Thursday, March 29, 2007

GMAT

I have not really touched upon the GMAT too much in this blog, mostly because I find discussions of standardized tests quickly induce comatose feelings. However, as I did well, I'll outline how I did it. I'll also attempt to quantify the quality of the product/ book and its usefulness to my overall study scheme (1 = low 5=high).

1) Bought the general Kaplan book around November 2005 to introduce myself to the test. I didn't really look at it that often and did not feel the paper practice tests were very useful. The quantity of practice problems was good.
Quality: 3
Usefulness: 2.5

2) Dabbled for a few months using Kaplan's QBank starting in February 2006. You buy into a database of questions and make your own quizzes. You choose the level of difficulty and types of questions. It was $200 for three (?) months of access.
Quality: 4
Usefulness: 4

3) Took a free diagnostic test at Kaplan center. It was on paper and pretty short. It did confirm what I already knew- I needed to remember how to multiply and divide.
Quality: 3
Usefulness: 3

4) Bought the general Princeton Review book at the beginning of the summer when I really buckled down to study. I liked this book much better than the Kaplan book. I thought the computer adaptive tests were true to form, if not score. I also liked the feature where I could buy essay grading for a few dollars for my online practice tests. The computer adaptive practice tests made this a worthwhile purchase.
Quality: 4
Usefulness: 4

5) Kaplan 800. I found this book very useful for challenging me with tough questions. I carried this book (and book #6) with me wherever I went and read strategies and did practice problems during lunch, on the T, at the gym, etc.
Quality: 5
Usefulness: 4 (specific to tough problems)
6) Official quantitative review. I did not need any verbal help, so I mostly worked on maximizing my quantitative score. This book was great as I found that the stylistic formation of the questions in the official review books most closely matches the actual test.
Quality: 5
Usefulness: 5

7) Essay prep. I did not do any essay prep other than completing the essay section during every practice test. As I previously mentioned, I also took advantage of Princeton Review's scoring service. After writing two essays, your mental state will be affected a bit. It is important to have a thorough understanding of precisely what toll the essays take on you. I decided that as a strong writer, I was going to use the essays as a warm up. I think I really lucked out with my questions. One was basically "Money can't buy happiness. Discuss." For that question I subheaded my arguments using quotes from classic rock songs. "Money can't buy me love..." and "You can't always get what you want..." and "I can't get no satisfaction." It truly doesn't matter what the heck you write about, as long as you write and argue your point well.

The key to a great score for me was nailing my pacing strategy and increasing my testing endurance. To this effect, I took a LOT of practice tests, often in less than ideal testing conditions such as at the point of exhaustion after work, without eating in an un-air conditioned kitchen, and ridiculously hungover. I actually got my best practice test score hungover. Go figure. On the actual test day I stuck to my pacing plan, keeping a close but not obsessive watch over the time and did not have to rush through the last questions. I successfully maximized my accuracy by taking the appropriate amount of time I needed for the earlier questions. Result- 740, 6.0.

H-1Bs

I am working on a post outlining my application choices and the reasons why I am or am not attending each school. However, I am just too freaking tired. H-1Bs are consuming my life. Also my arms hurt as I got all of my vaccinations for my India trip today. I admit the last part is just whining a bit. What was kind of funny was when the nurse giving me the vaccinations also gave me a print out about India "risks". Some of it she's basically medically required to give me. Regional risks re: malaria, etc. The rest was kind of amusing regarding crime, safety issues, etc. She gave the info to me and then sort of breezed over it after I tilted my head and put on my best "Really?" look. At least I had something to read while I waited for my prescriptions.

