Random admissions advice

I may have spoken to over 50+ Said applicants /admits over the course of my year, through various channels. I’ve been assigned as mentor to two incoming students. A few classmates and I volunteered to do a Q&A panel with new admits at the Experience Weekends and I also got involved with the admissions office this April to hold a meet up with incoming students at Bangalore when I was in India for our career trek. My classmates and I have been asked nearly the same queries every time, and having been in the same position a year back, the anticipation is understandable and expected.

For the benefit of others who may still are probably still seeking out advice, I am posting a few things which have been most commonly asked and a few more thrown in from the back of my head. Feel free to write in the comments or reach out to me over Facebook / LinkedIn / Email if you need help with anything specific:

  • College selection: Every admit gets a college, sooner or later. Do not sweat if you are rejected from the college of your first choice. I am told this year the procedure is a bit different from last time. My batchmates were approached for their next preference, with suggestions on which colleges had spots for MBAs still left. This year upon rejection from first preferred college, the University puts you in a common pool and assigns you a college on their own. I cannot think of a reason for this change, apart from making the process tad easier for them operationally. However, be assured that once you are admitted to the B School, there is no way you will not end up in one of the colleges.
  • Which college to go for: While colleges make up for an important part of the Oxford experience, in my personal view choosing a college is not as much a crucial factor as it is for the undergrads. For an MBA the involvement with their college varies individually and thus their motivation for choosing their college. While a few may have showed up at their college only for matriculation formalities, there are many in my batch who are part of their college rowing teams or their college MCR ( Middle Common Room, for the postgrads ) committee. For the rest of us colleges are a great way to interact with the wider Oxford community and get involved socially through formal dinners, bops, guest lectures etc.

Unless there is something absolutely specific you want out of your college, you cannot go wrong with your choice. If you fancy a Harry Potter / Tolkein -ish experience, choose one of the older colleges – Christ Church, Merton, Exeter, New College etc. GTC and St Hugh’s accept the maximum MBAs (120+ combined), while Regents Park has two MBAs this year. Go for Brasenose / St. Peters / Worchester or the like if you prefer a college closer to  the B School or GTC which has an off site accommodation ( RAC ) right across the school. I chose GTC as I wanted to stay at RAC, and I go to the college about once or twice a week for my Yoga classes, for formal dinners and to use their library. If you are still looking to make up your mind, have a look at this document , and this more from an undergrad pov.

  • Books: At the beginning of each term, the professor of each subject uploads the reading list on the Weblearn portal. There are recommended books in addition to the cases and papers that one needs to pre-read in preparation for a class (mandatory for CPA subjects but recommended to read nevertheless to benefit from the class discussions). Not all students end up buying or studying from the books and manage with course slides and notes or refer books in the libraries. However, towards the exam time it gets increasingly difficult to find a free book in the shelves. My college GTC’s library is well stocked up with management books and lends for three weeks ( Sainsbury library in the school lends for two days ). I had bought a few core books and used them occasionally over the year and for my assignments. Happy to sell them to an incoming student for a discount. Feel free to contact me if interested.
  • Private accommodation: Good time to start looking is towards later half of June / beginning of July. It is suggested to try and take a private tour of the place before signing the lease, or ask someone to do it on your behalf. Some times the accommodation turns out different from what is expected / appears in the pictures and description. Your college should help you in securing a letter for tax exemption from the council. For incoming batch of 2016/17 – make use of the Google doc prepared by my batch and reach out to people already living in private accommodations for specific advice.
  • No, we don’t wear formals to classes every day. Only during the first few days of the Launch to feel business-y enough upon arrival. And on days when there is a company presentation right after class. And then of course, certain days when we find ourselves up for some #ItsAnOxfordThing experience and decide to dress up fancy to the class with prosecco thrown in for everyone.
  • If you are targeting Banking or Management Consulting jobs, be prepared to apply soon after arriving here as their recruitment cycles are usually quite early on in the year. It is good to have a Plan B in case you do not make the cut. For your own good, have an idea of what do you want to do with your life and how do you plan to use your time here to achieve that. It is fine if you are clueless yet, a lot of students figure out their calling over the year or even change their post MBA plans they had initially made for themselves. Make good use of the time here to look within and understand what do you really want to do.
  • For the Indians – there are plenty of Indian restaurants with decent Indian food ( for better food go to London / Wembley / Southall ) and stores with Indian groceries. Nearly every thing is available in Oxford. Tell your moms to not panic. Perhaps carry a pressure cooker if you will. But really, do not come to Oxford only to look for Indian food all the time, defeats the purpose of immersing yourself in an international experience. Else befriend the guy from Currydoor and Dosa Park opposite SBS. Or better learn how to cook.
  • MBATs are fun. A lot of fun. Try not to miss.

