Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to everyone out there! I'm taking a bit of a break, but will be back to posting in January.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

...and it's over

Dear Mike,

Thank you for your interest in Chicago GSB...Unfortunately we are not able to offer you admission into the Class of 2010...etc etc etc.

The deadline is near...

Well I was not one of the lucky ones to get a call from Chicago Adcom yesterday, so I got to have one last fitful night waiting to learn my fate. I'm not giving up hope yet, since they were only making calls for about 4 hours yesterday, but my anxiety is pretty high now as the minutes tick away to the 9am CST decision release. I'll be sure to let you all know how this turns out...

Monday, December 17, 2007

Holy flame war, Batman!

Things are getting a little testy over at the BusinessWeek forums. See the flame war that has erupted on the HBS thread. People need to just chill out. Sure, none of us enjoy the anxiety that goes along with waiting, or the fear and disappointment that comes along with not yet having received interview invites. But this is just a little bit childish (and if the people involved were truly interviewed by HBS, perhaps I'm better off not having them as classmates).

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

Is that large woman starting to sing?

Throughout the application process, I have tried to remain optimistic. Maybe because of my auditing background (the virtue of skepticism was indoctrinated into us from Day 1) it hasn't always been easy. But now, I am starting to seriously think that my chances at HBS are just about nil. The HBS Admissions Blog says that they're just about done sending interview invites for R1, with "maybe a handful" left. I have not received one. Likewise I haven't heard from Stanford yet and with the new year rapidly approaching I'm starting to think my chances there are pretty slim. All of this makes me even more nervous about the Chicago decision next week, since it looks to be the only school I have a shot at in R1. I'm still pretty confident about my chances - I re-read my application last night and it made me feel good. But nervous because a ding from Chicago would almost certainly mean complete lack of success in R1, with no other applications in the pipeline, and therefore lack of success for fall 2008 admission.

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

Leadership qualities (non-MBA post)

In the NY Times this morning, there is an Op-Ed piece discussing the decision by CBS News to ask US presidential candidates questions that go beyond policy questions to get more at what their core beliefs are - questions like "who's the most impressive person you've met?" and "what's the biggest mistake you've ever made?". While those questions seem pretty normal to anyone who's preparing for MBA interviews, they are a bit unique in the political arena where questions tend to focus on what policy positions a candidate may take. CBS News says that they are asking these questions in response to voter polls that say a president must have high integrity and character. What was a bit frightening to me was that the opinion piece took the exact opposite position, saying "integrity...is probably not a qualification for navigating the treacherous and ever-shifting waters of domestic and international diplomacy" and "The decorums of political contest demand the rhetoric of integrity and sincerity. The performance of political duties, especially at the highest level, requires something quite different."

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

Chicago accelerates R1 notifications

I got an email this morning (actually it was sent yesterday afternoon but with timezones I didn't pick it up until this morning) from Chicago GSB announcing that the final decisions for R1 candidates will be released on December 19. Yes, as in 2 WEEKS from today. So after a moment of panic as I thought that I had an all day meeting that day, at which I would be worthless as I thought about what decision lay in wait in my inbox, I checked my calendar to see that other than a conference call that should end by 8am EST, I have nothing scheduled that morning. So I will be free to sit and stare at my inbox waiting for the email from Chicago admissions. The funny thing about this is that just a few days ago, I was having drinks with another prospective Chicago student, and she mentioned that a first year told her that during R1 last year, Chicago released decisions a month before the official R1 notification date. So while I won't hear a full month early, I do still appreciate having my waiting time reduced by a few weeks. Here's hoping for an early Christmas present from Chicago GSB!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Waiting is no fun

I mean this on a micro and macro level. I'm writing this from the SAS lounge in Copenhagen waiting for a flight to Berlin during my 2 week, 3 city trip through Europe (big shout out though to SAS for the free WiFi). Thinking back over the past year, I've spent a total of several days' worth of time waiting in various airports for flights both on-time and in various states of delay. It is no fun.

