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An interesting post about the application process

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An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 11:18
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There is an interesting poster on the BW forums from Wharton and PE and this post really struck a chord with me so I wanted to share it.

http://forums.businessweek.com/n/pfx/fo ... &tid=78862

Thanks for your question. Sorry if I slow my response time going forward as I am stuck in my office going through a huge data room with no help. I wish I had an IIT to help me sort through this mess.

So I am going to err on the side of being frank and tell you that your profile as it exists in not a high probability admit for the schools you are targeting. Realistically there are thousands of Indian engineers applying from not just India, but also the US, europe and East Asia. Its not that these schools have quotas but they can't reasonably have 100% of their class filled with people of Indian decent. Engineer, banking guys have a pretty hard time getting into H/S/W.

So here is my advice in your applications, don't try to win on your accomplishments. Unless you founded a $1B company, these schools will NOT be impressed on the face of your accomplishments. Even if you went to Harvard, Goldman Sachs and Blackstone, those "accomplishments" are actually not that interesting. Believe me, I've tried winning this game by being the best looking cookie in the jar and there is always a tastier cookie.

So..... try to connect with them as an individual. Answer the questions adequately to assure them you will not flunk out of the program (which is highly doubtful anyway). But focus on what makes you, you... So focus on your stories, your values and how you interepret the world. Remember Harvard is a pretty arrogant place. They believe that if they arm you with their degree, you WILL be placed in positions of authority. So they are more interested in what will you do, when placed into those positions. The question is not WHETHER you will become a manager, but WHAT type of manager you will become. They want to arm the right people with their degrees.

So a stupid applicant spends 80% of his essays writing about what he did in his job. But realistically based upon the company you worked for and your title, they already know 99% of what you probably did. If you were a banker, you did valuations analysis and may closed a deal or two. You probably did not save the children of the world in the process.

A smart applicant make them connect with you as an individual. They tell their lifestories and how that has shaped their dreams, goals and values. When I am done reading your application I want to remember you much in the way you remember your friends. Do you remember your friends only because of their resume, or for the countless personal stories and idiosyncracies you share with them? Most importantly be brutally honest about who you are. This is hard, but I have never heard of anybody getting rejected for being too frank. I know one guy who wrote about getting fired from his job because a gambling addiction. He wrote about how it ruined his family life. He then wrote about how many investors make similar mistakes: they let emotions,ego and personal goals cloud their investment judgment. He wrote alot about what he learned in the process and how these failures will make him a more objective investor. He got in EVERYWHERE!!!!

My applications:
TOP NOTCH BRANDS in Undregrad, Banking & PE. I ran a $100M portfolio company as the first junior PE staff in my fund EVER to be appointed to do this. Then I started a highly successful retail chain and made millions of $$s in the process.

Harvard - rejected
Stanford - rejected
Wharton - accepted
MIT - accepted

A friend of mine:
USC undergrad with 3.3 GPA. 700 GMAT. Assistant buyer at the GAP in a tiny division. She wrote beautifully personal and honest essays. Really could explain why she would make a great retail executive and how MBA would help her get there.

Harvard - accepted
Stanford - accepted
Wharton - accepted
MIT - accepted

So the point of this example is a great story > great accomplishments.

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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 11:22
While I'm astounded that he would be rejected with the career he's had, I think the point he makes is incredibly solid and useful for people of all backgrounds who are applying to B school. Good post.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 12:54
yea that PE guy has the best thread on there ive seen in awhile
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 12:55
MIT sloan? Sucks to be him.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 13:20
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Can someone please recruit this guy to join GMATClub? Here's another post:

Let me clarify my prior statements. I do not mean you shouldn't sell. Business, as in life, is all about selling. But my finer point, is what are you selling??? I made the mistake of selling my bank, my PE fund and the various other brands on my resume. The fallicy with this strategy is that there are more people who have these brands for sale than there are spots at HBS. So in a supply/demand argument, there isn't enough scarcity here to close the proverbial deal.

The one thing that WE all have going for us is that as human beings, we are NOT commodities. Nobody's life story is exactly the same as yours. But if you don't package yourself as unique, you will look alot like alot of other people. I know this is a bit abstract but I use Slumdog millionaire as a greate example. Loved this movie.

