Second recommender down – as well as energy levels

As discussed last week, the task moving forward in my applications for last week has been securing the support of my second recommender. Her background is as a former MBA-grad herself, which brings with it both a certain credibility as a recommender and also a good awareness of the requirements of the admissions committees.

I’m pleased to say she has wholeheartedly agreed to support me, and accompanied it with an amazing show of enthusiasm. She began the conversation with a wish to ask me to consider a secondment to help develop internal succession planning – considering this, it’s even more gracious of her to consider supporting an application that she will surely know will result in a significant chance of me leaving the business.

Now away on annual leave to visit her home in the states, I am largely left to my own devices, blundering aimlessly through the unstructured mess that are my essays. This is still an improvement on no mess at all!

In other news, I had been sharing in the general feel in the blogging community a slight ‘summer slowdown’. I suspect the long anti-climactic build-up and working through the summer is draining the energy (and fun) out of the process for many. My recommenders getting involved is giving me a little extra push so some progress has been made this week. Long may it continue up until my ill-advised holiday in the first week in September…

EDIT: Logged into the HBS application this evening. Went in just to enter some basic information, and check I hadn’t forgotten anything that needed ordering like transcripts. Feel overwhelmed! Throughly recommend logging in early if you haven’t already.

Sweating on the big things

Over in the UK we’re experiencing our hottest and most sustained heatwave with temperatures hitting the roasting highs of 36°C, the hottest temperatures here since 2006. My days are punctuated by my staff complaining about the heat, sport-related sunburn and a regular prescription of ice cold beer, three times a day (I’m definitely the best Doctor for me).

Needless to say, none of these are really suited to sitting and focusing on anything related to indoor introspection but do provide some breaks to the usual routine. My applications go through sudden burst of activity often followed by up to a week of little or no progress. They continue to dominate my thoughts though, I’d describe my essay drafts as ‘patchy’ – an improvement from the previous status of ‘sparse’.

I have an appointment to discuss my application with my General Manager early next week, and hopefully secure agreement for her to be my second recommender. The build-up to a slightly awkward conversation is now nothing new to me, following my early discussion with my line manager which went really well (read about it here in my first post) and I plan to follow similar lines.

As a MBA-alum, and someone familiar with both my own experience and also the application process, I’d dearly love her to agree to invest that time in me. I also know that she is incredibly busy at the moment, as well as a little more emotionally involved in such things, so I am a little apprehensive. I discovered last week that my prospective recommendation was in danger of evaporating due to a 3 week holiday in the August to return home to the states, so I am slightly more rushed than I’d planned. Still, if I can’t cope with this maybe an MBA isn’t such a good idea?

Most deadlines are now around 2 months away, apart from HBS who have obviously have decided they need to be first and have their first deadline in 16th Sept. Having broadly decided now on my application strategy up until the end of the year and R2 it’s time to go to work! That’s if BBQs and sunshine-bathing don’t get in the way. Just another 30 minutes…

x drafts + y rewrites = ?

MBA applicants around the world are starting to lock themselves away with laptops and immersing themselves in their essays. Unless they haven’t started yet or still brushing up their GMAT in which case that last sentence won’t help at all.

I came across a rather extraordinary exchange on a prominent forum the other day, that went a little like this;

Applicant 1: I’m 3 drafts down for HBS and done 2 drafts for Wharton….

Applicant 2: I’m on draft 4 for HBS

Applicant 3: I’ve done 6 drafts for HBS already!!!

Applicant 1: Man, I need to write faster. I suck at writing essays.

I think that really sums up my point. Since when did more drafts equal more quality? Who has six genuine separate stories that they need to tell the admissions team of their chosen school? Absolutely no-one, that’s who.

Maybe its because graduate business applicants by their nature are quantitative-heavy in general, they feel the need to measure themselves in such discreet terms. I’m sure that some applicants feel less than secure about their message and that they also need to brag about these stats online. And I’m absolutely certain that no-one who writes ‘6 drafts’ as they put it has any 1 draft that makes a good essay.


“A number-of-draft to quality ratio can be expressed with an inverse exponential equation”… Seriously, just shut the f%$* up!

I’m certainly working on my essays. How many drafts have I written? Well, for the one’s I’ve started worked on maybe 1.5 – 2.5? Its rare I complete tear up a draft and start again. I take bits out, I put bits in, I take bits out again. I cut down words, I use simpler clearer vocabulary. But I don’t start all over again, and I have no idea how many ‘drafts’ I’ve written.

I don’t come from any genuine experience, but I do have a good gut feeling about some of these things. If you’re out there, locked in your room, furiously crossing whole essays out with red pen, relax and write something about you that is true and matters. I’m sure it’ll be a better essay.

I’ll put the unusual rage displayed in this post down to light cabin-fever…


Stuck in the middle with… my essays

Traffic - my worst enemy

Traffic – my worst enemy

I had a new experience this weekend, I gained a flat tire on a noisy British motorway. Unfortunately it was on a main route to the ferry ports in the South-East England, meaning a huge goods vehicle thundered past every 10 seconds inches away from where I crouched and struggled with a small and slightly plastic-y compact vehicle jack.

After almost falling backwards from my crouched position for the third time into a certain death, I caught myself doing something even more ridiculous. I am getting MBA application essays on the brain. Even before I’d finished tightening the wheel nuts I was trying to work this latest episode into a “Tell me about a time you’ve triumphed in adversity” essay (maximum 500 words).

I furnished my story in my head with images of myself standing on top of my vehicle in celebration, or flagging down a heavily laden lorry to save a small bunny rabbit that had strayed into the road from the grassy verges (Stamford would love this stuff, so I’ve heard. Throw in a bit of landmine-clearing or other animal saving activities while I’m at it…)

Having changed over in a rather impressive time for a first timer that would make some pro-racing teams proud – that Engineering degree wasn’t for nothing kids – I retreated home. I need to make some better essay progress and the semi-thrashed notes in my head just aren’t working, or at least fast enough.

So an enforced day at home after a trip to the garage involved roughly 50% tennis viewing and 50% essay structuring. I’ve not gone full-technicolor spreadsheet with all my essays, but I have constructed a list of titles, deadlines and a rough essay sequence to get drafts done. I feel better already! I won’t when I miss all my self-imposed deadlines…

Juggling my work responsibilities between now and the end of September (as well as having to help plan a wedding – yeah well, like it wasn’t enough of a challenge already?) is going to be causing some serious stresses and strains ahead so hopefully this bit of planning will ease some of my worries.