Web Portal

. Saturday, March 28, 2009

I receive my Web portal details about a month back. After playing around for a while, I think I have got a hang of quite a few features. Describing the layout is a Herculean task that I shall not embark upon. Instead what I shall do in this post is outline some of these features that I found interesting.

Quick Links: Shortcuts are provided to visit the School of Business web page, faculty profilethe campus bookstore, the library site, a page for online resources and the registrar's office.

The student rooster is some sort of a 'Introduce yourself' page where you fill in your personal / professional details and a short paragraph introducing yourself. The campus bookstore is a not-for-profit corporation that offers study material at the low price to Queen's students. So, in addition to the library, we can also buy second hand books from the bookstore, which is pretty cool.

page, the staff directory page, the student rooster,
Administrative announcements: There were a few administrative announcements indicating the facebook community for the Queen's 2010 batch, Notebook requirements, etc. Similarly, there are also links for Course announcements and Career Announcements.

Tools: This consists of links to install network printers, upload and share files, share calenders, and access emails.

Fit To Lead Page: The Fit to lead page is a personal fitness guide tool. It has articles on healthy food habits, fitness tips, and something called a 'Cross trainer online fitness software' which I am yet to explore. I get a feeling that this page is something I will wanting to use quite regularly.

Team Room: The team room is a virtual room which basically lists your team members who are online, lists the assignments and discussions. We also can download IBM's 'Sametime' for instant messaging.

IT Support: The IT support page is extremely useful and has many articles how to set up many IT related infrastructure like Antivirus, network printer, usage guide of the web portal in addition to providing a host of downloads like Adobe Acrobat, Symantec Antivirus, MS Office patches, Java updates etc. Queen's is also a part of EduRoam which stands for Education Roam. This is a wireless network service that allows students, researchers, staff and faculty from Canadian educational institutions to securely access the Internet while visiting other partner universities. There are 10 partner universities, the names of which I shall update as soon as I get them. There are many other services like creating a personal webspace (of the format http://web.business.queensu.ca/graduate/userid), temporary renting of IT hardware infrastucture etc.

Exchange: The exchange link provides details on exchange programs, partner universities, the program details, and an online application for exchange applicants.

Courses: The courses link maintains a list of upcoming assignments, schedules etc for the coming 2 weeks. In addition, there is a Gartner Portal. The Gartner Portal gives us access to a lot of Gartner's research data. We can subscribe to topics of interest, and receive industry updates in our inbox as well. This would be something that most consulting candidates might take interest in, I guess. My current employers often share Gartner quadrants in our industry, and that is how I got introduced their research.

Email: The email web client is a Lotus Domino iNotes. As a Outlook user, the Lotus iNotes is something that I will have to get used to. A cursory glance indicates that the web client is considerably heavy and will need a laptop with good configuration.

Financial Crisis for Beginners

. Thursday, March 19, 2009

I came across this rather fantastic assortion of articles that explain the current economic crisis in very lay man terms. 

Ever since I became aware of the global financial crisis, I have been fascinated by the systemic breakdown of the American economic system, and its ripple effects being experienced by the world. Reading articles, blogs that offer different perspectives on the roots of this breakdown, while being interesting, can also become mind boggling for a person who wants to know the basics, and work up towards that. Like any paradigm, today, the amount of articles posted on the financial crisis is so overwhelming, that to search for the root causes is like searching for a needle in the haystack. This page is an excellent starting point for people interested.

I had tried to summarize my understanding of the financial crisis in my own layman terms in my other blog. The contents might not be extremely accurate as the article was written just as a personal excercise. 

I am confident that the current economic turmoil will be case studies and lessons for many batches of MBA programs in the future, and this site will be extremely useful.

Queen's expands class strength


This is an update from Appleseed. Apparently, the class size has been increased this year from 75 to 100-110 and there might be two sections.

For more about this change, at this point refer Appleseed's Post.

While the class size is still considerably lesser than most other MBA programs, it will be interesting to see the diversity that is introduced this year. Needless to say, the first thing that came to most minds was the hope that the quality of intake is not compromised. I am sure, if anything, this will make the program even more competitive and intense. And there will be more experiences to share. This article in the star mentions that 3700 applicants applied to the Queen's MBA program. In such an intense competitive applicant pool, I am left with no doubt that the quality of entrants will be as high as ever.

