Monday, July 30, 2007

Why Did I Choose INSEAD Over MIT And Oxford...

First I was admitted to MIT. I was still on the waitlist at INSEAD and LBS. MIT Sloan was my first priority all along because of my background as an engineer, and my career goal to become a manager in a high-tech company. I met with my fellow Israeli MBA prospective students, and I was all set to go there. The only thing that I was not sure about was the location. Although everybody told me that Boston is great place to live in, I was not sure that I wanted to live in the US.

I applied to Oxford in the second round as a backup plan (I did not know I had been admitted to MIT at the time). I never really intended to go to a second tier school, at least not when I have a terrific offer from MIT. But life goes its own course, and I was admitted to Oxford. It seemed a no-brainer – MIT is ranked higher and is in fact a better school. I did not go into all this trouble to end up in a second tier school nobody knows.

However, Oxford is a well-known name, a one year program in Europe. My wife would have a work permit there. It will cost me half the price, and looking at the Placement Reports I saw that the vast majority of graduates find good jobs with good salaries (in the UK they pay in pounds!). I decided that I wanted to see it with my own eyes, so I flew all the way to London, and visited the school.

MIT vs. Oxford

I made a list of pluses and minuses. The criteas were: Prestige of school (affects the possibilities to find a good job, and improves personal feeling of knowing you studied in the best school you could); Length of program (affects the cost of both tuition and living expenses. Also in that time I can't work); Internship; Cost; Location (both distance from Israel, time differences, and opportunities after graduation); Internationality (how foreign I would feel in the school, and how focused the school is on international business); Visas and Work-Permits (both for me and my wife, and how complicated it is); Employment Report (how much salaries I need to expect after graduation, how easy it will be to find a job; at what sectors); Program Nature; Israelis (how alone I would be).

  • Prestige – MIT is ranked 4 in the world. Oxford around 20. MIT is a top-ranked school, while Oxford is a second tier school (all the university is well-know around the world).
  • Length of program – MIT is two years and Oxford is one year.
  • Internship - In MIT there is a summer internship, while in Oxford there is a consulting project.
  • Estimated Cost – Oxford should be around 50000 pounds for the year, while MIT is 180000$ for the two years (not including the cost of not working, and the internship).
  • Location – MIT is in Boston and Oxford is in UK.
  • Internationality – MIT has 60% American students, while in Oxford the class is 100% international.
  • Visas and Work Permits – You need them in both US and UK. But in US it is much more complicated, and my wife will not be able to work. In the UK it is much easier.
  • Employment Report – Pretty much the same salaries and the same possibilities after graduation (according to the schools Placement Reports). Almost all the students find jobs.
  • Program Nature – MIT approach to Technology more. The entrepreneurship is strong in both. Probably studying at Oxford is more busy and difficult.
  • Israelis – There are at least 10 Israelis each year at MIT, while in Oxford I will possibly be alone.

My conclusions
If I look forward where I would be in 2-3 years from today, in Oxford I will hopefully be with 2 years of experience working in London, while the degree costs me half the price, so I would probably earn back a large portion of the funds I had spent on the MBA. The living expenses in the UK are a little higher than in the US, but I will have the chance to work in other parts in Europe (once I get passed the work-permits and language barriers) - also the salaries are in pounds as well. My wife will be able to work if I go to Oxford (a very big factor in my decision). She is an attorney so she might be able to work in her profession.

MIT has several advantages: Ranking, prestige, Israelis, and Technological orientation. However, the cost, length of program, employment possibilities in Europe, distance from Israel, and working possibilities for my wife – MIT is not better than Oxford (and even has severe drawbacks).

INSEAD Comes Into Play
So I decided to go Oxford (amazing, right?). I almost went to the bank to pay 4200 pounds non-refundable downpayment. The night before, I received a mail from INSEAD announcing that I had been admitted to the school from the waitlist. That changed the whole picture for me.

