MBA Admissions Wire by "Tad Holbie"

"Tad Holbie's" weblog of his 2002-03 business school application experience.
Home | Tad's Applications | Archives | Site Info | Disclaimers | Epilogue
Useful Links
Applicant Weblogs
* League of MBA Bloggers - best resource for listing all MBA blogs.
* Modz (Anderson-bound)
* Thibault (Kellogg-bound)
* Michael (Wharton-bound)
Currently Reading:
Liar's Poker
Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street

Bond Market
How the Bond Market Works

MBA Prep Books I Used:
How To Get Into the Top MBA Programs

Kaplan GMAT 2003

Kaplan 800
Kaplan GMAT 800
Message Boards & Chat Rooms
* Business Week Forum
* Wharton S2S Message Board
* Wharton S2S Chat Room
* scheduled chats
* Business Week 2003 Rankings (free registration required)
* Financial Times 2003 Rankings (PDF)
* US News & World Report 2003 Rankings
* Wall Street Journal 2003 Rankings
* Forbes Magazine 2001 Rankings
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My Applications
Status: Admitted in R2!
* Homepage
* Ambasador Program
* M-Track Message Board
* Monroe Street Journal newspaper
* University of Michigan Merchandise
* UMBSA FAQ about life in Ann Arbor
* Ann Arbor Weather
My posts:
* List of essay topics
* Outlining the essays
* My alumni interview
* UMBS/Ann Arbor photos:
Image not available
(Click to enter my UMBS photo album)
Chicago GSB
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions after interview
* Homepage
* ChiBus newspaper
My posts:
* My alumni interview
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2, 3, 4
* Posts on essay B: 1, 2
* Dinged!
* Chicago photos:
(Click to enter my Chicago photo album)
Status: Denied Admissions after Interview
* Homepage
* Online Status Check
* Finance Dept. homepage
* The Bottom Line Newspaper
* Columbia Merchandise
* Adrian Hind, student weblog
* New York weather
My posts:
* Info session summary
* My second campus visit
* List of essay topics
* Outlining the essays
* Posts on essay #1: 1
* Posts on essay #2: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #3: 1
* My alumni interview
* Columbia photos:
(Click to enter my Columbia photo album)
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions
* Homepage
* HarBus newspaper
* Adam Medros, student weblog
My posts:
* Info session summary
* Recommendation e-mail
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2, 3, 4
* Essay word counts
* Posts on essay #3 and #4: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
* Posts on essay #6: 1, 2, 3
* Photos from campus
* Class visit experience
* Dinged!
* HBS photos:
(Click to enter my HBS photo album)
Status: Denied admissions after waitlist
* Homepage
* Online Status Check
* 2002-03 Calendar
* Kellogg Merger newspaper
* Professor McGee's Musings
* Northwestern University Merchandise
* Evanston weather
My posts:
* 2002 Waitlist Wrapup
* List of essay topics
* Starting the Kellogg app
* Outlining the essays
* Posts on essay #1: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #2: 1
* Posts on essay #3: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #4: 1
* Reviewing my essays
* My alumni interview
* Notes on my second campus visit
* Northwestern/Kellogg photos:
(Click to enter my August Kellogg photo album)
(Click to enter my April Kellogg photo album)
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied admissions after interview.
* Homepage
* Sloan Management Review
* 2002 Employment Report (PDF)
My posts:
* Info session summary
* Links to Sloan's tracks
* Note the mail-in items
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2
* Cover letter: 1, 2
* Post on essay #1
* Post on essay #3
* My interview experience
* MIT/Sloan photos:
(Click to enter my Sloan photo album)
Stanford GSB
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions
* Homepage
* Stanford Reporter newspaper
My posts:
* Online recommender setup
* Posts on essay A: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
* Posts on essay B: 1
* Dinged!
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions after interview
* Homepage
* Student2Student message board
* Wharton Journal newspaper
* Laura Bennett, student diary
* Student Diaries
My posts:
* Info session summary
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2, 3, 4
* Posts on essay #1: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #4: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
* Photos from campus
* The interview experience
* Dinged!
* Wharton photos:
(Click to enter my Wharton photo album)
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06/01/2002 - 06/07/2003
06/08/2002 - 06/14/2003
06/15/2002 - 06/21/2003
06/22/2002 - 06/28/2003
06/29/2002 - 07/05/2003
Taken: Once, in 2002
Score: 760+
Advice: Get it over with quickly, aim for 670+
* Thoughts on the GMAT: 1, 2, 3
Advice: Ask them at least 2 months in advance
* Initial thoughts
* On delays: 1, 2
Advice: Develop an overall message. Write outlines. Revise many times. Have a friend proofread. Be honest. Answer what is asked.
* My initial thoughts
* Don't write what you think they want to hear
* My process
Advice: Know yourself. Review your application, answers to common questions.
* AdComm or Alum?
* My list of prep questions
Application Process
Advice: Start early. Give yourself at least two months to finish your first application.
* The "bible" of MBA application's, Montauk's How to Get Into the Top MBA Programs
* Tips on where to start
* Living the double life
* Dealing with disappointment
Financial Aid
Advice: Start early, even before getting accepted anywhere. Americans should fill-out and submit their FAFSA forms as soon as they have 2002 financial/tax info.
* Department of Education FAFSA Website
* Request a PIN for the FAFSA
* List of documents needed to complete the FAFSA form
* FAFSA School Code Lookup
* Legal Disclaimer
Site Info
Started: August 28, 2002
Creator: "Tad Holbie"
Daily Traffic:

Emails Received: 909 (as of 6/26/03)
Rate this site:
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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 and after a free registration you can have your own Weblog too! Even better, they offer free hosting on their server!
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 (and no, that isn't my real name).
About Interviews: 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".
Privacy Policy: 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
Posting Policy: 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 start here.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

Posted 11:55 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81301284:

So now I have a nice set of fourth drafts for all the HBS essays except for #4. I've been thinking about that one, day and night, for two days now, and think I'll set it aside for the next couple of days to 1) give my brain a rest and 2) start on the next draft of Wharton essays. I'll come back to it later in the week, and (hopefully) by next weekend I'll have a nice set of drafts of both HBS and Wharton from which I can write the final versions.

Posted 11:53 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81301226:

HBS #6: It looks so damn good I want to lick the computer screen! 373 words, too!

Posted 11:16 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81300067:

HBS #5, 452 words.

Posted 10:31 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81298651:

HBS #3 done, spot-on. 432 words, so only a little editing is needed. I'm on a roll, so I'll work on #5 and #6 too...

Posted 9:58 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81297614:

HBS #2 done, pitch-perfect. I got a little closer to the (600 max) word limit this time, weighing in at 652...

Posted 8:41 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81295564:

HBS #1 done (I'm working from detailed outlines, and can type pretty fast), and it's good. At 470 words, though, it will need some editing...

Posted 8:09 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81294648:

Finally: Hair cut-done. Food shopping-done. Shopping-done. More shopping-done.

Ready for essays...

Posted 3:54 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81287477:

I want to thank all of you who've e-mailed encouragements about HBS essay #4. I appreciate your kind words.

From the suggestions, I've combed out two leads to follow:
1) A situation where I knew some secret, and had to decide between an obligation not to tell and an obligation to tell.
2) A situation where my goals and the organization/team's goals were in conflict

I'm sure one of these must have happened to me at some point in the past five years...

Posted 6:50 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81274197:

Last night, I was plagued by three strange nightmares. In the first, I was walking down a street in my town when I noticed that there were a half dozen gray monkeys in one of the trees. They were large--almost human size--and very threatening looking, and the leader was staring at me.

In the second, I was in some sort of interview for HBS. There were three interviewers, all very fat men, one of them dressed as a woman(?!?) I was extremely sleepy, so sleepy that when they asked me the first question, my brain just couldn't engage (if you're curious, the question was something like, "Suppose the President was deciding what to do about the homeless problem. What one person would you recommend the President to talk to for advice on this issue?"

In the third, there was a young blonde woman robbing my house. When I went downstairs to confront her, she attacked me with kung fu.

I don't think I'm getting enough sleep lately...

Posted 4:47 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81272677:

Plus, I have just written the best opening paragraph ever, for Stanford essay A. It absolutely grabs the readers by the balls; once read, they are hooked, and will be drooling to read the rest. I've got them hook, line, and sinker.

My approach? Using a dramatic, novel-like tone, I describe a small, seeming innocuous (sp?) event that ended up changing the course of my life forever.

I wish I could post the paragraph here, because (frankly) it is so good I want to show off, but in the off chance that a Stanford AdComm reads this (I do know that some AdComm members are readers--they've e-mailed me) I'll refrain from doing so. I promise, however, that once all this concludes--say by April or May--I'll post it.

How does this knockout paragraph work for the rest of the essay? Well, I transition from it into a more traditional "introductory" paragraph 2. The transition is like, "This experience reflects my [1 of my qualities], which is one of the qualities which matters most to me..."

PS - Still stuck with HBS #4 (ethical dilemma)...

Friday, September 06, 2002
Posted 10:19 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81261993:

Kept Wharton essay #1; Chose new project experience for Wharton essay topice #2, focusing more on leadership; Kept Wharton essay #3; Replaced Wharton essay #4.

Posted 5:30 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81252872:

Hmmm...The Kellogg AdComm hasn't posted any replies on the Business Week Forum's Kellogg thread since Thursday morning...Hard at work on the online app, are we?

