GMAT Question of the Day - Daily to your Mailbox; hard ones only

It is currently 11 Dec 2018, 12:22

Close

GMAT Club Daily Prep

Thank you for using the timer - this advanced tool can estimate your performance and suggest more practice questions. We have subscribed you to Daily Prep Questions via email.

Customized
for You

we will pick new questions that match your level based on your Timer History

Track
Your Progress

every week, we’ll send you an estimated GMAT score based on your performance

Practice
Pays

we will pick new questions that match your level based on your Timer History

Not interested in getting valuable practice questions and articles delivered to your email? No problem, unsubscribe here.

Close

Request Expert Reply

Confirm Cancel
Events & Promotions in December
PrevNext
SuMoTuWeThFrSa
2526272829301
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
303112345
Open Detailed Calendar

M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review

  new topic post reply Update application status  
Author Message
TAGS:

Hide Tags

Intern
Intern
avatar
Joined: 11 Feb 2015
Posts: 5
Reviews Badge
M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post Updated on: 04 Jul 2016, 16:35
1
Alright guys, I’m an extremely non-traditional candidate who had success in Round 1, thanks to a dedicated strategy and the amazing assistance of my admissions consultant, Critical Square, and I’d like to give back to the community. This post will be a combination of advice to other candidates out there with a creative profile as well as my experience with Critical Square. Candidates with traditional profiles may not find some of the stuff in here to be as useful.

PREFACE
For the sake of anonymity I prefer to be a little bit vague about my stats/work background. My background is relatively unique so I would prefer not to reveal myself too easily.

BACKGROUND
I’m in a creative role. Think magazine writer / stage manager / dance choreographer / music composer / film editor. One benefit of my role is that I work with teams frequently, and that my creative role has an analytical or technical edge to it.

I was similar to many of the people who come on GMATClub or other websites worried about their stats and their profile, wondering whether they could crack the top 20 at all. In my case, I had zero experience in business and had never even set foot into a traditional office or corporate environment. In terms of age, I was old enough to be considered part of the upper limit of ages that are considered practical for the typical candidate to apply. When I started to look into business schools, I had a poor mental state — I personally felt that it would be lucky if I was able to crack the Top 20.

STATS
My undergrad school was decent — a tier below Ivy League. However, my GPA was not — it was on the lower end towards 3.0. I also had some questionable items on my transcript (a withdrawal, random F’s, etc.) that I had no clear answer for. To make matters worse, my grades on my transcript trended downwards.

For the GMAT, I received a 710-730. I’m not an URM. I’m from the US.

RESULTS
I applied to 3 schools in the Rank 10-15 range in October and 1 school in the same range in November. I received interview invites from all 4, accepted to my top two choices, waitlisted at my third choice, and accepted to my fourth. For Round 2, I applied to just one M7 school and was accepted.

TIMELINE
- I started to look at business schools in January
- Prepared for the GMAT from January - April
- Contacted Critical Square at the end of June
- Took me all of July to slowly churn out answers to their extensive questionnaire, as well as polish my resume
- Submitted the first draft of my essay by the third week of August — I pretty much spent the bulk of that time working on that draft. It took forever. I also spent a decent portion of August preparing an extensive outline for my recommenders. This was also the time when I began to conduct the first of many informational interviews with students and alums.
- By the end of September, I had turned in my 5th draft. Overall, for my comprehensive package I did a total of 9 + 8 drafts with my target school. For my other three schools in Round 1, I did on average 4 drafts.

HOW I FOUND OUT ABOUT CRITICAL SQUARE
Not coincidentally, I found out about CS by reading reviews on the “Best Admissions Consulting Companies - 2015 Season” thread. I liked the content of the reviews for Critical Square best. Ultimately, I did free consultation calls with 3 different companies, and personally liked CS’ pitch best. Bhavik was honest and pointed out some flaws in my profile that I needed to work on. He also told me that I didn’t need to retake the GMAT (I was seriously considering it) and that I did a good job taking continuing education classes in quant, but didn’t need to do anymore of that. I found Bhavik’s pitch to stress me out and reassure me on my prospects at the same time, a good combination as I got a decent reality check but also encouragement on my chances.

Full disclosure on my Critical Square review: They asked me to write a review for them, but due to the abundance of time I have at work, I decided to merge the review into an advice piece for anyone interested.

SERVICES HIRED
I paid for the full comprehensive package, and 5 hours worth of the hourly service. I also paid for a one-hour mock interview session (in addition to the 2 mock interview practices that come with the comprehensive package).

