Wednesday, December 31, 2008

My Last Post...

...for the year. Corny joke, and I apologize. Well, today is the last day of 2008, and the new year beckons in a few hours. I tend to take it easy for New Years Eve, just dinner and drinks with friends. I'm not one for like $200 cover charges and stuff.

What a year it has been. At this time last year, I was beginning to think about getting my MBA. I discovered Business Week's forums and started reading around. I did research on Harvard, Stanford and a few other schools (seriously, it was nuts). I ordered a few GMAT books and began studying off and on around February, with a target date of June. Forgot to schedule it, so I moved my date to July. In April, I flew out to LA to visit USC-Marshall, which was my first ever visit to an MBA program. I learned a good deal (mostly that the area around USC isn't very nice) and started a target range of schools. Took the GMAT in July and just missed my overall goal of 700 but ended with a 680. For my demographic and background, not terrible.

After that, school research began in earnest and I started filling out the generic applications. I began getting ready to apply in R1 or ED for every single school. Around this time, I completely freaked out, decided I couldn't do it and stopped working on my applications. A few weeks later, I started it back up with a more realistic mindset and spread out my applications. Submitted UCLA for R1 but a rogue recommender destroyed that and I was moved to R2. After a visit to Washington, DC, I decided to apply to Georgetown. In a quick whirlwind, I submitted my app and interviewed. I have since submitted and interviewed with UNC and have interviews set up with Wake Forest and Duke.

This has been a taxing process, one that at times I thought would defeat me. I've gone from confident to scared to depressed in very short periods of time. I don't know what my future holds, but for me, this is a now-or-never decision. Either I get in and go, or I don't get in and need to figure out how to get where I want to be.

Overall, 2008 was a growth year. One relationship ended, another began. Some family moved away, others joined our clan. I successfully took the GMAT and submitted four applications. I traveled to LA, DC and Charlotte. I played Wii. I got promoted. I saw my bank get sold to a competing firm and lived through the turmoil of rumors. None of my Cleveland sports teams saw success (like they ever do). I can only wonder what 2009 will bring, who will still be in my life, who may walk out, who may come walking in the door. Maybe I'll be in the same place I am now. Maybe I'll be living it up in DC or Chapel Hill, doing exciting MBA-related things and moving forward in my life. All I know is that I'll take what comes and go as far and as hard as I can.

Happy New Years everyone!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Taking Stock of the Holidays

Happy Holidays to all! I hope your vacations are going well, filled with family, friends, and maybe some relaxation. With some of my brothers moving away and getting married, the Christmas celebrations have become a bit spread out and there's much, much more running around to different places. My Christmas Eve day started at 8AM by driving to the airport to pick up one of my brothers and his girlfriend, taking them to mom's, then our local bar (yes, at 11AM), then to my brother and sister-in-laws, then my girlfriend's, then to the brother's girlfriend's dad's house, then I went back to my other brother's, then back to the bar, then home at 11PM, where I promptly crashed. Luckily Christmas morning was easier, just going over to mom's. I got some good loot: a Wiimote, Mario Brothers Galaxies, lots of clothes, an autographed picture of Bernie Kosar (replacing the one I lost in the fire) and a new Calloway driver, which I really needed! All in all, a successful day.

MBA season has been in a holding pattern for the last few days, and it'll continue until after the New Year. I guess the Adcoms deserve time off as well! I'm sort of in the home stretch for a few schools, with decisions from three schools (Georgetown, Wake Forest and UNC) all due between January 12th and February 9th. Duke won't release until March, and who knows what is happening with UCLA. Either I was moved to round two (likely) or I'm getting dinged.

I hope everyone has a happy and safe New Years! And remember, if you're going to make resolutions, try to keep it to just one or two. Too many and you won't do any of them!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Wake Forest Submitted

I submitted my Wake Forest-Babcock application today. My interview isn't until 1/24/09, but I had the option of submitting it today and getting a fee waiver (in honor of Wake going to a third consecutive bowl game). Saved me $75, so yay! On the 23rd of January I'll be attending a dinner with alumni, faculty and current students to learn more about the program. The 24th is a busy day, with a mock class, tour (I used to work there, so I'm pretty comfortable in that building), information sessions, then my Done-In-A-Day interview. I don't have to write essays, but I sit for a panel-style interview and answer the essay questions. By doing this, I will receive an admissions decision within 24 hours. When I get home, I should have an admit in my pocket if all goes well.

All that's left to do is submit Duke in early January then prepare for my second Carolina trip for interviews and visits. I've already started the Duke essays, so I'm pretty confident I'll finish early. I kind of like submitting apps on a rolling basis. My original plan was to submit everything for round one, but this would have been very taxing for both myself and my recommenders. This way is better, staggering them. Although, it also means my decision notifications are staggered. Oh well!

So, who works next week? I'm off starting Wednesday.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Duke Admits

It appears Duke wanted to start their holiday vacation early, so admissions decisions went out this afternoon. Congratulations to those that got happy news; regrets to those that did not. Seeing the jubilation on BW definitely made me wish to be a part of the celebration!

Wait or Stress

Now that a few applications are in and interviews are complete, the waiting game has begun in full. When I first started this journey, I thought I would enjoy waiting each day for a decision, as opposed to knowing exactly when it would come. In essence, I felt it better to know it could happen any given day, rather than some far off date. My tune has definitely changed.

I have seen many people stressing each day over at the BW forums, wondering if today is the day they'll become one of the chosen few. Meanwhile, I can sit back and relax, knowing that my decisions are all coming on a certain date. I don't have to wake up wondering if I'll find out some news; I KNOW I'll get news on January 12th or February 7th or what have you. Sure, I'd love to know early, but not at the expense of my sanity. Adding in Duke and Wake Forest, I'll know exactly the date of my decisions, good or bad.

It's funny how this process changes your thinking. I thought waiting would keep me interested, when the stress has been removed by NOT waiting. I thought non-invitation interviews would stink, as I wouldn't know my place in the pecking order, but instead I love it (more on this to come). I've gone through an emotional roller coaster, thinking I can get in, then wondering if I'm good enough, then realizing this is a crap-shoot and I have no idea where I'll fall in the spectrum of 2011 applicants!

Quick notes: Duke decisions come out tomorrow, best of luck everyone! Wake Forest informed me that if I apply on 12/20, the application fee is waived. Woo!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Weekend That Was: Charlotte and UNC

Phew, what a weekend! 18.5 hours in a car, by myself. Love it! My record is still 34 hours by myself, driving from New Orleans to Cleveland, and back, for a long weekend. This trip took me to Charlotte to see my brother, then to UNC for my interview.

Charlotte is just plain awesome. I'm tempted to just move down there if I don't get in to an MBA program this year, live it up and apply (with NC residency!) next year. It'd save me some money, definitely. The area they live in is very new, clean, and fun. We took a trip downtown to Blackfinn, Howl at the Moon, Suite, then back to Fox and Hound. Too much fun. Sunday was a tour of some other parts. They definitely gave me a hard sell!

Monday was ridiculous. I woke up at 4:30AM, then drove 2.5 hours to Chapel Hill for my 8:30AM interview. My interviewer arrived plenty early, so we got started around 8:15 or 8:20. He said it would last 30 minutes, he's only seen my resume, and his purpose is to provide a voice in the committee meetings. He knew of my hometown, including my high school, so we developed a quick rapport (this is key!). I was actually able to articulate the nature of my undergraduate GPA, which I think was key. He seemed genuinely interested in my circumstances and I hope he repeats that to the committee.

The main topics were fairly standard and the conversation flowed nicely. We walked through my resume, he asked the standard why MBA/why now/why here questions. He threw some curveballs, such as "If given a day off, what would you do with it?" and "What would be your legacy if you left your current position right now?" I felt I answered them convincingly and I didn't forget huge portions like at Georgetown.

Overall, I felt this interview rocked. We had fun discussing things, and he had to stop us once we reached 45 minutes so that he wasn't late to his next appointment. We continued talking into the hallways, and he advised me on talking to random KFBS students, which I did. The facility is awesome, the students and staff friendly. He definitely sold me, now I just hope I sold him!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Prepping for an Interview

Thanks to everyone who wrote in about the Fuqua essay topics. I figured the long essay would be the most difficult, and it seems everyone had a wide range of topics covered. It could be a big differentiater.

I'm preparing for my UNC interview next Monday. I know the basic questions, resume, why MBA, why now, why here, etc. I've also got the teamwork, leadership, ethical dilemma, failure, strengths/weaknesses, etc. questions down. Is there anything else I should be prepared to answer? I'll be checking out and the Clear Admit wiki for interview write-ups, though I don't think anything has been posted for awhile.

I know we've got some UNC applicants in the blogosphere, so any hints or advice would be very welcome. I do wish I could have done a class visit, but it'll be alright. I'm not looking forward to waking up at 5AM, driving from Charlotte to Chapel Hill, doing my interview, then driving the 8.5 hours to Cleveland.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Few-qua vs. Fooqua

I have officially started the Duke application for R2 (due January 7th). I already scheduled my class visit and interview for January 21st. The application seems pretty basic, nothing out of the ordinary. The essays are a mixed bag, however.