The nurse was from Slovenia and spoke unaccented English so I made the assumption that she came to the US a bit earlier than high school. She asked how I chose India with a slightly incredulous look/tone and shared that she didn't think she could do it. The tone, coupled with the facial expression reminded me of a friend who immigrated from Russia with his family during his elementary school years. We went out to brunch last weekend and over a delicious South End meal we discussed how he just knew he did not want to deal with the discomfort that would accompany a visit to India. Even a few days of digestive adjustment, combined with the heat was too much. After receiving almost the same reaction from my nurse today it made me wonder- do both my nurse and my friend have residual childhood discomfort issues? My nurse used the phrase "post-dramatic stress syndrome" loosely to describe how her childhood moving around and stress before moving to the U.S. affects her now. Of course this is all anecdotal evidence but it is interesting to explore.

Back to H-1Bs... I will provide some educational and entertaining links regarding the H-1B nonimmigrant status:

H1Bees
H1Bees soundclips
Article in my local paper about the H-1Bs

Ok, those were all entertainment links. One of the attorneys introduced me to the group when they first came out in 2005. Now here's some educational information:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H1B_visa
http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis
More CIS

Thank goodness I only have to deal with a few more days of this. 40 more days of work- it's like my own personal Lent!

Monday, March 26, 2007

Mean Girls and B school advice

There's a scene in Mean Girls where Lindsay Lohan's character Cady Heron is sitting behind her crush Aaron Samuels in calculus class and attempting to get Aaron to pay more attention to her by pretending she doesn't understand what is going on with the lesson. Aaron turns around and starts "explaining" the problem to Cady, however he doesn't really understand the lesson. The movie lets us into Cady's internal side of the dialogue- "Wrong. He was so wrong." To Aaron she merely smiles and says "Thanks... I get it now."

This scene reminds me of when supervisors and other well meaning, more educated and experienced acquaintances offer business school advice that I consider to be... well, wrong. The advice is often outdated, not relevant to me, or simply really, really wrong. With some personal and professional relationships it is not worth having an adversarial conversation about the value or accuracy of the information. Instead I let my internal monologue remind me that the advice is "wrong, so wrong," thank the individual for the input, and go on my way.

Friday, March 23, 2007

ROI

One of my favorite buzzwords thrown around on forums and articles and rankings is "return on investment" or ROI. Simple ROI calculations take into account forgone salary, tuition costs and prospective salary post-MBA given the income statistics published by business schools. Looking up post-MBA statistics is the easy part. It becomes a bit more like multivariable calculus (from what I remember of it) if you actually try to figure out what your personal ROI is for a given program.

Here are the main points to consider for your personal ROI:

1) The ACTUAL cost of attendance. This is a simpler break out the calculator type of evaluation.
a) Cost of living difference. This difference can be stark and perhaps counterbalance other incentives such as tuition breaks. Cost of living issues include the usual food, shelter, but also a whole lot of other expenses that could vary greatly depending on your location such as car insurance, transportation costs. (Are you near/in a major city? Will you have to travel a lot for interviews?)
Using my own application as an example, at Notre Dame, a car would have been a necessity. At Yale, it would have been a big help, but you can suffer along without it thanks to Metro North. Georgetown- cars are pretty unnecessary for transportation, not to mention the huge cost of car insurance. The differences in rent can also creep towards ten thousand dollars. I could live in an apartment the same size as the two bed I share in Boston for a third of the price in South Bend. There are great bargains to be had in New Haven as well. In Georgetown, the grad student is generally the loser in the classic game of supply and demand.
b) Tuition. How much tuition will you actually pay? How does this change your decision equation given any interest in a particular element of the program? Will a full tuition scholarship change your mind away from a program with a specialty you like? Will a half-tuition grant?

2) Should forgone salary be included in your equation?
As a severe career switcher, I felt that I could not really include forgone salary in my personal ROI calculator. My options were to either quit my job this year or next in favor of starting at the bottom of a different industry, or going to graduate school, adding skills, and using my internship or other experiences to propel me into a different sector. I never really considered the former.

