The Most Painful Part Of The MBA Application Process: Waiting

Ok, so the Thanksgiving Turkey and fixings have all been eaten; and even if that were not the case, I wouldn’t have access to them anyway because all that stuff is back down south with my parents, but I digress.

Around 3 weeks from now, the curtain will close on Round 1 of MBA admissions at most of the top schools. And while I still may not be certain of my fate at MIT Sloan by then (unless I’ve been released without an interview), I will absolutely have a final verdict for Wharton, Chicago Booth and Stanford.

Not as Bad as Before

In an earlier post, I mentioned how waiting for interview invites was on par with studying for the GMAT as the most painful part of the MBA application process; and I imagined that waiting for final decisions must be the absolute worst. If that is true, it hasn’t hit me yet. And while checking my temp around the 2nd or 3rd week of December might give one a truer read, I doubt that my stress level will be as high as it was pre-interview notice.

IMO, the reason for this is that the last time I found myself waiting in this fashion, I had no clue as to whether any of the schools that I applied to even thought my application was worth a second read. As it turns out, at least one or two did. And while there are still no guarantees in the end, I can comfortably feed myself a steady diet of positive thoughts based on getting a couple of interviews that went at least fairly well. That alone will prevent some of the near aneurysms that I had while waiting to be invited for an interview.

Round 2 Apps as a Healthy Distraction

I’ll also be working on apps for Round 2; therefore, I’ll have more to distract me while waiting for final decisions than I did when I was waiting to hear whether I got interviews or not. Still, this phase is no fun. Of all things in the MBA application process, the ambiguity of it all is what has driven me the closest to the edge.

The tremendous upside, on the other hand, is the wide open possibility of attending a dream institution, replete with a level of intellectual stimulation and relationship building above and beyond anything that I have experienced in the past. And if this process wasn’t what it is, that kind of environment would be nearly impossible for the schools to fabricate otherwise, so i get it.

A Surreal Moment

It’s almost weird to think that (at least for my Round 1 schools) all of the hard work, financial drain, missed gym workouts, nights with little sleep, info sessions, essay reviews and rewrites, frantic email checking and composition notes filled with GMAT math problems is going to come down to a phone call and/or email and app status change in just a few weeks. Time seems to be almost still at the moment, secretly wanting to prolong my agony of wondering where I’ll be 9 months from now.

A part of me wants to just stay as busy as possible to keep my mind off of my pending results. D-day will eventually come, just like it did for the GMAT (which always seems to come TOO soon), the app deadlines, interview invite windows and interviews alike.  Meanwhile, another part of me wants to spend hours each day in forums, on blogs and in chat rooms obsessing over the probability of making it into school X or program Y with my fellow pre-MBA commiserators.

Reality will probably end up somewhere in the middle. I’ll stay just busy enough to get things done, have some sense of normalcy and avoid cardiac arrest while staying just plugged in enough to feed my hunger for MBA program data, info and editorial.

From Bankhead to Watts to New Jack City

To be honest, I feel like a bit of a crackhead. I look forward to the day when I no longer feel the need to sign into BeatTheGmat, GmatClub and Poets&Quants on a daily basis in order to prevent myself from going into withdrawal. I look forward to the day when my personal emails will actually surprise me at the end of the work day in a nice, juicy digest of updates as opposed to me getting each email literally within minutes because I’m always checking.

And most of all, I look forward to putting an end to this whole feeling like I’m in some hazing period for a fraternity and can’t just yet see the light of day. I look forward to being somewhat normal again. Until then, however, I reckon I’ll be inhaling thick, puffy clouds of speculation and inhaling endless data points up my nose until I get an admission offer that makes me excited enough to no longer feel the need to conduct myself in this manner. I just hope these schools give me some good news before my teeth begin to rot out so I can sign up for detox and rehab.

MBAOver30 offers the perspective of a 30-something, California-based entrepreneur who is applying to Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, MIT, Northwestern, Chicago, Dartmouth, Yale, and Berkeley.. He hopes to gain acceptance to the Class of 2015 and blogs at MBAOver30.

