Sunday, December 13, 2009

My, time flies.

So it's Dec 13th. I'll know within a few days about Harvard and Stanford. I just got to responding to requests for essay review - my apologies, work/health issues the end of last week.

So I got surprisingly little response to my conundrum below: What would you do if you had a three month window where you're waiting on schools, while many career opportunities are popping up? Pursue them to have more options, or is that unethical?

I'm interested in feedback! I also am happy to review essays (create a gmatclub account and pm me) if anyone else is interested.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 7, 2009

I will review essays! (Also, mentor/life update)

I've fallen off the wagon blogging a bit (or thinking about b-school, actually!) ... to mitigate "TL;DR" I'll put this up front:

  • If I have time, I am very happy to give folks feedback on essays. I've done quite a bit of it for friends in the process. I am not a professional.
  • If you want me to look over any part of your app, create an account on the GMAT Club site and send me a PM (my account is 'lsmba', quel surprise!) and we'll go from there.


I had forgotten all about B-school honestly - the month of November was busy. I got a Haas email reminder today saying that the process has started. No interview invites from anywhere as of yet. I think the best way not to stress about your chances is ... to be busy!

Of course, that's a little bit of a challenge when your next real move is a career change, and you're waiting on the Y/N from schools. I talked at length with one of my mentors about it - I have a lot of passion and could see myself in one or two existing roles internally, or they might create one or two roles for things we don't yet do that I think we should. On the flipside, I've had some opportunities come up through professional networking that I haven't been able to bite at... yet!

Indecision is difficult. Not knowing how many birds are in any given bush is really frustrating when you have none in the hand - and I don't think it's ethical to apply for a position then leave six months later because you got into B-school. My mentor disagrees, and says that I should try to give myself as many options as possible. I honestly am rather torn. I don't even know what direction to go in! One of the other problems is that if I remain internal, they need to backfill my current role, and there's a big shortage of people who can do so. This would delay my transition and eventual performance&promotions by 1-6 months, depending. (6 is very unlikely)

Anyhow. So I've been indecisive, but on the upside I'd honestly forgotten to stress about b-school until I checked my gmail for the first time today (@11pm!) and saw the Haas email... which turned out to be a "Hi, just so you know, we have started sending invites!" communication.

In closing - I hope everyone has fantastic plans for Dec & Jan! I was originally going to Vegas with friends (turns out a lot of MBA's I know are heading to Brazil for New Year's - from different schools, too, random!) but instead I'm just taking 2 weeks to hang mostly with the fam.

Happy Holidays!

PS: Essay review offered at the top is contingent on me having time, but I really enjoy reviewing folks essays, so I will try to make time.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Woo, feedback!

Got a surprising amount of feedback to my last post, thank you all! Also updated my 'about me' to disclose a bit more.

Just to set the record straight, my heart is not set solely on bschool; pinning your hopes on such a statistically low chance when you're an 'old' and 'below-average GPA' prospect seems silly. However, an MBA from a top-10 seems by far and away the best route to a director or VP level position (ed. or CEO, depends on what company we're talking about!) where I can enact organizational improvement from a true leadership position, rather than having to do everything behind the scenes! The application process helped clarify goals, as well - it is as valuable as the adcom reps say it is!

To that end, I've got a number of routes to where I want to be, and while Bschool is the most attractive (connections, classwork, exposure to other companies through case studies, lectures, visits, projects, and of course the alumni networks!) it is not the only route. In the last week I've had some leads on opportunities I'd love to pursue, but I've had to hold off since I won't know my status until Feb.

Responding to comments:
  • Not looking outside the top schools simply because brand name, opportunities, and alumni network are very important to me. As several (successful entrepreneur/biz leader) friends have said, "Why get an MBA? Pick up MBA for dummies, you don't need to spend so much money!" and I concur. The opportunity cost for an MBA is very, very high (lost salary/promotions/business opportunities + spending $$$$ for an MBA) and to justify it, I'd want to come out with a degree backed by a stellar reputation and a solid network of alumni.
  • Not looking at Round 2 (except perhaps to finish one Wharton essay and submit, but Wharton's program really lacks in the places I'm interested in) because I can't put my career on hold indefinitely... time is a pretty limited asset!
  • On 'holistic process' - Think statistics. Bschools are happy to brag about their incoming classes, and you won't see many bschools saying their average GPA and GMAT scores went down with this year's class ;) While there is certainly involved work by the adcoms to diversify their classes, they do care about their stats. I suggested that the adcom might use that particular method because you do want to make sure your final stats improve your school's brand - so identifying candidates that will tilt numbers in the upward direction is an easy first step.
Thanks for the feedback! I'm not feeling down about my lack of invites thusfar (it's out of my hands, so I just do my best not to fret) but I am moderately down that I can't take advantage of some opportunities, because B-School is a better opportunity at this time and worth waiting for. Only a few months till I know for sure!