Posted 3:56 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81249236:

Great Advice of the Week
One of my recommender's asked me about Stanford recommendation question #6: "Please discuss the candidate's citizenship, as defined by commitment to the life of the organization and her or his community". At first glance, I too was stumped by this, especially the "life of the organization." Then I tapped the keg of knowledge--the Business Week Forum--and, mere minutes later, was rewarded with a nice, icy cold draft of premium wisdom:

"What type of commitment did you have to the organization? Did you volunteer to come in on weekends to fix something so that people's work would not be interrupted on Monday? Did you train other people to improve the quality of the organization? Did you initiate any teambuilding exercises - eg. Happy hours :-) etc. Did you stay in touch with your replacement after leaving the job to make sure he/ she had a smooth transition? Hope that helps."

(Posted by "UCGSB (PKANAKA)")

Thank you anonymous stranger! Yours is the Great Advice of the Week!

Posted 3:18 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81247787:

Friday Deadline Countdown
>> 41 days left until the HBS Round I deadline
>> 48 days left until the Wharton Round I deadline
>> 54 days left until the Stanford GSB Round I deadline
>> 61 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline
>> 63 days left until the Kellogg and Chicago Round I deadlines

My status:
GMAT - Done
Transcripts - All collected
Recommendations - 1 HBS done; 1 Wharton done; Rest 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 (hello, Kellogg?!? Heeellloooooo?)

Goals for the weekend:
>> Figure out #*@$ing HBS essay #4 (ethical dilemma)
>> Fourth draft of all HBS essays
>> Review Wharton essays; Revise, do third drafts


Posted 4:52 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81228681:

My second choice for HBS #4 (ethical dilemma) is to discuss a time where I worked in a foreign country. While there, I tried very hard to fit into the local culture, which was non-Western. However, there were times when I was uncomfortable with how women were treated (they were second class citizens). The "dilemma" was between trying to fit in and trying to act according to my beliefs.

I think this is a good approach, but the problem (if it is one) is that maybe I chose the wrong approach--i.e. I really tried more to fit in. After all, there's really little that one single foreigner could do to change the culture. Of course, I personally treated women at my respect level--hmmm, maybe that's how I "managed" the dilemma?

Posted 4:43 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81228515:

If anyone has comments about this, give me a holler:

My idea for HBS #4 (ethical dilemma) goes as follows. For a long time, I was the "owner" of a specific part of our project. Our manager decided it was time to replace that part with a new version, but picked a lackey/friend to work on the new version instead of me. The ethical dilemna was: If I help the lackey/friend, I was helping the team but diminishing my own usefulness to it (since what I knew would be replaced); If I don't help him, there's a chance I could keep my power but it's a bit unethical.

Is this a good ethical dilemma? Or would the HBS AdComm look at it and say, "What, this guy finds it tough to decide between helping or sabotaging his teammates?"...

Posted 4:38 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81228408:

Using the themes I developed Wednesday night after skim-reading Montauk's book, I revised my HBS essays again. For #1, I kept the same experience, but played with the structure of the paragraphs a bit. For #2, I dropped one of my three accomplishments in favor of a personal accomplishment, because I thought my essays as a whole were being heavily weighted towards workplace experiences. For #3, I used the idea that came to me yesterday morning. I'm still mulling #4...

Thursday, September 05, 2002
Posted 9:30 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81214657:

MBA Application Humor
What would happen if you started your essays like this...

HBS 4. Discuss an ethical dilemma that you experienced firsthand. How did you manage and resolve the situation? (400 - word limit)
It was June 12, 1998, when a decision regarding life and death was thrust upon my shoulders: Right in the middle of a stickup, one of my hostages goes into labor. Do I take the money and run, or pull a GS (good samaritan) and deliver the baby? I had little time decide, because right then I heard sirens in the distance...

HBS 5. Provide a candid assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. (400 - word limit)
Let me start with my weaknesses, because there are so many of them...

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
Wait, I thought this was the Harvard Law School app?!? Just kidding! Ha, ha, ha. I really do want an MBA from Wharton, because...

Stanford ESSAY A: What matters most to you, and why?
Five years ago I would have said "challenge", "honesty", and "respect". A year ago I would have said "money". Now, all that matters to me is getting my next fix...

MIT 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)
Few people know how to make a really good shiv...

MIT 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)
I hear my head, and sometimes they argue with me. I've learned many important lessons from these, shut up...not now!...that will help me in my post-MBA career...

Kellogg 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)
First, I really must mention that I'm probably the only student who knows how to drink tequila shots...through his nose!...

Kellogg 4. Complete three of the following six questions or statements. (two to three paragraphs each)
D. People may be surprised when they learn that I...
...ate my last admissions officer with some fava beans and a nice chianti...

Chicago 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)
I believe that motivation begins and ends with a six foot whip made out of barbwire. I call her "Bessie"...


Posted 4:44 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81203753:

Embark straightened out

The problems with my Stanford app have mysteriously disappeared. All seems to be well now.

