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General question re: abilities and potential schools

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General question re: abilities and potential schools [#permalink] New post 11 Feb 2013, 18:26
Hi all!

First off, let me say your community here is outstanding and truly a godsend to people such as myself. My name is Tim, I'm 27, and my goal is to attain my MBA in order to make the most out of my life and be able to provide for myself, my fiance, and our future family in the best way possible.

Background aside, I'm posting this evening because I have just begun my GMAT studies as of about two weeks ago. Quant is by far my weakest area, whereas I have a natural proficiency with Verbal; therefore I spent the first two weeks studying MGMAT Foundations of GMAT Math to refresh my math skills.

Yesterday I decided it was time to take my first GMATPrep practice test to gauge my current ability level and identify any deficiencies. I was apprehensive, as I was afraid what I would learn may cause me to become discouraged. Quant gave me some fits, as expected, but I flew through Verbal, mostly in an attempt to accurately gauge my true "raw" ability in that area. In the end I scored a 650; 40 in Quant and 40 in Verbal, 55th and 89th percentiles respectively. I finished Quant with 6 minutes to spare while finishing Verbal with 22 minutes to spare. Encouraged by my performance, I began tweaking my expectations regarding potential scores when I sit for the exam this summer and probable schools to which I may gain admission.

So here's my questions for all you experienced, knowledgeable people :-D

1) Originally I was shooting for, at best, a 700 when I sit this summer. Now I'm thinking, with proper studying, 700+ may not necessarily be out of the question. I'm confident of two things; one being that I could probably reproduce my Verbal score 9 times out of 10 without additional studying, and two being that I am WEEEAAAKKK at math and feel with targeted studying over the next 5 months I have a strong chance of 45-48 in Quant. Do you think this is feasible? If had to "objectively" assess my performance, I really would say it's representative of my abilities. I reviewed every single question, and the ones I got right I legitimately understood and knew how to solve, and those I missed I legitimately had little to NO idea how to approach.

2) Potential schools to shoot for. My main issue here is work experience, and possibly undergrad school choice. I graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Business Management and a 3.7 GPA. Dean's List 7 out of 8 semesters, my grades were mainly A's and a few B's all the way through. So undergrad isn't spectacular, but not necessarily weak. What I am worried about is work experience...in a nutshell, I spent a year managing a local McDonald's (not store manager, more of a shift manager), then sold cars for 3 years, and have just in the past year found myself in my first real professional job, as a Compliance Manager for a local bank. My job choices were a function of both limited openings (I live in a small area in central PA and stuck around after undergrad so my fiance could finish up at Penn State) and some ambivalence on my part, I won't lie. I became somewhat downtrodden after only being able to secure work at a McDonald's (of all places) after graduation, and that "woe is me attitude" festered for a few years until I kicked my own ass into gear. I take full responsibility for my career choices up to this point, which is an integral reason for my choosing to pursue an MBA. I've always been a go-getter and ambitious, and feel I lost sight of myself over these past few years. Well I'm done with that, and want to take control of my life and make the most out of it I can!

Ok so that was long-winded but I feel I needed to fill you in a bit so you could give a more targeted answer when I ask: what schools do you realistically think I could shoot for if I manage to hit 700+? I'm involved with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Toastmasters, a local young professionals group, and SCORE, which offers free consultation sessions to local small businesses. Also, I can write a mean essay if I do say so myself haha. So I feel that the only things that may negatively impact my app would be my undergrad alma mater and relatively weak work experience. I don't have dreams of HBS or Wharton (well of course I do, but I'm also realistic haha) but would love to be admitted to a top 20 school like Fuqua.


Again, thanks to everyone here for the amazing resource you have created and the wonderful community surrounding it! Even though I've primarily been a lurker since joining, I get the feeling that everyone here truly cares about each other; it seems there's this underlying desire for everyone to see everyone else succeed and I really vibe on that. I'm excited to become part of the community and hopefully have my own success story to share!!

Tim
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Re: General question re: abilities and potential schools [#permalink] New post 11 Feb 2013, 19:04
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Tim,

Welcome! I'm fairly new myself, but I know enough to make the following points:

1. Don't worry about undergrad at all. A 3.7 GPA is above average (most school look for the 3.2-3.7 sweet spot), and the fact that you have a business degree isn't a hindrance. IF you had a tough time with math in college, go off to your local community college, take a semester of calc (or two) and prove to yourself (and prospective schools) that you can handle rigorous quantitative subject matter.

