Friday, November 26, 2010

Tools to ease the online application process

If you are sorting out the documents you need to scan and upload for the online application and need to manipulate the transcripts and other supplemental documents, here are some tools that would help. See the 'Resources' tab for actual links to the tools if you are interested.

I got all my documents scanned with a 200 dpi setting on the scanner and extracted JPEG files (I believe this ensures that file size is low). I felt it would be easier to crop and edit the pictures, since that is inevitable. For example while scanning the document was at a slight inclination and I needed to first straighten it before creating the final PDF to upload.

I used Picasa to complete all the picture edits. Then used doPDF tool to convert all the jpegs to pdfs. This tool is free and does not create any watermarks. You can also specify what paper size you would want it to fit in, e.g. A3 or A4.

Later I needed to assemble the various pages of my transcript (each a single pdf at this point) to a single pdf. I used PDF reDirect PRO which is a 90-day free tool. Again spyware free and no watermark additions, this tool can merge multiple PDFs into a single one. OR it can also extract different pages from a multi-page pdf to create the pdf you want.

Hope this helps anyone who's struggling with the Dec deadline. Ofcourse the R1 guys must have already gone through this!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Whatever you do, dont forget to ...


Backup ! Backup ! Backup !

Boom ! My nephew just knocked over my laptop and while it came crashing down, my cousin carrying a tray of coffee mugs tripped over my nephew making a sticky situation even stickier. Distraught watching the horrible liquid all over my dumped laptop keyboard, I suddenly panicked! My essays! The number of hours I spent reviewing, revising my umpteenth draft. Was all of that gone ?

Press the Rewind button.

That did not happen. But what did happen was me waking up early morning at 3 am and rushing to get my external hard drive. Weeks of preparation and becoming the essay writing factory, you do not want to be in this situation EVER!

So however you need to backup your Bschool data (essays, resume, bookmarks, etc)
- Mail it to yourself
- Google docs
- External Hard drive, USB

... do it everyday !

I am still preparing for my Haas essays, although I think I will never stop revising the essays until the submit button presents itself on 2nd Dec. I've finally finished what I think is my near final draft for another school and sent it for another review.

I think I kinda keep improving each draft, but its a lot of hard work. And no. You really cant use an essay (even the common why MBA one) of one school application for another. However I am able to juggle snippets and stories around.

One learning from the week was that watching an actual case competition video helps a lot. Gave me a good visual of what is to come!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Great application essays for business school" Book review

Its been a while since I've been reading various books on Bschool applications and been attending various application editor led webinars. In the gamut of so many of them, I thought it was easy for any applicant to be lost in the need for precise direction and ideas when writing essays. I was as lost when I wanted to understand how to communicate leadership in the essays and the highlights of my career and personality that I'd like my recommenders to remember.

I picked up a book a few months ago called "Great Application Essays for Business School" by Paul Bodine from I've really gained from this book and although I'm still in the process of writing my essays with no applications submitted yet, I believe a lot of people are now looking for urgent direction and thought this resource could be an option to consider.

I thought I'd breeze through the book just like I had read other books like Richard Montauk. The more I read it, the more I realised that the content was very concise and illustrated with specific examples. They broadened my ideas, explained what Adcoms really want to know and demonstrated the "show not tell" writing strategy that every Bschool essay editor blogs about. As I had not still given my GMAT retake then and didn't plan to start my essays until R2, I stopped reading it until I was really ready to tackle the essays.

What does this book not talk about ?
It is not aimed at someone researching their goals or schools. So if you need advise on how an MBA would help you, what are your career options and possible future MBA career track, this book is not going to help. If you are trying to understand how the entire application process works right from understanding 'why MBA' to researching schools and finding recommenders for your target schools to dealing with application rejection, then I would suggest the comprehensive book by Richard Montauk.

Who is this book for?
You have a list of your target schools and done a reasonable amount of research into your fit with them?
You have a application deadline you are working against?
You really dont have the time to trawl through lists of blogs and webinars to understand what and how to write?
You don't really know what specific answers the admissions committee are trying to provoke through their essay questions?

What does it tell you?
- The method to 'show not tell' by giving illustrative essay examples (Surprisingly the essays in this book are not as some other books publish i.e., extreme high achievers like doctors delivering babies mid-air, grandsons of holocaust victims leading non-profits, etc that threw me off the idea of applying for Bschools itself!)
- Data mine your life by answering specific writing prompt questions
- Structure your essays with suggestions for opening lines, developing the story, concluding the essays, etc.
- Advice on what not to do when answering specific essay questions
- Specific advise on non-goal essays like failure essays, leadership essays, passion and extracurricular essays,  and other unusual topics like the ethics essay
- How to use the optional essay and what not to use it for

Lastly, there is a short chapter on Letters of recommendations with dos and donts. There is also a sample recommendation letter to understand yet again 'show not tell'.

I keep going back to sections in the book when I'm having a second go at my essay drafts. Many times I remember I've not really put in a differentiating factor that I could have used. So if you need specific advise on different essay topics and have not already bought any books nor registered for application editing services, I would highly recommend getting a book and would rate this one highly. Ofcourse, the book is not the solution to the enormous personal effort that is required, it just is an useful aid to find a direction and a lot of inspiration to writing Bschool essays.

Hope this was useful!

PS : Kaneisha's webinar on word count weight loss program was a great show yesterday. And just at the right time when I was struggling to learn some techniques. Hope you were there!

Disclaimer : All thoughts are my own and I have no affiliations with any Bschool advisory organisation whatsoever.