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!

First 700, GMAT Scheduled, & Essays started

I know its only 10 points more than I scored on the actual GMAT, but 700 sounds soooo much better then 690 doesn’t it…I took a practice test on Saturday morning, around 8:30. When I clicked the final button on my Manhattan GMAT CAT I thought I had done reasonably well, but I didn’t think I would be hitting 700! I was really excited about this, as it seems that my hard work is paying off. My breakdown was as follows:

Quant: 45

Verbal: 40

Overall: 700

AWA: 6.0 (I think I deserved it….I am obviously kidding about this, there is no generated score for the AWAs)

I was happy with my performance in Verbal, as it was 4 points higher than what I scored on the real thing. I believe that confidence is a huge part of the GMAT and I had loads of it on Saturday. I prepared myself mentally before the test started by accepting that the test was going to be very hard, no matter how well I was doing. I think this helped me not get discouraged, keep my pacing, and ultimately score better on the test.

I was so excited about the result that I schedule my actual GMAT for October 2nd, which is the first Saturday of the month. It is scheduled for 8am in Lyndhurst, NJ (same place I took the previous 2, I am a creature of habit!). My goal from here on out is to try and consistently score in the 700 range, but not to get too discouraged if a 660 pops into the equation. Bad tests just happen, for whatever reason, they just happen sometimes, so believing that I can score 700+ shouldn’t

Guest Post – How to Ace Your B-School Application Essay

I hope everyone had a great weekend. My was snowy and such, but more on that later. This is something that I have wanted to do for a while, but haven’t really followed through with it. A guest post, by someone who does this stuff for a living. So without further adieu, I present, Brenda Harris:

About Our Author, Brenda Harris

“With a background in journalism, Brenda brings both her background in writing and passion for business and entrepreneurship which she obtained from University of Houston to her feature pieces at Executive MBA programs. Once set loose in the world of blogging she has been steadily increasing her readership and enjoys the interaction between reader and author that allows her to get feedback from readers who suggest new titles, then publish those articles a couple of days later only to receive feedback from those same readers. This cycle improves writing and the reading experience and is something unique she feels she brings to Executive MBA Programs. To that end, we rely on your constant feedback and comments, so please email us with any comments, questions, critiques or suggestions. Brenda is originally from Houston and enjoys spending time with family and friends.”

How to Ace Your B-School Application Essay

The process of applying to a good business school is usually fraught with stress, especially when it comes to coming up with a good essay that will wow the admissions panel and get you into the B school of your choice. Most people know how to study for their GMAT and ace this test, because it is standardized and involves something they understand – focus and hard work. But when it comes to writing a personal essay of a 1000 plus words explaining why they want to get an MBA from this particular B school, they tend to mess up for various reasons. If you want to write a great essay, here’s what you need to do:

  • Think of what you want to say before you start writing. Put your thoughts down on paper, and then order them in a cohesive manner. You could either use this as a rough blueprint for your essay or to ensure that you don’t forget to add all that you want to in the course of writing your essay.
  • Make your essay personal; your desire to get into the college must come across through your words. This means you must write your essay on your own instead of outsourcing it to someone who you think is better suited to the task. While you can take their help, make sure the effort is all your own.
  • Your reasons for wanting to study an MBA and to join this particular institution should be corroborated through other aspects of your application form, like the recommendation letters, your GMAT scores, and your academic grades. So if you want to say something just because you think it will touch the admissions panel, think again. The best essays are those that are true and spontaneous.
  • Don’t go off on tangents or be too verbose about one particular subject or topic. Be as concise as you can and ensure that your flow of your narration is natural and continuous and that it does not jump abruptly from one issue to the other.
  • Don’t use words that you don’t understand or because they sound good and are bound to impress. When you use flowery and bombastic language, you come across as pretentious and overeager to impress with just your use of words.
  • Once you’ve written your essay, read it over a few times to ensure that there are no spelling or grammatical errors. If language is not your forte, get someone who does not need a dictionary and who knows their verbs from their adverbs to look it over. An essay filled with mistakes does not make a good impression even if what you have to say is interesting.