  • Prestige – MIT is ranked 4 in the world. INSEAD is ranked 7. Oxford around 20. MIT and INSEAD are top-ranked schools, while Oxford is a second tier school. However, INSEAD is not well known among common people while the other two are brand names.
  • Length of program – MIT is two years, while Oxford and INSEAD are one year.
  • Internship - In MIT there is a summer internship, in Oxford there is a consulting project, and in INSEAD there is no internship.
  • Estimated Cost – INSEAD is around 80000 euros for the yearm Oxford should be around 50000 pounds for the year, while MIT is 180000$ for the two years (not including the cost of not working, the internship, and earnings of my wife).
  • Location – MIT is in Boston, Oxford is one hour from London, and INSEAD is one hour from Paris.
  • Internationality – MIT has 60% American students, while INSEAD and Oxford is 100% international.
  • Visas and Work Permits – You need them in US, UK, and in France. But in US it is much more complicated, and my wife will not be able to work. In the UK it is much easier. In France my wife won't be able to work, but the program is only 10 and a half months – and I can get a work permit after graduation in the UK.
  • Employment Report – Pretty much the same salaries and the same possibilities after graduation (according to the schools Placement Reports). Almost all the students find jobs. INSEAD is like an oiled machine when it comes to finding jobs after graduation.
  • Program Nature – MIT approach to Technology more. The entrepreneurship is strong in all. INSEAD is a crazy program of 5 semesters in 10 month, and almost no vacations.
  • Israelis – There are at least 10 Israelis each year at MIT, 20 at INSEAD, while in Oxford I will possibly be alone.

The only advantage of Oxford over INSEAD is the automatic work permit for my wife. But since INSEAD has such a short program, we can adjust. Also I don't know a word in French, so this is a minor disadvantage. INSEAD is a better school, older (the B-School I mean), with more students (almost 4 times as much), and top-notch career services. The cost is the same more or less.

When I compare INSEAD to MIT, they are both top-10 schools. INSEAD is half price, and a much shorter program. However there is no summer internship. US have more bureaucracy, but the language is English. My wife will prefer INSEAD because of the length of the program and the distance to her family.

Going to INSEAD is the natural choice. While it has almost all the advantages that Oxford had over MIT, it is a Top 10 school.

The only problem is the explenation that I need to give to everyone that asks me: "You chose to go to some unknown school in France over MIT and Oxford??? What are you - CRAZY???"

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Being on the Waitlist - It Can Happen to You

The big day has arrived – you have been expecting it for a long time. Today your fate will be decided – either you are going to study MBA in the school of your dreams, moving to a new country, meeting new people – a real adventure, or you will be rejected from the school, weeks of work gone to waste and you will have to keep your day job. You count the minutes, refresh your mail every 5 seconds, and browse the forums to hear if other people received the mail with the AdCom decision.

You finally receive the mail and you are in confusion. This is definitely NOT what you have been waiting for. The AdCom have decided to put you on the waitlist. What the hell? Waitlist? Nobody told me about this! What should I do NOW?

What is the Waitlist?
The committee receives thousands of application each year. Part of the applicants is invited for interviews. Then the AdCom starts to assemble the class. Their goal is to have a diversed class – that means a certain percentage of international students, from as many nations as possible; a balanced rate of male/female; a diversity of backgrounds; and the best applicants that fit the school. Not an easy task. Also, there are several rounds – meaning that in each round they should fill only part of the class.

After the AdCom sends the invitations, the candidates have some times to think about it and reply. A significant percentage of admitted candidates will refuse the offer – mostly because they received offers from other places and they need to select only one.

When a candidate rejects the offer, a place is now allocated. Some schools will almost never allocate from the waitlist, but choose someone from the next round, while other schools may admit a lot of students from the waitlist. If a candidate is selected from the waitlist, he/she should be from a similar portfolio as the original admitted candidate who has rejected the offer. That is the reason that the waitlist is not prioritized, and there is no specific order in which candidates are removed from the waitlist. It depends on luck.

Some schools publish a date in which notifications for waitlisted candidate will be delivered (such as LBS), and some schools will not give a specific date and "abuse" the waitlisted candidates for month (for example INSEAD).

So what should you do?
Read the email from the school carefully (the one that announced your membership in the waitlist). Each school has its own policy regarding waitlisted candidates. Some schools do not wish to receive anything from candidates (such as Harvard), and they say so explicitly in the letter. Don't send ANYTHING to those schools - Perhaps a letter that you are still interested, but nothing more. These schools will see it as an unethical behaviour to send anything, so be careful. Simply wait patiently.

On the other hand, some schools do not forbid you from sending anything – it is all stated in the email. If you are not sure, you can send a mail and ask (or search the web). You can send additional recommendations and additional essays – only if they provide new information. Be careful here – don't waiste the time of the AdCom, because they won't like it. Some schools will provide information regarding weaknesses in your application. You might want to write essays that address those. You should definitely report any change in your career, promotion, award or significant achievement. Once in a while be in contact with the school, so they will know you are interested (a simple short email should be enough).

