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 email@example.com (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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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, November 02, 2002
Posted 10:01 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83941711:
Well, I've found a free moment in my Satruday evening and will give my Chicago essays a light review. I haven't even thought about them since yesterday morning, so I should have a fresh set of eyes...
Especially as we close in on several schools' deadlines (Chicago, Kellogg, Sloan are three that come to mind), please be sure to save backup copies of your essays, especially to floppy disks. Just think about what would happen if your PC died completely. I'm backing up my in-progress essays both to disk and to my [personal] website after every revision...
It's interesting: based on a slight decrease in traffic during the latter half of this week, I would speculate that the majority of readers of my site are HBS/Wharton/Stanford applicans, and fewer of them are going for Chicago and Sloan. That's not a bad demographic to cater to...
Sloan essay #4 also has only a few minor problems. #4 is much less an essay than a series of mini-essays that respond to the recommendation form's questions, which relieves some of the issues of flow and content that a large essay has.
I'll type up my changes to make the fourth drafts of Sloans essays...then maybe take the rest of the day off. Tomorrow morning I'll give the Sloan essays another review, make another batch of changes, then have a nice set of fifth drafts to send off to my friend. Then I'll turn my attention back to the Chicago essays in preparation for their final push...
Sloan essay #3 had surprisingly few corrections. It is not a home-run, but is a solid triple. It has the added bonus of brining up a very interesting work experience and I think it does an adequate job showing my thought-process.
Sloan essay #2 also needs only a few minor corrections. Like #1, the bulk of it comes from a Wharton essay (#2, I think, though I find it more and more difficult even to recall what the Wharton essay topics were).
As would be expected (since it is basically my submitted Whaton essay #4) there are very few changes needed to Sloan #1. The biggest is that I want a new introduction paragraph. Wharton #4's topic was "tell us something else to know you better", whereas Sloan #1 is asking about creativity. Write a good intro and I'll be 95% of the way done with this essay.
Posted 11:58 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83923431:
Feeling Cocky, Feeling Nervous?
If you're feeling cocky about your application's chances, remember:
1) No matter how great your application is, if you don't fit into the class that the school is building, you'll be rejected.
2) Your app may be awesome, but if there are a few better apps from people with similar backgrounds, sorry, you won't get in. For example, you may be one of the best engineers on the subcontinent, but if they have gotten a dozen better engineering apps...
3) Be honest: you're really not that good of a writer. After--how many drats?--many drafts, your essays were passable, but certainly no Shakespeare. There are many people who can write better than you.
4) People make mistakes. People have bad moods. People have bad days. And it is people who are judging your application. You just might get the wrong person at the wrong time. That reader might have just read the best application they've ever read, and then turn to yours and get a buzzkill.
5) Is your undergrad school that well respected? Do you really think HBS selects graduates of that school?
If you're feeling worried or down about your application's chances, remember:
1) Your job is much more interesting than you think. Even I am curious about your story.
2) Everyone else is a terrible writer, too. Everyone else's essays barely conceal their desperation, too. Everyone else has a typo or two, too.
3) No matter how much your essays sucked, if your application is the best one from the engineer/lawyer/accountant pile, you're in.
4) People have good moods. People have good days. And it is people who are judging your application. You just might get the right person at the right time. That reader might have just read the worst, most offensive, worst piece of crap they've ever seen, and then turn to yours and feel cleansed.
Posted 10:30 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83920709:
I had forgotten how good my Wharton essay #4 was; it fits Sloan #1 perfectly. I added a couple of new paragraphs that I wasn't able to fit into the Wharton 500-word limit, and think that this essay immediately becomes the strong suit of my application package. If I'm fortunate enough to be accepted there, I will point to this move as the key.
I'm geeked up, and ready to give all my Sloan essays another review...
I'm looking at my Sloan essay #1 and wondering if I can't do better. Don't get me wrong: It does describe a pretty good work situation where my creativity helped solve a problem. What troubles me, I think, is that I have a much, much more creative extracurricular experience to share, so I feel like I'm not using my best argument. On the one hand, the extracurricular experience did not address a practical problem as the work one does, but...it's just a whole lot more interesting. And since the rest of my essays cover job experiences pretty well, maybe I'll try for the home run in #1?
Since I used this experience already in Wharton #4, perhaps I could even copy pieces of that essay. I'm going to give it a shot, see what I can come up with, and then choose between the two approaches. To be honest, this reminds me of the decision I had to make with Stanford essay A (was that only one week ago?!?). Then I chose to go more personal, and I have a hunch that's what I'll do here now.
I've wrapped up my Sloan cover letter, and think it's a big improvement. Still, I'm worried about it not fitting on one page (its 720 or so words). I've switched from block paragraph style (where paragraphs aren't indented but are separated by blank lines) to regular style, but it still ran a bit over. I've reduced the margins, but it still is a bit over. But those changes have made it look a great deal uglier, so unless I find several sentences to cut, I'm going to go back to block style and two pages.
Adrian (at Columbia Business School) posts about how Barclays Capital gives all job applicants, world-wide, a gruelling test (including a 96-question psychological profile) before even accepting a single resume. Wow.
I'm chugging my way through the Sloan cover letter, and this attempt is working out much better. It's getting my points across in a friendly and energetic way, but feels a lot less forced. For various reasons, I just find the "Why Sloan?" part much easier than other schools...
It looks like my letter is going to stretch way past a single page, though. It's only at 520 words, so I don't see how it would be possible to do a single-page cover letter of 500-800 words without using super-small font or not including the addresses at the top. Has anyone else figured this out?
I'd give "I Spy" a B. It had many very funny moments, especially when Owen Wilson and Eddie Murphy were on the screen together. But it was sometimes slowed by too many action sequences and too loud special effects.
