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

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)

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Huntsman Hall: The Rat Race Starts with a Maze [Edit 1]

"Architecture is the art of how to waste space." --Philip Johnson quoted in the New York Times

The Wharton MBA rat race begins and ends in the maze that students call Hunstman Hall. I call it a maze because the layout of this building confuses new visitors. I imagine that the architects return to Huntsman Hall every fall to giggle themselves silly as gaggle after gaggle of new students attempts, in vain, to go where it's supposed to be going. The place is less amazing than it is a maze.

For example, there's a subterranean 4,000-square-foot conversation/lounge pit (the Patty and Jay H. Baker Forum) that's protected from the large, sloping Walnut Street entrance ramp by a curving, floor-to-ceiling red stone wall that forces entering traffic to veer left or right. The wall encloses and protects the sanctity of the pit and renders it cozy by serving as a baffle. Groups entering from Walnut Street hit the wall, divide, and gradually sift into the pit. This is good. But the baffle function that works so well for entering traffic serves to confuse exiting traffic. From my vantage point in the pit, I saw a number of newly admitted members of the class of 2007 wedge themselves between the curved wall and the staircase that it hides in an attempt to get to the entrance ramp.

The architects attempted to create a building that serves both graduate MBA students and undergraduate business students by separating the traffic flow of these two populations, but what they ended up with is a building that suffers from annoying traffic flow problems and that ultimately serves each population less well. For example: MBA students who use the despicable commercial-cafe-that-must-not-be-named can only get to the MBA lounge by a long, circuitous loop out into the hallway and around to the MBA lounge entry on the mezzanine above the Walnut Street entrance. MBA students don't have much patience for these architectural shenanigans so they use a silly little door behind the cafe's cashier to move between the two spaces. Whose brilliant idea was that?

In truth, it doesn't appear that anybody had any brilliant ideas when it came to traffic flow. The high-traffic areas feel cramped during the busier times of the day, the elevators are slow, and the escalators are not wide enough for students in a rush to pass the fatasses who can't be arsed to walk up stairs that move.

And the masses of people! Huntsman Hall is packed full of people on a normal class day. There are just too many people in the damned place, which leads me to believe that it may be functioning as a swing space for business-like classes as other areas around campus undergo renovation.

So much for traffic. How about the rest of the building?

It's not that erecting showy, state-of-the-art buildings guarantees more or better students; rather, schools have acknowledged that the new facilities are required to keep attracting any students at all. (source)

The building was designed to be showy. It accomplishes that task marvelously and (thankfully) quite a bit more tastefully than if it had been named Trump Hall. Its wooden, brick and glass interiors scream "modern capitalists are being minted here!"

And so we come full circle: Hunstman Hall is itself Wharton's latest weapon in the rat race between schools to hook and land a higher percentage of their admitted applicants. The maze is both a means and an end.

Edit 1: Rewrote first two paragraphs to render them less unintelligible.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Brief Apology

Apologies for the lack of blog frequency -- had a close friend die recently and have been staffed on a project that has me cooped up in the office having to actually do some work (the nerve! just wait until they find out that I'm leaving this summer). I still aspire to blog with regularity that would put a Raisin Bran taste tester to shame.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Wharton Concert Rules [Edit 1]

What are "concert rules," and why are they both reviled and ignored by students? During the Wharton Follies event, one skit in particular dealt with "concert rules" in a way that leads me to believe the Wharton students dislike these rules.

In the skit, a professor attempts to teach class to a bunch of unruly students. Some arrive late. Some yakk on their phones the entire time. Some fall asleep. One orders pizza (to class). One pees in a cup (kicking off a hilarious number called "Piss Cup"). The uptight accounting professor gets so cheesed off that he leaves the classroom in the hands of one of his students.

Though I've never seen a complete list of the concert rules, here are some of them, two of which I've invented just to keep you on your toes:

  • Students are to sit according to a seating chart and name tents are required.
  • Class starts and ends on time.
  • Rock out with your cock out whenever possible.
  • Late entry to class is not permitted.
  • All cell phones must be turned off.
  • Laptops are only permitted for taking notes for the class in session.
  • Students must bathe regularly.

In the classes I saw over the Winter Welcome, students don't follow these rules. Some students did not have name cards. Quite a few came to class late. One class started about a minute late. Why are students not following concert rules? Why do the rules exist?

