Oh! The Wait…

I thought I’d enjoy my thanksgiving if I stayed away from the forums, but my anxiety has only multiplied. With only a few days to go until Kellogg starts releasing decisions and MIT begins sending out interview invites, I’ve been draining my iphone battery checking for updates on the internet. I am almost mentally paralyzed and unable to focus on anything. Hopefully, not for long.

Last year Kellogg’s first R1 admit was reported on Dec 3, 08 and the first MIT interview invite went out on Dec 8, 08. So it’s only a couple more days until the fate of MBA applications is disclosed.

Good luck!

The Application Review Process at MIT Sloan

WARNING: Information in this write up was provided by Sloan alumni and has not been verified for correctness.

Before heading out to the airport, I had lunch with some Sloanies. It was refreshing to do something other than writing essays or obsessing getting in. At some point the conversation went in the direction of how MBA applications are evaluated at Sloan.

Here’s the info they shared with me. I thought you guys might like to know.

After you application is submitted, it is reviewed for completeness. You should have received an email telling you either that your application is complete or that it is missing certain materials.

Lets say your application is complete, it will be printed and filed. Here are the steps that ensue hereon.

1: Applicants are sorted into buckets: finance, consulting, IT, non traditional etc.

2: Rod Garcia then does a quick review of your application materials and stats. I am told he pays close attention to your cover letter, recommendations, GPA and GMAT. At this point you receive a thumbs up or down.

3: Another member of the adcom committee will read your application next. They will look through your entire application and provide a thumbs up or down. I am told that if Rod Garcia didn’t like your application and one of the readers was a temp reader, you could be in trouble because sometimes they get influenced by Rod’s verdict. It’s usually a good thing if both readers are fulltime adcom members because this reduces the chance of groupthink.

4: If you’ve received two thumbs down, you can be certain you’re out of the running. You can be very certain that you will be interviewed if both readers liked your application. If your application was given a thumbs up by one reader and down by another, a third reader will look at your application. If they like your application, you go into the maybe pile.

5: Next the committee sits down to decide who to invite for the interview. A lot of things go into how this decision is made. They look at macro trends such as application numbers, the make up of the class, employability of applicants across all buckets etc to decide how many interviews to allocate to each bucket.

The applications that have two thumbs up are non-issues. The applications that were read by a third reader are the ones that are discussed and filtered.

6: At this point interview invites are sent out to the applicants who make the cut, while others are dinged.

I had to run to BOS, so I told my friends that we’ll have to pick up the conversation another time, but wanted to share what I heard from them with the community.

Just remember, the process may have changed, and/or might be totally different from what I was told. These guys graduated in ‘08 and ‘09. Take it with a grain of salt and make the most of your weekend!

Tips for Round 2 Applicants

Admits 0, Dings 1. That’s the score so far. I’ve spent the last few days revisiting my essays, thinking about my application and trying to figure out what more I can do to ace my Round 2 applications.

Linda Abraham, the founder of Accepted.com wrote an article for BeatTheGMAT which may be of particular interest to folks in a similar spot as me.  I have exchanged a few tweets with Linda and hope to touch base with her in the next couple of days to get her thoughts on what I can do to kick some adcom butt.

I’ve also reached out to my friends, some of whom used MBA coaches, for feedback about their experience to understand the value that an MBA coach can add to your application. The epithet I have heard being used again and again is that MBA coaches act as your “mock adcom” who can really help you polish your application. But they don’t come cheap. I’ll be sharing a detailed note about what I’ve learned in a few days. Stay tuned!

International Enrollment Down at US Grad Schools

International first-time graduate enrollment remained flat in three broad fields in 2009—in business and engineering, two of the three largest broad fields for international students, and also in life sciences.

You can download the report here. I found my way to this report from BusinessWeek’s Getting In blog. Just skimming through the report the following table caught my eye.image

Last year international enrollment in business programs was flat. This could be in large part due to the credit crisis that made Citibank shut down its loan program for international students leaving many without a way to finance their education. The recession, visa reductions and TARP restrictions on hiring foreign students certainly also had an impact. The economy hasn’t exactly recovered and these fears may continue to haunt international students.

It will be really interesting to see how things shape up this year. I am going to bet my money that we will see a further decline in international enrollment and an uptick in veteran enrollment due to the yellow ribbon program.

I hope this will leave more spots for US applicants, but only time will tell.

Gone Interviewin’

My girlfriend has interviews with H/S next week. I’ll be  be travelling to Palo Alto and back to Boston with her.

This weekend I’ll be catching some sunshine, enjoying great California cuisine and helping the woman prep for her interviews on Monday.

Check back next week, when I’ll share my thoughts on how to crack the Fuqua essays. Take it easy everyone!

Direct Your Destiny. Really?

Check out the latest GMAT ad campaign. They’re telling us that if you’re not an MBA, the only jobs you qualify for are those of a server or a poop scooper.

