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Re: Low GPA the reason for my dings? Alternative transcript? [#permalink]
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I do not see yourself as being such an awful candidate and given that some time has passed since you graduated, grades will be de-emphasized a bit. Given that you applied to 10 schools and did not get in any, I would invest in having somebody review my applications and see what went wrong and not just jump into taking classes. I would also re-evaluate where you applied to as some of the schools might have been DOA given your GPA. The good news is that your GMAT score is strong and this will compensate somewhat for your GPA. Also being a women (and a female engineer) helps at some schools more than others. You have to be smart about where you apply and how you present yourself.

Columbia J-term is very competitive and I recommend applying only if you have all of your cards in order, which based on your last results -- it does not seem that way. Maybe focusing on schools that being next September might be a more strategic alternative.

Good luck.

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Re: Low GPA the reason for my dings? Alternative transcript? [#permalink]
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I agree with domotron's assessment about the number of schools being too high.

In addition to that, a couple of important things to consider:
1. What's your career progression in the past 7 years like? Did you progressively take on more leadership responsibilities? How many times were you promoted?
2. Did you manage your recommenders carefully, e.g. briefing them in details, etc. ?
3. How did you demonstrate 'fit' towards those schools in the essays?
4. How specific did you describe your post-MBA goal, and more importantly did you show logical links between what you've done so far to your post-MBA goal?
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Re: Low GPA the reason for my dings? Alternative transcript? [#permalink]
Thanks for all the advice (and moral support)!

I'm going to try to respond to everyone in the same post:

domotron:
Ok, I didn't exactly apply to 10. I applied to 9 - 3 in each round. I pretty much start out with a high hope of getting into one of the 3 applied, but prepared for the next 3 in case I did not hear back. And well, I didn't.
I did learn a lot throughout the process, and found that my application improved as time went on. I guess it didn't help that my most polished applications were sent in Round 3.

But you're right. 9 is probably too many. I plan on focusing this round.
I will look into UCLA extension to see if they offer anything useful - any suggestions on which classes or how many to take?


CobraKai:
I will definitely work on my essays - after all, it's the only thing I can really work on anyway. I would like to think that they are more than "passable," but there's no way to be sure. (I kept hearing that there is still hope for 2.8, but... yea.)


ManhattanReview:
As you and domotron suggested, I probably will do a ding analysis to see where else I can improve. I haven't done much research with this, but it's priced per-school? Given that I applied to 9, would it make sense to just select 1 or 2 for review?

"Some of the school might have been DOA given your GPA" - in your opinion, which schools? Perhaps I will steer away from them this time. I've heard that since I've been out of school for a while, GPA is less important. But given the results of my applications (0 interviews), I'm not quite so sure...

"Also being a women (and a female engineer) helps at some schools more than others." Which schools would value female engineers more? I really do try to research my schools, but some things are just not plainly stated. Could you please advise?

As for applying to Columbia, I feel that given that I still have 4 months, which is 1/3 of the year, to focus on just this school, I would be able to "get my cards in order". Also, the J-term is supposedly for people for whom internships would not help as much, such as entrepreneurs. Since I fall into this category, wouldn't it make sense that I give it a try? What do you see as the drawbacks to applying?


theK:
I stayed at the same company for 7 years, but due to internal politics, and just the nature of software consulting (independent, do not generally get promoted to managerial roles), I was only promoted once. I talked to my manager about this, but she claimed that there's just really nothing she could do. So I guess unless I want to change jobs while preparing for applications (which I don't!), I can do little about this situation. Do you think I should have my recommender address this issue specifically? (He is the manager of a client I've been working with for 5 years, not my direct manager, so I'm not sure it makes sense for him to mention this.) I did not choose my current manager as my recommender because of some unpleasant history in which she badmouthed me behind my back...

Both my recommenders are very supportive of me, and I did prep them in my plans, etc., but as engineering managers, I don't think they write superb recommendations in general, nor are they used to writing them.

I think I adequately address the "fit" and my post-MBA goals in my essays. (Online research, infosessions, talking to students and attending events if available, etc.) Any pointers to make the connections stronger?



Thanks again for everyone's advice.
I plan to:

1. Look into ding analysis
2. Polish my essays
3. Improve my recommendations (how?)
4. Take a couple of classes to show academic proficiency - this was my main question, and I feel it was not adequately answered. Which classes, how many, and where? Has anyone actually done this and found it helpful?

