Friday, June 27, 2008

The Economist It Is!

15 out of 20 voters said I should subscribe to the Economist instead of BusinessWeek. Though this is hardly a representative sample (see, I'm brushing up on my statistics!), I'm still going to go with the majority and put in my order for The Economist.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This Year's B-School Scandal

It seems like every year there is a scandal in the MBA world. A few years back, it was the Harvard application decision "hacking" scandal, where students who followed the advice of a BW poster were able to modify the Apply Yourself website to see their decisions early. Harvard rejected them all due to their poor ethical choice (debatable, but I'm not going to get into it). Last year it was the Duke cheating scandal, where several students were expelled for collaborating on an individual take-home test. This year, it is the GMAT cheating scandal.

It seems that a site called Scoretop (which has since been shut down) was selling actual live GMAT questions to potential test-takers for $30. Then the questions were discussed on the site in a forum. Presumably, the MBA hopefuls that bought the questions may have seen them on the actual test, which means they had information that others didn't. GMAC won a court order to shut down the site and claims to have a hard drive that they are searching to discover the identities of those who purchased the questions. They will cancel the culprits' scores and notify the schools that they sent the scores to. So far no schools have come out and said that they would take action against those students, but it's within the realm of possibility that some students may have their offers revoked or get kicked out of programs if they are already enrolled. A ray of hope for waitlisters, perhaps (wink wink)?

In all seriousness, this is scary stuff. I wonder how many people purchased access to the questions without realizing that what they were doing was against GMAC's policy? I doubt Scoretop disclosed that little tidbit. Some people probably didn't even realize they were live questions and may have thought they were buying practice questions similar to those provided by other legitimate companies. I guess ignorance is not an excuse, but I feel bad for those people. On the other hand, I'm sure the majority of people that paid the $30 knew exactly what they were doing. Regardless of whether it actually helped them, I think they deserve whatever punishment is handed down to them, although I'm sure the harshness will vary by school. I guess we'll just have to watch and wait for the fallout.

Friday, June 20, 2008

New Book Alert: The Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets

I got an alert from Amazon today about a new book, The Best Business Schools' Admissions Secrets: A Former Harvard Business School Admissions Board Member Reveals the Insider Keys to Getting In. It comes out on July 1. I haven't seen the book yet, but it sounds like a good resource. I'm an advocate of using whatever research you have time to use! If you are planning to apply this year, you might want to check it out.

As a reminder, I've got a list of recommended books on the right side. Except for this new book, my recommendations are all based on my personal experience using the book.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

BusinessWeek or The Economist??

I got a thingy in the mail today inviting me to use my American Airlines miles to subscribe to magazines. I don't have enough miles for a ticket, so I figure I should sign up for one mag just to keep my miles from expiring for a while. But if I'm going to do it, it's gotta be something useful.

Hence, my poll. Should I get BusinessWeek or The Economist? Which will be more useful in keeping me up-to-date on the business world while I'm working on my MBA?
Please vote in the poll on the right!

Officially Unemployed and Poor (Sorta)

Well it was certainly a wake-up call. The very first day of my unemployment, my bank account went negative. Ouch. It was really just an accounting error (I forgot about a payment I'd set up), but it really hit home the fact that I no longer have a salary. I know I will have loans, but I don't actually have any of that money yet, and I won't for several weeks. So now that I actually have some time to enjoy myself, my funds to do so are quite limited!

And as I've mentioned, we are contemplating borrowing less than Wharton's budget for first-years since my husband's salary will likely cover a lot of the room and board expenses. It's really hard to decide how much to borrow. I want to take advantage of these two years as much as possible, and there are a lot of expenses associated with that (i.e. social activities, travel, club membership, business wardrobe, etc). But at the same time, I don't want to live too far beyond our means, because that will just cost us more in interest in the long run. My husband is lucky enough to have never been in any kind of debt besides our mortgage, so all of these dollar signs associated with my education are pretty scary. We both know it will pay off in the long run, but it's not like I'm planning to go into investment banking or consulting so my pay off period is going to be longer than many of my classmates. I guess we both just need to get over that now. This is about my education, not everyone else's. Right ...

I keep thinking back to a mantra that was heard over and over from the students that hosted Welcome Weekend. "It all works out in the end." They said this so often, about so many subjects, including class waivers, tuition, technology, learning teams, academics, feeling overwhelmed, etc, that it started to become funny. But they all said it really is true. So I will go with it. It will all work out in the end ....

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Nearing the Finish Line!

