Thursday, July 31, 2008

Pre-Term is in Full Swing

I know I've been light on posting lately. I haven't had much to talk about. Now I have a million things to talk about, but no time to do it! My days have been totally packed. Thank goodness for my new iPhone (wuhoo!) and always having my calendar on me!

I'll try to post again soon.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Wharton and Math

I spent a lot of time this summer trying to brush up on calculus. Wharton has a math test during Pre-Term, which mainly includes calculus concepts applied to business problems. You have to pass in order to matriculate (but you get 2 tries). So I read a business calculus book because I last looked at calculus about 10 years ago, and I never had word problems. Then I did the assessment test on the web, which helps you decide which math review class to take to prepare for the test. My score was pretty horrible, so I was kinda worried. But then I asked around and found out that most people hadn't even looked at the assessment test. So I felt better, but also a little like a nerd. I need to chill a little, lest I become one of those poor souls who cares too much about grades!*

*At Wharton, and I suspect other schools that have grade non-disclosure (Wharton doesn't have GND as a policy anymore, but the student association votes to have it as a student policy), you will often see 2nd years advising 1st years not to worry too much about grades. As long as you pass, your grades really don't matter because they won't be a factor in recruiting. Of course, you want to learn, but there is no need to go for a super-high GPA for any reason other than an ego boost. GND fosters a sense of community and cooperation among students, because it theoretically stops people from scratching and clawing their way to #1 in the class. It also, theoretically, gives you permission to pry yourself away from academics enough to socialize and participate in clubs. But there are always some students who care very much about grades (many would argue too much) and end up studying way more than everyone else. These people miss out on stuff. I don't want to be one of those people. But as your standard-issue-overachiever-Wharton-admit, I have a feeling it will be hard to really convince myself "that grades don't matter."

Friday, July 18, 2008

So It Begins

I can't believe it. Pre-Term arrives in a little over a week. People are already in town and planning get-togethers. It's a little strange to think about starting school in July. Friends and family keep asking me "When do you start?" and literally every time I tell them, the response is "So soon?" What can I say, Wharton is a little thorough about preparing us to start the program. I'm kinda glad. I'm paying a lot of freakin money for this degree. I want it to be a rigorous program! I'm not sure that I'll have the same sentiment as I sit down to the math test in August (readers attending other schools just thought "Math test?!?!" Yes. Math test.) But I'm not worried about the Math Test (well not TOO worried). There is a class that's meant to prepare me for it. I'm more worried about adjusting to the academics in general. I simply have not studied for anything other than the GMAT in 7 years. I think I forgot how.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Three book Recommendations

During my time off, I've been trying to get some reading done.  Somehow, I never succeed as much as I want to, but I have managed to finish a few books that I wanted to share with you.
Since I'm interested in marketing, I've been reading a few books on the subject.  This one really struck me as a good source for MBA applicants.  First of all, very early in the book, the author Seth Godin admits that he lied with the title of the book.  All marketers are not liars, he says, but the good ones tell authentic stories that we want to believe.  From the amazon description of the book:  "Every marketer tells a story. And if they do it right, we believe them. We believe that wine tastes better in a $20 glass than a $1 glass. We believe that an $80,000 Porsche Cayenne is vastly superior to a $36,000 VW Touareg, which is virtually the same car. We believe that $225 Pumas will make our feet feel better-and look cooler-than $20 no-names . . . and believing it makes it true."  "Marketers succeed when they tell us a story that fits our worldview, a story that we intuitively embrace and then share with our friends. Think of the Dyson vacuum cleaner or the iPod." How can this help you with your applications?  Imagine the readers on the admissions committee.   They read hundreds or thousands of applications each year.  How are you going to make in impression?  I don't believe that it's through a couple of high scores and some A-list employers.  No doubt these things might help your application, but I believe the most memorable applicants tell a good story.  And not just good stories in each essay, but their whole application is a story that, put together, gives adcom a clear pictures of what that person is all about.  How can you do this with your application?  Well first, I recommend reading the book for inspiration.  Imagine yourself as a "product" that you are "marketing" to adcom.  Put together your elevator pitch - a few sentences that sum up the picture you want adcom to have in their head about you after reading your application.  Keep it near you whenever you are working on a portion of the application, to make sure everything you write is consistent with that pitch.  For instance - does your elevator pitch say that you are going to be a contributor to your class?  You should probably show in your application how you are already a contributor in your job, your volunteer work, your extra curricular activities, etc.  In other words, show that you are already living the story.  Note: It's worth mentioning that I'm not advocating that you actually lie on your application.  Not only is it unethical (obviously), but I think that adcom are very good at picking up on this.  It is a rare person that can lie about themselves in writing and actually sound authentic.  Be honest about yourself and who you are, and it will resonate.  

You're So Money: Live Rich, Even When You're Not
I met the author of this book, Farnoosh Torabi, at the women's conference I attended at Penn State.  Turns out my husband was in a group with her in his undergrad business classes.  He was very excited to buy her book when it came out, but I ended up reading it first.  I think I was in the perfect state of mind to read it, since I'm suddenly a lot "poorer" than I was a few months ago when I had a job and no huge loans!  A lot of it is aimed more at those in their early twenties, but I definitely learned a lot and got some great ideas for how I can still have a fabulous life during this two years of less cash.  And she gives you tips and tricks without seeming preachy like other personal finance books.  She won't tell you to give up your latte, but she will challenge you to determine how important it is for you to have that latte AND the designer jeans of the season.  There are chapters on buying a car, buying a cell phone, and buying real estate.  There is also a chapter by Jim Cramer on stock speculation.  