Previous posts on Poets&Quants:

How I Totally Overestimated The MBA Admissions Process
Musings on MBA Failophobia
Letting Go Of An MBA Safety School
When A Campus Visit Turns Off An MBA Applicant
Yale, Tuck and Booth: The Next Leg of My Pre- MBA Research
 My Countdown: Less Than 30 Days To The GMAT
From Suits To Startups: Why MBA Programs Are Changing
Why I’m Not Getting Either A Part-Time MBA or An Executive MBA
Preparing To Sit For The GMAT Exam
Falls Short of GMAT Goal, But The 700 Is A Big Improvement
A 2012-2013 MBA Application Strategy
Celebrating A 35th Birthday & Still Wanting A Full-Time MBA
A Tuck Coffee Chat Leaves Our Guest Blogger A Believer
Heading Into the August Cave: Getting Those Round One Apps Done 
Just One MBA Essay Shy Of Being Doe
Getting That MBA Recommendation From Your Boss
Facetime with MBA Gatekeepers at Wharton
The Differences Between Harvard & Stanford Info Sessions
My MIT Sloan Info Session in California 
Round One Deadlines Approaching
Jumping Into The MBA Admissions Rabbit Hole
Relief At Getting Those Round One Apps Done But Now A Sense of Powerlessness
On Age Discrimination in MBA Admissions & Rookie Hype
Judgment Day Nears
Harvard Business School: No News Is Good News?
Researching Kellogg, Tuck, Berkeley and Yale
A Halloween Treat: An Invite To Interview From Chicago Booth
The MBA Gods Have Smiled Once Again
Interviewing At Chicago Booth and Wharton
My Thanksgiving Day Feast: Completing Applications

  • I think that what you are seeing in terms of career options is a function of self selection and background. I will be 34 when I graduate and have received some significant interest from consulting firms (who are known to prefer them young). I think it’s because I have a background that naturally lends itself to the consulting field. My age is irrelevant. I can think of several students (male and female) who are recruiting very hard for IB and are also married with more than one child. There is definitely not a general consensus on who will pursue what jobs.
    I think that older students tend to have reached a point in their lives where they are more sure of how they want to build a career. Many of the on campus opportunities are geared toward people who are still figuring things out (i.e. consulting, rotational programs, etc.). If an older student is still in an exploratory phase and firms see their background as a good fit then they will be a very viable candidate for the roles that are normally thought of as being for 20 somethings. For those of us who want to do what we want right after school it will definitely take more legwork, but that is as a result of our goals not our age. My point is that there are older applicants who can gain a lot more from a FTMBA than an EMBA because of their goals and level of flexibility (i.e. able to take 2 years off, family concerns, etc.). I think what annoys MBA Over 30 is the assumption that because of his age and current experience that he is automatically more suited to an EMBA when if you take the time to ask it is very clear that the FTMBA makes perfect sense for HIM.

  • I wrote a response to this that somehow got deleted or modded out. I’ll repost when I have the time/energy again.

  • I think mid 30’s+ professionals should rely more on their existing networks to find jobs post a full time MBA–especially if they are looking to stay in the same industry.

  • Birchtree

    @ KFC,
    Nice post! I wish nothing but the best for MBA Over 30, as I state in the post, and believe his future looks very bright indeed! I also applaud the effort to blog about your MBA admissions adventure – very interesting and fosters great conversations, like this one!
    Not sure that I agree with the entitlement subject though. IMO, and generally speaking, whether or not someone went to a less presitigious or highly prestigious undergraduate college, is not the critical factor. In theory, gaining admission to top MBA or eMBA program requires some significant levels of accomplishment – professionally, academically, GMAT wise, and through community and/or social contributions etc…it is an equalizing experience. So if I am sitting next to someone who went to I HOPE TO BE A WIDELY RECOGNIZED COLLEGE ONE DAY University – who cares – It is presumably their respective record of accomplishment that earned him or her an acceptance letter…
    Why then, should they not compete for the same jobs as any other MBA candidate in that program? They all have strong records of accomplishment – right? Is it just because they went to a lesser quality undergraduate school, but still accomplished great and wonderful things? Or is it because they are from another country but also accomplished so much and can offer something unique to the school and its culture?
    Diversity is not without its issues and merit is very important in such a subject, but diversity is also a very positive part of a learning experience….
    Just my thoughts…

