Monday, September 29, 2008

Yale SOM Visit

I visited Yale SOM on my birthday almost a week and a half ago. It was the second school on my New England trip (MIT Sloan was the first and HBS would follow). Apologies for not writing about it sooner but the whole Columbia interview thing sidetracked me.

So on Thursday morning, we woke up early to meet up with HappyBunny (yes, that very one!) and her friend who had kindly offered to drive us from Boston to New Haven for the day. Happy's friend was also a prospective for Fall 2009 so we were all excited to check out SOM. There was some bad traffic for some reason but HappyB was a great sport about it and got us all munchkins!! We got to SOM right at 11:30 am for a welcome from the Student Ambassadors. As soon as I walked into the admissions office, Kathy Frost, one of the staff whom I spoke to on the phone a couple weeks prior, wished me a happy birthday. I was shocked that she remembered me! That was really nice though and caught my friends by surprise as they didn't even know. When I walked into the next room with the student ambassadors, I learned that Dave, my GMAT prep instructor from Veritas (and all-around super cool dude) was one of the ambassadors! He is a 1st year MBA student as well. We caught up for only a minute when the welcome started.

After the ambassadors introduced themselves (there were 5 of them for only 14 prospectives!), we walked over to Donaldson Commons which is the SOM cafeteria. We received free vouchers for lunch which was really nice. The cafeteria was good too. I got a Thai tofu wrap, some pineapple, and an Odwalla shake. Lunch and the smalltalk was nice. The cafeteria was cool and intimate-feeling.

Then we had our choice of classes to visit. I opted for "Careers" since I thought it would give me useful stuff to think about. The classroom, however, was a bit disappointing. The acoustics were not very good (people couldn't hear each other unless they used the mic) and the floor was flat as opposed to raised. This meant that people in the back had their view of the blackboard/projection screen obstructed by the heads of students in the front. I would also say that roughly half of SOM classes are below ground which is kinda unusual. The class was lackluster because it didn't talk about careers at all. Instead, it focused on personal development and Levinson's 8 stages of development (and Piaget's stages too perhaps, I don't remember). I had already learned all that stuff from my extensive psychology coursework during undergrad so I was disappointed. Another prospy I spoke to and a student told me that they didn't think the class was that great either. I was super embarassed when my phone made the largest tone ever when I received a text message. At least half a dozen people turned their heads. Stinks cuz my phone actually was off but then I must've accidentally turned it on again. Ugh.

After class, we had a Q&A with a member of the Adcom which was actually quite boring. I did learn one important piece of info though. She said that we can actually use another school's essay for Yale's "create your own question" option! Seriously! I can't believe she said that but she said that if we created a great story then there's no reason we shouldn't be allowed to use it for Yale's app just becuz another school coincidentally asked for it. I agree- just surprised that she would actually say so! I asked her if the other adcom members felt the same way and she said yes. She also said that the word limits were not strict limits but that a few words over was okay. This is in direct contrast to what Shelley at the Yale Reception (which I wrote about a couple weeks ago) said when she said that the word limits were indeed strict. Oh well.

The Q&A was really boring and monotonous though. I was happy when it was over. Afterwards, we went into downtown New Haven to pick up something from CVS and get HappyB some sandals since she had been wearing heels all day. We then went shopping at J.Crew and the Yale Coop bookstore. I had been super ecstatic about getting myself a Yale t-shirt (not SOM, but just "yale" on the front). When I finally found the perfect one (that fit perfectly too!), I couldn't bring myself to purchase it (even though the price was right). Yale's campus was very nice and the SOM facilities were decent but I wasn't in super love. I would've just been a poser if I bought that shirt I think. Plus I would've had to explain why I was wearing the shirt to people who might ask. So I didn't buy it :(

Dave, one of our student ambassadors and my former GMAT instructor, then told me of a happy hour/bbq that he was hosting on his lawn! That was really cool of him. I said that we'd drop by after dinner because we had dinner plans with some of HappyB and her friend's friends who were also SOM students. We met them for Thai food (don't remember the name of the place) but the food was good enough. It's funny because one of them was actually a co-founder of Google China and the others kept referring to her as "the founding member" which embarrassed her. The SOM students were really warm and friendly though. We had a great time at dinner and we felt very welcomed and included. A part of that might be because we were all Asian though hehe. In fact, everyone could speak Mandarin (including yours truly) and the 3 SOM students were actually international students so maybe that contributed to the bond/kinship. Anyway, we had such a good time at dinner that it was late for Dave's bbq. I still wanted to stop by but unfortunately, HappyB's friend had work the next morning so we drove back to Boston. I did thank Dave for the generous invite though- I really hope he didn't take it the wrong way.

