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
Saturday, September 28, 2002
Posted 11:27 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82236431:
A second of my Stanford recommendations now listed as "In Progress"...
Every once in a while, in an email to me, a reader will use "aweful" or "terrible" to describe the admissions process. Am I the only one to feel completely differently?
Yes, the admissions process is a lot of work. Yes, it is tiring to do, especially when working regular job. But anything worth having requires work, doesn't it? And putting aside the exhaustion, I think that the application process has been terrific. I honestly think that being forced to spend a couple months thinking about my life, career, goals, hopes, and dreams is a couple months well spent. If anything, too many of us go through life without pondering these topics.
Why you should ask your recommenders early: I asked two of my recommenders nearly six weeks ago to have the HBS and Wharton recs done by today (knowing that for the next two weeks I would only be able to have limited involvement in the apps). I still don't have the HBS recs from them. One says they are done, just haven't submitted. The other is really busy and plans to get it done tomorrow.
Of course, they are doing me a big favor and I can't really get mad at them. My point is that, had I handed them the rec forms only two weeks ago, or a week ago, I really wouldn't be able to complain. Now, I am comfortable putting a bit of pressure on them and they are quite understanding.
As I alluded to before, over the next two weeks I will have very little time to work on my applications. Prior obligations and all, but at least I knew it was coming. That's why I've worked so hard the past few weeks to wrap up my HBS and Wharton apps.
My HBS app is complete, and simply awaits two recommendations. I am very happy with the fifth drafts of my Wharton app, and it should be ready to go soon as well (and the two recs are in hand for that one). That gives me some breathing room, at least until Stanford (October 30th). Then things get interesting.
Hopefully, I'll be free to post a couple of times over the next two weeks. If not, I'll definitely be back in the saddle by October 14th, ready to report on the Wharton, Stanford, Chicago, and Sloan home stretches!
>> 20 days left until the HBS Round I deadline
>> 27 days left until the Wharton Round I deadline
>> 33 days left until the Stanford GSB Round I deadline
>> 40 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline
>> 42 days left until the Chicago Round I deadlines
GMAT - Done
Transcripts - All collected
Recommendations - 1 HBS done, 2 in progress; 2 Wharton recs done; 1 Stanford rec in progress
Essays - HBS seventh drafts done; Wharton fifth drafts done; All Stanford first drafts done; Chicago, MIT first drafts in progress
Data Forms - HBS forms complete; All other forms 70-90% complete
Goals for the next two weeks (and these are ambitious):
>> HBS Done! Awaiting recommendations
>> Polish Wharton essays to a fine sheen
>> Get a nice set of second drafts for Stanford ready
Wharton #2 ("Describe a situation where leadership and teamwork were critical to the outcome of a project") is done. I think it is pretty good, but I spend probably 80% talking about leadership and very little about teamwork. I wonder if that will be a problem. Of the four Wharton essays, I think this is the one I'll be revisiting again in the future...
Posted 12:13 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82197620:
Writing Style Change I've noticed one big change in my writing style as the numerous drafts have gone by. I used to favor introductory paragraphs that lead up to the topic sentence. Things like (this is a hypothetical example):
I was promoted to team leader on 10/13/2000, in response to my work on the X project. In this new role, I had to manage the people, establish a budget, and schedule the tasks for the project. I enjoyed the expansion of responsibilities, and succeeded in overseeing the successful completion of project Y in less than six months. The team leader role had the greatest impact on my development as a leader.
I think that this style is a bit more dramatic, but at the same time is a bit slow. Obviously, it aims for a build up with the payload--the topic sentence--at the end of the paragraph. But I have come to believe that, with a long essay, you've got to grab them from the get-go. Rewriting that paragraph now, it would be more like:
My eight months as team leader of project Y had the greatest impact on my development as a leader. I was promoted to this position...
Posted 10:40 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82193638:
One Month Anniversary
It's hard to believe, but it was just a month ago that I kicked off the MBA Admissions Wire. Since then, the site has gotten over 4,900 unique visits, nearly 160 a day (see the month's traffic graphed here). Wow! I'm glad that so many of you enjoy reading about the MBA application experience. Hopefully the best is yet to come.
