Friday, 18 May 2007

Does Hella like this title?

Hmmm - hella was giving a bad referal with the old title.

What follows here is a bit of a thought piece – I don’t have any direct conclusions from this, and have been sat on this way too long to not just throw it out there. MBA blogs are all seriously slow right now, so maybe this might get a bit of thought. Maybe not.

Anonymous MBAs post some time ago (on her sadly no defunct blog) on the reported time spent on a Business School application was heartening. Not only did it dovetail with a lot of my own beliefs on the topic, but most beneficially sparked me into an element of thought and theorising on the matter. Between herself, her stories of DDawg (what happened, anon?!?) and my own experiences, there is the beginning of a solid sample set to suggest that the time spent on applications is far less than that which applicants choose to broadcast to each other. Similarly, brief examination would suggest only 99th percentile GMAT scorers post on the BusinessWeek forums. I began to wonder if any of this made sense.

Now, any brief length of study of probability, statistics and human behaviour will push you in the direction that this isn’t likely the case. So, something else is going on amongst all this. I would expect even the freshest of MBA applicants will understand what I am writing below:

730 (49Q,38V), 6.0, 27M Ind, 4.5 W/E Manu.
(this profile is not mine and is created at random)

This is the basis of a vast amount of juxtapositioning of applicants, as they try to measure themselves up. Someone with too much time on their hands is likely to be looking through admissions411 or BW reports, trying to configure some algorithm from this crap-shoot data, with the aim to work out if they can get in to School X with their naïve statistical breakdown. Certain parts of this aren’t worth playing with, as they are no way to leverage them against other applicants. FWIW while we are here though, the attention that has shifted (by some) to years work experience is bizarre; an element that is completely incomparable without information (7 years analyst =/ 2.5 years progression to Associate). This is nothing new – everyone seems to want to read these figures, but the underlying is that every two or three months someone complains about the fact that this data is a waste of time. “Good Extracurriculars” is another one. I am yet to see a single person think they have anything other than good extracurriculars. It stands to reason.

With such a crapshoot of statistics, disinformation is clearly the call of the day. With GMAT being the only true index field between each applicant, it is hardly a surprise there appears to be a trend to bump up the GMAT that people share on BW and the like. It goes back to just a simple level of masculinity and human competition. In the 80s, people stuffed socks down the front of their pants to enlarge their manhood. In the 90s they had share portfolios and automobiles, while never admitting to the debt financing it. In the 00s, at least in this market, people inflate their GMAT. A self manufactured ego in one easy step. Did I tell you that I refused Stanford because I have fair skin and couldn’t cope with the sun?

However, this is just for the first part of the game. Applicants want to feel stronger than each other, alpha characteristics and all that shit. Now sure, it isn’t everyone, but if you try to convince me you have a 700+ GMAT and can’t string a sentence together, my default is you are a liar, and if you prove otherwise then the test is even more ill-conceived as a measure than I already think it is. And I do not have a high opinion of the GMAT as it stands.

Thinking about the game theory, I am not sure of the benefit of inflation of your GMAT is in the long run. In fact, a brief amount of research would suggest it is a detrimental strategy for achieving a relative advantage in the applicant pool. With some reference to Bayesian theory, it seems you would want to underplay your GMAT to competitors – a strong hand is better if people perceive it weak. If a person has a score below average for the school, the incentive is surely absent for them to inflate their GMAT, contrary to our (assumed) behavioural evidence. Official statistics state GMAT ranges for the school. Let’s assume a mean of 700, as this is the case for most top schools. By turning a 670 into a signalled (broadcast of BW forums) 730, the applicant only serves to encourage more applicants of a similar level – suggestion of a high GMAT pool should encourage below mean applications, as it points to a let-up in the market. In fact, supporting a low GMAT with a really strong back-story (some cock & bull about extracurricular activities, undergraduate, resume points) would be even more effective at rooting out competitive applicants on the forum in the hope of removing them from the applicant pool. Yet, seeing as the only broadcast marks are typically 700+, it appears behaviour is to overstate the GMAT, and undermine the optimal strategy.

