Monday, June 30, 2008

I Get It!!

I spy purple, green, red, yellow, orange, blue, so hmm...where am I? In the Skittles candy factory? Well, no I didn't get to taste the rainbow, but I got to see it in person this weekend at none other than the Pride Parade in SF! The best was probably a gi-normous float on the back of a tow truck...not sure how they worked their magic to make that happen, but it was sure fun to watch! It felt like Bay to Breakers all over again, except folks were also celebrating their new-found freedom to wed.

Anywho, back to what I'm supposed to be writing about: GMAT. I had my 3rd and 1st session this past weekend. Like I told you days ago, I missed the first class, so MGMAT let me make it up...yay! I'm so glad I did. I spent the entire last week working on the quant section (inequalities, absolute value, blah blah) and I finally GET IT! So, I also started doing more data sufficiency questions and since I missed class one, I was totally at a loss...but after taking my make-up session, I also FINALLY GET DS! The methods MGMAT teaches really do work in increasing my overall understanding of the subject matter. The only real problem I have (and will continue to work on fixing) is that I get stumped by the question which sucks b/c it's easier than they make it look. Like I mentioned earlier in my postes, GMAT questions always come with a funky disguise and until you learn to recognize their disguises, they'll totally stump even the savviest quant nerd.

And just another plug for MGMAT: Their instructors are so frickin awesome! In sum, I spent a total of about 7 hours in class this weekend and mark my words: the hours just breezed by like nothing! The interactive style of the class made learning quite fun I'd have to say (and this is coming from a person who took naps during afternoon 3-hr college lectures). Again, another positive affirmation that my 1390 smackers is oh so worth it! I'm not a fan of online courses, so I'm also really fortunate that MGMAT has an SF office, or else I'd be left with little choice. I guess my advice to you is that nothing beats the face-to-face interaction you get when you sign up for an actual class. Virtual courses, at best, should be a last resort because for someone like me, the classroom setting matters a whole lot in terms of allowing me to focus on a particular subject matter. Now, since my next session isn't until 2 weeks (thanks to our nation's birthday), I have some time to stretch out my studies without feeling that I'm being victimized by the GMAT. Wow...what a relief!


First and foremost: Time management is key to acing the GMAT. Always practice with a stopwatch or timer to make sure you're completing each question within the alloted time (I believe it's up to 2 min for Quant Q's and 1.5 min for Verbal)

1. Learn and re-learn ALL the math/verbal concepts with the MGMAT strategy guides
AND do most (if not all) of the practice problems AND check your answer!

2. Keep track of ALL your mistakes (a pattern will develop and you'll begin to hone in on your problem areas)

3. Understand WHY you got a question wrong. This is very important! If you don't know why a problem is wrong, you'll have a very difficult chance of getting the question right the next time you see it in a different "disguise"

4. Once you have mastered 2 or 3 concepts (either quant/verbal), practice with questions from the Official Guide for GMAT Review, 11th Edition.

5. Take practice GMAT CAT exams

6. Practice, Practice and Practice more Official Guide problems

7. Take the GMAT with confidence! (Don't forget to register at least 1 month in advance!)

Friday, June 27, 2008

GMAT Cheating Scandal Update: Woes to Cheaters

Business Week just released an update concerning the future of MBA applicants and students who knowingly sought out "live" test questions aka "jungle juice" (JJ) via ScoreTop. What does this mean? The dreams of over 6000 VIP members of ST will be in jeopardy as GMAC begins investigating ST forums to determine who knowingly posted or sought out JJs. I cannot begin to fathom what must be going through the minds of these students right now. Compared to the potential fate that awaits these folks, it makes me think that studying for the GMAT is a cakewalk. More details to come...I'm sure! BTW: The original story was posted earlier this week.

Letters of Rec: Check!

I was flown in for a meeting with my boss today and I finally broke the news to her that, after contemplating my career path for some time, I've decided to pursue my dream of getting an MBA. And the best part was that she couldn't have been more supportive of my decision. I'm so psyched! Since she's had experience serving on grad school adcoms, she even told me she understands that each letter has to be catered for each school I'm applying to b/c in the end, it's really about the "fit" of the B-school to my own career goals. I couldn't be more happier since I had been a bit nervous about asking her to write me 5 individual letters of rec to each of the my target schools. From what I've read, your letters of rec (LoR) can make or break your application. Thus far, I already have my other recommender lined up, so this is great. I'm now wondering about my 3rd (b/c I think I may need a 3rd in some instances)...hmm...who to ask?

