Who is "Tad Holbie"?
Tad Holbie is a pseudonym I created
to protect my privacy and identity as I apply to business school (don't believe me?
Google it for yourself).
I am a young, American, first-time applicant to some of the elite business schools in the fall of 2002. My e-mail is
If I am accepted to one of the business schools I've applied to, I will be more revealing about my identity and personal details.
When did I start all this?
I started this Weblog a couple months after I got serious about applying to business school. The
first post was on August 28th, 2002. When do I have time to write this site? In between my
full-time job and writing essays, time is limited. But I am a fast typist and am quick to jot down
my thoughts during spare moments.
Why MBA Admissions Wire?
I started this website to record and share my experiences applying to business school (a long
and stressful process). As time has gone by and greater numbers of readers e-mailed me to
ask for advice, encourage me, and share their experiences, I have turned this site into a
resource for all MBA applicants, in effect creating an online community.
How do I do MBA Admissions Wire?
It's very easy, and (best of all) free. Just go to Blogger.com
and after a free registration you can have your own Weblog too! Even better, they offer free hosting on their
Disclaimer:I am not an admissions officer, nor am I affiliated with any of the schools, organizations, or sites listed on this page (i.e. I haven't even been accepted to any B-School--this is my first time applying!).
The events described on this web page are real events, though certain names, genders, locations, and dates (i.e. interview dates, submission dates, etc.) may be changed to protect my identity.
If you are applying to any of the schools listed on this page, please refer to their official web sites for the definitive deadline dates, application procedures, etc.
(i.e. It's not a smart move to rely on this page while applying). The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author.
I am also neither a lawyer nor an accountant. All information and events describing or related to financial aid, tuition, scholarships, loans, and other monetary matters is strictly meant to only describe "Tad Holbie's" situation, and should not be
considered instructions, financial advice, or in any way pertaining to the [reader's] financial situation. Consult your own accountant/lawyer when making important financial decisions.
Any questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org (and no, that isn't my real name).
I may or may not disclose if/when/with whom I have been invited to interviews. At present, I'm leaning towards discussing my interview
experiences a few days/weeks after they happen. Mark me "undecided".
If you choose to e-mail me, I promise not to publish your name, e-mail address, or contact information on my website without first getting your permission.
I may excerpt part or all of your e-mail on my site, but will take care to edit out any information that might identify the source.
If you don't want any or your e-mail posted on my site, just put "Please keep private" at the bottom of your e-mail.
Any questions, e-mail me at email@example.com.
Basically, anything you post can be reviewed by me. If I find a post to the message board or comment system
that is sufficiently rude, offensive, moronic, I'll feel free to a) delete it, and/or b) ban you from posting ever again.
In conclusion: You don't have free speech on my site, so don't be a jerk.
Welcome! First time visitors are encouraged to
Graduation Thoughts - By Tad Holbie "...That said, I think that the explosion of applicant weblogs these days has probably made the blogging experience a lot more positive. It looks like a real community forms amongst all the applicant bloggers, which is ideal..."
Over the past ten months (8/2002 - 6/2003), I have maintained this detailed weblog of my business school application experiences, under the pseudonym "Tad Holbie". Having been admitted to the University of Michigan Business School, my application process is complete, and so this is the final posting to this site. I hope that my story can help those of you who are in the process of applying to business school, by providing a sense of the process, timing, and difficulties involved.
Quick Guide to the Site To the left is a directory of internal and external links, grouped under "Advice/Thoughts", "Useful Links", "My Applications", "Site Info", and "Archives". The content I wrote--namely the thousands of timestamped entries--appear in this main pane under the "Commentary" heading.
Hot Topics There are a few posts that I'd like to highlight here, because of their usefulness:
1)Advice for Future Applicants - This is a summary of advice from readers and myself for future MBA applicants.
2)My Application Feedback - Over the summer of 2003 I got feedback from the admissions offices of a few schools that rejected me. This summarizes that feedback, and what I would have done differently had I decided to reapply this year.
3)Red Herrings - My list of things that you might stress out over, but which ultimately matter very little.