One thing that helps me get kick-started in the morning is mint gum. I prefer Wrigley's Eclipse Polar Ice gum, which has a strong mint kick to it, while maintaining sweetness. Here, take a whiff: "haaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuuuuugggghhhhhh".
(If you're interested in learning something new today, you can read about how mint gum is produced.
I've reached the point where I don't even need to turn on my alarm to wake up this early. I have become a well-oiled, fine-tuned, essay-writing application machine. Well, not really well-oiled, but you get my drift.
I think that part of the disatisfaction with my Chicago and Sloan essays is the fact that I'm working on two schools' at the same time, and part of it comes from being so happy with how my Stanford essays came out. Know what I mean?
Crunch Time As the timeline below suggests, we're down to the final innings. I think I'm very much on track to easily make the Chicago and Sloan deadlines, due to my hard work and willingness to wake up damn early this week. Thus, I'm not going to work non-stop on the applications this weekend. My main goals are:
1) Do a Sloan cover letter! I'm going to make it personable and passionate: Why I want to go to Sloan. What I will contribute. Etc.
2) Continue massaging my Chicago and Sloan essays. I think the Sloan essays are actually in slightly better shape than Chicago's, but both still need some knots smoothed out.
3) Rest and relax.
Friday Deadline Countdown >> 5 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline for mail-in items
>> 7 days left until the Chicago Round I deadline
>> 12 days left until the MIT Sloan Round I deadline for online app
>> 20 days left until Wharton is done with interview invites(!)
>> 47 days left until the Wharton Round 1 decisions
>> 81 days left until the HBS Round 1 decisions
>> 81 days left until the Stanford Round 1 decisions
My status: >> HBS - Submitted for Round 1
>> Wharton - Submitted for Round 1
>> Stanford - Submitted for Round 1
>> Chicago - 2 recs done; Forms in progress; Essays (up to fifth drafts) in progress; Interview done
>> Sloan - 2 recs done; Forms in progress; Essays (up to third drafts) in progress
I'm going to upload my fifth drafts into the Chicago online app. I know that I still have a long ways to go until they're fully polished, but with only a week until the deadline I want to start getting a sense of how they look when printed as part of the complete application package.
I reviewed my Sloan essay second drafts. There were quite a few grammar, wording, and spelling corrections, but the content, flow, and style held strong. I think I just need to rewrite one closing paragraph, for essay #3.
Posted 11:10 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83878306:
The bad thing about not going straight to work this morning is that there's a half bag of mini-Kit Kat bars and two-thirds of a bag of mini-Reeses Peanut Butter cups nearby. There presence is tempting me. I must...get them...as far away...from me...as possible, before I...eat so much sugar...my stomach explodes...
Posted 10:48 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83877505:
Since I'm pretty much sitting around at home waiting for the repairman to get done, I might as well read over my Sloan essays and see if I can make any improvements. I think they're in much better shape than the Chicago ones were, so maybe with a few changes I could zip them off to my friend too.
Posted 10:04 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83875665:
Fifth drafts of Chicago essays, done. I made the changes I said I would (below) to 8b, and it reads much better. The concluding paragraph is a bit weak, but I am sure I can strengthen it over the coming days. The good thing is that I have them at a state where I can e-mail them over to my friend.
I've reviewed the fourth drafts of my Chicago essays. 8a and 8c needed only minor wording changes, and are probably ready to hand over to my friend to review. Essay 8c was still a bit flabby; I actually had two paragraphs saying almost exactly the same thing! I'm going to drop one of them and add a concluding paragraph. Both steps should help streamline and tighten the essay.
Having finally gotten some answers to my Sloan questions, I feel comfortable proceeding with the cover letter. I think that its tone is all wrong so far--I've been copying much of my "Why MBA, why our school?" essays--and needs to be much more personable and casual.
But I'm going to put Sloan aside for now and return to the Chicago essays.
After this whole Sloan adventure, I needed something to brighten my mood. This did the trick! Apparently I've started the next wave in application fads--the application blog. Check out Joe's thoughts and feelings as he waits for word from Stanford and HBS:
(BTW Joe, check out SiteMeter.com if you want to be able to see visitor traffic reports for the blog...)
Up until now, I've been pretty tame in my comments about the business schools, there presentations, brochures, etc. Now it's time to take the gloves off. The Sloan website is by far the worst website in terms of availability of information. As I mentioned last night, I had some basic questions the academics at Sloan: what are the "tracks", are they required, how many classes in them, etc. It has been an absolute ordeal trying to find the answers to these basic questions.
However, click on it and you'll get back "The page cannot be found"! I ended up turning to a cached version of that page just to find a simple #$&%ing introduction to all the tracks!!!! This is the most basic information, that should be front and center on the, oh, I don't know, why not the MBA Program's the "Curriculum & Requirements" page (which is embarassingly slim on details).
Anyway, to spare everyone the time it took me to find all this, I've printed a list of the tracks and their links below. I am honestly very, very disappointed by this. One of the big draws of Sloan to me was that I would both learn finance but also be prepared for its technological future; the fact that they can't even organize a simple "info brochure" website ("page cannot be found"?!?!) is greatly disheartening. Frankly, it's a bit embarassing too. I know that the quality of the web page doesn't reflect the quality of the academics, but..."page cannot be found"?!?
Posted 10:49 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83857428:
I've really been dragged down by the lack of info I have on Sloan. I honestly thought I had a lot more, but spending half an hour searching for some description--any description!--of the tracks has just killed my momentum on the cover letter. I'll be putting it aside now (no use beating a dead horse) and change focus back to the Chicago essays. I want them to be spiffy for my friend to review this weekend...
Posted 10:39 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83857018:
Update: I think that actually what Sloan calls "tracks" are the same as what other schools call "concentrations" and "majors". But are tracks optional? Can students take more than one? Information is scarce...
