Thursday, December 11, 2014

Congrats to HBS Round 1 Admits!

For those of you who got the golden ticket on Wednesday, congratulations! I still remember the sense of exhilaration and awe I felt after logging in to the portal and seeing "It's a yes!" It was a long journey for me, but it was definitely worth it.

A couple pieces of advice:
  • If you are deciding between multiple offers, go with your gut. Also, feel free to reach out to me (Send a PM on GmatClub, if you want to chat about the decision-making process).
  • Attend ASW. It's a great chance to meet other admits (some of the people whom I'm closest with now, I met during ASW).
  • Stay on top of the HBS checklist. There will be a million things you have to do between now and August, should you decide to enroll. The checklist felt never-ending (they'll continue to add new stuff). Pay attention and be mindful of deadlines.
  • Spend this weekend celebrating your success. You made it! You accomplished something awesome. 
Whelp, I need to keep this post short. We're in the middle of both finals and recruiting, so there's a lot to be done.

Congrats again!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Apologies for the delay

Eeek! I'm super embarrassed by how long it's been since I've updated this blog. Well, that should tell you how busy life has been. There are only a few days left in my first semester at HBS. In fact, my first final is in just 12 days.

I'll try to recap the last few months, but there's way to much to fit in one post, so I'll just give you some general impressions.

Classes have been both more and less stressful than I imagined. Because 50% of our grade is based on participation and cold calls are a common occurrence, it's virtually impossible to slack in class. The Case Method brings an unparalled sense of energy. Debates amongst peers are commonplace and encouraged, and reflective of the real world. (Although, I must admit, there are times where I wouldn't mind a lecture or two in finance). But anyway, I spend hours reading cases each night, followed by a one-hour meeting with my discussion group every morning. All in the hopes that I will be called on to contribute one hopefully-somewhat brilliant comment in class. However, other elements of class are pretty low-key. For example, the midterm for one of my classes was un-graded, and we had a group project for another class.

Besides classes, I'm also currently in the midst of corporate recruiting for summer internships. Over 200 companies are interviewing on campus in January, and many more have submitted job postings. It's a bit overwhelming, but also pretty exciting.

I've also joined several clubs, including the Social Enterprise Club, where I've been able to meet a bunch of other do-gooders :-)

All-in-all, I'm having a really great start to my MBA experience.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

The busy life

Things are starting to ramp up. It's weird, I thought that my first 3 weeks of HBS were hectic. I can't remember the last night I actually was able to get 8 hours of sleep. Everyday seems filled to capacity -- from time spent in class and with my discussion group, to preparing cases, to study groups and review sessions, to dinners with my sectionmates, to countless parties.

Yet, I'm realizing that this has likely been the most relaxing time of my first year, because now, clubs are kicking off. Amongst the 90+ student clubs at HBS, I have to decide which ones I want to join, and whether I want to run for an officer position. Right now, I'm thinking about joining the Social Enterprise Club, and there are several more that I'm considering, including Board Fellows, and the Harbus Foundation.

In addition to those activities, we're now also gearing up for recruiting. This coming week, there's an event called Career Teams. Apparently about 600 first year students participated last year and it's supposed to be incredibly helpful. Plus, our officially-formatted HBS resumes must be submitted to the career development office soon. These resumes will go into the large Resume Book that is seen by employers/recruiters.

So anyway, despite the fact that I'm severely sleep-deprived and I know that things will only become more intense, I'm still ridiculously excited about what's ahead of me for this first year at HBS.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Round 1 Applicants -- Do this

Eek, it's almost time to finally press "Submit" on your application!

You're stressed and tired and likely feeling anxious. Take a moment to breathe. If you've been focusing on your app for multiple hours, walk away for a bit. Spend some time re-focusing your energy, then come back later to proofread. Make sure you are telling a compelling story that shows how you will contribute to the HBS classroom experience and one that highlights your leadership potential. The admissions committee isn't looking for the next great author, so your writing doesn't have to be award-winning... but don't be sloppy. Watch out for typos and check your grammar. Consider having a friend or colleague review your essay. After that, take Dee Leopold's advice and "don't overthink it." Press "Submit," and then go celebrate. You deserve it.

Friday, September 5, 2014


The admissions team is running a social media campaign called "Life at HBS." Based on feedback from prior years, it seems that applicants are really interested in what life is really like at HBS. They've asked us current students to use the hashtag #LifeAtHBS on many of our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc posts. So, if you haven't already checked it out, it'll give you something to do after you submit your application and are looking for a distraction for the next 3 weeks until interview invites are released (I wish they had this when I applied!).

In the spirit of that campaign, I'm writing more about my life at HBS. Here are a couple of basics:

All first year students (known as RCs), take 6 classes the first semester:
  • TOM: Technology Operations Management: This is basically an operations class
  • FRC: Financial Reporting and Control: This is an accounting class, but HBS likes to use fancy names
  • LEAD: This is a class on leadership and is often cited by alums as one of the most important classes they took
  • MKT: Marketing: This name is pretty straightforward
  • FIN: Finance: We won't officially start our finance classes until next week
  • FIELD: This is a three-part course that spans the entire first year. In Field 1, the focus is on interpersonal dynamics and teamwork. In FIELD 2, we'll all travel to developing countries to consult on a good or service for a company. Lastly, in FIELD 3, we'll work in small teams and get a couple thousand dollars from HBS to launch a start-up.

We're typically in class from around 8am-3pm, followed by activities, events, speakers, meetings with professors, and review sessions. Then, we spend a few hours each evening preparing for the following day's cases. Amidst all of that, we often have group dinners or go out for drinks. There are also multiple campus parties each week. All-in-all, we are often sleep-deprived, but the experience has been pretty freakin' amazing.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Factors of my admissions experience

I originally posted the below post on GMAT Club, under the title "Trying to Defy Gravity." As Round 1 deadlines for the Class of 2017 loom closer, I've been receiving emails and comments from several applicants asking for my thoughts on what led to my admissions success.I think this post summarizes the main points:

Trying to Defy Gravity

In 2012, I made the decision to apply to business school in 2013 to hopefully matriculate in 2014. I am the type of person that likes to plan things in advance. I've spoken with several other applicants who decided to apply just 6-8 weeks before deadlines. That would be my worst nightmare.

