Monday, November 24, 2003

I’ve been lurking on the BW Forums, and it looks like first round Wharton dings went out this week. Some people seem PRETTY mad about receiving dings. I don’t get why people think their credentials get them into to school. Don’t they realize there are thousands of other applicants similar to them and their 750 GMAT guarantees absolutely nothing. If the tenor of their diatribes is any indication, some of these people deserved dings – I don’t think I’d want to go to school with a whole bunch of whiners.

Trust me, I’m not being heartless. I really feel for those people that got dings without even getting an interview. That definitely sucks. If I don’t get an interview invitation from Stanford, I’ll be bummed – but I don’t think I’ll rant about how awful the school is. That’s just immature.

Speaking of Stanford Interview Invites – based on activity reported by folks on the forums, I think I should know whether I’m getting an invite at the beginning of the week. So, I’m crossing my fingers!

After reading about people’s “ding experiences,” I realized I didn’t have a plan B. I have no idea what I’ll do if I don’t get in to any schools this year. Will I reapply next year? Or will I look for an alternate way to get a business education? And what would an alternate business education look like? Does that mean booking a trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro to get all introspective? Does it mean taking statistics at night?

Next fall I’ll have seven years of experience, and I’m starting to believe I am approaching the point of no return. Even though it takes two years, I believe that an MBA is the fastest and most efficient way for me to get the skills I need to continue to progress professionally. So for know I’ll keep the faith that I’ll get into a program where I’ll learn and where I’ll fit.

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Let me just say this: the McCombs School of Business at University of Texas- Austin is AWESOME!!! I LOVED it there. It's so much more mellow and collaborative than many other schools. During the Explore McCombs recruiting event, one of the top professors, Prof. Doggett, did a case study review with the attendees. He is a great professor. It's been a long time since I felt so engaged.

And something unexpected happened, as well. I actually LEARNED this weekend. I learned that to serve your customers well, you have to develop a produthathat remedies their pain. I learned that excellent students do not necessary make excellent business executives. I realized that I really have A LOT to learn. It was a somewhat humbling experience.

All of the current students I met were very passionate about their school and about their career choice. You don't always see passionate people in life, let alone in business schools. It was refreshing to hear from people who were trying to do what they loved.

So UT has suddenly hurdled itself from a distant second to a near tie with Stanford. I have VERY different reasons for liking both schools, but honestly, I think I could be happy in either place.

Oh and my interview - didn't go as well as I had hoped. I didn't have the opportunity to gather my thoughts before the interview, so I completely blew the critical first question, the why MBA why now question. I was ALL over the place. I think the main ideas were there, but I was completely incoherent. Oh well, what can you do? I hope it doesn't keep me out.

(My advice - prepare before your interview. There are a couple of questions that are almost guaranteed from what I heard - "Why MBA, Why Now, Why Here?", Career Aspirations, Strengths/Weaknesses, etc. Oh and spend some time assessing how you work in groups. (I still don't know how to determine this last one and what I should say, by the way!)).

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I'm interviewing with University of Texas this week. It's my first MBA interview so I am a tad bit nervous. From what I can glean from the forums and other materials, the questions are pretty much a rehash of the "Goals Why MBA, Why now, Why UT" essays. I also read that the primary purpose of the interviews is to determine fit. So all you can really do is be yourself and hope for the best.

I'm attending parts of UT's Explore McCombs Weekend. The last time I visited UT's campus was when I was in high school (you see visiting UT and TAMU campuses are required for all native Texans). I really like Austin. It remains one of the few somewhat liberal bastions in the entire state. McCombs is also a decent school and it was noted in the "Beyond Grey Pinstripes" publication. My visit this weekend will help me determine if it's a good place for me to be. My impressions are that UT is a less tight-knit community than the other schools I'm applying to. But I could be wrong. I'll let you know what I think.

Once I complete my interview, I only need to get two recommendations and I'm DONE with that application. I'll be so happy when I'm done with all my applications. The fact that I have six essays to do just weighs on me. I'm working on a couple publications at work and some other major projects at work, and that is consuming all my time. It's hard to carve out time to compose introspective narratives when you have 20 work deadlines breathing down your neck. Maybe I'll be able to organize how I'm going to tackle all of these essays this weekend. *sigh*

Monday, November 17, 2003

In my inbox today...