The first essay states "What do you hope to gain from The Duke MBA? How does it fit into your short- and long-term goals?" This is the fairly standard goals essay, with a focus on how the Duke experience will help you get where you want to go. One full page should be a decent enough amount of space to get this across.

The second essay, "How will you contribute to the overall experience of your peers?", appears to be a place to state where your characteristics and desires match those of the Duke community and what you will bring to the table. I also get the sense of "Why Duke?" in that question. I've got a lot to say, so hopefully one page is enough.

The last short essay asks you to discuss a person, event or experience that has significantly shaped your life and why, with emphasis on NOT being from the professional world. This one is interesting, something I've seen in UCLA and a few other apps. Picking one person, or one experience as a lynchpin moment in my life is going to be difficult, as I think it's the series of events and people that affect us. There is no one defining moment in my life.

The long essay, at two pages, states "Today, companies must navigate through complex and interdependent issues. They must deal with health and security matters, environmental impact questions, and diversity and cultural concerns. Leaders need adaptability, imagination, emotional intelligence as well as business acumen. Upon graduation, a Duke MBA will be a leader of consequence - able to deal simultaneously with complex matters and engage skillfully with colleagues, clients and community. What impact do you hope to have as a leader of consequence?" Oh boy, that's a mouthful! Leader of consequence...this feels like a fairly idealistic question to me. Something tells me this is the essay where the Adcoms will find must of the BS.

So, any advice on tackling these? What was the hardest for you? Can you actually pronounce the name properly?

Friday, December 5, 2008

UNC Submitted

Phew, three applications done and submitted! My interview for Kenan-Flagler isn't until next Monday (the 15th) so I have ample time to prepare for that. Anyone gone through their interview there yet? I'll head down on Saturday and spend some time with my brother and girlfriend beforehand, to relax a bit and avoid paying for a hotel.

The UNC essays weren't terribly difficult. They asked the standard questions, just in a different way and with a smaller word limit. The typical "Walk me through your resume" question was reworded, asking for a few characteristics that have driven your career success to date and any future characteristics you'd like to leverage. I used teamwork and challenging myself as my main points, which allowed me to walk through and hit the high points of my resume. I felt pretty good about this one.

The second essay is the career goals question. I've got a firm grasp on what I want to do, so I wrote about my short and long-term goals, why they appeal to me, etc. It's basically a shorter version of my McDonough career goals essay. This is probably the easiest of the four required essays.

The third essay was interesting. It basically asked what life experiences or personal qualities make us a unique candidate, and how these will equip us for the K-F experience. Interesting! This is the one I had to widdle down the most, as once I got started the writing just kept on coming. My readers suggested several changes to more aptly answer the question, which I followed. The final version came through late last night and I'm happy with it. It's a slightly different tone than previous essays. I feel this one is the differentiating factor among applicants. Sure, resumes and career goals may be different, but the "Unique Person" essay gives you 500 words to state exactly how you're different, why you're different, and what this'll do for the K-F community.

The last required essay was the "Why Kenan-Flagler" question, with the added twist of measuring the ROI. I knew why I wanted K-F, so I talked about the courses, projects, organizations and professors that I want from the school. Again, if you know why you want that school, it's a fairly easy question.

So, that's it for the UNC application! I can attest to the fact that apps get easier the more you do. Next steps are to prepare for my interview and work on my Duke and Wake Forest applications.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Work Continues

Been awhile, dear readers, hasn't it? I trust everyone had a happy Thanksgiving break. I myself enjoyed a four-day weekend. I woke up early Thursday morning to run the Turkey Trot, a four-mile fun run for the homeless. Big props to everyone who braved the 30-degree weather, but a big thumbs down to the people who stole my bag containing all the T-shirts for my group and my sister-in-law's ID. Boo! On Thanksgiving, come on people! I followed that up with lots of turkey, stuffing, potatoes, etc. The rest of the weekend was devoted to relaxing after a stressful couple of weeks.

The UNC essays are in full swing. They're due Friday the 5th and I continue to tweak them, though the 500-word limit is killing me! I feel like I can only scratch the surface of what I want to say before I have to move on to the next topic. Hopefully I'm not the only one in this predicament and my interview will give me an opportunity to more strongly convey what I want. Question: How many words over that 500-word limit is acceptable? I've got some that are 513 or so, which I think is ok. I've got another that currently sits at 548, which I feel is too much. I want to rework that one, take out one paragraph that basically reiterates my teamwork background and add in some other stuff, maybe that'll solve the issue.

I basically have until Friday to finish UNC up, then I drive to North Carolina the weekend of the 13th for my interview on the 15th. When I get back, it's time to start Duke. Luckily, since I'm doing the Done-In-A-Day program at Wake Forest, the essay requirements are waived; however, the interview is conducted panel-style and I still need to answer all the questions. Should be an interesting experience.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Waiting Stinks!

I received an email from Georgetown informing me of a status I log in and see that my application is listed as complete and under review by the admissions committee. Awesome. Only thing is, Georgetown doesn't release decisions until January! That's cruel! Now I know they're looking at my scores, my essays, my interview already, but won't let me know anything for nearly two months! I find it funny I don't really worry about where I am with UCLA, but I'm dying to know about Georgetown.

Scheduled my interview with UNC, set for December 15th. I traded emails back and forth with some admissions people regarding interviews, the whole telephone vs. on-campus debate. Ms. Nair said that although there is no difference between the two, she would expect applicants in the US to visit campus. I wanted to avoid applying in round 3 (although technically it's round 2), so I made sure all my scores and stuff were already there. All I have to do is finish my essays and do my interview. Shouldn't be too tough.

I'm not going to reschedule Wake Forest or Duke (all set for late January). I'll continue working on them, regardless of an admit from Georgetown. The cost of living is so much cheaper in North Carolina, I'd definitely have to weigh the pros and cons of each before I make any sort of decision. But, I'm ahead of myself!

This weekend I'm working as a poker dealer for a charity tournament in Cleveland, to benefit the Humane Society. Should be a good time, and I'm recruiting players. Also planning on running the Turkey Trot 4 mile walk/run on Thanksgiving morning. Look at me, Mister Charity!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Back To Work

In the words of Jed Barlett, what's next?

Georgetown application is done, all recommendations and transcripts are in, and it is now the waiting game. Anyone know if they release their decisions all on the same date, or in spurts? It'd be awesome to know before January 12th, but it's ok. I'll survive. The more I found out about the program, the more interested I became, and now I'd be pretty down if I got dinged. Their ranking in BW dropped a ton, which surprised me.

Next up is the North Carolina triumvirate: UNC, Duke and Wake Forest. I've scheduled my Duke interview/tour/visit for January 21st, and I hope to do UNC on the 22nd. Right now they only allow scheduling for 2008. I've also registered for all the events at Wake Forest on the 23rd/24th. Friday is the dinner, Saturday is the info session and panel interview, what they call the Done In A Day. I'd get a decision on the same day, which would be nice.

It seems lots of interview invites and offers/dings are going out now. I'd just like to wish all my fellow applicants best of luck! And remember, a ding isn't the end of the world. Trust me!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Georgetown Submitted

After a last-minute change of heart regarding an essay, I submitted my application for Georgetown's McDonough School of Business. I'm pretty happy with my essays. I did use the optional essay to write about my undergraduate performance, explaining my GPA being low due to finishing school in two and a half years.

I did find this experience a bit easier than UCLA, mostly because I had been through it once before. It's true what they say, the essays get easier the more you do. I wish my recommenders felt the same way!

Best of luck to everyone who's applying to McDonough! And happy birthday to me!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Georgetown Interview

Yesterday I had my interview with Georgetown. McDonough is candidate-initiated until December, so I scheduled this one myself. Six hours in the car Sunday allowed me to listen to football, and remember everything I forgot back home (ie, an undershirt, a TIE, and cufflinks). I spent that night at a friend's place, jotting down notes and reading interview stuff on GMAT Club and

I woke up early on Monday and headed into Georgetown. I had to run into some stores to pick up the stuff I forgot, but didn't have any problems there. A current student helped me find my way to the admissions office, which was nice. The place was pretty well packed with prospective students waiting for either interviews or an information session. I wish I had scheduled my interview around one, but it didn't work out that way. My interviewer met me a few minutes before my scheduled time and led me to a room.

For those that don't know, Georgetown allows second-year students to interview prospectives. My interviewer was extremely friendly, and helped keep things casual. He started it off by giving a quick background of himself, and what is expected both in the admissions process and the interview. He stated that everything is taken together, and no portion outweighs any other. Good to know!

