1 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
Admission Year: Fall 2012
Test Used for Admittance: GRE
Test Scores: Q 86%, V 98%
Undergrad GPA: 3.2
Graduate GPA: 3.9
Industry Experience: 5 years in a not-for-profit organization
Research Experience: 6 years "on the side": 3 years undergrad, 3 years postgrad
Range of Schools Applied: UTD Top 40
Total Schools Applied To: 6
Total Offers Given: 2
Compared to a lot of people, I waited a long time to apply. I learned a lot about research and what it's like to have a career in academia. I only applied to programs I would attend without hesitation, and I was willing to apply more than one year if necessary in order to attend a competitive program. Because I applied to such a small number of schools I was able to spend a lot of time on each application, rewriting nearly all of my SOP each time. In each SOP I named at least one professor whose work interested me and usually commented on ideas I had from one or two of their recent papers. That being said, I still felt insecure during my application process and never could have predicted the outcome.
Having a paid RA position for a few years is a huge asset and I would recommend staying at least two years. This used to seem like an unreasonable commitment to me but now I understand: research is a slow-moving field compared to other industries; you can't code data for three months and get a stellar letter of recommendation. My letter writers were professors in my field who wrote very kind things in part because they knew me really well after working together for several years.
I always had a Plan B (alternative career path) so I wouldn't be too crushed if I wasn't admitted. Throughout the process and the PhD, I keep in touch with a lot of non-academic friends who wouldn't judge me (or notice) if I didn't get accepted or failed out later on. It is a nice sanity check.
If you're aiming for Management/OB, do not stress too much about the grades or the test scores. These departments look for students with the most creative, promising ideas, sometimes with research experience and sometimes straight from industry. The best strategy is to demonstrate (1) that you understand what research is and (2) that your interests match with those of faculty so they see you as a good "fit".