Threepeat – Part One
-OhDenny, a veteran gmatclubber graciously agreed to share his ‘Road to the MBA’ story with the world. Over the next three days you will hear his story–one of trial, tribulation… and triumph. OhDenny’s narrative will capture the interest of all of us, but particularly those who weren’t successful their first time around applying to b-school. Enjoy the enthralling read over the next few days.-
A story of B-School psychosis in three acts.
So, The Senator is a genius for setting up one of the best B-School blogs in the country. After I’d posted a few tidbits of my B-School story and gotten some positive responses from my compadres on GMATClub, I had been looking for a forum to post it in (it felt weird to just sink it into the forums over there). Thank goodness for The Senator. I hope this is useful for someone who has faced the sting of the ding this year or in the future.
Act I: I Attempt Something Dumb
In the Fall of 2007 I went through a quarter-life crisis. I was 25 years old, just getting out of a four-year relationship, had just moved from Brooklyn to Queens (gasp!), and was feeling the itch to do something big, professionally. I’d spent three and a half years working my way up at two high-profile NYC non-profits. At the same time I was the executive director of a small ensemble theater company that I’d founded coming out of undergrad at NYU, where I was an acting major. I was busy and happy, but there was that existential angst that every 25-year-old feels that told me that I needed to shake things up. I loved producing – creating art without necessarily being an ‘artist’ but I didn’t know how to make it a career, and grad school was the last thing on my mind.
That is until my brother said something very offhand. He’s a startup exec, and he had just been promoted for, like, the seventh time in five years. I said something typically little-brother-ish, like, “How the hell did you get so good at this? You were a useless English major.” He graciously responded, “Business is about talking to people and being friendly. In fact, I think you’d be much better at it than me. You should go get an MBA.”
I think I laughed in his face, and promptly forgot the conversation. Three months later, I sat straight up in bed and said, “Oh, shit! That’s what I need to do to shake things up!”
Now, if you’ve been reading a lot of Poets & Quants, or have gone through the experience yourself, you’re probably thinking that ‘Shaking things up’ is not a solid enough reason to get you into an M7 School, or even something in the Top 15. You would be right, but please understand that at this point, I didn’t even know what an M7 School was.
Took the GMAT once, scored a 660. Took it again, and scored a 720. Was smugly satisfied. I applied Round 2 to HBS, Kellogg and Yale SOM with 2 months to prepare.
Like I said – I was pretty dumb.
I was so young, and so unprepared for what this process would actually entail. My brother tried to warn me that I hadn’t given myself enough time to do proper research and really workshop my essays, but, like all 25-year-olds, (especially 25-year-old actors) I was convinced I was the exception to the rule and wouldn’t need all of that bothersome prep – they were going to see I was a diamond in the rough and that I was so much special-er than the rest of the applicants.
I chose Harvard because it was the best, Kellogg, because I loved Chicago (I’d never heard of Booth at that point…), and Yale as a backup, because it was ‘the non-profit school’ and I wanted to meet people who were from other sectors. (Boy did I misfire on that one.) This was pretty much all I knew about any of these schools. I figured I’d get to learn about the schools as I was invited to interview on campus. I didn’t even ask anyone about this, I was so firmly convinced that I had all of the answers.
I bombed. My essays were rushed, I had no coherent story to tell, I didn’t know ‘Why MBA?’ or ‘Why Our School?’ I didn’t even visit Kellogg.
I consider myself lucky that I got Waitlisted at Kellogg, and Interviewed at SOM that year. I ultimately got dinged by all three, including SOM, which was an absolute shock to my cocky young self, though I had no right to be shocked in hindsight.
The experience strangely didn’t sour me. I came out of it humbled, but kind of pumped up. I got good feedback from Yale saying “There was little bad to say about your application. You just didn’t make the cut.” which was at once heartening and infuriating. But I gained some resolve, and learned some lessons.