The first question was the "walk me through your resume" one. I'm pretty confident that I completely botched this! I gave a quick spiel about undergraduate studies, then spoke awhile about my first position, telling about leadership opportunities and teamwork and success. Then, when I started talking about my current position, I completely left out the main points I had worked so hard to get across! How could I forget to mention the main project I've been working on for over a year! Ugh! He probably thought I was nuts, though he didn't ask many follow-up questions. After that he asked about short-term goals, and I went into detail about those as well as long-term plans. He asked a pretty good follow-up question, probably to see how serious I was about my career trek. Hopefully I answered that well.

He asked the "Why Georgetown" question, and I nailed it. I spoke at length about the international curriculum, clubs, classes, professors. I mentioned that I had been exchanging emails with a current student, who turned out to be his very good friend! When it came time to ask him questions, I had tons, and he answered them very truthfully. I think we split our time pretty evenly between his questions and mine, and the whole ordeal took 25 minutes. We continued to talk about stuff on our walk back to the admissions office. I sent him a thank you note this morning, as well as the current student, letting him know we talked about him in my interview!

All in all, I thought it went well, and everything I saw or learned completely reaffirmed my interest in Georgetown. I've got until Friday to complete my application, but I find it so hard to limit my essays to 750 words each!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Nervous Anticipation

My UCLA application is finally complete! I guess what happened was my second recommender had mailed in a printed copy of her rec, instead of following the online instructions. So, that app is all done; now I wonder if I'm still up for R1, or if I've gotten moved to R2. Either way, it's all a waiting game now.

On the Georgetown front, the main three essays are about complete. I don't really consider the fourth required essay as an all-important one, as it's basically just a list of your extra-curriculars and community organizations from college through the present. I've got lots to write about there: founding a chapter of Alpha Kappa Psi at Wake Forest, freelance promotional and event work, and volunteering for the Humane Society. That one should be fairly easy.

My interview has been confirmed for November 3rd. The tentative plan is to drive up Sunday afternoon, stay with a friend to avoid getting a hotel, then nailing my interview with a current student! I've been studying up on the questions frequently asked on, as well as speaking with a few other people. I feel I've got a good grasp on this, it all comes down to execution. Any advice?

Now, I've heard that Georgetown is truly rolling admissions, and that once everything is complete, you can get a decision within two to four weeks. I'm not sure if this is still accurate, given the changes in MBA admissions the last year or so, but it would be amazing to have a decision before Christmas! Especially since my company was recently acquired, and no one is sure what will happen.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Mental Block

The whirlwind surrounding Georgetown continues! I've gotten good feedback on the goals and leadership essays, and am continuing to tweak them. I've also scheduled my interview: next Monday, November 3rd! It's so soon! This is such a tight deadline for me. I've gotta get my scores and transcripts sent over as soon as possible as well. I'll refrain from submitting my application before the interview, though, as I'm sure I will gain more insight from another visit. The third essay, the one about the most significant change I have made to an organization is proving to be very difficult, as I can't use the experience I wrote about in essay two. Any suggestions?

I also reached out to a current student whose blog I found on the McDonough website. He's been extremely helpful, and serves as another example of how awesome the MBA community can be! I'm pretty sure a family friend went to Georgetown as well, so I'm going to contact him as well. Hopefully I can get them to read my essays and provide feedback.

Other than that, I continue to track down my second recommender for UCLA (note: she is NOT doing any other recs for me). My status has officially been moved to On Hold. I don't know if that means I can still be considered for R1 if she gets it in, or if I'm already moved to R2. If I don't hear from her soon, I'll have to call UCLA to have her removed. I'm sure that won't look to positive!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Dreams Die Hard

I just can't shake it. The desire to get my MBA is always there, in the back of my mind. Just when I think I'm resigned to the fact that this year isn't the best option, those people who tried to talk me out of it in the first place then say I shouldn't give up and to keep going! Sure, my ambitious plan of trying to apply to eight or nine schools, all in the first round, wasn't feasible.

New plan: be choosy. What schools would I, if accepted, love to go to? UCLA is obviously there, and my portion is done (oddly enough, my second recommender STILL hasn't done it yet!). UNC and Duke were always high on my list, as was Wake Forest. My trip to DC and further research has also brought a new horse into the game: Georgetown. I've already started the app and have a draft of the career goals essay finished. I hope to have drafts of the other ones soon. That leadership essay is pretty tough!

I got an email from an admissions person from UNC regarding my application, just a sort of "hey, how is everything going" message. I responded back and said I'm having difficulty finding the time to leave work and get to Chapel Hill to interview, and if she has any suggestions. We'll see what she comes up with. I figure it'll be the standard "An interview is a very important component that allows us to get to know you better, and is required" spiel, but who knows.

That's my updates for now. Five schools: UCLA (done), Georgetown, UNC, Duke and Wake. Feasible? Absolutely. Will I get in? Wake probably, the rest, doubtful but you never know!

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Fall Season

It's my favorite season of the year! I find fall and spring to be the best times, a period of active change. Sure, summer is nice and winter has its moments, but there's something about fall, changing your wardrobe to sweaters and jackets, Halloween, college football that really matters (Go Deacs!). MLB playoffs. The weather gets cooler, the skies a bit greyer, but I love it all.

Thanks for all the comments about my recommender situation. I finally tracked her down yesterday as I had another business matter to discuss. She said she was working on it and said "I've still got time, right?" I informed her the deadline had passed, and that the constant reminders of the 10/9 due date weren't a fabrication in my head. She actually had an upset look. To reiterate my cautionary tale: choose your recommenders very, very carefully!

UCLA is done as far as I'm concerned. I did start the application for Weatherhead, and I've looked more into Georgetown. I know it's not too late for me to change things up, and I may end up still applying somewhere in the short-term. Having to prioritize my finances has really made me think of why I want those schools in particular. It's some good soul-searching, let me tell you! Rather than just saying "hey, let's apply to eight top-20 schools in the hopes that I get accepted to one of them," I can say "My money is very tight; I can only apply to those schools I would absolutely kill to be admitted to!" I'd suggest everyone does this with their list, as it will undoubtedly lead me to the right school for me. If not this year, then next. Hopefully UCLA looks past my poor recommenders, my awful undergrad GPA, and my less-than-stellar community activities and let's me come in for an interview.

My upcoming plans are pretty tame. I was scheduled to be on vacation this week (Monday was a bank holiday, so I'd only use four vacation days and get the whole week!) but I cancelled that, due to a higher than expected workload and the fact that my trip was mainly to interview at UNC/Duke/Emory. Tonight I'm going to Mansfield Prison for a Halloween thing (parts of Shawshank Redemption were filmed there), then a clam bake tomorrow night.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Cautionary Tale

Well, something told me it wouldn't be that easy. I recommend everyone sends this post to fellow applicants, as it should provide a cautionary tale about application risks.

I asked my manager and another person I work with to write my recommendations. Both were very enthusiastic, and I asked them two months in advance. As soon as the UCLA application went live, I put their names in, sent them the information, and put together packets about my goals, my essays, resume, everything. I sent follow-up reminders, put it on their Outlook schedule, called them, went over in person. Both assured me they were well on track. My manager emailed me to say he finished his several weeks ago. My second recommender said she was well on her way.

Applications were due October 9th. My manager again said he was done. My second recommender became harder to find. Monday the 6th, she said she was about done. Wednesday, she said she'd upload it that night. I wake up on the 10th, and neither of them submitted theirs. She hadn't even started. Even worse, she is now actively dodging my calls and emails. My manager said the system must have made an error, and I contacted the admissions department at UCLA to check. Their response was to wait until the 24th of October for the system to "catch up." I'll take them at their word for now, but something tells me my application will sit there until January, with me unable to further edit my essays or application.

Here's the crux of this tale: be sure to select recommenders who not only will accentuate your positives, but will also actually DO your recommendations! Needless to say, I will not be selecting her for any future applications (more to follow).

Thursday, October 9, 2008

UCLA Submitted

Wow, seems like a popular topic today! I sent off my UCLA application tonight. I feel the essays were pretty good, and I know I'm a huge long shot, but I figured I'd take a stab, otherwise who knows! One thing that has me freaking out now are my recommenders. My manager said he submitted his over a week ago, yet the ApplyYourself website doesn't mention this, just that it was started. My other reviewer told me yesterday she wasn't finished yet, and according to the website, she hasn't even started! I gave them more than a month advance warning, followed up several times (including this week, where he assured me it was done and she said it was almost done. If my application gets pushed to R2 because they let the deadline slip, I will not be a happy camper!

Right now, it's in God's hands, so there's not much I can do. Either the admissions committee sees something in my application, or they don't. There's always next year, and I'm approaching this with zero expectations. If I get dinged without an interview (the dreaded DWOI!), it won't be the end of the world and I won't be curled in the fetal position for a week. I'll be bummed, sure, but it'll be ok.

