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
My comment about getting a 410 on my first GMAT practice test has caused some confusion, so I thought I'd explain the sequence of events.
After I decided to go for an MBA, back in late-May, I borrowed some GMAT study guides from a friend. At random, I picked the Peterson's guide as the first one to use, and went through its lessons. I decided to take one of its practice exams, to gauge where I was at. Since I did really well on the SAT (in the 1400s)--what, a decade ago?--I didn't expect any trouble with this test. When I finished the Peterson's practice test, I was bowled be given a score of 410!
Suddenly worried that I had a ton of studying ahead of me, I couldn't help but thinking that 410 was just...wrong. So I decided to take the second Peterson's practice exam, and soon after starting it knew something was fishy. Namely, that most of the questions on the second exam I had seen on the first exam. That's when I went to Amazon and discovered that Peterson's guide was universally recognized as rubbish.
Frustrated at the wasted time, I turned to the free PowerPrep software that ETS provides to all GMAT takers. I ran through the first test, and got above a 700, immediately putting my mind to ease. I then started studying with the Kaplan study guides, and got a 680 on their first practice test. About a week before taking the real GMAT, I took the second PowerPrep practice exam and got above 700 again (twenty points higher than the first PowerPrep test). Of course, on the real exam I got a score somwhere abouve 730 (a score higher than any of my practice exams).
Posted 12:06 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84625834:
Rating the Program Websites Here are my comments on how the schools do in terms of marketing themselves via the web.
Wharton: A++ No school comes close to the quality, quantity, and functionality of the Wharton site. From the chat room to the message board, Wharton's web presence has gone a long way towards giving me a sense of what Wharton is like and easing the tensions of the application process.
Chicago: B+ The organization of their site is a little awkward, but overall it provides the information applicants are looking for. Key to this is access to all the course descriptions. I only wish there were some descriptions of each concentration, rather than just lists of course numbers.
HBS: BHBS seems to have some information available, but it's oddly organized ("Explore", "Experience", "Apply", "Decide"?!?). Still, if you're willing to follow a few links, you can get access to the course descriptions and description of the curriculum.
Stanford: BStanford's site reminds me of Harvard's, in that it's very pretty but a bit awkwardly organized. For example, it takes four or five clicks just to get to the course descriptions, but you can eventually get there.
Sloan: C The Sloan MBA site doesn't link to course descriptions, doesn't describe tracks, and doesn't even link to the track homepages. The information is sparse and poorly organized. Going to the Sloan home page isn't much better, as I found several broken links and had trouble finding track information. I eventually had to use Google to find even the most general descriptions of each track. In need of a serious overhaul.
Obviously, none of the sites moved me like Wharton's. I can say without the Wharton site, I would have thought of it as the "excellent Finance school". Now I associate it with innovation, with transparency (of the application process), and with some of the helpful students and AdComm I've chatted with.
Posted 10:44 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84623264:
I saw the movie "Punch-Drunk Love" last night. It was very good, but as with the director's previous movie ("Magnolia") there were some intensely emotional scenes which were a bit upsetting. Though parts were funny, I think the humor was tinged with sadness, so it's hard for me to call it a comedy.
Posted 10:32 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84605891:
Another tactic... Cast your mind back to October 23rd, or October 24th, or whenever you submitted your Wharton application. Back then, did you think your app was a winner? Did you know in your heart, "I'm sure to get an interview invite"? Well what has happened since then to change that?
Oh, other people have been invited, but not you? So what! Back on October 24th, did you think nobody else would get an invite other than you?!? Of course not. So what? Why are you doubting your app now? You have nothing, not a single reason, to be doubting your chances. Nothing. Zip.
You have a choice: Wallow in unsubstantiated fears, or get back into the game, put back on your October 24th mindset, and saddle up!
Posted 10:19 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84605454:
I've gotten a few e-mails from readers who are clearly worried that they're gonna be rejected by Wharton. Please, please, please remember: The timeliness of the Wharton invites does not in any way reflect on the quality of your application. Rather, it is related solely to the speed of your app's first [student] reviewer and the availability of its second [AdComm] reviewer. That's it.
So until you have a rejection e-mail in your inbox, there's absolutely no reason to expect anything but success. Buck up!
They Like to Watch One funny thing I've noticed going through my site traffic reports is that people from the different schools must be constantly prowling each others' threads. I've seen visitors from the UPENN.edu domain coming from the Stanford thread, visitors from the HBS.edu domain coming from Wharton's S2S site, visitors from UCONN.edu coming from the HBS thread, etc. I think they're actually a pretty tight group, those b-schoolers...
I found an error in the calendar I was using to the Friday countdowns, an error that skewed the number of days left until the decision dates by 1. Here's the corrected version (with Wharton's changes in there too):
Friday Deadline Countdown >> 12 days(!) left until Wharton is done with interview invites
>> 34 days left until the Wharton Round 1 decisions
>> 61 days left until the Chicago Round 1 decisions
>> 68 days left until the HBS Round 1 decisions
>> 68 days left until the Stanford Round 1 decisions
>> 91 days left until the MIT Sloan Round 1 decisions
Personal Details A reader writes to complain that the personal details I've provided in the upper-left (under the "Tad Holbie" heading) are too vague. Well, that was sort of the point. But to make the site more interesting, every Sunday I will post another personal characteristic (like build, skin color, etc.) This will continue until I reveal my true identity on May 1, 2003.
The Next Three Weeks ...are gonna be crazy busy. I'll probably be jetting to Boston for a business trip at some point (wouldn't it be sweet if I got an HBS interview request before then?), plus there's Wharton's Nov. 27 notification deadline, plus Thanksgiving, plus the job, plus starting to research my R2 schools more (speaking of which, hellllloooooo? Johnson, Haas, Tuck, et. al.: How long does it take to mail a brochure?!?).