Almost every one of the students who is applying for the same degree will have academic records and achievements similar to yours. So more often than not, it is the essay which becomes the differentiating factor that determines admission – all the more reason why you must pay attention and accord importance to it.


This guest post is contributed by Brenda Harris, who writes on the topic of executive mba programs . She can be reached at her email id: brenda.harris91@gmail.com .

Crazy Game of Poker…

Apologies to OAR for completely stealing their song title, but I though it the best possible title to my post this morning.

I am hitting a whirlwind time in the application/decision process of applying for my MBA. Riding into work on the train this morning, I couldn’t help but relate my upcoming slate to a game of Texas hold-em. It might be a bit of a stretch, but follow me on this one…My hand has already been dealt. It was dealt long ago, in college (GPA) and with my GMAT score. To be honest it is probably a middling hand, at best. Am I the best candidate ever? No, but I think I am competitive at the schools to which I am applying. So lets say that I am currently holding a Q-10 off-suit. Not the best hand, but not the worst hand ever. It is a hand that is easy to play, but difficult to win with. Some have higher cards than I do, some people at the table are suited up, other lucked out with a pair to start.

Since I applied to only 3 schools I see it breaking down like this.

The Flop: Dartmouth – it doesn’t break my hand if I don’t get in, but it would certainly be a crappy start (I find out Friday at 5:00pm EST). I would need some luck with only two “cards” left to flip. On the other hand, Dartmouth could certainly make my hand if I flipped a set, or even (dream scenario) a full house. An inside straight draw would be the equivalent of the waiting list, as it is good enough of a hand to stick around, but you are going to need a lot of luck to pull that one out.

The Turn: My interview/decision from Cornell (Monday the 21st). This is my best chance at making a hand for myself. If I am still looking at rags after this card, it might be next to impossible to win the hand.

The River: NYU interview invite/decision. The last hope…If I am floating down the river at this point, I sure hope it is with a paddle. People have been known to “suck-out” on the river, but it doesn’t happen very often. When it does happen though, the relief/joy can not be compared to any other joy experienced during the game.

My cards are on the table, how about you? Shuffle up and deal!

Johnson Rewind…

I went to the Johnson information session last night and decided to give you the low-down on what happened, so without further adieu, I give you, THE REWIND…

If any of you read my blog regularly, then you will now that I am habitually early, so true to form I showed up at the 6 o’clock event at 5:30. Not to worry though because my neurosis was also shared by fellow blogger XLick, who showed up around the same time. We met in the lobby and started talking about all things work and MBA related. It was the first time we had met and it was good to talk with someone who is going through the same process. No one was in the room yet, so we hung downstairs until about 5:50 and made our way upstairs. I am terrible with estimating these things, but I would say that there were 75-100 people there, so the turn-out was pretty good. The first 1/2 hour was what you would expect from one of these events (hand passed appetizers, drinks, and mingling).

After that, we took our seats and listened to four Johnson alumni and Randall Sawyer, the excellent Assistant Dean of Admissions for the Johnson School. Said it before and I will say it again, if you think you might want to go to Johnson, go and see Randall speak and he will “close the deal.” He is very engaging and you can tell that he really believes in the product that he is selling. As I have been to these events before, I don’t think I learned anything new, but I did take this opportunity to speak with Randall. I asked him about my low GPA (2.9), upward trending though it may be, and he assuaged my fears about such things. He told me that undergrad GPA was the thing that gets looked at last. This obviously made me feel a whole lot better about myself and my chances. He also told me that he hoped to see me up at campus for an interview. I agreed and told him that I would want to have a cup of coffee with him when I was up there. He was really excited about that and seemed into the idea. Hope I get the chance to deliver on that offer!

After the event XLick and I walked to the subway and took the V (maybe it was the F) downtown to 34th street where I got off and headed back to the PATH, Jersey bound. XLick was a great guy, and we definitely need to hang out again (budding bromance?!?). Speaking of him, he has a much better recap of the night than I put together, so just go and read his. Best of luck to him and to the rest of you on your applications/interviews. One last thing of note from the night was that Randall told us that the committee is through alomst all of R1 applicants and have just now started to look at R2, so don’t be alarmed if you haven’t heard anything yet from Johnson.

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…



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.



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…