You might want to visit the school – by showing interest you might impress the committee. You can meet with admissions office members and make an impression, and get useful information in the process. Also you can arrange for students, alumni, faculty or respectable people to provide support letters on your behalf. Be careful not to go overboard.

Don't give up. The fact that you are on the waitlist shows that your application was good, but for some reason you were not offered a place. You still have a chance – people waiver their place all the time. You have to be patient, and send additional material only if the school allows it. Show interest in the school, in the appropriate amount of course, and visit if you have the chance.

I was admitted to INSEAD from the waitlist – and I'm going to France this month. I did not visit the school, and did not send any support letter. All I did was send one short email in which I expressed my desire to attend INSEAD, and one month later I sent a short email reporting a promotion at work. Other than that it was just patience. I applied back in October '06, and was offered the place only in May '07. A really long wait… But it was worth it.

Note: I strongly suggest that you Google about the waitlist, because there are a number of useful guides that explains what to do when you are on the waitlist. You don't want to make a mistake here!

My Oxford-Said Visit

I visited Oxford Said Business School after I was admitted to the school. I wanted to see it with my own eyes before I commited. I had also been admitted to MIT Sloan at the time, and I had my own reasons for choosing an MBA in Europe. So I had a tough choice to make, and I decided it was worth it to visit Oxford. I will try to describe the place, atmosphere, and some technical details. It will be a bit long, so be patient.

I scheduled the visit in advance with Ms. Sally Webb from the admissions office. Everybody there was very nice throughout the visit. They did not try to presure me into accepting their offer, but tried to explain the advantages and disadvantages of Oxford vs. MIT.

Let's start with a short introduction. Oxford Said is ranked aroung the 20th place in the rankings, which makes it a second tier school in Europe. It is located one hour from London by train (a round-trip ticket costs around 18 pounds, and a train leaves every half an hour until late hours). The school is located in Oxford town which is in fact a gigantic campus. The Oxford University is one of the most ancient in the world, and the amazing town combines old with new in a unique way. Near old colleges lie shopping avenues and contemorary buildings. The university is one of the most respectable facilities in the world (in the likes of Harvard and Cambridge). In the university one can study any subject the mind can think of.

The Business School is named after Said (a big donator). It lies inside a new large building shaped as a cube. The school is located only one minute from the train station. 60 Million pounds were invested in the building and you can easily notice it. The building was designed so it would be easy to study in it. The program itself is relatively new (around 10 years old), and 220 students from around the world enroll it each year. The program is only one year, and the tuition is 28000 pounds (to be paid in advance – there is a 4200 pounds deposit). The estimated cost is 50000 pounds for the year, so it is a little more than 1 year in USA, but because it is a one year program it is cheaper. It is difficult for Israelis to receive scholarships. It might be possible to get a loan. One should own a bicycle and a laptop. The partners receive an automatic work permit (or they can study). It is fairly easy to receive a work permit (for you and your partner) after school, but they change the regulations once in a while.

In the building there are several state-of-the-art lecture halls, a beautiful computerized library (and there is an adidtional quite library for those of you who needs it), and an amphitheatre (in the summer they give lectures there). The building is square and in it's center a large relaxing patio. There are many sitting areas, study rooms (that you need to book in advance), and a comfortable cafetiria. Everywhere there are electricity sockets for your laptops (WI-FI of course).

The career services in the university are quite developed. I spoke with a representative, and she told me that companies come to recruit on campus all the time. They seem to get better and better each year. Companies seem to come to Oxford less than London because of the distance, but still you can find Oxford graduates in all the big companies. They use the alumni network in the recruiting process, and the vast majority of the graduates find jobs. The Placements Report of Oxford-Said shows that the salaries of the graduates do not fall behind the top tier schools, there are students from all backgrounds, and in all business fields (one third in high-tech companies, one fifth in consulting companies, and there are students in all other fields as well).

As for the accomodations and social life, Oxford has a unique system. The school is responsible for the teaching and career services. For the students' wellfare the Colleges are responsible (kind of fraternities). You must belong to a college (you pay 3000 pounds for the pleasure – not including rent). There are 39 colleges around campus, some of them ancient, and they are responsible for providing dorms (based on availability). They organize parties and events. One of the colleges has an Olympic pool and a gym. Templeton College owns 65 apartments for couples close the business school (it is also not very expensive – 600 pounds per month). It is said that some of the networking is done through the college and other departments in the university.

