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Female Candidate Secures Top MBA Admit with Low Work Experience

Updated: Mar 13

HEC Paris is among the best business schools on the European continent, and regularly features among the Top 10-15 MBA programs around the world!

HEC offers a 16-month MBA, with batches starting in September and January each year. The shorter format of the HEC MBA compared to its US counterparts, which usually provide a 24-month MBA, also makes it an ideal choice for senior working professionals who want to quickly get back into the job market.

In the latest FT rankings, HEC ranks as the 11th best business school in the world. The average GMAT score at HEC Paris stands at 690, with a class average work experience of ~5-6 years. HEC also boasts of 93% international students in classroom, making it a truly diverse setting!

We caught up with Mansi Arora who worked with us for her HEC Paris application and secured an admit. Mansi applied only to HEC Paris, but her biggest apprehension was that she only had 2.5 years of experience at the time of application, quite far-off from the average work experience at HEC, and she was applying very very late in the process.

Given the conventional wisdom, the chances of her getting an admit to such a Top MBA program with low experience and delay in the application process were slim. And that's what we advised her as well - to apply next year. However, Mansi stayed strong-headed and wasn't ready to call it quits without giving her best!

Below is her MBA application journey, in her own words.

hec paris in the background with text overlay. title of blog is How I got an admit from HEC Paris MBA

Could you give a brief background about yourself?

Born and brought up in Delhi, I graduated from Delhi Technological University in 2019. Since then, I have been working with Bank of America in various roles and processes. Currently, I am working as a Data engineer. Having witnessed the major advances in technology from such a young age, I have been very passionate about programming and the tech industry per se. Besides tech, I have enjoyed working with numbers.

I have also been a very creative person. Dramatics, filmmaking, and tennis are my key interest areas. I also got the opportunity to lead the dramatics team in college and to direct the annual stage plays. I really enjoyed my time in the dramatics club, especially the process involved behind crafting strong storytelling in the plays. All these experiences played a key role in shaping my thoughts and values.

Where are you working, and what prompted you to apply for MBA programs?

Since I graduated, I have been working with Bank of America. I started off as a UX-UI developer for an enterprise application. I really enjoyed developing and optimizing features of a product. After around a year, I took the initiative to work in operations under a special credit process that directly helped millions of small businesses during the pandemic. As this credit process was in a nascent stage, it allowed me to focus explicitly on the end-user needs and adapt in accordance with them.

After this program ended, I decided to move to a data-centric role to keep working closely with my end-users. I interviewed for various roles, and I landed up as a data engineer in Regulatory Reporting. My role allowed me to process and manipulate data to obtain metrics for the regulators. Working in various roles and processes allowed me to identify the “Why” abstracted behind every “How” of a process. Understanding my end-users and their problems shaped my desire to build products based on prioritizing the value-added to the users.

To further my clarity of “Why” by diving into both business fundamentals and consumers’ rationale, I decided to pursue an MBA. 

As I see significant value in different perspectives, I think an MBA will not only help me build business acumen to a greater extent but also let me thrive with people from various backgrounds.

How did you prepare for GMAT? Could you share some resources that helped you in your prep? Also any tips for aspirants on how they can ace the GMAT?

Firstly, I surfed the web thoroughly for related forums (GMATclub, Manhattan Forum, and Beat the GMAT) and articles. I started my prep with the fundamentals and questions provided by the official guide for GMAT. Simultaneously, I reached out to a couple of friends who were preparing or had appeared for GMAT. I tried to understand their experiences with their go-to study materials and prep courses. As most of the GMAT prep providers allow for a free mock and trial study-materials, I leveraged them to identify the approach that would help me recover from my weak areas and would fit best in attaining my target score. Finally, I enrolled in test plans of five different GMAT prep providers, each of them allowing me to improve effectively in different areas.

As for the tips, dive deep to identify your strong and weak areas. Keep hustling till you show consistency in your strengths and improvements in your weaknesses. And for the disclaimer, don’t let the algorithm mislead you. Always look for the number of right & wrong questions in congruence with both the difficulty and final score. Using the number of right answers alone as a standard might not be the best way to go!

How did you decide which schools to apply to?

