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
*** 2002 Essay Awards (Part 1) *** Award for Hardest Set of Essay Questions in 2002 goes to...
Harvard Business School!
The reasons? First, you have the number of questions (six, to most schools' four). Then the content: There is only one easy question ("provide a candid assessment of your strengths and weaknesses"). The one asking about an ethical dilemna is probably the toughest, and is vying for the coveted Single Toughest Essay Question award to be announced later.
What put HBS' questions over the top, though, are the word limits. All but one has a limit of 400 words, which is a very small amount of space to convey your points (maybe three or four paragraphs, at most). The one exception (describing your three greatest accomplishments) only gets 600 words.
So congratulations to HBS, for bringing a slew of tough questions and forcing us into short, concise answers!
For those of you holding your breath for the Wharton application...hold your breath some more (yes, this is my not-so-subtle way to whittle down the applicant pool). Alex says it won't be out until next Wednesday, at the earliest. Of course, since the paper version is up, that's no sweat off our backs, now is it!
On a lighter note...
Everyone relax! Take a deep breath, step back, and enjoy the moment! You're young, you're smart, you're skilled, and you have a shot at getting into some of the best schools in all the world! I'm stunned by how stressed/melancholy most applicants seem to be.
Enjoy the challenge! Work hard, but don't worry (after all, worrying doesn't get you jack!). Believe in yourself: You have something valuable to offer these schools; share it with them, don't shove it down their throats!
Have a great Labor Day!
I'll be posting some over the weekend (between beers and barbecue); Drop me an e-mail if you want...
...and then go on to list their life experiences, hopes, dreams, and application tactics. Dudes, do you really think I'm going to take time away from my own applications to critique yours?!? Come on, give me a break!
I'm blogging this experience because:
1) Blogging is fun
2) A few years from now when I'll be glad to have an archive on my thoughts
3) Continual writing helps improve my writing style, clarify my thinking, and thus improve my applications
4) I think I have some good, general insights to offer others
I'm not here to critique your resume/application/essays/life.
The Essay Questions Here's a complete list of Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg, Chicago, and MIT Sloan's essay questions:
Harvard 1. Discuss an experience that has had an impact on your development as a leader. (400 - word limit)
2. What are your three most substantial accomplishments, and why do you view them as such? (600 - word limit)
3. Recognizing that successful leaders are able to learn from failure, discuss a situation in which you failed and what you learned. (400 - word limit)
4. Discuss an ethical dilemma that you experienced firsthand. How did you manage and resolve the situation? (400 - word limit)
5. Provide a candid assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. (400 - word limit)
6. What are your career aspirations, and how can Harvard Business School help you to reach them? (400 - word limit)
Wharton 1. Describe how your experiences, both professional and personal, have led to your decision to pursue an MBA at the Wharton School this year. How does this decision relate to your career goals for the future? (1,000 words)
2. Describe a situation where leadership and teamwork were critical to the outcome of a project in which you were directly involved. What did you learn from the experience and how have you applied what you learned to other situations? (1,000 words)
3. Describe a personal achievement that has had a significant impact on your life. Give specific details. What did you learn from this experience? How did it help shape your understanding of yourself and the world around you? (500 words)
4. Please tell us something else about yourself that you feel will help the Admissions Committee know you better. (500 words)
Stanford ESSAY A: What matters most to you, and why?
ESSAY B: What are your short-term and long-term career aspirations? How will an MBA education further your development? Why does the academic experience offered at the GSB appeal to you?
MIT Sloan 1. Please give an example of when you exhibited creativity in a personal or professional setting. Please describe your thoughts and actions. (500-800 words)
2. Please give an example of when you had an impact on a person, group or organization. Please describe the situation, your actions, and the results. (500-800 words)
3. Please give us an example of a difficult interaction you had with someone. Please describe the situation, what was difficult about it, and how you resolved it. (500-800 words)
4. Please write your own recommendation following our template on the recommendation form. You should use the third person and answer all questions except for #1. (No limit)
Kellogg 1A. Master of Business Administration applicants only. Briefly assess your career progress to date. Elaborate on your future career plans and your motivation for pursuing a graduate degree at Kellogg. (one to two pages double-spaced)
2. Each of our applicants is unique. Describe how your background, values and non-work-related activities will enhance the experiences of other Kellogg students. (one to two pages double-spaced)
3. You have been selected as a member of the Kellogg Admissions Committee. Please provide a brief evaluative assessment of your file. (one to two pages double-spaced)
