My Journey to IIMA : Shivani Dhillon, Class of 2023

The title to this short story might have given you the expectation of getting acquainted with someone who is different and talented. That’s what we have in my mind when we see IIM A B C associated with someone’s identity right? The upcoming journey might not be the kind you are expecting, but I promise majority will be able to relate to it.

So let’s begin with a bit of background. Let’s understand the what, why and how one by one. It all began during my college days when a bookworm entered IIT(ISM) Dhanbad with the aim of getting a good job. That’s how I was raised, have a goal before you go somewhere and always work towards fulfillment of that. Hence I wasted my very first semester trying to only get good grades. It’s not that you shouldn’t focus on that, but the word only is our problem. College is an opportunity for self discovery and one should always maintain healthy balance of acads with that part of understanding yourself. This part started for me in the second semester, when I joined AIESEC and started volunteering in an organization which promised to bring me out of my comfort zone and help me discover myself. “Discovering yourself” here was something that was beyond my understanding, but in the duration of two years of volunteering, going on an exchange to Egypt , being responsible for experiences of interns coming in and being on the upfront in academics made me understand the essence of it. This was the time where I faced failure, success, depression, joy, stress, and relief one after the other. I understood the kind of person I was. The traits I had, good or bad. I learnt the art of maintaining a healthy balance and be ready for all the opportunities that come in. So one after the other I started taking up all the roles, responsibilities or challenges that I got an opportunity for. Be it being known in my department for being studious or be it being in the Student Coordination Group of college, always being on the other side in an argument with the management. I started bringing in the balance of sincerity, determination, risk taking and impulsiveness in my life. And everything went too smooth until the work life started.

That was the point where things changed quite drastically, the difference between being good at something and being passionate for something started arising. As soon as I achieved the very goal of getting a good job in college, I had to be ready for another place, where I couldn’t see myself setting up a goal. Everyone’s there to guide you until you end up being employed. As per standards of our families, that’s where the movie ends right? But it wasn’t so. This is where life started; this is where I realized that when you are supposed to do something for the rest of your life, your only aim should not be to work so that you get the amount credited to your account regularly. It should be much more than that. And the day I realized this, I quit. Quit my very first job, in only 6 months. Crazy right? Someone who didn’t even stick to the very first job for more than a few months getting into IIM A. Honestly at that point of time I did hear a lot of this, you  will regret this decision , it will always be the negative aspect of your profile, you might end up destroying your future, and a few more. This was the very first decision that I made for myself, completely on my own, but trust me I was not even 0.1% doubtful about it. I knew I’ll always be questioned about it. But I was sure that I will be able to convey the importance of leaving something as soon as you realize that it’s not what you want to do.

Shivani, on top of the world! 🙂

Post this I was as clueless as majority of us are after college. I really didn’t know where to start from. I was sure good at managing events, networking, and being a people’s person. But I couldn’t really relate to how this will help me discover what I am passionate about. Hence I started looking for something from past and ended up deciding that I would work in a coaching institute as a physics faculty. This was the perfect place which would prove to be interesting because of physics and the opportunity to interact with young minds. And it absolutely delivered what I was expecting from it. Working in the education industry was the most comfortable experience. Good money, work life balance, cool working environment, it was all anybody could ask for. But again it had no scope for challenges.  When you are too much into your comfort zone, you start to feel the stagnancy in your life. And if you have been an adventurous soul at any point of time in your life, you thrive to bring in challenges in your life. So did I. I started volunteering again, but this time in the industry itself. Started mentoring students, guiding them beyond my job role and working towards the aim of taking them out of their comfort zone, to be a better person and not just another JEE aspirant.

All this inspired me as well, to contribute to the world in a better way. You know there are times when you realize you are capable of doing more than what you do. And that is when the greed of being a better asset to the society starts kicking in. I reached that point after 2 years of my graduation. And the moment I was there, I started putting in all my efforts towards getting to a place that can help me be that asset. And it was none other than a good B-school.

