London Business School Calls…

After my interview session at the London Business School in Dubai campus, my wife and I stayed back for a few days to enjoy the city before heading back home. The admission committee members who interviewed me told me that I should hear back from them latest by Thursday this week. I had already set my expectations for Wednesday/Thursday, only for me to open my email on Tuesday, and bam! the offer for admission was sitting right there. I checked the timestamp on the email only to discover that the email had been sent for over 24 hours!

My first instinct was to rush off an acceptance email right there on my mobile phone before they changed their minds about the admission. But now, I know I made the right choice not to send the email immediately because I am quite certain that it would have been full of grammatical errors and wrong spellings and they might have been forced to withdraw the admission. Instead, I took a deep breathe, rushed off to tell me wife about the good news and gave myself some few minutes to calm down. Then I opened up my laptop and sent an official looking and sounding acceptance email.

It was a rollercoaster of a sixteen months, which included three tries at the GMAT and lots of bucks for travels to Lagos and Dubai and application fees, not forgetting those pesky consultant fees. But I am glad the journey is over. For the past 36 hours I have been wondering what would have happened if I had hired my second consultant instead of the first for my Harvard, Stanford, Wharton and INSEAD applications. I cannot predict what would have happened with the first three schools but I feel strongly that I would have been accepted straight through at INSEAD. While the first consultant was able to put many of the puzzles in place, the second consultant brought a higher level of clarity for the LBS application process. The first consultant’s interview training was a goldmine that actually went a long way to help.

Looking back at the long painful journey of self discovery, I am glad that things turned out the way they did. I had a vertical career move in the first week of 2014. My second admission consultant felt that this promotion could have spooked the admission committees because I was unable to explain within the short period before the deadlines why I wanted an MBA at that point. Most MBA graduates who are interested to coming to Africa would be glad to take my current job. It would have been a real struggle to let go if I had been admitted into Harvard or Stanford. But I doubt I would have let go if I had gotten into Wharton. INSEAD would have been easier because I could have looked for a way to talk my employer into letting me go for only ten months and come right back to my current role. But I am glad I do not have to make that decision. I now I get to go to a great school while keeping a great job. It is the best of both worlds. Another thing is that I do not have to face the prospect of getting torn apart by a smart 22 year old in front of the class at Harvard; I think I will learn better and appreciate it more if I am slammed by a 40 year old experienced manager at the Executive MBA program in the city of Dubai. At least, I can always go to Wild Wadi after that.

And I finally got to send an email to INSEAD to take me off the waitlist, and it felt really good.

I am grateful to the Almighty God for how things have turned out. The journey of self discovery was well worth it.

And yes, I am going to London Business School!

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Another ding from Stanford… and way forward.

It was not quite unexpected.

When Harvard and Wharton ding you without an interview, then you know your chances at Stanford are slim to none. I hold nothing against them because I am pretty sure there are many great applicants to pick from. I had to take a cold hard look at myself after the Wharton ding, and I came to the realization that there was really nothing I could do about who I am. I made good use of all the opportunities that came my way, but the fact that I came from a poorly understood culture did not really help matters. The Admission Committees simply did not understand me.

I make investment decisions that potentially impact the Nigerian financial markets almost on a daily basis, and I am involved in activities that have changed the actions of the managements of some listed companies in Nigeria. I am pretty sure that if these schools were Nigerian schools, they would have understood the context of candidacy and I would have stood a better chance.

Enough of the whining.

Now I know that I might have to look towards more internationally focused schools, schools that are more likely to understand the context of my candidacy. American schools have exposure to 35 – 40% international applicants. Americans with a population of about 300 million have slots for 60 – 65% of the seats while the remaining 6.7 billion of the World population fight for the remaining seats.

Now, I have to work out a strategy to get off the INSEAD waiting list. And I have a month to apply to London Business School and IESE Business School. If I have the time, I may throw in Chicago Booth into the mix, just for the fun of it.

No, the MBA dreams of the African Doctor is not dead.

I may be bruised and battered but like King Leonidas and his 300 men, my chin is up in the sky, and I will fight on.

Meanwhile, the views on my blog have almost touched 2,000. I am humbled by your belief in me, and I am grateful to those who have encouraged me all along.

I am sorry I do not have better news for you.

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.

