If you’re an international prospective MBA student, you will find this blog quite valuable.

I graduated from Smeal College of Business, Penn State University in 2013. My journey to earn an MBA from a reputed MBA school in the US began in 2007. I had no clue where to start because I did not know anyone trying to pursue an MBA from a foreign destination. I was on my own.

However, I was quite determined to make it happen for myself. When I started my research, I encountered people, mainly consultants, who gave me advice – some gave me hope, and some terrified me with the fee structure & lodging expenses an MBA education from the US might entail. I had empty pockets, literally, and, to make my MBA dreams come true, I had to think creatively and differently.

It took me a couple of years, from 2007 (the year I graduated from Engineering College) to 2011, to find the right MBA School. I attribute my success to cultivating the right thought process while learning the nuances of MBA admissions for a prospective international student.

Penn State recognized my motivation and the need to pursue an MBA, and found me a good fit. Penn State has been quite instrumental in making my MBA and US dreams come true and in transforming me into the person I am today. I was not only offered admission to the program but also awarded the merit-based scholarship which meant so much to me at that time.

As a result of my personal success, I wanted to connect with a wider body of students to share my lessons learned, experience, and accomplishments, which could help fellow prospective students achieve their goals. It’s so easy to lose sight of your goals and give up when you do not have any guidance or a plan. Fortunately, I have had the opportunity to receive mentorship and people cheerleading me all the way to MBA admission success.

Within three years on the job after earning my MBA, I thought of setting some time aside to write the eBook from GMAT to MBA to provide insight into the process from the lens of an international student.

So what’s about the eBook? The book is written from a firsthand experience and not from theoretical or academic fluff.

It will SAVE YOU:

  • Many hours from getting lost on your journey from GMAT to MBA – What’s Next?
  • Any misguidance from many novices in this area around you – Be Aware!
  • Spending $$$ on hiring consultants to do the job when it should be you doing for yourself – Why?

Take a glimpse inside the eBook:

  • My wake up call for international student: Don’t let the competition crush you
  • What makes MBA admissions process in the US different: Nuances students are unaware of
  • Know what admissions officers are looking for: Why & How you should position yourself
  • Tackle the rigors of MBA admissions being away in your home country: Self-evaluate your profile
  • My experience on GMAT: Secret sauce to 740

You can get a copy of my eBook from GMAT to MBA from Amazon.com or the regional online Amazon store in your country. Please leave a review if you will on Amazon for my work. I would love to hear from you.

You can also connect with me via LinkedIn.

I wish you all the best with MBA admissions. See you on the other side.

*The expressed opinions, informational content and links displayed in this blog do not necessarily reflect a position or policy of The Pennsylvania State University, the Smeal College of Business, or its affiliates. No official endorsement by The Pennsylvania State University of the viewpoints expressed in this blog or product should be inferred.

comcastintractivThe Interactive Launch Competition was a television-media marketing case competition that had teams analyzing new and evolving technologies specifically for the TV/broadcast market. Each team was assigned a sponsor company and a product they were currently developing and tasked with recommending actions that could be taken to improve the product roll-out, or create a new product altogether. Our assigned mentor company was The Weather Channel, specifically being tasked to roll-out a new Over The Top Application they have called Local Now. Each of the competing teams had different products to take action on, which eventually ended up hurting us since we had a specific product and the other teams had the option to invent a product.

Our team was made up of both first and second year MBA’s and it was an excellent chance to display our marketing knowledge and recommendations as well as our presentation skills we learn from Andy and Nancy in our Communications class. It is always impressive to see the stark difference between a Smeal MBA presentation and every other school’s presentations. We came out tying for 3rd place in the competition and recommend that all future Smeal MBA’s interested in marketing take part in this competition.

A team of second year Smeal MBAs won 1st place at the National MBA Case Competition in Ethical Leadership, competing with business schools across the country. The competition was held on 10-11 November 2016 in Waco, Texas and was the highlight event of the annual Dale P. Jones Business Ethics Forum organized by Baylor University’s Hankamar School of Business.

The team analyzed a social business set in Uganda struggling to manage its people and dealing with issues like theft and embezzlement of company funds. This was a great opportunity for MBAs to learn about the Ugandan and African cultures, about their people and the tremendous role that businesses and social enterprises can play in giving people marketable skills and in uplifting them out of poverty. This was also a lesson about fostering an organizational culture for ethical leadership that exists in a country where the standards of ethical behavior is affected by poverty and corruption. The Smeal team, in addition to using core management and business principles, reflected on how the Smeal Honor Code and events such as Integrity Insights, Donuts and Dilemmas, etc. at Smeal have bolstered a culture of ethical behavior at Smeal.

baylor-competition-photoThe Smeal team included F. Jordan Crespo, Chris Blanchard, Greg Wommer and Zahidul Naim Zakaria. While Penn State took 1st place, MBA teams from Brigham Young University and University of Minnesota took 2nd and 3rd place respectively. Other participating schools included Auburn University, Baylor University, Brigham Young University, Case Western Reserve University, Iowa State University, Pepperdine University, Texas Christian University, University of Miami, University of Notre Dame and University of Washington.