My journey, of course, began with the GMAT. I've always been naturally strong in verbal and I am a native English speaker, so I focused 100% of my prep on quant. The GMAT was not easy for me. I performed well on practice tests, but bombed my first official test. Ultimately I took the test three times to land a 730. I would have loved to join the 99th percentile club, but I was content with my score and decided to move on to other aspects of my application.

Additional Coursework
I come from a less-traditional background and didn't have any business-related courses in undergrad, although I took a couple of calc and stats classes for my major. Still, I wanted to make sure that b-schools knew that I could handle traditional business classes, so I took a financial accounting and a microecon class to boost my background.

School Choice
I spent a significant amount of time defining my career goals and determining the types of things that I do and don't like. From there, I looked at the top 20 schools and quickly noted which ones I was not interested in. That was easier for me than deciding which programs I was interested in. For example, NYC is too hectic for me and also freakishly expensive, so Columbia and Stern were crossed out. I also prefer the east coast, and decided that there were only 2 schools that would be personally worth it for me to leave the east coast -- Stanford and Kellogg. I also focused a lot on the community of the schools and the program offerings.

My Recommendations for Current Applicants:
I spent an insane amount of time researching everything I could about applying to schools, but of course, there is always an element of luck involved in admissions. I have met some incredible people during this process, and there are way more qualified people than spots available.

A couple of things that I found most helpful:
- Starting early
- Chatting with anyone and everyone -- current students, alumni, admissions officers, fellow applicants, etc... I tried to find any hidden insight I could for each program to which I applied.
- Knowing my story: Coming from a less traditional background, I really had to prove that my story made sense and that an MBA was critical to my next steps. I practiced my pitch repeatedly and even did mock interviews with some friends.
- Writing articulate essays that answered the question, while simultaneously highlighting my differentiating factors, my personality, and my passion.

A few things that I may have changed:
- Applying to school is ridiculously expensive. I only thought about the cost of applications and failed to factor in flights and hotel rooms for visits and interviews, $750 for the 3 times I took the GMAT, plus GMAT study resources and the 2 additional classes. I wish I would have saved more. Especially now that I am seeing the cost of attendance for top MBA programs.
- There are probably some other things that would have made the journey easier, but since it's all worked out, I guess I wouldn't change them. I don't know if the additional coursework helped and it was really time consuming, but whatever, I'm sure it didn't hurt my app.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Week 1 at HBS

I just finished my first week as a Harvard Business School MBA candidate!... Wow, that feels pretty cool to say.

This week was a mix of every humanly possible emotion. I began the week with extreme excitement and a bit of anxiety, wondering what this adventure would hold. At 7am on Monday morning, we were given our section assignments. Sections are a defining aspect of the HBS experience, and how the program is able to feel close-knit and intimate, in spite of the fact that there are 900+ first year students. Each student is assigned to a section of about 90 people. We will stay in the same section for the entire year, taking all of our courses with the same group of people. We stay in the same room for all of our classes, while our professors rotate.

In addition to the sections, we are also all assigned to discussion groups of 6 people. The discussion groups are a cross-sectional mix. We meet every morning at 8am to discuss the cases for the day. The discussion groups are essentially a microcosm of the section experience, as they are composed of a diverse mix of students with varied experiences and backgrounds. By meeting daily with this small group, I've already been able to form bonds, which I'm sure will only deepen as the semester progresses.

Overall, I had a great week, but holy cow, I'm beyond tired. I was up until around midnight last night preparing cases for today's classes. The workload is pretty intense. That's why it's Friday night, and while many of my classmates are going out, I'm excited to relax in my on-campus apartment, watch mindless television, and go to bed early.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

FOMO is real

Classes haven't even started yet, and I'm already experiencing FOMO.

The number of events that I've already received invites for is mind-boggling. Should I go on that Cape Cod retreat, attend the Gatsby party, Color Block party, cocktails and networking event, yacht day, dinner with ECs, etc???... oh yeah, and at some point between those events, I'll also need to read a bunch of cases, be prepared to be cold-called, familiarize myself with campus, try to meet new people, and get re-adjusted to living with a roommate.

Holy crap, this year is going to be crazy...and amazing... but definitely crazy.

So anyway, I'm learning that HBS is a very social place. Last year, when researching MBA programs, I heard so much about the fun activities and parties that pervade Kellogg and the friendliness of students at programs like Tuck and Fuqua. HBS was designated as the uber competitive, suit-wearing "bro." But, so far at least, I haven't experienced that at all. Everyone I've met has been super supportive and down to earth. We'll see what happens once classes start, but I'm feeling very happy about my decision to matriculate here.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

How to Prepare Your Recommenders

Have you seen the new blog post from the Tuck adcom about recommenders? If not, check it out now. It answers a lot of frequently asked questions and gives some helpful advice. I've recently been asked by a couple of blog readers some similar questions, and I think Pat Harris (Tuck adcom) answers those questions well.

But anyway, if you've read that post and still want my advice, then keep reading. Once you've decided who to choose for your letters of recommendation, it's not enough to just send them the online link and leave the rest up to fate (well, it's probably enough for some people, but if you're reading this blog, then it shouldn't be enough for you). However, you absolutely can not (and should not) write your recommendations yourself. Nevertheless, you can provide guidance to your recommenders to steer them in the right direction.

I created individual Recommender Packets and set up coffee chats with each of my recommenders. During our meetings (and in the packets), I noted my career goals, explained why I wanted an MBA, and then reminded them of some of my major accomplishments (i.e. "Remember how awesome I am and all of those great things I did!") I don't know if they chose to describe those things in my letters of recommendation, but it was a helpful starting point to get them brainstorming. I also let them know about particular areas that would be helpful for them to address. For example, coming from a less traditional field, I needed the adcom to know that I do actually have strong analytical and quantitative skills, and I can really compete with the finance kids. I let my recommenders know that this was an area of concern for me, then I asked them to comment on some of the major initiatives that I've led that highlight those areas. Your recommendations should reinforce the strengths and stories highlighted throughout your application, while also providing additional insight into your candidacy.

