The result is in…

And I’m definitely not admitted to Fuqua. It was horrible waiting for a phone call that never came, but I’ve had a while for it to sink in and I’m okay. Slightly heart broken because everyone who’s read even part of this blog knows how much I loved Duke – but I’m still hopeful for better things to come. I’m not sure if I’ve been dinged completely or wait listed (they haven’t updated the web portal yet) but I want to move on. Part of me isn’t sure if I should you know? This decision has me wondering if I even have a shot of getting in anywhere that I actually want to get in. Hearing absolutely nothing from Yale hasn’t helped things either. I just don’t know anymore!

UPDATE: Dinged. Oh well.

Tick tock

As the nifty little countdown calendar to the right says, I have to wait for two more days to hear from Duke. I actually thought I’d be much more of a nervous wreck but surprisingly I’ve been pretty calm through all this. I think I was more stressed out during the whole interview invite waiting period. I guess with the practice that came from that, I’ve gotten much better at the waiting game.

It’s actually scary to think that a decision made by an admissions committee comprising of 10-15 (I imagine) individuals can change lives, for better or for worse. Getting accepted to Duke would open up a whole new world of possibilities, but a rejection could mean that much better things lie ahead. I can imagine my life both ways! I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason.

Having achieved a state of mental nirvana, I’m blissfully not thinking about the whole application process, at least until Wednesday. Depending on the outcome of that, I’ll have to get back to the grind of essay writing and form filling – and just for that reason alone, I sure as hell hope I get in. I don’t know how everyone applying to 7 or 8 schools does it. You guys have my undying respect.

Fuqua Interview Report

So I finished my interview yesterday and it went better than I thought it would! I had to fly in to a different city so I flew in on the 14th, spent the night, woke up well rested and headed for the interview which was scheduled comfortably at 10.15 a.m on the 15th. I was actually a full 25 minutes early, but it worked out great since my interviewer showed up early too! He was a young-ish guy, about mid to late 30s if I had to guess. After a few minutes of small talk, he jumped right in. Questions asked included:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Tell me about your current role at work
  • Why MBA
  • Why Duke
  • Tell me about some constructive feedback that you received
  • Tell me about the time you showed your leadership skills (in and out of work)
  • What do you think makes a team successful
  • What is your role in a team
  • Tell me about a time you handled a conflict in a team
  • What kind of a leader are you
  • What are your career goals
  • Why do you think this is the right time for an MBA
  • Which other schools have you applied to

The interview lasted about 40-45 minutes, including the questions I asked him at the end. Initially, I didn’t think he was very responsive but as I found my groove, I saw him nodding and agreeing with stuff I said. I didn’t have any issues coming up with stories and I was very well prepared with my answers to why Duke and why an MBA. He opened up when I started asking him questions about the Duke experience and by then, we had a good rapport. He even told me to call him if I ever needed any help regarding Duke or even otherwise.

Overall, a nice friendly chat with a chilled out vibe. No curve balls and no unexpected questions. I was kind of flipping out right before because some guy (interviewing in the same city as I was) was asked a case question and grilled for 1.5 hours, so I guess I got lucky. I think I did my  best and there isn’t much I would change about the interview. I guess only time will tell now! Good luck to everyone else interviewing at Fuqua!

How I approached writing my essays

My buddy Texaswannabecali was asking the blogosphere about how to approach the daunting task of writing essays for b-school apps and I thought I’d make an entire post of it instead. I will put in a disclaimer here – I absolutely love writing and I do it on a regular basis i.e I probably churn out about 800 words per day on average, so it was probably easier for me than it was for most people. With that said, some essay topics were definitely easier than others. For instance, Fuqua was a joy to write but Yale, not so much.

I started with my Yale essays first, I figured get a good round of practice in before pulling the big guns for Duke. It’s a good idea to work on your number one choices after you’ve had some experience with schools that aren’t as high on your list of priorities. By then you should have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t, and also a better sense of clarity about your career goals.

