As Praetorian said I should certainly give a more global view on my MBA journey.
For the GMAT you will find my post concerning my personal experience in the "test experience" section. I actually took the test 2 times in Q3 2004, but I ended up with 550 and then 500 ! Even lower than the first time
I was going too fast when I was testing myself through Kaplan
and Princeton materials and the 3 main issues with my preparation were :
a) when I got a question right, I never took some time to be sure that my reasoning was actually correct and that the correct answer was not the result of some lucky pick
b) when I didn't know the answer or how to solve the problem I was generally checking the answer too fast, It's important to try to find the answer by yourself, even if you take 15 minutes, at least you will understand the way to solve it for the next time and you will improve your speed later
c) when I didn't know and when I discovered the official answer I was always saying "oh yeah...of course" but I never decided to do again the same problem to be sure that I understood the good way to deal with it.
After the 500 score I took 6 months of rest and forgot about the GMAT. Then I decided to study again in April, and that time I took my time with easy problems, first how to solve them correctly and after I tried to increase my speed. Another thing that help me was also the fact that everytime I was facing a problem I tried to understand what could be the key to unlock it. After reading the problem I usually took 10 seconds to think about which method and scheme was going to be the good one to solve that problem. Those 10 seconds actually helped me to save time because before that I used to run as fast as possible to find the solution but sometimes I realized that I was getting nowhere after 3mn
I got 620 and then took it again one month later to finally reach 640 with more than 30 in Verbal but keeping my good score on Quant (48). Generally speaking, you should aim for a good quant score rather than a good verbal one because most of the business schools want people comfortable to deal with numbers. I am not saying that it's good or bad, it's just like that.
I decided to apply to 4 schools that I had carefully chosen but for different reasons. You see, I will be honest, you need to have a clear, logical and interesting story to tell during any interview when you talk about your job and your future in the next 5-10 years but you can still have hesitations and you can be not sure exactly about your future. However, you must LOOK sure.
As I was not sure about my future career, I decided to focus on schools with :
1) general management and consulting possibilities
2) correct and if possible strong in finance
I applied to :
- NYU (for the excellent finance class, NY position, international environment)
- Yale (good finance, great brand name for international placement, growing MBA)
- Darden (consulting option, mainly business cases, small MBA with good community)
- Tuck (correct/good finance, great consulting placement and small MBA with excellent community/alumni connection)
Tuck was definitely my number one but it was more like a potential dream at that time. Then I took care of all the essays, it was actually not so terrible, I enjoyed writing them even if sometimes it was difficult for me. However I had many stories to tell so the inspiration was there... I ended up 1 month in advance so I became to realize that if I was going to apply I should really apply everywhere, even in the top program. Actually if you have some unusual life, many travels and you are not in the main 3 pools of applicants (indian IT/ IB / Consulting) you can really be picked by someone from top schools because they also need people different and not only Investment Bankers
Therefore I decided to apply to HBS, Stanford, Wharton and Chicago GSB. It was mainly to be sure that I wouldn't regret later not having applied there.
Imagine someone applying to top 30 schools and realizing that they all accepted him and gave him a lot of scolarships, financial aids, tuition fees...he could definitely think that he could have targeted higher...
so I ended up with 8 schools and 8 essays files ! the worst is Stanford, I actually don't like it because I am an applicant but as a school I find the approach interesting : only 2 main questions to define a profile ! quite tought.
I also want to insist on something very important: in order to know the school that would be the best for you, you should alaways contact many students and alumni from thre schools. I personnally contacted at least 4 people from EACH school, I did so from September 2005 and I kept contact until even now. It will give you some information you can not know anyway and it will also show to the Board of Admissions that you are involved and really interested in knowing very well the MBA.
All my applications were submitted at the end of december and begining of january. From that time the worst thing was actually begining : waiting time ! I never enjoyed that time because for me, as an international student with a long time girlfriend and a job in China, an acceptation meant : wedding + leave job + visa issues + loan/bank stories !!! Many things waiting to be decided 3 months later.
Tuck was the first school to contact me, I am actually living in Shenzhen and the interview was offered in Beijing (2000km away) but the opportunity was so great, I was amazed to be contacted by Tuck ! Interview was at the middle of february.
Before going there I received 2 news invitations to interview : from Chicago GSB and Wharton ! I was like crazy ! I cooled down myself thinking that an interview was nothing...
Tuck interview (AdCom) : the interviewer was a lady, she was awesome, very nice , I got a warm welcome and it was nice because it was my first MBA interview. I checked many websites before to see the potential question, I wrote my answers and memorized them. Not all the answers but the general points to develop. Tuck interview was really based on my person, the interviewer only had my resume and we both discussed my personal scoail experience but also my working achievements. I also developped a lot the contacts I had in Tuck (current students, alumni, knowledge of the classes and faculty professors) and for Tuck it was really something that worked. My first feeling was good but the interviwer told me that she felt sorry I had made such a trip (total 6h plane + 3h drive for the round trip) so I didnt know how to take that remark
Something I was very happy with was the fact that Tuck is such a small and vibrant community that when I gave 3-4 names of students/alumni, the interviewer seemed to know each of them ! Very impressive !
Chicago Interview (Alumni) : the alumni that interviewed me was excellent, she studied my resume the day before and had very precise questions on my experiences and my way to manage people. I was quite impressed and I would have loved to have such classmate...I was however disappointing because she wasn't interested at all about knowing the "Why Chicago" and the soft skills. However on a business approach she was excellent.
Wharton Interview (AdCom) : nice person, it was a classic interview and she asked me the usual questions. I actually made the mistake myself, I ended up talking too much and loosing time, she didn't have time to go over all the general qestions she wanted to (my personal feeling) and there was no special link or feeling during the interview. She was not so welcoming too, just nice
I ended up being dinged at Wharton and Chicago (but who ever thought I could have even been invited to interview before that ?). The funny story happened March 16th and 17th.
March 16th I learnt at 10pm that my application had been denied at Wharton, of course I was disappointed. I never thought they would interview me but after that I began to think that finally I may have some chances to get a MBA...I went back to work March 17th with a bad mood and a little worry about my applications especially if you consider that only Tuck, Wharton and Chicago contacted me, which means very selective schools, and the bottom schools never contacted me (Darden, NYU, Yale). I began my day at 7:45AM with a management meeting where we discuss daily issues, then after being back at my desk I realized I left my mobile there and that I got a missed call !!
Damned ! I quickly realized that it could only be from the USA as France was sleeping at that time and for China it was a little early for a business call. I was sure it was Tuck. I ran to the BW forum and 1-2 people began to write that they had been contacted this morning , I was so excited but at the same time I was worried to have false hopes as I didn't even know
who called me, I was just sure it was not from the China Mainland as I couldn't see the exact phone number used to call me. I even tried to call the Tuck Admissions Office
I was thinking that I could asked if they ahd tried to call me and if not ask some update about the situation
Nobody was answering there, it was a friday and I didn't want to spend the weekend with a Wharton ding + dreaming situation.
BUT Tuck called back. It was the interviewer. I was IN !!!
The interviewer even asked me about personal details I had only revealed during our interview which means that she definitely remembered me or at least took notes of our conversation and used those at that time, the result was anyway excellent.
After 2 years of hard work, I was finally seeing the result...end of the journey but soon a new one will begin in Hanover, NH