Friday, December 31, 2004
Despite her rather low-key initial response, my mum was impressed and excited by my two acceptances. When I got to her house she was still struggling with which of Philadelphia and Pennsylvania was the state and which the city, but had found out that UPenn is Ivy League. Despite my attempts to explain that this doesn't necessarily mean much in terms of b-schools, she still seems to think that it's important. (From a parental bragging p.o.v., I think she's still a bit disappointed that I opted to do my undergrad at London rather than Cambridge. ) So when choosing between the two, it's clear where her vote goes.
I must say that Wharton is garnering itself in laurels when it comes to how admits are handled in a way which Kellogg currently is not. The on-line admit notice links straight into an admitted students portal, with information on welcome weekends, financial aid etc and a discussion forum similar to S2S, so you immediatley link into this community of other admits and current students. In addition, my admit package arrived this morning, sent by DHL. As well as the expected letters was information on Philly, a UPenn graduate student leaflet etc. And I've had three of four e-mails from current students. There's a very real sense that they are as happy and excited at the prospect of me studying there as I am.
In contrast, there's been nothing from Kellogg since the intial phone call and e-mail. OK, it' not their fault that they phoned the same day as Wharton, but everything has been very low key since then. I can't even log on to the admitted students area until I get my log-in information, which is in a letter currently making its way across the atlantic from Chicago. Fortunatley, I've got a rough Day at Kellogg timetable from someone on the Business Week boards, which meant I could plan travel.
Speaking of travel, my credit card has taken quite a battering booking flights and hotel rooms. I've negotiated some rather awkward time off so that I can go to the Wharton Social Impact Management Conference in two week's time. Although it means an extra flight, I'm interested to get a better pisture of this side of things at Wharton, and compared to the overall expenditure for an MBA, it dosn't cost too much. Fortunatley it's a cheapish time to be travelling to the north east US, and my airline allows you to sandwich flights together, so I've managed to avoid a Saturday night stay both for this trip and Winter Welcome. Hotwire.com got me a decent price at the Sheraton University City for the first trip. For Winter Welcome I'm going to be at the Hyatt Regency Penn's Landing, which is somewhat further away than I'd have liked, but a really good price from Priceline means I can afford to take cabs and still be in-pocket. For Day at Kellogg, I've booked a flight over to Washington Dulles (which seems to be the best place for connections, as I don't want to fly with any of the airlines that go direct) and will book the internal flight in a few days once I'm into the next credit card billing period. I'll sort out somewhere to stay then too. I did think about going for the 'stay with a student' option for Winter Welcome, but decided that a. it'd make more sense to be somewhere I can respond to my jet-lagged body clock without disturbing other people and b. because I'm still deciding between schools, having a bit more physical space to myself will let me think and reflect better.
Happy New Year to all. Good luck to everyone completing r2 applications, and my thoughts and prayers are with everyone copin with the effects of the earthquake and tsunami.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
Like so many people, I woke up on 26th December to news of the Tsunami which has hit South East Asia, South Asia and East Africa. Since then, each succesive news report seems to have brought reports of higher death tolls and greater distress.
While the full extent of the devestation is going to take time to emerge, what is clear is that there is a huge need for resources to provide immediate relief, and to rebuild in the longer-term.
The Red Cross has set up a Family Links service to help people separated in Thailand, Sri Lanka and India to make contact.
Below are links to some of the organisations involved in the relief efforts (many thanks to H0bb3s for sending lots of them to me). Please consider making a donation to help.
- International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
- Net Aid - match funding doubles the value of every $ given
- Prime Minister's National Releif Fund (India)
- Apeal from Sri Lanka via Reliefweb
- Care Australia
- Save the Children
- UK based agencies are now officially fundraising under the Disasters Emergency Committee umbrella
Many other national and international aid organisations will also be accepting donations.
There are also bloggers with further lists of relief organisations, contact number s for people working on the ground (if you're local and can get supplies directly to them):
- Tsunami Help
- A voyage to arcturus
- Ramdan Kothamaraja is collecting donations on line.
In the Malidives, the Divehi Observer has information on local needs.
