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Homerfan's Experience Part I - Background [#permalink]
23 Nov 2005, 14:47
- 25-year old male
- Undergrad 3.56 GPA from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business
- GMAT 760 (June 2005)
- currently working for Fortune 500 company in Finance/Marketing role
- seven years of work with the same non-profit educational organization in a leadership role
When I first started looking at business schools last April, I had a long list of schools that I wanted to apply to. But as time has gone on and I've attended some informational sessions, I have found that my list has shrunken quite significantly. I realized that certain schools just wouldn't be a good fit for me, whether it was academic, geographic, or cultural. It's natural to think that you want to go to 10 or 15 business schools when you start the process...just know that you must narrow it down to 4-6 schools when the time comes to apply.
Homerfan's Experience Part II - Taking the GMAT [#permalink]
23 Nov 2005, 14:52
I took an eight-week (one three-hour session per week) Kaplan course starting in April. I scheduled the GMAT for one week after my course would end (good timing, in my humble opinion).
The first four weeks of the course, I simply attended class and spent a couple hours at home doing the 'homework'. The next three weeks I added lots of practice tests. In total, I probably spent 10-15 hours per week studying during those three weeks. I studied very hard (25-30 hours) during the two weeks leading up to the exam.
In retrospect, the class wasn't necessary for me. I think that it's good for two types of people: 1) those who need a structured approach to make sure that they maintain a steady pace; 2) those who learn better in classroom environments. In the end, I found that taking practice tests (esp. the timed, computer-adaptive tests) were most helpful in my studying.
I ended up scoring 760, which was 80 points higher than my initial Kaplan diagnostic exam and 80-100 points higher than the Kaplan Computer-Adaptive Tests. The official PowerPrep tests were the best predictors of my final score - I earned 740 and 770 on those two tests.
Homerfan's Experience Part III - The Applications [#permalink]
23 Nov 2005, 15:00
Like I said in Part I, my list had shrunken significantly from the time I started thinking about business school to the time that I actually applied. If anybody requests, I can talk about the different schools I was considering and why I chose to apply/not apply.
In the end, I decided to apply to three schools for Round I - Harvard, Kellogg, and Stanford. I plan to apply to three schools for Round II - Tuck, Columbia, and UCLA.
Harvard and Stanford each ask for three recommendations, which is more than most schools. I received recs from my current boss, the head of the non-profit I volunteer for, and a former boss. I helped each of my recommenders by writing responses to each of the recommender's questions for them. I didn't include opinion; I just referenced events that would help illustrate qualities that the questions were asking for. It was a cumbersome process, but I think it helped my recommenders and improved my overall application.
The essays were, by far, the most rigorous portion of the application process. I suggest starting at least two months before the applications are due. Harvard asks the most questions, and Stanford asks the least, but all the schools are equally difficult in their own way. You can do some cutting and pasting for redundant questions, but schools have slightly different prompts that require you to sometimes change the focus of your essay. I think a good timeline to write essays would be one week to brainstorm and free-write, three weeks to write essays for each school, one week to have friends proofread, one week to revise, another week to have friends proofread, and the final week to put the finishing touches on.
Overall, the application process was very involved. I curbed my social life (but kept up with my volunteer work) as I did my applications. It didn't make for a fun two months, but I can honestly say that I learned a lot about myself through the application process. You see, business school is a way for you to learn about yourself. The application is just the first step in that journey.
Homerfan's Experience Part IV - Harvard & Kellogg Interv [#permalink]
23 Nov 2005, 15:09
Kellogg is unique from most elite business schools in that it interviews all of its applicants. I suppose that's the least they can do for the $225 you shell out to apply
Anyway, it's suggested that you submit the basic personal information, along with your money, before you submit the 'meat' of your application (recommendations, essays, etc.) so that you can schedule an interview early on. I followed their advice and submitted part I of my application a month before I submitted the 'meat'. I interviewed a few weeks after I submitted.
The interview was very straightforward and mildly disappointing. The interviewer (an alumna who works in an unrelated field but lives in my area) only had my resume and asked the normal b-school questions. I won't go into details, as I think that creates an unfair advantage for some, but the interviewer didn't ask me anything that was unexpected. Sadly, I never 'connected' with her. Hopefully the interview doesn't count for too much!
I received word about my Harvard interview (by invitation only) about two weeks ago. Like Kellogg, they set me up with an alumna who lived in the area. But, unlike Kellogg, they did a good job in matching me up with someone who has similar interests as I do. Harvard's interview is unique in that the interviewer has access to your entire application, essays and all. It's supposed to be the most rigorous b-school interview. But my interview last Monday ended up being very standard; I got asked similar questions to what was asked of me from Kellogg, even though I know my interviewer had read my essays. The interviewer just asked me not to use any examples I might have used in my essays. Overall, this interview went very well as I made a great connection with the interviewer.
I just got my invitation to interview with a Stanford alumnus. Coming up in the next two weeks...my Stanford interview experience!
