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

“Well”, I teed up, “I’m applying to the schools that are the best for what I want to do. And yes, many of them are considered to be the best schools.” ”You should do well,” she said quietly, as she walked away.

What she REALLY meant was “You’re an under represented minority; whether you get in or not the odds are better for you, so why not try for the best”.

Again, she is an extremely nice young lady and nothing she did or said was rude in the least; I was simply reading her thoughts, like Sookie from True Blood. And I wasn’t offended. I completely understood why someone would feel that way…especially in such an uber competitive process; however, its probably no different than how I used to feel whenever I listened to someone who had been practically ushered from Exeter to H/Y/P undergrad to Stanford or HBS with white glove limo service talk about all of the amazing standardize test scores/jobs/experiences they’d had before becoming the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg as if they had earned all of that on a level playing field.

I don’t feel that way anymore. My philosophy is this: life just isn’t fair. Accept the reality of those things that you don’t have going for you, capitalize on those you do to make up the difference and never apologize for your resultant accomplishments either way…and there will always be SOMEONE who wants you apologize no matter what your deal is–rich/beautiful/minority/scholarship/dad owns the company or what have you. Its not like you filled out an application to be any of the above; and if you did, smart move.

I actually hope I come across that same young lady next year. I hope we make the same class of the same top MBA program. That would be poetic. Plus, I can tell by my brief conversations with her (before her somber exit stage left) that she’d probably make a terrific classmate.

Making the Rounds: Stanford GSB

So back to the face-to-face time that this entire post is *supposedly* about (yeah, right). Of the 7 schools I chose, I got matched with 3 of them–Stanford, MIT Sloan and Wharton. I also got matched with UNC Keenan Flagler, but I assume that was to fill empty spaces as there were 4 other schools that I explicitly listed a preference for and UNC was not one of them. At any rate, I didn’t mind this because I understood that GMAC needed to make the day worthwhile for all of these adcoms who had so graciously traveled (mostly from across the country) to meet with us.

First up was Stanford, who was represented by their Assoc. Director of MBA Admissions Lizabeth Cutler. I remembered her from the Many Voices Diversity Event earlier this year. She mentioned that she recognized me as well but could not remember where from until the subject of Many Voices came up.

After going to an event like that, there just isn’t a whole lot more that you can learn about your fit with a school at a 20 minute group round table; however, I did have one or two more questions that got answered rather candidly.

Liz (can I call her that?) is very passionate about The GSB and upholding the quality of the environment there. It was actually her speech on why Stanford both has grade non disclosure and only gives need-based scholarships that made me broach the subject during the infamous Anderson visit that went somewhat south months ago.

While I have no strong opinions either way on either subject, her commentary last spring gave me a sense of just how thoughtful and intentional the staff there is about fostering and maintaining a very special kind of ecosystem there.

A Key Contact

I also got an unexpected gift at the Stanford round table discussion. During the round robin introductions, a young lady mentioned that she worked in mobile marketing. “Like InMobi”, I blurted out. “OMG”, she said, “I can’t believe you know that. typically no ones knows about my industry; but I don’t work for InMobi, that’s my competitor.”

“Oh”, I said, “so you work for Ad Mob?”

“Yes! How do you know about this stuff?”, she beamed.

Well, its kinda luck. The software brand that I manage builds mobile apps and I have actually been trying to get someone on the phone from Ad Mob for weeks to work out a strategic partnership to help promote our next release; thing is, since Ad Mob has been acquired by Google, their website is just one of those generic Google pages now and I haven’t been able to get anybody on the phone. Problem solved! I made sure to exchange business cards with her.

Making the Rounds: MIT Sloan

Next up for musical chairs was MIT Sloan. I was very excited to get up close and personal with some folks from the Sloan adcom because along with HBS they were the one of my target east coast schools with which I had had no engagement up to this point.

Their representative was Barry Reckley, who has to be one of the most jovial people that I have met within academia. He was both blunt and funny; and those of us at his table appreciated it.

How I May Have Just Dodged a Bullet from Sloan

About a week or so ago I decided to completely re-write (as opposed to merely editing) my Sloan essays based on some advice that I had read about not stating your goals for your Sloan essays because they could care less.