Saturday, August 22, 2009

Collaborative Essays

I have a lot of passion for collaboration. My director introduced me to google docs, and so I've done all my school work in it... and as my network of coworkers (big company) who are also applying now has expanded, I've been sharing my essays and critiquing theirs.

I have to say, it is inspiring and uplifting to read my peers' essays. It has also been invaluable as they've helped shred my essays and improve them. I'm not sure how many people out there are lucky enough to have a network of talented, motivated friends that are going through the same thing right now, but it is a phenomenal experience.

16/26 down, maybe 4 of those in final draft form. Tally-ho, weekend!

Edit: Wow, I have to reiterate: I am really fortunate to have so many exceptionally talented friends and co-applicants to help with essay review. Outstanding!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Strung out...

I have quite a number of essays (well over 20) to submit, and I'm about half way done with my first drafts.

I've gotta say, Wharton seems to be the odd man out! Everyone else asks, "Why are you cool? Why are you cool with leadership? Why are you cool with results? Why would our students have a beer with you?" and Wharton goes, "When did you fail? When did you struggle to be accepted? Tell us about something that was hard for you." Such a downer!

That said, although Wharton Essay #3 (Failure) took a solid 6 hours just to get a first draft I was content with, the self reflection involved was a surprisingly rewarding experience. I'm still trying to find a meaningful angle for Essay #2 (Adapt) though... and a dozen other essays. Good times!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Yesterday I met with four of my recommenders (my manager I'd met with on Monday) and gave them each their package (about 15 pages of material). I began each meeting by thanking them again for their help.

The support I received left me a bit speechless. I have had, overall, an amazing time at my company, but I knew in March that after my pet project was done I had to move on - either to a school to broaden my horizons, learn new skills and find my way into enterprise efficiency consulting, or to a smaller company where I could make more of an impact with my work and not face the level of bureaucracy a multi-billion dollar company must mandate to avoid liability. I had expected a tinge of bitterness, but every single meeting was positive and every recommender eager to help.

Overall, yesterday was very encouraging. Two downsides:
#1) One of the top-10 schools has changed the # of recommenders (within the last day or two), which means I need to exclude a recommender that I felt provided a unique viewpoint.
#2) I promised to deliver, by Monday, first drafts to every essay for the schools I'm targeting. One down, lots to go.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

MBA Links

I highly recommend this blog post to aspiring MBA candidates.

On interviews & school locations:
This is an interesting Wiki Site on various schools.
Found this as well.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Exciting morning...

Ok, so it's not that exciting, but it bumped my heartrate up - I got the email about my official GMAT score. They say 20 days, it took 7. It did confirm my scores (83%q/97%v) and I got a 6.0 on the essays to boot. They were fun to write!

The tasks for the weekend: Assembling information for my recommenders. All of my recommenders are from my current job, and have good things to say. The struggle is making sure they have great things to say and are able to say them with emphasis - I found this site very eye opening in that regard (a reminder of the level of competition!), although I refuse to ghost-write. That puts me potentially at a disadvantage - one of my key recommenders, while excellent at their job and with many good things to say, is notedly at a disadvantage writing in english. So my task list (which needs to be finished by Monday night) is as follows:
  • Organize my tasks & achievements at work chronologically into a one page document.
  • Fill out a 'universal recommendation' with notes for each recommender that I'd like them to highlight or anecdotes I want them reminded of.
  • Since I have 5 recommenders (different schools) I need to tailor each recommender's packet to the schools they're sending it to.
  • Finish updating my resume and include it.
  • Include a summary statement on "Why MBA, Why Now" - or a full essay if I get time.
  • Include excerpts of my self appraisals from work highlighting my passions.
  • Outline my greatest weaknesses (undergrad gpa) and where I need the most support.
It's a foregone conclusion that this summer will be much more work than play, but life is all about priorities!

My GMAT experience

Odd to follow my first post with my second one, but I'm still awake, and after 8 hours straight of organizing my material for my recommenders on top of my normal workday, I'm ready for a break.

The GMAT is viewed by some as some sort of magical measure of worth. I half hope it is, because in the end my unofficial score was a good one (still waiting on the official), and that might help counter my undergrad experience. Historically, I have been a very good standardized test taker and essays don't phase me, but this year I have a lot riding on it.

Last year, I looked at the GMAT... a little. Maybe 2 hours a week for six weeks in Feb-Mar '08 before giving up. My practice tests were in the 500-600 range, fairly terrible if I wanted to get into any top-10 school, but my heart wasn't in it. Knowing you are ready to go makes a world of difference; this year I took the GMAT very seriously.

