Tuesday, December 25, 2007
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
Good luck to everyone waiting for a decision from Chicago. Rumors are swirling that calls may start today for admitted students, even though Rose said in her chat last week that calls are only likely to start tomorrow, and even then that some admitted students may not get called until after the Wednesday morning decision release.
Friday, December 14, 2007
Speaking to my boss the other day, I mentioned how nervous I was about the upcoming decision and he said he had learned in life to worry about the things you can control, and to let the things you can't control roll off like water down a duck's back. He quickly added it's easier said than done. It is certainly good advice, but I'm having trouble putting the decision out of my mind.
Thank God it's only 5 days until the decision - I'm very glad I won't have to live with the uncertainty through the holidays.
Monday, December 10, 2007
It seems to me that the business world learned its lesson a few years ago with all the corporate scandals that the performance at all costs, personal integrity doesn't matter, style of leadership eventually leads to trouble. I think that certainly if you ask any of the top MBA programs whether integrity is important to leadership they would answer absolutely yes. So that begs the question - is integrity important to business leaders but not political leaders? I do not dispute the Op-Ed's assertion that the world of international affairs and diplomacy is not black and white, and often does not offer clear choices between good and bad options. The world is complex and nuanced. However, I would propose that this is precisely why a political leader needs to have strong personal integrity, in order to find their way through the ambiguity. I don't think that having integrity means being stubborn and insisting on simple right-or-wrong positions, but I think it does make it easier to navigate the grey areas. I also think there are things that are just plain wrong and should not be done, regardless of politics. A leader without integrity leads down a slippery slope to a place where anything goes, the end justify the means. In the end, leadership is leadership whether leading a multinational organization or a country. And in the end, I think recent history has shown that we'd be better off if our political leaders from all parties put integrity and character above politics.
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
Sunday, December 2, 2007
On a macro level, I'm not enjoying the wait on my apps. Still no word from either HBS or Stanford, and every day that passes I become more sure that I won't be hearing from them until the ding comes in January. So that gets me to thinking - what about R2? I'm still very positive about Chicago, and think I have a very strong application there. But just based on numbers, there's a very real chance I could get dinged there as well, and then what? My all-R1 application strategy was based on advice from several trusted mentors that said they "would be shocked if I didn't get into at least 2 of the schools I was applying to." At the time I was confident enough to believe them. Now, not so much. There are two other complicating factors at work. First, and most importantly, I can't think of what other schools I'd want to apply to. Sure there are plenty of other very good schools out there, but none that particularly got me excited with the prospect of going there, and for the investment involved here I want to be excited by my school of choice. Second, I made promises to my boss and others in my organization that I would let them know by January if I would be resigning from the company to pursue my MBA dreams. This would give us both plenty of time to find a new role for me in the organization if I don't get in to an MBA program, since my current position is due to end in July. So now I don't know what to do. I'm thinking that I'd rather put off the MBA plans for a year and try again at schools I REALLY want to attend, than to apply to R2 schools that really don't excite me, but need to give this more thought.
Saturday, November 24, 2007
What is truly comforting though is that if I am turned away by Harvard, I'll be in good company.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
1. Visiting the school before the interview: Granted, I visited the day before the interview, but the experience was nonetheless valuable. I was able to pick out things I had seen or experienced during the visit and use them in the interview to add to the questions of why Chicago. Also, the students were all very enthusiastic about the school, and it's contagious, so it helped me be enthusiastic about the prospect of going to the school.
2. Preparing...a lot: You've heard the cliche practice makes perfect, well it holds true here also. While I wasn't perfect in my interview, my preparations were key. Not only did I expect most of the questions I was asked, and so knew the main points I wanted to make for each question, but knowing how hard I had prepared allowed me to go into the interview with confidence. I'd recommend using resources like accepted.com, clearadmit.com, or other applicants to get a sense of what the interview will be like, and prepare accordingly.
3. Relaxing: All of the students I spoke to said the key was just to relax and be yourself in the interview. What they're looking for in the interview is more personality focused - are you friendly and personable, can you express yourself well, are you the type of person they'd want to study with, etc. Part of what let me relax was the preparation I had done, but also by taking steps to relax beforehand. Each person will have their own way of relaxing, but I picked out specific songs on my iPod that I knew would keep me relaxed and focused, and listened to them the morning of my interview before leaving the hotel.