Up next for me is my other application for this year, my ultra-backup-plan school of Case Western Reserve. That one is due awhile later, so I'll get started soon. There's still an outside chance of applying to one more school (most likely Wake Forest, to give me an out-of-Ohio option). As for Emory, USC, Texas, Virginia, Duke, Chapel Hill, and NYU, you will have to wait until next year! Unless, of course, Anderson wants me!

This blog will not die, so no worries. I'll continue my updates on whatever is happening on the MBA front, including further analysis of my schools and other visits and such.

Best of luck fellow UCLA applicants!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Tough Decisions

Greetings everyone in the MBA Blogosphere. It's been a bit since I've last posted...I've been busy with work, and I took a weekend trip to DC the other weekend. It was a lot of fun, and we had an absolute blast! Three days wasn't enough, as there is so much to do. We loved exploring the National Mall, the Zoo and driving through Georgetown.

On the MBA front, things have drastically changed for me. First, the economy has officially hit me. Well, it really hit my brother and roommate, who has had some trouble in keeping up his end of rent and bills. This has caused me to cover his share of the bills, as well as help him out from time to time. The net effect of this is that my savings has dwindled to almost nothing. This hurts my MBA aspirations greatly, as I can no longer afford to visit schools, send in application fees, or heaven forbid not have enough money to pay for a deposit!

This has forced me to evaluate my options. First, see that list of schools? Forget about it. I can't possibly afford all those applications. I've already called Guizeta and Fuqua to cancel my visits and interviews. This season, I'm applying to one school: UCLA. The main reason is that my essays are essentially done, and my recommenders have already submitted their parts. It would be a great disservice to them and everyone that has helped me so far to not apply. So, ED for UCLA. I may apply to Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead SOM later in the year, in order to have a backup plan if the markets continue to decimate my current employer.

I know it sounds like I'm giving up, but I have little other choice. I refuse to take on further debt just to have a chance at a top MBA. I'd rather wait until next season, and maybe things will have shaken out. If anything, I've had some practice in the application process, and I've made contacts at my schools of choice. This is a positive I'm focusing on. And hey, UCLA might still come through.

This extra time will provide another benefit: GMAT. For those of you who don't know, I got a 680 the first time I took it (44Q/38V). I could spend the extra time studying, refining the goals essays, and knock the GMAT out of the park. I can also continue to build my alternate transcript with further courses.

So, any words of advice? I know it's a big change, and I might be the only person cutting back on applications because the money simply isn't there, but I think it's a wise decision.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Gimme School?

Let's see, still working on applications and essays. McCombs posted their application, so I'll start getting the little stuff out of the way. I've also sent off requests for class visits and interviews to Duke, UNC and Emory, so hopefully I'll be able to finalize my plans for the Magical MBA Tour 2008 soon.

One thing I've been people choose gimme schools anymore? What I mean is, a school you are about 95% sure you'd get accepted to. Back in undergrad, these were called safety schools. I was looking at my list the other day, and realized that Wake Forest is the closest I have to a gimme school, and even then, who knows. It got me thinking: Do I want an MBA from only a top school, or do I want an MBA to really get me into a new career?

The more I thought about it, the more I realized I was doing this for a career change. I can't progress any further than where I'm at, and all avenues outward don't appeal to me. To switch careers, I've chosen an MBA to accomplish that goal. Now obviously, I'd prefer to get my MBA from UCLA or UNC, but sometimes that's just not in the cards (and based on the meltdown on Wall Street, MBA programs will be flooded this year, not good news for the little guys like me!). I knew I'd apply to Wake Forest, due to its ties in the Carolina area and international exposure, but I've decided to look into Case Western Reserve University's Weatherhead School of Management here in Cleveland. It's a decent program, and one I would be completely shocked if I didn't get accepted.

What about you? Do you have an ultra-gimme backup school? Or is it H/S/W or bust?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

In The Thick Of It

Here's the updates on the application front: UCLA general application is about done. All four essays are drafted and I'm starting to get feedback from my readers. I do wish I had someone who went through this process...everyone I know with an MBA got it from part-time local colleges. I'd like the opinion of someone who went full-time at a Top 25 program.

I'm about to send my UNC Part I application and fee so I can schedule my interview. My trip is planned like this: Drive to North Carolina the weekend of October 11th-12th. On the 13th, do my visit and interview with Duke; on the 14th, do the visit and interview with UNC. Afterwards, drive to Atlanta and visit Emory (with an interview). This'll take me to Thursday, during which I'll either stay the night there (and visit the largest aquarium in the world!) or drive to Charlotte and relax for a few days with my brother before heading back home. This would take care of my interviews at Duke, UNC and Emory all before the first deadlines. I'd also be able to use visit information in my essays!

My recommenders have started their UCLA parts, which is nice. I've provided them with a quick fact sheet, my resume, and some talking points (ie, School A focuses on leadership, School B on teamwork) to help them along. They both seem enthusiastic, and I've given them plenty of lead time.

Other than that, I'm writing my final exam for my online math class. It's been a good experience, and it definitely makes you focus. I'm heading to Washington, DC on the 25th for some downtime and to check out the sites. Can't wait!

PS: USC, hurry up and post some deadlines and essays!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Quick Update

Just a quick update...

Been working on my UNC app, so I can schedule my interview. I've also been working on the first two essays for Anderson. I'm keeping the dream alive!

I gotta give props to Soni (link in the blogroll) for mentioning The Faceoff video at The Leveraged Sellout. I think I peed my pants watching that!

Friday, August 29, 2008


Emory's app went live, so I briefly started that one. I'm trying to focus on the ones with the soonest due dates, especially UCLA. I'm almost done with the application part, and I've started my essays. The good news is my manager (soon-to-be former manager due to the re-org) agreed to write my recommendations, and he was very enthusiastic about it! I've got another person in mind for the other recs, hopefully she's as receptive.

Does anyone else get worried when apps aren't available? Duke still hasn't posted theirs, and USC hasn't even updated deadlines from last year! Get on the ball people!

All these Business Week stories and what not, about the surge in applications making it nearly impossible to gain admittance, are a bit scary. What if I spend all this money, call in these favors, go through the long and arduous process, and get rejected from every single school! I keep telling myself "You're not an investment banker. You're not an IT guy from India. You're non-traditional, so those 750 GMATs don't really apply to you." But am I deluding myself?

Schools are back in session for the most part, so I'd like to welcome back to newly-minted SYs, as well as welcome the first year students. I've followed some of your blogs throughout the process, and you've served as inspiration throughout. Keep on blogging so we know it's all worth it!

UPDATE: Of course, shortly after this is posted, the Duke Fuqua application goes live. It's all on you, USC!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

UCLA App is live!

I was creating a handy dandy spreadsheet to keep track of admissions dates and deliverables, and noticed that UCLA Anderson's application had finally gone live! So, I started that one, even though I think my chances are very, very slim. So that's three apps started.

My mid-year review is today, and I'm going to ask my soon-to-be former manager (we went through another re-org, and he's moving to a new role) if he'll write recs for me. He's very big on continuing education, and he knows of my plans, so this should be a smooth one. I've got an idea on my other recommender, I'll ask her this week as well.

I also am starting to plan a trip to hit the three schools that don't have invitation-only interviews (Duke, UNC and Emory). I figure a solid week of vacation time in early October, spend a day at each with a travel day to get to Atlanta. I may try to plan it around the Columbus day holiday, so I technically only use four days of vacation, and can travel on the weekends.

One thing I noticed on the Anderson application: in the education section, they ask for a) last two years cumulative GPA and b) an explanation on why you've failed a class before. My Tulane GPA was wiped out when I transferred to Wake, so that should be easy. I did fail two classes at Tulane my first semester there (Japanese and Calc); I retook Calc and got a C+, and switched back to Latin and got As in all those classes. Any suggestions on how to explain why I failed in 200 words or less?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Apps Have Begun!

First, you probably have noticed the new look to my blog. The black and green was starting to look a little...dark. I decided to switch it to something lighter, a bit easier to read. Hopefully everyone likes it. I also updated the school list a bit, which brings me to...

Application time! Emory had posted their application a bit ago, so I've begun going through the bread and butter info (name, address, education, work experience, etc.) and thinking about their essays. Clear Admit informed me that UNC's application and essays *finally* went live today, so I also started that one. So, two essays started, quite a few more to go! It does feel good to be moving forward with the process; I just want all my other schools to hurry up and let me start filling out the apps!

I've also started thinking about interviews. I know it's early, especially for schools that are invite-only. I personally think all schools should be invite-only. For a school like UNC, it is required of all applicants, regardless of whether you are seen as a compelling candidate. You need to take time off work, travel to Chapel Hill, and go through the interview process, without knowing your status. At other schools that are invite-only, such as USC, you know if they ask you to come in for an interview, you have crossed that first hurdle into "This candidate is interesting!" territory. I like that idea better than blindly interviewing.

