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, October 19, 2002
Posted 11:55 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83237213:
I'm starting to run out of gas (hey, I'm an early riser). I think I'm at a good stopping point, with about a third of Stanford essay A left to go. The first two thirds is good stuff. I'll leave it to tomorrow morning to write the final flourish.
Posted 11:04 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83235481:
I'm about one third through essay A. It is slow going, but that's mainly because I'm getting tired, it's a Saturday night, and I'd rather be watching the World Series. Alas, I think I'm in a good writing groove, and will press on. A really good sign is that my paragraphs flow into one another very nicely...
I finished the opening paragraph. It is good. It is very good. It is so good I want to lick the screen.
Why is it good?
1) The first sentence is short and to the point: "______ matters most to me."
2) The next two sentences summarize why it matters most to me and how it has mattered (i.e. the results of it). The "how" is a list of the highlights of my life, a list that is eclectic and interesesting and...well, a bit "ballsy", if I may be permitted to use that word. I am basically laying out all my cards, a royal flush, and saying here's what I've got.
3) The final sentence ties it all into why I am applying to Stanford, which connects the past to the future as well as kisses up a bit (just a little bit).
When I am faced with writing an essay from scratch, I would say a good third of my time is spent on the opening paragraph. A good opening is crucial, I think, to do two things:
1) Get the readers attention. You don't want them to enter the meat of your essay thinking, "Ho-hum".
2) Organize the thoughts to follow. Without a clear indication of where the essay is headed, it's easy for the reader to get confused.
I'm starting Stanford essay A now, after a delicious ramen and Cherry Coke dinner...
No sooner do I write the post below than does a good theme pop into my mind for essay A. This new theme (by theme, I mean a one word answer to "What matters most?") allows me to touch on both my career and extracurricular highlights, which was my goal for taking the multi-answer approach below.
Okay, I'll spill the beans: The approach below I was thinking of was to write an essay along the lines of, "Professionally, X matters the most...Personally, Y matters the most...Socially, Z matters the most..." This is a solid approach, I think, but still is trumped by having a single answer. I now have that answer, one which will weave into all those experiences. I hope. Going to start on the outline.
Posted 12:16 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83216438:
I'm starting to get some solid ideas on Stanford essay A. The big change is that I'm going to name more than one thing that matters to me most. I thought of a good framework for doing so, a framework that doesn't make it seem like I'm indecisive and can't choose a single thing.
I decided to do this approach because...well, my old one wasn't working. I had a single quality that mattered to me the most, and it does a good job of tying together most of my career success. But there was simply no way to fit in extracurriculars, which I think give a needed dimension to my app, especially in Stanford's case.
Based on the "wow" description the Stanford AdComm gave below, the only way to have wowed them with the old approach were either with the extraordinary level of job achievements or extraordinarily well written essay. Though my career success has been above and beyond my peers, I don't know if it--alone--is "wow"-worthy (i.e. I never started up a company, or something like that).
With the new approach, I'll be able to hit mini-wows with career, extracurricular, and (hopefully) writing quality. If anything in my app is "wow"-worthy, it is some of my extras. Not so much because they are...lofty, but because they are just kind of cool, interesting, and show imagination.
This will leave Stanford essay B to focus more on my career, especially on how it lead to my pursuing a GSB MBA. I've also had a few ideas on the "Why Stanford" part. I am necessarily going to have fewer hard details to back up my claims, but am hoping that I can convey enough eloquence and convictoin to overcome that (similar in approach to my "Why HBS" essay. Incidentally, "Why Wharton" has been the easiest so far, because of the plethora of info they have on their site and...for other reasons).
I think today I'll be focused on outlining essays A and B, and by tomorrow evening I'd like to have good third drafts of at least essay A.
Posted 10:59 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83214164:
Oops. Now my printer cartridge at home runs out.
This is just another indication of why you can't leave the apps to the last minute. If it was Thursday afternoon and your printer/computer/modem broke, what would you do? Of course, given the intelligence and practicality of my readership, it would never happen to you, now would it?
Posted 10:47 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83213851:
All that remains now for my Wharton app is 1) looking up some info on my undergrad scholarships, 2) getting any feedback from my reviewer about essay #1, and 3) pressing "Submit" (well, okay, I guess I have to pay them too).
Posted 10:31 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83213405:
The other Wharton essays edited:
#2 expanded by twelve words.
