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?

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Drinking the MBA Kool-Aid

I think when I started out with the whole idea of let me get an MBA, I had some major tunnel vision that led me to believe that an MBA was synonymous to Harvard/Stanford/Wharton and nothing else. Hey! It’s not just me, everyone wants to sit on the lunch table with the popular kids. But as I got older and slightly wiser, I quickly realised that:

  1. I was kidding myself. Unless I did something extraordinary in the next few years, this was not going to happen for me.
  2. And even if I did manage to pull out a rabbit from the proverbial hat, I actually didn’t want to go to the crème de la crème of these schools (as I said earlier, Stanford is an exception. I’d give my left leg and a kidney to get in there).

After coming to this happy conclusion and most definitely circumventing assured rejection, I began to look at schools beyond the ratings. The numbers only mean something to a point beyond which they’re just numbers with no context. I wouldn’t expect a school to judge me based solely on my GPA and GMAT scores. Likewise, I wouldn’t want to put a school through the same narrow metrics. Luckily for me, cost isn’t a debilitating factor, so I can afford to go without a scholarship which makes things that much easier. Top three things that I value, in order of priority are:

  1. Fit. How well would I fit into the school and its culture? I seriously wish I had the time to visit schools, because I would really like to. But I have to settle for secondhand narratives and hopefully meet some alumni who can give me a better picture of what the school is like.
  2. Specialisation. What is the school really known for? For instance, Sloan is action based, collaborative and very tech + entrepreneurially oriented. They also have an Entrepreneurship & Innovation Track (E&I) that I love the sound of. Even though I do want to join the consulting world, I will always have a special place in my heart for startups.
  3. Location (pre + post MBA). Where is the school located? Where could I expect to work after I graduate? I know that I do want to come back to India after recovering what I spend on the MBA. Which school has a great international network? Which school has a good brand value that is recognisable in Europe and Asia? These for me are super important criteria. IE and IESE are great schools, but I’m a little unsure of the job market in Spain. Even if I do learn Spanish, I’m apprehensive about the possibilities and I am certain that it is a relatively unknown brand in India… making it a somewhat unattractive choice for me at this point.

I’m still waiting on my chat with the consultant to kind of discuss my thoughts and hear his perspective on them. Another pair of eyes should clear up any kind of misconceptions that I might have. Also, check out these free school guides from Veritas Prep here, I absolutely loved how much information they packed into it. It would take days, if not weeks to actually do it myself. Huge fan of them.

How to decide where to apply?

I’m not sure I’m even qualified to be writing about this at the moment because I’m still not sure where I’m going to be applying. I do have certain parameters though, which should help make it a little easier.

  1. I am only going to apply to 4 schools, based on the assumption that if I don’t get in this year, I’ll have several options left to apply in the next year.
  2. I have no illusions about my competency as a candidate. The top 5 are immediately out and honestly, I’m not too bothered about that. The only school I would love to attend is Stanford, because I feel like Wharton is too finance-y for my taste and Harvard is too stuffy. But my chances of going to space are less astronomical than me ever getting accepted to Stanford even after a year or twenty, so I have that going for me.
  3. I want to apply to schools that have a good placement record in the consulting industry, since that’s where I’d like to land up.
  4. I have this vague idea in my head of travelling across Europe sipping little cups of cappuccino with a dreamy Italian serenading me, while getting an MBA of course. I do want to put in at least 1 (if not 2) European schools in the mix. Traditionally, they attract an older set of students so I’m not sure how feasible this would be. IESE and Said require that students have a minimum work experience of two years, and I would be pushing that pretty close.
  5. I want warm weather, interspersed with good cold weather. I can’t do gloomy all year round, I would just get depressed. I don’t mind California type sunny weather but it’s too Indian for my liking.
  6. I can’t imagine living in the southern belt of the States, nuh uh no way. East or West coast for me. I’m also a city girl. The great outdoors are nice and all, but do I want to live in the middle of it? Nope. Nothing in the boondocks.
  7. I would like to be a part of a bigger class. Bigger the class, bigger the friend pool and the more likely I am to actually meet people I like. Also, would love it if there was a significant international representation and a younger crowd of people.

Ummm, yeah. So these are just thoughts I have at the moment, so they’re not set in stone. I’ll probably get into it in more detail after I’ve had a chat with my consultant. Also, yes I did decide to go with a consultant to help with the admissions process. I figured I could use all the help I could get.

