We had a number of these happy tales from former Brave Supplicants roll in after Round 2 and we’ve been scrambling to get them posted. BTW, a “former Brave Supplicant” is one who was successful! So, congrats to yet another one, this time from the military MBA contingent – though honestly, there’s nothing in here that does not perfectly apply to EVERYBODY. Here’s the story.
I decided to get my MBA after returning from Afghanistan and realizing with the utmost certainty that I did not want to make the military my career. I enjoyed serving my nation, but I was ready to do something different. I got started a little late in the game for GMAT prep. Take heed from ES and really make sure you start early and don’t waste any time. I started “studying” in September of 2013 to hopefully be ready for Round 1 in 2014. Studying consisted of buying a Kaplan book at Barnes and Noble and perusing it for about 30 – 45 minutes at a time on nights I didn’t attend happy hour or wasn’t too hungover on a weekend. I lulled myself into thinking that the GMAT wouldn’t be that hard.
Next thing I knew it was the holidays and everything started to speed up real quick. I broke my shoulder in January while snowboarding, so I didn’t really have much of a choice to throttle back and took studying more seriously. I wasn’t getting the results I wanted and decided to take a class with MGMAT in April after a couple of work trips and a final farewell to my pre-admissions life at Coachella. I wish I had done it sooner. I hit the books pretty hard and did all the required/suggested coursework while balancing my military duties and I thought I was on track to hit the score I wanted in August . My original timeline allocated more than enough time to get my essays and letters of rec done for R1 at my target schools (I worked with ES to identify and refine a list through the comprehensive profile analysis in March). I had already visited a couple campuses and tried to determine where I would fit in – ES was blowing this whole admissions process out of proportion. It seemed to be going way too easy. [LOL. -ES]
I had a family vacation to Hawaii in August and scheduled to take the GMAT the day before flying out. I think you guys know where this is going – I bombed it. I was crushed. I scored lower than I did on my initial Kaplan diagnostic exam. After going through a service academy and being in a warzone, I felt like I knew what really being sad meant. The feeling I had when seeing that number at the end of my test was awful. Earth shattering. I questioned if I even should bother applying for B-school and if I had made a mistake leaving active duty. Needless to say, I probably had the most miserable 14 days in Hawaii in all of recorded history. [Awwww! 🙁 -ES]
There was no way I would even think of applying to schools with the score I got so I had to shift my admissions strategy to round 2. I signed up to take the GMAT again right before Thanksgiving. For all you guys out there that have to go more than one round with the GMAT, take solace in the fact that you aren’t the first (or last) to have to do it. I got with an instructor from MGMAT where we reviewed my coursework and created a tailored study plan to get a score that more accurately reflected my abilities. Starting the study routine was painful. I dragged myself to coffee shops and generated motivation through a healthy combination of self-loathing and business school brochures that gave me a glimpse of where I hoped to be. When I wasn’t studying or taking practice tests, I was working on essay ideas and fine tuning my resume. Thankfully I have supportive friends and parents that kept me from going over the deep end – especially when I was obsessively reading GMAT blogs and my buddies were getting round 1 invites to interview. Like I said – start your prep early.
D-Day for GMAT Round II arrived and I felt like I was due for some redemption. I got a score I was happy with. I may or may not have Tiger Woods fist pumped when I saw my score flash across the screen. I took a couple of days off over Thanksgiving and thought about some of my ideas for essay topics and strategies. As soon as December rolled around I was writing essays, corralling my letters of recommendation, and filling out apps non-stop. I would not recommend taking the path I did. My family was reading version 100 of “Why you?” and “What’s the biggest risk you’ve taken?” essays on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day. I was a man possessed by a singular drive to get into school. Finally hitting “Submit” and seeing all the fields show up as green on my application was surreal. Was that it? Is it the waiting game now? My biggest piece of advice is to not look at your application proofs until you have an interview scheduled with a school. Seeing an unintended space or typo after the fact is maddening and counterproductive. [This is EXCELLENT advice. -ES]
I was watching blogs and forums waiting for that call/e-mail to invite. Thankfully my interviews were staggered and I had one every two weeks or so until the middle of March to keep me from going insane waiting for a UCLA interview invite that never came. A common theme I noticed was that I fell in love with whichever school gave me attention and I prepped an interview for. My first interview with GU was a little rough and I took away a bunch of lessons. I flew out to Darden in February and fell in love with the grounds and the culture. I prepped for it pretty well and looked up a bunch of questions beforehand online. I interviewed with USC shortly after and carried the confidence from my Darden interview into it.
After completing my interviews, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I had been dialed into the admissions process for almost a year and I was just waiting. It felt like I had been on a ski boat forever and was learning how to walk on firm ground again. I started working out more and reintroduced myself to my girlfriend after 3 months of being a scumbag boyfriend. I got into USC in early March and that took a TON of pressure off of my shoulders as I eagerly awaited the rest of my decisions. I initially got waitlisted at GU (which I thought was a way of protecting their yield – just my 2 cents) and got the phone call from Darden Admissions over lunch time. Easily one of the best feelings of my life and made the struggle worth it. I got dinged from UCLA without an interview, but I’m ok with it. I’d like to think that I’d still pick Darden if I had gotten into both, but I realize just how fortunate I am to be admitted into one of the b-schools discussed on this site. I’ve already picked out place in Charlottesville and can’t wait for the end of summer.
Thank you so much for everything ES. For the rest of you downtrodden BS-ers, best of luck getting through the suck of admissions. That phone call is well worth it.
Wow what a great story – full of trials and tribulations, ups and downs, and many lessons learned that (hopefully!!!!) all you fresh-eyed BSers considering this process will heed!
Former Brave Supplicant, THANK YOU for this write-up and GOOD LUCK at Darden! Charlottesville is indeed awesome, and we hope you stay in touch so we can hear how the next phase of this adventure goes for you.