James Joyce doesn’t teach time management, but fate is the great equalizer

I should honestly be working for a marketing company. I mean in the last 5 days since I took the GMAT I have gotten more e-mails about what I got and why am I keeping people waiting…the hype was building. It finally reached a crescendo last night when someone broke into my apartment to find out what I got on the GMAT. (That last one isn’t true, but I did get a lot of e-mails and I want to thank those who cared enough to drop me a line). So why you ask did I wait this long to deliver this tidbit of news? Well something has been happening behind the scenes here at the blog. An exciting thing, a somewhat disappointing thing, and things that will have a huge impact on my life. But before we get to that, here is rundown of what happened on my GMAT.

I arrived at the testing center at around 7:25 for my 8:00am test. Why, because I am neurotic about being early. As I am looking for a way into the locked building, a woman asks me if I am here to take a test. I told her I was and she told me to follow her and that she was running late, she was sick, and the other guy who was supposed to be here today has a pregnant wife, so he might be a little late, or just not show up at all. This woman is talking a mile a minute and is pretty much giving me a verbal rendition of her autobiography. I pretend to intently listen, while inside a fire was burning. One that would fuel me to achieve greatness on this test (at least I hoped it was that and not just gas…). Too make a long and frustrating story shorter, lets just say that the guy whose wife was going to have the baby, forgot to come into work because he though it was Columbus Day weekend and the center was closed. I didn’t start my test until about 8:20, so I was just hanging out with 14 other people for about an hour. One hour, to think about the test…my strategy, the score I needed. I think I freaked myself out a bit during that time because when I went in to take the test, I wasn’t as confident as I was when that fire was burning inside me (it turned out to just be gas…).

The test began well enough, answering questions left (or wrong) and right. Swatting all comers away with confidence that I was getting them right. I was on question 20, when I realized that I hadn’t looked at the clock yet. This isn’t unusual, as timing has never been my problem. When I looked at the clock, it was a moment of sheer terror. If it was portrayed in a movie, the camera would have zoomed in on my horrifying expression, while some eerie music plays in the background. I don’t remember the exact numbers in play here, but needless to say, I was pretty much screwed. I think I had 20 questions left for 30 minutes, or something insane like that! I immediately hit the panic button (there wasn’t an actual panic button, but a metaphorical panic button instead)! I start whizzing through problems by just narrowing down answer choices to 2 and then picking one. I don’t think that was one of the strategies that Manhattan GMAT recommends…I finally catch-up to where I am supposed to be and there are about 5 questions left. I answer those to the best of my knowledge, but the damage was done. Time management had ruined my Quant section for sure. After this emotional and physical beating I still had verbal to contend with…

I don’t know if it is the GMAT in general, or I have just been really lucky, but every official GMAT I have taken has started the verbal section off with a sentence correction question (my least favorite of the verbal questions). Despite that I make my way through this section without much fuss, but with a constant eye on the clock. I finish it off and I feel pretty good about verbal, but I just know that my quant score it going to tank my overall score. I click through the questions about my background and I get to the section that asks if I want to cancel my score. I seriously think about doing this, but I was always told to never, ever cancel your score, unless there is something ridiculous that happens, like a lion breaks into the testing facility and bites your leg off. So I don’t cancel my score. Out of nowhere someone breaks through the door into the testing center with a trombone and plays WA-WA-WAaaaaaaaaaa. I see my score up on screen….640. Just as I suspected my quant had destroyed a good test. My breakdown was a 40 for quant (8 points lower than last time) and a 38 for verbal (2 points higher than time). So what did I learn? Well first, James Joyce seemed to help me, but not as much as I would have liked. Secondly, and probably the most obvious…even it has never been a problem for you before ALWAYS CHECK THE CLOCK! Time management ruined my GMAT and my day…but all was not lost.

On Thursday of the week prior to the GMAT I was supposed to have a call with Randall Sawyer of the Johnson School to discuss what I could do as a re-applicant to better my profile. The call didn’t happen because he wasn’t in the office. I don’t know if he had something happen, or the admin did not block that time out on his calendar, but they get a pass…once is a mistake and I can handle that. I was bummed out, but not totally destroyed.

