Joined: 30 Jan 2010
Location: United States
Concentration: Strategy, Organizational Behavior
Schools: Chicago Booth - Class of 2015
GMAT 1: 770 Q50 V44
WE: Project Management (Real Estate)
 , given: 67
Round 3 (and waitlisted) Longshot [#permalink]
07 May 2014, 00:17
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I'm just finishing my 1st year at Chicago Booth. It seems like a long time ago that I was going through the application process, but it's only been a year.
GPA: sub-3.0 from a top-25 national university, top-10 engineering program
GMAT: 770 (50Q, 44V)
WE: Construction engineering, project management - 7 years at matric.
ECs: some volunteering, recruiting lead for my firm, 10 year+ commitment to fraternity as President, Chapter Advisor, Alumni Club Prez
Schools: Booth, Kellogg, Ross, Fuqua
Deciding on Business School
I knew (or thought I knew) early on that I wanted an MBA to nebulously "move into the business side of things," whatever that meant. I took the GMAT and asked my firm to sponsor me through the USC Marshall or UCLA Anderson p/t programs (living in LA at the time), but they didn't bite. It ended up being a blessing, because I really had no clue what I wanted to do. They compromised and put me through an executive education (not EMBA) program at Anderson. Rather than satiating me, it whet my appetite for the real thing. At 26, I was the youngest in my class of 35... by far. Hearing stories from senior folks in a wide range of industries made me realize how narrow my career focus had been and prompted me to take a hard look at where I wanted to be.
After a lot of research and informal chats with people in my extended network, I found that consulting (with a focus on strategy) was incredibly appealing. In construction, I enjoyed the early stage problem-solving, but not necessarily seeing projects through to completion. Consulting seemed like a great way to focus on those skills, so I started networking like crazy to try to find a way to break in as a lateral hire. I knew I wanted a generalist/strategy role and, after 6 months of hard networking, I ended up with interviews at 2 of 3 MBB. Having never practiced a live case before, I bombed my first interviews with the first firm spectacularly. In the weeks that followed, I busted my butt and passed two rounds with another of the firms. I walked out of my final round feeling pretty good about my chances, but it wasn't to be. The feedback I got was that I was solid across the board, but lacked a spike/wow factor. I was also told that 7 years WE with no advanced degree was an awkward fit; too old for BA/A/AC, but lacked the skills for A/C/C. That settled it; time to get an MBA.
Narrowing down the schools
In the midst of consulting recruiting, my wife and I moved from LA to Chicago, partly for personal reasons and partly for her career (I was obviously not enamored of my then-current situation). These were my screens:
1. Consulting firm recruiting/placement (focus on MBB) -> Most top 15-20
2. Geography. We had just moved to Chicago and wanted to stay/end up here. -> Booth, Kellogg, and Ross
3. Crap. Those are all near-top-10 schools. Let's broaden the scope a bit. -> Fuqua
By the time the dust settled on the move and getting dinged by MBB, there were 2 weeks left until the R2 deadline, and I knew that I couldn't pull it together that quickly. With my focus on the R3 date, I lined up visits to Booth, Kellogg, and Ross. All 3 visits gave me great insight into what the programs were looking and confirmed that I would fit it. Surprisingly, my top choice switched from Kellogg to Booth, post-visits. Having attended a large u/g with a proud athletic tradition and penchant for annoying most other schools with our intensity, I felt that Kellogg was to rah-rah for me. Having enjoyed u/g too much (see GPA above), Booth's reputed rigor was very appealing. That said, I was hoping for table scraps in R3, and would have been ecstatic about either. Ross too, for that matter.
First, I plugged all pertinent dates into my calendar, then broke down each application into component tasks in Outlook. Next I took a hard look at my profile to identify strengths and weaknesses. GMAT and WE (length and promos) were huge plusses. EC's were solid (great depth, lacked breadth). GPA was miserable. Because I was focused on a specific outcome (consulting) and my WE was solid, I wasn't worried about personal statement type essays or my recs, but knew I needed to address the GPA at every turn. I played up the exec ed program at Anderson (won 2 case comps), had a CEO-classmate of mine write a reco, and devoted my optional essay to grades. I un-apologetically said that I had been an immature 18-year who cut loose a bit too much in college after earning straight A's from 3rd grade through high school. I said that my rapid career progression, exec program, and earning interviews at prestigious firms showed that I had moved past those days.
