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My terrible college boyfriend taught me an important lesson about grad school; to never, ever, compromise on what you want.
We dated for over four years and the whole time I knew it was all wrong. When the relationship began our differences didn't seem too extreme. Foreign policy versus business? Whatever. Community college versus university. Acceptable. But as time went on, the small cracks turned into fissures, which in turn branched into wide gaps between our fundamental desires and expectations in life. One day I turned around and I was a professional working in a competitive field and he was a college student living in his mom's basement at age 27. Literally.
The relationship ended, and I used it as a springboard to determine what I wanted out of life. The thing is, I got over the terrible boyfriend, but I never forgot what it felt like to be trapped. When I was narrowing down my grad school list the self-doubt immediately began flooding in and I started throwing schools on my list that were the MBA equivalent of my ex-boyfriend. Maybe they're right for someone, but they were all wrong for me. At one point, I was poised to apply to SEVEN schools. Crazy, right?
Eventually, I wised up and realized that I was making key mistakes. In hoping that none of you make my mistakes, here's the list of what I did wrong when narrowing my school list:
1. Thinking something will change. In my case, I thought I would change. I have always hated NYC. In my personal opinion, it's too big, too loud, too hectic, and too expensive. It's everything I hate most rolled into one big, stinky, self-absorbed island. But I was applying to Columbia. One day I realized that although it's a great school, I would wake up every day feeling trapped because there are some things you can't change. My feelings are one of them.
2. Feeling like you're running out of time. I got a whole lot less worried about success or failure in the MBA process when I realized that the worst case scenario is that I stick around, get paid, live at home, take fabulous trips, and then apply for the class of 2016 (with more work experience).
3. Selling out for freebies and promos. True story: I almost applied somewhere as a "practice application" because they offer to waive the application fee for employees of my company. Anyone who has spent hours and hours and hours crafting an application is rolling with laughter right now. Those 60 hours of my life were instead spent skiing, visiting with family, and cooking up new recipes.
4. Beating yourself up. My GMAT wasn't the best, but you know what? Most people aren't the crazy robo-test takers with stratospheric GMATs that post comments like "770, should I retake?" on the forums. I let myself get defeated because my GMAT didn't hit the golden 700 threshold. I should have spent that energy on making the rest of my application better, not moping around and procrastinating because I was 30 whole points below the average. In the end MBA programs want real, interesting, accomplished people. Have faith that you are that person.
5. Being a diplomat: Working for a large consulting firm, there are alums from every one of the top 20 schools stalking the halls and it seems like each of them is engaged in a secret competition to win your hearts and minds for their school. Go with your heart and don't just add schools to your list to be a diplomat.
Now, I'm still not sure if these tactics worked for me, in little over a week I'll see if my strategy did me any good since I only applied to Kellogg and Wharton. Cross your fingers, break out your talismans, and clasp those palms in prayer! Just don't make the mistakes I did!
Fantastic post, particularly #1. If I could give double kudos I would. I applied to 7 schools and regretted it after realising that Stern, Johnson and Goizueta were totally not the right fit for me and it's unlikely I would have chosen to attend even if I was accepted into those schools. (and I'm not just saying that because they all dinged me) In retrospect I should have applied to Tuck or Haas instead, because even if I didn't get into those schools, I at least know I would have been happy there if I did. Kellogg, Tuck and Haas were my dream schools and I didn't apply to any of them because I tried to turn the MBA applications process into a numbers game without thinking too much about fit.
Good luck with Wharton and Kellogg... clearly you've done things the right way and no matter what happens you'll be satisfied with the outcome.
Great post! You mentioned some really nice points. It's really important to to be comfortable with the place where you are going to spend two important years of your life (and spending $200k in the process). I hope you get into the schools you applied to. Best of luck!
Hi panama5565, thanks for sharing with the community! I agree with all the points listed here, it's important to be honest with yourself and happy with who you are. Waiting for things to change is a long and often painful process filled. The point I particularly wanted to address is #4. When I teach GMAT, I always want to aim for my students to get the score they want. Not everyone needs a 770, as you indicated, much less a feeling of "should I take it again". If the school you want to go to wants a 640, then getting a 770 is nice, but it's not that important. The only goal is to get above 630, because that's the score you don't want to have. Whether you got 640 or 690 or 770, you're happy and you hopefully get to move on to the next step in your life.
Thanks again for sharing your life lessons. Hope everything works out for you! -Ron _________________
Congratulations! What an awesome post. I feel the same way, and I especially agree with your second point. Why settle for less when you can apply again next year as a stronger candidate? Of course, this no longer applies to you! I think I'm going to focus on two to three schools maximum, since I'm not running out of time.
Thanks everyone! I guess it worked because today I was ACCEPTED to Kellogg!!!!!!!! :D
SO happy to see that things worked out for you! I read your post in the other thread about burning your GMAT prep materials and I laughed to myself. I have thought about doing precisely the same thing with my huge pile of school notes and essay drafts!
your original point number 2 is interesting... I am starting to research schools to apply for class of 2016. I think you had a good attitude about your application. I for instance think that waiting one more year will probably increase my chances twofold. But I am ready to move on from my job and want to get an MBA sooner rather than later. So, worse comes to worst, I get dinged this year and reapply next year. Glad too see others think/thought like me.