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.