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.

6 Responses to “Seven lessons from my round one application.”

Curious said...

Awesome! I think one more thing that's tedious the amount of document scans that are required. Its incredible the different formats each school wants. ISB apps are neurotic.

Cognitive Bias said...

@Curious - Very true. I should have covered the restrictions on document types and size. Not something to be left for the last minute.

GRE said...

Thanks for your share! I think this information is helpful for everyone. I'm doing practice GMAT here: . I hope it's useful for GMAT test takers.

JJMM said...

Great advice! Thank you~

Cognitive Bias said...

Thanks JJMM. I just read about your journey. All the best.

Janet G. Brown said...

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