"Thank you for applying to the MBA Program at the Stanford Graduate School of

"This message confirms that your application is currently under review. If
you mailed supplemental materials, we have matched them with your online
application. We will send your admission decision on January 21, 2004.

"For more information on learning, living, and leading at Stanford, please
visit the MBA Program Web site at http://www.gsb.stanford.edu/mba, email
mba@gsb.stanford.edu, or call us at 650-723-2766.

MBA Admissions Office
Stanford Graduate School of Business"

Let's just say I'm doing the really happy Snoopy dance!!! Now I can relax.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Stanford Applicants: Check out this posting from Derrick Bolton (Stanford's Director of Admissions) on Wharton's Student to Student Message Boards. It offers some insight to the whole "what happens after I submit my application" process as well as his take on what some have dubbed as "the dreaded essay A" (What matters most to you and why?).

Writing essay A has actually been my favorite part of the application process. I truly wrote about what mattered to me, and exposed my soul on paper. I didn't focus on what I thought the Adcoms wanted to hear. I think its sooo important to be true to self to ensure you get into a school where you fit. One of the major reasons to go to business school (for me at least) is the experience, and who wants to spend two years where they don't fit in? The scary thing about presenting yourself to the Adcoms is that you are totally vulnerable. You're basically saying, "Here I am. Do you like me?" So the anxiety you feel when doing this is reminiscent of anxieties you had in junior high about being accepted by your peers. It's terrifying to be yourself when you don't know if who you are is acceptable and good enough to be a part of something you really want to be part of.

I particularly liked what Derrick had to say about how to handle "Submission Anxiety."

"I went through this process not so long ago, and I think I know how you're feeling now. This process can feel all-consuming. It's ironic, but after completing applications that ask you to think about who you are and who you want to be, many applicants still lose perspective in this process. I'm pretty sure that I did. Remember, when/if you wrote your Essay A for Stanford, you probably didn't say the thing that matters most to you is getting into the GSB. So I ask you to take a step back and remember that there's a lot going on in the world that doesn't concern business school. Please relax. Things will work out.

"You will have to accept that there are many factors in the admission process that are out of your control. You shouldn't waste your energy or time worrying about those things. The interview is one of them. The applicant pool - quantity and quality - is another. Focus your efforts in the admission process on the things that you can control: you have complete control over your essays and, to a lesser extent, your academic credentials and letters of reference. That's just my perspective, but I wish somebody had told me that when I was sitting where you sit now" - Derrick Bolton, Director of Stanford MBA Admissions.

Makes you feel a little better, right?

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I participated in a Stanford chat. My concerns were assuaged. The admissions people said they are still working their way through the pile of applications. So all the R1 applicants who haven't received the infamous under review email - don't worry. (I know I'm being very pot and kettle now...) The adcoms believe it will be about two more weeks before they can get to everyone.

I've been slacking on my other essays. I'm applying to UT, Michigan, and Tuck through the Consortium, so I have at least seven essays to write. I also need to nail down two sets of recommendations. (I know I should have asked for them all at once, but you know what they say about hindsight.) I plan on organizing myself tonight. The early deadline is December 1, which will be a stretch, but we will see if I can bang it out.

Thank you to everyone who has sent a word of encouragement about my application worries. I've decided to ban myself from the very addictive forums for today, and I must say I feel much calmer.

On a VERY side note, for all you closet Harry Potter fans, the Trailer for the Prince of Azkaban is out. Check it out at The Leaky Cauldron. I have to say it is VERY cool. Something Wicked This Way Comes .... heheheeeh!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Oh my... will this stress never end? I truly thought the hardest part about this whole thing would be putting together an application, but I have to say waiting is much worse.

So even though I know it's bad for my self esteem, I was hanging around the Business Week Forum trying to get some info on this whole Stanford application business. When you submit your application to Stanford, you get a confirmation "we got you application" email, which I have received. Apparently, there is a second email that confirms which round you are in and that your application is under review. I have not received the under review email, and it is causing me a lot of stress. Someone pointed out that if your junk email filters are set the email might end up as spam. A couple of mass messages didn't get through from UT so I'm not certain if this happened to my Stanford email or if it hasn't been reviewed yet. GRRRR. That's all I can say, GRRRR.

What's a worrier to do?

Monday, November 10, 2003

Who is Future MBA Girl?

I just realized I never did the obligatory “about me” thread (and it’s all about me, isn’t it.)