The Internet chimes in with an answer:

The stakeholder survey shows student apathy. The symptoms: lower attendance, more tardiness, less class preparation. The school's response, including the imposition of "concert rules", increased weight of class participation and more grading of punctuality and attendance, essentially target the symptoms of the apathy, not the root causes. (Wharton Journal)

I don't know if it's just because this was the week after DIP or if this is how Wharton MBAs always behave, but I found the lack of classroom discipline discouraging. Is student apathy (where it exists) unique to Wharton or is it a symptom of a larger problem, specifically, that classroom performance generally has nothing to do with success finding a job and making lots of money (which is what everybody's really after)? Do students find it hard to respect their studies because the MBA degree has become a credential and not a tool for superior performance at a future employer? Are students even meaningfully rewarded for being studious? I'd guess not based on the low-energy classrooms I observed at the Winter Welcome Weekend.

Now I know it's not fair to judge based on just a few classroom experiences, but I also know that the Winter Welcome was essentially a sales weekend for people who were admitted to multiple schools in round one and who had not yet decided which of those schools they wanted to attend. These people will (and probably did) judge Wharton based on what they saw in the classrooms last week. If I were them, I would have come away disappointed with the classroom experience. (Note that I'm not saying the entire experience sucked, just that the classroom experience alone did not live up to my expectations.)

Yes, I know the mock class received rave reviews, but that wasn't everyday Wharton. That's a bunch of high-energy admits in a classroom with an amazing professor. So my question is this: Is what I saw last week the real deal or just an unrepresentative sample? Or am I finally coming down to earth after developing unrealistically high expectations? I won't know for sure until this fall.

I'll certainly be revisiting this topic as my Wharton experience evolves.

Edit 1: Fixed clumsy wording in first paragraph.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Wharton Winter Welcome Weekend Feb 2005 [Edit 3]

I've got so much to write on the subject of the events I attended at Wharton last week that I've been overwhelmed and don't know where to start. It's a rich, deep culture that can't be described in a single blog entry, so instead of trying to write everything all at once, I'll just do a series of posts, this post being a mere table of contents. The rest will come and will be linked here as they are written.

Edit 1: Added Concert Rules post
Edit 2: Added Huntsman Hall post
Edit 3: Added Lauder post

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Reader Mailbag / WHARTON #1 in New Business School Rankings! / etc.

The comments on my post about Darden's infamous anti-gay applicant are still soiling the blog like so many flakes of dandruff on a black cashmere jacket. This one's a lay-up. If you've been holding back on commenting before now, go ahead, drop this ball into the basket for an easy two.

[Bskewl,] You moron, the author of that particular blog is not saying that homosexuals should not go to business school or that their sexual preferences should be held against them by Ad Com. He is simply saying that we should not take a relationship made up of two men or one made up of two women, and place that relationship on the same level as a man married to a woman. Let me ask you question, I happen to love TJ. TJ and I live together, we sleep together, I have seen TJ naked, and vice versa. Should TJ and I be allowed to participate in the "Partner's Club" at Darden? Oh .. PS: TJ is my cat.

This next one comes from a fellow New Yorker. I thought, "oh great, another bullshit ranking" but then I remembered the lesson from the Superbowl and I said to my self, "Self, don't judge too quickly." And so I followed the link, read the text, and learned that this ranking is not just on the up-and-up, it's also correct, factual, unbiased, and absolutely, positively the only ranking that applicants to business school should ever pay any attention to. Quote: "The top-ranked business schools on both the North American and worldwide lists are identical, with the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in first place, followed in order by the Harvard Business School...." See? Now that's fair and accurate reporting! The mail:


I am not a big fan of rankings but University of Texas has just released a interesting study of the business schools that provides an insight into ACADEMIC side of the MBA programs. Schools are ranked according to research productivity of faculty. More information is available [here] and the ranking is available at

Perhaps it could make a good addition to your blog?

