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Thursday, March 22, 2012

March Madness hits B-School Applications!

Mood:  Truly Happy.  My March Madness bracket may be shot as a result of my undying dedication and a blind faith in my alma mater (a 2-seed), but I'm standing by my choices.  I had my team going to the championships against our arch-rivals, and to my embarrassment and dismay, we fell to a 15-seed in the very first game.  Though I will always love my team, I cursed the $10 that I had thrown in our office pool, wished I could build a flux capacitor to go back to the 2010 National Championships, and prayed that the plucky 15-seed would just win this whole silly thing  (thanks to my NCAA iPhone app, they lost shortly after).  Of course Monday comes around...and my luck changes in other ways.  More on that later :) Despite my poor picks, I've somehow risen to the top of our 10 person pool...go figure!

What was my dream match-up for the National Championships
Oh my.  A great deal of time has passed since I last updated this blog.  There are many excuses that I will attempt to offer, amongst which include being caught up in work (just got assigned to help out a new region and have been traveling to New England recently), un-pausing my social life, and the inevitable writer's block on new blog posts since I was now playing the waiting game.  But the biggest deterrent?  The fear that I wouldn't get into any program and conceding that this whole blog was just an experiment to see how much introspection and neurosis I could record - apparently 16 entries worth!

Let me back up.  After I hit submit on my final application (Haas) in mid-January, I was feeling pretty great.  I had just finished the most time-consuming, potentially life-changing post-college process and applied to 4 FT 2-year MBA programs that I knew well and felt very passionate about.

In some ways, oh so very true.
But then I made the mistake of re-reading my applications after submitting (we all do that, right?).  I discovered small bits I could have said better, inconsistencies in formatting, and lurked periodically on the forums, boards and blogs, scrutinizing over stats of admitted applicants.  I had to face it: with the caliber of the programs I had selected, as with much of B-school applications, there was no guarantee that I'd get into any of the programs.  I was filled with a fear that I had made some minor mistake, or worse, said something awful that I didn't realize.  In my quest to be truly "authentic" and by not having an admissions consultant or MBA student/grad read through my application, I could have blindly submitted something that would be a red flag.

Was I too humorous in my essays?  Did I spend too long on long-term goals without tying in my short-term goals, even though that's not what the question asked?  While I felt my applications gave a full and vibrant picture of who I am, what if who I am is not what they are looking for?  These questions plagued me and made playing the waiting game even more excruciating.  Ironically, I watched the Bachelor to keep my sanity in check.  There, I observed otherwise intelligent and emotionally stable women grapple with similar doubts of not knowing what the other was thinking and being cautious of building themselves up, just to be let down.  I felt thankful that I was not being filmed during this time or locked up in a mansion devoid of phones, the internet, and normal human contact.  I assured myself that the Adcoms held better judgement than a 28-year old man-boy with unkempt hair and a penchant for kissing the contestants when he was at a loss for words, knowing they were on the chopping block for the next rose ceremony (I'd prefer the ding letter, thanks!)

In a sense, I was like Jenna from the Bachelor: Overanalyzing? I'm not alone.

Fast forward a couple of weeks and I receive my Valentines Day greeting...in the form of a ding letter from HBS letting me know that since I had not been invited to interview, I was released.  That was the only communication I had heard from a program other than confirmation of receipt of materials, and instructions to schedule an off-campus interview through Kellogg (standard procedure for all applicants).  I started to panic that I wouldn't get into a program.  What if I didn't apply to enough programs?  Frantically, I started researching Round 3 deadlines.

After visiting my best friend in NYC twice in a month and reminiscing with some of my closest college friends there, I started having second thoughts of judging Columbia too harshly. They had rolling admissions right?  And Tuck... a few friends of mine had recently applied to Tuck and raved about the program, but I couldn't imagine living so far removed from a major city.  To be realistic, these were all amazing schools and if I wasn't getting in somewhere R2, I sure as heck wasn't going to slide by in R3.

So that's when I learned to stop worrying and love the process.  I reminded myself that applying R3 for schools I felt lukewarm about was ridiculous and I already had my heart set on these four schools.  If anything, I learned so much about myself during these past months, and that in and of itself, was a good reason to go through the application process. (Or so I try to tell myself...)  Despite the sense of uncertainty I was left with - now what?,  I knew that there wasn't anything more I could do.  I certainly didn't want to contact the admission office or obsessively check my status, as much as I wished I could do something to help increase my chances.

So in mid-February, I decided to put off thinking about admission decisions, and filled that time with kickboxing classes, joined a Body Pump weightlifting class, and bought way too many Groupons/Living Social Deals/Tipprs/Goldstar Events to be able to use.  Glass Blowing and Trapeze Classes?  Cirque Soleil OVO for 50% off? Sign me up!  I rejoined my church small group and rejoiced in being able to spend a Wednesday night on my couch watching Modern Family, Happy Endings and Revenge without feeling obligated to work on apps or the GMAT.  

This past weekend, I went out to one of my favorite Peruvian restaurants with a friend and their friends, and started chatting to another girl in the group that I had not yet met.  She mentioned applying to Northwestern's PA Program, and I excitedly told her I had also applied to the business school - how crazy would it be if we ended up there together!  She told me she'd find out within a few days, and I let her know my decision deadline was not for another whole week.

So this Monday morning rolls around, and I go back to my desk to check my cell phone after our regularly scheduled team meeting.  I see that I had a missed call from an unrecognizable (847) number at 9:06am PST.  To confuse matters more, I had recently gotten Google Voice after a friend told me that I would only need one number the rest of my life and could easily screen and direct calls.  I saw it as the perfect number to give out to work clients, potential dates and Vegas promoters alike :) I was still getting used to it and worried a client had called and gone to a generic voicemail in cyberspace.

Out of habit, I Googled the number to see if it was on a telemarketer list.  Illinois area....hmm.  I had a voicemail too!  Bracing myself for a recording from a confused curriculum director, I was surprised to hear the voice of an admissions director and called her back right away, about an hour after she called.

