Wednesday, March 31, 2004

HBS Alumnus 
Yesterday I met with the HBS alumnus that I was referred to by a relative. He is an investment banker, and was Class of 2000. Things haven’t quite worked out the way he thought they would when he graduated, but he was very happy with his HBS education nonetheless. He kept a lot his old HBS cases in his office, and spoke very highly of that method of instruction in general.

He was a mechanical engineer by education, like yours truly, and found the transition to business school to be challenging but manageable. He had to work hard in his finance classes, but never made any 3’s, so it wasn’t too bad. In fact, he ended up concentrating in finance. I asked about the difficulty in getting finance internship interviews with an engineering background and he said it was challenging, but he still had 6 interviews, so it wasn’t impossible. Oh yeah, he said Hell Week really is Hell, but only if you are going the I-banking or Consulting route, because those companies really focus on that week whereas other industries tend to spread it out more.

Overall it was a good experience, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to do it, even if it was post-decision. Everyone I have spoken with from HBS has been extremely nice, and I am really, really excited about getting up there in August. It can’t come soon enough.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Well, I finally got ahold of or left messages for Derrick, Mike, Paul, Stephen, Jim, and Marc. In other words, all of the people who helped me get to know what Stanford is all about. I wanted to let them all know my decision before I put it up here. Although I really hated to do it, I had to turn down Stanford. When it came down to it Harvard is just the better fit for Jie and me. Boston is very different from Texas whereas California is not such a big change. Other than that, the schools are more or less a straight up draw. I think the alumni network at HBS will be slightly stronger, and the international reputation is also a little better than that of Stanford.

When it all comes down to it, though, they are basically even. It comes down to personal fit. The aspects of Stanford that really differentiate it from Harvard aren't high on my priority list. On the other hand, several aspects of Harvard really drew me in. They are both incredible programs, I am really grateful to be admitted to both, but I am very sure that HBS is the program for me.

I would like to think that I have formed some relationships with Stanford people that will last. They are great people, and I have really cherished the opportunity to get to know them.

Monday, March 29, 2004

One more thing... 
Oh yeah, I also bowed to peer pressure and decided that I should read Dan Brown's books. I am too cheap to go buy 'em at B&N, so instead I put a request in at the library. I am 64th in line for A&D and 42nd for DaVinci Code. Ouch... I think I will be in b-school before they get to me...

Still waiting... 
I had the day off today (cause I have to work this Saturday), and I actually managed to get a good amount done. Jogged 2 miles, got groceries, did laundry, etc. Heck, I even ironed some pants!

Unfortunately, the one thing I really wanted to get done today I wasn't able to do. I am still waiting on some callbacks from voicemails left around lunchtime. I don't want to say anything here until I personally inform the people who have been so instrumental in my decision making process over the last month. So, to all my loyal readers (if I have any!), I apologize. As soon as I am able I will post my decision in all it's glory.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

When Genius Failed, and lake pics 
I finished When Genius Failed last week. It was pretty good, but it didn't really live up to Barbarians at the Gate. There were two reasons why I didn't like it as much. First, it wasn't nearly as in depth. That isn't the fault of the author, his subject matter just wasn't as cooperative. The other feature I could have done without was the considerable editorializing that the Lowenstein did. He passed judgment and made definitive statements about the policies of Greenspan, Meriwether, and others. Although Lowenstein is a knowledgeable guy, I don't think he really has the qualifications to make these comments. Of course, it's his book and he can do what he wants, I just found Burrough and Helyar's fly-on-the-wall style a lot more pleasant to read. I just started Against the Gods, so far it is a drier read than my recent books, but I am only 15 pages in so we'll see.

Spent the weekend at the lake for the third consecutive time, but this time we had a whole group up there. Highlights included sailing, washers, kick-ass burgers, and heavy drinking. I think a good time was had by all. All of the pictures are on smugmug, so check them out.

