MBA Admission Lessons

I hardly ever write about my personal life, but this time I feel like sharing one of my recent experiences. Last week I got accepted into the MBA program at Rotman School of Management (University of Toronto), one of the top Canadian and highly-ranked international business schools.

For the past few years, I kept entertaining the idea of going back to school for a graduate business degree to pursue the almost magical MBA. However, there always seem to be something making me postpone this decision – demanding work projects and new contracting opportunities, time and financial constraints, relationship status and travel plans, long term and short term goals. Nonetheless in the end of year 2010 I came to the realization that this is the time. There always will be obstacles and unfavorable circumstances bringing a lot uncertainty and risk to any decision, and it is never going to be any easier. However, our life is never a smooth sail in a sea of calmness, but rather a journey where inner peace is the one that matters.

Admission process is always one of the first major tests on the way of getting the desired degree. In addition to taking the GMAT and writing essays, the process involves a lot of ground work, getting admission application in one piece. Here are just a few lessons I learned from the admission process:

Do your research about the business school. Make sure that the school you are applying to is a good fit with your goals and expectations. If the school is located in another city and this is going to add two hour commute to your full-time job, it is going to be very difficult to motivate yourself to go to classes every day, especially if the school was not on top of your list, but a third or fourth choice.

Attend info sessions and talk to students and admission staff. Not only you can learn more about the program and school, but you can get invaluable advice on what is exactly expected in those five essays that you need to write, and maybe get a chance to review your application with one of the admission officers before the final submission.

Don’t focus only on the GMAT score. Business schools are looking at your application to be well rounded, and pay attention to numerous other factors, such as your previous academic record, work experience, essays, and your social activity outside of work.

Find the right referees. Rather than going after high level executives, who hardly have time to reply all their piling up emails, not to mention spend time in the evening writing a proper reference about you, ask your direct manager or a client to provide a reference. Quality of his or her reference would mean a lot more than their senior executive title.

Start working on your essays early. Not only writing essays would be a good practice for AWA portion of GMAT, but also students often don’t realize the amount of time and effort that goes into well-written essays, leaving them for the last minute. Generally you would want to have at least a few revisions and get someone’s feedback on your essays before submitting them. That may add up to five or more days of work/critique per essay, depending on the quality level and expectations that you set for them.

Links to a few of my favorite GMAT and MBA admission articles:

Is an MBA a Plus or a Minus in the Startup World?
General GMAT Books Review
Quantitative GMAT Books Review
Verbal GMAT Books Review
Analyzing an AWA Argument
Ace the Essays? No, Thanks!
The Top 5 MBA Admissions Myths
How to Approach Business School Information Sessions

How to Create Minimal Web Pages in SharePoint

This brief article talks about how to create minimalistic pages in SharePoint without deploying any server-side code, and with minimum effort by using only SharePoint Designer. By minimal web pages, here I mean master page and web pages that have only bare bones with essential web part zones, without any additional HTML markup for header, footer, left-navigation, or additional server-side controls (such as, site actions, search box, etc.).

Please note, even though this post is about SharePoint 2007 implementation, very similar technique is applicable to SharePoint 2010 as well, with changes to the content of the master page mostly.

1. Create a minimal masterpage with SharePoint Designer following this MSDN article: How to: Create a Minimal Master Page.

Basically, it all comes down to creating a file in SPD, which we are going to call msminimal.master, under your site’s http://site / _catalog / masterpage (Master Page Gallery). That msminimal.master must contain only essential empty zones, and no client-side markup or server-side controls.

My only changes to the master page from MSDN article would be adding Visible=”false” attribute to Site Actions and Welcome if you would like to hide them in your future web pages:

      <wssuc:Welcome id="explitLogout" runat="server" Visible="false" />
      <PublishingSiteAction:SiteActionMenu runat="server" Visible="false" /> 


2. While in SharePoint Designer, create a new web aspx page and reference your new master page changing MasterPageFile attribute from ~masterurl/default.master to _catalogs/masterpage/msminimal.master.

Here is an example of the simplest web page with just one web part zone:

<%@ Page language="C#" MasterPageFile="_catalogs/masterpage/msminimal.master" Inherits="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebPartPages.WebPartPage,Microsoft.SharePoint,Version=,Culture=neutral,PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" meta:progid="SharePoint.WebPartPage.Document" %>
<%@ Register Tagprefix="SharePoint" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebControls" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %>
<%@ Register Tagprefix="WebPartPages" Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint.WebPartPages" Assembly="Microsoft.SharePoint, Version=, Culture=neutral, PublicKeyToken=71e9bce111e9429c" %>
<%@ Import Namespace="Microsoft.SharePoint" %>

<asp:Content ContentPlaceHolderId="PlaceHolderMain" runat="server">
  <WebPartPages:WebPartZone runat="server" FrameType="TitleBarOnly" ID="MainZone">

3. Now if you want to edit your new custom web page visually in a browser and add web parts, you would need to use one old non-documented trick. Since there is no familiar header or site actions menu, you need to type in your Internet Explorer the following URL, in order to switch between view and edit mode, and back :

(Refer to my previous article on highly useful non-documented shortcuts

4. After adding all necessary content to your custom web page, it contains only content and no additional header, footer, etc. This sometimes comes extremely useful if you want to display some specific content in a Page Viewer Web Part on another SharePoint site, or in a frame in another non-SharePoint web application.