1. I wasn't as concise as I could have been: The first question I was asked was to describe my career progression to date, and why I was pursuing an MBA at Chicago. Looking back, I spent a bit too much time focusing on what I had done in my career (I have 6.5 years of work experience, with two very different jobs) and didn't get to the why MBA/why Chicago part quickly enough. My interviewer asked a few clarifying questions as I was explaining my career progression, but after I had spent about 4-5 minutes on my career, he asked again why MBA and why Chicago. Looking back I could have been more concise about my history and gotten to the why faster.
Overall I think I did well. Looking back, other than trimming down my first answer a bit, there's nothing I would have wished that it had gone differently. I also only mentioned 2 of the 3 points I had for why Chicago (I left off a bit about the culture there), but the interviewer asked a clarifying question about one of the first two points I made and the interview went on from there so I didn't want to go back at that point. I walked out confident that the interview had gone well (and if the interviewer wasn't impressed he hid it well), and am now settling back in for the 6 week or so wait until decisions are released.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I have only done 1 interview at this point, and while I think I did well I do not know if my interviewer would agree (although he was smiling and nodding as I answered - but having been on that side of the table several times I know it's possible to smile and nod while simultaneously thinking "wow this guy/woman is way out of their league"). So, take anything I say with the appropriate degree of skepticism.
Friday, November 16, 2007
So now, I am back in the waiting game, with nothing to do except wait for invites from HBS and Stanford, and wait for January 3 when Chicago releases decisions. (According to the adcom at the info session, while in years past Chicago has started calling accepted students up to 36 hours before the decision date, at this point this year they plan to release all decisions on the 3rd. Given the decision date's proximity to the holidays, I am not expecting a call before the 3rd).
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
In the future, during periods when applicants are waiting for interview invites from Stanford, please do not send out surveys from the email address "Stanford MBA Admissions." In the fragile emotional state we applicants are in, seeing an email from that email address instantly creates an intense emotional high with the thought that we have received a precious interview invitation from your program, only to be crushed a second later when we see the subject "Survey Request - Stanford MBA Program Information Session." I am more than happy to provide feedback on the session I attended, but could do without the cardiac event that accompanied your email. Judging from the discussions on the BusinessWeek forums this morning, I am not the only one to suffer this reaction.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
Good luck to everyone still waiting for a Chicago invite. I hope you get good news in your inbox today.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
In book reviews, I'm about halfway through Frank Brown's (Dean of INSEAD) new book. It's a pretty quick read, and has some great advice on what it means to be a leader in today's global environment. I've had the good fortune to meet Frank on several occassions, and, in my opinion, he's a great leader to learn from. (NB: I am not applying to INSEAD, so this is not an attempt to kiss up to the Dean to improve my chances).
Saturday, November 10, 2007
It's also good to see family and friends again. With my crazy travel schedule the past month, I really hadn't seen anyone. So last Thursday I went to the Rangers game with a good friend, and today I am visiting my sister and her family. This past month made me realize one of the non-financial costs of going back to school. Regardless of which of the schools I attend, I'll be moving away from family and friends for 2 years. I'm sure they'll visit and I'll come home at some point during the 2 years, but it'll be hard moving away.
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Still no word from Stanford or Harvard, but am trying hard not to think about it in order to prevent any nervousness about not getting an invite from those two schools to affect me in my Chicago interview. There's still a lot of time left to get an invite from those schools so am staying confident.
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
Beijing was an interesting trip. It was my second time in China, but first in Beijing and first with any real time to spend doing tourist things. My schedule worked out so that I could take a 4 day weekend while I was over there, and a good friend who's living in Beijing let me stay at his apartment for the weekend and took me out to see the city. It's an interesting city to see the mixture of old and new architecture, and interesting to see the rate of growth and construction, which I'm sure is also being driven by the Olympics next year. Construction crews literally work 24/7 - there was a crew outside my friend's apartment putting in a road/sidewalk. One night I went to sleep and literally woke up the next morning to see it completely finished. There is a bit of another side though. My friend's roommate teaches English to a local man's daughter. The man has a little corner store, and recently the government came in and said they were going to demolish the store. No due process, no compensation, nothing he could do. It really reminded me that as much as a great story China is economically, on the political side it is a very different system to what we have (and often take for granted) in the west.
