Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Waitlist Strategy

Waitlist Process
When the admission results are announced, some people are either suprised or frustrated to find themselves on the Waitlist. After all the effort, all you get is a waitlist! Don't despair. If you are really interested in that school, there's many ways you could demonstrate that to the school and convert your waitlist entry into a admission. This is what I found out when I was trying to convert my MIT Sloan waitlist into an admit, but ultimately sent a different letter to them, because I decided to goto W.

The bschool generally wants to admits those students from the waitlist, who will accept their offer. Therefore, you have that you really want to be there.

1) Get in touch with the school and find out their waitlist process. Most schools will ask you to send an additional letter or an essay indicating your interest in the school. Some might also permit an additional recommendation letter or a reference letter from an alumni. Follow the school's guidelines.

2) Visit the school, if you haven't yet visited the school. Meet the students, professors and see what you like. Did you find a good match between your interests and what the faculty does? Or are you excited by some programs that the school has? Mention that in your letter.

3) What have you done since the admission decision? - any new projects, charity work, or anything that adds to your leadership - mention about this in your letter to the school. The school wants to know about these updates.

4) Some other interesting things that I found while reading these blogs - one student made a support group from a set of current students, whom he knew, to make a case for him and send a recommendation letter for him.

5) Be creative - the more you learn about the school, the more you could write about what impact you could have on your classmates and the school community if you were admitted to the school.

Finally, be persistent about the waitlist and interacting with the adcom. But like any other, if you don't make it, it is not the end of the world. You could apply next year with whatever you have learned through the experience, or decide to move on, to work on your goals without doing an MBA.

Monday, June 25, 2007

MBA Scholarships ...

For those who are wondering what needs to be done for MBA financial aid, here are some ideas:

1) Financial aid for US universities comes in many forms - loans , grants, fellowships, scholarships, corporate sponsorships and awards.
2) Some schools might offer you some $$$ when they admit you, but some other have an additional process, which you can find from the school itself.
3) Top tier financial firms (Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs) have fellow programs, which one can apply for, through your bschool
4) Some top tier consulting firms such as McKinsey, Booz Allen Hamilton also have scholarship programs
5) Popular resources on the internet are:

  • FastWeb
  • FinAid.org
  • Forte Scholarships for Women
  • Mittal Steel Co. Scholarships for Kellogg students-especially of Indian origin
  • Rotary Scholarships from your country

Start with your school's FinAid office to see what help you can get. There are quite a few scholarships/grants for minority students and those from developing nations.

MBA Interview

Interviews can be stressful at times. But this funny video from YouTube has a nice Grease-y take on the whole thing.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Bschool Questions

While doing bschool research, I had approached current and past students at bschools, asking them about the school, its program and their experience. I would modify the questions depending on whether I knew the person or not, and what knowledge I had built about the program. Here are some of the questions I asked:

1) What do you particularly like about your school?
2) If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?
3) Name some courses that you really liked. What are the most popular courses?
4) What are the most popular student clubs?
5) How is the bschool environment - healthy competitive, cooperative?
6) How does the career services department help students in their job search, career development?
7) My interests lie in X and Y. What activities are present in these areas besides clubs and conferences?
8) What level of business familiarity does the school expect from its applicants?
9) How was your overall experience and what did you really like about the school?
10) What could you advice me regarding the application process?

Obviously, there are many more questions that you can ask. The ones above should give you an idea.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

GMAT Resources

I was cleaning up my machine, when I came saw an old file containing links to GMAT resources. Enjoy! (Note: I haven't used all of these. So, I am not sure which ones are good.)

