After HBS (and other schools) have released their essay questions for this year (see my last post about the new HBS essays), some of you are probably starting to think about their essays.

Before starting to write any essays, it’s important to create a holistic strategy for the application in general and the essays in particular. The strategy will give you a bird’s eye view of the entire application and at the same time will provide you with content for individual essays.

What is “The Strategy”?

Basically the strategy will include a “list” of topics / stories / achievements / qualities you’d like to include or demonstrate in your application – your life’s “highlights”. By creating it before starting to write anything, and following it through while writing, you can make sure you don’t miss any important theme and that you manage to display a coherent and attractive picture of yourself.

How Do I Build The Strategy?

Read the rest of this entry »


HBS Essays for 2008

June 26th, 2007

HBS just released its essay questions for the 2008 application. It’s quite similar to last year’s (the one I submitted), but introduces more flexibility in selecting essays and new essay questions.

A while ago I posted my analysis of last year’s essays; Most of these essays appear in the new application: Essay 1 is last year’s #2 (accomplishments), optional essay 1 is last year’s #3 (leadership), optional essay 3 is last year’s #1, optional essay 4 is last year’s #5. They removed the ethics essay, a very understandable decision (in my analysis, I nicknamed this essay “the oddball”).

I won’t write an analysis for the new essays; after all, I don’t have to apply this year :) However, you’re more than welcome to use the parts of my analysis which apply to the current essays. I’ll just say a couple of words about the new essays and the new application structure:

– The last optional essay (“What else would you like the MBA Admissions Board to understand about you?”) is practically a gift; a “joker” that you can use to say whatever you’d like and didn’t manage to in the other essays.

– The two new optional essays both discuss globalization; which I really like as an admit – I’m glad HBS puts more emphasis on global issues. So I guess that application-wise, that’s good news to those of you with extensive international exposure – now you have plenty of space to ‘show it off’. And thanks to the flexibility of the new application, applicants without impressive international experience can simply choose other essays. Btw, the “culture shock” essay is practically a “copy paste” from the Insead application.

– The other new essay (“What have you learned from a mistake?”) is not an easy one; however it might be somewhat relieving to know that other schools also feature a variation of this question, so at least you’ll have some stories you’ll be able to share between applications.

Good luck! To be honest, I really don’t envy those of you now beginning the long process of applying and writing the essays… It’s hard, and at least for me wasn’t like anything I’ve done before. On the other hand, you’ll learn a lot during the process, and definitely will have moments of satisfaction and pride during (or probably after…) it.

For more information about the new essays, Accepted.com already published their own analysis of the new essays – good read. I’m sure ClearAdmit will follow with their own analysis.

I have another post coming up soon about preparing a general essays strategy – “stay tuned”… :)


My Pre-MBA Trip

June 24th, 2007

Many MBA students take some time in the summer before school to travel. It’s a good period, without work, without school and before taking the huge MBA loans. People travel all over the world, and almost every day I see a new post in the internal HBS admits forums along the lines of “Anyone in Cambodia / Australia / Italy in August?”.
I also took a Pre-MBA trip. Can you guess where I went?…

Was it… Tuscany?

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Was it… Greece?

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Was it… France?

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Was it… Switzerland?

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Well, no… it was…

Read the rest of this entry »


Application Timeline

June 21st, 2007

If you’re going to apply to a business school in this application season (2007-8, class of 2010), now is a good time to start planning your schedule for the next few months. In a previous post I discussed applying Round One vs. Round Two (and my recommendation was Round One), and in this post I try to outline a recommended timeline for those who decide to apply in Round One, or at least apply to the majority of their schools in Round One.

My Timeline
Let me start with describing my own application timeline last year, which is an example of a very bad timeline. The reason for that was that I only decided I want to do an MBA abroad in July 2006! Thus, the entire schedule was condensed into only 3 (three) months.

So, here goes: Read the rest of this entry »


Round and Round

June 19th, 2007

Funny, Linda Abraham of Accepted.com just published a post regarding admission rounds, with advice regarding which round to apply.

In much more polished writing than mine, she says quite similar things:

“Regarding timing here is Linda’s Rule: Apply in the earliest round possible PROVIDED you don’t compromise the quality of your applications.

