General stuff

The long and winding road

It’s been 28 months since I started this blog – and over a year since my last post – so I thought it was time to update y’all. Fortunately, I’ve had time to introduce my faithful Beagle pup, Beatrice, to classmates and arrange a photo shoot on campus. Sorry for the delay!:/

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With such a long build-up I was feeling the pressure to write something amazing and insightful about my first year at MIT Sloan! I could write forever about the incredible people in my class, the excellent faculty, my exposure to ground-breaking technology and research across MIT, etc. While all that’s undoubtedly true, I don’t want this to become an MIT Sloan-centric blog, so I’ll share my overall MBA experiences.

What a extraordinary year it’s been! I’ve worked hard to stretch my professional skills and personal self and it turns out that’s kinda tough! Like many things in life, what you put in dictates what you’ll get out, and I’ve definitely gone “all in” with my MBA so far. That means doing things like enrolling for class subjects that I’ve no prior experience in, volunteering for leadership positions on a whim, and accepting a summer internship in an early stage start-up rather than a big, established tech company.

I’ve also had my doubts though. Doubts about whether I made the right decision to pursue an MBA, doubts about whether I’ll find a job that meets all my expectations, doubts about uprooting my family to move to the U.S. and foregoing a salary. And then there’s the time I fell down the stairs in the small hours trying to walk and read a case at the same time!😦

All these doubts are reflections and endorsements of being part of a transitionary process, and being out of my comfort zone most of the time. They’re all rational thoughts and struggles too and, I’m sure, will all contribute to making the final outcome even more rewarding.

For anyone considering an MBA, it has been (for me) a continuous process of enlightenment and growth that has ultimately been the most rewarding period of my life. I know many of my classmates and friends at other b schools feel exactly the same. Don’t hesitate to apply if you’re excited at the prospect of doing your MBA, don’t delay another year to see what might happen in your career – decide today and commit!

As a caveat to this, however, I’d like to share some sobering statistics:

  1. MIT Sloan’s Dean confirmed in a recent interview that the Class of 2018 applicant pool was the largest ever – something like 15 applicants for each space. The level of competition for top b schools is increasing;
  2. International students face an increasingly tough battle to get work authorisation after they graduate. The most popular H-1B visa received over 230,000 petitions for a quota of 85,000 visas in FY 2016, ie. you have a less than 40% chance of being selected.

With all that in mind, my concluding advice is to be prepared for a rough ride, be focused on where you’re applying and why you’re applying there, and make sure your story makes sense from beginning to end. Preparation for applying to b school and having relevant and reasonable post-graduation goals has never been so important!

Good luck!!

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(That’s a wrap, Beatrice!)

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General stuff

Hello, goodbye

This week saw TopDogMBA clear the 15,000 unique visitor milestone – thanks!

Before I get very much older – and since I don’t expect to publish (m)any more posts on this blog – I wanted to introduce myself as David C. Rolls.

Here’s my polished, official MIT Sloan photo, and you can read all about me and follow my future exploits here.

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I look forward to keeping in touch with y’all as I move into the final year of my MBA and onto the next chapter of my professional career.

Thanks for reading TopDogMBA and don’t forget to pass on the word to your friends, colleagues and acquaintances who are interested in pursuing an MBA.

David C. Rolls aka TopDogMBA

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General stuff

Ticket to ride

It’s been a while since I updated my blog. Sorry for that but I’ve been kinda busy packing up ready for this whole MBA thing🙂

I’ve been getting a lot of inquiries from folks starting out on their application journey (or thinking about it) and I hope I’ve given some food for thought to the next generation who’ve read this blog or reached out directly.

Since I quit my job in mid-May (great feeling!) I’ve been working on a smooth transition for me and my family (including Beatrice, the real top dog!) to our new life in Boston. This will be my 16th address change since I was born!

However, gone are the days when a borrowed ride and a couple of backpacks were all I needed to transport my worldly possessions. This time I was moving four people and a dog from Athens, Greece to Boston, USA, neither of which is my domiciled home.

I wanted to share my key checklist for reference for those of you lucky enough to be making this journey in years to come.