And finally, I may blog in drips and drabs over the next several days. I've been sent on a dangerous assignment to a foreign land. When such things happen, the women-folk of the city wail louder than the sirens of passing ambulances:

[2005.02.08 - 21.42] sushisay: congrats to moving to the ghetto of philly
[2005.02.08 - 21.42] sushisay: now i'll never see u :'(
[2005.02.08 - 21.42] sushisay: hahahaha
[2005.02.08 - 21.42] bskewl: hahaha
[2005.02.08 - 21.43] sushisay: they've got the worst sports fans in the world
[2005.02.08 - 21.43] sushisay: but good cheesesteakwiches
[2005.02.08 - 21.44] bskewl: mmmmm cheesesteak!
[2005.02.08 - 21.44] bskewl: gonna have several this week, but mustn't lose the six-pack
[2005.02.08 - 21.46] sushisay: there goes your hawt bod
[2005.02.08 - 21.49] sushisay: that's kewl tho
[2005.02.08 - 21.49] sushisay: i was gonna think of something for u to buy for me at philly
[2005.02.08 - 21.49] sushisay: but don't want anything from there

Well. There goes my brilliant idea to bring her a dozen cheesesteaks for V-day. I'll have buy something more romantic. Any ideas?

Where Are You Going to School this Fall?

I have trouble answering a very simple question. When people ask me where I'm going to be going to school this fall, which of the following is an appropriate answer?

  • Look down bashfully and toe the carpet, "Going to study business in Philly" (This is an attempt to be self effacing in front of people who have a bug up their asses about all things Ivy and would prefer not to have their inferiority complexes tweaked.)
  • With nose held high in air say through clenched teeth, "I'm going to Whahhhhhton." I tend not to make this response unless I'm dealing with someone who loves drawing out the syllables when they explain that they've gone to or are going to Haahhvahd Business School.
  • "Wharton." A simple response, but not an appropriate one for all occasions.
    • CASE ONE: As discussed ad nauseum on the Business Week forums, the average deli counter worker with three days' stubble doesn't necessarily understand that this name is huge. Wharton is not a name you drop in order to impress waitresses or pool boys. Why I've got the inexplicable urge to impress these people is fodder for another attempt at amateur psychoanalysis. What do I want? Do I really want the shoe-shine man to stop whisking his rag in surprise, emit a low whistle, and look up at me with a wink and a "you gonna make lots of money den, heh heh" response? Why do I crave respect from service personnel? Why is that important to me (and to most of the credentalist dogs that I run with?)
    • CASE TWO: The interrogator responds, "Good school, congrats. What major?" This is the response I'd prefer to hear all the time because it embarrasses me least. It doesn't require me to explain what Wharton is. It doesn't require me to brush aside the idea that I'm only in it for the money. It doesn't require me to make a lame joke about being the admission's mistake. It doesn't require me to respond that I think NYU part time is a great program too; and that I'm not going to learn anything you yourself won't learn at NYU; and that yes, I do think that the admissions game is just a big old crapshoot; and no, I don't know if those Wharton adcom GMAT whores rejected you because of your GMAT score; and no, I hadn't heard that story about Philly's drug scene; and oh, I think I've got a meeting to run to but good talking with you.
    • CASE THREE: My partner in conversation stares back blankly and blinks a few times.

      "What's Wharton?"

      "It's UPenn's business school," I say, and still getting no response, continue, "for my MBA."

      "What's an MBA good for?"

      "Good question."

    • CASE FOUR: Squeals of delight, then, "Upenn's my alma mater! Let's be best friends!"

Monday, February 07, 2005

Hangovers End, Dings Linger [Edit 1]

I love Bridgette Lumpkins today (but only for today) for she has posted a wonderful rant to the Wharton Diaries site. The best part:

Oh, the Ding. Ding Ding Ding. Ding Dong.

When you get dinged, you can ask for feedback. They can say no. But many banks will provide it. I am asking for feedback. They'll probably be like: "You suck". I think that's the feedback I'm going to get: "We regret that we were unable to extend you an offer because you totally suck. But thank you for your interest in our firm, and we wish you the best in your future endeavors." Signed, The Person Who Holds the Key to Your Future.

A ding does last forever. Rejection shapes a psyche (and a sometimes, a psychosis). I still remember being picked last for kickball in third grade. How many machinations I machinated as a result of that ding in an effort to avoid being picked last ever! How many snacks from my lunchbox I gave up, asses I kissed, laughs I faked, pushups I did!

Let's dissect the ding. There are two components. The first being the ego hit that Bridgette describes so well. I can't top that. Well, I can, but it'd require dredging up some painful memories.

The second component of a ding is the distaste that one develops for the entity that dealt the dastardly ding. Let's spend a moment on this second component.