“There are plenty of sharks applying in all rounds, but there are more spaces available in the first one and generally fewer applicants. So if your applications are in good shape and present you well then, that is the best time to apply. Linda’s Rule also implies that you shouldn’t rush your applications and turn in less than your best in a misguided effort to “submit early.” Submitting something mediocre first round is never as good as submitting something outstanding second round.”

And here’s my own post about rounds, where I also claim Round One is better, especially for international applicants.


I had some problems with my RSS feed and email subscription, so for those of you who have subscribed to either one of them, you might have to re-subscribe.

To those of you who haven’t – now’s a good time :) Enter you email address in the right sidebar to get an email notification every time a new post is published; or subscribe to my RSS feed in your favorite RSS reader.


It’s already June and schools are starting to release their application deadlines for 2007/8 (class of 2010). Many applicants are starting to ask themselves – “When should I apply?”

Most business schools have three admission rounds – i.e. three different deadlines for submitting applications and, consequently, receiving interview invitations and final decisions. Exceptions to this rule are Columbia Business School and other schools with “Rolling Admissions” (a process without deadlines), schools that have four admission rounds or schools with two Intakes. There are also other, more esoteric, admission schemes.

In this post I discuss the majority – schools with the three rounds, with the following submission deadlines:

  • Round One – Mid October – Mid November
  • Round Two – January
  • Round Three – March

And you get a final decision (admit/reject) by:

  • Round One – late December – January
  • Round Two – March-April
  • Round Three – May

For Israeli candidates (or just Hebrew readers…), here’s a site that contains the deadlines and notification dates of the leading programs. (note that right now it’s still not updated to 2007/8)

So, in which round should you apply?
Read the rest of this entry »


Deirdre Leopold, HBS Director of MBA Admissions

BusinessWeek recently conducted an online chat with Deirdre Leopold, HBS Director of MBA Admissions (aka “the one who’s going to decide if you’re in or not”). They also posted the chat’s transcript.

The entire transcript is worth reading, as it includes interesting information for applicants – mainly changes in the structure of application essays and the introduction of an admissions blog.

However, there’s one specific point I’d like to talk about. Ms. Leopold was asked:

ramtelecom: What do you, compared to previous admissions directors, look for in new HBS candidates?

And that was her answer:

HBSDeirdre: I have been thinking a lot about leadership and how to both define and identify it. I think there’s a danger in thinking that there is just one model of a leader—someone who is larger than life and always out in front—who should be at HBS. I prefer to think in terms of an assortment of leaders, some of whom gravitate to traditional leadership roles in an established organization, some of whom like to start things and get them up and running, some of whom motivate small groups, “thought leaders” who provide the unexpected and provocative way of looking at a problem. One of the most exciting ways of thinking about diversity in the case method classroom is on the dimension of leadership styles—bringing together all these folks and hearing how they tackle the real life problems in a case.

This really resonates well with my own thinking, and the way I analyzed HBS leadership essay.

I said there that:

I was a team leader of 5 people, and also managed a couple of global ad-hoc projects, the largest of which included ~10 people. You see the numbers aren’t huge. However, throughout my entire life I believe I showed a lot of initiative, creativity and ability to come up with new ideas and follow them through to successful implementation. I was also a trainer and speaker and had opportunities to lecture and talk in front of large, senior audiences. All of this, in my opinion, is also part of leadership. I believe leadership consists of many implicit things: the ability to convince people in your ideas – your supervisors, your team members and your subordinates, the ability to make people follow you, to inspire your team members, to successfully delegate, to develop your people and keep them happy and motivated, and many other things that together constitute ‘good leadership’ and ‘good management’.

And that was one month before the chat took place :)

So my point here is the same one I made in the essay analysis – many applicants believe HBS only looks for larger than life superman leaders. I don’t think that’s the case, and you shouldn’t be afraid of applying if you don’t posses the supposedly-classic leadership achievements. (of course if you do, that’s great!)

For more, read the essay’s analysis, or my analysis to all HBS essays. HBS hasn’t posted the essays for the 2007 application year yet (they probably will at the beginning of July), but I imagine part of them will remain unchanged.

Here’s another insightful post about What Is Leadership, from the blog of fellow MBA admits.

By the way, during the HBS admit weekend in March Ms. Leopold was one of the speakers, and turned out to be smart, witty and engaging. You can read my admit weekend post here.