Friday, August 1, 2014

What questions to ask admissions officers

I was recently sent a message from an applicant regarding what questions to ask current students, alumni, and admissions officers. If you follow my blog or my posts on GMATClub, you've probably noticed my repeated advice to network, network, network. Reach out to people to truly learn about each program, beyond what's on the school's website. But, what should you actually ask them?

I had this same question myself last year. And when I asked, I was told to just ask whatever you want to know to help make the best decision about where to apply and ultimately/hopefully matriculate. That advice was incredibly unhelpful. I already knew where I wanted to apply. By that point, I just wanted advice that would help me get in. I was past the stage of trying to determine "fit."

I can write a post later about finding your fit, but this post is for those of you who fall into the latter category and just want advice to make yourself stand out.

The point of asking questions to admissions officers (in my opinion) is to start to establish a connection and hopefully leave them with a rough memory of you.

  • Briefly share something interesting about yourself (this is basically your elevator pitch)
  • Connect your personal details to your question (this is how you can share your elevator pitch without sounding obnoxious. There has to be a reason that you are sharing this info. The reason, if you've prepared well, is that you have a relevant question to ask.)
  • Show that you have already done some research about the program (For example, if you were interested in international development, you could ask a Duke Fuqua admissions rep about the new campus opening in Asia)
  • Be sure to follow-up with a "It was great meeting you at XYZ event" type of email. Later, if you have other questions, you can continue to reply through the same email thread. This will help the adcom gradually start to remember you, or at least to have a record of you. For example, if you meet an admissions officer from Cornell at a Forte Forum in September, then in October, you could send the rep another email letting them know that you will be visiting the school and perhaps ask for recommendations on what to see/do while in Ithaca. 
  • Ask a question that could be answered with info from the school's website
  • Ask a question that doesn't positively support your candidacy 
  • Ask questions that can be quickly answered with a "Yes" or "No" response. Rather, aim for open-ended questions that will stimulate a (brief) discussion.
  • Lastly, be respectful of their time. Once you've asked your questions and shared a bit about yourself, kindly excuse yourself.
A few question ideas:
  • If interested in entrepreneurship, you could ask a HBS admissions officer about the Rock Center or the Harvard iLab.
  • If interested in management consulting, you could as a Darden admissions officer about the new careeer service partnership with McKinsey.
  • If interested in a non-traditional field, you could ask about opportunities for students to take classes in other departments/programs while enrolled at the b-school (be sure to only about about programs that are a strength of the university. For example, HBS and the GSB both have world-class schools of education. Since I'm interested in business and ed, this was a great way to mention my unique career goals, while gaining more info about the programs). Or ask, what career placement resources are in place for students interested in pursuing non-traditional post-MBA positions, i.e. opportunities within the education sector?
  •  If you can't think of anything more original, you can always ask what advice they have for applicants and what they think is the biggest misconception of the program.

These are just a few ideas to help structure your questions.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Admissions Advice from HBS Dean

I recently stumbled across an interesting article, highlighting a revealing interview with Dee Leopold, the head of HBS admissions. The article made me realize all of the little things that the admissions committee thinks about, many of which I'd never considered. It also made me extremely thankful that I never have to go through the application process again.

I also thought it was interesting that out of the 10,000 applicants who applied to HBS last year, only 10 people chose not to write the "optional" essay. And one of those people was actually accepted!

So anyway, for those of you planning to apply to b-school this coming fall, the article is worth a quick read.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

5 Things to do Now to Prepare for Round 1 applications

It's that time again, folks! Within the past few days, several schools have started to push their Class of 2017 applications live. Round 1 apps are due in as soon as 3 months. That may seem like a long time, but last year I found that time absolutely flew by. So, here's my advice for how to use your summer to be best prepared for application season. Let the games begin!

1. Prioritize the GMAT and get it done. You may be busy at work or dealing with family life, but you don't have time to delay the GMAT at this point. Try to get the test done by July, so that you can fully devote yourself to the many other aspects of applications -- especially essay writing.

2. Define your career goals. Every school will ask you about your short and long-term career goals. These must be realistic, yet ambitious.

3. Select your schools of interest. This ties into your career goals. Figure out where you want to apply. I recommend applying to about 4-6 schools -- 2 schools that are a fit based on your GPA, GMAT, and work experience; and 2-4 schools that are more of a reach. I've said it numerous times, but I honestly did not expect to get accepted to HBS or Stanford. The odds seemed crazy. The only way to be accepted is to apply.

4. Finish the "little things" early. Having not needed to apply to a job or program in a few years, I had let my resume become outdated. Every school will ask for your resume. Update it now so that you don't have to worry about it later when you are swamped with other stuff.

5. Brainstorm essay ideas. When I needed a mental break from GMAT studying, I would spend some time casually jotting down bullet points regarding how I would respond to various essay topics. This way, I still felt like I was being productive, but I was able to escape the misery of Data Sufficiency. Even if the essay topics for all of your schools aren't yet available, there are some common questions that you'll need to be able to answer at some point, i.e. What's the biggest obstacle/challenge you've faced? What's your greatest leadership experience? What are your strengths/weaknesses?

If you have any other strategies to prepare early for applications, feel free to post a comment below. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Who got in to HBS?

HBS just released the preliminary profile for the class of 2016. I scoured these profiles when I was applying last year, trying to gleam any hidden trends. It's crazy to think that my data is now included.

