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Taking a year off pre-mba, a good idea?

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Taking a year off pre-mba, a good idea? [#permalink] New post 22 Jul 2009, 14:28
Hey everyone,

So I'm at a point in my life where I am weighing all my potential options. I'm currently enjoying my work and figuring out how I want to position myself in the business world. I want to study and possibly work in China for a year before I do any more school as I wish to become fluent in Mandarin and create some kind of international career fostering sino/anglo relations. My work experience is pretty varied as I consider myself a jack of all trades type.

So basically my question is this, if I were to take a year off before the year I decide to take my MBA, would admissions people view this negatively if the time off was used wisely to better prepare myself for the program? I want to take the extra year to gain fluency in Mandarin (been studying it for a bit in my off work hours and with private tutors), ideally gain work experience over there as well if I can find it, even if it less rigorous work. I also want to use the time study for the GMAT as my test scores need a lot of work.

I just finished taking a practice verbal test online and scored in the 30% percentile. I have a past of performing miserably on standardized tests because I'm very dyslexic, something I don't freely admit in public since I've struggled with this my whole life and do a good job of hiding it (except in Academia). The Math portion I feel very comfortable with. Basically the heart of the problem lies in my poor grammar skills coupled with my atrocious reading speed. I have to reread sentences 2-3 times at least to understand them, I read this way naturally as it is the only way I can stop the words from flying off the page in my head (this sucks to live with). Sometimes I can focus and sometimes I can and it is so frustrating because I have no control over it, but what is most frustrating is that these tests and school in many ways, has never been a good representation of my abilities, yet so many people unfairly attribute it to me and think I'm stupid (teachers, etc).

Moving on, does anyone think going to China for a year to master a language before applying to B-school is a good idea for admissions? I plan to move when I'm 27 and attend school when I am 28. Also, anybody know any top-ish schools were I might be competitive?

Stats:
Age - 25
3 years, graudated with B.Sc AstroPhysics -- top 25-35 world school (depending on the ranker) GPA 2.95
1 year of Mechanical Engineering GPA 3.8 (lesser school)
Basic Mandarin
Canadian -- US dual citizen

Work Experience

1. (Current) Self employed algorithmic trader with a quarter of a million so far under management among various people (started with 50K 6 months ago). I've developed an algorithm that consistently creates 50-100% yearly profit (backtested from now to 11 years ago). I have no desire to trade for anyone, I want to keep it within my family, this is something I do on the side but I think the legal/business experience in setting this up and selling the idea are relevant to admissions as it displays business acumen and talent.

2. (Current) 1.5 years as a product development associate for a high end financial data vendor start up in San Francisco. In the time I've worked there I've been actively engaged in working with engineering teams both here and outsourced to structure innovative ways of viewing the financial markets and how companies are linked together. We have also tripled our revenues into the 7-15 million range with some large government and intelligence based contracts in DC, both of which I am involved in. Been involved with sales,pre-sales, b-b relations, presentations, idea generation and implementation, project management, SQL, data analysis, java. LOTS of stock options in place..

3. (previous) 1.5 years as a market research associate for a bio-tech consulting firm. Published industry papers, JnJ said my report was the best they had seen for the market segment I covered.
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Re: Taking a year off pre-mba, a good idea? [#permalink] New post 27 Jul 2009, 19:29
A couple of things.

First, if you're going to China, work full-time if you can. Work experience will give you far more than just studying in the classroom, even if you're in China.

Secondly, you're not going from basic to fluent in one year. You can certainly learn a lot, but it's not going to happen. Think about how much trouble non-native English speakers have going from broken English to a level that allows them to discuss case studies at b-school. It's not a year's work. It's more like 3-5 years work at a minimum - the older you are, the longer it takes, and you're no longer a child or teenager. Moreover, you're going there for a year, only to go to a US or Euro b-school where you'll be mostly speaking English, which will mean no matter how hard you try, your Mandarin will regress to some degree.

And finally, b-schools are looking for individuals who have the potential to manage large numbers of people, not large numbers of money or "things". It's about managing people. If you aren't able to convince the adcoms that you're as good with people as you are with numbers, you're going to have a tough time getting in, especially at the top 16 programs.

If you want to master Mandarin, go for it, but it's not going to happen overnight. And do it if you feel it's best for you, irrespective of your b-school plans - don't let "bschool adcoms" dictate what you should or shouldn't be doing.
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Re: Taking a year off pre-mba, a good idea?   [#permalink] 27 Jul 2009, 19:29
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