After her introductions and letting me know that the admissions committee had reviewed my file, which she said they enjoyed reading...I heard the words that I've been hoping for and anticipating these last few months: "We'd like to extend an offer to our class of 2014" (or something to that effect...I was overwhelmed with emotions and couldn't think straight!) 

I got accepted into Kellogg....and I could not be more excited!!  I thanked her profusely and as she explained that I would be soon receiving admit materials and could access the site, all I could think of was, I'm in!  Despite a packed morning of scheduled calls, I managed to text my closest friends, tell a handful of my closest co-workers, and call my mom to tell her the good news. Oh, and a Facebook status might have made its way up there too :)

A glimpse into my life.  But not nearly as entertaining as Happy Place
In retrospect, it was a culmination of a few months of hard work.  I struggled with the Kellogg essay questions, more so than the other schools, though I felt I was the closest to this school personality-wise.  After a wonderful interview in late January with a local alum (was told off-the-record that I was one of his favorites that he's spoken with and that I'd be a great fit) I was giddy and could barely stand the thought of waiting another 2 months to find out.  Well it was definitely worth the wait, and I emailed my interviewer an update as well as my recommenders.

While I'm still reserving a shred of hope for Stanford (next Monday is decision date) and Berkeley Haas (April 15th), I'm also realistic in that I haven't yet received interview invites from either.  Each day, I am finding new things to get excited about for Kellogg, including hearing of friends moving to the Chicago area, Northwestern football games (to compensate for my not-so-renowned undergrad football program), my future potential classmates in the admitted students Facebook group, and of course, Days at Kellogg in late April!

Now that I know that I did something right...I'm determined to post in greater detail over the next few days of my application "strategy" (if you can call it that), including the resources and books used.  Right now, I'm still marinating in the reality that, I very well might be going to business school after all :)

Going to sleep! Tomorrow is seeing the Lorax in 3-D with my work and I need to be alert for Danny Devito's interpretation!

In Purple and White we trust,

Mango

Thursday, January 19, 2012

DONE!!!!!

Lifted from my status update on Facebook:  "After months of indecision, visits, GMAT-ting, fretting, rebecca black parodies, procrastination, blogging, introspection, and of course, writing, I clicked submit for the *hopefully* last time. DONE!!!"

******

Mood: Euphoric.  I just clicked "submit" for my last application, just minutes before the midnight deadline, and was immediately filled with a flood of relief.  Well, actually to be honest I was initially filled with panic because the message that immediately appeared after read:  
 
"Thank you for submitting your application for admission to the Berkeley Full-time MBA program. Your application was received at 1/18/2012 and you will be considered for Round 3."

ROUND 3?!??! WHAT!! And then I pulled myself together when I remembered that Haas has 4 rounds, and Round 3 is actually pretty much like Round 2. WHEW.

After 1+ years of thinking, researching, not-deciding, deciding, and finally committing to apply, I'm finally DONE!! As in finished, dunzo, ultimo, EL FIN!

Well. sort of.  I have an interview with a Kellogg alum next Monday and plan on fully debriefing my essay-writing and application debacles in my next, more complete post, including reviewing the resources I used.  But I wanted to quickly squeak out this post, because I am SO SO SO GLAD to have all my apps in!!!

Today was quite the climactic end to my application-preparing journey.  Yesterday, we received our first major snowfall of the year in my dear PNW city, and today, what was remained was slush.  Wikipedia shut down last night, which in retrospect was probably a good thing as it kept me from further procrastinating.  It was also coincidentally my mother's birthday, and instead of going out to eat (raincheck for tomorrow!) I plowed through final revisions and finishing touches in our kitchen as she fed me dumplings.  I know, I'm quite lucky :)  AND to top it off, as I was going through my Haas essays one final time with a fine-toothed comb, I received a random email from a gal with the last name of Haas (no seriously) as part of a list-serve that I'm still subscribed to from my undergraduate days.  A good sign? I'll take that!

Things I will be excited to resume in my life:
5. Going to the gym.  It's about time I get started on these pesky new year's resolutions!
4. Going to concerts (seeing All American Rejects this weekend to celebrate...my inner pre-teen is dying of excitement right now!)
3. Resuming my TV watching.  Apparently, a girl from my alma mater is a contestant on The Bachelor this season....I watched a short clip of her rapping about epidemiology and all I can say is... Homegirl better represent!
2. TRAVEL!  I put off all major fun-trips during the last few months of applying, including accompanying my best friend to her sister's wedding in Israel.  I just saw this video, which renewed my excitement for travel and I kept listening to the piano music to get through my essay writing.  I cannot wait to resume planning for my next adventure (which I'll confirm once I get in to a school...provided I get into a school).  Galapagos?  Patagonia?  Suggestions?!



1. Not living every moment wondering if I should be working on my application.  That last month of applying, I lived, breathed, and dreamed b-school applications.  Just like I did with the GMAT, though this time there was a firm deadline, none of that Round 3 business for me!  If I was eating breakfast, I was reading Montauk.  If I was stair-climbing at the gym, I was going line-by-line through my essays on my iPhone, making sure they expressed what I wanted.  The times I did go out with friends, I'm pretty my applications came up at some point in our conversations, and I kept thinking I should be in front of my computer revising instead.  Wow.  I can't believe I was that person, and they're probably as relieved as I am that I'm done!

Okay, after typing, deleting, and re-typing incessantly for the last few hours/days/weeks/months, I'm ready to take a break and head to bed early (relatively).

A more detailed and coherent blog post to come this weekend!!

~ still doing my happy dance for being finished ~

~Mango

Thursday, December 22, 2011

'Twas a few weeks before deadlines...and I made a song.

Mood:  Giggly.  I just created, probably one of the cheesiest, most ridiculous parodies.  In fact, this creation might signify me going off the deep end, and I haven't even finished my Christmas shopping.  I was inspired to create my own version of Rebecca Black's Friday (apparently the most watched You Tube video of 2011) after seeing this hilarious holiday greeting from Venture Capital Firm, First Round Capital.

 
What could be better than a non-Justin Timberlake / Andy Samberg white dude rapping? A couple of Venture Capitalists driving a sweet car and rapping!


Will I regret releasing this into cyberspace to presumably, be buried in viral song clips hell?  Probably.  Or perhaps I'll listen to the recording as I battle with the inevitable bouts of writers block!