One of the reasons why I preferred Queen's to other schools is its smaller class strength, which can be great when it comes to the 'MBA experience' and assistance when it comes to placements from the career cell of any school. The knowledge that people in the corporate cell know you, your personality, strengths and weaknesses has a calming effect on students. The flipside is the class strength can also affect placements and networking to an extent. Most alums I have spoken to have said allayed any fear, reiterating the strength of its alum base. With a size of 100, I think the program strength is definitely not small but thankfully not insanely large.

The competition during the placement season will definitely increase, but as Appleseed pointed out, this can also bring in more recruiters to campus. The MBA program teaches us to be flexible to situations, and I look at it as practicing what they preach.

The challenge will of course be in how this point is addressed:

  • Finally, if the class could be split for teaching purposes, the class size could be lowered. Having 75 students in class is not a problem, but having two classes of 55 could create a more intimate setting. In order not to lose the community feeling that students enjoy at Queen's the administration will ensure that each student and team has the experience of working with all of the others. One way of doing this is to rotate one quarter of the teams between the two classrooms every second module.
I feel maintaining the 'community feeling' going to be quite a challenge. Rotating one quarter of the teams between the two classrooms very second module can either help fruitful gelling or result in too little time with too many people. I feel that the onus is on the students here to get the community feeling going.

One of the things I look to closely monitor in the program is how this change works out.


From acceptance mail to reaching the Business school - A stepwise process of the tedious tasks

. Tuesday, March 17, 2009

This post aims at outlining the steps that follow after one receives an acceptance mail from the school. As I am realizing, getting the writing the GMAT, applying to the school and interviewing and getting an acceptance mail is amounts to just 60% of the work. The real work for most international (and local students) starts after that.

1. Get a Pay order for 2000 CAD and send it to Queen's School of Business. The school will process your Pay order and send across the enrollment package.
2. Get a loan - expected time - 2-3 weeks. Most students start analyzing the interest rates offered by the banks only after getting an admit. Based on my experience, I would say, it is better to start taking to prospective bankers as soon as your applications are done. As far as banks are concerned, the more time you spend talking to bankers, the better it is. The paperwork can be quite tedious and it is better to set aside at least a month for the bank related processing. For Indian applicants, the maximum amount you can apply for is Rs 20Lakhs, and for that one must show collateral and a co-signer. Talk to the bankers and get the documentation needed for validating the collateral. Additionally, bear in mind that loan has to be processed from the location where your parents / co-signer stays. Hence a 3 - 4 week period for loan processing is a safe assumption.

3. Work out the remaining amount - Can be done along side bank processing - Ensure that you have assets for the remaining 15 Lakh INR by means of parental funding, savings, borrowing from relatives, provident funds, etc.

4. Get a net worth letter from your CA - 2 - 3 days - Once your education loan has been sanctioned, get a net worth letter from your Chartered Accountant. A net worth certificate is a financial evaluation of the applicant and people who are going to financially support the applicant through the course of his program. Evaluation will consider the education loan amt in addition to any liquid assets, fixed assets you, your sponsors have. This takes a day if u know the CA well. Also get an affidavit mentioning the individial sponsors whose financial assets were accounted for in the net worth certificate. This should take about 2-3 days at the maximum, if you know the CA well.

5. Visa Documents: Keep in touch with VFS meanwhile and ask them the list of documents you need to submit for visa purposes.

6. Submit all relevant forms / supporting documents to VFS with a demand draft of the amount for applying for Student Visa. This detail is present in the VFS Website. VFS sends this to Canadian Embassy, and you get your medical test letter. This takes a week.

7. Get a medical test done (3-4 days) as mentioned in the letter from the embassy. The test takes 1 day, but bear estimate at least 2 days gap from the date you receive the medical test letter and the actual date of medical test.

8. Get Visa Stamped - 1 week - 10 days - Resend your passport to Canadian Embassy with your medical test results. You get your passport stamped within a week.

9. Book flight tickets to Canada. Again, like the loan processing, it is better to plan the flight tickets in advance to ensure that you get good deals. Also, some travel agents block flight tickets for about a month in advance. Pursue that option actively too.

10. Shop - On going - Get formal wear, suites, thermals, and a sweater. Do not but winter wear, as it is recommended to get winter wear from Canada. More on shopping at a later post.

11. Fly to Kingston. :)

Additionally, these are the other things that can be done, on a need basis:
(a) Parallely finish any assignments that has been given by the school. These assignments are present in the enrollment package.

