Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year and a long overdue update

First of all a big apology to all of you for not replying to your comments/e-mails. Thanks a million for all the wonderful good wishes!!! I also thank all my blogger friends for the encouragement and support they have extended throughout my arduous application journey. And of course, thanks for taking the time to read all the good and bad stuff I've been dishing out regularly.

Since 21 December, I have been caught up in a whirlwind of work, I went home for 3 days last weekend and I tried really hard to enjoy the fact that "I'm into Wharton" but never had enough time. And when I visited the admitted students website and when I got the admit pack from Wharton, I went crazy with all the information I was suddenly bombarded with. Being my usual obsessive self, I had an attack of paranoia about a whole bunch of things. However, this weekend has been a blast. I'm reading blogs and catching up on e-mail and most important of all- sleeping. After talking to a couple of students, I have rested my fears and am smiling again :-) Also, the enormity of going to Wharton has sunken in finally and I keep telling myself "Wow, Wharton!". Yes, I've ruled out the possibility of HBS and am more keen on Wharton than Stanford :D

A couple of days ago, I went to a party with all the Wharton students who are in India. It reinforced my impression of Wharton and the people at Wharton. I met both Indians and non-Indians and they are all really friendly, down to earth, very smart people. I had fun getting to know them and am glad that 2 yrs at Wharton is about a lot of fun and partying too :D

That's it from me at the moment. All the Best to all the Round 2 applicants as they submit their apps and prepare for the "hit the refresh button" game. Wish you all a very Happy New Year and here's hoping all of us have a great year ahead. Have a Blast!!!

PS: I'm sorry about all the e-mails I have not responded to. I'm not in a position to review essays 'coz of my work load. I will respond to any other questions that you might have as soon as possible from now on. On a side note, I purposely do not respond to queries about my identity. I prefer to maintain at least a semblance of anonymity whenever posssible :-)

Thursday, December 21, 2006


And I'm in!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Words fail me at the moment...

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Made it to Chicago! Yippppppppieeeeee

I'm grinning ear to ear now:D!!!!!!

I just got the call at 11pm IST. I could not wait to get off the phone, for I wanted to call my mom, my friend and my uncle who decided to gift me the iPOD which I was supposed to pay(or rather already paid) him for :-) and of course write a post. At least this post comes when I'm still totally excited.

This is super cool!

Accepted at Kellogg!!!

Yes! I saw the mail first thing in the morning when I came to work. At exactly the same time a huge catastrophe popped up too. So my blog had to wait for nearly 8 hours before I could sneak in some time to write a post.

Ah! The sweet taste of success...

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Amidst Nightmares...

I'm having nightmares where Colonel Aureliano Buendia hands me my ding letter from Wharton with a vicious look in his eyes. The next moment hundred-year-old Ursula smiles at me saying it's only a dream and I have 5 more days to go. Then I dream that my Chicago decision gets lost and I never come to know what the final decision is.(Don't ask me how this can happen). Guess I should resume reading Freud to interpret these dreams. Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrgh.

One Hundred Years of Solitude
was amazing, but now I'm worried if I got a tad too involved in the book(as I do with everything I read). So I'm going to read really light stuff(see sidebar) for the next few days. Let me see if I get some pleasant dreams then...:-). I really wish I could fastforward 5 days and get it done with.

The HBS hub interviews in India happened over the last 3 days(or is still happening). It makes logical sense that they will give every candidate invited to interview the choice between alumni and hub interview. Going by this logic, every Indian applicant who has to get an interview invite has already received it by now. So I've completely lost hopes on HBS. What I don't understand is their justification for waiting till 17 Jan to announce a ding that is decided more than a month earlier.

As for Stanford their latest newsletter claimed that they have sent out "a lot of invites" and they still have " a lot of invites" to send. I came across speculations that this implies that they have 50% invites to send out still. I would just say that there is reason to harbor some hope still and leave it at that. But the irritating thing is if one doesn't get an invite by 20 Dec, then it's a long wait till early Jan before the adcom comes back from winter break. This is agonizing to say the least. Maybe I should stop hoping about Stanford too and just be in peace. It's simply impossible though.

Now that I have poured it all out, I'm off to do something more constructive :D

PS: It's ironical how the title of this post and the title of my blog contradict each other so perfectly!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Waiting it out...

My blog's begging me for an update and I'm staying away from all things "MBA" to help me get through the grueling wait. I've also decided not to write posts that list tips to tackle the admissions process until the admission decisions are out. I can't get myself to dish out advice before I actually know for sure that my way works :D. So this post will just be about what I've been doing to fill my time while I wait it out...

I've been having a delightful time as I spend hours buried in books. Reading is an addiction to me and I used to read a lot even while I was applying, but there was always the time constraint and the nagging feeling that my essays would benefit from the extra time. Now I'm back to sitting up all night when I cannot make myself put a book down. I splurged at the Strand Book Festival at Bangalore. I made 2 trips and bought 15 books.

Some of these are books I've been meaning to read for a long time, some of them just caught my fancy, some of them I've already read but didn't own a copy. I've already finished reading Grapes of Wrath, Lord of the Flies and Of Mice and Men in the last 10 days. That leaves me with 12 more to go. I guess I will not be buying any books over next 2 months or so.

I've also been creating an online book catalog which I will link up on my blog once I'm done with it. When I was in college I promised myself I will buy at least one book every month once I start earning. Looks like I've more than kept up my promise for I have collected over 100 books in the last 2.5 years. The sad thing is some of them are in Chennai, so I can complete my online catalog only after my next trip to Chennai in a couple of weeks.

I bought myself an iPOD! I got it sent from the USA 'coz of the hefty saving I can make. It's on its way to Chennai and I will pick it up when I go home, after which my life will become much more musical :-)

That's all the updates I have. Now I will go lose myself in the world of the Buendias...Ciao!

Monday, December 04, 2006

My Wharton interview (insert huge grin)!

I'm really happy to say that "My Wharton interview went off very well!"

I had my interview at the Mumbai hub this morning. My day began with an interesting start. First of all I had to wake up at 5 am, which is simply unhealthy for a purely nocturnal creature like me. Since I'm not familiar with routes in Mumbai my uncle and aunt insisted on accompanying me. We made a train journey in a surprisingly empty Mumbai local, had a relaxed breakfast and leisurely strolled down to the McKinsey office in Mumbai where they dropped me off. I was right on time at 8.45am. But poor li'l me had no clue that it takes 5 minutes for a lift to come down from 3o odd floors. So I was waiting for the lift when I should have been seated in one of the overseized couches in the plush McKinsey reception. And to add to my agony, when I reached the 21st floor, the receptionist with the plastic smile informed me- "The interview is on the 24th floor ma'm". Thankfully the fire exit was nearby and I did not have to put up with the tardiness of the lift. I ran up 3 floors, 3 steps at a time. I leave the state of my suit, hair and face to your wildest imagination. I went in and there was this guy smartly dressed in a suit, waiting for the interview too. On enquiry I found out that his interview was at 9.45. I thought I was done for, but nice guy that he was, told me that I was right on time, that the interviewer and the receptionist themselves had just come in. Phew! I will gently remind you here that I went through all of the (e)motions mentioned above in an interval of no more than 5 minutes :D

I had exactly 5 more minutes to smooth my hair, stop panting like a dog, check my dress and shoes:D and all the other girl stuff:-). My interviewer took me into the room at 8.55 sharp. She put me at ease in no time. She asked me if I lived nearby and I promptly informed her that I came from Bangalore and that I had spent the past 2 hours travelling to the venue. This must have explained my rather dishivelled (I'm just assuming this, 'coz I'd not seen a mirror in the last 2 hours :D) appearance. Thus we come to the end of my "interesting start".

