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
Over the past ten months (8/2002 - 6/2003), I have maintained this detailed weblog of my business school application experiences, under the pseudonym "Tad Holbie". Having been admitted to the University of Michigan Business School, my application process is complete, and so this is the final posting to this site. I hope that my story can help those of you who are in the process of applying to business school, by providing a sense of the process, timing, and difficulties involved.
Quick Guide to the Site To the left is a directory of internal and external links, grouped under "Advice/Thoughts", "Useful Links", "My Applications", "Site Info", and "Archives". The content I wrote--namely the thousands of timestamped entries--appear in this main pane under the "Commentary" heading.
Hot Topics There are a few posts that I'd like to highlight here, because of their usefulness:
1)Advice for Future Applicants - This is a summary of advice from readers and myself for future MBA applicants.
2)My Application Feedback - Over the summer of 2003 I got feedback from the admissions offices of a few schools that rejected me. This summarizes that feedback, and what I would have done differently had I decided to reapply this year.
3)Red Herrings - My list of things that you might stress out over, but which ultimately matter very little.
Weekly Index One disadvantage of the weblog format is that it's difficult to find the information you want. Below is a week-by-week summary of my application experience (note: when you open a page, remember that the posts run chronologically from bottom to top):
8/25/2002 - Discussion of various rankings; advice about the GMAT; discussion of essay questions
9/1/2002 - My approach to essays; more schools (Chicago, Wharton) post online apps; hard at work on HBS, Stanford, Wharton essays;
9/8/2002 - Hard at work on HBS, Wharton essays
9/15/2002 - Hard at work on HBS, Wharton essays; tips on recommendations; Chicago GSB alumni interview; a bad Columbia info-session; good HBS info-session
9/22/2002 - Wrapping up HBS app; hard at work on Wharton essays
9/29/2002 - Busy with non-application stuff
10/6/2002 - Some tips on recommendations
10/13/2002 - HBS app submitted; working on Wharton, Stanford essays; started formulating plan B; Sloan info-session
10/20/2002 - Summary of Wharton info-session; Wharton app submitted; working on Stanford, Chicago, Sloan essays; discussion of essay process
10/27/2002 - Wrapping up and submitting the Stanford app; working on Sloan, Chicago essays; about my chances
11/3/2002 - Working on Sloan, Chicago essays; submitted Chicago app; more thoughts on plan B; dicussion on choice of schools
11/10/2002 - Wrapped up, submitted Sloan app; discussion of chances; first readership survey; advice on starting apps; Wharton moves back interview decision date
11/17/2002 - Thoughts on recommendations; first round application numbers down? waiting for Wharton interview invitation
11/24/2002 - Looking at Kellogg essay topics; Wharton campus visit, photos, interview; interview prep; looking into Yale, other R2 schools; giving thanks; second readership survey
12/1/2002 - Started looking into Michigan, at recommenders request; Michigan info; HBS class visit, photos
12/8/2002 - Sloan campus visit, photos; awaiting Wharton decision
12/15/2002 - Finalized plan B; bad omen on decision day; dinged by Wharton; R2 schools: CBS, Kellogg, Michigan; working on Kellogg essays
12/22/2002 - Working on Kellogg, UMBS, CBS essays; Christmas (really?)
12/29/2002 - Working on Kellogg, UMBS, CBS essays; New Year's survey; 2002 Year-In-Review; Happy New Years (?)