Checklist for Offer:

  • Finalise verification process, i.e. how your b school will check all the details you provided in your application (be warned!) – it involved a lot of prompting from me (my status is still a mystery) as well as a request to defer my employment check (until I resigned)
  • Complete Medical Report form – to be eligible to use b school’s medical facilities and (I think) enrol in classes
  • Create headshot – used in school photobook (seen by all your classmates)
  • Resign from job, return cell/keys/pass/laptop etc.
  • Summer academic preparation – take diagnostic tests (if applicable) and bone up on any weaknesses. Not loving Calculus right now and way behind on micro-economics but I’m sure it will be fine…
  • Read unofficial student guide – past and current Sloan students put together a really helpful instruction manual for newbies, which I’ve referred to time and time again🙂
  • Complete incoming student survey – also used to select electives and tracks (if applicable) so requires some planning

Accommodation:

  • Decide location and agree ‘must haves’/’desirables’ – this could be a whole post in itself(!) as it took a whole week in Boston to find somewhere that worked and was still available at the end of the day. Be flexible!
  • Get pay-as-you-go phone – saved a fortune in US calls to realtors during that week (see above)
  • Take out renters insurance
  • Agree UK ‘farewell tour’ dates – complicated for me since I don’t live in my home country and needed to say farewell to family, friends etc.
  • Hotel for first night in US – we arrived at 8pm local time, it was great to have a cooked breakfast the next day before we moved into our new home!

Finance:

  • Send in Graduate Loan Application Form – think this is a standard requirement for US students to be eligible to apply for financial aid
  • Open bank account in US (I went with MIT’s Federal Credit Union for the time being)
  • Create a cost of living budget – useful to plan when cash is needed if you don’t hold a lot of US Dollars…
  • Unwind investments and convert to USD – worth thinking about if your college fund is invested in equities and the global economy has gone to pot!😉
  • Get UK/US tax advice – again, complicated for me given I don’t live in my home country and had(have) no idea if I’ll stay in the US post-graduation
  • Submit final receipts for local health insurance cover (before it expires) – I managed to get most of my vaccinations free!
  • Look into social security scheme in UK (or your home country) – worth considering as you’ll be out of the workforce for two years

Legal:

  • Research visa application process, obtain I-20 certificate, go to US Embassy – self-explanatory and most b schools will help you with this, but obviously very important to be ready in time (note to Round 3 applicants!)
  • Check out Beatrice [dog] visa and immunisation requirements – this was actually more complicated than the human visa process!

Travel and Healthcare:

  • Research flight options and book – keep in mind there may be restrictions on your visa about when you’re allowed to enter the US (30 days prior to registration day in my case)
  • Research cargo options for Beatrice, obtain Health Certificate, update passport etc. – more complicated when conducted in your non-native tongue!
  • Arrange furniture transportation to US, complete insurance form, US Customs forms etc. – worth paying your haulier to handle in my opinion
  • Sell car😦 and arrange hire car for last few weeks
  • Compare student medical health plans and enrol, check translations (problem for me as my kids’ medical records are in Greek)
  • Check life insurance and critical illness cover – hopefully not a major issue for most of you but when you have kids…
  • Check which immunisations (MMR, Hepatitis B, Varicella, Meningococcal Polysaccharide) are required – it turned out I wasn’t properly immunised against several diseases; useful to know!

So it was a bit of a random order but I hope it helps to get a few ideas in your heads when you’ve got an offer (or offers!) on the table.

My next post will be at the time I actually set foot on campus as a MIT Sloan Class of 2017 MBA Candidate for the first time – stay tuned!

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There’s a place

So, my final tally is in. I applied to three b schools in total this season:

No MBA application process is complete without at least one ding – I know people who secured H/S/W admits and were still dinged by other schools! – so I will weather my Wharton one with only slightly ruffled feathers.

As I look back at the past 12 months or so, from the low of five dings, what I thought was my new strategy and finally deciding where I wanted to be, I realise that my ‘ranking’ of b schools was shifting throughout.

It’s OK not to be sure and it’s OK to change your mind, because it would be weird to be attached to just one school and have your eyes closed to other opportunities. I’m glad things worked out as they did, and I know it may sound patronising (it did to me when other students and alums I spoke with last year said it) but things definitely work out one way or another for a reason.

More importantly, since I’ve already got my visa approved and signed a lease on a house in Boston, I’m moving full speed ahead with MIT Sloan and excited beyond description! Of course, having awesome seats to the Red Sox game with other admits last weekend may have had something to do with it!😉

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I’m looking forward to meeting more of my future classmates when I arrive on campus in just a couple of months.

Enjoy the summer folks, and stay tuned!

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Do you want to know a secret …dinged at Wharton!

You heard it here first folks!