There are currently 940 students in the class, and Dee Leopold expects that number to settle somewhere between 930 to 939, after summer melt and a few waitlist additions.
For me, the biggest takeaway from this data is that you should never count yourself out. If you want to go to HBS, just give it a shot and apply. There is no guarantee that you'll get in, but there's also no guarantee that you won't. Someone in the class was accepted with a 580 GMAT. If you had asked most admissions consultants or entered that person's data into one of those online admissions chances calculators, I bet the odds would not be in his favor. But somehow, he got in! I think that's pretty amazing. Admissions are truly a holistic process.

Personally, I didn't expect to get accepted. I worked as hard as I could and tried to best position myself for success, but I didn't expect my dream to actually become a reality. I decided to apply, because I knew I would regret it if I didn't; I would always think "what if?" That's part of the reason I went by the username "Defying Gravity." I was hoping I could achieve what seemed to be an unexpected feat, not allowing anything (including my own doubts) to bring me down.

So if you're even considering applying to b-school for the Class of 2017, my advice is to go for it. Keep your expectations reasonable, but don't be afraid to shoot for the stars, because you have the chance of something pretty freakin' amazing happening.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

How to respond to the HBS essay prompt

There are still 3 months and 8 days left until the HBS round 1 application for the Class of 2017 is due. However, I've recently had quite a few people asking me about my essay. When I applied, HBS provided the following essay prompt:

You’re applying to Harvard Business School.  We can see your resume, school transcripts, extra-curricular activities, awards, post-MBA career goals, test scores and what your recommenders have to say about you. What else would you like us to know as we consider your candidacy? There is no word limit for this question.  We think you know what guidance we're going to give here. Don't overthink, overcraft and overwrite. Just answer the question in clear language that those of us who don't know your world can understand. 

Interestingly, this exact same prompt is being used for the Class of 2017, even though Dean of Admissions Dee Leopold has previously gone on record stating that the question will change every year. Clearly this 'optional' essay worked out pretty well.

So, what brilliant topic did I write about in order to land the golden ticket? What is the secret sauce behind this question. Honestly, there's no secret sauce. I spent significantly less time on the HBS essay than I did on my Stanford essays, and the essays of every other school to which I applied. I took the advice to heart of not overthinking this, even though my natural reaction was, of course, to totally overthink it.

Anyway, I wrote about what has motivated me to pursue my career goals. I connected my personal and professional experiences into a ~700 word essay. The advice I have given to other applicants is to tell a meaningful story that highlights something important to you. Don't try to guess what's important to the admissions committee, because you'll probably guess wrong.

Friday, May 30, 2014

It's almost June.. crazy

Where did the time go? It's been a few weeks since I've updated this blog (sorry about that, guys), but the month of May seriously flew by. I've been freakishly busy with my job, trying to prepare for HBS, and just general other things in life.

Since I last wrote, I managed to find an apartment and a roommate, which I'm pretty psyched about. That was one of my main stressors, so I'm glad to have made progress in that arena. I've also purchased a new laptop for school, a Lenovo X1 Carbon. I'm currently using a humongous Lenovo T510 that weighs a million pounds. I'm not a complete tech geek, but the X1 is going to be kind of life-altering. One of the other cool things that's happened this month is that I've had a chance to connect with several of my future classmates. This has made me even more excited about the start of school.

Of course, however, I'm still not excited about the cost. My highest priority over the next few weeks is to solidify all of the details regarding my student loans. I'm thinking that I should contact both a financial adviser and a tax accountant. I  need someone to help me figure this all out.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Why I didn't choose the GSB

I was chatting with someone who once described the GSB as a unicorn -- rare and kind of mythical. That analogy has stuck with me, because it just seems so apt. With an acceptance rate under 7% and a student body half of the size of that of HBS, the GSB truly is a unique place.

After my acceptance, Derrick Bolton and the GSB staff, students, and alumni truly made me feel wanted. From phone calls to in-person meetings, I was blown away by the attention and support I was given. I could so easily picture myself blending in to the GSB and becoming part of that legendary community.

In terms of the curriculum, the GSB offers more courses specifically geared towards my interests, as well as the flexibility to take those courses. I could get a joint degree in just two years! At HBS, the joint degree with the Kennedy school is a three year program; that means extra time and money. Therefore, I didn't even consider that option.

And of course, I can't fail to mention that while both schools were relatively generous in their financial aid packages, there was a pretty substantial difference between the two offers.

So given all of that, why am I not planning to move to California? Why aren't I hoping to get a room in Schwab? Why did I decline such an amazing program that is arguably a perfect "fit" for me?

In the end, the choice came down to my head versus my heart. My head told me all of the reasons that I should go to the GSB. Everyone around me seemed to think it was an obvious choice. I could easily find my tribe, people who are similar to me, do-gooders who want to change lives, change organizations, and change the world. I wouldn't be in so much debt for the next 10 years. Everything would be simpler.

However, my heart is what led me to HBS. When I initially started this crazy business school application journey, HBS was my absolute dream school. I figured my chances of getting in were slim, (I know amazing people with 770 GMAT scores who were rejected), but I figured it couldn't hurt to apply. And so, I submitted an application, hoped for the best, and expected the worst. When I actually obtained my dream, I knew that I would regret letting it go. Every other decision I have made throughout this process has been well thought out and logical. I made spreadsheets and took a very analytical approach. With the decision between HBS and GSB, I stopped being logical, I ignored my pros and cons lists, and I just went with my heart.

I know the next two years will be insane. I'll be forced out of my comfort zone; I'll be mentally exhausted; and I'll of course be freakin' cold in Boston. But I'm okay with that, because I'll be living my dream.

Friday, May 2, 2014

It's Official - Deposit Paid

Well folks, it's been an amazing journey, full of stress, anxiety, excitement, and unbridled joy.

I just got back from a trip out to the Bay Area, where I was able to enjoy warm and sunny weather, something that the East Coast has been lacking lately. I've had tons of different opinions thrown my way, and I desperately needed to do some deep soul-searching.

Anyway, just a few short hours before the deadline, I (finally) accepted the offer to matriculate at HBS, and declined the GSB. It was definitely NOT easy, but I've found peace and happiness with my decision.

