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.

Beat the GMAT Practice Questions : Review

Beat the GMAT is coming up with an upgraded version of their test prep product – BTG Practice Questions. It could not have come up at a more appropriate time, as I am preparing for a second shot at the test before I submit my second set of allocations in R2. So when the folks at BTG asked me to do a review of this product, I jumped on board immediately.

I spent some time on this new product late yesterday and today during my lunch hours and here is my take on it.
·       Highly customizable: Using the combination of section, subject area, number of questions, difficulty level, and mode (practice vs quiz) you can create a highly customized practice session. This is what I used to create a 20 question practice session for practicing during my lunch hour!
·       A simulation of the real thing: The new PQ is highly adaptive, like the real test. So if you setup a 30 minute simulation, you will start with a random set of questions and based on your performance it will present you easy or hard questions.
·       Online practice: The online practice feature gives you the flexibility to practice any time without having to carry books or being logged into a particular machine. This works really good for me, over the last few months I have been sacrificing my lunch table discussions preparing for GMAT, researching schools, or writing my essays. So this is a good tool to have for a quick 30 min practice during the lunch hours at your office desk.
·       Video explanation: The video explanation serves not only to help you figure out the right approach, it is useful for the questions that you might have got right too. Remember, the objective is not to just get the answers right, you have to get to it in the shortest possible time too. This is where it becomes very important to look out for the explanation to check if there is another/better approach.
·       Performance reporting & Benchmarking: The BTG PQ allows you to create customizable reports to track your progress as you chug along; it also provides you the average statistics which gives you a means to judge where you stand as compared to rest of the users.
·       More than 700 questions: The more than 700 questions is a great way to push yourself and practice more. A quick math will tell you this is more than 20 hours of practice, all high quality stuff!

Overall, I really liked the material, presentation, reporting, customization, and explanations. I also like how it's organized; practicing more questions is much practical and realistic than reading a lot of theoretical material.

The one thing that I thought needs improvement is the variety. Having taken the test once, I think there are more breakdowns possible for different subject areas in each section. So I would like to see more things covered, but again there is no single comprehensive guideline about the subject areas and it is up to the test prep company’s discretion how they cover all the areas.

As if all these great things were not enough, the BTG team has come up with one more reason - you could end up winning an iPad simply by trying out the new PQ.  On top of everything they also have a 30-Day Money-Back Guarantee if you’re not satisfied. That shows how much the BTG team believes in this product, and I do too!

PS: I already have an account, courtesy the BTG 100K competition. However, Eric has promised me 5 accounts for this review. If anyone is interested please chime in and drop a comment or write to me using the e-mail under my profile.

Duke Fuqua application – submitted!

Earlier today I submitted my third application, this one for the Fuqua School of Business. With this the first phase of my application process has come to a completion. The thing that stood out while I was preparing for these three applications was the drastic improvement as I went from one application to the next. I spent most of my time on my first application, and I thought I had come up with some terrific essays. But my second application, turned out to be much better (my opinion). By the third application, I was able to put more life into my essays. Essentially what I have learned is that as you move ahead with your applications you only get better, provided you devote sufficient time.
I have 2 months before the second round deadlines. But that doesn’t give me the license to relax. In fact, I think the next two months will be busier and more stressful that the last couple of months. I will save the reason for another post. 

I got lucky!

Last few days have been pretty lucky for me. 

I won a few contests are out there on the www. Here is what I won.
1)      The mbaMission weekly Challenge on twitter – As a prize I won the NYU Stern Insiders Guide. Perfect time for me as I am in the process of researching NYU Stern right now.
2)      The BTG $100K Challenge – I won “The GMAT Practice Questions Premium Subscription” ($99 value).
3)      BTG Reviewers Account – Eric (BTG) e-mailed me that I (along with a few fella bloggers) were being provided with a review account to the Practice Questions. The good part of this is that, if I use this and provide an honest review – I will get 5 premium accounts. I definitely plan to do that (review) over the next couple of days. If you are wondering why I am studying again after submitting 2 applications, well there is a reason to it. If you have read my GMAT post, you will get the hint there.  I will spell the details in another post. But for now, it is sufficient to say that I have another tryst with GMAT before the last week of Nov!

