Archive for June, 2007

Informational Interviews

Cold calls always make me nervous, but they are a necessary part of life. I did my first informational interview with a Fuqua alum who went through the Health Management program (introduced to me by a colleague that is also a Fuqua alum) yesterday morning. Initially, I was sweaty and awkward, but once things got flowing, I settled down and asked him about everything I wanted to know.

For my six (I might need to whittle this list down for R1) target schools, I’ve identified some people to talk to. Most are at least one degree removed from me. Hopefully I can arrange a weeklong storming of East Coast bschools sometime in September. Haas is pretty easy to arrange since I can just find a morning off and cross the bridge.

My former PR guy, who I’ve kept in contact with, has several friends who are HBS-ers. Hooray for networking via IM! However, I would like to speak to someone who is currently there. Forums might help if I can’t find someone who is currently attending through my own personal network.

Fellow blogger that I’ve been in contact for the last 8 years (but never met) is matriculating this year. Good friend from college graduated from Stern a few years ago and is actively involved with the admissions process. I’m meeting with him today to pick his brain.

This is where I seem to have the most contacts. A woman we just hired (who coincidentally took a job that I passed up) is a Kellogg alum. My manager’s wife is also a Kellogg alum. A good friend just graduated this year. He has put me in contact with a classmate who is going to work at a biotech. My cousin’s former direct report just graduated this year. My old roommate’s sister just finished her first year.

I think I have the least contact here. J’s coworker is matriculating this year. Need to blanket my friends and family to see if there is anyone else they can put me in contact with.

My colleague, his friend, and my cousin’s colleague who is matriculating this fall.

I have a friend who is currently in the PT program. A few of J’s coworkers are also in the PT program. I have a cousin-in-law who graduated from the FT program. A colleague also graduated from here…although I’m not sure I want to reveal my bschool intentions to him.

Unfortunately, I’m kind of a big mouth, so many people at work already know my bschool intentions. Hopefully I am targeting the right schools to ensure matriculation next year. I’d be incredibly disappointed if I didn’t get in ANYWHERE although I know that such things do happen to people.

For my undergrad degree, I was pretty low-key in my applications. I only applied to one school that required an essay (Cal), and all of the other schools (small private schools in the Bay Area, Oregon, and Washington) let me in automatically based on my profile (solid academics and extracurriculars; underrepresented minority). I didn’t apply to Ivy Leagues because I knew my family didn’t have the money. This time around, I’m aiming high. Money be damned, I’ll pay it back later.


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What the heck. Harvard’s essays were just released and I think I’ll apply. The worst that can happen is that I’m out $250 and they say no. That bumps USC off of my short list. If (god forbid) I don’t get in to ANY of the six schools I apply to in R1/R2, I’ll apply to USC in R2/R3.

I see my application as the biggest hurdle to bschool matriculation. I need to articulately position myself as a viable bschool candidate. There are a few gaps in my profile that make me a bit nervous. First, I don’t have any formal business training (no accounting, finance, or statistics background). However, I did take a statistics course in college, I scored in the mid 80th-percentile (quant. 94th %-tile overall) on the GMAT, and I do manage a $3.2m budget. Second, I haven’t started an NGO. Although I volunteered in college and am active in the local running community, I keep reading about applicants who are brokering world peace. How does a commoner like myself compete with that? Hopefully, they will see through my shortcomings, realize that I’m a genius with incredible drive and determination and let me in.

I’m pretty confident that if I can get myself an interview, I’ll be in. One of my strengths is interviews. People like me. One of my secrets? People love to talk about themselves. Ask lots of questions and they’ll have a great time talking about themselves. Of course, you also need to sell yourself in the process.