But why would people choose to broadcast disinformation over the time they spent to apply? This has no bearing over their direct competitors at all. In part, this appears to be some form of competition between applicants as well – once again, completely arbitrary. Once again, a mild form of web-forum trolling to prey on people’s insecurity. And once again, people seem to take pride in the fact they claim that three essays totalling 3000 words took them near 40 hours to complete, suggesting either poor writing skills, a lack of decision making (or “perfectionism” for its listed favourable characteristic name – read taking longer than necessary, the 90-10 rule etc), or a smell of Sex Panther. But can there be a deeper seated reason?

Early in the application process, the argument can be made for overstating application time, especially against the ill informed. For a R1 applicant who is yet to hear back from the school, there is incentive to influence R2 applicants by purporting that the process is lengthy (resulting in concern that their application is weak, or they have too little time to prepare properly). Deterrence of competition from the second round is a good thing – should they be wait-listed minimising the new pool against which they are assessed can only be good. Stronger evidence than for the GMAT, I think. Now, considering that some only release information on time-consuming applications after admit, is there a long term reasoning to state this?

One element may be the creation of some form of separating equilibrium through a perceived barrier to entry to the MBA. Such an approach to qualifications is used by some associations; most famously, the pass-rate for actuarial exams in the UK is set such that a certain number of individuals pass, with the condition that a defined hurdle rate is achieved. The pool of qualified actuaries is maintained to command an artificially inflated salary by contracting supply. On this basis, it is probably advisable for the MBA student or applicant to portray the process as laborious and stressful; this in turn should deter other applicants, increase the perception of incredible amounts of effort on the candidate’s part, and maintain the value of their MBA going forward.

The other thought is that all these people are lawyers or consultants, and are simply well versed in overstating the time that things really took.

There are, obviously, problems in this whole information game. One is that people cannot change their strategy easily between scenarios. Ideally, the applicant could vary their “hand” between stages to give different facts. Web forums really defeat this, as people have a record of your statement, making it a one shot game. And worst, the individual probably doesn’t notice the long term wisdom in understating their GMAT after sitting the exam. Credibility in this world of unknown is important, as someone will call you out if you are inconsistent. It would be clearly preferable for a person to broadcast differently at different points, but the deleting of historical messages on web-forums is a good way to become persona non grata.

More importantly, the breakdown on this overtly theoretical conjecture is that the marketplace for the disinformation is incomplete as much as it is unregulated, and that although talking the game of having an admit strategy, this stretches as far as contacting alumni, visiting campus and other non-strategic activities. Also, while the actions on BW and admissions411 are seen by a volume of applicants, the registration figures surely will suggest that of applicants to top 10 schools, at most 40% have ever seen the BW forum. So it is just for shits and giggles, and will never work in its fullest sense. For some reason though, it is an activity that really irritates me.

So I may as well put it up here – I applied to three schools and sat my GMAT in January this year. I studied GMAT a bit from Christmas, but mostly in four days cramming. My score was alright, but below average for all schools (yet well within range). I did alright. If you want to go to Business school, for some people it is going to be a lot of work, for others not so much. Some will work really hard to get into a top 40 school, some will breeze into Stanford. Ignore everyone else – MBA applications are a selfish process, so don’t get wrapped up in other people’s asshattery. And if you want to to do the internet thing, hang out at GMATclub. For the most part, everyone there is supportive (though the GMAT numbers are starting to rise scarily!).

Oh, and good luck.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

About time to come clean

I have been abandoning this blog something rotten of late. My apologies - work is hectic (we are in the financial papers just about every day right now) and I am currently working my way through the misery that is the AFCOE, prooving funds as an international student and all that. There is little in the world I hate more than credit applications.

There is little interest in me keeping the schools quiet any more, so will tell that A 2 & Z were (in that order) Chicago, NYU Stern, Columbia. I am really happy to be going to Stern - with relationship considerations NYC was always a better bet for both of us, though my wish to apply to Chicago, as an economics major, was too much. There is only one thing that I prefer about Chicago and Columbia to Stern, and that is they provide international students with the funding guarantee. I have one, independently, but have to go through untold private loan processes both here and in the US (the temptation to play cable is strong, but I know I shouldn't).

I do have a pile of half-written posts to go up here. I will blog on. The more pressing thing right now is deposit, funding, AFCOE, I-20, Visa. Neglecting to mention housing, transporting stuff and all that. So for the moment, sadly, posting completed pieces will be delayed further. Hey-ho, I bet people are gutted. But, if I get the visa sorted and all, there is two more years of crap to come.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Final Applications round-up

I haven't been around here for a while, and the Roma - Man Utd game tonight looks like it may be a good game (as does tomorrow's Chelsea match) so a decent update may wait a while.

