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Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Who am I again? 

It's a really frustrating day workwise. I'm sitting waiting for lots of things to come from other people and can't do an awful lot until they do, so this seems like a good time to repeat my background info.

I'm female and British (as you might have guessed already) and applying to US MBA programmes for 2005 entry. I think people get way too hung-up on stats so I'm not going to post mine. I'll just say that I don't think my GMAT will cause Adcoms any sleepless nights, my undergrad results also seem fine (British university so pretty much unconvertable to a GPA) and I've been working in the not-for-profit (nfp) sector for a number of years doing fundraising and marketing. I'm originally from Yorkshire, but now live in South-West England, having come via Wales and London for education and work.

I also lost the post that explained why I'm blogging, so I'll run you through that as well. I've found reading other people's MBA application blogs interesting, entertaining, and informative, so I hope I can offer interest, entertainment and information to someone out there. Neither the female nor the British perspective seems to be over-represented (in fact, I beleive British female applicants to US programmes aren't too numerous) and there aren't a heck of a lot of nfp applicant blogs either, so maybe I can contribute an extra something to the blogging pot. And from a personal point of view, I know that this whole application process is going to be pretty long and lonely, so blogging is one attempt to keep myself sane during it.

Oh, and apparently I am Camembert!

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Now, where was I? 

Before I tried to be clever and succeeded in losing my posts, I was going to express my thanks to futurembagirl for her advice on programmes with a non-profit element. There's no such thing as 'too much information' at this point, so I really appreciate it. I'm also learning lots from reading the blogs of the other applicants in the League of MBA Bloggers.

Stanford and Harvard round 2 results are out today and I think it's the final day for Yale R2 decisions as well. I'm glad I'm not one of the ones having sleepless nights - yet.

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Partial Recovery 

Well, I've managed to salvage some of my previous posts. I'll come back and re-introduce myself some time later.

Thursday, March 25, 2004
Impartial Observer

Well, Wharton Round 2 decisions came out a couple of hours ago. There was an overnight chat on the Wharton StoS board, which I logged-in to for a bit just to see how things went. It was strange sitting on the sidelines, observing the nerves, the tension, the elation at acceptence and diappointment at denial, and all the time thinking that in nine months time I could be part of it all. Congratulations to everyone who got in, and to those who didn't, I hope your other plans work out for you.

Did a bit of digging around on the Wharton and UPenn websites as well. I've had W recommended to me as being good for nfp, but hadn't really been convinced by the course offerings. Now though I've found the Fels Institute at UPenn, which offers a five course certificte in Non-Profit Administration (as well as an MGA). It looks to me as if I should be able to use University Electives within the MBA to complete the requirements of the certificate. If so, or even if I can't do the certificate but can do the courses, then it increases W's attractiveness a great deal. ¶ 3:52 PM

Friday, March 19, 2004

Yesterday I was due to go to the World MBA Tour's spring tour event in London. Their site was particularly vague on which schools were going to be there, but during the day yesterday I managed to get some information. In the end, I decided that as it looked like non of the schools I'm interested in were going to be there, and I wasn't feeling on top form, I'd be better off going home and going to bed.

In five weeks time I'm heading across the pond to visit some schools - a pre-application fact finding trip. I fly to NYC on the Saturday and then have a few days to see the sights and get over the worst of the jetlag, before doing a one-day visit to New Haven to see Yale on the Wednesday. Thursday has me flying down to San Francisco for a full day at Stanford on Friday (class visit, lunch with student, information session, tour - the works). Saturday is free, then Sunday sees me flying to Chicago, via Las Vegas, to visit Kellogg on the Monday and see the sights of Evanston and Chicago on Tuesday and the first half of Wednesday. Wednesday afternoon flight back to NYC and then finally fly back to the UK on Friday morning.

The trip timing and logistics have been a bit of a nightmare. Work commitments mean that these two weeks are pretty much the only time I can go before schools end for the summer. Columbia and Wharton, which I'm also interested in, will have already finished their visit programmes (although I might see if I can go to an information session at Columbia). I'm just squeezing into Yale before they finish. Ideally I'd have liked to fly into the west coast and back from the east, but Stanford didn't have slots available early enough to make it practical to do Kellogg and Yale afterwards. East to west would have been the other option, but I find flying back from the West Coast a real killer in terms of jetlag. My body just won't go to sleep if it isn't tired (no matter how much you tell it it's midnight in London) and by the time tiredness kicks in London is waking up and time adjustment requires that I should be too. So, I'm doing the circular thing instead.

Y, S and K are all on my list bacause they're well regarded programmes with good nfp courses. I'm also looking for good strategic management courses, a balance between quant and the 'softer' courses, and a smallish programme. W is, of course, a top-ranking school (not that I'm a rankings junky) but I'm less convinced by the nfp options and it's bigger. C, I'm still thinking about. The current plan is to apply to K, Y, S & W first round and then do a C 'regular decision' app, if I think it's somewhere I'd be happy going and the others don't look promising. (C's timing means, I think, that I can actually wait for decisions from at least some of the other schools and still have time to submit an application.)

I must say, the thought of Californian sunshine (if only for a couple of days) is very pleasant. I visited the Bay area last October (when I was just deciding on looking at full-time MBAs and hadn'tyet identified Stanford as an option) and loved it. British weathre is unpredictable at the best of times, and March certainly isn't the best of times. Las Friday we had snow. Today it's wind and heavy rain. In between we've had some really rather nice spring days, but it will be great when things calm down a bit and the good days outnumber the nasty ones. Still, New Haven has heavy snow right now I beleive. ¶ 10:13 AM
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Sunday, March 14, 2004

The GMAT Experience

I took my GMAT back in February, on Friday the 13th to be exact. I’m not superstitious myself, but thought that the date might lead to a quieter testing room, plus it was a convenient day for me to spend a morning in London.