Sour Grapes

One thing that always puzzled me about acquaintances that went to Yale undergrad: they tend to diss Harvard more than Harvard disses them. It appears to be the cultural norm for Yalies. It's something that some of my coworkers still do whenever we go out to a bar for drinks after work. I've heard the conversation a handful of times, "Yeah, well [idiot manager] went to Harvard, what did you expect?" A degree from Harvard explains lots of things, according to these comrades, including (but not limited to) inability to keep a woman, workplace flatulence, obesity, extreme willingness to kiss ass, bad breath, and (my favorite) ungroomed armpits on females.

Something tells me that they do this not just because the two schools are long, fast rivals but also because (in general) Harvard tends to reject more applicants than Yale (though in 2004 Yale rejected 90.1% percent of applicants while Harvard rejected 89.7% of applicants). Yalies, in a sense, define themselves not just through their affiliation to Yale (which appears to be fanatical at times), but also (secretly) through their rejection from Harvard.

Hey, wait a minute, Yale sounds a lot like Wharton! But do Wharton students sound a lot like Yale students when discussing their rivalry with the snooty, generalist bastards up north? (See how easily I slip into disparaging remarks about HBS? It comes natural after a ding, trust me.) I really don't know how much of this I'll find at Wharton.

I think I'd feel dirty giving voice to my distaste for HBS. I was raised by the Brothers Grimm who taught me that the fox who disliked the grapes he could never taste was not a very admirable fellow at all and (this blog excluded) I want to take this blank-slate opportunity to fashion myself as the admirable sort of guy that would make Dale Carnegie proud. Sour grapes just won't do!

Ain't it funny how we remember our successes least and our failures best? There may be something to the idea that the happiest people on earth are those who aspire to nothing.

New b-school motto: I'm ambitious, therefore I'm unhappy.

Edit 1: Replaced a missing parenthesis.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

Wharton Glossary [Edit 1]

This is an attempt to create a glossary of acronyms, abbreviations and slang used by the Wharton community. If something's missing, please let me know by leaving a comment.

  • 32-Part Tariff: to come
  • Concert Rules: A set of rules Wharton MBA students are expected obey. Perhaps observed more in the breach?
  • CPG: to come
  • Dedicated Interview Period: to come
  • DIP: see Dedicated Interview Period
  • EIS: see Employer Information Sessions
  • Employer Information Sessions: to come
  • Etalk: A discussion forum for newly admitted Wharton MBA students and Wharton students. Each class of admitted students is given a URL to their own discussion forum where they can get to know each other prior to the official start of the MBA program. Frequent topics of discussion include housing, class selection, and events and meetups in various cities across the country.
  • GIP: see Global Immersion Program
  • Global Immersion Program: Wharton's Global Immersion Program (ugly homepage circa 1995 warning!) is an elective course for first-year students consisting of spring-semester classes followed by four-week study tours abroad. Research papers on the experience are due in the fall semester of students' second year.
  • H/S/W: to come
  • Huntsman: Jon M. Huntsman Hall, the home of Penn's Wharton programs, is located at the corner of Walnut Street and 38th Street in Philadelphia. The Wharton community is clearly proud of this 300,000-square-foot facility, which opened in 2002 at a cost of $140 million. It's even got its own website. Here's a map.
  • M/B/B: to come
  • PE: to come
  • Pub: to come
  • OPIM: Pronounced "Ahhp-uhm" or "Ahhp-im" (short "i"). Operations and Information Management (the rest of the world calls it MIS).
  • S2S: See "Student-2-Student"
  • SIM: to come
  • Student-2-Student: Wharton's Student-2-Student discussion forums are filled with posts from applicants, current students, and school administrators. According to the blurb:
    On [S2S] you can ask questions about the admissions process and life at Wharton; meet other prospective and current students; and get a glimpse of the kind of debates that go on everyday in the Wharton community. Student-2-Student works with the MBA Admissions Blog which we hope develops into a resource useful to all MBA applicants looking for answers to application questions, as well as links to a variety of useful MBA resources.
  • WGA: to come
  • Wharthogs: to come
  • Wharton Journal: to come
  • WJ: see Wharton Journal

Edit 1: Added definitions for concert rules and OPIM.

Author's Note

While this blog is not a work of fiction, the characters discussed within it (self included) are not actual people. These characters are comprised of a cross section of attributes, opinions, and adventures representing a range of Wharton School of Business experiences and viewpoints. To the extent that real persons are depicted in any detail in the blog, their names have been altered. Excepted from this is a small group of individuals whose highly visible administrative posts or academic reputations have made them public persons. (Stolen shamelessly and almost verbatim from the Author's Note prefacing Year One: An Intimate Look Inside Harvard Business School, Source of the Most Coveted Advanced Degree in the World by Robert Reid.)