We got back to Boston around 11 pm and we were pretty tired even though we slept in the car hehe. All in all, it was a very enjoyable and fun trip. One of the students was actually looking to do real estate finance so he was a helpful person to talk to as well. Plus, we got to meet "the founding member" haha! A funny thing is that all 3 of the students admitted that HBS was actually their first choice school! Yale's community were definitely very warm and welcoming but the facilities were just okay. The food was good though. I didn't see too much of New Haven but it didn't seem as run-down as I expected. It seemed okay I guess, which is how I would describe SOM overall. I'm sure it'll be amazing once the new building is built but that's not until 2013 or so. I think Stern might have the edge on Yale at this point, not really sure.

I will post about my HBS visit towards the end of the week.... unless I get accepted by CBS in which case I might just say "screw it." My interviewer still hasn't submitted feedback but I'm going to wait til Thursday (1 week) to contact the admissions office and ask them "how long should I wait?" ... don't worry, I won't contact the interviewer directly. A lot of people have commented that I shouldn't have asked the interviewer for feedback on how I did which I now agree with. She was definitely surprised by the question and gave me some generic response about how Columbia looks for people who are very enthusiastic about the program. But the past is the past and I still think I had a great interview (despite that 1 question). So I guess I should stop freaking out :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

CBS Interview Scheduled... and Done!

Thank you to everyone who provided their advice on my interviewer strategy. Seriously. I got a lot of perspectives and good suggestions- I was quite surprised by how many helpful comments and shows of support there were. You guys are so good to me! Anyway, you'll be happy to know that I decided to email 3 additional interviewers. The crazy thing is that I didn't even know much (if anything) about them. I chose them because I didn't like the people who I was able to find info on. In this case, not knowing anything made me think they seemed alright so I emailed them all. I figured their responses might provide me clues (i.e. their signature). Anyway, one person replied only 8 minutes after I sent my email yesterday. She works only 4 blocks from me and said that she could interview me thursday. I waited until thursday morning to confirm with her as I wanted to give my 1st choice interviewer a chance to respond. When I didn't get a response, I confirmed with the super-speedy interviewer (let's call her Sarah).

I confirmed the interview for 3 pm the same day (I had anticipated this and bought hairspray and a leather portfolio to the office hehe). I even got a haircut on wednesday. I logged into the CBS website to confirm out interview time and to upload my resume. Literally 1 minute afterward, my 1st choice emails me back to suggest coffee this weekend! Arrrgh. Oh well, I didn't want to live in regret so I just forgot about it. I spent the next 4 hours of thursday by practicing my answers to common questions and doing 3 mock interviews with co-workers. Their help was invaluable, not only for the repetitions and ideas, but also the confidence it instilled.

Some background on my interviewer: All I knew was that Sarah worked at a Big 4 accounting firm. I figured she was a management consultant given that I am in Washington DC. That's all I knew. I was very business-like in my emails and worried that I wasn't setting a casual enough of a tone for us. But I figurd it was safer to veer on the side of professional than overly casual. N

Now for the debrief.

I arrived at my interviewer's office building 15 minutes early and relaxed myself by calling a friend and getting my tongue and comfort level flowing. Two minutes before 3pm, I went up the elevator to her floor and waited for her by the front receptionist's desk. I made small talk with the receptionist which I will recommend as a great idea. This calmed me down (rather than waiting silently) and got me in a good, jovial mood. The other plus is that when Sarah showed up to interview me, she saw how friendly and casual I was already. This ensured that Sarah and I would take on a more casual tone than business professional tone (though it might have turned out that way anyway judging from the other debriefs I've read). The other potential plus is that Sarah might've gotten the impression that I'm a genuinely nice guy who treats even the support staff with respect. Good stuff all around hehe.

Sarah took me, not to her office and not to a coffeeshop, but to a tiny interview, empty interview room. I didn't like this but as soon as we sat down, it was obvious that it'd be a friendly interview. It wasn't super casual but it was friendly. I tried to sit up straight and watch my posture (one of my flaws) the entire time which made me feel very business-like. But it went GREAT! It turns out that she went to my undergraduate alma mater as well and even walked onto the women's varsity basketball team! This is great because I am a basketball junkie. She asked for suggestions on where to play pickup games and I told her I still play at our alma mater's gym, and she said she has a friend who plays there. It turns out that her friend is actually on my intramural team!! That friend is also on another team that I played for over the summer where we won the championship. Small world huh? I felt great after that.