Posted 1:12 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81195440:

Apparently I'm not the only one with Embark problems.

Actually, I think we should take this as an important lesson: These online systems could go down at any time, due to internet problems, being too busy, or a problem on your desktop. If you wait until the last second before the deadline, you are taking a tremendous risk. Right now I'm mildly irritate that I can't go to my Stanford app. If it was less than 24 hours until the due date, I'd be flipping out at this point.

I'm aiming to submit my apps about two weeks before the deadlines, just to avoid any last second "internet surprises."

Posted 11:58 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81192552:

Here is the text of an e-mail I just sent to Embark support:
Subject: Stanford 2003 app no longer works

I started the Stanford 2003 application on several weeks ago. Since came back up this morning, the Stanford 2003 application has no longer loaded properly. Whenever I try to open it the page starts to appear, but then slows down and ends up stuck, half-loaded.

Here is the page I'm trying to reach:

Please advise.

Is anyone else seeing these problems?


Posted 9:33 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81186889:

Wow, Hotmail seems to be down!

Posted 9:02 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81185930: is back up...
...but it now seems to be called They did a bad job of posting that news on their web site; I clicked on the Kellogg "Online Application" link and was taken to a page that didn't look anything like Embark, and didn't have any note saying informing me it was the old Embark. On a whim I tried my Embark password, and it worked.

Note: The 2003 Kellogg app is still not up in the new Embark/PrincetoneReview.

Also, not all of the functionality seems to be working perfectly. I can't seem to access my Stanford online recommenders section--the browser actually seems to freeze up! They better not have f@$#ed up my app...

Posted 6:17 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81182226:

Okay, I think I've finally figured out my topics for the dreaded HBS essays 3 and 4. For #3 (describe a project in which you failed and what you learned), I'm going to use a project I worked on in a summer job. It's good because I really did feel like I failed at it, but: 1) I learned some important lessons; 2) It was long ago; 3) It was a unique job that broadens my experience.

For #4 (describe an ethical dilemma), I can use a situation from my current job in which my usefulness/position on the project conflicted with a new development someone else was appointed to. The dilemma was should I help him, and thereby hurt my own position, or hold back my experience hoping he failed and thereby keeping my powerbase. It's the closest to an ethical dilemma I can come; it's innocuous, true, and bland.

Posted 4:56 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81180963:

After writing out my themes (I got 3 good ones), I reviewed my [now 2nd/3rd drafts of] HBS and Wharton essays against them. The results?

Essay 1 - Nicely addresses themes I
Essay 2 - Nicely addresses themes I and II
Essay 3 - I'm going to redo this one, because I think I chose a poor "failure" to highlight (i.e. problems with my manager)
Essay 4 - I'm going to redo this one; Need to think of an ethical dilemma. Montauk suggests that it doesn't have to be a huge one...
Essay 5 - Nicely addresses themes I, II and III. Need to restructure slightly
Essay 6 - Piece of cake

Essay 1 - Piece of cake
Essay 2 - Strongly addresses theme II, some of theme I
Essay 3 - Strongly addresses theme II; I need to beef up the emphasis on theme I
Essay 4 - I'm conflicted now on this one. I would like to emphasize theme III here, but also feel that theme I (the more important of the 2) needs more addressing in my essays. What to do?

One option would be to switch topics for essay 2, going with a different experience which is much more heavily on my theme I. Then I would be freed up to use essay 4 for theme III.

Wait...I just realized that all of you must be reading this and thinking I'm a madman...

Posted 3:29 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81179427:

Montauk cram session
Overall, I found Richard Montauk's How to Get into the Top MBA Programs to be a nice resource which would have been much more valuable a couple months ago. Though most of what he said seemed common sense, the book does serve as a good reference and answered some questions I had. Below are a few new items that I learned from it:

Chapter 1 - Why Get an MBA? - skipped
Chapter 2 - Types of MBA Programs - skipped
Chapter 3 - How to chooose the right school for you - skipped
Chapter 4 - How to use the rankings - skipped
Chapter 5 - Admissions process - skimmed
Chapter 6 - Application time table - "the sooner the better"
Chapter 7 - Making the Most of Credentials
>> I didn't realize that the schools could/do sometimes read the GMAT AWA essays.
>> I think I should emphasize past salary increases and promotions more
Chapter 8 - Marketing Yourself: General Principles
>> Page 153 has a great chart showing what schools' expectations are for different categories of applicants (i.e. accountants strengths are expected to be quantitative; weaknesses are dullnes, aggressiveness), which I will definitely use to better structure my essays.
>> This chapter has a good discussion of themes in essays
Chapter 9 - Understanding the Key Essay Topics
>> This chapter lists 20+ common essay topics and the best approaches to them
>> I found that in my Kellogg "What will you contribute to the student body" essay, I'll need to talk a little bit more about how I fit into their profile.
>> He states that on "analyze your own application" essays, it's best to use it as a chance to address weaknesses

Good stuff. I'm definitely going to sit down and try to create a "position" for my application, i.e. what three or four strengths am I going to push, and what [expected] weaknesses am I going to try to allay. I'll then re-evaluate the HBS and Wharton essays based on that. I think they will pretty much conform to this, as I had been taking this approach informally, but there wil be some changes.