Further advice is greatly appreciated!!! :roll:
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If you do rejection analysis from a consultant, just focus on one school -- you will be able to see what the issues are with your application and apply it to other schools. Also, save your money for something more important - namely applying to business school in the near future.

As for Columbia J-term, it is possible, but just do not go into it without seeing what can be done to improve your chances. I think HBS, Stanford, Haas and MIT would be DOA -- so stay away from these schools if you re-apply.

As for being a woman, this will help your candidacy most at Wharton, Columbia, Yale, Ross and Johnson. These schools are the most aggressive about recruiting female applicants.

Columbia J-term is challenging and you have to demonstrate that this is the ideal program for you since it is unique.

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Re: Low GPA the reason for my dings? Alternative transcript? [#permalink]
ManhattanReview wrote:
I think HBS, Stanford, Haas and MIT would be DOA -- so stay away from these schools if you re-apply.


Ouch. I applied to the first 3 DOA in Round 1. (I live in the Bay Area, so Stanford and Haas are no-brainers location-wise. And family/boyfriend is putting strong pressure for me to stay close, sigh.) I guess that may explain my results. :cry:
So by DOA, you mean that no amount of "alternative transcripting" would revive the application, correct?

For the rejection analysis - should I focus on a school that I really want to get in, or a school, say, with the most essays so I get some opinions on the essays? I was mentally trying to select one to use, but couldn't come up with one.

Also, I think even if I do the rejection analysis, it will have to be in parallel with taking online classes. I don't think I can wait on enrolling if I want to have the grades by the next application season. Any suggestions on the courses to take, where, and how many (I'm thinking about 2), would be greatly appreciated. (Yes, I keep coming back to the classes...) I'm looking into UCLA extension right now.
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nightLotus wrote:
ManhattanReview wrote:
I think HBS, Stanford, Haas and MIT would be DOA -- so stay away from these schools if you re-apply.


Ouch. I applied to the first 3 DOA in Round 1. (I live in the Bay Area, so Stanford and Haas are no-brainers location-wise. And family/boyfriend is putting strong pressure for me to stay close, sigh.) I guess that may explain my results. :cry:



The Bay Area is a tough draw. Even though Haas isn't on the level of HBS or GSB, it's small class size and Bay Area location results in an acceptance rate of ~13%. A dark horse for Bay Area placement (if that's your goal)is McCombs - since it's further down the ladder, they're more likely to overlook your GPA, especially with that 740 GMAT.
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Re: Low GPA the reason for my dings? Alternative transcript? [#permalink]
CobraKai wrote:
Did you consider Anderson? It places well in the Bay Area.


Yup. Rejected with no interview in Round 2. :cry:
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I agree with ManhattanReview - one ding analysis is enough. I would suggest you pick an application you thought was the best and see how comments/suggestions come out from the analysis.

As for taking online courses, 2 at most 3 is what I've seen people utilise to create their alternative transcript. The key is really not the number but doing well in the course (i.e. get an A). Examples of courses would be Intro to micro / macroeconomics, statistics, calculus, that type of course. Just anything that is outwardly quantitative and demonstrate your quant ability.

It makes more sense now that you applied to 3 schools per round. The tough part was the 3 schools you applied to in R1 are extremely competitive and applying to any school in round 3 is basically a lottery even with a good GPA.
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Hi nightLotus. Sorry to hear that this application cycle didn't go as you had hoped. I'm a current student at Booth and was a low GPA applicant last year. I am also over 30.

First, your GMAT score is great. A 48 Quant score puts you at the 80th percentile and that more than passes the bar. I took the GMAT in 2011 and a 48 was the 82nd percentile then. The percentiles keep shifting so don't put so much emphasis there.

I'm going to agree with Manhattan Review and say do not jump into creating an alternate transcript. You may not need it. I didn't create one and I was fine. I think it's too easy to blame the obvious red flag of the 2.8. However, if everything else is on point a 2.8 alone will not keep you out of a school. I had a lower GPA than yours (not much lower) and still got into Kellogg, Booth, and Wharton. The key is knowing what you do have going for you and positioning the hell out of it. I get the feeling that in applying to 9 schools you weren't able to do that.

