Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Another CBS Convert

If you think I'm crazy for loving CBS as my number one choice, check out Soni's post on his CBS visit. His blog's link is on the right side of the page under "Fall 2009 bloggers." Yeah yeah, he still likes Wharton and GSB more but whatever.

My days are a bipolar mix of anxious and content. Content cuz I feel like I'm making steady progress on my app but anxious because there's still so much left to do. I'm sure some of you are well familiar with the feeling. One of my recommenders said he'll submit by this weekend and the other said he'd submit by next weekend. That's good- at least I can cross that off my list. Afterall, recommenders are the one part of the app where you don't have 100% control.

I've also started pondering the format of my short answers to the "Activities" and "Work History" section of the app. The activities section is confusing because the directions tell you to list up to 3 activities (each for college and post-college) and to keep it under 400 characters! Christina on the BW forum even clarified that it should be 400 characters for all 3 activities. Yet the text box allows you to write up to 60,000! Hmm, I wonder if they'll notice if we don't abide by their rule. Not that I'm going to risk it but why do they tempt us so? :P 400 characters is also incredibly little if it hasn't hit you yet. You basically have to describe it in one tiny sentence. Good thing one of my essays is about an extra-curric but then again, maybe that's not a good thing because if they don't emphasize extra-currics on the app, then how important can it be to them right? I still don't know if the 400 characters is with or without spaces. Sigh.

The "Work History" section seems easy- just a straightforward list. Until you start filling it out. It asks you for your duties and reason why you left. Does this mean we have to write them out really nicely? Or can we just be direct and answer the questions? I feel like the anal-retentive side of me wants to write super sweet answers but that's yet another thing to edit and draft and stress over. Sadness.

Also, breaking news alert! It appears I will definitely be submitting an optional essay. An adcom member had originally said the best way to use the optional essay is not to use it. haha! Talk about cryptic. Well I have no choice, I have to use it to address why I didn't use a current supervisor (very legit reason as our current project manager has only been there for two months). I also have to explain my grade conversion of my study abroad coursework because I am not following the CBS guidelines (which is okay, I called them and they said so). I'm debating if I need a third paragraph explaining my work history though. I've already had 5 jobs (not counting my part-time family business stuff) so i know that can be a red flag. But upon closer observation, I've really only had 2. That's cuz the first job after graduation was a crummy sales position for only 1 month... and then I worked at Refco for 3 months before it had the accounting scandal and went bankrupt (not my fault i swear)... and then before I was a hired temp at a staffing agency that placed me at Deutsche Bank so technically I worked for the staffing agency for 5 months even though I was at Deutsche. Oi vey.

Having to address three points in the optional essay worries me a lil :/

Friday, July 25, 2008

Thoughts on New App and... New Consultant Hired!

Things are moving briskly. I figured I'd give my thoughts on the new CBS app that was released yesterday now that I've had a chance to look it over a lil...

The Essays are exactly what were leaked a few days earlier. They are indeed the first 3 from the J-Term with no "passion" essay this time. This is good news I guess since I have rough drafts of all 3 essays now. I also need to write the optional essay to explain why I can't get a rec from my current supervisor (he's only been with us for 2 months). This will probably just be 3 sentences.

The Activities Resume is revamped. According to Djhouse on the GMATclub forum, you used to be able to list as many activities as you wanted. Now you are limited to three activities (in order of importance) from your collegiate career as well as post-collegiate. This makes things interesting! I haven't ascertained whether it's 400 characters or 400 words allowed per activity but thank goodness we won't have to stress over wording every single activity ever conducted.

The biographical info asks for parent's college. This will be tricky cuz I have to transliterate it from Chinese. Also, parent's occupation is a tricky field because they're kinda retired though they're still general partners in the family business. Any ideas what I would put?