1) Crack Gmat - Free downloadable sample GMAT, full length test http://www.crack-gmat.com/gmat.htm
2) MicroEdu - Sample test http://www.microedu.com/gmattest/freetest.htm
3) 800 score - Three most common question types:http://www.800score.com/guidec2view2.html
4) West.net - This page has several links to tips, questions and tips for test day!http://www.west.net/~stewart/gmat/
5) Thompson Peterson’s - A few sample questions: http://www.petersons.com/testprepchannel/gmat_sample_questions.asp
6) GMAT tips - http://www.admissionsconsultants.com/gmat/tips.asp
7) Princeton Review does have one online test that you can take on their website with no obligation, you might want to try that to start with.It can be found here: http://www.review.com/integrated/templates/defaultrh/testprep.cfm?TPRPAGE=79&TYPE=GMAT

8) If you are a more point-n-click oriented person, Test Tutor offers a free online GMAT counrse at this URL http://www.testtutor.com/gmat/
9) Grammar traps at http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/agcomm/traps.html

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


I have received some questions about letters of recommendations for MBA applicants. I have written some thoughts here and also found some good posts here. I am writing some additional points:

1) Recos are very important for an MBA application, because until the school meets you as a person during the interview, these letters show a third person's view about you. Most schools would like to have a reco letter from your supervisor or immediate manager. This is not mandatory. If you do not plan to tell your company or manager about your MBA applications, then you can take reco letters from other people who have closely supervised your work. You will then have to explain your reasons for not taking a reco from your manager in your application.

2) Reco letters from peers or colleagues at the same level are not desirable, except if the school specificaly asks for such a letter. Think about your projects and people with whom you have developed a good relationship while working- this could be somebody from your client side or even someone you worked with on a recent fundraiser for quite some time. Make sure you are comfortable approaching such people. Should you approach your friends then? Nope- the bschools would like professional letters of recommendation. If you are cheating while taking a reco letter, thinking that the school might not realize such things, then how do you plan to adhere to ethics?

3) Spend Time! - I cannot overemphasize this. You will need to start early, meet with your recommenders, let them know about your goals, explain the recommendation process to them and if necessary, provide them with sample recommendation letters, so that they know how such letters are written. I met my recommenders in late August/early Sept. For the first deadline around mid-October, I still felt this was slightly late. Ideally, early August looks like a good timeframe. I also provided them with my goals essay, sample reco letters from Montauk book, my resume and spent some time discussing my goals and the reco process. There are lots of websites that talk about this process and provide sample recos. For example, I found about.com's sample reco letter here

4) Follow Up appropriately - Most likely, your recommenders are busy ppl. Therefore, follow up with them when the deadlines are approaching. Don't wait till the last week of your deadline date. At the same time, don't bother them persistently.

5) Should you write the letter yourself? - Nope, I wouldn't. The schools are adept at understanding your language style, so if they realize that the applicant himself has drafted his reco letter, then I am sure, you would be aware of the outcome. The best thing is to spend some time with your recommender talking about your aspirations and your reasons for doing an MBA. If you have approached the right people for this, then I am sure they will take the time to understand you and write a nice letter on your behalf.

6) My recommender should be a known personality, a top CEO or VP or a leader from my country - This is not necessary or even mandatory. If your recommender is a known person, that's good for you. But, even if this is not the case, it's fine as long as, your recommenders validate your overall story and write genuinely about your qualities.

7) What should the reco contain? - the reco itself should be school specific and should answer questions in detail, attaching examples to most questions. Typically, the reco should talk about your qualities in leadership, maturity, analytical abilities, integrity, team work, outstanding achievements and your weakness (yes, that's right.)

An excerpt from an MBA admissions director- We ask for specific data and examples -- like the impact the candidate has had on a person, group, or organization -- from the applicant's direct supervisor. Also, we ask for the characteristics they would like to change about the person. The more specific examples the recommender can provide, the more legitimacy we give to the letter.

8) Overall, the process is simple. If you are applying to 6+ schools, then you might to approach multiple people, instead of the recommended 2, so as to not burden them. If you have chosen the right people, have faith in them that they would do what's right for you.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

An engineer's MBA

My foray into the industry began as a software engineer. Most MBA applicants have backgrounds in finance/banking/consulting. During my application process, I was confronted with many questions about my background- ranging from "Are engineers at a disadvantage while applying to MBA schools?" to "Does my engineer background help in my MBA?". Simply because, I could not see a one-to-one mapping between what I did at work to the courses and work in an MBA or post MBA. Well, that would make my life tough. Furthermore, bschools do not assess your skills prior to application. I had to rely on business week forums, online research to decide how to confront these questions. After spending a month pouring over these forums and talking to some people, I was relieved. There are several folks who have crossed this path. If you are a software engineer like me, don't be tense. Here are a few guidelines:

1) Beyond Coding/programming/whatever : What have you done that goes beyond coding? I am sure that as an engineer, you are not simply coding in the corner. You have to present,defend and build your ideas. Sometimes, you may have done project management as well. How about process defining, formulation and actually implementing it in a team? Make a list of all such things and think about you will convey these.