From your post above it seems as though your work experience may have been the bigger issue than your GPA. If your resume does not show progression in some sort of capacity then you're DOA. If you can't demonstrate leadership then you're DOA. I'm not saying you don't have these things, but maybe you didn't bring them out as well as you could have in your essays, resumes, and recommendations. For a low GPA applicant the key is to put together an application that is so compelling that they blink at a low GPA as something trivial.

Another thing that concerns me is your interest in entrepreneurship. Coming from a technical background this could make sense. However, how you tell the story of a career goal in entrepreneurship in your essays can either make you or break you. Do you have past experience in start ups or in any type of entrepreneurial endeavor? Let me tell you a secret about b-schools. They like a sure thing. They want people who don't need them to be successful. They want to see evidence that you can actually accomplish what you say you want to do. The best indicator of that is past experience. If you cannot tie something you've done to what you eventually want to do then your goals seem unrealistic and not well thought out. This is something to consider when you look back over your applications.

Last, you say your recommendations were passable. With a low GPA they have to be stellar. Recommenders need to champion you to the school not simply endorse you. If your recommenders weren't doing that then your recommendations basically leave little impression. Also be careful of using recommenders that worked with you too long ago. Try to keep it within the last three years. People who managed you back in 2008 but no longer play an integral role in your career aren't helpful to admissions committees because they typically can't speak to who you are now.

I hope some of this helps. I'd recommend getting a ding analysis first before you invest in classes. That is likely not the lever you need to pull in order to improve your apps.
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Hi nightlotus. I think some people here have given you great advice. I agree that I think you likely have an issue in your essays and your story that needs to be addressed. Definitely agree with cheetarah that an entrepreneurship goal can be seen as a risk and you need to really connect past experiences to your goal. I didnt use my exact goal in my essays because it is a 180 degree change from my current work experience. Instead I went with a goal that was close to my real goal but more related to what I have experience doing. Also, did you give your recommenders some guidance on qualities you are trying to show and remind them if specific times your showed those qualities? I agree that you need strong recs too. I really don't think it is just your GPA that caused your results.

I took two courses to help my GPA mainly because I had the time and figured it might help. I do think it helped, but I think nailing your essays makes a MUCH larger impact. Those courses are really time consuming and expensive as well. You might be better served spending the money to get the ding analysis or maybe even a consultant to help you? But in terms of courses, I knew I wouldn't get an A is a class like calculus (got a C freshman year) so I took Intro to Accounting and Math for Business and Economics. The accounting class was through Berkeley extension and I thought pretty good. You obviously have math skills based on your GMAT (I scored 68 percentile on math so 80 is pretty solid in my book), so I think an accounting or finance class could be good should you decide to take a class or two.

Good luck w the reapplications!
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nightLotus,

Not sure if this is what you want to hear but have you given any thoughts to Haas' EWMBA program?
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CobraKai:
Thanks for the info. My "real" goal is closer to starting my own business than "placement" in the Bay Area. But I'll research McCombs a bit to just see if I like it. Thanks!


domotron:
"pick an application you thought was the best" - I think that's a great idea. Didn't think about that.

Thanks also for the example of classes. So you're saying that schools don't prefer one class over another, so I can just pick what I'm interested in taking, as long as it's quant?

"The tough part was the 3 schools you applied to in R1 are extremely competitive and applying to any school in round 3 is basically a lottery even with a good GPA." - yea, I am realizing this too late. It seems to be equating my efforts to applying to 3 schools in R2, ha.


cheetarah1980:
Thank you for discussing your own experience. This really helps with the process as well as moral support, haha.
You brought up many good points which lead to some questions/response I have...

1. I understand the need to "position myself," but I'm not sure if I was able to "positioning the hell out of it." I suppose that a ding analysis would be able to help me a bit in this respect. But just wondering, what was your process in doing this? Did you seek out a consulting service? And how much did that help you, if you did?

2. You are probably correct in that my career progression did not look very strong on paper either. Short of asking for promotions, what do you think I can do to mitigate its negative effects? (I mean, I've always thought that I have a great job, it's just that in software consulting, we really don't have management roles, and at least our company gives few raises.) Do you think this warrants an optional essay, more than my low GPA? Or can I mention both in the optional essays?