Thanks again for the discussion, have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

No news, no time, but hope?

Perhaps a misleading title!

I've had no word (ie: interview invites) from the 5 schools I've applied to. Given my low GPA, I'm not entirely surprised - my guestimate as to the methodology would be that:

  1. Remembering the desire to round out the class and ensure diversity,
  2. Early invites would go to the easy-win, 'fill the box' candidates (3.5+ GPA, 730+ GMAT, stellar school & institution)
  3. Later invites would go to the more interesting but non-traditional candidates (I figure I fit here)
That said, I'm not banking on an invite or acceptance from any school. I'm back from two weeks of whirlwind and frantically trying to catch up at work; writing up a report for a presentation tomorrow that I'll give after four hours of special session with another division, while simultaneously politicking a new technology usage across my company at some very high levels. I have a pretty packed schedule until January, come to think of it...

So, do I have hope for getting into bschool? I applied to five top-tier schools, round 1, with a poor academic profile, good-to-great work experience at great companies (4-7Y depending on how you view it), great recommendations, and what I hope were great essays. Based on averages alone, my GPA is likely outside the bottom of the 80% for each school (above 3.0, but barely) while my GMAT is well above most schools' averages (740) but not above their 80th percentile. (That's what I get for only taking a week to study?)

Honestly, I don't know if there's hope. I've long since decided I won't look at other schools in R2... I can't make myself justify the opportunity cost to look outside a premier brand. I'm also not exactly pinning my life on it... gotta write up this report so I can get back to properly phrasing and targeting my next barrage of internal politicking... I see opportunity for the company, but given we're large and conservative I need to first socialize the idea widely in certain circles, then sell it to the right target after the prework is done. Work in progress, but I've been through it before; hopefully this idea will be at least as successful as my last one... which was the topic of many of my bschool essays, come to think of it!

By Feb I'll know my results and be moving onto the next steps of whichever of my plans makes sense, but in the meantime I've got work to do! Hope everyone else's apps/waiting is going well!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Life is a whirlwind...

Is it possible to forget you've applied to b-school? Probably not, but the last week I went to a party hosted by a Sloan professor and was in San Fran within shouting distance of Haas and Stanford and my apps hardly crossed my mind.

Spent the week in San Fran for a conference, did a lot of networking and met a lot of great people. Also hung out with high school friends and the college roomate before/after the conference. Managed to not get sick despite travel and partying, adjusted to the time zone effortlessly both ways, and didn't make a fool of myself at any of the sponsored soirees. Of course, something HAD to go wrong, and that was my airline reservations (long, painful story) but it was an amazing trip.

After getting back late (and missing a meeting!) yesterday, I laid low today and hung out with a friend who was in town. Gunna keep the weekend low key, as I need to figure out how to get to NYC on Wednesday for a Daily Show taping (friend has a spare ticket!) as I have the day off, then get back to Richmond by 8am Thursday to teach class. Also have a ton of work to do, and new internal political shift that developed while I was in CA to figure out how to leverage. Life is definitely not boring!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

What NOT to do while waiting...

It has been my good fortune that everything I've been asked for at work this week has been very easy to turn around. As a result, I had some free time today and I made the mistake of visiting the BSW and Gmatclub boards and browsing the interview & profile threads.

While I like the GMATClub boards quite a lot, and wish I'd spent more time on them during the app process, the BSW boards were riveting in the way a ten car pileup is - terrible, but you can't look away. I speak in particular about the 'DID YOU GET AN INTERVIEW? WHAT'S YOUR PROFILE? OH @#%#% HARVARD IS ONLY ACCEPTING X! I'M DOOOOOOMED" thread.

I'm more than a little surprised at the hysteria, insecurity, emotions, etc etc etc. I have not received an interview invite anywhere, but I'm not going to fret crazily about something beyond my control. I already know that by the end of February or so, I'll either be getting ready to attend, or moving on to my plan B. I found out this morning that a new consulting firm in my specific field just got created, so I'll be sure to network with the founder at an industry conference we're both attending in two weeks to inquire about their planned work.