I'm starting to realize what a paucity of materials I have on Sloan. For such a technologically strong school, one would think that their website offer a lot more than it does. Right now, I'm trying to answer a simple question: does Sloan offer majors? It should be very obvious, but it's not. I can't even find this in the two brochures I picked up at the info session...
It looks like I'll be able to wrap up the Sloan cover letter tonight, and then use tomorrow morning for another reading of my Chicago essays. It was tough turning down an invitation to a cool Halloween party, but you've gotta do what you've gotta do.
Reader of the Week! A helpful reader, responding to my post below, pointed out a very important sentence from the Sloan instructions:
"Essays We are interested in learning more about you and how you work, think, and behave...Use single spacing."
Since all my essay documents are currently double-spaced, this reader really saved my bacon. Thanks T! This site is all about synergy!
I've written out a rough outline of my Sloan cover letter. It looks to be very similar to the "Why MBA, why our school?" essays asked by other schools, although I plan to "kick it up a notch", add a lot more punch. With a cover letter, you've got to grab their imagination right?
To do this, I'm going to talk a lot more about what I can contribute to the school, especially in terms of extracurriculars and whatnot. I am feeling pretty confident about this one.
Incidentally, the cover-letter guide I'm using recommends that he letters be single-spaced (in order to match the resume, I presume). I'm taking that approach, to make the letter look as "authentic" as possible. If anyone disagrees, drop me a line.
During my lunch hour I reviewed my Chicago third drafts. Though I think it is advisable to let essays sit for a while before trying to edit them, in this case I am really pulling out the stops to have a very solid set of drafts done by this weekend. I would then be able to turn them over to my friend for his outside perspective, giving him about a week to read and comment on them (any less time and I'd be putting a lot of pressure on him).
The good news is that the entire app is starting to finally take shape (I write "entire app", because as I've mentioned, I consider the Personal History and Essay sections are consider one and the same).
A reader writes to ask how I can tell when my essays are getting better. I have a lot of writing experience, so I can usually instinctually "tell". Some specific things I look for are:
1) Spelling and grammar mistakes are reduced.
2) Sentences that just "sound awkward" are fixed.
3) The paragraphs "firm up", in the sense of each paragraph makes a point and backs it up with evidence.
4) Paragraphs flow better. By this, I mean one paragraph flows naturally into the other, rather than having a jarring "change of gears" from one to the other.
5) I feel the overall essay becoming clearer and (most important) feel that it is answering the question asked.
Posted 12:28 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83832676:
I've finished the second drafts of my Sloan essays. I think that I've tightened up both essay #4 ("write your own recommendation") and #3 ("describe a difficult interaction"). I'll review these drafts and see whether the content and flow are satisfactory; If so, I'd be ready to move to the polishing phase. #1 and #2 are already at that point.
Posted 11:24 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83829657:
Is my cover blown? Last Friday I mentioned that one of my co-workers might have inadvertantly come upon my Stanford application as it was printing out. Then I thought I was just being paranoid, but now I'm not so sure.
This same coworker is going to be leaving our company in a couple weeks (he found another better job). He came by my desk this morning to share the news with me and chat a bit (he and I aren't friends--haven't known each other long enough--but get along fine). During our conversation, the topic drifted to what types of work we enjoy. When he heard my interests, he said, with a smile on his face, "Well, maybe you go for an MBA"--and then he winked at me!
Without missing a beat, I continued the conversation with, "Well, I've thought about it, but it seems like an aweful lot of work..." The conversation drifted on to other topics from there.
What do you think? His wink was not accidental; he was telling me that he found that Stanford app. So now what to do?
Damage Control The good news, then, is that he is leaving the firm in a couple weeks. The worst case scenario, then, is that he mentioned to my boss that "Hey, I found a Stanford GSB application that Tad was printing out. Did you know he was applying to business school?" I have no reason to think he'd go out of his way to "out" me, but it's quite possible it might have come up in a conversation with our boss.
If he did that, how to react? Thankfully, I do have a year-end performance review before bonus season. If he suspects me, my boss will almost certainly confront me then. Since the coworker is no longer with the firm, he can't back up any of his statements. Thus, I see the conversation with my boss going like this:
"Q : ...by the way, Tad, do you plan to apply to business school?
A [feigning slight confusion]: Well...as we've discussed before I do think that my career path leads to management. I could imagine going back to school in the next three to five years...
Q : No, sorry, I meant this year.
A : ? This year?
Q : You see, before he left John said he found an application to Stanford with your name on it.
A [dumbfounded]: Stanford? You mean Stanford business school? I think he must have been mistaken...
Q : So you're not applying to business school this year?
A [laughing at the mix-up]: No, no. You know I'm very happy in this project, and have been given a lot of responsibility. Heck, [mention personal reason that I wouldn't even consider moving to Stanford]!
Q [mulling in silence] A : Anyway, don't you need to get a letter from a manager even to apply to business school? Heck, you'd be the first person to know about it if I were...
Q : Okay. Nevermind, John must have been mistaken..."
Luckily, I'm a very good actor. I think I can pull this off.
While going through the Sloan website, the paragraph about cover letters really stood out to me. I reprint it here, with emphasis added:
"The application continues with the cover letter, which should be between 500 – 800 words. Take the time to infuse this letter with your personal energy and character, as it is your first and best opportunity to make a strong, positive impression on us. Through this letter, we hope to discover that you are someone who will thrive at Sloan, and who will contribute to the diverse Sloan community."
I now consider the Cover Letter to be of equal importance to all four essays combined. Without a clear, forceful, and strong cover letter, applicants will have to play "catch-up" with the rest of their essays. After I'm done with my second draft of the Sloan essays, therefore, I'll switch my focus over.
I must say, I think that Sloan's essay word limits ("500-800 words") is just the right length. I'm glad they give a range, and am finding that my essays are all ending up in the comfortable 750 word area.
