Tuesday, April 24, 2007

BoB results

The BoB 2006-2007 results are out.

Rungee topped the applicant bloggers list and Angel Angie topped the student bloggers list. They both get beautiful 30GB Video iPods. Many congratulations to both of them :)

Well, I stand second in the applicant bloggers list.

Special congratulations to Juggler, Divine Miss N and From Cali for their standings in their respective lists (and the BW/Economist subscription) and all the others who made it to the list in both the sections.

The entire list is available here.

Thanks to ClearAdmit, everyone who voted for me and the many others who've supported me all through the MBA application season.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Orange and Maroon Effect day

Virginia Tech alumni have declared today, the 20th of April 2007, as a national Orange and Maroon Effect day, to honor those who lost their lives in the VTech shootout and the many others who have been directly and indirectly affected by the incident.

On this day, individuals are requested to wear Orange and Maroon, the Virginia Tech colors.

So the blog wore Orange and Maroon for the weekend...

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The VTech shootout

A lot has been said about the shootout in all possible media. What happened is a totally unfortunate event and the loss of so many lives is definitely an irreparable damage. I can only say the families of the deceased are not alone in this moment of grief. They are not alone. The whole world is praying - with them, for them.

The list of victims is out. As tvu mentions in his latest post, please do take some time and read the list. The list at least serves as a snapshot of what a mindless act of an individual can do to the harmless world. The shattered dreams, the broken hopes, the lives that ended before they began and the books that never saw the last chapter!!! Reading the list was my way to pay my respects!!!

You can register your condolences, thoughts or prayers, in this memorial site maintained by the university.

As a closing note, i would like to quote these words from the speech given by award-winning Tennessee poet and Virginia Tech professor Nikki Giovanni, during the prayer service conducted in the Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech today:

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy..."

The transcript of the speech is present here.

My vote is in...

I just sent a mail to ClearAdmit with my votes for the BoB 2007. The deadline, to submit the votes, is on Friday and the results will be out on next Tuesday, 24th of April.

Needless to say, I just cant wait to see the results :)
All the best to all the BoB nominees in both applicant and student categories!!!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The BoB vote ballot

As a nominated Blogger, i was asked to fill the BoB 2007 ballot by the ClearAdmit team. The mail with the ballot reached me on 6th April and i have been trying to fill it ever since.

The list of nominees is long - 25 applicant bloggers and 25 student bloggers. As one would expect, i have been following most of the applicant blogs. So making my votes here was kind of easy. I still had to make some hard decisions in certain categories - especially the 3 nominations for the best blogs. Finding the "Best Single post by an applicant" was another difficult vote. But i have finished it.

I haven't been reading too many student blogs. I have definitely read a few posts from all nominees, but I certainly haven't been reading all the posts of all the nominated students blogs. Since i dont wanna make a so-so job with this, i am trying to read all these blogs completely before i decide my votes. This is taking a loooooong time and i have only finished 10 of the 25 student blogs.

I hope i can finish this soon.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Tourist? Me?? GSB says No!!!

Well - this is what arrived via USPS (with a bit of help from the Indian Postal Service) this morning.

The package is the first in a series of post enrollment material. This packet basically has a "Welcome to GSB. Glad you enrolled. You will have a great time here." letter, and a huge load of information on the various housing options we have in Chicago.

We can choose between Graduate housing or Private housing. Graduate housing includes houses around the school/university campus which are allotted by the University, the New Graduate Residence Hall and the International House.

For those who opt for private housing, the packet has materials to help us learn about the various Chicago neighborhoods. The Not For Tourists Guide tops them all. It has got lots of information, maps, pics etc etc.

I am yet to read the guide, just skimmed through it once. I thought I'd drop a line before I go on a virtual Chicago tour :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

And thus, I become a mentee

Chicago GSB has an organized mentor program, where the admits get the opportunity to select first year students as their mentors.

Many first-year students participate in the Mentor Program, and they answer questions we have about the GSB experience, such as choosing classes, conducting a job search, or getting involved in student activities. Basically to leverage the experience they've had over the last few months. The school also uses a open system, where we can view profiles of all mentors and select the one who fits our requirements.

After shortlisting profiles and trading mails, today i finalized my Mentor.

He is an American by origin (though his name suggests he is an Asian), been in Tech Consulting for six years before coming to GSB and currently has a summer internship with a Bulge Bracket Investment Bank.

Perfect :)

Monday, April 09, 2007

The Personal Interview

You've spent hours investigating about prospective schools;
You've practiced hard for around 3 months to get that kick-ass GMAT score;
You've toiled for weeks to write those essays and fill the applications to schools;
All of these to reach this point, the point where you have a chance to present yourself, in person, front of the school, and say "I belong".

An invite for an interview gives two signals:
  • We are interested in you - Good job with the apps!!!
  • We want to evaluate you - Tough work ahead!!!
As much as the invite appreciates the efforts you have put into your essays and applications, the interview is a note to say "Come show us what you've got." So it is essential that you meet the interviewer as a well prepared person, confident in what he is and what he says. Generally there will be enough time (a week or two) between the invite and the interview. Use this time efficiently and you should be able to ace the interview. A bad interview will not necessarily bring forth a ding, but a good interview is a significant step forward in getting an admit.

