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!

MBA Tour Rewind

Big news of the weekend is that I attended the NYC MBA Tour. If you don’t know what it is, the MBA Tour is an event, usually held at a hotel, where multiple business schools from around the country come to give presentations and answer attendees questions. It is also a great opportunity to speak with the people who are going to be reading your applications, so they can start to put faces with names.

This years event was held at the Grand Hyatt on 42nd Street in NYC. This place always brings back some fond memories for me, as the last time I was there was during the summer of 2005. I was an intern at Bear Stearns…the now defunct I-Bank…and I was attending the Bear Stearns technology conference. It was my first real look behind the curtain at the world of the research analyst. I loved every second of it. I will always be grateful to them for that opportunity, as it  began my love of equity research.

So on Sunday morning I trekked into the city and visited 4 school presentations, and chatted with some admissions people.The first presentation I saw was from the Kelley School of Business. While it was a good presentation and the speaker was very good at selling the school, I had a few reservations. First I think that Kelley would have some difficulty in bringing in recruiters from top NYC banks/financial firms. This would definitely be a school where you would have to travel to NYC to even get in front of people. Second, I don’t think that the Kelley NYC presence is all that strong. When asked about this, the presenter (Tim Smith), said that there were a lot of Kelley undergrads that come to be analysts in NYC. Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the MBA alums! In conclusion, very good school…but I don’t think it is right for me.

I then sat in on a Boston University presentation. I was very impressed with the speaker and her energy for the program. While this isn’t a top MBA program by any means, it seems like it would be a nice fit for me. Boston is a hub for asset management and that might help me in my goal of becoming a portfolio manager. BU is also in the midst of a strong push to make its B-School more highly regarded, so the value of my degree could grow over the course of my career. Conclusion – definitely applying

Next was Georgetown. I had high hope for G-dubbs, but the presentation kind of left me a little flat on the school. There wasn’t much exciting about it, the presenter wasn’t all that engaging, and I didn’t really get a good feel about the school. This could have just been an off day, or I could have just been hungry and grumpy at this point. Either way, I don’t think I am going to apply here…the school seemed much more political than I would like (I guess you have to expect that, with it being in DC and all.) Conclusion – I am bummed out about this one. I thought it would be a great name, a great location, and a great fit…but I seemed to be let down by the last one. With that being said, I still might take a trip down there on Columbus Day weekend.

I saved the best for last…Cornell. The apple of my eye, the one that got away, and the seeded raspberry preserve to my crunchy peanut butter (If you are not a member of my family you probably have no idea what this means, but I am cool with that.). The presentation began a little late because the NYU presentation ran a little over its allotted time (ugh…who needs those Violets anyway, just kidding). This gave me a chance to say hello to Randall Sawyer, who is the Assistant Dean of Admissions for the Johnson School. If you have read the blog in the past, you probably know that I have a borderline man crush on this guy. He is a really nice guy and he genuinely wants every applicant to find the school that is right for him or her. After exchanging hello’s the presentation began. As Randall spoke about the Johnson School, it was pretty much the equivalent of the Pied Piper …except he wasn’t leading a bunch of rats, he was leading the future leaders of America. After the presentation I went to speak with him again. He apologized to me and said that he wasn’t exactly sure who I was, but during the presentation he remembered. He asked if I was going to re-apply and I said that I was. I asked if he had any advice for a re-applicant. He said that I should give him a call and we can set some time aside to talk. He then apologized for my time on the wait list, saying that there was only 1 no-show in the class. I thanked him and told him that I would send him an e-mail today.

After this exchange I was pretty much on cloud 9…I was re-energized by the presentations and my chat with Randall. Hopefully it can carry me the rest of the way. There are only 2 weeks left until R1 apps are due! Plus the freakin’ GMAT! I am in total melt-down freak-out mode…but at this point, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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

The next step in my B-School App & Red Bull Reflections

I found it rather appropriate that this e-mail was in my inbox this morning…


Thank you for your continued interest in the Johnson School at Cornell University. We encourage you to actively improve your application by engaging in self-assessment, addressing potential weaknesses, and highlighting your strengths.

When reviewing your application, you may consider our class profiles and the general suggestions below. As mentioned in your decision letter, we will review the wait list on a rolling basis with consideration for recent updates.

Potential Weaknesses Recommended Strategies for Improvements
GMAT or TOEFL score below the median Retake the exam and send an updated score report
Limited exposure to quantitative coursework or tasks / Low GMAT quantitative score (below 65%) Improve your GMAT quantitative score and/or quantitative coursework
Communication skills Join Toastmasters or a similar public speaking group
Planning a significant career transition without prior preparation Network with individuals in your desired industry and consider refining your goals
Limited career experience Demonstrate significant achievements and leadership successes by sending updates and/or obtaining an additional recommendation
Fit and commitment to Johnson Contact current students, faculty, staff, and/or alumni to learn about the Johnson School and how you could contribute

Provide an updated statement about why the Johnson School is the best MBA program for you

(Drats…I can’t seem to get the table to not cut-off. I suck at technology related things.)

We will only offer feedback sessions by invitation during the month of May. In the meantime, we encourage you to submit updates to Taissa Cox (tk75@cornell.edu).

We appreciate your commitment to the Johnson School and understand the variety of options you must consider at this time. We look forward to receiving updates from you.