A more personal post, in which I talk about my experience at the HBS Admit Weekend for R1 admits which took place in 1-3 March 2007.

1st Flight – Tel Aviv to New York (JFK Airport), and “Born to Dance”
It’s a 12 hours flight, and I was “lucky” enough to fly it with the stars of “Born to Dance”, a popular Israeli TV show. The dancers who won and flew to compete in New York sat in economy class, while I’m almost sure Zvika Hadar, the host, sat in Business Class. After breakfast, when everyone was already awake, Zvika spoke on the internal microphone, introduced himself and asked everyone to cheer for the dancers. Then he finished with “Thanks you for flying El Al”, which was rather amusing. They also filmed the dancers and passengers on the plane. When going out, I saw one of the female dancers with all of her makeup still on; it didn’t look very glamorous after 12 hours of flight. The thing is that the show’s final took place that night, and the winning dancers immediately went on the flight afterwards. I didn’t watch the show, but I think they told all the competing dancers to pack, while only four actually went on the flight. That must have been frustrating… I mean, you pack and unpack, which sucks anyway, but don’t have the trip in the middle? That’s cruel…

2nd Flight – NYC (JFK Airport) to Boston
That was horrible. The flight itself was ok – we started to land almost immediately after taking off (45 minutes flight), but I almost missed the flight due to a combination of a short connection time (less than 2.5 hours), the inefficiency of JFK SkyTrain, the unbelievable security measures in the US and my lousy running skills.
My tips to international students coming with connection flights from another US city:
1. Find out in which terminal your first flight lands and from which one your second flight takes off, and how to get from the first to the second if they’re not the same.
2. Allow yourself ample time for the connection. Your first flight might be late, there might be a long queue in immigration, and your luggage might be the last one to arrive (remember you need to reclaim your luggage and then check it in again for the second flight – another unique US feature).
3. Ask your travel agent to save you a seat in the front area of the plain. May sound negligible, but you can actually save a lot of time by going out first and standing at the beginning of the passport control queue.
4. Guys – shave. Better to look decent in front of the security officers.
5. Don’t panic (like I did…).

Hotel in Boston – DoubleTree Guest Suites

Frozen Charles River - the view from my hotel room
After a short cab ride (30$) from the airport, I arrived at my hotel. DoubleTree is a great hotel which I highly recommend. I think it’s the closest one to HBS, just 10 minutes walking, and the price/quality ratio is very favorable. My room had a living room area with a TV, a corridor with a small kitchenette and a bedroom with two twin beds, a desk, another TV and a great view (8th floor) of the Charles River. The bathroom even had Neutrogina products!

Weather
snow
Coming from Israel, I was scared by the weather expecting me. Believe it or not, this was actually one of my concerns when I applied to HBS. How am I going to survive two winters here?
Well, that I still don’t know, but if this weekend is an indicator, it’s not that bad. I know it’s March, which is already the end of winter, but still I expected something much worse.
Boston – or at least Cambridge and HBS, which is what I got to see this time – was still covered in large quantities of snow. At least large in my eyes – I think I’ve never seen so much snow in an urban area. I actually liked it, it is beautiful, except for the time you have to walk on it. The Charles river covered in ice and snow was definitely a spectacle for me.
I took my ‘special’ coat (actually, my little brother’s coat). It’s a Gap coat my brother bought when he was in NY in -10 degrees Celsius, so it can handle the load – unlike Israeli coats… Last time I wore this coat was in January 2004, when I traveled to frozen China. It worked great then.
I also bought a thermal undershirt and a long thermal underwear in the duty free – told you I was scared!
Eventually, with the coat and the thermal underwear, and without wearing a scarf, hat or gloves, I managed just fine. The best way to dress is with a good coat and light clothing under it, because everything indoors is heated really well.
The morning after I arrived was a bit rainy and windy. I turned on the TV, thought of leaving it on for a while and wait for a weather forecast. Little did I know… the first channel I hit upon was 90% weather, 10% news / sports / advertisements. They had weather forecast for every town in the region with more than five people, interviews with distressed drivers (“um, the roads are really slippery, so I drive slower than usual”) and running headlines at the bottom of the screen saying things like “Local Kindergarten – no AM school”, or “Cherry Grove College – opening two hours later”. Fascinating experience. On the serious side, during the same time deadly tornadoes were hitting Alabama, killing several people, include high school students. To think weather extremes like that actually kill people is mind boggling. Again it’s something that (fortunately) doesn’t happen in Israel.