Friday, February 04, 2005

Best MBA-Related Reads for the Week ending 2005.02.04 [Edit 1]

  • Wharton Appoints New Director of Career Management Office - Does this mean stronger CPG placements at Wharton? "Christopher has been the senior associate director of MBA Career Management since August 2003. He came to Wharton after two-and-a-half years as marketing manager at Campbell Soup Co." (Found at Wharton Journal)
  • Crazy Tucker Tattoos Self - MBA student Desmond Duncker shows off his tattoo of the Tuck School of Business logo.
    (Found at Dave for MBA)
  • Reality Blog Rankings - Happy Ending's latest venture... let's hope that he doesn't switch it to a treatise on vaginas after I deign to link to him (like he did last week, that bastard!) At any rate, this is a modified version of an idea that was initially a tad too harsh. Go nominate bloggers that are doing a good job. You don't have to diss anyone. (Found at
  • UCLA Admits Beware - UCLA's marketing literature would never include the little details like this, but they have a big effect on quality-of-life for students. Commute-time is a major component of happiness. (Found at MargaritaLuvr (blog))
  • Quote of the Week? - "Business schools train people to sit in their offices and look for case studies. The more Harvard succeeds, the more business fails." -- Henry Mintzberg (Found at
  • Top Ten signs that your interviewer is not putting you through to the Second Round - "10. While he agrees that both your t-shirt and AC~DC totally rock, he claims his bank has a "more traditional" definition of business attire." (Found at Wharton Journal)
  • Awesome Quotes about Business - "So much of what we call management consists of making it difficult for people to work." -- Peter Drucker (Found at Career Journal)
  • Growing pains: waking up one morning...old? - "I guess what it comes down to is that Wharton is a big journey of double standards for all of us. While it may be about finance, strategy, dark suits, ties and getting the highest paying job at the best firm so that you can bring up the school salary average, it is also about a second chance (and notice I said second...not last) to relive, or for some of us, live, the life of less responsibility. Sure we have to work in teams, hand in projects, do problem sets, and interview, but we also get to dress up in 'Studio 54' gear and stroll down the street in our underwear...and it is all acceptable." (Found at Wharton Journal)
  • XM Adroitly Retires Expensive Debt - XM Satellite Radio does a little WACC rebalancing and saves "tens of millions of dollars" -- That's why we MBAs get paid the big bucks. (Found at Digitalradio.weblogsinc via Business 2.0 Blog)
  • Another Johnson Lopped Off - Oldman blogged about his experiences at Cornell's Johnson school of business, but alas, he did not stay anonymous. Thus, when he posted something mildy controversial, he got beat down. The mystery remains, though. Who discouraged him from blogging? The school administration? Other students? Anonymous cowards? That makes three bloggers this week alone who have decided to stop covering the riveting world of MBA admissions and classes. Here's the post that got him into hot water (thanks again, RSS!)
    The following rant is based on observations only, and may be way off base. However, it is the belief of the author that all statements are, in all material aspects, correct. Now, I'm not normally one to complain about the system. I'm really not. I generally take things better than most, but in this particular case, I have to point out a simple observation. This is bound to cause some controversy, but keep in mind, it certainly isn't intended to take away from anyone's accomplishments . I am only pointing this out because my girlfriend is going to file a lawsuit on my behalf (totally kidding. Or am I?) Let me frame this in the form of a question: Assumptions: -260 kids in the class, 2/3 are male -higher percentage of women in marketing than other disciplines, say 60:40 in favor of women (I actually think it is less) -International students make up approx. 20% of the class In this scenario, what are the chances that ZERO caucasian US citizens, that were born in the united states, received an offer? (as of today, of course) In other words, what are the chances that all offers went to women, or to intl/not born in the US people, within the CPG Marketing field? I'm no statistics whiz, but... Anyways. Like I said, the non-white males born outside the US that received these offers are all great candidates, no question. This wasn't intended to start a big scene, but needs to be discussed so at least people are aware of the numbers...I'll let you decide--power to the people, yo. And, of course, this is a snapshot at one point in time, and doesn't necessarily reflect the final outcome. Anyways, yell at me, tell me I'm a pig, tell me I'm bitter, say whatever you like. It is the price I pay for KEEPIN IT REAL!!!!!!!! (BTW, before you yell though, remember that I never said these people gots jobs because they were female, intl, or otherwise. I simply said that us crackers aren't faring very well so far).
    (Found at See also: Aregon23)

Edit 1: Inserted photo!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Ali G Interviews Head of SBS (Selective Business School)

Ali: Booyakasha. Now 'ear dis! Me is in da house wiv da directa of admissions fa sbs, Docta 'erbert. [Presses bejeweled fist to Dr. Herbert's fist.]

