Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Fontainebleau living spots

Good locations in Fontainebleau city to live in:

1. Rue Royale Apartments on Rue Royale. This is probably the closest place to campus and also happens to be very comfortable living.
2. Rue St Merry, Rue St Honore, Rue de France, Rue Grande: These are streets that are within 10-15 mins walking distance from school. The quality of apartments varies widely, so you really want to see pics and take your time to choose. Lots of people pressurize you into believing that there is a supply problem. IMO, this is pure BS. There's sufficient housing until say 1 month before school starts. After that things do start getting tight. Also, the Round 1 and Round 2 folks get the cheapest housing off the table so if you are Round 3 or Round 4, just chill and take a short term lease upfront. Once you get here you can find better places.
3. Avon: This is a little further away but very doable by bycycle. It might get kind of nasty with the winter, but still doable.

Then there are more villages in and around Fontainebleau (Samoreau, Veneux Les Sablons, Barbizon, Samois etc etc). Those are options for the automobile-ready

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The good, the bad, the ugly

The good:
  • Consulting recruiting is hardcore. Mckinsey, Bain, BCG, Booz, AT Kearney etc etc have a very strong persence on campus.
  • Students are hardcore
  • Social scene seems to be good, however, there are cliques galore..
The bad:
  • 10 months is short especially if you're not the quantitative types. Highly recommend January intake over September, especially now.
The ugly:
  • It's easy to get sucked in by academics. Time management and prioritization is crucial. If one cannot master this art, then you can be left out of several loops.
I'd have to say that the September intake is ideal for folks with 5+ years experience.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Accidental choices

1. Staying close to campus if you're poor is a very smart thing to do.
2. Having your CV ready before you come to campus would be brilliant.
3. Actually doing the pre-reading is worthwhile. Accounting at the very least.
4. Getting done with the language requirement is priceless.

I did 2 out of 4 and found some mileage out of it.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The first few days

Made it here and trying to survive on a budget (introduced by several constraints). After a few weeks, I believe that it's quite reasonable to survive here on about 800 euros a month. Ofcourse, you won't live in a chateau, you won't drive to school nor will you get to head to Paris every weekend to watch Coldplay, but you can get by.

The specific break down for me has been

Rent = 510
Electricity = 30
Food = 200
Social = 60
Total = 800.

I've been a little low on social expenses this week mostly because I've been at school all the time reading up. Hopefully, can change that a little bit.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Week 1: Went fine

Lots of stuff going on, but consensus exists: Lots of parties, lots of networking and some very intelligent folks on this campus.

I also got introduced to my classmates
1. An american lady who almost qualified for the US Olympic swimming team
2. A French guy who worked in China and knows everything there is to production.
3. A chinese girl who worked in HR
4. A Chilean brand manager with Proctor and Gamble
5. A Peruvian investment banker.

Pretty insane, but good.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Fontainebleau Survival: Tip #2

Bring them bags. Grocery stores in France charge for plastic bags (which is great, increase the price, I say). This just means that it would be good to carry with you either some plastic bags or some regular bags with which you can do groceries. It makes a lot of sense to get plenty of them.

Fontainebleau Survival: Tip #1

Since I'm getting ready to pack up and get started @ INSEAD, I thought I'll start posting survival tips as soon as I get them. The first one is thanks to a peer of mine (Vivek Peshkar) and is about eletric plugs. Basically, France supports type E plugs.


The most important learning for me atleast: Standardization is friggin hard.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

1 in 5 ding

I think I need to get to used to getting dinged for 80% of the things I apply to. Resetting expectations reduces so much stress.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Scholarships Update

I got dinged in 4 out of 5. I've been shortlisted for the L'Oreal Scholarship (http://www.insead.edu/mba/schlmgmt/index.cfm?fuseaction=dsp_list_schl). There are 3 other finalists besides myself. The final round will be conducted during the orientation week.

The objective is to share with a committee of INSEAD & L'Oreal representatives your professional objectives and be prepared to answer their questions for 10-15 minutes.