Think about the main character Jamal. On the face of it, he is a poor Indian kid who works at a call center. Forget the fact that he wins 20,000M rupees at the end of the show. But prior to that moment, his life story is interesting enough to make a Golden Globe winning movie about it. It won for best picture AND best screen play! Think about it. On the surface, what the heck makes this guy's life story unique. Demographically speaking there are probably close to 900M folks in India alone who have a similar profile. You can add in China and I think you get the drift. What makes this story so compelling the magnificant storytelling the director shares with us. You get inside the character, his story, his dreams, his losses. You really connect with this character and you live vicariously through his experiences. This is what I am talking about!

When you write your application, think of Jamal, the character. Not Indian call center worker. Imagine a script that went on and on about his accomplishments on delivering tea to call center works. And imagine he didn't get into the nitty gritty details of how he got there and why he made choices. How badly would this movie suck....

My push to all of you, is that no matter where your are and where you are from, there is an Oscar winning script that can be written about your life. The winning application is the one that gets you one step closer to pulling that out of you. Thats what I mean by selling....

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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 13:37
Great post! Are u sure he is not selling his story by telling us he got dinged abt H/S. He doesnt seem like someone who could be dinged anywhere! :-D
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 14:33
Really interesting and a great post. The only thing that sounded a little funny to me is when he writes that as a junior PE guy he ran a $100m portfolio company. Generally, portfolio companies are managed at the Partner level. LPs (investors) would revolt if they didn't have a Partner on their invested companies.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 14:45
BSchoolorBust wrote:
Really interesting and a great post. The only thing that sounded a little funny to me is when he writes that as a junior PE guy he ran a $100m portfolio company. Generally, portfolio companies are managed at the Partner level. LPs (investors) would revolt if they didn't have a Partner on their invested companies.


I'm sure they had partners on the board of directors, but it is possible that he may have been the interim-CEO while they carried out a search for a real CEO? It's generally quite a team effort, so he may be overstating it when he says he "ran" the company.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 15:23
Not sure what the fuss is about the post. The person who got into H/S has a strong profile. First off, the applicant is female; second, she has a strong brand on her resume (The Gap) and great work experience that can surely help in retail cases or marketing classe; third, USC is a Top 30 school.

She wrote great essays and has a competitive profile. What's the surprise here?
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 15:28
MGOBLUE2 wrote:
Not sure what the fuss is about the post. The person who got into H/S has a strong profile. First off, the applicant is female; second, she has a strong brand on her resume (The Gap) and great work experience that can surely help in retail cases or marketing classe; third, USC is a Top 30 school.

She wrote great essays and has a competitive profile. What's the surprise here?


I believe that her profile is competitive for most schools, but she has A) a 3.3 from USC/700, B) a role like "Assistant Buyer" that does not scream leadership. In my opinion, these things do not in and of themselves make her competitive for Harvard and Stanford.

The guy in PE has excellent business/leadership experience, accomplishments, and pedigree (both of which H/S look for to a degree), but he failed to articulate it in his essays in the correct way (i.e. the Hollywood movie script way).
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 13 Jan 2009, 18:47
wow. That's a brilliant post.
Yea by just looking at the stats, I have to be honest that I would bet on the guy making it to those schools over the other applicant.
Credentials and stats do speak, but I guess personal stories helps you to dazzle adcoms.

I somehow remember the movie '21' (MIT geeks counting cards and making money off Vegas movie), where this guy needs to come up with some personal story that 'dazzles' rather than just having a regular straight A resume in order to get a harvard scholarship.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 08:06
agold wrote:
My applications:
TOP NOTCH BRANDS in Undregrad, Banking & PE. I ran a $100M portfolio company as the first junior PE staff in my fund EVER to be appointed to do this. Then I started a highly successful retail chain and made millions of $$s in the process.

Harvard - rejected
Stanford - rejected
Wharton - accepted
MIT - accepted
[/i]


Sorry for being naive, but can some one tell me why exactly this guy needs to go to a B school? He has run a $100M portfolio company and has started a successful retail chain.. he has made the millions... I think he got rejected simply because he does not need to be in a b school.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 08:13
<--devils advocate. Its BW, the guy could be a complete fraud. Not everyone who posts BS there is a nut job. He very well could be posting BS about his stats and stuff...it could be an applicant.