Once I get home I'll see if I can post a few pictures from the Great Wall and Forbidden City.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Besides that, everything else for Stanford is going well. Got my reviewers' feedback on my essays, and it's positive with only minor suggestions of places where I ramble at bit and could be a bit more succinct and impactful. So, I will work on revisions tonight and tomorrow and submit tomorrow afternoon or evening. Then it's off to a bar with some friends to lift a glass and celebrate being done with this stage of the process.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Now to turn my attention to Stanford. Did a review of my data sheet last night and came across the part-time employment page. The instructions say to include summer employment, internships, etc., so I've gone back and listed the two jobs I had during summer and winter breaks from college. I haven't gone back to the fast food job I had during high school since I don't think that sheds any light on my candidacy for bschool (well, I did rise to the rank of "Assistant Manager", but that just took staying at the place for a few years rather than any demonstrated leadership abilities). How are other Stanford applicants handling this?
Good luck to all the other Chicago R1 applicants out there. Hopefully we'll see each other in Hyde Park at Admit Weekend in February.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Stanford is in pretty good shape, but am going through a last round of review and revision on my essays. Data sheet is complete so it's really just the essays at this point. Well essays and one last recommendation. Plan is to finish it and submit on Saturday before I fly off to China, and to chase down the final recommender this week and make sure he's on the ball. Hopefully the 2 week trip will keep my mind off the waiting game. Unlikely, since I'll have access to email while there, but we'll see.
Friday, October 12, 2007
For those in HBS R1, in case you haven't seen the latest post on the Director's Blog, interview requests should start to go out the week of Oct. 22. Of course, they'll continue to go out through January 16, so there still could be a lot more waiting to go. What's nice, and I'm not sure if it's different that last year, is their use of an online self-scheduler for interviews so you can try and pick a date that is most convenient for you. Should help with my travel concerns.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
- The program presentation was oriented around the 4 themes of the Stanford MBA program: personalized education, innovative learning, global & social impact, and collaborative community. He spent a lot of time in the first two areas talking about the new curriculum. I won't go into detail here since it's all on the website.
- He mentioned a few times (and alumni reinforced the message) that innovative faculty research makes its way into the classroom, giving Stanford students an edge on the market since they see it first.
- Heavy focus on "leaving a legacy" and being a force for positive change in the world. He also mentioned here the loan forgiveness program, for people who take jobs in the public or not-for-profit sector, and also the Stanford Management Internship Fund, which subsidizes internship income (up to the median of all students' internship income) for people who do summer internships in the public or not-for-profit sector. The loan forgiveness sounded similar to other schools, but I think the SMIF is unique.
- He mentioned briefly the Global Management Program certificate, and the Public Management Program certificate, and said that each program gets about 25% of the students in any year.
At that point the alumni panel started (6 alumni, mostly in finance post-MBA). Their main points were:
- A few alumni talked about the great opportunities and support for entrepreneurial ventures while at Stanford (one of the alumni was CEO of a startup menswear company). They said beyond support, it is possible to get academic credit for working on a startup venture, and that culturally entrepreneurs were looked up to as superstars.
- All of the alumni had gone through the program before the new curriculum, so unfortunately they couldn't give insight on it. But, they did talk about how the curriculum is fluid and students have an opportunity to influence courses or to create new ones with faculty support.
- In response to the "Why Stanford" question, the answers were all about the culture (more empathetic and collaborative people than other schools) and small class size (about 7-1 student to faculty ratio).
Most of the other questions focused on whether it matters if you don't have a finance background (it doesn't) and whether it matters if you're earlier in your career (it doesn't). People seemed to be asking questions that were already answered earlier, which got a bit frustrating. After the alumni panel, we went back to Derrick for some admissions info. Again, not too much that wasn't on the website, but here's some bits he added about the application:
- Pay attention to the wording of the essay questions. They pick the words for a reason, and omit words for a reason. There is a big difference between asking "career vision", "aspirations" and "post-MBA plans". Hint: Stanford's use of the word "aspirations" means that could be both inside and outside work.
- For Essay A, he mentioned the Steve Jobs commencement address at Stanford where he talked about connecting dots. Derrick used that as an example of the type of reflection they're looking for in this essay (but obv. not meant as a template for applicants to use).
- For Essay B, he said they're not just looking for a 5-year career plan. Again, they're trying to understand what is important to you, inside and outside of work, and how Stanford can support those goals. He also made the point that they know your career progression from other parts of the application (i.e. resume) so don't spend too much time in the essays restating that.
- For the short-answer essays, they're looking for specific anecdotes, both at what you did but equally important on the impact the experience had on you and the people/organisations around you.
- With regard to interviews, they expect to interview between 800-1200 applicants, with a target class size of 400-500. The interviews are behavioral (again trying to get to know you), are just one piece of the application that they look at so they influence the decision more for some than others, are largely (95%) done by alumni, and are blind (the interviewer only has your CV, which you send them, and will not have seen your application).
