MBA admission experience 

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,
2

The two months between applying for grad school and hearing decisions have been quite a lot of trying to stay calm while every now and then getting super stressed about whether I’d get admitted anywhere. After submitting my applications, I waited to hear about interviews. By the end of February, the ones I hadn’t interviewed for basically seemed out of reach and now I know how it all panned out. So here’s a look at what things have been like since applying through admittance/denial notifications.

January 4th: Submitted UCLA Anderson application and paid $200 fee (deadline on 5th). Ordered GMAT scores sent to 4 schools for $112. When you take the GMAT, order scores sent to as many schools as possible. I believe it’s 5 for free, so might as well get the scores out to them. I had done so for 2 of the schools, but now needed to pay for the rest.

January 5th: Submitted Northwestern Kellogg application and paid $250 fee (deadline on 6th). Also submitted Harvard Business School application and paid $250 fee (deadline on 6th).

January 6th: Submitted Berkeley Haas application and paid $200 fee (deadline on 7th).

January 7th: Submitted USC Marshall application and paid $150 fee (deadline on 8th).

January 11th: Submitted Stanford GSB application and paid $275 fee (deadline on 12th). Kellogg received GMAT score report.

January 12th: Completed video interview for Kellogg, after many practice rounds.

January 15th: Anderson received GMAT score report.

January 29th: Kellogg off-campus interview information received (they try to interview everyone); I reached out to set up a time with my interviewer, an alumnus.

February 3rd: HBS decision posted as denial without interview. If I had gotten an interview, I would have been notified and then I would have had to plan a visit to the school to do it.

February 5th: Kellogg interview with the alumnus, who has been doing interviews for something like 12 years! Great conversation that lasted for 2 hours and made me feel like I did well.

February 10th: Invitation to interview by Marshall; I scheduled a Skype interview since I could not fly out in person.

February 25th: My mom suggested a call with my dad to learn from his business experience, so I called him up on Skype and listened to him for about 90 minutes. He had a lot to say and I learned quite a bit about his life and our family that I didn’t know before.

February 27th: Skype interview with Marshall MBA Ambassador, which went well.

March 5th: Call from Dean of Admissions at Marshall. I was eating dinner and didn’t recognize the number, so I didn’t pick up. I then forgot about the voicemail until the next day, when I listened to it and was THRILLED!! That was one less month of wringing my hands hoping for good news. 🙂

March 8th: Stanford GSB decision posted as denial. As with HBS, had I been selected for an interview, I would have been notified by then and scheduled something.

As the days ticked by in March, I pretty much knew that Haas and Anderson would be nos since I did not hear about an interview from either.

March 23rd: Northwestern Kellogg decision posted as denial.

March 24th: Berkeley Haas decision posted as denial.

March 29th: UCLA Anderson decision posted as denial, but with invitation to apply for FEMBA.

And there you have it! My experience throughout the period from application submissions to final decision notifications. Luckily, I knew I had a program to go to nearly a month earlier than I had anticipated, which was just fabulous. I didn’t get into any of the others unfortunately, but hey, that just means I’ve been able to focus on going to Marshall rather than being confused about which program to pick.

I’ve told my manager about my plans and finalized a last day at work: June 17th. He also announced my pending departure to the company since we are looking for someone to fill my role. With just two months to go, there’s a lot to try to accomplish but of course it’s hard not to want to look towards the future and focus on that. Later I’ll write up the whole experience with USC Marshall from now until I start in the fall!

 

Research your dreams

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , ,
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Do you have a BHAG for your life? Do you know what it will take to get there?

When I was in middle school, around 8th grade, I developed my own BHAG. I can’t remember how it came about, but somehow I recall playing full-contact basketball during lunch break, thinking about my future. I don’t know why I make the association thinking back, but that gym is the first place I can remember deciding that I wanted to get an MBA. I guess it was because I felt that I had three good options for a career: doctor, engineer, or businesswoman. I may have imagined it, but I’m pretty sure my dad told me that at some point.

Whatever the case, I became convinced that business was the way for me. And that led me to this idea of an MBA. As a 13-year-old, that does seem like a BHAG. Ultimately, it has taken me 17 years to realize that dream (and it’ll be 19 before the diploma is in hand). I’ve wanted an MBA for more than half my life now and that goal has sort of defined how I thought of myself. Back then, I hadn’t yet considered what I needed to do to reach my goal.

