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 26, 2002
Posted 11:19 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83577629:
All of you who like baseball, I suggest you put your essays aside for a moment and switch to the World Series. It's the bottom of the eighth inning, no outs, and the Angels leadoff hitter just smashed a one run homer to bring the score to 5-4. This has all the makings of a classic finish.
I think I've got it (the concluding paragraph, that is). I say "think" because, this soon after finishing typing, I just don't have good enough perspective to judge how the essay turned out. I'll print it out to review it tomorrow. At the very least, the concluding paragraph ties back nicely to the opening paragraph, as well as takes a glance towards the future.
I'm going to make a few changes to my essay B, to compensate for the changes in essay A. I took a lot of my career experiences out of essay A, and think I need to spend a little time in B talking about them. One of the biggest plusses I have going for me as an applicant, I think, is that I have--in a relatively short amount of time--experienced a great deal of success in my current job. Thus, I am seeking to change careers not because I do poorly at my current job, haven't risen in the ranks, or because (the worse excuse, I think) I've been fired, but rather because my interests have genuinely changed. Critical to this way of thinking is conveying my success, which I will now put in B.
For whatever reason, a great many of you have chosen to e-mail me today (more than any other day). I definitely welcome all reader e-mail, especially the glowing, awe-struck e-mails or those from exotic locales (to me, exotic means "anywhere but the US, plus Iowa"). If you have some criticism or questions, I guess that's okay too ;-)
Anyway, I definitely try to answer all reader e-mail in a timely manner, so don't hesitate to drop me a line (Note: I will not, however, tell you what your chances are or review your essays for you. Sorry!)
I'm about two-thirds of the way through. All is going pretty well.
I decided to jettison one experience that I was planning to talk about. It was about the illness of a close friend of mine, my experiences coping with it, and how I dealt with the sorrow it caused. I decided not to discuss it, despite the impact it had on my life, because it just didn't...fit...with the rest of my story. It almost felt like I was trotting out her misfortunate just to show how great I was, and I just felt...uncomfortable doing so. Maybe if asked in an interview for an example of a great challenge or tough experience, I could mention it, but I just felt bad doing it in an essay.
A couple of you have asked how I can tell what site a reader comes from and what domain they're using. If you scroll down to the bottom of this page, you'll see a small icon in the lower left that says "SiteMeter". If you click on it, it should take you to my account on SiteMeter.com, a free traffic monitoring service. SiteMeter provides charts of traffic levels by hour, day, and month, as well as details on recent visitors. What kind of detail? There is the domain readers come from (like aol.com or harvard.edu), the time zone they're in, the site that referred them to me (usually its the BWeek forum), the time they spent on my page, the operating system they're using, what browser they have, and things along those lines.
I think that my SiteMeter account is marked as "public", so any of you can view those details the same as I can. If you have your own website, I'd recommend setting it up with SiteMeter. It's kind of neat to see who stops by.
I'm about a third of the way into Stanford A. I've actually been able to cut and paste several of the paragraphs (describing my actions) from the old version to the knew; it's just the framework surrounding them which has changed. The trickiest parts, I think, are the transitions between paragraphs...
What was my old Stanford essay A like, you might ask? Since I've decided to discard this approach, I can give you a taste. Here is my opening paragraph, with only the personal details blanked out:
"New opportunities matter most to me. It is their excitement, with its inherent challenge, its boundless possibility, and creative potential that is the strongest source of motivation in my life. It is my ability to capitalize on opportunities that has led to the [a personal achievement]; graduation from [my undergrad school]; ...increasingly important projects, a promotion, and raises at [my current job]; all in the first [age] years of my life. And as I look to the future, it is my hope that the Stanford Graduate School of Business MBA program will introduce to me even greater opportunities and help me build the skills needed to make the most of them."
Reading those, you're probably thinking "cocky bastard" too. Saying "opportunities" matter to me most is bland to the point of almost being meaningless. After all, everyone in a position to apply to Stanford must have capitalized on the opportunities they've had, right? More important, it is a very impersonal subject...
I think I chose "opportunity" as it was the only noun that could be stretched to describe all my varied experiences. Alas, that is because it can be used to describe anything, I guess. My new approach uses three nouns that are much more personal to explaining who I am.
First, thank you to everyone who's e-mailed about Stanford essay A. The encouragement and suggestions have definitely been very helpful.
I've analyzed what went wrong with my last attempt at this essay, and think that two valuable lessons have come out of it:
1) Don't love your essay. I think that I sort of "fell in love" with the essay I had written, its aggressiveness, swagger, style, content, and format. Honestly, it was a very good essay. But by focusing so much on what I had written, I lost sight of what Stanford was asking. In effect, I wrote a great essay for the question, "Describe the single way you most stand out from your peers and how it has affected your life and career." If anyone knows a school that asks this in their application, I might as well apply, because I have that essay down cold. This lesson goes hand in hand with...
2) When in doubt, return to the question. I was feeling shaky about my essay when I decided to re-read the essay instructions (see below). No matter how great an essay you write, if you don't answer the school's question it's not going to get you anything.
Now I've got my outline in place (and it answers the question!) and am charging into the new essay with all cylinders firing. If I get admitted to Stanford, I definitely owe my helpful readers a round of drinks (I'm thinking of you, C and D)...
Eric, of the Wharton Admissions Committee, posts that they seem to have gotten close to the same number of Round 1 applications as last year (2,800), although I get the impression that they haven't finished the count yet.
Good news, bad news The good news is that I've figured out what's wrong with my Stanford essay A. It's a well argued, excellent essay...that really doesn't answer what Stanford is asking. I would happily submit the essay as it stands now, if it were in response to, say, HBS asking "tell us the story of your success" or something like that.
But as I contemplate the essay instructions again, I really don't think my essay meets their needs:
"The essay is very open-ended and there is no "right" response. The essay is a story about you, about your beliefs, about your passions. Write about something that is important to you, not what you think is important to us--and write it from your own perspective. It should be descriptive and told in a straightforward and sincere way. It also should be a story only you can tell, which means describing not just what they are, but also "how" and "why" those things have shaped your conduct and attitudes in your personal and professional life."
The parts in bold above are the parts missing from my essay. I think it does tell a story unique to me, and I do tell it in a straighforward manner. But I never really explain the "why"...
The bad news, as you can guess, is that I've now got four days to write an essay which answers their question better. I've gotten the outline, but now probably have a good three hours of writing ahead of me just to get a new "first draft"...
The good news is that my worst fears about the essay have been proven false. I will not have to do the radical surgery (option 2 below), but rather some heavy editing along the lines of what I suspected yesterday.
The biggest changes are in the critical opening paragraph. Instead of saying something like "I am good at this, as shown by raises, promotions, this success, that successes, and a third success...", I am instead making a point along the lines of "I was fortunate to have the chance to do this and that..." Just by reducing the number of "successes" I mention I am making the paragraph a lot less offensive. Before, it was almost like I was trying to justify my greatness by overwhelming them with a laundry list of stuff; Now I am listing a few items to bolster a point.
The second very subtle change I've made is by introducing some softer words and a touch of self-deprecating humor. By softer words, I talk a bit more about being "happy" or "smiling". Think it doesn't matter? Ask yourself which sounds better: "I smiled at the chance to prove my skill again..." versus "I relished the chance to prove my skill again..." With the latter sentence, I get the image of a wolf licking its chops...