Weekly Index One disadvantage of the weblog format is that it's difficult to find the information you want. Below is a week-by-week summary of my application experience (note: when you open a page, remember that the posts run chronologically from bottom to top):
8/25/2002 - Discussion of various rankings; advice about the GMAT; discussion of essay questions
9/1/2002 - My approach to essays; more schools (Chicago, Wharton) post online apps; hard at work on HBS, Stanford, Wharton essays;
9/8/2002 - Hard at work on HBS, Wharton essays
9/15/2002 - Hard at work on HBS, Wharton essays; tips on recommendations; Chicago GSB alumni interview; a bad Columbia info-session; good HBS info-session
9/22/2002 - Wrapping up HBS app; hard at work on Wharton essays
9/29/2002 - Busy with non-application stuff
10/6/2002 - Some tips on recommendations
10/13/2002 - HBS app submitted; working on Wharton, Stanford essays; started formulating plan B; Sloan info-session
10/20/2002 - Summary of Wharton info-session; Wharton app submitted; working on Stanford, Chicago, Sloan essays; discussion of essay process
10/27/2002 - Wrapping up and submitting the Stanford app; working on Sloan, Chicago essays; about my chances
11/3/2002 - Working on Sloan, Chicago essays; submitted Chicago app; more thoughts on plan B; dicussion on choice of schools
11/10/2002 - Wrapped up, submitted Sloan app; discussion of chances; first readership survey; advice on starting apps; Wharton moves back interview decision date
11/17/2002 - Thoughts on recommendations; first round application numbers down? waiting for Wharton interview invitation
11/24/2002 - Looking at Kellogg essay topics; Wharton campus visit, photos, interview; interview prep; looking into Yale, other R2 schools; giving thanks; second readership survey
12/1/2002 - Started looking into Michigan, at recommenders request; Michigan info; HBS class visit, photos
12/8/2002 - Sloan campus visit, photos; awaiting Wharton decision
12/15/2002 - Finalized plan B; bad omen on decision day; dinged by Wharton; R2 schools: CBS, Kellogg, Michigan; working on Kellogg essays
12/22/2002 - Working on Kellogg, UMBS, CBS essays; Christmas (really?)
12/29/2002 - Working on Kellogg, UMBS, CBS essays; New Year's survey; 2002 Year-In-Review; Happy New Years (?)
1/5/2003 - Working on Kellogg, UMBS, CBS essays; ranking my applications (#1? UMBS); Michigan alumni interview; Chicago decisions start; submitted Kellogg, Michigan apps
1/12/2003 - Dinged by Chicago; researching plan C? what went wrong; Sloan interview invitation; submitted CBS app;
1/19/2003 - Reflections on interviewing; Dinged by HBS, Stanford; Sloan interview rundown
1/26/2003 - Covert Interviewing 101
2/2/2003 - Kellogg interview prep; interview run-down; FAFSA information; fourth reader survey
2/9/2003 - Cambridge happy hour; dinged by Sloan
2/16/2003 - Reflections on the future; completing FAFSA; strengths and weaknesses of interviewing; Kellogg starts releasing R2 decisions
2/23/2003 - Hong Kong business trip; reflections on MBA applications
3/2/2003 - Hong Kong trip; admitted to Michigan
3/9/2003 - Columbia interview invite; waitlisted by Kellogg; planning midwest trip; Hong Kong photos
3/16/2003 - Kellogg waitlist plans; summary of financing options; UMBS admit binder; CBS alumni interview
3/23/2003 - Odds and ends; second Columbia campus visit
3/30/2003 - Photos from Columbia; Kellogg campus visit; thoughts on Kellogg, CBS, UMBS; Ann Arbor visit; Go Blue Rendezvous for admitted Michigan students; dinged by CBS
4/6/2003 - Summary of Chicago, Ann Arbor trip; Michigan photos; Kellogg waitlist letter; dinged by Kellogg
4/13/2003 - Odds and ends
4/20/2003 - Wrap-up survey; Michigan musings
4/27/2003 - MBAs and Wall Street trading
5/4/2003 - Prepping to go to school; school colors; laptop computer research
5/11/2003 - More on laptop computers; the Matrix reloaded
5/18/2003 - Laptop computer purchase
5/25/2003 - Odds and ends
6/1/2003 - More odds and ends
6/8/2003 - Initial application feedback sessions 6/15/2003 - Thoughts on feedback, Liar's Poker, giving notice at work
6/22/2003 - Worklife after giving notice, final feedback session
6/29/2003 - Parting advice, site wrap-up, the end!
