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!