- The winner of the stupidest question I've ever heard in my life was the guy who asked Derrick whether they coordinated their deadlines and decision notification dates with other business schools, or whether it was just coincidence that the dates were the same as another school. There was actually an audible groan from the audience when he asked that.
My overall impression was very positive. You definitely got the strong sense of innovation from the presentations and alumni panel and it's definitely a top-notch program. One thing that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth though was the repeated references to their "competitors in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago". At the HBS event, they never once mentioned other schools and why they think what they're doing is better than other schools. They just talked about HBS. Here, they kept saying that X at Stanford is better/more exciting than HBS, Wharton or Chicago. My feeling is that if you're confident in what you're doing and it really is better, you shouldn't have to say it, people will see it for themselves. I know it's just a minor thing, and certainly wouldn't affect my decision regarding the school, but if I could have changed one thing it would have been that.
Monday, October 8, 2007
One thing that does concern me a bit is that I have quite a bit of travel for work in November and December. While I am getting a bit ahead of myself, I'm concerned that it could impact interview scheduling. I guess that's a bridge I'll have to cross when I come to it.
I'm going to a Stanford reception tonight in NYC so I'll give the full rundown on it within a day or so.
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Now I know they don't have my whole application and are going on some basic information. And I know it's in their business interest to make applicants uncomfortable to try and sell services. And I know that people who are mentors to me, and who know a good amount about MBA admissions, have all said I'd be a competitive applicant at all those schools and would have a good chance to get in at one or more of them. And I know I've done a good job presenting myself on my HBS application, and my Chicago and Stanford applications are shaping up nicely. I know all this, and yet my confidence was still shaken.
So, I decided to take this weekend off. I have done no work, either on my "real" job or applications. I went to the gym. Enjoyed the good weather. Visited my sister and played with my little nephew. Put it out of my mind. And it worked. While I haven't completely forgotten about this little incident, my confidence is coming back. Tomorrow I leave for a week in Zurich and Athens, and will spend time on the plane revising Chicago essays and working more on Stanford.
Good luck to everyone else who's putting in HBS applications to Round 1!
Friday, September 28, 2007
I don't remember applying to undergrad as being this stressful...
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Sunday, September 23, 2007
Well it's been another crazy week at work, and the pace doesn't look to be slowing up anytime soon. This isn't how I had hoped the last few weeks before the R1 deadlines would shape up. I had hoped to have a quiet few weeks where I could do the final revisisions to my apps and essays, but such is life. I'm still in good shape to submit HBS next weekend, and am meeting with the person who reviewed my Chicago essays today, but no progress on Stanford. I really need to get that in gear if I'm going to stick to my goal of all R1 applications.
Now on to the event. It started with a chance to mingle with the other applicants before the official start, but unfortunately I got there only 10 minutes before the start so I only got to talk to one or two people. The event started with about 45 minutes of a simulated case discussion (the case, about potential applicants to HBS, was sent to us via email when we registered). It was interesting to see the case method in action, and there were a lot of well thought out comments from the "class". Nothing too new though in terms of messages about application: the main message is there is no "right" answer to who should apply, it's all about your specific case and applying when it is right for you. After the case discussion, we watched the HBS case method video.
After the video, they brought in 3 alumni from the class of '06 to answer Q&A from the group (1 from finance, 1 in advertising sales and 1 in strategy for a R&C company). Here's my summary of the points they made (some of which wasn't new info):
- The teaching method is entirely case driven, even for quantitative courses. You may have assigned reading from texts to learn concepts, but it always goes back to cases to learn to apply the concepts. Over the 2 years, you will do 500-600 cases. These don't have a "right" answer, but are designed to teach the students how to approach and analyze various problems.
- For essays, make sure you're thinking of it as one story, told in 5 parts, not as 5 separate stories.
- Leadership is hugely important to the adcom, but does not need to take place in a professional setting. It can be in school, personal life or community service, but they are looking for people with leadership potential, demonstrated through a "habit of leadership".
- On a question about when is right to apply, the alumni had slightly different answers. The first made the point that it's a personal decision but you need to really know that now is the right time, and added that you should decide whether you can add value to the class discussions. Another alumni said that it depends on your career goals. If you're in consulting or banking and looking to go back, it's probably better to do an MBA earlier in your career, whereas if you're looking to start your own business post-MBA, you may want to do it later so you can draw on more experience. The adcom rep noted that HBS is trying to encourage younger applicants to apply (i.e. the 2+2 Program) and that 1/3 of the class of 2009 has 3 years or less work experience. She quickly added that this doesn't mean they don't want older candidates, just that they wanted a better mix of younger candidates to compliment the typical 4-5 year experience crowd.