... Actually, those words sound inadequate. I am so freakin' excited about my decision! I am going to my dream school, and I am beyond excited for the next two years.

Friday, April 25, 2014

I was going to choose HBS

I've been keeping a secret for the past few days/weeks. I think HBS is an amazing program, and I was pretty sure that's where I would be matriculating. I actually bought a HBS sweatshirt a couple of days ago. I was just waiting to hear about financial aid from Stanford so that I could have some closure when making the final decision.

Well, just when I finally stopped being stressed by the decision-making process, I got my fellowship offer from the GSB today, and holy crap it is generous!!

So now, my decision is due in less than a week, and I kind of feel like I'm back to square one.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Quitting My Job

I'm not planning to quit my job until late July or maybe even early August. I actually really like what I do. I work for a great company, I like my co-workers, and I'm in a position that I think I'm good at, while still having the opportunity to feel challenged. Plus, the next two years are going to be freakishly expensive, and I'd prefer to save as much money as I can now, so that I can go on lots of cool trips later.

However, I've recently chatted with several other soon-to-be MBA students, and EVERYONE is quitting way earlier than me. And now, I suddenly feel like I'm already missing out. Things like Yacht Week in Croatia sound amazing! And I'd love to spend the summer relaxing before school starts, traveling around the world, and meeting my new future classmates in exciting locales.

FOMO has officially set in.

Monday, April 21, 2014

HBS Admitted Students Welcome

On Thursday and Friday of last week, I had the opportunity to meet my potential future classmates at HBS. The event was only about a day and a half, but it was jam-packed with activities -- from housing tours, to financial aid sessions, to mock classes, to evening "networking" events, it was a very busy time. I was incredibly exhausted by Saturday morning, but I was also energized as I contemplated the fact that I could actually be attending this amazing program! I am truly awed and humbled that I have this opportunity.

Everyone I met was incredibly down to earth, friendly, diverse, and well accomplished. I, of course, met several consultants and bankers, but I also met a ton of people working in start-ups, entrepreneurs, joint degree candidates, and even social enterprise folks.

In our mock class, we discussed a case about the Chilean miners who were stranded in the collapsed mine. The key takeaways from the case were interestingly about leadership and structures within society. When all normal aspects of human life were removed, a group of 33 men, who were isolated 700 meters underground, still managed to create a system of government. This ultimately enabled  them to survive against all odds. The case method is a very unique and special process, but I think it could allow for some pretty interesting and amazing class discussions.

Anyway, if my two-day visit at HBS is any indication of what the next two years might be like, then things could be pretty amazing!

I'll be traveling to the Bay Area next week, and will be making my final decision shortly thereafter. The deposit deadline is May 1st for both schools. Things are getting real. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

HBS Round 3 Interview Invites

HBS will be notifying all round 3 candidates tomorrow of whether they are being released or if they will receive the golden ticket, also known as an interview invite. I have a few friends who applied in round 3, and I'm so nervous and excited for you all.

Since I technically applied in round 1, but was put on "further consideration" until round 2, I went through the stress of HBS' interview invite day 3 times! Waiting for the clock to strike noon was pretty painful. I must have looked at the clock at least once every 10 minutes starting from 8am. But in the end, it was all worth it, so I really can't complain.

Good luck to you all, and try to get some sleep tonight!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Stanford Bonding

I recently attended an admitted students' reception for the GSB. Head of admissions, Derrick Bolton, was there, and he personally greeted every single student. Plus, he remembered the industries that each of us were in, and then tried to connect people with similar backgrounds or interests. Since there were quite a few of us, I was incredibly impressed by this personal touch.

I've heard a lot about the close-knit GSB community, but since being admitted, I have been able to see first-hand how they put their words into action. From Derrick's marathon day of calls on the decision date, to having a handwritten note included with my admit letter, to having him remember my background and current company, I have been blown away! The application process was super stressful for me, so it feels really good to be wanted. Stanford and Tuck have been the two schools that have made me feel the most special, like they truly care about me as an individual. I can only imagine the connections I would be able to form as a student at the GSB.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

To go or not to go with the rankings

When I first began this journey, I thought the post-admit decision-making process would be incredibly easy. It seemed so simple to just go to the highest-ranked school to which you were admitted. Now remember, this was also before I really understood the mysterious concept of "fit."

So anyway, now that I'm on the other side, it finally makes sense why someone admitted to both Yale and Wharton, for example, would question which school to attend. The obvious rankings answer is Wharton. But the personalities and opportunities at the programs are quite different. Yale is a place where everybody knows your name. At Wharton, there's the risk of getting lost in the crowd.

I've seen a surprising number of people get into the position of wanting to choose a school that is perhaps not ranked as highly as another, but they feel compelled to still stick with the rankings. I'm by no means an expert, but I think that the most important thing is to go to the place where you'll be happiest. The school listed on your resume is just the first step to getting your ideal internship/full-time offer. After that, it's all on you.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Yale SOM Decision Day

Congrats to everyone admitted to Yale today!

SOM was the first school that I was accepted to back in December. Even though I ultimately decided not to matriculate, I'll always have a special affection for the program. The joy I experienced upon receiving that first phone call can never be replaced. I think everyone who has gone through this crazy application process can probably relate to the unbridled happiness of the first admit.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Harvard Debt

I recently received my financial aid offer from HBS, and I feel pretty okay about it. It's obviously not a full scholarship, so I will still be taking on a massive amount of debt, but I think the offer is relatively generous. As I previously mentioned, HBS only offers need-based aid, and the offer was based on my tax info from the past three years.

Anyway, in the course of researching everything I can about paying off this debt, I stumbled upon an interesting blog where an HBS grad attempted (and succeeded) in paying off $90K in loans in less than a year. He increased his income by taking on a part-time job and seriously cut costs. While I highly doubt that I'll be able to pay off my loans as quickly (that guy was pretty extreme), it's refreshing to see that it's possible to not be crushed under student loan debt for the next ten years.