Well, I’m 28 years old, and I live in the northeastern US. (I was born and raised in Texas so by no means am I a Yankee!) I work for a national nonprofit that works to alleviate poverty and address other societal injustices. I analyze nonprofit financial and operational performance. I use my analyses to underwrite investments in nonprofits and to do training. I’ve also written a couple of publications about nonprofits.

What do I want to be when I grow up? I would like to continue to work in the nonprofit world (once you go nonprofit you never go back!). I am interested in researching how entire industries and fields evolve, and in organizational leadership. I hope to work at a think tank or a nonprofit consulting firm.

And how does an MBA fit in? I hope that I’ll learn more about organizational structure and dynamics, and I’ll beef up my analysis skills.

Ultimately, to co-opt my favorite line from the movie Notting Hill, I’m just a girl asking an MBA program to accept me….

So the stress begins. I submitted my Stanford application on October 24 (the first round deadline was October 28). Two of my recommenders submitted their recs by Oct. 28 5 PM PST, but one submitted it offline. She inadvertently mailed it directly to Stanford, instead of to me. She mailed it before October 10th, but I don't know if they will be able to match it to my file. Now, I've read on the BW Forum that some people have gotten confirmations that they are in round one. I have yet to receive such notice. Oh woe be to the un-notified! I really wanted to be in the first round, particularly since acceptances go out on January 21, one day after my birthday.


Sunday, November 09, 2003

OK I'm famous!!! I went to the League of MBA Bloggers site to read something and there I was!! I'm so honored. You like me! You really like me!!! I'd like to thank the academy...

Reading too many MBA forums is bad for your mental health. I've been reading a lot of forums this weekend and now I'm depressed. This is how many of the threads read: "Hi I'm wondering about my chances to get into X top school. I have a 3.85 GPA from MIT and a 720 GMAT. I was a top associate at Smith Barney for the last 4 years. Should I retake the GMAT?" "Yes you should retake to try because your GMAT is quite low (since when was the 95th percentile low? But I digress!) and you will never get in anywhere with this profile. Your chances are quite hopeless..." So I'm not reading some of them ever again.

I have a theory that people inflate their profiles to intimidate others and I also believe the "your stellar profile is not good enough" responses are an attempt at intimidation as well... or just a poor attempt at sarcasm. If you read those forums it sounds like everyone scores above 700, which is statistically impossible. But whatever. Just read those things with care... there are a lot of bitter people out there. Don't let them bring you down.

Besides from what I've read and heard from admissions people, admissions decisions are not just about your statistics. Otherwise the guy who worked at Smith Barney for 4 years with a 770 GMAT would always get a spot over the artist with the 640 GMAT (I know its a shocker but people with a 640 GMAT do get in to top schools...). Your profile is only part of the assessment of whether you'll fit into a particular program. Admit Committees want to create a diverse student body so the students can learn from one another. Your ability to articulate your compatibility with a program, your readiness for the MBA program, and the direction of your career are just as important (if not more so) than your statistics. I think people focus too much on "what stats will get me in" and don't focus enough on "where am I going and what school will be the best fit for me." But that's just my opinion.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Here's the run down on my application history for those who care.
In June 2002, I decided I wanted to pursue my MBA. I began my research on the top programs to see which I thought would be the best fit for me. I work in the nonprofit sector, and one of the most important factors is the strength of the nonprofit/socially responsible program. I also wanted an academically rigorous program (because I'm a GENIUS and I need challenge!!! :p) So I narrowed the field to Stanford (my number one), Wharton, Chicago, Cornell (my alma mater), and UNC.

With my sights set on 5 schools, I started studying in late July to take the GMAT in late September. To prepare, I worked through two GMAT prep books I checked out from the library, read Strunk and White cover to cover, and copiously took notes on an Algebra / Geometry for dummies math book. I focused my study on the verbal section, because that was my weakness on standardized tests. I usually score in 96-99th percentile on the math standardized tests.

So as I studied, I started to work on my essays... all of them... at once. My advice to future applicants DON"T DO IT THIS WAY - it's too stressful. Because I was juggling so many balls (in addition to the GMAT prep, essay creation, full time job, and volunteer work, I was also taking college classes for fun - I know I'm a geek...), I started to grind my teeth. SO what you say, well I was clinching my jaw so much that it caused this excruciating pain to emanate from my back jaw and reverberate throughout my entire mouth. The pain was so intense I was taking 30-35 200 mg of ibuprofen per day (again DO NOT DO THIS - it rips up your stomach). The pain peaked on the day of my GMAT test - lucky me. So I took the test while enduring one of the most intense pains I've ever experienced.