In Conclusion Applying for an MBA is a real challenge, but once you've gotten in you realize how 99% of your earlier worries were pretty meaningless. If you know that the time is right in your life to go for an MBA, I wholeheartedly encourage it. Thank you for reading this site, and good luck!
The End I've decided to wrap up this weblog today. Summer's here, my applications are done and buried, and I've got plenty of other things to occupy my time between now and school.
Thank you for coming by my site and reading about my travails. I did have a lot of fun chronicling my application experiences here. I hope that some of you got something out of reading it--entertainment, information, stress relief, whatever.
Back when I started my MBA applications last summer, I searched the web high and low trying to find out what the process is like, from start to finish, at the ground level (so to speak). Finding little, I decided to embark on this blog, both for my own records and to offer others a perspective on what it's like.
But that process is over now, and so "Tad Holbie" comes to an end. I'd tell you that it was like losing a friend, but it's really not, it's more like losing a cool-sounding alias.
To my future Michigan classmates, I'd like to close this chapter on my life and let Tad rest in peace, but I'm not going to lie about it if asked. If you want to know who Tad is, look for the guy who actively works to promote UMBS, but does so without putting down other schools. Look for the guy who's will compete vigorously in the classroom, but does so without stabbing others in the back. Look for the guy quoting Roman history, but does so without sounding pretentious. Look for the guy attending all the football games, but not standing shirtless in sub-zero weather with a "M" painted on his chest (well, unless I get very, very drunk).
More generally, if you work in such organizations, you should be recruiting at UMBS. With the Tozzi Center, Michigan's new, multi-million dollar trading floor, now online, you're going to be seeing more and more hard-working, financially and technically adept Michigan grads working on Wall Street. Michigan MBA students are hard-working, they're used to working in teams, they've worked on real-world projects (MAPs are case studies in action), they're smart, and (best of all) they're easy-going, have a sense of humor, and aren't egotistical jerks (author not included ;-). In investor parlance, Michigan is a strong buy.
I can't tell you how excited I am to be back to school in, what, eight weeks? I feel like I've been applying to business school for the past six years of my life, that's how slow time has passed during this process. Now things are moving into high gear, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.
So it's the end of this weblog...but the beginning of another great adventure.
The live message board I used to have on this site sometimes drew some interesting comments, especially during our decision day chats. Perhaps the weirdest is when, after I banned him from the chat board for a series of offensive or profanity-laced postings, this guy e-mailed me begging to be let back on the board. He wrote:
"I'm another sloan applicant who is very stress with this horrible decision day. I have said some stupid things about the dings of today at the chat and you have cut my conection to the chat, You know, I am next year.
I ask you to let me participate, and share with all of you my decision. I have changed my mind,I think we have some opportunitties (the interviewed, more)..."
He then e-mailed again to ask:
"I'm sorry, I have said stupid things with the name of "next year". Please let me participate in the chat just before 12:00..."
That's not as weird as a later chat, in which someone from the harvard.edu domain tried impersonating a Kellogg student/AdComm. It was right after I'd done the Kellogg campus visit, and here's the exchange ("2001 Sheridan" is the address of Kellogg's admissions office):
" 126.96.36.1992001sheridan: hi folks
188.8.131.52 sam: hi
184.108.40.206 2001sheridan: Tad, did you talk about your campus visit already?
220.127.116.11 Tad Holbie: Dude, my Harvard campus visit was four months ago. It's a bit late for that."...
In applying to b-school, I heard some funny stories about other applicants and students. The Tim Shields incident tops the charts. Basically, he was a Stanford MBAer who spent a summer at Salomon Brothers in 1996. Aftewords, he wrote (for the Stanford school paper) a long screed, dissing all the other summer associates and their MBA programs (a particularly nice take was "I actually like the Kellogg people. Not the sharpest ginsu knives in the set, they were as out of place on Wall Street as you might expect from people who'd spent the prior year intensely debating the merits of Dave Thomas appearing in person in the Wendy's commercials." It went downhill from there). Needless to say, Mr. Shields didn't get called back after graduation. The entire article is reposted here...