Friday, March 26, 2004

This morning I had about a 25 minute conversation with the alumnus that HBS hooked me up with. It was a very good conversation, and they picked the absolute perfect person to speak with me. His background was also in engineering, and we just clicked right from the beginning. He spoke very passionately about the two main advantages he thinks HBS has over any other school:

1. International Recognition: In his view HBS gives you a certain cachet that you can’t get anywhere else (Wharton and Chicago being the next two in line). For example, when doing an international deal the banks all want to see bios and background information. A degree from HBS gives you a certain bit of credibility that is hard to come by.

2. The case method: He felt the case method was the single most valuable feature of HBS. If you want to learn finance, he said, then go to community college and you can learn all you want about the mechanics of finance. Or go to the library and learn it on your own. But the case method teaches you how to think about finance (or any subject), and it teaches you that your thinking can be enhanced by having a strong group of thinkers around you. Learning to think in a new, rigorous, thorough manner was the number one thing he got out of HBS, it was worth more than all the other benefits of combined.

I found his ideas and his fervor very impressive. I am still going to do some serious thinking about HBS v. GSB over the weekend, so I will write more on Sunday or Monday.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

HBS Alumni, and good news at work 
Well, today I was contacted by HBS with the name of a local HBS alumnus (I finally looked it up, and alumnus is singular, alumni is plural, and alum is a double sulfate of aluminum). I also made contact with another local alumnus via a family member. I am hoping to talk to one tomorrow and the other on Monday. The second guy I spoke with asked me when I needed to give my final decision and I told him Monday. He responded that I should sign on the dotted line now and he will really get me excited about it later... He said it with such enthusiasm that I found it pretty funny. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a staff meeting and couldn't talk any longer.

I found the guy HBS arranged for me to talk with on the internet after I got home from work and was shocked at how highly placed he is. Very impressive.

Today at work I was told that I wouldn't be given a leave of absence. In a way, this is probably a blessing in disguise. I will be able to roll over my 401k immediately, and I will not have to go through the guilt of telling them that I don't want to intern with them after all. I really like the company, and I definitely want to pursue them upon graduation, but this will really be best for me in the long run.

The question now becomes: When to leave? It is a balancing act between the desire to keep pulling a paycheck and the urge to spend a lot of time doing nothing before school. At the very least I have to stay until early July, but beyond that is up to me. I would like to spend two weeks at the lake, and we may go visit some of Jie's family in Australia, but no big plans other than that. Any fabulous summer plans out there?

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Well, I had a conversation this morning with the head of corporate strategy at my company. He felt very similar about Stanford as the alum I spoke with on Monday. They both spoke very convincely about how well Stanford prepared them for their careers after school. This had me doubting my leaning towards HBS, since I was worried that the case method wouldn't give me the same preparation.

I called HBS in order to arrange for a last minute conversation with some Houston alumni. They are going to get back to me by tomorrow with a few names. The speed that HBS got back with me was very impressive, they returned my call within half an hour. In the last 24 hours I have gone to being very close to possibly changing my decision to currently feeling confident about Harvard again.

Anyway, it was a bad day at work, so this is all for today.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

All the info is in 
Well, I got my HBS finaid today. It was basically identical to Stanford, which surprised me just a little bit. The way Harvard talked it sounded like many students get a fellowship, so I was slightly more optimistic than I was with Stanford.

I think that being married is a death-blow for financial aid, so long as your spouse works. If the student need is pegged at $50k for a given year, and your spouse makes $40k salary, you aren't going to be able to show a lot of need.

So now it's decision time...

Monday, March 22, 2004

I had my meeting with the Stanford alum this morning. It was a very interesting conversation, and he brought up a good point. He felt that Stanford was a school that gave him the tools he needed along with the freedom to learn them the way he wanted to. There weren’t a lot of restrictions on how he could spend his time. At HBS, on the other hand, he felt that you were more forced into doing everything a certain way and you really didn’t have the same freedom to make your own path. I can see how that aspect of Stanford would be very appealing to me, since I really enjoy doing things my own way.

