Tuesday, September 9, 2008


I need a new calendar. I need 24 more hours in my day. I need sleep. I need to figure out my priorities and career choices. I need to complete my assignments. I need to figure out where I am and what in the world I am doing!!!

A bewildering number of opportunities present themselves almost as soon as we set foot into the first term. Clubs and club activites are not even the tip of the iceberg... there are section elections, club leadership positions, course options, CMC presentations and activities... The list keeps going till the colors in your calendar make your head ache. I have not had so many back to back events on the busiest day in my pretty demanding career. I know I am holding on for dear life to the rollercoaster... and yet the question dogs me -- have I done everything I can to maximize my experience without biting off more than I can chew?

I think the reality is that Bschool is all about navigating these choices and their consequences -- and learning from that. And though occasionally I feel like everything is just going too fast and I am running as fast as I can to stay in the same place...and that I need to put in a calendar entry that goes "Take a deep breath", somewhere in all the noise and the chaos, I am learning a lot of things. How to make good mistakes -- may be an important aspect of that !

What I dread though, is the "networking". With all due respect, it's an important , almost vital aspect of the business world, and I dont deny that. But at the 15th " Hi, I'm ....., Nice to meet you", I am totally tuned out and I am sure the guy listening to the 4oo'th "Nice to meet you" has tuned out as well. Somehow , though I like people and talking to them, these networking events drain me totally. Bschool is all about meeting people -- but for strategy -- howz this? What can be done to make the events more than just empty "How do u do?"s and every person we meet is a "what's in it for me?" evaluation ?

On the positive side -- I met a person today, a second year who is taking a year off to do volunteer work in Venezuela... a whole year! He would be joining back with us the next year. I think that sort of confidence is unbelievable -- to try something totally out of the way, socially impacting and yet ... I guess I am not that confident.

With the Statistics assignment glaring at me now, I had better either get it done or hit the sack. Sleep is a rare and precious commodity in the first couple of terms I hear. I can well believe it now.

For those who mailed me about Duke --all the best with your applications. I will check with Admissions Ambassadors and see if informal interactions can be incorporated into the site. Thanks again for your comments!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

School Begins!!

06:35 am

And it's here -- the day I have been dreading and looking forward to. I want to write a long gushing piece about how I feel right now, but I have 15 minutes to get ready, so all I am going to say is --


02:00 am

I do realise that it can be misleading to have times from two consecutive days on a post, but since nights, days, weeks and months are apparently going to become one massive blur in my mind, I have come to the rather dubious conclusion that time and chronological integrity are grossly overrated.

Orientation has begun!! I am totally awed and yet feel so special to be part of this school: the O-team and their dedication to making this really a great time for us -- and then meeting my classmates, my section mates, my team mates and just anybody ...! It's just been a day and already a part of me is wondering "How the hell did I get here with all these smart people?" When Dean Sheppard was saying that "this is an amazing class", I had this weird feeling he was talking about everyone but me. Then I talked to my roommate and realised -- it's not just me! Then I felt that it's OK to be awed and rather stunned at where I have landed up. I am here now, and maybe I am not yet as "awesome" at I think the others are, but I am here because they think I CAN be. Certainly, no-one can go through this program and remain "ordinary" or "mediocre".

So in the section populated by a pianist, three drummers, a guy who had six fingers, an explosives specialist, a guy who trekked more than 2k miles and a lot more ( these are just the things that stuck to mind!!), I might not be the one that people remember-- but at the end of two years, maybe I can become someone whom they won't find easy to forget!

Monday, July 21, 2008

From "Applicant" to "Admit" to "Student"

I had started this blog with the intention of updating it through the admissions process, but sad to say, the intentions remained...just "intentions". It was a gruelling and complex maze of applications and interviews and waitlists and then the final big "moment" -- the ADMIT! I think the journey taught me more about myself than I could have thought possible ( for a person who thinks she knows herself rather better than average!). And I will forever remember the moment when I got my admit and realised.... I am going to Duke !!!

And so the status changes-- from applicant to admit, to a couple of days away from "Student" at the Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina. For the last couple of weeks, I have been just getting my place together with my roommate, agonizing over the finances (the missing paycheck syndrome!), getting to know the people in my class and doing the pre-term readings and assignments ( more accurately, trying to do the pre-terms-- since I am nowhere near done with any of it!!). Orientation begins on Friday-- and I have not yet figured out whether I am more panicked or excited. Definitely a heady mixture of both!

