Happy Thanksgiving

24 11 2007

It’s been a pretty quiet week for me. I’ve been off from work since Tuesday, and with no interviews or applications to work on for the moment, my life has almost returned to pre-GMAT normalcy (with the added bonus of counting down the days until January 3). I have to admit that I’m coming off the high I had after my interviews last week, and a little bit of doubt is starting to creep in about whether I’ll get an invite to HBS or Stanford. While I know that both programs say that they keep sending invites through January, I just can’t help thinking that there’s a good chance I won’t be getting one. I know it’s crazy to think that way at this point in the game, but there it is nonetheless. What’s strange is as I think about what I would have done differently with the applications to those schools, the answer I’ve come up with is: nothing. Well, other than to correct those two typos in the HBS application. Looking back over those two applications, I think they do a good job showing who I am and what I’ve accomplished. It is a bit comforting to know that if I do end up getting dinged by those schools, it’s not because of something I did or didn’t do on my applications, but rather that those schools decided that I didn’t fit in with what they were looking for in a student. Actually now that I’ve typed that I’m not sure if that’s better or not. I know this is a bit of rambling, but hopefully this feeling of doubt will pass soon.

What is truly comforting though is that if I am turned away by Harvard, I’ll be in good company.

Reflecting on my interview

17 11 2007

Now that I’m back home and have had a chance to think back on my interview, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what worked and went well, and what didn’t go so well for the benefit of posterity.

The Good:
1. Visiting the school before the interview: Granted, I visited the day before the interview, but the experience was nonetheless valuable. I was able to pick out things I had seen or experienced during the visit and use them in the interview to add to the questions of why Chicago. Also, the students were all very enthusiastic about the school, and it’s contagious, so it helped me be enthusiastic about the prospect of going to the school.
2. Preparing…a lot: You’ve heard the cliche practice makes perfect, well it holds true here also. While I wasn’t perfect in my interview, my preparations were key. Not only did I expect most of the questions I was asked, and so knew the main points I wanted to make for each question, but knowing how hard I had prepared allowed me to go into the interview with confidence. I’d recommend using resources like accepted.com, clearadmit.com, or other applicants to get a sense of what the interview will be like, and prepare accordingly.
3. Relaxing: All of the students I spoke to said the key was just to relax and be yourself in the interview. What they’re looking for in the interview is more personality focused – are you friendly and personable, can you express yourself well, are you the type of person they’d want to study with, etc. Part of what let me relax was the preparation I had done, but also by taking steps to relax beforehand. Each person will have their own way of relaxing, but I picked out specific songs on my iPod that I knew would keep me relaxed and focused, and listened to them the morning of my interview before leaving the hotel.

The not-so-good:
1. I wasn’t as concise as I could have been: The first question I was asked was to describe my career progression to date, and why I was pursuing an MBA at Chicago. Looking back, I spent a bit too much time focusing on what I had done in my career (I have 6.5 years of work experience, with two very different jobs) and didn’t get to the why MBA/why Chicago part quickly enough. My interviewer asked a few clarifying questions as I was explaining my career progression, but after I had spent about 4-5 minutes on my career, he asked again why MBA and why Chicago. Looking back I could have been more concise about my history and gotten to the why faster.

Overall I think I did well. Looking back, other than trimming down my first answer a bit, there’s nothing I would have wished that it had gone differently. I also only mentioned 2 of the 3 points I had for why Chicago (I left off a bit about the culture there), but the interviewer asked a clarifying question about one of the first two points I made and the interview went on from there so I didn’t want to go back at that point. I walked out confident that the interview had gone well (and if the interviewer wasn’t impressed he hid it well), and am now settling back in for the 6 week or so wait until decisions are released.

Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I have only done 1 interview at this point, and while I think I did well I do not know if my interviewer would agree (although he was smiling and nodding as I answered – but having been on that side of the table several times I know it’s possible to smile and nod while simultaneously thinking “wow this guy/woman is way out of their league”). So, take anything I say with the appropriate degree of skepticism.

One interview in the books

16 11 2007

I am just finishing up my 2 day trip to Chicago, and overall it’s been a great trip. I spent the day yesterday on campus, doing the information session, tour, lunch with students, and a class visit. Overall very top notch. The students were all very friendly and helpful (both the students officially acting as guides as well as the students in the class I visited), and the facilities were also very impressive. I have to say that pictures on the website and brochures really don’t capture how incredible the building is, especially the winter garden. My fellow prospective students (it sounds so much nicer than “applicants”) were also great, and I would certainly enjoy being classmates with any or all of them. My interview this morning also went very well. The second year student who interviewed me was great. From the beginning he was very friendly and conversational, and it really set a positive tone for the entire interview. My preparations certainly came in handy, as I expected just about every question (talk about your career progression, why MBA, why Chicago, conflict on a team, etc. as well as follow up questions on specific aspects of my career experience), other than one. Towards the end of the interview, he asked “If you were interviewing yourself, what’s the one question you would ask that I haven’t asked, and how would you answer it?” It caught me a little off guard since he had asked just about all the questions I would have asked, so I stalled for a minute (by saying he had asked many of the questions I would have asked), but then realized he hadn’t really asked anything about leadership yet so I said I would have asked how I had demonstrated I was a strong leader, and then answered my own question. The time really flew by (the 35 minutes seemed more like 10 or so), and I left confident that I had done the best I could have.

So now, I am back in the waiting game, with nothing to do except wait for invites from HBS and Stanford, and wait for January 3 when Chicago releases decisions. (According to the adcom at the info session, while in years past Chicago has started calling accepted students up to 36 hours before the decision date, at this point this year they plan to release all decisions on the 3rd. Given the decision date’s proximity to the holidays, I am not expecting a call before the 3rd).

