Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Other Half

Applying for business school is a little different when you're married. Choosing schools becomes as much about fit for us and our lifestyle as it is about fit for me and my goals.

The biggest element that is probably higher on my priorities than single folks is location. I don't want my husband to have to move somewhere that he doesn't want to go. Before this whole thing started, I said "honey, where would you be willing to move?" He said Chicago, Boston, and maybe New York. We've lived in Chicago and absolutely love it, I lived in Boston for a short time and we liked it there as well. New York ... well I know hubby kinda hates to visit New York because it's so busy, but I'm sure living there would better, albeit expensive. So, that narrowed down my school choices a bit (i.e. no Duke, no Michigan, no Tuck, no California schools).

Next, the concept of a safety school was thrown out the window. If my husband is going to be working while I get my MBA, I need to be getting an education that is totally right for me and that is going to really propel me in my career. It's not worth it and not fair to take two years off and go to a school that is only a partial fit or that I applied to just so I would have somewhere to go. It's all or nothing! (Well, not nothing ... my backup plan would be to stay in my job, which is a good job, and get a part-time MBA.)

Finally, the way a school treats "partners" is very important to me. My biggest fear is for my husband to feel cast aside while I gallivant around with my new friends and my new social life. That's an exageration of course, but I want to go to a school where the culture embraces significant others and includes them in the social fabric of the school. Obviously I will not be able to spend as much time with him as I want. And since he's a businessperson himself, there will surely be things I get to do that he'd love to do himself. But it's really important to me to know I can bring him to parties and other events and know that my classmates will be inclusive. Incidentally, Kellogg is phenomenal in this regard. Partners are encouraged to attend the KWEST trip with the students, are invited to join any club (regardless of whether the student is a member), are allowed to lead clubs and events, are allowed to audit classes, and are just generally encouraged to take part in the entire experience as if it is their own. I really liked that. Wharton doesn't seem to be quite as organized, but I was assured by many married students that their SO's were very involved and were, in fact, better friends with some of their classmates than they were.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

In At Wharton!!


I was so nervous this morning, I thought I was going to throw up multiple times. Finally my status was updated. I must have read the word "admitted" about 5 times before it sunk in!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Waiting Is, Indeed, the Hardest Part

T-minus 24 hours until Wharton decisions are released. I feel like time has never passed slower! The nice thing about decisions coming out during this week is that many of my colleagues are already on vacation. So I won't feel so bad checking my email every 5 seconds. The bad thing about decisions coming out this time of year is that it is so slooooooooow. Nothing is going on, there are no meetings to break up the day. Every hour feels like 10.

Making matters worse, my husband had to go out of town for work. He's only going to be gone for one night, but it is THIS night. So I'm going to have to distract myself for an entire evening alone. Plus, I usually have trouble sleeping when he's not around anyway (I know, I'm an annoying married person) so I can't imagine what it will be like tonight. Perhaps I should drink a bottle of wine to *ahem* help me sleep?

The Wharton S2S folks are hosting an all-night chat tonight. I haven't decided yet whether to participate. On the one hand, it would be nice to commiserate with the only other people who know what I'm going through right now. On the other hand, would it be better to try to think about something else as much as possible so that I don't drive myself completely insane? Maybe I should pull out a classic chick flick like Bridget Jones or Love Actually. Hmmm ….

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Things to do to distract myself until Wharton decision date …

- Finish reading Getting Things Done
- Attack pile of hand-wash only clothes in closet. For that matter, attack needs-to-be-ironed pile and laundry mountain.
- Socialize (it is the holiday season after all!)
- Brave mall to finish Christmas shopping (gulp)
- Wrap presents
- Go through huge pile of catalogs that I can't afford to order from now that I have to prepare for the student lifestyle but that have lots of fun things that I'd love to order
- Go through huge pile of mail and other paperwork and file it
- Watch all Planet Earth episodes on DVR that I didn't have time to watch because I was busy with applications
- Begin actually using that Netflix subscription

Hmmmm … I have a lot of piled up tasks (literally) that I neglected while I was busy applying to business schools. I think this is probably too much for one week, but maybe that is a good thing!

The Cat's Out of the Bag

So we had an "end of the year review" tonight (read: holiday party masquarading as a meeting so as to be able to spend money from the company budget). My boss's boss came up to me and said "So I hear you are applying to grad schools. Where did you apply?". GULP! I tried to play it cool, but I'd just drank a large glass of wine and I'm sure I looked like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar! [My boss knows of my plans and wrote recommendations for me, but I had the impression he had not told anyone else.]

Anyway I couldn't lie ... he was going to find out anyway. Unfortunately, when I told him, he looked surprised. Oops. He probably knew about how I was planning to apply to part-time programs, but that information is several months old. He was nice about it and told me about the guy who'd had my job before me and went to Kellogg. Then he asked if I'd heard from either school yet. I said no. I haven't even told my boss I got into Kellogg yet. End of year ratings and raises are coming out soon. I'm sure nothing would change if they knew I was leaving for sure, but I still feel like I need to hold on to the information for a little bit longer. He said they would fully support me and that if I got in, they would try to hook me up with an internship or full time position. So, no harm done I suppose.

Ugh, but it was so awkward!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

My GMAT Experience

My GMAT experience is probably going to be pretty different from most applicant bloggers, but I thought I would share anyway in case it is helpful to some folks.

Back in February I started thinking about getting an MBA. It seemed like the smart thing to do competitively, since most people in my department either have one or are working on one. A majority of people did their MBAs part time. In my area, there are many choices for good part time programs: Drexel, Villanova, St. Josephs, Penn State, etc. I decided I'd better get started, since these programs can take 3 years or more, especially for those with non-business undergrad degrees who can't waive many of the core classes. I attended some info sessions and picked out some target programs.