My interviewer was a really expressive person with a lot of smiles to offer, which made me comfortable instantly. She took a full 3 minutes (don't ask me how I know the exact number...) to peruse my resume completely and she said "Crystal Clear". A small "yippie" to myself and a polite "thank you" and a smile to her. She started off with "What is your current role in your organization". I gave her an idea what the product was and what I do, clearly separating the technical and non-technical aspects of my job. Then she asked me "Why do I want an MBA?". I took the liberty of telling her that I would elaborate on my goals before I get there and did just that. I spoke about my goals, why those goals (which covered nearly 7 years of my life:-)) and how I think an MBA can get me there. Then came "Why now?". Simple, honest answer followed. After that she switched topics by saying "So we have spoken about your leadership at work and extracurriculars..." Here again I took the liberty of telling her that my list of extracurriculars is not complete and elborated a little on the left out aspects. She wanted to know about "1 strength and 1 weakness". I gave her a true strength and a true weakness (I don't care if it damages my prospects). Then I gave her a discourse on what I expect out of Wharton and what made me apply to Wharton.

That's pretty much the list of questions as such. But I had the luxury of guiding the interview in whichever direction I wanted. So in the course of the conversation we spoke about Social consciousness, IT industry- who are the major players, Mumbai life (Although I've never lived there, I've been there enough number of times to know a lot about it and of course, I love Mumbai!), the disparities between the upper and lower economic segments of any city. We also touched upon topics like idealism, why Indians return to India from the US, the safety net in European countries etc. I don't know how it happened, but our conversation was peppered throughout with such extremely interesting digressions. Finally I got to ask her some questions, for which she gave me very detailed, insightful answers.

She gave me feedback (which I did not ask for of course :D). The words "exciting", "impressed" and "successful" were used! I thanked her, told her it was very nice talking to her and left. I ran out of the door and called my anxiously waiting mother to share my exultation. When I noticed the time I realized we had been speaking for 45 mins (15 mins more than the stipulated time). I'm sure the guy who was waiting for his turn must have cursed me :-).

I don't know if this will convert to an admit, after all the interview is not the make or break in Wharton's holistic process. I came out feeling completely satisfied and that is all that matters to me at the moment. I will not blame the interview if I don't make it.

So now I'm back in Bangalore and really need to sleep. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz........

Thursday, November 16, 2006

My Chicago Interview

I had my Chicago interview with an alum this morning and it was nothing like what I had expected out of an admissions interview! The usual Why MBA, Why now and Why Chicago were there. But there were lots of other delightful conversational elements to the interview. We discussed things like my fears, my way of handling uncertainty in life, pros and cons of being an only child (which I am), why I became an engineer, why I work where I work, what do I do. I had to profess my commitment to my goals and why I think they are practical, how will I embrace and adapt to change, which one will I go to if I have to choose between the schools I'm applying to.

Then our conversation took a tangential turn towards Chennai (where I grew up, he's from there too), the good old music scene in Chennai and how it has become lack-lustre due to all the westernization, my school, his school, tamil brahmin outlook and upbringing, Indian roots and values etc. etc. (My apologies to my non-Indian readers, for giving such an India-centric discourse). We also spoke about creative writing and books. We discussed our views on objectivity, capitalism, life, the universe and everything :-). On a more serious note, it was a relaxed candid conversation which brought out the person in me.

He assured me that his feedback will be positive. However he also mentioned that he cannot influence the admission decision which will be based on the rest of my application too and the only thing that may deter me from getting in is lack of work experience. His comments were "You are a young woman with a lot of dreams, I like your energy and don't worry you will make a magnificient B-School grad"! It was music to my ears :D

He urged me keep him posted and approach him for anything that I might want. He was a very approachable and extremely dynamic person. I'm really glad we had so much in common to talk about.

I'm taking a break! I will start preping for Wharton sometime next week.

PS: Although I have covered everything that we spoke about, this was not the exact chronological flow of the conversation.

Update: I just checked my Stanford app status. It says "
Your application is complete and currently under review." Someone might be reading my Stanford essays right now. I really hope he/she likes them :D. I really like it when things are moving...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

I love Wharton :D!!!!!!

Yes, I got an interview invite from Wharton a while ago. After a lot of deliberation I decided to go to the Hub interview at Mumbai, India. I decided to shell out all that money mainly because I don't want to go through the tension of waiting for replies from busy alumni :).

There's a connection between "a day before the deadline", Wharton and Me. My app turned complete on 25 October, a day before the deadline. I got my interview invite today, a day before the deadline. Will they give the decision also a day before the deadline? Ha Ha. Maybe Wharton won't but Chicago will. Yes, the Chicago adcom just sent a mail saying they are releasing their decisions on 20 Dec instead of 4 Jan. This makes my wait shorter by a good 15 days. Cool!

Now I'm overflowing with love for these 2 schools. Of course I need to sleep now if I have hopes of doing well in the Chicago interview. Gnite! Tonight's gonna be a happy night!

Monday, November 13, 2006


My Chicago interview has been postponed to 16 November. It's good 'coz I get some time to prepare. Although it will be a miracle if I really get some preparation done. I went back to work after a week and found truckloads of work waiting for me. So I left work at 9pm :-( I will try and get back early tomorrow and the day after.

As for Wharton, I have my fingers crossed. The reality is I'm trying not to think about it so that I don't get all negative and morose before my Chicago interview.

Other than that I'm numb, brain dead and sleepy at the moment. I'm off to bed. Gnite!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Woe is I

I just reached Bangalore after my trip home. This trip did me a lot of good because I could check mail only once a day for the past 9 days. I was forced to be at peace and not think about my apps. And of course 4 days flew by in preparing for and attending my friend's wedding. I managed to revive my slumbering social life.

Now that I'm back, I've decided not to check e-mail "hopefully" any more, the disappointment each time I see a bunch of promotional mails is irritating (to put it midly). I hate to be among the last to get the invite from Wharton, the wait is excruciating. I hate it even more if I have to wait all this while to just get a DWI. 16 Nov will seal my love or hate for Wharton. Till then we will continue to share a vacillating love-hate relationship. One consoling factor is that people whose app turned to complete on 24 Oct have started getting invites only on Friday. Hoping there is at least a vague semblance of chronology in the process, I should get my invite, if I'm getting one at all, in a day or two. I guess that's enough speculation about Wharton for the day.

I seem to have the same rotten luck with Stanford. My application status still says "Submitted" while others are seeing their's turn to "Complete, Under Review". Murphy seems to love me. "If I can get denied,I will" OR "If I get an interview invite, I will be the last one to receive it". I feel like an eternal optimist rapidly metamorphing into a wretched cynic. (Just the usual drama, don't you care about it :D)

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

A different Birthday!

Today was the most different birthday I've ever had. One of my best friends got married today. So I had an added reason to celebrate. My group of 5 friends from school spent the past 3 days together and we had a lovely time. We've known each other since kindergarten and have been really close for the past 14 yrs. We've literally grown up together. Although another one of my dearest friends was not with me to celebrate my b'day, I was really happy to be with my friend on her wedding. I have taken a week off from work. Yes I decided that this wedding was worth spending some of my vacation leave on :). It was great reminiscing our school days together :)

On the application front, I wish I'd got an interview invite as a b'day gift :(. But of course it's still 8 Nov in the US. So there's hope still :D. I have my Chicago interview on Sunday. I think I will start preping tomorrow.

That's it for now. Ciao!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Kellogg Interview Done!

I had my Kellogg interview today and it went off pretty well. I am a little disappointed because the interviewer seemed slightly disinterested and cursory. This was one feedback I read about Kellogg interviews repeatedly and maybe I should have expected it. But of course I'm not complaining, it was pretty good!

First the interviewer set the stage, set expectations and explained "the role of the interviewer and the purpose of the interview" in the entire process. We ordered our coffees meanwhile. Then we started off with the usual "let's start off on an open-ended note, you could maybe talk about your experience and I will ask you questions as we go on". I then had to describe "an area of development and how I have adressed it". We then branched off to talk about "one time when I made a significant impact on my team at work and how important is my role in the team and how important is my product to my company". I had to then follow up this answer with "what I think are my strengths". We then talked about "few technical details of what my product actually does, who are the customers and how would they use it?" Then we went on to discuss "what my company does and what is their current strategy". Finally I spoke about "a leader/manager I admired and what are the traits I think a leader should have". Now that was the end of my career stuff.

We moved on to "Why MBA, Why Kellogg?". This is where my "actual goals, how I would achieve them and why the path I'm thinking about will get me there" came in. Then I had to answer a couple of follow up questions about "the exact expectations I had from my post-MBA job". And that brought us to the end of the interview and I could ask my questions. I had 3 questions to ask and I did.

I had not touched my coffee till that moment. I drank it while the interviewer took some notes. We indulged in some small talk, paid the cheque(I was not allowed to pay) and left the place.

On the whole, very average interview, no stress, no grilling, nothing exceptionally interesting. I did reasonably well, no faux-pas and I will leave it at that. This interview will not reduce my chances of getting in. I learnt a lot of things which I will use in my Chicago interview :-)

I have bolded the questions instead of listing them out because I wanted to capture the flow of the interview. Hope you find it useful!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Looks like Chicago-GSB liked my essays! :D

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaah! I got an interview invite from Chicago-GSB!

Today is the day they begin to send out their invites. I was hoping for one, but didn't imagine I would get it so soon :-). I was chatting with a friend on google talk when I suddenly noticed that I had 2 mails in my gmail account. I was almost praying that one of them should be an interview invite. And it was! Maybe it does pay to submit early, 'coz my application went to complete status even before the deadline :D.

I'm grinning ear to ear and am not low anymore. Thanks to everyone who cheered me after my previous post.


I have decided to postpone submitting my Columbia app till end of November, mainly because I came to know from the adcom that they start reviewing regular decision apps only from 10 Jan 2007. Now, there is so much conflicting info about this on the net. There are sites such as the one I quoted earlier which have the admissions staff claiming that there is an advantage to applying on the early side of the regular decision. So I decided end of November is still early enough to have an advantage if there is one :-)

I'm suffering from super low motivation, which is another factor that is hindering me from writing my Columbia essays. People have been getting interview invites from Wharton. I try hard not to think about it. After all my application turned complete only on 25 Oct. But it's pretty bugging that I submitted on 1 Oct, 12 days before the deadline, and have still been brutally victimized by the randomness of their processing. People who submitted 5 minutes before the deadline saw their app go to complete on the same day and have started getting interview invites :-(. To top it off, there is just one all-encompassing answer - "The process is random, complicated and non-chronological". All this makes me dread that I may get dinged directly. I know I am overimagining, but I am! And I'm unable to prevent myself from doing so. So be it.

I don't know whether Harvard's and Stanford's silence is a boon or a bane. I alternate between loving and hating their process :D. Sometimes I feel it's good I don't see a bunch of applicants constantly updating some thread about the number of times they hit F5 every second. At least I just feel low, I don't stress. If I join that group I think I will freak out completely.

As for Kellogg, I already know 2 people from Chennai and Bangalore who have got interview waivers. I keep wondering whether it's a good thing to have an interview or not. Anyway I have my Kellogg interview tomorrow. So wish me luck!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Back in the game!

First of all a big Thank You to all those who commented on my previous post to wish me. It feels great! Congratulations and All the Best to all those waiting for Round 1 interview invites.

The first thing I did this morning was to check my Wharton application status. Finally it turned to Complete Round-1 with all materials received. Whew! Given my screwed up luck, I was expecting it to turn Complete only at the very last hour on the 26th. Or even worse, I thought I will have to mail the adcom to find out why mine is not "Complete" yet. Yes, I did imagine quite a bit. I'm just being the obsessive me.

I've started work on my Columbia app. I have figured out what to write for each essay. I wish I did not have to craft a completely new essay. The essay about the manager I admire is going to take a lot of time. I'm going on vacation from 3-12 November. I want to submit my Columbia app by 2nd November because a) I will not be permanently connected to the internet from home. b) One of my closest friends is getting married and I want to enjoy her wedding and my vacation. So I'm going to work my ass off this weekend and get the essays ready. 1st November is a public holiday in Bangalore :-), so I will fill in the online app and submit on 1st mostly.

My diwali holidays were good. 5 days away from my apps was very relaxing. Mom's cooking rocks! I met my friends from school after many months. We went shopping together to buy a wedding gift for the one who's getting married. It was awesome fun and a lot like old times!

That's my update at the moment. I better dress and get to work now :D !

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The much awaited vacation begins now!

Whew! 3.5 months of sheer toil culminated this morning when I submitted my Stanford application. Stanford's essays were the most beautiful ones in pdf form :-) ! I have submitted all my applications except Columbia. Yippie....

I have some more nice updates too...
  • My Kellogg application says "Complete" and they are waiting for me to complete my interview. I got my Kellogg interview invite and I've also spoken to my interviewer. We've fixed a tentative date for the interview.
  • My Chicago application is in "Complete" status.
  • My Harvard and Stanford apps say "Submitted". I don't think HBS updates it at all, I'm not sure about Stanford.
  • My Wharton app says "Received" and I expect it to turn to "Complete- Round 1" soon. So much for submitting early!

I feel both good and bad right now. Good - becauseI made a plan, stuck to it and finished everything on time, in spite of work pressure and illness and other obstacles. Bad - because the gruelling wait starts now. I have no clue what my chances are at these schools. I am not expecting to get in, I'm not expecting to be dinged right away, I'm not expecting an interview invite. My mind is just blank and I prefer it that way. Otherwise I will obsess endlessly and lose a lot of sleep over something I have no control over anymore :-)

The vacation starts now! I'm going home tomorrow night and will be only "occasionally connected" till the 25th of October. After I come back I will be busy for say 10 more days with my Columbia app and Kellogg interview prep. After that, I don't know what I will do with all the time. Of course, I'm on a hiatus from some activities, which I will promptly begin again. I will still have time to spare(I think)! It will be really nice to come back home early some day and laze around and do whatever I please :D.

This calls for some celebratory posts (which I will write in the near future)!

Sunday, October 08, 2006

One day weekend...

I absolutely hated it!

Last weekend flew by while I was just running around helping my roomie prepare for her flight to the U S of A. Yesterday was a compensatory working day for the enforced holiday on Wednesday for a statewide strike. I had a very hectic day at office yesterday because my new roomie shifted in last evening and I had to leave at 5. The result? I slept like a log last night, woke up at 11am today with every inch of my body aching and begging me to go right back to bed. I repeat- I hate one day weekends.

I had not bought groceries and essentials for the month. My house was in a complete mess last week, so I postponed all monthly shopping, cleaning and any effort to restore normalcy till my roomie left. 12 hours a day at work throughout the week didn't help the cause either. Today, I spent the whole day stocking up the kitchen and fridge, cleaning my room and sleeping :-(. No TV, no reading, no application work.... My break, which was supposed to end yesterday, got extended by a day.

It's 10.45pm and I just logged on to catch up on all the activity in the blogosphere. But it's very silent here also. Is everyone having a bad weekend like me??? Or are they spending the time constructively on essay and applications :-) ???

This is one hell of a cribbing mail. I guess I deserve to crib once in while too :-). I will be back in action tomorrow, no matter what time I come home from work. Till then- Ciao!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Chicago submitted!

I submitted my Chicago application today! That makes it the 4th application I've submitted in the last 5 days :D

I'm gonna take a 3 day break and start reviewing my Stanford essays on Sunday. I'm just calling it "a break" to feel good. The truth is I have hell a lot of work in office and I think I will be returning home at ungodly hours this week. Moreover Saturday is a working day to compensate for today :-(. Anyway I have the luxury of time. I have already written the essays and foresee changes only in Essay 1. I can easily submit in a week or so.

It's 12.30 am and I'm off to sleep...........

Sunday, October 01, 2006

3 Applications done!

Yes! I submitted Kellogg yesterday, Harvard and Wharton today. I was not planning to submit so early, I wanted to submit exactly one week before each deadline. But I was done with everything for these schools. Moreover, things are getting more and more hectic at work. So I wanted to use the long weekend and not have to submit after an endless day at work. I might miss something and repent it forever.

Now that I have lost my fear of the submit button, it feels really good to be well ahead of time. The essays look awesome on pdf! I also got a book to gift one of my recommenders. Tomorrow I have quite a bit of shopping to do. So I will submit Chicago tomorrow (if I have time) or on Wednesday ('coz it's a holiday). After that it's two weeks of rewriting Stanford essays before I hit the button again. I'm waiting for the day when I will come back home from work without a plan of action for the evening/night... For that, I have to wait till end of October when I will submit Columbia :D.

It's 2.30 am and I'm just not sleepy. Why am I so damn nocturnal?!!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

I actually hit the SUBMIT button!

I just submitted Kellogg Part 1. I checked and rechecked and rechecked my data form endlessly. I could not get myself to submit my essays first, so I picked Kellogg part 1 as a rehearsal to submitting the entire application for other schools. If I obsess so much before submitting a data form, I don't know what I will do with my essays. I foresee uploading and deleting my essays a zillion times before I hit submit for each school :-(

My roomie is flying to the US on a long term assignment next weekend. So I'm gonna be doing large scale shopping with her this weekend. I think she's gonna shop for a few months or a year. I hate long hours of shopping :-(

Ok she just called me and I'm off to a shopping spree right now. Ciao!

Friday, September 29, 2006

What a gratifying feeling!

I got my Wharton essays read by a Wharton alumni who is much older than me. And guess what! He really liked them a lot!

This is particularly important to me because so far all my readers were pretty young (except my uncle), or they are applicants themselves, or they just know me well. This Wharton alum is quite senior and has different expectations, so the fact that he likes my essays is a good validation of how appealing my essays are to different types of readers. I know this is no guarantee that the adcom is going to like them, nevertheless I feel a wee bit more confident about hitting the submit button.

Another nice update- I got a 300 on my TOEFL.

I have a long weekend coming up, I have Monday off and Wednesday's off too. I think I will be submitting HBS, Wharton, Chicago applications and Kellogg Part 1 by Wednesday. I would rather submit on holidays than after a long day at work. That will change my schedule a little, for the better though.

Right now I'm brain-dead, my eyes are refusing to stay open. So zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Kellogg Essays- A round of celebration ends!

Kellogg- A great mix of conventional and fun essays

What I like most about the Kellogg essays is their word limits or lack thereof. Another thing I really like about Kellogg is the mix of topics for the short essays. If the first essay is too cramped for space you can use the "significant leadership experiences" essay or the "how did you persuade people" essay to elaborate your professional achievements that you could not fit into essay 1. If you find that essay 1 covers your professional life adequately, then these essays will work really well for talking about some important extracurricular activities too. And there is always the "Outside of work I..." essay for extracurricular activities/ interests/ hobbies. This essay is a real boon, I have not found so much space to focus on my interests in any of the other schools' essays.

Frankly, I was really glad that the ethical issue essay is optional. I guess that says all that I feel about that essay. The open ended nature of "I wish the admissions committee had asked me..." is really cool. This is a great chance to discuss some aspect that does not fit into any of the usual B-School questions. It could be about a unique experience, your ancestory, how you overcame a traumatic problem. Or it could double up to do the job of an optional essay to explain a gaps in workex, poor grades/GMAT etc.

The "uniqueness" essay is also pretty open ended. You can choose from background, values, academics, activities, leadership skills. This essay can be used to discuss a couple of specific incidents or a general overview of your life in a different country or a mix of incidents from various realms of life. The liberal 2 page word limit will allow you to do all this and more if used judiciously.

It's important to remember that essays are supposed to be double spaced. So the 2 page essays can be about 1000 words each and the shorter ones 400-500 words each. I guess the lack of word limits is in a way illusory, but the good thing is I did not keep checking the word count after completing each line of my essays. So the illusion does make for a peaceful writing experience :D

Another important thing about Kellogg is the emphasis placed by the school on "team work, collaboration, community experience, cooperation, collective learning experience...". Although the school does not explicitly ask you to demonstrate team skills, I'm sure it's one quintessential quality they look for in your application. So make sure to weave in stories that highlight what a good team player you are!

Update on my applications:
  • Harvard and Wharton essays are in final form (hopefully), apps are filled and ready to be submitted. Yippie!
  • Chicago's long essays are ready
  • 2 Page resume is ready. Thankfully I can submit the same one for all schools. None of them specify a one page resume
Target for October 2nd (End of long weekend):
  • Have Chicago and Kellogg app also ready to submit. That will make 4 schools complete.
  • Remaining recommendations submitted/ready to submit, have to nudge the recommenders to action :-)
  • Submit Kellogg part 1 (Am waiting for my damned TOEFL score to reach me. Grrrr)
Also check out: My take on Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Chicago essays.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The Ultra Cool Chicago Essays

Chicago- up close and personal, every question has a hundred answers...

Let me begin with Chicago's 100 word essays. At first sight they seem really easy and you might even wonder how they actually fit into the typical B-School admissions criteria. But think again! These are the most personal questions I've seen. Of course Stanford has a personal question too, but it does not explicitly ask you to get personal, you can choose something not too personal. These essays are different. For example, one essay asks you about a little known part of you. Now most of our traits, most events in our lives are public or they are too personal to talk about. This question calls for a lot of judgement. You obviously cannot talk about, say, the worst breakup you've had or your secret crush :D. This essay is a great opportunity to discuss something that is not directly evident in the rest of your application, some great characteristic that you could not bring out due to lack of space maybe, or a very traumatic situation you faced in your childhood, basically something that is little known for a good reason.

Recommending a book/play/movie to the adcom- this is my favorite question. It shows that they are really interested in getting to know what attracts you, what stimulates your emotions, what kind of person you are. This question will or should give the reader some insight into the way you think and your outlook in life. It's not enough to write up a review/critique here, it's very important to say why this book/play/movie is ingrained your mind, what is in it that made a difference big enough to make it the best book you've ever read.

What value will you add to your study group? This question is a bonus. While answering "Why Chicago", you will ideally write numerous ways in which you will contribute to the school. Now you can concentrate only on extracurriculars and other non-academic contributions while answering "Why Chicago". Your academic contributions can be moved into this essay. You could weave your superior mathematical skills, sharp analytical skills, innovative ideas, out of the box thinking etc. etc. into this essay; 100 words is a lot to do that!