Or it may not, because I have a change in motivation for daytime pursuits.

School A - Ding with Interview.
School 2 - Admit.
School Z - Ding no Interview.

School A was a frustrating one, as it came through well before school 2, and put a huge stress of the am-i-going-to-get-in-anywhere kind on the household. All the same, had school A and school 2 come through, consideration of Ms Soliloquous and other things would have made it a real tricky call - she clearly favoured the location of school 2.

My school A interview was a washout, so I wasn't too hopeful. But, as this was countered by an alumni asking to send a recommendation to offset this, I thought there might be some hope. Alack, it was not to be. I am actually happy it wasn'ta waitlist, as the torturous wait with the necessity of student visas et al would have been painful.

So, school 2 it is - assuming funds and other stuff run fine. Emigrating. A move of career. It's all happening here, and damn soon.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Your status at school Z has been updated

School Z has made the incredibly difficult decision to ding you without interview.

The tour of the school should be real fun now.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

time drifts by like a neon snake

Updates have been sparse this week. This is due to a current experiment in my daytime world of our team. It is the increased workload, decrease headcount experiment. Time series data shows this experiment trends towards failure, but if it works offers great rewards to the implementer.

Anyway, this means I am hectic busy, silly hours busy. That, and outside of times I am spending as much in the company of Ms Soliloquous as possible – mostly because I am away for a week visiting A, 2, and Z. Not just that, but then a week after I return she is away for a fortnight over easter on Maid-of-honour and family visiting duties.

This can be summarised to mean two things:

If I find interweb access, you may get some posts while I am in the US. If instead I am absorbing culture whilst listening to HNAS and Nu-Creative Sounds and other stuff then sorry. Everyone needs a holiday (of sorts).

From my return, we will pick up more on the GMAT stuff. I have elements noted down and constructed but they aren’t ready. Folks, I know that GMAT is a topic of great value to some, and just plain huge bad-mind discussion to others. Every word is likely to be assessed, so I have to make sure it reads as intended. I want to get it right, and the two weeks that Ms S is away are a good opportunity for this. Though there may be some Champions League football around then, and pubs open. So, don’t put your house on it being every day.

But, for the meantime, let’s have a roll call on the schools.

  • A – Interviewed. Visit arranged.
  • 2 – Interview arranged. Visit arranged as well.
  • Z – Visit arranged. Radio silence phase one persists, and could for about another month before serious concerns begin. Softly, softly, catchy monkey.

    Any other business

  • So that is the schools bit. In other things, I was indulging in a happy pastime of fatty TV™ (read ITV2, ITV3, BBC3, BBC4) last night. Modern programming seems to have moved a focus onto kids who only eat chips (applause when they eat a sausage) and only eat beans. Then there was the 27 stone teenager, who needed a leg-pressure gauge on her arm to take her blood pressure. Well, last night was the fattest kid on earth, the 17 stone seven year old from Russia. Chubby delight. The Stanley Cup of Fatty TV, he was. As ever, they send a doctor along from A-Developed-CountryLand to check him out, and conclude that he is fat. Not only that, but concluding that being seven years old and weighing more than an overweight 6ft man isn’t healthy. Fall off your chair stuff it was, really. ADCL Doctor reckoned that his mom was feeding him ‘roids to get him into being a mythical beast (he was praised as a reincarnation of some mythical heavy, honest) and to become a pro sumo wrestler. He has the bone structure of a 13 year old, they say. Well, considering he is one-and-a-half times my late-twenties bone structure carries, it is just as well. It was FAF to watch 17-stone fatty take on a normal size kid his age at sumo. Unsurprisingly, he won. Sumo coach was impressed with his skills. Beyond the humanitarian and health mask to the programme, they fit in the “look at the fatty!” moments with style. Small carriage of big wheel (legs dangling)? Check. Swimming? Check. “Exercising”? Check. In a bumper car, trashing smaller peoples cars? Check. Filling a front seat in a car? Of course.

  • There is new theme music on hollyoaks. It has been given the thumbs down by the jury.

  • I made a sock monkey at the weekend when the rugby was on (I didn’t watch the rugby). It was a nice day in the pub with friend photographer and his lovely lady. Her sock monkey was the better of the four, but it appears to have lost its ears in transit on the way back to Nottingham. Photos of the dwarf, mentally impared-looking sock monkey I made may arrive later in the week.