I want to fast-forward this week, because my next three weeks are jam-packed. To kill the next two days, I could head up another self-started investigation and present on it to increase our extended organization's efficiency/knowledge in an area (already ran the idea by my manager) but I'm evaluating my level of enthusiasm, the time it would take, and the logical followups (most likely an official project not run by me) and as I've had no real break since May, I'm not *that* inspired to go back to running at 150%. Not just yet! ;) On the flipside, if my alternative becomes compulsively reading the hysteria threads... well, lets just say I've decided to keep myself productive for the rest of the week ;)

Best of luck to folks still going hard at their apps!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Round 1: DONE

Quite the load off my chest. All 5 R1 apps submitted. Each school has something different I can get really excited about, and just given statistics I'll be 'lucky' to get into one (of course, I like to make my own luck!) so if I get the option of choosing between multiple top-10 schools, it will truly be an honor.

Anyhow. This has been an amazing period of my life, and I'm glad to focus on the work I have to do between now and February. If I'm not accepted at a school by then, I'll turn my attention to finding a position doing what I love and submit the R2 Wharton just in case they admit me - although unfortunately they are not terribly strong in any of the areas I'm interested in.

It's been a trip. Other than a confidence post when I get time, expect my posting frequency to go down for a while! Thanks, readers!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Interview War Wounds

I had my Kellogg interview yesterday, and I made a classic, classic mistake.

I've owned a comfortable pair of shoes for about five years that I use for work, and resoled them twice. They are a bit scuffed, but extremely serviceable and molded to my feet. Two years ago, I bought a 'replacement' set of shoes (never worn) that are new and shiny, and of course decided to interview in the new and shiny shoes rather than the scuffed standby's.

My interview was at 8am about 25 minutes from my house by public transportation, and 5 minutes after leaving my house I was in severe pain. The left shoe, which fit wonderfully at the store two years ago, was tearing up the back of my ankle. Given the severity of the situation (I would never recommend being late to a b-school interview!) I soldiered on. I hobbled all over Arlington, and since I beat my interviewer there I tried stuffing some napkins down the back of the shoe so I wouldn't be limping as I stood to greet him and followed him to a seat.

As a result, this morning I have a blister about the size of a quarter on the back of my ankle, and it stings. The interview itself was quite pleasant, and while I felt like I had a good connection with my interviewer I'm not certain of anything. I can name two pitfalls I fell into that were my misreading his intent (neither seemed to end badly), and he asked me several times if I wanted to know anything further about the school. Since I have two former teammates there and researched all my schools fairly extensively, I didn't really have anything to ask... but in retrospect, I should probably have figured out something new to ask ahead of time, or just asked something I knew the answer to to indulge him. It's people brownie points, after all; people like feeling helpful! My only clear negative was that several times I touched on other schools (after researching so many schools, it's all fresh in my head!) and I probably should have eschewed those stories or parallels unless specifically asked about them and kept the interview focused on Kellogg.

That said, there were no clear disaster moments, and it was a pleasant experience. While I hope I get more than one interview, Kellogg's was very relaxed and enjoyable and a great one to start with! Time to limp off and find some breakfast.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Zap! Pow! Hasselhoff!

Schools Submitted R1: 3/5
Schools Submitted R2: 0/1
(Wharton E2 & redbull)

... I think I stole the title from a Buffy episode? (ed: definitely a Sluggy Freelance strip.) I'm excited, 3 down, 3 to go, and the last two R1 schools are the apps I started first - they're good to go as is, but a little review doesn't hurt!

I don't have a lot to update about, really. I'm extremely glad I did the majority of my app work this summer, because it's been a busy fall. Most of my effort around school submissions has been 10-15 hours of final essay revisions 3-4 days before the deadline, then upload them and final review, then click 'submit'.

Work wise, I've had some fun high priority requests thrown my way (audit, legal, everyone likes me lately! Oh, and HR wants me to be in a video!) and in my free time when I'm not facing a deadline, I've tried to relax. After all, I haven't really had a break since May or so... nice to chill out! Soon I might try having a life again and making good on my promises to various partners to go salsa dancing.

Anyhow - I'm sure everyone's in cram mode right now, and I hope you all did the lion's share early! As promised I've started composing a post on Confidence, but I want to take the time to communicate my thoughts clearly. Sometime in the future, though! Good luck, B-schoolers.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Pulling the Trigger, and interview prep.

Schools Submitted: 1/6 (Schools ready: ~4/5)

The past week has been eventful: I wrote a final essay from scratch, submitted my first application, went blind, traveled for three days for work, and decided to not force Wharton R1.

Last Thursday, I slept perhaps 2 hours working to finalizing HBS and Wharton. The next night, I rewrote a HBS essay from scratch after rereading the question and deciding I hadn't addressed it properly. I wrote final notes on all essays, submitted and saved the PDF file and reviewed it in its entirety*, and the next day I pulled the trigger on the application well ahead of the deadline.