Things are starting to look up on my Chicago application. Possibly because the Stanford app is now submitted and out of mind, I've finally "got" the correct approach to this unique app. I'm putting the finishing touches on the third drafts now, and feel that 8c is pretty close to where I want it, 8a is also there, and only 8b needs a little bit of work (I got a bit redundant in it).
Reminder for Sloan Applicants You now have less than a week to get all your supplemental materials mailed to Sloan. This includes:
An official transcript.
At least two signed and sealed letters of recommendation.
A signed "MBA Program Values and Professional Standards" form.
And the submissions form itself.
I didn't really work much on my apps last night, so this morning I have to go full-tilt at:
1) Finishing off the third drafts of my Chicago essays, based on the corrections I wrote out two days ago.
2) Starting (and hopefully finishing) the second drafts of my Sloan essays
3) If possible, doing an outline for my Sloan cover letter (that's been on my plate for a while)
If you haven't yet submitted your Stanford Round 1 app, it might be about time to pause, take a deep breath, and ask yourself if it is worth rushing these final two hours to get it in, or better to just wait for Round 2. Yes, waiting is tough, especially if you're really close. But if you have to beat a rec out of one of your recommenders, how good is it going to be? If you have to rush edit one of your essays, what are the chances you'll make more mistakes than you correct? Consider all the options, and then apply when your application is the best it can be.
I'd like to share a comment that one of the HBS AdComms made in the info session I attended a while ago. She mentioned how, when you hear ads for investment services, they always end with, "past performance is not an indication of future success" or something like that. She said that HBS believes that "past performance IS an indication of future success," and that HBS weighs that heavily. I thought of this when I read all those B-Week posts about how raises/promotions don't matter that much.
Several of you have asked why I'm so confident I'll be accepted to business school. Obviously, I won't go into too detailed a description of my application. Here's a pared down list:
Why I Will Be Accepted 1) My GMAT (over 730) gives the schools confidence that I can handle the academics. Plus I've only taken the GMAT once, which I think is also a good sign. Plus, my quant/verbal scores are almost perfectly balanced.
2) My undergrad GPA is just about that of the schools' average. More important, my undergrad school is one of the elite colleges that is a "feeder" for the top business schools.
3) Over the past several years, despite the tough economic times and terrible job market (in my field), I have been given projects of increasing responsibility and importance.
So basically, my "paper credentials" are very, very strong. There will not be any "point of worry" for the AdComms ("graduated from no-name school" or "switched jobs a lot" or minor--but dangerous--things like that) in them.
4) While an undergrad, I was heavily involved in a few very interesting extracurricular activities (activities that probably stand out from the usual). Over the past few years, I have become more involved in a couple extracurricular activities as well.
5) As my recommenders are friends as well as colleagues, I know that they have worked hard to write great recs tailored to each school's questions (though I recognize that this plays only a minor role for most AdComms).
6) I have very clear career and life goals that I am able to express in my essays.
7)Most important, I enjoy, and have a lot of experience in, expressing my thoughts in written form. I know that my essays will be better structured, framed, and expressed than 80+% of other applicants.
8) In terms of switching to a finance career, I have taken several steps that indicate my interest and knowledge of the new career (I'm not someone who just writes "I'm interested in finance", I've actually done a lot to research/follow up on that interest).
Of course, the downside is that currently I am only Mangager of "In-Store Janitorial Services" at the Winn-Dixie in Eldan, WI (but you must admit it's a big step up from "slop girl")! ;-)
I'm sure all of you have a similar type of list. I believe that my list is longer and more complete than the vast majority of applicants'. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Stanford Applicants, read the freakin' instructions! At least one person has been burned by not reading this part of the "Submitting Your Online Application Form" instructions:
"If you are submitting online Letters of Reference, do not submit your application until after your recommenders have submitted their Letters of Reference" (emphasis in original).
Remember, besides being a way to learn about your career, outside interests, etc., applications serve as a way to test some of the "simple skills" as well: Following instructions (heck, reading instructions), good judgement, etc.
My Wharton Interview Policy Based on the e-mail Wharton's AdComm sent out last week, it seems that Wharton will begin sending out interview requests sometime next week. According to their plan, all of their interview requests will have been sent out by November 21st, three weeks from now, and all interviews are supposed to be wrapped up by December 12th.
In order to protect my identity, I will not mention whether I have been rejected or interviewed until December 12th, at the earliest. This will be very difficult, as obviously I'm very much hoping to be interviewed and would be super-excited if fortunate enough to get one. But in this case, the security of my application must take precedence over my urge to share my story.
Finally, my job is starting to heat up again (seriously, I like to stay busy--why else would I spend my free time writing a website dedicated to helping others get into B-School?). Posting will probably be a little less frequent, a little more erratic, and a little longer.
The unique point of the Chicago application (as I did a poor job explaining yesterday) is the fact that it uses free-form text boxes throughout the Personal History section. Maybe it's just me, but this has swayed me to use this section almost as mini-essays. Especially for the "Community", "Travel", and "Scholastic Honors" sections, I basically have written 200-350 word essays. Did anyone else take this approach?
The nice thing about this is that, unlike the Stanford application (which only allowed you to list the names of your activities), you have the chance to "frame" the activities and go into a little more depth. I strongly think this is the approach that Chicago was looking for, too, based on the wording of the Personal History sections. For example, here's the "Travel" section instructions:
"Describe all significant travel outside your home country for studies or employment. Why did you pursue your experience abroad? How long did you stay (include dates)? How did it enhance your understanding of cultural differences?"
The only ways to properly answer that is with an essay or with very detailed bullet points.
The fact that Chicago's application is structured this way also relieves some of the pressure from the essays, since you don't have to cover as many bases (since your "highlights" have already been...highlighted). However, for me, this has made designing the overall "message" of the three essays tricky, since compared to the other apps I feel like I'm leaving a lot out. It's not out, it's just up in the Personal History.
