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Monday, April 18, 2011

The MBA application process is a marathon, not a sprint. It's a good thing I did cross country in high school, even if it was for the pre-race pasta dinners

In the spirit of my old Live Journal postings, I’m going to begin by posting a mood, song, and random musing.

Mood:  Spent (both physically and pocket-bookey, I did some major damage at the mall this past week/weekend!)

Song of the moment:  Carry on Wayward Son by Kansas

Pet peeve: Outlet Hogging: when people in airports take up 2 outlet plugs for their laptop and iPhone, when they only need one and can charge their iPhone through their laptop, thus freeing up the extra outlet for someone else (I thought I was ingenious in coining this term, but apparently it already exists)

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, but I think my time has been spent pretty wisely.  I’m currently blogging from the Wichita Airport in Kansas, where I was working with a client today.  Yes, my work takes me to some pretty random places, and this is my second time in the lovely state; the first to an even more remote town that only had one stop-light.

Surprisingly, I have really enjoyed Kansas this time around.  Upon my arrival, instead of checking out the largest corn dog or the most significant hill, I headed straight to the malls and stores.  I needed some retail therapy after my dismal first practice attempt at the GMAT on Saturday. 

Luckily, I have not run into any tornadoes, though I did have a run in with some pretty awful sushi last night which is comparable in my book. I know, what was I thinking, sushi in Kansas?  Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson.

The way sushi should be. Hungry yet? :P

Right now, my main focus is getting my GMAT scores up.  At one point early on in my MBA research, I Googled "predict GMAT from SAT".  Silly, I know, I just wanted to see if there was a correlation.  Apparently there is not, though I distinctly remember the musings of one forum poster: “Take your SAT and divide by two”.  He should have said, “Take your SAT, divide by 2, wait just kidding, you’ve been out of school too long and forgot your basic concepts, minus 200, and add some self-despair."  Hah.

I said I would be honest on this blog and update on my progress, so here I go. After 2 weeks of pretty persistent studying (here is a gal who has not hit the books since college) which includes 2/hrs day during the week days and 5/hrs a day on weekends, I decided I was ready to take a practice CAT test downloaded from the GMAC themselves, I figure it has to be legit as I am getting it from the source. 

The application process is starting to creep into my life (and in a few months, will overtake my life) in some crazy ways.  Out at happy hour Friday night, I called out a friend on an unstated assumption (critical reasoning, baby!).  I’ve become that girl at the gym that ellipticals and runs (pun intended) through GMAT flashcards.  In the morning when I wake and before bedtime, I try to look at the essay questions posed by my amorphous top 10 list of schools and think if I have new revelations or stories.  I don’t think I’m obsessive, but I know that there’s a steep hill I need to climb, I'm a little late to the game, and once I set a goal, I’m going to pursue it doggedly until I get it :)

So my friend from HS who I will nickname “H” is also prepping for B-School, and we have decided to be study buddies.  Saturday morning, we hole our selves up at the lovely public library with their study rooms.  For as much $ as I pay the library in taxes (and fines), I need to make use of all their amenities.

To quote Haley from “Modern Family”, “I thought that was a bathroom for homeless people”.

To quote an expression from another show: 

Well.  Yes, but the public library is so much more.  You see, we have one of the best library systems in the entire US in my dear PNW city.  I grew up on public libraries and university libraries.  The library was where I hid out and read "Sweet Valley High", "Babysitter's Club" and "Encyclopedia Brown" as a child, a favorite high-school hang-out (I fully acknowledge my nerdy past), my source for SAT prep, and now I return to the same familiar section for the GMAT material, after occasionally perusing the graphic novels section for The Adventures of Tin Tin books. Don’t laugh.

But then I decided to get serious…and bought the Manhattan GMAT series.  Of course I refused to buy it full price from the official site – that is one of my main tenents of life Don’t pay full price when you don’t have to which is next to Don’t order sushi from a state that is as physically far away as possible from a major body of water

So I go through the test, panicking and forgetting most of what I had studied and not pacing myself.  Math problems take me much longer than I had thought and I blank on the shortcuts I had memorized and number properties.  I try to outsmart the system, trying to figure out whether my questions are getting harder or easier, to see if I am doing better or worse. It is the most nerve wracking 75 minutes in my recent life,  besides watching the finale of the Bachelorette, Ali Fedetowsky Season 6. (I kid, I kid. But I still have a special place in my heart for Cape Code Chris, the runner-up.)