Recommendation questions are only 8 instead of 10 now. But that's actually misleading because they combined some questions. They look good though. Oh, and an update! I am switching out one of my recommenders... you may remember that I had 2 Asian recommenders but I was afraid of falling into the cliquey Asian stereotype so I switched one out for a Caucasian. Yay. I will be meeting him for drinks/dinner on Wednesday to fill him in on my backstory and reasons. He has promised that the quick turn-around time won't be an issue. Let's hope!

The online app system sucks. It wouldn't let people in until last night. But once in, it looks okay so far. I guess I won't start pulling my hair (and I have lots of it) out until I start pasting stuff from Word (or Notepad as they suggest).

Nobody seems to know (on both BW and GMATclub forums) what a Salary PIN is... I guess that will be ignored.

I am a limited partner in my family business and I do some work for them though I do not get paid (but then again, I'm a partner), so do I put this as an activity or work? I called and they said work. Darnit. I wanted it to be an impressive activitiy :(

The biggest bit of news is that I have officially hired and paid for a new consultant. The old one wasn't doing anything (literally) except counting his millions stolen from anxious aspirants. My new one is good thus far. Just hired this morning. I already have his comments/edits on my rough drafts and it is going to be a long, long, super arduous journey to rework them. I thought I was so close but now that I see all his comments (and there are a ton), I see I have so much work left to do. This stinks. Do you ever think that your essay is good and then someone reviews it and gives you a million things that can be changed/improved upon and you can't help but agree with them? Even though it breaks your heart to know that you'll have to input so much more energy? Sigh. I really wanna go out this weekend but part of me is saying that I should sacrifice hard for the next several weeks and it'll soon all be over and worth it.

Oh, and in more stressful news, I need to find new roommates (plural) as my old ones are leaving at the end of the lease in September. I really don't want to move. Oh well. Normally this would be fun because of meeting new roomies but I just don't need extra work right now :)

In other news, Soni is the man.

And other news, I know Bunny's identity!

And other news, apparently Samantha is a hornball ;)


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Fall 2009 App Released!

Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

Beach, Essays, New Consultant?

This past weekend, I went to my friend's beach house in Maryland (Kent Island) and didn't think about applying for b-school for an entire day and a half. It's amazing how good life feels when you have no worries. Really is. But 36 hours later, reality kicked in but at least I felt slightly rejuvenated. For those super-stressers out there, try taking a break, even for a day. You might be surprised at how happy you can feel in a beach house bubble.

So Columbia's supposed to release their app this week and it's just turned Thursday. In anticipation for this holiest of events, I've taken my essay efforts to another level. I now have topics and rough drafts for the three topics! No small feat. Sometimes I'll try to write and I'll sit there for four hours with only a paragraph of garbage to show for it... and then a minute later, I'll hit a groove where everything out of my fingers looks like Hemingway and I churn out 80% of the essay in twenty minutes. Odd bit, isn't it?

Oh, before I forget, thanks to HappyBunny for showing me the GMATclub website. For those who are bored with the BusinessWeek forums, I'd recommend popping over for a look. There are some really good info there as the posters seem to be a lot more serious and mature about the process. They ask helpful- though slightly OCD (just like me!)- questions. For example, the Columbia thread actually revealed the essay topics for Fall 2009 a few hours before Christina (Columbia adcom) confirmed it on the BW forums... now that's the stuff! A lot fewer spammers too.

For those who haven't been following Soni's blog (shame on you), he recently told us about the Top Five Business Schools Panel coming to a major city near you. I signed up for the one in Washington, DC. It's free! And apparently only H, S, W, Chicago, and Kellogg will be in attendance. For those curious, they're the only schools to ever be ranked as #1 by BusinessWeek or U.S. News since 2003. I bet Sloan and Columbia are seething. Anyway, pop over to Soni's blog (on left hand toolbar) to register if you're interested (and you should be). I'm just too lazy to post the link myself.

