4/2/13

Since I found out I'd been admitted to HBS in R1, others have asked me how I did it, how I got in. Usually, I say I hit refresh on my application status every 3 seconds until it changed to "admitted". I hesitate to answer seriously because I don't want anyone to follow my path as a blueprint for admission.

My story started during my junior year at a service academy. I was taking my first classes as an econ major and went on a field trip to HBS where we did a mock case with HBS faculty. I still remember the case - a comparison of Coach K and Bobby Knight's leadership styles. That's what sparked my interest.

I'd always been pretty good academically, but the prospect of business school gave me even more reason to focus on my academics. I barricaded myself in my room the rest of junior and senior year, ultimately graduating with a 3.9.

For the next five years, business school had to wait - I owed the army five years for my free education. It didn't take long to decide that I didn't want to make the army a career - having little say in assignments or locations, seeing incompetent officers given less work/responsibility while earning the same pay and same promotions, seeing high-performing officers given crushing workloads with no reward or prospect of early advancement, etc.

So, like anyone with a good deal of time on his hands, I prepared. I read everything I could about business school - books, forums, consultant blogs, school guides. And then I studied for three solid months. It paid off - 750 GMAT and I held a celebratory GMAT study guide bonfire in my backyard. (See my gmat post here)

I'd gotten myself solid numbers, but that alone wasn't going to get me into schools. I needed more. I volunteered at an animal shelter but it didn't feel right; it was contrived. After struggling with the issue for several months, I resolved to do sincere service only, and I eventually found myself teaching my soldiers personal finance in the natural course of my job. I kept that up.

As application season drew near, I knew essays were my chance to give color to my story. I'm not a writer, but I'd jotted leadership stories in a journal that fellow vets encouraged me to keep. Picking ones that fit the various prompts, I went through 6-8 drafts of each essay to make sure the real me showed through, not some black and white, standards-loving army guy.

Lastly, I freaked out about - ahem - my lack of alumni recommenders. I was delusional. Having the support of my supervisors - who could detail everything I'd done over the past year - was better than a superficial rec from an alum I spoke with once for 15 minutes. Still, it took me a while to realize that. There was also the matter of getting recommenders to put pen to paper. Knowing they'd procrastinate, and fearing my apps would get bumped a round for late recommendations, I told my recommenders my drop-dead submission date (a week ahead of the real deadline). They cut it close, but in reality, my apps were ready a week early.

Having done everything I could, I submitted my applications, and then it was time to wait again. No big deal. What was another few months in a five year journey?

Comments (25)

3/31/13

^^obviously someone gives a shit or nobody would have asked him. The guy above is obviously jelly. Carry on.

3/31/13

^^what's with the hostility bro?

"Do whatever it takes to keep the legend of Wall Street as it was truly intended live on. When you think back on investment banking of the early 21st century, remember the heat--remember the passion. But mostly, remember the titans. " - LSO

3/31/13

Have you decided where you're going to bschool yet or are you still waiting to hear back from other places?

3/31/13

reformed:
Have you decided where you're going to bschool yet or are you still waiting to hear back from other places?

HBS was my #1 choice from the start, so that's where I'm headed. I also applied to Wharton and Stanford. Got in to Wharton but dinged at Stanford after interviews.

If there's interest, I may do a future post on the interviews. Strangely, I met all three schools' admissions directors during the course of applying - one was my interviewer, one caught me soaking wet without an umbrella on interview day, and I ran into the last one on a trip to southwest Asia.

3/31/13

cinnamontoastcrunch:
reformed:
Have you decided where you're going to bschool yet or are you still waiting to hear back from other places?

HBS was my #1 choice from the start, so that's where I'm headed. I also applied to Wharton and Stanford. Got in to Wharton but dinged at Stanford after interviews.

If there's interest, I may do a future post on the interviews. Strangely, I met all three schools' admissions directors during the course of applying - one was my interviewer, one caught me soaking wet without an umbrella on interview day, and I ran into the last one on a trip to southwest Asia.