Also on Thursday of that week, I had a 2nd interview at a bank in the city (this bank may or may not sponsor Liverpool F.C.). After 2.5 hours of interviews I emerged confident that I would be receiving an offer, but then I was told that because of funding reasons, the position would be put on hold until January. I was thrilled about that because I knew that I would find out about Cornell, Columbia, BU, and ND before January, so if I got in somewhere I could politely decline an offer, or if I didn’t get in…the new gig would have been a nice fall back option.

So what ended up happening? Well, the new bank was so impressed with me, that they ended up putting through an exception to make me an offer, which was incredibly generous, like 25% higher than what I make now generous! The offer came on Monday, which is incidentally the day that I was going to hit the submit button on my Cornell app. After talking it over with my wife, my family, my extended family, random people on the street, and a homeless guy who was trying to catch a unicorn….I decided that I am not going to be applying to B-School this year and I am accepting this new position. The past few days have been a whirlwind, but I finally got the official offer letter last night and I gave my two weeks notice this morning.

I am saddened to leave my current job, as the people around here really make the company what it is. Although I will miss the people I work with, I know that this is in my best interest now and for my future. Once I made the decision I decided that I should call Randall Sawyer to let him know that I wouldn’t be applying. I thought that he deserved to know why I wasn’t applying because he had been so helpful to me throughout the process. I have too much respect for him to just leave him guessing. I called Randall and while he was disappointed that I wasn’t reapplying, he said that getting an offer in this job market is something I should be proud of. I thanked him for his help, he thanked me for the call and we said goodbye, but not before he added that B-School would always be there for me in a couple of years if I still want it.

So now what? Well the blog dies….I don’t really know why I would keep it around if I am not planning on applying to B-school for at least 2 years. I had a great time blogging and sharing my successes (I don’t know how many there were but there had to be some, right, right????) and failures (multiple, soul crushing failures). I believe that all things happen for a reason. I was meant to take this job and to not go to B-School. Why? I have not idea…but it is going to be really fun to find out!

Before putting a knife in this guy, I just want to thank everyone who read,  commented, was a fan of, casually glanced at, or even hated my blog. Hopefully I have helped you in some small way, and if not, hopefully you had fun reading about my life. I want to thank my wife and my family for supporting me throughout the process. This experience took time away that I could have spent with them, but they always understood and they never let it become a problem. They were my biggest supporters and my best friends.  Love you guys!

I want to thank Clear Admit for featuring me in the Friday From the Frontlines. I want to thank anyone who has ever done a guest post for me and lightened the burden of having to come up with a brilliant post everyday. Lastly, I want to thank John Byrne from Poets and Quants for featuring my blog on his website, his stuff is cutting edge and he isn’t afraid to give you his opinion on things. Plus, he is a Jersey guy, so we have that bond going already. Go to his site people…you won’t be disappointed.

If you ever have a question about applying or want to mock me for coming this far only to stop about 1/4 of an inch from the finish line, I can be reached at sgargiulomba at gmail.com. So I bid all of you adieu and like Ryan Seacrest, I’M OUT! (cue curtain and applause)

The weekend that was…and the week ahead

Is the weekend over already? Seriously? I could have sworn that I had another day in there somewhere.

My weekend consisted entirely of studying, taking practice tests, and re-writing my Columbia/Cornell essays. First thing is first: I am a freakin’ genius! I don’t know if it had anything to do with my strategy of reading some James Joyce, but my reading comp. scores were off the charts good! After having to really concentrate to understand the ramblings of Joyce, the RC section seemed like a pleasant read. Maybe it was that I was more confident, maybe I got easy questions, but either way I am going to keep doing what I am doing.  My score for the test was once again a 700, 45Q and 40V. I am pretty happy with this and I am interested to see how this will translate to the real thing next weekend. I can’t believe it is here already! It seems like yesterday that I was buying the online course from Manhattan GMAT. In total I scored 700 3 times, I scored 660 and lastly I scored a 640. This is good for an average score of 680, which is 22 points higher than the last time I was taking practice tests. Hopefully I see a similar score bump on my test on Saturday.