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

Happy Thanksgiving

It's been a pretty quiet week for me. I've been off from work since Tuesday, and with no interviews or applications to work on for the moment, my life has almost returned to pre-GMAT normalcy (with the added bonus of counting down the days until January 3). I have to admit that I'm coming off the high I had after my interviews last week, and a little bit of doubt is starting to creep in about whether I'll get an invite to HBS or Stanford. While I know that both programs say that they keep sending invites through January, I just can't help thinking that there's a good chance I won't be getting one. I know it's crazy to think that way at this point in the game, but there it is nonetheless. What's strange is as I think about what I would have done differently with the applications to those schools, the answer I've come up with is: nothing. Well, other than to correct those two typos in the HBS application. Looking back over those two applications, I think they do a good job showing who I am and what I've accomplished. It is a bit comforting to know that if I do end up getting dinged by those schools, it's not because of something I did or didn't do on my applications, but rather that those schools decided that I didn't fit in with what they were looking for in a student. Actually now that I've typed that I'm not sure if that's better or not. I know this is a bit of rambling, but hopefully this feeling of doubt will pass soon.

What is truly comforting though is that if I am turned away by Harvard, I'll be in good company.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Reflecting on my interview

Now that I'm back home and have had a chance to think back on my interview, I thought I'd share my thoughts on what worked and went well, and what didn't go so well for the benefit of posterity.

The Good:
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.

The not-so-good:
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

One interview in the books

I am just finishing up my 2 day trip to Chicago, and overall it's been a great trip. I spent the day yesterday on campus, doing the information session, tour, lunch with students, and a class visit. Overall very top notch. The students were all very friendly and helpful (both the students officially acting as guides as well as the students in the class I visited), and the facilities were also very impressive. I have to say that pictures on the website and brochures really don't capture how incredible the building is, especially the winter garden. My fellow prospective students (it sounds so much nicer than "applicants") were also great, and I would certainly enjoy being classmates with any or all of them. My interview this morning also went very well. The second year student who interviewed me was great. From the beginning he was very friendly and conversational, and it really set a positive tone for the entire interview. My preparations certainly came in handy, as I expected just about every question (talk about your career progression, why MBA, why Chicago, conflict on a team, etc. as well as follow up questions on specific aspects of my career experience), other than one. Towards the end of the interview, he asked "If you were interviewing yourself, what's the one question you would ask that I haven't asked, and how would you answer it?" It caught me a little off guard since he had asked just about all the questions I would have asked, so I stalled for a minute (by saying he had asked many of the questions I would have asked), but then realized he hadn't really asked anything about leadership yet so I said I would have asked how I had demonstrated I was a strong leader, and then answered my own question. The time really flew by (the 35 minutes seemed more like 10 or so), and I left confident that I had done the best I could have.

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

An open letter to Derrick Bolton

Dear Mr. Bolton,

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.

Warm regards,

Interview prep (part deux)

So today is the day I head off to Chicago for my interview. Prep has been going very well, I've been studying questions from accepted.com, clearadmit.com, etc., and have examples of teamwork, leadership, and mistakes/setbacks at the ready, and I've also practiced my story of career goals in the short-term and long-term, and why MBA, why now, why Chicago (really just a more concise version of Chicago's career essay). Over the past two days I've also completely re-read the Chicago website and MBA brochure twice, picking out specifics I'd like to weave into my interview (and will also keep my eyes open for tidbits during my campus visit on Thurs), and have thought of a few questions for the interviewer to keep in my back pocket in case there are no questions I have resulting from the discussion. I've also (thankfully) reached an almost Zen-like level of calm going into it. Now of course this is subject to change when I walk into the Harper Center on Friday morning, but for now it's letting me focus and relax. Unlike, for example, the people over at the BusinessWeek forums. Now I understand why the people in the Chicago discussion are worried about getting interview invites, since today is the last day, and I'm sure I'd be in the same state if I were in their shoes. But surprisingly the Chicago discussion was pretty subdued compared to the HBS discussion, where people were FREAKING OUT about invites, with plenty of speculation that if no invite was received this week that it meant a certain ding (even though Dee said HBS is just about 50% through sending invites). Not having received an invitation yet from HBS, I understand the pain of waiting, but my God, obsessing about it every day just doesn't change anything. At this point, whether I worry about it constantly or try to figure out if my last name, region, astrological sign, mother's maiden name, or other factor means that they've read my application already and decided not to invite me, will have absolutely no influence on what their decision is. Now I'm not saying I'm not checking my email multiple times throughout the day, but still, people just need to relax a bit and have some faith in the quality of their application. Ok, I'll step off my soapbox now.