#3 decreased by two words
#4 decreased by two words
All but the first essay are well within +/- 10% of the suggested word counts. I'm now going to upload the essays and print out a copy of the entire app for my final review. I'll also send my reviewer the new essay #1 for any last minute comments he has.
I finished making the changes to essay #1, which were actually not that major. The bulk of them were awkward sentences, grammar, and spelling. The few big changes were:
1) I reworked the introduction paragraph, which was a bit unfocused and dramatic initially but now has a very clear lead. I think I've mentioned this before, but it's good to have a strong declarative intro, I think.
2) I put the short concluding paragraph (that I took out on Thursday) back in. He thought it was a great conclusion, and I agreed.
3) Thus, I trimmed back a few words here and there so keep it from going 20% over the word limit.
I think that this essay might be noticeably longer than everyone elses, but I think it's okay because I needed the extra space to explain why I am changing careers (from ballerina to finance).
I feel a bit more confdent after reading the Stanford interview below, mainly because it's clear that the "wow" they look for isn't just something amazing ("I started my own charity") but can mean exceptional success on the job or even in writing the essay. I think I can accomplish this, but definitely I'll need to get rid of the straightjacket of a single theme...
"Q: Now a question regarding things in an application that really catch your attention -- positively. Please provide some some examples of what makes an application say "wow!" to the admissions committee. Are professional accomplishments too boring, should we show more extracurricular "wow"? A: As a general rule of thumb, all kinds of "wow" are good. There's academic "wow," professional "wow," extracurricular "wow," essay "wow," etc. Professional accomplishments are certainly never boring -- they're integral to the application, and we want to know what they are so that we can understand and assess the impact you've had at work.
But you asked for examples. Academic "wow" might be graduating from college in three years while also financing all of it yourself. Professional "wow" might be being given responsibilities clearly designed for someone with years more experience, because of your abilities and reputation within your company. Extracurricular "wow" might be creating an organization or an event on a significant scale to accomplish something that's a passion of yours. And essay "wow" is writing about yourself, your experiences, and your goals in a thoughtful, engaging, and personable way.
Q: On the flip side, what are the biggest mistakes that applicants make on their application?
A: Great question. There are big mistakes and small mistakes. Probably the biggest mistake is not spending enough time on the application -- writing a shoddy essay and not choosing the right recommenders."
"Q: A question of goals: Is GSB looking for individuals who have a very clear idea of what they want to do after business school or are they open to individuals who may want to use the time in B-school to figure out their options?
A: We want to understand from your essays, generally, where you see your career heading. We don't expect you to have figured everything out already. However, this is a huge decision in terms of time, money, and effort, and we do expect you to have a good idea of where you see yourself heading."
"Q: What differentiates Stanford from all of the other top MBA programs?
A: I'm asked that question a lot, and I don't think it's one single ingredient. For me, it's the intersection of four factors. First, our small size, which creates a really intimate learning environment and a tight alumni community. Second, our location in Silicon Valley, the heart and often birthplace of technology. Third, our approach to academics, which focuses on foundations and fundamentals more than best current practice. And finally, our students, whom we admit from the most diverse set of backgrounds imaginable. In addition to the classes, you come to an MBA program for the people, and I'm constantly amazed at the group of people who arrive every September."
Remember that this interview was over a year ago (even before September 11th!). But I still found it immenseley helpful to start getting a sense of what Stanford is like.
Posted 11:27 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83199060:
I notice that Accepted.com has a few more transcripts of chats with various AdCommers. The most relevant seems to be a September 17th chat with Sloan's Rod Garcia, though there is a chat with Chicago GSB's Associate Dean for Enrollment on November 4th.
Posted 11:13 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83198535:
Just got back from dinner with my friend/essay reviewer. He had a copy of my Wharton fifth drafts, so some of his corrections/comments were moot, but overall it was again helpful. A summary:
Essays #3 and #4 were perfect content-wise and stylistically. There were only a few grammar corrections among them.
Essay #2 had a few more corrections for grammar and some sentence wording changes.
Essay #1 (which I have changed the most since the fifth drafts) had some major changes, especially to my opening paragraph. I agree that the opening paragraph is a bit hokey, and will rework it some.
I'll send him a new draft of essay #1 tomorrow when I complete it (eight drafts anyone?)...
I'm leaning more and more towards scrapping my Stanford essay A (second draft) and starting over. Why?
1) It spends way too much time on work experiences. With only two essays on hand, and a need to emphasize my diversity/uniqueness/wow-appeal, I can leave work to mainly the second essay.