3) What is YOUR earning potential for your chosen industry? The published employment statistics on b school websites can be a good indicator of graduate earning potential, but the stats should not be your only guide. Be sure you look at the mean and median salaries for your sector, function, AND location. At a panel I attended, an IESE alumni said that the careers office advised people to change function, sector, or location. One area of change was expected, two was a challenge, and changing all three was a feat! What is your priority in searching for a job? How does the employment outcome for the student body at your chosen school mesh with your goals? Another statistical note- look at MEDIAN, not the average salary. Even better, look at the BOTTOM salary. Is that something you could live with given your time and investment in business school? Optimism and a healthy ego are good traits to have to be a successful business school applicant, but being realistic about what your personal finance situation could be is simply a smart calculation. Also, many of the employment statistics suffer from self-reporting bias. Perhaps the reported bottom salary is not actually the bottom salary.

Then there are those intangibles. I touched on a few throughout the post, but they include things like maximizing your idea of a high quality of life and the benefits you get from studying with a diverse group of intelligent people.

ROI wise- you could come up with a brilliant business idea during your first semester, meet the other two people with the expertise required to balance your experience, start a business, make tens of millions of dollars, and retire at 34. At that point all possible calculations will have flown out the window. Let's all sit back and hope for that next great idea. In the meantime, break out those financial calculators and figure out your ROI.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Georgetown's global integrative

One of the reasons I became interested in Georgetown in the first place was reading about the Global Integrative. During your second year, when you are supposed to know a bit more, you take a course focused on a country. From what I've read, the information presented includes everything from culture to local business case studies. As part of the class you work on a consulting project for a company doing business in the country you are studying. You then take a one week trip to the country and the visit culminates with a presentation to the local client representatives. [Side note: Yale does a very interesting and worthwhile but field trip/ classroom variety international experience.]

I received an email a few weeks ago from a second year student assigned to answer questions and convince me to go to Georgetown. My questions were mostly logistical questions regarding scheduling and finances. I was a bit miffed when I did not get a response from the 2nd year for three weeks. I thought, I know people get busy, but why did you volunteer for this? However, I received a very nice email from the student on Monday apologizing for the lack of response- he was in Africa for 3 weeks! Before the global integrative he traveled for two weeks and had limited access to email.
SIGN ME UP! This email has made me even more enthusiastic about starting the MBA!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

package from the 7th oldest university in the world

My Cambridge "offer" arrived today. In typical old school British fashion, it is a conditional offer. In this case conditioned on me paying a large deposit and proving I can pay the rest. It is also conditioned on being accepted to a college. After paying a deposit of 2800 GBP, the Judge School then undertakes the charge of finding a place at a college for you. Many MBA students are shuffled off into the lesser colleges. As most of the important MBA resources are focused within the Judge School itself this is not really a huge concern but merely an annoyance. Oxford and Cambridge need modern makeovers so badly. It is truly to JBS' credit that they have managed to climb the ranks of MBA programs while existing within a larger university system that is so firmly stuck in the 19th century. Paper applications, some dorm rooms with no internet access!
Cambridge and Oxford are both beautiful old British towns with alumni networks to induce envy. As I will at the very least be visiting Cambridge in the fall, I will certainly keep all the great tourist brochures I received from the admissions office!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Accepted.com vs. AnonymousMBA

Hilarious.

Silence

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
-Frost

Every time it snows the city quiets temporarily. The Common was beautifully unspoiled as I walked home from work today. Before I jump on the Boston St. Patrick's Day bandwagon tomorrow it's just nice to stay in and relax. Basketball, wine, and a book:

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I'm Jamey: People come to me for the TRUTH

My techie friend suggested the above as a topic for my blog, which I found amusing yet appropriate.

Example 1:
It all started one drunken evening when Dartmouthfriend1 asked me what I thought of her relationship. Now, this individual and I are not that close. We do not hang out on a one-on-one basis and we do not count each other in the ranks of confidantes. But I like her so even in my hazy state I managed to restrain myself from saying all the horrible things I had bottled up for a whole year! I did manage to politely make a few comments before downing the rest of my craptastic beer and running away to find my roommate. Really though, I am known within the group for telling it like it is. Why would you ask me what I thought about your relationship unless on some level you wanted the absolute horrible truth?