By this time, I had mid-decision dates in my calendar and was locked onto the GC, BTG, and WSO forums. The schedule for R3 is pretty compressed but it felt like an eternity waiting to hear. Fuqua was first: DING. Well, that's that. If they don't want me, there is no way the higher ranked schools will. But still, I clung to hope. The days that I got the invites from Booth, Kellogg, and Ross were truly triumphant, "so you're telling me there's a chance." The Kellogg alumni interview was first. I prepped hard, turned on the charm, and got zero warm-fuzzies from the interviewer. She was an exec recruiter in a related industry and seemed fixated on what I would do if I wasn't admitted. Not a good sign. Next was Ross. There is no feeling worse that waking up to your wife's alarm at 6:15am, when you have a 6:30am flight to catch. After a bit of scrambling, I poured myself into a rental car and floored it from Chicago to Ann Arbor in under 3 hours. Both interviews (Ross and Tauber) went very well. I drove to DTW, turned in my car, and got obliterated at the bar with some Redbox marketing folks (free vouchers for me). Last, but certainly not least, was Booth. I left the office, went to my wife's, changed in her firms restroom and cabbed it down to Hyde Park. The interview was amazing. I really found my groove talking to a 2Y student and, by the end, were swapping stories from Thursday Night Drinking Club. If the interviews were supposed to be about fit, I liked my odds.
Duke was first. Officially a ding, no surprise there since they didn't interview me. Ross and Kellogg next, same day. I got the call from Ross, and was ecstatic. It was suddenly real. Since I only applied to schools that I would absolutely attend, that sealed the deal. I was getting an MBA, but where? The hours passed, the gmatclubbers stressed, and no call came from Kellogg. I logged in the next day to confirm my fate. To my surprise, I'd been waitlisted. Considering the alternative and the fact that I had Ross locked up, I wasn't too upset. In fact, it gave me a glimmer of hope for Booth, where my interview had been stronger. I affirmed my WL invite and called to set a call with my Adcom. Eight days later, I was waiting for the call from Booth, but it never came. Logged in the next morning... BOOM...WL again. I was pretty bummed this time, but forced my self to focus on the fact that I had two R3, M7, WL spots in the city I already lived in.
WL strategy could be another thread in itself. In fact, I've posted pretty extensively on it elsewhere and, at some point, will copy-paste it here. the short version is that my wife and I were willing to wait almost indefinitely for Booth or Kellogg. The decision tree was simple. If Booth lets me in, go there. If Kellogg lets me in, wait a week to see what Booth does, then go to Kellogg. If neither, go to Ross. I was re-WL'ed at both sometime in early June and then summer-WL'ed in early July.
We went to the Ross admit weekend, locked up housing in AA, applied for loans, and worked through pretty much all of the other enrollment checklist. Then one day, something exciting happened. I missed a call from a vaguely familiar phone number, a Kellogg one. It was a Thursday afternoon and I bolted out of the office to return the voicemail, because adcom calls are always good news, right? That particular adcom had left for vacation and no one else could help me. I sweated it out for 5 days, cautiously optimistic that thing were going to break my way. When we finally touched bases, Kellogg offered me a choice: admission to the p/t program or to stay on the WL. I had let my hopes get up and was crushed. I was also annoyed, but very graciously opted to stay on the WL.
Fast forward two weeks. It's a Friday afternoon, one week of work left, boxes are packed, movers are booked, and it's t-minus 8 days to Ann Arbor. I've come to terms with everything and am thrilled about starting at Ross. At 2:59pm, I dial into a conference call that I'm hosting with some big wheel prospective clients. Then the unthinkable happens. My cell rings... 773-702-4... "holy shit, that's a Booth number. What do I do?" I hit the ignore button (had to), suffered through the slowest 20-minute conference call ever, and dashed to the alley to check my VM. The VM gave no hints just, "Please call us back." After going down this road with Kellogg, I tried to keep it together. Luckily the adcom answered immediately and opened with "Congratulations!" I don't actually remember much of the rest of the call. There were some mumbled thank-you's and aboslutely's. I had a few drinks with the wife that night and began unwinding our plans in Michigan. We scrambled to find housing on few days' notice in Chicago, but none of that mattered. I was headed to my dream school.
The saga continues
Maybe another time, I'll add my experience as a 1Y at Booth. The short version is that it's amazing and has far exceeded my high expectations. I've made phenomenal friends and had experiences I never though possible including"
-Toasting champagne and taking a selfie with Nobel Laureates after their press conference
-Seeing David Booth, Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke, and a slew of others in the flesh.
-Going to a private show/rave headlined by White Panda during Ski Trip in Steamboat Springs, CO
Recruiting went well too, and I'm headed to my top choice consulting firm (the one I bombed out of a year ago) for the summer. Can't wait to see what the next 13.5 months bring...
PS - It's late and I haven't proofread. Please go easy on the spelling and grammar. I can English, promise.
Last edited by brandon432
on 07 May 2014, 10:19, edited 3 times in total.