I hope I do blog more regularly this time! Everyone has been smiling that knowing smile and telling us that first year is going to pretty much wear us out... On the other hand ;-) -- what better stress buster that dumping it all on the unsuspecting random reader who chances upon this blog? If you are reading this and still playing with the idea of doing an MBA -- well, I suggest you proceed with caution! I am in no way responsible for what this does to your psyche. The opinion of a sleep deprived, stressed out first year at 2 AM in the morning may not be the best input for any prospective MBA!

Fuqua... here comes the class of 2010!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Back again!

I have been off the blogospere for a while; I took a vacation. I had very limited access to the Internet, so I have been unable to both blog and read the many blogs I generally frequent.

And as soon as I log in to my Blog reader, I am stricken with a sense of panic. All the admission deadlines are out. The essay topics have been analysed, discussed, drafts written. I feel left behind! There is much to catch up on! I need to get my applications back on track.

But I do not regret the time off. It gave me an opportunity to look at my life and my past and really figure out what are the moments in my life that have defined me. I am sure that insight would help me during my essay writing... when I finally get to it.

I was also able to discuss the application process with one of my recommenders. Giving them a perspective about this admission process is also important, especially in a situation like mine, where the recommenders are but slightly acquainted with the US application process. I was happy to meet and discuss the aspects of the admission process as well as the expectations of the adcom from a recommender in the application process. And that set my mind partly at ease. I am wondering whether I should give my recommenders the links to my blog as well. I do not want to be constrained while writing the blog; but I believe my professional recommenders might find my personal and MBA blog a rather interesting read. I just need to decide what to share and what not.

I need to organize my thoughts and get started as soon as possible. I hope I can write about my Stanford School visit in my next post.

Well, it's going to be a long ride... I hope it would be worthwhile at the end of it ! Here's wishing the entire "app"ing community a wonderful experience and all the very best!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The GMAT Story -- Part II

In continuation of my earlier post...

Concentration : The average person's attention span is about 20-30 minutes. When it is truly interesting it can be a bit more ... an hour to 90 minutes at the most. If you can keep your mind focused beyond that, it is remarkable! And the catch is -- The GMAT is a 4 hour exam. You need to be able to concentrate on what you are doing till the end -- without giving in to the temptation to "just get it over with". Believe me, after 3 hours of working things out, the temptation is not a mild little thing in the back of your mind, it is a demon shouting in your inner ear, "Just select C on all of them and let's just get it over with and let's get out of here now now now NOW!" And that, my friends, is NOT fun!!

There are 2 "Optional" breaks within the GMAT exam. The truth is that this break is not optional at all. No matter how little you think you need it , take the break. You probably would not "really" need it for another 30 mins, but by taking a break then, you can probably avoid the fatigue that comes after that half hour. DO NOT spend it agonizing over whether the essays were clear or the answers in the quants were right. Go out, have a snack if you feel like it, drink some water, go to the rest room. If you have some time, do some deep breathing or take your iPod or mp3 player and listen to a few minutes of relaxing music. As far as possible, do not think about the next portion of the exam you are going to take and do NOT do any last minute reading. The best you can do for your exam is keep your mind fresh and focused and not clutter it with information that would not help much anyway.

Time Management: You have 30 minutes for each essay, 75 minutes for 37 quants questions, 75 minutes for 41 verbal questions. It is good to always know where you are with respect to time while doing the exam. It is too easy to get bogged down by a few difficult questions in the middle and lose track of the time. Try and be alert to how much time you have left and how many questions you are yet to attempt. That does not mean you have to have your eye on the clock all the time, but i would say, practice being conscious of it so that you can make that "guess or solve" decision if you need to. Honestly, for me , this is easier said than done, because I did MAKE that mistake. I am sure my score would have been at least 20 points higher if I had not made the mistake of sitting too long on one problem and missed out on attempting another properly.

For all of the strategy , practice, practice and more practice is the key. When doing your practice tests, try to mimic the exam environment as far as possible-- including even taking the optional breaks and relaxing in between. Do not take any unscheduled breaks, or have snacks in the middle. Use the same number of sheets that they usually give you for the exam. I used to take at least two practice tests a week and I would go to my office on the weekends at 8 am in the morning to get that exam atmosphere while doing the tests. Even where the tests offered a pause, I did not opt for that because I wanted to be familiar with the way I plan to be on the exam day. I really think that helped because I knew exactly what I had to do every minute of the exam. That is not to say I did not make any mistakes, but that the practice paid off in terms of increasing my comfort level during the exam.

Another important thing!! Don't get too bogged down by the practice test scores. That was another thing I learnt the hard way. I crossed 700 only on 5 of my practice tests and the ones on the weekend before by actual GMAT were DISMAL. I honestly considered rescheduling the exam-- but the actual test turned out to be not so bad after all ;-) .