Putting my fundraisers hat on, please take advantage of any tax efficient giving schmes that are available to you. If you receive tax credits for charitable donations, take account of the benefit you'll receive and use it to help you give more. If you're in the UK and a taxpayer, please give under the Gift Aid scheme, which will make every £1 you give worth an extra 28p to the charity, at no extra cost to yourself.
Also, please don't forget that there is still a huge need in the Sudan. In the UK, fundraising for this is being co-ordinated by the Disasters Emergency Committee.
Friday, December 24, 2004
Overdue congratulations to all the Wharton admits, to Wakechick for getting McCombs and Anderson offers and a Haas interview all in the same day, and to Michael for the Yale offer.
Merry Christmas to everyone who celebrates it and Happy Holidays to everyone celebrating something else.
I'm now going out to buy some socks!
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Hugely excitedby the Wharton acceptance, but the excitement was tempered by knowing that not everyone got great news. It's a real shame not to be able to share the elation with everyone who I've travelled this road with.
The silly grin stage really set in after I got a call from the admissions office, which along with saying lots of nice things about my application brought news of a scholarship. Enough to be significant, but not so much as to complicate decisions, which is good I think. By this point I'd already phoned my mum, who somehow hadn't grasped that I was hearing before Christmas (!). She was very congratulatory and then got on to the much more important business of lunch on Boxing Day (something to do with ducks, not quite sure what as my mind wasn't focussing). I had intended to get some work done this afternoon, but didn't manage it, so phoned/e-mailed people to pass on the news instead. I also did battle with my newly upgraded anti-virus, anti-span etc software, which seems to be going a bit overboard and refusing to let me send some messages - grrrr.
When the Kellogg call came I had a mouthful of pizza (having decided to order in as I probably wouldn't be safe in the kitchen) and had just about used up my quota of excitement for the day, so may not have sounded as enthusiastic as the person calling might have hoped. At the moment I'm feeling sort of 'intellectually excited' but emotionaly drained about it. Excitement proper will no doubt kick in once I get the admit pack, log in to the admitted students area etc. I haven't actually told any 'real world' people about Kellogg yet, as it just seemed to come as a bit of a post script.
So now the plan is to go to the admitted student events (think of the airmiles, try not to think of the cost) and make a decision after that. At the moment I don't have a definitive front runner. I'd have been thrilled to get just one acceptance, two is a bonus. If Stanford makes it three, that'll be a cherry on top. Whichever way, I know I'll be going somewhere great, and that's more than I knew eight hours ago.
At the risk of sounding like Gwynie at the Oscars, many thanks to everyone who's supported me through this process - all my fellow bloggers, everyone whose left comments, e-mailed me, or offered help and advice. This virtual community really is something special.
Just got the call from Kellogg :)
Off to find out how everyone else has got on.
Its slightly odd thinking that all the decisions have been made and are just waiting for 9am in Philly. Someone knows what answer is awaiting me, but I don't. I'm feeling remarkably calm at the moment, but I'm not sure how long it will last.
Good wishes and big hugs to everyone waiting.
Monday, December 20, 2004
I have given up all hope of being able to do anything constructive workwise tomorrow morning. Instead I'm going to write my Christmas cards. As tomorrow is the last posting date for Christmas, I'm hoping the deadline will focus my mind and keep it off 2pm.
23 hours, thirty minutes . . .
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Off to try and distract myself with cleaning.
I can't get this pressure point outta my head
I can't get this pressure point outta my head
I feel it in work ya know I feel it in bed
I can't get this pressure point outta my head
I've done the GMAT and the essays as well
Decisions are pending, there's nothin' to tell
So now all this pressure, didn’t understand
How bad it would get when this journey I planned
Doctor oh doctor I don’t need to learn
Why all of my bones, well they toss and they turn
Wharton oh Wharton I'm begging you please
To rid me of madness and cure this disease
Weary old soldiers we all have become
With all of this pressure our minds on the run
An ‘In!’ or a ding, guess its all for the best
Those decisions we want you to get off your chest
Alex oh Alex we’re begging you please
To rid us of madness and cure this disease
Wharton oh Wharton we just wanna learn
If it’s Philly next year where we’ll toss and we’ll turn
Pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure, pressure
Friday, December 17, 2004
Yes I am waiting, but I'd dispute the characterisation of 'nervous' or 'anxious :). I'm just waiting. As for the unproductive at work, reading blogs and messgae boards etc, well par for the course for the last few months really, except when work is manic enough to demand my complete and utter focus.