And in a juicy turn of events, I'm really starting to hate my admissions consultant. No, I won't reveal who he is (at least not publicly...) but he's really taking the "deposit client's money and run" method to the extreme now. I understand he's immensely popular and probably has 300 other clients already, but he's not even pretending to help me at this point. I recently revamped my first draft of Essay #3 (Team Failure) and the only comment he had was "good, and done." That's it! Jerk. Maybe I should open an admissions consulting company so I can type 3 words and charge mucho dinero. Bleh.

So here's the tasty gossip. I may be on the verge of hiring someone else and kicking him to the curb. I know this is stupid because I have eaten the cost of his services already but at least someone will actually help me if I hire a reputable editor. I've gotten an initial consultation already and was floored by the amount of edits and suggestions provided so I'm doing a bit more research before shelling out more money. I'm leaning towards it though. Will make a decision in a couple days.

In the meantime, I need to figure out which college and post-collegiate activities I want to include in Columbia's "activity resume." Apparently they want organization names, office held, hours spent, etc. So I guess that means I can't list something like personal investing? Probably a good thing though since I have terrible returns. I'm probably down 15% overall but not entirely my fault... my timing was off. I started investing last year!

P.S. Let's give a clappity clap clap for the equity markets these past few days. Go Financials! :)

Friday, July 18, 2008

Columbia Fall 2009 Essays Released!

This morning at 9:30 am, Christina (from the Columbia adcom) confirmed that the Fall 2009 ED/RD essays have been finalized. They are same as the first 3 essays from the J-Term application. These essays are "Goals/Why Columbia?", "Practice v. Theory", and "Team Failure". They've eliminated the short 4th essay on "Passion." The link to her post, along with the full questions, is below:

She also confirmed that the official application will be released next week. This is interesting because only a month ago, the adcom was confirming (over the phone) that Essays 1 and 4 would remain the same. Now they've eliminated 4. I guess we shouldn't be too surprised since many viewed the 250-word "Passion" essay as less important. It was the essay where the adcom trys to learn about the personal said of the applicant but I guess that's not as important given the spike in applications they're expecting this year. So only 3 essays. Sadness. I just finished my final draft of my "Passions" essay three days ago so I guess I wasted all that time. I'm going to write my first draft of the "Team Failure" essay this weekend. I have a decent topic in mind. However, I'm absolutely flabbergasted over what to write for "Practice v. Theory"... in fact, I've spammed the BW forums asking for ideas (at the risk of everyone discovering my identity and hating me but oh well, I gotta pull out all the stops!) hehe.

I guess it's time to cut back on the basketball and to dig in deep on my essays. I still think I'm on track. The activity and work resumes shouldn't be too difficult. I'm saving those for last. I'm also interested in seeing if the recommender questions have changed so I can really start harping on my recommenders. Don't worry, I'm not really that much of an ass. I just write like one.

In other news, I just got a new functional manager this week and she is hot. Also, hooray for the stock market finally showing signs of life!

Monday, July 14, 2008

ScoreTop, Columbia, Chicago, Berkeley

I don't want to be one of those blogs that just links to other articles and has zero original content... BUT I found this interesting. BusinessWeek asked a bunch of b-schools what they would do with ScoreTop cheaters and the answers basically ranged from "suspend/expel the cheaters" to "treat them on a case-by-case basis and let's wait to hear more info from GMAC." Almost none of the schools are being overly lenient which I guess they would never want to do from a PR standpoint. Anyway, the link is below.

I finally revisited my Columbia "passions" essay... I think it's okay, not great. Just "okay" is not going to cut it though my admissions consultant insists it's the least important of the 4 essays. I may agree but still. I want to knock every part of the application out of the ballpark. I'm aiming to finalize the essay this week before the Columbia app comes out. It will probably be released anywhere from the end of this week to end of next week. Exciting stuff huh?