Example 2:
Out with friends, talking about moving this summer, end up chatting a lot with Dartmouthfriend2 who works for large multinational consulting firm and is currently doing an externship at a non-profit. She actively solicits advice on her approaching b school application process. We had an excellent discussion on the benefits to her career going to a program like Yale, over trying to returning to Dartmouth. Techie friend's favorite quote from me: "Say it with me... no Hanover New Hampshire, no Hanover New Hampshire"

Example 3:
Out with same extended group, talking to an ibanker about business school. After chit chat about work, the usual... He then asks whether I think he should move to London or change sectors to strengthen his application. I reply that as a white male ibanker he's going to have to work pretty hard to differentiate himself. Or just ace the GMAT. :-)

I find it amusing that my advice has been so actively solicited in the past few weeks. I had not even noticed until it was pointed out to me but now I will let it feed my ego a little and laugh quite a bit.

Gnothi seauton

γνῶθι σεαυτόν
gnothi seauton
know thyself
-A Greek Philosopher

To thyself be true
-Shakespeare

The guiding force in applying for business school, and frankly for any major life decision is to know yourself. Sorting through all the advice in cyberspace, in bookstores, and from well-intentioned friends/family can be a pain, even if you are an expert googler. The sole question you have to ask yourself is What Do I Want? As it relates to the subject of this blog, if you cannot answer this question, you should not apply to business school.

Note that what you should not immediately focus on "what do I want to do for a career?" or "what is my favorite city?" or "what is the ranking of X school?" The broader question "What Do I Want" should force you to evaluate what your personal priorities, preferences and goals are without reference to the options available. If you are able to identify what your main priorities are, focusing on tests versus essays, promotions versus new industries should all fall into place. A co-worker drafted law school applications and got to the personal statement part of the application which included "why law school" and could not come up with an answer. She had the presence to drop everything, regroup and decide that she needed to hold off on grad school until she COULD answer that question. If you take the time to consider your options hopefully you won't end up wasting a lot of time and effort!

Once you get to the stage where you have figured out your subconscious desires to a sufficient degree then you are ready to choose schools, write essays and take the GMAT.

Choosing schools. This is fairly easily covered by a close examination of oneself. Once you know your priorities you can choose schools that offer what you want the most (rank, location, specialty, whatever YOU want.)

Writing essays. If you know yourself well, you should know whether or not this is a weak point for you. If you think you will need a significant amount of time to draft your essays but can kill the GMAT in three weeks, then start writing your essays months in advance. This will also help you focus on your "message" during formal and informal b school events.

GMAT. If you are a non-native English speaker, you should know you need to work extra hard on verbal. If you majored in history, you probably need to spend a little more time on the quantitative section. Think about your background, strengths, and take a diagnostic test (or two) significantly before your test date and possibly months before you plan to start really studying. If you stink at standardized tests, a six month study plan for the GMAT coupled with a test prep service may work well for you. If you generally ace standardized tests, you may need less than a month to prep.

Some people like Kaplan. Some people like Princeton Review. Some people studied for the GMAT in a week. Some studied for months. Some people wrote eighteen drafts of essays. Some people spell checked and were done.

The moral of the story is that there is no right way to do this. The sole guiding force should be the understanding of what you want and who you are. Knowing what you want, and being able to identify what resources and schools fit your strategy and your style of learning is critical to developing a successful application. If you really look at your background and GMAT score and think you need outside help, by all means hire an admissions consultant. If you only need three days to study for the GMAT, go for it! Whatever you do, don't take anyone's advice to be the end all way to get into business school. Gnothi seauton

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

SPRING!

It is a beautiful warm day in Boston. It lightens the mood, encourages me to wear pastels and almost makes me forget about the huge pile of files sitting behind me. But then I remember I'm in Boston, it snowed here last year in APRIL and it will be 30 degrees on Friday.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Movin' on up

I received an email from Cambridge today- I'm in! For the sake of my personal life I am considering this offer a bit differently than the others. At the very least this improved my Monday!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Globalization (Globalisation?)

