the trials and tribs of an MBA hopeful!

Come join me in coffee shops, hiding in conference rooms at work, and generally giving up my entire social life as I work on my MBA applications!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

I've always loved the color red...

Let's hope I can adapt to my new school colors of "cardinal" and white!

Friday, May 04, 2007

I suppose it's time to make a decision...

I promised an update to some of you on Stanford's admit weekend. I also promised myself I'd make a decision by the end of this week. Well, it's T minus 7 hours now. Here's where I stand!

I was pretty anxious for Stanford's admit weekend - truthfully, I was either hoping to hate it or be blown away. I thought the weekend was great...but so was harvard's. Let me break down some of the highlights of the weekend:

1. Meeting the fellow admits. The first day of these things is fun, but exhausting. The string of: "where are you from? where do you work? what do you do? are you decided? what are you doing this summer?" gets old after the first 15 people. But, I felt like I moved past that with more than a few people and had no problem envisioning them as my future classmates! :)

2. Learning more about the new curriculum. I have read and heard bits and pieces about the new, more personalized Stanford curriculum, but feeling like a guinea pig makes me a wee bit nervous. We spent an hour and a half going through the changes, which I think are important but not a complete overhaul of the current program (phew!) I like that you have a lot of flexibility in choosing your classes - while you have to take, let's say, a finance class. You have a choice of 3 different finance classes to fulfill that requirement. A finance guru will never waste his time sitting in finance 101. Also, they are trying to take all the competencies and bring them together in a couple leadership classes & seminars. Innovative: yes. Scary-reinventing the wheel-I won't know anything when I graduate and hence no one will want to hire me: no. (welcome to the irrational inner-world of mba babe!)

3. Flexibility. I got the feeling at Stanford that I could do/be/try anything I wanted. The program really is that flexible. Want to try your hand at entrepreneurship and work a few hours a week w/ an entrepreneur in the bay area? check! Want to take classes at the design school, law school, etc without jumping through a bunch of logistical hoops? check! Want to learn a language but never leave the business school? check! Want to have 2 internships including a 4-week international stint? check!

4. The weather. Silly, yes, but considering my post-mba goals include moving to a place that has a real winter, I could hold out on the snow for another couple years.

5. Derrick Bolton's welcome speech. There is someone in the admitted class that won medals at the olympics! and 2 navy seals! and a tae kwan do champion! he really made each admit feel like they were about to embark on a special journey with a special group of people...the perfect start to the weekend, and many said it was the highlight. Go Derrick!

Sooo...all that raving? Why haven't I sent in my deposit yet?

1. It is hard to say no to harvard. (yep, i said it) And I really liked it both times I visited, even more importantly. So, if i choose stanford, will i regret it?

2. Alumni network. Where I see myself post-MBA has more harvard peeps running around than stanford.

3. Classroom dynamic. Sitting in the same class with the same 90 people for a year creates a unique dynamic - I think this is unparalleled.

Sooo...why haven't I made a decision?

1. Although I know this is my decision, I've received a lot of different input on each school from important people in my life. Seems to be clouding my judgment in an "i don't want to disappoint" type of way.

2. The boyfriend. He's really supportive of my decision either way, but obv it would be easier if I stayed in the area. (yes, this is the boy that is the ONE!) ;) Is it worth it to sacrifice the life we have together now and spend 2 years apart when it's not absolutely necessary?

3. I am a wimp. I know, I need to just commit and I will be happy at either. and i know "i can't go wrong at either" (trust me, that is the saying of the week). But it doesn't matter where you are deciding between, it is a huge decision!

sigh. i'll post again at the end of the day.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Congratulations to everyone who received a BoB today! Your blogs have all been so useful to me throughout this application process. I'm honored to among you :)

So thanks to Clear Admit, the bloggers, and the judges!

one of these days i will figure out how to put that best of blogger thing on my website! (kidding...sorta...)

Friday, April 13, 2007

How I got into H/S?

"So, how'd you do it? What's your secret? How did you crack both Harvard and Stanford?"

I get asked this question a lot - and often times i'm the one asking it myself! Not that I feel undeserving per se, but there are many, many qualified, amazing applicants who did not get into these schools. So, while I cannot give any sort of formula, I can tell you what worked for me.