Yes, I know, the production quality sucks, my auto-tuned voice is horrendous and you'll probably have nightmares...don't tell me I didn't warn you :) though I hope you will find it entertaining.

Credits to the I Am T-Pain iPhone App (which I've had for 2+ yrs but have not put to good use till now) for digitally altering my voice and making it slightly less recognizable, Round 2 Deadlines, and of course, Rebecca Black!


Lyrics:


So I decided to make my own version of Rebecca Black’s Friday titled “Round 2” to help get me through MBA applications, courtesy of the I Am T-Pain iPhone app

I’ll probably be very embarrassed…and regret this....but here goes nothing...

7 days ago I sent Kellogg’s Part 1
Got it in online, got it in on time
Gotta do part 2, gotta send it in too
Seein’ everything, time is going
Tickin’ on and on, every day I’m rushin’
Gotta get down to the deadlines, gotta write these apps, I see the end...
Visiting the East Coast
Hittin' up the West Coast
Gotta make my mind up
To which schools do I apply?

For Round 2, Round 2
Gotta get it in for Round 2
Everybody’s lookin’ forward to interviews, interviews
Round 2 Round 2, Getting in on Round 2
Everybody’s lookin' forward to the interview
Essayin’ Essayin (Yeah!)
Rewritin’ Rewritin’ (Yeah!)
Done Done Done Done
Lookin' forward to the interview! :)


PS - I'm acutely aware that "essayin'" is not a word, but hey, it was the best I could do :D

PPS - I am already envisioning a longer version of the song which includes the bridge:

Last round was the first round, first round
This round is the second, second (essayin')
We-We-We so excited
We so excited
We gonna turn it in on time!

Next round is the third
And First Round next year comes after...wards
I don’t want my chances to end...

PPS -Please click the "thumbs up" icon if you felt like your ears survived the entire recording.  It would be awesome to see those around the globe who are following!

In other news...

I attended a coffee chat in my city with a current Berkeley Haas student this evening, and a dinner hosted by a current Stanford GSB student last week.  Both interactions were helpful in that I learned more about each school from a more personal perspective, got me excited again for applying to these schools and being in the Bay Area, and I got to meet other potential applicants in my dear PNW city (they do exist!).  But because I had already done my research on the schools, it didn't add too much additional value on learning about the strengths and programs at the school, and confirmed what I had already gathered.  It was nice, however, to get application advice from those who had already been through the process, and I took away from these interactions 3 main pieces of advice:
  1. Write clearly and concisely in your essays as you have a limited amount of space - 250 words for Haas!  That's barely enough for me to describe what I ate for lunch!
  2. Stress less  - easier said than done of course :) 
  3. Make the job of the recommenders as easy as possible my providing them resources and anecdotes to write about. 
I submitted Part 1 of the Kellogg application (true to my "Round 2" song) last Wednesday, albeit at the very last minute.  Yes, just like Tebow (I too am falling victim to Tebow-mania), I pulled a miracle in the 4th quarter, aka final hour, though I did receive a confirmation that it did go through.  Whoo!


I'm now getting into the trenches of essay writing, and I eat, breathe and sleep questions such as, "What Matters Most to you and Why?" and "People may be surprised to learn that I…." (make really awful song parodies?)  In any case, its forced me to tap into some introspective part of my being and conduct some serious soul-searching, which is probably fitting since it is the holidays and all.

I'll be balancing this out with moving out of our beloved funky old house.  For the past year, it's been a wonderful refuge in a hip, up-and-coming part of my city and I've really bonded with my room mate, who I'm going to miss.  In a way, we are both taking risks by leaving (and me, potentially leaving) our city that we've spent all of our post-college years in to pursue things that we are very excited about, even if the trade-offs are uncertain.  Last Saturday, we hosted what can be only described as an epic party to celebrate a fantastic year together, and I'm lucky to have such great friends here!

Photo from our living room, turned into a winter wonderland!

Finally, I feel really good going into the final stretch of the application process.  My recommenders are supportive, and yesterday our company president stopped by my desk to wish me luck with the application process though they would be sad to see me go, and offered to do what he could to help - even writing a LOR.  WOW!! So much of my nervousness, hesitation and fears are assuaged knowing that I have their support.   Everything from our holiday party this year, to our own silly holiday video (not as crazy as the First Round Capital but our take on a popular Christmas song) made me feel warm and fuzzy inside knowing I work for a great company.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!!  For those R2 applicants out there, I hope you get some much-deserved time off with family and friends and a break from these apps.  Of course you could always make your own version of "Round 2" to get you through the awkwardness of the holidays. Hah. I'm kidding. Sort of :)

~ With joyous wishes and good cheer for the holiday season ! ~ 



~Mango

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Tis the Season...and a month away from Round 2 Deadlines!

Mood:  Re-Energized.  I've been slacking on the application process again, and with a little more than a month away from the due dates, I'm ready to ramp things up full speed!

Musing:  Kind of bittersweet that the Occupy movement is no longer, though in my dear PNW city, the movement was starting to drive me nuts.   Our office was just 2 blocks away from where the protesters had set up a tent city, and I was able to observe it each day from the comfort and security of my office window.

I used to walk by the Occupy tent city on the way to the gym, (made sure to change out of my suit and into gym clothes as even suits in my PNW city are a rarity unless you are going to court) and was intrigued by the messages on the signs.  Having participated in a number of protests and demonstrations back in the day (mostly relating to budget cuts, school funding, and the War on Iraq) I was slightly sympathetic to the protesters but in retrospect, wondered if they might have taken a cue from the organizations they were protesting: having a solid identity, message and brand really could have helped their cause.  

It was hard to understand what their desired results were, what they wanted to accomplish because of their varied statements: "Free Tibet!" to "Shut down Guantanamo Bay!" to "Stop your Spending!" (um, you're saying that to the girl who is carrying 4 shopping bags and has already tried to hide her credit cards?) and perhaps if they had a united message and with the proper spin and "marketing", they could have gotten more people to identify with their cause.  Of course, using iPhones and smart phones to share their message, bundling up in cozy Patagonia jackets and using the Starbucks and Mcdonalds restrooms might have also worked again their credibility...

