Commitment Issues

Sorry it has been a while since I have posted. I have been insanely busy with life (as most people are), but most things are in line with my MBA goals.  So the MLT application has been submitted and now I wait. Honestly, I am neither here nor there on my acceptance.  I firmly believe if it is meant to be, it will work out, but I recognize that my GPA and practice GMAT scores are weak and may negatively affect my application.  After the gracious time an MLT alum who is currently a Stern student allowed for me to pick his brain, I also recognize the program is rigorous.  It will take significant planning to work through it, though I do understand the benefits are amazing, but I think I am suffering from commitment issues.  The difficulty is that in October, I was hired as a tutor, so I am currently juggling two jobs.  And now that I have worked out my “admissions” with my employer, I plan on continuing my pre-MBA coursework in the spring.  Two jobs, an accounting class, GMAT prep (yeah, that’s still going on) and MLT will be a lot to commit to, but if that if that is what is in the cards for me, I will have to work through my issues and make it work.

Now on the other hand, committing to tutoring isn’t difficult.  For a part time hustle, it works pretty well.  Most weeks, I work an extra 7 hours outside of my day job, with a few extra hours added for travel and    lesson planning/topic review.  But as someone who has worked a part time retail job in the past, I will take tutoring any day.  The pay is very good for a hustle job, and the extra money is mostly going into my savings for all things MBA related (i.e. applications, travel for school visits, and living expenses while in the program).  I have also been fortunate that two of the families want me to tutor their other children as well, so I am getting additional assignments with little extra work.  The downside is that my GMAT prep has suffered.  I started tutoring when I was about half way through the prep course I took, and I was meeting with a students on Saturday morning, so I missed the first half of the class. Since then, adjusting to the new demands of my schedule as thrown off my test prep efforts.

My last practice test was in October, and my original goal was to take a practice test every other week, so I am way behind my study schedule, but I am trying to get back on it now.  MLT hosted a week of GMAT webinars with different companies highlighting test strategies, one of which I found extremely helpful, and it came at the perfect time since I wasn’t too far down the whole of not doing adequate GMAT studying.  I have been in discussion with the webinar host regarding private GMAT tutoring since I think having a coach will be better for me especially with my limited time and the fact that for MLT, I need to take the GMAT by early February.  The week of webinars also renewed my GMAT motivation, and I have committed to doing practice problems every night even if it is only for 30 minutes.  In theory, with 30 minutes, I should be able to do 15 practice problems and then spend another 10-15 minutes reviewing the answers.  I will do my longer study sessions during the weekend, and since I have two weeks off for the holidays, GMAT will be my main focus during that time.

I am still unsure of my final school list, but since I have school aged children, being someplace affordable that has a decent public school system is a major factor in where I apply.  Additionally, schools that offer graduate family housing are also high on the list since living on campus will significantly cut my costs (no rental deposits or utilities to cover).  My target list has adjusted since I have removed some of the schools due to housing/public school issues.  Stern is out (sadly) since beyond problematic schools, I cannot afford to live in NYC with two children on savings and students loans, and Booth is probably out for public school and housing since I can 20 minutes away in Evanston and have both of the things at Kellogg.  Luckily I still have time to finalize my list.  My goal is to start my school visits in the spring so I will know what the culture and fit is like at each school.  Then I can more accurately assess which environment would work best for me.

OK. Have to go prep for tutoring sessions later this evening, but I will commit to making more regular posts.

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Why do I get so nervous?

I have been going back and forth about applying to MLT. For those of you who don’t know, MLT stands for Management Leadership for Tomorrow, and it is an organization that grooms minority MBA candidates for top business school admissions and to be leaders in their field once they graduate. The ultimate goal is to increase minority representation in management positions at top firms. For pre-MBA candidates, they offer and MBA Prep program which is basically like year-long business school bootcamp. After reading this post by blogger mbaover30, I was a little apprehensive about applying, since he thinks his age is what prevented his acceptance, and as we know, I am not as young as the traditional MBA applicant as well. But I decided I had nothing to lose except the application fee, and the time to complete the application, so why not take a chance.