3. I thought about how "realistic" a goal in entrepreneurship would sound to a business school. I tried to make it more realistic by demonstrating my professional experiences in multiple industries, as well as funding community organizations. But I see what you mean. I'm not sure if I have "something in-between" (that Dakells mentioned) that would sound any more realistic that I can be passionate about. But I will give it further thought.

4. As for my recommenders, I chose the two who are sincerely supportive of me, who thinks highly of my work, etc. As it happens, one of them was the manager/director who hired me in 2006, the other was the client manager I've worked with for almost 5 years and still currently work with now. Do you think the first selection, being so long ago, is irrelevant? But he is very very supportive and willing to rework his recommendations for me after my rejections. Should I replace him with my current HR manager who had back-stabbed me once before? (I really don't want to, but I don't have many choices, being a consultant.) Also, how can I obtain the stellar recommendations I need? Discussing over a cup of tea is not feasible as we are physically very far away (CA to DC). How do other applicants usually do this? I used emails as my main form of communication with my recommenders - sent them my goals, resume, highlights, and a few things schools are looking for, and they did them from there. Bad idea?


Dakells:
I'm not sure I can find something related to starting a business that is "a goal that was close to my real goal but more related to what I have experience doing." I think it is great advice, however, and I will try my best to link experience with goal better.

"Did you give your recommenders some guidance on qualities you are trying to show and remind them if specific times your showed those qualities" - I tried doing this in general, to go with my "positioning," however, I couldn't get my recomenders to tailor them to each school - I think that's too much work for them and I better not bug them that much, lest they couldn't finish doing them. Also, unless the schools publish them directly, sometimes I'm not really sure, even after extended research, what the distinct qualities they value are. Any suggestions on how else to improve recommendations?

Thank you for mentioning your experience with Berkeley Extension. Can you elaborate? I am deciding between UCLA Extension and Berkeley Extension right now. Did you take the courses online? Was the professor knowledgeable? responsive? Courses easy enough to get an A? Were they time-consuming? Software easy to use? (I was almost going to PM you these questions, but then I thought if they are on the forum, it may benefit others who are deciding on somewhere to take courses online as well.) Thanks!


ricecake:
Yup, I did. One of my friends from Berkeley is currently in that program. However, I really really want the full-time experience, so I'm trying again this application season. In case I fail, I may look into that (and other part-times). But I'm really hoping I don't get there.



Again, thanks to everyone for all your advice. They really helped in making up my mind on what to do now. I've pretty much decided on a ding analysis. I know I need to rework my essays/recommendations(how?), and maybe I can do something about my work experience (what?). I am still considering taking 2 classes online (if they are not that hard/time-consuming). If nothing else, just to show that I'm seriously making an effort, and be able to answer the "what did you do in the past year as a reapplicant" question.

I know I'm asking a lot, but please answer my questions above. Any new advice is of course welcome. :roll: :roll: :roll:
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nightLotus wrote:
CobraKai:
Thanks for the info. My "real" goal is closer to starting my own business than "placement" in the Bay Area. But I'll research McCombs a bit to just see if I like it. Thanks!

:


In that case, McCombs deserves your attention. I recall reading somewhere that after SF and NYC, Austin is a hotbed for start-ups.
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CobraKai wrote:
nightLotus wrote:
CobraKai:
Thanks for the info. My "real" goal is closer to starting my own business than "placement" in the Bay Area. But I'll research McCombs a bit to just see if I like it. Thanks!

:


In that case, McCombs deserves your attention. I recall reading somewhere that after SF and NYC, Austin is a hotbed for start-ups.



I actually heard this as well. I was told SF->NYC->Austin->Boston which surprises a lot of people. I have no numbers to back it up however because I can't remember where I read about that.
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nightLotus wrote:
cheetarah1980:
Thank you for discussing your own experience. This really helps with the process as well as moral support, haha.
You brought up many good points which lead to some questions/response I have...

1. I understand the need to "position myself," but I'm not sure if I was able to "positioning the hell out of it." I suppose that a ding analysis would be able to help me a bit in this respect. But just wondering, what was your process in doing this? Did you seek out a consulting service? And how much did that help you, if you did?

