My visa interview

So just before telling the visa experience, here are the probable questions:

1. Why do you want to go to the U.S.?

2. Why have you decided to study in this particular college?

3. How will you take care of your expenses?

4. How many colleges did you apply to?

5. What will bring you back?/What are your future plans?/Why will you come back?

6. What is the annual income of your family?

My visa appointment was at 7.00 am in Chennai. I had booked a room in Hotel New Woodlands (recommended – value for money!) so that I could relax on the previous day. I reached the embassy at 6.30 am and joined the queue outside the embassy. Please don’t carry your cell phones, just carry the docs in a harmonium folder and dress in formals (tie not needed at all!). After showing the visa appointment letter, I was let in (everything inside is A/C of course :)) and all the docs in the folder were scrutinised by security. Then I had to go to a counter where the person asked me for all the DS forms, I-20, Passport, Bachelor degree certificate and GMAT and TOEFL score reports and arranged them in a new folder. Thumbs’ and forefingers’ scan was done. I was now asked to go to the adjacent building where there was a waiting lounge (Just carry the new folder as it is with all the docs). I was there waiting for my turn by 7.30 am. The counters where visa is issued were closed then. By 8 am, a couple of counters opened and I was 4th in the queue. Within 5 mins, I got my turn.

Questions:

VO(Visa Officer) – So when did you complete your graduation? – year

VO – In what class did you complete your graduation? – blah

VO – Did you have any backlogs during your graduation? – (what?) – NO!

VO – How long you have been working? – x years with xyz

VO – So you gave your GMAT. – yes (and he took a look at the score report)

VO – (Looking at I-20) Congratulations on your GA! – thanks

VO – O.K. Your visa has been issued – thanks a lot!

That’s it!! Done! It would have lasted less than 45 secs. It took a while to digest the fact that something that was going on at the back of my mind since a month was so easy to deal with! (But then, prepare well…prepare for the worse!). Visa is probably the last, miniscule but eminent hurdle to reach your dream B-School. But then, I feel that it is an objective process. That being said, you can bank on the VO provided that you have prepared well for the basic questions, don’t falter during the interview and have all the necessary documents in place. All the best!

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Gateway to your visa appointment

So the breaking news that I was supposed to cover in my last post was that I am done with my VISA (phew! feels so good!).

Assuming that you have got your I-20, here is what you need to do next (this is for Indian aspirants):

1. Pay the Application Fee and VFS Service Charge at a designated branch of HDFC Bank before applying for a US Visa. This includes – Visa Application Fee – $131 (Rs.6943 at current exchange rate of Rs.53) + Service Charge: Rs.374. Visa appointment can be taken only after the fee receipt gets activated which takes around 3 working days.

2. Go to this site and click on the Apply for a Non-immigrant Visa link once the fees are paid. You will need to use the bar-code number from your HDFC Bank Fee Receipt in order to schedule an appointment. Keep your passport and I-20 ready with you while doing this. Your appointment centre depends on your state of residence – the state where you have been residing for past 6 months. (Yes..and so you don’t have a choice). You can check the availablity of dates here.

2.a. Fill out the forms DS-156, DS-157, DS-158 online. Don’t forget to use the help section in every form to know the exact details that you need to fill in. This should get you through most of the fields. You can even contact the customer support and they will treat you pretty well :).

2.b. You don’t need to fill all these forms in one go. You can always save and exit so that you can resume later. However, an inactivity of more than 7 days will delete all your information and you need to start all over again.

2.c. Take the appointment once you have filled in all the info. You can take an appointment within 120 days prior to the start date of your program. (For Chennai, I couldn’t find any normal appointments available and hence had to go for an emergency appointment. This is perfectly fine as long as your appointment date is within 120 days prior to the start date of your program) Finally, take a print out of your appointment letter.

2.d. Print your forms – DS-156, DS-157, DS-158. Don’t forget to affix your visa photograph on DS-156 and handwrite your name on DS-157 in the field 3.

3. Pay $200 SEVIS fee here by filing online form and submitting the amount by credit card at least 3 business days prior to your visa appointment. Make sure that you are connected to a printer this time as you won’t be able to save the receipt online. Take a print out of the receipt immediately after submitting the form.

Now that you are done with the appointment, the next thing is to arrange all the necessary documents. Here is the checklist (this is pretty comprehensive, not everything might be a must):

1. Admit Docs – 1.a. Admit offer letter from the school. 1.b Merit award certificate from the school (if any).

2. Visa Docs – 2.a. Colour Photo 50mmx50mm 2.b. Passport 2.c. DS-156 2.d. DS-157 2.e. DS-158 2.f. HDFC Fee Reciept 2.g. I-20 2.h. VFS Appointment letter 2.i. SEVIS Fee Reciept 2.j. Address Proof for the state of residence – this could be your last 6 months salary slips or a confirmation of your address on your company’s letterhead.

