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After my two dings (Darden & Sloan), both without interview, I have been sort of down. Not because I got dinged, but because I wasn’t even invited to interview. Was my application that bad? Does this mean I’m dead meat at Wharton, Harvard, etc? Maybe, maybe not… so I decided to brainstorm on what went wrong. I had done most of this in December while preparing my R2 apps, but it helps to recalibrate my expectations.

Darden: the 300 word essays did me in! Even while writing the essays, I was very confused what they are expecting one to write, how can I get the adcom to know more about me in just 2-3 so-short essays. Just when I was deciding to drop Darden from my list, I had the opportunity to go to their admissions event, and I met Dean Bruner

Anyways, even when I read and re-read my application in Nov/Dec I did not feel confident enough. It wasn’t portraying me fully – though I was (and still am) confused how I could convey everything in 300 words. I think it was all down to the GPA and background stuff for Darden selections, and that way I wasn’t sure I’d make it.

MIT Sloan: This was a long shot from the word go! I decided on Sloan very late (around mid-Oct) and attempted to try out the essays. I can say my essays were quite good, but they lacked anything related to MIT save a few stray points. Neither had I done much research on the school, nor did I think it was important at the time. Plus the E&I program was probably for techno-entrepreneurs, and my goals (while entrepreneurial) are far placed from that. In hindsight, I would have been a misfit in the MIT culture, and surely they realized it before I did. Key learning: research schools before you apply!

The only issue I have is that MIT didn’t even call me for interview. If my essays were good, then they would have tried to understand more about me, wouldn’t they? But then, all my reviewers have given me a ‘two thumbs up’ for my R2 essays, which aren’t too different from the MIT ones. Troubling thought, isn’t it? Will my R2 schools ding me in the same way, considering most of them are even more competitive?

The saving grace was Tuck’s invite. I have heard they do not hand out too many interview invites (given that majority applicants schedule self-initiated IVs) so maybe they did like my essays. The only major difference between my MIT and Tuck essay quality was the school-specific details – Tuck asked for it directly, I gave them my thoughts. Did this exclusion make MIT not extend an IV invite? I don’t know and never will.

Whats next? Some more waiting and anxiety before Tuck’s results are declared on 8th.

Down, but not out! Not yet!

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Phew! I’m nearing the end of my application marathon after clicking submit on the Chicago GSB. I’ve read and re-read my Wharton and Harvard essays over the last 5 days (I know one should NEVER do that, but curiousity killed the cat!) and I think they’ve turned out really well.
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Downside is that I’m still not able to satisfy myself on the Columbia essays, especially 21st century MBA. There seem to be so many overlaps with my career goal essay, dont know how to balance it.  Thats why I’m yet to submit, and I’m getting a strong feeling I’ve missed the curve…

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25 days later

I had taken a sanity check on 4th Dec, to get my application process back on track and I’m quite happy I did. So despite targeting 5 very different essay sets, I am pleased with my current status:
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Columbia: all essays done, revised, checked, reviewed & modified – even the 21st century MBA one. One reco is in, the other one should come by the 1st. So, planning to kick-off my new year with the submit button!
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LBS: done for more than a month, rethinking on whether to put in R2 or R3 – I heard their R3 is like  US schools’ R2, and they even have an R4. Now am I being pennywise n poundfoolish here? need a quick over-the-weekend decision, as I’ll have to courier the transcripts on 31st
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Wharton: first things first, the Outsider essay rocks! or so my reviewers said. The problem is that the failure essay doesnt. Attacking it this weekend, so that new year’s eve sees this essay jiving into the night! 3 recos have been activated, follow-up required – this would be my first school with a current employer reco, although an ex-colleague, and not a supervisor.
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HBS: all essays have turned out better than I expected. Maybe I need to overhaul my 3rd accomplishment, possibly even replace it… Plus I need to activate the recos soon, as I have already asked all 3 recommenders to use the same Wharton examples.
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Chicago:Essays are good, but the ppt looks cool… much better than I expected initially. Just a bit of editing required, and I’ll be home. I’m targeting it after all my other submits, next weekend maybe, as there’s enough time.
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So that’s that, a heavy weekend ahead, followed by a very stiff work scchedule next week, and then my Tuck interview (Where are you, my 2nd year Tuckie? You were supposed to contact me 2 weeks back…)

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Dear HBS reviewer,
You may recall I sent you my HBS essay set almost a week ago. I understand this is holiday season and you have gone on a 2week-long vacation to God-knows-where-in-the-hills. I would like to remind you that the least you could have done is to tell me you would take extra time. When your cellphone was unreachable, I had to follow up at your office only to be told that you are on leave till 2nd January.
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I hope you do recall the time when I put in your recommendation for your current job, after you had been dying to get in PE for the last two years. I didnt want to sound desperate by mentioning this, but I really am. Please read my essays soon and give me some relevant feedback, like the last time you did for my Tuck essays.
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Dear Columbia reviewer,
I know I need to be extremely polite with you since you have been my ex-boss, and are writing recommendations for 8 schools. But I expected you to give me the Columbia feedback by Friday. I am sure you are busy drinking away to glory with your long weekend break, but please take a look at my essays somewhere between your first and fifth beer of the day. I fully understand before the first, you would be suffering last night’s hangover, and after the fifth you would be preparing for tomorrow morning’s.
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I need to send you my Chicago essay once you’re thru with Columbia, so please hurry up! Not that I have completed the powerpoint, but I cannot tell you that, can I? I look forward to your feedback so that puts some fire under my ass and makes me expedite my Chicago set.

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… I’m not too happy with the way my powerpoint has shaped up; there’s so much more I can say, and in a much better way, but I’m not getting those creative juices flowing 😦
I’ve heard stories of how creative people have gotten with their Stern III, and with a similar applicant catchment I’m getting worried.
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Any ideas from people who have submitted and got their decisions ?
Guys, do your good deed of the day 🙂 share some ideas, even those you didn’t use, or those you’ve heard others used, whatever, anything will help right now!!! 

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The Pursuit of Outsider-ness

… seems to be on track! Finally!

Reviewer One came back on the Wharton essays, and was pleased with the overall picture. Career goals good, maybe a bit fine-tune needed, nothing major. Setback seems okay, though I should put in something more meaningful for the learnings – some work required to get this essay in shape.

The most satisfying point was when she said that my Outsider essay is very good. In almost all respects. The only glitch here is the word limit, and at 700+ words I’m way over the limit. I think I can do the garnishing (editing), as long as the meat is acceptable 🙂

For the fourth essay, I have chosen the leadership path, as that would complete my overall picture. I had chosen the setback story carefully so that it is not an out-n-out leadership essay. So while I have tuned the Tuck leadership essay for this, the feedback is that maybe I can look at putting in two examples instead of just one. Makes sense. Need to work on how to get 250-word stories to convey the entire impact I had achieved in 500 words.

Once I get this done, I am sending the version to Reviewer Two – hopefully by tomorrow itself…

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A quick status check on my application progress over the weekend:

Wharton: essays done (wow I like typing this!) and sent to reviewer one.

Harvard: not started, except the plan to use Wharton’s (more…)

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