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Strategies for research?

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Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 11:00
Hi,

I am going to apply to MBA next year and I am starting to research the schools I am interested in. This includes reading related blogs (HBR, Wharton Magazine, etc.), following the schools on social media, meeting with my personal contacts who are associated with schools i am interested in, etc. etc.

but this is a lot of information to process and keep track off. What are some research strategies/organizational frameworks you have used to keep track of all the info you gather.

here is what i attempted to do. per my consultant quantitative mindset, i created a relational spreadsheet in excel, linking schools to faculties, focuses, classes, etc etc. in principle it was a great idea and i can share my spreadsheet with you, but i think i overthought the whole thing. i just got lost in the minutae and pretty soon gave up that approach.

thanks.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 11:10
I have a pretty intricate folder system on Dropbox under "Business School Stuff" where I saved down all the information I could find on the schools I was interested in (e.g., brochures, employment reports, Clear Admit guides). For each school, I had a notes document (e.g., "Booth Notes") wherein I kept all the notes I had gathered on each school's offerings, including clubs, programs, professors, and courses. As I started reaching out to current students and visiting schools, I kept an Excel document titled "Business School Contacts" where I logged everyone's names/background, which really helped me personalize my essays.

I also had a pretty thorough bookmark system, too, where I would save any relevant article or club page. If you haven't started browsing Poets and Quants (http://www.poetsandquants.com), you should. I also read a few books on the process, too. Check this thread for recommendations: http://gmatclub.com/forum/best-books-on-b-school-applications-146441.html.

I hope that helps or you at least got a chuckle out of how obsessed/anal I was! :)

Edit: I forgot to mention two other spreadsheets I found very helpful. I kept an "Application Deadlines" spreadsheet with submission deadlines, notification dates, and deposit deadlines. This really helped me stagger my applications so I wasn't submitting 5 within the same one-week period. I also kept an "Essay Questions" spreadsheet, where I put the essay questions and the themes of my answers. This way, I had an "at a glance" view of all the "stories" I had used and where they could be used again (if possible).

Last edited by kingfalcon on 15 Feb 2013, 11:24, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 11:14
Spreadsheet + Dropbox here too. It was very helpful when writing essays... Keep track of the common themes you see that pop up for each school. Of course, I got a bit lost in the numbers from time to time... but I'm always a bit too analytical.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 12:01
I have a stack of brochures that I got in the mail and from visits from schools, but what I did just to figure out where I wanted to apply was a keep a running draft in gmail. I started by copying the list of the top 25 schools. I would then add some info as I researched each one down the list. I deleted ones I knew for sure I wasn't interested in applying to (ie, MIT is very analytically focused, or so I was convinced and I knew I wanted to do marketing, so I took it off). I added info about how much it cost to apply and what living expenses were in that area, whether the school discloses grades, and whether you could major in something or got a general management degree, how well ranked the school was for marketing, etc. I also started listing classes and extracurriculars I was interested in for each school. By the time I got to this level of detail, I was down to about 10 schools, so then it was a matter of making final decisions about which I identified the most with personally. For example, one of my top choices now is a school that had remained on my list but I only decided to apply to after I didn't get into either of my round 1 schools.

Clearly this is a way less analytical way of looking at it, but the whole process is so overwhelming that I don't see any need to mire yourself in spreadsheets unless it really makes you more comfortable (I spent way too much time making a very detailed deck for each of my reccomenders on each school I was applying to. Huge waste of time. They didn't even find it useful.) I kept track of deadlines by immediately putting everything on my Outlook calendar.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 12:17
suecone8 wrote:
I don't see any need to mire yourself in spreadsheets unless it really makes you more comfortable.


Agreed. I'm a bit of an Excel junkie, and actually enjoy life inside of a spreadsheet. It isnt needed, do what works for you.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 15 Feb 2013, 14:04
highwyre237 wrote:
suecone8 wrote:
I don't see any need to mire yourself in spreadsheets unless it really makes you more comfortable.


Agreed. I'm a bit of an Excel junkie, and actually enjoy life inside of a spreadsheet. It isnt needed, do what works for you.