Feedback Wrap-Up So, I've had my three feedback sessions, from Kellogg, Wharton, and another school. The brief summary would be:
Career progress - Very strong
Career goals - Well developed (see, "trading" is not a resume-killer)
Academic Preparedness - Very strong
Stats (GMAT/GPA) - Very strong
Writing ability - Very strong (came across as "likeable" and "creative")
Why MBA, why now - Moderate to strong (depending on the school)
Why the school - Moderate to strong
Recommendations - Very strong (very "affectionate" and held me in "high esteem")
Teamwork skills - Not sufficiently supported
The detailed rundowns of my three sessions are at here, here, and here.
All in all, what I learned from the feedback is that you really have to touch each and every base--leadership, teamwork, goals, career to date--in your essays; you can't assume that glowing recommendations from teammates might indicate...teamwork ability. Plus they want you to really get introspective on the interpersonal stuff
The Kellogg feedback did mention that they wanted to see a bit more extracurricular leadership, which was one of the bits of feedback that most "fit" a school (since Kellogg students are expected to be very active outside the classroom). The Wharton feedback was more focused on "teamwork" as it partains to classwork and group projects.
I would like to close this post by thanking Wharton and Kellogg for offering feedback to applicants. Had I ended up reapplying, they would have been at the top of my list and I do think the feedback would have helped.
Advice for Future MBA Applicants Number one is don't take anyone's advice. No, that's not true. It's just that MBA applications are very individualized, so what would be good advice for me won't be good advice for the next guy. The more generic the advice, the more relevant it gets for everyone, but generic advice is almost worthless.
Nevertheless, over the past few weeks I've put together a list of advice that I'd like to share with future applicants. You all know my background well enough: not in a "feeder" career, mid-twenties, male (and how!), American, high GMAT, good GPA, good undergrad, strong work experience, good writing skills, etc., etc. If you fall into a similar category, these might be more worthwhile than if you're don't.
Note that below, when I talk about "top schools", I'm referring to a vaguely defined group of MBA programs in the US that would be considered top 10, unless otherwise specified. In no particular order:
You Are Not A Lock ...for any school. Unless you're the CEO of a large corporation or president of a small country, you're not a lock for any top school. You can have a sterling resume, perfect stats, a great career, and write very well, but if you don't hit each shot in the application, you'll be dinged. At least as long as b-school admissions stay as competitive as they've been the last 5 years, this is true.
It's Not Luck On the other hand, you shouldn't head into the process thinking that it's pure luck or random chance that gets you in. I truly believe that well qualified candidates, if they hit all the right notes, have a strong chance of being accepted to each top school. It's very, very difficult to hit all those notes, but the important thing is that it's not really out of your control.
For me (and ego aside, I do think I was/am a strong candidate, as was pretty much confirmed by the school feedback), I just missed one or two notes in each application, and hence, I just missed getting into several schools. Knowing what I know now, I probably could have hit a few more notes and gotten into a few schools, but a) I'm ready to go to b-school now, and didn't want to waste a year; b) getting in next year would not be a certainity; and c) Michigan rocks.
Anyway, the power is yours. You are at bat. Go for it.
Essays are King If I had to estimate, based on my experience and feedback, how big a part in the decision essays make, I'd say 65%+, with interviews and recommendations making up another 25% and stats making up the rest. That's just my gut feeling, but it fits with everything I've read and heard. In the feedback sessions I've had, I've spent a total of maybe eighty seconds talking about non-essay matters. Yeah.
Obvious Advice The obvious advice that is included in all the books and websites is "make a coherent story", "choose some themes", "address your weaknesses", etc. These are all really so obvious and so general as to become meaningless. Is there any candidate who won't be thinking about themes and weaknesses?
