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Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school!

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Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 17 Nov 2008, 22:47
Hi everyone,

I've been hanging out in these forums for a while now, posting mostly in the GMAT questions/answers but reading some of everything. Thanks to Praetorian and other powers-that-be for a great site!

Now I'd love some advice based on your collective wisdom (I've read great posts around here!) about how to maximize my potential to get into a top b-school. As I mentioned in the title, I'm in grad school right now, 2nd year, and looking to continue into a business program after I get my PhD. Thus I have two or three years to implement your advice before I apply :) Brief biographical details below:

---White male, 27 at b-school matriculation (is that old all of a sudden? sounds like it for HBS at least)
---UG: Double major in engineering and humanities (honest to goodness humanities, I don't mean math) from US News top 5 school, 4.0 GPA
---Grad: PhD in engineering from US News top 15 school (but top 3 in my field), 3.9 GPA
---GMAT: Not taken yet, but I feel I can get at least the median at my schools of choice (730+)
---Extracurriculars (grad school):
*Founded a performing arts group for grad students that is dedicated both to teaching and performing, and does regular charity shows around the city I'm in
*In the next few months I will start a collaborative research organization that brings grad researchers from different disciplines together to attack problems of common interest
*Somewhat longer-term (maybe a year out): I plan on becoming involved in my school's entrepreneurship organization, and hopefully becoming a leader in it. Conveniently, the school I'm at now is affiliated with a top MBA program.
*Significant teaching and course design experience. Teaching has, over time, become very important to me.
---Future career goals: VC and/or serial entrepreneurship. I have several other (I think) compelling reasons for wanting an MBA, but if you just look at the partners of top West Coast VC firms, they generally have *at least* master's degrees in engineering plus MBAs, and now some seem to have PhD's.
---Schools of interest: I'm particularly excited about Stanford for a whole bunch of reasons, but other good entrepreneurship programs like MIT and Berkeley appeal as well; I might also look at Chicago and HBS

Based on all this, I have a few specific questions:

1) Will it be possible to convince b-schools that being a research assistant is work experience? I feel that it is, since we only take classes for roughly a year and a half, and then progress to full-time research. Won't I have to hammer on this point? Otherwise, I might get written off as a degree collector who's just been "in school."
2) I think that I have strongly demonstrated the intellectual vitality that b-schools want to see. But that's only one piece of the puzzle, and I don't want to come across as a bookworm. Could I do more to maximize the leadership potential and personal attribute dimensions of my case?
3) I'm concerned about my second rec letter. I think my advisor will write a great one, and I have several good ideas for my peer rec, but I'm at a bit of a loss for professional rec #2. Options include: a) the faculty advisor for my performing arts group; b) my undergrad research advisor that I still keep in touch with and collaborate with; c) a business type that I will hopefully magically meet through the entrepreneurship organization (this option seems tempting to me, as it would round out my app); d) others? Am I right in thinking that another prof or postdoc rec would not be the best choice?
4) I'm seriously considering applying for deferred enrollment at the beginning of my 4th (second-to-last) year of grad school. I would apply only to the Stanford lottery and if I got in, hallelujah, and if not, I'd have a year to regroup and think about more places to apply. Is this a reasonable strategy? I've only heard of college seniors doing the deferred enrollment thing.
5) I've more than once run into the perception that wanting a PhD+MBA is crazy. Yet people don't bat an eye at MD+MBA, JD+MBA, or MS+MBA. Why is that? Does anyone out there know a PhD/MBA?
6) Any other stuff I should be thinking about?

Sorry for the wordy post, but I wanted to try to help you all help me. Thanks for any thoughts, and I'm looking forward to being a regular contributor here!

phdizzle
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 18 Nov 2008, 17:31
I thought I might have some input on this....

Alittle about my background to give you some insight. I went to grad school at a top engineering school for my master's degree, and I have been working for the past 4 years as an engineer; and I am in the midst of applying to B-school now.

I don't really think that research experience (or teaching) counts as work experience, and I don't think admissions people view it as work experience. It doesn't have the same politics that is present at work. At work you will work with a variety of people, and need to work with people who are 40+ years old as your peers. There are lots of meetings and more of an emphasis on team work. Most research is individually orientated. For your thesis or dissertation you have to write an "original independent work." This implies individual orientated.

