Rungee Goes to School

Friday, June 22, 2007

Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow

Today was my official last day of work (although I really haven't done much since Wednesday in general). We had a happy hour to celebrate, which was fun. My husband finally got to meet a lot of the people I have talked about over the past few years (he had met a few of them already). It felt very strange to leave my first job. It was a good proving ground - I learned a lot and met some fantastic people that I would be lucky to work with again.

What made it feel even a little more weird was this unusual situation where I was due up for my annual review but was, of course, leaving to go back to school. Still, both I and my team wanted to complete the review and document my activities / progress over the past year. That was finished earlier this month and I just had my debrief today. Incredibly, the result was a promotion! How many people get promoted on their last day of work?! I was honestly quite impressed with my company that they gave the go-ahead on that decision when I had one foot out the door and was extremely happy about it. It was a very nice way to go out, and of course, leaves the door open to return.

Other than that, I have just been running around like a chicken with my head cut off. :) I'm in the midst of packing my apartment, finalizing my pre-term registration details, and getting ready for my trips to Central and South America (all of which needs to be done by next Thursday). I guess the craziness that has been my life recently is good practice for what is coming up next!

Friday, June 08, 2007

Death by a million papercuts

Somehow I never thought getting into school would require so much paperwork. There is a veritable mountain of it. I have a page-long list of stuff I have to complete (and soon). Those who are in the ranks this year already know what I am talking about... those who will be applying this year... just an FYI... you can look forward to lease agreements, financial aid forms (LOTS of those), health insurance, health information (immunizations), termination / leave policies, course registration, waiver forms, etc. Maybe this is some pre-pre-term test... can you organize the barrage of requests and find obscure documents that were long-forgotten (for instance, I had to go through my old records from undergrad to find syllabi to provide course waivers... that took awhile... and my immunizations records?! ha! still trying to figure out who might have those... obviously a doctor somewhere... question is, which one).

I could have been better prepared for all this. I know I will get it all done, but I hate running around trying to do this mundane stuff when there are so many more exciting topics to think about! All I can say is that I really do feel for the international applicants... you guys have it way worse and I pity you for having to wait in lines for a visa and all that. My advice to all those would-be applicants? Once you get your admits, don't wait until the last second to start on all this paperwork. Compile financial documents, get your health records, try to come up with past course materials (if you need them to waive a course ... I know some schools don't allow it), and get on top of getting things squared away as soon as possible.

While I struggle w/ my paperwork, I also have to deal with a new issue that reared its ugly head. I was in a car accident last week and we were just informed by the insurance company that the car is considered totaled. :( I loved my car, so I was sad to hear that. We are trying to decide whether to buy a new car with the insurance money or not. We were going to go down to one car anyway but were planning to sell my husbands car since mine was better (until some stupid 16-year-old girl ran into it anyway). Fun times.

Other than all that, not much else is new over here as I await my move to Philly. I'm wrapping up things at work. I'm having mixed feelings as I near my departure date. I am certainly going to be sad to leave my colleagues and friends ... they are great and I really can't tell you how much I'm going to miss them ... but I am also clearly excited to move onto school. Two weeks to go!

Till next time...

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Happy Birthday to MEEEE

Yes, I am so self-aggrandizing that I sing myself happy birthday on my blog. :) Well, my birthday was actually earlier this week. I can now rent cars w/out an additional surcharge and my car insurance should drop. Wow -- I'm so excited? That's really the last milestone birthday where you get access to something you couldn't get before (even though it is nothing to brag about) until you get to retirement age. My husband and I went on vacation to the beach in Florida to celebrate, and it was great (albeit too short). I am tan now... very excited about that... as are other people, I'm sure, as they were starting to be blinded by my paleness.

When I came back, I had my Wharton packet sitting in my mail box as well as the final information needed for me to secure my Stafford loan. I already made it through one of the Wharton books (information on courses, waiver, etc.), and I need to start on the other one which apparently explains more tactically what I need to do to get ready for the MBA program. I'm trying to figure out what I need to take in pre-term, and also looking ahead to figure out what I can waive for the core classes (most classes to do w/ econ can probably go since I was an econ concentrator in undergrad). We have to take (and pass) a math test, which freaks me out a little. It looks simple enough, but when you haven't done calc for 7 years, you worry a bit. I feel for those who have been out of school longer than I have. I have been brushing up on my math and will continue to do so to make sure I am prepared (I knew I saved my calc notes from high school and freshman year for a reason)!

