My July 2012 MBA Application Update

In just a few days, it’ll be August.  For many reasons, that is the month that things really begin to heat up in Top 20 MBA land.

For starters, August is when the vast majority of people seem to be joining the app race. That is also the month during which every application that has not already been opened, becomes open.

Actual MBA students start going to (or back to) school in August, giving applicants an opportunity to observe the culture and buzz of a school as it will be if and when we attend. In my opinion, the month of August is really the *official* kick off to the ~9 month MBA application season.

Here are a few bullet points on where I am in my personal race against the clock since I jumped out of the blocks back in March:

School Engagements and/or Visits

I didn’t do too well in this department last spring. After missing out on opportunities to get face time with Berkeley and Wharton (supply and demand issues) and going on 3 schools visits where 2 of them  caused me to nearly lose my lunch, I ended up 1 for 5 with The Stanford GSB being the only program that I both engaged AND really liked.

So far this fall, I’ve successfully signed up for face-to-face engagements with Berkeley and Stanford in Los Angeles. I’ve also registered for the Riordian MBA event that will be held here. All of my target schools were present at last year’s event and it would be lovely of them to all decide to make a repeat appearance. The only downside is that I’ll have to miss the annual barbecue for the program that I”m a mentor for; bummer.

Then, of course there was that  fantastic Tuck coffee chat that I got to experience about two weeks ago. I’ve yet to get the opportunity to attend local events for Wharton, MIT or Yale but will jump at those chances when they come. And though their app deadlines are a full 5 1/2 months away, I’d jump at the chance to engage Kellogg and Booth as well.

Due to budget constraints, I’ll be doing little to no school visits pre-interview time; however, my goal is to have visited the majority of the schools before adcoms begin making final decisions. The purpose of an app is to land you an interview–to have the adcom decide they’d like to meet you to see if you check out as well in person as you do on paper. If my app doesn’t achieve that for a given school, then they probably didn’t see me as a great fit anyway–or at least not as great of a fit as the applicants who got offered interviews.


I made my second GMAT attempt almost exactly a month ago and emerged with a 700 (Q47, V40, AWA6.0) that I was proud of, but knew was not my best. So, like many borderline 700 clubbers before me (690-710 GMAT scorers), I wrestle back and forth with whether I should take it again and under what circumstances).

When I turned 35 two weeks ago, I talked about gearing back up for more GMAT study. Well, that never happened. As Kofi KanKam, Linda Abraham and Cheeterah1980 have all warned me in the past, MBA apps/essays (which I will get to in a moment) are all-consuming. My heart goes out to those poor procrastinators who will attempt to ride both of these bulls at once (apps + GMAT) at any point during this process. It must be unspeakable hell.

So don’t ask me if or when I’ll be retaking the GMAT, because I honestly have no clue at this point. While I’d like to make an effort to be at or above the median for all of my target schools (which would take a 30-point increase to get me to a 730), I am already in the 80% range for all of them.

Due to this fact, good MBA applicant strategy logic dictates that the GMAT’s priority be demoted down a few notches (from #1 to about #3/#4) given that every school that I am applying to has anywhere from 50 to several hundred students who this very moment have been accepted AND matriculated (do not miss that the latter is a lower number than those who were accepted!) with sub-700 GMAT scores. Obviously, there are other data points and intangibles that factor equally (or more heavily) into one’s chances of admission, which leads me to…

Applications and Essays

The actual apps and essays are making me quite the zombie after work these days; though neither comes close to the suffering I endured while studying for the GMAT. Now I actually go to the gym, bathe and even wear clean clothes to work every day—MAJOR improvement!

Here’s a quick recap of how my app deadlines and school clusters line up:

Round 1 – non-consortium: MIT, Wharton, Stanford, HBS (Sept 24 – Oct 24)

Round 1 – consortium: Yale, Tuck, Berkeley (Nov 15)

Round 2 – Chicago schools: Booth, Kellogg (Jan)

Right now, my focus is on my R1 non-consortium schools. I also consider this “the hump” given that all consortium schools are on one app (with only Tuck and Berkeley requiring additional essays this year).

A Detailed App/Essay Breakdown

Wharton Essay Status: – 3/3

On my birthday, I announced that my Wharton working drafts were done. I started with Wharton’s set because they were the most straightforward. Now they are in the process of being reviewed weekly for hairline edits and tweaks, like slow-cooked meat being turned over low heat on a grill.

Now I see the wisdom in completing one set of essays before you move on to other schools. Not only are my Wharton essays leaps and bounds better than the crap that I started off with, but my other essays are getting to that point in less and less revisions. Let’s hope they do the trick.

MIT Essay Status: – 2/3

I also complained about MIT‘s essays being a bit more convoluted than I expected. In all actuality, I quite enjoyed writing my MIT essays and found more than enough room to express what I needed to.

Stanford Essay Status:  – 2/3

What I like about Stanford‘s essay set is that you really get a sense that they want to KNOW you. What a great feeling against the backdrop of such a cold, lonely and stressful process.