School Visits If you're going to visit a school, be sure to 1) do it before submitting your app (it's not worth much afterwords); 2) stay at least a whole day; 3) attend classes, lunch with students, do everything the school offers; 4) ask the students about their experiences applying.
The main benefit of visiting is to personalize your "why this school" essay. If you're truly interested in attending a program, there will be something unique during your visit that catches your eye, and will provide a good anecdote for that essay.
Resumes: One Page Only Okay, take this advice with a grain of salt, since this is my pet peeve. I don't think it will make or break an application. Buuuut, resumes should only be one page long. A resume is supposed to be a concise summary of your top selling points, not a summary of your entire career or (even worse) life. To me (and maybe only to me), an inability to edit down a resume demonstrates an inability to prioritize things and follow business protocols.
And if you take a look in any top b-school's resume book, you'll see 99% one pagers. Prioritize. Summarize. Edit.
Timing Personally, I think it is ridiculous to try to "time the market" in applying to business school (i.e. trying to guess whether the job market will be hot when you graduate and only applying then). Leaving the workforce for two years, paying tens of thousands of dollars, and learning about management, marketing, strategy, and finance is a very big life decision, and shouldn't be left to crapshoot hunches about where the world will be in two years.
I am a firm believer that if now is the right time for you to get an MBA, then you should apply. If not, you shouldn't.
For the Young Ones If you're considering applying to business school in a few years, great--now just stop thinking about it. The only advice I'd have is to get involved in an extracurricular activity or two that you enjoy.
I really don't think it has to be a "community service", in the sense of feeding the homeless or mentoring disadvantaged youths. If you like that, all the better. If not, join a trade group or your undergrad alumni association or something. But not a single school mentioned to me a lack of charity work/community service as a compelling factor. I firmly believe that the schools look to extracurriculars solely to make sure 1) you have some interest outside of work and 2) if you don't do any management/teamwork on your job, the extracurricular can make up for it. That's it. They care very little (in my opinion) whether or not you have a Mother Theresa-like care for the poor.
The real importance of doing something you like is that you're more likely to continue doing it. It's like an excersize routine. I know that doing the stairmaster in the morning for 30 minutes burns more calories than riding the reclining bike. But because I enjoy the reclining bike more (I can read while doing it), I'm more likely to go down to the gym for the bike. And over the long run, I'll burn more calories following a biking regimen than a stairmaster regimen, because that's what'll get me down to the gym.
There's plenty of other advice sprinkled throughout the site, so if you want more, browse away!
Third Feedback Session Pretty much in line with the other two (discussed here and here). Nothing really new or earth-shattering, but I did start to see a very, very slight difference in the take that each school had, which was good to see. It reflected the (slight, in my opinion) differences in flavor for different MBA programs. I'll discuss this more at a later point.
I did go out of my way to ask the AdComm member how important recommendations were in deciding applications. As I expected, the answer was "not very". The main reason for this is that AdComm members don't want to penalize individuals for the poor writing/disinterest of their recommenders (although you could argue that it shows poor judgement to choose such a recommender, but I won't push that point). The unspoken reason is that a lot of applicants write their own recs.
Basically, recommendations cannot do much to help an app, but can do much to hurt it. No matter how great your recs are, if your essays don't sell yourself, you won't get admitted. If you have great essays and your recs back up or deepen the message of them, then the recs help a little. If you have good essays but your recommendations tell a different story, you can be in big trouble.
Summer Recruiting Those of you that want a leg up in recruiting for next year's summer internship, a good resource to turn to is your schools career center. That may seem like common sense advice, but the thing to know is that some companies with close relationships with your school may already have scheduled their on-campus sessions.
I was rummaging through UMBS' career center website, and decided to check the job database. Lo and behold, there are already a bunch of IBanks with summer associate interview slots already confirmed and scheduled. I see Deutsche, Lehman, Merrill, and Bank of America, in there, with some old postings for JP and Morgan Stanley (I assume from last year, but considering that UMBS is tight with JP, they're pretty certain to be a lock for this year).
The point is that I can already start doing research on these firms, maybe calling them up to do informational interviews, before I set foot on campus. Then when they come for the campus info sessions/tailgating parties [in Sept/Oct.] I'll hit the ground running.