Good luck to everyone still waiting for a Chicago invite. I hope you get good news in your inbox today.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Now I've seen it all

Now I think I've seen it all. I live in the NJ suburbs outside New York City, and so seeing wildlife near my apartment is nothing new. I've seen more deer than you can imagine, also some turkeys (followed shortly thereafter by turkey vultures), racoons, geese, and various assorted rodents. I've even seen a bear once. But last night was certainly something new. As I'm driving home from the train station after work, all of a sudden the traffic comes to a dead stop. I look up ahead and see a few police cars with the lights on, and a car at a strange angle on the side of the road. So I figure it's another accident, probably someone driving too fast on a rainy night. But then I see the police all wandering around the side of the road pointing their flashlights into the trees. Then I see an animal moving around in the shadows. I knew it wasn't a deer, because nobody calls the cops for deer. So my next thought is there's a bear on the loose. But as the animal comes a bit closer to me, I can see that the proportions are not right for a bear, the legs are too skinny. As it walks past my car, I clearly see that it is a large, black cow (actually I think technically it was a bull). I continue to watch in amazement, since while this isn't the first time I've seen a cow, it's the first time I've seen one wandering down the street outside my apartment. To add to the absurdity of it, as the cow, now trotting, goes down the street, it is followed by no less than 3 police cars, with all their lights on, as well as another car which I presume contained the cow's owner. Must have been a slow night for the police.

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

Thank God for weekends

It's so nice to finally spend a weekend at home. This is the first weekend since Oct. 20 that I don't have to fly somewhere. Which is good since it'll give me some time to prepare for my interview next week, as well as catch up with family and friends. The latest GSB admissions newsletter had some hints for preparing for the interview, so I've added this to my pack of info I'm reviewing, along with my app, questions from the interview feedback at accepted.com and clearadmit, the Chicago MBA brochure, and website. I'm feeling pretty good about the interview, but want to spend some more time thinking through how I want to articulate the fit between me and GSB. On the work front, the next few days are going to be very busy as I get things in order to allow me to take off Thurs and Friday and focus 100% on my interview.

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

Interview prep

I just got back last night from a quick trip to London and am now home until I leave for my Chicago interview next Wednesday. I haven't been able to focus a ton on prep up until now because of work projects, but have started looking at interview feedback over at accepted.com and clearadmit, as well as re-read my application. It seems like a lot of the questions asked of the people who completed the interview feedback are covered in the essays - why MBA, why now, why Chicago, short term/long term goals, etc. so I feel pretty prepared for those just from the essay preparation. As for the other questions, I'm planning to re-read all the materials about Chicago - the website, the MBA brochure, etc. - so I can easily pull from that if they go deeper into than the initial "why Chicago" question, and also thinking of leadership/teamwork/weakness/etc. examples beyond what I used in my essays to have them at the ready should I be asked a question on those. But even then, my best examples for those would have been used in essays (either for Chicago or other schools), so I already have some good examples committed to memory. Also, since I haven't yet visited the campus at all, I signed up for a class visit, lunch with students and tour the day before my interview. I'm sure that I'll be able to use that experience in my interviews also. I'm really trying to not over-think this either, since I know they just want to get to know me as a person, and don't want to hear me just rattle off memorized responses to questions, so my plan is to make sure I have relevant facts and examples ready to be used, but also focusing on staying relaxed and confident between now and then.

