Tag Archives: business school

Graduate School… Costs a Fortune Before You Get In

Forget the cost of tuition, room and board, the cost of applying to graduate school is fiercely staring at my quivering piggy bank like an angry honey badger ready to pounce on an unsuspecting snake long before I’ve even scribbled a sentence of my application essay.

To get into a top masters program — MBA or otherwise — you need to stand out for more than just your GPA. When your GPA makes you stand out for the wrong reasons, you’re far behind the curve. It isn’t clear if it’s possible to run really fast and hard to make it over that hump (ie pay expert consultants a lot of money to teach you the right speed to run and how your feet should hit the ground every step of the way) but the consultants surely will tell you that without them, you’ll be sitting down where you started, exhausted, looking up at a giant insurmountable lump of your future.

The cost for a live or online GMAT study program is somewhere around $1000 – $1400. There are cheaper programs, of course, and plenty of ways to get some books and study on your own, but many advise to take one of the classes if you’re the kind of person to underachieve on standardized tests. But for the candidates who really want to do well, you can pour hundreds or thousands of dollars more into private tutoring… just so you’ll break 700 or 750.

Consulting by admissions experts for the top programs is even more painful. One program I was examining the other night cost $3500 for a full package of help and edits to apply to just one school. Plenty may argue that putting $5000 – $10,000 into preparing yourself to apply for a top ranked program is worth it because on the other side of the hill… long after the field trips and late nights getting intimate with statistics… there’s a miraculous salary increase that will improve your overall lifetime earnings by, well, something around a lot of money, give or take a decimal point. But that’s IF you get in. All the coaching and test-taking advice in the world may never be enough. It’s a gamble either way. And if you can do it on your own (obviously there are plenty of people who have got into top MBA programs without draining their savings on outside help) then why seek out an expert?

Looking at my semi-healthy bank account, I can’t fathom draining my cash or stocks for this kind of coaching. And maybe that’s why I’ll never be an MBA student or even masters student. I figure, if it’s not meant to be, it’s not meant to be. And, meanwhile, am somewhat jealous of the people in the world that can afford such coaching, and their Harvard / Stanford / Wharton / Kellogg / Haas / Ross pedigree.

Graduate School: Still an Option, But is it Worth It?

I’m not an academic. Since I was young, I couldn’t focus in class, I rarely completed my homework, and while I supposedly had a lot of potential and was at once point dubbed “gifted” by the public school system, academia was never my forte.

So why, now that I’ve earned a college degree and made a career for myself, still long to return to the Ivy Tower? And what would I return for?

I’m still torn between options, including whether to apply at all. On a pure rational front, I’d be best off getting an MBA if I could manage to score high on the GMATs. At this point I think my experience has a shot at canceling out my less-than-exceptional undergraduate transcripts, but the GMAT would be a toughie.

But does an MBA even make sense for me? I’ve worked with many people who have MBAs, and many who don’t. I’ve been managed by MBAs and I’ve been managed by engineers-turned-marketers and artists-turned-non-profit-owners-turned-business-women. I’ve been managed by people who get it and people who don’t, people who succeed by pure luck and others by pure talent, and others who fail for all the wrong reasons. So why get an MBA?

Partially, I want to do it for myself to prove I can. It would look great on my resume (if I go to a top 10 school which, again, is not exactly an easy feat given my overall credentials.) I’d spend two years focused on learning about business — and maybe I’d even learn something practical to apply in the real world. Mostly, I’d feel more confident in my experience as a marketer with an MBA under my belt. I don’t need one, but to really move up the ladder I either need to start my own company or get an advanced degree. Or have friends in high places.

The other option, still, is to go to graduate school for interaction design. I’d enjoy this more, but I worry it’s too focused in an area that has limited value if you don’t know how to program well. I could learn a bit of programming on my own or in school, but I’ll never be the programmer who moved into design. I’ll also never be the programmer who moved into business management. It seems I’m already in trouble, not being a programmer and all.

I feel like I’m at a point in my life where I need to make a decision on this. I’m 26 now, and I’m not getting any younger. I’ve had a solid 5 years of work experience in non-profit, start-up, and large international corporate environments. I’m still not sure where I fit into the work world. I feel awkward in marketing, as I’m not super creative, nor am I brilliant with numbers, and I’m also shy in a field run by the outgoing. Most of all, I dislike “marketing” as a field where you must produce lies to sell a product that isn’t as good as it could be, if the business was managed better and the consumers were actually listened to. Which leads me to thinking I really ought to run my own company. And I don’t really need an MBA for that. I need an MBA if I want to be middle management. And I don’t see myself as middle management. I know middle managers. They are great people, but a different breed of people. They are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their business targets. That’s what capitalism is all about. A little lie, here and there. Make everyone want what you’re selling, no matter how much it’s “worth.”