I'm not going to do any of the fancy graphs or in-depth analysis that BERNARDK2 performed on his 54 respondents. Instead, I'll ladle mine with the classic Tad Holbie wit you've all come to know and love.
First, thank you to all who filled out the survey. I've collected 82 responses since I posted it on Tuesday night. It's been a lot of fun following the results. Here's the run-down:
1) How Often Do You Visit? 34% of respondents "drop in a few times a week", 32% are daily visitors, and 24% check in several times a day. Six of you filled out the survey on your first visit, and only two were honest enough to admit they visit constantly ("a dozen or more times a day").
2) Where Did You Hear Of This Site? Most have found this site through either the B-Week forum (71%) or Wharton S2S board (34%). Only 7 of your stumbled upon the site via a search engine.
3) Your Background The vast majority of respondents, as would be expected, are either current b-school applicants (85%) or future applicants (9%).
4) Why Do You Read This Site? The favorite reasons for reading this site were its entertainment value (74%), rumors about admissions (58%), tips for future applications (39%), its writing quality (25%) and because your addicted to my tale (24%). Some other reasons entered were "helps me feel more sane", "inspiration to keep plodding along thru these apps", and my favorite, "Tad is anal and points out stuff I otherwise would have ignored."
5) What Would You Change About This Site? 40% of you said that I'm "too secretive about my real identity", 23% think I'm took cocky (hey, if you think I'm cocky now, wait until I'm accepted to all 5 schools!), and 15% think I should stop talking about the site traffic levels.
6) What Schools Are You Interested In? In the order of interest: 67% - HBS, 63% - Wharton, 56% - Stanford, 44% - Kellogg, 37% - Sloan, 23% - Columbia, 20% - Chicago, 14% - Tuck, and 13% for Duke, Haas, and Anderson. The other schools all had a couple of people interested. This makes sense, since (for example) a Darden applicant wouldn't find much on my site about Darden.
7) Gender 73% of the respondents were male, 27% female. Overall, 24% of the respondents assume I'm female, 76% think I'm male (interestingly, the responses from men and women resulted in identical ratios).
8) Your Description of Tad Holbie This was my favorite question. 33% of you would characterize me as a "proud lion", followed by 26% saying I'm an "ambitious shark", 25% for "self-absorbed peacock", 12% for "caring teddybear", and 3 people think I'm a "lazy sloth". This breaks down much as I would characterize myself (I'd say I'm 50% proud lion, 30% ambitious shark, 10% self-absorbed peacock).
9) How Will It End? Funny, despite 23% of you thinking I'm too cocky, not a single person said I would end up in failure. 56% think that I'll end in success, being accepted to at least one of my 5 R1 schools. 34% thought I'd smack a home run and be accepted to three of the 5 schools. 7% thought the R1 schools would ding me but I'd get into some R2 schools, and 3 of you (I'll call you the "true believers") are sure that I'll hit the grand slam, getting accepted to every single school to which I apply.
10) Comments The 19 comments left were generally positive, along the lines of "I love reading your stories, and the great thing is, it keeps us (applicants) in check with our own" and "Well done and sincere." One respondent pointed out that "unless you are a minority female who has stellar gmat scoress and gpa from a top ivy, who works for a top ib/mc and do a year of non-profit afterwards, you can't claim you are a must-admit." And a few mentioned the Wharton loan policy change.
What It All Means Not much, but it was fun doing it! Actually, I think it's clear that my readers do have some sense of my personality, and they find my story entertaining and expect a happy ending. I'd love to oblige, and (between you and me) I would predict that I get into 4 of the 5 schools I'm applying to. Call it a hunch.
I'll be thinking up more surveys in the future, as the mood strikes me. Thanks for participating!
(Note: Percentages above relate to the number of respondents for each question, not the total respondents for the survey)
Posted 12:45 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84584931:
Wharton is pushing back the final date for interview invites from November 21 to Wednesday, November 27! Updates to follow...
UPDATE: See Alex Brown's post at http://s2s.wharton.upenn.edu/wh-wharton/messages?msg=3064.20 UPDATE: New thread on the subject here: http://s2s.wharton.upenn.edu/wh-wharton/messages?msg=3126.1 UPDATE: I just realized that Nov. 27 is the day before Thanksgiving: Travel, long lines, relatives, food, food, food, more relatives, and constantly refreshing your Inbox?
UPDATE: Obviously, no need for the "Big-Day" chat next Thursday...I don't know what my schedule is for Thanksgiving Eve, so we'll have to see.
UPDATE: I think that this news warrants i's very own "Stress Relief Ahoy":
Stress Relief Ahoy! This music video will make you go "awwwww, cute!"
Posted 12:17 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84583827:
I must say, it's an awesome feeling to be at work and not have to constantly check the top of my desk to see if I've left out any essays, or run to the printer when printing things out, or try to edit an essay without anybody catching me. I almost feel free!
Posted 11:31 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84582001:
...and then you realize it's Friday!
Friday Deadline Countdown >> 6 days(!) left until Wharton is done with interview invites
>> 33 days left until the Wharton Round 1 decisions
>> 60 days left until the Chicago Round 1 decisions
>> 67 days left until the HBS Round 1 decisions
>> 67 days left until the Stanford Round 1 decisions
>> 90 days left until the MIT Sloan Round 1 decisions
My status: >> HBS - Submitted for Round 1
>> Wharton - Submitted for Round 1
>> Stanford - Submitted for Round 1
>> Chicago - Submitted for Round 1
>> Sloan - Submitted for Round 1
TGIF--and ahead a weekend without any essays to write!!!...
