Rounds, rounds, rounds

merry-go-round

round ‘n round we go

My initial plan was to submit all seven of my applications during Round 1. But my best laid plans were thwarted by Cornell. Then they were thwarted again by USC. But I’m still doing round 1 for the other five, even though my schedule was crazy tight for Round 1 deadlines (I just took the GMAT for the first and only time less than two months ago!). My reasons are as follows:

First, and most important of all, I wanted to get this whole thing OVER WITH. I knew if I drew out the application process a couple months longer I’d just agonize over small details and drive myself crazy. Plus, I’d probably just sit around on my ass for the first few weeks and not really work on my apps until there wasn’t much time left anyway.

Secondly, the appeal of possibly knowing where my life was heading by the end of the calendar year was too much to resist. I want to know where I’ll be in 2014 NOW.

And then there’s the whole your-chances-are-better-in-the-first-round thing. Even though some of my schools explicitly say that there is no difference in competition between Rounds 1 and 2, I still don’t quite believe them. And, for me, this is a no-brainer. If you know your chances are better now, just do it now!! Yeah, there’s that whole “submit your application when its strongest” thing, but I don’t think another two months will make that much of a difference for me.

So I charted out my deadlines on a spreadsheet a few weeks ago and realized–with horror–that Cornell has an insanely early deposit deadline for Round 1 decisions. They give you literally less than one month to decide whether to commit your MBA future to them or not. And that Round 1 deposit deadline is earlier than some other schools’ Round 1 decision release dates. So if I did Round 1 at Cornell and if I got admitted, I’d have to pony up a $1,500 deposit fee to save my space while I waited for Berkeley and UCLA to release their decisions. And while I’d probably pick Cornell over UCLA at this current moment (and I might totally change my mind later), I don’t want to be in that kind of sticky situation. So Cornell got pushed to Round 2.

Then USC raised its ugly head (No no, your head isn’t ugly, USC. Your head is really pretty! Can I be admitted now?). It’s probably my fault, though. When I was creating my spreadsheet in mid-August, USC hadn’t updated its deadlines for the 2013-14 application cycle yet. Its website still had 2012-2013 deadlines on it. I figured that the dates would probably be the same this year, and typed down what the deadline was for round 1 in 2012: November 1. I happened to check in on the site again just a few days ago and saw that Round 1 does not end on November 1st this year, but October 15 instead. A two-week difference isn’t that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it does make a huge difference in my insanely tight schedule. Northwestern and Berkeley both have October 16 deadlines, and I couldn’t fathom the idea of squeezing in another entire application at the same time. I also saw that USC’s website now says the second round is when “Priority consideration for merit-based scholarships [is] given to both international and domestic students with completed applications“, so I’m probably better off anyway.

So here are my deadlines, in all their glory:

  • Yale, round 1: Was due on Sept 25. I submitted everything already except for those damned video interview questions, which I will do this weekend and write about later.
  • Stanford, round 1: Due Oct 2. Their website explicitly says applying in round 1 is advantageous. I’ll be submitting this app this weekend, also.
  • Berkeley, round 1: Oct 16
  • Northwestern, round 1: Oct 16
  • UCLA Anderson, round 1: Oct 22
  • Cornell, round 2: December 4
  • USC, round 2: January 10, 2014
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Which MBA Programs I’m applying to and why

Here’s my list:

  • Stanford
  • Yale
  • Berkeley
  • Cornell
  • Northwestern
  • UCLA
  • USC
Beautiful Ithaca, NY

Beautiful Ithaca, NY

Yup. Seven schools. Seven. A ton, right? It just goes to show exactly how unsure I am of what schools will admit me. There’s lots of reasons not to admit me. And lots of reasons TO admit me. I just have no idea who will think what of me, because I am a big weirdo…at least when it comes to bschool applicants.

I currently live in SoCal, so deciding to apply to UCLA and USC were no-brainers and a matter of practicality. The other schools I narrowed down to for location and financial reasons…or a combination of both. In some of these locations, I have potential access to housing from family that would save me a ton of money. And I do not want to live in a big city for business school. I know that’s totally illogical and I should be wanting to live in a big city for career opportunities and recruitment fairs and whatnot. But I am just over living in big cities for now (and paying the tons of money on rent and food and everything else that comes along with it). I know these schools are not in the boonies or anything (well, maybe Cornell), but I just did not want to be in NYC, Boston or Philadelphia. After those considerations, I moved on to evaluating the actual programs.

Stanford, Yale, Berkeley and Northwestern all stuck out to me for their well-known nonprofit programs. And, for one reason or another, I have positive associations with all of them from looking into schools for undergrad or taking extra classes/doing summer programs there in the past. Does that have anything to do with the quality of their MBA programs? Probably not much. I just like the schools overall and could picture myself on their campuses.

After talking with alumni, I especially liked how Berkeley and Yale both seemed to pride themselves on admitting nontraditional applicants. A Berkeley alum even told me that the MBAs there tend to be more “granola.” Now, I am quite sure these people are nowhere near hippies, but the mere fact that they are happy to share that fact means something.

And that brings me to Cornell. I first started thinking about applying there because I’ve always heard so much about how Ithaca is so beautiful. And I am nature-starved right now (in case you couldn’t tell), so that sounded really, really appealing. I didn’t know much about their programs until I spoke to a rep at a recent Forte Forum. The rep was from Cornell’s Office of Diversity & Inclusion. I know that schools like to make a big fuss over how diverse they are, but I actually believed Cornell after hearing the rep speak about it. I’m no minority (Well, in the business school sense. Except that I’m a woman, I guess. I can’t believe I have to say that), but I really appreciate the efforts of that office. And even though I don’t have the impression that Cornell has a full and robust nonprofit program, I really liked how the rep went about explaining options to me. Other school reps I’ve spoken with are just clearly uninterested in my nonprofit background and make minimal effort to show how their school can accommodate my interests (I’m looking at you, UCLA), so that’s how Cornell won me over.

Overall, a very scientific process, as you can see! A lot of it was gut instinct, past experiences and what I happen to feel like doing at this point in my life. Stanford, Yale and Berkeley are at the top of my “wish list,” but, honestly, I think I can get what I need out of any of the schools I’m applying to, so here’s hoping to at least one “You’re in!”.