1/5/2003 - Working on Kellogg, UMBS, CBS essays; ranking my applications (#1? UMBS); Michigan alumni interview; Chicago decisions start; submitted Kellogg, Michigan apps
1/12/2003 - Dinged by Chicago; researching plan C? what went wrong; Sloan interview invitation; submitted CBS app;
1/19/2003 - Reflections on interviewing; Dinged by HBS, Stanford; Sloan interview rundown
1/26/2003 - Covert Interviewing 101
2/2/2003 - Kellogg interview prep; interview run-down; FAFSA information; fourth reader survey
2/9/2003 - Cambridge happy hour; dinged by Sloan
2/16/2003 - Reflections on the future; completing FAFSA; strengths and weaknesses of interviewing; Kellogg starts releasing R2 decisions
2/23/2003 - Hong Kong business trip; reflections on MBA applications
3/2/2003 - Hong Kong trip; admitted to Michigan
3/9/2003 - Columbia interview invite; waitlisted by Kellogg; planning midwest trip; Hong Kong photos
3/16/2003 - Kellogg waitlist plans; summary of financing options; UMBS admit binder; CBS alumni interview
3/23/2003 - Odds and ends; second Columbia campus visit
3/30/2003 - Photos from Columbia; Kellogg campus visit; thoughts on Kellogg, CBS, UMBS; Ann Arbor visit; Go Blue Rendezvous for admitted Michigan students; dinged by CBS
4/6/2003 - Summary of Chicago, Ann Arbor trip; Michigan photos; Kellogg waitlist letter; dinged by Kellogg
4/13/2003 - Odds and ends
4/20/2003 - Wrap-up survey; Michigan musings
4/27/2003 - MBAs and Wall Street trading
5/4/2003 - Prepping to go to school; school colors; laptop computer research
5/11/2003 - More on laptop computers; the Matrix reloaded
5/18/2003 - Laptop computer purchase
5/25/2003 - Odds and ends
6/1/2003 - More odds and ends
6/8/2003 - Initial application feedback sessions 6/15/2003 - Thoughts on feedback, Liar's Poker, giving notice at work
6/22/2003 - Worklife after giving notice, final feedback session
6/29/2003 - Parting advice, site wrap-up, the end!
In Conclusion Applying for an MBA is a real challenge, but once you've gotten in you realize how 99% of your earlier worries were pretty meaningless. If you know that the time is right in your life to go for an MBA, I wholeheartedly encourage it. Thank you for reading this site, and good luck!
The End I've decided to wrap up this weblog today. Summer's here, my applications are done and buried, and I've got plenty of other things to occupy my time between now and school.
Thank you for coming by my site and reading about my travails. I did have a lot of fun chronicling my application experiences here. I hope that some of you got something out of reading it--entertainment, information, stress relief, whatever.
Back when I started my MBA applications last summer, I searched the web high and low trying to find out what the process is like, from start to finish, at the ground level (so to speak). Finding little, I decided to embark on this blog, both for my own records and to offer others a perspective on what it's like.
But that process is over now, and so "Tad Holbie" comes to an end. I'd tell you that it was like losing a friend, but it's really not, it's more like losing a cool-sounding alias.
To my future Michigan classmates, I'd like to close this chapter on my life and let Tad rest in peace, but I'm not going to lie about it if asked. If you want to know who Tad is, look for the guy who actively works to promote UMBS, but does so without putting down other schools. Look for the guy who's will compete vigorously in the classroom, but does so without stabbing others in the back. Look for the guy quoting Roman history, but does so without sounding pretentious. Look for the guy attending all the football games, but not standing shirtless in sub-zero weather with a "M" painted on his chest (well, unless I get very, very drunk).
More generally, if you work in such organizations, you should be recruiting at UMBS. With the Tozzi Center, Michigan's new, multi-million dollar trading floor, now online, you're going to be seeing more and more hard-working, financially and technically adept Michigan grads working on Wall Street. Michigan MBA students are hard-working, they're used to working in teams, they've worked on real-world projects (MAPs are case studies in action), they're smart, and (best of all) they're easy-going, have a sense of humor, and aren't egotistical jerks (author not included ;-). In investor parlance, Michigan is a strong buy.
I can't tell you how excited I am to be back to school in, what, eight weeks? I feel like I've been applying to business school for the past six years of my life, that's how slow time has passed during this process. Now things are moving into high gear, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.
So it's the end of this weblog...but the beginning of another great adventure.
