Round One Is Where It's At  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in , , ,

If you want to be admitted into HBS in Round 3, you probably need to be a Ring Girl with a GMAT score of 780 .

Some of the US business schools have been in town. I managed to get on to the presentation sessions of some of them. The bulk of the talks were nothing new to anyone looking at the schools. The following tidbits on Rounds do however stand out in my mind...

In HBS's presentation they mentioned that they had 8660 applicants last year. They characterised the applicants in each round as follows:
  • Round 1: The 'A' types just waiting to hit the submit button. Not necessarily the highest volume, but the round wiht the highest quality applicants. About 450 are admitted from this round.
  • Round 2: The highest volume round. Quality of applicants tends to be 'normal'. About 450 admitted from this round.
  • Round 3: Sometimes the school ponders getting rid of this round, but it always produces eccentrics that the school wants to have. About 100 admitted from this round.
At MIT Sloan's presentation, again the round information stuck out. They had 4000 applicants last year for ~350 places.
  • In Round 1, the volume of applicants was 1/3 of the total. Half the class was admitted in this round.
  • In Round 2, the volume of applicants was 2/3 of the total. Again, half the class was admitted in this round.
 Sloan does not have a Round 3. So doing the math, they admit 175 places for the 1333 applicants in Round 1 and 175 places for 2666 applicants in Round 2. i.e. 13% acceptance rate for admission in Round 1 and 6.5% in Round 2. 8.8% acceptance overall. And that's before the credit crunch...


Kellogg Submitted. One down...!  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

Who says Kellogg types are too team orientated and 'too nice' to lead? This picture sure doesn't! It was randomly found on the Internet... probably not a real ad campaign!

After much agony and angst, I finally submitted an entire application - Kellogg. I worried a lot over whether I made a mistake somewhere in the application, but I've checked it all several times over. I'm got to stage where I just felt like pushing it out of the door. The amount of further time spent on it versus gains returned was very, very low. What ever happens, it is all too late now anyway.

I still have to chase my recommenders to do their bit across all the applications. When I spoke to one at the start of last week, he said to me "you'll be pleased to know I have answered 5 questions". I knew something was wrong when he was counting in terms of questions and not schools. I told him that the other recommenders had raced ahead of him and had done a few of the schools. By Friday, he said to me "you'll be pleased to know that I have done all 5 schools". I was shocked. He had apparently spent an entire day doing them all. Who knows what the level of quality is, though. He still has not submitted them yet either. Gasp - more pain.

At least Kellogg is out of the way. The problem with submitting ahead of the deadline, of course, is you're always thinking... what if I think of something better, later? And you also wonder how many others are submitting now... and whether the adcoms are reading blogs posts about submissions and tying them to the actual submissions they get. Oh the paranoia! Ah, screw it.


Philip Delves Broughton's Harvard Book - Ahead Of The Curve  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

HBS certainly looks The Business, but according to Philip Delves Broughton...

I was gifted with the Philip Delves Broughton's Ahead Of The Curve two weeks ago. In that time, I’ve managed to sift through it on the my commute to and from work. On the whole, I found the style of writing not to be as engaging as I thought it could be. If I were not going through this application process, I probably would have skipped reading the book after the first chapter. Here are the things that stand out for me from the book:
  • Crikey, does this guy go on about work-life balance. He seems to have spent a lot of time worrying about how bad a father and husband he would be if he became a mega-powerful tycoon or took a job on Wall Street or in consulting. I almost felt like slapping him and saying, “what don’t you do one of these things first, then figure it out”.
  • The relationship between staff and faculty does not seem to be strong, at least comparative to other schools. I found the incident with the Entrepreneurship lecturer discouraging. Broughton and his school-mate, Bo, try to approach him with their start-up idea and were shown disinterest. In the end, they got more help from someone who dropped out of their class; I was impressed that this other guy had contacts with VCs and was able to advise how to approach them. On the plus side then, perhaps HBS does attract truly amazing students?
  • The hierarchy of people in the class determined by which job people end up in, i.e. high paying Private Equity and Hedge fund at the top followed by Investment Banking / Consulting then everything else. His impression was that people were caught up comparing themselves with others and becoming unhappy as a result. You could leave HBS with a job that paid $200,000 and still you could be considered a loser because others earned more!?
  • He talks about the application process: he got a 730 in the GMAT when the average for HBS was 700. His essays were on topics such as reporting for The Daily Telegraph during 9/11 and the ethics of representing two different sides in a news story he had to write. i.e. his essays must have stood out like a hot girl in a night club.
  • HBS leaves the students with a confidence that they can talk to anyone about business in any situation. Perhaps this is the arrogance that some others talk about? Broughton also mentions often that after HBS he felt he had the business tools for approaching any situation. I suspect these two things are what the Case Method must impart on the students.
  • No mention of involvement in clubs. At Wharton the kids can’t stop talking about how the much the clubs help them prepare for interviews. I wondered whether he had made the most of his experience there.
  • The job hunt: every job ad for Investment Banking or Consulting required 2 years previous experience in the industry. You needed to have set your path for a career change well before arriving there! For Broughton, who did not have clear career goals, this was disastrous – ultimately leaving him without a job on graduation.
  • Some of the classes seemed impressive, especially Michael Porter’s take on using competition to drive quality of life improvements in industries, regions and countries.
  • There are some useful lessons for all aspiring MBAs. A lot of what Broughton talks about I could imagine to be true of many business schools, particularly areas such as the trials of recruitment or a non-finance person keeping up with everyone in class. On this basis, I would actually recommend the book to anyone thinking of doing an MBA.
In sum, the book veers to the negative more than positive. It can be inferred from the book that if you took away the HBS brand, HBS might not be such a special place.


As banks go bust, MBA applications go boom.  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

As 25,000 Lehman Brothers staff world wide face redundancy, a whole new parade of potential MBA applicants arrive on the scene... (gulp!)

Right now I’m really concentrating on getting some of my applications in before the end of the month. In fact, I’d love to have submitted all my applications by the end of the month. I originally thought that I would submit them a week or two before the deadlines, but I keep getting caught up in analysis paralysis. How many times should I review the application form information? I think I’m going insane revising these character-limit constrained boxes over and over.

I now have drafts of essays for HBS, Wharton, MIT and Kellogg. The time taken to do these has really shrunk. The first ones I did, for HBS, took almost 6 weeks. Kellogg  was the last set and it took about 6 days! What is even more incredible is that a friend who reviewed the Kellogg drafts reckons they are the best ones I’ve written yet! I guess I now have a really fine tuned story.

With these banks popping like popcorn, I think applying in R1 is a must.


School Visit: Chicago GSB  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

The Winter Garden, that is the centre-piece of the Chicago GSB building (Charles M. Harper Center).

I attended the Chicago GSB Live event on the 11th April. It was a good event; it was similar to a visiting a school and attending all the different bits (tour, info session, class visit etc), except it was a specially prepared day with lots and lots of prospective students in attendance. I appreciated that I met so many prospective MBA students. Chicago GSB has always stood out in my mind as being innovative, from the requirement for a powerpoint in it's application to having an Exec MBA programme in London. The event was very much in line with that expectation. There must have been 60+ people there, including HappyBunny, who I met there.

Rose Martinelli Session
The event kicked off with a welcome by Rose Martinelli, Associate Dean of Student Recruitment and Admissions. She is actually on the Exec MBA programme at the school, giving her perhaps greater depth on the course than most admissions people! For me, the salient points of her talk were that:
  • The course emphasises the same things as all MBAs, i.e. statistics, economics, then marketing and finance.
  • The emphasis at Chicago is also on flexibility and developing different lenses to look at the world through, based on facts.
  • The Chicago course also emphasises (she used that word a lot) psychology and sociology, because the course is about people.
Eddie Pollard Session
Next was a talk by another member of the admissions team, Eddie Pollard. Eddie gave an amusing talk and seemed be one of the hands on people working with the applications. He told a story about Chicago getting lots and lots of applications from India and other parts of Asia. The essays from these applicants were amazing. They went out there to interview and found that these people could not speak English! Eddie gave some advice for when/if you are on the waitlist: send updated info often and get extra recommenders. He also gave an interesting insight into the trends of the different applications round.
  • In Round 1: these are the people who have been working on their application all summer long.
  • In Round 2: this is the biggest deadline for GSB, because most international students need to have applied by this point.
  • In Round 3: not a lot of applications come in.
Eddie talked covered the following points:
  • The importance of bringing out your passion in the essays.
  • Learn how to write a good essay; the admissions team know the tone of an essay when it is one that can go to any business school. 
  • Ask yourself if "is your essay tight"?
  • Don’t give the admissions team things they already know, e.g. Chicago has 6 Nobel laureates. Talk more about who you are and why you want an MBA.
  • Chicago GSB likes career changers. If you are one of these people, say why and show what steps you are already taking to make this career change.
  • Letters of recommendations.
    • Be careful who you choose.
    • What the admissions team want to see:
      • Management skills, communication skills (can you deliver a message that people understand?), leadership skills.
      • If there are people in your team that were promoted, mention it.
  •  Interviews: 30 mins. Will be student / staff / alumni.
  • Graduate Assistants (trained GSB 2nd years) will read the application first and rate from 1 to 6. Admissions team member will do the same. If both like you, you will get in.
  • Reapplicant files kept for two years to see if recommenders and other bits say the same thing. For reapplicants, everything should be different about your file, including what the reommender has said.
Student Panel Session
A panel with current students followed. All admissions staff made sure to step out of the room. I found there was not much revelation about what they said. A few highlights:
  • One of the girls talked about how the flexible curriculum had allowed her to 'front load' a number of finance courses into her first year. This meant that when she went for interview for her internship, they were impressed that she had such advance knowledge / understanding. She had done electives that at most schools could only be done in the second year.
  • One student emphasised that no one will hold you to what you say in your application, so just tell the story that you will be able to sell the best. Have a clear and crystal rationale for why you want to do an MBA. Say how GSB will help your weakness. Why now?
  • Residence: 1/3 of students live around campus; 1/3 around downtown; 1/3 all over Chicago. 
The sessions that followed were lunch with students, a class visit or two and an evening pub event. The class visit was Prof. Matthew S. Bothner,  Strategy and Structure: Markets and Organizations. It was a case based on Apple and why the company had risen to success in recent years. The Prof imparted this insight was from Warren Buffet, which I noted down:
  When a manager reputed for excellence meets an industry with a reputation for difficult economics, it is usually the industry that keeps its reputation intact. 