- In response to a follow up question about what students thought about the younger students, the alumni unanimously said that they couldn't tell the difference in class participation or insight between the "younger" and "older" students. That there was tremendous diversity of backgrounds and experiences which made for a rich discussion in class. They said their class was probably a little less than 30% with 3 years or less experience, with the remainder evenly split between people in the 4-5 year bucket and people later in their career.
- On a question about what surprised the alumni most, they all focused on the overall experience and culture of HBS. One alumni mentioned the mandatory attendance policy, where all students are expected to attend (and be on time for) every class, which he thought was very different than other schools. The other 2 alumni focused on the culture of the school, where (in their words) you're surrounded by incredibly talented and intelligent, ambitious people, but it doesn't feel competitive. They also mentioned that the faculty are very engaged in teaching, that they're passionate about research as well, but for the semesters that they teach they put all their energy into the classroom and are willing to help students outside the classroom as well.
- Grades are typically 40% class participation, 20% midterm and 40% final (usually a case write-up), and are applied on a curve. Their class agreed to not disclose grades.
- Last, the alumni were each asked to share one piece of advice. The first said to keep your mind open as to what you want to get out of the MBA. There's so much you can do and get involved with so make sure you're not limiting your experience. The second expanded on this and said don't be afraid to take some risks, especially when it comes to the summer internship. Use the MBA experience to try out different things and really discover what it is you like - 2 of the 3 alumni have different jobs now than they planned to have going in to the MBA. The third focused on the apps process and said that you should visit the school, sit in a class, and talk to students and alumni to really decide whether you fit with the school.
At that point the official Q&A ended, although the alumni and adcoms stayed behind to answer 1 on 1 questions. Unfortunately at that point I needed to leave to catch my train (the Q&A had lasted 15 minutes longer than planned), and since I didn't have any burning questions I left. Overall, even though there wasn't much info that I didn't know or couldn't have found out from the website, I thought it was a good event. My only concern about HBS (other than whether I'll be accepted) was, despite all the student blogs to the contrary, that the culture would be cutthroat and overly competitive. Hearing the alumni here, and seeing that they were normal and, while confident, were not arrogant made me feel more comfortable. It was always only a very minor concern, but I do feel much better about it now. I still plan to do a class visit once they start next month, but for now am at peace. At least until I start thinking about how much work I need to do on Chicago and Stanford apps.
Saturday, September 15, 2007
When I was in London last week, I had lunch with a friend who did an MBA at Cambridge a few years ago. She shared her application experience (which wasn't too different than what we're all going through now) but said that she felt less stressed after she submitted her application than when she was working on preparing the essays and applications. I could see how that would be the case. At this point I'm looking forward to getting this phase of the process behind me and moving on to the next phase - even if that phase is staring at the phone waiting for the call.
Sunday, September 9, 2007
I know many of my fellow applicants are riding the same emotional rollercoaster. I hope that writing about it will be therapeutic and help me get back to the happy place I was last week.
Saturday, September 8, 2007
Accomplishments on flight home: Have lunch while watching movie, sleep off Guiness-induced hangover.
As you can see, not much progress on the essays. One of my HBS recommenders did submit their recommendation though, so at least I have some feeling of progress. I really need to get moving on Chicago's essays so I can start drafting Stanford's. That is my goal for the weekend. Well that and enjoying the first week of football season.
The Ireland trip was a blast. We went to Johnnie Fox's Pub for their "hooley" night. It was amazing - great food, a live band playing traditional Irish music, Irish step dancers, and Guinness that flowed like water. I'd highly recommend it if you ever find yourself in Dublin.
Monday, September 3, 2007
As for Chicago I'm still struggling through the first draft of essays. I have the career goals essay drafted and have made some minor improvements since the first draft (mostly adding more specifics about how Chicago matches what I want to do). I just finished the powerpoint and think it'll be good by "go-time". I am struggling with the shoes one. I had an idea I thought was good, but as I drafted the essay today it was a snoozer, and I don't think it's serviceable. So now I'm going back to the drawing board and trying to come up with a new outline. It's frustrating to start over, but I just don't think the idea I had was going to translate into a good essay.