Hopefully, I'll hear from the GSB soon about my financial aid package. I don't feel comfortable making a decision to choose one school or the other without knowing all of the facts.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Hoping for financial aid

The estimated student budget at Stanford GSB for a single student living off-campus is $104K per year. Holy cow!! I've previously blogged about the cost of a MBA after looking at the Kellogg budget, but this is significantly more. Wow, kind of freaking out right now.

I've narrowed my school decision down to HBS and GSB, which both only offer need-based aid. This is both good and bad. I know that I'll definitely be awarded some scholarship aid because of this, but it also means that I will most likely not get close to the merit-based awards I received from other schools. I've completed the financial aid applications and should hear back within the next few weeks. I'm really hoping these school are generous, as salaries in social enterprise aren't known for being particular high.

Anyway, I think the debt is definitely worth it, but it makes me wonder how this trend can continue. I can only imagine what the costs will be in 5, 10, or 15 years from now. It seems like this bubble will have to burst at some point.

So here's to hoping for $$$$!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In at HBS!

When I applied to HBS in round 1, I was given "further consideration." This bumped my app to round 2, meaning I applied 6 months ago. It was a long wait, but it was beyond worth it. This has been an incredible journey filled with stress, anxiety, happiness, and triumph. From the days and nights I spent agonizing over the GMAT, to now being accepted to Harvard Business School, I feel beyond fortunate.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Accepted to Stanford GSB!

This morning, I made sure that my cell phone was sitting next to me as I began my work day. I checked the volume and eagerly hoped for a call from Derrick Bolton of GSB. I saw a few people from Asia and Europe post admits on the gmatclub forum. Then, at around 10am, I casually glanced down at my phone and noticed that I somehow had a missed call from 9:45am. I listened to the voicemail and jumped up from my seat when I heard the message saying I had been admitted. I listened to it again 2 more times just to make sure I had heard correctly.

OMG, I've been accepted to one of the best business schools in the country!

If you recall from an earlier post, I actually didn't think my GSB interview went very well. It wasn't bad, but I had a hard time reading my interviewer and I wasn't sure whether my personality came through as well as it did with prior interviews. Whelp, somehow it worked out, I guess.

I still cannot believe it. I'm beyond happy, amazed, and simply thankful. I'll probably post something else here later, but for now I am too excited to focus and to type anything more than these few lines.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Waiting for March 26th

I downloaded a countdown app on my iPhone that keeps track of the time until final decisions are released. It just buzzed to remind me that HBS decisions come out in one week... as if I could have forgotten.

I've found myself spending too much time lately googling HBS and Stanford. I've even looked at nearby housing (I have a pet so I can't live in on-campus dorms). There is absolutely no benefit in me looking at housing for schools in which I haven't yet been accepted. I clearly have way too much restless energy waiting for March 26th.

I've also spent a lot of time researching everything I can about Tuck. This is one of the few sane things that I'm currently doing. Interestingly, I recent found out that there will be a tech trek in August for first years. While schools like Haas or Stanford may traditionally be more well-known for tech, Tuck is currently doing a lot in this area and it's pretty exciting!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

One more week until Stanford calls!

I'm trying not to think about next week, but I can't help it. At this time next week, DB will begin his marathon day of calling all Stanford GSB admits! 7 more days...

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The True Cost of an MBA

Back when I was deciding between Kellogg and Tuck, I came across an interesting page on Kellogg's financial aid website. It contains a table showing average indebtedness and the sample repayment. These numbers are astounding (not in a good way)!

It's hard to fathom taking on $150,000 in debt at this point in my life. I've never made such an expensive purchase before, and I honestly find it incredibly frightening. I keep reminding myself that its an investment, but that doesn't make it any less scary.

Below are sample debt figures from the Kellogg website and "the average monthly payment calculated using an interest rate of 7.6% (an average of the Subsidized and Unsubsidized Stafford Loan fixed interest rate of 6.8% and the Grad PLUS Loan fixed interest rate of 8.5%)."

Average Indebtedness/Sample Repayment

Loan Balance: $150,000
Loan Interest Rate: 7.6%
Loan Term: 10 years
Monthly Loan Payment: $1788.37
Number of Payments: 120
Total Loan Payments: $214,603.52
Total Interest Paid: $64,603.52

Loan Balance: $125,000
Loan Interest Rate: 7.6%
Loan Term: 10 years
Monthly Loan Payment: $1490.30
Number of Payments: 120
Total Loan Payments: $178,836.76
Total Interest Paid: $53,836.76

Loan Balance: $100,000
Loan Interest Rate: 7.6%
Loan Term: 10 years
Monthly Loan Payment: $1,192.24
Number of Payments: 120
Total Loan Payments: $143,069.41
Total Interest Paid: $43,069.41

Loan Balance: $75,000
Loan Interest Rate: 7.6%
Loan Term: 10 years
Monthly Loan Payment: $894.18
Number of Payments: 120
Total Loan Payments: $107,302.06
Total Interest Paid: $32,302.06

Loan Balance: $50,000
Loan Interest Rate: 7.6%
Loan Term: 10 years
Monthly Loan Payment: $596.12
Number of Payments: 120
Total Loan Payments: $71,534.71
Total Interest Paid: $21,534.71

Loan Balance: $25,000
Loan Interest Rate: 7.6%
Loan Term: 10 years
Monthly Loan Payment: $298.06
Number of Payments: 120
Total Loan Payments: $35,767.35
Total Interest Paid: $10,767.35

Note: The above data was calculated by the Kellogg Financial Aid Office. These numbers may be somewhat outdated. 

So basically, if I took out a $150,000 loan, I'd end up paying over $60K in interest alone, and would have a monthly payment of $1700 for the next ten years -- that's like a mortgage!

Thanks to the full scholarship I've been offered by Tuck, I'd only have to worry about the cost of living expenses and other fees, which would be a huge weight off my shoulders. However, if I were to be accepted to HBS or Stanford, I have no clue what my finances may look like. 

