Now that the sting has worn off…

I’m considering a very difficult decision. Insanity maybe? I don’t know. I’m thinking about retaking the GMAT before Round 2 deadlines with a goal of scoring at least a 750 this time. I know my weakness: I’m a very young applicant. I have a great GPA, great extracurriculars, great work experience (quality wise) but my GMAT as a consultant told me is “average”.

I’m pretty decent at taking standardised tests and I’m sure that with proper preparation I can beat the 710 I have. But I am worried about how I’m going to manage this with work, my startup, my volunteering work and actual applications. On the flip-side, having a really strong GMAT score could make me stand out and offset the damage I do to their admission statistics with my paltry work experience by increasing the average GMAT score.

Now, another sign that I’m losing my mind is that I am considering applying to Booth in Round 2. Yep. You heard me right. A school that is ranked way above Duke and practically up there with H/S/W. Why you ask? Primarily because this: Chicago Booth Early Career Candidates

…the Admissions Committee will bear in mind the applicant’s proximity to the college experience when considering factors such as leadership, supervision experience, and academic success.

I found myself checking off everything on that list. BUT, and this is a huge but, the average age is still about 28 though with 4.5 years of work experience. Does that mean I’m reading too much into this whole pitch they have for early career candidates? Well apart from this, I like the fact that the program is extremely analytical and personalized, and they have a great focus on entrepreneurship and non-conformity. I am still debating this internally, but I must admit a 750 would make me feel a little better about applying here. NaijaMBAGal, any insights? 😛

Other than that, I’m still deliberating my list. Cornell Johnson is definitely in there and I’m debating between Ross and maybe UCLA (didn’t think I’d want to be on the West Coast, but oh well). So if not this year, then what? I’m going to rethink my job situation and work towards getting into a top 10 school next year. Until then, decisions decisions.

UPDATE: A few hours after I wrote this post, thanks to some helpful feedback from gnpth and mbablackgirl, I decided what the heck and booked my date for the GMAT. 23rd December it is. It will be my third attempt (630, 710 and ?). I did absolutely no extra preparation between attempt 1 and attempt 2 so I have no idea how I managed that. Worst case, I get a score lower than 710 and I cancel it. Best case I get a 750+. Seems quite low risk to me so I took the plunge. Is it weird that I’m excited about taking the test?

The result is in…

And I’m definitely not admitted to Fuqua. It was horrible waiting for a phone call that never came, but I’ve had a while for it to sink in and I’m okay. Slightly heart broken because everyone who’s read even part of this blog knows how much I loved Duke – but I’m still hopeful for better things to come. I’m not sure if I’ve been dinged completely or wait listed (they haven’t updated the web portal yet) but I want to move on. Part of me isn’t sure if I should you know? This decision has me wondering if I even have a shot of getting in anywhere that I actually want to get in. Hearing absolutely nothing from Yale hasn’t helped things either. I just don’t know anymore!

UPDATE: Dinged. Oh well.

Tick tock

As the nifty little countdown calendar to the right says, I have to wait for two more days to hear from Duke. I actually thought I’d be much more of a nervous wreck but surprisingly I’ve been pretty calm through all this. I think I was more stressed out during the whole interview invite waiting period. I guess with the practice that came from that, I’ve gotten much better at the waiting game.

It’s actually scary to think that a decision made by an admissions committee comprising of 10-15 (I imagine) individuals can change lives, for better or for worse. Getting accepted to Duke would open up a whole new world of possibilities, but a rejection could mean that much better things lie ahead. I can imagine my life both ways! I’ve always believed that things happen for a reason.

Having achieved a state of mental nirvana, I’m blissfully not thinking about the whole application process, at least until Wednesday. Depending on the outcome of that, I’ll have to get back to the grind of essay writing and form filling – and just for that reason alone, I sure as hell hope I get in. I don’t know how everyone applying to 7 or 8 schools does it. You guys have my undying respect.