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

Interview invite

Today is a happy day, I got an invite from Chicago to interview! I was beginning to doubt myself so it was a great feeling to see the email from Chicago admissions. The interview scheduling process was pretty straightforward and I'm now scheduled to have an on-campus interview in a few weeks. I've also scheduled a class visit and tour for the day before the interview to take advantage of being on campus, so overall I'm excited for the trip. Now I can turn my nervous energy into preparing for the interview. It's good to have something to do to take my mind off the waiting game.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Around the world in (less than) 80 days

It's getting to the point where I need a few minutes when I wake up to remember where I am. Over the span of 9 days, starting last Sunday, I will have travelled around the world, making stops in Beijing, London and DC, and racking up over 30,000 frequent flyer miles in the process. I probably spend more time in the air than most flight crews. Don't get me wrong there is a lot that's good about it. At a (relatively) young age I have seen a great deal of the world, at a cost that is heavily subsidized by my company since so much of it is business-related travel. But on the personal side it takes a heavy toll to spend about 50% of your time living in various hotels.

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

Let the great waiting game begin!

Ok, so I am really the least patient person ever to walk the face of the planet. Ever since I got the email notification that my last Stanford recommendation was submitted, I could not concentrate on anything else. Eventually I just gave in and did the essay revisions that I planned to do tomorrow. Long story short, the essays are done and in as good a shape as they will ever be. Application is submitted. That is the last of my planned applications for the year. Funny enough it's not nearly the emotional relief I thought it would be to have them all done. Maybe because I know this is not the end, just the beginning? Maybe because I know that now I'll have to think harder about what to write about in this blog since I can't just give updates on app progress? Either way, now I am going to go home and relax, knowing that tomorrow I'll have to do the work I put off doing today. Good luck to all the other Stanford R1 applicants out there.

All recommendations are done.

Just got the email confirmation from Stanford that my backup recommender submitted, so now I'm all set. Just have to revise essays, do a final review of the app, and I'm done. Being this close to the finish line (ok, not the real finish line, but the finish line for this phase) it's hard to believe it's been 6 months since I seriously started preparing for the GMAT and researching schools. On the one hand it seems like so long ago, but on the other hand it seems like just yesterday I was in Borders buying the Princeton Review and Official Guide. I can only hope that the weeks of waiting go by just as quickly.

It always pays to have a backup plan

I am disappointed in my third recommender for Stanford. After promising to get it done by last Monday, I got no love. Followed up with an email. No response. This person has a reputation for missing deadlines. Not good. Rewind to last Thursday. I was discussing the situation with another partner (who had already written me a recommendation for Chicago) who also knew my Stanford recommender. She was concerned and told me if I needed her to write one for Stanford, she would do it. I told her the Stanford recommender had promised to have it by Monday, so thank you but I don't think I'll need it. As Monday turned into Tuesday and Tuesday turned into Wednesday, I started to have another concern. If my Stanford recommender hadn't started it yet (when he promised to have it done by Monday he indicated he hadn't started yet), would he have enough time to write a quality recommendation or would it be a generic "he's good you should admit him" letter? After thinking about it, I decided to go back to the Chicago recommender and ask if her offer was still on the table. It was, and she said she has time Friday (today) to do it. While I am more confident that she will get it done on time and it will be good, since she already has the basic outline and examples from Chicago, I don't feel great about telling the first recommender I don't need him anymore. I sent him an email to let him know I didn't need a recommendation. I'm going to see him in China next week so I'll have to smooth things over then. Even though I feel bad about it, the bottom line is that I had just lost confidence that he would actually get it done on time.

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

It's done

My supervisor submitted the Chicago recommendation last night so it's 100% complete. I don't know exactly why, but I'm not nearly as nervous about submitting this one as I was for HBS. I was a bit paranoid about hitting Chicago's submit button after my post-submission discovery of 2 typos in my HBS application, but after reviewing the Chicago app like 5 times, I hit the button and am now in a somewhat Zen-like calm state about it.

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

2 Down, 1 More to Go

Chicago is officially submitted. Well, actually that should be "submitted*". My supervisor still has not submitted his recommendation. But everything else is in and submitted so now my focus is 100% on Stanford. I am very happy with the Chicago application. Even though I struggled at first with the "put yourself in someone's shoes" essay, I think the application I submitted is as strong as it could be. It's done a lot to bring my confidence back after my bad experience in the BusinessWeek forums. I do have a bit of a concern that I'm getting better at this as I go, which would imply that HBS will be my weakest application. Not good since it's my first choice school. Oh well, c'e la vie. Nothing I can do now but wait and see how it all shakes out, and try not to think about it too much.