4. Complete three of the following six questions or statements. (two to three paragraphs each)
A. Through the course of your life, what would you identify as your most valued accomplishment?
B. Outside of work I enjoy...
C. The best mistake I ever made was...
D. People may be surprised when they learn that I...
E. What personal qualities would you like to develop to become a more effective leader?
F. I wish the Admissions Committee had asked me...
Chicago 8a.Why are you seeking an M.B.A.from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business?What do you hope to experience and contribute?What are your plans and goals after you receive your degree?(750 words)
8b.You have been selected to lead a team of three people to develop a new idea.What would the members of your team have in common?How would they be different? How will you motivate the team to succeed?(750 words)
8c.You have been nominated as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2013 and asked to deliver a speech. What are the key elements to your success? What advice would you give your peers?(500 words)
Columbia 1. What are your short-term and long-term post-MBA goals? How will Columbia Business School help you achieve these goals? (Limit 1000 Words)
2. Please cite and explain a specific situation in which you demonstrated initiative. (Limit 500 words)
3. Describe an experience in which the relationships you developed enhanced the outcome of a team effort. (Limit 500 words)
4. Please select and answer one of the following essay questions. (Limit 250 words)
a. Please tell us about what you feel most passionate.
b. If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?
I'll post some of my "Best and Worst" essay questions awards, and other comments about the questions, over the weekend.
If you've encountered some weird or notable essay questions from other B-school applications, send them to me (with any pithy comments you have).
Posted 12:44 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80922876:
Friday Deadline Countdown:
>> 48 days left until the HBS Round I deadline
>> 55 days left until the Wharton Round I deadline
>> 61 days left until the Stanford GSB Round I deadline
>> 68 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline
>> 70 days left until the Kellogg and Chicago Round I deadlines
GMAT - Done
Transcripts - All collected
Recommendations - All in progress
Essays - All HBS second drafts done; All Wharton first drafts done and edited; All Kellogg first drafts done; All Stanford first drafts done; Chicago, MIT first drafts in progress
Data Forms - All on-line forms are 90% complete
PS - If you choose to send your recommender a reminder from the HBS on-line app, it sends the same text as below, with a line inserted at the top of the e-mail:
NOTE: This message was previously sent on 8/22/2002 5:01:00 PM.
Curious what your recommender's get when you sign them up for on-line recomendations? They receive an e-mail like this (from the HBS app--names, IDs blanked out with #s where appropriate):
Dear ######## #######,
The applicant below has asked you to write them a recommendation for their application to Harvard Business School's MBA Program. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on the candidate and for using the online recommendation system.
Your candid assessment of the applicant will assist the Admissions Board in its evaluation.
Please note that this applicant has waived his/her right to review this letter of recommendation.
You will also be prompted for a password at the login screen. You can select any password you wish. However, please enter a password that could also serve as a unique identifier since this information will be used for verification purposes in the event school officials need to contact you.
Name of Applicant: Tad Holbie
Click Here to Login: https://rec.applyyourself.com/?RcmdProviderID=#####&ACLID=#####&CID=#&code=#########
Personal Access Code: ##########
If you were not able to login through the above link copy and paste the URL below into your browser.
The personal access code provided above is to be used to provide a recommendation for this applicant only. Please retain this email.
Sent by ApplyYourself on behalf of Harvard Business School at the request of Tad Holbie(firstname.lastname@example.org).
ApplyYourself is a service of ApplyYourself, Inc.
IV. Test Taking Day Here are some of my tips about the day of the test:
>> You won't be able to bring much into the test center with you. Maybe a pen, and that's it.
>> The test center should provide you scrap paper. The one I went to only allowed a fixed number of sheets (six, if I remember) at a time. When you needed more paper, you either had to raise your hand and wait, or get it during the breaks between sections. Tip:You should always get a completely fresh set of note paper between sections. Even if you've only used two pages during the essays and still have four blank sheets, there is absolutely no reason not to get a fresh set of six blank sheets. Why risk running out of paper during the test, and then having to wait for the test center personnel to bring you new ones?
>> Since the GMAT is a CAT (Computer Adaptive Test?), you won't be starting at the same time as everyone else. You'll just be led into a room full of computers and told to start on your own.
>> As soon as you are done with the test, an unofficial score sheet will be printed out for you showing your quantitative, verbal, and total scores and percentiles.
>> You do not need to remember/write down the school codes that you want the scores to go to. At the start of the test the computer will display a list of schools for your reference.
That's all I can think of. If you have any questions about the GMAT experience (while it's still fresh in my mind), e-mail me.
