An exciting ride so far. And now, I am at the top of the rollercoaster!

The last six months have been highly action packed. What began in Aug 2010 at NYC, during a b-school fair, has now reached the mid point. During this period I have spent substantial time researching schools, reaching out to current students and alumni, visiting admission events, visiting campus, attending self-initiated interviews, discussing with friends and other current applicants, studying for GMAT retake, drafting my essays, reviewing-editing-rewriting (and again reviewing) my essays,  and trying to complete my application package as a whole! That sounds like a lot, right? It absolutely was. All this on top of the usual demands of my work and in fact, as it happens in situations like these, this holiday season at work was more hectic than ever!

To me what transpired during this period are so akin to what I feel while on a rollercoaster. The excitement as you begin the journey, the thrill as you reach top acceleration, and the fear as you feel the weightlessness on the way down – with six total applications and 2 dings I have been through most of it. The journey is not over yet, and while I take a breather at the peak of my roller-coaster ride, I am very well aware of the plethora of emotions that await me in the next half of this journey! I only hope that the second leg will offer more reasons for me to smile about than the first one.

While I eagerly await the harbinger of good news, I will try to recount (in the next few days) what I failed to post over the last one month. 

I won’t be a part of this elite group!

So it’s official, Friday evening at 5 PM I received the first decision on my applications and it turned out to be the unfavorable one – Tuck dinged me.

I won’t be at that one school which was so close to my heart. It’s taken me quite a long time to get out of this shock, as you might have figured this update on my blog comes after more than 48 hours of receiving the e-mail. Honestly I was so confident that the least I expected was a waitlist.

My mind is a playground for doubts, inhibitions, and fear now. What might have gone wrong with my profile? Did my essays have a gaping hole? Did my experience count against me? Was my GMAT score too low?  Did I overestimate my interview performance?...and a lot of other questions, which probably will never be answered. 

But I have a great family and an amazing bunch of friends who have helped me realize that this definitely is not the end of the world. More importantly, this failure means I have to be more prudent in my R2 applications, which by the way are only a few weeks away. So back to the grind now and I hope I can make up for what was missing in my R1 application!

Though Tuck is history for me now, I can’t help visiting this Facebook page and wondering about what could have been!

Waiting for the Tuck result, should be out any day now.

Apart from refreshing my inbox every few minutes - hoping for that invite from Sloan - I am also keeping an eye on the other big result that looms around the horizon. Tuck is officially supposed to come up with its results on Dec 17. The good thing with the Tuck results is that they don’t keep you in the limbo for a long time. Officially all results – accepts, dings, and waitlists - go out that one day. But based on what I have heard from fellow applicants they do call up or mail applicants a few days before this date. Some even mentioned that they do so a week ahead of the deadline.

Like I mentioned in my previous post today, all this really does not bode too well for my R2 applications. I am spending too much time digging and reading about these when I should totally concentrate on my applications. Easy to say but so hard to keep your mind away from such impending and high impact decisions!

MIT Sloan update: The results are trickling in and I have my fingers crossed

Two days ago MIT released its first set of invites for the R1 applications and since then I have been following the people who are reporting their interview invites on online forums. Sadly I haven’t got mine yet! It’s still early days though, we are only into the third day, and if historical evidence is anything to go by the invites will keep coming until the second week of January. So there is no reason to be dejected and not all is lost. Irrespective of how logical this may sound, it does not seem to be a good enough reason to assuage my fear.

Here is what scares me about the MIT invites. Based on what I am reading on these online forums, MIT releases it’s invites by regional hubs. So the Boston area invites are released first, then rest of North East, trickling down to the Central and West coast areas, and finally international. There is no official backing to this nor is there enough empirical data to prove it, this is entirely based off the little data available on online forums (all courtesy people who report their status rather than being just bystanders). You might have guessed why I am so nervous…yes, I am from the Boston area! Going by this little theory I should have received my invite yesterday.

I am trying not to mull over this too much and instead focus on my R2 applications (which in all honesty have not taken off at all yet). I am hoping I won’t get that dreaded ‘d-worded’ letter. Keeping my fingers crossed and refreshing my inbox every minute, that’s all I can do for now. 

The 'D' month is here.

It's December and the day of reckoning is not too far away. I can already sense the fluttery feeling while I wait for my Tuck EA decision and MIT interview invite – both should be out somewhere in the second week of December.

The online forums are already buzzing with a lot of activity, fellow applicants who are tired of the waiting game and cannot take it anymore are posting their feelings on these forums and finding comfort from other's stories. Fuqua is expected to come out with its EA decisions any time now. When I read about a fellow applicant refreshing his email every few seconds looking for that magical mail, I could very well picture myself doing that in the next few weeks. I am guessing that people might have been logging into and refreshing their application page too, which might have led to the application site being down today.

All this does not bode too well for my R2 applications. I have been on the slow side and all these factors do not make it any easier. I get the feeling things are only going to get compounded over the next two weeks.

This holiday season will be different

With only six more weeks until the round 2 deadlines and so little progress over the last two weeks this holiday season will be a different one.

