Tuesday, January 11, 2005

How many times can I tell the same story?

I sat down christmas weekend, after unwrapping my gift from Wharton, to think about my application strategy going forward. I pulled out the list of R2/3 schools I had drawn up and did a serious rethink of where I could/should apply given the deadlines, possibilities of getting accepted etc. I came up with a list of three more schools that I could reasonably do and made up a plan of attack.

That's when I hit a wall, and the title of this post aptly sums it up. I don't know if other re-applicants ever experience this phase, but it's a funky case of Writer's Block. I knew what I needed to say, had already done it a few different ways, but somehow lost the enthusiasm to do so. I guess I felt weighed down by a combination of repetitive boredom, fatigue, and efforts unrequited. The temptation to just pick from my, now considerable, cache of essay materials, change school names, and submit actually gave me a few good nights' sleep.

But, I also realized (finally ! i'm starting to learn from my mistakes :) that this is the kiss of death. So, I sucked it up and went back to the drawing board. Square one. Locked up all my older essays and sat down with an empty sheet of paper. In essence, started my application process anew. I spent a couple of days revisiting my life, writing about every event that matters to me, and the when/how/why/why-not's of it all. It was a therapeutic exercise, and had the effect of bringing back my self-confidence and the enthusiasm.

The next step, a serious post-mortem of my apps so far, revealed two main areas of improvement: better use of the non-essay parts of the app, and more detail about my intended job right after MBA. I tackled the latter first. I laid out what I want to be doing longer-term, around 15 years from now, and short term, 5 years out. For both I tried to answer two questions - why and what skills do I need to be successful. Working backwards I came up the exact job I want to do after an MBA. As I juxtaposed the skills sets needed to achieve each of these against what I currently possess, the gap between now and the future, and the reasons for an MBA to connect the dots, became evident.

That done, I picked up my next application - LBS - and researched, researched, and re-researched the school. I listed every available question on the app, from language skills to essays and spent a ton of time matching this with the body of work developed earlier to find appropriate places in the application for all the information I wanted conveyed. I must say I did indeed sleep well after this was done. The results included a complete re-do of my resume, asking for and being allowed to submit a cover letter, and oddly enough, stricter limits on my essays - there were things that I HAD to talk about in each essay.

Essay 1 - why, why, why - was serious, as is wont to be, given the subject matter. The closing of Essay 2 - teamwork experiences and what I'd bring to my study group - had both my reviewers(yes, I did have two lined up with decent time to review) in splits. Heck, I laughed out loud when I wrote it. It is something that complements the opening and, at the same time, humorous.

For Essay 3 - what club/activity would I start at LBS - I broke my own rules. I had planned for this essay to cover my past experiences starting/running student clubs, fundraising etc. But, as I was thinking of an interesting way to actually say all this, and talk about what I actually wanted to start, an intriguing essay format cropped up in my brain. Actually, energized me would be more like it. It's the most creative idea I've had since my Chicago mascot essay and I decided to use it. Though i didn't get to cover all the aforementioned bullet points, I did answer the asked question in a very interesting way.

A hard part of the entire exercise was resisting the temptations, which presented themselves at regular intervals, to say that I already know what I've done, what I want to do etc. Harder still was overcoming my ADD to force myself to start getting things done a few days before the deadline.

The end-result : What I think is a very solid application, which took entirely too long, but was done and submitted on time.
Will-it-be-good-enough : The one thing I'm sure of, is that no one can be sure of this one. Will have to wait and see.

Must-Do's for the next app: The employment & activities sections could use more attention, have NOTHING on the app left undone on submission date, and allow myself to get creative on the essays.

I've been catching up on the blogs and boards, and wish the best for everyone who is working on R2/3 applications. Onwards and Upwards we go.
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