  • The Saints have won the league. After all the concerns in the recent post, schedule means I will play the final game, make the ball, and get to the US. We won at the weekend 5-2 in a somewhat impressive performance. I apologise (for about the umpteenth time) to the player I hit in the head with the ball, and needed length medical attention to stop the bleeding. Unintentional, as he understands. Getting their forward sent-off was a bit more planned. Anyway, third and second played at the weekend, and the result all but gave us the title, barring some very suspicious score-lines (and also us having to lose badly against second place this weekend). That means champagne and all on Saturday. Hoorah.
  • Friday, 9 March 2007

    World MBA Tour (except not really much of the world)

    I have been running with song titles as blog headlines for quite a length of time now (in such an infant page, this claim can be dealt with the disregard it deserves). But last night was one of those things that fill rare qualities on here. “Relevance”, being the main one of those qualities that is so rare, we best dwell on it.

    The World MBA tour thing hit town. It was in Holborn, and I was interested in going along for a variety of reasons. First, I have the big dinner thing coming up at the same venue in a fortnight, so I could scout for pubs. Second, I have done very little of the “conventional” MBA research stuff. I did GMAT from a whim in a NYC bookstore (well, a bit more considered than that, but lets sell it as “self-started” and move on), I selected MBA schools without them trying to select themselves onto me, and I have only really talked about what and where with people [i]once[/i] I had applied. Third, there were some schools there where meeting them might be a good idea.

    So, I trekked across town (WC sucks), the Central line in rush hour being the typical bandit-fare as ever. There was a lengthy queue outside the venue. This was the first bad sign. A queue to get to see some tables. I got flyered for courses in the queue. This was fun – the last time I got fliers in a queue I found out that Ariel Pink was doing another show in town (outside the Boredoms gig, it actually gave me the url for upset the rhythm so I knew of their shows). These were not so fun. Do people really spend £1000 on a training course on GMAT? If so, I have dead-straight got myself a sideline earner when I get into school. I would guarantee one-on-one tuition to get someone up to their required GMAT for $1500. Reasonable cap meaning I don’t get people saying 800 and all. That will safely cover the bills.

    Anyway, that isn’t the point. I am waiting outside what is little more than a recruitment fair, at 6pm in a street in London. Because the registration is taking too long (this being after online registration – registration appeared to be checking your name on a bundled list, taking some money off you and giving you a sticker). I waited about fifteen minutes, mostly with the aim to see one school and then float around.

    Once I got in, it was like societies fair at university. Tables, little presentation screens, gimmicks to try and draw you in. It seems very odd to me that Schools are so keen to make an effort to recruit – it almost points to the fact they are struggling for numbers or quality applicants I find. Sure, this is not a factually based thought, but it is the impression that you get – a desperate desire to increase numbers, quality or whatever. I think this is actually partly based upon the fact that I hate this type of event.

    Anyway, World MBA tour was somewhat a misnomer. Several of the schools advertised on the site earlier in the week had pulled their stands, most significantly including the one that I wanted to see. International scoring on the stands was three Australian, one Windies, one Singaporean, and seven US. The rest were European. Not wanting to go to a European school, this kind of killed the night off for me. Sure, before I get told I should research these things, I was there for one school, that I found out was pulled as I went in. Having queued and paid, I had a look around (and picked up a ugly toy thing.) As for the popularity, the LBS and INSEAD stands were rocked off their feet, and every other stand was trying to lure people in. Not much surprising there, then.

    The crowd was very representative of every business school trend I have seen reported. Sure I had read that there was the huge surge in Indian applications, but I was taken aback when I was in the fair. I had lazily assumed that this would be a localised effect on global applications, whereas it became rapidly apparent that the MBA is a big thing to Indians, full stop. It was very fun to be in a space where there as such a demographic mix – sadly, there was little reason to be there. There were lots of really quite serious looking people there too. I suppose I should have expected this, but it left me feeling quite distressed. I hoped for lots of work hard, but look like they would be fun in the pub folks. I got people who would probably order crème de menthe. Not good.

