Tuesday, January 22, 2013

my visit to Iowa...

I thought it would be useful to post accounts from my visits. I figured I'd do them in reverse chronological order so I'd start with Iowa.

Iowa Tippie school of management:
Poets & Quants rank: 48
Median GMAT: 660
Tuition & fees: $36,045

Coming from Ohio, it took me about 8 hours to drive to Iowa. They covered my hotel stay in downtown Iowa city. On arriving in Iowa city, after stowing my overnight bag & suit I had a few drinks at the sanctuary. I highly recommend that place. Great selection, friendly staff.

My visit was very individualized. I was the only one visiting, there were no name tags. I got to talk to career services, sit in on a class, talk to the director of the finance academy and of course have my interview. After I wrapped up, I drove back to Ohio.

Great people, great program great academics. I did a lot of looking at curriculums and Iowa has a very in depth corporate finance curriculum. They also give finance students the opportunity to work on the Henry fund, the schools student managed hedge fund. All of the faculty and students I met with and talked to were great. Financial aid is a huge one, over 75% of incoming students get in state tuition, a stipend and a scholarship.

We'll start with the obvious: its in Iowa. Now, I have to qualify that statement by saying its still a college town so there is plenty to do there but its not NY or Chicago or even Cincinnati. Another aspect that ties to that is they don't really have on campus recruiting. It doesn't seem to hinder them from a placement standpoint, but it will be a little bit more work vs a program that has employers on campus.

I had a very positive experience in Iowa. I thought I had a good shot at being admitted with a graduate assistanceship which made them my top choice, but I ended up not getting in. They will still be a strong choice when I apply again in the fall.

Monday, January 21, 2013

1 year self improvement plan. . .

I came to the conclusion that the biggest mistake I had made in the MBA application process was rushing things. I would assume it is impossible to think you fit in at a top MBA program and not have confidence in your abilities. Towards the end of the summer I thought that 3 months was plenty of time to take the GMAT, apply to schools, visit and take 16 credit hours of mostly upper level accounting classes. I was wrong.

I think that rushing things and over-taxing myself was the primary reason I ended up not as successful with everything as I would like. With that in mind, I have "budgeted" myself 10 months to a year for my second try and decided to improve myself in a few key areas.

- Finish my accounting certificate: 9 credit hours, intermediate accounting, financial statement analysis and auditing.

- Teach myself valuation and financial modeling: I got a couple of books on amazon. Reviews to come once I have finished them but both seem awesome.

- Get a job as a financial analyst: I could probably make more money short term doing other things, but I think it will show adcoms that I am moving towards my goal.

- Take consulting jobs: I have been taking finance and accounting consulting jobs here and there, mostly to beef up my resume and stay sharp, but I think it will look good.

- Re-take the GMAT: I felt like taking it 3 times in 3 months was like jumping into a wall. I wasn't getting adequate preparation and it showed. My scores didn't improve to where i wanted them to be. I feel like I can get into the 680-720 range which should get me into my target schools, hopefully with a scholarship.

I think giving myself the proper amount of time and preparation will make this second attempt successful where the first one wasnt.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

If at first you don't succeed. . .

All good blogs should begin with an "about me" section that tells why you're writing a blog in the first place right? Well, I came into this world just after Xmas 1979, we will skip some time & get to the good (well pertinent) part. . . I graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2005 with my degree in criminal justice "ready" (I say this very tongue in cheek) to tackle the world. I got my first job and before you know it, I had taken the Series 7 exam (yes with no prior training or experience, you too can be qualified to sell people stocks, bonds & mutual funds!) and started a career in financial services. I was promoted, changed firms, promoted again and then I came to a realization that I think eventually strikes everyone in that industry. In financial services, you have three options: Sales, Management or find a new career. Well, I have no desire at all to do sales, and management at my former employer had nothing to do with any objective measure of intelligence, so it seemed like the third option was best.

This started my journey of going back to school. The department I ended up in was very tax oriented and I had been working in business, so I thought "hey, I could be a CPA". So I enrolled in the accounting certificate program at Cincinnati State in the spring of 2011. All was well until I was laid off from my employer in Feb of 2012. Taking things in stride, armed with unemployment, I focused on school and started taking classes full time with an eye on finishing the program after spring semester 2013. However, while in school I realized that although I am decent in accounting, what I find incredibly interesting is finance. This got me into looking at MBA programs.

I had initially thought about MBA programs in 2006, right after obtaining my series 7. I took the GMAT, barely studied, ended up with a 690. However, instead of trying to go to business school then, I got engaged (didn't get married) and basically wasted a bunch of time and let my score expire. Brilliant move on my part (the first of many). Initially I was looking into local and online MBA programs (I didn't know any better), but my aunt (who is well educated and brilliant), suggested I look into higher quality MBA programs. What I found was that A) my GMAT score wasn't good anymore, I'd have to retake it, B) my score actually profiled pretty well with schools in the lower end of the top 25 to top 50 and C) if you're switching careers, you really need to go to a top 50 school.

I started looking around at schools that I thought would be a good fit academically, geographically and financially (Why pay a dollar when you can get a similar product for 50 cents?). I used Poets & Quants' rankings of schools because it compiles all the rankings into one and is a great consolidated source of information (I really love the site, although it is a little too focused on top programs to be of 100% use to me personally). I basically found 3 schools that fit my requirements exactly: Ohio State, Wisconsin and Iowa. Ohio State because I'm from Ohio, they are the best school in the area and in state tuition makes them very affordable for me. Wisconsin was a surprise to me: higher ranked than Ohio State, great median salary and not that much more expensive than OSU (even with out of state tuition). Iowa was another surprise: still top 50, really high percentage of students get financial aid, GMAT requirement not that crazy, pretty highly rated in finance.

Brilliant thought number two; at this point, it was late summer 2012. I thought to myself "I have plenty of time to take the GMAT again, improve my score a little bit to 700+, apply to schools and start in the fall of 2013". Sometimes things that sound logical in my head don't end up working so well in application. This is one of those times. I studied and it became obvious I was not going to get a 700. I got a 620, tried again a month later, got a 640 and a month after that another 640. While I'm throwing myself at the GMAT, I'm also visiting/interviewing with schools, and taking 16 credit hours at Cincinnati State. While I managed to do everything, I didn't quite do anything well. In my accounting & finance classes I ended up with an A, a B and 2 C's. Previously I had made deans list, obviously I had tried to do too much.

In light of my relatively poor GMAT, I only applied to to Iowa who, after they saw my fall grades, denied me admission. I am a realist and I can understand how that doesn't look especially impressive in an applicant pool of impressive people. I moped for a couple days and decided that if 33 isn't too old to start an MBA program, than 34 isn't too old either. So I would finish my classes, take the GMAT one more time (this time with 6 months of prep work) and try to make myself as attractive a prospect as possible. I still like those three schools and I will probably apply to a few more to give myself options.

If at first you don't succeed. . . give up! Wait, that's not right at all. . .