Coming to essay 2, here again Chicago gives you a great opportunity to talk about some issue you are very passionate about. Say you live in a underdeveloped country, I'm sure you would have seen enough to talk about. Or if you work in the non-profit sector, your work will expose you to many such issues. But pick this question only if you have very good evidence to support why you think it is a pressing issue. And because they call it an editorial, I'm not too sure if you can talk about personal experiences here.

I found the question about your colleague's view of you very refreshing. If you are smart you can actually lead the reader to see exactly what you intend him/her to. You can even ask your colleague who spends most of the work day with you to describe you using a list of adjectives and work them into your essay. Or you could ask your colleague to tell you his/her first impression about you and create a story around it- something like "this is the effect I have on people". Or you could use this essay to supplement your career progress by quoting a couple of incidents from the professional realm.

Coming to the all-in-one essay that asks you write pretty much an autobigraphy in a mere 1500 words. Here also they've got pretty philosophical and asked you to describe "the path" that led you to pursue an MBA. You can't obviously leave your career completely out of this essay- Fat Chance, but you can minimize describing what you did in your career. I say this because Chicago apparently has a detailed resume, at least it did last year, I'm yet to check this year's application. Assuming they have it this year also, you can push most of the "What you did" to the resume and actually describe a series of incidents in your life (both professional and non-professional) that have influenced you to seek an MBA. Next they want to know what or who influenced you to apply to Chicago, I guess this is to see what kind of research people do before they decide where to apply. They also have a "Who?" element to this question. You could discuss a role model who is a Chicago alum, the students you met during the school visit, at the info sessions, through discussion forums. It's a good chance to rave about the GSB Community and how well you fit in :-). The remaining parts of this essay address the usual career goals and "Why Chicago".

On the whole, most of your typical MBA essay responses will go into essay 1. The other essays offer hell a lot of leeway for creativity and humor. I had fun writing them. I hope you do too!

Also check out: My take on Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, Kellogg essays.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

A jolting discovery!

Out of curiousity I had a peek at the extracurriculars section of the HBS application. I started filling the application long ago but I somehow never went to this page till today. I got a bittersweet surprise. HBS gives me 250 characters each to describe 4 extracurricular activities during college and 4 after college. I did expect them to give me space to list the activities but not to describe them. So I sat and filled out the extracurriculars section completely. Now should I laugh or cry? This means I'm going to make a lot of changes to my essays, all the descriptions will have to go and all the learnings will have to grow!

I feel like giving myself a pat on the back for finishing the essays earlier. Now it's very easy for me to just remove the redundancies, I already have ideas for the new-found space. Had I realized this 15 days later, I will be kicking myself for all the rewriting I will have to do in the last moment. I think the undergrad essay and other info essay will have to change significantly. The other essays are fine for HBS. But I think they won't be so fine for other schools if their applications are anything like that of HBS. So I will spend a lot of time tomorrow and this weekend to investigate the applications of each school and decide how to change my essays. My plan will allow this, I just need to move things around a bit :D.

So people out there, rush and complete the data forms in your applications. This will really help you to better utilize the space in your essays. Ok it's 4 am. Ciao!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

One more packed month coming up!

Yesterday I realized that I have exactly one month to go before I submit 5 applications. And I'm completely swamped at work, I have increased responsibilties, increased deliverables, people to manage, multiple roles and lesser and lesser time at home. I've not been coming home before 10pm :-(.

So far I've been prudent. I anticipated the workload and that is the one of the main reasons for completing my essays so soon. But I don't want to relax and lose steam at this stage. I want to use the next one month to edit/rewrite/perfect my essays school by school keeping the complete picture in mind, to trim down words wherever possible, research the schools some more and incorporate my research into the essays, fill out applications, sit with my recommenders etc. Since I want to manage so many things at once, I've made a solid and colorful plan :D.


I've specifically marked days for essay editing, recommender management, buffer time, application forms etc. so that I don't have a chance to slack on anything whatsoever. So by 18th October (one week before Stanford's deadline) I would have submitted all 5 applications. Then I'm going home for 5 days to celebrate Diwali. I will work on Columbia app once I'm back and submit it by the end of October!

PS: I WILL complete my writeup about Chicago and Kellogg essays this weekend...

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Supershrunk Wharton Essays

Wharton- very conventional essays, very few essays, very few words...

To me Wharton had the most frustrating set of essays, it's the only school that did not allow me to write all my stories. I just spent 2 hours chopping Wharton's "Career Progress, Career Goals, Why MBA, Why Wharton, Why now" essay. It's very very difficult to do justice to all these questions in just 1000 words, more so when the school has just 3 other microscopic 500 word essays :-). I know I'm exaggerating, 500 words is anything but microscopic. But that's how I feel now. I wish I could throw a fit and get some more words from Wharton :D. Maybe Kellogg and Stanford have really spoilt me with their liberal wordlimits. Or maybe I want to say too much :-). Kidding aside, no applicant would want to choose between important stories that collectively show you in the best light. But Beware! Wharton might just make you do it. Wharton essays are a true test of your zipping abilities. Discretion and conciseness are the need of the hour.

First of all you might end up spending hours wondering how to distribute the space in the first essay between the various questions it wants you to answer. Secondly because of the wordlimit you might not be able to provide too much of anecdotal evidence in the first essay itself. To make your story strong elaborate key professional incidents in the one of the other essays and refer to them in the first essay. Of course if you can elaborate everything in the first essay itself then you are God!

Another problem you might face is with the failure essay. You may not find a failure significant enough to talk about, your failure might be too significant to talk about, you may be tempted to make a masquerage out of the failure essay and talk about an incident that's simply not a failure etc. As long as you have an incident where the expected outcome did not occur, a worse outcome occured, you learnt something from it and applied it to your life, you are safe. Just articulate it well.

Thankfully Wharton offers a lot of choice in the remaining essays. You can create a balanced story by choosing essays and stories that will highlight your personal and extracurricular life and complement the professional side projected in essay 1. Now again, if you use one of these essays to elaborate on incidents refered to in essay 1, then you might have to compromise a little on the non-professional you. I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw that the ethical issue essay is optional. Although I did write on this topic for HBS, that was too futuristic and will not make sense here. The "What do you do best and Why" is the only open-ended question. Practically anything can be twisted around to answer this question. But the word "Best" is the key. While you need not be THE BEST at it, you will have to justify why you really are good at whatever you choose to talk about. So this essay could be a little tricky if you don't pick the right topic. The remaining essays work differently for different people, but they are fairly standard questions.

Wharton essays are like the blurb of your autobiogrpahy. You need to write just enough to attract the readers and make them want to meet you to get to know the rest of you!

Also check out: My take on Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Kellogg essays.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Recommendations submitted & The long long Stanford Essays Deconstructed

I again have something to celebrate about. One of my recommenders submitted his recommendations today! That is one recommender less to manage and a big job out of my way now. I also sent my TOEFL score reprot to Kellogg, something I kept constantly forgetting to do. Now I'm just waiting for my printed score report to reach me so that I can submit Part 1 of Kellogg's application. So here's another celebratory post. This time it's about the Stanford essays.

I had planned to finish one post each for all 5 schools by now. But I've been returning from work after 10pm everyday. So the entire application process is suffering :-(. I have not touched my essays after Monday. But I guess it's good to take a break from the essays before beginning to review and rewrite them. So now I'm officially into total rewriting mode.

Moving on to the Stanford essays...

virtually no word limits, just one question that will scare the shit out of you and make you feel a loss for words...

Let me start with the advantages of Stanford's approach to essays. Stanford like Harvard allows you to focus on whichever aspect of life you want through the "What matters most to you" essay and also the other essays to a large extent . You could get carried away with Stanford's topics, but it's important to remember that it is a B-School application essay after all. So all the essays put together should reflect your professional, personal and XC life to paint a complete picture. But these essays definitely give you the freedom to move things around endlessly.