3. Educational Docs – 3.a. GMAT score report. 3.b. TOEFL score report. 3.c. Graduation degree certificate 3.d. Consolidate mark-sheet/transcripts of graduation 3.e. HSC certificate 3.f. SSC certificate

4. Financial Docs. 4.a. Liquid Assets – Passbooks (savings a/c), Investments like Fixed Deposits, Provident Funds, etc. 4.b. Fixed Assets – Property sale-deeds, etc. 4.c. Loans. 4.d. IT Returns for last 3 years of all people who are sponsoring your education (In my case it was my father and I). The liquid assets + loan should cover the first year estimated expense as mentioned in your I-20.

All this should be good enough to make you ready for the visa appointment once you get your I-20. Next is cracking the visa interview itself which I plan to cover in the next post. Till then…ATB for your visa appointment! 🙂

P.S.: There are number of blogs out there which helped me with all this information. Just putting things in one place.

Mistakes…

Yes….and here are things that have happened so far:

Good News : I got linked from Accepted.com here and The GMAT Club here for my post on Waitlist -> Admit – How? Well, it feels really great to get recognized from some of the most trusted sources known for MBA mentoring.

Bad News : I couldn’t pay attention to blogging because I did not have anything concrete to share then. But it is not the only explanation for my hiatus.

Good News : I got nominated for the BoB award by Clearadmit for 09-09. Wow!

Bad News : I am coming to know that only today, now that the game is over on 24th (results out on 28th) !! Congrats to Ahembeea and MissionMBA, I knew you would make it there in top 5!

Good News : I got an invite as a judge (ya you heard that right) from Accepted.com for the Beautiful B-School Photo Contest.

Bad News : Again…it is too late….got to know this only today! (the contest ended on 30th April)

Here is my side of this story filled with agony and ecstacy. I last blogged on 12th March and kept following the comments for a few days. (And the way I do it is w/o logging in). Then say after a couple of weeks, I thought my blog entry had become stale and did not bother to check for comments that often (again w/o logging in. Well I usually log in to post comments or for posting a new entry). Due to other activities, I was barely keeping an eye on the blogs in the Hella’s list but came to know about the nominations for BoB in the meantime. However, I couldn’t see any comment on my blog(ya ya…w/o logging in) and so assumed that I was not in the game. To make things worse, the email id to get comments notification is an outdated one, something I usually don’t bother to check. So there I was, under the assumption that I have not missed anything in my blog, toiling myself into personal and professional activities. A lot many things happened in between. More on that later…

Cut to last weekend…I was out of station, came back yesterday night and finally logged in my blog today morning to post a new entry and suddenly I couldn’t take my eyes off the comments section. I saw the first comment about the nomination for BoB by Clearadmit as – Unapproved (obviously it didn’t appear in the comments section before as I was checking it out w/o logging in) and another one about the invitation from Accepted.com to judge the Beautiful B-School Photo Contest (This was posted in the “About” section of my blog which I did not happen to explore since my last post). I am feeling really silly (or stupid might fit even better) now that I happen to miss the bus solely due my dereliction and letting the Murphy’s law take over! But then, in hindsight, glad to know that I was considered…

Good News : I have got to learn a lot (at least the basics are in place) about blogging from these mistakes. Hope it helps some of you people as well. Don’t just visit your own blog. Log in (quite frequently)/configure your email setting to bridge any communication gaps to make the most of it!

At last, I would like to express my hearty thanks to Clearadmit, Accepted.com and The GMAT Club for showing the recognition. I will try to give a better response next time!

P.S. : This is not the entry I was going to post. Will post the actual one soon!!

Waitlist -> Admit – How?

Oh k! So here is my waitlist strategy that I would like to share.  How I handled the “waitlist” situation reflected what I read from here n there, so a few points might be a repetition. Instead of giving a detailed explanation, I would like to cut the long story short by highlighting the specifics or TO-DO’s:

1. Let the adcom know that you are interested! – Respond to the mail quickly and let the adcom know that you are still very much looking forward to join the school.

2. Prepare your own waitlist strategy – Yes! This helps. Just ruminate over your application and identify the weak points – GMAT, essays, work-ex, diversity factor, extra-curriculars, recommendations, etc. – there gotta be at least one that you are aware of! Then think of the documents you would like to submit to overcome these in the limited time frame.

3. Fix up the waitlist appointment if possible – This is to know the strengths and weaknesses in your applications. You need to know what went well and where you fell short.

4. Discuss your waitlist strategy – After knowing what went wrong, discuss your waitlist strategy during your appointment. Tell them that you have already thought of it and have started working on it. Point 2 will help you here. This shows that you are genuinely interested and are ready to take the additional pain to convert your waitlist into an admit. Be ready to incorporate changes depending on how the adcom responds to your strategy.

