So it’s been exactly ten days since I unloaded a huge weight off my back by hitting the 700 GMAT mark–if only by a hair.
Though I am about 85% sure to go for a retake, my “700 Club” status has decreased the pressure of this whole process to the point that I’m actually enjoying it for a change. Even the light GMAT review that I’ve been doing lacks the constrained, edgy feeling that it had when I wondered if I’d ever be able to break into the top 10% of test takers on the ever so cryptic GMAT exam.
After close to a week of rest from ANYTHING related to business school, I jumped head first (or perhaps it was with both feet?) into essay mode several days ago.
My 2012-2013 Application Strategy: To Chicago or Not to Chicago
In my application strategy (DISCLAIMER: subject to change based on changes of heart, cash flow and/or preferred admissions status) I have the 9 schools that are currently on my list split unevenly between Round 1 and Round 2. The current version of my strategy has me applying to all non-Chicago schools in Round 1 and the Chicago schools in Round 2.
There are two reasons for this seemingly random division. The first is that while I’m intrigued by the Chicago-area business schools (Booth and Kellogg), I really need to take some time to learn more about them both. Applying during December/January will allow me that time. And should I move forward with applying to both and be fortunate enough to be offered an interview from Chicago Booth (the Kellogg interview is mandatory for all who wish to be accepted), I can accomplish both interviews on one round trip plane ticket.
The second reason is that I haven’t wrapped my head around the idea of being in Chicago just yet. Intellectually, I am pretty sure that I would like it if I ended up there based on what I have heard from friends who live and used to live there. Nevertheless, I’ve always been a beach/coast person and will really need to experience “The Chi” in person before I can realistically envision myself not living next to an ocean; an NO, Lake Michigan doesn’t count.
My Round 1 MBA Admissions Splits
The 7 seven schools that I plan to apply to in Round 1 are broken up into two groups: Consortium schools and non-Consortium schools. My Consortium picks are Berkeley Haas, Darthmouth Tuck and Yale SOM. My non-Consortium R1 schools are MIT Sloan, Wharton, Stanford and HBS.
Since the Consortium R1 deadline is not until mid-November (you can apply to up to 6 consortium schools on one application) and some Consortium Schools (like Tuck) consider all Consortium candidates in one big block in the spring after Rounds 1 and 2 have passed, it makes the most sense to tackle my non-Consortium apps first.
The non-Consortium app deadlines break down as follows:
September 24 – HBS
October 1 – Wharton
October 3 – Stanford
October 24 – MIT
I have this crazy goal to try and get the essays for all four of these schools done by August–and by “done” I mean strong working drafts to tweak and iterate–but mostly done. We’ll see how pie in the sky that goal is (or isn’t) in a few weeks. Of course I know that each essay is likely to see many incarnations and tons of revisions, but I’d like to have the foundation–the MEAT–locked down early so that I won’t have to sweat about this part of my app at the last minute. I’ll also need plenty of time to work on my essays for the 3 Consortium schools prior to November and won’t want to be rushed on those, either.
MBA Essays in Fits and Starts
I had this delusional thought about a week ago; I thought, “hey, if i knock out my Stanford What Matters Most to You and Why essay first and get all connected with my inner purpose, that’ll make all of my other essays a shoe in for epic execution!”
Emmm…Not so Much.
I crashed and burned on my first 4-5 attempts at that essay. I temporarily abandoned it somewhere between my friend and Stanford GSB alum screaming “you’re not digging DEEP enough!” via text and Cheeterah1980 [basically] telling me “If you write another essay like that don’t ever speak to me again. Stop confusing good writing with good business school essays; they are not one in the same.“
I switched gears and decided to kick things off with my goals essays, since the material is the most straightforward and the content will be the most repetitive between schools since attending a different program does not change your goals. After some strain, strife and painful revision I can say that I’m moderately proud of the current versions of my Wharton and Stanford goals essays.
I plan to finish Wharton’s essays first since their questions are the most standard and straightforward overall ; that’s good practice for getting the basic formulas and rhythms down before having to veer off the beaten path with less traditional essay questions. Kellogg is also good for this if you are applying during the first round. MIT’s essays are the next most straightforward, so I’ll tackle those after Wharton.
By then, my Stanford essay wounds should be healed enough to take another swing at their main question. I also read some advice that doing other essays before that one could help one gain additional insights and ideas (so it’s the opposite of what I originally thought). However, if any essay puts a match and gasoline to my August goal date of 4 sets of working drafts, I imagine that will be the one.
I’ll wrap up this first group with Harvard Essays for one reason and one reason only–word count. To ask a writer to convey all that he needs to convey within two 400 word essays is like forcing the comedian Katt Willliams to “keep it clean”; its a painful stretch that just won’t work under normal circumstances. By saving the HBS essays for 4th, I hope that all of the previous writing that I will have completed will have sharpened my ability to spit out concise, compelling essays without a word to spare.
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