I started with first things first – in high school, I began to consider what majors I might be interested in. When I was accepted to UCLA, I learned that they had no business undergraduate major, so I had to get creative. I ended up choosing Psych & Econ to get two very different sides to what would be useful business skills. While I am proud of the double major I earned, I wish I had started to understand what it takes to get into b-school at that point. Had I known about the intense competition, I probably would have chosen majors I was most interested in – Gender Studies or Environmental Science, perhaps. Granted, the Environmental Science major was introduced too far into my college career to make a pivot without derailing my graduation timing completely.

What I wish I knew was that getting at least a 3.5 GPA would be extremely helpful towards my b-school applications down the line. Instead, I continued down the path I’d chosen from the get-go and my grades slipped as the work got more challenging, yet often was not as interesting to me. While I am interested in these topics, I do not have a great passion for them the way I do others. Had I researched what top MBA programs are looking for, I would have known to focus more on a major that I could get a high GPA in, one that I had a deep drive to learn and excel in. It’s not that I didn’t know grades would be important, but I figured a 3.0+ would suffice.

I consider my next misstep the choice to work for small companies. While I have enjoyed the experiences, I didn’t feel well-positioned as an applicant because the work I did was on a smaller scale. It’s hard to be responsible for impactful programs if the company is too small to have many of those opportunities. While I certainly took on quite a bit of work and led projects wherever I could, they didn’t sound nearly as impressive. With what I know now, I would have gone for larger organizations with bigger challenges.

But then again, maybe I’m just making excuses for why I didn’t make it into Stanford. Perhaps a higher GPA and different work experience wouldn’t have helped. I do feel proud of what I’ve done and the essays I wrote to convey that, but for all I know, those were not as strong as I feel they were. Ultimately, I would have done things a bit differently if I had looked into the details of what goes into applying for and getting into a program like Stanford GSB’s.

So if you have a BHAG, I encourage you to heavily research it. Learn from others and it will help you better position yourself for achieving that dream. I was fortunate that I was able to realize my dream and I’m thrilled to be attending USC Marshall in the fall. It was difficult though, because I had weaknesses in my application I needed to try to compensate for. I couldn’t go in the past to change what had happened, so I had to find ways to strengthen my application in other areas. I very well might not have been accepted at all. And this is a lesson I’m learning – that a dream worth pursuing is worth the time and effort to prepare for. As soon as you have that goal in mind, start learning everything you can to help you get there!

My next goal is to lead an organization’s Empowerment team (which is an amalgamation of People Operations, Culture, and Internal Operations). HR is a concept that has evolved to take on a negative meaning that people don’t really connect with, so I consider what I do to be the latest evolution of that functional role. I can’t wait to learn from others doing this work and take some classes on these ideas. I’ve been preparing for this for a long time. 🙂

I got my husband back!

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , ,
1

It’s been 5 long weeks since Panda left me and I finally have him back again. I will never agree to such a long work trip again. It was far too much. I managed to stay relatively sane the first three weeks, but the last two have been much harder. I even gave up on eating properly and didn’t feel like anything, so I ended up resorting to instant ramen, mac & cheese, and frozen pizzas.

Now that he’s back, things are more lively again and the nights aren’t so lonely. I get to enjoy having food prepared for me and having someone to talk to after work. Even the cats get to have someone else to rub up against and spend time with. It’s nice to settle back into home life for awhile, before everything gets uprooted and I move to wherever I need to for my MBA.

I find it interesting that everyone asks me about my husband moving with me (and no, he won’t be). When I tell them, they are all shocked at how we will pass two years apart. I guess it’s more normal for Asian cultures to handle being apart for long periods of time. My parents do it all the time and much of my childhood was spent away from one or both of them. I wonder how many married MBAs go without their spouse. It seems like I will be the exception.