My goal while selecting a business school was to go for a school that will enable me as a Global Practitioner. So, I looked up the schools that not only excel in academic instruction but also provide a diverse environment, allowing for holistic development. As I look forward to work in Product, I wanted to go for MBA programs providing creative and hands-on learning opportunities, dynamic in context to the world today and tomorrow. Moreover, as product management lies at the intersection of multiple business functions, an MBA program that is flexible enough for customization was definitely a cherry on the top!

I shortlisted HEC Paris, INSEAD, MIT Sloan, LBS, and Stanford.

I took my final GMAT on October 24th and I scored a 720 on the test. I had targeted a 740+ score as it would help me to kickstart my MBA as quickly as possible. As GMAT is just one piece of the puzzle, I wanted to navigate other pieces to better visualize the whole picture of my candidature, I decided to move forward with the application this year and to leave the re-take for the next year.

Why did you feel the need for working with a consultant? Why did you choose to work with Management Masters?

I was way behind the schedule. It is generally considered good practice to apply in one of the initial rounds. As I was applying in one of the last rounds, I had limited time to explore the best practices and then work towards them. Moreover, I had only 2.5 years of work experience which was just clearing the minimum requirement. Along with the best practices, I also wanted to understand the dynamics of a work experience which is lower than the average. So, to not leave out any of my concerns because of limited time, I decided to approach them strategically with a consultant.

Now many of my friends studying abroad had bad experiences with consulting services in general. So, I was wary of the cliché consulting practices that could dilute the authenticity of my story. I attended multiple profile evaluation calls and consulting webinars to look for a reliable consulting service. I remember that post my first call with Piyush, I came to know several new facts regarding my target B-schools. No call had been this much relevant and informative to me.

Every consulting service I interacted with was so focused on getting me onboard for his or her services. So, the stark difference in the quality of the very first call with Piyush prompted me to work with Management Masters for my MBA applications.

Post our profile evaluation, we decided to move forward just with the essays of HEC Paris first.

How did you approach your essays? How did working with us help you in the essay building process?

I think an essay is just another medium of storytelling. 

And I consider stories to be one of the most powerful tools used by mankind. So, I wanted to power my essays with stories, as they best describe the essence of the actual events. Since the essays also look for my professional learnings and values behind any mentioned instance, I wanted to make sure that the essays carry the voice of my narratives perfectly.

So, before approaching the essays, Piyush not only advised me with the general structure of the essays but also helped me understand the school’s perspective behind the essays. This practice helped me build coherence not just in my essays but also in my thoughts. As essays come with another challenge of answering effectively within the word limit, Piyush helped me understand the priorities to further refine my essays.

I think the best aspect of the process for me was just the guidance of the right amount, an amount allowing me for self-reflection.

How did you prepare for your interview?

For interviews, I followed the practices I learned during the rest of the application process. I made sure that my whole story make sense from a third perspective. I also availed an interview prep service by Management Masters. Moreover, the mocks allowed me to discover the areas I can do better and the areas I have overlooked. The objective feedback from both mock interviews helped me identify and narrow down the gaps in my preparation while reducing my worries for the final interviews.

How was the overall application process for you? Where did you apply and your results?

The application process for MBA is as comprehensive as it can get. The process is not just limited to your grades or titles. Instead, the process tries to capture the holistic view of a candidate. From academics to co-curricular, from challenges to achievements, from professional experiences to learnings, from actions to values, the application process allowed me to reflect on my life all the way up. Even though the breadth of questions translated into tremendous amount of work, the explorative nature of the application drove me to give my best throughout.

I applied only to the MBA program of HEC Paris so that I could focus on every aspect of the application from the ground up! Fortunately, I got selected to HEC Paris in my first-ever go.

What would you advise candidates applying for MBA programs?

I think we should not just try to a get perfect score, or a perfect title, or a perfect time, or even a perfect combination of all of them for an MBA. Instead, we must find a perfect purpose behind it. So, before going into the details of an MBA application, discover “Why you want to do an MBA.” Just as no two individuals are similar, so no two answers to that question will match. That is what is going to be unique, what is going to stand out for you and your application.


Piyush Ranjan is the Founder of Management Masters. He has helped multiple candidates get admits from some of the best schools around the world, including the likes of Wharton, Kellogg, London Business School, INSEAD, HEC Paris, Booth, Duke Fuqua, Darden, Haas, Tuck, Cambridge, Cornell, Indian School of Business and others.

If you are looking for help with your applications, connect with us.


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