I am your co-worker I discovered yesterday that some of my readers work for the same company as me. Until yesterday, I had configured my (free) SiteMeter account to ignore traffic coming from my work domain--mainly because I didn't want to skew the stats with my own visits. I switched off that configuration yesterday, and within twenty-four hours saw two different visitors coming from my work domain.
Moral of the story? If you visit my site from the office...I could be sitting right over there!
Thursday, November 21, 2002
4:30 pm - 5:30 pm PST (7:30 pm - 8:30 pm EST) It'll be a chance to laugh and a chance to cry; a chance for cheers and a chance for hugs; for your health, for the health of your friends, and for the sake of your nation, join us in the Wharton S2S chat room to reflect on the events to-date, and the battles that lie ahead...
Plus, at 5:00 pm PST (8:00 pm EST), I promise to reveal whether I have triumphed or failed to secure an interview at Wharton (i.e. find out if I'm the self-absorbed peacock or proud lion).
(Is that dramatic enough for 'ya? I'm layin' it all on the line here, people...)
Does anyone think it would be cool to do an unofficial "Wharton applicants chat" next Thursday, Nov. 21 (invite deadline)? Apparently anyone can enter the S2S chat room at any time, so we'd just have to agree on a specific time and all show up. We could chat about upcoming interviews. Think it's a good idea (if so, e-mail)?
Of course, if I don't get an invite I won't be too chatty...
One Week to Go! One week left until Nov. 21. One week to know if Wharton wants to interview you, or if you're dinged. For those of us who haven't received an invitation yet and are stressin', keep these items in mind:
1) Wharton got about 2,600 applications for R1, and expects to interview about half of them (see Alex Brown's post).
2) Using the natural instinct to procrastinate, I hypothesize that there will be more interview invites sent out over the next 7 days than the previous 7. After all, the student readers might have slacked off the past 7 days, but they now have the deadline looming.
3) Thus, there are probably at least 600-700 more applicants who will be invited to interview! You know how great your app is, surely you're one of them, right?!
4) Finally, remember that worrying accomplishes nothing, other than making you feel bad. Chill out dude!
A second Stanford interview invite. I noticed that in the posted e-mail, Stanford emphasizes that they want the candidate to interview within the next three weeks (and contact them if he/she cannot!) I think this indicates that Stanford is spacing out their invitations--trying to spread them out evenly over the next two months so as to not overload the alumni.
A reader e-mails to ask whether its better (if you can't travel to the campus) to interview with an AdComm during a "hub visit" or with an alum. Honestly, I don't think there is a clear-cut answer. Here are the benefits of each option, based on the reader's and my opinions:
Interviewing with the AdComm:
1) Professional - The AdComms are more likely to be professional and not biased by personal feelings, prejudices, etc.
2) Personal Touch - Come decision time, AdComm members will have a face to associate with the name. Even though they say it doesn't, this might have provide a [very, very] slight advantage in [very, very] borderline situations.
3) Comparability - For candidates who are unique or have non-traditional backgrounds, since AdComms will be interviewing a bunch of people at the Hub they'll be more likely to recognize how much you stand out. Alums might not have interviewed enough to recognize how much you stand out.
Interviewing with an Alum:
1) Less Time Pressure - Presumably during Hub interview trips the AdComms see a ton of people (and could be jet-lagged). The interviews might get "rote" to them. This is much less likely with alumni.
2) Less Stress - Alumni interviews might seem less stressful (i.e. less like an interview and more like a chat).
3) You'll Learn More - If you are unable to visit the school, speaking with an alum might represent your only chance to get a personal view on what it's like to study there (something that AdCommers can't provide). I definitely learned a lot during my Chicago alumni interview, and feel that I benefited greatly from it.
For my R1 schools, I've already done the Chicago alumni interview, and Stanford only does alumni interviews. I am hoping that, should I be invited to interview by HBS, Sloan, or Wharton, I'll be able to arrange a business trip to the Boston or New York/Philly so that I can do a class visit and interview on campus (this hope is not too far-fetched; I've traveled to both on business this year). Thus, I would learn more about the school (by the class visit) and establish the personal touch with the AdComm. Knock on wood.
If anyone has feedback on this, feel free to e-mail me.
Posted 12:33 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84533986:
Harnessing My Readers' Psychic Powers... Early returns for your Wharton predictions: You think I will get an invitation, either next Monday or Wednesday (they're tied with 38% of the vote each), between the hours of 13:00 and 16:00 EST. All but one of you think I'll be accepted to Wharton, though 30% think it will be after a period on the waiting list. I hope your psychic powers are right...
Posted 12:14 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84533202:
Now that my schedule has calmed, I'm going to start publishing some notes/tips I've kept on the business school appliation process. I'll keep links to all of these on the left side of the page, under "How to". I hope that my experiences of the past five months will prove useful to some future applicants.
So you've just decided you want to pursue an MBA; what now? Here are the first steps to take:
1) Sign up for the GMAT. I recommend taking it fairly quickly, only 4 to 6 weeks later. Why so quick? If you do well on it, you'll be done with it sooner. If you don't do well, you'll discover your weaknesses sooner.
2) How to study for the GMAT? There's no cookie-cutter answer; it depends on you. If you did well on earlier standardized tests like the SAT (as I did), you probably just need to brush up on some math concepts and (most important) get used to the computerized exam. Getting used to the CAT format was the toughest part for me; taking practice tests (Kaplan and PowerPrep) was the key.
3) Research the schools. Use the schools' websites, published guides, and internet message boards to figure out which schools to apply to. What should you be looking for? The quick list is: Reputation in the area you want to study, ranking, size of student body, teaching method (case study vs other), location, quality of applicants (i.e. average GMAT, GPA), and admissions deadlines.
