MBA Admissions Wire by "Tad Holbie"

"Tad Holbie's" weblog of his 2002-03 business school application experience.
Home | Tad's Applications | Archives | Site Info | Disclaimers | Epilogue
Useful Links
Applicant Weblogs
* League of MBA Bloggers - best resource for listing all MBA blogs.
* Modz (Anderson-bound)
* Thibault (Kellogg-bound)
* Michael (Wharton-bound)
Currently Reading:
Liar's Poker
Liar's Poker: Rising Through the Wreckage on Wall Street

Bond Market
How the Bond Market Works

MBA Prep Books I Used:
How To Get Into the Top MBA Programs

Kaplan GMAT 2003

Kaplan 800
Kaplan GMAT 800
Message Boards & Chat Rooms
* Business Week Forum
* Wharton S2S Message Board
* Wharton S2S Chat Room
* scheduled chats
* Business Week 2003 Rankings (free registration required)
* Financial Times 2003 Rankings (PDF)
* US News & World Report 2003 Rankings
* Wall Street Journal 2003 Rankings
* Forbes Magazine 2001 Rankings
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* Blogger - Publishing tools
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* MSN - Groups
* SiteMeter - Traffic monitoring
* SurveyMonkey - Web surveys
* HaloScan - Commenting system
* Tag-Board - Message board
* ZonkBoard - Message board (old)
* BlogHop - Weblog rating system
* FreeFind - Free website search engine
* WhoIS - IP/Domain Lookup
My Applications
Status: Admitted in R2!
* Homepage
* Ambasador Program
* M-Track Message Board
* Monroe Street Journal newspaper
* University of Michigan Merchandise
* UMBSA FAQ about life in Ann Arbor
* Ann Arbor Weather
My posts:
* List of essay topics
* Outlining the essays
* My alumni interview
* UMBS/Ann Arbor photos:
Image not available
(Click to enter my UMBS photo album)
Chicago GSB
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions after interview
* Homepage
* ChiBus newspaper
My posts:
* My alumni interview
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2, 3, 4
* Posts on essay B: 1, 2
* Dinged!
* Chicago photos:
(Click to enter my Chicago photo album)
Status: Denied Admissions after Interview
* Homepage
* Online Status Check
* Finance Dept. homepage
* The Bottom Line Newspaper
* Columbia Merchandise
* Adrian Hind, student weblog
* New York weather
My posts:
* Info session summary
* My second campus visit
* List of essay topics
* Outlining the essays
* Posts on essay #1: 1
* Posts on essay #2: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #3: 1
* My alumni interview
* Columbia photos:
(Click to enter my Columbia photo album)
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions
* Homepage
* HarBus newspaper
* Adam Medros, student weblog
My posts:
* Info session summary
* Recommendation e-mail
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2, 3, 4
* Essay word counts
* Posts on essay #3 and #4: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
* Posts on essay #6: 1, 2, 3
* Photos from campus
* Class visit experience
* Dinged!
* HBS photos:
(Click to enter my HBS photo album)
Status: Denied admissions after waitlist
* Homepage
* Online Status Check
* 2002-03 Calendar
* Kellogg Merger newspaper
* Professor McGee's Musings
* Northwestern University Merchandise
* Evanston weather
My posts:
* 2002 Waitlist Wrapup
* List of essay topics
* Starting the Kellogg app
* Outlining the essays
* Posts on essay #1: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #2: 1
* Posts on essay #3: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #4: 1
* Reviewing my essays
* My alumni interview
* Notes on my second campus visit
* Northwestern/Kellogg photos:
(Click to enter my August Kellogg photo album)
(Click to enter my April Kellogg photo album)
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied admissions after interview.
* Homepage
* Sloan Management Review
* 2002 Employment Report (PDF)
My posts:
* Info session summary
* Links to Sloan's tracks
* Note the mail-in items
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2
* Cover letter: 1, 2
* Post on essay #1
* Post on essay #3
* My interview experience
* MIT/Sloan photos:
(Click to enter my Sloan photo album)
Stanford GSB
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions
* Homepage
* Stanford Reporter newspaper
My posts:
* Online recommender setup
* Posts on essay A: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
* Posts on essay B: 1
* Dinged!
Status: Submitted for R1; Denied Admissions after interview
* Homepage
* Student2Student message board
* Wharton Journal newspaper
* Laura Bennett, student diary
* Student Diaries
My posts:
* Info session summary
* Approach/status of essays: 1, 2, 3, 4
* Posts on essay #1: 1, 2
* Posts on essay #4: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
* Photos from campus
* The interview experience
* Dinged!
* Wharton photos:
(Click to enter my Wharton photo album)
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06/01/2002 - 06/07/2003
06/08/2002 - 06/14/2003
06/15/2002 - 06/21/2003
06/22/2002 - 06/28/2003
06/29/2002 - 07/05/2003
Taken: Once, in 2002
Score: 760+
Advice: Get it over with quickly, aim for 670+
* Thoughts on the GMAT: 1, 2, 3
Advice: Ask them at least 2 months in advance
* Initial thoughts
* On delays: 1, 2
Advice: Develop an overall message. Write outlines. Revise many times. Have a friend proofread. Be honest. Answer what is asked.
* My initial thoughts
* Don't write what you think they want to hear
* My process
Advice: Know yourself. Review your application, answers to common questions.
* AdComm or Alum?
* My list of prep questions
Application Process
Advice: Start early. Give yourself at least two months to finish your first application.
* The "bible" of MBA application's, Montauk's How to Get Into the Top MBA Programs
* Tips on where to start
* Living the double life
* Dealing with disappointment
Financial Aid
Advice: Start early, even before getting accepted anywhere. Americans should fill-out and submit their FAFSA forms as soon as they have 2002 financial/tax info.
* Department of Education FAFSA Website
* Request a PIN for the FAFSA
* List of documents needed to complete the FAFSA form
* FAFSA School Code Lookup
* Legal Disclaimer
Site Info
Started: August 28, 2002
Creator: "Tad Holbie"
Daily Traffic:

Emails Received: 909 (as of 6/26/03)
Rate this site:
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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 and after a free registration you can have your own Weblog too! Even better, they offer free hosting on their server!
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 (and no, that isn't my real name).
About Interviews: 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".
Privacy Policy: 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
Posting Policy: 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 start here.

Friday, May 02, 2003

Posted 4:23 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200234773:

FYI - For rejected candidates, Michigan does offer application feedback appointments (unlike some schools, the sign-up--starting May 15th--is online).

Posted 3:18 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200234406:

One thing that drew me to Michigan (and Northwestern as well) was the breadth of their programs. Both seemed really strong in so many different fields.

With a little bit of free time on my hands at work, I decided to see if there were any numbers that backed this up, ala a Program Breadth Ranking. I went through the online US News & World Report 2003 specialty rankings, and put one together.

Here's the methodology I used to calculate this:
1) I took the US News specialty rankings for Finance, Entrepreneurship, Quantitative Analysis, Production/Operations, Information Systems, Marketing, Management, International Business, and Accounting (i.e. all the specialities).
2) For any school ranked in five (or more) of the nine fields, I took the average of those rankings.
3) I then put together a list of those schools, in order of their average specialty ranking.

Here are the results, with the average specialty rankings to the right of each school:

Program Breadth Rankings
1	University of Pennsylvania (Wharton)	3.2

2 Stanford University (CA) 5.7
3 University of Michigan–Ann Arbor 7.6
4 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Sloan) 8.7
5 Columbia University (NY) 8.8
6 Northwestern University (Kellogg) (IL) 8.9
7 Carnegie Mellon University (PA) 9.4
8 Harvard University (MA) 9.9
9 University of Chicago 10.1
10 University of California–Berkeley (Haas) 10.7
11 University of Texas–Austin (McCombs) 11.3
12 New York University (Stern) 11.6
13 University of California–Los Angeles (Anderson) 12.4
14 University of Southern California (Marshall) 13.7
15 Indiana University–Bloomington (Kelley) 14.6
16 Duke University (Fuqua) (NC) 15.2
17 University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill (Kenan-Flagler) 15.3
18 Dartmouth College (Tuck) (NH) 15.8
19 Cornell University (Johnson) (NY) 17.7
20 University of Virginia (Darden) 18.5
21 Ohio State University (Fisher) 20.0
22 Michigan State University (Broad) 22.4

Of course, I'm happy to see that Michigan is right up there at the top. Not surprising, since it ranks in the top ten in seven specialities.

To me, the surprises were:
MIT and Columbia - Applicants think of these schools as "Tech" and "Finance", respectively, but the numbers reveal them to be much broader programs than that.
Tuck - I was surprised by its numbers. It was only mentioned in five specialty rankings, and only once in the top ten (in management).
Yale - Didn't even make the final cut, with only two specialty rankings (#17 in both finance and management).

I should include the proviso: these numbers are come solely from the US News specialty rankings, which in turn are "based solely on ratings by educators at peer schools. Business school deans and program heads were asked to nominate up to 10 programs for excellence in each of the areas listed. The 10 schools receiving the most votes appear."

Still, it's interesting to see for which schools their peer evaluations match the evaluation of the applicant marketplace, and for which schools they do not.

(I'll post the Excel spreadsheet with all the numbers in my MSN group over the next few days.)

Posted 8:21 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200231688:

In case there are any Wharton R3 or WL applicants stopping by, please note that the R3 notification date has been moved up a week.