My second application and why I procrastinated till the last minute?

A day before deadline, I submitted the MIT Sloan application. Towards the end it turned out to be a very stressful period, all self inflicted though. The three days that preceded this, I barely slept for more than 4 hours each night. So what led to this last minute stress, especially since I had started well ahead of time?

The problem was with one of the essays. I had three incidents to pick from I picked the one that I thought really stood out. After my first draft, I sent this to my confidants, who had agreed to review my essay. I trust their thoughts and if they think that my essays do not cover all the aspects, it is very likely that the ad-com will think the same.

The initial feedback was mixed, though I had presented a compelling case – it was not addressing the questions to the fullest. This is where I kind of lost it, instead of bringing out those missing aspects I went back to the drawing board and tried to think about the other two incidents that I had originally considered. Sometimes it’s so much better to not have choices! My muddled thinking about which one to choose was the chief culprit for the delay. I finally went back to my original pick and just covered those areas that my reviewers thought was missing. After all, I had picked this one with a lot of deliberation and self-reflection.

This reminds me of my 8th grade when I had a similar situation. Back then I had enrolled for the poetry recitation competition. My overconfidence led me to wait till the last minute to pick the right poem. 2 days before the event, I picked up the latest Young World (newspaper supplement) looking for good poems. I found two that I liked – “My mother” & “Smile”. I memorized both and presented it to my family. They thought both were equally good but left the difficult decision - of choosing one – to me!

I prolonged the decision till the last minute. When it was my turn to recite, I presented the perfect mix. There was so much indecision, I mixed up both poems. The audience soon figured out and I burst into laughter, I had to withdraw. My teachers gave me another chance and asked me to recite once everyone else was done with. I went backstage and was very nervous. Part of me told me just to run away. But I mustered enough courage, decided to go with “My mother”, recited the poem, and got the third prize! I was a relieved kid.

I hope my essay does not call for a similar second-try, which I am pretty sure won’t be coming this time around. 

Inside Marketing at NYU Stern – Invited!

Last week I applied to secure a spot at NYU Stern organized by the GMA (Graduate Marketing Association). The application required a brief background, resume, and some personal information.  

I was happy when I saw the e-mail yesterday evening stating I was invited. Not that this is a huge achievement, but it will be a good opportunity to take a close look at what NYU Stern has to offer and network with students.  You can find more information on the Graduate Marketing Association Conference page.

Essays, essays and more essays!

Last week I submitted my first application (the only one till now), that was four essays and since then I have jumped on to Sloan and Fuqua applications. I took a two day break - now that the first one was done with subsequent ones should be a piece of cake. Absolutely wrong!

The MIT essays require a totally different approach, not that I did not know of this, but I assumed that my experiences writing the Tuck essays will come good. That has not been the case, thoughts flow naturally and take decent shape in the form of words and sentences, but each time I read my essay after completing a draft – it’s like I am missing some piece of the puzzle. Then I go into that endless loop trying to fit everything from my story into a single page.

Word limit does not help too. Almost every time I write an essay, I feel 700 is the right count for me. Somehow, removing those extra 40% takes more time than actually coming up with the first draft itself. 

Fuqua Interview Update 2 – The Marketing Club event

This is a follow-up to my earlier post about my Fuqua interview experience. Since I had scheduled my interview on a Saturday, a class visit was not possible. I was hoping that there would be other activities that will help me connect with Fuquans, but other than a campus tour nothing else was on the calendar.

Two days before my interview, the Marketing Club came to my rescue and I was so glad when I saw that email from the co-chair (of the club) talking about the event that they had organized for prospective students. This was a wonderful opportunity for me.