Anyway, I’m excited for the next couple months, where I’ll have a last chance to live this schedule before being engulfed by school. Soon enough there will be trips, orientation, classes, and so much more. I look forward to the change of pace. Turns out I get bored of a regular work schedule and I crave more unpredictability. Until then, I will appreciate having Panda back at home, being a complete family with our cats. 🙂

The day (I knew) my life changed

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
2

I got a call yesterday during dinner, which I forgot about upon getting home. It wasn’t until this morning when I saw the voicemail and decided to listen to it. Imagine my complete surprise when it was Dean of Admissions at Marshall, Evan Bouffides! Can you guess what he said?

I’ve been offered admission!!!

I did not expect a decision until nearly a month from now, so it was really amazing to have a call much earlier than expected. I’ve been going between confident that I must get in because this is my dream and if I feel the win I’ll get it (yeah, not exactly logical) and insecure that I wouldn’t get in because I didn’t apply to enough schools that were within reach and aimed too high. I spent time questioning my choices, wondering how I had presented myself and if it was strong enough. I’d worry about my GPA not being high enough, my story not being strong enough, my future plans and vision not being grand enough, or even my age being a bit too high. You really just don’t know with these things and waiting is the worst part.

Thankfully, just a week after my interview with them, I’ve gotten the fantastic news and now I can breathe a little easier knowing I definitely have a program to join in the fall. I can’t wait to go visit the school during admit weekend! Now I’ll just have to see if any other school offers me admission and see where that leads me. 🙂

Yippee!!!! I’m going to get an MBA!!!

Teavana dragon tea set

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , ,
0

It’s been an arduous two months of trying to fix a situation with Teavana and finally, finally – I have my cast iron tea set! I’ve wanted it for years (I estimate 7 or 8) and with patient evaluation and a lovely gift card from friends, I now own the set I’ve had my eye on. For now I’m just going to enjoy the fact that I have the product at hand, but I’m still dealing with them to resolve the situation to my satisfaction. That will be quite a story for another time.

Let’s enjoy the products, shall we? 🙂 These cast iron items are meant to last a lifetime, so it’s certainly an investment. As you use them, the black is supposed to wear off a bit to reveal some more gold. I’m certainly happy with the quality of the items and the elegant feel of using them. I got the Imperial Dragon teapot because dragons are immensely important to Asian cultures and this is the one that I was attracted to time and time again. Best part? The ways the spout is designed is perfect. It doesn’t spill!

teavana gift bag with gift box, teapot, and tea

My Teavana imperial dragon cast iron teapot and free tea sample.

teavana gift box with ribbon and message

The box the teapot came in, with a message as you open it: Opening the Doors to Health, Wisdom & Happiness

teavana tea cups, warmer, and rock sugar

I ordered the accessories separate from the pot so I could take advantage of a deal. To reach the minimum spend, I ended up getting an extra cup. The rock sugar was the free product for the purchase.

teavana imperial dragon cast iron teapot 44 oz

If you ever go to a Teavana store, you’ll see them using one of these to brew Monkey Picked Oolong tea samples. Now I have my own!

teavana imperial dragon cast iron teapot lid and strainer

Inside, everything is coated in enamel that is supposed to slowly absorb the flavor of the tea and enrich it with each brew. There’s also a stainless steel strainer that reaches pretty much to the bottom of the pot for steeping.

teavana gold cast iron tea cups 4 oz

I got these gold ones to go with the black and gold theme. The cups are also enameled like the pot.

teavana imperial dragon cast iron tea cups 3 oz

These are the matching cups that go with the pot. All these cast iron products are made in Japan.

teavana medium cast iron warmer

I got a medium warmer to keep the pot hot. It’s almost the same size as the base of the teapot so maybe I should have gotten the large.

teavana medium cast iron warmer inside with area for tea light candle

You put a tea light inside and the heat of the flame helps keep your tea heated for hours! It maintains a temp that’s more than warm but not too hot to drink.

teavana peach tranquility tea sample in bag

I got a free ounce of Peach Tranquility when I got the teapot.

teavana monkey picked oolong tea sample in bag

My favorite, the Monkey Picked Oolong. The manager at Teavana gave me this sample for free because she felt so bad that should couldn’t help me. This was about a month into my ordeal.

teavana perfectea belgian brown rock sugar

Here’s a peek at the rock sugar that I got free with the cups & warmer order. It’s supposed to help enhance the flavor of tea without affecting it.

teavana imperial dragon cast iron tea set with teapot, cups, and hidden warmer

And there’s my tea set! As you can see the dragon cups and the gold ones are different sizes – the gold ones are wider and lower with 4 oz capacity while the dragon ones are taller and narrower with 3 oz capacity.