I also decided I should get a smartphone for corresponding between classes so I won't have to boot up my computer to check emails. My husband is concerned for my health b/c he says the last thing I need is a way to check email constantly. :) I am somewhat OCD about my email. Anyway, my phone is new and pretty... and I love it. Hehe. I got the Red BlackBerry Pearl thru Cingular (or AT&T... whatever they are calling themselves today). I talked to quite a few people last time I was at Wharton and Cingular seemed to get the most consistent service in that area (my Verizon service was very sketchy and I kept dropping calls when I was on the bottom level). After my legendary battles with Verizon, I'm glad to say good-bye to them at last.

Like iday, I also made a shopping list of stuff I need to get for school. Most of it is boring stuff... need some simple furniture for the apt. since my husband is taking our "real" furniture with him. I also need to get a lap top and a calculator. I am just burning money left and right... you'd think I already had my MBA salary in hand. ;)

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Great minds think alike?

Haha... so I wrote about recs last night and then I saw this post this morning. Just wanted to add this resource to my last post! :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

FAQs - Obtaining Recommendations

OK - so I'm just going to dive right into this post... here are some of the questions I get a lot from prospective applicants regarding Recs. Usual disclaimers apply! :)

Who should I ask to write my recommendations?

You’ll hear this a lot, but choose recommenders who know you well rather than someone who carries a big title. If they happen to be CEO of your company, all the better, but let’s face it, the majority of us probably do not know our CEO that well. I truly believe having someone who can give specific examples of your strengths and skills can add a valuable perspective to your candidacy. For most schools, you will be asked to submit recommendations from supervisor(s), although some schools (Stanford) ask for peer recommendations and/or leave the relationship up to your discretion. I chose people who managed me in different capacities (administratively, on a project, etc.) I had a few conversations with adcom trying to establish what a “supervisor” really meant b/c I have about 5 or 6 managers. In the end, the definition is a bit open to interpretation, but I took it to mean someone who had official responsibility for me in some capacity.

Of course, asking a supervisor for a recommendation requires telling them that you would like to leave the company in the future. This may put you in an awkward position if you are in an industry where going to b-school is not the norm and your manager may take your desire to leave personally. Thankfully, in consulting, leaving to continue your education is very common, and I found wholehearted support and understanding. Then again, all of my recommenders are pretty awesome in general, so I think they would have reacted that way regardless of whether it was common or not. :) If you absolutely feel that you cannot ask a supervisor, my best advice would be to ask someone else who can still speak to your business, leadership, and teamwork skills (maybe someone from an extra-curricular pursuit?) and explain why you could not use a work supervisor in your optional essay. From conversations on the Wharton student boards, this is not all that uncommon, and you won’t be penalized.

When should I ask them and how should I approach them?

Early! I let this go longer than I intended, but I still got around to finalizing my recommenders by the beginning of September (a little over a month before the first R1 deadlines). Most of your recommenders probably won’t fill out the recommendation forms until closer to the deadline, but giving them a heads up relieves stress for you (you have secured people to write your recommendations) and allows them to take the recs at their own pace.

As for approaching them, I would set aside some time when you can talk to them. I was close enough to my recommenders that I could just sort of pop into their office and chat with them when I asked if they had a few minutes, but for some people, setting up specific time on their calendar may work best. I know some people take their recommenders out to lunch to “pop the question,” which is also a nice gesture. :) However, make sure you are prepared to have the conversation when you do sit down with them… they will likely have some questions for you. Which leads me to…

What do I give them to help them with the recommendation?

I took the approach of preparing an initial recommender packet with the information I felt was pertinent and left the door open for them to ask me for additional materials, as needed. My initial packet included:

  • An overview of my strategy (e.g., I was going to apply to 5 R1 schools and would only apply to R2 schools if I needed to)
  • An outline of the recommendation process (e.g., I would input their name in the system and they would receive an electronic message guiding them to the recommendation form)
  • A list of the schools, their websites, their key criteria for evaluating their candidates, and the deadlines (both my recommended deadline and the actual deadline for the school)
  • A bullet list of accomplishments tailored to the recommender (i.e., if I worked on a particular project with them, I outlined some of my key accomplishments on that project)
  • A draft of my career vision essay (though I talked them through the whole “what do I want to get from my MBA” idea as well)
  • Copies of the rec forms. This was apparently really helpful to my one recommender who was traveling extensively during the rec writing period. He did not have access to the online forms, so he wrote my recommendations from the packet I gave him and then input the content later
  • My MBA resume

If you think of something else they would need, throw that in there too! One recommender asked me for my view of my strengths and weaknesses in addition to this initial packet. I know some other people whose recommenders asked them to outline the rec and they would fill in the blanks. I was really glad I didn't have to do that (not b/c of the work involved but b/c it feels weird writing your own rec). Just be prepared for whatever else they may ask for and try to get it to them within a reasonable amount of time.