The week ahead is a hectic one to say the least. Tonight I am attending a  Columbia event in NYC, which focuses on Finance and Economics. It should be what I need to put the finishing touches on my essays this weekend. On Wednesday I have an industry event after work, which I might have to skip out on to study. Thursday I am taking the day off to study and to speak with Randall Sawyer. On Friday, I rest. I take it easy before test day and go to bed early. Saturday is my test and that night I have a celebratory dinner & drinks with friends. Sunday will probably be finishing off essay and tweaking things, after my Columbia event and any hints I pick up from Randall. Sleep?…overrated!

Desperate times call for desperate measures!

So I was thinking about how to best solve my verbal woes and upon reviewing my performance on the last test I noticed that my Reading Comp was not as good as normal. I seemed to be missing the questions in the upper echelon. How do I plan to reverse this verbal slide you ask? My doing something that I swore I would never do, something so vile that it makes me think of nails across a chalkboard, or styrofoam coming out of a box. I have decided to read some James Joyce. Not just any Joyce novel, but “A Portrait of the Artists as a Young Man.” I “read” this book in high-school (and by read I mean I got about half way through and then went running for the Cliff’s Notes) and I hated it so much that I swore off any further Joyce readings. I figure that if I can get through the stream of consciousness ramblings of Stephen Dedalus, then Reading Comp. shouldn’t be a problem for me.

Also, I am hoping that this is actually a decent book that I just didn’t give a chance in high school. It seems to be pretty critically acclaimed, so there has to be a reason, right? So this is one part of a multi-pronged assault on the GMAT. It will also entail taking a day off from work on Thursday to study more. Are any of you struggling in verbal? Quant? What are your plans of assault? Hopefully they are less painful than stream of consciousness!

Groundhog Day & Weekend Rewind

With all due respect to Punxsutawney Phil, Staten Island Chuck, and any other shadow seeing rodents in the US, I am talking about the movie with Bill Murray. In the movie, Bill Murray keeps waking up to the same day. It didn’t matter what he did or if he died during the course of that day, he would still wake up to the weather report on the radio in the morning. That is pretty much how I felt this weekend. I took my practice test and thought that I did terrible on Quant and very well on Verbal. When I clicked the submit button, the score read 700, with a 45 Q and a 40 V. The exact same score I had received last week. At first I thought that this was an error because I didn’t feel like I could have/should have scored that high after the limited amount of studying I did during the week. After logging out and logging back into the test section, it indeed showed that same score. I was very happy with it, and it is somewhat validating to know that I can post two 700 scores in back to back weeks, even though my studying wasn’t what it should have been. This gives me confidence that moving forward I can increase these scores, especially quant, as I felt that I was guessing quite a bit (although most were educated guesses).

After taking the test, I relaxed for most of Sunday. I cooked a little bit…my first venture into making polenta. It has an interesting consistency, but once I drowned it with a sausage-tomato sauce the dish turned out pretty well. I also FINALLY got around to writing a first draft of the first Columbia essay. I am sending it to my reviewer tomorrow and then will hope to do 2 more revisions before sending in the application.  I am going to start working on revising and editing my Cornell essays this week. At some point I also have to write the re-application essay, which shouldn’t be that hard of an essay, as I have quite a bit to write about. I am already looking forward to essay writing being completed, and I haven’t even really started yet!

In sports news:

Yankees are tied for first, Fulham tied Blackpool (disappointing result, but glad to get a point after how the game played out), and the Red Bulls smacked San Jose 2-0. A good sports weekend for my teams, save for Donovan McNabb’s injury for the Redskins. Hopefully he can be back for the first game of the season.

Hope everyone had a great weekend…

My Application Plans

Since it doesn’t look like I am getting that call this year, my plans are turning to next year. The crazy part is that R1 apps are due in 6-7 weeks, depending on where you are applying. So I am going to have to cram essays, recs, and the GMAT into this time period. My list is going to be different from last year, as I will be applying to some schools that are slightly lower ranked than I did last year. My thought process on this is that I want/need to go to B-School this year and since my father has graciously stated that he would pay for a semester of tuition (doing the same for my brother as an MD), the return on investment calculation would still be in my favor if I didn’t land a $100k+ job after graduation.

I researched quite a bit about all these schools and they are certainly different in many ways, but each of them have a good finance department and have respectable finance placement stats. Below is a list of the schools I am applying to and the dates for each round.