Don't get me wrong, I think it's good a school allows everyone to interview. I just think it's easier for those schools that are invite-only. What do you think?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

School Choices

I received some comments about my school list, and how it's a very large number to apply in one season. Well, I'm not crazy, I didn't actually think I would apply to all nine! They're broken down into several layers, which I will discuss in a moment.

I picked a fair number of schools, because a) I really want to gain admissions to a solid program, and I feel that spreading a wide net would hopefully yield a positive result at least once, and b) I understand my undergrad GPA will be a hindrance, and I feel a large sample is best. The schools I picked all have solid brand recognition, are in warm climates (except NYU), and have good reputations in the programs I am interested (marketing, consulting).

Here's my breakdown:

Super Reaches
UCLA: Tough, given the fact that my GMAT/GPA are sub-standard for them. Ideal location for The Dream Job. Solid marketing, and the contacts within the entertainment industry are excellent. I'm debating whether to apply, as this is the longest shot I'd take. Maybe App

NYU: Another tough one given my stats. Stern has a great marketing program with an emphasis on entertainment, and even has a class based on Cannes. Expensive (aren't they all?) and a cold-climate winter are some negatives. Maybe App

Duke: Good brand management program, although the Health Sector Management option intrigues me a great deal. High ranking would mean my stats stand out at the bottom of the barrel. Loved living in NC so location would be nice. Definite App

UNC: Strong brand name, good brand management/consulting concentration. Feasible with my stats, NC location. I think my non-traditional background would help me. Definite App

UVA: Great consulting program, though might be tough to gain admission. The stories of workload are a bit scary, but the case method approach is something I like. Decent location. This is another program I'm not sure I'm 100% committed to applying. Maybe App

USC: THE perfect choice for The Dream Job. USC has amazing contacts within the entertainment industry, has a great alumni network, and its marketing/entertainment programs are a perfect visit. Only school I've visited so far. Definite App

Good Chances
Wake Forest: My undergrad alma mater. I wouldn't mind returning, as I took a great deal from my Calloway experience. Love the international business aspects, and I'm more than familiar with the environment. Not as good brand recognition, and heavily finance focused, but consulting is still good. Definite App

Texas: Great consulting opportunities, with emphasis on technology (another passion of mine). Stats line up well enough here that I'd be a little surprised if things didn't go well. Definite App

Emory: The more I read up on this program, the more I like it. Small, community based, good consulting background, tons of top firms have headquarters in Atlanta. Stats are fairly ok here also. Definite App

Bottom line, nothing is a sure thing in MBA admissions. I know my GPA could kill me if I don't do a good enough job explaining it away. I feel this list is pretty good, and I've identified the definites and the maybes. Thoughts?

Sunday, August 17, 2008


It's been a crazy few weeks. After my GMAT, I wrote about taking some time off (thanks for the suggestions on doing so, everyone!), then had my brother's bachelor party, followed by his wedding yesterday. I had an amazing time, danced by butt off, but now it's time to buckle down once again. Luckily I have no big events coming up, so I can focus.

My online class at UCLA is going well. I feel I'm taking something from it, which is good. I've also been doing lots of thinking about what schools I'll apply, and in what rounds. Ideally, I want to know if I'm going somewhere as soon as possible, and my original idea was to apply in R1 for everything, but that might not be possible (as well as being very exhausting for my recommenders!). I'd feel more confident had I gotten that 700, but a 680 is damn good, and I don't think 20 points will make the difference between ding and admit.

So, here's a list: UNC, UCLA, USC, Duke, Wake Forest, Texas, Emory, UVA, NYU. Obviously, the big reaches are Duke, UCLA and NYU. Mid-level would be USC, UNC, UVA. I think realistically Wake Forest (my alma mater for undergrad), Texas and Emory are very doable. I'm going to look at some more programs. but that's the list I'm fairly comfortable with right now. I may drop some of them, depending on my confidence levels. I'm definitely applying to USC, UCLA, UNC and Wake Forest no matter what.

I feel these schools are 1) realistic, 2) a good fit with me wants/needs, and 3) can get me where I want to be.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I'm not dead!

I swear! After the GMAT, I decided to take some time off, and forget about MBA applications, deadlines, tests, everything. And it's been wonderful! I've got so much else going on, with big changes at work, my brother's bachelor party and the ensuing wedding, another brother preparing to move to North Carolina for a new job (congrats!). I'll provide more updates and do this more frequently from now on...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

It's Over...

Today was my GMAT appointment. After Thursday's GMATPrep Test (610) I was pretty nervous. I got a good nights sleep, woke up, ate a good breakfast, and left with plenty of time to make it to the center. Walked in, read the rules, got fingerprinted, they took my picture, and I was led into the actual testing room. I went through the administrative stuff, selected my schools (USC, UCLA, UNC, NYU, and Wake Forest), then started the AWAs. I felt both of these went fine.

I opted not to take the break in between AWA and Quant. I don't know why, but I just wanted to keep going. Unlike practice tests, I used every available minute for the Quant section. I felt I did a good job here, and gladly took my break before Verbal. Now, my Q had been pretty consistent lately, but my V had started dropping. Once again I found myself on the last three questions with 25 minutes to spare, never a good sign. There were a few questions where it seemed like two answers were perfectly acceptable, and others where none seemed correct. After the exam, I went through the survey and stuff, then accepted my score (I didn't pay $250 to NOT see where I was at).

680. A bit below my target of 700, but above what I had been scoring at lately. My practice tests, in order, were: 580, 600, 660, 700, 680, 650, and 610. So, this score actually sits at the top part of my distribution. Here's the kicker: I got a 44Q/38V split. That's the best I've ever done in Q, but well below my usual mark in V. Had I gotten a bit better on V, I would have nailed that 700 I was looking for! So close!

In all, I can't complain about Q, but I'm fairly upset about V. I had always tested much better on Verbal, and struggled with Quant, and it seemed everything switched at the end. Maybe it was the change from Manhattan GMAT tests to actual GMATs that did it.

Now, I have to decide if its worth applying to my target schools. I know with my GPA it's a hard sell at any of my schools, but maybe it's worth shooting for them anyway.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

D-Day Approaches

Sorry All! It's been a crazy few days, which is why I haven't gotten to post. Work, family drama, relationships, and the 4th of July weekend took most of my time. My GMAT appointment is Saturday at noon. On Sunday, I took MGMAT #6 and got a 650. Lower than my last two (700 and 680), but I chalked it up to the fact that I had been partying since Thursday, and probably wasn't in the best frame of mind.

Tonight, I took GMATPrep #1. I wanted to get a sense of actual questions (other than from OG11). I got a 610. I still can't believe it. My splits were 41Q (actually about right) but 33V, which is INSANELY lower than what I typically get. Did I just get accustomed to answering Manhattan GMAT questions? What the heck happened? Mom offered some words of encouragement...I was on an unfamiliar PC (which I'll be on Saturday), the room was insanely hot, and I had spent 10 hours at work. Maybe she's right. I felt OK going into it, and I know a few of the verbal questions hung me up, but I still couldn't believe it was that bad. I've never scored that low on verbal!

This has obviously scared me for Saturday. What if this score is more reflective of my tests, and not the MGMAT scores? Also, why are my scores so spread out (580, 600, 660, 700, 680, 650, 610)? Very strange.

Hopefully the last two were just outliers, and I'm actually closer to the middle range of those scores than the first or last few.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Studying, Scandals, and Puppies

There's just over two weeks to go for my GMAT appointment. I keep working through the quant parts of OG11 (my verbal is pretty good, so I'm not focusing too much on that), slowly going through the last few questions and beginning to focus on DS. I've got one more MGMAT prep test, and of course the two GMATPrep tests. I'll definitely do at least one this weekend, maybe two. I'm excited to take a GMATPrep, as they're the closest representation to an actual GMAT score.

One thing I've been focusing on is slowing down. It may sound strange, given there are about 37 questions that need to be answered in 75 minutes, but some of my problems on quant are that I move too fast. This has lead to careless mistakes (ie, I know the answer is c)4, but I pick D as my choice because I'm flying through). I've also started double-checking my work in order to be as sure as I can. Another skill I need to learn is knowing when to cut my losses and move on. This happens often on the geometry questions, especially the 700-800 level ones. I'll try and figure it out, but become hopelessly lost. This results in time wasted on a problem you can't answer, forcing you to move even faster in later questions.

Just some random thoughts on the whole GMAT cheating scandal: Getting into a top notch MBA program is filled with lots of pressure, and the prospect of spending thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours studying and preparing and yielding zero results has led to people making poor decisions. As Tinydancer said in her blog (and detailed on the Clear Admit blog and over at Businessweek), this is not the first time a cheating scandal has happened, nor will it be the last. Those I feel truly sorry for are the ones who didn't know what ScoreTop was about, and who thought they were simply buying a question bank to better prepare themselves for the GMAT. This could potentially hurt legitimate prep resources, such as the GMAT Club question sets, or Manhattan GMAT, as prospective applicants wonder where the questions are from. I know it made me pause and think for a moment. In the end, those who used the service may find themselves unable to apply to most top schools (as their scores were cancelled and they are banned from taking it again), and students already in school may be expelled.