I think I'll also be changing my HBS "ethical dilemna" and "describe a failure" essays.

Posted 1:04 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81175570:

I did a Montauk cram session; Will post my notes tomorrow morning...

Wednesday, September 04, 2002
Posted 9:57 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81167895:

Wharton online app is up

Posted 2:41 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81150418:

To parse Alex's statement a bit more, "yep, we are planning to launch the online app. later today, so the interface you see is for us to test it." (emphasis mine).

Posted 2:16 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81149391:

Breaking: Wharton to release the online app later today...

See this post on Business Week.

Will keep everyone updated...

Posted 1:28 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81147475:

Wharton must be getting close...
...because when I go to their online app page,, it gives me a login popup (unfortunately, it asks for domain, which I don't know...). Before it gave you that "The application will be out soon" page.

Posted 1:23 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81147270:

I think the Wharton online app is coming. The evidence is that Alex Brown has started a new thread on the Wharton S2S forum entitled "Online Application Questions / Feedback"...

Posted 12:41 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81145594:

I broke down and finally got a copy of Richard Montauk's How to Get into the Top MBA Programs. Everyone seems to recommend it, and though I feel like I'm on schedule right now, I want to make sure I don't get tripped by something easy.

I'll review it as I go along...

Posted 12:27 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81145077:

Hot off the Presses: Kellogg 2002 stats
The highlights:
1) "The GMAT is just one of many factors we consider in rendering admissions decisions. Of the 3,500 applicants who scored 700 or greater, 18% were offered admission; more than 13% of applicants who scored between 650-690 were also admitted."
2) Average GPA: 3.45 (80% were between 3.1 and 3.9).

Thanks to Ted for the tip!

Posted 11:33 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81142922:

Reminder: Embark is down this afternoon
"Due to scheduled maintenance Apply Online will be down from Wednesday, September 4th at 2:00pm EDT until Thursday, September 5th at 9:00am EDT."

Posted 9:43 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81138561:

If you are interested in attending an HBS open house, you probably should hurry up and register. I see that the September 12th open house in Washington, DC is already full!

Posted 8:04 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81135700:

I've (again) rethought my approach to Stanford essay A ("What matters most to you?"). My old approach was going to be taking a few "themes" (for lack of a better word), and back them up with interests and examples. My new approach is going to be list some of my interests, and, using the appropriate examples, try to draw out broad themes.

The reason I changed my approach is I saw a posting on one of the message boards (I don't remember which one, and can't find the posting) in which the applicant was using the exact same topic as me, "challenge". I realized that, using broad themes in this question has two disadvantages:
1) Broad themes, almost by definition, are going to be less memorable to the Stanford AdComm. Which sticks in your memory better: An applicant who cites "Challenge" or one who cites "Exploration of internet technologies" (to use a hypothetical example). Furthermore...
2) With broad themes, there is a much greater chance of overlap with other applicants, i.e. your app doesn't stand out. After all, I'm sure that 90% of the Stanford applicants love challenge; Why else would they be applying there? But how many care about music, or geopolitics, or studying foreign languages, etc.

I'm going to let it all hang out, and run with a list of four or five things that matter to me, straight from the gut. I'm betting that my honesty, specificity, and directness help my app stand out from the pack of "Challenge", "Responsibility", and "Leadership".

Posted 7:43 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81135217:

Wow, these are really Tuck's essay topics, I'm impressed!

Everything I've read about Tuck is positive. For me, the big reason I'm not applying there is a) I already have 7 schools I'm applying to and b) it's not in a major city (translation: it's in the middle of nowhere--no offense, I like nature too, but...).

Posted 5:06 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81132621:

A few thoughts on how I went about getting recommendations.

I contacted my first recommender back in late June, because I knew the recommender was taking a lot of vacations in August/September. This person was a former and current manager (two separrate projects), and we get along great. This person was kind enough to agree to do one recommendation per school, i.e. 7 total. I contacted my other two recommenders--one former manager, one colleague--in early August (right about when the apps were being published), to get them started.

Honestly, I didn't contact them so early expecting them to finish the recs early. By human nature, I knew they wouldn't work on them for a while. But by giving it to them early, I have leverage over them to get it done in a reasonable amount of time. i.e. if it's two weeks left until the deadline, I can lay a guilt-trip on them saying, "I gave it to you a couple months ago" and they'll be thinking, "Geeze, he's right..."

