After A Disappointing GMAT Score: Decompression & Detox in Vegas!

Survived an “earthquake”, narrowly escaped a hurricane, all to return back to the West Coast, a GMAT retake and B-School Apps!

Mood: Thankful – to be alive and safe!

Musing: Flying first class in many ways is like a blind date: You and your seat companion start with drinks, then get served a fairly decent dinner, and watch the same in flight movie separately… and occasionally there’s the possibility of an awkward and abrupt good-bye.

Case in point: I spent the last two weeks working out east, and flying back home last week, I got upgraded to First on Delta which hardly ever happens (It’s all about Star Alliance!). I was seated next to a gentleman who broke the ice by asking me about my thoughts regarding sustainability in a factory environment. He turns out to be a VP of Nike, and we chat at length as he had also gone to business school, and chose Thunderbird over HBS due to their excellent international program and “fit”.  Apparently, back in the day, HBS didn’t even require the GMAT!  We both had some laughs about how things have changed.

2 important pieces from the conversation I remember:

#1: the MBA is a great degree, but I can probably get where I need to be without it.  It’s not necessarily the MBA itself that is great, but what you make out of the experience.

#2: make your essays stand out. He had someone coaching him, through it was an international student, and drew upon his unique experiences and international background.

So I’m thinking this is a great networking opportunity and he would be a good resource down the line, but they happen to play “Water for Elephants” and I start tearing up halfway through (not because of the star-crossed lovers story, but because of the animal cruelty, though fictionalized, is still very upsetting) C’mon, it’s Edward Cullen and Elle Woods – an odd combination, but it kind of works.  I’m too embarrassed to ask to connect on LinkedIn, especially since I pass out soon after and wake up to the plane landing.

I know its been a while since I’ve updated this blog, but I felt like after the GMAT, I just needed some time to decompress and detox.

Of course that happened to be in Las Vegas, where I headed that Thursday night with a group of 5 girlfriends.  Things to bring to Vegas: sunscreen. 5-hour energy. Good judgment. Small bills for tips. Comfortable walking shoes.  Spontaneity.

Things to leave behind: Children. Significant others. Work. GMAT materials (I did not heed my own advice on the last two and ended up working and reading blogs poolside at our death rays hotel)

After talking so much smack about Sin City “There’s nothing to do here during the day but gamble!” and “It’s just a glorified desert!” I have to admit I was awestruck during the limo ride down the strip.  To my right was New York and to my left was Paris, beautiful resorts and people all around, excess and decadence and so much going on at all hours of the night – perhaps the complete opposite of my dear PNW city.  It was a blur of an amazing weekend – from a party at the Palms hosted by DJ Pauly D, beautiful city rooftop bar views, to free tickets to see Phantom of the Opera by a random couple on the strip, comedy shows, good food, on a roll at craps for 30 minutes (you can call me “Shooter”), and cramming six girls into a tiny suite, I all but forgot about the GMAT, yet emerged more motivated again to retake.

Laying by our infamous hotel pool, I pulled up Poets and Quants, Beat the Gmat Forums, and my email on my iPad.  I started reading comments from others who expressed they were in the same position and were encouraging about retaking, then from others who recounted their own experiences and said I should just move on.  I realized – I’m not a quitter, and there’s no harm in trying.  If I just gave up on the GMAT then and there, without at least trying once more, looking back a few months, I would regret it.  I need to take it again just to know that I tried, and it is still perfectly reasonable to apply R2.  I just scheduled to take the exam on September 19th, about three weeks away.  I realize that my first time taking the exam was in a way, to get acquainted with the test, and now that I know what to expect, I can be more confident heading in.

I received in the mail my official score report and got a 6 on the AWA – whoo-hooey!!  For someone who was not born in the US and grew up in a non-English speaking household, I feel pretty good about the essays and hope that section will also be stress-free in the retake.

More importantly, I’m really looking forward to the other components of the application, and know that I need to start outlining my essays and asking for letters of recommendations.  The former, I look forward to with great enthusiasm as this is where I will have the greatest control in my application and can let my true personality shine, and the latter I dread, because that means I will have to let my employer know about my intentions of going back to B-School.