Very nice posts Homerfan. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
I have two schools common to the ones you have applied to; Stanford and Columbia.
However I belong to the slacker group.. applying to round 2, i made my decision too late for the first round.
I am going to take you up on your offer and ask you what made you choose the schools you did (i am esspecially interested in what Stanford and Columbia had to offer that made you choose them). Unfortunately I have not been able to visit any schools or information sessions so any input from you would be a great help.
And congratulations on getting interviews from Harvard and Stanford, that in itself is quite an accomplishment.
Homerfan's School Selection [#permalink]
27 Nov 2005, 11:51
Thanks for the kind words, Dexterslab. And good luck to you on your applications!
In terms of my school selection, I chose the schools that I applied to with very incomplete information. When I reflect on them, I realize that the process seems almost whimsical. I nevertheless am happy with the schools I have chosen because I feel like I would fit in best at these schools. If friends of mine are at a particular school and enjoying the experience, then I figure that I would also fit in well at those particular schools.
Harvard - A good friend of mine is there and is loving the experience. Also, I think that to be the best, you must be around the best. And there is little doubt that Harvard has some of the best students in the world.
Stanford - Three friends of mine are there, and they are all fantastic people. I also like that the school is small and intimate. Finally, and perhaps best of all, Stanford GSB has a joint degree program with the School of Education. I'd like to pursue Education at some point in my life.
Kellogg - I know many people who have gone to Kellogg, as well as several people who are currently there. To a person, they have all loved their experience. Each person I know who has gone there is outgoing, humble, fun, and intelligent. I'm also interested in Marketing Brand Management, which is sort of the hallmark of Kellogg.
Dartmouth - I've heard many good things about Dartmouth, and the informational session sealed the deal. Each alum was glowing about his/her Tuck experience. I also love the small-school setting.
Columbia - A friend of mine is an alumnus, and he is wholeheartedly pushing for me to go here. I had my doubts (Finance-heavy, parochial student body), but my friend convinced me to apply. I'm waffling about this one right now because I'm kind of sick of city life.
UCLA - I've heard that their alumni are quite impressive in interviews. I will ultimately settle in Southern California, so Andersen's location is ideal.
Chicago - Great, great school. But I know about five people who are alumni of the Chicago GSB, and I realized that I would not fit in there. The people who came out of Chicago were very Finance heavy and would seemingly talk about it endlessly (before work, at lunch, after work). I suppose I should've given it a better chance...but it just fell through and I never became seriously interested.
Wharton - Another fantastic school (obviously). It has such a reputation as a Finance school, though, that I wouldn't want to be pigeon-holed as a Finance guy. I also was never really interested in living in Pennsylvania and have not heard great things about the area around the campus.
Michigan - Every person I know who has gone there has been outgoing and intelligent. Alumni also seem to love their two years there. Very similar to Kellogg in those ways. However, I don't want to be in Michigan for two years.
Haas - Went there as an undergrad. If I'm going to spend tens of thousands of dollars + two years of my life, it at least has to be a new experience!
MIT - I'm not really into technology. I know that MIT isn't just about tech, but it has that reputation.
Homerfan, thanks once again for the insights on your experience. My experience in selecting schools was a very subjective approach as well.
Sure you can look at a particular specialization and say a particular set of schools is good for it, but then again when there are thousands of MBA schools there are going to be a large number proficient in any given specialization. Location i guess can be a good criteria for narrowing it down, and then as in your case, peer advice seems to play a very important role as well.
Homerfan's Experience Part IIIb - Stanford Interview [#permalink]
07 Dec 2005, 20:35
I completed my Stanford interview today. I interviewed with an alumnus in my area who decided to start his own company.
The interview lasted just over 45 minutes, and he had a list of questions that the school had 'suggested' that he ask (not specific to my resume, like Harvard). This interview was different from the Harvard interview in that he was trying to get to know me and what motivates me rather than see what I have done and what I can do. From the interviews alone, I got a good idea of how the two schools are different. I honestly have no preference right now...
Anyway, I won't list out any specific questions that he asked here, but they were different from the 'typical' (i.e., Kellogg & Harvard) questions. They may not vary the questions much from year to year; I think the accepted.com interview database contained a lot of the questions that I was asked.
Overall, I think the interview went ok. Not as good as Harvard, but better than Kellogg. I think I was still in the Harvard mindset, where I was trying to brag about my accomplishments rather than talk about who I am.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that UCLA & Columbia aren't good fits for me. I'm from Southern California, so UCLA doesn't have the excitement factor that I'm looking for. I'm getting sick of city living (lack of parking, small apartments, expensive everything), so Columbia is going down on my list. Tuck might be the 4th and final school I apply to. I'll keep everyone updated.
Hi homerfan, I just want to let you know that I have been following your post here and it is a fantastic debriefing! Finding the right school involves a lot of soul searching and I can see that you painstakingly went through the process. Very inspiring story!