I’ve been using the set for about two weeks now and I’ve really enjoyed it. The flavor of the tea is great and doesn’t ever seem to get bitter as it often does in other scenarios. Something about the cast iron perhaps? I use the flame only when I plan on drinking quite a bit of tea in one sitting. For the most part, I add hot water to the pot and bring a cup to wherever I’m sitting. It makes the experience special every time and I’m so glad I got this. I shouldn’t ever have to replace it!

Down with the flu

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , ,
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Has it really been three days since my last post already?! Gosh, I’ve been pretty much bedridden this whole time. I first felt ill last week and began sneezing by Thursday. Friday I was working from home in bed and Saturday and Sunday I hung out inside as the snow piled up and Panda made a few runs at it. I was out sick Monday and Tuesday and will work from home tomorrow. Monday was the worst, when I was feverish with the chills, yet went through bouts of sweat spells. My whole body ached so bad and random nerves would have intense periods of pain. I had a headache the whole time and could hardly breathe much of the time. It was all very bizarre.

The last time I was this ill was two or three years ago, also in winter. I should really start getting flu shots, shouldn’t I? I’ve always had a rather strong immune system and wouldn’t get super sick, so as a child I enjoyed being a bit under the weather and spending the time to rest. However, nowadays my immune system might be weaker, or there may be more sick folks I’m exposed to, or the cold weather could affect me more. I don’t know what exactly, but it certainly is worse than it’s been in a very long time.

On Monday night, I was seriously doubting when I’d get better and imagined that pain extending until Thursday or later. Luckily, I woke up this morning feeling far better. Perhaps it was time and I had sweat enough, or perhaps that Aleve type pill I took did the trick. I had previously been taking a daytime flu thing or Excedrin when the pain was worst. I took less than half the recommended dosage, so that might have been a factor. I just don’t like so much medicine though!

Today I made it outside for the first time since Thursday and we got lunch and a few things at Costco. I was happy to stay inside again for the rest of the day. I don’t understand all those people claiming to have cabin fever not even 24 hours into the storm this weekend when I was inside for 5 days without a problem. Are you less likely to experience cabin fever if you’re sick and want to curl up in bed? I don’t think I would have felt it either way, since we luckily had no power outages in the area and I could easily use my devices or read with a light. For the most part, I took it easy and rested.

My head’s still cloudy and I’ve been coughing something nasty all day, but I’m well enough to get some work done from bed again tomorrow. We have a cool event on Thursday at the Australian Embassy, but I’m not sure I’ll be well enough to make it out. Too bad!

Blizzard 2016!

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses,Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
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Well, we’re almost done with this major storm of the season and it’s been pretty crazy! I happened to start getting sick this week and by Thursday, I was coughing and sneezing constantly. I was glad that we didn’t go to work on Friday and began to hunker down for the storm. All day today I’ve been coughing and trying to stay warm, but I don’t think I’ve made much progress. I did go out a few times to peek at the snow building up. Here’s a look at some pics!

snow level on cars before blizzard 2016

It started around 1pm Friday for us in Loudoun/Fairfax Counties.

snow level on cars one hour into blizzard 2016

An hour into it, we were seeing accumulation.

snow level on cars four hours into blizzard 2016

Three hours later, everything was pretty white.

snow level on cars seventeen hours into blizzard 2016

I woke up at 6 today to find the cars disappearing.

snow level on cars twenty-seven hours into blizzard 2016

27 hours in and the cars can hardly be found.

snow level on cars thirty hours into blizzard 2016

They’re pretty encased, but the wind keeps moving snow around.

snowblower pieces on ground with cable previously caught in blade

The first time Panda used his new snowblower, he ran over the power cable and we spent a long time taking it apart to release the cable.

man pushing snowblower outside on driveway during blizzard 2016

It works quite well, but then the blizzard would blow the snow right back.

snow crusting on windows and screens during blizzard 2016

The wind pummeled snow onto the windows and it became hard to see outside.

snow gathering on porch during blizzard 2016

The porch even got a fair amount of snow.