Now I’ve said many times that I love my job, and that it has been a perfect fit for me right after college.  Working in the educational sector, lots of travel, and getting to participate in a variety of assignments whether it is facilitating a workshop internationally or strategically planning with Superintendents and Heads of School, I get to tap into my strengths (creativity, interacting with others, presenting, client management) as well as work on my areas for growth (also presenting, client strategy, business development).  My company has implicitly stated that they won’t pay for a graduate degree, a graduate degree doesn’t matter there, and many of my colleagues who have attempted to leave to get their degree were unsuccessful; being wooed back with promotions, $$ and so on.

Not me – I’m determined to stand firm with my reasons of why I want to go back, but my fear is that my supervisor, a partner of the firm who I have a great relationship with and knows my strengths, will not write me a recommendation, or do so reluctantly.  Though he also has a graduate degree, I can anticipate there will be some tough questions especially since there are also some major organizational changes underway within my company and now more than ever, it would be important to retain the existing consultants.

My new dilemma is the ask – by nature, I’m a giver and am very eager to help others, whether it’s lending my roomie my car or letting people stay at my place, and can easily ask strangers for things.  I have a difficult time asking at work, partly because I haven’t really had to, as many of my assignments and projects have been assigned, but also because of the fear of the “no”.  I also worry about making my intentions of going back to school known too early, and forgo getting additional responsibilities or promotions, so I will continue to struggle with timing and the approach of “the ask”.  My best bet now is to put together a good packet for my recommenders with talking points, how B-school can help me reach my goals, and give them plenty of time.

The last thing I feel like I should mention is, I’m finally firming up the list of schools I’m applying to and realistically, will need to target R2.  Working in DC, I texted a girlfriend from undergrad – she is also applying for the MBA, and while we are on opposite coasts, we will be encouraging each other.  These last few weeks right after the GMAT really convinced me that I need to narrow down my list.  I’ve submitted my profile to be *hopefully* evaluated by HBSGuru aka Sandy on P&Q and will probably ask a few other consultants of their thoughts, but want to make sure that I have a solid list of schools to work from as I will need to do more in-depth research and connect with students and faculty.

All the advice and blog comments regarding whether to retake the GMAT has been wonderful – it’s comforting knowing that others have been in my exact same place and that I’m not paranoid for thinking about retaking or even being a bit frustrated with that score.  I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again – I’m excited to be a part of this collective, ridiculous journey of applying to B-School and to hear from others that are also a part of it just makes the journey a lot more meaningful, and even more enjoyable.   There is some corny cliche abound regarding “the journey rather than the destination” but I think it does make sense in this case, as I’m learning a lot about myself through these small steps – essays, school research, and of course, even the GMAT 🙂

Alright, time to hit the sack.  After 2+ crazy weeks of non-stop traveling and on-site client work, 16 hour work days, and eluding natural disasters (was conducting a session in Baltimore when the earthquake hit a few miles south, and driving back to Boston from Cape Cod with gusts from the impending Irene), there’s a ton of work to catch up on, practice GMAT exams to get back into, and sleep to relish!


Bucket List Continued:

29. Join a board of directors for a non-profit. In high school, I was a youth representative on a board of directors for the local chapter of a national non-profit (Camp Fire USA) and learned so much, and was excited that I had some say in the direction of an amazing organization.  While one of my many dreams is to lead a non-profit type organization, being on a board can be a hugely influential role depending on how you leverage it.

Mango is a consultant in the Pacific Northwest who is applying to business schools so she would graduate in the Class of 2014. This report is adapted from her blog posts at Por qué MBA? One Girl’s MBA Application Journey!

Her previous posts on Poets&Quants:

Introducing Mango and her pursuit of a seat in the Class of 2014

Why I’m Applying to Business School

Applying to B-School Is a Marathon–Not a Sprint

Making a Date with GMAT

Breaking 700 on the Third GMAT Practice Test

The GMAT Test Is a Beast!

A Happy Dance After Scoring 750 on a GMAT Practice Test

After a 690 Score, The Big Question: Should I Retake the GMAT?

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