As if there was a choice someone would actually turned down HBS, I think not. And Congrats

"Do whatever it takes to keep the legend of Wall Street as it was truly intended live on. When you think back on investment banking of the early 21st century, remember the heat--remember the passion. But mostly, remember the titans. " - LSO

3/31/13

Way to go bro. WSO's representing this year!

4/1/13

You don't mention anything about what you did as an officer in the Army.

I mean there is a ton of difference between an Air Force Officer who sits on a base and does contract management vs. the Army Infantry Officer who lead his soldiers through a year of Taleban ambushes in Helmand province. (I'm sure someone will immediately point out that it does not matter to B-Schools whether you are the former or the latter, but personally I would give that Infantry Officer a lot more respect. FYI, I want to be the former, but I respect Combat Arms guys more)

OP, I am going to send you a PM asking for advice on my own situation and if you don't want to mention what you did in the Army, that's fine as well.

4/1/13

mongoose:
You don't mention anything about what you did as an officer in the Army.

I mean there is a ton of difference between an Air Force Officer who sits on a base and does contract management vs. the Army Infantry Officer who lead his soldiers through a year of Taleban ambushes in Helmand province. (I'm sure someone will immediately point out that it does not matter to B-Schools whether you are the former or the latter, but personally I would give that Infantry Officer a lot more respect. FYI, I want to be the former, but I respect Combat Arms guys more)

OP, I am going to send you a PM asking for advice on my own situation and if you don't want to mention what you did in the Army, that's fine as well.

Mongoose, you hit the nail on the head that there's a lot of difference in the roles and responsibilities of officers in the various branches, but there are also quite a few similarities. Yes, infantry, armor, and the other combat arms guys do the "sexy" stuff, and arguably, they have tighter bonds in their units than say a transportation unit. But both will spend an inordinate amount of time working on administrative and punitive actions as well.

I submit to you that the commonality of officers (and non-commissioned officers) of all branches is leadership and direct responsibility for subordinates. That's an experience that few business school peers are likely to have at such a young age, and that's what admissions committees value in vets.

Without getting into it too much, I had enough exposure during my summer experiences to many of the combat arms to know that, yes, I could do them, but I also knew that I would be miserable if I freely chose that for myself for five years. And it's a little cheesy, but I believe all soldiers deserve good leadership, whether human resources clerks, IT geeks, chaplains' assistants, etc.

4/1/13

Congratulations Cinnamontoastcrunch. Appreciate your sharing. Also looking to apply, as a junior, entertaining the idea of the 2+2 option or waiting it out and working first. You mentioned doing a case there during UG, any advice on how to cultivate a relationship with HBS similarly before applying?

"On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."
- Zerohedge.com

4/1/13

Ketelwon:
Congratulations Cinnamontoastcrunch. Appreciate your sharing. Also looking to apply, as a junior, entertaining the idea of the 2+2 option or waiting it out and working first. You mentioned doing a case there during UG, any advice on how to cultivate a relationship with HBS similarly before applying?

Thanks, Ketelwon. If your college is in the northeast and you're actively involved in some sort of club, you could organize a club trip to HBS. For instance, the investment club at my school took a trip to HBS every fall. You could link up with the leadership of a student club at HBS and make that happen.

An alternative would be to find an alum from your school, or a successful 2+2 applicant, and to tag along to a class or two with them. Either way, it'll give you some exposure to the school and more information to make a decision on whether and when you want to apply.

4/1/13

Congrats on admission. I did that Coach K/Bobby Knight case last year, it's a great one IMO.

MM IB (2 years) -> TMT Corporate Development

4/1/13

Way to go, I wish you the best

...in other news, Brady is having a conniption?

Get busy living

4/1/13

UFOinsider:
Way to go, I wish you the best

...in other news, Brady is having a conniption?

If I'd turned down admission, Brady's head might explode.