2) High level picture: Present a high level picture of the things that you have done. You are the CEO of your own work. Go beyond "developing systems" to thinking about "why this system was built? What role does it play?What's the impact of this system?" and mention those things in your application.

3) IT language: that's a no-no. MBA application is not your project report. Avoid using too much IT talk. Instead of saying "built a client server front end module to retrieve HR database records from some system", use laymen language that is easier to understand. Include other elements of your project. Did you lead a team while doing this project? Did you manage or direct other for their tasks? Now, how about "Managed a team of 3 to develop a HR system with client server functionality".

4) Write those numbers: Did your work improve productivity, caused an increase in sales or revenue, impacted your company positively? Get those stats in your resume. When someone else is reading your resume, these will help them to easily quantify your impact.

5) Communicate well: The general assumption is that engineers are 'ok' or 'not so good' at their verbal skills. If you are not constrained by this assumption, then you should present your application clearly and convincingly. Outside, you might keep yourself out of bschool.

Last, but not the least, being an "XYZ engineer" is your biggest advantage, and will help you to stand out from the pool of i-bankers, consultants, finance specialists applying to b-school. Engineer an articulate and convincing application.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Wharton Essay 1 Outline

Question 1: Describe your career progress to date and your future short-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect an MBA from Wharton to help you achieve these goals, and why is now the best time for you to join our program? (1,000 words)

I am writing about my approach here as an example of what I had thought and done. I am sure there are better ways to address the same question. Although bschool essays are not required to follow the exact rules of English style or grammar, a well written essay will have a good flow and will convince the reader about your answer to the essay question.

Opening Line:
This wasn't an eye catching phrase or anything like that. In my case, I was able to write one sentence summarizing the essense of my application, a certain theme that I gave the whole application. I don't think I struggled for this line. In fact, it just came to me one fine day when I was redrafting my essay. Nevertheless,this sentence also fit in making the transition to start my next paragraph describing my career progress.

Paragraph 1, 2, 3, 4:
As the question asks about career progress, I wrote 4 short paragraph talking about my career, instead of writing big paragraphs. I am a software engineer. And as such, my goal was to describe the learnings that came out of my experiences. I gave references to couple projects instead of being generic. These paragraphs summarized my 4 years of work in the software development industry and how I was using technology inside and outside work. This helped me to lead the discussion into my community work

Paragraph 5:
This was how I grew because of my community involvement. Again main points. I was going to write about the specifics in other essays. I was writing about this here because this was leading upto my goals. Once I was satisfied that I had provided enough context. I wrote about my goals.

Paragraph 6, 7:
Statements and discussion about short term and long term goals and why they mean so much to me, what I need to achieve to my goals.

Paragraph 8, 9, 10:
Once I spoke about my goals, I linked that to how an MBA helps here. And then spoke about Wharton MBA, why it would help me in my goals, and what I do with it.

Last paragraph:
I mentioned couple lines about why now is the best time for an MBA, which also summarized my essay.

In my approach, the essay flow addressed the question in order. However, you could also do this differently. For e.g, start with the goals, then link them to your about career progress, and then write about how MBA helps here. Instead of hurrying to write the essays, spend some time organizing your thoughts, and then pen them down. Also, the goals and Why MBA essay question will be repeated for all bschools in different forms. The flow that works for one question might not work for other.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

H1B and International students

I read about this article on Run Forrest Run's blog. I do hope that this problem is resolved soon and international students do not have to undergo any arduous processes for getting an H1B work visa. The process of relocating oneself and family to a new land might be tiring enough. Then, think about this work visa hassle while graduating!