No progress whatsoever on the Stanford essays.
Otherwise, the holiday weekend was great. Saw my family and friends, and just had a relaxing weekend. Tomorrow I fly to Ireland for a few days so I'll try and get some work done on the plane. There will be no time to work while I'm on the ground there, so I may not get to work on this anymore until next weekend.
Saturday, September 1, 2007
I did line up my final recommender though so I'm all set on that front. Time to get focused on essays...
Monday, August 27, 2007
Now that you're probably all thinking I'm some egomaniac (I'm really not, I swear), on to the update: I finished the draft of Chicago's career goals essay and revised my HBS essays - but didn't get as much accomplished as I had originally hoped. I was surprised at how hard it was to write the Chicago 1,500 word career goal essay. Not because I don't have enough content for the space, but more in trying to make the essay flow without seeming like I'm meandering around different topics or copying and pasting from other essays (I'll admit I borrowed some material from my HBS essays).
Overall I'm pretty happy with where I am though. I still have over a month until the HBS deadline and 7-8 weeks until Chicago and Stanford. Plus there's the long Labor Day weekend coming up, and over the next 2 weeks I'll be spending about 30 hours on planes so I'll have plenty of time to put in some work on essays. Overall though, I'm happy with my progress so far, and I think my HBS essays are starting to be in pretty good shape.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
The applications themselves are in pretty decent shape. I have to put my resume into the format Chicago uses and upload my undergrad transcript for Stanford, but otherwise the apps themselves are all complete.
So now I can basically focus on essays (and making sure my recommenders get their rec's in on time).
If only I could focus...
Friday, August 24, 2007
- I got feedback from a good friend on my HBS essays, so I'm all set for the first re-write this weekend
- I've got outlines for all three of my Chicago essays and plan to have a first draft of those by the end of the weekend
- I sent recommender packets to 5 out of the 6 recommenders I'm using, and entered them into the online application systems. I'm seeing the 6th next week and will talk to him then
- I signed up for the HBS event in NY on September 19, after missing out on the August events. Keep your eyes here for a full post-game analysis.
That's about all that's going on. I'm afraid my life isn't too exciting at the moment: get up, go to work, go home, work on essays and applications, rinse, repeat.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Update to the M.V. update: On the train this morning, I happened to stand next to a guy from the NFL's legal dept. He was talking to his friend about Vick and said he thought Vick would never play again. Even ignoring possible league sanctions for the dogfighting, and even if a team would be willing to endure the PR nightmare that would accompany signing him, there's still the small fact that Vick was involved in gambling on the dog fights, and running an illegal gambling ring results in a ban from the league.
I am making good progress on the recommender front. I sent out a packet last night to my current boss (who has the unfortunate distinction of being the only person who I've asked to write multiple recommendations) and to a partner I used to work closely with in the past, and who is writing a recommendation for my HBS application. I speak today to a partner I currently work closely with, and who I'd like to use as a recommendation to HBS, so hopefully by the end of the day all 3 of my HBS recommenders will be in the system and have the info they need to write me a rec. I'm still not sure who to ask for a peer rec for Stanford. Because of the nature of my current job, I work most closely with partners and directors (who, even though I don't report to them, technically aren't my peers since they are more senior). In my past life as an auditor, our teams didn't have a lot of people at the same level, so everyone on the team either reported to me or was my supervisor directly or indirectly. I was part of a leadership program where I was part of a team and was considering asking one of my team mates from that (our team has kept close since the end of the program) but that was 3 years ago so I don't know if it's current enough. I'm leaning towards asking one of the partners I've recently worked closely with (but don't report to), but would appreciate anyone's thoughts on this.
I'm making less good progress on essays, and am falling behind in my goal to have a draft of Chicago's essays by the weekend. The first essay on career goals is coming along nicely - and the 1,500 word limit seems ginormous after working with the much smaller HBS word counts - and my powerpoint seems to be shaping up, but I haven't come up with an outline I really like for the putting myself in someone's shoes essay. I have ideas, but when I begin to put pen to paper they all start sounding like I'm writing what the adcom wants to hear rather than showcasing who I am. While part of me wants these next 2 months to go really slowly so I have time to complete all the applications, part of me just wants to get the applications behind me so I can start the next phase of nervous anticipation.