2. You are probably correct in that my career progression did not look very strong on paper either. Short of asking for promotions, what do you think I can do to mitigate its negative effects? (I mean, I've always thought that I have a great job, it's just that in software consulting, we really don't have management roles, and at least our company gives few raises.) Do you think this warrants an optional essay, more than my low GPA? Or can I mention both in the optional essays?

3. I thought about how "realistic" a goal in entrepreneurship would sound to a business school. I tried to make it more realistic by demonstrating my professional experiences in multiple industries, as well as funding community organizations. But I see what you mean. I'm not sure if I have "something in-between" (that Dakells mentioned) that would sound any more realistic that I can be passionate about. But I will give it further thought.

4. As for my recommenders, I chose the two who are sincerely supportive of me, who thinks highly of my work, etc. As it happens, one of them was the manager/director who hired me in 2006, the other was the client manager I've worked with for almost 5 years and still currently work with now. Do you think the first selection, being so long ago, is irrelevant? But he is very very supportive and willing to rework his recommendations for me after my rejections. Should I replace him with my current HR manager who had back-stabbed me once before? (I really don't want to, but I don't have many choices, being a consultant.) Also, how can I obtain the stellar recommendations I need? Discussing over a cup of tea is not feasible as we are physically very far away (CA to DC). How do other applicants usually do this? I used emails as my main form of communication with my recommenders - sent them my goals, resume, highlights, and a few things schools are looking for, and they did them from there. Bad idea?


1. I figured out my positioning and stories on my own. I only engaged the services of Essay Snark to do a review of the drafts I'd already written for one school. I will say that figuring out my story took months. I did informational interviews with people who had done the type of work I thought I might be interested in doing post MBA. I searched a ton of job postings to get an idea of the skills and education level for the types of jobs I wanted. I was then able to tie salient skills from working as well as extra curricular leadership to show that I was already 70% of the way to accomplishing my goal. I simply needed the MBA to fill in some critical gaps so that I could reach my destination faster. I basically presented myself like a sure thing. Kind of like, "I'm going places, so you better hurry up and get on this train fast before it leaves the station." You can do this without being arrogant. You simply need to present very clear goals, a logical path to reach them, and evidence that you can actually do it.

2. So my career progression had actually been kind of stagnant for several years in the middle of my career. It was my own choice not to seek other opportunities, but I did worry about it for applications. However, in the 2 years prior to applying to business school I had held 3 different roles that either increased my responsibility or expanded my work experience. This helped in showing that I didn't need the MBA to get out of a dead end career. Also I had my recommenders speak to how much my career had accelerated in recent years. Most importantly my resume read like a greatest hits page. I pulled out my best leadership and achievements in each position (whether I was there for 5 years or barely 1 year) and showed that I maximized every role that I was in. You may not be able to do this through title changes and promotions. But you can do this by showing that you've taken on greater responsibility within your team. Are you the lead consultant on any projects? Are you working with bigger clients? All of that can show progression even if there aren't a ton of promotions.

3. A more reasonable goal than saying, "I'm going to start my own business right after school even though I've never started a business before and don't currently have a venture that I'm working on," would be to express an interest in start ups in general. Early-stage start ups often need technical expertise and you're pursuing an MBA so that you can also contribute operational, business development, and strategy skills to a team. Hopefully this experience will help you build networks in the start up/VC community and give you something to draw on when you launch your own company in XYZ field. If you can tell a compelling story about why you're even interested in entrepreneurship then this story starts to sound really intriguing. If you've done anything entrepreneurial already that only adds to your credibility.

4. If the manager/director who hired you in 2006 hasn't worked with you closely in some capacity since that time then that person is not a good choice of a recommender. However, NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER seek a recommendation from someone you do not trust. In a 7 year career I am sure there are other people who have supervised your work who can write a compelling recommendation. You simply need to spoon feed them. My two main recommenders both worked in different states than me. I simply stayed on them about the applications. I gave them a VERY detailed document that highlighted all of the achievements they'd seen me accomplish as well as exactly how I did it. I then did a brief profile on each school and told them which types of stories they really needed to feature. For Kellogg I made sure they emphasized teamwork and leadership. For Booth I told them to focus on my analytical abilities, intellectual curiosity, and leadership. I think knowing what each school is looking for just takes a ton of research, which I had been doing for months.

I hope this advice helps. Let me know if you have more questions.
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Not on a computer so can't do quotes.