(b) Search for houses online. Get an idea of the expected rent in Kingston. I have decided to live outside, and not take up Grad Res. The formula I am following is to look up craigslist / Kijiji.ca and get the address of the apartment. Then, map the address in google maps and find out the time taken to walk to campus. This not only helps you understand the real estate pricing there, but also helps you understand the geography. I believe that this really helps you in intangible ways, and also gets you excited about the place.

While making a checklist of things to do, it is better to go backwards. So, assuming that you are scheduled to fly on May 1st, then, allot 3 weeks for Visa + 4 days for medical test + 3 days for net worth certificate and 1 month for loan processing. So, it is better to plan the tasks so that the paperwork is started by March 1st week (February last week).

100 Best Blogs for MBA Students

. Saturday, March 14, 2009

A student of the 2009 batch put up this link in the Facebook Group that we have started for the 2010 batch. This is a very useful link for, especially for aspirants wanting to apply to schools and want an inside knowledge of what the student body feels like.

100 Best Blogs for MBA Students.

One of the factors that really helped in opting for Queen's School of Business is the blogs maintained by 'appleseed', Ramzi Asfour, and 'Indian Blogger'. Appleseed and Ramzi are currently pursuing his their MBA in QSB and 'Indian Blogger' is Queen's alum, whom I had the opportunity to meet quite recently. The student blogs of any school offer that extra dimension that can aid in your decision making.

'Bizgirl' is a 2010 batch student and she has started blogging on her MBA journey. You might find that useful too.

Getting an admit in Queen's


My first interaction with the business school was when I met their representatives as a part of the MBA tour in Bangalore. You can read up about them in their website. In a nutshell, these tours offer you a chance to meet the representatives, alums and members of the admission committee of various schools. While every representative will showcase their school's merits, this event gives you an opportunity to ask questions, identify what the school seeks, and like in my case, opens up newer options, schools that you might not have considered before. I was impressed with the way the school's representatives spoke, and also had the opportunity to talk to alums who were in India.

A cursory look at their website reiterated my decision. The school was well ranked, had a good reputation, but most importantly, the Team Based MBA model and the rigor of the program impressed me the most. More about the Team Based MBA in later blogs.

Like every business school, Queen's requires you to first take up the GMAT. For more details about the GMAT, please visit GMAC's page.

I had taken the TOEFL, but I believe there have been a few students who were waived of this requirement as they had completed their studies in English.

After sending these scores to the school, one has to write a few essays (3 this year). The essay topics vary from year to year, but are aimed at out your overall personality. The school gives heavy emphasis on team work, and experiences in working with teams. So, it is better to chart out your professional / academic accomplishments and how team work helped you through it. These essays can be submitted online. An online application page is listed in the school's website. Also, one has to have a 1 page resume ready, and the resume also has to be uploaded to the website.

Post submission, the essays are evaluated and one is shortlisted for the interview. While I am not sure about which parameters are considered while shortlisting a candidate for an interview, I believe it is a mix of your GMAT Scores, work experience, uniqueness you bring to the program and most importantly your essays and resume. My interview was with Ms. Lori Garnier and it was a very smooth interview. Again, during the interview, I could make out the emphasis that was given to team work, as a considerable questions were hovering around my experience in teams. Typically a call for interview takes about 2 - 3 weeks from the date of submission.

Post interview, the admission committee takes about a couple of weeks to decide on your candidature. In my case, it took 3 weeks. Once they have reached a decision, the program management team sends an email indicating the same to you.

After getting an admit email, the school sends a FedEx package that has the temporary admission letter. A student is required to make a deposit of 2000 CAD to the school by means of a pay order. (For Indian students, this process is a very simple one. All you need to do is have funds equal to 2000 CAD in your savings accout, and ask the bank to issue a DD for the same. If you do not have an account in the bank, you can remit 80,000 Rs in cash and get the DD done. It is a hald-a-day process.)

Once you get the pay order ready, send it across to the school. Upon reciept, the school sends across a huge package consisting of official admission documents and some assignments, which are useful for securing a education loan.

Next... You have got the admit letter... What next?

A new start...

. Friday, March 13, 2009

Welcome to my blog. This blog intends to follow my experience in Queen's School of Business where I shall be pursuing my MBA program. 

As an international student who has got an admit from Queen's School of Business, I hope the contents of this blog is very useful to future international students. On a personal front, I know that the coming year is going to be one of the most important years of my professional career and personal life. So, in that sense, this blog is a journal marking that transformational experience.

Many more posts to come! :) Cheers!