I’ll write more soon. For now, I am off to bed before it dawns upon me that fourth last week of my MBA course is barely 6 hours away. Yikes.




HT: Week 1 and 2

Hilary Term has only started and we can feel the heat already here at Said Business School. The two weeks have been packed with activities and submissions, giving a peek into what will follow for the next 10 weeks.

Week 1 kick started with an introductory lecture on Entrepreneurship at Nelson Mandela Lecture Hall. Professor Hellman ‘s lectures and sessions delightful to attend and this one was a good antidote of sort for us still hungover from post exam holiday. We were introduced to frameworks and tools that assist in devising an effective business plan and inculcate an entrepreneurial mindset.

As part of Hilary Term course we are required to do an Entrepreneurship Project (EP) in a group where we work on a business idea and prepare a complete business plan and market strategy. The plan will be pitched to a panel of venture capitalists and industry experts invited from outside the school towards the end of the term. My groupmates and I are excited about our idea and on our first round of presentations we received encouraging response from Oxford based startup incubator that offered to support us should we plan to pursue our idea later on! Many groups in the past have gone ahead with their EP and have started their own ventures, and while our primary objective from this project is to learn and assimilate the nuances of entrepreneurship, we are open to the idea of our project materialising to something more concrete in future.

On Monday we also had an award ceremony to acknowledge and celebrate top GOTO projects. Global Opportunities and Threats: Oxford (GOTO) is an integrated module in our course where students work on complex global challenges being faced today and how we as business students can help address them. My group focused on the water draught problem in California and the impact it had on the almond farming in the region, which during the course of our project we unearthed was made far more complex due to various politico-economic factors and players in the entire ecosystem. I was delighted to find out that our project was recognised in the Top 10, for which we were awarded certificates of appreciation in the ceremony!

Week 1 and 2 also ascertained why I am grateful for being here – for having the opportunity to meet and interact with wonderful people from various backgrounds. Last Wednesday I attended a session on Self-Care and Leadership by Dr. Kurt April, where he talked about managing stress and maintaining a healthy mental and physical lifestyle which one tends to sideline in one’s daily race to always being on the top of things. I find these sessions extremely helpful during the MBA when one is inundated with multiple tasks and it is not unusual to often feel stressed out and overwhelmed. I also went for two formal dinners in each week, one at my own college GTC where I invited a classmate whom I had not spoken with much last term. We both were planning since last term to hang out for and finally took to the formal dinner for spending some good time. The other was with a good friend from the batch at Keble College and a mathematics DPhil scholar, also a third generation Indian. Interesting conversations ensued on politics, religion, Indian diaspora and philosophy.


Keble College was established in 1870, originally constituted only for men until 1979 when it opened doors for women. The college’s distinctive red-bricked Neo-Gothic architecture is much talked about still, with the background story that its architect William Butterfield was heavily criticised for the presumably ‘ugly’ campus and non adherence to Oxford traditions. Hard to believe that a campus this magnificent was held controversial! Also a little note for the benefit of those interested- Keble dinner hall holds formal dinners all week long, while at my college GTC it is only twice a week which makes it comparatively harder to secure a reservation.

