Hurry Up and Wait

Hurry Up

Last week I completed what was a very fun and informative interview for The London Business School. I ran down what the process was going to be like in a previous post, and made sure that my preparation level was a right blend of knowing my story without being rehearsed.

I’m glad to say that the interview went very well. I was what I like to call “Grade-A-Me” throughout all of the behavioral questions, and feel really solid that I communicated the spectrum of why MBA, why now, why LBS, and why me in a good deal of depth while simultaneously gaining a good level of rapport with my interview. It didn’t hurt that my interviewer was already intrigued with my application (remember, LBS interviewers read your application beforehand), and I was able to cover more ground on what makes me a good candidate outside of what I was able to put into my essays.

The part of the interview that seems to throw many people is the impromptu presentation. First off, I was lucky to have an interviewer who wanted to save that for after the behavioral questions. I can only imagine coming in from the cold and being asked to present a topic, without being able to at least warm up the vocal cords. I can also see how a “weak” start with the presentation could throw off the rest of your interview. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with this.

Like I said above, I had already built a decent rapport with my interviewer before we delved into the presentation. For example, I could tell that this person enjoyed thought processes and new ideas, so I made sure to sprinkle some into my presentation. I found that the few minutes given to prepare were ample. All they want to see is your thought process; and with just a few minutes to prep there honestly wasn’t time for much else. I did come up with some winning ideas for my case, and I could tell those impressed.

All in all, the interview lasted about 2 hours. Of course in hind sight I see missed opportunities to have mentioned one thing or another, but overall I feel particularly strong about this interview. Now it’s on to the waiting game… maybe.

And Wait?

I originally thought that I would take the time between this most recent interview and Thanksgiving to clear my mind of anything MBA related and just, you know, be. A couple of days of that and I realized that wasn’t going to cut it for me. Like any sane person who applied to tip top schools in Round 1, I’m prepping myself mentally for the worst case scenario. The LBS invite is indeed a strong sign; my application was interesting enough for the top international business school in the world to want to interview me. In the same token, Kellogg and LBS are highly selective programs where even the most qualified can be spurned. And that is why I’ve decided to just roll on into the next process and put my best foot forward, even if I never have to click submit.

And, truth be told, this new frontier is exciting me! Through The Consortium I have access to an incredible member list of schools. Interestingly enough, after I made my GMAT score available for schools to search through GMAC along with my demographic info, I’ve had wave after wave of emails and mailings show up in my various inboxes. Some of these solicitors are Consortium schools, which does my heart some good.

Through the Consortium, you can apply to up to six of their member schools in one application. I think my six that I’m prepping for are:

  • Cornell University, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management
  • Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business
  • New York University, Leonard N. Stern School of Business
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Kenan-Flagler Business School
  • University of Virginia, Darden School of Business
  • Yale University, Yale School of Management

The shared application means that I don’t have to fill out the same things numerous times, however I still have to write essays for each school. Now before you say that I’m crazy for thinking I can get this done by January, I broke ground on a bunch of these essays way back in the summer (Consortium essay topics released relatively early in the season). I’m definitely not starting from scratch.

There remains the possibility that I’ll get some good news in December and that all of my additional writing will go to waste. I can live with that. It beats the alternative of counting down the days.

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Would You Like Another Interview?

After an extended weekend in Chicago, I finished the final piece of my Kellogg application. No time to rest, however, as the interview details for LBS were sent to me, and now it’s off to prepare for what I predict to be a wildly different experience. More on that in a bit.

The visit for Kellogg’s Diversity Preview Weekend was well worth it. Apart from the standard visit day/weekend fare, Kellogg made this weekend unique. They ran the Diversity Preview Weekend concurrent with the Black Management Association Conference. This gave us prospective students a chance to see one of Kellogg’s fabled student organizations in action, which is an entirely different dynamic than having members of organizations sit on a panel during lunch or what-have-you. I came away with a more refined sense of what the student culture was like on campus. I was very impressed with the caliber of speakers that the student group was able to draw, and their networking events also left nothing to be desired. Cocktail party on the 99th floor of the Willis Tower, anyone?

Apart from the fun, I did have an important bit of business to attend to. My interview was also held this weekend, right in the midst of the conference and events. It was a bit helter-skelter, having to turn my mind from the topics being discussed towards getting my interview-level focus together. All in all though, I am happy with my performance. Of course in hindsight I tend to nitpick and wish I emphasized on strength over another, but that’s only natural I suppose.

On the same day that I interviewed with Kellogg I received the contact information for my LBS interviewer and a deadline to get the interview done. After sending off the email for scheduling, I naturally took a peek at LinkedIn to see what type of person I’ll be speaking to. Suffice it to say it’s someone at a very high level, at a very large multinational corporation. I felt a twinge of nerves that I would be talking to someone so “big”, but that quickly gave way to a sense of excitement. This person went to LBS, got a job in the states, and now has a high level role. I’m interested to pick their brain; maybe just a tad less than they are to pick mine, I’m sure.