Message: check your school's job database early and often.
I've been in a conference all day for the past two days (it's funny, I'm leaving the team in a month but was the one asked to present our project during the expo). I've gotten my last feedback batch and will have a wrap up of all that early next week, then hopefully wrap up the site by the 4th of July.
Alex Brown has written a white paper on the use of online tools (message boards and chat rooms) to achieve higher yields, something that Wharton obviously excels at. Worth reading, especially because there's a screen shot of this website in it ("you like me, you really, really, like me!").
Adam posted his tips for b-school applications (beating me to the punch--mine will be done next week). As with most good advice, it's fairly generic.
The only point I disagree with completely is his fifth, that recommendations are hugely important. I agree completely with his analysis--the list of reasons why they should be important. But based on what I've read and my own feedback, I don't think schools put that much stock in them (probably because many applicants write their own).
In my own case, I know that my recommendations were very good. First, because I didn't write them myself, meaning they offered a new perspective on my candidacy. Second, because I read a few of them (well after submitting). And third, because in both of my feedback sessions the adcomm went out of their way to praise the recs, saying how they conveyed the recommender's affection and esteem of me, gave a personal perspective on me as a candidate, and were very strong.
Ultimately, despite these personal testaments to what it's like working with me in a team or as a manager, the school(s) didn't feel satisfied about my teamwork/interpersonal skills. If recommendations were hugely important, I would think that they could have covered up for this (minor) lacking in my essays. They didn't.
As you can tell, I'm bitter, damn, damn bitter. ;-)
Update: I'd also like to second his points #3, #4, and #6 (especially the latter). I would guess that #6 is the one that trips up a bunch of strong candidates.
As I work on spiffing up my current resume, I'm going back through some of my older resumes (trolling for good bullet points). To my chagrin, my habit of misspelling "led" as "lead" ("In 1995, I lead the team through thick and thin") has been around awhile.
Post-Notice Life It's sweet, man. No, I'm not sitting on my laurels and coasting through the workday (at least no more than usual ;-). But it's just cool that every conversation with someone now ends up with them congratulating me about the MBA (it's all about me, after all). The fact that I kept the news secret makes it all the more exciting to coworkers and acquaintences, as if all of a sudden, their highly paid colleague with a promising future jumped the tracks and trammelled off into parts unknown. They look at me with a mix of "wow, what guts" and "wow, what a nutcase", which, upon further reflection, is pretty much how they normally look at me (the latter part, at least).
I'm furiously prepping my resume for passing out before I leave; I'm spreading it far and wide, leaving no stone unturned, etc., etc. The Michigan alumni network is already helping out in this regard, as is my commute (huh?), etc.
Getting my last batch of feedback shortly, hope I won't get a curveball ("...candidate great in all aspects, except for hygeine, which is distressingly bad..."), probably will wrap up this weblog in the next week to ten days, looking forward to it calling moving companies oh and yeah health insurance gotta run...
The act of giving notice has driven home how close I am to the start of school. I've got six weeks to network, network, network, and then it's off. Amazing. I feel like I've been hunkered down in the b-school application bunker for twelve years, not twelve months.
I figure now that I'll be wrapping up this website with my final feedback comments, some parting words of advice, and a few other odds and ends in the next few weeks.
Phew It's done, it's over, it's out. I finally got a hold of my boss at 4:30 and spoke to him privately for about ten minutes about it. He took it much more calmly than I expected (or than I would have, had I been in his shoes). But, he was appreciative of the six weeks of notice I was giving, and assured me that there was no chance I'd be escorted out.
I can't put into words how relieved I am to get this out. Paranoia isn't fun.
Incidentally, my boss did validate my decision to tell him now. The firm was starting to make long-term plans that I was going to fit into, so he was glad to get the news before then. Honestly, I hope I didn't add a sour note to the beginning of his vacation. But that's his problem. No, seriously, even if I did, I suspect that it is better than him coming back, finding the rumor of my leaving everywhere, and looking clueless in front of his boss.