Readers, how are you planning to finance your degree? Do most people have huge savings that they're planning to deplete, or are you going to take out major loans? Feel free to post in the comment box below. I'd love to hear your plans!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

What makes a "bad" interview?

I was recently chatting about what makes a "bad" admissions interview. For a place like Harvard, for example, how can the adcom narrow the field from the 1800 people invited to interview to the ~1100 people who will be offered a place in the class? After all, the people who receive an invite have theoretically already demonstrated their academic and professional merit through their applications. Additionally, I was able to interact with several of my fellow applicants during my interview day, and they all seemed highly accomplished and super friendly.

So with all of that greatness, how can 700 amazing people still get dinged after interviewing?

I have my own speculations, but I stumbled upon an interview with Dee Leopold (Managing Director of admissions for HBS), and I think the article sheds some interesting light on what makes a "bad" interview.

I recommend that you check out the full article, but I'll post a few key takeaways below:
  • Character Flaws: "The first thing is to screen out, to the extent that we can, hubris and character issues. If you cannot behave yourself for 30 minutes with a member of the admissions board at Harvard and we accept you, it would be like trying to bring a loaded gun on a plane. So to that extent, we’re baggage screeners, without any thought that we are going to catch every character flaw, but we are going to pay attention."
  • Disengaged Students: "We’re looking for your ability to fit into this learning model, which is not a classic academic model of you sit still and listen and take notes and write papers and spit back stuff. You come into a 90-person section and you are there to contribute. You are there not to be a bystander but are there and willing to put yourself on the line and take a risk and say that ‘I think that Sally Smith in this case should do this and here’s why.’ And you need to be able to accept pushback, to be interested, alert and engaged. I need to know you want to be there."
  • Boastfulness: “They talk about their substantial accomplishments and they think I could believe that at their entry level there is no one else in the organization,” she says. “They do billion-dollar deals and all the grown ups are somewhere else. They don’t realize that the goal of this application is really not to make yourself stand out but simply to tell your story.”
  • Lack of Diversity: "A superb, off-the-charts person in an interview may not get admitted because at the end of the day the interview isn’t meant to be the lightening round where how you perform in 30 minutes determines your fate. It’s not, you’re in or you’re out. You might say this person is a star in the interview but we have a lot of people with similar backgrounds who did well and we just can’t take them all. So the shaping of the class can become more of a driving factor than the evaluation."
Regarding the last point about diversity, Dee specifically notes that diversity is not simply about your race or gender, or even where you've spent the past few years working. Rather, there could be five different applicants with PE experience, yet they all would approach a case differently because they all have different life experiences. Life experiences are what makes someone diverse. 

So that's what makes a "bad" interview, according to the head of HBS admissions.

To all my fellow applicants, good luck! We will all know our fates in 13 more days!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

HBS and GSB Interviews

I am now officially done with b-school interviews! While I am in no way complaining about having the opportunity to interview with some amazing programs, I am extremely ready for this part of the process to be over. I had my GSB interview this week, and my HBS interview last month. Everything else happened back in Round 1, which seriously feels like an eternity ago.

I expected this one to be a rapid-fire style of crazy questioning. However, it ended up being very relaxed, friendly, and enjoyable. My interviewer smiled and laughed, and was totally unlike the expressionless interrogators that are described online for past HBS interviews. While I have a few things that I wish I had said differently, overall I left feeling pretty confident. Who knows how it will work out in the end, but I think I was able to convey an accurate sense of my personality, motivations, and goals.

I am less sure about this one. My interviewer was much more serious and asked a few unexpected questions, although he was still a very nice person to chat with. Interviews are only one part of the decision-making process, but I don't think I presented my best self here. In retrospect, there are quite a few things that I wish I would have had time to say. It's weird, this was my longest interview (about an hour), yet I feel like I had less time to truly show who I am.

I now have exactly two more weeks to hope and stress, and then it will all be over... sort of. I will finally know where I'm going to be for the next two years, and I can begin the next round of stressing -- including finding housing, deciding when to leave my job, and of course worrying about financing this huge endeavor. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

1000 Page Views

Woohoo, I've hit 1,000 page views in my first two weeks blogging! Thanks for reading everyone.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

And the winner is Kellogg...No, wait, it's Tuck!

The past 5 days have been pretty intense. I'm totally not complaining about having options, but I have been insanely stressed. In the battle between Tuck and Kellogg, I finally made the decision late Sunday evening to enroll at Kellogg. I appreciate Kellogg's strengths in marketing and social enterprise, and I loved the school when I visited. It's a solid, top 5 program that will help me reach my goals.

I  clicked the "enroll" button on the online portal, and felt relatively confident with my decision. "I am going to Kellogg," I thought.

But then, I woke up Monday morning with doubts. The costs of earning a MBA are astronomical. Am I really going to turn down a full scholarship?! I spent Monday and Tuesday chatting with some current Tuckies who I met when applying. They alleviated a couple of small, personal concerns that I had, and reignited my initial excitement and passion for that program. I interviewed with Tuck all the way back in September, and I think that I somehow just started to forget the little things that made me love it.

So, today is the deadline to enroll and submit my deposit at Kellogg. I have a few hours left to change my mind (again), but I'm pretty sure that I'll be choosing Tuck. And surprisingly, my decision is actually not based on the money (although it's obviously a great thing to have). 

It's been a week of soul searching, and I'm feeling good about my decision. I'm excited to be a Tuckie!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Stanford GSB Interview Scheduled!

It was initially a bit challenging getting in touch with my alumni interviewer, but I have finally heard back and have scheduled a date. OMG, it's real now! This will be my final admissions interview, and I'm really hoping it goes well. 

It's crazy to think that since I've made it to the interview stage, I now have a 50-50 chance of being accepted. Seriously, this is bananas!! I've said it before, but it bears repeating: When I began this application journey, I was honestly just hoping for one admit. I absolutely never imagined myself being in this position, and I am so incredibly grateful for these opportunities.

To prepare, I've been reviewing the feedback on Clear Admit and practicing responding to behavioral questions, (which the GSB apparently loves).

