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
BTW, I set up a free account on BlogHop.com. What is BlogHop.com, you ask? Basically it keeps track of how much readers enjoy a particular site. By simply clicking on one of the rating numbers (to the left under the message board, or below) you can rate this site, from 5 (best) to 1 (worst).
In a free moment, I was pondering the emotional weight the Wharton decision engenders simply because it comes so early (putting aside, for a moment, the quality of the program there). If I'm dinged by Wharton, it guarantees four weeks of furiously working on new applications and fighting to not worry about my other R1 apps. Put it this way: Maybe come January HBS, Stanford, Sloan, and Chicago will all accept me, but if I'm dinged by Wharton I'd still have a month of misery to endure.
Conversely, if I can only imagine the waves of relief, excitement, and happiness that will sweep over me should I be accepted by Wharton. At that point, the work and stress of other apps drops away, and all my other R1 apps are icing on the cake. Christmas and New Years will be one big party.
I just had a kabuki-like year end review. "Bizarre" just about sums it up. As my manager spoke about how he'd like to see me move a little bit more in one direction, all I could think about was how I was going to move in the complete opposite direction eight months from now (yes, I am assuming that I'll get into some business school). I really like working for my current manager, and feel bad for leading him on, but with year-end bonus money at stake (plus the fact I haven't actually been accepted anywhere yet) it would be pretty damn stupid to clue him in now.
BTW, in a sense the time I spent working on my applications did slightly impact my review. The only negative my boss brought up was that during the lulls in my main project I wasn't more proactive about finding other work. I had to keep from bursting out, "That's 'cause I was busy writing my essays!" with a chuckle.
I didn't take any photos inside the HBS buildings because, well, I would feel like a dork doing so. I guess I saw the inside of Aldrich, which house many classrooms, and Spangler, which has a huge, gorgeous study room (with comfy sofas and working fireplaces). My general take on the buildings/architecture of HBS is that it is a little less "classical" than the main Harvard campus across the river (as would be expected), but that most of the buildings look very well kept up and feel "new".
Friday Deadline Countdown * 13 days left until the Wharton Round 1 decisions
* 31 days left until the Yale Round 2 deadline
* 35 days left until the Kellogg Round 2 deadline
* 40 days left until the Chicago Round 1 decisions
* 47 days left until the HBS Round 1 decisions
* 47 days left until the Stanford Round 1 decisions
* 55 days left until the Anderson Round 3 deadline
* 56 days left until the Haas Round 3 deadline
* 70 days left until the MIT Sloan Round 1 decisions
My status: * HBS - Submitted for Round 1
* Wharton - Submitted for Round 1; Interviewed
* Stanford - Submitted for Round 1
* Chicago - Submitted for Round 1; Interviewed
* Sloan - Submitted for Round 1
* Kellogg - [Should have] started essays
I'm gonna be snarled with this project work through next Wednesday; hopefully I'll be able to jump-start my Kellogg efforts then.
Posted 10:37 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #90251370:
I've created a new photo album in my MSN Group full of shots of the HBS campus. They roughly follow the path from the bridge to Cambridge, through the campus, to Spangler. Click on the image below to go to the full photo album.
All my native Boston colleagues have gone home to avoid the snow, so I am left with some free time in the office. Thus, I can now recount my...
HBS Class Visit Since I knew I was going to be in Boston this week, I created a hole in my schedule large enough to fit a HBS class visit into. I'm really good I did, because it gave me the opportunity to 1) talk to some HBS students, 2) see the "case method" in action, and 3) compare the experience to the Wharton class I attended a few weeks ago.
First, the logistics: HBS is about 15 to 20 minutes (without traffic) from downtown Boston by cab (meaning a $17-$20 fare). The cab should drop you off near the "Soldiers Field" dormitories, which is only a minute's walk from Dillon House where the AdComm office is. If you've signed up for a class visit in advance, they will have a sheet waiting for you with the course name and the student who will pick you up to go.
My Class I attended the first-year course LEAD ("Leadership and Organizational Behavior"). The case method goes pretty much as it's advertised; the professor cold-calls students to introduce the case of the day, and then moderates (that's the best way to describe it) a conversation/debate among the students that follows.
I was generally impressed by the discussion and the quality of the student contributions. None of the students came across as snobbish or arrogant; there was a real diversity of opinion and very little "showboating". Because the class was a 80 or 90 people and the professor intentionally tried to give everyone the chance to speak, there was little opportunity for one person to dominate the discussion--at most a student could only talk three or four times during the 80 minute class.