After my interview, I had a good lunch and headed for the event. There were about 20 prospective students, we were divided into five groups and were assigned a task – come up with a marketing plan for a distinct case that was assigned to each team. A couple of second year students were to judge our presentation. We picked our case – “Trident has come up with a new non-stick chewing gum targeting senior citizens. You have to come up with a marketing campaign for this product”. We got our quota of stationary and browsed through a few copes of New Yorker to pick up some images to go with our plan.

Our group comprised of two consultants, one analyst and one person with non-profit background. We worked as a group, came up with a punch line and a theme, and one of us was innovative to come up with a background theme too. Here is what we finally came up with.

Each group presented their campaign and I was really amazed by what two teams had done. They were way ahead of the game - they had come up with a punch line, identified market area, identified potential sponsors and a lot more - all within 30 minutes. Deservedly, both of them shared the honors and won the prizes that were up for grabs. We were not disappointed, and were content with the complimentary duffel bags that we got and more importantly glad that we got an opportunity to be a part of this event!

Fuqua School of Business - Interview update

Fuqua School of Business - Interview update

Last Saturday I had my applicant initiated interview at the Fuqua School of Business. This post is an update of my experience.

A month ago I had scheduled my applicant initiated interview; thankfully Fuqua had a Saturday slot available. I say so because a trip to India earlier this year has robbed me of all my vacations (except 2 days, which I want to save for the next two months) so the Saturday event was a real blessing - an opportunity to interview and a chance to get to know the people, school and the area.

After work on Friday, I boarded a flight from Providence to Raleigh-Durham (RDU). Though Logan is the closest from my place, the cost difference can easily pay for one schools application fee and I can easily trade that for the convenience. I reached Durham close to midnight, picked up my rental car and went to the nearby hotel that I had reserved. I contemplated some last minute practice, but let that thought go as it was more important to get some nice sleep and be fresh for the interview.

Woke up around 6 on Saturday, had a nice breakfast, practiced my pitch and headed out around 8.30. The Duke campus was hardly 20 mins from my hotel, but finding the parking lot was a little hassle. Around 9.30 I entered the reception area, and the place was already buzzing with activity. The most notable thing was that everything was organized by Fuqua students. A couple of first years were at the reception, they gave us our name tags and brochures. Prospective students were sitting in small groups and some first years were mingling up with them, talking about their experiences – basically trying to make sure that the prospective students found it comfortable.

With my interview scheduled at noon, I was early. As I was grabbing a cup of coffee a first year student approached and we started talking. A very useful conversation indeed, soon a couple of more prospective students joined. At 11 they had a campus tour going and I joined the gang, this was, again, led by a current student. After the tour I just waited at the reception with my ears wide open, waiting for my name to be called. It was a long wait; I was probably amongst the last bunch, which kind of made me feel more nervous!

Finally my interviewer, a second year student, arrived and called out my name. I immediately knew that I had seen him somewhere, my mind started racing to all the Fuqua events that I had attended, but it did not ring a bell. Soon we were seated in a small team room and the interview was about to begin. My interviewer made it really comfortable for me by talking about his background a little and the fact that he had some experience staying in Boston helped as I could relate and talk about some places. After the brief “ice-breaking” session he jumped on to the task at hand.

The whole interview lasted close to an hour. Most of the initial questions were the usual suspects, no curveballs thrown at me. I thought I was “nervously expressive” during the first 10 minutes before being “confidently expressive” But overall it went well. He did have a couple of non-conventional* questions for me, but nothing out of this world. A few seconds of silence and fast thinking was enough to come up with an appropriate answer. Towards the end, while it was time for me to ask some questions, I remembered where I had seen him. He had a chuckle when he heard that – for two reasons. First – he was amazed that I still had that thing in my mind all through the interview, and second I had not met him in person it was through a video (You will find that information in one of my previous blogs related to Fuqua). I was happy that my school research had helped me connect & relate to my interviewer in some way.