I guess for now, I will have to compile a handy info pack for my recommenders so that I can make their job as seamless as possible. I think I'll include the following:

1. Why I want an MBA (Goals essay, I suppose)
2. Background info of each MBA program and how it fits me
3. Timeline of Deadlines for each program
4. My professional accomplishments
5. Whatever else to eliminate the guesswork on their end

Okay, now on to the most challenging (but probably most significant) part of my app: 1. ESSAYS and Introspective Analysis of Me and oh yeah, the GMAT.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

GMAT Cheating Scandal...Oooh, No You Didn't!

Many of you, like myself, who have high hopes of joining the ranks of the Class of 2011 at top B-schools are probably studying profusely for your GMAT in preparation for R1/R2 deadlines. Last night, as I racked my brain with data sufficiency questions, I came down with this nasty feeling in my guts like I was going to hurl GMAT at any moment. Needless to say, I went to bed with this queasy feeling in my stomach, lulled to sleep by incessant thoughts of how much more studying I could possibly endure for the next 2 months. I haven't set my GMAT date yet, but plan to take the dreaded exam by late August after my MGMAT course. I'm sure many of you share my sentiments and as such, the thought of getting your hands on live test questions may have wandered into your mind now and again. Well, you might want to rethink those thoughts b/c in the end, it will bite you in the A$$! Case in point:

There's huge buzz circulating on sites like Clear Admit and Business Week in regards to the GMAT cheating scandal that was recently uncovered. Apparently, a site called Scoretop that's been in operation since 2003 has been leaking "live" questions to its subscribers. Now, I'm not sure how this works b/c the GMAT is a computer-adaptive exam and it spits out questions from its vast storehouse based on your previous answer, but either way, it sure sucks to be anyone who's going to be caught up in this mess. This just makes me think twice (no, maybe thrice) about joining forums and online sites that claim to do great things to help you ace the GMAT. I know there might be those who may have haphazardly subscribed to Scoretop w/o even realizing that they were attempting to cheat the system, so my heart goes out to you. But for the rest of you, you know what you did....karma sucks and I'm a firm believer that what comes around will inevitably go around and when it does, you better watch out. GMAC plans to obtain the names of all Scoretop subscribers and have
their test scores canceled, their schools notified, AND (here's the kicker) the student will not be permitted to take the test again...OUCH! Talk about a dream deferred...this is a dream denied! More to come in regards to how the top B-schools will be responding to this scandal...I can't wait!

Wow...who would have thunk it? Business and ethics do intersect! There is an ethical code of conduct involved in everything we do and if you attempt to circumvent the system, well, shame on you, esp. since so many of us are working up a sweat trying to study and do things the right way to earn a well-deserved GMAT score. So, for all you crazed, die-hard, study-like-your-depended-on-it B-school-bound nuts out there, I applaude you and wish you the very best in your B-school endeavors! Good luck..we'll get there soon!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Hello Summer, Hello MGMAT

To commemorate the official first (bloody HOT) day of summer (June 21), the weather forecasts predict a sweltering 105 degrees in pretty much all parts of Nor Cal...and to celebrate this glorious occasion, I spend 3.5 hours of my day sitting in the Flood Building in SF enduring my first GMAT course. I do a cost-benefit analysis (I know, big DORK) of whether or not to drive into SF, and then decide to BART my way instead since there's just nothing like public transportation in the bay: hoards of everyone and their mother (and child) swarming to grab a seat on the trains and bums entertaining passersby in each station with their music and random acts of whatever---like I said, nothing like it. Since it's my first day (well, I registered a week late), I'm not sure what to bring to class, so I decide to bring EVERYTHING (I figure let's error on the side of over-preparedness) and damn, it's a heavy load!