Wow! If this doesn’t scare me to register for the GMAT, I don’t know what will. Perhaps they need to hire an MBA with some advertising and marketing experience.

Really distasteful.


Au Revoir! Chicago-Booth

It was very disappointing. This morning Chicago-Booth sent out an email, informing me that my status had changed. I knew that it meant I had been denied.

The many hours spent studying for the GMAT, writing essays, preparing materials for recommenders, putting together a presentation had yielded no result. Why didn’t they pick me, choose me, invite me to interview?

I’ve been asking myself this question all day. Here are some of my thoughts on it.

Application Essays

For most of us who apply to b-school, we know that writing good essays is important. But something is definitely to be said of the kind of essays schools ask you to write. Personally, I LOVED writing Kellogg and MIT-Sloan essays because they gave me an opportunity to paint a full picture of who I am. Yes, the approaches might differ, where Kellogg wanted to hear more about leadership and teamwork while MIT-Sloan was more behavioral, but I feel someone who reads my application at these schools will get a fairly deep understanding of who I am.

Chicago-Booth’s essays on the other hand purely focused on career goals and a mistake. The PowerPoint is one place where you can differentiate yourself by demonstrating other aspects of your personality, however I wonder if this is the optimal way of getting this information. Those four pages could be better used if Chicago asked specific essays about accomplishments, leadership, volunteer work and community involvement. Just my two cents.

The Numbers

Chicago-Booth has approximately 595 spots, about 40-50% of which will get filled up in R1. If you do the numbers, you realize that they probably sent out 475-600 invites. Given the small number of invites, not everyone can expect to receive an invite.

The Economy

The Midwest, especially states around IL have seen many layoffs due to the recession. Chicago-Booth apparently received 20% more applications than last R1 of 2008 and I’m betting this is one factor that explains this trend at Chicago-Booth when overall applications have remained flat or declined. A lack of geographic and cultural ties to Chicago-Booth and the Midwest may have worked to the disadvantage of those candidates who are applying to many schools and live on the coasts or abroad.

Chicago-Booth may have also been somewhat hesitant to take folks who work in finance or financial services (aka me) for fear of impacting their hiring numbers as finance jobs are few and far between.

Qualitative Factors

On some level, applying to b-school is a gamble. As Derrick Bolton, the Director of Admissions at Stanford’s GSB said, an application requires a candidate to establish that he/she is not only qualified but also unique.

The GPA, GMAT, recommendations can establish that you are indeed qualified, but demonstrating that you are unique is fuzzy science.

It depends on you and your ability to write good essays but it also depends a lot on who is reading your application, their bias and preferences, their mood that day, and the set of applications they get to read on a particular day. If they’ve read about someone who rescued chimps, built a windmill in an African country or acted in an Oscar winning movie at 19, the profile of an ordinary guy trying to do extraordinary things might be refreshing and could get two thumbs up. Switch things around a bit, and you begin to get the picture.

I believe that not having richer essay prompts in the Chicago-Booth application increase the randomness that qualitative factors can add to the entire process.

The Weakest Link

After all the applications are read, at some point a pool of qualified, impressive candidates is created. The problem that faces adcoms at that point is that they cant invite all these wonderful people for an interview and so they start playing “the weakest link.” (Quirky show that used to be on British TV, which I saw with my English homies.)

At this stage the adcom is probably looking for a reason, a good enough reason to send your application to the “Deny” pile. It could be anything really, but you can be pretty sure you get ranked or rated based on these reasons before being eliminated.

Final Thoughts

Why am I spending the time to share this? It is because I know there are many like me who are a little down today because they’ve not made the cut. Hopefully, after reading this post, they will be able to understand that it’s not worth beating yourself about it and constantly asking yourself whether you’re “good enough.”

We’ve all got to continue persevering and trying and hopefully we will all be admitted to a b-school where we will be happy and able to thrive. I truly believe that everyone’s worth it.

Good luck fellow b-schoolers!

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Gone Booth Gone

Perhaps its premature, but I believe it is time to bow out gracefully. Chicago-Booth turned out to be a disappointment. I am yet to receive an invite, but the writing on the wall seems fairly clear. This calls for introspection and analysis and also more committed effort for the applications that I am yet to submit.

Recently I had dinner with a couple of my friends who are also applying to MBA programs. We worked closely on applications - we helped each other with positioning, recommender prep and proof reading.Given my stats, work experience and GMAT score, they still believe that good news may be on the horizon, I am not going to pin my hopes on it any longer.

Among some trends being reported on the forums (GMATClub, BW Forums), some of the more interesting ones are:

  • Monday, November 9, 2009 was silent. No invites were reported on any forum. Perhaps this was the day when all the remaining applications, especially the weaker ones were analysed and sorted for dings and interviews. My assumption, and hence caveat emptor.