Posted 10:55 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83751946:
As usual, the friend reviewing my essays delivers the goods. I just finished going over my two Stanford essays with him. He thought they were my best essays yet, and had maybe a dozen changes to suggest between them. Only one of the changes was a typo ("honestly" instead of "honesty"). The rest were wording improvements, and a few minor removals (he thought I went a bit overboard on the humorous asides, and I concured). I'll make his changes, print out a final copy for review tomorrow morning at work, and then be ready to submit!
Posted 10:05 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83749680:
Approach to Sloan Essays My general approach to the Sloan essays is as follows:
1. "Please give an example of when you exhibited creativity in a personal or professional setting. Please describe your thoughts and actions. (500-800 words)"
I like this question, and have a great work example. Basically my example highlights a mundane but serious problem, covers my thought process when analyzing it and coming up with a solution, discusses the reaction to/results of my solution, and then talks a bit how I even went further, extending the solution. A perfect example, and a fairly strong essay.
2. "Please give an example of when you had an impact on a person, group or organization. Please describe the situation, your actions, and the results. (500-800 words)"
This essay is a home run. I use a leadership example, talking about where I assumed management of a project, took some clear steps to improve things, and have the results to show from it.
3. "Please give us an example of a difficult interaction you had with someone. Please describe the situation, what was difficult about it, and how you resolved it. (500-800 words)"
The good news about this one is that I finally found a work experience to use, and it is an interesting experience. The bad news is that the "difficult interaction" was actually mainly cultural/background differences with my boss, not any big clash of personalities. I do a so-so job describing the problems and my solutions. At least the content is there, just needs major cleaning.
4. "Please write your own recommendation following our template on the recommendation form. You should use the third person and answer all questions except for #1. (No limit)"
Some of my answers on the recs are good, but I found an alarmingly high number of them were very sloppy/lightly sourced. Major revisions needed.
I've finished reviewing my Sloan essays. The good news is that essays 1 and 2 are pretty sharp. There were heavy grammar/wording edits, but the content and flow is there. The bad news is that essay 3 is kind of light, and essay 4 (write your own rec) needs some major rewriting. That was surprising, because I liked that question.
"From: Stanford MBA Admissions Office To: email@example.com
Subject: Stanford MBA Program Round 1 Deadline Reminder
Date: Tue, 29 Oct 2002 17:31:00 -0500
Thank you for your interest in applying to the Stanford Graduate School of Business. We would like to remind you that the first application round deadline for the Fall 2003 MBA Program is just slightly more than 24 hours away. All Round 1 applications must be submitted by 5:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Wednesday, October 30, 2002.
If you have already submitted your application, we apologize for any confusion and ask that you disregard this message.
If you have questions as you complete your application - whether on essay-writing, Letters of Reference, or anything else - please feel free to ask our Admissions Counselors via phone at (650) 723-2766 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are happy to answer your questions (that's why we're here!), and we'd much prefer that you get the right answer quickly rather than having you guess or get incorrect information from another source.
If you are experience technical difficulties with our application, please email our application vendor at email@example.com BEFORE 5:00 p.m. on the deadline day.
For your application to be considered in Round 1, we must RECEIVE your completed application as well as your mailed supplemental materials in the MBA Admissions Office by 5:00 p.m. tomorrow. If you haven't already done so, please mail your supplemental materials today to be eligible for Round 1. Please remember that all your mailed materials - hardcopy Letters of Reference, transcript(s), recommender mailing labels, and check/money order, if applicable - must be sent in one package.
If we receive your application after 5:00 p.m. on October 30, 2002, it will be considered in Round 2. The Round 2 (final) application deadline for Fall 2003 is 5:00 p.m. (Pacific Time) on Wednesday, January 8, 2003.
We look forward to reading your application.
Stanford Graduate School of Business"
I've moved into reviewing the first drafts of my Sloan essays. For whatever reasons, they are much, much better than the Chicago ones. I think that Sloan #2 is really good. I'm now reviewing #3, the tricky one about difficult interpersonal interactions..
Co-worker came by and saw me editing my Chicago essays. Luckily I flipped [the papers] over before he could recognize what they were. Lame excuse given, but I don't think he suspects. Right now, I'm still pretty confident that nobody [in my current department] knows I'm applying to business school. Two of my recommenders work in positions that are in no way related to my current department; one other recommender is very trustworthy, and has been travelling too much recently to tell anyone. I hope.
Stanford Interview Dates Maybe I missed this before, but I just noticed that the Stanford applications deadline page now shows each rounds interview period. For Round 1, the interviews run from "Early November to Mid January". Early November!
No matter how trustworthy Fedex is, you're taking a big risk. Case in point: There are reports of an explosion (caused by an accident) which cut a FedEx truck in St. Louis "in half" (thankfully, nobody was hurt). If you had a week to go before the deadline, you could scramble to resend any documents. If you had a day, you'd be SOL.
Have the schools moved their application deadlines up since last year? I was just looking through my Chicago GSB files when I found a document with last year's application deadlines in it. The first round deadline is November 30! I think I also remember reading that Wharton's app deadline was moved up. I am assuming that this is in response to the huge increase in applicants last year--schools are factoring in more time to review the applications. I notice that the decision date for R1 Chicago last year is only a week or two later than this year's, which would support my theory.
Update: Using Google's cache, I turned up this page and this page showing last year's deadlines. Below is a comparison of the R1 application deadlines, in which all six schools have moved up their dates (by varying degrees):
HBS: October 25, 2001; October 17, 2002
Stanford: November 1, 2001; October 30, 2002
Kellogg: November 9, 2001; November 8, 2002
Wharton: November 20, 2001; October 24, 2002
MIT Sloan: November 28, 2001; November 13, 2002
Chicago: November 30, 2001; November 8, 2002
Things feel really quiet today on the apps. I'm awaiting my friend's comments on the Stanford essays before submitting that app. I just got word from my second recommender that she has the Chicago and Sloan recs done, which I'll pick up at lunch on Friday. I have nice, clean first/second drafts done for all the Chicago and Sloan essays. I think I work best with a little pressure, a little action going on.
