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Tell us about yourself
Team getyourMBA recently met up with Pavni Mittal who successfully applied to and received admission to the prestigious Columbia Journalism School this year. Just 1 month into the program, Pavni is already managing a hectic schedule of classes and assignments, while acclimating to New York and all that this great city brings with it!
Pavni is doing a 1 year course, M.A. in Journalism, with a concentration in Politics. She hopes to use this and her background in business reporting to get make a career in Foreign Policy. Here is a summary of our conversation with her, where she shares a number of great insights and tips for aspiring journalism candidates. Pavni is currently a Correspondent at CNBC TV18.
Team getyourMBA: Let’s start with you telling us a little bit about your background. What were you doing before you joined Columbia?
Pavni: I have a background in Political Science. I was at Lady Shri Ram College in Delhi University. After graduating, I did a post graduate course in journalism at Asian College of Journalism (ACJ). After this, I was an Anchor & Senior Correspondent with CNBC TV18 for close to 4 years.
Team getyourMBA: Since you already had a Masters degree in Journalism, what prompted you to apply to Columbia?
Pavni: I found that the predominant focus at ACJ was very technical. The program places emphasis on things such as production, and putting a program together. It prepared me very well for Television, but I realized after working for some time that I wanted to go deeper into the subjects I covered. The program at Columbia is for experienced journalists, with a very application oriented curriculum. We are routinely asked to consider the events happening globally, and think about them from a journalistic point of view. In essence, this is where you get to master the ‘Art of Journalism’.
Team getyourMBA: How did you pick the schools you applied to?
Pavni: I only applied to Columbia since it’s the best. I was very clear from the beginning that I would go only if I got admitted to Columbia.
Team getyourMBA: What is the application process for journalism schools like?
Pavni: The application consists of 4 main parts – 1) TOEFL score 2) Three essays 3) Recommendations 4) Transcripts (at least, this is what is true for Columbia Journalism School)
I was able to waive writing TOEFL since I was working at CNBC and that was enough to show my proficiency in English.
The three essays have the following focus – one essay is autobiographical that requires you to essentially write about “Who you are”. The second essay is professional, with a focus on “What you have accomplished so far”. Finally, the third essay is a SOP, with a focus on “Why do you want to do this program”.
Team getyourMBA: How was the essay writing process for you?
Pavni: I struggled with it to be honest. Till today I don’t know how I wrote what I wrote 🙂 First of all, I started my application too close to the submission deadline, because I confused the deadlines. This left me with very little time for writing my essays. Also, I struggled the most with the autobiographical essay since I wasn’t sure how to portray myself. I was confused about things such as – What should I include and not include in the essay? How do I make my essay culturally relevant to someone in the US? How do I make sure my essays convey a coherent story of “Me”? It took me about 10-12 iterations before I got it right.
In this regard, working with getyourMBA helped me a lot as the biggest change I made with their help was to my essay content. Earlier, I was getting all kind of advice around correcting my language, to sounding “cool” in my essays. getyourMBA helped me change course to getting my content right and making sure that I was able to connect the dots across various key points to convey a great story about myself, my achievements so far, and why I wanted to join Columbia.
Team getyourMBA: What tips do you have for a candidate applying to journalism schools?
Pavni: First of all, start a little earlier than I did! More time will definitely help you think through your application. And then, it’s very helpful to get someone who is familiar with the university application process in the US to review your essays. Many folks in India who don’t have this exposure may give advice which might not be very relevant. Schools here care about diversity and what value each candidate adds to the class. It is important to bring this across in your essays as clearly as possible.
A big thing I realized during this process is that the essays cannot be treated as disjoint pieces of writing. Everything has to come together as one, single coherent story about yourself and your world view so far. It’s almost like a caricature of yourself.
Team getyourMBA: What about recommendations? How did you select the people you asked for your recommendations?
Pavni: I asked three people for my recommendations at first – my previous supervisor, one of my university professors and the CNBC network head at the time. The key thing in a good recommendation is that it should have a personal touch – the person should be able to write about what struck them about you, and what they think about you, as opposed to simply stating your accomplishments and what you’ve done.
Team getyourMBA: Did you give any pointers to the people who wrote your recommendations?
Pavni: My previous supervisor didn’t let me see what she wrote, but she promised me that if she has agreed, she would make sure she did a good job. What I do know now is that she mentioned things like “When I worked with Pavni, this is what I found out about her” and “When I met Pavni first, this is what struck me about her”, which was great, since it connected who I was with what I’d written in my essays. For the other two people, I gave them some pointers for the recommendation.
Team getyourMBA: Were there any interviews at Columbia?
Pavni: No, there are no interviews.
Team getyourMBA: So now that you’re through, in hindsight would you have done anything differently?
Pavni: Definitely. I would have liked to start earlier. Also, I think I should’ve tried to enjoy the process more. The essay writing requires a lot of introspection which is very useful for planning your long term career, not just for gaining admission.
Team getyourMBA: How has your experience at Columbia been so far? Are you enjoying it?
Pavni: It is all that I expected and much more. The class is so diverse. I’m working with Africans, Americans, Europeans, Asians. It completely changes your world view. It’s way more hectic than I thought it would be. I’m still a little bit dazed! Soon I’ll have to start job hunting so that will be very stressful. But I’m learning a lot each day and glad about that.
Team getyourMBA: Any parting advice for candidates who may be considering applying?
Pavni: Be very clear why you are applying. Your primary goal should be to learn and master your craft so that you can apply it to your field. Your goal cannot be simply to get a higher paying job as the chances of that happening, especially if you’re a foreign student, are not 100%, since you won’t have relevant cultural context from the get go. Many students in fact go back to their jobs after having learnt new skills in the course. So your primary goal should be to learn.
Great advice Pavni! Team getyourMBA wishes you all the best at Columbia and in all your future endeavors!!