Ugh. Probably the most pretentious Ad Campaign ever, courtesy of Patagonia on Black Friday
As I am working towards Round 2 Application Deadlines....I realize I really do have my work cut out for me!

A lot has happened in my life since I scratched out my last posting including:
  • A spectacular trip to Singapore & Indonesia for work and a magical weekend in Bali spent biking through rice paddies, riding (and falling off of) motorbikes, snorkeling, spas and delicious food and chasing sunsets.
  • Initiated, planned and hosted a fairly successful Happy Hour for the Educational Foundation I am a part of through my company...hardest part was that I was in Asia for the weeks leading up to the event, but luckily I had some amazing team mates that helped get everything in order.
  • Room mate announcing that she is moving to South Lake Tahoe to unofficially become a snowboarding bum, which will result in me moving back home by the end of month... I'll be too caught up with apps to figure out where else to live, so I'll be at home for the time being.
  • My personal life had gotten kind of um, complicated, which in retrospect detracted from my original plans of focusing on the B-School applications during the home stretch.  Well, no longer, and I'm feeling pretty good about moving forward!
Leading up to this major deadline, I found myself sneaking peeks at my friends Facebook photo albums of their first years at B-School.  I know that I’m probably over-glamorizing the whole experience in my mind and that what the photos and status updates depict might not actually be what happens in reality *cough* Kardashian Wedding* cough* but at the same time, it seems like they are having an incredible time even through Finals Week.

I might say a little about my school visits to Columbia and Kellogg as they really helped me solidify my decision.  What I realized is that, to be blunt, screw applying to schools just for the sake of applying!  I had to get serious about the next big commitment of my life, which leads me to my next analogy: school visits are a lot like online dating -  you may have built up in your mind this amazing idea of what a school is like, but you can’t really make a decision of whether it is right for you until you go and visit and have that interaction.

Kellogg: The cute Midwestern guy
None was more true than when I visited Kellogg and Columbia in the middle of October (wow. a month and a half ago?!)   In my mind, I had been “researching” and “learning about” the two schools, even to go as far as communicating with the schools virtually, emailing them questions and letting them know I’d be visiting campus.

On paper, they were both, um, very handsome specimens :)  Kellogg I considered to be friendly, social, and down to earth, but also cold (literally – right outside of Chicago the Windy City) and err… large? (student body was pretty big  - how would I fit in?) and perhaps not the best looking (had heard from a Northwestern friend that the campus was um, homely).  Regardless, it exuded that Midwestern, down-to-earth charm where you’d feel very comfortable being yourself. 




Columbia: The Sexy NYC stud
Columbia on the other hand was as different of a profile as one could imagine- urban, sophisticated, very New York, finance-y, the dapper gentleman who would dazzle you and sweep you off your feet, but you weren’t sure if they’d call the next day (I had doubts about the community feel and closeness of student body after hearing that students lived spread out in New York City). 

The thing about online dating is that you don’t know until the first date whether you're still going to be interested, and the same could be said about the school visit. Sometimes it takes more than one meeting to know how strong the chemistry is, but that first date is very telling, especially if both parties are putting their best feet forward and going in with good intentions.  I figure if I’m going to make the effort to come all the way out to meet them, the very least they could do is reciprocate with an enthusiasm to meet me ;) This was true at Kellogg, but not so evident at Columbia. 

Let me explain:
When I visited Columbia in October, I had plans to attend the informational session and a few class visits, perhaps chat with students and walk around.  My first impression stepping foot on campus was wow – the architecture was beautiful.  Immediately, I was attracted to the school at the visual level, because the aesthetics reminded me of my previous longest-lasting relationship - my undergrad Alma Mater, in all its Gothic beauty – you can say I have a type when it comes to campuses :)

Wanting to keep an open mind, I first decided to attend the info session.  On the way there, I ran into a friend from undergrad and we were both very surprised to see each other.  After catching up briefly before the session, he offered to answer any question I had.  This was a good sign – mutual friends!   During the session though, I was continually waiting for all my reservations I had about the school to be assuaged (living in an expensive city, finding housing, a close-knit community of students, strengths in areas outside of finance) and the answers did little to convince me in the other direction.  It’s like when you ask your date if he still smokes (after marking “Trying to Quit” on their profile) and he mentions he wouldn’t in front of you.  Yes, you find some comfort in that answer, but the bottom line is, no matter how they word it, the fact still remains.

At times, I also question the intention that many of these schools have for seeking so many applicants - that's $250 per person they rope into applying!  Are they giving you false hope, and just want you to apply so that the application rates will rise and they will look more selective by comparison?  Are they sugarcoating their answers on the tough questions, and will they think of you differently for even asking?
While the whole presentation centered on how amazing NYC is, the wonderful resources Columbia had to offer and the connections with Wall Street, I didn’t feel myself fitting in with the most desirable characteristics of the school.  Even the class visits were above my head, as they had only offered second year courses.  The professors for those classes, according to the students I spoke with, left much to be desired.  At the end of the day, while eating sushi in Morningside Heights with a friend that attends Columbia Law School, I realized that, at the most basic level, CBS was wonderful, but just not for me.  One might even say, "You're Just not that into It" ;)  Is it then time to relegate them to the “friend zone?” (aka don’t apply this round, but keep on your radar?)

After a semi-disappointing visit to Columbia, I entered my Kellogg visit the following day with a bit of a sense of trepidation.  I wondered in my mind whether I had built up this ideal, perfection in a school that was unattainable, and decided I needed to decide what my non-negotiables were (campus aesthetics – meh, fit with interest and future plans – crucial) as well as to, please excuse the cliché, Just Go With It (terrible movie, by the way!) 

Driving up to the campus, I started to feel butterflies building in my stomach.  It was the complete opposite of Columbia in that the buildings were modern, not as beautiful, but the sun was shining, the leaves were turning and students were walking and chatting.  The day-long date just kept getting better, and I could tell the school had put out its best foot for prospective students.  The class visit that I sat in on was phenomenal and blew my mind.  The teacher had won numerous awards and was funny, knowledgeable, engaging and quirky: everything I desired in a professor, and especially in a first year class.