Friday night, I also managed to over-indulge in redbull. After sitting for over 10 hours in the dark, with a bright screen on my right and a dim one on the left (monitor/laptop), I 'went blind' at 4am. One pupil was calibrated to darkness, the other to light, and neither was dilating. This meant that in the light, my left eye couldn't see my hand in front of my face, in the dark, my right eye couldn't. Etc. Scary stuff, although some quick googling revealed the issue. I took much of Saturday just to lie in bed with cold compresses and recover/relax, but I did submit HBS. I might wish I'd tweaked my 4th essay one way or another, but I'd dithered too long on the topic.

I didn't get cranking on Sunday partly due to eyes/exhaustion and partly because my Mon-Thur schedule was brutal and I knew I needed to be rested. Up at 5AM Monday to travel, gave a presentation at 10AM, and spent the next few days at a hotel with plenty of work to do and pretty much 9-5 meetings Mon-Thu on top. All in all, I couldn't get fired up to finish and submit Wharton R1 by Thursday. I admit, Wharton was the last school I considered, and ironically the one least finished albeit with the earliest deadline. My recommenders had submitted on time, so the only excuses I have for not finishing off W R1 is my illness over the weekend and my distaste for Wharton Essay #2. At this point, my story is that to adapt, I changed my company around me. It's true, but not exactly what they are asking for. Although my mother commented when I complained about the topic, "Why would they want people that were forced to adapt? Aren't they looking for leaders?" I don't get W's questions either and as an elite school they can ask whatever they want... but I struggle to think of anything I had to adapt to that requires more than 250 words to convey.

Interview prep: I am applying to Kellogg R1, and therefore I will automatically get at least one interview. Time to tighten up my Kellogg and Stanford apps and pull the trigger on them as well! Have a great weekend, folks.

Interview resources: There are some fantastic resources out there, and I'm sure there are more than I have listed; if you got 'em, post 'em!
  1. ClearAdmit Wiki Interviews

    h/t Linda Abraham:
  2.'s MBA Interview Feedback Database
  3.'s MBA interview prep mini-email course
  4.'s "MBA IV" : Instantly downloadable ebook containing tips and sample questions organized by school. The first two are free.

* - I recommend this as a best-practice. Get all your info up there (even some fake essays) and 'submit' - it gives you the option to review your PDF. SAVE THIS FILE AND REVIEW IT. This is what the adcoms are looking at! (Disclaimer: This works great at the schools I've tried thusfar, but I don't know if it works at all the schools)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Analysis Paralysis, and great stories I won't use.

Schools Submitted: 0*/6 (Schools ready: ~4/6)
First Deadline: 6 days
Essays Submitted: 12/30(ish)

Everyone's heard of analysis paralysis - where you are psychologically trapped by too many options and end up unable to make a decision. There are actually usability studies about the danger of giving your customers too many choices; they don't buy anything!

In late night conversations with the peer that's been my MBA-App wingman, nothing has come up more lately than our analysis paralysis. We both have solid essays, but we'll pick them up at 10PM at night and find thousands of nitpicks, or things we wanted to add, and spend hours getting lost in the trees, and at times end up burning part of the forest down in the process. I completely mangled an essay on Tuesday as a result. Fortunately, Google docs has revision history log, so I just reverted to the previous day's version. I love technology!

There's also analysis paralysis around choices of topic. I've written a lot of drafts, and in many cases I have two or three essays for a question and I'm trying to decide what tells the most about me in relation to an MBA and how it fits with other essays and the data entry. This means cutting stuff that I like; I had a mistake/personal improvement experience that certainly wasn't extraordinary or superhuman, but it's one of my favorite life-changing moments.

Gist of the story I wish I was telling in one of my essays:
Took a foreign language class outside school, my TA was a giant muscled body builder; I assumed he was an idiot. Got shown his book at the end of class, turned out he was a surgeon, artist, and humanitarian who'd attended an ivy league. Er, whoops.

Also, he'd been as scrawny as I was in college... and had written a book on bodybuilding and his experience gaining weight. I put on 30 lbs in college with him as inspiration, and bodybuilding taught me about discipline and nutrition, as well as building my confidence significantly.

The discipline and nutrition came in quite handy both for dropping weight after a year or two of being a little too sedative from work, and for healing my collarbone fast enough to get back into a championship game for my team in the same season I broke it. The confidence bit is, well, confidence is really good stuff to have. Helps out in life, y'know.

Why am I not telling this story? I have more dramatic and impactful stories, and while this is one of my favorite mistakes, it doesn't tell much about me other than I used to be a scrawny, judgmental kid that gained some knowledge/confidence in the gym. I really wish HBS asked 'what are your three most significant accomplishments, and why' rather than substantial, as I would throw bodybuilding into significant, but not substantial. But then I'd have to revisit that school's essays, and I've forced myself to put them down for now.