Round I vs Round II A couple of you have e-mailed to ask why I'm submitting for Round I at all my schools. The long and the short of it is: No, I don't think there are any different odds of being accepted in I or II. I decided to apply for an MBA in the late Spring, and feel that I'll have plenty of time to meet the Round I deadlines, so why not go for it? The more time to decide between schools after being accepted, the better. Indeed, there are personal factors that make it important for me to know the decisions by February that pretty much ruled out Round II.
FYI In terms of preparedness, I've already a) taken (and conquered) the GMAT, b) gotten all the transcripts, and c) set up my recommenders (I talked to them in late-July/early-August). I've done a first draft for 70% of the essays, and am well into the second drafts.
For those of you who are curious: The Kellogg adcom has stated that on-campus and off-campus interviews are treated equally. �@She also took the time to answer my question about why Kellogg moved to the new interview request scheme; The short answer is, with the new app, you can submit Part I first (before Part II is complete), so they hope that will mitigate a flood of submissions right at the deadline. As I speculated, there apparently was a substantial number of people still "shopping for schools" requesting interviews...
I found this document linked on the Business Week B-School forum: Getting Into a Top-5 MBA Program. It is apparently written by some graduates of said programs (which they list to be 1 - Wharton, 2 - HBS, 3 - MIT Sloan, 4 - Stanford, and 5 - Kellogg). I've glanced over it, and it seems to have some good insights.
First, let me say, "Save your money," it's definitely not worth it to buy this many books.
Second, and I feel strongly about this: The Peterson's guide book absolutely sucks! First, their "practice tests" 1) repeat many of the exact same questions and 2) do not resemble the real GMAT whatsoever! Theirs was the first book I opened; I did the first practice exam and scored over 200 points lower than I actually scored on the real exam (I think it was 460+/-). If you don't trust me, read the litany of bad reviews for yourself.
I then switched over to the Kaplan books, because the reviews for them were much better. I found the Kaplan books pretty good at prepping me for the test taking, and the CD-ROM was especially useful because it simulated the real GMAT look-and-feel. I used the CD-ROM lessons (a bit cheesy) and practice tests (good and tough) extensively. On the Kaplan practice test, I still scored over 50 points lower than I did on the real test...ETS' PowerPrep software is also essential practice before the exam.
I can't comment on the other two books (Barron's and Arco) because I never opened them.
Unless you have tons of money to burn and tons of time, I'd stick with the Kaplan book and PowerPrep software. As for taking a class, I never bothered; Maybe they're worth it if you feel like you need some instruction on certain math/grammar points, but if you have a pretty high skill level and are just a bit rusty, I'm not sure they're worth the time.
Posted 12:51 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80876304:
Thoughts on the GMAT (Part 1)
First, a little background is in order:
>> I recently (in the past 3 months) took the GMAT for the first time. I was very happy with my score, which was well over 730 (again, I'm keeping the exact score private in order to ensure my confidentiality in applications).
>> I began studying for the GMAT about two months before the test date.
>> The last standardized test I had taken was almost a decade ago, when taking the SATs (1400+).
>> I am a very fast reader and typist.
I. The GMAT Mindset Before I started studying for the GMAT, I was completely not worried about it. I had done well on the SAT (a long while back) without studying, and figured I could just breeze on into the GMAT and do the same. This was not the case, because the GMAT is very differently, both in style and content, from other standardized tests.
The trick to the GMAT is that it gets harder the better you do (in essence, adjusting its difficulty to your skill level). Thus, the better you are doing the harder the test seems, and (conversely) if the test seems to easy you're probably not doing well.
The GMAT therefore requires a slightly different mindset, in my opinion. The two keys are:
1) Start Strong - Because of its nature, the first questions of the GMAT are much more important to your final score than the later questions. Think about it this way: For every wrong answer, you get a -1, for every right answer, a +1. If you get the first question right, you're at +1. If you get it wrong, however, you need to get the the next two questions right to "catch up" to a +1 score. Conclusion: Spend more time on the early questions than on the later ones.
2) Grit Your Teeth - Here's where the GMAT mindset is crucial: If your goal is to do great, than that means your goal is to be battered by 75 minutes of tough questions (each section), since the better you do the harder they get. You must enter the test with an aggressive, "bring it on" attitude, or otherwise you might be rattled by how hard the questions get, or exhausted by a long section of tough questions under pressure. Repeat after me, "I want to be brutalized."
II. Don't Sweat a Single Subject Especially when it comes to math, I wouldn't spend too much time learning every possible subject (roughly grouped as probability, algebra, geometry, etc.) If you really aren't strong in one area, it won't kill you. For example, while I was taking the quantitative section, I came to one or two geometry questions that I knew I would have been able to answer in high school, but just couldn't remember how to do then. But since they were tough questions, and thus, came late in the test, my guessing on them didn't hurt my score that much.