Monday, August 20, 2007
On a completely random note, the weather's been rainy for two days now, and it's supposed to stay like this at least through tomorrow night. I'm sick of the rain.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I think I've finally made up my mind and narrowed my choices down to three business schools. At the moment, it's Harvard, Chicago, and Stanford. Harvard and Chicago were pretty certain from the start, but then it came down to Stanford or Columbia for #3. A colleague of mine gave me some good perspective yesterday on making this decision. We were talking about my plans, and she said what if the only schools you were accepted at were Stanford or Columbia, which would you attend? At the time I didn't have a definite answer, since I saw positives and negatives at each school. But as I thought about it the rest of the day, I realized that if faced with that decision, my choice would be Stanford. That said, I haven't written off Columbia 100%. I'm still going to visit the school next week - one of the benefits of working in NYC is that I can do this for only $4 in subway fares - to make sure I'm not missing anything, but I'm 99% sure that I'll apply to Stanford rather than Columbia.
Update on the application front, I have lined up one recommender (my current boss, with whom I had a really good discussion about my plans and he is 100% supportive), and have arranged to speak next week to 2 more potential recommenders. Other than my current boss, I'm trying to spread the recommendations out among people so that they would have to write, at most, two recommendations. Stanford has an interesting twist in that one recommender needs to a peer, so I'll need to think about who to ask for that recommendation. Hopefully, I'll have all the recommenders lined up and entered into the respective applications by the end of next week. That would give them between 6-8 weeks to complete the recommendation, depending on which school I am using the recommendation for.
I'm still stuck on the final HBS essay - the one about a mistake. I am going back and forth between two mistakes I made. The first mistake is easier to demonstrate I learned from it because it happened further in the past and I have examples of how I've behaved differently since then. However, it doesn't fit as well into the overall "theme" of my application. The other example fits better, but it's harder to show how I've grown from it since it only happened about a month ago. Realizing this is a false dilemma since I've made more than 2 mistakes in my life, I'm trying to think of a third option that both fits into my application and also is easy to show how I've grown from making the mistake. In the meantime, I've started putting my thoughts together for the Chicago essays and have some preliminary thoughts on what I'm going to write about for Stanford.
This weekend will be busy, with a family barbeque today and a friend who I haven't seen in months coming to visit tomorrow. Hopefully neither will mind if I am a bit distant at times - it's nothing against you I'm just trying to think of essay responses.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
I guess I lied again about it not being an MBA update. The real reason for the post was a funny thing happened to me yesterday. I was at lunch with a colleague at a sushi place near the office. While we were eating, I overheard the guys at the table next to me talking with the waitress about how this restaurant doesn't serve coffee. As in, it's not on the menu, you can't get a cup even if you want it. When we finished our lunch, the waitress asked if there was anything else we'd like, and I asked her whether it was true that they didn't offer coffee. She said yes, and I remarked that it was interesting that they wouldn't, since it seemed to me that people would be more likely to stick around and possibly order dessert if they could have coffee as well. I was not expecting the reply I got. She explained that they are a smaller restaurant and economically it's not worthwhile for them to serve coffee, because for the price of a cup of coffee, people would end up sitting and talking for another half hour or so when, without the coffee, the people would have left sooner allowing the restaurant to seat another customer who would then be paying more for appetizers/entrees/etc than customer 1 would have for coffee. Economically speaking, the opportunity cost of offering coffee was greater than the revenue it would generate. She got a good tip.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
This is what I wanted to write about. It seems Michael Vick is worse than we thought. Not only did he (allegedly) oversee a dog fighting operation and (allegedly) order the execution of animals, but he also (allegedly) sold those animals on eBay in order to buy missles from Iran because he has (allegedly) sworn his allegiance to Al Qaeda. Oh and he (allegedly) hurt some guy's feelings and *gasp* (allegedly) used drugs in school zones. So in return, this guy is asking for "$63,000,000,000.00 Billion" in damages. That's right, if Michael Vick loses this case, he'll owe this guy $63,000,000,000,000,000,000.00. Just to put that number in perspective, it is 188,750 times larger than the entire cumulative economic output of the United States since 1929. Hopefully they can work out a payment plan.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Oh yeah, and I need to line up recommenders this week too.
In unrelated news, I watched the Giants-Panthers pre-season game last night, and the Giants defense looked AWFUL! I know it's just a pre-season game but still, from what I saw it doesn't look like they've addressed their most glaring weakness from last year.
Ok, I'm off to my mom's house for a good home cooked meal.