Stanford is one school that gives you something like 1500 words (Career Aspiration essay) to divide between your goals and Why Stanford. This is really cool, 'coz you can make a really good case about why stanford is perfect for you. At least you are not stifled by a super stringent wordlimit that forces you to write about your dream school in 150 words :-). This essay will be a winning one only if a large portion of it is devoted to how you can contribute to Stanford, moreover this is probably the only place where you can do it. People who use the "What matters most to you" essay to talk about something very specific in the personal or XC realms might have to use this essay to talk about their career progress also. If you are planning to use this essay for your career progress then keep in mind that this is phrased as a futuristic question; it will do you good to discuss your career progress in the context of your goals and thus maintain the futuristic tone. Otherwise this is a fairly standard but really long Career Goals, Why MBA, Why now, Why school essay. We should try to completely capitalize on this essay to give the adcom a compelling reason to admit us!

Although I hated the idea of the 2 short essays initially, I think they give a real advantage. If you notice, for the first two essays you need to define a theme and stick to it- you need to have a smooth flow between the anecdotes you choose and they need to fit into an overarching theme. The 2 small essays, an addition to last year's questions, do not pose this problem. Of course they might take 2-3 stories away from your other essays, but as far as essays go I feel- The More The Merrier :D. These essays are cool because there's something for everybody.
For example:
1. "Tell us about a time when you did something that was not established, expected, or popular"
You can use this essay to project innovation, risk taking ability, entrepreneurship, even a failure and what you learnt from it.

2. "Tell us about a time when you felt effective or successful"
You can use this essay to describe a personal achievement, something that need not have produced measurable results on a very large scale. It is pretty abstract and can be worked to project your perception of success.

3. "Tell us about a time when you had a significant effect on a group or individual"
This essay is a godsend if you who have a lot community service to talk about. If you've never done any community service this essay is still a godsend- you can use it to show that you have a humanitarian side despite your jetsetting busy career. You can use this one to talk about any good deed you did for someone in the last 3 years. Of course you need proven impact on the group/individual, but selecting a powerful experience should do the trick.

4. "Tell us about a time when you tried to reach a goal or complete a task that was challenging, difficult, or frustrating."
This essay is perfect for a failure/setback that you want to talk about, it can be dressed as a difficult challenge and worked to your advantage by explaining all the lessons you learnt. This essay is also good for describing complex professional assignments, starting a new venture/club, a self disciplined effort etc.

The short essays don't really give you additional space because the recommended wordlimit is still 11 pages, same as last year. But they do give you a chance to isolate key incidents that may not fit into your theme and describe them in detail.

Finally, What matters most to you and Why?
This essay is the most open-ended, teasing, paralyzing B-School essay I have come across. This essay forces you to be personal on some level. When I say personal I don't mean the nature of the stories you pick, but it is really difficult to articulate your reason to someone who has never met you without getting personal and introspective. The "Why" is what makes this question difficult. This essay can be anything, you could write up a broad account about your life and what shaped it into what it is today, you could write about a single experience you went through and how it changed your life, you could write about a single characteristic or personality trait that defines you, you could write about your family, your children - the options are limitless. Whatever you choose, it has to be life changing or you should not be able to imagine living without it. Read more on my approach to this essay here.

For someone who enjoys writing and has lots to say, Stanford essays are a dream. If you can also get creative with them, nothing like it!

Also check out: My take on Harvard, Wharton, Chicago, Kellogg essays.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Celebratory Post! & HBS Essays Deconstructed

I have completed all 5 schools' essays (H, W, S, K, Chicago) within the deadline I'd set for myself, i.e TODAY. And of course I finished them yesterday itself! To celebrate I decided to write a post describing the insights I gained while writing each of these school's essays. Yes I know it sounds ironical (may even sound dumb) that I want to celebrate completing all that writing by writing some more. That is the curse (or fortune) of being a creative writer you see :D. I can write tirelessly...

Most B-School applicants are well into their essay writing sojourn. I feel now is a good time to share my insights about how to fit the same story into different schools' essays. Most of us apply to around 4-8 schools. So we have 4 different schools, 4 different sets of essays but a single applicant and a single story. At first this realization can be paralyzing. But improvization is an art, a manager's art :-). I call it improvisation because we cannot invent a new story each time we are faced with a different essay stub, we simply have to make do with the experiences we've had so far.

Now a single post convering all 5 schools would be a big hindrance to your readability and my writability:D. Moreover it will be too much to sustain within the average human attention span. So I've decided to write 5 different posts, one for each school.

Before I begin my ramblings about the HBS essays let me establish a thumb rule here. Honesty is an absolute must while writing essays. Once we decide to spin stories this particular problem ceases to exist and this blog post is worthless :-)

Harvard Business School - the school with the most stringent word limits, the school I would die to get into :D...

HBS essays are not rigidly structured like the usual B-School essays. There is no single essay where you can talk only about your profession, no single essay where you can talk only about your extracurriculars unless you consciously choose to do so. HBS essays make life difficult because you can wonder endlessly whether you should pick a personal, professional or extracurricular incident to talk about for 3 out of the 6 essays. The balance is very difficult to achieve. You might need to make a huge compromise for you might end up writing all 6 essays and then find that you have 3-4 more good anecdotes from various realms of life still left to say. Harvard really tests your discretion, judgement and above all your conciseness.

HBS is the only school that gives you 400 words to write about undergrad alone. This is both a boon and a bane. A boon for people who have not really been involved in any XC after undergrad days, such people can use this essay to talk about all the XC they managed along with their "gruelling academics". A boon for people with a low GMAT, such people can use this essay to prove that they can handle the academic rigor at HBS. A bane for people who have lots of experience and could have used this precious space to talk about more recent and more indicative accomplishments than about something that happened in a previous era. A bane for people who are still involved in lots of extracurriculars, they have to devote at least a part of this essay to academics and rest of it also is restricted to 4 years of undergrad, space that could have been used to talk about current involvements that cannot be worked into the other essays.

The ethics essay,I know I know, It's a pain to write something on such a futuristic note and yet keep it grounded in your past/present experiences and yet sound convincing. But don't underestimate the power of research. There's truckloads of material available on ethics. Some exploring and reading should give you a fairly large number of ideas that you can relate your past, present and future to. So start googling and clicking around right now!

Coming to the career vision essay, first of all we need to note the phrasing here - "Career Vision". They are not simply "goals"like other schools. This is another indication of the legendary mission of HBS to create great leaders and visionaries. It's better to have a concrete goal for all schools, more so for HBS if you want them to take you seriously. This is particularly true for younger applicants who may not have too many stories of professional leadership to talk about and who have a tougher time explaining why they are ready for an MBA from HBS so early. In general HBS wants demonstrated leadership potential. Weave as many leadership episodes as possible into your saga, taking care not to go overboard and sound like an alpha personality.

HBS' style of asking questions has its own advantages. You can portray yourself in the best light by talking a lot about one of personal, professional and extracurricular aspects, whichever has the richest and most interesting experiences. Admittedly, it is a more prudent approach to strike a balance between the three. But I feel the risk is well worth it, if you feel you can pull it off. For example if you are a very young applicant you can pick 2 achievements from extracurriculars, or your defining leadership experience could be a personal one. Similarly people from a very heavily represented demographic such as the Indian IT pool or Investment Bankers, Management Consultants etc. can differentiate themselves very well. HBS does not force you to talk about professional experiences alone, so you can avoid talking about experiences which you feel will be very similar to those of others belonging to your demographic. An Indian engineer for example can stand out by talking about his/her proficiency in the creative arts, or deep knowledge of Indian scriptures/mythology/vedas, ballet dancing performances, adventure/wildlife photography etc.