The WMBA held a successful fundraiser to benefit breast cancer on Wednesday, October 26th, 2016.  The coffee buzz had two main goals, one was the increase awareness of breast cancer during breast cancer awareness month, and the second was to raise money.  To increase awareness, both classes were encouraged to wear pink.  During a half hour coffee break, the two classes of MBA students were able to raise $689.67, which is roughly $5 per person in donation.  This is the first year that WMBA has partnered with a breast cancer charity, but it will not be the last since the support for this event was substantial.

The money is going to an organization out of South Central Pennsylvania called Pink Out.  This fund works through the Hanover Hospital by finding women’s cancer patients who are struggling financially.  Instead of putting the money towards treatment, the money helps the patients at home.  Pink Out pays rent and electricity bills to free up funds for medication.  Pink Out pays for childcare and transportation to allow women to make it to their treatments.  Pink Out pays for wigs and special undergarments necessary to allow healing.  Since so many of these women are forced to work less or stop working altogether, having these bills taken care of is a huge help.  The WBMA believes in this cause, and we were very happy to facilitate this charity event and pleased with the outcome.  To learn more about Pink Out visit: http://www.pinkoutinc.org/about.

The Women’s MBA Association (img_8264WMBA) participated in the National Association of Women MBAs (NAWMBA) 2016 Annual Conference and Career Fair, held at the Hilton Hotel in Stamford, Connecticut from October 20-22. The event was devoted to helping women MBAs and women in business graduate programs network and grow professionally.

Second-year MBA students Franziska Schmid, Sasha Alexandra Murr, and Alison Digesere represented Penn State at the event on Saturday, October 21. The five-hour Career Fair was focused on promoting awareness about the many jobs and internship positions looking to hire talented women. Company representatives set up booths to connect with conference goers, allowing both the students and companies an intimate networking opportunity.  “It was a smaller conference, so it allowed more individual attention to candidates,” said Digesere, “It was also a great platform for seminars that focus on women in business and in general.”

Companies such as Johnson & Johnson, Cigna, American Airlines, Amazon, Grainger, Black & Decker, Procter & Gamble, Amadeus, Food Lion, and Infosys attended. Government organizations, including the CIA and U.S. Department of State, were also present.  “It was a great networking event. I became aware of the many leadership development programs and opportunities offered by the companies,” said Murr.  Students could take advantage of panel workshops and free resume reviews offered during the Conference.   Schmid commented, “The conference size made it easy to talk with other business school students. The resume check was also really helpful – everyone was able to get time to have their resume looked over.”

The WMBA at the Penn State Smeal College of Business is an organization that aims to empower women to feel confident and prepared in handling the unique challenges and opportunities within the workforce. Our mission is to develop allies within the male community; participate in professional development events; and build a life-long support network of friends and colleagues. For more information about the WMBA at Penn State, please contact Sasha Alexandra Murr at azm5981@psu.edu.

The Bowersox Graduate Supply Chain Challenge is a simulation competition hosted annually by Michigan State University. Professor David Huff is the advisor in charge of putting together the team for Penn State, and the competition entails being given control of a fictitious company on a computer program and managing it for 13 weeks. Managing entails making decisions about inventory, suppliers, purchase price, sale price, distribution, and yields. There is a graphic interface where you input your team’s decisions and then the simulation runs and outputs your results and you continue acting/reacting to what the “market” gives back.

bowersox-picChad and I were able to practice with an example version of the game the night before and felt prepared the next day at the competition. You have 3 hours to complete 13 weeks of decisions in the actual game round. We were thrown for a curve, however, because the simulation started off by over-allocating us excessive amounts of inventory and then forecasting that we would need even more in the future. We didn’t properly manage the amounts of inventory we were ordering versus consuming in our production and therefore started having excessive supply chain costs due to inventory management and storage. We then tried to burn down as much inventory as possible but it took too long and by the time the inventory was under control, the weeks were nearly all complete. We had a high fulfillment rate, but had too high of COGS, which drove our overall score down.

It was a great experience going through the simulation and taught us a lot about how proactive one should be in time-constrained environments. It also allowed us to benchmark and network with 7 other top-ranked supply chain MBA programs, as well as speak with recruiters from General Motors and John Deere. This is an excellent opportunity to use class learning from demand planning, manufacturing strategy, transportation, and the main supply chain curriculum.

olin-case-comp-photoThe Monsanto-Olin Case Competition (MOCC) was an inter-college graduate case competition organized by Olin and sponsored by Monsanto, a publicly traded agrochemical company. The evening prior to the competition participants were invited to an event at Monsanto’ s headquarters, where they had the opportunity to meet Monsanto employees, engage in presentations, and enjoy a networking happy hour. This case competition was designed for MBA students interested in global supply chain and technology management in the agri-business environment.  Olin faculty and Monsanto executives had put together a live case and were looking for students’ innovative, creative and insightful business solutions.

Over 40 schools were invited to compete in this particular competition, but only five were selected to present their live case.  The final teams included the Penn State Smeal team, Texas Christian University Neeley School of Business, University of Missouri-Columbia Crosby MBA Program, Rollins College Crummer MBA, and the host, Washington University in St. Louis Olin Business School MBA.