No parties, get-togethers, feasts, and shopping this time around. It's time to start working on my essays. When my friends talk about their vacation plans and all the lag time they have at their disposal, I envy it so much. But I am hopeful that my hard work will pay off. Talking about hard work, I have not made much of a progress since my last post - a week ago. First draft for two essays and speaking with my recommenders was a good start but I was hoping to get more done last week.

This week, I am trying to push myself more. I managed 4 hours today and the target is to devote 40 hours which leaves me with 36 hours over the next six days. This includes the time I on my GMAT study as well! Today I scheduled my appointment for the GMAT retake. I needed that to push me into moving at full throttle now.

Time to get to bed now and catch some sleep. 

A dull week

Since the last time I updated my blog, the earth has rotated more than 9 times on its axis. Now that's quite a long time. I wish I could put the blame on the hectic schedule because of my Round 2 research and preparation. Alas, that is not the case!

Last week was one of the least productive weeks in a long time with regard to my applications. We had a bunch of activities lined up at work and that called for a lot of extra hours. Moreover after keeping up with the frantic pace for over four months my body and mind called for some break! Everything contrived to make this a break week for me.

I did manage to catch up a little over the weekend, here is what I was able to cover.
  • Researched the schools I want to apply. I am thinking about scheduling a class visit (more about this later).
  • Logged into the on-line application portal for my Round 2 schools.
  • Listed down all the essays that I have to write for my round 2.
On a different note, the blogosphere and online forums have been buzzing with a lot of activity about interview invites. I am happy for all those who have been invited, all the best to them. For me, having completed my application initiated interview, it's just a matter of waiting patiently on the sidelines now. Come December and it will be a totally different case though.

Seven lessons from my round one application.

I have submitted applications to three business schools thus far – Tuck, Sloan, and Fuqua – in that order. The last one month, while I moved from one application to the other, has proved to be a big learning exercise for me. Though I think I did justice to each of my applications, in particular the essays, I keep getting the feeling I could do better. By the time I submitted my third application, I could already see things that could do with some improvement in my first application. But then again, that’s the case with afterthought – you always think you can improve.

Nevertheless, I still have learned some important things that I surely plan to apply in the second round of application. So this post is a summary of what I have learned.

1)      Start the application (not just essays) early – By application I mean the online application process – creating a login, personal information, professional and educational background, test score, and a few other things. I waited till the last week to fill in these details for my first application, which I learned was not the ideal way. These points are equally important and it is important to devote enough time. Also, it is better to have someone review these points for you.

2)     Don’t worry about the word count for the first draft: Word limits present an important limitation, sometimes they can be a blessing in disguise too. It is important to convey your story, so to begin with just write your heart out and don’t bother about the word limit. Once you know that everything that you wanted to convey has been covered, go ahead with the editing. Sometimes it takes the skills of a seasoned Editor to trim your essay, and it might be better to associate levels of importance with each paragraph (or for that matter sentence). This way when you have your scissors out you know what to chop off!

3)     Don’t try to complete an essay in one sitting: The human mind is so full of conflicts and biases, and once you get into one of those modes it’s hard to get out. No wonder, it so often happens that a problem that you struggle with for hours is solved within a few minutes after a good nights sleep. Same applies to essays too! Work on your essays with a schedule, give yourself 7 days and work 1 hour each day. You will be surprised how much your thought process and the output improves this way.

4)     Reach out to recommenders early and follow up with reminders– I was fortunate that my recommenders were equally enthusiastic about my application and devoted enough time on it. Most of the time they submitted the recommendation well ahead of the deadline, except for the last one. My manager happened to be on a two week business tour to Europe before the deadline and she had planned to do the recommendation during one of the weekends on her trip. However, as is the case with business meetings, she was pulled into other things and by the time she came back we were facing the deadline. On the day of the deadline, she marked few hours on her calendar, worked on the recommendation, and submitted my recommendation.
I had a few nervous moments, though schools are a lenient about deadline for recommendations, why take a chance? I started reaching out to my recommenders 4 weeks before the deadline; in hindsight I should have done it at least six weeks earlier. With the holiday season coming up, I will ensure that for round two I reach out to them at least by next week – 8 weeks before the deadline.

5)      Never recycle one schools essay for another: I think this is what we read everywhere. But after writing that one great essay it is not wrong at all to feel you have the right to use it for another school, especially if questions are similar. That’s perfectly logical, but what that does is it sets a platform for your essays which is hard to tweak or change. Best would be start with the bullet items for the new essay, form a structure, and then try to use content from the previous essay to fill in.

6)      Give your reviewers enough time: I had very good experience with my first essay, multiple reviews with 3 different people (2 friends and a current student) - all handled very nicely. But my third essay, that’s a slightly different story. I kind of rushed it and ended up rushing my only reviewer too. Though I feel extremely good about the third set of essays I submitted, I was not happy the way I did it. Allocating enough time for reviewers is important to get the most out of them.

7)     Do one school at a time: This is how I approached my first three schools and it worked out perfect for me. Sometimes, when the essay questions are similar, there is a tendency to tackle the similar ones together. I don’t think this is a good idea, though the essay questions might look similar each school is different in the way they ask for it and it requires extreme care to make sure those finer details are addressed. More importantly, working on one school at a time allows you to portray a holistic perspective of your candidacy by presenting different aspects in different essays.
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