Though I had originally planned at least my Stanford “What Matters Most” essay for last (after I crashed and burned miserably on my first attempt), a new idea for it ended up hitting me like a bullet in the head during a conversation that I had with a family member last weekend.

Ultimately, it came together faster and with better clarity and fewer revisions than all of my other essays to date–largely due to the aggressive revision feedback that I got from my friends  L.A. (Booth ’14 Student), A.P. (Kellogg ’13 Student) and S.B. (’07 Stanford GSB grad) plus the pain and suffering I went through to get my Wharton essays on the right track. It also made me feel good when S.B., a friend from my undergrad who graduated from Stanford absolutely loved it and offered no critiques (and she ALWAYS offers critiques).

Harvard Essay Status: – 0/2

When it comes to Harvard, I haven’t even touched those yet–mostly because they are 100% unique unto themselves and will take a new brain storm whereas I was able to use previous brain storms for many of my other essays. There are only so many ways you can talk about your goals unless you have multiple personality syndrome.

I will shift much of my energy to HBS over the next 2 weeks because they have the closest deadline and, therefore, the least amount of time for me to iterate and get them right. And with that nasty 800 (TOTAL!) word limit, I already know I’ll need more revisions than normal to get those tight and right.

I’ve completed about 90-95% of both the Stanford and HBS apps. They took about a day each (to do right). I’ll complete my Consortium, MIT and Wharton apps during August when they open up. I polished my MBA resume and ordered my unofficial transcript months ago; so I’ll be able to upload both to each application as soon as they open.

End of Month Goal – 75% effective projected

Earlier, I stated that my goal was to have working drafts for all 4 of these schools by August. I think i’ll be 75% there, as there are 4 days left and the remaining essay for both MIT and Stanford are essentially the same. Though I will be writing original essays for each, the basic elements will be the same; thus, my time frames will be compressed.

Letters of Recommendation

Most of my schools only require two rec’s. I plan for all those to come from A) my boss and B) a coworker who has volunteered some pretty high praise of the impact I’ve made on my department. Only HBS and Stanford require 3, and I plan to use a different person for each of those, and only that one.

I went after the coworker first. He was glad to oblige and will be starting with Stanford and HBS (the only open apps at this point). Next week, I plan to have THE conversation with my boss. I don’t have any concrete reason to be worried, however, it’s never easy to have an “exit” conversation with your boss, even if said exit is a year away.


Would you like my help getting into your dream b-school? Well, there are two starting points for that:

1. Get a Free Profile Analysis (after receiving your information, I’ll let you know whether or not I think I can help you)

2. Get Help Now (If you already know that you want help and what you want help on, then just skip to here)

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About mbaover30

Wharton MBA and admissions expert

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22 Comments on “My July 2012 MBA Application Update”

  1. Erica Says:

    You gotta love the journey. Onward!!!!!


  2. OhDenny Says:

    Hey kid. Sounds like a good gameplan. Great job getting so many working drafts done! You’re definitely ahead of the curve. My (unsolicited) advice is that once you start on your HBS app, you leave the other schools’ essays alone, except to use them as reference for HBS. You’ve done good by working out some of the kinks with other essays before you get to Harvard, and now you can work on ‘closing out’ schools. Not only does it help you focus on the school, and pay attention to deadline priorities, but it feels great when you can fully cross off each subsequent school.

    Anyway – you are awesome. Keep on truckin’.


  3. Angie Says:

    Impressive! I wish I was this organized. I probably will not even be done with the GMAT until October (at least one can hope, huh?). Much luck and success with crafting a great set of MBA essays. Somehow, I truly feel you will not need that luck. You are doing great!

    One thing I am curious about: Did you get any impressions from Stanford staff or other admissions officials regarding age of admitted applicants? I have spoken to many admissions consultants who keep constantly banging the drum that Stanford tends to admit students that are in their early-mid twenties. I thought that was a bunch of bunk. When I attend their “Many Voices” event, and most of the prospective applicants at the event were around my age.

    Looking forward to seeing you at the Riordan event.


    • mbaover30 Says:

      When did you attend Many Voices at Stanford? If it was last spring then we were in each other’s midst. I, too have heard the beating of age warning drums via consultants. At the same time, I’ve stayed in contact with the guy who hosted Stanford’s winter coffee chat last Feb and w maintains that his class has several non military people who are between ages 33 and 42. I’ve heard similar from other GSB grads. I read a 2011 interview where Derrick Bolton flat out said that it was a myth that age was even considered in that way; but of course any admissions consultant will say that’s BS. My gut tells me hat it depends on he individual and that a news for a full time MBA is more difficult to articulate past a certain age. I dot worry about it. I will do my best and let the chips fall where they may.


      • mbaover30 Says:

        I meant the NEED for a full time MBA. Damn iPhone.

