For the past ten months, I embarked on the frustrating and eventually fruitful application process for the Tepper School of Business (Carnegie Mellon). Although I tried to create some sort of theme for this post, I thought specific blurbs would best encompass my thoughts of the process and what I am up against in the future.
After studying for the GMAT for six months, I finally pulled the trigger on the online test. For someone used to “Old-school” tests on paper or filling out bubbles (which our kids will laugh at when we talk about Scantrons), it certainly was a new phenomenon.
The entire GMAT test taking process felt like the twilight zone. I sat in the waiting room for forty minutes and played the anti-staring contest with my fellow waiters. The best comparison to this environment would be a liquor store. No patron at the liquor store makes eye contact with another patron unless they walked in with the person. Now imagine thirty testers, all in their twenties, acting the same way.
Since everyone had to leave their cellphones in a locker, we all looked at a laminated sheet of test instructions like it had the United States nuclear codes on it. After this test before the test, I was given a sharpie, a laminated piece of paper, and head phones that air traffic controllers where. If 2 Chainz held a concert five feet behind me, I would have been blissfully unaware.
When my application process started, the Carnegie Mellon program I ended up in (FlexMBA) did not even exist. For CMU, I went to two MBA fairs, two online information sessions, three campus visits, spoke on the phone to four different admissions members, and was in email correspondence with eight separate people.
Basically I was giving the admissions office the Johnson Treatment:
“Look at these wonderful GMAT scores, these extracurricular activities, and my wide range of professional experiences! Wait, what was my what? Are you saying grades? Was that GPS or GPA you were mentioning? I can’t hear you too well. Let’s just circle back around to those standardized test scores!”
I’m in? I’m in! I’m in.
I received the acceptance email at 4 pm on admission day. I literally hadn’t said a word to anyone about CMU that day, so quiet in fact that my parents assumed I was sulking because I just was denied.
The acceptance email was actually pretty innovative. The email itself didn’t say anything other than congratulating (a happy buzzword) me that my application was processed and linking me to a video, which subsequently revealed my admission.
I opened an actual letter a couple days later. The prose was standard college admission fare, though I analyzed every word like I was a 1500s peasant reading Martin Luther’s 95 Theses.
It was enjoyable to read until I got to the bottom of the letter. It glumly stated:
“When reviewing your file, our Admissions Committee noted the limited amount of full-time professional experience that you have comparison to typical students in our MBA program. We want to advise you that your experience level may impact your ability to be considered for the full range of career opportunities that our MBA students generally have.”
It wasn’t a stomach punch, but it did feel like disappointing game show music briefly played. Good times!
This Won’t be that Difficult. . . . .
It didn’t take long to realize the enormity of the next 32 months. I pulled more class schedule (all first-year students need to take the same courses in my program) and could not identify one class that I could coast in.
If my freshman year undergraduate schedule at Boston College was compared to my first year at CMU, it would be like comparing the WAC football schedule to SEC. Seven of my first eight courses are quantitative intensive (the lone exception is Managing People and Teams). Three of my first four courses are exceptionally juicy: Statistics and Probability, Optimization, and Statistical Decision Making. Oh and my wedding is smack in the middle of this 14 week period. (Quick Aside: CMU does not have semesters like most colleges; instead it has minis which last 7 weeks. For every mini, you must take 2 classes.)
Also for the first time in my increasingly long life, I will need to use office hours. If you replace the talking ant (big leap of logic) with CMU, the homeowner with myself, and the word “Couch” for “TA”, you will have my reaction to all of this.
I do have one thing going for me headed into the fall: No CMU sports to invest time in! This feigned indifference is not an act coming from someone who subscribed to three weekly sports magazines at the age of ten (late ‘90s Sporting News was the best by the way). Seriously, look at the Carnegie Mellon Tartans logo below. Even Raymond from the Rays (insert Irwin picture) looks fierce in comparison.
Ramping Up for Academia
There is two months until the ice breakers in Pittsburgh, so I am assimilating as much information as possible before spare time becomes non-existent.
One disturbing trend business school students relive is the return of the Pre-College Facebook All-Stars. Like Freddy Krueger, they have returned from freshman year with random friend requests in hand while filling out group message boards like they are paid per comment.
In fact, it is even more frustrating as schools use these Facebook groups to push out relevant information, except you have to sift through a half a dozen “it’s almost here!” comments, other people taking pictures of any mail from CMU, and one person who actually wrote they are dreaming about school every night. The sad part was that it received ten excited comments. I just want to see what specs our school recommends for a computer or what textbook I should buy to warm up for Accounting. I’m all for enthusiasm, but I shouldn’t have to filter through metadata to get any worthwhile information.
Another new development for graduate school is the increasing incorporation of networking in daily life. Although I networked in college, it was coated in different language and was implicit in most activities. In business school, everyone just calls a spade a spade without even a pretense. Personally, I turn into Buster Bluth when it comes to explicitly networking, so this might be an area for improvement going forward.
So there are two weddings, two wedding planning trips, one holiday, and one bachelor party until the first day of class. I'm excited, I'm exhausted. As the philosopher Sun Tzu once said “Let’s do this, I am feeling this, let’s do this.”