Admit Weekend – First Day: Thursday March 1st

HBS crazy underground tunnel systemHBS crazy underground tunnel system
I met another Israeli admit and we went to a nice lunch in Harvard Square. The weather was really nice – sunny and not very cold. After that I went to the hotel and took a much needed nap. Woke up from it feeling: 1. I need another nap 2. What am I doing here? Am I really going to study in HBS, and leave everything behind in Israel? No! I don’t want to go! Wahhh!
Well, managed to pull myself together and went to HBS for the weekend early registration and informal club events. We registered and got the weekend’s schedule, and more importantly – an HBS t-shirt and an HBS bag! I love the merchandise here. They have a huge store with everything HBS except maybe toilet paper, and once I start school I’m sure all of my friends and family will have HBS-only wardrobe.
It’s not my first visit to HBS, I visited in September before applying, so the amazing facilities and general appearance of the school didn’t surprise me like they did in the first time. Still they gave me a very comfortable, pleasant feeling.
After registration we went to a students panel organized by the WSA – Women Student Association. It featured five current students answering questions about their life at HBS. I love such panels! I think hearing as many opinions as possible is a good thing; I’m not one of the people who find it confusing – but rather it helps me form my own decision. Hearing different viewpoints about the same subject can be actually relieving – because you realize there are no “right answer” and if you do what you think is good for you, you should be ok.
An example – in the panel the students discussed what to do before coming to school. One student vehemently recommended a pre-MBA internship in the summer, in order to better prepare for MBA summer recruitment and to start seriously thinking about future desired industries. The others recommended just taking some time off, traveling and spending time with family and friends.
So I think that as a listener in these panels, one should be receptive to all opinions voiced but at the end take away what sounds right for her (in this particular case, I agree with the latter recommendation…).
After the panel I went to John Harvard, a bar in Cambridge, for an ‘event’ organized by the HBS TechMedia club. I met there a second year Israeli student and had a very informative chat with him.

Admit Weekend – Second Day: Friday March 2nd
Woke up at 6:30am – don’t remember the last time I woke up this early (however, the incident repeated itself the following days – I think the jetlag took its toll). Shared a taxi with other admits to school, and had a short breakfast while chatting with a few other admits and a current student from Canada who knew a few words in Hebrew. To my surprise, she told me that she decided to learn ten words in each language while at HBS. Worked in my case…
The weekend officially kicked off with a welcome address by Dean Jay Light, followed by Director of MBA program, and Director of Admissions Deirdre Leopold. All three were engaging speakers, and much funnier than I imagined.
Afterwards we were divided to ‘sections’ and rotated between a few activities: I started with a class visit – Finance II. Unfortunately, this was probably the worst class to visit – from 30 Finance II classes in the semester, exactly the one we visited was one not featuring a case! It continued a case taught in a previous lesson, but presented some mathematical models of risk management and hedging. It was still interesting, and the discussion was quite lively, but I’m sure glad I had a chance to view a full-fledged case class the previous time I visited (it was LEAD with Prof. Parlow, and was amazing. I’ve never seen anything like that before – the participation, the energy, it was like a movie scene. I was really impressed with the case method then).
After class we had a faculty panel – with three professors who shared their opinions about HBS students and curriculum. They offered advice on being a successful student – focusing on class participation, of course. They said that a valued contribution in class does not necessarily have to be coming up with the brightest comment about the case, a comment that you thought about at home, while reading the case, but can be something that you thought about while listening to one of your peers, and responding to him. Or another valued contribution can be asking a question – taking the ‘risk’ of sounding ‘stupid’ – but thus moving the entire discussion forward.
After this panel it was lunch time – I attended a lunch for admits who are recommended or required to take Analytics before school starts. Analytics is a two-week program designed to put new students up to speed with accounting, finance and math. During lunch we were given a short introduction to the program, followed by a panel of students who participated in the program last year, and warmly recommended it. The panel was definitely helpful, but the whole concept of having lunch in class, eating in front of people who are talking to you, was very weird for me. Maybe it’s a cultural thing… Not to mention the fact that lunch took place at 11:40am, a bit earlier than my usual lunch time (usually around 14), but having woken up at 6:30am, I embraced the change…
After lunch (and the mandatory coffee to keep me awake) we had the Career Services presentation – which I found to be the most impressive one in the entire weekend. First, the head of the Career Services Office is Dr. Timothy Butler, a very impressive person and a great public speaker. Second, HBS has a very comprehensive array of career-related resources available for students. Especially impressive for me were the ‘coaches’ – HBS alumni with diverse backgrounds who were trained to work as career coaches and help students take career decisions, improve their CVs, write cover letters, prepare for interviews and so on. The only thing that bothers me now is the amount and type of jobs which are not open to non-US students – this is something I’ll have to find out more about.
After that there was an outdoor activity in which I didn’t take part (I still don’t feel ready to tackle the typical Boston weather…) and instead used the crazy HBS tunnel system to go over to Dillon House and pay my tuition deposit, and thus basically matriculate with HBS – an exciting act that materialized in me handing over a hefty check ($1000) to the HBS administration. Well, I’m in.
When everyone returned from the outdoor activity we had TGIF – Thank Goodness It’s Friday – an HBS event containing, in our case, beer, nachos and the likes of it.