2) It is too focused. I really like the theme I use, which ties together almost all of my work experiences and the issue of leadership. However, for such a free ranging question like "What matters to you?", it feels constricted, too conservative.
3) It's just not interesting enough.
Instead, I think I want to write an essay that will leave them saying "Wow". I'll choose a few really unique things about myself, not bothering to find a theme to tie them together, and lay them out there. My essay B will touch on my job successes, but focus relentlessly on "Why Stanford".
I think the very fact that this type of essay will be more enjoyable to write will improve the quality of my writing, and hopefully make it more enjoyable to read as well.
I'm starting to feel like Stanford is a longer and longer shot. I have not been able to visit their campus, I have not been able to make one of their info sessions, I have completely missed their online chats, and I don't know any alums. Plus their website is pretty but a bit skimpy on the details.
I might consider this one my hail-mary app, and just go all out on essay A in a bid to completely wow them and differentiate myself (essay A gives you plenty of room to do so).
A couple of you have e-mailed to ask if I'd review your essays. Honestly, I am a bit curious to see what the "competition" is up to, but in the end I'm going to have to decline, mainly due to time issues. I've got four apps due over the next four weeks, plus I write this website (in addition to my paying job, and the other website I write). And remember, I've been accepted to exactly zero business schools in my life, so my opinion would be of questionable value?
Likewise, I won't be sharing my essays with you. Besides the fact that I see no need to give away my priceless (ha!) strategies and themes, they do contain some very personal material that I don't care to share with complete strangers. Sorry! ;-)
Goals for the weekend:
1) After going over my Wharton essays with my reviewer, I'll hopefully put the finishing polish on them and submit sometime soon. I am very happy with where they are now.
2) I need to do tons of research on Stanford, to help me answer the "Why Stanford" essay
3) If time allows, I'd like to work on some of the Sloan/Chicago essays as well. Probably I'll work on Chicago's, as they are more approachable and fewer in number.
4) Take some time off. I don't want to get completely burned out now, with only four weeks left of writing.
Wharton applicants, mark your calendars: Ad Commer extraordinaire Alex Brown will be hosting three online chats next week:
Monday October 21 - 5:00 PM EST
Wednesday, October 23 - 12:00 PM EST
Thursday, October 24 - 9:00 AM EST
Hopefully I won't have anything left to ask by then. But I might stop by to see what others are asking.
How gonzo are people going on Sloan #4 (write your own rec)? I assume my real recommenders are much more outspoken/brazen in complementing me than I am in describing myself. I am thinking that Sloan #4 gives me the license to go as all out as a real recommender would. For example, in the "How does the applicant stand out from his peers", I can think of tons of things. Should I write them all, as a recommender would, or focus, organize, pare down, etc., as I myself would?
I must say, the paragraph above is one of the weirdest I've written in a while. Must be getting hungry...
Friday Deadline Countdown >> HBS Round I deadline passed >> 6 days left until the Wharton Round I deadline
>> 12 days left until the Stanford GSB Round I deadline
>> 19 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline for mail-in items
>> 21 days left until the Chicago Round I deadline
>> 26 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline for online app
My status: >> HBS - Submitted R1
>> Wharton - Both recs done; All forms done; Reviewing seventh draft of essays; Will submit by Monday, hopefully
>> Stanford - 1 rec done, 2 in progress; Forms done; Essays (up to second drafts) in progress
>> Chicago - 1 rec done, 1 in progress; Forms in progress; Essays (up to second drafts) in progress
>> Sloan - 1 rec done, 1 in progress; Forms in progress; Essays (up to second drafts) in progress
Posted 12:44 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83175475:
A reader e-mailed to tell me to apply to Haas (UC Berkley) if I want some interesting essay questions. I checked their application, and he's right. A sampling:
"What is your most valued tangible possession?"
"If you could have dinner with one individual, past or present, who would it be? What would you order?" (Fava beans and a nice chianti?)
"If you had 4 extra hours each day (i.e. a 28-hour day), what would you do with them?"
The answers are supposed to be one sentence to two paragraphs long; Nice and short. This definitely qualifies as a more lively application. Also interesting to note is that they have four application deadlines...
Posted 12:01 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83173543:
Maybe part of the reason (I'm getting tired of essays) is that none of my schools have a really creative question. I'm thinking along the lines of, "If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?" or "What political figure most inspires you?" or something like that. I agree, these questions are of limited value to the schools...but at least they'd enliven the essay writing a bit.
Posted 11:40 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83172605:
Man, is anyone else feeling complete essay burnout? I'm just not finding as much overlap between my essays as I'd hoped. The prospect of writing another six essays from scratch sounds about as inviting as a fist to the gut...
Posted 11:25 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83171906:
Wharton applicants: Be sure not to overlook the "Supplemental Questions" section of the app. It seems like that part isn't even printed when you do "Print application", but it does seem to be an important part of the app. I've filled in most of the questions, but need to look up some of my old scholarship information.
Posted 11:08 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83171183:
I'm bogging down on Sloan #4 some. This is actually a bit trickier than I thought, trying to sound natural in the third person. I think that maybe it will be easier to write Sloan #1-3 first, and then return to #4. To me, #4 is the "fill in the cracks" essay, to cover anything that wasn't mentioned in the first three (long) essays.
Posted 10:57 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83170731:
FANATICALFAN posted a detailed description on how Wharton notifies you of interview requests on the B-Week site. It's a lot more thorough than I realized, and puts the decision of where/with whom to interview in the applicants hands.
Anyone know if HBS and MIT do the same? I'm pretty sure I read somewhere that Stanford does alumni-only interviewing...
Finished Chicago 8c. It's damn good. I could honestly see myself reading these words in front of a large audience. It's sharp, it's relevant, it's determined and forceful, and it's positive. I hope, and expect, that the AdComm will enjoy reading it a lot more than the standard essay which describes what they would say. Obviously, I'm willing to bet my application on it.
Assuming I do get accepted to one (or more schools), this is one essay I'll definitely post in its entirety on this site (the other essays I might excerpt...or post, depending on how I feel).
"What if my recommender didn't get the e-mail request?"
I see this post a lot on the message boards, and it happened to me with one recommender. After resending notifications several times, we finally figured out what the problem was. There are actually two possible problems:
1) The recommender might have some sort of email/junk mail filtering turned on that automatically is blocking/deleting the rec request e-mail (this is what was happening to the HBS rec requests, I think). This is particularly common if they are using a free web email address, like Hotmail or Yahoo. Ask them to check to make sure their junk mail filtering is set to low and to browse their junk mail folder for the e-mails. For my HBS rec, in the end I switched from using his Hotmail account to using his work e-mail account.
2) The e-mails might not have "recognizable" senders/subjects. For example, the Stanford rec e-mail has a from address of firstname.lastname@example.org, which the recommender definitely won't be looking for. The subject was "Tad Holbie's Online Recommendation", didn't mention Stanford or anything. My recommender skimmed through his inbox several times without the mail catching his eye.
I decided to take a break from the editing/rewriting chores of Wharton and Stanford to work some on my other apps. Going to hit Chicago 8c now, because it is my favorite (I love public speaking, so writing a speech is...well, it's fun!)
I've rifled through my files on the Sloan and Chicago applications. I did do some very rough first drafts for many of their essays, back in August (even before I started this blog). However, that was before I cram-sessioned the Montauk book in early September, so they are not very focused. Below are my detailed analyses:
Chicago GSB Essay 8a (Why Chicago GSB?): I have a new outline for this one that is much more focused. My first draft was long and messy on my career to-date, and short on why Chicago. As an added bonus, I already did the alumni interview so I have some more material for the "Why Chicago" section.
Essay 8b (Put together a 3 or 4 person team): My first draft uses an imaginary team. At some point in the past two months I read the excellent suggestion (on a message board) to use a real experience. Luckily, I have a great team experience with a 3 person team. Again, the outline for is written.
Essay 8c (Speech to alumni): My original speech, while nice to listen to, sucks (I almost seem to be bordering on selfishness as the key to success!) Thankfully, I have a great speech topic that I used as the foundation for some essays at other schools, so I am again confident I can bang out a dynamite speech (and yes, I am writing the actual speech, rather than describing what I would put in it).
Sloan Essay 1 (Example of creativity): I have a pretty good example in mind. Don't have a first draft or outline written yet.
Essay 2 (Impact on a group): My first draft is okay, describing my current position. But it reads too much like the story of my career, rather than describing my impact. I'm going to replace that topic with a prior project, in which I played a much larger leadership role (and in turn, had a greater impact). Need to write an outline for this.
Essay 3 (Difficult interaction): After much thought, I finally came up with a topic for this.
Essay 4 (Write your own rec): I love this essay question, because it is such a great chance to add depth to the application, to flesh the app out. This is already outlined.