Meanwhile, for international students who will be travelling to the US for the first time on a student visa, definitely find your options for working in the US. F1 visa provides one year of practical training, and then, most international ppl switch to H1B visa. There are additional work visas depending on your country of citizenship (for eg: TN visa for Canadians, E3 visa for Australians to work in the US) . Some time back, USCIS has also introduced a seperate H1B 20K quota for students with advanced degrees (Masters, PhD etc) in the US.

There's some positive hope in the Immigration Reform Bill that is being discussed in the senate currently, regarding increasing the annual H1B visa cap from 65K to 115K? Also, a good thing for international students who have already held H1B visa within the US, their new H1B applications post graduation will not be subject to the annual cap, provided they have not exhausted their 6 year limit on H1B.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

BSchool Research

Guideline while researching bschools : (in no particular order)

-- About the school
• What is the school culture like? What's the student body like?
• Is the school a general management one or major based? Strength in any particular business area?
• Bschool professors - any particular prof. that you are interested in working with? Student-to-faculty ratio.
• Study and project trips, Clubs and other programs
• How will this bschool and its programs help me in my goals?
• Bschool location- city or in university town (city == $$expensive)
• BSchool courses - which courses interest you? How are the courses taught?
• Career options after bschool - which companies recruit for internships and for fulltime opportunities?

-- International Students
• Loan and finaid options for international students
• Support network within the university
• Percentage of internationals accepted; percentage from your country
• School's influence,intitatives and network in your home country
• Help with visa and other international student matters
• TOEFL requirement - most bschools waive this requirement if you have already spent some considerable amount of time living and working within the US

Some points from my own research:

Stanford GSB
- Top 5 business school with Small size
- Experiential learning opportunities where you can experiment, practice, and learn by doing
- At the Stanford Graduate School of Business, leadership means taking full responsibility for changing an organization for the better.
- 6-to-1 student-faculty ratio
- has certificate program in Global Management, PMP , plus there are 4 special centers - Center for Entrepreneurial Studies (CES), Center for Social Innovation (CSI)
- Customized Curriculum after 1st semester

Top 5 bschool
- Run largely on student initiative
- Student’s top choice: finance
- Great focus on team initiative
- Has many programs, conferences and other opportunities- e.g. Global Immersion Program, Global Consulting Practicum, Wharton Small Business Development Center, Business Plan competition, Leadership Ventures, Global Treks, Wharton Entrepreneurial Program
- Close to NY city (approx. 2.5 hours drive)
- Large student body (800 enroll each fall)

MIT Sloan
- Sloan Values: Innovate, Learn, Collaborate
- Programs include Sloan Innovation Period (SIP) - a one week period between semesters to work with the faculty , Independent Activity period
- Centers include MIT entrepreneurship center
- Global Entrepreneurship Lab is the flagship international internship course
- Annual Business plan competition – MIT 1K, MIT 100K
- Greater MIT network
- Slightly more focussed on Quant within the courses

You may choose to do this bschool research by spending few hours or days or months. That's really upto you. What you uncover here is important though. Alternatively, the market is flooded with "Get into the top MBA school" books. Most of them have already researched the bschools for you. You can supplement all that by talking to current MBA students, admission officers and dig deeper into aspects beneficial to you.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Leadership, Strengths and Weaknesses

Almost all the bschools ask about leadership, teamwork, strengths and weaknesses.

- Leadership: Describe your leadership experience? What did you learn from it?

While understanding this question better, I had found a very good post by Stacy Blckman . For some candidates, this is an easy question by virtue of their position. They are already in a leadership role at work (e.g. VP, CEO, founder of a organization etc). But this question is not about role or a position. It is about what you did in a position or role that qualified you as a leader, where your team looked upto you for vision, guidance, motivation and the ability to direct the team along a certain path.

