Monday, May 5, 2008

Columbia Visit #2 - Part 2 of 2

Sorry for the huge delay in posting the second half of my second Columbia visit. The broken hand didn't help things. Anyway, here it is...

When class ended I left without chatting up the blonde cuz she started talking to her friends. I walked across Amsterdam to Warren for a 12:30 class on Leadership with Professor Iyengar. Not 10 seconds after I had taken a seat did the TA accost me and ask if I wanted to introduce myself to the professor. I said of course and did so. There was enough room in the class so I didn’t crowd anyone and sat by myself in the seat closest to the door. I was hoping someone would wind up sitting down next to me but alas, it wasn’t to happen. There were only about 40 students when the class started and capacity was probably around 60. The class was on Motivation and was just okay. There was a video on the software company, SAS, which was entertaining and the professor asked students for a lot of participation (mostly soliciting examples of job characteristics they loved/hated and the like). Maybe it’s because so much of the topics touched on stuff I already knew from my extensive studies in psychology but I started getting bored and actually nodded off without realizing it. I startled myself awake when a little drool hit my shirt! I think the girl 2 seats to my left may have noticed but oh well. And to think, my admissions consultant specifically told me not to be an @$$hole on my visit. I waited out the last 15 minutes of class (twas semi-painful) then adjourned and grabbed a slice of cheese pizza for 2.95 at Camille’s right next to Warren. It was 2pm and the pizza clearly was not fresh but I was hungry. I wouldn’t recommend it, especially being in NY. I should’ve gone to Hamilton Deli instead.

I ate my pizza on a bench on the main campus lawn and people-watched. It was beautiful out. The improved, sunny weather made the campus look quite pretty. I love how Columbia and NY in general attracts indie artsy students. I’ll need that since I’ll be surrounded by sterile, corporate business people like myself :P I can really envision being a student there. Instead of going to a third class, I decided to visit the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate. But first, I went to the admissions office to sign in, just in case they keep track of that sort of demonstrated interest from applicants hehe. Lo and behold, it was the same guy sitting at the desk as during my first visit! I wasn’t too fond of him as he wasn’t a particularly happy or helpful dude. In fact, he made me feel quite awkward though I think that was mostly my fault haha. Anyway, I tried to be as nice as possible since I doubt he remembered me. I asked if I could sign-in and visit classes and signed in for the Real Estate Finance class. Since I’m writing this 2 weeks later, I forget why I didn’t like him again but he definitely struck me as someone who wasn’t too happy with his job. I noted his name plate. I won’t reveal his identity but I did see that his title was “admissions counselor” or something to that effect. It definitely was not admissions officer or anything else. Perhaps he was part-time or student staff? Whatever. I headed to the 3rd floor to check out the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate.

Boy was I surprised. I was expecting a large center room with various small meeting rooms attached. Instead, the Milstein Center was one of the small rooms! The Center was a tiny office, about the size of a closet, maybe 50-60 square feet. The lady I met was very, very friendly and helpful though. Cheryl is the Associate Director of the Center and she provided a lot of helpful info on the program. None of it was new as I had researched their website extensively prior to my visit but she did remind me of a few interesting points. She was really personable and friendly and even noted that her daughter is applying to Georgetown for undergrad. Of course, I offered to answer any questions for them if needed. I really wanted to learn more about immediate positions available to MBAs in real estate but she had to deflect those questions as she had only been with Columbia since last august. She did say that their executive-in-residence would be more helpful in that regard. Unfortunately, I cannot contact the exec-in-residence directly as that is a resource for current students only. She was definitely impressed by my knowledge of their program though, especially when I pointed out that the room number of the center on their website is wrong. She blushed and said they had just moved a month ago.

I asked about whether the Manhattanville move would allow current students an opportunity to get involved but she said that was doubtful. She also got me excited for their unique Masters Classes which are basically seminars/practicums. Really interesting stuff. All in all, it was a good visit. Though the center was ridiculously tiny, Cheryl was immensely nice and even gave me a nice little stat that I think I’ll stash away for one of my admissions essays. We probably chatted for a bit over half an hour as it was time for me to jet and catch my bus back to DC. Beforehand, I ran over to the University Bookstore to see if there were any more sales on t-shirts. Alas, no. J

Sooo, I guess that means Columbia remains my first choice. J/k, it definitely is my first choice. In the meantime, I’ve started drafting the typical “why MBA? Why now?” essay and I gotta say it’s really hard! The hardest part is probably the word limits. The recommended length is 750 words but I had 1,640 for my first draft. For my completely overhauled second draft I had 1,460. I know I can get it down to about 1,200 (I just tried yesterday) but getting it to 750 may prove near impossible. I’ve done some surveying on the BW forums and it seems like 10% overage is the standard acceptable amount to go over. This means I need 825 words max. I’ll settle for 850-900 to be honest, especially since I called Columbia (that same guy that I don’t like picked up too! I recognized his voice) and they informed me that the word limit is only a recommended guideline so it’s not like the reviewer will stop reading the essay. He did reiterate that it’s okay to go over the limit, but quickly added “but don’t go over by too much.” Yikes. And Sigh.

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