Whilst waiting in an non-nervous, non-anxious manner I've been really enjoying getting on with some of the non-B-school focussed elements of my life, many of which have picked up pace recently. I've been doing quite a bit of singing, stewarded at several concerts, and seen lots of frineds that I haven't been in touch with for a while. It's been a welcome dose of 'reality' and a reminder that things will be fine even if I get a hat-trick of dings.
OK, maybe I'm a little bit nervous and anxious.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
A couple of e-mails I've received from people have alluded to the 'fact' that 'non-profit' is an easier demographic to get into business school from than 'consultant' or 'investment banker'. I've been musing on this, and thought I'd share my thoughts.
The main argument for non-profit types having it easier relies on the belief that applicants are looked at in terms of groups, or pools, of applicants from a similar background. Because there are fewer of us applying than consultants, I-bankers or even, say, engineers, the argument goes that we are therefore in a less competitive ‘pool’ and so have a better chance of getting in. The search for diversity in the classroom must, I think, mean that there is degree to which professional background plays a part, although I’ve no idea to what extent. Even if we take it as a given though, I think the argument only stands up to a limited extent. I’ve no doubt that there are fewer non-profit types applying, but there are also fewer of us in business school classrooms. I’ve no idea what the applicant to admit ratio is for any professional background, but I suspect we’re looking at a pretty low ‘conversion’, even for non-profit types. So, if we are looked at in pools then non-profit applicants undoubtedly inhabit a smaller one, but one that it is still difficult to be picked from.
Another issue is that, if you’re a non-profit type looking to stay in non-profits post MBA, there is a limited number of schools to which you’re likely to be applying. Chances are you’re going to be interested in non-profit focused classes or activities. You’ll almost certainly be looking at scholarships and loan forgiveness programmes in order to make it financially viable. So the overall pool, whilst small, is likely to be concentrated in a few specific locations. Having said that, when it comes to the ‘why here’ bit of applications, non profit opportunities are certainly a concrete differentiator of a school, which helps. Of course, if you’re from a non-profit background and you’ve got a mission to bring a social conscience to the corporate world, or if you’ve seen the error of your ways and just want to make shed loads of money, then you’ve got more choice and might be more of an admissions novelty :)
Where I think non-profit types do have the biggest advantage is in the process which brings us to applying. MBAs aren’t the norm in the non-profit sector. If you’re from a non-profit background it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have worked along side a whole crowd of people with MBAs or that the qualification will be seen as the automatic next step on your career path. Chances are you won’t even have a career path, other than the one you’ve visualized for yourself. Nor is it likley to open doors that would be otherwise locked closed. So if you’ve reached the point of applying for an MBA you’re likely to have very well thought through reasons for ‘why MBA and ‘why now’, which puts you at an advantage compared to those people from traditional feeder industries who are mainly applying because it’s expected. (I’m not implying that all consultants etc only apply for that reason, just that some do.) Of course, if we go back to the ‘pool’ idea, this would mean that non-profit pools have a higher concentration of ‘quality’ applicants, upping the competition.
Ultimately, I think the reality is that schools have many, many more high quality applicants from all backgrounds than they have places. Looked at in terms of raw statistics, it’s difficult for any of us to get it, whether we’re a consultant, I-banker, fundraiser or Elbonian frog juggler. The challenge to all of us is to know ourselves and our reasons for wanting an MBA as well as we can, and then do our best to convey them to the adcoms. It’s then that statistics become meaningless, and we each become an individual in need one seat.
Please can I have one?
I've been seriously on this path for a year now, and in somewhere between one and five weeks time I'm going to know where the path is heading. It will be good to find out, even if it turns out not to be where I'm hoping.
Monday, December 13, 2004
The Wharton decision has moved up to the 21st. Suddenly 'a week tomorrow' seems awfully close.
There's a Kellogg student run session at some bar in London on the 20th. I'd already decided that I wasn't going to that, and certainly going to a Kellogg 'do' whilst trying to keep ones mind off Wharton seems like a bad idea. Instead I'm having a pre-Christmas meal out with friends. Beer and curry can help lull me to sleep on Monday, and then I can attempt to give the impression of doing some work on the Tuesday morning.