I arrive 30 minutes early and meet my instructor...he seems cool, now let's hope the man can teach! Prayers answered as soon as class starts since this guy actually knows the shit and he can TEACH the shit as well. Yay for competency! I had read reviews of other instructors at Kaplan and Princeton who pretty shall we say it..sucked! I'm happy this guy does not since MGMAT requires that ALL of their instructors score in the 99th percentile and have prior teaching experience. Since I missed the first class (which MGMAT will let me make up next week), I didn't get a chance to go over the homework, but the course is taught like an intimate college discussion section where they ASSUME that since you paid big bucks to be here, you are committed and will do your homework prior to class. Today, we are going to learn to master subject-verb agreement and critical thinking. He presents the question and then we're given 1.5 minutes to select our answer. Afterwards, by a show of fingers we each silently indicate our answer choices. He then does a cold call and selects one person to go over his/her thought process involved in selecting the answer. Pretty cool and the best part is that he doesn't care if you got the answer right or wrong but makes a point of allowing you to see (if your answer was wrong), what went wrong and if it was right, if you used the proper techniques for reaching your conclusion. Throughout the class, he keeps reiterating the fact that we shouldn't be discouraged if we're not getting the right answers b/c it's all about what we learn in class and how we can do better as the course progresses. So far, so good! And FYI: I do pretty damn well on the verbal!

But that feeling of accomplishment is fleeting as soon as we enter the Quant Section....ugh! We are introduced to integers, divisibility and prime numbers and as soon as he began putting up the questions, I seriously felt like a I was staring at a fat pink elephant speaking in tongues. You know it's an elephant but you don't know where it came from or what to do with it...I was just like, "HUH? WTF? This is not cool!" Like any standardized test, the math portion will always perplex me b/c no matter how much you know the material, the manner in which the question is posed will always stump you b/c they disguise it in something that looks much more complicated, or in my case, weird! I hope that by the end of this course, I'll learn to recognize these pink elephants...let us hope, right? So my first day in class, I conclude:

A. Verbal--I'm good, but I need to be great!
B. Math--I suck, so I need to suck less--a LOT less!
C. Instructor--Cool guy with great teaching methods, so let's hope this continues
D. MGMAT--So far, worth my $$ and again, let's pray this also continues
E. Studying for the GMAT--Like my life depended on it!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Am I MBA Material?

This is a question that frequently pops into my head as I continue to update my blog. Okay, I went to Cal (against all odds!) and you'd think I'd be as confident as anyone who graduated from the much-touted "#1 public university in the world!" But alas, my own self-doubt creeps in and lingers in the background, like the presence of a nasty ingrown hair..ick! I feel like Will Smith in an episode of the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air" as he contemplates whether or not to defy uncle Phil. In my mind's eye, I see two 'mini-me's perched on my shoulder; one optimistic angelic version that's telling me to "Dream Big" and think back to the time when I was applying to colleges and never even dreamed that Cal would take a look at my app, whereas the other 'mini-me is a horned little devil wielding a pitchfork and poking my neck, while all the time snarling, "What the heck are you thinking? Are ya nuts? How can you ever manage a 700 on your GMAT! You didn't even graduate with any honors!" Ugh! As much I've tried to knock the little brat off my shoulder, I can't help but feel the evil mini-me's effect on me (oh, the irony of it all!). I think what I'm experiencing has a lot to do with what sociologists term as lacking "social capital." Those of us who weren't brought up with a sense of entitlement often lack the resources to tap into places of privilege.

But with every eerie cloud, there is a silver lining. Mine comes in the form of the blogs I've been blogstalking to the right of the screen. I don't even know these people, but I feel a connection to them already, as they've already been there and done this or are going through the same thing as we speak. I am hopeful that whatever MBA program I ultimately get accepted into, my future classmates are as welcoming and REAL as my fellow bloggers have been to me.

Oftentimes (and more than I'd like to admit), I, too, am consumed by the stats of getting into an MBA program: How competitive is my GMAT score? What if I don't have a 700? What if I didn't graduate summa cum laude? And then you hear about the overachieving dorks who complain about 740 GMATs and have unbelievably stellar resumes at major corporations and my next question is the one we've all been asking ourselves: What are MY chances of getting in? Do I even have a shot in hell of getting into places like Wharton, Chicago and Harvard?