Now, I am lucky since my former supervisor is 200% supportive of my plans to go to graduate school. She has her PhD, is a tenured professor, and recognizes the importance of graduate education. Additionally, as a minority and as a woman, she knows the road isn’t always easy, so she is willing to help me on my journey in whatever way she can.  When I asked her to be a recommender for my applications (a full year in advance) she gave me a resounding “OF COURSE”, and in some ways, it almost feels like cheating getting a recommendation from her since we are friends now. Our professional relationship has evolved into a friendship where we get together on random weekends with our kids for play dates. SO WHY IN THE WORLD do I get nervous when I have to ask her for a specific recommendation. We have already established that she is going to do it, so what is my issue? As I am emailing her regarding the MLT application/recommendation, I am looking for the perfect phrasing and wording. I am concerned that giving her a one-month lead time is not enough. What if she doesn’t have the time? Then who do I ask? Should I only send it to her business email, or should I CC her personal email? Is this email address still valid?  After I send the email, I keep checking for her response. I am already devising how to send her another email if she doesn’t respond in a specific amount of time.  At what point do I call her? Do I call, or do I send a text? What do I say in the text? How do I make sure I don’t come off as a nag? OH MY GAAAWWWWDD!!

So of course I wake up this morning and check my phone. Her reply is there. She responded. But of course, I don’t check it immediately. I wait until I get to work (cuz what if she said she doesn’t have the time? then what?).

I click on the email:

“Sure, I can write the letter. It would be my pleasure.”

AARRRRGGGHHHHH!!!! Why do I do this to myself? Beyond the fact that I knew should would write the letter (remember, we discussed all this already), if for some reason she couldn’t finish it in time for the October deadline, THERE IS A SECOND DEADLINE!!!!

I know you must be like, “Wow chick! If you are like this for a recommendation, what will you be like for your actual MBA decisions? You might want to look into Xanax or something.” But, ironically, I don’t think it will be as bad. I understand why I get this nervous. I can deal with rejection, with one caveat – it can’t be personal. If a business school doesn’t like me, it will sting, yes, but I can move on because it’s not personal. There are personal aspects to it (my GMAT/GPA/Essays) but in the end, I don’t know the adcoms, and all they know if me is what I submit in my application. Like I mentioned, my former supervisor is now my friend. Getting turned down/denied/rejected from someone close to me is much harder to deal with. It is a struggle I have dealt with most of my life, and has put me in bad situations, since my fear for being rejected from people close to me prevented me from asking for help in times when I could have used it. I end up trying to work my way through the difficulty on my own when I could have made it 10 times easier asking someone to help me. It is something I am working on, and I am getting better. The last few years has put me in some trying times, and I was forced to reach out for help. And I will say that most of the time, I got the help I needed. When the person I asked couldn’t help, they always followed up, either with moral support or by referring me to other resources.

I am very stubborn and independent, and can end up shooting myself in the foot because of these traits. Obviously these traits don’t make for success, especially in my planned career path of the business world, but I think now that I am older, and have been through some trying times in my life, I recognize how now to let these traits hinder me. I still don’t feel comfortable asking for help, but I do it. It’s kind of like going to the dentist. No one really enjoys it, but it is much better than having to deal with the pain of a cavity.

 

So much to do…

It is a full year before I submit my applications to business school and I am already starting to feel overwhelmed. When I outline the next year, I already recognize how challenging it will be to juggle classes, work, applications, school visits/interviews, family, and maintaining my sanity.

I am currently in the throws of GMAT study with plans to take the test in mid December. I am enrolled in a mediocre prep class (since it was what I could afford at the time) which is some ways I regret since I should have saved my money for a better class. Unfortunately, since I wanted to take the exam before the year ended, and felt I would be better served by an in person course, I am where I am.

The teacher is a former Kaplan teacher, so I think he is fine. He offers some of the Kaplan strategies, but all we use is the official guide (which I already had). We spend most of the class going over problems which can be somewhat mundane. We don’t get homework, so I am in essence paying multiple hundreds of dollars to self study with a group of people.  Next class we start the math review, so I am interested in whether or not the class structure will be different for the topic reviews.