They had assigned student ambassadors to show us around, so I really appreciated the personal gesture, but the highlight of the visit culminated in individual time with the admissions director.  Instead of doing a formal presentation, she gathered myself and 3 other prospective students in her office and just opened us up to ask questions to have a heart-to-heart dialogue.  It was without pretense, she spoke genuinely and honestly, and the entire experience put me at ease – everything that you’d want in a school visit AND a first date :)

When I left Kellogg, I could feel my heart beating rapidly.  This school was so right for me – down to the close interaction between the students, classroom dynamics, strengths, and that indescribable feeling that I could really see myself there for two years.  I knew that I was going to apply and felt very strongly about the school – the only question was, would they feel the same way about me? 

So this brings me to my list of four schools, in no particular order:
  • Harvard Business School ~ January 10th
  • Stanford GSB (joint program with MBA & Masters of Education) ~ January 11th
  • Kellogg School of Management ~ January 11th 
  • Haas School of Business ~ January 18th
It was a long, arduous choosing process, with lots of fretting, soul searching and going back and fourth, but I’ve visited all four schools, connected with current and former students of the schools, and feel that for similar and different reasons, they are great matches for me.  I will continue my “wooing” of these schools, submit the best applications I can muster up, and keep expressing my interest.   I’ll have to prepare myself for the possibility of rejection and knowing that the feelings are not reciprocated, but I want to know that I did everything that I could to show my interest and the best I have to offer.

A few months ago, I asked a co-worker to write my peer LOR, and yesterday, after dragging my feet for what seemed like eternity, I finally gathered up the courage to ask my direct boss for the dreaded Letter of Recommendation.  It was difficult first because he works on the East Coast and secondly, because I have a hard time with the ask, but I knew that it would be best to get the letter from him as he knew me best and I had worked directly under him for the last 2+ years.

I had initially spoken with another partner in the firm who was fully supportive and agreed enthusiastically to write one of the letters but also gave me some foreshadowing about the more tepid response from my direct boss and the company president.  There were all these times earlier I had planned on asking my boss when he was in the office a month ago (the same time we were doing some "company reorganization") or right before Thanksgiving Break (his birthday and he broke his leg) but they all just happened to be horrible timing so I felt it best to wait.

Come Monday morning, he's in our office for our Firm-Wide Team Meetings this week and he asks to meet with me.  Turns out, the partner had given him a head's up over the weekend.   In our conversation, he expressed his surprise of my decision and as expected, tried to talk me into staying by offering additional opportunities and growth.

As he spoke of his own graduate school experience, how he wished he would have waited, the burdensome student loans, I could feel doubts creep in.  But reality snapped in as I realized, that after a year of indecision, slogging through the GMAT, visiting and falling in love with different schools, and starting the application journey, I was not about to give in.   "I appreciate everything that this company has offered...but I'm still very determined to go to business school and put forth the strongest application possible."  (Or something along those lines)  While I think he certainly understands where I'm coming from, it will be hard to transition my portfolio as a small company...and I'm starting to dread the conversation with the president, who I will also be meeting with.  Especially considering our huge office holiday bash will be this Friday *GULP*

I fully plan on working full steam ahead the next few weeks until January 10th, when the first application is due.  Up until then, you can expect to hear from me fairly regularly throughout my brain-freezes and writers blocks as I polish up these essays :)

Thank you for your patience in reading through what may be my longest posting yet - Just making up for lost time here :)

Keep on Rockin' (around the Christmas tree)
Mango

PS - Check out my interview with Accepted.com!! 

Bali Sunset @ Nusa Lembogan Island, Jungut Batu Beach *SIGH*
 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Update to come...very soon this week!

Holy cow.  It seems that I have not updated this blog for the last month and I can literally hear tumbleweeds blowing on here (I know how Google+ feels now...)

In between being on the road for work (2 weeks straight and 5 cities), visiting 2 b-school campuses (reflections to come), college friends in 2 major cities on the weekends, celebrating turning a quarter-century and the continual clean-up of my house that ensued (I'm still finding boa feathers and glitter from a house party exactly a month ago), assuming some new responsibilities at work, having temporary custody of my cat again, battling and winning the first bad cold I've had in years (my desk at work is stocked with enough leftover pills, cough drops, meds and sizzurp that it might pass for a small pharmacy), plotting my Halloween costume (topical and hand crafted, I'm very pleased with myself) and preparing for my upcoming trip to NC/Asia, I have not been good at maintaining the blog.

But that all changes this week!  Before I jet off again next week, I plan on detailing where I am up until now and my application progress, and plan on making up for lost time (with the proper amount of some-e-card images inserted to express exactly how I feel).  I also just emailed responses to Accepted.com for their MBA Applicant Blogger Interview, so I am really getting back into things!


The major news is that I've FINALLY narrowed down to 4 schools that I will suck up and pay the $250 application fee and send my very best "me" condensed into stats, essays, a resume and letters for R2 consideration.  After starting out with 9, then 7, then 6, 5 and 4, it feels good to have that determined!

Bedtime! Talk soon :) 

If I could send my blog an e-card....and my apologies for being MIA!

Monday, September 19, 2011

If at First You Don’t Succeed...Skydiving Is Probably Not for You…

Mood: Exasperated. More on this later.

Musing: This post is going to be relatively short.  I know now that I'm pretty terrible at writing short posts, but there is a list of things I need to do this afternoon, which most importantly include:

1. Pack -
I fly out to work in Pittsburgh at 5:30am tomorrow for work the rest of the week.  I have invested in this Sharper Image 21-inch upright convertible backpack: 
Cute, but not very functional.

                   Awesome and practical

















Granted, I only paid $29.99 from Marshalls, but I love this thing.  Before, I had used a Diane Von Furstenburg suitcase set which was visually pretty and stood out from all the other drab business luggage, but after 2 years of constant use, the handle got stuck and I haven't bothered to fix it since.

