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Round 3 Stanford admit and how not to do it!

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Round 3 Stanford admit and how not to do it!  [#permalink]

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New post 01 Jun 2020, 17:46
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Making the decision to pursue an MBA is an exciting one but it’s something not to be taken lightly. Having recently been through the process and having been accepted to my dream school, I want to share the journey with everyone while it’s still fresh. My quick disclaimer up front is that I did NOT follow the road map I am about to share with you. While I got lucky and things worked out for me, I would recommend using this roadmap to help frame your journey moving forward.

The long story short is that I had an accident and in January of this year, I learned that due to the complications of my injury, I was going to have to make a radical career change. I was caught absolutely red-handed by the situation. After spending a few weeks feeling sorry for myself, I realized that wasn’t getting me anywhere and I that I needed a plan. I had always wanted to earn an MBA, I just didn’t think it would happen at this stage of my life. So, I scrambled and put together seven applications in round three and it was off to the races. NOT THE RECOMMENDED APPROACH!!! I took the GMAT cold in January, studied my butt off to retake it at the end of March, and then didn’t get to take it again because of Covid. I ended up applying with that first January score.

So, with my story in mind as an example of what not to do (I just got really lucky), here are some thoughts and counsel I would love to offer everyone.

When it comes to and MBA and what programs you want to pursue, I suggest consideration of the following ingredients when making a selection:

a.) Community: What kinds of people inhabit the institution you’re courting. Do you fit in there? Would you make a good addition? Are these the types of folks you’d love to hang out and change the world with? I think B school first and foremost should be about building relationships, expanding your network and horizons, and creating a strong network of colleagues to go forward with. For me personally, this was the most important factor in selecting an MBA.

b.) Academics: How robust are the academics? If you’re like me, I lack seriously in some of the quant things (finance and accounting) that are commensurate to a robust business professional. If you’re more of a quant and not so much a poet, then perhaps you’re looking for a school that’s stronger in that environment. Take a look at the strength of the academics. At a Top 10 or even a Top 20 school, you’re going to get a great education…. But I think there are some nuances in terms of strengths and what you’re targeting as far as development that should pay attention to.

c.) Prestige: There, I said it. It’s the thing no one likes admitting they care about. I think of all the points I’m making here, this should far and away be least important. Look, going to the number one school vs the number 20 school maybe will make someone give your resume an extra glance…. But just because you went to a great program doesn’t make you great. Sure it might help get you the interview, but humble yourself. Don’t assume that you’re amazing because you went to a great program and sure you sure as hell shouldn’t assume anything less about yourself or your prospects because you’re not at a top program. You should pick the program that meets YOUR needs, not someone else’s. Did I mention I’m not a fan of selecting an MBA off of prestige or subjective online ranking websites?

d.) Network: How strong is the network? If I send an email that says, “Hello Mark, my name is Bill and I too am a grad of school XX, could I set up an intro phone call with you to talk about the work you’re doing and solicit any counsel you might have for me?” how likely am I to get a response? How important is tapping into that network to you? If you go to a great school with fabulous alums that never pick up the phone, where is the value in that? I think you really need to dig into not only the strength of the alumni network but also the willingness of those alums to remain plugged into the school and other alums

e.) Location: This was a factor for me. My future wife lives on the West Coast and I really wanted to find a program that met my other criteria that was close to her. I challenge you to think through the value you place on location and what other concessions you’re willing to make to be closer to family/friends or whatever other geographical features are important to you.

f.) $$$: Look, I’m not even going to really grant this one an audience. I don’t know of anyone who’s gotten an MBA and has said “yeah but I really regret all of these student loans.” Normally the story is “paid off the loans in a few years and now I’m continuing to build off the success that started as an MBA, so glad I did it.” I really don’t think the cost should turn you off…it’s a valuable investment in yourself. On the note of money though, be prepared to have schools make offers of scholarships. If you get 80K from your number three school and nothing from your top school, be prepared to navigate that hurdle.

g.) Miscellaneous bucket: Anything not on this list (other needs that have to be met that are included here)

Okay, so now that you have my list…. Take these categories, and score your top 10 programs 1-10 against each other in each category. Weight them as appropriate. For example, if network is your most important category, then give that a 2x multiplier….or whatever weight is appropriate. Add them all up, and the lower the score, the better. It’s a great way to add in some objectivity into your decision-making process. This exercise REALLY helped me out.


Two other general pieces of advice:


1.) Knowing that I eventually was going to get an MBA, I wish I would have gotten after the GMAT prep sooner so I wasn't scrambling to take it. A 5-year window to take the GMAT means there is a lot of room for maneuvering when you will actually go to business school. I think most folks would be hard-pressed to argue they'd go outside of a +/- 2 year window form their target so the idea would be to get after the GMAT early. If I had that out of the way, it would have made the application process much easier. Having to prep applications while also getting after the GMAT was just rough.

I have a friend (a great guy I met on a visit to Kellogg actually) who took the GMAT last year, got the score he needed, and isn’t applying to schools until next year. The brilliance in that was he took the opportunity to visit his target schools and get the test knocked out now so he doesn’t have to worry about it later.

If you’re like me, while applying to B school, I was still working a full-time job, taking a night class, studying for the GMAT, and then any remaining free time was focused on getting essays knocked out. It was brutal and exhausting for about three months straight. I would be lying if I told you I hadn't bitten off more than I could chew.

So, do the GMAT early. Cross that hurdle, put in the work early, get the score you need, and forget about it. Once you have the score you need, having that out of sight, out of mind will be a huge burden lifted for you and you can really lock your focus into writing quality essays and putting together a really strong application.



2.) Start networking early. I cannot stress this one enough. Getting to know people is so important as current students can really paint a complete picture for you of what's going at the school. Not only did this help me in my journey to make a decision, but I also felt like I got a very clear understanding of what it takes to be successful at each school. With that frame of reference, it made attacking many of the essays a lot easier. Also, I had the chance to let some of the folks I met review my essays and offer feedback on my progress. That was really helpful because it gave me an unbiased third-party who could tell me whether or not I was meeting the mark. Furthermore, I think it gives you better exposure to the realities of the community you’re soliciting to join. Are these people you’d like to have a beer with? Are these people you could see being “friends for life?” Are these individuals who are going to help enable success? Furthermore, you can get really good, honest feedback from the people with whom you interact. I think another key thing that you can glean is the strength of the school’s alumni network, how plugged in they are, and how quick they are to support/enable other alums and students.


Happy to answer any questions folks may have. Good luck to everyone applying next year and I wish you all the best in good fortune and health during these trying times.
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Re: Round 3 Stanford admit and how not to do it!  [#permalink]

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New post 21 Jun 2020, 15:45
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ILMRG wrote:
Making the decision to pursue an MBA is an exciting one but it’s something not to be taken lightly. Having recently been through the process and having been accepted to my dream school, I want to share the journey with everyone while it’s still fresh. My quick disclaimer up front is that I did NOT follow the road map I am about to share with you. While I got lucky and things worked out for me, I would recommend using this roadmap to help frame your journey moving forward.

Happy to answer any questions folks may have. Good luck to everyone applying next year and I wish you all the best in good fortune and health during these trying times.


Congratulations on your admit to Stanford and every other school you've applied to! Even though it came as a decision from a trying time in your life, I'm happy that it's worked out for you. I'm an older candidate (10 yrs exp) who wants to go the MBA route after giving it a lot of thought, and one of the few schools I'm interested in is Stanford.

If you can, please let me know on these few questions : 1) Essay - What were the key points you tried to get across? Did you work with an MBA prep consultant for writing them out?

2) Did you prepare your recommendors to write out the letters in a certain way that appeals to the adcom?

3) Is there anything I can do from now to round 2 deadlines that might make me be seen as a well rounded candidate ? I don't have much leadership outside of work, except for volunteering events inconsistently.

Thank you for the post, have a good day!
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Re: Round 3 Stanford admit and how not to do it!  [#permalink]

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New post 22 Jun 2020, 19:16
sandr01 wrote:
ILMRG wrote:
Making the decision to pursue an MBA is an exciting one but it’s something not to be taken lightly. Having recently been through the process and having been accepted to my dream school, I want to share the journey with everyone while it’s still fresh. My quick disclaimer up front is that I did NOT follow the road map I am about to share with you. While I got lucky and things worked out for me, I would recommend using this roadmap to help frame your journey moving forward.

Happy to answer any questions folks may have. Good luck to everyone applying next year and I wish you all the best in good fortune and health during these trying times.


Congratulations on your admit to Stanford and every other school you've applied to! Even though it came as a decision from a trying time in your life, I'm happy that it's worked out for you. I'm an older candidate (10 yrs exp) who wants to go the MBA route after giving it a lot of thought, and one of the few schools I'm interested in is Stanford.

If you can, please let me know on these few questions : 1) Essay - What were the key points you tried to get across? Did you work with an MBA prep consultant for writing them out?

2) Did you prepare your recommendors to write out the letters in a certain way that appeals to the adcom?

3) Is there anything I can do from now to round 2 deadlines that might make me be seen as a well rounded candidate ? I don't have much leadership outside of work, except for volunteering events inconsistently.

Thank you for the post, have a good day!



Hi sandr01 - great to be connected with you and I am happy to help!

1.) So as far as the key points I tried to get across? Essay A which asked "what matters most and why" was a chance for me to write on a deep, emotional level unlike anything I've ever done before. I iterated this essay over 20 times with friends, family, and mentors until I felt completely naked and exposed submitting it. Only then did I know that I was sharing something that truly came from my heart. It was a raw and vulnerable piece of writing. I worked diligently to connect the life choices I have made with what matters most to me in a very authentic way. I also focused on how what matters most to me will guide my next chapter. I spoke very little about the GSB in this essay and instead focused on my story because essay B gave me a chance to talk about "why Stanford." I did not use any prep consultants though I totally think that could be a very helpful avenue (but isn't essential)

2.) As far as recommenders, I did do some prep work with them. I sent a document which outlined a number of anecdotes (from my experiences working for each of them) that they could call on when writing their recommendations. I focused on leadership and service. I did not see the prompts they received nor did I read their final products. Both of my writers know me very well personally and professionally which I think was helpful. I simply wanted to give them some ammo should they have needed it for any reason. I also gave them a copy of my latest resume to help in their writing.

3.) Is there any reason you're not applying in Round 1? If your application is ready by then, I recommend submitting it early, particularly if Stanford is where you want to go. As far as your question goes, service and volunteering are both a very important part of my story and played a pivotal role in my application. I think it's important to be plugged into your community so I would try to find some ways to get involved. It may be a little late in terms of including something like that in your application but doing something to help others certainly can't hurt and is a great thing in it of itself! As far as other things you can be doing now, I think a focus on crushing your test scores is the best thing you can do. And don't underestimate the amount of work this application requires. It's a beast and it's something you should be proud of when you submit at the end of the day!

Good luck!
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Re: Round 3 Stanford admit and how not to do it!  [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jun 2020, 19:43
1
ILMRG wrote:

1.) So as far as the key points I tried to get across? Essay A which asked "what matters most and why" was a chance for me to write on a deep, emotional level unlike anything I've ever done before. I iterated this essay over 20 times with friends, family, and mentors until I felt completely naked and exposed submitting it. Only then did I know that I was sharing something that truly came from my heart. It was a raw and vulnerable piece of writing. I worked diligently to connect the life choices I have made with what matters most to me in a very authentic way. I also focused on how what matters most to me will guide my next chapter. I spoke very little about the GSB in this essay and instead focused on my story because essay B gave me a chance to talk about "why Stanford." I did not use any prep consultants though I totally think that could be a very helpful avenue (but isn't essential)

2.) As far as recommenders, I did do some prep work with them. I sent a document which outlined a number of anecdotes (from my experiences working for each of them) that they could call on when writing their recommendations. I focused on leadership and service. I did not see the prompts they received nor did I read their final products. Both of my writers know me very well personally and professionally which I think was helpful. I simply wanted to give them some ammo should they have needed it for any reason. I also gave them a copy of my latest resume to help in their writing.

3.) Is there any reason you're not applying in Round 1? If your application is ready by then, I recommend submitting it early, particularly if Stanford is where you want to go. As far as your question goes, service and volunteering are both a very important part of my story and played a pivotal role in my application. I think it's important to be plugged into your community so I would try to find some ways to get involved. It may be a little late in terms of including something like that in your application but doing something to help others certainly can't hurt and is a great thing in it of itself! As far as other things you can be doing now, I think a focus on crushing your test scores is the best thing you can do. And don't underestimate the amount of work this application requires. It's a beast and it's something you should be proud of when you submit at the end of the day!

Good luck!


This really helps, especially on point 1. I was quite hesitant to do deep dives and come off vulnerable, and focused more into how to win adcoms over and showing only the positives. This needs more work than I thought so I'm not ready for round 1 with all the essays and prepping the recommenders, I can't make it by Oct deadline. I also want more time for GMAT, I wish I can quickly write the exam but quite scared of a bad score and having to rewrite it. Agree on the volunteering, it's something great to do in itself, though inconsistent I can speak of what I truly care about ! I'm quite unprepared as my decision has been quite influenced by 2020, but I will give it my best shot. Thank you so much for your reply :) I hope you have a great start to your program this fall!
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Re: Round 3 Stanford admit and how not to do it!   [#permalink] 23 Jun 2020, 19:43

Round 3 Stanford admit and how not to do it!

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