My GMAT cohort is interesting to say the least. It is a small group of 8 or 9 students with varying backgrounds (no I-Banking or VC, but then again neither am I), but the majority of my classmates are applying to the school hosting the course, which is basically a local university (and I use the term university loosely) that is not much more than a glorified community college. Why these students choose to spend nearly $50K on an unranked, barely accredited MBA program amazes me, but to each his own. The median GMAT for those accepted at said school is 470, so I am still trying to figure out why they are spending the money on the course. I scored way better than that on a practice test that I took without studying, so my goal of 700+ is beyond the frame of reference of my classmates, and our class interactions reflects this fact.  I guess this is all part of the learning experience. Had I not taken the course, I would have been sitting here regretting it, so it is what it is. The positive is that it does light a little fire under me, and make me committed to studying for at least 2 hours most nights, and 4-6 hours on weekends, beyond my 5 hours class on Saturday.

I am prepared to take the exam multiple times, so in the end, I will either pony up the money for a better prep course or hire a private tutor. I will ask my instructor his tutoring rates, but I am also looking into Veritas Prep’s on demand course since it is economical, and has a generous score guarantee. I think taking a prep course that provides additional materials is beneficial. The other option is to purchase used Kaplan or Veritas prep materials online, and continue my self study.  In the meantime, I will continue my course since it, at the very least, gets me in GMAT mood over the weekends.

 

 

This Girl is on FIYAAAHH!!!

So how, you may as, can I be on “Fire” if I am in the nascent stages of this b-school process. Well, what you don’t know is that a few days ago, I went to an info session for one of my target schools, Chicago Booth. They had an info session in my area – which in itself was shocking (y’all come down here?), so I decided to attend.

Now you have to realize that this is a major mission for me. My office dress code is casual. No, not business casual. I mean casual, as in jeans, t-shirts, and for me, my comfy puma zandy flats which I only have physically on my feet when I need to walk somewhere in the office. So going to an event after work where the attire IS business casual means I have to bring a change of clothes since there isn’t enough time to go home and change. Now the other challenge is that I don’t have a lot of business casual clothes, let alone clothing that will withstand the sweat production that occurs once I step outside into the sweltering heat of September in Miami. Luckily, I managed to dig out a cute skirt from the storage bin where I keep what little I have left of my business casual office attire, but the only appropriate shirt I had was a LONG-SLEEVED white button up shirt. Folks, I sweat in the heat. No, not the girly perspiration on the upper brow. I mean SWEAT. Like Shaq at the free throw line during the NBA finals type sweat, so I recognized I would have to look for an alternative top.

After work I rush over to Marshall’s, Ross, and then finally Loehmann’s to see if I can find a CHEAP, business casual top, in a size XS, in beige, that won’t show my man sweat. Yeah….fun.  Luckily, I found something that didn’t break the bank, so with only 45 minutes until the event, I race back to my office to change and head to the info session.

I get there and everyone is crop circling, drinking up the wine and eating the crudite, so I grab a glass of sparkling water an have a seat , looking like an awkward loner amongst the crop circling crowd. Luckily they start the presentation just a few moments after I arrive, so the fake phone checking and pretending I was deeply enthralled by the glossy Chicago Booth info catalogue didn’t have to go on for too long.  The admissions representatives go through their presentation, but at the end, they introduce the alumni that are in attendance (which was honestly, half the room of 40 people), and there she was, the one female alumna in attendance who was a recent grad (2013). After the formal presentation, we have the opportunity to mingle, so I b-line over to her to find out about her Booth experience (and to find out what the hell she is doing in Miami!). Turns out pre-MBA she was in non-profit (Hey, I AM TOO!), and she wanted more of a challenge in her life/job (ME TOO!), and she recognize that business school was a way to transform herself and her career (THAT’S WHAT I WANT!). We talked about a lot of stuff – Booth, the admissions process, Chicago, the GMAT, the UNGODLY heat of Miami, and adjusting to living in Miami (if you are in the least bit intellectually inclined, Miami is NOT the easiest place to understand and adjust to – it took me 2-3 years to not absolutely hate it here after moving from the northeast). It also turns out she knows/met one of my close high school friends (who now lives/works in Chicago) at a Stanford MBA info session in Chicago when she was applying to b-school.  My friend was the Stanford alum she spoke with at the info session (told you my friends were overachievers).