The most frequently asked questions include the following themes:
  • Why Stanford?
  • Why MBA?
  • A time you failed
  • A time you led a team
  • A time you persuaded or influenced others
  • A time you went outside of what was expected
  • Your biggest accomplishment
I've prepared for these types of questions for other interviews, especially the Kellogg interview, so I think I'm actually/hopefully already in pretty good shape. One thing that I probably haven't done as well as I should is to stay on top of current events. I watch my local news every morning, but I need to spend some more time reading business news, such as that of the WSJ or Economist.  And so, I have a plan to keep me busy for the next week.

... oh, yeah, and in the meantime, I still need to decide whether or not to submit the Kellogg deposit on Wednesday! Ahhh!

Friday, February 28, 2014

Kellogg vs. Tuck - The Battle Royale

Kellogg's enrollment decision deadline is in 5 days! 

That means that I'll need to make a decision before I hear from HBS and Stanford at the end of March. So, assuming that I don't get into those schools, I have to decide between Kellogg and Tuck within the next few days.

After Tuck offered me a full scholarship, I was pretty sure that's the program I would be choosing. However, Kellogg recently increased my scholarship offer, which is amazing, but also makes the decision harder. I was using money as the tie-breaker, but now I'm not so sure.

  • Scholarship for 50% of tuition
  • Hands-down a marketing powerhouse, plus a surprisingly strong social enterprise program.
  • Although I would prefer to be on the east coast, I think Evanston is really cute and the proximity to Chicago is nice
  • Slightly higher-ranked b-school, but parent university has less brand recognition to layman
  • A large, strong network, but fear of getting "lost in the crowd" in a larger program
  • Need to submit a $2,000 deposit before I hear from HBS and Stanford
  • Full scholarship, which would allow me to take full advantage of the MBA experience without worrying as much about money.
  • Smaller program where I would get more intimate attention. This is especially helpful since I may be choosing a more niche career field.
  • East coast, which I prefer
  • Top 10 program, with a highly-regarded parent university
  • Deposit due after I would hear from HBS and Stanford 
So basically, I really like both programs, and I could see myself being happy in either environment. I know that there's no "wrong" decision, but this is a freakin' huge decision, and I don't want regrets.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Goodbye, Yale.

It's official. I just clicked "submit," declining the Yale offer. I've planned to do this for a few days, but this one was just really really hard to do.

Holy crap, I've been invited to interview by Stanford!

There's one school about which I've been pretty quiet. It's that "other" school on the west coast. You know the one I'm talking about, the one and only Stanford GSB.

I applied to Stanford in Round 2, after having received a couple of acceptances from other programs. I had already written my Round 2 essays, before having any acceptances, so I decided there was no harm in just submitting the application. Even though, to be honest, I wasn't expecting much. After all, the GSB now has an acceptance rate below 7%. Those are some crazy odds. I figured my application fee would probably be more like a $275 donation.

So, as the weeks went by and I didn't hear anything, I really wasn't stressed. Then, February 25th passed, the day by which "the majority" of interview invites would have been sent. People on GMATClub started to go a little wild, and speculations were running rampant. "Welp, guess I didn't make it," I thought. I've been oddly calm about this one.

Thus, imagine my surprise when I casually checked my email last night and saw a message inviting me to interview. Holy crap, I was invited to interview by Stanford GSB!! I was, and still am, in absolute disbelief. I read the email about 5 times just to make sure that it was real, and then I checked it again this morning.

I now have 10 days to arrange a mutually convenient time and location with my assigned alumni interviewer. Hence, I am kicking my interview prep into high gear... and trying not to freak out...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Narrowing the field by 50% - Declining Fuqua and (Probably) Yale

Pretty early-on, I decided to decline the offer from Fuqua. Don't get me wrong, it is an absolutely amazing program that I would be so fortunate to attend. I liked the facilities, the people I met were incredibly genuine, and North Carolina weather is sooo much better than that of New England and the Midwest. However, I just didn't feel the same "fit" with Fuqua as I found with Kellogg, Yale, and Tuck.

Before receiving my acceptances, I had heard numerous current students and alumni talk about "fit," but I didn't really understand what they meant. I was just hoping to get in somewhere. It's funny, now that I'm on the other side, I finally get it. It's hard to describe exactly what fit is, but you just know it when you have it (or when you don't).

So anyway, after that, I was left with three great programs. And in the last day or so, I've made the decision to (most likely) decline the Yale offer. It's crazy even putting those words in writing. I fell in love with Yale when I visited, and up until recently I was pretty sure I would be matriculating at SOM this fall. The first seeds of doubt arose when Tuck offered me a full scholarship two weeks ago. I am in the education sector, so my lifetime earnings will likely never be as high as my peers who choose more traditional post-MBA careers. Therefore, while money shouldn't be the primary factor in choosing a school, it is something that I need to heavily consider.

And so, the field is cut by 50%. Two schools down, two more to decide between...

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sharing My Experience - Where am I going?

Over the past two years or so, I've been pretty active on Beat The GMAT and GMATClub. I've been so incredibly thankful for the support and encouragement the communities offered. From studying for the GMAT, to writing essays and applying to schools, to interviewing and waiting for news, this journey hasn't been easy. I'm now in the fortunate position of having acceptances (with scholarships!!) to some pretty amazing programs, including Kellogg, Tuck, Yale, and Duke. In addition, HBS is still out there as a dark horse for Round 2, but I'm trying not to count my chickens before they hatch (I just wrapped up my interview a few days ago). I'm still kind of in disbelief regarding how things have worked out.

Anyway, several of my fellow applicants have messaged me lately asking for application tips, details about my strategy, or just wanting to know where I'm headed next year. So, I've decided to start a blog. After all, following a crazy year of studying and working on apps, I now have waaaay to much restless energy.

So this is my first official blog post. I'll provide details about my app strategy and what-not in subsequent posts, but for now I'll just answer the most pressing question of where I'm headed...

And the answer is... I still have no clue!!