Also, Chicago released their essays and Soni's blog has some nice commentary on it. Basically it's only 3 questions (nice!) but 1 of them is the dreaded slide presentation... it sounds easy but hard at the same time. I hate my powerpoint skills. Looks like I won't be applying to Chicago as a secondary. I don't want to be with a socially awkward student body anyway, even if Chicago is a cool-ass city. Looks like Yale, NYU, Wharton it may have to be.

In news that none of you probably care about, I'm enjoying summer and life in general but not that much, if you know what I mean. One of my friends suggested it's because I have too much routine. I essentially go to work, go home, go to the gym, then go home every weekday. On weekends, I go to the gym every day and go out once. Boring me. He suggested I visit friends in other cities. San Francisco/Berkeley comes immediately to mind but I feel like I need to stay focused with Columbia apps being out so soon. Maybe after I submit. But what if I love the area so much and then become tempted to apply to Berkeley? Actually, that would be a good thing I guess so nevermind. Silly me.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Other Schools & Joe Lavorgna

When it rains it pours.

I had b-school running thru my head again as I went to bed. That hasn’t happened since April I think. Anyway, I have some other things on my mind. I would be remiss if I didn’t comment that Berkeley essays are out! Thanks to Soni’s blog for reminding me. This is important because Berkeley was one of my backup plans in case Columbia dings me. My original plan was to apply ED to Columbia and if that didn’t work out, I was going to either re-apply next year or apply to my secondary choices (secondary in terms of personal preference so please no hate mail cuz I certainly realize these are exceptional programs in their own right). My secondary choices are NYU, Wharton, Yale, and Berkeley, in no particular order. I chose NYU cuz obviously I want to live forever in NY going forward. I chose Wharton because they have a top real estate program and I feel it’s the only one of the M3 that I could realistically have a shot of getting into. I chose Yale because I love their revamped curriculum and the community feel (and yes, the brand name of their larger institution). I chose Berkeley because I feel like living on the West Coast for a bit would be eye-opening for me and perhaps calm me down- I also feel like I’d love the area.

Anyway, upon seeing Berkeley’s extensive application questions, I decided there’s no way I can do it. Also, I’m on the fence about Yale because my admissions consultant told me that I don’t really fit into what they’re looking for. Part of me doesn’t buy that though so I’ll plan on applying still anyway (if rejected by CBS). So my secondary list is now Wharton, NYU, and Yale. I also wanted to apply to Chicago but I need to see if their Powerpoint essay is still required. I don’t like the socially awkward stereotype of their student body but I do like the city a lot (as previously blogged about) and the curriculum flexibility sounds super sweet. I should find out what their essays are. This is all moot if I get into my first choice, Columbia but I figured I should start to realistically think about my options upon rejection. I figure I just can’t wait another year to apply. I don’t want to wait until Fall 2010 to matriculate! That’s crazy since I’m already mentally checked out at this point haha.

Work has been slow (as usual) and I’m starting to get neurotic and worry about my lackluster work ethic. I occasionally start thinking crazy thoughts like “what if I get fired?” but maybe I’m being stupid. After all, yesterday I just got a dinky award! Haha, this federal consulting stuff is such a hoot.

You know what I think the coolest job is? Back when I worked at Deutsche Bank, the head economist of the bank, Joe Lavorgna, would always come across the squawk box on the trading floors and deliver up-to-the-second news and data. He would also interpret the figures for us on the fly. I think that’s such a cool job! I really like the idea of following the market and interpreting world trends. It’s funny because I used to love micro economics but I guess macro is where it’s at nowadays since everything’s tied together in this global economy. Plus, Joe Lavorgna is commonly on CNBC (shows such as Kudlow & Company) providing market commentary and opinions. I would love to do what he does but it doesn’t seem like an MBA gets you there. Those super economist dudes all have PhD’s and I don’t think I could do it. I’m not willing to settle for anything but a top-tier school and in doctoral programs, those placement rates are like 3 in 400. Crazy. Oh well, I guess asset/investment management is the other option :)

Sweating Bullets

Okay, maybe I'm not really sweating bullets but it just dawned on me that the Columbia ED review cycle begins in a month! A month! (a month plus a few days but c'mon) I remember thinking about this stuff in January and thinking that there was so much dead time to kill and now it's really hitting me. It's go time.