On the other hand, every time someone highlights a neat feature of Stanford I find myself thinking: “Yes, that’s all well and good, but I really want to go to Harvard!”

Is that a good enough reason to go to a school, just cause I want to?

Sunday, March 21, 2004

I just wanted to say a quick thank you to Dave, Kenny, and Will, all of whom have contacted me via e-mail. Writing the blog has been so enjoyable in and of itself, but getting positive feedback is the icing on the cake. So, thanks again for reading!

As for anyone else out there, please don't hesitate to contact me via e-mail with any comments, questions, or suggestions that you may have. Thanks!

Thanks, but no thanks. 
Today I finally got around to logging in to the Texas website and declining their offer of admission. I had until April 15th to do so, it just took me a while to get to it. I was a little surprised that they never called me to offer any kind of scholarship, but I think that they probably would only have offered me in-state tuition, and I already get that...

I finished Year One yesterday. Overall it was a good read, but I can definitely see why it is out of print. The only people that I can see being at all interested in reading it are those thinking about or preparing to attend HBS. It is pretty well written, but the subject matter just isn't that engaging. One interesting tidbit: according to the author about 20 people per year (or 2%) 'hit the screen.' This means that they scored low enough in enough classes to be academically reviewed. Of those, about half are allowed to return and the other half aren't. So, about 1% of the class was cut, but they do have the option of returning after a year or two, so it isn't over. This is far less intimidating than the 10% number that is often bandied about.

This week I am meeting two more Stanford alumni, tomorrow I am meeting with one downtown and then on Wednesday I have a call set up with one of the exec's from my company. I am looking forward to both meetings, especially tomorrow.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Analysis Paralysis 
This is probably as good a time as any to lay out my thinking about Harvard and Stanford at this point. I had a good conversation with a GSB 1st year today about the summer recruiting process. I am a little concerned that ‘Hell Week’ at HBS will not be a very good way for me to get my foot in the door in investment management. Of course, I am not at all convinced that I want to go into that field, anyway.

I guess a relative advantage that Stanford has, at least for me, is that I will be competing against less than half as many people for essentially the same jobs. In addition, about a third of the Stanford students are looking to start their own companies, and I won’t really be competing against them either. Well, not for full time positions, anyway.

Looking at the big picture, though, I think the schools are more or less equivalent as far as future career benefit is concerned. You get out of the process what you put into it, and if I go to HBS and am determined to go into investment management, I am sure I will be able to find a way. So, this gets me back to looking at non-academic, non-career related factors. (I think academics are a draw as well, the section atmosphere at HBS neutralizes the extra flexibility at the GSB in my mind.)

I have four issues left that weigh heavily for me:
1. A good fit for Jie: I want to make sure that we are going where she wants to go. My gut feel is that I will see her a bit more if I go to HBS, but that is by no means certain. I think her employment opportunities are equal at both schools, but the extra personal care at Stanford is very appealing.
2. Location: I really would rather live in Boston. San Francisco is great, but it feels a lot like Austin, and we have been there, done that.
3. Personal Touch: As I said above, the personal touch at Stanford has been great. I had a bad first night there which has been repeatedly proven an aberration by many, many nice people. HBS is no slouch in the student camaraderie column, but for overall community feel, the GSB is hard to beat.
4. Facilities, school grandeur: HBS just has the best facilities in the business: Shad, Baker (when it’s remodeled), Spangler, etc. And the reputation is second-to-none.

So where does that leave me?

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Hell Week 
I was reading Year One today during lunch and I got up to the point where ‘Hell Weekend’ was about to begin. That is the period where there are no classes and a whole host of companies come on campus to hold interviews. Some people have 15-20 2 hour interviews scheduled during this period, which is now known as Hell Week instead of weekend. Anyway, one concern of mine that this raised is that with so many outstanding students to compete against, and limited summer openings, I may have trouble garnering a lot of interviews. Two things in particular will count against me, I think. First of all, I went to a plain ol’ state school for undergrad, and also I am from a less conventional business school background.