4) Deciding how many schools to apply to is easy. Unless you have plenty of free time or have personal reasons for doing so, I would suggest applying to your two or three top schools for the first round and two or three more schools for the second round. That should give you plenty of time to do a good job on each application. BTW, don't post questions like "what are my chances?" or "where should I apply?" on public message boards; nobody can answer them without knowing you very, very well (i.e. stats are one of the least important factors in getting admitted).
5) Get recommenders started on your recommendations early. I had given my recommenders the forms between two and three months before the deadline, which is plenty of time (I'll write more tips on recommendations later).
6) For the first application, I think that one month is the bare minimum you'll need to do a good job on the essays, gather the information, etc. I started my HBS essays about nine weeks before the deadline. Subsequent applications should go more quickly, since you'll have gotten the hang of essay writing by then.
7) There are many factors to writing good essays, but the two most important are a) being sure to answer the question that was asked and b) staying focused on your message. For the former, I forced myself to read the essay topic/question before each reading of my essays. For the latter, I'd recommend the Montauk book; it helped me refine my message (or "story").
8) Get copies of your transcript(s) as soon as possible. Some schools require you to use a "transcript request form", but as soon as that's available you should be mailing it off to get your transcripts. There is no reason to procrastinate.
What was my schedule for applying? Well, it's still being written, but it went roughly like this:
May - Decided to go for an MBA. Started researching schools.
Summer - Took GMAT after studying for a few weeks. On business trips, visited some schools' campuses. Got transcripts.
August - Recruited my recommenders, started working on essays
September - Essays, essays, essays, essays.
October - Essays, essays, essays, nagging recommenders, essays, submitting HBS, Wharton, Stanford
November - Essays, essays, essays, submitting Chicago, MIT. Waiting.
Posted 11:20 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84530755:
It's Year End Review time at my company. I love it. I can't understand why so many of my co-workers bemoan doing reviews; it's like free advertising for yourself! There are few other opportunities to go out and say, "I did X, I did Y, and I did Z!" bluntly and to management's face. I think part of my [job] success has been that I don't pass on opportunities to distribute my own propaganda...;-)
One respondent to my reader survey left this intelligent and chilling comment:
"have you ever considered that by saying that you will not reveal your website to the AdComms that it means another applicant might be able to take credit for your website?"
This is a good point, which I have considered before. Here are my thoughts on the matter:
1) I can't control what other people write and say. If someone puts on their app that they are "Tad Holbie" or that they write the "MBA Admissions Wire", alas, I can't stop them.
2) However, there are two outcomes for their doing so. First, if the AdComm have not heard of this site, it won't have any net effect on their chances, anyway. Second, if the AdComm do follow this site, they will know that I have not mentioned this website on any of my applications, and thus can feel free to ding the lying prick.
3) If a candidate claims authorship of this site during an interview, it is probably not me (obviously, I can't anticipate every possible interview situation, and I wouldn't lie about the site if asked). Regardless, AdComms should feel free to confirm my identity by e-mailing me, at firstname.lastname@example.org. They don't need to give the candidate's name, just write, "Hi, I'm X from school Y. A candidate claimed to be you on date D; can you confirm this to be the case?" and I will reply either, "Hell, no! Torpedo the loser!" or "Yes, I am indeed [insert real name]." Obviously, if it was me, I'm not going to sink my chances at a school.
4) During the schools' post-acceptance background checks, they should also feel free to confirm my identity at email@example.com.
5) After/if I am accepted to a school, I am going to post my real identity on this site, which will smoke out any Tad Holbie posers (God, you've got to be a desparate loser to pull that kind of $#!+). So anyone accepted trying to pass themselves off as me is surely going to be caught.
6) Lastly, I've posted some distinguishing features (on the left) that will make it harder to pose as Tad Holbie.
So no, I'm not worried that someone else will steal my thunder, because they'd be digging their own grave by doing so!
Since I've gotten such a great response to (and had a lot of fun with) my first survey, I've created a little "Surveys" section to the left. If you want to try out your psychic powers, why not predict if/when my Wharton interview invitation comes? I'll post the name/ID (that you enter in the survey; don't worry, you can remain anonymous if you want) of the one coming closest...
This is the Post of the Week, aimed right at those of you worrying about your Wharton app. The second year student writes:
"I have a stack of applications on my desk right now that I have to evaluate by Monday. After that, they'll go to a second reader and maybe even more. These applications may be extremely strong but they just haven't been read. There could be a lot of reasons for why some applications take longer than others that have nothing to do with their strengths or weaknesses...
Please don't assume anything until you hear from us. The timing of when you hear is not necessarily a function of any particular factor."
Don't forget the weekly Wharton S2S chat tonight at 6:00 pm EST. As usual, I don't think I'll be able to attend most of it, so if you hear any good tidbits (things like, "We've actually sent off all the interview invites, we just like watching the rejects squirm for a week") e-mail me.
Final Thoughts on the Wharton Loan Changes Few topics have brought me more grief than my posts about the changes to Wharton's loan policy (see this B-Week thread and this S2S thread for the details). I don't want to write about it any more because, well, it's just not a fun topic to write about for me. Still, I'd like to make some final comments, and to "clear the air" on what my opinion is.
Going through the different aspects of the policy change one-by-one:
Financial - Obviously, I think that the Wharton staff are the only people capable of forming an informed opinion on this. I have no reason to doubt that this was the correct financial decision, based on what I have read.
Reputational - Nobody knows for sure how this decision will affect Wharton's reputation over the short and long terms. My gut tells me that Wharton has maintained a great reputation for over a hundred years, and a change like this will do little to hurt that. That is just my opinion, and you're free to think otherwise (I understand that if you are an affected party, Wharton's reputation will drop a lot in your mind; I'm referring to its general reputation among corporations, the press, other schools, and students).