This year, I signed up for the GMAT on August 1st, a Saturday, at 8am. Unfortunately for my planned study schedule, I was on a *major* project for May and June. Very big, very time consuming. I took the first week of July for vacation, and much of it was just to recover. I remember falling asleep at 8pm while gathered with family and friends on the weekend of the 4th of July ... in the living room. I woke up at 8am the next morning, having slept through their antics the entire night. Ouch. When I got back to work, all the lower priority tasks that had been pushed aside reared their heads and demanded my attention, and for two weeks I got caught up. I dithered over whether to change my date, since I knew I was cutting it far too close. I began studying on Saturday, exactly a week before the test.

My first concern: The test was at 8am. I'm not a morning person, I'd rather work till 4am than get up at 6. However, your body will do exactly what you condition it to do. I set my alarm for 6:00 every weekday morning that week, and made sure I got up. The third day was by far the worst - the second night I got perhaps 3 hours sleep, then drove two hours to another office to work, worked a full day, and drove back. It was a living nightmare. By the end of the week, while I was not exactly 'chipper' at 6am, I was definitely alert, aware, and ready to take tests. Thursday and Friday I had finished a practice test by 9am.

My study pattern was straightforward: The GMAT is a collection of tricks; Learn them. View it as a worthy, fun challenge. My first practice test (Kaplan 2007 CD) I got a 540. Ouch. I studied 12 hours a day Saturday and Sunday. Worked 8-5 Mon-Wed, and studied till midnight. I had to travel as well, which cut into my sleep time. 540, 590, 680, 610, 660... with each test, more tricks became apparent, as my mind started to adapt to the format. I was ready to take the GMAT's 'official' prep software. Note to those reading: I highly recommend leaving that little program until you feel you are comfortable with the test - it was the closest experience to the genuine test and my score on it was very indicative of my final score. I scored 700, 720 on it, and felt more comfortable. The night before the GMAT, quite tired at 8pm, I took the free "Manhattan GMAT" and got a 570. I wasn't shocked - I took the test rather halfheartedly to try to expose myself to new types of questions, but it was a little unsettling. I was in bed early.

Day of: Woke up at 5:30 to my alarm feeling fresh and prepared. Had a light, healthy breakfast and reviewed all the problems I'd gotten wrong on the Manhattan GMAT the night before. Left at 7am and drove through the city (I love the Iphone!) and walked in. There were 11 other people there to take the GMAT! Wow. I let everyone else go first (you can start before the official time, it's whenever the test center is ready) and went to the bathroom. I assured myself that, worst comes to worst, I could retake in September, and I still had my GRE score from 2005 which would be a competitive score at the top-10's that were willing to accept it.

The actual test was quite a lot of fun. As many have said, people who view the GMAT as a giant obstacle are psyching themselves out. The essay questions were especially fun, the latter of which was on a topic of great interest to me, which I had held a lengthy debate upon with my roomate (a phd in public policy) two weeks prior.

The math is the area I truly wished I'd had more time to study. At one point in my life, I was quite good at math, but the GMAT is more about figuring out the trick than it is learning differential equations. Every standardized test up to the GMAT, I'd excelled at the math and done well at the verbal. Oddly enough, the GMAT flipped those, but my tentative final score did pass the 80/80 threshold the schools talk about. I'm still awaiting my official score, but if the unofficial one that flashes up on the screen (and is on your test printout) is accurate, then I'm very happy.

My personal goal is to be 'done' with the application process by September 1st. The rest of the year holds a *lot* of work for my team, and while my manager is aware I'm applying (and offering support!) she expects my full commitment to work come September.

It has begun...

Technically, it began last year.

I spent a good portion of last June/July halfheartedly attempting practice GMAT's and pondering why I wanted to go to grad school. In truth, even today, it's the most daunting of essay questions - not because I don't have answers, but because they don't seem like exceptional ones.

"I want to change careers to consulting, build up my skills and network, and then run my own company. I want to change the world for the better. I want to study among the best the professional world has to offer and learn from their experiences and passions."

Trite, normal, commonplace... last year, I couldn't make the decision to apply. This year, the situation has changed. My pet project has finally taken off - unlike last year, I don't fear for its success when I depart. I received another promotion. The industry was hit with a number of issues, which underlined my desire to change careers.

So it began. I am taking this more seriously than any endeavor before, because I've got several strikes against me to any top 10 adcom: I'm relatively old (I will be 30 in the fall of 2010), my undergrad GPA was 'terrible' by top school standards (and worse than I remember!), and I do not currently hold a managerial position. I'm also white and male - not quite the diversity they're looking for.

Clearly, I wouldn't be looking at the top 10 if I thought I couldn't compete and didn't have unique attributes that set me apart. While I have strikes against me, I have a number of things in my favor, and I have worked among top MBA grads for a while - I know what my classmates will be like. All that's left to do is prove I belong and show I can bring something valuable to the table.

It's a weird break from organizing my MBA material to start a blog (especially at 2am on a Friday when my friends and roomates are out having a good time), but given the amount of work achieving those three letters requires, perhaps the story will make for a good read.