Ah well, "Praise the lord and pass the (caffeine)" ... back to finalizing. If anyone has tips on dealing with analysis paralysis, please share. I lapse into a state of ultra-analysis after 2 or 3 hours of essaying now; great for programming and model/data work, terrible for essays.

Edit 1: My own tip: Body-mind connection. My head dips in when I start to focus. I literally am snapping my head back and shaking it to reorient. It does work!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Reviewing an MBA Tour Event

On Sunday I attended an MBA Tour Event, and had mixed reactions. Two of my peers who are currently applying attended as well, and we met up for lunch to compare notes.

Takeaways from our conversation (both of them have gone through the app process once already):
  1. You don't learn much if you've already done thorough research of the school you're interested in.
  2. Unlike some other panels (apparently a HBS/Wharton/Stanford GSB panel a friend had attended) no school gave much explanation as to how they went through an application; essays first, transcript last, resume first, essays last, etc - pretty much every school said 'holistically' and left it at that.
  3. In general, the presenters didn't sell us on anything. If I hadn't already done my research and talked to current students and alums at the schools I'm applying to, I might have been disincented.
I'm not trying to convey that the event didn't have value:
  1. If I was just beginning my search, it would have been a solid way to learn about the process. I say solid because I think I got far more information in less time over the internet.
  2. One school did mention they looked for specific things (such as a B average in calculus) and that was an excellent takeaway.
  3. Overall, chatting with the adcom reps was useful more for getting a feel for their personalities and thought processes than it was for the information they provide. That was, by far, the biggest takeaway - how they think, and therefore how to position some of my statements. ( This made the event very worthwhile )
I'm staring at my checklist... the schools with the furthest out deadlines were done first (? not sure how that happened, guess I got more excited about them) and the October 1st deadlines are, well, in progress. I finalized my resume and moved from a 56 line 10pt font to a 50 line 11pt font. It still might be a bit too much information, but I have done a lot of work in my time at my company, and it has sufficient white space and readability not to confound an interviewer.

I held off on any submissions due to the MBA Tour, and I'm glad I did - I'm going to do a little rewording and work in the optional essays section to better target the adcom mindset. 11 days to freedom, I hope!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

... too much caffeine?

First Deadline: 14 Days
Schools Completed: 0/6
Essays Submitted: 4/28

Short entry, I hope. I'm crashing early tonight (before midnight!) because I need to be functional for meetings tomorrow and have to be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to teach on Friday. In my experience, if you want to feel well rested, the sleep you get two nights before is what matters.

My essay total went up; I've decided to use the optional 'explanatory' essay for two schools that I'm nearly finished with. Sometime later I'll write an entry about my journey to that decision, but definitely not now. I did not quite get where I wanted to on S#1, but another productive evening!

... oh right, the title of this post! So I had a 9am phone appointment with a current MBA student to ask some specific questions about a program her school offered, and she called me at 9pm due to a calendar mix-up. I'd actually talked to an admissions adviser at her school not an hour before, which had led to the decision to use the 'explanatory' essay for that school, and I was rather fired up about it (plus, had quite a lot of caffeine in me) ...

The poor woman! She opened the conversation wanting to learn about my background and goals, and I love talking about my passions so I took off at a caffeine-fueled four hundred miles an hour... she couldn't get a word in edgewise for a while. Admittedly, I disclosed early on that I had talked to another student in the same program and gotten great information, which changed the direction of the chat. We had a good discussion and I learned a few things about the school I didn't know. That said, I'm moderately appalled at how much talking I did, although she was incredibly gracious about it - if I get a chance to visit the campus I intend to look her up and demonstrate that I usually am more composed than a seven year old overdosed on pixie sticks.

Incidentally, I doubt I'll keep the silly running count up top with every post, I'm just motivating myself to finish strong.

Unlikely uses for Linked-In.

Quick entry. On Labor Day weekend, I spent at least half a day updating my Linked-In profile. (I also accidentally spammed everyone I'd ever emailed. Whoops, sorry.)

Tip: This was a good idea (update, not spam), and here's why.

I thought having an up-to-date profile would be prudent if any adcom googled me, but I didn't expect to get so much use out of my work. Today, I'm constantly viewing my own profile... to copy and paste information. Like yahoo, Linked-In has a profile of most companies, and from my public profile I can quickly dive into each one to get relevant information (size, industry, descriptions, etc). I also copy and paste my preloaded job descriptions, activities, etc. into fields. More or less, having an up to date linked-in profile is akin to having a professional cheat-sheet. So handy, and available everywhere - and beats a traditional resume due to the links.