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

Gekko says lunch is for wimps? I think he meant sleep is for wimps

Well after a week of 14 hour days at work (today I'll "only" be at work for 10 hours), I have made no progress on essays. I've sent my Chicago drafts to a final reviewer, and will do my final revisions to them over the weekend. I also plan to do my first round of Stanford revisions over the weekend, and get them out for final review. And I have work-related stuff to do over the weekend as well. Needless to say it's gonna be a busy weekend. On the recommendation front, 1 of my Chicago recommenders submitted, my supervisor promised he'd submit over the weekend. I spoke to my final Stanford recommender and he also promised to get it done over the weekend or on Monday at the latest. So basically it looks like everything is coming together. Now I just need one last push to get everything done over the next week or so, and then I can take a deep breath.

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

Stanford GSB Event in NYC

As promised here's the scoop from the NYC Stanford event held Monday night. No refreshments or socializing beforehand, which was just as good since I got to the event 2 minutes before it started. Format of the event was about 40 minutes or so presentation about the program from the man himself, Mr. Derrick Bolton, followed by about an hour alumni panel, then another 45 minutes from Derrick on admissions. A lot of the info on the program and admissions was right off the website, but here are some nuggets of info I jotted down:

  • 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

Quick update

Just spoke to my supervisor, and mentioned my concerns about my travel schedule and interviews. His response? "Well we'll just have to manage around your interviews so you don't have to reschedule them." It's nice working for someone who cares and is supportive of my goals.

T minus 9 days and counting...

Well Chicago's deadline is rapidly approaching and so far I have 0 recommendations submitted. I spoke with my supervisor this morning and he promised it is in progress and he will submit it this week. I will see the other partner writing my recommendation tomorrow and will speak to her about it as well. My application is in pretty good shape so I'm feeling pretty good about it. As for Stanford, I have 2 of 3 recommendations already submitted, and will chase down the 3rd this week. Since I fly to Beijing on Oct. 21 and don't know how quickly I'll be able to get online once I'm there, essentially my deadline for Stanford is the 20th. That application is in ok shape, but I still have some work to do on the essays. Needless to say, the projects I'm involved with at work are getting pretty intense, so it's going to be a fun 2 weeks leading up to the deadlines. Thankfully I planned a 4 day long weekend into my trip to Beijing, I will need the time to decompress.

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

Back in the dumps

I did it. It was a mistake. Up until now I had avoided visiting the Business Week forums. Finally on Friday my curiosity got the better of me and I went on the forums. Visited the HBS, Stanford and Chicago R1 forums. They seemed fine. Then I went onto one of the admissions consultant's forums. I don't know what I was thinking, but I put down my stats and asked what they thought. Their response was basically "You have a shot at Chicago, but chances at HBS and Stanford are slim to none." Wow. Goodbye confidence.

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

New look

Some of you may notice that as of today I've changed the look of my blog. To be honest, the green was a bit too much for me. Since all three of the schools I'm applying to have a derivation of red as the school color (Crimson, Maroon and Cardinal, to be exact), I thought I'd go with that color scheme in some sort of (probably misguided) attempt at positive affirmation.

I don't remember applying to undergrad as being this stressful...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

It is done

At 11:54AM E.S.T. on September 27, 2007, my application status for HBS officially changed from "In progress" to "Submitted". I know, just yesterday I said I was going to do it this weekend but I got a bit anxious being this close to the finish line. I was a bit surprised at how nervous I was to actually hit the button. I am confident that the application does a good job telling my story, and I like my essays a lot, but still the finality of hitting that button got to me a bit. Now, it's just a matter of putting it out of my head and focusing on Chicago and Stanford.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Quick update

