Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Your fact-file- A preparatory ego massage...

Once you are done with your GMAT, there typically should be some time before the essays are released (if you intend to apply in R1) or before you begin to work on your essays. Irrespective of whether you have the luxury of time before beginning on essays or not, it will really help to create a fact file for yourself. What I mean when I say "fact file" is a bulleted dump of every single thing you have done in your life that is worthy of mention to someone who does not know you at all. I would suggest not to be too concerned with the "worthy of mention" bit, trust me, it could bog you down real bad. So first- just put down every single thing that stands out in your memory.

While jotting down stuff, to maintain a semblance of order I would put them into a matrix of buckets as follows (matrix because there will be unavoidable overlaps):

  • Academics
  • Test Scores
  • Professional Experience (jobs, salaries, promotions)
  • Extracurriculars with dates

These facts will feed into your resume and application forms later :-)

Incidents in:
  • Professional life
  • Extracurriculars
  • Personal life

The above incidents can be further broken down into:
  • leadership experiences
  • teamwork experiences
  • introspective stuff that led to self-realization (hyuk!!!)

  • by nature
  • acquired by experience

  • currently addressed
  • hopeless and potentially damaging (which will go unmentioned in the essays of course:D)

Wow factors, some examples:
  • Supreme Academic/Professional honors, quantifiable achievements
  • Olympic medal(s)
  • Huge family name/business
  • Unique personal circumstances/background that contribute to diversity
  • Entrepreneurship (serial entrepreneurship gets a bigger WOW!)
  • Anything else you can articulate well enough to excite the reader...

This is just a sampling of categories, add whatever you feel makes sense for you. Once the fact file is lengthy enough and your ego has been massaged well enough, it will be time to knock off all the things you have been fooling yourself about until then. Mercilessly remove each thing you would not buy from someone applying to you for a B-School admission. Cut every claim that you cannot support with an example from your life. Scour the file for contradictions, doing this early will ensure that your essays are consistent with each other.

This file can always be a work in progress. You can come back to it and add/delete things as you navigate through your applications. It will be a single reference point for all the information and inspiration you need when you write essays. There will be times when you look at this file and think "Wow! Have I done so much with my life?" and other times when you think "My lack-luster life can be shrunk into just 42Kb (it would be disrespectful to choose any other number!), even without zipping. Sigh..." .

I will end this post with the message that this grunge work is definitely worth it. It really helps you focus your thoughts and consolidate them so that you don't miss the better stories when you do the real work.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Congratulations Ganja Turtle!!!

Huge Congratulations to Ganja Turtle for being admitted into Chicago-GSB's Class of 2009!!!

I believe that his campaign to get off the wait list was one of the most creative efforts I've ever seen. His hopes and dedication (during a time when all one wants to do is curse his luck) were not in vain. And I thought all the creativity and sincerity he showed deserved a special tribute on my blog. Hats off to you Ganja Turtle!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Congratulations to Wharton R2 admits!

My hearty congratulations to all people admitted to Wharton in Round 2! This must be a really exciting time for you. Boy! Do I remember how it feels :-)! Party hard to let it sink in :D. And then the boring paper work will start... Do feel free to email me with any queries you might have about matriculating to Wharton. I would be glad to help.

Admits in Bangalore/Chennai, how about meeting up?

Update on my matriculation:
My I20 is ready and is on its way to me. I have made arrangements to wire my deposit and will be mailing across my matriculation materials next week. The only pending item after that will be visa.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Do not waste the $250 GMAT fee. Do some research!

The $250 you shell out for writing the GMAT includes sending your score to 5 schools. The usual attitude is to get the GMAT done away with before starting on school research. It might seem like it is too early to shortlist schools before your GMAT, especially if you take the test early in the year. But considering the hefty cost of applying to each school, it makes a lot of financial sense to decide on the schools you intend to apply to (at least 5 of them) before writing the GMAT and hence save on the cost of sending additional score reports. This post will mainly cover the kind of school research you can do along with your GMAT preparation to have a reasonably final list of schools on test day.

I would divide school research into 2 parts:
  • Reasearch to identify suitable programs that meet your needs
  • Research to show fit with the school and alignment of your requirements with the schools' individual offerings.

The second part is more about the specifics of your chosen schools/programs. This research will unearth the microscopic school-specific data that will go into your essays to demonstrate that this school is the perfect place for you :-) (A separate post on this later maybe).

The first part is more about you and your needs. This research is mainly aimed at deciding whether you would want to attend a particular school and it is the part you can do before your GMAT. The following aspects greatly help you decide if you want to go to a school or not:

1. Rankings/Reputation
Whether you like it or not rankings exist and applicants, schools and recruiters do bother themselves with the rank and reputation of b-schools. I know these things are relative and should not matter ideally. But we don't live in an ideal world. However, the importance of rankings varies from person to person. There are 5 rankings in order of importance:

Do keep in mind that rankings are based on fixed criteria which may not be exhaustive. So, while it it is reasonable to want to study in a well reputed B-School, using the rankings as the sole criteria for school selection is not a very wise thing to do.

2. School website
The school's website is arguably the best source of factual information about a school. After narrowing down to a list of say 10-15 schools based on rankings, I would advise you to spend considerable amount of time going through each school's website. They have truckloads of information about academics and the culture of the school. Some schools even have interactive forums in which you can get your questions answered by current students/adcom members. From the website you should be able to glean enough information to decide whether a school has the required academic offerings for your chosen specialization, whether a school has enough extracurricular activities in your area(s) or interest etc. The website also tells you a lot about the teaching methods of the school (E.g. 100% case based, 50-50 lecture-case model). Another important piece of information a school's website offers is about the culture of the school. You can easily figure out if a school encourages a lot of teamwork, if it focuses more on leadership development etc. All this information put together should give you a fair idea whether a school is right for you or not.

3. Talking to people/Blogs/School Visits
It might be a little difficult to find students/alumni to talk to. But it's definitely worth spending the time to find people to talk to, especially if you cannot visit the school. Visiting the school is the best way to get a load of the pulse of the school and to see first hand what the general attitude of the students is. Talking to a couple of students/alumni can give you an idea (albeit a narrow one) about what life at school is like. Alumni can also give valuable information about job opportunities available post MBA. Reaching out and getting to know people who have been through the experience can really help you decide if you will be happy in a school. You definitely don't want to spend 2 years amidst people you cannot bond with...

4. Recruitment statistics
The school's website is the best place to obtain recruitment statistics which is a very important consideration before you zero in on a school. When you think of an MBA you also think of ROI and these statistics indicate your likely ROI after 2 years. However do remember that the statistics will be a little skewed by the highest and lowest income figures :D. It is also a good idea to visit the websites of the companies you are targeting and/or speak to people from these companies to find out how they perceive your target schools when it comes to recruiting.

5. Personal preferences
An MBA is 2 years of your life and you should really enjoy it. This means you need to make many choices. Do you want to live in a city or suburbs, how big should your class be, should the school be pet friendly, is night life important to you, how big a loan are you ready to take, other family constraints that you need to take care of, the list is endless. I feel personal preferences are equally, if not more, important than some of the other criteria I have outlined above. So do evaluate them before you decide to apply to a school.

Research is time consuming. But what I have described above can be easily done between your hectic workload and rigorous preparation routine. Keep the detailed research about club activities, courses, professsors etc. for after your GMAT. I feel it is enough to get answers for the basic questions before you shortlist 5 schools to send your score for free. Even if you change your mind later, you can always add/change your target schools. After all it's just about money. So don't excessively pressurize yourself and shift your focus from the test.

Monday, March 05, 2007


Wharton awarded me $20,000 through a combination of a fellowship and a need-based grant. This means they met the 10% stipulated student contribution. Now I don't need to show any personal sources of funding as I have a guaranteed loan for the entire remaining amount :-). They've also mentioned that I could also get some corporate fellowship in addition to this.

My financial woes are fast-disappearing! I totally love this :D