I think verbal will be easier, it is not. Rats.  Some how, I am being punished for going out the night before (it was one drink!) and my laundry list of transgressions that week (forgetting to turn off the oven again, buying whole non-organic non-sustainable milk) as the verbal section is terrible (harder than the practice sets in the books).  PLUS I nearly doze off as we get into critical reading.  All I remember is something about El Nino and La Nina and getting hungry for Mexican food.

Verdict? 630, 45Q 31V and around the 73% percentile. Uh oh.  Now for some, that is a great score.  For me, I know I can do better.  Standardized tests are my thing, well at least they used to be.  I have a long and sordid past with the SAT after studying much longer than the traditional test-taker - a few years actually. My parents had their own idea of summer fun.  As I had originally aimed to take the GMAT in April, and I just started seriously studying, I feel that I am very short on time. It's just that many of the tricks that I used to use on the SATs (doing all the easy questions first, scribbling on note paper) do not apply to the computer-adaptive GMAT.

According to the forum poster, I should be scoring 765.  In order to be competitive with the top schools, I need to get a 700+, even more with my GPA (more on that in another post). My goal is 724, 700+ my lucky number of 24. I think I can do it.  I KNOW I can do it :).

Lessons I Learned:
  • Be alert during the exam, drink some coffee, pop some Trimspa for caffeine. whatever it takes. 
  • Do not guess the system, you will invariably lose. It’s like a casino.
  • Pace yourself. Quant should take a little more than 2 minutes per question, verbal a little less.  There are always shortcuts, take some time to decipher the question and your approach before diving in.
  • Tune out distractions, especially if “H” is cracking their knuckles incessantly. Learn the ways of the basketball players at my beloved alma matter, who would be unfazed as ruthless, unclassy fans (yes I'm looking at you, Maryland and UNC) shouted obscenities in their face while shooting free-throws.
  • Finally, eating beef jerky during the exam is a bad idea. It will distract you and make you hungrier.  (Don't worry, I don't plan on snacking during the actual exam!)
To wrap up, applying for B-school is an extremely humbling and arduous journey.  To borrow from others, "The MBA application process is a marathon not a sprint".  I used to think I was unique with my life experiences, achievements and personality and then I stumbled upon MBA blogs, forum posts and I am blown away by what others have accomplished at a young age.  I read student profiles from the top schools of what the current B-School students have done pre-MBA and post, and I am wondering how I can compete both intellectually.  A part of me is slightly jealous that they have accomplished all AND look so polished and stress-free in their pictures (effortless perfection, a term coined at my undergrad is my first impression!  Photoshop is my second!)  The other part of me, is encouraged, impressed, and relieved knowing that the people that may someday lead our country in the public and private sector have passions and values that are more meaningful than just making dinero.  Call me naive, but reading each of their profiles, I believe that there is something more that makes them tick, something that motivates them to be successful that is greater than themselves.

Then I am reminded that our only president who graduated from B-school (HBS, nonetheless) is this guy, God Bless his soul:

And I am reassured of my ability to be competitive intellectually ;)


Alright. I’ve arrived in Denver International. Time to see what delicious airport dining options await me.  I have a sinking feeling that It’ll be Sbarros or Quiznos, neither of which are very appealing right now. All I want is a bowl of brown rice and some chicken.

On the bright side, I found out I was upgraded to first on my leg home!  This can only mean one thing: cocktails and quality time with data sufficiency practice!  

Eagerly awaiting my arrival of the Manhattan GMAT Series almost as eagerly as I await new episodes of Modern Family.

Much love,


(for those of you who are wondering if I’ve really decided to apply, Yes. I did. I just want to make sure that I am doing it for the right reasons, and to be critically evaluating WHY to help me determine my best options.  But now I am thinking of changing my name from “Porque…MBA” to “Okay…MBA!” Cheesy I know :-D

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Why apply to B-School? The events of last weekend

When I think back to how I arrived at this decision to apply to business school, 2 key events stand out in my mind. 

Numero Uno: Halloween 2010. I was dressed up in a home-made costume as a certain creature from my country of origin, and I happened to talk to the only guy at the party not wearing a costume.  I was unenthused, which takes a lot (c'mon, what kind of person cannot find a ratty t-shirt, pair of khakis and belt, a random purse lying around, sunglasses, fake plastic baby, grow some facial hair, and go as Zach Galifianakis from the Hangover?) but intrigued because he was wearing tweed.  

I remember two main things from the conversation.  One was that he kept bringing up his employer (OK i get it. You work for a large, powerful corporation hQ in the PNW. You work with numbers. You like Excel.)  When he mentioned he was in the process of applying for an MBA, my mind started to wander.  Living in the PNW, I do not often encounter people my age applying or giving much thought to the MBA, as the attitude in my city is quite laid back and anti-corporate big-business and mainstream things. 