Dealing with online bookings can be a royal pain if the website isn't working. Before I placed the call to customer service to attempt to book my India tickets I was chatting with the bf and mentioned that my customer service call was bound to either go to the southern part of the U.S. or India. Sure enough when I dialed the number I was soon connected to India. The customer service rep requested my beginning city and my end destination. He had to confirm my destination three times because he was not used to hearing "Delhi" on the American customer service line. My experience in London and working in an immigration law firm has made me attune to different accents. Both the booking agent and I had a good giggle over the fact that he was based in Delhi and I was booking tickets to Delhi. His comment: "I'm so used to hearing local America airports I didn't think I heard you correctly- you can understand my accent OK?!" Of course I could and we proceeded to explore the ticket options. I also got a bit of excellent local advice about my travels. All in all I'm glad my call was routed to India. I had a random conversation regarding western versus eastern values on dress and the independence of women and received friendly free tourism tips.

In more serious news, I may have the opportunity this weekend to work with the immigrants who were arrested locally earlier this week in a raid by the CIS. Some have been separated from their U.S. born children (most of these people were released) and others have already been shipped off to Texas detention centers. The employers in this case are clearly to blame. The CIS admits that it targeted this particular facility due to the fact that it was egregiously violating immigration laws as well as minimum wage laws. Therefore, the illegal immigrants who are the most desperate, who cannot be choosy enough to hide in the shadows and buy fancy fake documentation and work in an establishment that always pays minimum wage are the most vulnerable to being deported back to the same poor conditions they fled from.

All in all, I give globalization two thumbs up this week. The CIS, as usual, gets a C-. It only ranks that high because it indirectly has given me a good job. I am quite passionate about what I do, and how I participate in the fruition of so many American Dreams. I hope my future employment will be as satisfying.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

How not to make a decision

In the past few months I have received a plethora of advice on my business school decision, both solicited and unsolicited. As I work at a law firm the usefulness of these opinions varies greatly. Here are some things I've noticed about the advice I've received.

1) Everyone has an amazingly complex set of biases that they will project onto your background and decision.
2) People are very willing to spend your theoretical money.
3) People are obsessed with rankings.
4) The Business Week forum can be the devil, be wary.
5) There is such a thing as too much information.

OK, so #4 was more a piece of advice I would like to impress upon the blogosphere.

If you're type A decision maker at a certain point you have to tell your parents, SO, friends, colleagues and every one else to let well enough alone, cloister yourself for a few days, and make a decision. OR if you're the type that actively solicits advice from every one you meet, have a close friend lock you in a room for a few days and emerge with a decision.

Best of luck to everyone still waiting on decisions!

(Don't get caught) Lying, Cheating, and Stealing

A bit of a ramble tonight...

Honesty seems to be a bit of a bother for many business people (see: Enron, options backdating, etc, etc) and I see this reflected in applicant and student blogs. One student blurs the line between collaborating and plain copying. I read an account where an applicant wore fake glasses to an interview and someone commented on the blog that they had done the exact same thing! I read somewhere else (OK, the Business Week forums) that some guy with a tiny bit Native American was claiming it on his apps. Yet another applicant discussed how they lied about a hobby during an interview. Granted the last story was kind of hilarious, the individual in question could not think of a hobby and said the first thing that came into his/her head which was something the applicant actually hated. Lesson hopefully learned. I wish rather than expect that my adcom managed to get rid of all the potential Kenneth Lays.

Perhaps some of the more egregious exaggerators will be weeded out by the professional credential checking services many MBA programs are now employing. Unless you are caught in an outright lie the chances of slipping by with a few half-truths here and there is probably pretty high. But you have to wonder what possesses people to be so bizarrely dishonest in the first place. My eleven year old cousin seems to have grasped a lesson many executives have missed. The bigger the lie, the more likely you are to get caught.

So a thought as we wrap up application season... if you're going to lie cheat and steal- don't get caught.