My Impressions I think it's really important for everyone applying to HBS to sit in on a class. If you do not enjoy talking in front of groups or arguing your point in a free-wheeling debate, I don't think you'll fit there. I'm sure there are many applicants who feel that way but apply anyway because of the HBS brand, but I believe (and would hope, if I were a student there) that the interview process weeds these applicants out. The case method is completely dependent on having student bodies willing to "join the fray".
I enjoy speaking in front of groups and have strong opinions on many things, so I found the class both invigorating and frustrating--after all, as a guest I couldn't participate in the debate. I definitely could see myself feeling revved up as class started each day.
The downside for me personally, however, is that I still wonder about how well I could pick up the financial fundamentals I'd need to affect a career switch. Talking to students, the answer was boiled down to, "You'll learn much of the fundamentals from fellow students, classroom debate, and, as a last resort, there's a textbook to fall back on."
It would have been nice to attend a class before submitting my application, but in all honesty I'm not sure how much of it would have changed. I guess I could have shared my personal reaction to the case method, but...I think I touched upon that anyway.
Other Notes A few other miscellaneous items:
1) As everyone knows, HBS classes are divided into "sections" of 80-90 students. What I didn't realize was that, in the first year, each section remains in the same classroom for all of its classes. I think this is a good idea and further enforces the section-cohesion there.
2) A student mentioned that (at least last year), when you're invited to an interview (outside of Boston) you're told a date and time, but you can always switch to have an interview on-campus (at the same date and time). I'm not sure if it's the same this year.
3) The campus feels a bit quieter than Wharton's. I think that's because it has a river on one side, is further from downtown, and seems to be physically separated from the surrounding city by slightly more space.
4) The campus/buildings themselves were all nice and well-kept looking.
5) The students there do seem less involved in admissions than at Wharton, which is not surprising.
Overall, I had a very good time and came away very hopeful that I'll get an invite. I took a bunch of photos of the campus, which should be up on this site within the next two days.
Browsing through the B-Week threads, I've come to realize that applying R1 has a hidden advantage that I've never seen mentioned. Namely, that since R1 deadlines are in mid-October to mid-November, the bulk of the application work is done in September and October--which are generally not very busy times of the work year. With the R2 deadlines in mid-December to mid-January, most people are trying to complete an application while 1) their job is busy with year-end work, 2) Thanksgiving pops up, and 3) Christmas and other year-end holidays loom (see the Wharton R2 thread for an example of this).
Of course, in theory people planning to apply R2 could start their apps back in September. But honestly, the human instinct to procrastinate would be very difficult to overcome in that situation.
This is just another reason I'm glad (in retrospect) that I pushed through all five apps for R1, and wish I had time to do the Kellogg one as well.
I just realized it is December 5th, 8:07 am EST. Exactly two weeks from today the Wharton decisions will be out. With another Boston trip, theater tickets, Christmas parties (and Christmas shopping) between now and then, I'm sure the days will fly by. Plus there's now the chance that any one (or more) of three schools could send me an invite--HBS, Stanford, and Sloan.
I think I overestimated how much MBA application work I could reasonably get done on a business trip. I'm literally in the office here in Boston from 7:00 am until close to midnight, and the tough thing is that I'm in a small room with two other colleagues who would surely notice if I had a b-school application sitting out on the desk (the only reason I have time to type this is that I'm an early riser and got into the office before everyone else). I think the most I can hope to have done by December 19th is a good set of first drafts for Kellogg; if Wharton dings me, I'll really have to kick things into high gear.
At dinner last night with two of my close colleagues, the discussion turned to MBA programs and business school in general. Since I'm really good friends with them, I felt bad having to feign ignorance of the subject--but it was the prudent thing to do (what with year-end bonus figures still under consideration). Sigh.
I had planned to walk around Sloan this morning, but it was just too damn cold out so I gave that up. I might be in Boston next week as well, so that would give me another chance. That would be great to set up a Sloan class visit, but my impression from their (generally useless) website is that they want you to do a whole morning or whole afternoon with them, which I can't commit to. Plus I have a huge work deadline next Wednesday, so I'm not sure I'll be able to get away anyway.
If I am going to move forward on Michigan, there are a few details I need to take care of ASAP:
1) Transcript. Considering how busy this time of year is, the sooner I get this the better. Since my undergrad transcript only costs a couple of bucks, I've sent off the request today (note: MBS provides a transcript request form to fill out).
2) GMAT score. This is much less important and more expensive ($25). I filled out the score report request form, and can let it wait until December 19th (I'll fax it then if I don't get into Wharton).