Studying seems very hard. The degree is intensive and demanding. There are two practical projects (one of them is a summer consulting project - similar to an internship). There are three semesters of 3 month, and in the end of each semester there is a tests week (tests in 6 days) - A bow-tie and a gown are required (Oxford = tradition). The average grade is 60-70 (I guess the Technion was easy compared to this). In the first semester they divide the students to groups of 75, and to study groups of 5. In the second semester they reshuffle the groups.

I sat in a Marketing lecture, and it was really interesting. The professor was very sophisticated, and presented the material in an impressive way. I understood why it is important for the class to be diversed. The students gave examples from the real world. The class is very diversed – engineers, economists, salespersons, marketing, enterpeneuirs, and a few lawyers.

In summary, Oxford seems a very strong alternative to the top tier schools. Especially to those of us who looks for a one year less-expensive program in Europe.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

MY NYU Stern Interview (that didn't take place)

NYU Stern invited me for an interview. The problem was that the interview was to be conducted in New York. They have a procedure to schedule an interview in London, but this is only after filling up a form and making a request. On special circumstances they would authorise a phone interview.

They agreed to interview me in London, but not in Israel. So in order to get interviewed I had to fly to London for a day or two. There were several circumstances that held me back from flying to London:

1. I had a personal event exactly in the time of the interview.
2. I could not take days off work at the time.
3. I had already been admitted to MIT, so it was really not worth my while to go into so much trouble.
4. The cost: It would have cost me 600-800$ to fly there.

NYU showed no flexibility and consideration to my personal event, so I politely declined the interview invitation. I ended up in the waitlist, and later on rejected by the school. That's a shame, because NYU Stern is supposed to be a really good business school.

I know of a guy with 10 times better and jastified reasons than mine for not flying to London, and he did not get any consideration either. So, I really can't complain. NYU Stern wants candidates who are willing to go around the world in order to be admitted to their school. I was not one of those applicants (apparently) so I was not admitted to the school. Too bad.

Note: This post is not a complaint. I have no bad feelings toward NYU, and I totally understand their approach. I just wanted to warn that some schools require you to fly to them for the interview, and you should take that into consoderation when applying. - it's ashame to waste time and money if you don't plan to fly to the interview.

My Oxford Interview

Oxford Said Business School conducts phone inetrviews with Israeli applicants. The interviews are done by professors from the school. Oxford has a second tier one-year MBA program in Europe with a relatively small class of 200 students. Each year they admit one to three Israeli students.

I had the phone interview with Prof. Alex Nicholls of Oxford. I looked him up in the Oxford website, and saw his picture. The interview lasted 25 minutes, and I had a strange feeling about it. It was a bit different from the rest of my interviews. I talked most of the time, and after each answer he kind of repeated what I said in different words in order to see that he understood my point. He did not challenge me on any point or weakness.

He started by saying that I should not be intimidated by the fact that he was the head of social enterpeneurship in Oxford and this is not relevant for our conversation. (What a way to start, right?)

The questions that he asked me:

  • Why MBA? Why Now? Why Oxford?

  • Describe your company, your sector, and the challenges that your company face in your sector.

  • Can you tell me about an international economy event that have read lately in the Economist, BusinessWeek or Financial Times (or other place) and that is interesting to you? (I had to improvise here - a very tough question).

  • Can you tell me what you think about the role of China in the economy? What do you think the Economist would say about it? Do you think it is good or bad? (Again - a very tough question. I probably blabbed nonsense for 5 minutes, but he seemed to like my answer - I have no idea).

  • Do you have any questions for me? (I asked him if he felt that the MBA program at Oxford is more theoretical than practical).

Very tough interview, because he did not ask about me (except for the first question), but rather my knowledge and take on the business and economy world. I don't have much knowledge on those so it was very difficult for me, and I ended up in mixed feelings.

I was admitted to Oxford, and visited the school. I have decided that I wanted to study there, but was admitted to INSEAD in the last minute. In the end I will be going to INSEAD.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

My Yale SOM Interview

My first interview was for Yale. We did not manage to cover everything in the interview, so we finished it one day later over the phone.