Despite the distraction of extreme pain, I did pretty well on the GMAT. I did better than my goal of 670-680 (but I didn't hit my nerd goal of 730). Surprisingly I kicked ass on the verbal, and I didn't do as well as I would have liked on the quant section. I attribute my performance to my focus on the verbal aspects of the test, and my fatigue and pain while taking the quant portion. My advice is to try to study evenly, if you focus too much on one section of the test you may neglect the other section.

There are many people that would be unhappy with my score. (I call these people uber-turbo dorks - these people seriously need lives. You are MORE than your GMAT score!!!) But my goal was to fall within the average range of those attending the top ten schools, and I did that. Although, I'd like a higher quant score, I feel my work experience in financial analysis more than makes up for it. I think if I took the test again my score might go up 40-50 points, but I decided since I was in the range of most MBA students at top schools, that I might as well save the 200 bucks for something else (and don't get me started about how expensive this whole application process is - these schools are pricing a lot of people out of the MBA market. Why is that?) like a trip to an informational in NYC.

So after I declared the GMAT war over, I focused on my essays. And that's about all I did - focus. I had serious writers block. I couldn't articulately express what I wanted next in my career. I couldn't figure out how to say why I wanted to attend these schools. And then I had an epiphany - it was the wrong time to apply for grad school.

So I laid down my pen to do some more introspection about what I wanted to do with the next stage of my life. Unfortunately, I had already (rather stupidly, actually) let my employer know my intentions to enter an MBA program in Fall 2003. (DON"T DO THIS EITHER.) So I probably pissed away my promotion for that year, and had to explain why I quit the application process, and I had to endure the "what a loser" looks I got after my explanation.

So what happened, well in July 2003, I re-researched (is that a word?) schools. Stamford was still my number one choice. I really like its commitment to the nonprofit sector. Some of the fellowships and the Loan Forgiveness program also make the problem more financially accessible for someone like me - a person who gets paid crap before she gets an MBA and will probably continue to be paid crap after business school. It's hard to fathom a $60K per year bill if you don't get some major assistance.

Along with Stanford, I considered UNC, Univ of Texas, U of Mich, and Dartmouth. Why these schools? They are all in the Aspen Institute/WRI's "Beyond Grey Pinstripes" report (www.beyondgreypinstripes.org), which lists MBA programs with a strong commitment to socially responsible/environmental curriculum. And they are all part of the Consortium of Graduate Schools of Management (www.cgsm.org), a fellowship program for underrepresented minorities.

I eliminated Chicago and Cornell because frankly, I can't afford to apply to them. I eliminated Wharton because while it propagates its commitment to nonprofits, my interactions with the school have proven otherwise (my personal favorite was this advice from an admissions person, "well we try to tell our students to work in the for profit world for a few years after school so they can make some money." ni-ice).

So thus far I have completed my Stanford application (Thank the Lord!!!) and I'm working on the others. I can't wait til I'm done - but I'm glad I went down this road.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Okay, I know there are a plethora of prospective MBA bloggers out there. Why add my voice to the bunch? Because as far as I can tell there are few women telling this story so I think my perspectives may be unique.

I'm in the middle of applying to graduate business school. I hope to enroll in Fall 2004. I started this journey last fall, and I've found the introspection brought on by the process to be enlightening.

About a year and a half ago, I started to feel this pull in my life. I liked my job but I wanted to do something more. And frankly being promoted to do more of the same thing didn't really appeal to me. I wanted to go to the next level. But I wasn't sure what the next level was, and I didn't know how to get there.

So what does every directionless girl do when she is ready to advance her career? She goes to grad school! And thus the desire for something more led me to start this whole MBA thing. Ultimately the whole process has led me to know what it is I want to do next with my life - but more on that later.

I hope to share my experience of applying with whoever is interested. I've applied to Stanford first round, and I'm working on my applications to University of Texas, University of Michigan, and Dartmouth. I may add UVA, UNC, and Wharton to the mix, but I'm not sure yet. Again I'll save my GMAT and other experiences until later. Til then - peace!

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