This is where the journey to a good B-school started. I remember making study plans weekly, starting from August’20. Trying to utilize every single minute that I got apart from my job, attempting mocks every weekend to understand what I am good at, revisiting quant and struggling to be just average in verbal. The very first month was the worst, I used to dedicate around 5-6 hours to my prep on a daily basis but still ended up with 30-40 percentile in verbal (in every single mock that I attempted). It was disastrous. With two months in hand, I had no clue where I went wrong, I tried out every method that the YouTube videos suggested, but none worked out for verbal. Thankfully LRDI and QA kept my hope alive. I remember I attempted a mock mid Oct with 60 percentile in verbal, and ended up believing that I am never going to make it to ABC. I called up a friend and talked to her about this for an hour. This was the point of breakdown. But surprisingly people around you become too supportive and hopeful in these times and the moment they start counting the incidents where you had a similar situation and got out of that, it kind of brings in the self confidence back. It’s not that I regained all of it in an hour, but I decided not to give up without giving it my 100%. I started focusing on verbal in my own way and thankfully the efforts paid off on the D-day.

Then started the hustle of getting an estimated percentile, trying out every percentile predictor released and being hopeful with the best number you have in hand. And in due duration, you don’t even realize when the actual one comes in. Thankfully the number I had was decent enough to get calls from at least one of IIM A B C. By this time the fear of interview started making its own space in that little head of mine. And I was ready with my homework, enrolment in PDP program of   Career Launcher.  I knew I was not even near to being the perfect candidate for IIM A B C and hence I started preparing as early as possible. I went ahead with my first interaction with my mentor Sreeni Sir in the very beginning. This step proved to be a really good one, I understood what I had to do and started working towards that. The path was not easy to walk on. Incidents from CAT prep days started repeating themselves, but this time the distance between me and my dream B-school seemed shorter. Hence the enthusiasm kept me going. Every interaction with a mentor brought in more stress than hopes. But this stress kept me stress free in every interview that I gave. To be honest, I had to work harder for interview than for CAT.

Every interview showed me the scope of improvement, every single time I tried being the perfect candidate but messed up at some point or the other

Any candidate receiving an offer from IIM A B C must be extraordinary. This is a common view and also something that I believed in all along my journey. This is indeed true. But it shouldn’t be something that should concern us when we start our journey towards being one of them. This was one of the most important things that I learned in my journey with CL.

The moment I understood this, everything became easier. I knew that all I had to do was just to be the best of myself. That 15-20min slot has to be utilized to help people on the other side in understanding me better. And that’s what I did: Put in efforts not to be perfect but to be honest and smart enough to drive my interviews in my comfort zones.

Waiting for the offers was the best phase, every time you go to sleep , you check your phone once , twice ,thrice, and freak out if there are more than 100 unread texts in the group. This was where I used to mute the group for like 2 days in a row, just to have a peaceful sleep. I still remember the day we actually got the link for IIM A, I opened it very casually as I was not sure if it was the real one or the fake one. To my surprise it was indeed the real offer from IIM Ahmedabad, the message I strived for since August’20 was right there. Then came in IIM B, K, C, L, FMS, turning joy to confusion within a week.

It was indeed the best dilemma of my life. But it was a real difficult one to get out of. I know you guys are like, “stop this complaining attitude bro”, but why should I? I worked hard to complain about this and really want to complain when I have it. I had the mailbox everyone dreams of, the one with offer from every IIM (except IIM I of course). I did convert “every interview, that I had” (okay got waitlisted in XLRI, but still). The first thing I had in my head was, Sreeni sir would be proud you know:p. I still don’t know if he is though XD.

Anyways, the moment I thought of deciding, I made up a list of parameters and started getting viewpoints from existing students on that. It helped me narrow it down to IIM A, B and FMS. FMS with the perk of being least risky one in all messed up head real good , until I heard Sujit sir mention a very important point on adaptability of FMS. The session really helped out to pick proper parameters for comparison. (IIM B did lure me again with a scholarship of 4L even before joining in) but the discussion of session helped me select IIM A as my final destination for this journey.

The journey to IIM A was surely a difficult one, but the journey beyond still awaits with lots of surprises and challenges ahead. This is not a full stop, it’s just a comma. There are innumerable struggles, breakdowns, opportunities and achievements that are yet to come, but with these guiding hands and the amazing friends I have got from CL will inspire me to get through them every single time.

Shivani, Class of 2023, IIMA

Of course, Shivani, I am really proud of you and also inspired by your steadfast perseverance. I remember every thing we discussed during our first interaction… and every interaction. and will continue to be there for life time, for you and every individual desirous of excelling in life! Go and conquer the world! God bless!


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