3) Interview. MBS, like Kellogg and Chicago, strongly suggests interviewing beforehand. In fact, they are more strict about applicants completing the interviews before the app deadline. Because of this strictness, I might go ahead and schedule an interview for early January, so that I could back out if need be.
4) Viewbook. MBS requests a couple of other small items like labels and postcards, that come with its viewbook. I requested a viewbook yesterday, so hopefully it will arrive before Christmas. Here's what the app instructions say:
"This brochure includes a small packet of envelopes, labels and acknowledgement cards that will be used to process your application. Please complete the yellow application arrival card and the response
cards: acknowledgement of recommendation (2). In addition, complete the adhesive file label and the return address mailing labels."
I appreciate all the comments in response to the situation with my recommender and Yale/Michigan. My initial reaction was the same most of you felt--"Well I'll be the one to decide which schools I apply to!"--but after I calmed down a bit I have come to consider his advice. Why?
1. Rankings--He has no clue how Michigan/Yale are ranked. He based his knowledge on experience and contacts he has on Wall Street, and his own judgement. Based on my situation--someone trying to break into a specific finance field with no experience on it--he strongly feels that a Yale MBA would not help me out that much.
2. This is a person who I respect very highly and who has been a mentor to me for all my time at my current firm (for example, I can honestly say that my salary would be 20% to 30% lower had I not worked for this person). So I trust him to not intentionally try to mislead me.
3. Putting the two above points together, I have a trusted colleague giving me inside perspective on MBA programs that fit my intended career. Putting the ego aside for a minute, I take this advice very seriously.
4. After looking over the Rankings, I found that Michigan is actually ranked higher in the rankings that I hold in esteem: In BWeek, ranked #8 compared to #14 (overall) and #5 compared to "not ranked" in finance; In US News, ranked #10 compared to #13 (overall); and in the Wall Street Journal, ranked #2 compared to #8.
I guess that what I'm trying to say is that, viewed from the surface, it may seem like this recommender was being a jerk and/or trying to bully me. But knowing him as I do, I don't think that's the case, and my Michigan research is turning up more and more positive signs.
Posted 9:53 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #390251354:
More for my own records, here are the Michigan Business School essay topics:
1. What has been your most significant professional achievement? What has been your toughest professional challenge and how did you address it? (500 words)
2. Describe your post-graduation career plans. How will your education, experience, and development to date support those plans? How will an MBA from the University of Michigan Business School help you attain your goals? (500 words)
3. Describe a failure or setback in your life. How did you overcome this setback? What, if anything, would you do differently if confronted with this situation again? (500 words)
4. Answer one of the following:
* Describe an idea you've had for a new business or product or a new service line of an existing entity. (500 words)
* What's the most creative solution to a problem or situation you've ever developed? (500 words)
* What makes work fulfilling? Describe a situation where, as a team member or project leader, you have made work more interesting or enjoyable for your group. (500 words)
Plus Michigan has a couple completely optional essay topics:
5. Describe any experiences you've had that highlight the value of diversity in a business setting. (500 words)
6. If there is any other information that you believe is important to our assessment of your candidacy, feel free to add it to this page. (500 words)
I received Stanford's December MBA monthly newsletter, which features an article on the interview process. Nothing earth-shattering; the most interesting paragraph is:
"The interview is expected to be about 45 minutes in duration. Because we believe that past behavior is often a good predictor of future success, the interview focuses on actual actions rather than hypothetical situations. The primary questions revolve around behaviors, skills, and attitudes that we believe are key to good citizenship in the Stanford community and vital to high-impact leadership post-MBA. There are no trick questions. We ask you to reflect on your personal and professional experiences; what you've learned about yourself; and how best to lead people and manage situations..."
Quick reminder: Stanford has it's twice-a-month chat today from 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm PST (4:00 to 5:00 EST). For details check out http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba/connect/learn_more.html. If this Boston computer is agreeable, I might actually be able to attend one of these...
Michigan App I'm touched by how many of you offered to e-mail me the Michigan application form (in response to this post). Thanks to all of you! I have gotten it from a reader and was able to open that document.
Michigan Business School I put some of the basic data about Michigan into my "MBA Programs" spreadsheet. Included in that is its rankings by the four big MBA ranking magazines (BWeek, US News, WSJ, and the Financial Times). I was surprised to find that its median ranking was higher than higher than most of the other R2 schools I had considered--higher than Haas, Tuck, Anderson, and Yale. Why doesn't it get more publicity? I speculate that its location doesn't help--when weighing living in Berkley or Ann Arbor, not many people would go with the latter.