Do I need to follow up with recommenders as deadlines approach?

That would be a good idea! Your recommenders are likely your managers, which means they are probably even busier than you are. :) I asked my recommenders if it was OK for me to follow up and remind them at certain intervals. They all seemed perfectly fine with that, so I had permission to pester them a reasonable amount, if needed. I sent reminders 2 weeks out, a week out, a few days before, and in some (panicked) cases, the night before. Some recommendations were submitted weeks ahead of time (you will be informed via the system when a recommender has submitted a rec)… others, about 12 hours before. I had a friend at my company whose manager submitted it mere minutes to the deadline! Be aware that some recommenders will need more follow up than others, and you may find yourself biting your fingernails. Friendly but insistent reminders usually work. After all, they do want to help you, but they also have their other priorities to content with.

Should I thank them? How?

YES!!! Given that the recommendation forms do take some time to fill out and your recommenders have work and their lives to balance as well, I think thanking them properly is important (they did you a great favor after all!). I took my recommenders out for a meal (if they so desired), but I think anything that shows your gratitude would be appreciated. I wanted to do something for them right after they wrote the recs, not after I got interviews or got accepted b/c I wanted them to know how much I appreciated their efforts regardless of the outcome! Some other ideas I heard were to get them a piece of apparel from your school once you decide where to go, or buy them something they would like (a round of golf, a bottle of win, cigars, etc.).

So, that concludes my planned FAQ series. I guess if any readers out there have particular questions, you can feel free to leave a comment and I'll try to address them in later posts.

In MBA news, we're supposedly getting our first matriculation packet from Wharton in the coming weeks with news on Pre-Term. I've been on SPIKE, the Wharton online portal, and that has gotten me VERY excited about what I am getting myself into. :) In the meantime, I am also finishing up the planning for my summer vacation, which includes trips to Miami, Peru, and Costa Rica. Not too shabby, eh?! So many things to be excited about!!!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Good Old-fashioned Update

After recovering from my coma-inducing post the other day, I realized that I haven't really provided an update on my matriculation process in a long time. I've actually almost completed the entire thing at this point (thankfully... I hate paperwork and will be more than glad to have it over with).

I received notification that my employment verification was completed and that my matriculation deposit has been received. This allowed me to create my Wharton email account. For some reason, getting my email made everything about going to Wharton suddenly very real to me. Forget the admissions letter, the matriculation fee... it's the email account that really gets me excited about business school... go figure! ;)

In addition, I got my Financial Award Letter, which tells me how much I am expected to pay, how much I was awarded in merit grants, how much I will probably get in Federal student loans, and how much I will have to fund through alternative (bank) loans. I have to say that it came back better than I thought it would be, so that was nice. After that, I completed my FAFSA. Apparently, I am now waiting on some additional information from Wharton (a promissory note of some kind) before I move forward with the loan process.

I also found a place to live! It's right off Rittenhouse Square in Center City. I got a small studio, which is all I really need. Seems like a good place and I know of a few more incoming students who will be staying there as well. I paid the deposit but have not yet signed the lease (I'm *trying* to sign the lease but no luck in actually receiving it from the rental office yet... hmmm).

So, there are a few loose ends to tie up, but for the most part I am all set! I hear we get another package at some point later this month, so I am looking forward to that. Time is flying by so fast -- I am going to be up in Philly before I know it!!!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

FAQ - Essays

I’m ashamed that it has been a month since I promised to write my Essay FAQ. Sorry! Well, you’ll see why it took me so long (it’s a LONG post… BRACE YOURSELF). Part of the reason it is so long is b/c I get so many questions about this -- so don't blame me -- blame those who are frequently asking the questions. ;)

Ah, the essays. The part of the application that we all love to hate…they are a powerful weapon on our side when wielded correctly, but are nonetheless the bane of an MBA applicant’s existence when words are not flowing freely and the deadlines are rapidly approaching. I like to break down the “essaying” process into three parts: preparing, drafting, and editing. As always, I want to add the disclaimer that this is just my advice and I’m sure there are many ways to go about writing essays that are equally successful for other applicants.