The final big change I'm making is to insert a new paragraph before my concluding paragraph. I think my essay, which relates four great experiences I've had, talks a little bit too much about just me and how I felt. I want to have a paragraph that acknowledges the help I've received from others in making the most of my chances. First, (as you can probably tell from this website) I like to help people and am greatly indebted to many people's help (for example, my workhorse recommender, the one who has done 5 complete, separate recommendations so far, has done so much more for my career and life that these recs pale in comparison). I want to show that I recognize this, appreciate it, and return the favor.
So I can breathe a bit easier on the Stanford essays. I'll review essay B now, which I think only needs minor grammar/sentence changes, then head into executing my essay A changes.
Good morning fellow applicants. What, did you think I would sleep late just because it's the weekend? Naaaah...
I think the best task for an early Saturday morning is reviewing/editing, so I'm going to get right into the Stanford essays. The big key for me is to verify whether or not my essay A really reflects my personality. As I mentioned yesterday, it is looking more and more arrogant.
The thing I like so much about it is how it relates 3 or 4 of my top experiences, from undergrad days, extracurriculars, and current career. That content is great. But the thing I use to launch into them (the thing that answers "What matters most?") is very delicate: With the word I use, there's a very, very fine line between coming across as humble/thankful/smart and cocky/shark-like. Unfortunately, I think I've crossed that line.
The two solutions I'm going to consider are:
1) Softening the parts of the essay which describe that one thing, to reduce the chance that the Stanford readers throw my essay down after one paragraph saying, "What a jerk!"
2) Replacing the one-word "thing that matters most" with a softer-sounding synonym. This is much more radical surgery, and would put me under time pressure. Still, I want the essay to capture who I am, right? I do have an idea for a new thing, but it almost suffers from being too warm/soft/humble (i.e. it's at the other end of the spectrum).
I'm going into my reading with an eye for how I could do #1. If nothing comes to mind, I'll have to break out the scalpels and go for #2...
I have a few goals for the weekend. Of course, wrap up all the reviews of my Stanford essays, which should allow me to submit early (I'd love to be able to submit by Monday night). I'm awaiting feedback from my friend/reviewer, but he's out of town so there's a chance I won't get any.
Beyond that, I'd like to have a second draft of Chicago 8b and the Sloan cover letter done by the start of the week, so I would have something to edit/revise rather than write from scratch for the final two and a half weeks.
I just want to say that it's been so much fun chatting with some of you over at the Wharton S2S chat room. For those who are thinking of applying to Wharton R2, you should drop in there once in a while. Usually in the evening hours there's one or two people hanging around. I can't say you'll learn a ton from it, but it'll take some of the stress of applying away...
The Wharton AdComm sent out the big e-mail all R1 applicants have been waiting for. Check your inbox!
Before I relate the highlights, I'd like to thank the Wharton Admissions Committee--they have by far done the most to make the application process as transparent and stress-free as possible.
Now, the highlights:
1) "The Admissions Committee will begin to release interview invitations at the beginning of November..."
2) "...and will continue to release invitations on a daily basis until 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, November 21st."
3) "If you are invited for an interview, you will need to complete your interview by Thursday, December 12th."
4) "Interviews will be available on campus with second-year Wharton MBA Students who are full members of the Admissions Committee, off campus with alumni, and off campus in various "Hubs" around the world by Admissions staff members. All interview options are equally considered within the admissions process."
That means that there are only 27 days left until you know whether you're interviewed or rejected from Wharton. The timing of all this is perfect! Just as I'm finishing up my last Round 1 app (Sloan, 11/13) I'll be able to start looking for the Wharton interview e-mail!
Friday Deadline Countdown >> 5 days left until the Stanford GSB Round I deadline
>> 12 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline for mail-in items
>> 14 days left until the Chicago Round I deadline
>> 19 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline for online app
>> 27 days left until Wharton is done with interview invites
>> 54 days left until the Wharton Round 1 decisions
>> 88 days left until the HBS Round 1 decisions
My status: >> HBS - Submitted by Round 1
>> Wharton - Submitted by Round 1
>> Stanford - All 3 recs submitted; Forms done; Essays (fourth drafts) in review
>> 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
I just realized that one downside of the passing of the Wharton deadline is that there is no longer a reason to go to S2S anymore, or at least not with the same frequency. I must say that by creating a "community of applicants" with their message board, the Wharton AdComm did a great job of both making the app process more enjoyable and creating a stronger emotional bond to the school. It's a very "sticky" site, to use a dot-com term...
I think the reason I veer into dangerous territory on Stanford essay A is the essay topic. What matters to me most is a thing that has brought me both happiness and great on-the-job success. That's fine.
Where the arrogant tone comes into play, I think, is the opening paragraph. I like to open very strong, but here I think I overdo it, rattling off a list of my successes (promotion, raises, etc.) Instead of sounding confident, it sounds boastful and insensitive, mainly because (by the opening paragraph) I haven't proven any of my points yet.
What I'll do to remedy this is remove most of the list and replace it with something generic, like "...has brought me success on the job, increased responsibilities,..." etc. I can keep the list that is in the closing paragraph, because by that point I've (hopefully) developed a rapor with the reader and proven my case (that the thing which matters most to me has led to great success).
In addition, I'm trying to take a lighter tone in the meat of the essay, especially by adding a bit of self-deprecating humor, to offset my bold approach.
I hope it works, because I would hate for an otherwise great essay to be tarred by the stench of arrogance (ooh, I like that phrase).
I think that hacking activity on the internet has gone up a ton. Blogger.com, the site I use to publish MBA Wire, was just down for about four hours due to a hacking incident. Reminder: Submit your apps early to avoid being screwed by internet slowndowns!
Posted 11:37 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83515746:
While I'm ranting, I must say that I hate coworkers who seem to delight in pesimism. I had a coworker just come by my desk moping about the recent firings, and how we would be lucky to get any Christmas bonus, and how unethical it is to fire people and get a bonus, and on, and on, and on.
Pessimism is like an infection that rots away your insides. As you can probably tell from reading this site, I'm generally an optimistic, positive person. Instead of whining about your situation (whining being my biggest pet peeve in the whole world), do something!
That's why I'm applying for an MBA now. I am on a very secure project in a company that has greatly rewarded me the past few years. But I am not on a path to the future that I want, and I'll be damned if I'm gonna sit around bitching about it. I laid the groundwork, did my research, and am now fighting my hardest to get into the top B-Schools.
Okay, end my rant. Back to my regularly scheduled programming...
Posted 11:22 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83515259:
$#*&! Did a coworker just see my Stanford application as I printed it out? God, how sick I am of this cloak-and-dagger @*%$! Just when I think I'm being too paranoid about all this, with one printout my worst fears could come true...
Posted 10:57 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83514333:
A current Wharton student told me (during last night's awesome online chat) that my Japanese reader seriously underestimated the number of Japanese applicants. This year's incoming class has 17 Japanese members, so the applicant number must be much higher. I've passed this along.
Posted 10:13 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83512672:
Yes, I have already mailed the needed documents to Stanford (I used USPS Express mail, though everyone has told me since to use FedEx). Since it was just my transcript and recommender mailing labels, there was no need to delay sending it in.
Important Lessons that I learned from reading my Stanford essays:
1) As you gain some essay-writing experience, your confidence will increase at a fast rate than your writing ability. All the more reason not to rush through essays in the later applications.