I personally believe that leadership happens amongst a set of people. It is not solitary. Therefore, winning a competition in the first place where you were the sole beneficiary may not qualify as a leadership activity, unless you have led a team here. Questions that can help you while writing an essay are:

-- What was the situation? Give some context
--- What your role, what did you do ? Write very briefly
---- What were some challenges that you faced, ethically, with people on your team, strategic decision making, other team or client issues?
----- How did you solve these challenges? Did you consult your team? What was the impact on the team? How did people respond ?
------ What did you learn from this experience? (Cannot miss this)

Strengths and Weaknesses:

This is another common question in the essays or during interviews. Most people are aware of their strengths, but it is the "weakness" portion that pose questions. What "weakness" is the bschool looking for? If I write about my real "weakness" , won't they reject me? NO.

We, human beings, are not perfect at everything. Each of us has some weakness, that no matter whatever you do, remains our weakness and sometimes shows up in the way one does things. This is what we should be writing about. This is not the "I really work hard" type of weakness. Do not write something that the books tell you write. The bschools want to know that you are aware of your shortcomings and can channel that weakness through strengths of others. Great leaders showcase that strength. They find the right people in the team with complimentary skills.

I am not going to mention further examples here, but if your inner conscience is clear, I am sure you will know what your weakness is && how you have dealt with it in the past.
Regarding strengths, the message is clear. In both cases, you will have to provide specific examples in your essays. Do not write vague, generic answers for such questions.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

My MBA admission experience ...

This post is really long overdue. Ever since I mentioned that I will be going to bschool in Fall 2007, I received questions from several ppl. I hope I have attempted to answer them to the best I can. Including this information for future MBA aspirants: (Disclaimer: this posting reflects , my opinion based on my MBA admission experience and is not endorsed by any business school)

1) To MBA or not: The MBA thought has popped in my mind. But, I am not really sure if I want to do an MBA or not.
A: There is no straight forward answer to this question. It really depends on you, where you are in your career and what your aspirations. Talk to people, who have done an MBA. While there are various reasons to do an MBA, the most prominent ones are:

a) i want to advance in my career using advanced business skills, use it within my or different organization
b) i want to switch careers - maybe something like XYZ to finance or marketing
c) i am not really sure. I will do my MBA and figure it out.

No matter what your reasons are, don't use it only for the sake of a career switch, job search tool. Academically, the MBA degree will include courses which will provide a good foundation in business, leadership and teamwork. But the two years that you spend doing an MBA, will help you develop perspectives (global or otherwise) and incorporate non-textbook knowledge that will last a lifetime. Therefore, it's not enough to simply state that you want to do an
MBA for career switching or advancement. You should find out your mainstream goals in life. What is that one or few things you aspire to improve in this world? And then, does the MBA degree help you with that? After some introspection along these lines, 'to MBA or not' may be simple enough for you to answer ..

2) If I decide to apply for MBA, what should I do next?
A: There are several things in store for you,if you decide to apply for MBA. Depending on when you start the process, you may want to understand that the bschool deadlines and how your tasks fit with those application timelines. Generally, there are 3 admission rounds. Very few schools have either 2 or 4 rounds. Round 1 deadlines are in Sept/Oct, followed by round2 in late dec/early Jan, while round 3 deadlines are in march. A rough guideline to align with the application deadlines:

- Your goals and reasons to do an MBA : 6 months before the deadline
-- GMAT (spend ~two months) : 4 to 5 months before the deadline
--- Research, visit and finalize bschools : 4 months before the deadline
---- Start writing essay drafts, talk to current students, prep your recommenders : 3 months before the deadline
----- Get essay feedback, revise your drafts, prepare other application materials such as bio, work etc information : 2 months before the deadline
------ More feedback and essay revision, follow up with recommenders : 1 month before the deadline
------- Submit application when you are ready, follow up with recommenders : days or hours before the deadline

Generally speaking, the application process will keep you busy for a good 6 to 8 months (Don't forget the two months wait after you submit the applications). While most tasks are driven by the applicant, the one that requires the most careful attention is recommendations. You should definitely allot a good amount of time to your recommenders to complete this task, be patient with them and follow up carefully, so as to not come across as bothersome. Do not wait till
the nth hour to ping your recommender. If they haven't completed the recommendations a few days before the deadline, you should remind them about the deadline and try to find if they are working on a draft. Sit with them and have a conversation about yourself. That will make it easy for them to write a recommendation. At the same time, if you have had a close working relationship with your recommender, you should know what is your recommender's style, and
if he/she will be completing the reco minutes before the deadline, trust them on that.