After the interview, I headed to the event organized by the Marketing Group. It was a fun activity, and probably deserves another post. Later, in the evening, I headed back to the airport, had a nice Märzen at the Gordon Biersch and headed home.

* I am not comfortable putting the questions out here, but if someone is really keen do shoot me an email (using the link on my profile). 


Finally, after pondering over my application package (mostly the essays) umpteen times, for what seemed like an eternity, I mustered enough courage to submit my first MBA application. Yes, it was the Tuck MBA application! I did that on Oct 12, exactly 24 hours before the deadline.

I guess that kind of explains why I have not been able to post anything here for last two weeks. Well, this was just one reason – last two weeks have been so hectic (Actually that has been the theme for almost two months now).

So what kept me busy over the last two weeks? Here is a brief list:

¨      My Tuck application
¨      Tuck Interview (and obviously the preparation for it)
¨      Fuqua interview (and preparation)
¨      Fuqua campus visit and tour (which featured a special event!)
¨      MIT Ambassadors program
¨      Working on the other apps for R1

I think all of this deserves a separate post of their own, and it is on the cards. Hopefully by this Sunday my blog will have caught up to my activities (sounds like someone else’s responsibility when I put it that way!). 

MBA Application Essays: Is it all about creative writing?

It’s that season! If you are reading this, you probably know that I am not talking about the ‘Fall’ season. Yep, I am talking about the approaching first/early round deadlines. Time to put those finishing touches to the essays and hit the Submit button. Talking about that, it’s really amazing how much strength it takes to finally hit that Submit button, it’s more than just a click!

Of late I have been reading about fellow applicants trying to get the opening of their essay right. My friend was talking about how he was struggling to bring his essay to a good ending – in his words “a good climax”.  To an outsider this might look like a bunch of people trying to get the next big script right, the next ‘Avatar’.  So is the MBA Application essay really about creative writing? 

There isn’t a unanimous answer to it. A member of the MBA Marketing team, from a top school, once told me “MBA essays are all about creative writing”. Some current students I have spoken to are also of this opinion. But some of the chat sessions that I have attended and blogs from admission committees don’t really concur with this. 

The best answer that I ever came across was during my Tuck visit. During the session with the admission committee, one of my fellow prospective students asked this question “I believe I am a strong candidate and have faith in my abilities. But my writing skills – it’s nowhere close to creative writing, to the point that I think I am a ‘dull writer’. Will that be held against me? ”. It was an honest and blunt question, and the answer matched it in those aspects. The response was “We don’t mind if you are a dull writer and will read it thoroughly irrespective of how dull it may be. But if, at the end of reading all your essays, you come out as an equally dull person, we will find it difficult to consider you. If not, we will treat you as just another competitive applicant”. 

I think that sums up what the ad-coms are looking for (mostly). Creativity or lack of it doesn't really matter. What matters is the ad-coms interpretation based on the essays, and it is your responsibility to make sure they interpret it right. If you can write creatively, it probably can have a better impact. If not, that is no reason to get worried about. Simple words and plain language is enough to convey that you are a strong fit. After all, you are not expected to churn out the next Pulitzer prize winning piece of literature after b-school (though you definitely can take that route!).