The live message board I used to have on this site sometimes drew some interesting comments, especially during our decision day chats. Perhaps the weirdest is when, after I banned him from the chat board for a series of offensive or profanity-laced postings, this guy e-mailed me begging to be let back on the board. He wrote:
"I'm another sloan applicant who is very stress with this horrible decision day. I have said some stupid things about the dings of today at the chat and you have cut my conection to the chat, You know, I am next year.
I ask you to let me participate, and share with all of you my decision. I have changed my mind,I think we have some opportunitties (the interviewed, more)..."
He then e-mailed again to ask:
"I'm sorry, I have said stupid things with the name of "next year". Please let me participate in the chat just before 12:00..."
That's not as weird as a later chat, in which someone from the harvard.edu domain tried impersonating a Kellogg student/AdComm. It was right after I'd done the Kellogg campus visit, and here's the exchange ("2001 Sheridan" is the address of Kellogg's admissions office):
" 188.8.131.522001sheridan: hi folks
184.108.40.206 sam: hi
220.127.116.11 2001sheridan: Tad, did you talk about your campus visit already?
18.104.22.168 Tad Holbie: Dude, my Harvard campus visit was four months ago. It's a bit late for that."...
In applying to b-school, I heard some funny stories about other applicants and students. The Tim Shields incident tops the charts. Basically, he was a Stanford MBAer who spent a summer at Salomon Brothers in 1996. Aftewords, he wrote (for the Stanford school paper) a long screed, dissing all the other summer associates and their MBA programs (a particularly nice take was "I actually like the Kellogg people. Not the sharpest ginsu knives in the set, they were as out of place on Wall Street as you might expect from people who'd spent the prior year intensely debating the merits of Dave Thomas appearing in person in the Wendy's commercials." It went downhill from there). Needless to say, Mr. Shields didn't get called back after graduation. The entire article is reposted here...
Feedback Wrap-Up So, I've had my three feedback sessions, from Kellogg, Wharton, and another school. The brief summary would be:
Career progress - Very strong
Career goals - Well developed (see, "trading" is not a resume-killer)
Academic Preparedness - Very strong
Stats (GMAT/GPA) - Very strong
Writing ability - Very strong (came across as "likeable" and "creative")
Why MBA, why now - Moderate to strong (depending on the school)
Why the school - Moderate to strong
Recommendations - Very strong (very "affectionate" and held me in "high esteem")
Teamwork skills - Not sufficiently supported
The detailed rundowns of my three sessions are at here, here, and here.
All in all, what I learned from the feedback is that you really have to touch each and every base--leadership, teamwork, goals, career to date--in your essays; you can't assume that glowing recommendations from teammates might indicate...teamwork ability. Plus they want you to really get introspective on the interpersonal stuff
The Kellogg feedback did mention that they wanted to see a bit more extracurricular leadership, which was one of the bits of feedback that most "fit" a school (since Kellogg students are expected to be very active outside the classroom). The Wharton feedback was more focused on "teamwork" as it partains to classwork and group projects.
I would like to close this post by thanking Wharton and Kellogg for offering feedback to applicants. Had I ended up reapplying, they would have been at the top of my list and I do think the feedback would have helped.
Advice for Future MBA Applicants Number one is don't take anyone's advice. No, that's not true. It's just that MBA applications are very individualized, so what would be good advice for me won't be good advice for the next guy. The more generic the advice, the more relevant it gets for everyone, but generic advice is almost worthless.
Nevertheless, over the past few weeks I've put together a list of advice that I'd like to share with future applicants. You all know my background well enough: not in a "feeder" career, mid-twenties, male (and how!), American, high GMAT, good GPA, good undergrad, strong work experience, good writing skills, etc., etc. If you fall into a similar category, these might be more worthwhile than if you're don't.
Note that below, when I talk about "top schools", I'm referring to a vaguely defined group of MBA programs in the US that would be considered top 10, unless otherwise specified. In no particular order:
You Are Not A Lock ...for any school. Unless you're the CEO of a large corporation or president of a small country, you're not a lock for any top school. You can have a sterling resume, perfect stats, a great career, and write very well, but if you don't hit each shot in the application, you'll be dinged. At least as long as b-school admissions stay as competitive as they've been the last 5 years, this is true.