Yale School of Management is a second tier school in USA, and its class is relatively small. The school has recently adopted a new innovative curriculum. Not a lot of students from Israel go there each year (maybe one), and the school does not participate at events in Israel. Yale (the university) is a well-known name in Israel, and has a good reputation.

My interviewer was an Israeli alumnus of Yale School of Management who was a partner in a hedge fund. In his company's website I found his picture, so at least I had an idea how he looked like.

Part I
I arrived to his office in Tel-Aviv 15 minutes ahead of time, and waited for him for over 30 minutes. We were scheduled for the interview in 13:30, and it started in 13:50. Actually the interviewer had a "crisis" in the office, and a scheduled meeting in 14:00, so we had less than 15 minutes!

The interview was in Hebrew. He asked me where I worked. I listed my resume very very briefly. He asked me (in that order more or less):

  • Where do you work?

  • Why did you choose to work for companies in the military-high-tech industry? What is interesting about it?

  • Why do you want to change your career from engineering to management? (kind of "why MBA" question). Why do you want to do it abroad and not in Israel?

  • How do you stand out among your peers?

  • Do you have someone working under you?

  • Can you describe the business structure of Elbit, your current employer?

  • What do you want to do after the MBA? ("short-term goals" question)

  • What are your expectations from Yale? (kind of a nice "Why Yale" question)

  • Do you worry about studying in English? (He then realized that he should have interviewed me in English and not in Hebrew - oops).

At that point he saw that he was out of time and suggested we continue the interview over the phone (scheduled for the next day afternoon) - probably in English.

The interview in Hebrew took me by surprise, but once I realized that it will not switch to English I adjusted accordingly.

It was more a conversation, less an interview, and he was very friendly. He told me about himself, and even offered to provide tips about how to adjust to the American culture. He did not let me develop a topic to more than two sentences, but rather jumped from one question to the other in an order that made sense (like a conversation).

I understand that crises can occur in a stressed business like his, but I did sense a little disrespect by him not allocating more time for the interview and starting the interview very late. I had not expressed my feelings out loud of course, but was very polite.

Part II
I had the phone interview in the next afternoon, and it lasted 20 minutes. He started by apologizing for the other day, and immediately continued the interview. The entire interview was in Hebrew.
  • Tell me again why you want to go to Yale? What specifically attracts you to Yale?

  • What is your GMAT score? What was your average in your first degree? What were your weaker courses? Did you take courses in Economics?

  • Are you focused on a specific subject in business school? What are your thoughts of the internship?

  • If you are not accepted to Yale what would you do?

  • What other schools have you applied to?

  • Do you like working/studying in team or alone?

  • What is the business potential of your current workplace?

  • What do you think can be improved in your company (with regards to business)?

  • Do you think it will be difficult for you to present yourself in English?

  • Anything else you think is important for me to know?

He ended the conversation by inviting me to contact him if I have more questions.

I must say that the second interview was not as good as the first. First thing, it seemed that he had a lot of work between the two sessions, and he did not remember much from the first interview. It is clear that some questions he repeated. The good impression that I may have made during the face-to-face meeting was at risk, because it seemed that the interview started all over again. Second, his phone call took me a bit off guard (I did not know the exact hour he would call), so I did not have a couple of minutes to relax and adjust my thoughts. Also, the conditions in which the phone interview took place were not optimal, because I had people over at my house.

Phone interviews are very different from regular interviews, and you need to take that into consideration.

I was not admitted to Yale, and I have no idea if the interview was to blame or other aspects in my application.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

The Interview

After you submitted all the material needed for your application, you might get an interview invitation. The schools publish in advance the deadlines for invitations. Some schools will send invites exactly on the deadline, and some will send them in a period of time before the deadline (you might want to get updates from other candidates in Business Week Forums).

If you got the invitation - CONGRATULATIONS - you are half way there. It means that your application indeed stood out in the pile of applications, and you are a serious candidate. Good job.
Well, hold on a bit. You still have to get yourself interviewed. In English...

How to Prepare
Here is a shocker: You can prepare for the interview. Imagine this : You get an email with an invitation to interview with an alumni. You don't prepare (because you don't want to waste your time - this should be similar to a job interview, right?). You have never been interviewed in English (a full conversation in English was something you have done maybe once in your lifetime). The interview starts, and you are asked: "Please tell me about your greatest accomplishments". After the initial shock, you mumble a few words, and think to yourself that you are really in trouble. After a few moments you wake up in sweat...

