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.

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