The interview went very smoothly. There were no questions that gave me a hard time. Everything was expected from the other debriefs that I've read on or the Clear Admit wiki. We basically went through my resume and I told her my goals and career story thus far. We talked about why Columbia and why MBA. She asked me about my thoughts on leadership and the infamous "ethical dilemma" example. I had answers ready for all of these. There were no questions about technical matters or even current events. She asked me about my current job and what I liked about it and what I actually did day-to-day. She asked me about my extra-curriculars and what I want to be involved with while at Columbia. She asked me what I would bring to Columbia that other applicants wouldn't. All easy stuff! If you read the other debriefs online, you'll be ready for the only mildly difficult questions which were "what will you do if you don't get accepted to Columbia?" and "what other schools are you applying to?" ... nothing should catch you off-guard. That was about it- pretty obvious, straight-forward questions. We were done in only 40 minutes which was fine by me. Obviously the longer the better but she revealed that she was going to be in a meeting from 6-9 pm so I knew she was busy (she revealed that when I asked what she was doing the rest of the day). We got through everything I wanted to say (for the most part) and I left the interview feeling great and energized.

She gave me her business card at the beginning and I made sure to send her an email thanking her when I got home from work. Oh, by the way, at the end she asked me if I had any questions for her. I asked her if she had any feedback for me and what she thought about me. I think this caught her slightly off-guard and she didn't really answer the question. She did say, though, that CBS is obsesssed with identifying applicants who are "extremely enthusiastic about the school." This is a well-known fact due to their ED policy and obsession on yield. She reiterated this a couple times in her answer and I took that as a good sign since she knows that I am super enthusaistic (I was great at conveying this) and she even knows that I submitted my application 3 days before the review period cycle. She told me she was surprised to start interviewing so early this year since she's been an alumni interviewer for a while now. I also asked her what the "next steps in the process" were. She replied that she would submit feedback and that I would then receive a decision in probably a week to a month. That's a bummer. I was hoping she would say that she'd submit her feedback that very day or something but oh well. Still a great interview. Definitely won't hurt me and should actually help me a little. But from the sounds of it, I think most people enjoy their CBS alumni interviews so it won't give me much of an edge.

The great thing is that CBS does not view the interview as a final hurdle in the app process. CBS actually uses the interview as just another factor in the applicant's profile- it just so happens that it comes at the end of the process. So it could very well be the case that the adcom thinks the applicant is stellar and plan on admitting him/her unless he/she completely bombs the interview. That is to say, the interview wouldn't matter much for this kind of applicant. But for those applicants who barely made the threshold of receiving an invite, then adding a positive factor to their applicant could definitely help.

So a great interview overall. I couldn't have asked for better though maybe I didn't need to ask the "do you have any feedback for me?" question. I am very happy though. Too bad she is very busy currently and may not submit feedback for a while. I'll call the admissions office and ask them how long is too long once it hits the 1 week mark. I'm sure the adcom will say something like 2 weeks but it doesn't hurt to ask (anonymously that is!) I guess now I play the waiting game. I actually feel pretty comfortable with my chances of admission and I'm going to hold off on my Wharton app for now.

P.S. new poll is up!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Columbia Interview Invite

Okay, so I know I'm supposed to write about my Yale SOM visit and then my HBS visit but there is more important news. Yesterday, at 5:16 pm, I received the long-awaited "status change" email from Columbia. It took me what felt like ten minutes to check my status on the website and what do you know, I finally got an invitation to interview! I am ecstatic. So last night I researched all 9 interviewer names (you don't get anything aside from name and email address) and put together a spreadsheet of their traits and pros and cons. I'm trying to avoid hard-ass types or those who have worked at my current company and thus know what a joke it is or are hardcore finance/real estate types who might grill me on questions that I don't know. I'm being very strategic about this hehe.

There is one interviewer who seems perfect. The problem is that her alumni email address from her undergraduate school is listed (not work email and not even her CBS email!) so I wonder how often she actually checks that. I emailed her last night and hopefully she'll be able to do it soon. I really want to interview asap and then hopefully drop hints for her to submit her feedback asap. Actually, screw the hints. I will just ask her sincerely (in a super nice and casual manner) when she plans to submit her feedback. Once I ask that, she will probably say something like "oh, I'll submit it tonight or this weekend at the latest." The reason I want them to submit quickly is that it can take anywhere from the same day (no chance with my luck) to nearly 2 weeks to get a final decision. Those are valuable days since Wharton's Oct. 9th deadline for Round 1 is fast approaching. But first I have to secure the inteview with her!

