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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,

Mango

(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

13 comments:

  1. Hi there!

    I'm also a 2012 applicant and I started a blog.

    I wonder if we could cross-link?

    I already added a link to your blog on mine -->
    http://mywaytohws.blogspot.com/

    Thanks in advance!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Enjoying your new blog and wonder if you would allow me to selectively republish on my site--PoetsandQuants.com--with full credit to you and links back to your blog. Would definitely get you more traffic and a wider audience for your musings. Let me know at Byrne332@gmail.com.

    Best,
    John

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