Thursday, May 01, 2003
Posted 5:13 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200229493:

Another MBA Blog
Oxford@MOOTCorp: "Oxford's MBA Adventech team at the Superbowl of all Business Plan Competitions"

Posted 2:26 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200228594:

A savvy (and very dedicated) reader reminded me of my post on November 15, at 4:33 pm:
"...This will continue until I reveal my true identity on May 1, 2003."

I knew there was a downside to keeping archives. ;-)

No, I don't plan to reveal my identity today; to be honest, I sort of forgot all about that post. To be blunt, I'm still of many minds about all this, but am leaning towards leaving this site anonymous. Anyway, until I'm 100% sure that I want my name out there, I'm going to err on the side of caution and remain,
Forever yours,
"Tad Holbie".

Posted 1:45 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200228333:

Wharton Feedback Sign-Ups
The Wharton phone lines are jammed today with people trying to sign up for feedback sessions (Wharton even hired extra operators to handle the load). If you want to get application feedback, the sooner you call the better--from the S2S board it looks like they've already filled the late-May slots and are moving through mid-June. It took me a couple hours of calling up every five or ten minutes before I got through to arrange my time.

There seem to be two numbers floating around; both are equally busy:
215-898-3430 (recommended by Alex)

Posted 9:40 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200226840:

MBA and Wall Street Trading
As many of you by now know, I'm most interested in pursuing a trading career on Wall Street. The pay is great, the days are exciting and intense, the hours are short (by WS standards), and the travel is limited. But many of you have raised the valid question, "Does one really need an MBA to break into trading?" The answer is "no", so I'd like to give a little bit more detail as to why an MBA was the right choice for me.

A little over a year ago I had figured out that I wasn't interested in, or stimulated by, my current career path. With only a few years of experience out of school under my belt, I was still young enough to move into a trading desk analyst* position, and so I decided to pursue this avenue. Through various means, I arranged a series of interviews for an analyst position at a bulge bracket investment bank, with its CP** trading desk. The interviews went fine--basically, anyone willing to work hard, that knew Excel, and that was smart could have handled the analyst role--and things were getting serious. As things moved along, I had a nice long conversation with the head of the desk***, which ended with him giving me this advice:

"Look, you're obviously qualified for the position, so I want you to understand the career path it involves. It's a three year analyst program, like most on Wall Street, and we expect you to stay for three years. After that, you'll probably go to get an MBA." He then went on to comment on my current salary and explain the salary structure for the analyst program. I told him I'd think about it and get back to him.

I'll be blunt: the first year analyst base salary was about 60% of what I was making at the time, and considering how rocky business was, the bonus wasn't going to be great either. It would only by the third year as an analyst that I would have matched my salary at the time, if I was lucky.

So I was faced with the following options:

1. Become a Trading Desk Analyst
I would spend the next two years scrimping by on a seriously reduced salary. Then, just as my salary was returning to its current state, I would probably**** have to go to business school, foregoing another two years of salary. Thus, the following five years (2002-2007) would have meant two years without salary, two years with reduced salary, and one year with "normal" salary.

2. Apply to Business School Right Away
I would spend 2002-2003 in my current "career", earning the same salary. I would be in business school the next two years, and then return to Wall Street at the associate pay level (i.e. basically the same as what I make now). Thus, the 2002-2007 period would include three years of "normal" salary and two years without.

Thus, looking at the business school decision from a strictly financial perspective, applying this year made much more sense. In addition, it was a safer move, since first-year analysts are typically the first to be cut during downsizings. Furthermore, it gives me the most flexibility in terms of careers--next summer I'll (hopefully) be in a trading internship program, in which I'll be able to rotate through several desks to get a feel for what I like and dislike. Finally, there's all the intangibles of it--having a higher degree (which I continue to believe is smart in the long run), taking a rest from the working world, making new friends, seeing new places, learning about marketing and management and strategy and all the stuff I didn't get as an undergrad.

So, in conclusion, although an MBA is not required for the career path I'm most interested in, it made perfect sense for me. Now you know the rest of the story...good day!

* Basically, people hired right out of a Bachelor's program are called "analysts", wheras MBA hires are "associates". These terms might differ from bank to bank.
** CP = Commercial Paper, i.e. short-term corporate loans. Not the most glamorous trading desk, but a foot in the door, at least.
*** A really nice guy. Don't believe the stories that all, or even most, Wall Street traders are high-strung assholes. Not true.
**** It is true that, unlike Investment Banking, trading does not require an MBA. Some traders go straight from being a third year analyst to a first year associate. However, to do so you usually have to want to stay in the same product area or find someone willing to take you over an MBA hire, and both seemed very limiting to me (I mean, how was I to know if I liked CP trading?)