This weekend there's not much going on outside of GMAT-related activities. The Humane Society is selling tickets for a wine tasting, so I'll be helping out with that, and we've got some adoption events. I've been planning something for the HSGA, and hope to sit down with the volunteer coordinator soon and show her what I've got in mind. It would make things a lot easier for everyone involved, and hopefully lead to more volunteers!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Not Too Smart!

Apparently I hadn't actually confirmed my GMAT appointment for June 28th. I was checking it a bit ago (procrastinating once again!), and I realized I hadn't followed through. And, naturally, that date - and all around it - are full. Next available slot: Saturday, July 12th, at 12:15PM. Maybe this is actually better, as it will give me more time to buckle down. I just hope it doesn't lead to me procrastinating since the test isn't for a few weeks now.

Last night I got three straight PS questions wrong in OG11, all in the 170s. I nearly wanted to throw up when I checked. I blame it on a brain fart; definitely shook my confidence a bit. I studied the correct answers and really tried to shore up what I had done wrong. Sometimes it feels like I'll learn from a mistake, only to be done in by the new process when I see a similar question! Frustrating.

I've also thought about my target schools. With my GPA (2.82 at WFU), are they realistic? Could I even get an interview at USC/UCLA/NYU? Should I start looking more at the 25-45 range of schools? It's disconcerting to see my GPA below the 20% mark.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Some People Have It All...

While attempting to avoid work and responsibility, I came across this article in the NY Post about an 18-year-old high school senior who was accepted into every single Ivy league school. Talk about hitting the jackpot! To be able to make the choice of where you want to attend college (although MIT rejected him) is insane. Some of in the MBA world are praying for admission to ONE school on our lists, and this got went 17 of 18. Unreal.

Talk about a motivating factor...

Monday, June 16, 2008

2 Weeks to Go

June 28th is rapidly approaching. I took MGMAT #5 and got a 680...a bit down from MGMAT #4 (700). My verbal held steady at 41, while my quant dropped back to 41. It's very clear that quant is my weak area...I feel fine going through practice sets in OG11, and get the overwhelming majority of them correct. For some reason, doing the Q portion of the MGMAT tests kicks my butt! I don't get it. I'm going back through the MGMAT books, to sort of kick-start my brain and bring me back above the 70% mark, which I clearly need to get a 700 or higher. Pretty soon I'll start with the GMAT Prep tests that you get when you sign up for the test. I've heard they are the most accurate representation.

On a side note, yay me for getting mention in last week's Fridays From The Frontline on the Clear Admit Blog. People do read this! Yay!

I'm up for a new position at work, moving more into a marketing/analysis role than the data role I've been in for the past 2 years. I know this may look strange on my application, that I'm taking another job (albeit within the same company) so close to application time. I just don't feel that, because I plan to apply to an MBA program in the fall, to begin in fall of 2009, I should pass up any other growth opportunities until the app season sorts itself out. I think the only downside that can't necessarily be explained is why I'd put my firm in a position where they put me in this job, train me, and I leave in a year. Any thoughts?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

The Mythical 700

I took Manhattan GMAT test #4, and got a 700. Midway through the quant portion, I wanted to quit and start over, as I felt I was doing terrible. Verbal felt good. When I got my score report, it was Q43/V41, a 70/93 breakdown for a total score of 700. I love my verbal score, but disappointed in my quant. My problem solving questions have gotten worse from last time (though my DS has gotten better), and I'm just not improving as much as I need. Still, going from 580 to 700 isn't a bad jump!

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

It's Been Too Long

Sorry for the lack of updates. I seem to be posting once a week. Maybe it's just because it's the summer, and I can only comment on my GMAT studying so many times before all seven of my readers shout out "Enough!" Studying has been going ok...I think I'm doing well, especially when I get into a mental fight with OG11. I swear, sometimes I know my answer is right, and the book is wrong. I did the first 50 RC questions and got 45 correct, so that's pretty good. I'm through the first 140 PS questions, and I'd say I've gotten 120 correct on the first pass. I really want to take a GMAT Prep test to see how I'd do on a legit test, instead of relying on my Manhattan GMAT scores (660). Maybe Sunday.

The work situation hasn't improved much. It's just so frustrating sometimes. I have a meeting with my manager on Friday to discuss some things, and my future. Hopefully we can have a constructive conversation and actually move forward. I'm heading out to go golfing for the first time, hopefully I don't do too poorly.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It happened. It was something I always feared would happen, something I've tried to prevent. It seemed to have been confirmed on Tuesday. The issue: being pigeonholed!

When I first starting working at the bank, I intended it to be a stepping stone to better things, more marketing related. I was promoted twice in the first 17 months, gathering more and more responsibility. The entire time this was happening, I was trying to get out. Not a serious job search, mind you; I'd just shoot of resume's every now and then, go on some interviews, but nothing ever materialized. I was worried people would start to see me as this data-centric, SAS/SQL programmer, and not the campaign manager that I am. I worried I'd be lumped in with IT people, or database administrators, or even worse, data entry.

I've started to be a bit more active in my job search. I know it sounds odd, I'm planning to apply this fall to many business schools, yet I'm also looking for a new job. I feel I've got good reasons for it: the new experience, how I shouldn't let me MBA aspirations put the rest of my career on hold, etc. But, after speaking to several hiring managers, it appears everything about my previous positions screams back-office data guy. I was specifically called that on Tuesday, as I sat in a conference room at a competing bank. Needless to say, I walked out feeling awful.

It's a pretty terrible feeling, like you're trapped under the weight of a decision you made over three years ago, that you'll always be the bank data guy. I try and push my other accomplishments, my leadership experience, project management skills, but it always seems to come back to data. I can do more! I think this fear of being trapped is what initially led me to want an MBA. I'm the perfect definition of a career switcher. Problem is, I just have faint ideas of what I want to do. MBA AdComs do not like faint ideas of future goals. Being rich doesn't count.

Now, I must combat this fear head on, and figure out a way so that admissions committee members do not see me as the Bank Data Guy, and as someone who brings so much more to the table. I'm not an engineer, I'm not a sales guy. I don't do financial services or consulting. I feel I'm a category loosely defined in the MBA world. I just pray it's enough to gain acceptance to a single school.

And me and the GF have gone our separate ways...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Love The Long Weekend

Happy Memorial Day everyone! I've been spending my weekend running errands, seasoning my smoker, laundry, cleaning, all sorts of fun stuff. Sunday should be a day of studying, while Monday will be a day of gourging myself on burgers and ribs. Yummy!

June 28th is rapidly approaching!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Evidence of Progress

Another crazy busy weekend! Friday night was a going-away party for a co-worker, then just the usual stuff. Saturday was an early start. I had a Humane Society event at a bank branch opening, and we raised some money and more awareness, which is always good. It's cool to see the look on people's faces when they see a puppy. After that, running errands with mom, then studying for the GMAT, then to a friend's birthday party then to another party. I need a break!

I decided to take another Manhattan GMAT test (I seem to be saving the GMATPrep tests), and wasn't sure how I would do. I keep working through the OG11, but wasn't sure how it would translate to Manhattan GMAT. To recap, my first two tests were a 580 and a 600. After this time, a 660 popped up. Woohoo! That's gotta be more than a variance in guessing, right? Definitely made me feel better. Quant jumped up three points (from 40 to 43), all of which came in DS (I actually missed more PS questions than last time); verbal jumped four points, to 37, with gains in CR and RC. Definitely happy about the gains in DS and CR, as those were my weakest, but I'm concerned about my score dropping in PS.

Regardless, this does instill some confidence as I approach my June 28th test date. Overall, I've raised my score 80 points, and have 40 more to go for my goal. I feel good, knowing I haven't focused much on SC (I've got the Manhattan GMAT SC bible, so that'll help) and I've got plenty of more practice questions in the OG to go (I've only done 56 PS questions!) Moral of today's story: My confidence that was shattered is slowly coming back!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

D-Day is set!

I did it. On Saturday, June 28th, 2008, at 8AM Eastern, I will sit for my (first) attempt at the GMAT. People had long been telling me that once a date is set, you really start buckling down and have a clear end in site. No more aimless studying, or putting off that last problem set because tomorrow is another day. I have roughly six weeks to get it done. There are no trips scheduled in that timeframe, no birthdays or vacations. It will be all GMAT, all the time.

I went through some of the Problem Solving sets in OG11. I got 31 out of the first 32 correct, and thought to myself, "Hey, maybe I've turned the corner and I'm gonna do it!" Then I realized that the questions at the beginning of the group of 250 are much easier than those at the end. Oops. False hope stinks.