Updating my profile also led to a number of other very significant events which completely consumed my labor day weekend (I did finish one monster essay, but no other progress). Frankly, had it not happened only 11 days ago I'd consider the experience grounds for a solid essay topic. That said, today I'm finding unlikely uses for linked-in, and loving it!

PS: The modern MBA applicant should be comfortable using two browsers; currently I'm leveraging Firefox and Chrome to pass information back and forth between schools as well. (Why does this matter? ApplyYourself, used by most of the top MBA programs, only lets you log into one school at a time. 2 browsers, 2 cookies, 2 schools.)

No pain, no gain?

First Deadline: 15 Days
Schools Completed: 0/6
Essays Submitted: 0/26

Perhaps an overly dramatic title. I sit here wondering "Where'd the last nine hours go?" and feel concern that I've made no "real" progress, while simultaneously feeling extremely satisfied with my abundant progress. IE: I submitted nothing and finalized no drafts today, but spent 9 full hours sitting at my desk after work being extremely productive in revisions and general application data entry. Come to think of it, I should consider putting some food near my desk tomorrow night.

It's 3AM (east coast) and I just finished conversing with a fellow MBA aspirant (helped slim & focus his Wharton draft) and am settling back with a shocked grin on my face: Tomorrow, after work, I'm going to fundamentally restructure Stanford #1 for the 5th time. Well, the first two restructurings were more akin to 'burn the house down, then rebuild it' but with each pass I get happier with the clarity and direction.

I can appreciate the days where there was no set length to that notable Stanford essay, and can see both bad and the good in the word limit. For one, I've already chopped four incredibly valuable experiences out of it, and will probably chop one or two more - there's just not enough room to cover so many life experiences and clearly link each to a central theme. I'm both pleased and annoyed at having to cherrypick the experiences that best fit my theme and clearly convey my message; On the one hand, I leave a lot of great material on the side, but on the other hand it is a fantastic exercise.

We learn about the '80-20' rule at work - to apply it here, 80% of an outcome takes only 20% of the effort. Essays feel more like 95-5 at this point; I wrote a 500 worder for Wharton in perhaps an hour back in early August, and have since spent at least 10 revising it. Stanford #1 has consumed a solid 40 hours of my life thusfar, no doubt. At the same time, all that extra effort has been well spent, and there are only a few 'big hitters' that have been truly time consuming. Given I lost quite a lot of essay time a few weeks back, I'm content-but-concerned with my progress. I will have finished a few school applications by the end of the week.

G'nite... I'm off to quickly revise 2 school drafts and send them to a recommender at their request, then sleep, then work, then essays!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Final drafts... and Football!!!

I'm sure many readers are not from the USA, but this is the NFL kickoff weekend!!! Talk about a distraction.

Finalizing four school drafts and submitting this week. Two other schools to finish up and submit before Oct 1. All in all, I've been over these drafts dozens of times and can't spend any more energy on this as work is about to pick up in a major way.

Hope everyone else is having a great MBA September - and is excited for FOOTBALL!!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day Weekend...

Also known as "finalize my apps and get them submitted" weekend for some of my schools, or that's my (perhaps overly aggressive) goal.

A lot's happened lately: In the past few weeks I've gotten quite behind, missing a week of work (and essay writing!) due to an infection. I also had to travel for work in the middle of my sick spell, which left me rather drained. All in all, I probably lost about 8 days of essay writing... and a full five days of work!

On the flipside, I'm happy with how my essays are maturing. I've gotten insight from roughly 10 extremely talented individuals on 18 or so essays, and it has really helped out.

Tip: If you are using Google Docs, the word-count feature has a "Flesh-Kincaid Grade Level" index for a section, a rough evaluation of its 'readability'. If a paragraph of your essay scores a '22' (ie: being suitable for '22nd graders'), you probably should revisit that section. A peer pointed out that my writing is incredibly dense at times, a result of some of the technical and research documents I've read and written, and so I am aiming for 10-13 as a F-K score for all my essays and paragraphs. There are the occasional complex sentences (particularly ones involving long class titles) that eke out a 15 or 16, but for the most part I've been successful. I'm quite proud that my most difficult essay nets a 10.0.

Anyhow. A weekend of revision and targeting ahead.

Note to any MBA officials reading this: As a prospective applicant, I found Haas the easiest school to learn about. They have done an excellent job of putting out an amazing amount of material about the strengths of their program and what makes them unique on their website, and it is well-organized and easy to navigate.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Collaborative Essays

I have a lot of passion for collaboration. My director introduced me to google docs, and so I've done all my school work in it... and as my network of coworkers (big company) who are also applying now has expanded, I've been sharing my essays and critiquing theirs.