2) The closer you get to completing all your apps, the larger the temptation to rush will grow. Try to finish the first drafts of your essays well in advance, and then put them aside. Coming back to them after a couple days will give you a fresh, critical eye with which to read them.
Hey, it's Friday, enough with the pretentious advice!
Whoa, editing the Stanford essays took a lot more time than I suspected. I am guessing that, because I wrote them in such a short amount of time earlier in the week, the writing quality suffered a bit.
The good news is that I think the content and approach is spot-on. There just were a lot of stylistic improvements (removing word repetitions, minor grammar mistakes, and awkward phrases). I'll type my changes into the Word document, my fifth drafts...
My Essay Process I thought some of you might find it helpful if I gave an outline of how I approached the essays (I'm using the HBS/Wharton apps as an example, as those are the ones I've completed so far).
When starting these apps:
1) I first logged on to the application website to get an idea of its features. The important point to consider is how the essays are loaded into your app, whether by document upload or by cutting and pasting text.
2) I then opened up Microsoft Word and started a new essay document. If the online app only allowed cut-and-paste of the essays, I saved the document as text (.txt) format, so that I would be prevented from putting any fancy formatting in it. In these cases I wrote all the essays in one text document (for example, "Wharton.Essays.txt") since it would be easier to cut and paste from. For schools allowing document upload, I created separate Word documents (.doc) for each essay (for example, "HBS.Essay1.txt").
3) I pasted the essay topics into my own essay documents, then logged out of the online site.
4) Of course, before starting to write the essays, I would brainstorm for topics to write about, using my "master theme sheet" as a very rough guide. Some essay questions have been easier to think of topics for (for me, answering "describe a scenario where you showed leadership/teamwork" is a very easy question) than others ("describe a difficult interaction").
5) Once the general content of my answers was decided upon, I would re-read the question and write a detailed outline. Key to this was re-writing exactly what the essay question asked. I think it is easy to brush over the wording of the essay questions, but they matter. For example, almost all the apps have "Why MBA? Why our school?" questions, but they all have slightly different emphasis. I usually broke that question out into "What in your career has led you to pursue an MBA? Why do you want an MBA now? How will the MBA meet your future goals? What is it about our MBA program that fits your needs/plans/goals?"
6) My outlines are specific, and usually follow the format: I. Introduction - Summarize question, answer, and arguments; II. Explain situation/background; III-V. Make arguments; VI. Show results; VII. Strong conclusion reiterating key points. This is a very rough approximation of my outline, which differed greatly based on essay length, etc.
7) I would then type out my essay first draft into MS Word. 50% of the time typing was spent on the introduction and conclusion paragraphs.
8) For editing, I always printed out the document and edited it by hand, then type in my changes.
9) I did not upload essays to the online application until I was pretty sure they were done. That is because after uploading, there are two sets of your essays, so any changes have to be done twice. Plus it prevents any "accidental" submissions. I am on my fourth drafts of the Stanford essays, and haven't yet uploaded them.
10) When the application was completely done, I would print it out in its entirety and read it start-to-finish to check for any last spelling/grammar errors.
Hope this is helpful to someone. It's worked for me!
Since I tore through all four Sloan essays yesterday, I'm going back to work on reviewing/editing my Stanford (fourth drafts) today. If I can get that edit done, my Stanford app will hopefully be in a nearly complete state. I'll just be waiting to hear from my friend/reviewer, hopefully by sometime this weekend.
Posted 11:42 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83495016:
Done! Sloan esay #3, first draft, done. All four Sloan essays' first drafts, done. In one day. Phew.
To be honest, I think the quality slipped a bit towards the end there, what with the marathon Wharton chat still going on and all. Still, they're a solid set of first drafts, and I don't think the content will change much.
Yes! I finally finished the opening paragraph of Sloan #3 (as I've mentioned before, I spend a disproportionate amount of time on the intro paragraph). It's taking longer than usual, what with the chat and the blogging and all...
Okay, I think I've come up with a workable approach to #3. It basically takes all the difficult interactions I had with a particular group and puts them in the context of my relationship with the boss. I think it just might work.
Sloan essay #3 is by far the toughest question for me out of all the apps...
I'm really debating the approach to Sloan #3 again. "Please give an example of a difficult interaction you had with someone." If I give an example of a difficult interaction with a group, is that okay? It's my only hope...the only difficult interactions I had with a single person were with a former boss, who I loath so much I couldn't possibly write about him without going over the top...
Oh, hey, it looks like the Wharton Round 1 deadline just past. Good luck to my fellow Round 1ers, and for those of you not submitting before the deadline, make the most of the extra two months you have!
Phew. I've got a nice opening paragraph for Sloan #2. It is crisp, clear, direct, and hits all parts of the question asked. I can't ask for anything more (in an opening paragraph).
I've really hit my mark with essay writing now. It might be worthwhile for me to not pause after submitting my R1 apps and dive right into the R2 essays (which for now would be Kellogg and Columbia), to keep my writing hand hot.
Essay Overlap I don't know about you, but I'm not having much overlap in my essays. By overlap, I mean situations in which I can literally cut and paste from one essay to another, changing only a few words.
The most overlap I'm seeing is in the "Why MBA" essays, but because of the differening word limits and the naturally different "Why our school?" sections, even there I can at most cut and paste a paragraph or two. In the other essays, I can remember only cutting and pasting one or two paragraphs.
Is anyone else experiencing this? I think the reason I'm reluctant to cut-and-paste is that I think it is critical to really focus on answering the question asked, and since there are no exact question overlaps, there will be no exact answer overlaps. I would rather start from scratch, building my essay up from the particular question asked, than paste in a slightly different essay and then knock it around until it fits the question.
Out of my list of remaining essays, I decided to tackle Sloan #2 after all. I am using one of my best career experiences (in terms of leadership and teamwork experience, not how enjoyable it was) in which I did have a pretty large impact on my group. The only worry is that the impact was not so much quantifiable, just more general ("...improved our performance at this..."). Still, I think it is a good experience that can perfectly answer the question they ask.
I'm aiming to knock out a second draft of this essay this afternoon, after which I will return to my Stanford essays for another read, review, and edit.
A helpful reader e-mails to tell me that it is possible to print out the Stanford app in its entirety, once you have completed all the required fields (including uploading all the essays). As a general rule, I don't upload my essays until I am pretty sure they are complete, for the simple reasons that a) I don't want to accidentally submit the application and b) if I continue to edit the essay locally, I'd have to keep uploading to feel assured that the online essay is the latest.
Anyway, if your all the required fields are filled in, when you run the Application Inspection it will give you the option to view the app as PDF. From there it can be printed in one shot.
Let's see, the essays that I have not yet written a good draft for are: Chicago 8b ("three person team"), Sloan #2 ("impact on a group"), Sloan #3 ("difficult interaction"), and the MIT Sloan cover letter. Sigh.
Sloan Applicants, watch out! I almost missed this section, at the bottom of the "Essays" page. It could prove to be just as important (and, more importantly, take as much time...):
Please provide additional information about any of the following topics that you consider relevant. Limit your responses to one- to two pages for all questions.
1. Leadership activities in which you have actively participated, including your responsibilities and positions held in the organization, and dates.