Ok, my point is that with a few hours of preparation you can work miracles in the interview. You have to be prepared for several questions. Some of them will be asked in some variations in 90% of the interviews. Some of them might not be asked, but if they do and you are not prepared, it will be very difficult to think of a good answer on the spot.

Here are the general questions for interviews:

  • Tell me about yourself... Walk me through your resume...

  • What is your career motivation?

  • What are your short term and long term career goals and why?

  • Why do you want an MBA?

  • Why now?

  • Why did you choose our school?

  • What is the greatest Adcom concern? What is the weakest part of your application?

  • What are your strengthes?

  • What are your weaknesses?

  • What are your leadership qualities?

  • What characteristics would your friends use to describe you?

  • What is your typical role in a group?

  • Have you ever had a case in which ... ? (Several options here)

  • Tell me about an ethical dillema you have faced.
  • Do you have a questions for me?

Do you understand the type of questions? For each question write down what you want to say. Use stories and examples. You can use stories from your application and use other stories as well. After you wrote down the answers say them out loud. Make sure that the English level is respectable. Writing and speaking are two different things. Adjust your answers so they will sound fluent and not ackward.

After you are satisfied with the results - practice. You don't need to memorize them, just know them really well. The interview will NEVER go out as you have planned. The questions you will be asked will not be in a specific order, some of the questions will not even be asked. By knowing everything well, you will be able to improvise by using the examples and stories that you have prepared.

Create a list of several guiding points and key messages that you want to deliver in your interview. Those guiding points will be a great way for you to focus. Sometimes it can be nice to shift the interview toward things that you are more comfortable talking about, and that makes you look good.

When you are done, I suggest you do a simulation test with someone. You might get valuable comments.

You can learn about your interviewer by Googling him up. Simply write his name in Google, and you might be surprised with what you can come up with - his background, companies that he worked for, people's opinions about him, projects he participated in, and so on. You might even find a picture of him.

The "Walk me through your resume" Question
One of the most important questions, because you will have to talk about yourself in the interview. The interviewer usually starts with this question because it is a good ice breaker. You have to be able to talk about yourself for 5-10 minutes uninterrupted. So create a 1-2 pages essay "Walk me through your resume", and then try to say it out loud. Cover everything in your resume, from high school through your undergraduate studies, military service, jobs, extra-curricular activities, and so on. Start with a killer opening. End with a good sales paragraph - remember that you have to market yourself throughout the interview.

In reality, I have not been asked this question even once. I was never able to talk uninterrupted for 5 minutes. Either the interviewer picked several chapters from my past in the order that was important to him (in this case I covered the rest in different parts of the interview), or he quickly shifted the interview to other questions (he had read my resume, so this was boring to him). It depends on the dynamics of the interview. But, by having this question memorized I was able to tell my interviewer about any chapter of my past in several very well phrased sentences in any time during the interview. This made me appear confident, ready, and fluent in English.

One last comment: In my first interview (Yale) I knew my "walk me through your resume" by heart. Imagine my surprise when the interviewer asked me in Hebrew: "So you work at Elbit, huh?". There goes my saling speech. I really had to improvise and focus in order to both change the order of the speech and to translate it all to Hebrew. A sentence that was phrased nicely in English, can be sound very ackward in Hebrew. So you might have to prepare yourself to speak in your native toungue as well.

Why MBA? Why Now? Why Our School?
Those three questions are always asked. You should be able to talk about them for at least 5 minutes. Those questions are good to show that you have researched the school, that you know what you want from your life, that you have thought deeply about your futue, and that you resume connects to your future as an MBA graduate.

Make sure that you know how to answer those questions and that it is convincing. The interviewer should recommend you as a serious candidate that fits the school. Remember that throughout your interview, and especially in those three questions.

Do you have questions for me?
This question is always asked in the end of the interview. It is important, and you have to come prepared with specific questions about the school. The more focused the question the better. If you can come up with a question that will show you have researched the school, and that the interviewer will spend 5-10 minutes answering the better. Most people love to talk about themselves and to brag about their school, so by using this question correctly you can spend couple of minutes to listen to your interviewer instead of answering his difficult question, while making yourself look good. If youare really lucky, you can start a conversation of 30 minutes about the school and actually become friendly with your interviewer.