As for a girl getting into those schools as an assistant buyer...well an assistant buyer may sound like an unimportant position but considering top MBA's send people to major companies as buyers its probably more impressive than you would think. I know very little about job titles in the retail business. She could be an underrepresented minority and he could be an asian guy...you dont really know whats true and whats not...and also dont have all the information.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 08:18
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CompanyMan wrote:
Sorry for being naive, but can some one tell me why exactly this guy needs to go to a B school? He has run a $100M portfolio company and has started a successful retail chain.. he has made the millions... I think he got rejected simply because he does not need to be in a b school.


I will try to guess his reasons from my own perspective:

1) (looking at list of schools he applied) MBA Prestige on his resume - although experience definitely counts, degrees do count as well. In front of billion dollar investors, clients, and colleagues, what you look on the outside count as much as how much you know in terms of knowledge. You need to give the "right" impression in order to fit into their circle.

2) Network, network, and network - many of my colleagues (including myself) consider MBA just for the networking opportunity. You can't buy this. One doesn't realize the value of the networking power until they experience it firsthand. Think about this...your friends at bschools will soon become the titans of the corporate America (and probably the rest of the world).... If they ever need service that you can perform, they will give this job to their friends (in expectation of reciprocity later on).

3) To us a $100M portfolio company sounds prestigious but to his colleagues, it might look like a Kia next to a Mercedes. IBs are great at training on in his/her own specific fields. However, they don't teach everything. Bschool is a great way to recharge his/herself while gaining knowledge they might need. After all, bschools are fantastic in offering seminars, courses, and conferences based on latest trends and findings.


P.S. - assistant buyer position @ retail companies are very number oriented. Macy's recruited my fellow UPenn grads for their assistant buyer program. This is what they do/did:

1) Attend fashion shows and assist Buyers on future purchases.
2) Calculate/forecast sales trends, mark downs, gross margin, and other revenue driven indicators.
3) Write up business strategies on which business to enter/abandon
4) During M&A, liquidate inventories while protecting margin. Calculate and arrange efficient logistics to move goods around from one place to another.
5) After purchasing goods, allocate inventory to different cost centers based on sales trends, expectations, and other key business factors.

In conclusion - it isn't an easy job. They work long hours...

Last edited by BearStearner on 14 Jan 2009, 08:23, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 08:21
Agreed. The $100M portfolio company could be the smallest one in his fund.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 08:45
CompanyMan wrote:
agold wrote:
My applications:
TOP NOTCH BRANDS in Undregrad, Banking & PE. I ran a $100M portfolio company as the first junior PE staff in my fund EVER to be appointed to do this. Then I started a highly successful retail chain and made millions of $$s in the process.

Harvard - rejected
Stanford - rejected
Wharton - accepted
MIT - accepted
[/i]


Sorry for being naive, but can some one tell me why exactly this guy needs to go to a B school? He has run a $100M portfolio company and has started a successful retail chain.. he has made the millions... I think he got rejected simply because he does not need to be in a b school.


depending on his individual situation (company he works for, job he's looking for, etc.) it could just be a necessary check box to advance. some companies just expect their top strategists/partners/vps/etc. to have a top MBA. if he wants to get there he's got to go to school for 2 years. otherwise he'll always be overlooked for promotions.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 11:28
Great post! I would like to add to BearSterner's post; retail is an industry that may not scream top-tier MBA candidate or perhaps not be mentioned as often by many individuals, in contrast to applicants in PE, IB, Engineering and IT. However, it is an industry that may shape an individual on many levels. For instance, a buyer must understand the retail operation in itself (what customers want, what the retail chain offers as a "shopping experience", be analytical, etc.) Only then can he/she really know what to buy.

I do agree with CompanyMan... does this individual really need an MBA?