Dr. Herbert: Thank you Ali, I'm honored to be on your show.

Ali: Now doc, dey say dat business schools is only fa white, rich bruvers. Is dat be true?

Dr. Herbert: We at SBS are committed to creating a diverse class and we subscribe to the broadest possible definition of diversity. The class of 2005 includes students from 90 countries. Approximately 40% of these students are female, and 50% of them are --

Ali: Hold up, doc. Let's natta more about da wimin fa a second. 'ow batty is dey, and do dey dig to get jiggy?

Dr. Herbert: Ali, our students are ambitious leaders interested in obtaining the best possible business education in the country. These are career-minded individuals. I can't speak to their social proclivities, though SBS does boast over 100 student clubs and over 300 electives. Our students often describe the SBS experience as akin to drinking fine champagne from a fire hose.

Ali: Free shampane? Dat is well good! Does you also import chronic by da truck load?

Dr. Herbert: [Becoming aggravated] It's a figure of speech, we don't actually serve champagne via firehose to students, though we do sponsor a social event called "Wonderful Wednesdays" in which students gather to unwind after classes. Beer and pizza are typically served, and some of our many Nobel prize-winning teaching faculty are known to drop in on occasion.

Ali: Yous geezers can win a prize fa drinkin beer!? Doc, me has ta arxe: 'ow does me git into da SBS? I knows accountin' already: one, two, free, four, ... I could go on! [Throws up gang signs, pumps fist.]

Dr. Herbert: Applicants are evaluated on several factors: demonstrated leadership potential, intellectual vitality, and diversity. Imagine putting together a jigsaw puzzle without having a picture on the box to guide you --

Ali: Ok, ok. Dat is well borin'. I bet you got really hairy balls!

Dr. Herbert: Yes, it's a veritable forest down there. Bye bye. This interview is over. Security!

Ali: [As he's being dragged out.] Wot? Is you ending dis early becoz I'm black? Dat's well racialist, innit?

Bloggers Beware: Adcom's Watching You [Edit 1]

As suggested in my post on how to write an MBA blog, I believe that the admissions committees and alumni interviewers of various schools are reading our blogs. Not only reading! Judging, perhaps. Weighing the merits of. Jotting notes on applications because of.

What evidence have I? Well, the secret society of MBA Bloggers were sitting in the tomb the other day and sharing some information about their logfiles when one of them looked up from the Indian skull he was drinking from and noted the following (small details changed to protect privacy):

i clicked on my stats counter to check out where my hits were coming from etc, .... it was sheer luck of timing but i saw that there was one access from [Selective Business School (SBS)] this morning. But, what was interesting is where exactly it was from. the 'sent from' link says that the hit came from [Top Dawg's] exchange server inbox! [Top Dawg] is the admissions top gun at [SBS]. The link also had part of the subject of the email and it reads: "Fw: [items of interest]".

That's pretty good evidence right there. Remember too that Alex Brown (Wharton adcom) is known to leave comments on many of the blogs, so it's no secret that he certainly reads them.

Therefore, I share the following thoughts with those who would blog about their MBA admissions experiences:

  • Admissions committee members at schools that you are applying to can and will read your blog at some point.
  • If you give enough detail (a GMAT score, your sex, your geographic location, and perhaps your alma mater) your identity can be discovered. (This is not to say that they're out there trying to actively figure out who the bloggers are, merely that it would not take much effort to do so.)
  • Readers will take a favorable or unfavorable opinion of you based on what you write.
  • Combine the second and third items above and it's feasible that admissions committee members (or alumni interviewers) might allow their judgment to be influenced by something you wrote in your blog. This can be good or bad. If you apply ED to Columbia and write in your blog, "LOLZ Columbia's my safety school. I applied ED just to have security going into my Harvard app" I can imagine that Columbia--as concerned as they reputedly are about yield--might be particularly motivated to figure out who you are and ding you.
  • Your blog's edit button will not save you. For example, one blogger wrote an emotional response to her Stanford interview that made her sound (frankly) like an entitled bitch rather than the overconfident but harmless 20-something she really is. Here are some quotes from the initial post (dated December 12th) prior to her edits. You won't find these quotes anywhere in the post-edit version, yet I still have them thanks to the wonders of RSS.
    I expected great things from a Stanford person. I expected him to be warm, friendly, charming, intelligent of course, but I expected more of a fuzzy, comforting feeling from Stanford people.
    The blogger implies that her interviewer was not warm, friendly, charming or intelligent when really all she meant to say was that the person was not warm.
    [The interviewer] made me drive to his office rather than meet me at a location I suggested which would have been much more convenient for me.
    The blogger implies that she was put out by having to come to the interviewer--the nerve of that guy to request that SHE drive to HIM! The horror! There's more where that came from, but the point should be obvious now: once you click "publish" you must assume it's out there for good and that the target of your blogging affections will read it in the worst possible light.
  • Conceal your identity. For many of the current crop of bloggers, it's too late (unless you want to scuttle your blogs and re-emerge under a new identity). To get personal for a moment: I may or may not actually live in NYC (though I know enough of the city to write about it). I may or may not even be male. I'm blogging as an everyman where only a few things are certain: (1) I'm a R1 Wharton admit, (2) I'm going to be at Wharton this fall, (3) I'm desperately horny. (I'll make a separate post on "how to remain anonymous as an MBA Blogger".)

In sum, I'd suggest that if you want to share interesting observations on your MBA life as it happens, you need to be specific and honest. If you want to be specific and honest, you need to be anonymous. If you want to be anonymous, you need to be paranoid. Therefore, interesting = paranoid. Q.E.D.

Comedians, critics, pundits and shock jocks are exempt from this rule because they (unlike you and I) are not lowly peons to be crushed when a Person in Power takes umbrage at something they say or write.

And though I hate to write disclaimers, I should say that I believe most adcoms would respond to this along these lines, "In order to give every applicant a fair chance, we evaluate only the materials submitted via the official application. We cannot allow ourselves to be biased by other materials, and we certainly do not Google applicants to learn about them. Your application will be judged on the merits of what you submit and nothing more." However, I guarantee that if your name were splashed across the front page of the WSJ tomorrow, they'd take note of it and it would influence your application one way or the other.

Edit 1: Minor grammatical fixes

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Gaming the System

The Tribune Company publishes a crappy but free newspaper called "amNewYork" aimed at Manhattan's commuting classes. According to the WSJ, amNewYork's circulation is 325,000, most of it achieved through pushy paper hawkers who thrust the free rag into the hands of uncaffeinated commuters who are still too groggy to have the sense to refuse it.

Though the company attempts to select hawkers who will do a good job, they're clearly compensated in a way that encourages mischevious behavior. At seven this morning I found myself walking behind one hawker who jammed a fistful of amNewYork papers (perhaps 10 at a time) deep into each trash can he passed. I followed him for several blocks as I really got a kick out of watching him distribute the paper in this way.

I was going to compare this behavior to the way business school applicants tend to focus on just a few important metrics (sometimes to the detriment of their overall careers) but realized too late that it's just not all that interesting. I've typed too much to stop now, so instead, I'll make a list of unconnected things!

  • LBS Whomps HBS Ass at SEO - Google the term "Business School" (with quotes and without quotes) in Google. London Business School has clearly invested in search engine optimization. What else explains these results? Wharton ranks third in both searches.
  • HBS Annual Report - Dave for MBA has pulled out some highlights of the just-released HBS annual report. Did you know that HBS's primary source of revenue is publishing? In a future post, I'd love to compare the data in this report to comparable data from other schools. And as for those complaints that the HBS administration is unresponsive to student feedback? Maybe there's something to them, as evinced by the following quote from the report:
    By leaving vacant positions unfilled and postponing new hires, the School reduced its administrative staff full-time equivalent positions (FTEs) by a total of 49 from last year, partially offsetting the increased benefits expense. Over the past two years, the School’s staff level has declined by 100 FTEs, or 9.0 percent. (source)
  • A list with just two substantive items? For shame. Maybe tomorrow I'll do better. I only got three hours of sleep last night. No, that's not an excuse. If I'm going to continue this effort for the next two years I'll need to learn to write regardless of how much sleep I've had, right?