the application process – not as simple as it seems

Surprise, surprise. I can’t stop thinking about business school. I’ve officially been brainwashed. So here goes another blog post about business school. This one’s for anyone reading this blog that is casually considering applying to business school in the future.

In theory, it sounds simple enough. The application involves several key components:

– GMAT score
– essays
– recommendations
– miscellaneous application components (fee, transcripts, demographic info, etc.)

That’s it! That’s all there is to it! Sounds pretty good, right?
You might be thinking, how much time could all this possibly take? Maybe I’ll just apply to 8 different schools while I’m at it?

Let’s break it down further.

Read more of this post

Another interview & application complete.

For the second time in a row, Mother Nature reared its ugly head when I put on my Sunday’s best and trotted up to New Haven, CT., this time for my admissions interview with Yale. Mother Nature decided to turn on the faucets and let through a mixture of rain and snow on the one day I scheduled my interview (which was sandwiched by several days of clear, blue skies). If I was fond of New Haven on an overcast day, I wonder what my feedback would’ve been like on a sunny day!

As I had already opted for the campus tour + class visits during my last visit, I decided to forgo those options this time so that I could take my time preparing and arriving on campus for my afternoon interview. The train ride up from Grand Central Terminal (and that’s Grand Central Terminal, not Station, to be technically correct) actually took 2 hours flat. For some strange reason, I thought the train ride was quicker than that, or maybe it just felt quicker last time in September because I was still out of it at 6:30AM? Or maybe I hopped on an express ride last time? Regardless, a school with a 2-hour public ride to one of the greatest cities in the world is a pretty handy option to have.

As I mentioned on the GMATClub forums, my interview started off fairly formulaic but towards the end things were a bit more loose and relaxed (probably a common wavelength for many MBA interviews). The interviewer was super friendly, and none of the questions were really anything you shouldn’t otherwise be already prepared for. He did emphasize though that the interview was only one component of the entire application picture; basically, a weak interview won’t necessarily ding you but acing the interview still doesn’t mean you’re going to get that acceptance letter! (The latter of which is kind of a bummer, since a great interview can create a lot of real positive momentum, all of which can be deflated in an instant with a ding). And yes, I am feeling somewhat of a positive wave of hopefulness. I should probably do my best to clean forget about it entirely however, as its entirely out of my hands now. No point in getting ahead and setting myself up for failure.

In other school news, I finalized my Cornell Johnson applications/essays to officially submit application #3! I am really impressed with the momentum that Cornell has had recently (the strong uptick in the BusinessWeek Business School rankings certainly didn’t hurt) and I really enjoyed their essay prompts. I’m hoping that my creativity in the Table of Contents for My Life Story shines through to the admissions committee.

Once upon a time (sometime in 2002 or 2003) I actually had visited Ithaca as part of a mini-campus tour roadtrip with my folks when I was researching undergraduate colleges. I didn’t take any pictures at that time but I simply remember snow… and that I had really enjoyed the food in the dining hall. I am, however, relatively easy to please when it comes to food (I just want large portions) so I pretty much have no recollection of the campus whatsoever. Perhaps I’ll find time to visit (or better yet, interview) in the near future.

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.

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)

And we’re off!

NYU (Stern) released their 2013 Full-Time MBA essay questions last week. Here we go! Here they are in a nutshell:

Professional Aspirations

  • why MBA now?
  • why Stern and what have you done to decide on Stern?
  • what are your post-MBA goals?

Your Two Paths

  • describe 2 distinct paths your career could take
  • how do they tie into Stern’s mission?
  • what factors will determine which path you take?

Personal Expression

  • describe yourself and be creative

Additional Information (not an optional essay for me)

  • explain why your undergraduate GPA royally sucked

What I had been yearning for weeks has now grabbed ahold of my nerves ever so slightly as I begin to feel the rush of excitement of what lies ahead and the mounting pressure of delivering a series of knockout essays that will allow me to grab ahold of my dream.

I need clarity (specifically isolating my MBA goals to the TEE) and sharp focus (right after the 2012 NBA Finals are over). With these upcoming essays, a summer statistics class in full swing, a full-time job that calls for occasional weekend work, a mentorship program beginning in the fall, and a bachelor trip to plan for as the best man to my closest high school friend, I think I’m in good position to ask, “Who really needs sleep anyway?”

Wrong! I never sacrifice on quality sleep unless absolutely necessary. Sacrificing time when my body and mind can rest and recover is a reflection of poor planning and time-management. I’m not 22 years young anymore, and I certainly won’t be helping myself by attempting to run on fumes at work or working on essays with a half-rested brain.

Organizational skills are something I pride myself on; with my schedule growing tighter in the forthcoming months, I’ll just have to plan more wisely and creatively.