Thus the key to the success of your HBS essays lies in choosing the right mix of stories to talk about. It's just takes a little foresight, a little more courage and a lot more introspection and digging into your past to paint a refreshingly unique picture of yourself.

Ok I'm off to do some serious rewriting ***Snicker***! Ciao...

Also check out: My take on Wharton, Stanford, Chicago, Kellogg essays.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

At Peace with Columbia!

I simply had to know what I should do about Columbia (just being my usual obsessive self). So I dug deep into the internet and I came across this. Read the answer for the question "What is the timeframe for Regular Decision applicants to receive decisions?" and you will ***Grin*** like me too. So that answers my doubts about Columbia. Their website did confuse me though. But whatever be the case I will just go ahead and apply by end of October. This is mainly because I really like the program and I don't want to replace Columbia with some other school.

On the essay front, I'm done with "Why Wharton" and "Why Kellogg" finally. This means I have completed 3 schools' essays- W, S and K. By the end of this week I will be done with all 5 schools (except Columbia) :D. I want to spend the rest of September to do the following:
  • Revisit all essays and harmonize them. I have improved my essays as I progressed through the schools. So I want to say my story in the best possible way for every school
  • Prepare my resume
  • Remind my recommenders and make sure my recommendations are ready
  • Prepare my transcripts for self-reporting. Get official ones if needed for any school
  • Fill out the online applications
Why do I feel I've forgotten something????

Monday, September 04, 2006

Smiles... Sighs... Grrrr... The Columbia Crisis...

I'm done with Stanford essays. I sent them out for comments last week itself. So Stanford is almost out of the way now!

This weekend I finished all of Chicago's 100 word essays. To write a personal essay in 300 words is fairly easy, to bring about the same effect through 3 disjoint micro-essays is very difficult and a tad frustrating. But I loved the challenge and have managed to show a different aspect of my personality in each of the essays. So I'm happy on the Chicago front!

I'm adding some finishing touches to (read rewriting) my Harvard Ethics essay. I've got the content straight though. Now that I've finally put an end to my procrastination- A huge sigh of relief!

My "Why Wharton" and "Why Kellogg" bits have taken shape, but lot of work to be done still. So I'm pretty angry with myself for assing off. I will finish them today.

Just back after a 11 straight hours at work. I have to start work on essays right away if I want to sleep at a decent time :-(

Oh yeah... There's an important thing I wanted to discuss here

Columbia says:

"September term Regular Decision applicants will receive a final decision from Columbia Business School within 12 weeks of the date that a complete application goes under review once the application review period begins. Be sure and check the options and deadlines page to see when the review periods begin."

Read the bolded text again. Although this has been troubling me, I pushed it to the back of my mind. Only today did it dawn on me that even if I submit my Columbia app in October (I'm not planning for Early Decision) it will go "under review" only on January 10th 2007. The earliest I can get my Columbia result is late February.

This is almost equivalent to applying in Round 2. So much for the Rolling Application Process. The only way I can get to know my chances in this amazing school at the same time as my other target schools is applying for Early Decision. And I don't want to do it. This is very sad :-(

I really wish someone would tell me that this is not true, that I can apply in October and get to know the result in 3 months :-(. You guessed it- I daydream a lot...

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Of Dinners and Parties

How can a poor applicant stick to self imposed deadlines if she is invited to dinners and parties everyday??? :D

On Tuesday I left office at 9.30pm and went out for dinner straight from work. On Wednesday I left office at 5pm. I did get some work done but I went out for dinner again. Today I have a party at work, we are being wined and dined for a successful delivery of our product!

And today is my deadline to answer Why X school for H,S,W,K. I'm done with Why Stanford and Why Harvard. So I've not slipped completely. But slipped I have, albeit only slightly :D. I think I can still complete the stuff I mentioned in my previous post by this Sunday.

So off to the party now!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Whew! 4 schools almost done!

I can't believe I have almost completed the essays of 4 of my target schools.

Harvard (sans Ethics essay)
Stanford (sans Why Stanford)
Wharton (sans Why Wharton)
Kellogg (sans Why Kellogg)

Yippie!!! I'm 4 days ahead of my schedule. My plan was to reach this stage by Thursday 31- August and then use friday and the weekend to complete Harvard's Ethics essay and to mine through my school research to answer Why X school for each of them.

But this weekend was very productive.

  • I completed Stanford's mind-boggling "What matters most to you and Why"
  • I rewrote Harvard's "Other info" essay
  • I added some touches to Stanford's career goals essay leaving only "Why Stanford" to be answered

Great! So my revised (more relaxed) plan is:
  • Complete all the "Why X school" parts by Thursday 31-August
  • Complete Harvard's Ethics essay and Chicago's (remaining 2) 100 word essays over the weekend

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What matters most to me?

Right now what matters most to me is completing a draft of the "What matters most to you and Why?" essay in the next 2 days. Why of course is obvious, I want to rewrite it a million times in September! :D

This essay has been a journey in itself :-)

I figured out 2 approaches to tackle this question and wondered which one is more sensible:
Write out all the interesting/significant events of my life and find a common thread between them.
Think of the theme and write out all the incidents keeping the theme in mind.

The first approach seemed too much like a trial and error method. Moreover although I might find a thread connecting the incidents of my life, it need not be what matters most to me. I feel the purpose of this question is for the reader to understand what single thing motivates one's actions and responses to the events of life, a single thing that has shaped one's life into what it is today. I cannot achieve this through the first approach. Moreover the moment I read this question I knew what my theme should be. There really is something that matters more to me than anything else :-). So I decided to go with the first approach.

Identifying the theme is only a tiny step of my journey. After all the essays I've written so far, I know very well what are the significant events of my life, I also know what personal characteristics and beliefs I need to highlight. Weaving all these things together under a single umbrella is a real challenge.

I've finished a third of my draft and have gained some insights which might help others caught in the same maze as me:

  • The key to the success of this essay lies in picking something you are really passionate about. Only then can you bring out the passion through 2000 words. Picking a theme for the sake of establishing a common link between things may not work very well. Moreover, from what I gleaned from their website, Stanford looks for passionate people.
  • I don't want to give the usual advice "Do not say what the adcom wants to hear". Honestly none of us will be willing to say that money, power, fame, luck, men/women etc. matter most to us. Even if we do choose one of these things we would wrap it in a nice package that does not make us look greedy or frivolous or unethical or immature. Of course you want the adcom to like you after they read your essay. So invest time to make an intelligent choice, pick a theme that will highlight your personality and values.
  • The essays of other schools are primarily factual, they want you talk in detail about experiences and incidents mainly. In that sense this essay is very different. The reader has to grasp why something matters to you. Of course facts/incidents will have to serve as examples. But your thought process needs to shine through. It's not enough to say you how you achieved something, it's more important to say why and how the achievement relates to what matters most to you (your theme). In other words, the reader should never lose hold of the theme throughout the essay. Coherence is a key factor.
  • There is a liberal word limit. Although my other essays are shorter and I can give more than 4 pages to this essay, I'm looking at a self-imposed 2000 words limit. I'm not taking the risk of going overboard and giving too much of unnecessary information.

That's it at the moment... And doesn't anyone like my delicious new template? :-(

Ok back to my essay.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Pulling myself together again...

