Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Updates

 I am pretty happy that I could write a bunch of essays, get the recos and submit everything on time for LBS round 3.

Meanwhile, I told my employer about my MBA admit. They are very supportive and are eager to give me leave of absence. I'm excited about it, but I'm not very positive about getting it. They are checking with the legal department to see if my visa/immigration condition allows this leave. Hope it all works out.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Challenges after MBA admit- visa woes

4/23/2012 Update (copied verbatim from my GMATClub post dated 5/23/2011)

I initially decided to take the H4 route and not bother with applying for F1 etc as my I-140 was approved and I didn't want to risk not getting F1. I finally took an unpaid sabbatical from my company and started my MBA (on H1B). Around November, I figured that finding an internship outside of USA and on top of that returning to USA from the internship on an H1 (but on sabbatical and studying full time) might be even more complicated. So I mustered courage, prayed a lot and took the leap of faith. Yes, in other words I applied for an F1 CoS in Nov/Dec.

I consulted many lawyers and eventually used a lawyer in NYC who was referred by a friend. (If you need details email me, my email is listed in the comments). The lawyer helped me out and we successfully got a F1 approval CoS around Feb, 2011. I resigned from the employer once the CoS got approved. I went to India during spring break and got my F1 stamped without any trouble.


Now, as per my lawyer if the next employer of mine post MBA applies for GC, they should be able to use my approved I-140 and request USCIS to use same priority date. But then again, no guarantee if they will use it or not. I'll find out that when the time comes. For now, I'm happily interning in the fields of my choice in NYC


For most of us, getting the admit is the last step in this tough journey. They have access to funding, no immigration issues and can start planning for vacations, pre-MBA internships and what not.

For the unfortunate few, the misery continues. Having first applied in 2008 unsuccessfully (2 waitlists), I was eager to get an admit ASAP in 2009 as a reapplicant. CBS ED worked out in my favor and I was looking forward to packing my bags as soon as I got my admit in November. New Year brought with it new challenges-  no-cosigner loan was becoming a major issue unexpectedly, and my visa became even bigger concern- a green card application in process (I-140 approved stage) meant transfer to F1 visa is not straightforward. I spent the months of Jan and Feb frantically searching through all forums to find an answer. Different people said different things, tough luck.

I then approached a lawyer who recommended pursuing part time MBA instead. I was devastated. First ray of hope came through a current student at Wharton. I found him in one forum, he had left his email ID in a message posted in 2008, thank god for that. He was very kind and gave me good advice. I then found another lawyer who suggested me options I could pursue, things were looking better. There was still no certainty but at least all hope was not lost. Meanwhile, I decided to hedge my risk by trying to secure an admit from schools in EU. I did it, I submitted my application a week ago on time for R3 @ LBS. I'm hopeful something will work out in my favor, but these past few months have been very tough on me and my family. I'm lucky to have a supporting wife and parents. Without them, I'd have given up long ago.

Right now, I've secured my I-20 and I'm going to tell my employer about my MBA admit and request to withdraw my greencard application. Hope it doesn't create any problem for my current job. I need my job till I get my F1 visa approved through change of status. Wish me luck!

For the sake of people having similar issues out there, here is a comprehensive plan of action.

1. Secure I-20 from business school by arranging for funding
2. Withdraw I-140 by requesting the employer. They should send a letter to immigrations.
3. Take a copy of this letter, and create documents that support your intent to go back to your country after MBA...real estate in your name, family ties, a job offer from your country etc and apply for Change of Status from H1b to F1 while being in USA.
4. Change of status takes 2.5 months on average
5. You need not go to your country to stamp, instead you could just change to F1 status while being in USA and start MBA. You need to stamp F1 only when you leave USA (in order to return). So you can go while in school and get it stamped in order to have ability to freely travel in and out of USA during your F1.
6. You needn't apply for change of status while being in USA instead once you withdraw I-140 you can just resign and go to your country and apply for F1 from there. From what I have heard, change of status seems to be less risky than applying through consulate.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Columbia MBA Admit Event 1

Feb 27 was a very un-New York day. Those who flew in had a terrible time with flight delays and those who took the subway waited for eternity to board one. The campus was closed down for the most part but the event was unaffected. Around 200 admitted candidates turned up- some confused it to be another interview and wore suits, while others couldn't care less and wore jeans. Gods were cruel to those who wore high heels.

I arrived fashionably late with my better half (as per CBS), the keynote speaker (Shelly Lazarus) was in full swing giving vivid anecdotes on how to manage work/life balance. She said it was super easy, just walk the talk. Figure out you priority every day and have the courage to act on it, she said. She made a good impression, sharing funny one liners like- working mothers are comfortable with failures, they fail someone (family, boss...) everyday.