Just a quick update...last night my 3rd recommender for HBS submitted their recommendation, so I'm all set. This weekend I will take one last read through my application and essays (probably making a last round of minor revisions to the essays), then hit the button to submit. I'm excited to finally get one application done and submitted, but know that now the waiting game begins.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

HBS Event in NYC

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

I'm back

I am back from my travels and will now be home for the two weeks leading up to the HBS R1 deadline. I've also got my confidence and momentum back. Yesterday I did another round of revisions to my HBS essays and am now feeling very good about them. I think I'll have one more look at them and the entire HBS application before I submit it, but overall I think it's ready to go. Now I have to start focusing on Chicago and Stanford. In other application news, I'll be attending the HBS event in NYC this Wednesday night, so I'll be sure to let you all know how that goes. I'm interested to see how the case discussion goes, both to see how the case works in action, but also to see what insights it provides on what they're looking for in applicants.

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

Under pressure

When I decided about a year ago that I was going to apply to bschool, I had no idea the trip I was in for. Now, 4 months in (counting from when I started seriously preparing for the GMAT and looking at programs) I can honestly say this is much more stressful than I had ever imagined. I have never in my life had such dramatic ups and downs, where I am 100% confident in decisions/applications/etc. one day, only to wake up the next and have zero confidence in them. Last week I was sure I would get into at least 2 of the 3 schools I'm applying to. This week, I'm doubting whether I'll get into any. The kicker came last night: I am now dreaming about MBA applications. Not the dream so many of us have where we get the call from the director of admissions at X school welcoming us to join the Class of 2010. No, sir. This is a dream about the applications themselves. In my dream last night, I was writing essays, talking to my essay reviewers about them, talking to friends about doubts I had on the process, etc. I can't wait to see what the next phase has in store, after I submit my apps and wait anxiously for an interview invite.

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 to Ireland: Have dinner while watching movie, sleep (it was an overnight flight)
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

One month to go...

As of yesterday it is now the final month before the HBS R1 deadline. Overall I think I'm in good shape for that application. My essays are drafted, and in the review process. I think one more heavy round of review and revision and they'll be just about ready. The application itself is done, although I'll give it another review (or two...or three) before pushing the button. My recommenders have all gotten their packets and been input into the HBS system (although all 3 are still outstanding). So I'm feeling pretty good about the HBS application. I still have my rollercoaster of "I'll get in...I'll never get in..." but am confident if nothing else my application will be strong and show who I am.

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

No progress

Well it's been almost a week since my last post and I've made no progress on my essays. It was another incredibly busy week at work and my new project is really starting to take off. I've purposely not made many plans for this long weekend though so I can focus on moving essays forward. I know I'm still in pretty good shape in terms of timeline, but also know that if I don't keep focused, before I know it it will be October and I won't have good essays. So I'm going to hold myself to finishing the first draft of the other 2 Chicago essays this weekend, as well as a first draft of at least 1 Stanford essay.

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

Hear that? That's my ego deflating.

I got a bit of a dent in my ego today. I sent an email to my undergrad registrar to ask about class rank so I could enter that in the application. Up until this point I hadn't bothered to ask. I accepted a job offer before graduation so by the time graduation rolled around I wasn't too focused on class rank. Within an hour I got a response: I was 167th in my class (the class was close to 900). Ouch. I was 12th in my high school class. I understand the idea of competing against a tougher crowd once you get to university, but still for someone as competitive as I am coming in 167th didn't feel so good. Now I don't think this will hurt too badly with regard to my chances of getting accepted, since my GPA is at or just above the average for the schools I'm applying to and my GMAT is above their averages, so this was just a matter of ego. Even as I confidently say this though, the devil on my shoulder is starting to whisper in my ear: "167th? HAHAHA there's no way someone who was 167th in their class will get admitted to Harvard/Stanford/Chicago!" *sigh*

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

My first visit from Mr. Procrastination

I don't know why, but I'm finding it really hard to concentrate on my essays this weekend. The weather isn't nice so it should be extra incentive to stay inside and do this, but I'm just not feeling inspired. So I thought I'd update the blog. Not all that much to write about though. I'm about halfway through the first draft of Chicago's long career goals essay, and about halfway done with the powerpoint. I've also changed my idea for the 2nd Chicago essay since I didn't like the way my first idea played out on paper and came up with a new outline.