Randall T. Sawyer
Assistant Dean of Admissions, Financial Aid and Inclusion
The Johnson School at Cornell University
112 Sage Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-6201

Email: rs348@cornell.edu
Phone: 607-255-4660
Toll Free: 800-847-2082 (US and Canada)
Fax: 607-255-0065

The Johnson School at Cornell University • Office of Admissions, Financial Aid and Inclusion
111 Sage Hall • Ithaca, NY 14853-6201 • Telephone: 607-255-4526 • Fax: 607-255-0065

I find it appropriate because this week I am starting my online course from UCLA. This is the first e-mail of any kind that I have received from Johnson since I was waitlisted and I think it put quite a few of my own, and other people’s, fears to rest. They are going to be doing feedback sessions in May, which seems like a long time, but since my wedding is coming up at the end of April, it seems really close for me. This course should be a good way for me to demonstrate that my early undergrad coursework was just due to a lack of maturity and that I am ready to tackle the rigors of Johnson.

One thing that I did get from this e-mail was the last bit. I never really thought to provide a statement about why the Johnson School is the best MBA program for me…so lookout for that one in the coming weeks (maybe days).

On a completely unrelated note…The Red Bulls took down the Chicago Fire on Saturday. It was frickin’ freezing outside, but that didn’t detract from the game’s atmosphere at all. The crowd was rocking, the ESC was chanting, and the stadium was beautiful! It truly was a magnificent start to the season, and I can’t wait to get back to Red Bull Arena on the 17th of April vs FC Dallas…it’s Seattle away next week, so here’s hoping we can pick up a point in the great northwest! Hope everyone had a great weekend!

The best laid plans of mice and men

I had previously voiced my displeasure about not hearing any feedback from Cornell about how I can improve my candidacy. Although I have yet to hear anything from them, I have made a few decisions that should shape the next few months for me. I was faced with the question of evaluating my candidacy and what my relative weaknesses were, but being a self-loathing person I just think my entire application could be better. So like a general preparing for battle, I have devised a plan for the next few months. So what does the plan entail, you say…

Step 1: Get another supervisor to write a letter of recommendation

I have already reached out to someone who was my boss up until 2 months ago. I have told him all about Cornell, why I want to go there, and what I want to do. He graciously agreed to write a letter, so I hope that should be arriving any day now.

Step 2: Take a math course

I am pretty sure (at least I hope!) that my 48 in quant on the GMAT has quelled any thoughts of quant deficiency, but maybe my undergrad record is hurting my candidacy (2.9 GPA)? So I have decided to enrol in an online course offered by UCLA, called “Math for Managers.” It is pretty much some light calculus that would help out managers in reporting P/L, break-even, and other reporting metrics. The course starts on 3/31 and runs until the beginning of June. I hope to have my mid-term grades available for Cornell by the time my wedding happens, which is April 24th. An A in this course is the only acceptable grade, so I am going to work really hard to make that happen.

Step 3:  I am prepared to wait until next year

I have thought about this over and over, but I think if I do not get in, I am going to re-apply. If this scenario plays out, then I am going to re-take the GMAT, in hopes of raising my verbal score. I am happy with a 48 in quant, but the low 30s is not where I should be in verbal. I should be at least at a 40, which would have put me around 730…not much higher, but a 7 handle certainly looks better than a 6.

What are other waitlisted people doing??? Anything you think I should be doing that I missed?

After this weekend I will be forever changed…

So this it….what I have been looking forward to ever since I started this whole process. It will either make me whole or I will melt away into oblivion. I am talking of course about the 2010 Polar Bear Plunge in Sea Isle City, NJ!!!!!!!! For those not familiar with “The Plunge,” it is about 3,000 people (usually heavily intoxicated) running into the ocean. Why? I have no idea, but it is a lot of fun! The process of becoming a “true polar bear” is participating in the event for 3 years in a row. This will be my 3rd year, and I couldn’t be happier! I finally get to step out of the shadow of cubhood and into the limelight reserved for a true polar bear! My brother will also be going through bear-if-ication with me, so I have a wing-man in the process.

Me praying that I get a call from Cornell on Monday!

The weather forecast is not exactly cooperating with us because the east coast has just gotten over two major storms in the last week, so the possibility of snow on the ground remains a good one. The temperature is going to be 34 degrees with partly cloudy skies….fine weather indeed to take The Plunge (although a few extra degrees never hurt anyone). I will certainly be providing pictures of my exploits upon my return, as I hope to have a special costume in place for the event, but the snow storm has delayed the shipping and now I don’t know if it will be possible.

There are two other exciting things going on in the next few days…the first is Valentine’s Day and the last, but certainly not least will be my Cornell decision. Danielle and I have an engagedment party to attend on Sunday, which is actually Valentine’s Day, so we are going to be celebrating on Monday. Since this coincides with my Cornell decision, it will be either the greatest V-Day ever, or the worst. Risky strategy, but that is how we have to play it. I have off of work on Monday for President’s Day and I think that will make the waiting for a phone call worse. I think Cornell’s admission staff should be in on Monday, but I am not really sure and I don’t have the cajones to call and ask them about it. So I am going to wait, and wait, and wait some more for a call…I hope everyone who is doing the same thing on Monday doesn’t have to wait long! Best of luck to everyone and I will see you on the flip side of the weekend!