snow in plastic buckets/tubs to clear porch during blizzard 2016

To remove the snow from the porch, we began to take buckets of it to the bathtub so our neighbor below wouldn’t get all the stuff we swept off.

snow piled in tub during blizzard 2016

Melting snow in the tub!

cat pawprints on cleaned porch during blizzard 2016

Smokey took the opportunity to enjoy the newly cleaned porch.

sidewalk shoveled and recovered by blizzard 2016

Our neighbors were very diligent in shoveling their sidewalk every few hours only to have the snow blown back.

man crawling on belly in deep snow during blizzard 2016

One neighbor found it easier to crawl out to the road.

snow drifts by front door from blizzard 2016

The wind blew a ton of snow to our front door area!

partially-shoveled snow accumulation of blizzard 2016

Panda began to shovel a path out to the driveway.

blizzard 2016 piling snow past windows

On the right is our neighbor’s front door area, which is completely snowed in.

surrounded by high piles of snow from blizzard 2016

So much snow! I was hoping for more than 3 feet, which it is around me, but out in the open areas it was about 27.3 inches.

My MBA application experience 

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , ,
1

A little over two months ago, I finally decided to buckle down and apply for grad school. Deadlines for Round 2 applications were the first and second week of January. I wasn’t sure if the time I’d allotted myself was going to be tight, but it was time to take this next step. Here’s how it’s gone for me… (want to skip right to my tips at the end?)

Choosing the schools

I knew that I wanted to apply to 5-6 programs, so I began looking at the top 25 ranked in the US. I considered applying to international programs as well, but ultimately decided not to because I intend to work for businesses in the states. While I would love international opportunities, my home base will always come back to the US, so going to a school domestically made more sense.

From the initial list, I came out with the programs I was most interested in: #1 Stanford GSB, #2 Harvard Business School, #3 UPenn Wharton, #4 Chicago Booth, #6 Northwestern Kellogg, #7 Berkeley Haas, #10 UVA Darden, #15 UCLA Anderson, #24 Georgetown McDonough, and #25 USC Marshall. Whew, that’s a lot! So I started narrowing down based on program structure, competitiveness, and personal appeal. That still left 8 options. I managed to eliminate Wharton and Booth because they felt more technical/finance-focused. To me, Wharton, Booth, and Kellogg were at very similar levels, so I decided to choose one of the three.

It was really hard for me to bring it down to the 6 max that I wanted to adhere to, so I kept going back and forth for awhile until I realized that I was really including Darden and McDonough for their proximity to Panda. But if you think about it, MBAs are so time-consuming that being nearby might not mean I have much time to see him anyway. So off they went and there was my final list: Stanford, Harvard, Kellogg, Haas, Anderson, and Marshall. I wanted to maintain a good spread across the rankings to give myself a very good chance of making it into at least one of the programs. #fingerscrossed

Preparing to apply

I’m fortunate enough to know some current and former MBA students at programs that I was planning on applying to. I reached out to many of them and got a chance to connect with three. After spending some time chatting with each of them, I got an understanding that I should really share my personal story. They also recommended reaching out to students or alumni of the other programs and try to do campus visits if possible.

I did manage to do some student meetups and a campus tour, but for the most part, I scoured their websites for details. Based on the courses they offer, the extracurriculars, and how they message their ideas, it gave me a sense of each of their brands. There are parts of each that I really appreciate and would love to be a part of. I definitely think it’s important to find programs that I’ll enjoy and will attract people I can connect with and learn from. Each has their own prestige, so that’s helpful too.

Thinking about essays

The very first thing I did application-wise was compile all of the essay questions and think about them all day long. Whenever an idea struck me, I wrote it down and I kept expanding my notes as I drafted and edited my essays. These were the most labor-intensive, with a lot of reflection and self-analysis. It took me awhile to finally find what I felt was a cohesive story that explained my motivations for where I’m going and how where I’ve been influenced that path.

On the surface, my jobs have been somewhat progressive, but not along a clear career path. However, digging deeper, I noticed that so many of the projects I took on stemmed from the same source. It turns out that the common thread between my roles was always the idea of empowering through resources. I really enjoy helping people and being resourceful, so I consolidated resources and built databases and processes because I believe that giving people the right tools, skills and knowledge empowers them to strive for more. No matter what, that has always driven me in my work.