In all, we had a great conversation. She was able to give me a lot of insight into the Booth application process not only from her application experience, but also because she used to help read/review applicant submissions for the admissions committee (Score!). So of course at the end of the evening, we exchanged contact info, and the following day I do my due diligence and send her the compulsory thank you/it was a pleasure meeting you/Booth is great email. And she writes back saying she thinks I would be a great applicant, encourages me to apply, and to “contact her when I start writing my essays.” HELL EFFIN’ YEAH!!! You know I’m going to take her up on that offer. How much better can it be than to have someone who has read hundreds of these crazy applications, who knows what the adcoms are looking for, and what will make an applicant stand out (in a positive way). I plan on keeping in touch to give her some tips on Miami life, so that I can stay fresh in her mind by the time essay are released next year. In research (at least at my level), networking isn’t really that important, but I am already seeing how effective networking can be a golden asset in this b-school game.

Why so unsure?

Now let me preface my MBA journey by saying I am in no way unsure that I want to pursue an MBA.  I have known for the last 3-4 years that pursuing an advanced degree was inevitable, and I have explored many options, and decided that an MBA would be the best fit for my personality in the career opportunities it could present. The only issue is that I am unsure of how I accomplish this goal, and will I ultimately be successful.

Gaining admissions to a top MBA program is no easy task, and I have a lot of cards stacked against me. Let me break it down for you:

1. I AM OLD FOLKS! I am no spring chicken. Yes, people still mistake me for a college student, but don’t let the lack of wrinkles fool you. In the MBA admissions world, I am at the extreme upper end of the applicant age pool.  The fact that I knew George Michael when he was part of Wham!, or the fact that I knew Boy George as part of Culture Club does not help me in the MBA admissions game. The fact that I knew of LeVar Burton as the Reading Rainbow guy before he was the alien on Star Trek: The Next Generation, does not help me in the MBA admissions game. Hell, knowing all of this stuff is dating myself much beyond my comfort level, but it is a reality that I cannot hide from the MBA adcoms, and one that may put me at a disadvantage in the MBA admissions process. There are already schools that I recognize will toss my application to the hinter lands once they see the 4 numbers that come after my birthday, so presenting a stellar application to the schools I do apply to will be paramount. Advantage: AdComs

2. Low GPA: My additional challenge in the MBA process is the fact that my GPA is less than stellar. I’m sorry, but taking 3 semesters of university physics and physical chemistry did not bode well for my GPA. As such, the theory of odd pricing can equally be applied to my GPA. As much as we know that $2.99 is the same as $3, people still consider $3 more, and in this case they want the $3. Advantage: AdComs.

3. That GODDAMN GMAT: So with my GPA and age not being in the comfortable realm for the adcoms, I am under significant pressure achieve a good GMAT score. My target score is 710. I’ll put it to you this way – it’s going to be a long year. I have taken a practice test under timed conditions etc, and my current score basically says, “bitch better get to studying!” Luckily I have a year, and I plan on using that year wisely. I have even started saving to get a GMAT tutor (among the many other things I need to save for in this process). Right now I am in self-study mode with an online program. My first official date with the GMAT will be sometime in December (I’ll make sure to wear my Sunday’s best), but I am willing to move that date back some if I don’t see significant improvements in my score on practice tests between now and then. Advantage: TBD – but there will be a lot of studying, hoping, praying, and possibly crying going on with this, so we’ll have to wait and see.