Saturday, August 11, 2007
It's amazing what a difference a good night's sleep can have. Last night I was starting to feel better about my MBA prospects. I woke up this morning and my confidence is back. I DO have a good story to tell about me. I DO have great examples where I've demonstrated leadership and it's had a positive impact. I DO have a career vision that includes an MBA at [insert school name here]. Ok, I do feel a bit awkward about that last bit, telling each school about how their particular program is integral into my career path. But otherwise, I feel good. Now there's just that small bit of actually writing the essays and telling that story. (sarcasm) How hard could that be? (/sarcasm) Good thing this is gonna be a chill weekend for me. Just a bit of housekeeping - my apartment could use a good cleaning after last month's travelpalooza - and dinner with my Mom tomorrow night. Otherwise this weekend is all about the Quest for the MBA TM. Next weekend is gonna be busy so I want to get through a lot of it this weekend.
Friday, August 10, 2007
Well I'm still riding the emotional roller coaster that is MBA admissions, and I haven't even gotten to the point yet where I'm waiting to hear decisions. I started writing my HBS essays today and at first it started out well. I wrote 2 essays and felt pretty decent about them. My sister read the first one and gave me some great feedback on it. I was feeling pretty good about things. Then I read this and this. As I read the analysis of the essay questions I realized the essays I had slaved over for hours were not nearly detailed enough, did not talk enough about me as a leader, and that furthermore, one of the essays I planned to write would also be wildly off mark compared to the approach suggested by both these blogs. Now I do not know how much to trust these analyses, but at the same time the advice they give made sense so I wasn't about to just dismiss it either. That started me down the whole death spiral again of "Oh there's no way I'm gonna get accepted." But then a remarkable thing happened. As I was driving home, things started to click. I came up with a plan for my essays that will i) tell a coherent story about me and ii) highlight the impact I've had as a leader (at least in a professional setting). Bottom line is I'll have to scrap one of the essays I already wrote (d'oh) in favor of an essay on my career vision, which I'll use to tie everything else together. I've also changed my plan for my 3 most significant accomplishments essay in order to focus more on instances of the impact my leadership has had rather than a straight-up personal accomplishment that doesn't say much about me as a person/leader. So right now I'm feeling pretty good again. Still haven't reached the high again that I had after the GMAT when I felt like I was a sure thing candidate, but I'll take this current state of cautious optimism.
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Well hello again. I'm back on Blogger after an long absence. But honestly there hasn't been much to write about. Life has gone on. I've spent a lot of time working. And now all of a sudden the summer is just about gone. So why now am I restarting? Well I have a purpose again. I have decided to embark on an epic quest - the Quest for the MBATM. (That's right, I've come up with a trademarked name for my experience applying for an MBA. Unless someone else out there has already trademarked that name, in which case I'll stop using it and apologize.) I've read a few student blogs and have decided to start my own to memorialize this process for posterity. You will have unadultered (well subject to my normal self-censorship to protect the names of the innocent) access to my life as I apply and (hopefully) get accepted into a program. If that happy day arrives, I may even continue up until I begin school next fall. So here is...
Now admittedly I have already started down this road. I've decided that an MBA makes sense for me and makes sense at this point in my career. I have studied for and taken the GMAT. And I have begun to research schools. I've even begun to drop none-too-subtle hints to my boss that I will be applying to b-school and so these next 12 months will likely be my last at my company. (Overall he's supportive but hasn't quite given up on talking me into staying with the company). At this point, I am focused on applying to Harvard, Chicago and Wharton in Round 1 (which means application deadlines in October and decision notifications in late Dec/early Jan.). I am a bit nervous about only applying to 3 schools (and three highly selective schools at that), but at the same time am hesitant to apply to more schools as it would give me less time to spend on each application. I'll have to give it more thought about whether to add more schools. It's funny, I read on another student blog (sorry for the lack of a link but I forget exactly which one it was) that all MBA students are bipolar - swinging from absolute emotional highs about how they're doing to absolute lows where they doubt that they should have been admitted to their school in the first place. If that were the only criteria for admission then I'd be a lock since I'm already on that ride. There are times where I think I have that magical blend of scholastic aptitude (based on undergrad GPA and GMAT scores), career progression and leadership, and reasonable extra-curricular activites, and am certain to get into the program of my choice. There are other times when I feel like I have a snowball's chance in hell in gaining admission once the admissions committee (adcomm) compares my application to the other applicants, all of which are ubermensch who have started their own businesses, lead wildly successful projects, been leaders since they were in pre-school, and have eliminated poverty in their community in their spare time (through the not-for-profit they founded). Hang on, it's gonna be a bumpy and wild ride!