While I'm excited about getting a step closer to some scholarship, I'm properly educated on how INSEAD designs everything to be so competitive. All the finalists duke it out right there and then. And the results are announced at the end of that session.

And in stake, 'Partial Tuition'! Now, I just need to demonstrate to the committee that I'm creative and have a clear vision of my professional goals.

Exciting times.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Scholarship decisions

I got dinged for 1 scholarship - Sasakawa something. Basically, I was asked to describe a situation where I demonstrated leadership in a culturally conflicting situation. I got dinged - thought I put in a valiant situation. The challenge is there's always that someone to upstage you no matter what you put in.

4 more to go.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Lehman Brothers pre-MBA internship

INSEAD July 2009 students can take advantage of a pre-MBA internship. It's a really unique concept that Lehman Brothers is piloting @ INSEAD.

For future students enrolling into INSEAD, it might be useful to view http://www.insead.edu/mba/careers/FinanceTraining.cfm, to get more information on INSEAD's finance stream.

Although I applied for this internship, I am not even 20% sure if Finance is the right stream for me. I aspire to become an entrepreneur and it's useful for me to understand how money is raised. I therefore value this internship.

One nice thing about this offer is the quick turnaround - within a few days the interviews would start.

INSEAD & Student Loans

Really getting squeezed dry for financial aid. Here's my list of candidates
1. Prodigy Finance - credit crunch has squeezed them dry.
2. Sallie Mae - needs US cosigner. Interest rates are pegged of the LIBOR..
3. Wachovia Bank - loans suspended until May 19th (new notice after that)
4. IEFC - suspended indefinitely
5. HSBC, Bank of America - on hold
6. BNP Paribas/BRED - 2 to 3% but they require a French Citizen to cosign. I don't know any French citizen's
7. PARAS - they charge $500 in the form of fees which are positioned with all random terms (processing fees, communication fees etc.)

Monday, April 21, 2008

Student Loans

I'm Male, Indian, Engineer and living in the US. The three options I'm looking at are

1. IEFC - needs a US citizen or permanent resident as cosigner.
2. BNP Paribas - 3% loan, attractive terms, but require a French citizen or international bank to guarantee the loan.
3. BRED - 2.35% loan, attractive terms, but have some constraints at #2.

Why would any bank in it's sane state of mind guarantee a bank loan. Why take all the risk for absolutely no gain? I guess a bank could guarantee a loan at some rate, but then the interest rates become less attractive.

I remain concerned about my ability to fund an INSEAD education. I'm praying for a scholarship :-(

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Scholarship deadline

This is scholarship deadline week for quite a few folks. April 18th. The strategies should be the same - target scholarships that not too many people can qualify for. As a Male, Indian, Engineer with no major life altering tragedies, I could only apply to the common scholarships

1. Eli Lilly - Innovation - Everyone things that they've changed the world.
2. Need Based - Yep, I need it, but I'm sure there are people who need it much more than me.
3. Syngenta - I don't know squat about sustained agriculture
4. Sasakawa - I do have plans to change my home country, but so do million others
5. There was one more I applied to, but I forget..

I've never really 'won' anything major in my life. I've been on scholarships and fellowships throughout my life, but non relied on essays - It's always been quantitative. I've written compelling essays, so I'm hopeful of nailing atlteast one.

I cool thing I learnt from Zanat0S' blog is that the scholarship committee is the same for all essays so it might make sense to write something unique for each essay and not blindly cut paste stuff.

Another 2 days to go for the deadline, so I'll proof-read my essays and make sure everything's lined up correctly.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

INSEAD, Fontainebleau

To do

1. Plan resignation from work - June 31st is the tentative date. I'm so going to miss the paycheck :-(
2. Figure out leasing situation for current apartment. Lease expires on May 15th... What am I going to do from May to June 31st
3. How to pay for INSEAD? Loans? Scholarships? Grrr..
4. French Visa... More paperwork...Sigh
5. Housing in Fontainbleau.. I hear its a pain in the ass..

