Soon after graduating from an Indian university, Karan Singh kicked off his career as a journalist in a Indian national daily. Equipped with incisive business acumen, he was often required to and did work out strategies to bolster his newspaper’s circulation and revenues. This made him realise he needed to look beyond journalism and explore other avenues including media management.
To take up a managerial role, Singh needed higher qualifications. Having gained five years work experience, he wanted to follow his childhood dream to study at one of the highest seats of learning in the world — the University of Oxford.
Securing admission at this coveted institution required year-long persistence and meeting exceedingly high entry requirements, such as writing an extensive proposal encapsulating cutting-edge research, essays expressing his career vision, giving competitive exams and arranging referral letters.
Since he had an excellent academic record, he secured admission at Oxford and began pursuing MSc sociology with research interest in ‘modernisation and voting turnout interplay in India’, with additional interests in management.
He also took up business electives at the Oxford Business School.
After a degree from Oxford, he was offered a job with leading international magazine The Economist, but in the editorial department. “When I requested that I be considered for a managerial position, the editor was very kind to introduce me to the publisher and soon I was hired,” says Singh.
He believes in continuous learning. With a career spanning over nine years spread across leading media houses, he believes he is still learning. At 33, despite having a graduate degree from Oxford and a great job, he has gone ahead and joined The London School of Economics (LSE) for a one-year management degree.
But why did he need to spend a year at this juncture when he already had a graduate degree from Oxford, a rich work experience across functions, business certifications from IIM Bangalore and the World Bank and, most importantly, when he was already earning a fat salary? “Learning is a continuous process.
Though I get to learn a lot in the organisation where I work, I believe in a structured mode of learning, which only a university environment can provide,” he says.
The Oxford advantage
“Oxford was a very enriching experience. With scholars from almost from all over the world, learning was multifold, both from the distinguished faculty and a diverse peer group. Every idea or research interest is received with great respect. You feel intellectually motivated,” Singh recalls.
Four years after earning the coveted tag of Oxford alumnus, he attributes all his success and growth to his alma mater.
“A degree from Oxford changed my life forever. My ambitions took a long leap. Prior to Oxford, my aim was to become a leading editor in a national newspaper or maybe a CEO, but while I was studying there, I realised that I could even become the prime minister of India,” he adds.
“After all, Oxford is the university which produces the maximum number of political leaders in the world. Oxford makes you believe that you can achieve anything. It breaks all (mental) barriers,” he adds.
It was only the Oxford degree that helped him get an appointment with the editor of The Economist, also an Oxford alumnus. “When you are from a leading school like Oxford or LSE, doors across the world open for you. It depends on you which one you want to knock at,” he muses. While at Oxford, he also interned with the BBC and The Guardian newspaper and was a regular guest at Reuter’s distinguished events with leading global political figures.
Advising people aspring to get admission in top ranking institutions abroad, Singh says, “Preparing for the applications is a great introspective journey.
Applications are a process requiring you to bring your best to the table. It really helps to think profoundly and look within. You have to support your claim for a seat in a very competitive environment. Start early. If you want to apply next September, you should have started the process this April. It takes around a year-and-a-half to complete the whole process of admission applications, scholarships, exams and interviews. An early start gives you all the time to pull your thoughts and resources together to make a strong application.”