6 of the 9 interviewers are finance people who might ask complicated questions and another 2 of the 9 I couldn't find any info on. The last 1 is her, who I really think is ideal for me. Since the interview can be a decently vital part of the application (why risk it? i might as well finish strong), I would rather wait for her schedule to free up than to take a potentially bad interviewer, even if the delay screws me with regards to Wharton's deadline.

I have a bit of a conundrum then. Should I risk interviewing with the 2 people who I couldn't find any info on? (assuming my ideal interviewer is unavailable). If she doesn't respond within, say 48 hours, would it be grossly inappropriate for me to email her on her work email? (this was not provided by Columbia but I was able to find it by researching LinkedIn). That might be able to get her attention but what if she is offended that I disrupted her work? Any advice is appreciated on how I should proceed. It could very well turn out that she is unavailable (unresponsive or maybe on vacation) and will have to go with one of the 2 "no info" interviewers... or even the dreaded hardcore finance guys! :::gulp:::

Saturday, September 20, 2008

MIT Sloan Visit

I'm finally back from my New England trip. Boston is a much nicer city than I realized, as is Cambridge, so I'm pleasantly surprised. I have now updated my favorite American cities list to (in order): NYC, San Fran, Chicago, and Boston. I won't comment on the banking debacle just yet, but I will post my thoughts on Sloan from my thursday visit. I'll post Yale SOM and Harvard Business School in the coming days.

My thursday flight was at 7:30 am so I was tired as heck but arrived in Cambridge around 9 am. We took a taxi to the Sloan campus and it was really quiet with few people milling about. I thought things would pick up later in the day (and it did) but not to the extent that I would've expected. It's not as bustling a campus as I would like. Sloan is also on the northern tip of the larger MIT campus so it's pretty isolated. There isn't a lot of interaction with the other parts of the campus community. There's also a lot of construction going on now which isolated the Sloan buildings even more. The admissions office was kind enough to let us drop our bags off there while we walked around and got breakfast. We came back for an 11:15 info session with the adcom. The adcom were very personable and friendly (even moreso than other schools) and talked about the school for an hour and took questions. I thought it was funny that the adcom mentioned how their students were very bright and down-to-earth. She chose her words very carefully and I expect this is to combat the perception that MIT students are nerds.

Unfortunately, anyone who walks around for half an hour can see that the nerd stereotype is definitely befitting. What shocked me was that everyone refers to the buildings as "E50" and "E27" rather than the name of the building. This stands for East Buliding #50 and so forth. The professors also refer to the courses by their course numbers, not course names, though the students don't practice that convention. I guess they like their numbers. The thing is, MIT students aren't embarassed about being nerdy, rather, they embrace it. This can be seen from the current MIT logo which looks like large computer pixels. It's definitely a different culture.

Oh, another funny thing, the entire group of prospetives in my info session were Asian (including me)- all 11 of us! Some were half-asian, some were east asian, and some were international but you get the point. It's funny because MIT's brand name really is HUGE in Asia.

After the info session, we split into groups to eat lunch with current students. We actually ate lunch with a military guy who confirmed the nerd stereotype. The lunch was boxed, pretty good, and free courtesy of the adcom. I was impressed by this. By the way, there was also a bunch of free food lying around everywhere we walked, whether it was pizza or mediterranean. Apparently the clubs are currently trying to attract members at this time.

After lunch, I attended a finance class with Professor Lo who is supposed to be very, very good. Before class I spoke to a current student in the core class and he was very friendly and not nerdy, but he confirmed the nerd culture. Professor Lo started out talking about the subprime mess and I agree, he was very good, very engaging. I started falling into my food coma when he started talking about formulas though. What I saw of the class was impressive, however. Afterwards, we dropped off our bags at our friend's place in Allston and came back to MIT for a 4pm pro-seminar.