Bhavik was not my consultant; I was partnered up with a consultant related to the industry I came from (and wanted to go into). I was actually disappointed about this at first, as I had mentally expected Bhavik to be my consultant. However, my new consultant turned out to be the better choice due to her expertise in my field and story.

Rather than elaborate on Critical Square, I’ll cover the components in my application process individually and how Critical Square helped me in each component.

Again, much of my content is relatable to a professional in the creative industry, but not necessarily to people from more traditional backgrounds!

GMAT
If I were to go back in time, the #1 thing I would change is to spend less time studying for the GMAT and especially to reduce the amount of stress that I developed over it. My goal was to score 750 on the exam. I thought it was absolutely necessary to make up for my poor GPA and creative background. I was constantly stressed at how unprepared I was — I rescheduled and postponed my GMAT test date almost 4 times! In the end, I scored a bit less than 750 and was very disappointed.

However, I realize now that the GMAT score is merely a qualifier. Think of the GMAT as a single hurdle in a long race. You only need to clear it once, usually with a score above 700. Then you should spend the rest of the time focusing on what matters: the actual race. If you’re a pro athlete and clear the hurdle incredibly high, then good for you. But if you’re not, then it may not be worth the opportunity cost to train excessively at the expense of a **** race. It’s better to pace your energy and focus on what matters.

Critical Square’s Impact:
CS had nothing to do with my GMAT score of course. However, they did impress upon me that I didn’t need a 750 score, and I’m glad I listened to them. If I had listened to them earlier in the year, I would have saved myself from significant periods of stress and anxiety.

By the way, the study resources I used were a combination of GMAT Pill, the source books/questions, MGMAT, and dutiful excel tracking.

GPA
I knew my GPA would be an issue, and was fortunate to realize early that I should create an alternative transcript to balance my poor GPA. From January to September, I took 6-8 quantitative courses through a continuing education program (at a well-known university). 2 of these classes were in the classroom; the rest were online. I made sure to get only A and A+ grades in all of them.

One tip I have is to take as many online classes as you can, because they’re easier and take less time away from your work. However, double check with the institution to see if the transcript will reveal whether your classes were online or not. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my transcript didn’t distinguish between online and in-person classes.

In the end, I feel my alternative transcript, plus a well-written Optional Essay, definitely made up for my poor GPA and undergrad transcript.

Critical Square’s Impact:
Nothing, except tell me that I had taken more than enough classes LOL.

RESUME
First of all, I didn’t even have a real “traditional” resume to begin with. Again, creative professional — I never needed a resume to find work in my industry. For my preliminary draft, I had to dust off a copy that I had from undergrad!

My consultant asked me to write down stories of my biggest successes or accomplishments in my line of work. I spent about 6 hours (actual time spent writing was less than this) to produce a 10 page document that detailed my stories. For my first draft, I incorporated these stories and accomplishments into my resume. Overall, from late July to September, my resume went through about 6 drafts with my consultant.

Critical Square’s Impact:
Transformative is one word I would describe my resume. Critical Square transformed a crappy, poorly formatted resume that I pulled out of my undergrad years into a polished resume with intriguing examples and accomplishments that made me appear to be a business expert. My resume made a huge qualitative leap from my first and second draft, when my consultant essentially transferred my first revision into their resume template. From there, we only had to tweak words and phrases gradually over time.

MAIN ESSAYS
Before I start, I should give some background about my work ethic as a writer. First, I consider myself to be a decent writer, but not amazing. Second, I get mired in the details, to a fault. I’m extremely verbose — as you can tell from this post, LOL! In fact, my consultant told me multiple times to whittle down the details — she even quoted me, “Follow this rule: Brevity is the soul of wit.” Third, I’m an intense reviser. There are times when I revise a sentence 5-10 times before I am satisfied and move on to the next. It’s a headache, but I can’t help it.

My constant self-revision improved my writing, but at the cost of personal time. For the first draft of my target school (that I worked with my consultant), I spent about 4 entire days in a cafe. Most of that time was writer’s block/bashing the table with my head. Later drafts got better: my second draft was about 1 entire day in a cafe, and drafts afterwards took only hours. When I began the essays for my other schools, I also took significantly less time than my first school.

Several comments on my writing process. I don’t claim this to be even efficient or effective, but I hope this is of use to anyone out there who is just starting:

1. Before I did anything, I took the Harvard paperback of model MBA essays and meticulously outlined every essay that pertained to the prompt that I needed to answer. I studied the structure in every essay, all the transitional phrases, and business jargon that I liked.

