Second ding from Wharton

It is getting kinda gruesome here.

It is either Admission Committees across the world don’t like doctors who are in the odd side of 30 or something is really off about my profile. I wish I could put a finger on it.

Is this the end of the MBA dreams of the African doctor?

Let’s see what the heavens have in store?


If you want a thing bad enough
To go out and fight for it,
Work day and night for it,
Give up your time and your peace and your sleep for it,
If only desire of it
Makes you quite mad enough
Never to tire of it,
Makes you hold all other things tawdry and cheap for it,
If life seems all empty and useless without it
And all that you scheme and you dream is about it,
If gladly you’ll sweat for it,
Fret for it,
Plan for it,
Lose all your terror of God or man for it,
If you’ll simply go after that thing that you want,
With all your capacity,
Strength and sagacity,
Faith, hope and confidence, stern pertinacity,
If neither cold poverty, famished and gaunt,
Nor sickness nor pain
Of body or brain
Can turn you away from that thing that you want,
If dogged and grim you besiege and beset it,
You’ll get it!

~ Berton Braley

Never Give Up on Your Dreams

The Life of an MBA Applicant

The Life of an MBA Applicant

At every school that you apply to, your dreams lie at the feet of the Admission Committees. If you an average applicant who did not go to a well known school, and/or study a course that does not have GPA, and/or you are a few years above 30, then you feel like a gladiator in front of Commodus who will decide with his thumb whether your MBA dreams should be killed or given a chance.

Waitlisted by INSEAD

I just got the e-mail from INSEAD. I have been placed on the waitlist, and I have accepted it.

This is so hard to take.

I called my interviewers and told them about the outcome. They were both surprised because they said they gave me very strong recommendations.

If there is anything I have learned from the interview application process… it is the fact that there are so many qualified candidates out there and the competition is off the wall.

Another thing I have learned, the hard way, is that the application process is not good for the heart.

Completing the INSEAD Interviews


I finally completed my INSEAD interviews last week. From the tone of our interactions before the interviews, I classified the first interviewer as the “bad cop” and the second interviewer as the “good cop”. But the experiences with them turned out to be the reverse.

The first interviewer was a chilled guy who graduated from INSEAD in 2003. I assumed that he was going to be the bad cop, but we really ended up connecting. He asked me the following questions:

  1. Tell me about your career since you graduated from the University
  2. Give me an example of a change you were able to make while working with your current employer
  3. What is the greatest challenge you have faced with your employer?
  4. Why INSEAD? What do you hope to gain by going to business school
  5. How do you intend to fund your stay while at INSEAD?
  6. Which other schools did you apply to? Why?
  7. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  8. Give me an example of a culture shock that you experienced, and what you gained from it.

Then we got talking about various investment strategies, and I ended up drafting a mini investment policy statement there. We also established some common grounds on our long term goals.

The interview lasted for about 1 hour 50 minutes before he remembered that he had a plane to catch.

I had to fly out to Lagos for the second interview. I have interviewed for jobs and other stuff before in the past but this was the strangest interview I have ever had in my life. Another strange thing was that this interviewer who graduated in 2001 interviewed my first interviewer when he (my first interviewer) applied to INSEAD!

He also asked me the following questions:

  1. Why MBA? Why INSEAD? Why now?
  2. Have you ever been in a position of leadership?
  3. What role do you play in a team?
  4. Where do you see yourself in ten years?
  5. Tell me a time when you experienced a culture shock. (That pesky question again)

He challenged me about some of my views and the reasons why I wanted to go to a business school. I looked for a way to work round the challenges he threw at me to tie it into why I need to go to business school. This happened on two occasions. The first challenge he threw at me was that Nigeria was not ready for the privatization of the healthcare industry because of vested interests. And my response was that I need to go to business school now to acquire the skills before Nigeria becomes ready.

The interview lasted for about 2 hours 30 minutes and I had approximately 15 – 20 minutes of talk time. If there was anything I was able to gather from him, he was really passionate about INSEAD.

At the end he said he would recommend me to INSEAD.

Strange interview.

Coping with a ding

I saw it coming. I definitely did. When the email did not come last week, I prepared mentally for a ding, and that was exactly what I got. Harvard Business School obviously did not like me as much as I liked it. The feeling of getting dinged by your dream school is better imagined than experienced. I went through all the gamut of the Kubler-Ross grief stages (denial, anger, bargaining, grieving, and acceptance) in different cycles.When the ding finally came, I was ready for it. But it still stung.

It is hard to give up, but my real source of concern is what exactly caused the ding. After searching high and low, four reasons came up for why I was rejected. There was really nothing I could do about them because they were not my fault in the first place. I happen to be in my mid thirties, work in an unknown firm, graduated from an obscure university in the backwaters of west Africa, and had an un-explainable academic performance (there is no GPA for medical degrees in my country). After a little research I came to the realization that all of the people who went to HBS from my country that I know all had their undergraduate degrees from either the US or the UK.

My real concern now is whether Stanford also operates through the same set of standards. If it does, it simply means that I stand no chance there either. However, if the Stanford Africa Fellowship page is anything to go by then I may have a chance because they encourage Africans who got their undergraduate degree to apply for the fellowship. Well, one can only apply for it if one gets admission in the first place.

Oh well, I have started shaking the sting out of the ding. I have my second INSEAD interview in a few days. The first interview went really well. Even though the first interviewer was supposed to be the bad cop, we ended up really connecting and some of our future goals were in alignment. My full debrief for the interview will come up after the second interview. I think the second interviewer will be the good cop because of the way he sounds on the phone and the tone of his e-mails. But I have no intention of taking anything for granted.

Yikes. This application process is really tough, and it can be quite emotionally draining. But I am so glad to have the opportunity to put everything down in writing because I know that five years down the line, I will be glad that I did. I know this because I have full confidence that I will get admission to a really great school where I will be able to fulfill my destiny.

Warren Buffet was dinged by Harvard Business School. He went to Columbia where he met his mentor whose ideas ended up making him one of the richest man to have ever lived on this planet. He probably wouldn’t have fulfilled his destiny if he went to HBS. So I guess I am in good company after all.

Okay Stanford GSB, I am waiting for my interview invite. INSEAD, I am glad for the interview invite.

Wharton, I will make up my mind about you on February 21, 2014.

And Harvard, thank you for the opportunity. But if I had been admitted by both Stanford and Harvard, I would have chosen Stanford, even though Harvard was my dream school. No hard feelings. That’s just how the world works.