2. Academic and/or professional awards, including the basis for your selection and the date(s) of the honor(s).
3. Your hobbies, interests, and activities, including any significant accomplishments related to them.
4. Special circumstances related to your academic program which you would like to mention, if any.
5. Whatever else you would like the Admissions Committee to know. "
I'm feeling very confident now. My role feels like that of an air traffic controller: I have a line of deadlines ahead of me, and I just need to guide the planes in to a smooth landing. I've really gotten a hang of the essays (consider: my HBS and Wharton essays took seven and eight drafts, respectively; Stanford will probably only be five or six drafts, and Chicago and MIT will most likely only take three or four drafts), my recommendations are on schedule, and all looks good.
(Not that I'm supersticious, but knock on wood just to be sure)
I'm really rolling with the Sloan essays, I might see if I can nail one more of them before the evening. #2 looks promising ("...give an example of when you had an impact on a person, group, or organization...").
I might print out my Stanford online app forms during the lunch hour, to review how far along I am with all the details there. The irritating thing about that application is that you can only print one page at a time. No, I'm not kidding.
I just finished Sloan essay #1 ("creativity in a professional setting") and think it is a pretty solid essay. Story-wise it is not my most flashy, and talks about a small but important career success. Still, I think it does a good job of answering exactly what was asked, so I'll keep it. It weighs in at well in the 500-800 word range, so I am happy.
Interesting. Just got an e-mail from a Hungarian reader. He echoed some of the points that my Japanese contact and other non-American applicants have made:
1) American business schools (and colleges in general?) rely much less on standardized tests than in other countries. Apparently it is pretty common for their to be a standard "entrance exam" to play a big role in school admissions.
2) It's pretty hard to gauge the quality and uniqueness of different schools from so far away.
3) MBA admissions require a lot of English practice, especially for the essays.
If any other internationals have an opinion on American MBA applications (France? Norway? South Africa?), feel free to chime in...
Just to reassure everyone, yes, I did submit my Wharton application at some point over the past few days. Again, no big deal: Pressed submit, entered the credit card info, and it was done. Now the Wharton app seems like ancient history, and my mind is already in the Stanford/Chicago/Sloan jungle.
Posted 10:50 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83461723:
$#*! that was close! My boss just walked up behind me as I was filling out the Sloan supplemental forms. I was startled, and think I swept them out of sight before he noticed. I can't wait until this double-life is over...
My inside source from the island of Japan reports that in general, Japanese applications have gone down over the past decade (mainly due to the economy). He estimates the following number of applicants from Japan, per school:
I like hearing about the MBA application process from the non-American perspective...
Tactics Here's a sweet move from my playbook. My second recommender still has his Stanford, Chicago, and MIT recs to do. Even though he's written the Stanford answer, he has not submitted yet.
A week ago we agreed to meet next Monday (10/28) at which point he'd hand over the paper Chicago and MIT recs. Obviously, since that is only five days away, he's under some time pressure. Since he's a good friend (as well as former supervisor), I know that--especially since we're meeting face-to-face--he'd work hard to deliver by Monday.
However, I'd obviously prefer well-written recommendations to rushed ones. That's why I just e-mailed him saying that business came up, and asking to reschedule for later in the week. It's a subtle way of relieving him from the Monday obligation, and will give him a few more days to put together good recs.
Note to all MIT Sloan applicants:
Be aware that, in addition to your transcripts and recommendations, the mail-in envelope also needs to include:
1) A signed "Mail-In Items Submissions Form"
2) A signed "MBA Program Values Statement and Sloan Professional Standards" sheet
Both documents are found in the online app under "Downloadable Forms".
I noticed a heartbreaking thread on the B-Week forum this morning, by someone who decided to write the recommendations for their recommenders. Apparently his manager didn't take out some of the notes he had written to himself in the recommendation (curious: Did the manager leave in the "(Sign name here)" note too?), and now he's worried that it might sink his chances at HBS.
This extreme case aside, I think there are so many reasons not to write your own recommendations; it was really a no-brainer for me. Here are the reasons I can think of:
1) Honesty - It is just plain dishonest. When you sign your application after writing your own recommendation, you're sullying your own name. Sorry to be so harsh, but I'm telling it like it is.
2) Unhelpful - AdComm members read hundreds (thousands?) of applications a year. I'm sure that they can tell when, strangely, all of the applicant's recommendations all "sound" the same. As an example, everyone reading this site can "tell" my gender, even though I haven't revealed it. In the same manner, no matter how creative you are, they will be able to tell that the same person wrote a rec.
Now I'm of the opinion that the AdComm members have come to expect that many of the applicants engage in this practice (see point #3), and thus would not penalize you too bad if they have the suspicion that you wrote your rec. But it surely won't help your app.
Ask yourself, what is the only value of a recommendation? It is simply to give a new perspective on the applicant. The more perspectives the AdComm gets--especially if they are very positive--the greater the impression of the applicant they get. The greater the impression, the better the applicant's chances. Thus, recommendations written by the applicant--which can't possibly offer new perspectives--are basically worthless.
3) Inconsiderate - By furthering this practice, you're hurting all your fellow applicants. How? By diminishing the value of recommendations in general.'
4) Missed Opportunity - If you think everyone else writes their own recs, think about how much more yours will stand out if you have a friendly colleague write it!
I guess everyone has to make their own decision on how dishonest and immoral they'll be in their application, but I firmly think #2 and #4 are solid.
How can you avoid writing your own recs? Here are my tips:
1) The earlier you ask, the better. I asked my "workhorse" recommender to do 7(!) recommendations way back in June. At first he asked me to write them myself, but I brushed that aside by saying, "Honestly, the only value of a rec is if it offers a fresh perspective..." (#2 above). He agreed with my reasoning, and has since delivered my recs for all five R1 schools (I dropped two schools since June: Kellogg and Columbia).
2) Be honest with them about #2. If they really want to help you, they'll write the recs themselves. If they are only doing it as an obligation, they'll force you to write them. Which of those two people do you want as a recommender?
Posted 10:33 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83438482:
Yup, the gas tank is empty for tonight. I could say that I'll work on the essays after the baseball game is over, but I'm not going to lie. I'm going to save my files, and dive into either Chicago 8b or (more likely) Sloan #1 tomorrow morning, bright and early. One thing I like about the Sloan essays is the flexibility on word limits ("500-800 words").
World Series game 4 is looking good, tied in the 5th/6th inning...
Posted 10:07 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83437369:
I'm having a hard time starting another essay. It's probably just a case of being tired of writing essays, plus the tole of these 4:30am wake-ups. Maybe I'll catch some of the World Series to freshen up a bit.
I'm just not getting any traction on Chicago 8b, so I'm flipping over to the Sloan essays. Sloan essay #1 ("An example of creativity") is pretty straightforward, so I've written out a good outline for the essay. I'll see if I can type out a good first draft...
I'm glancing over my first draft of Chicago 8b, in which I used a completely hypothetical team, and it is really thin. I notice immediately it's only 602 words (for a 750 word essay), a sure sign that I didn't have much to write about. The new approach (basing the hypothetical team on a real-life experience) will, at a bare minimum, give me more to write about, in addition to being meatier.
I just wrapped up a very nice Chicago essay 8a ("Why MBA, why Chicago?"), and was able to use the final paragraph from my Wharton "Why MBA?" essay. It comes in at 754 words, just four words over the limit. No big deal, when I start the edit I'm sure a couple words will be dropped here and there.