5. Take enough time to make strong add-ons to your application – The quality matters! What is it that you have done during the waitlist period that you deserve to make it? If you have certain important milestones to cover during this period, wait for them so that you can highlight them in the essays. At the same time, be wary of not getting too late and missing the bus!

6. Keep in touch with the adcom – Keep them informed about your progress on the waitlist action items. This again shows your interest in the process.

That’s it! That’s what I did! I feel the bottom line is convincing the adcom that you do fit their school despite of other reasons. I hope this helps….ATB!

The admit packet is here…

….and it only adds to my joy! I have been awarded with some merit based scholarship and it definitely helps mitigating the financial burden of pursuing an MBA in the United States! A few thousand dollars saved is still a lot of rupees earned! In fact, even the thought of going for a U.S. MBA during these troubled times would have seemed far-fetched for a not-born-with-golden-spoon Indian like me had it not been for the scholarship. But now with the aid, the kind of exposure it will offer within two years and a little ambition to experience life the U.S. ishtyle somewhere in the corner of the heart makes it a risk worth taking! I hope so! I have my Nanyang result awaiting but I am not really waiting for it. I still don’t know how generous Nanyang will be when it comes to offering scholarships. Also, W.P. Carey has got a much better reputation in terms of technology specialization and most importantly, it offers a truly global MBA with all the prominent aspects of any niche U.S. MBA program. It may not be in the Ivy league today, but it is catching up at a decent pace. So unless Nanyang really pulls a rabbit out of the hat, it is going to be W.P. Carey for me.

I think next few weeks will pass by completing the formalities, figuring out the finances, etc. which is better and different than the wait game. Things have moved on since last week and whatever is happening is still a little hard to digest! But then, that is life – sometimes it will surprise you with the good news just when you think you have screwed it up!

MBA it is! W.P. Carey says YES!

Oh yes! Finally the long, anxious B-journey is set to end on a positive note. I am feeling most relieved and happy right now, something I couldn’t feel simultaneously for past one year. I am letting the feeling to sink in and I will let it take its own time.

W.P. Carey offers Supply Chain and Information Systems as its flagship courses, something I look forward to specialize in. All my efforts and investments in terms of time and money have paid off! With hopes hanging by a thread, this MBA journey had reached a junction where I had started doubting my capabilities and was having second thoughts on starting it again right from giving the GMAT. However, I am glad to reach this milestone and prove myself wrong for once!  I will tell you the story of dings and details of my waitlist strategy later and you can read them as archives :). Finally….allz well that end’s well!

A new journey is about to begin….

MBA or no MBA?

I would like to discuss this in two different perspectives.

Firstly, will I make it to the MBA class of 2011? Things are still not looking up for certain. First a ding, then a waitlist, then a ding and then a ‘would be’ ding. Oh yes…got dinged by McCombs without interview in the month of Nov. which I came to know only yesterday. And surprisingly did not even receive an email! And there I was pinning my hopes on the slow processing of applications for which McCombs is known. Do they expect the applicant to login and check the application status everyday? I am kind of disappointed with the way this communication (or rather the lack of it) took place. I am sure of the ding from Ross as well. I will be just completing a formality to confirm it on this 15th. Anyways, now it is either looking for plan B or just wait and watch how things take their course. I am expecting the next month to be one hell of a roller-coaster ride when the beans of R1 are spilled out. I have no hopes neither do I feel disappointed right now. This might also be because I am getting to read many ding stories in the blogosphere. The surge in the number of applications has definitely made it difficult to get in. Even if you feel that everything in the application process has gone your way, I bet you can never be sure of anything. “you can never be sure” becomes the mantra of the application process of 2011! Believe me guys, if you have made it to your dream school as of now, you are one of the very few precious ones (I am not using lucky because I know you have really earned it the hard way!). And you are lucky to have evaded all the anxiety and mood swings during this long and tiring wait! Congratulations!

My second perspective on the title is whether do you really need an MBA? Now, I know you can point out people like Lakshmi Mittal who don’t have an MBA. But I strongly feel that for a common aspirant who wants to take up control and start managing things to execute bold business decisions at an early stage in his life, an MBA is a must. I know that a few people out there might argue and boast of getting into managerial positions without going to the school, but then, I would quote these people as exceptions. An MBA won’t turn you into a manager or a leader. It is not a processing unit which takes you in and manufactures you into a leader. Leaders don’t need a mechanized process in the making. What they need is opportunities. That’s why an MBA and that’s what it does –it opens new doors where you will get to step out and traverse the path that would never come your way otherwise, at least not within the same time frame. An MBA is there to hone the skills (and not to build them in the first place) so that you know the ABC of business industry and how things function at a higher level. That is what they (the schools) try to find out before offering you a position in their class – do you have the skill set? Are you ready and better than others to face the challenging world of business if they give you an opportunity? So unless you have a big setup to run from your ancestry and if you are one of the youngsters like me who want to break into the world of business, you do need an MBA!