2.  Plan - We're throwing a housewarming/bday party (yes housewarming, though I've lived here for 9+ months...) this Saturday and have some major cleaning and decorating to do.  We have a boa theme (feather boas) but my room mate and I are considering getting an actual boa,
à la Britney at the 2001 VMAs. Clever, right? :) 

I am relieved to say - I am finally moving on from the GMAT aka Give Money And Time to the GMAC

My GMAT retake was this morning and I resolved it would be my last.  My preparation up until this retake was a little lopsided - I put off studying entirely for the 2 weeks immediately after my first attempt, and studied pretty consistently the next 3 weeks.  I knew that timing was my big thing, so I tried to employ a variety of strategies including pacing myself and not running out of time at the end.

Like the first time, AWA went by quickly and though I had to think and plan longer on my topics this time, I still felt pretty good when finishing.  Moving on to Quant, I started with some fairly easy questions, then moved up to medium level, and for a few that I had no clue how to solve, I gave it my best guess and moved on.  What really scared me was a few easy questions in the middle - was this a sign that I had made simple mistakes earlier?  This caused me to panick and I resolved to keep truckin' along, doing well at the end and finishing with a minute to spare.  When Quant was over, I was slightly worried - I hadn't seen any rate or permutation questions, the ones that I felt solid on, but saw two functions questions, types of questions that I did not brush up on.  I knew something was amiss, but wanted to head strong into Verbal so I only took a few minutes for the break.


The entire time on Verbal I told myself to work at a steady pace, which was my problem the last time.  Halfway through Verbal, I noticed I was short on the time I had budgeted and guessed on two questions in a very long CR passage.  I finished just on time, but thought I had bombed Verbal.  Luckily, I did not have to go through the experimental section this time around and when my results screen finally came up, I put my hands over my eyes, much like you would do watching while The Ring: 


The result? 710 (92%) with 44Q (66%) and 44V (97%).  I had made my goal of hopping over the 700-barrier, but it was more of a stumble and dash at the end, rather then a true leap.

Go figure.  While I'm happy with my Verbal score, the Quant leaves much to be desired.   +20 points is not much, but it puts me closer to the average of the schools I hope to attend.  My only concern now is in the unbalance of the scores - would a school look unfavorably upon such a low quant score? 

Regardless, I really wanted to move on.  Realistically, the most my score could go up is maybe 30 pts, and the 3 practice tests I took over the past week I scored 710, 720, and 730, so I knew it was within my range.  At home, I googled a 44v 44q split and got some interesting feedback - most people said the 710 was a good score, but the split may be concerning to some as the 80/80 percentile is preferred. Gah!


I even wondered for a minute whether I should submit the 690 score because of the more even distribution, but realized how silly that was.  710 is a great score and I really did not want to keep taking this test again and keep forking over the $250.  I have no plans of doing anything finance related, though I'm fairly comfortable with numbers and data as I use them in my job with relation academic performance across schools.  After beating myself up for the split, I realized that I did okay considering I did not sign up for a class and used the Manhattan GMAT guides, OG books and a tiny bit of Kaplan and Princeton review here and there along with the Manhattan GMAT, GMAC and Knewton practice tests.  What did help the last couple of weeks was googling types of questions that I was still unclear on - there's a lot you can learn from random websites on basic math!

Set of GMAT guides, looking for a good home!


I am pretty much convinced that my GMAT tribulations are ending today.  I even re-read through this thread on whether or not to retake, and can't really point out a good reason other than increasing the Quant.  On the drive home, I reflected on the irony of the situation, which should be taken as a sign to move on.  I thought back to My Biking Incident of Last Summer - in an attempt to fit in better in my city (I was not about to get a tattoo and could only take PBR in small amounts), I bought a vintage Schwinn off Craigslist and convinced myself to bike to work. The bike was not really my thing, it was more of a practical move with a 15 minute commute downhill to work.  Riding home in a hurry one afternoon to get to kickball practice, I fell off and busted up my knee, landing in urgent care.  (I still have the scar to prove it, and now have to pose strategically in photographs - ha!)  A few weeks later, my bike got stolen as it was locked outside of my office; granted I had left it there for two weeks while I worked in Asia, but that's besides the point.  Maybe, somewhere the universe was saying that I need to stay off that bike, and maybe, this is an indication today that I need to focus on other parts of my app. This time around, I'm listening.  :)


Pretty much the mentality of my city - less cars on the road and less pollution, I'm all for it!


Hopefully if I can show the admissions committee my strengths in numbers and data in other ways, such as in my job and on my transcript (took a few quant courses, minored in econ), the 44Q will not keep me out of a school.   I also read that if a certain component of your application is low but the rest is stellar, the admissions committee may wave you in but recommend taking additional courses. 

What I am looking forward to now are the school visits!  I have decided not to let living out in the PNW and physically far away from these schools prevent me from visiting, as I know now the importance of the on-site visit. Due to some clever scheduling with working out east heavily in a few weeks and red-eye flights, I will be able to visit Kellogg when I'm working in Chi-Town and Columbia while helping my BFF settle into NYC.  I'm stoked that I'll be able to spend time with friends in both cities, but also thankful for the opportunity to get a better reading of how I will fit in at these schools.  I want to get the most out of my school visits, so that will mean reading up on the programs ahead of time (the two programs that I am least familiar with on my list of prospective schools), compiling a list of questions to ask, and researching which classes I want to sit in on.  


All that Jazz in Chicago?
Or concrete jungle where dreams are made of in NYC?















So what do you think - should I quit now while I'm *slightly* ahead, or take the GMAT once more to see if I can get that Q up?  At the risk of my verbal going down... I truly think my time could be spent in better ways. 