Now on to Chicago essay 8b:
"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 am going to tie this into a 3-person team experience that I had, which is one of my top work experiences (it was good enough to mention in Stanford A). I will be able to use this experience to both talk about a success of mine, plus have a reference for the "What would the team have in common, how would they be different?" part. I wasn't the team lead, so I will need to postulate on what I would do to motivate them.
For those of you scrambling to make the Wharton Round 1 deadline, take a deep breath and ask yourself whether risking both sloppy mistakes and server slowdowns is worth the benefit of being part of the R1 pool of applicants. It's a serious question. Personally, if I had not completely finished my essays by this point, I would not even consider aiming for R1, but that's my style.
I'm giving Chicago 8a one last push now. If things start rolling, I might continue on into 8b (which, at least, is slightly more interesting to write). 8c second draft (the speech) is already done and in good shape.
Good luck to all my fellow-essay writers out there tonight!
If I could wrap up the second draft of the essays plus all the persona info stuff for the Chicago app by tomorrow evening, I would be in a good spot. I would then go into the weekend refreshed and ready to put the finishing touches on the Stanford essays.
I feel pretty bad now. I can hear the lady in the next cube over making phone calls to friends, letting them know that she was let go. What a downer. Plus I heard that someone I know (and worked closely with in September) was fired too. Geez.
I might put aside the essays for today, and focus on filling out the remaining application forms. It's much easier to type the basic job/education/activity histories than anything eloquent.
Oh my goodness...just overheard that the person sitting right behind me (she's right back from maternity leave, so I don't know her very well) was fired yesterday. Apparently there was a wave of layoff announcements throughout the firm yesterday.
The good news is that I've survived; the project I'm on is pretty much untouchable (politically) right now. As long as it stays that way for the next nine months...
One day left until the Wharton Round 1 deadline!
One week left until the Stanford Round 1 deadline (reminder: If you haven't already mailed in your transcript, address labels, and any other printed material, what's the hold-up!?!)
I think this perhaps wasn't clear: The other website that I do is also a weblog, similar to this one (just not about MBA applications). I am not a "web developer" or a "dot-commer" or anything like that. I just like to write, and like it even better when what I write is read!
Adam (first year, HBS) has some good advice on how to pick the right business school for you. I agree with his comments about the volatility of the rankings, and definitely (as I've posted before) think it's dumb to apply just because a school has jumped in the rankings one particular year (which is why I didn't try to restart my Kellogg app after the BW rankings came out).
Of course, all of the schools I'm applying to are at the top of most rankings, so my comments could be taken with a grain of salt. I think for me, I took the rankings as a starting point and did my best to research which schools would best fit me and my plans. I'll post more about this topic after I'm done with all the apps and have time to breathe.
Very cool. I got my first e-mail from an international applicant, from Japan. It's neat reading about the applicant experience from another country's perspective (can you (I mean, you, American reader) imagine trying to apply to a school outside of North America? What would Japanese MBA essay questions be like?)
Posted 12:58 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83412401:
For those of you who are planning to apply to B-School in 2004:
First, I congratulate you on your diligence. I didn't even start imagining an MBA until May (okay, not true: I imagined it, but in May I started imagining it was a possibility). You're way ahead of the game.
What can you do now? First, get the GMAT out of the way. Since you have plenty of time, maybe take a couple of months to study, then take it. If you do well, you're golden; If not, you have plenty of time to work on your problem areas.
Second, you have about a year's worth of vacation days to visit schools. As much as possible, try to visit them during the school year when classes are in. Research well. I've had to cram a ton of research into a very short window (basically May through August, by which time I wanted to start essays/contact recommenders).
Posted 11:57 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83409734:
I'm having some trouble wrapping up Chicago 8a, so I'm working on some of the other personal history questions they have. One thing I don't like about the Chicago app's approach is how there is no clear line between personal history, work history, and essay questions. It actually makes for a lot more writing, since you have to write about jobs, work abroad, activities, etc., etc.
Posted 10:29 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83405954:
Going to try to push through the second half of Chicago 8a before work picks up.
To be honest, I'm still a bit shaken by the Stanford revelation from this morning. I think it is stunningly bad design that the online application itself does not provide any mechanism for communicating to the recommender which set of questions to fill out. I don't think Stanford can hold it against anyone if they submit three "Workplace" recommendations because of this...
Posted 10:02 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83404831:
Reminder: Wharton's unstoppable Alex Brown is hosting another chat at noon Eastern time today; It's at the usual S2S chat site (here's the chat schedule). I guess that's actually in only a couple of hours (better get my front-row seat now)!
God, I feel like a goody-two-shoes posting these public service announcements...
If you read the Stanford application instructions, they state that two of the recommendaters should be "Professional/Workplace Recommenders" and
the third should be a "Peer/Team Recommenders". However, there's no specific way to designate which recommender is which, when setting them up in the online application.
I made the mistake of assuming that the third recommender I entered into the system would automatically be considered the "Peer" recommender, as that was the order of the recommendation forms in the printed app. That is not the case. Instead, all recommenders see the exact same online forms, with both sets of questions listed. The instructions do mention, "Please note that Peer/Team recommenders must be written by an applicant's peer, NOT a supervisor or subordinate."
It is only dumb luck that I caught this before all three of my recommenders had submitted. My peer recommender e-mailed to ask whether he'd ever given me constructive criticism (which is "Workplace" recommendation question #2), and I replied saying that it wasn't one of the questions. That's when I discovered the mistake.
Conclusion: Be sure to tell your Stanford recommenders which set of questions to answer!!!
Ooh, if you thought you had trouble formatting the Wharton (text-only) essays, take a look at the instructions for the Chicago (text-only) essays: "...Essays should be typed double-spaced and should not exceed the word limits given below."
I really have to go through my text document and insert a blank line after every sentence!?!?
Because of the increased time pressures on my job, I've started setting my alarm for earlier and earlier. I'm now waking up in the 4:15-4:45 range. For whatever reason, I've never had much trouble waking up early, though naturally the earlier I wake the harder it is to stay up past, say, 10:00.
Still, the early morning is quiet and thus ideal for typing essays, I think. I can pop out of bed, blog a bit, work on my essays, all before heading for the gym/shower/breakfast.
My job (yes, I have a job, thank you very much!) is starting to heat up again. I was mad-busy from mid-September through mid-October, but have had a quiet ten days (hence the frequent posting). But things are, thankfully, starting to pick up again. I say "thankfully" because, basically, I hate to be bored at work (I have changed jobs because of boredom).
I'll continuing posting during business hours, but probably with less frequency. The great thing about blogging in general and Blogger.com in particular is that, once a thought pops into my head, all I have to do is switch over to my browser, type it in and press "Publish". So though it may seem to you that I'm sitting all day at my desk blogging, I'm not (really!)
I'm putting my Stanford essays aside for a day or two in order to give my reviewer time to give me his comments, to give myself time to start up the other two R1 apps, and to clear my head for final revisions to the Stanford essays. I feel comfortable that I'll get the app done by the deadline.
If I take the US News and World Report, Business Week, and Financial Times rankings for finance alone, eliminate all non-US schools and schools that I'm applying to for R1, the following list of good finance schools emerges:
US News, Finance rankings (according to b-school deans and MBA directors):
Haas (UC Berkeley)
Business Week, Finance (according to recruiters):
Financial Times, Finance (as ranked by alumni):
University of Rochester (!)
I noticed that Tuck wasn't on any of these lists...
I'm starting to see the "light at the end of the tunnel." I guess since Stanford is the middle of the my five (R1) apps, and I feel like I'm well on my way towards completing it, that I'm now rolling over the hump.
