Wharts and All: Blogging the Full-Time MBA Program at the Wharton School

Thursday, August 04, 2005 ==>

Google isn't picking up my new URL. This is an attempt to fix that. I'm updating regularly at

Bskewl's new home is

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Goodbye Blogspot, Hello

I have moved myself and my crappy-assed blog to

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Take this job and shove it

Tomorrow morning I give notice. I believe they'll run me ragged for at least two more weeks but I expect to have lots more time to spend creating crappy blog entries in the near future. Looking forward to a return soon.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Why Do We Overcommit?

No time to do a full post as I'm rather overcommitted at the moment.

I found the following article describing my old friend, Overcommitment, and felt the immediate need to share it with you, my Overachieving (and frequently overcommitting) old friends.

If your appointment book runneth over, it could mean one of two things: Either you are enviably popular or you make the same faulty assumptions about the future as everyone else. Psychological research points to the latter explanation. Research by two business-school professors reveals that people over-commit because we expect to have more time in the future than we have in the present. Of course, when tomorrow turns into today, we discover that we are too busy to do everything we promised. (source)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Busted--Lying on Application [Edit 1]

Many applicants to graduate schools of business lie to improve their chances of admission. They stretch dates of employment to cover embarrassing gaps. They lie about how much they make. They lie about what they do. And irony of ironies, they even lie about the time they had to deal with an ethical dilemma (who'd have thought that merely asking applicants to describe an ethical dilemma would itself generate more ethical breaches?). They do it all to gain an edge in the hyper-competitive business school admissions race.

Until recently, however, there were no systematic means of either deterring or catching dishonest applicants.

Wharton is leading the change. The school's S2S discussion forum features a thread entitled "Busted--Lying on Application" in which a Wharton student (presumably class of 2002) encourages applicants to be truthful lest they end up like one of his classmates who was kicked out of the school just months before he would have graduated. His crime? Lying on his Wharton application.

As a result of that fiasco, Wharton instituted background checks for all matriculating students. These checks are conducted by Kroll, the company whose forensic prowess uncovered millions of dollars that Saddam Hussein had siphoned from his country and stashed throughout the world. Kroll has also helped crack cases involving international kidnapping, Enron, and the Texas A&M University Bonfire Tragedy, which is to say that they'd likely have no difficulty verifying a few facts on a business school application.

As a result of Wharton's policy change, some interesting behavioral changes are occuring in the applicant population as evinced by S2S forum traffic. Wharton's mere publication of the fact that all applicants receive a background check seems to be sufficient to cow most liars into honesty. I get the sense that oft-fabricated details (like dates of employment and salary history) are now being recorded accurately by would-be liars scared into compliance by Wharton wielding the Kroll club.

Occasionally, though, some poor, unethical bastard doesn't learn about the existence of these background checks until after he has submitted his application. He panics and makes a public fool of himself. Thus I bring you this gem of a post made to S2S at 8.13 AM this morning [edit: post has since been deleted, this is the only record of it now]:

Dear Alex,

I put down on my resume that I started at my current company 6 month prior than the correct date. I was terminated at my previous job and I was a little worried about having to talk about that. I had 2 other personal failures in my life (average GPA and droping out of grad school) that I expalined in my essay and I guess I was worried about having to talk about a 3rd one. I learned from these mistakes and done well since then. I got a master degree from a great school with great GPA. I did really well at my new company and was promoted a few times. The only explanation I have for my action is fear. I now really see how I could really have talked aobut what I learned from getting fired. I received a request for an interview and think that I need to come clean. I feel terrible about this. What would be the best approach for me here? I fear that I have no chance at getting into school. I would really appreciate any advice on this matter.



S2S has become a cyber-confessional! Ethically challenged applicants are reading the thread, freaking out about their fibs, and then confessing right out there on the internets! This is pretty fabulous stuff. I doubt it ever happened prior to the Kroll verification requirement. (And you can bet that for every confession on Wharton's public forums there are five applicants coming clean in private missives to the admissions committee.)