I decided to get started on the GMAT and aim to get my applications in for the Fall semester. The average GMAT for these schools ranges from 550 to 620, so I wasn't too worried about getting a suitable score. However, scholarships are generally based on GMAT scores, so I decided to aim for a score in the mid to high 600's so I would have a better chance of getting some money. I ordered 3 books, and ended up using two of them for the majority of my studying:
The Official Guide
Princeton Review (Cracking the GMAT)
Kaplan GMAT 2007

I started with Kaplan, but stopped after the introduction. There were a ton of typos, and entire sections were repeated on different pages! I thought, if they can't properly edit this book, can I really trust them as a study guide? So I ditched Kaplan and started in on Princeton Review. I really liked PR. Their approach is to teach you tricks based on their extensive knowledge of the test. While I didn't use all the tricks all the time, it really helped to have them in my back pocket for questions that I didn't know how to approach. The tricks especially helped me for the verbal section, where I tended to overthink my answers. There was really only one thing they got wrong: they said the GMAT never requires you to calculate standard deviation, they only ask questions that require you to understand what the standard deviation is. Well - I got a question that required calculating it! I think I guessed on that, but I don't really remember anymore ;) PR's method for AWA is also great. It allowed me to spend only one day practicing my templates so I could spend valuable time on other stuff.

The Official Guide was great for practice questions. Indeed, this is the only book with actual GMAT questions. I actually got a couple questions on my test that were repeats from this book! Both PR and OG have great practice exams you can do on your computer to simulate how the actual test works. This was really important for me, because I discovered I had to really concentrate on moving quickly through the quantitative questions ... otherwise I wouldn't finish! If I knew I could solve a question but that it would take longer than 3 minutes, I had to make an intelligent guess and move on. I tended to practice one section at a time, so the only full practice test score I had was a 670.

So finally it was test day. I was a little nervous, but not too bad. I brought a can of Coke and an oatmeal bar to keep my energy up inbetween sections (which I ended up really needing!). Once I was finished, I took a deep breath and requested my score .... Holy crap, a 760!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


If you are new to the MBA applicant pool, you will soon become accustomed to the concept of the profile. Your profile consists of your demographic and geographic information, GMAT score, undergrad GPA, and number of years of work experience. The specifics can vary, but if you visit message boards you will often see people type their profile something like this:

White Female / US / GMAT 760 / GPA 3.7 / 5 yrs WE

Incidentally, that is my profile. (Oh, and WE stands for Work Experience). People will also refer to this line of text as your "stats". Now, I will not dispute that these factors are all important in the admissions process. But as you go through this process, the first thing you will notice is there are plenty of people out there with seemingly awesome stats that still do not get into the school or schools of their choice. This is because there are 2 other very important factors that contribute to your candidacy: your execution of the application and the quality of your work and extracurricular experiences.
So here is a bit more information about me to round out my profile. My first 3 years of WE were with the strategy arm of a large consulting company. I was part of a group that focused on the procurement side of supply chain operations for our clients, which ranged across many industries. It was a great job and I loved it, but I couldn't stand the weekly travel anymore. So I left to join a pharmaceutical company and joined the world of the daily commuter.
I truly love the pharma industry, but I want to move away from the supply chain management track I'm currently on. My ideal post-MBA job would be in pharma/biotech/med device marketing.
Also, I am married with no kids, and live in a suburb of Philadelphia. My husband and I grew up in this area and would love to be located here for the foreseeable future once I graduate. Luckily, there are many pharmaceutical and biotech companies nearby!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Wharton's Outsider Essay

Wharton has a new essay this year that has given a lot of people trouble:

Tell us about a situation in which you were an outsider. What did you learn from the experience? (500 words)

I think the best way to approach this question is not to try to think of a situation that is profound, like a crazy culture shock situation or a time when you stood up to a murderous gang, etc. Use it as another chance to tell the admissions committee something you want them to know about you. For instance, I used a story that wasn't really monumental, but was a good segue into a discussion of my volunteer work and why I do it.

This question reminds me of a day back in high school. It was AP English, and we had our first Blue Book essay exam on The Odyssey. Our teacher wrote the question on the board: "Explain the role of dramatic humanism in the Odyssey". Well, "dramatic humanism" isn't something we'd ever discussed and no one know what it meant. Everyone in the class raised their hands, but all she would do was write one word on the board. COPE. So I did what I could. I made up a reasonable definition for the term and went with it. I got an A.

I think the admissions committee may be going for a similar angle with this question. It's a little oddball, not something any other school asks. Applicants aren't going to have a model to go by. Therefore, they are going to have to come up with something on their own, and maybe it will give the adcom a chance to really see how the applicant thinks. So I guess that's my advice for Round 2 applicants ... COPE!

Of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they are just looking for insight into how you deal with uncomfortable situations or your attitudes about diversity. What do I know, I don't even know if I got in yet! ;)

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Here it goes!

It is with slight trepidation that I post this. I've been reading MBA applicant and student blogs for months now, sometimes wondering why I haven't started one myself, sometimes feeling that I need to keep things to myself.

So why am I starting this now, at a point where all my applications are already done? I guess I feel that I have something to add to the pool of knowledge. I'll use this blog to share my experiences and provide unsolicited advice about the process: what worked & what didn't, what I used and liked, and what I learned.

I hope this helps others the way that other bloggers helped me navigate the MBA application process!