I was updating some things in my master MBA spreadsheet when I saw this thread. Nice to know I'm not crazy! Or only as crazy as everyone else here ;)
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 16 Feb 2013, 09:32
I was not nearly as systematic as the other posters here. But also, I already had a good idea of where I wanted to apply, but just needed to narrow down my list. And the way I narrowed it down was by talking to alums and current students. And I kept all my notes in a notebook that I flipped through, throughout my application process.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 17 Feb 2013, 20:16
wown wrote:
Hi,

I am going to apply to MBA next year and I am starting to research the schools I am interested in. This includes reading related blogs (HBR, Wharton Magazine, etc.), following the schools on social media, meeting with my personal contacts who are associated with schools i am interested in, etc. etc.

but this is a lot of information to process and keep track off. What are some research strategies/organizational frameworks you have used to keep track of all the info you gather.

here is what i attempted to do. per my consultant quantitative mindset, i created a relational spreadsheet in excel, linking schools to faculties, focuses, classes, etc etc. in principle it was a great idea and i can share my spreadsheet with you, but i think i overthought the whole thing. i just got lost in the minutae and pretty soon gave up that approach.

thanks.


Are you referring to research for your essays? Or research to decide which schools to apply to in the first place? In either case, definitely talk to club members - stalk them out on the websites and refer to who you spoke with in your essays... Worked for me!
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 19 Feb 2013, 08:52
I created a spreadsheet as well but my focus was on simplifying the information available so I could refer back to it later. I found the strategy helped me narrow my search and gave me a decent impression of the various schools I was considering.

After doing research on a school (reading their website, going through course catalogue, speaking with someone, etc.) I would write one or two sentences in a notes section on the school. It might say something like "poor marketing department" or "I spoke with XYZ and got a great impression of the program." I found that to be really helpful because your memory of how you feel about a school can fade over time, and recording your gut reaction is helpful.

I also crunched some numbers and created a couple of indexes for each school, things like "Difficulty in getting in" index and "Average student earnings" index. My aim was to simplify the flurry of statistics you're given for each program, and it helped me compare schools across just a few factors rather than the 10 you're typically supplied with.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 19 Feb 2013, 09:09
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TheFool wrote:
I created a spreadsheet as well but my focus was on simplifying the information available so I could refer back to it later. I found the strategy helped me narrow my search and gave me a decent impression of the various schools I was considering.

After doing research on a school (reading their website, going through course catalogue, speaking with someone, etc.) I would write one or two sentences in a notes section on the school. It might say something like "poor marketing department" or "I spoke with XYZ and got a great impression of the program." I found that to be really helpful because your memory of how you feel about a school can fade over time, and recording your gut reaction is helpful.

I also crunched some numbers and created a couple of indexes for each school, things like "Difficulty in getting in" index and "Average student earnings" index. My aim was to simplify the flurry of statistics you're given for each program, and it helped me compare schools across just a few factors rather than the 10 you're typically supplied with.


I decided to create a calculation that spat out one number to decide which schools made the most sense to apply to... It calculated fit (location, teaching style, impression of students, concentrations), ability to get in (avg gmat/gpa/work experience/selectivity/yield), ability to get a job post mba (placement in marketing and consulting, salary, % employed 3 months out), and family impact (Does my wife like this school/location, likelihood of getting back to the northeast)... all of those weighted to equal one number... which I ignored.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 19 Feb 2013, 15:51
Ward2012 wrote:
I was not nearly as systematic as the other posters here. But also, I already had a good idea of where I wanted to apply, but just needed to narrow down my list. And the way I narrowed it down was by talking to alums and current students. And I kept all my notes in a notebook that I flipped through, throughout my application process.

Dude. Did you really get Waitlisted for 4 schools?! I've never heard of that...especially for top programs. Any luck getting off the waitlist yet?
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 19 Feb 2013, 20:16
@Chupacabra--Yes, I did indeed get waitlisted at those four schools. So far, nothing has come to fruition, but all my schools told me that I shouldn't expect to hear before March.
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Re: Strategies for research? [#permalink] New post 20 Feb 2013, 00:54
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Ward2012 wrote:
@Chupacabra--Yes, I did indeed get waitlisted at those four schools. So far, nothing has come to fruition, but all my schools told me that I shouldn't expect to hear before March.


Oh man! That is a lot of waiting. Are you doing anything in the meanwhile?
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Re: Strategies for research?   [#permalink] 20 Feb 2013, 00:54
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