I'm going to do some "research" on possible Round 2 schools with the WS on in the background. By research I mean reading through the Business Week and US News reviews (hey, I'm lazy). If you want to email me about what schools I should apply to Round 2 (keeping in mind I'm aiming for a finance major), feel free.
I noticed several posts on the bulletin board complaining that they lost formatting when they pasted the essays into the Wharton application. One of the first things I did when the Wharton online app went up was to check how the essays were uploaded; When I saw that there were only text boxes, I decided to write my essays in a text document, to prevent any unusable formatting from appearing. I still used Microsoft Word, just saved as a plain text file.
FYI, the Chicago application also seems to have text boxes only, so maybe now is the time to save your essays as text to see how they look. Sloan and Stanford allow uploading of Word Docs. I prefer the latter method, mainly because 1) you do have control over the format, and can thus be more creative in the essay (with italics and bullet points) and 2) it's easy to know whether your essay upload worked or not: either the file is there or not.
I must admit, I'm a bit bothered that MLB had Tony Bennett sing "America the Beautiful" instead of the National Anthem to kick of the World Series tonight. It's not called the "National Anthem" for nothing!
Of course, along with everyone else, the first thing that caught my attention about Chicago is the flexibility of the coursework. For example, as I am interested in finance, they have both Finance and Analytical Finance majors, depending on how in-depth I want to go...
I must say, out of all the dozens of brochures, pamphlets, and sheets that I've picked up at information sessions and forums, perhaps the most useful to the application process is the University of Chicago GSB's small booklet entitled "Announcements 2002-2003". It's a pretty good reference that I've dug up for essay 8a.
I got quite a bit of e-mail about yesterday's post in which I described how lonely it is applying when you have to keep it secret from coworkers. Another thought along these lines: If I get that hoped-for e-mail, on December 19th, from Wharton saying that I was accepted to their program (I know, I know, it's a long shot), I have to be sure not to jump out of my seat screaming "Yeaaaaah!", dance around like a madman, and run down to the local pub for an alcohol-fueled fiesta. Likewise, if Alex Brown hunts me down (;-)) and I get rejected, I can't break down sobbing at my desk, pulling at hair, screaming "Why, God, Why?!?"
Does anyone know a good website for buying some psychopharmaceuticals that will keep the emotions in check on that day?
(Note: I'm using Wharton as the example here because it's the earliest decision date)
Maybe it's just me, but doesn't it seem like the percent of crackpots/losers on the Business Week forum has decreased a bunch over the past three months? Maybe people are just getting serious about their apps...
For those of you interested in California B-Schools (I'm keeping my eyes open for second round possibilities), there's a good post on the B-Week forum describing impressions of Haas, Anderson, and Marshall (UCBerkeley, UCLA, and USC).
Many of you have e-mailed to explain the "an MBA" versus "a MBA" dilemma. It's apparently just phonetics: Since the "M" in "MBA" is pronounced "em", it should be proceeded by an "an". It's the same reason we would write "a UFO", since the "U" is pronounced "yu". Thanks for the detailed answers.
Fourth drafts of my Stanford essays are done. It's astounding to me how much better they are than even the HBS essays I submitted last week, especially since I've probably spent a sixth of the amount of time on them. I would trade them in a heartbeat. I guess that this is a risk HBS takes by having the earliest deadline: they're going to see essays of slightly poorer quality (I wonder if that's why they have such short word limits).
Finished with the edits to both Stanford essays. I definitely will cut the final paragraph from essay A; I'll use it to replace the final paragraph in essay B, which said pretty much the same thing in a much weaker way. I think I've cleaned up the essays considerably, and feel comfortable with the content/approach/format. All that remains is typing in my changes, sending them off to my reviewer, and then seeing what polishing can be done to really make them gleem.
Posted 12:30 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83357150:
I've made a lot marks on my Stanford essay A, which is healthy (note: When I edit my essays, I always edit the printout and then type in my changes). After all, even though it was my "third draft" it was actually a completely new essay. The only really big change is that I'm considering dropping the final paragraph. It does a good job in leading into my essay B, but it might be redundant (when viewed as part of both essays). Furthermore, the penultimate paragraph really sounds like a concluding paragraph.
I was happy that the opening paragraph didn't really need much editing. It may sound a bit boastful, I guess, as I am listing my "life highlights"...but that can't be helped. I'm not saying, "I'm the greatest person in the world because I did this, this, and this", I'm saying, "X, which matters to me the most, has proven critical to me doing this, this, and this." Big difference, I hope.
Posted 12:11 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83356426:
More reasons why I want to go to B-School:
1) I can finally move the MBA Admissions Wire site to my personal web server, thus not having to worry about frequent slowdowns.
2) I'll have a good reason to ditch my old, Windows '98 PC and get a cool new laptop
3) No traffic jams walking to campus
Posted 10:49 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83353186:
Keeping an eye on the future...
I printed out the Tuck application. Their Round 2 deadline is January 3rd (on the down side), but they only ask for two recs plus (big bonus) their essay questions are interesting, few, and short. I'll have to look into how strong their finance program is...
Posted 10:36 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83352677:
Whichever school I end up enrolling in (I'm thinkin' positive), I'd definitely like to get involved in the admissions process. I guess only certain schools have student readers, but I'm sure all the schools would appreciate feedback on the admissions process. I wonder if I should include this in some of my "Why X?" essays, "I want to get involved in the admissions process to help shape the student body..." It's tough to write without sounding like a kiss-up, I guess...
Posted 10:26 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83352258:
As I enter the home stretch on my five Round 1 schools, I'm feeling very happy with my choices. I would definitely delight in attending any of them, yet each has its own unique features that appeal to me. I don't at all feel like I have to go to any one particular school. Heck, I'd like to attend all of them!
Posted 10:06 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83351453:
I can't say that I've even followed this advice, but it's a good idea to re-read each application--in its entirety--before submitting. I've found myself skipping over the resume sections, since I already checked that for the HBS app. But it's probably worth the time just to double-check it.
Posted 10:00 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83351206:
For all the people applying to Tuck (and by your e-mails, it does seem to be very popular), be aware that the Accepted.com site is hosting a chat with "Kristine Laca, Director of Admissions at the Tuck School of Business and Tuck second-year students" tonight 6 pm PST (that's 9:00 out East). They provide an e-mail address to send in questions.
I'd just like to take a moment for a public service announcement. The mid-term elections are only two weeks away. I urge all my American readers to take the time find out where your polling place is, register (if it is not too late), and vote. Especially now, with our country and allies under attack, the economy in a precipitous state, and the parties so evenly balanced in Washington, every vote is important.
One thing I'm going to start doing, when I have free moments (ha!), is coming up with a list of schools that I would apply to R2 in the (very, very miniscule) chance I don't get accepted to any of my R1 ones. I'm not a supersticious person, so I'm not afraid of jinxing my apps or anything like that. I just think it's a good idea to be prepared.
Right now that list would be Kellogg (which I had originally planned to apply R1), which is easy because it only needs one rec; and Columbia, which I like because there is no fixed deadline. Other than that, the field is wide open. The candidates probably need to meet only a few criteria: Round 2 deadline that is not too soon (say, before Jan. 10th); few recs required; good finance program; and acceptable location...