The P.O.L.O Club at Booth: Bringing families with little ones together

As I venture out in pursuit of the MBA, I realize there are so many variables that I have to balance out to arrive at the perfect equation for my 2 years at the business school. Two years is a big time in ones life, and I want to make sure that these two years are equally enjoyable for my wife and my little daughter. So one of the key things that I am looking at, while selecting schools, is the support and network available for families with kids.
Most schools do have a partners club and in most cases the partners club does organize activities for families with kids as well. While researching the Chicago Booth School of Business I came across a sub-club of the Booth Partners Club – they call it the P.O.L.O Club (Parents of Little Ones). With the help of the Partners Club, I was connected to the co-chair of the P.O.L.O club. She e-mailed  me a brief overview of the activities and events organized by the club, and happily agreed to speak with me to  answer my questions about the club. By the end of it I was convinced that my family will be able to enjoy our time at Booth.
For those of you who might be interested, here are some of the activities initiated or supported by the P.O.L.O Club:
-          Organize play-dates for children
-          Organize activities for women, including a weekly “day out for Moms” (Dad’s have got to take care of the kids some time, school or no school. And BTW, even though there are male significant others this club comprises of females only)
-          Family parties and events celebrating special occasions
-          Overall, it networks parents who are undergoing similar experience and helps make stronger bonds between families 

Waiving off your right to view your recommendations: why it is a no-brainer?

Those of you who might have submitted an MBA application or have at least started their online application must have surely come across the option that asks whether you waive off your right to view the recommendation written by your recommender. When I came across this the first time, I took some time to really think it over. In the end I decided to waive off my right and now when I think about it, the decision should have been a no-brainer. This is blog is about why I think so.

To begin with, the only way you make sure you have the best people to recommend about your candidacy is by speaking to each person whom you consider as a possible recommender. Tell them in detail why you want to do an MBA and if they are not well versed with the MBA application process at a top school give them a sense of the whole application process – how competitive it is, how it should bring out your overall candidacy, how it is so much of a holistic process in spite of all the variables involved and all those things that make you sweat and lose sleep during the application process.  After this ask them if they have the time to write recommendations for you and more importantly do they have enough ammunition (strong/weak points about your personality) to really fire up your candidacy. This exercise should help you arrive at your ideal recommenders.

Coming back to “waiving off rights” now, if you have arrived at your recommenders by using the approach above, do you really want to give them any hint that you doubt their honesty? Well, by not waiving off your right you would do precisely that and that’s why I said it was a no brainer. Forget what the ad-com thinks about it, you want your recommenders to be on your side make them feel you are fully confident about them and do not let them think otherwise.  On might counter that by not waiving off your right, you will make sure that the recommender will write a favorable review. Well there are two things to it – first it doesn’t really have to be the case, if they really have something against you this little check box will not make them change their mind and second by doing this you are tying to control your recommender which is definitely not what is expected of you.

Though I say that it is a “no brainer” I do understand that, like everything else in life, there can be exceptions here too. There could be those situations, though I cannot think what they would be, which warrant that you do not waive off this right. So it definitely is not a thumb rule, you may say this is just my “cognitive bias” speaking!

Any thoughts about this little piece of the MBA jigsaw puzzle are highly welcome. 

The Economist’s 2010 B-school rankings and what it means to me?

The 2010 MBA rankings by The Economist has the US schools back at the top in big time. The Economist reports that US schools are in ascendancy and that the European schools have taken a beating. The Economist places significant weight, more than 50%, on employment statistics at graduation and it is no surprise that the European schools fared badly given the extremely bad economic scenario last year. There are some major changes in the rankings this year with Tepper, Marshall & MIT Sloan being some of the top beneficiaries while LBS, INSED & IESE are some of the ones dropping down. The magazine agrees that this time there has been some substantial overhaul, in its words “This time around, however, swings have been wilder”.

What does this mean to me? Well the best part is that I have one more school in the top 10 as compared to last year’s rankings. But there could be a flip side to it as well, better ranking might mean more applications and that definitely adds to the competition. Then again, someone who is solely driven by these rankings will not be prepared to apply until R2 so if I can focus on my apps I need not bother. In any case, I think I should not bother! The rankings are good, but that’s it they are just rankings. I should just get back to my essays and not get distracted.

Here is a related article from Poets & Quants; it has a very good analysis of the changes in this year’s ranking. 

Playing catch-up : Connections, how I got connected with my Tuck contacts?