As students with a concentration in supply chain, the case was highly valuable since we worked on real issues faced by the company. Doing this case was advantageous for us in two other ways as well – 1) we formed relations with the company and 2) we learned and improved our knowledge and skills from exposure to the field.  The case completion helped us in broadening our business approach, connecting different areas that touch upon business, and improving our presentation skills. It also gave us real experience as management students by providing an opportunity to present directly to C-suite level professors (judges). In addition to the aforementioned advantages, the case completion taught us to collaborate. It is very interesting to see how four people of different backgrounds worked together to give an appeal to the project.

Each year Michigan State has invited the top 15 supply chain programs to participate in its Bowersox Supply Chain Competition (GSCC).  GSCC is simulation-based, where teams have about three hours to come up with a strategy and execute 13 rounds.  Each team is then graded on four items: Revenue, Supply Chain Contribution, Demand Fulfillment and Inventory Turnover.
msu-1st-place-2015This year, the simulation was strategizing the location of a new plant, the product mix, and both the labor and warehousing capacity.   This year eight supply chain programs competed, including Penn State’s Smeal.  The Smeal MBA team was made up of two first-year’s, Jordan Crespo and Chad Darlington, and one second-year, Skylar Haws.  The team scored third on Revenue, first on Supply Chain Contribution, fifth on Demand Fulfillment, and second on Inventory Turnover.  Overall, Penn State won the competition, with Wisconsin second and Michigan State winning the tie-breaker over Carnegie Mellon for third.  It was a great competition; so great, and we even made it into Penn State news. Penn State Smeal team wins Bowersox Graduate Supply Chain Challenge.

My first year of MBA was over in a flash, and I am going to talk about some of my experiences at Penn State. I reached Happy Valley with a lot of aspirations and dreams, and, of course, also with some uncertainty lingering in the back of my mind. Every aspect of the experience, including people, weather, food and language, was different from what I was used to. Surprisingly, I did not struggle much to adapt to the new world around me. The Smeal MBA community and the pleasant culture of Happy Valley helped me to make an easy transition. The MBA program started with 2 weeks of orientation during which I met a lot of extraordinary people who have had a big influence in my life thus far. It was packed with activities and also focused on career development.

Then, Mod 1 began, and the pace started picking up. Soon I was immersed in assignments, quizzes and teamwork. There were so many things to do that I do not even remember all of them! One of the aspects which I like about the program is the teamwork involved in it. I had the opportunity to work with a very diverse team. It was interesting to get different perspectives on the same problem from people with diverse backgrounds.

Career fairs started almost as soon as classes did. The career services team gave us enough opportunities to sharpen our skills so we were able to shine in interviews. Being an international student, the career fairs were a great way to learn about companies and to practice my interview skills.

At Smeal, there are a lot of student run organizations and students get to hone their leadership skills by being a part of clubs. Penn State is so diverse and full of opportunities that at any point in time, there will be many events happening simultaneously. It is important for one to stay focused on his or her goals or they can be easily carried away by all the wonderful things happening on campus.

Since I am interested in dancing, I cherished the the Diwali celebration which was filled with cultural entertainment and festivities. Tailgates at football games were new to me, and they were such joyous events which brought the people together and showed the spirit of Penn State. I sailed through Mod 1 and Mod 2, and I was also able to secure an internship which made life so much easier. I should definitely take a moment to thank not only my career services team and my peers, but also the second years who were instrumental in helping me get my internship. It’s yet another example of the collaborative culture at Smeal.

I visited Prague for my Global Immersion experience. It was refreshing to learn about a different culture, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. My first year of MBA was over in so quickly, and I am now gearing up for my internship. The past nine months have been challenging, and the learning has been tremendous.  After finishing my internship successfully, I look forward to continuing my MBA journey to see what the next year holds for me!

-Srimaan Gurusamy, Penn State Smeal MBA ’17

Iowa Case Competition SP16The University of Iowa Business Analytics Case Competition was an exciting opportunity to evaluate an extensive amount of data utilizing many of the tools we were learning in statistics. UnityPoint Health was the main sponsor of the event, along with a few other local and global companies located in Iowa City, Iowa. UnityPoint provided anonymized patient data from nearly 13,000 recent hospital visits and asked the competition teams to try and forecast which unique identifiers would most likely predict any given patient’s propensity to return to the hospital again in 30 days. This is called an unplanned readmission as is currently measured as a negative statistic against a hospital under the new Obama Care regulations. Our team analyzed the case using logistical regression analysis and attempted to cleanse the data from any unnecessary or detracting data sets (such as incomplete patient information or erroneously recorded readmissions). We were able to put together a cohesive presentation meant to show our analysis as well as the benefits from implementing the new algorithm we set up to predict readmission. The competition format was to separate the 14 competing teams into 3 rooms for the first round, then the judges would select the best team from each room to move on to the final round. Unfortunately we were not selected to move on, however it was a great experience and taught us a lot about the differences in judging at each competition and what to expect from different cases.

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