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 am so glad that it's Friday. It's been a crazy busy week at work. I've just picked up a new project, which is a great project and I'm excited about it, but it's just a tremendous amount of work so it hasn't left much time to spend writing essays. On the plus side, my trip to Europe at the end of September has been cancelled, so I'll get to spend the last 2 weeks before the HBS deadline in NY. A quick update:
  • 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

Michael Vick update

Oh, I almost forgot. Michael Vick is pleading guity, so you can ignore all those "allegedly"s in my earlier post about him. He did it. Well, maybe not the stuff about Al Qaeda and Iran and all that, but he's admitting to the whole dog thing. If the NFL doesn't have the guts to ban him for life from the league for this, then I for one will never watch another game, live or on TV, that he is part of.

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.

6 weeks to go

Well yesterday marked 6 weeks until the deadline for the HBS R1 applications. While 6 weeks is a good amount of time, I am starting to feel a bit pressured. There's a lot going on at work, and I have three business trips to Europe next month, with a fourth unfortunately scheduled for the week of the deadline, so I'll need to submit before I leave (even though I've never had a problem connecting to the internet from hotels when I'm in Europe, I'd much rather not take the chance). So I know these next six weeks are going to go by incredibly fast.

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

Slow and steady

Well today was a productive day on the recommender front. I spoke with two partners I used to work with and both happily agreed to write me letters of recommendation. One even offered to write a recommendation as soon as I explained I was applying to MBA programs, but before I even had the chance to ask if he would write one. I took that as a good sign. Over the weekend I finished the first draft of my final HBS essay, so I now have a complete set of first drafts for HBS. Tonight my mom gave me her feedback on the HBS essays she read and she brought up some good points. As funny as it sounds I'm actually excited about some of the changes I'm going to be making to the essays, since I think they'll be a lot better and more impactful with the changes. My plan is to focus on the Chicago essays this week, then do some revisions to my HBS essays over the weekend, taking into consideration the feedback I've received on them. I'm still not 100% sure what I'm going to do with the Chicago powerpoint essay. I have some ideas, but I don't think I'll really be sure what is going to work until I put the slides together and see how it looks.

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

And then there were three...

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

Waitress or economist?

Another non-MBA update. Work has been keeping me busy so not much has been accomplished the past few days on the MBA front. I did meet with a retired partner yesterday, who has been a mentor to me, to discuss my plans to pursue an MBA and he was very helpful and gave me some great advice. Today I discuss with my immediate boss, who may be more aware of my plans than I thought, since he and the retired partner I spoke to are good friends and have apparently discussed my plans for an MBA. We will see how it goes today. Still no progress on recommenders, but that's because I've been waiting to talk to anyone else about it until I speak to my boss.
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

Michael Vick is a bad man

This is completely non-MBA related. Nothing new to report on that front anyway. I continue to work on essays and applications. Have a call with my boss on Thursday (we're rarely in the same city) where I'm gonna tell him I've decided to apply to MBA programs. After that call I'm free to start lining up recommenders. Ok so the post isn't completely non-MBA related, but it's mostly non-MBA related.

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

Almost there (at least on one application)

I admit I completely underestimated how tough preparing the applications and essays would be. Oh, the naivete when I thought the GMAT would be the hard part! I am almost done with the HBS application, and have initial drafts of four of the five essays needed, with an outline for the fifth essay. Although now I'm rethinking the mistake I planned to write about to see if there's a better example out there I could use. I'm thinking the mistake essay could be my weakest because it wasn't really that big a mistake, and while I did learn from it, it didn't happen that long ago so it's gonna be hard to talk about demonstrating how I've done things differently now. Oh well, I'll give it more thought today and tomorrow and will plan to have a draft of the 5th essay by Wednesday. I'll still be happy with where I am, since there's 6 weeks to go until the R1 deadline. Plenty of time to rewrite. And you know there's no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.

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

I've got my MOJO back

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

The rollercoaster continues...

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!