I know it's been less than 72 hours, but so far the post-interview waiting is proving to be much easier than the pre-interview experience. In that earlier period, I think it wasn't the waiting per se that was the problem, more the ever present anticipation. Once we knew invites were starting to go out there was a constant feeling of 'anything could happen in the next half hour', or the one after that, or the next one. Whereas now, I'm not on edge the entire time. The Wharton decision will come on the 23rd (or on a specified date of their choice), the Stanford one will be on January 18th. Kellogg is a bit more of a moveable feast, but I'm not expecting to hear anything before January, so can remain calm at least until then. It actually feels quite liberating to know that things are out of my hands.
Of course, this calm may have something to do with the fact that I still have a cold hanging over me. It's refusing to break out into full-blown coughs, sneezes etc, but is making my brain ache and meaning I need to work three times as hard at concentrating on anything, so there's little brain space left for worry. I'm also contending with broken heating in the office - the recoomended minimum temperature is 16 degrees celsius, and the thermometer by my desk is registering 11 degrees. I'm already wrapped in a pashmina and may have to go and find my coat soon. I wonder if I can type in gloves?
Friday, December 10, 2004
She explained that my applicati0on had already had two reads but that this was a blind interview (not all Kellogg phone interviews are I beleive). She asked me to talk about my current job and what I might do in a typical day, which is much more difficult than it sounds because I don't have a typical day and my role is so wide ranging that it's not easily sumed up. She then asked my to talk about a recent project and my role in it, and what extent I work by myself and to what extent I work with others. I feel I rambled a bit through this section, mainly becasue it's not the easiest thing to articulate, but hey.
We then moved on to some more specific questions - my style when I work with other people, an example of when a relationship with a coleague had gone wrong and what I learnt from that, how my friends would describe me. She also asked me about my plans post MBA, discussions on which also touched on why I wanted to do an MBA in the first place and why I was interested in Kellogg. She asked if there was anyhting I felt my application hadn't covered that I'd like to add and if there were any questions that I'd like to ask, and then we were done. Finally she explained that the interview report would be added to my file for its final read, and then I'd hear by January 17th, but quite possibly sooner. We said our good byes and she was gone. Short and sweet - pretty much 25 minutes exactly in total.
I got some really useful information from another applicant who had a phone interview last week. (You know who you are - thank you!) He seemed to get some specifically positive comments about his candidacy from his interviewer, which I didn't, but we were interviewed by different people and I'm not going to read anything into what was said and what wasn't (or at least I'll try not to). I'm working on the basis that they have to be interested to have done the interview, and the fact that it was blind rather than probing specific areas suggests that there aren't any particular big issues that they're concerned about. She said I might hear something in a couple of weeks time, which would take us to Christmas Eve, so I'm really not expecting to get any news until January.
Now it's back to waiting and cold fighting.
When we set up the interview details my interviewer let me know that he didn't usually wear a suit and was happy for me to dress casually. This saved me having to ask about dress, and I opted for a smart sweater and trousers.
One of the things we discussed was whether I'd ever had to deal with someone who wasn't pullling their weight or wasn't up to the job. Leading on from the situation I described, he asked what I thought about managers' responsibility to look after an individual employee vs look after the company as a whole.
He'd gone to Stanford aged 22 and was very candid about the challenge of finding a job post MBA with little work experince (coupled with the fact that he was job seeking in the UK at a time when MBAs were very unusual over here). He also commented on the fact that I would be older than the average student, but in a factual rather than 'warning' way and was very positive about what students with a bit more work experience can bring to the classroom.
When we started out we'd talked about the role of the interview in the entire application process and the fact that most people who are interviewed ultimatley aren't admitted. He finished ap by wishing me well, saying that he thought I had lots going for me and would do well in the future, whether or not that future included Stanford. The last comment I took as an acknowledgement that most interviewees are eventually dinged and that all he can do is write his report and let others make of it what they will, rather than any sort of comment on his view of my candidacy.