A bit about the LBS Interview. It’s longer than the normal MBA interview, clocking in at somewhere between 1-2 hours (sometimes up to 3 depending on who your alum is). This gives the interviewer a chance to really delve into the reasoning behind your decision to apply. You can’t simply gloss over “Why MBA?”, you have to be able to talk about your passions at length. In addition to this, the interviewer will be able to assess you based on whether they would’ve wanted you in their own LBS class. So fit is of the essence, as well as making sure they know you are more than capable as a student. By being extended an invite to interview, that means that the admissions committee is interested in me as a candidate, and that they want to know more about me. This is a major opportunity.

The most daunting part of the interview is a brief case discussion. The interviewer will give you 2 minutes to gather your thoughts on a particular business topic or statement, and then will give you 5 minutes to present them. Obviously, they’re not looking for you to have an intimate knowledge of the topic, but the way to reason and structure your argument can give them a good insight into the type of thinker that you are.

As you can see, there is much to prepare for. So my apologies for keeping this post short, but I must get to it.

Let’s Catch Up

​Hello all, if any of you are still out there.

The blog has been silent for a few months, corresponding to some of the absolute craziest months of my adult life. A shiny new role at work, family weddings (which are jobs themselves for us Africans), the GMAT day of reckoning, submitting R1 applications, looming interviews and interview decision days… you get the picture.

Along with any semblance of a social life, the blog became one of the casualties of this spike in activity. I am sure many of you former/current applicants who are reading can attest to this, but the admissions process goes from agonizingly slow and anxious to incredibly fast and tumultuous. Once you hit submit, you regress to that slow feeling and exchange the anxiety for anticipation. That is where I stand now. In the next month I will know if I am done with the admissions process, or if I have to prepare for R2/3.

Finishing Touches

To start, let’s backtrack to what I affectionately call The GMAT Day of Reckoning. I had a great buildup to the test, flying through quant problems with pace and scoring typically high in verbal. I crossed the 700 mark in practice exams before my appointment, and was full of confidence going into the testing center. I ended up with a score that places me firmly within the ranges of my target schools, and scored high in the IR and AWA sections as well. Being the first time I took the GMAT, I felt good enough to proceed with submitting my applications and won’t be taking the exam again… unless it is a precondition to gaining admission.

Post GMAT, it was all applications. The first decision I made was to revise my R1 strategy. I couldn’t write the level of essay I wanted for such a large number of schools, and since I sat for the GMAT relatively late in the game the deadlines were quickly approaching. So I picked my favorite schools from the bunch, and curated every detail about my application for them. I submitted Round 1 at the London Business School and the Kellogg School of Management.

New Strategy

If you have a particularly good memory of my original target list, you may wonder why I dropped HBS. While my GMAT score was strong, I don’t think it was the score I needed to be a competitive applicant at HBS, especially in light of an undergraduate GPA that wasn’t going to “wow” anyone. This was a tough decision rooted in practicality. I had to make a choice based on the reality of my situation, and I think I made a good one. I still face an incredibly uphill battle for Kellogg and LBS, but a few factors give me a better chance in my eyes. For one, Kellogg has a video component to their application and interviews every candidate. This gives me more of an opportunity to put a face to my candidacy, which bolsters my chances as someone who is comfortable in those settings. LBS is an international school that views candidates in a very holistic sense… which is reflected in their class profile.

This new application strategy is also derived from my decision to apply R2 via The Consortium – which works towards greater diversity in management and offers a common application process to some of the nation’s elite business schools. I was already targeting some of the schools partnered with The Consortium (Kenan-Flagler & Johnson), and the other schools on the list are very impressive (Darden, Yale SOM, Stern, Tepper, and more). I made my GMAT score available to schools looking for applicants via GMAC, and since then have received very warm emails and phone calls from Stern, Tepper, and others inviting me to apply. It seems I have plenty of research to do, but I can’t help but get excited about some of the brands available through The Consortium.

Interviews and Invites

I have an admissions interview tomorrow (!!!) with the Max M. Fisher School of Business at The Ohio State University. This interview was extended to participants of the Fisher Season Premiere: a welcome weekend for prospective applicants to the school. Apart from the interview I will be participating in mock classes, career services discussions, and a few social events. Fisher offers something unique that no other school can offer for me. I live in Columbus, and one of my recommenders recently asked me to attend school locally and continue working for the organization. In exchange, they would pick up some of the tuition cost and offer me a flexible schedule. All in all, I don’t know if I will submit an application to Fisher just yet. My experience this weekend will figure heavily into that decision.

I’m also excited to announce that I’ll be interviewing at Kellogg next weekend, having registered for the Kellogg Diversity Weekend. The situation couldn’t have worked out any better. I get to visit one of my front-runners and give my interview on campus, reconnect with some of the people I met on my visit in May, and learn more about Kellogg’s efforts in promoting diversity. It is also a three day weekend, with plenty of fun stuff to do in Chicago following the visit.

The London Business School will be making their interview decisions this Friday. I submitted the absolute best application I could, and luckily have been too busy to think about it since. With the date approaching, however, my anticipation is building. Let’s keep our fingers crossed for good news.

Phew. I think I’ve caught up. The next post will discuss how my interview/day at Fisher went, any news I got from LBS, and turn an eye towards Kellogg’s Diversity Day. It feels good to be back.

Happy Halloween!