Stanford GSB | Mr. Mountaineer
GRE 327, GPA 2.96
Harvard | Mr. MedTech Startup
GMAT 740, GPA 3.80
Stanford GSB | Mr. SpaceX
GMAT 740, GPA 3.65
Harvard | Ms. Comeback Kid
GMAT 780, GPA 2.6
Darden | Ms. Inclusive Management
GRE 313, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Failed Entrepreneur
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7
Stanford GSB | Mr. Latin American
GMAT 770, GPA 8 of 10
Columbia | Mr. Oil & Gas
GMAT 710, GPA 3.37
Yale | Mr. Yale Hopeful
GMAT 750, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Nuclear Vet
GMAT 770, GPA 3.86
Harvard | Mr. Deferred Admission
GRE 329, GPA 3.99
NYU Stern | Mr. NYC Consultant
GRE 327, GPA 3.47
NYU Stern | Mr. Brolic Bro
GRE 305, GPA 3.63
Tuck | Mr. Running To The Future
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Rice Jones | Mr. Simple Manufacturer
GRE 320, GPA 3.95
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD To MBA
GRE 326, GPA 3.01
Kellogg | Mr. Pro Sports MGMT
GMAT GMAT Waived, GPA 3.78
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Real Estate Developer
GMAT 740, GPA 3.12
Tuck | Mr. Mega Bank
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
London Business School | Mr. Commercial Lawyer
GMAT 700, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Microsoft Consultant
GMAT N/A, GPA 2.31
Columbia | Mr. MD/MBA
GMAT 670, GPA 3.77
Harvard | Ms. Tech Impact
GMAT 730, GPA 3.8
Harvard | Mr. Data & Strategy
GMAT 710 (estimate), GPA 3.4
INSEAD | Mr. Dreaming Civil Servant
GMAT 700, GPA 3.2
Tuck | Mr. Tech PM
GMAT 710, GPA 3.3
Stanford GSB | Mr. Future MBA
GMAT 740, GPA 3.78

How I Totally Underestimated The MBA Admissions Process

When you’re in undergrad and your major is engineering, you’re taught two basic mantras:

1) Unless they are studying pharmacy or some variation of natural science–everyone’s major is exponentially easier than yours.

2) Especially the business majors.

So for years, both during and after undergrad, I unwittingly subscribed to this insidious, elitist idea and accepted it as the gospel without question. However, years later when it came time for me to apply to b-school I was in for quite the rude awakening. Like a 700-level GMAT math question, I missed a small but critical piece of logic that was throwing off my entire equation for this topic.

When I first began looking into applying to B-School, I turned to the closest thing that I had experienced to this sort of a process as a reference point: my bid for a spot at a top 10 engineering grad school some 13 years ago. I remember devoting 6 or 7 weeks to studying for the GRE exam during one of my summer internships. For some reason that I cannot remember, I neither took the exam nor looked at the exam material during the following semester that fall. In fact, I didn’t take the actual test until February of the next year–right before all the deadlines to apply to schools and fellowships; how careless and reckless was that? Ah, youth.

THINKING THAT IT WAS A WASTE OF TIME TO STUDY ENGLISH SKILLS FOR STANDARDIZED TESTS

Since I was in engineering classes each day my quant aptitude hadn’t suffered that much during the interim. And when I was 21/22 I had this weird philosophy about standardized exams where I only believed in studying for the math. Don’t ask me where I got that BS from because I haven’t the foggiest idea. Anyway, I had this (completely unfounded) superstition that English skills were so inherently cumulative that they were a waste of study time when preparing for standardized tests.

I felt very strongly that your verbal aptitude on tests like the GRE were a strict function of your exposure to classic novels, newspapers and having people around who had strong vocabularies. I thought my little self-appointed universal law (and excuse to avoid studying vocabulary words) was brilliant.

On exam day, I came down with the flu and remember going into the test with a ringing sinus headache and a handful of tissues. Ultimately, I ended up scoring well enough to gain admission to my top 2 choice schools–Georgia Tech and Michigan–both top 5 programs at the time. I also was able to land a full ride.

DEVOTING 18 MONTHS OF HIS LIFE TO PURSUE A TOP-TIER MBA

Though I never showed up at either institution (that story is for another post), I felt that I had learned a lot from the process and planned to transfer that learning into the MBA admissions process. I was completely unprepared for what would actually end up happening–about 18 months of my life being devoted primarily to pursuing a top-tier MBA–and that’s before matriculation. There will still be two years of actual school to go through after my admissions neurosis comes to a dramatic (or anticlimactic?) end.

So here’s where I forgot to carry the one:

While engineering is a tough degree program, its rigor actually works in your favor should you decide to continue your education. Why? Because engineering programs, by design, are constantly weeding out students. Classes like circuits, physical chemistry, organic chemistry and thermodynamics usually send the first wave of refugees running for cover (and switching majors) by the end of sophomore year.

Then, for those who make it through the program, more than half of them will scatter to other professions (like I did; sales, anyone?), licking their wounds, fanning the flames of intense battle and glad to be done with diodes and turbines forever. So you see, as you matriculate through advanced degrees in engineering your pool of competitors thins out more and more the higher you go.

STANFORD IS GETTING 18 APPS FOR EVERY AVAILABLE SEAT IN THE MBA CLASS

Interestingly, business school seems to work opposite to that. When MBA time comes, the best and brightest students from a multitude of undergrad majors–including engineering–suddenly become your competition for just a handful of coveted admissions slots. This circumstance is then exacerbated by the fact that 90% of the most capable applicants are all aiming for the same 10-15 schools (hence schools like Stanford getting 18 apps for every available seat; madness!).

Oh, and did I mention that just about everyone has tons of personality, superb communication skills and knows how to present/sell themselves extremely well (rendering these attributes–considered rare, differentiating gems among engineers–entirely common and unimpressive)? Not to mention that it takes 6 months to a year just to be adequately prepared to submit a strong application; and that MBA adcoms are hyper sensitive to so many discrete nuances about your application beyond your grades and scores (which is mostly what engineering schools look at). And that test; that damn GMAT test. Its adaptive, so none of my old tricks from the paper test days apply. I’m a vampire sitting by a sunlit window.

Honestly, I have no idea how this whole thing will turn out, but I know one thing for sure: until I get accepted or dinged by every school on my target list, I’m OWNED by this grueling process.

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