This Saturday is a Humane Society event...the bank I work at is having a branch opening near my house, so I'll be volunteering there, handing out literature and trying to get some dogs and cats adopted. It's good to get back into this, as I haven't done anything since early April (right before I left for LA); I don't want the AdComs thinking I'm just doing it to put it on my application! Though, now whenever another volunteer opportunity comes up (Junior Achievement, Big Brothers Big Sisters, etc.) I wonder if I join now, will they think I did it for resume filler? Will they see a lack of leadership positions within my extra curriculars and say "He's full of it!" This is what I worry about.

In other news, let's all keep the people of both Myanmar and China in our thoughts and hearts as they deal with their natural disasters, the cyclone and earthquake, respectively. I've lived through a few hurricanes, an earthquake, more tornadoes than I can count, and I can say that none of them are fun. The loss of life from these events is astounding...estimates of 100k and 50k from these latest disasters. That's more people than I've met in my life!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Buckling Down

I realize it's been nearly a week since my last post, and I apologize. Why does it always seem that once I get motivated to buckle down and study, real life creeps its ugly head and prevents me from doing what I need to do? It's downright annoying and frustrating sometimes...I wish I could disappear for like a month, and study all the time until I get my target score.

I finished the diagnostic test in OG11. I got Average marks for Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency (which I expected), Excellent on Sentence Correction (17 out of 18...a definite surprise there!), and Above Average in Reading Comprehension and Critical Reasoning (first one I expected, but the AA in CR was a bit of a surprise). Some of that gibed with my Manhattan GMAT scores, but things like SC and CR were much higher. Maybe the rumors are true, and Manhattan GMAT isn't a good representation of a score. This weekend I'll be taking another practice test, and I should see some improvement based on my last test (which seems like ages ago!).

It's still crazy to check out the BW forums and see people still languishing on waitlists and wondering about their status. It makes me wonder about my own future status...lots of questions pop up. Will my undergrad GPA kill any chance I have? Will I meet my target score on the GMAT? Are my EC's enough (about one year volunteering at the Humane Society), and if I start more, will it look like I'm just doing it for acceptance? Is my work experience facsinating enough when compared to people working in PE or MC? Will the Cleveland Indians ever score some runs!?!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Too Nice To Be Inside

Admit season seems to be coming to a close. Reading the BW forums or checking the blogs, it seems everyone who applied this season knows whether or not they were accepted somewhere. Apologies to those who are still in waitlist purgatory; I hope the wait doesn't kill you, and that in the end everything works out ok for you.

I've been doing the diagnostic test from OG11. Both Problem Solving and Data Sufficiency left me squarely in the Average category, which wasn't surprising. Reading Comprehension put me in the Above Average category, while my marks for Critical Reasoning was right at the cusp between Average and Above Average; that WAS surprising. My scores on Manhattan GMAT were pretty awful. I guess when everyone says the Manhattan GMAT tests are more difficult, they weren't kidding. Next up, I'll take the Sentence Correction portion to finish the diagnostic test.

Let me ask you it true that your scores on the OG practice tests, Manhattan GMAT practice tests, etc., are all lower than your score on the actual GMAT? Seems to be that that is the consensus. I sure hope that's true. I've read of people getting 630s and 640s on Kaplan practice tests, then scoring 750s and higher on the actual GMAT. I'm not looking for a score that high; I just want something around 700, to give me the best possible chance at my target schools. I know my GPA won't allow me to even think about the big schools (H/S/W, Chicago, Columbia, MIT, Kellog), but I figure with my alternate transcript (more on this later) and a 700 or so GMAT score, then my schools (USC, UCLA, UNC, Duke, Darden, NYU, Texas) would be slightly in reach. Or maybe I'm still too far out of it. Won't know until I apply, right?

As for the alternate transcript...I enrolled last week in the UCLA Extension Online program, and signed up for Math for Managers. Veronica Ho at USC's Marshall Admissions Office specifically recommended it, and I had heard other good things about it. It's a for-grade course and will end before the application season starts, so I'm hoping I can go to AdComs and say "I know some marks on my undergrad transcript are lower than usual, but I took this course to show that I can handle the rigors of the MBA program). I sure hope this works out for my benefit.

In other news, it's 70 and sunny, and I'm not meant to be caged inside right now! I may eat lunch outside instead of at my desk. I love the office at lunch, because it's so quiet, I can get a lot of work done. Oh, and for those who are interested, the meeting with the parents went well. A good dinner on the grill (including some smoked venison jerkey!), a walk around their farm, and just some good conversation. I apparently got the seal of approval from both the parents, the sister, and the dog. Yay me!

Friday, May 2, 2008

The Cost of the Journey

After receiving much advice, I decided to finally purchase the Manhattan GMAT SC guide, as well as the OG11. I guess I'm sort of re-starting this process, as my old methods weren't yielding the results I need. It also got me thinking...just how much money have I spent on my MBA journey so far?

Study Stuff: I've bought the OG11, and a total of five Manhattan GMAT books (SC, Number Properties, Equations/Inequalities, fractions/decimals, and Geometry), as well as a general math refresher book. Total cost of all this: $124.29

Class Visit: I took a trip to LA to visit USC-Marshall in early April; flight + hotel = $640. Adding in food and cab fare, total cost of the trip was close to $900.

Others: I bought two books, How To Get Into The Top MBA Programs by Montauk, and Your MBA Game Plan by Bouknight and Shrum. Total cost: $32.03

So, prior to actually signing up for the GMAT, or writing any application fees, I've spent $1056, the bulk of it coming from the trip to LA. And who said an MBA isn't an investment with high costs

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Studying Continues...

First off, thanks to all those who left comments talking me down from my anxiety attack. I think at some point we all question whether this journey is truly the one for us, and I thank everyone for telling me I can do it and to keep at it. It meant a lot to me!

I went through and redid the CR questions from the back of my Kaplan GMAT book, and got 10 out of 11 correct. Yay! I've also spent all of yesterday and today focusing on geometry quant questions, as those seem to be my weakest points. I ordered the OG11 and Manhattan GMAT SC book, the so called bibles of studying. I don't know why I didn't buy them sooner, as everyone and their mothers has recommended them as essential to any GMAT studying.

In other news, it appears I've been named a moderator over at the GMAT Club forums, which is awesome. For those of you who don't know what it is, head on over to and click the Forums link. I started a thread for 2009 applicants, and I encourage all of you to join in on the discussions. There is an insane amount of knowledge there; those who used it as a resource tend to stick around even after they have matriculated, so it's an awesome resource.

I'm hoping Friday after work I can sit down and take another Manhattan GMAT test. This weekend will be pretty busy, with a wedding Saturday and driving to Youngstown to see the GF's mom and step-dad - first time meeting them! Wish me luck!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Random Thoughts...

First of all, congratulations to all the Best of Bloggers award winners and nominees! You guys do an amazing job, and are very helpful. You may not realize it, or set out for it to happen, but I can honestly say that those of you active on Hella's list are an amazing resource for MBA hopefuls such as myself. Congrats to all of you!

The word for the day is confidence. Or, lack thereof. Lately I've been feeling like I may not be cut out for this whole thing. Sometimes it's hard to study. Sometimes I think I'm making headway, then I falter. My GMAT practice scores are 580 and 600, respectively. With my GPA being what it is, I need that score to be 700. I had heard that doing CR questions from the LSAT is helpful for the CR portion of the GMAT, so I took some practice sections. I got 38 out of 39 correct; I started wondering, why doesn't this translate to the GMAT, where I got 4 out of 14 correct on my last practice? What am I doing wrong? Does my mind not work to properly answer these questions.

I read stories of people with 750 GMATs and 3.6 GPAs from Ivy schools getting rejected from every single school they applied to. If they couldn't make it, how can I? What will set me apart and above them? I've started reading current student blogs to see their journeys from start to finish, and it has helped me focus on my dream, but not instill too much confidence. I want to proceed, I want to set my first test date and stick to it, knock the GMAT out of the park, and get accepted and move on.

Any thoughts or words of wisdom blogosphere?

Thursday, April 24, 2008


I realize I've been sorely lacking in motivation to study for the GMAT. Ever since I got back from my USC visit, I don't think I've opened a book or taken a practice test! This must end, and will do so tonight. I need to do a better job of preventing outside influences (read: friends at the bar or the GF) from keeping me from studying.

I also realize that I should set a date, to give me an end goal. Right now I just sort of float through the process, knowing it's ok if I don't study because I haven't set a date. Well, that also will change. I'm thinking the middle of June would be ok. If I need to retake the test, that would give me time to study and fix my errors and take it again a month or so late, and leave plenty of time for a possible third test (if needed...God I hope not!)

I know I need to focus on sentence correction and data suffiency, as those are my two worst areas. Any tips on DS?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Campus Visit Recap: USC-Marshall Pt 2

OK, here's what you all came for, the recap of my campus visit to USC's Marshall School.