International Applicants - I completely understand if you're saddened, pissed, discouraged by the change. What can I say? I recognize how fortunate I was to have been born in this great nation...
Quality of Education - Nobody knows for sure how the quality of the MBA experience will change at Wharton. If [the new policy] results in only a couple dozen fewer international students, the impact might be minimal. If there is a huge drop in international students, it could be larger. Again, nobody knows for sure...
Personally - To me, this change does not impact--positively or negatively--the appeal of Wharton. My undergrad school had a large international population, I have worked and travelled abroad, I have many foreign co-workers, and many of my close friends are "internationals", so a decrease in international students would not deprive me of something new. In other words, I think I'd feel comfortable at any school with an international population from 10% to 40%.
I've seen a couple of posts on the B-Week forum that suggest Stanford and HBS have started sending out interview invites. It seems a bit early to me, so I'm waiting to see a few more before I get excited...
Rating the Online Apps Overall, the five online applications were pretty well done, as my "grades" below reflect (you can grade me on my reader survey). Once the online apps were up, I encountered very few technical problems, which is great. Here are my grades for the online apps; as you can see, all are passing grades, because a) I successfully submitted and b) never had any serious technical problems ("serious" meaning data lost, essays scrambled, etc.)
HBS: A+ Good points: Could complete the entire application online. Allowed document uploading for essays. No technical glitches. Allowed printing of the entire document by PDF. Included "send reminder email" feature for recommenders. No complaints at all.
Wharton: A Good points: Could complete the entire application online. Never once had a technical glitch. Needs Improvement: I prefer applications that allow the essay (Word) documents to be uploaded directly, not cutting and pasting. Also, there was no "remind your recommender" feature.
Stanford: A- Good points: Could complete the entire app, excluding the transcript, online. I don't mind mailing transcripts, because it's much easier than filling out those darn Excel templates! Also had essay document uploads, and the "remind your recommender" feature. Provided PDF printouts of the entire application. Needs Improvement: Because it was Embark, some of the online instructions were...peculiar. Plus, the "Peer" recommender should not be emailed both sets of recommendation questions. I also got a "timeout error" once in a while.
Sloan: B Good points: Allows essay uploads. The personal/employment/education history sections were very short and didn't require much writing. Easy to print PDF files. Needs improvemnt: The fact that I had technical glitches the day before the deadline probably dropped this app out of "A" range. And come on, where are the online recommendations?
Chicago: B- Good points: Never had technical glitches. Easy to navigate and save the app. The printing in HTML format is okay, though I really prefer PDF printing. Needs improvement: I think there should be online recs. Also, I prefer uploading completed essay documents rather than cutting and pasting text. Lastly, the submit process was a bit complicated (you had to follow a separate link to enter payment information, and there were no confirmation e-mails).
I think that the online apps held up much better this year than last year, from the stories I hear. All in all, I had very few problems with them, and never was denied access to my app.
My favorite reader comment on my survey yet is, "Tad is anal and points out stuff I otherwise would have ignored" (which is why he reads the site). Case in point: There are only two hours left until the Sloan R1 deadline, which is at 12:00 noon PST!
If you ever have followed (American) comic books, you'll find seanbaby.com side-splittingly funny. My favorite is the vicious takedown of Aquaman, which starts out:
"You know how sometimes you get upset that the people policing your neighborhood are a bunch of fat donut critics who spend most of their time trying to trick you into speeding tickets? It could be worse. They could be Aquaman. Imagine being in a burning building, and the person sent to rescue you shows up in his underwear on a giant seahorse. Or worse, standing on two flying fish with leashes (above right). But don't worry, while you're burning alive, your rescuer has the fantastic ability to TALK with those fish he's using as shoes. You might as well cover yourself in gasoline and try to get it over with quick..."
Posted 10:57 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84475964:
Adam (first year HBS) has posted his thoughts about the "brewing controversy" (that sounds a bit overblown, doesn't it?) surrounding the Harbus newspaper, its publication of a cartoon, and the way HBS handled the situation. If you're interested in the topic, you can leave a comment on his site too! (Here's the Harbus article describing the aftermath of the situation).
Done! Done! Done! I have officially submitted my fifth, and final, round 1 MBA application! Right now, I feel...relief, just relief. Indulging in memories for a moment, I remember when I made the decision to pursue an MBA, back in May (six months ago!?!) I remember the first GMAT practice test I took, getting a 410 (yes, that's not a typo: 410!) and feeling stunned, before I realized that the Peterson GMAT book was universally recognized as crap. I remember starting up this site on a whim, and the first positive reviews.
After completing a big project like this, as I unwind I like to reflect on it and try to draw some lessons from it. Over the next few days I'll probably post a little bit less. But the posts will be longer, covering such topics as my ranking of the online applications, thoughts on the B-Schools websites, tips for future applicants, and that stuff. When the time comes, I'll be including thoughts from interviews (should I be fortunate to get any) and whatever else comes to mind. Hopefully I won't reach the point where I have to write about round 2 applications...
Sloan Reminder According to the Sloan website, all online applications are due today at 12 noon PST (3:00 pm EST)! This is the only app I've seen due at this hour, so I thought I'd post this warning since it's now, what, only seven hours away...
Posted 11:23 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84454713:
My friend had a mixed reaction to my Sloan essays. On the positive side, he thought my cover letter, essay #1, and essay #2 were "home runs". On the negative side, he found a couple of paragraphs in essays #2, #3, and #4 that were just confusing and needed fixing. He also didn't think that my essay #4 was that great.