As part of my research for applications, I dove into a variety of business books, online articles, and even TV shows. Each tied back to my thoughts on my essays. When I watched The Voice, I thought about expressing my true self and being genuine. When I read Uncontainable, I noted my own values and the key ways I intend to change the corporate landscape. Everything tied back to my philosophies on life and how that applied to my approach to business.

Choosing recommenders

I had always had one person in mind as a recommender, because he had worked with me pretty much since I started at my current company. He had a good sense of the many projects that I’ve done and we collaborated on quite a few. What I waffled on at first was whether to ask my direct supervisor or someone else. What if knowing that I was slowly on my way out affected the opportunities I received at work? What if that changed their perception of me? I thought about choosing someone else, but then I decided that I’d rather my manager know now instead of having to explain to him months down the line what I’d been up to. Plus, my office is a supportive environment where reaching for a goal like this is applauded.

I asked both gentlemen as soon as I made up my mind on them and my schools. Both happily agreed, and I put together a document of bullet points to share with them. I split my notes into two categories: Leadership & Initiative and Teamwork. I felt these were the key components of my experience and encapsulated many things I had done. One of my MBA friends had shared a “recommender tips” document that he had used, which I repurposed and shared with my recommenders. It basically summarized to this: the most effective recommendations are ones with concrete examples that paint a picture so vivid that the reader can feel me jumping out of the page.

I registered for all the applications and set up my recommenders to give them ample time to fill them out. One thing I learned from this is to make it crystal clear that some schools have a very specific format and set of questions they want answered. A general letter will not do. The recommenders should be prepared for the amount of effort this will take on their part. In addition to the essays, there are evaluation grids to fill out. It’s no simple task and you shouldn’t be shy about following up. Stay on top of those recommenders!

Filling out the applications

I probably should have done a dry run through all the applications early on so I would know what to prepare. For Haas, they require copies of official transcripts, which I did not have on hand. When I tried to order them from my school, they were on winter break and would only return two days before the application deadline! So I had to rush the order and ask my mom to go get them from the school. At another point, I wasn’t sure if my Kellogg application would be accepted because my GMAT scores had not been sent to the school and they needed them by the deadline! Yikes! But it turns out that they are actually ok with the scores being available later as long as they can view them when they get to my application.

To avoid any last-minute efforts, definitely go through the applications to see what fields they have and what required documentation there is. I was so caught up in essays that I figured filling out the forms would be easy, but they actually took quite a long time. You have to manually type in your previous job and extracurricular experience, which can add up quickly when you’ve had a few. Plus, there are certain documents that you may not have prepared that you should be aware of.

There were parts that I didn’t really think would come up, like my parents’ education, my international experience, and even my hobbies. I expected things like work experience, awards and honors, as well as extracurricular activities. The rest was pretty random additional information that varied by school. Stanford even asked for your favorite word!

Check, check, check!

So once you’ve got all these pieces together, make sure you have at least one other person take a look at your applications. I had my trusty husband go through and point out weak areas for me. He also kept an eye out for minor errors/typos after I’d been staring at everything for too long. Give yourself enough time to input all the data and proofread at least two or three times. You want to be as professional as possible and any grammatical error or typo can work against you.

When you’re ready to submit (at least hours, if not a day or more before the deadline), make sure you get confirmation emails that your application was received and so was your payment. You don’t want to miss out on an opportunity because of a glitch or because you forgot to pay the fee. Oh yeah, you’ll want to be ready to pay about $150-275 per application. That adds up fast!

For Kellogg, they had one more step after the application was submitted: the video essays. So if your program has something like that, make sure you spend time rehearsing. The program they use allows you to practice with the software until you’re comfortable, so I must have done it 20 times until my eye contact was steady and my answers could fit into the allotted 60 seconds. It’s amazing how shifty you can seem on your first try, so neeever jump right into it.

Once you’re all done, each application usually allows you to download a proof as a PDF, which I definitely recommend you do. Keep that for your records, so you can use it if there are any discrepancies. Plus, it helps you remember what you sent them!