Of course, there is a significant possibility that I will come back to my current employer during the summer, since I plan to take a leave of absence to attend school rather than resign. Even if I do plan to come back after school, though, I still may pursue a summer job in investment management, private equity, consulting, or investment banking in order to diversify my experience. With that goal in mind, what I have read has worried me.

Oh, and in fairness to HBS, I think I would face the exact same issue at Stanford.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Year One 
So far I am almost two-thirds through Year One. It has been a nice read, it actually reminds me a lot of The Goal, which I read in college for engineering economics. The author creates these individuals that kind of sum up a broad group of people, and then uses conversation to discuss the particular issues they face at HBS. You know, the european, the black student, the woman, the investment banker, the engineer, the consultant, etc. Anyway, the book has raised a few concerns:
First Month: The first month of class, while everyone is up-tight and raising their hands every second, really does seem like a drag. I already brought this issue up in another comment, so I won't belabor the point.
Pace of Class: Since everyone is in one class together (unlike Stanford), the discussion never moves at a pace that is appropriate to everyone. A third of the class is bored, another third is hopelessly lost, and the middle third follows along but no one fully benefits from the dis-jointed discussion. Since I will likely fall in the middle third in almost all classes, I am not terribly worried about this, but it does point out limitations of the section environment.

Overall, the author paints a very favorable picture of HBS, but I don't think he pulls any punches. I'll let you know how the rest goes.

The MBA Program Information Site - Rankings of MBA Programs and Schools 
I found this interesting site that compiled a whole host of MBA program rankings.

Say hello to my little friend 
Brian, another HBS admit, came over for dinner last night. My sister was there as well, so we had a nice little dinner party going with the four of us. One of the main topics of conversation was what Brian will do if he is admitted to Stanford in R2. One of the big differentiating factors is his mind was the difference in social scenes between the two schools. HBS is larger, with much better immediate surroundings as far as the bar/club scene goes. To go along with that, people don't seem to spend as much time studying at HBS as they do at the GSB. This all combines to make much more of a social atmosphere, I think. In fact, several current students told us at admit weekend that is wasn't uncommon to go drinking 3 or 4 times a week with your study group. All you have to do is walk across the bridge and you are right there in Cambridge surrounded by a half-dozen great bars.

I am still waiting for my financial aid from HBS. Maybe I will call and bug them if I don't hear back by early next week.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Public Library 
I drove over to the public library today to pick up a copy of Year One, by Robert Reid. He attended HBS in the early 90's and wrote about his RC experience. I think the school has mellowed a bit since then, but I bet the book will be useful nonetheless. I also grabbed a copy of When Genius Failed by Lowenstein. At Half-Price books today I also got Against the Gods by Bernstein. I am looking forward to all three, but will have to dispense with the library books first.

The public library is always an interesting scene. The closest library to me is the main downtown branch, and there is always an interesting assortment of characters. You've got your standard library users: students, teachers, thrifty-types; and then you have your random ne'er-do-wells who are just looking for a free hangout with bathrooms and A/C. Last time my favorite was the dude who was reading the newspaper in the bathroom stall with no door. This time it was a nice old lady thumbing through old copies of the white pages while she talked to herself (and yes, I verified she wasn't on a cell phone). She wasn't so nice a little while later when she was berating the poor librarian for who knows what. I was out of earshot, but it didn't look pretty.

That's pretty much everything of interest for today. I did request a copy of Snapshots from Hell, which I suppose is the Stanford version of Year One. Hopefully I can pick that up in a few weeks and compare the two.

New Post on MBA Advice 
I posted a lengthy article on Choosing Schools on the MBA Advice blog. Check it out, and let me know what you think. I am always open to suggestions...