  • Make a list. It is very helpful to create a list of ALL the amazing (and even mundane) things you have done in the past 10 or so years. I would suggesting listing everything you can think of and then crossing off the ones that are least impressive. I’ll warn you that it is somewhat depressing when you realize you can reduce your entire life down to a (seemingly) short list of accomplishments but believe me, you’ll have some good stuff in there and you can use this list to identify your unique selling points and the common themes to thread through your stories.
  • Choose your key messages. What do you want to convey in your essays? Ideally, I think you want to be able to marry the description of who you are with what the adcom would like to see in a business school students (focusing on either alone is potentially dangerous as you may find you have a disconnect). For me, I wanted to convey maturity to alleviate any concerns about my young-ish age and I wanted adcom to be able to identify my strengths. This helped me to figure out how to talk to the chosen items from my list. Good stories you can cross off several messages.
  • Prep the essay. This is definitely a personal preference. I’m an outliner – looooove the outlines. Creating an outline of the main points for each essay is a good way to start. No matter how you go your preparation, it’s usually a good idea to organize your thoughts before diving in. This is especially important when you have a set of essays – you want to be able to look over the whole package and see if you have any holes (seeing the big picture, if you will).
  • Strike a balance. Find a way to weave personal and professional stories into your writing. The former is a great way to give adcom a sense of the person behind the paper and the latter is important b/c, well, this is business school after all…. you want to be able to show an ability to accomplish something in the business world.


  • Show and tell. Make sure you illustrate why you are making your claims. If you are trying to convey that you are a young applicant with great leadership skills, describe an anecdote that bolsters this argument. You may not be able to tell a story for every point you want to make, but you do not want your entire essay to be unfounded generalizations.
  • Be detailed. This is somewhat related to the first point. I think the more you are able to convey your passion and rationale for attending School X, the more the adcom at School X will imagine you in their midst (and this is likely a good thing!) Of course, what you write needs to make sense. I wrote about clubs I wanted to join that would support my career or personal development. I felt this was a way to show adcom that I realize this MBA deal is a two-way street – sure, I will come away with a great education but I also plan to give something back to the school community in return.
  • Timing. It took me 1-2 weeks to draft an essay and another week to refine it. I mostly worked on the weekends. Figure out how long you will need based on how quickly you work and what your availability will be. I would suggest leaving some additional leeway in your timeline b/c as we all know, life happens. Given the importance of the essays, I would suggest not waiting until the last minute to finish them up.


  • Revisit the essays before they go out for review. Before you go out asking people to look at your essays in depth, I would suggest revisiting them yourself. I found that my first essays were miles behind my last essays (practice makes perfect, right?) Which leads me to my next point…
  • Don’t be afraid to rewrite your essays. You may find that you need to take those first essays, or any that no longer seem to sparkle, and polish them up a little. At worst, you go back to the original if your re-do doesn’t work out the way you thought it would, and at best, you have another highly-tuned essay.
  • Find the right mix of reviewers. You will likely want a few different kinds of reviewers. You want someone who can check your grammar, someone who can tell you if you are appropriately representing your personality, and someone who can do a thorough content review (ideal for the last one is someone who has done an MBA or is in the process of applying as well and therefore knows the system).
  • Create a review strategy. This is a highly personal choice but you may want to figure out the best way to field your essays for review (especially if, like me, you are trying to push a lot through the pipeline at once). For instance, I decided to send ALL my reviewers my first decent draft of my HBS core essays (i.e., the main essays that were asking “Why MBA? Why now? Describe your accomplishments, etc.” but not the ones specific to the school like the Ethics essay). I took this feedback and incorporated it into all my other essays as I drafted them. I knew I could not continue sending all my essays to all my reviewers (well, I could, but I have a feeling I would have gotten marginal returns as fatigue set in), so, I sent each set of essays – a set defined as the group of essays for one school – to one or two reviewers and just asked them to do a thorough review on that set. This seemed to work fairly well.
  • Follow the directions. Honestly, I was that person who would not even go one word over the limit stipulated by the schools. I hear that most schools go by the rule of +/- 10% on word limits... anything less and they’ll wonder why you don’t have anything to say and any more and you clearly are violating the directions. If the schools asks for 1.5 line spacing with Times New Roman 11 points font, make sure you do that. I highlighted the directions in red and put it at the top of every essay as I started writing as a reminder (I took that off before I submitted them though). Why give the reader any reason to be annoyed with you?

OK – so this was obviously the longest post ever (I feel like I have said this many times in the past... hmm... I really should work on being more succinct). Frightently enough, there are probably quite a few more points that could have been added. However, I refer you to my fellow bloggers for those -- they also have great ideas on this topic! However, I think the length of this post is appropriate b/c the essays really are the keystone of the MBA applicant’s candidacy, in my opinion. This is your best chance to make the adcom remember you and form an emotional attachment to you (at least enough to invite you for an interview to find out more)!

Happy essay-ing to the future MBA applicants out there!