Monday, March 7, 2011

Newsflash: Business School Applicants Do Not Own Macs, According To The GMAC

This weekend, I received my official enrollment materials in the mail for the GMAT, including their Information Bulletin and the GMATPrep CD. It feels... official! Unfortunately, the CD is not compatible with my MacBook Pro, and likewise for the online software download, so I'm going to have to have to either dig my old Dell laptop out of the back of my closet, or bring home my work laptop.

I've also been doing a bit of reading on GMAT prep, which is having me re-think my preliminary study ideas. On Stacy Blackman Consulting, two hours of studying is recommended for each desired score point increase. Beat The GMAT has a 60-day study plan which entails two to four hours per day for two months straight. Over at GMAT Club, the basic study plan for novices includes two to five hours per day, for three months!

So, how much is really enough?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Blogging: Shaken Not Stirred

Graduates of the top MBA programs are poor writers. Or so suggests the Wall Street Journal in its March 3rd article titled "Students Struggle for Words."After having just written yesterday's post mentioning the grammatical errors in a published MBA admissions guide, I can't say that I'm entirely surprised by the article. The news also doesn't worry me, as a potential business school applicant, in the least. If I wanted to learn how to be a better writer, I would be applying to MFA programs in writing, not MBA programs. However, it does suggest some justification for spending time blogging: the more we write, the more we improve.

If writing is a cocktail, I see my blog as being one part motivating therapist, one part archival documentation, and one part brainstorming session: shake until combined, pour the mixture into a highball glass, and garnish with a heavy sprinkling of introspection. It may not make me tipsy, but hopefully I'll improve my skills and be rewarded with a few generous tips in the process.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Strunk & White R Us

It's a dirty little secret that my former roommates are all too familiar with: I have a bit of a book hoarding tendency. Even in the age of the Kindle, the Nook, and a hundred other e-readers, there's something specifically appealing to me about the experience of pulling a fresh book off the shelf, cracking open the spine and smelling the pages. So, it should come as no surprise that I have amassed quite the collection of GMAT and MBA-related reading materials in the past year or so. Unfortunately, buying is much easier than actually reading, so it's about time that I finally put all these books to good use.

With that in mind, I finally took Paul Bodine's Great Applications for Business School (2nd edition) off my bookshelf last week and started to read my way through. I'm still on the second chapter, but I have some early impressions. Although the majority of the first two chapters provide the sort of standard advice that I've encountered before, there is one area where the book deviates quite significantly: Instead of advocating that applicants work on creating a "brand ME" message and pull together a cohesive story representing the components of that brand, Bodine emphasizes the need for authenticity above all else in the admissions process.

My other big impression from the first two chapters is the large number of grammatical errors. Although being a stickler for grammar isn't my favorite role, in this case I'll play it. It strikes me as highly ironic that a book dedicated to teaching applicants how to write good essays would itself be so riddled with writing errors, especially given that this is a second edition and therefore the writer and his editors had multiple chances to get it right.

I'll hold off on final judgment until I've finished the remaining chapters, but I have to say that the grammar issue has at least slightly deflated Bodine's credibility for me.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Facing the Rhinoceros

In 1515, the celebrated German printmaker Albrecht Dürer created a woodcut to document one of the most sensationally talked about news stories of the year: the arrival of an Indian rhinoceros in Lisbon. The animal had been shipped to the King of Portugal as a strategic gift in celebration of Portugal's colonial presence in the Indian subcontinent. This was the event that was on everybody's lips, and word quickly made its way across Europe to Dürer in Nuremburg that there was now a rhinoceros in Europe, for the first time in at least 1000 years. However, Dürer was not able to travel to Lisbon to see the animal itself, so instead he created his print based on written descriptions and the sketches of fellow artists. Like a game of telephone, by the time the descriptions arrived in Nuremburg, the rhinoceros' features had been greatly distorted, and Dürer depicts it with a strange combination of reptilian characteristics and a set of armored plates across its back.
Much like Dürer depicting the rhinoceros, The first time I tried to do this post, I failed miserably. I had a whole long six-paragraph post all written ready to submit about about how curating a good art exhibition is like successfully applying to business school, and that the same components of preparation, relationship management, follow-through and sheer luck apply to both scenarios.

However, the more I typed, the more I realized that although I know quite a bit about curating a good exhibit, I know next to nothing about successfully applying to business school. Sure, I could write about what I think probably, maybe, theoretically makes a successful applicant, but who am I to say? And who on earth would want to read a blog post where someone who has no idea writes about a subject matter that she is ignorant about?

So, I'm putting the post on hold. Maybe I'll come back to it in June or July of 2012, when hopefully I'll be getting ready to move to some new town and start my first year of an MBA program. Maybe my hunches will be true, and I'll be able to say, "Aha! I knew all along!" But, more likely, I'll realize that my preliminary impressions on applying to business school were no more than a sixteenth-century rhinoceros print: all lizard scales and metal armor. One day I will have faced the beast in person and will be able to give a first-hand account. Until then, I'll just have to muddle my way through.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No White Lilies Please, Just Send Cash

I can now tell you the exact date, time, location and cause of my death:

June 25, 2011, 8am, at a Pearson Testing Center,
due to cardiac arrest stemming from GMAT test day anxieties

In lieu of sending floral arrangements to the funeral home, Courtney asks that you write out monetary contributions to the Graduate-Management-Admissions-Council-Is-Taking-All-My-Money Fund.

That's right, I bit the bullet and signed up for my GMAT testing appointment. Although the last time I tried this, my strategy was not to sign up until I was getting satisfactory practice scores, we all know how well that worked out (I ended up flaking out and not studying at all). So now I'm locked into a date, and I better start preparing. If nothing else, the $250 testing fee is a pretty excellent incentive to take this seriously!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Reprioritizing; Or, The First World Problems of Being a Professional Party Girl

Ok, after yesterday's moment of panic, I've had some time to think about things. I need to prioritize. Some of the things that are currently taking up a large chunk of my time (for example, doing nightlife photography and party blogging for a few select publications) are not relevant to my bigger goals. Moreover, the small additional income boost they provide is not enough to offset the opportunity cost of not spending that time studying for the GMAT or working on business school applications. Sure, it's fun to be recognized by bouncers and bartenders at clubs and never have to wait in line or pay a cover charge. And it's really, really fun to see photos of my friends splashed all over the social pages. But that is just not what I should be focusing my time on right now. I have bigger fish to fry.

I've devised a preliminary rough schedule. I'll have to tweak it, but here is what I'm thinking:

Not so bad, right? I mean, I'm practically swimming in free time. Maybe I should take on some new hobbies!