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!