To be honest, I'm feeling a bit down now. Not just because of this curveball, but also I notice that the free message board and commenting systems I'm using seem to be pretty unreliable--they've been down almost all day. Few things make a website look more crappy than "Page Not Found" errors.
The Curveball I just spoke with my workhorse recommender; to my surprise, he flat-out refused my request to do a Yale recommendation (he said he would do the Kellogg one). He feels that Yale does not have a strong enough reputation in the finance field to fit my personal goals (switching to finance); and thus, he won't bother doing the rec. He's an alumni of Michigan (not the MBA program), and believes that it would be a much stronger choice than Yale for my prospective career.
This puts me in a pickle. I definitely can get my other two recommenders to do Yale recs, but (knowing his personality) the chances that my workhorse will change his mind are close to zero (and I'm sure that his recs are the best written of the three). Thus, I have a few options:
1) Try to find a new recommender to do the third Yale rec (perhaps an old professor, since that is what they ask for?). Though I know at least two or three people that I could use for recommendations, this option requiers: 1) Letting them in on the secret that I'm applying; 2) Getting them up to speed on my goals, plans, etc.; 3) Getting them to write the rec over the next five weeks. That's a lot of work for a round 2 school, especially since I need to be doing some essays right now.
2) Put Yale aside and apply to Haas or Anderson for round 2 (in addition to Kellogg). Both of these schools have the benefit of only requiring two recs, and thus I could easily get my other two recommenders to do them.
3) Only apply to Kellogg round 2 (since my workhorse agreed to do the rec).
4) Apply to Michigan round 2, so that I could get my workhorse to do one of the (two) recs.
At this moment, I am a bit flustered and need to contemplate this decision. I probably need to do some research into Michigan--for whatever reason, I never really seriously considered it as a possibility. Does it really have that strong a rep on Wall Street? Is its alumni network really that strong? How does it stack up to Haas or Yale? Comments welcome...
Posted 3:19 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #390251348:
The Big Three Weeks Based on nothing other than the calendar and my common sense, I think that the next three weeks (today through Friday, December 20) will see the bulk of the HBS and Stanford invites go out (I'd guess 40-50% of them). It just makes sense--the schools were just ramping up invitations pre-Thanksgiving, and now they'll want to get the majority of them done before the year-end holidays. It's going to be prime Inbox-refreshing time. Very exciting! And of course we have the Wharton decision (at 8:00 am EST on December 19th) to cap off all the excitement.
A helpful reader e-mailed the link to a March Yale alumni magazine article about the School of Management. The article describes SOM's fairly short and somewhat troubled history, and how it has climbed so rapidly in the rankings since the mid-'90s. One line that caught my interest:
"Alumni giving -- a measure of satisfaction with the product -- is up from a mere 11 percent at the start of Garten's tenure to 54 percent at present (among major business schools, only Tuck at Dartmouth ranks higher)."
The Week Ahead... Is going to be a light one, posting-wise. My Boston trip is a go, meaning I will be fairly busy on work and have fewer oppotunities to post (especially outside of work hours). On the plus side, I might be able to use a breakfast or lunch hour to visit the HBS and/or Sloan campuses, and if so I'll be sure to take some photos to add to the ones of Wharton.
On the second round application front, I really have to (at a bare minimum) come up with detailed outlines for every single Kellogg and Yale essay, and hopefully get done with solid first drafts. I'll also need to talk to my three recommenders and get their go-ahead for another round of recommendations (though it should only mean cutting-and-pasting for them). Plus I guess I have a ton of Christmas shopping to do.
Stack all that up, plus the usual end-of-the-year parties, and I'm sure December 19th will be here in no time. Heck, right now I feel too busy to even think about Wharton.
Posted 3:18 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #390251343:
Sometimes I wonder if I should have applied to Yale instead of Stanford in Round 1. It's not that I think that Yale is that much of a better school than Stanford, it's more that I have a stronger sense of what it's like and the "fit" there. In retrospect, I applied to Stanford because it has an all-around great reputation, is very hard to get into, and a couple people around me encouraged me to. I'm applying to Yale because I like its focus, it seems a good fit for my background and plans, and has a good finance department. Given those descriptions, Yale seems like a better choice (for me), doesn't it?
BTW, I did receive the Haas brochure in the mail yesterday. I've complained about how long it took, so I thought it was only fair to announce when it arrived. It seems pretty dense with information, too.