Wednesday, May 12, 2004

What's that I hear lurking in the near future? I believe it will be a lovely DING for my Toigo fellowship application. I haven't heard anything, and based on others past experiences, no news is bad news. Oh well.

The Toigo Fellowship is a small scholarship and mentorship program for minority (and not just underrepresented) students interested in finance. Since I currently work in community development finance, and I hope to return to this field within 5 years of b-school, I thought I'd throw my hat into the ring. The cool thing about Toigo isn't the money. Toigo has a phenomenal network and mentor system. They offer 50 fellowships every year. This year, the fellowship included a $5,000 scholarship (although in years past it was $10,000 with a match from the school). There are 17 schools currently involved with the Toigo program.

If you are invited for an interview, you interview in New York or San Francisco on Super Saturday, which was May 8 this year. I had a morning interview slot, so I had to be in NYC at 8:30 AM. There were about 100 people interviewing at the NY location all day.

First we were ushered into this break room and told to mingle with the other applicants while we waited for the interview. The people I met were all very cool - it was nice to in room with others who were as tired and nervous as I was. I also ran into a few people I've met during the application process. I had heard from a current fellow, that in year's past the room had spies who were current fellows who acted like applicants to see how you interact. So I tried to be on my best behavior.

Everyone is interviewed twice. My first interview was with a company sponsor and with a Toigo alum. They asked a few situational questions about leadership, teamwork, ethical dilemmas, etc. They also asked the standard "Why should we give you this fellowship?" question. I'm not sure, but I sensed a bit of good cop/bad cop going, which I had been warned about. The Toigo alum (who happened to be an HBS grad, go figure) really pushed me on the ethical question. I basically told about a situation where someone decided to pay people less because of their nationality and ethnicity. Of course I had a problem with that and the HBS grad was like "What's wrong with that? As long as the wage isn't illegal what's the problem?" I was a little floored by that one. I stood my ground but I'm not sure if he was pushing to see if I would change my mind or if he was pushing because he was an ass. I have chosen to assume the former.

My second interview was with a corporate sponsor. It was actually with the contact for one of the other fellowships I applied for. It was a nice conversation. I felt like I expressed myself well. And I felt like we connected. But the interviewer does this kind of stuff all the time, so he's probably mastered the skill of making people feel at ease during an interview.

One thing he told me that I find disturbing, was that Toigo requires you to rescind all other fellowships to take the Toigo fellowship. So if I was awarded the Toigo fellowship, and decided to take it, I would have to take myself out of the running for his company's fellowship. Students who have received the consortium fellowships (which is full tuition) have to rescind that to take the Toigo $5,000 fellowship. Some schools, like Michigan, have said they will make sure you have enough grants and scholarships to fill the gap if you go with Toigo instead of the Consortium. But I think that's pretty bold to ask people to give up other funds. I guess it's an attempt to spread the wealth. Had I known that requirement up front, I'm not certain I would have applied.

After the interview, I headed to Church St to catch a cab to Penn Station. I had no idea that the building I was interviewing in was right next to the World Trade Center site. So I headed over there to pay my respects. It was the first time I'd been to the WTC since before 9/11. It was very solemn and quiet there, as well it should be I suppose. I kept thinking of what those who lost their lives were doing on the day of the tragedy. It was sad, but I'm glad I went.

Anyway, Toigo decisions come out pretty quickly, within the week after Super Saturday. I've heard that most people who are getting the fellowship hear on Sunday and Monday, so since it's Wednesday I assuming that means I'm out. Oh well, everything happens for a reason.

On a potentially happier note, Good Luck to all the Wharton R3s and Waitlisters (Yogi!). Tomorrow is the big decision day. Wharton usually holds an all night chat the day before the decision, so maybe I'll see some of you there. Don't forget to go shoe shopping!

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