Does anybody else remember that '80s TV show "Airwolf"? It just popped into my head. That show was kind of cool, in a bizarre, "I-keep-my-loaded-attack-helicopter-in-a-carved-out-mountain-hideaway" kind of way. I'll return to my applications now...
Posted 12:53 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83726131:
Phew. Done with all my Chicago "Personal History" questions. In the single-spaced text document I'm using to save my answers, the "Personal History" questions take up six pages, the essays take up only four.
Posted 12:23 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83724898:
Approach to my Chicago essays:
Looking at just the Chicago essay questions is misleading, because many of my "highlights" are listed in the free-form "Personal History" section of the app. With that note in mind:
8a. "Why are you seeking an M.B.A.from the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business?What do you hope to experience and contribute?What are your plans and goals after you receive your degree?(750 words)"
The usual approach. I spend 20% talking about why I want an MBA; 60% talking about what I hope to get from, and contribute to, the Chicago program; and 20% talking about post-MBA plans.
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've used a great 3 person team experience (and career highlight) as the launching point for this essay. It has worked fine, since I can a) highlight a career success, b) refer to real people, real traits in my descriptions, and c) talk about what I would do to improve it. I don't like this question a lot (as I talked about here), but my answer is good, I think.
8c."You have been nominated as a Distinguished Alumnus in 2013 and asked to deliver a speech. What are the key elements to your success? What advice would you give your peers?(500 words)"
I loved this question. I wrote out my speech, which sounds good, shows creativity, and is bold (if I may say so myself). As for the contents, I do highlight a great former job, as well as get all introspective on my current career success. This is the home-run that will assure me of a place at Chicago (or so I hope).
Posted 11:58 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83723838:
The online piece of the Chicago Personal History left to do is the Activities section. That should be pretty straightforward. I might get around to doing my first review and edit of the essays at lunchtime today. I want to be proactive about this app, so that I don't need to give up a weekend to work on it.
Posted 11:47 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83723323:
I'm working on completing all the Chicago application questions now. Chicago's app is interesting, because the line between information form ("Personal History") and essay question is really blurred. Answering items 1-7 will take as much time as the three essay questions (8a, 8b, and 8c), I think.
Posted 11:18 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83721985:
After reading this S2S post from a Wharton R1 applicant who just realized they made a mistake in an essay, I wondered: Do you read over your applications/essays after submitting them? As soon as I've hit "Submit", I pack up all my application materials for the school into a big (very big) manila envelope and file it away. I don't expect to look at those things again until its time for the interview (knock on wood). Maybe this is because I'm still busy with other apps to waste time reading what I can't change?
Posted 10:54 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83720884:
I just checked: For my five round 1 applications, I will have written 20 essays for a total of 44 double-spaced pages of text. That does not include the (1 page, presumably) Sloan cover letter I have yet to write, nor the pages of text devoted to job descriptions, activities descriptions, etc, nor the numerous revisions I did to the essays themselves. It is quite conceivable that when all is said and done, I will have written over 100 pages of materials for the applications.
I'm doing another reading of my complete Stanford app this morning, just to buff it up to a spiffy shine. My friend/reviewer called (he's back from his trip) and he'll give me some general feedback on the "feel" of my essays sometime later today. Barring any surprises ("Tad...how should I put this? Writing essay B in 'ye olde English' might demonstrate 'creativity' and help you 'stand out' from the pack...but it also might make the AdComm think that you're 'insane' or 'need to take your meds'") I should be ready to submit by late tonight/early tomorrow.
Then I turn to the Chicago app and yell, "Bring it on!" (See how early mornings fill you with vim and vigor!)
Check out the new set of "MBA Journals" that Business Week has just published (thanks to Brian Hindo of Business Week for pointing them out). Several of the journals discuss the admissions process.
Some money quotes:
From the Stanford student (660 GMAT, for those who care): "The hardest part of the process was the waiting. I checked my e-mail and voice mail ten times a day, every day, waiting for an update..."
From the Chicago student (710 GMAT): "Still, I can't stress enough that potential applicants shouldn't try to go it alone. I only had one friend who was also going through the application process, an ex-coworker who was also applying to tough schools. But that was all I needed. It really helped to have someone to bounce ideas off of. It also definitely helps to have someone to call to ask the stupid questions to -- questions like whether essays should be single-spaced or double-spaced. "
From the Wharton student (710 GMAT): "One piece of advice I would like to share is scheduling your on-campus interview early, and doing it ON CAMPUS whenever you can. Three out of the four schools where I interviewed eventually accepted me. Not only does visiting the campus demonstrate your commitment (of which I can't over-stress the importance), but I am also one of those who believe that personal interaction with the "adcom" does matter."
Rest is good Last night, I did not do any work related to my applications. It was glorious! I actually watched this amazing device--what was it called?--oh yes, "television", that entertained me without using my braing, for several hours. I highly recommend taking an evening to get away from the app process, if you can.
I think that my early-bird schedule actually helps in this regard. By waking up so early (4:00 - 4:45, usually) and starting the day working hard on the apps, I actually feel much less pressure to work on them at night when I go home. I know what you're thinking: "Tad, you pompous ass," (that was my nickname in college!), "Waking up at such an ungodly hour is torture!" Well yes, 4:00 is not a lot of fun, but (to me, at least) it beats getting home after a long day of work and having to spend another few hours at the computer banging away at the essays.
Maybe if you're stuck on your essays sometime you'll give it a try?
I think that perhaps because I take such a lighthearted tone in this blog that many of you suspect that I'm not very serious about B-School. Let me dispell that impression now. I take a lighthearted tone because I'm generally an optimistic person, I enjoy joking around, and I like to keep the site light and interesting. But I am very serious about business school, and have put in dozens of hours on each application.