 

So, these are the tips I have for the process up until those applications are submitted:

-When choosing which programs to apply to, go through each school’s websites to learn as much as you can. Try to keep your choices to 6 or you might be stretched too thin (and your recommenders won’t give up on filling out so many!).

-Sign up for their mailing lists ASAP so you know if there are local students you can meet or if/when an admission officer will be in your area. This is a great way to evaluate schools and learn things that can help with how you focus your application. Each program values different things and each school has a different culture.

-Take the GMAT/GRE before all the application madness if possible, so it’s one less thing to worry about.

-Read carefully through requirements. Do they need a GMAT score or do they accept GRE as well? Do they require scores to be sent or can you self-report for now? Do they need official transcripts sent or are unofficial transcripts acceptable initially? Prep these early as needed.

-Think about the narrative you’re going to tell. It’s hard to distill everything you’ve done and who you are into a neat package, but choose that one trait that best sums it up. Look at the work you’ve done, the activities you’ve been involved in, and even your personal background to connect the dots. A cohesive story makes the picture clearer and easier to digest.

-Based on your narrative, choose recommenders who can speak to the work you’ve done around what you’re focusing on. Put together some examples that the recommenders can choose to write about, which may differ greatly depending on your interactions with them. The more they can personalize it and relate it back to your theme (as well as tie it in to what matters to the school), the more impactful they will be.

-Follow up with your recommenders to make sure things are on track! If one of them needs to change, you want ample time to swap them out.

-Go through all the fields that each application requires. This will give you a sense of extra materials you’ll need to pull together, like your parents’ educational histories, your extracurriculars, any awards or recognition, or even international experience. The UCLA Anderson app had a paragraph to summarize hobbies and the Kellogg app asked for international experience as well as video essays. Know about these ahead of time so you’re prepared! Even the way they ask you to fill out work info varies greatly, so take a peek at how that’s structured.

-Start setting aside the amount of money you’ll need for the fees if you don’t have that readily available. Most seem to be $150-275. There are some cases where you can get the fee waived, so if you’re really strapped for cash, see if you qualify for any.

-I would allocate at least 10 days per app at the least, giving yourself time to have a breather when things were intense and you needed some time away from staring at these applications.

-Proofread your application a few times and have at least one other person go through the final version if you can.

-Submit your application well ahead of the deadline! I did them all the day before, so if anything went awry, I’d have the following day to figure it out.

-Be sure to get confirmation emails that your application was submitted AND payment was received. Otherwise you might not make it into the round you want!

 

Any other tips you’d share? Let me know! Now I’m just waiting to hear back on interviews…

Finding myself

laelene Posted in mba,Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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As I apply to MBA programs, I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching. All this introspection makes me take time to really consider what it is that matters to me and what sort of person I want to become. It’s a great exercise that I feel like we should all do more often.

So as Stanford GSB asks, what matters to me and why? So many things come to mind: empowerment, collaboration, change, balance, diversity/uniqueness, fulfillment, compassion. Each of these because of how they enable us to improve our lives, to be better versions of ourselves. Ultimately, I think it boils down to empowerment. When people are empowered through education or resources or connections, they can take themselves to a better place bit by bit. And aren’t we all pursuing incremental improvements that will culminate into a life that we can look back on and be pleased with?

For years, I’ve yearned to find my calling. I’d watch shows, read articles, and hear interviews of successful people following their passion as if answering a calling. Many of them spoke about how they’ve always felt the deep desire to (fill in the blank). Meanwhile, I searched and searched for my calling. Was it animals? Nature? Photography? Travel? Blogging? Entrepreneurism? So many options seemed compelling, but no single one stood out to me above the others. I was trying so hard to get a little bit of everything I wanted.

Recently, in writing my essays for my MBA applications, I’ve finally figured it out. What is it that I can spend hours reading about, thinking about, talking about? Sure I love animals and I volunteer with insects, I take photos all the time and love getting that amazing shot, and I have been blogging for years… but I don’t engross myself in science articles or photo editing or blogging tips the way I do business articles and interviews.

When it comes to business – in particular, management principles, hiring practices, and above all – culture, I am obsessed. For me, culture drives everything. Culture determines the type of people you attract, the way they behave (and therefore the output they’ll create), the effectiveness of your brand, etc. etc. etc. I literally devour everything I find mentioning anything related to company culture, hiring, and training. I could sit (or stand, or walk) and talk about ideas around these concepts for days. I constantly have new thoughts that I add to my every-growing ideas document.