I’m a bit disappointed not to have secured an admit trifecta (together with INSEAD and MIT Sloan), but this outcome was pretty inevitable at this late stage. I feel privileged to have been selected for the waitlist at Wharton and am fired up about matriculating at MIT Sloan this fall (more on this here).

Congrats again to everyone who has a place at b school this year, and best of luck to those of you applying in the coming season!

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The word – part 3: …and the ugly

With the current application season winding down and attention turning to R1 applications due later this year, I’ve been contacted by a number of aspiring MBA students to discuss strategy and whether to even bother applying given the tough competition out there.

While I often don’t feel qualified to give advice, I’m always happy to share my experiences with a good ol’ dose of reality thrown in from time to time. With that in mind I decided to share some of the Admissions letters I’ve received during the past two seasons.

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The Ugly

Wharton was my third and final application in the 2014/15 season. With the success of being invited to interview at all three schools (INSEAD, MIT Sloan and Wharton) I’d applied to, I focused on acing those interviews rather than applying to more b schools in R2.

To a large degree, Wharton was also my number one choice. The one b school that, deep down in my heart, I’d be most excited about getting an offer from.

As it turned out, I wasn’t quite good enough to make it into the Class of 2017 in the round I applied in. Yep, that’s right, I was offered a place on the waitlist. Having not received a call from Wharton on R1 decision day I was actually surprised and excited to be put on the waitlist. It felt like a second prize but, hey, I was still in the game, right!?

Unfortunately this situation has continued to this day, with no offer being made on the R2 decision date and instead I was offered a place on the summer waitlist. There’s still hope but I’m in deep with MIT Sloan and, if I’m honest with myself, there’s now an element of pride riding on my decision to stay on Wharton’s waitlist.

TopDogMBA Wharton Decision

There’s no doubt that being on the waitlist is 100 times better than getting dinged, and I can console myself with my other offers and the knowledge that I did my absolute best to get an offer from Wharton. Nobody should expect to get offers from all the schools they apply to!

And it would be a totally different feeling now if I didn’t have those other offers or hadn’t submitted the best version of myself to Wharton. Do everything you can to avoid being in that position!

So, that’s it in terms of my Admission letters. I hope they gave you a little insight into the feelings and emotions I’ve experienced the past two years, and gave you some clarity and motivation on how you want to proceed with your MBA journey.

Best of luck whatever you decide!

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The word – part 2: the good…

With the current application season winding down and attention turning to R1 applications due later this year, I’ve been contacted by a number of aspiring MBA students to discuss strategy and whether to even bother applying given the tough competition out there.

While I often don’t feel qualified to give advice, I’m always happy to share my experiences with a good ol’ dose of reality thrown in from time to time. With that in mind I decided to share some of the Admissions letters I’ve received during the past two seasons.

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The Good (or Great!)

If you’ve been following my blog you’ll know what’s coming up here, but it still gives me goosebumps to recall the two acceptances I received last season.

INSEAD was the first application I submitted last season, and was definitely the longest application form I’ve ever seen! That said, rather than being onerous, it allowed me to fully explore the many angles to my candidacy and elaborate on my credentials in a way the U.S. b school application forms didn’t.

I also met some of the most genuine and helpful MBA alums during the application (and interview) process – this made a huge difference.

In a real INSEAD twist (given the school’s keen focus on internationalism), I was actually in Beijing when the call came. After a frantic 15 minutes of getting my Admission Officer’s voicemail, she finally came on the line to congratulate me and offer me a place in the Class of 2016. I had the dumbest grin on my face the whole flight home! This was the point I knew I wasn’t going back…

TopDogMBA INSEAD Decision

I had to wait a good month before getting feedback from MIT Sloan (and Wharton), with their R1 decisions released nearer Christmastime. Wharton offered me a spot on their waitlist (more on this here) but then, the following night, I got a call from MIT Sloan. I WAS IN!!

Whatever you have read about admits getting calls with offers, it’s probably all true. I tried my best to remain calm but I was just so grateful for the Admissions team believing in me. In a stunned state, I left the office about two minutes later – no time to focus on my work for once, I had an offer from a top 10 b school and it was time to celebrate!

TopDogMBA MIT Sloan Decision

It’s actually a lot tougher to draw valuable lessons from my acceptances than the dings, but I definitely had a lot more self-belief in these applications. I had also done my homework meticulously and left absolutely nothing to chance.

Prepare, prepare, prepare, and then hope to collect your reward!😉

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