After assing off over the weekend, I've had a hectic time at work this week. So I have not touched my essays for the past 4 days. Today( it's 1.40 am, so it's yesterday actually) I came back home at 10pm, immediately booted up my comp and got cracking at "What matters most to me". I came up with a cool idea and am quickly warming up to my theme. This essay is a killer for sure and I'm confident I'm going to rewrite it a minimum of 5 times before I'm happy with it.

I've promised myself I will come home early tomorrow and complete the first draft of this essay. I have not been getting to work before 11am and I have so many things to do that I don't leave before 9.30pm. I've resolved to get to work by 8am tomorrow, which means I really should hit the sack now. It seems like ages since I read a book or watched TV :-(

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Home and Back!

I went home to Chennai this weekend. I got very little done on the application front. But I had planned for this. So I'd made up for the time even before I went. I will not go to Chennai again until mid-October when I will be done with my apps. So I took my mom for a movie and spent time with my dad and grandparents. I took my little cousins who've come from Sharjah for pizza and ice cream. I humored them in their plans to start a pet shelter and a restaurant for animals! They are exactly what I was at their age, absolutely crazy about animals (I Still am :D). I spent a lot of time with my uncle and aunt who I met after 3 yrs(I think). I ate my mom's home-cooked food, slept well and had a nice time :-)

Applications Update:
I started filling out the forms of Stanford, Columbia and Chicago. I filled out some basic stuff and sent out the recommendation requests. One of my recommenders has also acknowledged that he's got them and he will work on them in the next couple of weeks. I'm waiting for Kellogg and Wharton to release their online apps to send out their recommendation requests.

Essays Update:
I've incorporated my uncles comments into almost all my essays, they look better now! I started Stanford's career goals essay. I have written out the goals part. I have lots and lots of work to do on the "Why Stanford?" part. I also created a sort of mind map for the "What matters to you most and why?" essay. I am clear about the things I want to say in this one. I will soon figure out an interesting way to narrate the stories. I aim to complete these 2 Stanford essays by 31st August. Looks achievable at the moment...

It's 8am. I gotta slog till 5pm if I want to meet my deadlines. Ciao!

Friday, August 18, 2006

I'm not lending my Uncle!

One's magnanimity is another's good fortune!

Two days ago I serendipitously (yes, that's a word) met my uncle online. When I say "uncle", don't you go imagining a 50 year old man with a rounded pot belly and a loud laugh. He's rather young, has an MBA from Haas-Berkeley and he's a Silicon Valley Entrepreneur. We were chatting about this and that when he suddenly remembered that his little niece was applying to B-Schools this year. For him, reviewing my essays was the most natural offer to make. For me, it was a windfall!

Of course, I put on my usual snobbish show at first. I said I will see his comments on a couple of my essays and send him the rest if his comments were good enough. But he knows me too well to take my "attitude" seriously :D. So I sent him all my Kellogg and Wharton essays. Poor guy spent his evening reviewing them for me and his night chatting with me. I'm sure my aunt (his wife) loathes me for this. I wouldn't be surprised if I got a howler from her soon. And guess what! His comments are superb. He also gave me some great ideas about how to make my story tighter. The funny thing is he was worried if he was being too critical. I quickly reassured him that the more he chastised my work, the better. So that's one more ace up my sleeve in the application game!

I have these uncles (you heard me right, there's more than one of these great guys) who my friends want to borrow all the time :). Not all of them review essays, but they do come in handy at other times. Now this is what I call Luck. I'm sure if you read my uncle's comments on my essays you will pay through your nose to borrow him from me. Ha Ha Ha.

Back to his comments now! Ciao

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

B-School essays- What if I'm just a mere mortal???

My arduous journey through more than 15 essays of 4 schools (so far) has warranted a few observations.

One cannot even imagine writing winning B-school application essays unless:

1. One has great grades to boast about. It's better if the good grades are in extremely complex subjects which they chose out of real interest. Of course, overlooking the fact that one wants to dump that choice now to shift to a career in business for which again one has a such a good reason, other than big bucks, that Management is almost a "Calling" now. Or even better- one has done some research under a nobel nominee during one's academic life. Coming from the other end of the spectrum, one could have had such a "happening" student life that he can eloquently make excuses for a bunch of really bad grades. Examples of happening student life: one has studied through a scholarship awarded for his participation in the olympics(even better if one has won some medals) which naturally means one played sports right through college, one has been a drummer of a band that plays in some hip hollywood club, one has worked as a bartender and supported one's family of 4 right through college etc.

2. One is an extremely accomplished person 1/3rd of whose achievements are professional, 1/3rd extracurricular and 1/3rd personal. Mediocrity in any of the 3 realms runs the risk of projecting oneself as a one-dimensional or two-dimensional person as the case may be. In short, one has to be a...ummm the word is..."well-rounded" person.

3. One has had at least one(the more the better) phenomenal failure. More importantly, the failure, the remedy and the learning is life-changing and is big enough to make 500 words seem like too less a space to describe it.

4. One is unique. Examples: one has lived in hiding during war, one has fought for one's country, one has experienced a significant amount of character building adversity, one is blessed with extraordinary luck or unusual talents or belongs to a royal family or has famous parents which automatically take care of the uniqueness problem.

5. One has planned the next 15 years of one's life. Translates to an ambition/a vision/a goal simply unachievable without shelling out $140K in B-School. And of course one has crystal clear reasons to want to go to School X, reasons which are personalized, well researched, which cannot be found directly in the school's website. Stating reasons such as brand value of the school, job security after graduation etc. is a faux pas guaranteed to send one's application to the rejected bin. Visionaries are the need of the hour.

6. There is a single thing (Eg. World Peace, Self realization, Spiritual Harmony, Patriotic fervor etc), a thing that matters most to one, a thing that is the focal point of one's life to which one can attribute one's actions, reactions, follies, successes, basically one's entire life (if possible even those drunken parties and one night stands and visits to the gym and salon).

7. First of all, one has a set of ethics by which one lives. Second of all, those ethics have been challenged at least once. Finally one has gone through mental agony and successfully resisted the tempting devil to uphold one's ethical values so that one can now sport a stiff upperlip that one has attained moral highground over mere mortals.

Now now, don't let me fool you with my display of cynicism. I was just having some fun.

But I really do thank God for my passion for writing - I cannot weather through 30 essays of making myself look good unless I treat each essay as a creative writing exercise.

Update on essays:
I'm done with Wharton! I also finished one of Stanford's short essays, plodding through the second one now. My 5 day vacation ends today. I need to sleep by 1am from today :-(. But I'm glad I've used the hols to gain some ground with the essays. I'm in a rather comfortable position now! Enough of gloating and back to my essays now...

Monday, August 14, 2006

Wharton - Fears assuaged...

I was deeply disheartened when I read Wharton's essay questions. I realized how much I have to say and how little space there is. It is a good 2 essays less than Kellogg and has stricter word counts. I feared that I would have to compromise on my story. I began my incurable obsession that I would have to write like 2 lines for some of my anecdotes or even drop a couple of them to stay within the word limits.

Life suddenly looked grey with no forecast of sun. Just when I was beginning to panic the super-calm, super-organized self took over. I sat and stared at the essays for a good half hour, creating place holders in my mind for each of my stories. Slowly the storm clouds floated away revealing the bright smiling sun :-) ( I know, I do go overboard with my imagination at times!). I figured I could say most of the things I've managed to in my HBS and Kellogg essays and make up for the rest in my resume or just make a brief reference. Now that's not too much of a compromise.

So I'm done with 3 out of the 4 essays. They really tested my conciseness, but I'm pretty happy with the way they've come out. It's 3am and I'm about to start the "Failure" essay. Just decided to update my blog as I took a break. Breaks are even more fun when I spend them bragging in my blog :D. Ok back to my failure...