I had gone back and forth with the idea of an MBA earlier, but never gave it serious thought because I didn't know whether it was a right fit for me.  I'm pretty far from that stereotype of a wall street hotshot iBanker, though I like my suits and power lunches.   I also recalled needing something called "work experience", but I was 2+ years into my job.   Here was some guy who obviously, was not creative enough to put together a Halloween costume, yet he was applying to the top programs?  The tiny competitive side of me that I typically suppress kicked into gear, and I told myself that as soon as I got home, I would start my research.  This began Phase 1 of my contemplation towards applying, involving checking out numerous books from the library, running up late fees on said books, visiting school websites, visiting schools themselves, asking people questions, and doing internet research.

Numero Dos:  Last Saturday, I attended a diversity event at the Stanford GSB, which I had been accepted to several months prior.  I was working overseas for the last two weeks and unsure if I'd be able to attend in time, as my flight arrived home late Thursday night, and generally being very indecisive as to the point of not making travel reservations.  On the trans-pacific plane ride back, I made up my mind that I needed to go.  Friday morning at 8am, I check the Delta Skymiles website to see if I can redeem my miles. What would have cost 45,000 miles when I checked weeks ago now only cost 25,000. Was this a sign? I think it was!  Rental car was only $39 including taxes...this was looking pretty good.  Friend in Bay area is cool with me crashing on couch? check!  12 hours after booking the ticket, I was headed to the airport directly from work.

I was counting on this experience to help me decide, once and for all whether getting an MBA and getting one now would be the right timing.  It's silly to think that one day can really sway you towards one direction or the other, but this experience did not fail to deliver.  From an amazing alum speaker, to student panels, a joint degree program that was a perfect fit, a lively class experience, super cool alums and just being on campus, I was wooed. The opening presentation hit me hard right away - innovation. idealism. Do you want to change the world? "Yes that's me!" I wanted to jump up and say, and probably about 90% of the other attendants did too....the coffee had not kicked in for the other 10%.

I guess when it comes down to it, I had three main reservations:

1. How will an MBA help me in what I want to do?  My background is in education and I've always dreamed of running an educational organization, but I wasn't convinced that an MBA was the RIGHT path for me; it was just one route of many.  BUT it was a darn good one.
2. $$$ and time. Calculating the ROI and wages forgone, I estimated I was giving up two years salary and adding another two years tuition & costs, a grand total of, in my mind, close to $300,000. Could I get to where I wanted without the MBA and living as a starving graduate student?  I heard horror stories from Readers Digest as a young, impressionable child and did not want to subsist on cans of tuna for two years.  I had become accustomed to the life of nice things, travel perks, and eating un-expired food.  BUT I guess I have my whole life to enjoy those things ;)
3. Leaving my job and the PNW. As those close to me know, I love my job dearly. I love what I do, I love the ideals I hope we're working towards, and I love my company and co-workers and clients. BUT something inside of me is convinced that this is not the right place for me long-term, and my industry is so niche that I'm unsure of whether I'd be able to easily and successfully transition to another career in a different field.  

So that all seems a bit gloomy, until I pondered the 3 reasons why an MBA and NOW would be right for me on the plane ride to California

1. No matter what, an MBA will open up doors for me. Regardless of what job I pursue, it will teach me how to manage PEOPLE and RESOURCES.  If I ended up working at a school, it would help. If I ended up directing a non-profit, it would help.  If, somehow, I end up in Corporate America, well. Let's just say I'd have one more thing to chat about over lunch in addition to college basketball.
2. I've been working at my company for 3 years, 4 when I apply. I've had some amazing experiences, but it will be much much harder to leave when I'm older.  Not to mention there's a ton I want to do before settling down and starting a fam.
3. I miss school. I miss learning, meeting people, exploring ideas, everything that comes with being in school. I'm an experiential learner, while I love to study and abstract concepts, I learn by action, projects and doing. I want to meet equally enthusiastic people who have big dreams of how they will shape the world.   I want to travel the world with classmates, have summer internships again, learn about entrepreneurship, and maybe even attend the occasional theme party (they have those right?)  To be given a problem and be asked to find a solution.  This all sounds a bit idealistic..but well that's me!

So in the 1.5 hour plane ride, which a half hour was spent reading over the case study for the mock class, jotting down notes in the margins (nostalgia!) and highlighting (oh highlighter my dear, I've missed you so!) I came to a realization.  It was a mini-epiphany, one of many I had on the trip.  California is only 1.5 hours away. It is in the same time zone as my current city.  I could even drive my belongings down, and I would have no excuse to call my mother or friends.  In short, it was really, not that far or distant!