3) Any advice regarding the GMAT examination?
A: Use the OG (Official Guide). See my post here for my GMAT plan. There are several MBA applicant blogs that talk about this. Dave's MBA blog is a good starting point for various resources

4) What about the essays? What do bschools want? What should I write in the essays?
A: Hmmm...this one really deserves a seperate post. There's no golden answer to what be written in the essay. To start with, do not think in terms of "what the bschool wants to hear", think about "what you want to tell them". Answers to the essay questions should come from within you. (Remember that inner voice of yours, listen to it. Now is the time.)

I chose to begin this journey with by writing my own story (I was born here. I did this and that. I want to this and that etc..). Writing in such plain old fashion helped me to find the loose gaps between the statements, add my thoughts and then keep refining them. Trust me when I say that I trashed the first set of drafts here. In no way, they reflected me- the person. Some things that also helped me were making a list of all things that I have done so far, things that I have enjoyed doing, things I like and don't like, and of course, things that i cannot live without. Doing this exercise also showed me some patterns in my life - of the type of person I am, the choices I make and how they define me. I took help of family and close friends while going through this
task. I think I spent about a month & 1/2 on this, taking breaks when I found myself going in circles. When I found my voice reflected through the essays, I knew that the time spent doing this was well worth the effort. And I had to move on to the next phase.

After writing my own story, I was clear about what I had done, what I am doing now and where I wanted to go. In my opinion, answers to these questions form a crucial part of your essays. However, this is not just about essays. It's possible that when you have reflected so much, you may come to the conclusion that you really don't want to do an MBA. That's fine. All the thinking, writing, reflecting that you have done is not a waste of time. It will help you make
decision on how you want to not just the MBA factor, but also how to want to advance in your career, what activites you want in your life. Now, before I entered the next phase, I had finished my GMAT, researched my schools and more or less finalized the schools that I would be applying to.

Looking at these bschool essays, you will notice that there are some common questions and themes around them:
- Career goals & why - the exercise that you did at the start should help you here. Bschools do not give instructions on what is a right goal or wrong goal. But don't get confused about this. A good rule of thumb is the ability to express these goals to a stranger and if they stil make any sense. Most ppl I spoke to mentioned "starting a company" as a goal. While that is a good starting point, dive deep into that aspect. Why do you want to start a company? What
problem are you trying to solve? What is the company about? What is your vision? Simply mentioning that you want to start a company will not do any good.

-- Leadership - almost all bschools will have a question or two about leadership. Infact, the underlying theme of HBS application is leadership. They either ask you to describe your leadership experience in your past, or ask you about how you plan to use the MBA to enhance your leadership skills. In writing answers to such questions, you have to first find out what leadership means to you, how you have dealt in such situations, what you have observed about your leadership skills.

--- Personal or work experiences
---- Involvement within your community
----- Creative or ethical experiences

The above 3 points are specific questions related to what you have done so far. A good guideline here is the 'what have you done, how did you do it, what you have learned from that experience'. Such questions usually have a length of 400-600 words, which suggests that you should be writing in a concise manner. You can also use a certain theme for your essays for a bschool.

Your school research will help you in polishing your essays. You will notice that each school has a distinctive culture, a spirit that is embodied within its student body and also reflected in how the school operates and what the school values.

The End
Get feedback on your essays, revise them to fit within the word limits (+/- 5 to 10% rule is a good idea), and complete the essays at least 10 to 12 days before the deadline. Let them rest a while. Within the last few days, you can do some minor tweaks, correct grammar and focus on any polishing. Rewriting at the last minute is not a good idea, unless you are really sure what you are writing about.

The following should sum up the above:
- Write your own story. Be true to yourself. No one other than yourself can write these essays
-- Do not cut, paste, copy amongst the various bschool essay.
--- You are different and unique. Do not worry about others. What you choose to worry about can sometimes define how your application shapes up.

