We started out with giftage on Christmas and it continues on with New Year’s! If you missed Part 1 of this story, go read that first (where our former BSer talks about why he decided to go for an MBA) and then come back for Part 2 today.
Awesome Military Guy’s MBA Success Story: Part 2
2011 is what I jokingly called “The year of the GMAT.” I called it this because since I wasn’t applying until 2012, I had all year to get the GMAT score I wanted. I was just really hoping it didn’t come down to that. 2011 is also when I conducted all of my school visits. I know it’s generally not recommended to mix GMAT prep with school visits, [WHY NOT? BECAUSE THE TRAVEL INTERRUPTS THE STUDY ROUTINE? WE DON'T ADVISE DOING GMAT PREP + ESSAYS, THAT'S A RECIPE FOR POOR PERFORMANCE ON BOTH, BUT NOT SEEING A BIG DISADVANTAGE TO OTHER COMBOS. -EssaySnark] but since I wasn’t applying that fall, I didn’t see the harm. I visited most campuses before I had taken the GMAT and I was excited by the energy at the schools, meeting current students, and getting the A-list treatment from the veterans clubs and seeing that **NEWSFLASH** there is life after the military. I knew this is where I wanted to be. Some BSers let their GMAT score dictate what schools they target. Not this guy. I knew I would have to get a pretty good score to get into any of these schools, and I was going to do it.
I took the GMAT for the first time in May of 2011. That might seem a little early given that I wasn’t applying that year, but I had an ulterior motive: if I crushed the GMAT, I planned on applying to my favoritist school in RD 1, and if accepted, I would try to buy out the last year of my military obligation. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case, on game day the screen read: 660. Deflated, I got back on the horse and scheduled my second test for June, still with the hope of applying that fall. No dice. My second test was a f—ing disaster: 610. At this point, I started questioning if I had the ability to score any higher. I asked some veterans what they thought about my profile with a 660. The prognosis wasn’t good and I was advised to take it again. I was planning on taking it a third time, but my fear was if I didn’t improve, was it possible to get admitted with my mediocre score? The GMAT was the one thing in my control and I didn’t want it to be the reason I wasn’t admitted. My summer was going to be busy, I was leaving the country for two weeks for an exercise and I was trying to find when I could find a six-week block to study when a light-bulb went off in my head: I’d study during off hours of the exercise. It’s not like I would have a social life over there. I’m glad I did, because when I returned I took my third crack at the GMAT in September and had a breakthrough: 700. [THE AWESOMEST PART OF THIS IS THE IMPRESSIVE QUANT SCORE HE BANKED. AND GOING 610 -> 700 IS PRETTY AMAZING. -EssaySnark] For most people this is just “decent”. If you told me that I would get a 700 on my first attempt, I probably would have said I’d take it again. But after feeling the pain of the first two attempts, I can confidently say I hit my ceiling on this exam and didn’t leave any points on the table (for the record the highest I ever scored on the six practice exams I took was 660. Talk about clutch). It was also too late to whip up essays for my favoritist school’s Round 1, so I became resigned to serving out my obligation.
I closed out the year by visiting the rest of the schools on my list. It proved worthwhile, as I was able to scratch off one school due to a particularly lousy visit. This was also the only school where I left the campus and couldn’t picture myself spending two years there. So let’s address this popular topic: Are school visits worth it? YES! Make that a F— YES! Especially if you find out you hate the place! Visiting saved me the time and hard work of writing essays and doing an application on a school I wouldn’t be thrilled to attend. Visiting campus for the first time when invited to interview is not a good time to realize you have no interest in the school. TANGENT: It was also at this school where I was asked what other schools I was looking at. After I listed them I was told “Apply to Harvard, apply to Wharton. Make them say no. If you get accepted, great, you still have the option of not going.” I thought about this and I know I’m in the minority here, but I just can’t get excited about attending HBS or Wharton and those aren’t exactly schools you casually apply to. I filtered out this “advice” because I knew a half-assed application to both those schools would be a ding and just waste everybody’s time. Needless to say, this conversation led to believe said students at this school were mildly douchey.
By the end of the year I had my list paired down to a final four: two top-9 schools and two top-16 schools. Yes, you read that right. That’s where I believe the tier breaks are (besides the H/S/W holy trinity). Anyone who likes to use the term top-10 or top-15 just likes round numbers and hasn’t taken the time to list the schools to see where the lines in the sand are drawn. For the record my top 9 (in no particular order) are: Harvard, Stanford, Wharton, Booth, Sloan, Kellogg, Tuck, Columbia, and Haas. 10-16 (in no particular order) are: Darden, Fuqua, Johnson, Anderson, Stern, Ross, and Yale. Deal with it.
This STBBS is telling such an amazing story with so many useful tips that we’re just going to let him continue on! But you’ll need to come back for Part 3 another day.
Happy New Year everyone! We hope that it brings you all that you wish for in peace, health, prosperity, and bschool admissions.