Sunday, March 14, 2004

Stanford FinAid, and a nice weekend... 
I got my Stanford Financial Aid letter via e-mail on Friday before I left town. It was less generous than I was hoping for, but I imagine it was about average. I had a full ride for undergrad, so this is my first foray into Financial Aid, and I think my expectations were a little off.

We had a good weekend, we got to see my brother at Texas State and then spent time up at the lake with Chris. I pulled him barefooting this morning, be sure to check out the pictures on smugmug cause they're pretty cool.

Other than that, not much to report. I am waiting to hear from HBS on FinAid before I make a final decision. I will also be talking to a couple more Stanford Alumni in the next few weeks. I'll let you know how it goes...

Thursday, March 11, 2004

A hint of what's to come??? 
As you know, I sent my check in to HBS over a week ago. Well, my status still hasn't changed on the online checklist. So, this morning I called the woman in charge of registering the commitment forms and checks and left her a voicemail asking if they had received it (I am a little worried about a $1000 check getting lost in the mail...). In any event, I never got a call back. I did, however, get an e-mail from another Stanford student. He is also married, also spent time in Texas, and basically just offered to answer any questions I had. So, I guess this is one of those big-school/small-school comparisons. [As an aside, if my letter to HBS did in fact get lost do I treat this as a sign? I don't generally believe in such things, but this is such an agonizing decision!] (Update: Just got off the phone with HBS, they do have it. Now is that a sign??? ;)

Tomorrow after work we are heading out to visit my brother at Texas State and then to the lake for a little R&R. I'll have an update and pictures on Sunday.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Reconsidering Stanford 
Well, after conversations with a Stanford alum and a couple of current students we are really starting to come around. The students who called were married and from Texas, so we had a lot in common. It was a much better than our before-admit-weekend-dinner, which was not a good experience. The first-year who called had a lot of similar interests and I could tell that here was someone that I could really get along with. So, for the first time since admit weekend, Jie and I can really see ourselves at Stanford.

There are a few key points that are driving this turnaround: We want a dog. A yellow lab, to be exact. There is no way to have a dog of that size at HBS, but it is very doable at Stanford. Also, as intriguing as the classes at HBS are, I am really drawn to the flexibility at the GSB. I can possibly test out of a few core courses, and even if I don't I can still take the 'turbo' version.

So in many ways I am back at square one. Well, except that I mailed a $1000 check to HBS and that does make a difference. I know I will be happy at either school, so I will wait to get the finaid results and see where that leaves me.

MBA Advice 
I just made my first post over on MBA Advice, a book review of Montauk's How to Get into the Top MBA Programs. You can find it here. If you are thinking about applying to b-school, be sure to keep tabs on the MBA advice site. I think it's going to be a really cool website when all is said and done.

Oh, 3app, e-mail Trip to be added to the effort. Without being able to add comments to your blog or send you e-mails we were out of luck...

I came home to the best voicemail today! Sarah, from Little Rock, Arkansas, called to tell me (in a great Southern accent) that they found my bag!!! Apparently the San Jose TSA decided to do a little wealth redistribution in checked baggage and give my toiletries bag to some nice lady from Little Rock. She called Continental, and they arranged to have it picked up. They pulled my name, address, and phone number off a prescription bottle inside and it is now winging its way to me via UPS. Man, what a great day. That's it, Continental is my airline for life!

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

MBA Advice 
It looks like we are pretty close to having Trip set up a blog on iqexchange to host our MBA Advice blog. I have this vision of a site where we can all contribute columns on different aspects of the admissions process for future applicants. I know that I would really love to be able to tell myself a few things now that I have done it all (like submit the stupid finaid paperwork on time!!!) and I think this could be a really great resource. Anyway, with that in mind, here is a list of potential topics I have thought about so far:
Choosing schools
Visiting schools
Admissions Consultants
Essay Writing
Application timing (when to start, etc.)
Financial Aid
Deciding between schools
What do to to make yourself more acceptable (for people a few years away from applying)
Specific School info/reviews (here we might have some opposing views, like 3app and myself on H/S)
Spouse/Partner/S.O. viewpoint
Book reviews (GMAT books, B-school guides, How to guides, etc.)
Recommendations (How to approach, how to prep, etc.)