Before you start writing, make sure you read the essay analyses that all the admissions consultants have put out there. Grantmeadmission has an amazing resource where he’s compiled all those links and which I’ve personally bookmarked. Whether or not you use these guidelines, I found them tremendously useful just to align my thoughts in the right direction. I started off on my essays by jotting down points that I knew I had to put in there. Nothing fancy, just bullets in my text editor of choice. I didn’t sit down actively in one session and do this because my brain tends to wander when I do that, but I kept adding to the list at random times when I was bored at work, or right before I went to sleep, I’d quickly type out those points on my phone and sync it up later. So by about the end of a week, I had a list of about 15 – 20 odd points that I wanted to expand on for each essay. Then I got down to writing my first draft.

I wasn’t really concerned about structure or brevity at this point. I just wanted to get my content down. I just expanded on every point that I had written down so depending on the essay topic I had a bunch of stories from work, some from volunteering, some stuff that I liked about the school and basically a few lines or more about every aspect of my profile that I wanted to cover. At the end of this exercise, I had a full two pages of text with random paragraphs and no flow whatsoever. I let that sit for a while, about 3 or 4 days and I didn’t look at it at all. In the mean time, I had some more ideas which I made sure to document lest I forget.

So after the requisite 3 to 4 days, I came back to my essay with a clearer head. The time gap in the middle helped lessen my attachment to the words I’d written, so I could easily get rid of stuff I knew wasn’t relevant or important. Looking at the essay with a fresher pair of eyes also helped me spot grammatical flaws that I might have missed otherwise. I put in the new points and I started arranging the essay structurally by moving paragraphs around in a way that made sense to the reader i.e gave it a logical flow. So I had a pretty rough second draft at this point, with the content and a decent structure.

I let it rest for a few days again before going back to it. This time I focussed on starting and ending with a bang and ensuring smooth transitions from one paragraph to the next. The last thing I wanted was to have a clunky set of unrelated stories shoved together in my essay. Up until this point, I hadn’t really bothered with the word count specifically, although I always kept it at the back of my mind. I knew I overshot the limit by about 200 words or so but that’s about it. I wouldn’t advice going over by more than 400 words because cutting it down can be a herculean task. I know because getting the word count down by 200 words was a major pain. But I did it in this iteration. So now I had the beginnings of a pretty good essay, but up until now I hadn’t taken any external opinions so I sent it off to about 7 – 8 friends and advisors for their inputs. None of my friends have MBAs so it was more of an exercise about making sure there were no dumb mistakes (repeating words, missing letters and commas) and also so to see if they could tell that the essay could have been written only by me and no one else. I think that’s a good way of judging to see whether you’ve really poured your heart and soul into the essay. Trust me, this makes a massive difference.

My friends took a few days to get back to me and they were super helpful. Some of the feedback I implemented and some I just ignored. Stick to your guns on this. At this point my essays were looking great! I went over them, polished them up, made sure the formatting was right and I saved them all ready to submit. But of course, I didn’t actually submit it right then and I spent a good 3 days reading it once every 3 hours and scouring my eyes out trying to find any errors I’d missed. Then about two days before the deadline, I hit submit and that was it!

The whole thing took about 20 odd days, I think you should probably budget at least that much or you’ll find yourself scrambling towards the end. Unless of course, you’re one of those people who writes the entire thing in one shot and that’s that. Well, this was long and rambling but I hope it helps anyone who’s confused about how to start.

Best of luck with essays!

Well, it’s been a while!

Hello everyone! It’s been nearly 10 days since I last posted and a lot has happened since then. It’s amazing how 10 days can be a lifetime in this process, because I feel like a lot has changed in such an insignificant amount of time. First off, I attended a Fuqua information session last Sunday, hosted by Jake Kiser and I was not disappointed. Although I felt like I already knew most of what was being said, simply because I’ve spent hours reading the website and student blogs, it was interesting to see the kind of people Fuqua looks for. The session was attended by four local alumni as well and they were able to give a lot of context to slightly abstract terms like “Team Fuqua”, “collaboration” and “giving back to the community”.

The turnout was far higher than I expected, but suffice to say, a lot of the questions asked were cringe worthy. But Jake and the alumni were really nice and answered everything with a lot of juicy anecdotes and stories. Before this session, I was already fond of Duke simply because I heard so much about it from my family friend. The way he described it just made me feel like it was the right place for me. After this session, I just fell in love with Fuqua even more.