Gala dinner at HBS Spangler dining roomFrom food to yet more food, we had a Celebration Dinner in Spangler Dining Room. Chandeliers, balloons and all, it was indeed festive.

Admit Weekend – Third Day: Saturday March 3rd
The weather was great, sunny and not very cold, so I walked to HBS from the hotel. Had light breakfast and went to hear the Financial Aid presentation – which presented me with some new information and helped me realize better the way loans and fellowships are given.
I’m not sure many people know it, but HBS has a remarkable system of fellowships and financial aid. Besides a guaranteed loan with relatively good interest rates, they offer generous need-based fellowships. They also have a “Loan Forgiveness” program, which means that if, after graduation, you earn a salary that’s much lower than the median (either because of location or because you work for a non-profit, etc.) – they will cover your loans and you won’t have to repay them. They do it because the school’s philosophy is that salary considerations should not influence one’s career choices, and one should do what he really wants to do. I think that’s admirable – not that the school has this philosophy, I’m sure other schools will say the same, but that it actually implements the philosophy with concrete actions.
After that we had lunch and another students panel, and went to a housing tour – we saw three dorms rooms and three apartments in Harvard affiliated housing buildings – Soldiers Field Park and One Western Avenue. I’ll talk more about housing in a separate post.
Then we had the closing presentation by Kim Jabal, Director of Investor Relations in Google, HBS ’00. She talked about her memories of school, and why she chose HBS. She also talked about some women-specific advantages HBS offers, which I found encouraging. She said that basically for anyone who’s “different” – women, minorities, internationals, the HBS degree is kind of a “seal of approval” that gives you an advantage while working or looking for a job. She also said that for a mother who considers working part-time or looking for other work flexibility, the HBS degree also makes it easier to realize such desires.
After the weekend ‘officially’ ended, we met with a few current Israeli students. They talked to us about specific Israeli-related issues like visas and housing. They also told us they’re now organizing the HBS Israel Trek, taking place in May. Cool!

Summary
At the HBS women restrooms - it's the little things that count!For admitted students (especially international or Israelis) debating whether to come to the admit weekend or not, I’d say that while it was certainly fun, the admit weekend didn’t show me almost anything new about HBS. Maybe that’s because I had already visited the school. I managed to combine this weekend with a business trip to the US, so I was happy that I came, but if attending is too much for you for time / money reasons, don’t worry – it’s not a must and you won’t really miss out on anything.

You can see all my photos from the admit weekend at my photo gallery.


3… 2… 1… Disco!

June 12th, 2007

I'm starting to "launch" my blog today, after writing a few posts. I'll publish it in a few forums and other sites, and see how it goes. So for all of you reaching this blog for the first time - Welcome :) Really happy to have you here. Interesting posts/pages you can browse include the about page, the MBA resources post and just about any other post :) Feel free to comment and e-mail me, I'd be happy to get feedback and get in touch with readers / fellow bloggers / applicants / students / other animals. E-mail me at: