grab opportunities to close the gap (at both work and in a personal capacity) now. Do not be cynical and do not assume that while your weaknesses may have gone against you, they may not have been THE factor that led to a rejection. Multiple small shortcomings stack up into big ones.
Seek feedback, but across a broad base: Many reapplicants stumble also because they seek feedback from people who may not necessarily be qualified to provide it.
Your boss may be an excellent business manager, but is he competent to evaluate your ISB application? Yes, he can be one source of information, but not the only one.
A better approach would be to identify 3-4 competent individuals and seek their feedback. Then take common points from feedback across people to possibly arrive at things that stood out as weaknesses.
Get professional help in analyzing your previous application: It’s easy to misunderstand this one. However, we cannot emphasize the point enough.
A professional admissions consultant may well be able to point out shortcomings and suggest changes that you would not be able to do simply because of the difference in exposure. We provide ISB ding analysis as well and have helped several people discover how to do better in their next attempt.