The Day Developments have ocurred...that make it best that I tell my manager about my decision today, before he goes on vacation. Basically, I heard from the fellow (I'll call him Tim) who figured out I was going to b-school that, because he knew, he was put in awkward situations in meetings. Basically, my current boss was asking for more project work with the expectation that Tim and I would work together on. This both put my current boss in a dangerous position (once I left) and Tim in an awkward situation (since he knew I wouldn't be around). The politics get murkier from there, but in the end, I feel comfortable that I've reached a point where the benefits of telling my boss today (namely, that he won't get back from vacation and be surprised by rumors that sprung up in his absence) outweigh the small chance that I'll be fired or let go in the subsequent six weeks.
This issue has always been an awkward one for me, because I do respect my boss and don't enjoy playing poker face. I know that, were I a manager, I'd want my employees to tell me as soon as possible. At the same time, I've seen enough firings in the industry to know you're always taking a risk in trusting anyone. That, and I think my boss will be disappointed/pissed about me applying behind his back, whether I tell him six weeks before quitting or twelve.
Anyway, the balance has now tipped in his favor, so here goes...
A reader brings up a good point about the advice I dished out below: it does come from my perspective. The more your profile diverges from mine, the less applicable it is. If you come from a really non-traditional career* or you have a very low GMAT/GPA or you have tons of glorious extracurricular activities, my advice is much less applicable.
* Here are my personal career classifications:
"Feeder" careers - Banking, finance, management consulting
"Non-feeder" careers - Engineering, accounting, general management, corporate law, marketing/brand management
"Non-traditional" careers - Everything else, but especially public service, non-profits, anything artistic, etc.
I just had the final weekly meeting with my manager before I tell him about UMBS (he's off next week, and I'll give notice the following). Thank goodness these surreal chats will be over.
There are two uncomfortable aspects of these meetings. First, I have to always be on guard not to let something slip--I almost mentioned that I have to be away from my place during weekends due to realtor visits, when I caught myself and realized he doesn't even know I'm selling. Second, it's just awkward to here him talk about deadlines in July and long-term projects.
Thankfully, I've worked pretty hard to subtly sidestep any major assignments (that would last past July), and have been largely successful at it.
In these meetings, I sit there picturing what it will be like telling him the news. I like my manager and he does a good job, so I'm not out to be an asshole or anything--I'd like to break it to him in as positive, as "I'd like to help the transition/handoff as much as possible" spirit.
Six more workdays until I get that chance. Phew.
The Graduate Management Admissions Council (GMAC--the fine fellows bringing you the GMAT) has published its Global MBA Graduate Survey (pdf) of 2003 graduates (thanks to Linda for pointing it out). It covers 96 schools and 4,000+ students (although I couldn't find any mention of which schools were involved, to my chagrin).
Some of the findings:
* The three most important criteria for the class of '03 in choosing their schools were prestige of the school, location, and career options available to graduates (not surprisingly, the importance of career options jumped greatly between 2002 and 2003 graduates).
* Published rankings were the most influential media source, cited by 73% of the students as weighing on their decision.
* There are some interesting charts on which pre-MBA professions have more career-switchers (versus career-enhancers).
"again I go unnoticed Another day, another dollar. Walked by the river during lunch today.Watched some kids play in the fountain, it was hot. My grandma's bday was today, 69 years old, took her to Izzy's. Thats where she wanted to go. good times. burned out the shredder at work today. opps. That's about all. Seems like there's no time anymore to do anything. Called an old friend to hang out, but he's busy till next week. is this what the "real world" is going to be like? I'm not sure its what I am looking for. hopefully they'll start giving me more interesting things to do. haven't had to get anyone coffee yet, when that happens, i think i'll quit. tomorrow's another day, another dollar."
Red Herrings After reflecting on the application process, I've produced a list of red herrings--topics or areas that I think first-time applicants can get hung-up on, but ultimately matter very little to the outcome. These come from my observation of other applicants and (sometimes) myself.
1. Essay Formatting - See the Business Week Forum for numerous examples of people stressing out about this. At the basic level, all that matters is whether or not the AdComm can read your application. If you stick with sensible fonts (Arial, Times, Tahoma, etc.) in sensible sizes (10-12 pt) and follow the spacing they ask for (most apps are double, a few were single), you'll be fine. I.e. follow the guidelines for good business writing.