Fuqua Interview Report

So I finished my interview yesterday and it went better than I thought it would! I had to fly in to a different city so I flew in on the 14th, spent the night, woke up well rested and headed for the interview which was scheduled comfortably at 10.15 a.m on the 15th. I was actually a full 25 minutes early, but it worked out great since my interviewer showed up early too! He was a young-ish guy, about mid to late 30s if I had to guess. After a few minutes of small talk, he jumped right in. Questions asked included:

  • Tell me about yourself
  • Tell me about your current role at work
  • Why MBA
  • Why Duke
  • Tell me about some constructive feedback that you received
  • Tell me about the time you showed your leadership skills (in and out of work)
  • What do you think makes a team successful
  • What is your role in a team
  • Tell me about a time you handled a conflict in a team
  • What kind of a leader are you
  • What are your career goals
  • Why do you think this is the right time for an MBA
  • Which other schools have you applied to

The interview lasted about 40-45 minutes, including the questions I asked him at the end. Initially, I didn’t think he was very responsive but as I found my groove, I saw him nodding and agreeing with stuff I said. I didn’t have any issues coming up with stories and I was very well prepared with my answers to why Duke and why an MBA. He opened up when I started asking him questions about the Duke experience and by then, we had a good rapport. He even told me to call him if I ever needed any help regarding Duke or even otherwise.

Overall, a nice friendly chat with a chilled out vibe. No curve balls and no unexpected questions. I was kind of flipping out right before because some guy (interviewing in the same city as I was) was asked a case question and grilled for 1.5 hours, so I guess I got lucky. I think I did my  best and there isn’t much I would change about the interview. I guess only time will tell now! Good luck to everyone else interviewing at Fuqua!

How I approached writing my essays

My buddy Texaswannabecali was asking the blogosphere about how to approach the daunting task of writing essays for b-school apps and I thought I’d make an entire post of it instead. I will put in a disclaimer here – I absolutely love writing and I do it on a regular basis i.e I probably churn out about 800 words per day on average, so it was probably easier for me than it was for most people. With that said, some essay topics were definitely easier than others. For instance, Fuqua was a joy to write but Yale, not so much.

I started with my Yale essays first, I figured get a good round of practice in before pulling the big guns for Duke. It’s a good idea to work on your number one choices after you’ve had some experience with schools that aren’t as high on your list of priorities. By then you should have a good sense of what works and what doesn’t, and also a better sense of clarity about your career goals.

Before you start writing, make sure you read the essay analyses that all the admissions consultants have put out there. Grantmeadmission has an amazing resource where he’s compiled all those links and which I’ve personally bookmarked. Whether or not you use these guidelines, I found them tremendously useful just to align my thoughts in the right direction. I started off on my essays by jotting down points that I knew I had to put in there. Nothing fancy, just bullets in my text editor of choice. I didn’t sit down actively in one session and do this because my brain tends to wander when I do that, but I kept adding to the list at random times when I was bored at work, or right before I went to sleep, I’d quickly type out those points on my phone and sync it up later. So by about the end of a week, I had a list of about 15 – 20 odd points that I wanted to expand on for each essay. Then I got down to writing my first draft.

I wasn’t really concerned about structure or brevity at this point. I just wanted to get my content down. I just expanded on every point that I had written down so depending on the essay topic I had a bunch of stories from work, some from volunteering, some stuff that I liked about the school and basically a few lines or more about every aspect of my profile that I wanted to cover. At the end of this exercise, I had a full two pages of text with random paragraphs and no flow whatsoever. I let that sit for a while, about 3 or 4 days and I didn’t look at it at all. In the mean time, I had some more ideas which I made sure to document lest I forget.

So after the requisite 3 to 4 days, I came back to my essay with a clearer head. The time gap in the middle helped lessen my attachment to the words I’d written, so I could easily get rid of stuff I knew wasn’t relevant or important. Looking at the essay with a fresher pair of eyes also helped me spot grammatical flaws that I might have missed otherwise. I put in the new points and I started arranging the essay structurally by moving paragraphs around in a way that made sense to the reader i.e gave it a logical flow. So I had a pretty rough second draft at this point, with the content and a decent structure.