The author of this new eBook, Josh Hohman, a recent Stanford GSB grad, sent me an advance copy to review for possible interest to my audience.  I read the whole thing last night, and I definitely think it could be a good resource for some applicants.  The book is basically a report containing survey responses from recent admits from Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia.  There are questions like "Describe the challenges you had in your application" and "What advice would you offer an applicant applying to your school."  I think this book is a good supplement for the big application guidebooks you may be reading.  It's not going to give you extensive advice and instructions, but it will provide you with some good profiles of successful applicants to give you a feel for what it takes to get in.  There are profiles of students with low GMAT scores (below 650!), no work experience, non-traditional backgrounds, and some students who claim they had no "wow factor" but still got in.  There is also a lot of advice and information specific to Stanford, which could be very valuable to those targeting this school.  (There is nothing about Wharton though - Josh should definitely expand to Wharton and other schools in his next edition!)  If you follow the link to the website,, and provide your email address, Josh will send you a free preview copy that lets you see the questions that are included in the survey with a some examples of responses.  If you like it, the full version is available for purchase.  
Disclaimer: The author did offer me compensation for linking to his book.  However, I would definitely not recommend this to my readers if I did not think it would be a good resource.  I recommend downloading the free preview and checking it out for yourself.  

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ode to Philadelphia: Living Here

I can't believe it's been more than a month since we moved in.  I guess the move and post-move activity was so intense that it's only really be a few weeks since we've been "settled."  We're still unpacking, but that's another story.

Anyway, I thought I'd resurrect my Ode to Philadelphia series now that I am a real live resident at last.  Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first, so we can end on a good note!

The Ugly:  As easy as it is to get complacent once you are used to your environment, every once in awhile you get a reminder that no matter where you are, you have to be smart about safety.  There was an attempted rape about 3 blocks from my apartment the other night.  A woman was returning home from a party alone, late at night, and a man followed her.  Normally, this is a really safe area, so of course people are very upset and police are warning us to be smart and careful.  I think the important takeaways are: 1) Never get lazy about safety.  Women shouldn't walk home alone late at night in ANY city (or any town or rural college campus for that matter).  No matter how safe it seems to be, there can be crazy people anywhere.  Cabs are plentiful - it's worth the $5!  2)  In a weird way, this actually makes me feel better about the neighborhood.  Let me explain: this wouldn't be getting so much attention if it were not so rare of an occurrence in this area.  All evidence points to an isolated incident, so I'm going to take precautions and not worry about it.

The Bad:  
Some of the typical city stuff - sirens, honking horns, etc.  Although I'm pretty much used to those by now.
Philly is an old city, and much like New York or any city in Europe, it can be kinda smelly.  Not everywhere, mind you.  But every once in awhile you are reminded that you just walked near a sewer grate.  Especially in the summer.  I won't elaborate. 
Also an old city thing - the roads are narrow.  Trying to get around by car (and even by bike) is difficult and frustrating.  Rush hour is to be avoided at all costs!
The sidewalks are kind of a mess.  I mean, they are solid and certainly adequate.  But they tend to slant in different directions in different spots, which is a nightmare for someone trying to walk in heels.  My husband has not noticed this, by the way.  
The ~4% wage tax!  This doesn't affect students, obviously.  But for those of us with working spouses, this is a really tough expense to swallow.  This tax applies to anyone living in Philadelphia, even if you work outside of the city, like my husband.

Ok, Now the Good:  
Fabulous Restaurants!  There are so many within walking distance (and so many more within a short cab distance) that I want to try.   From Five Guys Burgers and Fries to Le Bec Fin, pretty much any taste and budget can be satisfied here.  I've mentioned it before, but it's worth telling you again that BYOBs are a fantastic way to save money on a night out.
Bars!   There are so many great ones.  I'm looking forward to the Wharton social life.
Shopping!  Well I can't really afford to do it now, but there are plenty of interesting places to spend your money along Walnut and Chestnuts streets.  I can't wait until I have my internship salary ;)
Center City Sips.  This is a summer thing in Center City.  Restaurants and bars all around CC have really cheap drink and appetizers for happy hour on Wednesday night.  It's a great way to try out an expensive place, like Brasserie Perrier, without spending a lot of money.  Student friendly!
Walking to Everything I Need: The bank, the library, the post office, the grocery store.  Everything is within walking distance, and many things are even just within a block's walk.  I love it!
The Atmosphere.  I'll just give you an example.  Last night, when Hubby arrived home, we started hearing curious sounds outside.  We opened the windows to listen, and determined that there must be a concert somewhere.  We decided to take a walk and check it out.   We got downstairs and started strolling.  There were people everywhere, walking along with shopping bags, sitting outside at bars and restaurants, walking their dogs, etc.  We walked over to Rita's Water Ice to get a little dessert, and noticed that across the street there was a small group of teenagers playing jazz music in between two casual restaurants where people were sitting outside.  We decided this wasn't what we heard from our window.  We headed toward Broad Street.  We noticed a band playing in the lobby of the Kimmel Center.   We kept going and finally found our source.  It was a pre-4th of July event.  At least 3 bands were playing on different blocks along Broad Street, and various food and arts and crafts tent lined the sidewalk.  We took it all in, then headed back to Rittenhouse Square.  The park was loaded with a diverse range of people and dogs enjoying the lovely night.  A bit reluctantly, we returned home to attend to our mundane evening chores.   

So yeah, I'm really loving our new digs.   It's tough to have a small apartment, and I'm kinda missing my garden a little.  But it's so much fun to be here in the middle of all the excitement of the city.  I really recommend that anyone who is thinking they might not like living here for two years just give it one visit.  I believe you'll be pleasantly surprised!