Another route you could go for your goal would be a short term reasonable goal that helps you get to your long term entrepreneurial goal. But I feel you on being passionate about what you write. You really craft your whole story around your goal so you need to be able to sell it on paper and in person for each school.

You write about your work experience. Aside from promotions, you can always show how you have taken on greater responsibility or describe times that you took initiative and showed leadership. Also shoe how you are an essential member of your team. Things that shoe improvement and advancement at work even if you don't have tons of promotions (I think in a lot of industries it takes a lot more experience to get promoted to the third level than the second level).

So I think that through extensive research on the schools it becomes pretty clear what kind of students/qualities the schools are looking for and value. They all have different missions and use certain buzz words on their website over and over again (global, collaboration, innovation, EQ - stern's term for social intelligence, etc) I know some of the consulting companies sell school guides, not sure how helpful they are, and I think that there is plenty of free info online, but you could check one out and see if it's helpful if you don't feel you have a good grasp from your own research.

So I actually wrote this about the class to someone who PMed me recently. It's a tad long, I tend to ramble, but hopefully it's helpful:

So I took two classes, one at a local university and the accounting class through Berkeley extension online. I found the Berkeley class to be much harder. Basically the way the class/grading is structured is that there are 4 midterms, they are all open book and multiple choice. So in that sense, it's pretty easy. I don't think they were timed and the material is pretty much word for word taken from the book. One of the problems I had, though, was that since it was multiple choice and submitted online, there was no area for me to make a note. For example, on the first test there was a question that was not at all covered in the chapter, it was about a term that I know from finance, but the answer was the accounting definition, so I got the question wrong. Since the tests aren't that long, one wrong answer knocks you down to like a 92% on the test. I emailed the professor but never had any luck getting him to change my grade.

After the midterms there is a project, basically you have to analyze a company and write a report. I believe I knew my grade in that before going into the final. Since my job is basically analyzing companies I didn't find the exercise to be hard, but someone with no experience in accounting/finance might find it hard.

So the final is closed book and taken at a testing center on paper. It is still 100% multiple choice though. Very similar to the midterms, just more questions. Even though it is closed book you are allowed one page of handwritten notes, so that's really helpful. Going into the final I was nervous because I think my average was about a 90% and you basically mail away your paper final exam so you don't get the results immediately. About 2 weeks after the final I got my grade in the mail and got an A so either I did really well on the final, or they are nice about giving A's to people with averages in the low 90s.

So in most senses the class is pretty easy to get an A in because most of it is open book so as long as you have time to look for the answers (if you don't know them) you will get the question right. But I will say the online classes are somewhat hard because you really have to force yourself to keep up with the assignments and pace the course properly. They won't allow you to do it in less than 3 months (I believe that was the timeline) just an FYI. Hope that is somewhat helpful!

Oh also, there are "office hours" and group discussions and stuff, you are required to participate in some of the group discussions but I never took advantage of the office hours. When I emailed the professor he was usually pretty quick to respond. Software is easy to use.
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I will do some research on McCombs, given what CobraKai and mappleby said. ;) (It was definitely not on my original list, but wouldn't hurt to check it out!)

Major thanks to cheetarah1980 and Dakells. Both posts were extremely detailed and useful.

I'm really reluctant to give up the most supportive recommender I have. :( But I guess 2006 was a long time ago...
I just haven't had much luck with managers - one whom I only saw for 15 mins in the whole year I worked for him, and 10 of those 15 was at a company party; another who was dishonorably discharged from company; another backstabbed. (Wow, sounds pretty messed up now that I'm looking at it.)

The Berkeley Extension class being much harder part, combined with the generally higher review of UCLA Extension, is making me lean towards the latter. From my research, Berkeley Summer Course (not Extension) >> Berkeley Extension > UCLA Extension in terms of difficulty. (Anyone feel free to correct me if I'm wrong.) It's not like I don't like a challenge (I'm actually pretty interested in the Berkeley "Introductory Probability and Statistics for Business" class), but given that it's a hard "Introductory" class, and I do still have a full-time job, I think I will go with UCLA Extension if I can find a couple of interesting online courses.

Going to look into that over the weekend. (My internet is currently down, and I'm scrounging at other places, making any research difficult.)

Thanks for everyone's advice.
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