Anyway, if there is anything else out there you would like to see discussed just drop me a comment and I will add it to the list.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Some new pics 
Nothing to report today on the b-school front. Just hanging out in limbo while I wait for HBS to acknowledge my check and commitment form and get back to me on finaid. It may be a few weeks... Good luck to all those who will be getting decisions soon!!! I was lucky because I had a ski vacation scheduled the weekend before I was to hear from H/S. In fact, Derrick called while I was in the t-shirt shop looking for souvenirs. It was neat to go down a nice run and realize that I hadn't thought about b-school for a solid 5 minutes. ;)

Anyway, as the title suggests, I have uploaded some more pictures into smugmug. You know, I love DSL, but uploading photos is just painful. In the hotels in Boston and SF I could upload 100 mb of photos in 15 minutes. It just took that long for only 24 mb! The pictures I uploaded today are just random Houston shots. A few views of downtown and some action at the dog park. Jie and I met my sister Becky and her dog Misty down there. Good stuff.

A response 
From Blogger Support:
I'm afraid we do not currently have a way to change the naming options on your Atom feed. However, we appreciate your input and we will certainly consider doing this. In the meantime, you may want to edit your profile so that the information listed under first and last name matches what you want to be shown on your Atom feed. We apologize for the inconvenience.

If you have activated your ATOM feed you may want to check it for your real name. The ATOM feed seems to pull your name from your blogger profile instead of your nickname! I am going to complain to blogger, but I thought you all would want to know so you can react accordingly.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Good meeting, good book, good weather... 
First of all, the XML feed is now working. There is a link to it under blogging links, so you can set us up in your favorite news reader. Currently, I am using bloglines. I have Harry, Trip, Hella, Joey, Chunky, FMG, Naveen, and Power Yogi set up (Hint: just add atom.xml to the end of any blogspot URL and you see if the feed is there). It is pretty cool, much easier than clicking through all the sites.

Admissions Guide
Also, Techiedude has said that he will put together a guide for new students. Perhaps we should all take this on as a cooperative effort and each submit our own views on one or more aspects of the admissions process. We could combine it all into one website or blog and unleash it upon the world. Joey, for example, has already done a fine job of reviewing admissions consultants here.

My personal reading goes in cycles. I will read almost non-stop for around 6 months and then not pick up a book for another 3 or 4 months or so. Anyway, I haven’t read anything at all lately, and I am finally getting the itch again. Yesterday I picked up a copy of Barbarians at the Gate. I am about a quarter of the way through it and I think it’s fascinating. And horrifying. As a small investor, I am all about shareholder’s rights (another reason I don’t think I could ever work as an I-banker), and it boggles the mind the way Ross Johnson blew company money. Anyway, thus far it’s been a really good read, I recommend it.

I had a meeting this morning with a Stanford alumnus. It was a really good experience; we had a wide-ranging discussion about my feelings on H/S and my career expectations. Aside from forming what could potentially be a very useful connection when I return to Houston after B-school, I had a really great time. Our talk reinforced my feelings of equality between the two schools, it comes down to a couple of things, I think: “Fit,” Curriculum, and Location. Fit clearly goes to HBS, Curriculum is about even, but the flexibility at Stanford may beat out the case method at HBS; and location, which is also about even, although there I lean towards Boston. A fourth factor was brought up, money. I have now completed the finaid for Stanford (which I am a complete numbskull for not doing earlier, it took less than an hour) and so will see how that compares to HBS when I get their package.