Status of Wharton Essays I gave all my essays a thorough and critical reading last night. Here's what I found:
#4 - This one is pretty much complete. I made a few word changes and took out some flabby sentences, but otherwise this one is complete. The length went down from 545 to 506, due to the elimination of some fat.
#3 - I did a pretty good job highlighting the good points of the experience I describe, but not so great at tying those points together to form a message. After a moderate rewrite, the new essay is firmer and more muscular. The length has gone from 540 to 550 words. I think I include fewer points, but do I better job of describing them and showing the links between them.
I'm in the process of revising Wharton #2 this morning. With that done, I'll [hopefully] have a nice set of fifth drafts and be very close to completion. At the very least, I'll have something to hand off to a friend for reviewing.
I just inspected my University of Chicago application, and was startled to see an error in the "Program Information" section. I corrected it, but am left with the question: How did my interview conducted date get switched to "Interview Scheduled: Sept-2011"?!?
The Stanford application looks surprisingly thin to me, and I really have not gotten a good sense of what kind of students they are looking for. Their online form doesn't ask for a resume, doesn't require that much job information, really doesn't go into the extracurriculars that much; And their two essays are really open-ended. What are the chief criteria there?
Is there really no way to print an Embark application all at once?!? The best I could do is to print each page, one-by-one, using the "Preview" button at the top of the page. I must be missing something, right?
Posted 11:24 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82177540:
I finished up a much better Wharton #1. In the end, my word ratios stayed about the same, I just made the beginning a lot more interesting and...coherent. Interestingly, the word count went up a snippet from 1142 to 1150. It's a tad long, but I think that's okay, seeing as I had some extra work explaining why I wanted to transition to a finance career.
Posted 10:20 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82174839:
I wonder: Does the fact that a second year MBA student is one of the Wharton application reviewers mean we should--ever so slightly--skew our essays a little more "young"? Would it be possible to write an essay with the admissions procedure in mind?
These are largely theoretical questions, because it is tricky enough as it is just to write a good essay. But I have come up with a bold opening paragraph for Wharton #1 (I believe it's good to grab their attention at the start--and never let go).
Posted 10:08 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82174316:
Wharton Info Session One of my vast network of spies gave me a report from the Wharton info session in Boston tonight (thanks!). Here are the nuggets I'll share with the group:
1) The average GMAT for applicants was 680, for admitted students was 711 (last year).
2) 46% of applicants were interviewed last year.
3) The admissions process: "your application will be first read by 2 people - one admission officer and another 2-nd year student. Then these 2 people TOGETHER decide wheter to interview you or not. If they do decide to interview you, then your "interview sheet" is added to your profile(after the interview,of course), and then the adcomm decides whether to accept you or not."
Good stuff. If anyone has info like this for Stanford, drop me a line!
After re-reading my (fourth draft) Wharton #1, I'm happy to see it is not as bad as I initially thought. I think the big problem is the opening paragraph (well...the opening three paragraphs), which is contorted and weak. The first half also could use some shaping up, but the bones are there. Maybe less a complete rewrite and more an extensive working over.
Strange: Earlier today I asked if anyone had ever received the HBS information package in the mail (I had ordered mine in July). Well, lo and behold, mine was waiting in my mailbox when I got home tonight. Will give it a quick scan for any nugget of info that might be useful in an application...
Personally, I feel like this is a dead horse that's been beaten enough, but I have gotten some complaints, so...
Yesterday, I was not saying that all readers of the Business Week forum were were losers (hey, I'm a reader too).
I wasn't saying that people who have not received raises/promotions were losers. Every company/industry is different.
I was simply pointing out that, for such an innocuous question, I had come in for a boat load of grief. All I was asking (originally) was why the topic of promotions/raises were never brought up on the bulletin boards, and how they could be used to further an application. I got my answer.
The friend who proofread my HBS essays last week just gave me the thumb's up on my #6. Might I actually be done with them? I'll give them a final reading tonight, looking for any lost typos or quirks. If all is good, I'll be able to put that whole application aside, ready to submit when my recommenders finish their work. Next up: Wharton, with Stanford nipping at its heels...