Time to make the most of my "vacation" day from work and to go scrounging for a birthday dress,

Mango


law and order marathons ----> actual half marathon...it can be done!
Bucket list #27:  Run a half marathon, or at the very least, a 10k.   Ran a 5k this past summer dressed as Curious George (to my credit, I convinced my two friends to dress up as the [wo]man in the yellow hat and a banana) and I have been wanting to train for a longer run.   Now that the GMAT is over, this might be good balance with the app-writing process.  Bonus points if the half marathon offers pasta or beer afterwards, or is fairly flat.  :)



****addendum to my last posting: I realized last night that I may have miscalculated my chances of getting into a b-school in my last post, as I had multiplied the possibility of getting in instead of possibility of getting denied.  The actual percentage?  (1-.85*.8*.6*.5*.75*.6*.6*.5) or 97% chance .... I'll take THAT figure with a Morton's factory worth of salt :)

Friday, September 16, 2011

So you're telling me there's a chance... *YEAH!* :)

Mood:  Freezing. After having record highs (close to 100 degrees) in my PNW city this past weekend (passing up optimal outside bronzing time/floating down the river/Warrior Dash for GMAT studying), the weather has returned to normal and it is finally starting to feel like fall.   Unfortunately this means that our poorly-insulated old house in our trendy hipster enclave is going to transform from being an oven this summer into a refrigerator this fall aka, oh heating bill, it's you again.  

Musing:  I am less than 10 days away from turning the big 2-5, aka onset of the quarter life crisis (ha).  This is the final "hurrah" to cross...though not much will change (lower car insurance? yay?)  Part of me starts to panic - there are people who did amazing things by age 25.  Lady Gaga sold 13 million albums, Mark Zuckerberg created and launched Facebook, and I'm pretty sure Shakespeare wrote his first play before he turned 25. 

Then I watched this National Geographic video then this one about there being 7 billion people in the world and felt just a teensy bit insignificant.  

Who doesn't love National Geographic?
I'm definitely very appreciative of all my experiences up until now, but I also want to make sure that I'm taking advantage of all the opportunities that have been given to me and reflective of my choices.  I have always thought, why MBA and why now, but now more than ever, I realize how ready I am at this point in my life to go back to school. The video has been on my mind the last couple of days, and made me think about the inter-connectedness of the world and the potential for combining education + global impact. My international experiences in work and education have been some of the most memorable, and it would be amazing to have the opportunity to work and study abroad.

Moving forward with the application process, I'm now starting to narrow down my list of schools and realistically assess my chances.

First move was to submit my profile to Sandy aka the HBSGuru on Poets & Quants to get his opinion.  I figured if I needed someone to give it to me straight, it would be him.

Here's the profile I submitted, and Sandy's response, which I'm very grateful that he took the time to compile.

Key takeaways:
  • Hardest news to hear: "For the reasons you mention–low GPA and lowish GMAT, plus non-blue chip firm—you’re asking them to blink twice or maybe 1.5 times, and they will take someone similar to you with better stats and schooling" Ahh. And there it is - the truth. *gulp*
  • Most encouraging news to hear: "I like you, and my guess is, with real solid execution, which should be easy, given how smoothly your goals flow from your experience, you could be real strong candidate at Kellogg, Haas, Yale, and Duke."  *yay!* These are some schools that I am, also, very excited about.
  • Alignment with my future goals: "The rest of this is just so solid. A neighbor of mine started an educational consulting company right out of Harvard Ed School, doing what seems like what your company does, and he had an HBS grad working for him." That sounds amazing and right up my alley.
  • To end: "Explain the grades in some way and stress international do-gooder stories, and write back and tell me you made it to Harvard or Stanford." Check and check, and if I do, you can expect a manuscript :)
So basically what I got out of it was, your chances realistically at some schools are not very high, they care about numbers, but give it your best shot because you have some other things working for you.

What can I control? My GPA is history, and I don't have time to take additional classes now. I can focus on my recommendations, community service and essays, and getting that GMAT number up.

Immediately after I read his response, I felt like Lloyd in Dumb and Dumber shouting out, "So you're telling me there's a chance?!"

Hit me with it! Just give it to me straight!
So without further ado, here are my preliminary list of schools along with the percentage chance of acceptance that Sandy has "handicapped":
  • Stanford (joint degree in School of Education): 15% to 20%
  • Harvard Business School: 20% to 30%
  • Berkeley: 40+%
  • Yale: 50+%
  • Wharton: 25% to 40%
  • Northwestern: 40% to 60%
  • Columbia: 40% to 50%
  • Duke: 50% to 60%
Using what I learned about probability from my GMAT quantitative prep, the chances that I will get into ONE of the above schools is equal to 1 - the chances I get denied at ALL of the schools multiplied together (ha) or, 1-(.15*.20*.40*.25*.40*.40*.50) = .99976.  Now I will take this figure with a grain of salt...but statistically, I should get into at least one or two of the schools on the list.  I just need to put forth the strongest application I possibly can!
 
It's going to be helpful in breaking down my list of schools in each blog posting and digesting what I have to offer the schools and what they have to offer me in return.  Some might wonder, "Why aren't you applying to more safety/reach schools? The answer being, MBA admissions is not like college where you HAVE to go somewhere so you need "a safety school" in case all else fails.  I applied to maybe 11 different colleges, a mix of liberal arts schools and universities, public and private, in every corner of the US, and had originally planned on going to the school that offered me the best financial aid package.  Due to the generous policies of schools meeting all financial need, I was able to go to my dream school.  

I know business school is not like that, and financing my experience will be another posting in itself, but I definitely only will apply to schools that I feel I would genuinely be happy to attend.   If I don't get in, I'll want to know why and what I can do to improve my profile, whether it is work experience, a higher GMAT score, or better crafted essays and statements.  Not just because it is what a school asks for, but also because I want to be a well-rounded student when I enter. 