The pro-seminar was supposed to explain the current subprime mess (which Professor Lo presented and did a great job with) as well as explain careers in finance. Apparently the pro-seiminars are a series of talks that get you ready for recruiting. Nice stuff. The event had free food (all gone by the time I arrived) and was packed, standing room only with about 250 people in attendance perhaps. Afterwards, we milled about some more in Harvard Square and got dinner at Grafton Street which is a nice bistro across from Harvard College. Harvard Square was definitely the hot spot. After dinner, we met up with some MPA (Master's in Public Administration) students, many of who were dual degree HBS students actually, and attended a cocktail party at one of their apartments. Everyone was really nice and I liked all the Harvard MPAs (and dual MBAs) a lot. They all exuded a healthy self-confidence but not arrogant at all- I was pleasantly surprised and had a great time talking to several of them. Then it was bed time. I'll write more about my actual HBS visit later.

All in all, my Sloan visit confirmed that I'm not interested in the school. The class and the pro-seminar were great and the facilities were definitely nice. However, I just don't see the fit with the student culture. Before we left Cambridge on Saturday morning, we had breakfast with a friend who is studying at the School of Urban Planning. He said that the Sloan students that he's met are definitely the best adjusted of all MIT students. I was shocked to hear this and then he quickly added "which is to say they are not completely socially awkward." I hope I don't sound like I'm bashing the school because the programs were really good, but these stereotypes were confirmed by at least 3 of the students themselves. And besides, the campus bookstore (called the COOP) even sold t-shirts that said "Nerd Pride" on them. Oi!

Friday, September 12, 2008

CBS Reception & Birth of Networking God

Thursday was the CBS Admissions Reception in DC. I'll try to keep this brief :) They actually started quite late because they accidentally sent out an email with the wrong time. Ugh. The prospectives I would say were roughly of the same caliber as those at the Yale reception and a noticeable notch below HBS. Interesting that there were considerably more minorities than at HBS though. Anyway, it was pretty packed, I would guess maybe 150-160 people.

The presentation was the same one as the one they show for the campus visits so it was all old news to me. The Q&A session was also pretty lengthy and featured some terrible questions (1 or 2 were answered during the presentation already!) ... not a good showing for my future alma mater (hopefully of course). I did get to meet Christina from the BusinessWeek forums though. She was very nice in-person though she seemed a bit new to delivering the presentation. Jennifer, another assistant director of admissions, was there as well. They are both relatively young, mid-20's, and very easygoing to speak with. At the end, there were about 9 alumni who spoke to prospectives. I only spoke to one of them, a graduate from 1966 who works in real estate investment. He was trying to talk to 8 people at once so I couldn't get any specific questions in but I got his business card so I'll hopefully ask him stuff when he gets back from his business trip in October (such a long time, I know).

I did meet a couple other cool prospectives though, and one of them is super knowledgable about real estate. I think I definitely need to pick his brain before I do my Columbia interview because it'll flesh out my career plan much better (my one weakness, though a major one). I already emailed him so hopefully we can meet up for drinks next week. All in all though, this was the most comfortable that I've felt at one of these functions/receptions. I guess practice does help. I actually spoke to several people and made some good contacts, hence the title of my post :P

Speaking of the interview, apparently none went out this week! That's very surprising given the timeline from last year. However, there is one poster on BusinessWeek who said he got an interview on 8/27 and accepted on 9/10. I've got several reasons to believe that it's just a prank so I'll just disregard for now. I'm not going to get super nervous until I find myself empty-handed after seeing a good 3 or 4 interview invites for the super early submitters. Waiting is hard :(

Also, a shocker today. Some of you may know about NYU's Discover Stern weekend for minorities. Anyway, my application for the free weekend just got rejected! Crazy huh? My profile is higher than their averages and there isn't much to the application other than biographic info and a resume (mine isn't too shabby). I'm really surprised that I wasn't accepted to their little discovery program. I'm thinking that it's primarily for under-represented minorities (not just minorities) which is why my over-represented butt got kicked to the curb :( Hopefully this doesn't happen in the actual admissions process hehe.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Yale & HBS Receptions! Wow

On Monday I attended the Yale SOM Diversity Reception. It was at the same place as the MBA Tour on Sunday and Shelley from the Adcom recognized me immediately. I asked some more questions and sent a "thank you" email the next day. She won't be at SOM when I visit next thursday but she at least knows who I am at this point.

The reception went well. I felt comfortable talking to Shelley and there were 4 alumni on hand to talk to about 35 of us. I learned that Yale does have a Real Estate Club even though only one person went into real estate post-MBA last year. Their Investment Management Club also has a fake fund that invests theoretical money rather than a real fund. There were little tapas put out but this was one of those rare situations where most of the people were talking and ignored the food. I talked to one alum who was cool and then left. It was a decent event all in all.