In my opinion, the amount of time we dedicate towards preparing for an interview makes it a success or failure.

Preparing for the MBA admissions interview is both simple and difficult. It is simple because most of the questions are standard and many people post their experiences online (please refer the Clearadmit Wiki and the Accepted.com interview page), which makes only a part of the interview unknown. It is difficult because the interviewer knows this too and would like to see how much you have worked on these "known" aspects and how you handled the "unknown" aspects as and when he throws them at you.

Considering this, preparation becomes all the more important. It is important to make as much of the interview "known" as it is possible. I created a document where i gathered all possible questions - from the resources mentioned above and numerous blog posts about recent and older interviews. I thought, if i prepare answers for all these questions my preparation will cover most of what the interviewer would ask me. Then i typed out answers for each of them, in bullet points. They were always at the back of my mind and i added points to them as and when i had a brain wave. In time, this grew into an exhaustive collection of points i would present in front of the interviewer. Remember, these are not actual answers which i would later vomit to the interviewer. That is suicide :) These are just a collection of points.

The list could be really long. But once you have decided that the list is good enough, try to read the answers as many times as possible. The points will stick to your mind and will even help u answer some of the surprise questions. I had 8 page documents for both my interviews and more than 2 pages of these documents had points for the question - "why this school". I am sure i only mentioned half the points while i actually answered the question. But if u can give one page full of information in the interview, for a core question like this, it is good enough. So my preparation was just to prepare this document and then keep on reading it. Once i was comfortable with the points in the document, i started to answer the questions aloud - while i was in the bed, while i was riding my bike to work, while i had free time. Now that you don't have a fixed structure, this is difficult initially but you'll find the right answer eventually. Now you can handle all those known questions in the interview. For the unknown, just remember the points and use the mind, be flexible, come out with something on the spot. The preparation helps here. I had to tackle random questions in both my interview and i could handle all of them because i had so many surplus points to discuss about.

There is this huge discussion about the correct dress for an interview. Don't try to be cool. I would say, dress for the venue of the interview. If you are meeting in a coffee shop, I'd suggest formal trousers and shirts. If you are meeting in workplace, wear a suit. If it is a hub interview, definitely wear a suit. Read the fine print of the invitation letter. See if the school specifies the attire. Chicago GSB stresses on formal wear. If you have any doubt, it is not wrong to ask the interviewer. Remember, it is always okay to over dress.

Also - make sure you carry necessary material to the interview. Printouts of your resume and the data sheet in the online application are essential. Also carry some blank sheets, just in case. And please carry them in a file.

Now, to the actual interview itself. Put yourself in the position of the interviewer and try to imagine the kind of person you would recommend to the AdComm. And then, be that person. Show you are prepared, but not rehearsed. Don't recite lines from memory. Speak them as you'd do in a normal conversation. Show your confidence. With enough preparation, you should feel confident. If you don't know something, say you don't know. That's confidence too. Be friendly. Smile when get a chance to. Crack a harmless joke, if you get a chance to do it. Be careful of the type of joke you make. If you aren't sure, forget the joke. Show your interest and involvement in the interview. Listen when the interviewer speaks. Ask follow up questions, only if you have genuine ones. Your question should make him speak more, not less. Show your love for the school, and the love for your passions, in the enthusiasm with which you discuss them. It should seep through your words and gestures, and be there as a constant, for the interviewer to see. Overall, you should come across as a person who will be a valuable addition to the class and a person who is capable of and prepared to do whatever it takes to go and achieve those short and long term goals you mention in your essays. The interviewer should feel confident of you after that one hour. It is difficult, it is important, it is the essence of the interview.

Finish the interview with a "Thank you" and a firm handshake, irrespective of how the interview turned out to be. Convey the message that you appreciate the time he spent with you. They are busy people. Apart from a few rare cases, if the interview dint go well - we have enough responsibility for it not going well. And believe me, you never know how it went for all your life - because we always end up misjudging our performance :) As everyone says, send a "Thank you" note the next day. Then forget the interview and wait for the result day :)

Wait we all did and now wait for my next post, which will discuss about this waiting period :)

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Obtaining solid recommendations

The MBA application game is a tough one. On an average, people apply to at least three schools and with each school having three to six essays, apart from the data sheets one has to fill - it become a long tiresome effort to get an application ready. One has to have a good plan and then the discipline to execute the plan to complete the applications in time, so that they can go through cycles of review before being finally submitted.

But even the most meticulous of applicants will be vary of one particular part of the application - the Recommendations! Why? Because it is the only part of our application which we lay in the hands of others!

Recommendations are important. They help the AdComm learn about the applicant from a different perspective, from the view points of seniors or subordinates or peers - the people who have seen the applicant work with them on an everyday basis. So it helps them get a better understanding of the applicant, apart from what they get to see in the essays. So it is important to submit the best recommendations.

