Round 1 Final Tally: Two.

My Fuqua essays are almost all but done. I’m putting my finishing touches on the essays and I am amazed at how many small changes I find myself making to each factoid about myself or word usage in the Why Duke essay. Every time I re-read the essay, I change, insert, or shuffle a few words around to make the essay that much sharper. (At least in my eyes… for all I know, I am convoluting my message further or disrupting the flow of the essay! This is where the usage of an admissions consultant might come in handy but eh… perhaps more on that later.)

Unfortunately, I was unable to meet my intended target Round 1 deadline for Northwestern. Truth be told, some of it was partly due to my excessively busy work schedule combined with having two consecutive weekends full of best man duties (coordinating and enjoying the bachelor trip, preparing for the wedding weekend, making sure the groom didn’t run away, delivering a memorable speech, giving rides to and from the after-party, safely escorting the happy drunken couple to their hotel for the night, etc). I did however, feel that I managed my time fairly well, and consequently, the primary reason why I missed the deadline was more of the fact that when I did allocate time to sit down and work on my Kellogg essays, well, nothing came to me. If I haven’t expressed this before, my two greatest weaknesses to my application profile would be undergraduate GPA, and my lack of leadership experiences. The second Kellogg essay completely hinges on this latter weakness. Having a severe case of writer’s block, I made the decision to forgo Round 1 for Northwestern and give myself more time to brainstorm for better content.

Additionally, I have a Northwestern campus visit and interview scheduled in (omg, just) two weeks. After visiting Yale and Duke, I’ve learned that the writing content quality really is night and day before and after visiting the school. I am able to provide more authentic reasons as to why I want to attend that particular program. So I’m planning to do the bulk of my essay writing following my visit to Evanston.

Speaking of Yale, I submitted my SOM application several weeks ago. At the time of submission, I was beaming. I felt that I deftly dealt with the short word count constraints and placed my best foot forward. I was envisioning that interview invite arriving in my inbox and stepping into the interview room days later and walking out with a new best friend.

Fast forward to today, 2 ½ weeks later, and some serious doubt and angst have been eating away at my innards. I re-read my essays.
Did the contributions I highlighted in my second essay come off as too generic?
I’m not seeing any of my passion for SOM conveyed in this essay. Why didn’t I notice this before?
Shouldn’t I have included that college extra-curricular activity in the application, even if it was 5 years ago?
Did I really think Yale would accept a below 3.0 GPA applicant who hasn’t won an Olympic gold medal or Nobel prize?

Yeah, I wasn’t making things better by re-reading them. Best to file those away. Ultimately, I understand that there is nothing left that I can do but focus on my other applications. And that I will do. After submitting my application to Fuqua this week, that pretty much sums up Round 1. (Unless I am able to make swift and significant progress with NYU Stern’s essays).

I made the decision to attend business school at the start of the calendar year, so I am pretty disappointed in myself that I was only able to muster up two applications by this time.

On the other hand, I’ve told myself from day one that I am not approaching business school as a numbers game. I am not planning to apply to seven or eight or ten schools in hopes that at least one won’t ding me. I am not going to apply to a business school located in a remote location that I am not prepared to spend the next two years in. So shuffling one school to a later round is not going to be the end of it all.

Taking a deep breath… hoping for the best… and moving forward.

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Carolina blue skies

“Carolina blue skies,” my cousin calls it. I continued staring up at the expansive, blue skies that stretched as far as I could see. North Carolina, as far as I could tell, was very flat and very green. It was sunny, had friendly highways (and I do mean friendly – I saw drivers backed up for half a mile on a 2-lane exit because they didn’t want to skip and merge ahead), and an interesting trifecta of cities known as Research Triangle Park: Raleigh, Chapel Hill, and Durham. I liked it.

Well, I officially have my first business school interview out of the way! In retrospect, I should have probably prepped a bit more, because I am not a natural bullshitter. Though it can be much easier to become conversational when speaking about something from the heart or a specific personal hobby, the admissions team doesn’t want to hear about how much I want to be admitted. They want to know why, and what I will contribute, etc. (The want… is a given.) Answering those questions, well, for me personally, take some planning, writing, and preparation to really nail.

“Just be yourself.”
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Oh, it’s nothing. It’s so conversational.”
(grinning) “I’m not worried about it at all. I’m just gonna go and talk.”

These are just several reactions I received over the day from various admissions staff and fellow prospective students. Everyone handles their interviews differently, I suggest you find your own way as well!

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MBA Applicant BloggerInterview at blog.accepted.com

Here’s my Q&A interview featured at Accepted.com

blueberry pudding

I’m sitting here in the Atticus bookstore on the borders of the Yale University campus to pick up a fresh serving of banana bread pudding for my friend back in New York City. The only thing is, they don’t have banana bread today. I quickly send my friend a series of TXTs.

Me: Oh wow there are lots
Me: No banana today. Blueberry, chocolate chunk, carrot cluster..
Me: Chocolate!!
Her: Blueberry
Her: !!
Me: Blueberry or Blueberry Oatmeal?
Me: Went with plain bb
Her: Wahoo! Plain it is
Her: Plain bb yay!!!!

