Saturday, May 23, 2009
Now that I have made this information public to my peers at my company, I am proud to announce that I am headed to the MMM program at Northwestern University, a dual degree program that will lead me to the MBA degree from Kellogg and a MEM degree from McCormick School of Engineering.
The application process for business school has been long and frustrating, but immensely rewarding. A few 'things' were invaluable in helping me get through it:
1. Friends and advisors - Several friends and mentors from work, my undergraduate college, the TiE Leadership program and at other business schools helped me with various aspects of the application: developing my story, reviewing my essays, preparing for my interview, and connecting me with current students and alumni of the schools I was applying to. And of course, my fiancee and other friends who kept me in good spirits as I was getting depressed doing the 10th round of the Why MBA essay.
2. Time - There is no substitute to starting early, and giving yourself enough time to do the essays. I had taken the GMAT a while ago, so that wasn't a problem. I concentrated only on the essays, and developed and changed my story several times. Ultimately, the applicaton process was an exercise in marketing myself, and plenty of time to craft the story helped quite a bit. Also applying in the second round to several schools helped. My Kellogg application was actually my last application, and I feel that I had been able to refine it on because of all the time I had. This brings up an important point - the perennial 1st round vs 2nd round debate. I strongly feel that both rounds are the same for most schools, and one need not submit a hurried Round 1 application.
3. Talking to current students and alumni - Doing this helped me really understood what each school stood for, beyond the brochures. It helped me understand Kellogg's social culture, Ross's laid-back students, and Wharton's rigor. Of course I did not get in everywhere, but gave it a good shot nevertheless.
4. Taking time off - Business school essays can be extremely taxing. Like in most creative endeavors, one needs to mix periods of extreme focus with periods of fun. Working too hard can be pretty harmful
5. Not listenening to everyone - Everyone has an opinion that they would share with you. If you are a B School applicant, you are reading my opinion right now. Listen to everyone, but then do your own thing. You know yourself best. I heard several conflicting opinions, and ultimately stuck with what I felt was right.
6. Energy during the interview - By nature, I am laid back in my social interactions. While this works well for me in several situations (helping me come across as an approachable person, for example), it wasn't the best strategy for the interview. My mentor, Anupendra, pushed me several times on this aspect, and challenged me to express my passion for the school when I interviewed. It clearly helped; my Kellogg interview was by far the best, and really helped me get through.
7. Not going to the Businessweek forums - they are evil! Avoid them like they plague, they will just make you nervous. I started going to the forums for a while in between, and stopped once I realized how I had become part of a group of panicky,nervous Type-A applicants who get pissed off and have useless arguments utilizing the anonimity that the internet provides us.
8. Why MBA? Why this school? - I struggled till the end in getting these questions answered in a concise, believeable, and interesting manner. Ultimately, I feel that I got accepted to the schools, which had special aspects that linked well to my career goals, background and personality. A great book that helped me craft this message was Made to Stick.