2. I admire your desire to provide for your future family. However, b-schools will need to hear more than that. All of us want to secure a great future for our families, but you need to connect your current career path and your ambitions for the future with what any given school has on offer. If you want a career change, that's okay. If you want to move up at the bank, that's okay, too. Think about what your early career years have taught you and consider what you're learning in your role as Compliance Manager. How can any given MBA program contribute to your future success? How can you enrich an MBA-level classroom? Answering these questions is critical to your success.

3. The GMAT score is an important component to any b-school app. The fact that you have a proclivity to do well in the Verbal section can only strengthen your case. So yes - focus on Quant. My personal recommendation is to go through every single problem in OG13 (the Official Guide, 13th ed) and also the GMATPrep software. In addition, there is a thread somewhere here that gives us a pdf that includes every 700+ level question on the GMATPrep software. Look for it, and do all 198 of them. If you need help with concepts, I would recommend MGMAT (Manhattan GMAT Books) which are available by individual subject. End of the day - you want to hit 700+. To tell you the honest truth, beyond the 720 mark, your GMAT score becomes less and less important; b-schools know that 700+ scores generally indicate that a given candidate's intellectual capacity is high. But no more than that. GMAT scores do not tell schools how good of a leader you will be, how positive your impact on campus, or how well you fit in with the school's culture. That what you have essays and recommendations for. And, if you mess up on the Quant section, but take the calc classes we alluded to earlier, you can at least show that you're interested in improving your mathematical skills.

4. Extracurriculars - the brilliant litmus test that informs schools how much you really care about your fellow human beings. Let's face it - not everyone can embark upon a world-changing international humanitarian mission, but we can all donate a bit of time to certain causes. The fact that you have already done so is admirable on your part, and can only help. Being a big brother, or providing free consulting services to local businesses can teach your just as much as any classroom experience. If you continue with these endeavors, and maybe take up a leadership role in one of them, you can use it to buttress your case that you are developing into true leader, and that an MBA would help you make a positive impact on your community, wherever you find yourself.

With all that said, if you follow points 1 through 4 closely, and present your story in solid, endearing, but no-nonsense terms, you can realistically aim for any of the top 20 schools. Obviously, top 10 are less likely than 11-20, but I think that Fuqua, McCombs, Tepper and Kenan-Flagler would be reasonably good fits. Olin, Kelley, Fisher and Mendoza might also work. You would need to take a look at each of these schools, study their cultures and campuses, and make a reasoned decision. Don't be afraid to wait another year or two until you know the Compliance job inside and out.

I hope to have given you a response that is commensurate with the care and thought you've put into writing your initial post. Best of luck to you in the future!
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Re: General question re: abilities and potential schools [#permalink] New post 11 Feb 2013, 19:09
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Wow. That's a lot of questions and one long (though) interesting post.

You have plenty of time to improve quant. You have a great score for two weeks worth of prep.

As to schools - you will need research and figure out where you will be comfortable dropping 100k in a year.

Your work experience will be a hurdle but you can use it to your advantage. Depends on how much you want to get in. I would budget for an admissions consultant.

Good luck

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Re: General question re: abilities and potential schools [#permalink] New post 12 Feb 2013, 06:22
Daedalus and bb-

I thoroughly appreciate your input and advice!

I whole-heartedly agree that business schools will need to hear more than "I want to provide a good life for my family" regarding my intentions towards earning my MBA. At the end of the day, providing for myself and family, along with securing a job that is challenging, interesting, and rewarding, are the essential motivating factors for pursuing an MBA. However, there are many ancillary reasons also and I'm confident in my ability to articulately inform my prospective schools of why I desire an MBA and how I can enrich their program.

I assure you I will be conducting vast research regarding potential school choices; my intention was simply to seek advice from people who understand the process and therefore may be able tell me of schools which, in their experience, they feel I stand a decent chance of being admitted.

To be honest, when I first made up my mind to pursue my MBA, I was set on Penn State's Smeal MBA program for a few reasons. One, while Smeal isn't a top 20 program, it isn't necessarily a slouch of a program either. Two, considering Penn State is my alma mater I thought that may bolster my chances of admission. Three, the cost would be significantly less than other programs due to the fact that I currently reside in PA (and I thought if my application is stellar enough I may receive an assitantship). Four, my fiance just secured a good job; her income could support us financially while I am absent from the workforce. All of those factors combined make a decent case for pursuing Smeal, at least for me personally.

But at the end of the day, choosing the right school will impact the rest of my life, so I want to make sure I look at this objectively and entertain any and all possibilities.

Thanks again for your advice and I'm looking forward to the road ahead!
Re: General question re: abilities and potential schools   [#permalink] 12 Feb 2013, 06:22
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