Of the handful of top business schools in the country, ISB leads the way with its uniquely 21st-century curriculum and outstanding faculty. What it lacks in age, it makes up for in rigour and opportunity. Another distinct factor of the school is that it has the least standardised application process. While other sought-after schools like the IIMs, and XLRIs of the world base a large part of their screening process on standardised test scores like the CAT, ISBs application process is more holistic in that it considers your work experience and overall profile along with a GMAT/ GRE score. ISB also offers a deferred application programme called the Young Leaders Program, or YLP, which allows you to apply to the school while still in your undergraduate course and join after completing ~2 years of work.
I applied to the YLP in March 2019, while in my final year of college. The first round was very general — it covered my academic credentials, hobbies, extra-curricular achievements and an essay. The second round required a standardised test score (I gave the GRE) as well as a reference letter and an additional essay. The third and final round was a personal interview, which I gave in October 2019 on ISB’s beautiful Hyderabad campus. While I was initially irked by the prospect of travelling to Hyderabad for a single day (I had spent the past 2 months living out of a suitcase and airline food), in retrospect it was fantastic — visiting ISB’s campus was wonderful!
My interview was bright and early on a Saturday morning, and I was sat in the waiting room with a few other applicants. The interview itself was far shorter than I had anticipated, lasting less than 20 minutes which, from my conversations with other applicants and from research on Quora, was below-average. The interviewers themselves were not analogous to my candidature— they were both from technical backgrounds working at large MNCs, while I was the diametric opposite.
The interview began with a brief introduction from their end, followed by a quick “tell us about yourself”. I described my role and how I worked on an enterprise SaaS product for a fashion-tech company, which prompted immediate questioning regarding my day-to-day involvement with the product, along with questions around the overall structure of the company. I took this opportunity to slide in a few points I thought would help me stand out from the rest of the applicants (cross-functional work, exposure to several markets and working across different countries), which were well-received by the panel. They went on to ask me a couple of questions regarding the marketing funnel for our product, and how I can optimise the same. They appreciated the brevity and structure in my responses.
Following this, I was asked the staple “Why ISB?” question, to which I spoke about the diversity of the cohort, calibre of the faculty and fantastic post-ISB opportunities. Fairly standard question, fairly standard answer. Post this, there was a slight lull in the conversation as the interviewers vigorously glanced through my application. I had written about the bass guitar in my application, at which they chuckled and made a small joke, but to my surprise, that was it. They then conferred with each other, asked me if I had any questions (I didn’t at the time — although in retrospect there were a lot of things I wish I had asked them!) and walked me out of the room.
It was a simple, straightforward interview. My primary takeaways were that they were very interviewee driven — you had the power to dictate the flow of the conversation. The only agenda of the interviewer was to enable me to talk about things I feel passionately about, and understand how I can bring value to ISB, and how ISB can bring value to me. Another thing I noticed was that the conversation was very positive and light-hearted — no unexpected, random pressure-test type questions (I’m looking at you, IIMs) and no “stress interview” environment. The panel ensured that I was always at ease and able to freely express myself. I did my best to radiate that same energy back, and I believe that the overall light-heartedness of the conversation worked in my favour.
I was fortunate enough to have been selected for the program (I found out in late October), and I currently have an offer to join the ISB Class of ’21! In January 2020 (ah, those wonderful pre-COVID days), I had the privilege of meeting my cohort on a “Learning Weekend” at the Hyderabad campus. The two days were filled with a lot of “out of the classroom learning”, and gave us insight into the life of an ISB student — a lot more fun than I had imagined! Anyway, that’s another post for another time. Hope this helps!
Note: Do speak to others who have received an offer via the YLP route, as well as alumni of ISB to get a sense of what life at ISB is like. While ISBs course offers fantastic opportunities, ensuring B-school-student fit is super important.