Booth and Wharton Interviews Complete

by on November 21st, 2012

I can finally see some light at the end of this very long tunnel of pre-MBA exam prep, test-taking, app and essay writing, interviewing, waiting, worrying, and just plain ‘ole stress.

So here’s the status of my round 1 applications going into the weekend before Thanksgiving (alphabetically):

Chicago – invited to interview; interview complete

HBS – dinged without an interview

MIT – won’t send interview invites until around December

Stanford – nothing yet

Wharton – invited to interview; interview complete

After being invited to interview at Wharton and Booth within a day of one another, I ‘ve completed both interviews within the past 5 days. It’s been a bit of a whirlwind but I am generally pleased with the results how things have gone (the actual result won’t be apparent until I get final decisions).

Chicago Booth Interview Recap

Chicago Booth gives you two main interview options: to interview on campus with the admissions committee (which includes 2nd year MBA students) or to interview in or near your city with a Booth alum (where available). Living in Los Angeles makes alums from virtually any school that I would ever apply to locally available.

While I would love to visit each school that I’m submitting to, neither finances nor time will permit such a tour. I opt for local interviews whenever possible to be judicious with my finite time and financial resources.

I applied for my Booth interview right away and was paired with an alumnus within 24-48 hours, just as their admissions website promised; +1.  The night prior to my scheduled interview, I got a buddy of mine who is a recent JD/MBA graduate of and alumni interviewer for The University of Chicago to give me a mock interview.

My friend took it kind of easy on me, asking some basic behavioral questions coupled with the standard goals/why MBA/why now/why Booth questions. I wish he had been a bit tougher.

My interviewer chose a fairly laid back meeting place. I blocked out my schedule for that day and made sure to arrive with about a 30 minute lead on our appointment–half of which I burned up finding parking blocks away and then walking to the establishment.

Not a Clear Read

While very polite, my interviewer was not easy to read. They were also quite skilled at the job at hand. I got lots of behavioral questions peppered with interpersonal and “get to know you” probes that came in the midst of deceivingly random small talk as we navigated the meeting place.

I was comfortable with what was being asked of me and did not trip up or get stumped by any of the questions. I did, however, receive some constructive feedback on one of them. It was good feedback.  I also felt that the feedback came more from a spirit of genuine affinity than a “gotcha” sort of thing; yet, you never really know what someone is thinking.

While I generally feel that I did well in the interview, even the slightest hiccup can cast doubts in such a competitive, subjective process as this. I guess we’ll find out how “constructive” that feedback was come mid-December.

Wharton Interview Recap

The Wharton School provided only two interview options for US candidates: Their main campus in Philadelphia or their West Coast E-MBA campus in San Francisco. Based on my blanket time and cost strategy, I chose the San Franciscan option. I also ended up saving an additional $250 on my ticket by flying out of Long Beach instead of LAX. Sweet.

Being early for each of these interviews was very important to me, as I hate being late. Since I know LA like the back of my hand, about 30 minutes is sufficient for any local interview.  In unfamiliar territory, however, I find it necessary to take additional–and sometimes extreme–precautions to ensure that my time cushion is sufficient.

I arrived in San Francisco at around 8:45am after a short flight from LA lasting one hour and one minute. I had been smart enough to pre-book my transportation to and from campus (I know little to nothing about navigating San Francisco) and was literally able to walk out of the airport and onto a shuttle about 5 minutes later, arriving on campus suited and booted at about 10am–hours before my scheduled time to interview.

Where Am I?

When I first got dropped off by the shuttle, I wasn’t quite sure whether I was in the right place. It is a historical building in downtown Frisco (what people in LA call San Francisco) right on the water and next to the Oakland Bay Bridge.

I was expecting a big “Wharton” sign to be plastered on the building. As it turns out there IS a big “Wharton” sign on the side of the building that faces the bay; however, from the street there was no sign that I was in the right place at all; good thing I had typed the address into my phone.

Wharton is located on the sixth floor of the building. What I got most from the environment was its warmth. Everyone from the receptionist to the professors to the E-MBA students that were working on projects before or after classes were extremely personable and welcoming.

I loitered in and around the building for a good number of hours (I had convinced myself that I would blog and get other work done while waiting. LIES. I toggled between reviewing my team-based discussion information from the invite email and watching Wharton videos on YouTube). When it was showtime, I went back upstairs (I had been up and down all day. I think the receptionist got tired of seeing me) just as the other folks who would be interviewing arrived.

My Cover is Blown, Once Again

And, as it has been with every event that I have been to thus far, exactly one person recognized me after putting 2 and 2 together from my blog (shout out KP! I hope to see you at admit weekend along with the other members of our awesome discussion group!). Whether in a room of 200 or a small group of 6, my cover has been blown by exactly one person every single time.  Astounding.

DISCLAIMER: Out of respect for both Wharton and Booth, I’ve chosen not to go into too much detail about exactly what was said during each interview (so don’t ask. Thanks!). What I will say about Wharton’s team-based discussion, however, is that I like it. I like it a lot.

Who knows? It might just be something that makes you feel better because you got to express yourself; like an application with a high essay word count  allowance (i.e. Stanford, comparatively at least) or a PowerPoint (Booth) or video (MIT Sloan) essay option. It might not increase one’s chances even one bit; however, for a person like me who presents better in person than on paper, its a dream.

Wharton’s New Team-Based Discussion is a Hit

It’s also very smart on Wharton’s part. The whole point of the admissions process is supposed to be to build a class of students who will contribute the most to the intellectual richness of the environment for their classmates, right? Well, this team-based discussion cuts right to the chase. The adcom really gets to see how you ACTUALLY behave in a group environment.

I was very pleased with both my team-based discussion and my one-on-one interview with the adcom. While I know that there will be many people who have strong interviews who WON’T be admitted (the interview is just an additional data point that is taken into consideration along with the rest of your written application) I always feel that my chances will go up just slightly when I get the opportunity to present myself in person.

I ended up making it back to San Francisco airport in just enough time to board my plane and land safely back in Long Beach later that night. My plane did, however, have to circle the Long Beach airport for an extra 40 minutes waiting for a ridiculously thick, low fog to clear. That was no fun in a suit and tie.

SIDEBAR: I had not worn a tie in so long that I had to watch a YouTube video early that morning to relearn how to get my full Windsor knot correct–oh, and I forgot to put on a belt; no one noticed, and I forgot.

Alas, my fate at these two schools is yet a mystery. One interview went well but could have gone better and the other definitely went well. Regardless of how good or bad your interview goes for a given program, however, there simply is no way to know where you stood on the continuum of applicants going INTO your interview.

If you were already at the bottom of the barrel, then a great interview still might not be enough to have you make the final cut. In contrast, if the school had already decided that they really, really, really wanted you then a substandard interview isn’t likely to send you packing–unless, of course, you vomit on an alumnus or an adcom (SO glad I didn’t do that!).

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