Submitting Harvard Application

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With heart pounding, palms sweating, and forehead beading with sweat, I typed in the debit card number (yes, only the ultra rich use credit cards in Africa, not common people like me). I made a mistake, and retyped it with shaking hands. This is Harvard Business School we are talking about here. I typed my name, typed the expiration date on the card, the secret code at the back of the card, filled in the other information and SUBMITTED.

I stared at the screen for about half a minute as my heart beat slowed and my sweaty palms and forehead recovered slightly from the shock of submitting an application to Harvard Business School. I have done my best. I put my best foot forward. It is time to see if Harvard likes me enough to call me for the interview. I don’t have time to brood at the moment. A heavy weight that has been lifted off my shoulders. Truly, I have done my best.

It is time to move on to other schools. Something strange happened while I was preparing the applications. The schools seem to be re-arranging themselves. Initially, I was not interested in Stanford. I was enamored by HBS and INSEAD. Well, am I glad that I am applying to Stanford. Anyway, this is all about Harvard for now, so I will not derail the topic.

Well, I chose to use the image up there because it converges my dream school with the most successful manager of my favorite football team, Manchester United. I have completed the first major task of 2014. Time to go and eat that sumptuous New Year breakfast that my wife cooked, sleep, and then watch Manchester United take on Tottenham Hotspur later in the day. It is going to be a touch match. Tottenham has historically given us loads of headache, and I suspect it is going to be a cracking match after Andrea Villas Boas was sacked, and the new coach has developed some serious attacking instincts.

Watching the deadlines

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The deadlines are here! They are less than 10 days away now!

Harvard: January 6, 2014
Wharton: January 7, 2014
Stanford: January 8, 2014

Whew!

I thought it was going to be an easy ride after getting the transcript and submitting the INSEAD applications at the nick of time. It was not been so. Now, I need to manage people. I have to keep nudging my recommenders. Luckily, I have one who is always on point; in fact, he has often been ahead of me on a few occasions. I guess that is what business school is all about. You get to fight deadlines every now and then. You have to keep pushing people to do what they have delegated them to do, including your bosses.

There are so many variables that come up for consideration.

Okay! Now putting pen on paper, rather putting fingers to keyboard has given me an idea of what to do to push for this.

So, I am too busy to complete my rambling. I will be back.

Hiring a Consultant

To hire a consultant or not?

I was stumped with hiring a consultant initially. After taking a stroll around the web, looking up the costs of hiring a consultant and all, I was scared by the total costs of getting one. I mean this thing runs into thousands of dollars. The thought of shelling out one month salary per school just to hire someone to brush up your essays was daunting. My excel spreadsheet told me that I would have to sacrifice four months salaries on consultants to help me apply to my four selected schools. Then how would I live? It looked like my personal government would have to shut down for four months, but the problem is that I can only attend one school, not four.

I happen to be a member of the most popular forums for MBA candidates, GmatClub.Com and BeatTheGMAT.Com. There is so many information on those websites that one can actually get confused about the whole application process. The loads of information is so much that several contradictions about a simple issue abound. Some of the admission consultants on the forums makes it look like you need not apply to some of these business schools if you don’t score a 780 on the GMAT or get a GPA of 3.99. They also sometimes make you feel like you have no chance if you don’t discover a cure for cancer or win an Olympic medal. Then occasionally, an average guy will pop out of nowhere and post on how he was able to get into Harvard with a 690 GMAT score or into Wharton with a GMAT of 660. That pretty much clinched it for me that I might need to hire a consultant so that I don’t end up getting confused in the process. This also became much more important because there is nobody around me who is applying to a business school anyway.

After discussing my concerns with my boss, who by the way has agreed to act as a recommender for all four schools and any other one I might be interested in, told me about a Nigerian consultant, who had once been a member of the admissions committee in Harvard Business School. He had not met her before but he told me about her company, Expartus, and her book, The Best Business Schools Admissions’ Secrets. He believed that she would be a very good resource in helping me bridge the cultural gap between me and the schools I am interested in.

Now to get in touch. I was still brooding on how to best get across to her when some guys from a private equity firm who wanted us to invest in their upcoming fund walked into my office on one fine sunny day. One of them happened to be an HBS graduate and his surname looked really familiar. I gave him a call a week after they visited my office and surprise surprise, he was related to the CEO of Expartus! That was when I knew the stars were lining up for me.

And that was how I hired a consultant. Oh well, it is still expensive though but at least my government will not have to shutdown because I can actually spread out my payment and I will have to sacrifice only two months salary. After working with her for a few weeks, I feel that it was worth it after all.