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The word – part 1: the bad…

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 Bad

So, I’m sharing two dings to start with as these sum up my experience last year.

HBS was the first ding and was quite a shock. I thought I’d done a good job within the confines of a very short application form, enough to get myself an interview at one of the best b schools in the world, right? Wrong! This was the first sign that things weren’t going quite as well as they should have been.

I vividly remember going through various stages of emotions: disbelief (‘they must have made a mistake’); anger (‘to hell with them and their elitism’); and finally acceptance (‘I did my best so I guess I just wasn’t the right fit’). HBS had (this may have changed since) a tough reputation for dinging re-applicants so I knew this was my one and only shot, and I blew it. Ouch!

TopDogMBA HBS Decision

Having at least secured interviews at MIT Sloan and Wharton, I felt more optimistic about Columbia. My main mistake here, I still believe, was not applying in the Early Decision round. The problem is I really wasn’t sure that I wanted to go to Columbia and this no doubt fed through my application. This brought my final tally to five dings. Game over for that season!

TopDogMBA Columbia Decision

Two valuable lessons here:

1) Believe in yourself at all times. Have no doubts in your writing and submit the absolute best version of yourself.

2) Be confident that you’re applying to the right b school for the right reasons. It will show if you’ve not done your homework or aren’t sincere in your application.

Stay tuned for more Admissions letters. Tomorrow, the good…

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Birthday – TopDogMBA is 1 year old!

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May 1st, 2015 – It’s one year since I started my TopDogMBA blog and what a year it’s been!

I had no way of knowing when I started TopDogMBA – heavily inspired by the likes of MBAOver30 – if my re-application strategy was going to be a success, but I was determined to go all out to get into a top 10 b school.

And now I can reflect on a year that’s literally changed my life, tested my mettle at every turn, but is a testament to overcoming the odds in the face of adversity. Plus I got a birthday endorsement from MBAOver30 himself on his blog site recently 🙂

Having received 20,000 hits to date, the real Top Dog (aka Beatrice) is having a little nap and dreaming of her trip to the U.S. this fall. We both look forward to meeting up with some of you who’ve followed my journey when we get there!

I’d like to thank all my readers for your support, advice and generosity during the past year. I hope that I’ve been able to help many of you in return who are or are thinking about applying to b school.

Keep in touch and stay tuned for more MBA application insights and candid talk on applying to your dream b school.

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A day in the life – part 3: school-by-school application plan

It’s nearly a year since TopDogMBA came into being and – over 18,000 hits later – I’ve decided to share some of the application aids I created that helped me get two admits (and a waitlist) from top 10 b schools.

I hope that it helps any newbies to the MBA application process, gives some light relief to anyone going through it right now and elicits some groans from anyone who already made it through.

Part 3: My School-by-School Application Plan

Building on the Application Masterplan spreadsheet I shared in my recent post, here’s my school-by-school plan which I used to manage my time and tackle all the (main) constituent parts of the MBA application process.

TopDogMBA Application Plan

Eagle-eyed followers of my blog will no doubt notice that the final plan differs from the one I posted last fall. The application process is hard to predict sometimes – after a 12 hour day at the office picking up a first draft essay is possibly not a great idea! – and my schedule moved around a bit as a result.

Having a clear idea of what I wanted to achieve week-by-week and day-by-day helped me prioritise my MBA application workload, and avoid the trap of cramming near deadline dates and delaying things I didn’t want to do.

I gave myself a green box each time I achieved what I planned to achieve on that date, and a red box if I did not (and an orange box on a new date to catch up with the work I missed).

There are also some hard lessons reflected in this plan:

  • Build in some ‘slippage’ time by being keen in the early days so you can push back items if needed (and you will need to!)
  • Prepare the key points you’d like your recommenders to focus on early in the game, and allow them enough time to submit their recommendation
  • It takes time for your friends/alumni/consultant to review your essay drafts, so leave at least a week between drafts to allow for their feedback
  • Work on the ‘boring’ bits of the application, e.g. filling in your education and job details, in the interim periods

Speaking of which, I also prepared a one-pager with all the missing bits in each of my applications which didn’t really deserve a mention in the Application Masterplan or School-by-School Application Plan.

TopDogMBA Missing Information_INSEADTopDogMBA Missing Information_Wharton

These are pretty self-explanatory and don’t need any explanation, but I found them worthwhile to carry about in case I had a few minutes unexpected free time to work on them. I also know people who completely overlooked additional questions in their application and only discovered them shortly before the submission deadline – not a great situation! 🙂

Well, I’ve pretty much shared the main application aids that I used during my MBA application process. I hope it gives you an idea of what’s involved, help with your actual applications or, if you’re a current MBA student or alum who mysteriously likes to read MBA applicants blogs, a bit of a kick!

For the final part of this ‘A Day In The Life’ series, I’m going to share some of my actual correspondence from b schools I applied to. Stay tuned!

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A day in the life – part 2: my application masterplan

It’s nearly a year since TopDogMBA came into being and – over 18,000 hits later – I’ve decided to share some of the application aids I created that helped me get two admits (and a waitlist) from top 10 b schools.