Honestly, I wish I could tell myself "Yes! You are frickin awesome! You are SOO going to get in anywhere!" But I know doing so would be a big fat lie, well except for the me being awesome part:) But here's what I can say and I'm sure you can empathize with me. "I'm going to keep it real and do the very best I can to ace the GMAT and show the adcoms that there's nobody else like me out there who has more passion and heart for advancing educational access and equity for under-served and under-represented people of color than me! And with that comes power and perseverance to pursue my dream of getting an MBA." If you're reading this, I know you've already joined me in lending your unwavering support for this endeavor and for that, I'm ever so thankful. So, shall we knock the little devil off her perch now?

Researching MBA programs

So I've been up to my neck google-ing, blogstalking and webstalking to get the dish on which MBA program I may be applying to for Fall 09. After much online research and thanks to a knowledgeable and highly motivated community of prospective and current MBA bloggers, I've narrowed my choices down to 5. After weighing the pros and cons of full-time and part-time MBA programs, I've decided that if I get admitted into a CA program close to home, I will go ahead and pursue a part-time MBA. However, why not give myself the benefit of the doubt and aim for some of the top 10 out-of-state full-time MBA schools? I've been going back and forth, forth and then back again on this decision b/c of 1 major reason: I have a mortgage to keep up and with the icy real estate market in CA, I know selling is not an option.

So why, then, aim for the stars? Hmm...maybe because I've learned that one can only achieve the unforeseeable by dreaming the impossible...and each and every day I go out to speak with students on pursuing an education, I am constantly reminded of my own advice to them: "NEVER shut the door of opportunity on yourself! You'll never know unless you strive!" So, when it comes to my own goals, why not practice what I preach? I can't think of any reason not to....except for the bling bling factor, but even there, I know things will look up. (Let's think good thoughts:)

Another reason for my consideration of out-of-state MBA programs is this: It's probably going to produce the biggest return on investment and if I'm opting for something outside CA, it better we worth it! That for damn sure! As to which ones...keep on reading my blogs to find out! And this may change as well since my GMAT performance will be a HUGE factor in my final decisions. I just took an assessment GMAT and let's just say I'm sure glad I'm going to my Manhattan prep course tomorrow! :) Let's see what happens....I can only go up from here!

Monday, June 16, 2008

GMAT here I come!

Alright, so after countless hours perusing around at the U of Google, and blogstalking MBA reviews, I have finally buckled down and handed over 1390 smackers to the makers of Manhattan GMAT. I swear this better pay off...or else..well, I don't know what the heck to do. I'm not a fan of standardized testing, much less shelling out big bucks for the mere prospect of acing them, but I have to admit that when it comes to increasing my odds of being admitted into my top MBA programs, I had to bow down and put aside my otherwise biased and unsettling views of the test-prep companies. One reason being that I CANNOT afford to NOT get into any MBA program for Fall 2009.

Another reason? Well, after nearly a year of contemplating long and hard over my future career prospects and where I see myself in a decade or so from now, I realized that although my heart lies in education and access, I don't see my financial security lying there as well. And then I began to ask myself: "Is being immersed in higher ed the one and only way of impacting change OR (lightbulb over my head) can I create change and generate greater impact elsewhere in a more propituous sector of society?" As I ruminated over my response to this question, my dear friend, JC was on the verge of completing her MBA program at Davis and she, like me, had her stint in the non-profit world for quite some time and please believe, you don't go in wishing to be a millionaire when you enter this arena. So, as much as she loved her job, she also marveled at the idea that she could one day comfortably afford to rent in the highly-overtly priced bay area, drive her car without having to calculate the horrendous price of gas to whatever destination she decided AND low and behold, have the liberty of shopping for organic (oftentimes costly) and sustainably-harvested food items that help us lead a greener lifestyle. Now is that too much to hope for? She encouraged me to see the business world as a channel for affecting change in the social sector, but also as a means for people like us to afford the everyday necessities we oftentimes are compelled to deem as luxuries given the state of our economy nowadays. So, eventhough I have never endeavored to consider applying to any MBA program, I realize that maybe it's time for me; that maybe, there must be a good reason why I haven't applied to any graduate programs to date and that maybe, my future lies in an MBA program that will take me 3 years worth of my life to complete.

I begin my first GMAT prep course this coming Saturday, so I'm excited to see what my 1K and then some has brought for me. It better be good. Stay tuned.