Cornell – Oct. 5th

Yale SOM – Oct. 7th

Georgetown – Nov. 1st

USC – Nov. 1st.

Boston University – Nov. 1st.

Still Under Consideration:

Columbia – Oct 6th (ED), rolling until April after this initial deadline

Notre Dame – Nov 1st

GMAT Studying

As I stated in my last post, I have chosen the Manhattan GMAT Self Study Guide for my GMAT preparation this time around. They provide your with a study plan that should have me ready to take the test sometime at the end of September…depending how quickly I can move through the material. The study plan does a nice job of alternating between Verbal and Quant, something I always had trouble doing when studying on my own. So far I have almost finished the Number Properties book and I have just started the massive text that is the Sentence Correction book. In all their books, MGMAT provides practice problems for you, and then tells you what problems to do in the Official Guide.

So far it has been going pretty well for me, as I have remembered quite a bit from the little time I have studied so far. I am devoting about 2 hours per day to studying/doing problems. That would have me at 80 hours studied by the time the test rolls around. I think that is a solid amount of time. One thing I think I learned from my previous attempts is that taking the GMAT is a lot like being an Olympic athlete. You have to train just the right amount, so that you are peaking when test time rolls around. Hopefully this study guide will help me do that. Another thing I learned from reviewing my past prep was that I didn’t do enough verbal in the weeks before the test. My verbal scores on practice tests went from 50 to 43 to 38. That is a huge drop…my test day performance was a 36, so I fell even more from my last practice test. I will not make this mistake again!

One of the things I found curious was that MGMAT only schedules you for 3 CAT tests during the 8 week prep. They give you more tests, but only schedule 3 of them. I don’t really think that 3 is enough, so I will be amending the schedule to add 2 more tests. I probably won’t take my first test until the 22nd of August. That would allow me to take 5 tests and be on schedule to take this exam at the end of September or the 1st weekend in October. I am not happy about having to take this again, but I just can’t believe that I can’t do better in verbal than a 36. My goal is a score of 40+. I know I can do it, I just have to do it on test day!

Hope everyone’s studying is going well and that you are starting to think about applications. My next post will probably outline the schools I am applying to and the rounds in which I am applying to them.

P.S. No word from Cornell…do they ever have to send me a letter telling me that I was rejected or can I be like 45 years old and they can call me out of the blue to let me know that I just got off the wait-list?

What have I learned?

After the craziness of last week and this weekend, I have finally had time to reflect on what my experience has been like and what I taken from it. So, here….we….go…

 

GMAT

Practice makes perfect, but test day is its own animal:

No matter how much I practiced, nothing seemed to prepare me for the test day atmosphere. I took practice test, after practice test and I would say that my math score was always high on test day and my verbal score was always lower. One of the reasons I think this might have happened is that I always felt like I was doing terribly on the Quant section, and maybe I was in a bad state of mind for the Verbal section. If I had a piece of advice to give, it is be like a quarterback. A quarterback is always told to forget the play that happened prior, as the next play is always the most important. Having a short memory on the GMAT is certainly something that would help you.

You are going to get questions wrong:

This isn’t a test in high school or college where if you are getting questions wrong, your score is going to suffer tremendously. It only matters what difficulty the questions are that you get wrong. I can tell you that I missed quite a few Quant questions (I think), but still managed a 48. The problem was that I  panicked when I started getting questions wrong. You have to expect that some questions are going to be too tough for you, as the point of the adaptive test is to find a level where you are getting 1 question correct and then 1 question wrong.

 

Applications:
Recommenders:

This should be pretty obvious to most people, but choosing a recommender who you can work closely with on the recommendation is very important. You are not going to write it for them, but giving them ideas or answering questions for them will be a pretty big part of your interaction with them. Getting a great recommendation is very important, so choose someone who can speak highly of you, but also someone who is intimately familiar with your work. General statements, such as “He is a really hard worker,” are not exactly what adds value to a recommendation. The recommender should be able to cite specific examples which should highlight your strengths.

 

Essays – I am going to leave these for tomorrow, as I have been trying to finish this post since 9:43am. I thought this was supposed to be a quiet week…

 


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