I let it rest for a few days again before going back to it. This time I focussed on starting and ending with a bang and ensuring smooth transitions from one paragraph to the next. The last thing I wanted was to have a clunky set of unrelated stories shoved together in my essay. Up until this point, I hadn’t really bothered with the word count specifically, although I always kept it at the back of my mind. I knew I overshot the limit by about 200 words or so but that’s about it. I wouldn’t advice going over by more than 400 words because cutting it down can be a herculean task. I know because getting the word count down by 200 words was a major pain. But I did it in this iteration. So now I had the beginnings of a pretty good essay, but up until now I hadn’t taken any external opinions so I sent it off to about 7 – 8 friends and advisors for their inputs. None of my friends have MBAs so it was more of an exercise about making sure there were no dumb mistakes (repeating words, missing letters and commas) and also so to see if they could tell that the essay could have been written only by me and no one else. I think that’s a good way of judging to see whether you’ve really poured your heart and soul into the essay. Trust me, this makes a massive difference.

My friends took a few days to get back to me and they were super helpful. Some of the feedback I implemented and some I just ignored. Stick to your guns on this. At this point my essays were looking great! I went over them, polished them up, made sure the formatting was right and I saved them all ready to submit. But of course, I didn’t actually submit it right then and I spent a good 3 days reading it once every 3 hours and scouring my eyes out trying to find any errors I’d missed. Then about two days before the deadline, I hit submit and that was it!

The whole thing took about 20 odd days, I think you should probably budget at least that much or you’ll find yourself scrambling towards the end. Unless of course, you’re one of those people who writes the entire thing in one shot and that’s that. Well, this was long and rambling but I hope it helps anyone who’s confused about how to start.

Best of luck with essays!

Fuqua – Invited to Interview!

AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH! *insert girly squeal here*

So I’ve scheduled my interview for the 15th which happens to be a Wednesday. That gives me a decent amount of time to prepare I think. It’s going to be an interview with an alumnus and Duke interviews do have a reputation of being friendly and easygoing, much like the school itself! It’s going to be a blind interview so the interviewer will only have access to my resume. I’ve started preparing and it mainly involves going over every inch of my resume and reading endless interview reports on Accepted and Clear Admit.

I’m trying to focus on getting the FIT exactly right and showing how Fuqua is my number one choice. I also need to emphasise on the aspects of my work that involve collaboration and leadership. I’ll be sure to have a detailed report up here once my interview is done. I’m not stressed really, just intensely hoping that it goes well. I want to step out of there knowing I’ve got this in the bag: a girl can dream!

I’ll keep you posted.

Five stages of losing your mind

Guys I am officially losing my mind. I’ve gone through what I think are 5 stages to “losing your mind during the post application submission waiting period.”

It starts with relief, where you think hah, I got it done before everyone else (EA/R1 pseudo-superiority complex).

That is followed by doubt, where you second guess every comma and period in your essays. Did something slip through the cracks? Should I have waited, like the rest of the sane people out there?

Next comes the numbness. You hit submit and it’s gone into the black hole of admissions and there’s nothing you can do about it. So you tuck it away in the corner of your mind and try to move on with regular life. This doesn’t last very long though.

The closer the notification date is, the closer comes the next phase: preparation. You prepare yourself for every outcome as you veer between outrageous optimism and resigned pessimism, although you try to condition yourself to expect the worse because that way, it would hurt less. The glimmer of hope is always tantalisingly close though, my preciousssssss. This is where I’m at right now.

I think the fifth stage, which I hope to reach soon is that of mental peace. I want to know that I’ll be content with the outcome, either good or bad because it isn’t the end of the world nor is it the means to an end.

I’m waiting on Fuqua and Yale now. 7th of October for Fuqua and around the same time (I’ve heard) for Yale. Let’s see how that goes!

I hope GMAT/essay prep is going well for everyone! The blogosphere has been a little dead lately (understandably of course), so I hope all you lovely people are doing well. Keep us posted.