...Of course, the stats I mention below would only be meaninful if taken over several applicant classes. Otherwise, you might have one year where all the applicants from, say, the University of Oregon, were great, and all the Yale applicants were terrible.
Another stat I'd like to see: The acceptance rates for applicants from certain undergraduate schools. Are CalTech engineers favored over Georgia Tech engineers? Are liberal arts majors from Yale favored over liberal arts majors from Pepperdine? I assume the answers are yes, but by how much?
Posted 12:35 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82151397:
I just glanced over the initial drafts I wrote of the Chicago essays, well over a month ago. What pieces of dung! Now that I've been writing essays nearly every single day for the past four weeks, my writing has improved incredibly. Thus, I think my applications are only going to improve as the next six weeks go by (making the University of Chicago app, not due until November 8th, theoretically my best application of the lot!)
Posted 11:23 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82148171:
The stats we'd all like to see:
A chart of acceptance rates per GMAT score for each school. According to what the schools say, the chart would start at 0% acceptance and keep there until a score of 600 or so, then rapidly rise until a score of 700, and then flatten out again. I wonder if that is how the scores turn out, however.
Adam at HBS posted about his section's lunch with the dean. Two items of note to us applicants:
1) "He [the Dean] also mentioned that they want to greatly expand financial assistance to students."
2) "He [the Dean] felt that over the past 5-7 years, a myth had developed about admissions. The myth was that schools wanted people with more experience which meant older students. The perpetuation of this "myth" meant that students felt compelled to wait to apply to B-school."
Finally, I nailed the "Why HBS" section of HBS #6. I swept away the old, jagged, rusting mess that was my old answer, and replaced it with a gleaming, stainless steel new answer (well, that sounds a lot cooler than, "I rewrote the essay for the seventh time"). Seriously, I was able to finally create focused paragraphs, three of them to be exact. My essay now goes over the word limit a bit (at 423 or so words) but I don't think that they will mind if I over-enthuse about their school. Phew. The feeling of relief runs from my feet through my intestinal tract to my brain. Phew. Phew. Breathe, Tad, breathe!
Well, I didn't get anything done yesterday evening. Nothing. After getting home, I was just too exhausted to do anything more than fall in bed. I think I'm still feeling the after-effects of last Sunday's stomach flu, especially the fact that I haven't eaten much beyond rice porridge (mmmmm, rice porridge!) and soft pasta the past three days.
The problem with my Wharton #1, as it currently stands:
I just go on and on and on about my current job. I understand what I was going for--hitting my themes with job examples--but I don't know when to say when. Furthermore, I need to tie my career arc in much more closely to why I want an MBA. I think the new structure will be something more like:
I. Hard Intro: Why I want an MBA
II. Career path so far: Overall arc of career, one in-depth example
III. How career path leads to MBA
IV. Why Wharton MBA
V. Post-MBA plans
VI. Tie it all together
Right now my essay is more like:
I. Why I want an MBA
II. Career beginnings
III. Career middle.
IV. Career high points
V. Recent career
VI. Why I want an MBA, why Wharton
VII. Post-MBA plans
Heading down to the wire... My goals for this afternoon and evening are to come up with a better ending to HBS #6, outline a better Wharton #1, think about a way to finish Stanford #1, and each a fine steak. Not necessarily in that order.
"We're going to announce the 2002 BusinessWeek MBA program rankings on Thursday, October 10, in a live chat at 5:00 p.m. ET. To enter the chat room, go to http://www.businessweek.com/bschools shortly before 5:00 and follow the links. We'll count down both the top 10 non-US B-schools and the top 30 US B-schools, and afterwards Jennifer Merritt, management education editor at BusinessWeek, and I will stay on to answer questions from the audience"
It's becoming increasingly clear that most of the people posting to the biz school forums are, for lack of a better term, losers who have no hope of getting into the elite schools. The only real reason to visit them is for the few intelligent posters...
One would think that simply asking why nobody mentions the importance of promotions and raises wouldn't be such a big deal. I can only conclude that I've touched a raw nerve for some people, which in turn gives me encouragement because I know that my promotion and my raise will be another factor to help me stand out from my peers...