 

Why apply now?

As I mentioned in my last post, this isn’t probably the best time for me to apply. I have one year of full time work experience and I graduated in 2013. By the time I matriculate (if at all I do), I will have just about 2 years of work experience in total. This is on the lowest end for most applicants. I am fully aware that on paper, I don’t look very good as an applicant.

Cons:

  1. Squarely in the Indian IT engineer bracket
  2. Not from an IIT/NIT/a brand that would be instantly recognisable
  3. No full time work experience at a big brand name company
  4. Only 1 year of work experience at the time of applying
  5. Not a genius of any kind, did not invent the cure to AIDS when I was 12
  6. Indian IT engineer, yes it’s that much of a disadvantage

Pros:

  1. Female Indian IT engineer (yes! the vagina is good for something)
  2. College brand gained value by leaps and bounds thanks to a recently appointed CEO *hint* *hint*
  3. Full time work experience at a startup that is growing rapidly
  4. 1 year of full time work experience while at the same time launching my own company
  5. Not a genius, but look good enough on paper — 710 GMAT, 9.03 GPA, 94.4% 12th, 92.4% 10th
  6. Software engineer as opposed to IT engineer, gives me a slight edge as I develop products and applications directly for the end consumer

With all that said, I guess it largely comes down to how I build my application strategy, the schools I apply to and my essays. I know the top 5 are beyond my reach, so I’m not even going to go there. What I am looking at are the schools in the 10 – 20 range that I have a somewhat realistic chance of getting into.

So, why am I applying now? Why don’t I wait for a few years, get some more work experience and apply then? In an ideal world, I would. But in this world, I have issues, some of which are downright stupid.

  1. I am sick of coding. Honest to god. I’m good at it, but I can’t keep doing any more of it.
  2. All the jobs I do want to do /consulting/ need an MBA. To make the switch, I need a degree (at least the MBB firms).
  3. What good is waiting another year going to do? How much of a difference could a year make? I highly doubt that I would be able to make a drastic switch during this time.
  4. There is a clock ticking away in the back of parents’ heads for they fear I shall become an old maid by the time I get the damn MBA, and then of course no self respecting Indian man would ever look at me twice (I am seriously hoping this happens).
  5. I need to push the fast forward button on my career and I need to switch industries. I am also itching for that international work/study experience which is why I’ve given the IIMs the boot.

Good enough reasons? I’m not sure. I guess we’ll know soon enough.

When push comes to shove

I think I’ve known pretty much my entire life that I was going to get an MBA someday. I think it has to do with the fact that my dad got his MBA and had a successful career following that, so in my pliable mind, it looked something like

[random degree] + [MBA] = [successful life + career]

Obviously I know better now. An MBA isn’t going to guarantee that you’ll get a killer job or be the CEO of the next dot com empire, and is probably a luxury that not many people can afford. But the initial wonder it held for me still holds. I loooooveeee the idea of studying business for two years, the very thought of being able to learn about corporate finance, strategy, marketing, organisational structures, accounting principles — ah, I may have just wet myself a little.

I could have done a business degree during undergrad, and in hindsight I probably should have. Sadly, I was swept away by the engineering wave and I went with it at the time because I didn’t know any better. It wasn’t all bad though, there are several aspects of engineering that I did enjoy and my math skills received a thorough ass busting.

I applied for the YLP program at ISB in my sophomore year of college with a GMAT of 710 (that is still valid, thank god) and breezed through all the rounds. Like seriously, my one minute video was filmed on an iPhone under a tree in the campus grounds. The final interview was a complete disaster though and I knew it from the get go. Puzzles, my ass. How is a freakin’ puzzle supposed to decide if you’re a good fit for their school? Haven’t my academic records + essays + GMAT scores spoken for themselves? Anyway, I suffered from a severe brain fart and didn’t recover until I walked back home wondering which part of the country I was in.

Yeah, needless to say, never applying to ISB again. I’m going to be blogging about my MBA journey, as hasty and unplanned as it is. I’m not a solid candidate at this point and I’m not even sure why I’m applying this year (well, I know why, but I know it’s not the best idea). More on all of that later. Hopefully others as unprepared as I am can get a kick out of this and possibly talk themselves out of applying right now.

HA, I kid.