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
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!