Oh yeah, and the weather was great today. Houston normally gets very few of these blue-sky and seventies days, but this year has been exceptional. We went out and hit golf balls and it was very obvious that we really need to focus in on golf. I enjoy it while I am playing, but when you only do something once a month or so you are never going to get any good.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Atom feeds, Bloglines, and RSS, oh my! 
Can anyone explain to me how Atom is relevant to my blog? Is there a way I could set it up (and the other MBA bloggers could as well), so that someone could use a site like Bloglines to keep up with all of the blogs without having to open each one? I looked in settings under site feed and it is set for yes, publish site feed. However, when I click on my site feed url http://markandjie.blogspot.com/atom.xml, the page is not found. Is this something that I could take to blogspot and they could fix? I'm lost...

The program 
I'm in one of those management rotation programs at work. There are two levels, a national program and a regional one, and I am in the regional program. It is kind of a joke compared to the larger program, they haven't hired anyone into it in a few years and they hardly ever communicate with us. Oh well, it served its purpose. In any event, we are coming up on the next opportunity for rotations, so I e-mailed the program leadership today to let them know that I will be leaving in July for Harvard. I haven't received a response yet, but I'll bet you dollars to donuts that they announce my move to the rest of the program in a way that somehow takes credit for it. Oh well.

After I leave, the original group of 27 people will be down to 14. People have left for all sorts of positions, both inside and outside of the company, but generally for one common reason: the program has been a sham. I think the takeaway for me from this whole experience is that you largely get out of something what you put into it. This has been a below-expectations job in an industry that has suffered worse than probably any other since I began working. Despite all that, though, I wouldn't go back and change my decision. I have met too many great people and learned too much.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

Nothing new 
Nothing new to report today, really. I had a nice conversation with my director about when I will be leaving and what school I plan on attending. Absent an act of congress or freak event, I told him, I will be at HBS in the fall. I really do believe that. If nothing else, I am about the biggest cheapskate you will ever meet, and giving up $1000 is not something I take lightly.

I really enjoyed Naveen's post about saving money. Most Americans spend too much time consuming, and thinking about what they will purchase next or how to keep up with the Jones', and we don't save enough for our future retirement. I would say that the two biggest internal crises we face as a nation are our health insurance situation and our retirement savings. The baby boomer generation as a whole has not saved enough to retire in the lifestyle to which they are accustomed. And a wake-up call: neither has ours. Oh, and we have to pay for the baby boomers too. Ugh.

This subject is too deep to completely explore in one post (or even one blog), but it's something to think about. We should all strive to live below our means and save towards our future.

I had about a half-hour conversation with Derrick tonight. It was a very candid discussion about why I had made my decision. It reinforced my opinion that he is basically the greatest guy ever.

The long and short of it is that I am going to keep an open mind about Stanford and keep talking to people and researching the school. On the one hand I still don't feel any doubt about my decision to go to HBS, on the other hand I probably didn't give the GSB a fair shake and I should do so. It's really for my own peace of mind, if nothing else.

I still feel good about that $1000 check I mailed off, but I am by no means ecstatic...

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Of the approximately 280 R1 HBS admits and 170 R1 GSB admits (editor's note: this only includes the people who attended admit weekend, not all admits) there are around 35 who were admitted to both schools. Of those, the majority seem to have Ivy League educations (Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford to name the most common), but there is a variety of occupations. In fact, consultants and I-bankers almost seem to be underrepresented compared to the total population of admits. This is all non-scientific, of course.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

We were unpacking from Stanford and I noticed my toiletries bag was missing. Hmm, did I forget to pack it? Called the hotel, they hadn't seen it. Jie was convinced that I had not packed the only thing that she had asked me to, which wouldn't have been at all surprising. Later, when she was putting everything away she found a lovely little form from the TSA, notifying us that our bag had been inspected. Wonderful.

Well, at least I didn't lose anything terribly valuable. And now maybe I will upgrade from a Mach 3 to a Schick Quattro razor. But I sure would like my bag back, I've had that since high school. Heck, it's been to 10+ countries with me. Oh well...