An open letter to Derrick Bolton

14 11 2007

Dear Mr. Bolton,

In the future, during periods when applicants are waiting for interview invites from Stanford, please do not send out surveys from the email address “Stanford MBA Admissions.” In the fragile emotional state we applicants are in, seeing an email from that email address instantly creates an intense emotional high with the thought that we have received a precious interview invitation from your program, only to be crushed a second later when we see the subject “Survey Request – Stanford MBA Program Information Session.” I am more than happy to provide feedback on the session I attended, but could do without the cardiac event that accompanied your email. Judging from the discussions on the BusinessWeek forums this morning, I am not the only one to suffer this reaction.

Thank you in advance for your consideration.

Warm regards,

Interview prep (part deux)

14 11 2007

So today is the day I head off to Chicago for my interview. Prep has been going very well, I’ve been studying questions from accepted.com, clearadmit.com, etc., and have examples of teamwork, leadership, and mistakes/setbacks at the ready, and I’ve also practiced my story of career goals in the short-term and long-term, and why MBA, why now, why Chicago (really just a more concise version of Chicago’s career essay). Over the past two days I’ve also completely re-read the Chicago website and MBA brochure twice, picking out specifics I’d like to weave into my interview (and will also keep my eyes open for tidbits during my campus visit on Thurs), and have thought of a few questions for the interviewer to keep in my back pocket in case there are no questions I have resulting from the discussion. I’ve also (thankfully) reached an almost Zen-like level of calm going into it. Now of course this is subject to change when I walk into the Harper Center on Friday morning, but for now it’s letting me focus and relax. Unlike, for example, the people over at the BusinessWeek forums. Now I understand why the people in the Chicago discussion are worried about getting interview invites, since today is the last day, and I’m sure I’d be in the same state if I were in their shoes. But surprisingly the Chicago discussion was pretty subdued compared to the HBS discussion, where people were FREAKING OUT about invites, with plenty of speculation that if no invite was received this week that it meant a certain ding (even though Dee said HBS is just about 50% through sending invites). Not having received an invitation yet from HBS, I understand the pain of waiting, but my God, obsessing about it every day just doesn’t change anything. At this point, whether I worry about it constantly or try to figure out if my last name, region, astrological sign, mother’s maiden name, or other factor means that they’ve read my application already and decided not to invite me, will have absolutely no influence on what their decision is. Now I’m not saying I’m not checking my email multiple times throughout the day, but still, people just need to relax a bit and have some faith in the quality of their application. Ok, I’ll step off my soapbox now.

Good luck to everyone still waiting for a Chicago invite. I hope you get good news in your inbox today.

Now I’ve seen it all

13 11 2007

Now I think I’ve seen it all. I live in the NJ suburbs outside New York City, and so seeing wildlife near my apartment is nothing new. I’ve seen more deer than you can imagine, also some turkeys (followed shortly thereafter by turkey vultures), racoons, geese, and various assorted rodents. I’ve even seen a bear once. But last night was certainly something new. As I’m driving home from the train station after work, all of a sudden the traffic comes to a dead stop. I look up ahead and see a few police cars with the lights on, and a car at a strange angle on the side of the road. So I figure it’s another accident, probably someone driving too fast on a rainy night. But then I see the police all wandering around the side of the road pointing their flashlights into the trees. Then I see an animal moving around in the shadows. I knew it wasn’t a deer, because nobody calls the cops for deer. So my next thought is there’s a bear on the loose. But as the animal comes a bit closer to me, I can see that the proportions are not right for a bear, the legs are too skinny. As it walks past my car, I clearly see that it is a large, black cow (actually I think technically it was a bull). I continue to watch in amazement, since while this isn’t the first time I’ve seen a cow, it’s the first time I’ve seen one wandering down the street outside my apartment. To add to the absurdity of it, as the cow, now trotting, goes down the street, it is followed by no less than 3 police cars, with all their lights on, as well as another car which I presume contained the cow’s owner. Must have been a slow night for the police.

In book reviews, I’m about halfway through Frank Brown’s (Dean of INSEAD) new book. It’s a pretty quick read, and has some great advice on what it means to be a leader in today’s global environment. I’ve had the good fortune to meet Frank on several occassions, and, in my opinion, he’s a great leader to learn from. (NB: I am not applying to INSEAD, so this is not an attempt to kiss up to the Dean to improve my chances).

Thank God for weekends

10 11 2007

It’s so nice to finally spend a weekend at home. This is the first weekend since Oct. 20 that I don’t have to fly somewhere. Which is good since it’ll give me some time to prepare for my interview next week, as well as catch up with family and friends. The latest GSB admissions newsletter had some hints for preparing for the interview, so I’ve added this to my pack of info I’m reviewing, along with my app, questions from the interview feedback at accepted.com and clearadmit, the Chicago MBA brochure, and website. I’m feeling pretty good about the interview, but want to spend some more time thinking through how I want to articulate the fit between me and GSB. On the work front, the next few days are going to be very busy as I get things in order to allow me to take off Thurs and Friday and focus 100% on my interview.

It’s also good to see family and friends again. With my crazy travel schedule the past month, I really hadn’t seen anyone. So last Thursday I went to the Rangers game with a good friend, and today I am visiting my sister and her family. This past month made me realize one of the non-financial costs of going back to school. Regardless of which of the schools I attend, I’ll be moving away from family and friends for 2 years. I’m sure they’ll visit and I’ll come home at some point during the 2 years, but it’ll be hard moving away.