Is that where an MBA would lead me? I don’t know if I have the stamina to lead, though I know in the long run I’ll never have the heart to follow.

What do you think I should do?

Look for a New Job or Apply to Grad School?

A few days ago I wrote a post about how I’m going to take the GMAT in 2010, but I’m still unsure that’s the best idea. I feel like I’m ready for a change, and ready to focus on education right now. I don’t want to put grad school off much longer, despite being incapacitated by my fear of educational loans and debt.

There are still things I like about my job, but not many. Largely I just need like I’m not needed anymore and the few things I could do to help, I’m not allowed to do. I’m in a very odd spot.

I have a hard time reading my mind and separating out what I really want to do from my escapist tendencies. I’ve been in this job over two years now which is really good for me, but I feel really stuck. My biggest problem is that I have trouble marketing a product that is flawed in ways that it needn’t be flawed.

I don’t know how people separate their work from their emotions. I always, ALWAYS get emotionally involved in the work I do. And when things are imperfect I find it impossible to just accept that and ignore it and do my job.

But going to grad school ISN’T going to change that. There will always be people who don’t want to listen. And there will always be times when I’m wrong even though my gut tells me I’m right. I feel like at least with a graduate degree I’ll have a little more clout, or an opportunity to be in a role that has final say about something.

I don’t fit in with the culture here at all, but I’m not sure where I’d fit. If I go to grad school for the field I want to study I’d likely end up back in a company just like this. Maybe the culture would be slightly different, but designers as a whole seem to be faced with the problem of having engineers and the marketing team and the CEO alter their designs until there is no design left.

The reason I’m drawn to an MBA is that maybe I can be in charge one day. But I don’t really want to be in charge, I don’t want all that responsibility on my shoulders. I don’t mind running my own freelance writing “business” because if something goes wrong I’m the one who loses money… no the investors or coworkers because I don’t have any. I like that kind of responsibility. I’m terrified of being responsible for a business. And still having to convince people that my ideas are right.

So do I apply to grad school now? I kind of… well, I kind of really want to. I’m trying to think about why I shouldn’t and should…

Why I should apply…

– Time to study a field I’m really interested in and obtain skills that I didn’t get during undergrad
– Be in an environment where people are allowed to explore perfection without business realities (ie design school)
– If I get in, I can still decide not to go, but at least I’d have the option
– Have an “end date” to my current job that is set, so I can survive each day until I leave
– Open doors for myself that are currently closed due to my experience
– Shake up my life a bit, get myself out of this funk, move on to the next phase of my life
– maybe my boyfriend would be more inspired to apply to grad school if I did, and especially if I got in and had plans to leave town
– Explore new career paths that I’m not even fully aware of yet
– Make contacts and get solid faculty recommendations
– Secure internships in design that I can’t do as a non student
– To prove to myself that I can get in to grad school
– To prove to myself that I belong in grad school

Why I shouldn’t apply…

– I probably can’t get into the schools I’d want to go to with my GRE scores and GPA
– I struggle with consistency in academic work and I’m worried I’d fail, never get my degree but still be in debt from school
– Going to grad school doesn’t guarantee a good job after I graduate. It could even hurt my chances of being employed, though that’s unlikely in my field
– It’s possible to pick up skills by taking non matriculated classes nearby and to change professions without a masters degree
– A business degree might make more sense even though I’d rather be a designer than a CEO… but if I am the CEO at least I can have final say on design
– I’d have to ask for letters of recommendation from my current employers, so they’d know I’m trying to leave, and if I don’t get in that would be even more awkward
– If I ask for letters of recommendation from my coworkers and then I get in and decide not to go, that will also look bad
– Did I mention debt?
– I like living in the bay area and the grad schools I’m looking at are far away. I’d have to move again. I hate moving. I really, really, really hate moving.
– I will miss my boyfriend. A lot. We’ve been together almost 4 years now. It would be tough being away from him.

Preparing to take the GMAT in 2010

I decided today that I am going to take the GMAT in October of 2010. It’s too early to even sign up for a test date, but I’m going to start studying for the test. Worst case scenerio I decide to retake the GRE instead and my math skills have improved, or I end up in a job I love and I have no reason to go to grad school right now or ever, and I know a bit more about grammar and Algebra II.

But where do I start? I made a very strict study plan for the GREs (noting how many new words I needed to learn each day) and that lasted about a week before I threw myself off. With the GMAT, there is no date I “need” to take it, but I’d like to aim for October because that should be enough time to study — really study — without waiting too long that I’ll just procrastinate and not study at all.

I’m not a smart person. But I’d like to see if it’s possible to do well on a formulaic test without a high IQ.

Have you ever taken the GMAT? What study advice do you have?