The other recommendation my friend (a former master’s student at Yale) offered was the mashed-potatos-and-bacon pizza at Bar. That sounds like a heart killer if I’ve ever heard one. I had to try it. Alas, when I arrived, their kitchen hadn’t opened yet.

Well, I’m in New Haven today for a campus visit to Yale SOM. For the entire week leading up to today, the weather in New York couldn’t have been more perfect. Mild, sunny, slight breeze, mid 70’s just the way I like it. Yet today marked the first cloudy day with a forecast of rain in weeks and I woke up to my alarm at 5:40AM expecting the worst – strong and powerful winds, gloomy atmosphere on campus, and walking around in soaked dress pants and shoes. As I prepared to leave my apartment and head to Grand Central Terminal this morning, I was very tempted to throw on my Lowa hiking boots (fitted with Gore-Tex, my absolute favorite pair of shoes to wear during inclement weather). Alas, I opted for the more traditionally accepted pair of dress shoes.

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just keep swimming, just keep swimming

working feverishly… typing away…. on a Saturday night…

A bit disappointed in myself at not having finalized a complete set of school’s essays yet. I also received some pretty harsh feedback on a set of rough drafts for Yale. (Like really, brutal feedback.)

Though temporarily and mentally setback, I used it as a springboard to scrap one of my ideas completely and start fresh. A part of me is overcome with anxiety as I attempt to dig for real meat to be used in terms of leadership examples. This is where not having a long-term vision or a 5-year plan fresh out of school has really come back to bite me in the butt. One great thing about this MBA process however (though mentally stressful at times and constantly hovering above my thoughts like a rain cloud) is that I will probably never again simply “coast” as I had done in 2009 and part of 2010, with no real concrete goals. Setting goals and outlining plans is so key, with or without an MBA along the way.

Well, I say “never again” but I suppose I can afford to ease up a bit once I’m fully retired 😀
Till then, Goals! Perseverance! Perspective! (and to remain humble and thankful for all that I’ve been blessed with along the way)

“No, I want to hire the Sopranos to beat the sh!t out of him with a hammer.”

Impressed.

That’s how I felt walking away from Northwestern Kellogg’s information session. Held on the 41st floor of the Alliance Bernstein building in New York City, the room held a massive, sweeping view of Central Park. But I didn’t arrive to soak in the view. I naturally gravitated towards the drinks table, helping myself to a Poland Spring after picking up one of Kellogg’s information packets (which, by the way, were of impressive build/quality. Even the little touches count.)

Within the first minute I saw a familiar face from the an earlier information session I attended this summer. Ah, the effects of networking.. turns out it is fairly useful. Not something I’m used to having spent the last few years glued to a desk doing IT work. We immediately exchanged smiles and caught up on how each of us were doing and handling the b-school admissions process. Interestingly, I came to learn that we have quite a good deal in common, both in terms of background, age, and target schools. Still, though he technically was what you would consider my “competition”, my mind didn’t even remotely cross the idea – his friendly demeanor was welcome in my book and it just felt great to bounce off some frustrations with someone you know who is going through a similar process, another fellow MBA hopeful going through the rounds. I’m also thrilled I haven’t run into as many folks whose noses were held up so high you’d think they were nursing a nosebleed. Again, small sample sizes… but who’s counting?

Kellogg brought out a slew of alumni in impressive fashion, prominently placing 5 of their 7 alums on stage to answer a variety of questions and offer their highly insightful impressions and feedback on their MBA experiences. This was an excellent decision to frame the info-session in this manner as it allowed for any one of them to chime in with their input throughout what would otherwise likely have been a standard, fairly monotonous PowerPoint presentation by an associate admissions director. The alums were quite diverse as well: a finance-to-brand-manager career changer, graduates of the JD-MBA and MMM programs, as well as a marketing strategist from Verizon Wireless. But also representing the recent alumni group was Divya Narendra (who arrived more than fashionably late in a pair of sneaks).

As a huge fan of The Social Network and a tech-news aficionado, I instantly recognized his name on the big screen when they flashed the list of present alumni. He hadn’t arrived by then and so after all of the alums introduced themselves, I slid back from the edge of my seat a bit, conceding he wasn’t coming after all. But he ended up dashing towards the front a few slides later.

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not knowing when to quit

Expressionless, I comb through my entire undergraduate transcript, slowly shaking my head as I enter the numbers into my spreadsheet and crunch the numbers. No if’s, and’s, or but’s: my final calculated undergraduate GPA indeed matches the official GPA listed on my transcript to the hundredths digit. And oh what an unsightly GPA it is. If (and I do realize I just said “no if’s”) the hundredths digit had somehow clawed its way up to a 5, I’d be rounding up to a 3.0!

I laugh and shake my head again. Wow… desiring a 3.0?

Well, it’s true. I’m in a dangerously unrecoverable realm known as the 2.X region that threatens to overshadow any other feat I can muster in front of the admissions committee. What’s worse (or quite fortunate depending on your perspective) is how I did not face any significant obstacle, personal tragedy, dire financial circumstances, or any other spectacular circumstances to justify my spectacularly unspectacular undergraduate performance.

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