Two other points:
1) I have so far resisted giving them any outline/notes on what to write. I did give them a fleshed out copy of my career history, as well as a description of why I'm applying to B-School. But I truly believe that the only value a recommendation has is for the new perspective it provides the AdComm. If the recomm just has what I think is important, it's close to worthless. (Yes, this requires trusting the recommender completely).
2) In all cases I waived my right to review the recommendation, and turned down their offers to check it. Two reasons: I wanted to demonstrate to them that I trusted them completely, and I didn't want to bias my essays with their thoughts.

Tuesday, September 03, 2002
Posted 9:52 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81118689:

By the end of the day, this site will have had over 300 separate visits over the past 24 hours and close to 500 page views. I am overwhelmed by this response; It's great to know that some people are enjoying my travails (and hopefully some of you are getting something out of it too).

I've seen visitors from domains like,,, and, my favoriate,, among others. Cool! And don't be shy about dropping me a line; I try to reply to all e-mails.

Posted 8:30 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81115291:

Part of the danger of blogging on the fly is sticking your foot in your mouth. In the post right below, I think I did that.

Going to Chicago's "Apply" page, I see that, in the upper right-hand corner, there is a link entitled "Portal" (look in the dark blue tab bar), which does point you towards the login for their online app.

In my defense, however, the text of the "Apply" page still says, "An electronic application that can be submitted online will be available soon."

Posted 4:59 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81106749:

Reading the MBA Admissions Wire gives you the edge!
Notice that the main Chicago GSB web site doesn't even have a link up to their on-line app yet. Advantage: MBA Admission Wire!

Posted 4:48 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81106306:

First impressions of the Chicago app (fast-breaking):

1) It doesn't seem to be related to either the Embark app system or their other web pages, in that my login for Embark didn't work. I had also signed up on some other Chicago page to receive e-mail news about their program, but it didn't seem to recognize that login either. So I created a new account (no problem, three minutes).
2) It does not have on-line recommendations.
3) They do not have facilities for uploading completed essay documents (which I tend to prefer); It's cut and paste textboxes only.


Posted 4:30 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81105491:

University of Chicago on-line app is up!

Posted 4:03 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81104342:

I wrote up the new version of Wharton essay #4 based on the outline I wrote Sunday, and boy does it suck. I've managed to take an engaging and interesting topic and create a short, stilted blob. Get me rewrite!

Posted 2:33 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81100436:

*** 2002 Essay Awards (Part 5) ***
Award for Most Difficult Essay Topic of 2002 goes to...

Stanford, Essay A!

"What matters most to you, and why?" This topic just messes with your mind, man. Do they want only one thing? Multiple things? What do they want to hear? Can't they tell getting into business school matters most to me at this moment...arghhhhhh (sound of head exploding).

To compound its difficulty is the fact that Stanford's only other essay question is the typical, "What are your career goals, how will a Stanford MBA help you achieve them" form question. So essay A is all you have to knock their socks off.

After ruminating on this one for a long time, I decided on the following pointers:
1) I needed to discuss more than one thing. I don't think that the Stanford AdComm will be really upset if several things matter to me most, as long as they are enlightening, worthwhile, etc. It would be very difficult for me to find a single topic to write about which could fill up 5 or 6 pages while keeping their attention and showing off my many facets.
2) Choose general things that matter, and use them to describe the specifics. Originally I was thinking of doing a trifecta like: The quality that matters to me most is X; The person who matters to me most is Y; The hobby that matters to me most is Z. I ditched this idea, because it's a bit corny, and the first topic completely outweighed the other two. Now I am going with three general qualities/idea/concepts that matter to me most, and use them to tie into specific achievements/experiences I've had.
3) Keep it honest. The Business Week forum has a few jokes about what really matters to us applicants (money). If that is really what matters to you the most, I feel sorry for you. I am able to make money in my current career, and am confident of success at whatever I try. The reason I'm going for an MBA is that I no longer enjoy what I'm doing, and am aiming to change my career path. So it's expressly not about money.

Posted 1:17 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81097168:

Another cool blog:
This is not directly related to the admissions process, but I found a couple of Weblogs ("blogs" from now on) by Kellogg Professor Jim McGee. His courses are all related to the use of technology in organizations (and look pretty cool to boot). He apparently has two blogs: One is his personal musings, one a list of "pointers mentioned during" his TEC911 course ("Leveraging Information Technology in the Network Economy").

Posted 12:29 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81095257:

My top school?
Actually, I honestly don't have one. Sure, I'm only human, sometimes I start to think about it. I honestly, in my heart-of-hearts, am confident that I am an excellent candidate and should be accepted by most, if not all, of the schools. But I am trying very hard not to rank the schools ahead of time.