I hope that it helps any newbies to the MBA application process, gives some light relief to anyone going through it right now and elicits some groans from anyone who already made it through.

Part 2: My Application Masterplan

Further to my recent post on my GMAT strategy and study aids, I wanted to share my ‘Application Masterplan’ spreadsheet. This was the single most important file for me during the whole MBA application process.

TopDogMBA Application MASTER

As well as allowing me to keep the relevant application site URLs, login details and key dates in one handy place, it allowed me to see in a snapshot the entire application overview for each b school I was applying to.

Keeping the Masterplan in my pocket, on my work PC and pinned up in my home study, I could make good use of any free time I had to focus on part of my application(s). I regularly worked on an essay question while I was walking my dog, riding the subway or stuck in a boring meeting.

All those extra hours made a difference and, as the weeks and months wore on, it was very satisfying to update the status of each question / recommendation / section (yes, I even had time to include a little drop down menu!) 🙂

This spreadsheet evolved throughout my re-application experience (by the time I submitted my applications I was on v.30) and you may find that some information is not relevant to you or that something relevant to you is missing, but I hope it helps as a template for your own applications.

I’m also happy to share an Excel version if you PM me using the ‘connect’ menu at the top of this page through email or Twitter.

Part 3 is going to be about my school-by-school application plan. Stay tuned!

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General stuff

A day in the life – part 1: GMAT

It’s nearly a year since TopDogMBA came into being and – over 18,000 hits later – I’ve decided to share some of the application aids I created that helped me get two admits (and a waitlist) from top 10 b schools.

I hope that it helps any newbies to the MBA application process, gives some light relief to anyone going through it right now and elicits some groans from anyone who already made it through.

Part 1: GMAT

When I sat down to prepare for my GMAT in 2012, it had been nearly a decade since I’d taken any official exams. I was targeting a 700+ score to see if I had “what it took” to get into a top b school.

This was the study plan I wrote to give myself 10 weeks and about 80 study hours to ace the test (in this version I’m halfway through).

TopDogMBA GMAT Study Plan

It sounds obvious but I found it really helpful to dissect my time between the Quant, Verbal, Integrated Reasoning (then a new concept) and Analytical Writing Assessment sections, as well as taking regular practice tests to establish my progress.

The plan moved around a bit depending on my results as I needed to dive back and forth between sections, but broadly it worked well for me to devote an hour each weekday morning (set that alarm clock an hour earlier folks!) and then 4–6 hours each weekend.

I was able to get through using only the official GMAC guide and Princeton Review manuals (the latter came with a handy CD). The GMATPrep practice exams were also particularly useful to get a feel for the exam format (I even took lavatory breaks between sections and went to a different room to drink).

I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that I even drove to the test center a week in advance to make sure I knew where it was and which floor it was on but…

In the end, my prep worked out well and I got a 720 in my first attempt!

TopDogMBA GMAT Score Report

At the time I was elated by my score but – over time – I met a lot of people with higher scores and I realised that it was just another part of a long and difficult application process.

I would encourage anyone considering an MBA to get the GMAT done and dusted at the earliest opportunity. Don’t try to do this at the same time as applying to b school. The scores are valid for five years so it’s worth doing it ASAP even if your MBA plans slip by a year or two.

Part 2 is going to be all about my Application Masterplan. Stay tuned!

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Tomorrow never knows …UPDATED

When I wrote this original post exactly nine months ago I had no idea how things would work out and more than a little self-doubt. I was still depressed and struggling to come to terms with my five dings in 2013/14.

In many ways 30 June 2014 was the low point for me, when I realised that my dream was put on hold and I had a long climb to get on top of things. Was it worth the effort? What if it didn’t pay off? Why on earth did I decide to write a blog so everyone could witness my challenges and potential shortcomings!?

Well, today I’ve finally resigned from my job to start my journey to the U.S. to study my MBA! I’ve no idea how many more weeks I’ll be asked to work but this chapter of my life is now coming to an end – I’m dead excited at the prospect of attending MIT Sloan in the fall!

As well as those of you who will be joining me in a few months’ time, I know a lot of you who got disappointing news from your dream b schools this season and won’t be coming on this journey …yet.

I’d like to give you some feedback and hope in this process: it’s more than a little random; it doesn’t always make sense; it’s nothing to do with you as a person; and, most importantly, disappointments today can be overcome with victories tomorrow if you want it enough. And those victories taste all the sweeter for the struggle 😉

We’ve all learned a lot from the application process – it’s a unique opportunity to really consider your potential and future career/life path. Strangely, after I was dinged by Stanford GSB, the words of their Dean of Admissions helped keep things in perspective: ‘Have confidence in what you have achieved. Be faithful to your passions. Trust in what you aspire to accomplish.’

Congrats to everyone who got the admit they hoped for, best of luck to everyone still waiting to hear from their dream b school, and I hope the above is helpful to anyone still considering their options. Anything is possible!

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Do you want to know a secret …still waitlisted at Wharton!

Round 2 decisions were released today. I was hoping to convert my waitlist position to an admit, but I got re-waitlisted instead.

So, I’m still in the game but feels like it’s going to be a long wait.

Congrats to everyone who got admitted today!

Need to digest this news and plan my next move. Stay tuned folks!

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