Looking at the pattern of my life, I have found that I have tended to underestimate what I can accomplish. When I was applying to my undergrad school, I thought for sure there was no way I could get in (the school is a top private school in the US, with (at the time) one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country); I did without any problems. The same type of thing has happened repeatedly on my job, whether it be in getting top projects or being promoted. I'll lay this all out in my essay later in the week, but I want everyone to know that I take this MBA enterprise very seriously, despite my attempts not to show it.
Now back to the regularly scheduled frivolity...
I don't think I have the energy to post much the rest of the evening. First, I am at a pretty stable state: The Stanford app is pretty much done, with one more reading and a review session with my friend to go. I've finished the first drafts of all the Chicago and Sloan essays, too.
Probably tomorrow I'll post about my approach to the Chicago and Sloan essays. Also, for sometime this week I'm planning a long "Why I Will Be Accepted" essay to outline my case for accepting me (I know everyone's been just dying to hear that one).
For all of you suffering from Post-Application-Submit Syndrome (PASS) there is now a place for you to turn (no, not my Inbox!). Check out the "R1 - Get a Life" thread on the B-Week forum...
I'm hoping that timing will prevent me from falling into this trap. My last app (Sloan) is due on the 13th of November, and the deadline for Wharton sending out their interview requests is only a week later. With the R2 school research to do, I'm hoping that I'll be able to keep myself busy.
Initially, my possible Round 2 schools are:
Kellogg - Would have been a Round 1 school except that the Chicago app was due on the same day and I just wasn't going to get around to it. Thankfully, it only asks for one recommendation (or "Career Progress Survey").
Columbia - Doesn't have rounds, which makes it a very convenient choice for procrastinating on.
Yale - I think among the smaller schools, Yale has a good reputation in finance and feels young and fresh (this just my subjective impression). And since it is not very far from New York City, I feel that it would be easier to drum up Wall Street jobs from there than from, say, California. The downside is that they ask for three recommendations, which will be difficult to stir up at the last moment (especially in the holiday weeks before their R2 deadline, January 10th).
The other choices I might consider are Haas, Darden, Fuqua, and Tuck, but I really don't have very strong impressions of what those schools are like. And if I can't get into a single of my R1 schools plus the three R2 schools above, honestly, what are my chances at these?
Over the next week I'll really have to fight the urge to rush through the Chicago and Sloan applications. I can feel it luring me now, making me sloppy. I need to really focus on writing cleanly, answering the questions asked, and the message of my completed applications.
The good news is that neither Chicago nor Sloan ask any curveball questions. I should be able to handle their essays more quickly than with previous apps, just because I have so much experience with these types of questions...
I just spent my lunch hour poring over every single field in my Stanford application, from personal info to the essays. I didn't find any big mistakes; I wrote down a few improvements, but that's about it. I think I might just have one more review of it ahead of me. I'm starting to mentally transition to the Chicago application...
Posted 12:47 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83671376:
Ugh...I just got one of the ugliest, most boring, and probably time-consuming assignments of the past six months (at work; remember, I am gainfully employed). It's as if my boss just walked over and dropped a gnarled piece of roadkill on my desk: I know what to do with it, but aren't going to have fun doing so...
Posted 10:59 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83666347:
Hmmm...I don't normally check it, but I couldn't help but notice that my horoscope today reads:
"Your state of entitlement continues into the new week. Choose the colors that others have agreed to paint for you. All reasonable requests will be happily honored."
This leads me to the conclusion that horoscopes are pretty damn useless. And that I should add more magenta to my wardrobe.
Posted 10:51 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83666002:
Is it just me, or does the Chicago GSB online application not provide any way to print a PDF version of your app? From the "Print Preview" menu option I can see how to print out only an HTML version. Does anyone know whether going to the "Submit" page will give you a "Print PDF" option (I'm a bit reluctant to press submit before my app is filled out).
Posted 10:48 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83665873:
Oops. I just noticed that I have both "Finance" and "Analytic Finance" specified as my intended concentrations at Chicago. That doesn't make sense (in that the Analytic Finance concentration is basically just an extension of Finance).
Posted 10:34 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83665271:
Quick, don't peek, what was your topic for HBS essay 3? If you're like me, you can't even remember what HBS essay question 3 was. It's amazing what the treadmill of continuous applications does to short-term memory...
Chicago essay 8b, second draft, is done. It's a bit of a bloated sow at 782 words (which isn't that long, but reading it I feel like it's bloated), and I expected some heavy editing to get it done. I think that, as befits the question I left for the last, it is one of my least favorite essay questions of all my apps. Probably what I dislike about it is that it is simply an exercise in imagination, asking how you would imagine you would act in a team. In my humble opinion, a much more valuable question would have asked about a valuable team experience of the appliant's, because at least there the actions described are real.
An applicant might be the weakest IT geek in the world, but they can imagine themselves as a Patton-like figure of leadership in this question...
For those of you sick of writing essays (I too sometimes fall into this camp), there's a solution: Business school in Israel! An Israeli reader writes to say that "no essays are required for admittance. At the [Hebrew University] all you need is good grades and GMAT, and also [Tel Aviv University] requires an interview." Apply now!
(I enjoy and appreciate any other perspectives on international MBAs, applications, etc.)
I must admit, one aspect of the Chicago application process that I really like is the pre-application interviews. First, it was a great opportunity to learn about what the school is like from an alumni's perspective, which is crucial for those of who couldn't do a class visit. Second, it guaranteed that you'd have the chance to interview (I guess this could be a negative, if you aren't good at interviews, but that's not me). Thid, after I hit the submit button on their app (next week), I can sit back knowing that the next time I'll hear from them it'll either be an accept or reject. There's not the intermediate step of waiting for the interview, and then waiting again for the final results.