I got there early on Monday morning so I could walk around campus and get a feel. The weather was perfect, a nice cool breeze, and the campus was just coming alive. The students I saw seemed happy and engaged. At 11 it was time to check in with the Admissions office for my info session. There were maybe 11 or 12 others with me, and it was led by Veronica Ho. She went into great detail regarding the admissions process. One thing she stressed was that, if you have a sub-3.0 GPA, use the supplemental essay to explain this, and try to take classes to create an additional transcript (she even gave specific classes at certain schools to take, which I was thankful for!).

She also stated that applications were up over 20% from last year, and doesn't expect that number to drop next admissions season. Everyone knows, when the economy goes down, grad school admissions applications go up. Guess i just need to present myself in the best possible way. She also reiterated that applying early is better than late, but if you must go late, use the supplemental essay to explain why. She also mentioned that you should always make sure you change the schools name on all correspondence and essays; yes, people do forget. She said it's not such a big deal with recommenders, but there is no excuse for the applicant.

After the info session with Veronica, a student ambassador came in to speak with us about student life issues: housing, social, what to do once you get accepted. She was extremely friendly and helpful. She then took us to a class visit, a global strategy class dealing with the Russian oil market. Now, I found the class extremely engaging and interesting; the hour and twenty minutes flew by. The students were well-prepared and had very insightful comments and questions. The professor was very good as well.

After a quick tour of Popovich Hall, we were left to our own devices. I visited the campus store (had to bring home shirts for the family), then cabbed it back to my hotel. A note about the surrounding area: I don't think it's as bad as people make it out to be. It's not exactly Compton from Boyz N The Hood, and you're not constantly getting harassed or anything. Would I be careful about where I live? Absolutely. Then again, I lived in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, for three years, in a very nice part of town, and I got held up at gunpoint and shot at, so trouble finds you wherever you go.

All in all, I absolutely loved my visit. It's definitely on my short list now, though I've got more schools to visit. If you have any other questions, please ask

Campus Visit Recap: USC-Marshall

I apologize for how long this has taken me to write up. Things are very hectic, both at work and with life, so blogging got put to the side for a bit. I should be posting more frequently, so no worries! First post today will be a write-up of my trip in general. I'll post the school specific info in the next one.

My flight to LA left Cleveland at 7AM...needless to say, I got zero sleep, but I slept on the flight, so it was OK. I also got some reading done (The Mailroom...highly recommend it). Landed, got a cab (expensive!) and checked in to the hotel. That first Saturday I walked around the city for a bit, saw some parks and the Walt Disney Concert Hall, then went for a nap...and promptly woke up 16 hours later! Oops!

Sunday I took the subway (first time on the subway, believe it or not. Thanks to the Aussie kid who was searching for the same train as me) to Hollywood and Highland. I spent a good bit of time walking around Grauman's Chinese Theater - I was actually there the day Charlton Heston passed away, so I got a picture of his hand prints with flowers all around it. I saw the characters, walked up and down the walk of fame, and took some pictures of random stars and stuff. Ate a good lunch at the Pig N Whistle and learned an important lesson: California loves avecados!

Sunday night I ate at LA Prime, and spared no expense for myself, as I was dining alone. Evian water, a few glasses of riesling, chilled jumbo shrimp in a mango salsa, a perfectly cooked piece of filet mignon with sauteed shrimp, cappuccino and creme brulee. It was basically a perfect meal. Afterwards, I went downstairs to the rotating bar and had a $15 martini, then bed.

Monday was USC day, and I'll cover that in a separate post. Quick thoughts: I loved it! That night I had dinner, watched the NCAA championship, then woke up early and caught my flight back home. Total cost of trip, including hotel, airfare, meals, cabs, and shopping: $1500. Eek!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

GMAT Practice Test Round 2

I took my second Manhattan GMAT practice test this afternoon. For those that don't remember, the first time I scored a 580 (39Q/31V). This time, I scored a 600 (40Q/33V). A small improvement, and I wonder if I actually did any better, or if it was just some lucky guesses. I had hoped to perform better, maybe 620-650, but hey, any improvement is good.

It seems I'm making lots of errors on sentence correction, so that's something I will definitely focus on. Does anyone have any tips? Books to study? Any help is always appreciated from the community!

In other news, I'm preparing for my trip to visit USC. I figure visiting will light the fire under me to buckle down and study hard. I got my haircut today, and I need to find my camera to take lots of pictures. Until next time...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

I'm Going, Going, Back, Back, To Cali, Cali...

I finally booked my trip. After emailing both UCLA and USC, I got word from USC that I could participate in their Ambassador program on April 7th. It includes an information session and a class visit. I looked for a travel partner (the GF and the family are too busy), but came up short. I said, "what the heck! Let's go anyway." So I found a good deal, and I'll be in Los Angeles from Saturday the 4th until Tuesday the 8th. Not sure what I'll do on my off days...if anyone has any suggestions (I've really never been to LA), I'm all ears.

Studying has been a bit more focused when I have the time. Focusing on CR and a few parts of quant, because I noticed I had missed some questions there. The plan is to take another practice test Saturday, so hopefully I'll show some improvement.

Congrats to all those who got good news this past week, and for those that didn't, keep your heads up!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Not Dead Yet...

This is a message for all those still sweating a decision or an interview invite. No matter how close to the deadline (or even after it), you're not dead until you're dead. Check out this article on Yahoo!. Apparently a man was declared dead, his family was paying their last respects before his organs were to be harvested, when he suddenly moved his leg. He is now recovering at home, and is expected to be fine.

In the words of the Godfather, "Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!" Don't lose hope until there's no hope left, folks

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Humbling Experience

I took a practice GMAT from Manhattan GMAT.  I used the real timing guidelines and tried to minimize distractions.  After it was all said and done, the score popped up: 580 (39Q/31V).  Wow.  I knew I had a lot of work to do, but I had no idea it was going to be this bad!  I had hoped to start in the 650 range, and work on my weaknesses to get to my 700 goal.  Now, I'm not so sure where to begin!  Luckily, Manhattan GMAT provides decent analysis, telling you exactly which question types and areas you got wrong.  I guess I'll take those suggestions and go back and improve my performance.  Time wasn't an issue; I finished all sections with plenty of time to spare.  Then again, maybe that is my problem.  Maybe I'm going to fast - it's a problem I've had in many areas before.

For verbal, it looks like sentence correction is my biggest weakness, with CR and RC being about equal.  For the quant section, I need help in about every area.  I've already purchased the Manhattan GMAT (wow, I'm starting to sound like a spokesman!) area-specific books, so I'll go back through them and study harder.

Hopefully I'll be able to put in a few hours each day and take another test next Saturday.  I should show some improvement in all areas.

In other news, I heard back from the AdCom at USC-Marshall, and they stated the last day to participate in the Ambassador program would be April 9th.  Needless to say, this moves up my trip plans!  Now I'm not sure I'll be able to make it.  It'll cost $500+ just to fly and stay there a night or two.  Any advice?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Bit Of An Intro

Sorry this has taken so long to get to...let's just say a certain bank that has been performing poorly has kept me busy!  Anyways...I'm 26, I live in Ohio, and I'm ready for a change in my life.  I graduated from a top-20 undergrad business school in 2004, and since then I've been doing direct marketing for one of the largest banks in the US.  The past year or so, I've come to realize that I want more out of my career, and that doing what I'm doing, I'll never be happy.  I'm looking to change careers, start fresh, and be challenged on a level I haven't been.

My journey thus far has got me beginning preparations for the GMAT.  I bought the Kaplan 2007 book last year, and as soon as I hit the quant section, I realized just how much work I needed to do.  I had done well in the "soft" business classes, but the quant ones challenged me.  I ended up buying a book that goes back to the basics, then the Manhattan GMAT books for each quant subject.  I will soon begin taking actual practice tests to gauge my score, and see where else I need to improve.  Like most people, I'm striving for a 700.  With my GPA (just under 3.0), I'll need all the help I can get.

As far as my school choices, I see two paths I'd be happy going down.  First, entertainment or sports industry.  The schools I'd look into are USC-Marshall, UCLA-Anderson, NYU-Stern, or Arizona State.  The other path would be to get into investment banking, and I'd look at UNC-Kenan Flagler, Duke-Fuqua, Wake Forest-Babcock, or UVA-Darden.  Are these reaches?  Yup.  But I believe in shooting for the highest possible school.  I'm realistic to know that Harvard/Stanford/Wharton are out of the question.

Anyways, I'll be sure to update this as I continue my journey towards my MBA.  I'm striving to apply in the fall, to begin my studies in the fall of 2009.  I've got time on my side, which is a good thing.  Any advice anyone has, I'm all ears!

Thursday, March 6, 2008

In The Beginning...

Well, here we go again.  Another stab at this blogging thing.  I've tried it a few times, but life always seems to get in the way.  This time, however, will be different!

The primary purpose of this blog is to document my application process to an MBA program.  Which one?  I'm still deciding that.  I've begun researching schools and studying for the GMAT, but I'm looking to apply for entry into the Class of 2011.  A little early, sure, but I think I could use all that time.

More information will follow in the coming posts.