Dress Code
If you are interviewed by an alumni in your home country, the dress code is the one that is customary in your home country. For example in Israel, people don't come to work in a suit usually. So in 3 of my 5 interviews I did not come in a business suit. However, when I was interviewed by the head of admissions of MIT (Mr. Rod Garcia) in a hotel lobby in Tel-Aviv I came up dressed in a business suit (first time I ever wore a tie). For phone interviews you can dress up as you please.

If you are interviewed in campus, or by a school represantative, come in an official business dress code (unless stated otherwise).

My Interviews
My Yale SOM Interview
My London Business School Interview
My INSEAD Interviews
My MIT Sloan Interview
My Oxford Phone Interview
My NYU Stern Interview (That didn't take place)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Finalizing the Application

So, you have written the essays, arranged the recommendations, did the GMAT and perhaps the TOEFL. What else should you do?

Visit The Schools

There is quite a debate whether visiting the school is helpful to the application. In my opinion, visiting the school shows the admissions committee that you have taken some measurements to evaluate their school and have shown interest. Other than that it will contribute nothing to your application and essays. However, visiting the school will give you perspective on the life in campus, teaching methods, atmosphere of the school, and chemistry with the other students. You can learn a lot from a one day tour of the campus and its surroundings. It can help you decide on the schools that you want to apply to.

If it is possible, I recommend visiting some of the schools. Of course it envolves taking days off work and financing your stay. So visiting the schools is definitly not mandatory. Personally, I did not visit any school before submitting the application. Only after I was accepted I went to visit Oxford, and London Business School on the way. My visits were real education, and there are clear differences between those schools.

When you plan the visits contact the schools' offices to coordinate the meeting. Each school is at least a 1 day visit. Arrange an official tour. If you can arrange to meet students (maybe from your origin) it might give you more insights. Definitely sit in a lecture. I coordinated a meeting with the placement office in order to find out more about employment possibilities after Oxford. After the visit don't forget to sign up in the admissions office, and mention it later in the application.

Endorsement Letters

Letters from alumni, current students, faculty members and known persons can give small contribution. Try to arrange one or two short letters in which people related to the school can tell that they have met you, or know you well, and that you fit into the school. Try to create a small network from the conventions, internet forums, and school meetings for applicants, and by staying in touch you might get such a letter. Those letters, if written appropriately, can help in little extent. They should be short and to the point, no need for full recmmendations, and no more than a page long. I recommend that those letters will be sent directly to the school, or by you in a sealed envelope.

Send material to the school

The application forms are submitted on-line. In the Application Forms you provide personal information, previous education details (including unofficial score reports - you might have to upload a scanned version), employment history, unofficial test scores (GMAT and TOEFL), essays, recommenders details, and other information (in the form of very short essays). Those will take few hours to complete, so fill them ahead of deadline. You must submit them before the deadline.

The recommenders should send the recommendation letters on-line. Most schools allow for hard-copies, and in those cases the recommender should either send the letters directly to the schools, or give them to you in sealed envelopes and you can send them with the rest of the material.

Send the official score reports (in English) from all your previous institutions. Some schools require that you provide a deploma, and if applicable a class ranking report. My undergraduate university, The Technion, had sent the reports to me, and I sent those with all the other materials.

You have to arrange for the GMAT and TOEFL score reports to be sent to school directly from the companies (ETS and Pearson-Vue). The GMAT can be ordered on-line in a friendly user interface. The TOEFL score report can be ordered telephonically and it takes some time for it to arrive, so do it in advance (it is best to send them when you take the exam - this way it is free). If you think that there is a chance the grades will not be received on deadline, don't panic - simply notify the admissions office of the school. Your status will be pending until all the materials are received, but it will be ok.

You can send the material by regular mail, registered mail, or use a shipping company like UPS, DHL or Fedex. I sent all my stuff with UPS for 20$ per school. I was able to track the envelope on-line and to be certain that they were received (it is funny to watch your package travel all across the world, only to get from Israel to France in 2 days). Make sure that the date of the delivery is before the deadline - this way you can be sure it arrives on time. The date that matters for most school is the date you send the package, not the date it was received.

Once you submit and send everything, you should get a notification from the school (each school has its own procedure). Now, you have to wait patiently for the reply. Each school publish a deadline for interview invitation. The respond might be an interview invitation, or a rejection letter (most school correspond withyou through emails).