I think if you're really set on full-time business school you should probably just bail with a master's degree in engineering, then get some experience at a start-up or small company where you can take on alot of responsibility, really bite your teeth in the working world. Academia can be coddling sometimes. Then apply in a few years to full-time programs.

Another route would be to finish the Phd, then work for awhile; then do a part-time program eventually. Berkeley, UCLA, and Chicago all have very good programs. If you have a Phd, they will be looking at that credential more than the MBA in my opinion.
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 18 Nov 2008, 21:35
I say don't worry about Teach Assistant position, I don't think it is going to say much.

I actually think you're profile is unique enough and strong enough that you should just apply when you are done. Ph'D is gonna standout, so standard advice isn't going apply to you too much.

That said, my advice is to go out and enjoy yourself and get some extra-cirriculars in there. You're basicly gonna have a big sign that say egg head w/o social skills, I would volunteer, start a organization, or travel and help manage some foreign charity.

That's my advice.
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 19 Nov 2008, 15:00
phdizzle wrote:
Does anyone out there know a PhD/MBA?


I don't personally know a PhD+MBA, but I know this guy was on top of the Forbes Midas list a few years ago. He is a Phd+MBA and has taken the VC path you are wanting to take.
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 19 Nov 2008, 16:12
mba07 wrote:
phdizzle wrote:
Does anyone out there know a PhD/MBA?


A guy at my work has a Phd/MBA. He did an executive MBA program though...
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 19 Nov 2008, 16:52
IF you have all that degrees and credentials.... i am just wondering... why do u need an mba man?

u r phd...go do some research, enjoy life :)

just my thoughts :)))))

i hate school
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 19 Nov 2008, 16:54
Thanks for all your responses! I was worried that my original post was impenetrably long (as I looked it over after posting, I thought, "I'd never read that...")

nomsg, your background is very interesting because it's obviously quite similar to mine. Where are you applying? What's your "angle?"

As for me, bailing with a master's is not in the cards, if for no other reason than I happen to like what I'm doing :) I'm not in grad school to boost my MBA app--there are easier, more lucrative, and more traditional/failsafe ways to do that. I'm doing it because I enjoy it and because I think it will greatly help me in the future. The replies here just underscore what I already thought--I am going to have to really paint a picture of how "work-like" my grad school experience has been (collaboration, working in teams, traveling to conferences, giving presentations...). I've done engineering internships at big companies, so I do have an idea. I'll give it a shot and I guess I'll post here to let y'all know what happens.

What you said also confirms for me why I don't feel like I have much of a shot at more "traditional" MBA programs like Wharton and Kellogg. That's OK, because I don't think I'd be a good fit anyway and wasn't planning on applying, but I do think adcoms there would dismiss me as an ivory tower type who's never worked in the real world and doesn't get finance at all.

mba07: thanks for linking to Haque! That's exactly the kind of career I'm thinking about. You can tell he really uses both his technical background (PhD in EE) and business (Kellogg MBA) in terms of evaluating and making deals.

GoBruins: You hit on the other big thing I'm worried about--the adcoms thinking that I sat around playing with my TI-89 all day. I am trying to get involved in a variety of organizations, so hopefully that will help me overcome that perception somewhat...
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 19 Nov 2008, 17:58
phdizzle wrote:

nomsg, your background is very interesting because it's obviously quite similar to mine. Where are you applying? What's your "angle?"



Well I am still in the running at Kellogg, UCLA, and Michigan. I might apply to MIT in round 2, but I am not crazy about going to a really strong quant school. I'd like to have a more rounded business school experience, another 2 years surrounded by engineers doesn't sound fun.

I'd love to go to Stanford but that 8.5% acceptance rate isn't giving me a warm fuzzy feeling. My profile isn't strong enough.

I am looking to focus on operations/healthcare when I get out. Probably working at an established company like Medtronic, Boston Scientific, Amgen, etc etc. Maybe join a start-up a few years after I graduate b-school (and I pay back all my loans :-D ).

To be honest if you really want to do VC/serial entrepreneurship, an MBA by itself isn't really going to do much for you. You're going to need to articulate why you want to pursue that career path, and prior experience is a good way to articulate that...
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school! [#permalink] New post 19 Nov 2008, 18:01
One of my really good friends here applied directly from grad school. It was an MS degree not Phd. He had a few years work experience before going back to get his masters though. Its definitely possible though.
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Re: Advice needed: applying for MBA straight from grad school!   [#permalink] 19 Nov 2008, 18:01
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