I took an early lunch break to sneak off and review my Wharton essays. Essay #4 is golden; I made only a few word changes here and there. Essay #3 is also pretty good, though could still use some tightening. Essay #2 seems a bit flabby, but probably because it is the same question as HBS #1 but with a 1,000 word limit instead of 400. But Essay #1 definitely needs a lot more work; I go on for way too long telling the story of my career, instead of relating the story of my career to an MBA at Wharton. I'll probably need to scrap most of it and rewrite it from scratch.
Posted 10:45 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82096021:
One other random thought: I noticed that very few people on the bulletin boards talk about job success as a criteria for admissions. Why not? Do the B-Schools really pay so little attention to promotions/raises, or is it just that the bulletin board participants haven't gotten many? To me, a candidate who can say, "I was promoted to X on Y, and earned a raise of A to B" would be much more impressive than one that says, "I led this project...and did this..." The reason is that the first is tangible, whereas the second is less so.
I was reminded of this during the HBS Open House, where the AdComm member said something like, "We believe that past performance is an indication of future success."
Posted 10:37 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82095680:
I wonder how everyone else feels about there chances of being accepted. My feelings tend to run hot and cold. Most of the time I feel 99% sure that I'll be accepted to most my schools. I feel that I have a strong educational background, an interesting and successful work history, and can communicate my ideas, opinions, and goals clearly. But every once in a while I get that feeling in the pit of my stomach that, no matter how compelling my story is, there are thousands of investment bankers and consultants who have exactly what the schools are looking for, so I'll be looked over.
Does everyone else run hot and cold like this? Or are most people somewhere in the middle--thinking they might just have a shot? I wonder...
Last night, I picked through my HBS application with a fine-toothed comb, and think I've caught all the last errors. There was a small justification problem on my resume; corrected. A few poor word choices (especially repetitions) here and there; corrected. Plus some of the text I had pasted into the work history boxes had some very weird formatting; corrected. A word of warning: You should check every single field to see if it looks right in the PDF sheet before submitting. I had to do a couple rounds of corrections on one of my full-time job descriptions.
Overall, I am pretty happy with this application. I do a good job summarizing my work history, which I think is both interesting and leads towards the MBA. I have a fairly good set of activities, though probably not enough leadership roles in them (I'm hoping work leadership will make up for that). The Awards and Recognitions page is a hole, but probably not a big one. My transcript is fairly strong, as is my resume. Essays 1-4 are pretty good and essay 5 is very good (I know, writing about your strengths is easy, but I really did a good job tying them into specific succeses on the job).
Essay 6 remains a problem, because, as my friend pointed out again last night, the "why HBS" section is still a bit scattered. I tried to focus on two points but still seemed to lack clarity. I'm going to have to think about this one a bit more (I know, I know, the clock is ticking) and try again.
Meta-Realization of the Day Business school applications are actually finely tuned tests of management skills. Think about what you need to complete an application:
Intelligence - Demonstrated in the GMAT, school records
Time Management - Juggling a full-time job with essay writing
Written Communication Skills - Clearly delivering your message through the essays
Oral Communication Skills - Good at interviewing
Pursuasion, Networking - Ability to get several recommenders to deliver good recommendations on time
Posted 11:39 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82047074:
...And a final reason I love Embark: When it e-mails recommenders, the from e-mail address is so unreadable that some e-mail systems will automatically filter it out as junk mail. I resent the Stanford recommender alert e-mail to one of my evaluator's hotmail account four times, and it apparently got filtered each time. Finally I gave up and used her work e-mail address.
Posted 11:35 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #82046899:
Another thing I love about Embark: You cannot type in abbreviations for states (i.e. "OR" for Oregon), you've got to go to a separate window, type in the state name, search on it, then click on the result.
MS Word Spell Checking I already have found a couple of spelling errors in my HBS essays, which boggles my mind. I thought that MS Word automatically spell-checked the document, drawing the squiggly red or green lines under spelling or grammatical errors. Apparently not (or at least, not every error). I re-opened my essays, and manually started a spelling and grammar check (F7), and lo and behold, four or five errors were found. I've corrected them, re-uploaded my essays, and printed out a new PDF copy to review.