I'm getting a mild headache :-(

Monday, March 17, 2008

INSEAD deposit

Put down the deposit for INSEAD. Thanks to a surging Euro and a plunging dollar, my deposit felt very expensive.

I'd like to recover the ISB deposit, but I don't see any good reason that I can offer the ISB AdCom. I actually feel quite lousy about doing this but if there's someone on the ISB WaitList who benefits from this, then that's great.

I think I'll gracefully withdraw from ISB and forfeit my deposit! Sucks!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Application Veil

I'm beginning to think that the entire application process comes down to the following question:

"How well can INSEAD market you to the companies that hire from them?"

The reason this question is important is that INSEAD is a business whose customers are companies (pay for research, collaborate with professors on projects, pay for recruiting) and students (pay tuitition). Now, how can you have a marketable application/profile/resume

  • Big Brands on resume - Worked at IBM, Intel, Mckinsey, Microsoft, Google, Nike, Disney etc. If you've worked for them before then you've got something going on.
  • Big Brands in education - Degree from Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Princeton, IIT, etc. etc.
  • Big numbers - 4.0 GPA, Summa cum laude, distinctions, 760+ GMAT (I have 720 and I think that's a commodity score)
  • Personality & Communication - That's what the interviews are for. Can the school put you in front of these companies and get you hired by them?

And the essay's and such are fine - you need to show them you're connected and influential. I think someone who is strong in the above criteria has to work much less harder to get an admit anywhere..

Ofcourse, I could be completely wrong since all this is pure speculation...

Extracurriculars & INSEAD

I've always felt a little intimidated by the extracurricular activities of others. How the hell do folks pack so much stuff in 25 years of their lives?

  • President of fraternity
  • Runs a large open source project
  • Olympic athlete
  • Raised $500, 000 for some charity
  • etc. etc.

I don't have anything great like this going on but I still got an admit from INSEAD. The truth is that my only real passions outside of work are travelling and heading to the gym. I have only one great achievement in my activities - I lost a crap load of weight since I started taking a keen interest in working out. And that's what I wrote....

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Essay Tips for INSEAD Jan 2009 intake

I just finished proof reading an essay for a friend of mine who is applying to January 2009 intake. I found his essay really good but lacked a few simple aspects that I felt helped my app get accepted

1. As the Stanford Dean says, "Doing simple things incredibly well" is what's important. You don't have to overcome abject poverty or come up with that life altering idea. If you've done something simple such as, "Organized a small function for your apartment community", "organized your brother's wedding", "tutored your cousin's on a regular basis", then these are all quotable stories. The nice thing about them is that the reader can relate to it and more importantly its believable.

2. You don't have the marketing skills (and this is for my fellow engineers), but you must make reading fun and exciting. It's like that GEICO commercial where the professional actor does the voice-over for regular folk such as us. Some tips for making your essays catchy

  • Stay away from flashy/domain specific jargon.
  • Show that you're a team-player/socialite/well networked person. B-schools love that kinda stuff. Ofcourse don't lie if you don't know anyone..
  • Write well. This is obvious but sound professional. It might be wortwhile getting someone to review your essay if you lack the skillz.

3. Consistency. Make sure your story is consistent across Essays, Reccos & Interviews. I cannot emphasize this more. You must have a conversation with your Recommenders and tell them what characteristics you expect of a recommendation. Be explicit about it.. For realz!

And finally, If you attend a information session, try to network with the professor (if they have one doing a sample class) and ask him/her if he/she would be willing to review your essays. You'll be surprised at how cool & willing INSEAD professors are.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fonty or SGP?