  • KFC

    I agree with you about the EMBA (see my posts below). You reiterate some of those points and you make some other very good points as well. But i think MBA over 30 has it 100% right when it comes to his criticism of schools with regard to the attitude of their students. I have openly heard my own classmates from undergrad who went on to get an MBA from top schools lament about some kid who went to some third tier school in the US or some second rate institution in Asia have access to the same high paying good jobs as a result of the MBA. Imagine how these guys felt sitting next to these so-called “third tier” colleagues? It’s horrible and we need to address this sense of entitlement that is so prevalent at these elite institutions. To ignore this issue under the guise of “broad generalizations” is tantamount to your complicity in this matter. “Keep an open mind” in this case is a pseudo-eloquent and intellectually dishonest moniker for “turn a blind eye”. I may not agree with everything he says, but I certainly applaud MBA over 30 for having the courage to both have a public profile and voice his opinion on an important issue.

  • Birchtree

    @ MBA Over 30,
    I have enjoyed your posts very much and truly wish you great success in all of your future endeavors (which I am confident you will find), but I think you are off base in your assessment of MBA programs and those that are oriented for executives. For example, of course it is not the same experience! How can it be for senior managers versus fairly new entrants into the workforce – each demographic would generally not stand to gain much from the experience if they were together in classes, since they are at such different points in their careers. Yet each has sought to improve themselves through further education – should be applauded…right?
    Folks that are smart and driven and just 2 to 5 years (on average) out of undergrad may (but certainly not all or even most – and generalizations are dangerous) behave a lot like some of the descriptions you have crticized about Michigan Ross (a terrific school IMO – although I have no affiliation). For example, I have read on P&Q, BTW, that the very same behaviors exist at HBS, and arguably even at more pronounced levels.
    See the following link about their “Madmen Culture”:
    Very sophisticated east coast school – don’t you think?
    My only point is that I think your crticism of Michigan and eMBA programs is mis-placed. A 25 year old, despite being super smart and super driven – is still a 25 year old and there is NOTHING wrong with that BTW – it is what it is. But if you think that by somehow going to a school different than a say Michigan or Duke (another one i saw labled as a party school) that you will somehow be isolated from behaviors like that is probably wishful thinking as the article demonstrates – at ANY school.
    You also note that the number 1 reason to get an eMBA is to check the box and move up your Company’s social ladder – I assure you that this is not the case any more at many/most top schools. I can tell you first hand, at my program at least, that roughly half my class has no interest in staying at their current company, but instead are interested in either going in a wholly new direction or starting a new venture on their own. And that Career Services actively sends job postings for experienced hires – and regularly too. No one is in the program to check the box – and anyway, would you not say the same thing for anyone pursuing an MBA at any age – that is viewed aschecking of a box? Maybe, but the bigger reason is to grow through education and to expand your network – this does not change with age and in fact can grow.
    You further note that the Network is not strong??? On what basis could you conclude this – having never experienced any MBA program yet? My own experience is very contrary to what you suggest – I have full time program students reaching out to me often, and I have reached out to full time students, as well. The interaction and network is very strong and both groups benefit strongly from each other and have a great deal of respect for one another.
    You also suggest that you do not want to be in a class of people that is set in their ways like executives would be? This is such a generalization of people? What do you base this on – age? So conversely, the open-minded and sophisticated culture portrayed (I would venture to guess inaccurately) by some about Michigan or in that article I posted about HBS and its “MadMen” Culture is the type of open minded and not set in your ways culture that you seek? I caution you to be careful about such characterizations – I know the adcoms will not look favorably upon this type of inflexible and intolerant attitude – the very one that you and others criticize.
    Lastly, you state again that the “E” in EMBA does not stand for entrepreneur – it stands for executive – because its for people who want to be upper level managers, mostly at huge stodgy companies???? Aside from the generalization again, which may or may not be true for any given person – I have to ask – have you seen what types of positions and what types of companies that many MBA graduates of top programs are trying to get? The very positions that you have criticized? Many participants in MBA programs hope to one day have the position that an eMBA participant already has…
    I hope you keep a more open mind as you proceed down this exciting path and be weary of generalizations. You are a bright and talented person IMO and I hope for the best in you rfuture plans!