Posted 9:07 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200226672:

Cross-Cultural Understanding
It's funny, my "Bloggers of the world, unite" slogan yesterday was more appropos than first apparent, seeing as how today is May Day. Now, for my non-American readers who are coming here to study, I should let you know that we don't have a May Day holiday, so don't "celebrate" it in the way our European friends do. I can't say exactly why, but maybe it has something to do with the tens of millions people killed by communist governments over the past century (with North "Two Meals A Day Is Sufficient" Korea still going strong!) that put a damper on our fiesta spirit.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Posted 2:06 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200221744:

MBA Bloggers of the world, unite!
Or something like that. "Russell" has started a "League of MBA Bloggers" site, which is a cool moniker for what is otherwise just a directory of b-school themed weblogs. The name is a bit evocative of comic books (Justice League of America versus League of MBA Bloggers?), an analogy which is begging to be pushed into absurdity: Adam as Superman (he got admitted to both Sloan and HBS), Michael as Batman (since he works in the legal field, i.e. fighting crime), etc., etc., just so long as I'm not aquaman. The only thing the site needs now is a cool logo or emblem...

Incidentally, through the site I came across "Un Film Snob Pour Martiens" (BabelFish translation: "A Film Snob for Martians"...don't ask me, it's a European thing), written by "Lucky Goldstar". All I can think is: why didn't I come up with such a cool-sounding pseudonym?

Posted 8:24 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200220902:

What am I missing here? I do a quick Yahoo search for "university of michigan" and it doesn't find...the University of Michigan?!? Thankfully, Google doesn't have the same problem.

Posted 7:28 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200209501:

As soon as the Michigan decision is final/official, I'm going to start putting this site into wrap-up mode. I'll be writing less and less about attending MBS in particular (i.e. the present and future), and instead be analyzing and summarizing my admission experience (the past).

Over the next few weeks I'll hopefully be getting feedback from some of the other schools, which I'll share on this site. I really want to get to the bottom of why I was dinged, in an effort to help future applicants avoid my mistakes. I'll probably publish snippets of my essays, as illustrations of what worked and what didn't (I don't plan to publish any full essay, though).

Then, sometime in July or August, I'll post a master index for the site, a final note, and that will be that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Posted 5:08 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200218166:

This is a first: reports (see here, here, and here) from last week's Yale admit weekend say that professor(s) spent time disparaging other business schools (i.e. "talking trash"), including Michigan. One word: classy!

Update: I want to clarify my remarks on this, based on some of the feedback in the comments section.

I have no problem with competition, and think its great. Schools should be competitive with one another.

However (and I think this is true in general about American society), it is very possible to be competitive and classy, to be competitve and have etiquette. Let's say that, a few years down the road, I (as an alum) are with a Michigan professor on a recruiting trip, and a prospective student walks up to say that he's been admitted to Michigan and MIT (to take a school as an example), and ask why he should choose Michigan (naturally, I would then immediately point to MBS' #1 rankings in BWeek and USNews and be done with it, but that's neither here nor there).

Scenario A:
The Michigan professor I'm with says, "MIT? Come on, that place is full of nerds, they have no finance classes, and Kendall Square is as dull as cardboard."

Scenario B:
The Michigan professor says, "Congratulations, both are great programs. Where I think Michigan stands out is its strength in all business fields, from finance to management to marketing. In addition, you'll have access to world-class Law courses, the School of Social Work, and other great departments."

Both answers are competitive, comparing Michigan favorably to MIT. One is tasteful/classy, the other is not. I would be mortified to hear a Michigan staff member disparage another program in my presence.

Does this mean that professors can't comment on other schools? Yep, pretty much. Outside of off-the-cuff jokes or lighthearted comments, there's no classy way for an employee of one school to disparage another. Sorry.

What about students of one program commenting on another? Since students are customers of schools rather than employees, they have a bit more leeway in terms of attacking other programs. Just a bit, thought. It's still embarassing to hear a student of one program rip into another.

Anyway, this isn't a big deal--I could care less what Yale professors say about other programs. I am just surprised that they would make those remarks in a public gathering--and know I would have been mortified if a MBS professor did the same in my presence.

Posted 1:27 PM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200217022:

Free Ice Cream for one and all!
Ben and Jerry's offers free ice cream this afternoon (thanks to Jenny for pointing this out).


Monday, April 28, 2003
Posted 7:51 AM EST by Tad Holbie, Post #200209471:

No matter what my Autumn plans turn out to be (and it's looking more and more certain--knock on wood--that I'll be able to head to Michigan), I need a vacation this summer. And I don't mean no "rush from site to site" vacation, I mean a "lay on the beach, melt into the sand, float in the pool with a screwdriver in hand" vacation (hey...that's a pretty cool rhyme). I feel like I've been holding my breath since November, and am just finally beginning to exhale. It'll be nice to recharge the batteries before school life kicks off.


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