I've been thinking about which campus to start at. It was a really hard decision, but I've decided to stick with starting at Fonty. I had some personal constraints that required me to be in Asia as much as possible, but having done some research, I think I'll start with Fonty and evaluate the situation as it unfolds. My reasons

1. I have enough Asia experience. Really don't need it.
2. Fonty is more expensive, but I can live in a dump, cut my expenses, whatever's needed
3. Seems like the French Village + Chateau Parties + Crappy Weather defines the INSEAD experience... so why miss that?
4. P4 must be spent in Fonty. Recruiting is much stronger on the Fonty campus (I have a friend who does recruiting from a big consulting company and mentioned this as key differentiator).
5. Being of Asian origin, I can expand my network and career choices into Europe. I should be secure with Asian recruiting (so I think atleast).
6. If I'm wrong I can always switch to the SGP campus. Switching to SGP in P3 is supposedly hard. Taking a chance here - hopefully it will pay off.
7. If one wants to be in the European job-market than Fonty experience is must. I want to work in Asia but unlike others I don't really need the SGP stint to establish my Asia prescense.

I'm sure anyone who reads this needs to evaluate their own priorities against ground reality. The cons of Fonty are
1. More expensive than SGP. (living costs atleast)
2. Public commute supposely sucks
3. Crappy weather in P3/mid-P4.
4. Not enough exotic vacationing (e.g. Thailand, Malaysia and all those other warm places).

Would love to hear other readers analysis.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Doing the math

So what's INSEAD going to cost me?

50,000 Euros tuition, 20,000 Euros Living Expenses, 5,000 Miscellaneous buffer expenses. Thanks to the spiking Euro (I wonder if someone's tweaking this stuff solely to get more money from Microsoft - http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/28/technology/28soft.html?ref=business).

Now that translates to 75,000 Euros which is roughly 111487.5 USD. That's quite steep and with significant amount of money locked into the US Stock market, I'm quite stressed out on how to plan for this much money.

Thinking of loans, scholarships and possibly someone to sponsor my MBA. Need to get creative here before I can officially accept the INSEAD offer.

No news from Stanford yet - It would be really awesome if they acted on this fast, so that I could put down a deposit. Grrrr.....

Monday, February 25, 2008


I got an admit to the July 2009 INSEAD class starting at Fonty. I got notified via email unlike the 'typical' phone call. I didn't particularly enjoy INSEAD's phased admission notification process as the anxiety wore me and my wife out. I have to say, I nagged the living hell out of her.

So, I feel great. But daunted about having to make a payment/decision by March 21st. I have an ISB admit and am waiting for news from Stanford. I need to think through the pros & cons of ISB & INSEAD. That & funding options (I'm researching this topic pretty heavily) would be the topic of my next post.

Friday, February 22, 2008

No news is bad news?

The forum's are abuzz with admits and Waiting List notifications. Still nothing from my side. I don't understand why universities stage their notification process. Why not just send out all results on 2/29? I could think of a few reasons

1. Outstanding candidate who needs to be reached first before any other school.
2. Personalization - the ability to call up all students and personally notify them of their admit
3. Adhoc - we have the result, why not do it.

In any case, I'm still optimistic.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The wait conundrum

Although INSEAD announces it's outcome only on Feb 29th, I'm already quite confident of securing an admit. I strongly desire the Singapore campus and I believe there's lesser demand for that, so I might be all set in a week. So the next thing that I need to research is finance. I've got a couple of constraints

1. I got an admit with the ISB (Indian School of Business) and put down 5,000 big ones. I feel stupid about having applied to ISB R1. But then, it took a while for me to realize that I wanted to apply to my other 2 schools viz. INSEAD and Stanford. I am wondering whether I could recoup my 5 G's in any way. Will send an email to ISB adcom once I get my INSEAD admit.
2. I am yet to hear from Stanford. Interviews have started going out, but I haven't heard anything yet.
3. Finally, regardless of which school I pick, I will need to grab a loan. I have some savings that are locked up in stocks thanks to the dramatic downturn of the US Stock market. Serves me right for my blind faith in the US economy. ISB loan's are pretty easy - in fact people are desperate to hand me money. On the other hand, INSEAD funding seems a mess. I need to research some options. That will be the topic of my next post.

I really like what Stanford's doing about their tuition: Read Here. The middle class really needs a break. It feels like we're being pushed repeatedly out of affordability.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Waiting on INSEAD. Several candidates are reporting admit's on the business week forum. So it sounds like the process has started rolling along. Excellent.