Monday is my last day at work. Why Monday? Well, long story short, it's all about how you leave. Every year, I am responsible for putting together a lot of data from my team for the annual budget process. In order to do this, we get inputs from other groups. Those inputs were due on Friday, so I volunteered to stay for an extra day to make sure I had all the inputs ready to go for them so they could proceed to the next step. I wanted to minimize the impact of my departure as much as possible. I guess part of it is just from pride. I don't want them thinking "Man, Tinydancer really left us high and dry here." The rest of it is keeping bridges intact. I don't know if I want to come back to my company directly out of school, but I want to stay in the industry, and it's a small industry.
Of course, as expected, not all the information came in on Friday. Not sure if we'll get it on Monday, but it probably won't matter for me because I have too much other stuff to take care of, including exit interview, transitioning all my other projects, and cleaning out my desk. I've done my best to have everything in the best state that I can get it before I leave. That's all I can do. I really wish that I had a replacement to train like Julydream, it would be so much easier! I've already had to deflect many last-minute requests to do more work and I've had to say no. Not sure what kind of superhuman they think I am!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Kellogg MBA Application Advice

Today a reader asked me for some advice about applying to Kellogg. I realized my reply could help others that are thinking of applying, so I decided to post it here. Enjoy.

Here is what I know about Kellogg, which should help you frame your essays:
-Teamwork. This is hugely important to them. They want to know that you are a team player and want to see evidence of this. They want to know that you understand how important it is to them and that is why you are applying to Kellogg (they consider this a major differentiator between them and other top schools).
-Community. This is a tie-in to teamwork, but they want people who are going to be very involved in the community of the MBA. Play up any community involvement you have in your background. Volunteer work is part of this and is important, but also they like to see any other activities you might have such as a recreational sports team or alumni club or maybe you organize a family poker competition (see what I mean, look everywhere for evidence of this). Even if you have done some extra-curriculars at work, this will show that you are going to be someone that will contribute and not just attend and go home to study. It will probably help to discuss what clubs and activities you specifically want to be involved in
-Leadership. This is a new focus for Kellogg, but they definitely want to see that leadership learning is a priority for you. But the leadership focus is within the teamwork concept. Show that you've been a leader in a team situation (so it doesn't have to be where you supervised people, but any situation where you took the lead in helping a team make a decision would work).
-Personality. It helps to visit so you can see it for yourself, but the typical Kellogg student is very outgoing and "fun". This is probably a result of the aspects of focus above. It probably matters more for your interview, but you want to show that you are not only smart, but nice to be around and will be an asset to any team you are on.
-Uniqueness. There is an essay question from last year that I would expect to be there again, since it has been there for a long time. They ask what makes you unique and what will you contribute to the class. This was the hardest question for me, and requires a lot of self-reflection. I think you need to think about what makes you unique in all aspects: work experience, extra-curriculars, interests, etc. Sure, many people may share any of these with you, but no one is the same combination of all of these as you! Show that you understand how every aspect of who you are will help you contribute to the experience of everyone else. And they really do want to know who you are.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

3 more Days

I only have three more days of work! You'd think that I'd be winding down and finishing up a few things here and there while I leisurely clean out my desk. You'd be wrong. In classic fashion, my company only started recruiting for my replacement a week ago, so of course there is no one for me to train and transition my work to. So I need to get all my open projects into a state where they can sit for awhile without anyone attending to them. Meanwhile, my managers are panicking and trying to unload more work on me, presumably so that they won't have to do it once I'm gone. It's getting stressful because I have less and less time left to get it all done. I'm so tired! I'm gonna go to bed early tonight to try to get some energy back.
Can't wait till Tuesday when I will be officially unemployed!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Time for Financial Aid Decisions

I finally received information from Penn on how to apply for loans. The Stafford loan application is extremely easy. Just pick a lender and send the info to Penn and they take care of the application. According to many news sources, there are a lot of lenders dropping out of the student loan business. But Penn still had more than enough options, with what I thought were decent opportunities to lower costs through interest rate reductions and other benefits as rewards for signing up for auto-pay, paying on time, etc. One lender definitely came out on top in terms of the benefits, so that's what I went with.

I am lucky to A) have some money put away and B) a spouse that will be working full time while I'm in school. Therefore, I have some decisions to make about how much money I really need to borrow and at from what sources. The Stafford loan is a no-brainer, but I am not sure if I will take a Grad PLUS loan or an alternative loan. Grad PLUS has a rate of 8.5%, which right now is really high. Alternative loans have lower rates (assuming you qualify), but they are variable. You can find many predictions for what rates are going to do in the future, but who the heck really knows. Another option we're considering is a home equity loan or line of credit. We've got a little bit of equity in our home and the rates might be pretty good, especially if we can get fixed rates. We'd have to make payments during school though, which is a consideration.

Sooo, Hubby and I have a lot of work ahead of us to figure out our budget, how much money we really need to borrow, and what type of loan. Lots of fun on a hot day.

Hope all readers on the East Coast are finding ways to keep cool!