For anyone who’s going to be taking the GMAT (or TOEFL or any other test) at the central London centre, a few details of my experience. The centre’s very central and pretty easy to find (just off Oxford Street) but it does mean you’re in a busy, and hence noisy, area. Use the earplugs! The people at the centre are very nice and will start you off as soon as you’ve completed the paperwork – if you’ve got a n 8.30 appointment and get there at 8, you don’t have to hang around for the full half hour. Given the vagaries of public transport in London, I’d recommend stating somewhere within walking distance the night before, if you have a morning appointment. I stayed at the Thistle Selfridge, just up Oxford Street, which was nice and not too expensive (about £60). If you’re on in the afternoon, leave lots of time to get there.

All in all, it wasn’t too traumatic an experience. I’d worked through the Kaplan GMAT book and CD as well as their GMAT 800 book and the Powerprep software, and that was all good preparation. The one thing that rankles is that I messed up the timing on the last Quant question. I got to it with 5 minutes left and decided that I’d got time to work out the answer in full. I then got caught up in some multiplication and looked up to select the right answer just as the time ended. For those of you who haven’t gone through this yet, you get penalised more for no answer than for a wrong one, so I was rather annoyed with myself. Having said a that, the results were fine. Quant could have been better, but it’s not worth taking the test again as I can’t see that admissions people are going to have any problems with it.

The AWA was an interesting exercise in synonyms at times. Knowing that the electronic reader is set for American English, and that the human readers are going to be more familiar with American English than the British version, I was conscious of trying to write in ‘American’. This led to some hunting around for alternative words when I wasn’t sure about spellings. I’d highly recommend paying for one of the services that grades an essay using the E-rater (the software that does the electronic read for the AWA). It’s a great way of learning how it works and what it’s looking for, so you can write for it accordingly.

For anyone in Europe, my official results were posted from Germany (rather than the US) so didn’t take much longer than two weeks to make it to me.
¶ 11:11 AM

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Thursday's events in Spain put the whole 'worrying about an MBA' thing into perspective. During my first degree, I lived in London pre the IRA ceasefire. Fortunately, nothing major happened while I was there, but I well remember the feeling of living with the knowledge that something might. Even today, a lound clap of thunder during the night will have me sitting bolt upright in bed with the thought 'bomb' in my head.

At the moment it seems the Spanish Government are focussed on Eta, who are denying responsibility, and an Al Quaida linked group have claimed responsibility, but it apparently has a track record of claiming events that had nothing to do with it (like the blackouts on eastcoast USA last summer). Whoever did it, it's awful.

Most of us in Europe have been livivng with domestic terrorism of one sort or another for several decades, but there's been nothing on this scale since Lockerbie/PanAm Flight 103 in 1998. Our senses get dulled to the small stuff, we just get too used to it. But things on this scale really hit home, I suppose that's why the terrorists, whoever they are, feel the need to murder on such a scale. ¶ 7:01 AM

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I’ve been interested in doing an MBA for a few years now. Initially I was thinking about part-time or distance learning because personal circumstances (job, husband, mortgage etc) made returning to full-time education difficult. Then , to give you the short version of the story, my husband got a mistress, I got a divorce, and suddenly lots of the barriers had disappeared.

I wasn’t until I started looking into things properly that I realised what I scary world the whole MBA industry is. It would be interesting to know how many £ (or $) are spent annually on GMAT prep courses, admissions coaches, advice books etc. And I wonder what difference all the courses and coaching make. How many people who get a high GMAT or secure an admission could have managed it by themselves? How many of the people use the services really have very little hope at getting in to the schools they’re aiming for? I’ve nothing against these services and they’re certainly meeting a need in terms of demand, I just wonder how much difference there’d be if they didn’t exist.
¶ 7:28 AM

So, why an MBA then? Well, the first thing to say is that getting an MBA isn’t my aim. If that makes you question why-on-earth I’m putting myself through this process, let me explain.

During my career I’ve worked in a number of organisations with a variety of managers and leaders. I’ve seen the difference that good management and leadership can make, and the harm that can be done when they are bad. I’ve seen concepts applied to resolve difficult situations and pot opportunities, and I’ve sat in the middle of a problem, sure that there must be some way of approaching it but not knowing what to do. I’m working in the nfp sector because I want to contribute to improving the world in which we live, even if only in some small way, and I want to equip myself to do this in the best way I can. I also see a sector that is increasingly having to look to the private sector for business and leadership expertise and, while there’s nothing wrong with that per se, I don’t see why we can’t develop that expertise within the sector. So, I’m not interested in getting an MBA in the sense of getting a piece of paper and those three magic letters after my name. I’m interested in making a contribution to society by becoming a better leader within the nfp sector, and I see an MBA as the best way of achieving this.

Now I just have to find a way to express that in my application essays :)

Monday, March 08, 2004

I moved house last week, so spent the weekend unpacking boxes and attempting to make the place look a little less like a bomb site. Saturday morning was the first time in a week I'd been able to make my self a cup of coffee in my own kitchen (it's been breakfast at Starbucks for the last few days).

Finally starting to feel like spring is on the way, although it's less than a fortnight since we had snow that caused all sorts of traffic chaos (not that it takes much snow to do that in the UK).

When I told my mum I was thinking about doing an MBA in the US, one of her first comments was that she could come and visit when the weather in the UK was wintry. Her geography's not great (understatement) and I haven't yet pointed out to her that only one of the places I'm currently considering is warmer than the UK during the winter.

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ARGH! 

Tried to be clever and copy posts from exisiting blog to a new and differently titled one, and have succeeded in loosing everything. I guess this means I'm going to have to start from scratch all over again. Sigh!

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