I apologize for it being almost a year since my last post as I got quite busy with all my applications but here I am now to reflect on the entire process and to hopefully leave you with some tips and tricks that may help you with the process.
Tip #1: Don’t save your application until the last minute
Although quite self-explanatory, I know too many people who procrastinate and end up saving their application until the very end, which increases the chances of avoidable human errors. I started each of my applications at least 1 month prior to the application due date and made sure to have friends proofread my application for any typos or grammatical mistakes.
Tip #2: Start writing the essay of your backup school first and your dream school last.
In hindsight and in rereading my essays, the first essay I had written for HBS was not as strong as it could have been. It felt very disconnected and did not strongly emphasize any one point relative to my Wharton essay which was the last essay I had submitted. Having applied to 4 schools in total (in order of submission: Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UPenn), my essays got progressively better with each submission as I had more time to think about what I had done and refine my points to tell a more convincing story. It is through the filling out of the application itself as well that made me think more about the value of my work and why it was that I wanted to go to business school.
Tip #3: Talk to as many students, alumni, and professors
I can not stress this point enough. With each school I applied to, I made sure to talk to at least 1 student, 1 alumni, and 1 professor as each one offers a different perspective. It is not about name dropping who you talked to in your essay, but bringing into the fold some of the clubs that you may be of interest in participating in, or some of the industries in which fellow alumni have transitioned into, or even some of the research that you would want to participate in during your time there. For example, in my Wharton essay, I had reached out to Professor Peter Fader, one of the foremost thought leaders in data analytics, and we conversed about some of the projects I had been working on and how it tied into his research on customer lifetime value. That conversation alone got me super excited about the curriculum of Wharton and that’s exactly what I wrote about in my essay. It is these conversations alone that spark new insights that could drive home what you write about in your essays.
Tip #4: Recommendations
Most schools require at least 2 recommenders. Initially, I had followed this guide here:
to create a recommendation package for my 2 recommenders but what I soon realized was that this was overkill. Your recommenders should be close enough to you and understand the work you’ve done that you don’t need to provide so much detail for them and have their letters sound artificially produced. What I ended up doing was writing a paragraph or two emphasizing some of the traits that I wanted each recommender to call out such that there would be no overlap and that the letters would paint a picture of my overall character. For instance, my direct manager would comment on my work ethic and my leadership skills whereas my direct marketing manager would comment on my analytical and problem-solving abilities.
You will get a notification everytime your recommenders submit their letters, so make sure you keep track of which schools have been submitted and for those that haven’t be done within 7 days of the deadline, send a friendly email reminder. Once you find the results of where you are going (bad or good), it is very important that you show your recommenders your token of appreciation, whether it be a small note or a gift. For example, my manager loves photography so I wrote a hand-written note and gave him a gift card to B&H as a sign of appreciation. For my other recommender, I gave him a hand-written thank you note and a nice bottle of whiskey. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant but just thanking them for their time and support goes a long way and is a must.