  • KFC

    Good luck with your journey. I hope you did not think I was questioning your motives / self-awareness. I was only raising a point about the EMBA, especially given that there is a trend here in the US to focus on one yr and other hybrid MBA programs rather than the traditional 2 yr FT. I was only hoping to explore that question in more detail. The only issue I slightly disagree with you is in regard to your characterization of the EMBA. Increasingly many entrepreneurs are enrolling in EMBA’s not just for stuffy old executives. I attended at least a session at Columbia, Wharton, Fuqua, Booth and Kellogg. These are some of the best programs and I found the classes to be excellent. Yes, there aren’t as many electives. But there is still ample room to add relevant classes. I was particularly impressed with both Wharton and Booth. In fact, both programs say that many EMBA folks actually went on to start businesses (as a percent of the class) compared to FT MBA folks (as a percent).

    Take it easy and good luck.

  • What rang truest for me in all of that is that it depends on the individual. Neither my career trajectory nor my goals are typical for someone my age. I am also much more curious than folks who would generally be called my peers (based on age). Ultimately, however, it is something that I have researched in great detail and have decided that it is absolutely the right next step for me. And if a 35 year old lacks the self awareness to make decisions such as this, then they have far greater concerns to tend to than getting into business school.

  • I answered that in an earlier blog post above (Why I’m not getting an EMBA); however, the short list is that A) I’m not looking to climb the corporate ladder in the same company that I work for, which is really the #1 reason to get an EMBA–to “check your MBA box” B) It’s not the same experience C) The network isn’t as strong D) I really don’t want to be in class with a bunch of people who are set in their ways and constantly pontificating about how they do things at their company (which they are been at for 10-15 years and don’t intend on leaving; hence it dominates their perspective). E) My goals are entrepreneurial; and the “E” in “EMBA” doesn’t stand for “entrepreneur”; it stands for “executive” and for good reason. It’s for people who want to be upper level managers–mostly at huge, stodgy companies. The very idea of such a future literally makes my stomach turn.

  • KFC

    Thanks for replying. I actually have read several of your posts / blog posts about Booth on the forums. You share some really good perspectives. I do agree with your point about post MBA opportunities..but from what i have researched, it seems that the older folks need to do a lot more leg-work to find stuff that they would like to do. The typical MBA buffet may not be appealing to them. Also, with regard to age differences..I met some US Army folks at your school – Booth – who said they were too old / had families to get into the IB / consulting 90-100 hr work week game. They were looking for more general management roles and a balanced life – preferably in the mid-west or the south. So I think there is some aspect of self-selection going on as well. There is nothing wrong with this..not one bit. I’m sure some younger guys with families (like myself) would prefer that as well. But I got the feeling that some of the guys I spoke to felt that employers also *slightly* seem to prefer some of the younger folks (although of course legally you cannot discriminate based on age). Finally, I don’t think there is a lot of difference between the students…but older students might have different expectations and commitments. A 37 yr old (in the case of this blogger by the time he completes his mba) might have different life expectations and family commitments than a 29 yr old grad. Of course it all depends on the individual and there will always be exceptions. Good luck to you at Booth.

  • cheetarah1980

    The job opportunities post MBA are so much broader than the obvious platter of consulting, banking, general management, corp fin, and marketing roles that make up the bulk of on campus recruiting. Just because a person is doing the full-time program that doesn’t mean these are the jobs that they are pursuing. Also, I think the age differences between students become irrelevant. I think because everyone has some years of work experience it puts people on a more equal playing field regardless of age. Just my experience thus far as a student.