Just read through my complete Wharton application for the zillionth time. I found two or three minor things to correct (mainly awkward phrases), and another damn misspelling of "led". I've searched through all my essays, work experiences, and activities, and think that might have been the final "lead" that appeared. Let's hope.
Now I'm putting the Wharton app aside until I hear back from my reviewer...
Konnichi wa to all those Japanese readers I see stopping by. Unfortunately, I didn't sleep well and am now up at an ungodly hour...so feel free to drop me an e-mail about what it's like applying from across the Pacific. I'm always curious about how other cultures perceive American MBA programs...
Note to self Items I want to post on when all the apps are submitted:
1) How I chose my list of schools; Why I didn't choose some of the other schools.
2) Information sessions, how they helped and how they could be improved.
3) My ideal set of essay questions.
4) My ideal applications.
5) Thoughts on the schools I'm applying to.
6) Ruminations on the metaphysical relationship between MBA applications, early French Renaissance poetry, and feta cheese
I have such an itchy trigger finger to submit my Wharton app. It is just sitting there...I could press the submit button at any minute...just waiting to see if my friend has any comments on my essay #1. Logically, I know there is no harm in waiting until Tuesday afternoon or even Wednesday morning. Just...can't...resist...pressing.....submit...!
Note to Wharton R1 applicants: Both some participants in the online chat and my inside sources (okay, readers who e-mailed me) tell me that, at this moment, it only takes Wharton a couple of days to match mail-in materials with submitted apps. This will probably get longer the later you submit.
Sweet! Just got an e-mail from my third Stanford recommender:
"Don't worry - my goal is to finish by tomorrow sometime"
So by Wednesday I should have all my Stanford recs done; By the next Monday, when I meet him to get the letters, I will have all my MIT and Chicago recs done. This is almost...too easy (knock on wood, not trying to jinx things)!
Chicago Admissions Event My notes from the Chicago Admissions Event are even more sloppy than the Wharton one, probably because of...the open bar (note: my signature drink is the screwdriver; did I meet you at this event?) Chicago definitely had the swankest admissions event, and handed out (by far) the most printed material.
Nothing hugely surprising coming out of it. The biggest thing to stand out was that the career services officer mentioned something like 85% of students are career changers, which I found to be astoundingly high. They said that for the class starting this year, the GMAT range was 450 to 800 (450 was a surprise as well...maybe one too many screwdrivers messed up my hearing?)
Anyway, Chicago definitely moved up my list because of the general waves of happiness that an open bar creates...
Wharton Admissions Event I jotted down some notes from a recent (well, now it's not so recent, but it was recent when I wrote the notes!) Admissions Event. In no particular order...
1) Use your friggin' judgement people! I was delighted to here an AdComm member mention that part of what an appliation tests is judgement. If this is true, it will spell a rude awakening for those on the S2S board asking things like, "Where do I put my resume?" or "Is it okay if I submit a third recommendation?"
2) Wharton judges applications based on four main criteria (from my notes):
a) Academics: GMAT + GPA
b) Professional experience (their normal range is 2 to 10 years); Looking for success/standing out on the job
c) Fit - do their goals fit with a Wharton education
Considering I think I pass a, b, and c with flying colors, and will do great at d, I was buoyed by this news.
3) Interviews cover much of the same material as the essay
4) The AdComms emphasized the following reasons for why Wharton stands out:
a) Size - large size means over 200 electives
As usual, it was cool to meet some of the AdComm members, plus alumni. Really, of the admissions events I've been to (the list is Harvard, Columbia,. Wharton, Chicago, and Sloan, I've only been let down by one--Columbia).
Apparently I need to be able to run the "Java version" of the chat to be able to send private messages. For whatever reason, the Java on my work computer is pretty messed up (I've never been able to run "applets" on web pages), so it rules that out. Too bad...
Strange, two different people have e-mailed today to inquire why I'm not applying to Tuck. After I'm done with all my essays (sorry, they take precedant...I know, I'm selfish) I might just put together a list of other schools I considered applying to and the reason I didn't.
The nice thing about the Chicago app is that I have already had the interview. Thus, I know that I've discussed in depth why I want to change careers. If I shortchange that section (a bit) in the essay, I'll still have delivered my message.
Hmmm...if I take my Wharton essay and remove four paragraphs, I could have a 743 word essay ready to use for Chicago 8a. But I'd need to change the intro paragraph. And rework the whole section on "Why Chicago".
Sigh, it looks like another essay to be written from scratch...
I want to point out one feature of Kellogg's website that I think is absolutely great. On the Finance Department's website they list a series of careers (Banking, Sales and Trading, etc.), along with the majors/coursework that would be appropriate for those careers. I wish every school did this.
I haven't been able to work much on any essays yet. To be honest, none of the remaining essays really catches my interest as a writer. I guess that I might try to knock of a standard one, like Chicago 8a ("Why MBA? Why Chicago?"). My current first draft (written, what, back in August sometime?) is okay, but like all my initial drafts, focuses way too much on why I am going for an MBA (I think I was insecure that, as a career switcher, people would wonder why I want to go into finance) and much less on the school itself and what I could contribute. I'll do the standard rebalancing. Having 750 words is nice...
One thing I would like to clarify is the issue of "approaches" in essays. The past week I've gone through several "approaches" to the Stanford essays. What motivates me to make such drastic changes is not so much that I'm second-guessing whether I'm telling the AdComm what they want to hear, but rather that I am simply unhappy with the essays themselves. I don't feel like they are telling my story well or getting across what I want to.
Stanford's an interesting case, because they seem to aim for a very diverse student body and constantly talk about the "wow" factor. I guess that, in all honestly, this did play a factor in what I wrote for essay A, but just as much I was unhappy with my original drafts' relentless focus on my career. I think the best way to summarize my changes are as follows: My answer to "What matters most to you?" is an honest answer; It is my choice of which experiences to use when backing up this answer that was partially skewed by the apparent Stanford AdComm preferences.
A helpful reader pointed out that I might be starting to skew my essays for particular AdComms. I appreciate the feedback, and it led to some deep thought and the analysis I wrote above...
Slight moment of panic when I read Alex Brown's post replying to a question about essay 3. "if you really feel you learned from it the most, and can make the connections to how you applied the learning..." (emphasis mine). I wasn't so sure I covered how I applied what I learned, because the things I learned were kind of self-evident. I reviewed my essay, and feel that it does a good job answering the question asked ("Describe a personal achievement that has had a significant impact on your life. Give specific details. What did you learn from this experience? How did it help shape your understanding of yourself and the world around you?") and it is clear how I would use these lessons.
Halfway there? Way back when I started the applications process (even before this site was born), I put together a two-page calendar in Visio. It covered from that date, Monday, July 1st, through just after all my Round 1 decision dates (the calendar ends on February 21; Sloan, the last school to announce, does so on February 14). Every day I've recorded on what I've worked in the calendar. I just noticed that I'm down to the final week on page 1, so I guess I'm about halfway to knowing if/when/where I'll be going to school next year.
Posted 12:46 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83304143:
I've been doing some research on cover letters for the Sloan application. I hit the jackpot with this 22 page guide to cover letters (PDF) I found on the Olin School of BusinessCareer Resources website. It is very thorough, with a discussion of the elements of a cover letter, a guide to the three types of cover lettes, and samples. The actual description of cover letters is pretty straightforward, but the samples are pretty handy.
