On the ISB YLP experience

We tend to get very anxious while waiting for result announcements. It is in fact very understandable given that we have put our hearts and souls into something we very longingly want to achieve. But, my anxiety levels are at another level altogether. I suffer from this OCD of intermittently refreshing my inbox or the web-page on which the results are to appear. If only there was a monetary benefit attached to each time an individual refreshes a web-page, I’d have become a billionaire long ago.

I was well into my refreshing act for about seven hours when at around 6:00 pm on October 31, 2017, my application portal displayed this:


It was unarguably one of the happiest moments of my life for it stood for all the hard work done and sacrifices made over the years.

For the uninitiated, ISB stands for the Indian School of Business and YLP refers to the Young Leaders’ Program. It is a deferred admission program offered by ISB to students currently in the pre-final or final year of their undergraduate/graduate studies. The students join ISB’s flagship Post-Graduate Program (PGP) in management after completing 20 months of work experience. They receive mentorship during this period which prepares them to be able leaders post graduating from ISB.

ISB has grown at a rapid pace in a very short span of about seventeen years. For a business school, much of its success is measured by the positions assumed by its alumni. And a relatively young ISB has established itself as one of the leading schools not only in India but also the world with its alumni excelling in various executive roles across industries and sectors. The Financial Times ranked its PGP at 27 in the global MBA rankings (2017). There are a lot of factors which have contributed to the school’s success. The research-driven curriculum taught by highly qualified faculty members (both Indian and international), partnerships with top B-schools from around the world, the state-of-the-art infrastructure and the career opportunities available to the students have been instrumental in helping the school grow. But, most importantly, I feel that through its holistic selection procedure, ISB has been able to carve out a niche for itself in the utterly competitive B-school market.

The ISB YLP selection process spanned almost eight months and was divided into three stages. The first stage involved a profile-based shortlisting. It required us to submit details of our past academic scores, internships, extra-curricular involvement and achievements, hobbies and interests, and an essay. Students who made the cut were next required to submit two more essays, one recommendation and a GRE or GMAT score. Those clearing this stage were then interviewed following which the results were announced.

Going through this gruelling and exhaustive process was a delightful experience. It is designed in a way to ensure that the applicants do a lot of introspection about who they are, what experiences have shaped their lives, how have they reacted in difficult situations, what their career goals are and how will the MBA from ISB help them achieve the same. While a lot of soul-searching did give me some idea of what I am like as a person and what I want to do, the real challenge was to convert this mental clarity into 300 words essays. With such a word limit, each word becomes extremely important. Moreover, maintaining the flow of ideas becomes difficult. It takes multiple iterations to shape the final draft and to be honest, the process left me mentally drained. At face value, people consider it to be a quite hunky dory selection process, but nothing is far from the truth. Only those who go through it are able to appreciate this fact.

The interviews which followed further vindicated my belief in ISB and the pool of students that it selects. While waiting for my turn, I had insightful interactions with a couple of co-applicants, all from distinguished schools and organisations. The interview was more of a conversation to check whether I’ll be a right fit for the school or not. The panelists were interested in knowing more about me and my work. They created an atmosphere where I was able to freely express myself.

I love ISB’s philosophy of choosing students for its class. Instead of eliminating students outrightly because they didn’t score above xx.x % in their class 12 examinations and asking vague questions from undergraduate subjects which in no way is a reflection of whether an individual will be a good MBA candidate or not, it tests people on skills that’ll be relevant while pursuing the MBA and in their careers post that. You can always make up for a below par academic record by scoring high on the GMAT or excelling at some extra-curricular activity. The adcoms at ISB don’t go on looking for reasons to reject you, rather they want to hear your story and identify whether you’ll blend into the ISB culture or not. Given the cut-throat competition that exists, it is a very heartening point to start for any applicant trying to get into one of India’s top business schools.

You can read my ISB YLP interview experience here, my thoughts on building a profile here and on writing essays here.


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