The confusion arose because I got too fancy in describing sequences of events, jumping forwards and backwards in time. I need to change these paragraphs to a more straightforward, linear narrative, and they'll be much better. Putting these confusing spots aside, he thought that overall it was a good set of essays.
It looks to be a long night of reading, reviewing, editing, revising...
Coming Up... I just found this cool internet site that offers free surveys: SurveyMonkey.com. I'll probably throw together a "MBA Admissions Wire" user survey, to get a sense of what everyone likes dislikes.
The internet is wicked cool with its free stuff!
I've begun to solidify my Round 2 strategy, which I discussed last week. The three schools I would target are:
Yale (Jan. 3) - Has a respected, up-and-coming finance department and is near Wall Street (the downside is it asks for three recs)
Kellogg (Jan. 10) - Because it's a great school that I wanted to apply to R1, and only requires one recommendation.
Haas (Jan. 31) - A smaller program near a large city, which is great. This would be the third (of four) application rounds, though. I'm also still considering UCLA in this spot, as it also has a late-January deadline. The location is not as great, though...
If I'm not even invited to interview with Wharton (by Nov. 21), I'd apply to Yale and Kellogg for sure, and (depending on whether I get into any of my other R1 schools) Haas. If I'm invited to interview with Wharton but dinged on Dec. 19th, I'd give up on Yale (not enough time to throw together three recs) and apply to Kellogg and Haas (again, if I didn't get into any other R1 schools).
Based on this strategy, after finishing up my Sloan app, I can take my time going through the Kellogg app, as this is the only one I'd submit for sure (if dinged by Wharton).
Why did I rule out the other R2 possibilities?
Columbia - I just can't imagine living in NYC as a student. It would just be too stressful/depressing to think about. Plus I wasn't enamored during my school visit. Thus, for Columbia, my heart overrules my brain.
Tuck - Location; I need to be in a bigger city.
Darden - Ditto.
Johnson (Cornell) - Ditto.
Marshall (USC)- Have heard some bad things about its location (south-central LA?!?)
(Note: Just because I am posting this does not mean I do not feel confident about my Round 1 chances. I just enjoy having a plan B and something to keep my busy)
I read through Accepted.com's September chat with the Haas AdComms. I'll be looking at this school more closely as a possible round 2 school. The location is good (big city, nice weather) and it's well respected in finance.
Round 1 Apps Down? Last week Alex Brown reported that Wharton's R1 pool went from 2,800 last year to 2,600 this year. Now there's a post on the B-Week forum saying that Linda Baldwin, the Director of Admissions at Anderson (UCLA), admitted "that applications were down slightly compared to last year at UCLA and at other peer institutions (she didn't mention specific names)."
If any of you have heard more rumors to this effect, feel free to e-mail me (I'm open to rumors ;-).
Posted 12:12 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84424807:
The reader who earlier reported the Sloan app problems writes back to report that both Sloan and ApplyYourself were very quick with their responses. The Sloan AdComm member wrote that it was probably a problem of the server "experiencing a very high volume of activity." ApplyYourself e-mailed the following suggestion: "Logout of your application. Close all other browsers. Then clear your cache and cookies. Then you should be able to try again."
He was very impressed by the quick response times, and says that he is now able to upload too.
Posted 11:54 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84424018:
Possible Ding Letters I wonder what the Wharton "ding" e-mails actually say? Here are a few of the possibilities kicking around my mind:
"Dear Mr. Holbie,
Bwaaaa-haaa-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaa! You call that an application?!?..."
"Dear Mr. Holbie,
Thank you for submitting an excellent application. The Admissions staff completely agrees that yours was the best set of essays that we've read in a long time...Unfortunately, your essay #2 was four words over the word limit. We do not tolerate breaking the rules, Mr. Holbie. Goodbye..."
"Dear Mr. Holbie,
After reading your two recommendations, we can only say that you should seek psychiatric attention. May god have mercy on your soul, you twisted monster..."
"Dear Mr. Holbie,
Welcome to the Class or 2005! That's what we'd be saying if we had actually liked your application. Alas, it sucked, so we [don't really] regret to inform you that you've been rejected for admission to..."
"Dear Mr. Holbie,
Perhaps you had technical difficulties uploading your essays? The essays we received all just had a single line, repeated endlessly: 'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy'. Please explain..."
"Dear Mr. Holbie,
Eenie, meenie, miney, moe, catch a tiger by its toe..."
Posted 10:38 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84420723:
I'm of the opinion that it takes about six to nine drafts to finish a stellar MBA essay. The first two or three drafts are about getting the ideas on paper and the structure of the essay right. Then next few drafts are for correcting any grammar or spelling errors, plus refining the flow. The final few drafts are for polishing the essay to a nice shine: Improving the word usage, weeding out any unneeded sentences or repeated phrases, and making the essay more readable.
Contrary to what I expected, the number of drafts I've done has gone up with each application. The HBS essays took seven drafts, Wharton took eight, Stanford nine, Chicago ten, and with Sloan I've just finished my thirteenth draft! I think the reason this is so is that I've just gotten really tired of writing essays, and so my edits are less efficient. Whereas earlier in the process I caught most of the problems in a single edit, now I am not reviewing my essays with nearly the same focus and efficiency. That being the case, it's a good sign that I'm doing more drafts, as the quantity of my edits will make up for any decrease in the quality.
It's a bit early in the day for this, but I need it:
Stress Relief Ahoy! This is the funniest "Page Not Found" webpage I've seen (if only the Sloan online app were this good)! Note that the homestarrunner.com home page is almost as funny, if your humor is at a third-grade-boy level...