As you can see, I am not very far along into the essays for the two schools. However, I am not very worried, because a) I have outlines/themes for all the questions figured out, and b) I have tons of writing experience under my belt now. I figure that by the time I get to these two schools' essays, I'll be able to submit after only three or four drafts, instead of the seven or eight I needed for HBS and Wharton.
Ooh, happy happy joy joy! What do I find in the mailbox tonight but my first recommendations for Chicago GSB and Sloan! This is a relief; My recommender told me that they were mailed last weekend, and since he is going out of the country for the next month, if they got lost in the mail they would have been...lost. Now, no worries.
I have a lunch appointment scheduled with my second recommender for these schools on October 27th, to pick up his recs. So these schools look to be on schedule...
Interesting...I see I've had visitors from the World Bank, Starbucks, and U. Penn drop by this afternoon. What an interesting crowd! If I were super-rich, I'd love to throw a "Tad Holbie" party in some swank LA Nightclub and meet everyone...
(Visitor domains can be checked via my SiteMeter account)
(As you can tell, my will to do work is gradually diminishing)
(Any of the cool people reading this, feel free to e-mail me with comments, flames)
Looking at the misery of the Havard R1 thread on the B-Week forums, several clear lessons about recommendations can be gleaned:
1) Ask your recommenders at least two months out for their recommendations.
2) Avoid telling them the true deadline at all costs. Give them a deadline a week to ten days earlier than the real thing.
3) The most important criteria for a recommender is reliability; No matter how great they know you, how great they can write, what their title is, if you can't count on them to submit on time, they are useless.
4) Keep a close eye on them from the very beginning on.
I have been pretty lucky with my recommenders, who, despite being busy, have come through for me with flying colors so far.
I'm reviewing my Stanford essay B. Since essay A covers much of my career, I go into a lot more depth about why I want an MBA (the motivations) and the timing. Again, the big area I'm going to have to work on is the "Why Stanford" section (it's only one freakin' paragraph right now; One!) I notice that the tone is pretty casual (this draft was written back in August), a problem pointed out when I had my HBS essays reviewed.
Minor correction on my post 83073655 yesterday:
Wharton will notify those candidates it chose not to interview only after it has finished inviting people to interviews (which kind of makes more sense). So it is unlikely one would get a rejection notice very far in advance of the official decision date.
Posted 11:55 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83121931:
MIT Sloan Admissions Event Report Okay, I've finally gotten a moment to type out my notes from a Sloan admissions event I attended recently. It was cool to get to meet a member of their AdComm, and they were surprisingly upfront about the numbers from last year:
* Roughly 4,000 applicants, 300 accepts
* About 1/4 of all applicants were interviewed; About 1/2 of all interviewed candidates were accepted
* Everyone admitted is interviewed first
* About 1/3 of the applicants were R1
* The acceptance rate for R1 was 17%; for R2 it was 8%(!)
The AdComm admitted that this was an abnormally high discrepancy between the acceptance rates of the two rounds. I think (from talking to them) that it was due to the surprisingly large number of applicants (i.e. the school got a ton of R1 applicants and said, "Wow!", accepting a lot of them; When an even more overwhelming # of applicants came in R2, they had to be stricter). They said they were aiming to even out this discrepancy this year (nothing drastic, they're just hip to the larger applicant pool, I think).
A couple other points:
* They measure applications against 11 competencies (wouldn't say what, though)
* No student reviewers, only AdCommers
* For R1 applicants, the earliest interview requests wouldn't come until the first weeks of January; Interviews could be requested all the way up to the day of the decision date (if you get an interview request then, your decision would follow a week or so later).
PS - If you're interested in Sloan road events, you can check their site for both Sloan on the Road and Forums info.
Posted 11:17 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83120258:
Surgery on Wharton #1:
I broke down my first essay, and found that I spent seven of the eleven paragraphs talking about my career to date, and only two paragraphs on why I want a Wharton MBA. This is partially because I come from a non-traditional career, but I still think it's unbalanced. I cut out some of the unneeded career description, and merged some of the paragraphs, slimming that section down.
At the same time, I've expanded the Why Wharton section considerably, and I think it is much more balanced now. I must say that the Wharton web site is incredibly helpful in this regard, being so information rich. The new word count is a tad shorter than the old one, but that is only because I deleted my concluding paragraph; With it, I would have been over 1,200 words, which is getting kind of long. I don't think that the concluding paragraph (only three sentences) was critical, but I'm going to see if I can make a few cuts here and there to get it in.
