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Walter: Lessons Learned from HBS

September 25, 2013 :: Admissionado Team

walterI can’t believe I just submitted my HBS re-application! I was so nervous, I went back to my application status page multiple times to see that I actually did.

It has been a long journey, but also a great time working with my consultant Eric and the Admissionado team.  The grueling reviews pushed my writing skills to the next level, from the essay to the resume.

When I submitted my first HBS essay draft for the review, I thought I did well and was totally clear on my presentation and logic. I assumed it was great, and that the Admissions committee would not have any issues understanding any aspect of it. However, seeing the first set of reviews in the heavily colored Word document, I was at once surprised and delighted to see the potential I could achieve in my essay. And, now, after multiple set of reviews, when I read my final essay, I can see the difference.

I learned a lot along this journey, and saw my work transformed. The essay still talks about the same story I wrote way back then, however, now it’s so simple to read and understand. A significant change in the essay quality resulted from a new thought process as I went through Admissionado’s review comments. And as I start working on my drafts for the rest of the schools I’m targeting (it’s always good to have back-ups!), I’ll make sure to keep the below points in mind (All credits to Admissionado!):

1. Start with clear, punchy 2-3 sentences that capture the adcom’s attention. Why? Think about the adcom reading thousands of essays. Moreover, coming from an over-represented pool (Indian IT males), I can imagine what their initial reaction would be: “Oh well. Another engineer. Let’s see…” (All while sipping black coffee to stay awake.) And suddenly, the first two lines changes his/her perception a bit. “Well, that’s interesting….It’s not another database management or coding the guy is talking about….”

2. Simplifying the stuff as much as possible.  Essentially, everything we do in our lives boils down to STAR: situation, task, action, result. The situation we are in now is kind of a dual life – work in office / work at home (applications). Our task is to get into the best school and achieve our goals. I’m taking some action writing this stuff down and thinking about my next school’s application. And obviously, I can’t wait for results!

If we can really simplify a leadership experience in this format, write things that show what someone else in our role may not have done, we automatically laid down a foundation of a strong essay.

3. Starting early. As much as it’s said, I think writing stuff doesn’t take time. At least for me. However, if you let an essay sit for a while and go back after a day or so (depending how close is the deadline), there could be a stark difference in your perception of the essay. This difference will lead to further refinement of the essay.

4. Making sure to cover ‘Why MBA,’ ‘Why Now,’ ST and LT goals, work leadership stories, and extra-curricular activities through entire application. Most of the time, we edit a single essay at a time and sometimes it may lead to a narrow scope of thinking. Again, thinking from the adcom perspective, the entire application is read in a single go. Sure, a single essay can form a solid impression. However, think about the compounded effect of an effective strategy coming from an entire application and all of its components. Everything needs to come together and work together in a single unit. That’s what will have the most impact.

My work on HBS is done, but I’m only just beginning to take what I learned here and apply it to the rest of my applications. I still have a lot more work to do… and even more waiting for those results!

So, guys, wish me good luck! HBS is really a dream school and I can’t even imagine how happy I would be if I make it. However, I need to be realistic. Lot of amazing folks apply to HBS, thus it’s super competitive. So, the only thing I can do right now is to keep my fingers crossed and start focusing ahead. Next up: Kellogg and Wharton!

Walter’s your “typical” (in the eyes of the adcom) Indian IT male, fighting his way to HBS. And now he’s moving on to the next battle. You can follow his journey from start to submission right here.