2. Once I had a firm grasp of what I thought a model essay should look like, I slowly molded my outline to the best elements that I found in my research. I then wrote my first draft. I thought it was pretty decent.

3. My consultant read my first draft and completely threw it out the window. It was shocking at the time but makes perfect sense to me now.

4. The second to the sixth draft comprised of smaller and smaller adjustments and tweaks. Besides my second draft, I’d say my seventh draft made the biggest qualitative leap. After my sixth draft, I turned in essays for my other two schools, which I independently researched and wrote new essays for. This gave me two whole weeks away from my original essay — time that gave me a fresh perspective and allowed me to improve my essay even more.

Here are my takeaways:
1. Your first draft will always be crap. It’s a famous Hemingway quote, and it’s a truth of writing.

2. The more drafts you can write, the better. My top choice school had 9 and 8 drafts for each essay; school #2 had 4 and 3 drafts; school #3 had 5 drafts; school #4 had 3 and 3 drafts. Keep revising — my final drafts all looked so much better and looked nothing like my first.

3. Force yourself to write. Despite long work hours, I still found time to spend days in the cafe. Many hours were wasted on writer’s block. It is painful and sucks. Still, you need to commit and write.

4. Finish early and give your essay time to breathe. Work on other essays, which may dredge up the little nuggets that can improve your main essay further. I finished my sixth draft two weeks before the deadline, then worked on other school essays. When I finished, I had refined enough other material that my seventh draft made a noticeable qualitative leap.

5. Keep an open mind, but remember that your consultant doesn’t have the final say. For all my drafts, I mostly adopted my consultant’s advice and edits. However, I ended up revising my short and long term goals, as well as my “Why MBA” theme, to be slightly different from the original strategy session. My consultant had no objections to this, as my changes were better researched than the original ideas.

There were also a few minor details that we debated on that didn’t really impact the overall shape of the essay. A little debate is healthy, but a lot is counterproductive. However, in my final two edits I did find myself sneaking in phrases that were cut and inventing new ones that I liked. In fact, all my final drafts had last minute changes that didn’t mirror my consultant’s final revision exactly. If you really feel strongly about something, then trust your instincts.

6. There is always a way to stick to word limits, though sometimes it may be worth it to cheat. Through constant revision, I always found a way to cut my words down. However, there were a few exceptions for 1 or 2 schools where I went over the limit slightly because I felt strongly on a few phrases. I always stayed within 5% of the total count.

7. Find outside help. This goes without saying, and is especially important if you don’t use a consultant and are not a natural talent and genius. Despite my most meticulous efforts at self-revision, my essays always improved the most with outside feedback.

Critical Square’s Impact:
For my comprehensive package, I did a total of 17 drafts, 21 if you include the optional essay. I received great feedback on each. I paid for 5 more hours and received feedback on a total of 13 drafts. I will let the numbers speak for themselves.

OPTIONAL ESSAY
This was necessary to explain not only my GPA, but also the many questionable details on my transcript, which included a withdrawal, random F’s, and other glaring details too complicated to mention here.

I remember the first night when I sat down to review my transcript and figure how to approach the optional essay. I was overcome with self-doubt and worry, and my confidence completely left me. I even scheduled a call with my consultant in panic, who reassured me in a succinct way that it wasn’t a big deal.

Fortunately, I realized I overreacted and hammered out my first draft. The content was way off mark and my consultant told me how to restructure it before she would begin to edit it. My second draft was better, but I had to rethink the second half — it was more like a work of prose than a business school essay. In the end I did 4 drafts.

Critical Square’s Impact:
I have to stress the importance of getting outside help on your optional essay, particularly if you have some sensitive matters to address in your academics or transcript. The optional essay is incredibly tricky — every decision you make in terms of word choice or excuses or explanations can send you off course and make the wrong impression. My consultant helped me restore a strong sense of maturity, wisdom and purpose to my optional essay that I had difficulty conveying (or was obscured by unneeded language and prose). My essay ended up making a strong impression of my drive rather than a sorry excuse to cover up my faults.

RECOMMENDATION
I definitely overcompensated and invested more effort preparing my recommenders than the average applicant. Keep in mind that my recommenders also have a creative background — they have no idea what a quality business school recommendation looks like. I decided to create an “outline packet” for each of my recommenders. The packet contained an introduction about the message and themes I wanted the recommendation to convey, and an outline that detailed the structure, content and examples that my recommenders could cherry pick at their convenience (which came from research and meticulously breaking down examples of good recommendations that I read).

To put things into perspective, the first draft of my outline was TWELVE PAGES. PER PERSON. Yes, I spent a lot of time on this.

My consultant impressively read every single page and commented on everything. I actually felt some guilt about this LOL. My consultant told me that I was way too detailed (a weakness of mine in the entire application process). I whittled down the outlines over 3 more drafts. My consultant reviewed those too.

Fortunately, I know my recommenders well and they truly believe in the impact that I make at work. They were surprised to receive a huge packet of information but were later grateful to have quality material to reference. However, I wouldn’t recommend my strategy to people who don’t know their recommenders well, or people who work in traditional business environments who might think you’re crazy.

My suggestion to applicants who have recommenders with non-business background is to prepare your recommenders as much as humanly possible. Your recommenders should put your analytical, managerial and people skills into perspective in ways that you could never convey well enough in your essays. For example, unlike a management consultant, it is much less straightforward explaining how your excellence as a public school teacher improves the entire organization and helps save the bottom line.

Critical Square’s Impact:
It was my idea to create the packet; I don’t think CS would ever recommend the applicant to dump a 6 page outline on their recommenders. However, I have to credit CS for helping me shape the structure of my outline and comment on my examples. My consultant read through everything I had without complaining once, even though this was not traditionally part of my package deal with the company.

EXTRACURRICULARS
Not much to say here without getting real specific. My extracurriculars were pretty weak/non-existent. I started to volunteer at the start of 2015 in 1-2 activities that were relevant to my experience. I thought this could be a negative factor in my admissions but it didn’t seem to have made much of an impact. My advice to those who lack activities and are stressing out about it: do your best to find relevant volunteer experience, try to find opportunities to lead (I got lucky and managed this), and manipulate the circumstances to reflect your activities as best as possible on the app.

Critical Square’s Impact:
None.

INFORMATIONAL INTERVIEWS
Prior to my application journey, I had no idea what an informational interview even was. I quickly learned how important they were early in the process. I spent days scouring Linkedin to find people with similar backgrounds who attended these schools (not easy given my background). Ultimately, I interviewed 23 people across 4 schools — more at my target and less at my bottom ranked school. I started in August and was still talking to people until the final week. Oh yeah, my interviews were terrible at first — I sounded very dumb and full of “umm and uhhs”. But I got better over time, so don’t be afraid to jump into it if you are new to this.

Your strategy will vary. You might want to interview alums in the industry that you want to move into. I did the opposite — I found it more useful to identify people from my background who then became students (most of whom exited my industry). For every student, I took copious notes that I reused in my essays and my interviews. This is important. Your ability to ask good questions and remember their information will really set you apart in the application.

Critical Square’s Impact:
My consultant encouraged me to contact the board officers of clubs I was interested; at the time I hadn’t started yet, so it was nice to have a push. My consultant also volunteered to do a 10 minute mock phone call with me before my first informational, which was awesome. I honestly doubt there are many consulting services out there that will just offer their time like this.

INTERVIEWS
First, I used MBADataGuru (check out his blog) as the basis of the questions I needed to prepare for. I then wrote out long-form answers to all these questions. I then memorized all my answers. Next, I had a mock interview with my consultant and an additional mock interview (that I paid for) with a partner at Critical Square (because I didn’t feel ready enough), before doing my first interview with my third-ranked school.

My strategy had issues. First, my long form answers had too many details. Second, my memorization of these answers made my answers too long and mechanical. This ended up impacting my first interview because I failed to timely address some important fit questions (I automatically went into my “Why MBA” speech instead of “Why X School?” when the latter was asked). I think this interview performance is the main reason I got waitlisted with the school.

While I prepared for my next two interviews, I decided to shorten my answers. I also had more time to rethink and rewrite my answers. Most importantly, I devoted more time to practice my answers enough times that I could deliver them 100% fluidly and conversationally. As a result, I ended up nailing my two interviews (in my opinion) — constant eye contact, smiling, and fluid delivery to every question that didn’t sound like memorization.

In the end, I found that long-form memorization + intense repetitive practice worked out for me. But this was very time intensive, and I don’t think it works for everyone.

Critical Square’s Impact:
Personally, I didn’t see as much of a qualitative transformation from my mock interview practice than in other parts of my application. The advice they gave me was high quality and useful, but it didn’t directly make me a better interviewer. I feel I interviewed better after much further revision of my answers, practice of my answers, and finally comfort in my answers.

CONCLUDING REMARKS
My application journey required me to invest a lot of time and research. I tended to overcompensate for every aspect of my application due to the stress I felt from having a “disadvantage” as a creative professional. In the end, I think my unique background, interesting story, and super-tight essays/recommendations motivated schools to accept me. YMMV, but I hope some of my insights have been useful.

For those people who are concerned about dropping 3-5G’s on a consultant, I’ll say that the 21 draft edits (plus 13 from the 5 hour package), 6 resume edits, 3 recommendation packet reviews, and 2 mock interviews by my consultant was more than enough to make every dollar spent worth it. I just looked at my Outlook inbox — I have exchanged 119 emails with my consultant. Yes, if you have your **** together and know a group of MBA alums who can mentor you, then you probably don’t need a consultant. But no alum or friend would be able to invest the level of effort in you as my consultant did.

If you have any questions please leave a reply and I’ll respond to the best of my ability. Best of luck to all Round 3 applicants and beyond!

Originally posted by MBACreative on 11 Jan 2016, 19:12.
Last edited by MBACreative on 04 Jul 2016, 16:35, edited 1 time in total.
Founder
Founder
User avatar
V
Joined: 04 Dec 2002
Posts: 16975
Location: United States (WA)
GMAT 1: 750 Q49 V42
GPA: 3.5
GMAT ToolKit User Premium Member CAT Tests
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 14 Jan 2016, 12:17
Thank you for posting and sharing! Which schools did you get into?
Ross, Fuqua, Anderson, Johnson, Stern, Yale?
_________________

Founder of GMAT Club

Just starting out with GMAT? Start here...
OG2019 Directory is here!
Want to know application stats & Profiles from last year? Check the Decision Tracker

Co-author of the GMAT Club tests

Intern
Intern
avatar
Joined: 11 Feb 2015
Posts: 5
Reviews Badge
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 14 Jan 2016, 15:15
No problem bb! Sorry to be vague, but yes, I was accepted to 3 schools on your list (Ross, Fuqua, Anderson, Johnson, Stern, Yale), and wait-listed for one. Let's just say my top two schools that I got into were not Johnson or Anderson.
Intern
Intern
avatar
Joined: 19 Jan 2016
Posts: 3
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 19 Jan 2016, 16:32
Wow, thank you for the incredibly detailed post. Can you share what quant coursework you did to boost your non-quant background? Which classes did you take online and which did you do on campus?

Thank you again!
Intern
Intern
avatar
Joined: 11 Feb 2015
Posts: 5
Reviews Badge
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 22 Jan 2016, 13:54
I took a combination of Accounting, Economics, Statistics, Calculus and two finance related classes (at the time I wanted to enter finance when I got into bschool, but I've changed my mind since). I did all my classes online except the accounting class and a finance related class. My consultant thought this was overkill but I think more classes didn't hurt me, as it shows commitment. I think what was more important was that I emphasized my classes in my optional essay and how committed I was to a structured education, a commitment I would bring to my time at bschool.
Intern
Intern
avatar
Joined: 11 Feb 2015
Posts: 5
Reviews Badge
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 22 Jan 2016, 13:56
Another thing I would add is that I thought the classes were relatively easy. This is coming from someone whose last quantitative class was Calculus in high school. I think anyone who can get a 700+ on the GMAT or score decently on quant can easily get the A's if you aren't a complete slacker. There was a bit stress (since I knew it was all A's or bust) but the structure of the online classes make it really hard for you to mess up, if you do your due diligence and prepare.
Intern
Intern
avatar
Joined: 19 Jan 2016
Posts: 3
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 22 Jan 2016, 14:11
Thank you! Incredibly helpful, really appreciate you sharing your experience. Hope I can pay it forward in the same way sometime soon.
Intern
Intern
avatar
Joined: 24 Jan 2016
Posts: 5
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review  [#permalink]

Show Tags

New post 24 Jan 2016, 11:05
You might want to also check out this course on Udemy called Ace the MBA Application that has very detailed advice that can be a handy tool as you go through the process! Just $30 to have some awesome videos and examples handy, some of my friends found it really useful during their prep.
GMAT Club Bot
Re: M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review &nbs [#permalink] 24 Jan 2016, 11:05
Display posts from previous: Sort by

M7/T15 Admits as a Creative Professional: Advice + Consultant Review

  new topic post reply Update application status  

Moderator: Hatakekakashi



Copyright

GMAT Club MBA Forum Home| About| Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy| GMAT Club Rules| Contact| Sitemap

Powered by phpBB © phpBB Group | Emoji artwork provided by EmojiOne

Kindly note that the GMAT® test is a registered trademark of the Graduate Management Admission Council®, and this site has neither been reviewed nor endorsed by GMAC®.