Why? First, it's a waste of time. I think it's easy to get sucked into spending large amounts of time saying, "If I get into A, B, and C, but not D, I'd go to B, but only if..." Since I'm applying to seven schools, there are a ton of possible combinations for them. Second, I won't lie, financial aid could come into play in the decision. If I get into schools X and Y, both of which I like a lot, and X offers me a great scholarship, I'll definitely take it into consideration. Third, I have not had a chance to visit all of the schools yet, and those visits could play a role. If I get accepted to R and S and can't decide between them, the class visit might be the deciding factor. So I am trying my hardest to stay unbiased, to focus on the application process, and do my best on each and every app.

Posted 7:42 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81085159:

You're an admissions director. You have 100 applications, which means 400 essays, sitting on your desk, and you have to read all of them in two days. You plan to choose only 10 of the applications.

Luckily for you, 90% of the applicants spent most of their time trying to guess what you wanted to hear. It is not surprising, then, that these essays form a bland, gray blob of "I enjoy giving back to the community" and "to me, strong leadership is critical" and other meaningless slogans. The applicants think they are being clever by doing this, but all they are doing is adding their spoonful to the flavorless oatmeal called "rejections".

The essays that stand out are the ones where the applicants tell you about themselves. How they think, why they did things. These applicants have great stories--the time they saved a project; the student who worked in China for a year; why someone likes skydiving--and are confident enough in themselves to express these stories. These are the leaders of tomorrow--those that believe in themselves and can express why you should believe in them too.

I wrote this little vignette because it seems like so many applicants have a sense that they need to find some way to trick the AdComms into letting them in. What do they want to hear? What activities should I highlight?

I think these applicants are making a grave mistake, for the reasons I outlined above. If you really don't think you have enough qualities, interesting experiences, skills, etc. to get into HBS, I doubt that trying to pull the wool over the AdComms' eyes is going to work, now is it (this is also a reason not to be hyperventilating about GPA/GMAT--680 vs 690 vs 700 is not going to make or break you!)?

Believe in yourself. You are interesting. You are accomplished. You are valuable. HBS, Wharton, Stanford; they need you, not the other way around. That's how you get accepted.

Posted 4:46 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81081744:

Being that it's a work day, I'm only going to have time to finish off one essay in the morning hours. I'll probably work on Wharton #4 or Stanford A, which I outlined on Sunday.

Monday, September 02, 2002
Posted 6:45 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81060570:

Here's a point I made in the Business Week B-School forum, and would just like to re-iterate:

I am not applying to HBS, Wharton, Stanford, etc., because I think that they are the key to my future. I will not be a failure if I don't attend those schools. I do not think that the lectures I'll receive there are a huge amount better than the lectures at any of the top 20 schools.

The reason I'm applying to the best schools is, first, why not? I think I am worth it, to get into the best. Second, and more important, I believe I'll enjoy attending those schools. It is a thrill to be around smart, competitive, agressive young men and women in an intense learning environment.

I won't lie, I think it is "cool" to have HBS or Wharton on my resume. But that's a pretty temporary sense of satisfaction (lasting, oh, about until you get your first post-MBA job and that MBA is forgotten). The greater satisfaction will be the enjoyment, the challenge, and the comraderie of the educational experience.

Posted 7:17 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81026754:

HBS essays 1, 2, 3, and 5 done (the third draft, anyway). Much better than before.

Posted 12:26 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81017230:

BTW, some of you want to know how much it costs me to put out the MBA Admissions Wire. The answer? Zero.

The publishing mechanism is Blogger; The server space is free on Blogspot; Even the page views monitor is free from SiteMeter. So all it takes is time, a little (very little) amount of HTML knowledge, and the urge to share your views with the world, baby, yeah!

Just taking a quick glance at the tracking for the past five days, I see that I'm getting some visits from Russia, Costa Rica, and Singapore; that people from and like me; and that most of you are coming from the Wharton or Business Week message boards. Cool!

Don't be shy!

Posted 12:05 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81016471:

*** 2002 Essay Awards (Part 4) ***
Award for My Favorite Set of Essay Topics in 2002 goes to...


I like the Kellogg essay topics because they just make sense; You understand why they're asking what they're asking. They start out with the usual, career progress to-date, goals, plans. They ask how you will contribute to the other Kellogg students. They ask you to review your file as a member of the AdComm. And they they have a few short, whimsical topics to pick and choose from. There are no curveballs, just smart questions with reasonable word limits.

Wharton is similar in this manner, and is a close runner-up...

Sunday, September 01, 2002
Posted 7:40 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81008093:

Now we're cooking...
I banged out the new outlines for HBS essays 1, 2, 3, and 5, putting a lot more emphasis on work experiences and the resulting leadership issues. I feel much better about this approach, and hope I'll be able to turn them into equally good essays.

I also decided to toss my Wharton essay #4, replacing a discussion of one of my extracurricular activities with another. The second activity is a little more...interesting and professional (if one can use that word to discuss a hobby).

I finally came up with a good idea for Sloan essay #1 (an example of creativity in a personal or professional setting) and filled in the blanks for #4 (write your own recommendation--beautiful). I'm still struggling a lot with #3 (an example of a difficult "interaction" with someone); Do they mean a difficult relationship? Or a single interaction?