GMAT is obviously done. My essays are up in the air... I have my goals essay and I'm happy with it (despite being terribly over the recommended word count). I have my passion essay though I'm not happy with it and it still needs a few edits. The other 2 essay topics we won't know until the app is released though some have guessed it will be the same as the J-term questions. I may look at them if I have time and the Columbia app isn't out yet. Crazy that the app should be out in 2 weeks (or so)... no date has been given but late July is the commonly accepted timeframe. From then, it'll be a frantic 2 more weeks before the opening of the review cycle. Ayyyyy!

Sidebar here. You know how there was a big stir when Harvard decided to release their essay topics in May? Then schools like Stanford (and I think Kellogg to an extent) released their essays early as well. The whole online b-school aspirant community was lauding HBS for being forerunners and pioneers once again (first with the case study method and now with the super duper early app I guess). Well I'm kinda glad Columbia stuck to their guns and stayed with their traditional late July release date. They didn't let Harvard sway them to and fro in an effort to keep up with the Joneses. And I'm proud of them for that. Even though CBS gets a ton of flack for their ED policy (and how it lets them inflate their yield slightly) and for being the supposed laggard of the M7, I'm really happy that they didn't follow Harvard's lead like a little lemming. I do understand why Stanford did it though (since they're HBS' primary competitor for the creme de la creme, they understandably didn't want applicants' minds mulling over Harvard's application and falling in love for too long a time before remembering Stanford has an app too)

Anyway, my two recommenders are in place and by tomorrow, one of them will have made some major progress. I gave them last year's set of 10 recommender questions to "prepare with" in the hopes that the questions stay the same. One of them said that they expect to be done tomorrow so at least one guy will be in the bag. I can "encourage" the other one too. One interesting thought here though. I am Asian. Coincidentally, both of my recommenders are Asian. I wonder if this will send up a red flag in the eyes of the adcom? Will they think "oh grrreat, here's anothe cliquey Asian anti-social who is only gonna hang out with other Asians." They better not! I am so not that. I listen to country music and my best friends from high school are all Jewish. Oi vey. Maybe I'm being neurotic but let's pray they don't think that.

On an unrelated note, I've noticed that Samantha and Soni and HappyBunny (fellow 2009 bloggers) have all received offers for "sponsorship" by ManhattanGMAT. I learned this by reading comments left by a ManhattanGMAT blogger on those 3 aspirants' respective blogs. The term "sponsorship" is actually incredibly misleading though. ManhattanGMAT is basically asking them to post a link to ManhattanGMAT on their blog in exchange for ManhattanGMAT posting a link on their own website. Haha! What a ridiculous offer. This is great for ManhattanGMAT because obviously they get more hits and potentially more customers and revenue and profits (since the GMAT prep business has such high start-up costs and minimal continuing operations costs). But is this equally great for the aspirants? Not really... I mean, they get more hits but they don't have the opportunity for great economic gain that ManhattanGMAT would get. It would be more fair if Manhattan GMAT offered to give a tiny, tiny royalty to the blogger if any of their referrals become a paying customer. Now that would be equitable. Thankfully, I don't believe any of them have accepted this dumbass "sponsorship" suggestion. Kudos to them. Or perhaps I'm just being a prickly, jealous idiot who is insulted that I didn't receive such a "sponsorship" suggestion. Haha! I understand they're the standard in GMAT prep but if they don't like my blog, they can... well, let's just say that I shouldn't write about that stuff. :)

Another observation. My blog's hits have been up by something like 50% since the ScoreTop scandal. I wonder if I'm coming up in search engine queries. Maybe I should investigate. Maybe I should shut up and go to bed.