'Will he call' anxiety hasn't set in yet, but that's probably beause I'm focussing on the Kellogg phone interview this evening and fighting off a cold. I confidently expect to be on tenterhooks by Tuesday at the latest.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
My interviewer graduated in the mid-70's and now lives in a neighbouring town. As he doesn't have a local office we met in the offices of a company he uses in my city. We started out by discussing my education immediately pre-university because I went somewhere fairly unusual that his eldest son is considering. Then we moved onto university and my career since, with the emphasis very much on why I'd made decsions, what I'd learnt, challenges etc. we talked about why an MBA and why now, rather than four or five years ago. We talked about why Stanford, although we only got through some of my reasons as once I started to talk about its leadership offerings he explored leadership in more depth. He was keen to explore why I'm particulalrly interested in the nfp sector. Specific questions covered any regrets about things I'd done or decisons I'd made, what I was most proud of, an ethical challenge I'd faced and who I considered to be a hero. For the ethics question I used an example that I'd worked up into an application essay but ended up not using, so it was nice to get some benefit from it.
Overall it was very relaxed and friendly. I didn't feel probed or grilled, but did feel he'd made a good exploration of me and what I'm aiming for. Talking to him about his experiences post MBA and Stanford, I was impressed by his tempered answers. He talked about what an MBA wouldn't do as well as waht it would/could, and about Stanford's problems as he saw them, as well as what was great about it. Early on in the interview his phone went off, for which he was most apologetic. He said that he was a JP, and theat if someone else's phone had gone off in his court he'd be on them like a tonne of bricks. I'd been carfeul to turn mine off in advance - it plays the theme tune from the Muppets very loudly, so would not have made a good interuption!
So I'm now generally feeling quite positive. I've done what I can and it's back over to the Stanford admissions people. If they like me, great. If they don't, hopefully someone else will. Stanford is the last decision I'll get, unless Wharton or Kellogg waitlist me, so by the time I hear I'll either be comfortable in the knowledge that I'm going somewhere or clutching at my final straw.
Now, off to remind myself why I want to go to Kellogg!
Also congrats to Megami for the Stanford invite and good luck for the HBS interview.
Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Sunday, December 05, 2004
At least at the moment I've got this week's interviews to focus on. I've e-mailed my resume across to my Stanford interviewer and sent my transcripts across to the school (they ask for the official copies as soon as you get an interview). Now I need to forget about Wharton and concentrate on Stanford and Kellogg.
This left me somewhat shaken (and heaven knows how he felt). I live in a city with the third-highest Heroin problem in the country. Naturally that brings with it associated crime, but I live in a 'nice' bit of town, and you don't really see that much evidence of the problems. Sure I knew burglaries happen, but I'd always assumed that a building with two solid wooden doors facing the world would not be a particularly attactive prospect. Turns out I was wrong.
I went back up to my flat, engaged all the locks and the chain, and managed to get back to sleep. Having been shaken out of my complacency, I know it would be all too easy to go in the opposite direction. But the reality is that I still live in a pretty safe house in a 'nice' part of a great city.
Friday, December 03, 2004
The first is that the interviewer didn't ask for my resume / CV. I have kind of mixed feelings about this, as I'd spotted a spelling mistake on it th enight before and had ended up doing a literal cut and pasted job (with scissors, glue, correction fluid and photocopier) to correct it beacuse I dind't have an electronic copy with me. It did mean though that I was in control of what aspects of my career and interests I brought up in answer to her questions.
I asked her about SIM activities at Wharton, including their student recruiting efforts, and how that was impacting on where people come from, what they do at the school ,where they go to afterwards etc. We had a bit of a discussion about the benefits both ways of having non and for-profit types learning together, which resulted in her making further notes - hopefully positive ones rather than 'does this woman never shut up' or something along those lines.
Thursday, December 02, 2004
It was a very relaxed talk, lasted just over 30 minutes and covered the following.
- My career, with a couple of specific probes about what I'd learnt from an experience and why I'd made a particular move.
- Why an MBA?
- Why Wharton?
- What my colleagues would say I was like and if I'd agree
- What I do for fun.
- What motivates me
- Anything else I'd like the committee to know
- Anything I wanted to ask
Afterwards I went for a coffee with Durba and another interviewee (who I won't name in case he'd prefer I didn't). It was great to meet Durba finally and to connect with other applicants.
Got home and had to eat, change and be out the door in 15 minutes to get to a rehearsal for a concert tomorrow. I'm now pooped after an evening's singing on top of everything else, so this is brief. I'll add more as/if it occurs to me.