Towards the beginning of December I knew that I wouldn’t have a social life at all! I knew that I would have to keep my head down. I started thinking about all of the fun trips that I would be able to go on after I got my MBA.
When I had become okay with the prospect of not having a social life, I started seeing that acceptance calls started going out. I thought the official deadlines for notifications for R1 applicants were the following week but quickly learned that admissions committees start making acceptance calls as far as a week out from the deadline. I became nervous for my friends, but knew that I couldn’t dwell on it. My application deadline was January 5th and I didn’t have an option but to submit on that day as it was the last day for the Consortium deadline.
Even though I had planned as far out as a YEAR, it came down to the wire and in the
beginning of December I had the following to do:
Consortium Essay 1 Consortium Essay 2 Consortium Essay 3 Dartmouth Tuck Video Essay Michigan Essay 1
Michigan Essay 2
Michigan Essay 3
UC Berkeley Haas Essay 1 UC Berkeley Haas Essay 2 Cornell Essay 1
Cornell Essay 2
Cornell Essay 3
NYU Essay 1
It was a very daunting list! Looking at this list I said to myself "What have I even done up to this point?" Then I realized that at least I had started all of the essays and considered 4 of them to be completed. I also had to send over some essays to my consultant.
In my “down time” aka, my morning commute – lunch time – evening commute I told myself that I would study. That would account to 3 hours/day of studying for the GMAT. What’s more is that even thought hat was my thought, I knew that there would be times when I couldn’t adhere to that schedule, but I was okay with that.
On one of the days that I was preparing to study, I went to my favorite lunch spot in Midtown East - Ranch One! I was in the line at Ranch One, an incredible fast foot joint, on the East Side of Manhattan. I ordered my usual number 5, which is chicken tenders and fries and a large pink lemonade with no ice. I never get ice because it takes up space and the liquid is already cold.
After I ordered, I looked to my left and saw someone who looked very familiar! I stared at him and kept saying in my head "Where do I know him from? Where do I know him from?" Then it hit me. When I visited Tuck back in March, he was interviewing that day so when we had lunch with a student, he was at my table. I remember speaking to him because when we went around the table and said where we were from we were two of three people from NYC.
After I got my food, I went over to where he was sitting and walked by him to get another glance to make sure it was him. I knew for sure that it was, so I said "excuse me, did you apply to Tuck last year?" He looked perplexed and said yeah. Then I was like "yeah I thought so, I think you had your interview when I was just visiting. We were at the same table at lunch." Then the look on his face was just of one like "How the hell did you remember that?" To my defense, I’m very astute with things like that. He was also very cute so that was easier to remember.
Anyway, I asked him if he had any luck last year "Thinking that maybe he goes to Columbia or NYU" and he said that he didn't. So naturally I asked if he was reapplying this year and he said that he was. Last year he applied to a bunch of top schools and
was waitlisted at two of them. He got ultimately got into one of them Round 4. From our conversation it sounded as though he applied to a lot of schools R4, and by a lot I mean 2. In any event, we talked for about 7/8 minutes and then I said that I would let him get back to his lunch.
At one, point I said to him "I envy you for weathering this process again!" to which he just laughed and said "well.... " and then I realized that yeah in a perfect world he wouldn't have had to go through it again. But I suppose whatever doesn't kill you only makes you stronger. I forgot to give him my business card so that we could stay in touch.
I ended up not being able to study at lunch that day because I got a work email that I needed to get back too. So that was another bust but I know that I made up for it when I got home later that evening. After studying I read a post from another fellow MBA blogger titled, “Am I One Of The Top 4,653 applicants?” Essentially the post I am referencing illustrated that instead of wondering whether or not we will be 1 accepted student to a school with a low double digit yield, given the chances, it's better to just ask yourself, am I one of the X applicants from the total applicant pool of the schools I am applying too?
As I thought about this, I realized that this ease of thinking could only be achieved when you have done your research and are only applying to schools that you would love to attend, should an acceptance be received. If you're applying to schools just to apply to them, then it may be a little bit harder to say "Ok I just need to get into one." But then again, if your goal is to just go to business school then that's fine too.
So I decided to do the calculation that this person did with my own matrix.
If I were to get into only one of these schools, I would definitely be happy and enroll, so I can say that it makes sense that I need to be 1 applicant out of 1,529! There are some caveats in the data too because there is some rounding going on.
Even though the total enrolled is about 17% of the applicant pool, it may be slightly "easier" to get into one of the schools because Harvard, Stanford, Wharton are not in my list, which have incredibly high yields. We need to take those into account and add that to the total enrolled in my list.
HBS - 903 enrolled Wharton - 817 enrolled Stanford - 393 enrolled Total - 2109
So in a nut shell - I need to be one of 3638 (2109+1529) applicants!
Doing this exercise actually put me at ease and any time when I found myself procrastinating, I would ask myself, “What would the other people be doing right now?”
Shortly thereafter, I had two meetings set up with my two recommenders. The time had come for me to actually sit down with my VP of Marketing and my Manager. I'll break down why I chose both of these people.
Why I Chose VP - Well for starters, she's the one who hired me. There has been a lot of turnover in my marketing department, and I'm one of three people who have been there for two years and the VP is one of them. She started a couple months before I did. I even remember her asking me in my interview why I was interested in working for Bloomingdales.com and then I asked her why she chose to come here. I figured that by choosing her as a recommender she would be able to speak to my accomplishments and characteristics from a perspective different from my manager.
Even though I didn't report to her directly, for a year my manager reported to her and I reported to my manager, the department was so small that there wasn't any real hierarchical difference and I could just walk into the VP's office to talk about
whatever. Then my manager left for another company and I reported directly to the VP for about 4 months (Feb - May 2010) and worked on a few projects with her
directly. She is also the person who I did my yearly review with because I didn't have a manager at that point. She cosigned on everything my manager said, so she's been the one constant that I've had at work. There is now a director of acquisition in between our VP and my Manager, so I'm more or less twice removed from her, but I did not foresee that being an issue.
Why I chose Manager - Well this is a no brainer for me. You should have someone write at least 1 LOR (letter or recommendation) who you report to. So I report to my manager, so she's writing me a LOR. Easy squeezy.
I will say that back in the summer I was going to have my old manager write my 2nd letter of recommendation because I hadn't worked with my new one long enough, but now that it's been 7 months and I have worked on many projects with her, she's the best person to be able to speak to my current ability.
Well I don't know if I've mentioned it before, although I think I have, but I had put together a Recommender Packet for each of them. Ok it's not really proprietary, but I pooled resources from many sources and made this packet. I did include my 1 year review. I knew this time would come so I made copies of the review shortly after I had
it. So that was 1 of 5 things in the packet.
In the beginning of December I also scheduled my GMAT. I was glad that I would NEVER have to give GMAC another $250 for that friggen exam. The week I scheduled the exam everyone at work was sick and I felt myself getting sick. If you remember right after Thanksgiving I mentioned in a post that I was beginning to get sick. So anyway at work there was a woman who was really really sick and I was trying to avoid her. She caught on that I was trying to avoid her and asked me what I was doing. I said, "I have the biggest test of my life coming up and I cannot get sick." Her response was, "This is the third time you've said this...just be done with the test already!" and I just hung my head down in shame. What could I say to that? She was right!
I was feeling fine with the exam. I knew that I this was the last time I'd ever have to take it so it's keeping me calm, but I have so many other things to concentrate on that I don't have time to get stressed or nervous or anything of that nature. I do verbal and quant every day. .
Did I think I would score higher than 620? Without a doubt. At this juncture I was definitely THAT confident! I had a score in mind that I was aiming for but I knew it was going to come down to how focused I was on test day and whether or not I make stupid mistakes. I realized that I know the information (although my tutor may have thought differently), but I do. I mean it had been a year - I should right?
I just never thought that I would be in the position where I would be scrambling to get everything completed and it's all a result of this test. I was definitely embarrassed by my struggle with the GMAT. I texted my tutor the other day "I'm so over this exam and wish it would die." to which he responded "Kill It Kill It Kill It!" I didn't mean to set him up in that manner, but it was very fitting!
I then started thinking about what my life would be like AFTER my exam when I didn’t need to worry about it any more. Then while having a conversation with my mother she asked me what my Plan B was! This was like a dagger to my heart. I immediately said "There is no plan b." She responded, "There should always be a plan b." I said "I don't have time to think about a plan b."
But the short conversation got me thinking... What if I don't get in to a school? Was I overestimating the quality of all of the other applicants? Was I too confident in thinking that what I am doing is actually going to work? If I have done as much as I have up until now, what in the world could I do differently? These are all of the questions going through my head now.
I was venting to one of my friends I made at the NYU diversity conference about this and he said, "that's why we apply to so many schools." I told him, "I'm only applying to
5." He applied to I think 10, so that week was a HUGE week for him. He would find out about LBS and Chicago and he also would find out if he was to be interviewed for a couple other schools. He reassured me that everything will be fine, but now I couldn’t help think, "What's your plan-b Richard? What are you going to do should you not be admitted to any school?”
Then I thought about my friend who applied to 10 schools. He was going through what I dreaded going through in a couple of months. Your whole life can change with 1 phone
call or with the receipt of a rejection email. That had to be tough to swallow. He said he's surviving because of Xanax. I wanted to take a vacation that week so that I'm somewhere warm with a lot of alcohol!
Then shortly thereafter, I found out that he was invited to interview at Columbia. The reason his text made me smile was because we were sharing war stories over our GMAT scores as we have identical scores and he was invited to interview for Columbia, yes with a 620 GMAT score. I knew he would rock the interview and it gave my hope because we are very similar and I knew I would too rock my interview.
I told him that the hard part was over in my opinion. I figured that schools were now just screening people to see who would be a good fit. If you get the interview I feel that the rest of the quantitative aspects of your application have passed the test so to speak. His text said to me "There is life after the GMAT.... tell a good story..." So he's giving me the motivation to weather the storm. Everything will work out if it's supposed to right?
Then the following day after he got his interview invite to Columbia, on Super Tuesday he found out that he was accepted to Chicago! He said he lost his voice from screaming so much and when I picture that scene in my head I died laughing!
Business School Super Tuesday – is a day when a lot of schools give notifications. Harvard Business School, Yale SOM, LBS (was supposed to), Chicago, and Stanford gave out a lot of decisions that day! I was watching the message boards on GMAT Club (yes the first time I've ever called out this website) and kept refreshing to see what was going on, but then after a while when things slowed down, I X'ed it out.
So after that 11:50am debacle when I almost teared up for him, my other friend on GCHAT said that HBS just released their decisions, so then there was a whole bunch of texting going on to find out which one of my friends knew people who
applied. Surprisingly, no one knew anyone who applied to HBS early.
Then I started thinking to myself, “What do you do after you’ve just been accepted to business school?” The next day at work is it simply business as usual? How can you possibly focus shortly after receiving such information? I mean for instance lets say I were to have applied to HBS early decision. On a normal tuesday night if I didn't have applications to be thinking about, I would be watching Glee. If I was accepted to Harvard Business School 8 hours prior, is there really anything on Glee that could hold my attention?"
While I was not applying to Harvard, hopefully I'll get a sense for what an acceptance feels like in March! I knew that if I didn’t go study, then I would never know what it felt like to be accepted. At this point I needed to find the humor in me having to take the GMAT again. It was coming up and when I think about it I'm just like "really
Richard? really?" There wasn’t much that I could do at that point about it except study the material I've been given. I was also making sure that I got the proper amount of sleep. I do feel that this time around my quant score will be higher than a 38.
Like many people, when I'm at work I have gmail open all day which means that I am also on gchat. Now being on gchat isn't so bad except that's where all of my business school contacts lie so we talk via gchat quite frequently. Now that we are REALLY in the midst of decision season, having real time access to people who are waiting to find out if
they've been accepted or rejected is stressful!
Here is something that you SHOULD NOT do if you have not applied in the round that is being notified. DO NOT GO ON THE FORUMS! I can tell you from personal experience that this is not a healthy option. If you are like me, most people aren't, then you will make yourself go crazy. I think today I was more nervous about decisions than people who were actually finding out!
When acceptance calls started going out for R1 decisions I felt a pit in my stomach and I hadn’t even applied yet. My hands started sweating and my heart would be racing. In hindsight I think it was the realization that the time has finally come and the admissions office is putting together a class and now it's official! I was just as excited on Wednesday when my friends were finding out.
For example here is a thought that actually went through my head: "Ok which continent is reporting that they have received calls?" "Ok now...how many people are joining the admitted students facebook page for that school?" "Ok... with every admit that's one less spot for R1 applicants and subsequently R2 applicants." This is not healthy banter to have with yourself, let alone having it with yourself at work, WHEN YOU AREN'T EVEN IN THE ROUND THAT'S BEING CALLED! So I say all that to say that I will be staying away from that forum from now on. It causes too much stress!
So with that stress in mind, I decided to go on hiatus until after the GMAT. It was way to important this time around to be distracted. Not to say that it wasn't important the other two times I took it, but ya know this is the 3rd time! On my 3rd attempt my total score went down to my lowest score. It was a 580! Initially, when I saw the score I was very devastated. Upon further investigation my Quant score went up to a 42 (at that time it was about the 60%ile). I didn’t dwell on this score and just switched my anger to my essays – as if writing essays while angry was a good thing! I did have a pity party for myself though for a day. I only allowed myself one day!
Now I was in a position that I never thought I would be in. I had a lot of questions going through my mind. “Do I take the GMAT a fourth time, knowing that I can get a higher score or do I submit my best essays and leave it at that? Do I think I could score higher?” Definitely, without a doubt, but the thing about the GMAT is that you need to “show up” on the day that you take it. My highest Quant score was that past Monday and my highest Verbal score was in October when I took it. Had I matched my verbal score this time around, I would be content, because I would have gotten at least a 650.
Although I kept telling myself that I wasn’t going to dwell on it, I knew that inherently it was a lie. Anyone in my position knows that now my brain is racing trying to contact everyone possible to determine whether or not to take it for a non-recommended 4th time. I know that it’s frowned upon to take it again, but when you hear from X,Y, and Z person that you should take it again, you start to believe it. I did tell myself that I wouldn’t allow myself to think about taking the GMAT until after I submitted my essays. Because I the Consortium deadline was January 5th and I took the GMAT in the middle of December, the rule says that you can’t take it within a 30 day period, so even if I wanted to retake it, I wasn’t legally allowed too. So it was out of my hands.
I started sending my essays to my friends who were also applying to solicit their feedback. I sent them off to my reviewers and went through a couple of rounds. I had a
friend who loves to look over my essays, oddly enough, and I love sending them to
her. Once I edit the essays after talking to her, I send the essay off to my other reviewer - aka my Veritas Consultant. I sent two essays to her and got feedback on both shortly thereafter. I was also waiting on feedback on one of my other essays from my friend who got into Chicago as well. He understood my story and what I was trying to portray with this specific essay so who better to have review it for me?
Having essays be reviewed was very humbling. It was weird because I've reviewed my friend’s essays and when I see how many changes I've tracked! But the changes that I suggest are definitely helpful...or so I'm told. It was ironic that I can review my friend’s essays but have trouble editing my own. I think that's just the nature of the beast.
One day there was a huge blizzard in December. Under normal circumstances I would have just consider the snow a nuisance but since the NJTRANSIT buses were suspended for the time being, I could not make it to work! Since I no longer lived in NYC, I actually had an excuse for not making the hour and a half commute into the city - that excuse is, “I like my life and I don't trust anyone to drive under these
conditions!” The snowbanks were 2 feet outside of my front door. I kid you not! Also, there was a snow plow stuck in the snow in the street out front!
I took that time stuck inside the house to work on my essays. I kept pushing through and had already 100% completed 1 essay out of the X that I had to complete.
Also, I finished 2nd drafts of two Michigan Essays and planned to finish the third one Today and send them to my friend. I also had to email my Consortium "Why MBA" essay off to one of my recommenders. I planned to get the rest of my essays done so that I can shoot them off to all of the people who will be reviewing them. I had to give them time to get back to me so I can get back to them so they can get back to me until it's time to hit Submit!
I began looking forward to Thursday, January 5th of the following week since that's the day that I would no longer have any obligations regarding this business school APPLICATION process. I then started thinking about being accepted to schools. I would have to make deposits, sign a lease for an apartment, and pay for a couple of trips in the summer. Making $54,000/yr was not conducive to that type of activity. I thought that there were a lot of things to still "do" but hey... if I could get through the front-end of the process...the back-end should be a cinch!
I was able to finish an essay draft and then I began working on another essay and got totally stumped. It was a 250 word essay that is identical to a 300 word essay for another school. When I say identical wording I mean 100%, so if you do your research of the schools I'm applying too you'll know which one I'm referring too. Ok fine it's Haas and Michigan. Both had, “What is your passion essays.” One would think that this would be an easy task. Just write a 300 word essay for Michigan and then use that and then cut it down to 250 words for Haas. Nope sorry, no such luck.
For Michigan, the topic was going to use was already used in another Michigan essay that I had written and I was not willing to change it. Luckily, the Michigan essay gives the option of talking about your passion or writing about teaching your classmates, so I was going to write about that one plus it goes with my story quite well, if I may say so myself! So while I was stuck on how to convey my passion for my Haas essay. 2 hours
later of writing and re-writing. I decided to pour a glass of wine and just come back to that one. So I worked on the Michigan essay question and wrote 450 words in 35 minutes. Now, I'm not saying that it was the final draft and is ready to be sent to the printer, but considering it's a 300-word essay, I think I got all of my ideas out of my head. I always write more than I should and then go back and consolidate and cut things out and merge and purge and all that jazz. It's easier for me and I make sure that I say everything that I want to.
So... with that being said I officially had 2 more essays to go. The last Haas essay which would be done in about an hour and then the one essay I've been putting off and off and off. But the good news is that it will be done before New Years. I did feel like I'm writing in circles. I would get an essay back from review and send off another one. Then get another one back and send off another one. It was a very cyclical process and would continue to be for the next couple of days.
In the last days of December, I added Yale SOM to my list of schools to apply too which meant that I had to add 2 more essays to the mix. Thankfully, I had completed 13 essay and just had to work on 2 more. At this point, when I say, “Finished” I would rate them a 9 out of 10.