Overall, I am much happier with the "Why Wharton" part now. It's coherent! It's readable!
The stats on the seventh draft of the Wharton essays, completed last night:
Essay #1: Increased by four words
Essay #2: Decreased by nineteen words
Essay #3: Decreated by three words
Essay #4: Increased by one word
The only area I might change further is the "Why Wharton" section. I truly believe that the AdComm members here are simply looking for a match between your background, goals, MBA plans, and what their school offers. I think they are less interested in how much knowledge of school detail you show--i.e. if you drop professor's names, course names, etc.--and more on whether they think you know why Wharton fits you, and you're correct. As I am looking to transition more into finance, Wharton is an obvious fit for my career goals. I go into more detail about what aspects of the Wharton education itself most stand out to me, without delving into name-dropping or ass-kissing. Still, it might need some beefing up; In this case, the extensive Wharton web site, information session, and school visit will be helpful...
After I'm done applying to the 5 Round 1 schools, do I plan to apply to any others? Well, for me Wharton acts as the "canary in the hole", since their decision is earliest (Dec. 19th) and the only decision before most schools' Round 2 deadlines. If I get dinged from Wharton, it would definitely be a sign of trouble, as all the other schools are of similar caliber. I would probably then apply to Kellogg for Round 2 (deadline Jan. 10th), which is doable since they only require one recommendation. I would also try to submit my Columbia app ASAP, since they don't have any fixed deadlines. I would be inclined to try to apply to Yale SOM as well, but their close Round 2 deadline (Jan. 6) and the three letters of recommendation they need would make it tough. No need to dwell on this topic, though.
Finished up my Wharton seventh drafts...based on those edits. Too tired to talk about it.
I got some good suggestions on the B-Week boards about how to approach Sloan essay #3. Thanks AFROALLEN and OTTER555!
Based on my original ideas and their answers, I'm thinking of using a summer job I had abroad. Because I was in a foreign environment, the interactions with my manager were difficult--not so much because she was mean/bad, but because of the cultural differences.
This answers the quesiton "How do you get along with different people", but sort of side-steps the sister question, "How do you get along with people you don't like." But it has the added advantage of:
1) Highlighting foreign work experience
2) Showing how well I work with internationals
3) Happy ending (since the interaction wasn't negative or a fight or nuttin' like that)
4) Easy to go into much depth on
Finished reviewing my Wharton apps. They are just about there. There are maybe a dozen ink marks on the essays, in total. I'll wait for any final comments from my reviewer and then submit as soon as possible.
I'm very happy with how the Wharton essays turned out. They just really fit both the question and the school, I think.
MBA Humor: Top 5 Ways To Flunk An Interview 5) Your clipon tie accidentally pops off midway through.
4) One word: Nosebleed.
3) Your interviewer catches you keying his car afterwords.
2) You whine for fifteen minutes about how terrible you felt on the GMAT test day, how you were nervous and aren't good at tests. Your score was 760.
1) You give a smart, interesting, clear answer as to why you want to attend Stanford. Your interviewer, however, is a Wharton alum.
Hopefully by tomorrow evening I can get some time to do a heavy edit of my two Stanford essays (it's nice not to have four or five essays there), and have a close-to-finished set of third drafts done.
I glanced over my Stanford essay B, and though a bit unorthodox, seems pretty solid. By that I mean that its tone is a bit more...casual, friendly, straightforward, which I think I like for the Stanford essays. Again, the one glaring weakness is the "Why Stanford?" section, which is currently a measly one paragraph. I've got a bunch of research to do to beef that up.
Wow! I was able to finish the second draft of Stanford essay A, in a big part because I was finally able to take advantage of the other schools' essays I have in hand. By cutting out descriptions of projects from the other essays, I could pretty quickly glue together a nice second draft. Of course, it's going to need a lot of spackling and polishing, but all the pieces are there--in record time!
I am feeling more and more optimistic about the remaining essays...
Wow! I was able to finish the second draft of Stanford essay A, in a big part because I was finally able to take advantage of the other schools' essays I have in hand. By cutting out descriptions of projects from the other essays, I could pretty quickly glue together a nice second draft. Of course, it's going to need a lot of spackling and polishing, but all the pieces are there--in record time!
I am feeling more and more optimistic about the remaining essays...