I am going to play catch up here at my blog; last few weeks have been so hectic I haven’t had a chance to post a lot. I plan to make amends for that over the next few days and post some interesting things that took place over this period.

Late in July, I had posted about reaching out to current Tuck students as well as alumni. I will devote this post to – How I connected with my contacts? My first contact at Tuck was a ‘friend of a friend’, sounds obvious I guess! I contacted this person and filled him in on my career aspirations, and guess what, based on my choice he got me in touch with two more alums.

The alums I spoke to had some great insights, but a lot of the key information that helped me make up my mind about Tuck came from current students. Again, it was one of these alums who got me in touch with a current student. The Tuck website is also a great resource to reach out to current students. Each student led club has its own web page, and apart from a lot of useful information about the clubs activities, they also have contact details of the club leaders. These are current students, mostly second year. So I looked up these clubs, found the ones that were of interest and e-mailed one member from each of these clubs. I did not get any response the next day, realizing that these students were in the middle of their internship I figured it was not reasonable to expect a prompt response. To maximize my chances, I contacted other members as well from each of the clubs and to my surprise I was flooded with responses. Within 2 days I had a response from all of them, I ended up speaking to eight current students with a wealth of information. 

Back to the grind - From GMAT to Essays and now back to GMAT.

I have spent most part of last 2 months researching schools and trying to build the plot for my essays. I think have done enough research on the schools (at least for some of them) but my essays – that’s a different story altogether. I think I have listed down enough points from all aspects of my life but somehow I am not able to push myself to put everything into coherent stories.

At this point I have decided to bring out my GMAT textbooks again and prepare simultaneously for the retake. Though I am not highly convinced about the timing of the retake, I don’t want to leave any stone unturned. More importantly this is my way of compensating for all that slack (even though I was so busy with my school research and thinking about essays) over the last few weeks.

This time for the GMAT I will have to be on the turbo mode right away and highly focused to improve on the weak areas from the last attempt. The BTG practice question set looks like a good place. 700 questions with high quality explanations, worth trying out I guess.  

Want to make God laugh?

Earlier today I was discussing with my wife about the ROI of MBA from a top school and the debt I will incur in pursuing that MBA. I showed her the salary statistics of the school that happens to be my top choice now. Needless to say she was very impressed by the average base salary and bonus figures. I showed here more statistics – tuition reimbursement, other bonus etc. and slowly started drifting towards what life will look like post MBA. After listening to me very intently she finally said – ‘You are going too far with your train of thoughts. I like your dreams, but at this point all it does is remind me of the Woody Allen quote - If you want to make God laugh, tell him your future plans”.

She had conveyed her thoughts very well, I was probably taking it too far. I am still working on my applications and am nowhere near  completing them. The mention of the Woody Allen quote did get a chuckle out of me, but I am hoping that God is not laughing at my plans! 

FuquaVision – Fuquans take on the school life

While researching the Fuqua school of business I came across FuquaVision, which is a home production by Fuqua students (Fuquans, as they are called) and is largely made of video skits that mock the school life.

I think this is a good indicator of the social scene at Fuqua. Some of the videos are absolutely hilarious.  Here are a couple of my favorite ones. 

Also, if you visit the site do read the founding story as told by the student who created this. The story makes a very interesting read and is a lot is fun too. 

Should you really visit the school you are considering?