On a positive note, I did fill out my confirmation form to HBS. Plus, it was the first time in my life I have been ecstatic about writing a check for $1000. ;)

I returned home today to a voicemail from Derrick Bolton. He noticed we were MIA yesterday, spoke to a few people who told him that we didn't have the best time, and had arranged a student to talk to Jie about an opportunity for her in SF. Damn.

After setting a low at Saturday's dinner, my opinion of Stanford has steadily improved. And like I said, Derrick is awesome. The personal attention and professionalism he brings to the program is really, really cool. I still know that HBS is the best "fit" for me, but I can really see why Stanford can pull so many people away from HBS and other top programs.


Monday, March 01, 2004

Napa Valley 
I felt pretty guilty this morning about skipping out on the day of activities at Stanford. I really didn't want to go, though, since I knew I wasn't going to the program. My alternatives were to suck up and go, skip out but call and explain, or just skip out. Although I felt really guilty, I ended up going with number 3.

We drove up 280 through SF and across the Golden Gate bridge today. The weather was awful. We continued on to Napa Valley and visited the Grgich Hills and Beaulieu wineries. Grgich Hills was really cool, but BV was pretty lame. Then we ate at the Rutherford Grill, the food was good but it was waaay overpriced. We drove down Silverado Trail after that, it was really pretty. That's where I took a panorama on a random winery. We headed back to Palo Alto by way of Berkeley, where we briefly drove by the campus of UC-Berkeley. It was a busy day, but we had a really good time.

Oh yeah, I also uploaded all the pictures over on smugmug, so be sure and check them out.

One more thing I forgot to mention about Stanford: The housing available is awesome. The on-campus is cheaper than HBS, and the off-campus houses that 2nd-year students rent are top-notch. Indoor basketball courts, pool tables, hot tubs, pools, etc. Again, not something directly related to the program, but very cool nonetheless.

The Decision has been made... 
Ok, now for the details (after a nice sushi dinner in Palo Alto). Here are the things I noticed about Stanford that were different from HBS:

  • Students were more individualistic, tended to be more arrogant. For example, one student candidly told us that the rest of the University doesn't like the MBA program because the students are too arrogant. When asked if they deserved that reputation he admitted, almost proudly, that they probably did. Another student told me that "We don't need 'em" when asked how many come to admit weekend and go elsewhere. As for more individualistic, at HBS everyone was very interested in our story and our background. At a GSB dinner, it was 2.5 hours before anyone even asked my wife what she does for a living. In general I found the students to be very "me" oriented.

  • Different classroom dynamic. Several times over the course of the two days students remarked to us about how they really busted their butts studying because they didn't want to make an inappropriate comment in class. They almost feared the judgment of their classmates if they misspoke. I never got that impression at HBS.

  • Heavier quant, heavier workload. Stanford seems to be a lot more work and a lot more quant focused than HBS. Since I really want to be in management, this doesn't really benefit me. I got the feeling at HBS that you would get out of class what you put in, but at the GSB there seems to be more demands and more pressure to work hard. HBS seemed to be more laid back.

  • Stanford seems like a great school for people who really value these things: an entrepreneurial atmosphere, a location with a lot of great outdoors activities, a good balance between quant and "soft" skills. Since those things aren't really valuable to me, I have decided to attend HBS. HBS is more closely aligned with my career goals, I love the case method, and I really want to live in the Northeast.

    So, tomorrow we are going to have breakfast in Palo Alto, then drive through SF to the Napa Valley area, and check out a few vineyards. I feel bad about skipping out on the rest of the activities, but it looks like this will be our last trip to Cali for some time, so I want to make the most of it.

    Oh yeah, before I forget: Derrick Bolton made the decision much harder than it would have been otherwise. He is extremely friendly, professional, knowledgeable, etc. If you get a chance to talk with him be sure and take it. You'll see what I mean. To borrow a line from Jim Rome: He's Derrick freakin' Bolton.

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