A reader asked a good question about Chicago essay 8b: does the essay topic imply that you are one of the three team members, or that there are three team members in addition to you (the leader)?
I reprint the text of the question for convenience, with emphasis added: "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?"
I am not a grammar expert, but I read this question as meaning there are three other people working under you as a team. The essay topic keeps referring to "they" and "the team" as almost a separate group ("they be different"), and asks how you will act upon it ("motivate the team"). If anyone differs with this interpretation, let me know. It is the approach I am using in my essay.
I'm going to make an all out effort to have my Chicago and Sloan essays in an almost-complete state by Friday evening. Spending all weekend cooped up by a computer just sucks. I'd much rather wake up really early and stay up late during the week than sacrifice the weekends.
Halfway there! We have officially moved to the second page of the daily calendar I created at the start of this process (it runs from July 1, when I really got serious about applying, through February 21, one week after the Sloan R1 decision).
Posted 12:29 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83646899:
Though my career goals for post-MBA are pretty much centered around finance, I would like to learn a little more about managing consulting while in school. Man, is that a job that creates has a mysterious and worldly aura to it! For example, if you ask me what McKinsey actually does, all I can think of is smart, aggressive people having very intellectual discussions...
For those of you with free time on your hands or those of you spinning your wheels on the essays, give yourselves a break and check out game 7 of the World Series. It's just the 4th inning, but the Angels are ahead 4-1.
This has been the most grueling weekend so far, in terms of application work. I think that I made a ton of changes to my Stanford essays, probably emblematic of how challenging a question they asked. The good news is that they are pretty much done, and in the week ahead I'll be able to return my focus to my final Round 1 schools, the University of Chicago and Sloan.
The good news related to those two is that I have first drafts for almost all of the essays complete, and since most of their questions require much less introspection than, "What matters most to you?" I don't think I'll have trouble getting them into submit-wothy shape. Of course, I'll be tackling Chicago first, as it is due five days earlier than Sloan.
After all my Round 1 apps are due, I'm thinking of taking at least a week off to rest from all the work, during which time I'll post on some of the other topics that have been on my mind (see the "Future Topics" section to the left). Then I'll move into getting ready for Round 2 schools by at least starting the Kellogg essays, as well as researching other possibilities. Hopefully I'll be invited to interviews around then, as well.
Well, I'm done with the eighth drafts of my Stanford essays. I'm pretty close to calling them complete. When I get to work tomorrow I need to look up a couple pieces of information to finish them off, then I'll upload them into the online app, print it out in its entirety, and give it a final review.
Sometimes you need to be reminded how truly fortunate we are to be in this position. Around the world, there are countries where people our age can only aspire to having fresh water and food. There are countries where women would be beaten by their relatives for daring to ask for an education.
I think many of us applying to business school try have convinced ourselves that we're the best simply because of our work ethic and intelligence and skill. But all of those rest upon a series of circumstances that we had no control over: Our nationality, our upbringing, our family's finances, etc. We, and I include myself at the front of the list, must always remember how blessed and fortunate we are.
Having tried and failed to get through Chicago 8b, I returned to my Stanford essays (seventh drafts) for another reading. Over the total eleven pages, I probably made only two or three dozen changes. I'm almost there.
I started Chicago essay 8b, but it doesn't look good. I think that Stanford A has spoiled me for normal essay questions. What I mean is that after reflecting for so long on what matters to me the most, it's hard to switch gears to a silly hypothetical question like this ("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?"). It's like going from a deep, mature, adult question to playtime for five year olds.
I know I'm being harsh here, but I'm serious about having trouble...taking 8b seriously. Sigh. At least I have an outline and some good ideas to write about, if I could just wipe the smirk off my face...
Oh, wow, it looks like Blogger.com is up and running again.
I tell you, posting my thoughts on this site has really become integral to my application process. I think I've come to rely on writing this webpage as a form of "thinking out loud"; I can't remember how many time I've figured out the solution to an essay dilemma simply by describing it to you, my anonymous audience.
So it's like someone shut off a part of my brain when I can't publish to the site...
The Wharton Journal has an article (free registration required) about changes their Career Managment Office and discusses the current job market for MBA students. The key graf:
"In 2000, each graduating Wharton student had an average of 1.95 job offers at graduation. Compensation levels, likewise, were driven up by this high demand. The average graduating student in 2000 had a base salary of $90,000, with a median signing bonus of $25,000. ...
Then the market (stock and job) began to tank in mid-2000. By 2002, the average number of job offers per Wharton student had sunk to 1.13. Base salaries dropped over 5%. Signing bonuses dropped 20%."
Posted 12:41 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83598850:
Wow, what a difference! This is my tip of the day: Take an hour and just clean up the room around you. I know, I know, it looks like a huge mess, but trust me, cleaning will go a lot quicker than you think. And when you're done, your desk will feel fresh and lovely, and you won't feel bad sitting there typing for another few hours...
Posted 11:50 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #83597152:
After completing the latest draft of my Stanford essays, I took a look around this room and realized what a sty it's become. I might take a couple of hours and just focus on cleaning up around here (clothes off the floor and into the laundry, papers off the...off of everything, etc.) It'll give me a breather from writing, and make my future writing environment much more pleasant.
I am very happy. The Stanford sixth drafts are very good: The content, tone, and flow is pretty much spot-on. I've made plenty of grammar, spelling, and wording corrections, but otherwise the essays are there. The only content change I'm pondering now is whether or not I should add a sentence or two about an extracurricular activity I'm active in now (it would be to essay B).
BTW, just to be safe I deleted my two essays from the online application. I did that to prevent a situation where I edit the essays on my local computer, forget to upload them, and then submit an application with the old essays.
One reminder for Stanford applicants: The Stanford online app is maintainted by Embark.com. From what I've seen so far, and the rumors I've heard from last year, it is a very shaky system. All the more reason to be ready to submit early with this one.