I have to say, it is inspiring and uplifting to read my peers' essays. It has also been invaluable as they've helped shred my essays and improve them. I'm not sure how many people out there are lucky enough to have a network of talented, motivated friends that are going through the same thing right now, but it is a phenomenal experience.

16/26 down, maybe 4 of those in final draft form. Tally-ho, weekend!

Edit: Wow, I have to reiterate: I am really fortunate to have so many exceptionally talented friends and co-applicants to help with essay review. Outstanding!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Strung out...

I have quite a number of essays (well over 20) to submit, and I'm about half way done with my first drafts.

I've gotta say, Wharton seems to be the odd man out! Everyone else asks, "Why are you cool? Why are you cool with leadership? Why are you cool with results? Why would our students have a beer with you?" and Wharton goes, "When did you fail? When did you struggle to be accepted? Tell us about something that was hard for you." Such a downer!

That said, although Wharton Essay #3 (Failure) took a solid 6 hours just to get a first draft I was content with, the self reflection involved was a surprisingly rewarding experience. I'm still trying to find a meaningful angle for Essay #2 (Adapt) though... and a dozen other essays. Good times!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Yesterday I met with four of my recommenders (my manager I'd met with on Monday) and gave them each their package (about 15 pages of material). I began each meeting by thanking them again for their help.

The support I received left me a bit speechless. I have had, overall, an amazing time at my company, but I knew in March that after my pet project was done I had to move on - either to a school to broaden my horizons, learn new skills and find my way into enterprise efficiency consulting, or to a smaller company where I could make more of an impact with my work and not face the level of bureaucracy a multi-billion dollar company must mandate to avoid liability. I had expected a tinge of bitterness, but every single meeting was positive and every recommender eager to help.

Overall, yesterday was very encouraging. Two downsides:
#1) One of the top-10 schools has changed the # of recommenders (within the last day or two), which means I need to exclude a recommender that I felt provided a unique viewpoint.
#2) I promised to deliver, by Monday, first drafts to every essay for the schools I'm targeting. One down, lots to go.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

MBA Links

I highly recommend this blog post to aspiring MBA candidates.

On interviews & school locations:
This is an interesting Wiki Site on various schools.
Found this as well.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Exciting morning...

Ok, so it's not that exciting, but it bumped my heartrate up - I got the email about my official GMAT score. They say 20 days, it took 7. It did confirm my scores (83%q/97%v) and I got a 6.0 on the essays to boot. They were fun to write!

The tasks for the weekend: Assembling information for my recommenders. All of my recommenders are from my current job, and have good things to say. The struggle is making sure they have great things to say and are able to say them with emphasis - I found this site very eye opening in that regard (a reminder of the level of competition!), although I refuse to ghost-write. That puts me potentially at a disadvantage - one of my key recommenders, while excellent at their job and with many good things to say, is notedly at a disadvantage writing in english. So my task list (which needs to be finished by Monday night) is as follows:
  • Organize my tasks & achievements at work chronologically into a one page document.
  • Fill out a 'universal recommendation' with notes for each recommender that I'd like them to highlight or anecdotes I want them reminded of.
  • Since I have 5 recommenders (different schools) I need to tailor each recommender's packet to the schools they're sending it to.
  • Finish updating my resume and include it.
  • Include a summary statement on "Why MBA, Why Now" - or a full essay if I get time.
  • Include excerpts of my self appraisals from work highlighting my passions.
  • Outline my greatest weaknesses (undergrad gpa) and where I need the most support.
It's a foregone conclusion that this summer will be much more work than play, but life is all about priorities!

My GMAT experience

Odd to follow my first post with my second one, but I'm still awake, and after 8 hours straight of organizing my material for my recommenders on top of my normal workday, I'm ready for a break.

The GMAT is viewed by some as some sort of magical measure of worth. I half hope it is, because in the end my unofficial score was a good one (still waiting on the official), and that might help counter my undergrad experience. Historically, I have been a very good standardized test taker and essays don't phase me, but this year I have a lot riding on it.

Last year, I looked at the GMAT... a little. Maybe 2 hours a week for six weeks in Feb-Mar '08 before giving up. My practice tests were in the 500-600 range, fairly terrible if I wanted to get into any top-10 school, but my heart wasn't in it. Knowing you are ready to go makes a world of difference; this year I took the GMAT very seriously.

This year, I signed up for the GMAT on August 1st, a Saturday, at 8am. Unfortunately for my planned study schedule, I was on a *major* project for May and June. Very big, very time consuming. I took the first week of July for vacation, and much of it was just to recover. I remember falling asleep at 8pm while gathered with family and friends on the weekend of the 4th of July ... in the living room. I woke up at 8am the next morning, having slept through their antics the entire night. Ouch. When I got back to work, all the lower priority tasks that had been pushed aside reared their heads and demanded my attention, and for two weeks I got caught up. I dithered over whether to change my date, since I knew I was cutting it far too close. I began studying on Saturday, exactly a week before the test.