Coming up: my essay outlines ...

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Wharton is really happening to me ....

Time flies ...
I can't believe all the things that have happened since Feb Wharton Welcome weekend. I have completed the employment verification, got the award letter, received my wharton student account and finally even signed a lease this past week for a studio in Philadelphia and soon, I will be quitting my job.

I am all excited to be at Wharton! I have emailed various current students, and each one of them has been super helpful to me in answering all my questions. And I hope I can be the same to furture Wharton applicants/students.

Monday, April 09, 2007

HBS Essays Advice ....

I have been wanting to write this post for a while now. Writing the HBS essays was a very big learning experience for me. Not only did I struggle the most with this set of essays, but also I realized that there is bigger purpose behind these questions. HBS questions range from your undergraduate academic experience to your career vision in life to anything else that you can add. HBS was not my top favorite amongst all the b-schools. Maybe this attitude did get reflected in my essays, and therefore I am not surprised that I received a ding. Nonetheless, these excellent questions offer a good opprtunity to ponder about your life, and then communicate your reflections in a precise, yet persuasive way.

  1. What would you like the MBA Admissions Board to know about your undergraduate academic experience? (400-word limit)

At first, this question threw me off. My undergraduate academic experience - that happened like years ago. And what about it? What should I cover in this essay? Do not be alarmed. This question is really straightforward. What do you personally think about your undergraduate life? Think about all aspects and note them down - studies, course work, sports, activities, fun parties , embarassing situations, proud moments, publications, research work, whatever. Then think about one or two specific aspects that you feel strongly about with respect to the academics, where you have had a team impact or you have taken an initiative to solve a problem or even done something for your college community through academics. This is how you can highlight your leadership and other qualities in this essay. Do not force leadership into any example that you decide to choose, nor should you take a leadership example and force academics into it.

Q2) What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such? (600-word limit)

This is a classic HBS question, that has appeared in their question list for several years. While it is advised to follow the rule of picking up - (1) one work example (2) one personal example (3) one extra curricular or community example, this is no hard and fast rule to abide by. If an applicant has two work accomplishments that are noteworthy and something he/she is proud about, then wrote about those. You can then use other questions to discuss your community scenarios. The trick part about this question is its word length, 600 words for 3 accomplishments means 200 words per accomplishment, which translates into precise & terse writing. Also, don't forget the WHY part - this is important. HBS wants to know what you have learned through these episodes in your life, how has your leadership changed and how you have influenced other people around you.

Q3) In your career, you will have to deal with many ethical issues. What are likely to be the most challenging and what is your plan for developing the competencies you will need to handle these issues effectively? (400-word limit)

Generally, b-schools asks candidates to describe any ethical dilemma that they might have faced in the past, what they did to handle that dilemma, what they learnt and what they think about it now. This question is miles apart from that version. Not only does the question force the applicant to think in a futuristic tone, but also makes sure that candidate can describe his plan for developing competenices to handle ethical issues. One thing that I realized while working on this question is that, one is not required to compose a solution to the ethical issues that he/she might mention in the essay. The question is NOT about ethical issue solutions, it is ABT your awareness and understanding related to these things.

4) Discuss a defining experience in your leadership development. How did this experience highlight your strengths and weaknesses as a leader? (400-word limit)

This was my second favourite question. The word length portion of this essay is tricky, because there are 2 questions here. At the same time, it is important to provide context information for the essay. Also, choose an experience that shows growth in your thinking. HBS particularly mentions "defining experience" phrase in the question.

5) What is your career vision and why is this choice meaningful to you? (400-word limit)

This was my favorite question. I thought about this for a long time before beginning the MBA application process. Most schools ask about long and short term goals. But HBS is asking about your career vision. I would like to think about this as "vision for your life". What are the few things that you aspire to accomplish in your life? What kind of difference do you want to make? How do you see yourself changing the world? HBS may give you the support, but do you have it in you to make this change.