Yesterday a friend of mine, who is in the same boat as I am in (with regard to MBA application), asked if I had made any substantial impact after my recent Tuck Visit. He pointed me to this excerpt from the HBS admissions blog“Visiting campus has absolutely no impact on how your application is reviewed. It may have a gigantic impact on how enthusiastic you are about US - that's where the value-added comes into play”. His question was very valid; do you really want to visit the school just for the sake of it, especially if the school does not think that it impacts the application?
Here is what I think about this. Two years is a big timeframe in one’s lifetime, more so for people with partners and families. The balancing act can be very tough and you want an atmosphere that makes it convenient for everyone around you to enjoy, instead of having to struggle. Add to this the cost factor – the tuition going out of your pocket and the income that is no longer coming in. Now imagine spending these two years at a place that you do not like and it becomes really difficult to get the best out of the school. This is the time when you want to focus the most on studies and activities with the least possible distraction. But if you are not happy about your choice your mind will constantly be troubled by the thought of not having the best possible investment of your time and money.
You might ask - At a top 20 school nothing can go wrong? Not really, these schools are so different in so many aspects and there can be that one thing which really gets onto you. Some might find a large classroom intimidating, some might find a remote location suffocating and some might find a school right in the middle of a big city too distracting. A school visit will not only help you identify such concerns (if any), it will also help you identify the areas that make you a better fit at the school, something that will add great value to the essays. Agreed a lot of information is available on the internet and school brochures. But visiting the school really allows you to put things to perspective. Some people really get that ‘wow’ feeling after visiting the school and the decision process becomes very simple. It happened with me, I visited a school that was #2 on my list and after the visit it now sits right at the top! If you are planning to move in with your partner or family it is important to check the facilities that the school provides and more importantly to know whether your partner/family will have enough opportunities to keep themselves occupied and have a good time.
The school visit does not change anything from the Ad Coms perspective about your candidacy, but if utilized well it has the potential to empower you with enough reasons to justify why you are a good fit for a specific school. The second sentence from the HBS Admissions blog (above) really sums this up in a subtle manner. Not everyone is well positioned in terms of location to visit the schools of their choice, but whenever possible it definitely helps. 

Creative thinking at 30,000 feet.

A colleague of mine, who is a frequent flyer, once mentioned that at great altitudes you tend to indulge in either extremely mundane activities or extremely creative ones and there is no middle ground. I am not sure how much of it is true, but based on my observation and personal tendency I would like to agree with him.
Yesterday when I flew from Boston to Omaha I tried to test this little theory. I have always spent my time during flights either sleeping or reading, nothing that I would call really creative, so this time I thought I would test out the creative aspect. Given that I am ‘supposed to’ be writing my essays now (I say so because I started my essays more than a month ago and have completed only the first draft of 2 essays!), what better than attempting the essays in flight.
I spent a good part of the time thinking about bullet points for 4 essays and I must admit it was highly productive. Hopefully I am not the only one who thinks so, only time and my contacts (once I send them my essays for review) can tell that. I have set myself a deadline of this Friday, to fit all these bullet points into nice essays. Maybe, I should use my return journey for some creative writing now!

My visit to the Tuck School of Business – Modern day Gurukul

I had the opportunity to visit the Tuck school of Business last Friday. Being close to Boston I have visited MIT & Harvard umpteen times (as a tourist and as a volunteer attending the meetings and activities of the NGO that I work for). However, this was the first time that I visited a business school as a prospective student and obviously I was very excited. A couple of my friends have been egging me over the last couple of days for details of the trip, but preparation for Onam feast on Sunday and a hectic schedule at work kept me from writing for the last few days.

The Tuck school is about 3 hours drive from where I live but I chose not to drive early morning on Friday. Instead I stayed with a good friend of mine at his place in Keene (a little over an hour from Tuck). For majority of the journey from Keene, it was a lonely drive through the woods of New Hampshire. I am someone who prefers such narrow and winding roads over monotonous highways and enjoyed the first half of the drive before taking the highway. The first sight of Hanover, when I exited the highway, was that of a serene lake with walking trails around its perimeter. Within no time I was near the heart of the town where most of the school buildings were located. The first few minutes at Hanover were enough to convince me that Tuck is the closest to a modern day business school equivalent of Gurukul (an old Indian school system with strong emphasis on amity and bonding). I parked my car in the Medical School parking area and took a shuttle to the Whittier Hall. I was well ahead of the schedule and enjoyed the calmness around the hall while waiting for the event to kick off.