A few books arrived in the mail for me today:

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Editors have been identified

Although I have yet to actually start on any essays (of course, they haven’t been released yet, either), I’ve made a little progress. I have a notebook that I now travel with. I’ve put headings on each page so that as I come up with little nuggets, I can scribble them down. I have a page or so each for questions to ask alum/students, extracurriculars, goals, why MBA, failure, personality, employment (starting to gather exact dates, and I’m embarassed to admit I don’t know EXACTLY how much I make), and leadership examples. I’m sure I’ll come up with more as essay topics are released, but I only thought to do this a few days ago.

I’ve also starting asking a few people in advance to review essays for me:

  • My Cousin: As my mom’s goddaughter and my de facto older sister, she has always been my guide to the business world: reviewing my resumes and cover letters and coaching me through salary negotiations and difficult professional situations. She’s a very savvy business woman and a great writer.
  • My friend: He just finished his Master’s in Journalism at Stanford and went through a similar applications process 2 years ago. He knows me pretty well and always has great insights about me that I usually overlook.
  • My friend’s sister: She is also applying to business schools this year, so we’ve agreed to collaborate and get through this process together.
  • My other friend: Aside from J, she knows the most about my professional life (without actually being a coworker)

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Things to do…

Marching forward on my quest for a bschool admit for Fall 2008, I’ve got lots to do this summer.

June is a wash since I’m traveling for most of this month. I’m also studying for a marketing certification test next week. I’m using this time to finish Montauk’s book, do more school research to make sure I’m applying to schools that within my range, and talk to alumni. So far, I’ve contacted Kellogg and Fuqua alum. I know a Stern alum, J knows someone heading to Columbia in the Fall, and I’ve got plenty of Haas grads that I just need to contact.

I should also start preparing my resume (I have an updated one, but need to tailor it for bschool and trim it down a bit). I’d also like to talk to people in the biotech industry to see how they utilize MBAs in the industry.

I really need to start outlining my essays. I need to pin down my recommenders. My current manager is the general manager/VP for all of our North American business. He is rarely around and can hardly keep his head on straight. Although his wife is a Kellogg alum and he understands my desire to go to bschool, I am worried about his ability to get me what I need on time. We’ve agreed that I’ll draft the letter for him. However, he is a much more articulate person than myself, so I really hope he can add a lot to what I’ve already done. I’ve got a Fuqua alum doing my other recommendation, and then my previous manager (one of my biggest advocates and a great writer) doing the remainder of my second recommendations. It is just my current manager that causes me some anxiety. He will be difficult to manage because he’s always on a plane–even his assistant can barely get a hold of him!

I’m also going to take swimming lessons, because at 28, I should know how to swim…especially if I want to complete a triathalon someday.

Bschools release their applications in August, which means this is time to put my head down and REALLY work on my essays. I can also send something concrete to my recommenders so that I have something to remind them with.

Because I’m doing a marathon in October (REALLY bad timing with a lot of work deadlines around that time AND applications due, but too late to back out!), I have very long runs on the weekends, which conks me out on Saturday afternoons. Since I’m resting up on Friday nights for my long runs, I can use that time to work on my essays. Really need to manage my time well August through October.

Now that school is in session, I can take a week to visit my target schools. This will be a bit stressful since I have limited time in the fall (my biggest work project of the year culminates at the end of November every year), but I can do NYU/Columbia on Mon/Tues, fly down to Duke Tuesday night for a Wednesday visit, and then fly over to Kellogg for a Friday visit. I’m not too worried about finding time to visit Cal since it is my alma mater and only 30 minutes away. I can make some time in September for that one pretty easily. Really need to get the majority of my applications done this month since Oct/Nov is a hectic month for me, even without the applications.

Tighten up essays and manage recommenders. Kellogg R1 application due Oct 20-ish (based on last year’s due dates). I’m in DC for a week for work and stay there to run the Marine Corps Marathon Oct 28.

Fuqua due Nov 1-ish, Haas due Nov 6-ish. I have to lead a training for work the week of Nov 5, so my time will be a bit tight and I’m sure I’ll be on the verge of going postal. I’m in Chicago for work Nov 19-Dec 1 for my biggest project of the year (an international conference).