I could tell you about my GMAT score, undergrad grades, extracurricular activities and letters of recommendations. Having strengths in those areas is definitely a huge plus! I scored below 80% on my quantitative though which I had heard was the kiss of death, so apparently there are no hard and fast rules.

But, I think the biggest strength of my app was the essays. I'll go through a few things I did overall, and get into a few specifics for each school.

I had a few main goals of my essays:

1) Show i'm amazing without sounding arrogant :)
- I guess I'm only half-kidding. You have to sell yourself. I am not a boastful, arrogant person by nature, but I did figure out what all my strengths were and weaved them into my essays. Any fast promotions, good rankings, awards, etc should find a place in your essays. The trick is telling how awesome your accomplishments are while still sounding like a great teammate/classmate. I talked about what I learned from each accomplishment and how I grew as a leader.

2) Tell my stories in a personal, first-person, vivid way.
- Stop following all the rules, and let them know who you are and what you are about. I read so many times not to bring religion into your essays. In each school I brought up my family's religion and heritage. Not in a preachy sort of a way, but in an "this is what matters to me" sort of way. And no, not just for Stanford. When HBS asked "What else do you want the adcom to know?" I talked about 2 things: inspiration and identity. Those are what define me, and if they didn't like ME, then their loss not mine :)

>> I would like to take this opportunity to share some personal stories with the Board in efforts to help you understand my background and the motivation behind my achievements. >>

Also, I had 2 of my closest friends read all my essays (non-business peeps). They know me, but not exactly what I do at work. I asked them 2 questions:
- Do you clearly clearly understand what I did, what my accomplishment was?
- Does this sound like me?

3) Keep the reader interested - adcom is reading many many more of these

- If you read my blog, you know I tend to pepper my sentences with exclamation points. While I toned it down a bit, I didn't hold back from using exaclamation points and let my personality show through. Some of my leadership qualities come from staying calm/making jokes in otherwise stressful situations. Maybe HBS cared about that and maybe they didn't, but i did tell them!

>> I also motivated the team through many late nights and frustrating roadblocks by exemplifying total commitment and dedication to our vision while maintaining a white board with humorous quotes to increase team morale. >>

In one school I applied to, I took a big risk and used a metaphor through my entire first essay to explain my career goals. Coincidentally, I met one of my student readers at admit weekend. We started talking and he remembered my essays. He said they were "endearing" and it was his favorite application. That sums up exactly what I was going for. (yay!)

4) Don't focus on "what" they want to hear

- Some of you may remember I held off on applying to Stanford until round 2. One of my problems was that pesky Essay A. What matters most to you and why? I spent 2 months trying NOT to write about things that sounded generic - family, friends, blah blah blah - everyone talks about that, right?

After about 10 drafts with 3 different "what matter most" topics, I realized, friends and family DO matter most to me. It's about HOW you write your essays and the WHY. In my Stanford welcome packet, DB referenced my essay about family and how he felt it would make me a great part of the class.

5) Love every word of your essays.
- I recently went back and reread some of my essays and although it's silly, I really love everything that I wrote. I wish I was a writer who could type out full applications in a week, but I spent hours upon hours upon draft upon draft until I really loved what I was turning in.

In my Kellogg app, I actually re-wrote a couple entire essays mere days before the deadline because I thought my essays were too generic and boring. A creative idea came to me while I was falling asleep one night, and I'm glad I took the time to re-write and make it the best most compelling application possible.

So, I'm not sure if the above suggestions will help, but I truly believe that letting the true me flow into my essays gave them a sense for who they would be admitting into their class. I used a few main ideas throughout all my essays and made sure when they were complete, my story was told in its entirety.

My philosophy is: If you are writing the same essays as everyone else, how are they going to know to choose you?? :)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Worst of Apps '07: my top 10

Just read the last few days' installment of applicant blogs: I think I'm going to jump on the "advice" bandwagon, too! :) Iday and Juggler(among many others) have written amazing, detailed advice for any applicant - I wish I had their blogs when I was getting started! To take a slightly different angle, I'm going to summarize my thoughts in 2 installments: the Best of Apps and the Worst of Apps. Written in Top 10 form, of course.