My first concern: The test was at 8am. I'm not a morning person, I'd rather work till 4am than get up at 6. However, your body will do exactly what you condition it to do. I set my alarm for 6:00 every weekday morning that week, and made sure I got up. The third day was by far the worst - the second night I got perhaps 3 hours sleep, then drove two hours to another office to work, worked a full day, and drove back. It was a living nightmare. By the end of the week, while I was not exactly 'chipper' at 6am, I was definitely alert, aware, and ready to take tests. Thursday and Friday I had finished a practice test by 9am.

My study pattern was straightforward: The GMAT is a collection of tricks; Learn them. View it as a worthy, fun challenge. My first practice test (Kaplan 2007 CD) I got a 540. Ouch. I studied 12 hours a day Saturday and Sunday. Worked 8-5 Mon-Wed, and studied till midnight. I had to travel as well, which cut into my sleep time. 540, 590, 680, 610, 660... with each test, more tricks became apparent, as my mind started to adapt to the format. I was ready to take the GMAT's 'official' prep software. Note to those reading: I highly recommend leaving that little program until you feel you are comfortable with the test - it was the closest experience to the genuine test and my score on it was very indicative of my final score. I scored 700, 720 on it, and felt more comfortable. The night before the GMAT, quite tired at 8pm, I took the free "Manhattan GMAT" and got a 570. I wasn't shocked - I took the test rather halfheartedly to try to expose myself to new types of questions, but it was a little unsettling. I was in bed early.

Day of: Woke up at 5:30 to my alarm feeling fresh and prepared. Had a light, healthy breakfast and reviewed all the problems I'd gotten wrong on the Manhattan GMAT the night before. Left at 7am and drove through the city (I love the Iphone!) and walked in. There were 11 other people there to take the GMAT! Wow. I let everyone else go first (you can start before the official time, it's whenever the test center is ready) and went to the bathroom. I assured myself that, worst comes to worst, I could retake in September, and I still had my GRE score from 2005 which would be a competitive score at the top-10's that were willing to accept it.

The actual test was quite a lot of fun. As many have said, people who view the GMAT as a giant obstacle are psyching themselves out. The essay questions were especially fun, the latter of which was on a topic of great interest to me, which I had held a lengthy debate upon with my roomate (a phd in public policy) two weeks prior.

The math is the area I truly wished I'd had more time to study. At one point in my life, I was quite good at math, but the GMAT is more about figuring out the trick than it is learning differential equations. Every standardized test up to the GMAT, I'd excelled at the math and done well at the verbal. Oddly enough, the GMAT flipped those, but my tentative final score did pass the 80/80 threshold the schools talk about. I'm still awaiting my official score, but if the unofficial one that flashes up on the screen (and is on your test printout) is accurate, then I'm very happy.

My personal goal is to be 'done' with the application process by September 1st. The rest of the year holds a *lot* of work for my team, and while my manager is aware I'm applying (and offering support!) she expects my full commitment to work come September.

It has begun...

Technically, it began last year.

I spent a good portion of last June/July halfheartedly attempting practice GMAT's and pondering why I wanted to go to grad school. In truth, even today, it's the most daunting of essay questions - not because I don't have answers, but because they don't seem like exceptional ones.

"I want to change careers to consulting, build up my skills and network, and then run my own company. I want to change the world for the better. I want to study among the best the professional world has to offer and learn from their experiences and passions."

Trite, normal, commonplace... last year, I couldn't make the decision to apply. This year, the situation has changed. My pet project has finally taken off - unlike last year, I don't fear for its success when I depart. I received another promotion. The industry was hit with a number of issues, which underlined my desire to change careers.

So it began. I am taking this more seriously than any endeavor before, because I've got several strikes against me to any top 10 adcom: I'm relatively old (I will be 30 in the fall of 2010), my undergrad GPA was 'terrible' by top school standards (and worse than I remember!), and I do not currently hold a managerial position. I'm also white and male - not quite the diversity they're looking for.

Clearly, I wouldn't be looking at the top 10 if I thought I couldn't compete and didn't have unique attributes that set me apart. While I have strikes against me, I have a number of things in my favor, and I have worked among top MBA grads for a while - I know what my classmates will be like. All that's left to do is prove I belong and show I can bring something valuable to the table.

It's a weird break from organizing my MBA material to start a blog (especially at 2am on a Friday when my friends and roomates are out having a good time), but given the amount of work achieving those three letters requires, perhaps the story will make for a good read.