Moral of the story: Be sure to manually start a spelling and grammar check every time you save your essays.
Printing the HBS App Well, I took that giant leap and clicked the "Submit" button on the HBS on-line application. As expected, it just took me to a page from which I could print the completed PDF version of my app, which is very handy because it will have a lot of the formatting that isn't shown in the HTML printed version.
In reviewing the printed app, however, I found a couple of fields that did not get printed despite my having entered the data for them. Specifically, neither "Yes" nor "No" was checked for the parents' "Deceased" fields, and the community standards page was unsigned. Is this okay, I wonder?
Anyway, I'm going to sit down with the printed app and read straight through it, checking for any errors.
Ooh, I like the Sloan application! It asks for very little employment history beyond the current job and resume. Sweet. Plus the online app has a cool feature whereby when you click to move on from a page, it will pop up a little window alerting you to any missing pieces of information (in my case, all the essays, the resume, and cover latter). Very convenient.
Now if they only allowed on-line recommendations...
#!%&ing Embark!!! Press "Save" on my Stanford application, and what do I get?
"strMessage = Error getting UserID; clsUserApp; Function UserID; 0
severity = 2
intErrorMode = 1
Sorry, an error has occurred.
Error getting UserID; clsUserApp; Function UserID; 0
Please contact Embark Application Help."
Apparently, after less than five minutes, it had (invisibly) timed me out of the system, so when I tried to save it said I wasn't logged in. Bravo! Yes, we should be able to complete an application in less than five minutes, shouldn't we!
Now the economies of scale kick in. I was able to pretty much complete the Wharton employment history section in less than thirty minutes, since I had already gathered all the information for the HBS app. The only extra items that Wharton asks for are phone and fax numbers for each company.
While I'm rolling, I might as well fill in the Stanford, Chicago, and MIT applications...
Done? Done. Really done? Probably so.
I just completed the HBS application form (total time filling in the work history, education history, and extra-curriculars? Probably three or four hours), and have uploaded my essays. All that is left now are two recommendations, one that has been started and one not (I'll have a chat with them tomorrow). All of my essays came in under the word limits, albeit some by only a couple of words.
My plan is to use the HBS print functionality to print out the entire app tomorrow, read through every single piece of information, and correct any mistakes. Then I'm done with it.
Looking back on my calendar, I see that I started writing the HBS essays on Wednesday, July 31. Phew.
Out sick You may have noticed that my entries abruptly ended yesterday morning; I seem to have caught some sort of ugly stomach flu, and spent the bulk of the evening in an area hospital receiving IVs. The bad news: I'm completely exhausted and look like hell; The good news: I'm taking Monday off so can finish up the app then...
Well, after two hours on the online app, I've now completed both extracurricular sections, my part-time employment section, and all my full-time employmen other than my current job. Whew, this is a long slog.
I'm leaving the essays until the end, because a) it is impossible to submit an app without essays, so there is no chance I will accidentally submit it early; b) I will be polishing them to the very end.
This seems a good time to take a break and enjoy the cool morning air...
Happy surprise: Another great thing about keeping your answers in a separate file is that you sometimes forget you've written them, and then get a happy surprise when it comes time to upload them. Lo and behold, I had a greate 1964-character description of my "key responsibilities" at my previous full-time job waiting for me when I got to that section!
HBS Word Counts Be aware that, at least in the employment history and activity sections, the HBS online app is counting spaces as part of its character count. As I mention below, I'm typing my answers into Microsoft Word first, which can provide the character (space and no space) counts, word counts, and much, much more on any selected piece of text (Go to the "Tools" menu and choose "Word Count"). For one of my part time jobs (500 character limit), MS said I had 406 non-space characters and 480 total characters; The HBS count was 480.
Maybe I mentioned this before, but for online application pieces that require anything more than 1 line of text, I am first typing my answer into a local text file and then cutting and pasting into the online app. I think this approach is absolutely a no-brainer: If the on-line app eats all my data the day before submission, I don't want to have to re-write most of it. I highly recommend this approach--as clunky as it may seem--to everyone who wants to be prudent.