Overall Impressions

The Chicago GSB campus was fantastic. Because all the classes very pretty much optional, I did feel that the students were not as bonded as at other school. You could almost see why BusinessWeek ranks it so highly.


Hell On Earth  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

There were storms not only at work, but everywhere - from New Orleans and Haiti to western parts of England. A bad week for everyone?

I had rollercoaster week last week. My boss has been absent since the end of July. I feel like I have been left to implement some change initiatives that are opposed by pretty much 95% of people around the business and which I do not completely agree with. On Tuesday the finance department seemed ready to burn me at the stake. I felt crushed inside. I got myself together and continued as though it was all in a day's work.

On Thursday I had a humourous speech contest to attend to at a local public speaking club. I competed against the UK speech champion among others in an attempt to take part in the next level, the area-level contest. Mister champion did not fare well, putting in an astonishingly average performance. While I bettered him, yet another bettered us both to reach the next level. I felt the cringe of "aahh!.. so close!". I felt the adrenaline rush of "let me have another go at it!". I could compete again at another club contest later in the month, but improving my speech would be a huge distraction from my MBA applications during this crucial month of September. Aargh! If only I did not have these applications, I would be able to go for this whole heartedly. Since this is an annual contest, if I am admitted for '09 I doubt I will have time to compete for another three years! Oh well.

By Friday, the work situation had improved. The divisional director has a rottweiler. He started to back me up. I have also managed to grab some time with my boss's boss next week; I wonder if I can sound her out over what is going on.


Portals, Portals, Everywhere  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in ,

Netvibes is among the most popular start page / personal portal thingies.

Around 2002, a friend and I were interested in the concept of Portals; we started researching the area quite heavily. MyYahoo was the big portal service on the Internet, and IBM was commercialising JetSpeed for corporations that wanted to use portals. The concept did not really take off though. Over the last year and a half, things have started to change and portals have started coming into usage. Except, the word ‘portal’ is not being used.

At my employer, we are looking at building ‘dashboards’ for the executives to see what is going on around the business. We are looking at Microsoft Sharepoint to do some of that. It has the concept of ‘web parts’ to build pages with.

Outside the corporation, services like iGoogle provide something similar. I use iGoogle to get a view of my GMail inbox, get a view on my Google Reader feeds on blogs and news sites I am interested. I also get a view on the price of stocks I am interested in, as well as my Calendar. Meanwhile, on Facebook and even the homepage, boxed widgets / applications are used to customise the page for a viewer.

The portal technology of old may not have progressed far, but the concept certainly has.


Wanted: Funny Stories  

Posted by Dino Gane-Palmer né Ganesarajah in

"Oh dear, I shall be late, I shall be late". DG seeks to turn into the alter ego of the White Rabbit, to start frantically working on getting his MBA apps in (while fending off the chasing girls, or at least Alice).

The bad news is that I have still not yet gotten into that panic state of "oh my god! ... I need to get this all done and dusted". I still feel like I'm leisurely strolling through doing the essays. I've been working on the MIT essays this week. I am near to completing the first drafts of these. These particular essays make me want to revisit my previous essays. MIT's questions are written with very particular instructions:

We are interested in learning more about you and how you work, think, and act. For each essay, please provide a brief overview of the situation followed by a detailed description of your response. Please limit the experiences you discuss to those which have occurred in the past three years. In each of the essays please describe in detail what you thought, felt, said, and did.
Interesting, no? The felt, said and did really make you think.

In other news, my leisurely stroll through the MBA essays is such that a few weeks ago I volunteered to give a humorous speech this Thursday 4th September. The only problem is that I still have not written it. So I fear my week will be sucked up doing that. Anyone have any funny stories they'd like to share? Every iota of inspiration is appreciated.

We're now into September. I'm hoping this will give me the adrenaline kick I need with my MBA applications. Surely I should be submitting something this month... at least that Kellogg Part 1 thing. :-/