    I looked into the presentation rooms, but it was a talked-to powerpoint on preparation. Given I have applied to three schools, interviews with two, it was all a little late for me. Given that I hate powerpoints even when they are even relevant (unless the presenter is actually captivating, which is sadly rare). Lots of people were there, and I hope some got a lot out of it. It was disappointing for me that none of the major schools were there, but I suppose this sits so badly in their schedule of stuff to do, it is hardly surprising. As I alluded to earlier – having your admissions staff here would suggest you are low on applicants to review, or – maybe – you are in town interviewing around the date.

    Whether I get in or not, I will not be heading back to one of these events. Interaction with the desks for the schools didn’t look as though it would be particularly beneficial to any applicant’s case. It was more having someone to speak to about things, formulate their first ideas about MBAs, GMAT, in a place where you know they will try and sell whatever you want to hear to you. If you want that, these things are great. If you don’t, then you will probably feel the internet has superseded the necessity for such road-show events, as you can find the information yourself. I am firmly in the latter category.

    It did look like a good party venue though, and at least when I return to the venue, there will be alcohol.

    Wednesday, 7 March 2007

    Foreign Accents

    With most the deadlines for people hitting dates in the next month and half, there is clearly some tension seeping into the MBA communities as announcements are awaited. I would obviously like to consider myself an exception, and for the most part I am managing quite well. I am not stressed about the notices from them, I am stressing about how I can arrange to visit them, and then stressing about the possibility of doing so permanently.

    I am going to have to either the last game of the season for my team (top of the table clash, no less, in fact it will most likely be for the title if we win this weekend), or going to have to miss the end of season ball. I can’t miss the end of season ball, as it will be my soiree if everything MBA goes right. Which also means that if everything goes right, this will be my last game for the Saints. At least for two years; possibly forever. Thinking about this kind of change really brings it home to me the scale of what I am planning.

    I have never been a person of a large group of friends, but the guys from my team are amongst the best people I have met. Two years of sport and partying, involving some very drunken nights of discovering that sambuca doesn’t mix well in a 10 pint jug, that gin in the jug gets everyone going crazy, that I am really unfortunate at arrogance, quite good at three coin spoof (especially with ghosts), and can about hold my own in games of aliens and its variants. The bouncing coin game is still a loss to me. There was the alleged falling asleep in a club (I don’t remember this), the whole of the festival where I had my drinks spiked, and drinks in town where we had to carry a few of the players home. In true stereotype of this fine land, there is a concurrent theme. We got promoted both seasons too, but that is a side issue (the fact that this season in the league above the other that it has been an easier year is an unexplainable side-issue).

    Some applicants seem to choose to apply to local places, and others look to improve their status and wages in moving overseas. I am in the third camp – the group that decides that going somewhere entirely different (country, attitude, choice of cars, temperature of beer, climate – everything) would be the best way forward for me. There is nothing wrong with where I am at all. I have one of the best business schools in the world nearby. I just feel that this whole thing should be a change. And actually flying out to see the schools is the first time I have actually thought how absurd my plan is.

    It will be a big change – one in which I will be Best Man for my man T in Ibiza during the summer 2008, with me being somewhere in the US. One where my photographer friend, who is kipping round mine at the weekend, will probably want to visit even more, but will less likely give me a weeks notice. One where Mr Chow and his lovely lady won’t be able to invite us to a cheese and wine evening of such surreal carnage, where I will bump into a friend who’s phone number I lost when I got mugged and thought I’d never get again. Ten years of good friends are all soon to be a huge flight away (school friends aren’t under any consideration here as they number a cool zero). I knew all this when I started, but as it moves closer to being a reality it is becoming more of a wrench. Not one that I will back away from, but one that I had not realised would be quite as difficult to me as it most probably will turn out.

    So everything becomes a stress about friendships. I am going to be hugely absorbed in School if I go, because all my friends will be made from arriving at day one. It is like going to University all over again, but this time I am somewhat more assured and confident in my abilities. I told the gf how I would be disappointed if I didn’t top one class while at school. She laughed. I need these kind of objectives for going through this, as I am inherently lazy if I don’t give myself targets.

    But most of all, I will be making a new group of friends, away from enforced relationships and all that is typical now. I know it isn’t so bad – I went to University in a city I had never been to in my life, and was selected purely by a mixture of the sensible (it was a top rated course), the reasoned (it was sufficiently far from home), and the absurd (on page five of the viewbook there was a picture of a bulletin board with a poster on it of a band I liked playing a gig). This time I almost feel like I am overpreparing.