Last edited by triple5soul on 15 May 2009, 06:27, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 11:58
Yeah, I have to agree with the dissidents. Not to offend, but there is a strong aroma of bulls**t coming from that story. As previously noted, you know nothing about their respective backgrounds- she could be an orphaned Sudanese refugee who put herself through college, and he could be a white male who is 37, who is greatly exaggerating his accomplishments. I also didn't see any info about his grades/GMAT score. I sense a major causality error in the logic put forth in his argument. He is essentially revealing only her perceived shortcomings (if they can be called that), and revealing his miraculous accomplishments, all to prove that it must have been her essays, and only her essays, that got her into all of the top schools.

I think the advice is sound, but let's face it- you won't fit a work comparable to Slumdog Millionaire into two 500-word essays.
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 12:21
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The thing is, most of the people who get into these top schools don't really *need* the MBA in the first place, especially those who are already in business (finance, consulting, retail, marketing, or any other corporate job). And especially at places like HBS, Wharton or Stanford where a disproportionate number of the folks already have blue chip backgrounds (Ivy undergrad and/or top tier employers), the additional "brand" of an MBA on their resume is incremental more than anything else (and it's an awfully expensive thing to be paying $150K + $200-300K+ in forgone salary for 2 years just for an incremental benefit in "brand"). And given their resumes pre-MBA, they have access and opportunity to get the same post-MBA jobs without even having to go.

So why bother going then? Many of these folks who apply do so not because they need it, but because it's like taking a sabbatical from work for 2 years while they're still relatively young. That can be invaluable - just to decompress and be "you" again without any association with an employer who takes up your life. As such, some may go back to their pre-MBA careers, while others will do something completely different. For someone who takes a purely transactional approach to their careers (i.e. "I will do XYZ in order to ABC") it may seem alien or even stupid to take an expensive vacation like this, but these people, many of whom have worked with or seen up close those people in executive positions (i.e. consultants, bankers, PE folks working with Board members, CEOs, successful entrepreneurs, wealthy families, etc.) can see with their very own eyes what goes on "behind the curtain". A lot of miserable, stressed out, neurotically insecure CEOs, and "titans of industry" that you work with - and that doesn't go away with more money or external success.

Do these people want the money and power like so many other MBAs? Absolutely. But there's also some perspective that comes with actual experience seeing those with money and power -- and that the more important dimension is doing something MEANINGFUL or that has some personal significance. That's why the cliche "do what you enjoy" or "find work that has personal meaning to you beyond money/ego/power" is so real because I can tell you many of these people have seen with their very own eyes what it's like when you don't.

That's a big part why some Harvard/Goldman guy will go back to school - of course on the surface they will say "networking" and all the conventional script that everyone will say, but underneath it all it's also for personal reasons - giving them 2 years of time to really answer the question: "is this what I really want to be doing after seeing what I've seen, or should I try something else or at least explore something else?". Again, through this 2 year process some will go back to the well, and others will find other pastures to graze.

If you want to stay in a business career, it's an expensive but safer bet to "hide from the real world and meditate for 2 years" in an MBA program compared to say, joining a less expensive Buddhist monastery (but again, some people will do that instead -- there are corporate refugees in all sorts of place you'd least expect - on a film set, in a church ministry, teaching at a local college, and doing something away from the grind).

Of course this doesn't account for everybody at these top schools, but a good chunk if not a majority. The engineers, schoolteachers and military officers may get the most benefit from an MBA program in terms of the education itself (i.e. they actually do need it to transition into a business career), but these people collectively don't make up the majority. The majority already have a business career pre-MBA.

Now you may ask why would adcoms admit a bunch of people who don't need the credential - it's sort of like the banks being most willing to lend money to those who don't need the money (credit crisis aside).
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Re: An interesting post about the application process [#permalink] New post 14 Jan 2009, 12:40
Great post Alex! It would be interesting to study the career progression of folks without pre-MBA business careers after their MBAs. That would make a ranking methodology i d be interested in.

AlexMBAApply wrote:
Now you may ask why would adcoms admit a bunch of people who don't need the credential - it's sort of like the banks being most willing to lend money to those who don't need the money (credit crisis aside).

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Last edited by traffix on 14 Jan 2009, 15:02, edited 1 time in total.
Re: An interesting post about the application process   [#permalink] 14 Jan 2009, 12:40
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