  • R1 applications for Chicago-Booth are up 20% YOY (per current Booth students) -- Interesting statistic, probably has something to do with high unemployment in the midwestern states that surround IL. Does that mean that R2 applications will see a rise as well. Hard to predict, but I definitely believe that R2 will be a more favorable time to apply to top schools. Perhaps I should have waited to submit Chicago-Booth in R2.

  • Application response times have become 20 days  for later applications instead of 14 days for earlier ones. Applications submitted later which went complete after 10/21 were being read at a slower pace than those which were submitted early. If you're applying in R2, getting all your materials in early might be beneficial.

Good luck to everyone. I'll be spending my evening working on Fuqua essays.

Still Waiting on Chicago-Booth

The past few days have been really busy at work. Add the stress of not having heard anything from Chicago-Booth, anyone would give up constantly checking for updates on the internet.

Yep, tried that, didnt work, the addiction was too great. So here I am, back again on the www trolling for any scraps of info about Chicago-Booth interview invites. Here's what I've gathered so far for you me hearties!

Based on reports today, applications that went complete on 10/24 have been issued invites. My application went complete on 10/24 too, and gloom and doom is beginning to set in, slowly.

GMATClub is also reporting that some candidates have already been dinged and their status has changed to "Deny" on the online application. I am always fearful of this happening to me when I log in each morning to check my status.

Three more days to November 11. The day Chicago-Booth will have run out of interview invites and all of us who are hoping for news will finally have an answer. Praying for some good news and wishing y'all good luck!

Lower MBA Application Volumes in 2009-2010?

I posted an article that suggests 2009-2010 might see lower application volumes on the BW Forums a few days ago. At lunch today, a couple of people from work (most of whom are applying to MBAs this fall) took the time to think through it.

Here's what most essay consultants will tell you to get you to spend money:

Higher GMAT volume: You will often hear that more people are taking the GMAT, so more people will apply for MBAs, implying competition's tough and that you need to get help from the so called pros. Everyone at the lunch table had taken the GMAT more than once. The maximum being 3 times. So you can see, an increase in the number of GMAT tests administered doesn't necessarily mean more applicants, it just means people are taking the test more than once to get better scores. (Still not convinced whether it will be more competitive?)

Higher MBA application volume in 2008-2009: Data from last year's application numbers (as reported by Sandy/HBSGuru and many others)suggests that R1 numbers went up considerably due to layoffs in the financial industry, after which R2 numbers were flat or down. Most people who applied in R1, applied to many more schools than usual. My co-workers will submit applications for 6 schools (on average, compared to the standard of 3 schools pre-recession) during R1 and R2. Does it mean more people want an MBA? Not really. Does it mean competition is up? Not really. What it does mean though is that backup schools are in a soup. They are going to find it hard to recruit people who wont pay the big bucks for an MBA unless its at a top 10 school.

Here's what my co-workers and I are betting on will happen in 2009-2010:

R1 will be favorable for backup and Tier-2 schools: If you're considering a back-up school, it might be a good idea to get an application in before the R1 deadline. Your application will be viewed in positive light and probably have higher chances of admission, as schools want to admit students and get their deposits as soon as possible. It also helps back-up schools plan better for later rounds. Our consensus was that weaker candidates will especially benefit from this.

R2 will be favorable for top schools: Applying R2 will accord you two benefits. First, if you have submitted an R1 application (or two) you've gotten better at telling your story. Second, you're not going to be competing in a shark pool with Type-A's and overachievers. Non traditional candidates may receive positive consideration in R2 purely because the bulk of finance, consulting and technology spots will be at 50-60% capacity when decisions go out for R1.

"B-Schools are desperate" Schools are accepting the GRE, taking college seniors, reducing application fees and introducing early decision/action deadlines. If this isn't a signal that schools foresee trouble in recruiting MBAs, I don't know what is.

I'm not saying getting in will be a cake walk, but definitely if you play your cards right there is no reason to doubt that you can make it to a good school.

Keep your hopes up folks and keep plugging away, there will be a b-school where you'll be happy at the end of it all.

Waiting on Chicago-Booth

Its been 2.5 weeks since the application deadline and roughly a little over 1.5 weeks since my application became "complete" -- the question on my mind, and undoubtedly on the mind of many other Chicago-Booth applicants is how long must one wait before giving up hope.

The data provided by BW forum posters is too sparse. I also checked the GMATClub Chicago-Booth page. And to make sense of it all I called the admissions office today.

Based on my analysis and the conversation I had, I gathered that it takes about 10-14 days for your application to run through the hands of student members of the adcom and the director of admissions before a final determination is made whether to invite, waitlist for R2 (without interview) or reject your application.

Thought I'd share this nugget of information with other folks who are probably wearing out their F5 key waiting for an invite like myself.