I was lucky enough to attend my "dream school" at my undergraduate institution, but am also realistic in having more than one "dream school" for B-School :)
Before I start, it might help to list out what I am looking for in an ideal school "fit" 
  • Brand Name & Reputation.  Is that superficial? Let me clarify then - I don't necessarily mean the exact rankings, but one that is well-regarded and a record of taking credit for creating leaders.  ;)  There's a reason why schools have strong reputations - a degree from that institution carries a high value, and the experience and connections are priceless.  On the other hand, I'm not going to apply/choose a school that is ranked #10 just because it is ranked higher than #11.
  • General Management Focus, not just finance-y or only known for being numbers heavy, but a school that aims to and has a history of producing real leaders.
  • Social entrepreneurship connections - ideally they would be high up on the Beyond Gray Pinstripes rankings for social, ethical and environmental stewardship.
  • Most Importantly, school culture and fit - students that are collaborative, positive and PASSIONATE, not just ambitious.  I don't want to be sitting next to students who only want to crunch numbers all day and earn the big bucks on Wall Street (though, I grudgingly admit we may need those people too), but also connected to those who are earnestly wanting to change the world (I mean GLOBAL impact) for the better.  I want to be around people who dream really, really big, and have the drive and talents to back it up.  On the other hand, I recognize that I would gain a great deal learning from those who have different skills than I do, and so what I'm really looking for is a BALANCED student body - one where I would naturally fit in. 
Icing on the cake:
  • West Coast Location - okay, that is a definite plus so that I can be close to family, but I will live anywhere. Heck, I'll even suck it up for cold weather. I was raised in Alaska, so I don't mind walking around in a snow suit if I have to.  In fact, that would be probably very fashionably ironic and retro in my current city!  I picked my undergrad school partly based on the sunshine, but this is serious grad school stuff we are talking about here ;)
  • Management Consultant Firms recruiting, or track record of sending a high number of students into consulting
  • International draw or opportunities for study abroad
  • Joint program with schools of Education
  • Emphasis on recruiting women or a female-friendly environment, student organizations for women in business, strong female alums
  • Fairly young student body - want to be going to school with students that are around my age, similar interests in starting up company and early in career.  Of course having older students to learn from different perspectives is always beneficial.
  • Connections to entrepreneurship in general; down the road, I'd love to start my own company/organization.
  • Balanced curriculum - I think I can gain the most from curriculum that is structured in that it has a solid foundation of the required basics, but also electives.  I have had a taste of the case study method and I do feel like it is very compatible with my style of learning.
  • Oh and a beautiful campus sure doesn't hurt!
There's probably more...but those are some of the most important factors as of now.

So here we go: first school to break down on the list is the first school I actually visited (was in Singapore for business this Spring and coincidentally, was able to attend a Friday evening informational session):
INSEAD aka Innovative, eNtrepreneurship, Sexy (and Socially Impactful), European, globAl, Diverse

Pros: 
  • Truly a global business school in terms of curriculum, diverse student body, companies that recruit,
  • Highly ranked and great reputation (outside of the US would be stronger than within the US)
  • Heavily recruited by management consulting, send many graduates into consulting, but also have strong entrepreneurial ties
  • Visited the campus and expressed interest, love that you can study on both the Singapore and Fontainbleu France campuses
  • Will only be forgoing one year of salary, though on the other hand, I'm not sure I can get all I want out of an MBA experience in just one year.
  • #28 on Beyond Grey Pinstripes for social impact
I love Singapore as a city and living in a french chateau for part of a year could be really freaking charming.  *Pardon my French, literally, because it is non-existent and I'm pretty sure any attempt will butcher the language and result in me inadvertently uttering an expletive.  Case in point: I love the word pamplemousse, and when I first learned the word in High School, I repeated it incessantly, just because I liked the sound.  Little did I know it is also a slang term/insult, and learned that the hard way when I told a native french co-worker of my favorite phrase...good thing they understood my intentions..!

great word. even better great fruit, second only to mangos :)
As much as Insead may fit my interests on paper, I'm not sure the "chemistry" is there.  I didn't quite feel the "click" I was looking for when I attended the presentation, albeit I didn't get a chance to look around the campus or speak individually with many students (talked with a few).  If I may make another one of my far-out stretchy analogies that I am prone to doing, Insead in many ways is like Viggo Mortensen, who embodies what many might consider a "perfect" renaissance man:



Why the sudden Viggo interest?  One reason: Howard Shore's Lord of the Rings orchestra is coming to my city....and the repressed LOTR fanatic in me is very tempted to get tickets and geek out
 You are probably wondering who Viggo is.  Recognize him now?
Oh yeahhh. The orcs have nothing on you :)
Much like Insead, he's got humor, charm, intelligence (he writes books! he paints! he photographs!), is socially conscious (started a publishing house for non-traditional authors), is bold (Aragon! Fight Scene in Eastern Promises!), plus is fluent in 5+ languages (you need to know how to speak 3 languages as a student at Insead), and is undeniably European too, Danish to be exact (cultural differences keeps things exciting!)

But chemistry-wise?  Yep, as dreamy as Aragon is, realistically Viggo is probably (and by probably, I mean definitely) not the guy for me.  There's also that whole age thing, aka he is twice my age (average age of Insead students entering in is 29, I'd matriculate at age 25) aaaand I'm pretty sure that he doesn't even know I exist :). Insead on the other hand - I hope they do - I made sure to RSVP and sign in!

From my visit and looking around at the prospective students around me, and the student panel in the front, my immediate feeling in the room was; I feel SUPER American and SO young - which might not necessarily be a bad thing. Is adjusting to living abroad going to be difficult at the same time as I'm learning 2 years worth of MBA curriculum in one jam-packed year?  Plus a European MBA may be very different than an American one in terms of the doors it opens and connections to students who will probably go on to work globally.  As much as I would love to be an expat for a short period of time, I don't think I would want to live internationally the rest of my life....

In other news, I am now aiming for Round 2.  When I initially started, I thought I would submit to schools for R1, but after spending so much time on the GMAT and traveling for work, things have gotten pushed back.   I don't think it will hurt my chances as much since I've read that many R1 applicants are typically the "traditional" candidates such as Management Consultants or I-Bankers who have others helping coach them through the process, they have everything in top-shape early on.  Hopefully my profile, despite being in "consulting" as the broader industry, would be considered more "nontraditional" or "atypical" and I can still get by with R2.  Plus that will give me enough time to build solid essays and enhance my work/community experiences. 

Okay. Time to snooze.  I can't believe my GMAT re-take is just a few days away...and this time, I really hope it will be my last!

Au Revoir, (one of the only other french phrases I know...)  Somehow I have a feeling I'll be dreaming of Joey learning French from Phoebe..

Mango



Bucket List Continued:

28. Work and/or study in a different country for at least a few months.  Soak up the language, culture and grub.  Challenge myself outside of my comfort zone so that I can be truly adaptable to all situations.  Come away with a better understanding of how I fit into the global fabric and how I can contribute.