I feel very reassured about my decision to apply Early Action to Fuqua because I can’t wait to be a part of this family. I love basketball (I played for my school’s women’s basketball team) and so the more I hear about the Blue Devils, the more I want to watch them play. Also Campout! Fuqua Friday! Climbing the wall! Gah. I just want to get into Fuqua and be done with the entire process already. Yale comes close, but not as close as Fuqua already is to my heart. I don’t want to put all my eggs in one basket though, so I’m trying to be more rational about this and split my time between schools equally.

I have a list of 30 things for my “25 Random Things” essay which I need to cut down. I’m quite happy with my list because it pretty much describes me as a person. When it comes to the “Why Fuqua” essay, I’m trying not get too poetic and dreamy because I just sound like a love-struck idiot… but that may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Hope y’alls GMAT prep is going well! I’m getting a head start on my Southern accent 😀

Switching up schools

It’s official. I’m removing Darden from my list of schools and putting Fuqua into the mix instead. Darden did tick a lot of boxes for me, but as good as it is for consulting, I don’t want to put myself under an undue amount of stress and pressure. I’m not saying that an MBA should be a breeze, but I don’t want to spend all of my time cooped up indoors. As an engineering grad with a 9+ GPA, I’ve spent enough time with my nose stuck to a book. I want to have enough time to really explore the campus, get involved in all the activities a school has to offer and meet a ton of different people.

This means I’m now applying to:

  1. Yale R1
  2. Tuck Early Action
  3. Johnson R1
  4. Fuqua R1

I guess that means my scientific analysis was a little skewed. But I guess I would have to change a few entries in that to get a better picture of schools that fit me best. Darden wouldn’t score as much in the ‘Fit’ section and Fuqua would get some points there. Durham, NC isn’t that bad after all. Also with Fuqua, I will have an alumni referral and Team Fuqua seems to be pretty big on that. Hopefully that helps because I really love the sound of the program and the bond that students seem to have even decades after graduating. I guess it really helps to talk to someone from the program face to face rather than over email!

All this back and forth is killing me

It feels like it has been a while, even though it hasn’t really. Work has become super hectic, we’re working on a new release of this app and I happen to be the team lead on this. I’m drowning in bugs and test cases — which is why an MBA is going to save me from this endless drudgery. Okay, it isn’t as bad as I’m making it out to be but you get the picture. I like coding, I do. It’s super challenging and makes me feel smarter than I am every day. But as much as I enjoy it, it gets monotonous and I can only stare at the computer screen for so long.

The founder of my company is doing one of my recommendations, as I’d mentioned earlier. I was hoping to ask my client to be the other recommender, but he’s very busy marketing the app I’ve been working on. I figure it’s better to ask another one of my managers for a recommendation rather than risk asking someone who might not be able to give his 100% to it. I have to make sure they both cover different aspects of my work here so that they can give a more comprehensive picture of me as an applicant.

I finished draft one of my Yale essay and after receiving feedback on that one (there was lots of it), I’m now working on draft number two. I think they are shaping up to be pretty strong, but I can’t help but imagine how they compare to other applicants with more experience since I only have so many things to write about. That’s the downside of being a younger applicant.

I also recently met one of my dad’s friends from college who went to Duke for his MBA and he was personally affronted by the fact that I wasn’t applying there. He spent the next hour brainwashing me about the virtues of Fuqua, while I tried to convince him that the only reason I wasn’t applying was because it was out of my league with a class size larger than I would prefer. But he wouldn’t have it and now I’m confused. AGAIN. I would get $125 waived off on the application fee with an alumni referral but then I would be applying to five schools which is one more than I would like.

Which brings me back to… should I exclude Darden from the list entirely? I like everything about it (small class size, tight alumni, college town, strong for consulting), but I’m a little worried about how intense the program is supposed to be. Every alum I spoke to said the same thing. Expect not to have much of a life outside the classroom in the first year, although it eases up in the second year. Some people actually preferred it this way since they said it gave them more bang for their buck. While I wish I was that intellectually enlightened, I’d rather have an easier course with a good balance of everything. Hey! You’re only young once. I don’t want to spend most of two years holed up in a library. This is probably why I’m too immature to apply to Darden in the first place 😛

Yeah I can debate this both ways quite easily, but for the time being I’m going to sit on it and wait for some divine intervention that tells me which school to pick.