Stern due Dec 1-ish. I’ll just be getting back from Chicago, so this one will for sure give me ulcers. After this, I have 3 weeks to complete the Columbia application. I also wanted to head to Thailand/Cambodia/China with J.

Columbia app due January 8 (this is the only official date thus far. I’ve used last year’s due dates as a general guide to schedule my time). After this, sit and wait. Poop my pants. Once I start hearing from schools (hopefully not too many dings although a few are inevitable), consider my options. Prepare for interviews, or start applying for R2 admits to other institutions. Hopefully it doesn’t come to the latter.

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5.0 on my AWA

I’m surprised that my AWA score came back so quickly…

 Although I’m a bit disappointed that I didn’t score higher (5.0 is only 73%-tile), I understand. I didn’t spend any time preparing, I didn’t write the most cohesive essay (I wanted to save my energy for the score that mattered), and I am not sure I spelled dissatisfied (one s or two) correctly. I used that word a lot. And I’m pretty sure I repeated myself a few times.

Oh well! Oh, and if anyone who reads this (I only know of one person besides myself that reads this) really wants to know my actual GMAT score, just email me. I thought it might be a bit weird to post it.

Now…on to applications! I’m currently reading Richard Montauk’s book How to get into the Top MBA Programs and contacting alumni from the schools I’m interested in (no particular order):

  1. Columbia
  2. Duke/Fuqua
  3. Cal/Haas (also my alma mater)
  4. Northwestern/Kellogg

I am also considering NYU (I sent them my score report) and last night I dreamt about applying to Harvard. While it may be a stretch for me, it is worth a try…the worst thing that happens is that I’m out a few hundred dollars, spent a few weeks of my time on essays, and they say no.

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Rocked the GMAT!

Took the GMAT yesterday and ROCKED IT! I scored exactly as my GMATPrep scores predicted. Afterwards, I had lunch with one of my recommenders and then promptly went out to celebrate. I feel sick today and I have to board a plane. McDonald’s is calling my name.

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2 days and counting…

Forums are like crack. While I’ve successfully stayed away from the very awful Business Week forums, I have been going into the Beat the GMAT and GMATClub forums. As anyone who has been reading knows, the forums always end up undermining my confidence. However, I need to remind myself of what I always tell J (who reads a lot of car forums and then ends up freaking out about his car). People with negative experiences are more likely to seek out help or complain on forums. Those with positive experiences are not as likely to go onto a forum just to post their great score and how everything is going swimmingly for them. In my marketing text, it gives a statistic that I’ve now forgotten, but goes something like “Dissatisfied customers are 10x more likely to tell others about their dissastisfaction whereas happy customers are less likely to tell as many people about their positive experience.”

Gotta remember that, as the forums continue to undermine my confidence in my preparation. As a reminder to myself as to how far I’ve come:

  • I’ve been studying pretty diligently since February 2007. I took the Kaplan GMAT course which ran Feb – Mar and spent a significant amount of my time doing Kaplan homework on the weeknights and CATs on the weekends.
  • I’ve carried my books with me on business trips and studied in my room at night while everyone is out partying
  • I’ve passed up numerous outings with friends and family in order to study for ~2 hours 4-5 nights a week, stayed home on Saturdays to study, and woken up early on Sundays to take my CATs
  • I’ve successfully improved my CAT scores starting with a 590 and ending with a 720.

I’m prepared. I may not be able to answer the most difficult questions, but I should be able to answer the questions that will get me within range of my target score. If I get get 680+, I will not be disappointed (ok, maybe a little). I just want anything from 700 and above. I’ve done all the work…and I’m usually successful when I’ve done the work. Hopefully I’ll get questions more like GMATPrep 2 than GMATPrep 1 🙂

Tonight, I will review the questions that I’ve gotten wrong. I have 13 problems between the OG & the Quant OG that I have still gotten wrong on the 3rd attempt. One question I always get wrong because I always miss one given in the question.

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