While I often get distracted by the many other things I am passionate for, I don’t spend nearly as much time and energy on any of those topics. This is how I know that the thing I would get up in the morning for above all else is the opportunity to cultivate an amazing and likely unconventional culture. To do that, I want my vehicle of change to be empowerment. By creating mechanisms through which people are empowered with the knowledge or resources or contacts they need, I can help them become better people. Better people thrive and feed into a culture that is supportive, collaborative, and empowering. And thus the cycle goes, building upon itself and sustaining itself even as it grows.

I’m still finding myself, but this time spent being self-reflective has given me a lot of insight into who I am and who I aspire to be. I’m starting to notice the patterns in my life that draw from an underlying current that I hadn’t observed before. All these seemingly disparate choices have come together to paint a clearer picture of what motivates me. I have gained confidence in what I should do with my life because I can now see the forces that have been there all along, creating the themes that define me. Now I just hope I can clearly articulate to the admissions committee!

iCloud, you’re dead to me

laelene Posted in lifestyle glimpses, stories,Tags: , , , ,
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May I rant a bit? It’s been weeks since my iCloud backup worked and Apple support didn’t solve my problem. I’ve given up on using it and I’m so frustrated with Apple.

It began a couple of weeks ago. With one of the iOS 9 updates, everything went awry. My backups used to take up about 3.3-3.5 GB worth of space and then suddenly I was getting an error message pretty much daily, telling me I didn’t have enough space in iCloud. So I try deleting the current backup to free up the 5 GB of space and trying again with no success. I thought the issue was that the photo backup got turned back on, so I tried turning it off. Sometimes it would straight up give me an error message that it couldn’t be turned off at that time and sometimes it would look like I had turned it off, but then got undone the next time I went back.

After much troubleshooting and trying tons of things, I finally booked an appointment at the Apple Store. Coming out of that appointment, I’ve decided to write off iCloud entirely. As it turns out, it is completely useless to me (unless I want to pay). I was passed from one person to the next and ultimately dealt with four different people, two in the store and two on the phone. They ended up telling me that my options were to either pay for more storage or do manual backups to the computer. Let me tell you, I was not a happy camper when that’s all they could come up with.

screenshot of icloud backup screen with options

What’s the point of turning off Photo Library if supposedly you can’t turn off photos in iCloud? I still don’t believe those folks knew what they were talking about.

My greatest problem with what happened was that my backups were well within the limit for years. Suddenly, the space needed for the backup jumps up to nearly triple the amount of space for no reason? It’s not like I suddenly started sending a lot of text messages, taking a lot of pictures, or downloading a lot of new apps. I had no spike in activity, so therefore I expect no spike in the storage space. Not a single one of them could explain that to me. Furthermore, they said that my photos were always backed up and I couldn’t turn that off. Then what in the world is the Backup Options list with Photo Library as an option for?! And how could I have EVER successfully backed up when I know I’ve had way more than 5 GB in photos alone all these years? Yet somehow, I’m expected to believe that it magically worked all along and a good 10-15 GB of photos were able to squeeze themselves into a 3.5 GB backup.

I guess what bothered me the most was the complete lack of logic in how things could have worked before and how they could have changed so drastically without explanation. Telling me that, “Well if you just buy the extra storage then this wouldn’t be an issue,” is not going to help. Of course I know I can PAY you to get more storage. And I don’t care how small the cost is, it’s the principal of the matter that it worked before and now it doesn’t. What sort of technology gets worse as it updates?

So many other problems came up too, all with no sensible explanation. Why did an attempted backup fail yet still take up 3 GB of space? “It tried to back up some of the data.” Why wouldn’t that try to take up the whole 5 GB? Why does it stop at 3 GB each time? (No idea.) Why does Next Backup Size say 0 bytes and all apps say No Data? Does that mean nothing gets backed up? Then how could I not have enough space for nothing?! And on and on and on…

So because of that, iCloud is dead to me. Yet ironically, as I write this and look at my phone settings, iCloud backup is magically working again. Photos off, backup at 3.1 GB. I can’t trust those Apple people to know anything about their products.

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