Posted 12:13 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83302711:
I just went through the Sloan online application, and I must admire its simplicity. Thank goodness, there are no more work histories to fill out! Thank goodness, no more extracurricular sections to fill out! Just a cover letter, resume, essays, and additional info section. Short and to the point.
Now if only they allowed for online recommendations...
Posted 11:19 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83300270:
I don't know if I have the energy to review/edit the Stanford essays today. I think that, so soon after writing them, it's impossible to do a good job editing them. I'll probably work on filling out the Stanford online form, and maybe get around to researching how to write a cover letter for Sloan (note: I have written cover letters before, it's just been a very long time).
Posted 10:54 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83299170:
I added a nice long paragraph to the "Why Stanford" section, and feel much better about the essay. The extra pargraph shows more understanding of the Stanford program, discusses what I could contribute in more detail, and adds a dash of my legendary humor.
After reviewing it, I've come to suspect that essay B is a bit...thin. It needs some more protein. I think the best candidate for beefing it up is (as usual) the "Why Stanford" section, which I will expand by talking about how I can contribute while at the school.
One thing I envy about those applying to B-School from a feeder position (like IBanking analysts, who are expected to get an MBA after 3 years) is that they can talk to their co-workers about the application process. Having to keep it secret from my co-workers (some of whom are friends) is really tough. First, there's the logistics: I can't leave applications lying around my desk, can't leave a brochure for Wharton on my desk, can't leave my computer with the Stanford GSB website up.
But more important, I would love to have tangible support from my colleagues. How great it must be to have people around you saying, "Yeah, [Tad], I know you'll get in!" and "You're way ahead of where I was"! How great it must be to have people around you with MBAs from the schools you're applying to, to get their inside opinions.
The fact that I am missing this makes the application process all the more lonely. That is why I appreciate every e-mail a reader sends me, and am sure to respond. That is why I am doing this site.
One way I work up the energy to hold a job, apply to B-Schools, and write this site (plus my other site) is by waking up pretty early to workout. I've found that nothing helps energize me for the day more than a stint on an exercize bike or stairmaster. I'm hoping to get (back) into weightlifting too, sometime soon.
Well, my second recommender apparently didn't get around to the Stanford rec this weekend. I can tell because his registration is still unconfirmed. I'm not too worried, though, because he gave himself a deadline. We're having lunch--at his request--next Monday so that he can hand over the [printed] Chicago and MIT recs. By giving himself a deadline on his own, I have no qualms "reminding" him of the Stanford rec.
Posted 11:27 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83278770:
The week ahead Of course, I am going to be submitting my Wharton app sometime soon. I consider it done, but I'm waiting for my friend/reviewer to come back with any last-minute corrections on essay #1.
Besides that, I have a few things I could/should work on:
1) Stanford essays. Having just wrapped up two days of writing the third drafts, I'm a bit sick of them, so I'll let them lie for a couple days. But I'll have to take them up again and start revising. Plus, since my reviewer is going out of town on Wednesday night, I have an incentive to revise them before then rather than later.
2) Stanford app form. There are a few employment info forms that need filling in. Minor work.
3) Chicago, MIT essays. I can start doing some of the other essays. I'll especially need to look into writing the cover letter for MIT, because...well, I haven't written a cover letter in eons.
Hopefully I'll post some info on the Wharton and Chicago admissions events I've attended recently (over the past few weeks). Nothing earth-shattering.
Damn, writing these super-long essays takes patience, though, doesn't it? I know what I want to write, where the essay is headed. Yet it still takes hours of thought, typing, editing, thinking, breaks, etc. I guess if it was easy then everyone could do it. Still, it's sort of like watching a movie that you know the end of...
Over halfway done with essay B...It's going to turn out pretty short, four pages at most. I consider this a good sign, because it means I am getting right to the point and answering their questions. If either of the two essays should run long, I think it should be essay A.
Does anyone else agree with me that one of the hardest parts about writing the essays is avoiding sounding like an arrogant braggard? Especially on questions asking for strengths or greatest achievements. We all probably think we've achieved some pretty great things in our young lives. How to convey the greatness of those achievements while sounding confident yet not sounding like a prick? It's perhaps the most delicate balance around...
I worked some on the Stanford app. I'll give them one thing, at least they don't ask for a lot of blather about the jobs. 5 lines for responsibilities, 5 lines for significant challenge, and 3 lines for the significant accomplishment. Short and to the point.
I reviewed my Stanford application materials, and it looks like I still have a lot of forms to fill out. How I wish every school would take a resume, rather than make us a series of different questions about each job...
Went through my Wharton application. I made a total of five or six changes, but none to essays #2-4. It looks like it is pretty much complete. I'll check with my friend who is reading the final version of my essay #1, but then I'm ready to submit at will.
The weather outside is freakin' gorgeous. I'm going to take the printout of my entire Wharton application, go to an open green space, and sit under the bright blue sky reading about myself (wait a second...that sounds a lot more conceited than I intended). Life is good!
If I were an AdCommer... One of the essay questions on my school's application would be: "When your life is complete, what will people remember as your greatest accomplishment? (400 word limit)" I think this is a good question to get out what someone's truly deepest dreams and goals are.
Posted 11:20 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83252255:
Idle thought: I wonder what the worst recommendations these school have gotten say? Do they ever get recs that say, "Josh is a good worker, but has a serious hygeine problem..." or "Sally is productive, though she tends to fly into fits of uncontrollable rage..." They must have some good tales in the admissions offices...
Posted 10:50 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83251404:
Oh beauty. Oh yeah. The closing paragraph is starting to fill my mind, and it gives me shivers. It is confident, without being cocky; praising of Stanford, without being kiss-ass; sums up my arguments well; leads smoothly to the second essay; and reads well.
Posted 10:46 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83251315:
Ah, that did the trick. I was starting to slip into "Why I want to get an MBA" towards the ends of my Stanford essay A. To head that off, all I needed was a snip, and the line, "...led to my pursuit of an MBA, which I talk about in the next essay." Snip!
Posted 10:33 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83250953:
Well, apparently "exploit" can only be used in a negative way (at least according to Merriam Webster). I was trying to say something like, "I exploit good opportunities whenever they arise..." Maybe, though it sounds less cool, "make the most of" is a better phrase...
Posted 10:04 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83250251:
Cool e-mail of the day (this gets you into my VIP folder):
"you maintain your blog with the frequency & detail of bridget jones - probably more
you are apparently holding down a full-time job
and you're managing to meet, with an apparent ease that makes me feel like a bull in a china shop, all the first round deadlines of most top b-schools
so just curious:
ARE YOU HUMAN ??
FROM THE GOOD PLANET KRYPTON ???"
Flattery aside (note: If you want to send flattery, please feel free), there are some simple reasons why I can do all these things:
1) I am a damn fast typist. Seriously, in high school I took a lot of typing classes.
2) I work at a job that has moments of excitement punctuated by periods of inactivity. Plus, I have constant internet access.
3) Blogger.com makes it very simple to write a web page. Just type in your comments and press "Post".
4) I like to write. I like it when people read what I write. I think that writing this site helps me to "think out loud", collect my thoughts, and even improve my writing.
5) I am made of liquid metal, and was sent from the future to be the perfect 2003 MBA applicant.
6) Though I probably come across as unflappable, that's maybe more because I don't write about stress/doubts/worries very often than because I don't stress/doubt/worry. In other words, I don't like to whine.
In the end, it all probably comes down to #1. I typed this post in about two and a half minutes...