Update: Another Sloan applicant e-mails to say that he's having the same problems (can't upload essays) and has contacted both Sloan and ApplyYourself to investigate the problem. He points out that the Sloan app intro screen seems to indicate they anticipated future problems (need some work in confidence-building, eh Sloan?), and includes instructions on how to handle them:
"Note to Round I Applicants (Posted 11/1/02):
Should you experience problems submitting your application 48 hours before the deadline, please report them to firstname.lastname@example.org and to email@example.com. We will automatically grant a 48-hour extension (after the deadline) to submit your application. If further time is needed because of continued technical problems, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to set a new deadline if necessary."
Wry Humor Some other error messages I'm expecting to get from the Sloan app:
"6107 Beg me and I might consider converting your file."
"6112 You call that an essay?"
"6124 You misspelled your name on the resume. Ha! Made you look!"
Update: Now I'm getting a different upload error: "6102 An error was encountered when converting this file. Please try again later." That at least provides a thin sliver of hope, I guess, in the sense that it makes more sense than "Invalid file type".
Funny, I always thought of Sloan as the most modern and technically advanced of the schools I'm applying to, yet first the meager website and now this...
Now the technical problems are happening hot and heavy on the Sloan application. First, logging in is very slow this morning. Then, when I start uploading my essays, I get the error message, "6100 Invalid file type". These are the same word documents that uploaded fine yesterday, but now I have that problem. Is anyone else seeing this? If I can't upload my essays, I don't have anything to submit!
These types of technical problems (as opposed to, say, the site being busy) are nerve-wracking, because they apparently can appear at any time (i.e. what changed between yesterday and today that it won't accept Word documents?!?) It makes you wary to change your essays in the future; after all, you might not be able to upload the changes!
If anyone else is also getting this problem, drop me a line. I'm curious as to how widespread this is.
Last night I did another edit of the Sloan essays (now done with my 13th draft!). I found a handful of words and phrases I wanted to correct, and think I improved the overall feel of the essays a bit.
One thing I'm looking for at this late stage in the essays are word repetitions. For example, I found sentences in two adjoining paragraphs starting with the word "besides"; in one of them I replaced it with "in addition to".
While I'm on my philosophical soapbox, I'd like to bring up a point about control. Once you submit your application, you are no longer in control over it (obviously). You need to accept that you no longer have any control of it, and not worry. After all, worrying about things you can't control is really a waste of time. Furthermore, if you hope to rise to senior management and leadership positions, you'll often be faced with situations out of your control--a market going sour, war breaking out in some client country, the death of a close colleague. Your ability to handle them without freaking out (for lack of a better word) will go a long way towards determining who great a leader you are.
What, Me Worry?
How am I taking the Wharton wait? Honestly, I'm not worried. I would say I'm excited, and yes, I do check my inbox several times a day, but I don't feel panicked or worried about it. Of all my applications, I feel my Wharton app came together the best. And obviously I think I have the skills, experience, and qualities needed to succeed in a school like Wharton (otherwise why the heck would I be applying there?). So put those two together, and I feel confident I'll get the invite, and thus don't worry about it.
Of course, if I don't get the invite I'll be disappointed and then worried for my other applications. But I'll roll with the punches, launch my second volley of applications, and press on.
Reviewed my Sloan essays over lunch. As expected, there were very few chanes except for essay #1, which I reworked extensively this morning. Still, everything looks good. In all honesty I could submit by tonight, although I will wait for my friend's review (tomorrow night) before doing so (after all, what if he uncovers a major problem?).
One habit I've gotten into, when uploading Word documents to an online app, is to delete the previous versions of the apps first before uploading the new ones. I do this to ensure that I don't accidentally skip over an essay and also to make sure that the version I want is in the app.
Posted 12:08 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84369281:
I don't want to dwell on the Wharton loan policy changes, since, frankly, they bore me, but I'd like to point out that the number of people we're talking about here is very small. According to Wharton's website, this year's entering class had 812 people, 36% (roughly 292 people) of which were internationals. If the new loan policy decreases the international percentage to, say, 30%, that means only 48 fewer international students at Wharton. 48.
It's something to keep in mind when contemplating their changes. Is the financial stability of the Wharton School worth having 48 more students with non-US backgrounds?
Oh, Sloan #1 is much, much better. I chopped out the job experience stuff, and still had a 500 word essay. I then put in some extra paragraphs about "why" (you know, explaining my thought process and actions and all) and now it is a nice mid-sized essay. Perhaps I should coin my "Phrase of the Week": "When in doubt, simplify."
This essay is great because it:
1) Introduces an activity of mine that is pretty unique
2) Delves deep into my motivations, and shows a lot of self-reflection
3) Touches a bit upon leadership
4) Starts out with a freakin' awesome opening paragraph
5) Closes with a freakin' awesome closing paragraph
6) Is much simpler and focused than the previous drafts
I'll print it out and give it a review later today. Alas, with the Sloan deadline only a little more than 48 hours away, I don't have much room for error, but I think this essay is worth it.
I've reviewed my Sloan materials again. The good news is that the cover letter and essay #2 needed almost no changes, and essays #3 and #4 had only a handful of problems that were easy to correct (incidentally, I read #3 and #4 first this time, and it indeed turned up more problems than before).
The bad news is about essay #1. I'm going to have to rewrite large parts of it. Though inserting a few paragraphs did help some, I realize that the core problem is that I am trying to talk about two separate experiences in th essay, which is preventing me from going into sufficient depth on either of them. I start out talking about a creative (non-work) experience, and then try to tie that over to a work situation that I solved creatively. This is a good approach, I think, if I had a smaller word limit (which would prevent a lot of depth on either front) or a larger word limit (as I could go into depth on both), but it is not working for this essay. I am going to cut out the work experience parts and focus solely on the why and how of the extracurricular experience. I think it is interesting and impressive enough to warrant the space, and will help differentiate me.