Though they probably hate that they have to do these checks, Wharton's policy pays big benefits. By verifying every application, and by changing the depth of the background check every year, Wharton keeps applicants guessing. The class of 2006 needed to verify the employment information they provided on their most recent three jobs. In addition, I believe that 100% of their recommendations were verified. Wharton's class of 2007 is having the most recent two employers verified, and only a random sample of the class is having its recommendations verified. Wharton's class of 2008 will likely undergo a different version of the verification. By changing verification details every year, and by being vague and evasive when answering repeated questions about what information is going to be verified, Wharton makes honesty the only viable application strategy. That's how it should be.

Here are some examples of typical question-and-response patterns from the S2S forums on the topic of verification:
  • Q: Dude, Alex, the verifications are only $65 bux. LOL! What kind of verification can $65 buy anyway? I'm in like Flynn.
    A: $65 is only the amount we charge matriculating students. Some of the cost is borne by Wharton. Cheers. [Whether this is true or a lie is unimportant. Seeds of doubt are sewn, and that's all that counts.]
  • Q: Alex, can you please tell me exactly how many years of employment history will be verified? Which extra curriculars will you verify? Will you review my tax returns? Will you also check claims made in my essays themselves? Your clear explanation of the line between "verified" and "not verified" would be most appreciated as this will allow me to lie with impunity. Thanks in advance.
    A: The verification details change from year to year. If you tell the truth on your application, you will have nothing to worry about. Cheers.
  • Q: I worked for a multi-billion dollar startup that I founded but which has unfortunately since disappeared without a trace as my partners and I were too busy making money hand over fist to do anything like set up an office, hire employees, or--in fact--do any business whatsoever. Should I submit a safety application to a school that won't check these facts?
    A: You won't be the first applicant who has worked for a company that has since gone out of business. You need not worry, unless the company never existed? Cheers.

I'll conclude with another confession I enjoyed tremendously, also from the same thread:

Dear Alex Brown,

I am writing you to clarify a few particular elements of my application that, while not fraudulent or misleading in any way, may be a little ambiguous. In my efforts to portray myself in the truest light possible, I felt a letter clarifying the ambiguous elements in my application was in order.

In my work history, where I list my experience as a Fighter Pilot for the United States Navy, what I really meant to say was that I was an avid "Afterburner" player as a child. I feel this experience of "Virtual Combat in an F-14 Tomcat" instilled in me all of the same attributes and qualities of courage, leadership and teamwork that I conveyed in my essays.

Secondly, when I discuss my experience as a all-star player for the NBA, I am referring to my time in the Norwalk (CT) Basketball Association. This was the name of my YMCA league team, where I was a short, fat and slow shooting guard who wore Converse All-Star sneakers, and in no way should be confused with playing in the National Basketball Association at an All-Star level. Again, my essays about competition and teamwork still apply Also intact is my plan to give back to the Wharton community by discussing my basketball exploits with the inner city youths of Philadelphia, where I will teach them to say no to drugs and stay in school while they stare in awe at the prowess of my two-handed set shot.

Again, my apologies if there was any confusion as to these areas of my application. They were clearly not "material misrepresentations" and my intent is merely to clarify somewhat ambiguous areas of the application. I look forward to receiving your acceptance letter soon.


Bretes. (source)

Edit 1: Bunches of small edits. No real content difference.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Disobedient Barber Triggers Quarter-Life Crisis [Edit 2]

While traveling through the outback of Ohio on business, I stopped into a small-town barbershop to have some of the jungle atop my head trimmed back, just a little. First mistake.

My thrice-repeated instructions to "leave the length alone, just even it out" apparently never registered with the geriatric who wielded the clippers. Before I could stop him, he cut a swath right through the middle of my manly mane. I yelped, but he didn't even turn off the clippers as I voiced my displeasure in words that would make a Brooklyn cabbie blush. Second mistake.