It's Not Luck On the other hand, you shouldn't head into the process thinking that it's pure luck or random chance that gets you in. I truly believe that well qualified candidates, if they hit all the right notes, have a strong chance of being accepted to each top school. It's very, very difficult to hit all those notes, but the important thing is that it's not really out of your control.
For me (and ego aside, I do think I was/am a strong candidate, as was pretty much confirmed by the school feedback), I just missed one or two notes in each application, and hence, I just missed getting into several schools. Knowing what I know now, I probably could have hit a few more notes and gotten into a few schools, but a) I'm ready to go to b-school now, and didn't want to waste a year; b) getting in next year would not be a certainity; and c) Michigan rocks.
Anyway, the power is yours. You are at bat. Go for it.
Essays are King If I had to estimate, based on my experience and feedback, how big a part in the decision essays make, I'd say 65%+, with interviews and recommendations making up another 25% and stats making up the rest. That's just my gut feeling, but it fits with everything I've read and heard. In the feedback sessions I've had, I've spent a total of maybe eighty seconds talking about non-essay matters. Yeah.
Obvious Advice The obvious advice that is included in all the books and websites is "make a coherent story", "choose some themes", "address your weaknesses", etc. These are all really so obvious and so general as to become meaningless. Is there any candidate who won't be thinking about themes and weaknesses?
School Visits If you're going to visit a school, be sure to 1) do it before submitting your app (it's not worth much afterwords); 2) stay at least a whole day; 3) attend classes, lunch with students, do everything the school offers; 4) ask the students about their experiences applying.
The main benefit of visiting is to personalize your "why this school" essay. If you're truly interested in attending a program, there will be something unique during your visit that catches your eye, and will provide a good anecdote for that essay.
Resumes: One Page Only Okay, take this advice with a grain of salt, since this is my pet peeve. I don't think it will make or break an application. Buuuut, resumes should only be one page long. A resume is supposed to be a concise summary of your top selling points, not a summary of your entire career or (even worse) life. To me (and maybe only to me), an inability to edit down a resume demonstrates an inability to prioritize things and follow business protocols.
And if you take a look in any top b-school's resume book, you'll see 99% one pagers. Prioritize. Summarize. Edit.
Timing Personally, I think it is ridiculous to try to "time the market" in applying to business school (i.e. trying to guess whether the job market will be hot when you graduate and only applying then). Leaving the workforce for two years, paying tens of thousands of dollars, and learning about management, marketing, strategy, and finance is a very big life decision, and shouldn't be left to crapshoot hunches about where the world will be in two years.
I am a firm believer that if now is the right time for you to get an MBA, then you should apply. If not, you shouldn't.
For the Young Ones If you're considering applying to business school in a few years, great--now just stop thinking about it. The only advice I'd have is to get involved in an extracurricular activity or two that you enjoy.
I really don't think it has to be a "community service", in the sense of feeding the homeless or mentoring disadvantaged youths. If you like that, all the better. If not, join a trade group or your undergrad alumni association or something. But not a single school mentioned to me a lack of charity work/community service as a compelling factor. I firmly believe that the schools look to extracurriculars solely to make sure 1) you have some interest outside of work and 2) if you don't do any management/teamwork on your job, the extracurricular can make up for it. That's it. They care very little (in my opinion) whether or not you have a Mother Theresa-like care for the poor.
The real importance of doing something you like is that you're more likely to continue doing it. It's like an excersize routine. I know that doing the stairmaster in the morning for 30 minutes burns more calories than riding the reclining bike. But because I enjoy the reclining bike more (I can read while doing it), I'm more likely to go down to the gym for the bike. And over the long run, I'll burn more calories following a biking regimen than a stairmaster regimen, because that's what'll get me down to the gym.
There's plenty of other advice sprinkled throughout the site, so if you want more, browse away!