On to 2/29 now.

Interview #2

I had my second interview with the CFO of a Venture Cap firm in Seattle. The interview was a little bit more formal, but essentially boiled down to the same questions

1. Walk me through your resume
2. Why do you want to become an entrepreneur?
3. What do you think is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
4. When did you first learn about INSEAD?
5. What do you do outside of work?

I got a lot of great tips from the alum on career options after INSEAD, the life on campus and the benefits of the INSEAD alum. I was impressed with how thoroughly he had read my resume and my essays - He had taken down detailed notes. He said he would positively recommend me.

Now on to Feb 29th for the actual results.

Friday, February 8, 2008

INSEAD Interview #1

Just got done with my first interview. It lined up very much with what others had to say about their experiences. The interview was casual and conversation-like. Here were the questions asked:

1. Tell me about yourself. Walk me through your resume.
2. Give me a few examples that demonstrate your strengths & weaknesses.
3. Why INSEAD? Why not American schools (I'm in the US)? Why not Indian Schools (I had mentioned that I want to pursue an entrepreneurial career)?
4. Why MBA? I was surprised this came after #3, but perhaps I botched #3.
5. What do you want to do right after your MBA?
6. Which campus - Singapore or Fonte? And why? I said both :-)
7. Any questions?

The interviewer indicated that he would positively recommend me. Throughout the interview, I was focussed on the storyline of my essay's and did not back away from it. My second interview is scheduled for today.

INSEAD Essay's

I believe that the overall purpose of the Essay is to provide a qualitative view to your resume. You were the president of your student's association (resume), great, but what did you do to become president, what did you do after you became president (essay's). I feel the essays are a great opportunity to give 'stories' & 'anecdotes' supporting your overall theme & resume.

I was watching this program on TV called, "On the Lot". It's a reality show where amateur directors create small movies based on theme's. One of the director's mentioned that this success stemmed from his ability to lay down real simple story lines and then weave complex 'episodes' around them. I think an MBA app is very similar. Here are some example 'elevator pitches' for storylines (very relevant to an Entrepreneurial track)

"Highly accomplished individual seeking to build an enterprise on his own"
"Global exposure at an early age, seeking professional freedom"

Now, the next step is to take this mantra and write down all 'stages' of your life and see how they align. Here's what I did

Childhood (birth -> Grade X)
Grade X - Grade XII
Grad School
Professional experience
ExtraCurrics across the board.

Now, write down accomplishments in each of the above stages. It can be very rough

1. Played Soccer for school team
2. Was member of TIE

Once you've got a huge laundry list, walk down through each item and decide which one's support your theme and which one's don't. This remaining list can serve as the foundation for all your remaining essays.

I found this approach very useful. Perhaps it helps others.

Current Status

I've applied in R2 for INSEAD September 2008 intake. I got preselected for the interview and got scheduled with 2 Alumni in the Seattle area. I'm done with 1 interview, waiting for another to get completed.

My Profile

Before I start posting about essay, interview tips and such, I thought I'd provide some specifics about my profile to put this entire blog in better perspective

Male, 29 (and aging :-), Indian
5 years work experience with 2 years in graduate school (Master's in Computer Science)
Software Development with a big-ass software company in Seattle, WA
GMAT 720, 6.0 AWA
Good academics & good extra-curricular activities.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

September Versus January intake

The main difference between September and January intake is the lack of internship-time in the former. Based on the profiles posted on several forums, the September intake represents a student population with much higher work experience.

For me, the September batch is a great fit as I have about 5 years experience and want a quick intense crash course in business skills. However, I do realize that I'm closing my doors on potential career changes.


I'm in the process of applying to the INSEAD September 2008 intake and want to use this blog as a way to payback the blogosphere for all the rich advice I had gotten. Overall, I found the amount of information about INSEAD and it's application process to be fairly light from a student perspective.

I hope someone finds my learnings useful.