Since I've accepted, I'll make sure to report if "people are hooking up like rabbits". For science. (Reference here)

4/1/13

cinnamontoastcrunch:
UFOinsider:
Way to go, I wish you the best

...in other news, Brady is having a conniption?

If I'd turned down admission, Brady's head might explode.

Since I've accepted, I'll make sure to report if "people are hooking up like rabbits". For science. (Reference here)


Ah cool, keep us posted, inquiring minds want to know

Get busy living

4/1/13

Congratulations on your acceptance! (Hopefully) right behind you, man.

This could be it, sweetheart.

4/1/13

That's worth a silver banana for you. I happen to be President of an Investment Club here at Cornell. So now that you mention it I think I will pursue just that. Coincidentally, we happen to maintain a relationship with Harvard College's undergraduate business club as well.

And another plus, I happen to be friends with a 2+2 applicant. He had a policy background which gave him an edge. Do you think it's a disadvantage for a 2+2 applicant to be in an undergraduate business program applying? (I'm in Dyson).

"On a long enough timeline the survival rate for everyone drops to zero."
- Zerohedge.com

4/1/13

Cinnamon: How old are you?

Ketelwon:
Do you think it's a disadvantage for a 2+2 applicant to be in an undergraduate business program applying? (I'm in Dyson).

As far as I can tell... absolutely.

4/2/13

Angus Macgyver:
Cinnamon: How old are you?

Just turned 27.

KKS:
How much do you think your military experience played into your admissions? Do you feel like that was the cornerstone of your application?

Without a doubt. It's no secret that a lot of the top b-schools value having vets in their classes. Take a look at class profiles for various schools and note the % that come from military. I don't think it's possible to separate my applications from my being in the military - it's an organization I've been associated with for 9 years now (if you count my 4 years at the academy), so it has been a big part of who I am. Honestly, I don't think I'd be in the position I am today had I gone to a "real" college and a different profession. There's so many pitfalls along the way - partying, pretty girls, internships, the economy - that probably would have thrown me off track. It's impossible to know though.

TheTwoHacker:
Can you share on what sources are you referring to when you say "books, forums, consultant blogs, school guides"?

I'll only list the sources that were valuable to me, because there's a lot of garbage out there IMHO.

Books- What They Teach You at Harvard Business School, Manhattan GMAT Study Guides, GMAT Official Guides

Forums- WSO, gmatclub, Beatthegmat

Consultant blogs - HBS Guru's blog (http://hbsguru.com/blog/) has some valuable data you can glean, but I don't particularly care for his posts on Poets & Quants or the way he comes across in general; Essay snark puts up some good posts from time to time; the big shops like MBA Mission also do some pretty good free online events

School guides - Poets & Quants has the best school guides I've come across; also got my hands on a copy of Veritas' school guides, but can definitely recommended P&Q's when you're just beginning information gathering phase

All that said, there's nothing on the internet that compares to actually visiting schools and talking with current students/alums.

4/1/13

Every time I read or hear something about HBS I instinctively think back to Brady and reminisce, classics like this or this.
It has even gotten to the point where if someone talks up HBS in front of me I'll involuntarily chuckle and draw confused looks.

Congrats btw op.

Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art - Andy Warhol

4/1/13

dwight schrute:
Every time I read or hear something about HBS I instinctively think back to Brady and reminisce, classics like this or this.
It has even gotten to the point where if someone talks up HBS in front of me I'll involuntarily chuckle and draw confused looks.

Congrats btw op.

That is so true. Every time HBS comes up, I think about Brady and "slaying chicks."

4/1/13

Nice post and congratulations. When I say you post in that thread about business school acceptances, I was hoping you would make one.

How much do you think your military experience played into your admissions? Do you feel like that was the cornerstone of your application?

4/2/13

Can you share on what sources are you referring to when you say "books, forums, consultant blogs, school guides"?

I'm particular interested on consultant blogs

Thanks

4/2/13

OP, mega kudos. From your description of your road to HBS, it seems you're every bit deserving of admission. Thanks for your service as well.

4/5/13
4/5/13
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