2. Timing the Rounds - Personally, I still believe that the whole Round 1 versus Round 2 is a red herring, and I still believe you should apply when you feel the time is right. I pushed hard to apply to many schools in Round 1, mainly because I felt pressure to know the outcomes soon enough to sell my property (if accepted). As it turns out, I've had enough time after the R2 decision to sell the property (albeit under a bit of pressure), so this was a slight miscalculation on my part. Still, if I had it all to do over again, I would have submitted several apps in R1 because [I felt] they were ready to be submitted.
The reason I think this is a red herring is that your applications are not judged in isolation, and I think it's impossible to "time the market"--to know how strong the other applicants will be for each round, for any particular school. Save yourself the mental gymnastics, focus on your essays, and submit the application when it's ready.
3. School Visit This is a half red herring. In retrospect, I do think it is useful to visit as many schools as possible prior to applying. Let's be honest: all schools look pretty much the same, if you're only going by their websites and online brochures. Sure, Wharton is "strong in finance" and Chicago gives students "acadmic freedom" and Kellogg "focuses on teamwork", but those are just very general marketing slogans. Visiting a school helps you personalize (remember that word: personalize; I think it's one of the keys to successful apps) why you want to attend a program, which is good.
On the other hand, the issue of whether or not to visit a school can be a red herring in the sense that it isn't a decision point for AdComms. I think very few schools track whether you have visited or use that information in a final decision, except in all but the most borderline cases. So if you're stressing about whether you "have" to visit a school, you don't. In my opinion.
4. GMAT 700+ - If you get around the school's average GMAT (about 700 for most top programs), you're fine. I absolutely believe that spending time to push a 690 to a 720+ is a huge waste. I believe that spending time to push a 690 to a 790 will result in very, very little difference in admissions outcome (unless you're trying to compensate for a very low GPA). I am certain that schools will take an interesting candidate with great essays and a 690 over an interesting candidate with okay essays and an 800, any day of the week.
Of course, the lower the GMAT, the more serious an issue it becomes, but I think that most applicants need to remember that the GMAT is not used to judge the quality of the applicant, but only whether or not they can handle the academic rigor. That's it.
5. Optional Essays - Look it up in the dictionary. Optional means optional. If you don't have a good answer to give, don't waste space (and reader time) with an essay.
6. Recs from Current Bosses - Based on my experiences, talking to others, and the feedback I received, there is no problem getting recommendations from former colleagues and managers rather than your current manager. Especially in the current economic climate, schools don't penalize you for not jeopardizing your job. All the schools want is to get a personal view of what it is to work with you. Plus, the recs don't matter that much, anyway.
7. Career Success - This is an odd thing to put for a red herring, but since I feel it tripped me up, I included it. From my perspective, schools undervalue career success (and overvalue introspection--but that's another post). That is, in retrospect I think that they would choose an essaist who's had a failing career so far, reflected on his failures a lot, and decided to jump ship to a different career, over an applicant who's put together a string of successes and not had to change much to do it. In one sense, the former is preferrable--it demonstrates that the candidate is flexible and can learn from their experiences. But on the other hand, what if they're just learning the things that the second candidate already knew (i.e. how to be successful, how to deliver results, etc.).
I don't want to go off on a screed here, because obviously I would much lean towards the latter candidate, but anyway, I've made my point.
8. Extracurricular Activities - I think applicants stress out waaay too much about these. If you have many of them, great, that's a moderate plus in your direction. If you've only done a few, don't sweat it, they're really not that big a deal.
Let me put it this way: I did two minor extracurricular activities during college, and one or two since graduating. From the feedback I got (and my gut sense) that was not considered a negative in my app. I think substantial extracurriculars are only critical if you do not have any management experience on your job (in which case, they're an acceptable avenue for demonstrating leadership).
Don't stress about not having fed the homeless, sheltered the poor, or whatever. If you have done those things, first, pat yourself on the back, and second, understand they don't count for a lot by themselves.
That's about it. If you find yourself stressing about any of the above points, take a step back and ask yourself "will this really affect the outcome of my app?"