Talking to friends always helps you to keep your priorities in line. This weekend I had a great talk with someone I'm close to, and it reminded me why I am only applying to schools in large cities. I can't go into the details (it's private), but suffice to say I came away realizing that, no matter how good the program, I would not feel comfortable at Tuck, Cornell, Yale, Darden, or any of the schools in smaller towns that I've been looking at for R2. As things move forward, I'm going to keep an open mind and an eye on the big-city round 2 schools (Kellogg, Columbia, Anderson, Marshall, and Haas, by my count).
One thing I noticed in doing this latest review of my Sloan application is that I tend to have more corrections earlier on, in the cover letter and first two essays. I am afraid that as I get to the third and fourth essays, I am getting tired and only skimming the text. Tomorrow when I review the essays again, I'll go through them backwards to make sure this isn't the case.
For all the Chicago applicants who struggled with essay C (the "distinguished alumni speech"), this article(free registration required) in the newest issue of the ChiBus newspaper describes this year's awards (and no, the speeches weren't given to the graduating class).
"On October 11, 2002, the Office of Alumni Affairs and Special Events hosted its 7th Annual Alumni Celebration at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel...The evening included the presentation of the Distinguished Alumnus Awards...
The Distinguished Alumnus Award was created in 1971 to recognize the consistent, long-term career accomplishments, extraordinary vision, and outstanding leadership demonstrated by the alumni of Chicago GSB..."
If you're worried about your chances of getting into Wharton, do not, under any circumstances, go to this thread (the "dinged" thread from last year). It will put a nice, icy ball in the pit of your stomach...
The latest issue of the Wharton Journal has an opinion piece on the recent loan policy changes for international students, for those of you interested. The headline is "Wharton Loan Changes, a Great Leap Backwards", so you can guess what the writer's take is...
What do I do to keep my mind of the applications in review? Well, for starters I'm working on finishing up the Sloan application. I'm also starting to research schools for R2, as a fallback option (I'm not going to be one of these people who doesn't get into their top choice so they mope around for a year and then reapply). And this morning I caught an early showing of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding".
Overall, it was a truly enjoyable movie. It starts out more touching than funny, but gets funnier as it goes along. Though afterwords I had some questions about some of the characters' motivations, I still felt happy after seeing it. This movie was first released in April to little fanfare, and has stuck around in the theaters relying only one word-of-mouth. If you want a pleasant, fun two hours to take your mind off things, it is the move to see!
Maybe it's just me, but I'd feel embarassed to write on the Wharton S2S board:
"I am a R1 applicant for India, and have not heard reg an interview yet. Just getting impatient, and would like to the status of interview invitations."
or "Invitations are sent daily INCLUDING weekends..? !! or only on working days..?"
We're not children here! Wharton has been very upfront about when interview invitations are going out, when the deadline is, etc. What kind of answer do you expect the AdComms to give, "Okay, okay, since I've been asked for the fiftieth time, I can tell you that your interview invitation is going out on Wednesday. There, satisfied?"
If these guys can't stand two weeks of waiting for news, how do they possibly hope to succeed in business? Maybe they should take this as an opportunity to learn "patience" skills...
Posted 10:36 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84317285:
Really, What Are My Chances? So, on the low-down, what do I think my chances are of getting into my five Round 1 schools? In my heart-of-hearts, am I really that confident (hint:
Remembering that schools are judging applications, not applicants, here is how I rate my chances with the five schools, from best to worst:
Sloan - Very good. I think my background, my goals, my stats, and my essays all really fit well with this school. A lot will rest on
the interview. Top worry? Not much...a so-so essay #3?.
Wharton - Good. I think Wharton is an excellent school and a tough one to get into, but I really "got" the essay topics. I felt that, though not flashy, my Wharton essays were my strongest all-around set, from #1 to #4. Top worry? Whether they accept my plans for career change?
Chicago - Good. Again, I think I have a very good fit with this school, and by interviewing very early (two months ago) I showed my interest. Top worry? Did I convey enough passion in my (early) interview? And, although I'm satisfied with my essays, they just didn't click as well as the other four schools'.
HBS - Moderately good. I think that, with a lot of hard work, I created a nice set of essays that showed leadership and vision. Top worry? That I don't have enough extracurricular leadership (as opposed to job leadership).
Stanford - So-so. I gave this application my best shot and produced the best essays I possibly could. I just think it's very tough to get
into this school. Top worry? Not "extraordinary" enough a story.
So that's what I see when I gaze into my crystal ball. In the end, I feel comfortable that in each of the applications I have submitted so far, I gave it my best shot, put together the best essays I could, and have no regrets. Let's just hope that the AdComms think the same.
Posted 10:21 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84316861:
I did have a little bit of trouble uploading the essays to the Sloan app. For one essay, after I clicked "Upload" there was a pause, and then a box saying something like, "Converter is busy now, try again later" popped up. I immediately tried again and it worked. Still, I can't help but take it as a harbringer for bad things to come; if their servers are so busy now, three days before the deadline, how busy will they be on Wednesday?
Posted 10:18 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #84316755:
Okay, I wrapped up my Sloan ninth drafts. Essay #1 is now longer (approaching the 800 word limit) and hopefully clearer. Essay #2-4 required very few changes yesterday. I did rewrite a few sentences in the cover letter, but nothing major. I've uploaded these drafts to the online app and will re-re-read them later today.
After a second night of really great sleep, I turn back to my Sloan application, specifically essay #1. I'll throw in two "why I did the creative stuff" paragraphs, wrapping up the ninth drafts of my essays.