Monday, September 12, 2011


I started to consider getting my MBA late last summer. I knew that I needed to take the GMAT and write a ton of essays in order to apply.  I thought that I could study for my GMAT, take the test, and apply to 6-8 schools between September and January.  Oh, how naive I was! Thank God my promotion last fall kept me from trying to exercise that delusion.
Thanks to a 10% pay increase, better title, and cross country move to the East coast, I got a whole year to prepare for the Fall 2012 admissions cycle. It is quickly becoming apparent that I underestimated how short a year really is. As Round 1 deadlines quickly approach and the weekends on my calendar get reserved I am wishing I had used the extra time to prepare better.

I think I was so concerned with the GMAT that I let it dominate all of that extra time I had this spring. I told myself that my GMAT score would determine where I would apply so it didn't make sense to research schools until I had the test out of the way. That rationale was bull. I knew from the second I decided to even consider busines school that I would only be looking at Top 25 schools. I could've gotten a 400 and it wouldn't have had any bearing on the schools I WANTED to go to. I simply would've taken it again to bring it into the range for a top program. I know myself well enough to know that I would rather forego the degree altogether than get it from a 2nd or 3rd tier school. Yeah, yeah, yeah...I know that sounds snobbish and elitist. It is what it is.
I think I spent so much time studying for the GMAT to get that 700+ score that I didn't pay attention to everything else that goes into this process. There's so much more to this than the GMAT, a few essays, and $1000-$2000 in app fees. I understood the cost (time and $$) of those components. What I neglected to consider were all of the other essential pieces of the puzzle: school visits, recommender prep, vacation days, and mo' money, mo' money, mo money!!
Between now and January I have to find enough money and vacation days to do the following:
  • Attend Explore Wharton diversity event (Thursday-Friday) - 2 vacation/personal days
  • Attend Discover Stern diversity weekend (Thursday-Sat) - 2 vacation/personal days
  • Attend Johnson Means Business diversity weekend (Thursday - Sat) - 2 vacation/personal days
  • Attend Kellogg diversity weekend (Friday) - 1 vacation/personal day
  • Booth campus visit - 1 vacation/personal day
  • Stanford campus visit - 1 vacation/personal day
  • Haas campus visit - 1 vacation/personal day
  • Columbia campus visit (already went to Spotlight On: Diversity so this is a toss up. Would like to do a class visit) - 1 vacation/personal day
  • Ross campus visit - 1 vacation/personal day
Add it all up and I'd need to take 12 vacation days to do all of this. My company was kind enough to give me 24 vacation days this year, but somehow I managed to use 14.5 of them already. So now I have 9.5 days for the rest of the year. Guess who's coming to the office the week between Christmas and New Year! FML :-(

But finding the necessary days off will be a moot point if I can't find the money to buy plane tickets to Chicago, California, and Michigan (I can wear out my E-Z Pass to get to the NY schools). I'm looking at about $700 just for flights. That's not even considering hotels, rental cars, and food. Hmmm...looks like I might be digging into those Skymiles I spent all last year earning.

The easy thing to do would be to cut down the list of schools to which I plan to apply. The thing is I like all of these schools and can't decide which ones to cut. I'm hoping that visiting will help weed some out. I know this sounds bad but I'm hoping to get to one (or two or three) of these campuses and think to myself, There is no way in HELL I can spend two years here! Thus far I haven't gotten off to a great start toward that goal. I was practically salivating at Columbia this weekend. I can DEFINITELY see myself as a CBS student. If this keeps happening this going to be one long, expensive, stressful, dreadful fall.

I wish I would have thought of the time and expense involved in putting forth 100% effort for this process. I may not have taken that vacation day in February to go back to Grand Rapids. I might have cut my overseas trip short by a few days. I would have definitely budgeted better to cover all of the travel expenses. I would have anticipated the struggles I'm having writing a simple career goals essay (2+ months and I still haven't finished the 1st draft) and started writing immediately after taking the GMAT.

Looking back it's funny that I once thought I could do all of this in 4 months. When all of this is over and my deposit is in (because I will be making a deposit somewhere come hell or highwater) I will tell any starry eyed prospective applicant that I encounter to give themselves at least 12-18 months to do everything. I will tell them to get the school visits out of the way even before taking the GMAT. It will definitely help to focus their efforts.

Alright I must be on my way. I'm off to yet another information session. Let's hope I hate it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Advice from someone who's done the whole admissions dance. If you go to one of your top choices and feel good about getting in, decline ask of your second tier interviews, and only go visit schools that you think will have a reasonable chance of changing your mind. Also, if you haven't already visited, the Knight center at Stanford will absolutely blow you away.