Now who knows where I will end up, for all I know I could end up on the East Coast or Midwest, or even Singapore/France.  If my job has taught me anything, it is that flying is really really quick in the grand scheme of things.  I could be asked to fly out to Asia, book my tickets the next day, and be there two days later (this exact same thing happened a few months ago).  While I may be leaving my dear city in the PNW, its the same thing I've been used to doing on my trips, only this venture would be a bit longer (1 year, 51 weeks to be exact).

The other mini-epiphany I had, in addition to wow, Alaska Airlines is really punctual compared to United and wow, their snack cracker mix is kind of addicting was that I missed, dare I say, studying.  The case was okay - modeled after an Indian tech company but the issue at hand - how to retain their talented employees was fascinating.  I felt a curiosity spark running through, and I couldn't wait for the class.

There were many other mini-epiphanies throughout that visit that culminated in one grand, awesome feeling that I still can't shake.  The realization of all the wonderful opportunities and doors having the MBA could open, as well as an extensive network of like-minded people, who apparently also like to get married (they recounted stories of attending lots of each others' weddings as the one thing that makes GSB unique).  Random coincidences relating to my undergrad alma-mater which made me wonder if this was a sign.  Understanding at a much more heightened level what such programs could offer me, and what I could offer them in return.  In short, I came to understand that people who apply and are accepted into top MBA programs will still do amazingly on their own, no doubt about it, they already have!  Having such a degree and experience just accelerates that trajectory of success, and makes it so much more intense.

Sometimes I chide myself in being impulsive, in buying that crazy pair of shoes because they are marked 85% off and because they could be fun to wear in a few months when it's warm out, in ordering something without knowing exactly what kind of meat (or substance is in it) but because I like the way it smells, and in choosing my cat from the shelter without evaluating all the other options (Samuel if you are reading this, I have no regrets).  But this was one impulse decision (booking the last minute ticket) that was really not that impulsive after all, but a wonderful build-up of events, and perhaps a slight nudging from somewhere (thanks for listening to my prayers, God!!) that will motivate me to get serious about this journey!

So it begins....!!!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

*DEEP goes something!*

Hi All,

First off, I am elated that the rich text editing toolbar offers "Georgia" as a font.  This font is very dear to my heart as it is the font I used for my very first blogs (Xanga then livejournal) in High School.  Back then, I mostly talked about cute boys, clothes, crazy adventures in the city, studying, and school nothing much has changed :) I've since made the switch to Garamond, but will always look back at this font with nostalgia. So here we are united...via Blogger!!

Okay. I'm getting off topic. So this is supposed to be an prospective MBA applicant I started doing my research (aka google searches), I discovered that there were countless such blogs floating out in the blogosphere. I do love my blogs and was fascinated by these thoughts people had and their obsession with getting into a top MBA program.  It was just like college applications all over again!  Some made me laugh (, some made me excited about motherhood ( and others made me wonder the sanity of people who I might be locked into spending 2 years with...(those need not be mentioned).

They were all so smart, driven, accomplished, yet in pursuit of this one thing that was uncertain. As in, there was never a guarantee whether or not they'd be accepted in their program of choice.  It's this uncertainty that sparked my interest.

So here I am...semi-anonymous. A few facts about me, which hopefully will not reveal too much of my identity.  I'm a proud inhabitant of the PNW (thats Pacific Northwest) and I currently spend most of my time working as a consultant, traveling extensively, contemplating the meaning of life, taking and posting pictures, being semi-coordinated in gym classes, talking with strangers and stuffing my face with delicious food.  I've calculated a good portion of my life is spent on an airplane, longer than the time I spend showering, eating meals, petting my cat, riding the bus to work or brushing my hair, hence the airplane themed background.

With that said, I am hoping to be raw on this blog, as it will chronicle my hopes, fears, musings, ramblings, rants, and anything else that comes to mind. I'm talking sashimi-just-imported-first-class-from-Japan toro tuna raw. Okay, maybe not that raw since I have been told that filters are good, and I should use one, and not just for my house....

I'm supposed to be up in a few hours at work...but while it's on my mind here's what I hope to capture through this blog:

My admission process (from choosing schools to the GMAT, writing essays, asking recommenders, all that good stuff)

Funny stories from work/life on the road.  Travel tips. Identifying details will be removed and key parties left anonymous. 

Questions about the application process, which I hope YOU can give me your 2cents (or fiddy cent to get me through the GMAT studying..)

and of course, Por qué MBA?  In other words, why am I applying for an MBA program now in my life? What am I looking for in a MBA program? and the eternal question....Is an MBA program the right path to my life goals?  

Any thoughts and comments are very welcome!