The lull before the storm

So things have been quite dull ever since I submitted my applications. I wrote the TOEFL yesterday and it was such a breeze – I actually enjoyed the exam! It’s scheduled to be about 4h 30m long but I finished it in about 3h 15m, following which I got the stink-eye from the remaining test takers. All in all, I think I’m going to manage a respectable score and I’m glad it’s out of the way. I hope the scores are sent to UCLA asap because my application is going to be put “on hold” until they receive my TOEFL score.

I’ve also been featured in this US News article which is pretty cool! When I get into a school of choice (power of positive thinking), I’m definitely going to talk about how I focused on bringing out my strengths as a female candidate. This was actually the main fodder for my essays, particularly Kellogg and UCLA.

The waiting game is still on… I haven’t heard back from any school yet but I’m trying not to read too much into it. The end of this month/the beginning of the next is going to be nuts but I’m excited! Here’s to good things coming all the Round 2’ers way!

All in for Round 2!

I finally submitted all four apps in the past two days and let me tell you, it was exhausting. Here are my thoughts on each application:

  1. Booth: I absolutely loved the Booth application. It gave me enough space to talk about everything (and I mean everything!). The prompts within the app allowed for enough detail and I even used the optional essay to fill in some gaps. I was terrified of the presentation/essay but it turned out to be one of the most rewarding things I’ve made this application season. Everyone who read it seems to have enjoyed it, so I can only hope the adcoms will too. I’d say this was my favourite (and my best).
  2. Kellogg: The application for Kellogg and Booth was actually pretty similar, but I had to be much more succinct in my Kellogg app. There were three essays I had to answer (2 required + 1 for the MMM) and I think I did a pretty decent job at all of them, although some were better than the others. Hopefully, my video essay goes well and I make enough of an impact on the adcom. It would suck if my interview was waived.
  3. Anderson: The Anderson application was painless (just one essay and one recommendation) until I realized that they require a TOEFL score 2 days before the deadline for Round 2. I was this close to breaking something. Luckily, I got in my app before the deadline and put in the date I’m planning to take the damn test but until they get my official scores, my application is going to be “on hold”. Anyone know what this means?
  4. Tepper: Tepper was sort of a last-ditch effort on my part. I was also exhausted from a long night the day before, so I’m not sure how my essays were. I think I did okay, hopefully that’s enough. For the first time ever, my essays were under the word count rather than being a few over. Weird.

Things that changed from Round 1 in Round 2:

  1. I had one solid recommendation in Round 1 and the other, was to put it mildly, just fluff. I know because the recommender (head of volunteers) decided to show it to me once I’d submitted all my Round 1 apps. I’m not even sure how I got invited to interview at Duke with that one. It was a huge wake-up call. This time, my client (from my startup) agreed to be my second recommender and I know he’s going to do a killer job because I did some killer work for him.
  2. I paid a lot more attention to the short answers and little entry fields in the application. Last time, I’d pretty much copy+pasted bullets from my resume into these fields, but this time I made sure to bring up things that had never been mentioned before. My apps this time covered every single aspect of my profile.
  3. I had help every single step of the way from Vandana and NaijaMBAGal (a shoutout to FinanceFurry here as well). I absolutely could not have done it without them. They were my supporters, critics and confidantes throughout this round and their feedback on my essays was always genius. Every time I second-guessed something on my app (which was pretty much all the time), I knew I had these guys on my side. Thank you so much you two!

What lies ahead? I’m going to finish up my Kellogg Video essays, get in a short vacation in Bangkok this weekend, come back and get the TOEFL over with and then just wait! I have a good feeling about Round 2 🙂 I also feel like this time I won’t be so anal about it… some exciting things have been happening at work and I caught myself thinking “Oh crap, if I get into an MBA program, I’m going to miss all this”. Yup, instant realization. MBA this year or no MBA this year, I’m gonna be okay!

Final school list for Round 2

So after many, many, many hours of internal debate that resulted in a lot of hair pulling and crabbiness, I have finally  decided on my school list. I think I have been a little wiser in my choices this time around and I think each of them would be a good fit for me. It’s really weird though, when I started out, literally none of these schools were on my radar. This is mostly because I started out thinking I wanted to get into consulting post MBA and now I’ve done a complete u-turn by deciding to stay in the tech industry.

I know that I want to be an entrepreneur in the long term and I thought that consulting would get me there eventually. But when I actually sat down to evaluate the progression of my career, it made more sense to go another route, and that would be Product Management. It’s a pretty newish role in the industry but it’s growing by leaps and bounds each year. It allows me to leverage my experiences so far because I am an engineer, I work in a product development startup, the startup I founded is in the e-commerce space, I have a lot of experience in the technical aspects of developing a product and it just makes logical sense as a career path. So I can definitely say that I have a better handle on my story and how I’m going to market myself.

Weirdly enough, I had this revelation in the middle of writing essays for my R1 apps and my essays did say that I want to become a Product Manager at a leading tech firm, but by then the school choices had already been made and it was too late. Duke is still fine, since a lot of tech companies do recruit from there so my goals must have made some sense, but Yale was a complete washout. I shouldn’t have applied in the first place.

Anyway having cleared that up in my head, I know what kind of schools I should be looking at, especially to achieve my career goals. I want a focus on entrepreneurship, and a school that is welcoming to younger applicants and has great tech firms/startups visiting campus and so, drumroll please.

  1. Chicago Booth
  2. Berkeley Haas Kellogg MMM
  3. UCLA Anderson

Booth is where I really want to be and I think I do actually have a good chance of getting in. I am most doubtful about my chances at Haas since the acceptance rates are ridiculous but I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t apply but I’m going to have to live with it because I changed my mind and I have Vandana to thank/blame 😉 Okay, I’m lying. I owe her my unborn children because she has been a massive help and I can’t thank her enough. I knew before that the Kellogg MMM program was a great fit, but I couldn’t decide between this and Haas. I mean the MMM program is quite literally customized to fit with my career goals and what maaaaay have factored into the decision was the fact that I’d need to write the TOEFL and three long essays for Haas. Ummm… sue me, I’m lazy. UCLA Anderson is so close to the Valley, as is Haas which makes both at least one of them of no-brainers. If I had the time, I would have thrown Stanford into the mix, because, well Stanford. But hey, if I don’t get in this year, I plan to quit my full time job and scale my startup by about a 100x. Quite a few VCs have been feeling my company out, but I’ve just been dragging my feet because I honestly feel like I need an MBA to plug the holes in my skill set before we open up to investors. That’s actually why I decided I need an MBA sooner rather than later. I guess I’ll come to that when it happens.

My days are so packed, I literally have no time to breathe. GMAT prep, reaching out to current students, drafting my essays, dealing with work. It’s like I can’t catch a break. I am desperately waiting for the weekend.

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?