Last night, tuesday, I attended the HBS Reception. It was held at the offices of Ogilvy, the public relations firm, which was pretty cool. As soon as I walked in the lobby, there were 10 guys dressed in sharp suits waiting at the front desk. Let me say this. You could definitely tell the difference in caliber between the HBS and Yale prospectives. The difference was substantial. For the most part, the HBS prospectives appeared like the bankers in American Psycho. They all had tasteful, nicely tailored suits and nice shoes. Many of them were actual leather-soled shoes rather than the rubber-synthetic soles that have become the norm in business these days. They all looked like they shaved and got a haircut that very day or something. They were all attractive and professional. Definitely a cut above every other event's prospectives that I have seen. In general, the women were more attractive as well.

The Harvard Business School event was over-attended. There was seating for maybe 100 people but there were at least 20 people standing too. At Yale, seating was only 50% filled when the event began. At HBS, seating was replete 5 minutes before the start of the event. Here's the thing that impressed me though. A couple of the other prospectives whom I interacted with were pretty cool. I fully expected to have nothing in common with some of them (and perhaps that's true with others) but they were personable and dare I say: charming. When prospectives asked questions after the presentation, they were mostly articulate and you could tell they felt comfortable speaking in front of an audience. Future business leaders of the world indeed. Seriously! Obviously there were plentyof snobby-looking, pretentious people in attendance too but the point is that an alarming majority actually seemed kinda cool. Another difference is the Harvard kids were really bustling and talking up a storm with each other prior to the start of the presentation. These kids really know how to network! This is a stark contrast to the start of other presentations which I have noticed is alarmingly silent.

The presentation was great. It was reallllly inspiring. The admissions officer (forget her name) did a great job representing the school and presenting it as the best and down-to-earth. There was also an alumni panel with 5 really helpful alumni who provided very articulate, helpful, honest answers. It was a model admissions event for other schools to follow. Some notes... the alumni and the adcom used the word "transformative" a couple times each. The presentation had a section on "HBS Differentiators" and the last one was "Network" with an asterik after it. The adcom heavily emphasized that gaining admission to HBS does not provide one with the network. Rather, the network is gained by actually participating and spending time with your classmates and staying involved with the school and community. This was interesting because I'm sure it was a direct response to that new book by the HBS grad who couldn't get a job post-MBA and hated the network there. It was also alarming how many times (3) a cell phone went off during the presentation. Just terrible. The adcom's presentation also had a section on admissions factors and unlike most schools which list academics (GPA, GMAT) first, HBS actually listed it last. I guess they have such academically gifted applicants to choose from that they don't need to stress it.

They also talked about how leadership was very broad and can come from being a visionary leader, a thought leader, a leader by example... not necessarily being a vocal A-Type personality leader. The last thing that struck me was how funny some of the alumni and the adcom were at times. I was truly charmed (and surprised). By the way, for those who don't believe that top MBA programs are trending younger, you better believe it. 41% of the new class had THREE or less years of work experience.

All I can say is "wow." I've talked shit about Harvard in the past but now I am drinking the kool-aid. The presentation really inspired me and the caliber of people there (adcom, alumni, and aspirants) blew me away. Truly world class. I am excited to visit HBS in the flesh next Friday now. I still don't think I'll apply though. Honestly, I just don't think I have much of a shot. I don't think I have the leadership potential they're looking for. But the presentation did convince me to take another look at their essays and reconsider... if even for a moment. I probably won't apply. By the way, thursday is the CBS Reception!!

On a sidenote, the person who I met at the MBA Tour on sunday (the girl from the gym whom I recognized and it went awkwardly) I saw again right before the HBS event. She wasn't going but she recognized me and it turns out we live in the same apartment complex. Small world. The conversation went really smooth this time (I wonder if it's because I looked aka dressed better than I did for the MBA Tour). We chatted on the street for about 5 minutes regarding our MBA searches (an easy topic of convo for me obviously) and then I had to break it off cuz I'd otherwise be late. I hope to see more of her in the future though :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

MBA Tour in DC

Hey, buddies. Just got back from the MBA Tour in DC. Registration started at 8:30 am (I pre-registered online though) and the Fair doesn't end til 5:00 pm. Long day huh? I actually left at 3:45 pm. It was held at the Grand Hyatt which is a really nice hotel. I was surprised that only about 180-200 people showed up for 29 schools. A good showing of maybe 40-45% of the prospectives were women. Seven top-15ish programs were there though few of the tip-top tier. Funny enough, Georgetown's MBA program had the most prospectives clamoring at the booth. From 9:00 to 9:45 am, there was a panel discussion on the factors that go into the admissions process. After that, there were six sessions of individual school presentations that you could attend. I was only interested in Yale but attended other presentations as well.