      • Angie Says:

        I actually attended in 2011. I could not attend in 2012, since I had a nasty cold. I was disappointed, since I was actually going to ask about the trends in age, etc. I do actually think it depends on the individual, since you do have to illuminate the requirement for an advanced degree.

        I did like Derrick Bolton. He was very professional and personable.

      • mbaover30 Says:

        I agree re: Derrick– actually the entire staff was like that. It was like a cult of niceness ; refreshing

    • cheetarah1980 Says:

      Stanford does have the youngest average age at matriculation of all the top schools. However, I think that is a function of their applicant pool, especially female applicant pool which tends to skew young anyways. I do not get the impression that Stanford PREFERS younger candidates, but moreso that they are open to them and a large # of young aspiring MBAs apply. I met a woman a couple of weeks ago who is headed to Stanford and she’s 32 and non military. All I know is you won’t get in if you don’t apply.


      • mbaover30 Says:

        Well there’s no arguing with that math, Cheet. Though, to the female point, I wonder why Wharton’s average age isn’t lower given they have been crowned the “sister CEO” school of late. Their (Wharton’s) reputation for age concentration is actually on the other end of the spectrum ( most recent empirical data may refute). Stanford also has a TON of incoming consultants and bankers. 1/3 of their class comes from McKinsey, Bain, BCG, JPMCHASE, Goldman and 1 other bank–just 6 companies. And consultants and bankers tend to be about 26 @ matriculation due to how that industry works.

  4. Angie Says:


    I have read your blog – I enjoyed it. Very informative!

    I think the female applicant pool is smaller by far, and is almost always younger. I can see how this would affect the overall statistics of the applicant pool.


  5. Conrad Says:

    Hi mbaover30,

    My name is Conrad and I am emailing on behalf of Stacy Blackman Consulting (, which is a leading MBA admissions consulting firm. I was asked by Stacy to reach out because we have enjoyed reading your blog.

    I wanted to reach out because of our B-School Buzz Feature, where we highlight the top business school blog articles around the country. These articles will be posted on our blog, which receives tens of thousands of unique visitors every month, and will be broad-casted to our Facebook Page (4000+ fans) and our Twitter account (2000+ followers). If you are interested, can you email me at

    Thanks for your time and energy.




  6. gaurav Says:


    As per your research, is it true that professionals aged 30+ have tough time getting into Harvard/Standford/MIT/Haas? The reason being the IBs do not hire 30+ students.



    • mbaover30 Says:

      Hello Gaurav,

      There are people 30+ at all of those schools; however, there are not tons of us. It also seems that the latter 3 are slightly more open to older candidates than the former. Ultimately, though, it all depends on you. You (we) have to become keen on how you fit into the overall diversity landscape and also be very clear on your reason for an MBA, why now, your goals and have all of that be both realistic and not damning from the standpoint of someone your (our) age, i.e. saying you want to go into iBanking. That’s a young man’s game–and adcoms know that. And if you are doing this coming from India, you’ll probably want to get at least a consultation from a consultant like or Those are the people who have helped me.


      • gaurav Says:

        Thanks MBAover30 for the reply Banking is not my cup of tea. I want to be a social entrepreneur.
        One question: How much money AdmitAdvantage or will charge me for the consultation?

        best regards

      • mbaover30 Says:

        Hello gaurav,

        I’d suggest going to their websites and asking both for a free consultation. Go with whoever feels right for you and offers a package that is within your budget.

      • gaurav Says:

        Hi mbaover30,

        I just had a skype chat lasting 5 minutes with Lisa from Stacy Blackman consulting. She said Tepper, ross, haas , Mc combs are realistic target schools for me. Kinda discouraging!! Could you see my profile (see below) quickly and say what you thinks my chances are at my dream schools (listed below).

        My profile:
        Male, Indian, 33 years, GMAT 700
        Job : working as a Patent consultant at DuPont India
        work experience: 7 years in Intellectual Property rights (Patents)
        Qualification: Master’s in Chemical Engineering from University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, US
        BS: Polymer Science and Chemical technology from one of the best institutes (Delhi College of Engineering) in India.
        GPA (Master’s: 3.93/4.0), Undergrad : 73% (indian system)
        Extracurricular: Leading health and fitness program at my organization. This program has helped the employees improve their productivity levels. We measured data to prove this.
        Volunteer work in developing a school’s infrastructure in a nearby village. The work includes fund raising, teaching students, addressing needs of these students and so on.
        Other interests: Spirituality and Yoga; Did Theater for 2 years, President of Dramatics at the university, Ping Pong champion

        Schools I am interested in include: MIT Sloan, Haas, Kellog’s, Stanford GSB and Ross



      • mbaover30 Says:

        Those are all good schools; however, I’m not a consultant. If SB feels good to you, go with them. If not, contact the others and get a second or 3rd opinion.

  7. Rahul Kundliya Says:

    Nice work, really you are appreciable, i like your website because the content in the website is good and very helpful.

    All the best.



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