So now do you understand why I am theUnsureMBA? I have many mountains to climb on this journey, and in the end nothing is guaranteed. I will damn sure try my hardest, and use every possible resource available to me to make the journey a successful one, but in the end the decision in out of my hands. So wish me good luck, as I will be lucky if I manage to secure admission to a top MBA program, but the adage goes: Luck is when preparation meets opportunity. So let me get prepared. Off to studying.

The race continues.

And They’re Off!!!

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So here we are!

Inspired by those that have made this journey before me, I have decided to document my quest for the elusive, elite MBA. I know what you’re thinking: “Oh no, not another one of these over-achieving kids making a blog to complain about their GMAT score and how if they don’t get into Wharton, their life will have no meaning.” Well yes, and no. For starters, I don’t think of myself as an over achiever. Honestly, given my educational background, I am quite the under achiever and borderline slacker. Many of my peers have gone on to get their JDs, or have been practicing medicine for almost a decade now. Others are private school directors and researchers with PhDs studying life on Mars (I’m serious….one of my high school classmates IS actually studying life on Mars). And what have I accomplished?

Well, on the positive note, I have a viable college degree in a rather difficult science, and I am the first in my family to achieve this feat, but rather than pursuing an advanced degree in my field, I decided to switch industries right out of college. Now, 10 years after my college graduation, after many job vacillations, I find myself back in science, as a “researcher” but I also acknowledge that many of the personal and career decisions I made in the last 10 years have stalled my career. So currently, I am in a job where I don’t feel challenged or inspired. Now, not to look a gift horse in the mouth, because I am grateful for my job. I get paid decently for what I do, and as the sole earner in my household, I can live in a safe neighborhood, and provide a modest life for my 2 children (yes, I plan on undertaking this challenge with two kids),  but I recognize that there is not much upside or opportunity for growth, mainly because I do not have those “PhD” letters after my name.

So you may ask “Well, why not go get your PhD?” Well that is easier said that done. With 10 years separating me from my college graduation, not to mention the fact that I started college two years later than my peers since I decided to frolic in Europe for a year, this puts me way behind the time frame for completing a PhD.  With the average PhD requiring 8 year to complete, I would be approaching my mid 40s by the time I completed it, and living as a broke student for 8 years (especially with 2 kids) is not really my idea of fun. So after recognizing that my career is at a plateau, and toying with a variety of graduate degree options, I decided that an MBA would be the most effective way, in regards to time and outcome, to change career directions and make a significant leap into a position that would challenge and fulfill me.

Now this is no easy feat. I work for a university that offers an MBA, and I could get this MBA for miniscule cost, but there are many issues with the validity and accreditation of program, and the last thing I want to do is to spend my time (since cost would be limited) to have the same job since no one will hire me with a questionable MBA. Not to mention, I am not looking for a mere advancement. I am looking for an opportunity to rocket launch my career to the next level, in part because I have to make up for some lost time, and in part because I want to provide my kids with a better life. So, in order to achieve this goal, I must take the big gamble of applying to the elite business schools, in hopes of securing a spot in their student body, and in turn, gaining accessing to their business recruitment opportunities and alumni networks.

So this is where we begin. They say you have to take big risks to make big rewards, and this will be one of the riskiest things I have ever done in my life. The idea of leaving a paying job, packing up my family and moving to another city to be a student for 2 years is daunting. Anyone who knows me, knows that I am very practical, but for the change I want to see in my life, practical doesn’t cut it. So yes, in this blog you will hear me gripe, and complain, and moan about the GMAT. It is the necessary evil of the b-school process (emphasis on the EVIL aspect) and for the list of schools I have in my sight, getting a top scores is what could be game changer. Additionally, since I will need to secure some major scholarship $$$ to not completely inundate myself in post-MBA debt, and to maintain some semblance of a normal life for my kids during my 2-year stint in graduate school, doing well on the GMAT is paramount (no pressure, right).

So, though I can only hope the next 12-18 months will be as successful as A Day at the Races, I know this journey will be a tough one, but I am looking forward to the challenge. I’ll see you at the finish line.

Please feel free to leave comments and words of encouragement.