If there were one question I'd like to ask an AdComm member and get the 100% honest truth, it would be this:
In the essay related to why the applicant wants to attend your school, how heavily do you weigh the amount of detail about your program the applicant includes?
I think I have several good reasons I'd like to attend each of the programs I'm applying to. None of them, however, are at the level of "I want to study under Professory A" or "I really want to take Course B" or "I really like the program C". They are all much more common-sensical (is this a word?) and specific to my career goals and needs (i.e. mainly that it would help me transition to a finance career from my current job as NBA point guard (just checking if you're still awake)). Will they care if I don't wax lyrical about really detailed aspects of their program? I am not that kind of person (that detailed oriented), so I think it would be out of character for me to do so anyway...
Okay, enough dallying. I'm going to grab an after-lunch coffee and make the push to finish Stanford essay A. It won't be pretty, but the second draft never is. Once it's done, I'll be able to take out the scalpel and shape it up.
Interesting: Since Wharton is now interviewing all applicants that it might accept, if you don't get an interview request that means you're not accepted. Furthermore, as this S2S post states, if Wharton rejects your app without an interview they will make an effort to notify you of the rejection before the response deadline. I didn't realize this; It means that word from Wharton could come at any time after you submit...
I think one of the tiring aspects of B-School applications (for me) is having to lead a "double life", as I am keeping my applications from my employers. This actually takes a lot of work. Whenever I leave my desk I have to make sure I haven't left a copy of an application open, or an information pamplet around, or the B-Week forum up on my screen. I have to be very careful when I talk to my recommenders on the phone. Obviously, right now I spend a large amount of time and energy on these apps, and it is (frankly) a bit lonely not being able to share the enjoyment of pursuing B-School with my colleagues. Now that I think about it, this is probably a really big factor in why I started this web page. At least someone is reading about my passion, worries, thoughts, tribulations...
Posted 12:35 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83068399:
Chatted with my #2 recommender, and it looks like he'll be doing my Stanford, Sloan, and Chicago recs this weekend. I don't know if it'll get done (more due to forgetfulness than malice or sloth), but having the talk gave me confidence that he's on schedule.
Posted 11:31 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83065350:
I've typed out [half of] the new draft of my Stanford essay A, and the prose is a lot stiffer than it looked when handwritten. I like the theme approach I've taken in it, so I will continue through with the rest. But then I'm definitely going to have to enliven it a bit. I think the problem is that I spend too much time describing "what" I did instead of "why" I did it.
At size 11 Arial font (which looks to be about the same size as 12 Times font) it looks like the essay will be 6 or so pages.
Posted 10:19 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83061827:
Speaking of which: HBS App is submitted. No big deal. I was done with my stuff last week, and just waiting for the last rec to get in. Entered credit card. Pressed submit. Done. It definitely wasn't an emotional moment for me, just business as usual. I probably won't be mentioning HBS again until I get either an interview request or a rejection e-mail.
One thing I've enjoyed at the information sessions over the past few weeks is getting meet some of the AdComm members. It helps putting a human face to a name, and is a good reminder that "they are human too". This sound callous, so let me explain:
Without having met the AdCommers, it is psychologically easy to lump them together as an impersonal "them". "They" are out to find the holes in your application. "They" are cold-hearted and ruthless, and really won't understand how good you are. "They" are going to see that 4.5 AWA score and say, "AWA doesn't matter, but let's ding this person anyway!"
What I've "learned" is that AdCommers, by-and-large, are:
3) Know what they're doing. Every single one had basically the same message: If you put together a good application, we'll find it. Considering they have years of experience and thousands of apps under their belts, there is no reason not to believe them.
4) Like all of us, want to enjoy their jobs. If you had 4,000, 8,000, 10,000 applications to read, wouldn't you want them to be interesting? After meeting many of them, I have tried to put more "flavor" back into my essays to make them, simply, enjoyable to read (this is especially true for schools that have longer word limits).
5) Most of all, know and like their school, and really enjoy trying to construct a rich, diverse, interesting group of people as the incoming class.
So as you feel stressed about writing your essays and finishing the apps, remember that it's not some cold machine that's reviewing them, it's a group of people hoping to be intrigued and impressed. Impress them!
Good news: My #1 ("workhorse") recommender has completed the MIT and Chicago recommendations, and they are in the mail. That means I am now only waiting for one rec for each school, and two for Stanford.
Hopefully over the next week or so I'll get around to posting notes I took on some of the b-school information sessions I've attended over the past couple weeks. Nothing particularly earth-shattering, but I'll post the best bits.
