i have some
Summer is here — leaves and flowers on the trees, and more people spend time outdoors now. It also means that various IIMs (the Indian Institutes of Management) have started rolling out offers to students. Firstly, congratulations to everyone who received an offer to attend the reputed B-Schools of India. Secondly, what is up with people offering advice?
Actually, let me rephrase that — what is up with people offering paid advice? Seriously, it’s just sad. It makes me sad. And I’m pretty sure it would make my ancestors sad too. So, in this issue, I’ll offer some advice on paid advice, sort of a meta-advice, if you will.
I will focus on what I know about — CAT, the Common Admission Test. If you sell paid advice online, I must warn you that you will not like what I say. Now would be a good time to close this window. Or, actually, hear me out.
Let me say it up-front — there is no secret sauce; none but yourself can help you get into IIMs. There are some caveats, for sure. If you have a specific doubt, such as questions about the exam pattern, material others used, or questions about a particular college and its culture, by all means, go through the internet, message people and clarify your doubts. However, no advice is worth paying for anyway.
In fact, I’ll link some (free) essays right here. I wrote about IIM Interview advice for people exactly like me, Khushi Singh’s Taking the CAT for non-math grads offers a good overview of her experience of taking the exam as a non-math student, and my friend Nikita’s article (just open the link in incognito if you run out of free articles) is one of the best articles on how to prepare for the CAT. I also wrote a bunch of other essays on the subject. You can check them out here.
There are so many great free resources online that paying for CAT-related advice defeats the whole purpose of “paying forward” — a fancy concept propagated by people selling ridiculously priced 30-minute paid advice slots. I don’t think they are paying it forward. It’s more like, “pay me unnecessarily while you try to go forward.”
Besides, what are these people offering for it to cost >$10 or >$20 for 30 minutes? I’m genuinely interested to know. If you have attended any of these sessions, please leave a comment describing your experience. The fact is that CAT is a basic exam, and you can be optimistic about doing well if you get a few basics right. No amount of paid advice will be useful if those basics are not right. What are these basics? Well, the essays I linked above answer the question.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not totally against the concept of people offering paid advice as a gig. I understand that people’s time might be valuable, and one-to-one mentoring offers the “buyers” a safe space to clear all their doubts or learn something new. But, I think those are more valuable later in one’s career. For instance, paying to learn Product management from someone with >10 years of experience would be much more sensible than paying a non-sensical amount to someone claiming to have the secret ingredient to do well in a Class 12 level test.
There must be some line, if an ethical one, where people who get into B-Schools are not actively capitalizing on the vulnerabilities of future aspirants. If you are delusional enough to claim that you know something others don’t, you are lying to yourself. Again, I’d like to stress that it is sometimes okay to charge people to teach them something, but I sincerely think CAT-related advice should not be that subject.
If you go into B-School thinking that capitalizing on someone else’s vulnerabilities is actually okay, I hope that B-School changes you. If not, I’d genuinely like to offer my prayers for all the stakeholders when you become a leader in the future.
If you read till this point, I’m sure you’re armed with various counterpoints. Shouldn’t the aspirants decide if they should pay? If people think their time is valuable, who am I to say otherwise? Don’t I keep asking people to buy me coffee?
All are fair questions. But I’d like to stand firm — CAT-related advice is not worth paying for. Make all the arguments about you want; you just don’t have that secret sauce. All my essays will be free, forever. If someone buys me coffee, that is due to their kindness, not because I have something that is going to land them at IIMs magically.
Another common observation I keep reading goes like this — “Well, it must be easy for you. Since you’re from an IIT, you must have seniors to go to for advice.” That is a totally fair assessment. In fact, if you take away the academics, the lovely campus life, and the friendships formed along the way, one of the advantages of going to IITK has been exactly that. Knowing that you can reach out to people who came before you and talk about whatever you like. Most people are willing to help however they can. Fortunately, no IITK senior ever said no to anything I asked them to help with.
However, networking is not that important at the preparation stage. You have decided to get an MBA. Well, you take the test, prepare for the interviews, and do your best. All of these are on you — deciding to get an MBA, preparing for the test, and the interviews. Again, the amount of great-quality free online resources is unmatched for all of these aspects.
As for interviews: once you take the test and receive interview calls, you can reach out to potential seniors (and alumni) with your queries. IIMA’s Mentorship Cell will assign mentors for that exact purpose. In my opinion, the only thing you should be paying for should be the MBA fees, and that’s all. Do not fall for online scams.
All the best for B-School and the CAT (if you ever plan to take it). Stay safe, beware of paid advice, and say thank u, next. These potential B-School graduates will make an okay amount of money even if you don’t pay them ridiculous fees to chat for 30 minutes.
Steer especially clear of the ones charging fees for a text message. You’re much better off asking a Large Language Model to generate answers for you. It’ll do it for free and generate a much higher-quality answer. I’m told these people are the most vulnerable to losing their job to AI. Okay, that might have been a little mean. Hello, if you sell paid advice gigs, please just stop and think about what you wish to do in B-School in the next two years.
Well, that is all. You can find me elsewhere here. Until the next issue, bye! 👋