Week 2 came full force with lectures including 2 new electives, assignments, presentations and job interviews packed throughout the schedule. The two electives I chose for this term are Corporate Valuation and Strategy & Innovation. Both the courses, albeit demanding, are challenging and have excellent faculty teaching us. S&I had us reading 100+ pages and submitting our first assignment even before the first class, which was on how technologies emerge and evolve with growing markets. I am excited about this course and hope to keep pace with the extensive reading involved. The reason for taking Corporate Valuation was to get a deeper dive into Finance that I am rather petrified of. I hope that by the end of this term, I will be at a pedestal where I don’t dork around whenever drops the F bombs in conversations.

That’s all for now, I hope to write on this blog as and when I am able to steal some rare ‘me time’. Also I have been receiving a lot of requests from prospective applicants and new admits to write more on the admissions process, which I will cover in coming week. Off to a conference now at Pembroke College on Women in Boardroom and diversity at workplace!

New year, new term

Michaelmas term officially got over on the 18th, by when a lot of classmates had already taken off for their christmas vacation. I too headed off to Edinburgh for a few days before Christmas with a small group of batchmates. We had an exciting time exploring the city and the highlands, and decided to visit again over the year when the temperature is more friendly. Needless to say, it was a much needed break for me – I used this opportunity to switch off, reflect on what the past three months meant to me and what I hoped to expect from the coming year.

After ringing in the new year from various corners of the world (mine was relatively quieter with brother at London), the batch started pouring back into Oxford for the revision week. We were done with Analytics exam in MT Week 9, but Business Finance and Technology- Operations exams were due for HT Week 0. Still hungover from the vacation, it was a challenge to get around Cash Flows, Asset Pricing, Process optimizations, 3Ms and what not. I decided to study in a small group – locked in a room in the school – where we split topic among ourselves and brainstormed together on concepts and past exam papers. This strategy personally worked well for me as there was a lot to learn from each other’s experiences and also ensured none of us slacked off with our pace.

We all braved our way through the two exams – dressed in the traditional subfusc, pink carnations this time for luck, wading our way through in swarms to the examination halls. I am pretty satisfied with my performance, although in hindsight I feel I could have put more effort in Operations theory (was dreading Finance and spent most of my time on it).

On Friday, there Experience Weekend at Said for students with an admission offer for next batch. I along with 4 others from my batch got an opportunity to interact and share our experience with the offer holders, followed with one on one conversations in an informal setting. We were happy to talk to them about our experience and hopefully helped address most of their apprehensions about life after joining the program. I did not get to attend the Experience Weekend during my admission process due to work commitments, but I would highly encourage applicants to avail this opportunity to learn more about theschool and their people. Getting an MBA and choosing the school that is the right fit for one’s expectations from an MBA is a crucial decision, open days as these give a great chance to help make that informed selection.

HT Week 0 concluded with a formal dinner at Exeter College, with the dean, some members of the faculty and advisory along with potential incoming students and more batchmates. Formal dinners are an intrinsic part of the Oxford culture wherein members of the University dress up for attending dinner in a hall and masters cloaked in robes say grace (with an exception of few ‘non-religious colelges’) at the high table and others follow suit prior to eating. Dinners are great way to socialise outside of the business school and with the wider university community, something that makes studying at Oxford a unique experience.

A brief about Exeter – close to 800 years old, this is the fourth oldest college in the University and was an all-males institution until 1979. The college has one of the most beautifully designed chapel and also boasts of some of the most celebrated alumni, including the author J.R.R Tolkein and also J.K. Rowling as the honorary fellow. Each college is unique in its own way and has a distinct characteristic to it. The more I learn about these places, I feel priviledged and humbled to be walking down the same alleys that have centuries of history and grandeur to them.

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It’s late in the night and I should end my post here. The weather forecast hints at the possibility of mild snowfall tonight, I am excited!