A thread popped up on the B-Week forum about song lyrics, and so I posted my current favorite:
"Well I won't back down
No I won't back down
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won't back down
No I'll stand my ground, won't be turned around
And I'll keep this world from draggin me down
gonna stand my ground
... and I won't back down"
I believe these were originally written/recorded by Tom Petty, but I listen to the gritty Johnny Cash version myself on his awesome Solitary Man CD (and no, I am not a big country music fan--this was probably the first country CD I've ever purchased).
I finally dug up the contact phone number of all my previous employers, as required in the Wharton app (in each employment page there are phone and fax inputs, which are meant to be company contacts, as this post makes clear). It was actually a bit of a chore, made somewhat easier by google; Most of my phone numbers are general information numbers, rather than the HR phone numbers. I am not too worried about this data, because I think Wharton mainly uses it to verify previous employment after you've been accepted; At that point, they're not going to flip out if a phone number isn't the HR line...
Posted 11:09 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83016573:
In case I didn't make it clear earlier, the person reviewing my essays is not a paid application consultant. He's a very good friend of mine, currently in the third year of law school. He's a close enough friend that I can count on him not to hold back if my essays suck. He had some very good comments about my HBS essays (one very important one: That I, probably as a result of blogging so much, write with a style that's a bit too casual and colloquial for MBA applications) and is now going through the Wharton ones.
Posted 10:01 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83013786:
My general approach to the Wharton essays has been straightforward:
Essay #1 (Why MBA? Why Wharton? What next?) - I spend a lot of time answering the first question, since I don't come from a traditional feeder job (consultant and analyst).
Essay #2 (Leadership and teamwork situation?) - I have a great job experience that strongly highlights some important lessons about leadership, and also involves teamwork.
Essay #3 (Personal achievement affecting life) - I have the perfect answer, a job experience that highlights how perfect a fit I would be for Wharton (and I do think that, compared to HBS, my background is a much neater fit for Wharton). This essay is pure money: Relevant, interesting, and matching Wharton's needs.
Essay #4 (Tell us something else) - Again, the perfect essay: An extracurricular experience that effectively separates me from the peer group, as well as making for an interesting read.
As you can see, I am feeling very comfortable with the Wharton essays. I have always felt comfortable with their essay topics, and am confident about being able to submit by the end of this weekend. I'm going to put these essays aside until the review session on Thursday, and try to finish up the second drafts of my Stanford essays.
I finished the sixth drafts of my Wharton essays. Essay #1 decreased by two words, #2 decreased by six words, #3 decreased by seven words, and #4 decreased by three words. All the essays are pretty close to the suggested word counts, so I am comfortable with their lengths. I think the fact that, after this edit, the word counts chnaged very little indicates that I'm pretty close to my final version.
Interestingly, the number of readers coming to my site from Google searches has really risen the past few weeks. Just in the past few hours, readers have found me by searching for "stanford gsb essays" (MBA Wire is the 2nd entry!), "MBA Admissions Wire" (1st entry, naturally), and even "blogger resume "business administration"" (1st entry). I guess as my site becomes more well known to the search engines (however that happens) more and more new readers will find me that way, rather than from the b-school message boards. Cool.
I touched up some of the form data in Wharton's app. I must say, their online application is very straightforward and has not given me any technical problems (especially compared to other online apps, which shall go nameless).
The Wharton front is moving along nicely as well. The recommendations have been done for a couple weeks, and today I'll finish the sixth drafts of my essays (from the edits I did last Tuesday--did I mention that I always edit my essays on paper?) I'm meeting my essay reviewer on Thursday, so quite possibly I'll be able to do a final edit this weekend and submit by Sunday (10/20).
This is an important target for me, because then I would have three weeks to work on the Stanford, Chicago, and Sloan essays, which are no where as far along as the Wharton essays. Of the three, Chicago is the furthest along, but still could need major revision. I am not very worried about them, though, because a) I work well under pressure and b) I have some experience writing essays under my belt now.
I received a good suggestion about what to do with the lagging HBS recommender. A reader wrote to say that they finally just wrote their own recommendation and e-mailed it to the recommender basically saying, "I know you're busy, blah, blah, blah, here's a recommendation to use." I'm going to wait until I can speak face-to-face with the recommender on Tuesday (for various reasons our only form of contact the past two weeks has been e-mail--exactly the reason I wanted the rec two weeks ago), but if it ain't done by then I might have to resort to this.