Before going on to see how we can submit strong recommendations, let us see how to pick the people who will give us strong recommendations. Big names don't sell. Schools say they get recommendations from Presidents and Prime Ministers of countries, and the applicants they recommend are not necessarily admitted. The big names might probably create a WOW factor, but what is important is the content in the Recommendations. If you directly report to the CEO of your firm, chances are he knows you better. You probably dine with him every Wednesday night and his recommendation will sell. But if the CEO happens to be a few steps higher in the corporate ladder and you have to wait in a queue to go meet him, getting a recommendation from him doesn't help you application, in fact it might work to the opposite. Your judgment will be questioned. Forget shooting so high. Skipping one or two levels in the hierarchy might also prove inefficient, simply because the Recommendation will not have enough content. So just as the schools suggest, the best thing to do will be to obtain recommendations from your immediate superiors.

But what if you don't want your superior to know your Bschool plans? Search for other prospective recommenders. Other senior members, clients, previous employers, superiors from previous projects - there could be many options. Schools understand this. So don't sweat. Please make sure you explain the reasons behind the choice of recommender, while you submit the application.

Also make sure you chose the person who will, in your opinion, give you a good recommendation. You are trying to put your best foot forward. So if you have had a heated exchange with one of your bosses, he is not going to be in a mood to "recommend" you to a Bschool. There are situations which prevent us from asking someone to recommend us. This is only fair. Bschool admissions are a marketing exercise - first the school markets them to catch our attention and then we market ourselves to get admitted. Making the right choice is very important. Only downright lying is bad - which i will discuss later.

Now that the recommenders have been chosen, it is important to help them to give you good recommendations. Do not assume anything. The biggest issue one would face here is that the recommenders, at least most of them in countries other than the US, are not so familiar with the US Bschool admission process. It is hence our responsibility to explain them the whole process and also the role they play in our applications, so that they know what is expected out of them. Also let them know that this would take a lot of time from their end. Writing the recommendations is not an easy deal. Talk to the recommenders about your Bschool plans, explain the Bschool admissions process, explain them how much time it would take and how many recommendations they will have to write - before you send the recommendation request. Just ensure that they know what they are doing before they agree to do it. Prevent surprises or shocks. You definitely don't want a half cooked recommendation! do u???

Once the recommenders agree and you send them the request, keep talking to them on regular basis. Keep them informed about the deadlines. Notice that the Bschools have different deadlines for applications and recommendations, and the recommendation deadlines are earlier than the application deadlines. So verify this and make sure the recommenders know how long they have. They are, in almost all cases, very busy people and need to know their time. If necessary, keep reminding them on timely basis - but don't end up irritating them. You know your recommenders, you should know how to handle them :)

Do not assume that they can bring back two year old incidents and quote them in the recommendations. Once you send them the recommendation request, follow it up with a meeting where you explain about the school, what the school stands for, the characteristics of the school and anything else which will help him provide a suitable recommendation. Also give the recommender a summary of the time you have been under him, or a summary of your professional career - in which you should provide brief explanations of key incidents and your
achievements in that time span. Ask him if anything is missing and add them to the list. This list is not to say "Question no:1 will talk about incidents a, c and e", but to help them make their recommendations more personal and interesting by quoting incidents of their choice. After the meeting, make sure you give them this list in a printed format and follow it up with an email of the same doc file, so that he need not type it all again. Make their life easy. They will appreciate it :)

At any cause, do not write your own recommendations. There could be many genuine reasons for the recommender to be not able to write his own recommendation. He could suddenly get busy, he could have language issues, he could end up traveling - many reasons. If you have no alternative (cannot find another recommender), get a friend to deal with the recommender and help him in writing it.

Some of the recommenders might want to see other parts of your application - like "why xyz school?" or "short term and long term career goals". You can either explain them these in a meeting or send them excerpts from your essays. Another way to help them get more clarity about what is happening and what is it that they are doing.

I have noticed that with enough information and timely remainders, this job becomes really easy and simple for both of us. If you find the right kind of people, they will be equally enthusiastic about helping you getting into your target Bschool and hence will submit really solid recommendations within the deadlines. If you provide the right kind of information to them, you are only helping your cause further by strengthening the recommendations.

Some say they are very important, some say they are least important - i say "who cares?" It is your application and the best thing you can do to strengthen your chances of getting into your target Bschool is to ensure that each part of your application is as strong as possible. So forget how strong it should be and only remember that it should be as strong as possible. Good recommendations say a lot about a candidate - you have someone to vouch for you, you have done good things in the eyes of your superiors and you have enough skills to manage the people and make them submit recommendations for you!!!

Friday, April 06, 2007

Nominated for the ClearAdmit - Best of Blogging award!

As they mentioned in their earlier post, ClearAdmit came out with the list of applicant and student bloggers who are in the race for the coveted Best of Blogging titles, in the respective categories, for the 2006-2007 application season.

It is a great feeling to find my blog listed under the applicants category, among all the other really good bloggers.

Juggler just made a post about the role Clearadmit played during the times we were working on our applications and i definitely second her words. They do a great job of recognizing the bloggers thru their weekly Fridays from the frontline posts and this is another wonderful thing they do. It is really like a pat on the back and encourages the bloggers to contribute with whatever they can!!!

All the best to all the nominees. I'm eagerly looking forward to the decision date.