Face Time With MBA Gatekeepers at Wharton, Stanford, Et Al

So I’ve logged quite a bit of face to face time with MBA ad/coms over the past few days. The first opportunity to that end was the Wharton Diversity Info Session held by two of its admissions officers at the Deloitte tower downtown last Thursday.

When I first realized that the event was being held at 6:30pm in downtown LA, I thought, “Are the crazy? Surely they most know how much difficulty people are going to have navigating around the city during rush hour–and into downtown, no less!”

MBA Applicante’ de la Ghetto

Personally, I left work about an hour early. As I anticipated, both the 105 east and 110 north freeways that I would need to get there from the airport area were jam-packed parking lots. So, I took a not-so-scenic detour through a good portion of the east side ghettos where I knew traffic would not be nearly as intense. Let’s just say that the traditional 9 to 5 population is…emm…smaller over there.

Approximately 40 minutes later, I was pulling into the parking structure. It was 6:15 and my Boyz N da Hood detour had been well worth the potholes and unscrupulous pedestrians that I had endured along the way.

Wharton Gets Down with CP Time

The parking garage that the directions advised us to use was several blocks away and DOWN a steep hill from the Deloitte tower. While on my way to the tower, I noticed two young, suited-and-booted consultant/banker types making what was clearly a wrong left turn on their (did I mention steep?) uphill trek (oh yeah, and during a heat wave to boot) to where we were going. I tried to flag them down, but they did not respond to my belts, bellows and big waving hands, so I let them continue their merry path, undisturbed.

By the time I had made the hike to the building, signed in, got a name tag, and zipped to the 18th floor it was almost exactly 6:30. When I arrived there were about 5 people there total. I quickly realized that two of the 5 were actually admissions staff. I +1′d this lovely duo when I realized that they had purposefully planned the first hour as an informal meet and greet to allow people a chance to get there.

I found this planning detail both kind and generous. If a 12 year resident that took every back road to get there on time still ended up arriving at the buzzer, I could only imagine what things must have been like for people driving from places like Orange County, the Valley and the Inland Empire–not to mention San Diego.

The Usual Suspects + The Angry Old Guy

Over the next hour, the room slowly began to fill up as prospective students from the LA and San Diego areas began to converge on the meeting room. About 20 minutes after my arrival, I noticed the two wayward youngins that I saw going the wrong way earlier enter as well. I was glad they had made it. And they seemed to have taken their 3 block detour in suits and 90 degree weather like great sports. “That’s the spirit”, I thought.

The usual suspects were in attendance: the bankers, the consultants, the entrepreneurs and entrepreneur wannabes, the non-profit folks, a few military guys and family business peeps, and several college seniors. I also met a guy who must have been all of 42-45 talking about how he was itching to get out of non-profit, couldn’t wait to get back into investment banking and was only applying to Ivies; he even turned his nose up at Stanford (wow, who does that?).

I said nothing, but I knew he was probably limiting his chances of going to business school if he continued to think like that. i-Banking is a goals no-no for “men of a certain age (including me)”. I don’t know this guy and I’m sure that he’s a smart and terrific person, but he came across like an angry, bitter old guy who’s career in non profit hadn’t gotten him where he wanted to go; and now he wanted to go for the big bucks by jumping into an all consuming profession perfectly suited for someone 15 or so years younger than he.

Further, the fact that he was being very snobbish (almost infantile, if you ask me) about it made it even worse. In spite of his hubris, I was overcome with compassion and empathy for him and his situation. You couldn’t pay me to have to sell THAT story to an ad com.

The actual event was well run, informative and to the point. Due to all of the self study, current student/alumni questioning and introspection that I’ve done at this point of the process, I did not really feel the need to try to dominate the room with a bunch of questions. I was mostly here for face time and to hopefully make a mental imprint on the minds of people who may end up reviewing or discussing my application two months from now.

I found the adcoms from Wharton to be very polished, kind and straightforward in the information they had to deliver. The event was definitely worth my evening to attend.

  • LOL Hilarious! Mosquitoes are somewhat forgivable; and yes, their behavior is absolutely driven by the unique mix of exclusivity and high stakes that goes along with this process. Jaws, however, can miss me. The sad thing is that many of those same people (the sharks) are quite good at selling themselves and end up in top MBA programs all the time. They know how to “turn it on” when they want something, but deep down they’re just greedy, selfish, over competitive and they operate from a worldview of lack instead of abundance. I really more of them would just go into politics where they belong lol.

  • Dreamer

    I met a lot of Jaws and Mosquitoes though I do feel schools are a bit to blame for the anxiety and need that we all feel to get our name out there. I usually say that i am never going to one of these events again and I am already sign-up for the NYU one lol

  • http:www.ml4t.org

  • John Dodge

    What’s an MLT fellow?

  • I’m with dreamer on this. I don’t think they matter a whole lot in general; they are more for you to get questions answered “by the horses” mouth. I do think that there are 1 case where they might work in your favor, though. If a school’s adcom does like you, it shows a lot of interest when you’ve been spotted at multiple events in terms of how good of a yield risk you are. Some of the schools purposely put their local events on the same night to make you choose one. They know that everyone is applying to multiple schools and just want to increase their chances of admitting folks who are going to actually show up. Of course H/S/W care a little less about this because each of them has a yield of 70%+ and they only tend to lose students to each other (in general).

  • There are several, but they are school-specific. Get on the email lists of your target schools and they will keep you abreast.

  • Dreamer

    I attended the even on Saturday and it was helpful. I am also an MLT fellow and what they tell us is that for HBS, Stanford and Wharton (though to a lesser extend at Wharton, where it matters a little bit) these events or visiting does not matter as they actually want to measure everyone on the application and interview alone. For all other school things like this make a difference.

  • John Dodge

    Oh and as a fellow Angeleno, any other similiar events coming up in LA that I might not know about ? 😉

  • John Dodge

    Thanks for letting me know. Everything I’ve heard sounds like they really don’t ever want you to actually do the optional essay.

    Feel free to not answer this but honestly do you think these events make a difference in the applicants minds as to your chances? I mean they meet hundreds of candidates a year at events like this and they speak to you for like 5 minutes max. I just don’t see how they can remember you when they start reading your application 3 months later.

  • Hello John. This particular event is held around the same time each year. Hmmm..what questions did I ask?
    HBS – I asked about whether to address having 12+ years of work exp in the optionals and was told no
    Whart – I asked some very specific questions about 2 programs that I am interested in…was pretty much told to get in contact with the folks who lead those programs; made sense. I also asked the 12+ year/optional question and was given a DIFFERENT response by EACH of the two reps, which confused me.
    Stan – I asked some question about the GMIX program and got a straightforward answer about some recent problems that had been worked on.
    MIT – I covered my main question to MIT in the blog post above.

  • John Dodge

    Drat I’m in LA too and didn’t even know about the event. Do you know if there are any others?

    I’m just curious what specific questions you asked HSW and MIT? And would you mind giving their responses.