Let me tell you something I learned: no matter how much swearing you do, you will not look tough when you've got a gown around you and a big patch of scalp showing through on one side of your head. Should you ever find yourself in this situation, just let it go. Let it go, or the old men and rednecks who tend to hang in and around barber shops will have a very merry chuckle at your expense.

I guess he thought I was some kind of sissy and that he was doing me a favor by imposing an extreme buzz cut on me. He probably believed he was saving me from a life of faggoting and gallivanting about in my Sodom to the Northeast.

What does this have to do with business school? I could spin this into a parable about the customer always being right (except when he's wrong). I could talk about educators who—like the barber—believe they know what's best for us and who sometimes impose their will on us to our detriment.

But what this really represents is a loss of youth and an important transition. My hair was a visible "fuck you" to the business establishment because it wasn't the norm. It was my rebel signature. Now, however, I look like every other cookie-cutter corporate sonofabitch when I put on my suit and tie for work.

Unsavory choices from here. Do I attempt to wear my identity on my sleeve via some other visual (Tattoos? Versace? Nose piercing?) Or do I just let it go, and acknowledge the fact that I've inched that much closer to the demographic that people my age were once warned never to trust?

Next thing you know, I'll propose to a girl. Or turn 30! Or both. All of this on top of a corporate job and an MBA from Wharton might be too much for my rebellious heart to take. I feel like I've fallen asleep on a moving conveyor belt that's steadily bringing me closer and closer to violent, malevolently glinting machines that will chop me up, melt me down and pour me out into a Wharton-shaped mold. The conveyor belt will then carry me past Dean Harker's station and he'll pop me out of the mold, brush me off, slap an "inspected by PTH" sticker on my ass, and shove me out the door. I won't be a new man. I'll be a new old man.

Edit 1: redid last paragraph to make it less sucky
Edit 2: minor words added and removed

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Lauder: $22,000 for a Useless Degree?

Part of my take on Winter Welcome Weekend 2005

I have to get this one out of the way because the title worried a few people. Just to set those of you who emailed me at ease: no, the Lauder program's MA in International Studies is definitely and emphatically not a useless degree (but I find your lack of faith unnerving). There are number of uses for this degree, including (but not limited to):

  • "Footwear has been one of the most popular uses for sheepskin" (source)
  • Build very sturdy paper airplanes.
  • Frame and hang on office wall, where it will add to the aura of gentility and erudition that emanates from your workspace--the aura that the common man generally refers to as "eau de stuck-up, overeducated prick who's got his head so far up his ass he needs a glass navel to see where he's going."
  • Bud too wet? Spark it up with some hot-burning sheepskin so you don't have to respark it every hit. (Or so they say.)
  • Dinner placemat.

Of course I'm being facetious. I got the title for this post verbatim from a PowerPoint slide that displayed on the big screen at the Follies show during the Winter Welcome Weekend event. It said, "Lauder: $22,000 for a Useless Degree?" I'm not going to try to answer that question now, but I do have some opinions formed of the program.

Lauder is for people who speak a foreign language better than the average American (not saying much) but not well enough to use it in business. It's not that a MA in International studies unlocks more lucrative careers, it merely grants the bearer better access to more internationally-flavored jobs. This is important because it lifts the Lauder graduate above the average American MBA student when it comes to competing for these sorts of jobs. Less competition for similar jobs should mean more job offers for Lauder students.

I don't know if the data bear this out. Does Wharton publish statistics on the placement rates for Lauder program participants versus the rest of the MBA program population?

One final note: it's been suggested a few times on the forums where the general rabble carry on that applying Lauder affords one a better chance of admission at Wharton (the same advantage, they say, that applicants who declare intent to major in Healthcare Management get). I don't know if that's true, but I'd imagine that it does help differentiate an applicant versus the rest of the pool. I've certainly seen no qualitative difference between the general MBA admits and the Lauder admits. (But what do I know? As the class admissions mistake, I'm in no position to assess.)

Suggested reading: How to Make Use of a Useless Degree: Finding Your Place in the Postmodern Economy

Question: Is it pronounced "louder, please, I can't hear you!" or "lawder"?