The panel was useless to me. Been there, done that. The first presentation I attended was Yale SOM. Shelley Clifford, Deputy Director of Admissions, was in attendance and talked alot about the new curriculum and also some about career services and student life. It was actually quite informative though I knew most of the info. There was also an alum from '91 in attendance (I may have the wrong year) who dressed like a schlep but was pretty enthusiastic and a bit eccentric. He made a couple really good points but looked like such a wreck. Anyway, I need to get over my fear of public speaking quickly!

Then came Cornell's presentation which was really good. The adcom (didn't bother to get his name) sounded really down-to-earth and gave amazing statistics. For instance, everybody got an internship last year and out of approx 100 students he spoke to, all of them got a full-time offer after their internship prior to the start of the 2nd year! That's ridiculously amazing. I think he said everyone who wanted an Investment Banking internship got one too. Some crazy stats. He was a cool dude.

I didn't pay attention at all for the Duke Fuqua presentation. I basically thought of questions to ask the Shelley from Yale. I had asked her a quick question after her presentation but the cat still had my tongue so I decided to visit her again at the actual "Fair" portion after the presentations finished at 3pm. At this point, however, I went to get Potbelly's for lunch.

When I came back, I attended Berkeley's presentation which had Diana Fiji (whom I met last year). I sat in the back and must've nodded off about five or six times. Afterward, I took a break to wake myself up and skipped the next presentation. For the last presentation I saw Chicago. Interesting that it was about 90% men in that presentation though there were 40-45% women at the event! The adcom was helpful but talked at us much more than the other schools. Also, they are trying really hard to dispel the perception that Chicago is 1) competitive, and 2) quantitative. He railed against those misconceptions at least 3 times.

Then the actual MBA Fair portion started with all the boothes set up. I lined up for Yale and snagged a sweet SOM pen! I also talked to Shelley again and she said "I alread talkedy to you" (in a good way) and I asked her some stuff about real estate and finance. It went really well and I told her I'd see her tomorrow since Monday is the Yale Diversity Reception. I know I don't need to attend but I want them to know how much I love them (as my second or third choice hehe). She did reveal that Yale's word limits are strict, hard caps aka no 10% overage rule! I also filled out a card to show that I was in attendance. Apparently Yale has another Admissions Reception on Oct. 2nd with one of their professors too which I am going to register for on their website now.

After that, I walked around the room and saw no other school that I cared to line up for and left. It should be noted that I did learn of the Toigo Foundation that gives fellowships for minorities who work 3+ years in finance after earning a top MBA. They give small a small grant and also alot of mentoring and job placement help. Looked cool and Kia, the representative, was really helpful and cool. I actually may apply (deadline's not until February thank goodness). I also received from her a huge pen. This is the largest pen I've ever had. It's bigger than the Dr. Grip by Pilot! The reason is because you can unscrew the pen and it becomes a 1 gig USB drive! Sweet, I've never had one until now :)

I did bump into a girl who used to go to Georgetown's gym religiously at the MBA fair whom I always thought was attractive but never talked to. I said hello and I think it kinda alarmed her. It was awkward and made even moreso when her friend walked by and started talking to her about something else. Bummer.

I may wait to report on Yale and Harvard's admissions receptions together. But in the meantime, thanks to all the blogger buddies out there that have shown such great support to me in my MBA quest. Ya'll are tight. And ya'll are right when you say my app strategy is super risky. I agree that waiting until I hear more from Columbia before even starting other Round 1 apps is a bad idea. BUTTTTTT here's why it isn't that risky. I'm only applying to 3 other schools. I probably won't get into Wharton if I can't get into Columbia ED so I'm debating even submitting a Wharton app (after all, I may not even have time to visit). Yale's deadline is not until Oct. 22 so I'll still have a month which is plenty of time. And NYU Stern's deadline is not until Nov. 15 which is plenty of time too. Thus I'm only screwed for Wharton which probably wouldn't have mattered anyway. That's the way I rationalize my laziness :P

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Submission Revelation & Risky App Strategy