Soon other prospective students started showing up and at 10 our host kicked off the event by handing each of us our ‘package’. This contained the agenda for the day and some informational brochures. The first thing on the agenda was a tour of the school premises. A 1978 Tuck alum showed us around the school and he had a lot of interesting facts to offer. Here are some of the key points that I noted from the campus tour:
¨      The Stell Hall is amazing!! With a view of the woods and the river in the background you wouldn’t find a more tranquil setting. We were told this hall was the fulcrum of a lot of school activities and is buzzing with students all the time. 
¨      The Tuck infrastructure really fosters a collaborative & close knit environment.
¨      The close proximity to the schools of Engineering and Medicine helps a lot of entrepreneurial projects, with ideas originating in the Engineering & Medial schools that are then implemented by MBA students.
¨      The alumni contribution really shows up in the infrastructure as well, some of the dorms are equipped with Tempurpedic beds (all courtesy Tuck alumni).
¨      Most of the students with partners and families stay in the Sachem Village, a couple of miles from the campus. But we were told that the Sachem Village did an ever better job of nurturing close bonding and there were a lot of activities that partners and families could look forward to.

Next up was a mock class with Professor Golder, who presented some of the findings from his ongoing research in the field of Marketing and Product Innovation. Prof. Golder laid out some interesting facts and demystified a lot of common (mostly false) beliefs regarding the origins of some of the most common household items. This was followed by a lunch with Students and representatives from MBA Program Office. All of us (prospective students) were seated at designated lunch tables and each table had either a current Tuck student or a representative from the MBA Program Office. Our table had a representative from the MBA Program office and it was a good opportunity for us to ask our questions in such a small group. Later a student panel (comprising of 4 T’12 students) presented their view about the school and shared their experiences. Their views were of tremendous value and they had so many of them I cannot put all of it in this blog, but one thing I must share is that the common underlying of all their experiences was the camaraderie and togetherness that the Tuck environment facilitates.  
After the lunch session we moved back to a classroom where members of the Career Development Office (CDO) were already waiting for us. The agenda was to help us understand how the CDO prepares us for our career goals. The interaction with CDO starts very early during the MBA program (as early as the second week) so it is important to understand what the CDO can offer so that students can make the best out of them. Here are some of the noteworthy items from the presentation by the CDO.
¨      Tuck recruitment team is emotionally vested in their student’s goals and they have a one-on-one relation with each student (Based on everything that I heard from the students, this has to be absolutely true).
¨      Tuck has a ‘half-close’ list for offers from companies, which means recruiters only get to pick half of the students of their choice (for interview) and the other half is open for students to bid for.
¨      The CDO tries it’s best to help International students get offers here in the USA.
¨      The CDO has a lot of resources to place students but the onus is on the students to ‘actively manage their career and own it’.
The last item on the agenda was a presentation by the Admissions panel followed by a discussion. Let me quickly summarize the key points from the presentation.
Admission Committee’s guidelines for applicants:
¨      Application is reviewed in a holistic manner; there are no minimums (for GMAT or GPA).
¨      Tuck has a ‘blind interview’ policy – interviewers do not have access to essays.
¨      Use STAR method for interviews, use anecdotes where possible and avoid long-windedness.

After the scheduled events for the day had ended I drove to Sachem Village, after all this is the place where I might end up staying with my family (obviously if I get in). The theme of this place is along the same lines as that of the Tuck school with the addition of more open spaces and playgrounds. I am pretty sure that Tuck must be unique in this aspect, by providing such a wonderful setting for students with partners and families Tuck makes sure that the 2 years during the MBA are equally enjoyable for partners and families as well.

Tuck has been in my scheme of things for quite some time, but this visit only reinforced my belief and now I am ‘all in’ trying to present the best possible case for my Tuck application. 
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