Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Wharton Feedback

Finally, closure.

Today I got my feedback from Wharton about my application. And I feel much better. Alex Brown definitely did a Bill Clinton - he's got me raring to go off and spend the next few months working on sending PowerYogi to Wharton ;-)

The session lasted 12 minutes and it was very informative and to-the-point. Alex started with some stats. Wharton received around 6000 applications last year, about 15-20% below historical numbers, same as other schools. But, the quality of applicants was top-notch as usual. The average GPA of admitted students was 3.55, average GMAT was 715 and average work experience between 5 1/2 - 6 years.

The first comment he had was that my numbers were outstanding relative to the above figures. The biggest drawback was applying in the third round. At that stage of the process, they are looking for something very substantial that stands way out of the ordinary. And my application did not have that. I did not distinguish myself adequately for the competition in round 3.

That said, he said that they felt it was a strong application. They saw good things, and my essays were pretty good too. I asked about essay 1 and he said that the goals were fine, and the Why MBA, Why Wharton were well answered. My recommendations were strong, and my interview assessment was in line with the rest of the application, a good thing according to Alex. The interviewer also noticed some strenghts with relation to my volunteer work and goals.

He asked me what I'm doing at work, and why I applied R3. Then, we talked about reapplication. He advised me to reapply Round 1 unless there was a drastic situation like a change of job. He said I should be able to put together a strong application with updates from the past six months or so at work, showing growth and leadership. About the goals, he said that I could have a more definite path from W to my entrepreneurial ambitions. Also to focus more on pure entrepreneurship in the re-application. (I don't recall why I took down 'pure' entrepreneurship in my notes !). I also have a note that says to talk more about entrepreneurial experiences. I asked feedback on the 3 other essays and thoughts on which they think I could re-address. He said that they didn't have a specific recommendation, but that I should pick the topic that best fits in with the theme and context of the re-application.

Finally, I asked if they saw any specific weaknesses in my application itself, or the picture it potrayed of me, and the answer was negative. There were no explicit weaknesses, but they were really looking for something that distinguished my R3 application - a real hook to separate it from the rest, and that wasn't entirely evident.  

As I got off the phone, there were two insights he offered that stood out. First, he said that they did not have any specific areas of improvement they identified. But, that it was probably a good thing because if there were indeed specific things to do, then it means I would have some work to do to get to the point of being a strong applicant. That is an interesting thought. Secondly, I mentioned that I have started to help an ex-boss with his startup venture. His take on it was to talk about it in the reapplication. What it shows is that despite being denied an admission, I have taken steps to pursue my goals - this is a testament to the integrity of my stated goals. Hmm, it does sound pretty impressive when put that way !

I feel good. I obviously knew the rate of acceptance in the 3rd round before I applied. It was due to my own mismanagement of the application process and it is entirely my fault. Responsibility taken. And, lessons learned.

So, we move onwards and upwards. I am glad that my goals, and reasons for an MBA, are in the right place. I think it would be disingenuous to put a different spin on those just so I could make it to b-school. What I do need to do is refine and concretize them, and explain more eloquently how I plan to get there from after W. I will take this feedback, talk to people for their insights, and start putting together my next set of essays.

"silent gratitude isn't much use to anyone", said Gladys Browyn Stern.

So, before I go off and think about next year, I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Wharton's admissions staff and students. These folks are, in my experience, the most professional, open, and genuine team out there. They set a standard for the admissions process that no other school even comes close to. I see it as respect for the efforts that prospective students put into crafting applications. From start to finish, there is someone to answer the most inane of questions on the s2s boards. A call to their offices has always gotten me the information I was seeking. There is easy access to students and alumni to help understand the school. And who are more often than not willing to help with essays etc. Finally, their offer of feedback to almost any applicant who wants it is extremely generous. I don't understand certain schools' indifference to offering feedback, others' offering it to select candidates, and yet others' shying away from it stating resource constraints. C'mon people, if Wharton can do it, you can too. If you cared enough to want to, that is.
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