Remember how I had imposed a 2-week silence on application talk on my blog? Well that time's elapsed and I can now reveal that I've already submitted my Columbia app. I'm sure you all could've guessed that just from my enthusiasm for CBS. Here's the crazy thing. I actually submitted it on Aug. 10! That's right, a full 3 days before the review period started on Aug. 13. I was hell-bent (to say the least) on being at the very top of the pile for their rolling addmissions process. The crappy thing is that, unlike last year, no applications went under review until a day after the review period opened. My app went under review on Aug. 14 and judging from all the BW posters, the same holds true for them. Here's the other mildly annoying tidbit. I got the email saying that my app was under review around 12:30 pm on Aug. 14 whereas someone who submitted on Aug. 13 (three days later than mine) got his email on around 11:00 am on Aug. 14. I know that means nothing and I was probably reviewed first but I wanted that distinction :)

Judging from ChristophW's spreadsheet on last year's ED applicants, the first interview invites should go out either Friday, Sept. 12 or early the week after (if last year's trends hold, which it very well may not since apps have spiked this year). Last year, most of the submitters who went under review on the first possible day got their interview invites around Sept. 10-11 and up to Sept. 15. The crazy thing is that a re-applicant actually got an interview invite last year on Sept. 6. But he was definitely an outlier. I fully expect next friday to start generating some interview invites. Since CBS adcom has stated that they expect a 20% increase in app volume, I think it's logical that they'd be reviewing even faster or more efficiently this year to avoid getting swamped by the volume. That's why I think that last year's timeline will hold. But if the volume is just too great, then maybe they'll be backed up anyway. I think I will ask the adcom when I visit the CBS Admissions Reception Event on thursday next week in DC. Do you think I'll sound like a total tool if I ask such a specific question?

I actually have quite a busy slate of receptions lined up. Tomorrow, sunday, I will be attending the MBA Tour. It's really annoying that they don't reveal who the participating schools are, especially since the event is from 9am to 5pm! I guess I will plan on hanging around there all day. The school's have individual presentations and then an MBA Fair afterwards so I may have to stick around the entire time to get the face time I need. Yale will be there though. No word on NYU Stern or Wharton or Columbia. Then on monday, there is a Yale Diversity reception. Now I'm not an under-represented minority (though I am a a minority) so I doubt they'll care to see me but I want to gather more info and get my name in their heads. Then on tuesday the very next night is the HBS Reception which I probably shouldn't bother attending but it's free and I will get some info so why not? If anything, it's interesting to check out the type of people who apply to top places like HBS. Then wednesday I get the evening to myself and on thursday is the CBS reception. Whew! Too bad Stern doesn't visit for awhile.

I've been thinking again about what happens if I don't get into Columbia. And it seems like if I don't get into Columbia ED, then I probably have little to no shot at Wharton (though I'll probably still try). Thus my secondary choices come down to Yale SOM and NYU Stern. I just looked into the Consortium becuz Yale and Stern both accept applicants thru that program. Too bad I don't really count cuz 1) I'm not under-represented, and 2) my background doesn't show a commitment to the Consortium's mission. Yale just joined the Consortium this year so I feel they'll certainly be saving a decent amount of spots for Consortium applicants.

Want to hear about my risky application strategy? I'm researching the other schools but I'm not actually going to start any apps/essays until I find out if I got an interview from Columbia or not. I expect to know by Sept. 15 or so but the tricky thing is, if you don't get an interview, CBS won't tell you and won't reject you right away. Plus if I wind up not getting an interview, then I will be in a time crunch though Yale's app is not due until Oct. 22 I think. Wharton's app is due on Oct. 9th I believe and Stern's not until Nov. 15th. So that's the risk. But if I do get an interview, then I think I've got a good shot at admission to CBS and I will have saved myself sooo much extra app work. There's a part of me that only wants to apply to CBS and Stern actually. Not the smartest idea but my heart's in New York.

By the way, I am completely dismissing the idea of beoming an investment banker. Before I was intrigued because of the obvious reasons ($) but after reading the "Mergers and Inquisitions" blog (the website is their name plus .com), I realize that I'm kidding myself if I think I'd be happy with 90+ hour weeks. I mean c'mon, seriously. There is also a hilarious video on "The Faceoff" from the "Leveraged Sellout" blog that is a rap battle between consultants and bankers. It's great, right up there with "every breath bernanke takes" though different. I found these on Soni's blog so I'm not going to link them myself. Just go to his site and check out the hilarity (and great info!)

It's a super rainy Saturday here in DC and I'm about to tutor my co-worker/friend on GMAT math. We'll be studying on Georgetown's campus and then I'm going to hop to the gym directly afterward. Hope everyone in bloggerland is staying happy.