Let's start with the worst... So, here it goes (in no particular order):


10. Feeling overly confident about my "amazing" standardized test taking abilities, I figured I was the type who wouldn't need to study much...right? wrong! first practice GMAT score: 540 (I'm not kidding - the next 4 were also in the 500s)
**hidden advice: learning HOW to take the test gains you major points!

9. Bought Richard Montauk's "How to Get into the Top Business Schools" and carried it around all summer w/o opening it.
**Start your essays early - you'll need the time! Buy this book and read it - it's too heavy to carry in your bag w/o using it!!

8. As an addendum to #9, I finally read the examples in the book and tried to emulate them... I wanted my story to sound like "Alex" or "Lisa" ...but in the end I think mine sounded even better!
** only you can tell your story - and different is good!

7. Underestimating the data portion of the applications = bad. I don't know about you, but I certainly did not remember the phone number associated with the job I had at age 18. Or the name of my sister's boyfriend's hairdresser's niece. (kidding - but you get the point)
**Do this part early! No excuses.

6. Bad bad bad bad prep for my first interview in four years. See: November 8, 2006 entry. Yikes.
**You CANNOT wing it. Do not even try!!!

5. Got back together with my boyfriend (nooooo, that is not the bad part!) and TOTALLY forgot to write a thank-you note to my interviewer!!! I finally remembered a week later.
** don't lose sight of your application responsibilities - you have worked too hard!

4. Never wrote a thank-you note to my HBS interviewer. (I know, who does that, right??!!)
** worked out ok, but DO NOT try this at home!

3. Lived and breathed the Business Week forums. So addicting & not at all useful unless you like cruel & unusual forms of torture & punishment!
** Just stay away! It is for your own good!

2. I love my mother a lot, but "honey, these sound absolutely amazing in every way" is just NOT constructive feedback for your essays!
**Choose readers who know you and can give good advice beyond "what the adcom is looking for." An essay with a personal touch will make a lasting least that is what worked in my case! (essays will fall into my Best of post!)

1. Talking about b-school applications to ANYONE and EVERYONE. Even my parents couldn't mask their boredom with my incessant ranting, obsessing & overanalyzing.
**No one wants to hear about applications all the time. Best advice: start a blog! we are the ones who CARE and UNDERSTAND!

The top 10 above were certainly not a make-or-break for my applications, but life would have been just that much sweeter had I known then what I know now :)

Friday, April 06, 2007

Yay for BoB!

How exciting to be nominated for the Best of Blogging Award! :)

Now that I know the outcomes of my applications, I have been feeling a bit reflective on the whole process. Sometimes it felt like the blogging community was my salvation through this whole thing! Along the way, it was nice to know that I wasn't the only one writing and writing and re-writing each essay 5-6 times, staring at my phone willing Kellogg to call (ok - maybe that wasn't normal, but everyone seemed supportive at least!), or becoming a regular at the coffee shop down the street while my social life took the backseat for a bit.

So - thanks to ClearAdmit and all the bloggers/readers for getting me through!

Disclaimer: This entry is by no means a way to get votes, but a good chance to give a shout out of appreciation! :) so THANKS!

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

IN at Stanford!!!

I just found out this morning that I got accepted at Stanford!! It still hasn't quite sunk in yet, for sure. I felt like this was my long shot due to its small class size and the dreaded Essay A, but nevertheless I'm in!

I feel really fortunate to have this decision in front of me (although the immature part of me would have been ok had the decision been made for me!) I honestly am not quite sure which way I am leaning yet, although my family and friends have already chosen sides and have started a little b-school tug-of-war. On the Harvard side we have family + college friends. Pulling for Stanford are the Cali friends. My boyfriend claims he's neutral, but I'm guessing he would rather not relocate across the country.

So far, I have found the admit weekends to be the most telling so I don't think my decision will be made until the end of april. I want to meet the other admitted students & get a better feel for the program. Truthfully, although both schools are near either family or friends, it does sound like you spend most of your time with your fellow classmates so I'm really looking forward to meeting them and seeing where I fit best.

I'll keep you posted... good luck to everyone waiting for S decisions!