  • KFC

    Nice post! I agree with you that if one wants to change careers, the EMBA is perhaps not the first option. My suggestion to the blogger was based on these facts — he is an older applicant who is already quite successful (at least based on what I could glean form his posts), is in a managerial position and seems to have good perspective. It seems to me that he will better fit into an executive program than a FT MBA. At least based on the research that I have done and the programs that I have visited, it was quite rare to find 33+ non-military folks or ones who weren’t sponsored by their companies (i.e, they were returning to their pre-mba jobs). Of course that doesn’t mean anything because to each his own. But my point is — is a FT MBA really worth the added trouble beyond a certain point in one’s career? I met a 34 yr old biochemist with a PhD – enrolled at a FT MBA program at a top Chicago school – who felt that although he was leaning a lot, he was giving up quite a bit to do so. He was hoping to transition into healthcare PE and found the going quite difficult because he was looking for very specific roles that would justify all his sacrifice. Of course his story might be an exception. But my point is — it might be a little bit of a stretch to assume that a FT MBA will provide opportunities commensurate for 35 or 37 yr old professionals. A bulk of the openings seem to be in the consulting and fiance industries that are tailored towards folks in the mid to late 20s. But all this said, I think it’s hard to argue against someone who wants to better himself and pursue more knowledge; that’s always a winning strategy in my book.

  • InterestedParty

    Respect the disagreement – which part or all? Thx!

  • Woker

    I disagree

  • InterestedParty

    Agree with majority of your points – that an eMBA program grants the exact same exact MBA degree and alumni status and is typically easier to get in, assuming you fit the respective profile of management experience and educational background, otherwise one will find it near impossible to gain admission to a top eMBA program. However, if one is looking for a dramatic career change, many would argue that a traditional 2 year full time program is a better vehicle than an eMBA. The internship period and recruiting process better lend themselves to that goal in the full time programs.
    However, I do think that notion is beginning to change and that more and more top tier eMBA programs are putting consider efforts and resources into career services for their eMBA programs, as more people look at these top eMBA programs as agents for change…interesting topic….

  • KFC

    It’s easier to get in and less pressure also admissions wise. It’s the same degree at the end of the day. Just my $0.02.

  • KFC

    Why not do an EMBA?

  • Good luck to you as well; and thanks for reading.

  • +1

  • Roger

    There is a tremendous amount of pressure on you because you have become a celebrity of sorts, even an inspiration to many, and a caricature for some. I do hope you get in to your dream school; you certainly seem more than qualified. Although, I sense the pressure seems to be getting to you and would advise that you spend time relaxing and not worrying about all these websites and blogs.

  • Josh

    I laughed out so loud reading your post. You managed to connect Emily Dickinson with Carrier Bradshaw and a Mustang with an MBA! But I will say that it’s so much easier to be a critic. Kudos to the blogger was taking this in stride as well.

  • Supposedly sometime in December.

  • Joe C

    ha ha! Hilarious post.

  • Buddy King

    @ mba over 30

    I used to enjoy reading your posts, but lately your posts are getting really torturous to read and the writing is horrendously ponderous and excruciatingly boring. Your wit and humor have deserted you, and your creativity has crashed like the titanic. I sense an inflated ego and an arrogant sense of self-importance. I advise a short break to reflect to recharge. I know someone mentioned this previously as well, but I sense you are trying to find your inner Emily Dickinson through these self-flagellating posts that are intended to convey your inner anxiety and turmoil. Alas, you have managed to find your inner Carrie Bradshaw and in a very Lena Dunham-esq style reveal your middle-age insecurity and unquenched emotional needs. I’d be remiss not to mention that my first impression of you was a Lester Burnham type character from the film American Beauty; some want to buy a Mustang, you wanted an MBA.

  • Aravind Prasad Balaji

    I’m not running for some popularity contest. Seems like girly man is.

  • sose

    first he is a 35! second: not all people like you!

  • Aravind Prasad Balaji

    It’s not that bad…you sound like a little girl not like a 37yr old man!

  • Mr Confused

    Hey, the feeling is exactly the same here, having applied to four top MBA programs and waiting for the final decisions from two. I quite enjoy the way you write – all your posts make for a good read. All the best for the next 3 weeks! Cheers.

  • MIT Dude

    Hey dude, we met at the MIT invite. I’m in the Same Boat as you and honestly think its not so bad the waiting. Lots to keep you occupied and can go to the gym (how I missed it!!). Any idea when the MIT invites start?