Well that's it. I know it is a looooong lecture, but well... you can practice "Reading Comprehension" !! :-D

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The GMAT story - Part I

And slowly my "Blogommunity" is beginning to build up. For those of you who are yet to write the GMAT, let me share my experience and what I learnt from it. Perhaps it might turn out helpful :-)!

GMAT is not a test of intelligence. Consequently, getting a good score does not require an IQ of 140 above. The whole story seems to hinge on speed, concentration, time management and accuracy.

Speed and Accuracy: These NEED to go hand in hand. You cannot compromise on accuracy for speed or vice versa. Knowing when to take a chance and when not to, makes all the difference between an average score and a good score. For example , if you have 5 minutes left and you decide to take a guess in a question that you are not sure of, getting it wrong will not reduce your score as much as if you do that in the first five minutes. Yes, this point is in every GMAT Prep guide on the market, but it really is important to understand that it makes a LOT of difference.

Try to come up with a strategy to make that "guess or solve" decision. An example for a working strategy would be : If in the first 13 questions in quants, you are unable to find the answer in 3 minutes, make a calculated guess and move on. In the next 13 questions, make that guess if you are unable to complete it within 2 minutes. In the last set, stick strictly to the one minute time, especially if you don't have a lot of time left. This is just an example of a strategy; you can go with whatever you are comfortable with. The point is that you need to think about when it is worthwhile to spend some extra time and when it is better to take a chance and keep moving and you need to have a rough guideline to follow.

Devote some real time to practice the average difficulty level questions as they are the ones that you would be facing till the last 15-20 minutes and they contribute most to your score. It's all very well to keep practicing the tougher questions, but the "return on investment" is less :-). Getting an answer correct in the first two sets count a lot more to your final score! That's not to say you can ignore the very difficult questions in your prep; you need to go through and work them out too. But increasing your speed and accuracy in the average difficulty bucket would also help by giving you additional time to work on the tougher problems during the exam. The trick is to plan your prep in a way as to improve your efficiency in cracking the exam , not the problem -- this is not a Math Olympiad or a Language certification. It is not an achievement to just solve the toughest problem in the GMAT exam! What you need to do is get the best possible score.

You know, that is probably why this is in a "Management Aptitude test". After all, this is an exercise in making quick decisions, solving problems, knowing when it is worth it to keep going, and when it is better to quit!

... To be continued!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Story so far...

I am really excited about this blog! This is the first time I am posting directly onto a blog, rather than typing out something , editing, correcting, reviewing and then simply copying the finished bit onto it. It's the first time I am simply letting my thoughts flow and typing it out as it comes directly onto the net. It's a bit scary; like posting some part of your diary out in public. But this is a journey I want to share, and I hope I can record what I learn as I blunder my way through this maze of application processes.

It's all new to me-- the application processes in International schools. Where I'm from, the most you to do apply to a school is send scores of the qualifying exam and fill up a form. Yes, there is the exam, the group discussion, and the interview, but the whole process of finding out who the candidate is and how he or she can contribute to the school culture, how he or she would benefit from the school; the essays, the resume: the works... I was intrigued, then fascinated, and now I am jittery. I do not profess to know myself so well as to answer these probing questions about my past , present and future. Which is probably how most people are when they start, but it is really all about figuring that out -- what I want, what I have to offer. Whether I get the admit or not, I know this is going to be really difficult -- and really exciting. It's an opportunity to figure out what I am and what I really want from life. It's not something that many people go though life knowing.

So where am I in my journey?

I have decided that I want an MBA. That was the first milestone. I want this. Totally and absolutely. It's not so much that I was shaky about it before, as that it always seemed an impossible dream. Then I realised that it was only impossible because I would not try for it.

I have cracked the GMAT -- that was the second milestone. I did break the magical 700 barrier at the first attempt and am pretty happy with my score. Preparing for the GMAT was something I did that proved to myself that "even I" can really stick to a plan and routine and follow it though to the end. I have come a long way from my not so responsible college days where routine and plan were just not part of my dictionary. I have learnt to put my mind and heart into something and resist the temptation to slack off. That's good to know... considering that it's something I thought myself pretty bad at.

I have almost figured out what I want to be doing ten years down the road after my MBA. Now this is the part that I am still working on. I know where I am looking to make an impact, but I don't have a concrete idea on what I plan to do. So many students change that life goal given the exposure and opportunities of the MBA experience. I know that there is something deep inside me that has been there since I was in school, that I have idly thought of once in a while without really reaching out for it. But can I make it my life goal? If I do , I don't think it will be that easy to give up. The mists are still swirling, and I am giving myself the time to think it through. I don't want my plans to sound half baked in my essays, but -- oh how fast the days fly by!!

Well that's it ... that's where I am. Now let's see where I go from here!