Someone in the audience wanted more reassurance, asking her to compare CBS MBA students with others. Shelly grabbed the opportunity with both hands, comparing CBS with HBS and Stanford. HBS students wanted to solve only big/important problems, she said. CBS MBA students had humility and practical knowledge, she said. I noticed relief/happiness in many faces, having heard exactly what they wished to hear. Of course, I was feeling pretty good too who doesn't like to be told they are the best!

We moved to the Cluster welcome event from there. I was part of the Cluster 3 along with another 40 odd. The cluster reps part of Hermes Society welcomed us with Follies videos (Regulate, is a must watch) and a frank discussion about life at CBS. Deli sucked they said, and facilities could be better. But they were mostly happy, CBS listens to the students they said. They also spoke highly about CBS World tour but many candidates had no idea what it was (very surprising, I feel). We played a quiz that included questions like what does the symbol of CBS represents (greek sign/god of commerce ?!) and how many were admitted in the last fall term class (554).

Some career related questions were asked and the current students
suggested that it's best to be flexible (not so good news). We could pursue unpaid internships during school terms, an opportunity available thanks to being in the heart of the business world (good news). Banks have started hiring again (good news).

Next up was lunch, I had a sumptuous three course lunch at Le Monde with eight others including an admissions official. I poured my heart out to the official, talking about the improvements that could be made to the application process. I was not all alone, everyone at the table seemed to share similar feelings and we all bonded over the misery that was now behind us.

Interestingly, most at the table had similar aspirations. They all wanted to be in Media in some capacity, but acknowledged the fact that some will end up following the herd to wall street or consulting for that sign on bonus. The admissions official was pretty candid and receptive to our suggestions, who knew this day would
come ;) But of course even after asking the same question in five different ways, he didn't tell us how many seats were left, oh well.

Upon returning to the campus, we were welcomed by the many club representatives. I was a little bit drowsy (chocolate eclair did the trick) but
still managed to do some "networking". Next we had a half hour session with Fin Aid Director. I had zero interest, as the one item which concerned me- the private loan for internationals- CBS had given up long ago. She spent 29 minutes without any questions on this topic but some brave soul brought it up and another candidate replied- no cosigner implies you are screwed. For that, she said -not really and after some 2 minutes of diplomatic talk- pretty much said the same thing- you're screwed if you have no US cosigner. Oh well, I didn't expect anything more at this point.

I was looking forward to learning more about the Entrepreneurship center
and they didn't disappoint. The panel included a recent alum and
second year students who were pursuing a business opportunity through Greenhouse program. Heard many stories on how the CBS brand opens doors and
how Lang center goes all the way to help us succeed in our ventures. Fantastic stuff, if you can manage your loans.

Mary Miller, director of admissions, talked about pre-MBA program next. Some online tutorials and exams that we should pass in order to matriculate. We will get access in May. It's going to take about 40 hours of work for the average student. We also heard from the current student body president, a cool and confident fellow who talked about the CBS community. He shared a few stories, the most remarkable one- a student from his class had an accident in his 1st yr and had to miss the entire semester. He still managed to pass his exams and graduate on time, thanks to the
friends in his cluster. Amazing story, everyone was sold that your cluster is your family.

Everyone (or at least me) was waiting for Prof. Greenwald but we learned that the he slipped and injured his ankle during the snowstorm, so he was not coming. I guess I do have to spend 5000 points to get into his class, after all. Prof.Robert Bontempo, instead took the stage. Frankly, I didn't know who he was and I'm thinking many were in the same boat. What an amazing guy, the next 1 hour was the best
part of the entire day. He taught leadership, negotiations and spent the hour discussing the art of persuasion using theory and demonstration.

People were either Ask assertive or Tell assertive. Another classification - they were also either Analytical, Driving, Expressive or Amiable. With some explanations on what these means, he asked us to identify ourselves and brought 4 from the audience and did a role play. He asked two people to sell him a car, each person did it in a different manner showing how all this classification makes sense and how we should do our
pitches based on what kind of person our audience is and not what kind of person we are. Well, I am not doing any justice I know, just wait for his class in the fall :-) Take a bow, Prof. Bontempo!

Next up was the happy hour, Dean Hubbard addressed the audience and so did a couple of alumni. Everyone was eager to meet the dean and he was
gracious to spend time with many. My wife and I got a chance to speak to him as well. We all had a good time, a nice ending to the day that gave
everyone a peak into what lies ahead. Six letters will connect us in future- CBS MBA.