Tips For Applying To Wharton MBA

Here’s the advice I give when folks ask me for tips on applying to Wharton MBA.

  • GMAT prep courses are expensive and worth the money (I did Princeton, it cost a boatload)
  • Take lots of practice courses (I took over 20 practice exams and pretended like they were the real thing each time)
  • Try to get the first GMAT questions right, because those allow you to get to the hard questions which improve your GMAT score
  • Wharton takes your best GMAT score, not an average like law schools do, so take the GMAT “early and often” (I took it four times)
  • Give your recommenders 4 weeks to write recommendations
  • Tell your recommenders to grow/buck-up if they ask you to write their recommendation for them
  • Give yourself months to write your essays (It took me 5 months to write them the first time, 2 days to write them when I reapplied)
  • Take advice on your essays, but not so much that the essays don’t sound like you (I made this mistake in my firsttime application, then fixed it the second time I applied)
  • Apply first-round, it improves your chances (I applied first round both times)
  • Reapplicants have a much higher admission rate than first-time applicants — so plan on reapplying if you don’t get it (it took me two tries)
  • Prepare for it to suck time (it did for me, both times)
  • Prepare to learn a lot about yourself during the application process (I did)
  • In your application Wharton will look for team building, facilitative leadership and persuasive communication. Exhibit these characteristics in your application and interview and you will do well
  • Optional interviews for Wharton are typically 30 minutes long and consist of an introduction, 3-5 career-focused questions from the interviewer and 10 minutes for questions for the candidate at the end. Interviewees should dress in business casual in the USA and maybe fancier internationally
  • Get advice along the way from people that did an MBA

I’m grateful to Penn for teaching me much of what I know (undergrad and grad) and I like giving back and meeting people interested in Penn and Wharton. If you’d like to connect with me, call me. My number is on the top right of my website.

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Results from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory

Some of you might know that back 2004 I worked for a venture capital firm that made investments in satellite and advanced technologies. Working there, I definitely got the “solar system” bug.
So check this out, the first images from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory have been released. We’re talking pictures of “huge explosions and great looping prominences of gas”. The satellite’s five-year mission will help NASA get a better understanding of solar activity. The project cost NASA $856 million.

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Studies On Happiness

Good studies on happiness:

Stumbling On Happiness, Book.

Most important points of this book:
  1. Happiness is not as good as we imagine it, nor is unhappiness as bad as we imagine it. Neither lasts as long as we think they will
  2. We exaggerate the long- term emotional effects certain events will have on us.
  3. People will do things that make them happy.
  4. The most creative people are those who are unhappy and thus strive to change the world.
  5. Most of us have a basic level of happiness which we revert to eventually.
  6. People repeat the same errors in imagining what will make them happy.
  7. People rationalize unhappy outcomes to make them more acceptable.
  8. Events we dread may turn into new opportunities for happiness.

$60K A Year Can Make You Happy,  Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman


Psychologist and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahneman says millions of dollars won’t buy you happiness, but a job that pays $60,000 a year might help. Happiness levels increase up to the $60K mark, but “above that it’s a flat line,” he said. “Money does not buy you experiential happiness but lack of money certainly buys you misery,” he said. But the real trick, Kahneman said, is to spend time with people you like.

Dr Mike Pratt, Academic.

His top 10 list of happiness drivers:

  1. Progress towards meaningful goals using ‘signature strengths’ contributes significantly to happiness.
  2. Happy people take time to do things that give them pleasure.
  3. Quality time with friends and family is top of the happiness list.
  4. Doing altruistic things for others creates enduring happiness.
  5. Expressing gratitude enhances your own wellbeing and that of the recipient.
  6. People quickly adapt to material advances.
  7. Beyond satisfaction of needs, more money does not make people significantly happier.
  8. Positive experiences tend to provide more enduring happiness than tangible purchases (social benefits).
  9. We get little enduring pleasure from short cuts.
  10. Regular exercise increases happiness.

Well-Being Is Related to Substantive Conversations, Journal Article.


Results were consistent with prior research (Diener & Seligman, 2002) in that higher well-being was associated with spending less time alone, and more time talking to others. Further, higher well-being was associated with having less small talk, and having more substantive conversations. For example, compared with the unhappiest participants, the happiest participants spent about 25% less time alone and about 70% more time talking. They also had roughly one third as much small talk and twice as many substantive conversations.

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change is like an adrift starfish.
a floating starfish seems free.
to the starfish it’s agony

other wall stuck starfish say,
“that starfish is fortunate for the change”.
these other starfish are glad they’re not adrift.

the moral is never stick to a wall,
to avoid the risk the pain of coming unstuck.
that’s no way to live.

in time the new homed starfish will be fine.
the wall from whence it came will be fine too.

-neal mueller

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How I Came To Get Mauled By A Dog

jaxon-023On Sunday at 9AM I walked past my front window and noticed that my cat was staring at a gorgeous Amber German Shepard standing in the street outside my house. What I did not know was that 5 minutes later this gorgeous animal would maul me and send me bleeding to the Hospital Emergency Room.

Here’s how it happened.

I walked outside and heard the dog was whining anxiously and prancing around a street gutter. His ball was down there and he wanted it back, badly.

No good deed goes unpunished.

John, the owner, came by and asked me to help him move the heavy grate so we could get this sweet dog’s his ball back. He told the dog’s name was Jaxon. I bent over and began to move the grate. Jaxon mouthed my foot and left teeth marks.

At that point I should have run away.

For some reason I wasn’t at all concerned that the dog had just bit me, probably because my skin hadn’t broke and I was uninjured. I asked the John to curb his dog so it didn’t get hurt by the grate or knock me over. John curbed his dog a little but the Jaxon was so anxious that he was uncontrollable.

I bent over again to lift the heavy grate. Like a dart, Jaxon opened his mouth and latched onto a large chunk of my tricep. His left top canine tore through my skin and dug deep through skin and flesh. It happened lightning fast, in less than a second it was done.

I looked down and saw a 1″ x 1/2″ hole in my right arm. The puncture had deep tissue protruding and was oozing blood.  I screamed in pain and Jaxon scooted away.

Then it got quiet except for the drip of my bloody arm.

Jaxon curbed himself and was far enough away for me to calmly stand at a distance. John and I spoke. He gave me his business card. He is a Mercedes auto mechanic. He was a nice guy and was visibly surprised.

At that point it could have gone one of two ways. Neal = cranky, or Neal = reasonable human being. I chose to…

Turn the other cheek.

I told him that I would neither be suing him nor demanding his dog be punished — provided he agreed to train his dog to prevent this from happening again. He agreed and told me Jaxon had all his shots — that was a relief!

photo (7)I spent the next 2 hours in the ER getting 5 stitches. On the way home from the ER I updated John on the phone and repeated my intentions to let this thing go. He was effusively appreciative and his appreciation felt good to me.

It’s really strange but my arm never hurt during this entire thing. It began to ache a lot as soon as I pulled into the ER parking lot which I attribute to psychosomatic response associated with my knowledge that it was about to be stitched. The doctor prescribed me pain relievers and antibiotics, neither of which I filled. The human body is an amazing machine.

Get back on the horse.

The first thing I did when I got home is play with my two neighbor dogs Mango and Max. I knew I had to “get back on the horse” and spend time with dogs in a positive environment or my love of dogs might be ruined by one anxious Shepherds mistake.

I spoke to John again recently, and he told me that he’d already talked to his trainer about ways to socialize Jaxon in a way that prevented his anxious biting response. It was good thing this happened to me and not some young kid with a smaller arm.

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