I made some major changes to my Stanford essay A ("What matters to you most, and why?"), moving away from a more literal answer to more general themes.

All in all, not bad for a couple of hours!

Posted 3:47 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #81001668:

After reviewing all my HBS essays for a third time, I've decided to scrap my answers for 1, 2, 3, and 5. I found that, when reading all my essays in one sitting, I had 1) used way too many examples from my school days and too few work experiences and 2) had not addressed leadership issues very much. I've brainstormed a bit, and decided to use many more work examples in the essays, and feel more positive than ever on them. Hopefully I can crank out these new essays (which will be the 3rd drafts) by the end of the holiday weekend.

Posted 11:22 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80993799:

Someone posted the new WSJ rankings in a PDF document on the Business Week B-School forum. The link is here.

For those of you without Acrobat, here's the top 10:
1 Tuck
2 U. Michigan
3. Carnegia Melon
4 Kellogg
5 Wharton
6 Chicago
7 U. of Texas at Austin
8 Yale
9 Harvard
10 Columbia

Others of interest:
17 Emory
20 Darden
24 NYU
25 Duke
30 MIT Sloan
39 Stanford

So it looks to be little changed from last year.

Analysis: There seems to be little change from last year. Before people start hyperventilating about the ratings, remember that all the WSJ is ranking is a broad group of recruiters's opinions of how they did at the school. This would bias the rankings against the [truly] top schools, since (for example) an HBS student might not give 9 out of 10 recuiters the time of day. It is not, by any means, a ranking of the quality of education or graduates job prospects.


Posted 2:06 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80983902:

My approach to the essays
I started working on the essay topics about a month ago, starting with HBS, Wharton, and Stanford (the schools with the earliest Round 1 deadlines). My aproach was straight-forward: Read the essay topic, highligh exactly what it was asking, brainstorm some ideas, and write an outline. After I had outline dones for most of my schools', I started the first drafts.

I'd say it took anywhere between and hour to two hours to write an essay, depending (of course) on the word limit and the topic. I tried to do one essay a day, so over the past two or three weeks I was able to complete 16 or 17. Initially I'd planned to write all of a school's essays, then edit and re-write them. But I found it better to just keep going from school-to-school, completing as many first drafts as possible. Why? Quite honestly, my first set of essays were crap stylistically. I think that if you haven't been in the habit of writing essays for a while, it'll take a good five or six [different] essays to "loosen up" your writing style.

So my HBS first drafts were crap, my Wharton first drafts were somewhere between crap and human, and by the time I was into the Stanford and Kellogg essays, I'd reached a human state. The second drafts I did of HBS pulled them to the human level; same with Wharton; and I think the Kellogg essays are getting closer towards "good".

My plans going forward are to get the HBS, Wharton, Stanford, and Kellogg essays to the "good" state and then re-examine their content. I think I might ditch one or two essay answers, trying to fine tune the overall message of the essays. I expect that, when all is said and done, I'll have gone through four or five drafts for these schools.

Here are two important lessonsI'd like to share about essay writing:
1) Write early and often
2) When you sit down to review your essays, read them all in one sitting. Since I wrote one essay a day, I found that, when read together, there were spots where I repeated myself or made the same point over. The AdComs will be reading them in one sitting, so you need to work hard to create a nice overall impression.

Posted 1:44 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80983327:

*** 2002 Essay Awards (Part 3) ***
Award for Oddest Essay Topic in 2002 goes to...

Columbia, 4b: "If you were given a free day and could spend it anywhere, in any way you choose, what would you do?"

In addition to just being weird, this is a tricky question too. You really need to find the happy equilibrium between what you're really thinking ("I'm in Sweden, with a pair of twin supermodels, champagne, and...") and what you think the AdCom wants to hear ("I'd spend the day feeding the homeless while teaching a self-empowerment course...").

Next up: My favorate set of essay topics...

Posted 1:30 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #80982923:

*** 2002 Essay Awards (Part 2) ****
Award for Easiest Set of Essay Topics in 2002 goes to...

University of Chicago!

8a and 8c, the usual "Why are you applying here and what are your plans?" and a fun jaunt through "If speaking to the class of 2013, to what would you attribute your success", respectively, are walks in the park. I think the former is a critical question that any applicant should be able to answer; It basically requires hitting the following five points:
1) Describe your successes so far?
2) Why do you want an MBA?
3) Why do you want an MBA from our school?
4) What will you do post-MBA?
5) What are your long term plans?
About 8c, since I like public speaking, this question is a walk in the park because I'd love to be giving commencement addresses by 2013.

Chicago's 8b is a bit tougher, asking how you'd put together and motivate a team to develop a new product. Yet it seems open-ended enough, and the word limit is high, to not pose a significant threat.

Next up (still): Oddest question...



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