WOW ! Clear admit Best of blogging

I did not expect this, not even a bit. For the past one year I have used Clearadmit as one of my MBA research sources. Look at what I saw - my fellow bloggers and I have received nominations for Clearadmit best of blogging awards. Amazing! Three cheers to my friends in the blogging world - Juggler, Iday, Rungee ,... and a very big thanks to Clearadmit.

Thursday, March 22, 2007


Much before you ponder to ask yourself this question, your mind may have thought about doing an MBA for whatever reason - be it only for the sake of doing an MBA, or because all your friends are doing an MBA, or because that might seem to be the only option for more $$$, or whatever . MBA is not a must-have degree, it falls in the category of "nice-to-have" things in your life. After all, if you pick the top 10 people in any field, chances are that only odd person amongst them may have done an MBA. Then why do an MBA?

when you approach this question - do not think about "what the bschool wants to hear"? Rather, I would say that do not think about this question at all.

  • Think about what you want to do in your life
  • think about your own vision for your life, what are you passionate about? Are you following those passions

No matter what you are doing currently, whether you like or dislike your job, ponder about these things. And then ask yourself whether an MBA will help you to go from where you are to where you want to do in your life?

In all my thinking, I believed that an MBA will only help me, it is not a must-have. Therefore the belief to do what I really set for myself is something that should come from within me. There are umpteen examples of people who have conquered this world without even completing their school education. (eg. Dhirubhai Ambani, Bill Gates and so on). There are others as well who have completed a business education and then risen to the top tier in their company or founded global organizations (eg. Indra Nooyi and so on). So, really there is no wrong or right answer. It goes to prove that MBA is definitely beneficial, but life also goes on when there is no MBA or rather MBA admit. That is why it is important to understand for yourself what your goals in life are? This is not about the next immediate career move that you might have considered. This is thinking about your purpose in life .. and the kind of positive difference you want to make in this world. An MBA will give you skills, confidence to some extent, and the network to begin the journey. Your own belief will get you there.


It's been a while ....

since I wrote a post to my dear own MBA blog. A lot happened in the last few months ...

1) My visit to Wharton confirmed that this is the place for me ...
2) I spent quite some time writing the scholarship essay, resume etc for Wharton. After having written so many application essays, I guess I could have re-used some of them . However, in my opinion, this is one essay that you wanna write carefully, not just for the money, but because this is your first post admit writeup, you should bring out the best in yourself
3) Loans, loans and more loans - I did quite some research here from the local banks, to find what deals they have for international folks living in this country who have built some credit history. Not many options, but some are quite nice. I will post my findings in a while

In my next post, I am planning to write about my thought process during the past year when I went through the application process...

Saturday, January 27, 2007

I am still there ...

It's been a month since i posted to this blog. Within few days of the Wharton admit news, I went on a vacation trip in December to some places in Asia and also went home to India for a family wedding. The admit news kicked off my trip on a positive note. I couldn't have asked for a better X'mas gift. On another note, i made a lot of observations about the ongoing changes in India, especially Mumbai, which I plan to talk about in a different post. Since I returned, I decided to digg into the post b-school admit phase. But a bad flu attack brought that to a halt. As i am recovering from that, I realize that the following things have become a priority for me on the b-school side:

1) Visa - I would need a visa to pursue to study in the US. Have to figure out the specifics here.
2) FinAid - needless to say, any kind of scholarship/finaid here would be welcome.
3) B-school specifics- this includes everything ranging from visiting the school to housing to ...

I also found that, there are two other admit students from Seattle, who might be heading to W. We have a meet coming up soon on Feb 3rd. I am also excited to be there for the Wharton Winter Welcome weekend. I have never been to Phily. So I plan to explore W as well as check out Phily as a living option for the next two years.

On the schools front, I received a DING from Stanford. When I did not receive an interview invite by early Jan, I expected no better results. That's a bummer for all my hopes on staying on the West Coast and being close to my family here. Haas is still there, however, the class size of Haas is much smaller than that of Stanford. So I don't expect miracles on that end. However, i am very happy with the W news. Because, getting an admit in a top school is tough and a reapplicant at W would know that better.

More to come about my Wharton Winter Welcome visit..