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...

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Sporting the smug look!

Important announcement (Drum sounds!)
Juggler has completed her Kellogg essays. More importantly, they have lived through the wrath of her critical eye.

Bow! Applause! (Receding drum sounds...)

Ok I will drop the third person now. It is just the lingering effect of writing the "Critical Assessment" essay. I don't know if I should attribute it to writing in the third person, but it was undoubtedly the easiest one to write.

Now I'm on to Wharton's essays. Thinking of calling it a day and beginning afresh tomorrow. Maybe I will fill some applications now or read a book or watch some tv. Wow! Life is suddenly more beautiful and relaxed and there are so many nice things to do. G'nite blog...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Finally a reason to cheer...

Yippie! I'm done with the all-encompassing Career progess, Goals, Why MBA, Why now, Why Kellogg essay (I've not yet answered why Kellogg though, 'coz I have to mine through my research for that). I rewrote it 6 times. Fitting all that I want to say in 2 double spaced pages was an uphill task all the way. Now I'm panting and wheezing :-), but I feel much better because this essay figures in 5 of my schools in pretty much the same form. Despite all my whining, I really enjoyed writing this essay :-)

I have 4 more days off. So tomorrow I will work on Harvard's Ethics essay and Kellogg's Evaluative Assessment essay. Then it's on to Wharton. I really need to think about the failure essay, I've not written something like this for Harvard or Kellogg. So it's going to be a completely new one.

I have a great update on the recommendation front too. I sat with one of my recommenders and discussed Harvard's recommendations. I showed him my Career Vision essay and we discussed on how he should integrate my goals into his responses. Now he will answer the questions and send them away in a couple of weeks. All the other recos should follow suit too. So that's a big job done! I have to do this exercise with my other 2 recommenders next week sometime.

It's so nice to wake up really late and not have to worry about getting up early for work the next day. So I'm going to be my good old nocturnal self and go to bed at 4am :D. It's like I'm in college again! And yeah, I bought 2 Calvin and Hobbes comics (I have 5 in all now) to fill the 5 minute breaks I take while writing essays... they are so much fun and help me unwind instantly. And of course, all the laughing keeps me from obsessing endlessly about my essays and this and that. I'm off to read one of them now. Ciao!

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I am done with 4 of the 6 Kellogg essays. I am left with career progress and critical assessment essays. And I've been really struggling with the career progress one. I know what I want to say, but I simply cannot decide how to say it. Everything I write sounds terrible to me. I already rewrote it 5 times in 5 different styles. I can't believe this is happening :-( I'm giving myself until Friday to complete all Kellogg essays. I really hope I get a major brain wave this evening.

I have 5 days off starting Saturday. I want to be done with Harvard, Kellogg and Wharton completely at the end of this loooooong weekend. Then I can take the rest of the month for Stanford! This is the ideal scenario. There's no way I'm going to meet these deadlines if I'm gonna be stuck with such a huge writer's block :-(

Back to work, will lament about my dismal progress later.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

You shall know my velocity....

The title of this post was inspired by a cool book by Dave Eggers. But the actual reason to celebrate is that I've written up 3 (4A, 4C,4D) of the 6 Kellogg essays. In just 3 days. Now that's what I call speed!!!

I'm pretty satisfied with one of them, I'm gonna edit the others till I feel the same about them too. I've reserved this weekend for the all encompassing Essay1. Essays 2 and 3 should not take more than a day each. So by Wednesday I should have all the rough drafts for Kellogg ready. Yippie!!! (Maybe I'm cheering too soon, but I'm happy with myself for being so disciplined...) And yeah, I got so engrossed in the Kellogg essays, I forgot about doing Wharton parallely. Duh! But it's worked out pretty good, so I guess it's okay. I will begin with Wharton soon...

It's 2AM and I really need to sleep. It's gonna be a long day tomorrow. Sigh... Gnite blog!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Miles to go

After a lot of deliberation, I finally decided to apply to Kellogg also in R1. That makes it 5 online applications, 25 essays, 1 resume, transcripts and 12 recommendations to be completed by end of September. It seems like a lot, but I've made a plan which makes it look achievable.

I hope to complete all essays of Wharton and Kellogg by the end of August. I want to finish all parallel essays between these 2 schools before I tackle the disjoint ones. By answering common questions (rather those that have common answers :D) asked by both the schools at one go, I will save a lot time, coz I don't have to think about the same topic from scratch again. I'm taking this approach only for these 2 schools coz I feel I will be customizing the same stories for both. For all other schools I will take same route as I did for HBS, complete the whole set of essays before I move to the next school. W and K in one month is achievable, but I'm stretching it considering that I'm going on a 4 day Kodaikanal trip, which will invariably give me at least a 2 day hangover... Will give it my best shot anyway.

I want to give Stanford's "What matters most..." essay as much time as possible. This essay is particularly special to me. I know the answer to the question, making the reader see my passion is the challenge. So I feel I can edit this essay infinitely. It's going to be really difficult for me to become happy with this one... My plan is to start on this essay right away and keep writing till I'm happy. I have to finish it latest by mid-september, which gives me a month and a half. As for Stanford' other essays, I already have all the content on paper in some form or the other. I will work on these in the first week of September.

That will leave me with Chicago. There are 2 important essays, the other 3 are 100 words each. So I'm planning to do Chicago last and want to finish it by midseptember too. By then I would have written the same career progress, goals, why MBA essay thrice. So fleshing it out a bit shouldn't be too much of a problem.

I want to spend the rest of September, having a look at each school's essays as a single story and add some final touches.

This weekend I will start on my online apps and send out the recommendation requests. One of these weekends I should also work on my resume and transcripts.

Whew that was one big plan!!! I will come back to this post now and then and make sure I'm keeping up these promises.

Essays update:
HBS - ethics essay is pending and some rework is needed on "other info" essay
Kellogg - "Outside of work I..." is almost done
Chicago - "Value to your study group..." is done