Coming up in Part 2 I will discuss how I studied, what books I used, etc....
Below are some links to the various published business school rankings I've found on the web, with the schools I'm applying to listed:
Business Week 2000:
Wharton - #1
Kellogg - #2
Harvard - #3
MIT Sloan - #4
Columbia - #7
Chicago - #10
Stanford - #11
Financial Times 2002:
Wharton - #1
Harvard - #2
Columbia, Stanford, Chicago - #3 (tied)
MIT Sloan - #6 (tied)
Kellogg - #10
Harvard - #1
Wharton - #2
Columbia - #3
Chicago - #5
MIT Sloan - #8
Kellogg - #9
Stanford - #10
US News and World Report 2003:
Stanford - #1
Harvard - #2
Wharton - #3
MIT Sloan - #4
Kellogg - #5
Chicago - #6 (tied)
Columbia - #8
The Wall Street Journal (Full list here), 2002:
Kellogg - #5
Chicago - #7
Harvard - #8
Wharton - #18
Columbia - #34
MIT Sloan - #38
Stanford - #45
As you can see, the rankings are pretty divergent. The Wall Street Journal goes off the reservation by ranking the schools solely based on recruiters' opinions (which overemphasizes smaller schools and those with good career placement offices). Forbes does their ranking based only on the expected dollar benefit for attending the schools (which overemphasizes schools with good finance departments).
Interestingly enough, until today Kellogg did have a link on their site providing a request form for alumni interviews. When I tried it out, though, it didn't seem to be working. Then I read their new policy, mentioned in the post below.
Only two of the schools, University of Chicago and Kellogg, go so far as to require an interview of all candidates (a good--but expensive--move, in my opinion). Interestingly, they take different approaches to scheduling alumni interviews for out-of-town applicants.
First, the easy one: The University of Chicago has a simple web page for requesting an alumni interview.
Kellogg, on the other hand, requires Part I of the application to be submitted before it contacts the applicant to set up an out-of-town interview. I guess this is part of an effort to decrease the total number of interviews, under the assumption that some people who interview decide not to apply. Still, it puts Kellogg under a time crunch: Since the bulk of applicants won't submit their application until right before the deadline, most interviews will not be scheduled until November, giving them a two month window (mid-November to mid-January) to complete all interviews before decisions must go out. With U. of Chicago, their interviews should be more spread out, since prospective applicants can request them well in advance of the deadline.
Obviously, since I fully intend to apply to both schools, I prefer the University of Chicago approach.
Posted 12:15 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80828415:
Though a bit stressed that the Wharton online app is not up yet, it is more than made up for by its Student-2-Student message board. It answers every question one could think of plus keeps (the applicant body) updated about what's going on there. Kudos.
Posted 12:09 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80828136:
BTW, here are the application deadlines for the first rounds at each school:
October 17, 2002 - HBS October 24, 2002 - Wharton October 30, 2002 - Stanford November 6, 2002 - MIT Sloan November 8, 2002 - Kellogg (I think...the web page still says 2001-2002)
November 8, 2002 - University of Chicago Columbia doesn't have rounds of admissions; They start reviewing applications on January 3rd, 2003.
Posted 11:56 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80827610:
You'll notice that I've put up links to some of the biz schools' online applications. To honor their hard work, here is a list showing the order that these online systems went live (based on my daily checking of their websites):
August 1, 2002 - Stanford August 14, 2002 - Harvard (They had their site up momentarily in July, but it promptly was shut down for some more work).
August 19, 2002 - MIT Sloan August 19, 2002 - Columbia (They might have had it up earlier; I wasn't checking their site very often...)
Wharton's site is expected to be up by the end of the week; Kellogg and the University of Chicago are lagging (which is okay, since they have later application deadlines).
Posted 10:57 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80825264:
I am in the process of applying to several of the elite American business schools, and thought it would be worth it to blog about the experience. This blog will contain news about these schools' admissions processes; comments about their applications; useful links; my thoughts and opinions. Hopefully it will be somewhat useful to others like me.
It's been a few years since I graduated with a B.S. from an elite school. I'm currently a programmer, and am looking to switch to a business career, using the MBA as my lever.
Before I get an avalance of hatemail, please let me assure you that I know that there are many other good schools out there, even some that might be considered elite. I don't disagree, and would go so far as to say that the difference in educational quality between the schools I listed above and other schools is minimal. So what. These are the schools I'm applying to, these are the schools at the top of most lists, and these are the schools where the best students go to.