Friday, March 04, 2005

Best MBA-Related Reads for the Week ending 2005.03.04 [Edit 1]

(Note: This will actually cover several weeks of MBA content as I've been too busy hacking away at HBS's application system to do much blogging.)
  • The Apply Yourself Fiasco - This is the biggest news the community has seen in a while, which says something about how hard-up we are for anything the least bit juicy in the first place. There are so many takes on it that I'll have to point you to Clear Admit's most excellent wrap-up with myriad links to various takes on the issue. (source)
  • Avoid These Mistakes On Financial-Aid Forms - As much as I enjoy saying "Fuck the FAFSA" for its beautiful alliterative qualities, it's time to act like an adult for a minute and start filling out all of these damned forms if I'm ever going to actually attend Wharton. That's why I found this sampling of common mistakes so helpful. Here are my favorites including some fake text to keep you awake:
    • Leaving a field blank. If the answer to an asset or income question is zero, then put in a "0." This of course means that you're a loser and should probably consider offing yourself.
    • Attachments. Do not include anything with the form when you mail it. Leave all attachments at home when you go to business school because you know you'll be slutting around with the best of them.
    • Income. Do not use your W-2 to report income. Wear your income. Broadcast your income. It's all about the bling, baby.
    • Filing Online. If using the online version of FAFSA, do not attempt to hack the online form to determine your FAFSA award early.
  • Another List That Will Never Get Done - How many of us make lists that look just like chanakya's list of things to do before fall? How much of it will get done? I'm tellin' ya, the siren song of the blank slate draws business school students in droves to the rocky shore. (source)
  • Is the MBA responsible for moral turpitude at the top? - The question's been asked a number of times... but the Economist manages to find a fresh twist. Killer quote: "The real problem arises when students, or their new employers, believe that an MBA is, somehow, a qualification for business leadership." (source)
  • Sound Advice for Entering First-Years - Though the original post is over a year old now, a link to it was posted this week by CalGrad. The advice ranges from "No shit, Sherlock"-obvious to actually valuable. (source)
  • Another B-School Blogger Calls It Quits - Well, that was sure a short run by what looked to be a very promising blog. I'm sorry to see this author close up shop after such a brilliant run at blogging.(source)
  • Cizzo-Workas "I'm not saying never. I'm just saying, until your job title is something like, 'Snoop's entourage member #6', you can't call them your cizzo-workas." --An exasperated guy talking on a cell phone at Andronico's. (source)
  • Broken Career Center at Marshall? Writes one Marshall student, "the career center ... at this point is just occupying valuable space that could be used for, say, napping or yoga or full-contact origami." (source)
  • Student Association (of Idiocy) Never, ever stand between a business school student and free beer. To do so is to risk his blogging ire. JDMBA lets loose. (source)

Edit 1: Erroneously stated that LBS's career center might be broken when, in fact, the linked-to blog was complaining about USC Marshall's career center. Oops.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Bskewl Must Be Punished!

Just a quickie before I post my Friday wrap-up. I got a kick out of this comment. I'm feeling the love, but I'm a little worried about my identity being exposed. How did this person know I'm a masochist? There's nothing more I enjoy than being tied down and kicked in delicate places.

BSKewl needs to be tied near the huntsman gate, and kicked in the ribs by every passerby.. for luck of course!! Also, he can also be used as spit-can by tobbaco chewers!! (source)

This comment was made after a certain blogger wrote "I don't give a rat's tail what other's think of my blog" after spending 335 words reacting to what others think of his blog. It's a relief that he doesn't care, or we might have been treated to somewhat more than 335 words, right? Whew. Looks like I dodged a bullet there, huh?

Either way, I'm not trying to be l'enfant terrible of the b-school blogging world, but it's inevitable that more than a little of what I'll write here (or elsewhere) will rub someone, somewhere, the wrong way. This is inevitable: "To avoid criticism do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." (Elbert Hubbard)