We were having a family gathering yesterday night with all my Grandma’s son, daughter, grandchild. After my uncle (the 1st son of my grandma) share his advice to all family based on his own experience, my aunt (which is his wife) suddenly point out at me and said that I should share the experience how to finally get into Grad school with the full scholarship from the Government so that everyone in the family can learn from it and know the story. I didn’t prepare any speech at all so I just share the story and suddenly I feel so emotional about it that make me about to cry.


Its all started even since I didn’t graduate from my Bachelor of Humanities. I have a dream to continue my study aboard with the full scholarship. Why? At that time, my simple reason is just I want to experience living aboard for some years and maybe the Grad school will open the bigger opportunity. And maybe this picture explain another reason too, lol.

– 2012. I tried Fulbright right after I graduate. Not even pass the 1st screening.
– 2012 &2013. I tried PRESTASI scholarship by USAID. Twice. In 2 consecutive years. Rejected.
– 2013-2014. Seems not lucky enough with the US, I tried Erasmus Mundus Tourism Management (EMTM) program. I was very confidence I can get in even though I submit the application very close to the deadline at Starbucks Central Park. After a long wait, I got the letter that make me cry early morning when I wake up. I didn’t get it and I was in the big 30 candidates out of 300 applicants while they only pick 8 around the world.
– 2013. In any chances, I met the head of admission from Hult International Business School (Master in Social Entrepreneurship). Even we have a collaboration when I was in Danone in my project Danone Young Social Entrepreneur. I got accepted with 25% scholarship. Still not much and I still want to try shoot the better school. So, I reject the offer.

and finally, I heard about current scholarship that people start to talk about: LPDP (Lembaga Pengelola Dana Pendidikan) by Minister of Finance – Education – Religious Affairs. I came to the info session and start to do the research about it. Submit my application after moving on from Erasmus Mundus announcement at February 2014. It take so long until LPDP proceed the application for the batch of June 2014. I pass the administration. Got interview and have a leaderless group discussion. Then in July 2014, they announce the Awardee who got the scholarship and I am one of them! I got the training in batch 23 in November 2014. They call it PK 23 which mean PK (Persiapan Keberangkatan) in batch 23. Finally, all these effort started to show some lights.

The next effort is to get the school! I was committed to myself since the beginning that I want to pursue my grad school in the USA. My dream is to get accepted into MBA program in Duke University at Durham – North Carolina, USA. Why? Because they are one of the leader in MBA non profit program / Social Entrepreneurship program. And I would like to pursue school that learn about Social Entrepreneurship / Tourism. So I write MBA at Duke University as my school destination for LPDP form.

I came to the Duke MBA – Fuqua School of Business info session at Jakarta in 2013 and 2014. I met and interact closely with the admission team and he was really help me a lot in giving advice, motivation, and direction. I prepare all the things for my application such as Essays, GMAT, GRE, IELTS since early 2013 and finally submit my application at Early Action Round in September 2014. There are a lot of support from the current Indonesian students at Duke Fuqua, some of my Canadian close friends, and friends in Indonesia during fulfilling all the requirements. I couldn’t thank you enough for all their contribution.

In October 2014, I also apply for Yale MBA program. In November 2014, I got the result from Duke. I got WAITLISTED which means they not accept me in that round and will consider my application again in the next round. In the case of Waitlisted, we have to do more effort to add on our application so that we could improve our application. In my case, I finally decided to take GMAT course at Sandy Institute in Cikini. Why? Because the admission team suggest me to take another GRE / GMAT since my score is still very low which I am aware of it as my weakness.

Since December – February, every Saturday except National holiday, I spent 6-7 hours with the other 5 people at the course learning about GMAT and how to ace it, my target is at least to get the score 600 minimum. Is it easy? Hell no. Its damn hard for me and I hate doing this. Mr. Sandy, the very awesome genius teacher who earn school in Europe (Germany, Netherland, UK) and ex-Schumblerger, is very helpful with me. He even add more class for me in private and offer me to take the simulation test every Sunday to improve my score. He even suggest me to also retake GRE also so that we can compare which one I  do better.

So, imagine. Every Monday-Wednesday-Friday I have to come to Cikini at 6-8am in the morning to do the simulation test on GRE and learn about it before I go to work. Then, in the Saturday, I have to attend the  6-7  hours group course on GMAT and on Sunday,  I take the GMAT simulation test for 3 hours. I almost have no life at that months. Well, in fact Mr. Sandy even advice me in the 1st class: “Dini, from now until you finally take the real GMAT test, your priority is GMAT. Your Saturday is for GMAT. Family, boyfriend, friend, office, and other.. its your next priority after GMAT if you want to be successful with GMAT.”

Now you can imagine how hard and challenging is learning GMAT  and how to improve the score. I really appreciate how Mr. Sandy really want the students success and he is very committed with all the students. Respect!

I will never forget that hard months of struggling for something that we really want. My sleepless nights and tired of everything. I just want to  do my best, stretching my limit and go beyond my comfort zone. So whatever the result, I will never regret it because I am doing my best.

On December 2014, I got rejection decision from Yale. Not surprise. I started to get used with rejection. But this rejection make me regret why not I apply for many school since the Round 1 / beginning. Then I quickly prepare my application for 2 other school with MBA program: Boston University and University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I apply on the round 2 at January 2015. Still not hear anything from Duke. While I already submit some update to Duke admission team on achievements, career progression, certification, etc that I just got after applying Duke. I was also collecting additional recommendation letter from 10 different people who work with me in any context and know me. This is one of the advice from the current Indonesian student at Duke Fuqua.

February & early March 2015, I did my 1st GMAT and retake GRE test! Things that I actually really hate and if I can choose, I do not want to take those test again! I believe every GMAT/GRE takers knew what I mean. Lol.

In that month, I also got the decision that I am invited to Duke interview! I am so excited for this because it is only 1 step ahead before I finally become one of the “Team Fuqua”! I did two mock up interview with two current Indonesian students at Duke Fuqua and they help me a lot in preparing my interview. Until now, I am really amaze on how collaborative they are and that Team Fuqua spirit and culture is really exist.

I love the interview and the alumnae that interview me at that time was very impressive, kind and humble. Seems the Team Fuqua culture is on her blood forever. She said she interview around 3-4 Indonesian in this Round 2.

In the end of February or early March, I got 2 rejection in a different week from Boston University & University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. I started to be worried. My chance is decreasing again.

In March 2015, just 1 week before my birthday, the night before I did my 1st trail running in Halimun-Salak mountain, I finally got that-decision-email-that-every-applicants-waiting-for! In a sick condition at that morning after getting tired of the sleepless night, I open the online application that has my decision on it.

REJECTED from my waitlisted status on Duke Fuqua.

There is some seconds pause after I read the sentences. I couldn’t say anything but just staring at my laptop in the office. I remember all the effort that I took to reach my dream at Duke Fuqua, I feel it was nothing at that time. I thought I prepare myself already for this decision but in fact, I still feel so sad – even much more than  I got rejected to Yale. I just lost my dream and it was so close. So close. And now, I have no school to rely on.


Until finally I met EducationUSA team who collaborate with LPDP in helping Awardee who did not get the US school and have to start school this year. Of course, I am one of them.

They help me to give some direction on where I should apply again and finally I got accepted at University of Washington, Global  Executive MBA program. I am so glad that finally there is at least 1 school that accept me finally. BUT after I consider the program, class environment, etc seems that its not gonna fit me except the beautiful place in Seattle.

So I decided to apply for 1 more school. Yes, after 5 school, I am still not giving up. It was JP, my friend in 1 batch training in LPDP who randomly suggest me to check the program at Boston University called “Master of Science in Economic Development & Tourism Management” since he think I am gonna be a good fit with it. I open the program and it look very interesting and I decided to give my last shot. My last hope.

Boston University-affiliated High School Workshop Has An anti-Israel Agenda

And guess what? In April 2015, I finally got accepted! I finally have the Letter of Acceptance from Boston University (BU)! I reject my offer from University of Washington and take BU offer instead.

I think all of this roller coaster journey is a great learning  process for me. I learn to be patient, should prepare everything very well, to struggle and pushing the limit for our dream, and the most important thing is to accept what God finally give us which I believe the best even though that’s not what we want since the beginning.

Some key takeout from the story :

1. Do not giving up before the end of your limit.
I finally stop my searching and decided to go this Fall with Boston University because my scholarship only can be used this year.

2. Prepare to apply for Grad school long time before you submit application. Don’t be a procrastinator!
If you want to go Fall 2015 for instance, you better prepare everything since 2012 or 2013. You can start with IELTS/TOEFL.Then if that’s pass, move on to find the scholarship or research on school that you want. After that moving on to prepare school application, essays, GMAT / GRE, etc. The longer you prepare is the better. Never try to be procrastinator for your Grad school application.

3. Apply for at least 3 school (Top, Middle, Safe)
It is important to have a lot of backup plan. So when you failed with the plan A, you still have B, C, D, E, F, etc. This is very important and make sure you plan the timing very well. Once you miss the deadline for US school for example, you have to battle the next round which is more difficult regarding the availability of the quota. And if you miss  the last round, you have to wait until next year to apply. At least, apply for 3 type of school :

a. Your dream school (Ivy league, hard to get in, you hope you will get in)
b. Your middle 2nd dream school (2nd tier school, you might have a chance to get accepted)
c. Your safe school (3rd tier, you are 80-90% sure that you will got accepted with all qualification that you already have)

4. Do your best, commit to what you start, and make your effort worth it!
Its very hard to keep on track, keep committed for the thing that you start when you apply for Grad school especially in the US where you still need to work on GRE/GMAT. Have a courage, persistence and faith that you will be able to pursue Graduate school aboard. You better make the effort worth it – even though its not exactly the same dream that you imagine, but at least you have to realize the Graduate School dream, an expensive dream that you need to appreciate it a lot when you get it finally.

Hey little fighter, don’t worry. Soon, things are gonna be brighter!
Keep the faith and do not giving up! 

This photo taken at the US Ambassador Residence in reception of honoring LPDP Awardee who going to study in the USA. June 2015.

14 thoughts on “Roller Coaster Journey to Graduate School Dream

      1. hai, mau nanya lagi dong. Kamu wktu apply LPDP pakai Toefl ITP ato IBT? kursus toefl IBT dmn? btw, sandy institute itu yg paling recommend ya? soalnya aku mau ikut kursus GRE tp takut salah pilih tempat, berhubung rumah di jaksel jd kan sayang kalo udah jauh2 ke cikini ternyata kurang okeh..hehe. atau mungkin km tau tempat kursus GRE yang bagus di sekitaran jaksel. aku denger ada kaplan tp keknya blom byk yg rekomen. thanks 🙂

  1. Halo Nissa,

    Aku waktu apply LPDP pakai IELTS. Ga pernah tes TOEFL IBT.
    Aku sih suka di Sandy Institute karena mas Sandy yang ngajar oke banget ngajarnya. Dan dia kan orang Indo jadi jelasinnya pake bahasa Indonesia, jelas. Karena di beberapa lembaga kaya Kaplan pengajarnya native jadi pake bahasa Inggris. Karena menurut aku GRE/GMAT itu yang penting bisa ngerti konsep/logic-nya, bukan lebih ke kecanggihan bahasa Inggrisnya.

    Dan si mas Sandy ngajarnya tegas banget, kita dikasih tugas setiap minggu bahkan setiap hari harus kirim jawaban dr soal yang kita harus kerjain tiap hari via whatssapp. Jadi dari situ kita jadi harus belajar tiap hari latihan soal. Dia sangat pengen banget kita bisa improve jadi enak punya guru yang peduli banget dan tegas. Kita juga bisa tes sepuasnya di komputernya di tempat kursus jadi bisa latihan tes terus sepuasnya sampai tes beneran.

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